Thursday, 31 January 2013

Jonathan Edwards, Jr.

Why isn't there very much scholarship on Jonathan Edwards, Jr? I'm doing research on Edwards the Younger as part of a book-length project, and I am amazed at how little has been written about this influential minister and theologian. Robert L. Ferm's Jonathan Edwards the Younger, 1745-1801: A Colonial Pastor (1976) is the only major modern work published on Jr. The next best source (and in many ways a more thorough analysis of Edwards Jr. within his cultural context) is Ken Minkema's 1988 PhD dissertation, "The Edwardses: A Ministerial Family in Eighteenth-Century New England," which is divided into three sections on Timothy Edwards, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), and Edwards, Jr. As Minkema shows in his thesis, there are numerous manuscript sermons from Jr. that scholars can use to study his thought.

His life would also make an interesting story. He was raised at Stockbridge, MA, learned the local Native American dialect (publishing a work on the Mahican dialect), pastored a church at New Haven where the politician Roger Sherman attended, experienced the tragedy of his first wife drowning in 1782, and was an ardent supporter of Federalism. There are also all kinds of similarities with his father that could be explored, including  his dismissal at New Haven, his desire to seek literary fame, and the fact that he finished his career as the president of a school (Union College in Schenectady, NY).

Given the number of books and articles on Jonathan Edwards, Sr., someone writing on Jr. could stand out by breaking away from the pack and bringing to light this neglected figure.

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