|Abstract||This dissertation examines the construction of the act of reading sacred Christian texts in sixteenth-century England. The advent of print and the legalization of vernacular religious texts in England created new rhetorical spaces which both defined and were defined by a changing religious climate and by the interactions of oral, written, and print cultures. Theologians, translators, editors and printers worked to define what it meant to engage sacred texts as they worked to stabilize their visions of the Church of England or increase book sales. Though scholars have reconstructed the reading practices of highly educated members of early modern English society by examining their book collections, marginalia, and other writings, significantly less has been done to understand the reading practices of the lower orders. Printing records reveal that the most popular books of the period were editions of English Psalters, complete Bibles, and Testaments of the Bible. John Foxe's Actes & Monuments did not sell at the rate of Bibles and Psalms, but it nevertheless entered into popular consciousness when it was ordered placed in all parish churches in 1571. My study considers the ways these popular books constructed relationships among readers and sacred texts. The paratexts of these widely circulated editions of sacred texts and the first four editions of Foxe's Actes & Monuments reveal multiple, often competing, conceptions of the act of reading. And yet, despite the different ends imagined for reading in these books, reading sacred texts is regularly constructed within a communal context. The final chapter of this study considers the theory of reading put forth in the Sidney Psalter. In this rather private text which circulated exclusively in manuscript form, the notion that reading sacred texts is a communal activity recurs and is put in the service of legitimating the poet's craft for devotional use.