Date of Award
Andrea L. Stanton, Ph.D.
Ancient Near East, Eastern Mediterranean, Geography, Levant, Mediterranean, Saints
For at least the past 800 years in the Eastern Mediterranean, communities of Muslims, Christians, and Jews have venerated three important figures: Christian St. George, Muslim al-Khiḍr, and Jewish Elijah. This is paradoxical, considering that common wisdom, and even religious studies discourse, suggests that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are distinct and separate, and particularly in the contentious Levant. Moreover, the figures there also share 'peculiar' characteristics: associations with rain, greenness, and fertility. One past study of this phenomenon argued that the figures' similarities arose from the fact that they were each a continuation of an important earlier regional religious figure: the Syrian Storm-God, Baal-Hadad. This study also considers the figure of Baal-Hadad, but not within a genealogical framework. Traditionally, each of the figures in this study has been investigated from what is known as a World Religions perspective - studied from within their particular religious traditions. This study critiques that perspective and proposes instead the approach of Geography of Religion, which it argues is a more efficacious framework for understanding the figures and the phenomenon. A fundamental precept of Geography of Religion theory is the notion that religions are always geographically contextualized - that is, they are always a product of both the time and place in which they emerge or exist. In this project, each of the figures' earliest and/or canonical religious texts, common images, and important geographical sites are investigated and compared for evidence within them of contemporaneous religious, political, and geographical influences, in order to produce a view of each of the figures from within their specific temporal and geographical contexts at the time when that text or image or site was created. This fruitful methodological approach demonstrates the enduring influence of geography upon a continuity of agricultural motifs which all four figures share; it illuminates a common pool of compelling figures, narratives, and motifs in the Near East; it argues for monotheism as a specific strand of religious thought that characterized Jews, Christians, and Muslims in contradistinction to one another and to the majority pagan traditions of the Near East; and it demonstrates that these religious traditions are distinct but not in fact separate, underscoring the significance of the phenomenon involving St. George, al-Khiḍr, and Elijah as a belonging to the authentic historical heritage of the Eastern Mediterranean, and to the region's shared religious practices.
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Muhaisen, Erica Ferg, "Continuity and Contradistinction: A Geography of Religion Study of the Ancient Near Eastern Storm-God Baal-Hadad, Jewish Elijah, Christian St. George, and Muslim Al-Khiḍr in the Eastern Mediterranean" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1167.
Received from ProQuest
Erica Ferg Muhaisen
Religious History, Religion, Middle Eastern History