(Invaluable exegetical comments for those preaching on the Experience of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This highlight of the Lincoln-Event is reputed to have been given by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.)

Fourscore and seven years ago

This phase is the work of E, an English professor and friend of Lincoln who had a propensity for utilizing ornate language. Lincoln, simple and uneducated man that he was, would have said “eighty-seven.”

our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty

“Fathers” is a faulty translation of the original “forefathers.”

The use of “conceived” points to redactor M, presumably Mary Todd Lincoln, who proofread his speech and added her female bias. (See on “proposition” and “birth.”)

and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Proposition”—by M.

Use of “created” indicates a third author, P1, a priest accompanying Mr. Lincoln on the train to Gettysburg. Since Lincoln was only a layman, it was natural that he should seek clerical help in adding theological terminology. A second priest, P2, also added a few glosses. (See on “hallow.”)

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation,

“That nation”—some scholars see here the work of one foreign-born (C?). An American would have said “this nation.”

or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

“Conceived”—M’s favorite interjection.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

“Are met” indicates the work of C, a conductor on the train, who used poor English. Lincoln would have used “are meeting.”

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

“Final resting-place” shows clearly that Lincoln rejected all belief in an after-life.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

Redundant. A scribal gloss.

“Dedicate … consecrate … hallow”—undoubtedly the work of L (Lincoln), P1, and P2 respectively.

In the three negatives, “we cannot,” Lincoln’s basic insecurity becomes evident; he no longer feels capable of fulfilling the duties of his office.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

Further evidence of his inability to handle such pressing responsibility.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.

More negative thinking.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

The work of W, a warlike adviser who advocated more violence rather than peace talks. The “unfinished task” is undoubtedly killing the rest of the rebel soldiers.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,

Another call for bloodshed by W.

“Under God”—pious gloss by P1 or P2.

“New birth”—a redaction by M, showing fundamentalist bias.

and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

“Shall not perish from the earth”—a narrowly nationalistic eschatological recension by W, who is looking for an American millennium.

Faith Community (Reformed) Church

Stickney, Illinois

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