Slavery and Sacred Texts

The Bible, the Constitution, and Historical Consciousness in Antebellum America

Jordan T. Watkins (MA, History, 2009) draws compelling parallels between biblical and constitutional debates over slavery throughout U.S. history in Slavery and Sacred Texts, a thoughtful, deeply considered, new book.

Americans in the decades before the Civil War used both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution to address the slavery crisis. The ensuing debates over slavery deepened the understanding of historical readings and sacred texts. As a result, these readings highlighted the historical distance between 19th-century Americans and their biblical past.

Watkins, an assistant professor of Church History at Brigham Young University uses the examples of antislavery voices such as Theodore Parker, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln to trace this separation in Antebellum America. He analyzes how historical distance was used to reinterpret the sacred texts as antislavery works. In the process, he gives us a portrait of a nation struggling to uphold its religious ideals in the face of a difficult and haunting heritage. (Cambridge) Purchase Slavery and Sacred Texts at Cambridge University Press.