In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS699 main lines ofdevelopment. An interesting entry is even devoted to the tasks facing it today. The author,who teaches theology and philosophy at Mount Saint Mary's College , Emmitsburg, Maryland, had college teachers, students, and librarians primarily in mind, but the book deserves a wide audience. It is not a dry collection of facts but a lively, well written work, quite honest about the problematic aspects of the Church's history. It should whet the reader's appetite for more information on the topics treated. As I say, he doesn't shy away from the thorny issues but walks bravely, albeit cautiously, over such minefields as the area of sexual morality. On such issues as homosexuality, birth control, and divorce he provides a balanced assessment of the state of the question. His entry on dissent in the Church is a masterpiece of compression. Here he notes how limited private disagreement had been allowed long before the SecondVatican Council by authorized theological textbooks and how this opinion was alluded to by the Theological Commission of the Council. In an interesting observation on the current scene he believes the radical opposition between the world and the Church so characteristic of pre-Vatican Council II days has resurfaced to some extent with Pope John Paul II. He provides a very full bibliography of some seventy-one pages. For anyone interested in the history of the Catholic Church, this is a most useful and up-todate reference work. It has already found a place on the bookshelves above my desk. Thomas Bokenkotter Xavier University Cincinnati, Ohio A History ofHeaven:The Singing Silence. ByJeffrey Burton Russell. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1997. Pp. xy 220. $24.95.) In his preface Jeffrey Burton Russell states that he hopes "this present book will be a prolegomenon to a detailed, multivolume study of heaven" (p. xv), a study that all medievalists who admire his careful research and lucid style must eagerly await. Until then,the present volume provides a taste ofwhat is to come in the form of an introduction for the general reader to "the human concept of heaven" (p. 3). Although Russell displays, as expected, a wide command of the sources, the book limits its scholarly apparatus to a mere forty-four footnotes, although it includes a healthy bibliography (pp. 191-210). A History ofHeaven follows the structure of Russell's four highly respected studies of evil—The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles—by being organized chronologically. After a conceptual first chapter,"Understanding Heaven," it moves rather quickly in a series of short chapters through classical and Jew- 700BOOK REVIEWS ish views (chap. 2), early Christian theology (chap. 3), the influence of Greek concepts of the body and soul (chap. 4), eastern and western Christian theologians (chap. 5), monastic spirituality (chap. 6), otherworld journeys (chap. 7), scholastic notions (chaps. 8, 9), mysticism (chap. 10), and Dante (chaps. 11,12). Chapter 13,"Hearing the Silence," provides a short conclusion. Not surprisingly, such a quick survey does not provide much opportunity for original contributions to scholarship. But this deficiency is more than balanced by numerous personal insights and a series offascinating comments. Russell explains that "This book is a personal as well as historical statement. I believe in the Christian concept of heaven, not in the sense that this concept can fully or exclusively represent a reality that is beyond all human imagination and understanding , but in the sense that it, like other traditions, opens toward that reality." He then defines Heaven as "the song that God sings to the world out of his silence " (p. xiv), a view that informs the book's subtitle and conclusion. Although a very personal book, it is also very thorough in introducing, summarizing , and critiquing a huge number of authors and texts ranging from the Hebrew Bible through Dante. If the survey sometimes threatens to become a mere listing, at other times Russell devotes greater attention to a few key thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas (pp. 125-140). Dante receives two entire chapters: the first provides a basic description of the Vita nuova and the Cornmedia through the Earthly Paradise scenes of the Purgatorio, a discussion that assumes very little...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 699-700
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.