Gettysburg Address, inscribed in the south side chamber of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.



Martin Luther King (28 August 28 1963).

...I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together...

The Lincoln Bible

The Lincoln Bible

Courtesy of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

The Bible in Politics

Since the late 19th century most churches have adopted newer translations of the Bible, translations that are rendered in more modern English. By the 18th and 19th century the language of the King James Bible was considered archaic but its carefully chosen words and simple but eloquent phrases have retained their rhetorical strength.

President Abraham Lincoln, a well-read though self- educated man, demonstrated the power and authority of the KJB’s idiom and diction in his famous Gettysburg Address  of 19 November 1863 concluding:

... that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Read full speech

In his Second Inaugural Address (4 March 1865) Lincoln said:

...Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether...

A century later in 1963, a speech delivered by Dr Martin Luther King would strike a profound chord and provide new impetus for the development of America as a multicultural nation. Much of the phrasing is drawn from the KJB (Isaiah 40) and has become a well-known expression of political aspiration. Read full speech

The Bible itself has long been used symbolically on occasions of initiation into public office. In 1789 George Washington became the first president to swear an oath to uphold the US Constitution. He did so using a borrowed copy of the KJB. Many subsequent presidents have followed in Washington’s footsteps, the most recent being Barack Obama who swore his oath on Abraham Lincoln’s 1853 copy.