Founders’ Bible Rewrites Exodus 18 to Fit Christian Nation Narrative

Yesterday, I wrote about the disturbing inclusion of racist and pro-slavery James Hammond in an article to accompanying The Founders’ Bible.  Although not as distressing as the Hammond article, there are other problems with articles in the Bible that have come up before. Today, I want to note just one of them – the rewriting of Exodus 18.

If John E. Peterson’s rendering is accurate (this link has been disabled, here is the Google cache), then here is one thing the Founders’ Bible says about Exodus 18 and Israel’s history.

For citizens in that era, a monarchy was the standard for government. And why not? After all, kings were featured prominently throughout the Scriptures: King Saul, King David, King Solomon, King Rehoboam, King Josiah, King Jehoshaphat, etc. So it was easy for citizens to assume that God preferred monarchies, but a closer study of the Bible indicated that this was definitely not God’s preference. In fact, God even sent the prophet Samuel to dissuade His people from monarchies (1 Samuel 8:10-18), but Israel demanded kings anyway.

So what was Israel’s form of government before it degenerated into a monarchy? It was what may be termed a “republic.” In Exodus 18:21, the people were told to choose out from among themselves leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands – that is, to select officials at what we could call the local, county, state, and federal levels. Understanding this original form of governance, the early colonists who arrived in America (and who were students of the Geneva Bible) therefore established representative governments.

It is amazing to me that this commentary will be offered in the same book as the text of Exodus. All one has to do is go read Exodus 18 to see that Barton (or some other writer – apparently publisher Brad Cummings is also involved) altered the narrative.

Here is the relevant portions of Exodus 18:

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

About Exodus 18:21, the Founders Bible says:

In Exodus 18:21, the people were told to choose out from among themselves leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands – that is, to select officials at what we could call the local, county, state, and federal levels.

However, reading Exodus 18, it is clear that the people were not told to choose, Moses was given that instruction. Exodus 18:25 is clear that Moses chose the leaders and they functioned as judges. Moses was a kind of supreme court with the power and responsibility to decide difficult cases.

This narrative would not be complete without the Founders’ Bible offering some kind of history lesson. The Founders’ Bible then has the colonists establishing representative governments in America because they read it in the commentary on the Geneva Bible.

I checked a reproduction of the Geneva Bible, easily available on Google, and didn’t find any commentary on Exodus 18 that would convince a reader that God meant for people to vote for their leaders or even represent them. The text is the same: Moses chose leaders to help him judge (not represent) the people and their disputes.

While this is only one instance, I think it nicely illustrates the mischief of this publication. Even with the actual text of the Bible in the same volume, the authors of the article changed the biblical narrative. The power of the preferred narrative (colonists were following a biblical example in forming representative governments) was greater than the actual text. This makes me wonder what else has been changed.

 

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  • Villabolo

    Israel was a land of chiefdoms before the monarchy.

    I fear that in a post-civil war America, these people will actually confiscate Bibles from public libraries and replace them with their Orwellian counterfeit bibles. There will be a gradual destruction of privately owned bibles that will perhaps take 2 generations to accomplish.

    ‘Christians’ counterfeiting their own Bibles – we truly live in interesting times.

  • Hartmut

    Villabolo, nothing new there. St.Hieronymus, who translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgata, still the official Catholic Bible) also changed biblical texts that did not fit his own ideology. In some cases he even updated his own changes when he later found them lacking. He was also not above deliberately misquoting the Bible in his theological works for the same reasons. He had of course the advantage that source-checking at his time was far more difficult, so he was unlikely to get caught.

  • Jeff Baker

    I remember hearing about “The Wicked Bible” which was misprinted centuries ago reading “thou shalt commit adultery.” Most copies were destroyed, one is in a museum. I wonder if some of what’s in the Bible was put in by error or by someone like Hammond or David Barton.

  • Craig Denison

    It is ironic that David Barton unfairly and untruthfully criticizes historians for not consulting original documents, since he relies upon his audience not checking his claims.

  • http://americancreation.blogspot.com/ Tom Van Dyke

    Well, Warren, the Biblical “republic” argument is weak, but Thomas “the Deist” Paine makes the same Biblical argument against monarchy in “Common Sense.” [Per Judges 8, the first book of Samuel.]

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/04/thomas-paines-common-sense-as-heard-by.html

    “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, give us a King to judge us; and Samuel prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord said unto Samuel, hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee, for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM.”

    The CAPS are Paine’s.

    ;-)

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  • David29073

    Oh Fun! What’s next, Barton will have a direct phone line to Jesus??

    In the Poem, John Brown’s Body, there is, in the beginning, a sea captain who is aboard a slave ship. He is reading the Bible, and he is able to justify slavery using quotes from the Bible.

    Wonder if Barton is going to try and do the same thing to bring back slavery and make sure President Obama is demoted to 2/3 of a person, as per the Constitution?? Just Wondering??

  • Dan

    This is pretty funny. Ex. 18 is describing nothing more than a process by which a dictator delegates some power to trusted associates. It is no different than what Bashar Assad does or what Saddam Hussein did. This apparently is what democracy means.

    Further, assuming that the author’s “interpretation” were true, It is also noteworthy that nowhere does Yahweh ever object to Israel’s refusal to become a democratic republic. He kills 70,000 people because David initiates a census, but He has nothing to say about this act of wholesale defiance nor does he inflict any of his patented lethal punishments.

    Nor does He in any other of the 8,000 verses in the Bible ever just come out and say that democracy is good and dictatorship is bad. God forbid that God should ever speak clearly, plainly, and without self-contradiction about any serious moral issue other than boiling a baby goat in its mother’s milk. Democracy vs. dictatorship – just one more of the great moral questions of human civilization on which the Bible and Yahweh got it completely wrong.

  • Al

    Dan (aka Adam) you are spiritually dead and thush blind. If you actually and honestly (could) ecxamine yourself and know yourself, and were also ABLE to know God spiritually… things would be clear to you. Your refelctions lack contrast …all blurred images. But hey… you are dead and can’t help but not see.

  • Troy

    Bit of a potential contradiction in Deut 1:13: this hints that Moses allowed the people to chose their leaders.

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  • Terry1791

    Warren Throckmorton

    A College Psychology Professor’s Observations:

    is a Progressive… Believes in progressivism…

    which is staunchly against Christianity in our Founding Fathers Lives.

    So in short… Warren Throckmorton’s paradigm is tainted from the start, so

    he is unqualified and is unable to give an unbiased assessment.

    That’s the equivalent of putting a fox in the hen house to guard the hens.

    I believe the odds are NOT in the hens favor.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Terry1791 – Do you know me?

    I don’t care whether the founders were orthodox or not. Some were, some weren’t. All I care about is the facts. What do you care about?

    On point, can you actually find a problem in what I wrote or are you biased against the facts?

  • Boo

    Warren, surely you realize by now that facts are a tainted paradigm.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Odd, almost, that Barton would advocate for a representative government.

    Surely a theocracy of a God appointed judge (like Moses) who designated other judges – men who fear God – to settle disputes would be his dream form of government.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Dan

    God does not use the Bible as a ‘megaphone’; if that is what he had wanted, he would not have been so daft as to leave it to a bunch of human beings to compile it!

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  • http://www.ConservativeRendezvous.Podbean.com Clint Hagemeier

    Wow. Its been a while since I read such an intense collection of bias and ignorance all in on bitchfest. Right out of the gate your blog dripped with contempt and venom so much that it was blatantly obvious that it would never have been possible for you to have given an accurate and objective review of the work in the first place.

    I can only imagine that you are comparing the Founders Bible verses to that of the 1611 King James Bible which it, itself, was the erroneous translation out of the original manuscripts.

    I am sure this damning response that disproves your entire progressive agenda-based attack wont be allowed on this site, or will be deleted upon reading, as the leftist agendas never can stand fact, scrutiny and the light of truth.

    Must be really infuriating to also know that the democrats are being run out of government starting in 2010 and culminating in a near-finished job in November.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Clint – Did you read the post?

    The version in the post is not the KJV, it is the NIV. However, look at the NASB which is what the Founders Bible is. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus%2018&version=NASB. There is no difference. Barton’s Founders’ Bible cites Exodus 18 at odds with the text, whether the text is the NASB, Geneva Bible, or whatever version you look at.

    RE: Venom, etc. I will let other readers decide whose contribution begins with venom. You certainly did not approach this post with an open mind.

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  • ken

    Clint Hagemeier says:

    October 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

    “it would never have been possible for you to have given an accurate and objective review of the work in the first place.”

    And do you have any evidence that Warren’s post was inaccurate? Can you show where Warren was wrong or misleading in his analysis? Or do you just want to hurl insults and innuendo instead of reasoned arguments?

    “I am sure this damning response that disproves your entire progressive agenda-based attack wont be allowed on this site”

    Your response didn’t “disprove” anything. You just made accusations without any proof at all.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Clint

    Your comment is merely idle supposition. If you are going to say that someone is lying, you must present evidence to back up the claim.

    As for ‘allowing your comment’: well, I must point out that Warren is not one of those people who generally refuses to publish comments that he might not like. There are other blogs where this is much more likely to happen – Scott Lively’s for example.

  • Richard Willmer

    (Incidentally, Clint, I think you’ll find that several of those who visit this blog are in fact Republican voters, although they might conceivably be put off by the somewhat ‘extremist elements’ currently making rather a lot of noise in the GOP. I’m not a US citizen, so I cannot vote; I’ll confess that, if I could, I would vote for the President.)

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  • Dr. Henry Lewis

    MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING-It helps to know ALL the Bible (vs. little or none) and so”…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into ALL truth..” John 16:13

    In Deuteronomy Moses, the writer, comments on himself and indicates that although he did the appointing, it was the people who actually chose their own rulers.:

    (Deut 1:9) “And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: 10 The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. 11(The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) 12 How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? 13 TAKE YOU (you take) wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.

    Like I said, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING….but Thank You and God for making this discourse possible. We love you all. Dr. HL

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Henry – If there is much ado about nothing, then we can just say anything we want and forget any effort to figure out what the text actually says. I suppose most Christians do that anyway but at least you are honest about it.

      Barton wants us to believe that these verses mean that the people voted for their leaders and the leaders represented them in some kind of representative government. The “rulers” weren’t rulers, they were judges who help decide disputes. Whereas some people may have made recommendations for judges, Moses did the appointing. How about we do the upcoming election that way? We can vote but in the end Obama appoints the leaders. Much ado about nothing.

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  • Clint Hagemeier

    Richard Willmer,

    Just a brief remark… I didnt visit this blog directly, I found it through the Christian website crosswalk.org which I am stunned posts Throckmorton’s comments and narrative; regardless of his stated claims or beliefs, it takes but a brief reading of his comments to realize he is attacking truths and principals of this nation’s founding and I cant imagine why unless he is covertly attacking christianity.

    Reading many of the posts here reinforces my beliefs. So many attempt to rewrite history and it is, for a lack of a better term, silly, in this regard; just reading the federalist papers and the Declaration of Independence (the precursors to the Constitution itself) fully supports the fact that this nation was founded as a Godly nation with a Godly heritage. Just read the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

    How else does an honest, reasonable person We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”?

    By the way… Nations with 50, 60, or 70% of its inhabitants belonging to the muslim religion are quickly called “muslim nations”. The recent surveys taken in this country reveal 77-83% of it’s citizens claiming to be Christian. To claim after reading these facts that America is NOT a Christian nation cannot be taken seriously as anything other than being disingenuous.

    For those who claimed I proved nothing, and state no facts supporting my claims… There you go. Bon apetite. I also proved something else but that need not be reiterated. Its obvious to anybody who is not, at this point, intellectually dishonest.

  • Warren Throckmorton

    Clint: Why do the founding charter documents fail to mention Jesus Christ?

  • Clint Hagemeier

    Warren- whether or not the name of Christ Himself appears as does that of the Diety (as in, God, Providence, Creator, etc) in all the historical documents (Federalist Papers, Declaration of Independence, ratified Constitution of 1789) is of little matter when questioning the principals and motives of the founders and framers when you take two things into consideration; (1) There is extensive documentation wherein the founders such as Washington himself invoked the name of Christ (If you question this I will quickly provide proof), and (2) most importantly, the frequent quoting of biblical scripture by the founders gives testimony to their beliefs and motives since the Bible itself is the revelation of Truth found in Jesus Christ. It would be foolhardy to quote New Testament scripture and deny Christ.

    What would be the consequences if I were to constantly quote Mein Kampf as a source of inspiration, a text to base principals or values on, even if I omitted the name Adolf Hitler from all narrative? Could i then honestly say “But I am not a Nazi and I reject all its precepts”?

    “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” – George Washington

    “Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.”

    –Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

    P.S.- The NASB quote of Exodus 18:21 is verbatim accurate as printed in The Founders Bible, I do not see how you claim it has been rewritten. Both my hardcopy of the NASB and my ebook version show it to be word for word accurate.

  • Richard Willmer

    Clint

    The USA has never had a ‘state religion’ (unlike the UK, where I live – which, for now, still does: Christianity). In fact, while they obviously embraced ‘Christian principles’, those who founded the USA were scrupulous about NOT having a state religion. That much is quite clear.

  • Richard Willmer

    Let us consider a theological point for a moment. The Christian (as opposed to any other) Revelation of God begins with the Weakness of the Manger and finds its earthly conclusion in the Folly of the Cross. What was revealed then can never be ‘realized’ in our day through the use of power politics; in fact, it is the very antithesis of that. When we human beings try to ‘play at being God’ though attempts to impose a religion on a nation state, the results are invariably horrendous. It is like trying to mate a rabbit with a donkey: it has never worked in the past, and will never work in the future. Godly ends cannot be achieved by satanic means.

    Jesus himself was tempted to use political power to ‘bring in the kingdom’. He steadfastly resisted that temptation.

  • ken

    Clint Hagemeier says:

    December 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    “whether or not the name of Christ Himself appears as does that of the Diety (as in, God, Providence, Creator, etc) in all the historical documents is of little matter when questioning the principals and motives of the founders”

    Actually, it makes a big difference. Simply because many ( but not all) of the founders were christian, does not mean they intended for the US to be a “christian nation”. Or that christianity should be given special consideration. And the fact that these founders never specifically reference christianity (or christ) in the constitution or other founding documents highlights this fact.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ ken

    Yes, I certainly think that there was no intention on the part of the Founding Fathers to set up some kind of theocracy. Rather the reverse, I suspect: many of their forebears had left ‘theocratic Europe’ precisely in order to get away from that sort of thing.

    I’m curious about Clint’s suggestion that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is somehow specifically ‘Christian’. Such a notion does seem to me not fit well with what Christ himself says in Matt. 16:24 and other places.

  • Jon Rowe

    “(1) There is extensive documentation wherein the founders such as Washington himself invoked the name of Christ (If you question this I will quickly provide proof), …”

    No there isn’t. In all the 20,000 pages of GW’s officially recorded words (in public addresses and private letters), the words “Jesus Christ” were recorded coming out of GW’s mouth only ONCE in an address to Delaware Indians. The address was written by an aide to GW, but was signed by him.

  • Jon Rowe

    “Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.”

    –Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

    Warren, I seem to remember, has dealt with this quotation before. I seriously doubt Mr. Hagemeier understands the context. It’s actually a radically heterodox sentiment and refers to a theological system that I seriously doubt Hagemeier even would consider “Christianity.”

  • Jon Rowe

    “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” – George Washington

    In virtually all of Washington’s quotations “talking up” Christianity, it is invariably in the context of equating Christianity with character of being a “good person.” GW believed that “religion” in a general sense (not Christianity in particular) provided republics with the morality indefensible for self government.

    GW isn’t saying this is a Christian Nation or that Christ is the only way to God. He never said anything of the sort because he didn’t believe it. George Washington valued Christianity because Christianity is a religion and GW valued “religion.”

  • Jon Rowe

    LOL. I meant “indispensable,” not “indefensible.”

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  • Patrocles

    I suspect that the Puritans really believed that their democratic-republican system was adequate to Go’s will – so we perhaps ought to look how the Puritans interpreted Mose.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    True, and the scriptural argument that the Bible is against monarchy [per the First Book of Samuel and the disaster of Saul as King*] rather than a God-guided system [the judges] is valid.

    That Israel’s government was a democratic republic, not so much.

    *”And he will take your fields and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shell have chosen, AND THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN THAT DAY.”—1Sam8