chapter  5
15 Pages

The Poetics of Biblical Prophecy: Abiezer Coppe’s Late Converted Midrash

ByNoam Flinker

This chapter suggests that Abiezer Coppe's biblical rhetoric can be usefully understood in terms of the rabbinic reading practice known as midrash. Nicholas McDowell treats Coppe's rhetoric by focusing on the parody that he has detected beneath the surface of the discourse. He shows how much of what Coppe wrote anticipated the response of his academic cronies trained in the Latin Grammar of William Lily which can be described as the foundation text of the intellectual culture of early modern England. Coppe made use of Judaic materials in order to fashion and present his Ranter ideology that was a far cry from anything Jewish. Coppe's personal shifts in belief and practice from Presbyterian beginnings and Baptist preaching to Ranter ideologue and spokesman, to prison, to an ironic recanting of his previous beliefs, all make use of biblical references and imagery to articulate and develop his views.