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Petersen’s Process of Revising Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

By Cheryl Petersen

Hindsight can take me back to younger years, recalling minor incidents that pointed me in the path of revising Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health; however I will only outline the major steps involved in producing 21 st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Decades of contemplation and life experiences brought me to realize the following facts:

Science and Health is a textbook, not an idol.

Science and Health was written for the public, not a church; the book was published twenty years before it was read fromalong with the Biblea church pulpit as Pastor.

Science and Health is circular, not linear; the reader can open the book and read where and when they are so inspired to read.

Science and Health states that the Bible is a “sufficient” guide to eternal life, not the “only” guide. (Science and Health, Trade edition, page 497)

Science and Health speaks “with” doctors and physicians, not against them.

Mary Baker Eddy quoted scientists, multi-denominational church leaders, and entertainers (Sir Walter Scott & Shakespeare) As a result, I replaced many of these quotes with quotes from modern day thinkers and leaders.

Mary Baker Eddy revised her Science and Health over three hundred times during her lifetime, clarifying that revisions are “requisite.” (ibid page 361)

Mary Baker Eddy’s prose was always hustling to stay up with spiritual unfoldment, remarking “The chief difficulty in conveying the teachings of divine Science accurately to human thought lies in this, that like all other languages, English is inadequate to the expression of spiritual conceptions and propositions.” (ibid page


When investigating the copyright of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, I found a pit of muck to circumvent. There was a clause in the copyright laws that could have been applied to my situation and therefore an employee of The United States Copyright Office assisted me. We discovered that in the 1970’s, during President Nixon’s term, a law was passed that gave a Science and Health copyright to the Board of Directors of The First Church of Christ, Scientist. The law was later deemed unconstitutional and upheld by The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the 1980’s. Eddy’s Science and Health is in public domain. Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health consists of seventeen chapters. I began revising the chapter Marriage and immediately incorporated extensive research into the revision process. I visited college libraries and The New York Public Library which served as the main source of books Eddy quoted from. The following conclusions are samples of my research.

The brimstone and fire God of the 19 th century was melting as the mass population was admitting a God of love. Predestination was also being thrown out of religion (but was later reinstituted in the 20 th century by the hard sciences with the discovery of DNA)

The 19 th century attitude toward women was greatly agitated and pushed forward on the heels of America’s Civil War.

Technology, due to the 19 th century industrial revolution, improved medical treatment, especially when it came to germs; however, 19 th century medicine was generally backward, brutal, and only in the preliminary stages of becoming professionalized.

Alternative healing modalities in the 19 th century were as popular as they are today, with a lull in the 20 th century due to the attention given medical advancement.

Biblical studies and discoveries over the last one hundred years have removed misconceptions such as the false juxtaposition of Mary Magdalene to the women who bathed Jesus’ feet with oil before his crucifixion. (Luke 7)

Gender-inclusive language and footnotes were not common in the 19 th century but are expected in today’s literature. After updating and revising the chapters Marriage, Prayer, Atonement and Eucharist, Science of Being, Creation, and Footsteps of Truth, I laughed and cried: laughing because my version had only progressed to the mid 1900’s, and crying because I felt unfitted to tackle the chapter Teaching Christian Science. Therefore, I asked help from certified Teachers of Christian Scientists, but only got a taste of the displeasure that was later to come from that direction. So, I continued to update with the appreciation I had for metaphysical truths. Fortunately, the continued work had a dual consequence. I witnessed the revision work progress to the 21 st century and felt myself being prepared to revise the chapter Teaching Christian Science. I was still a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and an active member of a branch church. I regularly attended my annual Christian Science Association meeting. But, when the Board of Directors showed adamant disapproval to the revision work, I had to apply vigorously a principle Eddy asked church members to follow, basically is says, not to be motivated by personal attachment or animosity. (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, The Church Manual, page 40) I then withdrew my membership from the church. When all the chapters were effectively finished, I sold 21 st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in e-book format. Interestingly, people wrote and congratulated me, saying they had also wanted to revise Eddy’s book. But, I also received what I call my “hate mail.” The revision has been classified with anti-Christ and I’ve been told things that thankfully make no sense, so I kept forging ahead. The revision is now in its 3 rd edition and available in print form. The seed within itself, Science and Health, is now available in current vocabulary and today’s idiom; has footnotes; quotes modern English versions of the Bible and authors; treats today’s social issues; contains knowledge of progress made in technical, Biblical, religious, and medical study; and signifies a movement toward a gender-inclusive language.

Cheryl Petersen blogs online at