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THE BIBLICAL WORLD
THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY
Issued by the
DIVINITY FACULTY AND CONFERENCE OF
GERALD BIRNEY SMITH
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
THE HISTORICAL STUDY OF RELIGION
SHIRLEY JACKSON CASE
Professional historians have not always included religion within the purview of their science. Toward Christianity in I particular their attitude has often been one of deliberate reserve or outright indifference. The task of exploring this phase of humanity's past has usually been left to the theologian, who might or might not employ the methods of study approved by historical science.
Fear of trespassing upon the preserves of the theologian is probably not the sole reason for the historians' neglect of religion, nor is this the only topic that he has been wont to slight. Frequently he has been content to chronicle the deeds of militant princes or scheming statesmen, as though a record of political events constituted the sum total of history. Scarcely a generation ago an eminent professor of modern history at Oxford could still affirm that history is "past politics." This penchant for politics has resulted in fixing the gaze upon monarchs and battles and legislative chambers, to the neglect of those more ordinary activities of mankind which though less spectacular are none the less significant for an understanding of the past.
Today the horizon of the historian is rapidly enlarging. His vision ranges beyond the doings of kings and armies and senates to the life of common humanity. Here he discovers