Mr. Bradlaugh, do you believe that there ever existed such a man as Jesus Christ?–l do not believe that there ever existed such a man as Jesus Christ, with the history recorded of him in the Four Gospels. It is quite possible that a man named Jesus, not having such history, may have existed.
Then, do I understand you to say that the Christ, who is the subject of the Four Gospels and of Paul’s letters, is a historical myth?–l say that that which is represented as the history of Jesus in the Four Gospels and the Epistles is not the history of a real man.
Then I return to my question: do you believe that the man spoken of by Paul, for instance, who says he saw him and laid down his life for him, never existed?–Will you refer me to the exact chapter and verse?
1st Cor. 15:8, "Last of all he was seen of me also".–I have no means of judging whether Paul wrote that or not; therefore cannot answer as to Paul.
That is the chapter and verse you asked for?–You ask me as to Paul’s evidence. My answer is, that I have no means of judging whether Paul wrote that or not.
Then, do you say that the Christ Paul spoke about is a historical myth?–l don’t know that I have any evidence that Paul spoke of any Christ at all. If you will refer to Corinthians, and, instead of saying Paul, say the writer of the epistle to the Corinthians, I will answer your question.
Do you believe in the authenticity of the history written by Eusebius?–l believe that Eusebius did live and write, and wrote a great many falsehoods.
Do you admit that he was the writer of the history we now have as the history of Eusebius?–Are you speaking of the volume known as Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History?
I speak of his works.–Then I will ask you to specify particularly which of the works.
For my question it is not necessary to speak of any work in particular.–Then I decline to answer a general question. I will answer specifically as to each work of Eusebius I am asked about; my reason for refusing to answer generally is, that in the whole of those centuries, forged writings abounded, and I must confine my answer to the evidence that is presented.
Mr. Bradlaugh, you have admitted that Eusebius wrote?–l never denied it; it is not a question of admitting it: I believe Eusebius did live and did write.
That is my question and the answer to it. Please define to me in a sentence the principle upon which you are persuaded that Eusebius ever lived and ever wrote?–Only that in examining ordinary events, my confidence is given to the best experience of the best men, and that in the case of Eusebius I have no reason to doubt from their investigation that a man named Eusebius did live and did write, and that, in addition, he often forged.
Then I wish to ask whether the reason which you deem sufficient to justify you in believing in Eusebius and his writings does not exist as strongly, and more strongly, in the case of Paul?–No.
Do you mean to say that there is less contemporary evidence to the fact that Paul’s writings were received as a literary production?–Which do you call Paul’s writings?
I am now speaking of the portion of his epistles included in our common Bible?–l will ask you, then, to specify them by name.
Then I will take the first of Corinthians, for example, and I ask whether there is not the same evidence, and more evidence, in proof of the fact that Paul wrote the 1st of Corinthians than there is in proof that Eusebius wrote his "History"?–No.
What evidence have you Eusebius wrote his "History"?–l am not here to prove that Eusebius wrote his "History": if I were, I should be prepared to prove it.
You have admitted that you believe it; I ask you the reason of your belief?–l have told you that on all ordinary matters I am in the habit of placing my confidence in the best experience of the best men capable of judging of those occurrences, and that I have done so in the case of Eusebius.
Do you mean to say that there are no men capable of judging the same question with regard to Paul?–That is a very loose question. Do you mean men now or men then?
Men now and men then?–Men then I knew nothing about, and men now I refuse to accept as infallible judges.
Then whose judgment do you accept in the case of Eusebius?–I accept a fairly unbroken line of reference in writers era by era, from the time of Eusebius down to the present time for the opinion I have expressed; but my duty is not to prove that Eusebius wrote, and, therefore, I do not pretend that that which is sufficient now for my belief is sufficient testimony for other people’s.
Is there not a fairly unbroken line of references to Paul from the very age of his writing?–No; there are plenty of forgeries from the earlier times which have had to be abandoned.
Will you please say what you mean by a fairly unbroken line of references?–l cannot make it any clearer.
You do not, of course, mean a reference every day?–l did not say so.
Every year?–If I had meant "every year" I should have said so. When I said "fairly unbroken", I meant allowing for the fact that, in some ages, men wrote very little, especially when Christianity was triumphant.
Then, you would accept an occasional–and, comparatively speaking, remote–reference in that case?–l have not said so.
You have said that you accept Eusebius on that line of evidence; that there were intervals during which there was little writing, and yet you accept it, and, therefore, you must admit that you accept occasional references in some cases?–Of course it means occasional references.
Then say "Yes".–I am not going to say "Yes" to words you put into my mouth which I do not utter.
It describes what I mean.–But it does not describe what I mean.
You have denied that there is a fairly unbroken line of reference to the apostle Paul?–Oh no; I have denied that there is a fairly unbroken line of reference to the writings which you say are Paul’s.
Then do I understand from that answer that you believe that possibly Paul wrote some other writings than these?–l do not know that my belief as to what Paul may possibly have done elsewhere has anything to do with the question.
Your belief is what I am testing.–You have a right to test my belief so far as it affects the question, and not a bit outside it.
Precisely; and that is just what I am doing; and I ask whether, in your opinion, possibly Paul wrote other writings which are not here?–I have not an opinion on the matter.
Do you mean to say that you have come to so grave a conclusion that these are not Paul’s writings without forming an opinion on such a point as that?–I have not even advanced that conclusion, I think. The burden of proof lies on you. I have only to deny. I deny that you have advanced any evidence of it.
Then I ask whether you believe or deny that the 1st epistle to the Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul?–I have no evidence connecting the person whom you call the apostle Paul with that epistle.
Have you a conviction on the subject one way or other?–As a mere matter of conviction, there were so many forgeries that I am inclined to believe he had nothing to do with it; but I do not want to deny that which I have not sufficient evidence to entitle me to deny. What I do deny is, that you can bring the epistle you call the Epistle to the Corinthians within one hundred years of the date at which you say Paul lived.
Then do you mean to say that possibly we are right in believing this to have been written by Paul?–I do not know what evidence you believe it upon.
That is not my question?–I have nothing to do with the possibilities of your being right or not. What you have to do here is to prove your case.
My question is this: Is your conviction with regard to the subject of so loose a character, or are your convictions so indefinite, that possibly we may be right in believing that these are the writings of Paul?–On the contrary, my conviction is that you are entirely wrong.
Then do you deny that this was written by the apostle Paul?–I deny that I have yet seen any evidence to warrant me in coming to the conclusion that the person you call the apostle Paul had anything to do with it.
Have you a definite opinion on it?–If that is not definite enough I do not know the meaning of the English language.
"Yes" or "No" would be definite, and I ask yes or no, do you believe that Paul wrote the 1st epistle to the Corinthians?–No, I do not, as a mere matter of belief.
Are you in doubt about it?–No.
You have said that you are not aware of any allusion to the apostle Paul’s 1st epistle to the Corinthians by any writer within a hundred years of Paul’s day. I will now read you an allusion, and ask your opinion upon it. I quote from the first letter of Clement, which all competent critics admit to be genuine, though abandoning his second epistle.–I utterly deny that all competent critics admit it to be a genuine letter, and I refuse to answer a question to which that is introduced, because it is utterly untrue.
Well, it is not essential to my question; so I will not repeat it. I will read you this from a letter that is admitted by competent critics to have been written by Clement of Rome.–I beg your pardon; in my speech I positively did deny that. I said not only that there was no evidence of its having been written by Clement of Rome, but that that was practically admitted by the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.
Then I read from this Letter, written, I think, about the year 83.–Will you give me the evidence that it was written about 83? 1 decline to answer a question which involves a date for which I have no evidence.
Then it comes to this: Mr. Bradlaugh asks me to produce an unbroken line, and when I produce it, he asks me to prove each link. Are you prepared to do that with regard to–?–With regard to everything I advance.
The allusion by Clement in the year 83 to the 1st epistle of Corinthians is as follows: "Why, then, do we rend and tear in pieces the body of Christ, and raise seditions against our own body? Your schism has perverted many; it has discouraged many; it caused diffidence in many and grief in us all, and yet the sedition continues still. Take the epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle into your hands; what did he first write to you in the beginning of the gospel? The truth he wrote to you by the Spirit, concerning himself and Cephas, and Apollos, because that even then ye had made divisions among yourselves." That is a correct description of the epistle as we have it.–And I deny that that is admitted by competent critics; I say part of the two epistles attributed to Clement only exist in one manuscript; that the second is abandoned by nearly all competent critics as a forgery, and that the existing evidence is the same for both.