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The Emergence of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam: Old Problem, New Perspectives

A046
Panel Chair: Jan Bremmer | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | LG 1 120

In recent years important developments have taken place that are transforming, or already have done so, our understanding of the earliest phases of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Regarding Buddhism the discoveries of much earlier texts than known so far have given us a series of texts of which the impact may well be compared to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the study of Second temple Judaism. In the analysis of especially second-century Christianity recent studies have not only re-dated important witnesses, but also paid much attention to the rise of the notions of ‘heresy’ and ‘canon’. Finally, in the study of the Islam scholars have started to re-evaluate our earliest notices about Muhammad and the Qur’an, as exemplified by the work of Patricia Crone. The aim of this panel is to evaluate these new developments and thus to arrive at new insights in the emergence of these world religions by focusing on the new developments but also on problems like canonization, the transition from oral to written sources as well as the process of religious authority.

Jan Bremmer

THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY: OLD PROBLEMS, NEW PERSPECTIVES

In recent years there has been much attention to early Christianity, yet its rise still remains rather enigmatic. In my contribution I intend to concentrate on the second century. In recent years we have witnessed pleas for re-dating important textual witnesses, such as the Letters of Ignatius and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, for re-evaluating the role of Marcion, for paying more attention to the Apocryphal Acts as well as for critical discussions of notions such as ‘heresy’ and ‘canon’. To what extent do these new developments change or confirm the more traditional views of the rise of Christianity?

Einar Thomassen

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON ISLAMIC ORIGINS

The emergence of a religion is a matter of theoretical interest in itself. In addition to looking at new sources, my paper will attempt a comparative analysis of the formation processes of Christianity and Islam with the help of such categories as orthodoxy and heresy, the canonization and function of Scripture, and the establishment and nature of religious authority. The similarities and the differences between the two religions in these regards are equally interesting. It should also be possible to make generalizations about successive stages in the formation processes, which in both religions took more than three hundred years to reach an equilibrium.

Jens-Uwe Hartman

MONKS, MONEY, AND MANUSCRIPTS: REFLECTIONS ON THE FAST GROWTH OF BUDDHISM IN INDIA

The date of the Buddha is still disputed, and no less disputed are the original content of his teaching and the early growth and development of his movement. The complete absence of sources, be they written or archaeological, for at least one or two centuries after the death of the Buddha encourages models which are highly speculative. However, amazing manuscript finds of the last twenty years provide a starting point for a fresh appraisal of that development, and they also shed new light on the important implications of the transition from an oral to a written transmission of the Buddhist lore.

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Sessions

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Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)