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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,090 ratings  ·  191 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 ...more
Hardcover, 103 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Applewood Books (first published 1819)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  2,090 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Oct 19, 2011 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
Oct 14, 2008 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
Apr 27, 2008 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
Anna Kuhl
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found myself missing the miracles. And although I did love reading the moral-based stories, there was still repetition amongst them. You would think Jefferson could have trimmed the fat, so to speak, and removed the duplicates. But overall a nice summary of Jesus' teachings.
Sep 01, 2010 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
Bart Breen
May 25, 2012 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
John Martindale
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, history
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
Mar 03, 2010 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
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
May 23, 2009 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
Jan 03, 2013 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 31, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Given that Jesus was just a man, the study of his life requires historical research; we can’t simply accept the truth of the gospels.
David Crumm
Feb 19, 2012 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
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
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
Erik Larson
Nov 01, 2012 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
Nov 19, 2010 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
Jan 09, 2008 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
Jan 02, 2009 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
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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.
Wesley Weissenberger
Jun 25, 2008 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.
Kavin Kramer
Feb 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Two reasons why I rated this with only 1 star. 1) Jesus's claims of deity have been taken out. 2) The story ends with Jesus in a tomb rather than any mention of the central point of Christianity (which Thomas Jefferson claims in the opening statements), the resurrection.

Thomas Jefferson is doing what many have done unsuccessfully for centuries before and after. He picks and chooses the most convenient passages, so as to influence his own life but not make any transformative commitments. Without
Dec 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Darla Stokes
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
The premise of this book is entertaining--Jefferson took all the stuff about Jesus from the New Testament and left out all the magic. I'm not really sure what the point is supposed to be. It can't really be a moral guide--there's nothing of morality in the biographical details, and the parables are all over the place. Bizarre things like if you're throwing a party and nobody in town will come, you're completely justified in destroying the whole town. Or if two people are having a guest over for ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Americans will well know this author as a founding father and former U.S. President; but fewer are aware that Thomas Jefferson completed his own version of The Bible in 1820 by cutting and pasting selected sections from the New Testament. Fewer still will know that Jefferson’s Bible purposefully excluded supernatural elements from the scriptures, including the miracles performed by Jesus. And many will be surprised to know that, beginning in 1904 and continuing until the 1950s, all new members o ...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,
Apr 23, 2012 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
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
I have wanted to read this strange book. I mostly liked the forward by Forrest Church and the afterward by Jaroslav Pelikan, which were both very good. The story of the book is good. It is interesting to see what Jefferson kept, of course, including the ending of the stone being placed in front of the tomb. I appreciated the insights of the historians on the disregard Jefferson had for the uneducated disciples. A very interesting piece of American and Christian history.
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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
“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.” 2 likes
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