When President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes the oath of office on Wednesday, he may be accompanied by a family artifact that has followed him throughout his 50-year political career: a hefty Bible accented with a Celtic cross 1893 in his family.
While this possibility has not yet been confirmed by Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee, the Bible was an important part of Mr. Biden’s earlier swearing-in ceremonies as a U.S. Senator and Vice President. His son Beau Biden also used it when he was sworn in as the Delaware Attorney General.
The Bible that an elected president uses for the swearing-in ceremony often gives a symbolic message to the American public, said Seth A. Perry, associate professor of religion at Princeton University.
“It is hard to imagine that the ritual of initiation would take place at this point without this book,” said Professor Perry. “It’s part of the landscape. It’s part of the thing that gives the moment the authority it has. “
During his inauguration in New York in 1789, George Washington used a Bible from St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1. The Bible is believed to have been retrieved after attendees noticed that one was not in Federal Hall, which Washington is referring to prepared to take the Bible oath of office, according to Claire Jerry, curator of political history at the National Museum of American History.
“Sacred images associated with covenant making are fairly consistent and underscore the idea that we who take the oath and the person who takes the oath have a very deep relationship,” she said .
Washington’s Bible was used in the inauguration of four other presidents: Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush.
In 2017, Mr Trump used a Bible his mother gave him as a boy and another that Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration in 1861, just before the Civil War began. Barack Obama also used the Lincoln Bible when taking the oath of office, though he added a Bible to it for his second inauguration in 2013, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was given in 1954.