Comparative Religion (See "Christian Parallels to Norse Myth" for an Introduction)
1. Guides. Introductions and introductory bibliographies:
a. G. E. and Lyn Gorman Theological and Religious Reference
Material: General Resources and Biblical Studies (Westport, CN:
Greenwood Press, 1984). Not much on comparative religion.
b. John F. Wilson and Thomas P. Slavens, Research Guide to
Religious Studies (Chicago: American Library Association, 1982). A
good first guide, with discussion of problems.
c. William M. Johnston, Recent Reference Books in Religion (Downers
Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1996). Note 2nd ed. (not seen) of
1998. Good coverage, but poorly organized. Intensive cross-
referencing. Extensive review of each item with a comparison to
d. Willi Braun and Russell T. McCutcheon, eds., Guide to the Study
of Religion (London: Cassell, 1999). Not seen.
2. Bibliographies. The guides will lead you to:
a. Peter Buchholz, Bibliographie zur alteuropaeischen Religions-
Geschichte, 1954-64. Arbeiten zur Fruehmittelalterforschung, 2
(Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967).
b. International Bibliography of the History of Religions (Leiden:
Brill, 1954-. An annual published in connection with Numen.
c. The best bibliography at present is the online bibliography by
the American Theologica Library Association, replacing their print
3. Old one-volume standbys. These should be read:
a. Joachim Wach, The Comparative Study of Religions, ed. with an
introduction by Joseph M. Kitagawa. Lectures on the History of
Religion, sponsored by The American Council of Learned Societies,
New Series, No. 4 (NY: Columbia University Press, 1958).
b. E. O. James, Comparative Religion, rev. ed. (London: Methuen,
1961). An excellent starting place; reads well; bibliography.
c. Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, transl.
Rosemary Sheed (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1958). By one of the
major players in the game. More explanation than understanding.
d. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, transl. John W. Harvey. A
Galaxy Book (GB 14) (NY: Oxford UP, 1958). From the German 2d ed.,
e. Those interested in the views of Dumezil: C. Scott Littleton,
The New Comparative Mythology: An Anthropological Assessment of the
Theories of Georges Dumezil, 3d ed. (Berkeley: UCalPress, 1982).
4. Vocabulary. Often, and rightly so, comparative religion is
approached through vocabulary, so that one sees books such as
Ladislaus Mittner, Wurd (Bern: Francke, 1955) and Dietrich
Ruprecht, Tristitia. Palaestra 227 (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1959), both of which are in actuality studies of
a. Handbuch religionswissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe, ed. Hubeert
Cancik, Burkhard Gladigow and Matthias Laubscher, 5 vols.
(Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1988-). An excellent work; great coverage.
b. Religion Indexes: Thesaurus, 6th ed. (Evanston, IL: American
Theological Library Association, 1994). "ATLA religion index:
thesaurus lists subject headings most frequently used in Religion
Index One: Periodicals (RIO), Religion Index Two: Multi-author
works (RIT), Research in Ministry (RIM), and electronic
bibliographies produced from the ATLA Religion database." Now
includes the ATLA electronic index.
c. An interest attempt at a historical thesaurus: Thomas Chase, The
English Religious Lexis. Texts and Studies in Religion, 37
(Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1988). A contribution to the
Historical Thesaurus of English at Glasgow.
d. Sometimes it is good to look through the TOC of collective
works, to see what the concerns of the field may be: Critical terms
for religious studies, edited by Mark C. Taylor (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1998): TOC: Contents: Belief, Donald
S. Lopez, Jr. -- Body, William R. LaFleur -- Conflict, Bruce
Lincoln -- Culture, Tomoko Masuzawa -- Experience, Robert H. Sharf
-- Gender, Daniel Boyarin -- God, Francis Schuessler Fiorenza and
Gordon D. Kaufman -- Image, Margaret R. Miles -- Liberation,
Kenneth Surin -- Modernity, Gustavo Benavides -- Performance,
Catherine Bell -- Person, Charles E. Winquist -- Rationality, Paul
Stoller -- Relic, Gregory Schopen -- Religion, religions,
religious, Jonathan Z. Smith -- Sacrifice, Jill Robbins --
Territory, Sam Gill -- Time, Anthony f. Aveni -- Transformation,
Bruce B. Lawrence -- Transgression, Michael Taussig -- Value, Edith
Wyschogrod -- Writing, David Tracy.
e. Eric J. Sharpe, 50 Key Words: Comparative Religion (Richmond:
John Knox Press, 1971). A thin little book, but not a bad starting
f. A magic still dwells: comparative religion in the postmodern
age, edited by Kimberley C. Patton and Benjamin C. Ray (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2000). TOC: Prologue: in comparison
a magic dwells, Jonathan Z. Smith -- pt. 1. Comparative religion:
the state of the field. The scholar as mythographer: comparative
Indo-European myth and postmodern concerns, David Gordon White;
Contested identities: the study of Buddhism in the postmodern
world, Malcolm David Eckel; Post-modern and -colonial -structural
comparisons, Wendy Doniger -- pt. 2. Case studies: critical issues
in the history of religions. What's beyond the post? comparative
analysis as critical method, Barbara A. Holdrege; The contextual
illusion: comparative mysticism and postmodernism, Jonathan
R. Herman; Discourse about difference: understanding African ritual
language, Benjamin Caleb Ray; American religion is naturally
comparative, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan; Dialogue and method:
reconstructing the study of religion, Diana L. Eck -- pt. 3. A
revised comparison: new justifications for comparative study.
Juggling torches: why we still need comparative religion, Kimberley
C. Patton; Methodology, comparisons, and truth, Huston Smith;
Elements of a new comparativism, William E. Paden; The magic in
miniature: etymological links in comparative religions, Laurie L.
Patton; The net of Indra: comparison and the contribution of
perception, Lawrence E. Sullivan; Epilogue: the "end" of
comparison: redescription and rectification, Jonathan Z. Smith.
g. Dictionary of Comparative Religion, ed. S. G. F. Brandon
(London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970). 704 p.
h. It is also interesting to look at the various subject indexes to
get an idea of the taxonomy of religion, the Library of Congress
Subject Headings, for example. Another interesting break-down:
Dewey decimal classification. 200 religion class: reprinted from
Edition 20 of the Dewey decimal classification: with a revised and
expanded index, and Manual notes from Edition 20, devised by Melvil
Dewey; edited by John P. Comaromi, Julianne Beall, Winton E.
Matthews, Jr., Gregory R. New, Michael B. Cantlon (Albany, NY:
Forest Press, a division of OCLC Online Computer Library Center,
5. Readers. Another way of getting a feel for the field is to read
through a few anthologies:
a. Reader in Comparative Religion, ed. William A. Lessa and Evon Z.
Vogt (NY: Row, Peterson, 1958). Substantial.
b. Sociology of Religion, ed. Roland Robertson. Penguin Modern
Sociology Readings (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969.
c. Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion, aims, methods and
theories of research; introduction & anthology, ed. Jacques
Waardenburg (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999). Great anthology.
a. Vergilius Ferm, An Encyclopedia of Religion (NY: Philosophical
Library, 1945). A dated, but excellent, one-volume encyclopedia.
Signed articles. Inexpensive.
b. The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. in chief Mircea Eliade, 16
vols. (NY: Macmillan, 1987). The best reasonably up-to-date
encyclopedia; signed articles; good bibliography.
c. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 13
vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949-50). Based on the third edition of
the Realencyklopaedie founded by J. J. Herzog. Old, but
outstanding. Do not ignore it.
d. Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. An
extension of the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious
Knowledge, ed. Lefferts A. Loetscher, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker,
1955). An attempt to bring the previous item up to date. Also good.
e. Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Kurt Galling, 3d
ed., 7 vols. (Tuebingen: Mohr, 1957-65).
f. Encyclopaedia of religion and ethics, ed. by James Hastings, 13
vols. (New York, Scribner's, 1908-27). Another golden oldie.
g. Lexikon der Religionen, ed. Hans Waldenfels (Freiburg: Herder,
1987). Good for comparison.
h. Histoire des religions, ed. Nenri-Charles Puech, 3 vols.
Encyclopedie de la Pleiade 29, 34, 40 (Paris: Gallimard, 1970-76).
With all the features one has come to expect of the Encyclopedie de
la Pleiade. Excellent, though a little dated.
a. Karl Helm, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte. Germanische
Bibliothek, 1. Abteilung, V. Reihe, 2. Band, 2 vols. (Heidelberg:
Winter, 1913-1937. An old stand-by.
b. Jan de Vries, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, Pauls
Grundriss 12, 2 vols. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1956-57). The standard
With these two, you can find out almost anything you want; you can
check the sources with:
c. Capelle, Wilhelm. Das alte Germanien, die Nachrichten der
griechischen und roemischeen Schriftsteller (Jena: Diederich,
1937). Both religious and non-religious.
d. Walter Baetke, Die Religion der Germanen in Quellenzeugnissen,
3d ed. (Frankfurt: Diesterweg, 1944). A German translation of many
of the sources.
8. For Celtic religion, good coverage is provided by:
a. Jan de Vries, Keltische Religion (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1961).
Your best source.
b. Joseph Vendryes, La religion des Celtes. Mana. Introduction a
l'histoire des Religions 2, III (Paris: PUF, 1948).
c. Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, Gods and Heroes of the Celts, transl.
Myles Dillon (London: Methuen, 1949).
c. John A. MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts
See also the later section on mythology. In the meantime, consult
the appropriate parts of: Ron Smith, Mythologies of the World: A
Guide to Sources (Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1981).
a. A good book: Patrick Durusau, High Places in Cyberspace. A guide
to biblical and religious studies. classics, and archaeological
resources on the internet (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996). For
b. Not Just Bibles. A Guide to Christian Resources on the Internet:
http://www.iclnet.org. A great resource.
c. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edulrs. The home page for the Dept. of
Religious Studies at Pennsylvania. Think of Medtextler Bob Kraft.
d. Online bibliography in method and theory at the University of
Toronto: http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/MandT. Cf. Bruce Alton,
"Method and Theory: An On-Line Bibliography," Method and Theory in
the Study of Religion 11 (1999), 143-144. Note particularly the
e. http://www.ucalgary.ca/~hexham. Sources for the Study of
Religion, by Irving Hexham.
f. The whole text of World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of
Sacred Texts, ed. Andrew Wilson (NY: Paragon House, 1991):
g. The Michigan Clearinghouse for Subject-Oriented Internet
1. Christian Resources; G. Bogart, J. Brubaker; v1.30 Oct'94
2. Religion; M. Fraser; June'94
3. Religious Studies; J. Gresham; June'94
4. Religious Studies; P. Fehrmann; v8; Mar'94
5. Religious Studies; vol. 1; M. Strangelove; Feb'93
6. Religious Studies; vol. 3; M. Strangelove; Nov'92
h. There are many web sites and `search engines'. I will just
a few. Try them out:
1. Virtual Religion Index, from Rutgers:
http://religion.rutgers.edy/links/vrindex.html. A good set of
2. http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mikef/durham/gresham.html is John
3. Virtual Religion Library: http://vlib.org/Religion.html.
10. Electronic Sources (CD-ROM and academic online).
a. By far the best of the electronic sources is: American
Theological Library Association Indexes. Available from OCLC,
using their upfront engine. Available on CD-ROM from Wilson.
Replaces the old Religion Index. If you have this you need little
else. Available also from BRS, BRS/AfterDark, Dialog, Knowledge
Index (see also their break-down), and Wilsonline.
b. The other standard sources, discussed in WEMSK-1, e.g.
Humanities Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index (of limited
use), MLA Bibliogaphy, International Medieval Bibliography, can
also be of aid.
11. Journals. There are too many for me to list them with any sense
of order. Look at Ulrich's. There is also Religion Journals and
Serials. An Analytic Guide, compiled by Eugene C. Fieg, Jr.
Annotated Bibliographies of Serials: A Subject Approach, No. 13
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988), which is, however, almost
totally anglophone. Let me mention a few:
a. History of Religions (University of Chicago, 1961-).
b. Journal of Religion (UChicago Divinity School, 1921-).
c. Numen (Leiden: Brill, 1954-). International Association of the
History of Religions.
d. Religion (London: Academic Press, 1971-).
e. Religious Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1965-).
f. Religious Studies News (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986-). At one
time graced by our own Bob Kraft's "Offline", which I miss greatly.
g. Studies in Comparative Religion (Bedfont, Middlesex: Perennial,
12. The Human Relations Area Files are available online at many
universities. They offer a description of many religions around the
globe, using the grid of the Cross-Cultural Survey as a tertium
quid (see George P. Murdock, et al., Outline of Cultural Materials,
4th ed. [New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1971]). Worth
consulting on any culture. See also George P. Murdock, Ethnographic Atlas
(Pittsburgh: UPittsburgh Press, 1961).
Nordic Religions in the Viking Age, by Thomas A. Dubois (October 1999)
University of Pennsylvania Press (Submitted by Peter Kardon)