Barton Lies About John Locke

It’s a day ending in Y, so let’s play another game of What is David Barton Lying About Today? *spins wheel* Today he’s lying about … drumroll please … John Locke. Warren Throckmorton catches him at it, as he so often does. Speaking at a conference in the Ukraine, he claimed that Locke quoted the Bible specifically about civil government 1500 times in his two treatises on government:

This man is named John Locke. He was a great lawgiver in history and he was also a theologian. He wrote this particular book on civil government in 1690. This has been used by nations across the world in building their governments. We actually own many of the original works by these lawgivers from four or five centuries ago.

Now if I were to ask us as ministers to name the Bible verses we can think of that address civil government, I would imagine that we could come up with 25 or 30 verses.

In this book here less than 3 cm thick, he lists over 500 biblical references to how civil government is to operate…. No, (interrupting the interpreter) 1500, 1500. I don’t know of a Christian today who could name 1500 Bible verses on how civil government’s to operate.

Throckmorton contacted an expert on Locke, who debunked this new lie:

Barton does not tell us the title of the book he holds up, but from his description it is impossible that it could be any book other than the Two Treatises of Government. However, his characterization of it is outrageous. Claiming that the Two Treatises “lists over 1,500 biblical references on how civil government is to operate” is not much more dishonest than claiming that the Bill of Rights protects 1,500 rights.

In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.

Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!

As usual, I’m sure Barton will completely ignore the fact that he’s been shown to be lying and will keep repeating the lie over and over again.

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  • colnago80

    Barton is a devoted follower of Josef Goebbels. If one is going to tell a lie, make it a big lie, tell it loudly, tell it ofter and eventually people will come to believe it.

  • eric

    anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.

    I don’t think you even need to read it to realize how wrong this sounds, just a superficial 5-second check will do. Look at the page count, flip through a few pages to check and see if there’s 10+ individual references to bible verses on an average page. No? Then its bunk.

  • felicis

    Are there even 1500 bible verses that mention government at all? The whole bible is between 30 and 35 thousand verses, so many of which are tedious genealogies… A quick google for lists doesn’t have any over 100 (and upon further inspection, some of those are really questionable, e.g. “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.'” Not exactly a ‘how-to’ guide.

  • Helge

    Since there are almost 1,000 verses in Proverbs, I guess it’s not entirely unbelievable that if you added the number of verses in Proverbs to the number of verses in those chapters, plus the 121 verses cited individually, you’d get a number over 1,500. It’s still dishonest, but it’s “lying for Jesus” dishonesty, where the liar can claim that they are telling the truth in some fashion.

    Much more important is the point that Locke was using Bible quotations to illustrate something entirely different from civil government.

  • eric

    @4: under that logic, if Locke cited ‘the Bible’ at any point then Barton could’ve said 30,000 verses. I suppose he didn’t do that only because it would trigger even the most naïve person’s bullshit alarm.

  • John Hinkle

    The purpose of the conference was to have international woomeisters address Ukrainian politicians and woomeisters about (re)building Ukraine’s government based on biblical principles. There were only 3 non-woomeisters there: 2 politicians and a poet. So this was more of a woomeister stroke-fest than anything that will matter in the slightest.

    I think the real main event came after the conference, at the table where Barton was signing books.

  • Helge

    @5, of course, but that’s how Liars for Jesus typically work.