SOAS University of London

Ancient 'Science Fiction': Journeys into Space and Visions of the World in Jewish, Christian, and Graeco-Roman Literature of Antiquity

Catherine Hezser
Professor Catherine Hezser

Date: 4 June 2009Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 4 June 2009Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Inaugural Lecture

Ancient Jewish and Christian literary works include texts which talk about journeys into space, visions of the earth from above, and otherworldly messengers visiting humans. For example, Enoch is said to have travelled to the "extreme ends of the earth" and Abraham is said to have been lifted up into the sky to obtain a better perspective. Similarly, in some New Testament texts Jesus' roundtrip to heaven and back to earth is envisioned. These texts are reminiscent of modern science fiction and fantasy writing, even if the ancient authors did not share our modern understanding of "science" and "fantasy" and wrote for other than mere entertainment purposes. The Jewish and Christian literary manifestations of this phenomenon need to be seen in the context of Graeco-Roman "science fiction" writing. Alexander the Great's alleged ascent into the sky in a basket fastened to the throat of two birds and Lucian's Icaromenippus, where Menippus claims to have undertaken a journey to the moon and further up into heaven, are especially relevant in this regard. The lecture will investigate in what regards Greek Jewish writings, the New Testament, and rabbinic texts resemble and distinguish themselves from the Graeco-Roman prototypes.

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