was not happy with the bible
. He felt that the teachings of Jesus
had been clouded by the gospel writers. In 1804
Jefferson wrote a short piece The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth
. Sixteen years later Jefferson returned to the theme with more rigor. This time he produced a larger work The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English
. It is this work that is commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible
The Jefferson Bible omits virtually every reference to miracles, divinity, and resurrection. Instead we are left with the moral teachings of Jesus Christ - not a religion based on the divinity of Christ. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote that the task was:
...abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separate from that as the diamond from the dung hill.
The writings stayed within the Jefferson family until the late 1800's, when they were purchased by the National Museum -- now the Smithsonian Museum
. It was published in 1904 by the Government Printing Office
and copies were given to each member of Congress. From then until the 1950's each new member of the House
received a copy at their swearing in. The tradition languished for several decades, but was resumed in the 1990's.
The Jefferson Bible was reprinted in 1996 as part of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, edited by Dr. Judd W. Patton, professor at Bellevue University.