House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is facing criticism for repeatedly attributing an incorrect quotation to the Book of Isaiah that concerns ministering to creation, Cybercast News Service reports.
The speaker has used the quotation at least five times, often in reference to environmental concerns.
The falsely-attributed quotation most recently appeared in her April 22 Earth Day news release, in which Speaker Pelosi said, “The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, 'To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.' On this Earth Day, and every day, let us pledge to our children, and our children's children, that they will have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature.”
Biblical scholars, however, are at a loss as to the source of Pelosi’s quotation.
John J. Collins, Holmes professor of Old Testament criticism and interpretation at Yale Divinity School, told Cybercast News Service that quotation is “not one that I recognize.”
“I assume that she means this is a paraphrase,” he continued. “But it wouldn't be a close paraphrase to anything I know of."
"The quote does not exist in the Old Testament, neither in the New Testament," said Fr. Andreas Höck, a professor of Scripture who teaches in the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver's St. John Vianney Seminary.
"Even in pieces or bits, [it] cannot be found in the Old Testament," he said.
According to Cybercast News Service, Speaker Pelosi has used the quotation before.
In a December, 2005 message to the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Pelosi used the quotation after a reference to the prophet Isaiah. Her message read:
"Mr. Speaker, as we leave for this Christmas recess, let us say, 'God bless you' to the American people by voting against this Republican budget and statement of injustice and immorality, and let us not let the special interest goose get fat at the expense of America's children.
"The gentleman from Washington [state], Mr. McDermott, quoted the prophet Isaiah. And as the Bible teaches us, to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship, to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us. Let us vote no on this budget as an act of worship and for America's children."
Speaker Pelosi has used the same phrase in at least four statements in 2007: in February remarks before the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee’s hearings on global warming; in April in congressional remarks before the Easter recess, in which she attributed the quotation to the Old Testament and advocated the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution; in an April speech to the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C. in which she advocating tackling “one of humanity’s greatest challenges yet—global warming”; and in an October television interview with PBS host Tavis Smiley, in which she said her faith was related to her Democratic values.
Scripture scholars who spoke to Cybercast News Service reflected on whether environmentalism had an explicit scriptural basis.
Mark Goodwin, an associate professor of theology at the University of Dallas, said Pelosi’s use of the quotation was vague.
'To minister to the needs of creation is an act of worship' doesn't sound right to my ears," Goodwin said. "To minister to the needs of creation'- yes, but not as an act of worship. I'm not sure what she meant by that, and if I were there, I would have raised my hand and asked her to clarify that."
Eric Jenislawski, a theology professor at Christendom College in Virginia, said the Bible teaches in Genesis that man was placed on earth “to till it and keep it,” but also instructs mankind “to fill the earth and subdue it.”
“Responsible use of the Old Testament,” Jenislawski said, “cannot divorce the biblical notion of stewardship (that man is obligated to care for God's creation) from the equally important biblical view that the entire natural world was created for man, for him to subdue it and to reign over it.
"Environmentalists who make man subservient to the natural world actually invert the biblical view of man's relationship to the earth," he said.