In 1820, Thomas Jefferson put the finishing touches on a strange modified Bible entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The work, which took him over a decade to complete, was not published until 1895, 69 years after Jefferson’s death. What was the purpose of the Jefferson Bible?
Thomas Jefferson & the Jefferson Bible?
Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer of the “Christian System.” However, although he had tremendous appreciation for Jesus’ moral philosophy, he had little patience for stories about miracles, the virgin birth, or the resurrection. So, using a razor, he cut out selected sections of the books of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John. Then he arranged them in chronological order and pasted them to sheets of paper. By the end, he had created his own unique and private account of the life of Jesus Christ, sans supernatural elements.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Afraid of what other people might think, Jefferson never published the book and in fact, only mentioned it to a few people. It was finally brought to market in 1895 and then again by order of Congress in 1904. For many years afterward, “it was presented to all newly elected members of that body.” Jefferson’s secret Bible is not well known today. However, it would appear that his desire to craft his own unique faith informed his views on why religion needs to be protected from intrusion by the state.
“…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802
Imagine the following scenario: A U.S. president is discovered to be spending his spare time taking a razor to the New Testament, cutting up and re-pasting those passages of the Gospels that he considered authentic and morally true and discarding all the rest.
Gone are the virgin birth, divine healings, exorcisms and the resurrection of the dead, all of which the chief executive dismissed as “superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications.”
Such an episode occurred, although the revised version of Scripture remained unseen for nearly seven decades after its abridger’s death. Thomas Jefferson intended it that way…