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America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story Hardcover – October 6, 2009
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The exodus story is America's story. Moses is our real founding father.
The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses.
In this groundbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler travels through touchstones in American history and traces the biblical prophet's influence from the Mayflower through today. He visits the island where the pilgrims spent their first Sabbath, climbs the bell tower where the Liberty Bell was inscribed with a quote from Moses, retraces the Underground Railroad where "Go Down, Moses" was the national anthem of slaves, and dons the robe Charlton Heston wore in The Ten Commandments.
"Even a cursory review of American history indicates that Moses has emboldened leaders of all stripes," Feiler writes, "patriot and loyalist, slave and master, Jew and Christian. Could the persistence of his story serve as a reminder of our shared national values? Could he serve as a unifying force in a disunifying time? If Moses could split the Red Sea, could he unsplit America?"
One part adventure story, one part literary detective story, one part exploration of faith in contemporary life, America's Prophet takes readers through the landmarks of America's narrative—from Gettysburg to Selma, the Silver Screen to the Oval Office—to understand how Moses has shaped the nation's character.
Meticulously researched and highly readable, America's Prophet is a thrilling, original work of history that will forever change how we view America, our faith, and our future.Photographs from America's Prophet
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|The Hebrew Letter "Bet" |
“In every generation one should regard oneself as though he had come out of Egypt.” The large letter “bet” contains the word “bad” and images of ancient Egypt at top and Nazi concentration camps at bottom. Drawing by Yosef Dov Sheinson from A Survivors’ Haggadah. (Courtesy of The Jewish Publication Society)
|Martin Luther King, Jr. |
Martin Luther King, Jr., in a never-before-published photograph, delivering his sermon “The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore” at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, New York, May 17, 1956, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (Courtesy of the Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine)
|Liberty Enlightening the World |
With ships and New York Harbor in the background. Lithograph published by Currier & Ives, c. 1886. (Courtesy of The Library of Congress)
|The Great Seal of the United States |
John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson’s proposal for the Great Seal of the United States, as drawn by Benson J. Lossing for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, July 1856. (Courtesy of The Library of Congress)
From Publishers Weekly
A bestselling author for his popular explorations of the lands of the Bible, Feiler turns his attention to the biblical figure of Moses in U.S. history. He argues that the story of the life of Moses as told in the book of Exodus has been the dominant metanarrative employed by political and social leaders in shaping America's identity, from the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution to the civil rights movement with its vision of a Promised Land. A journalist rather than a historian, Feiler approaches his subject using the same formula he has employed in previous books: physical walks through historic sites and interviews with experts. Although the book offers snippets of interesting anecdotes, the approach is uncontroversial and the book lacks forward momentum. Feiler is a popularizer, and readers interested in a light and cursory treatment of a theme in U.S. history will enjoy it. Readers wanting a more in-depth and critical understanding of the subject may want to look elsewhere. (Oct.)
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Information presented here (regarding American history) is well researched and thoroughly cited.
The author seems to be operating from an angle which focuses heavily on a perceived competition between Judaism and Christianity in western/ American culture though, rather than focusing on the many commonalities. This was a bit of a distraction for me.
Prerequisites to this book should be:
~ The 5000 Year Leap (which supplies information regarding the evolution of American Law from British Common Law, Anglican Saacson Law, the Greek/Roman constructs of Democratic Republicanism, and ultimately the neo-republics of ancient Israel and MEDO-Persia.
~ The Declaration of Arbroath.
~ The writings of Greek historian Herodotus.
~ The writings of Jewish historian Josephus.
~ Knowledge of historical information gleaned from the deciphering of cuneiform scripts found in the ancient ruins of Assyria as well as the multi-lingual Behistun inscriptions.
~ the Foreward of Goodspeed's Apochrypha (because it establishes and explains a solid similarity, symbiosis, and mutual ease of acceptance between pre and post Christian Greek society with that of concurrent Jewish societies).
~ Acceptance (or at least objective consideration) that the Hebrew/Greek manuscripts of the books of Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah are not "myth" but rather actual historical chronicles of the Israelite people.
A compelling and enlightening review of one of the principle driving forces behind both the founding of the United States and the eternal need the American people feel to continually reinvent themselves.
No American can appreciate his history without this tale between his ears.
I read this book a few years ago and was instantly engrossed. Having been born (unknowingly until I was 55) a Jew, but brought up as a protestant, this helped me explain to others that we are in this country as one people.
Make no mistake about it: this is a Judeo- Christian nation. Period. And Bruce Feller will prove it to you!