Jonathan Edwards in the Twentieth Century -- By: Kenneth P. Minkema
JETS 47:4 (December 2004) p. 659
Jonathan Edwards in the Twentieth Century
It is hard to imagine that anyone interested in Jonathan Edwards, the great eighteenth-century American theologian, revivalist, and missionary, did not know that 2003 was the 300th anniversary of his birth. This milestone was marked by numerous commemorative conferences, symposia, lecture series, and other events across the country, accompanied by a wealth of publications, including scholarly and popular monographs, special editions of Edwards’s writings, collected essays, reference works, commemorative catalogues, and a magisterial biography.1 However, scholars of Edwards are not unaccustomed to large and diverse amounts of publications on him; indeed, they are spoiled, or glutted, depending on your point of view. The surge in Edwards studies over the past generation has been referred to as a “renaissance” that shows no signs of abating. But the road to that renaissance has been long and circuitous, and is itself a source of some fascination.
This article examines interpretation and appraisal of Edwards primarily within the “academy” over the twentieth century. The “academy” is identified with the rise of professional scholarship as a cultural and class phenomenon and with the modern research university as it emerged in the very late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I also include under this rubric
JETS 47:4 (December 2004) p. 660
theological schools and seminaries, many of which predated the advent of the modern “academy” but which, to a greater or lesser degree, have adopted its standards. As such, pastors and other religious writers, products and associates of these theological institutions, also figure here. We can locate the beginning of the appraisal of Edwards within this professional academic culture, thus broadly defined, with the first dissertation done on Edwards in 1899 at the University of Halle, followed closely by the first American dissertation on Edwards written in 1904 at Boston University.2
Table 1 tracks commentary and secondary works on Edwards over the twentieth century. I have registered items devoted wholly or in part to Edwards: books, articles, book chapters or respectable portions thereof, introductions to edited materials, pamphlets, and dissertations; I have excluded book reviews, entries in reference works, newspaper articles, passing references, and reprinted works (though I do digress to take notice of reprints at a couple of ...
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