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Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe
Erasmus, the Johannine Comma and Trinitarian Debate


  • Date Published: July 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107125360

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About the Authors
  • Medieval western theologians considered the Johannine comma (1 John 5:7-8) the clearest biblical evidence for the Trinity. When Erasmus failed to find the comma in the Greek manuscripts he used for his New Testament edition, he omitted it. Accused of promoting Antitrinitarian heresy, Erasmus included the comma in his third edition (1522) after seeing it in a Greek codex from England, even though he suspected the manuscript's authenticity. The resulting disputes, involving leading theologians, philologists and controversialists such as Luther, Calvin, Sozzini, Milton, Newton, Bentley, Gibbon and Porson, touched not simply on philological questions, but also on matters of doctrine, morality, social order, and toleration. While the spuriousness of the Johannine comma was established by 1900, it has again assumed iconic status in recent attempts to defend biblical inerrancy amongst the Christian Right. A social history of the Johannine comma thus provides significant insights into the recent culture wars.

    • Gives the first detailed account of the debate over the textual basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century
    • Shows how biblical philology was not simply the preserve of scholars, but was a subject of broad social interest in the early modern period, with serious political implications
    • Provides rich philological detail in an accessible style
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'What this book superbly demonstrates is that the relation between philology and theology is by no means straightforward, and that there was by no means a clash between philology and theology.' Dirk van Mierr, Renaissance Quarterly

    '… Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe remains a highly accomplished work of intellectual history. McDonald deftly unfolds a complex and fascinating controversy of great moment in the history of Christian ideas.' Hilmar M. Pabel, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107125360
    • length: 400 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the birth of the Trinity
    1. Erasmus
    2. The Johannine comma in sixteenth-century bibles after Erasmus
    3. Raising the ghost of Arius: the Johannine comma and Trinitarian debate
    4. From Civil War to Enlightenment
    5. The Johannine comma in the long nineteenth century.

  • Author

    Grantley McDonald, Universität Wien, Austria
    Grantley McDonald is a postdoctoral fellow at the Universität Wien, and leader of the research project 'The Court Chapel of Maximilian I: Between Art and Politics'. His research has been distinguished with prizes from the Australian Academy of the Humanities (Canberra) and the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation (Amsterdam). His recent work has focussed on print, religious radicalism and censorship.

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