God's Last Words


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Reading the English Bible from the Reformation to Fundamentalism

David S. Katz

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This wide-ranging book is an intellectual history of how informed readers read their Bibles over the past four hundred years, from the first translations in the sixteenth century to the emergence of fundamentalism in the twentieth century. David Katz re-creates the response of readers from different eras by examining the “horizon of expectations” that provided the lens through which they read.
During the Renaissance, says Katz, learned men rushed to apply the tools of textual analysis to the Testaments, fully confident that God’s Word would open up and reveal shades of further truth. Other developments that altered readers’ experiences included the politics of the English Civil War, Newtonian and Darwinian scientific theory, the rise of the disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, and geology, and the development of the novel and a concept of authorial copyright. Katz discusses all of these and more, concluding with the growth of fundamentalism in America, which brought biblical interpretation back to the Lutheran certainty of a demonstrable authority.

David S. Katz holds the Abraham Horodisch Chair for the History of Books at Tel-Aviv University.

A main selection of Readers Subscription

“Learned, accessible. . . . Illuminating and provocative. . . . God’s Last Words is filled with important material.”—Mark Noll, Books & Culture


“One doesn't have to be a specialist to recognize how rare a feat Katz has achieved.[He] has produced a volume that is actually better than the promises made by its dustcover prose. Using the concept of the ‘horizon of expectations’ to synthesize and analyze what successive generations of English Bible readers brought to the text, Katz has produced a tour de force that is astonishingly learned and refreshingly accessible. As he moves from the Renaissance to the 20th century, Katz introduces the widest possible array of historical, political, literary, religious, cultural, and scientific data, varying the components in accordance with the predilections of the particular era under investigation. He also succeeds in putting a human face on individuals whose work directly or indirectly influenced the way in which the public responded to divine writ. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“Katz’s book allows us to see biblical controversies in historical context and affords us important insight into the ways the Bible has transformed, and been transformed by, Western culture.”—Roger E. Moore, Christian Century


“One of the most engaging aspects of Katz’s study is the way he brings to life many of the more eccentric or less well-known figures in the history of the English Bible.”—David Hempton, The Times Literary Supplement

"A rich, graceful and subtle argument. . . . An elaborate, enthusiastic and entertaining guide to the eclectic and often haphazard world of Protestant biblical scholarship."—Crawford Gribben, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“Katz’s book is intellectual history at its very best and provides some lessons for the present.”—Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal


"David Katz excels at tracing the historical, social, religious, and cultural factors that have affected how the Bible has been understood. . . . Katz demonstrates a thorough command of both primary and secondary literature covering this English-speaking culture and period. . . . Katz provides an interesting and well-researched account in God's Last Words."—Roger L. Omanson, Theological Studies

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005
ISBN: 9780300197907
Publication Date: February 17, 2004
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4