Jefferson’s Bible

I had never heard of the Jefferson Bible before this reddit post.

Here’s an explanation of what it was.

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. In essence, Thomas Jefferson, along with other founding fathers, did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, resurrection, miracles, or any other supernatural aspect described in the Bible.

In the reddit comments someone posted the C.S. Lewis quote about how you can’t separate Jesus from his teachings saying he was a good man but not the Son of God, because he didn’t leave that option. Lewis says it better than I can summarize it.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

A fair portion of the comments then delve into the validity of Lewis’ arguments.





  1. “In essence, Thomas Jefferson, along with other founding fathers, did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, resurrection, miracles, or any other supernatural aspect described in the Bible.”
    This is a boldly worded conclusion that I’d like to see supported by a direct quote from Jefferson. I could only find circumstantial evidence. This source listed in the Wikipedia entry (http://web.archive.org/web/20030212234400/http://www.monticello.org/resources/interests/religion.html) starts by saying that Jefferson was always reluctant to share his personal religious beliefs. Just because Jefferson omitted certain things in his collection of verses from the Bible does NOT equate to his disbelief in them – isn’t this one of those classic logic errors? Jefferson’s religious beliefs are only a curiousity to me, but I think people should be VERY careful about attempting to put words in the mouth of a revered historical figure, who since dead cannot speak for himself.

      » Comment by Kris on February 27, 2007 @ 4:15 pm
  2. I agree. Until I see a quote from Jefferson stating that he didn’t believe in the subjects he chose to exclude from his Bible, we can’t jump to the conclusion that he didn’t believe in them.

      » Comment by dan on February 27, 2007 @ 4:53 pm
  3. Kris and Dan, you fellows certainly do poor research. Go here:

    http://www.angelfire.com/co/JeffersonBible/

    and look for the several accompanying personal letters which Jefferson wrote to others about his “Jefferson Bible” and some of his beliefs in general. There was once a similar site several years ago that had more letters and even *images* of the originals, but I now can’t find it. There are plenty of his other personal writings which clearly document his beliefs, which he did NOT wish to discuss publicly. As it was, he had been loudly denounced as an “atheist” on many occasions. I would also recommend that you buy or borrow a copy of the book, “The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson”, and perhaps also, “Thomas Jefferson : Writings : Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters”.

    As far as this topic is concerned, though, the above site should refute your skepticism. Did you honestly think the paragraph or two you read about him in an elementary school history textbook was the whole story?

      » Comment by Mark A. Craig on March 26, 2007 @ 3:02 am
  4. Addendum: Try this page on for size as a good summary, which includes relevant snippets of his private writings:

    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_012.htm

    That, too, ought to end your skepticism.

      » Comment by Mark A. Craig on March 26, 2007 @ 3:14 am
  5. Mark: I wrote, “Until I see a quote from Jefferson stating that he didn’t believe in the subjects he chose to exclude from his Bible, we can’t jump to the conclusion that he didn’t believe in them.” I fail to see how that translates into doing poor research and thinking “the paragraph or two [we] read about him in an elementary school history textbook was the whole story.”

    My skepticism remains. I failed to find a quote from Jefferson that says he didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, miracles or any other supernatural event in the Bible. Your link just says that he excluded those types of events from his Bible.

      » Comment by dan on March 26, 2007 @ 8:07 am
  6. If you ever sit down and read the Jefferson Bible, you will know it is more than just a series of verses he chose to exclude. It is full of Enlightenment era philosophy and Deism. For example, the text ends by saying, “And they rolled the stone over the tomb.” THE END. I think The Jefferson Bible was a statement of Jefferson’s beliefs at the time he wrote it. I can’t speak to any statements about the other Founders, since their beliefs varied. John Adams, for example, often differed in religious views from Jefferson. I enjoyed McCullough’s “John Adams” on that subject.

      » Comment by Stan Szczesny on July 3, 2011 @ 7:46 am


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