Saturday, March 17, 2007

American Mashup - Bloodthirsty Republic

This will be, to my knowledge, the first blog post to contain both the phrase "Hebrew Republic" and the phrase "bloodthirsty race." As you will see, the terms are mutually exclusive.

Let's start at Positive Liberty, which quotes an article by Doug Phillips.

Jamestown also gave us our first experiment in republican representative government, a model that finds its origins in the Hebrew Republic of the Old Testament, and was formally adopted by the Founding Fathers of a later generation.

Jonathan Rowe of Positive Liberty responds.

While the US Constitution does say something about the common law, it says nothing about the “Christian” common law, (or God, Jesus or the Christian Religion itself, except perhaps in the customary way of stating the date), and Jefferson believed “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Further, the Hebrews didn’t have a “Republic.” Nor did our Founding Fathers think they were implementing a constitutional system that derived from the Old Testament Hebrews. I challenge someone to show me one place in the Declaration, Constitution or Federalist Papers where they claimed this.

Positive Liberty also refers to Samuel Langdon, an 18th century Congregational minister.

[U]pon the complaint of Moses that the burden of government was too heavy for him, God commanded him to bring seventy men, chosen from among the elders and officers, and present them at the tabernacle; and there he endued them with the same spirit which was in Moses, that they might bear the burden with him. Thus a senate was evidently constituted, as necessary for the future government of the nation, under a chief commander. And as to the choice of this senate, doubtless the people were consulted, who appear to have had a voice in all public affairs from time to time, the whole congregation being called together on all important occasions: the government therefore was a proper republic.

So the "Hebrew Republic" popularizers must therefore assume that Jefferson et al were influenced by the Old Testament when devising the American nation. We already know what Jefferson thought of the New Testament; what did he think of the People of the Book? The atheists are more than willing to answer.

"The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever more dangerous. Jesus had to work on the perilous confines of reason and religion; and a step to the right or left might place him within the grasp of the priests of the superstition, a bloodthirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore."

- Thomas Jefferson to Story, Aug. 4, 1820


The Knoxville Jewish Alliance elaborates.

While Jefferson advocated for the rights of Jews, he held aspects of Judaism in relatively low regard. In fairness, Jefferson opposed all religions based on divine revelation. He believed that God's existence could be proven by reason and common sense rather than faith.

After referencing the "bloodthirsty race" quote in reference to priests, the Alliance continues.

In 1787, Jefferson summed up his view of Jewish revelation in a letter to his nephew, warning him to be skeptical of "those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature." As one example, he cited the assertion in the Book of Joshua that the sun stood still for several hours. Since that would have meant, in scientific terms, that the earth stood still, Jefferson asked his nephew to consider how the earth, spinning on its axis, could have stopped suddenly and started rotating again without enormous destruction to natural and manmade structures. Similarly, the rationalist Jefferson doubted that God personally inscribed the Ten Commandments on a tablet that Moses later destroyed and then re-wrote.

It bothered Jefferson that the God of the ancient Hebrews was, in his words, "a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust." He could also not understand how Jews could believe that "the God of infinite justice" would "punish the sins of the fathers upon their children, unto the third and fourth generations." He agreed with the view expressed by John Adams that, in respect to God, "the principle of the Hebrew is fear."


To be fair, it's theoretically possible that Jefferson admired the system of government set up by Moses, and simply hated the supernatural elements. However, if Jefferson had based his governmental views on the Bible, wouldn't he have said so?

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