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What is the role of the blind body in hell? Does it gesture to broader cultural conceptions of physical impairment? Can the blind be healed in places of eternal punishment? Does this ‘healing’ function similarly to the understandings of blindness available in contemporaneous medical texts? This article will examine the depictions of the blind in the extra-canonical apocalypses that describe hell. We will begin with a discussion of the apocalyptic tours of hell that describe blindness, paying special attention to the different roles (metaphorical, punitive, and pedagogical) that blindness plays in each text. We will also consider the impact that these understandings of the disabled body have upon the readers of apocalyptic texts when placed alongside other impaired and disfigured bodies in hell. We will compare the distinct approaches to blindness that we find in the apocalyptic tours of hell with other ancient attitudes toward blindness found within both Greek and Roman depictions of Hades and broader culture. By comparing these different ancient depictions of hell we will observe the ways in which blindness is used to depict both eternal punishment and spiritual enlightenment. We will reflect upon the ways in which early Christians appropriated and modified Greek and Roman understandings of blindness in Hades in their own visions of hell. Finally, we will use our analysis to draw conclusions about the role of sight and blindness within apocalyptic theology.



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Studia Patristica, Vol. 81, No. 7






Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


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Metaphorical, Punitive, and Pedagogical Blindness in Hell