Is Trump’s favorite Bible verse even in the Bible?

Donald Trump did an interview with CBN in which he elaborated his views on the Bible. In an earlier interview, Trump declined to reveal a Bible verse that has had an impact on him persoanlly. In this interview, he reveals one. You can watch the relevant clip above or read the transcript below.

There’s so many things that you can learn from it (The Bible). Proverbs, the chapter ‘never bend to envy.’ I’ve had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy. Actually it’s an incredible book, so many things you can learn from the Bible and you can lead your life. I’m not just talking in terms of religion; I’m talking in terms of leading a life even beyond religion. There are so many brilliant things in the Bible…

The Bible, is special, the Bible the more you see it, the more you read it, the more incredible it is. I don’t like to use this analogy, but like a great movie, a great, incredible movie. You’ll see it once it will be good. You’ll see it again. You can see it 20 times and every time you’ll appreciate it more. The Bible is the most special thing.

Trump highlights a “chapter” in Proverbs that says “never bend to envy.” I can only assume that he is trying to improve upon the earlier interview in which he could not cite a favorite verse from the Bible. His statement here would be an improvement if he’s actually come up with a scriptural example in this interview. But has he really found one?

I have read the book of Proverbs from start to finish more times than I can count, and I do not remember ever seeing the phrase “never bend to envy” in that book. But since Trump may be referring to a different translation than the ones I have used, I decided to see if perhaps the phrase appears in some other version. I did a search of 21 different English translations of the Bible:

      English Standard Version
      King James Version
      New King James Version
      New English Translation
      New American Standard Bible
      New International Version
      New Century Version
      The Message
      The Living Bible
      The New Living Translation
      Revised Standard Version
      New Revised Standard Version
      Young’s Literal Translation
      Orthodox Jewish Bible
      Complete Jewish Bible
      Holman Christian Standard Bible
      Good News Translation
      Contemporary English Version
      Common English Bible
      Amplified Bible
      American Standard Version

The phrase appears in no translation of Proverbs that I can find. But the phrase isn’t just absent from Proverbs. “Never bend to envy” appears nowhere in the Bible in any of those major English translations.

The word “envy” does appear a handful of times in English translations of Proverbs, but when it does it tends to be a warning against envying wicked people (e.g., Prov. 3:31; 23:17). But those statements don’t quite jibe with Trump’s. Trump indicated that envy wasn’t his problem, but what other people do to him. In his own words: “I’ve had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy.” If Trump meant to refer to the mention of “envy” in Proverbs, he would be putting himself in place of the “wicked” who should not be envied.

So what do we make of Trump’s claim about the book of Proverbs and “never bend to envy”? Either Trump is paraphrashing some other verse in Proverbs that mentions “envy,” or Trump is making this up as he goes along.

I’m not a betting man (because I never bend to betting). But if I were, I’d bet the latter is much more likely than the former.

UPDATE: A reader points out that something close to “never bend to envy” appears in an English translation of The Divine Comedy by Dante. Read the relevant page here.

25 Responses to Is Trump’s favorite Bible verse even in the Bible?

  1. mscottc September 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    If Trump was as smart as he claims to be, he would actually open the Bible, find a verse or two he likes, memorize it/ them, so that when these questions are asked again he doesn’t appear as ignorant as he does. Then again, most people probably have no idea that he is blowing smoke with this phantom quote.

    • Ian Shaw September 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

      You’re right. Most people, including many who would claim to be Christian/Evangelical probably wouldn’t raise red flags on this. One pitfall of studying marketing in college- finding out that 75%+ of the population in this country does not think critically about anything.

      Then again, “60% of the time, it works every time”
      ~Ron: that doesn’t make any sense….

    • James Stanton September 16, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

      This is true. The bar is very, very low. Trump is usually very good at blowing smoke, so to speak, so I think its pure laziness that he hasn’t gone to the trouble of memorizing a verse or two.

      That being said, Trump reminds me of Sarah Palin. His supporters will simply dismiss such criticism as “gotcha” questions.

    • Jared Hozey September 16, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      Right, because as true believers we would be satisfied with a more cunning deceiver as president.

  2. Stephen B. September 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Based on what I’ve observed of Trump, his fictitious quote about “never bending to envy” is a mere derivative of a deeper principle by which he lives: “never bend to anything”.

    • Denny Burk September 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks, Rachel. I just posted your link in an “update” at the end of the post.

      • Jeremy Brown September 16, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

        Your update link is broken. 🙂

    • Jared Hozey September 16, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

      According to The Christian Post, Brody who conducted the interview with Trump said that Trump’s was referring to Proverbs 24:1-2: “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.”
      So there we go, Brody would know better than about what Trump was saying. So we can stop assuming and trying to make petty and false connections no matter how good it sounds. Perhaps we can all go back to acting like the people Christ has called us to be.

  3. Jack September 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    A quick google search -once you get past all the Trump news- looks like it may be a quote from Dante (or close to it) in his La Divina Comedy (larger work containing Dante’s Inferno). Which would tend to confirm your suspicion that he is making this up as he goes.

  4. Ken Abbott September 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Sorry, some automatic fill-in software co-opted my post above.

  5. Ian Shaw September 16, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    So he quotes Dante when asked his favorite Bible verse? Well played….

  6. James Harold Thomas September 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    It always surprises me when politicians display their biblical ignorance. It would take Trump minutes to memorize a couple of verses and add “Also, the great chaper on love – First Corinthians 13” to sound like a thoroughgoing Bible Belt Christian to naive evangelicals.

  7. Andrew Alladin September 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    I actually prefer Trump’s refusal to memorize a few handy verses to regurgitate whenever he’s asked about his favorite Bible verses. He’s an honest unbeliever and does not claim to be spiritual, Evangelical, Catholic, or Protestant with some fake story about his spiritual awakening or “born-again” experience. And he’s not about to pull out the old standby: “The Bible guides me in all matters of life.” His spiritual condition is the same for most of humanity. Most people are lost in unbelief and are functionally atheist.

    What I find puzzling are the Catholics For Obama/Evangelicals For Obama types who’ve been silent through the entire Gay Marriage and Planned Parenthood Videos episodes. Obama, Biden, and Clinton are completely comfortable with quoting scripture, talking about the “importance of faith,” being seen attending church – and they’re equally comfortable with abortion in the 9th month and forcing people to server gay marriage ceremonies and gay rights events. Barack Obama is comfortable attending black churches in the morning and Planned Parenthood fundraisers in the evening.

    Ronald Reagan gave us Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor and George H.W. Bush gave us David Souter. Both presidents were strongly supported by Evangelicals and neither would be caught unprepared about their favorite Bible verse.

    • Ian Shaw September 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

      Those types you referenced that support President Obama would likely not recall Obama stating that faith should be exercised within church walls/doors…and that’s it. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s a true statement. Which is contrary to the Christian faith.

    • Chad Davis September 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

      Actually, Andrew, Trump did claim at his big rally Monday in TX that he is a “Protestant” and “Presbyterian”.

  8. Scott McCauley September 16, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    It seems Trump would’ve been better served by familiarizing himself with Proverbs 17:28
    Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
    When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.

  9. Christiane Smith September 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    RACHEL made a good call. The likelihood is that Trump received something of an elite classically-influenced education and is familiar with Dante, Virgil, etc. And there are connections in Dante’s writing on ‘envy’ to verses of sacred Scripture, yes. The link I offer is to long to quote, and is best read in context in order to understand the connection that includes the salient verse from Philemon:

    ” For all notions of height and depth, of power and weakness, of glory and obscurity, all our objects of blinding envy, are reconciled and made beautiful in the love of Christ, who sits incarnate on the throne of God, both God and Man, Son both of God and Man, anointed universal King. That is not only theology for the end of time, but anthropology for here and now. It is the law of communion. For Christ

    ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.’ (Phil 2:6-8)”

    • Christiane Smith September 16, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

      (correction: ‘Philemon’ should be ‘Philippians’)

      the verses continue . . . and there we have some interesting words: ‘every knee should bow’

      “9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . ” (Phil 2:9-10)

      My own guess is that Trump has indeed heard Dante and is familiar with this most beautiful description of the gospel given to us by St. Paul, and may be more sophisticated at theology than we knew OR one of his minions told him to say something like this, a minion who also has a classical education in an elite prep school with chapel readings, a minion who, when Trump is confronted with the mistaken ‘verse’, is going to hear some other very famous words from his boss:
      ‘you’re fired’ . . .

      my bet is on the latter case, but you never know about people these days 🙂

  10. JL Parks September 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    It is also not found in the Webster Bible, The J N Darby translation, The New Living Translation, God’s Word Translation, The Third Millennium Bible, or the Bible in Basic English. It is probably only found in the New Revised Trumpicated Obliterated Version.

  11. Edison Jennings September 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Trump read Dante’s The Divine Comedy, a massive 14th-century allegorical epic amounting to14,233 lines of terza rima? Not a chance.

  12. Jared Hozey September 16, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Donald Trump may never be a Dr. Mohler, Dr. Moore, or even a Denny Burk when it comes to reading and understanding scripture but then again he never claimed to be. He claims to be a Christian, a Protestant one and more specifically a Presbyterian. He doesn’t claim to be Evangelical or saved. So he’s not lying about his faith or making it up as he goes. He is being transparent in a world where that rarely exists, even in the church. Donald Trump is showing that he is lost and deceived like some many men and women that sit in our pews on Sunday mornings and on Christmas and Easter or other major events and they believe it makes them a true Christian. Aren’t those the exact things he claimed in his interview? So we shouldn’t be surprised when he misquotes the Bible many true believers even do that( if you don’t believe me there are plenty of articles on the internet that debunk misquoted scripture or things that we believe are in the Bible but are not). We are warned against envy in 13 verses Proverbs through 10 separate passages so his claim is not a far cry, to say Proverbs warns us about bending towards envy. Donald Trump has idols it’s himself and his business, he admits that is what ruined his marriages. Our hearts should break over Mr. Trump being lost and astray for without the reforming of his heart by the Gospel of Jesus Christ he is condemned to hell like many others claiming to be Christian who sit in our pews. Just because he may be a political rival doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve our prayers, grace, and mercy just like Christ our Lord has extended us. Snarky and condescending blogs will never display the love of Christ to Donald Trump nor will it move him closer to the Kingdom, you of all people should know that Denny.

  13. Theresa Moore September 19, 2015 at 1:46 am #

    I personally don’t think he would recognize the Bible if it were sitting on his lap. He can get away with phantom biblical quotes because of the biblical illiteracy in this country.

  14. Dean Chang September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Well, the reality is that just because Donald Trump can’t quote on verse from the Bible and probably never reads it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not a Christian, if that were the case, 90% of Americans who say they are a Christian wouldn’t be either.

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