A Private Endeavor

"No man can conform his faith to the dictates of another. The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasion or belief of the mind." —Thomas Jefferson, 1776

The first spread of the Jefferson Bible
First Page

Jefferson insisted that religious beliefs were purely of personal and private concern. He grew up in a world where political rulers routinely established a single faith as the official orthodoxy. He promoted religious freedom in order to secure the rights of dissenting denominations and to protect individuals who belonged to no sect at all.

In accordance with this view of religion, Jefferson kept silent about his own beliefs in most public writings. When he ran for the presidency, he refused to reply to opponents who attacked him as "anti-Christian" and "an infidel." Yet he did discuss Christianity, the bible, and moral philosophy with a small circle of friends. From the 1790s he conversed and corresponded with Revolutionary Era colleagues, including Dr. Benjamin Rush and John Adams, and with English scientist and theologian Joseph Priestly. These men shared Jefferson's desire to secure tolerance for religious dissent as well as to forge a moral compass for the new American republic. Out of such conversations emerged the project of extracting Jesus's teachings from the New Testament to create this private volume.


Opening in November Press Release

The Thomas Jefferson Bible goes on exhibit November 11, 2011 at the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery in the National Museum of American History

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Conservation Blog Post: Disbinding Blog Post

It is difficult to describe how one faces the prospect of taking apart a national treasure. Of course, in order to reach the level of craftsmanship required, there are years of education and practice required, but that doesn't begin to fully describe it.

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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
"I am of a sect by myself, as far
as I know." — Thomas Jefferson, 1819


Separating pages
Removing the stubs

Purchase a Copy

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition, is a full-color facsimile created from high-resolution digital photographs of recently conserved and rebound pages.

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