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The Bible in the Political Rhetoric of the American Founding

  • Daniel L. Dreisbach (a1)


The American founders frequently alluded to and quoted from the Bible in their political rhetoric. This fact alone reveals little about how and for what purposes the founding generation used the Bible and, more important, how the Bible influenced the political thought of the founding era. Drawing on some of the most familiar political rhetoric of the founding era, this article examines the founders' diverse uses of the Bible in political discourse, ranging from the strictly literary and cultural to the theological, from the stylistic to the substantive. Recognition of these distinct uses is important insofar as it is misleading to read spiritual meaning into purely political or rhetorical uses of the Bible or vice versa.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Daniel L. Dreisbach, School of Public Affairs, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016. E-mail:


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