Thomas Jefferson Writes of Jesus Christ

jefferson 3They Were Believers, Thomas Jefferson, 1803

In a letter to his lifelong friend and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Doctor Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson expresses some of his thoughts and feelings concerning Jesus Christ:

In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic: and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others …

In other words he was declaring himself Christian based on his lifetime study of the teachings of the gospel – and it ought to be known, that the depth of Jefferson’s theological studies, understanding, and ability to express that understanding in considerable detail, was far beyond the average Christians – believing, based on his thorough study and reflection, that Christ’s doctrines surpassed those of all faith, and all moral philosophies the world had ever known; but this too: he rejected, by way of contrast, the teachings of the sects of his day; for as he saw it clearly in his mind, they were, all of them, in possession of a system of beliefs inconsistent with the pure original that Jesus taught.

The moderns were in need of a reformation, or a return to what he often referred to as “primitive Christianity.”

It was to a Jewish religion which “needed reformation … in an eminent degree” into which Christ was born, and his ministry was to have so great an impact, both upon the religion of the Jews, but also all mankind. Wrote Jefferson:

… In this state of things among the Jews, Jesus appeared. His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, and of the sublimest eloquence.

… a system of morals is presented to us … the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.

… He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only God, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.

His moral doctrines, relating to kindred and friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went fer beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A developement of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.

The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.

He taught, emphatically, the doctrines of a future state, which was either doubted, or disbelieved by the Jews ; and wielded it with efficacy, as an important incentive, supplementary to the other motives to moral conduct.

Source: Thomas Jefferson. Letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803.

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They Were Believers is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary) by The Moral Liberal Founder and Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell. Steve served as one of the original and most popular pundits at (1999-2007), and is the author of the highly praised inspirational novel, Dark Rose.

Copyright © 2013 Steve Farrell.

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