Does the Koran foretell the existence of Mahomedanism at a period 3,000 years after its establishment?- I think not.
Then in what sense does the hypothesis of the Koran’s truth require the existence of Mahomedanism at the end of a similar time?–At what time?
3,000 years after the writing of the Koran?–3,000 years have not elapsed since the date of Mahommed. Therefore I cannot answer the question.
Then I will change the date to 1876, and repeat my question?–If you will repeat it, I will try to answer.
In what way does the hypothesis of the truth of the Koran require that we should find Mahomedans in existence now?–The supposition may be equally devised for any religious system embraced by so many millions of people.
Does the Koran foretell that Mahomedanism should exist centuries after its production?–I cannot challenge my memory.
I must ask you to try and remember?–My copy of the Koran is at home. I will look by to-morrow night.
I have a copy here (handing the book to Mr. Bradlaugh. Mr. Bradlaugh sits down and turns over the book).–Go on with your questions.
No; I cannot while you are reading.–Oh, I can answer you quick enough.
Excuse me, Mr. Bradlaugh: I must wait till we have disposed of the present question. Read and I will wait.–I will, and perhaps I may find some things useful to both of us. (Turns over the book). Go on with your questions.
I must wait till you find the place.–I said I was not aware of any text capable of being so construed in the Koran, but you can go on. (Keeps turning over the leaves.)
Allow me to ask you to put down the book if I am to go on?–I will answer your questions. I was going to give you a text which I think will conflict with the other book a little. I think that you will find that the Koran, chapter 24, provides for the better treatment of slaves than the Bible does in Leviticus, chapter 25. There are other things I will find if you will give me time.
That is not to the point at present. I now ask you whether you are aware that the Bible foretells the existence of the Jews till the end of time?–I am not aware of it.
Will you allow me to present you with evidence?–You have a right to do what you please. You have a right to occupy a quarter of an hour.
I now quote from the 30th chapter of Jeremiah and the 10th and 11th verses:"Fear thou not, 0 my servant Jacob; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet Will I NOT MAKE A FULL END OF THEE: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." I ask upon that, whether the existence of the Jews does not bear out the hypothesis of that being a true prophecy?–No, because in Genesis God made an equally kind promise which He did not keep, and I have no means of estimating one more than the other.
Give me a promise He did not keep.–More than one. In Genesis chapter 12, verse 7: "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land;" and again, Genesis chapter 13, verse 15: "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward. For all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." I say the Jews have not had it for ever.
So you say; but is that a proof that they won’t?–Yes it is, because it is said, "To thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever", and, clearly, as some years must be taken off the "ever", it cannot be fulfilled.
You said you were going to give me a case of a promise not fulfilled?–I will give you a dozen.
Let us keep to the one you have adduced at present. You think God has not fulfilled what he promised to Abraham. Is it not possible it may yet be fulfilled?–No; because the words are, "I will give it thee for ever", &c., and if the Jews are not in existence there, it is quite clear, according to your own contention, that they have not had it for "ever".
That is to say "for ever" when they get it under the promise?–But it is said, "To thee (Abraham) will I give it". Abraham never had an inch of it.
Are you aware that he is to have it when Christ comes to establish his kingdom upon the earth?–I don’t know what will happen when Christ comes.
If you are not acquainted with what will happen when Christ comes, are you in a position to speak of an unfulfilled promise?–Yes. The land was given to Abraham and his whole seed. Abraham did not get it, and several generations have not got it; and it is clearly unfulfilled as far as they are concerned.
But if Abraham and his seed have it for ever at a future time, will not the promise be fulfilled?–No; because it won’t be ‘ever’ after the promise.
It will be ‘ever’ after its fulfilment. The ‘ever’ begins with its fulfilment surely?–It will be several ages short of ever.
Well, we will leave that. Do I understand you to deny that the Christians suffered persecution in the first century?–I have no evidence of the existence of persecution. I only find your own witness saying they received "honour and happiness, did eat, drink, become fat and kicked."
Do you believe that Tacitus lived and wrote in the first century?–I forget the exact date of Tacitus’ writings. I have no doubt he lived and wrote about that date.
Are you aware that Gibbon admits the authenticity of the writings of Tacitus?–Gibbon was a Christian, and I am not. I have read Gibbon and I have read Tacitus. Gibbon lived 1600 years after Tacitus. You have Gibbon on your side, but Gibbon was a Christian gentleman, and I am an Atheist gentleman. I may say I don’t lay particular weight on the era of Tacitus’ writings. I believe it was at the close of the first century.
Do you admit he wrote?–No doubt.
Do you admit what Tacitus declares, that Nero, in order to stifle the rumours that he set Rome on fire, ascribed it to a people "called by the vulgar Christians", whom he persecuted greatly? Do you admit that was in the first century?–I don’t think it was. It is not noticed by Eusebius, and he would not have circulated the turbid writings of Josephus if he had had to his hand the writings of Tacitus. That is only my opinion, and I am corroborated by knowing that our "Christian Evidence" people altered every book they could.
Do you endorse this: "The most sceptical"–What are you reading?
I will tell you when I have read it:–"The most sceptical are obliged to respect the truth of this extraordinary fact, and the integrity of this passage" from Tacitus. Do you admit that Gibbon wrote that? –I do.
Do you admit Gibbon to be a first-rate authority?–It may be that Eusebius had Tacitus to his hand. If so, it is most extraordinary that he missed that passage, if it existed, and circulated one which all intelligent men abandon as a forgery.
Supposing Gibbon says the Christians were persecuted in the first century, would you believe that they then existed? –I am inclined to think that the people whom you call persecuted Christians existed before that.
How far back would you take them?–I don’t know how far back: Philo takes them back before the first century.
Do you take the name of Christ in connection with them back before that time?–At least 1,000 years before that time.
Do you mean to say that you find people called Christians before the first century?–That is not the question you asked me.
That is my question.–I don’t know. I do find the name of Christ.
How came the name of Christ to be associated with the body of Christians?–I don’t know.
Do you admit it has become so associated?–Yes.
And associated some time between A.D. 150 and A.D. 1?–I have no means of forming an opinion.
Then you deny this extract from Tacitus?–That is not the way of putting it. You asked me a question and I frankly answered it. You asked me the position of Tacitus. I answered by giving my reasons for what I think it was. But my reasons don’t go any further than my own expression of disbelief, and don’t go the length of absolute denial, but they put upon you the burden of proving it.
As a reasonable gentleman, I ask what have you reason to believe on the subject?–I find that the author Eusebius don’t quote it. The whole of the early ages abounded in forgeries, and I cannot think so important a statement would have been missed.
Do you think Josephus wrote about the same time?–I should think about the same time or a little earlier.
Are you aware that Josephus quotes Tacitus?–Yes, but not for Christ, and he cannot have missed so important a corroboration. There was no need of putting the forged testimony of Josephus if the real evidence was to be found in Tacitus.
Are you aware that Josephus quotes that passage in Tacitus concerning Nero’s destruction of Rome?–I am not aware that he quotes it as from Tacitus.