The God Squad: The great seal of the United States of America

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Annuit coeptis, which means, “Providence has favored our undertaking,” is from Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid. It clearly establishes the belief that the agenda of America is not merely political but is an expression of God’s will to see politics used to secure God-given freedoms. I will never forget that during the Capitol riots of Jan. 6 I saw a person hanging from the balcony in the Senate chamber right over the verse annuit coeptis. I remember saying to myself, “I don’t think so.”

Novus ordo secularum is the second motto and it means, “A new order of the ages.” This is also from Virgil, in the fourth of his Bucolics. It is another proof that our founders considered the founding of the United States to be not merely the creation of a new state but rather the creation of a new order of human history.

The third motto is the most famous, E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.” It has 13 letters just like the 13 stripes on the U.S. flag.

I think the three mottoes ought to be read as a single motto: If we try to make a single unity out of our plurality then God will bless our undertaking and we will create here in America a new order of the ages.

On this Fourth of July that is what I believe and that is what I pray.


Happy Independence Day!

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2022 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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