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SSHRC awards study on modernity and the Bible

By Janet Harron

Religious studies professor Kim Ian Parker has received a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for his latest research project which investigates how the development of historical-critical approaches to the Bible in the late seventeenth century contributed to the rise of modernity, primarily through an examination of John Locke’s published and unpublished works.

Following on the heels of his most recent book, The Biblical Politics of John Locke (2004), an investigation into Locke’s use of the Bible in The Two Treatises, Dr. Parker’s concern, in this project, is broader in scope. He wants to show that changing attitudes towards the Bible were a more significant influence than has been previously thought, not only for the way in which we read ancient text, but for modernity itself.

“The Bible was such a highly influential book at the time, yet the connecton between how early moderns like Locke, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Newton to some extent, not only changed the way in which we read the Bible, but also had a hand in the development of modernity itself, is fascinating. I thought it would be revealing to examine what function the Bible played in the development of modernity, most specifically, how Locke used the Bible to develop concepts like freedom, equality, toleration, freedom of the press, and so forth,” said Dr. Parker.

As Dr. Parker explains, “Locke is very modern in the sense that he wanted to understand the Bible by examining the various books within their historical context, but he also wanted to retain the Bible as a source of political inspiration. It is one of the few times when we can see where modernity and the Bible meet head-on.”

Dr. Parker’s three year Standard Research Grant will be used to visit various research libraries throughout Europe and North American, and to transcribe material from the Locke and Newton archives in Oxford and Cambridge.

For further information on SSHRC Days and the August research workshops please see