Sunday, June 27, 2010

John Adams' Partially Inspired Bible

From his letter to Jefferson Nov. 15, 1813.

This is a very interesting letter. In the beginning Adams doubts we have the right version of the Ten Commandments. He states the Bible contains "error or amendment." Then he praises Jefferson's Bible where Jefferson cut out what he saw as error. Here is the larger context of the quote. I have emphasized Adams claiming his desire to make his own "Adams' Bible."

I admire your employment in selecting the philosophy and divinity of Jesus, and separating it from all mixtures. If I had eyes and nerves I would go through both Testaments and mark all that I understand. To examine the Mishna, Gemara, Cabbala, Jezirah, Sohar, Cosri and Talmud of the Hebrews would require the life of Methuselah, and after all his 969 years would be wasted to very little purpose. The daemon of hierarchical despotism has been at work both with the Mishna and Gemara. In 1238 a French Jew made a discovery to the Pope (Gregory 9th) of the heresies of the Talmud. The Pope sent thirty-five articles of error to the Archbishops of France, requiring them to seize the hooks of the Jews and burn all that contained any errors. He wrote in the same terms to the kings of France, England, Arragon, Castile, Leon, Navarre and Portugal. In consequence of this order, twenty cartloads of Hebrew books were burnt in France ; and how many times twenty cartloads were destroyed in the other kingdoms ? The Talmud of Babylon and that of Jerusalem were composed from 120 to 500 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.

If Lightfoot derived light from what escaped from Gregory's fury, in explaining many passages in the New Testament, by comparing the expressions of the Mishna with those of the Apostles and Evangelists, how many proofs of the corruptions of Christianity might we find in the passages burnt?


I do think, after reading Adams in great detail, his partially inspired Bible would be much thicker than Jefferson's. However, he still believed that the biblical canon contained more than a nominal amount of "error or amendment" that man's reason should edit.

6 comments:

Mark in Spokane said...

This idea crops up from time to time across early American history. Joseph Smith, for example, worked on an edited version of the Bible once he finished writing or translating (depending on one confessional position) the Book of Mormon. If I remember rightly, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Missouri Mormons rather than the Utah Mormons) publish Smith's edited version of the Bible as the "Inspired Version."

King of Ireland said...

"If Lightfoot derived light from what escaped from Gregory's fury, in explaining many passages in the New Testament, by comparing the expressions of the Mishna with those of the Apostles and Evangelists, how many proofs of the corruptions of Christianity might we find in the passages burnt?"

I still do not see his problem with the New Testament, other than there are interpolations(which there most certainly are, a guy from YWAM wrote a good book on it about women in ministry), but with translations and interpretations of it.

Example would be that Genesis is a myth. This would be heresy in many places. But it does not have a problem with the Bible just the interpretations. You see a lot of these issues coming up in the Emergent Church. Reminds me of many of the arguments the Catholics used to have.

Ray Soller said...

Here's a LDS website, The Joseph Smith Translation (JST), that tabulates some of the differences between the JST and the KJV. The introduction explains that "Joseph’s translation was more revelation than literal translation from one language into another." Here's another related site with more background.

Ray Soller said...

KOI, I'm guessing the guy from YWAM are the two women and man authors (Loren Cunningham, Janice Rogers, and David Joel Hamilton) who wrote the book, Why Not Women: A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership. Can't say that I've read the book, but I would like to know if the book addresses the question as to whether the author of Luke was a woman.

John Adams, I think, would have appreciated a book like Jeus the Jew by Geza Vermes, and if Adams had dared develop the eyes and nerves to do so, he might have been able to scoop Richard Carrier who addressed the major chronological inconsistencies beween the nativities in Matthew and Luke. (See The Date of the Nativity in Luke, 2006). It's obvious, though, that Jefferson, Adam's pen pal, decided in favor of Luke's nativity, since it never made the cut when he edited his gospel narrative.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"If Lightfoot derived light from what escaped from Gregory's fury, in explaining many passages in the New Testament, by comparing the expressions of the Mishna with those of the Apostles and Evangelists, how many proofs of the corruptions of Christianity might we find in the passages burnt?"

BTW, I did some reading on this. The original Babylonian Talmud survived the burnings; there are no lost mysteries of the sort that DaVinci Code Adams proposes.

King of Ireland said...

Ray,

I never read it but I never heard that one about Luke. A guy named Doug Sparks that I personally knew wrote a fiction book based on a lot of Hamilton's research that makes a lot of sense. He is also part of the Emerging Church movement that is questioning a lot of dogma and revisiting controversies that go way back.