The Bible in the Enlightenment

AHA Session 64
Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:30 AM-11:30 AM
Grand Ballroom Salon A (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
April G. Shelford, American University
Orientalism and the Collapse of Sacred Chronology
David Allen Harvey, New College of Florida
Racializing Scripture in Eighteenth-Century France
April G. Shelford, American University
Jeffrey D. Burson, Macon State College

Session Abstract

Dorinda Outram has written that science during the Enlightenment was "replacing religion as a dominant cultural 'plot'" – but hardly without a fight, as these three papers will demonstrate.  Inasmuch as the power of the biblical vision resulted from its comprehensiveness – its ability to accommodate and explain all aspects of human existence, from the moral to the physical – the "inconvenient fact" was potentially, if not inevitably, devastating.  Going beyond "science" narrowly construed, the presenters will show the rich variety of challenges to biblical authority during the eighteenth century and their grounding in seventeenth-century intellectual developments.  These challenges emerged in the context of writing new histories to accommodate new peoples living on an older earth than previously imagined and in the context of "historicizing" of human origins.  They were the consequences, unintended or not, of the working through of a scholarly methodology, the exegete's need to render Scripture relevant, and the bookseller's pursuit of profit, and they register European responses to new social and cultural realities created by global trade and imperial aspirations.

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