John Fea on the American Bible Society
Date: May 8th, 2016

As The American Bible Society (ABS) celebrates its bicentennial, we are joined by Prof. John Fea — department of history at Messiah College — to review the history of this quintessential American institution.  He reveals how he was approached by ABS to help craft a history of this organization, but instead of merely writing a coffee table chronology he sets the ABS into the broader narrative of American history.  Prof. Fea emphasizes four ongoing themes in the trajectory of the ABS, including: 1) its ecumenical outreach (first with Protestants and then Catholics after Vatican II); 2) its cultural and religious power position within society; 3) a leader in media innovation; and 4) the institution’s struggle to define itself in changing times.  We witness how the ABS moves from its origins as a benevolence society into a service organization dedicated to supporting churches and selling Bibles (not merely donating them), and then to its changing role today as a more missional organization.  We cover how the ABS reacted to issues such as slavery, Reconstruction, waves of immigration, and its struggles with Catholicism in the United States.  John also reviews the ABS’s role abroad, particularly in the Levant, and how today — with lower cost of Bibles and phone apps leading to a market saturation of the Good Book — the ABS has taken a more evangelical turn in the late 20th and early 21st century.  Recorded: April 29, 2016.


John Fea’s bio at Messiah College.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home (John Fea’s blog and website).

The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society, by John Fea.

Why Study History?, by John Fea.

Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?, by John Fea.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, by John Fea.

The American Bible Society (homepage).

Nida Institute.


John Fea on Religion & the American Founding.

Jonathan den Hartog on the Spiritual & Political Life of John Jay.

Jonathan den Hartog on Patriotism & Piety.

Scott Carroll on Biblical Manuscripts and the King James Bible.

Robert Delahunty on Alexis de Tocqueville and Religion.

John Wilsey on American Exceptionalism & Civil Religion.

Barry Hankins on Jesus, Gin, and the Culture Wars.

Mark David Hall on Religious Minorities and the American Founding.

Daniel Dreisbach on Abe Lincoln’s Religious Rhetoric.

Owen Strachan on Chuck Colson.

Andrew Hoffecker on Charles Hodge and the Princeton Theological Seminary.

James Brettell on Trends in American Christianity.

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