What’s Missing in Thomas Jefferson’s Bible?

Christians in the West just celebrated Easter and this following Sunday the Eastern Orthodox Church will do the same. The four gospels state that Jesus rose again and was seen by different people. Paul says that at one occasion Jesus was seen, after the resurrection, by 500 people, most of which were still living at the time of Paul’s writing.

But a major figure of U.S. history and politics begged to differ. Thomas Jefferson never believed the resurrection really took place. At least that is the assumption made from the so-called “Jefferson Bible,” which is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

Mr. Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, which guarantees religious freedom for everyone, and a future President of the United States, made his own version of the Bible, deprived of miracles, including the resurrection. Jefferson, who was influenced by the Enlightenment, was unwilling to believe anything, unless it could be “proven by fact.” Miracles would upset the natural order of things and Mr. Jefferson was all about reason and logic, he would have none of that.

Now you could say there is no harm done when someone leaves off the less palatable parts of the Bible and takes in only what can be easily explained. And that would explain why that book now on exhibit is called “Jefferson’s Bible,” and not “The Holy Bible” or “The Word of God.” To remove the supernatural elements out of the Bible would be the like removing liquid from water or eating a salad without leaves.

The reason I am not bothered by the supernatural in Scriptures is because I believe in a God who is above everything also. Natural laws are only a slice of reality that is observable, but there is more to the universe than meets the eye. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that great minds, such as that of Oxford Mathematician John Lennox, agree with this. The author of “Gunning for God” and “God’s Undertaker” postulates that the reality of a lawful universe presumes the existence of a divine lawgiver. He is one of many scholars who has investigated the resurrection and has concluded that there is strong historical evidence that it actually happened.

“This idea that miracles violate the laws of nature,” he says, “that is a false notion. The laws of nature are our description of what we observe regularly to happen …. But God is not a prisoner of those laws. He can feed a new event in, if he wants to. It doesn’t break the laws.”

You may beg to differ and you may be perfectly satisfied with Mr. Jefferson’s view of Scripture. As for me, if that’s the only Bible I have, I would rather read the Declaration of Independence.

Ivanildo C. Trindade