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No book was more accessible or familiar to the American founders than the Bible, and no book was more frequently alluded to or quoted from in the political discourse of the age. How and for what purposes did the founding generation use the Bible? How did the Bible influence their political culture?
Shedding new light on some of the most familiar rhetoric of the founding era, Daniel Dreisbach analyzes the founders' diverse use of scripture, ranging from the literary to the theological. He shows that they looked to the Bible for insights on human nature, civic virtue, political authority, and the rights and duties of citizens, as well as for political and legal models to emulate. They quoted scripture to authorize civil resistance, to invoke divine blessings for righteous nations, and to provide the language of liberty that would be appropriated by patriotic Americans.
Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers broaches the perennial question of whether the American founding was, to some extent, informed by religious-specifically Christian-ideas. In the sense that the founding generation were members of a biblically literate society that placed the Bible at the center of culture and discourse, the answer to that question is clearly "yes." Ignoring the Bible's influence on the founders, Dreisbach warns, produces a distorted image of the American political experiment, and of the concept of self-government on which America is built.
Daniel L. Dreisbach is a professor at American University in Washington, D.C. He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia. He has written extensively on the intersection of religion, politics, and law in the American founding.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers: An Introduction
PART I Chapter Two: The English Bible and American Public Culture Chapter Three: The Bible in the Lives of the Founding Fathers Chapter Four: The Bible in the Political Discourse of the American Founding
PART II Chapter Five: What Does God Require of Us?: Micah 6:8 in the Literature of the American Founding The Bible in American History 1: Creating a Great Seal for the New Nation Chapter Six: A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants: The Bible, the Right of Resistance, and the American Revolution The Bible in American History 2: Benjamin Franklin's Call for Prayer in the Constitutional Convention Chapter Seven: The Exalted Nation: Proverbs 14:34 and the Characteristics of a Righteous People The Bible in American History 3: The First Prayer in Congress Chapter Eight: When the Righteous Rule: Proverbs 29:2 and the Character of a Godly Magistrate The Bible in American History 4: Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Chapter Nine: Stand Fast in Liberty: The Use (and Misuse) of Biblical Symbols and Rhetoric of "Liberty" in the American Founding The Bible in American History 5: George Washington Takes the Presidential Oath of Office Chapter Ten: Under Our Own Vine and Fig Tree: Creating an American Metaphor for Liberty in the New Nation
Afterword Notes Selected Bibliography Acknowledgments Index