David Barton Inaccurately Criticizes the Wrong Academic

John Fea is rightfully perplexed over being criticized by self-styled historian David Barton.  In a recent speech, Barton went after the wrong academic.
On the Wallbuilders Live radio show, host Rick Green played a segment of a speech Barton gave at something called Dallas Pro-Family Legislators Conference. In the speech, Barton falsely identified John Fea as the academic who critiqued Barton’s claim that John Locke cited the Bible over 1500 times in his Two Treatises of Government.
Actually, it was historian and Locke scholar Greg Forster and me.
In a post dated May 8, 2015, Forster evaluated the accuracy of the claim about Locke which Barton made in front of crowd of pastors in the Ukraine (go to the post for the video).  Barton told the Ukrainian pastors:

This man is named John Locke. He was a great lawgiver in history and he was also a theologian.  He wrote this particular book on civil government in 1690. This has been used by nations across the world in building their governments. We actually own many of the original works by these lawgivers from four or five centuries ago.
Now if I were to ask us as ministers to name the Bible verses we can think of that address civil government, I would imagine that we could come up with 25 or 30 verses.
In this book here less than 3 cm thick, he lists over 500 biblical references to how civil government is to operate…. No, (interrupting the interpreter) 1500, 1500. I don’t know of a Christian today who could name 1500 Bible verses on how civil government’s to operate.
We may be Christians but we don’t think biblically about government.

After watching the video, Forster said:

Barton does not tell us the title of the book he holds up, but from his description it is impossible that it could be any book other than the Two Treatises of Government. However, his characterization of it is outrageous. Claiming that the Two Treatises “lists over 1,500 biblical references on how civil government is to operate” is not much more dishonest than claiming that the Bill of Rights protects 1,500 rights.
In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.
Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!
After all this, it seems trivial to point out that Locke did not, in fact, “write” the Two Treatises in 1690; he published it in that year, but wrote it much earlier.

Barton makes this claim in the new edition of The Jefferson Lies and on his website. He said his staff counted up the citations.
In September 2015, I challenged Barton to produce evidence for his claim and demonstrated that for one to claim Locke cited over 1500 Bible verses, one would have to count every verse in the book of Proverbs because Locke mentioned that book once.
So Dr. Fea, you’re off the hook. Next time Barton wants to inaccurately beat up on an academic, he can take it up with Forster and me.

David Barton, John Locke's Two Treatises, and the Real Reason Thomas Nelson Pulled the Jefferson Lies

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

This post is inside baseball for those who are keeping up with the controversy surrounding David Barton’s history writing.
One of David Barton’s frequent claims is that John Locke referred to the Bible 1500 times in his Two Treatise on Government. He said this to a Ukrainian audience and claimed it again in his new edition of The Jefferson Lies. From the new edition:

And in his Two Treatises of Government (1689 – a work about the proper role of government that was openly praised by Jefferson and other Founders39), Locke invoked the Bible over 1,500 times.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1766-1768). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Barton’s footnote on this point reads:

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (London: Awnsham & Churchill, 1689), passim; the number of verses was documented by the author’s staff, in individually identifying and counting the Bible verses in this work.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 5811-5812). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In a previous post, I asked Locke scholar Greg Forster to evaluate this claim. Forster declared it to be completely false. In fact, Locke did not refer to the Bible 1500 separate times nor did he invoke 1500 Bible verses, as Barton sometimes claims. Apparently, Barton’ staff had to count all 900+ verses from the books of Proverbs to get to 1500. See this prior post for what it appears Barton had to do to get to the 1500 number. It should be clear that Barton’s claim is wildly inflated.
While this is one small fact claim, it is indicative of the real reason Thomas Nelson pulled The Jefferson Lies from publication. This same error was in the first edition as well. There are many such exaggerations and errors in The Jefferson Lies. Taken individually, many aren’t vital to the points Barton attempts to validate. However, taken together, they make the book unreliable.
 
 
 

Challenge to David Barton: Where Are the 1500 Bible Verses in Locke's Two Treatises?

I think I know the answer but I doubt David Barton will respond.
First, some background is necessary. For quite some time, the head of Ted Cruz Super PAC David Barton has claimed that John Locke referred to over 1500 Bible verses in his Two Treatises of Government. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton wrote the following:

Furthermore, in his Two Treatises of Government (1689) — the work specifically relied on by Jefferson and the other Founders as they drafted the Declaration — Locke invoked the Bible over 1500 times (pp. 40-41).

The earliest instance of the claim I have been able to find is a 2006 article posted on Wallbuilders’ website about Independence Day.

Locke’s Treatise (actually two separate treatises combined into one book) is less than 400 pages long; but in the first treatise, Locke invoked the Bible in 1,349 references; in his second treatise, he cited it 157 times. Imagine! In the primary work influencing the Declaration of Independence, Locke referred to the Bible over 1,500 times to show the proper operation of civil government. No wonder the Declaration has been such a successful document!

Then, on the August 14 segment of Rick Wiles’ TruNews (ironic), Barton again claimed that Locke included over 1500 Bible verses on how civil government is supposed to operate.

In this clip, Wiles asks David Barton why pastors won’t preach about culture war topics. Barton answers by describing how he was asked to go to the Ukraine to speak to political and religious leaders there about the foundations of American government. Barton used the Locke story to support his contention that American civil government was derived from the Bible. At about 1:20 into the clip above, Barton says:

The Ukraine is very highly Christian and so I just asked these leading pastors, the heads of their denominations, I said, does the Bible say anything about government, can you give me any verses on that? And I got about seven verses and these are like the popes of their denomination. And so I pulled out a book from 1690, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, you know in America, this is what our founding fathers used to write the 1776 Declaration of Independence. This little book, you can see, translated into Ukrainian, less than 400 pages long, it’s less than an inch thick, it has more than 1500 Bible verses on how civil government should operate, so how come you as church leaders only know seven, when here’s a little book with 1500 in it?

Barton then goes on to castigate American missionaries for teaching the separation of church and state.
I wrote about Barton’s 1500 verse claim previously with Locke scholar Greg Forster providing expert commentary.  Here is one key component of Forster’s response:

In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.

In another post, I provided Thomas Jefferson’s description of how he wrote the Declaration of Independence. While Locke was an intellectual influence, Jefferson said he didn’t consult any work to write it as asserted by Barton. 
In this post, I want to show how I think Barton could have come up with his inflated claim of 1500 Bible verses. While I get a different number than Barton, I have found a way one can misrepresent the number of verses Locke used in his arguments. Barton’s approach to history and truth is on full display with this claim.
As pointed out first by Greg Forster, Two Treatises editor Mark Goldie produced an index to Scriptures implied and directly cited by Locke. At the end of the post, I am linking to images of that index for readers to examine. In the index, Goldie refers to Locke’s citation of individual verses, several full chapters, and the entire book of Proverbs. To get to over 1500 Bible verses, one must count each time an individual verse is cited by Locke (he cites some verses multiple places in the Two Treatises), and then add the total verses in each full chapter cited by Locke and then add the entire book of Proverbs. If one does that, the total count I get is 1,512 verses. See the image below for a illustrative portion of the Goldie index with an entire chapter, multiple verses and the entire book of Proverbs.
Locke verses example
Even if this method was defensible (it’s not), Barton’s claims are still wrong. He says in The Jefferson Lies that “Locke invoked the Bible 1500 times!” Even though Proverbs contains 915 verses, mentioning the Old Testament book once does not equate to invoking the Bible 915 times. Locke invokes Proverbs once, so one can subtract 914 times from the count if one is being honest.
Most recently, Barton claimed that the Two Treatises “has more than 1500 Bible verses on how civil government should operate.”  As I have demonstrated, to get to over 1500 verses Barton has to count the entire book of Proverbs, entire chapters of the Bible, such as Genesis 36, as well as every time Locke refers to the same verse. I want Barton to explain to me how the Proverbs and some of the verses in the chapters mentioned by Locke tell us how “civil government should operate.” For instance, Gen. 36: 38 reads:

When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

How about Exodus 21:7? Did the founders rely on this verse to help write the founding documents?

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 

How about Proverbs 12:25?

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Few of the verses Locke used fit the descriptions offered by Barton.
In my opinion, Barton inflated the number of verses in order to craft a fiction about the role of the Bible in the construction of the Declaration of Independence.
To close, it worth re-reading what Forster said about Locke’s use of the Bible:

Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!

 
Goldie’s index: page 253, 254, 255.
 

David Barton Misleads Ukrainian Pastors and Politicians about John Locke

In June 2014, David Barton went with PA Pastors’ Network president Sam Rohrer to lecture Ukrainian pastors and a few politicians on the Christian nation thesis. Nine minutes of Barton’s speech (through an interpreter) is on You Tube.
In the video (at about 4:20 through 6:20), Barton talks about John Locke’s use of Bible verses on the establishment of civil government. Watch:

Transcript:

This man is named John Locke. He was a great lawgiver in history and he was also a theologian.  He wrote this particular book on civil government in 1690. This has been used by nations across the world in building their governments. We actually own many of the original works by these lawgivers from four or five centuries ago.
Now if I were to ask us as ministers to name the Bible verses we can think of that address civil government, I would imagine that we could come up with 25 or 30 verses.
In this book here less than 3 cm thick, he lists over 500 biblical references to how civil government is to operate…. No, (interrupting the interpreter) 1500, 1500. I don’t know of a Christian today who could name 1500 Bible verses on how civil government’s to operate.
We may be Christians but we don’t think biblically about government.

I asked Greg Forster, an expert on John Locke (see an earlier critique of Barton’s treatment of Locke), to evaluate Barton’s claims about Locke and the 1500 verses. Forster’s answer is below in full:

Barton does not tell us the title of the book he holds up, but from his description it is impossible that it could be any book other than the Two Treatises of Government. However, his characterization of it is outrageous. Claiming that the Two Treatises “lists over 1,500 biblical references on how civil government is to operate” is not much more dishonest than claiming that the Bill of Rights protects 1,500 rights.
In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.
Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!
After all this, it seems trivial to point out that Locke did not, in fact, “write” the Two Treatises in 1690; he published it in that year, but wrote it much earlier.

Perhaps Barton is counting the over 900 verses in Proverbs. However, not all of those verses relate to civil government. Clearly, Barton embellishes and inflates until what he starts with is unrecognizable.

First Things on David Barton’s Errors

This article by Greg Forster is an absolutely devastating critique of David Barton’s writing on John Locke. Forster leads off:

I’m not a scholar of Thomas Jefferson, but I am a scholar of John Locke. Barton has an article about Locke on his website, so I thought I’d weigh in with my opinion on whether it matches Jay’s description of Barton’s methods. It does, and then some.

I should note for the record that I’m not only a conservative (both theologically, as an evangelical, and politically, as a Republican) but one with a track record of defending Locke against claims that he was a deist or that his philosophy is antithetical to Christianity. As providence would have it, just over a week ago Ipublished an article on how Locke’s Reasonableness helped me come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet Barton’s attempt to fit Locke into his larger historical narrative forces him into numerous distortions. Moreover, the article contains a number of incidental facutal errors that don’t even advance his thesis, indicating that his inability to write reliable history stretches beyond ideological cheerleading and into outright incompetence.

Then Forster launches into very specific points of correction to Barton’s writing on Locke. Well worth the read. We considered saying more about Barton’s treatment of Locke in our book but we simply could not address all of the issues we found.