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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: Comparative Study of Religion, nineteenth century, prejudice, orientalism, enlightenment, Gotthold Lessing, Tractate of the Three Impostors

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