Thomas Jefferson was too sacrilegious to be a Christian. Jefferson was not a member of any of the Christian denominations. In a letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, 25 June 1819, Jefferson wrote, “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.” The Jefferson Lies by pseudo-historian David Barton was removed from History bookshelves due to numerous inaccuracies. Examiners Michael Stone and Charles McAlpin mentioned David Barton’s lies.
Christians who feel torn and conflicted about the Bible have at times wanted to go through it with a permanent marker, rubbing out controversial verses that may seem outdated, inconsistent or downright evil to them.
What you may not know is that one of the United States’ venerated Founding Fathers actually did indulge in such a catharsis. The esteemed writer of the Declaration of Independence, who helped forge a new nation, also tried his hand at editing the Bible (violating Revelation 22:19). Why was Thomas Jefferson inspired to rewrite the Christian Bible?
For those who know anything about Thomas Jefferson, the idea that he wanted his own version of the Bible should not be surprising. Jefferson took issue with the idea of organized religion dictating what people should and shouldn’t believe, and he believed that faith was a very personal thing. Jefferson wrote that the matter of religion “lies solely between man and his God (not with politicians as intermediaries).” The idea of separating church and state was elaborated on in a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Connecticut Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association.
Furthermore, Jefferson was highly skeptical of the accounts of Jesus written in the Gospels. He maintained that those who set down the story of Jesus to paper were thoroughly unqualified to do so. Jefferson considered them “unlettered” and “ignorant”. He also insinuates that the oral tradition from which the Gospels originated was flawed. The possibility of bad memories, gross misunderstandings and misinterpretations tainted his trust in these sources. Jefferson felt that the Evangelists (Gospel writers) fabricated the miracles associated with Jesus to cohere with their mistaken idea that Jesus was the son of God.
Given his esteem for some of Jesus’ teachings but his disdain for how they were recorded by the evangelists, you can imagine how Jefferson yearned to cut the Scriptures down to what he felt was truly valid and relevant. And starting in the winter of 1816, he finally did: The Jefferson Bible.
Scholars refer to the Jefferson Bible as a cut-and-paste job. Jefferson actually cut out the verses he liked from a few copies of the Bible and pasted them into a blank book. So he didn’t actually rewrite the Bible; but he did restructure it and write the table of contents for his book.
In all, 990 verses made the final cut. The verses he chose chiefly came from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. What he actually considered worth reading and “genuine” were events like the Sermon on the Mount, certain parables (such as the ones about the good shepherd, the wedding feast and the 10 talents, among others) as well as the Lord’s Prayer.
As we mentioned, miracles are completely absent from the Jefferson Bible. This includes the stories of Jesus turning water into wine, healing the sick, raising Lazarus from the dead and scores of others. What most people consider the most significant miracles–the virgin birth and the resurrection–are not mentioned, either. Unlike the Gospel writers, Jefferson didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Jefferson thought it was the belief in Jesus’ divinity that muddled the evangelists’ accounts. Therefore, what remains are the thoughts of an insightful philosopher (Jesus), which overshadow the details of Jesus’ life–an effect Jefferson no doubt intended.
It’s worth noting that the original name Jefferson lent his book was “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.” This fit well into his idea that Jesus should be regarded much like other ancient philosophers. After he revisited the book in retirement (when he added the translations in other languages), he tweaked the title to “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Congress published copies of the Jefferson Bible, for the first time, in 1904. Since then, the book has been used customarily as a gift for recently sworn-in members of Congress. Apparently, the Tea Party politicians never read the sacrilegious Jefferson Bible or The Godless Constitution textbook by Kramnick & Moore. Examiner Robert Pruitt wrote a good commentary on the Jefferson Bible. THE END