The Life and Teachings
of Jesus
A Restatement of the Gospels

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Introduction

      This book is a restatement of the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As with an earlier effort by Thomas Jefferson, who produced The Jefferson Bible in the early 1800s, the purpose here is to distill from the scriptures only those verses truly portraying the life and teachings of Jesus. The following passage, quoted from Douglas Luxton’s foreword to The Jefferson Bible, is presented here because it also provides an excellent introduction to the present work:

      During his first term in the White House, the Father of American Democracy revealed his dream of separating the sayings which were indisputably the words of Jesus from what he considered to be extraneous matter in the Holy Library of 66 volumes, 1189 chapters, 773,000 words. Others failing to do the work, Jefferson, in evenings of escape from affairs of the nation, prepared a preliminary extraction which it was his custom to read nightly before retiring.
      In one of his letters to [John] Adams in 1813 the great statesman gave this description of his work: “We must reduce our volume to the simple Evangelists; select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms [misinterpretations] into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from Him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and by expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages.”
      Three years later, in 1816, Jefferson wrote from Monticello to Charles Thompson: “I too have made a wee little book from the same materials, 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 them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time and subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

      I would like to introduce The Life and Teachings of Jesus by commenting on a number of points contained in this quotation from the foreword to The Jefferson Bible.

      his dream of separating the sayings which were indisputably the words of Jesus from what he considered to be extraneous matter

      My idea for this project had its roots in an event that took place many years ago. My grandmother was dying; she was bedridden, but alert. I searched for good words, meaningful words, that I could read to her in an effort to help her be prepared to leave this life and enter into the next. I settled on a small book called The Sayings of Jesus. It contained only the teachings of Jesus; I knew that his words would be the best words I could find.
      A number of years later, after I had started a small private school, the idea came back to me of having a book of Jesus’ teachings, this time to give to departing students. At the school we attempted to help the whole child, to provide guidance in developing character; and the idea for The Life and Teachings of Jesus really took root in me when I saw students who had been with us for many years leaving and realized I had nothing to give them. I wanted something to leave with them that they could read and comprehend, and that would provide a trustworthy and helpful guide for living. It was then that I really decided to find such a book, or perhaps produce one myself.
      Since undertaking work on this project, the hope has grown in me that this restatement would also prove useful and uplifting to many others. I believe that, of all human knowledge, the most valuable is to know the life and teachings of Jesus. Therefore I offer this restatement in the hope that it will contribute to the expansion of this knowledge of his inspirational life and incomparable teachings.

      it was his custom to read nightly before retiring

      My hope also is that this book will be used and read often in search of the help, guidance, and inspiration that only Jesus’ matchless life and teachings can provide. My suggestion is to read only a small portion (one chapter or one section) each day. Let the words sink in, and make it a priority to maintain regular daily readings. Simply running these words and teachings through our minds can have a very positive effect. Following Jesus’ guidelines for living provides direction and stability, while transforming our lives.
      Good words like these are precious. They are our heritage as dwellers on planet earth. They should be valued and studied. Through them we may come to know the true teachings of Jesus and the inspirational life he lived.

      select even from them [the simple Evangelists] the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms [misinterpretations] into which they have been led, and forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from Him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and by expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves.

      Certainly the disciples were human, with their own weaknesses, limitations, and misconceptions. They, like we, were far from perfect; rather they were very imperfect beings in association with a God-man, who was himself engaged in living a perfect life here on earth. They could not hope to fully comprehend the significance of Jesus and his teachings. Much of what he said and did was little understood by them.
      The goal of this work, like that of Jefferson’s, is to separate out those teachings that are truly Jesus’ from the associated teachings of his followers.
      But while Jefferson was concerned only with Jesus’ teachings, the goal of this work is also to truly depict Jesus’ life. Jesus lived his teachings; he is our best and ideal example. His life in all its facets, his actions and reactions, his perfection of character and ideal personality development, his life of love and service, his faith and single-minded determination to do his Father’s will, are all of immense value to us.

      I too have made a wee little book… which I call the philosophy of Jesus.

      As with Jefferson’s effort, the thrust of this work is to reveal the true teachings of Jesus and to separate them from the teachings about Jesus. The goal is to illuminate and distinguish his personal teachings from the teachings and interpretations of his followers.
      Jesus is distinct from and greater than any truth teacher ever to live on our world. We do well to give his life and teachings the special respect and study they deserve. It is most important to learn what Jesus taught and how he lived, and to clearly distinguish his spirit and teachings from all others. His teachings are supreme. He is our touchstone to truth. All other teachings may be rightly judged by their harmony with the true teachings of Jesus.

      made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time and subject.

      The effort here is analogous. I have sought to divide the events of Jesus’ life into the smallest possible units and then connect them together in chronological sequence. In this fashion the book traces Jesus’ life and teachings from his birth through to his death and resurrection. For such a project I have relied on a number of reference works, including: The Gospels Paralleled, Halley’s Bible Handbook, Jesus and His Times, The Master Study Bible, The Oxford Annotated Bible, The Paramony, The Urantia Book, and The Word: The Bible From 26 Translations. These and other resources are listed in the bibliography.

      There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man…. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen.

      Here Jefferson expresses his recognition of the importance of the morals and ethics offered by Jesus. This is the immediate goal of this work–to provide a trustworthy guide for living. As Jefferson recognized, Jesus provides us with the highest and best moral and ethical teachings ever presented to mankind. These teachings are of supreme value to us. They show and teach us how to be, and how to live.
      Jesus did indeed lead a life without sin; he lived a perfect life here on earth. His life is our best example of the high moral and ethical behavior he taught. He shows us the perfection of man: what man can be at his best. We cannot go wrong if we go his way.

      it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.

      Christianity is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus. If one truly desires to know Jesus, and follow in the way of his personal religion, this book can be of great value, for herein is presented Jesus’ life and teachings in purity and wholeness.
      In summary, this work represents one person’s attempt to bring together and order, by time and subject, the best of the gospels. It is a human work and therefore quite subject to error. It was prepared in the hope of restating the life and teachings of Jesus in such a way as would prove useful and helpful to those who read and study it, particularly young people. Its higher goal is to contribute to a revival of Jesus’ original gospel of the kingdom— the saving truth that we are all sons and daughters of a loving heavenly Father— and to an expansion of the inner kingdom he taught: the rule of God in the hearts of individual believers.