There have been numerous Biblical occasions when civil leaders urged a national reading of God’s Word. One example is found in 2 Kings 23:2 during the reign of righteous King Josiah, of Israel:
“The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.”
Ezra also assembled the nation of Israel to read the Word of God, (Nehemiah 8:1-3) as did Moses Deuteronomy 31:11-13), so that the people would know it, and get it in their hearts, and do what it said, and teach it to their children. In doing so, each new generation would also know His word and the nation would remain blessed.
This pattern was followed by many of our American leaders including Franklin Roosevelt:
I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas….Go to.. the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of the true greatness as this nation has achieved.1
(Today, one week of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is still officially commemorated as National Bible Week, but sadly few citizens know of its existence, and sadder still even fewer observe it.) Why would President Roosevelt publicly call the American people to a week of reading the bible? Because of its proven beneficial influence:
In the formative days of the Republic, the directing influence the Bible exercised upon the fathers of the Nation is conspicuously evident…We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of our Republic.2
On that same basis, President Ronald Reagan also declared a national “Year of the Bible”:
Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible…The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis of the Founding Father’s abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual–rights which they found implicit in the bible’s teachings of the inherent worth and dignity of each individual. The same sense of man patterned… the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution… There could be no more fitting moment than now to reflect…upon the wisdom revealed to us in the (Bible). 3
President Teddy Roosevelt also affirmed:
The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally —I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally– impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teaching were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals–all the standards toward which we, with more or less resolution strive to raise ourselves. Almost every man who has by his life-work added to the sum of human achievement of which the race is proud–of which our people are proud–almost every such man has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible…Among the very greatest men, a disproportionately large number have been diligent and close students of the Bible and first hand…So I plead not merely for training of the mind but for … the moral and spiritual training that have always been found in and that have ever accompanied the study of this Book—this Book, which in almost every civilized tongue can be described as “The Book.” 4
Teddy wanted everyone to know the Bible. A great contributor to his influence in this direction was that he had been so completely impressed by Abraham Lincoln’s personal thorough mastery of the Bible. He further explained:
Lincoln–sad, patient, kindly Lincoln, who after bearing upon his weary shoulders for four years a greater burden than that borne by any other man of the nineteenth century laid down his life for the people whom living he had served as well–built up his entire reading upon his early study of the Bible. He had mastered it absolutely– mastered it as later he mastered only one or two other books (notably Shakespeare)–mastered it so that he became almost a “man of one Book,” who instinctively put into practice what he had been taught therein.5 It is extremely difficult to find any of Lincoln’s major speeches not laced throughout with Scriptures, so that it is therefore not surprising that in speaking about the Bible, Lincoln declared:
It is the best gift God has given to men, all the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong.6
President Zachary Taylor also emphasized how important was the Bible for all citizens to know, but especially for young people.
The Bible is the best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. It is indispensable to the safety and permanence of our institutions; a free government cannot exist without religion and morals, and there cannot be morals without religion, nor religion without the Bible. Especially should the Bible be placed in the hands of the young. It is the best school book in the world….I would that all of our people were brought up under the influence of that Holy Book.7
President Harry Truman, spoke the following to a conference of law enforcement officers from across the nation:
The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.8
Likewise, President Andrew Jackson declared of the Bible that “it is the Rock on which our Republic rests.”9
There are a great number other examples that demonstrating that America’s leaders understood the importance of God’s word to the nation and publicly urged the reading and knowledge of it just as the ancients Moses, Ezra, and Josiah had done.
It is vital to our lives and to the moral fabric of our nation that every citizen, just as in the days of old, learn, study and know the Word of God for themselves and that this generation does not overlook “THE Book!” (LC)
1 Presidency Project. “Franklin D. Roosevelt Proclamation-Thanksgiving Day, 1944
2 American Presidency Project, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Statement on the four Hundredth Anniversary of the Printing of the English Bible October 6th 1935
3 American Presidency Project Ronald Regan Proclamation 5018 –Year of the Bible, February 3, 1983
4 Theodore Roosevelt: Modern Eloquence Ed. Thomas B. Reed, John D. Morris and Co.1903 volume XV pp.1770-1776, On the Reading of the Bible Delivered befre the Members of the Bible Society, 1901
6 Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works Comprising His Speeches, Letters, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings ed. John Nicolay and John Hay (New York The Century 1894)
7 The President and the Bible New York Semi-Weekly Tribune Wednesday May 9, 1849 Vol. IV no. 100 page 1
8 American Presidency Project: Harry S. Truman “Address before the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems.” February 15, 1950
9 American Presidency Project: Ronald Reagan Proclamation 5018–Year of the Bible. 1983, February 3, 1983.
Source: The Founders Bible pages 597-600, with Signature Historian, David Barton.