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The Myth of the “Thomas Jefferson Bible”

In a recent post about less-than-honest college professors, I suggested that it’s a good idea to read Dr. Joseph Ellis’ writings on Thomas Jefferson with a skeptical eye, if you are going to read them at all. It’s been proven that Joseph Ellis is a shameless liar; he spent years telling his students made up stories about his experiences in combat in the Vietnam jungles, when in fact he never served in Vietnam, nor incombat, at all.

Someone quickly posted a question about the so-called “Thomas Jefferson Bible,” and the question is a good one.In Ellis’ biography of Jefferson, he portrays the third President as a deist; a man who disbelieved in virtually all of the Bible. Professor Ellis’ status as a Jefferson scholar has helped to propagate the myth that Jefferson created his own Bible by cutting out everything he disagreed with.

In creating this “Thomas Jefferson Bible,” we are told, Jefferson clipped out all references to miracles, to divine intervention in people’s lives, to God speaking directly to human beings, and to anything else to which a typical modern day college campus atheist might object. Jefferson, the story goes, created a Bible in which God plays no significant role.

This story of a Thomas Jefferson Bible is almost as phony as Joseph Ellis’ war record.

For starters, Jefferson never made any claim of having written his own Bible. The book he put together was something he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It is simply a collection of the actual words of Jesus, taken from the four Gospels; the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jefferson said that his intention was to create a book of morals, and that the words of Jesus were the best moral compass a person could find.

For anyone who is interested, Jefferson’s compilation is available at this website.

There are sixty-six books in the Bible, and the four gospels are the only books that contain actual quotes of Jesus from his time on Earth, hence the only books Jefferson was able to draw from in his compilation. If Jefferson had actually intended to put together an abridged “Bible,” as anti-religious scholars claim, one would think that he would have managed to clip a few passages from some of the other sixty-two books.

One honest scholar who is trying to correct the record on Jefferson and the Bible is Dr. James Kennedy, who offers some useful insights at this website.

Another is David Barton, author of the book The Jefferson Lies, which I’ve asked Mrs. Fuller to slip into my Christmas stocking next December. Here’s some video of David Barton on the myth of the Jefferson Bible.  

It seems like you just can’t trust a history prof, where politics or religion are involved.