The Jefferson Bible: Why Even Atheists Should Love Jesus

The Jefferson Bible: Why Even Atheists Should Love Jesus July 16, 2023

Irrespective of subsequent religions, Jesus was a cool guy.
Irrespective of subsequent religions, Jesus was a cool guy. (The Ascension by John Singleton Copley, Public Domain)

The Problem with Jesus and Christianity

I once heard a joke that said, “Someone should make a religion based on the teachings of Jesus”. As the classic adage goes, it’s funny because it’s true. But perhaps the most admirable attempt to accomplish such a daunting feat can be found in the Jefferson Bible.

Now, I consider myself a Christian but only in the appreciation of Christ manner. I also consider myself a Beatlemaniac, a Swiftie, and a Guinness connoisseur. These terms do not exclusively bind me to any one product, but rather, I can recognise superiority when I come across it. And Jesus is at the top of the top, which is not a statement of preference, but a statistical fact.

Jesus Christ existed. There is not a reputable historian or religious scholar who denies this reality. But, of course, it’s the details of who this man was and what he did that understandably comes under fierce scrutiny. Two thousand years of translated stories tend to lose their steering, and even the source material was not impervious to exaggerations. For critical thinkers, these unknowns become immensely frustrating because something huge definitely happened, changing the channel of the globe as we know it. Yet so much of it defied modern logic, drawing a thick hazy line between verifiable truths and questionable mythology.

Enter Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale
Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (Public Domain)

Thomas Jefferson clearly understood this. As a Founding Father and the third president of the United States (1801 to 1809), there was a ton of pressure to lead his country with Christian ethics. However, Jefferson was a stubborn intellectual who perpetually pushed for scientific explanations, and his rational scepticism conflicted with his traditional faith.

To address his issues, Jefferson compiled a manuscript called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, now more famously known as the Jefferson Bible. His approach was to take the Plantin Polyglot Bible and the King James Bible and strip them down to Jesus’ core message. The Old Testament? Gone. The Epistles of Paul? Gone. The Book of Revelation? Gone, gone, gone. Eventually, he was left with nothing but the Four Gospels According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. From there, he took a razor and glue, and merged these sections into a single narrative whilst carefully avoiding anything science could dispute as supernatural. There are no miracles in this text. And when Jesus is crucified, the story ends without resurrection.

“I am Christian, in the only sense in which [Jesus] wished anyone to be.”
— Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1803)

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

The Baptism of Christ by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior
The Baptism of Christ by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior (Public Domain)

The resulting book is, in some ways, a stronger argument for Christianity than the debatable divinity emphasised throughout the original Bible. It’s a simplified adaptation that focuses on Jesus’ journey and philosophies, no more, no less. Hence, by reading this, you earn a basic familiarity of a man so enlightened that even the most anti-religious atheist would struggle to fight against him.

Jesus was a preacher unlike any that had come before. He taught us that social hierarchy was irrelevant: you must show love and compassion to every person, rich or poor, best friend or dead enemy. To reach his version of salvation was through forgiveness, no matter what wrong landed upon you. And when performing good deeds, such as worship or charity, one must do so in secret, never for boasting points, even if you’re an Instagram influencer.

These fundamental schoolings of Jesus Christ appear so common now but were in radical opposition to the era’s religious and political norms. He was the ultimate rebel, walking around and disrupting the status quo under the self-proclaimed authority of God. And his anti-establishment message continually snowballed in popularity until he was recognised as a threat. That’s why they tortured and brutally murdered the guy.

Even Atheists Should Love Jesus

The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene by Pietro Perugino
The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene by Pietro Perugino (Public Domain)

One should never judge a religion by its followers. Judge it by its prophet. Trusting the Old Testament or the quills of the disciples is a matter of faith. But Jesus’ education was of a different breed. What Jefferson has compiled is a refreshing look whereby even the apostles’ testimonies were stripped down to their raw bones. And therein lies the genuine scripture of Christ. No other recorded documentation presented ideas this revolutionary, and consequently, history itself shot off in a contrasting direction.

Global spirituality still runs on that trajectory today. With over two billion devotees, Christianity stands as the most popular theology in the world. With just under two billion, Islam comes in second, and their holy Quran mentions Jesus over 180 times.

So, if you oppose Jesus, I urge you to read the Jefferson Bible. And when you do, sincerely ask yourself what it is you dislike about this man. I am willing to bet that you will find no substantial reasoning whatsoever. Instead, you’ll realise that your prejudices are based on those who bastardised his word much later, while standalone Jesus remains a pretty awesome dude.

Because if nothing else, never forget that you’ve eaten a lot of chocolate on Easter and received ample gifts on Christmas Day. At least give him some respect for that.

About Jared Woods
Born in South Africa and now homeless as a nomadic something or other, Jared Woods does whatever he wants. He has authored numerous books, including the spiritual philosophy texts known as the "Janthopoyism Bible". Follow Jared on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @legotrip You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!