Over at American Creation, Jon Rowe offers a nuanced and balanced perspective on the content and context of the so-called “Jefferson Bible.” I will be receiving my copy of David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies soon and I look forward to reading it and posting about it here. (See today’s Anxious Bench post for my take on Jefferson’s religion). I found the stuff on the Stone-Campbell movement’s influence on Jefferson’s biblical hermeneutic to be a bit odd. Here is Rowe:
Also, strangley, Barton goes on about the Stone-Campbell movement as the hermeneutical key to understanding Jefferson’s creed. It’s true that movement of non-creedal, non-Trinitarian Christianity is closer to Jefferson than orthodox Christianity (they were biblical non-Trinitarians). But if we need “outside” sources to help supplement our understanding of what Jefferson believed, why not go to sources Jefferson claimed as mentors? He didn’t claim Stone-Campbell but rather Joseph Priestley and Conyers Middleton in his letter to John Adams, Aug. 22, 1813. Priestley, the most notable Socinian Unitarian of that era, rejected the Trinity. I’m not sure if Middleton did. But BOTH rejected the infalliblity of the Bible. Priestley termed the “plenary inspiration of Scripture” as one of Christianity’s “corruptions.” And Middleton made his own Bible before Jefferson did, cutting out that which he didn’t believe.
Was the Stone-Campbell movement anti-Trinitarian? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. (Both Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone may had dabbled in Unitarianism). I will have to ask my Messiah College colleague Richard Hughes, the foremost authority in the country on this movement.