Friday, January 8, 2010

The Jefferson Bible

It is fairly well known that Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian. He was probably a deist, but he was definitely a skeptic, who advocated rigorous examination of the evidence for one's beliefs. He was also an admirer of Jesus Christ, but he found the Christ of the New Testament gospels to be unbelievable, a victim of mythmakers who distorted what Jefferson thought to be the prophet's actual philosophy with fantastic tales of miracles and divine fanfare.

So, one day, he sat down and edited out all the things he thought invented after the fact, in an attempt to reveal the natural history of the sage, Jesus Christ. Here is his finished product. I find it to be still quite interesting and often profound, but not nearly as compelling without the mythological elements. But then, my reaction is probably a vestigial holdover from a fervent Christian upbringing. I wonder how those not inculcated as children into the Christian mythos react to it?

One thing is for certain, though. In the current political climate, we would definitely not be raising rapturous monuments (it is my favorite) in the nation's capitol to a man who figuratively chopped up the bible in such a way. Could you imagine if President Obama, in an effort to hone, say, St. Paul's message, had, in his student days, edited the epistles down to their bare philosophical bones? (Actually, I could see him doing this, simply as an exercise in intellectual rigor.) Well, he would certainly not be the president today, and probably not even a senator any longer. Such is the mob fervor gripping the populace.


Vincent said...

It's because he was a man of the Enlightenment, in touch with European sceptics, but not prepared to go all the way. So he invented this compromise. I suppose there is not a Christian in the world who has not metaphorically cut passages out of the Bible to end up with a customised version.

As a fellow non-Christian, I'd leave everything in, and treat the Bible with superstitious awe and not rationality. But then I love to sing hymns and remember all that inculcation into the mythos, in the sonorous language of the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version. I enjoy a few church services, so long as they are purely ritual and don't try to preach to me.

Christians can do as they please without my interference or judgement. But then I don't live in the States. I might find it harder there. How would you characterise this mob fervor?

PatricktheRogue said...

Whereas the U.S. constitution prohibits any religious test for political office, every person who actually runs for office has to profess their religious beliefs if they have any chance of being elected. Here is a recent example of this religious scrutiny in action: