Encapsulating the themes of his 1996 book, God's Chinese Son , Jonathan Spence, in this Edmondson Historical Lecture, interprets the social and political milieu of mid-nineteenth-century China that gave rise to the apocalyptic Taiping Rebellion. Here, Spence traces the events surrounding the life of Hong Xiuquan, the self-styled heavenly king who had learned through his encounter with Christian religious texts that he was not only a religious leader, but also "the younger brother of Jesus." Hong's rise to power in southern China eventually led to his military seizure of one of China's largest cities, Nanjing, where he established his heavenly capital on earth for eleven years. Included in this study is the author's analysis of Hong's intellectual development. Spence gives special attention to Hong's introduction to Christian texts and his eventual use of Christian scripture to interpret his role as "God's Chinese Son." Spence poignantly articulates how Hong interpreted Scripture not only to maintain his spiritual and political leadership over his followers but also to anticipate the apocalyptic conclusion to his earthly kingdom.