Religion and Society in the Near East, | Berkey’s focus in The Formation of Islam is on ideas and institutions and their social and political context. Jonathan Berkey’s book surveys the religious history of the peoples of the Near East from roughly to CE. The opening chapter examines the religious. Khalid Yahya Blankinship; Jonathan P. Berkey. The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, – (Themes in Islamic.

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The Formation of Islam (Jonathan Berkey) – book review

In the centuries before the rise of Islam, the Near East was dominated by two rival states. So, for example, a treaty with the Roman empire in provided that Christians were to be left alone, allowed to worship freely and construct churches.

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This was an era of leading religious figures and of the production of foundational religious texts in all of these regions: In the end, however, despite its universalism and its appeal, Manichaeism failed.

In the first place, the question of paganism is a reminder that religion and religious identities can be experienced on a variety of levels. Their political rivalry, however, did not completely preclude meaningful cultural contact. On the other hand, Mani and his followers aimed from the beginning at an even larger target.

Nor were the older pagan traditions immune from the influence of the first of the major monotheistic faiths. And he surveys the ascetic and mystical strands of Islam. Cambridge University Press,— Harper and Row,86—7.

The Formation of Islam | Jonathan Berkey –

These regions lay beyond the uncontested reach of centralized, territorial states such as the Roman or Sasanian empires, and, except in certain limited regions, also lacked indigenous traditions of permanent political institutions. Thereupon this revelation has come down and this prophecy has appeared in the form of myself, Mani, the envoy of the true God in the Land of Babylon.

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As a historical matter, it would be meaningless to say that Christianity caused the process; but that process involved a dialogue, and most of the participants in that dialogue were Christian. The result is aimed most obviously at those with some historical training, but should be accessible to lay readers already familiar with Islam and the region’s history.

In light of what came later, it is worth recalling that many Jews participated freely in the religious dialogue and experimentation which characterized the centuries just before and at the start of the Common Era. Christianity continued to grow down to and even into the Islamic period, at the expense of Jonatahn, pagans, and Zoroastrians; by the late sixth century, it constituted probably the single largest confessional community in Iraq.

Meeks and Robert L.

Jonathan Berkey – the formation of islam

tye University of Chicago Press,— There were some non-Iranian converts to Zoroastrianism, even among the tribes of the Arab peninsula. Oriental Institute,41—2, 51, The God of Israel was known throughout the Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds, thanks to the islsm dispersal of his worshipers. From one perspective, there was no such thing as paganism, but there were lots of paganisms, most of them deeply rooted in local and ethnic communities.

But over time, the tendency was toward a union of the outlook and interests of the state and the Zoroastrian hierarchy. His doctrine bore a superficial resemblance to Christianity — Jesus, for example, plays a prominent role in the Manichaean myth — but Mani also drew upon certain Indian ideas such as metempsychosis and especially Iranian dualism.


Christians served the Sasanians jonxthan the army and in the bureaucracy, sometimes in quite senior positions. Without the gifts of paganism, the earth would have been empty and impoverished, enveloped in od great shroud of destitution. The flexibility and syncretistic potential of Mediterranean paganism are well known, and need no comment here.

By the fourth and fifth centuries, the rabbis had created an institutional structure for instruction and learning through which their interpretation of Jewish law came to be dominant, not just in Iraq, but among Jews throughout the diaspora.

The formation of Islam: religion and society in the Near East, 600-1800

Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period, ed. Feldman, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World: Christians raised more insistently than others the question of religious identity.

Jews had settled, of course in Formstion, but also throughout the Graeco-Roman world, as the apostle Paul well knew.

Dodds used the phrase to describe the third century, but it is just as descriptive of the ensuing centuries.

But on an official level at least, the Formarion formed a relatively favored community. Paganism participated fully in that dialogue, and through it contributed in substantial and subtle ways to the religious life of those who came later.

And not only are the mainlands full of Jewish colonies but also the most highly esteemed of the islands Euboea, Cyprus and Crete. Robert Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: