The Bible: The Book That Made America 05/17/2017


The Bible: The Book That Made America
Daniel Dreisbach | The Center for Vision & Values |
The Bible, the text sacred to the Christian faith and the most venerated, authoritative, and accessible book in 17th and 18th century America. It is a remarkable omission, indeed, given that several of the colonies were founded as Bible commonwealths. And even as late as the founding era, the Bible continued to hold a place of reverence in American culture. Most Americans of the age were intimately familiar with the Bible not only because of its place in religious life but also because it had been critical in their general education. Many Americans of this generation learned to read with a Bible opened in front of them. The Bible, in short, shaped significant aspects of American public culture, including language, letters, arts, education, and law.

The founders, as I document in my new book “Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers,” lived in a biblically literate society. Their many quotations from and allusions to both familiar and obscure biblical texts confirm that they knew the Bible from cover to cover. Biblical language and themes liberally seasoned their rhetoric. The phrases and intonations of the King James Bible, especially, influenced their written and spoken words. Its ideas shaped their habits of mind.


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