Admired Adversary: Wrestling with Grotius the Exegete in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana (1693–1728)

In: Grotiana
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  • 1 Heidelberg University, Faculty of Theology and Center for American Studies, Germany

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This essay examines the reception of Grotius’s pioneering Annotata ad Vetus Testamentum (1644) in the ‘Biblia Americana’ (1693–1728), a scriptural commentary written by the New England theologian Cotton Mather (1663–1728). Mather engaged with Grotius on issues of translation, biblical authorship, inspiration, the canon, and the legitimate forms of interpreting the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture. While frequently relying on the Dutch Arminian humanist in discussing philological problems or contextual questions, Mather (as a self-declared defender of Reformed orthodoxy) in many cases rejected, ignored, or significantly modified Grotius’s farther-reaching conclusions on dogmatically sensitive topics. This strategy marks Mather’s ‘Biblia Americana’ as an exemple of a highly sophisticated but ultimately apologetic type of biblical criticism in the context of the early Enlightenment in British North America.