Review by Choice Review
HarperCollins and 327 scholars (members of the American Academy of Religion) have produced an important reference source for religion that covers "significant religious formations of mankind from every geographical area and from the Paleolithic era to the present day," adding in magnificent understatement that it is therefore selective. Under large subject areas (e.g., Buddhism) contributors are listed alphabetically together with the institutions where they teach. Individual articles are not signed and there are no bibliographies. The work's 3,200 entries are arranged alphabetically; most consist of a brief paragraph, often including cross-references, but some cover several pages. All the entries fall into one of 11 categories, which are described in long (12- to 16-page) essays covering major religions of the world (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism), "Religions of Antiquity," "Chinese Religion," "Japanese Religion," "New Religions" (defined as "independent groups that have arisen from the encounter of existing religious traditions"), "Religions of Traditional Peoples," and "The Study of Religion." A number of these longer articles have time lines that give important events and persons in the tradition as well as maps that locate adherents. Such a vast array of topics requires that entries often be brief, but this rich and extensive resource treats subjects in an evenhanded and scholarly way. A few entries are so brief they provide no context for the information nor an explanation of how the topic fits the religious tradition. The entry for Aaron, for example, reads, "In the Hebrew Bible, the brother of Moses and the first Israelite priest," without indicating Aaron's own importance or the role Israelite priests played in the religion. Biases are not always acknowledged; in the subsection "Early Christologies" under the entry "Jesus Christ," the contributor writes, "In his Person the divine and human have been joined, so much that it is possible to say that Mary, Jesus' mother, was not simply the mother of Christ, but the mother of God." This passage, written from a Roman Catholic perspective, is not so identified, and those unfamiliar with Christianity might think this language is used by all Christians. These concerns aside, this book offers an excellent, thorough, scholarly, current introduction to religion, especially for those not acquainted with the terms and concepts of a specific religion. Highly recommended for any library supporting study of religion. D. Bourquin California State University, San Bernardino
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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