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Abstract: This article explores early Jewish conceptions of the “bad man” as reflected in the hermeneutic legacy of one seminal biblical passage (Num 15:30-31) in order to discern the most egregious forms of religious wrongs. This offers a prism for gauging whether early iterations of “Judaism” were so fully aligned with law and praxis that this constituted the entirety of religious life and its ultimate measure. Or, alternatively, whether one can already perceive in classical Jewish discourse an acknowledgement, or even an articulation, of a “religious” or “theological” nucleus apart from the normative order.
Telemann’s numerous compositions for the Christmas season reflect important changes in the understanding and celebration of the feast day throughout his prolific career. The early Christmas cantatas are influenced by an understanding of the feast that combined Lutheran mysticism with a language emphasizing the personal relationship between Christ and the believer through the physical/corporeal as well as emotional concepts: love, heart, desire, and so on. Telemann transferred this language to musical compositions featuring highly emotional melodic lines, often employing musical topi (such as sigh figures) that were familiar from pietist songs and operatic love arias. In his later works, especially in the cantata Die Hirten bei der Krippe to a text by Ramler, the focus shifts from personal emotionality to a divine encounter in nature. The pastoral sphere, influenced by the physico-theology of the time, replaces love arias from the earlier works. This chapter traces developments both in Telemann’s music and in theological discourse around the middle of the eighteenth century. It is not the understanding of Christmas that changes but rather the communicative function of emotion and affect both transforms and shifts throughout Telemann’s lifetime.
Telemann’s complex relationship with the musical past encompassed a healthy respect for the works of previous generations (Lully, Corelli, and others), ambivalence about “ancient” music that was marked by impoverished melodies and contrapuntal excesses, and disdain for Ancients who rejected whatever was new. This chapter addresses yet another perspective, of a composer at pains to bring outmoded musical idioms into a meaningful dialogue with more modern ones. Two works in particular, church cantatas that Telemann composed in Frankfurt am Main, demonstrate how such juxtapositions can serve as rhetorically powerful tools for communicating a theological message. Whereas Sehet an die Exempel der Alten (TVWV 1:1259) cleverly caricatures music of the mid-seventeenth century, the striking dialogue cantata Erhöre mich, wenn ich rufe (TVWV 1:459) casts a doubting, disconsolate Christian as a musical Ancient and the consoling Jesus as a Modern, an opposition vividly highlighted by text, musical style, and instrumentation. That Telemann’s reminiscences of the musical past are not cut of a purely nostalgic or ironic cloth but instead offer a productive dialogue with the musical present – one articulating an enlightened awareness of the divide between historical and present-day consciousnesses – may be read as evidence of the composer‘s extraordinary capacity for aesthetic and theological reflection.
In “The Book of Nature,” Rebecca Davis traces the development theological trope of the book of nature in the twelfth-century Neoplatonic allegories of Bernard Silvestris and Alan of Lille as well as in Augustinian theology. After exploring Natura’s role as God’s vicaria dei in the allegories of Alan and Bernard, Davis turns to the book of nature’s role in later medieval vernacular poems like Dante’s Divine Comedy and William Langland’s Piers Plowman. Davis argues that medieval authors utilize the book of nature to call attention to issues of interpretation at points when authors attempt to establish or contest literary authority. The book of nature calls on us to interpret the world just as we interpret texts. The chapter closes with later manifestations of the book of nature in the works of Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Rachel Carson.
Even as Georg Philipp Telemann's significance within eighteenth-century musical culture has become more widely appreciated in recent years, the English-language literature on his life and music has remained limited. This volume, bringing together sixteen essays by leading scholars from the USA, Germany, and Japan, helps to redress this imbalance as it signals a more international engagement with Telemann's legacy. The composer appears here not only as an important early Enlightenment figure, but also as a postmodern one. Chapters on his sacred music address the works' sensitivity to Lutheran and physico-theology, contrasting of historical and modern consciousness, and embodiment of an emerging opus concept. His secular compositions and writings are brought into rich dialogue with French musical and aesthetic currents. Also considered are Telemann's relationships with contemporaries such as Johann Sebastian Bach, the urban and courtly contexts for his music, and his influential position as 'general Kapellmeister' of protestant Germany.
Chapters 3 through 6 examine what selected early modern providential naturalisms looked like on the ground. Each of those chapters concludes with some observations about the providential naturalism framework analysed in that chapter, and some questions about implementing those frameworks in general, that arise from these scenarios. Those observations and questions are ones that emerge either directly (through an author’s explicit discussion of them), or indirectly (because an author’s treatment of an issue prompts them). This concluding chapter of the book draws these together to better understand what might be involved in being a providential naturalist today. It identifies some of the key theological ideas, assumptions, and judgements involved in providential naturalisms, as well as some significant challenges and complexities that providential naturalists in any time and place will likely need to navigate. In terms of the latter, it draws attention specifically to three areas of concern: the boundary between the natural and the miraculous; the communicative qualities of nature; and the implications of naturalistic explanation for how to live one’s life.
This chapter delves into early modern theories about a key scriptural story, that of Noah’s flood, and the theological implications of explaining the flood in a largely naturalistic manner through appeal to laws of nature. Seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes used laws of nature as the basis for a naturalistic account of the creation of the world, and others followed suit. This chapter analyses two accounts of the world’s creation and subsequent dissolution in the flood written in England in the closing decades of the seventeenth century that drew on laws of nature: Thomas Burnet’s Sacred Theory of the Earth, and William Whiston’s New Theory of the Earth. Burnet and Whiston each explore how those early events in the earth’s history might be accounted for through natural processes, making their treatises among the earliest explicit attempts in England to explain key scriptural events chiefly in terms of natural causality.
This chapter looks at prodigies, unusual or unexpected phenomena thought to be personally or communally meaningful. Prodigies were widely thought to be an integral feature of a providentially governed world, and many different occurrences were taken to be communicative signs of God’s disposition toward, or impending judgement of, humanity. Some saw these strange occurrences as miracles and hence instances of divine action, but others dismissed such views as superstitious and misinformed, and conceived of ways to correct them. Following the lead of Francis Bacon, John Spencer was convinced that the explanation of these unusual occurrences should be reformed, and made the case for placing them under the purview of natural philosophy and explaining them naturalistically. This chapter looks at the occurrences that Spencer labelled as prodigies, his strategies for understanding them, the consequences of providing naturalistic explanations of prodigies for the perceived communicative capacities of nature, and the afterlife of Spencer’s analysis among members of the Royal Society
This chapter introduces the concept of providential naturalism by way of discussion of contemporary perceptions about “scientific” and “religious” explanations of phenomena in nature. It also introduces the specific historical and geographical context -- early modern England -- on which the book focuses.
This chapter looks at Epicurean atomism as it was articulated by the physician and natural philosopher Walter Charleton. Charleton was among the first in England to advocate for a Christianised version of Epicureanism, a philosophy long considered suspicious because of its purportedly atheistic implications. Charleton countered these concerns by situating Epicurean atomism within a providential picture of the world. This chapter examines the main elements of Charleton’s worldview, the influence of atomism on his providential naturalism, and his understanding of the affective consequences of invoking natural causality in a providentially governed world.
The doctrine of providence traditionally has shaped how Christians view nature. In early modern English Protestant thought the doctrine enveloped natural causality and deployed it in a variety of ways, with God’s government of the created order often believed to occur through the operation of natural causes. To grasp how natural causality was perceived at the time we must therefore appreciate the broader providential context within which naturally caused phenomena were located. This chapter looks at how English Protestants understood some of the main categories used to expound providence, including creation, conservation, concurrence, government,and ordinary and special providence. These categories appear in one form or another in the texts discussed in later chapters.
This chapter looks at chance-based gambling activities like dice and lots. Early modern Protestants thought gambling through such instruments was a widespread societal problem. This chapter analyses competing accounts of how these activities should be understood. It focuses on Thomas Gataker’s deployment of a more naturalistic alternative to the supernaturalistic approaches that some of his fellow Protestants, such as James Balmford, were using to fight back against the problem. Gambling activities may not seem like the other kinds of phenomena in nature studied elsewhere in the book, but to early modern thinkers they involved very similar causal mechanisms to many other kinds of occurrences in nature. They therefore shed considerable light on how Christians at the time thought about and explained many kinds of phenomena in nature.
What do we do when a beloved comedian known as 'America's Dad' is convicted of sexual assault? Or when we discover that the man who wrote 'all men are created equal' also enslaved hundreds of people? Or when priests are exposed as pedophiles? From the popular to the political to the profound, each day brings new revelations that respected people, traditions, and institutions are not what we thought they were. Despite the shock that these disclosures produce, this state of affairs is anything but new. Facing the concrete task of living well when our best moral resources are not only contaminated but also potentially corrupting is an enduring feature of human experience. In this book, Karen V. Guth identifies 'tainted legacies' as a pressing contemporary moral problem and ethical challenge. Constructing a typology of responses to compromised thinkers, traditions, and institutions, she demonstrates the relevance of age-old debates in Christian theology for those who confront legacies tarnished by the traumas of slavery, racism, and sexual violence.
Reviewed: The School of Salamanca: A Case of Global Knowledge Production. Edited by Thomas Duve, José Luis Egío, and Christiane Birr. Leiden: Brill, 2021. Pp. 430. $172.00 (cloth); Open Access (digital). ISBN: 9789004449732.
¿Qué es la Escuela de Salamanca? [What is the School of Salamanca?] Edited by Simona Langella and Rafael Ramis-Barceló. Madrid, Porto: Sindéresis, 2021. Pp. 402. €30.00 (paper). ISBN: 9788418206610.
A Companion to the Spanish Scholastics. Edited by Harald E. Braun, Erik De Bom, and Paolo Astorri. Leiden: Brill, 2022. Pp. 628. $275.00 (cloth); $283.00 (digital). ISBN: 9789004294417.
Infidels and Empires in a New World Order: Early Modern Spanish Contributions to International Legal Thought. By David M. Lantigua. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. Pp. 370. $110.00 (cloth); $39.99 (paper); $32.00 (digital). ISBN: 9781108498265.
The history and influence of the School of Salamanca is attracting the attention of researchers from very different branches of knowledge and from a very wide variety of countries around the world. Broaching this subject invites one to reflect on both the unity of knowledge and the important role that theology plays in a secularized world. In this short essay, I discuss four recently published works that show the global scope of interest in Spanish Scholasticism in general and the School of Salamanca in particular. The first, The School of Salamanca: A Case of Global Knowledge, was edited by Thomas Duve, Jose Luis Egío, and Christiane Birr in coordination of the Max Planck Institute (2021). The second work, ¿Qué es la Escuela de Salamanca?, was edited by Simona Langella and Rafael Ramis-Barceló (2021). The third work is a recent thematic compendium on Spanish Scholasticism edited by Harald E. Braun, Erik De Bom, and Paolo Astorri (2022). Finally, I discuss David Lantigua’s monograph, Infidels and Empires in a New World Order: Early Modern Spanish Contributions to International Legal Thought (2020).
Science today is often seen as providing the definitive frame of reference for understanding what goes on in nature. Furthermore, the history of science has frequently been portrayed as the story of steady progress in overturning religious explanation in favour of scientific truth. This narrative has been challenged by those who – like the author of this book – recognise that a naturalistic way of looking at the world, which lies at the heart of modern science, has a far richer relationship to religion than many have allowed. Peter Jordan now takes this recognition in fresh and exciting directions. Focusing on key thinkers in early modern England, who located causality within a divine and providential view of the cosmos, he shows how they were able to integrate ideas which today might be dichotomised as 'scientific' and 'religious'. His book makes a compelling contribution to current science and religion debates and their history.
In this volume, Karin Krause examines conceptions of divine inspiration and authenticity in the religious literature and visual arts of Byzantium. During antiquity and the medieval era, “inspiration” encompassed a range of ideas regarding the divine contribution to the creation of holy texts, icons, and other material objects by human beings. Krause traces the origins of the notion of divine inspiration in the Jewish and polytheistic cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds and their reception in Byzantine religious culture. Exploring how conceptions of authenticity are employed in Eastern Orthodox Christianity to claim religious authority, she analyzes texts in a range of genres, as well as images in different media, including manuscript illumination, icons, and mosaics. Her interdisciplinary study demonstrates the pivotal role that claims to the divine inspiration of religious literature and art played in the construction of Byzantine cultural identity.
With his ‘Solomonic Connection’, David Firth observes the man Solomon as he appears in Kings and Chronicles. Solomon is ‘paradigmatic’ for understanding wisdom in both of these books and yet he is not treated identically therein. Kings and Chronicles offer different portraits of the exceedingly wise king, whether that be his foundational role for wisdom or his problematic relationship with it. Matters of the temple, Solomon’s behaviour, torah, and the very conception of wisdom itself all have a place in biblical presentations of Solomon. Firth looks closely at 1 Kings 1–11 and 2 Chronicles 1–9 with a literary and theological reading that does not let one account determine the other or allow the Solomonic portraits in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to have all of the attention.
Katharine Dell’s contribution explores the question whether there is a distinctive set of theological ideas for the three key wisdom books – Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. After a brief survey of scholarship on this debate over the last century and a half, key themes that the books have in common are explored, with salient examples – the doctrine of retribution; the fear of the Lord; the figure of Wisdom and the attainment of wisdom; the theme of creation; communication and life and death. Although considerable commonality is found, there is also a discovery of difference and of interlinking with other books in the canon. The themes themselves are not confined to these ‘wisdom’ books, even though they characterize them accompanied by an essential didactic approach.
The somewhat neglected Wisdom of Solomon, or ‘Book of Wisdom’, contains concepts important not only for understanding wisdom in the rest of the OT but also for understanding how wisdom bridged both testaments. Joachim Schaper gives priority to the book’s theology and its place in Hellenistic Jewish and early Christian thought. He provides an overview of the book’s structure and versions, its intellectual context, its universalistic conceptions of God and humans in history, and how the book exhibits a ‘spiritual exercise’. Most important here are Wisdom’s use of πνευμα (‘spirit’) and its amalgam of Platonic, Stoic and Egyptian elements. It offers a distinct interpretation of the exodus, with which Schaper accounts for ideas of liberation and eschatology. As for the book as spiritual exercise, the discussion turns to matters of genre and literary function, disclosing its purpose to fortify religious beliefs and one’s self-mastery.