Humanist biblical criticism in the seventeenth century contributed significantly to the erosion of religious claims to truth. By studying the historical transmission of the Bible text, luminaries like Joseph Scaliger, Hugo Grotius, Benedictus Spinoza and Isaac Vossius sowed seeds of doubt and often aroused vehement opposition.
In this conference, a focused selection of papers on the exegetical works of biblical scholars will lay out the effect of religious debate on the concepts of tolerance and repression in the Dutch Republic. The publication of Spinoza’s works, in particular, accelerated this process, which continued well into the eighteenth century (and beyond).
The theme of the conference is fundamental to our understanding of the Dutch Golden Age, an era in which more and more believers began to doubt the traditional articles of faith, up to the point of outright disbelief. This development came about in a few decades: around the middle of the century the discussion was still limited to doctrinal issues within the framework of the traditional antagonism between established confessions, but after 1680 it was belief itself that came to be questioned. In some Dutch cities like Utrecht and Amsterdam this led to extremely fierce controversies, with lasting consequences for ecclesiastical and community life.
The theme of the conference highlights an important phase in Dutch history, while paying due attention to the international ramifications of the exegetical debates. Moreover, the topicality of the theme is poignant. After religion seemed to have disappeared from public debate, the status of Holy Writ has now been drawn into the centre of attention again as a result of the current controversy over Islam. The contemporary debate between creationists and modernists (or fundamentalists) might be seen as an accurate reiteration of the fierce controversies that the groundbreaking research of those seventeenth-century exegetes aroused.
As part of the conference a public event will take place on Friday evening 31 August in Amsterdam at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Anthony Grafton and Jonathan Israel will present public lectures on Spinoza’s critique of God’s word, and a book on Isaac Vossius will be presented.
Venue: Academiegebouw, Domplein 29, 3512 JE Utrecht,
Subscription: € 10,- per day. Please register by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org