Pocket Full of Mumbles

What's done is done, and this puppy's done. Visit me over at Pearls & Lodestones

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Fabrication of Miss Nomer

"Thomas Jefferson was a Deist and dismissed most of Scripture as unimportant, even detrimental, to the Gospel itself. As. Do. I. He did not worship the Bible. Nor do I."

The Jefferson Bible is a misnomer. When it was first published it was not called a "Bible", nor was his name attached in any way to the book's title, except as author. The original project was titled simply "The Philosophy of Jesus". The work was expanded in later years and finally published by Congress in 1820 under the title "Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth". It was certainly not a Bible. Nor, obviously, did Congress consider it as such. The title "The Jefferson Bible" is a relatively new construct that carries with it the very seed of 'misnomer'. Yet this is what Liberalism is best at-- The fabrication of misnomers, half-truths, and outright lies.

Liberalism, to my mind, has repeatedly sought, and to some extent succeeded, in altering this nation's museum of recollection-- our collective memory. The history we once knew is routinely dusted off by Liberalism and given the restoration treatment. Dusted and gilded, revised and expanded, our collective memory is a living document-- 'living' in the sense that we ourselves 'live' and should we tell ourselves a thing often enough we should begin to believe it as truth... 'As a man thinketh, so is he'... The flesh of our minds is indeed mutable; the ink easily erased and penned anew.

Our Constitution, on the other hand, is NOT a living document. Quite the contrary! It is static and unbending... unyielding. But that hasn't stopped two centuries worth of addition, subtraction, and interpretation in changing the face of our founding document to reflect the times in which alterations were deemed imperative. 'Interpretation', however, is the least valid of alteration, as it alters perception of content, rather than content itself. As was clear to the founders; what was not specifically delineated within the body of the Constitution fell under the sovereign jurisdiction of the state. For example: The Constitution does not specifically mention abortion as being a right of the people guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and therefore the individual state's right and responsibility to allow or reject its practice within its borders.

So where's the misnomer? That the "Jefferson Bible" was constructed by Jefferson, as many Liberals contend, to be a 'Bible'. Another misnomer is Representative Ellison's contention that because Jefferson owned a Qur'an he obviously found the book to possess wisdom and truth. And yet the 'Truth' was Jefferson was on the verge of declaring war against the pirates along the Barbary Coasts of what is now called Morocco-- and what better way to glean insight into a man's thought process than to study what he holds sacred? That Jefferson pieced together a book that contained the 'Wisdom of Jesus' is not indicative of a calloused heart, or any desire on his part to cast off 'suspect' portions of scripture. His speeches and writings that touch on scripture and faith show clearly that he held both in high regard. But rather, 'The Philosophy of Jesus' is no different from "God's Promises", compiled by A.L. Gill, and another such book, "God's Inspirational Promise Book", by Max Lucado. I hardly think it was Mr. Lucado's intention to rewrite the Bible, nor was it A.L. Gill's intent to rewrite the Word of God, yet Liberals will swear up and down that Jefferson despised much of the Gospels, and deeming many passages as fables and lies, he cut them out. But I can find no evidence to support this.

That Jefferson was a deist and a despiser of 'much of the Gospels' is a Liberal fabrication, and not worth entertaining further.


Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Piffle. Jeffrerson did, in fact, seek to strip away all the supernatural aspects of Scripture, to get at the nut of what Jesus said.

It's not "liberals" who say these "awful" things about Jefferson,. It's scholars. Take it up with them.


April 01, 2007 8:22 AM  
Blogger ELAshley said...

What passes for scholarly scholarship these, and recent days is akin to what passes for a quality education in the American Public Education System and beyond, which routinely churns out cultural and critical morons.... The only product of 'Progressive' philosophy in the classroom.

I don't argue that Jefferson sought to compile the teachings of Jesus sans the supernatural-- that's obvious. What I do argue is the Liberal interpretation of what his effort meant... that "most of Scripture [is] unimportant, even detrimental, to the Gospel...". To quote my next post, that sir... 'is at best 'flawed logic' to declare what was in the mind of any author in the writing of any work, but how a man labels his own work speaks volumes about what the author thought of his own work'. Show me instead the document written by Jefferson himself stating his intent was indeed to rewrite the Bible, deleting all the silly, nonsensical, and "detrimental" parts that harmed the Gospel.

To that I see your piffle, and raise you a balderdash.

April 01, 2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I would be interested to read a book entitled "The Philosophy of Jesus, According to ER"

I'll bet the New York Slimes would promote it as a work of genius!

April 01, 2007 8:16 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Strike that last comment. It was mean spirited.

What I meant to say was this:

"Jeffrerson did, in fact, seek to strip away all the supernatural aspects of Scripture, to get at the nut of what Jesus said."

Sounds like exactly what ER does, on almost a daily basis.

April 01, 2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

The fact is I can live with or without the supernatural aspects of Scripture.

"The Philosophy of jesus, by ER":

Luke 10:27

Any thing else is an add-on. :-)

April 02, 2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger ELAshley said...

Without the supernatural aspects of Scripture there is no hope for life beyond this one.

Your comment appears to suggest that 'loving God with all our mind' carries no appreciation for the 'supernatural aspects' of Scripture. How one could live without them is beyond me.

"Everything else is an add-on"

This despite the fact that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
--2 Timothy 3:16-17

April 02, 2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Yes. Despite that. Because the Bible does not contain ALL SCRIPTURE as it was meant when those words were penned. Unless you believe that the councils that hashed all this out were given special dispensation -- if you'll pardon the expression -- to decide what writings were "Scripture" and what writings were NOT "Scripture."

Saying the Holy Sprit guided them is one thing; but even with the Holy Spirit guiding them, and the writers of the texts themselves, to say the texts are infallible and perfect, etc., is, well, I've called it superstition in the past. I won't again. But it contradicts the fact that there is NOTHING in this world that is perfect. Even Jesus, the Scripture says, chastised people for calling him good: none but the father in heaven, he said.

I don't doubt the miracles. I just don't need them. I don't believe any human-written account of an actual act of God could come close to doing it justice, for one thing; and my faith is based on neither fear of hell nor astonishment over signs and wonders.

I am totally cool with people who cling to that; I am loudly oopposed to anyone who says I, or anyone else, must adhere to it to be saved. 'Cause it's not true.

Oh, and I disagree with your first sentence above. No hope? Hardly. Just no evidence -- and faith, itself, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence, itself, of things not seen. :-)

April 02, 2007 2:45 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Anyway, the Bible is the authoritative witness to the Word of God, and it is sufficient unto salvation, but it doesn't have to be accurate, in the sense that we understand accuracy today, which would have been foreign to trhe earliest Christians, in all of its jots and tittles to be that.

April 02, 2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

And please don't consider such a perspective as "the easy way." It's much, much easier to just say "God said it, I believe, that sattles it," without thinking too deeply about it. Not saying you don't think! But many, many people do not think about Scripture any deeper than what the words appear to say -- and that is just the bare beginning. :-)

April 02, 2007 4:57 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "Show me instead the document written by Jefferson himself stating his intent was indeed to rewrite the Bible, deleting all the silly, nonsensical, and 'detrimental' parts that harmed the Gospel."

I have such in my hands. Extractions from letters to John Adams and Benjamin Rush, in the introduction to the 1989 edition of "The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," introduction by Forrest Church. It took me awhile to find in my stacks.

I have to get ready for work. But I'll come back later with some of it, or post it at my place. It may be tomorrow. Long day today.

Jefferson self-described as a deist. He was definitely a Unitarian. And, he claimed to be a Christian, much the way I do, although I, unlike Jefferson, accept Jesus's divinity (without dwelling too much on what that means exactly).

In a letter to Rush, he wrote:

"I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other."

Note, he says attached to Jesus's *own* doctrines, which is not the same as doctrines *about* Jesus.

April 03, 2007 6:12 AM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

"Note, he says attached to Jesus's *own* doctrines, which is not the same as doctrines *about* Jesus."

Could it be that Jefferson was one of these so-called "scholars" who aren't to be trusted...?

Don't go invoking Jefferson's own words to make your case that he was a deist, ER. Our friends here don't have much use for "scholars" or "people's own words."

April 03, 2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

I just wish people would realize that Google is not as informed as the local college library -- or a good home library!

April 03, 2007 11:49 AM  
Blogger ELAshley said...

Actually, Dan, we don't have much use for fools who claim to be scholars. Mr. Jefferson can speak for himself. But I won't have you, ER, or any other 'enlightened' individual try to tell me what Jefferson thought as he worked on his project. Surely even you can see the sense in that!?

Furthermore, in the business ER and I both share (though perhaps different mediums) it should be understood that (as you pointed out elsewhere) words have meaning. We can't take what anyone says at face-value. People often misunderstand what others say and write. Our language is a very precise language, assuming it is used effectively and deliberately. Jefferson doesn't strike me as a 'careless' speaker. It is therefore incumbant upon us to read what he wrote in light of the words he used and the structure of his delivery.

That people disagree as to what Jefferson, or any other historical figure, meant by the words and structure they used can be attributed to any number of things, chief among these being personal bias (which colors EVERYTHING we read, see, and hear), or religious or political philosophy, which ALSO colors everything we read, see, and hear. In short, we take in the world and the things it tells us through the filter of our own philosophies and biases. To quote (and butcher) Somerset Maugham "The path to "Fair and Balanced" is as difficult to walk as a razor's edge"...

Personal biases and philosophy DO color my own perception, but I assure you that, given incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, I can and do amend my perceptions. ER has challenged me on numerous occasions and I've had to take time to reevaluate and take stock. And he has, on more than one occasion caused me to change my mind. But when faced with statements like "Most of Scripture as unimportant, even detrimental, to the Gospel itself," and "I can live with or without the supernatural aspects of Scripture." I am left to wonder at ER's acumen in regard to Logic and his ability to use language deliberately, for how is one to believe, according to Romans 10:9, "...that God hath raised him from the dead, [and] be saved [thereby]", unless one is living WITH the supernatural aspect of His resurrection?

How is one to believe and be saved, if the supernatural is irrelevant? For if one can live with or without the supernatural, then the supernatural has no strength of conviction (ability to convince), and IS, therefore, irrelevant.

April 03, 2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger ELAshley said...

"Google is not as informed..."

Agreed. But neither are those who frequent college libraries unless they actually crack open a book or two; and not just from those authors with whom they agree philosophically. One simply MUST read the dissenters as well.

April 03, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

EL, you need to just accept what I say at face value, as regards my own faith and what's important to me and not. I just don't feel the need to explain how I can 1., believe in the Resurrection, and 2., not believe every account of every supernatural act as depicted in the Bible as the literal truth, and 3., believe that whether one believes in some, all, or none of the supernatural aspects of the faith, as depicted in the Bible, none of that is necessary for a relationship with God, which is born of the Holy Spirit in the first place, and not by reason, research or being convinced rationally, or emotionally. I believe bcause God has put belief into my heart AND MIND.

As for the Jefferson stuff: I'd say that personal letters that he wrote to friends, as he was deciding how to compile his work, and then later as he worked on it and revised it, count as evidence of "what Jefferson thought as he worked on his project."

But I'm at work now, I have a thing to go to tonight, and it'll be tomorrow, probably, before I can give you the dang words, from the pen of the man himself, that will dash your point of view.

Note, too, that you're the one being snarky in this otherwise very civil thread. :-p

April 03, 2007 5:15 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

As far as reading dissenters: No crap.

I ain't no ideologue, and I ain't no fool. How the heck do you think I changed my mind, and my heart, from being a largely nonthinking fundamentalist to one who thinks CONSTANTLY about things of the faith? By reading those who dissented from Scofield! :-) Quit bashing education, man. You're starting to sound like Mark.

April 03, 2007 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THAT wasn't the least bit snarky, was it now, ER?

April 03, 2007 11:29 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

What follows is from "The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," introduction by Forrest Church, afterword by Jeroslav Pelikan (Boston: Beacon Press, under the auspices of Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 1989).

Jefferson wrote to the Rev. Jeremy Belknap in 1791:

"Republicanism is a part of the truth of Christianity. It derives power from its true source. It teaches us to view our rulers in their true light. It abolishes the false glare which surrounds kingly government, and tends to promote the true happiness of all its members as well as of the whole world, for peace with everybody is the true interest of all republics." (p. 8)


Joseph Priestly, a Jefferson contemporary, "had determined that much of Christian doctine was either defiant of or superfluous to the Christian message," Forrest Church writes in the introduction. "The Gospel was therefore not only obscured, but also distanced from the lives of many persons who had neither the time nor the means to investigate it properly."

In response to Priestly's gift of his work, "Socrates and Jesus Compared," Jefferson wrote to him of his own plans for his own "Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, Compared with Those of Others," a precursor to his plans for what we now know as The "Jefferson Bible."

Jefferson wrote to Priestly: "I should proceed to a view of the life, character, and doctrines of Jesus, who sensible of the incorrectness of his forbears' ideas of the Deity, and of morality, endeavored to bring them to the principles of a pure deism, and juster notions of the attributes of God, to reform their moral doctrines to the standard of reason, justice and philanthropy, and to inculcate the belief of a future state. This view would purposely omit the question of his divinity, and even his inspiration. To do him justice, it would be necessary to remark the disadvantages his doctrines had to encounter, not having been committed to writing by himself, but by the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him, when much was forgotten, much misunderstood, and presented in every paradoxical shape. Yet such are the fragments remaining as to show a master workman, and that his system of morality was the most benevolent and sublime probably that has ever been taught, and consequently more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers. His character and doctrines have received still great injury from those who pretend to be his special disciples, and who have disfigured and sophisticated his actions and precepts, from views of personal interest, so as to induce the unthinking part of mankind to throw off the whole system in disgust, and to pass sentence as an imposter on the most innocent, the most benevolent, and the most eloquent and sublime character that ever has been exhibited to man." (p.9-10)


In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote of his goal in writing "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth," another precursor to what we now know as "The Jefferson Bible."

Jefferson wrote: "We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and by arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines, such as were professed and acted upon by the unlettered Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers, and the Christians of the first century." (p. 17)


Around the time he is believed to have finished what we now know as "The Jefferson Bible," Jefferson wrote to his friend, William Short:

"We find in the writings of (Jesus's) biographers matter of two distinct descriptions. First, a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications. Intermixed with these, again, are sublime ideas of the Supreme Being, aphorisms, and precepts of the purist morality and benevolence, sanctioned by a life of humility, innocence, and simplicity of manners, neglect of riches, absence of worldy ambitions and honors, with an eloquence and persuasiveness which have not been surpassed. These could not be the intentions of the groveling authors who related them. They are far beyond the powers of their feeble minds. They show there was a character, a subject of their history, whose splendid conceptions were above suspicion as being interpolations from their hands. Can we be at a loss in separating such materials and ascribing each to its original author? The difference is obvious to the eye and to the understanding, and we may read as we run to each his part; and I will venture to affirm that he who, as I have done, will undertake to winnow this grain from the chaff, will find it not to require a moment's consideration. The parts fall asunder of themselves, as would those of an image of metal and clay." (p. 29-30).

April 04, 2007 2:05 PM  
Blogger ELAshley said...

ER, your quotes are-- on the surface --troubling. And yet, deeper in, I find a lot with which to be encouraged.

I don't have time to explain, but you did at least live up to your word. I won't have much free time and computer availability 'til Saturday afternoon. Some 'Schmoe' within Gray Communications accidentally or deliberately allowed their stations network to become infected by a virus, according to our engineers, that was so new there was no ready fix. Since every network within Grays stable-- some 30+ --is linked via the internet, every single Gray station was infected... And we are just recovering, Bent having put in overtime himself to help out. But now we are all barred from accessing mail accounts other than station accounts... no Gmail, no Yahoo, no Hotmail, which means no moderating comments til 11PM central. Also, no more surfing that isn't directly job related-- though Bent feels secure enough to flaunt the rules. What this means for me, a guy who is used to checking his email every 10 or 15 minutes of the day... well... there is a seriously huge void in my life right now. You can't imagine how much downtime we have between 6:30 and 9:00PM... It's either bring a book or a movie to work, which is cool (I've burned through three books since Monday), but the Blog is completely off limits at work now.

April 05, 2007 1:14 AM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

It's cool, EL.

But I don't know what's so disturbing about what Jefferson wrote. He was who he was: A serious student of the Enlightenment, a kind of Christian humanist who believed in the Creator and, while he probably (can't ever be sure) didn't "trust in (a divine) Jesus" in the substitionary atonement sense, he did, apparently, try to "follow" Jesus in his own way, in the moral-influence sense of atonement, which is more complicated than just "works." God's grace surely fell on him, IMHO.

Oh, and the farmin' thing of his at Monticello made him, ahem, an ... Erudite Redneck! :-)

April 05, 2007 1:25 AM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

BTW, I blogged about this today, with a link to this thread. I was civil. :-)

April 06, 2007 2:42 PM  
Blogger Estase said...

You'll learn much more about Christianity if you drop the Jefferson and pick up Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

April 27, 2007 3:42 PM  

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