Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers (Dreisbach)
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The Bible was featured prominently in the political discourse of the American founding era (approximately the last third of the eighteenth century). It was a widely respected and referenced text, although some well-known skeptical founders questioned its divine origins or the authenticity of the text transmitted through the centuries. The Bible influenced aspects of public culture, including language, letters, arts, education, and law, and it left its mark on the lives of individual founders. It was also thought to offer insights into basic and enduring questions of political theory, such as the role of civil government, the liberties and civic responsibilities of citizens, and whether citizens have the right to resist tyrannical rule. The Bible informed the way many late eighteenth-century Americans thought about human nature, civic virtue, social order, political authority, the rights and duties of citizens, and other ideas vital to the establishment of a political society. Many Americans in this generation thought the Bible was essential for nurturing the civic virtues that give citizens the capacity for self-government. The political discourse of the age is replete with quotations from and allusions to the Bible, and with language that resembles, imitates, or evokes the distinctive intonations of the King James Bible. The founders turned to the Bible for literary, rhetorical, and political reasons, in addition to religious reasons. For a well-rounded understanding of the ideas that informed the American founding, these biblical influences must be studied alongside republican, Enlightenment, British constitutional, and other intellectual influences.
- First in-depth study of the American founders’ use of the Bible in political discourse
- Analyzes the diverse uses of, as well as the promises and perils of using, the Bible in political rhetoric
- Challenges the belief that the ideas that informed the founding fathers were strictly or predominantly secular
- Shows that Enlightenment rationalism competed with biblical Christianity in the founders' political thought
Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers
• Author: Daniel L. Dreisbach
• Publisher: Oxford University Press (2017)