Review Of "The Sorrows Of The Quaker Jesus: James Nayler And The Puritan Crackdown On The Free Spirit" By L. Damrosch

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James Nayler (1646-60), a leader of early Quakers who rivaled George Fox in importance, lost the approbation of Friends after he rode into Bristol in 1656 surrounded by a few followers chanting "Holy, Holy" in clear imitation of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Parliament tried Nayler for blasphemy and sentenced him to be whipped, branded, and have a hole bored through his tongue--punishments seen by many MPs as more lenient than the death he deserved. Many scholars have discussed Nayler because of his story's drama and consequences for Quaker history, and Cromwell's policy of religious toleration. Damrosch (literature, Harvard) has written what will become the definitive account of this affair in a book that could also serve as a model of how to extract information from obscure texts. He shows how Nayler's interpretation of the presence of God within could result in his playing Christ as a sign for an apostate nation and why his women followers would call him Jesus. After his punishment, Nayler expressed regret for his actions and became reconciled to Friends, but he never repudiated his early understanding of an indwelling Christ and continued to insist that he had not committed blasphemy. Damrosch provides valuable new insights in understanding Nayler, his women supporters, Parliament, and Quakers. Appropriate for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, and a "must" purchase for graduate libraries emphasizing English history or religion.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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