Religion and Culture Web Forum Archive 2014

In the previous issue:

March 2014

A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects

by S. Brent Plate (Hamilton College)

"Religious history is incomplete if it ignores the sensing body, and the seemingly trivial things it confronts," argues S. Brent Plate in this month's Religion and Culture Web Forum.  "Beginning with our incomplete half-body," Plate discusses "five types of objects that humans have engaged and put to use in highly symbolic, sacred ways: stones, crosses, incense, drums, and bread."  

Read A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects.

Read the invited responses by: 

Lisa Bitel (University of Southern California); and
Jonathan H. Ebel (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).


**Plate's essay is adapted from his book, A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses, now available from Beacon Press.


February 2014

Religions of Iran: Pool Theory as a Non-normative Approach

by Richard Foltz (Concordia University, Centre for Iranian Studies)

In Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present, Richard Foltz seeks to understand the diversity of Iranian religious history by applying "Pool Theory," which "posits that religion/culture is best understood not in terms of essential features, but as a set of possibilities within a recognizable framework, or 'pool.' (xiii)."  From Foltz's book, we feature his methodological discussion and two chapters, "Mithra and Mithraism" and "Two Kurdish Sects: The Yezidis and the Yaresan."   

Read Religions of Iran.
Endnotes for the book can be found here.

Read the invited responses by:

Carlo G. Cereti (Sapienza--University of Rome); and
Eszter Spät (Central European University).

**The selections from Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present are presented with the kind permission of the publisher, Oneworld Publications.  © Richard Foltz 2013.


January 2014

The Sexuality of Christ in Byzantine Art and in Hypermodern Oblivion

by Matthew J. Milliner (Wheaton College)

Leo Steinberg's controversial 1983 book, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, argued that Renaissance artists depicted Christ's genitalia in order to underline his full humanity.  Steinberg's argument invoked Byzantine art as a foil: the absense of Christ's penis from Byzantine art reflected according to Steinberg a "puritanical ethos."  Byzantine artists managed to "decarnify the Incarnation itself."  In this month's Religion and Culture Web Forum, Matthew Milliner uncovers the theological motives behind the Byzantine refusal to depict Christ's penis--a refusal "grounded in the comparatively less essentialized Eastern view of gender."  "[I]f Steinberg's Renaissance penises 'regained for man his prelapsarian condition,'" Milliner argues, "the exact same rationale" lay behind "Byzantine demurral."  On the other hand, according to Milliner, the Byzantines did offer a "somatic highlight to drive home the humanity of Jesus," but one shared by men and women--namely, the foot.

Read The Sexuality of Christ in Byzantine Art and in Hypermodern Oblivion.

The referenced images may be viewed by clicking here.

Read the invited responses by:

Rachel Fulton Brown (University of Chicago);
Robert Nelson (Yale University); and
Glenn Peers (University of Texas at Austin)*.

     *Images referenced in Dr. Peers' response are available here.

Image: Panagia tou Arakou, Lagoudera, from Wikimedia Commons.