Tag Archives: book

New book looks at Edwards and print culture

Scholars of Jonathan Edwards have explored Edwards’ writings and legacies from seemingly every angle. Yet, a new monograph published by Oxford University Press has revealed a blind spot: print culture. In Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture, Jonathan Yeager, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Religion at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, fills this lacuna.

JY bookThis book is grounded in extensive research. In four Appendices, Yeager provides a table of Edwards’s published works in chronological order up to 1800, a graph showing the most fruitful years for his publications, their prices and formats, and subscription lists for his most successful work, The Life of David Brainerd. But this work is no mere collection of data. Yeager unpacks a compelling narrative and advances an important thesis: “I argue,” he writes, “that Edwards’s printers, publishers, and editors shaped the public perception of him in the way that they packaged and marketed his publications” (xi).

Yeager has two intended audiences. First, he wants to help historians of print culture better understand the religious dimensions of the trade, and second, he guides scholars of religion through the critical connections between religious history and the history of the book. He has five chapters detailing the reception of Edwards’s writings, his relationship with his publishers and their impact on his public perception, and the role of those in the late eighteenth century who continued to publish Edwards’s writings to advance their own objectives.

Yeager also helpfully underscores the transatlantic dimension of evangelical publishing networks and its role in shaping the public identity of figures like Edwards. Not only did Edwards’s evangelical contemporaries like John Wesley and Isaac Watts in England help advance his publications, but so did his heirs, including his son Jonathan Edwards Jr. and the New Divinity men in New England, John Erskine in Scotland, and Baptists in England such as John Ryland Jr.

The German reception of Edwards’s Faithful Narrative is of particular interest, with two groups translating and appropriating Edwards’s work in 1738, but in different ways. On the on hand, Johann Adam Steinmetz packaged Edwards’s work as reinforcing a Lutheran approach to revivalism. On the other, a group of German Reformed Pietists embraced Edwards’s Reformed inflections in their translation, and catered it to a more uneducated and popular readership (23-24).

This book is a much-needed resource, and students and scholars of religious history and print culture will benefit greatly from it.

–Ryan Hoselton

Now Available: Biblia Americana, Vol. 5: Proverbs-Jeremiah

From Mohr Siebeck:

This volume of the Biblia Americana contains Cotton Mather’s annotations on the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. A mixture of historical-textual criticism and pious explications, the commentaries are a treasure-trove for scholars interested in the development of Reformed theology and biblical interpretation during a decisive period of intellectual change in the early modern Atlantic world. Mather, an apologetically oriented, pastoral yet deeply learned exegete, confronts the early Enlightenment challenges to the Bible’s authority.
He engages with issues of translation and the difficult questions about authorship, provenance, and genre being asked in his day, especially about the three books traditionally ascribed to King Solomon. Who wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? How can the worldly wisdom of these books be reconciled with the Christian gospel? Is Canticles only a royal wedding song celebrating human love?

IMG_0521In turn, the annotations on Isaiah and Jeremiah are crucially concerned with the relevance and evidential value of the Hebrew prophets for the claims of Christian theology. If seen in their original contexts, in what ways can the oracles of Isaiah and Jeremiah be understood to speak of Christ, the gospel and the second coming? The volume shows the struggle of exegetes in Mather’s generation to adjust traditional interpretations of the Old Testament to a growing awareness of the Scriptures’ historicity. The annotations shift between detailed attention to this historical dimension of the texts and typological and allegorical readings. Moreover, many of the entries reve l a new “Baconian” concern with demonstrating the factual realism of the scriptural narratives by recourse to empirical evidence and the natural sciences.

The book can purchased from the publisher here.

New work looks at Edwards’ exegesis

A new study of Jonathan Edwards puts Edwards’ biblical exegesis in its proper place.

Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, offers a welcome contribution to Edwards studies with Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment.

9780199793228Years of research are apparent in this work, representing the fruit of Sweeney’s determination to understand Edwards through Edwards’ most cherished intellectual and spiritual exercise: biblical exegesis. Setting Edwards in his early eighteenth-century context, Sweeney reminds readers that “Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) lived in a world strangely different from our own, a world imbued, often enchanted, by the contents of the Bible.” Sweeney doesn’t merely discuss Edwards’ view of Scripture but deals directly with his exegesis—his sources, methods, and conclusions. Sweeney then connects these insights to ongoing discussions concerning other areas of Edwards’ ministry and thought, such as his understanding of christology (in chapter 5) and justification (in chapter 10).

Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at Heidelberg University and the Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, had this to say about the book:

“Much has been written about Edwards’ life and times, his theology, and philosophy. But so far we did not have a comprehensive study of what Edwards himself would have regarded as the foundation of everything else: his biblical exegesis. Drawing widely from the Edwards corpus, Sweeney offers us a highly learned and nuanced but also very readable account of Edwards’ multifaceted engagement with Scripture in the context of the early Enlightenment.”

Demonstrating the pervasive role of biblical interpretation in Edwards’ corpus and life, Sweeney’s work leaves scholars no excuse for marginalizing Edwards’s exegesis in treatments of his metaphysics, theology, and ministry.

— Ryan Hoselton

Mather as America’s 1st Evangelical

Douglas Sweeney reviews Rick Kennedy’s new religious biography of Cotton Mather at Christianity Today. A taste:

“Historians often picture Mather as the last of the Puritans, a backward-looking Calvinist who chafed at modern life. In Kennedy’s telling, however, Mather emerges as a forward-looking man of formidable learning, a warm-hearted herald of pure and undefiled religion, and a major catalyst of Britain’s ‘biblical enlightenment.'”

Kennedy’s book is titled, The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. It is published by Eerdman.