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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night1 1roberts2

The CHAIRMAN: Ladies and Gentlemen.–Mr. Roberts will now have a quarter of an hour in which to address you.

Mr. ROBERTS: Mr. Bradlaugh’s opening remarks, in his speech in reply to mine, addressed themselves to a matter which afforded me a little surprise, though perhaps I need not have been surprised, and that is his challenging me to the production of the particular authorities upon which I rested those general statements concerning the evidence upon which the authenticity of the New Testament is based. I thought that those matters were so well known to, and accepted by, all educated men that it would only be a waste of time to resort to the technicalities into which he sought to draw me. But, nevertheless, I am not unprepared to give the references which he has demanded. I have given one reference, or was in the act of giving one reference, when my turn for questioning came to a close: and that is the 1st epistle of Clement, the 20th chapter, the 20th and 21st verses. He says he was unaware of any expression of Justin Martyr’s which made mention of the Four Gospels. I will read him an extract from Justin Martyr’s "Apology of the Emperor", in which he will find that the expression occurs which he denied. This is Justin Martyr’s description of Christian worship in the second century, in his "Apology" .

Mr. BRADLAUGH: Will you kindly quote book, section, and page?

Mr. ROBERTS: I am not prepared with a reference to the section, but I will get it if you desire it.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: In this debate we shall never end if we don’t, because, in the case of Justin Martyr, the only place in which the phrase translated, "Acts of the Apostles" occurs, it is challenged as a forgery, and therefore it is necessary that any quotations should be specifically made.

Mr. ROBERTS: I will supply the references afterwards.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: I object to any quotations from Justin Martyr. We have six nights, and it can be supplied when my friend is ready.

The CHAIRMAN: I think it will be as well, and perfectly more in order, if Mr. Roberts is allowed to occupy his fifteen minutes, and then for Mr. Bradlaugh, have his fifteen minutes, just to say what he likes. I think it best for each to occupy their position–one the speaker, the other to sit and listen.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: On the question of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask leave to address you.

The CHAIRMAN: According to my judgment, it will be a deal better for Mr. Roberts to take his fifteen minutes.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: But you have not heard my point of order. On a question of order, I ask your leave to address you.

The CHAIRMAN: If I have my way, I think it advisable, without any question being put by Mr. Bradlaugh, that Mr. Roberts should occupy his fifteen minutes. I think it will be better; that is my judgment.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: You don’t allow me, then, to state my point of order?

The CHAIRMAN: Not while Mr. Roberts is speaking.

Mr. ROBERTS: This is an extract from the writings of Justin Martyr, and if Mr. Bradlaugh denies the correctness of it, I will supply him with the exact reference; and if he finds out that the reference does not justify what I now allege, it will be a damaging thing to me for him to supply that to the meeting afterwards. In his first "Apology", addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and written in the second century, he describes the worship of the Christians, and after having mentioned what, he says, was "written by the apostles in the memorials which they have made, WHICH ARE CALLED GOSPELS," he says: "On the day called Sunday, there is an assembly in one place of all who dwell in the cities or in the countries, and memorials of the apostles or the writings of the prophets, are read as time may permit. Afterwards, when he who reads has ended, he who presides admonishes and exhorts by word to imitate these good things." I will not read the whole of the extract, because it proceeds to deal with matters that have no immediate and direct reference to the particular point for which I cite the quotation–the object of the citation of the quotation being to show that there was an allusion by Justin Martyr to the fact that at the meetings of Christians in the second century, there were books that were read that passed current under the general designation of Memorials of the Apostles–that is to say, the writings of histories; and here we have such writings which have been received from that day down to ours; and if these be not those writings, is Mr. Bradlaugh prepared to show what they are to which Justin Martyr here makes reference?

But I will now finish the part of the argument which I was obliged to break off in my opening address, and that was an undertaking, on my part, to prove also the authenticity of the books that constitute the Old Testament. The nature of the evidence upon that point is this. Some may say: "What evidence have we that there existed before the days of Christ a compilation of works such as that which now constitutes that part of the Bible called the Old Testament?" That evidence I produce first from the New Testament; and the evidence here is exceedingly extensive, far more extensive than I shall be justified, in the limited time at my disposal, in placing before you; but I will refer to such general features as this: we have it recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, the 17th chapter, that "Paul, as his manner was, went into the synagogue, and reasoned with them out of the Scriptures", the writings. If we ask what writings, we find the question answered in the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the 23rd verse: When they (the Jews) had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging, to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening." Therefore, in Paul’s day the law of Moses was known as a standard of reference accepted among the Jews, and also the writings of the prophets. Then I will bring the testimony of Christ, concerning whom I hope to have much to say upon another evening, and whose case is far removed from the mythical region to which Mr. Bradlaugh’s contention compels him to relegate him. Indeed, it is the fact that the more educated class of unbelievers have now one and all abandoned the theory of a mythical invention, and admit that Jesus Christ was a historic personage, who actually appeared among the Jews, and the record of whose life as recorded by the apostles, is in the main historic. I say, when we come to consider Christ, we see in his life evidence of the prior existence of a compilation of writings accepted amongst the Jews as a standard of reference and knowledge in divine things; for consider that touching incident connected with the events that happened on the third day after his crucifixion, when the women went to the tomb and found it empty, and when that same day, two of his disciples were going on a distant errand, and were sad concerning the circumstances that had just transpired, and were ignorant of the fact that he had arisen; and Christ drew near to them and said, "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another as ye walk and are sad?" And they said, "Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?" And he said unto them, "What things?" And they said unto him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" –in the 24th chapter of Luke you will find it, Mr. Bradlaugh–and they expressed their great bewilderment with regard to the fact of his crucifixion, and Christ said: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

I have given a specimen of the kind of evidence that proves that the New Testament was in circulation throughout the Christian community towards the close of the first century, and I shall have more to say about that to-morrow night in a different connection. But observe that, if that argument be established, then the authenticity, or at all events the prior existence of Moses and the prophets as a national accepted standard of reference is also proved, and is proved in even a more conclusive manner than that, though not more conclusive in a logical sense, perhaps, but more conclusive as regards the common conceptions of people. I refer to what I have read, for instance, from the writings of Josephus, whose writings cannot be impugned, whose book was written, before the first century was over, by an eye-witness of the destruction of Jerusalem; and he in the words I have read this evening, in answer to a question by Mr. Bradlaugh, gives you the testimony of an official Jew of these writings having been in circulation among the Jews for ages, and accepted by them all; and Josephus’s declaration on that point is collaterally confirmed by a circumstance of the most specific and decisive character. What is that? Ptolemy Philadelphus, a literary King of Egypt –one of the distinguishing features of whose reign was that he made a collection of all the books that he could collect in the wide-world–finally decided to obtain a copy of a book he was told was in circulation among the Jews; and he communicated with the high priest of Jerusalem –at that time, I think, Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maccabaeus — and requested him to send these books in the proper custody, that they might be translated into the Greek language, so as to be open to the reference of the world in general in the library that he established; and they did it, and we have that translation of theirs existing and current in the present day, and accepted and recognised by all educated men. I refer to the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures effected about 300 years before Christ; and, therefore, in that, we have a demonstration of the sort which I undertook to produce, namely that not only were the writings of the New Testament current among all the Christian community throughout the world for, mind you, it is not one part of the world: there is Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus in France, Clement at Rome, three widely separated parts of the world in these comparatively barbarous ages. At all these places the same New Testament Scriptures were in circulation, and were quoted as commonly by the writers in those days, as the New Testament is quoted by ministers in the present day. I say that, having proved the circulation of the New Testament at that early period, I have upon the foundation of that proof also proved that the books of the Old Testament existed for at least three centuries previously, indeed more than that; for what was it that incited Ptolemy Philadelphus to obtain that translation? Was it not the wide-spread knowledge that there was, and had been for ages, in the hands of the Jews this volume? Therefore the resolution of Ptolemy Philadelphus to obtain that translation is of itself evidence of the previous existence of those documents for a good while before at least; and we can carry the argument much further back than that by a process which will, perhaps, be better exemplified on some of the other evenings, when we come to substantiate some of the other propositions. The Chairman calling my attention to the time, has broken the line of my argument, and therefore I will leave Mr. Bradlaugh to take his turn.

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