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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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.
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."

Why it has been called the Mosaic account of the creation, I am at
a loss to conceive. 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; 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.--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 chose 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 [NOTE: It must be borne in mind that by
the "Bible" Paine always means the Old Testament alone.--Editor.] is
filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a
demon, than the Word of God. 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.

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. 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.

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

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.

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:--

"Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth
'T is God himself that calls attention forth.

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.

"O, that mine head were waters and mine eyes
Were fountains flowing like the liquid skies;
Then would I give the mighty flood release
And weep a deluge for the human race."--Author.]

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
'propesying' meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of
playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music.

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.

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.

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

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.



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