What a Shakespeare folio does not prove

A copy of the 1623 folio of Shakespeare’s collected plays has been discovered as part of a former Jesuit library in France.  This has re-ingnited speculation that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic.  But, as Shakespeare scholar David Scott Kastan points out, that a Jesuit would own a copy of a Shakespeare book published after his death proves no such thing.  In fact, another folio in another Jesuit library was heavily censored for what the owners back then considered anti-Catholic sentiments. [Read more...]

Royal blood without royal DNA

We’ve blogged about the discovery of a skeleton with a deformed back found where Richard III was supposed to have been buried.  Studies have confirmed that the skeleton is that of Richard III, the Plantagenet king and Shakespearean villain, who was overthrown by Henry Tudor (father of Henry VIII and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I).

The studies further show a significant problem with a hereditary monarchy:   DNA from the skeleton does not match known male ancestors, suggesting that some queen must have committed adultery and borne a son who became king of England without really being the previous king’s son.  This would also cast doubt on the legitimacy of his successors.  And since the contending families were intermarried and intertwined, this casts doubt  on the Yorks, the Lancasters, and the Tudors.  (The current royal family, the Windsors, would not be affected.)  This raises the question of whether Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I were rightful monarchs whose laws had authority. [Read more...]

Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

[Read more...]

Call to prayer from the Continental Congress

Very often, in the early days of our nation, Congress would call for a day of “fasting, humiliation, and prayer.”  (Google the phrase and compare the resolutions from the Continental Congress through Lincoln.)  This was the kind of resolution that led to the holiday of Thanksgiving.  (I’ll post Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation tomorrow.)

After the jump, I’ve posted a resolution from the Continental Congress passed on March 20, 1779, in the midst of the War for Independence.  (The victory at the Battle of Yorktown, in which the British army was decisively defeated, would take place two years later, though the Treaty of Paris ending the war would not be signed until 1783.)

My point in doing so is not to open the debate about whether America or any other nation can be a “Christian country” or to discuss “civil religion.”  I’m just struck by the language of the resolution, the richness of the Biblical allusions, and the earnest tone of humility (that this war is a “just punishment of our manifold transgressions”). [Read more...]

Why pastors’ housing allowance is tax-exempt

As we reported, an appeals court upheld the practice of pastors not having to pay taxes on their housing allowance.  But, you might ask, why is that?  Joe Carter explains the history of that provision, putting it into the context of the laws exempting religious property from taxation that go back through English Common Law  into ancient times. [Read more...]

The poppies of the Tower

London is transfixed by a stunning war memorial commemorating Armistice Day, when World War I ended on November 11, 1918, honored in the United States as Veteran’s Day.  All around the iconic Tower of London are  888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each soldier of the Commonwealth who was killed in that war.   A beautiful sea of flowers that looks simultaneously like a horrible sea of blood makes a noble tribute for all veterans.

[Read more...]


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