Donnerstag, 08. Mai 2014, 16:00 - 17:30 iCal

The Apologetic Invention of Religion:

From Philo to Gregory of Nyssa

Univ. Prof. Dr. Daniel Boyarin, Berkeley

Institut für Judaistik, Hörsaal 1
Spitalgasse 2/ Hof 7.3, 1090 Wien


Since the writing of William Cantwell Smith, it has become almost commonplace to remark that at a certain moment in late antiquity, certain writers were "almost there" in anticipating the allegedly only modern notion of "religion." J.Z. Smith echoes this when he claims that distinctions among "religions," between "our [true] religion" and "their [false] religion" were being made by fourth-century Latin apologists (presumably it is Lactantius to whom he refers). Rejecting Cantwell Smith’s apparent assumption of a totally forgotten false start in late antiquity and an absolutely de novo and ex nihilo modern invention, J.Z. Smith remarks that it was this (fourth-century) distinction that was "at hand for the evaluation of the newly encountered religions beginning in the sixteenth century." The reclaiming of that earlier usage then led to the then current classification of there being four religions on earth, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and paganism. It is here, in one sense, that the current intervention enters into the discourse. On the one hand, I propose that terms like "religion" have appeared and functioned in discursive contexts before the sixteenth century and that these contexts can be specified with more precision than has been done until now. Instead of a linear series, even a linear series of ruptures, as we find in current genealogies of sexuality, religion, the political etc., I propose that such structures can appear, disappear, and reappear given particular sets of contexts within the social world.


Institut für Judaistik, Salzburger Zentrum für Jüdische Kulturgeschichte, Theologische Kurse Wien, Koordinierungsausschuss für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit


Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Gerhard Langer
Institut für Judaistik