Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jefferson's Beliefs, Bible Were His Own

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was not an atheist as some have thought.

Jefferson "believed that an authentic Christianity had long ago been hijacked by the Christian Church," wrote Erik Reece in the December Harper's.

It may have been this belief that led him one night to take scissors to his King James Bible and produce his own cut-and-paste version of the Gospels.

“Jefferson," Mr. Reece wrote, "cut out the virgin birth, all the miracles – including the most important one, the Resurrection – then pasted together what was left and called it 'The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.' " (Later, he added portions of the Bible as translated into Greek, Latin and French.)

Jefferson described his work as separating the "diamonds from the dunghill." Out went all references to Jesus as divine, all accounts of healings, of walking on water, of making loaves and fish appear out of thin air.

Jefferson thought man should live by a code of morals - helping the needy, shunning wealth and power, and treating people as we would have them treat us

A version of Jefferson's Bible is still available through Beacon Press.

He had only three achievements, per his instructions, put on his grave marker at Monticello: father of the University of Virginia; author of the Declaration of Independence; and author of "the statute of Virginia for religious freedom. According to facts about his life, Jefferson wanted to be remembered for those accomplishments, not for being President.

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