Educational Biblical Nationalism and the Project of the Modern Secular State

Mette Buchardt


Biblical Criticism, the historical study of Biblical texts, spread across the European
universities during the late 19th century, the same period when the European states
modernized, and identifying state and nation became a political project. The new
scientific view on the Bible became in this political reform context a topic of public
debate: Should the national education systems under construction implement
the modern scientific understanding of the Bible, should school keep teaching the
Catechism, or should religious instruction be separated from the school of the nation
in order to become a ‘school for all’?
Whereas the academic hotbeds of Biblical Criticism were not least the Germanspeaking
universities and academic institutions in France, the popularization of
Biblical Criticism through education proved more successful in the Nordic states than
in e.g. Prussia and France. The article explores the gradual success of Biblical Criticism
education reform efforts in the case of Denmark from the late 19th to mid-20th century
in relation to the development of the state from an absolutist kingdom to a nation
state with constitutional monarchy and parliamentarism, and discusses on this basis
the relation between religion, secularization and educational nation-state crafting.
Keywords: Biblical Criticism; Christian modernism; education reform; meso-level
actors; nation-state crafting.

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