Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion

Aims, Methods, and Theories of Research. Introduction and Anthology

Waardenburg, Jacques, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017


Waardenburg’s magisterial essay traces the rise and development of the academic study of religion from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, outlining the establishment of the discipline, its connections with other fields, religion as a subject of research, and perspectives on a phenomenological study of religion. Futhermore a second part comprises an anthology of texts from 41 scholars whose work was programmatic in the evolution of the academic study of religion. Each chapter presents a particular approach, theory, and method relevant to the study of religion. The pieces selected for this volume were taken from the discipline of religious studies as well as from related fields, such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, to name a few.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents

Foreword: Plus ça change

Preface to the Paperback Edition

Introduction: View of a Hundred Years’ Study of Religion


Historical Survey

Looking Back


Introductory Note

Part One: The Study of Religion Established as an Autonomous Discipline

F. Max Müller

Plea for a Science of Religion

The Comparative Study of Religions

Cornelis P. Tiele

‘Elements of the Science of Religion’

‘Elements of the Science of Religion’

Pierre D. Chantepie de la Saussaye

‘The Science of Religion’

Phenomenology of Religion

Part Two: Connections with Other Disciplines

Johann J. Bachofen

‘Symbol and Myth’

Matriarchy and Religion

Ernest Renan – Vindication of a Critical Mind

N. D. Fustel de Coulanges – ‘The Necessity of Studying the Earliest Beliefs of the Ancients in Order to Understand their Institutions’

Julius Wellhausen – Historical Research on the Pentateuch

William Robertson Smith – The Study of the Religion of the Semites

Friedrich C. G. Delitzsch – ‘Babel and Bible’

Albert Schweitzer – ‘The Quest of the Historical Jesus’

William James – The Study of Religious Experience

Herbert Spencer – ‘Ancestor-Worship’

Edward B. Tylor – ‘Animism’

Andrew Lang – ‘The Making of Religion’

James George Frazer – ‘The Golden Bough’ and the Study of Religion

Robert R. Marett – ‘The Tabu-Mana Formula as a Minimum Definition of Religion’

Wilhelm Schmidt

‘The Origin and Growth of Religion’

‘The Quest of the Supreme Being’

Arnold van Gennep – ‘On the Method to be Followed in the Study of Rites and Myths’

Emile Durkheim – ‘The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life’

Marcel Mauss – Classification Systems and Religion

Lucien Lévy-Bruhl – ‘Primitive Mentality’ and Religion

Max Weber – Symbolic Meaning and Religion

Sigmund Freud – Religion as Illusion

‘The Question of a Weltanschauung’

The Story of Religion

Part Three: Religion as a Special Subject of Research

Nathan Söderblom

‘The Origin of the Belief in God’

‘The Living God’

William Brede Kristensen – On the Study of Religious Phenomena

Gerardus van der Leeuw

‘Some Recent Achievements of Psychological Research and their Application to History, in Particular the History of Religion’

On Phenomenology and its Relation to Theology

On ‘Understanding’

‘Religion in Essence and Manifestation’

Beauty and Holiness

Rudolf Otto

‘The Idea of the Holy’

Religious History

Friedrich Heiler


‘The Scholarly Study of Religion’

Heinrich Frick – ‘The Aim of the Comparative Study of Religions’ (‘Typology’)

Joachim Wach

Religion and Society

On Comparative Studies in Religion

‘Universals in Religion’

‘The Concept of the “Classical” in the Study of Religions’

‘The Meaning and Task of the History of Religions (Religionswissenschaft)’

Part Four: Later Contributions from Other Disciplines

Carl Gustav Jung

On ‘Psychology of Religion’

On Myths and Archetypes

Bronislaw Malinowski – The Study of ‘Primitive Man’ and His Religion

Robert H. Lowie – On the Term ‘Religion’

Paul Radin

‘The Nature and Substance of Religion’

‘Primitive Man as Philosopher’

The Religious and the Non-Religious Man

Alfred R. Radcliffe-Brown – ‘Religion and Society’

Martin P. Nilsson

On Method and Theory

On the Advancements Made in the Study of Greek Religion

On Religion

Walter F. Otto

On the Study of Greek Religion: ‘The Homeric Gods’

On the Greek Gods and on Myth

Part Five: Perspectives of a Phenomenological Study of Religion

Raffaele Pettazzoni – ‘“History” and “Phenomenology” in the Science of Religion’

Hendrik Kraemer – On the Presuppositions and Limits of the Science of Religion

Max Scheler – Psychology, ‘Concrete’ and ‘Essential’ Phenomenology of Religion

Gaston Berger – On Phenomenological Research in the Field of Religion

Sources and Acknowledgments


Introductory Note

Index of Personal Names

Index of Scholarly Concepts

Index of Concrete Subjects


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