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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Bible in Early America: Colonies, Empire, Revival, War

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Embarkation of the Pilgrims

Mark Noll
University of Notre Dame

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 5:00 - 6:30PM
Location: Devlin 101

There will be a book signing after the lecture.

Abstract: The Bible is by far the single most widely read text, distributed object, and referenced book in all of American history.  This talk draws on Noll’s recently published book, In the Beginning Was the Word, to explore the presence of Scripture from the era of Christopher Columbus through the American Revolution. As guidance for the first American colonies, a polemical prop for the expanding British Empire, the source of personal empowerment during periods of revival, and then a much-bandied rhetorical weapon during the struggle for American Independence, the Bible remained ubiquitous in American consciousness. The lecture ends by suggesting legacies—for good and for ill—from this early history.

Headshot of Mark Noll

Mark A. Noll is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught since 2006. Before coming to Notre Dame he was for nearly thirty years a member of the history faculty at Wheaton College (Illinois). Noll’s main academic interests are the interaction of Christianity and culture in 18th- and 19th-century Anglo-American societies, although he has also published books, articles and reviews on American evangelical history and the recent world history of Christianity. Professor Noll has been the recipient of three year-long fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; in 2004 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in 2005 he was included in TIME Magazine’s survey of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in the US; and in 2006 he received the National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony. He is the author of numerous books, including America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (OUP 2002), Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2011) and In the Beginning was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783 (OUP 2015). 

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In the News

The Bible continues to be used as a rhetorical weapon in the hands of American politicians as evinced by Bobby Jindal's recent remarks on Donald Trump's religious commitment. In his new book, In the Beginning Was the Word—the first part of a multi-volume set—Mark Noll traces the history of the Bible in America up to the present day, and explores the historical narrative that has led to its place in the modern context.