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Acknowledging the Lives of Religious Texts

Jeremy Walton moderated a panel sponsored by NYU’s Institute for the Production of Knowledge last week.  The event inaugurated a new series by Princeton University Press, “The Lives of Great Religious Books,” and gathered Martin E. Marty (Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison), Donald Lopez (The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography), and Vanessa Ochs (currently working on a “biography” of the Passover Haggadah for the series) for a discussion of these and other foundational texts — a discussion that also shed light on the series’ approach to the discipline of religious studies and its conception of  “texts.”  Walton writes in his summary of the event, at The Immanent Frame:

For many years, Religious Studies was defined as a hermeneutical discipline based upon great texts, but the typical disciplinary approach was to treat the texts as hermetic, self-contained wholes upon which the scholar expounds and expands. With this series, however, we are witnessing a new willingness on the part of scholars in Religious Studies to approach the dynamic relationship between theological treatises and their social environments, between texts and contexts, as it were.

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