The Thomas Jefferson Bible

by David Padfield

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, translated the New Testament into English from the Greek language. The Life And Morals Of Jesus Of Nazareth is usually referred to as The Jefferson Bible. While I respect Thomas Jefferson and his place in American history, his view of the Bible was unusual.

Jefferson was heavily influenced by Unitarian preachers. Their bias is shown on every page of his translation. Perhaps the word "translation" is far too generous. His labor might best be described as an abridged paraphrase of the sections of the four gospels that he agreed with. Jefferson had no respect for the writings of the apostle Paul, and only marginal regard for the four gospel writers.

Jefferson biographer Jaroslav Pelikan wrote: "Like other Enlightenment rationalists, Jefferson was convinced that the real villain in the Christian story was the apostle Paul, who had corrupted the religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus, which thus had, in combination with the otherworldly outlook of the Fourth Gospel, produced the monstrosities of dogma, superstition, and priestcraft, which were the essence of Christian orthodoxy." (Jefferson And His Contemporaries, p. 5).

The Jefferson Bible was an attempt to harmonize the gospels. All references to the Deity of Christ are deleted. The virgin birth of Christ, His genealogy, miracles and claims of Divine Sonship are gone. One of the few things left are the parables.

According to Jefferson, when Jesus left the man who had been blind since birth (John 9) the man was still blind, Malchus was left with his ear cut off and Lazarus was left rotting in the tomb.

In The Jefferson Bible you will find no reference to Christ fulfilling prophecy, or the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him. Nor will you find the victory of Christ over the temptations which Satan placed in His way.

The Jefferson Bible abruptly ends with these words: "Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed."

Paul tells us the consequences of a doctrine like that found in The Jefferson Bible: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (1 Cor. 15:13-19).