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The Jefferson Bible : the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth

by Thomas Jefferson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Really interesting--not only the history of the book and of Jefferson's philosophy but actually the Bible itself. It's interesting to read the French text alongside the English (unfortunately, I can't read Greek or Latin), and it's also interesting to read just the moral philosophy of Christianity with the supernatural completely removed. I actually found that portion of the book much more engaging than I thought I would. Well worth the read. ( )
  TheBentley | Dec 5, 2013 |
This book is what it is. No miracles, no supernatural acts. This Jesus of Nazareth speaks with a sparseness and type of authority that convinces better than waiting for water to turn to wine.

I place more value in this attempt to uncover the real Christ than I do in the Jesus Seminar theologians "votes." Especially helpful are the citations at the end of the book. ( )
  kaulsu | Nov 18, 2013 |
Basically a "copy and paste" version of the highlights of the four gospels without all the repetition. It is a very short, condensed version of Christ's life starting with the birth of Jesus, goes through his childhood, selecting the diciples, beatitudes, Lord's prayer, and several of the more famous parables - the widow's mite, the adulteress, the good samaritan, the ten virgins. ends with the last supper and the crucifixion. Not a work of scripture that I would study intently or read again, but it was ok for a brief overview of the life of Christ. ( )
  berthacummins | Sep 4, 2013 |
Inspired by a featured program on History Channel, I purchased this book as a curiosity and as additional Americana for my library.

Two introductory articles by members of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History rebroadcast the core information contained on that TV show. An essay by Harry R. Rubenstein (Political Curator) and Barbara Clark Smith (Curator) elaborates upon the history of this publication. Conservation descriptions are expounded by Janice Stagnitto Ellis (Senior Paper Conservator).

The subtitle reads: “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English.” Thomas Jefferson had spent years cutting, aligning, and pasting typeset classical language passages against the English version. His patience and precision in amassing this assemblage are amazing. It has been decades since I could read Greek and Latin with understanding, so I was not able to decipher the first three columns on each page; but, I read the King James English text almost like the Cliff’s Notes version of the New Testament.

This version is astonishingly clearer in presenting Christ’s messages. Jefferson has eradicated any confusion that might arise through reading the divergent texts of the four gospel writers. Since Jefferson has eliminated all the evangelical editorial remarks and hearsay from this text, Christ’s preaching parables and moral messages are more focused and remarkably more comprehensible.

The inclusions of Jefferson’s handwritten bibliography as well as the folded map of the 18th Century Mediterranean area have added precious connections to this work. The reproductions of clippings, smudges, and handwritten marginalia are ribbons that connect us to hours of intensive effort two centuries ago in Monticello. The faux-leather binding and hard plastic book jacket create an elegant addition to any bookshelf. Paradoxically, this book by a U.S. President and sponsored by a renowned American institution was printed in China.

I can appreciate why Jefferson used this book for his daily reflections. This work may become a reader’s breviary or a primer in learning classical languages, but certainly it will sit as an antiquarian acquisition on anyone’s bookshelf. ( )
  terk71 | Jun 11, 2013 |
Although modern listings all refer to this book as “The Jefferson Bible” the proper title, the one that the editor, Thomas Jefferson, gave it is “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” I call Jefferson the editor, not the author, for the very good reason that he did not write the book he assembled it. He literally cut and pasted it together from six of his own Bibles, two in English, two in French, and two with both Latin and Greek text printed in parallel. One of the library subject listings for the book explains Jefferson’s intention very succinctly, “Jesus Christ › Biography › Sources, Biblical” Each of the four Gospels tells the same story, the biography of Jesus. Jefferson extracted the biographical information from each and assembled them to tell the story of Jesus’ life in a single unit.

I have had the book on my shelves for several years and was motivated to read it after seeing the very Bibles that Jefferson worked with on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I was also interested in learning, after listening to current politicians, what blasphemy Jefferson had committed. All i found is that In one spot he missed clipping all the words in a phrase and in another he lightly wrote in the margin his understanding of the Roman law the priests charged Jesus with breaking. Jefferson seemed to agree with Pilate on Jesus’ innocence. I found no blasphemy. Except for the notes in the margins every word also found in every modern Bible and I expect that many people write notes in the margins of their Bibles, hoping to clarify their thoughts on passages, without committing blasphemy. The missing words, they are at least a harmless mistake made by a 77 year old man tired after a days work and at worst a venial sin of omission.

My edition of Jefferson’s work has a preface by Forrest Church and a short article by Jaroslav Pelkan, both of which help illuminate Jefferson’s motivation for this project and explain the idea of exploring Jesus as a moral teacher, a project undertaken by several of Jefferson’s contemporaries in several forms as the article explains.

It is the morals of Jesus that most stand out after Jefferson finished with his razor and gluepot. “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” show that Jesus spoke more of virtue than sin, unlike modern Christians. The road to damnation is not traveled by sinners, they can be forgiven. Damnation, according to the words of Jesus, comes from a lack of virtue. (Matthew 25:37-46)

Much of Jefferson’s earlier writings appears to be inspired by the words of Jesus. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” is, in meaning, no different from the text in Matthew cited above. And what is (Matthew 22:20-22) but Jesus saying that God, the Church, is separate from the state, Caesar.?

Jefferson was concerned that the authors of the Gospels wrote many years after the events they told of and that they were carpenters and fishermen, not men of letters. He also worried that translators over the centuries may have introduced errors, either accidentally or otherwise. Jefferson was very aware of the compromises that need to be made when writing as a group, even in a group of well meaning men. He felt that focusing on the words and acts of Jesus would permit him to see the essence of Christ's teaching. If he was successful it appears to me that modern “Christians” have drifted far from what Jesus taught and have become simply Old Testament Gentiles. ( )
  TLCrawford | Aug 11, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A lovely addition to thoroughgoing Americana collections.
added by Christa_Josh | editBooklist, Ray Olson (Oct 15, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Jeffersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Church, F. ForresterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelikan, JaroslavAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Haiku summary
Tom's Jesus needs no
Superstitious nonsense nor
Careless damnation.
(paradoxosalpha)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807077143, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:22 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Contains the chronicles of Jesus from the New Testament, selected and arranged from the original text by President Jefferson himself.

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Beacon Press

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