From the JEC Blog

Archive for March, 2018

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America

Paul C. Gutjahr, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Gutjahr_OUP_Bible in AmericaThe Oxford Handbook series is a goldmine of state-of-the-art reflection on a wide array of themes studied by scholars, which will soon include a volume on the life and thought of Edwards co-edited by Oliver Crisp, Jan Stievermann, and myself.

Paul Gutjahr is the Ruth N. Halls Professor of English at Indiana University and a specialist in the history of sacred texts in America.

And Gutjahr’s Oxford Handbook treats a wide range of topics that will interest Edwards scholars. Those of special interest to readers of this blog are tackled in chapters five and six, written by Robert E. Brown and Jan Stievermann. Brown covers “The Bible in the Seventeenth Century,” laying out the background to Edwards’ exegesis. Stievermann summarizes “Biblical Interpretation in Eighteenth-Century America,” discussing Edwards in two sections—on “The Enlightenment Bible” and “The Evangelical Bible”—and reinforcing the claim made by several recent scholars (including Stievermann himself and his student, Ryan Hoselton) that Edwards’ exegesis “stands out for its theological originality and philosophical sophistication” (p. 101).

The rest of this volume treats what Gutjahr depicts “as a . . . centuries-long interpretative rope of biblical examination. Like any rope,” he writes, “this one is made of individual cords that are woven together.” The six cords he features in the book’s introduction are 1) “textual interpretation” of the Bible in America, 2) “works concerning biblical translation,” 3) “bibliographic and textual work on the Bible,” 4) “historical work on the Bible,” 5) “cultural examinations of the Bible,” and 6) “reception studies of the Bible” (pp. xix-xxx).

Many thanks to Gutjahr and company for this fascinating handbook on the study of the Bible and the power of such study in shaping United States history and religion.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

Paul C. Gutjahr

Part I: Bible Production

1. Protestant English-Language Bible Publishing and Translation
Paul C. Gutjahr

2. American Children’s Bibles
Russell W. Dalton

3. Native American Bible Translations
Linford D. Fisher

4. Bible Bindings and Formats
Seth Perry

Part II: Biblical Interpretation and Usage

5. Seventeenth-Century Biblical Interpretation
Robert E. Brown

6. Eighteenth-Century Biblical Interpretation
Jan Stievermann

7. Nineteenth-Century Biblical Interpretation
Mark Noll

8. Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Biblical Interpretation
Daniel J. Treier and Craig Hefner

9. The Bible in the Electronic Age
John B. Weaver

10. The Bible and Feminist Interpretation
Claudia Setzer

11. The Bible and American LGBT Interpretation
Teresa J. Hornsby

12. The Bible and African American Culture
Abraham Smith

13. The Bible and Creationism
Susan L. Trollinger and William Vance Trollinger, Jr.

14. The King James Only Movement
Jason A. Hentschel

15. The Bible and the Sermonic Tradition
Dawn Coleman

Part III: The Bible in American History and Culture

16. The Bible and American Education
Suzanne Rosenblith and Patrick Womac

17. The Bible in American Law
Daniel L. Dreisbach

18. The Bible in American Politics
Daniel A. Morris

19. The Bible and Slavery
Emerson Powery

20. The Bible and Sports
Jeffrey Scholes

21. The Bible and the Military
Ed Waggoner

22. The Bible and the Founding of the Nation
Eran Shalev

23. The Bible in the Civil War
Paul Harvey

24. The Bible and the Religious Right
Rebecca Barrett-Fox

25. The Bible and Environmentalism
Calvin B. DeWitt

Part IV: The Bible and the Arts

26. The Bible and Art
Kristin Schwain

27. English Cinema and tThe Bible and Cinema
William D. Romanowski

28. The Bible and Literature
Shira Wolosky

29. The Bible and Graphic Novels and Comic Books
Andrew T. Coates

30. The Bible and Music
Jason C. Bivins

31. Performing the Bible
James S. Bielo

Part V: The Bible and Religious Traditions

32. The Bible and Judaism
Jonathan D. Sarna

33. The Bible and Catholicism
Donald Senior

34. The Bible and Orthodox Christians
A. G. Roeber

35. The Bible and the Mainline Denominations
Elesha Coffman

36. The Bible and Evangelicalism
John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

37. The Bible and Fundamentalism
Randall J. Stephens

38. The Bible and Pentecostalism
Michael J. McClymond

39. The Bible and Mormonism
David Holland

40. The Bible and Seventh-Day Adventists
Nicholas Miller

41. The Bible and Jehovah’s Witnesses
Michael J. Gilmour

42. The Bible and Christian Scientists
Michael W. Hamilton


Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism

Bruce Hindmarsh, The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

HindmarshThis lovely new book on evangelical spirituality treats Edwards among his cohort of early evangelical leaders in the middle third of the eighteenth century. Penned by the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, it interprets evangelicalism “as a distinctive form of traditional Christian spirituality that emerged in the eighteenth century highly responsive to the conditions of the modern world” (p. 276).

What were those conditions? “Modernity, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution” as these developed side-by-side with the so-called Great Awakening in and through the fields of natural science, ethics, the arts, and, of course, religion as well (p. 270).

And what was the spirit of evangelicalism, on Hindmarsh’s account? His subjects said the Holy Spirit. They yearned deeply to experience what one of their favorite Scottish writers, Henry Scougal, liked to call “the life of God in the soul of man.” But put more generally and historically, the “spirit” of eighteenth-century evangelical religion was its subjects’ “aspiration to know the immediate presence of God” in a modernizing, naturalizing European culture “that was sharply separating nature (including human nature) and spirit” (p. 268).

The author deals with Edwards’ life and thought in several different ways, but mainly through Edwards’ stories of the work of the Holy Spirit in New England’s Great Awakening, his engagement with Newtonian thought, and his evangelical ethics (on pp. 57-68, 127-35, 226-33, respectively). Along the way, Hindmarsh paints him as an emblem of his movement, whose “entire intellectual project could, at one level, be described as an account of divine intimacy,” or the presence of the Spirit in the life and soul—indeed, in the universe–of man. In every sphere of his activity, Hindmarsh explains, “Edwards pushed against the tendency to view God as the remote, impersonal cause of things natural” (p. 132).

This assessment is spot on, and highly recommended.