JEFFERSON CONTRADICTS THE CLAIM OF THE CHRISTIANS
If one has been cognizant of religious matters for the past twenty years, he is aware that Christian Fundamentalists consider this nation to be a Christian Nation. As evidence they often offer the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers. In doing so they are ignorant of the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Paine and particularly Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson wrote: “I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.” That is, Jesus was a man of the greatest human excellences but he was not the son of a God, nor did he die, resurrect and ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of his Father. Jefferson was not a Trinitarian or believer in the Nicene Creed.
In a letter to Samuel Kercheval, dated January 19, 1810, in response to a letter received from him regarding the corrupting of Jesus’ teachings, Jefferson wrote this in his reply: “… that but a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer [Jesus] of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State: that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves: that rational men, not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue and cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.”
If Jefferson scanned the channels of today’s TV offerings and came upon the revolting and shocking spectacle of thousand-dollar suited evangelists presiding at the contrived and fraudulent miraculous healing of the sick, sore, lame and disabled by the laying on of their hands; and had he knowledge of the income of such impious impostures claiming apostolic succession from the humble Carpenter of Galilee, he would take note that not much has changed, since his day, in the world of Orthodox Christianity.
In his book “The God Delusion” Richards Dawkins quotes Jefferson often and one of his favorite quotes is from a letter written by Jefferson to Peter Carr from Paris, August 10, 1787: “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God: because, if there is one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
Jefferson read the Gospels and found much in them that were not compatible with the intrinsic nature of Jesus and discovered a multitude of myths that had been forever associated with prophets; and he decided he would write his own Bible leaving out the political and theological interpolations and the miracles, all of which he considered alien to Jesus’ teachings and character, but all essential to the establishment, in Jesus’ name, of a worldly religious organization designed to perpetuate and support an ecclesiastical hierarchy and church.
In a letter to Francis Adrian van der Kemp, a Dutch scholar and Unitarian minister, Jefferson outlined his project to restore to the Gospels their original purity and to excise those Scriptures that he believed were incompatible with Jesus’ words and acts: “Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Him by His biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded for the some Being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples.”
The result of his project was the “The Jefferson Bible,” a remarkable achievement in which he surveyed the four gospels and excised those Scriptures that he considered to be the interpolations and opportunistic additions of worldly clerics and that were, in Jefferson judgment, words and concepts Jesus would never have uttered and miracles he never performed.
One reads in Mark 16: 15-18: “And he said unto them, ‘Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’”
Jefferson excised these verses from his Gospel of Mark. Anyone who thinks and studies and perceives the true Jesus would not only excise these scriptures but would wonder how they ever became a part of Mark or any other of the Gospels, except that they were appended to the end of Mark’s Gospel to give credence to the belief that Jesus was God. Yet from these specious sayings there have arisen a number of sects and denominations with large followings.
The Pentecostals, a member of which is a former Attorney-General of the United States, believe in “new tongues,” or glossolalia. There are preachers who, wherever they can pitch a tent or afford a TV station, will induce and seduce the gullible to come to sit entranced as the lame throw away their crutches and the blind see again. Further, there has arisen from the verses the belief that, in order to be saved and live a postmortem life in Paradise, one must be baptized and profess a belief in Christ. It strains credulity to believe that Jesus would countenance the sending of a life-long scoundrel to heaven who believed and had been baptized and send a saint to hell who had not believed and been baptized. Then there are some who handle snakes but there are few who drink deadly things to test their faith.
Lastly, Jefferson’s Bible concludes Matthews’ Gospel thusly: “And rolled a great stone to the door of sepulcher, and departed.” That is not only the end of Jefferson’s Matthews but the end of his Mark, Luke and John. There is nothing about Jesus’ Resurrection, Reappearance or Ascension in the Jefferson Bible. Jefferson views the teachings of Jesus as lovely benevolences but he did not believe the miracles and the incompatible and incredible interpolations attributed to him. Thus, Jefferson was not a Christian, notwithstanding the Christians’ contention.