Once again Warren Throckmorton is pounding David Barton's understanding of the Jefferson Bible. There were two different efforts of Jefferson. One in 1804, the other around 1820. The 1804 book is not available to read in its entirety. The 1820 version is. That's "the Jefferson Bible" we have.
The dates are
important for Barton's thesis, which is this: Apparently Thomas
Jefferson was some kind of orthodox Trinitarian Christian until around
1813 when he fell away.
There is a kernel of truth to
this flawed thesis: Jefferson starts to offer far more smoking gun
quotations on his heterodoxy around 1813. But as Throckmorton and others
have demonstrated, there is evidence Jefferson was heterodox before
that time period. In fact, I suspect that Jefferson was less orthodox
and more deistic until around the early 19th Century when he began
familiarizing himself with Joseph Priestley's Socinian "Christianity."
may have made Jefferson more comfortable with a "Christian" identity.
Before that, I think Jefferson may have been closer the deist
Bolingbroke, though even he, if you read what he wrote about Jesus,
isn't quite the "strict deist"; but he's arguably less Christian than
Priestley. Allen Jayne makes
an impressive circumstantial case for Bolingbroke's influence on
Jefferson. But Priestley and Conyers Middleton (who also cut up a Bible)
were explicitly NAMED in Jefferson's post 1813 period (Priestley far
more than Middleton).
Jefferson may have never shaken
off the influence of Bolingbroke. In fact, arguably, one might conclude
the final "unitarian" position Jefferson endorsed was some kind of
hybrid between the creeds of Bolingbroke and Priestley.
were two things Bolingbroke posited that Jefferson late in life
believed in that arguably make them less "Christian" than Joseph
Priestley. I'm no Priestley expert. I do know Priestley a Socinian,
believing Jesus 100% man, not at all divine in His nature, but on a
divine mission, taught 1. Original Sin; 2. the Trinity; 3. the
Incarnation; 4. Atonement; and 5. the Plenary Inspiration of Scripture
were "corruptions" of Christianity.
But Priestley did
believe in "special revelation" in a God speaking to man sense.
Bolingbroke may have too believed in special revelation of a more
limited variety. But I don't think Priestley messed with the canon like
Bolingbroke and later Jefferson did.
and later Jefferson (probably under his influence) disbelieved in the
divine inspiration of the Book of Revelation, criticizing it in harsh
terms. Priestley not only believed in the divine inspiration of that
book, but wrote many words trying to interpret its prophesies.
Bolingbroke and then again, later Jefferson wrote off everything St.
Paul stated as fake and not divinely inspired. I'm going to have to plead
ignorance on Priestley's position on St. Paul. But I don't believe
Priestley's disbelief in the plenary inspiration of the Bible led him to
razor blade everything Paul said as bullshit like Bolingbroke and
(I documented Bolingbroke's influence here.)
David Barton, in his book, concedes Jefferson post 1813 as unorthodox.
AND his book, from what I remember (I didn't read the whole thing)
concedes Jefferson's late in life letter dismissing the Book of
Revelation as the ravings of a delusional manic. I can't remember if
Barton dealt with Jefferson's similar dismissing of Paul's writings.
if the Jefferson of 1820 who compiled the version of his canon that we
have available was, as Barton might concede, willing to dismiss the Book
of Revelation and everything St. Paul wrote as fake (in addition to the
Trinity and every other doctrine of orthodoxy), why does Barton have a
hard time with the notion that Jefferson constructed a "Bible" of his
own where he cut out from the canon that which he didn't believe?
Is it the notion that Jefferson cut out "all" of the miracles? I think he cut out most of them. Perhaps not all.
believers can dicker over the exact books which belong in the canon
(see the debates among Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants
over the deuterocanonicals) and quibble over passages of verses and
chapters, but what kind of "Christianity" dismisses not just the Trinity
and every other orthodox doctrine, the Book of Revelation (a hard book,
which I understand even Martin Luther doubted) but also everything St.
This is the Jefferson of the 1820s who compiled his own Bible around that time period.