Presidential Bible Swearing (The Bible in Recent News)

Presidential Bible Swearing (The Bible in Recent News)

The US Presidential inauguration, in which president-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office, will once again feature the use of Bibles for the key act of swearing an oath. According to the Washington Post, Trump has chosen two Bibles for the Ceremony, a bible used for Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration (also used by President Obama in his first inauguration), and a Bible his mother gave him in 1955 upon his graduation from a Presbyterian Sunday School. The vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, has chosen a Ronald Reagan family Bible, and it will be opened to the same passage Reagan used at his own inauguration:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The Post also offers an interesting historical tidbit about how the tradition began:

When George Washington took the oath of office as the country’s first president in 1789, he placed his hand upon the Bible while speaking those solemn 35 words required by the Constitution, beginning a tradition that has come to define the pomp and circumstance of Inauguration Day.

And though the act of swearing upon a Bible held significance at the time, the particular book he chose did not.

It was, historians say, an afterthought. Organizers had simply forgotten to bring one, so they grabbed the closest holy book they could find — a nearby Masonic lodge’s altar Bible — and Washington made his promise.

On the Bible in political discourse, see James Crossley’s description of his research interests in an earlier BigBible post.

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