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Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian was an American rationalist and secularist of Armenian descent. Mangasarian considered himself a Rationalist or a Secularist not an Atheist, since he considered atheism a non-verifiable belief system. He was pastor at a Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, which he resigned from, becoming an independent preacher and a lecturer on "independent religion" in New YorkThe Bible Unveiled deals with the evidence against the existence of an historical Jesus.
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An Extraordinary Book
A Word with the Reader—Protestant and Catholic
A Word with the Jews
PART I.: I. The Neglected Book
What Makes a Book Inspired?
The Sects and Their Bibles
Catholic and Protestant Bibles
Catholics Make Their Own Bible
PART II.: I. The Tercentenary of the English Bible
Some Lay Defenders of the Bible—Bryan’s Challenge
Bryan’s Defense of the Bible
II. Roosevelt on the Bible
III. “Let Them Produce It”
What Is the Best Thing That Can Be Said in Favor of the Bible?
IV. How to Test a Book
Speak According to Knowledge
I. The First Chapter of the Bible
The First Verse of the Bible
Theologians Discover That Six Days Means Six Periods
The Great Tragedy
II. Taboo and Totem.
III. The Bible and Magic
The Unbelievable in the Bible
IV. The Strangest Story in the Bible
PART IV.: I. God and His Book
The Deity Demands Human Flesh
II. The Portrait of God in the Bible
A Bible Saint
III. The Bible and Judaism
IV. Bible and Talmud
V. The Masterpiece of the Bible—Solomon’s Temple
PART V.: Contradictions in the Bible
Serious Discrepancies in the Story of Jesus
One Writer Makes Jesus Affirm What Another Made Him Deny
PART VI.: I. What Was The Bible Meant to Teach?
II. The Bible and Religion
III. Does the Bible Teach Morality?
IV. Righteousness in the Bible
V. The Ten Commandments
VI. The Commandments Broken
VII. Thou Shalt Despise Women
VIII. The Sermon on the Mount
IX. The Parables of Jesus
PART VII.: I. A Better Bible
Conclusion. The Book of God and the Book of Man
ABOOK WHICH CLAIMS INFALLIBILITY; WHICH aspires to absolute authority over mind and body; which demands unconditional surrender to all its pretensions upon penalty of eternal damnation, is an extraordinary book and should, therefore, be subjected to extraordinary tests.
Neither Christian priests nor Jewish rabbis approve of applying to the bible the same tests by which other books are tried.
Because it will help the bible?
It can not be that.
Because it might hurt the bible?
We can think of no other reason.
But why devote so much space and time to the discussion of a book in which the educated world no longer believes? Why not take up issues that are more alive and more useful? I am of the opinion that the people who leave the bible alone do so, not because they think the book has ceased to hurt, but because they are still afraid of it, or its clientèle. The generality of reformers would rather fight giants than the great paper idol of the churches—because it is safer.
Clergymen with liberal tendencies seek to dull the edge of all criticism against the bible by admitting in advance the conclusions of scholarship in reference to it, but still pretending to find a unique use for the book as “literature.” Indeed! And since when has the bible, from being a divine revelation, fallen to the level of mere letters? If the bible is mere literature, would the mails accept it in its present form? Would it be tolerated in the homes of the people? And why should there be a paid army of men in the service of a book which is only literature? Why so many priests and rabbis to do its bidding, and why should so many costly and untaxed temples and cathedrals be built for a book which is no more than any other literature? Why should missionaries be maintained to push the sale of this one book if it is nothing but literature? Why is the world broken up into sects and creeds without number in the name of this literature? Peculiar literature, this!
The veil lifted! I am not going to give new names to the bible, or find new hidden meanings in it. That is not my profession. Occultism, which enables a reader to find in any book whatever he is seeking, has never commanded my respect. By lifting the veil, I mean a very simple thing—showing up the bible.
All idols are veiled. The veil is the idol. Uncovered, they scare nobody. I shall try to do to the great idol of Christendom what the sun does to the earth—coax it into the light.
LET ME ASSURE THE PROSPECTIVE Catholic and Protestant readers of this volume that I do not harbor a single feeling toward them which is not of the kindest and the most respectful. I have no quarrel whatever with individuals, or with parties. It is altogether foreign to my nature to take pleasure in giving pain to others. If the truth gives pain, it is not the fault of the teacher, nor of the reader who hears it for the first time, but of error, which stabs and stings before it will surrender its victims.
Having been a Christian believer myself, I have the warmest sympathy for all who still wear the yoke of superaturalism. But I have no pity for error. I will not consult its pleasure. I will not spare it. Before any of my readers condemn me for speaking openly, and without reservation, I trust they will think of something else I could have said about the bible which would have been better than the truth. And as I am going to make the bible speak for itself, I am sure no one will charge me with misrepresenting the facts.
But I have no business to be concerned about either pleasing or displeasing anybody. I am going to tell the truth, even if it hurts. If telling the truth hurts me, it is I, and not the truth, that has to get out of the way; if it hurts you, it is you, and not the truth, that has to be sacrificed.
Not “truth for truth’s sake,” but “truth for humanity’s sake,” is the better motto, argue certain teachers; but is there a better way of serving humanity than through truth? Even as “Art for art’s sake” will give humanity the highest art, “Truth for truth’s sake” will give to the world the only bread it can live by.
AS THE BIBLE IS THE work of Jewish authors, and as I say quite a little about Jews and Judaism in this book, I wish to take the pains to explain my position in advance. Rationalism is much indebted to the educated Jew. Even more is the Jew indebted to Rationalism. The only miracle in the history of Israel was performed by Rationalism. All the bible miracles are nothing in comparison. Rationalism has saved the Jew from his greatest enemy—the bible. It is to the great credit of the Jew that he has survived his “holy” book. No people have suffered more from it than the chosen people. The bible has made the Jew a wanderer and an alien in every country. When thinking of the martyrdom of this race through the centuries, the poet Heine exclaimed: “Judaism is not a religion; Judaism is a misfortune.” * The same poet congratulates himself upon the hastening departure of Jehovah: “It is the old Jehovah himself that is preparing for death. Hear ye not the bells resounding? Kneel down, they are bringing the sacraments to a dying God.”
* Heine: Philosophy and Religion in Germany.
The great strides which the modern Jew has made in culture as well as in commerce, he owes to his emancipation from the influence of the bible. The more he disobeys the bible the more universal he becomes in his sympathies and tastes. With the crushing load of the bible taken off his shoulders, the Jew is swift in responding to the most beneficent influences of environment. Away from Judaism lies the salvation of the Jew. It was in Europe and America, among the Gentiles, and not in Palestine, that the Jew discovered himself. Not until he turned his back upon Jehovah and his book did the Jew leap forth to conquer in art, in literature, in science, and in all the graces that help to make genius and virtue attractive. I do not say that all persecution and prejudice will end when Jew and Christian cease to follow the teachings of the bible, but surely the most formidable obstacles to the fraternization of the races shall be removed. It is a service to humanity to try to free the Jew from the rabbinical yoke, and the Christian from that of the priest. The rabbi is as much a schismatic as the priest. The parent of both is the bible.
Once for all, I beg the readers of this book to know that I do not believe for a moment that the Jews ever taught the absurdities, or practiced the atrocities, with which the bible credits them. I do not believe they ever started on an expedition to murder babes and sucklings, or to capture girls for their harems, for which acts the bible praises them. Like the Catholics and the Protestants, the Jews, inspired by these same scriptures, have committed many follies through the centuries, but I am positive in my own mind that the terrible Old Testament picture of the Jew is a libel against humanity, as well as against the Jews.
Not until the Jew has completely parted with bible and Talmud; not until he has completely surrendered to Rationalism in mind and body—for as long as he practices the Abrahamic rite upon his children as a religious duty he will continue to be an alien in every land—will the Jew end his wanderings in the wilderness and enter the land of promise.
The Messiah of the Jew, as well as of the Christian, is come. It is Rationalism. And what is Rationalism? The authority of Reason.
THE BIBLE IS A SORT of national pet in this country. We are taught from the cradle to revere, and almost worship it. In time, the bible comes to be as near and dear to us as our own mothers. When anybody praises it, we applaud him; when anybody criticizes it, we feel toward him as we would toward one who has betrayed his country, or insulted the national flag.
When, recently, President Taft praised the bible by saying that “Our laws, our literature and our social life owe whatever excellence they possess largely to the influence of this, our chief classic,” he was, I am sure, quite sincere. But, evidently, all he knows about the bible is what was taught him in the nursery, the Sunday-school, or the church. The majority of people who exalt the bible above all other books have not studied the book—not even read it, except a chapter here and a passage there. If the bible had been a smaller book, people would have been more familiar with its contents, but being a book of ponderous size, the generality of people have only a dilettante acquaintance with its contents. Really, the size of the book has been its best protection. There is scarcely any other book which is more reverenced, and less known, than the bible.
The bible societies, however, claim that for long centuries the bible has been the best seller. About twenty million copies a year have been disposed of during the past three hundred years. But selling a book, and getting it read, are not the same thing. There are reasons which explain the enormous traffic in bibles. A great deal of money is expended every year to push its sale. Great legacies are devoted to the translation and dissemination of the bible in every country. Powerful corporations exist all over Christendom to introduce the bible into new territories. Besides, the book is sold at a nominal price, often below cost, which is made possible by large endowments and legacies.
Another reason which explains the vogue of the bible is the fact that it is protected against all competition. The king is behind the book; the press is behind it; and a halo of divinity is thrown about it to scare people from examining their own holy book with the same freedom that they examine the holy books of other countries. What other book has ever received the patronage which the bible commands, even to-day? And what would have been the fate of the bible had no more been done for it than has been done for Shakespeare, for example? Not until all artificial helps and props have been removed, will we be in a position to say whether the bible sells on its own merits, or whether it is indebted for its popularity to special privilege.
But, as already intimated, notwithstanding these enormous sales, the bible is read so little by the present generation that it may well be called The Neglected Book. To prove this, we are not going to quote Rationalists, but clergymen. The complaint from every pulpit is that the bible is being ignored by the people more and more every day. The Rev. Lyman Abbott read, at one of his lectures, a chapter from the bible, without, however, mentioning the name of the book to his hearers. He was addressing an élite audience; on the platform were judges, bankers and the “first citizens” of the town. At the conclusion of his lecture two of the gentlemen on the platform, one of them a judge, asked him for the name of the book he had read from. Lyman Abbott himself tells this and other similar stories to show how ignorant the American public is of the contents of the book they venerate so piously and gush over so spectacularly.
The very people, however, who are so ignorant of the bible, would be the first to throw up their hands in horror should the least criticism be directed against its contents. The same complaint, namely, that people are neglecting the study of the bible, is made by other clergymen. In schools and colleges, even, great ignorance has been discovered among the pupils about the bible. Professor Hamilton reports that, in visiting certain schools in New York, he found among pupils preparing for college, and nearly of an age for entrance, whole classes that could not answer the easiest questions about the contents of the bible.
It is my opinion that the complaining clergymen themselves are not so well acquainted with the bible as they should be. Of course, no harm is done either to science or ethics by this general ignorance of the stories in the bible; personally, I am pleased at the indifference of the public to a collection of writings which has to be labeled “holy” to command respect.
The above facts are quoted only to prove that, despite its enormous sales, the bible is a stranger in the home, the school, the study, the shop, and in all the assemblies of the people. But the less some people are acquainted with the bible, the more they seem to believe in it. Indeed, ignorance of the bible is indispensable to faith in its inspiration. Moreover, it is this ignorant veneration which makes it dangerous for any one to read and tell the truth about it. Formerly, when the church had the power, such a man was either hacked to pieces, or burned to cinders; to-day, even, he is persecuted as much as public opinion will permit. It is a matter of history that in the name of this Jewish-Christian volume, which people do not read and are but superficially acquainted with, nearly a hundred millions of lives have been destroyed in Europe alone. Could anything be more appalling? In modern times, the church can no longer do to the unbelievers in the bible what it did to them for over seventeen hundred years, but it does to them as much as public sentiment will allow.
The reader will be interested in examining with me the book in the defense of which, I regret to say, nearly every imaginable crime has been committed. It gives me pain to say this, but who can hide the truth? Moreover, my sole purpose in telling the plain truth is not to offend, or give pain, but to encourage everybody to approach the book without fear. I am not going to praise the bible; but I am not going to denounce it either; I am going to explain it.
It is my desire not so much to talk about the bible—when, and where, and by whom, it was compiled; how it was lost and discovered; burned in the destruction of the temple, and later restored by the scribe Ezra; how it has been edited and revised again and again * —but to lift the veil and show the book to the world.
* These questions are discussed in the author’s pamphlet, How the Bible Was Invented.
BEFORE proceeding to read the book, may I explain that an inspired book must be different from uninspired books. If it has excellences and defects like other books, then it is in no sense different from any of the works of man. An inspired book must be a perfect book, else what advantage is there in being inspired? Again, an inspired book must contain original matter, to justify its inspiration. If the bible needed the help of inspiration to say what other books have said without inspiration, then, instead of being a greater, it must needs be a more ordinary book. Is there anything in the bible which can not be found elsewhere? While there is not a single idea in the bible which was not known before, there are many glorious truths of science and philosophy in other books which can not be found in the bible. Wherein, then, is the bible inspired?
Let me also explain that an argument, or the presentation of important facts, produces an impression only upon the unprejudiced. The soundest reasoning will no more convince a partisan than the most copious shower will give nourishment to the sand. But an argument is never addressed to a biased mind. The appeal of reason is to the fairminded and the free.
When, for instance, it is shown that certain passages are in one bible, and not in another; or how passages, regarded as divine at one time, have been dropped or altered in more recent revisions, a telling point is made against an infallible book, in the opinion of all honest minds. Or, when it is shown that the bible positively teaches falsehood and immorality, the question of inspiration is at once closed for all self-respecting and impartial judges. But, as intimated, nothing can satisfy prejudice, or conquer wilful ignorance. Prejudice on the one hand, and stupidity on the other, are as impervious to argument as a duck’s back is to water.
The present book is not for minds that are closed. When we go to court to have a case tried, the value of the evidence we present does not depend upon the appreciation of our adversary’s counsel. However convincing our testimony, he will never admit that it proves his client guilty. It is the impartial judge, and it is, again, the open-minded jury, that must pass upon the evidence. In the same way, what we say here about the bible will not convert the priests or the rabbis. We do not write for them. Our book will have no effect upon the pope; it is not meant to change his views. This book is for those who can afford the truth.
In conclusion, the bible is a very delicate subject to handle. The material in hand is so prodigious, and of such a nature, that I am at a loss to know what to say and what to omit. There are many things in the bible to which I would like to call attention but which I am debarred from so doing because good taste will not allow it. Yet not to be able to refer to these matters places me in the position of an attorney who has his best witnesses and evidence thrown out by a ruling of the court. The church people are permitted to go on and print in every language the texts and stories of the bible which I am not allowed even to read in public—much less to comment on them. They can sell the book by the millions, containing absurdities and atrocities which, by order of the court (that is to say, of public opinion, or of good taste), I am prohibited from referring to in my argument against the authority of the book. The reader can have no idea what a protection that is to the bible. The defendant, as it were, has gagged the prosecution. It needs no effort to realize how much the bible is indebted to this fact for its being tolerated at all in the twentieth century. Courtesy prevents the exposure which would completely change the world’s opinion of the book.
But one can be a little freer in a book than on a public platform. Many of the texts quoted in this volume could not have been read from the platform. But there are numerous passages in the bible which would cause even cold print to blush. We shall not disturb those.
THE Jews deny that the second half of the bible is inspired; the Christians admit that the first part of the bible is not as binding as the second part.
The Jew fails to observe that, in denying inspiration to the New Testament, he is also depriving the Old of its inspiration. The arguments by which he disproves the New Testament are the same which disprove the Old, and all other “inspired” documents.
The Christian, by admitting that the Old Testament is no longer as binding upon the conscience of man as it was at one time, or as the New Testament is now, surrenders the whole question of inspiration. If the Old Testament has been superseded, the New might be, too. If what God says in one part of the book can be ignored by the Christians, what he says in another part of the book may just as reasonably be ignored by the Jews, and—this is important—what God says in either part of the book may be ignored by the Rationalist. In other words, the Rationalist agrees with the Christian that the Old Testament is passé, and with the Jews, that the New Testament is nothing more than ecclesiastical literature. The Rationalist uses the arguments of the Jew against the New Testament, and the arguments of the Christian against the Old, with the result that practically both Testaments fall by the blows of the sectarians themselves. Both Jew and Christian seem to be unable to perceive, or if they do, they are unwilling to admit, that not only has each destroyed the position of the other, but also his own.
All the objections which the Jew brings against Christianity are equally valid against his own Judaism. Does he object to the Christian trinity? There is a trinity also in his religion. In Genesis we read that the Lord appeared unto Abraham in three persons. He entertained and worshiped the three men as one Lord. * Does the Jew object to the dogma of incarnation? In the Old Testament, God repeatedly appears in flesh and blood. Is it the immaculate conception that the Jew can not accept? In Judaism, too, that miracle was of frequent occurrence. Maidens in the Old Testament, as in the New, see an angel of the Lord and become pregnant. Is it the doctrine of hell to which the Jew objects? Jesus, in all probability, borrowed it from the Talmud. Is it an exclusive salvation that the Jew rejects? But the extra ecclesia non est solus of the Catholic is but another version of the “Outside Israel there is no salvation” of the Old Testament. Is it the doctrine of blood atonement in the New Testament which offends him? The Old Testament is as red as the New. The difference between Judaism and Christianity is one of name, largely. Is it not remarkable how people will subscribe to the very doctrines which they reject, if presented to them under a different name? Jew and Christian have persecuted one another in the past. Why? Only for a name. The pity of it! Judaism is Christianity, and Christianity is Judaism. They are called by different names—that is all.
To the Jew we say: “You will not take upon you the yoke of the New Testament; cast down also the yoke of the Old.” And to the Christian we say: “You have already emancipated yourself from the authority of the Old Testament to a great extent; free yourself also from the authority of the New.”
THE Catholics do not believe in the Protestant bible; the Protestants do not trust the Catholic bible. Each tells the truth about the bible of the other, but not of his own.
As in the case of the Jew and the Christian, neither the Catholic nor the Protestant seems to realize that in condemning each other’s bible as untrustworthy, or as a manipulated copy, they are condemning also each his own bible. If the Catholics have tampered with the Word of God, as the Protestants claim they have; and if the Protestants have a defective bible, as the Catholics charge, then the claim that God has preserved his revelation from human error falls to the ground. If God did not protect the Protestant bible from corruption, he is liable to be equally unconcerned about the Catholic bible, from which it follows that the Word of God can be, and has been, corrupted, which, if true—and both Catholics and Protestants say it is—then there is no incorruptible Word of God.
The Rationalist shares with the Catholic the latter’s opinion of the Protestant bible; and of the Catholic bible, it doubts its reliability just as the Protestants do. Putting what the Protestants and Catholics say of each other’s bible side by side, the Rationalist arrives at the conclusion that both bibles are untrustworthy.
Let us now consider another phase of the Catholic-Protestant position on the bible. The Protestants are apparently very anxious to make the reading of the bible in the home and the school imperative; the Catholics, on the other hand, seek to make it equally imperative not to read the bible. It is well known that the popes of Rome, as heads of the church and vicars of Christ, have repeatedly forbidden the reading of the bible by the people. An index of forbidden books is kept in Rome for the guidance of the faithful, and, surprising as it may seem, the bible was placed upon this Index Expurgatorius by the popes themselves. The bull of Pius IV. reads: “Whosoever shall dare to own a copy of this book (bible) and read it without having procured a special dispensation shall not receive absolution for his sins.”
Similar prohibitions were given by Pius VI., Leo II, XII., Gregory XVI., Pius IX. in his Syllabus, and Clement XI. in his famous bull, Unigenitus. In the Index of forbidden books of Pope Innocent XI., 1704, one of the books forbidden is “the bible in any of the popular languages.”
This prohibition was not against the Protestant bibles only, for the fourth clause in the Index is a warning against Catholic bibles as well, “bibliorum Catholicis autoribus versorum.”
My sympathies in this matter are with the Catholics; if the bible is an infallible book, we ought to have an infallible reader. To say that everybody may interpret the bible as he pleases is to say that the bible has no meaning at all, except what the readers themselves read into it. But if it has an infallible meaning, only an infallible interpreter can pronounce upon it. And when it is remembered that an erroneous interpretation might be the means of damning the souls of many, it becomes a positive duty not to read the book for one’s self. The Pope may read it, because being infallible, he can not misread it. I admire the logic of the Catholic church in this respect. Grant the premises that the bible is a special revelation—and infallible—and all the arguments of the Protestants against the Catholic position shatter to pieces, like the waves against a rock.
But, as already intimated, the Protestants believe in putting the bible in every house, hotel and school. They want every man to carry a pocket-bible; and if women had pockets they would be urged to do the same. From all this one would suppose that they were very anxious to get everybody acquainted with the contents of the bible. The different ministerial assemblies, at their annual gatherings, recently attacked by official resolutions the decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, which made the reading of the bible in the public schools unconstitutional. The Protestant churches do not seem to care at all about the constitution—they want the bible in the schools, constitution or no constitution. In the twentieth century the supreme court rules the bible out of the people’s schools! Had not Greece fallen before the wave of Asiatic mysticism, the bible would have been ruled out of Europe two thousand years ago. The Supreme Court of Illinois is doing now what the supreme court of Europe should have done in the year one. Notwithstanding protests to the contrary, I am of the opinion that the Protestants are at heart as opposed to the reading of the bible as the Catholics. Indeed, they would have everybody read the bible, but they must not read it with their own eyes, but as Calvin, or Wesley, or Luther read it. But that is not different from the Catholic position that the Pope must read the bible for the people. If the Protestants really permit each to read and interpret the bible according to his best thought, why are there heresy trials among them? That is a searching question. Heresy trials prove beyond a doubt that the Protestants do not wish anybody to read the bible for himself. See what the church did to me for reading the bible with my own eyes. At the age of twenty-five, myself, my wife and baby were dispossessed of church, position and support. What was done to me for reading the bible with my own eyes has been done to thousands of others?
“Let me read the bible for you,” says the Catholic.
“Read the bible with my eyes,” says the Protestant.
What is the difference?
ONE of the significant facts about the bible is that no two copies of it are exactly alike. There are nearly as many versions of it as there are sects. The most important variations are to be found between Catholic and Protestant bibles. As I write I have before me a copy of the Catholic “Holy Bible,” on the title-page of which are these words:
Translated from the Latin Vulgate.
This edition of the Holy Catholic Bible, having been duly
examined, is hereby approved of.
Then follows a long list of the names of bishops and archbishops. It is thus intimated that no bible is the “Word of God” unless it has the endorsement of these Catholic dignitaries. Only after these men have examined the bible and given it their sanction does the book become “divine.” No layman can tell for himself, unaided by a priest, the “Word of God” from the word of man. In fact, it is the priest who changes the word of man into the “Word of God” by the same process that he converts ordinary bread into a God.
There is given also in the “Holy Catholic Bible,” before me, a list of the books which are pronounced to be “inspired” by the Council of Trent. To introduce into the bible any book not contained in this list, or to exclude from the bible any one of the books which the Council of Trent has decided to be “inspired,” is to be guilty of blasphemy. This is what it says:
Now if any one reading over these books in all their parts, as they are usually read in the Catholic Church... does not hold them sacred and canonical... and does industriously contemn them let him be anathema.
To be anathema means to be accursed. In other words, there is no choice; it is the Catholic bible or a curse. No man has any right to choose for himself, or decide according to his own conscience and knowledge, which is the “Word of God,” or how much in the various bibles is actually “the Word of God.” He must, then, choose between the priest’s bible or—his curse. To try to prove a book “inspired” by threatening to curse all those who may tell the truth about it, is a sure sign that the makers of the bible themselves do not believe in its inspiration. It is impossible to think that if the priests really believed the bible to be “divine,” they would have undertaken to hedge it about with anathemas. But they curse to conceal their own unbelief. There is not another book that had to curse its readers to make them believe in it.
The most effective argument against the bible is furnished by the church itself. For nearly fifteen hundred years it hanged and burned people alive to make them believe in the bible. That is a good way to prove one’s unbelief, not one’s faith. It shows what little confidence the Catholics had in the ability of “the Word of God” to defend itself against a Giordano Bruno, when they burned him at the stake; and how dubious the Protestants were of their bible, when they burned Michael Servetus at the stake. The long list of terrible crimes committed in defense of the bible is a conclusive proof, first, of the unbelief of the Christians themselves in the ability of the bible to win men by the beauty and truth of its teachings; and, second, of the evil influence of the book upon those who accepted its authority.
The preface to the Catholic bible offers a further proof of the lack of confidence of Christians in “the Word of God.” It forbids people, as already shown, to read the Word of God without first securing the consent of a priest. It is a heinous thing, according to the church authorities, to undertake to read the bible on one’s own responsibility. “To prevent and remedy this abuse” (namely, that of reading the bible, and interpreting it for one’s self), says this same preface, “it was judged necessary to forbid the reading of the scriptures in the vulgar tongues.” Of course, ‘’there is no prohibition against reading it in Latin, or Hebrew, or Greek, or in any language that one does not understand, but it is forbidden to read it in the vulgar, that is to say, in any language that the reader is familiar with, “without the advice and permission of the pastors and spiritual guides whom God has appointed to govern his church.” To prove this authority of the priest to forbid the reading of the bible, the following text is quoted: “He that will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican.” *
* Matthew xviii, 17, Catholic Bible.
The church must be obeyed. The commandment says nothing about obeying the church only when she is in the right, or only when she is reasonable, or even only when she is scriptural—she must be obeyed because she is the church. And this, too, is quite consistent with the claims of an infallible revelation. If everybody is to be given the liberty to decide when the church is right, reasonable, or scriptural, and when she is not, then it is not the church, but the individual, who is infallible. If the bible is “inspired,” there is no escape from the conclusions of the Catholic church. Did not Jesus say to the Apostles, and, therefore, to the priests: “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”? * Does not this make everybody the slave of the church?
* Matthew xviii, 18, Catholic Bible.
The Catholic bible contains nearly a dozen more “inspired” books than the Protestant bible, and many of the texts in the books which are common to both are differently translated. By comparing the list of books in the Catholic bible with the books in the Protestant bible, we find that the Protestants are “accursed” by the decision of the Council of Trent, inasmuch as they deny the inspiration of, and exclude from their bible, about twelve of the books in the Catholic bible. Now, what is a layman to do when infallible churches disagree? We are commanded by the bible to hear the church, but which church? If we could decide ourselves which is the true church, we would then be greater than the church, as it would need our approval before it could exercise any authority over us. But if we can not decide which is the true church, what are we going to do? This is an important question, because unless we belong to the true church we can not have the true bible.
The Catholics “curse” the Protestant bible. This is the literal truth. The Protestants, on the other hand, call the Catholic bible “a popish imposture.” While they are wrangling about it, what becomes of the Word of God?
But the most interesting part in the preface to the Catholic bible is the warning which the church gives to the reader of the bible, not to be shocked, or scandalized, by the immoral and impossible stories contained therein. The reader is cautioned against applying to the bible the standard of morality by which other books are judged. To scare the reader into praising in the bible what he would unreservedly and sweepingly condemn in other books, the following biblical text is quoted:
My thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are my ways as your ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are exalted above the earth even so are my ways exalted above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. *
Well, of course, that being the case, the reader shall start with his mind made up that he must not understand anything he reads. The better and much safer thing to do is not to read the bible at all. And that is honestly what both Catholics and Protestants would like to say, if they could. The Catholic bible in its preface comes as near giving that advice as it dares, as the following will show:
How then shall any one, by his private reason, pretend to judge, to know, to demonstrate, the incomprehensible and unsearchable ways of God?
What is the use of reading an “incomprehensible” and “unsearchable” book? The Word of God could not have been meant for man. Let it pass.
* Isaiah lv, 8-9, Catholic Bible; same in Protestant bible.
JUST AT PRESENT THERE IS a revival of interest in the bible. The three hundredth anniversary of the King James’ version of the Holy Bible was recently celebrated in the great cities of Christendom. All the pulpits have been heard from in praise of the book. It will be noticed, however, that almost every one of the preachers confined himself to glittering generalities about the bible. Judging by the reports of their sermons, there was not a single speaker who attempted a careful and instructive study of the book—its origin, its growth, or the character of its contents. Although the book was eloquently praised as the best ever written, no effort was made to point out wherein, or in what respect, the bible deserved the honor and the worship demanded in its behalf. The preachers spoke of the bible with the same confidence, or conceit, that the Moslem displays when he is praising his bible. One of the well-known speakers, W. J. Bryan, challenged the world, at the bible-meeting in Chicago, to produce a better book than the Jewish-Christian scriptures.
The celebration of the three hundredth anniversary of the publication of the authorized version presented also an opportunity to many of the defenders of the bible to praise the translators of the bible under King James of England. An idea of the moral and intellectual standing of these divines may be had by reading the preface which is attached to every bible printed in Great Britain. In this, they dedicate the work to the king, whom they exalt as a paragon of virtue. James I. was, by universal consent, one of the meanest and most worthless pedants that ever wore a crown. Yet, even as the divines who formulated the Nicene creed addressed to Constantine, who had murdered the members of his own household in cold blood, the words, “You have established the faith, exterminated the heretics. That the king of heaven may preserve the king of earth is the prayer of the church and clergy,” the English authors of the authorized version looked upon James, the meanest of the Stuarts, as the vicar of God on earth, and presented him the following address:
To the Most High and Mighty Prince James, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, the translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy and Peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Great and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us, the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty’s Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun of strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness, and Your hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad.
And much more, in this same strain, concluding with these words:
The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days, that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces, so You may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great God and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Saviour.
What made these “divines” so proud of James? He was their king. What makes the “divines” of to-day praise the bible so effusively? It is their bible. We regret to say that the “divines” of to-day no more speak the truth about the bible than the “divines” of three hundred years ago spoke the truth about King James.
ONE of the speakers at the tercentenary celebration was William Jennings Bryan. Though not a “divine” as yet, he may become one, according to reports, in the near future. Bryan was invited to deliver the principal address at a mass meeting of the Christian churches of Chicago (the Catholic church not included), in Orchestra Hall. In this address, the oft-time presidential candidate openly challenged the critics of his bible and of its divine origin “to produce a book equal in wisdom and teachings to the volume which has stood the test of centuries.”
After I made sure that Mr. Bryan had really made the challenge, as will appear by the quotations from his paper, The Commoner, which will be given later, a telegram was addressed to him, signed by myself, in which I accepted his challenge and invited him to state the terms on which he would join me in the discussion of this timely and most important subject, at the Auditorium, which seats six thousand people. Receiving no reply, a telegram was forwarded to the proprietor of the Lincoln Star—Lincoln being the home town of Mr. Bryan—requesting the publisher to please interview Mr. Bryan about this matter. To the courtesy of this gentleman I am indebted for the following message from Lincoln:
Charles Bryan has forwarded letter to W. J. Bryan, who returns here June 3. Will hand Mr. Bryan your telegram when he reaches Lincoln.
The “Charles Bryan” in the dispatch is, I am told, the secretary, as well as the brother, of William Jennings Bryan. He says he has forwarded letter, ostensibly about my telegram, to W. J. Bryan. Why did he not send him the telegram, itself? If his letter merely informed Bryan that there was a telegram for him from Chicago, without either enclosing the same in his letter, or telling him of its contents, Mr. Bryan had good reason to discharge such a secretary. But if he enclosed the telegram, or, which is more likely, informed Mr. Bryan of its import, why does he say that he will hand the telegram to Bryan “when the latter reaches Lincoln”? Why keep a telegram a whole month before giving it to the person to whom it is addressed? But if his letter had already advised Bryan of my acceptance of his challenge, and my offer to let him dictate his own terms, why pretend that the telegram will remain sealed until Mr. Bryan returns to Lincoln on the third of June?
Evidently, all that the two Bryans wanted was to postpone the day of reckoning. The third day of June arrived, but no answer came from Bryan. Another appeal was made to the Lincoln Star:
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