President Obama will use two separate Bibles in his swearing in ceremonies for the nation’s 57th Presidential Inauguration. The Bibles are notable for their prior owners–Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
The Lincoln Bible will be used at Obama’s swearing in on Sunday, January 20 at noon–the date and time at which the President’s first term officially ends. For Obama’s more public swearing in–on Monday, January 21, MLK Day–the President will use the King Bible.
It is customary for Presidents to have separate ceremonies when their term ends on a Sunday. To ensure continuity, a private, low-key ceremony is held to ensure that the President is actually constitutionally acting as President, and then a public ceremony is held the following day. This is the seventh inauguration that has fallen on a Sunday.
Obama’s use of two Bibles is also something of a custom. President Truman used two Bibles in 1948, as did Eisenhower in 1952, Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Carter in 1976, and G. H. W. Bush in 1988. Ike, Carter, and Bush selected the Bible used by George Washington in his first inauguration as one of their two “Good Books.”