Introduction: A Bibliographer’s Purposes
The Jewish-Christian-Muslim encounter begins historically well before one might think. Scholars might start by identifying three planes – things Jewish, things Christian, and things Muslim – and watch their intersection evolve over time. A bibliography of such research finds the intersections and their meanings changing – sliding across each other quite unpredictably.
The stories about these intersections – along with the accompanying perspectives — are often difficult to categorize. One might think that historical context should drive the bibliographic decision-making. The Gospel of Mark, for example, clearly belongs to the first century, C.E. However, Mark cites Deuteronomy in a midrashic fashion, and Mark’s numerous commentators extend now to the twenty-first century. Mark’s legs stride across many disciplines and through many normative time frames. It is, of course, both a Jewish document and a Christian document. What then is its proper context? With what categories or topics do we classify Mark?
A bibliography that claims to be a “knowledge database” should not try to predict a proper context. Future researchers invariably will create contexts that challenge old ones. A knowledge database should facilitate such creativity.
A bibliography of the Jewish-Christian-Muslim encounter is not a record of the encounter at all, much to the chagrin of the committed historian. It is, rather, a record of scholars’ attention paid to aspects of the encounter; it tries to incorporate the changing features of research about the encounter as they develop. Moreover, a knowledge database of bibliographic entries will contribute to innovation by driving the intersection of unforeseen issues.
Contexts here are historical and topical. An important aspect of these contexts – in this database – is that they are malleable. Items in the database may be re-assigned to changing (or newly added) categories. We welcome the input necessary to maintain the currency of the tool.
This bibliography began as one person’s memory aid. As such for many years it reflected the very specific research and teaching interests of a single person. There remain cobwebby corners filled with oddities – including old opinions, long lost, unrevised, and a bit musty. Both the lacunae and strong-suits tell of yet unwritten prolegomena.
-Jan Phillips, 2015