AARP Magazine tells the story of the Jefferson Bible and explores people's ideas about miracles. Today is Presidents Day, a holiday to honor Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays. Here is the story of another president, one who shocked the faith world of his day:
What [Smithsonian] holds is Thomas Jefferson’s 1820 Bible, though a closer look reveals this to be no ordinary Bible. The author of the Declaration of Independence had used a razor to meticulously excise favored passages from a pair of King James Bibles and pasted them onto blank, bound pages. Left behind: every miracle, every hint of the divinity of Jesus. So Jefferson’s New Testament has no loaves and fishes, no walking on water, no water into wine, no Resurrection. Jefferson dismissed such passages as superstition. What he wanted was something more straightforward, as reflected in the title he gave the work: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
“This project was purely of the Enlightenment: rewrite the Bible,” says Rubenstein, head of the museum’s division of politics and reform. Jefferson’s experiment ran squarely against the grain of American culture, adds Barbara Clark Smith, a Smithsonian expert in 18th-century America. “He was attacked,” she says. “People wrote he was an infidel.”
To this day, there are those who stand aghast at Jefferson’s chutzpah, and that raises a fair question: Does faith exist without miracles? Are there miracles at all, and if not, just how do we explain those events that inevitably become defined as such?
Read it all here.