Un regard scientifique sur les monothéismes depuis les origines jusqu’à l’époque moderne

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Cluster 1 : Sacred Books and heterodoxies

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The goal of this research group is to study the monotheisms in their multiple and complex relations of mutual influence, whether with “heterodox” currents within the same religion or with different religious traditions of the Middle East.
This group is a two-headed structure (“Bible : Hebrew Scriptures and Heterodoxies”/“Islam : Doctrines and Thought”), but it presents a great homogeneity. In a philological and historical approach, the researchers are interested above all in the primary sources (religious, theological or philosophical writings from the three monotheisms) of which they prepare critical editions, translations and doctrinal studies.


The research led here is focusing on several unifying topics :
  The emergence of currents considered as “heterodox” by the dominant “orthodoxy”.
  The appearance of “apocryphal” writings that stand out from the “canonical” corpus.
 The porosity and interpenetration between different religious traditions.
 The historical and doctrinal continuity between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The group has 12 statutory members and 25 associate members, including a number of emeritus professors who continue to contribute actively to the cluster’s work.


| The Scriptures and their Origins: believing views and critical perspectives

One of the main interests of this research group is the study of religious corpora, their sources, their redaction and their process of canonization, as well as the edition of some special corpora.

Christian apocryphal Scriptures, the Manichean writings, the Gnostic and Hermetic corpuses, the texts of Qumran, the Qur’an and the hadiths of Sunni and Shia Islam are studied in their continuity and mutual influences. A clear distinction is made between, on the one hand, the believers’ conceptions of the nature and origin of their sacred texts and, on the other hand, the results of scientific research on the sources and the history of the writing of these texts.

> To know more about the Program "Scriptures and their origins"


| Porosity of doctrinal boundaries

This axis deals with the question of relations between monotheisms, whose boundaries are not as watertight as they appear at fist glance. The same applies to the different currents, traditions and “sects” which, while excommunicating each other, are nonetheless closely interrelated.

Thus, the following topics will be studied :
 the porous doctrinal boundaries between Judaism and early Christianity, Eastern Christianity, Gnosis, Manichaeism, hermeticism and Philosophy, Sufism and Shi’ism (Imami and Ismaili), Shi’i and Sunni Islam,
 the different currents of Shi’ism, Sufism,
 the Jewish mysticism.
> To know more about the Program "Porosity of doctrinal boundaries"


| Transgressing norms: innovations, reforms, subversions

What kinds of reactions occur within monotheisms against established religion ? Can it go as far as apostasy and atheism ?
The Gnostic and Manichean currents can be considered as subversive currents, going against established Churches. One example to illustrate the transgression of the official definitions of Christianity of the Roman Empire is the case of the Syriac Churches, considered as non-orthodox by the Byzantine Church. The transtression of established norms is also a common feature of Shi’i movements, which generally use esoteric exegesis of the Qur’an as a way to dissociate themselves from Sunni Islam, or of Shi’ite thinkers using such exegesis in order to renew their own tradition. Sufism often pursues a similar goal, trying to give more depth and meaning to a relgion that may becoming purely legalistic..

> To know more about the Program "Transgressing norms"



Several projects of text editions in Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic are and have been completed together with the members of other LEM’s clusters or associate members.


This research theme encompasses research on the porosity between Judaism and early Christianity, as well as the history of the Nazorean (or Judeo-Christian) community in Jerusalem during the first four centuries of our era.

If Christianity was born in close continuity with ancient Judaism, the same is true of Islam, which can be seen as an extension of Judaism and Christianity. The origins of Islam and the elaboration of the Qur’an corpus (including its Syriac and Manichean sources) have been the subject of several innovative studies.


The study of “heterodox” movements (Gnosticism, Manicheism, Hermeticism, Judeo-Christian Baptist communities and their influence on Shi’i islam) from the three monotheisms is as the centre of group’s interest. Thus, the following is studying :
 the manuscripts discovered in Nag Hammadi in Egypt,
 the Valentinian and Basilidian Gnosis,
 the Manichean manuscripts in the Coptic language from Kellis in the Egyptian oasis of Dakhla,
 the Corpus hermeticum,
 the Baptist movements in ancient Judaism and Christianity, including Ebionism and Elkasaism, precursors of Manichaeism, the influence of these currents on the genesis of Islam, particularly on the prophetology and imamology of Shi’ism.



The research on Neoplatonism, from Late Antiquity to the Isfahan School (17th century), is a common concern in this group. Neoplatonism is studying in relation to the “oriental religions” (Gnosis, Hermeticism, Manichaeism), its transmission and reception in Latin, Jewish and Muslim philosophy and theology.



The researchers of this research group are active members on editorial boards of well-known collections and periodicals.
– Jean-Daniel Dubois was the editor of Apocrypha. International Journal of Apocryphal Literatures (Brepols) from 2000 to 2015.
– Simon Mimouni created in 2013 the review Ancient Judaim (Brepols)
– Arnaud Sérandour directed the collection “Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études. Sciences religieuses” (Brepols) from 2014 to 2019.
Mohammad Ali AmirMoezzi created the serie “Histoire et prosopographie de la section des sciences religieuses » (Brepols) and is editor of the series “Islam : nouvelles approches” (Éditions du Cerf).
Rainer Brunner is since 2017 editor of the review Die Welt des Islams (Brill).
– A new review, Shii Studies Review, first published in 2017, is directed by two associate members, Hassan Ansari and Sabine Schmidtke (Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton), and four LEM’s researchers are members of its editorial board Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, Rainer Brunner, Daniel De Smet and Christian Jambet.

Post-scriptum :


J.-D. Dubois :
Aux abords du christianisme

D. De Smet :
Porosité et continuité culturelle en Mésopotamie de l’Antiquité à nos jours



D. De Smet :
La Providence, le destin, le mal et la matière. Commentaires en amont/
en aval d’Avicenne



M. Amir-Moezzi :
Qu’est-ce que le shi’isme ?