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Jefferson Bible–Thomas Jefferson

Conservators at the National Museum of American History are working to restore and preserve the famous/infamous Jefferson Bible. This is the literally cut-and-pasted version of the gospels that Jefferson created out of several different Bibles, including ones in English, French, Latin, and Greek.

Many Bible believers have taken a quite dim view of Jefferson’s scissors-and-paste operation. Granted, any number of editors have created so-called “harmonies” of the Gospels. The problem with the nation’s third president is that he cut out the things that did not fit with his Enlightenment attitudes. Specifically, he cut out the miracles and the resurrection.

While I wouldn’t recommend Jefferson’s abridgment and rearrangement as a Bible for others to use, I would point out one fact that critics typically miss. In order to create the sort of edition that this one represents, Jefferson had to spend a great deal of time in the pages of Scripture. Given how few hours many people who profess a high view of the Bible invest, I have to admire the man.

Also, I have not seen evidence that Jefferson intended his edition as anything beyond something for his own use. He did not allow the book to be published in his own life. Were he not the Sage of Monticello, this “Bible” would have been long ago forgotten. I find it difficult to be terribly critical of a man who spent a good deal of time in God’s Word and then kept his rather speculative outcomes to a very close circle.

Posted in American Literature, Neo-Classicism.

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