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Did you know that it was Jesus who originally said “a house divided against itself cannot stand?” (Mark 3:24, paraphrased by Abraham Lincoln) Many people think that’s an Abe Lincoln original — but Abe was, like many people, just taking the Bible and applying it to modern times.

This was Lincoln’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for Senator from Illinois in 1858 — three years before the Civil War began. Lincoln predicted that the United States could not permanently remain half slave and half free, with half of the states legally allowing slavery and half of the states abolishing it. The country would have to come around to either abolition or legal slavery as a national policy — and he pointed out that it was entirely possible that all of the states would eventually agree to legalize slavery. It still stands as a radical speech and a strong warning.

Jesus, on the other hand, was responding to a charge by the Pharisees. He’d been driving out demons (probably healing the mentally ill, in modern terms), and the Pharisees said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22 NIV)

Jesus then responded:

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

So…Jesus was basically using logic to defend himself, which doesn’t really have much to do with what Lincoln was talking about. I think it’s still true in both contexts, though. blogger Robert Longley noted in 2007 that Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President at Illinois’ Old State Capitol building — the same place where Lincoln made the “House Divided” speech.