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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night4 4bradlaugh1

Mr. BRADLAUGH: On this, the fourth night of the debate, the names of the witnesses are mentioned, and Mr. Roberts says he can quote from them, but he has carefully refrained from doing it, and I will give you the reasons in my speech why he has not done so. He says I admitted that the New Testament existed A.D.150. But I am in the recollection of the audience, and still more in the recollection of the short-hand writer, whose notes will speak for themselves, and I am positive my answer was that not the slightest evidence could be shown of the existence of the Four Gospels before A.D. 150. 1 did not say that at A.D. 150 you could show the existence of the book, and if Mr. Roberts thinks I said so he has greatly misapprehended what I said. On the contrary, I took that date to be on the safe side, because I knew it was a long way on the safe side, and I cannot make out a man who has listened with reasonable attention having so entirely misunderstood the statement.

Mr. Roberts has referred to Tatian, but not a word has he quoted from Tatian, because there is not a word in existence, and that is a good reason for not quoting him. And here I must ask Mr. Roberts not to use people’s names as witnesses, but to quote, with chapter and verse, the phrases on which he relies as evidence. It is simple impertinence to read names to us and tell us he has got the books here when those books do not exist in the world.

Mr. Roberts next quotes Theophilus. The reference to Theophilus stands in much the same position as that to Tatian, with this exception, that there is a commentary of Theophilus which is referred to as spurious. If that is evidence all I can say is that language gets very puzzling. It is alleged by Lardner that the date given to Theophilus is A.D.181, and how that can come before A.D.150 my arithmetic don’t tell me.

Next we come to Athenagorus. With reference to this writer he never mentions either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, by name, and when any texts are quoted from him, I will undertake to quote from him that which is not in the Four Gospels at all, and which he must have derived from some other gospels, which it will be my duty to mention to you before this evening is over.

We now come to Ignatius–I beg pardon, Irenaeus; and the very funny way in which Mr. Roberts manages his dates is remarkable. He says "Irenaeus, born A.D.130, died A.D.202", and therefore he brings him before A.D. 150.


Mr. BRADLAUGH: I say yes, or I don’t understand the meaning of the language Mr. Roberts uses. The books against heresies attributed to Irenaeus came between A.D. 180 and A.D. 190, and cannot possibly affect the question of what took place before A.D. 150.

Next we are told there is Mileto. Would Mr. Roberts name the particular works he relies upon. I don’t mean the works of Christian evidence mongers 300 years after, but I mean the works which Mileto has handed down. I defy him to do it for the simplest of all reasons. He can only quote to you by the process of using the works of writers considerably later.

Then Mr. Roberts uses the name of Justin Martyr. I have taken the pains of looking up Justin Martyr, who I thought would be referred to, because I wanted to have something to say in my speech without referring to the very agreeable nonsense with which Mr. Roberts concluded. Justin Martyr is supposed to have lived from A.D. 130 to 140. Some put the date a trifle earlier and others a great deal later. Mr. Roberts says he was born A.D. 103, converted A.D. 130. Will you permit me to tell you that the whole of the dates which Mr. Roberts gives so glibly are disputed dates–not disputed by infidels, but by religious men. There are disagreements on every one of those dates, and it is not fair and frank in a man calling witnesses to give you these as though they were undoubted dates. However I am contented to take it that Justin Martyr was converted in 130, and I will take it that his works existed in A.D.140. Justin Martyr was a voluminous writer, but the truth of the works published in his name have since been abandoned as forgeries by Christians themselves. And then when Mr. Roberts was referring to Justin Martyr, why did he not tell you that the famous Paul, of whom he talks so much, is never once named by Justin Martyr in any one of his writings. Why did he not tell you that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as writers of gospels, are never once named by Justin Martyr in any one of his writings? Why did he not go on to tell you that Justin Martyr repeatedly uses language to show that whatever gospels he had, it was evident he did not have ours, for he talks of the father, or rather the husband of the mother of Jesus as putting up in a cave. He talks of fire kindled in Jordan at the baptism of Christ, which does not come out of the Four Gospels. He talks of Jesus whilst amongst men making works of carpentry, as ploughs and yokes, which clearly don’t come out of the Four Gospels. But I won’t weary you and waste your time by further referring to Justin Martyr. It is clear that whatever books Justin Martyr had, he does not mention the gospels. He does not, excepting in one passage, use the word interpreted "gospel", and that is an interpolation. He never mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and the famous Paul is not mentioned from first to last.

I will pass on to the next matter Mr. Roberts mentions. He says that a forgery is an attempt to imitate, and must be an attempt to imitate some valuable document. But if that be true, in what position is Mr. Roberts placed? I have here a list of fifty or sixty writings which have been abandoned as forgeries– books published as Acts; books published as Gospels; books published as Epistles. I may have time to read the list to you, but at present I only refer to it. But if Mr. Roberts’ contention is true, the existence of a false gospel of Barnabas would be evidence of an imitation of a true gospel of Barnabas; and if the contention has not that value, then it has no value at all. I ask you to remember that Justin Martyr’s silence is important, because he does, in his writings, mention a revelation to John, and he mentions it in a peculiar, curious fashion, which, no doubt, you are thoroughly acquainted with, and I say the fact that Justin Martyr mentions that so distinctly shows that he could not have had others to mention, or he would have mentioned them with equal distinctness.

I pass on to the next witness, Tatian. Mr. Roberts said he would quote to you from Tatian. There is not a scrap of Tatian existing except in a quotation of Eusebius, and it is utter pretence to carry you back in this fashion without explaining it to you. But what is the evidence of Tatian? It is the evidence of four gospels. If evidence at all, it is evidence against the Four Gospels we have. I have carefully compared the evidence, and I know exactly what I am saying. I say that the evidence is distinctly against the books and not in favour of them. We are told that Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect. Tatian’s evidence is that what existed was only in Greek, and there is no evidence of there having been any translation at all or any sort of testimony as to the way it comes to us in the fashion it has done. Again he says of Mark, that Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, not in the order in which things were spoken or done by our Lord, for he never heard of or saw our Lord. What becomes, then, of the Four Gospels in the earlier part of the history? But it is a history composed in a fashion which precludes the possibility of the evidence of Tatian applying to it at all.

I now come to the alleged epistle of Polycarp, and I don’t want to use any unduly strong language, but when people quote gospels and epistles as though they were not open to the slightest objection at all, they are dealing in a manner that is utterly unfair, and I urge that the evidence against the authenticity of the epistle of Polycarp has to be considered by anyone of those who take these things in hand for discussion at all, and I urge that the bulk of these epistles had to be abandoned as forgeries. A great German writer says the authenticity of this epistle has been called in question by a writer whom he names. The contents of them I will deal with presently. There is no evidence of anything about when Polycarp lived, and the authorised translators tell us that of Polycarp’s life little was known. The whole story of his martyrdom is spurious and forged, and when you quote him, if I admit the evidence is true, I ask what have you got about Matthew? What have you got about Mark? What have you got about Luke? or what have you got about John? Not a solitary single word, and in order to show you this, I will take one of your witnesses, Clement of Rome.

Would you believe that the writers and translators of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the Rev. Dr. Donaldson and the Rev. F. Crombie, are obliged to tell you, in their introduction, that "who the Clement was to whom the writings are ascribed cannot, with absolute certainty, be determined." Mr. Roberts places Clement at A.D.30 or A.D.83. But taking Clement as presented to us, what does he prove? First, I submit to you if he proves anything, it is fatal to the Bible, for whatever he quoted was not in the Bible which we have, the authorised English translation, and I will give you my evidence; but before I do so, permit me to refer to Mr. Roberts’ own case. He says Clement lived A.D.30, and this epistle was written A.D.83. Supposing that to be true, in the second chapter we have the passage: "Every timely honour and happiness were bestowed upon you, and my beloved did eat and drink, and waxed fat and wicked." This was said of a people which Mr. Roberts says were a persecuted race. Because honour and happiness were bestowed upon them they eat and grew fat–these followers of Christ, before there were any infidels to corrupt them at all. Again, he said, "I am but the smoke of a pit." Find me that within the cover of this book! Then, I say, the book he has proved is not the book we are discussing before this audience.

But Mr. Roberts has given us the evidence of the resurrection. Let his own witness talk about the resurrection. In chapter 25 he says, "Let us consider the wonderful scenes of the resurrection which take place in eastern lands. There is a certain bird that is called the phoenix. There is only one of the kind, and it lives 500 years, and when the time of dissolution draws near, that it must die, it builds a nest of frankincense and myrrh, into which it enters and dies." He then describes the process of the bird rising from its ashes, and that is the kind of nonsense to prove the Bible true. But let us see what is the evidence of Clement, and I refer Mr. Roberts now to Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History–book 3, c.38; book 2, c. 1– and I say he will find Eusebius there speaking with the same authority of the other writings of Clement, which have since been abandoned as forgeries. How dare Mr. Roberts pretend to talk of Clement, when he produces no witnesses; for those he quoted were not witnesses; they were only people who spoke from hearsay, like Tom who heard Dick say he knew William’s grandmother 50 years ago. (Hisses.) You do quite right to hiss, because the evidence can only be answered in that fashion. You do well to hiss, because you show that the sharp point of the blade has been thrust right through your advocate, and that you are afraid of hearing me. You do well to hiss, because it shows that your witnesses have been turned out by judge and jury with bad characters, and we cannot indict them for perjury, because they do not exist.

Now we come to Hermas and Barnabas, but it would be dealing unfairly with two such reputable witnesses to waste the end of my speech upon them, and I shall occupy the few minutes that remain to me by commenting on the commencement of Mr. Roberts’ speech this evening. He said the existence of the Jews was required on the hypothesis of the truth of the Bible. So I say is the existence of Mahomedans required on the hypothesis of the truth of the Koran. So the existence of the Mormons is required in confirmation of the truth of the story of Joseph Smith. So the existence of fire-worshippers proves the truth of the founder of their story, and the existence of the followers of Confucius to the truth of his works. And so I might go all through. These are simply the verbal phrases of nonsense which have been too much used. I don’t deny the Jews. I don’t deny that they had sacred books. Every people have their sacred books. The question I have discussed is, does the Bible contain an authentic revelation to man?

Mr. Roberts says that I have dealt entirely with the internal evidence, and that I have not dealt with the external–that I have not dealt with the existence of an ecclesiastical tyranny. I cannot distinguish much difference in this particular between the Church of England and the Church of Rome, and the Nonconformists persecuting the Quakers in New England. Our friends of the Church of Rome as well as of the Church of England have been found in opposition to progress and education. That is why I impeach the book; that is why I impeach Rome. But it is no question of taking an ecclesiastical tyranny alone, if you tell me it is the out-growth of the book. By their fruits ye shall know whether the book is the book of truth. You tell me of a tree planted 1,800 years ago, and you tell me to come under its branches. I show you wars and murders, anathematising and persecution. I shake your rotten tree, and I say, "Look at the fruit." (Hisses.)

The CHAIRMAN: You do quite wrong to hiss, and you do quite wrong to cheer. You would do quite right to remain quiet and listen to the arguments. Mr. Roberts will now have the option of speaking for a quarter of an hour, or of questioning Mr. Bradlaugh, who will subsequently have the same opportunity.

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