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8 From “Tav” to the Cross John Donne’s Protestant Exegesis and Polemics chanita goodblatt I am not all here, I am here now preaching upon this text, and I am at home in my Library considering whether S. Gregory, or S. Hierome,1 have said best of this text, before. Donne, Sermons 3:110 The parts are, first, the Literall, the Historicall sense of the words; And then an emergent, a collaterall, an occasionall sense of them. The explication of the wordes, and the Application, Quid tunc, Quid nunc, How the words were spoken then, How they may be applied now, will be our two parts. Donne, Sermons 4:181 hese quotations, taken from two of Donne’s sermons on the Hebrew Bible,2 distinctly evoke this Protestant preacher’s method of biblical exegesis. The vivid depiction of Donne’s scholarly searching for—and weighing of—revered interpretations of a biblical text is the concern of the first passage, with a particular emphasis on the early church fathers. The second passage directly declares his partaking of the Reformation’s preoccupation with the literal or historical sense of the biblical text as a basis for a more contemporary, even figurative application of its significance (B. Hall 76–78). Taken in tandem, these quotations define the features of Donne’s biblical hermeneutics, moving (though not necessarily in equivalence) between Catholic and Protestant and between the literal and the figurative. 221 T The particular parameters of Donne’s biblical hermeneutics remain, however, somewhat vague. Critical attention to this matter has occupied several seminal essays that focused on Donne’s use of scholarly sources and traditions (Allen; Potter and Simpson 10:295–401) as well as on his deft balancing of the literal, historical exposition of the biblical text with the more medieval meanings of tropological (moral), anagogical (spiritual), and allegorical variants (Mueller 89–92; Quinn; Schleiner 185–200). It is, however, Evelyn M. Simpson’s comment, made on Donne’s series of six sermons on Psalm 6 (originally published as nos. 50–55 in LXXX Sermons of 1640),3 which provides an apt key to understanding Donne’s exegetical strategy. In her editions of both Donne’s Essays in Divinity (xx–xxi) and his sermons (5:26–30), Simpson demonstrates that sermons 50–53 “contain passages which strongly resemble parts of the Essays in Divinity, written by Donne at some time before his ordination in 1615” (5:26). More than serving to give these sermons an early date of composition,4 this resemblance is important—as Dennis Quinn has demonstrated (1962)—in establishing Donne’s use of biblical commentaries. For as the (oftentimes) flamboyantly erudite, “sometimes meditative, sometimes homiletic” Essays in Divinity (M. Hall 425) are recast in Donne’s sermons,5 they provide the scholarly addenda to the no less erudite but more admonitive and hortatory demands of the later, public genre. In other words, the text and marginal notes in the Essays in Divinity indicate Donne’s exegetical sources, which are often missing or less accurately recorded in the Sermons. What is more, this attention to Donne’s scholarly references will naturally remind an astute reader, as Don Cameron Allen has demonstrated (213), that the text and marginal notes of the Geneva Bible can also indicate the exegetical sources of Donne’s sermons, for they are distinctly echoed in many of Donne’s biblical readings. First published in 1560 by Protestant exiles from the Catholic Queen Mary’s persecutions, the Geneva Bible contains three distinct types of marginal notes: those that provide a “Protestant, Calvinist, anti-Catholic” interpretation of the biblical text (Hammond 94), and which were accordingly suppressed by royal agreement in the King James Bible of 1611 (Anderson 368–72); those that provide alternate possibilities of translations for problematic Hebrew terms; and those that provide narrative and thematic links to other parts of the Bible. Together, these varied scholia open up a window onto the fascinating way in which Donne integrates various exegetical sources and traditions. Drawing encouragement from Jeanne Shami’s more recent and pivotal recommendation that “more work needs to be done on the complex 222 · Chanita Goodblatt exegetical strategies” used in Donne’s sermons (15), the present essay therefore seeks to update and elaborate upon the terms of this critical discourse . Three major points distinguish this effort. First, that the discussion of Donne’s study of the Hebrew Bible must include an investigation into the complex Jewish exegetical tradition as well as into...


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