We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.—Thomas Jefferson
Featuring an introduction by Forrest Church, this reissue of The Jefferson Bible offers extraordinary insight into the logic of Thomas Jefferson and the Gospel of Jesus. Working in the White House in 1804, Jefferson set out to edit the Gospels in order to uncover the essence of true religion in the simple story of the life of Jesus. Jefferson was convinced that the authentic message of Jesus could be found only by extracting from the Gospels Jesus's message of absolute love and service, rather than the miracle of the Annunciation, Virgin Birth, or even the Resurrection. Completed in 1819, this little book is the remarkable result of Jefferson's efforts.
About the Author
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third president of the United States, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder of the University of Virginia. Among his proudest achievements was his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, passed by the General Assembly of Virginia in 1786, which became the first law of its kind in the United States. Also a noted architect and naturalist, Jefferson designed and built his home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Forrest Church (1948-2009) served almost three decades as senior minister and was Minister of Public Theology of All Souls, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in New York City. He was educated at Stanford University, Harvard Divinity School, and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in early church history. He wrote or edited twenty-five books, including Life Lines, Lifecraft, The American Creed, Freedom from Fear, So Help Me God, Love & Death, and The Cathedral of the World.
During Church’s tenure at the congregation, All Souls flourished and its membership more than tripled. With almost 1,500 members, All Souls is one of the largest congregations in the Unitarian Universalist Association today. As All Souls grew, so too did Church’s prominence as a public voice for Unitarian Universalism and for social justice. He was a strong proponent of both religious and political liberalism. In 1985, he led All Souls in learning about AIDS and providing direct services to AIDS sufferers. New York reporter Bernice Kanner wrote that year, “The mobilization of All Souls was among the first religious responses to the disease.”
Church died on September 24, 2009, following a three-year battle with esophageal cancer, at the age of sixty-one. The staff of Beacon Press mourns the passing of an acclaimed author, a dear friend, and a long-time supporter of our work.
Religion in America [gained] something unique from Jefferson. . . . His Jesus was a figure fitted for the Enlightenment, rational but not divine.—Gustav Niebuhr, New York Times
"The Founding Father's treatment of the Bible was radical. . . . Today, historians such as Yale University's Jaroslav Pelikan are struck by the project's 'sheer audacity' . . . Jefferson's Bible is a curious sidelight on an ever-intriguing figure, whose image has become more controversial in recent years."—Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press
"Gives us a preaching Jesus of distinctly human dimensions, without miracles or resurrection. [A] fascinating document, telling us a great deal about a great eighteenth-century mind and its world." —Charles S. Adams, Religious Studies Review
"These excerpts from the four Gospels are among the most interesting and compelling in all of the Scripture. They emphasize Jesus' ethical lessons of love, reverence, forbearance, reproachment, repentance, and forgiveness." —Garrett Ward Sheldon, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography