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All New Re-Publication of Jefferson's "Bible"

    In the Fall of 1996 American Book Distributors, a division of Libertarian Press, published a beautiful, red-letter edition of the classic work by Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Edited by Dr. Patton, the 140 page book features an insightful Foreword by William Murchison, a  nationally syndicated columnist and author of Reclaiming America's Morality. Dr. Patton himself provides a historical Introduction entitled, "Jefferson's Quest for Pure Christianity and Good Government." The reprint also contains twelve appendices that reveal the fascinating story of the discovery, debate and controversy that surrounded the 1904 Congressional publication of Jefferson's work. Here, in a nutshell, is the background, story and significance to Jefferson's work:

     In 1819-1820, Thomas Jefferson set out to produce the "pure moral principles" of Christianity. He literally cut out and pasted verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into an 82-page book. He described his compilation as the "most sublime edifice and benevolent code of morals which had ever been offered to man." Jefferson had his work bound but never published for distribution.

     The book remained hidden in the Jefferson family until it was "discovered" by Cyrus Adler in 1886. He managed to purchase it for the National Museum (now known as the Smithsonian Institution) in 1895. Representative John Lacey of Iowa then made his own discovery and proceeded to sponsor a resolution to publish 9,000 copies for the use of Congress. Congress approved. The Government Printing Office published it in 1904 and distributed the copies to Congress in early 1905.

     Interestingly, a tradition developed - lasting over 50 years - of presenting a copy of Jefferson's "Bible" to each new Senator and Representative at their swearing-in ceremony with each new Congress. The sponsors of this tradition are still unknown at this time. Nevertheless, the tradition ended quietly in the 1950s. It was restored in August, 1997 when Dr. Patton delivered 535 copies of this new edition of Jefferson's "Bible" to every member of the 105th Congress! In January of 1999 our 40 new representatives and 8 new Senators received their copies.  A copy of the cover letter that accompanied the book is reprinted below.

     Jefferson's so-called "Bible" was the product of his effort to compile "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." It was his expression of Christian morality, not his expression of Christian theology, as has often been falsely assumed. It is in this context and spirit that this new edition of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth is reprinted and offered to all Americans, not just to our leaders.

Here are a few endorsement quotes:

"I have had this book and enjoyed it and used it ever since it came into my hands in the 1950s. It answers the question that many scholars raise, "What did Jesus teach?" It is a book on the teachings, the morals and ethics of Jesus. I think it's very valuable, very important and I recommend it to all."

Carl T. Curtis (R-Nebraska)
Retired U. S. Senator
U.S. Congress: 1939 - 1979.

"Jefferson's excerpts from Christ's words are a call for America to return to God's ways and receive God's rewards."

Dr. Garrett Ward Sheldon
Author, The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson,

Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia

"Those who doubt the Founding Fathers' reliance upon Scripture would do well to remember the history of the "Jefferson Bible." I am proud to strongly support all efforts to distribute it to members of congress so that they too are aware of this fascinating art of our history."

Dr. Ralph E. Reed, Jr.
 Executive Director
Christian Coalition

"The nation's founding document, the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, unquestionably provides the "premises," the underlying "truths" on which this great nation was and should be based. It is fascinating that Mr. Jefferson, 43 years after the Declaration was penned, also authored a clear book of moral principles, not "religious in nature," but foundational, virtually the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," that each of our government officeholders should adhere to, as part of their oath of office, in performing their official duties; but which more often than not are, much to our detriment, simply being ignored."

Robert N. Mateer, President
Contemporary Economics & Business, Liberty University

"Jefferson's supreme respect for the teachings of Jesus induced him not only to compile a digest of His words, but to then read the sacred collection every night. This predated the immensely popular idea of printing Christ's words in red in modern editions of the Bible. Jefferson's study began while holding the highest office in the land, and therefore is a worthy example for anyone to emulate, no matter how busy they are with politics or business. I commend Judd Patton on this wonderful endeavor to make this volume available to our nation's leaders."

Mark Beliles, President
The Providence Foundation

"The moral truths in The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth can serve as a compass and touchstone to all Americans. Things book is a wonderful reminder that, just as Thomas Jefferson professed, our liberties are a gift from God."

Earnest J. Istook, Jr. (R-Oklahoma)
U. S. Representative

"Jefferson believed that faith was the cornerstone of any just government. His compilation of the Bible's wisdom reflects principles that those who govern would be wise to heed, regardless of their religious heritage. If America is to remain great, it must continue to incline to the ancient truths contained in this work. Dr. Patton, a long- time, trusted friend, does a great good by resurrecting the tradition of providing Members of Congress with Jefferson's "Bible." I wish him all the success, not only in this project but in his larger goal of illuminating our nation's public sphere."

Jon Christensen (R-Nebraska)
U.S. Representative

Here is the cover letter sent to each Member of Congress in January, 1999:

January 3, 1999
United States Congress
Washington, D.C. 20510-1702

Dear Senators and Representatives:

     We are most pleased to give you a copy of the so-called "Jefferson Bible," The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Congress originally produced 9,000 copies in 1904, "3,000 for the use of the Senate and 6,000 for the use of the House." Our Leaders at that time felt it was important to review the moral precepts upon which our Nation was founded. A tradition then developed of providing copies to newly elected Congressmen every two years from 1904 into the 1950s, whereupon the tradition quietly ended.

     We revived this lost tradition by giving every member of the 105th Congress a copy in 1997, after a forty year hiatus. The present distribution is to the 48 new members of  the 106th
Congress, eight Senators and forty Representatives.

     Jefferson's work represents his effort to identify and elaborate the value system of our nation - "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" -  as he himself phrased it in the Declaration of Independence. It is our hope that his "wee little book" will contribute to the rediscovery of that original moral foundation upon which our nation was established.

     Moreover, we believe, as did our founders, that our Republic, this experiment in self-government, requires virtuous, morally courageous citizens and leaders for its long-run survival. Benjamin Franklin stated it forthrightly: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." Mr. Jefferson believed this too and therefore studied these moral principles and precepts each night before retiring to bed. His habit is a worthy example for our leaders, and for all Americans, who want to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

This special red-letter edition of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson, dedicated to America's leaders, is sponsored by Berniece and Bill Grewcock of Omaha, Nebraska, and myself, Judd W. Patton. May each Senator and Representative find Jefferson's "Bible" inspirational and valuable in carrying out their Constitutional duties.

Patriotically Yours,

Dr. Judd W. Patton
Associate Professor of Economics
Bellevue University
Bellevue, Nebraska

     Jefferson's "Bible" can be ordered through Amazon.com or by contacting Dr. Patton at Bellevue University. The price is $15 per copy, including postage and handling. Multiple copies can be obtained at a discount.

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