Faith and Scriptural History in Early Modern Religious Writing
Ashmore, Joseph Lorcan
University of Cambridge
Faculty of English
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Ashmore, J. L. (2019). Faith and Scriptural History in Early Modern Religious Writing (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.38348
This thesis examines the relationship between faith and scriptural history in early modern religious writing. While a renewed attention to the historicity of scriptural narratives in this period brought about a more evidence-based assent to the truth of biblical accounts, these developments also led religious writers to emphasise the role of faith in scriptural interpretation. The writers studied in this thesis—Lancelot Andrewes, Sir Thomas Browne, Henry Vaughan and John Milton—were aware that the history narrated by the Bible had the potential to be misread. Relying on historical evidence when reading scriptural accounts risked making the foundations of religious belief dependent upon human methods of proof. Focusing too intently on God’s historical interactions with humankind, moreover, could turn the past itself into an object of misdirected veneration. The thesis shows how these writers mobilised different genres in various historical contexts in order to guide their readers towards an interpretation of the scriptural past that was rooted in faith. Chapter one examines Lancelot Andrewes’s Easter Day sermons. It shows how he reconciled contemporary attempts to establish the credibility of scriptural history with a model of faith that relied on spiritual assurance. Chapter two uses Andrewes’s Good Friday preaching to demonstrate how he situated this faith-based interpretation of history within a liturgical context. Chapter three turns to the prose of Sir Thomas Browne. It suggests that Browne’s readings of the biblical past show how his interpretive faith operates in a private devotional setting. My fourth chapter examines the religious poetry of Henry Vaughan. Vaughan turns his readers away from making a nostalgic idol out of the biblical past, and inculcates within them a faithful endurance in times of acute contextual turmoil. The final chapter examines John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Milton’s epic warns its readers of the temptation to over-idealise an irrecoverably lost past, and reorients them towards an understanding of God’s continuing presence and redemptive promise.
Early modern literature, Religious writing, Lancelot Andrewes, Thomas Browne, Henry Vaughan, John Milton, Scriptural hermeneutics
Sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.38348
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