Parallelomania

obama hitler

In historical analysis, biblical criticism and comparative mythology parallelomania [par-uh-lel-uh-mey-nee-uh] refers to a phenomenon where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies without historical basis.

The concept was introduced to scholarly circles in 1961 by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel of the Hebrew Union College in a paper of the same title, where he stated that he had first encountered the term in a French book of 1830, but did not recall the author or the title. Sandmel stated that the simple observations of similarity between historical events are often less than valid, but at times lead to a phenomenon where authors first notice a supposed similarity, overdose on analogy, and then, ‘proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying a literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.’

Christian and Jewish scholars have used the concept in a number of cases and areas, e.g. Thomas Schreiner (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) applies it to over-generalization of the simple use of the verb ‘see’ used as a participle to refer to a casual act of observation, to extending its meaning to have deeper spiritual contexts in order to construct parallels. Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner has stated that some portrayals of 3rd Century Christian author Aphrahat as someone who picked and chose among Rabbinical literature is based on weak parallels which fall within Sandmel’s characterization of parallelomania.

Catholic priest and Jesuit Joseph Fitzmyer states the analyses of the Pauline Epistles have at times suffered from parallelomania through the construction of unwarranted analogies with prior traditions. Fellow Jesuit Gerald O’Collins states that most scholars are now aware of the pitfalls of parallelomania which exaggerate the importance of trifling resemblances.

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