Trump’s Biblical Illiteracy

Trump continues to claim an appreciation for the Bible even while demonstrating that he is quite unacquainted with the Book. In a radio interview recently reported by Fox News, Trump was asked again about a favorite verse. He has been asked this question so often, you’d think he would have come up with some stock answer by now, but the Master of Unpreparedness seems always to be caught by surprise.

His response this time was as incoherent as usual. He would be far better off simply admitting he does not know or value the Bible. His stumbling around, stomping on texts he has never read, is ridiculous.

Well, I think many. I mean, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And some people, look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing. But you know, if you look at what’s happening to our country…”

It is no coincidence that Trump would find the phrase appealing, since he so dearly loves retaliation. The problem, of course, is that he retaliates for the tiniest things and does so in a way that is not commensurate with the offense. He responds to a minor insult (which he considers a vicious attack) with a major insult. For example, in response to Cruz supporters showing a magazine cover with an immodest picture of Trump’s wife, Trump found and tweeted the ugliest photo he could of Cruz’ wife.

The phrase, found in the ancient Mosaic texts, is part of God’s concern for moderation of punishment. The punishment should fit the crime. In its time, the idea was revolutionary, a major step forward in mankind’s learning the meaning of justice.

As we grew in our understanding of love, mercy, and justice, God called us to grow beyond even that radical idea. Jesus said Matthew 5:38-42,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;  41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

In other words, Trump unknowingly stands in opposition to Jesus, who taught us to learn non-retaliation in response to evil.

Why doesn’t Trump’s omnipresent ignorance cause him to lose all his supporters? Who would approve of an ignorant candidate for president? The answer is too obvious. . .

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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4 Responses to Trump’s Biblical Illiteracy

  1. In all fairness, Trump’s ignorance on this passage would put him in good company with an awful lot of conservative Christians.

    • mthayes42 says:

      Yes, as an evangelical pastor (now retired) I’ve long noticed the disparity between our claims to love the Bible and our customary sloth in getting to know it.

      • It seems that whenever people cite the eye-for-an-eye passage it is almost always by way of recommending more punitive actions rather than less. It’s nice to see someone with a sense for context. Wish more pastors had your approach.

      • mthayes42 says:

        I have long been convinced that if we could get substantial numbers of Christians actually reading the Bible — rather than glancing at it just long enough to be reminded of something they already believe — wonderful things would happen in and through the church.

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