In August 2015, Donald Trump said the Bible was his favorite book, but then he couldn’t name his favorite verse. Eight months later, the Republican front-runner can cite his favorite verse—but, embarrassingly, he has no idea what he’s talking about.
When radio host Bob Lonsberry asked Trump on Thursday if he had a favorite Bible verse that has “informed” his thinking or character, the Presbyterian candidate cited the Old Testament punishment of “an eye for an eye.” He applied the verse to mean that the government should treat in kind those who have taken American jobs, money, and health. Trump’s Bible reference might have been music to the ears of the many evangelicals who question whether he is as religious as he claims—if only he’d understood it. But while Trump may be a winner when it comes to delegates, he is a loser when it comes to Biblical scholarship.
The passage Trump references is Exodus 21:22-25, in which Moses dictates the following law, which he received from God:
If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
In English, the verse seems pretty clear: God demands that penalties be equivalent to the corresponding crime. If you take a dollar from me, I should be able to take a dollar from you. If you cut off my leg, you’ll be swimming in a circle the rest of your life. And if you kill someone else, buh-bye. The law of retaliation, or lex talionis, isn’t “a particularly nice thing” (Trump’s words), but there it is in black ink on white paper. And who are we to argue with the Almighty?