A Literary Masterpiece and it’s Biblical Language

English: Lesson 100

Did the Gettysburg Address use Christian language and imagery to support the Union cause?

The Gettysburg Address is one of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speeches along with this second inauguration speech. It has been cited and quoted throughout the years and it used to be required for children to memorize it in public school. If someone asked me to recite the first line of the Gettysburg Address two days ago I would not have been able to. But, hilariously, when I read the speech for the first time this week I recognized it and knew the first few lines by heart because I remembered an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show where Laura is hypnotized and starts reciting the speech. That particular episode aired in 1962, 99 years after Lincoln delivered the speech.

As a speech, the Gettysburg Address was not very impressive and was hardly remembered by anyone shortly after it was spoken, but as a document it is incredible and has been passed down, quoted, and recited for generations. Every line was carefully crafted and has magnificent phrasing. The language of the speech is very biblical, but the theology was not based on God, but on the healing power of union armies. It is now regarded as the ultimate statement and defence of the Union cause, as well as a messianic document.

The first line of the speech declares all men as equal and that theme is carried throughout the rest of it. This is based on many bible verses. For example, in Galatians 3:28 it says,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The theme of all men are created equal continues throughout the whole speech, and Lincoln’s language is out of the Old Testament. The quotes, “we can not hallow this ground,” “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it,” “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,” are all biblical language.

The word hallow means to make something holy, and it is used in the Lord’s Prayer; Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. The prayer is declaring that the Lord’s name is holy, and you can see that Lincoln was declaring the land to be holy. To consecrate means a similar thing.

In conclusion, Lincoln did use biblical language and imagery to support the Union cause. As a speech, it was too concise for anyone to pick up the language or any deeper meaning. But as a document, it has been studied and read over and over and has become a literary masterpiece. Not one word or phrase is out of place or not needed, and it has served as a secular confession of faith for generations of public school students.

3 thoughts on “A Literary Masterpiece and it’s Biblical Language

  1. I agree it did use biblical language. I am not Christian, but I understand the speech. It has been a long time since I have seen you post an English essay. How is the course going for you? For me I am watching movies, I finished reading books in the course.

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    1. The course is going good. I have been a bit busy this summer, and the past two weeks didn’t have writing assignments oddly enough, but this next week will. I can’t wait for the reading part to be over and to start watching movies! I love reading, but sometimes I am not excited about what I have to read.

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      1. Same here. However you have to write essays about the movies or whatever topic they give you. Usually movies last 1 hour and 30 minutes or 2 hours. So I watch an hour a day. The reason is because I have other subjects to do and I don’t like ending my school late. The reason is because of Xbox, lol. Anyway, the movies are great I hope you enjoy them.

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