Judeo-Christian Roots of America's Founding Ideals and Documents

Dear Friends,

Most states have now put in place a series of standards and performance objectives which students must attain in order to graduate from high school. As a member of Arizona's Standards Committee for Social Studies I was anxious to get some meaningful standards in place relating to an understanding of our roots. We were successful. Two of these requirements are that students must be able to identify fundamental principles in the Declaration of Independence and also be able to explain American moral and ethical ideals which have their antecedent in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

A number of teachers in my state have asked for resource material relating to these and other standards they are required to teach. In an attempt to respond to their request, the following is published as part of a more complete compilation called Sources. Sources also includes sample assessment questions for student study.

Listed below are a few principles or ideals to which the Founders adhered. Given immediately following each one are passages showing Judeo-Christian roots of that principle and then passages reflecting the use of the principle in America's founding documents. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but only to exemplify the concept that America's Founding ideals have their roots in Judeo-Christian tradition. It should not be surprising that the Bible is quoted often as the source of the Founders' thinking for studies have shown the Bible is by far the most often quoted source in all of the publications and speeches of the founding era.

Principle: Reliance on the Providence of God

Judeo-Christian Roots

"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:10 - 17)

American Founding Ideal:

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; .. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." (Declaration of Independence. See also John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987, pp. 355-377)

Principle: Law of God forms basis of good human laws

Judeo-Christian Roots

"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalms 19:7 - 8)

American Founding Ideal:

"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! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be." John Adams, February 22, 1756 (Federer, William J., America's God and Country Encyclopedia Of Quotations , FAME Publishing, Coppell, Texas, 1994, p.5)

"These laws laid down by God are the eternal immutable laws of good and evil .... This law of nature dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this...

"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures ... [and] are found upon comparison to be really part of the original law of nature. Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. William Blackstone (Federer, p.52)

Principle: Religion and Morality form basis of Liberty

Judeo-Christian Roots

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." (Leviticus 25:10)

"Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 34:17)

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

American Founding Ideal:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams (Federer, p. 10)

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" George Washington (Federer, p.660)

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion ... Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle." George Washington's Farewell Address

Principle: The Equality of Man

Judeo-Christian Roots

"Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect [discriminate against] persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it." (Deuteronomy 1:16-17)

"Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect [discriminate against] the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor." (Leviticus 19:15)

"God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34)

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

American Founding Ideal:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Declaration of Independence

"No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States" U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 9, Paragraph 8)

Principle: God-Given Human Rights

Judeo-Christian Roots

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:27 - 28)

"Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet.. (Exodus 20:13-17)

American Founding Ideal:

".that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (Declaration of Independence)

Principle: Government authority by Consent of the Governed

Judeo-Christian Roots

"Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment." (Deuteronomy 16:18)

"Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes." (Deuteronomy 1:13 - 15)

American Founding Ideal:

".governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (Declaration of Independence)

"The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a republican form of government" (U.S Constitution, Art. IV, Section 4)

Principle: Sanctity of Contract

Judeo-Christian Roots

"If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2)

American Founding Ideal:

"No state shall.pass any. law impairing the obligation of contracts." (U.S Constitution, Art. I, Section 10, Paragraph 1)

Principle: Two Witnesses

Judeo-Christian Roots

"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death." (Deuteronomy 17:6)

American Founding Ideal:

"No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court." (U.S Constitution, Art. III, Section 3, Paragraph 1)

Principle: No Corruption of Blood

Judeo-Christian Roots

"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deut. 24: 6)

American Founding Ideal:

".but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted." (U.S Constitution, Art. III, Section 3, Paragraph 2)

Principle: Sabbath Day Excepted

Judeo-Christian Roots

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." (Exodus 20:8-10)

American Founding Ideal:

"If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it." (U.S Constitution, Art. I, Section 7, Paragraph 2)

Principle: Separation of Church and State

Judeo-Christian Roots

"Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar's, and unto God the things which be God's." (Luke 20:25)

American Founding Ideal:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. (First Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Principle: Teaching the Law of Liberty to Next Generation

Judeo-Christian Roots

"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)

American Founding Ideal:

"Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation." (Abraham Lincoln, "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions", January 27, 1838)

From this sampling it can be readily seen that no nation has a closer parallel to the Judeo-Christian tradition than the United States of America.


Earl Taylor, Jr.