Review of Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: the Bible and the American Revolution, by James P. Byrd.

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Book Review

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In Sacred Scripture, Sacred War, Byrd adds an important contribution to understanding the formation of American views toward war from his analysis of biblical texts used to inspire patriotism before and during the Revolutionary War. His work dispels previous guesswork and assumptions on the Bible’s influence by drawing from his analysis of over 17,000 biblical citations from over 500 sources that span the geography of colonial America. He begins by introducing the reader to the Bible’s deep roots embedded in colonial America and the minister’s evolving role as its chief interpreter with moral authority. He then unfolds the results of his research focusing on biblical texts used most frequently to inspire patriotism, sacrifice, and warfare in an American civilian population. Using heroes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, ministers found sources of patriotic inspiration to fight for freedom and liberty from Moses, Deborah, David, Peter, and Paul. Even Jesus moved from the Sermon-on-the-Mount pacifist to a warrior Jesus from Revelation. Byrd’s research reaches deeply into America’s formative warfare ethos for citizen soldiers. While his research will be of immediate interest to readers exploring the role of the Bible in American culture, Byrd’s work offers significant context to understanding not only Revolutionary War America but America’s use of biblical themes and imagery to justify warfare since that time. His work may yet prove to be of even greater future importance in evaluating cultural ramifications when a citizenry shifts to different sources and interpreters for its inspiration on virtue, liberty, freedom, sacrifice and martyrdom in the context of warfare. This book is highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate audiences.


DOI: 10.1111/rsr.12239