Thursday, April 15, 2010

the expression of non-agreement...

I am writing today from the Boston Athenaeum where I just visited the bust of Andrews Norton, the "Unitarian Pope."  Norton was a truly gifted and fascinating personality who will get much more treatment in this space someday.  Right now, however, I am reading his successor as Professor of Biblical Literature at Harvard Divinity School, John Gorham Palfrey.  Norton was know as a brilliant scholar who could brook no opposition from his students (or anyone else for that matter.)  Palfrey, who was a Unitarian minister before becoming Dean at Harvard, later became an abolitionist congressmen and finally an historian.  His students included many of the great Boston Unitarians.  This reminiscence from Andrew Peabody contrasting AN and JGP...

"I was for two years his pupil in the criticism of the New Testament. The contrast between him and his predecessor was very great. ... Dr. Palfrey ... with hardly less fixedness of opinion, admitted his own fallibility, invited discussion, welcomed the expression of non-agreement, and even asked his students to prepare in writing, and read to the class, their reasons for differing from him."

Over the next few days, excerpts  from an interesting later work by JGP.


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