Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jon Edwards

"Eve was to be the mother of that Seed that was to bruise the head of the serpent, the grand enemy of mankind that had brought death upon them, and had the power of death, and so was to be the author of life to all that should live, i.e. all that should escape death. So Eve was the mother of all living, as all that have spiritual and eternal life are Christ's, and so the woman's Seed, because Christ was of the woman."

-Jonathan Edwards: Notes on the Bible

"Edwards’s surprisingly positive treatment of Eve in these sources reveals his willingness to deviate from the ideological background with which he has become synonymous and a theological innovator whose praise of Eve anticipates that of modern feminist theologians."

-Zachary Hutchins: Edwards and Eve: Finding Feminist Strains in the Great Awakening's Patriarch

Religious writing has little to no effect on me. When I was a boy, I was already very much disillusioned by Christianity, and most of what it and the other major religions had to offer. In effect, I had a similarly jaded outlook towards this particular period of American and European history, where Christianity held sway, in a big, big way. It influenced the decisions and outlook of most of history's major players, while at the same time, was also used as a shield of justification for their greatest crimes and mistakes. With this in mind, I slogged through the pages with Jonathan Edwards with a pithy and passing interest. I think he's actually a pretty excellent writer, I particularly liked "Images or Shadows of Divine Things", where I think his language becomes the most colourful and interesting. Despite all this, I could not get past his subject matter. I am always brought to mind of that scene from "Forrest Gump", when Forrest find his old army Lieutenant living crippled and alone in a trashy apartment in New York, and he rants and raves about the annoying people he meets in church. "Jesus this... and Jesus that! Have you found Jesus yet?" I have a similar reaction to Edwards' writing, and many other similar authors of the time. Despite his wonderfully crafted, and expert use of the language, even "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" make him out to be a caricature, all of the hilarious stereotypes you think of when you imagine the fire and brimstone preacher. It wasn't until after I had dropped the book in disgust that I retreated to the internet, to see if I could dig up anything more interesting on this author. To my surprise I found something wholly unexpected. Modern religious scholars are of the opinion that Edwards may have been one of the earliest proto-feminists, because of his pretty extreme and unique views on Eve, and other women of the Bible. My immediate thought was "since this whole class seems to be structured around progressive thinkers in history, why on Earth were his proto-feminist writings not the main focus of this section?" To me, a hyper religious white man who thinks of women with any ounce of respect other than being the dutiful wife, subject entirely to her husband is revolutionary to me. The more I read of Edwards after this, the more I began to pick up on his language and the direction of his writing pointing towards this mindset. Was I just seeing what I wanted to see at this point? Who can say? According to Wikipedia, the two writings which seem to showcase this proto-feminist view the most are "Miscellanies" and "Notes on the Bible". After much searching, I was able to find an obscure link to a Google Books page, in a 23 volume collection of Edward's writings. Why these two volumes were not made available in our text is beyond me, because they so perfectly illustrate Edwards reverence not only for Eve as a Biblical figure, but for women in general. If I could leave this class with but one suggestion, it would be to restructure this section on Edwards, because I think he has a lot more to say than just what's selected for him in our books.

1 comment:

  1. 30/30 I've heard Edwards called many things, but proto-feminist isn't one of them. That said, you've got a good point here!