Morris Jastrow.

The study of religion online

. (page 1 of 34)
Online LibraryMorris JastrowThe study of religion → online text (page 1 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


•THE

STUDY OF RELIGION.



MORRIS JASTROW, JuN, Ph.D.,

PROFESSOR IN THE UMVERSl'JV OF PENNSYLVANIA.




LONDON:

WALTER SCOTT, PATERNOSTER SQUARE.
1901.






^OfTFijf



U^Ly



TO

C. P. TIELE,

PROFESSOR OF THE HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF
RELIGION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LEIDEN.



In asking you, my dear Professor Tiele, to accept
this dedication as an offering on the completion of
your seventieth year, I feel that I am repaying in
poor coin a heavy debt that I owe to you. Your
works have guided me in my studies, your friendship
has encouraged me, and I shall feel satisfied if you
find the result not altogether unworthy to be associated
with your honoured name.



109312



PREFACE.



The study of religion has taken its place among
contemporary sciences, and the importance of the
study can be denied by no one who appreciates the
part that religion has played in the history of man-
kind, and still plays at the present time. It is,
however, a subject beset with singular difficulties —
difficulties due in part to the wide scope of the theme,
in part to the intricacy of the problems involved, and
in part also to the close relations existing between
the study and the actual concerns of lif"e. The exist-
ence of these difficulties makes it all the more important
to develop a proper method in the study; and it is the
main purpose of this work to unfold such a method.

To accomplish this end, it seemed desirable to set
forth in the first place the history of the study itself,
as the best means of emphasising the significance of
the historical method at present adopted by scholars
in the investigation of religious phenomena. In
further illustration of this method, such fundamental
questions as the classification of religions, the defini-
tion, and the difficult problem as to the origin of
religion are next taken up, and by a criticism of the
leading systems of classification, of the more impor-
tant definitions, and of the most significant solutions



yiU PREFACE.

proposed for the problem as to the origin of reh'gion,
the reader will be prepared to estimate at their value
not only the result of the studies undertaken by the
author himself, as set forth at the end of each chapter,
but also further researches that may be carried on
by others within this field.

A second and distinct part of the work is formed
by a consideration of the several factors involved in
the study of religion itself These factors are in the
main — Ethics, Philosophy, Mythology, Psychology,
History, and Culture in general. A chapter is devoted
P to each, with a view of determining the part proper to
each in a sound application of the historical method.
The desire not to extend the work beyond undue
proportions has prevented as full a treatment of
some of these factors as they deserved. More par-
ticularly, the relationship of Religion and Psycho-
logy merited fuller treatment in view of the interest
aroused in this aspect of the subject by the " New
Psychology." Although one may feel strongly that
the hopes of those who look forward to psychological
researches for a final explanation of the causes of
religious phenomena are destined to disappointment,
yet the great importance of such investigations as
those undertaken by Dr. Starbuck,^ and embodied
in his volume prepared for this series, must be ad-
mitted, and it is a safe prediction that the "Psychology
of Religion " will absorb even more attention during
the next decade than in the one just past. Neverthe-

^ The Psychology of Religion: a SlJcJy of Conversion^ London, 1899.



PREFACE. IX

less, it ts the investigation of the course actually
taken by religion that must remain the chief goal
of the student. The proper study of religious history
is not only the sound basis upon which all specula-
tion, whether of a philosophical or a psychological
nature, must rest, but it must form the starting-point
even when we enter upon a stud^ of_U}^Q„^metiofts -
involved in religious acts and experiences.

I take my stand therefore as an advocate of the ~"^
historical method in the study of religion as the
conditio sine qua non for any results of enduring
character, no matter what the particular aspect of k^
religion it be that engages our attention. Whatever
the defects of the exposition may be, it will, I trust,
at least justify the correctness of the general position
here taken. It is my earnest hope also, in some
measure to contribute through this book to the more
general interest in the historical study of religions,
and with this in view I have embodied in the third
part of the work a consideration of the practical
aspects oi the subject. In this division chief stress
has purposely been laid upon the historical study of
religions, and only incidental reference made to the
philosophy and psychology of religions which, as
aspects to be taken up by mature minds, not only
lie beyond the province of popular study, but also
beyond that of collegiate and university work. Courses
of a general character in these aspects of the subject
fall within the range of a university curriculum, but the
real study of them must be postponed until one has



X PREFACE.

secured a safe historical basis. The university and
seminary will fulfil their function if they succeed in
training students in a historical method. The Philo-
sophy and Psychology will then take care of them-
selves.

Needless to add that in so large and inexhaustible
a field a bibliography will only have practical value
for the readers for whom this series is intended if it
represents a selection out of the great mass. With
few exceptions I have read and consulted the works,
monographs, and articles enumerated, and recom-
mend them therefore from personal knowledge of
their contents. With a view of presenting the
Bibliography in a more systematic fashion, it has been
divided up into sections corresponding so far as
possible to the main divisions of the book itself.
The preference has been given to publications in
English, though of course German, French, and
Dutch works come in for a large share.

My very dear and esteemed friend, Mrs. Caspar
Wister, has placed me under lasting obligations by
kindly undertaking to read one proof of the entire
work; and as I go over the pages for the last time,
I find everywhere traces of her most skilful revision.
The index has been prepared by Miss Katherine
S. Teiper, and I wish to take this opportunity of
thanking her for the intelligent care and painstaking
accuracy with which she has carried out what was
necessarily an arduous task.

My last word is to express a deep sense of obliga-



PREFACE. XI

tion to my wife, who has, as on former occasions,
copied most of the manuscript, and by her suggestions
and in various other ways helped to make the work
much less imperfect than it would otherwise have
been. If the preparation of the work, involving
prolonged study and reading, and extending over
many years, has been a labour of love, it is largely
due to the encouragement I have received from her.

MORRIS JASTROW, JUN.

University of Pennsylvania,
June 1 90 1,



CONTENTS.



PART I.— GENERAT. ASPECTS.

CHAP. PAGE

I. THE STUDY OF RELIGION — ITS HISTORY AND

CHARACTER I

II. THE CLASSIFICATION OF RELIGIONS - - -58

in. THE CHARACTER AND DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION 1 29

IV. THE ORIGIN OF RELIGION 1 73



PART II.— SPECIAL ASPECTS.

V. THE FACTORS INVOLVED IN THE STUDY OF

RELIGION 201

VI. RELIGION AND ETHICS - - - - - 204

VIL RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY - - - - 227

VIIL RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY .... 247

IX. RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY - - - -273

X. RELIGION AND HISTORY - - . - ' - 296

XI. RELIGION AND CULTURE - - - ♦ - 305



XIV CONTENTS.

PART III.— PRACTICAL ASPECTS

CHAP. PAGE

XII. THE GENERAL ATTITUDE IN THE STUDY OF

RELIGIONS 319

XIIL THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES - - - - 333
XIV. THE HISTORICAL STUDY OF RELIGION IN COL-
LEGES, UNIVERSITIES, AND SEMINARIES - 35 1
XV. MUSEUMS AS AN AID TO THE STUDY OF RE-
LIGION 380

APPENDIX I. PROGRAMME^OF THE SECTION FOR THE

HISTORY OF RELIGIONS AT THE ECOLE DES
HAUTES ETUDES, PARIS - - . - 39^

APPENDIX II. — ARRANGEM.ENT OF THE MUSEE GUIMET 397

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 399

INDEX 417



I.

GENERAL ASPECTS.



THE STUDY OF RELIGION.



. CHAPTER I.

THE STUDY OF RELIGION — ITS HISTORY AND
CHARACTER.

I.

Method may be said to constitute three-fourths of
any science. Discoveries may occasionally be due to
accident, or to what appears to be such, but a genuine
advance in any science is always accompanied by a
change in method, and new results are but the appli-
cation of improved methods of investigation.

There is a special reason for emphasising the
importance of method in the study of the various
religious systems of the past and present, and of
religious phenomena in general. In the study of
religion, a factor that may be designated as the
personal equation enters into play. So strong is this
factor that it is perhaps impossible to eliminate it
altogether, but it is possible, and indeed essential, to
keep it in check and under safe control; and this
can be done only by the determination of a proper
method and by a close adherence to such a method.

In one sense the study of religion is as old as
human thought, but in another and more pertinent
sense, it is the youngest of the sciences. The moment

I



2 THE STUDY OF RELIGION.

that man in a self-conscious spirit ponders over the
religious beliefs which he holds, or which have been
handed down to him as a legacy, he is engaged in the
study of religion ; and we know that such a moment
comes at an early stage in the development of human
culture, if not to the masses, at all events to certain
individuals.

Corresponding to the religious strain present in the
earliest literary productions of a people, its earliest
thought is either directly religious or has a strong
religious tinge. A crude theology follows close in
the wake of a priesthood in process of organisation.
The study of religion in this form, while it must not
be confounded with the mere attachment to a certain
form of faith, yet springs from this attachment, and
as a direct consequence the limitations of the study
are soon reached. Egypt, Babylonia, Judaea, India,!
are notable examples of the fertility of religious!
thought in antiquity, but the theoretical phases of(
this thought are overshadowed by the purely practical
purposes which it served. The study of religion in
close affiliation with a special form of religious faith
may lead to far-reaching results in practical theology,
may result in the formulation of a religious system,
and in the adjustment of the cult to an expression of
certain religious ideas and aspirations, but religion as
a historical phenomenon in the life of man will have
had a very insignificant part in these results. The
personal equation being entirely unchecked, and con-
stituting, in fact, the source of the strength displayed
by man's activity in the early civilisations within the
domain of religious study, formed an insurmountable
barrier to the progress of the study beyond certain
narrow and sharply defined limits.



ITS HISTORY AND CHARACTER. 3

The general attitude of ancient thinkers — whether
priests or philosophers — towards other religions than
the one of their environment was that of pure in-
difference. Only rarely, as in the case of Herodotus
or Plutarch, is their curiosity aroused to find out
what others believe. If the question were put to
a Greek, or an Egyptian, or a Babylonian, as to
the reason for the existence of various religions in
the world, he would have failed to understand what
the question meant. It was perfectly natural to a
Greek that the religion in Egypt should be different
from the one prevailing in Hellas. How could it be
otherwise ? The countries were different, and there-
fore the gods were different. A difference in religion
was accordingly accepted with the same complacency
as was a difference in dress or in language. The
Hebrew prophets, in their denunciation of other cults
than that of Jahweh, appear to form an exception-
to this general attitude of indifference, but it must be
borne in mind that the prophets were primarily con-
cerned with the people of Jahweh, who should have
been faithful to Jahweh, and whose disloyalty to their
god excited the prophets' anger. It is true these
prophets go to the length of virtually denying the
existence of other gods besides Jahweh, but they
content themselves with merely brushing these gods
aside, whereas the problerri involved in the belief in
so many gods, and in the existence of such various
religions, enters their minds as little as it does the
minds of Babylonian theologians or of Egyptian
priests, or, for that matter, of Greek philosophers.
Before its rough contact with the Eastern world,
through the prolonged conflict with the Persian
power, Greek philosophy pursues the even tenor of



4 THE STUDY OF RELIGION.

its way, undisturbed by the reflection that beliefs and
practices current outside of Greek limits must be
taken into account in formulating a system of theology
and ethics. There follow some feeble attempts at
identifying certain gods of eastern nations, and more
particularly, of Egypt, with Greek deities, or a sceptical
attitude is assumed towards the existence of gods in
general — whether in Greece or elsewhere ; but even
Plato and Aristotle, though evidently acquainted with
other religious systems than the one prevailing among
the Greeks, and in a measure influenced by foreign
ideas, share the general indifference as to the manifold
manifestations of religion. Their theory of the gods,
though susceptible of general application, is intended
to explain Greek religion only. We must descend
to the period of the decline of the Greek religion, to
the time when Greece herself had no further message
to give to the world, before we encounter in Plutarch
one who makes a serious effort to study the religion
of Egypt,! and who, as a result of his comparative
studies in religion, works out a theory foreshadowed
by Plato,2 of a distinction between gods and demons,
which is noteworthy as having been evidently sug-
gested by the endless number of "higher beings" to
whom mankind pinned their faith. This essay is
significant in several respects. It reveals an ex-
tensive knowledge of ancient religions. Not only is
Plutarch well versed in Egyptian mythology, but he
knows the leading principles of Zoroastrianism, and
discusses them with admirable thoroughness ; and
other ancient cults are frequently referred to. His
theory, too, of the manner in which symbols came to

1 In his discourse on " Isis and Osiris."

* See Campbell, Greek Religion in Greek Literature^ p. 372.



ITS HISTORY AND CHARACTER. 5

be mistaken for realities is interesting, and illustrates
not only the acuteness of his mind, but the serious
manner in which he carried out the task he had set
himself, which was to account in a rational manner for
the curious and complicated phases of the myth of
Isis and Osiris. Still the limitations of Plutarch's
studies are no less noticeable. He contents himself
with superficial resemblances as a basis for constant
comparison between Greek and Egyptian mythology,
and his etymologies, upon which great stress is
laid, are puerile and fanciful. To this same period .
belongs Lucian, who, if he is really the author of the
essay on the Syrian goddess,^ merits to be classed
with Plutarch as among the earliest students of the
history of religion who approached their task with
at least a fair conception of the significance of the
problems involved. It might have been supposed
that the union of Hellenic and Hebraic thought in
the schools of Alexandria, during the second and
first centuries before our era, would have stimulated
the comparative study of religions, but important as
this period is for the development of religious thought
in the ancient world, even in the writings of Philo
Judaeus, who is the best representative of the result
brought about by the combination of two essentially
different forms of culture, there are but few indications
of a real interest in the study of religious phenomena
as such, apart from their practical bearings ; and there
are surprisingly few references to such phenomena.

To this indifferent attitude there was added, in the
case of the Romans, a pride and feeling of superiority ^z
which precluded them from approaching religions
other than their own in that sympathetic spirit with-
1 "DeDea Syria."



6 THE STUDY OF RELIGION.

out which an understanding of religious phenomena
is impossible. Tacitus, in his Germania, well repre-
sents this feeling. There was nothing which the
polished Roman could learn from those whom he
despised as "barbarians"; for him, as for Lucretius,
the sublime monotheism of the Jews appeared merely
in the light of a superstition. Indeed, the utterances
of later Greek and Roman writers about the Jews
and Judaism^ furnish the best illustration of the utter
incapacity of the best minds of the time to pene-
trate to the core of a religion like Judaism or early
Christianity.

II.

We are approaching the terrible era of religious con-
flict. During the century before the advent of Jesus,
a proselytising spirit had seized hold of certain groups
of the Jews. The decay of heathenism seemed to
furnish a favourable opportunity for making Jehovah,
in practice as well as in theory, the god of the world,
so that the apostles and early Christian missionaries
found the way well prepared for them, when they
passed beyond the confines of Palestine to preach the
new gospel to all men. Large settlements of Jews
in various parts of the Roman Empire helped to
foster the hostile feelings that soon manifested them-
selves in cruel persecutions both of Jews and Chris-
tians, for during the first century of Christianity, no
distinction was made by the Romans between Jews
who had accepted Jesus and those who refused to
recognise him as the Messiah. In the eyes of the
world both parties were Jews.

^ See, for many examples, Reinach's valuable Textes d\hitcurs Grecs
el Ro mains relatifs an Jttdaisnie, Paris, 1895.



ITS HISTORY AND CHARACTER. ^

Once master of the situation, Christianity accepts
as a legacy from Rome the ideal and theory of a
world-empire, and since, by the logic of the situation,
the single empire was to be ruled by the precepts and
rites of a single religion, the Roman spirit of pride
develops naturally into a spirit of intolerance towards,
ail forms of religion other than Christianity. Rome
could view with complacence the various cults prac-
tised in her empire, so long as those preaching them
confined themselves to their habitations and did not
interfere with Roman authority. A Roman emperor
could even go so far as to place the statues of Moses
and Apollo in a temple dedicated to Jupiter; but to
the zealous Christian such tolerance was impossible —
impossible in even a stronger degree than to the
Hebrew prophets. It is one of the curious pheno-
mena in the history of religions, that only in those
more advanced do we meet with the proselytising
spirit, and concomitant with this, an attitude of bitter
intolerance towards other forms of faith. Christianity
solved the religious " problem " in a simple manner.
God having revealed himself to but one people, there
could be only one form of religious truth. All others
were due either to the inspiration of evil forces or to
benighted ignorance. The latter was to be overcome
by preaching to all the only true religion, and per-
suasion, when ineffectual, was followed by severer
measures, while in the prolonged conflict with the
evil forces — of which obstinacy was regarded as a
manifestation — violence in some form or other con-
stituted the only feasible weapon. With such a spirit
prevailing, there was, to be sure, plenty of interest in
the religious phenomena of the world. Christian
theologians devoted much of their efforts to the study



S TH£ STUDY OF RELIGION.

of religion, and included in their scope all forms of
- religion known to them, but the frame of mind in
which they conducted these studies was fatal to any
real progress in fathoming the problems with which
they dealt. This state of affairs prevailed throughout
the so-called Middle Ages, and when, in addition to
continuing her attempt to stamp out heathenism and
to crush Judaism, Christianity had to defend herself
against the encroachments of a new, and in many
respects more formidable foe, Islamism, she abandoned
humane feelings altogether, cast aside all ideals of
peace and good-will, and entered upon a prolonged
period of bitter warfare in the name of religion,
diversified only by a policy of cruel persecution of all
" infidels " and heretics. The Renaissance and Refor-
mation furnished but little relief. Luther is as severe
in his attacks upon Islam as were his predecessors.
For him Mohammed is an incarnation of the Devil.
The revival in the study of Hebrew did not change the
general attitude of scholars or the masses towards the
Jews as a " stiff-necked " people whose hearts were
hardened against the approach of a gospel of love,
preached to them by means of pillage and autos-de-
fe. It would have been better if with the sentiments
prevailing till the middle of the eighteenth century,
less attention had been given to the study of religions,
for such study, inspired by hatred and carried on with
bitter prejudice, merely furnished additional fuel for
the fires of religious fanaticism.

in.

The natural and inevitable reaction against this
policy, dictated by the spirit of intolerance, sets in



ITS HISTORY AND CHARACTER. 9

about the middle of the eighteenth century. Scepti-'^^
cism is the corollary of fanaticism. The glaring
inconsistency of a religion preaching love, and ever-
lastingly brandishing the sword, led men to the other
extreme of questioning whether there was any logical
basis for religious belief in any form.

The independence of a few thinkers in the seven-
teenth century was followed in the eighteenth by a
revolt against the authority of religion which threat-
ened to assume large proportions. Under the leader-
ship of France, writers in various countries vied with
one another in the boldness of their attacks upon
the representatives of religious faith, who were held
up as deceivers prompted by sordid motives, who had
cunningly foisted superstitious rites and doctrines
upon the masses with a view of frightening them into
permanent subjection. Religious faith was viewed
as a mere fantasy, a survival from the childhood
of the race, artificially maintained by priests. All
religious rites were the deliberate invention of
a body of men, and could have neither sanction
nor authority in the eyes of people who exercised
their reason. The evolution of religious thought
was a phrase utterly devoid of meaning to the super-
ficial rationalists who mark the so -.called Auf-
Kldrungsperiode. The attitude of intolerance was
succeeded by a hostile attitude towards religion,
which was as little able to deal in a just manner with
religious phenomena as had been the previous attitude
of indifference, pride, and intolerance. In some respects
this attitude of hostility towards all religion was more
disastrous than other false attitudes, for so long as it
was held that one religion was true, or that all had
a justification, the confidence in the lofty destiny of



lO THE STUDY OF RELIGION.

the human race was maintained, whereas the hostile
attitude towards religion was inseparable from a
general contempt for a hopelessly weak humanity
that had permitted itself to be deceived for so many
thousands of years. If it may be said of Christian
theologians of the Middle Ages that they had
too much religion of their own to appreciate the
general phenomena of the religious life of mankind,
the charge of having too little religion, which must
be brought against the French encyclopaedists in the
eighteenth century, is at least equally serious.

Voltaire and Luther^ both agree, for example, in
making Mohammed a deceiver and a monster of
cruelty, and they differ only in the associates which
they would give this monster. Voltaire would not
hesitate to place Luther in the same general cate-
gory of "deceivers" with Mohammed, while Luther
would denounce Voltaire equally with Mohammed as
a wicked infidel, and each would make an exception
in favour of himself, and of those who shared his
beliefs or his scepticism on religious questions. Until



Online LibraryMorris JastrowThe study of religion → online text (page 1 of 34)