- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199987939
- ISBN-13: 978-0199987931
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.3 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers 1st Edition
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"One of the many merits of Daniel Dreisbach s book is to show how misleading this picture [of the Founding Fathers as cool to religion] is. Against this popular image, the Bible was referenced more often than any other text, or even writer, during the Revolutionary period...Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers is a scholarly book, drawing on an abundance of source material and demonstrating an admirable familiarity with the period and the Bible."--Church Times
"Well-researched and beautifully written, Daniel Dreisbach's Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers immerses readers in an era when American culture was greatly influenced by the Bible. One of the book's chief strengths is demonstrating how the Scriptures informed the thinking of both devout Christians and religious skeptics during America's early years. While Dreisbach wants us to appreciate the Bible's role as a practical guide and source of inspiration for America's founding generation, he also wants us to take action. As Bible engagement steadily declines in our own day, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers uses history to stretch our cultural imagination: How might the Bible inspire a new generation of Americans to tackle the crises facing our republic today?"--Roy L. Peterson, President and CEO, American Bible Society
"For far too long, scholars have neglected the Bible's influence on America's founders. In this elegantly written book, Daniel L. Dreisbach argues convincingly that the Holy Scriptures 'shaped the world of the founding fathers in profound and manifold ways.' Exhaustively researched and judiciously argued, this volume makes it impossible to ignore the Bible's central role in the founding era." --Mark David Hall, Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics, George Fox University
"For several years Daniel Dreisbach has been publishing extensively researched articles on specific aspects of the Bible's presence in Revolutionary America. Now he has expanded that research, added to the subjects considered, and provided a rich interpretive context. Although the resulting book does not answer all questions concerning how Scripture was put to use, it does represent a landmark investigative triumph and a splendid contribution to early United States history." --Mark A. Noll is the author of In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783
"This book can be read in an evening but mined for a lifetime. The elegant prose and the enticing topics of liberty, justice, virtue, authority, and faith in the American founding era make it hard to stop reading. But beneath the text, the voluminous notes and quotes are a treasure trove that scholars of many fields will be mining for a very long time. A brilliant achievement." --John Witte, Jr., Director, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University
"Daniel Dreisbach's fascinating Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers is a model of compelling research and sound judgment. It convincingly demonstrates just how deeply the Bible shaped the Founders' writings, speeches, and ideas." --Thomas S. Kidd, author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution
"The resulting contribution of this book is that the sheer wealth of material adds abundantly to our knowledge of how pervasively, profusely, and profoundly the Bible was invoked, for rhetorical and edifying purposes, throughout the founding era...The author s style is clear and accessible. Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers is easy to read, informative, and enjoyable. Modest in its purpose and scope, this book is recommended for university and public libraries alike."--Reading Religion
"Daniel Dreisbach s Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers undercuts theories that America s founders emphasized Enlightenment thinking over Biblical wisdom."--World Magazine
About the Author
Daniel L. Dreisbach is a professor in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology 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.
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What Dreisbach contributes is a more intense look at specific examples of Scripture upon which the Founders likely relied. Intellectual histories in general, as well as the effects of sources upon subsequent actions or expressions in particular, are notoriously difficult to "prove" but Dreisbach builds a very strong circumstantial case for several examples.
For instance, statements bearing the influence of Micah 6:8 are explored. Frequent paraphrases of "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God?" populate the quotes of Founding Fathers, who saw parallels between the terms of Israel's compact with God after its deliverance from Egypt and the terms upon which the young United States should abide in order to prosper.
Another example focuses on the biblical basis for civil disobedience and, of course, the American Revolution (Acts 5:29, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than man") over the traditional biblical citation for the justification of monarchies (Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject unto the highest powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are of God"). The book continues in a like fashion.
Dreisbach sees heavy traces of the critical biblical literature of the Protestant Reformation embedded throughout the Declaration of Independence (p. 133). He does not claim that the Bible was either the key or the primary source for American Revolutionary doctrine, but it certainly was significant and understanding that significance is crucial to understanding the Founding Fathers (p. 231, 234).
Dreisbach also admits that, "The bible was employed for literary, rhetorical, and political purposes, in addition to theological and spiritual reasons" (p. 231). This book is not an apologia, but a reasoned argument.
An important reason for reading this book is to remind oneself just how much wisdom is contained within the Bible and that its wisdom was, and still can be, applied to politics. I found myself returning to two items:
1) Benjamin Franklin referenced Genesis 47 with these words of warning about the ways of tyrants, ".. get first all the people[']s money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants forever" (p. 85); and,
2) A statement made by Samuel Langdon on June 5, 1788 about choosing representatives by referencing Proverbs 28-29, "Fix your eyes upon men [or women] of good understanding, and known honesty; men [or women] of knowledge, improved by experience; men [or women] who fear God, and hate covetousness; who love truth and righteousness …" (p. 166).
I would have been happy to pay a few dollars more for a larger print version.
In medieval England the Bible was in latin, and there were as many words for "egg" as there were shires in the kingdom. Now I appreciate how the King James english translation became their popular culture. Apart from influencing moral and legal principles, it's use as a textbook created a common vocabulary and shared idiom. An African slave wrote from Virginia complaining to the Bishop of London knowing that he would be understood an ocean away.
How did the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572 carve out a channel for resistance to tyrants in England and it's American colonies?
When Virginians separated Church and State on June 12, 1776 in their Declaration of Rights, I thought that there was a general loss of religious devotion. Not so. Men of faith like George Washington continued as they had always done. Men with no moral compass like Thomas Jefferson were freed from the restraint of religion; which flattered their ego and encouraged their acts of malice.
Why should Benjamin Franklin and John Adams care about Resistance Theology and insist on Exodus imagery on the seal of the United States?
I was unaware that Alexander Hamilton succeeded in preventing prayer in the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The personal hostility toward the Bible of a few
Founding Fathers should not be exaggerated. Jefferson and Hamilton were not role models to those who knew them.
My thanks to Mr. Dreisbach for sharing his research, and allowing me to draw these conclusions. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.