The Bible is everywhere in the history of Australia since British settlement – ‘under Australian skin’, as Meredith Lake eloquently puts it – yet The Bible in Australia is the first occasion on which an historian has placed it in the foreground as a subject in its own right. As ancient and modern, sacred and secular, ‘the Word of God’ for some and yet composite and fluid, the Bible is interwoven with the diversity and complexity of Australian life.
Far from the preserve of the devoutly Christian, the Bible has been and remains meaningful for many who do not profess religious faith. The Bible is also there in politics, literature and art, in the colonisation of Indigenous people as well as their resistance, and it is an ingredient of popular culture. This deeply researched, highly accessible book helps us to see familiar aspects of the past in startlingly new ways while introducing readers to a fresh cast of characters.
Meredith Lake’s The Bible in Australia is a book of remarkable originality. Formidably researched yet carrying its scholarship with an enviable lightness of touch, this is a ground-breaking cultural and social history. As the songwriter Paul Kelly says, biblical stories and language ‘are part of the cultural air that we breathe’. Lake’s outstanding narrative history captures this atmosphere and makes sense of it with a rare skill. Reputedly secular and secularising Australia will never quite look the same again.