This is a continuation of our study of Thomas Jefferson to discount the belief that he intended the United States to be a Christian nation. He started out and spent much of his life as a deist. That is he believed in the presence of God in the world but did not proclaim it as a Christian presence. Later in life after he was president he undertook a serious study of the Christian Bible and other religious documents.
He took this study to the point of making his own version of the New Testament. Many are confused by the Jefferson Bible. They wonder why he as a faithful Christian would even attempt to redo such a holy document. Below is part of the explanation why he did this:
The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. —Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814.
Jefferson was a person who took things seriously when he decided to get involved in something. He spent many months studying Scriptures and current church doctrine before he came to the above conclusions. It is no small statement to say that his words above go very counter to many versions of current day Christianity. But it turns out that two hundred years later there is a large and growing group of Christians called Emergents that are coming to much the same conclusion that he did.
The emergent movement, like Jefferson, proclaims that scriptures are very valuable part of Christianity but are not God breathed or without man’s fingerprints. These words above are very typical of Jefferson, he did not parse words when it come to disagreements with man-made beliefs or institutions.
Jefferson sincerely embraced the “diamond” parts bible as being truly inspiring writing by extraordinary men but as he said other parts were “dung”.