Thomas Jefferson is one of our most founding-est of Founding Fathers. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he was a master of agriculture, architecture, and many other subjects. He was also a very devoted follower of Jesus’ teachings. Smart guy, that Jefferson.
So why did his political opponents in 1800 call him a “howling atheist”? Well, probably because of things like this: he cut out parts of the Bible! We’re talking scissors, glue, the whole nine yards. He went all arts & crafts on the Holy Scriptures. He did it because he thought that the original Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had misinterpreted Jesus’ meaning with their own agendas. Weird, right?
So he cut out all the parts that he liked, tossed the rest in the bin, glued his pieces on 84 pages of paper, and bound them together in rich Moroccan leather. He called this book “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Today it’s usually referred to as “The Jefferson Bible,” and it’s on display at the Smithsonian. (You can read and flip through it by clicking here.) You’ve really got to have some Jefferson level audacity to start cutting out parts of the Bible just because you don’t like them.
Although…. don’t we kind of do that, just without the scissors? Do we really “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44)? Do we “sell all that you have and give it to the poor” (Mark 10:21)? Do we really “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19)? Do we really “lend money without expecting anything in return” (Luke 6:35)?
We might not notice that we’re editing out parts of the Bible that we don’t want to follow, but just because there’s no paper snippets on the floor, doesn’t mean we’re not picking and choosing what we want to follow and what we don’t.