The Bible, Jefferson and Me

The story of Thomas Jefferson, the third US President, and his cut-and-paste 'bible' is a very interesting one. Here is a bit about it from the wiki:
The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson's effort 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.
Using a razor, Jefferson cut and arranged selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order, mingling excerpts from one text 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 Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’s birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus' resurrection are also absent from The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
I find Jefferson's actions to be so interesting. Can you imagine a person so obsessed that he would take a razor to the bible? If memory serves me right (and it may not) I think that Martin Luther did something similar to the book of James.

I have a hard time imagining this kind of dogmatism. Yet I can relate to allowing my ideology and theology to impact the way that I interpret the bible. I can relate to building a theology that is based on the intellectual theology that I learned from pastors and in bible college. I can understand how Jefferson's background, experiences and intellectual focus compelled him to slice and dice the scriptures in that manner.

The message from Jefferson is that we can err greatly when we allow our brain to trump our hearts. When we reduce spiritual things to those that we can apprehend with our brains we are left with the Jefferson Bible. We are left with Deist tendencies that draw us to lives where everything is explainable.. where awe, miracles and wonder are left for the children. And maybe that is why Jesus instructs us to become as children?

I want to be a child in such matters. How about you?


  1. I haven't read it in a while, but as I recall, it was quick read. Have you read it, Bob?

  2. Have not read it Mike. Do you remember liking it? Any thoughts about it?

  3. I remember thinking it was a nice distillation, not unlike other collections of the teachings of Jesus. I still have it, I should find it and revisit it.

  4. I guess I have been living under a rock. I wasn't aware of Jefferson actually doing this.
    What a shame to make Jesus a mere man.

  5. We all probably do much the same thing Jefferson did except we do it mentally. Our beliefs emphasize certain parts of the Bible and exclude others. Is there anyone anywhere who can read the Bible without somehow imposing themselves on it? I doubt it.

  6. I think Joe is right, I know I have probably done some cutting and pasting in my life. too. Did chuckle from recent photo I saw on the web: Man Tattoos Leviticus 18:22 That Forbids Homosexuality On His Arm, But Leviticus 19:28 Forbids Tattoos.

  7. Ed, I saw that too, and it really made me want to get a tattoo of Leviticus 19:28. ;-)

  8. Lotta good tattoo material in Leviticus. :)

  9. Do you think leviticus is the lead text used by early missionaries to the pacific islanders.


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