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Descents to the Underworld

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Chapter Summary

Descents to the underworld occur in the myths and traditions of many cultures (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria and Palestine, Iran, Greece and Rome). They may be attributed to the gods and heroes of myths and legends. Descents may also occur as unusual psychological experiences, in trance, vision or temporary loss of consciousness, when the soul seems to leave the body and finds itself in the other world as described in the traditions of the culture. Many descents to the underworld were known in the classical Greek and hellenistic cultures. In the Jewish tradition descents to the underworld are found largely within the apocalyptic tradition, in which they are ascribed to seers of the past such as Enoch, Elijah and Moses. The Christian apocalyptic tradition of visionary descents to the world of the dead is entirely continuous with the Jewish tradition.

Keywords: Christian apocalyptic tradition; classical Greek culture; Descents; Elijah; hellenistic culture; Jewish tradition; underworld



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