December 09, 2004

The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Editor: Thomas Jefferson | Written 1820 | Amazon

Thomas Jefferson was amazing in lots of ways, but I still find it surprising that he ordered a group of bibles, cut them up, and rearranged and reduced the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) into what he figured was what Christ had really done. He didn't think the text as handed down was particularly accurate, and he removed miracles and other things he didn't find plausible.

What's left is still stunning. It occasionally repeats as different books tell stories mostly but not quite the same, but I don't think the story loses much of its power. Christ's message comes through clearly overall, though the story is very different thanks to Jefferson's powerful doubts.

In the Preface, Forrest Church writes of how the book brought him into religion, letting him get past the skepticism of his youth. The Introduction looks at the story of the book's creation more closely, while an Afterword by Jaroslav Pelikan provides more context for the project, looking at other efforts to rearrange the Gospels and the problems involved.

It's hard to believe that conservatives have published a version of this book with a preface that tries to describe Jefferson as an explicitly Christian Founding Father. I'll have to track it down and read it, but I can't see spending money on it.

Posted by simonstl at December 9, 2004 11:28 PM