Sunday, March 17, 2013

Every Believer Reads A Jefferson Bible

Have you heard of "The Jefferson Bible"? The retired president, Thomas Jefferson, one evening took a pair of scissors and began removing from the gospels text that did not reflect his view of the divine. Though he held the teachings of Jesus in high esteem, there were various portions of scripture that he could not abide.  In this way, he was living out the yet to be spoken words of Walt Whitman:
“Re-examine all that you have been told... dismiss that which insults your soul.”
Jefferson's purpose in taking the blade to his bible was stated this way by the historian Gaustad:
"The president did not produce his small book to shock or offend a somnolent world; he composed it for himself, for his devotion, for his assurance, for a more restful sleep at nights and a more confident greeting of the mornings."
It occurred to me years ago, while I was still a believer, that every faithful person makes their own Jefferson Bible. We may not actually pull out the scissors, but we are bringing certain scriptures to the forefront, while sidelining others. When I was young, and full of Hell, Fire, and Brimstone, I read and quoted scriptures about sin and the judgement of God. When I was older, I saw scriptures of grace, love, and peace.

In each case, I was creating my own personalized version of the scripture; neither being an honest representation of what was in the text. No scissors, but scripture was nonetheless on the cutting room floor.

When you become a believer, you are instructed with a "Jefferson Bible". If you are a Charasmatic, your instruction will focus on about 100 verses concerning health and prosperity. If you are liberal mainline, you will spend a lot of time with the minor prophets and the gospels. If you are a conservative evangelical, scripture will clearly speak to the saved and unsaved, the haves and the have nots.

Like a Rorschach test, the bible will reflect what is happening in your soul. The verses you cling to, study, and quote will say much more about you than they do about any deity.

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Wesley Ellis said...

This is true for everything (not just the Bible)... Every person has a "Jefferson" approach to their own experience. We are always interpreting... and whatever conclusions we draw will be conclusions which make sense to us, but no one's interpretation will be "an honest representation" of the whole of reality (though that does not mean that one has no grounds on which to critique the interpretations of others). Truth is no one's possession. This is part of human existence. The challenge, then, is to continue learning and exploring with openness an humility... realizing that truth is bigger than our perspective.

Andrew said...

Hear Hear!

Don said...

"The verses you cling to, study, and quote will say much more about you than they do about any deity."

I like it!!

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