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Oxford University Press
Varieties of Religious Invention: Founders and Their Functions in History

Varieties of Religious Invention: Founders and Their Functions in History

by Patrick GrayPatrick Gray
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At the origins of the major religious traditions one typically finds a seminal figure. Names such as Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, and Moses are well known, yet their status as "founders" has not gone uncontested. Does Paul deserve the credit for founding Christianity? Is Laozi the father of Daoism, or should that title belong to Zhuangzi? What is at stake, if anything, in debates about the historical Buddha? What assumptions are implicit in the claim that Hinduism is a religion without a founder? The essays in Varieties of Religious Invention do not attempt to settle these perennial arguments. Rather, they consider the subtexts of such debates as an exercise in comparative religion: Who engages in them? To whom do they matter, and when? To what extent are origins thought to define the essence of a religion? When is development in a religious tradition perceived as deviation from its roots? In what ways do arguments about founders serve as proxies for broader cultural, theological, political, or ideological questions? What do they reveal about the ways in which the past is remembered and authority negotiated?

Surveying the landscape shaped by these questions within each tradition, the authors provide insights and novel perspectives about the individual religions, and about the study of world religions more generally.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199359721
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Patrick Gray is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He has published five books on the Bible, the history of biblical interpretation, and Hellenistic philosophy, including Opening Paul's Letters: A Reader's Guide to Genre and Interpretation.

Table of Contents


Patrick Gray

Chapter 1) Finding Judaism's Founders
Mark Leuchter

Chapter 2) The Buddha: Historicizing Myth, Mythologizing History
Nathan McGovern

Chapter 3) When the Founder is Not a Creator: Confucius and Confucianism Reconsidered
Cai Liang

Chapter 4) What is Daoism and Who is Its Founder?
Gil Raz

Chapter 5) Jesus, Paul, and the Birth of Christianity
Patrick Gray

Chapter 6) Muhammad's Mission and the Din of Ibrahim according to Ibn Ishaq
R. Kevin Jaques

Chapter 7) Hinduism and the Question of Founders
Måns Broo

Chapter 8) Crossing Boundaries: When Founders of Faith Appear in Other Traditions
Mark Muesse


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