Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


George Bethune English, Christanity, Enlightenment


In late September 1813, a Harvard graduate named George Bethune English published an attack on the historical evidences of Christianity titled The Grounds of Christianity Examined, by Comparing the New Testament with the Old. English denied the relevance of miracles and argued that Jesus's claims to divine authority hinged solely on his fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. Only by twisting such prophecies beyond their obvious meanings, English argued, could Christians conceivably claim that Jesus fulfilled them. In their own day, the apostles and Evangelists did just that-misapplying the prophecies to Jesus either out of ignorance or dishonesty. In either case, English concluded, the New Testament was not inspired, Jesus was not the prophesied Messiah, and the traditional historical evidences-miracles and prophecy-could not support the claims of Christianity.