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The Jefferson Bible: A Biography

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The life and times of a uniquely American testament In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson edited the New Testament with a penknife and glue, removing all mention of miracles and other supernatural events. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, Jefferson hoped to reconcile Christian tradition with reason by presenting Jesus of Nazareth as a great moral teacher--not a div The life and times of a uniquely American testament In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson edited the New Testament with a penknife and glue, removing all mention of miracles and other supernatural events. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, Jefferson hoped to reconcile Christian tradition with reason by presenting Jesus of Nazareth as a great moral teacher--not a divine one. Peter Manseau tells the story of the Jefferson Bible, exploring how each new generation has reimagined the book in its own image as readers grapple with both the legacy of the man who made it and the place of religion in American life. Completed in 1820 and rediscovered by chance in the late nineteenth century after being lost for decades, Jefferson's cut-and-paste scripture has meant different things to different people. Some have held it up as evidence that America is a Christian nation founded on the lessons of the Gospels. Others see it as proof of the Founders' intent to root out the stubborn influence of faith. Manseau explains Jefferson's personal religion and philosophy, shedding light on the influences and ideas that inspired him to radically revise the Gospels. He situates the creation of the Jefferson Bible within the broader search for the historical Jesus, and examines the book's role in American religious disputes over the interpretation of scripture. Manseau describes the intrigue surrounding the loss and rediscovery of the Jefferson Bible, and traces its remarkable reception history from its first planned printing in 1904 for members of Congress to its persistent power to provoke and enlighten us today.


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The life and times of a uniquely American testament In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson edited the New Testament with a penknife and glue, removing all mention of miracles and other supernatural events. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, Jefferson hoped to reconcile Christian tradition with reason by presenting Jesus of Nazareth as a great moral teacher--not a div The life and times of a uniquely American testament In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson edited the New Testament with a penknife and glue, removing all mention of miracles and other supernatural events. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, Jefferson hoped to reconcile Christian tradition with reason by presenting Jesus of Nazareth as a great moral teacher--not a divine one. Peter Manseau tells the story of the Jefferson Bible, exploring how each new generation has reimagined the book in its own image as readers grapple with both the legacy of the man who made it and the place of religion in American life. Completed in 1820 and rediscovered by chance in the late nineteenth century after being lost for decades, Jefferson's cut-and-paste scripture has meant different things to different people. Some have held it up as evidence that America is a Christian nation founded on the lessons of the Gospels. Others see it as proof of the Founders' intent to root out the stubborn influence of faith. Manseau explains Jefferson's personal religion and philosophy, shedding light on the influences and ideas that inspired him to radically revise the Gospels. He situates the creation of the Jefferson Bible within the broader search for the historical Jesus, and examines the book's role in American religious disputes over the interpretation of scripture. Manseau describes the intrigue surrounding the loss and rediscovery of the Jefferson Bible, and traces its remarkable reception history from its first planned printing in 1904 for members of Congress to its persistent power to provoke and enlighten us today.

40 review for The Jefferson Bible: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    Thomas Jefferson, a product of the Enlightenment, regarded religion as a source for ethical teaching while rejecting its supernatural elements. He accepted Jesus as an ancient moral teacher deserving respect, but not the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. He attempted to separate the authentic teaching of Jesus from the religious embellishments of his followers by creating a text that contained what he viewed as his teachings while omitting anything that seemed irrational: miracles, Virgin Thomas Jefferson, a product of the Enlightenment, regarded religion as a source for ethical teaching while rejecting its supernatural elements. He accepted Jesus as an ancient moral teacher deserving respect, but not the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. He attempted to separate the authentic teaching of Jesus from the religious embellishments of his followers by creating a text that contained what he viewed as his teachings while omitting anything that seemed irrational: miracles, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, forgiveness of sin, etc. This document is the focus of this volume which traces its physical and cultural history. From theological groups such as the Jesus Movement and Unitarians to social forces such as social engineering in the 1920s and social justice efforts in the 1960s, Manseau shows how this document was used and was modified by a variety of American movements.

  2. 4 out of 5

    The Atlantic

    "Peter Manseau’s fluent and instructive The Jefferson Bible: A Biography arrives to celebrate the 200th anniversary of this patchwork Gospel, which Jefferson completed, after many years of fiddling, in 1820. Manseau, the curator of American religious history at the National Museum of American History, carefully traces Jefferson’s pilgrimage into the non-miraculous, from the Anglicanism in which he was raised, via exposure to Locke and Newton and the polemics of the roaring infidel Henry Saint Jo "Peter Manseau’s fluent and instructive The Jefferson Bible: A Biography arrives to celebrate the 200th anniversary of this patchwork Gospel, which Jefferson completed, after many years of fiddling, in 1820. Manseau, the curator of American religious history at the National Museum of American History, carefully traces Jefferson’s pilgrimage into the non-miraculous, from the Anglicanism in which he was raised, via exposure to Locke and Newton and the polemics of the roaring infidel Henry Saint John, the first Viscount Bolingbroke, to the point where he writes to his nephew in 1787: “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Langhorst

    Peter Manseau has written an interesting book on a number of levels about generations of Americans have discovered and rediscovered Jefferson edited version of the Bible, which he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. In his edited version, Jefferson edited out the miracles. Would definitely recommend this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sandford Parker

    The Jefferson Bible is such a fascinating window not only into Jefferson’s mind but—as the “biography” interestingly displays (for the most part)—subsequent generations of Americans who have encountered it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Silliman

    Review coming for Christianity Today.

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    Cary

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    Nick Spencer

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    Joshua

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    Bruce Crocker

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    Kadiri Saliu

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    Christopher Golding

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    FUMA88

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    Marcus Zelenski

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    Grady Forrester

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    Matthew

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