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Did Thomas Jefferson Make His Own Version of the Bible?

Known as a deist that often dealt with religious freedom, the third United States President, Thomas Jefferson, was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. And although he labels himself as a Christian, Jefferson had no intention of recognizing Christ’s divinity and his miraculous works stated in the Bible. 

Thomas Jefferson cut out passages from the Bible that contradicted his beliefs and made his rendition of the Holy Scripture entitled the Jefferson Bible, which contained two volumes that excluded Jesus’ divinity and miracles. 

The Jefferson Bible

Thomas Jefferson, who once served as the President of the United States from 1801 to 1909, believed in deism alongside his other Founding Fathers. Fueled by the occurring advancements during the Age of Enlightenment, the former American President found himself immersed in science and theology.

As a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings, Thomas Jefferson didn’t agree with any of the sources that contributed to the making of the Bible, including the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who he deemed as deceitful. With that said, Jefferson took it upon himself to create his version of the gospels. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Thomas Jefferson used a razor and a pair of scissors in cutting out small rectangles of text in copies of the Bible’s New Testament. Following that, he pasted his rendition of Christ’s philosophy using his clippings. His version of the New Testament focused entirely on Jesus Christ, excluding his miracles. (Source: History)

He had a classic education at the College of William & Mary, so he could compare the different translations. He cut out passages with some sort of very sharp blade and, using blank paper, glued doen lines from each of the Gospels in four columns, Greek and Latin on one side of the pages, and French and English on the other.

Harry Rubenstein

Jefferson’s New Testament excluded notable events in the Bible such as the resurrection, his ascension to heaven, his miracles that converted water into wine, feeding numerous people with five loaves of barley bread and two fish, and many mystical works of the like. (Source: History

Bound in red leather, Jefferson entitled his version as The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, extensively studying over six copies of the New Testament in different versions such as Greek, French, Latin, and King James English. The 84-paged volume produced in 1820 reflected Jefferson’s belief in the teachings of Christ, not including the miraculous events that bore no logical reason. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine

The Lost Jefferson Volume

Thomas Jefferson first solidified his intention to produce his interpretation of the Bible occurred in 1804. Jefferson reveals his intentions in a letter he wrote to Benjamin Rush in 1803.  (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

They are the result of a life of enquiry & reflection, and very different from that Anti-Christian system, imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. to the corruptions of Christianity, I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.

Thomas Jefferson

(Source: National Archives)

He then created The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, where correspondence indicates that it contained 46 pages worth of passages from the New Testament. The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth centered on the moral teachings of Christ. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine

The 1804 volume remains lost, but fortunately, the Smithsonian Institute acquired the 1820 volume, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, when Jefferson’s great-granddaughter sold the book to them. (Source: History

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