David Barton, John Locke’s Two Treatises, and the Real Reason Thomas Nelson Pulled the Jefferson Lies

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

This post is inside baseball for those who are keeping up with the controversy surrounding David Barton’s history writing.

One of David Barton’s frequent claims is that John Locke referred to the Bible 1500 times in his Two Treatise on Government. He said this to a Ukrainian audience and claimed it again in his new edition of The Jefferson Lies. From the new edition:

And in his Two Treatises of Government (1689 – a work about the proper role of government that was openly praised by Jefferson and other Founders39), Locke invoked the Bible over 1,500 times.

Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1766-1768). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Barton’s footnote on this point reads:

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (London: Awnsham & Churchill, 1689), passim; the number of verses was documented by the author’s staff, in individually identifying and counting the Bible verses in this work.

Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 5811-5812). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In a previous post, I asked Locke scholar Greg Forster to evaluate this claim. Forster declared it to be completely false. In fact, Locke did not refer to the Bible 1500 separate times nor did he invoke 1500 Bible verses, as Barton sometimes claims. Apparently, Barton’ staff had to count all 900+ verses from the books of Proverbs to get to 1500. See this prior post for what it appears Barton had to do to get to the 1500 number. It should be clear that Barton’s claim is wildly inflated.

While this is one small fact claim, it is indicative of the real reason Thomas Nelson pulled The Jefferson Lies from publication. This same error was in the first edition as well. There are many such exaggerations and errors in The Jefferson Lies. Taken individually, many aren’t vital to the points Barton attempts to validate. However, taken together, they make the book unreliable.

 

 

 

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