If you look at the back of almost any serious work on Jonathan Edwards, there is good chance that there is an endorsement given by Dr. Ken Minkema. Not only has Dr. Minkema written voluminously on Edwards himself, (including editing Vol. 14 of Edwards Works, Sermons and Discourses 1723-1729) but he also has a great knack for inspiring other Edwards scholars along the way. Dr. Minkema is executive director of the Jonathan Edwards Center and assistant adjunct professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School. He edits the Yale University journal and Works of Jonathan Edwards and has written or edited a number of books and articles on Edwards and other Puritans. Today, EdwardsStudies.com speaks with him about the forthcoming JE Encyclopedia project.
ES: Dr. Minkema, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to EdwardsStudies.com today. And if I may, let me also thank you on behalf of all of our readers for the many and varied ways that you and Dr. Neele (as well as your other colleagues) have expanded our field. Much respect to you both.
So tell us about the new Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia project you have going on now. This sounds big.
KM: This has been a project that has been several years in envisioning and in the making. The new reference tools on Edwards that have come out in the last decade or more––Lesser’s Reading Edwards, a revised edition of Johnson’s Printed Writings, and most recently McClymond & McDermott’s Theology of Edwards, among other things––convinced the staff at the Jonathan Edwards Center (JEC) that it is time for an encyclopedia on Edwards to round things out. It is to serve as a go-to source for quick information on a given idea, writing, person, place, or event in Edwards’s life, along with a few sources with which a reader can follow up to further explore.
ES: Who is bringing this to publication?
KM: It is being published by Eerdmans Publishing in Grand Rapids. They have been very receptive of the idea, and have been very patient as they wait for the finished product. I think they know that these sorts of projects can take much more time than originally (perhaps overly optimistically) thought.
ES: Do you have any idea when this project will be available for readers to purchase?
KM: Well, a couple of years ago would have been nice, but we are hoping to submit the manuscript by summer 2016.
ES: Will it also be available online at the Yale Center’s site, or will it be print only?
KM: The goal is to have it in print first, followed by an online version, perhaps available by subscription or pay-per-view. That has to be worked out with Eerdmans yet. One advantage of going online with it is that we can revise and add to it.
ES: Give us an idea of how many contributors you have writing for you, as well as some of their backgrounds.
KM: We have over a hundred contributors from many walks of life, from many countries: scholars, teachers, pastors, students, retirees, bus drivers, doctors, janitors, IT personnel, you name it; there are lot of Edwards enthusiasts out there, and the response from them has been remarkable. We are very appreciative of the interest they have shown. This is very much a collaborative effort, and reflects the wonderful fellowship around Edwards. What we did was to include an online environment on our website (edwards.yale.edu) where contributors can sign up, submit their essays, receive revisions, and make final submissions. It’s a variation of community sourcing that has worked really well for us.
ES: What are some of the subjects and entries that will be covered. I know there are many, but give us just a flavor.
KM: I’ll give you the entries under “A”: Adoption (doctrine of), Aesthetics, Affections, Agency, Aging, Allegory, America, Ames (William), Angels, Anti-Catholicism, Antichrist, Antinomianism, Apocalypse, Apostasy, Appetite, Ark of the Covenant, Armageddon, Arminianism, Art, Assembly of Divines, Assurance, Atheism, Atoms, Atonement, and Awakening.
ES: It sounds like a huge editing project for someone! Who gets that pleasure to sort through all the contributions?
KM: That would be and my colleague Adriaan Neele, under the supervision of the general editor, Harry Stout. As you say, it’s huge, perhaps larger than we could have known, but it has been worth it.
ES: What do you hope this project will achieve? In other words, what impact do you hope this project will have?
KM: We would like it to serve as a quick reference tool, but also to deepen knowledge of and engagement with Edwards’s life. There are a lot of supposed “facts” that circulate that are actually inaccurate or are wrongly applied to Edwards, to members of his family, or to people he knew.
ES: Before we let you go, do you have any other recommendations or new projects that our readers could get excited about?
KM: Another community sourcing project we have is our Global Sermon Editing Project, which provides volunteers (after some training) to edit sermons by Edwards from transcripts provided by the JEC. We are always looking for new folks, so we encourage them to go to the website and sign up. Through this initiative, volunteer editors can produce (and get attribution for) an edition of a sermon by Edwards that has in all likelihood has not been read since the eighteenth century. We are also sponsoring a new monograph series, “New Directions in Jonathan Edwards Studies,” published by Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht. This series gives young scholars in particular an opportunity to get innovative work on Edwards and related topics into print. Finally, Dr. Neele and I teach a course each June at Yale Divinity School focused on a particular theme in Edwards. This year is “Edwards and the Bible.” The course is open to the public (summerstudy.yale.edu), and we would love to have folks join the conversation.