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The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Little Books of Wisdom)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,490 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
Thomas Jefferson believed that the pure-principled teachings of Jesus should have been separated from the dogma and abuse of organized religion of the day. This led him to recast, by cutting and pasting from the gospels, a new narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus, where, according to Jefferson, "there will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of
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Hardcover, 104 pages
Published August 11th 2006 by Applewood Books (first published 1819)
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Being and Time by Martin HeideggerThe Republic by PlatoThus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich NietzscheCritique of Pure Reason by Immanuel KantPhenomenology of Spirit by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Best Philosophy Book
160th out of 680 books — 940 voters
American Sphinx by Joseph J. EllisThomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings by Annette Gordon-ReedThomas Jefferson by R.B. BernsteinBecoming Jefferson's People by Clay S. JenkinsonThomas Jefferson by Christopher Hitchens
Jeffersonian Books
15th out of 35 books — 24 voters


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Community Reviews

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Kenny
Oct 19, 2011 Kenny rated it it was amazing
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
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David
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
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Josh
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
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Lee Harmon
"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
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Angela
Sep 01, 2010 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dean
May 24, 2009 Dean rated it it was amazing
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
Stephen
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
Bart Breen
May 25, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing
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
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John Martindale
Dec 27, 2012 John Martindale rated it really liked it
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
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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
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Todd
Mar 03, 2010 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Wendy
Jan 09, 2008 Wendy rated it it was amazing
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
Prooost Davis
Dec 01, 2010 Prooost Davis rated it really liked it
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
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Adam
Jan 02, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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,
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Wesley Weissenberger
Jun 25, 2008 Wesley Weissenberger rated it it was amazing
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.
Jason
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
Aaron
May 03, 2012 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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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
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Steven
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
Sean Cameron
Jul 26, 2014 Sean Cameron rated it liked it
It's an interesting idea. Take the four gospels of the new testament. Put all the accounts into one linear volume and cut out the miracles. What you have is the account of a philosopher/story-teller with a very unhappy ending.

I liked it. It only takes a couple of hours to read, I got to refamiliarise myself with all the parables and imagine a more relatable Jesus figure.

Other only real problem is it gets a bit repetitive. The same lessons get taught at different times over the four gospels so n
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Roger
Feb 25, 2016 Roger rated it it was amazing
Five stars because, well it's the Bible and I don't want to piss off the Man Upstairs. That being said, it really isn't the Bible because it doesn't have anything from the Old Testament and only has certain excerpts from the Gospels. Five stars also because, well it's Thomas Jefferson and I just love the guy, faults and all. Let's face it the dude was a genius and knew it too. So that's two votes for five stars and as you have already noticed I did give it an overall rating of the same five star ...more
Jesse
Dec 24, 2013 Jesse rated it did not like it
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.
Jake Wegman
Definitely a puzzling project for Jefferson to undertake. I really didn't like how he jumps from chapter to chapter. It's not like the Bible is exactly easy to read in the first place, but Jefferson's approach to the translation of the New Testament is even more beguiling.
Walter Price
Jun 23, 2016 Walter Price rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
NOT a real bible!




“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.”

So according to Jefferson, Jesus claimed to be nothing more than a man.



“The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it…is foreign to the present view…”

To Jefferson, the deity of Jesus is irrelevant.



“the doctrines which he
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Rico McCahon
This is the strongest case I've read for Jefferson being a deist, and I don't see how he could be seen as anything else. To end his version of the gospel message with, "There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the supulchre, and departed," is terribly depressing. No resurrection? And before that, no incarnation? Reducing Jesus to a mere teacher does the opposite of Jefferson's stated purpose, to show the "true" teachings of Jesus, and instead turns him into a kindly fool wh ...more
Jim Razinha
Jan 02, 2016 Jim Razinha rated it it was ok
President Kennedy said something during a dinner honoring Nobel laureates about it being the greatest gathering of intelligence in that room since Jefferson dined alone. Mr. Jefferson had a good idea here, cutting out everything he thought to be unnatural (the more common, if incorrect, term is "super"natural). I wonder if he believed anything of his end product, of if he just passed it on without applying critical thinking. He was not without flaws.

I've decided that part of my reading track for
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Dan Graser
Jan 08, 2016 Dan Graser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful insight into the mind of Jefferson as relates to Christianity. Though by certain standards he was a Deist, he also here suggests he has a Christian side in that while he did not consider Jesus divine in any way, he considered him a great moral teacher and one whose precepts were consonant with living a good life. A nice reminder that American politicians used to speak this way: "I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenan ...more
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1673
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.” 0 likes
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