What Do Thomas Jefferson And An Ancient Heretic Have In Common?
Thomas Jefferson’s bible was jacked up. In fact, it can hardly be called a Bible at all—hence the lowercase b in the first sentence. What was so messed up about his Bible? He took a knife to it and cut out all the Scriptures he didn’t like. Sounds a bit like a guy named Marcion (85-160 AD) who was also like a toddler with a pair scissors, an open Bible, and sleeping parents.
These men were fools. Yes, I said it. They decided that God wasn’t wise enough or sovereign enough to make sure the Bible was intact, so they took matters into their own hands. For Marcion, unhitching from the Old Testament wasn’t enough, he got rid of anything remotely related to God the Father’s just wrath toward sinners. He abandoned the gospel.
For Jefferson, Jesus was just a good guy with some good stories, pithy wisdom, and admirable life. Perhaps, he would’ve opted for a guy like Ghandi had he been around in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He couldn’t stomach the divine, miracle-working, rising from the dead, and exalted on the throne true Jesus. He just made up his own version and had his own Bible.
We Need To Be Careful
While most of us scoff at the idea of cutting up our Bibles and creating a Marcion or Jefferson bible, we need to be careful. When is the last time you read through Lamentations or Esther? Have you ever prayed through Habbakuk or Numbers? Do you ever listen to Leviticus sermons on Sermon Audio or Desiring God?
Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself often in the New Testament. Of course, I read the Old Testament too—Genesis to Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah mostly. That’s because I always try to start reading through the Bible systematically, then I drop off. I’ll dip and dodge through Psalms and Proverbs throughout the year and round off with Isaiah during Advent.
I say this half-jokingly, but I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t rando flip to the Minor Prophets or 2 Chronicles when I don’t have a Bible reading plan. Surely, I’m not the only guy who doesn’t flip to Ezekiel or Daniel at 5:15 AM in June when I decide to revamp my devotional life because Ilackluster Bible reading.
Anemia plagues many people, but I’ve most often heard about it with pregnant women and endurance athletes. It’s no joke. The body doesn’t have enough blood to transport oxygen throughout the muscles and tissues. It leaves people feeling like they were hit by a bus. The splitting headaches, spinning rooms, and weightiness of the body are beyond exhausting until help arrives.
When we fail (or refuse) to read certain sections of the Bible, we start to develop Biblical anemia. Instead of rich, soul-nourishing biblical theology, we opt for diet Bible reading, only skimming the surface or repeatedly reading our familiar and favorite passages. Many of us never get beyond a John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11 Christian walk. We don’t know what it is to meditate day and night like the blessed man in Psalm 1.
Biblical anemia leaves us weak and nearly defenseless in spiritual warfare, too. When Jesus waged war with Satan’s temptations, he didn’t quote John 3:16 or 2 Simon 17:5, “In the name of Jesus I rebuke you!”. There are times when John 3:16 is the right verse for the moment, but we there may also be times of suffering when we say to our souls, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14). We aren’t playing a game of Bible cherry picker, but a reminder of God’s faithfulness to Israel ought to prompt us to also trust in His faithfulness toward us.
One of my favorite childhood films was Men In Black. I always wondered what happened to the people whose memories were wiped clean by the Neuralyzer. Without a diverse appetite and diet of Scripture, we have the tendency to walk around as if we were hit by a spiritual Neuralyzer.
For some, a fascination and love for the Law of Moses causes gospel amnesia. The Judaizers in Galatia were guilty of this. They were so focused on law-keeping and circumcision that they lost sight of the true fulfillment of the law: love. Paul reminded them that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6). Even without a fascination with the Law, we can forget that we are saved by faith and not works.
For others, biblical amnesia shows up when we fail to take heed to the examples and exhortations of God in Scripture. The examples in Scripture are given as an example for us so we won’t stumble the way people have in the past. If we never read about Cain and Abel, we forget that anger can lead to murder. If we never read about David and Bathsheba, we may think we are exempt from falling into adultery due to lust. If we never read the stories in Hebrews’ Hall of Faith, we might lose hope.
We Have The Whole Loaf
The Word of God is like bread for our souls. In a culture that is starving to hear from God—but doesn’t know it—we can rejoice. We have the whole Bible. We have the full gospel. The mystery of Christ that was once concealed in the Old Testament is now revealed in the New Testament. We have it all!
Is God’s Word like honey to your tongue? Or do you view it like spinach soup that you have to slurp down and hope for the best? Our daily bread awaits our souls every single day and we have the whole loaf. Don’t shop at Marcion’s bakery or eat Jefferson’s stale loaf. Enjoy the warm and delightful bread of God’s Word.
Image source: Smithsonian Institute