By Iris Shagrir
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1997)
Abstract: The paper provides evidence for the non-Western origins of the Three Rings parable, on the basis of a full account of the history, and the literary and allegorical origins of the parable. The parable, known in Western culture mainly through Lessing’s Nathan the Wise and Boccaccio’s Decameron, contains in some versions the idea of religious relativism. The paper tracks the idea–presented in a similar allegorical form–back to its Muslim origins, also pointing to the Eastern origins of the parable’s literary framework. The discussion follows the evolution of the parable and its entrance into Catholic Europe, analysing its contextuality and the twists given to its message by Muslims, Jews, and Christians between the eighth and the sixteenth centuries.