In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Jonathan Edwards

  • Introduction
  • Primary Texts
  • Anthologies
  • Companions and Introductions
  • Biographies
  • Missiology
  • Ethics and Aesthetics
  • Literary-Cultural
  • Legacies
  • Material Culture
  • Online Resources

American Literature Jonathan Edwards
Kenneth P. Minkema
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0053


Jonathan Edwards (b. 1703–d. 1758) was a pastor, educator, missionary, theologian, and philosopher, born in East Windsor, Connecticut, who ministered in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards oversaw two periods of “awakening,” or widespread religious concern, and became known internationally as a supporter and observer of the revivals. It was in 1741, during the series of revivals known as the “Great Awakening,” that he preached the sermon for which he has earned fame, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He produced a number of important analyses of the movement, including Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival (1743), A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746), and An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer (1747), as well as The Life of David Brainerd (1749), a life of the zealous young missionary who died of tuberculosis in Edwards’s home. Despite his fame, he and his congregation were increasingly alienated, and he was dismissed in 1750 over a disagreement concerning the qualifications for church admission. From there he assumed the post as missionary to the Mahicans (or Mohicans) and Mohawks at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he also wrote the treatises that secured his reputation as one of the most significant philosophical theologians of his time, Freedom on Will (1754), The End for Which God Created the World and The Nature of True Virtue (completed 1753–1754, published 1765), and Original Sin (1758). Edwards is considered the most original and influential Protestant theologian to come from America, as well as one of its most important figures in the history of religion, and his legacy around the globe is profound. Even so, his slave-owning, his defense of slavery as a biblically ordained institution, and his part in the dispossession of Native Americans are causing reappraisals. The titles listed in this article provide an entrée into the vast literature on Edwards, especially the more recent literature. Titles are grouped under headings, though readers should be aware that many works address different topics and disciplines.

Primary Texts

Collected editions of Edwards’s writings were first published in the early nineteenth century, such as Dwight 1829–1830. These editions, though flawed, still appear in reprints and in some online versions. The mid-twentieth century saw the founding of a modern scholarly edition, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Miller, et al. 1957–2008), which became WJE Online at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

  • Dwight, Sereno, ed. The Works of President Edwards. 10 vols. New York: G & C & H Carvell, 1829–1830.

    A ten-volume edition compiled by Edwards’s great-grandson, headed by a one-volume “Memoir” containing an important biography supplemented by representations from Edwards’s correspondence and early writings.

  • Miller, Perry, John E. Smith, and Harry S. Stout, eds. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. 26 vols. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957–2008.

    The critical edition of Edwards’s writings, prepared from the original editions, or autographs, that contains his printed writings plus selections from his large manuscript corpus.

  • WJE Online. New Haven, CT: Yale University.

    WJE Online is a comprehensive archive of Edwards’s printed and manuscript writings, along with correspondence to him, writings about him, and items by members of his family. It includes digitized versions of the twenty-six volumes of the Yale edition plus transcripts totaling nearly fifty more volumes. The project is run by the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

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