Routledge has recently released a new book, Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean by Erica Ferg. This book is the ninth volume in the series Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East, edited by Greg Fisher.
Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean explores the influence of geography on religion and highlights a largely unknown story of religious history in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the Levant, agricultural communities of Jews, Christians, and Muslims jointly venerated and largely shared three important saints or holy figures: Jewish Elijah, Christian St. George, and Muslim al-Khiḍr. These figures share ‘peculiar’ characteristics, such as associations with rain, greenness, fertility, and storms. Only in the Eastern Mediterranean are Elijah, St. George, and al-Khiḍr shared between religious communities, or characterized by these same agricultural attributes – attributes that also were shared by regional religious figures from earlier time periods, such as the ancient Near Eastern Storm-god Baal-Hadad, and Levantine Zeus. This book tells the story of how that came to be, and suggests that the figures share specific characteristics, over a very long period of time, because these motifs were shaped by the geography of the region. Ultimately, this book suggests that regional geography has influenced regional religion; that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not, historically or textually speaking, separate religious traditions (even if Jews, Christians, and Muslims are members of distinct religious communities); and that shared religious practices between members of these and other local religious communities are not unusual. Instead, shared practices arose out of a common geographical environment and an interconnected religious heritage, and are a natural historical feature of religion in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This volume will be of interest to students of ancient Near Eastern religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, sainthood, agricultural communities in the ancient Near East, Middle Eastern religious and cultural history, and the relationships between geography and religion.
Erica Ferg, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts at Regis University.
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