Knowledge and Profanation

Transgressing the Boundaries of Religion in Premodern Scholarship


Knowledge and Profanation offers numerous instances of profoundly religious polemicists profanizing other religions ad majorem gloriam Dei, as well as sincere adherents of their own religion, whose reflective scholarly undertakings were perceived as profanizing transgressions – occasionally with good reason. In the history of knowledge of religion and profanation unintended consequences often play a decisive role. Can too much knowledge of religion be harmful? Could the profanation of a foreign religion turn out to be a double-edged sword? How much profanating knowledge of other religions could be tolerated in a premodern world?
In eleven contributions, internationally renowned scholars analyze cases of learned profanation, committed by scholars ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the early nineteenth century, as well as several antique predecessors.

Contributors are: Asaph Ben-Tov, Ulrich Groetsch, Andreas Mahler, Karl Morrison, Martin Mulsow, Anthony Ossa-Richardson, Wolfgang Spickermann, Riccarda Suitner, John Woodbridge, Azzan Yadin, and Holger Zellentin.

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Martin Mulsow is professor of intellectual history at the University of Erfurt and director of the Gotha Research Center. He is the author of Prekäres Wissen: Eine andere Ideengeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit (Berlin: 2012) and Enlightenment Underground: Radical Germany, 1680-1720 (Charlottesville: 2015).
Asaph Ben-Tov specializes in the Classical Tradition and Oriental studies in Early Modern Europe. He is the author of Lutheran Humanists and Greek Antiquity: Melanchthonian Scholarship between Universal History and Pedagogy (Leiden: 2009) and is co-editor of Knowledge and Religion in Early Modern Europe: Studies in Honor of Michael Heyd (Leiden: 2013).
Notes on the Editors
Notes on the ContributorsIi

Martin Mulsow and Asaph Ben-Tov

Part 1: The Sacred and the Profane in Art, Literature and Parody

1 Lucian of Samosata on Magic and Superstition
Wolfgang Spickermann

2 Rabbi Lazarus and the Rich Man: A Talmudic Parody of the Late Roman Hell (Yerushalmi Hagigah 2.2, 77d and Sanhedrin 6.9, 23c)
Holger Zellentin

3 Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti’s Call for Reform of Christian Art
Karl F. Morrison

4 The Sacred Becomes Profane – The Profane Becomes Sacred: Observations on the Desubstantialisation of Religious Discourse in the Early Modern Age
Andreas Mahler

Part 2: Early Modern European Knowledge about Pagan Religion

5 The Seventeenth Century Confronts the Gods: Bishop Huet, Moses, and the Dangers of Comparison
Martin Mulsow

6 The Eleusinian Mysteries in the Age of Reason
Asaph Ben-Tov

Part 3: Crossing the Boundaries in Biblical Scholarship: Ancient Preconditions and Early Modern Conflict

7 Athens and Jerusalem? Early Jewish Biblical Scholarship and the Pagan World
Azzan Yadin-Israel

8 Richard Simon and the Charenton Bible Project: The Quest for ‘Perfect Neutrality’ in Interpreting Scripture
John Woodbridge

9 The Devil in the Details: The Case of Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768)
Ulrich Groetsch

Part 4: Scientific Knowledge and Religion

10 Cry Me a Relic: The Holy Tear of Vendôme and Early Modern Lipsanomachy
Anthony Ossa-Richardson

11 The Powerlessness of the Devil: Scientific Knowledge and Demonology in Clemente Baroni Cavalcabò (1726–1796)
Riccarda Suitner

Index Nominum
All interested in Early Modern History, Bible, Talmud, Pagan Religion, Idolatry, Superstition, Magic, Parody, and Science.
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