Press release: Getting Jefferson Right exposes Barton’s distortions of Jefferson

GROVE CITY, Penn., May 9, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — In their new book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, Christian college professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter challenge claims about Thomas Jefferson made in the New York Times Best Selling book, “The Jefferson Lies” by David Barton.

In “The Jefferson Lies” and his talks about it, Barton claims that Thomas Jefferson

  • included all the words of Jesus and miracles from the gospel of Matthew in what is often called the Jefferson Bible,
  • personally helped finance the printing of the first “hot-pressed” Bible in America,
  • did not question the Trinity until after he left the presidency,
  • chose to include Christian language in his presidential documents by signing them “in the year of our Lord Christ,”
  • increased the number of divinity professors at the University of Virginia which he founded as a “transdenominational” school.

Continue reading “Press release: Getting Jefferson Right exposes Barton’s distortions of Jefferson”

Getting Jefferson Right: When did Jefferson question the Trinity?

It might seem like a small point, but for David Barton, Jefferson’s religious beliefs are worth an entire chapter in his book The Jefferson Lies. In that book, Barton claims Jefferson did not question the Trinity until 1813. However, we find abundant evidence to the contrary. Here is an excerpt from our book, Getting Jefferson Right.

In The Jefferson Lies, David Barton claims that Jefferson came under the influence of groups in Virginia Barton labels as Primitivists and Restorationists. Specifically, Barton claims:

In fact, it was during his affiliation with Christian Primitivism that he first expressed anti-Trinitarian views in a letter to John Adams in 1813.

As we have seen, this claim is clearly false. Jefferson, in 1788, refused to sponsor a friend’s child as a godfather because he would have to affirm his belief in the Trinity. He told his friend, Derieux, that he held that belief [rejecting the Trinity] from early in his life. Jefferson also confided to a Unitarian friend that he attended Priestley’s Unitarian church before 1800, while he was Vice President. In Jefferson’s 1803 Syllabus, he laid out his belief that Jesus was not part of the Godhead. Barton’s attempt to make Jefferson seem orthodox during the active part of his political engagement is contradicted by Jefferson’ own words.

In Getting Jefferson Right, we go into great detail about Barton’s claims on Jefferson’s religious views. Barton tries to explain Jefferson’s religious statements later in life by an appeal to religious movements in central Virginia  (Primitivism and the Restoration movement). However, we debunk that effort and let Jefferson speak for himself about his religious influences and beliefs.

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Favorable review of Getting Jefferson Right

This review by Hrafnkell Haraldsson at Politicusa compares our book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President with David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies.

As you will see, Haraldsson highly recommends our book.

The Jefferson Lies: Does the Jefferson Bible include the miracles of Matthew 9?

These days I am working toward completion of Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. A prominent focus of the book is David Barton’s new book, The Jefferson Lies. With GJR coming out, I intend to write more about both books going forward.

I have had many headslapping moments reading The Jefferson Lies. One of them is the subject of today’s post. In TJLs, Barton includes a chapter on what is commonly called The Jefferson Bible. In our book, co-author Michael Coulter and I fully explore the development of both of Jefferson’s efforts to extract what Jefferson considered to be the gold from the dross of the Gospels for his own use. The only surviving version of those efforts was titled by Jefferson, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth extracted textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & Latin. The term “Jefferson Bible” has become a short hand for this book completed sometime between 1820 and 1824 (we describe evidence in the book which seems to place the binding of the Life and Morals of Jesus closer to 1824).

In TJLs, Barton claims that Jefferson did not remove all of the supernatural and miraculous aspects of the Gospels. He claims this was not Jefferson’s intent. Despite the fact that Jefferson said on several occasions that such an extraction was his intent, Barton makes this claim based on passages he says Jefferson included. Most of the passages Barton offers as proof are verses about the afterlife. Truly, Jefferson did believe in an afterlife with rewards and punishments as appropriate. Jefferson did not believe in the atonement of Jesus but rather that good works in this life were necessary for a happy afterlife. In that sense, there is a supernatural element in Jefferson’s extraction. However, Barton includes as evidence of miracles, three miracles from Matthew 9 which are not in either the 1804 or 1820 version. Barton writes:

That abridgement also contained the miraculous resurrection of Jarius’s (sic) daughter (Matthew 9:1), the healing of the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:18-26), and the healing of two blind men (Matthew 9:27-34), all of which are clearly acts of a miraculous or supernatural character.

The footnote for this paragraph leads to Charles Sanford’s book on the religious views of Jefferson. Consulting that book, I find that Sanford does list those verses but when one examines the 1804 and 1820 extractions from Jefferson, Matthew 9 is not included in the 1804 version at all, and in the 1820 version, only Mt. 9:36 (where Jesus was moved with compassion on the people gathered around him) is there.

Apparently, Barton did not check the versions but rather simply accepted the erroneous citation of Sanford. And these are not only verses which Barton includes which were not included. We fully document all of this in the GJR book. There are several prominent instances like this in TJLs — where Barton cites a source but that source turns out to be in error or quite suspicious. When  we explore the source, we learn the story is not true or quite implausible.

This observation is relevant to fact checking. Barton and defenders almost always make a point to note how many footnotes he uses while criticizing books with fewer notes. However, many footnotes do not a fact make if the citation is unverified or in error. We may not get all of them in GJR, but we do get some major ones.

Stay tuned…

David Barton promotes The Jefferson Lies

In an email to supporters, David Barton discloses the title of his upcoming book on Thomas Jefferson — The Jefferson Lies.

Barton is well qualified to speak about distortions of Jefferson’s work and beliefs since he has spread so many of them. I wonder if he will recant any of them in this book. He could start here, here, here, here, here, here, and/or here.
I am actually glad to see this. Publishing a book on Jefferson via a major publisher could provide the trigger for a broad conversation about Barton’s historical revisions. Perhaps, historians, including those that teach at other Christian institutions, will rise up en masse in response. I can imagine that we will see scathing book reviews in various religious publications which might wake up some Christians.
For more on David Barton, see this link.