The Age of Reason Part IIb

THE NEW TESTAMENT

THE New Testament, they tell us, is founded upon the prophecies of
the Old; if so, it must follow the fate of its foundation.

As it is nothing extraordinary that a woman should be with child
before she was married, and that the son she might bring forth should
be executed, even unjustly, I see no reason for not believing that
such a woman as Mary, and such a man as Joseph, and Jesus, existed;
their mere existence is a matter of indifference, about which there
is no ground either to believe or to disbelieve, and which comes
under the common head of, It may be so, and what then? The
probability however is that there were such persons, or at least such
as resembled them in part of the circumstances, because almost all
romantic stories have been suggested by some actual circumstance; as
the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, not a word of which is true, were
suggested by the case of Alexander Selkirk.

It is not then the existence or the non-existence, of the persons
that I trouble myself about; it is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told
in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised
thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told,
is blasphemously obscene. It gives an account of a young woman
engaged to be married, and while under this engagement, she is, to
speak plain language, debauched by a ghost, under the impious
pretence, (Luke i. 35,) that "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,
and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." Notwithstanding
which, Joseph afterwards marries her, cohabits with her as his wife,
and in his turn rivals the ghost. This is putting the story into
intelligible language, and when told in this manner, there is not a
priest but must be ashamed to own it. [Mary, the supposed virgin,
mother of Jesus, had several other children, sons and daughters. See
Matt. xiii. 55, 56. — Author.]

Obscenity in matters of faith, however wrapped up, is always a token
of fable and imposture; for it is necessary to our serious belief in
God, that we do not connect it with stories that run, as this does,
into ludicrous interpretations. This story is, upon the face of it,
the same kind of story as that of Jupiter and Leda, or Jupiter and
Europa, or any of the amorous adventures of Jupiter; and shews, as is
already stated in the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' that the
Christian faith is built upon the heathen Mythology.

As the historical parts of the New Testament, so far as concerns
Jesus Christ, are confined to a very short space of time, less than
two years, and all within the same country, and nearly to the same
spot, the discordance of time, place, and circumstance, which detects
the fallacy of the books of the Old Testament, and proves them to be
impositions, cannot be expected to be found here in the same
abundance. The New Testament compared with the Old, is like a farce
of one act, in which there is not room for very numerous violations
of the unities. There are, however, some glaring contradictions,
which, exclusive of the fallacy of the pretended prophecies, are
sufficient to show the story of Jesus Christ to be false.

I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted, first, that
the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story
to be true, because the parts may agree, and the whole may be false;
secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves the
whole cannot be true. The agreement does not prove truth, but the
disagreement proves falsehood positively.

The history of Jesus Christ is contained in the four books ascribed
to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. — The first chapter of Matthew
begins with giving a genealogy of Jesus Christ; and in the third
chapter of Luke there is also given a genealogy of Jesus Christ. Did
these two agree, it would not prove the genealogy to be true, because
it might nevertheless be a fabrication; but as they contradict each
other in every particular, it proves falsehood absolutely. If Matthew
speaks truth, Luke speaks falsehood; and if Luke speaks truth,
Matthew speaks falsehood: and as there is no authority for believing
one more than the other, there is no authority for believing either;
and if they cannot be believed even in the very first thing they say,
and set out to prove, they are not entitled to be believed in any
thing they say afterwards. Truth is an uniform thing; and as to
inspiration and revelation, were we to admit it, it is impossible to
suppose it can be contradictory. Either then the men called apostles
were imposters, or the books ascribed to them have been written by
other persons, and fathered upon them, as is the case in the Old
Testament.

The book of Matthew gives (i. 6), a genealogy by name from David, up,
through Joseph, the husband of Mary, to Christ; and makes there to be
twent eight generations. The book of Luke gives also a genealogy by
name from Christ, through Joseph the husband of Mary, down to David,
and makes there to be forty-three generations; besides which, there
is only the two names of David and Joseph that are alike in the two
lists. — I here insert both genealogical lists, and for the sake of
perspicuity and comparison, have placed them both in the same
direction, that is, from Joseph down to David.

Genealogy, according to Genealogy, according to
Matthew. Luke.

Christ Christ
2 Joseph 2 Joseph
3 Jacob 3 Heli
4 Matthan 4 Matthat
5 Eleazer 5 Levi
6 Eliud 6 Melchl
7 Achim 7 Janna
8 Sadoc 8 Joseph
9 Azor 9 Mattathias
10 Eliakim 10 Amos
11 Abiud 11 Naum
12 Zorobabel 12 Esli
13 Salathiel 13 Nagge
14 Jechonias 14 Maath
15 Josias 15 Mattathias
16 Amon 16 Semei
17 Manasses 17 Joseph
18 Ezekias 18 Juda
19 Achaz 19 Joanna
20 Joatham 20 Rhesa
21 Ozias 21 Zorobabel
22 Joram 22 Salathiel
23 Josaphat 23 Neri
24 Asa 24 Melchi
25 Abia 25 Addi
26 Roboam 26 Cosam
27 Solomon 27 Elmodam
28 David * 28 Er
29 Jose
30 Eliezer
31 Jorim
32 Matthat
33 Levi
34 Simeon
35 Juda
36 Joseph
37 Jonan
38 Eliakim
39 Melea
40 Menan
41 Mattatha
42 Nathan
43 David
[NOTE: * From the birth of David to the birth of Christ is upwards of
1080 years; and as the life-time of Christ is not included, there are
but 27 full generations. To find therefore the average age of each
person mentioned in the list, at the time his first son was born, it
is only necessary to divide 1080 by 27, which gives 40 years for each
person. As the life-time of man was then but of the same extent it is
now, it is an absurdity to suppose, that 27 following generations
should all be old bachelors, before they married; and the more so,
when we are told that Solomon, the next in succession to David, had a
house full of wives and mistresses before he was twenty-one years of
age. So far from this genealogy being a solemn truth, it is not even
a reasonable lie. The list of Luke gives about twenty-six years for
the average age, and this is too much. — Author.]

Now, if these men, Matthew and Luke, set out with a falsehood between
them (as these two accounts show they do) in the very commencement of
their history of Jesus Christ, and of who, and of what he was, what
authority (as I have before asked) is there left for believing the
strange things they tell us afterwards? If they cannot be believed in
their account of his natural genealogy, how are we to believe them
when they tell us he was the son of God, begotten by a ghost; and
that an angel announced this in secret to his mother? If they lied in
one genealogy, why are we to believe them in the other? If his
natural genealogy be manufactured, which it certainly is, why are we
not to suppose that his celestial genealogy is manufactured also, and
that the whole is fabulous? Can any man of serious reflection hazard
his future happiness upon the belief of a story naturally impossible,
repugnant to every idea of decency, and related by persons already
detected of falsehood? Is it not more safe that we stop ourselves at
the plain, pure, and unmixed belief of one God, which is deism, than
that we commit ourselves on an ocean of improbable, irrational,
indecent, and contradictory tales?

The first question, however, upon the books of the New Testament, as
upon those of the Old, is, Are they genuine? were they written by the
persons to whom they are ascribed? For it is upon this ground only
that the strange things related therein have been credited. Upon this
point, there is no direct proof for or against; and all that this
state of a case proves is doubtfulness; and doubtfulness is the
opposite of belief. The state, therefore, that the books are in,
proves against themselves as far as this kind of proof can go.

But, exclusive of this, the presumption is that the books called the
Evangelists, and ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were not
written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and that they are
impositions. The disordered state of the history in these four books,
the silence of one book upon matters related in the other, and the
disagreement that is to be found among them, implies that they are
the productions of some unconnected individuals, many years after the
things they pretend to relate, each of whom made his own legend; and
not the writings of men living intimately together, as the men called
apostles are supposed to have done: in fine, that they have been
manufactured, as the books of the Old Testament have been, by other
persons than those whose names they bear.

The story of the angel announcing what the church calls the
immaculate conception, is not so much as mentioned in the books
ascribed to Mark, and John; and is differently related in Matthew and
Luke. The former says the angel, appeared to Joseph; the latter says,
it was to Mary; but either Joseph or Mary was the worst evidence that
could have been thought of; for it was others that should have
testified for them, and not they for themselves. Were any girl that
is now with child to say, and even to swear it, that she was gotten
with child by a ghost, and that an angel told her so, would she be
believed? Certainly she would not. Why then are we to believe the
same thing of another girl whom we never saw, told by nobody knows
who, nor when, nor where? How strange and inconsistent is it, that
the same circumstance that would weaken the belief even of a probable
story, should be given as a motive for believing this one, that has
upon the face of it every token of absolute impossibility and
imposture.

The story of Herod destroying all the children under two years old,
belongs altogether to the book of Matthew; not one of the rest
mentions anything about it. Had such a circumstance been true, the
universality of it must have made it known to all the writers, and
the thing would have been too striking to have been omitted by any.
This writer tell us, that Jesus escaped this slaughter, because
Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel to flee with him into Egypt;
but he forgot to make provision for John [the Baptist], who was then
under two years of age. John, however, who staid behind, fared as
well as Jesus, who fled; and therefore the story circumstantially
belies itself.

Not any two of these writers agree in reciting, exactly in the same
words, the written inscription, short as it is, which they tell us
was put over Christ when he was crucified; and besides this, Mark
says, He was crucified at the third hour, (nine in the morning;) and
John says it was the sixth hour, (twelve at noon.) [According to
John, (xix. 14) the sentence was not passed till about the sixth hour
(noon,) and consequently the execution could not be till the
afternoon; but Mark (xv. 25) Says expressly that he was crucified at
the third hour, (nine in the morning,) — Author.]

The inscription is thus stated in those books:

Matthew — This is Jesus the king of the Jews.
Mark — The king of the Jews.
Luke — This is the king of the Jews.
John — Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.

We may infer from these circumstances, trivial as they are, that
those writers, whoever they were, and in whatever time they lived,
were not present at the scene. The only one of the men called
apostles who appears to have been near to the spot was Peter, and
when he was accused of being one of Jesus's followers, it is said,
(Matthew xxvi. 74,) "Then Peter began to curse and to swear, saying,
I know not the man:" yet we are now called to believe the same Peter,
convicted, by their own account, of perjury. For what reason, or on
what authority, should we do this?

The accounts that are given of the circumstances, that they tell us
attended the crucifixion, are differently related in those four books.

The book ascribed to Matthew says 'there was darkness over all the
land from the sixth hour unto the ninth hour — that the veil of the
temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom — that there was
an earthquake — that the rocks rent — that the graves opened, that
the bodies of many of the saints that slept arose and came out of
their graves after the resurrection, and went into the holy city and
appeared unto many.' Such is the account which this dashing writer of
the book of Matthew gives, but in which he is not supported by the
writers of the other books.

The writer of the book ascribed to Mark, in detailing the
circumstances of the crucifixion, makes no mention of any earthquake,
nor of the rocks rending, nor of the graves opening, nor of the dead
men walking out. The writer of the book of Luke is silent also upon
the same points. And as to the writer of the book of John, though he
details all the circumstances of the crucifixion down to the burial
of Christ, he says nothing about either the darkness — the veil of
the temple — the earthquake — the rocks — the graves — nor the
dead men.

Now if it had been true that these things had happened, and if the
writers of these books had lived at the time they did happen, and had
been the persons they are said to be — namely, the four men called
apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, — it was not possible for
them, as true historians, even without the aid of inspiration, not to
have recorded them. The things, supposing them to have been facts,
were of too much notoriety not to have been known, and of too much
importance not to have been told. All these supposed apostles must
have been witnesses of the earthquake, if there had been any, for it
was not possible for them to have been absent from it: the opening of
the graves and resurrection of the dead men, and their walking about
the city, is of still greater importance than the earthquake. An
earthquake is always possible, and natural, and proves nothing; but
this opening of the graves is supernatural, and directly in point to
their doctrine, their cause, and their apostleship. Had it been true,
it would have filled up whole chapters of those books, and been the
chosen theme and general chorus of all the writers; but instead of
this, little and trivial things, and mere prattling conversation of
'he said this and she said that' are often tediously detailed, while
this most important of all, had it been true, is passed off in a
slovenly manner by a single dash of the pen, and that by one writer
only, and not so much as hinted at by the rest.

It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the
lie after it is told. The writer of the book of Matthew should have
told us who the saints were that came to life again, and went into
the city, and what became of them afterwards, and who it was that saw
them; for he is not hardy enough to say that he saw them himself; —
whether they came out naked, and all in natural buff, he-saints and
she-saints, or whether they came full dressed, and where they got
their dresses; whether they went to their former habitations, and
reclaimed their wives, their husbands, and their property, and how
they were received; whether they entered ejectments for the recovery
of their possessions, or brought actions of crim. con. against the
rival interlopers; whether they remained on earth, and followed their
former occupation of preaching or working; or whether they died
again, or went back to their graves alive, and buried themselves.

Strange indeed, that an army of saints should retum to life, and
nobody know who they were, nor who it was that saw them, and that not
a word more should be said upon the subject, nor these saints have
any thing to tell us! Had it been the prophets who (as we are told)
had formerly prophesied of these things, they must have had a great
deal to say. They could have told us everything, and we should have
had posthumous prophecies, with notes and commentaries upon the
first, a little better at least than we have now. Had it been Moses,
and Aaron, and Joshua, and Samuel, and David, not an unconverted Jew
had remained in all Jerusalem. Had it been John the Baptist, and the
saints of the times then present, everybody would have known them,
and they would have out-preached and out-famed all the other
apostles. But, instead of this, these saints are made to pop up, like
Jonah's gourd in the night, for no purpose at all but to wither in
the morning. — Thus much for this part of the story.

The tale of the resurrection follows that of the crucifixion; and in
this as well as in that, the writers, whoever they were, disagree so
much as to make it evident that none of them were there.

The book of Matthew states, that when Christ was put in the sepulchre
the Jews applied to Pilate for a watch or a guard to be placed over
the septilchre, to prevent the body being stolen by the disciples;
and that in consequence of this request the sepulchre was made sure,
sealing the stone that covered the mouth, and setting a watch. But
the other books say nothing about this application, nor about the
sealing, nor the guard, nor the watch; and according to their
accounts, there were none. Matthew, however, follows up this part of
the story of the guard or the watch with a second part, that I shall
notice in the conclusion, as it serves to detect the fallacy of those
books.

The book of Matthew continues its account, and says, (xxviii. 1,)
that at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, towards the
first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to see
the sepulchre. Mark says it was sun-rising, and John says it was
dark. Luke says it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother
of James, and other women, that came to the sepulchre; and John
states that Mary Magdalene came alone. So well do they agree about
their first evidence! They all, however, appear to have known most
about Mary Magdalene; she was a woman of large acquaintance, and it
was not an ill conjecture that she might be upon the stroll. [The
Bishop of Llandaff, in his famous "Apology," censured Paine severely
for this insinuation against Mary Magdalene, but the censure really
falls on our English version, which, by a chapter- heading (Luke
vii.), has unwarrantably identified her as the sinful woman who
anointed Jesus, and irrevocably branded her. — Editor.]

The book of Matthew goes on to say (ver. 2): "And behold there was a
great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it"
But the other books say nothing about any earthquake, nor about the
angel rolling back the stone, and sitting upon it and, according to
their account, there was no angel sitting there. Mark says the angel
[Mark says "a young man," and Luke "two men." — Editor.] was within
the sepulchre, sitting on the right side. Luke says there were two,
and they were both standing up; and John says they were both sitting
down, one at the head and the other at the feet.

Matthew says, that the angel that was sitting upon the stone on the
outside of the sepulchre told the two Marys that Christ was risen,
and that the women went away quickly. Mark says, that the women, upon
seeing the stone rolled away, and wondering at it, went into the
sepulchre, and that it was the angel that was sitting within on the
right side, that told them so. Luke says, it was the two angels that
were Standing up; and John says, it was Jesus Christ himself that
told it to Mary Magdalene; and that she did not go into the
sepulchre, but only stooped down and looked in.

Now, if the writers of these four books had gone into a court of
justice to prove an alibi, (for it is of the nature of an alibi that
is here attempted to be proved, namely, the absence of a dead body by
supernatural means,) and had they given their evidence in the same
contradictory manner as it is here given, they would have been in
danger of having their ears cropt for perjury, and would have justly
deserved it. Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books, that
have been imposed upon the world as being given by divine
inspiration, and as the unchangeable word of God.

The writer of the book of Matthew, after giving this account, relates
a story that is not to be found in any of the other books, and which
is the same I have just before alluded to. "Now," says he, [that is,
after the conversation the women had had with the angel sitting upon
the stone,] "behold some of the watch [meaning the watch that he had
said had been placed over the sepulchre] came into the city, and
shawed unto the chief priests all the things that were done; and when
they were assembled with the elders and had taken counsel, they gave
large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, that his disciples
came by night, and stole him away while we slept; and if this come to
the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they
took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying [that
his disciples stole him away] is commonly reported among the Jews
until this day."

The expression, until this day, is an evidence that the book ascribed
to Matthew was not written by Matthew, and that it has been
manufactured long after the times and things of which it pretends to
treat; for the expression implies a great length of intervening time.
It would be inconsistent in us to speak in this manner of any thing
happening in our own time. To give, therefore, intelligible meaning
to the expression, we must suppose a lapse of some generations at
least, for this manner of speaking carries the mind back to ancient
time.

The absurdity also of the story is worth noticing; for it shows the
writer of the book of Matthew to have been an exceeding weak and
foolish man. He tells a story that contradicts itself in point of
possibility; for though the guard, if there were any, might be made
to say that the body was taken away while they were asleep, and to
give that as a reason for their not having prevented it, that same
sleep must also have prevented their knowing how, and by whom, it was
done; and yet they are made to say that it was the disciples who did
it. Were a man to tender his evidence of something that he should say
was done, and of the manner of doing it, and of the person who did
it, while he was asleep, and could know nothing of the matter, such
evidence could not be received: it will do well enough for Testament
evidence, but not for any thing where truth is concerned.

I come now to that part of the evidence in those books, that respects
the pretended appearance of Christ after this pretended resurrection.

The writer of the book of Matthew relates, that the angel that was
sitting on the stone at the mouth of the sepulchre, said to the two
Marys (xxviii. 7), "Behold Christ is gone before you into Galilee,
there ye shall see him; lo, I have told you." And the same writer at
the next two verses (8, 9,) makes Christ himself to speak to the same
purpose to these women immediately after the angel had told it to
them, and that they ran quickly to tell it to the disciples; and it
is said (ver. 16), "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee,
into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them; and, when they saw
him, they worshipped him."

But the writer of the book of John tells us a story very different to
this; for he says (xx. 19) "Then the same day at evening, being the
first day of the week, [that is, the same day that Christ is said to
have risen,] when the doors were shut, where the disciples were
assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of
them."

According to Matthew the eleven were marching to Galilee, to meet
Jesus in a mountain, by his own appointment, at the very time when,
according to John, they were assembled in another place, and that not
by appointment, but in secret, for fear of the Jews.

The writer of the book of Luke xxiv. 13, 33-36, contradicts that of
Matthew more pointedly than John does; for he says expressly, that
the meeting was in Jerusalem the evening of the same day that he
(Christ) rose, and that the eleven were there.

Now, it is not possible, unless we admit these supposed disciples the
right of wilful lying, that the writers of these books could be any
of the eleven persons called disciples; for if, according to Matthew,
the eleven went into Galilee to meet Jesus in a mountain by his own
appointment, on the same day that he is said to have risen, Luke and
John must have been two of that eleven; yet the writer of Luke says
expressly, and John implies as much, that the meeting was that same
day, in a house in Jerusalem; and, on the other hand, if, according
to Luke and John, the eleven were assembled in a house in Jerusalem,
Matthew must have been one of that eleven; yet Matthew says the
meeting was in a mountain in Galilee, and consequently the evidence
given in those books destroy each other.

The writer of the book of Mark says nothing about any meeting in
Galilee; but he says (xvi. 12) that Christ, after his resurrection,
appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked into the
country, and that these two told it to the residue, who would not
believe them. [This belongs to the late addition to Mark, which
originally ended with xvi. 8. — Editor.] Luke also tells a story, in
which he keeps Christ employed the whole of the day of this pretended
resurrection, until the evening, and which totally invalidates the
account of going to the mountain in Galilee. He says, that two of
them, without saying which two, went that same day to a village
called Emmaus, three score furlongs (seven miles and a half) from
Jerusalem, and that Christ in disguise went with them, and stayed
with them unto the evening, and supped with them, and then vanished
out of their sight, and reappeared that same evening, at the meeting
of the eleven in Jerusalem.

This is the contradictory manner in which the evidence of this
pretended reappearance of Christ is stated: the only point in which
the writers agree, is the skulking privacy of that reappearance; for
whether it was in the recess of a mountain in Galilee, or in a
shut-up house in Jerusalem, it was still skulking. To what cause then
are we to assign this skulking? On the one hand, it is directly
repugnant to the supposed or pretended end, that of convincing the
world that Christ was risen; and, on the other hand, to have asserted
the publicity of it would have exposed the writers of those books to
public detection; and, therefore, they have been under the necessity
of making it a private affair.

As to the account of Christ being seen by more than five hundred at
once, it is Paul only who says it, and not the five hundred who say
it for themselves. It is, therefore, the testimony of but one man,
and that too of a man, who did not, according to the same account,
believe a word of the matter himself at the time it is said to have
happened. His evidence, supposing him to have been the writer of
Corinthians xv., where this account is given, is like that of a man
who comes into a court of justice to swear that what he had sworn
before was false. A man may often see reason, and he has too always
the right of changing his opinion; but this liberty does not extend
to matters of fact.

I now come to the last scene, that of the ascension into heaven. —
Here all fear of the Jews, and of every thing else, must necessarily
have been out of the question: it was that which, if true, was to
seal the whole; and upon which the reality of the future mission of
the disciples was to rest for proof. Words, whether declarations or
promises, that passed in private, either in the recess of a mountain
in Galilee, or in a shut-up house in Jerusalem, even supposing them
to have been spoken, could not be evidence in public; it was
therefore necessary that this last scene should preclude the
possibility of denial and dispute; and that it should be, as I have
stated in the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' as public and as
visible as the sun at noon-day; at least it ought to have been as
public as the crucifixion is reported to have been. — But to come to
the point.

In the first place, the writer of the book of Matthew does not say a
syllable about it; neither does the writer of the book of John. This
being the case, is it possible to suppose that those writers, who
affect to be even minute in other matters, would have been silent
upon this, had it been true? The writer of the book of Mark passes it
off in a careless, slovenly manner, with a single dash of the pen, as
if he was tired of romancing, or ashamed of the story. So also does
the writer of Luke. And even between these two, there is not an
apparent agreement, as to the place where this final parting is said
to have been. [The last nine verses of Mark being ungenuine, the
story of the ascension rests exclusively on the words in Luke xxiv.
51, "was carried up into heaven," -words omitted by several ancient
authorities. — Editor.]

The book of Mark says that Christ appeared to the eleven as they sat
at meat, alluding to the meeting of the eleven at Jerusalem: he then
states the conversation that he says passed at that meeting; and
immediately after says (as a school-boy would finish a dull story,)
"So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up
into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." But the writer of
Luke says, that the ascension was from Bethany; that he (Christ) led
them out as far as Bethany, and was parted from them there, and was
carried up into heaven. So also was Mahomet: and, as to Moses, the
apostle Jude says, ver. 9. That 'Michael and the devil disputed about
his body.' While we believe such fables as these, or either of them,
we believe unworthily of the Almighty.

I have now gone through the examination of the four books ascribed to
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and when it is considered that the
whole space of time, from the crucifixion to what is called the
ascension, is but a few days, apparently not more than three or four,
and that all the circumstances are reported to have happened nearly
about the same spot, Jerusalem, it is, I believe, impossible to find
in any story upon record so many and such glaring absurdities,
contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books. They are more
numerous and striking than I had any expectation of finding, when I
began this examination, and far more so than I had any idea of when I
wrote the former part of 'The Age of Reason.' I had then neither
Bible nor Testament to refer to, nor could I procure any. My own
situation, even as to existence, was becoming every day more
precarious; and as I was willing to leave something behind me upon
the subject, I was obliged to be quick and concise. The quotations I
then made were from memory only, but they are correct; and the
opinions I have advanced in that work are the effect of the most
clear and long-established conviction, — that the Bible and the
Testament are impositions upon the world; — that the fall of man,
the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to
appease the wrath of God, and of salvation by that strange means, are
all fabulous inventions, dishonourable to the wisdom and power of the
Almighty; — that the only true religion is deism, by which I then
meant and now mean the belief of one God, and an imitation of his
moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues; —
and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that
I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now — and so
help me God.

But to retum to the subject. — Though it is impossible, at this
distance of time, to ascertain as a fact who were the writers of
those four books (and this alone is sufficient to hold them in doubt,
and where we doubt we do not believe) it is not difficult to
ascertain negatively that they were not written by the persons to
whom they are ascribed. The contradictions in those books demonstrate
two things:

First, that the writers cannot have been eye-witnesses and
ear-witnesses of the matters they relate, or they would have related
them without those contradictions; and, consequently that the books
have not been written by the persons called apostles, who are
supposed to have been witnesses of this kind.

Secondly, that the writers, whoever they were, have not acted in
concerted imposition, but each writer separately and individually for
himself, and without the knowledge of the other.

The same evidence that applies to prove the one, applies equally to
prove both cases; that is, that the books were not written by the men
called apostles, and also that they are not a concerted imposition.
As to inspiration, it is altogether out of the question; we may as
well attempt to unite truth and falsehood, as inspiration and
contradiction.

If four men are eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses to a scene, they will
without any concert between them, agree as to time and place, when
and where that scene happened. Their individual knowledge of the
thing, each one knowing it for himself, renders concert totally
unnecessary; the one will not say it was in a mountain in the
country, and the other at a house in town; the one will not say it
was at sunrise, and the other that it was dark. For in whatever place
it was and whatever time it was, they know it equally alike.

And on the other hand, if four men concert a story, they will make
their separate relations of that story agree and corroborate with
each other to support the whole. That concert supplies the want of
fact in the one case, as the knowledge of the fact supersedes, in the
other case, the necessity of a concert. The same contradictions,
therefore, that prove there has been no concert, prove also that the
reporters had no knowledge of the fact, (or rather of that which they
relate as a fact,) and detect also the falsehood of their reports.
Those books, therefore, have neither been written by the men called
apostles, nor by imposters in concert. — How then have they been
written?

I am not one of those who are fond of believing there is much of that
which is called wilful lying, or lying originally, except in the case
of men setting up to be prophets, as in the Old Testament; for
prophesying is lying professionally. In almost all other cases it is
not difficult to discover the progress by which even simple
supposition, with the aid of credulity, will in time grow into a lie,
and at last be told as a fact; and whenever we can find a charitable
reason for a thing of this kind, we ought not to indulge a severe one.

The story of Jesus Christ appearing after he was dead is the story of
an apparition, such as timid imaginations can always create in
vision, and credulity believe. Stories of this kind had been told of
the assassination of Julius Caesar not many years before, and they
generally have their origin in violent deaths, or in execution of
innocent persons. In cases of this kind, compassion lends its aid,
and benevolently stretches the story. It goes on a little and a
little farther, till it becomes a most certain truth. Once start a
ghost, and credulity fills up the history of its life, and assigns
the cause of its appearance; one tells it one way, another another
way, till there are as many stories about the ghost, and about the
proprietor of the ghost, as there are about Jesus Christ in these
four books.

The story of the appearance of Jesus Christ is told with that strange
mixture of the natural and impossible, that distinguishes legendary
tale from fact. He is represented as suddenly coming in and going out
when the doors are shut, and of vanishing out of sight, and appearing
again, as one would conceive of an unsubstantial vision; then again
he is hungry, sits down to meat, and eats his supper. But as those
who tell stories of this kind never provide for all the cases, so it
is here: they have told us, that when he arose he left his
grave-clothes behind him; but they have forgotten to provide other
clothes for him to appear in afterwards, or to tell us what be did
with them when he ascended; whether he stripped all off, or went up
clothes and all. In the case of Elijah, they have been careful enough
to make him throw down his mantle; how it happened not to be burnt
in the chariot of fire, they also have not told us; but as
imagination supplies all deficiencies of this kind, we may suppose if
we please that it was made of salamander's wool.

Those who are not much acquainted with ecclesiastical history, may
suppose that the book called the New Testament has existed ever since
the time of Jesus Christ, as they suppose that the books ascribed to
Moses have existed ever since the time of Moses. But the fact is
historically otherwise; there was no such book as the New Testament
till more than three hundred years after the time that Christ is said
to have lived.

At what time the books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
began to appear, is altogether a matter of uncertainty. There is not
the least shadow of evidence of who the persons were that wrote them,
nor at what time they were written; and they might as well have been
called by the names of any of the other supposed apostles as by the
names they are now called. The originals are not in the possession of
any Christian Church existing, any more than the two tables of stone
written on, they pretend, by the finger of God, upon Mount Sinai, and
given to Moses, are in the possession of the Jews. And even if they
were, there is no possibility of proving the hand-writing in either
case. At the time those four books were written there was no
printing, and consequently there could be no publication otherwise
than by written copies, which any man might make or alter at
pleasure, and call them originals. Can we suppose it is consistent
with the wisdom of the Almighty to commit himself and his will to man
upon such precarious means as these; or that it is consistent we
should pin our faith upon such uncertainties? We cannot make nor
alter, nor even imitate, so much as one blade of grass that he has
made, and yet we can make or alter words of God as easily as words of
man. [The former part of the 'Age of Reason' has not been published
two years, and there is already an expression in it that is not mine.
The expression is: The book of Luke was carried by a majority of one
voice only. It may be true, but it is not I that have said it. Some
person who might know of that circumstance, has added it in a note at
the bottom of the page of some of the editions, printed either in
England or in America; and the printers, after that, have erected it
into the body of the work, and made me the author of it. If this has
happened within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the aid
of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies individually,
what may not have happened in a much greater length of time, when
there was no printing, and when any man who could write could make a
written copy and call it an original by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?
— Author.

The spurious addition to Paine's work alluded to in his footnote drew
on him a severe criticism from Dr. Priestley ("Letters to a
Philosophical Unbeliever," p. 75), yet it seems to have been
Priestley himself who, in his quotation, first incorporated into
Paine's text the footnote added by the editor of the American edition
(1794). The American added: "Vide Moshiem's (sic) Ecc. History,"
which Priestley omits. In a modern American edition I notice four
verbal alterations introduced into the above footnote. — Editor.]

About three hundred and fifty years after the time that Christ is
said to have lived, several writings of the kind I am speaking of
were scattered in the hands of divers individuals; and as the church
had begun to form itself into an hierarchy, or church government,
with temporal powers, it set itself about collecting them into a
code, as we now see them, called 'The New Testament.' They decided by
vote, as I have before said in the former part of the Age of Reason,
which of those writings, out of the collection they had made, should
be the word of God, and which should not. The Robbins of the Jews had
decided, by vote, upon the books of the Bible before.

As the object of the church, as is the case in all national
establishments of churches, was power and revenue, and terror the
means it used, it is consistent to suppose that the most miraculous
and wonderful of the writings they had collected stood the best
chance of being voted. And as to the authenticity of the books, the
vote stands in the place of it; for it can be traced no higher.

Disputes, however, ran high among the people then calling themselves
Christians, not only as to points of doctrine, but as to the
authenticity of the books. In the contest between the person called
St. Augustine, and Fauste, about the year 400, the latter says, "The
books called the Evangelists have been composed long after the times
of the apostles, by some obscure men, who, fearing that the world
would not give credit to their relation of matters of which they
could not be informed, have published them under the names of the
apostles; and which are so full of sottishness and discordant
relations, that there is neither agreement nor connection between
them."

And in another place, addressing himself to the advocates of those
books, as being the word of God, he says, "It is thus that your
predecessors have inserted in the scriptures of our Lord many things
which, though they carry his name, agree not with his doctrine. This
is not surprising, since that we have often proved that these things
have not been written by himself, nor by his apostles, but that for
the greatest part they are founded upon tales, upon vague reports,
and put together by I know not what half Jews, with but little
agreement between them; and which they have nevertheless published
under the name of the apostles of our Lord, and have thus attributed
to them their own errors and their lies. [I have taken these two
extracts from Boulanger's Life of Paul, written in French; Boulanger
has quoted them from the writings of Augustine against Fauste, to
which he refers. — Author.

This Bishop Faustus is usually styled "The Manichaeum," Augustine
having entitled his book, Contra Fsustum Manichaeum Libri xxxiii., in
which nearly the whole of Faustus' very able work is quoted. —
Editor.]

The reader will see by those extracts that the authenticity of the
books of the New Testament was denied, and the books treated as
tales, forgeries, and lies, at the time they were voted to be the
word of God. But the interest of the church, with the assistance of
the faggot, bore down the opposition, and at last suppressed all
investigation. Miracles followed upon miracles, if we will believe
them, and men were taught to say they believed whether they believed
or not. But (by way of throwing in a thought) the French Revolution
has excommunicated the church from the power of working miracles; she
has not been able, with the assistance of all her saints, to work one
miracle since the revolution began; and as she never stood in greater
need than now, we may, without the aid of divination, conclude that
all her former miracles are tricks and lies. [Boulanger in his life
of Paul, has collected from the ecclesiastical histories, and the
writings of the fathers as they are called, several matters which
show the opinions that prevailed among the different sects of
Christians, at the time the Testament, as we now see it, was voted to
be the word of God. The following extracts are from the second
chapter of that work:

The Marcionists (a Christian sect) asserted that the evangelists were
filled with falsities. The Manichaeans, who formed a very numerous
sect at the commencement of Christianity, rejected as false all the
New Testament, and showed other writings quite different that they
gave for authentic. The Cerinthians, like the Marcionists, admitted
not the Acts of the Apostles. The Encratites and the Sevenians
adopted neither the Acts, nor the Epistles of Paul. Chrysostom, in a
homily which he made upon the Acts of the Apostles, says that in his
time, about the year 400, many people knew nothing either of the
author or of the book. St. Irene, who lived before that time, reports
that the Valentinians, like several other sects of the Christians,
accused the scriptures of being filled with imperfections, errors,
and contradictions. The Ebionites, or Nazarenes, who were the first
Christians, rejected all the Epistles of Paul, and regarded him as an
impostor. They report, among other things, that he was originally a
Pagan; that he came to Jerusalem, where he lived some time; and that
having a mind to marry the daughter of the high priest, he had
himself been circumcised; but that not being able to obtain her, he
quarrelled with the Jews and wrote against circumcision, and against
the observation of the Sabbath, and against all the legal ordinances.
— Author. [Much abridged from the Exam. Crit. de la Vie de St. Paul,
by N.A. Boulanger, 1770. — Editor.]

When we consider the lapse of more than three hundred years
intervening between the time that Christ is said to have lived and
the time the New Testament was formed into a book, we must see, even
without the assistance of historical evidence, the exceeding
uncertainty there is of its authenticity. The authenticity of the
book of Homer, so far as regards the authorship, is much better
established than that of the New Testament, though Homer is a
thousand years the most ancient. It was only an exceeding good poet
that could have written the book of Homer, and, therefore, few men
only could have attempted it; and a man capable of doing it would not
have thrown away his own fame by giving it to another. In like
manner, there were but few that could have composed Euclid's
Elements, because none but an exceeding good geometrician could have
been the author of that work.

But with respect to the books of the New Testament, particularly such
parts as tell us of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, any
person who could tell a story of an apparition, or of a man's
walking, could have made such books; for the story is most wretchedly
told. The chance, therefore, of forgery in the Testament is millions
to one greater than in the case of Homer or Euclid. Of the numerous
priests or parsons of the present day, bishops and all, every one of
them can make a sermon, or translate a scrap of Latin, especially if
it has been translated a thousand times before; but is there any
amongst them that can write poetry like Homer, or science like
Euclid? The sum total of a parson's learning, with very few
exceptions, is a, b, ab, and hic, haec, hoc; and their knowledge of
science is, three times one is three; and this is more than
sufficient to have enabled them, had they lived at the time, to have
written all the books of the New Testament.

As the opportunities of forgery were greater, so also was the
inducement. A man could gain no advantage by writing under the name
of Homer or Euclid; if he could write equal to them, it would be
better that he wrote under his own name; if inferior, he could not
succeed. Pride would prevent the former, and impossibility the
latter. But with respect to such books as compose the New Testament,
all the inducements were on the side of forgery. The best imagined
history that could have been made, at the distance of two or three
hundred years after the time, could not have passed for an original
under the name of the real writer; the only chance of success lay in
forgery; for the church wanted pretence for its new doctrine, and
truth and talents were out of the question.

But as it is not uncommon (as before observed) to relate stories of
persons walking after they are dead, and of ghosts and apparitions of
such as have fallen by some violent or extraordinary means; and as
the people of that day were in the habit of believing such things,
and of the appearance of angels, and also of devils, and of their
getting into people's insides, and shaking them like a fit of an
ague, and of their being cast out again as if by an emetic — (Mary
Magdalene, the book of Mark tells us had brought up, or been brought
to bed of seven devils;) it was nothing extraordinary that some story
of this kind should get abroad of the person called Jesus Christ, and
become afterwards the foundation of the four books ascribed to
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer told a tale as he heard
it, or thereabouts, and gave to his book the name of the saint or the
apostle whom tradition had given as the eye-witness. It is only upon
this ground that the contradictions in those books can be accounted
for; and if this be not the case, they are downright impositions,
lies, and forgeries, without even the apology of credulity.

That they have been written by a sort of half Jews, as the foregoing
quotations mention, is discernible enough. The frequent references
made to that chief assassin and impostor Moses, and to the men called
prophets, establishes this point; and, on the other hand, the church
has complimented the fraud, by admitting the Bible and the Testament
to reply to each other. Between the Christian-Jew and the
Christian-Gentile, the thing called a prophecy, and the thing
prophesied of, the type and the thing typified, the sign and the
thing signified, have been industriously rummaged up, and fitted
together like old locks and pick-lock keys. The story foolishly
enough told of Eve and the serpent, and naturally enough as to the
enmity between men and serpents (for the serpent always bites about
the heel, because it cannot reach higher, and the man always knocks
the serpent about the head, as the most effectual way to prevent its
biting;) ["It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
Gen. iii. 15. — Author.] this foolish story, I say, has been made
into a prophecy, a type, and a promise to begin with; and the lying
imposition of Isaiah to Ahaz, 'That a virgin shall conceive and bear
a son,' as a sign that Ahaz should conquer, when the event was that
he was defeated (as already noticed in the observations on the book
of Isaiah), has been perverted, and made to serve as a winder up.

Jonah and the whale are also made into a sign and type. Jonah is
Jesus, and the whale is the grave; for it is said, (and they have
made Christ to say it of himself, Matt. xii. 40), "For as Jonah was
three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of
man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." But it
happens, awkwardly enough, that Christ, according to their own
account, was but one day and two nights in the grave; about 36 hours
instead of 72; that is, the Friday night, the Saturday, and the
Saturday night; for they say he was up on the Sunday morning by
sunrise, or before. But as this fits quite as well as the bite and
the kick in Genesis, or the virgin and her son in Isaiah, it will
pass in the lump of orthodox things. — Thus much for the historical
part of the Testament and its evidences.

Epistles of Paul — The epistles ascribed to Paul, being fourteen in
number, almost fill up the remaining part of the Testament. Whether
those epistles were written by the person to whom they are ascribed
is a matter of no great importance, since that the writer, whoever he
was, attempts to prove his doctrine by argument. He does not pretend
to have been witness to any of the scenes told of the resurrection
and the ascension; and he declares that he had not believed them.

The story of his being struck to the ground as he was journeying to
Damascus, has nothing in it miraculous or extraordinary; he escaped
with life, and that is more than many others have done, who have been
struck with lightning; and that he should lose his sight for three
days, and be unable to eat or drink during that time, is nothing more
than is common in such conditions. His companions that were with him
appear not to have suffered in the same manner, for they were well
enough to lead him the remainder of the journey; neither did they
pretend to have seen any vision.

The character of the person called Paul, according to the accounts
given of him, has in it a great deal of violence and fanaticism; he
had persecuted with as much heat as he preached afterwards; the
stroke he had received had changed his thinking, without altering his
constitution; and either as a Jew or a Christian he was the same
zealot. Such men are never good moral evidences of any doctrine they
preach. They are always in extremes, as well of action as of belief.

The doctrine he sets out to prove by argument, is the resurrection of
the same body: and he advances this as an evidence of immortality.
But so much will men differ in their manner of thinking, and in the
conclusions they draw from the same premises, that this doctrine of
the resurrection of the same body, so far from being an evidence of
immortality, appears to me to be an evidence against it; for if I have
already died in this body, and am raised again in the same body in
which I have died, it is presumptive evidence that I shall die again.
That resurrection no more secures me against the repetition of dying,
than an ague-fit, when past, secures me against another. To believe
therefore in immortality, I must have a more elevated idea than is
contained in the gloomy doctrine of the resurrection.

Besides, as a matter of choice, as well as of hope, I had rather have
a better body and a more convenient form than the present. Every
animal in the creation excels us in something. The winged insects,
without mentioning doves or eagles, can pass over more space with
greater ease in a few minutes than man can in an hour. The glide of
the smallest fish, in proportion to its bulk, exceeds us in motion
almost beyond comparison, and without weariness. Even the sluggish
snail can ascend from the bottom of a dungeon, where man, by the want
of that ability, would perish; and a spider can launch itself from
the top, as a playful amusement. The personal powers of man are so
limited, and his heavy frame so little constructed to extensive
enjoyment, that there is nothing to induce us to wish the opinion of
Paul to be true. It is too little for the magnitude of the scene, too
mean for the sublimity of the subject.

But all other arguments apart, the consciousness of existence is the
only conceivable idea we can have of another life, and the
continuance of that consciousness is immortality. The consciousness
of existence, or the knowing that we exist, is not necessarily
confined to the same form, nor to the same matter, even in this life.

We have not in all cases the same form, nor in any case the same
matter, that composed our bodies twenty or thirty years ago; and yet
we are conscious of being the same persons. Even legs and arms, which
make up almost half the human frame, are not necessary to the
consciousness of existence. These may be lost or taken away and the
full consciousness of existence remain; and were their place supplied
by wings, or other appendages, we cannot conceive that it could alter
our consciousness of existence. In short, we know not how much, or
rather how little, of our composition it is, and how exquisitely fine
that little is, that creates in us this consciousness of existence;
and all beyond that is like the pulp of a peach, distinct and
separate from the vegetative speck in the kernel.

Who can say by what exceeding fine action of fine matter it is that a
thought is produced in what we call the mind? and yet that thought
when produced, as I now produce the thought I am writing, is capable
of becoming immortal, and is the only production of man that has that
capacity.

Statues of brass and marble will perish; and statues made in
imitation of them are not the same statues, nor the same workmanship,
any more than the copy of a picture is the same picture. But print
and reprint a thought a thousand times over, and that with materials
of any kind, carve it in wood, or engrave it on stone, the thought is
eternally and identically the same thought in every case. It has a
capacity of unimpaired existence, unaffected by change of matter, and
is essentially distinct, and of a nature different from every thing
else that we know of, or can conceive. If then the thing produced has
in itself a capacity of being immortal, it is more than a token that
the power that produced it, which is the self-same thing as
consciousness of existence, can be immortal also; and that as
independently of the matter it was first connected with, as the
thought is of the printing or writing it first appeared in. The one
idea is not more difficult to believe than the other; and we can see
that one is true.

That the consciousness of existence is not dependent on the same form
or the same matter, is demonstrated to our senses in the works of the
creation, as far as our senses are capable of receiving that
demonstration. A very numerous part of the animal creation preaches
to us, far better than Paul, the belief of a life hereafter. Their
little life resembles an earth and a heaven, a present and a future
state; and comprises, if it may be so expressed, immortality in
miniature.

The most beautiful parts of the creation to our eye are the winged
insects, and they are not so originally. They acquire that form and
that inimitable brilliancy by progressive changes. The slow and
creeping caterpillar worm of to day, passes in a few days to a torpid
figure, and a state resembling death; and in the next change comes
forth in all the miniature magnificence of life, a splendid
butterfly. No resemblance of the former creature remains; every thing
is changed; all his powers are new, and life is to him another thing.
We cannot conceive that the consciousness of existence is not the
same in this state of the animal as before; why then must I believe
that the resurrection of the same body is necessary to continue to me
the consciousness of existence hereafter?

In the former part of 'The Agee of Reason.' I have called the
creation the true and only real word of God; and this instance, or
this text, in the book of creation, not only shows to us that this
thing may be so, but that it is so; and that the belief of a future
state is a rational belief, founded upon facts visible in the
creation: for it is not more difficult to believe that we shall exist
hereafter in a better state and form than at present, than that a
worm should become a butterfly, and quit the dunghill for the
atmosphere, if we did not know it as a fact.

As to the doubtful jargon ascribed to Paul in 1 Corinthians xv.,
which makes part of the burial service of some Christian sectaries,
it is as destitute of meaning as the tolling of a bell at the
funeral; it explains nothing to the understanding, it illustrates
nothing to the imagination, but leaves the reader to find any meaning
if he can. "All flesh," says he, "is not the same flesh. There is one
flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of
birds." And what then? nothing. A cook could have said as much.
"There are also," says he, "bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial;
the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is
the other." And what then? nothing. And what is the difference?
nothing that he has told. "There is," says he, "one glory of the sun,
and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars." And
what then? nothing; except that he says that one star differeth from
another star in glory, instead of distance; and he might as well have
told us that the moon did not shine so bright as the sun. All this is
nothing better than the jargon of a conjuror, who picks up phrases he
does not understand to confound the credulous people who come to have
their fortune told. Priests and conjurors are of the same trade.

Sometimes Paul affects to be a naturalist, and to prove his system of
resurrection from the principles of vegetation. "Thou fool" says he,
"that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." To which one
might reply in his own language, and say, Thou fool, Paul, that which
thou sowest is not quickened except it die not; for the grain that
dies in the ground never does, nor can vegetate. It is only the
living grains that produce the next crop. But the metaphor, in any
point of view, is no simile. It is succession, and [not] resurrection.

The progress of an animal from one state of being to another, as from
a worm to a butterfly, applies to the case; but this of a grain does
not, and shows Paul to have been what he says of others, a fool.

Whether the fourteen epistles ascribed to Paul were written by him or
not, is a matter of indifference; they are either argumentative or
dogmatical; and as the argument is defective, and the dogmatical part
is merely presumptive, it signifies not who wrote them. And the same
may be said for the remaining parts of the Testament. It is not upon
the Epistles, but upon what is called the Gospel, contained in the
four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and upon the
pretended prophecies, that the theory of the church, calling itself
the Christian Church, is founded. The Epistles are dependant upon
those, and must follow their fate; for if the story of Jesus Christ
be fabulous, all reasoning founded upon it, as a supposed truth, must
fall with it.

We know from history, that one of the principal leaders of this
church, Athanasius, lived at the time the New Testament was formed;
[Athanasius died, according to the Church chronology, in the year 371
— Author.] and we know also, from the absurd jargon he has left us
under the name of a creed, the character of the men who formed the
New Testament; and we know also from the same history that the
authenticity of the books of which it is composed was denied at the
time. It was upon the vote of such as Athanasius that the Testament
was decreed to be the word of God; and nothing can present to us a
more strange idea than that of decreeing the word of God by vote.
Those who rest their faith upon such authority put man in the place
of God, and have no true foundation for future happiness. Credulity,
however, is not a crime, but it becomes criminal by resisting
conviction. It is strangling in the womb of the conscience the
efforts it makes to ascertain truth. We should never force belief
upon ourselves in any thing.

I here close the subject on the Old Testament and the New. The
evidence I have produced to prove them forgeries, is extracted from
the books themselves, and acts, like a two-edge sword, either way. If
the evidence be denied, the authenticity of the Scriptures is denied
with it, for it is Scripture evidence: and if the evidence be
admitted, the authenticity of the books is disproved. The
contradictory impossibilities, contained in the Old Testament and the
New, put them in the case of a man who swears for and against. Either
evidence convicts him of perjury, and equally destroys reputation.

Should the Bible and the Testament hereafter fall, it is not that I
have done it. I have done no more than extracted the evidence from
the confused mass of matters with which it is mixed, and arranged
that evidence in a point of light to be clearly seen and easily
comprehended; and, having done this, I leave the reader to judge for
himself, as I have judged for myself.

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