Revisiting The Jefferson Bible

My first blog post was about The Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson gathered excerpts from the four gospels of The New Testament in Latin, Greek, English and French. His aim was to cut out the parts he thought were directly linked to Jesus’ teachings to create his own Bible.

What interested me in my first post were the cut up bibles (the source books); what was left behind after he had cut out the passages he had chosen for his own bible.



I finally got around to buying The Jefferson Bible itself and what fascinates me about this edition is the invariable personal nature created by the collage. I love that it shows where he glued each passage. I love seeing his annotations.


all photos from my Smithsonian edition






Note to my followers who have a blog: Invariably, this post made me reflect on writing my first blog post. In the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to go back in time and visit your first blog posts!

67 thoughts on “Revisiting The Jefferson Bible

  1. Wow! I had never heard of this book. Sounds really interesting, and it’s neat to see it clipped out, but I imagine I’d rather have the updated and correctly formatted version, if they make such a thing.

    Or does that make me too much of a pansy? : )

  2. I’ve not heard of this book either. Sometimes I feel guilty for my tendency to skew loftier reads for a good thriller. Every now and then I’ll grab a literary work, but rarely a classic. I read enough heavy professional stuff that I tend to keep my fiction simpler. I realize ‘The Jefferson Bible’ is a different type of work, but I guess I digressed. I still feel guilty for not being aware of this one though. 🙂

  3. In some ways, this reminds me of Walter Benjamin’s “Arcades Project,” where each selected element ends up resonating with the others. In grad school, I created an “Arcades Project” of one semester’s reading (not just academic reading, but also things like the New York Times, presentations from classmates, poetry, photography magazines, etc.), ending up with a seminar paper about 125 pages long. It was all-consuming, but I still love going back and revisiting the “book” I wrote to remind myself of that heady time.

    I have only heard of the Jefferson Bible in passing. It looks fascinating. Thank you for showing me a glimpse!

    And I may go back and take a look at my older posts to see if any hold up against the passage of time. Cheers!

    • You’re right, there’s something Benjamin-like in the personalization of the text. That’s what I’m most drawn to here.

      I love that you created your own project of one semester’s worth of reading. How wonderful it must have been to create and to look back on now. It should be displayed in your home somehow if it isn’t already.

  4. My Grandmother owns a copy, but I didn’t realize what it was! I will look closer then next time I see her. Interesting idea about visiting first posts. I always say I will go back and clean my blog, but I never do…hope its readable 🙂

    • It will be interesting to look at your grandmother’s copy, especially as you know the story behind it now.

      Off I go to search for your first blog post…. 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard about this but am thinking it would make a great gift for my husband. He minor end in Religious Studies. I wonder if he’s heard about this? Guess I’ll ask him after I give him a copy.

    • This edition (the Smithsonian edition) is hard to read so if you’re getting it for him to read then I’d recommend one of the more standard editions (or both?).

      I like that you’ll ask him after you give him a copy- that made me laugh!

  6. Pingback: Remembering Where We Started … – the Jotter's Joint

  7. I tend to go to the first post when I add someone, this says a lot about the writer (blogger), and you use a very rare book, very interesting. I will check that book out, never heard of it, now I am intrigued. I cannot cut pages nor do something with a book, I try to do it for a project I was doing for the museum and did not go through with it. So you love to take notes on books, I love to buy use poem books with notes; I think it adds a story to the book.

    • Having visited some people’s first blog posts I can see why you got into that habit – it’s lovely!

      I don’t like to cut up books either, but love to read other people’s notes as well. You’re so right, it does add to the story of the book!

  8. How amazing that he felt strongly enough about making his own Bible that he was able to cut up other Bibles to do that. This morning I was toying with the idea of taking out some photo pages from old books, to make a collage….and I couldn’t do it! Great idea to go back to one’s first post. I did that a while back and was amazed to realise that I featured a photo of a type of doorway. So symbolic but I didn’t realise that at the time.

    • It’s funny how hesitant we are about cutting up books (I am as well). If we respect stories and authors, we feel disrespectful tearing the object apart, I suppose. And, when you think about it, Jefferson could have just copied out the parts he was interested in rather than cutting them out (maybe it was to save time in the end).

      Looking forward to visiting your first post and seeing the doorway (very appropriate for a first post!).

      • Yes, he could have copied out the parts he wanted or asked someone to copy them for him. The cutting out is quite neat and must have been time consuming, surely 🙂 It’s all very intriguing.

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever read a bible before. It’s interesting how this bible is a collage! Is it made to look old intentionally? Or is your copy simply old? xD Either way it looks nice!

    • The pages themselves are copies of the original (Jefferson’s personal bible that he created). It’s a bit hard to read at times, but that way we can see how he created it which is why I like it.

  10. This is fascinating! I was a collage junky myself for years, just ask Mr. H. All through my twenties, I always had a wall in my room/apartment covered in magazine image and word clippings that moved me.

    Now I see why you commented on my very first post last night! I was like, wow…Letizia’s digging up the archives! Isn’t it neat to see where we started with our blogs and how far we’ve come?

  11. That’s funny that he even had the idea to create a Bible for himself. I love seeing scribbles and different thoughts on passages in books. It’s always fun when that happens with a library book. With Jefferson’s handwriting there, it’s almost like bringing him back to life in a way. Very cool!

    • I agree, Sheila, it’s fun to see that in a library book. Whenever something is underlined in a book I’m reading, I think about why it’s underlined and if I would have underlined it, etc.

  12. How interesting. And I’m ashamed, I didn’t know about his bible. Seriously, how did the man find the time to do everything he did. I need to get rid of my TV.

  13. I never heard of Jefferson’s Bible, and now I wonder if my mom knows. She is utterly fascinated by Jefferson, and I think she would go crazy over this. Do they actually sell copies of his bible?

    I like the idea of trolling through our first posts. I think I would be horrified, frankly! 🙂

    • Yes, the photos are from my copy of the Jefferson Bible. You can buy it like mine (an exact copy of his bible- so you see his notes and where he pasted each section) or just like a normal text which is easier to read. If your mother isn’t familiar with it, she will love receiving it!

      I look forward to exploring your first post- it has been a lot of fun reading people’s initial thoughts!

    • From my understanding (and I don’t know too much about his religious views – he was Protestant originally) he wanted to have a text which only included Jesus’ teachings and nothing else, no other interpretations. It would be interesting to read more about it.

    • I’ll keep away then, haha! (although it’s been so fun to read these early posts even for the pleasure of reading posts that I’ve missed. If you have an early post you think I would like, send me the link, ok?).

  14. Like the other commentators, this is so interesting, Letizia, thank you. Funnily enough, I have been contemplating reading the Bible (out of interest, rather than because of religious reasons). I think I may have to read this one as well as the King James one, because it seem so fascinating. And as for first posts? Looking back at mine, it makes interesting reading and I can see a definite journey from then to now. But then I guess that is one of the joys of blogging, isn’t it 🙂

    • It would be interesting to read the King James edition and then this one and compare the two. I haven’t read the Bible in its entirety either and have been interested in doing so as well as reading the Koran. I’m only familiar with a lot of these sacred texts in snippets and figured I really should sit down and read all the major ones at some point!

    • Definitely an interesting man. And what an original idea, right?

      I won’t go searching for your first post then, haha! Some have been easy to find, some difficult and others have preferred to keep them buried in time… I respect that 😉

  15. How fascinating…but enough about me, ha! Seriously though, this is awesome as per usual with your posts. He certainly was original…is it wrong that I just waved at your Gravatar photo?

  16. I have been away for a few days in Calgary, Alberta! How wonderful to come back to this remarkable post. I have a great fondness for the American founding fathers. I just read the biography of George Washington. There is a great deal of discussion on religious perspectives. It seems that Jefferson, like Franklin were anti-clerical Christians so it does not come as any surprise that the Jefferson Bibles excludes all of the miracles and any supernatural references. This is an excellent study. Your post prompted me to download the Kindle version for 99 cents. It does not have all of the annotations but it is a great tool for comparison.

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to the many adventures ahead…

  17. Pingback: Walking With George Washington | reading interrupted.

  18. Pingback: Thank you, Letizia! | On The Road Book Club

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