© 2019

Jesus in an Age of Enlightenment

Radical Gospels from Thomas Hobbes to Thomas Jefferson


Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World book series (CTAW)

Table of contents

About this book


This book explores the religious concerns of Enlightenment thinkers from Thomas Hobbes to Thomas Jefferson. Using an innovative method, the study illuminates the intellectual history of the age through interpretations of Jesus between c.1750 and c.1826. The book demonstrates the persistence of theology in modern philosophy and the projects of social reform and amelioration associated with the Enlightenment. At the core of many of these projects was a robust moral-theological realism, sometimes manifest in a natural law ethic, but always associated with Jesus and a commitment to the sovereign goodness of God. This ethical orientation in Enlightenment discourse is found in a range of different metaphysical and political identities (dualist and monist; progressive and radical) which intersect with earlier ‘heretical’ tendencies in Christian thought (Arianism, Pelagianism, and Marcionism). This intellectual matrix helped to produce the discourses of irenic toleration which are a legacy of the Enlightenment at its best.  


Thomas Hobbes Thomas Jefferson Enlightenment thinkers moral-theological realism natural law ethic Arianism Pelagianism Marcionism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of Critical StudiesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

About the authors

Jonathan C P Birch teaches in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow, UK. He is an intellectual historian who specialises in biblical interpretation and Western philosophy.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Jesus in an Age of Enlightenment
  • Book Subtitle Radical Gospels from Thomas Hobbes to Thomas Jefferson
  • Authors Jonathan C. P. Birch
  • Series Title Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World
  • Series Abbreviated Title Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-51275-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-70264-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-51276-5
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIX, 493
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Cultural History
    Christian Theology
    History of Religion
    Intellectual Studies
    Political Philosophy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Birch’s invaluable, rigorous, and engaging book does much to further—it will be of vital interest to historians, theologians, and religious studies scholars of all levels, seeking to engage honestly with the complex, pluralistic nature of our collective intellectual history.” (Jonathan Greenaway, Literature and Theology, February 7, 2021)