While there has been much ballyhoo about the fact that Donald Trump said "Two" instead of "Second" Corinthians in his Liberty University speech, how he used the verse in a political speech is more problematic.
"I hear this is a major theme right here. ... Two Corinthians 3:17, that's the whole ball game," on Monday said Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, according to most polls.
He then quoted the verse, "'Where the spirit of the Lord is,' right? 'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.'
"It is so true," he continued. "It's really, is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that's the one you like, 'cuz I loved it. And it's so representative of what's taking place."
What is "taking place" that Trump believes the verse represents? He tells us in the next line.
"But we are going to protect Christianity. If you look at what's going on throughout the world. You look at Syria, if you're Christian, they're chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it's under siege," he said.
Then after reminding the students at Liberty University, an Evangelical institution, that he is a proud Presbyterian, Trump continued with the theme that he would be the protector of Christianity and unite the country under the banner of Christianity.
"Very bad things are happening. And we don't, I don't know what it is, we don't band together, maybe? Other religions, frankly, they're banding together and they're using it. Here we have, if you look at this country — it's got to be 70 percent, 75 percent, some people say even more, the power we have — somehow we have to unify, we have to band together. ... Our country has to do that around Christianity. So, get together folks and let's do it 'cuz we can do it," he said.
Christians should be more concerned about these words than his use of "two" instead of "second" to modify Corinthians (which is not uncommon in some Christian traditions anyway).
When Paul writes about liberty, or "freedom" in other translations, in 2 Corinthians 3:17, he's not writing about freedom from terrorists, as Trump assumes. He's writing about freedom from sin.
In a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post, theologian Michael Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University, explained in greater detail the context of 2 Corinthians 3:17.
"In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the new covenant with the Sinai covenant, contrasting the Spirit with the letter of the Law. He explains that the letter kills while the Spirit gives life. This is because under the Sinai covenant, God's law was written on stone tablets, not on the people of Israel's hearts. That meant that Israel would always fall short of God's standards, even though they were beautiful and glorious and holy. And so, the Sinai covenant could only condemn. It showed us what was right and wrong but didn't give us the power to live it out.
"In stark contrast, the Spirit now writes God's Law directly on our hearts, and when we read the words of the Old Testament, the Spirit opens our eyes to see Jesus, our Liberator. And so, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty — liberty from sin and liberty from external religion. And just as the face of Moses was transformed when he stood in God's presence on Mt. Sinai, so we are now transformed by the Spirit."
Ironically, 2 Corinthians 3 points to the absurdity of Trump's abuse of the scriptural reference. If Christians have the spirit of God on their side, why do they need Trump as their protector?
To be fair, Trump was not delivering a sermon, and no one, Trump included, would consider him to be a deep theological thinker. Plus his insertion of the biblical reference was haphazard. Trump doesn't use a teleprompter or written speeches, and it sounded like he was just handed the verse before he went on stage.
But, given that Trump was speaking at a Christian university, Christians should point out that his words were heretical.
The incident also points to the dangers of politicians using Bible quotes for political means, and the supporters who cheer them on when they do so.
Freedom from sin is eternally (literally) more important than the political freedoms Americans often enjoy. To suggest, then, that Paul was writing about Earthly political freedom distorts his message. Christ alone is the Savior of humankind. No political leader can substitute.