Its origin lay in notes growing out of biblical studies she undertook beginning in 1867 following the healing experience she reported in 1866. The first edition appeared in 1875 and went through over two hundred revisions before her passing in 1910. It consists of eighteen chapters; the last, entitled Fruitage, is a hundred pages of testimonies of healings taken from church periodicals; the three preceding it are exegetical and more directly biblical expositive. The book has historically been printed with line numbers (up to 32) for ease of passage reference and marginal captions.
The book is an exposition of the basic teachings of Christian Science, from the church's perspective, a radically metaphysical view of Christianity in which sin, disease, and death in an absolute spiritual perspective have no legitimacy nor fundamental reality, and in which a spiritualized perception of God as absolute spiritual good only and man and woman in His spiritual image and likeness dispel these ills in human experience, i.e. heal.
The copyright went through several renewals. In 1972 with the unusual initiative of two adherents in the Nixon administration, a special act of Congress extended the copyright on it, effectively reserving it exclusively to the church institution, but this was later struck down as unconstitutional, and private distributions have appeared through entities such as the Aequus Institute.
During the 1990s, which saw other controversies including the attempted media ventures of the Christian Science Publishing Society and the publication of The Destiny of The Mother Church, a trade edition was released which included an unprecedented introduction by a church director and an index appended to the end, and which dispensed with the marginal captions, and the book was marketed outside of the historical channels of individual distribution and Christian Science Reading Rooms.