The Sinful Dead
The Sinful Dead
This chapter discusses how the sinful dead are punished in Pietist sources as opposed to talmudic ones. The notion that the dead return to Earth in order to suffer punishment for sin is rooted in pre-Christian beliefs surrounding the return of the dangerous dead. That such notions appear in high medieval sources testifies to the tenacity of pagan ideas regarding the dead; these beliefs survived for centuries under the veneer of Christianization, especially in the Germanic environment which formed the background to Sefer ḥasidim. The pre-Christian belief in the return of the corporeal dead to Earth, as well as an unabashed belief in the corporeal nature of the post-mortem punishments assigned to sinners, were ones that R. Judah the Pious absorbed from his environment and shared with his contemporary Caesarius of Heisterbach, among other Christian writers. The presence of the same beliefs regarding the dead in the writings of the German Cistercian and the German Pietist reveals a commonality between them. Ancient imaginings of the dead here cross religious boundaries and reflect a world-view that was shared by medieval Jew and Christian alike.
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