Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jefferson’s Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Where: American History Museum

When: through July 15, 2012

Thomas Jefferson was a fascinating and brilliant person.  Note that I'm not saying he was a flawless person, but for sheer intelligence, I think you'd be hard put to come up with another President who would be his equal.

Jefferson was not a fan of organized religion and felt that the Bible contained many sections that could not stand up to reasonable inquiry.  So, rather than merely complaining, he decided to do something about it.  In 1820, he constructed his own Bible, drawing passages from New Testaments in English, French, Latin and Greek.  He left out the miracles, the Resurrection and other events that he felt were unsupportable by logic and left in the morals and teachings of Jesus.  In order to do this, he literally cut out the sections he wanted from two copies of an 1804 edition of the King James Bible and affixed them into a book that he then used for his own study.

This book was his own private text, and he never published it.  The Smithsonian purchased it from one of his great-granddaughters in 1895.  Over the years, it became so fragile that it could no longer be handled or displayed.  In 2011, a massive conservation project was undertaken and the book is now able to be seen.  In addition to seeing the book itself, you can also see the two books he used as source material, with pages missing.  A quote that appears in the exhibit is one I like very much: "Fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion."  Dare I say it, amen brother!

Verdict: Do not miss this - well worth a visit.  The opportunity to see a real artifact from a Founding Father is not something you get every day.

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