Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 15:1 (Nov 1952)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Edward J. Jurji: The Christian Interpretation of Religion. New York: The Macmillan Company. 1952. ix, 318. $4.50.

John Murphy: The Origins and History of Religions. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc. 1952. vii, 454. $6.00.

John Murphy was Professor of Comparative Religion in the University of Manchester from 1930 to 1941. His The Origins and History of Religions is the result of a lifetime of study and research. It contains a wealth of information concerning the various religions of the world, Christianity excepted. Murphy denominates his method of comparison “cultural” and accordingly arranges his material in a series of five “religious horizons”: Primitive, Animistic, Agricultural, Civilized and Prophetic.

While Murphy admits, and even insists, that degeneration has been frequent in the history of religions, yet the dominant motif of his book is evolution. Man is said to have descended from the lower animals. The reader is frankly told: “It is not, then, advisable to speak of a Religious Instinct in man; for there was a time in his ancestral past when there was nothing resembling religion among his instincts, and when, as regards religion, the humanlike creature from whom modern man descended had a mind which was like a blank page upon which faith in the Unseen, belief in spiritual beings and worship, in their simplest forms, had still to be written” (p. 19). The contention of Roman Catholic Wilhelm Schmidt of Vienna, scholarly author of the monumental work The Origin of the Idea of God, that monotheism was the original religion of the human race, is rejected. Thus Murphy places himself in direct opposition to a plain teaching of Holy Scripture (pp. 49 f.). And, although both the religion of Israel and Christianity are spoken of as religions of “Revelation” (p. 5), it is clear that the author does not subscribe to that term in its historic, orthodox sense. Both of these religions are regarded as products of evolution. Of the former it is said: “All the tendencies which we have seen manifested in the ancient civilizations within the Fertile Crescent reach their most spiritual development in the religion of the Old Testament at its best” (p. 171). As for Christianity, the author objects strenuously to “the unique position accorded to Christianity as the religion of Revelation”, beside which other religions stand in a vastly inferior position (p. 5).

Quite different is the approach of The Christian Interpretation of Religion by Edward J. Jurji, Associate Professor of Islamics and Comparative Religion in Princeton Theological Seminary. Murphy makes mention of Christianity only in passing; Jurji not only discusses Chr...

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