Bartonizing Jefferson


Dictionaries of the future will feature “bartonizing,” after Texas mathematics teacher David Barton, with a reference to “bowdlerization.” Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars details a recent flurry of correcting a Barton misapprehension of history about one of Thomas Jefferson’s studies of the gospels, which resulted in a book called The Jefferson Bible.

The issue is a strange claim by Barton, repeated by Dr. D. James Kennedy at Coral Gables Ministries, that Jefferson wrote the thing in an attempt to convert Indians to Christianity. Students of Jefferson immediately recognize that claim as contrary to Jefferson’s character on several fronts.

The discussion is enlightened and enlightening; I noted the similar claim that Jefferson built a church and hired a priest for the Kaskaskias (in Illinois), with federal funds, is similarly in error. The fight against revisionist history — revising history to add errors — continues.

(One current edition of the Jefferson Bible on sale at Monticello features a forward by Rev. F. Forrester Church, minister at senior minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City; that must frost Kennedy and Barton.)

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