“Severing the Joints and the Marrow”: The Double-Edged Sword of Comparison

In: Religion and Theology
James Constantine Hanges Department of Comparative Religion Miami University Oxford Ohio USA

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Edwin Hatch argued for the comparability of early Christian and Greco-Roman institutional forms. But his critics dismissed Hatch’s comparanda for being insufficiently precise, and thus no threat to the uniqueness of Christian forms. This paper explores comparison, the complexities of claiming comparability in specific cases, arguing that the process of identifying comparanda is political and strategic, used both as a tool and a weapon, and too often in the study of religion – as in the case of Hatch’s critics – comparison is wielded in the service of incomparability, a strategic move that can be called comparatio iniquitatis causa (comparison for the sake of difference).

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