Thomas Jefferson and a Dead Jesus

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Did you know Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers, was a deist? One of the things he believed as a deist is that Jesus was not God. Furthermore, Jefferson did not believe Jesus rose from the grave. Rejecting anything he deemed irrational, Jefferson heavily edited the Bible and produced his own version. His version of Scripture is known today as the Jefferson Bible (read it here). Here is the last verse of his re-created text:

“There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.”

As you can see, Jefferson ends with Jesus in the tomb. He remains in the grave with his disciples simply going on their way. However, the Bible, before Jefferson gets his pen-knife on the pages, declares without ambiguity that Jesus lives.

  • “And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).
  • “He is not here [in the tomb], but has risen” (Luke 24:6).
  • “Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive” (Acts 25:19).
  • “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20).

The Christian faith simply falls apart if Jesus is in the grave. The Christianity of someone like Thomas Jefferson, who believed Jesus remains dead, was and is no Christianity at all. If Jesus is in the grave, our faith is futile. If Jesus was merely a moral teacher who died and remains dead, Christianity is a hoax.

But that is not the reality of the situation. The grave is defeated as “death is swallowed up in victory…victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54, 57). Jesus lives. Indeed, up from the grave he arose.

How should we live in light of such realities?

Trust in Jesus—first, we do not trust in a dead man to save us, but a risen and reigning Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life, one that is charged to my account when I put my faith in him. Yet, this perfectly righteous Jesus did in fact die. He took my place, bore God’s wrath, and tasted death for his people. But when he arose from the grave, he conquered the last enemy and therefore death is crushed to death. I trust in a Jesus who lived, died, and lives forevermore.

Test every thought by the (real) Bible—remember that even our so-called leaders are imperfect people. Our best men are men at best! Just because someone is in a position of leadership does not mean they are infallible. The best leaders on the planet will make mistakes. Therefore, we do not blindly follow good leaders. Instead, we follow imperfect people thoughtfully.

Thomas Jefferson accomplished many great things for our nation, and we should pay attention to the thoughts and ideas he left behind. Nonetheless, we thoughtfully test the ideas he left us. And when it comes to something like the Jefferson Bible, like good Bereans we read the so-called Jefferson Bible in light of the actual Bible handed down through the centuries. In the final analysis, we reject Jefferson’s ideas of a dead Jesus.


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