Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 8, No 1-2 (2012)

How the Bible Feels: The Christian Bible as Effective and Affective Object

Dorina Miller Parmenter
Issued Date: 19 Aug 2017


Despite Christian leaders’ insistence that what is important about the Bible are the messages of the text, throughout Christian history the Bible as a material object, engaged by the senses, frequently has been perceived to be an effective object able to protect its users from bodily harm. This paper explores several examples where Christians view their Bibles as protective shields, and will situate those interpretations within the history of the material uses of the Bible. It will also explore how recent studies in affect theory might add to the understanding of what is communicated through sensory engagement with the Bible.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/post.32589


Ahmed, Sara. 2010. “Happy objects.” In The Affect Theory Reader, edited by Gregg and Seigworth, 29–51. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Annual Report of the Bible Society of Massachusetts. 1863. Boston: T. R. Marvin and Son.

Buck, Charles, ed. 1805. Anecdotes, Religious, Moral, and Entertaining; Alphabetically Arranged, and Interspersed with a Variety of Useful Observations, vol. 1. Third edition. London: Knight and Compton.

Buxton, Shirley. 2008. “A Bible Instead of Bullets.” God Things. 13 March. Accessed 11 March 2013.

Daniell, David. 2003. The Bible in English. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Dault, David. 2013. “‘Battlezone’ Bibles and bulletproof covers: The material rhetoric of armor plating in contemporary Bible production.” Conference paper presented at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion Annual Meeting, Greenville, South Carolina, March.

Deuce and Guns. 2016. “WWII Bible bullet proof?” YouTube. 25 February. Accessed 17 October 2016.

Fea, John. 2016. The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gamble, Harry Y. 1995. Books and Readers in the Early Church. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Gregg, Melissa and Gregory J. Seigworth. 2010. “An inventory of shimmers.” In The Affect Theory Reader, edited by Gregg and Seigworth, 1–28. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Gutjahr, Paul. 1999. An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press.

Haines-Eitzen, Kim. 2005. “Miniature books and rituals of private reading in late antiquity.” Conference paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November.

Harris, John, ed. 2015. Their Sacrifice: The Brave and their Bibles. Minto: Bible Society Australia.

Hill, Peter C. and Ralph W. Hood. 1999. “Affect, religion, and unconscious processes.” Journal of Personality 67: 1015–1046.

Horsbrugh, Marjory. 1885a. The Story of a Red Velvet Bible. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

———. 1885b. Richard Blake and his Little Green Bible: A Sequel. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

John Chrysostom. 1886–1889. Homily on John. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, edited by Philip Schaff, volume 14, 1–334. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. [Reprint ed.: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989].

———. 1886–1889. Homily on the Statues. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, ed. Philip Schaff, volume 9. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. [Reprint ed.: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989].

Malley, Brian. 2004. How the Bible Works: An Anthropological Study of Evangelical Biblicism. New York: Altamira Press.

Maltomini, F., ed. and trans. 1998. “Letter of Abgar to Jesus.” In The Oxyrhynchs Papyri, edited by M. W. Haslam, A. Jones, F. Maltomini and M. L. West, vol. LXV, no. 4469, 122–129. London: The British Academy.

Marty, Martin. 1982. “America’s iconic book.” In Humanizing America’s Iconic Book: Society of Biblical Literature Centennial Addresses 1980, edited by Gene M. Tucker and Douglas A. Knight, 1–23. Chico, CA: Scholars Press.

Morgan, David. 2010a. “Introduction: The matter of belief.” In Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief, edited by David Morgan, 1–17. New York: Routledge.

———. 2010b. “Materiality, social analysis, and the study of religion.” In Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief, edited by David Morgan, 55–74. New York: Routledge, 2010.

———. 2012. The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling. Berkley: University of California Press.

MythBusters. 2004. “What is bulletproof?” Discovery Channel. 29 September. Accessed 17 October 2016.

Ortiz, Angel. 2011. Student paper for The Synoptic Gospels. Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky. December.

Parmenter, Dorina Miller. 2006. “The iconic book: The image of the Bible in early Christian rituals.” Postscripts 2: 160–189. [Reprinted in Iconic Books and Texts, edited by James W. Watts, 63–92. Sheffield: Equinox, 2013].

———. 2015. “Material scripture.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts, vol. 2, edited by Timothy Beal, 24–35. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plate, Brent S. 2014. A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Quigley, Chris. 2010. “Bibles stopping bullets.” Quigley’s Cabinet. 29 March. Accessed 17 October 2016.

Raftery, Joseph. 1941. Christian Art in Ancient Ireland, vol. 2. Dublin: Stationary Office of Ireland.

Sargent. George E. n.d. The Story of a Pocket Bible. London: The Religious Tract Society.

Schaefer, Donovan O. 2015. Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Schneiders, Sandra M. 1991. The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco.

Smith, Jonathan Z. 2009. “Religion and Bible.” Journal of Biblical Literature 128: 5–27.

Supp-Montgomerie, Jenna. 2015. “Affect and the study of religion.” Religion Compass 9/10: 335–345.

Toorn, Karel van der. 1997. “The iconic book: Analogies between the Babylonian cult of images and the veneration of the Torah.” In The Image and the Book: Iconic Cults, Aniconism, and the Rise of Book Religion in Israel and the Ancient Near East, edited by Karel van der Toorn, 229–248. Louven: Peeters.

Vasquez, Manuel A. 2011. More than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Watts, James W. 2006. “The three dimensions of scriptures.” Postscripts 2: 135–159. [Reprinted in Iconic Books and Texts, edited by James W. Watts, 9–32. Sheffield: Equinox, 2013].

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy