Thomas Jefferson is best known for authoring America’s Declaration of Independence and for his rivalry with Alexander Hamilton (as brought to life in Hamilton). But America’s third president also compiled another remarkable text: he cut and pasted together a version of the bible in which he took out all of Jesus’ miracles and most references to the supernatural – even removing the angels from Jesus’ birth. The book, which focused on the ethical teachings of Jesus, was kept private in Jefferson’s lifetime.
The Smithsonian Institution acquired it from his family in the 19th century and the artefact survived – but just barely; 98% of the pages were broken. Thomas Jefferson’s Secret Bible (Friday 13th, 9pm) follows experts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as they meticulously conserve this fragile volume, page by brittle page. By doing so they open a window into the past, and into the mind of a revolutionary thinker who was accused of being a “howling atheist”.