Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700

Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith, and Rachel Willie, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

9780199686971This massive volume (roughly 800 pages in length) is a goldmine for those of us studying the history of the Bible, or exegesis, in Edwards’ early-modern world.

It never mentions Edwards himself. Nor does it pay much attention to people living in New England. Nevertheless, it offers a wealth of information on the British sources of Edwards’ work with Scripture.

It contains 40 chapters organized in 6 parts, written by many of the leading scholars working in the field. (See the table of contents below.) Most of the authors seem to agree with the assertion of their editors: “the Bible was the most important book in early modern England,” indeed it was “the pivot of thought and learning, to which knowledge of all sorts might be directed, and which contained inexhaustible conceptual and intellectual, as well as spiritual, riches” (p. 1).

“The animating purpose of this book,” continue the editors, “is to trace the knotty practical and intellectual concerns of Bible translation and scholarship, the forms and contexts in which the Bible was seen, heard, and read, its varied uses in political thought and action, and its shaping presence in the literature of the English Renaissance” (p. 2). The contributors succeed in tracing these histories superbly.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

List of Illustrations
Note to the Reader

“Introduction: All other bookes … are but Notes upon this’: The Early Modern Bible,” Kevin Killeen and Helen Smith

Part I: Translations
Part One Introduction

  1. “A day after doomsday’: Cranmer and the Bible Translations of the 1530s,” Susan Wabuda
  2. “Genevan Legacies: The Making of the English Geneva Bible,” Femke Molekamp
  3. “‘A comely gate to so rich and glorious a citie’: The Paratextual Architecture of the Rheims New Testament and the King James Bible,” Katrin Ettenhuber
  4. “The King James Bible and Biblical Images of Desolation,” Karen L. Edwards
  5. “The Roman Inkhorn: Religious Resistance to Latinism in Early Modern England,” Jamie H. Ferguson
  6. “Retranslating the Bible in the English Revolution,” Nigel Smith

Part II: Scholarship
Part Two Introduction

  1. “The Septuagint and the Transformation of Biblical Scholarship in England, from the King James Bible (1611) to the London Polyglot (1657),” Nicholas Hardy
  2. “The Apocrypha in Early Modern England,” Ariel Hessayon
  3. “Isaiah 63 and the Literal Senses of Scripture,” Debora Shuger
  4. “The ‘sundrie waies of Wisdom’: Richard Hooker on the Authority of Scripture and Reason,” Torrance Kirby
  5. “‘The doors shall fly open’: Chronology and Biblical Interpretation in England, c. 1630-c. 1730,” Scott Mandelbrote
  6. “Early Modern geographia sacra in the Context of Early Modern Scholarship,” Zur Shalev
  7. “Milton’s Corrupt Bible,” Neil Forsyth
  8. “The Commodification of Scripture, 1640-1660: Politics, Ecclesiology and the Cultures of Print,” Crawford Gribben
  9. “Self-Defeating Scholarship? Antiscripturism and Anglican Apologetics from Hooker to the Latitudinarians,” Nicholas McDowell

Part III: Spreading the Word
Part Three Introduction

  1. “The Church of England and the English Bible, 1559-1640,” Lori Anne Ferrell
  2. “‘Hearing’ and ‘Reading’: Disseminating Bible Knowledge and Fostering Bible Understanding in Early Modern England,” Ian Green
  3. “‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God’: Dissonance and Psalmody,” Rachel Willie
  4. “Ornament and Repetition: Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern English Preaching,” Mary Morrissey
  5. “Preaching, Reading and Publishing the Word in Protestant Scotland,” Alasdair Raffe
  6. “The Bible in Early Modern Gaelic Ireland: Tradition, Collaboration and Alienation,” Marc Caball
  7. “‘Wilt thou not read me, Atheist?’: The Bible and Conversion,” Helen Smith

Part IV: The Political Bible
Part Four Introduction

  1. “Mover and Author: King James VI and I and the Political Use of the Bible,” Jane Rickard
  2. “‘A king like other nations’: Political Theory and the Hebrew Republic in the Early Modern Age,” Kim Ian Parker
  3. “Digging, Levelling and Ranting: The Bible and the Civil War Sects,” Andrew Bradstock
  4. “A Year in the Life of King Saul: 1643,” Anne Lake Prescott
  5. “‘That glory may dwell in our land’: The Bible, Britannia, and the Glorious Revolution,” Emma Major

Part V: The Bible and Literature
Part Five Introduction

  1. “The King James Bible in its Cultural Moment,” Helen Wilcox
  2. “The Noblest Composition in the Universe or Fit for the Flames? The Literary Style of the King James Bible,” Hannibal Hamlin
  3. “Epic, Meditation, or Sacred History? Women and Biblical Verse Paraphrase in Seventeenth-Century England,” Sarah Ross
  4. “Scripture and Tragedy in the Reformation,” Russ Leo
  5. “‘This verse marks that’: George Herbert’s The Temple and Scripture in Context,” Alison Knight
  6. “‘Blessed Joseph! I would thou hadst more fellows’: John Bunyan’s Joseph,” Nancy Rosenfeld
  7. “Paradise Lost, the Bible, and Biblical Epic,” Barbara K. Lewalski

Part VI: Reception Histories
Part Six Introduction

  1. “Donne’s Biblical Encounters,” Emma Rhatigan
  2. “Domestic Decoration and the Bible in the Early Modern Home,” Andrew Morrall
  3. “‘My exquisite copies for action’: John Saltmarsh and the Machiavellian Bible,” Kevin Killeen
  4. “Unbelief and the Bible,” Roger Pooley
  5. “Inwardness and English Bible Translations,” Erica Longfellow
  6. “Early Modern Davids: From Sin to Critique,” Yvonne Sherwood

Notes on Contributors

Highly recommended to anyone interested in the Bible in the early-modern world.