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Within the antebellum United States, the interpretative paradigm of the historical Jesus first gained traction in the milieu of oppositional subcultures (the cultic milieu), where it circulated as a heterodoxy and was combined with other unconventional ideologies like deism/Freethought, social reform (e.g. abolitionism and woman's rights), Transcendentalism, and spiritualism. Ancillary contributions of this dissertation include clarification of the term "biblical criticism" and competing interpretative paradigms for the gospels; emphasis on the importance of the Christian Evidences as the theological mainstream of the antebellum period; incorporation of the "cultic milieu" sociological framework within the history of American religion; and incorporation of Foucault's "Archaeology of Knowledge" methodology within the study of the history of biblical criticism (especially recognition of previous scholarship's narrative of teleological rationality culminating in Protestant liberalism).




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