Let’s Follow Jefferson’s Lead and Redact the Bible
Commentary by Nick Gier
Some Christians admit that there are stories in the Bible that are not appropriate for children. They do not, however, suggest ways to keep youth from reading these accounts of sexual violence and other atrocities.
I suggest that these passages be redacted just as Thomas Jefferson deleted parts of the New Testament. The result was the Jefferson Bible with the subtitle “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Jefferson took his scissors and cut out what he believed were the offending passages.
Our founders were people of The Enlightenment, sometimes called the Age of Reason. In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, Jefferson wrote that Carr should “shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God” (August 10, 1787).
Jefferson believed “weak minds” had been seduced by accounts of miracles, the deity of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Trinity. Jefferson insisted that he was a Christian (with far better church attendance than George Washington), because he believed that Jesus’ moral teachings were superior to any other ancient thinker.
For 31 years I taught a course in the philosophy of religion in which we take Jefferson’s advice and subject Christian doctrines to the scrutiny of reason. Drawing on the Greek philosopher Aristotle and Islamic thinkers, St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that Christ’s divinity and the Trinity were articles of faith not reason.
We have all seen redacted documents before, and my own FBI files (released under the Freedom of Information Act) from my Vietnam war protests are filled with blacked out passages. I propose that just as many Bibles have Jesus’ sayings in red, the offensive passages in the Old Testament would be blacked out.
Let’s start with the story of Lot who is sheltering two angels in Sodom (Genesis 19). Men surround Lot’s house, and they demand that he hand over his guests. They say that they want to “have sex with them.”
The men of Sodom are not homosexuals, just as our prison bullies are not. They both are engaging in “power rape.” The sin of Sodom is not “unnatural” sex, but it is the sin of brutal inhospitality. Jesus himself confirms this in Matthew 10: 5-15.
Lot resists their demands, and he offers his virgin daughters instead. The brutes refuse his offer and begin to attack the house. The angels secure the door and blind the Sodomites. They insist that Lot and his family leave the city before they destroy it.
Lot and his daughters find refuge in a cave where his daughters get him drunk and rape him. (Lot obviously did not give his consent.) Was this revenge for Lot offering them to the Sodomites?
In Judges 19-21 we read of the story of a Levite traveling with his concubine. As night approaches, they come into the town of Gibeah. An old man invites them to stay the night in his house.
Just as with the Sodomites, the men of Gibeah come out and demand that the Levite be brought out so that they could rape him. This was the men’s vicious way to humiliate a stranger. It is absurd to think that they were sexually attracted to him.
To appease the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, but the Levite sent out his woman instead. The men sexually abused her all night long. In the morning the Levite found her dead at the old man’s doorstep.
If that was not horrific enough, the Levite then cut her body into 12 parts and distributed them throughout Israel. It is significant to note that the Levites were Israel’s spiritual leaders. This one taking a concubine appears to be an abuse of high office.
I suggest that this story be covered in the blackest of black. I don’t care if I’m struck down for taking words away from scripture (Revelation 22:19). It’s much more important to shield our children from this biblical filth.
But wait, I have nothing to fear. Jefferson was spared, and so have editors who publish redacted children’s bibles.
Nick Gier lives in Moscow, Idaho. He holds a doctorate in philosophical theology from the Claremont Graduate University. His major professors were James M. Robinson, New Testament scholar and editor of the Gnostic Gospels, and John B. Cobb, the world’s foremost process theologian. He taught in the philosophy department at the University of Idaho for 31 years. He was coordinator of religious studies from 1980-2003. He has written five books and over 70 articles and book chapters. Read his articles on religion at nfgier.com/religion. He’s enjoyed two sabbaticals and one research leave in India for a total of 22 months in that country. He can be reached at email@example.com.