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The search for the secular Jesus

Bold efforts to reconfigure Jesus as merely a moral teacher miss something essential about him

Photo: The Picture Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson, aged nearly 80 and living in comfortable retirement at Monticello, took a scalpel to his Bible. Jefferson had endured a bruising presidential campaign in 1800 in which it was alleged he was an atheist who would turn America into a “nation of atheists.” The choice, electors were told, was between “God and a religious president, or Jefferson and no god.” Under Jefferson, one preacher warned, “murder, robbery, rape… will be openly taught and…

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