Do you know that America was founded on the Hebraic roots of Christianity and the Laws of Moses?
Dr. Richard Booker
There were three great influences that shaped the Pilgrims and Puritans understanding of how to govern and how to live. All three were based on their connection to their Hebraic-Jewish roots. This is why America should be called a “Judeo-Christian Nation.” If we want to “Make America Great Again” we must rediscover the faith of those who made America the greatest nation in the history of nations.
In this three-part series, you will discover what the Pilgrims and Puritans understood had to be the foundation of the new nation. This information is taken from my book, Christians, Jews and Israel: Standing Together in Troubled Times which you may order from our on-line store.
The Hebrew Language
The third major influence on the Pilgrims and Puritans was the Hebrew language. Since the Pilgrims and Puritans were so connected to the Hebrew people and the Hebrew Bible, they naturally studied the Hebrew of the Bible. They believed that God spoke the world into existence in the Hebrew language and that Hebrew is the language of heaven and the original mother language of all languages spoken by Adam and Eve. Hebrew was not a common language at this time but was the language of the Bible.
Since there were no radio, television, internet or other time stealers, the favorite pastime of the clergy was to study Hebrew. Can you imagine your favorite pastime is studying Hebrew? Many of the leading citizens in the colonies were versed in Hebrew and some were scholars. A number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had a basic knowledge of Hebrew. Let’s see some examples of this thinking.
William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth and a scholar. He had mastered Latin, Dutch, French and New Testament Greek, but at Plymouth he studied Hebrew by candlelight. Bradford said “that he studied Hebrew so that he might be able to speak in the most ancient language, the Holy Tongue in which God and the angels spoke.” He explained “that he wanted to see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty.”21
I have a book that shows copies of Bradford’s notes in his own handwriting where he wrote the Hebrew and his English translation below it.
Regarding the exceptionalism of America, Bradford wrote, “Thus out of small beginnings, greater things have grown by His hand Who made all things out of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light enkindled here has shone to many, yea, in a sense our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”22
On November 22, 2005, Rabbi Howard Berman gave a sermon at the Back Bay Interfaith Community Thanksgiving service and commented, “The Pilgrims were the first to sense that America had a unique destiny in human history … as Governor Bradford wrote, ‘just as one small candle may light a thousand others, and lose none of its own light, so too will we – but few in number – become a beacon for all people!’”23
Puritan leader, Cotton Mather, said of Bradford, “He was also well skilled in history, antiquity, philosophy and theology. But the crown of all was his holy, prayerful, watchful, and fruitful walk with God.”24
The Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and others were established for the purpose of educating the Puritan ministers. As such, the Presidents of the Universities were Puritan ministers, and most were Hebrew scholars. Along with their Biblical studies, all of these colleges offered required courses in Hebrew beginning in the freshmen year. They actually studied the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew. In some instances, seniors gave their graduation speech in Hebrew. WOW!
One of the most influential Puritan leaders was Cotton Mather. His father, Increase Mather, was President of Harvard, a Hebrew scholar and also taught Hebrew. Cotton Mather was also a Hebrew scholar beginning his study of Hebrew at age 12. When he graduated from Harvard at age 15, he gave his graduation speech in Hebrew and often used Hebrew phrases in his correspondence. Needless to say, Cotton Mather loved the Hebrew language. He scolded his students for spending more time smoking their tobacco than they did studying their Hebrew.
Yale also had a strong curriculum in Hebrew required of all its students. Yale’s seventh President, the Reverend Ezra Stiles, was such a Hebrew scholar he was called a “Hebraician.”25 While pastoring the Second Congregational Church in New Port, RI, Stiles studied Hebrew with the local rabbis and became so proficient that members of the Jewish community often came to Stiles to translate for them. He dialogued in Hebrew with Jewish scholars from Europe who could not speak English.
He not only read the Bible in Hebrew, he also read the Mishna, the Kabala and Jewish commentaries in Hebrew. During his term at President at Yale, Stiles offered Hebrew five days a week because he wanted every student at Yale, as he put it, “to know something of the holy tongue, lest he be entirely ignorant of the holy language when he got to heaven.”26
Samuel Johnson was the first president of Kings College, later renamed Columbia University. He said that “Hebrew was essential to a gentleman’s education.” He also said, “As soon as a lad has learned to speak and read English well, it is much the best to begin a learned education in Hebrew … the mother of all language and eloquence.”27
Some of the college seals had inscriptions in Hebrew. For example, the Yale seal shows an open book with the Urim and Thumim used by Aaron, the High Priest, in communicating with God. The Columbia seal has the Hebrew name for God and the Hebrew name for one of the angels. Dartmouth has the Hebrew words for “God Almighty” in its seal.
The Hebrew language was so popular that a story was circulated that said certain members of Congress proposed that Hebrew be the official language of the colonies. How I wish that would have passed as I would not have to go to Ulpan to learn Hebrew.
The Pervasive Influence of the Hebraic Roots
The Pilgrims and Puritans connection to the Hebrew people, the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew language was so pervasive, it influenced their whole lives. For example, the Book of Psalms was the book used for their songs of praise. This is why in 1640, the Psalms was the first book printed in the colonies. It was translated directly from Hebrew into English. The preface to the Psalms contains the first words printed in Hebrew in the colonies. Since there was no Hebrew font available, the printer carved the Hebrew words on wood.
For more information on the Hebraic roots of America, please order Christians, Jews and Israel: Standing Together in Troubled Times. How about getting copies for your family, friends, co-workers and Bible teachers.