Bill Federer: Robin to David Barton’s Batman

The Worldnetdaily recently started featuring a column by Bill Federer, another fake historian in the David Barton mold. Like Barton, he has no training in history. And like Barton, he likes to lie a lot. His latest column, claiming that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian, is a perfect example. The dishonesty is done mostly through out of context quotes.

Jefferson wrote to William Canby, Sept. 18, 1813: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.”

Jefferson wrote to Jared Sparks, Nov. 4, 1820: “I hold the precepts of Jesus as delivered by Himself, to be the most pure, benevolent and sublime which have ever been preached to man.”

Jefferson wrote to Joseph Priestly of Jesus, April 9, 1803: “His system of morality was the most benevolent and sublime probably that has been ever taught, and consequently more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers.”

Jefferson wrote to John Adams, July 5, 1814: “The doctrines that flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child.”…

Vocalizing his sentiments, Jefferson wrote to Henry Fry, June 17, 1804: “I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented.”

In 1813, Jefferson wrote to John Adams: “In extracting the pure principles which Jesus taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled … there will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

On April 21, 1803, Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration: “My views … are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others…”

Let’s just take that last quote. Notice the ellipses, which cuts out the rest of that sentence. Here’s the full sentence:

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.

That’s kind of an important thing to leave out, don’t you think? The fact that Jefferson did not believe Jesus to be divine but merely a great human ethical thinker. In fact, not only did Jefferson not believe that Jesus was the son of God, he argued that Jesus had never claimed to be the son of God and that the gospel writers lied to say that he did (thus the the statement above that he “never claimed any other” but human excellence). He also rejected the rest of the New Testament written by Paul. From a letter to William Short in 1820:

“Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence: and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of his doctrines led me to try to sift them apart.”

During my debate with Tim Schmig in November, the first question I asked during cross examination was this: If you met someone today and they described their beliefs this way: They believed in a god; they believed that Jesus was only a man and that he had never claimed to be the son of God; that the trinity was absolutely ridiculous; that the virgin birth, the resurrection and the atonement were all false; that the gospel writers and Paul were all liars and distorters of what Jesus actually believed; that the God of the Old Testament was cruel, capricious, vindictive and unjust; Would you consider that person to be a Christian?

The answer is obviously no. None of the Christian nation apologists today would consider that person to be a Christian. Yet Jefferson took all of those positions.

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  • colnago80

    Gee, commenter Michael Heath has insisted on numerous occasions that Jefferson was a Christian. He was, indeed, a cultural Christian and attended Episcopal Church services but in no way, shape, form, or regard was he a believing Christian for the reasons our distinguished host cites.

  • John Pieret

    as delivered by Himself … doctrines that flowed from the lips of Jesus himself … doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself … extracting the pure principles which Jesus taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled … To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself …

    Even the quotes Federer hasn’t tampered with are more than enough to show Jefferson wasn’t a “Christian” but an admirer of Jesus’ words … so much that he cut the words actually attributed to Jesus out and discarded the rest.

    Well, more than enough … if you are not a moron.

  • lofgren

    There is only on Batman and his name is Bruce Wayne.

    (There are however four Robins and none of them were named Damien.)