History has not been receiving good press recently in the academic study of religion. As stated at a recent conference on the History of Religion in Italy, ‘Contemporary research increasingly tends to concentrate on current issues’ (Spineto 2009: 47). The same point emerged from a thoroughgoing analysis of the German Study of Religion ( Religionswissenschaft ). 1 Analyses of handbooks or ‘companions’ for religious studies in English that have appeared in the last decade yield the same results. 2 Terms like ‘history’ or ‘tradition’ do not fi gure among the chapter headlines or even in the index (Kippenberg 2000; Uehlinger 2006: 380; Rüpke 2007: 15). The attempt to understand modernity by looking into its, especially religious, past led to the
rise of the History of Religion (Kippenberg 2002). Now the latter has outlived its past and dedicates itself to modernity-or so it seems. This handbook does include the term ‘history’. Why and to what purpose? Introductions to religious studies of the 1960s and 1970s moved directly to the two key terms of the historico-critical method , ‘ sources ’ and ‘source criticism’. Not without reason. Texts and monuments available for the reconstruction of the past-the ‘sources’—simply do not tell us ‘how it really was’. They present their view of the past and its meaning for the future. Thus it is useful to give long lists of types of sources and types of distortions of historical reality by the source’s representation of it.