Examination of the Prophecies
Examination of the Prophecies:Author's Preface
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Matthew
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Mark
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Luke
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of John
Examination of the Prophecies: Author's Preface
by Thomas Paine
To the Ministers and Preachers of All Denominations of Religion
It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error. But nature has not given to everyone a talent for the purpose; and among those to whom such a talent is given there is often a want of disposition or of courage to do it.
The world, or more properly speaking, that small part of it called Christendom or the Christian world, has been amused for more than a thousand years with accounts of prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of the person called Jesus Christ, and thousands of sermons have been preached and volumes written to make man believe it.
In the following treatise I have examined all the passages in the New Testament, quoted from the Old, and called prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and I find no such thing as a prophecy of any such person, and I deny there are any.
The passages all relate to circumstances the Jewish nation was in at the time they were written or spoken, and not to anything that was or was not to happen in the world several hundred years afterwards; and I have shown what the circumstances were to which the passages apply or refer.
I have given chapter and verse for everything I have said, and have not gone out of the books of the Old and New Testament for evidence that the passages are not prophecies of the person called Jesus Christ.
The prejudice of unfounded belief, often degenerates into the prejudice of custom, and becomes at last rank hypocrisy. When men, from custom or fashion or any worldly motive, profess or pretend to believe what they do not believe, nor can give any reason for believing, they unship the helm of their morality, and being no longer honest to their own minds they feel no moral difficulty in being unjust to others.
It is from the influence of this vice, hypocrisy, that we see so many church-going professors and pretenders to religion so full of trick and deceit in their dealings, and so loose in the performance of their engagements that they are not to be trusted further than the laws of the country will bind them. Morality has no hold on their minds, no restraint on their actions.
One set of preachers make salvation to consist in believing. They tell their congregations that if they believe in Christ their sins shall be forgiven. This, in the first place, is an encouragement to sin, in a similar manner as when a prodigal young fellow is told his father will pay all his debts, he runs into debt the faster, and becomes the more extravagant. Daddy, says he, pays all, and on he goes: just so in the other case, Christ pays all, and on goes the sinner.
In the next place, the doctrine these men preach is not true. The New Testament rests itself for credibility and testimony on what are called prophecies in the Old Testament of the person called Jesus Christ; and if there are no such things as prophecies of any such person in the Old Testament, the New Testament is a forgery of the councils of Nice and Laodicea, and the faith founded thereon delusion and falsehood.
Another set of preachers tell their congregations that God predestinated and selected, from all eternity, a certain number to be saved, and a certain number to be damned eternally. If this were true, the day of judgement IS PAST: their preaching is in vain, and they had better work at some useful calling for their livelihood.
This doctrine, also, like the former, has a direct tendency to demoralize mankind. Can a bad man be reformed by telling him that if he is one of those who was decreed to be damned before he was born his reformation will do him no good; and if he was decreed to be saved that he will be saved whether he believes it or not? For this is the result of the doctrine. Such preaching and such preachers do injury to the moral world. They had better be at the plow.
As in my political works my motive and object have been to give man an elevated sense of his own character, and free him from the slavish and superstitious absurdity of monarchy and hereditary government, so in my publications on religious subjects my endeavors have been directed to bring man to a right use of the reason that God has given him, to impress on him the great principles of divine morality, justice, mercy and a benevolent disposition to all men and to all creatures, and to inspire in him a spirit of trust, confidence and consolation in his Creator, unshackled by the fables of books pretending to be the WORD OF GOD.