HOME
The Info List - Jefferson Bible


--- Advertisement ---



The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible, refers to one of two religious works constructed by Thomas Jefferson. The first, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1804, but no copies exist today.[1] The second, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1820 by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson's condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection
Resurrection
and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.[2][3][4][5]

Contents

1 Early draft 2 Content 3 Purpose 4 Publication history 5 Recent history 6 Editions in print 7 See also 8 References 9 External links

Early draft[edit] In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson stated that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the "Christian System" in a conversation with Dr. Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the "deism and ethics of the Jews", and concluding with the "principles of a pure deism" taught by Jesus, "omitting the question of his deity". Jefferson explains that he does not have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish it.[6] Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, the predecessor to The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.[7] He described it in a letter to John Adams
John Adams
dated October 13, 1813:

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics
Gnostics
and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. 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. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.[6]

Jefferson wrote that “The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus Himself are within the comprehension of a child[8]”. He explained these doctrines were such as were "professed & acted on by the unlettered apostles, the Apostolic fathers, and the Christians of the 1st century[6]". In a letter to Reverend Charles Clay, he described his results:

Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order; and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man[9]".

Jefferson never referred to his work as a Bible, and the full title of this 1804 version was The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, being Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgement of the New Testament
New Testament
for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrased [uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.[10] Jefferson frequently expressed discontent with this earlier version. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth represents the fulfillment of his desire to produce a more carefully assembled edition. Content[edit] Using a razor and glue, Jefferson cut and pasted his arrangement of selected verses from the King James Version[11] of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order—putting together excerpts from one text with those of another to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected, and of the order he chose in his Table of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement. Consistent with his naturalistic outlook and intent, most supernatural events are not included in Jefferson's heavily edited compilation. Paul K. Conkin states that "For the teachings of Jesus he concentrated on his milder admonitions (the Sermon on the Mount) and his most memorable parables. What resulted is a reasonably coherent, but at places oddly truncated, biography. If necessary to exclude the miraculous, Jefferson would cut the text even in mid-verse."[12] Historian Edwin Scott Gaustad explains, "If a moral lesson was embedded in a miracle, the lesson survived in Jeffersonian scripture, but the miracle did not. Even when this took some rather careful cutting with scissors or razor, Jefferson managed to maintain Jesus' role as a great moral teacher, not as a shaman or faith healer."[13] Therefore, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus' birth without references to angels (at that time), genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity
Trinity
and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus' resurrection are also absent from his collection.[14] No supernatural acts of Christ are included at all in this regard, while the few things of a supernatural nature include receiving of the Holy Spirit,[15] angels,[16] Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
and the Great Flood,[17] the Tribulation,[18] the Second Coming,[19] the resurrection of the dead,[20] a future kingdom,[19][21] and eternal life,[22] Heaven,[23] Hell[24] and punishment in everlasting fire, the Devil,[25] and the soldiers falling backwards to the ground in response to Jesus stating, "I am he."[26] Rejecting the resurrection of Jesus, the work ends with the words: "Now, in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible.

Purpose[edit] It is understood by some historians that Jefferson composed it for his own satisfaction, supporting the Christian faith as he saw it. Gaustad states, "The retired 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." [27] There is no record of this or its successor being for "the Use of the Indians", despite the stated intent of the 1804 version being that purpose. Although the government long supported Christian activity among Indians,[28][29] and in Notes on the State of Virginia
Notes on the State of Virginia
Jefferson supported "a perpetual mission among the Indian tribes", at least in the interest of anthropology,[30] and as President sanctioned financial support for a priest and church for the Kaskaskia Indians,[31] Jefferson did not make these works public. Instead, he acknowledged the existence of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth to only a few friends, saying that he read it before retiring at night, as he found this project intensely personal and private.[32] Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress (1864–1894) stated: "His original idea was to have the life and teachings of the Saviour, told in similar excerpts, prepared for the Indians, thinking this simple form would suit them best. But, abandoning this, the formal execution of his plan took the shape above described, which was for his individual use. He used the four languages that he might have the texts in them side by side, convenient for comparison. In the book he pasted a map of the ancient world and the Holy Land, with which he studied the New Testament." [33] Some speculate that the reference to "Indians" in the 1804 title may have been an allusion to Jefferson's Federalist opponents, as he likewise used this indirect tactic against them at least once before, that being in his second inaugural address. Or that he was providing himself a cover story in case this work became public.[34] Also referring to the 1804 version, Jefferson wrote, "A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."[33] Jefferson's claim to be a Christian was made in response to those who accused him of being otherwise, due to his unorthodox view of the Bible and conception of Christ. Recognizing his rather unusual views, Jefferson stated in a letter (1819) to Ezra Stiles Ely, "You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."[35] Further information: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and religion Publication history[edit] After completion of the Life and Morals, about 1820, Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime. The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington. The book was later published as a lithographic reproduction by an act of the United States Congress
United States Congress
in 1904. Beginning in 1904 and continuing every other year until the 1950s, new members of Congress were given a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Until the practice first stopped, copies were provided by the Government Printing Office. A private organization, the Libertarian Press, revived the practice in 1997.[36][37] In January 2013, the American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
published an edition of the Jefferson Bible, distributing a free copy to every member of Congress and President Barack Obama.[38] A Jefferson Bible For the Twenty-First Century adds samples of passages that Jefferson chose to omit, as well as examples of the "best" and "worst" from the Hebrew Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist
Buddhist
Sūtras, and the Book of Mormon.[39] The Smithsonian published the first full-color facsimile[40] of the Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
on November 1, 2011. Released in tandem with a Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
exhibit at the National Museum of American History, the reproduction features introductory essays by Smithsonian Political History curators Harry R. Rubenstein and Barbara Clark Smith, and Smithsonian Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis. The book's pages were digitized using a Hasselblad H4D50-50 megapixel DSLR camera and a Zeiss 120 macro lens, and were photographed by Smithsonian photographer, Hugh Talman.[41] The entire Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
is available to view, page-by-page, on the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's website.[42] The high-resolution digitization enables the public to see the minute details and anomalies of each page. The text is in the public domain and is freely available on the Internet. Recent history[edit] In 1895, the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
under the leadership of librarian Cyrus Adler
Cyrus Adler
purchased the original Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
from Jefferson's great-granddaughter Carolina Randolph for $400. A conservation effort commencing in 2009, led by Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis,[43] in partnership with the museum's Political History department, allowed for a public unveiling in an exhibit open from November 11, 2011, through May 28, 2012, at the National Museum of American History. Also displayed were the source books from which Jefferson cut his selected passages, and the 1904 edition of the Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
requested and distributed by the United States Congress.[40] The exhibit was accompanied by an interactive digital facsimile available on the museum's public website. On February 20, 2012, the Smithsonian Channel premiered the documentary Jefferson's Secret Bible.[40]

The Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Fold-out tab Jefferson glued in the margin of page 56

Jefferson textually corrects "out" into "up"

Jefferson extracts the word "as" from a sentence, to avoid three prepositions in a row

Marbled paper inside the book's covers

Editions in print[edit]

Facsimile

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (2011) Smithsonian Books
Smithsonian Books
hardcover: ISBN 978-1-58834-312-3 "Jefferson's Extracts from the Gospels: 'The Philosophy of Jesus' and 'The Life and Morals of Jesus': THE PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON: SECOND SERIES" (1983) Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press
hardcover: ISBN 0-691-04699-9, paperback: ISBN 0-691-10210-4 "THE Jefferson Bible" (1964) Clarkston N. Potter, Inc hardcover: LOC Number: 64-19900 "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" (1904) United States Government Printing Office

Text

"The Jefferson Bible: What Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Selected as the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth": ISBN 978-1-936583-21-8 The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (2006) Dover Publications paperback: ISBN 0-486-44921-1 The Jefferson Bible, (2006) Applewood Books hardcover: ISBN 1-55709-184-6 The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Cyrus Adler, (2005) Digireads.com paperback: ISBN 1-4209-2492-3 The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Percival Everett, (2004) Akashic Books paperback: ISBN 1-888451-62-9 The Jefferson Bible, introduction by M. A. Sotelo, (2004) Promotional Sales Books, LLC paperback Jefferson's "Bible": The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, introduction by Judd W. Patton, (1997) American Book Distributors paperback: ISBN 0-929205-02-2 A Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
for the Twenty-First Century, 2013, Humanist Press, paperback ISBN 978-0-931779-29-9, ebook ISBN 978-0-931779-30-5

See also[edit]

The Age of Reason Bibliography of Thomas Jefferson Jesuism The Jesus Seminar Rationalism Religious views of Thomas Jefferson Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

References[edit]

^ Tay, Endrina. "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth". Monticello.org. monticello.org. Retrieved July 20, 2017.  ^ R.P. Nettelhorst. "Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State". Quartz Hill School of Theology. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017. Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the gospels; he was uncomfortable with any reference to miracles, so with two copies of the New Testament, he cut and pasted them together, excising all references to miracles, from turning water to wine, to the resurrection.  ^ Jefferson, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb, 10:376-377. ^ Thomas Jefferson's Abridgement of the Words of Jesus of Nazareth (Charlottesville: Mark Beliles, 1993), 14. ^ Jefferson, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb, 10:232-233. ^ a b c Excerpts from the Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Archived December 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 30, 2007 ^ Unitarian Universalist Historical Society profile of Jefferson. Retrieved March 30, 2007 ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1830). Memori, Correspondence, and Miscellanies vol. 4. Boston: Gray and Bowen. p. 242.  ^ Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Lipscomb. p. 14:232-233.  ^ Randal, Henry S., The Life of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3 (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 654. ^ Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
Angelfire.com ^ Paul K. Conkin, quoted in Jeffersonian Legacies, edited by Peter S. Onuf, p. 40 ^ Edwin Scott Gaustad, Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, p 129 ^ Reece, Erik (December 1, 2005). "Jesus Without The Miracles – Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas". Harper's Magazine, v. 311, n. 1867. Archived from the original on February 18, 2006.  ^ "The Book, Page 40 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 42 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 64 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 63 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ a b "The Book, Page 67 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 59 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 39 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 37 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 62 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 46 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 68 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "The Book, Page 73 - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, p. 131 ^ American Indians and Christianity Oklahoma Historical Society ^ Library of Congress exhibit, American Indians of the Pacific Northwest ^ Jefferson's Notes on Virginia Archived February 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., University of Virginia
University of Virginia
Library, p. 210 ^ TREATY WITH THE KASKASKIA, 1803 ^ Smithsonian magazine, Secretary Clough on Jefferson's Bible, October 2011 ^ a b Cyrus Adler, Introduction to the Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
Archived November 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Forrest Church, The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, p. 20 ^ Letter from Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819, Encyclopedia Virginia ^ Hitchens, Christopher (January 9, 2007). "What Jefferson Really Thought About Islam". Slate. Retrieved January 24, 2007.  ^ "Writing". Archived from the original on March 10, 2006.  ^ "Humanists slice and dice the world's sacred texts - Religion News Service". Religion News Service.  ^ "Humanists Create New 'Jefferson Bible;' Deliver Copies to Obama, Congress". Christian Post.  ^ a b c G. Wayne Clough
G. Wayne Clough
(October 2011). "Secretary Clough on Jefferson's Bible". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-04-08. Retrieved November 8, 2011.  ^ Jefferson, Thomas (2011). The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-1-58834-312-3.  ^ "Thomas Jefferson's Bible - The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution".  ^ "History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places - Smithsonian". 

External links[edit]

Wikisource
Wikisource
has original text related to this article: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jefferson Bible.

Official Smithsonian Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
website: "Thomas Jefferson's Bible" – at National Museum of American History Online text of the Jefferson Bible: Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth – at University of Virginia
University of Virginia
Library Online text: The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Extracted From The Four Gospels; Originally Compiled by Thomas Jefferson; Edited by Charles M. Province United Christ Church Ministry Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth – at Google Books "Jefferson's Religious Beliefs". Monticello.org. Retrieved Sep 26, 2012.  Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and his Bible from Frontline The two copies of the Bible that Jefferson cut up to make the book reside at the Albert and Shirley Small Special
Special
Collections Library at the University of Virginia

v t e

Thomas Jefferson

3rd President of the United States
President of the United States
(1801–1809) 2nd U.S. Vice President (1797–1801) 1st U.S. Secretary of State (1790–1793) U.S. Minister to France (1785–1789) 2nd Governor of Virginia
Governor of Virginia
(1779–1781) Delegate, Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
(1775–1776)

Founding documents of the United States

A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774) Initial draft, Olive Branch Petition
Olive Branch Petition
(1775) Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775) 1776 Declaration of Independence

Committee of Five authored physical history "All men are created equal" "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" "Consent of the governed"

1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

freedom of religion

French Revolution

Co-author, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
(1789)

Presidency

Inaugural Address (1801 1805) Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves Louisiana Purchase Lewis and Clark Expedition

Corps of Discovery timeline Empire of Liberty

Red River Expedition Pike Expedition Cumberland Road Embargo Act of 1807

Chesapeake–Leopard affair Non-Intercourse Act of 1809

First Barbary War Native American policy Marbury v. Madison West Point Military Academy State of the Union Addresses (texts 1801 1802 1805) Cabinet Federal judicial appointments

Other noted accomplishments

Early life and career Founder, University of Virginia

history

Land Ordinance of 1784

Northwest Ordinance 1787

Anti-Administration party Democratic-Republican Party Jeffersonian democracy

First Party System republicanism

Plan for Establishing Uniformity in the Coinage, Weights, and Measure of the United States (1790) Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions A Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801)

Jeffersonian architecture

Barboursville Farmington Monticello

gardens

Poplar Forest University of Virginia

The Rotunda The Lawn

Virginia State Capitol White House
White House
Colonnades

Other writings

Notes on the State of Virginia
Notes on the State of Virginia
(1785) 1787 European journey memorandums Indian removal letters Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible
(1895) Jefferson manuscript collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society The Papers of Thomas Jefferson

Related

Age of Enlightenment American Enlightenment American Philosophical Society American Revolution

patriots

Member, Virginia Committee of Correspondence Committee of the States Founding Fathers of the United States Franco-American alliance Jefferson and education Religious views Jefferson and slavery Jefferson and the Library of Congress Jefferson disk Jefferson Pier Pet mockingbird National Gazette Residence Act

Compromise of 1790

Sally Hemings

Jefferson–Hemings controversy Betty Hemings

Separation of church and state Swivel chair The American Museum magazine Virginia dynasty

Elections

United States Presidential election 1796 1800 1804

Legacy

Bibliography Jefferson Memorial Mount Rushmore Birthday Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Building Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Center for the Protection of Free Expression Jefferson Lecture Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Star for Foreign Service Jefferson Lab Monticello
Monticello
Association Jefferson City, Missouri Jefferson College Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
School of Law Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
University Washington and Jefferson National Forests Other placenames Currency depictions

Jefferson nickel Two-dollar bill

U.S. postage stamps

Popular culture

Ben and Me (1953 short) 1776 (1969 musical 1972 film) Jefferson in Paris
Jefferson in Paris
(1995 film) Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
(1997 film) Liberty! (1997 documentary series) Liberty's Kids
Liberty's Kids
(2002 animated series) John Adams
John Adams
(2008 miniseries) Jefferson's Garden (2015 play) Hamilton (2015 musical) Jefferson–Eppes Trophy Wine bottles controversy

Family

Peter Jefferson
Peter Jefferson
(father) Jane Randolph Jefferson
Jane Randolph Jefferson
(mother) Lucy Jefferson Lewis (sister) Randolph Jefferson (brother) Isham Randolph (grandfather) William Randolph
William Randolph
(great-grandfather) Martha Jefferson
Martha Jefferson
(wife) Martha Jefferson
Martha Jefferson
Randolph (daughter) Mary Jefferson Eppes (daughter) Harriet Hemings
Harriet Hemings
(daughter) Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings
(son) Eston Hemings
Eston Hemings
(son) Thomas J. Randolph (grandson) Francis Eppes (grandson) George W. Randolph
George W. Randolph
(grandson) John Wayles Jefferson
John Wayles Jefferson
(grandson) Thomas Mann Randolph Jr.
Thomas Mann Randolph Jr.
(son-in-law) John Wayles Eppes (son-in-law) John Wayles (father-in-law) Dabney Carr
Dabney Carr
(brother-in-law) Dabney Carr
Dabney Carr
(nephew)

← John Adams James Madison
James Madison

.