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Twenty years ago, this chaplain was stumped by a religious question on 'Jeopardy!' Now, he uses it as a teaching tool.

Ultimately, it was a religious question that cost Chaplain Ryan Rupe the game.

The year was 1999, and Rupe, then a 29-year-old pastor working in Pearland, Texas, was asked a question about a verse from the Old Testament.

Finally, he thought, a category that could help him catch up. 

The question: Who said the following phrase: “The woman who thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and did eat?”

The correct answer: “Who is Adam?”

Rupe's answer: “Who is Eve?”

“I jumped the gun too fast. I knew the answer but got tripped up by the wording of the question,” he said.

The next question was a Daily Double, which went to the woman who ultimately won that night, becoming a five-game champion. “That would’ve changed the dynamics,” Rupe said, if he'd answered the question correctly and then got the Daily Double.

With the recent death of longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek from pancreatic cancer, Rupe, now a Navy captain and command chaplain at the Coast Guard Academy, reflected on his experience as a contestant on the show.

The irony of a pastor getting a religious question wrong is a lesson Rupe said he has carried with him in the decades since.

"I use it as a training tool to say, 'See, I'm human,'" he said. "I'm a senior person now. People look to me for advice, for counsel. I tell them you can easily make a mistake but a lot of good can come out of it."

Rupe came in second place that day — winning a cruise to the Caribbean, which he and his wife took in 2000 while, as luck would have it, the recount in Florida in the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was taking place. "Nobody knew what was going on," he said of the passengers aboard, given the lack of internet access at the time.

Over the years, Rupe has told the story of being a contestant on "Jeopardy!" many times. Often, those who hear the story want to challenge him to a game of trivia. While stationed in Iraq, he and other service members would frequently watch the show together. After his skipper found out he was a contestant, the two went head-to-head in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Rupe won. "That ended that," he said.

And of course, many have wanted to know about the beloved game show host, Trebek, and what he was like.

"You don’t see Alex until they call his name," said Rupe, who keeps a framed picture of himself with Trebek in his office. "You notice right away, people are there to see him. He had a real connection with the audience" and during breaks, would walk up to audience members and ask them questions.

"He clearly loved the job," Rupe said. "You got that right away."

j.bergman@theday.com

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