Gaffe Track: Two Corinthians Walk Into a Bar ...

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: The Right Reverend Donald J. Trump

The gaffe: As Molly Ball reports, the Republican frontrunner (still, yes?) was at Liberty University. It was a good chance to prove his fidelity to Christianity, often questioned by skeptics. So how’d he do? “Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. Where the spirit of the Lord—right?—is, there is liberty!” Though one speaks with the tongues of men or of angels, that’s Second Corinthians to most folks.

The defense: Shouldn’t we really call it “the Second Epistle to the Corinthians” if we want to be persnickety? Besides, you know who criticized obsessive fidelity to textual traditions at the expense of true belief and essential meaning? This guy.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Trump’s rivals surely hope that this gaffe means that the last shall be first, and the first last. But although this is a thorn in the flesh for his campaign, it is not the last Trump, gone in the twinkling of an eye. Trump’s theological shallowness has been evident for some time, and yet he leads among evangelical voters. The powers that be among Christian conservatives have criticized him, to no avail. Trump will be helped by the fact that Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s president, essentially called Trump a man after his own heart. (These are all, of course, phrases that Trump might know if he spent some quality time with the King James Version.)

The lesson: For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.