North American News

Report by Jennifer Bekemeier

The 2004 Tyndale Society Conference, “The Bible as Battleground: The Impact of the English Bible in America”, was held at Regent University, Virginia in September. The conference included special addresses by Dr Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, and by our very own Prof. David Daniell, the world's leading Tyndale scholar. In the four-day event, there was a total of 18 presentations spanning a wide range of subjects including literature, history, law, culture and religion.

As part of the conference, the Tyndale Society also sponsored a walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg that devoted special attention to the dramatic legislative battles for religious liberty fought in revolutionary Virginia. The tour was led by Prof. Daniel Dreisbach of the American University, Washington, D.C.

Thank you to all who contributed to the success of the conference through your attendance, presentations and support. As a result of the conference and other events, the Tyndale Society's US membership has grown by nearly 50% since January 2004.

We look forward to seeing even more of you at future Tyndale Society events. Plans are stirring to hold an event in California in the summer of 2005. We will keep you posted.

US members - are you interested in receiving a quarterly e-newsletter containing Tyndale Society news? If so, please email Jennifer Bekemeier at and request to be added to the list.

On 19 September 2004 at St Bartholomew's Episcopalian Church on Park Avenue, New York, David Daniell was invited to take the ‘hot seat’ at the Rector's Forum to describe, defend and respond to challenging questions on his book The Bible in English. This Forum takes place weekly before the main service on Sunday morning. About 100 members of that congregation crowded into the church hall, coffee in hand, to hear David give his prepared 40 minute talk in what turned out, due to circumstances, to be half that time. Something of an Olympic event, which David handled with aplomb!

Tyndale Society Conference, Virginia, USA 2004

The Bible as Battleground: The impact of the English Bible in America

Abstracts of papers presented which are not printed in full in the Tyndale Society Journal

Scripturalizing Life and Culture: The Plain People

Prof. Peter Auksi
Dept. of English, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.

Although the Reformation unlocked access to the Bible for all common readers, certain religious communities like the Mennonites, the Amish, and the Hutterites interpreted Scripture almost literally as a warrant for with- drawing from visual ostentation, secular education, and worldly achievement or involvement, in the process citing a number of specific texts (including, for example, 1.Peter 2:9, “an holy nation, a peculiar people”; Rom. 12:2, “be not conformed to this world”; 2.Cor. 6:17, “be ye separate”) for their distinctively plain clothing, domestic decorative art, and the material accoutrements of worship. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Shaker sect in America took biblical directives concerning simplicity and plainness even further into unexpectedly creative avenues, producing furniture, tools, hymns, quilts, clothing, and buildings truly worthy of the designation ‘art’ and beautiful enough for twenty-first century art galleries and museums.This paper explores the influence which biblical texts had on the culture, art, and mode of living of ‘The Plain People.’

Tyndale's Unicorn

Mrs Mary Clow
Vice-Chair Tyndale Society, New York, USA.

From 'Star Wars' to 'Lord of the Rings', American popular culture has never been more enthralled by myth. Such modern epics are full of strange gods, fearsome monsters, impossible quests and no-hope battles where only the hero's trust in a Higher Power gives the courage to win through, in spite of his own frequent failures of belief and back-slidings.

This paper is an examination of some of the origins of these powerful con- cepts in ‘The Fifth Book of Moses called Deuteronomy'. William Tyndale's historic first translation into English from the original Hebrew was pub- lished in 1530. His work is the unacknowledged basis of the later Geneva and King James Bibles, and thus widely influential throughout the USA up to the present day.

As Tyndale wrote in his introduction to Deuteronomy:

This is a book worthy to be read in day and night and never to be out of hands.

And the unicorn — under the law of Moses given in Deuteronomy it is permitted to eat a Unicorn.

“The Government Upon His Shoulders”: Exploring the Impact of the English Bible in United States' Presidential Inaugural Speeches

Prof. Mara Lief Crabtree
Associate Professor, Regent University, Virginia, USA.

United States Presidential inaugural speeches often include references from the English Bible. Which American Presidents included quotations from the English Bible in their inaugural addresses? What was the discernible context of meaning in which these quotations appeared? Furthermore, what might these quotations indicate to us about: (a) Individual presidential beliefs in regard to significant historical events, current national needs, challenges or crises, and possibilities and hopes for the future? (b) A president's sense of “prophetic” meaning in relating certain references to current situations or possible future events? (c) The existence of overarching patterns evident in the English Bible references of individual addresses or the collective body of inaugural addresses? This paper explores these questions with the goal of signifying the specific impact of the English Bible in the important realm of American presidential leadership.

The Vine and Fig Tree Motif

Prof. Daniel Dreisbach
Depart. of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Washington, D.C., USA.

The “vine and fig tree” motif (Micah 4:4; I Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:10; 1 Maccabees 14:12; see also II Kings 18:31; Isaiah 36:16) figures greatly in the literature of the founders of America. Special attention will be focused on the works of George Washington, who referenced this phrase from the English Bible nearly four dozen times in his writings. The paper will address the question of why George Washington and so many of his contemporaries were drawn to this biblical metaphor.

The Impact of the English Bible on the American Revolution

Dr Hector Falcon
Regent University, Virginia, USA

This paper describes how Tyndale's English Bible established the bat- tleground for the ideas that led to the English Reformation, England's subsequent civil revolutions, and the foundation for America's revolution with England. It sheds light on the often missing historical link between the English Bible and its impact on the American Revolution.

The Puritan Bible and the Westward Expansion 1789-1860

Douglas R. Forrester
William Tyndale College, Farmington Hills MI, USA.

The English Bible came to America in the first migrations. But it was the Puritans of England's East Anglia, arriving in Boston in 1629 to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who made the English Bible so dominant in the American culture that theirs became know early as the “Bible Colony”. There are numerous accounts of the progress of the Bible in the colonies, its seeming declension in the early seventeenth century, it revival with the first American printings in 1777, and the subsequent establishment of Bible Societies by 1817 with the goal of putting a Bible in every American home. But a less understood story of the Early Republic was the settlement of the Northwest Territories by several generations of migrants from New England who settled in western New York following the Erie Canal. After revivals under Charles Finney in the 1820's, subsequent generations migrated to northern Ohio and southern Michigan to establish a “Yankee” culture there. Ohio's Western Reserve and Michigan's southern Yankee tier were the result. Every township in these new states was required to provide a school as soon as fifty families had settled. The schoolmasters were pastors and the primary text was the Bible. The result was that the transplanted Yankees from New England and New York established a tier of Armenian churches and col- leges along the Michigan-Ohio border that still exist. The leaders of these schools became leaders in the anti-slavery movement and the founding of the Republican party in Jackson Michigan in 1856.

The Impact of the Bible on Asian American Writing: The Cases of Richard E. Kim, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Li-Young Lee

Dr. John Han
Associate Professor of English, Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis, MO, USA.

In his article, “The Influence of the King James Version on English Literature,” Cleland Boyd McAfee identifies three areas of biblical influence on English literature: style, language, and material. English writers influenced by the Bible typically use simplistic style, refer liberally to the Bible, and turn to the Bible for their characters, illustrations, and subject matters. Numerous books and articles have been written about the influence of the English Bible on mainstream authors. A substantial amount of research has also focused on the impact of Scripture on Afro-American writers. Unfortunately, little critical attention has been given to the use of the Bible by Asian-Ameri- can writers. The purpose of this paper is to examine how three critically acclaimed Asian American writers Richard E. Kim, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Li-Young Lee turned to Scripture for their style, language, and material. Biblical themes and techniques permeate The Martyred, Kim's first novel that existentially examines Christian faith in the face of a Communist persecution. Li-Young Lee's collection of poetry Book of My Nights, which addresses God, eternity, and heaven, among others, illustrates not only the poet's familiarity with Scripture but also his biblical vision of reality. Finally, biblical motifs and themes are prominent in Dictee, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's volume of poetry. The conclusion of this paper addresses some of the implications of the use of Scripture by Asian American authors.

The Bible as Cultural Keel and Rudder for Individual Faith and Duty

Dr Beverly M. Hedberg
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Regent University, Virginia, USA.

In the prologue of his Five Books of Moses, Called The Pentateuch, William Tyndale gives an insightful and thought-provoking perspective on the usefulness of the scriptures — one refined in the furnace of tragedy and affliction and plucked from the flames of dedication and commitment. “So now the scripture is a light and sheweth vs the true waye, both what to do, and what to hope.”

A culture benefits from the principal timbers of its frame drawing their support from eternal and unchanging truth. For such a culture then to thrive requires that there be a yielding of its collective will to the guidance and governance of an omniscient reality.

In its voyage over the seas of time, that particular segment of a culture responsible for the administration of public affairs also derives benefits from the willing service of individuals with keels of faith and rudders of duty set upon the fixed, uniform and universal principles of the Word of God.

The culture and the individual find in that single source, the light — as Tyndale saw it — that reveals, not only “what to do” in the present but also “what to hope” for the future. For it is not only in current reality that the “true waye” surfaces, it is also in what that “light…sheweth” of the future that fuels the assent of our minds and the setting of our moral obligations. Through a review and analysis of relevant literature, patterns surface suggesting a sense of the impact of the Bible within these cultural and individual dynamics.

‘Why so much on religion?’ The Bible in Teaching American Literature

Prof. Donald J. Millus
Professor of Renaissance Literature, Coastal Carolina University, South Carolina, USA.

Some years ago, a student from France asked me at the beginning of a survey course in American Literature, why I place so much emphasis on religion and the Bible. My response was that it is impossible to understand our literature without knowledge of both. From our contemporary writing and film back to the roots of the Pilgrim and Puritan settlers and thence forward through the Romantic writers of the nineteenth century, the Bible looms large even with agnostic writers from Paine through Melville.

The presentation is both practical and anecdotal, based on my thirty years of teaching American Literature with Tyndale on my mind.

The Eliot Bible of 1663

Dr Herbert L. Samworth
Sola Scriptura, Orlando, Florida, USA.

The official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony depicted a Native American uttering the Macedonian cry of “Come Over and Help Us.” Many people are aware of the political events in England that brought the Pilgrim and Puritan colonies to the New World during the 1620's. Fewer are aware of the settlers' interest in bringing the Gospel and the Word of God to them.

One individual who was vitally interested in this task was John Eliot (1604 – 1690). Following his graduation from Cambridge, and assisting Thomas Hooker as a schoolteacher near Chelmsford, Essex, Eliot immigrated to the New World in 1631 and settled the following year in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

From the beginning, it appeared that Eliot saw his life work as providing the Native Americans with the Word of God in their own language. It is nearly impossible to document accurately all the obstacles that he faced. Yet through them all, Eliot persevered and in 1661 the Massachusetts New Testament was printed. The entire Bible followed just two years later in 1663.

The story of this Bible, known familiarly as the Eliot Bible, and how it was published provides one of the most exciting chapters of American Colonial History. Addendum: The Sola Scriptorium holds one of the eighteen surviving copies of the Eliot Bible.

The Bible in America Museum

Dr Diana Severance
Curator, Houston Baptist University, Houston, USA

See entry below

The Southern Bible: Society and Scripture in the Old South

Prof. Glen Spann

Associate Professor of History, Asbury College,Wilmore, Kentucky, USA.

On 11 December, 1863, George Browder, minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South Kentucky, recorded these words in his diary: “Times now look like slavery is doomed. If such be the will of God I say Amen—but I cannot so understand the Bible.” Although a resident of the non-seceding state of Kentucky, Browder sympathized with the Confederacy and was himself a slave owner. His terse comment reveals not only his own view of slavery but also that of many of his contemporaries. In the antebellum era many Americans - North and South - turned to the pages of holy writ as they grappled with the reality of slavery. That many Southerners (as well as some Northerners) thought they discovered there a justification for African slavery comes as no surprise to those familiar with the story of the debate over the “peculiar institution”. But, often many have considered this biblical pro-slavery defense nothing more than a religious gloss for slavery.

This paper considers the ways white Southern Americans utilized their Bibles to shape their communities, their society, and their institutions, including the practice of holding slaves. The major purpose is not so much to rehash the well-documented fact that Southerners crafted a pro-slavery defense from scripture, but rather to demonstrate how such an exercise was not a crass attempt to “bring in the Bible” as a justification for human bondage and how Southern people understood their society in all its contours as manifesting the principles of biblical faith.

Missionary Efforts toward the Christianization and Religious Instruction of Negro Slaves 1701-1765

Quency E. Wallace
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

This paper explores the impact of the English Bible and the Anglican and Methodist efforts to Christianize African Slaves in the period of 1701-1765 in America. Methodology for instruction of African Slaves in the English Bible is discussed, as well as the impact of this effort in the development of the black itinerant ministry and subsequent birthing of the black church in America.

The Bible in America Museum

The Bible in America Museum at Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas was dedicated in 2002. It houses one of the most extensive collections of American Bibles on public display today, including original first editions of the earliest Bibles printed in America.

In 1997 the University of Houston purchased Jonathan Byrd's collection of some 500 volumes of rare Bibles and Christian books which this Christian entrepreneur from Indiana had assembled over a 30-year period. The collection included first editions of every significant scripture printed in America. The following exhibits are cited amongst its major items: –

Francis Bailey New Testament, 1780

Published during the Revolutionary War it is the earliest example of any printing of Scriptures in English in America and is the only known existing copy.

Aitken Bible, 1782

The first entire English Bible produced in America which was funded by the Continental Congress.

Young Bible, 1791

This two-volume Bible represents one of the finest 18th century examples of American bindings known.

Brown Self-Interpreting Bible, 1792

George Washington and John Jay were subscribers to this publication.

Noah Webster Bible, 1833

The great educator and linguist, Noah Webster, was above all a Christian scholar who produced the first modern English version of the Scriptures. This copy is signed by Webster himself and was given to his granddaughter Elizabeth Ellsworth.

Hieroglyphic Bibles

Published for the purpose of teaching the Bible to children through the use of ingenious illustrations, these were popular children's Bibles in the 18th and 19th centuries. They usually have one Bible verse on a page and the verses are printed as a rebus, with some of the words replaced by pictures that little children can read. An exact facsimile of a 1837 Hieroglyphic Bible published by Harper Brothers is already on sale.

The Museum is expanding under the watchful eye of its curator, Dr Diana Severance. It has recently started a quarterly newsletter, begun a curriculum for school groups and students who visit the museum and digitised items in the collection.The Houston Genealogical Forum is transcribing and collecting family records found in 105 of the rare Bibles and a website has been developed.

The first Bible produced with type from America

A partially burnt leaf from the New Testament Sower Bible

A partially burnt leaf from the New Testament Sower Bible

In 1776 Christopher Sower Jr from Germantown, Pennsylvania produced the first Bible with type cast in America. Previous to this, the type had been cast in Europe and then shipped out. He set up a foundry in 1772 to produce hot metal type and then, using this, the Sower Bible was printed in Gothic style German during the Revolutionary War.

the first Bible with type cast in America. Previous to this, the type had been cast in Europe and then shipped out. He set up a foundry in 1772 to produce hot metal type and then, using this, the Sower Bible was printed in Gothic style German during the Revolutionary War.

Unfortunately his print shop then became engulfed by the fighting between the Americans and the British and was severely damaged during the Battle of Germantown. Although Sower had always maintained a neutral position, as far as politics were concerned, his property was seized by the American authorities and sold at auction. Unbound pages of his Bible were sold ‘for less than a quarter of the price of a like quantity of ordinary wrapping paper’. Furthermore, a printer from the city, unaware of their value, sold the pages for wadding and cartridge covers to be used by American soldiers. Ironically, what was originally intended for the salvation of men's souls was used to destroy their bodies.


The first Bible produced with type from America: An Unusual Relic from the Revolutionary War

Quote from Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, 1771-1790

This obscure Family of ours was early in the Reformation, and continued Protestant thro' the Reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes in Danger of Trouble on account of their zeal against Popery.They had an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastned open with Tapes under and within the Frame of a Joint Stool. When my Great Grandfather read in it to his family, he turned up the Joint Stool upon his lap, turning over the Leaves then under the Tapes. One of the children stood at the Door to give notice if he saw the Apparitor coming, who was an Officer of the Spiritual Court. In that case the Stool was turn'd down, again upon its feet, when the Bible remain'd concealed under it as before... .The Family continu'd all of the Church of England till the End of Charles the 2ds reign, when some of the Ministers [had] been outed for Nonconformity...

(from the paper Why so Much on religion? given by Prof. Donald J.Millus)