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Jefferson Bible

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Title page of the original copy of the Jefferson Bible
Light iron-age reading
The Bible
Icon bible.svg
Gabbin' with God

The Jefferson Bible, officially titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, is an extract from the four gospels compiled by Thomas Jefferson.


The book consists of the sayings attributed to Jesus taken from the four gospels, without the rest of the text. Jefferson's deism played a role in this, as Jefferson believed the teachings of Jesus were "diamonds in a dunghill" and also wrote, "In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves." The book excludes references to supernatural elements in the four gospels, such as miracles and the resurrection. As you might expect, that makes it a rather short read, compared to the KJV.

Jefferson didn't have the scholarship we have today that has enabled a rough reconstruction of the Q gospel, but hey, give the guy credit for at least trying.


The Jefferson Bible has been published numerous times, and several editions are in print today. Some editions are by commercial publishers such as Dover, while others are by groups with their own religious axes to grind. Two examples of the latter are one published by the Unitarian Universalist Church, which places Jefferson's deism in the context of a liberal religious tradition; and one published by a religious right publisher with commentary making the case for Jefferson and the other Founders' faith in God. More obscure editions have been published by Noontide Press (a publisher once associated with Liberty Lobby), and Sovereign Press, both of them with rather anti-Semitic commentaries praising Jefferson's Bible for presenting the teachings of Jesus sans "Jewish" content. Exploitation by fringe groups aside, the Jefferson Bible is mainly regarded as an interesting curiosity and an example of the freethought of Jefferson.

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