David Barton’s Biblical Constitution: What If The Constitution Really Quoted The Bible?

I’ve addressed this before but it seems worth noting again. David Barton, with a straight face, says the Constitution quotes the Bible. He and Mat Staver discussed this claim on a Liberty Counsel segment recently. Begin watching at 4:44):

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Again with ankle biting Bible verses.

In speech to Crossroads Church in OK, Barton listed some of the verses he says are quoted in the Constitution. Take a look:

Let’s take one — Leviticus 19:34 — and see if we can find it quoted in the Article 1, Section 8 where Barton says it is. Here is the Leviticus verse:

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Barton says this verse is quoted in Article 1, Section 8 and specifically references “uniform immigration.” Here is what the Constitution says on this point:

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

The rest of Article 1, Section 8 describes the other powers of Congress, and does not quote from Leviticus.

Let’s take this a little further. What if the Constitution did quote Leviticus 19:34? For discussion’s sake, let pretend that Leviticus 19:34 was rephrased in legal terms in a section I’ll invent as Article IV, Section 5:

The foreigner living among you must be treated as a natural born citizen. Foreigners shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

If the Constitution included such language, immigrants would have rights they don’t have now and there would no need for immigration reform. Rather, the Constitution invests Congress with the powers to make laws and establish policies (which could do what this verse suggests if the political process leads to that end).

If the Constitution quoted Deuteronomy 17:15, the nation would need to discern somehow who God had chosen to be king. Also, in Deut. 17:20, the Bible notes that the chosen king’s descendants will rule a long time if the king follows God’s instructions. Clearly, our Constitution does not reflect those Bible verses. Furthermore, one does not need the Bible to see the reasonableness of requiring citizenship as a condition of political leadership.

I could go on, but hopefully it is clear that when Barton claims the Constitution quotes Bible verses, he must be referring to some other Constitution.


  • Lijdare

    If the constitution truly truly quoted or meant Lev 19:34 to be followed then a Kenyan could be president.

  • ken

    “when Barton claims the Constitution quotes Bible verses, he must be referring to some other Constitution.”

    Maybe he is referring to some other bible, one that contains The Book of Barton perhaps :).

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Re Lev 19:34, Barton appears to be making a form of this argument:

    “For people of biblical faith, the command is clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The question is, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is found a few verses later. “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (19:34).

    The command to love the “stranger,” however, is not open ended. The Hebrew language of the Old Testament uses three words to describe strangers, aliens, or immigrants. Two words basically mean the same thing: nekhar and zar refer to foreigners whose allegiance remained with their native country. These people were denied the benefits of citizenship in Israel, and are not in view in Leviticus 19:34.

    On the other hand, the Hebrew word ger, often translated “sojourner” or “stranger,” as in Leviticus 19:34, is a person who had immigrated to Israel legally with the intention of becoming a citizen. Israel was to treat these immigrants as if “native” born, granting them benefits of citizenship, including the right to glean fields (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:19–22), to receive a portion of the special tithe collected every three years for the poor (14:28–29; 26:12–13), to be paid in a timely manner (24:15), allowed to rest on the Sabbath (5:14), and to receive fair treatment in legal cases, without discrimination (1:16–17) or being taken advantage of (24:17–18; 27:19).


    These grenade-toss critiques tell the reader little. Barton is usually regenerating an argument he heard elsewhere, and the critic–or reader–will not know what he’s talking about merely by flipping open a Bible.

    I don’t find Barton’s argument compelling, but it’s not the non-sequitur this post might make it appear to be.

    • Rob McGee

      the Hebrew word ger, often translated “sojourner” or “stranger,” as in Leviticus 19:34, is a person who had immigrated to Israel legally with the intention of becoming a citizen.

      My impression is that the word ger in this context should be understood as meaning ger toshav — a Gentile who follows the “Noahide laws” but intends to remain a Gentile and has no intention of converting to Judaism. So in American terms a ger toshav might be roughly equivalent to a resident alien who holds a valid green card, but who has not taken the step of becoming a naturalized citizen (and perhaps doesn’t intend to).

      A Gentile who had formally converted to Judaism would be a ger tzedek — but in the event of full assimilation and formal conversion, the admonition in Lev. 19:34 would seem to be superfluous, because the one who had been a foreigner would now be a Jew. That’s why I assume that the semi-assimilated ger toshav, and not a fully “Naturalized” ger tzedek is what is meant in this verse.

  • http://www.increasinglearning.com/ Bill Fortenberry

    Barton’s not the best biblical scholar in the world by any stretch of the imagination. I suspect that he referenced Leviticus 19:34 because of the uniformity which is expressly mentioned in that verse. Perhaps he assumed that the verse was saying “Treat strangers who come among you as adults in the same manner as you treat strangers who were born in the land.” That’s the only construction that I can think of that makes any sense.

    If you would like to see a better listing of correlations between the Constitution and the Bible, I would suggest reading the conclusion of my book “Hidden Facts of the Founding Era” which can be found online at: http://www.increasinglearning.com/one-nation-under-god.html

    Here is an excerpt from that chapter which provides an accurate biblical source for the claim that Israel had a uniform rule of naturalization”:

    “Article 1, Section 8 – ‘To establish an uniform rule of naturalization.’ In accordance with this law, Congress was to provide a single process through which citizenship could be obtained by anyone who wished to become an American. Israel also had a ‘uniform rule of naturalization’ by which any stranger could become a Jew. Their process of naturalization which consisted of circumcision and observance of the Passover is outlined in Exodus 12:48. The Israelites also had a process by which those born in the land would become citizens by birth in the third generation as explained in Deuteronomy 23:7-8. The Church in the New Testament also has a single rule of naturalization for all those who wished to become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. That rule which consists only of salvation is outlined in Ephesians 2.”