Lee Harmon's Reviews > The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

The Jefferson Bible by Thomas Jefferson
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May 19, 2011

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"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 absolute love and service. The result is a chronological new Gospel formed by merging select portions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

An excellent, concise introduction by Forrest Church and an afterward by Jaroslav Pelikan ([see Whose Bible Is It] http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2011/0...) round out the book. Jefferson espoused a Unitarian philosophy, subjugating the topic of religion in his library to the category of “moral philosophy.” Pelikan, in his afterward about Jefferson’s contemporaries, classifies Jefferson among the “Enlightenment rationalists.” After reading Jefferson’s Bible, I’d say that’s a fair assessment.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Wendy Considering the time in which Jefferson was living and the multiplicity of demands on him, it is a real contribution that he made. He had not the benefit of the extensive information now available on the historical facts around the writing and amending of the Bible, about the clear borrowing and use of mythologies and beliefs of cultures contemporaneous to or preceeding the founding of Christ cults and the development of Christianity. As someone who used the tools at his disposal in a new land in the 18th century...and with his intelligence and ability to read many languages, he accomplished what he set out to do. This is a good companion piece to the work of Thomas Paine in which he critiqued the bible but to the end not of separating wheat from chaff but of pointing out clear flaws and inconsistencies to show it was not worthy of such reverence or trust. I read both of these works over 45 years ago!


message 2: by Lee (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lee Harmon 45 years ago? Wendy, you're showing your age! I must check out Paine's book, I've never read it, thanks!


Wendy Lee..
I show my age as little as I possibly can but must confess it from time to time and insist I was precocious.


Wendy The book or pamphlet by Paine you need to read is
The Age of Reason. It is often found in collections of work by Paine. Obviously, Jefferson and Paine knew each other and were in actual letter contact despite Paine's later notoriety.


John Martindale I just read it and inside the "Jefferson bible" I found many examples of heaven, the fires of hell and of both devils and angels. Also, most mentions of the second coming, the final Judgment, the Kingdom of God, salvation, Jesus' mighty works and that Jesus is the Son of God are included. Jesus affirms the resurrection to the Sadducees and Noah and the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. Most importantly almost every reference to prayer from Jesus is in the "Jefferson bible", even God giving the Holy Spirit to all who ask. We also find fulfilled prophesy, Jesus prophesies Peter will deny him 3 times before the cock crows and later we read of this even happening. So yeah, there is a lot more. In light of your review, how do you make sense of all that survived Jefferson's scissors?


message 6: by Lee (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lee Harmon Been a while since I read it, but what I recall getting snipped is all the supernatural references and unlikely healings.


Wendy John wrote: "I just read it and inside the "Jefferson bible" I found many examples of heaven, the fires of hell and of both devils and angels. Also, most mentions of the second coming, the final Judgment, the K..."

John, Jefferson was attempting to remove supernatural references he thought were most likely added by followers, embellishers, and those who would mythologize Jesus...but he was most intent on separating out what JC could have SAID (including what he might have believed, as a man of his day and place, such as his respect for the Torah (JC was a Jew and despite those who would suggest a complete breach with his faith because of what evolved around his teaching and his life and the writings of Paul etc, he actually aimed his teaching to his own community of Jews), or belief in the "Kingdom of God" whatever his interpretation of that might mean...from what might have been added about him long after his death, such as a being born to a virgin, or his performing miracles. Obviously rejecting such things while attempting to include what might be suggested as JC's "philosophy" or based on his words was fairly radical...and Jefferson should be given credit for that. Jefferson was a Deist as was Paine... and did not believe in the Trinity (the God in 3 persons including JC etc) . Deism was a precursor to Unitarianism (obviously emphasizing that basic distinction).


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