Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hitchens on the Jefferson-Koran Issue:

A more balanced take from someone who is equally skeptical of Christian and Muslim fundamentalism:

Jefferson did not demand regime change of the Barbary states, only policy change. And as far as I can find, he avoided any comment on the religious dimension of the war. But then, he avoided public comment on faith whenever possible. It was not until long after his death that we became able to read most of his scornful writings on revelation and redemption (recently cited with great clarity by Brooke Allen in her book Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers). And it was not until long after his death that The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth was publishable. Sometimes known as "the Jefferson Bible" for short, this consists of the four gospels of the New Testament as redacted by our third president with (literally) a razor blade in his hand. With this blade, he excised every verse dealing with virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and other puerile superstition, thus leaving him (and us) with a very much shorter book. In 1904 (those were the days), the Jefferson Bible was printed by order of Congress, and for many years was presented to all newly elected members of that body. Here's a tradition worth reviving: Why not ask all new members of Congress to swear on that?

And here's a tradition worth inaugurating: The Quran repeats and plagiarizes many passages of the New Testament, including some of the most fantastic and mythical ones. Is it not time to apply the razor and produce a reasonable Quran as well? What could be more inclusive? What could be a better application of Jeffersonian original intent?


Tom Van Dyke said...

I find it difficult to believe the a gentleman of Hitchens' erudition could seriously think the Qur'an could be secularized. Theologically, the Qur'an presents itself as God's literal and direct word. The. End.

There are a number of Christians who feel that way about their King James Version, but they are neither in the majority of Chritendom, nor do they tend to fly themselves into major pieces of New York City architecture.

BTW, with all this talk lately of Jefferson's Bible (the New Testament, actually), thought I'd take a look to see what's actually in it.

The Lord's Prayer, the Pater Noster, the "Our Father," survived. Interesting.

To save your readers the trouble, here's a link to what our friends the Catholics (who, for all their flaws, are valuable for their own erudition) think about Jefferson's enterprise.

Leo said...

Mr. Hitchen's suggestion while providing the creative with an expression for their talents also exposes the same to the fate of Salman Rushdie.

I am curious as to whether or not Mr. Van Dyke refers to only KJV fans (Peter Ruckman and the sort) as believing in inspiration of the Bible or does he only refer to the double inspiration that such fall prey to?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I didn't know who Peter Ruckman is, but now I do. I would agree that his view that the KJV, despite translation errors (or rather because of them) represents an "advanced revelation" for English speakers to be analogous toward how the Qur'an regards itself.

I mean, what are you going to do with that? Scriptural "scholarship" becomes by definition heresy. (Scratch that---blasphemy! For Rushdie to suggest there were errant verses in the Qur'an required the death penalty.)