Great Events in Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History. Edited by Florin Curta and Andrew Holt. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017. 3 vols. Acid free $310 (ISBN 978-1-61069-565-7). E-book available (978-1-61069-566-4), call for pricing.

Designed to be comprehensive in its scope, this set covers major religious events from remote prehistory (ca. 60,000 BC) to the highly contemporaneous (AD 2014). Taken together, the editors have done an admirable job in choosing topics to cover and in compiling a highly readable, informative, and thought-provoking compilation. The first volume covers the period of prehistory to AD 600 and includes entries for topics as diverse as the first burials that indicate a belief in an afterlife found in Shanidar Cave, Iraq (ca. 60,000 BC), the discovery of the oldest human-made place of worship at Göbekli Tepe in modern Turkey (tenth millennium BC), the ritual use of alcohol (ca. third millennium BC), the founding of Buddhism (sixth to fourth centuries BC), the Roman conquest of Judaea in 63 BC, the conversion of Saul (Saint Paul) in AD 34, the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, and the papacy of Gregory the Great (reigned AD 590–604). Volume 2 covers from AD 600 to 1450, thus encompassing the Middle Ages in the West, the rise of Islam in the Middle East, the growth of Christian monasticism, the crusades, the development of the first universities in Europe, and the lives of Joan of Arc and Jan Hus. The final volume covers from 1450 to the present, starting with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks and ending with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in 2014. In between are articles on the Roman Inquisition (1542–present), Francis Xavier’s mission to Japan (1549), Martin Luther and the start of the reformation (1517), the publication of the King James Bible (1611), the publication of the Book of Mormon (1830), the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947), Vatican Council II (1962–65), and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

The almost 450 individual articles range from one to five pages in length and were written by over one hundred contributors, representing a wide variety of disciplines and many countries. Each entry includes “see also” references to related articles and a short bibliography of mainly recent works. The references are compiled into a comprehensive bibliography at the end of each volume, although a spot check revealed that some items from the individual entries did not make it into the bibliography. A comprehensive index for the set can be found at the end of the third volume. The index is an essential feature of the set since the entries are arranged in chronological order. Thus, to find entries on specific topics whose time frame is unknown, the reader must use the index. The reader must be cautious, however, since the index does display some quirks. For example, there is no cross reference from the entry on “Mohammad (prophet)” to the more expansive entry on “Muhammad (prophet, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah).” Each volume also provides an alphabetical list of entries, but this can be less than helpful since the entry titles often obscure the topic. For example, instead of an entry on the Book of Mormon, the entry is entitled, “Publication of the Book of Mormon.”

Although many of the topics included in this set can readily be found in other resources, their compilation into such a handy, chronologically ordered format is compelling. Since the history of religion also mirrors history in general, this set will be extremely helpful especially for students in liberal arts colleges and seminaries and for those universities with specialties in history, the history of religion, and religious studies.—Gregory A. Crawford, Interim Director, School of Humanities, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, Pennsylvania


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