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Instructing the Heavenly King: Joseph Edkins’s Mission to Correct the Theology of Hong Xiuquan

Kilcourse, Carl (2019) Instructing the Heavenly King: Joseph Edkins’s Mission to Correct the Theology of Hong Xiuquan. Journal of Ecclesiastical History. ISSN 0022-0469

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Abstract

This paper examines Joseph Edkins’ failed attempt to correct the theology of Hong Xiuquan during his trip to Nanjing in March and April 1861. Through his debates with individual rebels and his written exchange with Hong, Edkins learned that the Taipings were unwilling to accept ‘orthodox’ teachings and scriptural interpretations that conflicted with their established belief system. Challenging exclusionary and pathologising discourses, the paper shows that Hong’s response to Edkins’ efforts was rooted not in his ‘irrational’ modes of thinking, but in his desire to preserve both his revelation-based worldview and the personal authority that it legitimised.

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