Summary – Henry Cadbury: The Anti-War Biblical Scholar Who Warned Against Modernizing Jesus

Henry Cadbury (1883 – 1974) was a Quaker Biblical scholar. He was an outspoken critic of the anti-German propaganda being pushed by the US media during World War I and was also critical of Woodrow Wilson’s passing of the Selective Service Act, which would draft members of religious organizations who opposed violence into non-combat roles in the military. His critique of the war propaganda cost him his teaching position and Haverford University. He would go on to write in 1937 the incredible book The Peril of Modernizing Jesus, in which he argued that interpreters of Jesus often impose modern categories and concepts upon his thinking. This process of modernization obscures the understanding of who he was as a historical figure and is often a thinly veiled attempt to use Jesus to legitimate our own theological, social, and political biases. We look specifically at Cadbury’s explanation of the appropriation of Jesus to defend modern social and political programs as well as why Jesus couldn’t have been a libertarian, a conservative, or a progressive because those categories didn’t exist in the ancient world. Henry Cadbury is a Biblical scholar who is both worthy of respect and whose work is still deeply relevant.

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