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dimanche, 04 avril 2010

The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity


The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation

by James C. Russell

Price: US
Product Details

*    Paperback: 272 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.72 x 9.16 x 6.08
*    Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 1996)
*    ISBN: 0195104668


Editorial Reviews

While historians of Christianity have generally acknowledged some degree of Germanic influence in the development of early medieval Christianity, this work argues for a fundamental Germanic reinterpretation of Christianity. This treatment of the subject follows an interdisciplinary approach, applying to the early medieval period a sociohistorical method similar to that which has already proven fruitful in explicating the history of Early Christianity and Late Antiquity. The encounter of the Germanic peoples with Christianity is studied from within the larger context of the encounter of a predominantly "world-accepting" Indo-European folk-religiosity with predominantly "world-rejecting" religious movements. While the first part of the book develops a general model of religious transformation for such encounters, the second part applies this model to the Germano-Christian scenario. Russell shows how a Christian missionary policy of temporary accommodation inadvertently contributed to a reciprocal Germanization of Christianity.

While historians of Christianity have generally acknowledged some degree of Germanic influence in the development of early medieval Christianity, Russell goes further, arguing for a fundamental Germanic reinterpretation of Christianity. He utilizes recent developments in sociobiology, anthropology, and psychology to help explain this pivotal transformation of the West. This book will interest all who wish to further their understanding of Christianity and Western civilization.

Reviewer: Elliot Bougis "coxson" (Taichung, Taiwan)  
I stumbled upon this book while researching for a study of the conjoined paganization/Christianization of Medieval literature. What a find! As the reviewer above mentioned, Russell's strength lies in the amazing range of his scholarship. This intellectual breadth, however, does not detract from Russell's more focused, balanced, and lucid examination of key points (e.g., anomie as a factor in social religious conversion, fundamental worldview clashes between Christianity and Germanic converts, etc.). Russell covers a lot of ground in a mere 200+ pages. Moreover, his final assertions are modest enough to be credible, and yet daring enough to remain highly interesting. Plus, from a research perspective, the bibliography alone is worth a handful of other books. This book has been normative in my decisions about the contours of any future scholarship I pursue. Alas, I was left hungering for a continuation of many of the themes, to which Russell often just alludes (e.g, the imbibed Germanic ethos as the animus for the "Christian" Crusades, the contemporary implications of urban anomie for our globalizing world, etc.). Of course, such stellar scholarship cannot be rushed. Surely Russell's next inquiry is worth the wait!

Brilliant and innovative study of Germanic religiosity
, September 2, 1999
A reader
Scholar James Russell has given us an important work with this detailed study. Subtitled "A sociohistorical approach to religious transformation," it is an exceedingly well-researched and documented analysis of the conversion of the Germanic tribes to the imported and fundamentally alien religion of Christianity during the period of 376-754 of the Common Era. Russell's work is all the more dynamic as he does not limit his inquiry simply to one field of study, but rather utilizes insights from sources as varied as modern sociobiological understanding of kinship behaviors, theological models on the nature of religious conversion, and comparative Indo-European religious research. Dexterously culling relevant evidence from such disparate disciplines, he then interprets a vast array of documentary material from the period of European history in question. The end result is a convincing book that offers a wealth of food for thought-not just in regards to historical conceptions of the past, but with far-reaching implications which relate directly to the tide of spiritual malaise currently at a high water mark in the collective European psyche. The first half of Russell's work provides an in-depth examination of various aspects of conversion, Christianization and Germanization, allowing him to arrive at a functional definition of religious transformation which he then applies to the more straightforward historical research material in the latter sections of the book. Along the way he presents a lucid exploration of ancient Germanic religiosity and social structure, placed appropriately in the wider context of a much older Indo-European religious tradition. Russell completes the study by tracing the parallel events of Germanization and Christianization in the central European tribal territories. He marshals a convincing array of historical, linguistic and other evidence to demonstrate his major thesis, asserting that during the process of the large European conversions Christianity was significantly "Germanicized" as a consequence of its adoption by the tribal peoples, while at the same time the latter were often "Christianized" only in a quite perfunctory and tenuous sense. Contrary to simplistic models put forth by some past historians, this book illustrates that conversion was not any sort of linear "one-way street"; a testament to the fundamental power of indigenous Indo-European and Germanic religiosity lies in the evidence that it was never fully or substantially eradicated by the faith which succeeded it. As Russell shows, a more accurate scenario was that of native spirituality and folk-tradition sublimated into a Christian framework, which in this altered form then became the predominant spiritual system for Europe. Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity is wide-ranging yet commanding in its contentions, and academia could do well with encouraging more scholars of this calibre and fortitude who are able to avoid the pitfall of over-specialization and produce works of great scope and lasting relevance. Make no doubt about it, this is a demanding and complex book, but for those willing to invest the effort, the benefits of understanding its content will be amply rewarding, and of imperative relevance for anyone who wishes to apprehend the past, present and future of genuine European religiosity.