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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. 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. 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. 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.

It is altogether unnecessary, after this, to offer any observations upon
what those men, styled prophets, 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.--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.

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.



CHAPTER VIII - OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

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.

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. But there is no publication
extant authenticated with his name. All the books called the New
Testament were written after his death. 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. 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. 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. [NOTE: One of the few
errors traceable to Paine's not having a Bible at hand while writing
Part I. There is no indication that the family was poor, but the reverse
may in fact be inferred.--Editor.]

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. 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.

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; 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.

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.

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?

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 shale 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.

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.

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, if he wrote the books that bear his name, has helped this
quibble on by making another quibble upon the word Adam. 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.

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.--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.

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. 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 relate events after they had taken place.
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.
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. The book called the Acts of the
Apostles (an anonymous work) belongs also to the anecdotal part.

All the other parts of the New Testament, except the book of enigmas,
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.



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