One of the most interesting books I’ve read recently is Daniel Dreisbach’s Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers, an exploration of the influence of the Bible on the political and cultural lives of the early Republic. This book, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America (OUP), edited by Paul Gutjahr, looks like an excellent companion/reference volume on the same subject, though it extends beyond the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and contains essays by many leading lights (including Dreisbach).
Early Americans have long been considered “A People of the Book.” Because the nickname was coined primarily to invoke close associations between Americans and the Bible, it is easy to overlook the central fact that it was a book-not a geographic location, a monarch, or even a shared language-that has served as a cornerstone in countless investigations into the formation and fragmentation of early American culture. Few books can lay claim to such powers of civilization-altering influence. Among those which can are sacred books, and for Americans principal among such books stands the Bible.
This Handbook is designed to address a noticeable void in resources focused on analyzing the Bible in America in various historical moments and in relationship to specific institutions and cultural expressions. It takes seriously the fact that the Bible is both a physical object that has exercised considerable totemic power, as well as a text with a powerful intellectual design that has inspired everything from national religious and educational practices to a wide spectrum of artistic endeavors to our nation’s politics and foreign policy.
This Handbook brings together a number of established scholars, as well as younger scholars on the rise, to provide a scholarly overview–rich with bibliographic resources–to those interested in the Bible’s role in American cultural formation.