Mr. Bradlaugh, do you believe that the Jews are an ancient nation?–I believe they were an ancient race.
Do you believe they have always accepted Moses as the writer of the works bearing his name?–I don’t think I have very clear evidence on the point. Some time ago an eminent Jew wrote a letter, and he gives a statement of the arguments used by the Rabbis themselves against it.
Do you know that these writings have been all along attributed by that race to Moses?–I believe there were writings current amongst the Jews which the popular voice attributed to different people. I am not able to fix that popular voice. From the Bible I learn that the law was lost and found suddenly. From outside writings I learn that during the captivity they lost all their books.
Have the Jews always regarded Moses as their principal leader?–I should think not, so far as I am able to judge.
Have you any good reason to think otherwise?–The question of Moses’ existence, like that of Buddha and Zoroaster, is very mythical.
Then you doubt whether Moses was their leader in the beginning of their history?–The whole of the alleged exodus is so very doubtful, I can find nothing to verify it.
Can you verify a myth from records of an historic character?–Yes in the case of the Buddhists, I have carefully worked out the system, and the remark equally applies to Zoroaster. In every case there has been some person semi-miraculous, or who is believed to be miraculous.
Do you admit there was an historic beginning in all cases?–I don’t.
Do you think there was any historic beginning to the career of Moses?–I don’t. The whole of the story is so monstrous that it looks as if the name itself was mythic.
What part of the account given of Moses is monstrous?–I will tell you: "the killing of all the cattle by a storm".
Do you mean to say it is monstrous and abstractly impossible for a storm to result in the killing of cattle? –I do, if the cattle were dead already. I will read it from the book. Do you ask for the proof of what I have said?
I did not ask for it. Do you consider that all miracles are impossible?–Yes, especially the killing of cattle twice over.
Why do you say they are impossible?–You have asked me if I believed them. I don’t believe them to be possible because my definition of a miracle is: that which never happened in the past, don’t happen in the present, and won’t happen in the future.
Is that not a begging of the question?–No. Logically, the word miracle to me is without meaning. In Scripture the word miracle is used to denote events which experience gives no record of their possibility of execution.
Are we to make our experience the measure of the possible?–I mean to make experience the measure of my possibility.
Do you mean to say you only believe in what you have seen?– I never said anything so intolerably stupid.
What do you mean, then, by forming a judgment of the possible on the basis of experience?–I don’t limit experience by my own experience only. I mean the recorded experience of other men too.
Then you will admit the experience of others as a basis of belief in things you have not yourself experienced?–I have said so.
Why do you not admit the experience of the apostles in the matter of the resurrection of Christ?–I have already early in this debate admitted that evidence that applies directly to ordinary occurrences, and can be judged of by ordinary experience, cannot be so judged when it applies to extraordinary occurrences.
Then in the case of extraordinary occurrences, you would not be governed by what you have called "the best experience of the best men"?–If you appeal to me I must be allowed to be judge on such matters myself.
In such matters, you would not be guided by the experience of others?–Not if inconsistent with the operation of the senses.
You would not believe what others have seen unless you considered it possible?–I don’t say that.
Then I ask you why you refuse to accept the testimony of the apostles who testified the performance of miracles, and evidenced the sincerity of their testimony in so many ways?–Just on the same principle that I should not believe that Mr. Bradlaugh turned three somersaults on the platform, and then stood on his head in the course of the discussion last night, because it is unreasonable.
Do you say it is unreasonable for a man to rise from the dead?–Yes. Because the word life means organic function, and if he died and re-appeared, it would then be a new life.
Upon what philosophic ground do you hold it is impossible for a man that had once lived to be put together again?–I did not say once lived; I said a man that once died.
Of course; my question implies that. I ask on what ground you deny the possibility of a man who has once lived and died being re-organised and made to live again?–It is beyond the range of my experience, and I have no evidence that it is within the experience of other men.
Is it not possible that such a thing might occur without coming within the range of your experience or that of other men?–I don’t know.
Do you admit that, many ages ago, there were no human beings on the globe?–I have reason to believe that, some millions of years ago, there was not a human being upon earth.
Would not your principle lead you, had you been alive then, to say it was impossible human beings could ever appear on earth?–Not being alive then, I cannot see how I could have formed an opinion one way or the other. I don’t imagine a time when nobody lived.
Well, I will put it retrospectively. Would not your rule of belief lead to this conclusion, that at the same time no human being had as yet appeared upon earth, it was an impossibility that they ever could appear, because it was not within the experience of any living being upon earth?–It is not for me to say what might have been; I deal with experience, and here we are.
And may it not yet be a matter of experience that men will rise from the dead?–There are no known laws in the universe to warrant the idea.
Do you mean to say that your knowledge of the universe is sufficient to enable you to say that there may not be a latent power somewhere equal to the reproduction of dead men?–We don’t know everything, of course.