The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He [Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 519 – 522
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The moral codes of the Jews and the philosophers, which Jefferson compared with Jesus’ doctrines, dealt with “actions only,” how people should or should not behave. Jesus went beyond that. He looked into the human heart, where thoughts and behaviors arise, and sought to make a difference there. Where others dealt with actions, Jesus dealt with what motivated those actions. Rather than police the actions, he sought to change the motivation so policing would no longer be necessary.
This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different?