Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as this nation’s 45th President. He has chosen to be sworn into office using two Bibles which have special significance.
The first Bible is the “Lincoln Bible” which was used in 1861 to swear in Abraham Lincoln into his first term in office. It is a King James Version (KJV) Bible published in 1853 and bound in velvet. It is normally kept in the Library of Congress, but Barack Obama also used it at his two inaugurations.
The second Bible belongs to Trump himself. It was given to him by his mother in 1955 when he graduated from his church’s primary school. It is a Revised Standard Version (RSV) Bible with his name on the cover. In a strange coincidence, it was published exactly 100 years after the Lincoln Bible.
Trump’s selection of these two Bibles makes a statement about how he sees himself and his presidency.
With the Lincoln Bible, Trump is explicitly linking himself to Lincoln and his legacy of preserving the federal Union and ending slavery. Trump has stated that he wants to work to unify the country and increase the prosperity of all citizens. The use of this particular Bible is a way for him to clothe himself with the mantle of Lincoln as the new president from the “party of Lincoln.”
With the family Bible, Trump seems to be saying something about his own faith. He is attempting to counter those who have questioned his motives and faith during the campaign. It is impossible to know what Trump really believes, but he is here making a symbolic statement through the use of his own Bible.
Past presidents have typically been sworn in on one or more Bibles, although this is not required and a few presidents have been sworn in on other books. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce were sworn in on US law books, and Lyndon Johnson was sworn in aboard Air Force One using a Catholic missal which had belonged to Kennedy. Most, though, have used a Bible, symbolizing that there is a higher authority to whom they must answer.
Donald Trump has been criticized for being brash, vulgar, hot-headed, and arrogant. I suspect, and hope, that the demands and responsibilities of the office of President of the United States will help to temper these baser instincts. Certainly, being sworn in on the Lincoln Bible and his personal Bible, given him by his mother, is a good way to begin. Pray that God’s Word will also have its effect on Trump’s heart and actions and guide him during his term in office.