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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Early modern sermons were exercises in literary interpretation ‘applied’ to the circumstances of their hearers. While preachers and handbooks prescribe approaches to this task, few offer much insight into their pitfalls, or the relative prestige of different interpretative approaches. Rich evidence, however, survives in the annual ‘rehearsal’ sermons preached at Paul’s Cross and in Oxford. Rehearsal sermons emphasize the need for repetition, but also the ability to ‘ornament’ scripture and expand the interpretative possibilities of the text. This chapter examines surviving rehearsal sermons to discover how preachers thought about the biblical texts that they re-presented to their hearers, and how they achieved the difficult combination of sound doctrine and effective communication. Treading an uneasy line between literal sense and figurative interpretation, preachers searched out ways to reveal new meanings to their hearers, prompting anxieties about the relationship between the charisma of preaching and the learning of the clergy.

Keywords: preaching, sermons, rehearsal sermons, Paul’s Cross, literal sense, allegory, biblical interpretation, Daniel Featley

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