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Title: How the Bible was Invented - A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society
Author: Mangasarian, M. M. (Mangasar Mugurditch), 1859-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How the Bible was Invented - A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society" ***

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"Not to Undeceive is to Deceive"

How the Bible Was Invented

A Lecture Delivered
Before the Independent
Religious Society
Orchestra Hall
Chicago, Illinois
Sunday at 11 A. M.

[Illustration: Logo]

Tenth Edition


How the Bible Was Invented

Many good people believe that the Bible was given by inspiration of God.
The wording of my subject suggests that it is the work of men, and not
always of honest men, either. Am I trying to offend people by intimating
that the Bible was _invented_? On the contrary, I am exposing myself to
criticism by telling these good people the truth about the Bible, which
their own preachers, for some reason or other, have withheld from them.

One of the texts in the Bible, attributed to Jesus, says that, It were
better for a man to have a millstone tied about his neck, and he were
cast into the sea, than that he should offend, that is to say, unsettle
the faith of, "one of these little ones." According to this saying of
Jesus, a man must keep his questionings and his doubts to himself. He
shall not talk where he is liable to upset the faith of some believing
soul,--some aged mother, some Sunday-school lad or lassie. The man who
will go about disturbing people's religious peace, deserves to be
drowned with a millstone about his neck! What is your opinion of such a

If you approve of this sentiment, attributed to the founder of
Christianity, then the work which we are doing here, every Sunday, is
quite wicked; a millstone around our necks is what we deserve, and the
bottom of the sea is where we belong.

Psychologists tell us that there is great power in suggestion. With all
my love and reverence for whatever is sweet and sane in the Gospels, I
must protest against this text, because it is a suggestion to violence
and persecution. If Jesus suggests a millstone for the neck of the
heretic who upsets people's illusions and makes inquirers out of
believers, and intimates further that drowning is too good for them, why
not take the hint and act upon it? He expresses a wish, shall we not
fulfill it? Alas, we know, too well, that in less enlightened ages, the
suggestion of Jesus was not only carried out, but vastly improved
upon--by the Spanish Inquisition, for instance.

Let us be fair. When a man is accused, it is his privilege to defend
himself. If Jesus suggests that the investigator who unsettles people's
beliefs should be drowned, before the suggestion is acted upon, the
disturber should be given a chance to be heard. Would that be asking too
much? Let us see, then, just what it means to command a man to suppress
whatever might disturb a neighbor's faith: It means that if I am
announced to speak on the Bible, I must say nothing to which the weakest
or the most credulous among my hearers might object. If I do, I shall
deserve to be tied to a millstone and drowned! But let us turn this
proposition about to see how it would work: Having discovered a truth,
and yearning in my soul to express it, suppose I were to say, that if
any man in this audience shall scare me into silence,--shall cheat me
out of the joy and duty of imparting that truth to my world, by
threatening to be offended, or to be unsettled by it,--he ought to have
a millstone tied to his neck and be cast into the sea. How would that

Again, an illustration, which I have used before, can with great aptness
be repeated here: A woman is given a ring with a stone in it. Not being
herself a _connaisseur_ of precious stones, she is easily made to
believe that her jewel is the most costly in the world. This is told her
in order to make her happy, and to fancy herself as the possessor of a
gem of great value. Observe, now, how much it costs to keep up this
deception. All her friends have to agree to say nothing that may
unsettle her faith in her imitation jewel. Indeed, they must pretend not
to know the difference between the genuine and the sham stone. To
preserve this woman's illusion, they must prevaricate and even openly
lie, if pressed to do so, lest the poor woman's eyes should open, or her
faith in her jewel be lost. Is it fair to demand so great a sacrifice to
prolong the fantasy of a foolish woman?

Apply this illustration now to the Bible. Here are some people who have
been told when they were young, that this book, which is placed in their
hands, is a personal message to them from God. This makes the book,
certainly, more precious than any jewel. God, the owner and disposer of
everything, with his own hand has inscribed an epistle to them, and this
is it! What joy! What a treasure! Now these people, not being students
themselves, accepted implicitly what they were told by their teachers,
just as the woman, not being an expert herself, took her jeweler's word
about the value of the stone in her ring. In order not to offend this
child-like faith in the Bible, word is sent out to everybody to hush.
Hush! not a word! not a whisper!--Hush! hush! is the cry of all. To
uphold this conspiracy of silence, arrangements are made to dictate what
may and what may not be said in public. A preacher in praying or
preaching might give away the secret,--he might inadvertently say
something which may prick this pretty bubble of illusion. Hence, in the
Catholic and Episcopal Churches, all the prayers are printed, and the
preachers pray according to the book. Do you think the Church will let a
man close his eyes and open his mouth and say whatever comes into his
head? Indeed, not! He must pray by the book. In the protestant
denominations there is the creed, to which you swear your allegiance
before you can open your mouth in one of their churches, and the moment
you are caught talking beyond what the creed allows, your ordination is
taken from you and your mouth is shut. Dear me! all this regime is for
the purpose of encouraging the conceit that man has been favored with a
hand-written, personal message, from the Creator of the universe.

If this were all, we, ourselves, would not take notice of it. But we,
too, are compelled to join this conspiracy of silence and suppression,
and to lie in the interests of the delicate believers whose faith cannot
stand the least strain. Darwin must beware how he writes about the
origin of species, or the descent of man. Some believer, hugging
ecstatically his Bible to his bosom, might read his books and lose his
blissful conceit. Do not think, do not invent, do not announce your
truth, ye philosophers, scientists and reformers! without first
consulting the prejudices of the "little ones" in the faith; for if you
unsettle the faith of a single believer, it were better that you were
weighted down into the sea by a millstone hanging about your necks. And
you, whose love and genius give us our daily victory over disease and
error,--whose thought is our daily bread and beauty,--you, too, must
hush, you must become sterile, or be content to speak by rote, lest you
should disturb the repose of the believer who has laid himself down to
sleep. The theological babe must not be awakened. It will bawl and cry
if aroused, and better than cause one of these babes to cry, let there
be no intellectual life in the world!

Our American author, Thoreau, was right when he said that, "The modern
Christian is a man who has consented to say all the prayers in the
liturgy, provided you will let him go straight to bed and sleep quietly
afterward." That is to say, he does not wish to be disturbed. "All his
prayers begin with," says Thoreau, "Now I lay me down to sleep."
_Sleep_, seems to be his quest, intellectual as well as physical, "and
he is forever looking forward to the time when he shall go to his
'_long_ rest.'" He looks forward to a future of inactivity. All effort,
especially intellectual effort, is distasteful to him, and is apt to
offend and unsettle him. Hence the intellectual life must not be real;
what must be real is the _sleep_.

Those of you who support these lectures, as well as those of you who
only hear them, know that our position is the very reverse of what Jesus
and the Church recommend. We do not believe in persecution. We do not
even suggest that anybody should be drowned; but if our human nature is
so depraved that persecution and murder are inevitable, then, in our
humble opinion, it will be more economical to drown the people who will
not permit a Darwin to give his thought to the world, than to drown a
Darwin. The man who is offended at freedom of speech, can be dispensed
with more safely than the man who avails himself of this divine
privilege. If my freedom of speech offends my neighbor, his fear of
freedom is a greater offense to me. Which of us deserves most to be

But in the next place the suggestion that people who rob their weaker
fellows of their illusions should be drowned, even when it does not lead
to persecution, is an encouragement to _hypocrisy_ and _imposture_, as
the story of the composition of the Bible which will now be told, shows.

You have to listen as closely as you can, if you do not wish to do me
the injustice of misrepresenting me. I have traveled extensively in the
Orient, and have conversed with and read the works of eminent scholars
who have enjoyed a first-hand acquaintance with eastern people, and the
unanimous testimony is that one of the besetting sins of Oriental races,
is lying. It is not because the Asiatics are wickeder than European
nations, for in other respects they are as good, if not better, than
ourselves. The average of morality is perhaps about the same in all
countries. But the notorious vice of all Asiatic peoples is lying. They
lie with a freedom and a fluency,--with such plausibility and so
straight a face,--that one can hardly distinguish their lie from their
truth. Curious though it may seem, people who are given to lying are
often the first to be deceived by their own lies. They

     "Keep on till their own lies deceive them.
     And oft' repeating, at length believed 'em."

Now, then, I am going to look this audience in the face, and then I am
going to say just this:

_The Bible is an Oriental book._

When, in reading the Bible, I find in it exaggeration, invention, and
even unscrupulous misrepresentation, I am not astonished, because I know
that it is an Oriental book. But the orthodox believer, in order to
excuse or explain away, for instance, these violations of the law of
veracity, resorts frequently to sophistry, subterfuge, and even, alas,
to lies more unscrupulous than any found in the Bible. This is as sad as
it is true. But to defend one lie, or to make it look like the truth,
more lying becomes necessary.

There are numerous instances of the Oriental practice of lying in the
Bible. Abraham suppressed the truth about his wife, and declared she was
his sister. Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, and made him believe he
was Esau, and stole his blessing. The same patriarch deceived his
father-in-law, and stole his gods. God himself instructs Samuel to tell
a falsehood to Saul, to whom he is sent on a mission. "I will send them
a lying spirit," threatens Jehovah, when he is out of temper. And, in
the New Testament, the Apostle Paul is Oriental enough, though in many
respects a great soul, to resort to "craft and guile," and to be "all
things to all men," and even to lie for the glory of God. Aside from
this being his own policy, he imagined that it was also the policy of
God. "And for this cause," he says in his Epistle to the Thessalonians,
"God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe in a
lie." Reflect upon that. To send a delusion to people means to trip or
trap them,--to catch them in a snare. People tell a falsehood, either to
protect themselves, or to hurt others. God needed not to resort to this
means to protect himself. Paul tells us he does this to hurt others.
"God shall send them strong delusion, that they might believe a lie that
_they all might be damned_." How could Paul, an exceptionally
intelligent man, be guilty of such blasphemy? How could he so damage the
character of the God he loved? My answer is that he was an Asiatic, and
he did not look upon lying in the same light that Europeans do. The
Asiatic conscience for veracity has never enjoyed a very high
reputation. The Apostle Paul even boasts that, "being crafty, I caught
you with guile."

A very curious controversy took place some years ago, between Herbert
Spencer and a religious Weekly. Quoting the words of Paul to the Romans,
where he says, "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my
lie unto his glory, etc.," Spencer condemned Paul for this; the
religious Weekly objected that Paul was only speaking ironically. And
Mr. Spencer generously admitted that such a supposition was quite
possible. We are ourselves willing to give Paul every opportunity to
exonerate himself, and will not press the charge too vehemently against
him. But whatever Paul may have meant in his argument with the Romans,
what shall we say about his defense of "guile and craft," in his Epistle
to the Thessalonians? And what about his general policy, to be all
things to all men,--that is to say, to trim and compromise?

Moreover, the practice of the Church during the early centuries,
confirms the criticism of such representative writers as Mosheim,
Ellicott, Warburton, Lecky, Gibbon, Jortin, Gieseler, and other equally
reliable authorities, that "The pernicious maxim that those who make it
their business to deceive with a view of promoting the cause of truth,
were deserving rather of commendation than of censure."

"History forces upon us," writes Bishop Ellicott, "the recognition of
pious fraud as a principle which was by no means inoperative in the
earliest ages of Christianity." It reflects credit upon this
Bishop,--this European,--to admit that the early Christians cultivated
the Oriental practice of "lying for the glory of God." Eusebius, the
saint who invented Constantine's vision of the cross, boasted that "_he
had written what redounded to the glory_ and suppressed whatever tended
to the disgrace of religion."

"No faith with the heretics," was the cry of the Christian church for

My object in speaking of this is to show that even as our Oriental-born
religion, brought over into Europe the germ of monasticism, religious
intolerance, the practise of burning men and women alive,--absolutism in
matters of faith, determining by authority of councils what shall and
what shall not be the truth,--not one of which institutions previously
existed in Europe; it also brought over, the Oriental practice of pious
lying, and gave it a vogue which it had never before enjoyed in Europe.

It is universally admitted that beside the four Gospels which the
churches believe to be genuine, there were, in the early centuries,
hundreds of Gospels which have been rejected as spurious. Pause for a
moment, and think of what that means. Why were there so many lying
Gospels? The very fact that our four Gospels were chosen from a pile of
manuscripts, everyone of which claimed to be genuine, is a sad
commentary upon the morality of the early churchmen. I trust you duly
appreciate the significance of this. What was it that gave an impetus to
the industry of imposture? How explain the vogue which lying for
religion enjoyed after the conversion of the Roman Empire? Was it so
profitable to manufacture Gospels that everybody tried his hand at it? I
cannot get away from the tremendous fact that by the admission of the
churches themselves, there were a great number of apocryphal Gospels
thrown upon the religious market as soon as Christianity became well
established in Europe. What made lying so popular and profitable all at
once? If it is true, and it is, that our four Gospels had to be voted
upon from among a heap of other manuscripts; and if it is true, as one
Church father reports, that a great number of manuscripts were placed
under a table, and that prayers were then offered to induce the genuine
Gospels to jump upon the table, and that four of them did so, while the
rest, failing to jump upon the table, were disowned; and if it is also
true, and we know it is, that some of the Christian fathers claimed that
only four Gospels could be genuine because the earth has four corners,
and four winds. If all this is true--then, speaking as a student of
history, whether it unsettles you or not, I am constrained to say that
this Oriental religion, as soon as it set foot in Europe, lifted both
superstition and lying to the dignity of a vocation.

But when we come to the four Gospels themselves, pronounced to be
canonical, do you know, my hearers, that there are upwards of 150,000
different readings of these same Gospels? That is to say, the same
passages read one way in one manuscript, and another, in another, while
they may be absent altogether from a third, etc. In view of all these
facts, reflect upon the intelligence of the man who, Sunday after
Sunday, holds up the Gospels as the infallible word of God. He does so
because he is speaking by the creed, to which he has sworn allegiance
for the rest of his life. One hundred and fifty thousand various
readings of the New Testament! And think of the centuries of bloodshed
and controversy over these various readings!

Open, if you please, your New Testaments and read the seventh verse of
the fifth chapter of the first epistle of John, then look for the same
verse in the Revised Version, and you will not find it there. After
being regarded as the word of God for two thousand years, it has been
expurgated. Today, according to one Bible (the King James Version), this
passage is inspired; according to another Bible (the Revised Version),
it is an imposture. Let me quote the text:

      "For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the
      Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one."

What better proof of the Trinity do we need? On black and white, in the
Bible, John, the Apostle, declares by the power of the Holy Ghost, that
there are three in heaven, gives their names, and adds that these three
are one.

Some lying scribe, some crabbed sectarian, some unconscionable copyist,
bribed by his party, must have invented this text, which, for twenty
centuries, has been worshiped as the word of God. Wicked sceptics, two
thousand years ago, denounced the clumsy imposture, but they were
silenced by the halter and the sword. It has taken the Christian Church
nearly two thousand years to discover that the sceptics were right. It
has taken the church two thousand years of evolution in honesty and
intelligence to throw out this spurious text. It has taken the church,
claiming to be under the guidance of the Spirit of God, twenty hundred
years in which to acquire the courage and love of truth of the wicked
sceptics who first called attention to this lie hiding behind an
apostle's name. Reflect upon this! After using every means, even the
most cruel, to force this Trinitarian text upon the world, the Revised
Version blushes with shame to retain it any longer.

It would be unnecessary to multiply illustrations, but let my readers
also consult the words in the margin of the last chapter of the Gospel
of Mark, in the Revised Bible. Eleven entire verses of this chapter
after having been palmed off for two thousand years as the word of God;
after being repeatedly quoted as representing God's mind on matters of
faith; after causing untold misery, cruel wars, persecutions, diabolical
tortures, and more than all these, such mental anguish in millions of
sensitive minds as no repentance can atone for,--these verses, among
which is the following: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel
to the whole Creation.... He that believeth and is baptised shall be
saved, _but he that believeth not shall be damned_,"--has been placed
under an interrogation mark. Ah, for how much misery is the above
damnatory clause responsible! How many lives this leprous falsehood has
blasted! How this cruel imposture, like a malignant cancer, ate away the
sound parts in human nature, for twenty long centuries!

Among these eleven verses are also Jesus' promise of miraculous power to
his disciples, such as casting out devils, juggling with live serpents,
drinking deadly poisons, laying hands on the sick,--which has filled our
world with charlatans without number. But now comes the Revised Version,
and quietly dismisses from the Word of God these eleven Verses, with
these words in the margin: "The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some
other authorities, omit from verse 9 to the end (verse 20). Some other
authorities have a different ending to the Gospel." Read the above
carefully and reflect. The old translators suppressed all this
information, and gave us to believe that we were not only reading the
word of God, but the only word of God in existence. The revisers say,
"Some other authorities have a _different_ ending to the Gospel." Is not
that edifying? How did they decide which "ending of the Gospel" to print
as the Word of God? And why did the translators of the Bible wait two
thousand years before they gave out this information? Is it to their
increasing honesty that we owe this admission, or is it the increasing
power of the non-churchgoing world which has compelled this admission
from their lips? Yes, yes, pause and think of how an organization must
have become gangrened with imposture to have successfully resisted every
claim of truth and honor for two thousand years! This is a question of
conscience as well as a question of knowledge. Why did the translators
suppress the fact until a few years ago that, "Some other authorities
have a different ending to the Gospel"?, and that "the _two oldest_
Greek manuscripts and some other authorities omit from verse 9 to the
end"? Time forbids me to give other illustrations of the--I regret to
say it--manipulations of the Word of God by its custodians. The heart
bleeds with mingled pain and indignation at the temerity and effrontery
of the pious crew, who, to advance their "ism" or to make converts, did
not hesitate to pervert history.

For two thousand years, for anyone to dare breathe a word against this
Bible-inventing party, meant hell here and hereafter. Mark Antony
invited Rome to weep over the prostrate form of assassinated Cæsar. I
wish I could provoke you to a burning blush of indignation over the
prostrate majesty of Europe and America at the feet of these
unconscionable inventors of inspired texts. Blessed be the day which
humbled the pride of the ecclesiastic, and wrested from his hands the
power to suppress the truth!

But aside from doctoring their own Gospels, the early Christians did not
hesitate to submit the writings of the great pagans,--Seneca, Pliny,
Tacitus, Suetonious, Marcus Aurelius and the Jewish historian, Josephus,
to the same indignity, by slipping passages into their works favorable
to the Christian religion. Perhaps I am to be blamed for taking this
matter so seriously, but how can I help it? I feel the wrong, the shame,
and the crime of it, deep in my bones--when I picture to myself an
Asiatic scribbler, a sectarian, a clown, a rogue, a cheat, tampering
with the works of a dead master,--pushing and squeezing his imposture
into the mouth of the mighty dead,--defiling the thought of the
philosopher with the foulness of his superstition! It makes my heart
rise and knock with vehemence against my ribs until I feel as if they
would break. Not only were individual passages invented and slipped into
the Pagan writings, but a number of books were written and attributed to
the greatest shining lights of the old Roman world. Dr. Gieseler, a
prominent Christian historian of modern Germany, who has made, as most
German students do, a painstaking study of the early centuries, says
that, when the Christians were accused of inventing manuscripts, they
"quieted their consciences respecting the forgery with the idea of their
good intentions." "It was an age of literary fraud," declares Bishop

There is shown at the library in Jena, a letter purported to have been
written by Publius Lentulus, the supposed predecessor of Pontius Pilate.
The impostor who concocted this epistle and affixed the signature of a
Roman governor to it, makes him tell the Roman Senate, "that there had
appeared (in Judea) a man endowed with great powers, whose name is Jesus
Christ." The earmarks of fraud are so plain that even the orthodox are
ashamed of this clumsy manufacture. Another Gospel is attributed to
Pontius Pilate. Nicodemus is made the author of still another. The
Emperor Aurelius, is made to recommend the Christians to the Senate for
their valor; Tiberius even gives his testimony in their favor; Jesus,
himself, is made the author of a treatise in his own behalf; the Virgin
Mary writes the story of her wonderful child; Adam, even, testifies to
the truth of the Christian religion, though he is supposed to have lived
nearly four thousand years before Jesus. There is no end to the list of

But one of the most daring forgeries is the following passage in

      "About that time appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it be
      right to speak of him as a man, for he was a performer of
      wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with
      pleasure. He drew after him many of the Jews as well as of the
      Gentiles. _This same was the Christ._ And though Pilate, by the
      judgment of the chief rulers among us, delivered him up to be
      crucified ... he showed himself alive on the third day...."

That this famous passage in Josephus is an interpolation, is now
generally admitted. Breaking suddenly in the midst of a paragraph, the
great Jewish historian pauses to announce that Jesus was the Christ, and
that he really rose from the dead, etc., etc. This, if true, makes
Josephus a Christian, which he was not. The early fathers, Justin
Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, never referred to this famous
passage, which they certainly would have done, had such a passage
existed. What better evidence could they desire in their controversy
with the Jews than to point to this wonderful confession of their
principal author and historian, that the Jesus whom they crucified was
the Christ, and that he rose from the dead! But in the Josephus with
which they were acquainted there was no such text. Origen, the Christian
Father, admits in his writings that Josephus was not a believer in
Christ. How, then, did this passage creep into the works of the Jewish
historian? The man who discovered this passage in Josephus was the same
man who invented Constantine's vision, and the fable of the Seventy,
who, he says, shut up in seventy separate cells, produced the Septuagint
translation of the Old Testament, a translation, which, he adds, was
surely the work of the Holy Ghost, because when the Seventy separate
translations were compared, they were found to be in every detail alike,
without even the difference of a punctuation mark in them all. To
further prove this story, Eusebius tells us that he himself saw the
seventy cells which the translators had occupied four hundred years
before. This is the kind of churchman who first discovered the Josephus
passage. After quoting the interpolated passage, Eusebius wonders how
any Jew can have the impudence not to believe that Jesus was the Christ.
In one of his essays, De Quincy says that only lunatics now believe in
the genuineness of this passage, while a bishop of the Anglican
Church,--Warburton--calls it "a stupid forgery."

But the early Christians made even the pagan gods to testify for Jesus.
They composed verses in praise of the Christian religion and attributed
them to the pagan Sibyls. The oracles of Rome were made to prophesy the
coming of Christ,--his passion, and resurrection, and to admit their
inferiority to him. For many hundred years these Sibylline verses were
quoted as genuine, until the advancement of education laughed the
disgraceful fabrication out of existence.

Again, pious ecclesiastics in their zeal for their "ism," invented also
an _Apostles' Creed_, which the apostles never saw, and an _Apostolic
Constitution_, containing directions how a Christian Church or State
should be governed. They invented also the _Decretal Epistles_, by which
Constantine transfers all his property to the Bishop of Rome,--his
sword, his diadem, his throne,--and makes a prince of the pope, and an
empire of his church. Here is the passage which was forged into
Constantine's mouth by the Spanish priest Isidore:

      "We ascribe to the See of St. Peter all dignity, all glory, all
      imperial power.... Besides, we give to Sylvester (bishop of Rome)
      and his successor, our palace of the Lateran which is beyond
      question the most beautiful place on earth. We give him our crown,
      our mitre, our diadem, and all our imperial vestments; we remit to
      him the imperial dignity. We give as a pure gift, to the holy
      pontiff, the city of Rome and all the Western cities of Italy, as
      well as the Western cities of other countries. In order to give
      place to him, we yield our dominion over all these provinces by
      removing the seat of our empire to Byzantium, considering it not
      right that a terrestrial emperor should preserve the least power
      where God had established the head of religion."

How lovely! No wonder that Cardinal Newman regarded Constantine as a
pattern for all future monarchs.

But enough! Let us draw the curtain upon that early Christian age of
invention and imposture. Why was it, we ask again, that Europe became a
market for forgeries, immediately after its conversion to the Asiatic

Yet we must not forget that hand in hand with this dishonest work of
invention, went the shameful destruction of whatever was deemed
unfavorable to the new religion. Many of the masterpieces of pagan
literature were destroyed when they could not be tampered with. The rare
volumes of history, philosophy and poetry were reduced to ashes, that
they might not live to bear witness to the greatness of the
pre-Christian world. Even as they destroyed the monuments and temples of
Athens and Rome, they destroyed also the precious manuscripts of Greek
and Roman authors. From the following confession of St. Ambrose, Bishop
of Milan, we may gauge the temper of the early Christian Church: "I
myself would willingly assume the guilt (of destroying pagan buildings)
and say that 'I have set them in flames that there may be not a place
left in which Christ is denied.'"

Let us now briefly, tell the story of the invention of the Old
Testament: When Moses finished writing the book of the law, he called
the elders of the people before him and commanded them to "_take the
book of the law_ and put it into the side" or the inside "of the ark of
the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness."
The ark was a chest or box constructed after specific directions from
God, and was placed in the holy place in the temple, under or behind a
veil, which also covered the mercy seat upon the ark. As you must know,
even Aaron the high priest was cautioned against approaching this place
too often, for it was very holy. According to this account, God gives a
book to his people, but he locks it up in a box, and places the box
behind a veil, then fixes a seat upon the box which He Himself,
occupies. How could the people, under these circumstances, get at the
book? But it was not meant that they should. Ah, we have here a fine
illustration of what we may call the craft of the priest, or
priestcraft. They announce a revelation from God, but they will not
permit anyone to take it home and read it. It is locked up in a box, and
God himself is made to sit on the box.

The grass dies without air and light. The birds pine away in a cage.
Even the worms which creep in damp holes, come out for a glimpse of the
light, now and then; but the word of God hides in the darkness of the
ark, and fears the searching gaze of man! Was it born to be buried in a
wooden tomb,--born to be locked up in a shittim-wood chest,--born to
blink at the light! Ah, the precious priests! The sun may be seen by
everybody, the stars shine in the open, but the Word of God, like a
bashful maid, shrinks from observation, and sneaks into a closet. To
this day, the Catholics have to go to a closet--that is to say they have
to secure permission, before they can read the Word of God.[1]

To show that we have Bible authority for the statements made above, we
will quote from the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter xxxi, verse 24, etc:

      "And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the
      words of this law in a book, until they were finished. That Moses
      commanded the Levites which bare the Ark of the Covenant of the
      Lord, saying: Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of
      the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, your God, that it may be
      there for a witness against thee."

The directions are specific. And the people's reverence for the ark or
the chest containing the inspired words of God increased a thousandfold.

Let us continue: The book of the law is now in the box, with the lid
closed, and the deity sitting on the lid. Surely, it will be impossible
for the book ever to get lost. But it did get lost. We will tell its
story presently. But first let us speak of the jealousy with which the
priests watched the ark. In times of war when the Jews were compelled to
move the ark from one place to another, everybody was strictly forbidden
from touching it, or looking into it. On one occasion, while they had
the chest containing the two tables of stone and the Book of the Law, on
an ox-cart, moving it to a place of safety, the cart jostled and the ark
tipped. One of the drivers, Uzzah, instinctively, put forth his hand to
steady the sacred chest. He was instantly killed. He touched the ark,
and that was a crime. One must not even touch the box to save it from
falling, much less read and investigate the book hidden therein. Every
precaution was taken to protect the Bible from being investigated. God
did not guard the tree of knowledge more zealously than did the priests
the book of the law.

There were some people, however, who were curious enough to peep into
the ark, in spite of the threats of the rabbis. To scare these people,
the awful words,--sacrilege, impiety, profanity,--_blasphemy_,--were
invented. When these failed, murder was resorted to. Listen to this
story: The people of Beth-Shemesh, being of an inquiring mind, one day,
they approached the ark and peeped into it, or tried to. Well; riot and
massacre followed! The Lord "smote the men of Beth-Shemesh because they
had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty
thousand and three score and ten men,"--fifty thousand and seventy. The
rabbis charged this wholesale massacre to the deity. All successful
murderers do the same. But we must admit the priests took excellent care
of the ark and its contents. Unfortunately, however, it is now nearly
three thousand years since the ark was last heard of. Where is it now?

But to return to our story:

Many years after the time we are now speaking of, when King Solomon
finished his magnificent temple, in Jerusalem, he ordered the ark to be
opened. How he dared to disobey the priests, I cannot tell, but kings
enjoy special privileges, and perhaps, he had never heard that there was
a prohibition against even touching the ark. When the ark was opened,
lo! and behold! the Book of the Law which Moses had commanded to be put
inside the ark was not there.

_It was not there!_

In 2nd Kings, eighth chapter, ninth verse, we read that when they opened
the ark:

      "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone."

In other words, the book which we read about in the former quotation
from the Bible, and which contained most valuable divine instructions to
the people, had disappeared. The ark contained only two stones, which
too, in due time, went the way of the book, and no one knows where they
are at the present time. Ark and stones and book, as they are nowhere
to be found, there is a bare possibility that they have returned to
heaven whence they came.

But let us follow the story: The book was not in the ark.

What fate had befallen it? Was it never put there? When Uzzah, and the
five thousand and seventy men were killed for touching the ark, was it
empty? Solomon had the lid of the chest removed, and he found therein no
"Book of the Law," which was ordered to be placed there "as a witness."

Then followed a stretch of centuries in which the Book of the Law is not
heard of. Oblivion now began to spread its dusty wings upon the memory
of it. Yet, suggests Saladin, the old world jogged along as usual; the
sun rose and set; the moon, as ever before shed its romantic light upon
sea and shore. Lovers paired, and children, like a flock of swallows,
visited our earth. They toiled, grew old and died--without any Book of
the Law.

There is a third chapter in the biography of the Bible. Three hundred
and fifty years after Solomon had fallen asleep with his fathers, one
morning,--I cannot tell whether it was on a fair or on a foul day,
Hilkiah,--remember that name,--Hilkiah! the high priest, knocked on the
door of Shaphan, King Josiah's private secretary, and begged for a
private interview,--a _tete-a-tete_, as the French would say. Leaning
over, he whispered in the ears of the King's minister, slowly and
solemnly, as one who is burdened with some compelling
news,--that--he--had--just--found--"The Book of the Law" which had been
lost for three hundred and fifty years!

The two men paused and looked at each other for a moment. Yes, Hilkiah,
the high priest, had found the book which had been lost for three
hundred and fifty years! And where? In the Temple! Had the king's
minister been in an inquiring mood, he might have asked some questions:
Was the book lying there all these years and not a man stumbled upon it?
Or was it just put there for Hilkiah to find it? If it had been lost for
three hundred years or more, how could Hilkiah tell that the book he
found was the same that Moses wrote and ordered kept in the shittim-wood
chest? If Hilkiah made any changes in the book, how is the world to know
which is Hilkiah's and which is Moses' contribution to the Bible? But
the questions were not asked. Besides, faith can shut its small eye to
even greater difficulties than are involved in Hilkiah's discovery.

When the King heard this extraordinary news, he must have doubted the
word of the high priest, for he appointed a committee, whose names are
given in the Bible, to present a report on this newly-found book. What
did the committee do? Did it study the book? Did it invite native and
foreign scholars to pronounce upon it? Did it encourage the noblest,
bravest, most truthful men and women in the world to express their free
opinion about it, or to cross-examine the high priest? Indeed not! The
committee took the book and went to a medium. They believed that the
prophetess Huldah, the medium, or the witch, was the sole person capable
of passing upon the genuineness of inspired documents. No thinker, no
conscientious student, patiently collecting facts, and fearlessly
exposing error, could compare with the witch Huldah in inspiration. She
was to the Jewish nation, at this time, what Plato and Aristotle were to
the heathen Greeks. Huldah, the medium, represented the highest culture
of the country and its people. She was the one light in Jerusalem. The
confidence of Minot, Savage, Heber, Newton and publisher Funk, in Mrs.
Piper, is not a circumstance to the faith of King Josiah's committee in
prophetess Huldah. And she did not require time to study the book, or to
make investigations. What kind of a prophetess would she have been if
she could not answer any questions offhand?

Of course, Huldah's opinion was the Lord's opinion, because she began
her decision with the words, "Thus saith the Lord." And although, like
all mediums, she is very careful not to commit herself, she seems to
have satisfied the delegation from the King that the priest, Hilkiah,
had found the lost book of the law. For some reason which we are unable
to divine the book was not put back into the Ark. Perhaps they had found
a safer place.

How do Christian scholars explain this Hilkiah episode? Let us quote
from the _Encyclopedia Biblica_, one of the best known commentaries on
the Bible:--"What led Hilkiah to say that he had found the Book of the
Law is not recorded." Perhaps it was not convenient to do so: "He may
merely have meant," adds the commentator, feeling fearfully the strain
of his orthodoxy, "Here is the best and fullest law-book, about which
thou hast been asking." Is not this ingenious? "I have found the Book of
the Law," may only have meant, according to this clergyman's
interpretation, "Here is the best and fullest law-book about which thou
hast been asking." But why should Hilkiah have meant one thing and said
another? And what about the fact that Solomon failed to find the Book of
the Law in the Ark, and that for three hundred and fifty years there is
silence about this same book? And why did they go to medium Huldah, if
everybody knew what the book was? But the explanations of the orthodox
scholars which I have quoted prove what I said about the believer being
compelled to twist and cramp his conscience even worse than the reputed
authors of the Scriptures have done, in order to smooth over the
offenses against truth and honor in the Bible.

The authors of the _Encyclopedia Biblica_ are among the most scholarly
and progressive of the Christian clergy, and their answer to questions
about the High Priest Hilkiah is as good as can be expected, under the
circumstances. But we know of a safer answer than that--_silence_.

There is a concluding chapter in the history of the Bible. It appears
that when Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Persians, the city was
pillaged, the temple destroyed, and the Book of the Law which Hilkiah
had discovered, was burned. Once more, Israel is without a book. Driven
into captivity, the Jews lived among the heathen without a temple and
without a bible. Then Cyrus, the King of Persia, is represented in the
book of Ezra, as issuing a proclamation to the Jews to return to their
country and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. At this time, Cyrus,
graciously delivered to the Jews "the vessels of the house of the Lord,
which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem, and had put them in
the house of his gods." Among the articles restored to the Temple, no
mention is made of the Book of the Law. But Ezra, who is called "a
scribe of the words of the commandment of the Lord," appears to have not
only rebuilt the temple, but also to have restored the burned Book of
the Law. In forty days, by the help of forty associates, everything that
was ever reported to have been done of the Lord was put to writing and
read aloud to the congregation which kept standing as Ezra read to
them. Such is the story in the Book of _Esdras_.

That Ezra was the restorer of the destroyed law seems to have been the
opinion of almost all the early church Fathers. "Whether you choose to
call Moses the author of the Pentateuch, or Ezra the restorer of the
same book, I make no objection," wrote St. Jerome. Clement, of
Alexandria, another church Father, writes, that, "The writings having
been destroyed, Ezra, the Levite, having become inspired, prophesied,
restoring again all the old writings." Eusebius and Irenaeus seem to be
of the same opinion, and the famous Tertullian, a pillar of the church,
gives his testimony that, "Jerusalem having been destroyed by the
Babylonian siege, it appears that every instrument of Jewish literature
was restored by Esdras."

If Esdras, indeed, restored the burned book, which Hilkiah had found in
the Temple after it had been lost for three hundred and fifty years,
then, the question whether Moses was inspired or not,--a question which
has vexed the world so much--loses all its importance. Was Ezra
inspired? That is the crucial question? If he was not, how can Moses'
inspiration help us since his writings were burned by the Persians, even
if they were not stolen from the ark and revised by Hilkiah? The
inventor of the Old Testament was Ezra, "a scribe of the words of the
commandment of the Lord," that is to say, the clerk or amanuensis of
God, a title which aptly describes not the interpreter, but the author
of the Book of the Law. What kind of a man was this compiler or inventor
of the Book of the Law? What does Christian Scholarship think of his
character? Let us hear the doctors of divinity on Ezra.

The authors of the _Encyclopedia Biblica_ whom we nave already quoted,
admit that the man who bears the name of Ezra manipulated, if he did not
invent, the narrative which he tells in the Bible:--"He partly mutilates
it by removing a portion, partly makes it almost unintelligible by
placing it in a connection to which it does not belong, and by making
interpolations, etc." Could we ask for a stronger proof that the Bible
is the work of men--and not of honest men, at that? But is it fair to
include the whole Bible in this accusation? I wish I could feel that
some portions of the Bible are free from suspicion, but I cannot. Alas!
it is impossible to point to a single book in the Bible of the
authorship of which we may speak with assurance. The marks of political
and theological imposture in the Bible are like leopard's spots, they
cannot be removed.

Well! It must not be thought that we have now disarmed the bibliolaters.
They have still a powerful weapon left with which to defend the Bible:
Suppose Ezra did compose or compile the Book! Is it not, nevertheless,
true that the Bible teaches righteousness? The argument is something
like this: The Bible may not be true, but it is very moral. In our
opinion, however, it is even less moral than it is true. A book which
commands murder, plunder, persecution for opinion sake, slavery and
credulity of the most abject kind, can not very well be recommended as a
moral text-book. Of course, there are in the Bible, as also in the Vedas
or the Koran, splendid passages of truth and beauty, but by selecting
only one set of passages and ignoring the rest any book could be made

Matthew Arnold professes to have discovered in the Old Bible "the
Eternal, not ourselves, making for Righteousness," one of his proofs
being Ps. 50:23: "To him that ordereth his conversation _right_ shall be
shown the salvation of God." But the Revised Version has robbed the
Oxford professor of his text by completely changing its meaning: "Whoso
offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me, and prepareth a
way that I may show him the salvation of God" (See margin of Revised
Version). There is nothing in the original about "ordering one's conduct
or conversation right," it was put there by the translators whose moral
culture was far superior to the authors they were rendering into

Moreover, Matthew Arnold, fully conceding the conclusions of the "higher
critics," e. g., that the events narrated in the Bible are in most cases
pure fabrications; that they are the work of myth-mongers who sought to
pass as genuine and divine, documents which they had themselves forged
for partisan purposes--who plagiarized from Assyrian liturgies, and
wilfully misrepresented as well as interpolated the history of their
nation--asks us, nevertheless, to look upon these political schemers and
_poseurs_, as having but one all-consuming passion--_righteousness_!

In conclusion: The inspiration of the Bible is not a question of
belief, it is a question of evidence. If believing a book inspired could
make it so, then, the books of Mohammed and Buddha, of Confucius and
Zoroaster, must be inspired too. In fact, any book could be made
infallible, if believing it to be so, were all that was required. But
does the evidence which I have offered prove that the Bible was
invented? I sincerely believe it does, but still, I may be mistaken, and
am therefore open to any evidence which may be furnished that the four
gospels, for instance, were not invented by religious partisans, who,
while suppressing their own names, paraded those of the apostles as
their real authors, notwithstanding that the apostles had been dead long
ago. I shall consider, conscientiously, any evidence which might be
furnished that Ezra was not the real reproducer, if not the original
author of the Jewish code, after his return from Babylonia. And, I
promise to retract and apologize for the position I have maintained in
this lecture, if the theologians, who are at home on this subject, will
prove that there were no spurious gospels, no impostures, no lying
manuscripts thrown upon the religious market as soon as the pagan state
embraced Christianity, I will also listen to any arguments which may be
produced to show that _the Apostles' Creed_ was written by the apostles;
that Constantine abdicated in favor of the pope; that the Pagan Sibyls
prophesied of Christ, and that Josephus acknowledged Jesus to have been
the Messiah.

I sincerely trust some learned divine into whose hands this lecture
might fall, will present the other side, if he thinks there is another
side, of the story I have presented. By the word invented it is not
meant that the names, events, etc, were all manufactured, but that
stories borrowed largely from mythical sources were edited and altered
to serve partisan and political purposes.

And why have I told this story?

Do you know of any good reason, reader, why every other subject may be
independently discussed or investigated, except religion? And do you
know why, if Shakespeare can stand criticism, the Bible should shrink
from it?

If it is possible to disagree with, or to advance beyond, Plato,
Socrates, Spencer, Darwin, Goethe, Emerson,--please! why is it a heresy
to differ from Moses, Solomon, Jonah or Jesus? Why is it proper to
disagree with a Greek or a Roman, but blasphemy to disagree with a Jew?

The Bible has for centuries blocked the way of progress. As an
infallible book it has enslaved conscience, and encouraged intolerance.
To defend its many puerilities, and even immoral tales, men have
resorted to casuistry and dissimulation. I believe that men will be more
honest, more tolerant, more progressive, more independent and more
manly, if they could be delivered from the bondage of the Bible. To
overthrow its tyranny and to prove that a book can not be the master of
living and growing men, to make man free, to raise him from his knees,
to bring back the color to his cheeks white with fear, and to give to
his arrested mind movement--is my aim and my joy![2]


[1] See Saladin's _God and His Book_.

[2] Those who wish to read further on this subject should consult the
author's _The Truth About Jesus--Is He a Myth?_

       *       *       *       *       *

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