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The Polemical Construction Of Tradition

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Chapter Summary

The concept of tradition plays a significant role in discourses of European identity. This chapter interprets the emergence of prisca theologia in early modern Europe as a discursive strategy to formulate alternative genealogies of knowledge and identities that go beyond the usual revelation of scriptural traditions. It compares the concept of prisca theologia to kabbalistic constructions of tradition that emerged at the same time. As to the methodological consequences, the chapter argues that the notion of tradition should not be taken as an analytical category for historiography. The multilinear conception of religious historiography was an element of differentiation in Islamic discourses of which Suhrawardi is a good example; and it marked an important new development in Christian circles as well. The polemical character of claiming tradition is also well attested in the works of Isaac ben Judah Abarbanel, a leading Jewish scholar at the turn of the sixteenth century.

Keywords: European identity; Isaac ben Judah Abarbanel; polemical construction; prisca theologia; scriptural traditions



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