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:The Book of John
by Thomas Paine
THE BOOK OF JOHN
, like Mark and Luke, is not much of a prophecy-monger. He speaks of the ass, and the casting of lots for Jesus's clothes, and some other trifles, of which I have already spoken.
John makes Jesus to say (v, 46), "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me." The book of the Acts, in speaking of Jesus says (iii, 22), "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God, raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you."
This passage is in Deuteronomy, viii, 15. They apply it as a prophecy of Jesus. What imposition! The person spoken of in Deuteronomy, and also in Numbers, where the same person is spoken of, is Joshua, the minister of Moses, and his immediate successor, and just such another Robespierrean character as Moses is represented to have been. The case, as related in those books, is as follows:
Moses was grown old and near to his end, and in order to prevent confusion after his death, for the Israelites had no settled system of government, it was thought best to nominate a successor to Moses while he was yet living. This was done, as we are told, in the following manner:
Numbers xxvii, 12, 13 "And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it thou also shalt be gathered unto thy
people, as Aaron thy brother is gathered." Verse 15-20, "And Moses spoke unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said unto Moses, take thee Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient."
Verses 22, 23. "And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and he laid hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the
Lord commanded by the hands of Moses."
I have nothing to do, in this place, with the truth of the conjuration here practiced, of raising up a successor to Moses like unto himself. The passage sufficiently proves it is Joshua, and that it is an imposition in John
to make the case into a prophecy of Jesus. But the prophecy-mongers were so inspired with falsehood, that they never speak truth.
I pass to the last passage, in these fables of the Evangelists, called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
John, having spoken of Jesus expiring on the cross between two thieves, says, (xix, 32, 33), "Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first (meaning one of the thieves) and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs."Verse 36: "For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken."
The passage here referred to is in Exodus, and has no more to do with Jesus than with the ass he rode upon to Jerusalem; nor yet so much, if a roasted jack-ass, like a roasted he-goat, might be eaten at a Jewish
passover. It might be some consolation to an ass to know that though his bones might be picked, they would not be broken. I go to state the case.
The book of Exodus, in instituting the Jewish passover, in which they were to eat a he-lamb, or a he-goat, says (xii, 5), "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it from the sheep or the
goats." The book, after stating some ceremonies to be used in kiiling and dressing it (for it was to be roasted, not boiled), says (verse 43-48), "And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of passover: there shall no stranger eat thereof; but every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh thereof abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof."
We here see that the case as it stands in Exodus is a ceremony and not a prophecy, and totally unconnected with Jesus's bones, or any part of him.
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 everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
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.
Here ends the examination of the passages called prophecies.
I have now, reader, gone through and examined all the passages which the four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, quote from the Old Testament and call them prophecies of Jesus Christ. When I first sat down tothis examination, I expected to find cause for some censure, but little did I expect to find them so utterly destitute of truth, and of all pretensions to it, as I have shown them to be.
The practice which the writers of these books employ is not more false than it is absurd. They state some trifling case of the person they call Jesus Christ, and then cut out a sentence from some passage of the Old Testament and call it a prophecy of that case. But when the words thus cut out are restored to the place they are taken from, and read with the words before and after them, they give the lie to the New Testament. A short
instance or two of this will suffice for the whole.
They make Joseph to dream of an angel, who informs him that Herod is dead, and tells him to come with the child out of Egypt. They then cut out a sentence from the book of Hosea, "Out of Egypt have I called my Son," and apply it as a prophecy in that case. The words, "And called my Son out of Egypt," are in the bible.
But what of that? They are only part of a passage, and not a whole passage, and stand immediately connected with other words which show they refer to the children of Israel coming out of Egypt in the time of the Pharaoh, and to the idolatry they committed afterwards.
Again, they tell us that when the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified persons, they found Jesus was already dead, and, therefor, did not break his. They then, with some alteration of the original, cut out a sentence from Exodus, "a bone of him shall not be broken," and apply it as a prophecy of that case.
The words "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof" (for they have altered the text), are in the Bible. But what of that? They are, as in the former case, only part of a passage, and not a whole passage, and when read with the words they are immediately joined to, show it is the bones of a he-lamb or a he-goat of which the passage speaks.
These repeated forgeries and falsifications create a well-founded suspicion that all the cases spoken of concerning the person called Jesus Christ are made cases, on purpose to lug in, and that very clumsily, some
broken sentences from the Old Testament, and apply these as prophecies of those cases; and that so far from his being the Son of God, he did not exist even as a man - that he is merely an imaginary or allegorical character as Apollo, Hercules, Jupiter and all the deities of antiquity were. There is no history written at the time Jesus Christ is said to have lived that speaks of the existence of such a person, even as a man.
Did we find in any other book pretending to give a system of religion, the falsehoods, falsifications, contradictions, and absurdities, which are to be met with in almost every page of the Old and New Testament, all the priests of the present day, who supposed themselves capable, would triumphantly show their skill in criticism, and cry it down as a most glaring imposition.
But since the books in question belong to their own trade and profession, they, or at least many of them, seek to stifle every inquiry into them and abuse those who have the honesty and the courage to do it.
When a book, as is the case with the Old and New Testament, is ushered into the world under the title of being the Word of God, it ought to be examined with the utmost strictness, in order to know if it has a well
founded claim to that title or not, and whether we are or are nto imposed upon: for no poison is os dangerous as that which poisons the physic, so no falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.
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.
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. Besides which, the
terrors and inquisitorial fury of the Church, like what they tell us of the flaming sword that turned every which way, stood sentry over the New Testament; and time, which brings everything else to light, has served to thicken the darkness that guards it from detection.
Were the New Testament now to appear for the first time every priest of the present day would examine it line by line, and compare the detached sentences it calls prophecies with the whole passages in the Old Testament from whence they are taken. Why then do they not make the same examination at this time, as they would make had the New Testament never appeared before?
If it be proper and right to make it in one case, it is equally proper and right to do it in the other case. Length of time can make no difference in the right to do it at any time. But, instead of doing this, they go on as
their predecessors went on before them, to tell the people there are prophecies of Jesus Christ, when the truth is there are none.
They tell us that Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. It is very easy to say so; a great lie is as easily told as a little one. But if he had done so, those would have been the only circumstances respecting him that would have differed from the common lot of man; and consequently, the only case that would apply exclusively to him, as prophecy, would be some passage in the Old Testament that foretold such things of him.
But there is not a passage in the Old Testament that speaks of a person who, after being crucified, dead and buried, should rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven. Our prophecy-mongers supply the silence the Old Testament guards upon such things, by telling us of passages they call prophecies, and that falsely so, about Joseph's dreams, old clothes, broken bones and such like trifling stuff.
In writing upon this, as upon every other subject, I speak a language full and intelligible. I deal not in hints and intimations. I have several reasons for this: First, that I may be clearly understood. Secondly, that it may be seen I am in earnest; and thirdly, because it is an affront to truth to treat falsehood with complaisance.
I will close this treatise with a subject I have already touched upon in the first part of "The Age of Reason."