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GOD & TEXAS: Sam Houston's Bible

“I’ll wager no wounds were found in his back!” Purportedly, these are the words of the mother of Alamo hero Jim Bowie when she heard of his valiant death. Bowie’s life has been well documented in history books, and Hollywood films where such notable actors as Alan Ladd, Richard Widmark, and James Arness portrayed Bowie.

In his early days, Bowie was known as a carousing woodsman with a violent temper. But in 1828, he made a public commitment of faith in Christ. Six months later, Bowie married Maria Ursula de Veramendi, and he was the father of two children.

While most of us have heard about Jim Bowie’s knife, few know about his Bible. According to an 1897 article in The Southern Mercury newspaper, Jim Bowie’s Bible came to rest in the library of the Texas Supreme Court. The Chief Justices have used this same Bible to inaugurate governors, and other elected officials for over 150 years.

Published in 1816, this pocket-sized King James Version of the Bible is bound in brown sheepskin and is inscribed on the flyleaf with the words, “Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, 184[?].” We do not know the last number because half of the page was torn off. Tradition says that Sam Houston gained the Bible and wrote his name in it, but someone stole his signature by tearing off the page.

Ever since, this same Bible has been referred to as “Sam Houston’s Bible,” and over 30 Texas governors have placed their hand on it including Rick Perry and Greg Abbott. At his inauguration in 1995, Governor George W. Bush stated unambiguously that the Bible upon which his hand rested was “Sam Houston’s own.”

Numerous studies have been done to verify or disprove that this Bible actually belonged to Sam Houston and Jim Bowie. Convincing arguments have been made on both sides, but in the end, the governors continue to take their oath of office by placing their hand on “Sam Houston’s Bible.”

Did Houston or Bowie ever own this Bible? No one knows for sure. But the overriding reality is that the governors of Texas believe in the authority of the Bible! By taking their oath of office publicly with their hand on a Bible, they validate the importance of the Word of God.

Recently, Jordan Peterson, a highly-regarded Canadian psychologist, stated that the Bible is “way more than just true, it’s the bedrock of Western civilization.” Indeed, the Bible provides wisdom, guidance, and Divine revelation for governing society.

Conversely, if the Bible is ignored or disparaged, society is doomed. Could it be that devaluing the Bible is a major cause of our current problems like raging violence, breakdown of the family, racial tensions, rampant immorality, and so many more societal issues?

Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV) It is still true today.


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