The Presidents' Bibles

George Washington

The Washington Inaugural Bible was used to administer the first presidential oath of office. On April 30, 1789, George Washington placed his hand on this Bible, owned by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, on the balcony of New York City’s Federal Hall, the nation’s first capitol building.

Washington Inaugural Bible

Washington Inaugural Bible

Loan from St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons

Washington Being Sworn In

Washington Being Sworn In

Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

George Washington purchased this Bible for his wife in August 1789, four months after he became president. While the importance of faith in her husband’s life has been a matter of debate, Martha Washington’s devotion has never been questioned. She read this Bible regularly and looked to it for solace after her husband’s death.

Martha Washington Bible

Martha Washington Bible

Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, gift of Esther Maria Lewis, 1951

Thomas Jefferson

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as the Jefferson Bible, was created by Thomas Jefferson around 1820 to express his own rational approach to faith. Using a pen knife and glue, Jefferson crafted a condensed version of the New Testament in keeping with the spirit of the Enlightenment.

The complete "Jefferson Bible" can be viewed online.

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Bibles used to create The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Bibles used to create The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Thomas Jefferson cut passages from six Bibles—two of each written in English, Latin, and Greek—to create his work.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 

Courtesy of The White House Historical Association