Sunday, June 17, 2012

Get a Load of This

I could see Chris Rodda titling her post: "David Barton Lies About Warren Throckmorton." Barton claims two professors from Messiah (it's actually Grove City; he must have confused Throckmorton and Coulter with John Fea) didn't use primary sources when they refuted his book, rather they only quoted from other professors. Dr. Throckmorton explains that, to the contrary, they did indeed cite primary sources.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Yrs truly caught two Throckmorton criticisms that didn't exactly hold up via the original documents:

1) Jefferson's citation of Matthew 25 and the Second Coming, which David Barton was largely right about

[See my comments and links]

2) Jefferson's letter to Derieux, 1788

[see my comments and links]

which Dr. Throckmorton made unsupported claims about, that as early as 1788 Jefferson was "rejecting" the Trinity---as many internet entries claim---when he was only expressing doubts.

I'm largely on the side of Barton's critics when it comes to litigating his factoids, but if his critics want to live by the factoid, they are not as thorough as they might believe themselves to be.

To David Barton: Sir, I don't want a job, but you should put me on retainer. I'm the only person in the blogoverse who makes any sense of you for the rest of them.

Nice catch on the Booker T. Washington thing, BTW.

[As always, see the comments section.]

I should probably turn this into a career like David Barton, but I prefer playing the blues.

jimmiraybob said...

As to whether or not Thockmorton’s criticisms hold up:

In his letter to Derieux, Jefferson states that he had never been able to make sense of (or comprehend) the Trinity and, therefore, had to previously decline "sponsoring" children of friends. He states that because the idea of the Trinity was incomprehensible he never gave his assent, or acceptance. Jefferson does not have some minor squabbling difficulties with the Trinity, he rejects the Trinity. In his own words he admits to having “from a very early part of [his life] life” turned down previous requests from friends to “sponsor” their children because he had had no sense of the Trinity specifically because he had not given his assent, or acceptance, to the idea and could not, therefore, make a solemn affirmative profession of such before god and the world. His argument was a material/empirical argument.

“The person who becomes sponsor for a child, according to the church in which I was educated makes a solemn profession, before god & the world, of faith in articles, which I had never sense enough to comprehend and it has always appeared to me that comprehension must precede assent. The difficulty of reconciling the ideas of Unity & Trinity have, from a very early part of my life, excluded me from the office of sponsorship, often proposed to me by friends,…”(1)

- Thomas Jefferson to J.P.P. Derieux (July 25, 1788)

1) transcription from here:

Jon also reproduced the letter here:

As to Mathew 25, Jefferson believing that Jesus was coming back for The Judgment depends on at least four considerations; 1) Jefferson understood the phrase, “Son of Man” to mean Jesus as God/Deity, which is contradictory to his own clearly professed belief that Jesus was a man and not divine, 2) Jefferson understood the phrase, “Son of Man” to mean Jesus as a physical reincarnation of the man that he believed Jesus to be, which is consistent with his own clearly professed belief that Jesus was a man and not divine, 3) Jefferson understood the phrase, “Son of Man” to mean the deity itself (a possibility – if you don’t believe me trust Google), and/or 4) that Jefferson understood “Son of God” to be Jesus the divine or Jesus the man or just plain The Deity and did not really sweat the distinction and left it in merely to complete the continuity of a moral fable – it was after all a cut and paste job for his own use and was not meant to be a lasting record of his own personal confession. And, we do now that he was fond of moral fables.

Unfortunately, Jefferson is not available for clarification. Without that help, choosing to believe that Jefferson meant Jesus was coming back as God/Deity is one way to go but it’s not the strongest argument based on other statements made by Jefferson that would contradict that interpretation.

Given the above I’d say that Throckmorton’s criticisms hold up.

To take it one step further, Jefferson was a materialist in the tradition of Epicurus. He likely envisioned a coming Judgment not in supernatural terms at all. Trying to view this through a strictly Christian prism, it makes no sense. But viewing it through the lens of; 1) Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), a work that Jefferson studied and of which he owned several copies in various translations, or 2) through the works of the 17th century French priest, scientist/astronomer, and philosopher Pierre Gassendi, who tried to reconcile Epicurus’ materialist view with the Church and who Jefferson cites.

I too have always preferred playing the blues. Maybe with a Santana spin.

Tom Van Dyke said...

1) No, Jefferson doesn't "reject" the Trinity until his post-presidential writings

2) Barton is not proved wrong [and indeed is snorted at by Dr Throckmorton] about the Second Coming being in the Jefferson Bible. It's right there in the interactive Jefferson bible at the Smithsonian, the story of the Sheep and the Goats

Whatever source Dr. Throckmorton used to "disprove" Barton on this point, it was not in the original document.

This is not to say Dr. Throckmorton is not mostly correct about Barton's errors or that David Barton is correct in saying his critics did not use original documents. It is to say that the reader must double-check everything to his own satisfaction.

As I did. I have not much interest in David Barton's book nor in Warren Throckmorton's refutation. But in the sample of perhaps 10 bones of contention I examined closely, Barton had an arguable point in at least two or three, and often an interesting point.

Caveat emptor, for both books.

Jonathan Rowe said...


This doesn't qualify as "rejecting" the Trinity?

Written while TJ was in office:

jimmiraybob said...

As to when Jefferson rejects the Trinity, given what I've said above people can judge for themselves. It is clear to me that Jefferson rejected the concept of the Trinity in writing in his pre-presidential letter to Derieux and further indicates that he rejected the notion far earlier in life. Any other intrepid ACers want to weigh in?

As to Mathew 25. At the link that you provide you say:

"People can see it for themselves here, in the Smithsonian’s interactive Jefferson Bible, the actual cut-and-paste Jefferson did with his own hands. Jesus certainly appears to be the judge."

This was in response to Throckmorton's post comment:

"Some will be surprised to see passages relating to the afterlife and a final judgment. However, Jefferson believed that God (without Jesus and the Holy Spirit) would judge people based on their deeds."

My comment was in relation to this exchange.

Now you want to move the goal posts to "the Second Coming being in the Jefferson Bible." Where does Throckmorton attempt to "disprove" Barton on this point? In an earlier post? Can you point this out? If he did say that a reference to the second coming was not in Jefferson's "Bible" then you shoot and you score and I'll say no more.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Already linked, see comments sections.

jimmiraybob said...

Already linked, see comments sections.

Been to the link and I've read the comments. Again, Where does Throckmorton attempt to "disprove" Barton on the second coming being in Jefferson's "Bible"?

Tom Van Dyke said...
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Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

Wrong question. He doesn't attempt to "disprove" it because he can't---it's right in the Jefferson bible cut by Thomas Jefferson's own hand.

What Dr. Throckmorton does is call Barton's quote into question, without acknowledging the part he got right.

That's innuendo, a no-no.

Barton: “[Jesus] also talks about the resurrection, heaven, hell, the second coming. It’s all there.”

And it is: