Monday, April 13, 2009

Frazer & Miettinen on the Jefferson Bible(s):

My co-blogger at American Creation, Kristo Miettinen, has a very interesting post that examines Thomas Jefferson's Bible...well actually his TWO Bibles -- "the Philosophy of Jesus in ~1804, and the Life and Morals of Jesus in ~1820." Miettinen's close reading and analysis of Jefferson's understanding of "right" or "reasonable" revelation is worth a read given that most folks who know of Jefferson's Bible(s) only know that Jefferson cut up his Bible, but don't bother to read which parts Jefferson "edited," and which parts he left in. Certainly few folks have closely analyzed what was left as Miettinen and Frazer have.

With that, I'm reproducing Dr. Frazer's response to Miettinen below:

It is appropriate (and necessary) especially on Good Friday to point out three problems with Kristo's claim that "Life and Morals" suggests that Jefferson was some kind of Christian or even leaves room for such a conclusion.

First, the presence/absence of miracles is not the key issue. Some of the theistic rationalists believed it was rational that a supremely powerful God Who cared for His creation would use miracles to aid man. Besides, belief in miracles per se is not fundamental to Christian faith.

Second, in "Life and Morals," Jefferson cut out the verses in which Jesus specifically and clearly claimed to be God -- and the Jews picked up stones to execute Him for His blasphemy (John 8:58; John 10:30). If Jefferson were honestly wrestling with the true identity of Jesus and wanting others to do the same -- wouldn't such evidence be important???

Third, any account of the Gospels which cuts out the resurrection guts the core of Christianity. It's not just "another" passage or story which can be left out. Paul put it about as plainly as it could be put: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, THEN OUR PREACHING IS IN VAIN, YOUR FAITH ALSO IS VAIN. ... IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, YOUR FAITH IS WORTHLESS; YOU ARE STILL IN YOUR SINS. ... IF WE HAVE HOPED IN CHRIST IN THIS LIFE ONLY, WE ARE OF ALL MEN MOST TO BE PITIED." [I Corinthians 15:13-19]

Jefferson some kind of Christian and "Life and Morals" an honest, soul-searching attempt to find the real Jesus and to understand Christianity? I don't think so.

As a Christian, I understand that my faith stands or falls on the validity of Christ's literal, bodily resurrection. Although I exult in it always, I will celebrate that reality with a special focus this weekend.

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