Hill 1993

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Hill, Christopher. The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution. New York: Penguin, 1983.

A Biblical Culture

"The vernacular Bible became an institution in Tudor England -- the foundation of monarchical authority, of England's protestant independence, the text-book of morality and social subordination." (4)

William Bradshaw in his English Puritanisme (1605) insisted that Biblical scholars 'ought to follow those rules only that are followed in finding out the meaning of other writings': no more allegorizing, no more interpretation of the text in the light of ecclesiastical tradition. The Treatise of the Corruptions of Scripture (1612) by Thomas James, Bodley's first Librarian, was a landmark here. Since the Bible was the ultimate arbiter, an authoritative text must be established by the severest schlarly tests. The authority of the Fathers, to which Romanists appealed, could be disregarded. James denounced all 'indices expurgatorii', and is said to have used the papal Index to help him decide which books to buy for the Bodleian Library." (13)

"Radical protestants made a special point of publishing cheap editions of the Bible. In Edward VI's reign the Bible and the Apocrypha were issued in six octavo parts. The Geneva Bible was usually printed in italic, not old-style black letter. It was cheap, relatively small and pocketable; failure to produce cheap editions of the Bishops' Bible of 1568 helped to make the Geneva Bible the Bible of the people." (18)
"We must not attribute too much to printing. Mediaeval sermons and miracle plays had rawn on the Bible to inculcate political and social lessons. But now the printed word could be pondered over and re-read, both privately and in group discussions." (37)
"We should not think of the Bible just as a book to be read, or to listen to. It was everywhere in the lives of men, women and children. Not only in the church services they had to attend, but in the ballads they bought and sang, and in their daily surroundings. Where today we should expect wallpaper, almost all houses had hangings to keep out draughts and to cover the rought walls. These often took the form of 'painted cloths', 'the real poor man's pictures', among which Biblical scenes seem to have preponderated." (38) -- Deuteronomy XI.20

Before 1640

"Those sins which the marginal notes to the Geneva Bible especially emphasized were idolatry and persecution." (50)
"Unofficial guides to interpretation of the Bible, Biblical dictionaries and concordances, versifications of Scripture, were published in significatn numbers in the early seventeenth century: they were clearly in demand, especially by the 'middle sort'." (52)
"The Elizabethan Homilies, which non-preaching parsons were intended to read regularly to their congregations, made full use of the Bible to teach passive obedience." (55)

Laud -- report on seditious books shipped from Amsterdam to London, two impressions of the Bible with Genevan notes, one with a false title page (58)

"King James came to think the Geneva Bible the worst translation." (60) -- last edition appeared in 1644; between 1611 and 1715 eight editions of the AV were printed with Geneva notes (66)

typology -- "part of the object of ypology, whether conscious or not,w as to minimize the savagery of the Old Testament" (75)

Fast Sermons and Politics, 1640-1660

"Of the 240 sermons which got into print, the texts of 181 were drawn from the Old Testament, 59 from the New: a ration of 3 to 1. Twelve of the New Testament texts came from Revelation, the most Old Testament of all the New Testament books. From November 1640 to October 1645, the preponderance of the Old Testament is even more remarkable: 123 texts to the New Testament's 26, a ration of 4 3/4 to 1." (83)

1 Kings XX.42 used against Charles the day after his execution (98)

bad kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Absalom, Zephaniah, Hazael, Issachar, Omri, Ahaz, Herod; Egypt, Babylon, Antichrist (103)

  • Jeroboam, favorite bad king; promoter of Idol worship (106)
  • Rehoboam also (107)

Metaphors and Programmes

Egypt, Babylon, Sodom as evil image -- Egypt especially popular with radicals (113)

"The ambiguities of the words Antichrist, Babylon, Egypt, helped to preserve unity among supporters of Parliament in the early days of the civil war." (113)

Faerie Leveller (119)

The Wilderness, the Garden and the Hedge

hedge "associated with orderly, stable, lawful government" (131)

Poverty, Usury and Debt

Political Divisions and the Civil War; Liberty and Libertinism

biblical passages against monarchy (185)

"But the Bible produced no agreed new political philosophy: it came to be used as a rag-bag of quotations which could justify whatever a given individual or group wanted to do. As with the practice of seeking guidance from the Lord by turning up a text at random, the Bible ultimately contributed to pragmatism, lack of theory, the rise of empiricism." (188)

The Bible and Radical Politics

Nimrod as bad king, Milton (222)

Winstanley, accepting the uncertainty of Biblical text (223)

The Decalogue and Idolatry

"It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance given in the Old Testament to rejection of idolatry." (255)
"Lollards had attacked images in churches, and wished to replace them with the Ten Commandments in English on church walls. This became a common Anglican practice: Elizabeth bishops probably whitewashed more church walls than the seventeenth-century Puritans to whom this vandalism is often attributed." (256) -- Commandments then painted on walls

idolatry becoming metaphorical (261)

Chosen Nation, Chosen People

Covenanted Peoples: Scotland and England

"Covenants were not part of the English political tradition until one was voted by Parliament in June 1643, at a time when Parliament's military fortunees were at a low ebb." (277)

(mis)reading of Chronicles (279)

God is Leaving England

"Fear of Catholicism reached a peak in the early 1640s, stimulated by the Irish rebellion of 1641, supported by the Pope." (297)

The Reign of the Saints

"The Reformation stimulated thought about the end of the world, not least because of the protestant identification of the Pope with Antichrist, whose overthrow would usher in the last times. This led to closer study of the Biblical texts, in an attempt to interpret the prophecies." (298)

Bale, Foxe, Hall's Court of Virtue, Geneva Bible -- encouraged apocalypticism

"Activist belief in the approach of the millennium led not only to enhanced nationalism in England but also to protestant internationalism." (302)
"In England, this seems to be a preponderantly lower-class millenarianism; women pay a greter part, proportionately, in millenarian than in other forms of activity, including writing." (307)

Mary Cary, Fifth Monarchist

Antichrist and his Armies

"The Man of Blood"

discussion of king's blood guilt; undermined his divinity (325)

trial and execution of the King -- "necessary first step against Antichrist, clearing the way for the rule of the saints

later revulsion against enthusiasm

Some Biblical Influences

George Withers, Hymns and Songs of the Church (1623) -- versification of the Song of Songs, hymns from Old and New Testaments

early translations of the Psalms, often politicsl (354)

"Community singing of psalms was used in churches as a protestant demonstration in 1560, and by London Puritans in 1641 to drown Laudian services." (356)

Wyatt, then Surrey, pioneered Pslams as poetry

"Among those who versified the whole Psalter Henry Dod deserves special mention for his clumsy verse and word order. He also paraphrased a number of Biblical songs and is (I hope) the only person ever to have versified an Act of Parliament -- that of 3 Jac. cap. 1 for a public thanksgiving to be held every year to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot." (359)

Henry Ainsworth, Booke of Psalmes (1612); Thomas Ravenscroft, The Whole book of Psalms (1621)

William Baldwyn, 1549, translation of the Song of Songs, The Canticles or Balades of Solomon; retort to lewd ballads (363)

Milton, Bunyan and Marvell

Milton's Of Christian Doctrine cites over 8,000 proof texts; "This contarsts sharply with the Commonplace Book which he started to keep around 1630, in which there is virtually no mention of the Bible." (373)

The Bible and an Unequal Society

The Bible Dethroned

"Before 1660 the Bible was everywhere -- in ballads and madrigals, in sermons and in literary allusions. But acceptance of the Bible was based on cultural assumptions which rapidly broke down in the free-for-all discussions which erupted after censorship and ecclesiastical controls collapsed." (413)
"What was unique about the English experience was, first, that the translation of the Bible into printed English at the Reformation drew on a century of underground experience with the heretical Lollard manuscript version; secondly, that discussions of the Bible had initially been encouraged by protestant propagandists if not by governments, so that they later became very difficult to control." (422)
"One unexpected consequence of the failure of the radical revolution was that the A. V. replaced the Geneva Bible: the last edition of the Geneva version was published in 1644." (435)

Unfinished Business