A Symposium on Cotton Mather’s "Biblia Americana"

And the Millennialist Tradition in Early American ProtestantismFeb 24, 2023 - Feb 25, 2023
Cotton Mather’s "Biblia Americana" and the Millennialist Tradition in Early American Protestantism

The belief in Jesus’s imminent second coming and the establishment of a kingdom of God that would last 1,000 years has been a feature of American Protestantism from the Puritans to the present day. This “millennialist” tradition in America reflects the unique anxieties and aspirations of each generation. This symposium focuses on Cotton Mather, an important but often overlooked figure in this tradition, his massive Bible commentary, Biblia Americana, and his place in the broader sweep of American religious history. 

Mather was a Puritan minister and scholar who published more than 400 works during his lifetime on subjects ranging from theology to natural philosophy to history. His Biblia Americana, however, represents what he considered his greatest intellectual and religious achievement. His goal was to harmonize a faithful interpretation of scripture, rooted in the Orthodox Reformed tradition, with the growing knowledge of the natural world being produced by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. Until his death in 1728, Mather tirelessly worked on his ambitious project, but he never published it due to a lack of financial support. Nevertheless, scholars today consider it perhaps the oldest comprehensive commentary on all the canonical books of the Bible in British North America and the greatest achievement of an American theologian before Jonathan Edwards. 

Museum of the Bible and the Mather Project, an international team of scholars working to edit and publish Biblia Americana, are sponsoring this symposium. The millennial kingdom is a consistent theme throughout Mather’s Biblia Americana as he brings together biblical and historical scholarship with cutting-edge scientific discoveries, religious debates, and international politics. His millennial beliefs, in other words, offer important insight into colonial religious life and its place in the changing Atlantic world.

Feb 24, 2023 - Feb 25, 2023
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM EST

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Tickets

Tickets are special 2-day all-access passes to the conference. Your ticket will give you access to both conference days either in-person, virtually, or a combination of both. The tour can only be redeemed in person on either February 24 or 25.

Schedule

Friday, February 24, 2023

9:00 a.m. — Registration

10:00 a.m. — Welcome by Dr. Anthony Schmidt, Museum of the Bible

10:10–10:30 a.m. — Introduction: “Cotton Mather: Life with the Bible” by Dr. Rick Kennedy, Point Loma University

10:45–11:30 a.m. — Keynote: “Fire and Ice: Cotton Mather’s Millennialism in Historical Perspective” by Dr. Reiner Smolinski, Georgia State University, Atlanta

11:30 a.m. — Lunch

11:45 a.m. — Lunch & Learn: Dr. Rick Kennedy and Dr. Reiner Smolinski Discuss Popular Mather Myths

12:45–1:30 p.m. — Optional Tour of Scripture and Science with Dr. Anthony Schmidt

1:30–2:00 p.m. — “Geographia apocalyptica: Samuel Lee, Cotton Mather and the Puritan Interest in the Holy Land” by Dr. Caitlin Smith, Heidelberg University

2:00–2:30 p.m. — “The Changing Fate of Israel: Pauline Eschatology and the Triparadisus” by Dr. Robert E. Brown, James Madison University

2:30–2:45 p.m. — Break

2:45–3:15 p.m. — Pop-Up Session: "The Mather Project and Biblia Americana" by Dr. Jan Stievermann, Heidelberg University

3:15–3:45 p.m. — “Biblia Americana: The Past and Future of the Jewish People” by Dr. Rick Kennedy, Point Loma University, and Dr. Harry Clark Maddux, Appalachian State University

3:45–4:00 p.m. — “Looking Forward” by Dr. Anthony Schmidt, Museum of the Bible

4:10 p.m. — Behind-the-Scenes Tour (Additional Ticket Required)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

9:00 a.m. — Registration

10:00 a.m. — Welcome by Dr. Anthony Schmidt, Museum of the Bible

10:10–10:55 a.m. — Keynote: “The Millennium in Music: From Cotton Mather to Larry Norman” by Dr. David Kling, University of Miami

11:00–11:30 a.m. — “Dating Daniel’s Four World Empires: Cotton Mather’s End-Times Calculus in Its Trans-Atlantic Context” by Dr. Ava Chamberlain, Wright State University

11:30 a.m. — Lunch

11:45 a.m. — Pop-Up Session: “Collecting the Mather Family” by Dr. Ted Steinbock, collector

1:00–1:30 p.m. — “Jonathan Edwards, the Bible, and the End of Mundane History” by Dr. Douglas Sweeney, Samford University

1:30–2:00 p.m. — “Hoping for the Huguenots: Cotton Mather’s Interpretation of the Prophecy of the Two Witnesses in Transatlantic Context” by Dr. Jan Stievermann, Heidelberg University

2:00–2:30 p.m. — Pop-Up Session: “The Mathers' Improbable Afterlife” by Samuel Goldman, George Washington University

2:30–2:45 p.m. — Break

2:45–3:15 p.m. — “Mather’s Biblia Americana and Apocalypticism in Global Historical Perspective” by Ryan Hoselton, Heidelberg University

3:15–3:45 p.m. — Panel Discussion and Closing Thoughts by Dr. Anthony Schmidt, Museum of the Bible

3:45 p.m. — Behind-the-Scenes Tour (Additional Ticket Required)

Speakers

Dr. Robert E. Brown

Robert E. Brown is professor of religion at James Madison University, where he teaches courses on religion in America. He is the author of Jonathan Edwards and the Bible (2002) and editor of the ninth volume of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana (2018) on the Pauline Epistles.

Dr. Ava Chamberlain

Ava Chamberlain recently retired from her position as professor of religion and chair of the Departments of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics at Wright State University. An early American religious historian, Dr. Chamberlain’s scholarly interests include the intersections of religion, gender, and law, particularly in relation to the career of colonial pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. She is the author of The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards (NYU Press, 2012) and the editor of Miscellanies 501–832, volume 18 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale UP, 2000). She is currently editing volume 6 of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana, which covers Lamentations to the end of the Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Samuel Goldman

Samuel Goldman is associate professor of political science at George Washington University, where he is executive director of the John L. Loeb, Jr. Institute for Religious Freedom and director of the Politics & Values Program. His most recent book, After Nationalism, was published in 2021. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Ryan Hoselton

Ryan P. Hoselton is an instructor and postdoctoral research associate (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) in both the Faculty of Theology and the American Studies program at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. He has written various studies on eighteenth-century transatlantic awakened Protestantism, and he serves on the editorial team for the Biblia Americana project.

Dr. Rick Kennedy

Rick Kennedy was educated at the University of California, Santa Barbara (BA, MA, PhD, 1987), and is the author of The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. The Mather family, especially their role at Harvard College, has been at the center of his publishing career, beginning with Aristotelian and Cartesian Logic at Harvard: Morton's “System of Logick” and Brattle's “Compendium of Logick”  and “Increase Mather’s Catechismus Logicus: A Translation and an Analysis of the Role of a Ramist Catechism at Harvard” (co-authored with Thomas Knoles) in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society. Kennedy has also recently authored several chapters on Cotton Mather in Cotton Mather and Biblia Americana—America’s First Bible Commentary and Revolution as Reformation: Protestant Faith in the Age of Revolutions, 1688–1832. Kennedy is a past president of the Conference on Faith and History, an elder at the First Presbyterian Church, San Diego, California, and a professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Dr. David Kling

David W. Kling is professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Miami. His recent publications include A History of Christian Conversion and his upcoming, The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times, 2nd ed. He is also an area editor (American Christianity) for The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception.

Dr. Harry Clark Maddux

Harry Clark Maddux earned his PhD in American Studies from Purdue University, after having served 12 years in the United States Army. Besides editing volume 4 of the Biblia Americana series, he has received research awards and grants for his work on Cotton Mather from the Huntington Library, the Beinecke Library, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His essays on Puritan culture and literature have appeared in volumes such as Cotton Mather and Biblia Americana: America's First Bible Commentary, and journals such as Early American Literature. He has also written and published on the intersection of pragmatism and service-learning, as well as on the history of residential colleges in America. He is currently a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and was formerly the chief administrator of that university's only residential college, the Watauga Residential College.

Dr. Caitlin Smith

Caitlin Smith earned her PhD from the University of Notre Dame and is working as a postdoctoral researcher for the University of Heidelberg’s Center for American Studies. She is revising her dissertation manuscript toward publication. She is also co-editor of a forthcoming critical anthology of the works of James W. C. Pennington, an early African-American intellectual, abolitionist, and peace activist; she is co-editing an essay collection on the same. Her research interests include transatlantic Protestant culture, autobiography, Black intellectual history, and Holy Land literature.

Dr. Reiner Smolinski

Dr. Reiner Smolinski, emeritus professor of early-American literature and religious history at Georgia State University, Atlanta, has spent nearly four decades editing and writing about Cotton Mather’s huge archive of unpublished manuscripts. He has published books and articles in several academic venues, most recently (with Kenneth B. Minkema) A Cotton Mather Reader. He is general editor of Biblia Americana (1693–1728), colonial America’s first comprehensive commentary on the Bible in 10 volumes (2010–). He has been a visiting professor of American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University (Germany) and DAAD professor of American Studies at the University of Potsdam/Berlin (Germany). He also taught American literature at the University of International Business and Economics, Beijing, and has lectured at Peking University (Beijing, China). He is currently completing a new biography on Cotton Mather.

Dr. Jan Stievermann

Jan Stievermann is professor of the History of Christianity in the US at Heidelberg University and director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany. He has written books and essays on a broad range of topics in the fields of American religious history and American literature, including a comprehensive study of the theology and aesthetics of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity: Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana. In the scholarly edition of the Biblia Americana manuscript, he is responsible for volumes 5 and 10, and serves as the executive editor of the whole project. Among other multi-authored volumes, he co-edited A Peculiar Mixture: German-Language Cultures and Identities in Eighteenth-Century North AmericaReligion and the Marketplace in the United States, the Oxford Handbook of Jonathan Edwards, and The Bible in Early Transatlantic Pietism and Evangelicalism.

Dr. Douglas Sweeney

Douglas Sweeney became the second dean of Beeson Divinity School in 2019. In this role, he shepherds the institution by providing strategic leadership and facilitating its work to prepare men and women for gospel ministry. Before coming to Beeson, Sweeney taught at Aquinas College, Yale Divinity School, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the University of Heidelberg, and several other schools in the United States and abroad. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books on the history of Christian doctrine, early-modern Protestant history, American church history, Christology, and global evangelicalism. His next book is called, Teaching In, With, and Under the Christian Church. It is the first of two volumes on the global history of doctrine, or the history of the teaching of the Christian faith in churches all around the world since the time of the apostles. Sweeney is an evangelical Lutheran affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. 

Dr. Anthony Schmidt

Anthony Schmidt earned his PhD in American religion from Princeton Theological Seminary. Schmidt’s academic work focuses mainly on the cultural construction of orthodoxy in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christianity and the way certain beliefs and behaviors are seen as virtues or vices over time. He has written about a range of topics in academic journals and popular outlets and is currently working on a larger project on how financial factors shaped the ways American churches dealt with the issues of slavery and race in the nineteenth century.

Anthony joined Museum of the Bible as curator of Bible and religion in America in 2017 and became senior curator in 2019. In addition to overseeing the museum’s curatorial team, he also curates post-sixteenth-century Bibles and printed texts in the Museum Collections, manages collections research and documentation, and develops content for the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. Previously, he served as a doctoral assistant in the Department of Special Collections at Princeton Seminary and as an author and researcher for the American Bible Society’s Faith & Liberty Discovery Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Tickets

Tickets are special 2-day all-access passes to the conference. Your ticket will give you access to both conference days either in-person, virtually, or a combination of both. The tour can only be redeemed in person on either February 24 or 25.

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