David Barton Misleads Ben Shapiro on the Jefferson Bible

David Barton spent an hour or so with Ben Shapiro on The Daily Wire recently and one of the topics was The Jefferson Bible. As Barton likes to say dramatically, Jefferson edited the gospels twice in his life. One of those versions we have today which is often called the Jefferson Bible. However, as Jefferson made clear in his correspondence, the two efforts were part of lifelong process to find what Jefferson considered to be the true teachings of Jesus. He made two efforts, one hastily done in the White House, and one more carefully later in life.

In any case, at 32:28 below Barton starts his narrative about The Jefferson Bible. Watch:

Barton told Shapiro nearly the same false story he told Eric Metaxas when he appeared on Metaxas’ show in 2016. I did a debunking of that story then with links to additional debunkings. You should go check it out.

Did Jefferson’s 1804 Version Include Just The Red Letters?

Let’s just take one claim. Barton told Shapiro that in his 1804 version of The Jefferson Bible, Jefferson cut out all of the words of Jesus — “the red letters” and included them in the compilation. This is false. First, we can’t be 100% sure what was in the final bound version because no copy has survived to this day. Only the version done sometime after 1820 has survived. When Barton asks people if they have ever read either version, he knows they can’t have read the 1804 effort because a copy doesn’t exist.

The reason we have some confidence about what was in it is because Jefferson’s outline for what he wanted to include has survived as have the Bibles he used to cut out those verses from the Gospels. Thus, Jefferson’s extracted Gospel can be reconstructed. The most rigorous reconstruction has been done by Dickinson Adams and published in Jefferson’s Extracts from the GospelsBarton is aware of this work and knows about Jefferson’s tables. He knows that Jefferson did not intend to include the red letters of John 3:16, John 14:6 or the resurrection of Christ. There is no feeding of the 5,000. Jesus doesn’t walk on water in Jefferson’s version. His red lettered exhortation to “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” is not to be found in Jefferson’s extraction. Jefferson’s 1804 version ends with John 19:30:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished.’ and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

There is no resurrection or Great Commission in either of Jefferson’s extractions.

I covered Barton’s claims about The Jefferson Bible in my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President and included the tables Jefferson constructed to guide his extractions. I have included links to the three images here. If a verse is listed, Jefferson intended to extract it for use in his version of the Gospels.

Page One, Page Two, Page Three

As anyone can see, these passages leave out almost all of the miracles of Jesus and many of His words. Barton is simply wrong to say that Jefferson took all of “the red letters” and compiled them in a volume. In several letters to friends, Jefferson described his project and said he could discern the actual teachings of Jesus from those added by his followers. He said picking the actual words and teaching was as simple as “plucking diamonds from a dunghill.” This he said to John Adams in 1813 about that 1804 version:

I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging, the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an 8 vo. of 46. pages of pure and unsophisticated doctrines, such as were professed and acted on by the unlettered apostles, the Apostolic fathers, and the Christians of the 1st. century.

I have covered the other claims elsewhere but I hope this is enough to show that Barton is making things up in direct contrast to the evidence. He has been doing this since at least 2011.

In addition, the claim that Jefferson was inspired by a sermon to give this compilation to Indians is false as well. The sermon says nothing about giving just the words of Jesus to native people. Even one of Barton’s own collaborators, Mark Belilies, admitted that to me. Nonetheless, Barton continues telling the same stories.

 

Let's Say No to God Mandated Voting (UPDATED)

Eric Metaxas has run into some opposition to his efforts to make God into a vote monitor. Last Wednesday he posted an op-ed in the WSJ which brought God to his side. Then this week, he has been tweeting up a storm about it (He deleted the first one sometime early on 10/18).


Reaction hasn’t been bullish.
Today, Jonah Goldberg at NRO responded. Here’s the big finish:

And that is what I find so galling about Metaxas’ argument. I always thought that the role of conscience in Christianity is to treat it as something of great value and importance. Yes, as Catholics teach, it must be rightly formed through reason. A poorly formed conscience can lead to poor decisions. But conscience also speaks to us from a plateau above mere reason. In Metaxas’s formulation, conscience has been reduced to a kind of virtue-signaling vanity, or maybe the sin of pride. “Don’t listen to your conscience because God wants you to vote for Donald Trump” is a weird argument coming from anybody. But it is downright bizarre coming from the moral biographer of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer.

I also find Metaxas’ argument galling.
Also today at the Weekly Standard, a more subdued response was offered by Virginia Hume who imagines what God is telling Metaxas:

God would never want us to seek a third option, no matter how far-fetched. He wouldn’t suggest we wake up and turn toward a good man, who also happens to be running. Turns out God is an old-style politico. “Those independent bids never work. Gotta suck it up,” He says, maybe in a Boston or Chicago accent. The only option God sees is supporting the political equivalent of putting something in the microwave just to see what happens.

Given that it is Metaxas, I am guessing his God has some variation of a New York accent.
Some tweeters of note have also weighed in.


and


and


UPDATE: Eric Metaxas posted a clarification of his tweet concerning Evan McMullin on his Facebook page. Apparently, Metaxas responds to celebrity writers but blocks his lesser twitter followers for doing the same thing Jonah Goldberg did (see above for citation to Goldberg’s article).

The following article in @NRO by the estimable Jonah Goldberg misunderstands what I meant in my tweet — but that is more than half my fault because I can now see how the tweet might be confusing. I was making a perhaps obscure theological point having to do with the idea that fig leaves in Eden were used for a good reason, but ultimately they didn’t do the job. Not in God’s eyes. In other words, Adam and Eve knew they were naked, so they made aprons of fig leaves — but God made clear that was not sufficient. Blood needed to be shed. (Which, incidentally, prefigures Jesus’s death on the Cross.) So He supplied them with the skin of animals, innocent animals that were killed. So I OF COURSE support people following their consciences, but I’m implying — ineffectively, I realize now — that the fig leaves of voting for a third party candidate SEEM to do the job, but fail. And as in Eden, God is not fooled. But I realize this came across as though I was saying these people were TRYING to fool God. On some level Adam and Eve were, but I don’t think people voting for Evan MacMullen are, so my tweet really failed to do the job — as tweets seem rather often to fail — and I’m sorry about that. Also, using a fig leaf is a kind of fussy religious act that fails, because it implies that we can do something that we cannot. God has to do that something. And I was implying that religious people were voting for Evan MacMullin to feel good about themselves, which I do think in many cases is true. But that’s a far cry from them trying to fool God. I’m sure this has failed to explain my dumb tweet, but I thought I owed Jonah and all the others who were baffled by it some kind of explanation. My apologies for the confusion. Blesssings!

Metaxas still thinks McMullin voters are doing so to “feel good about themselves,” in other words for some kind of selfish reason. How insulting. My vote for McMullin will be cast because I think he is a good candidate and because I think we need alternatives to the two party system.
I keep trying to grasp how voting for president is in any way like Adam’s and Eve’s fig leaves. The only way I can get anywhere close is if Metaxas starts with the premise that voting for McMullin is some kind of “fussy” self-centered act which is morally inferior to his act of voting for Donald Trump. This explanation doesn’t clarify, it only confuses and offends. It makes his act righteous and mine a deficient moral act of self-deception.
Go back and try again.
UPDATE (10/18/16) – More rebuttal has come the way of Metaxas. First from David French at NRO:

When Metaxas votes for Trump, and when I write in my choice, we’ll both be voting for losing candidates. The difference is that my choice will be fit for the presidency and possess the character and temperament to lead the greatest nation in the world. His choice will not. I’ll be calling on Christians to support a candidate who possesses real integrity. He will not. He’s throwing away his vote on a corrupt, opportunistic demagogue. I am not.

And then comes Bonhoeffer scholar Charles Marsh with this catchy and provocative title: Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer Delusions.

Likening the Third Reich to a Democratic administration would not be surprising from the obstreperous right-wing crusader Ann Coulter, who appears regularly on “The Eric Metaxas Show.” But Metaxas, who purports to be a winsome, irenic apologist for the Christian faith, in the fashion of his friends Tim Keller and Os Guinness, blindsided some evangelicals in proclaiming that a Hillary Clinton victory in November portends the vanquishing of the Republic—and that taking Bonhoeffer seriously in our time means voting for Donald Trump.

You must read the rest.