Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Eric Wolfe



Generally speaking, some Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans invoke the rhetorical power of the Protestant Old and New Testaments in their writings to specify and dictate certain courses of action, especially during the period known as the Antinomian Controversy. These authoritarian, dogmatic, directive allusions to Scripture-- what I call the invocative use of the Bible's rhetorical power--appear frequently in some specific contemporaneous Massachusetts Bay Colony journals, sermons, and letters. The author employs these uses to establish the literary and interpretive contexts for the rhetorical use of the Bible in the transcripts of Hutchinson's civil and ecclesiastical trials. For example, the author examines some specific ways the Bible is rhetorically used by key Hutchinson accusers. She shows how the Bible is read in literalistic, typological and allegorical ways. She demonstrates the thinking processes associated with these same rhetorical patterns, and how Governor John Winthrop makes invocative uses of the Bible as seen in his Journal, letters, and Short Story. In the same manner, the writer analyzes Pastor John Cotton’s rhetorical uses of the Bible as seen in his sermons and writings. Believing these thinking and rhetorical patterns to also be those of Hutchinson herself, the author uses Winthrop and Cotton’s literary contexts to identify and analyze Hutchinson’s invocative uses of Scripture in response to both of these leaders. These are seen in the transcripts of her ecclesiastical and civic trial transcripts.

Putting all of this in motion, the researcher demonstrates the ways Winthrop, Cotton, Hutchinson leverage power over the thinking and behaviors of each other during the Antinomian Controversy. This work concludes by analyzing a few examples of how rhetorical readings of Protestant Scriptures have often been used to justify decisions, issues, and thinking in some key moments of American history, both past and present. It ends by suggesting ways American texts both past and present can be read by using the author’s own interdisciplinary approach which combines the concerns of a New Historicist literary and New Historicist Bible criticism.