Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part One…


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From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1894)

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |

Somebody ought to tell the truth about the Bible. The preachers dare not, because they would be driven from their pulpits. Professors in colleges dare not, because they would lose their salaries. Politicians dare not. They would be defeated. Editors dare not. They would lose subscribers. Merchants dare not, because they might lose customers. Men of fashion dare not, fearing that they would lose caste. Even clerks dare not, because they might be discharged. And so I thought I would do it myself.

There are many millions of people who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God — millions who think that this book is staff and guide, counselor and consoler; that it fills the present with peace and the future with hope — millions who believe that it is the fountain of law, justice and mercy, and that to its wise and benign teachings the world is indebted for its liberty, wealth and civilization — millions who imagine that this book is a revelation from the wisdom and love of God to the brain and heart of man — millions who regard this book as a torch that conquers the darkness of death, and pours its radiance on another world — a world without a tear.

They forget its ignorance and savagery, its hatred of liberty, its religious persecution; they remember heaven, but they forget the dungeon of eternal pain. They forget that it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart. They forget that it is the enemy of intellectual freedom. Liberty is my religion. Liberty of hand and brain — of thought and labor, liberty is a word hated by kings — loathed by popes. It is a word that shatters thrones and altars — that leaves the crowned without subjects, and the outstretched hand of superstition without alms. Liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice — the perfume of mercy. Liberty is the seed and soil, the air and light, the dew and rain of progress, love and joy.

I

THE ORIGIN OF THE BIBLE.

A few wandering families — poor, wretched, without education, art or power; descendants of those who had been enslaved for four hundred years; ignorant as the inhabitants of Central Africa, had just escaped from their masters to the desert of Sinai. Their leader was Moses, a man who had been raised in the family of Pharaoh and had been taught the law and mythology of Egypt. For the purpose of controlling his followers he pretended that he was instructed and assisted by Jehovah, the God of these wanderers.

Everything that happened was attributed to the interference of this God. Moses declared that he met this God face to face; that on Sinai’s top from the hands of this God he had received the tables of stone on which, by the finger of this God, the Ten Commandments had been written, and that, in addition to this, Jehovah had made known the sacrifices and ceremonies that were pleasing to him and the laws by which the people should be governed.

In this way the Jewish religion and the Mosaic Code were established.

It is now claimed that this religion and these laws were and are revealed and established for all mankind.

At that time these wanderers had no commerce with other nations, they had no written language, they could neither read nor write. They had no means by which they could make this revelation known to other nations, and so it remained buried in the jargon of a few ignorant, impoverished and unknown tribes for more than two thousand year’s.

Many centuries after Moses, the leader, was dead many centuries after all his followers had passed away — the Pentateuch was written, the work of many writers, and to give it force and authority it was claimed that Moses was the author.

We now know that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses.

Towns are mentioned that were not in existence when Moses lived.

Money, not coined until centuries after his death, is mentioned.

So, many of the laws were not applicable to wanderers on the desert — laws about agriculture, about the sacrifice of oxen, sheep and doves, about the weaving of cloth, about ornaments of gold and silver, about the cultivation of land, about harvest, about the threshing of grain, about houses and temples, about cities of refuge, and about many other subjects of no possible application to a few starving wanderers over the sands and rocks.

It is now not only admitted by intelligent and honest theologians that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch, but they all admit that no one knows who the authors were, or who wrote any one of these books, or a chapter or a line. We know that the books were not written in the same generation; that they were not all written by one person; that they are filled with mistakes and contradictions. It is also admitted that Joshua did not write the book that bears his name, because it refers to events that did not happen until long after his death.

No one knows, or pretends to know, the author of Judges; all we know is that it was written centuries after all the judges had ceased to exist. No one knows the author of Ruth, nor of First and Second Samuel; all we know is that Samuel did not write the books that bear his name. In the 25th chapter of First Samuel is an account of the raising of Samuel by the Witch of Endor.

No one knows the author of First and Second Kings or First and Second Chronicles; all we know is that these books are of no value.

We know that the Psalms were not written by David. In the Psalms the Captivity is spoken of, and that did not happen until about five hundred years after David slept with his fathers.

We know that Solomon did not write the Proverbs or the Song; that Isaiah was not the author of the book that bears his name; that no one knows the author of Job, Ecclesiastes, or Esther, or of any book in the Old Testament, with the exception of Ezra.

We know that God is not mentioned or in any way referred to in the book of Esther. We know, too, that the book is cruel, absurd and impossible.

God is not mentioned in the Song of Solomon, the best book in the Old Testament.

And we know that Ecclesiastes was written by an unbeliever.

We know, too, that the Jews themselves had not decided as to what books were inspired — were authentic — until the second century after Christ.

We know that the idea of inspiration was of slow growth, and that the inspiration was determined by those who had certain ends to accomplish.

To be continued…
~~

6 Comments

Dave, Thanks so much for continuing to publish these very meaningful excerpts from the life’s work of Robert Ingersoll. Unlike the pope’s, Ingersoll’s logic is infallible. The thing that I like about all this is that it is just like baseball: you can look it up!

    You’re welcome, Matt! I have found no one else with the clarity, good sense, and good humor around these issues. He thought that it was so obvious that religion was b.s. that it would soon be a thing of the past, but here we are in 2013 and a third of Americans still would rather have a theocracy. The mind reels… And lest we get distracted and forget to go to the root of our problems, as Bill Edelen reminds us today, “The vast majority of the evils inflicted upon humankind today are the product of dogmatic, religious authoritarianism….”

Small Farmer in Frisco April 9, 2013 at 6:18 am

Dave, I’d offer the thought that it is not religion that is the problem but the misuse and abuse of religion in aid of narrow minded, self-serving ends that was, is, and always shall be the problem…blaming a tool for its misuse is a bit off the mark…

    Jeez, Small Farmer, the bible is not a “tool,” like a wrench or a screwdriver, it is the so-called “word of god”… and it and its writers ARE to blame!

Small Farmer in Frisco April 9, 2013 at 6:20 am

And btw, the issue of authorship of the various books of the Bible is really a non-starter among anyone other than an inerrant fundamentalist….

    Small Farmer: It is the inerrant fundamentalist, as I was raised, who I am especially concerned about and why I publish Ingersoll. The Quakers, who walk the talk of Jesus, rather than proselytize biblical hell and heaven nonsense, are of no concern to me…

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