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The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus

ISBN: 9780199929504 | 0199929505
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 1/31/2013

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In this cultural and intellectual history, David Burns contends that the influence of biblical criticism in America was more widespread than previously thought. Burns proves this point by uncovering the hidden history of the radical historical Jesus, a construct created and sustained byfreethinkers, feminists, socialists and anarchists during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The result of this exploration is a new narrative revealing that Cyrenus Osborne Ward, Caroline Bartlett, George Herron, Bouck White, and other radical religionists had an impact on the history of religionin America rivaling that of recognized religious intellectuals such as Shailer Mathews, Charles Briggs, Francis Peabody, and Walter Rauschenbusch. The methods and approaches utilized by radical religionists were different from those employed by elite liberal divines, however, and part of a larger struggle over the relationship between religion and civilization. There were numerous reasons for this conflict, but, as Burns argues, the primaryone was that radicals used Ernest Renan's The Life of Jesus to create an imaginative brand of biblical criticism that struck a balance between the demands of reason and the doctrines of religion. Thus, while radical religionists like Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Eugene Debs weresecular-minded thinkers who sought to purge Christianity of its supernatural dimensions, they believed the religious imagination that enabled modern day radicals to make common cause with an ancient peasant from Galilee was something wonderful. This provocative blend of reason and religion produced a vibrant countercultural movement that spanned communities, classes, and creeds and makes The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus a book that deserves a wide readership in an era when public intellectuals and politicians on both theleft and right draw rigid lines between the secular and the sacred.


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