Unintended Misinterpretations in Head Religious Figures: Jesus, Ganhi, Regina Jones, and Hassin Al-Banna

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Scholarly study of religious figures of the past – especially those with a contemporary resonance – raises particular challenges. In this essay, we will show the difficulty to gather reliable primary sources, as literary works have often a hagiographic tone and controversial elements might have been omitted by followers in the best interests of their faith. We will also show that preconceived ideas or contemporary issues can lead to unintended misinterpretations in order to fit ready-made pictures. The essay will draw examples from the scholar study of the lives of Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Regina Jones (first female Rabbi) and Hasan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood).
Primary sources are fundamental building blocks in the process of historical study: the historian must gain access to sufficient sources and handle them with appropriate reservation. When studying religious figures of the past, we might well have inherited overwhelming ancient literary works about their deeds and actions, but these sources are often of little help as they are mostly hagiographic – excessively uncritical and adulatory. For instance, we have at our disposal an important corpus of ‘near-contemporary’ Christian sources about Jesus’ life, as the ‘New Testament’ of the Christian Bible, the ‘General Epistles’ and non-canonical sources, as ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ and other Gnostic materials (Newman, 2013, pp. 20-21). These works tell the sacred history of Jesus Christ: his miraculous birth, his numerous miracles (as healing the sick), his crucifixion and resurrection in order to bring Salvation to humanity. These religious sources are certainly important to understand the meaning of Jesus Christ for his followers and the emergence of early Christianit...

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...ygiene and painkillers at the missions, the secrecy of her accounting and her acquaintance with controversial figures as dictators. This will help us to avoid being biased by the sense of familiarity we have about Mother Teresa (a selfless person welcoming the poor and sick) and address some of the controversial issues around her.
Furthermore, in order to have a scholar perspective on the debate, I selected an article written by sociologist Gëzim Alpion, who also authored the book Mother Teresa: Saint of Celebrity?. In his article about Mother Teresa published in 2006 in Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Alpion discusses the nature of her celebrity and her relationship with the media. Considering Alipion’s expertise on the subject and the fact that the article was published in a peer-reviewed journal, it can certainly serve as a good scholarly source.

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