THE ENGLISH BIBLE AND THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY REVOLUTION by Christopher Hill

THE ENGLISH BIBLE AND THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY REVOLUTION

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The impact of the Bible on England's experiment as a republic, charted expertly by one of the leading historians of the period. The American, French, and Russian revolutionaries consciously looked back for inspiration to the great conflict between king and parliament in mid-17th-century England; but the English of that time had no precedent, and the Bible, widely accessible in translation for over a hundred years, was their equivalent of Rousseau and Marx. Hill (The Experience of Defeat, 1984, etc.), author of over 20 books on the English revolution, offers a detailed study of just how the Bible was understood during the turbulent years of civil war, the strong-man rule by Cromwell, and the restoration of a modified monarchy. He shows how the history of Israel was used to justify both defense and defiance of the king in God's name, and how biblical allusions became a kind of code for spreading new ideas in spite of censorship. Hill draws on literary evidence, especially from his heroes Milton and Bunyan, and he traces themes such as anti-Christ, covenant, and the identification of Israel with Puritan England. Bible-reading by the common people, he says, led to a proliferation of radical groups (Diggers, Levellers, Ranters and the like) who questioned the whole established order and had a strong millenarian tendency. Hill is at home with these early socialists: Gerrard Winstanley, for example, thought all Scripture mere allegory to be freely interpreted by each one's ``inner light''--a view that in effect dethroned the Bible and led, in the following century, to its replacement by reason. Hill writes with touches of English humor, but the absence of a strong narrative makes the wealth of quotations confusing for anyone without a sound knowledge of the period. Not for the casual reader, but a gold mine for history students and those interested in the Puritan origins of the US.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-713-99078-3
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993




MORE BY CHRISTOPHER HILL

NonfictionBEYOND THE GOD PARTICLE by Leon Lederman
by Leon Lederman
NonfictionLIBERTY AGAINST THE LAW by Christopher Hill
by Christopher Hill