The hefty Bible accented with a Celtic cross that Joe Biden used to take his oath of office today is a family artifact that dates back nearly 130 years.
The historic leather-bound Bible, which is five inches thick, has been a Biden family heirloom since at least 1893.
‘It’s just been a family heirloom on the Biden side of the family and every important date is in there,’ the then President-elect told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month.
‘For example, every time I’ve been sworn in for anything, the date has been on that and is inscribed on the Bible.’
The familial artifact has followed Biden, who is a practicing Catholic, throughout his 50-year political career.
The hefty Bible accented with a Celtic cross that Joe Biden used to take his oath of office today is a family artifact that dates back nearly 130 years
The historic leather-bound Bible, which is five inches thick, has been a Biden family heirloom since at least 1893 Biden revealed last month that the dates of each of his swearing-in ceremonies are inscribed on the inside of the Bible
It is the same Bible Biden used twice before when swearing in as Vice President. He also used the Bible seven times when swearing in as a senator in Delaware.
The very first time he used the Bible to be sworn in as a senator took place in 1973 when he was just 30 years old.
On that occasion, Biden was sworn in at the Wilmington Medical Center in Delaware where his sons Beau and Hunter were recovering from a car crash that claimed the lives of his first wife Neilia and their infant daughter Naomi.
Secretary of the Senate Francis Valeo traveled to Wilmington to issue the oath of office so Biden could remain by his children’s hospital bedsides.
Biden’s late son Beau, who died in 2015 of brain cancer, went on to use the family heirloom when he was sworn in as Delaware attorney general back in 2007.
The Bible is a 19th century Douay & Rheims edition. The reason it is so large is because the historic edition contains in-depth commentary from Father George Leo Haydock – a British priest and Bible scholar.
His edition of the Douay Bible was the most popular English Catholic Bible of the 19th century.
The editions often include essays, glossaries, pop biographies and pages to record dates.
The very first time Biden used the Bible in his political career was when he was sworn in as a senator for Delaware back in 1973. On that occasion, Biden was sworn in by the Delaware hospital bedsides of his sons Beau and Hunter who were recovering from a car crash that claimed the lives of his first wife Neilia and their infant daughter Naomi
It is the same Bible Biden used twice before when swearing in as Vice President. He is pictured above with wife Jill during the 2009 inauguration
Biden’s late son Beau (pictured above), who died in 2015 of brain cancer, went on to use the family heirloom when he was sworn in as Delaware attorney general back in 2007
Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives – and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in US history.
Biden follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies.
Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 – which urges the devout to be a ‘repairer of the breach’ – for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives.
Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, which is similar to Biden’s.
The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath.
That wording does not include the phrase ‘so help me God,’ but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations.
The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789.
Biden is pictured with the family Bible taking a mock oath of office from Vice President George Bush in 1985. He was flanked by wife Jill (left), sons Beau and Hunter and daughter Ashley
Kamala Harris used two Bibles when she took her vice-presidential oath moments before Biden. One belonged to close family friend Regina Shelton and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
But not every president has used a Bible.
Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account.
Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861.
Kamala Harris used two Bibles when she took her vice-presidential oath moments before Biden.
She used a Bible owned by close family friend Regina Shelton and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice.
‘When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,’ Harris tweeted this week.
She also used Shelton’s Bible when becoming attorney general of California and later senator.
Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult.