Biblical Republicanism: John Cotton's 'Moses His Judicials' and American Hebraism

Shira Wolosky

Abstract: In 1636 John Cotton was asked to write basic laws for Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Abstract of the Laws of New England he submitted was a compilation of texts from Hebrew Scripture interspersed with customs and practices drawn from English history and Puritan religious norms, with Scripture used as both source and justification. An accomplished Hebraist, Cotton included marginalia commenting on Hebrew terms and their translation. The result is an extraordinary document that importantly ties Hebrew Scripture to Early American democratic and civic culture. Hebrew Scripture in Puritan interpretation emerges as a core resource for republican practices and civic norms in the evolving American polity.

Biography: Shira Wolosky completed her B.A. summa cum laude at Brown University (1975) and her M.A. (1978) and Ph.D. with distinction at Princeton University (1981). She was appointed Assistant Professor of English at Yale University 1980, and promoted to Associate Professor in 1985. In 1987 she was appointed Senior Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and promoted to Full Professor in 1998. She is the receiver of various fellowships and was the Drue Heinz Visiting Professor at the Rothermere Institute for American Studies, Oxford University, in 2008. Wolosky has authored numerous publications including: Emily Dickinson: A Voice of War (1984); Language Mysticism: The Negative Way of Language in Eliot, Beckett and Celan (1995); The Art of Poetry (2001); "Poetry and Public Discourse (1820-1910)," The Cambridge History of American Literature Vol. IV (2004); "Defending Identity with Natan Sharansky," NY: Public Affairs, (2008), and other articles on a variety of literary, religious, and historical topics.

Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 2009) pp. 104–127