Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two observations about Thomas Jefferson's Bible

I have just finished reading, for the first time, the edited harmony of the Gospels produced by Thomas Jefferson. The edition I purchased, published by Beacon Press in 1989 as The Jefferson Bible:  The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, has been delightful to read.  I was particularly struck by two things:
  • While Jefferson removed all the miraculous components from Jesus Christ's earthly ministry (no virgin birth, no resurrection, no miracles or signs), he did keep in the passages that deal with Christ's eventual return to judge the living and the dead.  So, Jefferson wasn't quite opposed to supernaturalism in principle.  Of course, if Jesus didn't resurrect and ascend to the Father, it might be somewhat questionable about how he might be characterized as "returning," but Jefferson nonetheless kept the passages about the Second Coming in his Gospel harmony.  
  • Jefferson also affirmed the power of prayer, and of God's care for those who petition Him in prayer.  This is particularly evident in Jefferson's version of Jesus' teaching on the Lord's Prayer.  Most surprisingly, in this section Jefferson did not remove or edit the explicit references to both the Father and the Holy Spirit in Jesus' teaching.  And as far as I can tell, this is the only passage in the Jefferson Bible that refers to the Holy Spirit, let alone to the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.  As Jefferson renders that critical passage:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children:  how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?        

10 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Yes, but What/Who is the "Holy Spirit"? I don't think for one moment that there is some "GodFather" in the sky that superintends HIS WILL upon independent moral agents! Otherwise, we are not free moral agents! Nor is man a "clone", meaning that he is to become like some "form of moral model", like Jesus. Human beings are unique in their genetic make-up, experiences and it makes for a unique individual that should not be conformed....

The spirit of man is what we call "his heart". It is the embodiment of every aspect of the individual, that makes him who he is. That is his will, his mind, his emotions, his intellect, his passions, his interests, his values, his experiences; this is what makes a "WHOLE BEING" that makes choices and frames "life" in the way that makes sense...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I left out the brain, oops, a most important part today! :-)

Mark in Spokane said...

I'm not making a claim about the existence or non-existence of God in this post, I'm simply pointing out two sets of material that Jefferson included in his Gospel harmony. It seems apparent, based on those two sets of material, that Jefferson believed (at least at the time he composed his harmony of the Gospels) in a deity who intervened in the world's affairs, both as Judge and as Helper. Thus, Jesus is portrayed as returning at the end of time to judge the living and the dead; and God the Father (and the Holy Spirit no less!) are portrayed as answering prayers.

Both assertions might be wrong, but Jefferson made them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ace work, Mark. We had a Barton critic here who knew chapter and verse of Barton's sins, but not what was in the Jefferson Bible, which everybody talks about but clearly few have actually read.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jefferson believed in inalienable rights, which is a universal, while Barton believes in the nation state as a "Christian nation".

Why didn't the Barton critic speak up? I'd be interested in what he would say!

We are going to be duped if we go down the road to multiculturalism. Westen society is based on rational principles, not speculation, but evaluation!

bpabbott said...

Re: "I'd be interested in what he would say!"

I think Tom was referring to a "she".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Sorry, bpabbott. She, it is, then!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heh heh. As usual, attentive reader Abbott gets it.

;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
Are you poking fun at me, by any chance?

No, I haven't read Jefferson's Bible, nor have I made myself an expert critic of Barton's "Christian nation", but can I state what seems obvious or rational? And not based on speculative faith claims?

bpabbott said...

No Angie, Tom's poking fun at someone else.