America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911

ISBN : 9780197623466

Mark A. Noll
848 Pages
156 x235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2022
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America's Book shows how the Bible decisively shaped American national history even as that history influenced the use of Scripture. It explores the rise of a strongly Protestant Bible civilization in the early United States that was then fractured by debates over slavery, contested by growing numbers of non-Protestant Americans (Catholics, Jews, agnostics), and torn apart by the Civil War. This first comprehensive history of the Bible in America explains why Tom Paine's anti-biblical tract The Age of Reason (1794) precipitated such dramatic effects, how innovations in printing by the American Bible Society created the nation's publishing industry, why Nat Turner's slave rebellion of 1831 and the bitter election of 1844 marked turning points in the nation's engagement with Scripture, and why Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were so eager to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Noll's magisterial work highlights not only the centrality of the Bible for the nation's most influential religious figures (Methodist Francis Asbury, Richard Allen of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Catholic Bishop Francis Kenrick, Jewish scholar Solomon Schechter, agnostic Robert Ingersoll), but also why it was important for presidents like Abraham Lincoln; notable American women like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frances Willard; dedicated campaigners for civil rights like Frederick Douglass and Francis Grimke; lesser-known figures like Black authors Maria Stewart and Harriet Jacobs; and a host of others of high estate and low. The book also illustrates how the more religiously plural period from Reconstruction to the early twentieth century saw Scripture become a much more fragmented, though still significant, force in American culture, particularly as a source of hope and moral authority for Americans on both sides of the battle over white supremacy-both for those hoping to fight it, and for others seeking to justify it.


Part I. Creating a Bible Civilization
1) The Bible after Independence and before Paine
2) The Paine Provocation
3) Custodial Protestants vs. Sectarian Protestants
4) Francis Asbury and the Methodists
Part II. A Protestant Bible Civilization
5) The Bible Civilization in American History
6) Naming, Writing, and Speaking in a Hebrew Republic
7) Publishing
8) Personal Religion
9) The African American Bible
Part III. Fractures
10) Slavery and the Bible before the Missouri Compromise
11) Slavery and the Bible, 1819-1833
12) Democracy
13) The Law and a Christian America
14) The Common School Exception
Part IV. The Eclipse of Sola Scriptura
15) 1844
16) Whose Bible? (Catholics)
17) Whose Bible? (Lutherans, Jews, Nay-sayers, Natives)
18) Whose Bible? (Women)
19) The War Before the War
20) Scriptural Arguments in Context
21) The Civil War
Part V. After the Bible Civilization
22) 1865-1875
23) The Centennial Divide: 1876 and After
24) Protestant Wounds of War
25) Protestant Realignments
26) Marginal No More (Jews and Catholics)
Part VI. Toward the Present
27) Still A Bible Nation
28) An Enduring Cultural Landmark
29) Civil Religion
30) Still Under a Bushel
Short Titles for Notes
General Index
Scripture Index
Index of Scriptural Persons and Events

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