David Barton’s Founders’ Bible is Wrong about the Aitken Bible

David Barton is certainly consistent. In his Capitol Tour, in the movie Monumental and now in the Founders’ Bible, Barton claims that Congress printed the first English language translation of the Bible. Here is the claim from page xiii of the Founders’ Bible:

America’s commitment to the Bible was unwavering and was demonstrated in many ways, one of which was evident at the conclusion of the American Revolution. With the victory at the Battle of Yorktown, America was finally free from British policies, including the longstanding one against printing a Bible in English in America.

Consequently, in 1781, a plan was advanced in Congress to print America’s first English-language Bible. On September 12, 1782, the full Congress approved that Bible, and it soon began rolling off the presses. Printed in the front of the Bible is a congressional endorsement declaring, in part:

Resolved, that the United States in Congress assembled… recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States. (emphasis in the original)

This claim is so easily checked that it is amazing to me that Barton persists in saying that Congress printed it. The truth is that Robert Aitken approached Congress for an endorsement after he had printed the Bible himself at his own expense. A committee of Congress passed the Bible over to the chaplains who vouched for the accuracy of the work. Congress then recommended the Bible as an accurate version to the people.

Here again are the pages from the Journals of Congress dated September 12, 1782 which detail what Congress did with Mr. Aitken’s Bible.

Note on page 572 that the Bible was published by Aitken at “great expence” and on page 573 that Aitken printed the Bible at “evident risk to private fortune” (in fact, he lost money on the project). Congress did not initiate, fund, or print the Bible. Congress told Aitken he did a good job and supplied a commendation.

Aitken petitioned Congress (see this post for Aitken’s petition) for permission to publish his Bible under the authority of Congress. He also wanted to be the official Bible printer. However, Congress did not grant all of Aitken’s requests.

In his introduction to the Founders’ Bible, publisher Brad Cummings said that “we have become a nation that has a tale of two histories.” He is correct but sadly his study Bible perpetuates the situation and not in the direction of accuracy.

More on the Founders’ Bible:

Founders’ Bible Rewrites Exodus 18 to Fit Christian Nation Narrative

Confirmed: David Barton’s Founders’ Bible Cites Pro-Slavery James Hammond as Proponent of America as Christian Nation

David Barton’s Founders’ Bible: John Adams and the General Principles of Christianity

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  • photoshock

    This has to be one of the most offensive people around. David Barton continues to peddle his prevarications at an alarmingly high rate to people who won’t or can’t question his scholarship and his continuing lies. He is without doubt one of the dimmest bulbs in the light bar, he will not accede to the facts, will never change his mind, and refuses to speak the truth.

    Frankly the idea of fellow Christians listening to a known prevaricator makes me ill, it is not within the nature of a faith or the people who ascribe to that faith to hear someone who tickles their ears. David Barton will never change and this worries me as the people whom I used to call friends are now succumbing to a known prevaricator. What else can we do but to hold these people accountable and pray for the people listening to him? Is there anyone out there that has a suggestion as to what to do with all of this blatantly dishonest information? Please reply I would love to hear some worthwhile suggestions, so that I can keep from holding people like David Barton in such contempt.

  • Krista Vessell

    Really….not again…. I thought this was over and done with, but apparently old habits die hard with Barton! /facepalm

  • Lori Sanders

    If language means anything at all, David Barton didn’t say congress printed the Bible.

  • Johnny Cox

    It was for schools, and David Barton is right. Above is part of story, but not the whole story.

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=46

    David Barton acknowledges all the above but in more context.

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

      Johnny Cox – Where do the materials Barton provides say that the Congress printed the Bible for the use of schools?

      Robert Aitken promoted his requested by claiming the Bible would be a neat edition for the use of schools but Congress no where agrees with this or refers to it in doing what they did (which was refer it to the chaplains to read for accuracy). Since Barton’s claim is that Congress printed the Bible for the purpose of use in schools, the claim is false.

  • Johnny Cox

    Aitken wanted the Bible for school, then the chaplains of the congress gave him their approval “for all of it’s intended uses”. (Paraphrase, not rereading whole thing again, but its in there.)

    Also the reprint says so,which shows that was their interpretation of the original print.

    Besides, we ALL KNOW the Bible was used in schools. The readers, and the board that they held, used Bible verses. A.so most schools were also in the churches of many small towns.

    Come on, just watch Little House on the Prairie :)

  • Warren

    Johnny: Now I get it, you are referring to a parallel universe where Little House on the Prairie is reality. :)

    That must be it because Congress does not say “for all it’s intended uses.” Where are you getting that?

    Any printing of the Bible means nothing about Congress wanted since Congress did not print any edition of the Bible.

    Bottom line is that David Barton said something plainly that is not true and obscures what really happened and you appear to want to live in that world.

  • Johnny Cox

    Okay, I see what’s happening here. I am conflating printing and recommendation. You are saying, tax payer money did not go into making this Bible, therefore they did not print it. Aitken paid for it. YOU ARE CORRECT.

    On the flip side, the reason why Barton said Congress printed that Bible is because it was recommended by the chaplins of the congress and they said he could their print their recommendations in it. Congress at that time though (unlike today) would not have considered to use tax payer for such an endeavor. All things of this nature, would have been outsourced.

    Barton though does have, “Recommend by Congress” is printed in the Bible and not “Printed by Congress” on his website.

    What I’m trying to say is, even though it is printed by a private individual, having the congressional recommendation is just as good as if they did print it (though they didn’t).

    I will concede though, that it would be more clear to just say recommended in all instances instead of printed (though congress knew where it was going, to schools etc).

  • Wayne

    First let me just say, that I would trust the word of David Barton over anyone when it comes to founding documents, the Bible, and any of his interpretations of said readings. You have to study a lot of history, before you get to where he is in his vast knowledge of the founding of this country. Many of you are taking one or two little sentences from his text and attempting to fit your misguided study of history into it. You also think schools in America were originally built to teach people reading, writing and arithmetic, but in reality they were instituted to teach people how to read the Bible and to learn about life through God’s holy word (which by the way is still very much applicable today). So how about doing some research and study original documents and step out of your sound byte world.

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

      Wayne – First, you should trust your own reading of the primary sources. I have them in this post and then in this one (click the link).

      Second, what other original documents would you have me read? I have the original petition by Aitken and everything Congress said about the situation. What else is there to read?

      The fact is that Mr. Barton said something about the Aitken Bible that is not true – He said Congress printed the Aitken Bible (click here for what Barton told his Capitol tour) and they did not do so.

  • ken

    Johnny Cox says:

    January 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    “What I’m trying to say is, even though it is printed by a private individual, having the congressional recommendation is just as good as if they did print it (though they didn’t). ”

    No it is not, because Barton is distorting the facts about how that recommendation came about and why congress gave the recommendation. Baron makes it seem like congress came up with the idea that there should be an officially recommended bible; that congress thought christianity should be taught in schools. He ignores other possible reasons for congress to recommend the book (ex. they simply wanted to help promote american business). There is no evidence congress wouldn’t have done the same thing if Aitken had requested a congressional approval of an all-american cookbook (except they would have had a few congressional wives check it out rather than the chaplains).

  • Warren

    Johnny – The point of my posts is not to minimize the fact that Congress supported the efforts of Aitken; they supported many efforts at many endeavors which were designed to help the new nation break free from Britain economically and in every other way. Having a Bible printed in the US was of interest for many reasons. However, I can’t agree that a recommendation is as good as or the same as printing or publishing a Bible. The level of interest and endorsement and the implications for public policy are quite different.

    Another important point here is that one cannot trust that Barton’s narratives provide a window into the truth of historical events. The implications of what Barton says would be quite a distance from what the implication based on what actually happened. You have to ask yourself, why would someone who knows better knowingly distort what actually happened?

    I am putting up a new post today which addresses what Aitken wanted Congress to do and the implication of what Congress actually did.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren
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  • Edward C Tracey

    I think we are talking semantics. The points here are taken. Let us also add that Congress did pass a resolution to affirm this as the Bible they recommended to be used and agree. David Barton has brought the nation to an awareness that over 150 years ago was second nature. He deserves praise for what bringing an interest back to our nation in the truth about our nations Christian foundations that the socialist and atheist have worked hard since after Marxism started 150 years ago. God bless David Barton, Bill Federer, and all those who are dedicated to preserving our nations Christian Heritage. All lawyers should be forced to take a course from these men before they take the bar exam.

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

      No need to add anything Edward, that information was in my post.

      Lawyers already know how to stretch the truth into something unrecognizable, they need no further help from Mr. Barton.


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