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Melania Trump and the Bible

July 20, 2016

For the last two days the political media world has been abuzz with the accusation that the convention speech of Donald Trump’s wife Melania was in part lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008.  This morning I saw an article from a plagiarism specialist saying that when 23 consecutive words are alike; when a unique subject flow such as from parents to children is present; when some peculiar words like “achievement” are in both, that the change that the latter was not taken from the former are 100 billion to one.

Thus far the Trump campaign is responding to this critique with “Aha!  So you admit there is a chance!”  I assume, probably with some degree of merit, that they hope that eventually people will get tired of hearing about this.   

But in reality the critic is saying that it is impossible for this many words, in this order, and with that vocabulary to have been done accidentally, coincidentally, or without knowing that one was using the words of another.  That same scholar, if he analyzed that last sentence, would say the same thing about me, that I lifted that line (with minor changes) from evangelical scholar Scott McKnight – and he would be right.  If the Trumps would say the same thing I just did then I am sure that this whole matter blowing over.

Biblical scholars are well aware of the sort of analysis that produced those projected odds.  They wrestle, through a process called source criticism, with Bible passages, such as the account of the flood, that are very much the same as earlier pagan documents.  However they also struggle with a widespread evangelical mindset that would be infuriated by hearing they even considered such things.

Is it possible for them to affirm belief in the Bible as the Word of God and, at the same time, do such analysis?  Many would say no.  I always marvel how fragile such critics think our faith is.  If our confidence in the Bible is so weak that we need to cover our ears and hum every time someone questions it that says more about us than the Bible we think we are defending.

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