Volume 2: Deuterocanonical Scriptures. Editors Matthias Henze and Frank Feder
Vol. 2A: overview articles
Vol. 2B: to Ezra
Vol. 2C: Jubilees to 16 Appendix
This article discusses the challenges facing scholars exploring the nature of belief in ancient Greek religion. While recent scholarship has raised questions about individual religious activities, and work on ritual, the body, and the senses has broadened our methodological palette, the nature and dynamics of generally held “low intensity” beliefs still tend to be described simply as “unquestioned” or “embedded” in society. But examining scholarship on divine personifications suggests that ancient beliefs were — and our perceptions of them are — more complex. This article first explores the example of Tyche (“Chance”), in order to highlight some of the problems that surround the use of the term “belief.” It then turns to the theories of “ideology” of Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller and argues that these can offer provocative insights into the nature and dynamics of ritual and belief in ancient Greek culture.
Ancient Greek descriptions of ecstatic and mystic rituals, here broadly labeled as Bacchantic worship, regularly include elements of moral corruption and dissolution of social unity. Suspicions were mostly directed against unofficial cult groups that exploited Dionysiac experiences in secluded settings. As the introduction of copious new cults attests, Greek religion was receptive to external influences. This basic openness, however, was not synonymous with tolerance, and pious respect for all deities did not automatically include their worshippers. This article reconsiders the current view of ancient religious intolerance by regarding these negative stereotypes as expressions of prejudice and by investigating the social dynamics behind them. Prejudices against private Bacchantic groups are regarded as part of the process of buttressing the religious authority of certain elite quarters in situations where they perceive that their position is being threatened by rival claims. It is suggested that both the accentuation and alleviation of prejudice is best understood in relation to the relative stability of the elite and the religious control it exerted.
Using the methods of redaction criticism, this article analyzes two Qurʾanic parallel passages, Q 23:1–11 and Q 70:22–35, and the chronology of their redaction. Relying on discernable traces of editorial work, it argues that these texts of instruction, which initially exhorted their audience to live a pious and ascetic life, have known a process of rewriting, which substantially softened the ascetic injunction of continence present in the earliest versions. This analysis might shed light on the background and development of the Qurʾan and early Islamic piety.
While the Qurʾan approves of ascetic practices such as fasting and vigils, it does not insist on them. Nonetheless, Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life may help us to identify an ascetic “training program” within the Qurʾan. This has as its main elements: hijra, in the sense of an ongoing attitude of separation and exile; jihad, in the sense of training for and engaging in combat, again as an ongoing attitude; and poverty, not in the sense of voluntarily undergoing deprivation, but of benefaction on a heroic scale recalling pre-Islamic Arabia. How do we contextualize this program and the Qurʾanic environment in general? While the historical narratives about Muhammad and the early community have plenty to say about these elements, they do not adequately account for the way they appear in the Qurʾan. We propose instead to use the chronological order of suras first proposed by Weil and Nöldeke, not to establish chronology but to identify diverse communities of reception within the Qurʾan, specifically with regard to poverty and generosity. The result is a simultaneous contrast and balance between values and practices based on reciprocity on the one hand, and requital/ reward on the other. Asceticism thus has a central role in a uniquely Qurʾanic system of economic and moral exchange.