Reading Literally: Boyle, the Bible, and the Book of Nature

  • James J. Bono
Part of the Palgrave Handbooks of Literature and Science book series (PAHALISC)


As perhaps the most renowned of the founding members of the Royal Society, Robert Boyle’s early treatise on the Holy Scriptures deserves more attention than it has received among historians of seventeenth-century science. Some Considerations Touching the Style of the Holy Scriptures represents much more than a pious tribute to the wondrous universality, power, and wisdom of God’s Word in the Bible as captured in the postlapsarian figures, tropes, and trappings of human languages.1 Boyle’s youthful treatise masterfully produces an account of the ‘style’ of the Scriptures, ultimately designed to suggest a blueprint for how humans might read that sacred text critically to unmask—and therefore fathom—the Divine Word. Such instruction in how to read Scripture proves necessary precisely because the Divine Word comes to its mortal readers already fully clothed in the garb of human discourse, tradition, and experience, lending a real possibility that readers might misconstrue not only obscure, but even seemingly transparent passages. As it turns out, Boyle’s sophisticated account of reading as a thoroughly situated and historical practice provides not just a model, but a potential set of artful practices—technē or technologies—crucial to the task of reading that other complex, layered, multiply plotted, and labyrinthine text––the Book of Nature––literally. Thus Boyle’s work on the Scriptures represents a contribution to thinking about precisely how postlapsarian humans may make themselves fit to access, decode, and de-inscribe each of God’s two books: the Holy Scriptures and the Book of Nature.


Human Language Sacred Text Literal Translation Artful Practice Literal Reading 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • James J. Bono
    • 1
  1. 1.University at BuffaloNew YorkUSA

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