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The Jefferson Bible


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I just read a most interesting book, borrowed from the local public library. We are very fortunate in that we have a very good public library. Whoever buys books consistently purchases books related to religion and/or related topics and there is always a group of ten to twenty new books available (index #’s 200 to 300) and there does not seem to be a bias in their selection. The Smithsonian Edition of The Jefferson Bible (index # 226) is part of this group.




In the book published by the Smithsonian Institution (which includes Jefferson’s edition of the bible in four languages – Greek, Hebrew, Latin and English) there is an introduction written by Harry R. Rubenstein and Barbara Clark Smith which tells of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to edit the bible – it was evidently not an easy process, but he got it done after he retired from politics. Mr. Jefferson called it: “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English.”


The introduction states: “Nonetheless, the completed work reflects the goals that Jefferson had set out to accomplish. Left behind in the source material were those elements that he could not support through reason, that he believed were later embellishments, or that seemed superfluous or repetitious across the Four Evangelists’ accounts. Absent are the annunciation, the resurrection, the water being turned into wine, and the multitudes fed on five loaves of bread and two fishes. It essentially offers what the title indicates: a distillation of the teachings of Jesus the moral reformer, combined with what Jefferson accepted as the historical facts pertaining to Jesus the man.”


Another part of the introduction told of the relationship of Jefferson and John Adams in their retirement years: The two men found distance from their earlier partisan conflicts and substantial commonality in their views. Adams shared Jefferson’s concern about the continuing influence of the wealthy and well-born: “Your aristocrats are the most difficult animals to manage of anything in the whole theory and practice of government. They will not suffer themselves to be governed. They not only exert all their own subtlety, Industry and courage, but they employ the commonality to knock to pieces every plan and model that the most honest architects in legislation can invent to keep them within bounds.”


Does John Adams’ opinion sound familiar?

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