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Jacob Joseph's book, The Christ who Embraces: An Orthodox Theology of Margins, explores the intersection of Orthodox Christian mission and caste dynamics among St. Thomas/Syrian/Orthodox Christians in India. It defines a liturgical touch or embrace in the context of 'untouchability,' where people identify as equal without discrimination, reflecting the inseparable unity of Christ's transcendental (divine) and immanent (human) nature.

Abstract

This article aims to reconsider some previous explanations, and to propose new reflections on the genesis and function of the hagiographical text known as the Apparitio Sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano. After a brief consideration of the narrative’s environmental setting, the sections of the legend are presented and analysed. The analysis focuses on selected topics: the hagiographer’s intention to convey the idea of a cultic substitution in the Gargano, the hagiographical topos of the animal uncovering the divinity, and the symbolic value of the characters involved. The date of the work’s composition, its intent, and issues of authorship are therefore examined.

In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

This article examines how the names of “church fathers” were compiled into lists from the end of the fourth century to the middle of the sixth century. Although not as common as biblical canon lists, these lists of church fathers attempt to vest ecclesiastical authority in the figures listed. Surveying Greek and Latin Christian literature, it finds that there are two overarching strategies for listing church fathers: (1) linking individual fathers’ authority to their involvement in authoritative church councils; (2) compiling lists of names that are meant to be representative of the church’s antiquity and catholicity.

In: Religion and Theology
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In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

The following study takes its cue from a body of literature that seeks to challenge the academic discourse on “religion” as transcendent, irreducible, and unique – sui generis. Naturally, a sui generis conception of religion also views religion’s objects through a lens of transcendence and divine authority. These objects possess immense meaning potential and act as social mediators in particular social contexts. In both ancient and modern times, early Christian manuscripts are examples of such religious objects. They are evidence of the literary practices of early Christians and are windows into their social contexts, reflecting how these believers navigated their socio-cultural realities. Modern scholars often use these manuscripts as evidence to postulate the existence of homogeneous Christian communities who created these texts for their theological upliftment. However, are such postulations supported by the material evidence? This paper examines one case study where 𝔓72 has been propped up as a witness to the presence of a coherent unified proto-orthodox Christian community in the fourth century CE in Egypt. The following research concludes that extant evidence points to a socio-religious context in Egypt during this period that was remarkably complex; as such, the existence of such a community cannot be supported.

In: Religion and Theology
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Abstract

The article argues that just as religion is manufactured or invented, so is tradition and history. This starting point is worked out with reference to history as a discursive construction, the past as fictioned in the present. The past does not exist independently of historical practice. History is a tool for ideological persuasion and ideological criticism in the chaotic, disputed and contested present. This understanding of historiography is brought to bear on the scholarly discourse on Christian origins, highlighting the performativity or mythic character of conventional reconstructions of the historical Jesus and the formation of early Christianity, in which sacred apologetic texts are employed as ethnographic sources. What is called for is to take leave of the “stance of the faithful,” and to reorient the study of the history of Christian origins away from a “protectionist doxa” towards a critical historiography that understands early Christian history as invented or manufactured.

In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

In the last few decades, religion and its terms have shown to be implicated in projects of colonial modernity. While this critique of religion is now generally accepted, the term continues to be used in the field with little regard to its history and its colonial construction. This essay aims to bring greater attention to the continuing relevance of religion in contemporary society as articulated in postcolonial scholarship. It proposes closer attention to the critique of religion in the work of David Chidester, Talal Asad and Charles Long. Two distinct dimensions of religion are identified in their work. The first is a construction of religion in colonial modernity, while the second suggests ways of studying religions in light of this construction. I show in this essay that their work points to multiple complementary ways of studying religions in the contemporary. Their work suggests that the field of religious studies cannot ignore its discursive history and construction.

In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

This essay introduces the theme issue, “Manufacturing Religion: From Christian Origins to Classical Islam.” It emphasizes the enduring relevance of paying attention to matters of classification and definition in the study of religion. The article highlights how the institutionalization and operationalization of understandings of “religion” have social effects, and thus, that the study of religion investigates nothing transcendental or sui generis, but rather ordinary human social actions and events.

In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

Although the term “totem” constituted a key term in classical theories of religion, it has not played a notable role in the recent material turn in the study of religion. This essay offers a critical reconsideration of the term by comparing its function in Durkheim’s sociology of religion with David Chidester’s postcolonial analysis of its function in religion and Religious Studies from a South African location. The comparison not only highlights problematic uses of the term in its history, but also sheds light on the question whether the term might be rehabilitated for use in the study of material religion. In assessing the term’s genealogy as well as its possible use in the study of material religion, the ethical question is of paramount importance: informed by critical theories of race, class and gender, which values may serve in our assessment?

In: Religion and Theology
Conversations with Older Roman Catholic Sisters
This book explores the experience and understanding of Roman Catholic sisters of their vocation to the apostolic form of religious life as they age.Based on interviews with twelve religious women, it draws on the practice of Lectio Divina to explore how these women describe their call to service and activity at a time in life when these might be curtailed by physical diminishment and increasingly reduced social interaction and influence.As the very institutions of religious life are themselves under threat, the book identifies new emerging forms of ministry through presence, to each other and to their carers.