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The Reception of Edwards’s A History of the Work of Redemptionin Nineteenth-century Basutoland

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A recently discovered manuscript by the French missionary Adolph Mabille (1836-1894) in the Morija Archives, Lesotho, remedies the lack of attention of A History of the Work of Redemption( hwr hereafter), by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in the nineteenth century. This manuscript found its way from colonial America to Africa through French missionary endeavors in relgious educational training (Paris) and teaching (Basutoland). Edwards’s original aim, and the subsequent publication of ‘outlines of a body of divinity’, converged in nineteenth-century France, where the hwr was translated in the context of Le Réveiland taught in the course of systematic theology at the Paris Evangelical Mission Society Mission house, exemplified by Mabille’s Dogmatique. Moreover, the appropriation of Edwards’s hwr in the combined context of missions and religious education was extended in Basutoland, as seen in the Katekisma. The outline of the catechism may be due to Mabille’s classical training and acquaintance with ‘universal chronology’ and Scripture, but it also reflected his intimate knowledge of Edwards’s work. The reception of Edwards’s exposition of redemptive history in the catechism of Basutoland thus resonates in part with Mabille’s Dogmatique—a text transmission of Edwards’s Histoire. The transmission of this text remained the same in structure, was shortened in content and modified over time, but continued as intended by Edwards: to show ‘a work that God is carrying on from the fall of man to the end of the world’.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University University of the Free State South Africa


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