Modern Americans are largely ignorant of just how esteemed a place the Bible has held in our history.
[I]n Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, he quoted directly from eight different Bible phrases. In Benjamin Franklin’s famous address to the Constitutional Convention, he quoted eight different Bible phrases in only nine sentences. In a letter from George Washington to Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, Washington quoted seven different verses in only four sentences; and in a letter to a Hebrew congregation, in only two sentences he quoted nine Bible phrases. Significantly, when modern political scientists examined fifteen thousand representative Founding Era writings from the realms of politics, government, journalism, sermons, literature, and education, they found that the single-most-cited source throughout those diverse works was the Bible, with 34 percent of the quotes taken from the Bible. (Source: (1) see the bottom of this page, page 44)
[I]n John Locke’s 1690 Two Treatises on Government, on which [America’s] Founding Fathers so heavily relied, he invoked the Bible in 1,349 references in his first treatise and 157 times in his second one. (Source: (1), page 54, and reprised on page 156)
The quotes that follow are in chronological order according to the author’s birth. I have used bold print to focus attention on what the speaker was saying about the Bible. The quotes come primarily from Americans – and, specifically, American leaders, whose opinions would have been widely shared.
It is only a press, but a press from which will flow a constant stream…Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth will flow from it. Like a new star it will scatter the darkness of ignorance and cause an unknown light to shine for all. (3) page 25
– Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), inventor of the movable-type printing press (The Bible was one of the first things he printed and a number of these volumes, though many only in partial form, remain to this day)
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me…There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures…I said that I would state my reasons: I hold alone to the sacred and Holy Scriptures, and to the interpretations of prophecy given by certain devout persons…I am a most unworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous presence. For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prohesied…No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by the Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will even though he gives advice. He lacks nothing that it is in the power of men to give Him. Oh, what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things which He holds Himself responsible! Day and night, moment by moment, everyone should express the most devoted gratitude to Him. (3) pages 18 and 27
– Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), Italian explorer
The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its Author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much; nothing wanting! (6)
– John Locke (1632-1704), British philosopher and political theorist who influenced America’s Founding Fathers
There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.
– Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), English physicist and mathematician (2)
The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.
– Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher (2)
It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.
– George Washington (1732-1799), first president of the United States (2)
I have examined all of the Bible as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened brains and my busy life would allow me. And the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I’ve seen, and such parts of it I can’t reconcile to my little philosophy I postpone for future investigation. (taken from his letter to Thomas Jefferson, Christmas Day, 1813) *** (3) page 17
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law-book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited!…What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this region be! (1) page 163
– John Adams (1735-1826), second president of the United States
[The Bible] is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed. (1) page 157
– Patrick Henry (1736-1799), American attorney, politician, and orator for independence
Were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive, both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one [book], affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible: and should you renew the inquiry, for the best philosophy, or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge. *** (1) page 157
For nearly half a century have I anxiously and critically studied that invaluable treasure [the Bible]; and I still scarcely ever take it up, that I do not find something new – that I do not receive some valuable addition to my stock of knowledge; or perceive some instructive fact, never observed before. (1) page 160
– Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), American lawyer, statesman, and founding father; a president of the Continental Congress
“The Scriptures tell us righteousness exalteth a Nation.”
– Abigail Adams (1744-1818), wife of the second president of United States and mother of the sixth president (4)
The Bible is the best of all Books, for it is the Word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts. (1) page 157
– John Jay (1745-1829), American statesman, co-author of The Federalist Papers; first Chief Justice of the United States (1)
The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state, than any other book in the world. ***
By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.
– Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), American physician, politician, social reformer, educator and humanitarian; a signer of the Declaration of Independence (1) page 157
Let mental culture go on advancing, let the natural sciences progress in ever greater extent and depth, and the human mind widen itself as much as it desires; beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity, as it shines forth in the gospels, it will not go.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German writer and statesman (2)
All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. *** (1)
In selecting men for [government] office, let principle be your guide…It is alleged by men of loose principles or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who “rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness [Exodus 18:21]…It is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breaches of trust, peculations [white-collar larceny] and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government. (1) page 157
– Noah Webster (1758-1843), lexicographer, writer; called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education” and “Schoolmaster to America”
Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in the college — its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained, and its glorious principles of morality inculcated? What is there to prevent a work, not sectarian, upon the general evidences of Christianity, from being read and taught in the college by lay teachers?… Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the sacred volume?
– U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous 1844 decision (Vidal v. Girard’s Executors)
That book, [the Bible], sir, is the rock on which our republic rests. (1) page 161, (2)
– Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), seventh president of the United States
The first, and almost the only holy book, deserving such universal recommendation, is the Bible. (1) page 159 ***
No book in the world deserves to be so unceasingly studied, and so profoundly meditated upon as the Bible. (1) page 159 ***
I have always endeavored to read it [the Bible] with the same spirit…which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advanement in wisdom and virtue. (1) page 160 ***
So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year…My custom is, to read four or five chapters every morning, immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. (1) page 159 ***
You ask me what Bible I take as the standard of my faith?…Any Bible that I can read and understand. (1) page 160 ***
With regard to the history contained in the Bible…”it is not so much praiseworthy to be acquainted with as it is shameful to be ignorant of it.” (from Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings) (1) page 47
– John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth president of the United States (1) (2)
If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.
– Daniel Webster (1782-1852), United States senator (2)
The Bible is the best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. . . . 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. (1) page 157***
The Bible 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. (1) page 161
– Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), 12th president of the United States
The morality of the Bible must continue to be the basis of our government. There is no other foundation for free institutions. (1) page 103
– John McLean (1785-1861), U.S. Congressman, Postmaster General, and Supreme Court Justice
The Bible is the truest utterance that ever came by alphabetic letters from the soul of man, through which, as through a window divinely opened, all men can look into the stillness of eternity, and discern in glimpses their far-distant, long-forgotten home.
– Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish philosopher and historian (2)
The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts. I solemnly state this from the experience of fifty-four years…I have read the Bible through one hundred times, and always with increasing delight. Each time it seems like a new book to me. Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God.
– George Mueller (1805-1898), evangelist; caretaker and educator of orphans in Bristol, England (2)
In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
– Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), American military officer (2)
I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. (1) page 159, (2)
– Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the United States
Bible reading is an education in itself.
– Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during the Victorian Era (2)
I have known ninety-five of the world’s greatest men in my time, and of these eighty-seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is stamped with a specialty of origin, and an immeasurable distance separates it from all competitors.
– W. E. Gladstone (1809-1898), four-time British prime minister (2)
It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.
– Horace Greeley (1811-1872), newspaper editor (2)
The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.
– Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic (2)
All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures.
– Sir William Herschel (1812-1870), German-born British astronomer and composer (2)
The grand old Book still stands; and this old earth, the more its leaves are turned and pondered, the more it will sustain and illustrate the pages of the Sacred Word.
– Charles A. Dana (1819-1897), American journalist and author (2)
Whatever merit there is in anything that I have written is simply due to the fact that when I was a child my mother daily read me a part of the Bible and daily made me learn a part of it by heart.
– John Ruskin (1819-1900), the leading English art critic of the Victorian era; prominent social thinker and philanthropist (2)
The Bible is the anchor of our liberties.
– Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th president of the United States (2)
The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in a position to dispense with it.
– Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), English biologist, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (2)
I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.
– D. L. Moody (1837-1899), American evangelist (2)
America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture. (1) page 162
– Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th president of the United States
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 at first hand. (1), page 157 ***
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 teachings 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. (1) page 103
– Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th president of the United States
The foundations of our society and government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.
– Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th president of the United States (3)
American life, is builded and can alone survive upon…[the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior 19 centuries ago. (1) page 162
– Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), 31st president of the United States
In the formative days of the Republic the directing influence of 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 the Republic. (1) page 161 ***
As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul. (7) ***
I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures . . . for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved. (1) page 157
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd president of the United States
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. (1) page 61
– Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), 33rd president of the United States (1)
I believe no one can read the history of our country … without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. … Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia … or to the Charter of New England … or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay … or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut … the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles. …
I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under the law, and the reservation of powers to the people. …
I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country. (Time magazine, February 14, 1954)
– Earl Warren (1891-1974), 30th Governor of California and 14th Chief Justice of the United States
In these last 200 years we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas. (1) page 162
– Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973), 36th president of the United States
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. Deep religious beliefs stemming from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…laid the foundation for the spirit of nationhood that was to develop in later decades. The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Fathers’ 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. (1) page 162 ***
Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face. (5)
– Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th president of the United States
Simply put, the Bible is the most influential book ever written. (3) page 1
– Time Magazine, March 22, 2007
We have in our generation people who question if the Bible is the Word of God. From beginning to end, the Bible is God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. When I turn to the Bible, I know that I am reading truth. And I turn to it every day.
– Billy Graham (1918-), American evangelist (2)
(1) U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots by David Barton and George Barna, Frontline, 2014, 288 pages.
(2) Halley’s Bible Handbook, first published by Henry Hampton Halley in 1924 as a 16-page pamphet, it has been expanded and re-published in many editions over the years. These quotes are taken from Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version—Deluxe Edition, 2007, 1056 pages (quotes on p. 23-24; 23 quotes in all). (See also my post Halley’s Admonition to Have the Congregation Read and the Pastor Preach from the Bible)
(3) The Bible in America by Steve Green and Todd Hillard, DustJacket Press, 2013, 148 pages.