Jefferson’s best friend

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. …

A source Bible from which Thomas Jefferson’s private text, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth—colloquially known as the Jefferson Bible—was culled in part.

In a letter to John Adams (24 January 1814), Thomas Jefferson wrote

The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.

In a letter to letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (13 October 1815), he wrote

The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it, from the jargon of Plato, of Aristotle and other mystics, would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, knowing the importance of names, they have assumed that of Christians, while they are mere Platonists, or anything rather than disciples of Jesus.

In a letter to William Short (31 October 1819), he wrote

The greatest of all the reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill.

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth is better known as The Jefferson Bible. Read it here.

One thought on “Jefferson’s best friend”

  1. It’s kind of Ironic that Jefferson took it upon himself to commit the very sins that he thought he was ‘fixing’… ie employing his own form of ‘Priest craft’ and proceeded to tamper the scriptures! It is also interesting to consider the fact that with the Intellectual Liberty that sprung directly from the Reformation (esp from the impact of the King James Version), that ‘Natural philosophy’ (Modern Science) sprang up (esp Newton) and that it had had such an ‘Extreme’ Impact that by Jefferson’s time it had already reached the point where it was assumed by many ‘Rationalists’ that Newton’s Laws actually rendered Miracles to be ‘Absurd’… hence Jefferson’s ‘Conviction’ that all the Miracles of the scriptures were the lies and deceptions of superstitious and power mongering Priests, and that by removing them he was ‘cleansing the Wheat from the chaff’. We know that the Protestants were seeking to rid themselves of a corrupted church, They then thought to themselves ‘How can we trust the Bible? “The Dirty priests have been perverting it into a tool of suppression”. Did not St Paul Himself warn the devils would do so?

    Thus the irony of the Reformation is that it not only led to a purification of Christianity from gross corruptions of Roman Catholicism, but also into new errors. Ie We see that many 18th century thinkers were already taking the powers of ‘Natural philosophy’ too far and were fast heading for ‘Scientism’, Materialism, Atheism, via the low rd of Deism. Freedom *OF* religion became perverted into Freedom From Religion. The error they made was not merely to undo the many false superstitions that the Popish church had manufactured, but also to dispute the essential truths of the scriptures themselves ie They threw out the Wheat as well as the chaff.

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