Debates: Roberts-Bradlaugh Debate: Second Night: Mr. Bradlaugh’s Second Speech
Mr. BRADLAUGH: Mr. Chairman.–It is very evident that either my memory has utterly deceived me, or that Mr. Robert’s memory has utterly deceived him. He said he had given you evidence, last night, that the writings were in current circulation at the time they were produced. Now I never heard him say when any one of the books was produced; I never heard him fix a date or an author in the New Testament, except the Corinthians, which he attributed to Paul; I never heard him fix a date or an author in the Old, except for the Book of Proverbs, on which he turned out to be utterly incorrect, attributing it to Solomon on the authority of Josephus, and then not fixing any date at all for its currency; I never heard him pretend to give you any kind of clue as to whom he supposed to be the several authors, or when he supposed anyone of the particular books to be issued; and I cannot help thinking that his memory must have entirely misled him, and that he never did, during his speech last night supply us with any one of those facts; and I will ask him not to imagine that something relating to the existence of Christians, which I do not dispute, is evidence of the authenticity and truth of every book in the Bible. I do not dispute the existence of the Mahomedans, but I should be very sorry to accept that as a proof of the authenticity and divinity of the Koran; I do not dispute the existence of the Buddhists, but I should be very sorry to accept the fact of their existence as clear and irrevocable evidence of the truth of any books they may put forward as sacred.
And I must ask Mr. Roberts to begin by specifying with the first book of the Bible–the Book of Genesis– who it is that he says professes to be the author of it, when it is that he says it was issued, amongst whom he says it was issued, and to give some evidence from contemporary writers of its having been in current circulation at the time of its being issued. I say there is not a particle of such evidence to be found. But when he has done this with the Book of Genesis, I will take him through every other book in the Bible in the same way.
And now I will ask him to be kind enough to just look at what he imagines to be evidence. He says, "I will quote to you a Roman Governor, Festus", and he coolly quotes the book of Acts to me. But he has got to prove the book of Acts before he is entitled to quote it here. If you are to demonstrate that the Bible is reliable from beginning to end simply because it says something there, well, then there is entirely an end to all discussion. Let him find this account of Agrippa and Festus in Roman history, with any record of these books, then I will grant there may be something in it; but the question we have got to discuss is not, "Did some man named Paul live?" the question we have got to discuss is not, "Did some man named Jesus live?" because both those facts might be true, and yet this book not be the authentic record of divine revelation. We must just please put the dots on the i, so that we may know what we are talking about.
Well, Mr. Roberts stated that between the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, Christ was on the earth six weeks, and he was good enough to refer me–not for that, but for another point–to the 24th chapter of Luke. I will ask him whether he can make anything like six weeks, or even one week, out of the period which is put in that chapter for the ascension of Jesus to heaven. I will grant that Mr. Roberts may be right, and that Christ may have been six weeks on earth; then I will ask him, if Luke says that was not so, on his own statement Luke must be stating something not true, and the book of Luke cannot be a divine revelation. If Acts is right, Luke is wrong; if Luke is right, Acts is wrong; and, in any case, Mr. Roberts is wrong, because he has got to make both books right.
Now, we will pass by the whole of the quotation from Professor Tyndall. I have a great respect for him; but Professor Tyndall’s opinions on Atheism, or natural processes, have not the smallest relation to the question we have to discuss. I will pass by every reference, at present, to Tacitus or Pliny, because it does not corroborate a single portion of the statement Mr. Roberts has to make out, which is, "That the Scriptures are the Authentic and Reliable Records of Divine Revelation". There is nothing to prove that proposition in Tacitus, and there is nothing in Pliny. If there were ten times there what Mr. Roberts imagines exists there, it would not go one step to prove his position.
Now, I will ask him to follow me a little in what I shall submit. I gave Mr. Roberts a large number of texts last night. He said six minutes was not sufficient to answer them; but he has had thirty minutes to-night, and he might have answered some of them. If he could not have dealt with the whole, he might, at least, have commenced. Quoting Pliny will not prove that the story of the Fall in Genesis is one consistent with God’s lovingkindness and mercy; quoting Festus, or Pliny, or Tacitus, or anybody else, will not get rid of any of the tests as to God being angry when He should not have been angry, and repenting when He should not have repented, and changing when He should not have changed. All those texts I read to Mr. Roberts last night remain untouched. I suppose it will be fair to say that they have slipped his memory since, because he thought them of importance at the time. The reason he gave for not answering them was that six minutes was not long enough, and it was a very proper reason; but he has had thirty minutes to-night, and he has quoted Professor Tyndall instead of explaining the Bible.
Now, if you please, I will press Mr. Roberts a little further upon the position he has now taken. He says that by "authentic" he means that the books were really written by the persons by whom they are professed to be written, and at the times they are professed to have been written. Now, so far as I am aware, the only sort of profession of authorship for any of the early books in the Bible is the heading in the English Bible to the first five books–the First Book of Moses, the Second Book of Moses, the Third Book of Moses, the Fourth Book of Moses, and the Fifth Book of Moses. I am not aware that Moses–supposing him to have lived–ever made any profession on the subject at all; but I will assume that Mr. Roberts means that authentic means that these five books were written by Moses. Well, then, I will trouble him to give me some proof of that; I will trouble him to give me some proof of the time that Moses wrote them; I will trouble him to give me some proof from some other author of the existence of the books about that time, because he says they were in current circulation. Then I will ask him who it is who professes to have written the Book of Judges, because I do not see any profession of authorship; I should like him to tell me the date at which he thinks that book was issued, and to show me some evidence of its being in current circulation at the time he says it was issued, and then from that I will lead him through every one of the books of the Bible, and ask him whether, instead of all that being true, there is not very tolerable evidence, from some of the authors whom he has already used in this discussion, that the whole of the sacred books of the Jews were destroyed during their captivity, and had to be re-written. If he will tell us that that is so, then it would dispose of the whole of the position he has put to you; and I will press him still farther, that even when he has shown, which he never will, that each one of the books of the Old Testament was written by some individual, was published at a particular time, and was current from that time forward, he will not have gone one step forward then to prove they are a divine revelation; because no one doubts that the Koran has been current from the time of Mahomed, but it does not prove it to be a ciivine revelation, although Mahomed pretended it to be one, and a very large number of people believe it to be one.
Then we have to do what I suggested last night– examine the book, and see whether the contents of it are consistent with the character which, under any fair definition of Deity, is to be attributed to Deity; whether the internal statements agree with themselves, and whether they agree with science. And I put some very flat contradictions last night to Mr. Roberts, not one of which he has touched to-night. Why did he not, when he was dealing with the resurrection of Jesus, say whether he believed it was one woman who went first to the tomb, according to one Gospel, or two, according to another, or more than two, according to another? and why did he not give us his reasons for accepting one and disbelieving the rest. He relies on the resurrection; but if the story be full of contradictions, how can it be God’s divine revelation? Mr. Roberts has neglected all this, and made some speeches about matters entirely unconnected with it.
Now, if you please, I will draw your attention to the New Testament, because it shows the utter recklessness of the language Mr. Roberts uses. He talks of this book (the Bible) representing the archives of the Jews. Now, evidently, he could not refer to the New Testament, because the Jews do not acknowledge a single page of it. Then I will say that, when you come to the New Testament, that of the Gospels attributed to Matthew, to Mark, to Luke, and to John, there is not a particle of evidence, not an iota of evidence, to connect any of the persons named Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, with any one of those Gospels; and until something is done of this kind, I say the Four Gospels cannot be shown to have been in existence at all before the year A.D. 150, that is 120 years at least after the alleged date of the death of Jesus; and until something of this kind is done, the authenticity question ought to be given up. And, then, even supposing this were done, Mr. Roberts has the whole mass of contradictions in the history of Jesus; and until they are cleared away, it is no use talking of outside testimony; you have got to get the inside of the book; let him explain the contradiction about the forty days, let him explain the contradiction about the woman who went to the tomb; let him explain the contradictions that I have pointed out as to the parentage of Jesus; let him deal with all these things step by step, and not say, "I have only six minutes", and then, when he has the time, to leave it undone. Now, if you please, what is the case we are to take? As far as evidence goes, for to-night, a reiteration of two statements–one that there are Jews, and another that there are corrupt Christians. But, really, if that is to make any kind of evidence, the same kind of evidence can be pleaded in favour of every religious book of every people in the world, and you must do something much more definite than anything of this kind.
I will tell you why I submit to you that the Bible is not a revelation from God, by God meaning–in the sense in which I gave it last night, a sense which has not been corrected–an omnipotent, an omnipresent, omniscient, an infinite, an eternal, an all-good person. When Mr. Roberts says that he means a primal creative energy, clearly the Bible reveals either something much clearer than that, or nothing at all; it reveals a God who could be seen, and who could not be seen; it reveals a God who knew everything, and did not know some things; a God unchangeable, continually changing; a God all-wise, repenting and grieving at the unanticipated failure of His plans; it reveals a God who was everywhere, but who lived somewhere above, and who came down occasionally. This is, I submit to you, the revelation of the Deity in this book, and it is no use making statements outside that until these are dealt with.
I gave Mr. Roberts, last night, a mass of texts not one of which has been answered, and I will now give you several additional texts which seem to show to me that the Bible cannot possibly be a revelation from an all-good God. And I will take you first to the 21st chapter of Exodus. Last night I confined myself to matters of fact; now I am coming to matters of legislation. Mr. Roberts says the existence of the Jews is a fact in his favour. Now, here are the laws supposed to be given in a divine revelation for those Jews: "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing"–this is in Exodus the 21st chapter and the 2nd verse–"If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free; then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him for ever". Now, I say that there is nothing divine in that, and I say it is not even human. The tendency of modern legislation and civilisation is to introduce a state of society exactly the opposite of that. I say that any half dozen men who were to pass such a law as that in any civilised community would be condemned as inhuman, would be execrated by the voice of to-day; and you cannot suppose that, in any age, that came from an all-good God which to-day’s civilisation would reject.
You say, "If a master give his slave a wife", why! that presumes that a master has a right to have a slave wife! a woman from whom he may breed a race of slaves, and that if the servant insists on his own freedom at the end of the time, that he is to go, and leave the wife and the children in the custody of the master; and that if he loves his wife and children enough to stay with them, the reward he is to get for that, according to this book, is that he is to lose his liberty for ever. Now, I will give you next Leviticus, chapter 26, verses 44 to 46, because, while Exodus shows you how this legislation deals with the Jews, Leviticus shows you how the laws deal with the heathen. That runs in this way: "Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with us, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever." That is the law as to the heathen; then it goes on to say that, "over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule with rigour". And you have two distinct laws here, one affecting the Jews, from Exodus, another affecting the heathen: and God, according, to Mr. Roberts, approves of slavery, thinks that people may buy and sell slaves, breed and get slaves, and keep slaves for ever. And I say, instead of that being divine, it is most inhuman; I say that doctrine made the most horrible slavery persistent in America; I say the consequence of texts existing like this was, that when William Lloyd Garrison wanted a Christian Church, to preach in, in Boston, on slavery, it was denied him, and he was obliged to have the only Infidel hall in Boston, because there was no other platform admitted to him. Samuel James May, a religious man, tells you how he was not allowed to preach in any of the churches where he had been formerly allowed to preach when he became secretary to the Abolition Society; and in Whittier’s works you will find in one of his grandest poems a denunciation of the South Carolina clergy, where they held a demonstration in all their churches in favour of slavery. I say this slavery is a horrible doctrine, a wicked and damnable doctrine, which has cursed humankind, and you can only defend it here to-night by telling me that this book came out in the childhood and infancy of the world, when people did not understand what freedom was. Its brutal and barbarous legislation has grown out of the character of its authors. It belongs to the far-off past.
Now I will come to the question of legislation on difference of religious opinions. And I will take you now to Deuteronomy, chater 13, verse 6: "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth, thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shalt thine eyes pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die." Now I say that is a doctrine which an all-wise and all-good and all-merciful God would never preach to human-kind; it shows a bigotry, it shows a weakness, it shows an indisposition to listen to reason. Why! what would even be the doctrine Mr. Roberts would advocate, as evinced by his opposition to me here? When he meets an Infidel, instead of his hand being upon him to stone him to death, he challenges him to debate, to persuade him out of the opinion he thinks erroneous, while, according to the authentic revelation, what he ought to have done was to have killed me. His humanity rebels against that, and he will have nothing whatever to do with it. Now, if that is so, is it not evidence that he cannot think that book an evidence of divine revelation? Then I will refer you to Numbers 31:17, as illustrating the sort of doctrine that God thought fit to recommend in cases of war. I hold the doctrine that all offensive war is bad. That war except in defence of liberty is never justifiable. I do not know how far anyone who believes in the Bible would agree with that. I suppose those who believe in the Bible would think that war is good, because war is so strongly recommended in the early part of it. Killing the people you quarrel with, destroying all their cities, butchering their men, wives, and mothers, only sparing the women, who would be the subjects of your lusts: I say that all that is provided for here. I will not read to you, as I might, but simply refer you to Numbers 31:17, and if it be challenged, I will read you thirty or forty texts worse than that. I say, while you find texts like that in the book, it is no use telling me something that Festus said, or something that somebody else ought to have said. Deal with the book itself, and clear its blemishes away.
I will have to draw my friend’s attention to the point raised by him last night on the question of chronology. He quoted, as evidence for the Bible, the Septuagint; he referred to some passage in Josephus, but did not read it. I have not looked at the passage in Josephus recently. If my memory serves me rightly–and I am not quite sure it does–Josephus vouches nothing more than a translation of the Pentateuch; and I do not deny that the rolls of the Pentateuch have been in existence for a very long period prior to the Christian era. I should be simply a madman to attempt to deny anything of the kind; but what I do deny is, that you identify the Pentateuch we have here with the rolls of the Pentateuch that did exist prior to the Christian era. I say that there is no Pentateuch roll which can be carried back earlier than the famous Darghestan roll; and I say that that comes nearly 600 years on this side of the Christian era by the contention of its best men–580 odd years; and I urge to you that the very matter in dispute between Mr. Roberts and myself turns on this. I do not pretend it to be, like every other religious book, an outgrowth of different ages, of different men, of different peoples, bundled together without one reason for bundling it together, and which cannot be contended to be a complete, coherent book under any circumstances whatever. I do not contend that, from the time of Solomon forward, it may not be possible that every king recorded in the Bible may possibly have ruled; but that will not make out one iota of evidence against me. You have got to prove the facts that I challenge, and to explain the difficulties I submit to be explained; you have got to prove that the theories I impeach fit into your doctrine of divine revelation, or you do nothing at all. Now we have got to the second night of this debate, and I submit to you that we have not got the shadow of a scintilla of evidence, because all that has been sought to be done is to show you that some people called Christians are in existence, which I do not dispute.
Then we were told that all the Apostles lost their lives, and then Mr. Roberts thought some of them did not. Now, I will ask him to find a reliable account of the martyrdom of any one of them, and I will ask him even then how far he has advanced his proof, because there have been people martyred for every religion in the world. There have been martyrs for every heresy. Martyrdom is no voucher of the divinity of the book. I will show you that, when Jesus was in danger, his disciples ran away, and his most trusty disciple denied him over and over again. And I ask you, if Peter, who knew from heaven itself that Jesus was from heaven, denied him, how can you expect me to believe the Bible on Peter’s authority–that authority even unvouched? I will not weary you at present with any examination of the New Testament, because, if we begin the subject, let us begin it at the beginning; and I will ask whether it is not true that each of the accounts of the Creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis contradicts the other?
And I say the book is anonymous–you do not know when, or where, or by whom, it was written–and that you cannot prove that the Hebrew language existed at the time Moses lived; and, until you have done that, it is no use telling me the writings were in current circulation at the time they were supposed to be written and issued. Let us have the book of Genesis proved first, and my objections to the Books of the Pentateuch first. Then we will go on step by step, and get a little further. Has there been any attempt here to-night to show you that the objections I stated last night from the Bible are not fairly taken? I say, Not one. I will give you again the texts: Exodus 32:7-14, comparing that with Exodus 28:1, 32:28, 35; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; 2 Kings 20: 1-11; 2 Samuel 24:15, 16; Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15: 11; Genesis 18:20, 21; Deuteronomy 8:2; 2 Chronicles 21:15. I commented on the horrible story of the God-invented Fall, I impeached the history of the humanity-destroying Flood, and not one of those points has been touched from the other side. (Time called.)