Miriam Adelson wants a ‘Book of Trump’ in the Bible. Is that possible?
LAS VEGAS – In the Bible lives a cast of characters thousands of years old. There’s Job and Esther and Daniel and Ecclesiastes.
But what about Trump?
Read the writings of Miriam Adelson, the Israeli-American wife of GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson, and you’ll find her case to expand the holy book with a story named after the 45th president of the United States.
“Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a ‘Book of Trump,’ much like it has a “Book of Esther” celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?” Adelson wrote in a column published July 6 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a newspaper the Adelsons own.
Adelson contends Donald Trump “should enjoy sweeping support” among U.S. Jews and Israelis – so much so that he deserves pages in the Bible.
But could it be that simple?
The USA Today Network reached out to Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, a Jewish Bible scholar and author of “The Bible Doesn’t Say That”, to talk about what Adelson’s proposal says about this political moment.
In an email, Hoffman explained the main players in the Book of Esther, how they might relate to a modern Trump storyline – and whether anyone can even add a book to the Bible.
What follows is an interview between the USA Today Network and Hoffman:
What was your reaction to seeing Mrs. Adelson’s quote about the “Book of Trump”?
I was surprised, surprised enough to think that perhaps it had been misreported. But once I read the article I think I saw what she was trying to say, and though I disagree with her conclusion, she opens the door to interesting questions.”
Why is the Book of Esther significant in Jewish history?
The Book of Esther addresses what it’s like for Jews to live in a non-Jewish country. Three of the key characters from that book are King Ahasuerus, a ruler who is unwittingly turned against the Jews; the king’s conniving adviser, Haman, who convinces King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews; and Esther, the heroine who, at her cousin’s urging, saves the Jews from Haman and Ahasuerus. Interestingly, the Book of Esther is set in Persia, modern-day Iran. Iran was a flashpoint in antiquity just as it is now.
What do you suppose Miriam Adelson is trying to say in her column?
I looked at Mrs. Adelson’s full article. I think her point is that Jews should embrace President Trump in the same way that Jews embrace Esther. I think Mrs. Adelson believes that President Trump can save the Jews. I think she is genuinely surprised that more people don’t love the current president as much as she does.
What does the suggestion that President Trump should get his own Biblical book say about this current political moment?
I think people today – not for the first time, incidentally – are terrified about the future, and that their fear sometimes causes them to abandon due diligence and even common sense. I think we often perceive malice on the part of public figures when what we are really seeing is a reaction to nearly incapacitating fear.
Can a new book be added to the Bible?
There is no way to add another book to the Jewish Bible. As I describe in “The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor,” many timeless and invaluable books were cut from the canon to create the Bible as we know it (both Jewish and Christian), and even some of the books that are in the Bible almost didn’t make it.
Who chooses which books go into the Bible?
Both for Jews and Christians, the books of the Bible were finalized in the early part of the first millennium, well over 1,000 years ago. (Jews and Christians, and even various Christian sects, chose different books.) No one knows the exact details of how the decisions were made.
Have there been other times in history when someone tried to add a book to the Bible?
I can’t think of any time since the Bible was first created when someone tried to add a new book. But I’m reminded of many “false messiahs” – charismatic leaders who passed themselves off as the Messiah, either to perpetrate a fraud or having convinced themselves of their own near divinity. These false messiahs usually arise in turbulent times and, though often welcomed at first, leave behind terrible damage and misery.
Are there other examples of the Bible surfacing in the political realm?
A good part of my most recent book, “The Bible Doesn’t Say That”, deals with how politicians have used and misused the Bible. For example, the Bible was once used to support slavery, as in an 1864 publication by the Reverend Ebenezer W. Warren, who promised “a vindication of southern slavery” based on “the Old and New Testaments.” Similarly, modern leaders misrepresent the Bible to condemn abortion and same-sex marriage.
How would you characterize the views of the Jewish population on Trump’s administration?
I think Jews fall into the same three broad groups as the rest of the country: (1) people who love President Trump; (2) people who believe that he’s bad but probably not as awful as some people fear; and (3) people who think he’s destroying America.
Or to return to Mrs. Adelson’s article: some people think President Trump is a savior like Esther, some people think he’s like the bumbling and manipulable King Ahasuerus, and some people think he’s like the evil Haman.
How would you characterize this moment in human history?
Two thousand years ago, when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, Jews of the day feared that they were living through unprecedented times. They worried that a millennium of nearly continuous prosperity in the Holy City was coming to end. (They were right.) They worried that Judaism, too, would end. (They were wrong about that.) They worried about Rome. They worried about modernity. They worried about the future. I’ve told audiences all over the world about this ancient sense of “unprecedented times.” Then I ask how many people feel that we, too, are living through unprecedented times. Most hands go up. There seems to be an overwhelming dread now that we are living through unprecedented turmoil and upheaval. People are terrified – about what’s happening and about what’s going to happen.
I take comfort in knowing that we are hardly the first generation to fear the future. In a sense, we are, today, like an adolescent encountering puberty, scared and shocked by what is going on, but wrongly thinking that we alone are enduring these surprising changes.
I see a lot of similarities between life today and life 2,000 years ago. For example, reports from 2,000 years ago include ridiculous things, like a cow giving birth to a lamb – even though people knew as well back then as they do now that such a thing is impossible. People today are likewise so upset that they sometimes wonder if the universe itself is broken, and they sometimes ignore what they know to be true.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.