Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars: Critical Explorations in the History of Religions

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University of Chicago Press, Apr 16, 2012 - History - 228 pages
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Bruce Lincoln is one of the most prominent advocates within religious studies for an uncompromisingly critical approach to the phenomenon of religion—historians of religions, he believes, should resist the preferred narratives and self-understanding of religions themselves, especially when their stories are endowed with sacred origins and authority. In Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars, Lincoln assembles a collection of essays that both illustrates and reveals the benefits of his methodology, making a case for a critical religious studies that starts with skepticism but is neither cynical nor crude.

The book begins with Lincoln’s “Theses on Method” and ends with “The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies,” in which he unsparingly considers the failings of uncritical and nonhistorical approaches to the study of religions. In between, Lincoln presents new examinations of problems in ancient religions and relates these cases to larger comparative themes. While bringing to light important features of the formation of pantheons and the constructions of demons, chaos, and the dead, Lincoln demonstrates that historians of religions should take religious things—inspired scriptures, sacred centers, salvific rites, communities graced by divine favor—as the theories of interested humans that shape perception, community, and experiences. As he shows, it is for their terrestrial influence, and not their sacred origins, that religious phenomena merit consideration by the historian. Tackling many questions central to religious study, Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars will be a touchstone for the history of religions in the twenty-first century.
  

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Contents

1 Theses on Method
1
2 How to Read a Religious Text
5
3 Nature and Genesis of Pantheons
17
4 The Cosmologic of Persian Demonology
31
5 Anomaly Science and Religion
43
6 Between History and Myth
53
7 Poetic Royal and Female Discourse
63
8 Ancient and PostAncient Religions
73
10 Religious and Other Conflicts in TwentiethCentury Guatemala
95
11 In Praise of the Chaotic
109
12 Theses on Comparison with Cristiano Grottanelli
121
13 The Undiscipline of Religious Studies
131
Notes
137
Bibliography
199
Index
219
Copyright

9 Sanctified Violence
83

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About the author (2012)

Bruce Lincoln is the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions, Middle Eastern Studies, and Medieval Studies at the University of Chicago, where he is also an associate in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics. He is the author of nine books, most recently of Religion, Empire, and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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