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Item Number: bk0051

This book examines how biblical interpretation promoted both violent persecution and religious liberty in colonial America. Frequently, the Bible was a violent force in Puritan New England, where ministers and magistrates used biblical passages to justify the punishment of many religious radicals. Encouraged by the Bible, Puritans whipped and imprisoned Baptists, banished a variety of radicals from the Puritan colonies and even sent Quakers to the gallows. Among those banished was Roger Williams, the advocate of religious liberty who also founded the colony of Rhode Island and established the first Baptist church in America. Williams opposed the Puritans' use of the Bible to persecute those who rejected the state's established religion. In retaliation against the use of scripture to justify violent persecution, Williams argued that religious liberty was a biblical concept that offered the only means of eliminating the religious wars and persecutions that plagued the seventeenth century. Empowered by his interpretation of scripture, Williams posed a serious challenge to a colonial society in which the Bible was the paramount guide in every aspect of life, both public and private.


"As the author reveals, Williams biblical case for religious liberty was multifaceted. He drew from a wide range of scriptural texts and wrestled with a variety of interpreters. By focusing on William's biblical opposition to religious persecution, this book demonstrates the importance of the Bible to violence, religious liberty, and the relationship between church and state in early American history."