You are here

Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States

TitleBible Culture and Authority in the Early United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsJackson, Kent P.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsHoly Bible; United States History
In his introduction to Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States, author Seth Perry of Princeton University writes of “a shared set of symbols, types, behaviors, and vocabulary” that derive from or were influenced by the King James Bible (2). The book discusses the interaction of this shared set with early American society, asserting that the Bible and biblical language were resources that individuals in the nineteenth century used to create legitimacy—that is, authority in their relationships with others. Scripturalization is the term Perry employs to describe how people, language, rhetoric, and other aspects of society obtained this authority by drawing from the stories and texts of the Bible. 
That the Bible played a major role in the early history of the United States is well known. Margaret Hills documented over fourteen hundred editions of the Bible that were printed in the United States between 1776 and 1850, the vast majority of which were Protestant editions. Perry sees the proliferation of Bibles not only as a reflection of America’s unique culture but also, rightly, as a contributor to that culture.