The Church tells us that the books of the Old and New Testament are divine revelation,
and without this revelation we could not have true ideas of God.
The Deist, on the contrary, says that those books are not divine revelation; and that
were it not for the light of reason and the religion of Deism, those books, instead of
teaching us true ideas of God, would teach us not only false but blasphemous ideas of Him.
Deism teaches us that God is a God of truth and justice. Does the Bible teach the same
doctrine? It does not.
The Bible says (Jeremiah xx, 7) that God is a deceiver. "O Lord (says Jeremiah)
thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived. Thou art stronger than I, and hast
Jeremiah not only upbraids God with deceiving him, but, in iv, 10, he upbraids God with
deceiving the people of Jerusalem. "Ah! Lord God (says he), surely thou hast greatly
deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ye shall have peace, whereas the sword
reacheth unto the soul."
In xv, 18, the Bible becomes more impudent, and calls God in plain language, a liar.
"Wilt thou (says Jeremiah to God) be altogether unto me as a liar and as waters that
Ezekiel xiv, 9, makes God to say - "If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken
a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet." All this is downright blasphemy.
The prophet Micaiah, as he is called, II Chron. xviii, 18-21, tells another blasphemous
story of God. "I saw," says he, "the Lord sitting on His throne, and all
the hosts of Heaven standing on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, who
shall entice Ahab, King of Israel, to go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? And one spoke after
this manner, and another after that manner.
"Then there came out a spirit [Micaiah does not tell us where he came from] and
stood before the Lord [what an impudent fellow this spirit was] and said, I will entice
him. And the Lord said unto him, wherewith? And he said, I will go out and be a lying
spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and
thou shalt also prevail; go out, and do even so."
We often hear of a gang of thieves plotting to rob and murder a man, and laying a plan
to entice him out that they may execute their design, and we always feel shocked at the
wickedness of such wretches; but what must we think of a book that describes the Almighty
acting in the same manner, and laying plans in heaven to entrap and ruin mankind? Our
ideas of His justice and goodness forbid us to believe such stories, and therefore we say
that a lying spirit has been in the mouth of the writers of the books of the Bible.
Testament "Prophesies" of Jesus Proven False
EXAMINATION OF THE PROPHECIES
The passages called prophecies of, or concerning, Jesus Christ, in the Old Testament
may be classed under the two following heads.
First, those referred to in the four books of the New Testament, called the four
Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Secondly, those which translators and commentators have, of their own imagination,
erected into prophecies, and dubbed with that title at the head of the several chapters of
the Old Testament. Of these it is scarcely worth while to waste time, ink, and paper upon;
I shall, therefore, confine myself chiefly to those referred to in the aforesaid four
books of the New Testament. If I show that these are not prophecies of the person called
Jesus Christ, nor have reference to any such person, it will be perfectly needless to
combat those which translators or the Church have invented, and for which they had no
other authority than their own imagination.
I begin with the book called the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
In i. 18, it is said, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When His
mother Mary was espoused to Joseph before they came together, SHE WAS FOUND WITH CHILD OF
THE HOLY GHOST."
This is going a little too fast; because to make this verse agree with the next it
should have said no more than that she was found with child; for the next verse says,
"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public
example, was minded to put her away privately." Consequently Joseph had found out no
more than that she was with child, and he knew it was not by himself.
Verses 20, 21. "And while he thought of these things, [that is whether he should
put her away privately, or make a public example of her], behold the Angel of the Lord
appeared to him IN A DREAM [that is, Joseph dreamed that an angel appeared unto him]
saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that
which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and call
his name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins."
Now, without entering into any discussion upon the merits or demerits of the account
here given, it is proper to observe, that it has no higher authority than that of a dream;
for it is impossible to a man to behold anything in a dream but that which he dreams of. I
ask not, therefore, whether Joseph if there was such a man had such a dream or not,
because admitting he had, it proves nothing. So wonderful and irrational is the faculty of
the mind in dream, that it acts the part of all the characters its imagination creates,
and what it thinks it hears from any of them is no other than what the roving rapidity of
its own imagination invents. It is therefore nothing to me what Joseph dreamed of; whether
of the fidelity or infidelity of his wife. I pay no regard to my own dreams, and I should
be weak indeed to put faith in the dreams of another.
The verses that follow those I have quoted, are the words of the writer of the book of
"Now [says he] all this [that is, all this dreaming and this pregnancy] was done
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying, Behold a
virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name
Emmanuel, which being interpreted, is, God with us."
This passage is in Isaiah vii, 14, and the writer of the book of Matthew endeavors to
make his readers believe that this passage is a prophecy of the person called Jesus
Christ. It is no such thing, and I go to show it is not. But it is first necessary that I
explain the occasion of these words being spoken by Isaiah. The reader will then easily
perceive that so far from their being a prophecy of Jesus Christ, they have not the least
reference to such a person, nor to anything that could happen in the time that Christ is
said to have lived, which was about seven hundred years after the time of Isaiah. The case
On the death of Solomon the Jewish nation split into two monarchies: one called the
kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem: the other the kingdom of Israel, the
capital of which was Samaria. The kingdom of Judah followed the line of David, and the
kingdom of Israel that of Saul; and these two rival monarchies frequently carried on
fierce wars against each other.
At this time Ahaz was King of Judah, which was in the time of Isaiah, Pekah was King of
Israel; and Pekah joined himself to Rezin, King of Syria, to make war against Ahaz, King
of Judah; and these two kings marched a confederated and powerful army against Jerusalem.
Ahaz and his people became alarmed at their danger, and "their hearts were moved as
the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Isaiah vii, 3.
In this perilous situation of things, Isaiah addresses himself to Ahaz, and assures him
in the name of the Lord (the cant phrase of all the prophets), that these two kings should
not succeed against him; and to assure him that this should be the case (the case was
however directly contrary) tells Ahaz to ask a sign of the Lord.
This Ahaz declined doing, giving as a reason, that he would not tempt the Lord; upon
which Isaiah, who pretends to be sent from God, says, verse 14,
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive
and bear a son - butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and
choose the good - for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good,
the land which thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings"
- meaning the King of Israel and the King of Syria who were marching against him.
Here then is the sign, which was to be the birth of a child, and that child a son; and
here also is the time limited for the accomplishment of the sign, namely, before the child
should know to refuse the evil and choose the good.
The thing, therefore, to be a sign of success to Ahaz, must be something that would
take place before the event of the battle then pending between him and the two kings could
be known. A thing to be a sign must precede the thing signified. The sign of rain must be
before the rain.
It would have been mockery and insulting nonsense for Isaiah to have assured Ahaz a
sign that these two things should not prevail against him, that a child should be born
seven hundred years after he was dead, and that before the child so born should know to
refuse the evil and choose the good, he, Ahaz, should be delivered from the danger he was
then immediately threatened with.
But the case is, that the child of which Isaiah speaks was his own child, with which
his wife or his mistress was then pregnant; for he says in the next chapter (Is. vii, 2),
"And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the
son of Jeberechiah; and I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bear a
son;" and he says, at verse 18 of the same chapter, "Behold I and the children
whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel."
It may not be improper here to observe, that the word translated a virgin in Isaiah,
doe not signify a virgin in Hebrew, but merely a young woman. The tense is also falsified
in the translation. Levi gives the Hebrew text of Isaiah vii, 14, and the translation in
English with it - "Behold a young woman is with child and beareth a son." The
expression, says he, is in the present tense.
This translation agrees with the other circumstances related of the birth of this child
which was to be a sign to Ahaz. But as the true translation could not have been imposed
upon the world as a prophecy of a child to be born seven hundred years afterwards, the
Christian translators have falsified the original: and instead of making Isaiah to say,
behold a young woman IS with child and beareth a son, they have made him to say,
"Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."
It is, however, only necessary for a person to read Isaiah vii, and viii, and he will
be convinced that the passage in question is no prophecy of the person called Jesus
Christ. I pass on to the second passage quoted from the Old Testament by the New, as a
prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew ii, 1-6. "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of
Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, where is he
that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East and are come to
worship him. When Herod the king heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem
with him; and when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people
together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In
Bethlehem, in the land of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou
Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of
thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel." This passage is in
Micah v, 2.
I pass over the absurdity of seeing and following a star in the day time, as a man
would a will-with-the-wisp, or a candle and lantern at night; and also that of seeing it
in the East, when themselves came from the East; for could such a thing be seen at all to
serve them for a guide, it must be in the West to them. I confine myself solely to the
passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
The book of Micah, in the passage above quoted, v, 2, is speaking of some person,
without mentioning his name, from whom some great achievements were expected; but the
description he gives of this person, verse 5, 6, proves evidently that is not Jesus
Christ, for he says, "and this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come
into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise up against him
[that is against the Assyrian] seven shepherds and eight principal men.
"And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod
on the entrance thereof; thus shall he [the person spoken of at the head of the second
verse] deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth
within our borders."
This is so evidently descriptive of a military chief, that it cannot be applied to
Christ without outraging the character they pretend to give us of him. Besides which, the
circumstances of the times here spoken of, and those of the times in which Christ is said
to have lived, are in contradiction to each other.
It was the Romans, and not the Assyrians that had conquered and were in the land of
Judea, and trod in their palaces when Christ was born, and when he died, and so far from
his driving them out, it was they who signed the warrant for his execution, and he
suffered under it.
Having thus shown that this is no prophecy of Jesus Christ, I pass on to the third
passage quoted from the Old Testament by the New, as a prophecy of him. This, like the
first I have spoken of, is introduced by a dream. Joseph dreameth another dream, and
dreameth that he seeth another angel.
The account begins at Matthew ii, 13. "The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be
thou there until I bring thee word: For Herod will seek the life of the young child to
"When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed into
Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son."
This passage is in the book of Hosea, xi, 1. The words are, "When Israel was a
child then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them so they went
from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim and burned incense to graven images."
This passage, falsely called a prophecy of Christ, refers to the children of Israel
coming out of Egypt in the time of Pharaoh, and to the idolatry they committed afterwards.
To make it apply to Jesus Christ, he then must be the person who sacrificed unto Baalim
and burned incense to graven images; for the person called out of Egypt by the collective
name, Israel, and the persons committing this idolatry, are the same persons or the
descendants of them.
This then can be no prophecy of Jesus Christ, unless they are willing to make an
idolater of him. I pass on to the fourth passage called a prophecy by the writer of the
book of Matthew.
This is introduced by a story told by nobody but himself, and scarcely believed by
anybody, of the slaughter of all the children under two years old, by the command of
Herod. A thing which it is not probable should be done by Herod, as he only held an office
under the Roman Government, to which appeals could always be had, as we see in the case of
Paul. Matthew, however, having made or told his story, says, ii, 17, 18, "Then was
fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying - In Ramah was there a voice
heard, lamentation, and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and
would not be comforted because they were not."
This passage is in Jeremiah xxxi, 15; and this verse, when separated from the verses
before and after it, and which explain its application, might with equal propriety be
applied to every case of wars, sieges, and other violences, such as the Christians
themselves have often done to the Jews, where mothers have lamented the loss of their
There is nothing in the verse, taken singly, that designates or points out any
particular application of it, otherwise than it points to some circumstances which, at the
time of writing it, had already happened, and not to a thing yet to happen, for the verse
is in the preter or past tense. I go to explain the case and show the application of the
Jeremiah lived in the time that Nebuchadnezzar besieged, took, plundered, and destroyed
Jerusalem, and led the Jews captive to Babylon. He carried his violence against the Jews
to every extreme. He slew the sons of King Zedekiah before his face, he then put out the
eyes of Zedekiah, and kept him in prison till the day of his death.
It is this time of sorrow and suffering to the Jews that Jeremiah is speaking. Their
Temple was destroyed, their land desolated, their nation and government entirely broken
up, and themselves, men, women and children, carried into captivity. They had too many
sorrows of their own, immediately before their eyes, to permit them, or any of their
chiefs, to be employing themselves on things that might, or might not, happen in the world
seven hundred years afterwards.
It is, as already observed, of this time of sorrow and suffering to the Jews that
Jeremiah is speaking in the verse in question. In the next two verses (16, 17), he
endeavors to console the sufferers by giving them hopes, and, according to the fashion of
speaking in those days, assurances from the Lord, that their sufferings should have an
end, and that their children should return again to their own children. But I leave the
verses to speak for themselves, and the Old Testament to testify against the New.
Jeremiah xxxi, 15. "Thus saith the Lord, a voice was heard in Ramah [it is in the
preter tense], lamentation and bitter weeping: Rachel, weeping for her children, refused
to be comforted for her children because they were not." Verse 16, "Thus saith
the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be
rewarded, saith the Lord; and THEY shall come again from the land of the enemy."
Verse 17. - "And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall
come again to their own border."
By what strange ignorance or imposition is it, that the children of which Jeremiah
speaks (meaning the people of the Jewish nation, scripturally called children of Israel,
and not mere infants under two years old), and who were to return again from the land of
the enemy, and come again into their own borders, can mean the children that Matthew makes
Herod to slaughter? Could those return again from the land of the enemy, or how can the
land of the enemy be applied to them? Could they come again to their own borders?
Good heavens! How the world has been imposed upon by testament-makers, priestcraft, and
pretended prophecies. I pass on to the fifth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
This, like two of the former, is introduced by dream. Joseph dreamed another dream, and
dreameth of another angel. And Matthew is again the historian of the dream and the
dreamer. If it were asked how Matthew could know what Joseph dreamed, neither the Bishop
nor all the Church could answer the question.
Perhaps it was Matthew that dreamed, and not Joseph; that is, Joseph dreamed by proxy,
in Matthew's brain, as they tell us Daniel dreamed for Nebuchadnezzar. But be this as it
may, I go on with my subject.
The account of this dream is in Matthew ii, 19-23. "But when Herod was dead,
behold an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and
take the young child and his mother and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead
which sought the young child's life. And he arose and took the young child and his mother,
and came into the land of Israel."
"But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father
Herod, he was afraid to go tither. Notwithstanding being warned of God in a dream [here is
another dream] he turned aside into the parts of Galilee; and he came and dwelt in a city
called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be
called a Nazarene."
Here is good circumstantial evidence that Matthew dreamed, for there is no such passage
in all the Old Testament; and I invite the Bishop, and all the priests in Christendom,
including those of America, to produce it. I pass on to the sixth passage, called a
prophecy of Jesus Christ.
This, as Swift says on another occasion, is lugged in head and shoulders; it need only
to be seen in order to be hooted as a forced and farfetched piece of imposition.
Matthew, iv, 12-16, "Now when Jesus heard that John was cast into prison, he
departed into Galilee: and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon
the sea-coast, in the borders of Zebulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which
was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulon and the land of
Nephtalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which
sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death,
light is springing upon them."
I wonder Matthew has not made the cris-cross-row, or the Christ-cross-row (I know not
how the priests spell it) into a prophecy. He might as well have done this as cut out
these unconnected and undescriptive sentences from the place they stand in and dubbed them
with that title. The words however, are in Isaiah ix, 1, 2 as follows: "Nevertheless
the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly
afflicted the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously
afflict her by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations."
All this relates to two circumstances that had already happened at the time these words
in Isaiah were written. The one, where the land of Zebulon and Naphtali had been lightly
afflicted, and afterwards more grievously by the way of the sea.
But observe, reader, how Matthew has falsified the text. He begins his quotation at a
part of the verse where there is not so much as a comma, and thereby cuts off everything
that relates to the first affliction. He then leaves out all that relates to the second
affliction, and by this means leaves out everything that makes the verse intelligible, and
reduces it to a senseless skeleton of names of towns.
To bring this imposition of Matthew clearly and immediately before the eye of the
reader, I will repeat the verse, and put between brackets  the words he has left out,
and put in italics those that he has preserved.
"[Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation when at the
first he lightly afflicted] the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, [and did
afterwards more grievously afflict her] by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of
What gross imposition is it to gut, as the phrase is, a verse in this manner, render it
perfectly senseless, and then puff it off on a credulous world as a prophecy. I proceed to
the next verse.
Verse 2. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that
dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." All this
is historical, and not in the least prophetical. The whole is in the preter tense: it
speaks of things that had been accomplished at the time the words were written, and not of
things to be accomplished afterwards.
As then the passage is in no possible sense prophetical, nor intended to be so, and
that to attempt to make it so is not only to falsify the original but to commit a criminal
imposition, it is matter of no concern to us, otherwise than as curiosity, to know who the
people were of which the passage speaks that sat in darkness, and what the light was that
had shined in upon them.
If we look into the preceding chapter, Isaiah viii, of which ix is only a continuation,
we shall find the writer speaking, at verse nineteen of "witches and wizards who peep
about and mutter," and of people who made application to them; and he preaches and
exhorts them against this darksome practice.
It is of this people, and of this darksome practice, or walking in darkness, that he is
speaking at ix, 2; and with respect to the light that had shined in upon them, it refers
entirely to his own ministry, and to the boldness of it, which opposed itself to that of
the witches and wizards who peeped about and muttered.
Isaiah is, upon the whole, a wild, disorderly writer, preserving in general no clear
chain of perception in the arrangement of his ideas, and consequently producing no defined
conclusions from them.
It is the wildness of his style, the confusion of his ideas, and the ranting metaphors
he employs, that have afforded so many opportunities to priestcraft in some cases, and to
superstition in others, to impose those defects upon the world as prophecies of Jesus
Finding no direct meaning in them, and not knowing what to make of them, and supposing
at the same time they were intended to have a meaning, they supplied the defect by
inventing a meaning of their own, and called it his. I have however in this place done
Isaiah the justice to rescue him from the claws of Matthew, who has torn him unmercifully
to pieces, and from the imposition or ignorance of priests and commentators, by letting
Isaiah speak for himself.
If the words walking in darkness, and light breaking in, could in any case be applied
prophetically, which they cannot be, they would better apply to the times we now live in
than to any other. The world has "walked in darkness" for eighteen hundred
years, both as to religion and government, and it is only since the American Revolution
began that light has broken in.
The belief of one God, whose attributes are revealed to us in the book or scripture of
the creation, which no human hand can counterfeit or falsify, and not in the written or
printed book which, as Matthew has shown, can be altered or falsified by ignorance or
design, is now making its way among us: and as to government, the light is already gone
forth, and while men ought to be careful not to be blinded by the excess of it, as at a
certain time in France when everything was Robespierrean violence, they ought to
reverence, and even to adore it, with all the perseverance that true wisdom can inspire.
I pass on to the seventh passage, called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew viii, 16, 17. "When the evening was come, they brought unto him [Jesus]
many that were possessed with devils, and he cast out the spirits with his word, and
healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah]
the prophet, saying, himself took our infirmities, and bare our sickness."
This affair of people being possessed by devils, and of casting them out, was the fable
of the day when the books of the New Testament were written. It had not existence at any
other time. The books of the Old Testament mention no such thing; the people of the
present day know of no such thing; nor does the history of any people or country speak of
such a thing. It starts upon us all at once in the book of Matthew, and is altogether an
invention of the New Testament makers and the Christian Church.
The book of Matthew is the first book where the word devil is mentioned. We read in
some of the books of the Old Testament of things called familiar spirits, the supposed
companion of people called witches and wizards. It was no other than the trick of
pretended conjurers to obtain money from credulous and ignorant people, or the fabricated
charge of superstitious malignancy against unfortunate and decrepit old age. But the idea
of a familiar spirit, if we can affix any idea to the term, is exceedingly different to
that of being possessed by a devil.
In the one case, the supposed familiar spirit is a dexterous agent, that comes and goes
and does as he is bidden; in the other, he is a turbulent roaring monster, that tears and
tortures the body into convulsions. Reader, whoever thou art, put thy trust in thy
Creator, make use of the reason He endowed thee with, and cast from thee all such fables.
The passage alluded to by Matthew, for as a quotation it is false, is in Isaiah, liii,
4, which is as follows: "Surely he [the person of whom Isaiah is speaking] hath borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows." It is in the preter tense.
Here is nothing about casting out devils, nor curing of sicknesses. The passage,
therefore, so far from being a prophecy of Christ, is not even applicable as a
Isaiah, or at least the writer of the book that bears his name, employs the whole of
this chapter, liii, in lamenting the sufferings of some deceased persons, of whom he
speaks very pathetically. It is a monody on the death of a friend; but he mentions not the
name of the person, nor gives any circumstance of him by which he can be personally known;
and it is this silence, which is evidence of nothing, that Matthew has laid hold of, to
put the name of Christ to it; as if the chiefs of the Jews, whose sorrows were then great,
and the times they lived in big with danger, were never thinking about their own affairs,
nor the fate of their own friends, but were continually running a wild-goose chase into
To make a monody into a prophecy is an absurdity. The characters and circumstances of
men, even in the different ages of the world, are so much alike, that what is said of one
may with propriety be said of many; but this fitness does not make the passage into a
prophecy; and none but an imposter, or a bigot, would call it so.
Isaiah, in deploring the hard fate and loss of his friend, mentions nothing of him but
what the human lot of man is subject to. All the cases he states of him, his persecutions,
his imprisonment, his patience in suffering, and his perseverance in principle, are all
within the line of nature; they belong exclusively to none, and may with justness be said
But if Jesus Christ was the person the Church represents him to be, that which would
exclusively apply to him must be something that could not apply to any other person;
something beyond the line of nature, something beyond the lot of mortal man; and there are
no such expressions in this chapter, nor any other chapter in the Old Testament.
It is no exclusive description to say of a person, as is said of the person Isaiah is
lamenting in this chapter, He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his
mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is
dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. This may be said of thousands of persons, who have
suffered oppressions and unjust death with patience, silence, and perfect resignation.
Grotius, whom the Bishop [of Llandaff] esteems a most learned man, and who certainly
was so, supposes that the person of whom Isaiah is speaking, is Jeremiah. Grotius is led
into this opinion from the agreement there is between the description given by Isaiah and
the case of Jeremiah, as stated in the book that bears his name.
If Jeremiah was an innocent man, and not a traitor in the interest of Nebuchadnezzar
when Jerusalem was besieged, his case was hard; he was accused by his countrymen, was
persecuted, oppressed, and imprisoned, and he says of himself, (see Jer. xi. 19) "But
as for me I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter."
I should be inclined to the same opinion with Grotius, had Isaiah lived at the time
when Jeremiah underwent the cruelties of which he speaks; but Isaiah died about fifty
years before; and it is of a person of his own time whose case Isaiah is lamenting in the
chapter in question, and which imposition and bigotry, more than seven hundred years
afterwards, perverted into a prophecy of a person they call Jesus Christ.
I pass on to the eighth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew xii, 14-21: "Then the Pharisees went out and held a council against him,
how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it he withdrew himself; and great numbers
followed him and he healed them all; and he charged them they should not make him known;
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying, Behold
my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my
spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. "He shall not strive nor
cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not
break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And
in his name shall the Gentiles trust."
In the first place, this passage hath not the least relation to the purpose for which
it is quoted.
Matthew says, that the Pharisees held a council against Jesus to destroy him - that
Jesus withdrew himself - that great numbers followed him - that he healed them - and that
he charged them they should not make him known. But the passage Matthew has quoted as
being fulfilled by these circumstances does not so much as apply to any one of them.
It has nothing to do with the Pharisees holding a council to destroy Jesus - with his
withdrawing himself - with great numbers following him - with his healing them - nor with
his charging them not to make him known.
The purpose for which the passage is quoted, and the passage itself, are as remote from
each other, as nothing from something. But the case is, that people have been so long in
the habit of reading the books called the Bible and Testament with their eyes shut, and
their senses locked up, that the most stupid inconsistencies have passed on them for
truth, and imposition for prophecy.
The Allwise Creator hath been dishonored by being made the author of fable, and the
human mind degraded by believing it.
In this passage, as in that last mentioned, the name of the person of whom the passage
speaks is not given, and we are left in the dark respecting him. It is this defect in the
history that bigotry and imposition have laid hold of, to call it prophecy.
Had Isaiah lived in the time of Cyrus, the passage would descriptively apply to him. As
King of Persia, his authority was great among the Gentiles, and it is of such a character
the passage speaks; and his friendship for the Jews, whom he liberated from captivity, and
who might then be compared to a bruised reed, was extensive.
But this description does not apply to Jesus Christ, who had no authority among the
Gentiles; and as to his own countrymen, figuratively described by the bruised reed, it was
they who crucified him. Neither can it be said of him that he did not cry, and that his
voice was not heard in the street. As a preacher it was his business to be heard, and we
are told that he traveled about the country for that purpose.
Matthew has given a long sermon, which (if his authority is good, but which is much to
be doubted since he imposes so much) Jesus preached to a multitude upon a mountain, and it
would be a quibble to say that a mountain is not a street, since it is a place equally as
The last verse in the passage (the fourth) as it stands in Isaiah, and which Matthew
has not quoted, says, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment
in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law." This also applies to Cyrus. He
was not discouraged, he did not fail, he conquered all Babylon, liberated the Jews, and
But this cannot be said of Jesus Christ, who in the passage before us, according to
Matthew, [xii, 15], withdrew himself for fear of the Pharisees, and charged the people
that followed him not to make it known where he was; and who, according to other parts of
the Testament, was continually moving from place to place to avoid being apprehended.
But it is immaterial to us, at this distance of time, to know who the person was: it is
sufficient to the purpose I am upon, that of detecting fraud and falsehood, to know who it
was not, and to show it was not the person called Jesus Christ.
I pass on to the ninth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew xxi. 1-5. "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to
Bethpage, unto the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying unto
them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and
a colt with her; loose them and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought to you, ye
shall say, the Lord hath need of them, and straightway he will send them. All this was
done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the
daughter of Sion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a
colt the foal of an ass."
Poor ass! let it be some consolation amidst all thy sufferings, that if the heathen
world erected a bear into a constellation, the Christian world has elevated thee into a
This passage is in Zechariah ix, 9, and is one of the whims of friend Zechariah to
congratulate his countrymen, who were then returning from captivity in Babylon, and
himself with them, to Jerusalem. It has no concern with any other subject. It is strange
that apostles, priests, and commentators, never permit, or never suppose, the Jews to be
speaking of their own affairs.
Everything in the Jewish books is perverted and distorted into meanings never intended
by the writers. Even the poor ass must not be a Jew-ass but a Christian-ass. I wonder they
did not make an apostle of him, or a bishop, or at least make him speak and prophesy. He
could have lifted up his voice as loud as any of them.
Zechariah, in the first chapter of his book, indulges himself in several whims on the
joy of getting back to Jerusalem. He says at the eighth verse, "I saw by night
[Zechariah was a sharpsighted seer] and behold a man setting on a red horse [yes reader, a
red horse], and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom, and behind him
were red horses, speckled and white." He says nothing about green horses, nor blue
horses, perhaps because it is difficult to distinguish green from blue by night, but a
Christian can have no doubt they were there, because "faith is the evidence of things
Zechariah then introduces an angel among his horses, but he does not tell us what color
the angel was of, whether black or white, nor whether he came to buy horses, or only to
look at them as curiosities, for certainly they were of that kind. Be this however as it
may, he enters into conversation with this angel on the joyful affair of getting back to
Jerusalem, and he saith at the sixteenth verse, "Therefore, thus saith the Lord, I AM
RETURNED to Jerusalem with mercies; my house shall be built in it saith the Lord of hosts,
and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem." An expression signifying the
rebuilding the city.
All this, whimsical and imaginary as it is, sufficiently proves that it was the entry
of the Jews into Jerusalem from captivity, and not the entry of Jesus Christ seven hundred
years afterwards, that is the subject upon which Zechariah is always speaking.
As to the expression of riding upon an ass, which commentators represent as a sign of
humility in Jesus Christ, the case is, he never was so well mounted before. The asses of
those countries are large and well proportioned, and were anciently the chief of riding
animals. Their beasts of burden, and which served also for the conveyance of the poor,
were camels and dromedaries. We read in Judges x, 4, that Jair [one of the Judges of
Israel] "had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass-colts, and they had thirty
cities." But commentators distort everything.
There is besides very reasonable grounds to conclude that this story of Jesus riding
publicly into Jerusalem, accompanied, as it is said at verses eight and nine, by a great
multitude, shouting and rejoicing and spreading their garments by the way, is a story
altogether destitute of truth.
In the last passage called a prophecy that I examined, Jesus is represented as
withdrawing, that is, running away, and concealing himself for fear of being apprehended,
and charging the people that were with him not to make him known. No new circumstance had
arisen in the interim to change his condition for the better; yet here he is represented
as making his public entry into the same city from which he had fled for safety. The two
cases contradict each other so much, that if both are not false, one of them at least can
scarcely be true.
For my own part, I do not believe there is one word of historical truth in the whole
book. I look upon it at best to be a romance; the principal personage of which is an
imaginary or allegorical character founded upon some tale, and in which the moral is in
many parts good, and the narrative part very badly and blunderingly written.
I pass on to the tenth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew xxvi, 51-56: "And behold one of them which was with Jesus [meaning Peter]
stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and
smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, put up again thy sword into its place: for
all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now
pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But
how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?
"In that same hour Jesus said to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a
thief, with swords and with staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the
temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the
prophets might be fulfilled."
This loose and general manner of speaking, admits neither of detection nor of proof.
Here is no quotation given, nor the name of any Bible author mentioned, to which reference
can be had.
There are, however, some high improbabilities against the truth of the account.
First - It is not possible that the Jews, who were then a conquered people, and under
subjection to the Romans, should be permitted to wear swords.
Secondly - If Peter had attacked the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear, he
would have been immediately taken up by the guard that took up his master and sent to
prison with him.
Thirdly - What sort of disciples and preaching apostles must those of Christ have been
that wore swords?
Fourthly - This scene is represented to have taken place the same evening of what is
called the Lord's supper, which makes, according to the ceremony of it, the inconsistency
of wearing swords the greater.
I pass on to the eleventh passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew xxvii, 3-10: "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was
condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief
priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And
they said, What is that to us, see thou to that. And he cast down the thirty pieces of
silver, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
"And the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, it is not lawful to put
them in the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought
with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field is called the
field of blood unto this day.
"Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And
they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the
children of Israel did value, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed
This is a most barefaced piece of imposition. The passage in Jeremiah which speaks of
the purchase of a field, has no more to do with the case to which Matthew applies it, than
it has to do with the purchase of lands in America. I will recite the whole passage:
Jeremiah xxxii, 6-15: "And Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came unto me,
saying, Behold Hanameel, the son of Shallum thine uncle, shall come unto thee, saying, Buy
thee my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. So
Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison, according to the word of
the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field I pray thee that is in Anathoth, which is in the
country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine;
buy it for thyself.
"Then I knew this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field of Hanameel
mine uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels
of silver. And I subscribed the evidence and sealed it, and took witnesses and weighed him
the money in the balances.
"So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to
the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the evidence of the purchase unto
Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son,
and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed [the book of the purchase], before
all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.
"And I charged Baruch before them, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God
of Israel: Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and
this evidence which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue
many days. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and
vineyards shall be possessed again in this land."
I forebear making any remark on this abominable imposition of Matthew. The thing
glaringly speaks for itself. It is priests and commentators that I rather ought to
censure, for having preached falsehood so long, and kept people in darkness with respect
to those impositions.
I am not contending with these men upon points of doctrine, for I know that sophistry
has always a city of refuge. I am speaking of facts; for wherever the thing called a fact
is a falsehood, the faith founded upon it is delusion, and the doctrine raised upon it not
true. Ah, reader, put thy trust in thy Creator, and thou wilt be safe; but if thou
trustest to the book called the Scriptures thou trustest to the rotten staff of fable and
falsehood. But I return to my subject.
There is among the whims and reveries of Zechariah, mention made of thirty pieces of
silver given to a potter. They can hardly have been so stupid as to mistake a potter for a
field: and if they had, the passage in Zechariah has no more to do with Jesus, Judas, and
the field to bury strangers in, than that already quoted. I will recite the passage.
Zechariah xi, 7-14: "And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of
the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, the other I called
Bands; and I fed the flock. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul
lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me. Then said I, I will not feed you; that which
dieth, let it die; and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest
eat everyone the flesh of another.
"And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my
covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day; and so the
poor of the flock who waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord. And I said
unto them, If ye think good, give me my price, and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my
price thirty pieces of silver.
"And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter; a goodly price that I was
prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in
the house of the Lord. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break
the brotherhood between Judah and Israel."
There is no making either head or tail of this incoherent gibberish. His two staves,
one called Beauty and the other Bands, is so much like a fairy tale, that I doubt if it
had any other origin. There is, however, no part that has the least relation to the case
stated in Matthew; on the contrary, it is the reverse of it. Here the thirty pieces of
silver, whatever it was for, is called a goodly price, it was as much as the thing was
worth, and according to the language of the day, was approved of by the Lord, and the
money given to the potter in the house of the Lord.
In the case of Jesus and Judas, as stated in Matthew, the thirty pieces of silver were
the price of blood; the transaction was condemned by the Lord, and the money when refunded
was refused admittance into the treasury. Everything in the two cases is the reverse of
Besides this, a very different and direct contrary account to that of Matthew, is given
of the affair of Judas, in the book called the "Acts of the Apostles"; according
to that book the case is, that so far from Judas repenting and returning the money, and
the high priests buying a field with it to bury strangers in, Judas kept the money and
bought a field with it for himself; and instead of hanging himself as Matthew says, that
he fell headlong and burst asunder. Some commentators endeavor to get over one part of the
contradiction by ridiculously supposing that Judas hanged himself first and the rope
Acts i, 16-18: "Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled
which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide
to them that took Jesus [David says not a word about Judas], for he [Judas] was numbered
among us and obtained part of our ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward
of iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst and his bowels gushed
Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we
see in it such contradictions and absurdities? I pass on to the twelfth passage called a
prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew xxvii, 35: "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots;
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among
them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." This expression is in Psalm xxii, 18.
The writer of that Psalm (whoever he was, for the Psalms are a collection and not the
work of one man) is speaking of himself and his own case, and not that of another. He
begins this Psalm with the words which the New Testament writers ascribed to Jesus Christ:
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" - words which might be uttered by a
complaining man without any great impropriety, but very improperly from the mouth of a
The picture which the writer draws of his own situation in this Psalm, is gloomy
enough. He is not prophesying, but complaining of his own hard case. He represents himself
as surrounded by enemies and beset by persecutions of every kind; and by the way of
showing the inveteracy of his persecutors he says, "They parted my garments among
them, and cast lots upon my vesture."
The expression is in the present tense; and is the same as to say, they pursue me even
to the clothes upon my back, and dispute how they shall divide them. Besides, the word
vesture does not always mean clothing of any kind, but Property, or rather the admitting a
man to, or investing him with property; and as it is used in this Psalm distinct from the
word garment, it appears to be used in this sense. But Jesus had no property; for they
make him say of himself, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head."
But be this as it may, if we permit ourselves to suppose the Almighty would condescend
to tell, by what is called the spirit of prophecy, what could come to pass in some future
age of the world, it is an injury to our own faculties, and to our ideas of His greatness,
to imagine that it would be about an old coat, or an old pair of breeches, or about
anything which the common accidents of life, or the quarrels which attend it, exhibit
That which is in the power of man to do, or in his will not to do, is not subject for
prophecy, even if there were such a thing, because it cannot carry with it any evidence of
divine power, or divine interposition.
The ways of God are not the ways of men. That which an Almighty power performs, or
wills, is not within the circle of human power to do, or to control. But an executioner
and his assistants might quarrel about dividing the garments of a sufferer, or divide them
without quarrelling, and by that means fulfil the thing called a prophecy, or set it
In the passages before examined, I have exposed the falsehood of them. In this I
exhibit its degrading meanness, as an insult to the Creator and an injury to human reason.
Here end the passages called prophecies by Matthew.
Matthew concludes his book by saying, that when Christ expired on the cross, the rocks
rent, the graves opened, and the bodies of many of the saints arose; and Mark says, there
was darkness over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth.
They produce no prophecy for this; but had these things been facts, they would have
been a proper subject for prophecy, because none but an Almighty power could have inspired
a foreknowledge of them, and afterwards fulfilled them. Since then there is no such
prophecy, but a pretended prophecy of an old coat, the proper deduction is, there were no
such things, and that the book of Matthew was fable and falsehood.
I pass on to the book called the Gospel according to St. Mark.
THE BOOK OF MARK
There are but few passages in Mark called prophecies; and but few in Luke and John.
Such as there are I shall examine, and also such other passages as interfere with those
cited by Matthew.
Mark begins his book by a passage which he puts in the shape of a prophecy. Mark i,
1,2. - "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: As it is written
in the prophets, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way
before thee." (Malachi iii,1)
The passage in the original is in the first person. Mark makes this passage to be a
prophecy of John the Baptist, said by the Church to be a forerunner of Jesus Christ. But
if we attend to the verses that follow this expression, as it stands in Malachi, and to
the first and fifth verses of the next chapter, we shall see that this application of it
is erroneous and false.
Malachi having said, at the first verse, "Behold I will send my messenger, and he
shall prepare the way before me," says, at the second verse, "But who may abide
the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's
fire, and like fuller's soap."
This description can have no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, and consequently
none to John the Baptists. It is a scene of fear and terror that is here described, and
the birth of Christ is always spoken of as a time of joy and glad tidings.
Malachi, continuing to speak on the same subject, explains in the next chapter what the
scene is of which he speaks in the verses above quoted, and whom the person is whom he
calls the messenger.
"Behold," says he, (iv, 1), "the day cometh that shall burn like an
oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day
cometh that shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither
root nor branch." Verse 5: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the
coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." By what right, or by what
imposition or ignorance Mark has made Elijah into John the Baptist, and Malachi's
description of the day of judgment into the birthday of Christ, I leave to the Bishop [of
Llandaff] to settle.
Mark (i,2,3), confounds two passages together, taken from different books of the Old
Testament. The second verse, "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall
prepare thy way before thee," is taken, as I have said before, from Malachi. The
third verse, which says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the
way of the Lord, make His paths straight," is not in Malachi, but in Isaiah, xl, 3.
Whiston says that both these verses were originally in Isaiah. If so, it is another
instance of the distorted state of the Bible, and corroborates what I have said with
respect to the name and description of Cyrus being in the book of Isaiah, to which it
cannot chronologically belong.
The words in Isaiah - "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye
the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" - are in the present tense, and
consequently not predictive. It is one of those rhetorical figures which the Old Testament
authors frequently used. That it is merely rhetorical and metaphorical, may be seen at the
sixth verse: "And the voice said, cry; and he said what shall I cry? All flesh is
This is evidently nothing but a figure; for flesh is not grass otherwise than as a
figure or metaphor, where one thing is put for another. Besides which, the whole passage
is too general and too declamatory to be applied exclusively to any particular person or
I pass on to the eleventh chapter.
In this chapter, Mark speaks of Christ riding into Jerusalem upon a colt, but he does
not make it an accomplishment of a prophecy, as Matthew has done, for he says nothing
about a prophecy. Instead of which he goes on the other tack, and in order to add new
honors to the ass, he makes it to be a miracle; for he says, verse 2, it was a colt
"whereon never man sat"; signifying thereby, that as the ass had not been
broken, he consequently was inspired into good manners, for we do not hear that he kicked
Jesus Christ off. There is not a word about his kicking in all the four Evangelists.
I pass on from these feats of horsemanship performed upon a jack-ass, to the 15th
chapter. At the 24th verse of this chapter, Mark speaks of parting Christ's garments and
casting lots upon them, but he applies no prophecy to it as Matthew does. He rather speaks
of it as a thing then in practice with executioners, as it is at this day.
At the 28th verse of the same chapter, Mark speaks of Christ being crucified between
two thieves; that, says he, the Scripture might be fulfilled, "which saith, and he
was numbered with the transgressors." The same might be said of the thieves.
This expression is in Isaiah liii, 12. Grotius applies it to Jeremiah. But the case has
happened so often in the world, where innocent men have been numbered with transgressors,
and is still continually happening, that it is absurdity to call it a prophecy of any
particular person. All those whom the church calls martyrs were numbered with
All the honest patriots who fell upon the scaffold in France, in the time of
Robespierre, were numbered with transgressors; and if himself had not fallen, the same
case according to a note in his own handwriting, had befallen me; yet I suppose the Bishop
[of Llandaff] will not allow that Isaiah was prophesying of Thomas Paine.
These are all the passages in Mark which have any reference to prophecies. Mark
concludes his book by making Jesus to say to his disciples (xvi, 16-18), "Go ye into
all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved, but he that believeth not, shall be damned [fine popish stuff this], and
these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they
shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly
thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall
Now, the Bishop, in order to know if he has all this saving and wonder-working faith,
should try those things upon himself. He should take a good dose of arsenic, and if he
please, I will send him a rattlesnake from America.
As for myself, as I believe in God and not at all in Jesus Christ, nor in the books
called the Scriptures, the experiment does not concern me.
I pass on to the book of Luke.
THE BOOK OF LUKE
There are no passages in Luke called prophecies, excepting those which relate to the
passages I have already examined.
Luke speaks of Mary being espoused to Joseph, but he makes no references to the passage
in Isaiah, as Matthew does. He speaks also of Jesus riding into Jerusalem upon a colt, but
he says nothing about a prophecy. He speaks of John the Baptist and refers to the passage
in Isaiah, of which I have already spoken.
At chapter xiii, 31, 32, he says, "The same day there came certain of the
Pharisees, saying unto him [Jesus], Get thee out and depart hence, for Herod will kill
thee. And he said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils, and I do
cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."
Matthew makes Herod to die while Christ was a child in Egypt, and makes Joseph to
return with the child on the news of Herod's death, who had sought to kill him. Luke makes
Herod to be living, and to seek the life of Jesus after Jesus was thirty years of age: for
he says (iii, 23), "And Jesus began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was
supposed, the son of Joseph."
The obscurity in which the historical part of the New Testament is involved, with
respect to Herod, may afford to priests and commentators a plea, which to some may appear
plausible, but to none satisfactory, that the Herod of which Matthew speaks, and the Herod
of which Luke speaks, were two different persons.
Matthew calls Herod a king; and Luke (iii, 1) calls Herod, Tetrarch (that is, Governor)
of Galilee. But there could be no such person as a King Herod, because the Jews and their
country were then under the dominion of the Roman Emperors who governed then by tetrarchs,
Luke ii makes Jesus to be born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria, to which government
Judea was annexed; and according to this, Jesus was not born in the time of Herod. Luke
says nothing about Herod seeking the life of Jesus when he was born; nor of his destroying
the children under two years old; nor of Joseph fleeing with Jesus into Egypt; nor of his
returning from thence. On the contrary, the book of Luke speaks as if the person it calls
Christ had never been out of Judea, and that Herod sought his life after he commenced
preaching, as is before stated.
I have already shown that Luke, in the book called the Acts of the Apostles (which
commentators ascribe to Luke), contradicts the account in Matthew with respect to Judas
and the thirty pieces of silver. Matthew says that Judas returned the money, and that the
high priests bought with it a field to bury strangers in; Luke says that Judas kept the
money, and bought a field with it for himself.
As it is impossible the wisdom of God should err, so it is impossible those books
should have been written by divine inspiration. Our belief in God and His unerring wisdom
forbids us to believe it. As for myself, I feel religiously happy in the total disbelief
There are no other passages called prophecies in Luke than those I have spoken of. I
pass on to the book of John.
THE BOOK OF JOHN
John, like Mark and Luke, is not much of a prophecy-monger. He speaks of the ass, and
the casting lots for Jesus's clothes, and some other trifles, of which I have already
John makes Jesus to say (v, 46),
"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me."
The book of the Acts, in speaking of Jesus, says (iii, 22), "For Moses truly said
unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord, your God, raise up unto you of your brethren,
like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you."
This passage is in Deuteronomy, xviii, 15. They apply it as a prophecy of Jesus. What
imposition! The person spoken of in Deuteronomy, and also in Numbers, where the same
person is spoken of, is Joshua, the minister of Moses, and his immediate successor, and
just such another Robespierrean character as Moses is represented to have been. The case,
as related in those books, is as follows:
Moses was grown old and near to his end, and in order to prevent confusion after his
death, for the Israelites had no settled system of government, it was thought best to
nominate a successor to Moses while he was yet living. This was done, as we are told, in
the following manner:
Numbers xxvii, 12, 13 "And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount
Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. And when thou
hast seen it thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother is
gathered." Verse 15-20. "And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord,
the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out
before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may
bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep that have no shepard. And
the Lord said unto Moses, take thee Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit,
and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the
congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor
upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient."
Verse 22, 23. "And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and he took Joshua, and
set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and he laid hands upon
him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses."
I have nothing to do, in this place, with the truth, or the conjuration here practiced,
of raising up a successor to Moses like unto himself. The passage sufficiently proves it
is Joshua, and that it is an imposition in John to make the case into a prophecy of Jesus.
But the prophecy-mongers were so inspired with falsehood, that they never speak truth.
I pass to the last passage, in these fables of the Evangelists, called a prophecy of
John, having spoken of Jesus expiring on the cross between two thieves, says, (xix, 32,
"Then came the soldiers and break the legs of the first (meaning one of the
thieves) and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and
saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs." Verse 36: "For these
things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be
The passage here referred to is in Exodus, and has no more to do with Jesus than with
the ass he rode upon to Jerusalem; nor yet so much, if a roasted jack-ass, like a roasted
he-goat, might be eaten at a Jewish passover. It might be some consolation to an ass to
know that though his bones might be picked, they would not be broken. I go to state the
The book of Exodus, in instituting the Jewish passover, in which they were to eat a
he-lamb, or a he-goat, says (xii, 5),
"Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it
from the sheep or from the goats." The book, after stating some ceremonies to be used
in killing and dressing it (for it was to be roasted, not boiled), says (verse 43-48),
"And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: there
shall no stranger eat thereof; but every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou
hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner shall not eat thereof. In one
house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh thereof abroad out
of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof."
We here see that the case as it stands in Exodus is a ceremony and not a prophecy, and
totally unconnected with Jesus's bones, or any part of him.
John, having thus filled up the measure of apostolic fable, concludes his book with
something that beats all fable; for he says at the last verse, "And there are also
many other things which Jesus did, the which if they could be written everyone, I suppose
that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
This is what in vulgar life is called a thumper; that is, not only a lie, but a lie
beyond the line of possibility; besides which it is an absurdity, for if they should be
written in the world, the world would contain them. Here ends the examination of the
passages called prophecies.
I have now, reader, gone through and examined all the passages which the four books of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, quote from the Old Testament and call them prophecies of
Jesus Christ. When I first sat down to this examination, I expected to find cause for some
censure, but little did I expect to find them so utterly destitute of truth, and of all
pretensions to it, as I have shown them to be.
The practice which the writers of these books employ is not more false than it is
absurd. They state some trifling case of the person they call Jesus Christ, and then cut
out a sentence from some passage of the Old Testament and call it a prophecy of that case.
But when the words thus cut out are restored to the place they are taken from, and read
with the words before and after them, they give the lie to the New Testament. A short
instance or two of this will suffice for the whole.
They make Joseph to dream of an angel, who informs him that Herod is dead, and tells
him to come with the child out of Egypt. They then cut out a sentence from the book of
Hosea, "Out of Egypt have I called my son," and apply it as a prophecy in that
case. The words, "And called my Son out of Egypt," are in the Bible.
But what of that? They are only part of a passage, and not a whole passage, and stand
immediately connected with other words which show they refer to the children of Israel
coming out of Egypt in the time of Pharaoh, and to the idolatry they committed afterwards.
Again, they tell us that when the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified
persons, they found Jesus was already dead, and, therefore, did not break his. They then,
with some alteration of the original, cut out a sentence from Exodus, "a bone of him
shall not be broken," and apply it as a prophecy of that case.
The words "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof" (for they have altered the
text), are in the Bible. But what of that? They are, as in the former case, only part of a
passage, and not a whole passage, and when read with the words they are immediately joined
to, show it is the bones of a he-lamb or a he-goat of which the passage speaks.
These repeated forgeries and falsifications create a well-founded suspicion that all
the cases spoken of concerning the person called Jesus Christ are made cases, on purpose
to lug in, and that very clumsily, some broken sentences from the Old Testament, and apply
them as prophecies of those cases; and that so far from his being the Son of God, he did
not exist even as a man - that he is merely an imaginary or allegorical character, as
Apollo, Hercules, Jupiter, and all the deities of antiquity were. There is no history
written at the time Jesus Christ is said to have lived that speaks of the existence of
such a person, even as a man.
Did we find in any other book pretending to give a system of religion, the falsehoods,
falsifications, contradictions, and absurdities, which are to be met with in almost every
page of the Old and New Testament, all the priests of the present day, who supposed
themselves capable, would triumphantly show their skill in criticism, and cry it down as a
most glaring imposition.
But since the books in question belong to their own trade and profession, they, or at
least many of them, seek to stifle every inquiry into them and abuse those who have the
honesty and the courage to do it.
When a book, as is the case with the Old and New Testament, is ushered into the world
under the title of being the WORD OF GOD, it ought to be examined with the utmost
strictness, in order to know if it has a well founded claim to that title or not, and
whether we are or are not imposed upon: for no poison is so dangerous as that which
poisons the physic, so no falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.
This examination becomes more necessary, because when the New Testament was written, I
might say invented, the art of printing was not known, and there were no other copies of
the Old Testament than written copies. A written copy of that book would cost about as
much as six hundred common printed Bibles now cost. Consequently the book was in the hands
of very few persons, and these chiefly of the Church.
This gave an opportunity to the writers of the New Testament to make quotations from
the Old Testament as they pleased, and call them prophecies, with very little danger of
being detected. Besides which, the terrors and inquisitorial fury of the Church, like what
they tell us of the flaming sword that turned every way, stood sentry over the New
Testament; and time, which brings everything else to light, has served to thicken the
darkness that guards it from detection.
Were the New Testament now to appear for the first time, every priest of the present
day would examine it line by line, and compare the detached sentences it calls prophecies
with the whole passages in the Old Testament, from whence they are taken. Why then do they
not make the same examination at this time, as they would make had the New Testament never
If it be proper and right to make it in one case, it is equally proper and right to do
it in the other case. Length of time can make no difference in the right to do it at any
time. But, instead of doing this, they go on as their predecessors went on before them, to
tell the people there are prophecies of Jesus Christ, when the truth is there are none.
They tell us that Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. It is very easy
to say so; a great lie is as easily told as a little one. But if he had done so, those
would have been the only circumstances respecting him that would have differed from the
common lot of man; and, consequently, the only case that would apply exclusively to him,
as prophecy, would be some passage in the Old Testament that foretold such things of him.
But there is no passage in the Old Testament that speaks of a person who, after being
crucified, dead, and buried, should rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven. Our
prophecy-mongers supply the silence the Old Testament guards upon such things, by telling
us of passages they call prophecies, and that falsely so, about Joseph's dream, old
clothes, broken bones, and such like trifling stuff.
In writing upon this, as upon every other subject, I speak a language full and
intelligible. I deal not in hints and intimations. I have several reasons for this: First,
that I may be clearly understood. Secondly, that it may be seen I am in earnest; and
thirdly, because it is an affront to truth to treat falsehood with complaisance.
I will close the treatise with a subject I have already touched upon in the first part
of the "Age of Reason."
The world has been amused with the term revealed religion, and the generality of
priests apply this term to the books called the Old and New Testament. The Mahometans
apply the same term to the Koran. There is no man that believes in revealed religion
stronger than I do; but it is not the reveries of the Old and New Testament, nor the
Koran, that I dignify with that sacred title. That which is revelation to me, exists in
something which no human mind can invent, no human hand can counterfeit or alter.
The Word of God is the Creation we behold; and this Word of God revealeth to man all
that is necessary for man to know of his Creator. Do we want to contemplate His power? We
see it in the immensity of His creation. Do we want to contemplate His wisdom? We see it
in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed.
Do we want to contemplate His munificence? We see it in the abundance with which He
fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate His mercy? We see it in His not withholding
that abundance, even from the unthankful.
Do we want to contemplate His will, so far as it respects man? The goodness He shows to
all is a lesson for our conduct to each other.
In fine - do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the Scripture,
which any human hand might make, or any imposter invent; but the SCRIPTURE CALLED THE
When, in the first part of the "Age of Reason," I called the creation, the
true revelation of God to man, I did not know that any other person had expressed the same
idea. But I lately met with the writings of Doctor Conyers Middleton, published the
beginning of last century, (eighteenth century, editor), in which he expresses himself in
the same manner, with respect to the creation, as I have done in the "Age of
He was principal librarian of the University of Cambridge, in England, which furnished
him with extensive opportunities of reading, and necessarily required he should be well
acquainted with the dead as well as the living languages. He was a man of a strong
original mind, had the courage to think for himself, and the honesty to speak his
He made a journey to Rome, from whence he wrote letters to show that the forms and
ceremonies of the Romish Christian Church were taken from the degenerate state of the
heathen mythology, as it stood in the latter times of the Greeks and Romans. He attacked
without ceremony the miracles which the Church pretended to perform; and in one of his
treatises, he calls the creation a revelation.
The priests of England, of that day, in order to defend their citadel, by first
defending its out-works, attacked him for attacking the Roman ceremonies; and one of them
censures him for calling the creation a revelation. He thus replies to him:
"One of them," says he, "appears to be scandalized by the title of
revelation which I have given to that discovery which God made of Himself in the visible
works of his creation. Yet it is no other than what the wise in all ages have given to it,
who consider it as the most authentic and indisputable revelation which God has ever given
of Himself, from the beginning of the world to this day.
"It was this by which the first notice of Him was revealed to the inhabitants of
the earth, and by which alone it has been kept up ever since among the several nations of
it. From this the reason of man was enabled to trace out his nature and attributes, and,
by a gradual deduction of consequences, to learn his own nature also, with all the duties
belonging to it, which relate either to God or to his fellow-creatures.
"This constitution of things was ordained by God, as an universal law, or rule of
conduct to man; the source of all his knowledge; the test of all truth, by which all
subsequent revelations, which are supposed to have been given by God in any other manner
must be tried, and cannot be received as divine any further than as they are found to
tally and coincide with this original standard.
"It was this divine law which I referred to in the passage above recited [meaning
the passage on which they had attacked him], being desirous to excite the reader's
attention to it, as it would enable him to judge more freely of the argument I was
handling. For by contemplating this law, he would discover the genuine way which God
Himself has marked out to us for the acquisition of true knowledge, not from the authority
or reports of our fellow-creatures, but from the information of the facts and material
objects which, in His providential distribution of worldly things, He hath presented to
the perpetual observation of our senses. For as it was from these that his existence and
nature, the most important articles of all knowledge, were first discovered to man, so
that grand discovery furnished new light toward tracing out the rest, and made all the
inferior subjects of human knowledge more easily discoverable to us by the same method.
"I had another view likewise in the same passage, and applicable to the same end,
of giving the reader a more enlarged notion of the question in dispute, who, by turning
his thoughts to reflect on the works of the Creator, as they are manifested to us in this
fabric of the world, could not fail to observe that they are all of them great, noble, and
suitable to the majesty of His nature; carrying with them the proofs of their origin, and
showing themselves to be the production of an all-wise and Almighty being; and by
accustoming his mind to these sublime reflections, he will be prepared to determine
whether those miraculous interpositions, so confidently affirmed to us by the primitive
fathers, can reasonably be thought to make a part in the grand scheme of the Divine
administration, or whether it be agreeable that God, who created all things by His will,
and can give what turn to them He pleases by the same will, should, for the particular
purposes of His government and the services of the Church, descend to the expedient of
visions and revelations, granted sometimes to boys for the instruction of the elders, and
sometimes to women to settle the fashion and length of their veils, and sometimes to
pastors of the Church to enjoin them to ordain one man a lecturer, another a priest; or
that he should scatter a profusion of miracles around the stake of a martyr, yet all of
them vain and insignificant, and without any sensible effect, either of preserving the
life or easing the sufferings of the saint, or even of mortifying his persecutors, who
were always left to enjoy the full triumph of their cruelty, and the poor martyr to expire
in a miserable death.
"When these things, I say, are brought to the original test, and compared with the
genuine and indisputable works of the Creator, how minute, how trifling, how contemptible
must they be? And how incredible must it be thought that, for the instruction of His
Church, God should employ ministers so precarious, unsatisfactory, and inadequate, as the
ecstacies of women and boys, and the visions of interested priests, which were derided at
the very time by men of sense to whom they were proposed.
"That this universal law [continues Middleton, meaning the law revealed in the
works of the Creation] was actually revealed to the heathen world long before the Gospel
was known, we learn from all the principal sages of antiquity, who made it the capital
subject of their studies and writings.
"Cicero [says Middleton] has given us a short abstract of it, in a fragment still
remaining from one of his books on government, which [says Middleton] I shall here
transcribe in his own words, as they will illustrate my sense also, in the passages that
appear so dark and dangerous to my antagonist:
"`The true law [it is Cicero who speaks], is right reason, conformable to the
nature of things, constant, eternal, diffused through all, which calls us to duty by
commanding, deters us from sin by forbidding; which never loses it influence with the
good, nor ever preserves it with the wicked. This law cannot be over-ruled by any other,
nor abrogated in whole or in part; nor can we be absolved from it either by the senate or
by the people; nor are we to seek any other comment or interpreter of it but Himself; nor
can there be one law at Rome and another at Athens; one now and another hereafter; but the
same eternal immutable law comprehends all nations at all times, under one common master
and governor of all - GOD. He is the inventor, propounder, enacter of this law; and
whoever will not obey it must first renounce himself, and throw off the nature of man; by
doing which, he will suffer the greatest punishments though he should escape all the other
torments which are commonly believed to be prepared for the wicked.' Here ends the
quotation from Cicero.
"Our Doctors [continues Middleton] perhaps will look on this as RANK DEISM; but
let them call it what they will, I shall ever avow and defend it as the fundamental,
essential, and vital part of all true religion." Here ends the quotation from
I have here given the reader two sublime extracts from men who lived in ages of time
far remote from each other, but who thought alike. Cicero lived before the time in which
they tell us Christ was born. Middleton may be called a man of our own time, as he lived
within the same century with ourselves.
In Cicero we see that vast superiority of mind, that sublimity of right reasoning and
justness of ideas, which man acquires, not by studying Bibles and Testaments, and the
theology of schools built thereon, but by studying the Creator in the immensity and
unchangeable order of His creation, and the immutability of His law.
"There cannot," says Cicero "be one law now, and another hereafter; but
the same eternal immutable law comprehends all nations, at all times, under one common
Master and Governor of all - GOD" But according to the doctrine of schools which
priests have set up, we see one law, called the Old Testament, given in one age of the
world, and another law, called the New Testament, given in another age of the world.
As all this is contradictory to the eternal immutable nature, and the unerring and
unchangeable wisdom of God, we must be compelled to hold this doctrine to be false, and
the old and the new law, called the Old and New Testament, to be impositions, fables and
In Middleton, we see the manly eloquence of an enlarged mind and the genuine sentiments
of a true believer in his Creator. Instead of reposing his faith on books, by whatever
name they may be called, whether Old Testament or New, he fixes the creation as the great
original standard by which every other thing called the word or work of God is to be
tried. In this we have an indisputable scale whereby to measure every word or work imputed
to Him. If the thing so imputed carries not in itself the evidence of the same
Almightiness of power, of the same unerring truth and wisdom, and the same unchangeable
order in all its parts, as are visibly demonstrated to our senses, and comprehensible by
our reason, in the magnificent fabric of the universe, that word or that work is not of
God. Let then the two books called the Old and New Testament be tried by this rule, and
the result will be that the authors of them, whoever they were, will be convicted of
The invariable principles, and unchangeable order, which regulate the movements of all
the parts that compose the universe, demonstrate both to our senses and our reason that
its Creator is a God of unerring truth.
But the Old Testament, beside the numberless absurd and bagatelle stories it tells of
God, represents Him as a God of deceit, a God not to be confided in. Ezekiel makes God to
say (xiv, 9), "And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I, the
Lord have deceived that prophet." And at xx, 25, he makes God, in speaking of the
children of Israel, to say "Wherefore I gave them statutes that were not good, and
judgments by which they should not live." This, so far from being the Word of God, is
horrid blasphemy against Him. Reader, put thy confidence in thy God, and put no trust in
This same Old Testament, after telling us that God created the heavens and the earth in
six days, makes the same Almighty power and eternal wisdom employ itself in giving
directions how a priest's garments should be cut, and what sort of stuff they should be
made of, and what their offerings should be, gold and silver, and brass and blue, and
purple and scarlet, and fine linen and goat's hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and badger
skins, etc. (xxv, 3); and in one of the pretended prophecies I have just examined, God is
made to give directions how they should kill, cook and eat a he-lamb or a he-goat.
And Ezekiel (iv), to fill up the measure of abominable absurdity, makes God to order
him to take wheat and barley, and beans and lentiles, and millet and fitches, and make a
loaf or a cake thereof, and bake it with human dung and eat it; but as Ezekiel complained
that this mess was too strong for his stomach, the matter was compromised from man's dung
to cow-dung. Compare all this ribaldry, blasphemously called the Word of God, with the
Almighty power that created the universe, and whose eternal wisdom directs and governs all
its mighty movements, and we shall be at a loss to find a name sufficiently contemptible
In the promises which the Old Testament pretends that God made to His people, the same
derogatory ideas of Him prevail. It makes God to promise Abraham that his seed should be
like the stars in heaven and the sand on the sea shore for multitude, and that He would
give them the land of Canaan as their inheritance forever.
But observe, reader, how the performance of this promise was to begin, and then ask
thine own reason, if the wisdom of God, whose power is equal to His will, could,
consistently with that power and that wisdom, make such a promise.
The performance of the promise was to begin, according to that book, by four hundred
years of bondage and affliction. Genesis xv, 13, "And he said unto Abraham, Know of a
surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve
them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years."
This promise then to Abraham and his seed forever, to inherit the land of Canaan, had
it been a fact instead of a fable, was to operate, in the commencement of it, as a curse
upon all the people and their children, and their children's children, for four hundred
But the case is, the book of Genesis was written after the bondage in Egypt had taken
place; and in order to get rid of the disgrace of the Lord's chosen people, as they called
themselves, being in bondage to the Gentiles, they make God to be the author of it, and
annex it as a condition to a pretended promise; as if God, in making that promise, had
exceeded His power in performing it, and consequently, His wisdom in making it, and was
obliged to compromise with them for one-half, and with the Egyptians, to whom they were to
be in bondage, for the other half.
Without degrading my own reason by bringing those wretched and contemptible tales into
a comparative view with the Almighty power and eternal wisdom, which the Creator hath
demonstrated to our senses in the creation of the universe, I shall confine myself to say,
that if we compare them with the divine and forcible sentiments of Cicero, the result will
be that the human mind has degenerated by believing them. Man, in a state of groveling
superstition from which he has not courage to rise, loses the energy of his mental powers.
I will not tire the reader with more observations on the Old Testament.
As to the New Testament, if it be brought and tried by that standard which, as
Middleton wisely says, God has revealed to our senses, of His Almighty power and wisdom in
the creation and government of the visible universe, it will be found equally as false,
paltry, and absurd, as the Old.
Without entering, in this place, into any other argument, that the story of Christ is
of human invention and not of divine origin, I will confine myself to show that it is
derogatory to God by the contrivance of it; becausethe means it supposes God to use, are
not adequate to the end to be obtained; and, therefore, are derogatory to the Almightiness
of His power, and the eternity of His wisdom.
The New Testament supposes that God sent His Son upon earth to make a new covenant with
man, which the Church calls the covenant of grace; and to instruct mankind in a new
doctrine, which it calls Faith, meaning thereby, not faith in God, for Cicero and all true
Deists always had and always will have this, but faith in the person called Jesus Christ;
and that whoever had not this faith should, to use the words of the New Testament, be
Now, if this were a fact, it is consistent with that attribute of God called His
goodness, that no time should be lost in letting poor unfortunate man know it; and as that
goodness was united to Almighty power, and that power to Almighty wisdom, all the means
existed in the hand of the Creator to make it known immediately over the whole earth, in a
manner suitable to the Almightiness of His divine nature, and with evidence that would not
leave man in doubt; for it is always incumbent upon us, in all cases, to believe that the
Almighty always acts, not by imperfect means as imperfect man acts, but consistently with
His Almightiness. It is this only that can become the infallible criterion by which we can
possibly distinguish the works of God from the works of man.
Observe now, reader, how the comparison between this supposed mission of Christ, on the
belief or disbelief of which they say man was to be saved or damned - observe, I say, how
the comparison between this, and the Almighty power and wisdom of God demonstrated to our
senses in the visible creation, goes on. The Old Testament tells us that God created the
heavens and the earth, and everything therein, in six days. The term six days is
ridiculous enough when applied to God; but leaving out that absurdity, it contains the
idea of Almighty power acting unitedly with Almighty wisdom, to produce an immense work,
that of the creation of the universe and everything therein, in a short time.
Now as the eternal salvation of man is of much greater importance than his creation,
and as that salvation depends, and the New Testament tells us, on man's knowledge of and
belief in the person called Jesus Christ, it necessarily follows from our belief in the
goodness and justice of God, and our knowledge of His Almighty power and wisdom, as
demonstrated in the creation, that ALL THIS, if true, would be made known to all parts of
the world, in as little time at least, as was employed in making the world.
To suppose the Almighty would pay greater regard and attention to the creation and
organization of inanimate matter, than he would to the salvation of innumerable millions
of souls, which Himself had created, "as the image of Himself," is to offer an
insult to His goodness and His justice.
Now observe, reader, how the promulgation of this pretended salvation by a knowledge
of, and a belief in Jesus Christ went on, compared with the work of creation. In the first
place, it took longer time to make the child than to make the world, for nine months were
passed away and totally lost in a state of pregnancy; which is more than forty times
longer time than God employed in making the world, according to the Bible account.
Secondly, several years of Christ's life were lost in a state of human infancy. But the
universe was in maturity the moment it existed. Thirdly, Christ, as Luke asserts, was
thirty years old before he began to preach what they call his mission. Millions of souls
died in the meantime without knowing it.
Fourthly, it was above three hundred years from that time before the book called the
New Testament was compiled into a written copy, before which time there was no such book.
Fifthly, it was above a thousand years after that before it could be circulated; because
neither Jesus nor his apostles had knowledge of, or were inspired with, the art of
printing; and, consequently, as the means for making it universally known did not exist,
the means were not equal to the end, and therefore it is not the work of God.
I will here subjoin the nineteenth Psalm, which is truly deistical, to show how
universally and instantaneously the works of God make themselves known, compared with this
pretended salvation by Jesus Christ:
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech
nor language where their voice is not heard.
"Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the
world. In them hath he set a chamber for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of
his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
"His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of
it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof."
Now, had the news of salvation by Jesus Christ been inscribed on the face of the sun
and the moon, in characters that all nations would have understood, the whole earth had
known it in twenty-four hours, and all nations would have believed it; whereas, though it
is now almost two thousand years since, as they tell us, Christ came upon earth, not a
twentieth part of the people of the earth know anything of it, and among those who do, the
wiser part do not believe it.
I have now, reader, gone through all the passages called prophecies of Jesus Christ,
and shown there is no such thing.
I have examined the story told of Jesus Christ, and compared the several circumstances
of it with that revelation which, as Middleton wisely says, God has made to us of His
power and wisdom in the structure ofthe universe, and by which everything ascribed to Him
is to be tried.
The result is, that the story of Christ has not one trait, either in its character or
in the means employed, that bears the least resemblance to the power and wisdom of God, as
demonstrated in the creation of the universe. All the means are human means, slow,
uncertain and inadequate to the accomplishment of the end proposed; and therefore the
whole is a fabulous invention, and undeserving of credit.
The priests of the present day profess to believe it. They gain their living by it, and
they exclaim against something they call infidelity. I will define what it is. HE THAT
BELIEVES IN THE STORY OF CHRIST IS AN INFIDEL TO GOD.
CONTRADICTORY DOCTRINES BETWEEN MATTHEW AND MARK
In the New Testament (Mark xvi, 16), it is said "He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." This is making salvation,
or, in other words, the happiness of man after this life, to depend entirely on believing,
or on what Christians call faith.
But The Gospel according to Matthew makes Jesus Christ preach a direct contrary
doctrine to The Gospel according to Mark; for it makes salvation, or the future happiness
of man, to depend entirely on good works; and those good works are not works done to God,
for He needs them not, but good works done to man.
The passage referred to in Matthew is the account there given of what is called the
last day, or the day of judgment, where the whole world is represented to be divided into
two parts, the righteous and the unrighteous, metaphorically called the sheep and the
goats. To the one part called the righteous, or the sheep, it says, "Come, ye blessed
of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: for I
was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a
stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I
was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and
fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw thee a stranger, and took thee in? or
naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And
the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Here is nothing about believing in Christ - nothing about that phantom of the
imagination called Faith. The works here spoken of are works of humanity and benevolence,
or, in other words, an endeavor to make God's creation happy.
Here is nothing about preaching and making long prayers, as if God must be dictated to
by man; nor about building churches and meetings, nor hiring priests to pray and preach in
them. Here is nothing about predestination, that lust which some men have for damning one
Here is nothing about baptism, whether by sprinkling or plunging, nor about any of
those ceremonies for which the Christian Church has been fighting, persecuting, and
burning each other ever since the Christian Church began.
If it be asked, why do not priests preach the doctrine contained in this chapter, the
answer is easy: they are not fond of practicing it themselves. It does not answer for
their trade. They had rather get than give. Charity with them begins and ends at home.
Had it been said, Come ye blessed, ye have been liberal in paying the preachers of the
world, ye have contributed largely towards building churches and meeting-houses, there is
not a hired priest in Christendom but would have thundered it continually in the ears of
his congregation. But as it is altogether on good works done to men, the priests pass over
it in silence, and they will abuse me for bringing it into notice.
The Tower of Babel
The story of the tower of Babel is told in Genesis xi. It begins thus:
"And the whole earth [it was but a very little part of it they knew] was of one
language and of one speech. And it came to pass as they journeyed from the East, that they
found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go
to, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly, and they had brick for stone, and
slime had they for mortar.
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may
reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of
the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children
of men builded.
"And the Lord said, Behold the people is one, and they have all one language; and
this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have
imagined to do. Go to, let us go down and there confound their language, that
they may not understand one another's speech.
"So [that is, by that means] the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the
face of all the earth; and they left off building the city."
This is the story, and a very foolish, inconsistent story it is. In the first place,
the familiar and irreverent manner in which the Almighty is spoken of in this chapter is
offensive to a serious mind.
As to the project of building a tower whose top should reach to heaven, there never
could be a people so foolish as to have such a notion; but to represent the Almighty as
jealous of the attempt, as the writer of the story has done, is adding profanation to
folly. "Go to," say the builders, "let us build us a tower whose
top shall reach to heaven." "Go to," says God, "let us go
down and confound their language."
This quaintness is indecent, and the reason given for is worse, for, "now nothing
will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do." This is representing
the Almighty as jealous of their getting into heaven. The story is too ridiculous, even as
a fable, to account for the diversity of languages in the world, for which it seems to
have been intended.
As to the project of confounding their language for the purpose of making them
separate, it is altogether inconsistent; because instead of producing this effect, it
would, by increasing their difficulties, render them more necessary to each other, and
cause them to keep together. Where could they go to better themselves?
Another observation upon this story is, the inconsistency of it with respect to the
opinion that the Bible is the Word of God given for the information of mankind; for
nothing could so effectually prevent such a word from being known by mankind as
confounding their language. The people, who after this spoke different languages, could no
more understand such a Word generally, than the builders of Babel could understand on
another. It would have been necessary, therefore, had such Word ever been given or
intended to be given, that the whole earth should be, as they say it was at first, of one
language and of one speech, and that it should never have been confounded.
The case, however, is, that the Bible will not bear examination in any part of it,
which it would do if it was the Word of God. Those who most believe it are those who know
least about it, and priests always take care to keep the inconsistent and contradictory
parts out of sight.
A Letter to a Friend Regarding the Age of Reason
Paris, May 12, 1797
In your letter of the twentieth of March, you give me several quotations from the
Bible, which you call the Word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong,
and I could give you as many, from the same book to show that yours are not right;
consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way,
one chooses to make it.
But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first
point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the
Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils
of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is
said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to
be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a
The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon,
did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the
authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for
myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their
religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.
You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but you cannot prove it, nor can you
have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how
he comes by his thoughts; and the same is the case with the word revelation. There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation than you
can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself.
It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God
spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake
unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No.
Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don't is all the reason you can give for believing or
disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know
Moses was not an impostor?
For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal
communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but
if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and
must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point, whether the
Bible be the Word of God, or not. It is therefore necessary to go a step further. The case
then is: -
You form your opinion of God from the account given of Him in the Bible; and I form my
opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the structure of
the universe, and in all works of creation. The result in these two cases will be, that
you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by
taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible.
The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a
world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to
do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of
the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to
us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a
changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a
contrary idea - that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness.
The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and everything in the creation
claims that God is unchangeable. Now, which am I to believe, a book that any impostor
might make and call the Word of God, or the creation itself which none but an Almighty
Power could make? For the Bible says one thing, and the creation says the contrary. The
Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him
with all the attributes of a God.
It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief
of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes
God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they
have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and
sheep, camel and ass.'
That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time,
can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to
believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the
impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name
of God, that the Bible describes.
What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the
reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account
in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives
of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and
this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the
Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that
time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and
oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to
death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in
pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.
In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was,
and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence,
which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this
slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the
justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book
that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of
As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God,
that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary;
but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that
education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the
You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran
from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the
prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels
who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the
Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New.
When you have examined the Bible with the attention that I have done (for I do not
think you know much about it), and permit yourself to have just ideas of God, you will
most probably believe as I do. But I wish you to know that this answer to your letter is
not written for the purpose of changing your opinion. It is written to satisfy you, and
some other friends whom I esteem, that my disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and
religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice
and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.
On Death (A Letter to Andrew Dean)
I received your friendly letter, for which I am obliged to you. It is three weeks ago
today (Sunday, August fifteenth), that I was struck with a fit of apoplexy, that deprived
me of all sense and motion. I had neither pulse nor breathing, and the people about me
supposed me dead. I had felt exceedingly well that day, and had just taken a slice of
bread and butter for supper, and was going to bed.
The fit took me on the stairs, as suddenly as if I had been shot through the head; and
I got so very much hurt by the fall, that I have not been able to get in and out of bed
since that day, otherwise than being lifted out in a blanket, by two persons; yet all this
while my mental faculties have remained as perfect a I ever enjoyed them.
I consider the scene I have passed through as an experiment on dying, and I find that
death has no terrors for me. As to the people called Christians, they have no evidence
that their religion is true. There is no more proof that the Bible is the Word of God,
than that the Koran of Mahomet is the Word of God. It is education makes all the
difference. Man, before he begins to think for himself, is as much the child of habits in Creeds as he is in plowing and sowing. Yet creeds, like opinions, prove nothing.
Where is the evidence that the person called Jesus Christ is the begotten Son of God?
The case admits not of evidence either to our senses or our mental faculties: neither has
God given to man any talent by which such a thing is comprehensible.
It cannot therefore be an object for faith to act upon, for faith is nothing more than
an assent the mind gives to something it sees cause to believe is fact. But priests,
preachers, and fanatics, put imagination in the place of faith, and it is the nature of
the imagination to believe without evidence.
If Joseph the carpenter dreamed (as the book of Matthew (i) says he did), that his
betrothed wife, Mary, was with child by the Holy Ghost, and that an angel told him so, I
am not obliged to put faith in his dreams; nor do I put any, for I put no faith in my own
dreams, and I should be weak and foolish indeed to put faith in the dreams of others.
The Christian religion is derogatory to the Creator in all its articles. It puts the
Creator in an inferior point of view, and places the Christian devil above Him. It is he,
according to the absurd story in Genesis, that outwits the Creator in the Garden of Eden,
and steals from Him His favorite creature, man, and at last obliges Him to beget a son,
and put that son to death, to get man back again; and this the priests of the Christian
religion call redemption.
Christian authors exclaim against the practice of offering up human sacrifices, which,
they say, is done in some countries; and those authors make those exclamations without
ever reflecting that their own doctrine of salvation is founded on a human sacrifice. They
are saved, they say, by the blood of Christ. The Christian religion begins with a dream
and ends with a murder.
As I am now well enough to sit up some hours in the day, though not well enough to get
up without help, I employ myself as I have always done, in endeavoring to bring man to the
right use of the reason that God has given him, and to direct his mind immediately to his
Creator, and not to fanciful secondary beings called mediators, as if God was
superannuated or ferocious.
As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word of God. It is a
book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad times and bad men. There are but a
few good characters in the whole book. The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles, which
is a parody on the sun and the twelve signs of the zodiac, copied from the ancient
religions of the eastern world, is the least hurtful part.
Everything told of Christ has reference to the sun. His reported resurrection is at
sunrise, and that on the first day of the week; that is, on the day anciently dedicated to
the sun, and from thence called Sunday - in Latin Dies Solis, the day of the sun;
and the next day, Monday, is Moon-day. But there is no room in a letter to explain these
While man keeps to the belief of one God, his reason unites with his creed. He is not
shocked with contradictions and horrid stories. His bible is the heavens and the earth. He
beholds his Creator in all His works, and everything he beholds inspires him with
reverence and gratitude. From the goodness of God to all, he learns his duty to his
fellow-man, and stands self-reproved when he transgresses it. Such a man is no persecutor.
But when he multiplies his creed with imaginary things, of which he can have neither
evidence nor conception, such as the tale of the Garden of Eden, the Talking Serpent, the
Fall of Man, the Dreams of Joseph the Carpenter, the pretended Resurrection and Ascension,
of which there is even no historical relation - for no historian of those times mentions
such a thing - he gets into the pathless region of confusion, and turns either fanatic or
hypocrite. He forces his mind, and pretends to believe what he does not believe. This is
in general the case with the Methodists. Their religion is all creed and no morals.
I have now, my friend, given you a facsimile of my mind on the subject of
religion and creeds, and my wish is, that you make this letter as publicly known as you
find opportunities of doing.
Yours, in friendship,
New York, August 15, 1806