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Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World

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Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World

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American Evangelicals in Egypt

Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire

Heather J. Sharkey

In 1854, American Presbyterian missionaries arrived in Egypt as part of a larger Anglo-American Protestant movement aiming for worldwide evangelization. Protected by British imperial power, and later by mounting American global influence, their enterprise flourished during the next century. American Evangelicals in Egypt follows the ongoing and often unexpected transformations initiated by missionary activities between the mid-nineteenth century and 1967--when the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War uprooted the Americans in Egypt.

Heather Sharkey uses Arabic and English sources to shed light on the many facets of missionary encounters with Egyptians. These occurred through institutions, such as schools and hospitals, and through literacy programs and rural development projects that anticipated later efforts of NGOs. To Egyptian Muslims and Coptic Christians, missionaries presented new models for civic participation and for women's roles in collective worship and community life. At the same time, missionary efforts to convert Muslims and reform Copts stimulated new forms of Egyptian social activism and prompted nationalists to enact laws restricting missionary activities. Faced by Islamic strictures and customs regarding apostasy and conversion, and by expectations regarding the proper structure of Christian-Muslim relations, missionaries in Egypt set off debates about religious liberty that reverberate even today. Ultimately, the missionary experience in Egypt led to reconsiderations of mission policy and evangelism in ways that had long-term repercussions for the culture of American Protestantism.

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Beautiful Death

Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France

Susan L. Einbinder

When Crusader armies on their way to the Holy Land attacked Jewish communities in the Rhine Valley, many Jews chose suicide over death at the hands of Christian mobs. With their defiant deaths, the medieval Jewish martyr was born. With the literary commemoration of the victims, Jewish martyrology followed. Beautiful Death examines the evolution of a long-neglected corpus of Hebrew poetry, the laments reflecting the specific conditions of Jewish life in northern France. The poems offer insight into everyday life and into the ways medieval French Jews responded to persecution. They also suggest that poetry was used to encourage resistance to intensifying pressures to convert.

The educated Jewish elite in northern France was highly acculturated. Their poetry--particularly that emerging from the innovative Tosafist schools--reflects their engagement with the vernacular renaissance unfolding around them, as well as conscious and unconscious absorption of Christian popular beliefs and hagiographical conventions. At the same time, their extraordinary poems signal an increasingly harsh repudiation of Christianity's sacred symbols and beliefs. They reveal a complex relationship to Christian culture as Jews internalized elements of medieval culture even while expressing a powerful revulsion against the forms and beliefs of Christian life.

This gracefully written study crosses traditional boundaries of history and literature and of Jewish and general medieval scholarship. Focusing on specific incidents of persecution and the literary commemorations they produced, it offers unique insights into the historical conditions in which these poems were written and performed.

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The Bible in Arabic

The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam

Sidney H. Griffith

From the first centuries of Islam to well into the Middle Ages, Jews and Christians produced hundreds of manuscripts containing portions of the Bible in Arabic. Until recently, however, these translations remained largely neglected by Biblical scholars and historians. In telling the story of the Bible in Arabic, this book casts light on a crucial transition in the cultural and religious life of Jews and Christians in Arabic-speaking lands.

In pre-Islamic times, Jewish and Christian scriptures circulated orally in the Arabic-speaking milieu. After the rise of Islam--and the Qur'an's appearance as a scripture in its own right--Jews and Christians translated the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament into Arabic for their own use and as a response to the Qur'an's retelling of Biblical narratives. From the ninth century onward, a steady stream of Jewish and Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament crossed communal borders to influence the Islamic world.

The Bible in Arabic offers a new frame of reference for the pivotal place of Arabic Bible translations in the religious and cultural interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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Cultural Exchange

Jews, Christians, and Art in the Medieval Marketplace

Joseph Shatzmiller

Demonstrating that similarities between Jewish and Christian art in the Middle Ages were more than coincidental, Cultural Exchange meticulously combines a wide range of sources to show how Jews and Christians exchanged artistic and material culture. Joseph Shatzmiller focuses on communities in northern Europe, Iberia, and other Mediterranean societies where Jews and Christians coexisted for centuries, and he synthesizes the most current research to describe the daily encounters that enabled both societies to appreciate common artistic values.

Detailing the transmission of cultural sensibilities in the medieval money market and the world of Jewish money lenders, this book examines objects pawned by peasants and humble citizens, sacred relics exchanged by the clergy as security for loans, and aesthetic goods given up by the Christian well-to-do who required financial assistance. The work also explores frescoes and decorations likely painted by non-Jews in medieval and early modern Jewish homes located in Germanic lands, and the ways in which Jews hired Christian artists and craftsmen to decorate Hebrew prayer books and create liturgical objects. Conversely, Christians frequently hired Jewish craftsmen to produce liturgical objects used in Christian churches.

With rich archival documentation, Cultural Exchange sheds light on the social and economic history of the creation of Jewish and Christian art, and expands the general understanding of cultural exchange in brand-new ways.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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The Curse of Ham

Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

David M. Goldenberg

How old is prejudice against black people? Were the racist attitudes that fueled the Atlantic slave trade firmly in place 700 years before the European discovery of sub-Saharan Africa? In this groundbreaking book, David Goldenberg seeks to discover how dark-skinned peoples, especially black Africans, were portrayed in the Bible and by those who interpreted the Bible--Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Unprecedented in rigor and breadth, his investigation covers a 1,500-year period, from ancient Israel (around 800 B.C.E.) to the eighth century C.E., after the birth of Islam. By tracing the development of anti-Black sentiment during this time, Goldenberg uncovers views about race, color, and slavery that took shape over the centuries--most centrally, the belief that the biblical Ham and his descendants, the black Africans, had been cursed by God with eternal slavery.

Goldenberg begins by examining a host of references to black Africans in biblical and postbiblical Jewish literature. From there he moves the inquiry from Black as an ethnic group to black as color, and early Jewish attitudes toward dark skin color. He goes on to ask when the black African first became identified as slave in the Near East, and, in a powerful culmination, discusses the resounding influence of this identification on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinking, noting each tradition's exegetical treatment of pertinent biblical passages.

Authoritative, fluidly written, and situated at a richly illuminating nexus of images, attitudes, and history, The Curse of Ham is sure to have a profound and lasting impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery, and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

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Defining Neighbors

Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist-Arab Encounter

Jonathan Marc Gribetz

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists, aspiring peacemakers continue to search for the precise territorial dividing line that will satisfy both Israeli and Palestinian nationalist demands. The prevailing view assumes that this struggle is nothing more than a dispute over real estate. Defining Neighbors boldly challenges this view, shedding new light on how Zionists and Arabs understood each other in the earliest years of Zionist settlement in Palestine and suggesting that the current singular focus on boundaries misses key elements of the conflict.

Drawing on archival documents as well as newspapers and other print media from the final decades of Ottoman rule, Jonathan Gribetz argues that Zionists and Arabs in pre–World War I Palestine and the broader Middle East did not think of one another or interpret each other’s actions primarily in terms of territory or nationalism. Rather, they tended to view their neighbors in religious terms—as Jews, Christians, or Muslims—or as members of “scientifically” defined races—Jewish, Arab, Semitic, or otherwise. Gribetz shows how these communities perceived one another, not as strangers vying for possession of a land that each regarded as exclusively their own, but rather as deeply familiar, if at times mythologized or distorted, others. Overturning conventional wisdom about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gribetz demonstrates how the seemingly intractable nationalist contest in Israel and Palestine was, at its start, conceived of in very different terms.

Courageous and deeply compelling, Defining Neighbors is a landmark book that fundamentally recasts our understanding of the modern Jewish-Arab encounter and of the Middle East conflict today.

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The Handless Maiden

Moriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain

Mary Elizabeth Perry

In 1502, a decade of increasing tension between Muslims and Christians in Spain culminated in a royal decree that Muslims in Castile wanting to remain had to convert to Christianity. Mary Elizabeth Perry uses this event as the starting point for a remarkable exploration of how Moriscos, converted Muslims and their descendants, responded to their increasing disempowerment in sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Spain. Stepping beyond traditional histories that have emphasized armed conflict from the view of victors, The Handless Maiden focuses on Morisco women. Perry argues that these women's lives offer vital new insights on the experiences of Moriscos in general, and on how the politics of religion both empowers and oppresses.

Drawing on archival documents, legends, and literature, Perry shows that the Moriscas carried out active resistance to cultural oppression through everyday rituals and acts. For example, they taught their children Arabic language and Islamic prayers, dietary practices, and the observation of Islamic holy days. Thus the home, not the battlefield, became the major forum for Morisco-Christian interaction. Moriscas' experiences further reveal how the Morisco presence provided a vital counter-identity for a centralizing state in early modern Spain. For readers of the twenty-first century, The Handless Maiden raises urgent questions of how we choose to use difference and historical memory.

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Imperialism and Jewish Society

200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.

Seth Schwartz

This provocative new history of Palestinian Jewish society in antiquity marks the first comprehensive effort to gauge the effects of imperial domination on this people. Probing more than eight centuries of Persian, Greek, and Roman rule, Seth Schwartz reaches some startling conclusions--foremost among them that the Christianization of the Roman Empire generated the most fundamental features of medieval and modern Jewish life.

Schwartz begins by arguing that the distinctiveness of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman periods was the product of generally prevailing imperial tolerance. From around 70 C.E. to the mid-fourth century, with failed revolts and the alluring cultural norms of the High Roman Empire, Judaism all but disintegrated. However, late in the Roman Empire, the Christianized state played a decisive role in ''re-Judaizing'' the Jews. The state gradually excluded them from society while supporting their leaders and recognizing their local communities. It was thus in Late Antiquity that the synagogue-centered community became prevalent among the Jews, that there re-emerged a distinctively Jewish art and literature--laying the foundations for Judaism as we know it today.

Through masterful scholarship set in rich detail, this book challenges traditional views rooted in romantic notions about Jewish fortitude. Integrating material relics and literature while setting the Jews in their eastern Mediterranean context, it addresses the complex and varied consequences of imperialism on this vast period of Jewish history more ambitiously than ever before. Imperialism in Jewish Society will be widely read and much debated.

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Living Together, Living Apart

Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages

Jonathan Elukin

This book challenges the standard conception of the Middle Ages as a time of persecution for Jews. Jonathan Elukin traces the experience of Jews in Europe from late antiquity through the Renaissance and Reformation, revealing how the pluralism of medieval society allowed Jews to feel part of their local communities despite recurrent expressions of hatred against them.

Elukin shows that Jews and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully for much of the Middle Ages, and that the violence directed at Jews was largely isolated and did not undermine their participation in the daily rhythms of European society. The extraordinary picture that emerges is one of Jews living comfortably among their Christian neighbors, working with Christians, and occasionally cultivating lasting friendships even as Christian culture often demonized Jews.

As Elukin makes clear, the expulsions of Jews from England, France, Spain, and elsewhere were not the inevitable culmination of persecution, but arose from the religious and political expediencies of particular rulers. He demonstrates that the history of successful Jewish-Christian interaction in the Middle Ages in fact laid the social foundations that gave rise to the Jewish communities of modern Europe.

Elukin compels us to rethink our assumptions about this fascinating period in history, offering us a new lens through which to appreciate the rich complexities of the Jewish experience in medieval Christendom.

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Maimonides in His World

Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker

Sarah Stroumsa

While the great medieval philosopher, theologian, and physician Maimonides is acknowledged as a leading Jewish thinker, his intellectual contacts with his surrounding world are often described as related primarily to Islamic philosophy. Maimonides in His World challenges this view by revealing him to have wholeheartedly lived, breathed, and espoused the rich Mediterranean culture of his time.

Sarah Stroumsa argues that Maimonides is most accurately viewed as a Mediterranean thinker who consistently interpreted his own Jewish tradition in contemporary multicultural terms. Maimonides spent his entire life in the Mediterranean region, and the religious and philosophical traditions that fed his thought were those of the wider world in which he lived. Stroumsa demonstrates that he was deeply influenced not only by Islamic philosophy but by Islamic culture as a whole, evidence of which she finds in his philosophy as well as his correspondence and legal and scientific writings. She begins with a concise biography of Maimonides, then carefully examines key aspects of his thought, including his approach to religion and the complex world of theology and religious ideas he encountered among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and even heretics; his views about science; the immense and unacknowledged impact of the Almohads on his thought; and his vision of human perfection.

This insightful cultural biography restores Maimonides to his rightful place among medieval philosophers and affirms his central relevance to the study of medieval Islam.

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