Religion historian Jonathan Z. Smith dies

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Jonathan Z Smith

Jonathan Z. Smith, a historian and theorist of religion widely admired for his analytic rigor in comparing religions, has died. He was 79.

Smith, who died Saturday (Dec. 30), was the author of numerous books and served as the editor of “The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion.” He spent his entire career at the University of Chicago. Though trained in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, he amassed formidable knowledge on such issues as ritual, Hellenistic religions, Māori cults and the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

He was also an eccentric scholar with a mane of unruly white hair, a beard, oversized glasses and an outsized personality.

In a 2008 interview, Smith said he never used a computer (he typed or handwrote all his papers) and viewed the cellphone as “an absolute abomination.”

Smith raised fundamental questions about the nature of religion and the challenges of comparing it across different cultures. ...

Read entire article at Deseret News

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