'God ... is best known by our not knowing': Ben Jonson's Theological Diffidence

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Date
2015
Authors
Du Plessis-Hay, Michele
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Publisher
The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
Abstract
Ben Jonson is not traditionally considered diffident: this paper argues that, in his theology, he was diffident, unwilling to move beyond the traditions and authorities common to the Catholic and Anglican churches. Jonson’s comments on theological matters in Discoveries bear this out, and show that he did not consider that the church should disrupt the political commonwealth. Jonson’s views on Puritans, expressed in Discoveries and satirically presented in The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, emphasise his distrust of those who claim to know God’s will and place revelation above tradition in theology. Jonson’s few religious poems can be shown to be heavily dependent on scriptural and traditional liturgical sources; the paper concludes by analysing the sources of ‘To Heaven’ and ‘The Sinners Sacrifice: To the Holie Trinitie’, illustrating Jonson’s diffident dependence on tradition and unwillingness to engage in theological speculation or innovation.
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Keywords
Middle Ages -- Periodicals., Renaissance -- Periodicals., Middle Ages., Renaissance.
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