American Philosophy

New England Transcendentalists

What was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s
infamous “Divinity School Address”?

In 1838 Emerson was invited to give the graduation address at Harvard Divinity School. He said that while Jesus was a great man, he was not God. This enraged the Protestant community, who termed him an atheist and corrupter of young minds. He was not asked back to Harvard for 30 years. However, by the late-nineteenth century, the doctrine that Jesus was not God was routinely accepted by Unitarians. (Unitarians to this day reject the idea of the Trinity, which entails that Jesus was God, although they recognize him as an extraordinary human being, perhaps even supernatural.)


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