Locate And Analyze Two Examples Of Bradford's Use Of Allusions To The Bible

In History of Plymouth Plantation, locate and analyze two examples of Bradford's use of allusions to the Bible and of references to God's intervention in events. What purpose might these devices serve his account?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Bradford's A History of Plymouth Plantation is full of biblical allusions. A major purpose in writing the history was to illustrate the important role played by God in the survival and establishment of the Pilgrims' colony at Plymouth. One example of this is very early in the account, when Bradford describes the landing near Cape Cod:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof.

The idea that the Pilgrims were the beneficiaries of divine protection, and were instruments of God's will, is central to Bradford's worldview as it is revealed in the book. 

After the first winter, when the Pilgrims died in great numbers, Bradford is still struck by the divine mercy in allowing the settlers to survive at all:

The spring now approaching, it pleased God the mortality began to cease amongst them, and the sick and lame recovered apace, which put as it were new life into them; though they had borne their sad affliction with much patience & contentedness, as I think any people could do. But it was the Lord which upheld them, and had beforehand prepared them; many having long borne the yoke, yea from their youth.

Defeats, setbacks, and adversity were regarded as God's means of chastising the Pilgrims for insufficient piety, or for "wicked" behavior, and successes, survival, and prosperity were understood as God's blessing on the endeavor. The crucial thing for Bradford was that the Pilgrims were engaged in a holy mission, one which God would favor as long as they stayed true to its purpose.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Puritans, the Pilgrims believed that the will of God directs the universe. This belief is demonstrated in Bradford's moral anecdotes which fill the pages of his account, Of Plymouth Plantation.

1. In Book I, Chapter 9, Bradford alludes to the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 28), in which St. Paul has been taken prisoner and is put on a ship headed to Italy. When Paul and the others are shipwrecked because of damage from a terrible storm at sea and the ship's having struck a massive reef, these Christians are aided by the "barbarous people" of Malta. In contrast to the people of Malta, Bradford remarks, the "savage barbarians" who met with Bradford's crew were "readier to fill [the Pilgrims'] sides full of arrows than otherwise."

While displaying his arguably unchristian attitude toward the Native Americans, Bradford also points to the Pilgrims' need to trust in God: "What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?" He then alludes to a biblical verse in his remark that the Englishmen came over the ocean and

...were ready to perish in this wilderness, but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity. (Deuteronomy 26:7)

2. In Book II, Chapter 2, Bradford tells of the expedition that returns to Cape Cod with Indian corn, alluding to a passage from the Old Testament:

And so, like the men from Eshcol, carried with them of the fruits of the land and showed their brethren; of which, and their return, they were marvelously glad and their hearts encouraged.(Numbers 13:17-27)

Bradford's allusion to this passage shows his Puritan belief that God is intervening in the Pilgrims' lives.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter three, Bradford alludes to the "Moyses & ye Isralits when they went out of Egipte [sic]" as a parallel to the Separatists leaving England, and then staying in Leyden (the Netherlands) in their quest to free themselves of the imposition of the English Anglican religion. The Separatists also believed themselves to be God's chosen people and were confident that they would eventually be delivered to a new Zion in the American colonies because He would oversee their safe passage and "free" them.

In chapter four, Bradford recalls that even after a decade in Leyden, the Separatists were not permanently safe from religious persecution, and he draws a biblical parallel in the words: "according to ye devine proverb, y t a wise man seeth ye plague when it cometh, & hideth him selfe, Pro. 22. 3 [sic]." The Dutch had ongoing conflict with Spain, and Bradford and his contemporaries knew that moving on to the American colonies was inevitable. Bradford implies that staying in Europe would mean fending off Catholicism and Anglicans (a "plague" to his people) for the foreseeable future and that God's will is for the Separatists to establish their Zion in the New World.

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History of Plymouth Plantation

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