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Originally published in 1995 by University of Georgia Press. Electronic edition copyright © 2009 Reiner Smolinski. Used by permission.


No other American Puritan has fueled both the popular and academic imagination as has Cotton Mather (1663-1728). Colonial America's foremost theologian and historian, Mather was also one of its most powerful voices advocating millennialism. His lifelong preoccupation with this subject culminated in his definitive treatise, "Triparadisus" (1726/1727), left unpublished at his death. In it, Mather justified his ideological revisionism; his response to the philological, historical, and scientific challenges of the Bible as text by English and continental deists; and his hermeneutical break from the orthodox exegeses of his father, Increase Mather, and Joseph Mede. In his critical introduction to this edition of "Triparadisus", Reiner Smolinski demonstrates that Mather's hermeneutical defense of revealed religion seeks to negotiate between the orthodox literalist position of his New England forebears and the new philological challenges to the scriptures by Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac de La Peyrere, Benedict de Spinoza, Richard Simon, Henry Hammond, Thomas Burnet, William Whiston, Anthony Collins, and Isaac Newton. In "Triparadisus" Mather's hermeneutics undergoes a radical shift from a futurist interpretation of the prophecies to a preterite position as he joins the quasi-allegorical camp of Grotius, Hammond, John Lightfoot, and Richard Baxter. The Threefold Paradise of Cotton Mather also challenges a number of longstanding paradigms in the scholarship on American Puritanism, history, literature, and culture. Smolinski specifically calls into question the consensus among intellectual historians who have traced the Puritan origin of the American self to the Errand into the Wildernessand the idea of God's elect. He also challenges the commonplace argument that New England represented the culmination of prophetic history in an American New Jerusalem for the Mathers and their counterparts. As an important link between Mather's premillennialism in the late seventeenth century and Jonathan Edwards's postmillennialism in the Great Awakening, "Triparadisus" provides important biographical insight into Mather's last years, when, liberated from his father's interpretations, he put forward his own.

Acknowledgments xi
List of Illustrations xiii
Abbreviations of Cotton Mather's Works xv

I. The Authority of the Bible and Cotton Mather's "Triparadisus: A Discourse Concerning the Threefold Paradise" 3
2. The "New" Hermeneutics and the Jewish Nation in Cotton Mather's Eschatology 21
3. The Bang or the Whimper? The Grand Revolution and the New World to Come 38
4. When Shall These Things Be? Cotton Mather's Chronometry of the Prophecies 60
5. Note on theText 79

The First PARADISE 93
The Second PARADISE 112
The Third PARADISE 153
An Introduction 153
I. The Present Earth, perishing in a CONFLAGRATION 155
II. Plain Praedictions of the CONFLAGRATION, in other Passages of the SACRED SCRIPTURES, besides the Petrine Prophecy 159
III. What may be called, A Digression, [But is none] offering, A Golden Key to open the Sacred Prophecies 162
IV. The Sibylline Oracles, concerning the CONFLAGRATION 194
V. Traditions of the CONFLAGRATION, with All Nations, in All Ages 199
VI. SIGNS of the CONFLAGRATION coming on 202
VII. The CONFLAGRATION described 219
VIII. The CONFLAGRATION, How Reasonably to be look'd for 231
IX. The NEW HEAVENS opened 244
X. The NEW EARTH survey'd 268
XI. A National Conversion of the Iews; Whether to be look'd for 295
XII. WHEN shall these Things be! WHEN the Grand REVOLUTION to be look'd for? 319

Notes 349
Appendix A: Manuscript Cancellations and Interpolations 425
Appendix B: Editorial Emendations 467
Appendix C: Biblical Citations and Allusions 469
Selected Bibliography 479
Index 505

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