(article written together with Joonas Maristo): The article discusses an Arabic tradition about a hairdresser and her children in the Pharaoh’s court, arguing that the narrative belongs to the martyrological tradition about “the mother and her seven sons,” popular in Christian and rabbinic literature in late antiquity. Specific to this Arabic and Muslim literary context, the mother is a hairdresser, and the story reaches the Prophet Muhammad through a beautiful fragrance on his nocturnal journey. Stories that have travelled, been transmitted, told, and retold in the oral and literary corpora of the three Abrahamic faiths are significant examples of what the article terms “the Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact zone” of shared traditions in late antiquity and the medieval era.
The article offers a new perspective on the discussion on the birth of the so-called big gods, represented by the omnipotent agents of Abrahamic religions. The development of morally interested gods has been connected to the rise of upper social classes in complex societies with a need for religiously based ethics during the Axial Age (600 BCE to 100 CE). However, while masses continued to believe in potent yet amoral supernatural agents, it is possible that the morally interested gods preceded the large-scale societies and, rather, helped build them. The article argues that a group of second- and third-century confession inscriptions from traditional cults of Asia Minor prove that the morally interested big gods may have evolved also during crises in rural contexts.
The article examines the multifaceted networks of identities and religious affinities in a “merchant-geography” text known in Latin as the Expositio and Descriptio totius mundi et gentium. This text was originally composed in Greek in the fourth century but preserved in paraphrased Latin translations that were written centuries later. In addition to the trade and economy of the Roman Empire, the text describes the geography of Roman provinces. Both Latin translators may have been Christian, and one of them omitted many references to non-Christian cults. Lampinen shows how the original text contains valuable evidence on contemporary perceptions of geography but remains ambiguous in its views on religious identities.