“Fire Enfolding Itself”: Jonathan Edwards, the Merkabah, and Reparative Reasoning

Abstract

This essay draws from the theory of “reparative reasoning” developed by Nicholas Adams and Peter Ochs to examine Jonathan Edwards’s interpretation of the Merkabah (Ezek. 1:4-28). Specifically, Edwards’s interpretation is an exercise in reparative reasoning, the shape of which will become clear when it is compared to Patristic, Medieval and Reformed interpretations.  Reparative reasoning, then, helps illustrate the distinctiveness of Edwards’s interpretation, but it also sheds light on the different connections made between texts, doctrinal understandings, and hermeneutical practices in the history of biblical interpretation. In addition to identifying the contributions Edwards makes as a biblical interpreter, reparative reasoning reveals limitations in his approach, which contemporary interpreters do well to recognize.

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