Adam J. Silverstein
This chapter argues that both the focus on Abraham as a unifying figure and the categorization of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as comparable religions (which, importantly, are to be distinguished from others), have been in evidence since ancient times. The chapter draws on both the theological stances of each religion towards the other, and on assorted moments in history when the relationship between the Abrahamic religions—and amongst their adherents—was appreciated and even highlighted.
Peter E. Pormann
The classical tradition not only provided the backdrop against which the Abrahamic religions emerged, but also provided a constant source of inspiration for their development over the centuries. The present chapter offers a number of vignettes on this topic, looking at: the Christian apologetic literature through the perceptive of the patristic historian Franz Overbeck; the Talmudic concept of the ‘Wisdom of Greek (Ḥoḵmaṯ Yewānīṯ)’; the Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement, and notably how the ‘philosopher of the Arabs’, al-Kindī, established philosophy in the Arabo-Islamic tradition; Maimonides’ work on medicine and speculative theology, showing the continuities between Alexandria in antiquity and the medieval world on the different shores of the Mediterranean; the interest in Greek and Latin at the Ottoman court; and the importance of classical studies for the development of Islam’s modernity.
The Mediterranean has been an exceptionally important place of interaction, competition, and, at times, conflict among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, throughout the centuries since the rise of Islam. In this chapter, the emphasis is upon the themes of crystallization of identity, dispersion, and conflict. In the early Middle Ages the borders between the various religious communities in the Mediterranean were at times ill-defined, with frequent interaction and overlaps in religious identities. This situation changes in the Middle Ages, with permeable boundaries turning into physical, social, legal, and cultural walls. Thus, in many Mediterranean communities we can observe the crystallization of the religious groups into self-confident communities led by literate elites and wedded to codes of law embodied in the Talmud, in the evolving system of canon law, and in Muslim ḥadīths and fatwas. This stiffening of the boundaries is reflected in the Crusades and in the Iberian conflicts.
Charting key turning points in the history of the academic study of the Qur’an, this chapter offers a survey of the debates and arguments which dominate discussions. Exploring what is meant by academic scholarship, the chapter assesses the profound influence of the work of figures such as Theodore Nöldeke, Abraham Geiger, Gustav Weil, and indeed Ignaz Goldziher; and it reviews developments in more recent approaches to the Qur’an, including the work of Rudi Paret, Montgomery Watt, John Wansbrough, Fazlur Rahman, Toshihiko Izutsu, Michel Cuypers, and Angelika Neuwirth. Also examined are key preliminary questions such as ‘the technical parameters of academic scholarship of the Qur’an’; ‘insider-outsider’ perspectives; ‘non-confessional’ and ‘confessional’ approaches; claims about ‘truth value’ statements; and the ‘intrusion of polemical discourses’.
This article provides an outline of the Achaemenid empire’s political history followed by an overview of the diverse sources for understanding some of its institutions. Despite inherent difficulties, the sources allow scholars to reconstruct vital aspects, such as the provincial system, variations in the way different provinces were managed, the “king’s law,” Persian religion, and the strength of central control which held the imperial regions together. The chapter ends with a consideration of the king’s position and royal ceremony and ideology.
Rubén René Dupertuis
The Acts of the Apostles offers a kind of sequel to Gospel of Luke, telling the story of the spread of the Jesus movement through the activities of key leaders, beginning in Jerusalem, moving westward into the Aegean region, and finally to Rome, the imperial center. Narrative approaches have been instrumental in turning attention to how the author tells the story using the tools of narrative—plot, characterization, and so on—as well as to how the author’s use of linguistic and cultural codes would have been heard by ancient readers. This chapter explores the importance of this westward geographical movement in Acts and, through a reading of the story of Paul’s visit to Philippi (Acts 16:11–40), looks at the ways in which the author of Acts adapts narrative conventions to highlight particular moments in the progression.
Peter C. Bouteneff
Adam and Eve, who barely appear in the Bible after they are introduced in the book of Genesis, serve a short but important list of functions within early Christian writing. They represent Christ and Mary, respectively, among other typological readings of the Paradise narrative. They also stand for all of humanity, partly by virtue of their location at the top of the human genealogy, and partly because their acts in the garden are commonly universalized to represent the sins of each and all. The understanding of their sin as resulting in an original guilt passed on through the generations is by no means a common one in early Christian writing. The question of their historical existence is not foreign to some of the ancient authors—nor does it really preoccupy any of them—but it does not receive a straightforward or consistent answer.
The narrative(s) in Genesis 1–3 is a foundational text for Western discourse on gender and sexuality. To date, studies of biblical masculinities have virtually ignored the biblical first male subject; feminist scholarship has long focused on Eve; and queer readings that render Genesis 1–3 alien to modern discourses are promising but small in number. This chapter takes some tentative first steps toward a more focused reception history of Adam as a gendered subject. In light of the current (and still relatively new) state of scholarship on biblical masculinities, the chapter then proposes that reception history and cultural-historical approaches to biblical “afterlives” offer a promising path for future work. Particular attention is paid to Adam’s gender in Genesis 1–3 itself and in the writings of Paul, as well as in later theological, literary, and artistic texts.
In their search for justification in a scriptural text, both Christian and non-Christian Chinese intellectuals in the modern era found the Old Testament a rich and promising source at times of cultural and national crises. In this paper, three major topics will be taken up. First, it will explore the ways in which the Chinese Old Testament and its idea of God were anthropologically interpreted by Chinese intellectuals in light of modern scientism, European and American philosophy, and Chinese traditional culture. Second, it will analyze how the idea of one God was utilized by Chinese intellectuals in their efforts to explain human nature and to promote individual morality. Finally, it will discuss how universal love, which was of special importance in the context of monotheism, was interpreted by Chinese intellectuals. These three topics lead to a common interest or agenda of the time: building up a society of human perfection.
Challenging long-held assumptions about the identification and characterization of Wisdom Literature, this chapter examines: (1) how the scholarly category of biblical Wisdom Literature entails a developmental model of literary development in which the book of Proverbs functions as a paradigmatic text; (2) the circular reasoning involved in evaluating texts according to vocabulary and genre; and (3) other literary strategies shared by these texts, including notions of knowledge, its transmission, and survival across generational lines. Beyond a developmental model, a broad category of knowledge production and literary craft facilitates comparisons between texts like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Ben Sira, and others. These texts build and comment on the ancient Near Eastern literary and social institution of father-to-son instruction. The advice given in these instructions, and their framing themselves, reflect on the transmission of life-preserving and life-enriching knowledge across generational lines that enables the father to transcend his own individual death and persist in the success of his descendants.
The tradition of Qurʾānic interpretation is one of the richest aspects of cultural production in Arabic. Its richness goes beyond the question of explaining the content of Qurʾānic verses from a doctrinal point of view to present some brilliant acts of exploration of purely artistic constituents of the text of the Qurʾān as a whole, interconnected, interlaced body of discourse in which the sublime nature of the divine message is embodied in equally powerful, artistically sublime linguistic formulations. A prime example of this holistic nature of the text is seen by many mufassirīn to reside in the various types of majāzī and/or metaphorical language and, in the case of some Sufi mufassirīn, of symbolic language. The chapter explores the three arguably finest tafāsir in which this aesthetically oriented current of thought reaches its zenith: al-Zamakhsharī’s al-Kashshāf, Ibn ʿArabī’s al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya, and Abū Ḥayyān’s al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ. While bringing out some of their finest achievements, this study also recognizes their limitations as well as the limitations of contemporary interpretations of the Qur’an and points to urgently needed fresh ways of writing about the Qurʾān from a predominantly aesthetic angle. It offers examples of aspects of this great text which can be understood in anew fashion if such fresh approaches are employed; in this light, the chapter looks at orality as a possible new source of knowledge that may help us understand some complex aspects of the Qur’an that have remained so far little understood or indeed explored.
John M. Giggie
The topic of black religious newspapers is one that has received scant attention from scholars of religion and the media, who prefer wider stories on the rise of the institution of the black press in general or narrower ones on a famous secular press. News about African Americans' sacred life has not always been readily and amply available. Indeed, the history of the modern black religious press is more a chronicle of failed endeavors than long-running successes, of aborted efforts than sustained publications. Since the birth of black newspapers in the nineteenth century, only a few denominational organs have avoided bankruptcy and lasted beyond a few months. That notable list includes the Christian Recorder, the Christian Index, the Baptist Vanguard, and the Southwestern Christian Advocate. These papers persisted far longer than their peers because they shared a range of editorial themes, advertising strategies, and marketing tactics that set them apart from their competitors and, in the minds of many blacks, made them essential to their daily lives.
This article explores beliefs about the afterlife and how they are informed by religious and cultural narratives. If the Bible contains little definite information about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, then how is it that so many of us are able to readily envision them? The scattered information about the afterlife from religious texts is supplemented by our reading, viewing, and consumption of other forms of culture. Stories of the afterlife and of angels, demons, ghosts, vampires, and zombies remain popular. Perhaps more important, stories of the afterlife are often used as ways to shape stories about this life, adding resonance to narratives from Batman to Harry Potter by appropriating or echoing the powerful plots, themes, and characters of the afterlife. Thus even a reader or viewer who does not believe in the dogma of Purgatory may be powerfully affected by stories using the trope of Purgatory.
In the last few decades, stories about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have increasingly become a staple of domestic and international newspaper health coverage. These are often pegged to the dramatic upsurge in the use of alternative health practices or to scientific research on the efficacy of particular treatments. Newspapers reporting the rise of alternative health practices do not generally overplay the trend. However, reporters rarely situate CAM within the shifting tides of contemporary spirituality and religion. This article examines journalistic coverage of CAM in light of this disconnect between the religious/spiritual nature of CAM, on the one hand, and the paucity of journalistic attention to such on the other. Drawing particularly on categories of solidarity developed by Charles Taylor, it argues that mainstream newspaper journalism in the United States tends to be more in line with one style of solidarity, and the particular spiritual quality of CAM with another.
This chapter offers an overview of the history and historiography of some of the nonverbal aspects of American Bibles, focusing on format, bindings, and paper. These features of Bibles have evolved both materially and symbolically, owing to changing technologies, economic considerations, aesthetic preferences, and, crucially, a tension between two opposed ideals regarding the Bible’s physical presence. Americans with various stakes in Bible production have shared a sense that Bibles should be both materially impressive and widely accessible. The changing forms of Bibles make particularly legible the push and pull between transcendence and immanence, a contest ongoing in the digital age.
Throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, there was a noticeable decline in the influence of two major players in twentieth-century American life: Roman Catholicism and the mass-market newsweekly. Beginning with the clergy sexual abuse crisis in 2001, the Roman Catholic Church suffered a blow to its credibility as never before experienced. For a third of the nation's history (from the founding of the first newsweekly in the 1920s through the alleged end of the era of the newsweekly in 2010), the covers of the most influential magazines—Time, Life, and Newsweek—acted not only as windows into the soul of the nation but also as the stained glass of the newsstand. The place of religion in these peculiar products of American media is noteworthy in general. Despite the newsweeklies' eagerness to exploit the church's fall from grace, they have been slow to recognize that the mass-market media has suffered potentially fatal wounds from the same slings and arrows endured by the church.
Russell W. Dalton
Children’s Bibles have been among the most popular and influential types of religious publications in the United States, providing many Americans with their first formative experiences of the Bible and its stories. This chapter explores the variety of ways in which children’s Bibles have adapted, illustrated, and retold Bible stories for children throughout US history. Children’s Bibles served a variety of ends, such as teaching biblical literacy, instilling a fear and respect for God’s power and judgment, calling children to salvation in Jesus Christ, modeling moral virtues, and reframing Bible stories as fun and engaging stories that portray a friendly God who cares for children.
This article explores how American journalists cover religion in Europe, where issues of faith and church-state relations lead to differing interpretations of religio-ethnic news events, by analyzing U.S. newspaper coverage of the anti-Islamic Dutch MP Geert Wilders. A focus on Geert Wilders incorporates both the Netherlands and Britain into the analysis but also Europe more generally given that the case prompted a wider discussion of immigration and the place of Islam in European societies. After discussing the differing roles and perceptions of religion in the United States and Europe, the article considers the differing models of integration for immigrants on the two continents and demonstrates how this has played out in news coverage of Islam. An examination of the reporting of the Geert Wilders case shows how Islam in Europe is represented through a conflict frame that incorporates a discourse of immigration, cultural incompatibility, identity, liberalism, and freedom.
Jonathan D. Sarna
Since their emergence in the first half of the nineteenth century, Jewish newspapers have helped to shape religious community, tied far-flung American Jews together, and kept them informed. Indeed, the establishment of Jewish newspapers marked a critical turning point in the community's history. Subsequently, at key moments in the community's evolution, new “must read” periodicals regularly appeared. Yet, the history of Jewish journalism in the United States also represents, for long stretches of time, a sad saga of decline. As independent newspapers became dependent and critical voices were silenced, the Jewish press became harder to respect. This article focuses on the Jewish press in America. It first provides an overview of the beginnings of Jewish journalism and then looks at alternative models of Jewish journalism, the emergence of foreign-language Jewish newspapers, the American Hebrew, the deterioration of Jewish journalism particularly during the interwar years, and other sources of Jewish news. The article concludes by discussing American Jewish journalism's Golden Age and recent developments related to Jewish press.
Between the years 1870 and 1930, there was both a significant decline in the space devoted to religion reporting and a shift in how religion, and its relationship to scientific knowledge, was conceived and presented in journalistic accounts. This article discusses two different but related developments within journalism. First, it analyzes editorials from the New York Times, one of the most influential newspapers in the United States during the period, from 1870 through 1930. Second, it looks at the different efforts and strategies employed to create a new profession of journalism that would be on the same social plane as the more established medical and legal professions. As organizational structures gave institutional legitimacy to journalism through schools, journals, and professional associations, advocates for professionalization were able to use these institutions to advance new ideas about religion and science, and journalism's relationship to each.