The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
Scott M. Langston
The questions scholars are raising in regard to the biblical text are changing. With increasing frequency biblical scholars are asking, ‘What does the Bible do’?, in recognition that the Bible's impact on individuals, societies, and cultures (and vice-versa) is an important part of understanding the Bible holistically. Unquestionably, understanding a text's inception and formation remains at the heart of biblical studies, but the move to study its wider impact promises to engage a larger number of fields and practitioners and broaden the horizons of biblical scholars. As part of this holistic focus Exodus has proven especially fertile, particularly as a paradigm for critiquing, challenging, and/or overthrowing systems and groups deemed to be oppressive. Interacting with a variety of outside factors, the biblical text has proven flexible enough to accommodate a multitude of distinctions, visions, and solutions.
Harriet A. Harris
Protestant fundamentalists regard the Bible as foundational for faith, and believe that if the Bible were found to be flawed, Christianity would collapse. They therefore also feel concerned at the prospect of more than one meaning to a biblical passage, for their foundation would then seem more like shifting sand than solid rock. Since the late 1970s, so-called fundamentalist movements have been identified across the world's faiths. The term ‘fundamentalism’ has now become so elastic that a core definition is difficult to retain. Within Protestant fundamentalism, notions of biblical authority must be understood in relation to the foundational status given to Scripture. Other religious resurgent movements around the world are foundationalist in some respect, and many select and absolutize particular interpretations of particular texts. This article analyzes fundamentalism as biblical or textual foundationalism to help illuminate points of comparison and contrast across the fundamentalisms of the world.
This article begins in the early Middle Ages, and specifically addresses questions concerning the economic and political situation of Jewry in Western Europe. The period of the high Middle Ages follows, with a focus on developments in community life and the character of Jewish society. The discussion considers the Jewish foundation myths that were born in the twelfth century in an attempt to explain and interpret the social and cultural changes of the time. It examines the nature of the interaction and the form of discourse that characterized the medieval relations between a Christian majority and a Jewish minority culture. It also describes the legal status of the Jews in Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire. The article also discusses Jewish life in Spain, since, for a significant segment of the period under study, Spain was under Muslim rule.
Repeated defeats at the hands of the Romans and the subsequent pan-European migration made the Jewish people pragmatic and their religion, rid off radical traits, with the exception of rare, obscure flares. Nevertheless, the painful memories and the hope of a holistic redemption always maintained presence in the Jewish psyche, waiting for the opportune moment to flare up. The resigned postmillennialism and rational, secular, European Jewish philosophy was content with the creation of Israel on the lost land. The subsequent turmoil, and the perpetual war footing of Israel reoriented the new generation of Jews in a catastrophic millennialism and radical ideas of redemption, inspired by the permanently belligerent milieu of its existence. It facilitated a tendency to aspire for a messianic age. Fascinated by prospects of a Jewish commonwealth and rebuilding of the temple on Mount Zion, the conservative Protestants have been funding the radical Jewish cause.
This article explores ways in which ideological criticism may contribute to biblical studies. The discussion is rooted in the central role that the critique of ideology has within the Marxist tradition and the ways in which that rich tradition of discussion can serve biblical exegesis and theology. It gives two specific examples of the way in which there has been a challenge to dominant ideologies. First of all, the emergence of liberationist hermeneutics (linked as it is with both feminist and ‘Black’ theologies) has posed questions to a dominant, ‘First World’ biblical hermeneutics and its idealist presuppositions, in which the history of ideas has taken precedence over their relationship to their social formation. Second, throughout the history of Christianity there have been alternative patterns of biblical interpretation, with different priorities and with the interests of readers, from below other than the élites of the day. The article concludes with some consideration of the historical dimension of ideological criticism in which different doctrinal and practical priorities have emerged in readings of the Bible apart from the dominant ideological contexts.