Pilgrim's (Scientific) Progress: Natural History, Vision, and Sacred Geography in Palestine

by Henry Grey Gorman

Institution: Vanderbilt University
Department: History
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: American Board for the Commission of Foreign Missions; Eschatology; Orientalism; Natural Science; Anthropology; Archaeology; Measurement; Pilgrimage; Travel Writing; ABCFM; Palestine
Record ID: 2061305
Full text PDF: http://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-04062015-022734/


In this thesis, I discuss the ways that three American Protestants incorporated scientific instruments and scientific language into accounts of their pilgrimages to Palestine. I argue that incorporating science into their writings about this spiritually overdetermined place offered them three major religious benefits. First, the use of science reconciled an important conflict between official Protestant theology and popular Protestant practice by making pilgrimage to the Holy Land an act of Biblical interpretation. Second, it gave these sacred travel writers a precise way of communicating their pilgrimage experiences to readers, thus offering a virtual pilgrimage to American readers who could not afford a steamship vacation in the Eastern Mediterranean and enhancing their own credibility. Finally, it gave these writers a way to protect themselves from threatening associations with the spiritual Others who shared the physical space of Palestine and Syria with them. Then, I argue that their use of scientific thinking changed the place of these lands in their readers' cosmologies and eschatologies.