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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Inaugural Bibles: Passages to swear by

2005 Inaugural Parade    (Public Domain)
Much ado is made about the Bibles used during presidential inaugurations.  Far less is known about particular passages that presidents-to-be have sworn by.

In 1837, Martin Van Buren’s inaugural Bible was opened to Proverbs 3:17 (“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”). 

Although the Lincoln Bible was randomly opened in 1861, by 1865 “Father Abraham” had earmarked these passages:  Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”), Matthew 18:7 (“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”), and Revelation 16:7 (“And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments”).

This quote from Proverbs 21:1 was chosen by James Garfield:  "The king's heart is in the hard of the  LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”  Teddy Roosevelt’s 1905 ceremony highlighted these words from James 1:22-23:  "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." 

For all four of his inaugurations, Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose the same passage from 1 Corinthians 13:  “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.”  Richard Nixon’s Quaker roots likely led him to Isaiah 2:4 both times:  (“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”).

Jimmy Carter chose Micah 6:8 (“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”), as did Warren Harding.  Ronald Reagan chose 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“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”).

Copyright January 22, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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