America's Public Bible: Biblical Quotations in U.S. Newspapers

America's Public Bible: Biblical Quotations in U.S. Newspapers The Bible was probably the most influential book in American history. Recently, historians have examined this influence in more detail, focusing on the Bible's ubiquitous presence in the United States. This is a vast undertaking, made more difficult by a lack of organized information about where and how Americans have cited scripture. One of the best tools available to historians is America's Public Bible. With this resource, Lincoln Mullen of George Mason University makes a great contribution to our understanding of the public history of the Bible in the United States. As stated on the Web site, “America's Public Bible uncovers the presence of biblical quotations in the nearly 11 million newspaper pages in the Library of Congress's Chronicling America collection.” The site uses “machine learning” to identify “over 866,000 quotations of the Bible or verbal allusions to specific biblical verses on those newspaper pages.” The site focuses on the Authorized Version—known as the “King James Version”—and for good reason, as it was by far the most-read Bible in the nineteenth century. Site users can explore 1,700 of the most-cited verses in newspapers, viewing them in context through a graphical interface. The site brings together two strands of scholarship. On the one hand, its methodology is drawn from recent digital humanities projects which are concerned with tracking the reuse of texts. On the other hand, it draws on a deep scholarly literature on the Bible as a cultural text in American life. This site allows users to find how biblical verses were cited in newspapers—that alone is a major contribution. No single historian—including Mullen—has checked all of these biblical citations for accuracy. He used machine learning to search the newspapers for matches between newspaper articles and the King James Bible. Admittedly, the process cannot claim 100 percent accuracy, but I spent a good deal of time with the site and did not find a single case in which a biblical verse was identified falsely. This is an accurate, reliable resource of great value. The site is well organized and simple to navigate. It has four main sections: (1) an introduction to the site; (2) an Explore the Quotations section that lists some of the most-cited verses by decade and enables users to search for specific verses; (3) a “Topics & Verses” section that “contains a series of mini-essays and visualizations about aspects of how the Bible was used in U.S. newspapers”; and (4) a “Sources & Methods” page that describes the technical details of how the site works. Mullen has plans to expand the project. He wants to add more data and more newspapers from another collection, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. He also plans to add more versions of scripture to the project—not only new translations of the Bible but also other scripture texts, including the Book of Mormon. Mullen also has plans to analyze the data in several essays on select topics. Clearly, this is an enormously helpful project that will be even more instructive as Mullen expands it. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

America's Public Bible: Biblical Quotations in U.S. Newspapers

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/america-s-public-bible-biblical-quotations-in-u-s-newspapers-LExEMxEwn5
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
D.O.I.
10.1093/jahist/jax556
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Bible was probably the most influential book in American history. Recently, historians have examined this influence in more detail, focusing on the Bible's ubiquitous presence in the United States. This is a vast undertaking, made more difficult by a lack of organized information about where and how Americans have cited scripture. One of the best tools available to historians is America's Public Bible. With this resource, Lincoln Mullen of George Mason University makes a great contribution to our understanding of the public history of the Bible in the United States. As stated on the Web site, “America's Public Bible uncovers the presence of biblical quotations in the nearly 11 million newspaper pages in the Library of Congress's Chronicling America collection.” The site uses “machine learning” to identify “over 866,000 quotations of the Bible or verbal allusions to specific biblical verses on those newspaper pages.” The site focuses on the Authorized Version—known as the “King James Version”—and for good reason, as it was by far the most-read Bible in the nineteenth century. Site users can explore 1,700 of the most-cited verses in newspapers, viewing them in context through a graphical interface. The site brings together two strands of scholarship. On the one hand, its methodology is drawn from recent digital humanities projects which are concerned with tracking the reuse of texts. On the other hand, it draws on a deep scholarly literature on the Bible as a cultural text in American life. This site allows users to find how biblical verses were cited in newspapers—that alone is a major contribution. No single historian—including Mullen—has checked all of these biblical citations for accuracy. He used machine learning to search the newspapers for matches between newspaper articles and the King James Bible. Admittedly, the process cannot claim 100 percent accuracy, but I spent a good deal of time with the site and did not find a single case in which a biblical verse was identified falsely. This is an accurate, reliable resource of great value. The site is well organized and simple to navigate. It has four main sections: (1) an introduction to the site; (2) an Explore the Quotations section that lists some of the most-cited verses by decade and enables users to search for specific verses; (3) a “Topics & Verses” section that “contains a series of mini-essays and visualizations about aspects of how the Bible was used in U.S. newspapers”; and (4) a “Sources & Methods” page that describes the technical details of how the site works. Mullen has plans to expand the project. He wants to add more data and more newspapers from another collection, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. He also plans to add more versions of scripture to the project—not only new translations of the Bible but also other scripture texts, including the Book of Mormon. Mullen also has plans to analyze the data in several essays on select topics. Clearly, this is an enormously helpful project that will be even more instructive as Mullen expands it. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off