Jesus, the Philosopher of Common Sense

… abstracting what is really [Jesus’] from the rubbish in which it is buried … [is like separating] the diamond from the dung hill…

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Short

The Enlightenment quest for the historical Jesus was not simply a European phenomenon; indeed, one of the more famous searchers after the "authentic" Jesus was Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America. Like many of his contemporaries, Jefferson believed that the crystalline purity of Jesus’ life and teachings had been contaminated by the dross of evangelists and theologians. So Jefferson "edited" the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ life and teachings, removing all references to miraculous occurrences such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, leaving only a spartan description of Jesus’ life and his exquisite system of morals. This vision of the authentic Jesus - which Jefferson felt could invigorate the moral health of America - was no less glorious for having been a philosophy distilled from the man Jesus. Indeed, for Jefferson, it may well have been more so.
Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Provincial Museum of Alberta,

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans