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"Embarkation of the Pilgrims"
The painting hangs in the US. Capital rotunda
References to the Bible and to the God of the Bible are inscribed everywhere on America’s founding memorials in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
U.S. Capitol Building. Many of the eight large paintings in the rotunda depict America’s Christian heritage, including the baptism of the Indian princess Pocahontas and the Virginia charter. One painting depicts Pilgrim leader William Brewster holding an open Bible inscribed with the words, “The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The chapel of the House of Representatives contains an open Bible on an altar in front of a stained glass window depicting George Washington in prayer and the words, “Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1). Behind the Speaker’s rostrum in the House of Representatives are the words of the national motto, “In God We Trust.” This refers to the God of the Bible.
The White House. The Adams Prayer Mantel was installed in 1945 by Franklin D. Roosevelt and contains a prayer by John Adams, second president of the United States. “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all those that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Library of Congress. The Library of Congress was completed in 1897 and was named the Thomas Jefferson Building. On the walls are inscribed the following verses: “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (John 1:5); “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7); “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8); “The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). On permanent display are two Latin Bibles. The Bible was the first book that was printed on a printing press and is the most popular and widely distributed book in human history. One of the Bibles on display at the Library of Congress is an original Gutenberg Bible of 1453, the first printed Bible. Of the 21 complete surviving copies, England and America own 12 of them. The other Bible on display is the Great Bible of Mainz. It was handwritten and dates to 1453. Thus it was completed at the same time that Gutenberg was printing his Bible and is one of the last handwritten Bibles. The Great Bible and the Gutenberg Bible were not only produced at the same time, but also in the same town in Germany. The Mainz Bible represents the countless Bibles that were laboriously handwritten for a millennium and a half, from the time of the apostles until the invention of printing in 1454. The Library of Congress also has a statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments and a statue of Paul. Above the Paul statue is the Micah 6:8 inscription.
Supreme Court Building. Above the main entrance are the words “Equal Justice under Law.” It is only in Scripture that we find a truly just and equal concept of law. Men were not treated equally under Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Indian, Mayan, or Chinese law. The concept of equality does not come from Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam or ancient pagan idolatry. Consider Hammurabi’s law code, which was published by the king of Babylon in about 1780 BC. It is one of the most famous law codes of the ancient pagan world, supposedly received from Hammurabi’s sun god Shamash. But Hammurabi’s laws were not just and equal. Penalties differed according to the social standing of the victim and perpetrator. In contrast, God’s law says. “Ye shall not respect 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 1:17). In front of the Supreme Court building is a statue called “The Authority of Law.” The solemn figure is alert and watchful, signifying the necessity for government to enforce law and order. The figure holds a law book and has a sword, signifying punishment of evildoers. This is the concept presented in Romans 13:4, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Lady Justice holds a scale, meaning that law must be equal, just, true, and honest. She holds a sword, signifying punishment of evil doing. Lady Justice is based on the Roman goddess Justice and the Greek goddess Themis, but the concept of perfect justice goes back to the God of the Bible who is the original holy lawgiver and judge. At the top of the east entrance of the Supreme Court building are images of three lawgivers: Moses of Israel, Confucius of China, and Solon of Greece. Moses is the central and largest figure and holds the tablets of the Ten Commandments. I am not sure what the artist intended, but I can see two important truths in this monument. First, America is not built solely on Scripture, but it is built prominently on Scripture. Second, The centrality of Moses in the monument reminds us that the teaching of the Chinese and Greeks or other ancient pagan people could never have created America. It is the Bible’s influence on America that has made it so unique and great. On the wooden doors of the main entrance to the courtroom and on the outer bronze doors are images of the Ten Commandments. The Great Hall of the Supreme Court features images of Moses. There is another image of Moses on the outside of the building. He is inscribed between two lamps, signifying the giving of light.
Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president. The memorial features quotations from Jefferson’s writings. God, Creator, and creation are mentioned at least eight times. For example, from the Declaration of Independence are the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Washington Monument. It memorializes America’s foremost founding father, George Washington. Like Washington’s writings and speeches, the monument is filled with references to God and the Bible. A Bible is enclosed in a capsule in the monument’s cornerstone. (There was also a Bible in the foundation of the 1815 Baltimore Washington Monument, and it was recovered during restoration work in 2015.) Inscribed on the east face of the 6.25-pound aluminum capstone is Laus Deo (“Praise Be to God”). Many of the 36,000 marble and granite stones are inscribed with Bible verses and references to God, such as the following: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:26); “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39); “The memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7); “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). In his address to the governors of the states in 1783, when he resigned as Commander-in-Chief, Washington referred to the “Divine Author of our blessed religion,” obviously testifying to his own Christian faith, and he said that the nation cannot be happy unless it obeys Christ’s example and precepts. Washington founded the custom of American presidents swearing the oath of office on a Bible. When he ended the oath, he kissed the Bible. Washington proclaimed the nation’s first national Thanksgiving day. The goal was to acknowledge “with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
National Archives. There is a bronze emblem of the Ten Commandments on the floor.
Lincoln Memorial. This was built in honor of Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th President (1861-1865). Lincoln promoted the Thirteenth Amendment that outlawed slavery in America. On the wall of the north chamber are the words, “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh” (Matthew 18:7); and, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. This memorial was opened in 1984 and is situated in Judiciary Square, which is the location of five American courts. The memorial contains the names of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, currently standing at more than 20,000. One of the quotations inscribed on the monument is Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth but the righteous are bold as a lion.” There are also quotes by the pagan Roman leader Tacitus and others. The fact that the Bible is not the only book quoted at the monument reminds us that America is not strictly and only a biblical or Christian nation. There is a strong and unique Biblical influence, but there have been other strong influences even from its inception.
E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House. In front of the building, which was completed in 1952, is a monument depicting freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of press. Freedom of press is signified by a book being printed on a Gutenberg type press. Freedom of speech is signified by a man giving a speech and a crowd listening to him. Freedom of religion is signified by a male worshiper facing a Cross and the Ten Commandments, and a woman praying over her food. The Ten Commandments are inscribed with Hebrew words.
Union Station. The Union railway station in Washington, D.C., was opened in 1907. Though it isn’t a government building, it is an illustration of the Bible’s great influence on American society even in the early 20th century. During World War II, 200,000 people passed through the station every day, and it is still one of America’s busiest stations. Three Bible verses are inscribed above the south entrance, which is the entrance facing the direction of the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol. The verses are John 8:32, “The truth shall make you free”; Psalm 8:6, “Thou hast put all things under his feet”; and Isaiah 35:1, “The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
Daughters of the American Revolution building. A statue of George Washington is inscribed with “Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).
Federal Hall in New York City. The George Washington statue in front of Federal Hall also features the religious side of the nation’s founder. New York was America’s capital before it moved to Washington D.C., and Washington took the oath of office as president on the balcony of Federal Hall. Near the statue and associated with it is an engraving of Washington in prayer. He is depicted on his knees in the famous prayer scene at Valley Forge when the situation for the fledgling nation was so desperate. Earlier in these studies, we have given the evidence for this prayer scene.
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