Appearing in ten volumes, this scholarly edition of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana (1693–1728) makes available for the first time the oldest comprehensive commentary on the Bible composed in British North America. Combining encyclopedic discussions of biblical scholarship with scientific speculations and advice for practical piety, Biblia represents one of the most significant untapped sources in Ameri- can religious and intellectual history. Mather’s commentary not only reflects the growing influence of Enlightenment thought (Descartes, Newton) and the rise of the transatlantic evangelical awakening; it also marks the beginning of historical criticism of the Bible in New England. Within the framework of Reformed orthodoxy, the famous Puritan clergyman constructively responded to the most radical biblical critics of the period (Grotius, Hobbes, Spinoza, Simon), who had challenged the textual integrity and authority of the scriptures.

Biblia engages a vast array of source-texts, from the Church Fathers, medieval and Reformation theologians, Rabbinic scholarship, ancient history and philosophy, to the cutting-edge philological and philosophical studies of the period. Moreover, Mather frequently includes discourses on specifically American topics such as Native American religions, culture, and medicines, captivity narratives, New World flora and fauna, African slavery, or evangelical activities.


Cotton Mather: The Most Influential North American Theologian of his Time

This edition of the Biblia Americana as a whole is certainly one of the most important and promising interdisciplinary projects now underway in early North American Studies. The primary significance of the Biblia is that Cotton Mather in his exegetical works sought to harmonize new insights emerging from the nascent field of historical biblical criticism, the natural sciences, and revolutionary philosophical ideas of the early Enlightenment with a traditional Biblical worldview and Reformed Orthodox doctrines. Thus researchers examining the cultural, religious or literary history of America as well as Europe can equally profit from this academic edition of the Biblia.


The heir/scion/descendant of one of the most important Puritan clergy families of New England, Cotton Mather was arguably one of the most influential and productive theologians in British North America of his time. In his lifetime he published more than 400 writings, including a series of extensive and well-known works in various academic fields at the time, such as his account of American church history, Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), or his compendium of physico-theology, The Christian Philosopher (1721). Nevertheless, it was the Biblia, which he worked on for more than three decades until his death in 1728, that he always regarded as his most important endeavor and the summation of his lifework. Tragically, despite repeated attempts, Mather failed to find either a wealthy patron or sufficient subscribers for the publication of his magnum opus which required a high initial financial investment. Today the 4,561 handwritten folio pages of the Biblia reside in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS).



The Biblia American Project: An Encyclopedic Archive Documenting the Intellectual History of the Early Enlightenment

Edited by leading experts in the field, each volume contains a historical-contextual introduction, explanatory annotations, translations of all Latin, Greek, and Hebrew citations, and indexes of authors and subjects.

The Biblia can be seen as a forum for the central intellectual debates of the time period – also in Europe – and thus serves as an almost encyclopedic archive of intellectual history. An academic edition of this work therefore benefits not only American cultural, religious, and literary historians but is also highly valuable for scholars working in primarily European contexts in disciplines such as theology and particularly for those focusing on comparative and interdisciplinary issues. As reactions to the published volumes have shown so far, the project has met with a very broad and enthusiastic reception internationally and is widely viewed as a pioneering research project.


In the fields of North American cultural, religious, theological, and literary history, the Biblia project makes possible a host of new research projects. So far there have been only a handful of limited analyses of the contents of the Biblia, based on readings of just a few manuscript pages. A much deeper and more comprehensive analysis of the Biblia is only now beginning in the course of the work on the edition.