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Palgrave Macmillan

The Erosion of Biblical Certainty

Battles over Authority and Interpretation in America

ISBN 9781137299659
Publication Date October 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Historians commonly agree that the understanding of the Bible as a supernatural text conveying both spiritual and historical truths came under devastating assaults from the natural sciences and German historical critics in the 1800s. According to this account, by the latter years of that century, the image of the Bible as a supernaturally inspired and infallible text eventually crumbled in the eyes of many intellectuals under the relentless opposition of secularizing forces. This book corrects this narrative by arguing that in America, the road to skepticism was unintentionally paved by the Scriptures' most able and ardent defenders. From the eighteenth to the first half of the nineteenth century, theologically conservative Americans defended the Bible from critical attacks. However, the Bible's defenders altered their conceptions of revelation to preserve their faith in light of changing standards of plausibility. In doing so, they gradually yet radically undermined their traditional understanding Holy Writ by denuding it of its supernatural nature. Thus, skeptics were not responsible for knocking the Bible off of its pedestal; the fault lies with the Scriptures' orthodox apologists.

Michael J. Lee is Assistant Professor at Eastern University, USA.

PART I. The Eighteenth Century: The Battle Against Skepticism and Rationalizing the Bible
Prologue: The European Background: Radical Critics and Rational Defenders of the Bible
1. American Puritans, Rationalism, and Revelation: Cotton Mather Naturalizes the Supernatural
2. Defending the Bible and Unintended Consequences: Jonathan Edwards and Jonathan Dickinson Battle the Deists
3. The Triumph of Rational Religion in America: Revealed and Natural Religion at Eighteenth-Century Harvard
PART II. The Early Nineteenth Century: German Biblical Critics and the Betrayal of History
4. Blindsided by Germany: Buckminster, Textual Criticism, and the End of the Textus Receptus in America in the Nineteenth Century
5. The Historical Bible: The Unitarians Grapple with the Bible's Past
Epilogue: The Orthodox Reconcile with the Past


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