President Thomas Jefferson — Was he a monotheist?

Source / Courtesy: Review of Religions and

A compelling argument that Thomas Jefferson negated belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and affirmed the unity of God. Was he influenced by the Holy Qur’an?

Jefferson’s copy of the Koran

The adulterated accounts of the Bible did not satisfy Jefferson. After extensive studies of different books Jefferson concluded:

Christianity had traditionally rested not upon reason or experience but upon mystery and miracle. The Bible, moreover, portrayed a deity quite different from that revealed in nature, a deity that reason could neither explain nor defend. How rational could it possibly be for the God of the whole universe to reveal himself solely to one small nation in the eastern Mediterranean and to leave the rest of the world in utter ignorance of his existence? It seemed even more irrational to believe that the Supreme Being of the cosmos had ‘sent his only begotten son,’ who had not offended him, to be sacrificed by men, who had offended him that he might expiate their sins, and satisfy his own anger.

To read the article in April 2007 volume of Review of Religions, click here.
To read a version with several pictures in, click here.

9 replies

  1. President Thomas Jefferson’s views about Trinity

    A letter to theologian James Smith — December 8, 1822 — elaborates Jefferson’s views on the subject.

    “Sir, — I have to thank you for your pamphlets on the subject of Unitarianism, and to express my gratification with your efforts for the revival of primitive Christianity in your quarter.

    No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity; and was among the efficacious doctrines which gave it triumph over the polytheism of the ancients, sickened with the absurdities of their own theology. Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the fanatic Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs. And a strong proof of the solidity of the primitive faith, is its restoration, as soon as a nation arises which vindicates to itself the freedom of religious opinion, and its external divorce from the civil authority. The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe, is now all but ascendant in the Eastern States; it is dawning in the West, and advancing towards the South; and I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States. The Eastern presses are giving us many excellent pieces on the subject, and Priestley’s learned writings on it are, or should be, in every hand. In fact, the Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.”

    “I write with freedom, because while I claim a right to believe in one God, if so my reason tells me, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society has any right to look to. Although this mutual freedom should produce mutual indulgence, yet I wish not to be brought in question before the public on this or any other subject, and I pray you to consider me as writing under that trust. I take no part in controversies, religious or political. At the age of eighty, tranquility is the greatest good of life, and the strongest of our desires that of dying in the good will of all mankind. And with the assurance of all my good will to Unitarian and Trinitarian, to Whig and Tory, accept for yourself that of my entire respect.”

    There are host of additional materials available on this webpage:

  2. The Jefferson Bible
    References to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus are notably absent from the Jefferson Bible. The Bible begins with an account of Jesus’ birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. The work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. There is no mention of the resurrection.

    I just typed this from the last page of my Jefferson Bible:

    Now, in the place where he was crucified, there
    was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre,
    wherein was never man yet laid. (J.19/41)
    There laid they Jesus.
    And rolled a great stone to the door of the
    sepulchre, and departed. (Mt.27/60)

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