"Question with boldness even the existence of a god," Thomas Jefferson asserted, "because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." America's third president regarded Jesus as a moral guide rather than a divinity, and in The Jefferson Bible, he highlights Christ's ethical teachings from the Gospels. Discarding the scriptures' supernatural elements and dogma, this volume reflects the deist view of religion, focusing on Jesus' message of absolute love and service.
Jefferson undertook his self-appointed task in 1794, consulting not only the King James Bible but also Greek, French, and Latin versions. He selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and arranged them in chronological order to form a single narrative. Although Jefferson shared his interpretation with friends and family, he declined to publish it, in keeping with his conviction that religion is a private matter — and also to avoid providing his political enemies with ammunition. Not until the turn of the twentieth century did the book appear in print, when it became a tradition to present it to new members of Congress. Unique and influential, this volume reflects not only the thinking of one of the nation's most brilliant statesmen, but also the ideology of the Enlightenment era.