Earlier I made a blog references to Thomas Jefferson’s desire to extract the pure principles Jesus taught. He wrote to John Adams in 1813:
“We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.”
Now, ‘amphibologisms’ was a word I needed to look up. Rooted in ‘amphibology’, it is defined as: “A piece of language whose grammatical construction makes the meaning ambiguous, as in She could see the girl with her binoculars.“
As with most of us, Jefferson felt portions of the New Testament to be ambiguous -- just as the example sentence is open to interpretation as to which girl held the binoculars. Differing interpretations continue to divide our Lord’s church.
I haven’t read The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which some people refer to as “The Jefferson Bible,” but I’ve read a great deal of material about it. It appeals to many people. There have been, and continue to be, many comments on it and its author.
Erik Reece, in a Harper’s article, describes himself as a “lapsed son of a Baptist preacher.” The article includes comments on Jefferson’s publication, and includes a provocative sentence: “Which leads, as Jefferson must have suspected, to this unfortunate conclusion: the relevance of Christianity to most Americans—then and now—has far more to do with the promise of eternal salvation from this world than with any desire to practice the teachings of Jesus while we are here.”
Which goes back to an absolute truth – Christians should be living the commandments of our Lord. And, His commandments should not be written only in our hearts, but should be lived, daily. Don’t stop at the few verses included in devotionals. Unlike Jefferson, take the Bible, read and heed it all.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (John 12:46-50 KJV)
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35 KJV)