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What is the “Aitken Bible”?

The Aitken Bible is cherished as the only Bible that is approved by the United States Congress. It is also known as “the Bible of the American Revolution” and is the said to be the first true “American Bible”.

Printing the Aitken Bible was the dream and vision of Robert Aitken. The noted colonial printer had already published the Journals of Congress and some works of Thomas Paine, so he was a natural fit for the job.

In January of 1782, Robert Aitken petitioned Congress for the right to print America’s first English Bible, and to inspect the Bible for accuracy upon its completion. A committee was formed, and Aitken gained the blessing of the United States Congress to print the Bible in English. This was an important statement of independence for the new nation, and for its cherished notion of freedom of religion.

Why Was There a Need?

The Revolutionary War with Britain had cut off the supply of Bibles to the United States of America. Before the war, British law granted a monopoly for printing the King James Version of the Bible to the Royal Printer thus compelling the colonies to buy their Bibles from England. When the Revolutionary War began, the supplies of British Bibles were cut off creating a shortage. With the victory at the Battle of Yorktown, America became free from British policies, including the longstanding one against printing a Bible in English in America.

This was a great victory for Christians of that day and remains a symbol of faith and freedom even today.
On September 11, 1777, the Continental Congress reviewed a committee report, informing them that a locally produced Bible may not be a viable option, due to the risk and cost of procuring the materials necessary. The committee noted.

…the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great, that the committee refer the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, your committee recommend that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the states in the Union.

At that time, Congress favored the idea of importing 20,000 Bibles to address the short supply. By 1782, despite the previous discussion, it became clear to many that the fledgling nation needed to print the Bible on domestic soil. This would signify independence, faith, and a foundation for the newly formed nation.

This led to the Congressional resolution of September 10, 1782 supporting Aitken’s effort to print the Bible. It reads as follows.

The United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.

A year after the Bible’s release, a pastor in New York suggested to General George Washington that every discharged soldier should be given a copy. Since the war was almost over and Congress had already discharged most of the army, the suggestion came too late for Washington to act upon. Washington later lamented, “It would have pleased me well, if Congress had been pleased to make such an important present to the brave fellows who have done so much for the security of their country’s rights and establishment.” In this statement, the “important present” would have been Aitken Bibles.

Robert Aitken is an important figure in American history. He was the first to publish the King James Version (KJV) New Testament in America. In 1782 he published the first KJV Old Testament in the newly formed nation. Upon completion he petitioned and received from the Congress an official endorsement that “Aitken” be added to the binding of the Bibles, to assure colonists they were buying a non-royalist edition.

The Aitken Bible is one of the most celebrated Bibles in the world. It serves as an important symbol of our religious freedom.

The Religious Liberty Coalition

The Religious Liberty Coalition (RLC) is fighting to preserve our foundation of Christian principles. We believe the greatness of America lies not in big government, but rather in the character of our people. The simple principles of faith in God, hard work, traditional marriage, personal responsibility, freedom of religion, and helping the least among us are the pillars of our freedom. If we lose sight of these values, America will cease to be great.

Meet the RLC Founder – David L. Black, Ph.D.

Because religious freedom is under attack, Dr Black founded the Religious Liberty Coalition in 2020. He holds a Ph.D. in Forensic Toxicology from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. In 1990 he founded Aegis Sciences Corporation where he served as Chairman and CEO until October of 2016. Dr. Black served in the U.S. Marine Corps (1966-70) and in combat in Vietnam (1968-69). He collects original artifacts of American history including one of only three first edition copies of the Aitken Bible held in private collections. Dr Black lives in Gallatin, TN with his wife, former US Congressman Diane Black (TN 6th District). The Blacks have three children and six grandchildren.

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