The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times

Research output: Book/ReportBook

17 Scopus citations


This book examines the dynamic interplay between scripture and society. Kling traces the story of how specific biblical texts have at different times emerged to be the inspiration of movements that have changed the course of history. He selects eight specific texts (sometimes a single verse, other times a selection of verses or chapters, even books) and demonstrates how each shaped the direction of Christian history. These texts include the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19: 16-22) as an inspiration for Anthony and the beginnings of monasticism; the "Petrine text" (Matthew 16:18) as the basis for the papacy; the centrality of the Song of Songs in medieval Christendom, particularly as interpreted through the mystical leanings of Bernard of Clairvaux; Romans 1:17 and its influence upon Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation; Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, embraced by Anabaptists as a call to radical discipleship, including pacifism; the varied applications of the exodus motif and Moses figures in African-American history, from slavery to Martin Luther King to liberation theology; the Book of Acts with its references to the outpouring of the Spirit and speaking in tongues as the basis for the rise of modern Pentecostalism; and Galatians 3:28, which has been adopted by feminists as a rallying cry for women's ordination. Kling's study demonstrates that scripture has functioned in a dialectical interplay of influences; texts have shaped history and history has shaped the interpretation of texts. Specifically, texts have functioned in at least five ways: (1) as transforming agents to another way of thinking and acting, believing and behaving; (2) as recreated meaning, undergoing multiple interpretations and applications; (3) as comprehending sources, drawing other biblical texts into their thematic orbit; (4) as hermeneutical keys unlocking the essential meaning in or resolving tensions within scripture; and (5) as secondary justifications, legitimizing after the fact to support existing historical realities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages402
ISBN (Electronic)9780199835393
ISBN (Print)9780195130089
StatePublished - Apr 20 2005


  • Anabaptists
  • Anthony
  • Bernard of clairvaux
  • Exodus
  • Martin luther
  • Monasticism
  • Pacifism
  • Papacy
  • Pentecostalism
  • Song of songs
  • Women's ordination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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