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Encyclopedia > Jefferson Bible

The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was an attempt by Thomas Jefferson to glean the teachings of Jesus from the Christian Gospels. Jefferson wished to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 N.S. – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and an influential founder of the United States. ... Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[1] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity. ... For other articles with similar names, see Gospel (disambiguation). ... Look up Supernatural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The symbols of the four Evangelists are here depicted in the Book of Kells The Four Evangelists are the four followers of Jesus to whom are ascribed the writings forming the four Gospels of the New Testament: the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. ...


Early draft

Prior to the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Jefferson made an earlier abstraction of the words of Jesus entitled "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth," the purpose of which he mentions in a letter to John Adams dated 13 October 1813: John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was a Founding Father of the United States and American politician who served as the first Vice President of the United States (1789–1797), and the second President of the United States (1797–1801). ... October 13 is the 286th day of the year (287th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1813 is a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ...

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurgos, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. [1] For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... Plotinus Plotinus ( Greek: Πλωτίνος)(ca. ... Gamaliel the Elder, or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder. ... Eclectics, so-called philosophers who attach themselves to no system, but select what, in their judgment, is true out of others. ... Gnosticism is a blanket term for various religions and sects most prominent in the first few centuries A.D. General characteristics The word gnosticism comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis (γνῶσις), referring to the idea that there is special, hidden mysticism (esoteric knowledge... Scholastic redirects here. ...

Jefferson frequently expressed discontent with this earlier version, however. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth represents the fulfillment of his desire to produce a more carefully assembled edition.


Jefferson arranged selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order, mingling excerpts from one next to those of another in order to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected and of the order in which he arranged them in his "Table of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement." The Gospel of Matthew (literally, according to Matthew; Greek, Κατά Μαθθαίον or Κατά Ματθαίον) is one of the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. ... The Gospel of Mark is traditionally the second New Testament Gospel, ascribed to Mark the Evangelist. ... The Gospel of Luke is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament, which tell the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. ... The Gospel of John is the fourth gospel in the canon of the New Testament, traditionally ascribed to John the Evangelist. ...

Miracles and references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus are notably absent from the Jefferson Bible. The Bible begins with an account of Jesus's birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. The work ends with the words: "Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." There is no mention of the resurrection, just like in the earliest manuscripts of Mark. According to many religions, a miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning something wonderful, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by God in the universe by which the ordinary course and operation of Nature is overruled, suspended, or modified. ... For other uses, see Trinity (disambiguation). ... Divinity has a number of related uses in the field of religious belief and study. ... The Annunciation - the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear Jesus (El Greco, 1575) An angel is a supernatural being found in many religions. ... Genealogy is the study and tracing of family pedigrees. ... Prophecy, in a broad sense, is the prediction of future events. ... Resurrection of the Flesh (1499-1502) Fresco by Luca Signorelli Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto The term resurrection is used in the literal sense to mean either the religious concept of the reunion of the spirit and the body of a dead person, or the return to life of...

Publication history

After completion of the "Life and Morals", Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime. His reluctance appears to be based upon his conviction that religion was a private matter as well as his desire to avoid slander and criticism.

The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington.

The book was later published as a lithographic reproduction by an act of the United States Congress in 1904. For many years copies were given to new members of Congress. The text is now freely available on the Internet since it is in the public domain. Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface, as well as a method of manufacturing semiconductor and MEMS devices. ... Seal of the U.S. Congress. ... 1904 (MCMIV) was a leap year starting on a Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

Editions in print

  • The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (2006) Dover Publications paperback: ISBN 0486449211
  • The Jefferson Bible, (2006) Applewood Books hardcover: ISBN 1557091846
  • The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Cyrus Adler, (2005) Digireads.com paperback: ISBN 1420924923
  • The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Percival Everett, (2004) Akashic Books paperback: ISBN 1888451629
  • The Jefferson Bible, (2001) Beacon Press hardcover: ISBN 0807077143
  • Jefferson's "Bible:" The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, introduction by Judd W. Patton, (1997) American Book Distributors paperback: ISBN 0929205022

Cyrus Adler (1863 - 1940) was a U.S. educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar. ... Percival Everett (born 1956) is an American writer and professor. ...

See also

The Age of Reason is a philosophical treatise written by the 18th Century British intellectual Thomas Paine, best remembered as the author of the political pamphlet Common Sense, credited with exciting colonial opinion in support of the American Revolutionary War. ... Joseph Priestley is often credited for the discovery of oxygen. ... The factual accuracy of this article is disputed. ... Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
The Jefferson Bible (760 words)
Indeed Jefferson's skepticism was so profound that he could not be described as a Christian in the conventional meaning of the word.
Jefferson did, however, believe in a "superintending power" in the universe, and that Jesus was a great reformer and moral leader.
For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement of England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of the Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law....
Jefferson Bible: Information from Answers.com (619 words)
The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was an attempt by Thomas Jefferson to glean the teachings of Jesus from the Christian Gospels.
Jefferson wished to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.
Miracles and references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus are notably absent from the Jefferson Bible.
  More results at FactBites »



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