Some Notes on Donald Trump’s Prayer Shawl and Jewish Heritage Bible

From Haaretz:

Photographs and videos of Trump draped in a traditional Jewish prayer shawl – known as a tallit – inside a church have been rapidly circulating around the Internet. Trump was presented with the shawl during his Saturday visit to the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, Michigan.

…Bishop Wayne Jackson, the pastor of the church carefully wrapped the tallit around Trump’s shoulders as both men grinned broadly.

…Jackson then handed Trump a Bible. “This is the Jewish Heritage Study bible and we have it especially for you, and we have one for your wife…”

The report goes on to suggest that many viewers are of the opinion that the use of Jewish prayer shawl in this context was inappropriate and in bad taste.

However, the use – or appropriation – of Jewish items in evangelical worship is hardly new; in 2007 I noted an evangelical distributor explaining that the use Jewish trappings (including shofars, mezuzahs, menorahs, and Kiddush cups) expresses “how we as Christians have been grafted into the Jewish faith”. Prayer shawls, according to the business, were

Worn in symbolic remembrance to Him and his commandments, used in prayer and worship (very popular with John Hagee, Juanita Bynum, Benny Hinn and Judy Jacobs Ministries)

Meanwhile, messianic Jewish figures have become increasingly prominent within US evangelicalism – most notably, for several years now the bestselling apocalyptic author Jonathan Cahn has been a fixture at National Day of Prayer events in Washington DC, where he has appeared draped in a prayer shawl and blowing a shofar.

However, the use of Jewish items in evangelical settings can sometimes be idiosyncratic – notoriously, in 2012 a “Hebrew Roots” teacher named Ralph Messer wrapped Eddie Long in a Torah scroll, and before that, Paula White (now famous for having supposedly brought Trump to Jesus). Messer has a bizarrely phallic understanding of what a Torah scroll actually is, going so far as to describe its cover as a “foreskin”.

Haaretz goes on to note that

According to its publisher, the Jewish Heritage Study Bible was inspired by the Detroit pastor who hosted Trump. Pastor Jackson, president and CEO of the Impact Network  “is teaching all of his people all of the Jewish traditions”

The journalist is here referring to a YouTube video in which Dr Everette Gaddy (E.E. Gaddy) talks with Dr Jerry Goff about the Bible. Gaddy’s link to Jackson is rather incongruous – in 2013 there was controversy over a strange consecration ritual in which Jackson ordained new Bishops by having them lie on the floor face down, after which he lay on each of them; in contrast, Gaddy is an old-school Southern evangelical (probably Baptist) from Tennessee, with a particular fondness for the King James Bible. Gaddy, who was 76 in 2007, worked as Bible salesman for 25 years, and he heads Assurance Publications.

According to Gaddy’s conversation with Goff, the Jewish Heritage Study Bible uses the KJV, and verses that relate to each other are given in full rather than as cross-references. It also includes photos and maps, and explanatory essays about Judaism. It seems that the essays include discussion of the “Last Days”, and identify the modern State of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.

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