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Mark Noll

Bookshelf: The History of the Bible

The nearly simultaneous appearance of Peter Thuesen's In Discordance with the Scriptures (Oxford Univ. Press) and Paul Gutjahr's An American Bible (Stanford Univ. Press), which are probably the two best books ever published on the cultural meaning of the Scriptures in American history, marks an important coming of age for scholarship more generally. Throughout most of this century, the immense quantity and often surpassing quality of biblical commentaries, dictionaries, archaeologies, and theologies was not matched by equal interest in practical questions—that is, how Scripture entered into the daily lives of all sorts of people.

More recently, published work in a number of scholarly domains has dramatically altered this situation. Now many authors are writing persuasively about how Scripture has actually functioned as a complex, but fully active, force in artistic, social, cross-cultural, denominational, scientific, ethnic, and intellectual matters; in addition to those mentioned below they include—as a very partial list—Philip Barlow, Ruth Bottiger, Gerald Bray, Shalom Goldman, David Impastato, David Jeffrey, Thomas Olbricht. David Rosenberg, Leland Ryken, Lamin Sanneh, Theophus Smith, Laurence Wieder, Peter Wosh, and Davis Young. Brief sketches of four pairs of books, each treating distinctly separate domains, can illustrate the variety of works that has begun to appear.

• Two multi-authored reference works underscore the reality that those who interpret the Scriptures are fit subjects for interpretation themselves. For his Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters (InterVarsity, 1998), Donald McKim recruited 92 authors to write 108 articles. The book includes six general essays alongside 11 biographies of interpreters from the early church (Athanasius and Augustine are the first), seven from the Middle Ages, 19 from the era of the Reformation (16 Protestants and Desiderius Erasmus), 28 from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (including ...

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