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.
This Epilogue offers a response to the chapters of the Handbook from an Islamic perspective. It addresses the way Muslims should look at the diversity of the Abrahamic religions, considering both commonalities and differences. The discussion focuses on several points: the relationship between the scriptural sources of the three traditions according to Islam; how to reconcile singularity within the community, the universality of principles, the human family as ‘one family’, and the overall shared sacred history of the Abrahamic religions; education and the transmission or dissemination of the three religions; the role of religion within contemporary secular and consumerist societies; the question of environment and issues pertaining to applied ethics; and the issue of violence. The conclusion will profess to the consequent necessity for continual dialogue so as to facilitate the understanding of one another’s references and viewpoints.
Cleo McNelly Kearns
While a literary and critical modernism seems on the surface independent of and at times oblivious to theological modernism, the modernist stances taken by major twentieth-century artists and writers raise theological issues and concerns with which they are very much engaged. These issues are incarnated in their stylistic and formal innovations as well as in their range of interests, often sensitive as well as challenging to conservative and orthodox understandings of Christianity and prescient with respect to problems to come. These include problems of comparative religion, esotericism, spiritualism, and pagan and natural theology, as well as questions of politics, ethics, and revolutionary change. Engagement with these matters did not prevent many moderns from finding their way towards religion, Christian and otherwise, on terms both new and old.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job form the main part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. They share an interest in everyday life and the desire to create order out of human experiences, but offer no single theology that can be described as ‘wisdom’ theology – only a common concern for the conditions of human life and for human experience as the basis for theology. The conceptual origin of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job is of a world created and therefore ordered, but they disagree on whether man is capable of perceiving that order. They agree that the path to wisdom is through experience, but whether an underlying order can be construed from human concrete experiences is debatable. The three wisdom books are concerned with the human condition; they are not accounts of historical persons, but tales of everyman.
Guy G. Stroumsa
This chapter analyses the roots of the contemporary study of the Abrahamic religions. Despite the similarities and contacts between communities of believers in these religions, the modern comparative study of religion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had little interest in the study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as comparable phenomena. This puzzle in the history of scholarship needs to be explained, all the more so since a ‘theological triangle’ between these three religions had been recognized for centuries since the birth of Islam. The nineteenth century saw an eclipse of the concept of the Abrahamic religions, when religious prejudice was turned into racial prejudice, and both Judaism and Islam were relegated to ‘the East’ and denied any real commonality with Christianity, the religion of Europe. It is only in the second half of the twentieth century that such attitudes would change, opening the way to another paradigm shift.
This article first clarifies the motive behind Kanzo Uchimura' reception of the Bible in a brief historical description of Japan's encounter with Christianity and the emergence of Uchimura's community of Mukyokai. Based upon the identified motivation, it then surveys Uchimura's writings with three applicational foci in mind, which stand out in his reading of the Bible; that is, the authentication of the marginal, reconsideration of patriotism, and redefinition of Christianity. Books, journal articles, and diary entries that he left behind are all contained in the forty-one volumes of Uchimura Kanzo Zenshu (‘The Complete Works of Kanzo Uchimura’ — Uchimura 1980–2001). Among these, particular focus is given to the series of expository essays on Paul's Letter to the Galatians, and other essays regarding major prophets, as Uchimura often compares them with the apostle Paul. Interest in these essays is due to the special affinity that Uchimura held toward the Galatians letter, to which his own life experience of community-building corresponds closely as an analogical narrative.