Description: 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? In 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 reveal a new "Baconian" concern with demonstrating the factual realism of the scriptural narratives by recourse to empirical evidence and the natural sciences.
Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Prophetic Literature, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes/Qoheleth, Writings, Song of Songs, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Interpretation
Review by Adriaan Neele
Citation: Adriaan Neele, review of Jan Stievermann, ed., Biblia Americana: America’s First Bible Commentary; A Synoptic Commentary on the Old and New Testaments: Volume 5: Proverbs–Jeremiah, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2019).
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