Roger Marsh: Have you ever looked at the back of the U.S. dollar bill? Ever wondered what those distinct and abstract symbols represent? Well, that is the great seal of the United States. And today here on Family Talk, we're going to learn about its origins and why it still holds meaning for Americans in the 21st century. I'm Roger Marsh. And this is Family Talk, part of the James Dobson Family Institute. There's a lot of content to get to, so let's get started. Here now is Dr. James Dobson to introduce his guest and this topic on today's classic Family Talk broadcast.
Dr. Dobson: Today we're going to talk about something that frankly I've never discussed in 39 years on the air. It has to do with the seal of the United States, which apparently very few of you have taken the time to study. And I didn't know anything about it either, of consequence, but my guest today was equally oblivious until two and a half years ago when something changed for him. And he began to study the seal. This is on the currency, especially on the dollar, and I'm not sure where else. I'm going to learn a whole lot today, and I hope you are too. I think you'll be amazed by what my guest has discovered. And we're going to share that with you in a moment.
First, let me introduce him to you. I met him just a few minutes ago, probably 15 minutes ago. So, we're just really getting acquainted and his name is Michael Kanis and he is an entrepreneur who runs a small business that he founded in 2000. He and his wife, Tina have been married for 21 years and they have four children. He describes himself as a student of history, that makes him of interest to me, and a seeker of knowledge and of the kingdom of God. He obviously loves the Lord. You can't talk to him without understanding that, and I think that's where his discoveries about the great seal of the United States start to come together. Thank you for joining me today, Michael, it's a pleasure to have you here.
Michael Kanis: It's a delight to be here. Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Dobson.
Dr. Dobson: Now I just made a mistake. I said, "We'd never met." Actually, you remember it, I really don't. But I was speaking in Holland, Michigan, which is your hometown.
Michael Kanis: Yes sir.
Dr. Dobson: And that was last December, December the 3rd.
Michael Kanis: That's right.
Dr. Dobson: And I was getting ready to speak to a room full of people. And you came up and introduced yourself to me, or we bumped into each other or something. We got in a conversation. And you told me about this project that you were writing a book, wasn't quite finished, but it was of interest to me, because of my interest in history, as it relates to the founding of the United States. And so, I turned to a colleague next to me and I said, "Would you see if you can find out if we can get together some time to talk about this?" We have. You're here. And that's what we're going to talk about today. So it's a real pleasure to have you here.
Michael Kanis: Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here.
Dr. Dobson: How long have you been a believer in Jesus Christ?
Michael Kanis: Oh, since I was nine years old.
Dr. Dobson: Really.
Michael Kanis: I was raised in a Christian home and just have been a seeker of the kingdom really, since I was 12, so.
Dr. Dobson: How'd you get interested in American history?
Michael Kanis: Well, it was by accident because I have four kids and I wanted to spend some quality time with the kids individually. And so, the first two kids, when I asked them, "How can we spend time together?" They wanted to go to an amusement park, and you can only ride so many roller coasters and I'm not a roller coaster person. So the third one I told, his name is Christian, and I told him, "Christian, we're going to Philadelphia. And we're going to learn about the founding of our country." He was not thrilled about that at the time, but afterwards he wouldn't trade it for anything I'm sure if you asked him.
Dr. Dobson: We have two grandchildren, one of them is nine, one of them is four, and Lucy is four. And we just went to Washington, DC, his mom and dad, and Shirley and me were there for the National Day of Prayer. And Ryan and Laura were taking Lucy and Lincoln around to see the things you were talking about. And that is not very thrilling to a four year old. And after a full day of museum hopping and going and looking at the monuments and everything they'd been to the Air and Space Museum. And it apparently was not what she had in mind. And I asked Lucy how she enjoyed the day. And did she like the Air and Space Museum? She puckered her lips like this and said, "Boring." So they got to be more than four to really get a feel for this. How did your nine year old make it?
Michael Kanis: We had a special privilege because we met up with a man by the name of Dr. Peter Lillback, who's the President of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. And he gave us a personal tour and it didn't hurt that Franklin's ice cream parlor was on the list. So, that made some points. But when the tour was over, Christian was just enthralled and we had just a certain amount of time left and he said, "We have to choose, and the first choice was going to Valley Forge-" At that Christian blurted out, "Valley Forge," I never even heard the second choice.
So we went there and wow, what a moving experience it was to walk among the place where those soldiers had encamped. And we saw the mill owner's house where Washington had used as his headquarters. And then after that experience, we went to the top of Mount Joy, and there at the top of the Mount is an arc. A smaller arc, smaller than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, say for example, but in the interior of the arc was a bronze disc and it had an image, both sides, of the national seal. And Dr. Lillback asked us, "Do you recognize that?" And neither Christian or I knew what it was until he pulled out a dollar bill. So then we knew and he started to explain to us about it.
Dr. Dobson: So you began to investigate what the background was? How it was prepared? Who wrote it? Who worked on it?
Michael Kanis: Yes. Yeah. The thing that I think triggered it for me was, I have had an interest in the kingdom of God since I was young. My life verse is Matthew 6:33, which is, "Seek ye first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." And Dr. Lillback explained to us that the top of the seal on the backside is the phrase, "Annuit Coeptis," which can be translated as, "We've begun to do what pleases God."
And I knew from seeking that the kingdom of God, the basis of that is doing what pleases God. And Jesus said in John 8:29, "The Father never leaves me alone because I always do those things that are pleasing to him." And so that relationship and intimacy with God comes from a heart attitude of seeking to please Him. And here, we had that statement on our seal and I had to find out if that was an accident.
Dr. Dobson: And you began going to the Library of Congress and to various documents.
Michael Kanis: National Archives.
Dr. Dobson: And just found out that the founding fathers were very intentional about that seal.
Michael Kanis: Absolutely they were.
Dr. Dobson: Who were the men who were responsible for it?
Michael Kanis: Well, the resolution calling for the seal was first passed on July 4th, 1776.
Dr. Dobson: On that day.
Michael Kanis: On that day, the first act of the new nation. And Congress asked the same three men who had just written that Declaration of Independence to now write the seal. And they did that for the reason that they wanted them to be complimentary. That the same message that was in the Declaration was going to be entrained in the seal of the United States.
Dr. Dobson: All right. The men that were involved, as I understand it were Benjamin Franklin?
Michael Kanis: Yes, sir.
Dr. Dobson: Thomas Jefferson.
Michael Kanis: Yes, that's right.
Dr. Dobson: And who was the third?
Michael Kanis: And John Adams. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
Dr. Dobson: Anything those three men put their hand to I'm interested in.
Michael Kanis: It's significant. Absolutely.
Dr. Dobson: And how do they go about doing their work?
Michael Kanis: Well, they reached an agreement, and they decided to write a seal that was allegorical in nature. That's unusual because a lot of the seals will have symbols on them. It might be a lion for maybe courage, but they decided that they were going to split up. Each proposed a different allegorical scene, and then they met back together and chose one of them that they presented to Congress. And the surprising thing is that the scene that was chosen was one from Dr. Franklin. And it was a picture of Moses standing on the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his armies being engulfed by the waters, with Pharaoh, with a crown on his head and a sword in his hand, on his chariot. All symbols of authority, with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud overhead, with the radiant rays of glory shining down onto Moses. And the report is indicating that those rays signify God's presence and command. And His command is His authority. And His presence only occurs when we do what pleases Him.
Dr. Dobson: Now are the things that you're describing now on our dollar bill?
Michael Kanis: Well, that was-
Dr. Dobson: Or has it changed?
Michael Kanis: Now, it has changed. However, when you look at the seal now you won't see anything like Moses standing on the Red- shore of the Red Sea.
Dr. Dobson: I just took out a dollar as you were speaking, so I could look at it. Which side is it on? The side with Washington?
Michael Kanis: The other side.
Dr. Dobson: The other side.
Michael Kanis: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So there's two circles. If you get out a dollar bill right now, you can look. And there's a pyramid with an eye in a triangle, that's the back of the seal, and then the Eagle with the shield, that's the front of the seal. And there were four committees over a period of six years, from 1776 to June 20, 1782 that took to write the seal. There were four different committees. The first committee was the three, and then it was finalized by the secretary of Congress whose name was Charles Thompson. But the thing that's important is, that the same themes that were built into the seal from the very first design, were carried the way through all the designs, and are the message that's allegorically placed in today's seal. Same message, different symbols.
Dr. Dobson: Okay. I'm going to ask our listeners if they have a dollar in their pocket, and if they don't, you're in bad shape. Take out a dollar and turn it over to the backside and look at the dollar along with us as we describe this. Now I don't see anywhere Moses is depicted or things that you just described.
Michael Kanis: No, you don't see that because the allegorical message is expressed in different symbols. So we'd have to go and start talking about the symbols that are on the seal. And I can - we'll start doing that now. And I can show you how the allegorical message is the same as from the first design.
Dr. Dobson: Well, alright. Go ahead and describe it for those that don't have a dollar to look at right now.
Michael Kanis: Okay. So we'll start with the back of the seal and there you have the phrase, "Annuit Coeptis," over the top triangle.
Dr. Dobson: That's the circle on the left.
Michael Kanis: The circle on the left, with the pyramid and the eye, and the triangle.
Dr. Dobson: Okay.
Michael Kanis: And so that phrase, "Annuit Coeptis," which means, "We've begun doing what pleases God," or "God favors what we've undertaken to do." And then the triangle-
Dr. Dobson: Is that Latin?
Michael Kanis: That's in Latin.
Dr. Dobson: Okay.
Michael Kanis: Yes. And that's taken from a poem by the Roman poet, Virgil who lived in about 40 BC. And then underneath that is a triangle with an eye in a radiant extending away from the triangle, and then a pyramid, and then underneath that is a phrase, "Novus, Ordo, Seclorum," which means "new order of the ages." So to begin to understand how does Moses relate to that scene, because those are both the backs of the seal, you have to begin to look at what that symbolism means.
So let's start with that eye in the triangle, for example. The eye in scripture, which I should point out first that, there's a lot of misunderstanding about what the seal is. And there's some theories that are related to, for example, the Illuminati or Freemasons or the eye of Horus, for example. But we know that none of those theories are accurate because there's a specific description and explanation that's been written into the Journals of Congress that tell us explicitly that, that eye stands for the eye of Providence. It's referring to God and none other.
So we can take that to the bank. We don't have to guess around about that. So we know that the eye is the eye of God. Well, a lot of people maybe are familiar with the phrase, "The all seeing eye," and that's associated with judgment or being aware of something that we've done wrong, that the eye will see us and we'll get in trouble, but really in scripture, that is not the case. In fact, if you were able to tell me of, an example, I don't know of one, the eye is always God's providential care and love for us that he is protecting us and guiding us. It's never punitive in nature.
Dr. Dobson: Let me quote a scripture that may not quite be accurate, this is from memory, but it says, "The eye of God is sweeping back and forth in search of a righteous man."
Michael Kanis: Yes, that's 2 Samuel.
Dr. Dobson: 2 Samuel, how close did I come to?
Michael Kanis: Pretty good. "He's looking for a heart who's turned towards God." Yeah, yeah. That's exactly right. And so many other times that the eye of God is mentioned in scripture, it is always to care and love and provide for. So this is the eye of God, looking over the new nation.
Dr. Dobson: And, but, in search of righteousness, which has moral implications.
Michael Kanis: Well exactly. Remember the phrase, over the top, "We do what pleases God," "Annuit Coeptis." That's in the context. See, we have to take this altogether because an allegory is a story told with symbols. Okay? So, because they're all part of the same story, we have to read them together. So we know that the eye is for God and Annuit Coeptis is talking about what pleases God. All right, and then the triangle itself, that is a symbol of the Trinity. In this case, it's referring specifically to God, the Father. So in art, religious art through the centuries, when the triangle is present, that means that this symbol of God refers to God, the Father.
And so, we have an eye in a triangle and the other part of that symbol is the radiant, okay? The radiant represents God's glory. And I'm going to remind you of another scripture. It's called 2 Corinthians 6:16. And it says that, "What harmony have the temple of God with idols, touch not the unclean thing. And I will be your God and you will be my people. And I will walk with you and I will dwell with you." And that is actually just an amazing expression of God's covenant to love. And he's giving us a promise of intimacy with him when we do what's pleasing to him.
Dr. Dobson: What a gift.
Michael Kanis: What an amazing gift.
Dr. Dobson: What a gift. David wrote in one of the Psalms, "I will set before mine eye no unclean thing." That's one of the scriptures that, I see you got a smile on your face.
Michael Kanis: Yes. Yes I do. Because he was a man after God's own heart because he sought to please his Father. And so, when look at that symbol, we know that, that is an expression of God's, as it says, in the Congressional Record, "His presence." God's presence doesn't happen when there's things that aren't pleasing to Him. Now, He's omnipresent. He's everywhere at every time, but that specific manifest presence, that's fellowship with God, is a very delicate thing, and can be interrupted by things that are not pleasing to God.
Dr. Dobson: Now, if I understand this correctly, on the back side, there are two circles that represents both sides of a coin. It's not just a flat seal, but it is three dimensional.
Michael Kanis: Yes. There's two sides. And the first side was the only one that was produced as a three-dimensional engraving that was used for sealing documents. So, Congress didn't commission the backside of the seal to be used because really typically you only seal a document with one seal. So it didn't really make sense to go ahead and make the engraving. And so that was not produced.
Dr. Dobson: And we go over then to the right side of the dollar, and there's the other side of the seal. The left side is called, "The great seal," that's actually written below it. And then it's completed on the other side, where it says, "Of the United States." That makes sense. So the Eagle is symbolic of the country. There are, I think, 13 stars in a circle up above the eagle.
Michael Kanis: Yes. Yeah. That's very interesting. Actually that 13 is a part of a theme of thirteens, in the seal. There's 13 stars in the constellation, 13 stripes on the shield, 13 arrows in the bundle, 13 letters in the phrase, "E Pluribus Unum," 13 letters in the phrase "Annuit Coeptis," there's 13 rows on the pyramid, and the phrase, "Novus Ordo Seclorum," combined with the date, which has nine letters, combined to be 26 or two times 13.
And the number 13 of course stands for the 13 colonies of the United States, but that's not all that it stands for. The number 13 is symbolic of new beginnings. For example, in the Hebrew language, the word love, Ahava. If you total the value of the letters, that totals to 13. So the word Ahava, love, can be said to have a quantitative value of 13.
Well, the first word in the Bible is called, "Bereshit." And that word also totals to 13, and it is translated as Genesis. That's where we get our word for the first book of the Bible and it means beginnings. And creation, there were 13 steps in creation. A Hebrew boy begins manhood at the age of 13. 13 stands for new beginnings. And if you look at the phrase, "Novus Ordo Seclorum," that is a new order. It's talking about both the beginning of the nation, but as stated in the Congressional Record, a new era, an epic begun by the beginning of the American nation.
Dr. Dobson: The Eagle has in its claws two symbols, one looks like an Oak tree or the leaves of some tree, and over on the right are arrows, am I seeing that correctly?
Michael Kanis: Well, the leaves are actually olive leaves.
Dr. Dobson: Olive.
Michael Kanis: Okay. And if you will notice on the dollar bill, there's actually 13 leaves and 13 olives. That's nowhere in the Congressional Record so, that's not actually part of the story. It's the artist did that and I'm glad he did, but it isn't official. But there are 13 arrows and we're told in the Congressional Record that the arrows, which are in the Eagle's left talons mean that, the Congress has the right to wage war to protect and defend the American people from all enemies. But the Eagle's beak is pointed to the right, in which talons are held the olive branch and the olive branch is a symbol for peace. Now, all the phrases on the seal are taken from that Roman poet that we talked about earlier, Virgil. And so, the olive branch is from a poem by Virgil called Ascanius.
And it's a scene in which Aeneas holds out an olive branch to Palace indicating that he is coming in peace, he seeking Evander. But the olive branch really goes back much earlier than that to Noah and the Ark, remember the dove goes out and flies over the water.
Dr. Dobson: Oh yes. Brings it back.
Michael Kanis: And first he returns and comes back with nothing, but then he returns again. And that means peace, that the storm is ended and Shalom has returned. And in many cultures, we see that the olive branch has stood for peace. And it's on many Roman coins, the Roman Republic, which we modeled much of our Republic after, and our coins, has that as a symbol. So, it was a well-known symbol of peace. In fact-
Dr. Dobson: So a symbol for peace, but the arrows indicate a willingness to fight to defend it.
Michael Kanis: Defend peace.
Dr. Dobson: And the oath taken by the President after the inauguration-
Michael Kanis: To defend the Constitution.
Dr. Dobson: Indicates he is- takes the oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Michael Kanis: Yes, sir. That's exactly right.
Roger Marsh: Well, we certainly hate to interrupt this informative broadcast, but unfortunately we have run out of time for today. You've been listening to Dr. James Dobson's fascinating discussion with author Michael Kanis here on Family Talk and we aren't through! Michael has more to unveil about the seal's unique design and message. So don't miss what he has to say on tomorrow's Family Talk broadcast.
I'm Roger Marsh, thanks so much for tuning in today and for supporting the ministry of Family Talk. We are entirely supported by our faithful listeners. So learn how you can stand with us by going to drjamesdobson.org., that's drjamesdobson.org, or you can give a gift over the phone when you call (877) 732-6825, that's (877) 732-6825. Thanks so much for your prayers and for your financial partnership and be sure to join us again tomorrow for the next edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
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