The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth was created in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson. He was seventy-seven years old when he constructed his book by cutting excerpts of the New Testament Gospels from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin and Greek. Jefferson edited and arranged the passages in a chronological order to tell the story of Jesus’s life, parables and moral teachings.
Jefferson lived in a world where political rulers routinely established a single faith as the official religion. He promoted religious freedom in order to secure the rights of differing religions and to protect the freedom of an individual to practice the religion of their choosing.
The extracted passages were literally cut out from two volumes of Jacob Johnson’s 1804 printing of the King James New Testament.
Jefferson’s goal was to clarify the teachings of Jesus which he believed provided “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”
The Government Printing Office published a facsimile of the Jefferson Bible in 1904 which was distributed to the two chambers of Congress. Following elections each newly elected senator was presented with a copy of the book until the supply ran out in the 1950’s.