Interpretative Categories and the History of Religions

History and Theory 8:17-30 (1968)
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Abstract

The history of religions is divided into phenomenological and historical branches: the former has no definite interpretative categories but the latter does, namely the "religions" - Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and others. But the "religions" are misleading and preclude understanding, for these categories were imposed before historical research and are neither historical nor religious. A definition of religion is needed to. begin, and Tillich's suggestion - religion is ultimate concern -is functional, enables us to identify what we are looking for, and is non-judgmental. The "religions," on the other hand ' imply an essence of each religion and preclude the examination of the religious experience of each individual in his own terms. The historical study of religion should be undertaken according to areas, not "religions," and the final step should be determination of the "types" of concern-the task of phenomenology

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