The impetus for my work on Fox’s Epistles was provided when Alistair Reid sent me an electronic copy of Ursula Windsor’s unpublished scripture index to Arthur Windsor’s George Fox’s Epistles: An Analytical Phrase Index (George Fox Fund, 1992). Arthur Windsor’s book attempts to list phrases in Fox’s Epistles, giving page references to the 1831 Works. Epistle numbers are included to facilitate use of other editions of the Epistles.

Fox’s use of scripture has influenced subsequent generations of Friends; many of his conflations crop up in later writings. The Epistles seem a good choice for analysis; the biblical allusions are denser than those in the Journal, and, unlike the doctrinal works, they are readily available in multiple editions, with epistle numbers to help in dealing with variant pagings. The work of Arthur and Ursula Windsor gave me a splendid body of material to build on. In addition, the advent of the Earlham School of Religion's Digital Quaker Collection made it possible to download volumes 7 and 8 of the 1831 Works as a ready-made e-text to work with.

Arthur Windsor included biblical sources of some phrases in his book, but that was not his primary objective. Ursula Windsor’s scripture index, compiled from his notes, lists some 4500 scripture references in the epistles. Building on Ursula’s work, I now have about 8000 references.

I am led to begin by posting on the web (in a somewhat abridged version) the texts of George Fox’s Epistles, with biblical allusions in boldface and the chapter-and-verse sources identified in brackets. This will be followed in due course by some kind of scripture index. I am still trying to figure out what it will look like. (A key word index or concordance would also be useful, but I would need help with that.)

Perhaps 80% of the texts are included here. (The full texts are online in the Earlham School of Religion’s Digital Quaker Collection.) Omitted are passages in which biblical allusions were not detected, or repetitions of points already made in that epistle; also short epistles where the only allusions were to verses widely cited elsewhere. Where the same phrase is repeated several times in the same page or paragraph, I have usually only identified it once, preferring the most complete version (not necessarily the first).

It has become clear along the way that identification of biblical sources is an art, not a science.

There are a number of instances where Arthur Windsor came close, but I was able to come closer. For example: under "Enoch," he has (Gen 4, 5). There are two Enochs in Genesis; the one in Gen 4 is the son of Cain; I have found no references to him, although there are a number to the city that Cain built (and named after him, 4:17). The Enoch who is usually meant is the one in Gen 5:22-24, a descendent of Seth ("the seventh from Adam," according to Jude 1:14). However, most of the references to this Enoch seem to refer either to Hebrews 11:5 ("by faith Enoch was translated...") or to Jude 1:14f (which quotes a prophecy from the Pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch). These passages may be conflated, and it is not always easy to pinpoint the allusion.

Fox’s use of scripture

Fox’s wording does not always match that of the King James Version, for various reasons:

He may be quoting another translation, conflating verses, or using scripture in idosyncratic ways.

With regard to other translations, some scholars think that Fox used Tyndale, the Bishop’s Bible, and Geneva more than the KJV. (I have used KJV because it, and concordances to it, are readily available to modern readers, whereas the others are not.) For example, 1 Pet 2:9 KJV contains the phrase "show forth the praises of him who has called you...." Fox (GF8: 72 [313]) has "show forth the virtue of Christ..." This turns out to be Tyndale: "show forth the virtues..." Or GF8: 133 [342], Fox has both "concluded" and "shut up" in sin and unbelief. In Rom 11:32 the KJV has "concluded ... in unbelief," Geneva has "shut up."

Fox often conflates two or more verses in ways that take considerable unraveling. A few examples out of many:


GF7: 329 [263]: "Train up all your children in the fear of the Lord" appears to combine Psa 34:11 ("Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord") with Prov 22:6 ("Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it").


GF7: 24[16]: "The voice of the bridegroom is heard in our land": Rev 18:23 ("the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee"), Song of Sol 2:12 ("the voice of the turtle is heard in our land")


An oft-repeated phrase, with variations, is: "Wait in the wisdom, that with it ye may be ordered (order all things) to the glory of God." This appears to combine Wisdom of Solomon 8:1 ("Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily: and sweetly doth she order all things") with 1 Cor 10:31 ("Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God"); lurking in the background is 1 Cor 2:7 ("But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory").


And finally, the familiar phrase "answer that of God in every man" appears to conflate Col 4:6 ("Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man") with Rom 1:19 ("Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them"). Fox sometimes uses the variant "answer the witness of God in every man" (1 Jn 5:9f: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself....").

Fox’s uses of scripture are often idiosyncratic, occasionally including outright misquotations which bend the meaning to his purposes. For example, in 1 Pet 3:18: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit", the phrase "the just for the unjust" becomes "And so the just suffereth by the unjust; and he that is born of the flesh, persecutes him that is born of the spirit" [Gal 4:29].

One learns as one goes along; I often found myself identifying phrases in the later epistles which I had failed to recognize as biblical in the earlier ones. (Other instances of a phrase can be searched for in the ESR Digital Quaker Collection.) I have tried to indicate doubtful or far-fetched identifications with a question mark. Much room for improvement remains.

The user is cautioned not to conclude from my identifications that "this is where that comes from". There may be a passage in another translation that fits better. Just because I found a phrase in KJV that matches the phrase in Fox does not necessarily mean that he intended to allude to that passage. The context may not match at all. However, Fox’s use of scripture seems so organic and associative that the phrase might have came to mind out of context. When in doubt I have usually chosen to err on the side of inclusion.

Esther Greenleaf Mürer

July 2004