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The Jefferson Bible: A Biography
- Lives of Great Religious Books
- Narrated by: Kerry Shale
- Length: 5 hrs and 27 mins
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This audiobook narrated by Kerry Shale traces the life and times of a uniquely American testament.
In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson edited the New Testament with a penknife and glue, removing all mention of miracles and other supernatural events. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, Jefferson hoped to reconcile Christian tradition with reason by presenting Jesus of Nazareth as a great moral teacher - not a divine one. Peter Manseau tells the story of the Jefferson Bible, exploring how each new generation has reimagined the book in its own image as listeners grapple with both the legacy of the man who made it and the place of religion in American life.
Completed in 1820 and rediscovered by chance in the late 19th century after being lost for decades, Jefferson's cut-and-paste scripture has meant different things to different people. Some have held it up as evidence that America is a Christian nation founded on the lessons of the Gospels. Others see it as proof of the Founders' intent to root out the stubborn influence of faith. Manseau explains Jefferson's personal religion and philosophy, shedding light on the influences and ideas that inspired him to radically revise the Gospels.
He situates the creation of the Jefferson Bible within the broader search for the historical Jesus, and examines the book's role in American religious disputes over the interpretation of scripture. Manseau describes the intrigue surrounding the loss and rediscovery of the Jefferson Bible, and traces its remarkable reception history from its first planned printing in 1904 for members of Congress to its persistent power to provoke and enlighten us today.
"With great erudition bolstered by deep research, Peter Manseau tells the story of the reception of one of the most audacious and controversial projects ever undertaken by one of America's founders. Manseau’s account of how generations of Americans have sought to make sense of the Jefferson Bible is much needed." (Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family)
"A brilliant account. The reader is in for an enlightening foray that explains Jefferson's book for what it tells us about Jefferson himself, the cultural history of interpreting scripture, and the religious and political import of how Americans have viewed Jesus." (Sylvester A. Johnson, author of African American Religions, 1500-2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom)
"A page-turner for thoughtful readers. Manseau offers a compelling window onto Jefferson's intellectual processes and a unique perspective on the larger history of religion in America, especially as it relates to American cultural divides concerning efforts to sort out the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith." (Timothy Beal, author of The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book)
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- Nana Landgraf
Mildly interesting but for me, worth skipping
I knew about Jefferson Bible already and thought Jefferson was misguided to create it. I got this book because of a review. The review didn’t mislead but gave me something to check out. I have done so. Performance: I didn’t care for different voices and accents used for different writers through the years. Too fussy an approach, too precious (do you understand that word here?). You’ll never print this.
1 person found this helpful
- Doron Ben Avraham
President Jefferson and American Christianity
Listening "about" the Jefferson Bible is much more interesting than Listening "to" the Jefferson Bible.
This is because it would be like a joke without the punchline.
In all due reverence, without the miracles and claims of divine authority, the Rational Jesus is no more profound than many other revolutionary rabbis from the turbulent times of ancient Israel.
President Jefferson chooses the "gospel about" Jesus as opposed to the "gospel of" Jesus.
What is noteworthy is #1 The history of the Age of Reason and it's role in the American Revolution and #2 the structure of this book and the narrative performance is fascinating and enjoyable. I'm proud to be an American, even as we struggle together with both our history and our future.
1 person found this helpful
- R. Bell
Narration is great!
More background than I"be ever encountered in other editions.
This version was a new experience for me.