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"The Spirit Of Infidelity": Ralph Waldo Emerson And Harvard's Early Göttingen Students

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Chapter Summary

What William Emerson encountered at Göttingen University were new ideals of biblical research that removed the Scriptures from narrow theological grounds and subjected them to a criticism that evaluated the historical reliability of the biblical texts. The challenge to the evidentialist framework came from the branch of biblical studies designated as "higher criticism" which forced discussions on the authority of Scripture, the meaning of history, and the nature of faith. The influence of these commentators in the Lord's Supper sermon was clear to Edward Waldo Emerson because of his father's "unusual and remarkable" rational exegesis. This rational exegesis was by no means unusual for Ralph Waldo but rather accorded with the exegetical principles and techniques of his vestry lectures. Emerson's rejection of the Lord's Supper as an empty ritual was aligned with a christology that played down the revelatory significance of the human figure of Jesus.

Keywords: authority of Scripture; Edward Waldo Emerson; Göttingen Students; human figure of Jesus; Lord's Supper; Ralph Waldo Emerson; rational exegesis

10.1163/ej.9789004161665.i-224.6
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