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WELCOME! I'm Lisa Bowman. The Religion Network is an interfaith web site providing daily inspiration, quotes and religious resources. Faith and religion are precious gifts that bless.
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"Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone."
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
3rd President of the United States
Portrait of Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1805
In 1820, just three years before his death, 77 year old Thomas Jefferson
took a razor blade to four copies of the Gospels: one in Latin, one in
Greek, one in French and one in English. Using his own judgment,
he proceeded to reassemble the books to include only the parts he
considered true. As a Deist and a Unitarian, he eliminated the
portions alluding to the divinity of Jesus. Then he mixed and
matched the various books into a new version.
The following is a portion of "The Jefferson Bible:
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth."
Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed
down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into
Mt. 7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's
eye, but considerest not the beam that
is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote
out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy
"The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth"
(utilizing the King James Version Bible)
Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia home
(photo by Chuck Bowman)
"Like Socrates & Epictetus, (Jesus) wrote nothing of
himself...Notwithstanding...a system of morals is
presented to us, which, if filled up in the true style
and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be
the most perfect and sublime that has ever been
taught by man."
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush
"We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists,
select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus,
paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been
led ...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 by
arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is
as distinguishable as diamonds in the dunghill..."
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams dated October 13, 1813.
Jefferson is referencing his precursor to "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth."
It was a shorter version in English only, entitled "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth."
(photo by Chuck Bowman)
John. 9:1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his
parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works
of God should be made manifest in him.
J. 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the
sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his
own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And he when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and
his sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know
not the voice of strangers.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
(Editor's note: By jumping from John 9 to John 10, Jefferson eliminated the
story of Jesus anointing the eyes of the blind man with clay and healing
him; the story of the healed man telling the Pharisees that a prophet had
given him sight; the man's parents vouching for the fact that he indeed had
been born blind; the Pharisee's anger that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath;
and the incident of the Pharisees who confronted Jesus.)
(photo by Chuck Bowman)
EDITORIAL: THE JEFFERSON BIBLE
A complex man, was Thomas Jefferson. Brilliant, innovative and learned (he spoke half a dozen languages), he studied and questioned much of the world around him.
Inevitably, though, he was a man of his times. The aristocrat freed but two slaves in his lifetime and only a handful upon his death. The noble ideas he held about man's rights
apparently didn't apply to those with dark skin.
His philosophy of life was certainly influenced by the time he spent as American ambassador to France. It was the age of Enlightenment, personified and perhaps defined by Voltaire,
who died in 1778.The influential writer was bitterly opposed
the Church and anything clerical. Cutting edge thought of the day exalted man's selective individual thinking. Theologically, Deism was the intellectual choice. Thomas Paine's popular 1794 book,"The Age of Reason," argued against church authority, organized religion and the veracity of the scriptures. It put forth the idea that nature's grandness provided the primary evidence of God's existence, and that
the individual could best find God in autonomous meditation.
Therein lies the impetus behind Jefferson's labor intensive
reconstruction of the Gospels, in four languages, no less.
Yet He treasured the words of Jesus, whom he deemed the greatest philosopher of all time. "It is the innocence of His
character,the purity and sublimity of His moral precepts, the eloquence of His inculcations, the beauty of the apologues in which He conveys them, that I so much admire,..." he writes
to Francis Adrian van der Kamp, a Dutch Unitarian minister.
And so, near the end of his life, Jefferson zealously under-
takes to separate "the dross from the gold" by lifting and
isolating Jesus' words into a streamlined
version of the
four Gospels. Leaping from one book to the other, he attempts to understand the historic Jesus by neatly excising direct allusions to Jesus' divinity. Sculpting a selective portrayal
of Jesus with the use of a razor and glue pot, he creates a powerful philosopher and deconstructs a Savior of 1800 years.
As historian Daniel J. Boorstein notes, "The Jeffersonian
had projected his own qualities and limitations into Jesus,
whose career became his vivid symbol of the superfluity and
perils of speculative philosophy."
In so doing, curious inconsistencies in Jefferson's thought processes are revealed. For example, in the above quoted
story of the blind man from John, Jefferson's version is a brief philosophical discussion with some Pharisees. No wonder that Jefferson was obliged to omit the final incidents
John 10, culminating in the Pharisees demanding of Jesus,
"Are we blind also?" If he hadn't healed the blind man,
there would have been no reason for the Pharisees to object
to Jesus healing on the Sabbath, because the blind man wouldn't
have gone to the Pharisees to tell them that he had been
healed on the Sabbath, nor then would people have gone to
visit the man's parents to verify that he had been born blind, nor would Jesus have said, "For judgment I came into this
world, that they which see not might see; and that they which
see might be made blind," all of which led to the Pharisees
confrontation of Jesus. Without the healing aspects of the
story, all logic and meaning are evicerated.
And if, as Jefferson insists, Jesus did not manifest the
divine by healing, while did thousands flock to hear him
and marvel? Was he such a charismatic speaker that they
thronged to hear him philosophize? And after the crucifixion,
why were his followers willing to be martyred with his name
on their lips? Because of his eloquence? Not likely.
Finally, a word about the value of the Jefferson Bible,
because it holds great value, and for Christians in
particular. With apologies to the self-proclaimed "Realist,"
Mr. Jefferson, but a miraculous effect occurs when one reads
the teachings of Jesus in such a linear, condensed form.
His message of love and forgiveness is made even more potent.
One can feel the frequency with which He hammered home his
themes...how we must forgive every single trespass against
us...the urgency is amplified. The intensity with which
Jesus preached becomes evident. His use of parables are
highlighted and their beauty made startling. Even his
attacks on false piety
are rendered more powerful as he
repeats his messages over and over, trying to reach his
audience, and trying to reach us today.
Jefferson did religious Christians a great favor after all.
And now the Last Word:
I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any
one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in
preference to all others; ascribing to himself every
human excellence; and believing he never claimed
Gold dust is precious, but when it gets in your eyes,
it blurs your vision.
On today's site:
-Inheritance of the soul
-Man, the light bulb
-Three duties of the soul