The Jefferson Bible

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

By Thomas Jefferson; Forrest Church (Preface by)
(Beacon Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780807077146, 192pp.)

Publication Date: July 2001

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Description

We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.—Thomas Jefferson

Featuring an introduction by Forrest Church, this reissue of The Jefferson Bible offers extraordinary insight into the logic of Thomas Jefferson and the Gospel of Jesus. Working in the White House in 1804, Jefferson set out to edit the Gospels in order to uncover the essence of true religion in the simple story of the life of Jesus. Jefferson was convinced that the authentic message of Jesus could be found only by extracting from the Gospels Jesus's message of absolute love and service, rather than the miracle of the Annunciation, Virgin Birth, or even the Resurrection. Completed in 1819, this little book is the remarkable result of Jefferson's efforts.




About the Author
Thomas Jefferson was born in Virginia in 1743 into a wealthy and socially prominent family. After attending the College of William and Mary, he went on to study law. At the age of twenty-six, Jefferson began building Monticello. Three years later, in 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton. The couple had six children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Considered elequent in his writing, although not as his speech, Jefferson took on much of the writing needed by the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, both of which he was a member. In 1776, at the young age of 33, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. From 1779 to 1781, Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia. Jefferson temporarily retired from public life after his term as governor, returning to public life in 1784 as a diplomat serving in France. In 1790, Jefferson was appointed Secretary of State in President Washington's Cabinet, but resigned in 1793 over a disagreement with Alexander Hamilton. As political disagreements continued to polarize the young government, Jefferson found himself leading those who sympathized with the revolutionary cause in France. In 1800, Jefferson was elected President in a tie vote that ironically was decided by Alexander Hamilton. In 1809, after two terms as President, Jefferson returned to his home in Monticello, where he developed, among other projects, plans for the University of Virginia. In addition, he sold his collection of books to the government to form the basis of the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.

FORREST CHURCH is currently serving his thirtieth year as minister of All Souls Church in Manhattan. He earned his doctorate in church history at Harvard and has written or edited twenty-two books, including The Separation of Church and State. He lives in New York.


Praise For The Jefferson Bible

Religion in America [gained] something unique from Jefferson. . . . His Jesus was a figure fitted for the Enlightenment, rational but not divine.—Gustav Niebuhr, New York Times

"The Founding Father's treatment of the Bible was radical. . . . Today, historians such as Yale University's Jaroslav Pelikan are struck by the project's 'sheer audacity' . . . Jefferson's Bible is a curious sidelight on an ever-intriguing figure, whose image has become more controversial in recent years."—Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press

"Gives us a preaching Jesus of distinctly human dimensions, without miracles or resurrection. [A] fascinating document, telling us a great deal about a great eighteenth-century mind and its world." —Charles S. Adams, Religious Studies Review

"These excerpts from the four Gospels are among the most interesting and compelling in all of the Scripture. They emphasize Jesus' ethical lessons of love, reverence, forbearance, reproachment, repentance, and forgiveness." —Garrett Ward Sheldon, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

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