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The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,552 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.—Thomas Jefferson

Featuring an introduction by Forrest Church, this reissue of The Jefferson Bible offers extraordinary insight into the logic of Thomas Jefferson
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published July 4th 2001 by Beacon Press (first published 1819)
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Oct 19, 2011 Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Though often claimed by anti-religionists as a Deist, Jefferson states flatly, referring to this cut-and-paste version of the New Testament: "It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus" (his emphasis).

But note the distinction: Jefferson calls himself a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, not a disciple of Jesus himself. This is a serious difference, as his discomfort with and his disbelief in the supernatural aspects of the story of
Nov 12, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants a concise view of Jesus's ethical teachings.
This book is Thomas Jefferson's attempt to distill from the gospels the ethical teachings of Jesus. It presents Jesus
purely as a teacher; no chorus of angels marks his birth, he performs no miracles, and the book ends with his burial. The result is a short, 92 page volume that's easy to read in spite of being written in the same archaic style of English as the King James Bible.

The obvious audience for this book is atheists and agnostics who want a view of Jesus's teachings that's free of, as Je
Sep 23, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a deist, Thomas Jefferson believed in God as the ultimate creator and believed Jesus to be the greatest moral teacher. This collection of writings confirms his staunch belief in reason over faith. Jefferson believed that the Bible was imperfect insofar as it contained the works of corrupt individuals who sought to use Christianity as a means to control people.

What amazes me the most is how little a role religion played in the election of Thomas Jefferson in both 1800 and 1804. People furious
Sep 01, 2010 Angela rated it liked it
To thoroughly grasp the hubris, imagine it in modern day: a US president whose religious beliefs are widely regarded as insufficient and blasphemous towards Christian doctrine, deciding that he doesn't really care for the Bible as it's written--too many miracles, and that Paul character, he's gotta go--so he'll just take some scissors, snip out the good parts, and rearrange them into a better order. Clearly, Thomas Jefferson predated cable news networks. Apparently, the Jefferson Bible is now di ...more
Lee Harmon
May 19, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it liked it
"We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

With this goal, Jefferson set about with razor in hand to extract the true words and actions of Jesus from the enveloping hype and miracle stories of the Gospels. Rejecting the virgin birth, the annunciation, and even the resurrection, Jefferson wanted to dig down to Jesus’ message of
May 24, 2009 Dean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
Brilliant editing...when considered with his design for the University of Virginia grounds sheds light on TJ's careful consideration, no, critical inquiry into the spectrum of 18th c norms. Everything is in play with reason the blade that carves the irrelevant and nonsense from core truths. UVA is an architectural analog. Though it can be debated that it is less successful as a unified work because it is new, untested function from an old form (a core campus from a Roman temple and forum), it is ...more
John Martindale
Dec 27, 2012 John Martindale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religion
Well, first off, this is the "Life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth" its not the "Jefferson bible," Jefferson would have been horrified if he learned someone took a book where he compiled the moral philosophy of Jesus and called it his bible. I have heard that according to the original preface, it was suppose to be for the native Indians, though there is no evidence of it reaching them, we have no right to create a new motive for Jefferson.

Next, Jefferson cutting from a bible and pasting in anoth
David Crumm
Feb 19, 2012 David Crumm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally, Smithsonian Offers Jefferson Bible for General Readers

If you’re choosing an edition of the so-called Jefferson Bible, my strong recommendation is: Snap up a copy of this gorgeous Smithsonian facsimile of Jefferson’s original work, which he created by hand with his razor and pot of glue.

Nationwide studies show that most American households own a Bible, most Americans claim they read the Bible regularly, and regular Bible readers own multiple editions. Many Americans preach, teach and sh
Bart Breen
May 25, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Says a Lot about Jefferson!

Jefferson's Bible is an important work both for what it shows of a pivotal Founding Father and lynch-pin president, and what it doesn't show. Jefferson was neither the passionate Christian that some try to paint him as, nor was he the foaming at the mouth Deist that others attempt to paint him as. Jefferson was earlier in his life leaning more toward Deism and toward the end of his life best described as a Unitarian in the sense that the word was used in that day. In a
Mar 03, 2010 Todd rated it really liked it
This is the way the Bible is supposed to be. Thomas Jefferson, founding father and President of the USA has cut away all the supernatural BS behind Jesus Christ and his life time. Dug hard into various Bibles of the times and manages to find the wisdom of a progressive Jewish rebel. This Jesus was killed for believing in treating people equally and finding the best of human nature.

The supernatural birth and other mystical events of Jesus' life have been removed and instead readers will discover
Very interesting sidebar of American History. Jefferson, who was a questioner and often skeptic, believed the teachings of Jesus profound. As a founding father, he was not so obsessed with his own salvation later, but in acting rightly in practice in the present. The forward and introduction, do a lot to enlighten the reader on Jefferson's own viewpoints on religion and freedoms surrounding practice and purpose. As far as the Bible that Jefferson presents goes: it is abridged version of the New ...more
Prooost Davis
Dec 01, 2010 Prooost Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jefferson's attempt to present Jesus's story, as collected from the four Gospels, in chronological order, omitting all of its supernatural aspects, gives the story a shape that one doesn't necessarily perceive in selecting verses for study out of context. The reader can see an inevitable trajectory towards crucifixion as Jesus gains a following while challenging the authority of some important people.

Jefferson did not believe in the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection, etc., but he wish
Jan 09, 2008 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an illuminating and important book historically. Not only does it represent Thomas Jefferson's fearless edit of the Gospels of Matthew,Mark, Luke and John from the New Testament the Bible extracting what he thought was of value from "a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications"but sheds a light on the inquiring minds of the intellectual elite of his day. He basically cut and pasted and shared his work with John Adams and others w ...more
Erik Larson
Nov 01, 2012 Erik Larson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. I went into the book with an open mind. I am an Atheist who has read the bible and wondered what Thomas Jefferson had to say about it. If you have heard of the famous Jefferson - Adams letters where they lightly debate religion then you may know that Thomas wasn't really a fan of the church. That does not mean he is not religious. On the contrary, this book is a basic asemblance of how Thomas Jefferson interpreted the bible. It gives good incite into his views on religion and ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it
Thomas Jefferson is among the greatest minds from the Founding Generation of Americans. Despite his contributions to the American framework, Jefferson believed that religious beliefs were and should remain an immensely personal topic, and as such he spends very little time discussing this issue even among his most trusted contemporaries, including Benjamin Rush, who may have inspired Jefferson to complete this work following Rush's death.
The Jeffersonian Bible is an intimate look into the mind o
Wesley Weissenberger
As Thomas Jefferson is arguably the most important figure in American History. I had to pick this one up. While nothing but a re-telling of the New Testement, and even though it is written with a strange mixture of Old Enlish and Contemperary American. It allows for a fresh look at the New Testement with out all of the religious stuff thrown in.
You have to admire the audacity of the man who wrote "The Declaration of Independence." Who else would take a knife and pot of glue to the very Gospels, and, with an intuitive hermeneutic rooted in his own Enlightenment-era deistic presumptions, attempt to strip away what he considered the "dung" and reveal the "diamonds" of Christ's teachings? Jefferson's attempts to find the universal, essential teachings of Jesus foreshadowed the higher critical approaches of the 19th century, and the 20th ce ...more
David Robbins jr
Thomas Jefferson was the father of the phrase: "Wall of separation between church and state." And I can think of no greater enduring philosophy left by the Founding Fathers than imagining Jefferson cutting apart the New Testament of his King James Bible with razor and glue to form his own Gospels in an effort to, in his own words, separate the "diamonds" from the "dunghill" and "nonsense".

The former were the words and wisdom of the teachings of Jesus and the latter were all things supernatural,
May 03, 2012 Aaron rated it liked it
I suppose I expected a more condensed version of the Gospels in Jefferson's work. And, while it is more condensed (by leaving out all the miracles and resurrection story), it is not more concise. He's merely stripped away those parts and left everything else in. So, as with other parts of the Bible, we're left reading similar passages, with similar wording, over and over again.

However, in this edition, if you continue on past Jefferson's manipulation of the Gospels, you'll read an afterword by
Deborah Schuff
These days there are all kinds of Bibles in various styles of translations, some with highlights targeting different types of people. Chronological Bibles aid better understanding. None of this was available in Thomas Jefferson's day. He had to resort to cutting and pasting onto blank pages. In his original book, he placed Greek and Latin translations in double columns on one page and on the facing page he placed Hebrew and English translations.

In this Kindle version of three books, we get his
Richard Kelly
This is an odd one to review. It could be titled The best of Jesus Christ as told by the disciples chosen by Thomas Jefferson. It is somewhat refreshing because there is little story in there, just some morals and parables. Regardless of how you view Christianity, I don't really want to associate with people who don't find the morals in this book to be virtuous at the least.

It isn't the easiest thing to read, but it is the Bible what did I expect? Lots of old english confusing the sentences, bu
Jan 03, 2013 Steven rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religiony
My sister suggested I might get something out of this, after I'd been going on about how bogus everything in the bible is. That Thomas Jefferson took out all the supernatural elements from the Jesus mythology and humanized him and his moral lessons. It's cool that Jefferson was bold enough to attempt that, but it still didn't work for me because Jesus still waxes on about a supernatural god and heaven and hell and spirits, and a lot of his moral lessons are still based around those things, so ho ...more
Mar 21, 2016 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction
This is Thomas Jefferson's own interpretation of the most important parts of the Bible (the birth, teachings, and death of Jesus). I picked it up mostly because I like Thomas Jefferson, and wanted to understand a bit more about his morality and motivations, but... eh. I'm not Christian, and have a huge amount of skepticism when it comes to the idea of using a 2ooo year old book as a practical guide for morality and ethics, so... yeah. Not the book for me.
Dec 24, 2013 Jesse rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After this they should make a monument in Washington DC to Thomas Jefferson's sense of self-importance. The level of self-grandizement it takes to edit the words of scripture is a new level of pride reserved for the best the world has to offer. I wonder if he made his moral judgements on the words of Christ before or after he had children with his slaves.
Succinct, well written, and a powerful insight into the truth, the contradiction, and the absolutely insanity of the Bible. Thomas Jefferson was absolutely a brilliant man.
Oct 15, 2016 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
good stuff. some take-aways:
Forgive everyone who has wronged you, especially your enemies.
Take the quality path instead of maximizing income. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
If you seek quality first, then questions like, "What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" will be answered quite naturally.
Be a source of energy rather than getting sad when you see the mote in your brother's eye. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest
Mitch Gage
Interesting edit of the gospel. Readable in it's brevity and culled down do something a religious skeptic such as myself can relate to but in the end, I didn't take a whole lot out of it. Spiritual inspiration was minor.
Sep 26, 2016 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jefferson cuts out all of the supernatural elements to Jesus' life and just focuses on Jesus the man; What's left is a philosophy that anyone could follow; While good, doesn’t quite clean up the redundancies and my version had numerous editing errors
Jun 11, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspired by a featured program on History Channel, I purchased this book as a curiosity and as additional Americana for my library.

Two introductory articles by members of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History rebroadcast the core information contained on that TV show. An essay by Harry R. Rubenstein (Political Curator) and Barbara Clark Smith (Curator) elaborates upon the history of this publication. Conservation descriptions are expounded by Janice Stagnitto Ellis (Senior Paper
David Crumm
Feb 19, 2012 David Crumm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Specific to Tarcher Edition: Jefferson’s Bible in a Handy Edition

In posting this review, I’m also posting a review of a second new edition that is freshly available: The Smithsonian facsimile edition of The Jefferson Bible. That special Smithsonian volume is a reasonably priced collector’s item, and so is this Tarcher edition.

If you’ve read this far about the book, you probably know something about the so-called Jefferson Bible. First, he never called it that himself. His final 1820 edition was
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More than a mere renaissance man, Jefferson may actually have been a new kind of man. He was fluent in five languages and able to read two others. He wrote, over the course of his life, over sixteen thousand letters. He was acquainted with nearly every influential person in America, and a great many in Europe as well. He was a lawyer, agronomist, musician, scientist, philosopher, author, architect ...more
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“To the corruptions of christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.” 1 likes
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