The Idea of Semitic Monotheism: The Rise and Fall of a Scholarly Myth

ISBN : 9780192898685

Guy G. Stroumsa
336 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
May 2021
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The Idea of Semitic Monotheism examines some major aspects of the scholarly study of religion in the long nineteenth century-from the Enlightenment to the First World War. It aims to understand the new status of Judaism and Islam in the formative period of the new discipline. Guy G. Stroumsa focuses on the concept of Semitic monotheism, a concept developed by Ernest Renan around the mid-nineteenth century on the basis of the postulated and highly problematic contradistinction between Aryan and Semitic families of peoples, cultures, and religions. This contradistinction grew from the Western discovery of Sanskrit and its relationship with European languages, at the time of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Together with the rise of scholarly Orientalism, this discovery offered new perspectives on the East, as a consequence of which the Near East was demoted from its traditional status as the locus of the Biblical revelations. This innovative work studies a central issue in the modern study of religion. Doing so, however, it emphasizes the new dualistic taxonomy of religions had major consequences and sheds new light on the roots of European attitudes to Jews and Muslims in the twentieth century, up to the present day.


Introduction: The Study of Religion and the Spirit of Orientalism
1 Varieties of Monotheism and the Three Rings
2 The Enlightenment's Paradigm Shift and the Three Impostors
3 Aryans, Semites, and Jewish Scholars
4 Cultural Transfers and Philologia orientalis
5 Semitic Monotheism: Renan on Judaism and Islam
6 A Jesus of White Marble or a Jesus in the Flesh?
7 Secular Scholarship in France: Catholics, Protestants, and Jews
8 From the Quarrel of Monotheism to the Babel-Bibel Controversy
9 Semitic Religion and Sacrificial Ritual
10 Sacrifice Compared: Israel and India
Conclusion: Comparing Monotheisms

About the author: 

Guy G. Stroumsa is Martin Buber Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Professor Emeritus of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions at the University of Oxford. His publications include The Making of the Abrahamic Religions in Late Antiquity (2015), The Oxford Handbook of the Abrahamic Religions (co-edited with Adam J. Silverstein, 2015), and Self and Self-Transformations in the History of Religions (co-edited with David Shulmam; 2002). He is also a series editor of the Oxford Studies in the Abrahamic Religions series, with Adam J. Silverstein.

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