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.