In the beginning of American history, the Word was in Spanish, Latin, and native languages like Nahuatal. But while Spanish and Catholic Christianity reached the New World in 1492, it was only with the coming of the Mayflower that English-language Bibles and Protestant Christendom arrived. The Puritans brought with them intense devotion to Scripture, as well as their ideal of Christendom - a civilization characterized by a thorough intermingling of the Bible with everything else. That ideal began this country's journey from the Puritan's City on a Hill to the Bible-quoting country the U.S. remains to this day. In the Beginning shows how important the Bible remained, even as that Puritan ideal changed considerably through the early stages of American history. It is no exaggeration to claim that the Bible has been - and by far - the single most widely-read text, distributed object, and cited or referenced book in all of American history.
Author Mark Noll shows how seventeenth-century Americans received conflicting models of scriptural authority from Europe: the Bible under Christendom (high Anglicanism), the Bible over Christendom (moderate Puritanism), and the Bible against Christendom (Anabaptists, enthusiasts, Quakers). In the eighteenth century, the colonists turned increasingly to the Bible against Christendom, a stance that fueled the Revolution against Anglican Britain and prepared the way for a new country founded on the separation of church and state. One of the foremost scholars of American Christianity, Mark Noll brings a wealth of research and wisdom to In the Beginning. This book is the first of a projected two-volume study of the Bible in American history, and provides a sweeping, engaging, and insightful survey of the relationship between the Bible and public issues from the beginning of European settlement. A seminal new work from a world-class scholar, In the Beginning offers a fresh account of the contested, sometimes ambiguous, but definite biblical roots of American history.