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Contacts between Religions and Religious Representations

Session Chair: N.N. | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Richard Marks

Representations of Hinduism in Jewish thought of medieval Spain: toward a history of Jewish concepts of comparative religion

Four Jewish writers of 12th-14th c. Spain constructed their ideas of Hinduism from Arabic-language travel reports, heresiologies, and other writings, which they adapted to a biblically-based view of history and revelation. Judah Halevi construed Hinduism as a combination of the Muslim images of revelation-rejecting Barahima and image-venerating Sabians. Moses Maimonides likewise saw Hinduism as a remnant of ancient Sabian religiosity, an idolatrous stage in human history. For Abraham ibn Ezra, relying on Arabic traditions of Indian astronomy-astrology, Hindu thought was valuable theoretical knowledge which recognized God in a lower aspect called Elohim. Lastly, based on an Arabic translation of the (Indian) Panchatantra, Jacob ben El`azar presented Hinduism as glorious, universal moral teachings derived from human insight about cosmic moral law. These four views of Hinduism (emphasizing idolatry, science, or ethics) illuminate opposing Jewish conceptions of the history of ancient religions and how Judaism differed.

Linda Zampol D'Ortia

Verdadeiro servo desta santa companhia: Francisco Cabral's negotiation of Jesuit identity in Japan (1570-1580)

This paper will consider the mission of the Society of Jesus in Japan as a fertile terrain for the study of the processes of building and policing of Jesuit identity in the 16th century; it will focus on the period under Portuguese Superior Francisco Cabral (1570-1580), which is traditionally linked to the later reorganization by Visitor Alessandro Valignano, and therefore dismissed as a wrong turn on the way towards the adaptation of the Christian faith to Asian cultures. Considering however the development of Jesuit identity that was taking place at the time in Europe, it is possible to contextualize Cabral’s policies in this worldwide process of defining the Society and its “way of proceeding”, and therefore identify, in his administration, not only some aspects of Portuguese Jesuit identity, but also the direct influence that some of his beliefs had on his policies for the mission.

Shin Nomoto

Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1993) reads Ismāʿīlī Texts: A Japanese Philosopher-Islamicist on a Shīʿī form of Islamic Thought

Toshihiko Izutsu was a Japanese philosopher and Islamicist whose contribution to various fields of Islamic studies and scholarship on East Asian thought continuously gains high appraisal. Recently his philosophical project which aims at extracting a paradigm of mystical recognition of the existence from the thoughts from Japan to Middle East has been gradually receiving global attention in academic scene. This paper will elucidate his understanding of Ismā‘īlī Shī‘ism once influential in Middle East from the 9th to 13th centuries. In his discussion on this subject Izutsu chooses the topics such as the idea of the Imamate, antinomianism and cosmology from medieval Ismā‘īlism, whereas he does not pay much attention to the idea of the cyclical history, one of its indispensable doctrinal elements. Considering this, we will also show how thought on history, an integral doctrinal part of each of Abrahamic monotheist traditions, is treated in Izutsu’s own mystical philosophical project.

Miriam Benfatto

The exegetical method of a Jewish polemical text: the case of Isaac Troki’s Hizuk Emunah (1593/4)

The Hizuk Emunah is a anti-Christian polemical text composed by the karaite Isaac of Troki. Written in Hebrew, it was later translated into Latin (1681) and widely circulated within the Jewish and Christian contexts. My paper attempts at analyzing the relationship between the exegetical structure of the polemical discourse and issues of historical nature regarding the character of the “historical Jesus” and the features of early Christianity. Is there a relationship between the dynamics of Jewish polemical literature, conceptions of history and hermeneutical approaches applied to the Scriptural materials? Which are the results of exegetical techniques? Is this precise type of textual exegesis enhancing new historical representations? The aim of the paper is therefore meant to explore the rise of historical consciousness in relation to early Christianity, in the midst of a heated confessional and inter-religious Scriptural confrontations, which especially took place in areas of high interconfessional divide.


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