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Article

Christopher Hays

The relationship between Egypt and ancient Israel and Judah was far more complex than is often recognized. Egypt figures prominently in their national myths of origin as a way station for the patriarchs and as the “house of slaves” and starting point of the Exodus. Although no Exodus event can be confirmed from extrabiblical sources, its significance in the Bible suggests an historical kernel. The diverse existing traditions about Egypt in the texts of the Pentateuch and other early biblical writings, combined and written down at a later date, seem to reflect different experiences on the part of the groups that coalesced into Israel By the time of the monarchy, there is more direct evidence for Egyptian influence on Israelite culture, particularly in administrative affairs. It is also clear that Egyptian religion was practiced in the Levant at this time and would have been known in Israel and Judah. By the time of the divided monarchy, the historical picture comes into better focus. Relations between Egypt, Israel, and Judah were quite variable. Although Egypt’s New Kingdom empire in the Levant had ended, the region continued to be a useful trading outlet, and the pharaohs were not above raiding to assert their power. However, there are numerous examples of fugitives from the Levant finding refuge from their enemies in Egypt. In the interest of maintaining a buffer zone against the northern empires that encroached, Egypt and Kush gave military aid to Israel and Judah at times, through both direct action and supplies. The prophets had not forgotten Egypt’s role as an oppressor and frequently condemned it, as well as the tendency of Israelite and Judahite rulers to seek its help. But at times the prophets also envisioned peace with Egypt. There are a number of specific Egyptian texts that supply mutually illuminating points of comparison with biblical texts, including wisdom instructions, prayers, hymns, creation accounts, and autobiographies. These are indications of the extensive, ongoing, cultural interactions between Egypt and the cultures that produced the Old Testament.

Article

Marpa Lotsawa Chökyi Lodrö (Mar pa chos kyi blo gros, 1000?–1085?) is one of the most famous intrepid translators of the 11th century, who traveled from Tibet to India and brought back to his homeland many of the Buddhist teachings that would decline in India over the following centuries. Marpa is the Tibetan founder of the Kagyü school, one of the main religious orders of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the disciple of some of the greatest luminaries of India such as Nāropa (d. 1040) and Maitrīpa (986–1063), and the master of the yogin and poet Milarepa (1028?–1111?). Marpa lived during the period of the second spread of Buddhism in Tibet, a period of cultural renaissance that followed the collapse of the Tibetan Empire in the 9th and 10th centuries. At that time, many Tibetans traveled south to Nepal and India in order to receive, practice, and translate the various Buddhist traditions, sutra and tantra, that were blossoming in India. Marpa specialized in Highest Yoga tantras (Sanskrit niruttaratantras) and transmitted in Tibet cycles associated with the tantras of Hevajra, Guhyasamāja, Cakrasaṃvara, Mahāmāyā, and Catuṣpīṭha. He is well known for the potency of his key instructions related to the perfection phase of these tantras, known as the Six Doctrines of Nāropa (nā ro chos drug). With the success of his disciples’ practice, the Six Doctrines of Nāropa and Mahāmudrā became central teachings in all subdivisions of the Kagyü lineage. Marpa’s life is mostly known through a long biography composed in the early 16th century by Tsangnyön Heruka (Gtsang smyon he ru ka, 1452–1507), but there are many other biographies written before and after that date. Despite basic inconsistencies in the narratives, it can be concluded that Marpa first left home at twelve. He went to study with Drokmi Lotsawa (’Brog mi lo tsā ba, 992–1074) in Tibet, and then continued on toward Nepal and India, where he spent about twenty years in total, making several journeys in Tibet, Nepal, and India. In India, he mostly traveled off the beaten track and lived the life of an Indian yogin, far from the main institutions of the time. Although he met famous masters such as Nāropa and Maitrīpa, he attended on them in jungles, mountains, and charnel grounds, and mostly traveled alone, sometimes accompanied by his friends, the Tibetan Nyö (gnyos) Lotsawa or the Newari Paiṇḍapa. During his first journey to India (in the 1020s and early 1030s), he received all the transmissions for which he became famous in Tibet, and he deepened his understanding during a second journey in the late 1040s. At that time, he is said to have visited most of his teachers again, and to have had visions of Nāropa, who was then either dead or considered to be engaged in tantric practice. In Tibet, he settled in the southern region of Lhodrak, where he became an important landowner and tantric master. Although he often traveled elsewhere in Tibet in the earlier part of his life in order to accumulate gold and disciples, in the later part he mostly stayed in his estate of Drowolung, where his disciples came to meet him. As a lay practitioner, he had children, but his family lineage did not continue after his death. His religious lineage continued with Milarepa, who transmitted the “lineage of practice” (Tibetan sgrub brgyud), which further flowed through Gampopa and all the Kagyü sub-lineages. Ngok Chödor (Rngog chos rdor) and Tsurtön Wangngé (Mtshur ston dbang nge) were other important disciples who held Marpa’s “lineage of exegesis” (bshad brgyud), especially with regard to the Hevajra and Guhyasamāja traditions, respectively.

Article

In relation to Martin Luther, the topic of “history and its meaning” is necessarily imprecise. It can refer to his personal understanding of history and its meaning. It can refer to the history and meaning that Luther himself made as a result of especially his theological work. And it can refer to the history and meaning that came after Luther and was influenced by him. Therefore, some nuance and refinement are called for in dealing with this complex topic. Luther in his own way was immersed in the topic of history and its meaning. He did not devote much of his writing and speaking explicitly to a kind of “philosophy of history.” However, he wrote and spoke much about the dynamic affairs of God, human beings, and the world, and he could not have done so without conducting his discussion of such events within a comprehensive theological framework that provided an ultimate horizon of meaning. Some explicit claims that Luther made on history and its meaning can be identified, e.g., that it provides lively examples by which the common person could more readily grasp truths that were less effectively communicated by discursive language. From these claims can be articulated a general overview of Luther’s stance on why history and its meaning were to be taken seriously. Besides the knowledge that can be gained about this topic by marshalling Luther’s explicit claims, additional insight can be garnered through a more indirect approach. Much more awareness can be gained into Luther’s view of this topic by turning to the implicit claims that can be discerned within Luther’s theological formulations. This can be done by considering Luther’s theology from various vantage points. Taking different perspectives on his theological understanding can result in obtaining further knowledge into his view of history and its meaning, e.g., that it is marked by paradoxicality, sacramentality, complexity, intensity (of meaning), and totality (of scope). The meaning of history is never completed in the past or the present; past and present meanings continue to be brought into fuller form in the future. Therefore, this theme has not been treated thoroughly until it has included an account of Luther’s impact in this area on future thinkers. The legacy of Luther’s view of history and its meaning is expansive. A report on this aspect of the issue must necessarily be limited. Even a selected narrative, however, can provide a sense of the truth that history’s meaning is an ever-unfolding affair.

Article

H. G. M. Williamson

The history of ancient Israel is best known to most people from the narratives in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. There, however, the name “Israel” covers a wide diversity of social and political entities over the course of many centuries. The first attestation of the name outside the Bible (on the Egyptian stela of Merneptah, c. 1208 bce) seems to refer at most to some ill-defined tribal federation. It then served for at least two different monarchies and later again as a social or religious title for the people who inhabited the Achaemenid (Persian) province of Yehud. The value of the biblical written records varies considerably with regard to historical content, and this must further be evaluated on the basis of internal literary analysis and in the light of evidence that comes from archaeological research, including in particular from epigraphic sources both from Israel itself and from many near and more distant nations. How to combine these differing forms of evidence has been the topic of lively and sometimes rancorous debate, which varies in its detail from one period to another, often depending on the extent to which external sources are immediately available. Solutions are not always available, but exploration into the nature of these problems and misunderstandings in the application of appropriate methods reveal where the problems lie and, in some cases, what are plausible solutions. Until the 19th century, the history of ancient Israel was, for most people, coterminous with the familiar narrative of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. No relevant external sources were known, and there was no reason to doubt its essential historical reliability, allowance made, of course, for those who could not accept the miraculous as historically factual. Archaeological and epigraphical discoveries over the last two centuries or so, together with the introduction more recently of new and different historical methods, have led to aspects of this topic being fiercely contested in current scholarship. Taking a general familiarity with the outline “story” for granted, the following analysis will present some of the major topics on which new data have become available and on which opinion remains divided.

Article

Carl Axel Aurelius

In the Swedish history of Christian thought there are various interpretations of the Reformation and of Martin Luther and his work. In the 17th century, Luther predominately stood out as an instrument of God’s providence. In the 18th century, among the pietists, he was regarded as a fellow believer, in the 19th century as a hero of history, and in the 20th century during the Swedish so-called Luther Renaissance as a prophet and an interpreter of the Gospel. This does not necessarily mean that the interpretations of Luther merely reflect the various thought patterns of different epochs, that whatever is said about Luther is inevitably captured by the spirit of the time. The serious study of Luther’s writings could also lead to contradictions with common thought patterns and presuppositions. One could say that Luther’s writings have worked as “classics,” not merely confirming the status quo but also generating new patterns of thought and deed, making him something rather different than just a name, a symbol, or a flag, which sometimes have been assumed. And one can only hope that his writings will continue to work in the same way in years to come. Anyway the reception of the Lutheran heritage in Sweden is well worth studying since it in some ways differs from the reception in other Evangelic countries.

Article

Any discussion of Chinese Buddhist diaspora communities in Canada must account for the broader context within which they have been subsumed. To a great extent the timing and nature of Chinese Buddhist activity in Canada was determined by a legacy of racism and harsh immigration laws that were not fully reformed until the late 1960s. The first significant flow of Chinese migration to Canada began in the mid-19th century, commencing with gold rushes in California and British Columbia during the 1850s. Following this, construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1881–1885), spanning a distance of approximately 4,700km between Montréal, Québec, and Port Moody, British Columbia, provided the impetus for a subsequent wave of Chinese migration for the purpose of providing rail construction labor on Canada’s west coast. Despite the presence of significant numbers of Chinese in Canada, there is very little evidence of Chinese Buddhist practice and certainly practice within institutional settings prior to the 20th century. Nineteenth-century Chinese religious activity, such as it was, took place in the context of centers serving as clan shrines with altars dedicated to local deities linked to clan home regions. Buddhist figures mixed with popular deities were associated with clan rituals informed by a cyclical calendar of rites. Development of the critical social mass needed for support of Buddhist temples and centers was severely curtailed by an absence of a basic supporting family structure, as the Chinese population was virtually all male through 1885. Subsequent modest population gains made in the first decades of the 20th century were reversed with passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. Historically, Chinese religious activity has had a strong public dimension that includes public, and often outdoor, festivals. This, combined with the distinct appearance associated with Buddhist architecture, would make Chinese Buddhist communities’ institutions and practices conspicuous during times when they were viewed with widespread hostility. Relegated to “Chinatowns,” there was little support for building Buddhist institutions and every reason not to make such conspicuous and dangerous cultural gestures. Following World War II, and coincident with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada was a signatory, things began to change for the better. In 1947 the Chinese were finally able to vote, though immigration legislation remained deeply racist. In 1967 Canada’s Liberal government under Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau (1919–2000) inaugurated the point system, permitting people to qualify for landed immigrant status without reference to their particular country of origin. In the same year this change was made the community roots of the first Chinese Buddhist institutions were established in Vancouver and Toronto. Major development of Buddhist institutions did not begin to gain any real momentum until the mid-1980s, with a significant increase in Chinese migration from Hong Kong. This accelerated as the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) drew closer. Significant social networks and an increase in economic resources finally made the purchase of land and the construction of Chinese Buddhist temples a reality. Canada’s demographics underwent a dramatic transformation as European migration that had peaked in the mid- to late 1970s was equaled and then eclipsed by migration from East Asia. In Canada, Pure Land Buddhist organizations such as Ling Yen Mountain Temple and Gold Buddha Monastery, with roots in Taiwan and the United States, and International Buddhist Temple, with roots principally in Hong Kong, led the way in the emergence of Chinese Buddhist diaspora communities. Through the 1990s Taiwan-based Dharma Drum Mountain, which provides both Pure Land ceremonies and Chan teaching, established itself in Vancouver, as did Tung in Kok Yuen, an organization originating in Hong Kong. A significant increase in PRC migration, concentrated in Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver, did not bring with it any significant institutional ties, but the new immigrant population did provide a constituency from which temples could draw new members, though they competed in this regard with Christian churches. Through the early 21st century Chinese migration numbers have remained robust, and Chinese Buddhist communities in many cases continue to consolidate and grow with deepening and expanding local community roots and increasingly strong international ties and outreach.

Article

Carool Kersten

The caliphate as an institution for governing the Muslim community can be traced back to the time immediately after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 ce. With its humble origins in the parochial settings of an Arabian desert oasis, the caliphate provided the structure for the shepherding of a community of believers organized around prophetic teachings calling for return to the true religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets, a religion that came to be known as Islam. Despite internal dissent and even civil war, the caliphate not only survived but even expanded far beyond the Arabian Peninsula. Between the 8th and 10th centuries the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates ruled an empire stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indus River. After that, the challenges of sustained political control proved too formidable to be exercised from a single center, leading to political fragmentation. Although it functioned only for a few centuries as an effective form of Islamic governance, for many Sunni Muslims the caliphate’s political and symbolic significance has outlasted its administrative and institutional fragmentation. Its appeal even continued after its formal abolition in 1924 by the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881–1938). Since then the caliphate has not just remained a nostalgic memory. Throughout the 20th century and into the new millennium, some proponents of political Islam continue to advocate the restoration of a caliphate as a rallying point for Muslims worldwide, in some instances making concrete efforts toward re-establishing the institution or even proclaiming a new caliph.

Article

Historians Urs App and Martino Dibeltulo Concu have argued that the European “discovery” of Buddhism as a “religion” can be dated to the 16th century rather than the 19th, and that the presentation of the Buddha as a philosopher by the likes of Eugène Burnouf is a secularized holdover from the Jesuit accounts of the 16th century. These claims have a tenuous basis, and Burnouf’s portrayal of the Buddha as a philosopher was a radical break from earlier Jesuit accounts. Unlike the Asian Buddhists who preceded him, Burnouf separated the facts from beliefs and concluded the Buddha was a human philosopher. The essay explores the 16th-century Jesuit encounter with Buddhists in Japan and the accounts that were generated therefrom, with particular attention to the notion that the Buddha taught both an inner materialist doctrine and an outer moral one; it looks to the dissemination and development of these ideas in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on the “African hypothesis” as it is found in various European savants; it turns to the 19th-century “discovery” of Buddhism by the likes of Ozeray, Abel-Rémusat, Hodgson, and Burnouf. it then draws out the implications of the defense of Masuzawa and Droit’s position given in this article for the field of Buddhist studies, particularly with regard to methodological issues.

Article

Although in Tibet there is no single text directly referred to as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, this English work is the primary source for Western understandings of Tibetan Buddhist conceptions of death. These understandings have been highly influenced by Western spiritualist movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, resulting in efforts to adapt and synthesize various frameworks of “other” religious traditions, particularly those from Asian societies that are viewed as esoteric or mystical, including tantric or Tibetan Buddhism. This has resulted in creative forms of appropriation, reinterpretation, and misrepresentation of Tibetan views and rituals surrounding death, which often neglect the historical and religious realities of the tradition itself. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a prime example of such a process. Despite the lack of a truly existing “book of the dead,” numerous translations, commentaries, and comparative studies on this “book” continue to be produced by both scholars and adherents of the tradition, making it a focal point for the dissemination and transference of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. The set of Tibetan block prints that was the basis for the original publication of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in 1927 by Walter Y. Evans-Wentz (1878–1968) consisted of portions of the collection known in Tibetan as The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State or Bardo Thödol (Bar do thos grol chen mo). This work is said to have been authored by Padmasambhava in the 8th century ce, who subsequently had the work buried; it was rediscovered in the 14th century by the treasure revealer (gter ston) Karma Lingpa (Kar ma gling pa; b. c. 1350). However, as a subject for literary and historical inquiry, it is nearly impossible to determine what Tibetan texts should be classified under the Western conceptual rubric of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is due partly to the Tibetan tendency to transmit textual traditions through various redactions, which inevitably change the content and order of collected works. Despite this challenge, the few systematic efforts made by scholars of Tibetan and Buddhist studies to investigate Bardo Thödol literature and its associated funerary tradition have been thorough, and the works produced by Bryan Cuevas and Donald Lopez Jr. are particularly noteworthy. The Bardo Thödol is essentially a funerary manual designed to guide an individual toward recognizing the signs of impending death and traversing the intermediate state (bar do) between death and rebirth, and to guide one’s consciousness to a favorable next life. These instructions provide detailed descriptions of visions and other sensory experiences that one encounters when dying and during the post-mortem state. The texts are meant to be read aloud to the deceased by the living to encourage the consciousness to realize the illusory or dreamlike nature of these experiences and thus to attain liberation through this recognition. This presentation is indicative of a complex and intricate conceptual framework built around notions of death, impermanence, and their soteriological propensities within a tantric Buddhist program developed in Tibet over a millennium, particularly within the context of the Nyingma (rNying ma) esoteric tradition known as Dzogchen (rDzogs chen). Tibet and other tantric Buddhist societies throughout the Himalaya have developed a variety of technologies for practically applying Buddhist understandings of death, and so this particular “book” is by no means the only manual utilized during the dying and post-mortem states, nor is it even necessarily included in all Tibetan or Himalayan funerary traditions. Nevertheless, this work has captured the interests of Western societies for the past century and has unofficially become the principal introduction not only to Tibetan death rites but also to Tibetan Buddhism in general for the West.

Article

J. Blake Couey

The book of Isaiah is a compilation of prophetic poetry and narratives, named for an 8th-century bce Judahite prophet. As depicted in chapters 1–39, Isaiah declared that Yhwh intended to punish Judah for social and cultic infractions; at the same time, he expressed support for the Davidic monarchy and proclaimed that Jerusalem would not be conquered by the Assyrians. Chapters 40–55 are addressed to a later audience following the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 bce. These texts offer reassurance that Jerusalem will be restored and its exiled citizens will return. The final chapters, 56–66, reflect growing disillusionment and conflict in Judah under Persian rule, and the book ends by describing Yhwh’s eschatological destruction of the wicked and vindication of a righteous remnant. The book grew and developed over a period of four to five centuries. Despite its sometimes conflicting perspectives, it is broadly unified by its focus on the fate of Jerusalem, and later editors worked to impose some coherence upon its varied content, as seen by the repeated thematic echoes in Isaiah 1 and 65–66. Isaiah is a sophisticated work of biblical Hebrew poetry, characterized by intricate combinations of imagery and wordplay. It features a high view of divine sovereignty, emphasizing Yhwh’s control over world nations and superiority over all human and divine powers; these ideas contributed to the emergence of monotheism in ancient Judah. The book also articulates diverse responses to imperial domination, even as it chronicles the ebb and flow of Judah’s own imperial aspirations. Striking portrayals of women and gender appear throughout Isaiah, including the extensive personification of Jerusalem as a woman and the comparison of Yhwh to a mother. Isaiah is also notable for its discourse about disability, which serves a variety of rhetorical functions in the book. The impact of Isaiah was felt immediately, as evidenced by the number of copies of the book among the Dead Sea scrolls and citations of it in the New Testament. It greatly impacted the development of important religious ideas, including apocalypticism and belief in resurrection. In Christianity, Isaiah played an important role in reflection upon the nature of Jesus and the inclusion of Gentiles, even as it informed Christian anti-Judaism. The book has had a more complicated reception in Judaism, where it significantly influenced the growth of Zionism. Scholarly study of Isaiah continues to clarify the shape of its final form and history of composition. Current research on the book is increasingly interdisciplinary, engaging metaphor theory, disability studies, and postcolonial thought. The history of the book’s interpretation and reception is another area of growing interest.

Article

What does Martin Luther mean for Germany? Formulated in such a way, this is an impossible question, due in no small measure to the existence of many “Luthers” and many “Germanys.” But it also invites historical investigation. Luther has long held a privileged position in the writing of German history, stretching back to his own lifetime, even if the exact nature of that position has hardly remained static or uncontested. Luther’s position in the annals of German historiography testifies to the influence of social and political upheavals on the way in which historians understand the past—and vice versa. Each era’s critical events have encouraged certain aspects of Luther’s person and work to be remembered and others to be forgotten. Like swapping between telephoto and wide-angle lenses, historical perspectives have moved between a narrow concentration on the German reformer’s biography and theology and a broader focus on the Protestant movement he launched in Germany. Historians have regularly enlisted Luther in an expansive, sweeping vision of the German Reformation and the emergence of the modern German nation-state with Otto von Bismarck. Indeed, contemporary ideas of nation and nationalism have had a determining influence on interpretations of Luther. This is true as much for German historians like Leopold von Ranke, writing toward the beginning of history’s professionalization as a full-fledged, independent academic discipline in the first half of the 19th century, as it is for those surveying Luther in the midst of the First World War, in the aftermath of Hitler and the Nazi era, in the postwar German Democratic Republic in the East and Federal Republic of Germany in the West, on the cusp Germany’s “turning point” (die Wende) of 1989–1990—and even for historians now situated in the 21st century.

Article

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, or the Apocalypse of John, has been extraordinarily influential in Christian life and theology. For example, because of the many hymns sung by the heavenly host, Revelation has, like Isaiah 6:3, been particularly influential on liturgy and also music, for instance, the setting of Revelation 5:12, “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain,” in Handel’s Messiah. It is one of two biblical apocalyptic texts (the other being the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible). Apart from the opening words, a dominant theme of Revelation is prophecy, and its imagery emphasizing what John “saw” on Patmos suggests that the form of prophecy in the first century ce included a significant visionary element, akin to earlier biblical exemplars such as Ezekiel 1:40–48 and Zechariah 1–8. The interpretation and reception of Revelation are closely linked. Like other biblical prophetic books, it became a reservoir for understandings of the future, but alongside it there developed a role as a way of unmasking the imperfections in church and society. This article uses the evidence of its reception to understand the nature and meaning of the book, its theological antecedents, and its relationship to other early Christian writings. Its role as an eschatological guide as well as its importance for political theology, complementing what we find in Daniel, are considered. It has also inspired artists down the centuries, from the time of the first illuminated Apocalypses, and this rich visual tradition captures something of importance about the book itself and the visionary stimulus it has provided.

Article

Throughout his career as a reformer, Martin Luther often framed his critiques of the institutional Church and his original doctrinal formulations with references—both implicit and explicit—to earlier reformers. Whether turning to medieval German mystics for the terminology to describe true penitence or Bohemian heretics for proof that others had identified the papacy as the seat of Antichrist, Luther consistently embedded himself within a tradition of religious reform as he elaborated his theology and ecclesiology. Both Luther himself and many contemporary scholars have primarily understood the earlier figures whom Luther invoked as “forerunners” whose initiatives and theological insights only reached their culmination with Martin Luther’s reformation. Such a characterization of the individuals and movements that Luther invoked as precedents for his reforms, however, potentially limits our understanding of the myriad, evolving categories that Luther employed in describing his fellow reformers, and it also obscures our understanding of the specific rhetorical uses to which they were put. It is therefore time to re-examine the multiple ways in which Luther understood his relationship to earlier reformers, and especially how that relationship came to serve as a key foundation for the construction of a counter-history of the Christian church by Martin Luther and his followers. The most significant individual for Luther’s reorientation of sacred history was Jan Hus (d. 1415), the Bohemian preacher and professor who was burned at the stake by the Council of Constance. From the Leipzig Debate up until the sermons preached on Luther’s death, Hus served as the most proximate and spectacular example of the risk and reward that came from opposition to the papal Antichrist. Over time, Luther’s numerous references to Hus reflected an evolution in his perception of the Bohemian martyr; in short, Hus graduated from a predecessor and saint to a prophet of Luther’s reforms, and his death served as a pointed warning that reformers ought not trust church councils. Jan Hus was exceptional in terms of how substantially and often Luther engaged with his theology and death. Luther’s eventual conclusion that Hus embodied the broader history of God’s faithful followers on Earth was, however, ultimately emblematic of his conception of church history as founded upon the proclamation of divine truth by individuals who refused to countenance its suppression.

Article

Tibetan Buddhists view images primarily as religious supports and secondarily as works of art. Buddhist images are aimed at improving one’s karma by earning merit in view of future existences, at removing obstacles, and at creating wellbeing. Their commissioning may be occasioned by various circumstances, including illness and death, besides the need for a specific religious practice. Since they are primarily expressions of faith, their age has a limited importance and their originality hardly any: a religious image is valued less for its rarity and aesthetic value than for its apotropaic virtues and for its particular connection with a holy place or master. Hence the application of Western post-Medieval aesthetic criteria to the appreciation of Tibetan art ought to be complemented by an appreciation of the specific religious meaning of an image, the interpretation of its particular symbolism, and the aim of its client within the specific cultural and historical context in which it was produced. This article is preceded by a historical introduction sketching the development of Buddhist art and architecture in Tibet from the 7th to the present century, mentioning the role played by foreign artists, mostly Newars from the Nepal Valley, and dwelling on particularly significant monuments, such as the monastery of Sàmye (8th century) and the Great Stupa of Gyantsé (15th century), representing the two highest moments in the history of Tibetan religious art and architecture, the Pòtala being basically a fortified palace. The first section, on Tibetan Buddhist art, deals with iconography and iconometry as well as materials and techniques, contrasting the prevalent approach to the subject by collectors, and even art historians, with that of Buddhist masters and devotees, pointing out the importance of the consecration of images, without which the latter remain worthless from a religious point of view. The second section, on Tibetan Buddhist architecture, deals with the construction of religious buildings, their materials, their religious functions and their symbolism. Although stupas are referred to throughout the article, they are dealt especially in this section. Sanskrit terms, whether in phonetic transcription or in transliteration, prevail in the first section because the relevant terminology is largely the Tibetan translation of Indian Buddhist terms, Tibetan terms in phonetic transcription and transliteration prevail in the second section, except in the part dealing with the stupa.

Article

Elesha J. Coffman and Timothy D. Grundmeier

An extraordinary number of printed words about religion have been produced and consumed in the United States. Religious print media in America encompasses the Christian Bible (a perennial best-seller) and scriptures of other religions; religious books, both fiction and nonfiction; pamphlets and tracts; periodicals; and, more recently, electronic media. The bulk of this output has been Protestant, because the United States has always been a predominantly, though never exclusively, Protestant country, and because Protestants have always been especially fond of print. The main historical trend, however, has been in the direction of increased diversity. The proportion of religious media within the universe of American media, and the proportion of Christian media within the universe of American religious media, both fell from the colonial period to the present. The trajectory of religion as a topic in secular periodicals has been less linear, rising and falling in conjunction with news events and perceived cultural trends. America has come a long way since the early 1740s, when revivalist George Whitefield absolutely dominated the media landscape, but religion remains a potent force in print, especially if one broadens the category to include the non-creedal spirituality of a figure like Eckhart Tolle or Oprah Winfrey. Three goals have spurred the proliferation of religious print media in the United States. (Religion coverage in secular print media has followed a separate logic, commonly known as “news values.”) The first and perhaps most obvious goal is proclamation, or the transmission of religious ideas. Dissemination of scriptures, evangelistic or apologetic works, sermons, speeches, and educational materials all fit within this category. The second goal is religious community formation and boundary marking. Periodicals have contributed most significantly in this realm, linking co-religionists across often vast spaces, preserving languages and other communal traits, and providing in-group perspective on current events. The third goal is making money. While much religious publishing has been conducted on a nonprofit basis, many Americans have made careers in the trade, and a few have become rich and famous. Because printed materials fill the archives that are foundational for religion scholarship, knowledge of print media history is extremely useful for researchers interested in a variety of topics, not only those working on print culture specifically.

Article

Christopher Rowland

William Blake (1757–1827) was a British artist, engraver, poet, and writer on theological themes. His illuminated books were the product of his technological inventiveness, and are characterized by the juxtaposition of texts and images in which a dialectic between two different media is a means of stimulating the imagination of the viewer and reader. Influences on Blake are often hard to trace, though he explicitly cites and criticizes Milton and Swedenborg, as well as the contemporary artist Joshua Reynolds. Such influences, which might help explain Blake’s ideas, seem less important than the extraordinary inventiveness which one finds in his words and images and their production, which have analogies to earlier themes, but without offering the evidence that demonstrates direct dependence. Blake’s emphasis is on the importance of “inspiration” rather than “memory,” and as such he set great store on the creativity of the poetic genius and its reception by the engaged reader or viewer. The visual was primary for Blake. It was a major part of his attempt to produce that which is “not too explicit as the fittest for Instruction,” to allow the reader/viewer to work out what the meaning of words and images was and how one might inform the other. Much of his work is inspired by the Bible, though the heterodox approach he takes to biblical interpretation is frequently at odds with mainstream Christian opinion. Blake’s lifelong fascination with the work of John Milton led him both to challenge and refine his great predecessor’s views and, in Milton a Poem, to enable the departed spirit of Milton to discern the worst of his intellectually self-centered excesses. Blake’s interpretative method, his hermeneutic, is encapsulated in some words he wrote to a client who was perplexed by his work. In it he gave priority to imaginative engagement with the Bible which was only then complemented by rational reflection: “Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other book. Is it not because they are addressed to the Imagination which is Spiritual Sensation & but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?” (Letter to Trusler 1799, E702-3). His ongoing work and the complex idiosyncratic mythology that he invented reflect the changed circumstances of the reaction to the events in revolutionary France. Themes of the Blake corpus, such as prophecy, challenge the hegemony of authoritative texts like the Bible. His critique of dualism and monarchical view of God pervade his work. Born in 1757, Blake lived most of his life in London with the exception of four, often difficult, years in Felpham, Sussex (1800–1804). He was married to Catherine Boucher (1762–1831), who in his later years was a collaborator in his engraving and printing. Arguably, the companionship of Job’s wife in the Illustrations of the Book of Job, so different from the impression one gets from the brief reference to Job’s wife in the biblical book, may reflect their marriage. The Felpham years were difficult because they marked a time of great personal upheaval, when the ideas which formed his long illuminated poems, Milton a Poem and Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, took shape. As a consequence of an incident with a soldier in Felpham, he was put on trial at this time for sedition, for comments he was alleged to have made to this English soldier. This experience seared his visionary imagination and left its trace in the repeated references to the soldier who brought the charge against him, Schofield, which are dotted throughout Blake’s Jerusalem. Blake was trained as an engraver and pioneered his own technique. This remained the basis of his art, and arguably offered a means that complemented his visionary imagination (Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book, 1993). After his move back to London, he lived in obscurity and on the fringes of poverty, indebted to the support of patrons like Thomas Butts, for whom he painted many biblical scenes, and later John Linnell. Only in the last years of his life was he discovered by a group of artists. Toward the end of his life he was adopted as an artistic father figure by a group called “The Ancients,” which included George Richmond, Samuel Palmer, and Edward Calvert.

Article

Inscriptions constitute a fundamental source for the study of the history of Buddhism in India. Thousands of inscriptions with Buddhist content have been found in the Indian subcontinent, ranging in date from the 3rd century bce to the 13th century ce. The great majority of inscriptions record donations or benefactions to Buddhist institutions. Such gifts may take the form of a stūpa or elements thereof, utensils given to a monastery, images, or, especially in later periods, a grant by royal authority to a monastery of the agricultural revenue from a village or villages. Examples of the many aspects of Buddhist practice that are illuminated by epigraphic materials are the status of the contemporary canon, the cult of the relics of the buddha, the popular perceptions of karma and merit, the origin and development of buddha images, the geographical distribution of the various nikāya lineages, and the origin and history of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Before the beginning of the Common Era, Buddhist inscriptions were always written in one or another variety of Prakrit. In the early centuries of the Common Era, Buddhists in north India adopted a hybrid dialect combining features of Sanskrit and Prakrit, known as “Epigraphic Hybrid Sanskrit,” and parallel to the “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” of Buddhist literature from a similar period. Then, from about the 4th century ce, Buddhists adopted classical Sanskrit as their preferred epigraphic vehicle. Most of the earlier inscriptions are written in Brāhmī script, and later ones in the various regional derivatives thereof. But until about the 3rd century ce, the numerous inscriptions of Gandhāra and adjoining areas in the northwestern reaches of the subcontinent were written in Kharoṣṭhī script and in the Gāndhārī Prakrit language. Inscriptions reveal a great deal both about the overall contours of the history of Indian Buddhism and about the details of its monastic and doctrinal structures. In the earlier centuries, inscriptions typically recorded donations by individuals or small groups in the form of funding for a single component of a large stūpa complex, notably at the great stūpa sites of Sanchi and Bharhut. Succeeding centuries see a gradual shift toward larger-scale donations by royalty or wealthy individuals. During the later phases of Buddhism in India, inscriptions are increasingly concentrated in a limited set of sacred sites such as Bodh Gaya, Kasia (Kuśinagara), Saheth-Maheth (Śrāvastī), and Sarnath, indicating an overall contraction in monastic institutions and communities.

Article

The historical shift from manuscript to print is only one aspect of the relationship between the two media, yet it has attracted the most attention. Influential media historiographies have either stressed or downplayed the degrees to which this particular change impacted textual practice in Asia. Playing one medium against the other, however, hinders our understanding of how print and manuscript have been shaping each other since the emergence of Buddhism. A broadened understanding of print that comprises early dhāraṇī estampage and later Chinese and Tibetan block prints, as well as the European printing press, shows that technological innovations in the reproduction, preservation, and distribution of writing spread out of and moved back into parts of South and Southeast Asia, recurring in multiple waves and in diverse forms, with differing local solutions defying attempts at a comprehensive media-centric periodization. Clay as the earliest preserved medium for the printed reproduction of Buddhist texts was replaced by paper as South Asian Buddhism spread northwest into Central and East Asia, impacting script cultures in Vietnam and Tibet and facilitating a division of labor which ensured that prints resembled manuscripts and manuscript came to dominate entire genres and social niches in the economy of the book. In the southern Himalayas, Tibetan block print and South Asian manuscript culture intermingled freely, even after the introduction of the European printing press, with Western print in isolated but striking cases upholding the prestige and supporting the ongoing reproduction of manuscripts. Similarly, in Sri Lanka and Thailand it was the colonial impact of print that led to a retooling and reevaluation of manuscripts as the key commodity through which to justify publishing and archiving efforts at the service of the project to build the nation-state, leading to the emergence of a new genre in South Asia, the library catalogue. Burma and Cambodia, with their interrupted trajectories toward Buddhist nationhood, saw interplay between manuscript, print, and epigraphy, in one case, and the detachment from the larger Thai manuscript lineage by the creation of a new mixed manuscript and print tradition in the other. More recent Buddhist traditions never experienced any of the passages from manuscript to print, emerging in a textual environment entirely constituted by the European printing press. Yet, in this and in the general contemporary Buddhist environment too, the manuscript persists in novel forms, either as a preliminary stage in the ontogenesis of any published or unpublished material or in the myriad instances in which jotting down on slips of paper contributes to the organization of the Buddhist everyday.

Article

Much of the art housed in Western museums is religious in nature—the result of how these museum collections were assembled and merged with differing displays over time. The origins of museums and their exhibition activities lie in the vast and myriad collecting histories of ancient, medieval, and Early Modern times, when the avenues of acquisition and display were often intertwined with sacred purposes. As empires, international trade, and missionaries encouraged the movement of people, objects, and ideas, they ensured that the monumental containers meant to preserve and display these collections took on meanings ever more distinct from the original meanings and functions of the individual objects they housed, religious or otherwise. Collections also evolved into “contact zones” between peoples and objects. While the history of display is different from that of museums, because it is premised more on a visiting public than on preservation and study efforts, these approaches to objects merge in the 16th century so that visual comparison and the ordering of displays are seen as a means to develop further knowledge from a collection. What had been a gradual and eclectic accumulation process was accelerated in the 18th century with a raft of Enlightenment museum projects that identified new political and aesthetic ends for art collections, further decontextualizing objects from their religious and cultural origins and embedding them in more prominent ideological and often aesthetic narratives—what some scholars have referred to as “iconoclasm without destruction.” As more objects became “art” and the concept of art engendered ever more elaborate theorization, the idea of different kinds of visitorship—that an object might be visited for either religious or secular purposes—also took hold. Critics of large Enlightenment museum projects, especially the Louvre, lamented decontextualization on historical grounds, just as the closure of religious institutions left scars in their communities while bolstering attention to the newly formed museum collections. Such events precipitated the spread of the “museum eyes” to which all religious art, even that in situ or in museums associated with religious institutions, was subject. Recent decades have witnessed museum efforts to recontextualize objects by reclaiming the voices of source communities, identifying shared heritage, and recognizing objects as active interlocutors. Such mediation efforts are meant to restore some of the religious meanings of art while often maintaining secular approaches to museum governance and display. The increasingly broad and nuanced recognition of the intangible dimension of material heritage in general and of religion in particular has enhanced these recontextualization efforts. Ultimately the issues at stake revolve around perceived ownership and the role of the museum in society: Can a secular museum ever fully own a religious object? If not, how can that ownership be effectively shared? Does or should the status of the object and its owner(s) impact its museum audience, which may include a broad swath of society with different backgrounds, beliefs, and expectations?

Article

Mona Sheikh and Saer El-Jaichi

Transnational jihadi movements are defined by their transnational appeal and demands, their reaction against external interventions and call for Muslim autonomy, and their network-like organization. These movements perceive jihad—in terms of an armed struggle—to be a (neglected) duty incumbent upon all Muslims, regardless of their national affiliation. The global jihadi movement has had two organizational manifestations: al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State movement. Al-Qaeda first appeared on the global stage in the 1990s as a local recruitment bureau for the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Islamic State appeared in the 2000s, initially as an Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda in the context of the country’s political turmoil in 2001–2003, later developing into a separate expansionist movement that took territorial control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. Though Islamic State lost its territorial control in 2018, it is still active across different regions, much like al-Qaeda. Regional branches of both organizations are at times reliant on a centralized authority, but more often they are local movements that have declared loyalty to the agenda of the al-Qaeda or Islamic State. The worldview of transnational jihadi movements is framed and defined by geopolitical events that took place in the Middle East from the 1960s onward. The movements appear with a defensive anticolonial ethos against foreign intervention and interference, but also with offensive ambitions of establishing a transnational caliphate. Though Islamic State has a sectarian agenda largely defined against Shia Muslims, both contemporary movements are driven by the belief that God’s sovereignty is threatened, that the United States and the West are an enemy of Muslims along with apostate Muslim regimes, and that Islam needs to be purified from disbelief. Tactical and interpretive differences regarding the definition of disbelief, the right timing of establishing the caliphate, and fighting the near enemy (apostate regimes) or the far enemy (the United States and the West) have caused divisions among the transnational jihadi movements.