Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Silverstein. ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 24•16

9780199697762Silverstein, Adam J., Guy G. Stroumsa, and Moshe Blidstein, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Abrahamic Religions. Oxford, United Kingdom?; New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Like other ‘Oxford Handbooks’ (see, Lim, Oxford Handbook of Dead Sea Scrolls) this also is a collection of essays. Here in this volume, we have 32 essays on the various aspects of the so-called Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The essays are grouped into six parts including epilogues. “Abrahamic Religions” is an emerging field of study.
The first part deals with the very concept of Abrahamic religions. Six essays in this section probe the concept of “Abrahamic Religions” by trying to define and test it out. In the second part, we have studies on the various aspect of the communities that belong to the Abrahamic religions. The third section deals with the scripture and interpretation of the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. The fourth section is devoted to the theological aspects while the fifth deals with the rituals and ethics. Finally, the sixth part has three epilogues on the three religions that make up Abrahamic religions.
The volume is unique in that each essay is a comparative study of the various aspects of the three religions. This certainly is as the editors declare is a contribution to “the emergence and development of the comparative study of the Abrahamic religions.”

Davis. Bhagavad Gita, a Biography. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 05•15

Davis GITADavis, Richard H. The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography. Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015. Pages: 243. ISBN: 978-0-691-139968.

Davis sketches how the Bhagavad Gita is received down through the ages. It emerged as part of the great epic Mahabharata and then gained an independent authority. In the first chapter the author tries to explain the content of Bhagavad Gita in its own context within Mahabharata. The discussion here includes its origin, authorship critical studies, etc.

Then on in the five remaining chapters and the epilogue Davis helps us to understand its reception and interpretation down through the centuries to our own time. While Mahabharata presents an adult philosopher Krishna who claims to be divine, the image of Krishna in the medieval times shifted to that of his early life. Here the Krishna devotion is around ‘a charmingly rambunctious infant and seductive flute-playing youth.’ Moreover, this Hindu scripture inspired many other Gitas of other gods, with contesting world-views.

However, Gita was not limited by space in India, the place of its origin. Davis also traces its passage from India to Europe and elsewhere. He tells us how it became a fascination for the English and German speaking world. We also learn how the work of Swami Vivekanda in the latter part of the nineteenth century brought it to the attention of the world. However, we are also told how its history is intertwined with British East India company’s imperial dream. Gita became a philosophical docuement with contesting itnerpretations in India and abroad. It became a tool in the hands of those who fought againt colonial rule in India. It redefined Hindu life and continues to do saw through performances, art etc.

This is a fascinating work; so much is packed in its 243 pages. Being thoroughly researched and documented this serves as a primer on Gita. And also a template for those who would like to study the impact of religious texts on the life and history of human race.

Without this volume the series LIVES OF GREAT RELIGIOUS BOOKS by Princeton University Press would have been incomplete.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 15•11

Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth of Religious Violence. Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). ISBN: 9780195385045.

The idea that religion by its very nature promotes violence is deeply rooted in modern consciousness due to a western propoganda to underwrite its own violence. In this book Cavanaugh argues that thinking in mutually exclusive terms like “religious” and “secular” or “religious” and “political” is a are western inventions. This has helped to create a religious “other” whose violence is seen as fanatical and the western violence to counter it as an attempt to peace-making. He argues that secular ideologies are as prone to violence as religious ideologies are.

The book is arranged in four chapters (besides Introduction) as (1). The Anatomy of the Myth (2). The Invention of Religion (3). The Creation Myth of the Wars of Religion (4). The Uses of the Myth.

William T. Cavanaugh is Professor in the Department of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.