Vol. 1


Biblia Americana

Mather addresses some of the most hotly debated questions of his age: Are the six days of God’s creation to be taken literally? Can the geological record of the earth’s age be reconciled with biblical chronology? Were there men before Adam? How many animals fit into Noah’s Ark? Was Noah’s Flood a local or global event? Why are the religions of the ancient Canaanites, Egyptians, and Greeks so similar to the revealed religion of Moses? Did God dictate the Bible to his prophets, and how many (if any) of the books of the Pentateuch did Moses write? Such questions were as relevant during the early Enlightenment as, indeed, they are to many believers today. Mather’s commentary on Genesis is as rich in its critical texture as it is surprisingly modern in its answers to many central concerns of the Christian faith.

Vol. 2


Biblia Americana

In Volume 2 (Exodus – Deuteronomy), Mather harmonizes miracles with natural philosophy, Israelite uniqueness with cultural archaeology, and textual variants and authenticity with up-to-date philological criticism. Particularly noteworthy is his comparative approach to Israelite rituals and iconography with those of their Egyptian and Canaanite neighbors, and the transmission of religious ideas from Egypt to Greece and Rome. He was fully vested in virtually every theological and scientific debate of his age, perhaps the last American of his generation to possess such all-encompassing knowledge. This never-before-published document demonstrates that Mather fully participated in the European debate as he disseminated his new ideas from his Boston pulpit and in his numerous publications.

Vol. 3

Josh.- 2 Chron.

Biblia Americana

The third volume of the Biblia Americana contains some 1250 of Mather’s »illustrations,« as he called them, on the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. These entries reveal Mather as a sacred historian, marshaling an array of approaches and disciplines to illuminate and defend the Scripture accounts. He revisits certain themes throughout such as idols and idolatry, parallels between the Hebrew Bible and the history and mythology of »pagan« cultures, and typological significations of events and characters. Other topics warranted sustained attention in a long entry or a series of entries, such as accounts of when the sun stood still, human sacrifice, as instanced in Jephthah’s vow, the building, running, and destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the nature of prophecy, the dispersion of the Israelites in captivity, and the timing of their eventual return.

Vol. 4


Biblia Americana

Here, Cotton Mather links biblical to secular history, analyzes the problem of suffering and evil in creation, and considers the Psalms both as Hebrew poetry and as Christian prophecy. In his annotations on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, Mather explores topics that range from the philosophical underpinnings of international law to court customs in the Persian Empire to the uneven progress of the reformations attempted by Ezra and Nehemiah. In Job, Mather turns to questions of theodicy and natural philosophy. The Psalms commentary shows his linguistic acumen and his formidable skill as a Christian Hebraist, as well as his sensitivity to difficult matters of hermeneutics. Throughout, he displays the lively wit, curious intellect, and compassionate nature that made him one of the most popular ministers of the colonial period.

Vol. 5


Biblia Americana

 Mather, an apologetically oriented, pastoral yet deeply learned exegete, confronts the early Enlightenment challenges to the Bible’s authority. He engages with issues of translation and the difficult questions about authorship, provenance, and genre being asked in his day, especially about the three books traditionally ascribed to King Solomon. Who wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? How can the worldly wisdom of these books be reconciled with the Christian gospel? Is Canticles only a royal wedding song celebrating human love? In turn, the annotations on Isaiah and Jeremiah are crucially concerned with the relevance and evidential value of the Hebrew prophets for the claims of Christian theology. The volume shows the struggle of exegetes in Mather’s generation to adjust traditional interpretations of the Old Testament to a growing awareness of the Scriptures‘ historicity.

Vols. 6 -8

Vol. 9


Biblia Americana

The Pauline epistles provided the theological inspiration for the religious revolution known as the Protestant Reformation, the legacy of which was still being given form during Cotton Mather’s lifetime and career. Mather’s commentary gives voice to the ongoing struggle between Protestants and Catholics, and between Protestants of many stripes: Puritans and Anglicans, Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Socinians, Protestants of the state and the sects. In his commentary, he also dwells on eschatological topics, ecclesiology, the papacy, classic doctrines of the Reformation such as faith, grace and election, and perhaps above all, on the piety of practical Christian living. He and his sources appropriated the wealth of materials available to them in the Republic of Letters: Jewish rabbinic sources, Renaissance philology, the growing body of comparative religious studies, the emerging fields of astronomy, earth science, and agronomy, empirically-rooted historiography as well as the treasure-trove of materials available for the comparative study of cultures, from the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome, to contemporary European and New World peoples.

Vol. 10

Heb. - Rev.

Biblia Americana

A mixture of pious explications and historical-textual criticism, this volume is a treasure-trove for scholars interested in the  development of Reformed theology and biblical exegesis. Mather, an apologetically oriented but deeply learned scholar, confronts the early Enlightenment challenges to the authority of the Bible and core doctrines like the Trinity. He discusses problems of translation, textual variants (e.g., the Johannine comma), but also authorship and canonicity, especially with a view to the so-called Catholic Letters and James. The extensive annotations on Revelation offer a window into the development of Mather’s millennialism and, more specifically, his changing interpretations of hotly-debated issues such as the eschatological conversion of the Jews, the expected date for the return of Christ and the nature of His kingdom. In the appended essays, Mather, in conversation with German Pietism, develops a biblical hermeneutic that emphasizes an experiential approach and the need for spiritual illumination. He also engages with antiquarian scholarship on the Scriptures, their original contexts, provenance, and transmission, as well as with literature that situates Judaism and Christianity in a larger history of ancient religions and cultures.

Cotton Mather and Biblia Americana – America's First Bible Commentary

Cotton Mather and Biblia Americana – America's First Bible Commentary

This volume serves as a companion piece to the ongoing edition of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana (1693–1728), the first comprehensive Bible commentary composed in British North America. Written by some of the most prominent scholars in the field, the essays in this collection offer original in-depth studies of Mather and his hitherto unpublished scriptural interpretations in the historical context of the Early Enlightenment, and the rise of Pietism. Transcending the pejorative image of the Puritan witch-doctor, Mather emerges from these essays as an erudite scholar and cosmopolitan theologian who was fully immersed in the rising developments of biblical exegesis around the turn of the eighteenth century. In facing the challenge of historical criticism or in examining the meaning of race and gender in the Bible, Mather wrestled with religious questions that are still relevant today.

The Bible in Early Transatlantic Pietism and Evangelicalism

Cover image for The Bible in Early Transatlantic Pietism and Evangelicalism Edited by Ryan P. Hoselton

This collection of essays showcases the variety and complexity of early awakened Protestant biblical interpretation and practice while highlighting the many parallels, networks, and exchanges that connected the Pietist and evangelical traditions on both sides of the Atlantic.

A yearning to obtain from the Word spiritual knowledge of God that was at once experiential and practical lay at the heart of the Pietist and evangelical quest for true religion, and it significantly shaped the courses and legacies of these movements. The myriad ways in which Pietists and evangelicals read, preached, translated, and practiced the Bible were inextricable from how they fashioned new forms of devotion, founded institutions, engaged the early Enlightenment, and made sense of their world. This volume provides breadth and texture to the role of Scripture in these related religious traditions. The contributors probe an assortment of primary source material from various confessional, linguistic, national, and regional traditions and feature well-known figures—including August Hermann Francke, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards—alongside lesser-known lay believers, women, people of color, and so-called radicals and separatists.

Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather's 'Biblia Americana'

Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity

Jan Stievermann’s pioneering study of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana examines this Puritan scholar’s engagement with the Hebrew Bible as Old Testament. The author focuses specifically on Mather’s struggle to uphold or modify traditional typological and allegorical readings in the face of a growing awareness of the historicity of Scriptures. Other key issues include Mather’s interventions in the contemporary debates over the legitimacy of Christian interpretations of the prophets, as well as over the authorship, provenance, genre, and spiritual import of texts such as Ecclesiastes and Canticles. Stievermann’s book yields fascinating insights into an underappreciated phase of exegesis that was at once traditionalist and innovative, apologetically oriented, pious, and open to new modes of historical-textual criticism. Moreover, it shows how Mather’s biblical exegesis fits into the broader development of Puritan theology and identity.

A Cotton Mather Reader


An authoritative selection of the writings of one of the most important early American writers.

“A brilliant collection that reveals the extraordinary range of Cotton Mather’s interests and contributions—by far the best introduction to the mind of the Puritan divine.”—Francis J. Bremer, author of Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism

Cotton Mather (1663–1728) has a wide presence in American culture, and longtime scholarly interest in him is increasing as more of his previously unpublished writings are made available. This reader serves as an introduction to the man and to his huge body of published and unpublished works.

Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and the Quest for Evangelical Enlightenment

Book cover

This book explores the early evangelical quest for enlightenment by the Spirit and the Word. While the pursuit originated in the Protestant Reformation, it assumed new forms in the long eighteenth-century context of the early Enlightenment and transatlantic awakened Protestant reform. This work illuminates these transformations by focusing on the dynamic intersection of experimental philosophy and experimental religion in the biblical practices of early America’s most influential Protestant theologians, Cotton Mather (1663-1728) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). As the first book-length project to treat Mather and Edwards together, this study makes an important contribution to the extensive scholarship on these figures, opening new perspectives on the continuities and complexities of colonial New England religion. It also provides new insights and interpretive interventions concerning the history of the Bible, early modern intellectual history, and evangelicalism’s complex relationship to the Enlightenment. 

The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather


The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather (Library of Religious Biography (LRB)): Kennedy, Rick: 9780802872111: Books

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was America’s most famous pastor and scholar at the beginning of the eighteenth century. People today generally associate him with the infamous Salem witch trials, but in this new biography Rick Kennedy tells a bigger story: Mather, he says, was the very first American evangelical. A fresh retelling of Cotton Mather’s life, this biography corrects misconceptions and focuses on how he sought to promote, socially and intellectually, a biblical lifestyle. As older Puritan hopes in New England were giving way to a broader and shallower Protestantism, Mather led a populist, Bible-oriented movement that embraced the new century at the beginning of a dynamic evangelical tradition that eventually became a major force in American culture.

Incorporating the latest scholarly research but written for a popular audience, The First American Evangelical brings Cotton Mather and his world to life in a way that helps readers understand both the Puritanism in which he grew up and the evangelicalism he pioneered.

Harry S. Stout
Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Religious History, Yale University

"At a time when the history of biblical exegesis and the role of the Bible in American culture are being revisited, the Biblia Americana provides us with a commentary unequaled in size and scope by any other American."