The Bible and American Culture : A Sourcebook book cover
1st Edition

The Bible and American Culture
A Sourcebook

ISBN 9780415578110
Published June 29, 2011 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

From political speeches to pop songs, the biblical presence in American culture is hard to ignore. This sourcebook gathers and contextualizes a remarkable series of primary texts to illuminate the varied uses of the Bible in American life. Topics covered include the publication and distribution of the Bible, the use of the Bible in debates over slavery, homosexuality, feminism and civil rights, and biblical sources in works of art, music, poetry and fiction. The book provides a clear understanding of the centrality and influence of the Bible from the period of the first European settlers to the present day. It is invaluable for students taking courses on religion and American culture, and on the history of religion in the United States.

Table of Contents


The Place of the Bible in the Paradox of America

Biblical Archetypes and the Idea of ‘America’

How the Bible is Interpreted

What is the Bible?

Criteria for Selection

Overview of the Chapters




Production and Distribution


The Book among books?

John Eliot’s Brief Narrative

Charter of College of William and Mary

Jonathan Edwards, ‘A Divine and Supernatural Light’

Continental Congress Authorizes Bible Printing

The Jefferson Bible

The American Bible Society

Liberal Responses to Calvinism

The Student Volunteer Movement

Isaac Leeser and the Translation of Hebrew Scripture

Francis Kenrick’s Translation of the Pentateuch

The Jewish Publication Society

Dei Verbum

The New American Bible

The Gullah Bible

The Green Bible




Settlement and God’s Providence

The First Charter of Virginia

John Winthrop, ‘A Model of Christian Charity’

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

Dissent Among the Dissenters: The Bible and the Challenges of Colonial Governance

The Examination of Anne Hutchinson at the Court at Newton

The Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials

Cotton Mather, from Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions

Samuel Parris, ‘Christ Knows How Many Devils There Are’

John Hale, ‘A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft’

Quaker Pennsylvania and ‘The Keithian Schism’

Founding the Republic

Prayer Before the First Continental Congress

The Prayer of Rev. Duché Before the Continental Congress

The Call to War, the Challenge of Peace

Patrick Henry’s Call for Revolution

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Nation’s Pastor

Congress Declares the Bible ‘the Word of God’

Public Display of Religion

Abington v. Schempp

The Ten Commandments in the Alabama Courthouse

Legal Responses

Sporting Events and Religious Expression

Verses in Eye Black



Slavery and Abolitionism: Pro-Slavery Arguments

The Sin of Ham

Slavery and the New Testament

Slave Owners’ Publications

A Slave Catechism

After Emancipation

Slavery and Abolitionism: Anti-Slavery Arguments

The Barnes Hypothesis

Theodore Dwight Weld

The Spirit of the Scriptures

Biblical Typology

Experiences of African Americans

Resistance and Revolt in Charleston

Frederick Douglass

Women’s Public Role and the Vote

Sarah Grimké

Sojourner Truth

Preaching the Bible and Women’s Equality

Anna Julia Cooper

Women and Social Reform

The Woman’s Bible

Anti-Suffrage Arguments and Scripture

Horace Bushnell

James Cardinal Gibbons

Debating the Bible’s Authority: The Higher Criticism Controversy

William Newton Clarke

Inspiration: The ‘Princeton Doctrine’

The Briggs Case

Debating the Bible’s Authority: The Modernist/Fundamentalist Showdown

The Fundamentals

Curtis Lee Laws

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Debating the Bible’s Authority: Evolution and Creationism

T. DeWitt Talmage

Henry Ward Beecher

John Zahm

William Jennings Bryan

The Scopes Trial

Reforming Society

The Social Gospel

The City as Menace

Labor Unions


The Women’s Christian Temperance Union

The Struggle for Civil Rights

Anticipating the Movement

Support for Segregation

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Black Liberation Theology

Inclusion of Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transexual Persons

Paul’s Statements in Romans 1

Another Interpretation of Romans 1



Identity and Textual Interpretation

Jarena Lee

The Bible as Patriarchal

African American Women’s Experience

The Text Interprets Itself

The Prophetic Corrective

A ‘Hermeneutics of Suspicion’

A Gay Theology of Liberation

The Bible as Intimate Friend

Experience and the Authority of Spirit

The Holiness Movement

The Azusa Street Revival

Letter from Bro. Parham

Speaking in Tongues

Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Imagining Babylon and Thy Kingdom Come

The Shakers

‘I, Nephi,…’: The Book of Mormon

William Miller

Ellen G. White on ‘The Book of Books’

Charles Taze Russell, ‘Earth’s Night of Sin to Terminate in a Morning of Joy’

Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science

Elijah Muhammad, ‘What is Islam? What is a Muslim?’

Jim Jones, ‘The Letter Killeth’

Message from the Apostle

David Koresh and the Seven Seals




Edward Hicks, Peacable Kingdom

Harriet Powers’ Bible Quilt

Edmonia Lewis

Bessie Harvey

Tobi Kahn


Phillis Wheatley

Emily Dickinson

Robert Lowell

Samuel Menashe

Musical Lyric

‘There is a Balm in Gilead’

‘My Mother’s Bible’

‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’


Lauryn Hill, ‘Forgive Them Father’

The Novel

Herman Melville, selection from Moby Dick

James Baldwin, selection from Go Tell It on the Mountain

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Claudia Setzer is Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, USA

David Shefferman is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, USA


"No book in American history has had a greater historical or cultural impact than the Bible. Yet not until Setzer and Shefferman’s splendid anthology has the Bible’s wide influence been sampled in a handy, one-volume collection. This reader is a treasure for all who seek a deeper understanding of the American religious experience."– Peter J. Thuesen, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA


"The interplay between biblical text and American religiosity is on full display in this valuable collection of primary sources. Setzer and Shefferman have put together a diverse and thoughtful range of sources that demonstrate the unique place of the Bible in American culture from the days of the Puritans to the modern and post-modern worlds of biblical interpretation. This is precisely the kind of sourcebook that will well serve both students of the Bible and students of American religion and culture. Highly recommended." – Jeffrey S. Siker, Loyola Marymount University, USA

"There are documents here to satisfy both the traditionalists and those who want to teach their American religion courses in a more diverse way. I will definitely return to this book over and over again." – John Fea, The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"That the Bible has exercised enormous influence in American history and culture is beyond dispute. The excellent collection of materials included in the anthology entitled The Bible and American Culture (Routledge), edited by Claudia Setzer and David A. Shefferman […] documents that fact very nicely. Their fine anthology both informs and entertains." – Daniel J. Harrington, America

"It should be used as a sourcebook rather than read cover-to-cover, but – and this is barely an exaggeration – it should be shared with all Americans, of all ages, who are involved in searching for particular biblical references, Jewish and Christian, that appear in American life and culture."Conservative Judaism