Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JAY HARRIS
Judaism in the
Encyclopedia of
Religion
T
h e
r e c e n t
p u b l i c a t i o n
of the
Encyclopedia of Religion
(16 vols.,
Macmillan, 1987) represents the self-assured statement of a dis­
cipline come of age. With the proliferation of Religion Depart­
ments in major universities across the country, and the growth
of the American Academy of Religion, “religion” is now clearly
recognized as a significant discipline in its own right, dependent
though it is on many others (Sociology, Anthropology, Philos­
ophy, History, Comparative Literature,
inter alia).
It is the rec­
ognition of the major advances made in this field over the last
half-century — as well as the inevitable specialization that ac­
companies such advances — that called forth the need for an
encyclopedic statement, a summary of what we do and do not
know, what we do and do not suppose. Through the labors
of Mircea Eliade, the editor-in-chief, and his distinguished
group of editors, we now have such a statement.
The
Encyclopedia
contains lengthy essays on all of the world’s
major religious traditions, as well as shorter essays and entries
discussing the institutions and people who are of significance
to these traditions. In addition, there is a substantial compar­
ative component to the
Encyclopedia
; this is accomplished
through survey articles on many concepts that are of importance
in a wide range of world religions, such as the notion of “tra­
dition,” evil and its symbolic forms, society and religion, exile,
and many others. In all, the
Encyclopedia
will be a lasting mon­
ument to the vision of Eliade, one of the true trail-blazers in
the world of religious studies.
Perhaps for the first time in a work of this kind not prepared
under Jewish auspices, the
Encyclopedia
presents a picture of
Judaism that is comprehensive (for the most part; I shall return
to this qualification below) and that is neither derogatory nor
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