Jonathan Edwards: Blank Bible from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale.

Two famous men in Colonial-American history owned Bibles that had literally been cut to pieces and then stitched back together again.

The first, was Thomas Jefferson – more concerned with morality than divinity – who famously edited out the miraculous and the supernatural from Scripture. Hardly an orthodox Christian by any definition, Jefferson simply cut away the portions that he did not like.

The other man was the famous New England Puritan, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), considered by some to be the greatest scholar that America has ever produced. Edwards’s own rebound Bible had an entirely more sacred purpose – he took copious notes on nearly every major section of Scripture.

The story of this particular Bible is relentlessly fascinating.

What is the Blank Bible?

Dubbed by most (including Edwards himself) as the “Blank Bible,” the official title of the manuscript is technically “Miscellaneous Observations on Holy Scripture,” and can be found today in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. There, you can see it yourself – possibly handle it even – provided of course that the curator is in a good mood, and that you lick the orange Cheetos powder off your fingers before touching it.

(Video Courtesy of Tony Walker).

The Blank Bible is entirely unusual in construction: it is really two books in one. It consists of a large 9.5 X 7.5 inch blank writing notebook, nearly three inches in girth, into which an entire miniature King James Version of the Bible has been meticulously stitched. Bound in brown leather over board (Mark Bertrand might call it “British Tan”), the book literally looks like one larger volume ate a smaller one for dinner.

Picture something the size of an ESV Study Bible, but fatter at the top than the bottom. From the side view, it looks like a python trying to squeeze down a meal.

The smaller book, a 1653 King James Bible, printed in London by the “Company of Stationers” is a miniscule, double-column, AV with both side and center column references, along with some study notes provided by the publisher to boot. Someone (not Edwards) who was very skilled in bookbinding took apart both original books, first removing their signatures and cutting apart the individual sheets, and then splicing together the larger blank pages with the smaller text of the KJV. Finally, the boundary sewed the newer, larger work together as an irregularly shaped monolith.

(Video Courtesy of Tony Walker)

History of the Strange Apparatus

Apparently the Blank Bible came into Edwards’s possession through family: it bears the name and handwritten signature of his brother-in-law, Benjamin Pierpont, and is dated by the same in his own script in 1728. A young candidate for ministry, Pierpont never actually ended up being ordained unfortunately. Apparently, he came into some controversy with the local clergymen having acted “apishly” around the young ladies, and was dubbed unfit for public ministry. Sadly, he died sometime thereafter.

Clearly interested in owning the unique book himself – no others like it exist – Edwards obtained possession of the Blank Bible sometime around 1730, probably through the mediation of Sarah his wife. Whether Benjamin could see that his ministry career was going nowhere and gave it to Edwards himself before he died, or whether it came to Edwards as part of the deceased’s estate is unknown. However it came into Edwards’s possession, it had already collected around 70 of Benjamin’s own thoughts and comments on Scripture. No matter. All the New Hampshire Puritan would do is add another 5,506 entries or so over the next thirty years.

The Bible itself is still in remarkably good condition. Its high traffic wear is from daily use, not at all from neglect or abuse. One theory holds that the current cover is itself yet another rebind. The fact that the signatures appear to have been tightened up against the inner columns, resulting in a smaller gutter, suggests that it was used so much by Edwards that the minister again took it to a professional, who cinched the signatures even tighter, added a newer cover and sewed it up again for a third time. A note in the flyleaf from Edwards himself dating the book to 1748 (almost twenty years after he received it) may support that theory.

So You Want to Read it Huh?

In terms of its contents, the Blank Bible contains a treasure trove of information for Jonathan Edwards scholars to devour. As a matter of fact, some people are surprised to know that there are thousands of pages of Edwards’s materials that have still never been published. This volume, too, has only recently come into publication thanks to scholar Stephen J. Stein who meticulously transcribed Edwards’s nearly indecipherable handwriting into the 24th Volume of the complete Yale edition Works of Jonathan Edwards (2006).

This is a good news/bad news deal for eager readers, though. The bad news is that if anyone wants to actually read the thoughts of Edwards on various texts throughout the Bible in the published volume of the Yale Edition, they will have to fork over $225.00 claims to do so.

Hmm. Might as well buy a Quentel at that price.

The good news is that the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has graciously hosted the entire volume digitally, published for free on the internet, alongside a host of other Edwards manuscripts, sermons, and treatises.

Writing Your Own ‘Miscellaneous Observations’

For some, this unique book will create a desire to replicate a Blank Bible of their own. For those who are interested in creating their own ‘Miscellaneous Observations on Scripture,’ there are options. It may not be feasible to do what Edwards’s Bible managed to do – merge two existing volumes into one. But it may be possible to attempt what Edwards did in spirit at least. Today, high quality Bible publishers have given us a number of options for those who want to work closely with the sacred text: just like a Puritan!

First, consider a wide margin edition. I have written about the glory of these editions elsewhere. While you may not be able to pour 5,506 entries into the space just over an inch wide on either margin, at least you won’t have to dip your quill into the ink to write every third letter either.

Second, Crossway is making some really cool journaling Bible options now too. Their new single column journaling Bible improves on the previous edition, now by reducing the text of Scripture down to one column instead of two columns. In this way, confusion between which column of Scripture you are referring to in the lined margin space is eliminated.

If neither of these options work for you, it is still possible to acquire loose-leaf editions of several major Bible translations. Although you’ll never get that sweet leather smell, a three ring binder will give you the ability to add notes as your collection of “Miscellanies” grows.

So, go make a “Blank Bible” like Jonathan Edwards! Just don’t edit out the parts you don’t like as did Thomas Jefferson and become “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”


– Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Florida. He is the author of Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647 and a few other shorter books. 



“The Blank Bible.” Ed. Stephen J. Stein. Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University Online. Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 24. Accessed April 2, 2015.

All pictures courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought by Oliver Crisp and Kyle Strobel


A new and significant work on Jonathan Edwards has just come out, thanks to our good friends at Eerdman’s publishing. This new edition is the mutual brainchild of Edwards scholars Oliver C. Crisp (Fuller Seminary) and Kyle C. Strobel (Biola University), each of which has been interviewed here at in the past. This new work is an attempt to provide an overview of the thought of the great Puritan theologian, Jonathan Edwards.

Regular followers of this site will perhaps already be aware of some of the individual contributions of Strobel and Crisp (see book list below) and this new combined effort seeks to provide an overview of Edwards’ overall theological trajectory. Some key doctrines explored in this text include Edwards’ views on the Trinity, Creation, and the Atonement. Readers of Crisp in particular will not be surprised to see the concepts of idealism, occasionalism, and continuous creation treated in his contributory sections.

Book Links Mentioned in Video Review Above:
Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought

The Case for Christ

Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation

Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation

Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians

Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia

Formed for the Glory of God

After Jonathan Edwards

One Man’s Adventure of a Lifetime to Retrace the Path of Jonathan Edwards

Tony Walker is an amazing man.

Not only is he a devoted pastor, a loving husband, and an attentive father, but he is also an exceptionally friendly and generous person. More than once, Tony has sent me something in the mail, related to Jonathan Edwards – just because of our mutual interest in Northampton Sage. Mind you, we’ve never even met personally.

While I have not yet had the pleasure of actually shaking his hand, we are destined to meet at an Edwards conference one day, I am sure.

Recently, Tony sent me an apron for serving my church’s Wednesday night dinners. Of course, it has the Jonathan Edwards family logo on it! He bought the apron while on a pilgrimage of sorts. Late last year, Tony went on the adventure of a lifetime to retrace the footsteps of the great Bewigged Puritan. In the videos below, Tony chronicles his adventures. If you have not yet befriended Tony on the interweb, he is quite possibly Edwards’ greatest fan and the nicest guy online. So please give him a like, subscribe, and follow on Youtube and Twitter.


Here is the story of day one:

Here is part two:

Next part:

And the subsequent:

And the final:


Book Review – A Treatise on Jonathan Edwards: Continuous Creation and Christology, by S. Mark Hamilton

S. Mark Hamilton has written a very exceptional and handy new volume on the metaphysics of Jonathan Edwards, especially as regards his somewhat unusual ideas of continuous creation and idealism, and their respective relationship to Christology.

Entitled, “A Treatise on Jonathan Edwards: Continuous Creation and Christology,” this work is published by the emerging new leader in Edwards publication projects, JESociety Press. Before we get to a review of the book itself, we should take a moment to note what a good thing this is for Edwards scholarship in general.

Having a press that is devoted to Edwards alone is a marvelous thing. This means that it can be small, nimble, and tightly focused on projects that advance our specialized field. JESociety Press plans to remain concentrated on publishing new projects by both respected scholars and emerging new writers alike for the tailored audience that eagerly anticipates them. While bigger publishers like Crossway do gobble up manuscripts on Edwards from time to time, they are not always as willing to give more technical treatises like the one being considered in this review the availability they deserve.

Moreover, JESociety Press, with this volume as a first foray, is also introducing a new line of monographs entitled “A Series of Treatises on Jonathan Edwards.” This new lineup promises to give readership “lively, assessable and in-depth treatments of Edwards-specific subject matter.” Each of these new volumes is also promised to be concise (Continuous Creation is only around 100 pages), which I believe will make these books all the more valuable. Hamilton

S. Mark Hamilton’s own learned contribution to Edwards scholarship on continuous creation (pictured: right) comes with high recommendations from Gerald McDermott, Douglas Sweeney, Sam Storms, and Oliver Crisp (his doctoral adviser), so my hopes were high for this volume. Thankfully it did not disappoint me in any way. Actually, even the very Forward by Crisp had me intrigued; here the esteemed professor at Fuller Seminary admits that his student will be challenging some of his own ideas within. Drama!

Crisp also admits that the concepts contained herein by his student are heavy and rank among some of the great thoughts that can be entertained by the human mind. As I delved in to the introduction, I considered myself duly warned.

In the beginning of the work, Hamilton introduces the reader to the concept of Edwards’ idea of continuous creation; that is, that God is constantly re-creating the universe at every instant, which is akin to His sustaining the universe (Colossians 1:15-17). Rather than creating just once, and then letting the universe spin (so the enlightenment machinists), Edwards has an idea that God is always and constantly recreating everything that is. But this idea, if accepted, comes with some tangential “baggage” that likewise must be toted to keep the concept coherent. Thus, in order to make this view hold together (note: Hamilton is not arguing a defense of continuous creation; he is only trying to help readers understand Edwards more clearly) he will have to dig into related areas that this notion of continuous creation may affect.

On page 11, Hamilton gives the outline for the book. First, he will deal with the fact that Edwards held to some form of immaterialism. That is to say, the universe is actually a product of God’s uncreated mind, and all else that “is,” consists of either created minds with the power to perceive, or else the mental impressions that God places upon those minds. As I understand it, Edwards’ believes that the universe is somewhat like the movie the Matrix, with reality somehow impressed into the minds of God’s intelligent creatures, all the while they perceive that they are actually “there.” This chair that I am sitting on as I write is not really here. My created mind perceives it to be there; but there is no “stuff” below me. All that exists in Edwards’ metaphysical world is the Uncreated Mind of God impressing ideas into our created minds.

But this is all not so simple. What do we make of time itself? Does it progress? Is it eternally present to God? Does it lapse moment by moment? Does the past still “exist” once it is gone, or is it destroyed? All of these questions, Hamilton tries to explain in his second chapter on time, a view which he calls “stage theory.” In the third chapter, Hamilton deals with occasionalism which is the idea that God is the sole causal factor in all that transpires in the universe. Hamilton does not think that Edwards believes God needs to recreate the lesser created minds instant by instant, but he does argue that the percepts given by God to those minds are in a constant state of being “updated” through God’s direct agency. And while all of these things are interesting enough on their own, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, is in the Christology of Jonathan Edwards.

Here we see the subtitle of the work coming into full effect, “Continuous Creation and Christology.” True enough, if the doctrine of the Incarnation suggests that the Son of God took on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, this opens up quite a few other questions about Edwards’ metaphysics: What of Jesus’ physical body? Does it possess physicality (material) outside of its “idea,” or does it too exist as an impression from the Uncreated Mind (God) to the created minds of men? And even more startling, we must ask, what about the mind of Jesus of Nazareth itself; is it created or uncreated? Does the human mind of Jesus of Nazareth need be constantly recreated? If Jesus is to be truly incarnate as a human being, he must exist in his humanity in the same way as all human creations do, right? And yet this is made quite a bit more complex still by the fact that the Son is also eternal and timeless; begotten by the Father. The reader is challenged to work through these complex questions alongside Hamilton as he considers each one in turn.

When Hamilton is working through Edwards’ first hand materials, he is primarily doing work in his Miscellanies and his book Original Sin. It is in the latter that we see his doctrine of continuous creation explained most fully, and in the former that Edwards talks about such ideas as idealism and occasionalism freely. There are moments when Hamilton, in order to explain what Edwards likely thought, is somewhat forced to make conjectures and leaps to fill in that gaps that are not fully explained by Edwards himself in his extant writings. Of course, he rigorously works through the relevant literature, and especially interacts with Crisp in the footnotes.

Since the book is short, the reader moves through these questions a bit fast. Perhaps too fast at times, although Hamilton tries to give the reader enough illustrations and examples to keep his or her mind focused on the topic at hand. Several times, just when my focus was about to “tap out” from mental perplexity, Hamilton would give just the right illustration that helped me to jump back on board and cling on a bit longer. Readers will find themselves preserved from mental fatigue by helpful handholds such as the recurring “cupcake” illustration (p. 32-33), a Monet painting reference (page 38), an illustration of an actor watching himself on film (p. 40), a memorable old-school slide projector (p. 56) and so on.  The constant use of these illustrations gives the reader the assurance of “Okay, I’m still with you!”

Without giving too many spoilers, Hamilton holds that Edwards does have a coherent view of continuous creation that sustains challenges from other problematic issues related to Christology. Edwards’ view of immaterialism is that the universe consists of minds and ideas only. He holds that the ideas must be constantly recreated, but not the minds. This prevents him from having to admit that the created mind of Jesus of Nazareth (as distinct from the uncreated mind of the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity) need be remade continually. This makes Edwards, in Hamilton’s view an “immaterial realist.” Thus, Hamilton concludes the following propositions can be discerned in Edwards’ metaphysics:

  • The humanity of Jesus is a real substance, composed of an immaterial mind and a body composed entirely of ideas presented to Him by the Spirit
  • The mind of Jesus persists through time by enduring moment-to-moment whereas the body of Jesus, like all other perceptible objects, is continuously created and re-presented ex nihilo to the mind of Jesus (p. 92-93).

The book does get embroiled in quite a bit of jargon. Each chapter introduces new terms to the reader that must be considered before one or the other is finally preferred by the author. Is time discreet or dense? We must become familiar with fusion theory and fission theory. Neophytes will struggle to keep up with terms like idealism, occasionalism, substances, minds, immaterialism etc. Readers may do well to keep the new Edwards Encyclopedia close at hand. Thus, the constant introduction of new terms may give some uninitated readers the sense of playing “catch up” throughout the book. On the other hand, the brevity, clarity, and illustrations of the book make it an attainable read for all who are interested to go further into Edwards’ somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts on metaphysics.



The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017)

Here it is!

Finally the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, edited by Harry S. Stout, is available for purchase in the hardback edition. This volume contains over 400 entries on topics about and related to the Northampton Puritan. This work represents the learning of over 175 world class Edwards scholars. Topics include the historical persons related to his life, the times and context in which he lived, his interlocutors, his primary written sources, as well as dozens of theological and philosophical concepts necessary to understanding JE’s works. Contributors to this volume include Kenneth Minkema, Joel Beeke, Rhys Bezzant, Adriaan Neele, Oliver Crisp, Sean Michael Lucas, Jefferey Waddington, Jonathan S. Marko, and many others. The forward was written by George M. Marsden.

This volume will likely join just a handful of other works related to Edwards that are considered absolutely indispensable for future scholars to reckon with.

Forthwith, a full video review of this beautiful and scholarly work.

Recent Lecture by Douglas A. Sweeney “Human Flourishing in the Augustinian Tradition: Jonathan Edwards”

Most recently, within the circuit of Jonathan Edwards scholarship, Doug Sweeney gave an excellent lecture entitled “Human Flourishing in the Augustinian Tradition: Jonathan Edwards” at the Commonweal Project Spring Colloquium on April 28, 2017 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In short, the Commonweal Project is an initiative to equip Christians in general, and pastors in particular, with a biblical theology of work and economics. Below is the access to the lecture.

Sweeney is the Chair of the Church History & History of Christian Thought, and the Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is one of the editors of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, and has published numerous articles and books on Edwards including his latest offering Edwards the Exegete.

Click here for more information about The Commonweal Project.

–Guest post by John T. Lowe (@johntlowe). John is a Ph.D. Candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He received his B.A. from the University of Louisville, and his M.Div., and Th.M. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Check out the sermon on video here:


Edwards Encyclopedia Preview

Forthwith, the world’s first look at the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (pre-order this volume here), edited by Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele (Eerdmans, 2017). The edition shown in the video below is not the final version, but is rather an advanced, uncorrected proof provided by the good folks at Eerdmans Publishing. The hardback edition will be released in November of this year, and will weigh in at well over 700 pages. It will likely be the definitive one volume reference work on Jonathan Edwards for decades to come. Contributing authors include: Robert L. Boss, Jonathan S. Marko, Oliver Crisp, Joel Beeke, Sean Michael Lucas, Thomas S. Kidd, Rhys S. Bezzant, Jeffery C. Waddington and many more.