John Wesley Hanson

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John Wesley Hanson (1823–1901) was an American Universalist minister and a notable Universalist historian advancing the claim that Universalism was the belief of early Christianity.[1] He was born at Boston.

He is also notable for his eyewitness accounts of his time as chaplain to one of the Unattached Companies Massachusetts Volunteer Militia during the American Civil War and for publishing his own New Testament "Hanson's edited New Testament" (1885), which was a revision of the English Revised Version with "baptism" changed for "immersion" and other changes.

His sister was Harriet Hanson Robinson (1825–1911) wife of William Stevens Robinson (1818–1876), social reformers in Malden, Massachusetts.[2]

In 1845 he arrived in Wentworth, New Hampshire as Universalist minister. In the 1860s he was chaplain to the Sixth regiment of Massachusetts volunteers. In the 1870s he went as a Universalist missionary to Britain, becoming the pastor of St. Paul's Universalist Church, Glasgow, Scotland.[3] He then became minister of the Universalist New Covenant Church of Chicago, where he worked on his New Testament.[4][5]

He is best known for his history arguing that universalism dominated early church thought before Augustine; Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church (1899)[6] which followed Universalist Hosea Ballou's Ancient History of Universalism. (1828)[7] His view of early church history was carried on by George T. Knight. Hanson is cited as a primary source in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1908–14) articles on Universalism. Hanson and Knight's reading of church history has been challenged,[8][9] but recent studies confirm many of Hanson's claims.[10]


  • Witnesses to the Truth: Containing Passages From Distinguished Authors, Developing the Great Truth of Universal Salvation: With an Appendix, Exhibiting the Enormity of the Doctrine of Endless Misery, 1854.
  • Historical sketch of the old Sixth regiment of Massachusetts volunteers during its three campaigns in 1861, 1862, 1863, and 1864. by John W. Hanson, Chaplain. Boston, Lee and Shepard, 1866.
  • Christian Chorals: A Hymn and Tune Book for the Congregation and the Home. 4th Edition, 1870.
  • The Greek Word Aion--Aionios, Translated Everlasting--Eternal, in the Holy Bible Shown to Denote Limited Duration. 1875.
  • Bible Proofs of Universal Salvation, 1877.
  • The Bible Hell: The Words Rendered Hell in the Bible, Sheol, Hadees, Tartarus, & Gehenna, Shown to Denote a State of Temporal Duration. All the Texts containing the Word Examined and Explained in Harmony with the Doctrine of Universal Salvation, 1878.
  • A Brief Debate on Universal Salvation and Endless Punishment Between John Wesley Hanson. D.D., And Rev. John Hogarth Lozier, 1879.
  • Aiōn-Aiōnios: an excursus on the Greek word rendered everlasting, eternal, etc., in the Holy Bible, 1880.
  • A Cloud of Witnesses Containing Selections from the Writings of Poets and Other Literary and Celebrated Persons, Expressive of the Universal Triumph of Good Over Evil, 1880. [This appears to be a later edition of Witnesses to the Truth.]
  • The Prayer of Prayers: Twelve Discourses On the Lord's Prayer, 1882.
  • The New Covenant: Volume II.--Acts, the Epistles, Revelation, 1886.
  • Bible Proofs of Universal Salvation; Containing the Principal Passages of Scripture that Teach the Final Holiness and Happiness of All Mankind, 6th Edition, 1885.
  • Voices of the Faith A Birthday Book Containing a Selection for Every Day in the Year from Writers Expressing the Universalist Faith, 3rd Edition, 1887.
  • A Pocket Cyclopedia: Brief Explanations of Religious Terms As Understood by Universalists, 1892.
  • Manna: A Book of Daily Worship, Containing Brief Scripture Lessons and Prayers for Individual and Family Use, For Every Day in the Year, 1892.
  • Bible Threatenings Explained; Or, Passages of Scripture Sometimes Quoted to Prove Endless Punishment Shown to Teach Consequences of Limited Duration, 7th Edition, 1893.
  • The World's Congress of Religions The Addresses and Papers Delivered Before the Parliament, and An Abstract of the Congresses Held in the Art Institute, 1894. [Hanson was the editor of this work.]
  • The Life and Works of the World's Greatest Evangelist Dwight L. Moody: A Complete and Authentic Review of the Marvelous Career of the Most Remarkable Religious General in History, 1900.



  1. ^ Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography
  2. ^ Claudia L. Bushman "A good poor man's wife": being a chronicle of Harriet Hanson 1998 p236 citing letter John Wesley Hanson to Harriet Jane Hanson, 3 May 1845
  3. ^ Minutes of the Universalist General Convention 1880 "The Trustees of St. Paul's Universalist Church, Glasgow, Scotland, assembled in Special Session, do hereby appoint their late Pastor, the Rev. JW Hanson, DD, an Honorary Delegate to the General Convention of the Universalist Church of an Honorary Delegate to the General Convention of the Universalist Church of the United States of America, the said Body to convene in New York, NY, October 19, 1887. The Trustees are well aware of the fact that they can claim no legal representation in said Body, being debarred from fellowship by the circumstance that their Church exists in a foreign land, and is subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign government. But remembering that a Moral Fellowship was once granted it, they venture to hope that said Body will accept the Rev. JW Hanson, DD, as the Representative of this Church, which owes its existence to the foreign Missionary Enterprise of the American Universalist Church, — and permit the Rev. JW Hanson, DD, to exercise those privileges which can be claimed by an Honorary Delegate. "
  4. ^ Paris Marion Simms The Bible in America 1936 p394 "JW HANSON'S NEW TESTAMENT - Rev. John Wesley Hanson, DD was a Universalist minister, being the pastor of the New Covenant Church of Chicago in ... appearing in 1883, and the second containing the remainder of the New Testament in 1885. ..
  5. ^ May 14, 1885, in Malden by the Rev. John Wesley Hanson, DD, the bride's uncle, who had come from Chicago to
  6. ^ Kenneth D. Boa, Robert M. Bowman Jr. Sense and Nonsense about Heaven and Hell "For an attempt to prove that universalism dominated early church thought before Augustine, see J. W. Hanson, Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church during Its First Five HundredYears (Boston: Universalist, 1899)
  7. ^ Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church (1899) "This important fact in the history of Christian eschatology was first brought out prominently in a volume, very valuable, and for its time very thorough: Hosea Ballou's Ancient History of Universalism, (, 1842, 1872)
  8. ^ Richard Bauckham Universalism a historical survey.
  9. ^ Russell E. Miller The Larger Hope: The second century of the Universalist Church in ...: vol.2 - 1985 766 The Committee on Publications of the General Convention considered the advisability of reprinting some older theological works, including those of JW Hanson, a prolific writer who had died in 1901. The commission decided in the negative "because Biblical scholarship has made so many advances since the date of these books that they are practically obsolete."
  10. ^ Ilaria Ramelli: The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis (Brill 2013)