Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Reiner Smolinski

Second Advisor

Mark Noble

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Trask


The Bible began to lose its privileged place in Western society when skeptics found its contradictions irreconcilable. Cotton Mather (1663-1728) witnessed the integration of radical ideas into mainstream hermeneutics and attempted to respond honestly in his “Biblia Americana.” Although Mather never left New England, his exegesis was shaped almost entirely by European radicalism and its conservative responses. His remarks on the Synoptic Gospels reveal that as he tried to weigh radical arguments objectively, so he often accepted the radical conclusions that undermined the Bible’s authority. While Mather seemingly did not recognize the significance of the concessions he made, examination of his commentary on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveals that Mather was a wholehearted participant in Enlightenment discourse and its radicalizing tendencies.