Monday, April 3, 2023

Booknotes: Abraham Lincoln and the Bible

New Arrival:
Abraham Lincoln and the Bible: A Complete Compendium by Gordon Leidner (SIU Press, 2023).

While it is clear that Abraham Lincoln did not adhere to organized religious dogma, it is equally clear that his personal and political outlook was influenced by direct biblical reading. However, the extent to which scriptural understanding/interpretation guided Lincoln's thoughts and actions is still a source of debate.

From the description: "Historian Gordon Leidner believes the impact was profound—more than previously recognized—and has investigated all the known writings of Abraham Lincoln to identify, catalog, and study every instance in which Lincoln quoted from or alluded to the Bible. Rather than dwelling on the never-ending debate about Lincoln’s religious beliefs, Leidner shows how scripture affected Lincoln personally, professionally, and politically."

Leidner's Abraham Lincoln and the Bible: A Complete Compendium "offers first a short biography that focuses on Lincoln’s use of the Bible, how it shaped him as a person, how its influence changed over time, and how biblical quotations peppered his letters, speeches, and conversations." Organized into ten chapters, this material runs roughly 150 pages.

Another fifty pages is devoted to the author's reference guide to Lincoln quotes influenced by biblical passages. This "unparalleled appendix that tabulates nearly 200 instances of Lincoln’s quoting from or alluding to scripture, giving locators for the Bible and Roy P. Basler’s nine volume Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln and quotations from both sources. The appendix also includes when and where Lincoln used each quote, providing valuable context, whether the use was in personal letters such as one to Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert, political speeches such as the Gettysburg Address, or state addresses such as the Second Inaugural Address."

Through this study and compendium, Leidner "reframes the question of Lincoln’s religious beliefs so that readers may evaluate for themselves what solace and guidance the Bible afforded the sixteenth president."

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