Chapter 5 The Eclipse of Geo Widengren in the Study of Iranian Religions

In: The Legacy, Life and Work of Geo Widengren and the Study of the History of Religions after World War II
Author: Albert de Jong

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Abstract

When it comes to Geo Widengren as a student of Iranian religions, it is very difficult not to be caught between two extreme emotions: on the one hand, admiration of someone who was in many respects a great scholar and who never shied away from bold claims which came in a language that would strike most of us nowadays as over-confident; on the other, despondency over a scholar who was always wrong, even when judged by the standards of his own time, and who persisted in being wrong even when errors were pointed out to him. What I admire about Widengren is his immense scholarly productivity, and especially his willingness to survey enormous stretches of Iranian and Near Eastern evidence and to issue the warning, time and again, that whereas philology is indispensable, it is never sufficient for the writing or understanding of religious history. It is striking that this warning, which is so self-evidently true, could and must still be issued today.

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