A Review Note on David F. Holland: Sacred Borders

David F. Holland
Sacred Borders
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 2, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780199753611
ISBN-13: 978-0199753611

David Holland’s recent work through Oxford is an examination of New England’s flirtation with the Bible and its status among Protestants of various constitutions. Is the Bible the last word on canon, if so, which bible? Can you “tear off the back cover” so to speak, and tack more on? Is the Bible a revelation or a historic collection of revelations/histories? Is it the end of revelation or merely an example of it?

Holland looks at these questions and others asked by Christians of various sorts as well as other figures from the Early Republic. Puritans, Shakers, Evangelicals, Transcendentalists and other liberals, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics and deists all get their turn.

It is in few words, a fine book. An excellent treatment of an important subject which will surprise you at various turns. You get to know wonderful figures like Ann Hutchinson and Jemima Wilkinson, Rebecca Jackson and Orestes Brownson.

The book keeps its focus, which is an admittedly narrow one, yet it drills down to the very meaning of faith in early America and allows the reader to see across a fabulous landscape of interpretation and opinion. For anyone interested in religion in the antebellum period, this book is a necessary brick in the wall of your education.

The cost? It’s not cheap. $63 from Amazon. I really don’t see what Oxford is playing at here. You’re not paying for expensive pictures or multicolor illustrations. But if you’ve got a dog in this race, pony up! (har) Either that or grab it at your local library. I’d let you borrow mine, but I’m on my second read.

Sacred Borders: open your wallet and curb the trips to Wendy’s for a while. Your brain will be glad and so will your heart.

P.S. See Sam Brown’s more extensive review here.

Joseph Smith’s Polyglot New Testament

When Joseph Smith lived in Nauvoo, Ill. he had acquired a polyglot NT. One can narrow down which one it was by the languages it contained. Hebrew, Greek, German, Latin. I’m not sure where he got it, but it might have been from Alex Neibaur. I’ve done a little searching for this NT, but have not found it. It’s not in the LDS archives, the CoC archives or the usual major libraries – unless of course it’s uncatalogued. So it may be in private hands, if it still exists at all. Joseph made reference to it in the King Follett sermon, which of course makes it relevant to this blog. So. Anyone out there know where this NT is? If you don’t want to reply by comment, you can email me at boap at boap dot org.

Cotton Mather – and Scripture

A new edition of Cotton Mather’s Biblical Commentary (Biblia Americana) is beginning publication. At 10 volumes, it’s being compiled by a list of good scholars of the period. Jonathan Edwards often gets the title for America’s theologian, but Mather had profound influence. His commentary was in question-answer form and it reminds me of Joseph Smith’s revelatory approach, many of his revelations are in that format. Was there a cultural reason in addition to the obvious candid recitals of how they happened?

Anyway, look for Mather’s Genesis at a library or bookstore near you. Worth a peak if for nothing else than restoration movement context.

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