Jefferson Bible

From Academic Kids

The Jefferson Bible, or The Life And Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was an attempt by Thomas Jefferson to compile the teachings of Jesus from the Christian Gospels. Jefferson was a materialist, and made this version of the Bible by simply removing all supernatural elements from the book with a razorblade.



In an 1815 letter to Charles Clay, Jefferson said he "had taken the four Evangelists" and "cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order, and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited."

Jefferson shared this little book with a number of friends, but he never let it be published during his lifetime. In letters, he said he was reluctant to let it become public because it could be misunderstood or even used by his rivals to slander him.

The book was first published in 1903 for the United States Congress. For many years copies were given to new members of Congress. The text is now freely available on the Internet since it is in the public domain.


Miracles are notably absent from the Jefferson Bible. It begins with an account of Jesus' birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. There are no claims to Jesus being divine or his mother a virgin. The work ends with the words: "Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." There is nothing about resurrection or appearances after death.


"[Jefferson's Bible] 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

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