Skip to comments.Jefferson's Bible
Posted on 01/09/2012 7:39:35 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
Rick Santorum's near-miss in Iowa provides a reminder that, for many Republican voters (and not a few candidates), religion and politics overlap. If you need another reminder, though, consider this: recently, the Smithsonian has restored and put on display a weird and fantastic 19th century book known as "The Jefferson Bible." That's Jefferson as in Thomas, and this private, personal document offers a useful case study in how politics and Christianity have mixed it up in American history, right up to today.
To understand Jefferson's Bible, you need to start with the one book he published in his lifetime: "Notes on the State of Virginia." Jefferson wrote this survey in the 1780s, organizing it around topics like "The different religions received into that State." But the book came back to haunt him two decades later when he was battling John Adams for the presidency. Indeed, long before Rick Perry's and Mitt Romney's books caused them trouble on the campaign trail, Jefferson had to deal with some very specific attacks on what he'd written about religion.
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
I had never heard of the Jefferson Bible until my fiercely Calvinistic coworker asked me if I knew what it was (I’m Catholic and therefore presumed ignorant about Scripture).
He informed me that it is the standard Bible printed in pencil (?) so that Tom could easily excise those passages he thought inapplicable or illogical. My coworker also claimed he could beat Pope Benedict XVI in a debate about Christian doctrine and if I would pony up a ticket to Rome, he would make it happen!
Oh, and he doesn’t observe Christmas and his kids don’t get any gifts.
So glad I’m retired.....
You wrote: “The left don’t like their version of history being challenged.”
“Thomas Jefferson, religious freak” by James Freeman - USA Today July 10, 2000
On July Fourth, we celebrated the 224th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. This great document, of course, is not the law of the land. The Constitution, created in 1787, gives us the rules we live by. But it’s hard to overstate the importance of Thomas Jefferson’s brilliant work, which was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. The Declaration created the United States of America. It also explained why we were free to abandon British rule and articulated many of the basic principles that would later be expressed in our Constitution, such as government by the people and the right of trial by jury.
So what gave us the right to start our own country? Where did we get off saying that the people should rule instead of a king or a parliament representing the richest men of the country? How could we claim a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Where did our rights come from? Well, according to TJ and the guys who voted to start a new nation in 1776, they came from the man upstairs. That was the whole justification for the rebellion: Our rights came from God, not from the British crown, so it was up to us what kind of government we wanted to recognize. If you could sum up Jefferson’s political views in one sentence, you would say: He believed that God and reason allow people to rule themselves.
As we reflect on the Fourth of July and recent cases in which the Supreme Court has tried to decide how much religion to allow in our public institutions, it’s worth considering the opinions of the man who, as much as anyone, is responsible for the creation of the USA. And based on the standards of our time, I think you have to say that Thomas Jefferson was a religious nut. I’m not just talking about the first two paragraphs of the Declaration, although they do make the point:
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ”
Jefferson was a big believer in religious liberty, but he certainly wasn’t shy about mentioning God in official proceedings. In the final paragraph of the Declaration (available at http://www.constitution.org/usdeclar.htm), Jefferson asks twice for God’s help in creating the country. And the Declaration was not the only work of Jefferson’s in which he gave credit to a higher power.
Appropriately enough, the University of Virginia maintains several excellent Web sites about its “father” and chief architect. One of my favorites (http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/) includes this quotation from 1774: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” In his Notes on Virginia of 1782, Jefferson writes: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”
So, by modern standards, this guy sure seems as if he’s a Bible-thumping fruitcake. And one great thing about the USA is that you’re free to call him a Bible-thumping fruitcake. Jefferson would definitely approve. On his tombstone he wanted it recorded that he wrote the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.
Still, if you toss out his religious faith, that does leave a pretty big hole in his philosophy and a difficult question for us: Where do our rights come from? Jefferson’s crazy religious ideas, shared by crazy representatives from 13 crazy colonies, are the reason we have a United States and the reason that We the People are in charge.
Of what? The Catholic church?
I'm sure that a religious person today could look at any of our lives and make comments showing we couldn't be "born again" Christians or we wouldn't have done or said this and that. There are just as many evidences of Jefferson using Scripture as "cutting" it out of the Bible. Many of the monuments he designed had Bible quotes on them.
The founders had many pastors as signers of the documents and almost all were describes as "devout" in early documents. Glomming on to a modified Bible from Jefferson seems a little desperate to make an irrelevant point. America was formed as a "Christian" nation, but didn't require you to profess it. That was a breakthrough for people that had been forced to bow and kiss a ring to remain breathing.
I'm sure, Jefferson, thinking himself wise, became a fool. If you are going to believe Jesus was the sacrificial Son of God, sent to die for your sins, what would be so difficult about a "virgin birth" or rising from the dead? If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then how can I count on Him to save me? Can a man walk on water or can God walk on water, and even fly into the clouds? He is either God or not. I'm sure that was the conflict he had much of his life. It is what all of us at some point has to decide. If God can create the universe and humans, why could he not fix their sin and be family with Him? God is quite a concept and is difficult for some. I too was a skeptic until the age of 43, and then God made Himself know to me in a manor that was undeniable for myself. it is easy for me to look as foolish as need be for my Savior after what he has shown me. But for someone else, it may not suffice.
I heard Santorum wants to make Latin the official language.
HAHA. Actually it would be a fantastic idea to require all students to learn Latin as it will improve their English. But let’s not try something to improve anything. That would be so against status quo.
Oh, I could beat the Pope in a debate too if you send me a ticket to Rome. Of course, we’d have to agree that I wouldn’t have to pay you back after I lost! LOL.
David Barton has a very troubling history of doing exactly that sort of thing.
That other historians have done wrong doesn't excuse his own lies and inventions.
That is like saying counterfeiting money is OK because other people have done so previously.
I heard it on Beck and yes it was a joke.
True, but I'll forgive him much given his penning of the Declaration of Independence, a document that will far outlast the united States of America.
He would LOSE, big time. bttt
He sounds like the typical fundie/literalist (who reads the newspaper with one hand and the Bible with the other)--holding as one of his so-called 'truths', that the pope is the "Anti-Christ riding on the "Beast of Revelation". Cough, cough.
Excerpts From Pacem In Terris: Peace on Earth
Encyclical of Pope John XXIII, On Establishing Universal Peace In Truth, Justice, Charity, And Liberty, April 11, 1963
"Man's personal dignity requires besides that he enjoy freedom and be able to make up his own mind when he acts.
In his association with his fellows, therefore, there is every reason why his recognition of rights, observance of duties, and many-sided collaboration with other men, should be primarily a matter of his own personal decision.
Each man should act on his own initiative, conviction, and sense of responsibility, not under the constant pressure of external coercion or enticement.
There is nothing human about a society that is welded together by force.
Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of man's progress and perfection, it is merely an obstacle to his freedom."
"Hence, a regime which governs solely or mainly by means of threats and intimidation or promises of reward, provides men with no effective incentive to work for the common good.
And even if it did, it would certainly be offensive to the dignity of free and rational human beings."
"Consequently, laws and decrees passed in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience, since 'it is right to obey God rather than men.'"
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare:
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Rights of Conscience is the foundation of American Politics.
For our founders, one mans liberty did not rest upon another mans conscience. Each citizen had the right to program his conscience according to the standards he felt were true and to live his life as his conscience dictated in his pursuit for happiness. Again Blackstone speaks on the subject of pursuing happiness.
"For he (God) has so intimately connected, so inseparably inter-woven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannnot but induce the latter."
...As believers, they believed that they had a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of their fellow Americans against all tyranny and that each citizen should have the right as a priest [the scriptural teaching of "the priesthood of the believer"] to pursue happiness according to the dictates of his own conscience.
Many Christians in America were worried at the time when the U.S. Constitution was passed and feared that their right to let God govern their conscience might be replaced by the authority given to Congress as the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Thomas Jefferson was aware of their concerns and wrote the following:
"No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the power of its public functionaries..." (Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church at New London, Connecticut, Feb. 4, 1809).
In America, one mans liberty is not dependent upon another mans conscience!
I own a modern printing of this publication. It is not a “Bible”. It is a little book, a collection of extracts from the four gospels.
“Actually it would be a fantastic idea to require all students to learn Latin as it will improve their English. But lets not try something to improve anything. That would be so against status quo.”
A century ago or so Latin AND classical Greek were mandatory subjects in college; when James Madison penned the Federalist Papers, John Adams observed that his colleague could have written them in Greek, Latin, or English.
Not a century ago I had to take Latin, in a public high school no less. Also studied Latin in Catholic high school. As a result I am considerably more conversant in writing and speaking English, of this I have no doubt.
Of course, Santorum is now a “papist” who wants to push the language of the Vatican. Works for me.
Dominus vobiscum, y’all.
I agree 100%.
Tom, despite his many flaws, was probably the greatest writer of political rhetoric in all history.
Ahh, but Jefferson did NOT believe Jesus was God or the Son of God.
If that is your definition of Christian, Tom wasn't one.
The secret is to realize that we have all been "indoctrinated" and hold religious beliefs that may or may not be "Truth" at all. Been there, done that. :)
"....."truth" and "liberty" in the abstract are much closer to God than any specific formulation. For one thing, truth is only possible if it is freely discovered, so it must be prior to doctrine. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Co 3:17). (I might add that freedom is only possible if it converges upon truth, otherwise it is just meaningless horizontal drifting, AKA the Left.)
As a historian, David Barton is the equivalent of the person who posts every rumor they hear that they hope/wish to be true on their Facebook page.
Barton is the non-religious left’s biggest nightmare.
LOL, yes, and even when called out on something that is completely unconfirmed and likely made up - they insist that it is ‘consistent’ with truth.
I.e. the dramatic robbery in Detroit they talked about with fantastical details was all a hoax, but robberies DO happen in Detroit - so it is all good and ‘consistent’ with what we know about Detroit.
Proposed Seal for the United States
On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams "to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America." Franklin's proposal adapted the biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea (left). Jefferson first recommended the "Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night. . . ." He then embraced Franklin's proposal and rewrote it (right). Jefferson's revision of Franklin's proposal was presented by the committee to Congress on August 20. Although not accepted these drafts reveal the religious temper of the Revolutionary period. Franklin and Jefferson were among the most theologically liberal of the Founders, yet they used biblical imagery for this important task.
“Jefferson was no Christian. He was a Deist.”
Of course, Jefferson argued that he was a Christian in the most authentic sense. In an 1816 letter to his friend Charles Thomson, Jefferson wrote: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus ...”
“And his views on the separation of church and state have confused and complicated many away from the true intent of our Constitution.”
Jefferson wanted to separate church and state as much because he feared that the state would corrupt the church as the other way around.