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golden ages of English theology, crowned by the achievements of the
latitude-men and the Cambridge Platonists. Theologians became keenly
aware that the defence of Mosaic history required the elaboration of


“ Walter Raleigh, A historie of the world (1614: London, 1617), esp. bk 1, ch. 8, ˜Of the Wrst
planting of nations after the Xoud: and of the sonnes of Noah; Sem, Ham and Iaphet, by
whom the earth was repeopled™. For Raleigh™s reputation as a freethinker and the ortho-
dox limits of his scepticism, see F. S. Fussner, The historical revolution: English historical
writing and thought 1580“1640 (London, 1962), pp. 192“3, 201; C. Hill, Intellectual origins
of the English revolution (Oxford, 1965), p. 191; D. Woolf, The idea of history in early Stuart
England (Toronto, 1990), p. 46.
“ Edward Brerewood, Enquiries touching the diversity of languages and religions throughout the
chiefe parts of the world (London, 1614), pp. 96“7; L. E. Huddleston, Origins of the
American Indians: European concepts, 1492“1729 (Austin, TX, 1967), pp. 48, 114“16, 135.
” D. C. Allen, The legend of Noah (Urbana, 1949), pp. 126“7.
¦» Alexander Ross, Pansebeia: or, a view of all religions in the world (London, 1653).
¦¦ Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia epidemica (1646), in Brown, Works (ed. G. Keynes, 4 vols.,
London, 1964), II, bk 4, chs. 10“11; bk 6, chs. 10“13; bk 7, chs. 5“6.
40 Theological contexts

sophisticated counter-measures,¦  not least in the Weld of ethnic theology.
La Peyrere™s Pre-adamite heresy was one of the principal targets of
`
Edward StillingXeet™s sophisticated defence of Christian orthodoxy, Ori-
gines sacrae (1662). StillingXeet (1635“99) explained to educated Eng-
lishmen that more than patriotic pride was at stake in the study of ethnic
origins:
the peopling of the world from Adam . . . is of great consequence for us to
understand, not only for the satisfaction of our curiosity as to the true origin of
nations, but also in order to our believing the truth of the scriptures, and of the
universal eVects of the Fall of man. Neither of which can be suYciently cleared
without this. For as it is hard to conceive how the eVects of man™s Fall should
extend to all mankind, unless all mankind were propagated from Adam, so it is
inconceivable how the account of things given in scripture should be true, if there
were persons existent in the world long before Adam was.¦À
Contradicting La Peyrere™s devastating exegesis of Romans, StillingXeet
`
oVered the unequivocal message of Acts 17:26: ˜God hath made of one
blood all nations of men.™¦Ã Moreover, he questioned whether the Flood
could have been a local event conWned to the Middle East, when there
were Flood stories in so many other cultures.¦• Lord Chief Justice Sir
Mathew Hale™s The primitive origination of mankind (1677) was a classic
text of ethnic theology, though its larger purpose lay in opposing Car-
tesian heterodoxy.¦’ Hale supported the Acostan thesis, conjecturing the
existence of a land-bridge between Asia and America. However, in his
enthusiasm to bury the Pre-adamite threat to Christian doctrine, Hale
(1609“76) also deployed the Norse, Carthaginian and other extant theses
about the peopling of America, many of which Acosta had explicitly
repudiated. These various colonies had degenerated from their early
civility and religion, a process which explained the marked diVerence in
culture between the primitive peoples of America and the civilisations of
the Old World. This account of degeneration was the stark opposite of
Acosta™s account of primitive hunters crossing from northern Eurasia to
North America where they developed their own distinct cultures.¦“
An important contribution to the sinological branch of Christian
apologetics came from John Webb, who argued that ˜in all probability,
¦  G. Reedy, The Bible and reason: Anglicans and Scripture in late seventeenth-century England
(Philadelphia, 1985).
¦À Edward StillingXeet, Origines sacrae (London, 1662), p. 534. R. Popkin, ˜The philosophy
of Bishop StillingXeet™, Journal of the History of Philosophy 9 (1971), 305, notes that
Origines sacrae had been reissued eight times by 1709.
¦Ã StillingXeet, Origines sacrae, p. 534. ¦• Ibid., pp. 538“53.
¦’ A. Cromartie, Sir Mathew Hale 1609“1676 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 199“203.
¦“ Mathew Hale, The primitive origination of mankind (London, 1677), bk II, pp. 182“3,
190, 195“7; P. Rossi, The dark abyss of time: the history of the earth and the history of nations
from Hooke to Vico (trans. L. Cochrane, Chicago, 1984), p. 30.
Ethnic theology and British identities 41

China was after the Flood Wrst planted either by Noah himself, or some of
the sons of Sem, before the remove to Shinaar™. Webb uncovered evi-
dence to support this claim. Of all nations, the Chinese had ˜least erred in
the rules of their religion™, and, ˜from immemorable times™, they had
˜acknowledged only one God, whom they name the monarch of heaven™.
Webb also detected traces of the Christian ethic within Confucianism.¦“
The type of comparative religion practised by Webb was a staple of
English theological method during the Restoration era, heavily in-
Xuenced by the researches of the Huguenot pastor Samuel Bochart, who
discerned remembrances of Noah in various classical myths.¦” Bochart™s
Geographiae sacrae (1646) was lauded by one of its author™s foremost
English disciples, Theophilus Gale (1628“78), as ˜a book worth its weight
in purest gold™. » StillingXeet, who aimed to show ˜what footsteps there
are of the truth of scripture-history amidst all the corruptions of heathen
mythology™, argued that the story of Noah ˜disguised under other names™
“ such as Saturn, Prometheus and Janus “ could be found in various
non-Christian civilisations. For example, he found the twin aspects of the
Roman god Janus an easy clue to decipher: this was ˜not so Wt an emblem
of anything as of Noah™s seeing those two ages before and after the
Flood™. ¦ Following a similar approach, Simon Patrick (1625“1707),
Bishop of Ely, was but one among several scholars who identiWed Ham as
both the Jupiter of classical paganism and the Hammon of ancient Egyp-
tian religion.   The Cambridge Platonists defended orthodoxy by way of a
diVerent measure of ˜comparison™ between religions. As well as tracing
the diVusion of the ancient patriarchal theology, they argued that man™s
¦“ John Webb, An historical essay endeavoring a probability that the language of the Empire of
China is the primitive language (London, 1669), pp. 31“2, 43, 86“9, 92. See also Universal
history, I, p. 116; Ductor historicus: or, a short system of universal history (London, 1698),
p. 292. For a more sceptical approach to the problem of reconciling Chinese antiquity
with sacred chronology, see John Beaumont, Gleanings of antiquities (London, 1724), pp.
2, 45“8. ¦” P. Burke, Vico (Oxford, 1985), p. 44.
 » Theophilus Gale, The court of the Gentiles (2 vols., Oxford, 1669“70), I, ˜Advertisements
to the reader™.  ¦ StillingXeet, Origines sacrae, pp. 593, 598.
   Simon Patrick, A commentary upon the Wrst book of Moses, called Genesis (London, 1695).
See also Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia epidemica, bk 8, ch. 5 (Works, II, pp. 497“8), who
had claimed that the myth of Jupiter cutting oV the genitals of his father Saturn was a
corrupted memory derived of how Ham had beheld the nakedness of his father Noah in
his cups. For Ham as Jupiter Ammon, see also Robert Clayton (1695“1758), Bishop of
Clogher, A journal from Grand Cairo to Mount Sinai (London, 1753), pp. 72“3. Clayton
was a heteredox Trinitarian (see J. C. D. Clark, English society 1688“1832 (Cambridge,
1985), pp. 287“8; B. W. Young, Religion and Enlightenment in eighteenth-century England
(Oxford, 1998), p. 39); but, like Isaac Newton, he combined this with an orthodox view
of the Mosaic past. Gale, Court of the Gentiles, I, pp. 187“9, also identiWed Neptune as
Japhet and Pluto as Shem. Ductor historicus, p. 292, argued that ˜several nations look upon
Noah as their head and founder™, describing Saturn and his sons Jupiter, Neptune and
Pluto in classical mythology as a remembrance of Noah, and his progeny Shem, Ham and
Japhet. See also Bedford, Animadversions, pp. 98“102.
42 Theological contexts

God-given faculty of reason inclined him towards the core tenets of
Christian belief. Ralph Cudworth (1617“88), for example, argued that
monotheism and Trinitarianism were part of the common sense of man-
kind. Of course, such doctrines had been disguised beneath the particular
cladding of various heathen cultures; however, the proliferation of poly-
theism was more apparent than real: within pagan theologies there tended
to be one supreme sovereign god from whom all minor deities and
demons were generated or created. À
In the age of Enlightenment the ethnic origins of nations would remain
an important rampart of the citadel of Christian orthodoxy. The broad
construction put upon the Toleration of 1689 and the lapsing of the
Licensing Act in 1695 let slip new forces of anticlerical raillery against the
errors propagated by self-interested priestcraft. Ã Heterodox deviation
from the mainstream of revealed Christianity ranged from deeply felt and
scripturally based unease at the Athanasian formulation of the Trinity to
outright abandonment of revealed Christianity and its replacement with
forms of natural religion and deism. However, the very methods deployed
by radical critics of Christian revelation and ecclesiastical authority were
appropriated from those used by Christian apologists to explain away the
history of the gentile world and the diversity of pagan religions, with an
original natural religion substituted for the Judaeo-Christian Ur-religion.
Traditional accounts of paganism as corruptions of an original patriarchal
monotheism were turned upside-down by the heterodox, who argued
instead that all religions, including Christianity, were superstitious and
priest-ridden corruptions of a primitive natural religion. In this way
ethnic theology inadvertently ignited one of the brightest Wres of the


 À Ralph Cudworth, The true intellectual system of the universe (1678: 3 vols., London, 1845),
I, pp. 412“36, 453“63, 470“82, 509“10, 518, 523, 593“9, 600“1; R. Popkin, ˜The crisis
of polytheism and the answers of Vossius, Cudworth and Newton™, in J. Force and
Popkin (eds.), Essays on the context, nature and inXuence of Isaac Newton™s theology (Dor-
drecht, 1990), pp. 13“15; P. Harrison, ˜Religion™ and the religions in the English Enlighten-
ment (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 31“4, 44“5, 131“5; A. Grafton, Defenders of the text
(Cambridge, MA, 1991), pp. 17“18. See also Thomas Hyde (1636“1703), Historia
religionis veterum Persarum (1700), which uncovered an inner core of monotheism within
the Wre worship and supposed dualism of the Zoroastrian tradition: see P. J. Marshall and
G. Williams, The great map of mankind: British perceptions of the world in the age of
Enlightenment (London, 1982), p. 102.
 Ã M. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution 1689“1720 (Hassocks, 1976), pp.
201“2; J. Israel, ˜William III and toleration™, in O. Grell, Israel and N. Tyacke (eds.),
From persecution to toleration: the Glorious Revolution and religion in England (Oxford,
1991), pp. 161“2; R. Lund, ˜Irony as subversion: Thomas Woolston and the crime of
wit™, in Lund (ed.), The margins of orthodoxy (Cambridge, 1995), p. 172; M. Goldie,
˜Priestcraft and the birth of whiggism™, in N. Phillipson and Q. Skinner (eds.), Political
discourse in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993).
Ethnic theology and British identities 43

deistic Enlightenment; • yet, on the other hand, Christian ethnology
remained one of the most common antidotes to the spread of philosophi-
cal irreligion.
Ethnic theology was not immediately displaced from the scholarly
mainstream by the early stirrings of the Enlightenment. There were still
clear limits to naturalistic explanation. ’ For example, John Locke, what-
ever his private views, did not refute the patriarchalist royalism of Sir
Robert Filmer (1588“1653) by pulling the scaVolding of Mosaic history
out from underneath the latter™s superstructure of political theory. In-
stead Locke accepted the Biblical Weld of combat, though he contested
Filmer™s use of equivocal Scripture proofs from Genesis, moved in the
direction of a critical hermeneutic and heterodox theology, and at-
tempted to turn discussion as far as possible on to the sort of anthropol-
ogical terrain associated with the Grotian tradition of natural jurispru-
dence. “ Nor did the rise of Newtonian science to an intellectual ascend-
ancy over the culture of early eighteenth-century Britain do anything to
undermine the discourse of ethnic theology.
The Newtonian project did not rest on naturalistic presuppositions,
but was deeply rooted in Biblical exegesis. The axis of scientiWc debate
was, in fact, theological. While Newtonians were deeply interested in
framing a concordance of Scripture, experiment and mathematics, their
opponents, the Hutchinsonians, adhered to an uncompromising He-
braism and a theology of divine analogies between the spiritual and the
natural world, as presented in the treatise Moses™s principia (1724) by John
Hutchinson (1674“1737). “ Isaac Newton (1642“1727) was himself
deeply absorbed in theology, and his theological speculations ran to well
over a million words. Given that the truths of God™s book of nature
 • R. Popkin, ˜The deist challenge™, in Grell et al., From persecution to toleration; J. Cham-
pion, The pillars of priestcraft shaken (Cambridge, 1992); J. Redwood, Reason, ridicule and
religion (London, 1976); F. E. Manuel, The changing of the gods (Hanover, NH, and
London, 1983).
 ’ For an over-optimistic account of the rise of naturalistic thinking, see C. J. Sommerville,
The secularization of early modern England (Oxford, 1992).
 “ Robert Filmer, Patriarcha and other writings (ed. J. P. Sommerville, Cambridge, 1991),
esp. ch. 1, sect. 5, pp. 7“8, on the dispersal of nations after the Flood; John Locke, Two
treatises of government (ed. P. Laslett, Cambridge, 1960), First treatise, esp. pp. 260“8, on
the dispersal and the confusion of tongues; J. Marshall, John Locke: resistance, religion and
responsibility (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 114“16, 145“6. See also Algernon Sidney, Dis-
courses concerning government (ed. T. West, Indianapolis, 1990), pp. 5, 24“46. For the
continuing force into the eighteenth century of a patriarchalism connected to the Genesis
account of the origins of mankind, see Clark, English society, p. 223; R. Hole, Pulpits,
politics and public order in England 1760“1832 (Cambridge, 1989), p. 61.
 “ A. Kuhn, ˜Glory or gravity: Hutchinson vs. Newton™, JHI 22 (1961), 303“22. For the
high church“tory associations of Hutchinsonianism, see L. Colley, In deWance of oligarchy:
the tory party 1714“1760 (Cambridge, 1982), p. 105. However, for a less political reading,
see Young, Religion and Enlightenment, pp. 136“51.
44 Theological contexts

complemented those found in Scripture, Newton did not separate
science and mathematics from his theological obsessions. Indeed, al-
though Newton™s unconventional achievements in theology reXected the
originality of his genius, his religious beliefs remained Wrmly grounded in
Scripture. Ironically, it was his very immersion in Biblical hermeneutics “
rather than any of his scientiWc pursuits “ which were to lead Newton
astray from Anglican orthodoxy. An irenicist and latitudinarian concern
to scrape away the layers of metaphysical corruption which had accreted
to the basic truths of the Christian tradition during the fourth and Wfth
centuries lured Newton into the radical heterodoxy of Arian Christology,
a politically dangerous deviation which he prudently conWned to his
unpublished writings. Nevertheless, while rejecting the Athanasian doc-
trine of the Trinity, Newton did not reject Scripture, deity or a divine
Christ; rather he emphasised the sovereignty of Almighty God, the ˜pan-
tocrator™. Nor did his heterodoxy pose a direct threat to Mosaic history;
indeed Newton located the few plain fundamentals of uncorrupted belief
in the ˜religion of Noah™, and in his manuscript treatise Theologiae gentilis
origines philosophicae he traced the origins of idolatry to the Egyptian
deiWcation of Noah and his progeny. Other parts of Newton™s theology
seem more like a hangover from the early Reformed obsession with the
apocalyptic; his interest in universal chronology, for example, was part of
a project to interpret the deeper signiWcances encoded within the pro-
phetic books of the Bible, not least as they related to the history of the real
Beast, the Athanasian Trinity. A staunch opponent of Catholicism, more-
over, Newton came to associate the rise of popery with the institutional-
isation of the Athanasian abomination. Stripped of its Trinitarian obsess-
ions, Newton™s religion appears more traditional, especially in the sphere
of ethnic theology where it was heavily indebted to Bochart. ”
Newtonianism involved an undoubted, but extremely circumscribed,

 ” F. Manuel, The religion of Isaac Newton (Oxford, 1974), esp. pp. 3, 39, 84“6, 92“4;
Manuel, Isaac Newton, historian; R. Westfall, Never at rest: a biography of Isaac Newton
(Cambridge, 1980), pp. 311“30, 344“5, 350“61, 812“15; A. R. Hall, Isaac Newton,
adventurer in thought (1992: Cambridge, 1996), pp. 237“42, 339“43, 370“4; Popkin,
˜Crisis of polytheism™, pp. 11, 20“1; S. Mandelbrote, ˜˜˜A duty of the greatest moment™™:
Isaac Newton and the writing of biblical criticism™, British Journal of the History of Science
26 (1993), 281“302; Mandelbrote, ˜Isaac Newton and Thomas Burnet: Biblical criticism
and the crisis of late seventeenth-century England™, in J. Force and R. Popkin (eds.), The
books of nature and scripture (Dordrecht, 1994), esp. pp. 158, 173 n. 45; D. Kubrin,
˜Newton and the cyclical cosmos: providence and the mechanical philosophy™, JHI 28
(1967), 325“46; J. H. Brooke, Science and religion: some historical perspectives (Cambridge,
1991), pp. 144“51. See Isaac Newton, ˜General scholium™, Newton, ˜An early theologi-
cal manuscript™, c. 1672“5, Newton, ˜A short schem of the true religion™, Newton,
˜Introduction to a treatise on Revelation™, and R. Westfall, ˜Newton and Christianity™, all
in I. B. Cohen and R. Westfall (eds.), Newton: texts, backgrounds, commentaries (New
York, 1995), pp. 340, 342“56, 366“9.
Ethnic theology and British identities 45

radicalism. William Whiston (1667“1752), a protege of Newton, whose
´´
heterodox ideas on the Trinity were to have him ejected from the
Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge, nevertheless outlined a
hermeneutic scheme which qualiWed an unsophisticated literalism but
did not deviate widely from it: ˜The obvious or literal sense of scripture is
the true and real one, where no evident reason can be given to the

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