Monday, August 23, 2021

Jefferson, Priestley, and Bolingbroke

Thomas Jefferson, after around 1800 was under the influence of the unitarian Joseph Priestley. And Priestley did, if I understand him right, think "the plenary inspiration of the Bible" was a "corruption of Christianity." (Meaning he didn't think the Bible was inerrant.)

However, I don't think Priestley ever, like Jefferson did, cut out entire books of the canon and bitterly ridicule various apostles and the books of the canon they wrote. (Like everything St. Paul wrote and the Book of Revelation.)
The English Deist Bolingbroke did, however.
Jefferson was likely influenced by Bolingbroke prior to Priestley. Yet, as an old man, Jefferson was still slamming St. Paul and the Book of Revelation like Bolingbroke did prior thereto.
So I conclude the old Jefferson's creed was like a cross between Bolingbroke's and Priestley's. (Jefferson also named Conyers Middleton as a key influence.) That's my preface to linking to a post I did in 2013 where I researched Bolingbroke's religion. Check it out! (Good comment section too.)


Tom Van Dyke said...

A bleg--I don't recall Jefferson ever claiming the Bible is the Word of God at all. By contrast Bolingbroke:

Christianity, genuine Christianity is contained in the gospels; it is the word of God; it requires therefore, our veneration, and a strict conformity to it.

Unimaginable to have come from Jefferson IMO. And although Bolingbroke alleges the scriptures to have been corrupted, he allows:

I may deny that the Old Testament is transmitted to us under all the conditions of an authentick history, and yet be at liberty to maintain, that the passages in it which establish original sin, which seem favourable to the doctrine of the Trinity, which foretel the coming of the Messiah, and all others of similar kind, are come down to us as they were originally dictated by the Holy Ghost.

From Fortenberry vs "jimmiraybob' in the comments section here:

Jonathan Rowe said...

I just plugged the post on Facebook

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I saw. If Bolingbroke was a "Christian-Deist" [which may be a fair assessment], I submit Jefferson doesn't even meet that standard. IMO the question of revelation [the Bible containing some measure of the Word of God even if adulterated] and Jesus's special status as Messiah or Savior [even if not God] are defining characteristics of Christianity.

John Adams for instance would likely meet this low but definitive standard [he referred to Jesus as the Redeemer]; Jefferson would not.

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