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The Bible in American Life$
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Philip Goff, Arthur Farnsley, and Peter Thuesen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190468910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190468910.001.0001

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Reference Bibles and Interpretive Authority

Reference Bibles and Interpretive Authority

(p.119) 10 Reference Bibles and Interpretive Authority
The Bible in American Life

B. M. Pietsch

Oxford University Press

American Protestants have long professed faith in biblical perspicuity: the idea that common readers could read the Bible without guidance and discover a common set of meanings and the key to efficacious moral change in their lives. Yet by the end of the nineteenth century this faith was faltering. On issues ranging from abolition to women’s status in the church, the failed promises of shared meaning or morals caused many Americans to wrestle with old questions about how the Bible should be read. Reference Bibles provided an elegant, if partial, solution to these dilemmas by offering readers expert guidance—in the form of annotations, cross-references, and brief theological explanations—on the pages of “the Bible alone.” The proliferation of reference Bibles in the twentieth century revealed these underlying shifts in assumptions about biblical perspicuity and in practices of Bible consumption.

Keywords:   Bible, annotations, perspicuity, reference Bibles, Bible reading

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