The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution

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9780140159905: The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution

The translation of the Bible into English in the 16th century was one of the most important events in English history. Previously, the sacred text had been accessible only to a tiny minority, now anybody could read or listen to it. This study explores some of the effects of the Bible - on English literature during its greatest century, on social, agrarian, foreign and colonial policies. During the 17th-century Revolution, the Bible was used to justify both resistance to and defence of the King, and it called into question all established institutions and practices. But the Revolution revealed the impossiblity of agreeing on what the Bible said. This book should help a better understanding of England's most controversial century.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The impact of the Bible on England's experiment as a republic, charted expertly by one of the leading historians of the period. The American, French, and Russian revolutionaries consciously looked back for inspiration to the great conflict between king and parliament in mid-17th-century England; but the English of that time had no precedent, and the Bible, widely accessible in translation for over a hundred years, was their equivalent of Rousseau and Marx. Hill (The Experience of Defeat, 1984, etc.), author of over 20 books on the English revolution, offers a detailed study of just how the Bible was understood during the turbulent years of civil war, the strong-man rule by Cromwell, and the restoration of a modified monarchy. He shows how the history of Israel was used to justify both defense and defiance of the king in God's name, and how biblical allusions became a kind of code for spreading new ideas in spite of censorship. Hill draws on literary evidence, especially from his heroes Milton and Bunyan, and he traces themes such as anti-Christ, covenant, and the identification of Israel with Puritan England. Bible-reading by the common people, he says, led to a proliferation of radical groups (Diggers, Levellers, Ranters and the like) who questioned the whole established order and had a strong millenarian tendency. Hill is at home with these early socialists: Gerrard Winstanley, for example, thought all Scripture mere allegory to be freely interpreted by each one's ``inner light''--a view that in effect dethroned the Bible and led, in the following century, to its replacement by reason. Hill writes with touches of English humor, but the absence of a strong narrative makes the wealth of quotations confusing for anyone without a sound knowledge of the period. Not for the casual reader, but a gold mine for history students and those interested in the Puritan origins of the US. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Social reformers, heresy hunters, political radicals, anti-Papists, Quakers, royalists, free-love advocates and physicians eager to regulate midwives all found support for their views in the Bible during England's revolutionary 17th century. The scriptures, as Hill demonstrates in this scholarly, often colorful study, permeated political and economic debates as well as everyday speech. Formerly Master of Balliol College, Oxford, Hill argues that the Bible, translated into vernacular English as early as 1534, "did far more good than harm" as a guide to immediate action, even though some people used it as a justification for patriarchy and national arrogance. He traces the Bible's impact on John Milton, John Bunyan and Andrew Marvell and concludes with a discussion of the Bible's "dethronement" as final arbiter by the 1690s, a move he deems a triumph of the human spirit.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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