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The claim that the Bible was "the Christian's only rule of faith and practice" has been fundamental to Protestant dissent. Dissenters first braved persecution and then justified their adversarial status in British society with the claim that they alone remained true to the biblical model of Christ's Church. They produced much of the literature that guided millions of people in their everyday reading of Scripture, while the voluntary societies that distributed millions of Bibles to the British and across the world were heavily indebted to Dissent. Yet no single book has explored either what the Bible did for dissenters or what dissenters did to establish the hegemony of the Bible in British culture. The protracted conflicts over biblical interpretation that resulted from the bewildering proliferation of dissenting denominations have made it difficult to grasp their contribution as a whole. This volume evokes the great variety in the dissenting study and use of the Bible while insisting on the factors that gave it importance and underlying unity. Its ten essays range across the period from the later seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century and make reference to all the major dissenting denominations of the United Kingdom. The essays are woven together by a thematic introduction which places the Bible at the center of dissenting ecclesiology, eschatology, public worship, and "family religion," while charting the political and theological divisions that made the cry of "the Bible only" so divisive for dissenters in practice.
Scott Mandelbrote is Fellow of Peterhouse at the University of Cambridge.
Michael Ledger-Lomas is Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King's College.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Michael Ledger-Lomas and Scott Mandelbrote 1. A Family Bible? The Henrys and Dissenting Readings of the Bible, 1650-1750, Scott Mandelbrote 2. Mary Fletcher's Bible, Phyllis Mack and David Wilson 3. Scripture and Heresy in the Biblical Studies of Nathaniel Lardner, Joseph Priestley, and Thomas Belsham, Simon Mills 4. Welsh Dissent and the Bible c.1750-1850, Eryn White 5. The Only Certain Rule of Faith and Practice: The Interpretation of Scripture amongst English High Calvinists, c.1780s-1850, Ian J. Shaw 6. The Bible and Varieties of Nineteenth-Century Dissent: Elizabeth Fry, Mary Carpenter, and Catherine Booth, Timothy Larsen 7. The Common Sense Bible: Irish Presbyterians, Samuel Davidson, and Biblical Criticism, c.1800 to 1865, Andrew Holmes 8. Conder and Sons: Dissent and the Oriental Bible in Nineteenth-century Britain, Michael Ledger-Lomas 9. Biblical Criticism and Scots Presbyterian Dissent in the Age of Robertson Smith, Colin Kidd and Valerie Wallace 10. A People Beyond the Book? Seebohm Rowntree, the Decline of Popular Biblicism and the Fate of Protestant England, c.1900-1950, S.J.D. Green Bibliography