Holy text of Christian Science
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is, along with the Bible, the central text of the Christian Science religion. Mary Baker Eddy described it as her “most important work.” She began writing it in February 1872 and the first edition was published in 1875. However, she would continue working on it and making changes for the rest of her life.
Christian Science develops its theology and its healing method from these simple statements:
The latest edition of the book consists of a short preface, the main section, a “Key to the Scriptures”, and Fruitage. Some editions include a word index.
The main section is 500 pages long and comprises chapters titled as follows:
- Atonement and Eucharist
- Christian Science versus Spiritualism
- Animal Magnetism Unmasked
- Science, Theology, Medicine
- Footsteps of Truth
- Science of Being
- Some Objections Answered
- Christian Science Practice (which explains how healing is undertaken)
- Teaching Christian Science
- Recapitulation (the text used for class instruction in Christian Science healing).
Key to the Scriptures
This section is 100 pages long, and comprises
- Genesis (a detailed analysis of the two versions of the creation story given in Genesis)
- The Apocalypse (an analysis of parts of Revelation)
- Glossary (giving the spiritual meaning of 114 Biblical terms)
This 100-page-long section consists of 84 testimonials of the healing power derived from reading the text in Science and Health. There are descriptions of addiction, asthma, broken bone, cataract, cancer, deafness, eczema, a fibroid tumor, and rheumatism. Prior intervention by physicians is mentioned in 50 of these cases, and one relates a confirmatory X-ray by a physician.
The first edition was copyrighted in 1875. The copyright for Science and Health went through several renewals including a posthumous renewal in 1934 by the Christian Science Board of Directors.
At the request of the Christian Science Board of Directors, in December 1971 Congress passed a law extending the copyright on Science and Health by 75 years.
However, following a legal suit brought by David James Nolan and Lucile J. Place of United Christian Scientists, the copyright extension was found unconstitutional in 1985 by Federal District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. In 1987 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the ruling of the district court. As a result, Science and Health has been in the public domain since 1987.
The first edition was printed by W. F. Brown & Co. Their invoice for 1,000 copies, dated 30 October 1875, was made out to George M. Barry and Edward Hitchins for $2285.35. It consisted of 456 pages, plus 2 pages of errata. Unfortunately there were hundreds of typographic errors, some because the printer, not understanding the author’s meaning, had tried to correct the wording without consulting her. The second edition, printed by Rand, Avery & Co, appeared in 1878, with 167 pages of new material. It was called Science and Health Volume 2 to indicate that it was a supplement to the first edition, but it, too, was full of typographic errors. However the third edition, printed by John Wilson at the University Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was of a high standard. Twelve further two-volume editions followed, before the 16th edition appeared as a single volume in 1886. This edition of the book had 552 pages, plus an index of 38 pages, and “with Key to the Scriptures” had been added to the title. Eddy remained loyal to the University Press for the rest of her life, and in 1897 even made a substantial investment to save it from bankruptcy.
Eddy closed her college and left Boston in 1889, in order to revise the text for the 50th edition (1891). This consisted of 578 pages plus a 73-page index, and for the first time included marginal headings. The 226th “thousand” (edition) appeared in 1902, and this included “Fruitage,” making up the page count of 700 pages which remains to this day. The last numbered edition was the 418th, which appeared in 1906, but further changes were made until 1910.
Science and Health encapsulates the teachings of Christian Science and Christian Scientists often call it their “textbook.” At Sunday services, passages from the book are read along with passages from the Bible. Eddy called the two books Christian Science’s “dual and impersonal pastor.”
- Eddy, Mary Baker (1892). Retrospection and Introspection. Boston, MA: Christian Science Publishing Society. 24, 37. ISBN 978-1421963143.
- Orcutt, William Dana (1950). Mary Baker Eddy and her books. Christian Science Publishing Society. pp. 16, 19.
- Staff reporter (Aug 22, 1985). “Christian Scientists fight over founder’s book”. Boca Raton News. Retrieved Oct 3, 2014.
- 75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World
- Eddy. Science and Health. p. 113. ISBN 978-0879524371.
- Eddy. Science and Health. p. 492. ISBN 978-0879524371.
- Eddy. Science and Health. p. 468. ISBN 978-0879524371.
- Eddy. Science and Health. p. 606. ISBN 978-0879524371.
- Eddy, 1906: p. ii.
- Private Law 92-60, AN ACT For the relief of Clayton Bion Craig, Arthur P. Wuth, Mrs. Lenore D. Hanks, David E. Sleeper, and DeWitt John
- UPI (Dec 11, 1971). “Senate Gives Scientists 75-Year Text Extension”. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved Oct 3, 2014.
- U.S. Copyright Office (n.d.). “Chapter 31 Duration of Copyright”. Library of Congress. Retrieved Oct 3, 2014.
- AP (Sep 23, 1987). “Christian Science Text’s Copyright Is Ruled Illegal by Appeals Court”. The New York Times. Retrieved Oct 3, 2014.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the law giving the church a copyright to all editions of “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures” was unconstitutional because it “offends the fundamental principles of separation of church and state.
- “United Christian Scientists, et al. v. Christian Science Board of Directors, First Church Ofchrist, Scientist, Appellant, 829 F.2d 1152 (D.C. Cir. 1987)”. Justia Law. Retrieved 2021-06-16.
- Eddy (1896). Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896. The First Church of Christ, Scientist. p. 322. ISBN 978-0879520403.
- Voorhees, Amy B. (2021). A New Christian Identity: Christian Science Origins and Experience in American Culture. University of North Carolina Press.
- Ventimiglia, Andrew (2018). Copyrighting God: Ownership of the Sacred in American Religion. Cambridge University Press.
- Mary Baker Eddy Library (2002). In My True Light and Life: Mary Baker Eddy Collections. Mary Baker Eddy Library.
- Brosang, Ernest J. (1990). A Christian Science Library: A Descriptive and Extended Bibliography. privately printed.