A Comparative History Of Religions (1871 & 1873) by Moffat, James Clement (1811–1890)
"In the work, of which this is the first part, it is proposed to exhibit a general view of all religions in their relations to one another. Without presuming to treat so vast a subject exhaustively, the writer believes that a simple statement and classification of the doctrines and practices of religion, and the facts of their historical development, as far as known, will help towards a scientific comprehension of the whole. At present, its materials are an utter chaos, in which superstition and unbelief alike find refuge, and the wildest assertions on both sides elude exposure. To compare and arrange what we know partly, enables us to know it better, and is some advance towards understanding what would otherwise remain unknown. Truth is always served by that work, however brief or feeble, which goes to clear up the order of facts.
The method adopted for this treatise is, first to present the common conditions, and principal modifying circumstances of religion in the life of man; secondly, to reach as near as possible to the original creed of mankind, not by speculating about it, but by actual examination of the most ancient scriptures; thirdly, to pursue the comparative history of the religions, to which those scriptures belong, through their various recorded changes; fourthly, to make a complete classification of all religions, ancient and modern, as far as information can be obtained, and fifthly, to determine, if possible, the essential principles inherent more or less in all, and wherein the best religion differs from the rest." (Preface)
Volume 1: https://archive.org/details/comparativehisto01moff/page/n8/mode/2up
Volume 2: https://archive.org/details/comparativehisto02moff/page/n5/mode/2up
History Of All Religions (1881) by Smucker, Samuel Mosheim (1823–1863)
"THE design of the following work is essentially different from that of other publications on the same subject, which already exist. The larger and more extensive of these are composed of articles on the Religious Sects in the United States, which were written by members of the several denominations described, and are often expanded into immense length by reiterated and familiar arguments intended to demonstrate the truthfulness and Scriptural authority of the Sects to which the respective writers belonged. This method of treatment is much better suited to works on Polemic Theology than to those which profess merely to contain a statement of opinions and a narrative of events. On the other hand, the smaller works which have appeared on this subject are superficial and incomplete, being generally made up of very short articles, of clippings from Encyclopaedias and Biographical Dictionaries, and are utterly unfit to convey even to the general reader a satisfactory idea of the various subjects which come under consideration." (Preface)
Manual Of The Science Of Religion (1891) by Chantepie de la Saussaye, Pierre Daniel (1848–1920) translated by Colyer-Fergusson, Beatrice Stanley (????–????)
"When two years ago I undertook, at the request of the publisher of a collection of theological manuals, to treat the Science of Religion, I at once realised that I was not required to write an encyclopaedia of the subject in question, or a book of reference in which all names should occur, but a manual which should present, in a readable shape, the present state of these studies, and distinguish between the safely established results and those questions which are as yet unsettled. I have worked therefore with this object in view, and have tried to bring the results of the studies that have been carried on in the Science of Religion nearer to students of theology and to all those who interest themselves generally in the history of civilisation. I need not here speak of the importance of these studies for theology as well as for philosophy, and a few remarks will suffice as to the manner in which I have tried to carry out my work." (Preface)
Orpheus: A General Histroy Of Religions (1909, Revised Edition) by Reinach, Salomon (1858–1932) translated by Simmonds, Florence (????–????)
"Why does the name of Orpheus, "the first of the world's singers," as Lefrane de Pompignan called him, appear on the title-page of this volume ? Because he was not merely " the first singer," though the Greeks knew of poems by him which they held to be much earlier than those of Homer. Orpheus was also, to the ancients, the theologian par excellence, founder of those mysteries which ensured the salvation of mankind, and no less essential to it as the interpreter of the gods. Horace designates him thus : Sacer interpresque deorum. He it was who revealed first to the Thracians and afterwards to the other Greeks the necessary knowledge of ,things divine. True, he never existed ; but this is of little moment. Orphism existed
and, as Jules Girard has justly said, it was the most interesting fact in the religious history of the Greeks. It was something more, something still better.
Not only did Orphism enter deeply into the literature, philosophy and art of the ancient world ; it survived them. The figure of Orpheus charming the beasts with his lyre is the only mythological motive which appears and recurs in the Christian paintings of the catacombs. The fathers of the church were persuaded that Orpheus was the disciple of Moses. They saw in him a type — or rather a prototype — of Jesus, since he too had come to teach mankind, and had been at once its benefactor and its victim. An emperor placed a statue of Orpheus in his lararium, besides that of the Christian Messiah. Between Orphism and Christianity there were, indeed, analogies so evident and so striking that it was impossible to accept them as accidental. A common source of inspiration was assumed.
Modern criticism seeks the explanation of these analogies in a hypothesis less daring than that of a supposed relation between Moses and Orpheus. It recognises that Orphism has traits in common not only with Judaism and Christianity, but with other more remote creeds such as Buddhism, and even with the very primitive beliefs of existing savages. If on examination we find something of Orphism in every religion, it is because Orphism made use of elements common to them all, drawn from the depths of human nature, and nourished by its most cherished illusions.
A little book destined to summarise religions and their histories could not invoke a better patron than Orpheus, son of Apollo and a Muse, poet, musician, theologian, mystagogue and authorised interpreter of the gods.
Having explained my title, I may add a few words in justification of the method I have adopted.
We have two learned manuals of the history of religions, by Conrad von Orelli and Chantepie de la Saussaye respectively. Both of these great works omit the history of Christianity. To study this, we must turn to other works, most of them very voluminous and full of details concerning sects and controversies which are of interest only to the erudite.
I see no reason for isolating Christianity in this manner. It has fewer adherents than Buddhism ; it is less ancient. To set it apart in this fashion is becoming in the apologist, but not in the historian. Now it is as an historian that I propose to deal with religions. I see in them the infinitely curious products of man's imagination and of man's reason in its infancy ; it is as such that they claim our attention. They are not all equally interesting, for those which have filled the greatest place in history are naturally those which deserve most study. In this modest volume I have accordingly given greater importance to Judaism and Christianity than to the religions of Assyria, Egypt and China. It is not my fault if, during the last two thousand years, the history of Christianity has intermingled to some extent with universal history, and if, in sketching the one, I have been obliged to make a brief abstract of the other." (Preface)
History Of Religions (1920 2nd Edition & 1919) by Moore, George Foot (1851–1931)
"The plan of this work embraces only the religions of civilised peoples. What are miscalled "primitive" religions are a subject for themselves, demanding another method, and much too extensive to be incidentally despatched in the prolegomena to a History of Relgions. Nor is an investigation of them necessary to our purpose; the phenomena which occur in the higher religions as survivals are just as intelligible in Babylonia or in Greece as in Africa or Australia.
The present volume comprises the religions of China, Japan, Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria, India, Persia (Zoroastrianism), Greece, and Rome(including the religions of the Empire). A second volume will be devoted to Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism—three religions so intimately related in origin and history as to constitute a natural group.
In the presentation of the several religions, the endeavour is made, as far as the sources permit, to show their relation to race and physical environment and to national life and civilisation, to trace their history, and to discover the causes of progress and decline and the influences that have affected them from without. Prominence is given to religious conceptions, as they are implicit in myth and ritual or are thought out by poets, philosophers, and prophets; and particularly to the higher developments in theology, ethics, and religious philosophy, especially where, as in India and in Greece, these developments are of great intrinsic interest and of abiding consequence. In the case of the Greeks there is another reason for fuller exposition : Christian, Jewish, and Moslem theology are so largely in debt to Greek philosophy that these chapters lay the foundation for much of the second volume." (Preface)
"With well-timed entrance upon the stage this second volume of Professor Moore's history is synchronous with the reappearance of the first volume in a second edition, an honor of which it was well deserving and which will doubtless come also to its successor. It is six years since the earlier work was noticed in this Review. The author, being as it were more at home in the province now under consideration, has in the reviewer's opinion here surpassed himself; his second volume is distinctly better even than the first. One walks one's own field more securely and works it with truer understanding, perhaps in all senses more happily. As a succinct exposition of the three religions represented, this volume is worthy of high praise. So far as the reviewer is competent to express an opinion, it is as sound in judgment as it is accurate in details. He has even the feeling that the author's style has improved, possibly in lightness of touch, in the course of the half-dozen years since the first volume came out, although one may find a sentence of no less than one hundred and one words, the reputed significance of the number doubtless having escaped the attention of the learned author, who would not otherwise have devoted this particular number of words to the opening paragraph of his chapter on Christianity!
One reason why this volume is excellent is that it treats of only three religions in five hundred pages as compared with nine religions discussed in the six hundred pages of its predecessor. The author is thus able to do justice to his themes, and one wishes only that he had been permitted to give a whole volume to each of the three. As it is, a fair proportion of his book is devoted to Judaism, a somewhat longer exposition covers Mohammedanism, and these two together do not take quite so much space as does Christianity, to which rather more than half the book is dedicated. Albeit Professor Moore has been so generous to the most important religion of the three, one cannot but lament that, especially in this field, he has been forced to confine himself within the bounds of the 280 pages he has allotted to Christianity. One gets the impression often that he had more to say than he has said, and the reader must regret that anything has been omitted." (Edward Washburn Hopkins, The Harvard Theological Review, 07/1920)
The History Of Religions (1918) by Hopkins, Edward Washburn (1857–1932)
"In the language of one of the savage races mentioned in this volume the word religion means the sacred tree. Although innocent of allegory, yet, as in many other regards, in this definition the savage has suggested a profound truth. For religion is, as it where, a tree. Its roots lie deep in the darkness of primeval earth; its growth must precede its sheltering foliage ; and its unripened fruits are not pleasant. Yet, watered by a living spring, it has risen out of a soil black and even gruesome, since blood too has fertilized it, but risen nevertheless it has, slowly exalting itself heavenward ; and under it sits nearly all mankind.
In the course of this volume we shall study the roots and the higher growth of this tree, which through its age-long development, as any tree changes its earth-drawn sustenance into something more ethereal, has transmuted terror into reverent awe, hunger into hope, lust into love. We shall trace the slow progress of such roots of religion as bear today the names taboo, fetishism, totemism ; see how taboo invested with spiritual power the moral command, insured the home, and made for civilization ; how fetishism confirmed the thought that man depends on a spiritual something, gave faith in a power that helped, and made that power the judge of right and wrong; how totemism linked man in communion with the divine and in conjunction with seasonal nature-worship founded ritual in the recurrent form necessary to religious stability. We shall see in short that the higher not only is above the lower but that it has ascended out of the lower. Savagery did not give place to civilization but developed into it, was already civilization in the germ." (Preface)
Introduction To The History Of Religions by Toy, Crawford Howell (1836–1919)
"The object of this volume is to describe the principal customs and ideas that underiie all public religion ; the details are selected from a large mass of material, which is increasing in bulk year by year. References to the higher religions are introduced for the purpose of illustrating lines of progress." (Preface)
The Classification Of Religions: Its Relation To The History Of Religions (1941) by Parrish, Fred Louis (????–????)
"Many attempts have been made in the past to provide a scientific classification of the religions of history. All such attempts have resulted in failure. The first stage of this study, which sought out past classifications together with their limitations, ended with the discovery of basic historical defects which invalidated them all. Such a result created another inquiry, a second stage to be pursued, if the problem of classification were to be brought any nearer to a solution. This second stage, which was undertaken and carried through, called for nothing less than an entirely new survey of basic religious interpretations embedded in the materials of the field of historical religion as a whole. The results of this survey furnished the outline and content of a genetic type of classification, which, by its very nature, could not violate the integrity of the historical faiths. This study which follows, is therefore, in its first part a brief history and digest of past classifications; in its second part it opens up the history of religion sufficiently to expose and to set forth the main features of a genetic classification of religions in the entire historical field." (Preface)
History Of Religions (1957) by James, Edwin Oliver (1886–????)
"Today there is a widespread interest in the history and comparative study of religions for a variety of reasons and purposes, and from different points of view and lines of approach. The initial problem, however, that confronts those who have never studied the subject, or who are anxious to become better acquainted with the discipline, either as students reading for an examination in which it is part of the curriculum, or as general readers, is how to begin the task. Now it must be said straightaway that the days are past when anyone can expect to cover expertly so wide a field. Nevertheless, before a special study is made of a particular part of it, it is a great advantage to secure an overall view of the whole lay-out of the territory. When this has been acquired, then is the time to concentrate attention upon a smaller portion for intensive and detailed investigation. Furthermore, in an age like this of excessive specialization when experts tend to know more and more about less and less, even the specialist may sometimes with profit pause a moment to become better acquainted with what has been done, and is being done, in related fields of study. Finally, as regards the general reader, his main object may well be to gain an all-round knowledge and a reasonably clear picture of a very big subject that has loomed large on the human horizon throughout the long and checkered history of mankind. In short, to see how the various bits and pieces of what may seem to be a jigsaw puzzle can be fitted together. Reasons such as these, I think, after a long experience of university teaching and independent inquiry in the subject, justify a book of this character as an introduction to a deeper and more detailed study which may then be carried a stage farther with the aid of the books for further reading mentioned in the bibliographies at the end of each of the chapters." (Preface)
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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