Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Debate Between Frazer & Miettinen Jefferson's "Christianity" Continues:

My bottom line after studying Jefferson is that he considered himself a "Christian" and was a unitarian of the Socinian bent (meaning he thought Jesus 100% man, not God at all). Further he disbelieved in every tenet of orthodoxy. He also took his razor to the Bible and cut out that which he did not believe was legitimate revelation (which was quite a bit!).

Could one think/do these things and still be a "Christian"? That's what these two sharp minds, Gregg Frazer & Kristo Miettinen, (both of them orthodox Christian) are debating. You can read the debate here. And here is a taste from Frazer's latest comment [Note: LaM stands for one of the two "Jefferson Bibles"]:

I've just finished reading LaM and I could not find the passages in which Jesus' ability to forgive others' sins is mentioned! Which verses are included? Mark 2:5-10? Luke 5:20-24? Matthew 9:2-5? I also have an index of all the Scripture references in LaM and none of these passages is listed there, either. More on this below.

My claim about percentages of books is NOT specious because you claimed that TJ believed that there was "something special about the Bible" -- not that there was something special about the "Gospels." Spending lots of time with the small portion of the Bible you agree with or like is hardly a commitment to it. If one reads "eat, drink, and be merry" every night before bed or every morning, does that mean that person believes “the Bible” to be special?

Of course, the 39 books of the Old Testament are also about Christ. But, either way, do not accuse me of banalities if you cannot say what you mean. If you mean that TJ thought the small portion of the Bible that he personally agreed with and that survived his scissors was "special" to him, then say so and then I'll agree with you and you'll be happy and will not have to resort to name-calling.


Re the supposedly “clear Christianity of what is left” and the “blatant Christianity” in the LaM: Jefferson removed anything which was “blatant” and “clear” – you see Christianity in it because you choose to do so. There is precious little that is inherently “Christian” in what survived the scissors. Let’s look at your examples (I don’t know if I’ll take time to deal with all of them, as there are so many and I have work to do – but I’ll start at the beginning of your list and see how far I get).

GENERAL COMMENT: most of what TJ included could simply be taken as moralisms, clever turns of phrases, and exhortations to general spirituality (as per Deepak Chopra) without the crucial lynchpins which he removes from almost every passage. I.e. without the total context.

On most, I’m going to write as if I were a nonbeliever looking at the passages rationally and without the contextual parts which were removed throughout.

Lk. 22:67-70 [MINUS 69]
TJ includes their question and his verbal exchange with them in which, in the translation TJ uses, Jesus merely says that THEY say He is the Christ – He doesn’t. That can be taken as mere acknowledgment of why He’s on trial – that’s their charge against Him. The crucial verse is verse 69 in which he makes a specific claim about the Son of Man being seated at God’s right hand – but TJ cuts that out.

John 18:33-36
This can be taken simply as Jesus defending Himself by assuring Pilate that He is no threat to Pilate or Rome – which is what Pilate was concerned about. What Jesus says next can be taken as claim to a philosophical kingdom (like Plato’s Republic) – a kingdom of “truth.” To someone without the parts of the Gospels cut out, that’s what the kingdom “not of this world” would logically mean.

Lk. 19:9-10
Jesus does not present HIMSELF as the source of salvation – rather that Zaccheus is a Jew (son of Abraham) who has come to his moral senses. He implies that He is the Son of MAN – but never the Son of God (those parts are cut). Why wouldn’t TJ like the title Son of Man? – that’s all he thought Jesus was. The Son of Man seeks those Jews who are not living morally and tries to “save” them by getting them to do good – not through any special commitment to HIM.

John 12:20-24 [MINUS ½ OF VERSE 23]
Unlike what you say in your original post, Jesus does NOT claim to be the Son of Man Who is to be glorified in TJ’s version, because he cut out the part of verse 23 in which Jesus said that. What is left is a standard truism about the reproduction of wheat. There is no connection left between Jesus and the grain of wheat – so there is no connection to HIM bringing life to others.

Mark 12:1-9
YOU say that the parable makes Jesus’ role that of the Son of God – but that is NOT said in the parts of this passage surviving TJ’s scissors. He conveniently cuts out verses 10-11 which connect Him to Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah (Christ) – and which caused the Jewish leaders to seek to seize Him (another verse cut out).

Luke 7:37-43
Let me skip to one more – the one you keep repeating. You keep saying that Jesus forgave other people’s sins in TJ’s version and you gave this passage as an example. That is very curious because the verse in which Jesus does say “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven” is verse 47 – BUT TJ’S ACCOUNT ENDS AT VERSE 46! He cut out the part in which Jesus makes this claim!

I hope this is enough to demonstrate that YOU ARE READING CHRISTIAN CONTENT INTO WHAT’S LEFT IN THESE PASSAGES, but there is nothing INHERENTLY Christian without the parts TJ left out! Without those critical parts, a rational person would simply view Jesus in the way that TJ wants them to view Him – as a good man with interesting ideas and promoting morality. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that one could better see “clear Christianity” and “blatant Christianity” in the scraps on TJ’s floor than in the sections glued to the page!

So, to answer your question as to why TJ left in so much clear and blatant Christianity if he were not seeking for the truth, the answer is: HE DIDN’T. Pure and simple.

Finally, to argue that TJ is honestly trying to determine Jesus’ identity via “style and spirit” might have some merit IF TJ were an acknowledged expert in “style and spirit” in Greek – AND, if the one making the determinations of style and spirit didn’t have his own agenda coming into the project (which he admits that he had). If someone who were impartial and didn’t have a dog in the race were to attempt this (if such a person could exist), then it might have some validity. But Jefferson admittedly came to the project with convictions about Jesus – and he was determined to affirm those. Maybe just to make himself feel vindicated or more secure in his infidelity.

This is why “higher criticism” is such a disaster and always confirms what those undertaking it believed to begin with. “Surprise! Surprise! The Bible teaches what I’ve said all along!” It’s inevitably a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most are not quite as insolent as Jefferson, though – they only proceed AS IF they had cut up the Bible – they don’t actually DO it.

No comments: