"I am a sect by myself." - Thomas Jefferson
Experts have argued that if Thomas Jefferson were to run for presidency today, he'd lose. Why? He massacred the Bible. In the winter of 1819, he completed a long-standing project of his—he cut and pasted the moral principles of Jesus of Nazareth from the Bible. There is no talk of miracles, just the principles that Jesus lived by.
Take what’s useful, and discard the rest. That’s the idea behind this website. As Daniele Bolelli said, when you live by one system, you miss out on the subtleties of life.
Some people might have some problems with what he had to say. He is conservative and a Christian, but I think it's important to keep an open mind and learn from whatever the source.
It was a real pleasure talking to him.
I hope you guys enjoy.
"It’s not a book on Christian theology. He’s making a statement of Christian morality."
What is the Jefferson Bible?
It’s a product of Jefferson going through and cutting and pasting what he called the precepts of pure Christianity from the Bible. He wanted to find the moral principles of Christ. It was for himself.
He did that in the winter of 1819-1820. He cut out all of the extraneous material, which really bothers most Christians to this day.
In researching this subject I discovered that there was a tradition of the United States government giving freshman Senators The Jefferson Bible up until to 1957.
In 1997 I made a trip to DC. I brought 535 copies with me and delivered it to the Congress, so everybody in Congress got a copy. Ever since then all new Representatives and Senators get a copy.
How did Jefferson use his own Jefferson bible? Did he read it every night?
He kept by his bedside and read it every night. He would read after his writing and all of his work was done. He would read it before going to sleep.
Could you summarize some of the main principles that Jesus was trying to teach?
The ten commandments, the golden rule, and to love your neighbour as yourself.
All of these principles come from the ten commandments.
I would generalize it as love towards God and love towards neighbour. Then your principles all flow from that. That would be how I would categorize what he ended up copying and pasting.
He didn’t just print fifty principles, but he added a nice flow between the principles. He made it the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He did that in four languages. Very impressive. He had quite a mind [laughs].
So the question is how do you truly love your neighbour?
You do what you can as a human. We obviously love our friends and family. That's easy. It’s hard to love others. This would be me speaking and not Jefferson, but I believe it comes through God’s spirit. Godly love is a deeper kind of love. You can look past some of the frailties of people.
It's a very hard thing to do. It's a challenge for me to see my colleagues who are very liberal as colleagues and not my enemies, though they might think I’m their enemy, intellectually speaking. It’s the perspective that God wants us to have.
In sports, you practice and practice. It's the same thing in life. You learn to deal with certain situations with love.
So let’s say you feel some sort of hatred towards a person, do you have some sort of practice to help you deal with that?
I think the first thing you should do is pray about it. You look for various things that you’ve studied over the years in terms of where you have a concern. I know a lot of phrases and verses that I can look up. Most dedicated Christians are going to pray about it first, then see what God’s word has to say.
We can only see things based on our paradigm. In economics, I see things from an Austrian perspective. But I also understand different schools of thought like Keynesian economics. If you’re thinking as a Keynesian, you’re not going to see a lot of what Austrians say. I think it's important to step inside the framework of others and see how they see the world.
It’s tricky to step into someone else’s perspective like that.
It takes study. I’m in my sixties now, so I’ve had the chance to do a lot more studying than most people.
"I, too, have made a wee-little book, from the same materials (The Gospel) which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigm of his doctrines made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging 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." - Thomas Jefferson
Do you have daily religious practices?
I think everyone has their own particular routine. I pray in the morning. You have to get the day off to a good start.
I try to pray throughout the day as best I can, and keep God fresh in my mind, so I don’t get off track.
Do you have any specific prayers that you look to?
It has to be from the heart. It’s personal to every day. You have what’s going on with your life, your family, your church.
As you study God’s word, you see more and more things that you need to pray about and areas where you need to improve your life.
I think it's important to find the right place. If somebody asks me to pray in public, I’ll do it, but I prefer to do it in my home. I have a room here in my office where I pray. I just want it to be quiet, so I can concentrate.
I don’t care whether you’re standing or sitting. But we have an example with David, where he would pray on his knees. So I try to do that at least three times a day. You better be praying throughout the course of your day. And like in a race, you better get off to a good start and hopefully end strong.
That's all I had to ask. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?
I’ll just say one last thing.
I am a Sabbatarian which really sets me apart from other Christians. Most people think it's a Jewish practice, but it's not. You'll find it in the Bible. But it doesn’t say anything about Sunday.
Wht you learn is to rest every seven days. You have your study time. You go to services. It really helps to keep your perspective. It helps because you can’t be doing what you normally would. I would love to be watching football on Saturdays, but I have tape them [laughs]. You have to give up a few things. And that’s just the way it is.
If you enjoyed this interview, I recommend checking out my interview with Mr. Ryan Holiday. In the first part of the interview, we spoke about how we delude ourselves and how we can prevent this instinct. In the second part of the interview, we spoke about his views on developing empathy and doing what you love for a living. And in the last part, we spoke about the age old concept of impermanence.
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