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

Hardcover | April 16, 2012

byBruce Lincoln

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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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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 ...

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...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:April 16, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226481867

ISBN - 13:9780226481869

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations        Preface
CHAPTER ONE
Theses on Method

CHAPTER TWO
How to Read a Religious Text

CHAPTER THREE
Nature and Genesis of Pantheons

CHAPTER FOUR
The Cosmo-logic of Persian Demonology

CHAPTER FIVE
Anomaly, Science, and Religion

CHAPTER SIX
Between History and Myth

CHAPTER SEVEN
Poetic, Royal, and Female Discourse

CHAPTER EIGHT
Ancient and Post-Ancient Religions

CHAPTER NINE
Sanctified Violence

CHAPTER TEN
Religious and Other Conflicts in Twentieth-Century Guatemala

CHAPTER ELEVEN
In Praise of the Chaotic

CHAPTER TWELVE
Theses on Comparison
with Cristiano Grottanelli

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Bruce Lincoln has a gift for selecting persuasive examples, engaging them with creativity, and linking them to broader themes and scholarly debates. His cogent and provocative arguments in this book range across the scope of religious history, from the ancient world to twentieth-century Latin America, and engage with a number of significant topics, including religious violence, nationalism, definitions of religion, and religious innovation. Eminently teachable, Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars is a book that invites critical analysis and reflection and will be a valuable addition to discussions about theory and method in the study of the history of religions.”