Bible Review 13:1, February 1997

Jefferson’s Bible

Cutting and pasting the Good Book

By C. Bruce Hunter

Among his many other accomplishments, the third president of the United States rewrote the Bible. That might seem a remarkably audacious thing for anyone to do, but it was quite natural for a man of Thomas Jefferson’s complex nature. He was a true genius who often got into trouble for refusing to follow the crowd. And he approached Holy Scripture with the same controversial attitude that drove all his actions.

In fact, Jefferson was at his most controversial when it came to religion. His arch rival, Alexander Hamilton, accused him of being an atheist, and in the heat of partisan politics, the story was repeated and magnified until most of the country believed it.

For his part, Jefferson declined to answer the charge. He never spoke publicly about his religious beliefs. Realizing that anything he said would only add fuel to the controversy, he refused to discuss his faith except with his most trusted friends, and even then he found it necessary to remind them to keep his words confidential.

Thomas Jefferson’s brushes with controversy were, of course, a product of his inquiring mind. Not one to accept the standard explanation for anything, he was always asking questions and energetically pursuing answers.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.