Thomas Paine's Age of Reason: A Critique

As a supplement to our brief review of Paine's Age of Reason (hereafter AR), and because it is indeed still often used as an authoritative source by Skeptics, we engage here a lengthier and more thorough review of the text. I have taken this text from the Secular Web's library and will not edit out any material where Paine deals with the Bible.

I will omit, however, such things as Chapter I where Paine speaks of his profession of faith as this contains no arguments as such; or such places as he does not address the Bible itself. My comments shall be made in bold and not everything will be commented upon as it is not always necessary to comment.

You may verify the text of AR at this location.


EVERY national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.

It's hard to say what Paine's point is here, since none of these religions is at all exclusivist. The way is open for any man to join any of these. Paine is falsely carrying over the idea of "we have the unique revelation, and no one else does" to "no one can get it but us." In light of that all three of the named religions cross cultural and social boundaries, Paine's reaction is completely unjustified. He may well have been shocked to see Christianity and Islam crossing so many borders. He also hypocritically misses the critical point that he declares all three of these faiths false in favor of HIS "one way" that is right.

Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

Fair enough. Either one is right and the others are wrong, or none are right. At least Paine is consistent here; but that is in contrast to how he contradicts himself as before, hypocritcally, in that he certainly thinks he is right.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some observations on the word 'revelation.' Revelation when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.

Of course this is why Deut. 18:22 speaks of testing the prophets. The Bible is well aware of the need to test things (1 Th. 5:21) and would not expect Paine to just believe simply because someone says so (though Paine is also in error about hearsay -- this is perhaps where Skeptics get their arguments against hearsay, rather than from legal writings). Beyond that it would have been interesting to know what parts of the Bible Paine classed as "revelation". Beyond any idea of inspiration, texts like the Gospels report history.

Now we also wonder whether Paine was any more consistent in rejecting the works of, say, Josephus or Tacitus on these same grounds, regardless of whether they were reporting miracles or private conversations. Today most resolve this inevitable leading to a epistemic-despair view of knowledge and knowing by remaining inconsistent. They are doubters on religious matters only, or at best on things far removed from their life -- but never have such doubts when they buy groceries or go to the drivers' license office.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication.

At this point I wondered who, if anyone, was calling something a "revelation" that was second hand. Paine is perhaps being too atomistic; if I say that Isaiah contains "revelations" I do not do so saying that they are revelations to me.

After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

Epistemically, this complaint is groundless. Paine has shifted from an argument that "it is no longer a revelation" from God (to the second party, no; the the first, yes) to an argument that the transmission means he is not obliged to believe it. The former is a red herring (since no one ever claims such a thing as he argues against) while the latter is unreasonable (for it means we are not even obliged to believe Paine's second-hand testimony in AR; yet he didn't seem to think this should stop him from writing it).

When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hand of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so;

I know Paine did not believe it, but in the accounts Israel had just come out of Egypt, witnessed mighty works of God, heard His voice, seen his pillar of glory, and Moses had done many miraculous works and led them out of Egypt, and Paine is saying they were not obliged to believe Moses?

and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so,

Paine of course lived before verifying archaeological evidence, and so can be somewhat pardoned; meanwhile, we wonder if he was consistent and rejected the works of other historians on the same grounds -- not merely because he chose not to believe of his own decision. As it is, this formulation is epistemically disastrous and reduces all recorded history to nought.

the commandments carrying no internal evidence of divinity with them. They contain some good moral precepts such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver or a legislator could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.

We would like, then, to know what Paine would envision coming from supernatural intervention. If he can tell us, then he has just shown that no recourse to such intervention is needed, either. In short he has put the idea of laws from a divinity out of the reach of proof. However, that said, Paine can be partly forgiven for not being aware of social and legal data showing that the Pentateuchal laws were a significant moral step over comparable law codes of the period. We would furthermore expect the laws to reflect human needs regardless of source.

[NOTE: It is, however, necessary to except the declamation which says that God 'visits the sins of the fathers upon the children'. This is contrary to every principle of moral justice. -- Author.]

Every principle, perhaps, of Paine's sense of justice as a more modern individualist; moreover he has not understood the text well. See also here.

When I am told that the Koran was written in Heaven, and brought to Mahomet by an angel, the account comes to near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second hand authority as the former. I did not see the angel myself, and therefore I have a right not to believe it.

Yes, he can test Muslim claims as well if he wants to. But he is still releasing epistemic disaster with this argument about "hearsay".

When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence than their bare word for it:

The classic example, and not a good one: as we note here it is quite obvious that this is something beyond accessible proof. The closest proof comes from the general notion of Jesus as a miracle-worker for whom such a conception would be a possibility.

but we have not even this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves.

This is graphocentrism coming through. He can be forgiven somewhat, having no knowledge of the reliability of oral tradition among the ancients, and the lack of need to have things written. We also wonder, would Paine have believed it had Joseph or Mary written something?

It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not chose to rest my belief upon such evidence.

See link above on hearsay -- Paine's standard is stricter than even modern American legal ones. We wonder if Paine himself acted like this is real life. When Uranus was discovered, did he see it from his own telescope, or did he hear it -- hearsay -- from someone else, who heard it from someone else?

It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods.

As we have noted several times in our copycat series there is simply no comparison here. None of the mythological figures was conceived virginally. If anything the closest parallel is the creation of the world by divine fiat in Genesis. Of course, showing that men easily could have believed such things does not in any way affect whether the event actually took place or not.

It was not a new thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds; the story therefore had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it.

Actually, it was substantially contrary to several deeply-held views, notably in Judaism. Paine himself essentially acknowledges this in the next sentence.

The Jews, who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story.

Beyond converts, they did not; yet does this mean anything? They had no more evidence against than Paine did. No medical report to the contrary. It comes down to what we said in the linked article above: The VC is accepted or rejected based on prior orientation, not evidence. Moreover, if this is right, then Paine never tells us what compelled Jews (the early Christians) to come up with such a story.

It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian Church, sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand.

Hardly so. Paine had no conception of the true background of the Trinity in ANE hypostatic speculations and Jewish Wisdom theology. Where he gets the 20-30K figure from I cannot say.

The statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus. The deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything.

All of these are much later developments of a church syncretizing in the late 2nd-5th century -- having nothing to do with the origins of the movement and not proving anything except by an illicit "guilt by association" spread across centuries and geography. Furthermore, the replacement of Diana with Mary and heroes with saints is appealed to fallaciously; it is hardly as though ANY society or movement would not have heroes or leaders as a simple practical matter. This is like Paine claiming a parallel in that both Jesus and Muhammed had eyes, a nose, and a mouth.

The church became as crowded with the one, as the pantheon had been with the other; and Rome was the place of both.

Not the original place; what of Jerusalem? In any event, this is a meaningless point to make, as noted.

The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.

This chapter obviously merely laid some groundwork, but it is telling of Paine's methodology and lack of scholarship -- not all his culpability, living as early as he did -- in AR as a whole.


NOTHING that is here said can apply, even with the most distant disrespect, to the real character of Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality that he preached and practiced was of the most benevolent kind; and though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek philosophers, many years before, by the Quakers since, and by many good men in all ages, it has not been exceeded by any.

These few kind words are to Paine's credit, but we'd like to know why he should be obliged to believe anything recorded about Jesus as it is all hearsay. How does he know praise is not due to someone else? How does he know Jesus was actually virtuous and amiable? Paine obviously accepts what he wants to accept, and rejects what he wants to reject, arbitrarily.

Jesus Christ wrote no account of himself, of his birth, parentage, or anything else. Not a line of what is called the New Testament is of his writing.

Which is not a problem, other than by presumed graphocentrism.

The history of him is altogether the work of other people; and as to the account given of his resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary counterpart to the story of his birth. His historians, having brought him into the world in a supernatural manner, were obliged to take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of the story must have fallen to the ground.

I am not sure what this was meant to prove. If Jesus had indeed been divine, what does Paine expect? Would Jesus leave Palestine by taking a hike into the woods? That said, the ascension was actually a strongly symbolic political statement against the Roman emperors, who were supposed to undergo apotheosis. The ascension was Jesus' way of demonstrating himself to be superior to the Emperors.

The wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told, exceeds everything that went before it. The first part, that of the miraculous conception, was not a thing that admitted of publicity; and therefore the tellers of this part of the story had this advantage, that though they might not be credited, they could not be detected. They could not be expected to prove it, because it was not one of those things that admitted of proof, and it was impossible that the person of whom it was told could prove it himself.

Which makes it impossible or unhistorical? Not at all. Paine never could step that far, and this character smear is not sufficient. In any event Paine mistakenly thinks of the virginal conception as a first-order proof, which as we have noted, it is not and was never meant to be.

But the resurrection of a dead person from the grave, and his ascension through the air, is a thing very different, as to the evidence it admits of, to the invisible conception of a child in the womb. The resurrection and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted of public and ocular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or the sun at noon day, to all Jerusalem at least. A thing which everybody is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal;

The appeal that we need to see the resurrection and ascension directly strikes a chord of emotion and the desire to remain with what we prefer to believe; yet the ability to sift through the relevant questions -- "Would this have been able to be fabricated?"; "Is Christianity something that could have survived without sufficient evidence?" -- provides the same equity as does access to the resurrected Jesus in person. Why not? If Paine wished to be particular, we could give him access to the resurrected Jesus, and he could adopt some hypothesis of a Jesus who never died, or of an evil twin Jesus, or of a space alien Jesus -- as has actually been done. Paine only had to go far enough to say that X did not happen, so he needn't believe. He implies he would believe with X, yet why take his word for it? In the end Paine is simply being arbitrarily demanding.

the public visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because that evidence never was given. Instead of this, a small number of persons, not more than eight or nine, are introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called upon to believe it.

Very well, we ask: Then what happened to the body of Jesus? Paine never offers an answer. He also forgets that Paul notes over 500 persons as proxies, and of course comes nowhere near addressing any sort of apologetic for the resurrection.

But it appears that Thomas did not believe the resurrection; and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I; and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas.

The problem is, Thomas comes off as a stubborn fool for disbelieving. He had travelled with his cohorts for years, seen Jesus perform miracles, knew he could raise the dead. He did not disbelieve in the possibility of resurrection, for it was an accepted belief of the Jews. So what worthy excuse was there for his disbelief? None at all. If anything Paine's example of Thomas proves exactly what he does not want it to -- that the problem is not what demonstrations one has performed, but what orientation one prefers to follow.

It is in vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. The story, so far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it.

Easy to say, obviously, and of no proof in terms of actually saying it is fraud. Paine took refuge in vague generalities and accusations; he never tells us what these "marks" are or what qualified him to say that they were there.

Who were the authors of it is as impossible for us now to know, as it is for us to be assured that the books in which the account is related were written by the persons whose names they bear.

This gets deeply into questions of determining authorship which Paine said nothing about.

The best surviving evidence we now have respecting this affair is the Jews. They are regularly descended from the people who lived in the time this resurrection and ascension is said to have happened, and they say 'it is not true.'

Now this is a vast inconsistency. Paine has just told us that we can't accept hearsay from 2, 3, or 4 passes down; but he takes the word of Jews of his time, several hundred steps away?

It has long appeared to me a strange inconsistency to cite the Jews as a proof of the truth of the story. It is just the same as if a man were to say, I will prove the truth of what I have told you, by producing the people who say it is false.

What line of reasoning Paine refers to here I do not know, and he does not quote any person who uses it. Perhaps it was similar to those who appealed to the survival of the Jews as proof of God (not of Christianity). If so it is a false comparison.

That such a person as Jesus Christ existed, and that he was crucified, which was the mode of execution at that day, are historical relations strictly within the limits of probability. He preached most excellent morality, and the equality of man; but he preached also against the corruptions and avarice of the Jewish priests, and this brought upon him the hatred and vengeance of the whole order of priest-hood. The accusation which those priests brought against him was that of sedition and conspiracy against the Roman government, to which the Jews were then subject and tributary; and it is not improbable that the Roman government might have some secret apprehension of the effects of his doctrine as well as the Jewish priests; neither is it improbable that Jesus Christ had in contemplation the delivery of the Jewish nation from the bondage of the Romans. Between the two, however, this virtuous reformer and revolutionist lost his life.

We do wonder what Paine would have made of modern Christ-mythers. It is an irony that Earl Doherty has published under the imprint of Age of Reason publications -- referring to a document that staunchly disagrees with his central thesis.


IT is upon this plain narrative of facts, together with another case I am going to mention, that the Christian mythologists, calling themselves the Christian Church, have erected their fable, which for absurdity and extravagance is not exceeded by anything that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients.

The ancient mythologists tell us that the race of Giants made war against Jupiter, and that one of them threw a hundred rocks against him at one throw; that Jupiter defeated him with thunder, and confined him afterwards under Mount Etna; and that every time the Giant turns himself, Mount Etna belches fire. It is here easy to see that the circumstance of the mountain, that of its being a volcano, suggested the idea of the fable; and that the fable is made to fit and wind itself up with that circumstance.

The Christian mythologists tell that their Satan made war against the Almighty, who defeated him, and confined him afterwards, not under a mountain, but in a pit. It is here easy to see that the first fable suggested the idea of the second; for the fable of Jupiter and the Giants was told many hundred years before that of Satan.

It's not "easy" to see at all; Paine was a precursor here of the Skeptic who makes comparisons by the lowest common denominator method whereby similairties are overplayed or described in similar terms, and differences are ignored or described in amenable terms. As we showed here this is an easy to do even with real history. On the side, it appears that Paine is mixing up passages from Revelation. Satan was made war against and thrown out of heaven to earth (Rev. 12), but was not locked in a pit until later (Rev. 20 -- in my view, corresponding to 70 AD.)

Thus far the ancient and the Christian mythologists differ very little from each other.

They differ vastly; they are similar only in the core premise of battles between spiritual beings. Where did Satan throw 100 rocks? Also, it was not God but Michael who defeated Satan, and Satan isn't running any volcano businesses.

But the latter have contrived to carry the matter much farther. They have contrived to connect the fabulous part of the story of Jesus Christ with the fable originating from Mount Etna; and, in order to make all the parts of the story tie together, they have taken to their aid the traditions of the Jews; for the Christian mythology is made up partly from the ancient mythology, and partly from the Jewish traditions.

This is quoite contrived: Paine points to vague similarities; you reply with vast differences; Paine replies that, well, of course there are differences, the stories evolved and changed and picked up other stuff. It's a makeshift effort that never shows an actual exchange of ideas or explains the premise of their composition.

The Christian mythologists, after having confined Satan in a pit, were obliged to let him out again to bring on the sequel of the fable. He is then introduced into the garden of Eden in the shape of a snake, or a serpent,

As noted, Paine is mixed up; Satan was at least 5000 years from the pit at this timing.

and in that shape he enters into familiar conversation with Eve, who is no ways surprised to hear a snake talk;

Which means little, as we have no prior history telling us whether she should have been.

and the issue of this tete-a-tate is, that he persuades her to eat an apple, and the eating of that apple damns all mankind.

A rather peculiar understanding on three counts. First, in terms of what original sin was all about, but in defense of Paine, he had only Augustinian exegetical error to reply upon.

Second, nothing in the text says it was an apple; Paine may be mixing the text with popular culture ideas of his day, which says even more about his lack of preparedness to be a critic of the text.

Third, there was nothing intrinsic in the act of the eating that was a sin -- the sin was disobedience; had the command been (as in Lewis' Perelandra) to not sleep in a certain place, the result would be the same. All other commands from God had benefits; the "eating not from the tree" command was seemingly arbitrary, but was a command simply for the sake of obedience without accessory benefits. True love could not be displayed unless such a command existed to be followed.

After giving Satan this triumph over the whole creation, one would have supposed that the church mythologists would have been kind enough to send him back again to the pit,

again, an error on Paine's part

or, if they had not done this, that they would have put a mountain upon him, (for they say that their faith can remove a mountain) or have put him under a mountain, as the former mythologists had done, to prevent his getting again among the women, and doing more mischief.

Perhaps Paine would have liked to have been put under a mountain after his first sin? Or the second, or third? Not that it matters; who made the choice? Also Paine could have used the counsel of Rihbany on matters of the use of hyperbole by Easterners; but like Western literalists today, Paine seems to have thought faith was meant to literally move mountains.

But instead of this, they leave him at large, without even obliging him to give his parole. The secret of which is, that they could not do without him; and after being at the trouble of making him, they bribed him to stay. They promised him ALL the Jews, ALL the Turks by anticipation, nine-tenths of the world beside, and Mahomet into the bargain. After this, who can doubt the bountifulness of the Christian Mythology?

It's hard to tell whether Paine is trying to be funny or basing this on some distorted view of the Scriptures. The latter seems to refer to some idea of Satan declaring at Jesus' Temptation that the kingdoms of the civilized world were his -- as if that could be taken at his word to begin with, but without citations from Paine, who is mixed up about the "pit" references and admits later on that he owns no Bible himself -- who can tell? And by extension, how can one refute an argument that hits no known target?

Having thus made an insurrection and a battle in heaven, in which none of the combatants could be either killed or wounded

actually, we don't know this at all -- Paine has assumed an epistemic understanding of the nature of angels for which he has no evidence; beyond this how about if the goal was not killing or wounding, but binding?

-- put Satan into the pit -- let him out again -- given him a triumph over the whole creation -- damned all mankind by the eating of an apple, there Christian mythologists bring the two ends of their fable together.

As noted, Paine was off base on the pit and the apple, so what of his critique? And is he ready to be put in the pit for his sin now, or does he prefer mercy? Moreover, is he trying to say -- he never does say much of anything definitive here -- that he thinks there would be no sin without that first temptation?

They represent this virtuous and amiable man, Jesus Christ, to be at once both God and man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing had eaten an apple.


PUTTING aside everything that might excite laughter by its absurdity, or detestation by its profaneness, and confining ourselves merely to an examination of the parts, it is impossible to conceive a story more derogatory to the Almighty, more inconsistent with his wisdom, more contradictory to his power, than this story is.

Note that Paine offers conclusion based on what amounts so far to .008% of the Bible. Note also that he never explains the "why" for his argument.

In order to make for it a foundation to rise upon, the inventors were under the necessity of giving to the being whom they call Satan a power equally as great, if not greater, than they attribute to the Almighty. They have not only given him the power of liberating himself from the pit,

false, as noted; what then of Paine's arguments hereafter that depend on this?

after what they call his fall, but they have made that power increase afterwards to infinity.

I have no idea where Paine gets such a notion, or of notions of Satan's omnipresence, etc. below. Perhaps he is overreading then-present ideas of demonic agency.

Before this fall they represent him only as an angel of limited existence, as they represent the rest. After his fall, he becomes, by their account, omnipresent. He exists everywhere, and at the same time. He occupies the whole immensity of space.

Again, no idea where Paine got this idea.

Not content with this deification of Satan, they represent him as defeating by stratagem, in the shape of an animal of the creation, all the power and wisdom of the Almighty. They represent him as having compelled the Almighty to the direct necessity either of surrendering the whole of the creation to the government and sovereignty of this Satan, or of capitulating for its redemption by coming down upon earth, and exhibiting himself upon a cross in the shape of a man.

Again, it is hard to say where Paine gets this; he never quotes the Bible text, or even any theologians, that say this. "Compelled" is never used anywhere. The choice is reckoned as a free one by God performed out of love.

Had the inventors of this story told it the contrary way, that is, had they represented the Almighty as compelling Satan to exhibit himself on a cross in the shape of a snake, as a punishment for his new transgression, the story would have been less absurd, less contradictory. But, instead of this they make the transgressor triumph, and the Almighty fall.

Practically speaking we address a related idea here and Glenn Miller does here. If freedom means failure, Paine was on the wrong side of the American Revolution.

That many good men have believed this strange fable, and lived very good lives under that belief (for credulity is not a crime) is what I have no doubt of. In the first place, they were educated to believe it, and they would have believed anything else in the same manner.

The same could be said of members of a political system, as well as Skepticism, but somehow that never comes out of the argument. Nor does it constitute proof of failure, though Paine is not explicitly making this appeal.

There are also many who have been so enthusiastically enraptured by what they conceived to be the infinite love of God to man, in making a sacrifice of himself, that the vehemence of the idea has forbidden and deterred them from examining into the absurdity and profaneness of the story.

Yet how many Skeptics have gone their way -- and will not admit it -- because of the emotional distaste they found for religion? They may well back it up later with arguments -- and so can we.

The more unnatural anything is, the more is it capable of becoming the object of dismal admiration.

As yet Paine didn't do, and never did, enough research and analysis to show that what he was critiquing was "unnatural" -- essentially he has offered a few arguments, partly misinformed, called them absurd by assertion, and proceeded from there. How can he suppose that a few lines of text is enough to overturn such complex ideas?


Paine here only provided a couple of transitional statements with no arguments as such. We move to Ch. 7.


THESE books, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelations, (which, by the bye, is a book of riddles that requires a revelation to explain it)

Calling Revelation a "book of riddles" shows no regard for apocalyptic literature and those who understood and appreciated it. Much less does Paine offer any attempt at exegesis of Revelation (which he wrongly spells with an S at the end) as we do here

are, we are told, the word of God. It is, therefore, proper for us to know who told us so, that we may know what credit to give to the report. The answer to this question is, that nobody can tell, except that we tell one another so. The case, however, historically appears to be as follows:

When the church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find, and managed them as they pleased.

Yes, this is the source for the many statements Skeptics make about the canonizing process, rendered false here. It is telling that Skeptics take this word as authoritative rather than consult scholars like Metzger who have written classic works on the subject. Note as well that Paine recites none of the history showing his "managed as they pleased" paradigm to be true. It is tempting to suggest that he didn't know anything about it, or else read a few pages about it, decided it was not worth the trouble, and created this description ad hoc.

It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and the New Testament, are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them; or whether they added, altered, abridged, or dressed them up.

It's not a matter of uncertainty at all to textual critics -- see here and here.

Be this as it may, they decided by vote which of the books out of the collection they had made, should be the WORD OF GOD, and which should not. They rejected several; they voted others to be doubtful, such as the books called the Apocrypha; and those books which had a majority of votes, were voted to be the word of God. Had they voted otherwise, all the people since calling themselves Christians had believed otherwise; for the belief of the one comes from the vote of the other. Who the people were that did all this, we know nothing of. They call themselves by the general name of the Church; and this is all we know of the matter.

A far too simple summation, as our article shows. Paine does not even go as far as suggesting what books should have been left out that were not, and what books should have been put in that were not.

As we have no other external evidence or authority for believing these books to be the word of God, than what I have mentioned, which is no evidence or authority at all, I come, in the next place, to examine the internal evidence contained in the books themselves.

Of course even if not "the word of God" there is still the matter of whether they, or any part of them, are reliable witnesses that deserve attention. In a real sense Paine is burning a straw man.

In the former part of this essay, I have spoken of revelation. I now proceed further with that subject, for the purpose of applying it to the books in question.

Revelation is a communication of something, which the person, to whom that thing is revealed, did not know before. For if I have done a thing, or seen it done, it needs no revelation to tell me I have done it, or seen it, nor to enable me to tell it, or to write it.

Revelation, therefore, cannot be applied to anything done upon earth of which man is himself the actor or the witness; and consequently all the historical and anecdotal part of the Bible, which is almost the whole of it, is not within the meaning and compass of the word revelation, and, therefore, is not the word of God.

As noted above, Paine is being perhaps a little too particular.

When Samson ran off with the gate-posts of Gaza, if he ever did so, (and whether he did or not is nothing to us,) or when he visited his Delilah, or caught his foxes, or did anything else, what has revelation to do with these things? If they were facts, he could tell them himself; or his secretary, if he kept one, could write them, if they were worth either telling or writing; and if they were fictions, revelation could not make them true; and whether true or not, we are neither the better nor the wiser for knowing them.

We should note the host of begged questions implied here. First of all, Paine mixes "revelation" with inspiration. Revelation would not need to have anything to do with relation of historical accounts, quite obviously. His objection is therefore confused.

Second, note that this amounts to a profesison that just because Paine found no personal use for the story -- isolated, as it were, from the fuller context of Samson's career, which served as a whole as a didactic example (the ancients, whether Hebrews, Greeks, or Romans, learned moral lessons from such stories) -- that means that there is no lesson present whatsoever. The taking of the gates and the incidents of Delilah and the foxes served as a moral exemplar of Samson's pride and unfettered arrogance. The general lesson learned -- still applicable today -- is that power is not a cure-all. Depth study of the text reveals more lessons in the vital original context. But Paine knew none of this, and assumed that his own view was sufficient.

When we contemplate the immensity of that Being, who directs and governs the incomprehensible WHOLE, of which the utmost ken of human sight can discover but a part, we ought to feel shame at calling such paltry stories the word of God.

Paine's deism somehow supposed that the divine mind could be so overwhelmed or was so enthralled of its own majesty that it would never pay attention to such "small" things. Like Ingersoll, Paine supposed that the "word of God" ought to be a magic elixir that made us feel better -- and was revulsed when what he got was a mirror.

As to the account of the creation, with which the book of Genesis opens, it has all the appearance of being a tradition which the Israelites had among them before they came into Egypt; and after their departure from that country, they put it at the head of their history, without telling, as it is most probable that they did not know, how they came by it.

Actually this would be true under any account, but it hardly makes a difference and is no basis for a criticism. Ancient historians seldom if ever revealed their sources, so once again Paine condemns hosts of other works as well.

The manner in which the account opens, shows it to be traditionary. It begins abruptly. It is nobody that speaks. It is nobody that hears. It is addressed to nobody. It has neither first, second, nor third person. It has every criterion of being a tradition. It has no voucher. Moses does not take it upon himself by introducing it with the formality that he uses on other occasions, such as that of saying, "The Lords spake unto Moses, saying."

Which means -- what, exactly? Paine's effort has no mind for the ancient process of narrative; ancient histories seldom if ever named their sources (i.e., you won't find Tacitus saying often, "I was told this by Gabulus Priscus"), and none of the "spake onto Moses" cites (there are 110 of them) was made prior to a giving of revelation of a past historical event. Moreover, by his reckoning, the only person whose word he'd take for the reality of this account -- that wouldn't be "hearsay" -- is God Himself. Isn't it telling how he puts things beyond proof?

Why it has been called the Mosaic account of the creation, I am at a loss to conceive.

Perhaps equally graphocentric preachers in Paine's day regarded Moses as the "pen in hand" author of the Pentateuch. Such is not necessary to maintain Mosaic authority; see more as we proceed.

Moses, I believe, was too good a judge of such subjects to put his name to that account. He had been educated among the Egyptians, who were a people as well skilled in science, and particularly in astronomy, as any people of their day;

they also produced creation accounts that Paine would probably have regarded as even more primitive as Genesis -- and also said as little about "who was there"

and the silence and caution that Moses observes, in not authenticating the account, is a good negative evidence that he neither told it nor believed it.

It is no such thing; Paine is being inventive with his graphocentrism and was unaware that ancient historical works carried no such vouchers, and saw no need to.

-- The case is, that every nation of people has been world-makers, and the Israelites had as much right to set up the trade of world-making as any of the rest; and as Moses was not an Israelite, he might not choose to contradict the tradition. The account, however, is harmless; and this is more than can be said for many other parts of the Bible.

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled

by what accounting? If we divide by books, probably true. If we divide by actual texts, such stories take up no more than a tenth of the text, and considering mankind's history of violence, that's pretty tame

, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God.

Note again: Paine thinks the word of God should be a health elixir, and:

It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

Now this is fairly ironic in light of modern ideas about violence on television. Most of Paine's ideological contemporaries support freedom to watch and view what we please. Paine himself supported libertarian freedom. He is blaming the text of the Bible for inspiring corruption and brutality; yet from the other side of his mouth he proclaimed the freedom to read and write what we pleased. Isn't there an inconsistency? Moreover, isn't this just Paine being rather comfortable living in an insulated and more modern nation with comparably better safety and comfort? Paine had no conception of the ancient world as a chaotic place where violence was often needed to preserve order, or of men learning by example from such stories what the consequences of disorder were. Nor do I suspect he could have shown any direct cause-and-effect relationship, as though someone read the story of David and, for no other reason, went out killing people for their foreskins. How did these stories brutalize and corrupt mankind? He doesn't say. And how would he have explained brutality and corruption in modern atheistic communist nations? The violence of the French Revolution certainly beytrayed him on this point.

We scarcely meet with anything, a few phrases excepted, but what deserves either our abhorrence or our contempt, till we come to the miscellaneous parts of the Bible.

Again, just a matter of Paine imposing his own values and biases. Even non-Christian scholars of the Bible would radically disagree.

In the anonymous publications, the Psalms, and the Book of Job, more particularly in the latter, we find a great deal of elevated sentiment reverentially expressed of the power and benignity of the Almighty; but they stand on no higher rank than many other compositions on similar subjects, as well before that time as since.

Not that Paine had any examples to offer, much less that he would make a detailed and studied comparison.

The Proverbs which are said to be Solomon's, though most probably a collection, (because they discover a knowledge of life, which his situation excluded him from knowing) are an instructive table of ethics.

Paine does not tell us how he knows Solomon would not be in the know; he merely offers this without a single justification. Where is Paine's knowledge of Hebrew society and culture? How has he been so informed of the life details of Solomon as to make such an assessment?

They are inferior in keenness to the proverbs of the Spaniards, and not more wise and economical than those of the American Franklin.

Not, again, that Paine ever provided a detailed comparison; with due respect to Franklin, his advice would of course have appealed more to Paine than advice given in the ANE, but really, adjusted for time and conditions, Franklin's proverbs are no different in content than those in Proverbs, and he -- and likely the Spanish -- were influenced by the Bible.

All the remaining parts of the Bible, generally known by the name of the Prophets, are the works of the Jewish poets and itinerant preachers, who mixed poetry, anecdote, and devotion together -- and those works still retain the air and style of poetry, though in translation. [NOTE: As there are many readers who do not see that a composition is poetry, unless it be in rhyme, it is for their information that I add this note.

Poetry consists principally in two things -- imagery and composition. The composition of poetry differs from that of prose in the manner of mixing long and short syllables together. Take a long syllable out of a line of poetry, and put a short one in the room of it, or put a long syllable where a short one should be, and that line will lose its poetical harmony. It will have an effect upon the line like that of misplacing a note in a song.

The imagery in those books called the Prophets appertains altogether to poetry. It is fictitious, and often extravagant, and not admissible in any other kind of writing than poetry.

There is not much to offer in comment here; these are not arguments as such but merely descriptions. Practically speaking, much of this section warrants no comment. Paine's evaluation of Hebrew poetry is not that of an expert in such matters.

To show that these writings are composed in poetical numbers, I will take ten syllables, as they stand in the book, and make a line of the same number of syllables, (heroic measure) that shall rhyme with the last word. It will then be seen that the composition of those books is poetical measure. The instance I shall first produce is from Isaiah: --

Another instance I shall quote is from the mournful Jeremiah, to which I shall add two other lines, for the purpose of carrying out the figure, and showing the intention of the poet.

There is not, throughout the whole book called the Bible, any word that describes to us what we call a poet, nor any word that describes what we call poetry. The case is, that the word prophet, to which a later times have affixed a new idea, was the Bible word for poet, and the word 'prophesying' meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music.

Actually, no. "Prophesy" meant to speak forth, in whatever form, as a mouthpiece and had nothing to do with the art of making poetry. Many prophecies, however, were composed in poetic form for easy memorization in an oral culture.

We read of prophesying with pipes, tabrets, and horns -- of prophesying with harps, with psalteries, with cymbals, and with every other instrument of music then in fashion. Were we now to speak of prophesying with a fiddle, or with a pipe and tabor, the expression would have no meaning, or would appear ridiculous, and to some people contemptuous, because we have changed the meaning of the word.

Paine seems to be thinking that the instruments were the means of prophet, when in fact they were used to lyrically accompany prophecy. Again, this would have worked as a memorization aid, as indeed Deuteronomy is in a lyrical, musical form.

We are told of Saul being among the prophets, and also that he prophesied; but we are not told what they prophesied, nor what he prophesied. The case is, there was nothing to tell; for these prophets were a company of musicians and poets, and Saul joined in the concert, and this was called prophesying.

A misguided comment, as noted; also assumes that what Saul said was notable to record for later -- this is also a strange comment coming from someone who objects to of the Bible being full of stuff he finds useless.

The account given of this affair in the book called Samuel, is, that Saul met a company of prophets; a whole company of them!

Yes -- and there is a problem with this? What is it? We aren't told.

coming down with a psaltery, a tabret, a pipe, and a harp, and that they prophesied, and that he prophesied with them. But it appears afterwards, that Saul prophesied badly, that is, he performed his part badly; for it is said that an "evil spirit from God [NOTE: As those men who call themselves divines and commentators are very fond of puzzling one another, I leave them to contest the meaning of the first part of the phrase, that of an evil spirit of God.

It actually says "from God" -- and for this see here.

I keep to my text. I keep to the meaning of the word prophesy. -- Author.] came upon Saul, and he prophesied."

Now, were there no other passage in the book called the Bible, than this, to demonstrate to us that we have lost the original meaning of the word prophesy, and substituted another meaning in its place, this alone would be sufficient; for it is impossible to use and apply the word prophesy, in the place it is here used and applied, if we give to it the sense which later times have affixed to it. The manner in which it is here used strips it of all religious meaning, and shews that a man might then be a prophet, or he might Prophesy, as he may now be a poet or a musician, without any regard to the morality or the immorality of his character. The word was originally a term of science, promiscuously applied to poetry and to music, and not restricted to any subject upon which poetry and music might be exercised.

This is entirely false and would be agreed upon by no scholar of Hebrew language or culture -- I have never seen a Skeptic draw on Paine for this point, though.

Deborah and Barak are called prophets, not because they predicted anything, but because they composed the poem or song that bears their name, in celebration of an act already done. David is ranked among the prophets, for he was a musician, and was also reputed to be (though perhaps very erroneously) the author of the Psalms.

Paine thinks "prophesy" means "predict the future." It doesn't. It refers to exhortation which can include prediction.

But Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not called prophets; it does not appear from any accounts we have, that they could either sing, play music, or make poetry.

We are told of the greater and the lesser prophets. They might as well tell us of the greater and the lesser God; for there cannot be degrees in prophesying consistently with its modern sense.

This is mixed up. Obviously the Bible does not designate them as such; and the terms are used by us today to refer to length and amount of work, not degree of prophetic ability.

But there are degrees in poetry, and there-fore the phrase is reconcilable to the case, when we understand by it the greater and the lesser poets.

So now Paine takes his errant definition of "lesser" and "greater" and combines it with his errant definition of "prophet" to get a doubly errant conclusion.

It is altogether unnecessary, after this, to offer any observations upon what those men, styled propliets, have written. The axe goes at once to the root, by showing that the original meaning of the word has been mistaken, and consequently all the inferences that have been drawn from those books, the devotional respect that has been paid to them, and the laboured commentaries that have been written upon them, under that mistaken meaning, are not worth disputing about.

Indeed? Doesn't that seem rather, well, arrogant? It seems ironic, too, that Paine took his doubly errant conclusion as license to simply dismiss any further investigation.

-- In many things, however, the writings of the Jewish poets deserve a better fate than that of being bound up, as they now are, with the trash that accompanies them, under the abused name of the Word of God.

If we permit ourselves to conceive right ideas of things, we must necessarily affix the idea, not only of unchangeableness, but of the utter impossibility of any change taking place, by any means or accident whatever, in that which we would honour with the name of the Word of God; and therefore the Word of God cannot exist in any written or human language.

The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of an universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of wilful alteration, are of themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God. -- The Word of God exists in something else.

The "problems" he sees are resolvable by research he didn't do. See also reply to Robert Price.

Did the book called the Bible excel in purity of ideas and expression all the books now extant in the world, I would not take it for my rule of faith, as being the Word of God; because the possibility would nevertheless exist of my being imposed upon. But when I see throughout the greatest part of this book scarcely anything but a history of the grossest vices, and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales, I cannot dishonour my Creator by calling it by his name.

Same as above -- the "I want a health elixir, not a mirror" issue.


THUS much for the Bible; I now go on to the book called the New Testament. The New Testament! that is, the 'new' Will, as if there could be two wills of the Creator.

Paine is anachroinizing again; it was designated the "New Testament" by patristic writers over 150 years after the last ink dried. Nor does he explain how this equates with "two wills". In fact the NT regards the covenant with Christ as broker as a continutation of the former covenant. He is apparently confusing an English definition of "testament" into the mix.

Had it been the object or the intention of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in his life time.

Wrong, and just an expression of Paine's graphocentris, as noted here.

But there is no publication extant authenticated with his name. All the books called the New Testament were written after his death.

Which makes little difference; did it become impossible to write an accurate account of something Paine did, one minute after he died? Ten minutes? Ten years? He was a Jew by birth and by profession; and he was the son of God in like manner that every other person is; for the Creator is the Father of All.

The first four books, called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, do not give a history of the life of Jesus Christ, but only detached anecdotes of him.

Wrong, as I noted: those "detached anecdotes" are what constituted an ancient biography.

It appears from these books, that the whole time of his being a preacher was not more than eighteen months; and it was only during this short time that those men became acquainted with him.

"Short time"? Even allowing 18 months that is a tremendous amount of time; people get married on 1/18 of that amount of knowledge. Paine is missing the point that ancient people were dyadic and didn't need to "get to know" each other in the way he suggests.

They make mention of him at the age of twelve years, sitting, they say, among the Jewish doctors, asking and answering them questions. As this was several years before their acquaintance with him began, it is most probable they had this anecdote from his parents. From this time there is no account of him for about sixteen years. Where he lived, or how he employed himself during this interval, is not known. Most probably he was working at his father's trade, which was that of a carpenter. It does not appear that he had any school education, and the probability is, that he could not write, for his parents were extremely poor, as appears from their not being able to pay for a bed when he was born.

Nothing much questionable here, other than the implicit idea that this lack of knowledge is somehow problematic. Jesus could read and write based on the evidence; see here. As a firstborn Jewish son he would have received all of the benefits of an education.

It is somewhat curious that the three persons whose names are the most universally recorded were of very obscure parentage. Moses was a foundling; Jesus Christ was born in a stable; and Mahomet was a mule driver.

Curious? Why? We aren't told. In polite society this would be reckoned as bordering on racist.

The first and the last of these men were founders of different systems of religion; but Jesus Christ founded no new system. He called men to the practice of moral virtues, and the belief of one God. The great trait in his character is philanthropy.

No new system? What of the inauguration of the covenant at the Last Supper? What of his proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God?

The manner in which he was apprehended shows that he was not much known, at that time;


and it shows also that the meetings he then held with his followers were in secret;

On the contrary, Jesus denied this very thing before Annas. But wait, Paine will tie it together:

and that he had given over or suspended preaching publicly. Judas could no otherways betray him than by giving information where he was, and pointing him out to the officers that went to arrest him; and the reason for employing and paying Judas to do this could arise only from the causes already mentioned, that of his not being much known, and living concealed.

No, it's not a matter of Jesus not being known, but of using Judas as an informant for an opportune time to arrest Jesus when he was NOT in public and could be taken without interference from the crowd. Paine apparently hadn't read his key texts in a while.

The idea of his concealment, not only agrees very ill with his reputed divinity, but associates with it something of pusillanimity; and his being betrayed, or in other words, his being apprehended, on the information of one of his followers, shows that he did not intend to be apprehended, and consequently that he did not intend to be crucified.

Paine of course would never have committed a noble act of such self-sacrifice to the point of death; the ancients would have understood, and would have been easily able to see that Jesus knew he would be, and intended to be, crucified.

The Christian mythologists tell us that Christ died for the sins of the world, and that he came on Purpose to die. Would it not then have been the same if he had died of a fever or of the small pox, of old age, or of anything else?

As I said before, I've never heard of executing someone by either of those methods, and there's also the matter of penal substitution and the honor-shame dialectic to consdier. But if this is so, then it is also the same to die by crucifixion, and Paine's objection is pointless. It's not much to say from an Enlightenment person, versus the ancients and their code of honor which enabled them to endure greater suffering stoically and willingly, and that given the prevailing honor-shame paradigm of the day, a shameful death like crucifixion was indeed quite appropriate; whereas it was no shame to die of smallpox or old age.

The declaratory sentence which, they say, was passed upon Adam, in case he ate of the apple, was not, that thou shalt surely be crucified, but, thou shall surely die. The sentence was death, and not the manner of dying. Crucifixion, therefore, or any other particular manner of dying, made no part of the sentence that Adam was to suffer, and consequently, even upon their own tactic, it could make no part of the sentence that Christ was to suffer in the room of Adam. A fever would have done as well as a cross, if there was any occasion for either.

Paine merely repeats himself; no new comment is needed. All he's doing is taking advantage of the disgust he and his readers feel for death and violence, not offering a rational argument.

This sentence of death, which, they tell us, was thus passed upon Adam, must either have meant dying naturally, that is, ceasing to live, or have meant what these mythologists call damnation; and consequently, the act of dying on the part of Jesus Christ, must, according to their system, apply as a prevention to one or other of these two things happening to Adam and to us.

It is damnation, of course; hence Paine's next paragraph is out of order, but I do wonder how it is he was so misinformed of this basic theological supposition within the Judeo-Christian paradigm.

That it does not prevent our dying is evident, because we all die; and if their accounts of longevity be true, men die faster since the crucifixion than before: and with respect to the second explanation, (including with it the natural death of Jesus Christ as a substitute for the eternal death or damnation of all mankind,) it is impertinently representing the Creator as coming off, or revoking the sentence, by a pun or a quibble upon the word death. That manufacturer of, quibbles, St. Paul,

As I said: no, not an educated student of the OT; his writings are "interlarded with quibble, subterfuge and pun" -- no, not a master of Greco-Roman rhetorical practices; not a brilliant mind, as even many hostile biographers of Paul admit today, but merely a quibbler, and also a fanatic -- Paine simply didn't have the tools or the contextual knowledge to grasp Paul.

if he wrote the books that bear his name,

and we won't see Paine actually analyze authorial evidence

has helped this quibble on by making another quibble upon the word Adam.

Here again -- an indiscrete value judgment on Hebrew and Eastern exegetical practices. Such punning and technique was normal praxis for this period; see here for the response to this general argument of Paine that is his greatest legacy.

He makes there to be two Adams; the one who sins in fact, and suffers by proxy; the other who sins by proxy, and suffers in fact. A religion thus interlarded with quibble, subterfuge, and pun, has a tendency to instruct its professors in the practice of these arts. They acquire the habit without being aware of the cause.

As noted already, the cause was typical Jewish exegetical methods, and the NT writers were quite aware of it, whereas Paine was not.

If Jesus Christ was the being which those mythologists tell us he was, and that he came into this world to suffer, which is a word they sometimes use instead of 'to die,' the only real suffering he could have endured would have been 'to live.' His existence here was a state of exilement or transportation from heaven, and the way back to his original country was to die.

It's hard to tell what conclusion Paine is trying to reach, as he "gets tired" in the next sentence and doesn't finish the thought, but it may have to do with the sort of objection Miller answers here.

-- In fine, everything in this strange system is the reverse of what it pretends to be. It is the reverse of truth, and I become so tired of examining into its inconsistencies and absurdities, that I hasten to the conclusion of it, in order to proceed to something better.

Would Skeptics respect me if I gave this kind of reason for not dealing with Dan Barker in detail? If not, why do they respect Paine even as he does it?

How much, or what parts of the books called the New Testament, were written by the persons whose names they bear, is what we can know nothing of, neither are we certain in what language they were originally written.

No detailed argument. We are as sure as we can be that Tacitus wrote the Annals; we can be sure through linguistic study. Paine does nothing to show otherwise.

The matters they now contain may be classed under two heads: anecdote, and epistolary correspondence.

The four books already mentioned, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are altogether anecdotal.

They are typical ancient narrative biography.

They relate events after they had taken place.

I have never seen a history that was written any other way. What's the point? It's impossible to write of something before it happens, and there is always a gap between happening and writing, even in stenography.

They tell what Jesus Christ did and said, and what others did and said to him; and in several instances they relate the same event differently.

Which is not abnormal in the least; see here.

Revelation is necessarily out of the question with respect to those books; not only because of the disagreement of the writers, but because revelation cannot be applied to the relating of facts by the persons who saw them done, nor to the relating or recording of any discourse or conversation by those who heard it.

As noted above, Paine is misguided here.

The book called the Acts of the Apostles (an anonymous work)

Hardly. It is intimately connected to Luke; Paine engages no discussion here, and never does tell us anything about means and methods of determining authorship of documents, and how to apply these to the Gospels or any NT document.

belongs also to the anecdotal part.

More likely a legal defense brief for Paul; see here.

All the other parts of the New Testament, except the book of enigmas, I.e., called the Revelations, are a collection of letters under the name of epistles; and the forgery of letters has been such a common practice in the world, that the probability is at least equal, whether they are genuine or forged.

Merely a vague accusation, with no specifics, and guilt by association. No figures on numbers of letters actually forged, versus non-forged; he has also selected a vague field ("the world"? would letter-forging by an official in imperial China point to letter-forging by an Indian chief?) -- See here -- and we wonder, does this make any letter Paine writes automatically suspicious as well?

One thing, however, is much less equivocal, which is, that out of the matters contained in those books, together with the assistance of some old stories, the church has set up a system of religion very contradictory to the character of the person whose name it bears. It has set up a religion of pomp and of revenue in pretended imitation of a person whose life was humility and poverty.

On that much Paine was right, in some ways; and today he'd have some words for Benny Hinn as well.

The invention of a purgatory, and of the releasing of souls therefrom, by prayers, bought of the church with money; the selling of pardons, dispensations, and indulgences, are revenue laws, without bearing that name or carrying that appearance. But the case nevertheless is, that those things derive their origin from the paroxysm of the crucifixion, and the theory deduced therefrom, which was, that one person could stand in the place of another, and could perform meritorious services for him.

Actually, no: Not one person, but a particular person, Jesus. Now if Paine holds the Bible responsible for later misuse of its texts, then how if someone used Age of Reason to justify an atrocity?

The probability, therefore, is, that the whole theory or doctrine of what is called the redemption (which is said to have been accomplished by the act of one person in the room of another) was originally fabricated on purpose to bring forward and build all those secondary and pecuniary redemptions upon; and that the passages in the books upon which the idea of theory of redemption is built, have been manufactured and fabricated for that purpose.

What? The first century church invented the idea of redemption so that the 16th-century church could make money? That's a little too much to swallow.

Why are we to give this church credit, when she tells us that those books are genuine in every part, any more than we give her credit for everything else she has told us; or for the miracles she says she has performed?

Paine did live before textual criticism showed us the texts were indeed highly accurate -- and by the by, not one of the redemption passages is in question.

That she could fabricate writings is certain, because she could write;

So could Paine.

and the composition of the writings in question, is of that kind that anybody might do it;

Including Paine.

and that she did fabricate them is not more inconsistent with probability, than that she should tell us, as she has done, that she could and did work miracles.

By extension, then, Paine dismisses 1700 years of history, and millions of people, to build a broad brush of guilt by association. Did he reason through his logic to its inevitable conclusion?

Since, then, no external evidence can, at this long distance of time, be produced to prove whether the church fabricated the doctrine called redemption or not, (for such evidence, whether for or against, would be subject to the same suspicion of being fabricated,) the case can only be referred to the internal evidence which the thing carries of itself; and this affords a very strong presumption of its being a fabrication.

At this point Paine's commentary simply extends into unreasonable conspiracy-mongering.

For the internal evidence is, that the theory or doctrine of redemption has for its basis an idea of pecuniary justice, and not that of moral justice.

A foundation for modern Skeptical ideas against the atonement is about to be built...see here.

If I owe a person money, and cannot pay him, and he threatens to put me in prison, another person can take the debt upon himself, and pay it for me. But if I have committed a crime, every circumstance of the case is changed. Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty even if the innocent would offer itself. To suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself. It is then no longer justice. It is indiscriminate revenge.

Same errors Skeptics I addressed made 200 years later -- see link above.

This single reflection will show that the doctrine of redemption is founded on a mere pecuniary idea corresponding to that of a debt which another person might pay; and as this pecuniary idea corresponds again with the system of second redemptions, obtained through the means of money given to the church for pardons, the probability is that the same persons fabricated both the one and the other of those theories;

Again, that vague crossover over centuries and persons and geography, with no justification other than sentiment.

and that, in truth, there is no such thing as redemption; that it is fabulous; and that man stands in the same relative condition with his Maker he ever did stand, since man existed; and that it is his greatest consolation to think so.

Let him believe this, and he will live more consistently and morally, than by any other system.

And now, Paine will also assert that you will be less moral than he is if you follow the system, though I didn't see any comparative behavioral statistics for people living his way vs people living the other.

It is by his being taught to contemplate himself as an out-law, as an out-cast, as a beggar, as a mumper, as one thrown as it were on a dunghill, at an immense distance from his Creator, and who must make his approaches by creeping, and cringing to intermediate beings, that he conceives either a contemptuous disregard for everything under the name of religion, or becomes indifferent, or turns what he calls devout.

As I note in the link above, this is far from the case; the NT lays out our relationship with God in terms of client-patron relationship, and our faith reaction should be to follow our patron's laws. Paine is merely describing the matter in biased terms (i.e., "creeping") for emotional effect. Why not "genuflecting with due respect and gratitude"? How if someone were to describe Paine's deist deity as snobby, aloof, uncaring, indifferent? Would that be an argument?

In the latter case, he consumes his life in grief, or the affectation of it. His prayers are reproaches. His humility is ingratitude. He calls himself a worm, and the fertile earth a dunghill; and all the blessings of life by the thankless name of vanities. He despises the choicest gift of God to man, the GIFT OF REASON; and having endeavoured to force upon himself the belief of a system against which reason revolts, he ungratefully calls it human reason, as if man could give reason to himself.

This is little but vague ad hominem against religious persons; while no doubt some have done this, they are now matched by secular postmodernists who regard life as a waste.

Yet, with all this strange appearance of humility, and this contempt for human reason, he ventures into the boldest presumptions. He finds fault with everything.

We're still waiting for a poll showing how many believers actually do find fault with "everything", etc in what follows. Now again, if someone ventures to critique Paine, will he level this accusation against them?

His selfishness is never satisfied; his ingratitude is never at an end.

Is this Paine's honest evaluation of his Christian contemporaries, who fought the Revolution shoulder to shoulder with him>

He takes on himself to direct the Almighty what to do, even in the govemment of the universe. He prays dictatorially. When it is sunshine, he prays for rain, and when it is rain, he prays for sunshine.

And atheists object the same way. All it means is that all men have a problem with satisfaction and the larger picture. Did Paine make a smile his umbrella?

He follows the same idea in everything that he prays for; for what is the amount of all his prayers, but an attempt to make the Almighty change his mind, and act otherwise than he does? It is as if he were to say -- thou knowest not so well as I.

Wrong view of prayer either way -- see here.

In the next few chapters Paine presents his own ideas about deism, criticizes the more recent acts of the church, and does not critique the Bible as much. We will mostly pass on those portions; he does also repeat the point about human language which we address in a link above. We have just these select comments:

But how was Jesus Christ to make anything known to all nations? He could speak but one language, which was Hebrew; and there are in the world several hundred languages. Scarcely any two nations speak the same language, or understand each other; and as to translations, every man who knows anything of languages, knows that it is impossible to translate from one language into another, not only without losing a great part of the original, but frequently of mistaking the sense; and besides all this, the art of printing was wholly unknown at the time Christ lived.

Was Paine a competent linguist? Now, he was not. The idea is also self-defeating: How would he know when a translation has indeed been made faultily, unless he knows the perfect translation? I would also be curious to know how many historians and linguists would agree with Paine's conclusions in Ch. 12 about the Greeks not studying other languages (Biblical scholars note that many ancient people were bilingual or even trilingual); and we also have here Paine's comments about Grecian milkmaids, addressed in our brief review, and of it being "wasted" time to study dead languages -- partly because "all the useful books" have already been translated. Who made Paine the arbiter of what was useful, and how would he know a book was useful or not UNTIL it was translated? Also, how presumptuous is it to assume that there would be no new discoveries of ancient books? Paine's goes as far as suggesting promotion of study of dead languages is some kind of distraction, and to that extent, his contempt for classical scholarship is astounding. I for one am thankful that scholars of classics, and of Latin and ancient Greek, have not abandoned their studies per Paine's dictum. Even today there are new linguistic insights. Paine also makes some comments about child psychology that I would appreciate comments on from any trained educators in the readership:

The apology that is sometimes made for continuing to teach the dead languages is, that they are taught at a time when a child is not capable of exerting any other mental faculty than that of memory. But this is altogether erroneous. The human mind has a natural disposition to scientific knowledge, and to the things connected with it. The first and favourite amusement of a child, even before it begins to play, is that of imitating the works of man. It builds houses with cards or sticks; it navigates the little ocean of a bowl of water with a paper boat; or dams the stream of a gutter, and contrives something which it calls a mill; and it interests itself in the fate of its works with a care that resembles affection. It afterwards goes to school, where its genius is killed by the barren study of a dead language, and the philosopher is lost in the linguist.

Also, this is where Paine calls study of dead languages a distraction:

The setters up, therefore, and the advocates of the Christian system of faith, could not but foresee that the continually progressive knowledge that man would gain by the aid of science, of the power and wisdom of God, manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all the works of creation, would militate against, and call into question, the truth of their system of faith; and therefore it became necessary to their purpose to cut learning down to a size less dangerous to their project, and this they effected by restricting the idea of learning to the dead study of dead languages.

They not only rejected the study of science out of the christian schools, but they persecuted it; and it is only within about the last two centuries that the study has been revived. So late as 1610, Galileo, a Florentine, discovered and introduced the use of telescopes, and by applying them to observe the motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies, afforded additional means for ascertaining the true structure of the universe. Instead of being esteemed for these discoveries, he was sentenced to renounce them, or the opinions resulting from them, as a damnable heresy.

The church, however, was following in the path of Aristotle.

And prior to that time Virgilius was condemned to be burned for asserting the antipodes, or in other words, that the earth was a globe, and habitable in every part where there was land; yet the truth of this is now too well known even to be told.

I'll leave in here an editor's note that is quite telling -- Paine was willing, apparently, to spread something "too well known even to be told" for his purposes.

[NOTE: I cannot discover the source of this statement concerning the ancient author whose Irish name Feirghill was Latinized into Virgilius. The British Museum possesses a copy of the work (Decalogiunt) which was the pretext of the charge of heresy made by Boniface, Archbishop of Mayence, against Virgilius, Abbot -- bishop of Salzburg, These were leaders of the rival "British" and "Roman parties, and the British champion made a countercharge against Boniface of irreligious practices." Boniface had to express a "regret," but none the less pursued his rival. The Pope, Zachary II, decided that if his alleged "doctrine, against God and his soul, that beneath the earth there is another world, other men, or sun and moon," should be acknowledged by Virgilius, he should be excommunicated by a Council and condemned with canonical sanctions. Whatever may have been the fate involved by condemnation with "canonicis sanctionibus," in the middle of the eighth century, it did not fall on Virgilius. His accuser, Boniface, was martyred, 755, and it is probable that Virgilius harmonied his Antipodes with orthodoxy. The gravamen of the heresy seems to have been the suggestion that there were men not of the progeny of Adam. Virgilius was made Bishop of Salzburg in 768. He bore until his death, 789, the curious title, "Geometer and Solitary," or "lone wayfarer" (Solivagus). A suspicion of heresy clung to his memory until 1233, when he was raised by Gregory IX, to sainthood beside his accuser, St. Boniface. -- Editor. (Conway)]

Since then all corruptions down from Moloch to modem predestinarianism, and the human sacrifices of the heathens to the christian sacrifice of the Creator, have been produced by admitting of what is called revealed religion, the most effectual means to prevent all such evils and impositions is, not to admit of any other revelation than that which is manifested in the book of Creation., and to contemplate the Creation as the only true and real word of God that ever did or ever will exist; and every thing else called the word of God is fable and imposition. -- Author.]

Once again, Paine makes no effort to show cause and effect in detail; and we wonder how he would have reacted to the millions killed under abuses of atheistic philosophy, including the French Revolution. Deists of course never were numerous enough to get significant political power.

It is owing to this long interregnum of science, and to no other cause, that we have now to look back through a vast chasm of many hundred years to the respectable characters we call the Ancients. Had the progression of knowledge gone on proportionably with the stock that before existed, that chasm would have been filled up with characters rising superior in knowledge to each other; and those Ancients we now so much admire would have appeared respectably in the background of the scene. But the christian system laid all waste; and if we take our stand about the beginning of the sixteenth century, we look back through that long chasm, to the times of the Ancients, as over a vast sandy desert, in which not a shrub appears to intercept the vision to the fertile hills beyond.

The core of the "Dark Ages" error: The Dark Ages were not Dark at all. Our next comment goes to Ch. 13:

Since then no part of our earth is left unoccupied, why is it to be supposed that the immensity of space is a naked void, lying in eternal waste? There is room for millions of worlds as large or larger than ours, and each of them millions of miles apart from each other.

Eternal waste? Who says that? I see the rest of the universe as perhaps inhabited elsewhere, but also perhaps territory to be developed by us at a later date. And if there were nothing else out there, the Skeptics would say that we were a lucky accident even more easily. Paine goes on to argue extensively based on this supposition that Christianity sees the universe as mostly wasted space and ours as "only one world" and that being "it" for inhabited and useful creation. The next comment we have goes to Ch. 16 of AR:

From whence then could arise the solitary and strange conceit that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world, because, they say, one man and one woman had eaten an apple! And, on the other hand, are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a redeemer? In this case, the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.

Having an infinite amount of time, that hardly seems a problem; yet we hardly think it likely that all possible worlds would require a redeemer. At the same time, note the inconsistency: Paine objects whether there is only one world, or many worlds.

The persons who first preached the christian system of faith, and in some measure combined with it the morality preached by Jesus Christ, might persuade themselves that it was better than the heathen mythology that then prevailed. From the first preachers the fraud went on to the second, and to the third, till the idea of its being a pious fraud became lost in the belief of its being true; and that belief became again encouraged by the interest of those who made a livelihood by preaching it.

And that is what and all Paine offers as an explanation for the origins of the Christian faith: People were just ignorant, and they passed it on. How does that do respect to the complexities of motivations and history? How does this address the reactions of people to a new, deviant movement in an honor and shame society?

But though such a belief might, by such means, be rendered almost general among the laity, it is next to impossible to account for the continual persecution carried on by the church, for several hundred years, against the sciences, and against the professors of science, if the church had not some record or tradition that it was originally no other than a pious fraud, or did not foresee that it could not be maintained against the evidence that the structure of the universe afforded.

A vague hint here, again, at coverup, and a great overgeneralization that also ignores that many of the great and original professors of science, including Galileo, were themselves Christians.

We will now with Ch. 17 get back to more detailed critiquing, as Paine here again picks up the gauntlet against the Scriptures.


HAVING thus shown the irreconcilable inconsistencies between the real word of God existing in the universe, and that which is called the word of God, as shown to us in a printed book that any man might make, I proceed to speak of the three principal means that have been employed in all ages, and perhaps in all countries, to impose upon mankind.

Those three means are Mystery, Miracle, and Prophecy, The first two are incompatible with true religion, and the third ought always to be suspected.

With respect to Mystery, everything we behold is, in one sense, a mystery to us. Our own existence is a mystery: the whole vegetable world is a mystery. We cannot account how it is that an acorn, when put into the ground, is made to develop itself and become an oak. We know not how it is that the seed we sow unfolds and multiplies itself, and returns to us such an abundant interest for so small a capital.

The fact however, as distinct from the operating cause, is not a mystery, because we see it; and we know also the means we are to use, which is no other than putting the seed in the ground. We know, therefore, as much as is necessary for us to know; and that part of the operation that we do not know, and which if we did, we could not perform, the Creator takes upon himself and performs it for us. We are, therefore, better off than if we had been let into the secret, and left to do it for ourselves.

But though every created thing is, in this sense, a mystery, the word mystery cannot be applied to moral truth, any more than obscurity can be applied to light. The God in whom we believe is a God of moral truth, and not a God of mystery or obscurity. Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never invelops itself in mystery; and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped, is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself.

Religion, therefore, being the belief of a God, and the practice of moral truth, cannot have connection with mystery. The belief of a God, so far from having any thing of mystery in it, is of all beliefs the most easy, because it arises to us, as is before observed, out of necessity. And the practice of moral truth, or, in other words, a practical imitation of the moral goodness of God, is no other than our acting towards each other as he acts benignly towards all. We cannot serve God in the manner we serve those who cannot do without such service; and, therefore, the only idea we can have of serving God, is that of contributing to the happiness of the living creation that God has made. This cannot be done by retiring ourselves from the society of the world, and spending a recluse life in selfish devotion.

The very nature and design of religion, if I may so express it, prove even to demonstration that it must be free from every thing of mystery, and unincumbered with every thing that is mysterious. Religion, considered as a duty, is incumbent upon every living soul alike, and, therefore, must be on a level to the understanding and comprehension of all. Man does not learn religion as he learns the secrets and mysteries of a trade. He learns the theory of religion by reflection. It arises out of the action of his own mind upon the things which he sees, or upon what he may happen to hear or to read, and the practice joins itself thereto.

When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, and not only above but repugnant to human comprehension, they were under the necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar to all questions, inquiries and speculations. The word mystery answered this purpose, and thus it has happened that religion, which is in itself without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.

I have not commented here because it is far from clear what specific issue Paine had with respect to "mystery" and Christianity. He doesn't name any "mystery" or specific doctrine (one suspects the Trinity was on the list) and in any event in the NT a "mystery" is something kept back by God and revealed later -- not something that served to bar inquiries or speculation. Perhaps that is how people in Paine's time used the word, but if so, they were as much in error as he was.

As mystery answered all general purposes, miracle followed as an occasional auxiliary. The former served to bewilder the mind, the latter to puzzle the senses. The one was the lingo, the other the legerdemain.

But before going further into this subject, it will be proper to inquire what is to be understood by a miracle.

In the same sense that every thing may be said to be a mystery, so also may it be said that every thing is a miracle, and that no one thing is a greater miracle than another. The elephant, though larger, is not a greater miracle than a mite: nor a mountain a greater miracle than an atom. To an almighty power it is no more difficult to make the one than the other, and no more difficult to make a million of worlds than to make one. Every thing, therefore, is a miracle, in one sense; whilst, in the other sense, there is no such thing as a miracle. It is a miracle when compared to our power, and to our comprehension. It is not a miracle compared to the power that performs it. But as nothing in this description conveys the idea that is affixed to the word miracle, it is necessary to carry the inquiry further.

Mankind have conceived to themselves certain laws, by which what they call nature is supposed to act; and that a miracle is something contrary to the operation and effect of those laws. But unless we know the whole extent of those laws, and of what are commonly called the powers of nature, we are not able to judge whether any thing that may appear to us wonderful or miraculous, be within, or be beyond, or be contrary to, her natural power of acting.

As I have argued elsewhere, this definition of "miracle" is off the mark. A miracle is best thought of merely as God doing Himself whatever man could theoretically do given the right tools. Thus:

The ascension of a man several miles high into the air, would have everything in it that constitutes the idea of a miracle, if it were not known that a species of air can be generated several times lighter than the common atmospheric air, and yet possess elasticity enough to prevent the balloon, in which that light air is inclosed, from being compressed into as many times less bulk, by the common air that surrounds it. In like manner, extracting flashes or sparks of fire from the human body, as visibly as from a steel struck with a flint, and causing iron or steel to move without any visible agent, would also give the idea of a miracle, if we were not acquainted with electricity and magnetism; so also would many other experiments in natural philosophy, to those who are not acquainted with the subject. The restoring persons to life who are to appearance dead as is practised upon drowned persons, would also be a miracle, if it were not known that animation is capable of being suspended without being extinct.

Paine actually gets close to the truth here. So why not see the resurrection as a case of high-level molecular manipulation by God?

Besides these, there are performances by slight of hand, and by persons acting in concert, that have a miraculous appearance, which, when known, are thought nothing of. And, besides these, there are mechanical and optical deceptions. There is now an exhibition in Paris of ghosts or spectres, which, though it is not imposed upon the spectators as a fact, has an astonishing appearance. As, therefore, we know not the extent to which either nature or art can go, there is no criterion to determine what a miracle is; and mankind, in giving credit to appearances, under the idea of their being miracles, are subject to be continually imposed upon.

When Paine shows that someone can feed 5000 with a few fish and loaves, or be bodily reconstituted from the dead, he might have a case. The difference in scale between his Paris display is enormous.

Since then appearances are so capable of deceiving, and things not real have a strong resemblance to things that are, nothing can be more inconsistent than to suppose that the Almighty would make use of means, such as are called miracles, that would subject the person who performed them to the suspicion of being an impostor, and the person who related them to be suspected of lying, and the doctrine intended to be supported thereby to be suspected as a fabulous invention.

Paine steps over the argument line here into subtrefuge. There is no logical connection to the idea from "it could be faked" to "therefore the Almighty would not do it." Not that he had even yet bridged that vast difference in scale.

Of all the modes of evidence that ever were invented to obtain belief to any system or opinion to which the name of religion has been given, that of miracle, however successful the imposition may have been, is the most inconsistent. For, in the first place, whenever recourse is had to show, for the purpose of procuring that belief (for a miracle, under any idea of the word, is a show) it implies a lameness or weakness in the doctrine that is preached.

Paine here supposes that all people needed to do was apply reason like salt and they'd be convinced. If that's so, why did he even need to write this book? What is implied is not weakness of what is preached, but the stubbornness, pride, and willful ignorance of men.

And, in the second place, it is degrading the Almighty into the character of a show-man, playing tricks to amuse and make the people stare and wonder.

Only if you start with the assumption of Paine's deism rather than a deity that takes interest enough to approach us on our terms. In fact Paine's assumption here uses the sympathetic appeal of piety to get out of it a theology of a deity who is so pious he wouldn't even come near us.

It is also the most equivocal sort of evidence that can be set up; for the belief is not to depend upon the thing called a miracle, but upon the credit of the reporter, who says that he saw it; and, therefore, the thing, were it true, would have no better chance of being believed than if it were a lie.

This is merely a variation of Paine's fallacious "hearsay" objection far above. You can be sure he didn't live like this when it came to hearing things he didn't disagree with.

Suppose I were to say, that when I sat down to write this book, a hand presented itself in the air, took up the pen and wrote every word that is herein written; would any body believe me? Certainly they would not. Would they believe me a whit the more if the thing had been a fact? Certainly they would not.

Was Paine willing to die for that assertion, by chance? Or be persecuted, cut off from his family, ostracized? Did the hand give any indication as to who it belonged to (if it did not, what are we expected to do about it)? Answer that, and maybe we can get started. The same claim is being made by Donald Neale Walsch, in essence, and these days you can make a pile of money. Paine's scenario is oversimplified.

Since then a real miracle, were it to happen, would be subject to the same fate as the falsehood, the inconsistency becomes the greater of supposing the Almighty would make use of means that would not answer the purpose for which they were intended, even if they were real.

That's another "no connection" argument; that they have the same fate proves nothing whatsoever.

If we are to suppose a miracle to be something so entirely out of the course of what is called nature, that she must go out of that course to accomplish it, and we see an account given of such a miracle by the person who said he saw it, it raises a question in the mind very easily decided, which is, -- Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie?

That depends on what the point is, what purpose the miracle would serve -- Paine collapses it down to a simple "yes or no" scenario that is unwarranted.

We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course;

Meaning: Paine hasn't seen it; and he's worked it out so that someone who does see it will automatically be a liar, to wit:

but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time;

And thus by extension, Paine also lies constantly. If he wants to be consistent, he can't simply restrict it to recountings of miracles; men lie about many things. Beyond that men also tell the truth millions of times, so where does this get us?

it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.

Did Paine counted numbers of lie versus numbers of truths told? Did he establish a general reputation for ALL men by the samples of the few he met? This is not an argument based on statistics and evidence, but emotion.

The story of the whale swallowing Jonah, though a whale is large enough to do it, borders greatly on the marvellous.; but it would have approached nearer to the idea of a miracle, if Jonah had swallowed the whale.

In short, Paine wants God to demonstrate with physical impossibilities, not just naturally unlikely possibilities. At the same time, had this story indeed been reported, Paine would object that it was even more marvellous and harder to believe.

In this, which may serve for all cases of miracles, the matter would decide itself as before stated, namely, Is it more probable that a man should have, swallowed a whale, or told a lie?

Reductionism, yet again. "Yes or No" is not all there is to any such report. The broader scope of whether God acted in history as a whole must be in view.

But suppose that Jonah had really swallowed the whale, and gone with it in his belly to Nineveh, and to convince the people that it was true have cast it up in their sight, of the full length and size of a whale, would they not have believed him to have been the devil instead of a prophet?

So Paine answers his own question. He's also without knowledge of basic Bible geography:

or if the whale had carried Jonah to Nineveh, and cast him up in the same public manner, would they not have believed the whale to have been the devil, and Jonah one of his imps?

Given that Nineveh wasn't on the coast, Jonah wasn't going to be spit up there anyway. And the Ninevites would hardly have concluded that they were of the devil, come to that: They would more likely connect it with their equivalent to Dagon or Poseidon, at least until Jonah started talking about Yahweh.

The most extraordinary of all the things called miracles, related in the New Testament, is that of the devil flying away with Jesus Christ, and carrying him to the top of a high mountain; and to the top of the highest pinnacle of the temple, and showing him and promising to him all the kingdoms of the world. How happened it that he did not discover America? or is it only with kingdoms that his sooty highness has any interest.

Paine was unaware that oikoumene just meant the Roman Empire or the civilized known world, not including America. Now then, though, what is so extraordinary about simple travel? Birds fly. People walk. Spiritual/supernatural beings have their own modes of transport. We wonder what Paine would have made of ideas such as transwarp conduits, dimensional tunnels, and static time bubbles.

I have too much respect for the moral character of Christ to believe that he told this whale of a miracle himself:

In short, he begs the question.

neither is it easy to account for what purpose it could have been fabricated, unless it were to impose upon the connoisseurs of miracles, as is sometimes practised upon the connoisseurs of Queen Anne's farthings, and collectors of relics and antiquities; or to render the belief of miracles ridiculous, by outdoing miracle, as Don Quixote outdid chivalry; or to embarrass the belief of miracles, by making it doubtful by what power, whether of God or of the devil, any thing called a miracle was performed. It requires, however, a great deal of faith in the devil to believe this miracle.

According to Paine; the ancients, though, were not quite as self-assured of their own superiority. Today Skeptics insult the dead with names like superstitious, confident in that they know no answer will proceed from the grave.

In every point of view in which those things called miracles can be placed and considered, the reality of them is improbable, and their existence unnecessary.

Paine finds no use for them personally; hence they are useless.

They would not, as before observed, answer any useful purpose, even if they were true; for it is more difficult to obtain belief to a miracle, than to a principle evidently moral, without any miracle. Moral principle speaks universally for itself. Miracle could be but a thing of the moment, and seen but by a few; after this it requires a transfer of faith from God to man to believe a miracle upon man's report.

Oh? What of visible results, as in the man born blind, with long-lasting effects? Once again, Paine assumes his own value -- Skepticism -- is prime, and assumes that value on others who, unlike him, take a broader view of matters, and sift the event critically.

Instead, therefore, of admitting the recitals of miracles as evidence of any system of religion being true, they ought to be considered as symptoms of its being fabulous. It is necessary to the full and upright character of truth that it rejects the crutch; and it is consistent with the character of fable to seek the aid that truth rejects. Thus much for Mystery and Miracle.

Thus for Paine's deism and its absentee deity?

As Mystery and Miracle took charge of the past and the present, Prophecy took charge of the future, and rounded the tenses of faith. It was not sufficient to know what had been done, but what would be done. The supposed prophet was the supposed historian of times to come;

Actually, such prediction, again, was only a part of a prophet's vocation.

and if he happened, in shooting with a long bow of a thousand years, to strike within a thousand miles of a mark, the ingenuity of posterity could make it point-blank;

Vague charge -- Paine gives no examples of such vagueness, never asks whether it is his inability that is the problem, and so far analyzes no prophecy specifically. But we know he gets to typology later on.

and if he happened to be directly wrong, it was only to suppose, as in the case of Jonah and Nineveh, that God had repented himself and changed his mind. What a fool do fabulous systems make of man!

Not that Paine gives any actual reason to suppose this is not possible. See here for more.

It has been shewn, in a former part of this work, that the original meaning of the words prophet and prohesying has been changed, and that a prophet, in the sense of the word as now used, is a creature of modem invention;

And we have shown in turn that Paine was ill-informed in his definition of a prophet as an ancient performer.

and it is owing to this change in the meaning of the words, that the flights and metaphors of the Jewish poets, and phrases and expressions now rendered obscure by our not being acquainted with the local circumstances to which they applied at the time they were used,

Did Paine knew all about local circumstances?

have been erected into prophecies, and made to bend to explanations at the will and whimsical conceits of sectaries, expounders, and commentators. Every thing unintelligible was prophetical,

It's not that it was unintelligible; it was just that Paine didn't know how to interpret it.

and every thing insignificant was typical. A blunder would have served for a prophecy; and a dish-clout for a type.

It's not that it was insignificant; it's just that Paine was not at the center of it all.

If by a prophet we are to suppose a man to whom the Almighty communicated some event that would take place in future, either there were such men, or there were not. If there were, it is consistent to believe that the event so communicated would be told in terms that could be understood,

Yes -- and they are understandable to those who act as disciples and educate themselves. But didn't Paine just get through saying that language is so changeable that it wouldn't matter? It would become not understandable 5 minutes after Paine said this.

and not related in such a loose and obscure manner as to be out of the comprehension of those that heard it, and so equivocal as to fit almost any circumstance that might happen afterwards.

Still waiting for specifics. Could Paine think of 5000 different ways Gen. 3:15 could have been fulfilled?

It is conceiving very irreverently of the Almighty, to suppose he would deal in this jesting manner with mankind; yet all the things called prophecies in the book called the Bible come under this description.

There's that values-assumption again: Never mind that this was normal praxis for the ancients, who were not hyper-literalists.

But it is with Prophecy as it is with Miracle. It could not answer the purpose even if it were real. Those to whom a prophecy should be told could not tell whether the man prophesied or lied, or whether it had been revealed to him, or whether he conceited it;

Sure they can. Deut. 18:22. You want to see vague, look at Nostradamus.

and if the thing that he prophesied, or pretended to prophesy, should happen, or some thing like it, among the multitunic of things that are daily happening, nobody could again know whether he foreknew it, or guessed at it, or whether it was accidental. A prophet, therefore, is a character useless and unnecessary; and the safe side of the case is to guard against being imposed upon, by not giving credit to such relations.

That's why a prophetic career tended to be more than one shot. Not that Paine had calculated odds of any particular occurrence.

Upon the whole, Mystery, Miracle, and Prophecy, are appendages that belong to fabulous and not to true religion. They are the means by which so many Lo heres! and Lo theres! have been spread about the world, and religion been made into a trade. The success of one impostor gave encouragement to another, and the quieting salvo of doing some good by keeping up a pious fraud protected them from remorse.

We now continue with a look at Part 2 of Paine's Age of Reason where he gets more specific on the Bible. Since many of these claims are already answered here or on fellow sites I will in several cases not comment but simply turn Paine's words into a link to where an answer may be found. We'll skip the Preface, other than noting that Paine displays quote a bit of arrogance by the claim that his second part takes his critics down -- though we can acknowledge that not all of Paine's critics, like Paine himself, had access to the needed scholarship.


IT has often been said that any thing may be proved from the Bible;

By who, we wonder? Not by any person with a care for proper exegetical procedure.

but before any thing can be admitted as proved by Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of any thing.

I wonder if Paine would say the same of any document. Just wondering if he would be consistent.

It has been the practice of all Christian commentators on the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, to impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and as the word of God; they have disputed and wrangled, and have anathematized each other about the supposeable meaning of particular parts and passages therein; one has said and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing, another that it meant directly the contrary, and a third, that it meant neither one nor the other, but something different from both; and this they have called understanding the Bible.

And did Paine have the scholarly acumen to make a charge like this? No, he did not.

It has happened, that all the answers that I have seen to the former part of 'The Age of Reason' have been written by priests: and these pious men, like their predecessors, contend and wrangle, and understand the Bible; each understands it differently, but each understands it best; and they have agreed in nothing but in telling their readers that Thomas Paine understands it not.

Whatever the shortcomings of Paine's contemporary critics, they were right. I would have loved to have been one of Paine's critics; but since many of my resources were not available, he probably would not have known what to do about it.

Now instead of wasting their time, and heating themselves in fractious disputations about doctrinal points drawn from the Bible, these men ought to know, and if they do not it is civility to inform them, that the first thing to be understood is, whether there is sufficient authority for believing the Bible to be the word of God, or whether there is not?

A straw man, since even if it is a reliable, man-made record, the issues it brings to the fore remain the same.

There are matters in that book, said to be done by the express command of God, that are as shocking to humanity,

Meaning, he found it shocking as a comfortable Enlightenment person, not that it actually was.

and to every idea we have of moral justice, as any thing done by Robespierre, by Carrier, by Joseph le Bon, in France, by the English government in the East Indies, or by any other assassin in modern times. When we read in the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, etc., that they (the Israelites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who, as the history itself shews,

By stealth? Josh. 9:9, "And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt..." They knew what was coming and even if they had not heard about Egypt, you can hardly hide a multitude of 2 million.

had given them no offence;

Other than orgiastic rites, incest, etc.

that they put all those nations to the sword; that they spared neither age nor infancy; that they utterly destroyed men, women and children; that they left not a soul to breathe;

Which is the way the ancients would have preferred it. Note that this is someone who agreed with "give me liberty or give me death".

expressions that are repeated over and over again in those books, and that too with exulting ferocity;

As expected in an oral society, and not able to be appreciated by a graphocentist.

are we sure these things are facts?

Paine had no access to archaeological data and can be excused here.

are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned those things to be done? Are we sure that the books that tell us so were written by his authority?

It wouldn't matter, as noted above.

It is not the antiquity of a tale that is an evidence of its truth;

No one thinks it is here. This is a strawman.

on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being fabulous; for the more ancient any history pretends to be, the more it has the resemblance of a fable.

Has Paine made a list of histories, correlated them with times written, and proved it by comparison to actual history -- which, uh, by this "logic" he can't get true anyway?

The origin of every nation is buried in fabulous tradition, and that of the Jews is as much to be suspected as any other.

Vague generalization. Did Paine have the real history to prove it rather than suspicions, and a complete genre study?

To charger the commission of things upon the Almighty, which in their own nature, and by every rule of moral justice, are crimes, as all assassination is, and more especially the assassination of infants, is matter of serious concern.

The implicitly begged question: the "argument by outrage". I found it shocking; therefore it must be.

The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. To believe therefore the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God; for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend?

Under Paine's individualism, they might not; the collectivist ancients would not agree and even so they held a view that what hurt one, hurt all in the collective. Add to that what we noted above about Paine being a comfortable Enlightenment resident and the picture is complete.

And to read the Bible without horror, we must undo every thing that is tender, sympathising, and benevolent in the heart of man. Speaking for myself,

There's the clue -- "speaking for myself". Paine universalized his perceptions with absolutely no justification and no thought the ancient societal conditions called for a different strategy.

if I had no other evidence that the Bible is fabulous, than the sacrifice I must make to believe it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to determine my choice.

Argument by outrage. That's the core, and that's where Paine proceeds from to justify his other "findings".

But in addition to all the moral evidence against the Bible, I will, in the progress of this work, produce such other evidence as even a priest cannot deny; and show, from that evidence, that the Bible is not entitled to credit, as being the word of God.

But, before I proceed to this examination, I will show wherein the Bible differs from all other ancient writings with respect to the nature of the evidence necessary to establish its authenticity; and this is is the more proper to be done, because the advocates of the Bible, in their answers to the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' undertake to say, and they put some stress thereon, that the authenticity of the Bible is as well established as that of any other ancient book: as if our belief of the one could become any rule for our belief of the other.

It would, if Paine would be consistent, but he is not, and actually offers strawmen that we still see burned today.

I know, however, but of one ancient book that authoritatively challenges universal consent and belief,

An artificial criterion; hence a strawman. What a book "challenges" and how widely it challenges it is not by itself a sufficient testing point. Paine is illicitly appealing to the emotional desire to not be challenged and proven wrong.

and that is Euclid's Elements of Geometry; [Euclid, according to chronological history, lived three hundred years before Christ, and about one hundred before Archimedes; he was of the city of Alexandria, in Egypt. -- Author.] and the reason is, because it is a book of self-evident demonstration, entirely independent of its author, and of every thing relating to time, place, and circumstance. The matters contained in that book would have the same authority they now have, had they been written by any other person, or had the work been anonymous, or had the author never been known; for the identical certainty of who was the author makes no part of our belief of the matters contained in the book. But it is quite otherwise with respect to the books ascribed to Moses, to Joshua, to Samuel, etc.: those are books of testimony, and they testify of things naturally incredible;

Such it would be with any work of history; and one could call any thing they choose not to believe "incredible" and reject it based on subjective biases -- here, Paine's deism. 2000 years from now someone may call the account of the WTC disaster "incredible" because they find it hard to believe for whatever reason. Or they may find Paine's account of his experience in France "incredible" based on a subjective view or a presumption. But once theism is allowed as a paradigm, all bosh about miracles being "incredible" is disposable.

and therefore the whole of our belief, as to the authenticity of those books, rests, in the first place, upon the certainty that they were written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel; secondly, upon the credit we give to their testimony. We may believe the first, that is, may believe the certainty of the authorship, and yet not the testimony; in the same manner that we may believe that a certain person gave evidence upon a case, and yet not believe the evidence that he gave. But if it should be found that the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, were not written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, every part of the authority and authenticity of those books is gone at once; for there can be no such thing as forged or invented testimony; neither can there be anonymous testimony,

The ancients would not agree, and actually Paine is wrong. At the core this is a genetic fallacy.

more especially as to things naturally incredible; such as that of talking with God face to face, or that of the sun and moon standing still at the command of a man.

Illicit leap -- Paine again appeals to the emotions and sets a subjective standard. The claim itself, not the source, is of far more relevance.

The greatest part of the other ancient books are works of genius; of which kind are those ascribed to Homer, to Plato, to Aristotle, to Demosthenes, to Cicero, etc. Here again the author is not an essential in the credit we give to any of those works; for as works of genius they would have the same merit they have now, were they anonymous.

Why only works of genius? This is a bit of unfair bias on Paine's part.

Nobody believes the Trojan story, as related by Homer, to be true; for it is the poet only that is admired, and the merit of the poet will remain, though the story be fabulous.

Paine lived before Schliemann and other pioneers confirmed that there was a core historical aspect to the Homeric story; what would he say now?

But if we disbelieve the matters related by the Bible authors (Moses for instance) as we disbelieve the things related by Homer, there remains nothing of Moses in our estimation, but an imposter. As to the ancient historians, from Herodotus to Tacitus, we credit them as far as they relate things probable and credible, and no further: for if we do, we must believe the two miracles which Tacitus relates were performed by Vespasian, that of curing a lame man, and a blind man, in just the same manner as the same things are told of Jesus Christ by his historians. We must also believe the miracles cited by Josephus, that of the sea of Pamphilia opening to let Alexander and his army pass, as is related of the Red Sea in Exodus. These miracles are quite as well authenticated as the Bible miracles, and yet we do not believe them;

Now you can see where someone else gets his argument. Well, let's say that we have no problem accepting Josephus and Tacitus -- where does that leave his argument?

consequently the degree of evidence necessary to establish our belief of things naturally incredible, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, is far greater than that which obtains our belief to natural and probable things; and therefore the advocates for the Bible have no claim to our belief of the Bible because that we believe things stated in other ancient writings; since that we believe the things stated in those writings no further than they are probable and credible,

As noted, this argument vanishes if we lose the inconsistency Paine accuses us of.

or because they are self-evident, like Euclid; or admire them because they are elegant, like Homer; or approve them because they are sedate, like Plato; or judicious, like Aristotle.

Having premised these things, I proceed to examine the authenticity of the Bible; and I begin with what are called the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. My intention is to shew that those books are spurious, and that Moses is not the author of them;

Paine, however, will work only within the premise that "authorship" means "directly written by" -- whereas in the ancient world, a person who commissioned a writing but hired a scribe would still have been the author.

and still further, that they were not written in the time of Moses nor till several hundred years afterwards; that they are no other than an attempted history of the life of Moses, and of the times in which he is said to have lived, and also of the times prior thereto, written by some very ignorant and stupid pretenders to authorship,

Given that Paine was 100 years before any serious scholarship started, this is highly presumptuous.

several hundred years after the death of Moses; as men now write histories of things that happened, or are supposed to have happened, several hundred or several thousand years ago.

The evidence that I shall produce in this case is from the books themselves; and I will confine myself to this evidence only.

In other words, no outside scholarship? Is that going to make for a complete and fair case?

Were I to refer for proofs to any of the ancient authors, whom the advocates of the Bible call prophane authors, they would controvert that authority, as I controvert theirs:

How does Paine know this? He didn't try.

I will therefore meet them on their own ground, and oppose them with their own weapon, the Bible.

In the first place, there is no affirmative evidence that Moses is the author of those books; and that he is the author, is altogether an unfounded opinion, got abroad nobody knows how.

It was actually solid tradition in pre-NT Judaism and in the OT, "nobody knows how" is just Paine's way of instilling doubt without substance to back it up.

The style and manner in which those books are written give no room to believe, or even to suppose, they were written by Moses; for it is altogether the style and manner of another person speaking of Moses.

How Paine knows this, if there is no authentic work of Moses to compare to, he doesn't tell us. We point the reader to some of Glenn Miller's useful material:

  • The Making of the Old Testament [Off Site] -- includes pertinent commentary showing the internal unity of items like the Flood story
  • A Brief Case for Moses as author of the Pentateuch [Off Site]
  • More on what "Mosaic authorship" means [Off Site]

    In Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, (for every thing in Genesis is prior to the times of Moses and not the least allusion is made to him therein,) the whole, I say, of these books is in the third person; it is always, the Lord said unto Moses, or Moses said unto the Lord; or Moses said unto the people, or the people said unto Moses; and this is the style and manner that historians use in speaking of the person whose lives and actions they are writing.

    It was also the style Josephus used when speaking of himself in parts of his work.

    It may be said, that a man may speak of himself in the third person, and, therefore, it may be supposed that Moses did; but supposition proves nothing; and if the advocates for the belief that Moses wrote those books himself have nothing better to advance than supposition, they may as well be silent.

    Paine made no comparative study of the use of third person in ancient documents or histories; and note how he impatiently dispenses with the obvious reply as though the burden were on the apologist. It isn't. Paine started with an assumption he offered no proof for (a history cannot be written third-person by the author), called it a proof against Mosaic authorship without parallels or examples, then when shown the obvious fallacy, demanded proof against his own supposition. Here there is a site that refers to funerary tablets written in the third person -- obviously an affectation that has no effect on the historicity of the contents. Paine's implicit argument is misguided.

    But granting the grammatical right, that Moses might speak of himself in the third person, because any man might speak of himself in that manner, it cannot be admitted as a fact in those books, that it is Moses who speaks, without rendering Moses truly ridiculous and absurd: -- for example, Numbers xii. 3: "Now the man Moses was very MEEK, above all the men which were on the face of the earth." If Moses said this of himself, instead of being the meekest of men, he was one of the most vain and arrogant coxcombs; and the advocates for those books may now take which side they please, for both sides are against them: if Moses was not the author, the books are without authority; and if he was the author, the author is without credit, because to boast of meekness is the reverse of meekness, and is a lie in sentiment.

    In addition to what I note here, Paine anachronizes modern conceptions of humility as well as understanding of what "meekness" in the ancient world constitiuted. The idea of "vanity" in one's public face was unknown. The ancients were open and frank about themselves. Paine is illicitly imposing Enlightenment values on the text, and Skeptics often do the same today with their own values.

    In Deuteronomy, the style and manner of writing marks more evidently than in the former books that Moses is not the writer. The manner here used is dramatical; the writer opens the subject by a short introductory discourse, and then introduces Moses as in the act of speaking, and when he has made Moses finish his harrangue, he (the writer) resumes his own part, and speaks till he brings Moses forward again, and at last closes the scene with an account of the death, funeral, and character of Moses.

    Deuteronomy is a suzerainty treaty; it's like Paine saying that Jefferson's narrative writings didn't sound like the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, Deut. has one of the strongest proofs of early date of any of the books of the Pentateuch: it's format in 14th century BC Hittite treaty genre. See more here. Deut. is also likely to have been one of those things Moses commissioned another to write (a scribe).

    This interchange of speakers occurs four times in this book: from the first verse of the first chapter, to the end of the fifth verse, it is the writer who speaks; he then introduces Moses as in the act of making his harrangue, and this continues to the end of the 40th verse of the fourth chapter; here the writer drops Moses, and speaks historically of what was done in consequence of what Moses, when living, is supposed to have said, and which the writer has dramatically rehearsed.

    The writer opens the subject again in the first verse of the fifth chapter, though it is only by saying that Moses called the people of Israel together; he then introduces Moses as before, and continues him as in the act of speaking, to the end of the 26th chapter. He does the same thing at the beginning of the 27th chapter; and continues Moses as in the act of speaking, to the end of the 28th chapter. At the 29th chapter the writer speaks again through the whole of the first verse, and the first line of the second verse, where he introduces Moses for the last time, and continues him as in the act of speaking, to the end of the 33d chapter.

    The writer having now finished the rehearsal on the part of Moses, comes forward, and speaks through the whole of the last chapter: he begins by telling the reader, that Moses went up to the top of Pisgah, that he saw from thence the land which (the writer says) had been promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that he, Moses, died there in the land of Moab, that he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, but that no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day, that is unto the time in which the writer lived who wrote the book of Deuteronomy. The writer then tells us, that Moses was one hundred and ten years of age when he died -- that his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated; and he concludes by saying, that there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom, says this anonymous writer, the Lord knew face to face.

    It remains that the answer is above: Authorship in the ancient world did not require direct pen in hand; the switches in person Paine only assumes, never proves, indicate differing authorship. See the linked essay above; there was a similar idea about something called Numerusweschel.

    Having thus shewn, as far as grammatical evidence implies, that Moses was not the writer of those books, I will, after making a few observations on the inconsistencies of the writer of the book of Deuteronomy, proceed to shew, from the historical and chronological evidence contained in those books, that Moses was not, because he could not be, the writer of them; and consequently, that there is no authority for believing that the inhuman and horrid butcheries of men, women, and children, told of in those books, were done, as those books say they were, at the command of God.

    It would have been much better to only kill the men and let the women and children die painful death by starvation, would it? Wonder where Paine would stand on voluntary euthanasia?

    It is a duty incumbent on every true deist, that he vindicates the moral justice of God against the calumnies of the Bible

    and replace them with the indifference of deism's deity?


    The writer of the book of Deuteronomy, whoever he was, for it is an anonymous work, is obscure, and also contradictory with himself in the account he has given of Moses.

    After telling that Moses went to the top of Pisgah (and it does not appear from any account that he ever came down again)

    So, if it says Moses went to the bathroom, and it never says he came out, he's still in there?

    he tells us, that Moses died there in the land of Moab, and that he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab; but as there is no antecedent to the pronoun he, there is no knowing who he was, that did bury him. If the writer meant that he (God) buried him, how should he (the writer) know it? or why should we (the readers) believe him?

    There is an antecedent, and it is God (34:5); the remainder is merely Paine's deism assumed. Why should we believe? Why shouldn't we? No evidence for or against other than the text; therefore it is up to our paradigm to choose, and we have to move to other issues.

    since we know not who the writer was that tells us so, for certainly Moses could not himself tell where he was buried.

    See notes above on authorship; and again it makes no difference at all in terms of anonymity. Knowledge of authorship can ADD authority; lack of knowledge cannot be used to subtract authority.

    The writer also tells us, that no man knoweth where the sepulchre of Moses is unto this day, meaning the time in which this writer lived; how then should he know that Moses was buried in a valley in the land of Moab?

    A valley is a big place, and Moab had quite a few valleys. It's like saying you were buried in Florida, but objecting because someone says we don't know what graveyard.

    for as the writer lived long after the time of Moses, as is evident from his using the expression of unto this day, meaning a great length of time after the death of Moses, he certainly was not at his funeral; and on the other hand, it is impossible that Moses himself could say that no man knoweth where the sepulchre is unto this day. To make Moses the speaker, would be an improvement on the play of a child that hides himself and cries nobody can find me; nobody can find Moses.

    On the actual issues see Was the Pentateuch adulterated by later additions?

    This writer has no where told us how he came by the speeches which he has put into the mouth of Moses to speak, and therefore we have a right to conclude that he either composed them himself, or wrote them from oral tradition.

    No ancient writer felt complelled to reveal their sources, so this is without merit. Besides, Paine would simply call the person who named their sources a fabricator if he chose to disbelieve them on other grounds.

    One or other of these is the more probable, since he has given, in the fifth chapter, a table of commandments, in which that called the fourth commandment is different from the fourth commandment in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. In that of Exodus, the reason given for keeping the seventh day is, because (says the commandment) God made the heavens and the earth in six days, and rested on the seventh; but in that of Deuteronomy, the reason given is, that it was the day on which the children of Israel came out of Egypt, and therefore, says this commandment, the Lord thy God commanded thee to kee the sabbath-day This makes no mention of the creation, nor that of the coming out of Egypt.

    See here for answer, though Paine would be right about oral tradition in other contexts.

    There are also many things given as laws of Moses in this book, that are not to be found in any of the other books; among which is that inhuman and brutal law, xxi. 18, 19, 20, 21, which authorizes parents, the father and the mother, to bring their own children to have them stoned to death for what it pleased them to call stubbornness.

    See here.

    -- But priests have always been fond of preaching up Deuteronomy, for Deuteronomy preaches up tythes; and it is from this book, xxv. 4, they have taken the phrase, and applied it to tything, that "thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth Out the corn:" and that this might not escape observation, they have noted it in the table of contents at the head of the chapter, though it is only a single verse of less than two lines. O priests! priests! ye are willing to be compared to an ox, for the sake of tythes.

    See here.

    -- Though it is impossible for us to know identically who the writer of Deuteronomy was, it is not difficult to discover him professionally, that he was some Jewish priest, who lived, as I shall shew in the course of this work, at least three hundred and fifty years after the time of Moses.

    This would be 1050 BC according to what date Paine accepted (see below). Interestingly, well within the range of records of many ancient historians and the events they report, even if true!

    I come now to speak of the historical and chronological evidence. The chronology that I shall use is the Bible chronology; for I mean not to go out of the Bible for evidence of any thing, but to make the Bible itself prove historically and chronologically that Moses is not the author of the books ascribed to him.

    The refusal to use outside sources to define context speaks for itself.

    It is therefore proper that I inform the readers (such an one at least as may not have the opportunity of knowing it) that in the larger Bibles, and also in some smaller ones, there is a series of chronology printed in the margin of every page for the purpose of shawing how long the historical matters stated in each page happened, or are supposed to have happened, before Christ, and consequently the distance of time between one historical circumstance and another.

    And Paine took this as though it were as inerrant? What if no Bible had these?

    I begin with the book of Genesis. -- In Genesis xiv., the writer gives an account of Lot being taken prisoner in a battle between the four kings against five, and carried off; and that when the account of Lot being taken came to Abraham, that he armed all his household and marched to rescue Lot from the captors; and that he pursued them unto Dan. (ver. 14.)

    To shew in what manner this expression of Pursuing them unto Dan applies to the case in question, I will refer to two circumstances, the one in America, the other in France. The city now called New York, in America, was originally New Amsterdam; and the town in France, lately called Havre Marat, was before called Havre-de-Grace. New Amsterdam was changed to New York in the year 1664; Havre-de-Grace to Havre Marat in the year 1793. Should, therefore, any writing be found, though without date, in which the name of New-York should be mentioned, it would be certain evidence that such a writing could not have been written before, and must have been written after New Amsterdam was changed to New York, and consequently not till after the year 1664, or at least during the course of that year. And in like manner, any dateless writing, with the name of Havre Marat, would be certain evidence that such a writing must have been written after Havre-de-Grace became Havre Marat, and consequently not till after the year 1793, or at least during the course of that year.

    Yes -- this is the example I use here. Paine repeats other examples I use as well; we won't comment separately.

    I now come to the application of those cases, and to show that there was no such place as Dan till many years after the death of Moses; and consequently, that Moses could not be the writer of the book of Genesis, where this account of pursuing them unto Dan is given.

    The place that is called Dan in the Bible was originally a town of the Gentiles, called Laish; and when the tribe of Dan seized upon this town, they changed its name to Dan, in commemoration of Dan, who was the father of that tribe, and the great grandson of Abraham.

    To establish this in proof, it is necessary to refer from Genesis to chapter xviii. of the book called the Book of judges. It is there said (ver. 27) that "they (the Danites) came unto Laish to a people that were quiet and secure, and they smote them with the edge of the sword [the Bible is filled with murder] and burned the city with fire; and they built a city, (ver. 28,) and dwelt therein, and [ver. 29,] they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan, their father; howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first."

    This account of the Danites taking possession of Laish and changing it to Dan, is placed in the book of Judges immediately after the death of Samson. The death of Samson is said to have happened B.C. 1120 and that of Moses B.C. 1451; and, therefore, according to the historical arrangement, the place was not called Dan till 331 years after the death of Moses.

    There is a striking confusion between the historical and the chronological arrangement in the book of judges.

    What "confuses" Paine is the transformation of indepedent oral units transferred to writing, plus the ancient method of arranging material topically rather than chronologically.

    The last five chapters, as they stand in the book, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, are put chronologically before all the preceding chapters; they are made to be 28 years before the 16th chapter, 266 before the 15th, 245 before the 13th, 195 before the 9th, go before the 4th, and 15 years before the 1st chapter. This shews the uncertain and fabulous state of the Bible. According to the chronological arrangement, the taking of Laish, and giving it the name of Dan, is made to be twenty years after the death of Joshua, who was the successor of Moses; and by the historical order, as it stands in the book, it is made to be 306 years after the death of Joshua, and 331 after that of Moses; but they both exclude Moses from being the writer of Genesis, because, according to either of the statements, no such a place as Dan existed in the time of Moses; and therefore the writer of Genesis must have been some person who lived after the town of Laish had the name of Dan; and who that person was nobody knows, and consequently the book of Genesis is anonymous, and without authority.

    I come now to state another point of historical and chronological evidence, and to show therefrom, as in the preceding case, that Moses is not the author of the book of Genesis.

    In Genesis xxxvi. there is given a genealogy of the sons and descendants of Esau, who are called Edomites, and also a list by name of the kings of Edom; in enumerating of which, it is said, verse 31, "And these are the kings that reigned in Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel."

    Now, were any dateless writing to be found, in which, speaking of any past events, the writer should say, these things happened before there was any Congress in America, or before there was any Convention in France, it would be evidence that such writing could not have been written before, and could only be written after there was a Congress in America or a Convention in France, as the case might be; and, consequently, that it could not be written by any person who died before there was a Congress in the one country, or a Convention in the other.

    Same issue, different subject, answered by the same articles linked above on anachronisms.

    Nothing is more frequent, as well in history as in conversation, than to refer to a fact in the room of a date: it is most natural so to do, because a fact fixes itself in the memory better than a date; secondly, because the fact includes the date, and serves to give two ideas at once; and this manner of speaking by circumstances implies as positively that the fact alluded to is past, as if it was so expressed. When a person in speaking upon any matter, says, it was before I was married, or before my son was born, or before I went to America, or before I went to France, it is absolutely understood, and intended to be understood, that he has been married, that he has had a son, that he has been in America, or been in France. Language does not admit of using this mode of expression in any other sense; and whenever such an expression is found anywhere, it can only be understood in the sense in which only it could have been used.

    An outdated analogy as Paine's personal conversations are not fixed on a sheet of paper. The analogy would be, if someone recorded his talk about things happening in France, and a later writer added a comment -- it would be in a footnote today, but those hadn't been invented yet -- telling what happened in France after Paine died. Language in Paine's day may not have admitted this, but other languages do lack certain features and tenses of English, while others have far more, and Paine merely assumed that all languages everywhere followed the same grammatical principles as his native English or as the languages he knew.

    The passage, therefore, that I have quoted -- that "these are the kings that reigned in Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," could only have been written after the first king began to reign over them; and consequently that the book of Genesis, so far from having been written by Moses, could not have been written till the time of Saul at least.

    Wrong: This proves only that this particular passage could have been written no earlier. An Australian reader noted what this implies if Paine's logic were followed through. Paine wrote: "The former part of the Age of Reason has not been published in two years, and there is already an expression in it that is not mine. The expression is, The book of Luke was carried by a majority of one voice only. It may be true, but it is not I that have said it. Some person, who might know of the circumstance, has added it in a note at the bottom of the page of some of the editions, printed either in England or in America; and the printers, after that, have placed it into the body of the work, and made me the author of it. If this has happened within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the aid of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies individually, what may not have happened in a much greater length of time, when there was no printing, and when any man who could write could make a written copy, and call it an original by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?" Using Paine's own "logic", then, I can conclude the following: It contained something that Paine didn't write; "Age of Reason" therefore was not written by Paine; "Age of Reason" is therefore a forgery; it being a forgery, it can be ignored as useless!

    This is the positive sense of the passage; but the expression, any king, implies more kings than one, at least it implies two, and this will carry it to the time of David; and, if taken in a general sense, it carries itself through all times of the Jewish monarchy.

    Had we met with this verse in any part of the Bible that professed to have been written after kings began to reign in Israel, it would have been impossible not to have seen the application of it. It happens then that this is the case; the two books of Chronicles, which give a history of all the kings of Israel, are professedly, as well as in fact, written after the Jewish monarchy began; and this verse that I have quoted, and all the remaining verses of Genesis xxxvi. are, word for word, In 1 Chronicles i., beginning at the 43d verse.

    It was with consistency that the writer of the Chronicles could say as he has said, 1 Chron. i. 43, These are the kings that reigned in Edom, before there reigned any king ever the children of Israel," because he was going to give, and has given, a list of the kings that had reigned in Israel; but as it is impossible that the same expression could have been used before that period, it is as certain as any thing can be proved from historical language, that this part of Genesis is taken from Chronicles, and that Genesis is not so old as Chronicles, and probably not so old as the book of Homer, or as AEsop's Fables; admitting Homer to have been, as the tables of chronology state, contemporary with David or Solomon, and AEsop to have lived about the end of the Jewish monarchy.

    I cannot help but note that AR is highly repetitive, and that it would be half as long without it.

    Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah and his ark, drops to a level with the Arabian Tales, without the merit of being entertaining, and the account of men living to eight and nine hundred years becomes as fabulous as the immortality of the giants of the Mythology.

    He found two issues, apart from knowledge of ancient literary practice, and made his decision? Logically, though, it doesn't do all that. It means that one text becomes a human product and the rest must be evaluated on merit.

    Besides, the character of Moses, as stated in the Bible, is the most horrid that can be imagined.

    Argument by outrage again.

    If those accounts be true, he was the wretch that first began and carried on wars on the score or on the pretence of religion; and under that mask, or that infatuation, committed the most unexampled atrocities that are to be found in the history of any nation.

    Actually, religion was so intertwined with public life by the ancients that every war involved a religious "pretence", even those well before Moses.

    Of which I will state only one instance:

    When the Jewish army returned from one of their plundering and murdering excursions, the account goes on as follows (Numbers xxxi. 13): "And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp; and Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; and Moses said unto them, "Have ye saved all the women alive?" behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, "kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women- children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for Yourselves."

    Answered here.

    Among the detestable villains that in any period of the world have disgraced the name of man, it is impossible to find a greater than Moses, if this account be true. Here is an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and debauch the daughters.

    Would it have been better to let them starve and suffer slow, painful deaths in the wilderness and at the claws of wild beasts?

    Let any mother put herself in the situation of those mothers, one child murdered, another destined to violation, and herself in the hands of an executioner: let any daughter put herself in the situation of those daughters, destined as a prey to the murderers of a mother and a brother, and what will be their feelings? It is in vain that we attempt to impose upon nature, for nature will have her course, and the religion that tortures all her social ties is a false religion.

    Yes, let any 18th century mother do that...but Paine lives in a relatively comfortable society with something of a social-safety net, ample food and water, no wild beasts roaming around except if you wander too far from the settled areas, and no problem if you have a gun. As for feelings, Paine is again anachronizing his own individualism. The ancients would have stood bravely and accepted their fate.

    After this detestable order, follows an account of the plunder taken, and the manner of dividing it; and here it is that the profanenegs of priestly hypocrisy increases the catalogue of crimes. Verse 37, "And the Lord's tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen; and the beeves were thirty and six thousand, of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and twelve; and the asses were thirty thousand, of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and one; and the persons were sixteen thousand, of which the Lord's tribute was thirty and two."

    Hypocrisy? Paine doesn't even have the name of one priest listed, or examine their lifestyle; whence the hypocrisy? There is none; he's just imposing his own perception (maybe right, maybe not) of priests in HIS era unto the text.

    In short, the matters contained in this chapter, as well as in many other parts of the Bible, are too horrid for humanity to read, or for decency to hear;

    But, he did reprint it...?

    for it appears, from the 35th verse of this chapter, that the number of women-children consigned to debauchery by the order of Moses was thirty-two thousand.

    What he calls "debauchery", as the link shows, was life-saving mercy. They would not have been unhappy about their fate.

    People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! it is quite another thing, it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy, than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty!

    In short, rational belief is fore-assumed to be impossible.

    But to return to my subject, that of showing that Moses is not the author of the books ascribed to him, and that the Bible is spurious. The two instances I have already given would be sufficient, without any additional evidence, to invalidate the authenticity of any book that pretended to be four or five hundred years more ancient than the matters it speaks of, refers to, them as facts; for in the case of pursuing them unto Dan, and of the kings that reigned over the children of Israel; not even the flimsy pretence of prophecy can be pleaded. The expressions are in the preter tense, and it would be downright idiotism to say that a man could prophecy in the preter tense.

    Just TWO is enough to invalidate ALL five books, including the three with no such error? And in that light, by the one point noted above, all of Paine's works, even beyond AR, are to be discarded.

    But there are many other passages scattered throughout those books that unite in the same point of evidence. It is said in Exodus, (another of the books ascribed to Moses,) xvi. 35: "And the children of Israel did eat manna until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna untit they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan."

    Whether the children of Israel ate manna or not, or what manna was, or whether it was anything more than a kind of fungus or small mushroom, or other vegetable substance common to that part of the country, makes no part of my argument; all that I mean to show is, that it is not Moses that could write this account, because the account extends itself beyond the life time of Moses. Moses, according to the Bible, (but it is such a book of lies and contradictions there is no knowing which part to believe, or whether any) died in the wilderness, and never came upon the borders of 'the land,of Canaan; and consequently, it could not be he that said what the children of Israel did, or what they ate when they came there. This account of eating manna, which they tell us was written by Moses, extends itself to the time of Joshua, the successor of Moses, as appears by the account given in the book of Joshua, after the children of Israel had passed the river Jordan, and came into the borders of the land of Canaan. Joshua, v. 12: "And the manna ceased on the morrow, after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more, but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year."

    It's Paine's graphocentrism at work again. And again, by the standards of ancient authorship, Moses need only have been the writer or compliler of the major portions; after his death, a scribe or a redactor would be able to put it all together and Moses would still get credit. Little side comments like this one are clearly redactive work -- just like footnotes in modern editions of AR might tell of what happened after Paine' death.

    But a more remarkable instance than this occurs in Deuteronomy; which, while it shows that Moses could not be the writer of that book, shows also the fabulous notions that prevailed at that time about giants' In Deuteronomy iii. 11, among the conquests said to be made by Moses, is an account of the taking of Og, king of Bashan: "For only Og, king of Bashan, remained of the race of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man." A cubit is 1 foot 9 888/1000 inches; the length therefore of the bed was 16 feet 4 inches, and the breadth 7 feet 4 inches: thus much for this giant's bed. Now for the historical part, which, though the evidence is not so direct and positive as in the former cases, is nevertheless very presumable and corroborating evidence, and is better than the best evidence on the contrary side.

    The writer, by way of proving the existence of this giant, refers to his bed, as an ancient relick, and says, is it not in Rabbath (or Rabbah) of the children of Ammon? meaning that it is; for such is frequently the bible method of affirming a thing. But it could not be Moses that said this, because Moses could know nothing about Rabbah, nor of what was in it. Rabbah was not a city belonging to this giant king, nor was it one of the cities that Moses took. The knowledge therefore that this bed was at Rabbah, and of the particulars of its dimensions, must be referred to the time when Rabbah was taken, and this was not till four hundred years after the death of Moses; for which, see 2 Sam. xii. 26: "And Joab [David's general] fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city," etc.

    Same argument, different subject. It's no more a negative indicator than a modern footnote in Paine's AR; the comment has a redactive quality as a side comment to the main story. Obviously a suzerainty treaty has little reason to go into the details about someone's mattress.

    As I am not undertaking to point out all the contradictions in time, place, and circumstance that abound in the books ascribed to Moses, and which prove to demonstration that those books could not be written by Moses, nor in the time of Moses, I proceed to the book of Joshua, and to shew that Joshua is not the author of that book, and that it is anonymous and without authority.

    The standard view would be that the traditions go back to Joshua; the book itself -- and much thereafter -- may well have been compiled by Jeremiah or a later writer from such traditions. At any rate, it is only graphocentrism that causes Paine to link "anonymity" with "non-authority". Not that it matters, since oral traditions seldom come in any culture with authorial attributions; they are considered community property.

    The evidence I shall produce is contained in the book itself: I will not go out of the Bible for proof against the supposed authenticity of the Bible. False testimony is always good against itself.

    At this point I will edit a bit; Paine's arguments are highly repetitive by now, and his arguments against Joshua are the same as those found against Moses: 1) written in the third person (actually also a feature of oral tradition, when you get down to it); 2) it's full of things Paine doesn't like (as in the Canaanites); 3) he says Joshua would not say of himself, "his fame was noised throughout all the country." -- as before, imposing Enlightenment standards of personal humility, but even so, by the note we have above, an example of 4) redactive activity by a later author. Paine's examples of these include the report of what those did who lived after Joshua (24:31); the reference to "no day before or like" the sun standing still in 10:14 (and yes -- Paine comments on how ridiculous he thinks that is; see here for a reply); the "unto this day" about Ai in 8:28 and the Jebusites in 15:63; Paine, like even many modern Christians, had no conception of the use of (reliable) oral tradition or the compiliation of accounts in writing, or of the updating of anachronisms in the transmission process. In his view, it simply had to have been written down all at once, by the same person, and that was the only option.

    Paine's treatment of Judges is much the same, but we will pick up here again for something different:

    This book begins with the same expression as the book of Joshua. That of Joshua begins, chap i. 1, Now after the death of Moses, etc., and this of the Judges begins, Now after the death of Joshua, etc. This, and the similarity of stile between the two books, indicate that they are the work of the same author; but who he was, is altogether unknown; the only point that the book proves is that the author lived long after the time of Joshua; for though it begins as if it followed immediately after his death, the second chapter is an epitome or abstract of the whole book, which, according to the Bible chronology, extends its history through a space of 306 years; that is, from the death of Joshua, B.C. 1426 to the death of Samson, B.C. 1120, and only 25 years before Saul went to seek his father's asses, and was made king. But there is good reason to believe, that it was not written till the time of David, at least, and that the book of Joshua was not written before the same time.

    Oddly enough Paine foresaw the day when then entire "Deuteronomic history" would be ascribed -- in our view, in terms of redaction and collation -- to Jeremiah. Yes, the style of the introductions is the same, and that is exactly where we would expect a collator's work to be the same.

    In Judges i., the writer, after announcing the death of Joshua, proceeds to tell what happened between the children of Judah and the native inhabitants of the land of Canaan. In this statement the writer, having abruptly mentioned Jerusalem in the 7th verse, says immediately after, in the 8th verse, by way of explanation, "Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and taken it;" consequently this book could not have been written before Jerusalem had been taken. The reader will recollect the quotation I have just before made from Joshua xv. 63, where it said that the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem at this day; meaning the time when the book of Joshua was written.

    Notice again how narrow Paine's view is: The book had to be written all at once to be authoritative. It would never occur to him that this was a progressive and collected history, of the sort that an oral society would produce. Most extended histories of course MUST be done this way -- it's hard to write history any other way if you go over more than a human lifespan in your report.

    The evidence I have already produced to prove that the books I have hitherto treated of were not written by the persons to whom they are ascribed,

    Ascribed by whom, though? Not by the books themselves, for as mostly grounded in oral traditions, they would be community property.

    nor till many years after their death, if such persons ever lived, is already so abundant, that I can afford to admit this passage with less weight than I am entitled to draw from it.

    Again, that assumption that time and authorship somehow detracts from authenticity of content.

    For the case is, that so far as the Bible can be credited as an history, the city of Jerusalem was not taken till the time of David; and consequently, that the book of Joshua, and of Judges, were not written till after the commencement of the reign of David, which was 370 years after the death of Joshua.

    The name of the city that was afterward called Jerusalem was originally Jebus, or Jebusi, and was the capital of the Jebusites. The account of David's taking this city is given in 2 Samuel, v. 4, etc.; also in 1 Chron. xiv. 4, etc. There is no mention in any part of the Bible that it was ever taken before, nor any account that favours such an opinion. It is not said, either in Samuel or in Chronicles, that they "utterly destroyed men, women and children, that they left not a soul to breathe," as is said of their other conquests; and the silence here observed implies that it was taken by capitulation; and that the Jebusites, the native inhabitants, continued to live in the place after it was taken. The account therefore, given in Joshua, that "the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah" at Jerusalem at this day, corresponds to no other time than after taking the city by David.

    Here Paine spends time on a non-solution he supposes someone might propose. At the same time, this is without knowledge of the political nature of the ANE in which cities changed hands and/or were shared in short order.

    Having now shown that every book in the Bible, from Genesis to Judges, is without authenticity, I come to the book of Ruth, an idle, bungling story, foolishly told, nobody knows by whom, about a strolling country-girl creeping slily to bed to her cousin Boaz.

    An editor adds: "The text of Ruth does not imply the unpleasant sense Paine's words are likely to convey." And the editor is right: the social background here is much more complex and not a matter of Ruth bed-hopping as Paine seems to think.

    Pretty stuff indeed to be called the word of God. It is, however, one of the best books in the Bible, for it is free from murder and rapine.

    What did Paine do when confronted with the horrors of the French Revolution, then? Did he call for reports of them to be censored?

    I come next to the two books of Samuel, and to shew that those books were not written by Samuel, nor till a great length of time after the death of Samuel; and that they are, like all the former books, anonymous, and without authority.

    Same issues raised om anonymity; but again, the answers lie in the same place. Again we'll edit for brevity; Paine otherwise late-dates all of 1 and 2 Samuel by the "in that day" note of 9:9 -- quite explicable from the hands of a redactor like Jeremiah. Oddly enough Paine doesn't "get" that this explanation almost demands that the part that 9:9 is explaining MUST have been written earlier. Again, he has that "all or nothing" mentality. Otherwise he notes that the Samuels (especially 2) record events after Samuel's death, but this is only a problem if one thinks Samuel was the author, which Paine apparently thinks was what was thought, but it certainly isn't what even the most conservative scholarship today would hold. Samuel may well have been the source for many of the stories -- but that is not the same thing. We'll pick up where Paine finishes with Samuel and issues a challenge:

    I have now gone through all the books in the first part of the Bible, to which the names of persons are affixed, as being the authors of those books,

    No, not really.

    and which the church, styling itself the Christian church, have imposed upon the world as the writings of Moses, Joshua and Samuel;

    The Jews "imposed" that paradigm hundreds of years before the church was a twinkle in history's eye.

    and I have detected and proved the falsehood of this imposition. -- And now ye priests, of every description, who have preached and written against the former part of the 'Age of Reason,' what have ye to say? Will ye with all this mass of evidence

    Evidence? All Paine has done is repeat the same three anachronistic and fallacious arguments several times.

    against you, and staring you in the face, still have the assurance to march into your pulpits, and continue to impose these books on your congregations, as the works of inspired penmen and the word of God?

    It didn't happen in Paine' still isn't happening now.

    when it is as evident as demonstration can make truth appear, that the persons who ye say are the authors, are not the authors, and that ye know not who the authors are.

    Just as we now know, because of the insertion into the French version of AR, and of footnotes into modern editions, that he can't be the author of Age of Reason?

    What shadow of pretence have ye now to produce for continuing the blasphemous fraud? What have ye still to offer against the pure and moral religion of deism,

    which is now essentially dead, ironically

    in support of your system of falsehood, idolatry, and pretended revelation? Had the cruel and murdering orders, with which the Bible is filled, and the numberless torturing executions of men, women, and children, in consequence of those orders,

    We answered about women and children above, but -- men, now, too? Paine hardly favored making peace with the British rather than shooting them.

    been ascribed to some friend, whose memory you revered, you would have glowed with satisfaction at detecting the falsehood of the charge, and gloried in defending his injured fame. It is because ye are sunk in the cruelty of superstition, or feel no interest in the honour of your Creator, that ye listen to the horrid tales of the Bible, or hear them with callous indifference. The evidence I have produced, and shall still produce in the course of this work, to prove that the Bible is without authority, will, whilst it wounds the stubbornness of a priest, relieve and tranquillize the minds of millions: it will free them from all those hard thoughts of the Almighty which priestcraft and the Bible had infused into their minds, and which stood in everlasting opposition to all their ideas of his moral justice and benevolence.

    I come now to the two books of Kings, and the two books of Chronicles. -- Those books are altogether historical, and are chiefly confined to the lives and actions of the Jewish kings, who in general were a parcel of rascals:

    Imagine what Paine would have made of most American Presidents...!

    but these are matters with which we have no more concern than we have with the Roman emperors, or Homer's account of the Trojan war. Besides which, as those books are anonymous, and as we know nothing of the writer, or of his character, it is impossible for us to know what degree of credit to give to the matters related therein.

    Same arguments we have answered above.

    Like all other ancient histories, they appear to be a jumble of fable and of fact, and of probable and of improbable things, but which distance of time and place, and change of circumstances in the world, have rendered obsolete and uninteresting.

    To Paine, perhaps. But his "interest" does not govern the content of works.

    The chief use I shall make of those books will be that of comparing them with each other, and with other parts of the Bible, to show the confusion, contradiction, and cruelty in this pretended word of God.

    Again, Paine has a subjective idea of what is "cruel" and under what circumstances, and had no conception of basic principles of things like textual criticism and Hellenistic historical methods. I'll skip 3 paragraphs where Paine summarizes the contents of the books.

    These two books are little more than a history of assassinations, treachery, and wars.

    Sounds like the history of America and the Western nations, 1776-2005...

    The cruelties that the Jews had accustomed themselves to practise on the Canaanites, whose country they had savagely invaded, under a pretended gift from God, they afterwards practised as furiously on each other.

    Not quite as furiously, and see the link to Miller's Tank (qamorite) above.

    Scarcely half their kings died a natural death, and in some instances whole families were destroyed to secure possession to the successor, who, after a few years, and sometimes only a few months, or less, shared the same fate.

    Sounds like the Roman Empire...

    In 2 Kings x., an account is given of two baskets full of children's heads, seventy in number, being exposed at the entrance of the city;

    Children's? No, it doesn't say that; they were descdendants, not necessarily children by age; moreover it shows that the kingship was falling into the habits of the Assyrian war machine.

    they were the children of Ahab, and were murdered by the orders of Jehu, whom Elisha, the pretended man of God, had anointed to be king over Israel, on purpose to commit this bloody deed, and assassinate his predecessor.

    As shown in my article here, a shrewd and necessary poilitical move, lest someone get one of those heirs and lead yet another bloody coup against Jehu.

    And in the account of the reign of Menahem, one of the kings of Israel who had murdered Shallum, who had reigned but one month, it is said, 2 Kings xv. 16, that Menahem smote the city of Tiphsah, because they opened not the city to him, and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.

    This is again a rejection of a mirror, and an asking for an elixir.

    Could we permit ourselves to suppose that the Almighty would distinguish any nation of people by the name of his chosen people, we must suppose that people to have been an example to all the rest of the world of the purest piety and humanity, and not such a nation of ruffians and cut-throats as the ancient Jews were,

    The description sounds like the way the British described the Paine's method, God could never choose a chosen people since no one has ever been perfect. Besides that, how does Paine know the Jews were not the best available choice? Did he go down a list of nations and do a moral evaluation?

    -- a people who, corrupted by and copying after such monsters and imposters as Moses and Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, and David, had distinguished themselves above all others on the face of the known earth for barbarity and wickedness.

    Vague generalization, always assuming that the behavior was unjustified based only on Paine's personal tastes, to wit:

    If we will not stubbornly shut our eyes and steel our hearts it is impossible not to see, in spite of all that long-established superstition imposes upon the mind, that the flattering appellation of his chosen people is no other than a LIE which the priests and leaders of the Jews had invented to cover the baseness of their own characters; and which Christian priests sometimes as corrupt, and often as cruel, have professed to believe.

    Fair enough, I will reply that if we weren't weak like Paine, we would see that the judgments were fair, just, and true. How did I just prove anything? I didn't, and neither did Paine by his words.

    The two books of Chronicles are a repetition of the same crimes; but the history is broken in several places, by the author leaving out the reign of some of their kings; and in this, as well as in that of Kings, there is such a frequent transition from kings of Judah to kings of Israel, and from kings of Israel to kings of Judah, that the narrative is obscure in the reading.

    Paine found it hard to read, and that makes it obscure? There's no chance it was a deficiency in his own understanding?

    In the same book the history sometimes contradicts itself: for example, in 2 Kings, i. 17, we are told, but in rather ambiguous terms, that after the death of Ahaziah, king of Israel, Jehoram, or Joram, (who was of the house of Ahab, reigned in his stead in the second Year of Jehoram, or Joram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah; and in viii. 16, of the same book, it is said, "And in the fifth year of Joram, the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat king of judah, began to reign." That is, one chapter says Joram of Judah began to reign in the second year of Joram of Israel; and the other chapter says, that Joram of Israel began to reign in the fifth year of Joram of Judah.

    What Paine calls "ambiguous" is resolvable easily in textual-critical terms as a copyist error Even if he didn't know Hebrew this surely wasn't beyond Paine's ability to figure out.

    Several of the most extraordinary matters related in one history, as having happened during the reign of such or such of their kings, are not to be found in the other, in relating the reign of the same king:

    Paine was without knowledge that these people didn't have reams of paper to write on, and printing presses at their disposal; there was no need to repeat something unless the writer had a purpose in doing so.

    for example, the two first rival kings, after the death of Solomon, were Rehoboam and Jeroboam; and in i Kings xii. and xiii. an account is given of Jeroboam making an offering of burnt incense, and that a man, who is there called a man of God, cried out against the altar (xiii. 2): "O altar, altar! thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burned upon thee." Verse 4: "And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him; and his hand which he put out against him dried up so that he could not pull it again to him."

    One would think that such an extraordinary case as this, (which is spoken of as a judgement,) happening to the chief of one of the parties, and that at the first moment of the separation of the Israelites into two nations, would, if it,. had been true, have been recorded in both histories.

    Why? No other reason than that Paine thought so and imposed his own sense of what was "extraordinary", and then also imposed his graphocentrism. The story would be preserved orally.

    But though men, in later times, have believed all that the prophets have said unto them, it does appear that those prophets, or historians, disbelieved each other: they knew each other too well.

    A vague generalization drawn from an anachronistic conclusion.

    A long account also is given in Kings about Elijah. It runs through several chapters, and concludes with telling, 2 Kings ii. 11, "And it came to pass, as they (Elijah and Elisha) still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Hum! this the author of Chronicles, miraculous as the story is, makes no mention of, though he mentions Elijah by name; neither does he say anything of the story related in the second chapter of the same book of Kings, of a parcel of children calling Elisha bald head; and that this man of God (ver. 24) "turned back, and looked upon them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord; and there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them." He also passes over in silence the story told, 2 Kings xiii., that when they were burying a man in the sepulchre where Elisha had been buried, it happened that the dead man, as they were letting him down, (ver. 21) "touched the bones of Elisha, and he (the dead man) revived, and stood up on his feet." The story does not tell us whether they buried the man, notwithstanding he revived and stood upon his feet, or drew him up again. Upon all these stories the writer of the Chronicles is as silent as any writer of the present day, who did not chose to be accused of lying, or at least of romancing, would be about stories of the same kind.

    Given that most commentators think Chronicles used Kings as a source, this is obviously a non-mystery whatever the reason. The simplest reason is that Chronicles was filling in the gaps of the Kings record. Once again Paine merely assumed that these people had no practical or purposeful constraints on their writing. Moreover the judgment is subjective anyway: Paine never compared parallel accounts of any historical setting; one could as easily object that some event mentioned in one and not the other would "surely" have been duplicated and offer any reason to say so based purely on personal preference.

    But, however these two historians may differ from each other with respect to the tales related by either, they are silent alike with respect to those men styled prophets whose writings fill up the latter part of the Bible. Isaiah, who lived in the time of Hezekiab, is mentioned in Kings, and again in Chronicles, when these histories are speaking of that reign; but except in one or two instances at most, and those very slightly, none of the rest are so much as spoken of, or even their existence hinted at; though, according to the Bible chronology, they lived within the time those histories were written; and some of them long before. If those prophets, as they are called, were men of such importance in their day, as the compilers of the Bible, and priests and commentators have since represented them to be, how can it be accounted for that not one of those histories should say anything about them?

    Did Kings and Chronicles had any reason to mention these guys? It's another matter of Paine not respecting the constraints. Plus many of the prophets wrote their own history (like Jeremiah); why duplicate it needlessly? Others like Habakkuk may have had no more than that as their career. Either way, it also never occurred to Paine that traditions need not have been written down -- oral transmission was sufficient. Paine follows with some summary data on the Prophets and when they lived; we'll skip that other than noting that he shows his lack of scholarly acumen in part by comparing the work of Kings and Chronicles to historians of his day. We'll move to where he makes one last point on Chronicles:

    In my observations on the book of Genesis, I have quoted a passage from xxxvi. 31, which evidently refers to a time, after that kings began to reign over the children of Israel; and I have shown that as this verse is verbatim the same as in 1 Chronicles i. 43, where it stands consistently with the order of history, which in Genesis it does not, that the verse in Genesis, and a great part of the 36th chapter, have been taken from Chronicles; and that the book of Genesis, though it is placed first in the Bible, and ascribed to Moses, has been manufactured by some unknown person, after the book of Chronicles was written, which was not until at least eight hundred and sixty years after the time of Moses.

    The evidence I proceed by to substantiate this, is regular, and has in it but two stages. First, as I have already stated, that the passage in Genesis refers itself for time to Chronicles; secondly, that the book of Chronicles, to which this passage refers itself, was not begun to be written until at least eight hundred and sixty years after the time of Moses. To prove this, we have only to look into 1 Chronicles iii. 15, where the writer, in giving the genealogy of the descendants of David, mentions Zedekiah; and it was in the time of Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, B.C. 588, and consequently more than 860 years after Moses. Those who have superstitiously boasted of the antiquity of the Bible, and particularly of the books ascribed to Moses, have done it without examination, and without any other authority than that of one credulous man telling it to another: for, so far as historical and chronological evidence applies, the very first book in the Bible is not so ancient as the book of Homer, by more than three hundred years, and is about the same age with AEsop's Fables.

    Paine never made the connection, again, "Maybe these were added as a sort of footnote, just like my author's and editor's notes?" No, it's the same "all or nothing" fallacy as before.

    I am not contending for the morality of Homer; on the contrary, I think it a book of false glory, and tending to inspire immoral and mischievous notions of honour; and with respect to AEsop, though the moral is in general just, the fable is often cruel; and the cruelty of the fable does more injury to the heart, especially in a child, than the moral does good to the judgment.

    Having now dismissed Kings and Chronicles, I come to the next in course, the book of Ezra.

    As one proof, among others I shall produce to shew the disorder in which this pretended word of God, the Bible, has been put together, and the uncertainty of who the authors were, we have only to look at the first three verses in Ezra, and the last two in 2 Chronicles; for by what kind of cutting and shuffling has it been that the first three verses in Ezra should be the last two verses in 2 Chronicles, or that the last two in 2 Chronicles should be the first three in Ezra? Either the authors did not know their own works or the compilers did not know the authors.

    Last Two Verses of 2 Chronicles.

    Ver. 22. Now in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, that the word of the Lord, spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah, might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying.

    earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.

    First Three Verses of Ezra.

    Ver. 1. Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, that the word of the Lord, by the mouth of Jeremiah, might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying.

    2. Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

    3. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (he is the God) which is in Jerusalem.

    The last verse in Chronicles is broken abruptly, and ends in the middle of the phrase with the word 'up' without signifying to what place. This abrupt break, and the appearance of the same verses in different books, show as I have already said, the disorder and ignorance in which the Bible has been put together, and that the compilers of it had no authority for what they were doing, nor we any authority for believing what they have done.

    Most commentators are willing to ascribe Chronicles to Ezra. Once again Paine missed the simple answer: This is Ezra's way of linking the two books. If they were on separate scrolls, this was an easy way to check at once that you had the right scroll for "Part 2".

    [NOTE I observed, as I passed along, several broken and senseless passages in the Bible, without thinking them of consequence enough to be introduced in the body of the work; such as that, 1 Samuel xiii. 1, where it is said, "Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men," &c. The first part of the verse, that Saul reigned one year has no sense, since it does not tell us what Saul did, nor say any thing of what happened at the end of that one year; and it is, besides, mere absurdity to say he reigned one year, when the very next phrase says he had reigned two for if he had reigned two, it was impossible not to have reigned one.

    Paine calls this "senseless" from the perspective of a modern English writer with no sense of Hebrew writing styles. Again he assumes his own literary values. Some of what he found "senseless" may also have been due to transmission issues, but the bottom line is he assumed too much from the start.

    Another instance occurs in Joshua v. where the writer tells us a story of an angel (for such the table of contents at the head of the chapter calls him) appearing unto Joshua; and the story ends abruptly, and without any conclusion. The story is as follows: -- Ver. 13. "And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went unto bim and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" Verse 14, "And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?" Verse 15, "And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Josbua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standeth is holy. And Joshua did so." -- And what then? nothing: for here the story ends, and the chapter too.

    Either this story is broken off in the middle, or it is a story told by some Jewish humourist in ridicule of Joshua's pretended mission from God, and the compilers of the Bible, not perceiving the design of the story, have told it as a serious matter. As a story of humour and ridicule it has a great deal of point; for it pompously introduces an angel in the figure of a man, with a drawn sword in his hand, before whom Joshua falls on his face to the earth, and worships (which is contrary to their second commandment;) and then, this most important embassy from heaven ends in telling Joshua to pull off his shoe. It might as well have told him to pull up his breeches.

    Paine missed one possibility: That he didn't understand the symbolic importance of removing the sandals to an ancient person. Think of the Japanese rempving their shoes before entering a house, or Muslims removing footwear before entering a mosque. This was a token of respect, like bowing or kneeling, and Paine should have at least gotten the idea from the point that the ground was holy. It should have at least crossed Paine's mind to ask whether the problem was his own understanding.

    [It is certain, however, that the Jews did not credit every thing their leaders told them, as appears from the cavalier manner in which they speak of Moses, when he was gone into the mount. As for this Moses, say they, we wot not what is become of him. Exod. xxxii. 1. -- Auther.]

    Overgeneralization. As if this one comment carried such heavy implications, and travelled across time to Jews after the time of Moses?

    The only thing that has any appearance of certainty in the book of Ezra is the time in which it was written, which was immediately after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, about B.C. 536. Ezra (who, according to the Jewish commentators, is the same person as is called Esdras in the Apocrypha) was one of the persons who returned, and who, it is probable, wrote the account of that affair. Nebemiah, whose book follows next to Ezra, was another of the returned persons; and who, it is also probable, wrote the account of the same affair, in the book that bears his name. But those accounts are nothing to us, nor to any other person, unless it be to the Jews, as a part of the history of their nation; and there is just as much of the word of God in those books as there is in any of the histories of France, or Rapin's history of England, or the history of any other country.

    But even in matters of historical record, neither of those writers are to be depended upon. In Ezra ii., the writer gives a list of the tribes and families, and of the precise number of souls of each, that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem; and this enrolment of the persons so returned appears to have been one of the principal objects for writing the book; but in this there is an error that destroys the intention of the undertaking.

    Paine goes on to delineate some of the numerical differences between Ezra and Nehemiah, which we'll leave out; see here for a reply. That constitutes his entire reason for rejecting these books.

    The next book in course is the book of Esther. If Madam Esther thought it any honour to offer herself as a kept mistress to Ahasuerus, or as a rival to Queen Vashti, who had refused to come to a drunken king in the midst of a drunken company, to be made a show of, (for the account says, they had been drinking seven days, and were merry,) let Esther and Mordecai look to that, it is no business of ours, at least it is none of mine; besides which, the story has a great deal the appearance of being fabulous, and is also anonymous. I pass on to the book of Job.

    "No business of ours"? Imagine how upset Paine would be if someone dismissed AR that way.

    The book of Job differs in character from all the books we have hitherto passed over. Treachery and murder make no part of this book;

    Any book that mentions treachery or murder, even as a reflection, Paine rejects as historical or useful? That's quite detailed criteria for rejection.

    it is the meditations of a mind strongly impressed with the vicissitudes of human life, and by turns sinking under, and struggling against the pressure. It is a highly wrought composition, between willing submission and involuntary discontent; and shows man, as he sometimes is,

    It's a little inconsistent that when the other books do that in a way that makes Paine uncomfortable, he objects to it on those grounds.

    more disposed to be resigned than he is capable of being. Patience has but a small share in the character of the person of whom the book treats; on the contrary, his grief is often impetuous; but he still endeavours to keep a guard upon it, and seems determined, in the midst of accumulating ills, to impose upon himself the hard duty of contentment.

    I have spoken in a respectful manner of the book of Job in the former part of the 'Age of Reason,' but without knowing at that time what I have learned since; which is, that from all the evidence that can be collected, the book of Job does not belong to the Bible.

    Why not? Paine actually violates his promise to use only the Bible itself:

    I have seen the opinion of two Hebrew commentators, Abenezra and Spinoza, upon this subject; they both say that the book of Job carries no internal evidence of being an Hebrew book; that the genius of the composition, and the drama of the piece, are not Hebrew; that it has been translated from another language into Hebrew, and that the author of the book was a Gentile; that the character represented under the name of Satan (which is the first and only time this name is mentioned in the Bible) does not correspond to any Hebrew idea; and that the two convocations which the Deity is supposed to have made of those whom the poem calls sons of God, and the familiarity which this supposed Satan is stated to have with the Deity, are in the same case.

    Even if true, these hardly exclude Job from a place in the OT canon. The story itself may go back to Abraham's era. Spinoza at least was no Biblical scholar; at any rate, there is no logic to the idea that a book MUST be written in Hebrew, etc. in order to be part of the OT canon. This is arbitrary.

    It may also be observed, that the book shows itself to be the production of a mind cultivated in science, which the Jews, so far from being famous for, were very ignorant of.

    Make this statement today, and you're rightly regarded as an anti-Semite. Why is Paine given more leeway today?

    The allusions to objects of natural philosophy are frequent and strong, and are of a different cast to any thing in the books known to be Hebrew.

    So the Hebrews were incapable of such sophisticated thought? Again, this would hardly pass muster in academic discourse today.

    The astronomical names, Pleiades, Orion, and Arcturus, are Greek and not Hebrew names, and it does not appear from any thing that is to be found in the Bible that the Jews knew any thing of astronomy, or that they studied it, they had no translation of those names into their own language, but adopted the names as they found them in the poem. [

    I have to highlight this editorial note:

    Paine's Jewish critic, David Levi, fastened on this slip ("Detence of the Old Testament," 1797, p. 152). In the original the names are Ash (Arcturus), Kesil' (Orion), Kimah' (Pleiades), though the identifications of the constellations in the A.S.V. have been questioned. -- Editor.

    If Paine was this misinformed, and made such an assumption about the constellation names by reading only an English version, why is he an authority otherwise?


    That the Jews did translate the literary productions of the Gentile nations into the Hebrew language, and mix them with their own, is not a matter of doubt; Proverbs xxxi. i, is an evidence of this: it is there said, The word of king Lemuel, the prophecy which his mother taught him. This verse stands as a preface to the proverbs that follow, and which are not the proverbs of Solomon, but of Lemuel; and this Lemuel was not one of the kings of Israel, nor of Judah, but of some other country, and consequently a Gentile.

    "Lemuel" means "belonging to God" and is regarded as a symbolic name for Solomon.

    The Jews however have adopted his proverbs; and as they cannot give any account who the author of the book of Job was, nor how they came by the book, and as it differs in character from the Hebrew writings, and stands totally unconnected with every other book and chapter in the Bible before it and after it, it has all the circumstantial evidence of being originally a book of the Gentiles.

    Did Paine have the wherewithal to make such sound stylistic judgments. He didn't. These are just vague assertions, utterly undocumented and not backed up with any detailed comparisons. Thus:

    [The prayer known by the name of Agur's Prayer, in Proverbs xxx., -- immediately preceding the proverbs of Lemuel, -- and which is the only sensible, well-conceived, and well-expressed prayer in the Bible, has much the appearance of being a prayer taken from the Gentiles.

    Doesn't this have the scent of anti-Semitism again? Why from Gentiles?

    The name of Agur occurs on no other occasion than this;

    Agur means "gathered" in Hebrew. Why does a name need to appear more than once for Paine to accept it?

    and he is introduced, together with the prayer ascribed to him, in the same manner, and nearly in the same words, that Lemuel and his proverbs are introduced in the chapter that follows.

    Meaning, what? Shouldn't it occur to Paine that the editor of Proverbs would use the same words to introduce contributors?

    The first verse says, "The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: "here the word prophecy is used with the same application it has in the following chapter of Lemuel, unconnected with anything of prediction. The prayer of Agur is in the 8th and 9th verses, "Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither riches nor poverty, but feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full and deny thee and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." This has not any of the marks of being a Jewish prayer, for the Jews never prayed but when they were in trouble, and never for anything but victory, vengeance, or riches. -- Author.

    The anti-Semitism once again speaks for itself. Either way, there are prayers of thanks all over the OT and NT and in non-Biblical Jewish literature. The Jews of the rabbinic era even had a prayer thanking God for their ability to urinate.

    The Bible-makers, and those regulators of time, the Bible chronologists, appear to have been at a loss where to place and how to dispose of the book of Job; for it contains no one historical circumstance, nor allusion to any, that might serve to determine its place in the Bible.

    Actually false; though perhaps in Paine's time they had not discovered the meaning of the references (i.e., land of Uz) and placed all the markers in order.

    But it would not have answered the purpose of these men to have informed the world of their ignorance; and, therefore, they have affixed it to the aera of B.C. 1520, which is during the time the Israelites were in Egypt, and for which they have just as much authority and no more than I should have for saying it was a thousand years before that period.

    The dates I have seen are earlier than 1520.

    The probability however is, that it is older than any book in the Bible; and it is the only one that can be read without indignation or disgust.

    This, we may note, from someone who calls Ruth an "idle, bungling tale".

    We know nothing of what the ancient Gentile world (as it is called) was before the time of the Jews, whose practice has been to calumniate and blacken the character of all other nations; and it is from the Jewish accounts that we have learned to call them heathens.

    Paine can be marginally forgiven, since he was unaware of archaeological and literary evidence showing that the OT accurately reports (albeit obviously as a snapshot) the crude and cruel practices of their neighbors. Only marginally forgiven, however, as this nevertheless reflects a continued anti-Semitism.

    But, as far as we know to the contrary, they were a just and moral people,

    As far as we know? In Paine's time, they knew virtually nothing.

    and not addicted, like the Jews, to cruelty and revenge, but of whose profession of faith we are unacquainted.

    We may wonder what Paine would make of the discovery, for example, of infant sacrifice practiced in Canaan. He was unduly influenced, perhaps, by Rousseau's "noble savage" ideas.

    It appears to have been their custom to personify both virtue and vice by statues and images, as is done now-a-days both by statuary and by painting; but it does not follow from this that they worshipped them any more than we do.

    They did. Paine nevertheless had no relevant anthropological or cross-cultural knowledge to make such an assessment or speak authoritatively.

    -- I pass on to the book of,

    Psalms, of which it is not necessary to make much observation. Some of them are moral, and others are very revengeful; and the greater part relates to certain local circumstances of the Jewish nation at the time they were written, with which we have nothing to do.

    "I don't care"? What if chapters of AR were regarded that way?

    It is, however, an error or an imposition to call them the Psalms of David; they are a collection, as song-books are now-a- days, from different song-writers, who lived at different times.

    True. But no one doubts this.

    The 137th Psalm could not have been written till more than 400 years after the time of David, because it is written in commemoration of an event, the capitivity of the Jews in Babylon, which did not happen till that distance of time. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows, in the midst thereof; for there they that carried us away cartive required of us a song, saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion." As a man would say to an American, or to a Frenchman, or to an Englishman, sing us one of your American songs, or your French songs, or your English songs. This remark, with respect to the time this psalm was written, is of no other use than to show (among others already mentioned) the general imposition the world has been under with respect to the authors of the Bible. No regard has been paid to time, place, and circumstance; and the names of persons have been affixed to the several books which it was as impossible they should write, as that a man should walk in procession at his own funeral.

    So Paine finds one "anachronism", and the whole book gets rejected? No sense of an anthology collected over time?

    The Book of Proverbs. These, like the Psalms, are a collection, and that from authors belonging to other nations than those of the Jewish nation, as I have shewn in the observations upon the book of Job; besides which, some of the Proverbs ascribed to Solomon did not appear till two hundred and fifty years after the death of Solomon; for it is said in xxv. i, "These are also proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out." It was two hundred and fifty years from the time of Solomon to the time of Hezekiah.

    Paine again had absolutely no idea about the preserving power of oral tradition. The word in question, however, does allow for copying from another written source.

    When a man is famous and his name is abroad he is made the putative father of things he never said or did; and this, most probably, has been the case with Solomon. It appears to have been the fashion of that day to make proverbs, as it is now to make jest-books, and father them upon those who never saw them.

    Paine offers not a scrap of proof for any of this. "Most probably" -- on no basis at all.

    The book of Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, is also ascribed to Solomon, and that with much reason, if not with truth. It is written as the solitary reflections of a worn-out debauchee, such as Solomon was, who looking back on scenes he can no longer enjoy, cries out All is Vanity! A great deal of the metaphor and of the sentiment is obscure, most probably by translation; but enough is left to show they were strongly pointed in the original. [Those that look out of the window shall be darkened, is an obscure figure in translation for loss of sight. -- Author.] From what is transmitted to us of the character of Solomon, he was witty, ostentatious, dissolute, and at last melancholy. He lived fast, and died, tired of the world, at the age of fifty-eight years.

    Seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, are worse than none; and, however it may carry with it the appearance of heightened enjoyment, it defeats all the felicity of affection, by leaving it no point to fix upon; divided love is never happy. This was the case with Solomon; and if he could not, with all his pretensions to wisdom, discover it beforehand, he merited, unpitied, the mortification he afterwards endured. In this point of view, his preaching is unnecessary, because, to know the consequences, it is only necessary to know the cause. Seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines would have stood in place of the whole book. It was needless after this to say that all was vanity and vexation of spirit; for it is impossible to derive happiness from the company of those whom we deprive of happiness.

    To be happy in old age it is necessary that we accustom ourselves to objects that can accompany the mind all the way through life, and that we take the rest as good in their day. The mere man of pleasure is miserable in old age; and the mere drudge in business is but little better: whereas, natural philosophy, mathematical and mechanical science, are a continual source of tranquil pleasure, and in spite of the gloomy dogmas of priests, and of superstition, the study of those things is the study of the true theology; it teaches man to know and to admire the Creator, for the principles of science are in the creation, and are unchangeable, and of divine origin.

    Those who knew Benjaman Franklin will recollect, that his mind was ever young; his temper ever serene; science, that never grows grey, was always his mistress. He was never without an object; for when we cease to have an object we become like an invalid in an hospital waiting for death.

    I left out comment here as none is needed, though it is fascinating that Paine seemed almost pleased by Ecclesiastes, perhaps even haunted by it. Oddly I find that this is the book Skeptics often like the most in the OT.

    Solomon's Songs, amorous and foolish enough

    Foolish? Is this not a subjective, even rude, value judgment?

    , but which wrinkled fanaticism has called divine. -- The compilers of the Bible have placed these songs after the book of Ecclesiastes; and the chronologists have affixed to them the aera of B.C. 1O14, at which time Solomon, according to the same chronology, was nineteen years of age, and was then forming his seraglio of wives and concubines. The Bible-makers and the chronologists should have managed this matter a little better, and either have said nothing about the time, or chosen a time less inconsistent with the supposed divinity of those songs; for Solomon was then in the honey-moon of one thousand debaucheries.

    It should also have occurred to them, that as he wrote, if he did write, the book of Ecclesiastes, long after these songs, and in which he exclaims that all is vanity and vexation of spirit, that he included those songs in that description.

    If I read Paine right here, he is essentially demanding that Solomon should have referred back to his own songs in Ecclesiastes. Why, we are not told.

    This is the more probable, because he says, or somebody for him, Ecclesiastes ii. 8, I got me men-singers, and women-singers (most probably to sing those songs], and musical instruments of all sores; and behold (Ver. ii), "all was vanity and vexation of spirit." The compilers however have done their work but by halves; for as they have given us the songs they should have given us the tunes, that we might sing them.

    Hard to tell if Paine was being funny, or serious.

    The books called the books of the Prophets fill up all the remaining part of the Bible; they are sixteen in number, beginning with Isaiah and ending with Malachi, of which I have given a list in the observations upon Chronicles. Of these sixteen prophets, all of whom except the last three lived within the time the books of Kings and Chronicles were written, two only, Isaiah and Jeremiah, are mentioned in the history of those books. I shall begin with those two, reserving, what I have to say on the general character of the men called prophets to another part of the work.

    Whoever will take the trouble of reading the book ascribed to Isaiah, will find it one of the most wild and disorderly compositions ever put together; it has neither beginning, middle, nor end; and, except a short historical part, and a few sketches of history in the first two or three chapters, is one continued incoherent, bombastical rant, full of extravagant metaphor, without application, and destitute of meaning; a school-boy would scarcely have been excusable for writing such stuff; it is (at least in translation) that kind of composition and false taste that is properly called prose run mad.

    As I asked before, had Paine never heard of an anthology?

    The historical part begins at chapter xxxvi., and is continued to the end of chapter xxxix. It relates some matters that are said to have passed during the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, at which time Isaiah lived. This fragment of history begins and ends abruptly; it has not the least connection with the chapter that precedes it, nor with that which follows it, nor with any other in the book. It is probable that Isaiah wrote this fragment himself, because he was an actor in the circumstances it treats of; but except this part there are scarcely two chapters that have any connection with each other. One is entitled, at the beginning of the first verse, the burden of Babylon; another, the burden of Moab; another, the burden of Damascus; another, the burden of Egypt; another, the burden of the Desert of the Sea; another, the burden of the Valley of Vision: as you would say the story of the Knight of the Burning Mountain, the story of Cinderella, or the glassen slipper, the story of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, etc., etc.

    Notice the leap with no actual proof of falsity. Paine obviously was content to suppose that Isaiah's compiled nature as an anthology of prophecies actually worked as an argument against it.

    I have already shown, in the instance of the last two verses of 2 Chronicles, and the first three in Ezra, that the compilers of the Bible mixed and confounded the writings of different authors with each other; which alone, were there no other cause, is sufficient to destroy the authenticity of an compilation, because it is more than presumptive evidence that the compilers are ignorant who the authors were.

    And we showed that Paine was in error.

    A very glaring instance of this occurs in the book ascribed to Isaiah: the latter part of the 44th chapter, and the beginning of the 45th, so far from having been written by Isaiah, could only have been written by some person who lived at least an hundred and fifty years after Isaiah was dead.

    This is rather ironic because even liberal scholars who divide Isaiah into pieces do so between 39-40 and never 44-45.

    These chapters are a compliment to Cyrus, who permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, as is stated in Ezra. The last verse of the 44th chapter, and the beginning of the 45th [Isaiah] are in the following words: "That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built; and to the temple thy foundations shall be laid: thus saith the Lord to his enointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee," etc.

    What audacity of church and priestly ignorance it is to impose this book upon the world as the writing of Isaiah, when Isaiah, according to their own chronology, died soon after the death of Hezekiah, which was B.C. 698; and the decree of Cyrus, in favour of the Jews returning to Jerusalem, was, according to the same chronology, B.C. 536; which is a distance of time between the two of 162 years. I do not suppose that the compilers of the Bible made these books, but rather that they picked up some loose, anonymous essays, and put them together under the names of such authors as best suited their purpose. They have encouraged the imposition, which is next to inventing it; for it was impossible but they must have observed it.

    In other words, Paine simply denies the possibility of predictive prophecy.

    When we see the studied craft of the scripture-makers, in making every part of this romantic book of school-boy's eloquence bend to the monstrous idea of a Son of God, begotten by a ghost on the body of a virgin, there is no imposition we are not justified in suspecting them of. Every phrase and circumstance are marked with the barbarous hand of superstitious torture, and forced into meanings it was impossible they could have. The head of every chapter, and the top of every page, are blazoned with the names of Christ and the Church, that the unwary reader might suck in the error before he began to read.

    Beyond the pedantry, Paine's only "argument" here is that the Church was around in pre-NT times manipulating Isaiah. Paine never anticipated the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son (Isa. vii. I4), has been interpreted to mean the person called Jesus Christ, and his mother Mary, and has been echoed through christendom for more than a thousand years; and such has been the rage of this opinion, that scarcely a spot in it but has been stained with blood and marked with desolation in consequence of it. Though it is not my intention to enter into controversy on subjects of this kind, but to confine myself to show that the Bible is spurious, -- and thus, by taking away the foundation, to overthrow at once the whole structure of superstition raised thereon, -- I will however stop a moment to expose the fallacious application of this passage.

    Paine spends a few paragraphs on this which we'll leave intact with a comment at the end.

    Whether Isaiah was playing a trick with Ahaz, king of Judah, to whom this passage is spoken, is no business of mine; I mean only to show the misapplication of the passage, and that it has no more reference to Christ and his mother, than it has to me and my mother. The story is simply this:

    The king of Syria and the king of Israel (I have already mentioned that the Jews were split into two nations, one of which was called Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, and the other Israel) made war jointly against Ahaz, king of Judah, and marched their armies towards Jerusalem. Ahaz and his people became alarmed, and the account says (Is. vii. 2), Their hearts were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.

    In this 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 satisfy Ahaz that this should be the case, tells him to ask a sign. This, the account says, Ahaz declined doing; giving as a reason that he would not tempt the Lord; upon which Isaiah, who is the speaker, says, ver. 14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son;" and the 16th verse says, "And before this child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land which thou abhorrest or dreadest [meaning Syria and the kingdom of Israel] shall be forsaken of both her kings." Here then was the sign, and the time limited for the completion of the assurance or promise; namely, before this child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good.

    Isaiah having committed himself thus far, it became necessary to him, in order to avoid the imputation of being a false prophet, and the consequences thereof, to take measures to make this sign appear. It certainly was not a difficult thing, in any time of the world, to find a girl with child, or to make her so; and perhaps Isaiah knew of one beforehand; for I do not suppose that the prophets of that day were any more to be trusted than the priests of this: be that, however, as it may, he says in the next chapter, ver. 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 bare a son."

    Here then is the whole story, foolish as it is, of this child and this virgin; and it is upon the barefaced perversion of this story that the book of Matthew, and the impudence and sordid interest of priests in later times, have founded a theory, which they call the gospel; and have applied this story to signify the person they call Jesus Christ; begotten, they say, by a ghost, whom they call holy, on the body of a woman engaged in marriage, and afterwards married, whom they call a virgin, seven hundred years after this foolish story was told; a theory which, speaking for myself, I hesitate not to believe, and to say, is as fabulous and as false as God is true. [In Is. vii. 14, it is said that the child should be called Immanuel; but this name was not given to either of the children, otherwise than as a character, which the word signifies. That of the prophetess was called Maher-shalalhash- baz, and that of Mary was called Jesus. -- Author.]

    And that's it. And every word is rendered false by proper study of first-century Jewish exegetical methods of which Paine knew nothing. See here.

    But to show the imposition and falsehood of Isaiah we have only to attend to the sequel of this story; which, though it is passed over in silence in the book of Isaiah, is related in 2 Chronicles, xxviii; and which is, that instead of these two kings failing in their attempt against Ahaz, king of Judah, as Isaiah had pretended to foretel in the name of the Lord, they succeeded: Ahaz was defeated and destroyed; an hundred and twenty thousand of his people were slaughtered; Jerusalem was plundered, and two hundred thousand women and sons and daughters carried into captivity. Thus much for this lying prophet and imposter Isaiah, and the book of falsehoods that bears his name.

    Why this impugns Isaiah is far from clear. Paine apparently thinks the explanation obvious, but it isn't.

    I pass on to the book of

    Jeremiah. This prophet, as he is called, lived in the time that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, in the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah; and the suspicion was strong against him that he was a traitor in the interest of Nebuchadnezzar. Every thing relating to Jeremiah shows him to have been a man of an equivocal character: in his metaphor of the potter and the clay, (ch. xviii.) he guards his prognostications in such a crafty manner as always to leave himself a door to escape by, in case the event should be contrary to what he had predicted. In the 7th and 8th verses he makes the Almighty to say, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and destroy it, if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent me of the evil that I thought to do unto them." Here was a proviso against one side of the case: now for the other side. Verses 9 and 10, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent me of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." Here is a proviso against the other side; and, according to this plan of prophesying, a prophet could never be wrong, however mistaken the Almighty might be. This sort of absurd subterfuge, and this manner of speaking of the Almighty, as one would speak of a man, is consistent with nothing but the stupidity of the Bible.

    It wasn't that easy -- the conditions set are obvious: immediate repentance upon receipt of the prophetic oracle -- note the word "instant". If there was no repetance at once, there could be no way out as Paine suggests if the prophecy thereafter failed. He missed that qualifying phrase.

    As to the authenticity of the book, it is only necessary to read it in order to decide positively that, though some passages recorded therein may have been spoken by Jeremiah, he is not the author of the book. The historical parts, if they can be called by that name, are in the most confused condition; the same events are several times repeated, and that in a manner different, and sometimes in contradiction to each other; and this disorder runs even to the last chapter, where the history, upon which the greater part of the book has been employed, begins anew, and ends abruptly. The book has all the appearance of being a medley of unconnected anecdotes respecting persons and things of that time,

    Once again, Paine had no conception of what an "anthology" was, it seems.

    collected together in the same rude manner as if the various and contradictory accounts that are to be found in a bundle of newspapers, respecting persons and things of the present day, were put together without date, order, or explanation.

    Which actually is a good descriptor for certain ancient works, compiled as they were over time and on the subject of different events.

    I will give two or three examples of this kind.

    It appears, from the account of chapter xxxvii. that the army of Nebuchadnezzer, which is called the army of the Chaldeans, had besieged Jerusalem some time; and on their hearing that the army of Pharaoh of Egypt was marching against them, they raised the siege and retreated for a time. It may here be proper to mention, in order to understand this confused history, that Nebuchadnezzar had besieged and taken Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoakim, the redecessor of Zedekiah; and that it was Nebuchadnezzar who had make Zedekiah king, or rather viceroy; and that this second siege, of which the book of Jeremiah treats, was in consequence of the revolt of Zedekiah against Nebuchadnezzar. This will in some measure account for the suspicion that affixes itself to Jeremiah of being a traitor, and in the interest of Nebuchadnezzar, -- whom Jeremiah calls, xliii. 10, the servant of God.

    Chapter xxxvii. 11-13, says, "And it came to pass, that, when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem, for fear of Pharaoh's army, that Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem, to go (as this account states) into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people; and when he was in the gate of Benjamin a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah ... and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans; then Jeremiah said, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans." Jeremiah being thus stopt and accused, was, after being examined, committed to prison, on suspicion of being a traitor, where he remained, as is stated in the last verse of this chapter.

    But the next chapter gives an account of the imprisonment of Jeremiah, which has no connection with this account, but ascribes his imprisonment to another circumstance, and for which we must go back to chapter xxi. It is there stated, ver. 1, that Zedekiah sent Pashur the son of Malchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to Jeremiah, to enquire of him concerning Nebuchadnezzar, whose army was then before Jerusalem; and Jeremiah said to them, ver. 8, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I set before you the way of life, and the way of death; he that abideth in this city shall die by the sword and by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he that goeth out and falleth to the Clialdeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey."

    Paine is confused here; in the former chapter Jeremiah was kept in the court of the prison, and in the second chapter was stuck down in a dungeon that was in the court of the prison. In other words, he was already in jail, and then got solitary. What then of Paine's claims of confusion? Paine spends another few lines concerning this alleged difference; then he makes issue of the story of David and Saul which we address here. Paine, again, had no sense of the process and means of oral transmission.

    In the next chapter (Jer. xxxix.) we have another instance of the disordered state of this book; for notwithstanding the siege of the city by Nebuchadnezzar has been the subject of several of the preceding chapters, particularly xxxvii. and xxxviii., chapter xxxix. begins as if not a word had been said upon the subject, and as if the reader was still to be informed of every particular respecting it; for it begins with saying, ver. 1, "In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and besieged it," etc.

    Again, it never occurred to Paine that these were formerly separate documents, collected in an anthology as Jeremiah's works. It is rather ironic that Paine refers to the author of Jeremiah as a "stupid book-maker" in this light. He also applies graphohocentrism again: "The errors are such as could not have been committed by any person sitting down to compose a work. Were I, or any other man, to write in such a disordered manner, no body would read what was written, and every body would suppose that the writer was in a state of insanity." In other words, if it wasn't written in even the STYLE he thought was the most orderly, the author must have been ignorant or insane. The ironic thing is that he concludes that "the book is a medley of detached unauthenticated anecdotes" -- describing in "detached anecdotes" the very process of compiliation we would expect from literature that began in an oral stage and/or was compiled originally from notes, into an anthology. Paine next moves to alleged falsehoods of Jeremiah:

    It appears from chapter xxxviii. that when Jeremiah was in prison, Zedekiah sent for him, and at this interview, which was private, Jeremiah pressed it strongly on Zedekiah to surrender himself to the enemy. "If," says he, (ver. 17,) thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live," etc. Zedekiah was apprehensive that what passed at this conference should be known; and he said to Jeremiah, (ver. 25,) "If the princes [meaning those of Judah] hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king; hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; and also what the king said unto thee; then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him, and "he told them according to all the words the king had comenanded." Thus, this man of God, as he is called, could tell a lie, or very strongly prevaricate, when he supposed it would answer his purpose; for certainly he did not go to Zedekiah to make this supplication, neither did he make it; he went because he was sent for, and he employed that opportunity to advise Zedekiah to surrender himself to Nebuchadnezzar.

    Would Paine have been ramrod honest with a sword at his throat? Would he have lied to the Nazis about the Jews in his cellar (a very good analogy for Jeremiah's situation, as it happens, since there was a certain amount of morale at stake) and then taken the heat as a prevaricator? And last of all, Paine had no conception of the "honorable lie" that was part and parcel of the normal praxis in antiquity -- a practice regarded as eminently moral, and in that circumstance, it was.

    In chapter xxxiv. 2-5, is a prophecy of Jeremiah to Zedekiah in these words: "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire; and thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but thou shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. Yet hear the word of the Lord; O Zedekiah, king, of Judah, thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not die by the sword, but thou shalt die in Peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings that were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee, and they will lament thee, saying, Ah, Lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord."

    Now, instead of Zedekiah beholding the eyes of the king of Babylon, and speaking with him mouth to mouth, and dying in peace, and with the burning of odours, as at the funeral of his fathers, (as Jeremiah had declared the Lord himself had pronounced,) the reverse, according to chapter Iii., 10, 11 was the case; it is there said, that the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

    What then can we say of these prophets, but that they are impostors and liars?

    See the answer here.

    As for Jeremiah, he experienced none of those evils. He was taken into favour by Nebuchadnezzar, who gave him in charge to the captain of the guard (xxxix, 12), "Take him (said he) and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee." Jeremiah joined himself afterwards to Nebuchadnezzar, and went about prophesying for him against the Egyptians, who had marched to the relief of Jerusalem while it was besieged. Thus much for another of the lying prophets, and the book that bears his name.

    I have been the more particular in treating of the books ascribed to Isaiah and Jeremiah, because those two are spoken of in the books of Kings and Chronicles, which the others are not. The remainder of the books ascribed to the men called prophets I shall not trouble myself much about; but take them collectively into the observations I shall offer on the character of the men styled prophets.

    One gets the impression that Paine didn't really have his heart into doing that much work. Scholars have written dozens of commentaries and periodical articles on these books; Paine got them over with in a few sentences. Is this someone who warrants authority on these matters?

    In the former part of the 'Age of Reason,' I have said that the word prophet was the Bible-word for poet, and that the flights and metaphors of Jewish poets have been foolishly erected into what are now called prophecies.

    Note that error again.

    I am sufficiently justified in this opinion, not only because the books called the prophecies are written in poetical language, but because there is no word in the Bible, except it be the word prophet, that describes what we mean by a poet. I have also said, that the word signified a performer upon musical instruments, of which I have given some instances; such as that of a company of prophets, prophesying with psalteries, with tabrets, with pipes, with harps, etc., and that Saul prophesied with them, 1 Sam. x., 5. It appears from this passage, and from other parts in the book of Samuel, that the word prophet was confined to signify poetry and music; for the person who was supposed to have a visionary insight into concealed things, was not a prophet but a seer, [I know not what is the Hebrew word that corresponds to the word seer in English; but I observe it is translated into French by Le Voyant, from the verb voir to see, and which means the person who sees, or the seer. -- Author.

    The Hebrew word for Seer, in 1 Samuel ix., transliterated, is chozeh, the gazer, it is translated in Is. xlvii. 13, "the stargazers." -- Editor.] (i Sam, ix. 9;) and it was not till after the word seer went out of use (which most probably was when Saul banished those he called wizards) that the profession of the seer, or the art of seeing, became incorporated into the word prophet.

    According to the modern meaning of the word prophet and prophesying, it signifies foretelling events to a great distance of time;

    No, actually, it refers to exhortation, which is inclusive of foretelling.

    and it became necessary to the inventors of the gospel to give it this latitude of meaning, in order to apply or to stretch what they call the prophecies of the Old Testament, to the times of the New. But according to the Old Testament, the prophesying of the seer, and afterwards of the prophet, so far as the meaning of the word "seer" was incorporated into that of prophet, had reference only to things of the time then passing, or very closely connected with it; such as the event of a battle they were going to engage in, or of a journey, or of any enterprise they were going to undertake, or of any circumstance then pending, or of any difficulty they were then in; all of which had immediate reference to themselves (as in the case already mentioned of Ahaz and Isaiah with respect to the expression, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,) and not to any distant future time. It was that kind of prophesying that orresponds to what we call fortune-telling; such as casting nativities, predicting riches, fortunate or unfortunate marriages, conjuring for lost goods, etc.; and it is the fraud of the Christian church, not that of the Jews, and the ignorance and the superstition of modern, not that of ancient times, that elevated those poetical, musical, conjuring, dreaming, strolling gentry, into the rank they have since had.

    See note above and link on NT use of the OT. Paine's entire case is built on sand.

    But, besides this general character of all the prophets, they had also a particular character. They were in parties, and they prophesied for or against, according to the party they were with; as the poetical and political writers of the present day write in defence of the party they associate with against the other.

    After the Jews were divided into two nations, that of Judah and that of Israel, each party had its prophets, who abused and accused each other of being false prophets, lying prophets, impostors, etc.

    Overstated, but to some extent true. Even so: Either one side was right, or neither was. None of this says anything against any true prophets.

    The prophets of the party of Judah prophesied against the prophets of the party of Israel; and those of the party of Israel against those of Judah. This party prophesying showed itself immediately on the separation under the first two rival kings, Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The prophet that cursed, or prophesied against the altar that Jeroboam had built in Bethel, was of the party of Judah, where Rehoboam was king; and he was way-laid on his return home by a prophet of the party of Israel, who said unto him (i Kings xiii.) "Art thou the man of God that came from Judah? and he said, I am." Then the prophet of the party of Israel said to him "I am a prophet also, as thou art, [signifying of Judah,] and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee unto thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water; but (says the 18th verse) he lied unto him." The event, however, according to the story, is, that the prophet of Judah never got back to Judah; for he was found dead on the road by the contrivance of the prophet of Israel, who no doubt was called a true prophet by his own party, and the prophet of Judah a lying brophet.

    "One religion is as good as another, because they are all false." By Paine's logic, it would be de facto impossible for there to be a true prophet at all in Israel or Judah.

    In 2 Kings, iii., a story is related of prophesying or conjuring that shews, in several particulars, the character of a prophet.

    Note that Paine thinks ONE example is enough to show up the character of prophets across time and space.

    Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and Joram king of Israel, had for a while ceased their party animosity, and entered into an alliance; and these two, together with the king of Edom, engaged in a war against the king of Moab. After uniting and marching their armies, the story says, they were in great distress for water, upon which Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? and one of the servants of the king of Israel said here is Elisha. [Elisha was of the party of Judah.] And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah said, The word of the Lord is with him." The story then says, that these three kings went down to Elisha; and when Elisha [who, as I have said, was a Judahmite prophet] saw the King of Israel, he said unto him, "What have I to do with thee, get thee to the prophets of thy father and the prophets of thy mother. Nay but, said the king of Israel, the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hands of the king of Moab," (meaning because of the distress they were in for water;) upon which Elisha said, "As the Lord of hosts liveth before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not look towards thee nor see thee." Here is all the venom and vulgarity of a party prophet.

    Venom and vulgarity to tell an evil king you wouldn't pay attention to him and are serving for the sake of a good king? So what does this say about how Paine would have reacted in person to George III? I also wonder what he made of Franklin's satires of the English monarchy...and I don't recall Common Sense being all that nice to the British, come to that...nor does AR rate high on the non-venom, non-vulgar scale.

    We are now to see the performance, or manner of prophesying.

    Ver. 15. "Bring me," (said Elisha), "a minstrel; and it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." Here is the farce of the conjurer.

    No, here is the Paine not knowing that putting the prophecy to music was a good way to make sure it was remembered. Just like that hit song on the radio you like to hum.

    Now for the prophecy: "And Elisha said, [singing most probably to the tune he was playing],

    That's correct -- yet Paine no doubt was being sarcastic and mocking.

    Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches; "which was just telling them what every countryman could have told them without either fiddle or farce, that the way to get water was to dig for it.

    But this was an instruction on a battle tactic, not an instruction to get water. And Paine doesn't tell the rest of the story.

    But as every conjuror is not famous alike for the same thing, so neither were those prophets; for though all of them, at least those I have spoken of, were famous for lying, some of them excelled in cursing. Elisha, whom I have just mentioned, was a chief in this branch of prophesying; it was he that cursed the forty-two children in the name of the Lord, whom the two she-bears came and devoured. We are to suppose that those children were of the party of Israel; but as those who will curse will lie, there is just as much credit to be given to this story of Elisha's two she- bears as there is to that of the Dragon of Wantley, of whom it is said:

    See "Isn't that thing with the bears too excessive?" which includes a link to another article by Glenn Miller on the same subject.

      Poor children three devoured be,
      That could not with him grapple;
      And at one sup he eat them up,
      As a man would eat an apple.

      Though these poor children probably weren't cursing prophets of the holy God and robbing farmsteads of their livelihood.

    There was another description of men called prophets, that amused themselves with dreams and visions; but whether by night or by day we know not. These, if they were not quite harmless, were but little mischievous. Of this class are

    EZEKIEL and DANIEL; and the first question upon these books, as upon all the others, is, Are they genuine? that is, were they written by Ezekiel and Daniel?

    Of this there is no proof; but so far as my own opinion goes, I am more inclined to believe they were, than that they were not. My reasons for this opinion are as follows: First, Because those books do not contain internal evidence to prove they were not written by Ezekiel and Daniel, as the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, etc., prove they were not written by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, etc.

    Secondly, Because they were not written till after the Babylonish captivity began; and there is good reason to believe that not any book in the bible was written before that period; at least it is proveable, from the books themselves, as I have already shown, that they were not written till after the commencement of the Jewish monarchy.

    Thirdly, Because the manner in which the books ascribed to Ezekiel and Daniel are written, agrees with the condition these men were in at the time of writing them.

    Once again: Paine did not have the wherewithal to make such judgments. And he doesn't give a single specific to back up these claims.

    Had the numerous commentators and priests, who have foolishly employed or wasted their time in pretending to expound and unriddle those books,

    Paine says it is a waste of time. So hundreds of Biblical scholars are "wasting their time" too? Isn't this just a tad presumptuous of Paine?

    been carred into captivity, as Ezekiel and Daniel were, it would greatly have improved their intellects in comprehending the reason for this mode of writing, and have saved them the trouble of racking their invention, as they have done to no purpose; for they would have found that themselves would be obliged to write whatever they had to write, respecting their own affairs, or those of their friends, or of their country, in a concealed manner, as those men have done.

    Paine just delivered news here that was known in rabbinic literature.

    These two books differ from all the rest; for it is only these that are filled with accounts of dreams and visions: and this difference arose from the situation the writers were in as prisoners of war, or prisoners of state, in a foreign country, which obliged them to convey even the most trifling information to each other, and all their political projects or opinions, in obscure and metaphorical terms. They pretend to have dreamed dreams, and seen visions, because it was unsafe for them to speak facts or plain language. We ought, however, to suppose, that the persons to whom they wrote understood what they meant,

    Paine here is admitting that the context ascribes meaning, but he didn't grant this for the other parts of the Bible.

    and that it was not intended anybody else should. But these busy commentators and priests have been puzzling their wits to find out what it was not intended they should know, and with which they have nothing to do.

    Paine here may be speaking of the Edgar Whisenants or Grant Jeffreys of his day. If he is, we agree.

    Ezekiel and Daniel were carried prisoners to Babylon, under the first captivity, in the time of Jehoiakim, nine years before the second captivity in the time of Zedekiah. The Jews were then still numerous, and had considerable force at Jerusalem; and as it is natural to suppose that men in the situation of Ezekiel and Daniel would be meditating the recovery of their country, and their own deliverance, it is reasonable to suppose that the accounts of dreams and visions with which these books are filled, are no other than a disguised mode of correspondence to facilitate those objects: it served them as a cypher, or secret alphabet. If they are not this, they are tales, reveries, and nonsense; or at least a fanciful way of wearing off the wearisomeness of captivity; but the presumption is, they are the former.

    Ezekiel begins his book by speaking of a vision of cherubims, and of a wheel within a wheel, which he says he saw by the river Chebar, in the land of his captivity. Is it not reasonable to suppose that by the cherubims he meant the temple at Jerusalem, where they had figures of cherubims? and by a wheel within a wheel (which as a figure has always been understood to signify political contrivance) the project or means of recovering Jerusalem? In the latter part of his book he supposes himself transported to Jerusalem, and into the temple; and he refers back to the vision on the river Chebar, and says, (xliii- 3,) that this last vision was like the vision on the river Chebar; which indicates that those pretended dreams and visions had for their object the recovery of Jerusalem, and nothing further.

    Paine's interpretation of course is widely off; the wheel within a wheel was a sign of divine power and ability, for example.

    As to the romantic interpretations and applications, wild as the dreams and visions they undertake to explain, which commentators and priests have made of those books, that of converting them into things which they call prophecies, and making them bend to times and circumstances as far remote even as the present day, it shows the fraud or the extreme folly to which credulity or priestcraft can go.

    Scarcely anything can be more absurd than to suppose that men situated as Ezekiel and Daniel were, whose country was over-run, and in the possession of the enemy, all their friends and relations in captivity abroad, or in slavery at home, or massacred, or in continual danger of it; scarcely any thing, I say, can be more absurd than to suppose that such men should find nothing to do but that of employing their time and their thoughts about what was to happen to other nations a thousand or two thousand years after they were dead; at the same time nothing more natural than that they should meditate the recovery of Jerusalem, and their own deliverance; and that this was the sole object of all the obscure and apparently frantic writing contained in those books.

    On this at least we agree with Paine -- he did indeed seem to be talking to the Hal Lindseys of his day.

    In this sense the mode of writing used in those two books being forced by necessity, and not adopted by choice, is not irrational; but, if we are to use the books as prophecies, they are false. In Ezekiel xxix. 11., speaking of Egypt, it is said, "No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast pass through it; neither shall it be inhabited for forty years." This is what never came to pass, and consequently it is false, as all the books I have already reviewed are. -- I here close this part of the subject.

    See our citations on the page for Ezekiel.

    In the former part of 'The Age of Reason' I have spoken of Jonah, and of the story of him and the whale. -- A fit story for ridicule, if it was written to be believed; or of laughter, if it was intended to try what credulity could swallow; for, if it could swallow Jonah and the whale it could swallow anything.

    And we commented on this above.

    But, as is already shown in the observations on the book of Job and of Proverbs, it is not always certain which of the books in the Bible are originally Hebrew, or only translations from the books of the Gentiles into Hebrew; and, as the book of Jonah, so far from treating of the affairs of the Jews, says nothing upon that subject, but treats altogether of the Gentiles, it is more probable that it is a book of the Gentiles than of the Jews,

    What's the logic here? A person can only write about the affairs of their own people?

    and that it has been written as a fable to expose the nonsense, and satyrize the vicious and malignant character, of a Bible-prophet, or a predicting priest.

    Jonah is represented, first as a disobedient prophet, running away from his mission, and taking shelter aboard a vessel of the Gentiles, bound from Joppa to Tarshish; as if he ignorantly supposed, by such a paltry contrivance, he could hide himself where God could not find him.

    The same attitude people today have -- Paine is merely mocking a real attitude. Jonah may also have harbored a mistaken idea -- common among the ancients -- that a deity only had power in its own land.

    The vessel is overtaken by a storm at sea; and the mariners, all of whom are Gentiles, believing it to be a judgement on account of some one on board who had committed a crime, agreed to cast lots to discover the offender; and the lot fell upon Jonah. But before this they had cast all their wares and merchandise over-board to lighten the vessel, while Jonah, like a stupid fellow, was fast asleep in the hold.

    So does Paine want to deny people are foolish this way? More likely, he just put this in as a gratuitous insult without concern for consistency with the realities of life.

    After the lot had designated Jonah to be the offender, they questioned him to know who and what he was? and he told them he was an Hebrew; and the story implies that he confessed himself to be guilty. But these Gentiles, instead of sacrificing him at once without pity or mercy, as a company of Bible-prophets or priests would have done by a Gentile in the same case, and as it is related Samuel had done by Agag, and Moses by the women and children,

    Not a comparison at all, since the men of the ship were not at war with Jonah's people.

    they endeavoured to save him, though at the risk of their own lives: for the account says, "Nevertheless [that is, though Jonah was a Jew and a foreigner, and the cause of all their misfortunes, and the loss of their cargo] the men rowed hard to bring the boat to land, but they could not, for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them." Still however they were unwilling to put the fate of the lot into execution; and they cried, says the account, unto the Lord, saying, "We beseech thee, O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee." Meaning thereby, that they did not presume to judge Jonah guilty, since that he might be innocent; but that they considered the lot that had fallen upon him as a decree of God, or as it pleased God.

    Paine just answered out why they didn't just throw Jonah overboard to start, and doesn't see that he solved his own "objection" above.

    The address of this prayer shows that the Gentiles worshipped one Supreme Being, and that they were not idolaters as the Jews represented them to be.

    The Jews hardly represented 100% of all Gentiles as idolaters; Paine posits a strawman of excess. What of Melchizedek and Jethro? Paine also forgets that the sailors were indeed far from worshippers of the true God, Jonah 1:5: "Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god..." They recognized Yahweh's supremacy only when the going got tough.

    But the storm still continuing, and the danger encreasing, they put the fate of the lot into execution, and cast Jonah in the sea; where, according to the story, a great fish swallowed him up whole and alive!

    We have now to consider Jonah securely housed from the storm in the fish's belly. Here we are told that he prayed; but the prayer is a made-up prayer, taken from various parts of the Psalms, without connection or consistency, and adapted to the distress, but not at all to the condition that Jonah was in. It is such a prayer as a Gentile, who might know something of the Psalms, could copy out for him. This circumstance alone, were there no other, is sufficient to indicate that the whole is a made-up story.

    Jonah couldn't make use of the Psalms to compose a prayer? Actually it was considerd an art form to cobble together pieces of the Scriptures in new and creative ways. Paine is simply placing an unreasonable demand for originality on the text.

    The prayer, however, is supposed to have answered the purpose, and the story goes on, (taking-off at the same time the cant language of a Bible-prophet,) saying, "The Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon dry land."

    Jonah then received a second mission to Nineveh, with which he sets out; and we have now to consider him as a preacher. The distress he is represented to have suffered, the remembrance of his own disobedience as the cause of it, and the miraculous escape he is supposed to have had, were sufficient, one would conceive, to have impressed him with sympathy and benevolence in the execution of his mission; but, instead of this, he enters the city with denunciation and malediction in his mouth, crying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."

    Warning the people of impending doom is not a show of benevolence? Mark that down next time a fire breaks out. Not that it matters; Paine is imposing (again) a template of individualistic sympathizing on a culture than was much more collectivist in outlook and more inclined to show hostility to an "outgroup" as the Ninevites were to Jonah (especially as they were the Jews' deadly enemies).

    We have now to consider this supposed missionary in the last act of his mission; and here it is that the malevolent spirit of a Bible-prophet, or of a predicting priest, appears in all that blackness of character that men ascribe to the being they call the devil.

    Having published his predictions, he withdrew, says the story, to the east side of the city. -- But for what? not to contemplate in retirement the mercy of his Creator to himself or to others, but to wait, with malignant impatience, the destruction of Nineveh. It came to pass, however, as the story relates, that the Ninevites reformed, and that God, according to the Bible phrase, repented him of the evil he had said he would do unto them, and did it not. This, saith the first verse of the last chapter, displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry. His obdurate heart would rather that all Nineveh should be destroyed, and every soul, young and old, perish in its ruins, than that his prediction should not be fulfilled. To expose the character of a prophet still more, a gourd is made to grow up in the night, that promises him an agreeable shelter from the heat of the sun, in the place to which he is retired; and the next morning it dies.

    Yes, Jonah had a "bad attitude". Not an elixir but a mirror.

    Here the rage of the prophet becomes excessive, and he is ready to destroy himself. "It is better, said he, for me to die than to live." This brings on a supposed expostulation between the Almighty and the prophet; in which the former says, "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And Jonah said, I do well to be angry even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it to grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than threescore thousand persons, that cannot discern between their right hand and their left?"

    Here is both the winding up of the satire, and the moral of the fable.

    Satire indeed -- God's satire on men's behavior and inability to measure up to His righteousness.

    As a satire, it strikes against the character of all the Bible-prophets,

    All? So if Paine was caught in a drunken stupor, does that strike against the character of all of the Founding Fathers?

    and against all the indiscriminate judgements upon men, women and children, with which this lying book, the bible, is crowded; such as Noah's flood, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the extirpation of the Canaanites, even to suckling infants, and women with child; because the same reflection 'that there are more than threescore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left,' meaning young children, applies to all their cases. It satirizes also the supposed partiality of the Creator for one nation more than for another.

    False comparison, given that people in Noah's time and in Canaan had been given ample time to repent. We have no timeframe given for Sodom and Gomorrah. Nineveh did get overthrown later.

    As a moral, it preaches against the malevolent spirit of prediction; for as certainly as a man predicts ill, he becomes inclined to wish it. The pride of having his judgment right hardens his heart, till at last he beholds with satisfaction, or sees with disappointment, the accomplishment or the failure of his predictions. -- This book ends with the same kind of strong and well-directed point against prophets, prophecies and indiscriminate judgements, as the chapter that Benjamin Franklin made for the Bible, about Abraham and the stranger, ends against the intolerant spirit of religious persecutions -- Thus much for the book Jonah.

    Of the poetical parts of the Bible, that are called prophecies, I have spoken in the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' and already in this, where I have said that the word for prophet is the Bible-word for Poet, and that the flights and metaphors of those poets, many of which have become obscure by the lapse of time and the change of circumstances, have been ridiculously erected into things called prophecies, and applied to purposes the writers never thought of.

    A view Paine held which was entirely erroneous, as noted above.

    When a priest quotes any of those passages, he unriddles it agreeably to his own views, and imposes that explanation upon his congregation as the meaning of the writer. The whore of Babylon has been the common whore of all the priests, and each has accused the other of keeping the strumpet; so well do they agree in their explanations.

    There now remain only a few books, which they call books of the lesser prophets; and as I have already shown that the greater are impostors, it would be cowardice to disturb the repose of the little ones. Let them sleep, then, in the arms of their nurses, the priests, and both be forgotten together.

    Hard to tell here also if he's trying be funny.

    I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie; and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never make them grow. -- I pass on to the books of the New Testament.

    Once again, these are subjects that have been written about so much; yet Paine thinks his few words, not even touching the scholarship of his day, was adequate analysis?


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

    Polemic, not logic; plus vague generalization. "They" tell us? Who? To what extent? Why?

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

    It is not then the existence or the non-existence, of the persons that I trouble myself about; it is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene. It gives an account of a young woman engaged to be married, and while under this engagement, she is, to speak plain language, debauched by a ghost,

    As noted, this is one of Paine's great misapprehensions; an act of creative fiat is not a case of "debauchery" no matter how he chooses to describe it.

    under the impious pretence, (Luke i. 35,) that "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee."

    Paine actually envisions God using the description of divine fiat as an excuse to have sex with Mary. Is this perhaps his deism at work? Yes, see next paragraph.

    Notwithstanding which, Joseph afterwards marries her, cohabits with her as his wife, and in his turn rivals the ghost. This is putting the story into intelligible language, and when told in this manner, there is not a priest but must be ashamed to own it. [Mary, the supposed virgin, mother of Jesus, had several other children, sons and daughters. See Matt. xiii. 55, 56. -- Author.]

    Obscenity in matters of faith, however wrapped up, is always a token of fable and imposture; for it is necessary to our serious belief in God, that we do not connect it with stories that run, as this does, into ludicrous interpretations.

    Yet it is Paine himself who foisted this "obscene" interpretation on the text.

    This story is, upon the face of it, the same kind of story as that of Jupiter and Leda, or Jupiter and Europa, or any of the amorous adventures of Jupiter; and shews, as is already stated in the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' that the Christian faith is built upon the heathen Mythology.

    As noted in our original article, there is no comparison to be made. Leda was not impregnated via an act of creative fiat. Today Skeptics still think parallels to the "dirty old gods" hold even as liberal scholarship has rejected the comparisons. They get this, in origin, from Paine.

    As the historical parts of the New Testament, so far as concerns Jesus Christ, are confined to a very short space of time, less than two years, and all within the same country, and nearly to the same spot, the discordance of time, place, and circumstance, which detects the fallacy of the books of the Old Testament, and proves them to be impositions, cannot be expected to be found here in the same abundance.

    Why is this even an issue and how does space and time prove these to be "impositions"? We are not told.

    The New Testament compared with the Old, is like a farce of one act, in which there is not room for very numerous violations of the unities. There are, however, some glaring contradictions, which, exclusive of the fallacy of the pretended prophecies, are sufficient to show the story of Jesus Christ to be false.

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

    The same fallacy as before: a few disprove the whole. In that case, Paine's errors above on the constellations and removing footwear are "sufficient" to show him to be a "whole" without merit, do they not?

    The history of Jesus Christ is contained in the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. -- The first chapter of Matthew begins with giving a genealogy of Jesus Christ; and in the third chapter of Luke there is also given a genealogy of Jesus Christ. Did these two agree, it would not prove the genealogy to be true, because it might nevertheless be a fabrication; but as they contradict each other in every particular, it proves falsehood absolutely.

    We'll edit some of this out, including a list of the geneaologies; these matters are dealt with here and here. We'll move down to this section:

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

    There is plenty of proof, as much as there is for Tacitus' Annals; see here. On Paine's implicit accusation of pseudonymity, see here.

    But, exclusive of this, the presumption is that the books called the Evangelists, and ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and that they are impositions. The disordered state of the history in these four books,

    Disordered? Vague generalization, but perhaps showing Paine's lack of knowledge of the use of dischronologized narrative for editorial purposes.

    the silence of one book upon matters related in the other,

    Paine is again without considerations noted here

    and the disagreement that is to be found among them,

    and here

    implies that they are the productions of some unconnected individuals, many years after the things they pretend to relate, each of whom made his own legend;

    Unconnected? We wonder what Paine would make of the Q/Marcan priority hypotheses?

    and not the writings of men living intimately together, as the men called apostles are supposed to have done: in fine, that they have been manufactured, as the books of the Old Testament have been, by other persons than those whose names they bear.

    The story of the angel announcing what the church calls the immaculate conception, is not so much as mentioned in the books ascribed to Mark, and John;

    And doesn't need to be, and Paine does not tell us why it would need to be, other than, "I think it should." If Mark had put it in he would have left out something else that Paine would say is in Matthew, and Mark should have mentioned. Paine would not be happy unless all four said 100% the same thing, and then he would claim there was a conspiracy.

    and is differently related in Matthew and Luke. The former says the angel, appeared to Joseph; the latter says, it was to Mary;

    See here for reply

    but either Joseph or Mary was the worst evidence that could have been thought of; for it was others that should have testified for them, and not they for themselves.

    And who was going to give Mary a DNA test? Of course we do say that the VB is one example that can't ever be "proven" historically, so Paine is arguing against a non-position. Even if a third or fifth party saw the angel, Paine would say that that would not prove that they too were not deluded, and/or that the conception inside Mary was virginal.

    Were any girl that is now with child to say, and even to swear it, that she was gotten with child by a ghost, and that an angel told her so, would she be believed? Certainly she would not.

    It's not that simple, of course. Paine lays out this simple situation, but the data should be examined to see whether the explanation is plausible, if we have reason to think that the girl would never behave so badly. If Paine had a niece who was a "good girl" and she said this, his tune might change under certain circumstances.

    Why then are we to believe the same thing of another girl whom we never saw, told by nobody knows who, nor when, nor where?

    As if giving Paine a picture of Mary, a recording of her telling the story, and giving the scoop that it happened in Nazareth on January 23 at 3 PM, would he change his mind? No, he's just contriving reasons.

    How strange and inconsistent is it, that the same circumstance that would weaken the belief even of a probable story, should be given as a motive for believing this one, that has upon the face of it every token of absolute impossibility and imposture.

    By whom? Paine doesn't say whom he refers to here, nor what they argue.

    The story of Herod destroying all the children under two years old, belongs altogether to the book of Matthew; not one of the rest mentions anything about it. Had such a circumstance been true, the universality of it must have made it known to all the writers, and the thing would have been too striking to have been omitted by any.

    See here.

    This writer tell us, that Jesus escaped this slaughter, because Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel to flee with him into Egypt; but he forgot to make provision for John [the Baptist], who was then under two years of age. John, however, who staid behind, fared as well as Jesus, who fled; and therefore the story circumstantially belies itself.

    As noted, this is wrong -- I don't think Herod was interested in infants that far from Bethlehem.

    Not any two of these writers agree in reciting, exactly in the same words, the written inscription, short as it is, which they tell us was put over Christ when he was crucified;

    Which makes no difference, for it is within the pale or variations in oral tradition; moreover the sign was written in three languages -- I am sure Paine would not want a criminal released simply because one witness said the criminal had a jacket with five pockets, and another said four.

    and besides this, Mark says, He was crucified at the third hour, (nine in the morning;) and John says it was the sixth hour, (twelve at noon.) [According to John, (xix. 14) the sentence was not passed till about the sixth hour (noon,) and consequently the execution could not be till the afternoon; but Mark (xv. 25) Says expressly that he was crucified at the third hour, (nine in the morning,) -- Author.]

    See here for answer.

    The inscription is thus stated in those books:

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

    So one mistake makes a man guilty the rest of his life? In that case Paine just got excluded out for the duration. What of that Peter died a martyr's death in Rome? Paine goes on to list differences in the accounts of the crucifixion and events surrounding it; this we consider conceptually covered by the links above, and will skip over. It is enough to note again that Paine engages graphocentrism isnarguing that these things all surely would have been told had the authors known if them all (which is itself merely assumed). This is also the part where Paine objects that Matthew should have gone off on a tangent telling stories of the resurrected saints like whether of not they had clothes on, and what lives they went on to lead. He adds:

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

    They may well have things to say, but if they were like 95% of the population, they were illiterate. Their stories would be passed on orally. I'll add that such persons were probably in great danger from the authorities, as Lazarus had been, and Paine would have no cause to demand that they risk the lives of themselves and their families just to satisfy his curiosity about trivia. Paine now draws up a similar list of disagreements on the resurrection narratives, and we again consider that covered in the links above. We would also add this link on the subject of subjecting the Gospels to court scrutiny, which Paine alludes to. We skip to where Paine says of Matthew:

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

    Why? In the 60s, 70s or 80s I could have spoken of the Berlin Wall as standing "to this day" and it would have proven nothing like this. Alternatively this may have been a footnote in the Greek version of Matthew, as noted above for similar OT passages.

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

    Paine is missing the point that people do concoct internally contradictory excuses to get themselves out of jams. It also does not occur to Paine that the whole idea was, "We were asleep when they took it, and woke up as we saw them getting away with the body." Paine offers a bit more of differences between the Gospels -- again, addressed on above links -- we move to:

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

    What about that the authorities were looking to KILL them, hmm? Would Paine say that Patriot soldiers were "skulking" when they were trying to escape detection by the British?

    As to the account of Christ being seen by more than five hundred at once, it is Paul only who says it, and not the five hundred who say it for themselves. It is, therefore, the testimony of but one man, and that too of a man, who did not, according to the same account, believe a word of the matter himself at the time it is said to have happened.

    Paul says this as part of a creedal statement, however, accepted by the church at large and already known to the Corinthians; and Paul would by this time know many of these witnesses, and they would be known to the church at large.

    His evidence, supposing him to have been the writer of Corinthians xv., where this account is given, is like that of a man who comes into a court of justice to swear that what he had sworn before was false. A man may often see reason, and he has too always the right of changing his opinion; but this liberty does not extend to matters of fact.

    It doesn't? Why not? Paine doesn't explain why, and there is such a thing as latent discovery. Not that it matters. Paul probably either didn't know about the 500 before his conversion, or else, he did know, but merely denied the relevance of their testimony, or was even trying to destroy the movement in frustration over this unimpeachable witness.

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

    Paine demands this for no other reason than his own personal satisfaction. Nor does he give an alternate scenario that he could not (or someone could not) deny his way out of by whatever means. He just rejected the testimony about the 500 above, because it came from one person; so what more does he want?

    In the first place, the writer of the book of Matthew does not say a syllable about it; neither does the writer of the book of John. This being the case, is it possible to suppose that those writers, who affect to be even minute in other matters, would have been silent upon this, had it been true?

    It's absolutely possible, for reasons given in the links above.

    The writer of the book of Mark passes it off in a careless, slovenly manner, with a single dash of the pen, as if he was tired of romancing, or ashamed of the story.

    Actually, that part of Mark is not original; see here -- an editor does note this in AR. Would it be hard to find some "careless, slovenly" passages (subjectively) in AR and make an issue of it?

    So also does the writer of Luke. And even between these two, there is not an apparent agreement, as to the place where this final parting is said to have been.

    What about Luke's report in Acts, then?

    The book of Mark says that Christ appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, alluding to the meeting of the eleven at Jerusalem: he then states the conversation that he says passed at that meeting; and immediately after says (as a school-boy would finish a dull story,) "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God."

    Again Paine apparently didn't know about the ending of Mark; beyond that he is again judging ancient lit by his own standards, unaware of the constraints of writing on a scroll.

    But the writer of Luke says, that the ascension was from Bethany; that he (Christ) led them out as far as Bethany, and was parted from them there, and was carried up into heaven. So also was Mahomet: and, as to Moses, the apostle Jude says, ver. 9. That 'Michael and the devil disputed about his body.' While we believe such fables as these, or either of them, we believe unworthily of the Almighty.

    A false comparison, however, since the stories about Moses and Muhammed ascending are relatively late in the history. Moreover the epistles testify that Jesus ascended to the Father's right hand.

    I have now gone through the examination of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and when it is considered that the whole space of time, from the crucifixion to what is called the ascension, is but a few days, apparently not more than three or four, and that all the circumstances are reported to have happened nearly about the same spot, Jerusalem, it is, I believe, impossible to find in any story upon record so many and such glaring absurdities, contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books. They are more numerous and striking than I had any expectation of finding, when I began this examination, and far more so than I had any idea of when I wrote the former part of 'The Age of Reason.'

    Paine of course made no effort to compare four parallel stories of similar nature and determine whether this was in any sense normal in the reportage of history. It is, as our links show.

    I had then neither Bible nor Testament to refer to, nor could I procure any. My own situation, even as to existence, was becoming every day more precarious; and as I was willing to leave something behind me upon the subject, I was obliged to be quick and concise. The quotations I then made were from memory only, but they are correct;

    They may well be, but how much credit should we give someone who didn't even have the text he was criticizing?

    and the opinions I have advanced in that work are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction, -- that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world; -- that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonourable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; -- that the only true religion is deism, by which I then meant and now mean the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues; -- and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now -- and so help me God.

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

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

    This is entirely false, as the links above show.

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

    We again wonder what Paine would have made of theories of literary interdependence?

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

    Paine merely repeats himself; our answer remains the same.

    If four men are eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses to a scene, they will without any concert between them, agree as to time and place, when and where that scene happened.

    Note that Paine here speaks only of time and place. The Gospels do agree on these general details; but will those men agree on minor details in context?

    Their individual knowledge of the thing, each one knowing it for himself, renders concert totally unnecessary; the one will not say it was in a mountain in the country, and the other at a house in town; the one will not say it was at sunrise, and the other that it was dark.

    And there is no such problem in the Gospels, other than saying when the women went to the tomb; and on that matter at any rate, Paine is in error, for "sunrise" in popular language can refer to a broad spectrum of time between when it IS still dark and when the sun is fully over the horizon.

    For in whatever place it was and whatever time it was, they know it equally alike.

    They may well, but what if the barrier and terminology is itself nebulous and open to interpretation or differences in specificity?

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

    Once again, Paine is in error on such assumptions, as we show above.

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

    The story of Jesus Christ appearing after he was dead is the story of an apparition, such as timid imaginations can always create in vision, and credulity believe.

    This doesn't hold water as an explanation of the origins of the Christian faith; see here for example.

    Stories of this kind had been told of the assassination of Julius Caesar not many years before, and they generally have their origin in violent deaths, or in execution of innocent persons.

    They do not, however, have a case of such a death being followed by an upstart movement growing in overwhelmingly hostile circumstances.

    In cases of this kind, compassion lends its aid, and benevolently stretches the story. It goes on a little and a little farther, till it becomes a most certain truth.

    Interesting, but there is no evidence of such "stretching" by stages for the Resurrection and not enough time for the legend to grow and be accepted as the canonical version, especially not in the presence of hostiles. Paine's simple answer is insufficient.

    Once start a ghost, and credulity fills up the history of its life, and assigns the cause of its appearance; one tells it one way, another another way, till there are as many stories about the ghost, and about the proprietor of the ghost, as there are about Jesus Christ in these four books.

    But all four Gospels ARE consistent in reporting a resurrection -- there is no "growth" whatsoever (i.e., a middle stage would be that Jesus' body ascended to heaven while still dead).

    The story of the appearance of Jesus Christ is told with that strange mixture of the natural and impossible, that distinguishes legendary tale from fact.

    That is, if we start with a deistic worldview.

    He is represented as suddenly coming in and going out when the doors are shut, and of vanishing out of sight, and appearing again, as one would conceive of an unsubstantial vision; then again he is hungry, sits down to meat, and eats his supper. But as those who tell stories of this kind never provide for all the cases, so it is here: they have told us, that when he arose he left his grave-clothes behind him; but they have forgotten to provide other clothes for him to appear in afterwards, or to tell us what be did with them when he ascended; whether he stripped all off, or went up clothes and all.

    Do we need such details? Would they be edifying to anyone other than Paine?

    In the case of Elijah, they have been careful enough to make. him throw down his mantle; how it happened not to be burnt in the chariot of fire, they also have not told us;

    Something burns like that only if there is enough heat AND extended contact with the fire.

    but as imagination supplies all deficiencies of this kind, we may suppose if we please that it was made of salamander's wool.

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

    The books themselves, however, are well in evidence before that; see link above. Paine may have gotten a shock out of the Rylands Papyrus.

    At what time the books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, began to appear, is altogether a matter of uncertainty. There is not the least shadow of evidence of who the persons were that wrote them, nor at what time they were written; and they might as well have been called by the names of any of the other supposed apostles as by the names they are now called.

    There's as much evidence as there is for any other ancient document; see link above.

    The originals are not in the possession of any Christian Church existing, any more than the two tables of stone written on, they pretend, by the finger of God, upon Mount Sinai, and given to Moses, are in the possession of the Jews. And even if they were, there is no possibility of proving the hand-writing in either case.

    The same can be said of any ancient document.

    At the time those four books were written there was no printing, and consequently there could be no publication otherwise than by written copies, which any man might make or alter at pleasure, and call them originals.

    Paine is refuted here by modern textual criticism that shows no such difficulties in evidence.

    Can we suppose it is consistent with the wisdom of the Almighty to commit himself and his will to man upon such precarious means as these;

    Yes -- see here.

    or that it is consistent we should pin our faith upon such uncertainties? We cannot make nor alter, nor even imitate, so much as one blade of grass that he has made, and yet we can make or alter words of God as easily as words of man. [The former part of the 'Age of Reason' has not been published two years, and there is already an expression in it that is not mine. The expression is: The book of Luke was carried by a majority of one voice only. It may be true, but it is not I that have said it. Some person who might know of that circumstance, has added it in a note at the bottom of the page of some of the editions, printed either in England or in America; and the printers, after that, have erected it into the body of the work, and made me the author of it. If this has happened within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the aid of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies individually, what may not have happened in a much greater length of time, when there was no printing, and when any man who could write could make a written copy and call it an original by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John? -- Author.

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

    As our Australian reader noted, then, by this logic, AR is not Paine's work, and deserves to be discarded. And Paine did not see his own inconsistency on this point.

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

    An errant view of the canonizing process; see here.

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

    Vague generalization, and incorrect; see above link.

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

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

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

    Fauste? Faustus was a Manichean priest who was more sparkle than heat, an eloquent speaker who was utterly unable to answer many of Augustine's inquiries. Not a very useful source.)

    The reader will see by those extracts that the authenticity of the books of the New Testament was denied, and the books treated as tales, forgeries, and lies, at the time they were voted to be the word of God.

    By one man who was a heretic and was unable to answer Augustine's questions. This is also, BTW, rather later than the final canonizing process.

    But the interest of the church, with the assistance of the faggot, bore down the opposition, and at last suppressed all investigation.

    Vague generalization, yet again. Paine gives no specific examples of suppression being used to force-form the canon, and like modern Skeptics, just suggests alternate canons without examination of other candidates and only a brief look at current members of the canon.

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

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

    See the link above for comments on the Marcionites. Again Paine merely offers diversity of opinion as though its existence alone made it meaningful.

    When we consider the lapse of more than three hundred years intervening between the time that Christ is said to have lived and the time the New Testament was formed into a book, we must see, even without the assistance of historical evidence, the exceeding uncertainty there is of its authenticity. The authenticity of the book of Homer, so far as regards the authorship, is much better established than that of the New Testament, though Homer is a thousand years the most ancient.

    Yet we have far fewer copies of Homer and they are all farther from their source.

    It was only an exceeding good poet that could have written the book of Homer, and, therefore, few men only could have attempted it; and a man capable of doing it would not have thrown away his own fame by giving it to another. In like manner, there were but few that could have composed Euclid's Elements, because none but an exceeding good geometrician could have been the author of that work.

    But with respect to the books of the New Testament, particularly such parts as tell us of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, any person who could tell a story of an apparition, or of a man's walking, could have made such books; for the story is most wretchedly told.

    Mere subjective opinion and no knowledge of ancient compositional practices is all Paine offers here, As noted in the links above, he is simply in error, and there are some internal pointers to the authorship of the Gospels.

    The chance, therefore, of forgery in the Testament is millions to one greater than in the case of Homer or Euclid.

    Again, see the link above on pseudox.

    Of the numerous priests or parsons of the present day, bishops and all, every one of them can make a sermon, or translate a scrap of Latin, especially if it has been translated a thousand times before; but is there any amongst them that can write poetry like Homer, or science like Euclid? The sum total of a parson's learning, with very few exceptions, is a, b, ab, and hic, haec, hoc; and their knowledge of science is, three times one is three; and this is more than sufficient to have enabled them, had they lived at the time, to have written all the books of the New Testament.

    Paine again never dealt with any real scholars; by his own admission, he did not consider those in his own time worth consideration; and he would never be able to rebut a modern scholar.

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

    Again see links above re textual criticism and pseudox.

    But as it is not uncommon (as before observed) to relate stories of persons walking after they are dead, and of ghosts and apparitions of such as have fallen by some violent or extraordinary means; and as the people of that day were in the habit of believing such things, and of the appearance of angels, and also of devils, and of their getting into people's insides, and skaking them like a fit of an ague, and of their being cast out again as if by an emetic -- (Mary Magdalene, the book of Mark tells us had brought up, or been brought to bed of seven devils;) it was nothing extraordinary that some story of this kind should get abroad of the person called Jesus Christ, and become afterwards the foundation of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

    If Jesus were actually raised, then how could they tell of it and not be accused by Paine?

    Each writer told a tale as he heard it, or thereabouts, and gave to his book the name of the saint or the apostle whom tradition had given as the eye-witness. It is only upon this ground that the contradictions in those books can be acounted for; and if this be not the case, they are downright impositions, lies, and forgeries, without even the apology of credulity.

    As noted above, false; see links.

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

    Paine's errant stance towards NT use of OT prophecy again; see here.

    Jonah and the whale are also made into a sign and type. Jonah is Jesus, and the whale is the grave; for it is said, (and they have made Christ to say it of himself, Matt. xii. 40), "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nighis in the heart of the earth." But it happens, aukwardly enough, that Christ, according to their own account, was but one day and two nights in the grave; about 36 hours instead of 72; that is, the Friday night, the Saturday, and the Saturday night; for they say he was up on the Sunday morning by sunrise, or before.

    This is accounted for in that the Jews regarded any part of a day passing as the whole day. See relevant point here.

    But as this fits quite as well as the bite and the kick in Genesis, or the virgin and her son in Isaiah, it will pass in the lump of orthodox things. -- Thus much for the historical part of the Testament and its evidences.

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

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

    A very easy explanation, missing the point that there is no inclement weather specified. People knew what lightning looked like in this day and age, and it is rather incredible to argue that Paul thereafter had an auditory hallucination that set him on exactly the opposite track.

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

    Actually all ancient people thought in terms of extremes. And by the way, were the Founders not extreme in their advocacy of abandoning England, then?

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

    Paine is in error, at least, if we go by what Jews of the period believed of resurrection. He apparently thinks it is the same body, unchanged, when that is not what it meant -- see here. The ironic thing is that in the next paragraph he more or less describes some things we suppose the resurrection body to either be able to do or do as well as, and in the next few paragraphs, expresses desires that would be fulfilled in the resurrection body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Paine is misguided here because he lacks the contextual data which shows that Paul is explaining about the resurrection body to the Corinthians. See link above.

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

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

    See here.

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

    So if Paine makes one mistake...

    We know from history, that one of the principal leaders of this church, Athanasius, lived at the time the New Testament was formed; [Athanasius died, according to the Church chronology, in the year 371 -- Auther.]

    However, the process was started well before Athanasius; see again the linked article above.

    and we know also, from the absurd jargon he has left us under the name of a creed,

    Meaning, Paine himself couldn't understand it; hence it was absurd? Why not consult a scholar of patristic writings instead?

    the character of the men who formed the New Testament; and we know also from the same history that the authenticity of the books of which it is composed was denied at the time.

    See above, again.

    It was upon the vote of such as Athanasius that the Testament was decreed to be the word of God; and nothing can present to us a more strange idea than that of decreeing the word of God by vote.

    And it was, again, far from that simple, as our linked article shows?

    Those who rest their faith upon such authority put man in the place of God, and have no true foundation for future happiness. Credulity, however, is not a crime, but it becomes criminal by resisting conviction. It is strangling in the womb of the conscience the efforts it makes to ascertain truth. We should never force belief upon ourselves in any thing.

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

    And as we have noted, Paine has missed the vast shades of gray between these black and white poles.

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


    IN the former part of 'The Age of Reason' I have spoken of the three frauds, mystery, miracle, and.Prophecy; and as I have seen nothing in any of the answers to that work that in the least affects what I have there said upon those subjects, I shall not encumber this Second Part with additions that are not necessary.

    This is ironic, inasmuch as Paine repeatedly himself frequently. Indeed AR could be summed up in less than a dozen arguments. We'll drop some repeat summaries Paine offers in this conclusion, since by now there's no need to repeat it.

    Some Christians pretend that Christianity was not established by the sword; but of what period of time do they speak? It was impossible that twelve men could begin with the sword: they had not the power; but no sooner were the professors of Christianity sufficiently powerful to employ the sword than they did so, and the stake and faggot too; and Mahomet could not do it sooner.

    There was a period of at least 300 years when Christianity was on the business end of the sword, not holding it. But Paine can't explain this.

    By the same spirit that Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant (if the story be true) he would cut off his head, and the head of his master, had he been able.

    Heck, yeah. He was only about to be arrested and executed; he should have just reacted smoothly and calmly. So what would Paine have said about, um, the Revolutionary War? I don't hear of him stuffing daisies in British muskets, do you?

    Besides this, Christianity grounds itself originally upon the [Hebrew] Bible, and the Bible was established altogether by the sword, and that in the worst use of it -- not to terrify, but to extirpate. The Jews made no converts: they butchered all.

    This means they didn't convert by the sword; hence the comparison is erroneous. See also above on argument by outrage.

    The Bible is the sire of the [New] Testament, and both are called the word of God. The Christians read both books; the ministers preach from both books; and this thing called Christianity is made up of both. It is then false to say that Christianity was not established by the sword.

    So when the Canaanites were killed in 1400 BC, it was a help to Christianity...?

    The only sect that has not persecuted are the Quakers; and the only reason that can be given for it is, that they are rather Deists than Christians. They do not believe much about Jesus Christ, and they call the scriptures a dead letter. [This is an interesting and correct testimony as to the beliefs of the earlier Quakers, one of whom was Paine's father. -- Editer.] Had they called them by a worse name, they had been nearer the truth.

    It is incumbent on every man who reverences the character of the Creator, and who wishes to lessen the catalogue of artificial miseries, and remove the cause that has sown persecutions thick among mankind, to expel all ideas of a revealed religion as a dangerous heresy, and an impious fraud. What is it that we have learned from this pretended thing called revealed religion? Nothing that is useful to man, and every thing that is dishonourable to his Maker. What is it the Bible teaches us? -- repine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us? -- to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.

    In short, based on Paine's misapprehension in the latter, and on some idea that the murder, etc. are given as examples. So how would/did he explain the butchery in revolutionary France?

    As to the fragments of morality that are irregularly and thinly scattered in those books, they make no part of this pretended thing, revealed religion. They are the natural dictates of conscience,

    Paine also didn't know that the ancients didn't have internal consciences; see here.

    and the bonds by which society is held together, and without which it cannot exist; and are nearly the same in all religions, and in all societies. The Testament teaches nothing new upon this subject, and where it attempts to exceed, it becomes mean and ridiculous.

    What "new" things would Paine expect here and why does it make a difference?

    The doctrine of not retaliating injuries is much better expressed in Proverbs, which is a collection as well from the Gentiles as the Jews, than it is in the Testament. It is there said, (Xxv. 2 I) "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:" [According to what is called Christ's sermon on the mount, in the book of Matthew, where, among some other [and] good things, a great deal of this feigned morality is introduced, it is there expressly said, that the doctrine of forbearance, or of not retaliating injuries, was not any part of the doctrine of the Jews;

    It does? Paine doesn't quote that part; and wouldn't, because it doesn't exist.

    but as this doctrine is found in "Proverbs," it must, according to that statement, have been copied from the Gentiles, from whom Christ had learned it. Those men whom Jewish and Christian idolators have abusively called heathen, had much better and clearer ideas of justice and morality than are to be found in the Old Testament, so far as it is Jewish, or in the New. The answer of Solon on the question, "Which is the most perfect popular government," has never been exceeded by any man since his time, as containing a maxim of political morality, "That," says he, "where the least injury done to the meanest individual, is considered as an insult on the whole constitution." Solon lived about 500 years before Christ. -- Author.]

    If true, one wonders whether Paine would apply the same strictures here as he would to the Bible in terms of authorship and not possessing an original, etc.

    but when it is said, as in the Testament, "If a man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also," it is assassinating the dignity of forbearance, and sinking man into a spaniel.

    Hardly -- see here.

    Loving, of enemies is another dogma of feigned morality, and has besides no meaning.

    Paine didn't know the meaning of agape, of course. If this was feigned, the ancients all feigned it.

    It is incumbent on man, as a moralist, that he does not revenge an injury; and it is equally as good in a political sense, for there is no end to retaliation; each retaliates on the other, and calls it justice: but to love in proportion to the injury, if it could be done, would be to offer a premium for a crime.

    Shades of Michael Martin's idea that Christian morality would keep a qualified pilot, in humility, from flying a plane that had lost its pilot. See here in Chapter 6.

    Besides, the word enemies is too vague and general to be used in a moral maxim, which ought always to be clear and defined, like a proverb.

    Too vague? Paine didn't have a dictionary? I'd suppose not, since he said it is a waste of time to even study Greek -- I'm sure, though, Paine had little trouble defining it in his own life.

    If a man be the enemy of another from mistake and prejudice, as in the case of religious opinions, and sometimes in politics, that man is different to an enemy at heart with a criminal intention; and it is incumbent upon us, and it contributes also to our own tranquillity, that we put the best construction upon a thing that it will bear. But even this erroneous motive in him makes no motive for love on the other part; and to say that we can love voluntarily, and without a motive, is morally and physically impossible.

    In essence, Martin's endless "what if" question game as seen in the link above.

    Morality is injured by prescribing to it duties that, in the first place, are impossible to be performed, and if they could be would be productive of evil; or, as before said, be premiums for crime. The maxim of doing as we would be done unto does not include this strange doctrine of loving enemies; for no man expects to be loved himself for his crime or for his enmity.

    Those who preach this doctrine of loving their enemies, are in general the greatest persecutors, and they act consistently by so doing; for the doctrine is hypocritical, and it is natural that hypocrisy should act the reverse of what it preaches. For my own part, I disown the doctrine, and consider it as a feigned or fabulous morality; yet the man does not exist that can say I have persecuted him, or any man, or any set of men, either in the American Revolution, or in the French Revolution; or that I have, in any case, returned evil for evil.

    But of course, Paine doesn't consider AR a doing of evil, yet it is, and the evil he has done by misleading with blatant error has lived on.

    But it is not incumbent on man to reward a bad action with a good one, or to return good for evil; and wherever it is done, it is a voluntary act, and not a duty. It is also absurd to suppose that such doctrine can make any part of a revealed religion. We imitate the moral character of the Creator by forbearing with each other, for he forbears with all; but this doctrine would imply that he loved man, not in proportion as he was good, but as he was bad.

    So where was Paine's advice to forbear when the British were oppressing the Patriots? I don't recall that message being in Common Sense....

    If we consider the nature of our condition here, we must see there is no occasion for such a thing as revealed religion. What is it we want to know? Does not the creation, the universe we behold, preach to us the existence of an Almighty power, that governs and regulates the whole? And is not the evidence that this creation holds out to our senses infinitely stronger than any thing we can read in a book, that any imposter might make and call the word of God? As for morality, the knowledge of it exists in every man's conscience.

    Here we are. The existence of an Almighty power is sufficiently demonstrated to us, though we cannot conceive, as it is impossible we should, the nature and manner of its existence. We cannot conceive how we came here ourselves, and yet we know for a fact that we are here. We must know also, that the power that called us into being, can if he please, and when he pleases, call us to account for the manner in which we have lived here; and therefore without seeking any other motive for the belief, it is rational to believe that he will, for we know beforehand that he can. The probability or even possibility of the thing is all that we ought to know; for if we knew it as a fact, we should be the mere slaves of terror; our belief would have no merit, and our best actions no virtue.

    Deism then teaches us, without the possibility of being deceived, all that is necessary or proper to be known. The creation is the Bible of the deist. He there reads, in the hand-writing of the Creator himself, the certainty of his existence, and the immutability of his power; and all other Bibles and Testaments are to him forgeries. The probability that we may be called to account hereafter, will, to reflecting minds, have the influence of belief; for it is not our belief or disbelief that can make or unmake the fact. As this is the state we are in, and which it is proper we should be in, as free agents, it is the fool only, and not the philosopher, nor even the prudent man, that will live as if there were no God.

    But the belief of a God is so weakened by being mixed with the strange fable of the Christian creed, and with the wild adventures related in the Bible, and the obscurity and obscene nonsense of the Testament, that the mind of man is bewildered as in a fog. Viewing all these things in a confused mass, he confounds fact with fable; and as he cannot believe all, he feels a disposition to reject all. But the belief of a God is a belief distinct from all other things, and ought not to be confounded with any. The notion of a Trinity of Gods has enfeebled the belief of one God. A multiplication of beliefs acts as a division of belief; and in proportion as anything is divided, it is weakened.

    Paine of course was not informed about the Trinity as well -- the idea of hypostases is older than he knew. See here.

    Religion, by such means, becomes a thing of form instead of fact; of notion instead of principle: morality is banished to make room for an imaginary thing called faith, and this faith has its origin in a supposed debauchery;

    Error of this noted above.

    a man is preached instead of a God; an execution is an object for gratitude; the preachers daub themselves with the blood, like a troop of assassins, and pretend to admire the brilliancy it gives them; they preach a humdrum sermon on the merits of the execution; then praise Jesus Christ for being executed, and condemn the Jews for doing it.

    Inconsistency perhaps of Paine's contemporary preachers, but I would bet exaggerated. We'll skip a few paragraphs where Paine repeats himself in ecstasy, and go to:

    But when, according to the Christian Trinitarian scheme, one part of God is represented by a dying man, and another part, called the Holy Ghost, by a flying pigeon, it is impossible that belief can attach itself to such wild conceits. [The book called the book of Matthew, says, (iii. 16,) that the Holy Ghost descended in the shape of a dove. It might as well have said a goose; the creatures are equally harmless, and the one is as much a nonsensical lie as the other. Acts, ii. 2, 3, says, that it descended in a mighty rushing wind, in the shape of cloven tongues: perhaps it was cloven feet. Such absurd stuff is fit only for tales of witches and wizards. -- Author.

    Paine was unaware of Jewish conceptions that depicted the spirit of God as making dovelike sounds. Note of course that he didn't even consider the importance of such symbolism to the ancient reader. Paine offers promotion of deism and repetition for a few paragraphs; here is how he closes:

    I here close the subject. I have shown in all the foregoing parts of this work that the Bible and Testament are impositions and forgeries; and I leave the evidence I have produced in proof of it to be refuted, if any one can do it; and I leave the ideas that are suggested in the conclusion of the work to rest on the mind of the reader; certain as I am that when opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.

    Paine, as we have seen, did no such thing; he dealt with a mere pittance of the Bible's text in a uni-dimensional fashion, using some of the same arguments dozens of times with respect to different texts. I can close only by asking why some Skeptics prefer Paine to scholars educated in the field in modern times. The only answer I can think of is that it is because Paine delivers what they want to hear.

    A reader alterted me to a "lost" (not really, but it ought to have been) third part of AR I was not aware of. To make the job complete, I'll address that now. My comments here, unlike our prior portion, will not take up all of what Paine says. The simple reason is that the overwhelming majority of what Paine offers in this Part 3 amounts to him listing OT prophecies used in the NT, and, not knowing Jewish exegetical techniques of the period, objecting extensively about how badly out of context the NT use of the OT passage is.

    Since there is no need to note this over and over again, nor repeated themes like Paine's automatic anti-supernaturalism, we'll just address a few unusual points. Spaces we skip over will be marked with asterisks.


    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. This is a bit garbled, but what it amounts to is that Paine doesn't understand the use of anticipation and proleptic language.*****

    It may not be improper here to observe, that the word translated a virgin in Isaiah, does not signify a virgin in Hebrew, but merely a 'young woman.'See here. ****

    I pass over the absurdity of seeing and following a star in the day time, as a man would a 'Will with the whip,' 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. Paine hasn't supposed that night was the only time these men journeyed, or that they sighted the star at night, grasped its direction, and followed that direction in the day. As for "east," the words are misleading here; the translation "in the east" should be read "at its rising," a more accurate reflection of the Greek. (See Raymond Brown's Birth of the Messiah and Albright's Matthew commentary, 12.)*****

    This is introduced by a story told by nobody but himself, and scarcely believed by any body, 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. Paine explains none of the "why" of this reasonsing but see here.

    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. Paine probably never even asked. How about, "tradition passed on by Jesus' family to the Apostles"? Also on the Nazarene prophecy see here.****

    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. It's worth noting Paine's significant error here. The ancient texts did not have commas or punctuation of any sort******.

    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. Demon possession and exorcism are part and parcel of the social history of many cultures. He might have at least tried Josephus.****

    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. Every thing in the Jewish books is perverted and distorted into meanings never intended by the writers. Ironically, even Jews prior to Jesus understood Zech. 9:9 as a messianic prediction. So much for the Jews "speaking of their own affairs"?*****

    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 8th verse, "I saw by night [Zechariah was a sharp-sighted 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 not seen." There's not much that can be said here. There is nothing odd at all about red horses.

    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. The colors had significance for the ancients; a red horse was a horse of war.****

    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. No change? How about a Passover festival with hundreds of thousands of attendants, including many Galileeans who would if nothing else side with Jesus against the aristocracy.****

    There are, however, some high improbabilities against the truth of the account. Paine here addresses the arrest of Jesus. This is worth addressing down in detail.

    First -- It is not probable that the Jews, who were then a conquered people, and under subjection to the Romans, should be permitted to wear swords. First of all, the arresting crowd may have been a gang of Romans, but even if not, Paine is missing the fact that the Romans used the conquered peoples to do enforcement work. There was nothing against them wearing swords; even the "peace-loving" Essenes had their own version.

    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. You can see that Paine has never been in law enforcement. You can add: "Assuming they could see his face clearly, then catch him."

    Thirdly -- What sort of disciples and preaching apostles must those of Christ have been that wore swords? Ask the Essenes. Swords and staves were a basic means of defense from robbers and other hooligans in this day.

    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. Basically the same argument rephrased, and no more correct.

    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; We'll just cut that short; see here.****

    ...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." Paine thinks having a bed or house is all there is to having "property"? No such thing as clothes?****


    Mark, (i. 2,3), confounds two passages together, taken from different books of the Old Testament. See here.*****

    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 rattle-snake from America. Paine refers to verses not in Mark originally.


    Matthew makes Herod to die whilst 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." One of the errors in Paine's entire work. He has no idea about the difference between Herod the Great and Herod's various Herod-named sons (Antipas, Philip, etc).

    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 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, or Governors. Herod was given the title "King of Judea" by the Roman Senate in 40 BC, and made good on that when he took over in 37; see Gundry's commentary on Matthew, 26.


    *****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 every one, -- I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." [NOTE: This belongs to the part of John now admitted to be spurious. -- Editor.]

    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. This is what in Semitic language studies is called "hyperbole". Paine really believes that John was being literal. As for being "spurious" it is more arguably John's own late addendum.****

    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. Paine obviously has no knowledge of oral communication, again. 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. As noted, false. The NT writers followed standard Jewish exegetical procedures; and Paine yet again is oblivious to oral transmission being the primary means, which means his idea about "not being dectected" is far wronf. 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 every thing else to light, has served to thicken the darkness that guards it from detection. The "fury" Paine notes was not to occur for 300 years beyond the writing of the NT and so could hardly "stand sentry" over anything that early. The irony of the "darkness" comment is that Paine is "in the dark" about Jewish exegetical techniques.***

    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. Yes -- this argument was nothing new. The arguments Paine used are still in use today.