Book endorsed by David Barton claims American colonists were Ephraimites

Last week, I critiqued one of the central claims in the book, The Covenant, by Timothy Ballard. To help prove that the British and Americans are descended from the lost tribes of Israel, Ballard claims Genesis 49:22 as a prophecy of America. In fact, his rendering is tendentious and completely untenable. He also claims that Jeremiah 31 predicts the gathering of the Israelites in America. However, the text of Jeremiah 31 clearly designates where a future gathering will take place, and it is not America.
To fully understand Ballard’s claim, you should read the post on Genesis 49. His basis for seeing America in Jeremiah is his faulty reading of Genesis 49:22. When he claims Joseph’s posterity was a land “over the wall (he says this means over the Atlantic),” he begins his reading of Jeremiah on a false foundation. Ballard writes:

He [Jeremiah] declares that they will be gathered from “the coasts of the earth” (Jeremiah 31:8). (Recall that Joseph’s posterity was given a land “over the wall” of water and separate from the rest of the tribes of Israel. If they were to travel over this wall, of course they would begin at “the coasts of the earth.”) He further details this migration, stating that “Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion.” Jeremiah foresees them traveling from the “north country” (Europe?), being gathered from “the coasts” (the British Isles?), and delivered into this new land of its inheritance (America?), saying they will come “with weeping, and with supplication” (the historical record is clear on the difficulties faced by our American founders’ early migration and settlement).* (Kindle Locations 851-857).

Jeremiah 31 specifies where the restoration of Israel will take place. You can read the entire chapter here; I have selected verses which designate the specific elements of the restoration.

Jeremiah 31: 1“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” This is what the Lord says:
I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’”

This chapter refers to a future time when the tribes of Israel, including Joseph’s descendants, will be restored to Palestine. Three locations are named here – Zion (Jerusalem) and the hills of Samaria and Ephraim) – and they are not in America.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. 10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’
16 This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land.

It is very clear that this chapter pictures a return to the ancient homeland and not a new nation somewhere else. Verse 17 says that Ephraim’s children will return to their own land. There is nothing here about going elsewhere. The following verses make it even clearer where the restoration will take place.

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity,[c] the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals.
38 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”

This prophesy is quite specific, referring to the “land of Judah” and “its towns.” Towers, gates, hills and valleys are named with precision. None of these locations are in America.
Another aspect of Jeremiah 31 which undermines the British-Israelism argument is in verse 27 where Judah and Israel are referred to as being planted together. According to the Ballard, the northern kingdom of Israel included the sons of Ephraim, who eventually became English settlers in America. In his book, he even calls the settlers “Ephraimites.” Ballard writes

And who were these chosen ones that would settle the New World? They were, for the most part, the European descendants of Joseph, even the Ephraimites, whose responsibility it would be to establish a national covenant in America, and then, building upon this covenant, usher in a renewal and expansion of Christianity. It was to be a covenant land that would bless Judah, help restore ancient Israel, and spread God’s truth and salvation. (Kindle Locations 1744-1752)

Clearly, Jeremiah 31 is about a return to the ancient homeland, and a restoration of the Jews, both Ephraim and Judah.  There is nothing in this passage that refers to a re-gathering anywhere else and no American covenant.
There are so many problems with Ballard’s approach to these texts that it becomes clear that he is interpreting them in light of Mormon theology and the Book of Mormon. In the first book, titled The American Covenant – the LDS version – the Book of Mormon is cited frequently.  As I pointed out on Friday, these references were removed as an aspect of a possible mission effort to expose non-Mormons to Latter Day Saint theology. Mormons see their membership as being primarily descendants of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  From the LDS church website:

On another occasion President Joseph Fielding Smith emphatically stated: “The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph.” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1923, p. 1149.)

Mormons view Joseph Smith as a direct descendant of Ephraim.

“It is the house of Israel we are after, and we care not whether they come from the east, the west, the north, or the south; from China, Russia, England, California, North or South America, or some other locality. … The Book of Mormon came to Ephraim, for Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite, and the Book of Mormon was revealed to him.” (Journal of Discourses 2:268–69.)

Essentially The Covenant is an elaborate effort to bring Mormon beliefs to the masses with Glenn Beck’s help. About the book, Beck gushed:

“I’ve been looking for a way to articulate this message for years. Ballard finally did it! Everybody needs to read this book, it is the key to restoring America.”

In other words, the key to restoring America is a Mormon slant on history and theology. How oddly disturbing, then, for David Barton to also endorse the book in an effusive manner:

The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. The Covenant not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.

Given his endorsement, Barton seems to believe there is some relationship between the Abrahamic covenant and the arrival of the English to American shores. Barton’s endorsement probably means his evangelical followers will put stock in the Book of Mormon inspired interpretations of history.  If what some of Ballard’s fellow Mormons have said is true, this is exactly what Ballard and Beck hope to accomplish.
 

The Covenant: A Mormon Mission Tool?

Yesterday, I posted a reaction to The Covenant by Timothy Ballard. It was of interest to me initially because David Barton endorsed it in a manner that indicates he believes America entered a covenant with God when the first settlers came here.  Ballard believes that God signaled that covenant in Genesis 49 via a prophecy about Joseph. According to Ballard, American are descended from Joseph through Ephraim and therefore have a right to consider America a nation in covenant with God.
In reading through the book, I had the impression that Ballard’s book was an effort to communicate Latter Day Saint (Mormon) teachings without directly appealing to Mormon sources of authority (e.g., Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants). The use of Herbert Armstrong as an authority with the label Christian also made me think that Ballard is not an evangelical. Apparently, there is more of a deliberate effort to conceal the Mormon influence than I first thought.
According to two Mormon sources, Ballard is distancing himself from his first book, a two-volume set called The American Covenant. This first work was designed for a Mormon audience and is still being distributed by Deseret Book Company, a Mormon publishing house.
According to one of the sources, who claims to be a friend of Ballard, the new book which I wrote about yesterday was designed to be a missionary tool with the references to Mormon sources cut out.

I have read both books. I am great friends with the author Timothy Ballard, and he is a phenomenal researcher. I must let you know that “The American Covenant” was written for the LDS audience, and his newest book “The Covenant” promoted on the Glenn Beck programs was written for those outside of the Church. Also, Tim is encouraging many to read “The Harbinger” by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, because that book and it’s message also talks and teaches about this same great “Covenant” the God has made with America, and the condemnation that we are under for not keeping our part of that “Covenant.”
Tim’s first book that was released last October of 2011 was read by Elder Ballard. After reading the book Elder Ballard asked for Tim to meet with him. He did so, for a three hour visit. Elder Ballard said “that every American needs to read this great book, and counseled Tim to write another copy without the LDS doctrine in it for the main stream, and that through that endeavor it will become a missionary tool.” Tim complied, and the doors have been opening up for him. I promise you and everyone else you will not be disappointed, and these works will help wake up those that are in slumber. Tim also teaches what we must do as a Nation to renew that Covenant before it’s too late, and the full judgements come upon us!

I assume that “Elder Ballard” (who apparently is no kin to Timothy Ballard) is Apostle M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I understand it, this is the highest level of authority in the LDS church. If this quote is accurate, then it appears that the LDS church hierarchy is behind the effort to use the book and the arguments in it to convert others to LDS faith.
The stealth aspect of avoiding LDS labels is supported by this post by a LDS blogger and talk show host, Candace Salima.  In 2011, Salima interviewed Ballard about the Mormon version of his book and posted the videos on You Tube. However, when Ballard went on the Glenn Beck Show in May, 2012, he asked that the interviewed by removed from You Tube. Salima reluctantly agreed but her reaction suggests she was not happy about it.
On May 17, 2012, Glenn Beck interviewed Ballard about the new version without reference to Mormon scriptures. On May 22, a commenter on Salima’s blog asked her why the You Tube videos had been removed. Salima answered:

Mr. Ballard insisted I remove it. He doesn’t want any LDS references tied to his new book. I wasn’t happy with it, but went ahead and honored his request. Needless to say, I will not be interviewing him again.

In answer to another commenter who questioned the removal, Salima added,

It does, and saddens me. I feel Mr. Ballard’s first book was amazing and I’m glad I have a copy of it. I believe it’s being removed from everywhere, which is a shame.

Despite the efforts to obscure the missionary effort, there is at least one source left on the web where the Mormon basis for the theories in the book is clearly demonstrated. Ballard published an article dated October 30, 2012 in the LDS Meridian magazine which cites the Book of Mormon extensively.
To summarize, The Covenant may indeed be a kind of ruse; an effort to expose people to Mormon doctrines in a manner which isn’t apparent. Taking advantage of socially conservatives’ fear and concern about the direction of the nation, the book offers a nationalistic solution based on a tendentious reading of the Old Testament. If the quote on the LDS discussion board is accurate, then the effort goes to the highest levels of the church.
David Barton may not have known about this effort but he has become involved in this ruse via his endorsement.
 

Author endorsed by David Barton claims founding of America was prophesied in Genesis

Tracking down a claim that David Barton views America as a covenant nation, a commenter provided a link to Timothy Ballard’s book, The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel.  Barton endorsed Ballard’s book in a manner which indicates that he agrees with the central concept of America having a covenant with God. About the book, Barton wrote:

The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. The Covenant not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.

This quote leaves little doubt that Barton believes America is a covenant nation. However, there is much more to this book than a claim that the English settlers made a pact with God. Ballard asserts that the arrival of the Europeans in the New World was prophesied in Genesis, and furthermore that the British are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. This belief, sometimes called British Israelism, is commonly held by Mormons and adherents of Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. For Ballard (who is Mormon), this belief has political consequences. He believes the country that is now America was destined to be settled by the descendants of Joseph and Ephraim due to promises made in Genesis 49. I am going to examine the basis of this claim later in this post, but first I want to provide some quotes from Ballard’s book which illustrate his positions.
At locations 1164-1167 of the Kindle edition of the book, Ballard writes:

…this study of ancient scripture and modern history will lead us to the powerful conclusion that modern-day citizens of the United States have fulfilled ancient prophecies—they have become the American Covenant-makers. Consequently, the story of the American Covenant—including the promised blessings and obligations given through Abraham to Ephraim and on to George Washington and others—becomes our story.

Speaking of the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Ballard writes:

Indeed, Joseph/Ephraim was led out to become a multitude of people. They were led to the north country, to the coastline, to the isles of the sea. They were carried over the wall of water to another land. That land is America. (Kindle Locations 1028-1030)

Ballard quotes Herbert Armstrong as an expert on the subject of the lost tribes, saying

The renowned Christian pastor/author, and founder of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert Armstrong, has perhaps studied this issue as much as any other Christian writer. (Kindle Locations 617-618)…
Indeed, as Pastor Armstrong noted, Joseph/Ephraim “never returned to Jerusalem from Assyria, where they were driven with the ten tribes after 721 B.C., and were never again mixed with the Jews from that time!” Instead, they would become completely independent and inherit a new promised land. They would inherit America. (Kindle Locations 631-634).

It is jarring to read Armstrong referred to as a Christian, given that his heterodox views and his frequent criticisms of orthodoxy have been rejected by the church he founded. The full story of the journey of the World Wide Church of God becoming the evangelical Grace Communion International can be read on the church’s website.
Ballard cites Armstrong to help him summarize his contention that the British are related to the lost tribes.

In the final analysis of these Old Testament promises, and with the advantage of historical hindsight, it is difficult to argue with Pastor Armstrong: “God did cause the birthright nations—and them only—to become suddenly the recipients of such national wealth, greatness and power as no nation or empire ever before had acquired! Together they—the British and Americans, descendants of only one tribe, Joseph—came into possession of more than two-thirds—almost three-fourths—of all the cultivated resources and wealth of the whole world. It sounds incredible!… The most amazing fact of all history is this sudden skyrocketing from virtual obscurity of two nations to the most fabulous wealth and economic power ever possessed by any people. Britain became Great Britain—a gigantic, stupendously wealthy commonwealth of nations—the United States, the greatest nation of history.” (Kindle Locations 1057-1065)

Eventually, Ballard addresses how Americans can keep the covenant by recognizing their place in Israel’s history.

Indeed, what is American history if not Old Testament history? American history, after all, is the story of a chosen people, with ties to the blood and promises of Israel, who were given a promised land by covenant. It is a story of this people’s struggle to live righteously as a nation so as to be blessed with the covenant blessings (liberty, protection and prosperity) required to realize God’s work and glory. It is a story of war against evil and oppression. It is also a story of miracles and conversions. It is a story of prophecy and fulfillment, a story of God’s efforts to save His people. And at the core of this story is the one thing that ties all elements together, the one thing that, if adhered to, will allow the blessings of liberty, protection and prosperity to thrive, thus securing the opportunity for salvation for this and future generations. At the core of this story is God’s holy covenant, the American Covenant. (Kindle Locations 6116-6123).

Ballard believes the covenant allows freedom of religious conscience but requires believers to keep the Old Testament commandments. There is much, much more that I could write about but I want to use the rest of this post debunking the key Scriptural claim Ballard makes. He claims that the prophecy of America as a covenant land is found in Jacob’s words to his sons in Genesis 49. Specifically, Ballard claims that Jacob’s address to Joseph contains the key predictions. Ballard says

Before Jacob-Israel died, he gathered his twelve sons—twelve carriers of the covenant—around him. There, he gave answers to these questions. To Judah, he promised that the Messiah would come through his tribe—a prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament. And to Joseph he promised a land where the covenant would be restored. He promised a nation that God would raise up for His purposes in the last days. He promised America. (Kindle Locations 665-668).

According to Ballard, the key passage in Genesis 49 predicting America to be the promised land is Jacob’s words to Joseph. According to Genesis 49:22-26, Jacob said:

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…[T]he Almighty…shall bless thee with blessings from heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the head of him who was separate from his brethren. (Kindle Locations 669-674)

Ballard then explains why this passage, especially the references to branches running “over the wall” and “everlasting hills” mean Jacob was speaking of America.

Jacob’s blessing also indicates that Joseph’s “branches” (posterity) would “run over the wall.” Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters. As such, it can be inferred that the above-referenced promises to Joseph’s posterity were connected to a land across the seas from the Old World. Jacob’s concluding words to his son substantiate this by indicating that Joseph’s people would be “separate from [their] brethren.” We are also told that this land would extend to “the utmost bound” (to a distant place?). In addition to being located far away, and across the sea, the blessing suggests that the land would also contain “everlasting hills.” The longest mountain range in the world—the Andes—stretches 4,300 miles and resides in the Americas. The second longest mountain range in the world—the Rockies—stretches more than 3,000 miles through North America, boasting widths of up to 300 miles and ages of up to 3.3 billion years. (Kindle Locations 690-697)

Incredibly, Ballard offers a spurious inference from Genesis 49:22 to make his case that Joseph’s descendants would eventually cross the Atlantic Ocean and found America. He also offers some verses from Jeremiah which I will take up in a future post. However, the inference about the Joseph’s land being “over the wall” is used at least 12 times to drive home his contention that the tribe of Joseph’s son Ephraim migrated to the British Isles and then to the New World.
What is Ballard’s basis for assuming the image of branches running “over the wall” refers to the Atlantic Ocean? In the citation above, Ballard says that “Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters.” Thus, he interprets the Genesis passage as predicting that the descendants of Joseph would go beyond a great body of water. However, this is wrong on at least two counts.
First, note the use of the word wall in Exodus (adding verse 21 for context):

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall (chomah) of water on their right and on their left.

The word wall here is used to describe the appearance and function of the water. It looked like a wall and functioned as a wall. The meaning of the word wall is not changed based on the substance used to create it. For instance, Jeremiah 15:20 uses the same word (chomah) in reference to a “wall of bronze.” By Ballard’s logic, wall would then sometimes mean bronze, and Joseph’s descendants would have to go beyond bronze somehow.
Second, and more important in the analysis of the text, the Hebrew word for wall used in Exodus 14:22 is not the same word as is used in Genesis 49:22. The word for wall (shur) in the Genesis passage is used only three other times in the Old Testament, each time to mean “a wall” or “walls,” never water. The word can also refer to Shur, a region of Palestine bordering Egypt (that makes sense for Joseph as a description of his influence outside of Palestine), and the root of the word is “shor” — an ox or a herd of oxen. There is nothing about water or bodies of water in any usage.
There is another problem with this passage as a proof text for seeing America in Jacob’s poem. There are three different wordings of the verse in three different Hebrew texts – the Septuagint, the Masoretic and the Samarian Pentateuch. While I don’t want to take time to go into the differences and what they might mean, it is worth noting that precision is not possible with this verse. See this article for more on the different texts.
Ballard’s inference from Genesis 49:22 is crucial to his case. As noted, he refers to it 12 times in the book as the key prediction of America as covenant land given to Joseph and Ephraim. Since this inference is faulty, his entire argument is reduced to asserting that America must be a covenant land because the nation has been blessed.
It is distressing that both Glenn Beck and David Barton would throw their weight behind a book which rests on so many faulty assumptions and questionable authorities (e.g., Herbert Armstrong).
….
Ballard on the Glenn Beck Show

Once Upon a Time, the NRA Advocated Gun Control

David Barton was on the Glenn Beck show last week and claimed to provide a brief history of the National Rifle Association and gun control. As usual, the presentation was interesting but mostly incorrect or misleading.

I covered two claims last week. One, Barton claimed Ronald Reagan did not support the gun control efforts of his press secretary James Brady when in fact Reagan did support those efforts and advocated for the Brady Bill. Barton also claimed that the NRA was founded in 1871 by two Union generals who wanted to use the NRA to arm blacks against the KKK.  There is no evidence for this claim and important evidence against it. The NRA was started as an effort to help military men use science to improve marksmanship.

This post will not be an exhaustive look at other claims but in researching the history of the NRA and gun control, I have learned what historians already knew – the NRA once advocated moderate gun control.
Barton claimed during his appearance with Glenn Beck that gun control proposals were not offered until after recent events. According to the Blaze article,

Barton also noted that even after the Whiskey and Shays rebellions, and even the assassinations of Lincoln Garfield and McKinley, calls for gun bans never came into play. In fact, the times even bolstered the Second Amendment.

It was not until the aftermath of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s assassination that then President Lyndon B. Johnson sought stricter gun control. Ironically, said Barton, President Reagan — although having survived an assassination attempt himself — was very much an adherent to the Second Amendment and opposed then assistant and White House Press Secretary Jim Brady’s bill.

In fact, after the assassination of New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor, New York passed the Sullivan Act in 1911 which required gun owners to have a license to carry hand guns. While the NRA opposed this bill, they eventually came around to a moderate position and helped develop the Uniform Firearms Act of 1930 which was adopted by five states. Then, the NRA worked with Congress to pass the National Firearms Act of 1934 and supported the Federal Firearms Act of 1938.

The best explication of the NRA’s record on gun control was provided by the NRA in March, 1968 in their American Rifleman magazine. Senator Bobby Kennedy had criticized the NRA, and with pride wounded, the NRA published an editorial defending its position on gun control. Here are some snippets of that editorial.

Terming Kennedy’s accusation “a smear of a great American organization,” NRA Executive Vice President Franklin L. Orth pointed out that “The National Rifle Association has been in support of workable, enforceable gun control legislation since its very inception in 1871.”

A few days later, Orth seconded the request of President Lyndon Johnson, made Jan. 17 in his State of the Union message, for a curb on mail-order sales.

“The duty of Congress is clear,” Orth said, “it should act now to pass legislation that will keep undesirables, including criminals, drug addicts and persons adjudged mentally irresponsible or alcoholic, or juveniles from obtaining firearms through the mails.”

Item: The NRA supported The National Firearms Act of 1934 which taxes and requires registration of such firearms as machine guns, sawed-off rifles and sawed-off shotguns.

Item: The NRA supported The Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in firearms and pistol or revolver ammunition, and prohibits the movement in interstate or foreign commerce of firearms and ammunition between certain persons and under certain conditions.

The editorial continued to note that the NRA supported a seven day waiting period and various other regulations. The scans of the editorial are here (page one) and here (page two).

As I understand it, the NRA went through a major change of direction in the late 1970s which led to the current focus on political advocacy surrounding their interpretation of the Second Amendment. However, if the history of the NRA and gun control is going to be part of the societal discussion, one should work with a more complete view than what David Barton presented last week.

David Barton Self-Publishes The Jefferson Lies

After blasting us for self-publishing Getting Jefferson Right, David Barton is self-publishing The Jefferson Lies via Wallbuilders Press. Chris Rodda discovered and reported this last week.

Barton told the world after his book was pulled from publication that he had a publisher in the wings bigger than Thomas Nelson. Glenn Beck said he would publish the book but apparently this is on hold or off completely.

 

Spiritual hunches vs. math: How not to predict the outcome of an election

According to Glenn Beck and David Barton, those who are “spiritually attuned” were calling the race for Romney. Something was obviously off there. This is a great example of how wishful thinking can bias one’s attributions.

 

In addition to the outcome of the election, this helpful Christianity Today summary of evangelical/born again voters demonstrates that the hunches were off. Evangelical vote for the GOP moved up slightly in some states and declined in others. On balance, it doesn’t appear that all the effort made much difference. In the past, I have questioned the politicization of local churches on theological grounds; now I think there is reason to question it on pragmatic grounds.

On another note, David Barton compares his partnership with Mormon Glenn Beck to the George Whitefield revivals before the Revolutionary War. Somehow I can’t see Whitefield partnering with the heterodox beliefs which characterize the LDS church.  While he was kind in his criticisms, Whitefield clearly and publicly confronted what  he considered to be error (e.g., this letter to John Wesley).

In my view, Barton confuses political movements with spiritual movements. He compares the GOP coalition working for Romney to the religious revivals of years gone by. Those were spiritual events which had as their aim personal salvation. Any political benefits were secondary. What Barton works for is the use of the church for political ends.

Barton was right about one thing – he said at 9:45 into the clip that the night was not going to go long before calling a winner. However, Beck and Barton called it at 320 or 330 electoral votes for Romney. My point is not to fault them for being wrong. A lot of smart people were wrong. However, it is the way one makes attributions that I am highlighting. I got a lot closer to the correct outcome by following the math (polling data). Many others discounted the clear polling evidence and were biased by what they wanted to happen. Going forward, I hope those leading the GOP will look at the numbers (e.g., exit polls, electoral math, erosion of support for divisiveness on social issues) instead of engaging in wishful thinking.

 

Jefferson and the Bible: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Four

During his appearance on the 8/16/12 Glenn Beck show, David Barton addressed two of our critiques of his chapter on Jefferson and the Bible. The first related to verses included in the Jefferson Bible and the second related to Barton’s treatment of the 1798 Thompson Hot-Pressed Bible.

We’ll take the second item first. Barton contends that his depiction of Jefferson’s relationship to the Thompson Bible is correct. We maintain that he misleads readers in the way he described the situation in The Jefferson Lies. Here is what he said about the Thompson Bible in his book:

Furthermore, in 1798 Jefferson personally helped finance the printing of one of America’s groundbreaking editions of the Bible. That Bible was a massive, two-volume folio set that was not only the largest Bible ever published in America to that time, but it was also America’s first hot-pressed Bible. President John Adams, several signers of the Constitution and Declaration, and other major Founders joined with Jefferson to help fund that Bible.

In Kirk Cameron’s movie Monumental, Barton said this:

This Bible was funded by about a dozen signers of the Constitution and signers of the Declaration as well as by President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson. They’re the guys that put up the financial backing to do this Bible.

Barton added:

When you see this stuff, you go wait a minute. These guys…why would any atheist, agnostic, or deist promote the Word of God, fund it and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America?

He then declares that such actions only make sense if those doing the funding (the Signers) were Christians.

To our eyes and ears, these descriptions taken together sound like Jefferson and a small group of founders went together to financially back the printing of a Bible for some evangelistic purpose.

On the Glenn Beck show, Barton acknowledges that Jefferson was merely a subscriber to receive a copy of this Bible but makes a point to define a subscriber as an investor. Barton defines subscription for Beck and they agree that Jefferson’s subscription to the Bible was analogous to the website Kickstarter, which is a means to fund start up projects.  Watch (between 7:24-11:00):

A very significant problem with this response is that Barton did not say in his book or Monumental that Jefferson subscribed to receive one copy of the Bible. Barton cited the subscriber’s list in a footnote but did not provide an image of the list or describe it any further. He is only now talking about subscription because we provided the details about the Thompson Bible in our book. Barton’s fall back position seems to be that he is technically correct because subscriber really meant investor.

Even in his description of subscription on the Beck show, he does not get the circumstances of the Thompson Hot-Pressed Bible correct. Barton told Beck that the printers “wouldn’t print the book if they couldn’t pay for it all up front” (8:28). That is not true in this case. Printers Thompson and Small printed the first section of the Bible before they advertised it in 1796. There is no question that subscription was a means for printers to anticipate the number of items to print but in this case they did not need all the money up front before they began.

What is even more troubling for Barton’s theory is the way Jefferson paid for his copy. The two ledger entries we can find for this Bible came near the end of the project. He paid $5 in February, 1798 and then $10 in January 1799, several months after the Bible was complete. Recall that the first notice of the project was in 1796.

These facts make the Kickstarter analogy a non-starter. With Kickstarter, all funds requested for a project must come in by a date established by the project designer. If they do not come in, all money is refunded and the project is not started. Take this project by a Grove City College student as an example. If all of the money is not raised by September 15th to fund Asleep in a Storm, then the project will not be funded via this approach. All the money donated will be refunded. Also note that those who give more money get more than just a copy of a product. In the case of the subscriber to the Thompson Bible, subscribers spent their money and got their sections of the Bible. If for some reason, the project was not completed, those who spent their money would still have their sections of the Bible. The analogy to Kickstarter simply doesn’t work.

If Barton had made the argument he is now making in his book or in Monumental, we would still disagree that Jefferson did anything more than buy a Bible. However, what is glossed over in this Beck segment is that Barton did not make that argument or present that information. Rather, the narrative presented was misleading and that point still has not been addressed by Beck or Barton.

Next, we deal with Barton’s claims regarding the Jefferson Bible.

Earlier posts in this series:

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part One

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Two

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Three

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Two

On Friday, we posted part one of our response to David Barton’s appearance on the Glenn Beck Show (8/16/12).  On that show, Barton defended his claim that Virginia law did not allow Thomas Jefferson to emancipate his slaves. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton does not cite the part of the 1782 Virginia law that allowed slave owners to emancipate their slaves. In his book, Barton does not mention that owners were allowed to free their slaves during the life of the owner and gives no explanation for why he omitted that portion. During his appearance on the Glenn Beck Show, he mentioned the section of the law that allowed manumissions, but gave no explanation about why he failed to include it in his book.

On the Beck show, Barton said Virginia law required slave owners to provide a security bond for emancipated slaves. Since Jefferson was often in debt, he was unable to provide these funds for his slaves.  Part of the problem in getting clarity has been Barton’s presentation of the evidence in The Jefferson Lies.  He says on page 94 that “Jefferson was unable to free his slaves under the requirements of state law…” Actually, Jefferson was able to free his slaves after 1782 in accord with the provisions of the law on manumission. Barton is now arguing that Jefferson’s inability was financial and not legal.

On the Beck show, Beck made an analogy to small business owners in the present. He said that one is allowed to start a business but the government regulations make it so difficult that it is practically impossible. To accept that analogy as relevant, one must find evidence that Virginia government regulations prevented manumissions. To be sure, during the years between 1782-1806, there were government regulations (writing a deed, and a small clerk’s fee for filing the deed), but they were not so onerous that manumission was impossible, as is demonstrated by the many private manumissions and the large one of over 450 slaves initiated by Robert Carter.  And most important for Barton’s financial argument, we can find no evidence, nor has Barton presented any, that security bonds were required for slaves who were in the proper age range and of sound mind and body. As we demonstrate below, the evidence Barton presents does not relate to Virginia.

The one citation in The Jefferson Lies on the subject of security bonds is on page 92, where Barton writes:

Subsequent laws imposed even harsher restrictions, mandating that a slave could not be freed unless the owner guaranteed a full security bond for the education, livelihood, and support of the freed slave.

The footnote at the end of that sentence is to an 1857 book by W.O. Blake titled, The History of Slavery and the Slave Trade, Ancient and Modern. Barton cites page 386 as his source for this information. Below is the entire page 386 from that book. Instead of a reference to Virginia law, this page completes a discussion of the fate of children born of black and white parents and begins one on emancipation in Massachusetts.

Laws were even found necessary in some of those colonies to limit what was esteemed a superfluity of parental tenderness. In the Anglo American colonies, colored children were hardly less numerous. But conventional decorum more potent than law forbade any recognition by the father. They followed the condition of the mother. They were born and they remained slaves. European blood was thus constantly transferred into servile veins and hence among the slaves sold and bought to day in our American markets may be found the descendants of men distinguished in colonial and national annals. –Hildreth’s History United States

In Massachusetts, a controversy arose as to the justice and legality of negro slavery which was conducted by able writers. It began about 1766 and was continued until 1773, when the subject was very warmly agitated. In 1767 and afterwards, attempts were made in the legislature to restrict the further importation of slaves. It was even questioned whether under the laws of Massachusetts any person could be held as a slave. This point was carried before the superior court in a suit by a negro to recover wages from his alleged master. The negroes collected money among themselves to carry on the suit and it terminated favorably. Other suits were instituted between that time and the revolution and the juries invariably gave their verdict in favor of freedom. The pleas on the part of the masters were that the negroes were purchased in open market and bills of sale were produced in evidence that the laws of the province recognized slavery as existing in it by declaring that no person should manumit his slave without giving bond for his maintenance &c. On the part of the blacks it was pleaded that the royal charter expressly declared all persons born or residing in the province to be as free as the king’s subjects in Great Britain that by the law of England no subject could be deprived of his liberty but by the judgment of his peers that the laws of the province respecting an evil and attempting to mitigate or regulate it did not authorize it and on some occasions the plea was that though the slavery of the parents were admitted yet no disability of that kind could descend to the children. The view taken by the Massachusetts juries was sanctioned about the same time in England by a solemn decision of the court of king’s bench in the celebrated case of James Somersett mentioned in a former chapter. Being brought before Lord Mansfield on a writ of habeas corpus his case was referred to the full court. After the argument Lord Mansfield said In five or six cases of this nature I have known it accommodated by agreement between the parties On its first coming before me I strongly recommended it here But if the parties will have it decided we must give our opinion Compassion will not on the one hand nor inconvenience on the other be to decide but the law The question now is whether any dominion authority or coercion can be exercised in this country on a slave according to the American laws The difficulty of adopting the relation without adopting it in all…

A review of the pages (click the link to go to the book) before and after page 386 finds no mention of requirements for security bonds in Virginia. If you read on to page 389 of that book, you will read:

The Virginia Assembly, on the motion of Jefferson, prohibited in 1778 the further introduction of slaves. In 1782, the old colonial statute was repealed which forbade emancipations except for meritorious services to be adjudged by the governor and council. This repeal remained in force for ten years during which period private emancipations were very numerous. But for the subsequent reenactment of the old restrictions the free colored population of Virginia might now have exceeded the slaves. Maryland followed the footsteps of Virginia both in prohibiting the further introduction of slaves and in removing the restraints on emancipation.

Note that private manumissions were numerous according to this source used by Barton. Actually, the significant restrictions were not added until 1806.  There is nothing mentioned here about a security bond.

In part three, we will address the remaining claims about slavery.

Here again is the Glenn Beck segment on slavery:

For additional parts of this series see:

Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part One

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze Begins Series on David Barton

This morning Glenn Beck’s news site, The Blaze, launched a three-part series examining criticism of David Barton. Today was given to a description of some of Barton’s critics while the next two days, Barton will have the platform.

My book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right, was mentioned as well as a couple of blog posts. Stephen Prothero’s USA Today column was mentioned as was criticism from a NYT’s article about Barton. I was glad to see the links to the articles so readers can follow them out and evaluate the at least some of the evidence. I do wish it would have been made clearer than the negative evaluation of Barton’s history is coming from people all over the ideological spectrum.

This series comes just ahead of Beck’s Restoring Love conference in Dallas where Barton will unveil his Founders Bible published by a division of Windblown Media.