Obama Pulls From Unlikely Scripture Passage During Newtown Vigil

A biblical scholar says the bible passage Obama quoted at Newtown is different than the passages he's chosen in the past.

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President Barack Obama has relied on quotes from scripture to help comfort victims' families after several mass shootings during his presidency. In a speech at a Colorado hospital after a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora earlier this year, Obama quoted the Book of Revelation as he spoke to the families of the 12 who had died. In a memorial service in Tucson, Ariz., after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot, six of whom did not survive, Obama quoted the Book of Psalms and the Book of Job.

These passages are considered "visionary passages," according to biblical scholar Greg Carey, and they are also fairly common.

This wasn't the case when Obama quoted scripture Sunday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in a speech the White House says the president wrote himself.

[PHOTOS: The Victims of Newtown Shooting]

"Do not lose heart," Obama told families grieving over the loss of 20 children and six adults, as well as the shooter. "Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day."

President Barack Obama greets Gov. Dannel Malloy during his arrival at the start of an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.
President Barack Obama greets Gov. Dannel Malloy during his arrival at the start of an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.

The quote is a passage from 2 Corinthians, a book from which Obama pulled heavily from on Sunday. Carey says passages from this book are not often used.

"This passage is also different from the others [in that] it involves not just hope, but determination and persistence through adversity," says Carey, who is a professor of the New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. "Given that Obama was hinting that he would make some sort of policy action [on guns], I wonder if that's why determination was provided."

In a press conference Friday, Obama said the country needed to "take meaningful action" to prevent mass shootings in the future. On Monday, according to the Washington Post, he began calling on cabinet members to come up with proposals to reduce gun violence.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.


    12/19/12: This article incorrectly identified 2 Corinthians as a Bible chapter. It is a Bible book.