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Evangel prof publishes research on 17th century poet

Published on Jan 31, 2020 by Paul K. Logsdon



SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A new scholarly book designed for use in advanced interdisciplinary studies of faith and learning has been published by Nathan H. Nelson (Ph.D.), professor of English and chair of the Humanities Department at Evangel University.

The highly specialized book of original research findings — George Herbert’s 82: Psalmic Social Disorientation in “The Temple” — deals with the writings of English author George Herbert (1593-1633).

“The collected poetry of this seventeenth-century Church of England pastor is still widely considered the richest body of Christian devotional poetry in the language,” said Professor Nelson, “and Herbert is still admired as one of the most brilliant metaphysical poets in English literary history.”

Herbert’s work has been closely studied by scholars, often for clues to his “take” on the religious issues of the turbulent period immediately preceding the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) and the establishment of the Puritan Commonwealth (1649-1660), according to Nelson.

“His ability to understand both sides of the religious/political divide before his early death at age 40 has been much admired,” Nelson added.

Dr. Nathan Nelson, professor of English // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

Academically categorized as a monograph, Nelson’s book is designed for those with grad-school levels of familiarity with Herbert and his work, poetic theory, classical rhetoric, and English political and religious history of the seventeenth century.

George Herbert’s 82: Psalmic Social Disorientation in “The Temple” is the third volume in the Evangel University series of scholarly publications called FRAMEWORKS: Interdisciplinary Studies for Faith and Learning. It is published under the Pickwick imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers in Eugene, Oregon.

Copies are available from the publisher and from

Dr. Nelson also authored The Dissidence of Suffering: Disaster Narratives and the Novelization of England’s Maritime Epic (1989) and Spiritual Devotion: Intimacy with God (1996/2000).


Nelson’s discoveries

The textbook tracks social-concern topics and categorizes psalmic allusions in Herbert’s collection called “The Temple.”

“Biblical scholars have long attempted to categorize the Hebrew psalms according to one overarching principle or another,” explained Nelson. “Most discussions of Herbert’s psalmic borrowings are restricted to explication of individual poems, often with reference to the poet’s own psychology, physical health, family, occupations, and sociocultural context.”

Nelson’s current study, however, adds another dimension to the dialogue by examining Herbert’s varying degrees of psalmic reference within categories established by biblical scholars.

  • With the help of biblical scholarship on the Psalms, Nelson provides statistical evidence that a 163-poem subset of the collection called “The Church” seems to emulate the topical ratios of the biblical collection of 150 psalms.
  • Nelson also makes a case that Herbert’s collection includes a poem that seems to be structurally, topically, and archetypally similar to Psalm 82, which is not one of the many psalms to which earlier Herbert scholars have found allusions.

Both arguments are fresh contributions to Herbert studies, which have been ongoing for over 300 years.

According to Walter Brueggemann of Columbia Theological Seminary, Nelson’s book “…is a forceful reminder of how rich is the poetic heritage of the biblical tradition that calls us to attend to the holy words from ancient voices.”


About Evangel University

Evangel University, which includes the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,300 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.




Paul W. Lewis (PhD) is the associate dean and professor of historical theology and intercultural studies at AGTS.

Martin Mittelstadt (PhD) is a professor of New Testament at Evangel and AGTS.


Link to purchase book: