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ume to the simple Evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his and which is as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dung-hill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages.'
It would appear from this that Jefferson made two such books, one a volume of forty-six pages which he later enlarged to the book which is here given.
Under date of January 29, 1815, Jefferson wrote from Monticello to Charles Clay: "Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order, and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man." In this letter however Jefferson disclaims any intention of publishing this little compilation, saying: "I not only write nothing on religion, but rarely permit myself to speak on it."
Again, in a letter to Charles Thomson, written
from Monticello, under date of January 9, 1816, he says: "I, too, have made a wee little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."
Later in the letter Jefferson makes a statement which indicates that he is not describing the volume now in the National Museum, but the preliminary one of 46 pages, for he adds: "If I had time I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side.”
In a letter dated April 25, 1816, written from Poplar Forest, near Lynchburg, addressed to Mr. Fr. Adr. Vanderkemp, Jefferson gives further details as to how he made this preliminary volAfter telling his correspondent that he was very cautions about not having the syllabus, which he had prepared, get out in connection with his name, being unwilling to draw on himself "a swarm of insects, whose buzz is more disquieting than their bite," he writes: "I made, for my own. satisfaction, an extract from the Evangelists of the text of His morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit proved them genuine, and his own. *** It was too hastily done, however, being the work of one or two evenings only, while I lived at Washington, overwhelmed with other business,
and it is my intention to go over it again at more leisure. This shall be the work of the ensuing winter. I gave it the title of 'The Philosophy of Jesus Extracted from the Text of the Evangelists.""
Vanderkemp was undertaking a publication and desired to use Jefferson's syllabus and extract, which Jefferson agrees to, with the following condition: "I ask only one condition, that no possibility shall be admitted of my name being even intimated with the publication."
October 31, 1819, he writes from Monticello to William Short, speaking of the extract from the Evangelists and his desire to see a proper one made: "The last I attempted too hastily some twelve or fifteen years ago. It was the work of two or three nights only, at Washington, after getting through the evening task of reading the letters and papers of the day."
This concludes the references in Jefferson's writings that bear directly upon the little volume in question. They are brief extracts from a collection made from all sources, published and manuscript.
Randall, in his life of Jefferson, already quoted, volume 3, page 451, says: "It was in the winter of 1816-17, it is believed, that Mr. Jefferson carried out the design last expressed. In a handsome morocco-bound volume, labeled on the back, 'Morals of Jesus,' he placed the parallel texts in four languages. The first collection of English texts, mentioned in the letter to Thomson, is not preserved in Mr. Jefferson's family, but his grandson, Mr. George Wythe Randolph, has
obtained for us a list of its contents. That, in different languages, is in the possession of his oldest grandson, Colonel Thomas Jefferson Randolph." Randall gives a list of the passages of both volumes in his appendix, and adds, "It is remarkable that neither of these collections were known to Mr. Jefferson's grandchildren until after his death. They then learned from a letter addressed to a friend that he was in the habit of reading nightly from them before going to bed."
It would appear from the letter to Short that Randall's deduction as to the date of this larger compilation is not warranted and that it was (actually made in 1819 or subsequent to that year, although it is true that in the letter to Vanderkemp (April 25, 1816) he speaks of the larger compilation as being the work of the ensuing winter.
In Appendix No. XXX to Randall's work, he gives the list of the contents of the first compilation of forty-six pages as well as the list of the contents of the present book. These are not exactly identical. It is interesting to note the title of the first compilation, which reads as follows:
"THE PHILOSOPHY OF JESUS OF NAZARETH"
"Extracted from the account of his life and doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Being an abridgment of the New Testament for the use of the Indians, unembarrassed with matters of fact or faith beyond the level of their comprehensions."
The National government had purchased Mr. Jefferson's papers and had published an edition
of his writings.
Considerable interest was expressed in the so-called Bible after it came into the possession of the United States National Museum, and it was in consequence of this interest that the present compilation is published.
It is printed in pursuance to the following concurrent resolution adopted by the Fifty-seventh Congress, first session:
"That there be printed and bound, by photolithographic process, with an introduction of not to exceed twenty-five pages, to be prepared by Dr. Cyrus Adler, Librarian of the Smithsonian Institution, for the use of Congress, 9,000 copies of Thomas Jefferson's Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, as the same appears in the National Museum; 3,000 copies for the use of the Senate and 6,000 copies for the use of the House."