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History of Religion A Sketch of Primitive Religious Beliefs and Practices, and of the Origin and Character of the Great Systems   By: (1845-1916)

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A Sketch of Primitive Religious Beliefs and Practices, and of the Origin and Character of the Great Systems



Professor of Biblical Criticism in the University of St. Andrews

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. ACTS xv. 18.

New York Charles Scribner's Sons 597 599 Fifth Avenue 1917

FIRST EDITION . . . April 1895 SECOND EDITION . . September 1895 Reprinted . . . . March 1897 Reprinted . . . . June 1900 Reprinted . . . . January 1902 Reprinted . . . . March 1903 Reprinted . . . . October 1905 THIRD EDITION . . . January 1908 FOURTH EDITION . . September 1911 Reprinted . . . . June 1914 Reprinted . . . . October 1918


This book makes no pretence to be a guide to all the mythologies, or to all the religious practices which have prevailed in the world. It is intended to aid the student who desires to obtain a general idea of comparative religion, by exhibiting the subject as a connected and organic whole, and by indicating the leading points of view from which each of the great systems may best be understood. A certain amount of discussion is employed in order to bring clearly before the reader the great motives and ideas by which the various religions are inspired, and the movements of thought which they present. And the attempt is made to exhibit the great manifestations of human piety in their genealogical connection. The writer has ventured to deal with the religions of the Bible, each in its proper historical place, and trusts that he has not by doing so rendered any disservice either to Christian faith or to the science of religion. It is obvious that in a work claiming to be scientific, and appealing to men of every faith, all religions must be treated impartially, and that the same method must be applied to each of them.

In a field of study, every part of which is being illuminated almost every year by fresh discoveries, such a sketch as the present can be merely tentative, and must soon, in many of its parts, grow antiquated and be superseded. And where so much depends on the selection of some facts out of many which might have been employed, it will no doubt appear to readers who have some acquaintance with the subject, that here and there a better choice might have been made. The writer hopes that the great difficulty will not be overlooked with which he has had to contend, of compressing a vast subject into a compendious statement without allowing its life and interest to evaporate in the process.

For a fuller bibliography than is given in this volume the reader may consult the works of Dr. C. P. Tiele, and of Dr. Chantepie de la Saussaye. It will readily be believed that the writer of this volume has been indebted to many an author whom he has not named.

ST. ANDREWS, 1895.


Since this book first appeared twelve years ago it has been several times reprinted without change. Advantage has now been taken, however, of a call for a fresh issue, to introduce into it some alterations and additions, such as its stereotyped form allows. Some mistakes have been corrected, the names of recent books have been added to the bibliographies, and in some chapters, especially those dealing with the Semitic religions, considerable changes have been made. In going over the book for this purpose, I have seen very clearly that if it had been called for and written at this time instead of twelve years ago, some things which are in it need not have appeared, and additions might have been made which are not now possible. The last twelve years have made a great change in the study of religions; the prejudices with which it was regarded have almost passed away, powerful forces have been enlisted in its service, and admirable works have appeared dealing with various parts of the vast field. Yet I am glad to think that the attempt made in this book to furnish a simple introduction to a deeply important study, and especially to promote the understanding of the religions of the Bible by placing them in their connection with the religion of mankind at large, may still prove useful... Continue reading book >>

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