Bonnie Gould of Basking Ridge, and an active board member of the Somerset Hills Branch of AAUW, will be giving a talk on a lesser known story about Thomas Jefferson and his “bible.” The meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 15, starting at 6:30 pm at the Bernards Township LIbrary. This talk is free and open to the public.
In 1803, done with his official work for the day, President Thomas Jefferson sat in the new mansion in Washington and opened his Bible – not to pray, but to cut. He scoured the text for Jesus’ teachings, sliced out ones with which he could agree and glued them into an empty volume. He called his book, “The Philosophy of Jesus.” That book was lost to history.
In 1819, in his Monticello study, he started over and created a new version he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to now as the Jefferson Bible. This volume was kept largely secret and passed among Jefferson’s relatives until 1895, when it was discovered by the librarian at the Smithsonian. In 1904, it was published by Congress and given to new Senators and Representatives until well into the Nixon administration when the copies ran out.
Several years ago, Bonnie Gould came across one of these rare copies at the Somerset Hills AAUW Used Book Sale and became interested in this aspect of Jefferson’s persona. This is not a talk about religion but rather the process this man, who history has proved to be great, went through to test and cement his basic philosophies.