Cloth $97.00 ISBN: 9780226481869 Published April 2012
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226481876 Published April 2012

Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars

Critical Explorations in the History of Religions

Bruce Lincoln

Bruce Lincoln

320 pages | 16 color plates, 10 line drawings, 12 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Cloth $97.00 ISBN: 9780226481869 Published April 2012
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226481876 Published April 2012

Bruce Lincoln is one of the most prominent advocates within religious studies for an uncompromisingly critical approach to the phenomenon of religion—historians of religions, he believes, should resist the preferred narratives and self-understanding of religions themselves, especially when their stories are endowed with sacred origins and authority. In Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars, Lincoln assembles a collection of essays that both illustrates and reveals the benefits of his methodology, making a case for a critical religious studies that starts with skepticism but is neither cynical nor crude.

The book begins with Lincoln’s “Theses on Method” and ends with “The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies,” in which he unsparingly considers the failings of uncritical and nonhistorical approaches to the study of religions. In between, Lincoln presents new examinations of problems in ancient religions and relates these cases to larger comparative themes. While bringing to light important features of the formation of pantheons and the constructions of demons, chaos, and the dead, Lincoln demonstrates that historians of religions should take religious things—inspired scriptures, sacred centers, salvific rites, communities graced by divine favor—as the theories of interested humans that shape perception, community, and experiences. As he shows, it is for their terrestrial influence, and not their sacred origins, that religious phenomena merit consideration by the historian.
 
Tackling many questions central to religious study, Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars will be a touchstone for the history of religions in the twenty-first century.
Guy Stroumsa, University of Oxford

“Bruce Lincoln is a rara avis. His combination of precise technical analysis of ancient religious texts, allied to a grand, comparative vision of religion in society, past and present, informs a reflection, at once anxious and radical, anchored in the predicament of our own times. This combination produces a humanistic approach, devoid of grandiloquence, and this strikingly original book will be of great importance to all students of ancient religions and to historians of religion in general.”

Randall Styers, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“Bruce Lincoln has a gift for selecting persuasive examples, engaging them with creativity, and linking them to broader themes and scholarly debates. His cogent and provocative arguments in this book range across the scope of religious history, from the ancient world to twentieth-century Latin America, and engage with a number of significant topics, including religious violence, nationalism, definitions of religion, and religious innovation. Eminently teachable, Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars is a book that invites critical analysis and reflection and will be a valuable addition to discussions about theory and method in the study of the history of religions.”

Catholic Sentinel
“A consistently critical and thoughtful assessment of the history of religions.”
Method and Theory in the Study of Religions
“Resulting from his masterly language skills, the main area of interest in Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars is unsurprisingly what Lincoln since many years avoids to label Indo-European religion. These chapters on ancient religions profoundly deepen our understanding of the mythologies and symbolic worlds of Persia, Vedic India, the Old Norse and the ancient world in general.”
Reviews in Religion and Theology
“Bruce Lincoln, like his teachers, has become one of the ‘giants’ in the discipline of religious studies, and the essays collected in Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars are a fine example of the methodological approach known in the field as the ‘history of religions,’ practiced by perhaps its most spirited and able exponent. This would be an excellent addition to any upper-level undergraduate or graduate syllabus considering current approaches to the academic study of religion.”
Contents
List of Illustrations        Preface
CHAPTER ONE
Theses on Method

CHAPTER TWO
How to Read a Religious Text

CHAPTER THREE
Nature and Genesis of Pantheons

CHAPTER FOUR
The Cosmo-logic of Persian Demonology

CHAPTER FIVE
Anomaly, Science, and Religion

CHAPTER SIX
Between History and Myth

CHAPTER SEVEN
Poetic, Royal, and Female Discourse

CHAPTER EIGHT
Ancient and Post-Ancient Religions

CHAPTER NINE
Sanctified Violence

CHAPTER TEN
Religious and Other Conflicts in Twentieth-Century Guatemala

CHAPTER ELEVEN
In Praise of the Chaotic

CHAPTER TWELVE
Theses on Comparison
with Cristiano Grottanelli

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies

Notes
Bibliography
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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