When Joe Biden was sworn in as America’s second Roman Catholic president on Wednesday, his hand rested on more than 100 years of his family’s history.
Biden swore his oath of office on a 5-inch-thick Bible with a Celtic cross on the cover, a holy book that has been in the family since 1893.
The president-elect told Colbert that “every important date” in the family’s history has been inscribed in this Bible ― including all the times he has been sworn in as senator and as vice president.
“It’s just been a family heirloom,” he told Colbert.
First lady Jill Biden held the hefty Bible for her husband during Wednesday’s ceremony.
The Biden family Bible has appeared during important moments in the president’s political career. Soon after Biden was elected as a Delaware senator in November 1972, a car crash claimed the lives of his wife and 13-month-old daughter, and injured their two sons. Not wanting to leave his sons in the hospital, Biden ended up being sworn in with the family Bible from a hospital room.
Decades later, his son Beau Biden used the same Bible when he was sworn in as Delaware’s attorney general. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.
Biden has spoken frequently on the campaign trail about how his faith has guided him through periods of suffering.
The first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, also used a family Bible during his inauguration. The Fitzgerald family Bible holds five handwritten pages of the family’s records.
Vice President Kamala Harris, a Baptist with family members who are Hindu and Jewish, took her oath of office using two Bibles. One belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, while the other belonged to Regina Shelton, a close family friend whom Harris thought of as a “second mother.”
Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush took the oath of office with the Bible that George Washington used when he was inaugurated in 1789. President Barack Obama used Bibles that belonged to Martin Luther King Jr. and President Abraham Lincoln.
President Donald Trump used a Bible given to him by his mother and the Lincoln Bible.