Mr. Bradlaugh, you have admitted the reliability of the evidence of Tacitus and of Pliny to the fact that there existed a large Christian community at the end of the first century, and that they were the subjects of persecution?–I have not admitted the reliability of the quotation from Tacitus. I am inclined to think that the quotation from Tacitus is liable to impeachment. I think the letter of Pliny is a fairly historic document.
You admit the existence of a Christian community at the end of the first century?–I do not admit the existence of a Christian community at the end of the first century only; I think I can show the existence of what you call a Christian community prior to Christ.
But at all events after Christ?–And I say, that the same community I think I can show before.
That is another point. It is sufficient for my present question that you admit the existence of a Christian community at the end of the first century?–I admit the continued existence of a community traceable back prior to the alleged birth of Christ.
My question does not relate–My answer relates to my opinion on the subject.
You must hear my question before you answer it. Do you deny that there existed at the end of the first century a Christian community?–I admit that the sect sometimes called Therapeutae, sometimes called Essenes or Essean, sometimes called by other names, is found prior to the time of Christ, as evidenced by Philo, and that that same sect, sometimes called Christians, and sometimes by other names, may be traced afterwards.
Then it did exist at the close of the first century?–And prior to the first century.
Did it exist at the close of the first century?–yes or no?–I can give no further answer.
You can say yes?–I must answer in my own way.
Why are you afraid to say yes? Having admitted there were Christians at the close of the first century, were there writings in circulation amongst them?–I have not the slightest evidence of any identifiable writings in circulation amongst the Christians to whom Pliny refers.
I did not say "identifiable writings"; I said "writings"?–I cannot speak of writings that cannot be identified, for I know nothing of them.
Yes; you might know of the existence of writings that you cannot identify, and I ask whether or not you believe there did exist writings in circulation among them?–If you will describe the writings I will answer you.
I purposely do not describe them.–‘Men I refuse to answer.
Then you refuse to say whether or not, in your opinion, there were any writings in circulation amongst them?–I refuse to give an answer which will not be of the slightest value.
Then you refuse to answer the question I put?–Give me something that I can identify in my mind, and I will tell you whether I have any evidence of the existence of that or not. I cannot answer on the vague word "writings", because I believe that ever since written language has been used, the people amongst whom the use of written language obtained have had writings.
Did written language obtain amongst the Christians?–Yes.
Did they have among them writings setting forth the facts of their religion?–I do not know.
In your reply to the Bishop of Lincoln you say: "In the early ages of the Christian Church, forgeries of Apostolic writings were common". I want to know if there were genuine Apostolic writings?–I never saw any.
Do you believe there were forged ones?–I believe that there was a huge multitude of forged writings, and that nearly nine-tenths at least have been abandoned by the Christians themselves.
Does that not prove the existence of genuine ones somewhere? I do not know that it does; I do not know that the existence of an imitation dragon proves a real one.
Do you mean to say that there can be a counterfeit coin without a genuine one?–Oh yes, if you will travel on the Continent, you will find a good many of them.
Do you mean to say that the idea of genuine coin does not precede the fact of counterfeit?–I do not know.
You do not know?–No.
I will be content with that answer.–What I do know is, that people who want to be dishonest will avail themselves of any means which they think will give effect to their scheme of dishonesty, and that is all I know.
Do you think the Apostles were dishonest men?–I don’t know even that they existed; so I cannot call them "dishonest men".
Then what do you mean by forgeries of Apostolic writings?–I mean that there were writings which pretended to be writings of Apostles, when they were only forged writings by people who were not Apostles.
Were there such men as Apostles?–Of every faith; yes.
Of Jesus of Nazareth?–When?
In the first century?–I do not know.
May there have been?–Oh yes, and there may not.
Is it probable or not that they wrote?–I don’t know. You say they were ignorant men; and they may not have known how to write.
One of them was not ignorant.–Which?
Paul.–I don’t know anything about Paul.
I have in my hands a book–a compilation of Epistles, each of which begins with an introduction similar to this: "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God unto the Church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." How do you disprove that Epistle? –It is not my business to disprove it; it is yours to prove it. I have read a letter supposed to be addressed by Jesus to a king. It is not my business to disprove those things: it is yours to prove them.
You have admitted that Eusebius is a historian who lived, and whose writings are to be trusted?–No; I have not. On the contrary, I have said that Eusebius lived and wrote; and I also said that he was a party to the issue of many forgeries.
Do you believe that he lived in the beginning of the fourth century?–Yes.
Do you believe that, living at that time, he had materials–better materials than either you or I have–of judging whether these were genuine writings or not?–I am quite sure that he made materials; and if you give me, as you have it, his "Ecclesiastical History", I will give you instances of several that he made or circulated unjustifiably.
I refer my question to a particular point, to which I wish to call your attention. He lived 1500 years ago or thereabouts. My question is, whether or not you admit that at that time it was easier to judge–by reason of the great number of books then existing which have since perished–upon the question of whether these were authentic or not?–I don’t suppose so many books existed in the fourth century as now.
Then, do you deny he was in a better position than you to judge?–I don’t suppose that he was in so good a position, because I believe he invented some times. If you give me the writings of Eusebius you refer to, I will give you the evidence of my satement. I am not producing Eusebius; you are.
I am producing Eusebius in order to show that in his judgment these Epistles were written by the Apostle Paul and the Gospels written by those whose names they bear.–And I say that the statements in Eusebius will not prove that the Gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear; but, on the contrary, will, at least in one case, prove exactly the opposite, and, if you will lend me Eusebius, I will show you.
No, I will be content with your answer, Mr. Bradlaugh–content, ironically, of course, you understand. Do you think it probable that a community, or a movement which has given a religion to all the civilised nations of Europe, should have existed and effected that revolution without authentic writings?–Up to the year A.D. 1000 the Christian religion had not given itself to Europe. The bulk of Europe up to that time did not accept it.
I am speaking of the present facts, the present day–1876.–Then the present day proves no more than Utah, being full of Mormons, proves that Mormonism is true.
I am speaking of the existence of the book.–I do not deny the existence of the book to-day; it is sold at 4d. a copy.
A book is prima facie evidence of itself until it is disproved.–Then the book of Mormon is proof of itself until it is disproved.
And I shall be prepared to disprove it.–Do it.
One thing at a time. I ask you how you disprove that the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians was written by Paul?–That is not my business: It is your business to prove that it was written by him.
It is prima facie evidence of itself?–No; but it is not until you, by external evidence, have proved the authenticity of the book from which you quote; you have not the slightest right to read its contents as evidence against me.
Then you cannot get rid of this prima facie evidence?–It is not prima facie evidence. We disagree as to the meaning of the words.
The 1st Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians exists with a profession on the face of it that it was written by Paul: can you disprove that profession?–Then Mahomedanism is true, and the evidence is this: the Koran exists. Can you disprove the evidence of the Koran?
Yes. – Do it.
This is not the time. Can you disprove that? (Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians).–I have disproved the reliability of the Bible by quoting an abundance of contradictory texts from it.
The 1st Epistle to the Corinthians: that is my question.–I have no other answer to give to that.
Then you cannot disprove it?–My business is not to disprove every statement you make without evidence.
Here is the book; it is prima facie evidence of itself until it is disproved?–No, it is not. The book stating that a devil went into the pigs is not evidence until it is proved. You have got to show the evidence outside the books.
Then Mr. Bradlaugh fails in dislodging the basis of my argument to-night; he confesses his inability to disprove the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians as the production of Paul.–I have only said it is not my business. The moment you give any evidence of it I will answer that evidence.
Will it not destroy my argument if you disprove it?–But there is nothing to disprove: you have called no witness.
I have called the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians–You have not proved it in the smallest degree.
It is proved by the unanimous consent of a hundred generations.–So is the Koran proved by the unanimous consent of a hundred generations, and many a falsehood in the world by an equal number of generations.
And if they were not capable of being disproved, we should be bound to receive them; but they can be disproved. Can you disprove the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians?–Generally, on the Bible, I have tried to, and you have not answered one of the texts I have given.
You say it is not your business?–On the contrary, I say that the Book of Genesis contradicts itself, and that the Gospels contradict themselves; and until you answer that, your case is disproved.