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Sworn on the Altar of God
A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson
Edwin S. Gaustad
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POD; Published: 1/3/1996
ISBN: 978-0-8028-0156-2
Price: $ 26.50
260 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Series: Library of Religious Biography (LRB)

This acclaimed biography explores the religious life of Thomas Jefferson and the contribution his strident commitment to religious liberty made to the formation of the nation. Renowned historian Edwin Gaustad chronicles Jefferson's intellectual growth, paying particular attention both to Jefferson's private struggle to come to grips with his own faith and to his public role as champion of religious liberty. This volume is must reading for anyone interested in the religious life of one of America's most significant figures.
American Historical Review
"A thorough treatment of Jefferson's thinking on religious freedom as well as his private testaments of faith."
"This timely reminder of Jefferson's lifelong commitment to religious liberty is also a clearly written account of the origins and context of the commitment. . . A rich introduction to Jefferson's life and work. . . A valuable contribution to reflection on both possibilities."
Cathedral Age
"An unusually interesting, useful book to have at hand during an election year when the debate on church/state issues is likely to generate much heat and little light."
Catholic News Service
"A well informed and astute analysis of what led the famed statesman to be a strong, unyielding proponent of religious liberty."
CBA Bookstore Journal
"Worthwhile reading for people interested in the religious ideals of America's founders."
Christian Century
"Written for a literate, nonscholarly audience, this book gracefully displays the lifetime of thought Gaustad has devoted to its main themes."
Church History
"A highly readable survey of the life of Thomas Jefferson, focusing upon the religious views of the sage of Monticello. . . Gaustad offers a fair and complete picture of Jefferson's thoughts on religion by drawing upon his extensive correspondence with friends and acquaintances."
Journal of American History
"His 'religious biography' of Jefferson is more than that—it is an intellectual excursion through Jefferson's writings, with particular attention to his views on churches, the clergy, the Bible, and the tension between reason and mysticism. Particularly rewarding are Gaustad's analysis of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, his explanation of the importance of Joseph Preistley in Jefferson's view of Christianity, and his lucid summary of 'The Jefferson Bible."
Journal of Church & State
"Splendid work. . . Gaustad is respected among American historians for various reasons, not the least of which is his almost uncanny ability to step inside the framework of those about whom he writes. Reading Gaustad's work on Jefferson is like taking a journey inside the head and heart of one of our country's most complex and fruitful thinkers."
Journal of Southern History
"Sworn on the Altar of God is lively and well written, exactly what one has come to expect from any Gaustad volume. As such, it is a fine addition to Eerdman's excellent Library of Religious Biography series. It provides a judicious scan of the pertinent documents and gently imposes an orderliness to them that any read unfamiliar with the subject will welcome."
Princeton Seminary Bulletin
"Once again Edwin S. Gaustad has demonstrated that first-rate scholarship and sparkling prose can live together happily in the same book. . . Gaustad has produced in Sworn on the Altar of God one of those gems increasingly rare in scholarly publishing: a volume equally valuable to specialists and to beginning students of American religion alike."
Publishers Weekly
"A fine starting point for studying religion in America. . . By bringing Jefferson's intellectual passion to life, Gaustad has demonstrated the key role religion played in the founding of the nation."
The Covenant Quarterly
"This excellent volume provides important insights into some of the vital issues of religion in American society. It also gives a balanced, engaging, clearly written portrayal of a most fascinating American leader. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in exploring the foundations and implications of the 'American experiment."
The New York Times
"Anyone who wants to understand how and why separation of church and state became a basic American principle should read Sworn on the Altar of God."