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1014, 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. 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 sorts; 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.

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.

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.


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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.]

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.



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