Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean
Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean explores the influence of geography on religion and highlights a largely unknown story of religious history in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the Levant, agricultural communities of Jews, Christians, and Muslims jointly venerated and largely shared three important saints or holy figures: Jewish Elijah, Christian St. George, and Muslim al-Khi¿r. These figures share ‘peculiar’ characteristics, such as associations with rain, greenness, fertility, and storms. Only in the Eastern Mediterranean are Elijah, St. George, and al-Khi¿r shared between religious communities, or characterized by these same agricultural attributes – attributes that also were shared by regional religious figures from earlier time periods, such as the ancient Near Eastern Storm-god Baal-Hadad, and Levantine Zeus. This book tells the story of how that came to be, and suggests that the figures share specific characteristics, over a very long period of time, because these motifs were shaped by the geography of the region. Ultimately, this book suggests that regional geography has influenced regional religion; that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not, historically or textually speaking, separate religious traditions (even if Jews, Christians, and Muslims are members of distinct religious communities); and that shared religious practices between members of these and other local religious communities are not unusual. Instead, shared practices arose out of a common geographical environment and an interconnected religious heritage, and are a natural historical feature of religion in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This volume will be of interest to students of ancient Near Eastern religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, sainthood, agricultural communities in the ancient Near East, Middle Eastern religious and cultural history, and the relationships between geography and religion.
Table of Contents
1.Geography and Religion in the Eastern Mediterranean 2. Levantine Geography, History, and Agrarian Religion 3. Ancient Near Eastern Religion and the Storm-God Baal-Hadad 4. The Hebrew Bible and Elijah 5. Early Christianity and Saint George 6. The Emergence of Islam and Al-Khi¿r 7. Eastern Mediterranean Shared Religious History Bibliography
Erica Ferg is an assistant professor in the Liberal Arts department at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, where she teaches courses on Islam, Christianity, Judaism, world religions, and religious studies theories and methods. Her doctorate is in the Study of Religion, and her area of specialization is Eastern Mediterranean comparative religious history. Her research focuses on Mediterranean comparative religion, comparative linguistics, and archaeology. Prior to academia, Erica was a Persian linguist in the United States Air Force. Erica is at work on her second book, entitled Starry Nights: A Celestial History of Religion in the Mediterranean.
"This is a pathbreaking contribution on the comparative religious history of the Middle East. Eloquently written and rigorously researched, Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean reminds us of the shared cultural traditions and values among the Abrahamic religions. A welcome contribution to the scholarly literature, especially in an age of rising intolerance and religious division." - Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
"In her immensely learned monograph Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erica Ferg explains why peasants in the Levant routinely crossed religious boundaries, why they had been doing that since early antiquity, and why their behaviour helps us make sense of religious formation per se, including the three great Abrahamic faiths. What makes this book so good is its analytical ambition. It has much to say about religion and society per se. It explains through its illuminating case studies the relevance of physical geography and climate for an understanding of faith systems. Ferg presents an original thesis that explains traditions that endure from the Bronze Age to modern times, at least until the onset of urbanisation and the establishment of nation-states... every historian of the Mediterranean and deep history should read this book." - Journal of Religious History