Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jefferson Bible

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson rewrote part of the Bible? The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth was Jefferson's attempt 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 author's of the the four gospels.

Jefferson finished writing the book in 1820. However, it was not published during his life. It was finally published in 1895.

In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote of the book, "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 demiurges, 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. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines."

The University of Virginia has the full text of the book at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefJesu.html.

1 comment:

Elisabeth M. said...

Thanks for the link. I am fascinated by anything related to the founding fathers and religion. Awesome blog.