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In 1992-93 I compiled the first edition of the Quaker Bible Index, an attempt at a comprehensive scripture index to early Quaker writings then in print. It was a self-education project, in which I started with little knowledge of the Bible and less of Quaker history. I ended up with close to 10,000 scripture references to writings of Fox, Barclay, Penn, Woolman, Samuel Bownas, Isaac Penington (represented by the Friends Tract Association’s pamphlet The Light Within), and Margaret Fell (Terry Wallace’s slim volume, A Sincere and Constant Love). The first edition has been available for some years in electronic format through QuakerBooks of FGC , and can now be had on CD-ROM in .pdf format.

Meanwhile the publication of early Quaker writings has burgeoned. Among the works which have come into print are the Quaker Heritage Press editions of Penington’s Works in 4 volumes, the original English version of Barclay’s Apology, Job Scott’s Salvation by Christ, and the projected 4 volumes of James Nayler’s Works (as of this writing v.1-2 have appeared). Available writings by early Quaker women (represented inthe first edition only by A Sincere and Constant Love) now include Margaret Fell’s letters and the collections Wilt Thou Go on My Errand?, Hidden in Plain Sight, and Strength in Weakness. In addition to these, and more, many other early Quaker writings are being published on the World Wide Web. Licia and Larry Kuenning host an e-list, Quaker Texts, for those interested in publishing pre-20th century Quaker writings in print or online; Larry and Licia Kuenning maintain an online Catalog of Old Quaker Writings available in both media. In January 2004 the Earlham School of Religion launched a fully searchable database, the Digital Quaker Collection.

Problems . . .

As I work toward an expanded and updated edition, the emergence of online texts is making me rethink the purpose of the index. I have now collected about 35,000 scripture references from the writings available in print. While I am eager to share my findings, it has become clear that a simple posting of barebones indexes giving Biblical chapter and verse plus page numbers in Quaker works would not be much help to the modern reader who, unlike George Fox, does not know the Bible by heart.

One difficulty is that early Quaker writings typically identify only a fraction of scriptural quotations and allusions. 17th-century writers assumed that their readers were familiar with the Bible; unless they were citing prooftexts in a debate, they tended not to provide chapter and verse. Modern editors of early Quaker texts have often supplied some of the missing references, but to identify them all would greatly diminish the readability of the text.

A second difficulty is that 17th-century writers used more than one version of the Bible. The Authorized (King James) Version was the most recent; several 16th-century translations – Geneva, Bishops’, and Tyndale – were still current, and Friends quoted all of them. This means that there are variant readings, which usually turn out to be related to one of these translations.

The main problem, then, is to help the reader know what words to look for, whether on the printed page or online. This means devising a way to identify key words and phrases, especially when they deviate from the wording of the Authorized Version. This task has become more urgent with the advent of ESR’s fully searchable database. "Biblical" (chapter-and-verse) searches yield only a small fraction of the existing quotations and allusions. For the other search functions to be useful, the user has to know what to search for.

. . . and an attempt at a solution

The format I have developed is structured in cycles of one or several verses. I have paid attention to NRSV’s pericope divisions, but have tried to keep each cycle down to a length of no more than two screens. Thus the number of verses in a cycle is related to how many Quaker citations I have found for it.

Each cycle is divided into three parts:

1) The Bible texts. Texts in red are from the Authorized Version. Boldface indicates words and phrases for which variants occur in other early versions which Friends are known to have used. These variants appear in brackets in gray. Other translations represented are: G = Geneva Bible (1599); B = Bishops’ Bible (1595); T = Tyndale’s New Testament (1534).

2) The index. See the key to sources. References quoted in part 3 are in bold. References quoted under another verse are also in italics

3) Some representative quotations from EQ works. Dates are given where possible; there is a separate year-by-year chronology for the 17th-century printed texts. I have tried to illustrate the variety of uses to which the texts were put, as well as a variety of authors and dates. Sometimes my primary focus is language; at other times I have tried to illustrate context and connection with other bible texts as well as is consistent with brevity. There is inevitably an element of caprice in my selections.
    Two Bible references separated by a comma indicate more than one possibility; a slash (e.g., [Heb 2:14/1 Jn 3:8] indicates a conflation. In the synoptics, parallels will be indicated by |.
    The "qtext" section contains cross-references to citations found under other Bible texts; I have so far not managed to include links. It may help to open the index in two windows, one for focusing and one for browsing.

I would be grateful for feedback about the usefulness of this format, and for technical advice on making the Index a better tool. There are anchors to the individual verses, but so far only the most basic navigational links. I can see many directions in which the present format could be expanded, but must wait for more light on how much is mine to do.

Esther Greenleaf Mürer
last revised November 2005

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