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David Emery

Bible Stops Bullet, Saves Soldier's Life - Urban Legends

By August 15, 2007

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AMONG THE back-page stories in yesterday's newspaper was a fresh, Iraq-war variation on the old "bible in pocket stops bullet, saving soldier's life" story — the plausibility of which, if you're a fan of the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters show, you probably thought had been empirically disproven. Hosts Hyneman and Savage put the 150-year-old (at least) chestnut to the test in episode 16, concluding that a 400-page hardcover tome might stop a bullet fired from a .22-caliber rifle, depending on the distance between the shooter and the target, but anything more powerful would likely pierce right through to its intended mark. (The results of similar test firings, with similar results, may be viewed at Box o' Truth.)

The experiment did not, of course, take into account any miraculous properties the Holy Bible may be thought to have.

More to the point, the Mythbusters couldn't have foreseen the specifics of the real-life scenario played out in Baghdad a few weeks ago. According to the victim, PFC Brendan Schweigart, a sniper's bullet first entered his body from the side, then exited through his chest, where it lodged in the Bible he kept tucked under his bullet-proof shield. If not for the Bible, Schweigart believes — no doubt correctly — the bullet could have ricocheted off the armor and back into his body, causing more serious injury or even death.

Private Schweigart's close call proves that we needn't cry foul every time we hear tell of a soldier's pocket Bible saving his life in a firefight — indeed, given all the millions of soldiers who have waged war during the past several centuries, it would seem outlandish not to encounter a few precedents in real life. Unfortunately, the story has been told so many times and in so many different places without adequate corroboration that it's impossible to know which instances are true and which are false.

Here are but a few recorded examples from different times and locales. You be the judge:

  • 17th century:
    "When Oliver Cromwell entered upon the command of the Parliament's army against Charles I, he ordered all the soldiers to carry a Bible in their pockets (the same which is now called Field's). Among the rest there was a wild, wicked young fellow, who ran away from his apprenticeship in London for the sake of plunder and dissipation. This fellow was obliged to be in the fashion. Being one day ordered out upon a skirmishing party, or to attack some fortress, he returned to his quarters in the evening without hurt. When he was going to bed, pulling the Bible out of his pocket, he observed a hole in it. His curiosity led him to trace the depth of this hole into his Bible; he found a bullet was gone as far as the 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes, 9th verse. He read the verse. 'Rejoice, O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know those that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.' The words were set home upon his heart by the Divine Spirit, so that he became a very serious and sound believer in the Lord Jesus Christ..." (Anecdotes, Religious, Moral, and Entertaining, by Charles Buck, New York: Dayton and Saxton, 1841, p. 74)
  • 19th century:
    "A soldier from Roxbury, Massachussetts, on leaving home for the army, received a pocket-Bible from his sister. In a battle that followed, a bullet entered the Bible, which was in his side-pocket, and saved his life. He felt the shock, and was bruised, but not otherwise injured." (The National Preacher and Village Pulpit, Vol. IV, by Austin Dickinson, New York: W. H. Bidwell, 1861, p. 362)
  • 19th century:
    "The Bible was not only instrumental in saving souls: there are hundreds of cases where it was also instrumental in saving the lives of the soldiers. Here is a copy [holding it up] which was published in England by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode. That Testament has a history which, if it could speak, I might well remain silent. It ran the blockade; it found its way to a soldier of the Southern army, who placed it in his bosom, and here is the hold which was made by a bullet, which, entering at the last chapter of the Revelation, penetrated through the first chapter of Matthew, and, grazing the outer cover, saved the man's life. There are hundreds of such copies preserved in numerous families throughout American, and money could not purchase them." (The Life of George H. Stuart, by George Hay Stuart, Philadelphia: J. M. Stoddart, 1890, p. 355)
  • 19th century:
    "Marse Tom was just wounded. If he hadn't had a Bible in his pocket de bullet go clear through his heart. But you all know no bullet ain't goin' through de Bible. No, you can't shoot through God's word." (When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection, by Norman R. Yetman, Federal Writers' Project, New York: Dover Publications, 2002, p. 92)
  • World War II:
    "William R. Wilson, a nineteen-year-old youth of New Castle, Pa., had a narrow escape from death while on duty in the American Army in France. A German sharpshooter fired at him so accurately that he would have been killed had it not been that a Bible in his left breast-pocket arrested the bullet sufficiently to cause only a slight wound." (Patriotic Illustrations for Public Speakers, by William Herbert Brown, Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1919, p. 20)

Sources and further reading:
Bible Credited with Saving Soldier's Life - Olean Times Herald
Bible in U.S. Soldier's Pocket Stops Sniper's Bullet - WKMG-TV News
Bible Stopped Sniper's Bullet - NewsMax.com

Bonus link:
IPod Stops Bullet, Saves Soldier's Life - Engadget.com

Comments

August 17, 2007 at 8:43 am
(1) x-15a2 says:

Woody Allen once quipped, “Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet…a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn’t for the bullet!”

August 17, 2007 at 12:20 pm
(2) allypooh says:

in response to x-15a2…. more’s the pity for Woody Allen.

August 18, 2007 at 1:19 am
(3) Jerry says:

David: I’m unsur how often you recieve encouragement or thanks, but I want you to know that I think you do a great service for the Internet public. Jerry

August 18, 2007 at 11:02 pm
(4) Kristin says:

hi i enjoyed the read

August 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm
(5) Fred Wahlstrom says:

If were all his children, does he save one at the expense of another?

Like the story of the man locked in the restroom of the airport, by the time he got out he missed his flight, the plane crashed killing all on board. Did god save him and let the rest die? (That would make him “God the Hit Man”) But then again “He rains on the just and unjust alike”.

Looking around factually, death is no big deal to God.

As George Carlin says “everything he makes dies”

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.(unless everything is going good in your life,) Then God’s in his Heaven and all is right with the world.

Fred

PS what do you call it when you talk to god? (Prayer)
What do you call it when God talks to You? (Schizophrenia)

August 20, 2007 at 3:30 pm
(6) Reta Jones Nicholson says:

Thanks for the interesting item on being saved (or not) by a bible. Here’s a 1950′s twist on the story – without the bible but with a 2007 update:

My father, (then Maj.) Robert E. Jones, was shot in the left chest in North Korea in Nov of 1950. He says it dropped him to his knees and knocked the breath out of him. His CO, standing with him when he was hit, checked him for wounds and found a ROC (chinese) bullet protruding from his chest about 1/4 inch. The CO removed the bullet and handed it to him, saying “Must have been meant for some OTHER Bob Jones…” The CO put a field patch on him and they continued with the fire fight. Later that day he dropped by a field hosp station where the medic dug out a metal fatigue jacket button (with a perfectly round dent in its center) and a wad of paper under the button that had been stopped by a rib. My dad had been carrying a small 50-pg notebook and a 20-pg roster of the men in their unit in his jacket pocket when he was shot.

He received a Purple Heart for this injury (as well as the Silver Star for his other actions that day.)

This vet of 33 years, 3 wars (WWII, Korea and Viet Nam), paratrooper, Chosin River survivor, 10th Spec Forces (Green Berets) commandant, injured 3 times and highly decorated for valor by 5 countries plus our own – including the 2nd highest US military award and having a building named after him – seems proudest of that bullet! The notebook and roster were lost, but he had the bullet engraved with “Robert ? Jones” and the button wrapped around it; it hangs in a glass dome on his living room mantel while his other awards are in his den.

And now for the rest of the story: He has remained robust, and recovered remarkably well from the few serious health issues he’s had. A year ago, however, he had “an unexplained fall” so the ER docs did a complete scan and noticed an occlusion near his heart. His body had created branches around it some time ago, however, and he had great heart function, so the cardiac specialists were mystified as to its cause – until I told them about the gunshot wound. They said it was as good an explanation as any *they* could think of! (And there have been no more falls since a simple adjustment to his blood pressure medication.)

We celebrated his 90th birthday on July 19th, 2007.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this story about Col. Daddy Bob Sir.

August 25, 2007 at 3:29 pm
(7) Jesse says:

I’m commenting about the soldier whose life was saved because a bullet struck a Bible in his pocket. I have heard stories of soldiers sitting on phone books in aircraft and stories of bullets being stopped by the phone book. It doesn’t sound that miraculous to me.

September 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm
(8) Gary says:

Hi, I served 7 years in the British Army, somr of which was in Aden. Although I did not carry it, I always had the Bibnle with which we were issued on enlistment. ( Is till do, and I am 61 years old now!)I would not say it saved my life, but it always made me feel better, and went with me to all my various postings. Regards from UK, Gary

March 7, 2010 at 7:30 pm
(9) SGT Leezy says:

I know it’s hard for you all to believe this but I was with Schweigart in Iraq when that happen. The bullet was a rifle round chambered in some kind of .308. It passed through the tricep of his left arm, entered his left side, and exited out his chest stopping in the copy of the New Testement that was sitting in his breastpocket. He suffered nerve damage in his left arm that prevents him from completely closing his left hand. We were at FOB Rustimiyah southeast Baghdad with A Co 2BSB 2BCT 2ID. He was a PFC at the time so was I.

April 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm
(10) A. O'Neil says:

Either my husband’s grandfather or great uncle was in the Battle of the Buldge where a Gideon Bible stopped a bullet from penetrating his heart. The story is that the Bible was handed to him before departing and he stuck it in his pocket. He felt nothing during the fray. At the end of the day, the Bible had all the damage and he had none. Other soldiers lived to tell the same tale (obviously).

November 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm
(11) Neil says:

I have my Grandfather’s bible which was pierced by a bullet during the Battle of the Somme. Not sure if it saved his life but he did live till 1946 though in great misery according to my Mother. He was firm believer that his faith saved his life that day as his closest friends were killed beside him. I take great pride in this as an heirloom to pass on to future generations of my family.

September 22, 2013 at 8:19 am
(12) Todd Christ says:

My fatherd fought with the 83rd in WWII. He fought for seven months after Normandy and was wounded in the battle of the hurgeon Forrest. He carried a bible in his top left shirt pocket. Once he was retrieved from the battle the nurses undressed him and found that the bible stopped a piece of scrappel that entered the front of the bible and stopped at the very last page. The doctors told him that the bible saved his life since the steel would of pierced his heart. I have that bible with the steel. That bible was very important to him and too me as well since without that bible I would not exist.

November 24, 2013 at 4:48 am
(13) vern says:

A testimony on video featured in this years Gideon Camp DVD series celebrates pocket New Testaments that have been given to Military since the 1942. Vietnam vet whose sister in law begged him to keep one of the Testaments in his left front pocket before he shipped out to Nam, Her insistence was because her own father had returned from WWII with one that had taken a bullet instead of him. In the case of the Vietnam Vet, he was following a platoon on patrol for supply purposes, but a Viet Cong rose up from tall grass they had already passed and began firing at their backs. As the Cong began firing several rounds, the American wheeled around to see the shooter, and dropped into the grass for cover while soldiers behind him dispatched the Cong. In the video he remarked that with all the noise and adrenaline he didn’t know at the time he’d taken a bullet in the chest but after returning to base on a Huey he reached into his front pocket to remove his bible and signal mirror also always kept there, and found shards of glass. The mirror had shattered and the bullet was lodged in the Bible protruding out the back, having failed to penetrate the thin steel back that held the mirror. Mirrors like that had been penetrated before, but the combination was too much for this one, so to the camera, he said, choking back tears, “If not for that New Testament someone else would be talking to you right now.” The repeat of what happened to his relative wasn’t lost on him and after reading an invitation in the back with portions of scripture related to the One who died in his stead, he gave what was left of his life to Him, and said he’s never been disappointed. That’s two.

February 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm
(14) Deborah says:

Happened again. Take that, Woody Allen!

February 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm
(15) Deborah says:
March 3, 2014 at 12:38 am
(16) Paul says:

I find it amazing how much energy atheist and God haters put out to discrediting anything that even mentions God. Why bother yourselves, if He doesn’t exist.
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/25/us/ohio-bible-stops-bullet/
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/02/24/bible-stops-two-bullets-to-save-life-ohio-bus-driver-police-say/
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-ohio-drivers-bible-booklet-stops-bullet-22663958
These are three main outlets that report the same real story, but I am sure you will find some way to deny it. There will be no such denial when you face God on that day. Until then, continue wasting your energy in denial. You are not hurting God, just yourselves.

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