Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§75 Mary Cornwallis
(1758–1836)

Mary Cornwallis, wife of the rector of an Anglican Parish in Wittersham, Kent, authored a four-volume commentary on the entire Bible.8 Her commentary included quotations and paraphrases of others' work, as well as her own reflections on the text. She included comments on Lot's wife and his daughters in her remarks on Genesis 19.

Cornwallis, included the New Testament's positive assessment of Lot as a righteous man as an interpretive issue in Genesis 19. However, she wrestled deeply with the issue of the apparent disconnect between the portrayal of Lot in the Genesis stories and his designation as "righteous" in 2 Peter 2:6. Cornwallis cautiously raised the issue of the reason Lot's wife turned back. Cornwallis admitted that it was conjecture to determine why Lot's wife disobeyed, but reasoned that her action must have been motivated by a serious "wrong affection of the heart" because she was "so signally punished and made a monument of disobedience and ingratitude to succeeding ages." Cornwallis cited a deutero-canonical wisdom saying for evidence that Lot's wife was an example of unbelief.9

Cornwallis set out her theology of scripture, stressing its importance for teaching, using Jesus' reference to Lot's wife combined with 2 Timothy

8 For a fuller biography of Mary Cornwallis, see part 5, "Leah and Rachel—Founders of
the House of Israel."

9 Wisdom of Solomon 10:7. "Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually
smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as
a monument to an unbelieving soul." A long-standing interpretive tradition stood behind
Cornwallis's understanding of Lot's wife's motives, though she does not cite any further refer-
ences. For example, I Clement 11:3 suggests that Lot's wife "being of a different mind from
himself and not continuing in agreement with him" was punished "that all might know that
those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on
themselves and become a sign to all succeeding generations."

-402-

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