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Mar 29 2012

Throckmorton Catches New Barton Lie

Warren Throckmorton, who’s been doing excellent work debunking David Barton over the last few months, catches him in a whole new lie — ironically, just as Barton publishes a book called The Jefferson Lies, which our own Chris Rodda is working on now as well. He gives this transcript of a conversation between Barton and Kirk Cameron:

Kirk Cameron: What are these?

David Barton: This is a family Bible done in 1798.

Barton: This Bible was funded by about a dozen signers of the Constitution and signers of the Declaration as well as by President John Adams and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. They’re the guys that put up the financial backing to do this Bible.

Cameron: Funded by signers of the Declaration…

Barton: and Constitution

Cameron: and Constitution

Barton: yeah, Gunning Bedford, signer of the Constitution, John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, you had so many of the signers who were part of this, you had Alexander Hamilton helped fund this Bible.

Cameron: Because they wanted families to gather around the Bible…

Barton: They wanted the Word of God out to every family.

Cameron: Because they believed that would make for a better country.

Barton: Makes for a better country, makes for a better faith. And again, this is a product of our atheist, agnostic, deist Founding Fathers, or at least, that’s who we’re been told they were today, When you see this stuff, you go wait a minute. These guys…why would any atheist, agnostic, or deist promote the Word of God, fund it and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America? Why would they fund a Bible that you can take and give out to your neighbors, and evangelize them, it doesn’t make sense. Now, on the other hand, if these guys happened to be Christians, that makes a lot of sense.

And Throckmorton did some research and found out which exact Bible he was talking about, though at the time he couldn’t be certain that he had the right one. And it turns out, to no one’s surprise, that the claim that Jefferson and other founders “funded” the publication of that Bible because they “wanted the word of God out to every family” is absolute nonsense.

The only Bible of that size published in 1798 that I can locate is the Thompson Hot Press Bible. At the time, it was the largest Bible printed in the new nation and it was the first hot press Bible published. The ink and type were heated and then seared — hot pressed — onto the page, making a very clean impression.

The 1798 Bible was issued originally in 40 sections starting in June 1796 at half a dollar a number. One of the sources I consulted indicated that Thomas Jefferson paid $5 in February of 1798 as a payment on a subscription of $20 for a hot press Bible. Jefferson’s name is listed among the subscribers.

Buying a Bible by subscription was common then and was a way to provide the printer with some idea of how many copies to print. An analogy today might be to think of a magazine subscription is a purchase of a year’s volume of issues. You are committing to pay one price but might pay in payments instead…

Barton says the Bible was “funded by about a dozen signers…” However, the 1798 hot press Bible had, by my count (I have the two page subscriber’s list), 1272 subscribers. Some of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution were on that list, but they were subscribers just like the other 1200+ people who paid their subscription money to get the entire Bible. Barton’s narrative makes it seem as though the signers mentioned (e.g., Adams, Jefferson, Bedford, Dickinson, etc.) put up money over and above the price of a personal copy in order for the printer to distribute them to others. That is not what happened with the 1798 hot press Bible.

And now that Barton’s book is out, Throckmorton notes that Barton confirms that this was the very Bible he was talking about. He is now working on an e-book called Getting Jefferson Right that will counter many of the false claims made about him, which will certainly be worth reading.

30 comments

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  1. 1
    duck1887

    just as Barton publishes a book called The Jefferson Lies

    Wow, so he admits it right in the title? Wouldn’t have expected that!

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    …Thompson Hot Press Bible…”

    That’s a sex position. If memory serves, “Bible” indicates it’s the variant where one or more of the people involved press their palms together.

    The ink and type were heated and then seared — hot pressed — onto the page, making a very clean impression.

    Yup. Definitely a sex position.

    And furthermore, {something the actual topic of this page}.

  3. 3
    John Hinkle

    What, are Cameron and Barton married? They’re finishing each other’s sentences for crying out loud.

  4. 4
    Dr X

    What, are Cameron and Barton married? They’re finishing each other’s sentences for crying out loud.

    I was thinking ventriloquist with his dummy.

  5. 5
    wscott

    So several of the founders participated in what amounts to a Kickstarter project to buy a bible for their own use. Truly we are a Christian Nation.

  6. 6
    mangopudding

    Modusoperandi

    I don’t know if this is the proper place to ask, but I want to know. Are you clergy, or just an ordinary slinger of bullshit?

  7. 7
    Johnny Vector

    Wow. Simultaneously hijacking and winning the thread. Well played, modusoperandi. Well played.

  8. 8
    jamessweet

    On a side note, this is one reason to avoid the “Jefferson was an atheist/agnostic/deist” canard. All of the Founding Fathers believed in a personal god, even though many (not all) of them were pretty irreligious by modern American political standards. When we say otherwise, it gives Barton more traction to get people to swallow lies like these.

    If you want to believe the Founding Fathers were Christians, and someone like me tells you Jefferson was an atheist, and Barton tells this lie, and then it is refuted by pointing out that Jefferson only bought a copy of this Bible and didn’t actually “fund” its printing in any meaningful sense, well, that still leaves you saying, “Okay, so maybe Barton distorted things, but still, Jefferson was totally down with organized Christianity!”

  9. 9
    Nepenthe

    Wait, does the fact that I own a Bible prove that I’m not an atheist? Shit.

  10. 10
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @Nepenthe:

    I own a copy of the Communist Manifesto. Guess I’m a Marxist. But wait! I also have a copy of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

    I’m all confused.

  11. 11
    dave

    jamessweet@8

    I agree that Jefferson was not an atheist, although I disagree with you that he believed in a personal god. My readings of him (as well as a few other founding fathers) suggest he believed in a very hands off, watchmaker-type, god.

    But whatever type of god Jefferson did or did not believe in, I have no idea what subscribing to a bible has to do with it. I am an avowed atheist, and have been for decades, but I own approx 5 bibles, a Book of Mormon, two Korans and several other holy texts.

  12. 12
    David Hart

    You had me excited there; I thought Barton had been caught out by a ghost that haunts a toaster.
    http://tmoliff.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/throckmorton-n.html

  13. 13
    dontpanic

    Dr X,

    I was thinking ventriloquist with his dummy.

    That can’t be true, both dummies were talking — where’s the ventriloquist?

  14. 14
    Ed Brayton

    dave writes:

    I agree that Jefferson was not an atheist, although I disagree with you that he believed in a personal god. My readings of him (as well as a few other founding fathers) suggest he believed in a very hands off, watchmaker-type, god.

    Not sure what you’re reading, but jamessweet is right. In Notes on Virginia, for example, he famously noted that he feared the justice of God in response to slavery.

  15. 15
    slc1

    Re Jamessweet @ #8

    Actually, Jefferson believed in an intervening god but not the Christian god. Despite the claims of Mr. Michael Heath, Jefferson was a non-Christian theist who rejected all the supernatural tenants of the faith. To wit, he rejected the Virgin Birth, the Divinity of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Resurrection, and the miracle tales of the Scriptures. His view of Yeshua was much closer to the Muslim view then to the Christian view.

  16. 16
    bachalon

    Books are still funded by subscription. Copies paid for that way are usually exceptional printings.

    That said let me see if I have this right: some of the more notable founding fathers (by no means even a majority of them) bought what could be considered a semi-historic book (first hot press bible), to which those involved paid a good amount at the time but were among over a thousand others to do so. Considering that these men debated things like religion, a good quality bible might be something one might want around.

    And this is supposed to prove that they were Christians of a sort whose context is very modern?

    I’m confused.

  17. 17
    yoav

    Chris Rodda had a video about the same segment last week.

  18. 18
    Michael Heath

    slc1 writes:

    Despite the claims of Mr. Michael Heath, Jefferson was a non-Christian theist

    Actually slc1, your beef is with Mr. Jefferson, not with me. I merely concede Mr. Jefferson’s neither an idiot or lying when he claimed he’s a Christian with beliefs similar and equivalent to millions of other Christians.

  19. 19
    dharleyman

    I was thinking ventriloquist with his dummy.

    So which one had his hand up the other one’s ass?

  20. 20
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #18

    Our distinguished host is also on record as describing Jefferson as a non-Christian theistic rationalist. Heath is outnumbered.

  21. 21
    Michael Heath

    slc1:

    Our distinguished host is also on record as describing Jefferson as a non-Christian theistic rationalist.

    As I’ve repeatedly pointed out to you, one can be both a Christian and a theistic rationalist, no different than some Christians being biblical inerrantists, or not. The two descriptors are not only not mutually exclusive, we can describe several of the framers as both Christians and theistic rationalists, including Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin.

    And please, find a citation where Ed supposedly claims that Jefferson was not a Christian because he was a theistic rationalist. I’m extremely skeptical he shares your ignorance on this topic.

  22. 22
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #21

    Just for the information of Heath, Adams was a Unitarian. If Mr. Brayton believes that I have misstated his position relative to Jefferson, I am quite sure he will show up and set me straight.

    As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, Jefferson’s rejection of the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Yeshua of Nazareth, the miracle stories in the scriptures, the Trinity, and the Resurrection disqualifies him as a believing Christian. Those tenants are the fundamental tenants of Christianity. In particular his rejection of the divinity of Yeshua as I have stated on numerous occasions, places him much closer to the position of Islam then it is to Christianity. I am afraid that Heath and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue, hopefully not disagreeably.

  23. 23
    Michael Heath

    slc1 writes:

    Just for the information of Heath, Adams was a Unitarian.

    I know; I’m a constant student of the founding and nothing I wrote contradicts your point. Many Unitarians were Christians, and many, like Adams were theistic rationalists.

    slc1 writes:

    If Mr. Brayton believes that I have misstated his position relative to Jefferson, I am quite sure he will show up and set me straight.

    I would not assume Ed reads all the comments in blog posts. You’re the guy who made the claim, provide the evidence. Like you I read Ed daily and given my ardent interest in Jefferson, would be very surprised to have missed Ed claiming that Jefferson was not a Christian because he was a theistic rationalist as you claim he did.

    slc1 writes:

    As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, Jefferson’s rejection of the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Yeshua of Nazareth, the miracle stories in the scriptures, the Trinity, and the Resurrection disqualifies him as a believing Christian.

    No it doesn’t; millions of Christians, past and present, share the beliefs of Jefferson. And your attempt to move the goal posts didn’t go unnoticed. I.e., millions of “believing” Christians believe Jesus had a unique relationship with God and provides a path to better understanding God, without assigning him with the attributes you ascribe here. They are Christians who merely differ on certain beliefs, where there is no authority who gets to decide who and who isn’t a Christian.

    slc1 writes:

    I am afraid that Heath and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue, hopefully not disagreeably.

    That should only occur if we both concede the sufficient set of facts necessary to push a particular opinion. Here you clearly don’t even understand the terms needed to debate this issue, where I’ve patiently tried to inform you where you keep denying the reality of what these terms actually mean. I suggest boning up rather than ignoring the facts I present you with to maintain a position which would have you flunking out of any class on this particular topic. Our understanding here is not equivalent; I enjoy our dialogues so please take this as friendly advice. But agreeing to disagree on this topic would be equivalent to Jerry Coyne agreeing to disagree with a YEC who clearly hasn’t sufficiently studied the subject of evolution to even weigh-in.

  24. 24
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #23

    Mr. Brayton’s comment relative to Jefferson occurred several years ago. Trying to find it now would be an exercise in futility. I distinctly remember, however, the exact wording of what he said and I believe my recollection to be accurate.

    I think that the problem here is the meaning of the word believer. It is quite apparent that Heath and I have a different understanding of what that word means. IMHO, someone who rejects what Jefferson is well known to have rejected is not a believer. He/she may attend Christian services and even take communion but in no way, shape, form, or regard can such an individual be considered a believer. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

  25. 25
    Michael Heath

    I emailed Ed the following:

    Hi Ed,

    Slc1 and I have had several debates in the comment thread of your blog about whether one can be a theistic rationalist and a Christian. He claims not, I claim there are, including several of the framers. An illustrative example we both use is Thomas Jefferson, where slc1 claims the following is your position where I quote slc1 below:

    Our distinguished host is also on record as describing Jefferson as a non-Christian theistic rationalist. Heath is outnumbered.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/03/29/throckmorton-catches-new-barton-lie/#comment-84511

    Your position on this point would be appreciated.

  26. 26
    Michael Heath

    slc1:

    Despite the claims of Mr. Michael Heath, Jefferson was a non-Christian theist . . .

    Thomas Jefferson in his own words in a 1803 letter to Benjamin Rush:

    I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Jesus] wished any one 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.

    And as repeatedly noted by me ad nauseum, just because Jefferson isn’t an orthodox Christian doesn’t make him a non-Christian. There have been, and continue to be, millions of Christians who hold non-orthodox beliefs.

  27. 27
    Ed Brayton

    On the question of whether one can be a theistic rationalist and a Christian at the same time, it depends very much on how you define “Christian.” Who decides who can and can’t be a Christian? What is the criteria? What must one believe and still be a Christian? If you define it broadly enough, then it’s possible. Now I tend to be someone who defines Christianity pretty broadly, but I do think there is one thing that one must believe in order to reasonably be called a Christian — you must believe that Jesus was the son of God. That, in my view, is the touchstone of Christianity; absent that, Jesus is not an object of veneration but merely a guy with a bunch of ideas. Since Jefferson explicitly rejected the divinity of Jesus — indeed, rejected the very idea that he had ever claimed divinity at all — I would say that I do not consider him to have been a Christian. He viewed Jesus as no different than Epicurus (he also declared himself to be an Epicurian) or any other thinker whose ideas he agreed with in some matters, and that does not a religion make. I think Jesus was right about some things too, but that hardly makes me a Christian.

    By the way, it is never safe to assume that I will see a comment and respond to it. Quite frankly, I probably only read 10% of the comments that are left here; I’m just too busy to see them all. That is especially true when I’m traveling and speaking at events, as I have been for the last 11 days. I only saw this because Mike Heath emailed me about it.

  28. 28
    Michael Heath

    So Ed, what we do call the millions of self-identified Christians who are members of Christian denominations, worship God, and who claim to be Christians because Jesus’ teachings is their avenue to a relationship with an intervening god? For example, the millions of people in the mainline denominations who either don’t agree with their churches dogma on the divinity of Christ, for example retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong who promotes Christianity with a set of beliefs similar equivalent to Jefferson’s. Or all the Congregationalists, liberal Mennonites, and Quakers who perceive themselves as Christians worshipping God in a Christian church which don’t accept the divinity of Jesus but instead are theistic universalists who perceive Jesus as special envoy from God to address a particular cultural subset of humanity?

    And for the record Slc1, I did an exhaustive review of Ed’s previous blog and found zero evidence of Ed claiming that Jefferson wasn’t a Christian: http://goo.gl/zxxkj .

    Ed, was Jefferson lying when he claimed he was a Christian? Or was he simply mistaken? Under what authority can we claim he was mistaken?

    Ed, I think this is the weakest argument I’ve seen you put forth. I’d love to see you consider this point further and publish a blog post on the subject to see if your argument here can withstand scrutiny. I don’t think it can.

  29. 29
    Michael Heath

    Me previously:

    Ed, I think this [Jefferson's not a Christian in spite him self-identifying as one] is the weakest argument I’ve seen you put forth.

    I take that back, I think it’s the second weakest. I think your claim the current presidency is , “a disaster“, is less defensible.

  30. 30
    Michael Heath

    I wrote earlier to Ed:

    I take that back, I think it’s the second weakest [argument, that Jefferson wasn't a Christian in spite of him self-identifying as one equivalent to millions of other Christians]. I think your claim the current presidency is, “a disaster“, is less defensible.

    About a year ago you responded to one of my comment posts where you nicely concluded my post was so moronic it wasn’t characteristic of me. After re-reading my post I concluded my post was idiotic enough I deserved a far less classy response. I had really bad flu symptoms that day and decided perhaps I should turn on TV Land and watch Andy Griffith and Opie and lay off the commenting.

    I now see from your lastest post today you’ve been busy this weekend at the Rock Beyond Belief event, which I knew was coming up but didn’t know was this weekend.

    My I suggest re-visiting the, ‘Jefferson a Christian?’ topic in a blog post after you’ve had some time to re-energize, reflect, and put up a defensible post which considers the millions of practicing Christians you claim really aren’t but instead something else which goes unnamed by you or them (them since they identify as Christians).

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