Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 (April 2, 1743 O.S.) – July 4, 1826)
was an American Founding Father
who was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776)
and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).
"Jefferson referred to "Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence,
he preferred to keep his personal beliefs to himself,
a reticence that lined up with his philosophy
of individual freedom and religious tolerance.
In "Notes," he put it this way:
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god.
It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Jefferson described Jesus' teachings
as "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals."
The problem, he wrote in another letter to Adams,
came in the "artificial scaffolding" that surrounded those teachings
— the Virgin Birth, the miracles and so on.
"The Jefferson Bible" is his attempt to tear down that scaffolding.
...he used a razor to slice Jesus' teachings
out of a couple of King James Bibles,
then grouped them by subject (e.g., "false teachers")
and pasted them into a scrapbook.
Jefferson preserved Jesus' life story and his teachings,
but he removed anything that strained reason
— the walking on water or Lazarus' resurrection.
And Jefferson applied this standard to the smallest details.
Matthew 19:2, for example, reads:
"And great multitudes followed him, and he healed them there."
But Jefferson carefully excised "and he healed them there."
..."The Jefferson Bible" ends with Jesus' entombment,
and, given all the trouble caused by his published thoughts on religion,
Jefferson seemed happy to take the book to his grave.
...The government produced an extravagant edition
...in 1904, the government published more than 9,000 copies,
with 14 going to each congressman — and with enough kept in reserve
that a copy also went to every incoming representative or senator,
a tradition that continued through the 1950s.
..."The Jefferson Bible" stands as one of the most interesting
and iconoclastic moments in America's religious past
— one man with a razor, a pot of paste
and a unique and private set of ideas.
...Jefferson was no more a Bible thumper than he was a Bible burner.
A leader in The Enlightenment,
Jefferson was a polymath who spoke five languages
and was deeply interested in science, religion and philosophy."
The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason)
was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th-century Europe,
that sought to mobilize the power of reason,
in order to reform society and advance knowledge.
It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition,
intolerance and abuses in church and state.
Originating about 1650–1700,
it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677),
John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706),
mathematician Isaac Newton (1643–1727) and historian Voltaire (1694–1778).
...The new intellectual forces spread to ...the European colonies,
where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson,
among many others,
and played a major role in the American Revolution.
The political ideals influenced the American Declaration of Independence,
the United States Bill of Rights,
the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,
and the Polish–Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791.