America’s Iconic Book

America’s religious people, often opponents of formal icons, have made the Bible, as a physical object, an icon.

This was Marty’s address to the Society of Biblical Literature at the organization’s centennial meeting in 1980.

“We are all critics, I trust, and higher critics too.” Thus Professor Angus Crawford, without spelling out the details of who “we” were, rushed to judgment from the Theological Seminary of Virginia during a debate at the Episcopal Church Congress in 1896.{1}

The public, be it churchgoing or in the general culture, did not share those conclusions. Four years before Crawford spoke, during critic Charles A. Briggs’s heresy trial in New York, newspapers nationally covered the subject. Most of them pointed to the growing gap between the scholars and the public. One could choose from scores of sources, but this comment from the Savannah, Georgia, News is typical:

The great majority of Christians regard the Bible as the inspired work of God, and therefore, cannot contain errors. An admission that it does contain errors opens the door to doubts, and when doubts are once entertained, it is a difficult matter to place a limit upon them. Professor Briggs’s doctrines may be entirely satisfactory to those who clearly understood them, but it is about impossible to make them understood by the masses. To the average mind the whole Bible is true, or it is not the inspired work of God.{2}

Events during the first two decades of American biblical criticism before the turn of the century set the mold for controversy that has not ended at the end of a century of such scholarship. Crawford’s word, “we are all critics, I trust, and higher critics too,” is true of scholars at Jewish, Roman Catholic, nondenominational, mainline Protestant, secular graduate, and—their enemies would have it—some of the flagship evangelical schools. Wherever people in the humanities teach others how to analyze the historical, formal, and structural elements of texts and wherever there are no vested interests in fending off ecclesiastical resistance to the critical, the critical methods and outlooks prevail. Yet the Savannah News report could be written even today about much of the churchgoing outlook and, if polls are a measure, also about much of unchurched America. The public still connects criticism with the spotting of errors and the planting of doubts. A century of biblical criticism, however presented to the public it may be, has produced little difference.

Recent Gallup Polls—shall we call them centennial presents to the Society of Biblical Literature—find that 42 percent of the general public finds the whole Bible to be inerrant. We must presume that at least that many are therefore resistant to critical scholarship. Gallup found 48 percent of the self-named Protestants in his sample and 41 percent of the Roman Catholics to be on the anticritical side.{3} This side is powerful beyond its numbers because its leadership has effectively mobilized sentiment. Anticritical forces have been outspoken in intradenominational warfare and in the 1980s are being heard in public school board rooms, where battles in defense of biblical creationism are being waged as intensely as they were in 1925 at the time of the Scopes trial in Tennessee.

In this division between camps and the opposition to critical study something is going on that reaches beyond the merely cognitive, beyond the critical-analytic method. The resistance to critical understanding, I propose, has its root in what Suzanne Langer would say lies “much deeper than any conscious purpose, . . .in that substratum of the mind, the realm of fundamental ideas.”{4} Fundamental ideas which José Ortega y Gasset calls creencias, are ideas so deep that we do not even know we hold them. They are not the ideas that we “have” but the ideas that we “are.” And these creencias hook up with certain vigencias, binding customs of a culture, customs that have a hold much stronger than that which law itself can impose.{5} Anthropologist George Boas showed his at-homeness with such notions when he urged students to pursue the locations of profound ideas: “When an idea is adopted by a group and put into practice, as in a church or a state, its rate of change will be slow.”{6} An idea that the American churches and in some ways the society have adopted and put into practice is the uncritical acceptance of the Bible’s worth. Thus Perry Miller observed of the role of the Old Testament in historic American society: it was “so truly omnipresent in the American culture of 1800 or 1820 that historians have as much difficulty taking cognizance of it as of the air people breathed.”{7} It was Jacob Burckhardt, I believe, who said that the most important things in life do not get written about by historians simply because they are too close to people, too taken for granted. This may account for the absence of good histories dealing with American attitudes toward the Bible.

An example of the way anticritical attitudes were locked in to the mainline culture appears in an often quoted trio of sentences by a great American average mind and exemplar of its day-to-day and less than Lincolnesque civil religion, President Grover Cleveland: “The Bible is good enough for me, just the old book under which I was brought up. I do not want notes or criticisms or explanations about authorship or origin or even cross- references. I do not need them or understand them, and they confuse me.”{8} What is going on here is a reference to an aspect of the American consensus juris, the minimal basis of consensus on which civil life is ordered. Such a consensus may be truly minimal, as cynical observers sometimes suggest. British student of politics Bernard Crick thought that he had the American version filtered down to something as terse as the cri de coeur of Groucho Marx, “Take care of me. I am the only one I’ve got.”{9} But one does not need to spend much time regarding America from afar or near to see that this “nation with a soul of a church,” to use G. K. Chesterton’s phrase,{10} has more than the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution enshrined in a vault in its archival heart. The Bible also is there.

Nothing is supposed to be, say very sober historians. They find America seeing itself as an aniconic nation, one that lacks images or icons. In a brilliant epigraphic choice to illustrate the main theme of his book The Genius of American Politics, Daniel Boorstin, now the Librarian of Congress and thus keeper of the archive, compared the American aniconic intention to a scene in Heinrich Graetz’s History of the Jews: “Pompey then penetrated into the Sanctuary, in order to satisfy his curiosity as to the nature of the Judaean worship, about which the most contradictory reports prevailed. The Roman general was not a little astonished at finding within the sacred recesses of the Holy of Holies, neither an ass’s head nor, indeed, images of any sort.”{11} A refusal to fill our sanctuary with ideological images characterizes American life, say historians like Boorstin. Yet if they stayed around and took a little longer look in that shrine they would not find it empty. In the corner, under a layer of dust, there is a leather-bound, gilt-edged, India-papered object, a Bible, revered as object, as icon, not only in Protestant churches but in much of the public congregation as well.

Such an observation can be fighting words in a self-described aniconic culture or set of churches. Yet if we use our terms with conceptual propriety and great care and are willing to take some risks, this insight—if it holds up—can illumine the history of response to biblical criticism in America. It can help explain why so many found it possible to ignore or to resist the main line of biblical scholarship for a century.

Five risks come to mind at once. First, to use such a vivid image as “image” is to risk confusing instead of clarifying. A notable and notably difficult Catholic philosopher once made a distinction between types of abstractions that could apply here to types of images, metaphors, or similes. At a Catholic philosophers’ convention he was comparing notes with his peer. They were discussing how many of their reviewers commented on the level of abstraction with which they both operated. “Yes,” said the friend, “but there is a difference. I use enriching abstractions and you use impoverishing ones.” Some might say that they use clarifying images and I may be using a confusing one.

Second, the image employed may be inappropriate because it is too arcane. The icon, for example, is at home in an Eastern Orthodox Christian culture, where it congenially reposes among its connotations, but one may do violence by snatching it away from those connotations and resituating it on the more bare spiritual landscape of America.

At midpoint during our risk assessment we should mention that to some; the image of the icon is so obvious, so lacking in subtlety, that to use it adds nothing but banality. “My love is like a rose.” Of course, everyone knows my, love is like a rose—to me. Americans use the Bible, even as a physical object, as an icon. Of course . . .

A fourth risk has to do with emotional connotations. The image can be so vivid that it diverts from inquiry. In the 1950s an opponent of the World Council of Churches who made his living staging protests against it, found that he scored the strongest points when he pointed to one of its constituencies: “the bearded Orthodox icon-kissers.” Being bearded and kissing icons called to mind something so overpowering that it swept away all the more ordinary functions and images. Thus to say that America treats the Bible iconically will, in the minds of pure prophets, connote paganism and thus something bad. (Were this address an essay directed to the American Academy of Religion and not the Society of Biblical Literature, I would not have to apologize for mentioning paganism and would not dare mention it pejoratively. The historians of religion there would immediately score my implicit value judgment with a question, “What’s the matter with paganism?”) In the context of this risk I can only urge that we must also keep in mind ordinary functions of the Bible. Sometimes an image does carry people away. One thinks of a moment when the late philosopher Herbert Marcuse said something humorous; that was a noteworthy event, because he usually, figuratively, lumbered steatopygically across the stage in efforts at being humorous. But, once: “Yes, yes, I know that the jet airplane is a phallic symbol. But it can also get you from London to Brussels.” Yes, yes, I know that the Bible is an icon, but its contents can also be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested, and lived by.

A final risk is the notion of pars pro toto. One can concentrate on a subculture, Protestant conservatism, which guards the shrine and fights for the iconic object, without noticing that by 1980 the shrine itself is often neglected. Or if not neglected it is surrounded by other objects and symbols until it recedes from center stage, no longer informs, or is lost in a diffusion and confusion of symbols.

These risks notwithstanding, I believe there are values in using the image of the icon as an effort to lead beyond merely rational analysis to the root emotions of people in a culture. Only then can we assess the power situation, which has little to do with the content of ancient scriptures but much to do with the form of modern American life.

First we must establish the place of the Bible among the other fonts and sources of culture. The Bible is a book. The molecules that make it up constitute paper and ink. The ink is shaped in the form of letters whose agglomerations in the form of words, sentences, chapters sign something; they signify,they impart ideas, they at least potentially disclose meanings. Thus people gain access to other minds or learn something about their own. Since the meanings come from the past, they may study their history or analyze them structurally, with special interest in the cast of contemporary mind. So one would expect that the same Gallup Poll that showed Americans believing the Bible to be beyond criticism, without error, would also find it being used, and find it informing life.

Strangely, significantly fewer people who consider the Bible to be the errorless book of God consult it first when in trouble. Forty percent turn to it, 27 percent to the Holy Spirit, 11 percent to the church, and 22 percent to “Other.” So far, so good; the Bible outranks the other sources of wisdom or consolation. But, writes Walter A. Elwell in his comment on the disuse of the book, “It is apparently one thing to believe that the Bible is God’s word [as 72 percent of the polled public simply does] and quite another to read it.” The general public average daily readership is 12 percent, with the Protestant average being 18 percent and the Roman Catholic 4 percent. Who reads the Bible less than once a month? Fifty-two percent of the general public, 41 percent of Protestants, and 67 percent of Roman Catholics. As for knowledge of the content as opposed to claimed reading of the book, the figures are even lower. Asked to name the Ten Commandments, perhaps the most familiar part of both “testaments,” 45 percent of the public could come up with four or fewer; this public found 49 percent of the Protestants and 44 percent of the Catholics able to do so. Elwell adds: “Belief in God is not much affected by how often people read the Bible.”{12} The public resists critical analysis of its revered object, calls this object the Word of God. A minority claims to consult it first in trouble; yet few read it regularly and not many know its basic contents. This anomaly occasions an examination of the iconic hold this book exercises.

Let me draw on a frequent experience of Marxian scholars when they visit Marxist societies. They lecture on articulated and filiated aspects of Das Kapital. They assume that assenting communists, be they university students or peasants, would be conversant with many dimensions of the writings of Marx. They report on responses that range from incomprehension through bemusement to disdain. As one told a friend of mine, “You are not communicating well. You know too much Marx. You know where his ideas came from and how he put them together and how they relate and what they mean. We don’t need all that Hegelian metaphysical stuff. We only need the basic Marxian notion as a trigger to get our revolution going.” A proletarian or a peasant might not articulate it so well. What the people need is the awareness that somewhere there is an authority and perhaps an elite that regards it as, shall we say, inerrant? The society draws security from the knowledge that an enclosure or a support exists, one that transcends mundane and practical living.

So it is with the use of the Bible as an image in a society like that of pluralist America. In a brilliant passage on icon and image. Rosemary Gordon has written that “every man walks around in the world enveloped in a carapace of his own images. Their presence enables him to structure and to organize the multiplicity of the objects and the stimuli which throng him. . . .”{13} A zoological carapace is “a hard bony or chitinous outer covering, such as the fused dorsal plates of a turtle, or the portion of the exoskeleton covering the head and thorax of a crustacean.” But the dictionary goes on to refer to it as “any similar protective covering.” Here we are speaking of the protective covering, the sort of cocoon that individuals, subcultures, and in their own way societies need for the structuring of experience.

Far from using the iconic image disdainfully, then, I am trying to suggest that it has a value of great anthropological and psychic significance; without such carapaces people would likely go mad. Relate this to the observation of Talcott Parsons that “good fortune and suffering must always, to cultural man, be endowed with meaning. They cannot, except in limiting cases, be accepted as something that ‘just happens.’“{14} The Bible, in American history and in much of present-day culture, provided and provides as an object a basic element in the carapace of images, and its presumed contents, that for which one would consult it if one did consult it, remove the “just happening” dimension from human existence.

A reach beyond churchly into public culture demonstrates this kind of location for the Bible as icon. Benjamin Franklin, who in 1749 chartered and called for “the Necessity of a Publick Religion,” took pains to speak well of the Bible, whose contents he did not regard as supernatural at all but whose form he regularly printed and published. When asked to join John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on 4 July 1776 to prepare a great seal of the United States, this Franklin reached for biblical imagery (of Moses and the Red Sea), though the design was later compromised.{15}

Under the carapace of organizing images for the republic, the “founding father” of his country has a central place. So it is that George Washington is associated with the Bible, even though the most notable scholar of Washington’s religion says he made “astonishingly few references” to it in his many volumes of literary remains. While he accepted a gift of Bibles as “an important present to the brave fellows” in the military during the Revolution, only one letter in his corpus has a reference to his own reading of the book. There are few biblical allusions in his writings, and they are in settings as near to the jocular as Washington ever came. Yet Washington was a Freemason, and the Masons regarded the Bible as their key icon, even though they did not regard it as supernatural. Observers took pains to notice the precedent at the Washington inaugural, when the first president brought along his Masonic Bible; “the president kissed the Bible after taking the oath of office.” In 1789 he was thus an unbearded icon-kisser. Later presidents would upset the images under the carapace were they to neglect or despise the role of the Bible in their oath—even though the Constitution is silent on the subject.{16}

Thomas Jefferson did upset the images by taking the content of the Bible seriously. He appeared to be the great iconoclast among the fathers. Yet he read the book. We know of 271 religious titles in the Jeffersonian library. He collected editions of the Bible: two Greek Septuagints, ten Vulgates, ten Greek New Testaments, one French and six English versions, with four Apocrypha. “For a man with a reputation for being irreligious he had an amazing number,” writes an analyst of that library. And Jefferson was not a collector but a student. From 1804 to 1819 he pieced together his “wee-little book,” “The Jefferson Bible,” which began as a moonlighting project in the White House. There he pasted together the nonsupernatural elements of the Gospels, clipped from English, French, Latin, and Greek versions, into The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. For this he came to be thought of as an infidel, and his place in the American evangelical pantheon was less secure than was that of owners-but-not-readers like Washington, who probably had the same hermeneutical principles as Jefferson but did not put them to use.{17}

Abraham Lincoln, the center of American public faith and its greatest theologian, illustrates the positive role of the iconic use of the Bible. In the library at Fisk University there reposes a Bible given Lincoln on 4 July 1864 by the “Loyal Colored People” of Baltimore. Lincoln responded: “In regard to this Great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. . . . All the good Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. . . . To you I return my most sincere thanks for the elegant copy of the great Book of God which you present” [emphasis mine]. It was noted that Lincoln regularly read the Bible in the White House and that it was the old Lincoln family Bible, a version from the Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) dated 1799—such details always mattered. While Jefferson was a church member but an infidel for his iconoclasm, Lincoln was well received by the churches, though he is the only president ever who was not a church member. He had the right attitudes toward the Bible, whose cadences entered his very speech.

One could further survey the central figures who have sacerdotal roles a in the public religion and hence in guarding the sanctuary. We have already heard Grover Cleveland, the first president to be vocal after critical views of the Bible reached America. Years later another priestly president, the well-informed historian Woodrow Wilson, made iconic use of the Bible. John Mulder says of him that “Wilson showed no awareness of problems in the Bible or controversies surrounding interpretation of its passages.” The Bible was the standard for the culture, and it spoke to Wilson and the nation more in terms of law than of grace.{19} Wilson effectively mounted military crusades using biblical imagery.

One candidate for the presidency did more than any American scholar or cleric to harden public sentiment against biblical criticism. William Jennings Bryan was always a populist about religious knowledge. He spoke critically against the scholarly elite who wanted to make a different use of the arcanum. “A religion that didn’t appeal to any but college graduates would be over the head or under the feet of 99 per cent of our people.” Bryan, of course was not everyone’s chosen keeper of the sanctuary, and many in his time and ever since repudiated him or even saw his latter-day opposition to criticism to be a mark of senility. Yet Bryan gained a broad following, and showed both an iconic and an unreflective use of the Bible in many exchanges during the Scopes trial, which had to do with biblical literalism. Asked by his antagonist Clarence Darrow about certain calculations of historical biblical accounts of the The Deluge, Bryan replied:

I never made a calculation.

Darrow: What do you think?

Bryan: I do not think about things I don’t think about.

Darrow: Do you think about things you do think about?

Bryan: Well, sometimes.

Liberal America scorned Bryan for his literalism and was sure that his fundamentalist outlook, soon a mark of disgrace, would disappear from the scene. It happened, however, that many to Bryan’s right felt that he let them down because there were moments in the trial when he allowed cracks in their carapace. He was not perfectly literal about the biblical accounts at all times. Bryan never deserted or changed his boyhood biblical faith, which gave him security for political contingencies and defeats. “Give the modernist three words, ‘allegorical,’ ‘poetical,’ and ‘symbolically,’“ said Bryan in 1923, “and he can suck the meaning out of every vital doctrine of the Christian Church and every passage in the Bible to which he objects.”{20} Darrow slew his thousands, but in pious America, Bryan slew his ten thousands.

This attitude in moderate form continues in the 1980s. President Jimmy Carter did what he could to evade questions that might draw him away from defense of biblical literalism. Whatever Americans thought of him politically, the polls found them admiring his moral construct based on reverence for the Bible. And his successor, Ronald Reagan, was not out of character or tradition when during the presidential campaign he pointed to the icon and said with an emphasis few evangelical clerics would be bold enough to use: “It is an incontrovertible fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in that single book”{21} [emphasis mine].

Perhaps I have dwelt too long on presidential candidates, but vote-getters in their public expressions are custodians of the national carapace and the images under it. One could as well point to the role of the Bible as an object in legislative halls or, more vividly, to the part the Bible plays in judicial history in the context of “the nine high priests in their black robes” in the Supreme Court. It is in the courts that all but a few dissenting individuals take their oath on the Bible so consistently that in colloquial America one swears on “a stack of Bibles,” to prove one’s seriousness. The Supreme Court has been seen as the great iconoclastic desecrator because it “took the Bible out of the schools,” when it limited not the pedagogical but the devotional use of the book in public institutions.

The Court did no such thing. The public had “taken the Bible out of the schools,” but, significantly for my thesis, it did not know or does not even now know that it did this. What mattered under the carapace of images in the national mind was that the Bible belonged in classroom devotion. Yet a year or two before the Supreme Court decisions of 1962 and 1963—according to social scientist Richard Dierenfeld, who took pains to take a survey—not many were reading the Bible in schools. Even “without comment,” as one should read it if it is an icon beyond interpretation, few read it. About 42 percent of the respondents were still reading it, thanks to the heritage of the older parts of the country. The putatively profane East found almost 68 percent of its classrooms in public schools still using the Bible, and over 75 percent of the Southern districts reported such use. But in the other half of the Bible Belt, the Midwest, only about 18 percent did. And in the West, including California, whence came so many protests to the Court against “taking the Bible out of the schools,” only 11 percent kept the practice. (By the way, where the Bible was used, 70 percent chose the King James Version, which until the 1950s was almost universally the iconic version.) But if the Bible survived devotionally, which usage underscores our point, its contents were not subjects of analysis. Are there Bible classes of any sort in your schools? Now one-tenth as many polled districts, 4.51 percent nationally, replied in the affirmative. In the South 9 percent, in the East barely 1 percent, in the Midwest 4 percent, and in the West fewer than 9 percent of the districts looked at the contents.{22}

The Bible worked its way into the schools as icon because in sectarian America it was seen as “nonsectarian,” and the “not commented upon” aspect was to assure objectivity in its use. Horace Mann, a Unitarian cleric, as much as anyone else helped establish this use of the Bible in schools. His form of comment or interpretation would have been abhorrent in most of the Protestant then-dominant culture of his own day. After World War II a follower of John Dewey and an advocate of a postbiblical nonsectarian religion of democracy, Chaplain J. Paul Williams, commented critically on this iconic use: “This belief in the efficacy of spending a few minutes daily in reading the Bible grew up in a time when it was almost universally believed by Protestants that there was some kind of magic in the Bible to which one needed but to be exposed in order for it to have a very great influence on life.”{23}

In the unofficial but privileged mainstream American literary culture there was an almost immediate acceptance of biblical critical outlooks, a fact that gave this culture a marginal status in what today we would call “Middle America.” Already in his sermon of 1841 on “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity,” Theodore Parker showed his awareness: “Modern criticism is fast breaking to pieces this idol which men have made out of the scriptures.” Parker helped import radical German criticism, such as De Wette’s “Einleitung.” Others were iconoclastic enough to point to iconodulism among Bible-believers who were, they thought, not Bible-readers or Bible-followers. Thus Henry David Thoreau: “It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the universal favor with which the New Testament is outwardly received, and even the bigotry with which it is defended, there is no hospitality shown to, there is no appreciation of, the order of truth with which it deals. I know of no book that has so few readers.”{25} This was still in the period before critical study was widespread.

A towering mainstream literary figure of the generation in which knowledge of biblical criticism reached the public was Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1869 he wrote Frederic H. Hedge:

The truth is staring the Christian world in the face, that the stories of the old Hebrew books cannot be taken as literal statements of fact. But the property of the church is so large and so mixed up with its vested beliefs, that it is hopeless to expect anything like honest avowal of the convictions which there can be little doubt intelligent church men of many denominations, if at all, entertain. It is best, I suppose, it should be so, for take idolatry and bibliolatry out of the world all at once as the magnetic mountain drew the nails and bolts of Sindbad’s ship, and the vessel that floats much of the best of our humanity would resolve itself in a floating ruin of planks and timbers. . . .{26}

We do not need to accept Holmes’s conspiracy theory about ecclesiasticism to agree with his understanding, one that under different images matches our own, that a carapace of images is necessary in order for individuals and society to function cognitively or morally.

As in public religion or literary culture, so in popular social behavior there are evidences on all hands of the iconic use of the Bible in America. These may be losing out in many elements of “postbiblical” pluralist America, and the recent distancing from the Bible may be part of the presumed chaos, malaise, or anomie of such a culture. People suffer from what Robert Jay Lifton calls “historical, or psychohistorical dislocation,” which he saw to be the “break in the sense of connection men have long felt with vital and nourishing symbols of their cultural traditions—symbols revolving around . . . religion.” This breach in tradition is accompanied by a “flooding of imagery because of mass communications networks.”{27} Some of the contemporary political polemics from the American right results from reaction against this breach, this flooding.

Only some of the rejection was thoughtless, thanks to the passing of time. At least in the years of the rejective counterculture or wherever “now” people advocated historical amnesia as liberating, it is the biblical culture that serves as a foil. But the rejection has not been successful or complete, so locked into the corners of the carapace of images have been awarenesses of the Bible. Culture critic Eugene Goodheart rose up at the height of such rejection to speak with historical sense and sanity about the moment. He referred more to the content of the traditions than I am in the present instance, but the point is still in place:

The tabula rusa is a presumption of innocence. It is not the result of genuine discovery, for instance, that the Christian and classical traditions are no longer part of us. The enactments of our personality and character are involuntary, often compulsive. We are not free to choose what we are or even what we will do. We cannot simply wish away traditions that we have grown to dislike. The very dislike may be conditioned by the fact that they still possess us, if we do not possess them. If Judeo-Christian and classical traditions are still alive in all of us (and I suspect they are), despite attempts to deny them, then an education that fails to address itself to these traditions (I do not speak of arguing for or against them) would fail according to the ideal of relevance. The mere repudiation of these traditions does not have the effect of exorcism.{28}

No doubt I was invited to a centennial observance of biblical scholarship as a historian of American social and religious behavior. Here it would be easy to display expertise in that field and prolong the essay by showing all the ways in which the Bible as the object that embodies the center of Good-heart’s “Judeo-Christian” religion endures iconically. Instead of documenting I shall only point, to stimulate the vision and imagination of professional biblical scholars concerning their context and environment. Some pointings:

Americans have an adjectival use of the noun “Bible” as one indicator: Bible belt, Bible camp, Bible believer, Bible Sunday, Bible week, Bible school, Bible institute, Bible college, Bible battle, Bible bookstore, Bible puzzles and crosswords and quizzes, Gideon Bible in airplane and hospital and hotel room (enhanced in the Mormon Marriott by a Book of Mormon). There are tours to Bible lands, and Bibles brought back with covers made of wood from the Mount of Olives. The Bible is a gift at rites of passage, to new mothers, in Sunday school, at confirmation, in white covers for marriages, at graduations, for bon voyage. Protestants who always found the Catholic practice of burying grandmothers with an object like a rosary repulsive characteristically buried grandmother with a black Bible. The family Bible is also the place between whose testaments one is always going to fill out the family tree, as ancestors once did.

Bibles are as ubiquitous in hotel rooms as wire coat hangers. Have any of us ever seen an old one, a used one, a spinecracked version? What happens to them? A Second City comic would have it that one does not know either where wire coat hangers come from. They are absent when one checks in but still mysteriously proliferating by the time one checks out. Could the Gideon Bible be a wire coat hanger in its larval or pupal stages? No one has seen an old Bible in the garbage. Nor are Bibles burned, except when defenders of the iconic King James attacked the National Council of Churches’ desecrating Revised Standard Version as “Stalin’s Bible.” When that RSV was issued, an iconodule figured out that the first edition consumed twenty million square inches of twenty-three carat gold leaf, enough to make a twenty-four foot wide sheet one mile long, and that the Bibles of that first year’s edition, all of which soon were sold, could be stacked high enough to equal one hundred Empire State Buildings. In 1954 Catholic Digest estimated that two hundred million Bibles were in circulation, far more than one per citizen of all ages—and probably a low figure, were one to add all the atticked and betrunked versions in semicirculation.{29}

The Bible legitimates other expressions. Cecil B. De Mille learned that he could serve up magic and miracle and sex as long as the main images were sanctified by reference to the Bible. A few biblical lines about Bathsheba or Delilah were enough to keep Susan Hayward or Gina Lolabrigida in motion on screen for an hour and a half, before a public that was not then yet free to watch in clear conscience similar unclad secular imagery.

Even in those parts of Protestant culture that do not favor magic, superstition, or relics, the Bible is allowed a special role. The stories of soldiers whose lives were spared because they had a bullet-proof covered New Testament in their breast pocket are so frequent that one almost pictures an army with people tilting by the weight of the book to their left sides. In frontier folklore there were stories of infidels and deists who on death beds faced the horror of hell because they had “burned all the Bibles they could get.” A Methodist itinerant, it was said, faced off a robber in Chillicothe, Ohio, who let him go when he saw the Bible. The victim was “more than thankful for my Bible, which had served me better than a revolver. This was a new kind of weapon, the merits of which he appeared to have no desire to contest.” The wife of a circuit rider needed money for provisions while her husband was on the road and she was ill. She asked for a Bible, “intending to seek comfort from its holy counsels, opened it, found a five dollar bill.”{30} These stories have not disappeared from the culture of television evangelism, where miracles associated with the physical object of the Bible continue.

So much for the Protestant/Enlightenment-formed general culture. The case is little different in Judaism, which in America has been forced to be “more biblical than it is.” Jewish scholars constantly point to the transformations of Judaism and its texts during the past twenty-seven centuries, showing that the Bible is only a part of their tradition. But just as rabbis, who are lay people in Europe, have to be clerics in American culture to round out the priest-minister-rabbi trifaith triad, so Jews have had to be “people of the book” in America in a special normative sense. Literalist understandings of the Bible among premillennial fundamentalists in America have blunted anti-Semitism and led to surprising coalescences between Jews and evangelicals who must keep respect for Jews because of Jewish reverence for the Hebrew Scriptures.

Solomon Schechter, dedicating the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1903, summarized the case for America and Judaism:

If there is a feature in American religious life more prominent than any other it is in its conservative tendency. . . . This country is, as everybody knows, a creation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and the Bible is still holding its own, exercising enormous influence as a real spiritual power in spite of all the destructive tendencies, mostly of foreign make. . . . The bulk of the real American people have, in matters of religion, retained their sobriety and loyal adherence to the Scripture, as their Puritan forefathers did. America thus stands for wideness of scope and for conservatism.{31}

The iconic case is weakest in the instance of Roman Catholicism, as Gallup polls and cultural evidences show. In the liturgy the priest kisses the Gospel. Catholic conservatives point to Providentissimus Deus of 1893 to certify their at-homeness with Protestant doctrines of inerrancy. But Catholicism was not under the carapace in the nineteenth century. It was the fact that Catholics had other icons, talismans, relics, amulets, and sacramentals that kept them in part from being seen as “true Americans” by the others. The Nativist battles of the 1840s make this clear. In October of 1842 an overfervent priest in Carbeau, New York, angry because the King James Version was being distributed in his parish, burned some Bibles. Bishop John Hughes, “Dagger John,” spoke up: “To burn or otherwise destroy a spurious or corrupt copy of the Bible, whose circulation would tend to disseminate erroneous principles of faith or morals, we hold to be an act not only justifiable but praiseworthy.” A wave of Bible burnings was said to ensue, and this was followed by larger waves of Nativist anti-Catholic sentiment.{32}

Yet even if the Catholic case for faith did not depend only on the Bible but also on “the tradition,” Catholics were also wary of anything that touched this icon. Cardinal William O’Connell, later Archbishop of Boston, remembered how in the 1880s at the American College in Rome students had discussed higher criticism, which had its source “mostly in Germany, from a group of clever agnostics whose plain purpose was to destroy completely the fundamentals of the Christian faith by a well-planned attack upon the whole system of divine revelation. . . .’{33} To Catholics as to others, higher criticism was un-American, foreign, alien. The Americanist and Modernist controversies found the few early Catholic critics undercut and displaced. And today, as Catholics link up with conservatives in many causes, the polemical columnists—one thinks of the weekly efforts in the National Catholic Register—consistently attack biblical criticism as a desecration of the book that—according to Gallup—few Catholics read.

The case for seeing the Bible as America’s iconic book is both most important and most startling in the instance of Protestantism—most important in that today it is hard to picture how dominant was Protestantism for three centuries, while the creencias and vigencias, the root ideas and the binding customs, of the culture were being programed and set. Yet in the British colonies that made up the original United States, non-Protestant religious expression was almost nonexistent outside Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and on occasion Rhode Island and New York City. Not until the great continental Catholic migrations to America in the 1840s and the Jewish influx after the 1880s did other religious voices begin to gain power and privilege.

If important, it was also startling that the Bible became an icon, for Protestantism for the most part—except in its liturgically high wings—has seen itself as aniconic and even iconoclastic. C. J. Jung wrote from a psychological point of view about a stereotype cherished in many disciplines:

The history of the development of Protestantism is one of chronic iconoclasm. One wall after another fell. And the work of destruction was not too difficult, either, when once the authority of the church had been shattered. We all know how, in large things as in small, in general as well as in particular, piece after piece collapsed, and how the alarming impoverishment of symbolism that is now the condition of life came about. The power of the church has gone with that loss of symbolism, too.”{34}

Protestants were nervous because, while images also represent other a things, they could displace unseen realities and thus lead to the worship of created objects or, in short, to idolatry. Protestants failed to discriminate between reverence for icons and worship of images. Albert C. Moore draws the distinction finely, and I quote him because this is crucial for my theme, which is not a charge that America worships the Bible as an idol. “When the icon is treated with reverence in the context of worship, this attitude can be described as ‘iconolatry’, veneration of the icon. This term should be used in preference to the term ‘idolatry’ which has so many censorious and pejorative associations in Western usage. . . .”

Are the objections raised against idolatry applicable to the use of images? At the very least one must ask what is the source of the information concerning alleged idolaters; was it, asks Moore, from biased observers?

For instance, at the Reformation both Catholics and Protestants agreed that idolatry was forbidden to Christians by the Bible; but they disagreed over the question as to when an image became idolatrous: ‘At no time was it possible to prove that idolatry was taking place, since the worship of a created thing in place of God occurs in the mind of the worshipper rather than in the image addressed.’{35}

In other words, were some Protestants and other Americans “Bibliolators,” as beleaguered biblical critics sometimes cried out in counterattack? They may have acted like idolaters. But, following Moore, how do we know if they were? It is far fairer to say that they were iconodules or iconolatrous people, so long as this observation does not include an implied theological denunciation. It means taking believers at their word and watching them at their work.

If I may condense more of Moore’s argument to explain why Americans of Protestant stripe could reverence the Bible as an icon, there are five points to stress. First, an image evokes the experience of the numinous. Second, it captures a religious experience that is valued as a continuing reality, so that each confrontation of the image allows for repetition of the experience even if in ‘frozen’ form. Third, the image embodies a manifestation of sacred power and presence that is then celebrated in myth and ritual, in sacred space and time. Thus the Bible is the book of worship as well. Fourth, the image offers the worshiper an ideal archetype or sacred model for the sake of regular transformation. One “grows into” the plot of the Bible, and in the child’s imagination its landscape and characters are as familiar as is the view out the window. Finally, the image enables one to be related to the cosmos, for it is a microcosm with which one can identify. One almost needs a physical object for gathering images under the individual and collective psychic carapace.{36}

Ordinarily the books on religious iconography include images taken from the Bible, but they rarely if ever notice the Bible itself as icon. Yet on soil where other icons were prohibited, the same five needs or roles that Moore cited remained operative, and Protestant-minded America took to the use of the Bible to fill them.

On American Protestant soil, the Quakers come nearest to being aniconic people, at least in relation to the Bible, though not a few prophets in their midst accused their fellow believers of “lapsing” in this respect. And latter-day (but by no means early) Unitarian-Universalism may have moved far enough from biblical norms to have put the book aside. Beyond that, it survives. In colonial Puritanism where there was to be no adornment or distraction in the beautifully simple meeting house, the Bible was allowed to be oversize far beyond the function it was to have served. Certainly not all the buildings were so dark or the preachers’ eyes so weak that such enormous print in such huge volumes was necessary. The leather binding, the high placement on reading desk or pulpit, the focus of eyes on the Book—all these enhanced the iconic aspect of worship and the Bible. In paintings of pilgrims heading for worship in colonial New England, the gun and the Bible are the standard images.

On the frontier, the circuit rider had to be a light traveler. A bit of rum under the saddlebags (until temperance made its way), a few personal necessities, perhaps a Book of Discipline—these were all that went along with the evangelist on the trail. Except for the Bible. Even Quakers used the Bible as a “civilizing” instrument in their work among the Indians.

As for blacks, what Hylan Lewis said about “Kent” applies widely: “References to the Bible—which are frequent—are verbal props used to prove, document, underscore, or just to display a kind of erudition. ‘The Bible says . . .’ is an expression used by even the most profane and secular when occasion demands.”{37} The slaves were not permitted the Bible, but every chronicler reports their love for it and on the way the book itself became a symbol of liberation. Carter G. Woodson says that “Negroes . . . almost worshiped the Bible, and their anxiety to read it was their greatest incentive to learn.” Reports of fugitive slaves liked to stress that they carried “a big Bible,” hardly a useful object in the precarious passage on the underground railway. Of course, the content of the Bible, its message of hope and liberation, meant much to people denied the book as object or literacy as access, but they regarded the book numinously as did their white brothers and sisters.

As for recent times, Protestant America by mid-century was taking on the attitudes the Gallup survey found to be extant in 1980. In a Catholic Digest survey, 83 percent of the Protestants regarded the Bible as the revealed word of God, but 40 percent of the Protestants read it “never or hardly ever.”{39} In a survey of a very Protestant county in Bible-believing mid-America, Victor Obenhaus found that 63 percent of churchgoing Protestants could not designate any differences between the Old and New Testaments, few knew a single thing about the prophets, few could apply the story of the Good Samaritan to life, and biblical materials as such were “only slightly comprehended,”{40} despite weekly access to these themes in church. I have often suggested that this same population cohort could spend one evening of three hours in a community college on the Bhagavad-Gita and know more of it than they gain by way of knowledge of the Bible through a lifetime. Yet all reverence the book; they might join in denominational warfare against critics who might challenge its literal truth or in political conflict against courts that would “take it out of the schools.” The knowledge that the Bible is cherished, is a supreme authority, and is available to experts like preachers who can consult it is more important than a exploration of the contents. Bible classes seem most popular where the contents of the Bible are least critically examined, whereas when the Bible is an object of scrutiny and study the iconic sense disappears and the crowds dwindle.

In the political realm, iconoclasts have learned to keep their distance from the Protestants on the subject of the Bible if they wish to win any causes. In the 1890s radical feminists began to prepare a Women s Bible in order to counteract what they felt were anti-women passages and emphases in the use of the Bible. But in 1895 Susan B. Anthony showed political savvy when she wrote Elizabeth Cady Stanton: “No—1 don’t want my name on that Bible Committee—You fight that battle—and leave me to fight the secular—the political fellows. … I simply don’t want the enemy to be diverted from my practical ballot fight—to that of scoring me for belief one way or the other about the Bible.” Stanton went ahead, and lost power. She had no idea about the level of denunciation she would receive, including from Protestant male clerics who supported both the Bible and the rights of women. She made the mistake of saying, “We have made a fetich [sic] of the Bible long enough. The time has come to read it as we do all other books. …” Even nonreaders who were supporters of the Bible were not ready to hear that.{41}

In a centennial observance of biblical scholarship in America it is natural for us to test the iconic thesis on the founders of the discipline. The last thing any of them wanted to be was a destroyer of the Bible. They were virtually unanimous in their theme that biblical criticism, historical and structural and analytic in character alike, would enhance faith in an age of science. To this day biblical scholars in the ecclesiastical community are frustrated when given no chance to show their fellow believers among the laity how much more exciting is one’s pursuit of the “acts of God” through the environmental and contextual studies they cherish or the formal inquiries that lay bare so many dimensions of a text. They have fused critical scholarship and faith, and wonder why others are not allowed to share their enthusiasm. Yet in most denominations they know that partisans of anticritical outlooks can always exploit the iconic sense of people and go on to suggest that there will be less, not more, Bible as well as less, not more, faith, once one enters the mental furnished apartment in which the critic has no choice but to live.

In the beginning, when critical scholarship had its first pre-Civil War hearings, Edward Robinson was the patriarch, the only American to gain an international hearing. Robinson set the theme: “It has ever been the glory of the Protestant Faith, that it has placed the Scriptures where they ought to be, above every human name, above every human authority. THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY AND SUFFICIENT RULE OF FAITH AND PRACTICE.”{42}

In the first critical generation, the celebrity preachers, the ones Winthrop Hudson called “Princes of the Pulpit”{43 }almost to a person—T. DeWitt Talmadge was the exception—accepted biblical criticism as an advancement of the Protestant principle and an enhancement of faith in a scientific age. Only a few critics who were spoiling for a fight made their case less plausible by doing violence to the iconic sense of the Bible or the iconolatry of their attackers. Thus Charles Briggs was sarcastic about the “Bibliolatry” that treated the Bible magically instead of as “paper, print, and binding.” Yet even such iconoclasts felt that they were helping the Bible in the public arena: “We have forced our way through the obstructions; let us remove them from the face of the earth, that no man hereafter may be kept from the Bible.”{44} Briggs and other early critics regularly defended themselves by saying that no scholars would give a lifetime to the study of a book in which they did not believe. That, however, was not a telling point among conservatives who were fed a diet of stories that told how infidels from the Enlightenment to Robert Ingersoll studied the Bible in order to destroy it.

William Rainey Harper is an ideal type of the reverent biblical critic who did expend his energies sharing the critical outlook for the purpose of extending and deepening faith also among the laity, and for half a generation it worked. In 1892 he gave a speech on “The Rational and the Rationalistic Higher Criticism” at Chautauqua. First, the iconic regard:

Can we, in the multiformity of the work which lies before us during the few weeks of our sojourn together, find anything in which we possess a common interest? At first thought it would seem impossible to name a subject related directly or indirectly to the work of all of us; but if we think again, if we recall the place occupied among us by the Bible, a place fundamental in all thought and life; if we recall the conflict of opinion which to-day rages on every side about the Bible, a conflict in which most vital interests are concerned; if we remember that in this conflict the principles at stake are principles of universal character and application—if we think of all this, I fancy we shall agree that the question of the higher criticism of the Bible is one in which we have a common interest, and one, the consideration of which at this time and place will not be inappropriate.

In other words: only the Bible would bring them together, and only biblical criticism would quicken their inquiries. Harper recognized that “criticism” conveys “to some minds an unpleasant idea, but the right usage of the word carries with it nothing of this kind. . . . Do you ask what criticism is in its technical sense? I answer in a single word, ‘inquiry.’ The whole business of a critic is to make inquiry.” Then Harper went on to criticize the rationalism of both the conservative scholastic defenders of the Bible and the rationalists themselves. He wanted a scientific not a “scientifistic” view of the Bible.

Then came the pastoral and faith-building sense of the critic:

Great care, therefore, must be exercised, lest the learner, whether a professional student or a casual listener, be led to give up old positions before new positions have been formulated. The proper spirit is the building spirit, but the more natural spirit and the more easily developed is the destructive spirit.

Harper was confident, as were most of the other pioneers, that if the reverently critical approach were to be adopted, “the man who has believed without knowing why will have an intelligent basis for his faith,” but Harper did not recognize that “believing without knowing why” better satisfied the wishes and wants of people whose view of the Bible as icon did not need another base. The critical approach would further remove grounds of hostility and skepticism. And the large class of people who had been coolly indifferent would learn “that this Book is what it purports to be, the word of God. … It will become to them a thing of life, not because it has changed—it has always been alive—but because they have changed toward it.” To a “destructive” or “objective” critic, of course, Harper would have been dismissed as an iconolatrous believer programed by his Sunday school faith in childhood with presuppositions that would not let him read the Bible as he would “any other book.”

As Harper heard it, “the cry of our times is for the application of scientific methods to the study of the Bible,” but he heard the cries of University of Chicago students and the lay elite, while Grover Cleveland probably spoke for louder cries when he wanted an uncommented-upon Book. “If,” Harper continued, “the methods of the last century continue to hold exclusive sway, the time will come when intelligent men of all classes will say, ‘If this is your Bible we will have none of it!” And Harper wrote an epitaph for himself that he could have applied to most of his contemporaries in the critical circle: “He has done what he could to build up not only an interest in the study of the Scriptures, but a faith in their divine origin.”{45}

For half a generation, Harper and the Chautauquans, the university extension propagators, and some of the lay elite or princes of the pulpit made some progress, but in the end it was not the scientific outlook that drew the masses but the pre- or anticritical views of the Dwight L. Moodys and Billy Sundays that prevailed. There is some pathos in the attempt of Harper and the “scientists,” one that I am reminded of in the similar courting principles of a modern young subject of a limerick:

A free-living damsel named Hall

Once went to a birth control ball.

She took an appliance

To make love with science;

But nobody asked her at all.

Harry Emerson Fosdick from the twenties through the forties of this century was the last “prince of the pulpit,” the last celebrity cleric, who effectively propagated the biblical critical view as an enhancement of faith to huge audiences and readerships. Since then we have seen a “collapse of the middle” between the world of the scholars on one hand and the lay and sometimes the preaching public on the other.

Believing critics have seldom gotten much help in the larger culture. The press, beginning early in this century, knew it could always create sensation by dwelling on the iconic regard for the Bible and then “exposing” the iconoclasm of critical elitists. The Cosmopolitan magazine turned loose a writer named Harold Boice, who month after month toured the major campuses and spread shocking news of how the scholars treated the Bible as a great spiritual book but not as the unique book of God.{46}

Through the twenties of this century humanists like H. L. Mencken, Ben Hecht, Clarence Darrow, Joseph Wood Krutch, Walter Lippmann, and others found it convenient, however historically inaccurate it was, to treat fundamentalist biblicism as normative Christianity from which modern biblical critics were falling. In fact, this spirit lived on into the 1970s in the hands of Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann, who accused anyone of a developmental view of “gerrymandering” theology. The biblical critic has therefore progressively withdrawn into the company of other professionals and has become inept when denominational politics or cultural assault see him or her as an iconoclast.

Where does this history leave us? I shall set forth a few summary remarks, each of which needs further development.

(1) The critical approach in the course of the century established itself in the academy. Opponents on their turf seem apologetic and defensive, knowing that their battle for scholarship that would repeal “the crisis of historical consciousness” or would move people out of the mental furnished apartments characterized by the critical outlook is an uphill task.

(2) Biblical scholars in the academy are expected to reflect only humanistic (humanities-based) concerns, employing critical methods on the Bible just as they find their colleagues using them on the Iliad or Shakespeare. They are not to claim special privileges for their work or their texts. And like all other humanists, they can expect the respect and curiosity of a small circle of colleagues.

(3) Biblical scholars in the context of religious communities, in church-related colleges, theological schools, church and synagogue, or the proreligious but nonpracticing public have no such luxury. They deal with texts that are engendered by a community and that engender community and, though some complain of this situation, it is from such communities that they gain a kind of power. But they have reason to complain when political forces in those communities keep them from gaining a fair hearing.

(4) About half the Protestant community, some of the Jewish community, and an indeterminate number in the Catholic community, have ignored or resisted the century of scholarship. The critic is in a position not unlike that of the poet in Dylan Thomas’s vision, whose “craft and sullen art” concern the lovers who lie abed, unheeding. The believing public, for reasons of preoccupation, faith, or whatever, pays little notice.

(5) I have argued that the main reason for ignoring or resisting critical scholarship has been the iconic regard for the Bible as an object in the national shrine, whether read or not, whether observed or not: it is seen as being basic to national and religious communities’ existence. They hold it in awe and give latreia to it.

(6) This iconic sense puts critical scholars at a disadvantage because they will also appear to be iconoclastic by the mere fact that they engage in inquiry. The media show that one can always be controversial if treating the Bible in any way other than iconically.

(7) Biblical scholars for the most part are aware of this situation because the vast majority of them—can we get surveys to confirm or refute the impression?—were nurtured in childhood in “Jerusalem,” not “Athens.” Few come to critical study of the Bible through a random search for texts in the context of humanities. Most come through the passages of faith and life inspired by childhood experience of the Bible as icon in mind, home, church, and culture. Since the critical sense has enlivened their adult lives, they are often mystified about why everyone else does not make their passage. This seventh point has to be based more on personal observation than extensive defensible empirical inquiry, and I can only invite the community of scholars to begin to test it on each other.

(8) As for the future, it may be that our secular-pluralist culture is becoming so differentiated, its norms so diffuse, that each generation will see the Bible surrounded by an increasing number of icons, until it loses centrality. It is not likely that in foreseeable futures there will be no icons in the subcommunities of national life, for under the carapace of individual and social existence it remains necessary to have a framework for organizing effects and impressions. That the Bible has held such a position for such a significant number of Americans has been good for biblical scholars, who cannot help being curious about the future and who are not likely to be on the sidelines as that future unfolds. The second century of biblical scholarship in America therefore promises to be anything but settled and stale. That, I should surmise, is how biblical scholars would choose to have things.



* This is an expansion of a paper read at the centennial meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Dallas, November 1980. I wish to acknowledge the research assistance of Mr. R. Scott Appleby.

  1. Papers and Speeches of the Church Congress (New York, 1897) 104.
  2. Quoted in Public Opinion 14 (7 January 1893) 333.
  3. Walter A. Elwell (“Belief and the Bible: A Crisis of Authority,” Christianity Today [21 March 1980] 19-23) reports on the poll by Gallup.
  4. Suzanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (New York: New American Library, 1952) 41,39.
  5. On Ortega’s ideas, see Karl J. Weintraub (Visions of Culture [Chicago: University of Chicago, 1966] 261, 263) and Harold C. Raley (Jose Ortega y Casset: Philosopher of European Unity [University, AL: University of Alabama, 1967] 81).
  6. George Boas, i (New York: Scribner’s, 1969) 88.
  7. Perry Miller, “The Garden of Eden and the Deacon’s Meadow,” American Heritage 7 (1955) 55.
  8. George F. Parker, Recollections of Grover Cleveland (New York, 1911) 382.
  9. Bernard Crick, In Defense of Politics (Baltimore, Penguin, 1964) 176.
  10. Raymond 1. Bond (ed.), The Man Who Was Chesterton (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1960) 131.
  11. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1953) title page.
  12. Klwell, “Belief and the Bible,” 19-23.
  13. Rosemary Gordon, “A Very Private World,” in The Function and Nature of Imagery, ed. P. W. Slieehan (New York: Academy, 1972) 63.
  14. Quoted by Andrew Greeley, The Denominational Society (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co., 1972) 51.
  15. See Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, vol. 1 (New York: Harper Brothers, 1950) 293-99.
  16. Paul F. Boiler, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1963) 40-41; Stokes, Church and State, 1. 486, 244.
  17. Charles B. Sanford, Thomas Jefferson and His Library (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1977) 271. For Jefferson’s interests in the Bible and religion, see Robert M. Healey, Jefferson on Religion in Public Education (New Haven: Yale University, 1962).
  18. On the Fisk Bible, see Elton Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of Anguish (New York: Harper and Row, 1973) 48-49, 55.
  19. John Mulder, Woodrow Wilson: The Years of Preparation (Princeton: Princeton University, 1978) 49; Stokes, Church and State, 2. 549.
  20. Bryan is quoted in the Truth-seeker 26 (29 June 1929) 402. The exchange with Darrow is quoted in George Marsden, Fundamentalism in American Culture; The Shaping of American Evangelicalism 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford University, 1980) 187. On the other attitudes of Bryan, see Lawrence W. Levine, Defender of the Faith: William Jennings Bryan: The Last Decade, 1915-1925 (New York: Oxford University, 1965) 247, 281, 292.
  21. New York Times (25 September 1980) A27.
  22. Richard R. Dierenfeld, Religion in American Public Schools (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1962) Chap. 4.
  23. J. Paul Williams, What Americans Believe and How They Worship (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) 46.
  24. Jerry Wayne Brown, The Rise of Biblical Criticism in America, 1800-1870 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 1969) 15S, 66, 164.
  25. Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906, 1961) 73-74.
  26. John T. Morse, Jr., Life and Letters of Oliver Wendell Holmes, vol. 2 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1896) 296-97.
  27. Robert Jay Lifton, Boundaries: Psychological Man in Revolution (New York: Vintage,1970) 43.
  28. Eugene Goodheart, Culture and the Radical Conscience (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1973) 9-10.
  29. Claire Cox, The New-Time Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1961) Chap. 15.
  30. Folkloric treatment is in Donald K. Byrne, Jr., No Foot of land: Folklore of American Methodist Itinerants (Metuchcn, NJ: Scarecrow, 1975) 85, 134.
  31. Solomon Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (Cincinnati: Ark, 1915) 48-49.
  32. Ray Alien Billington, The Protestant Crusade 1800-l860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1964) 157-58.
  33. William H. O’Connell, Recollections of Seventy Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 19.34) 120-22.
  34. C. J. Jung, The Integration of the Personality (New York: Farrar and Hinehart, 1939).
  35. Albert C. Moore, Iconography of Religions: An Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977); Moore quotes from John Philips, The Reformation of Images (Berkeley: University of California, 1973)201.
  36. Moore, Iconography of Religions, 34-35.
  37. Hylan Lewis, “Blackways of Kent: Religion and Salvation,” in Hart M. Nelsen, Raytha L. Yohley and Anne K. Nelsen (New York: Basic, 1971) 103.
  38. See the section on “Bible Christians,” in Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South, by Albert J. Raboteau (New York: Oxford University, 1978) 239-43.
  39. Quoted by Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (New York: Doubleday, 1955) 236
  40. Victor Obenhaus, Church and Faith in Mid-America (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963) 72-82.
  41. Quoted in The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920, by Aileen Kraditor (New York: Columbia University, 1965) 78, 80
  42. Edward Robinson, The Bible and Its Literature (New York: Office of the American Biblical Repository, 1841) 17.
  43. Winthrop S. Hudson, The Great Tradition of the American Churches (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953) Chap. 8.
  44. Quoted by William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1976) 94.
  45. Reported on in Chautauqua Assembly Herald 17, no, 14 (4 August 1892) 2, 3, 6, 7. For more on Harper’s view, consult Robert W. Funk, “The Watershed of the American Biblical Tradition: The Chicago School, First Phase, 1892-1920,” JBL 95 (1976) 4-22.
  46. Sample titles of Boice articles in 47 (June-November 1909) were “Polyglots in Temples of Babel,” “Avatars of the Almighty,” “Christianity in the Crucible,” and “Rallying Round the Cross.”



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