The CHAIRMAN: I had hoped, after the experience of our first meeting, that weakminded people who could not command their feelings would have stayed at home, and that egotistical people would have sent challenges of their own to the disputants against whose sentiments they wished to protest. The troublers are so much in the minority that I trust to the general sense of the meeting to keep them quiet, and to see that they shall have respect for the meeting. Do let us maintain order during the rest of the debate. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Bradlaugh will each occupy a quarter of an hour with the option of making a speech or of asking questions. Mr. Roberts will begin.
MR. ROBERTS QUESTIONS MR. BRADLAUGH.
If I understood you correctly last night, you do not say the New Testament is a collection of forged writings?–I said I did not hold the doctrine that the Bible as a whole was the work of forgers; that I held that the Bible, like other books, amongst much that was mythical, had a basis of truth round which the myths were centred.
May not Paul have existed and written the epistles if the New Testament is not a collection of forgeries? –You have given me at present no authentication of the letters you call Paul’s and therefore can base no question upon them.
My question is based upon your statement that the New Testament is not composed of forgeries. I ask if the New Testament was not forged, is it not an honest production?–I have given you an answer. There may have been those who contributed their own amount of what was false and while other parts may have a basis of truth.
Do you not admit–I make no admission whatsoever. I said last night the onus of proof lies with you.
I ask you to say finally whether the New Testament, or any portion of it was according to your conception of it, forged for the purpose of deceiving the people?–I don’t mean to say that there might not be contributions and interpretations which may not be deceptions.
Do I understand you to say that of the 2nd Epistle of Paul to Timothy?–It all depends upon the evidence.
Presumably you know the evidence, and I am asking whether your answer applies to Timothy?–You are wrongly putting my answer. I have not the slightest evidence to enable me to identify any person whom you designate as Paul, or the person Timothy, to whom the epistle is said to have been written, and therefore am not unwise enough to express an opinion without having sufficient evidence.
Have you sufficient evidence to form an opinion–yea or nay?–I reply that I have no evidence of the fact.
What is your opinion of the fact?–My opinion is not evidence, and I have no facts to found an opinion upon.
You have the fact of the epistle existing and circulating for centuries, and upon that fact I ask for your opinion as to its genuineness?–It is my opinion that I have no evidence.
Do you refuse then to say that the 2nd Epistle to Timothy is a forgery?–If you mean, is it probable that Paul wrote it, my answer is that, as I have no knowledge about Paul, I cannot speak about his epistles, and I am not so foolish as to be drawn into the position of saying that a forgery had been committed, when I have no evidence on the subject.
Do I understand then that you know nothing about it?–I know more about it than you may suppose.
Tell me, then, is it a forgery?–The bulk of the evidence for it, I have no doubt, has been forged evidence.
I ask you for your opinion, and you teU me about the evidence.–The bulk of the evidence, during the first eight centuries, was forgery without doubt.
I amasking you about the 2nd epistle of Paul to Timothy.–And I cannot give any opinion apart from the evidence which I say has been forged – the bulk of it.
You evade my question: I ask you as to the 2nd epistle of Paul to Timothy; and you refer me to other writings. My question is, whether, in your opinion, on whatever ground you have formed that opinion, Timothy is a forgery?–I am of opinion, if you have bona fide evidence that Paul wrote it, the evidence should be produced.
I have now been asking you for some time, Mr. Bradlaugh, whether you believe that the 2nd epistle of Timothy was written by Paul, or is a forgery, and you do not answer the question.–I answer I know nothing about Paul. I have answered the question satisfactorily to myself. The evidence of the epistles–I have read the bulk of what is alleged to be evidence–and I believe it to be a forgery. Beyond that which is strict evidence, you will get nothing from me.
Say yes or no. Is it in your opinion Paul’s letter or not?–I won’t say that. You won’t get me to go into a trap-(laughter). I have a letter in my possession how can I tell whether a letter has been forged or no, when I don’t know who wrote it.
I should say in such a case, "I am in ignorance of the entire matter, and cannot form an opinion," but I most certainly thought Mr. Charles Bradlaugh had formed an opinion, and I merely ask what that opinion is.–Your question began with a statement about ignorant persons. I say that I have examined the Christian evidence as cited by the whole of the writers, and the presumption formed in my mind is against the professions of the epistles, but I decline to be entrapped into saying what might convey more than I might mean.
My question is based upon the examination you have made. I merely ask, have you formed a definite opinion? if so, what is it?–I have given you a definite opinion.
What is it?–My definite opinion is that I have not the slightest evidence.
I ask your opinion, and you tell me about the evidence.–Apart from the evidence I have no opinion.
But you can tefl me what your opinion is on the evidence.–My opinion is I am giving answers to a man who does not comprehend them.
All I wish you to do, Mr. Bradlaugh, is to take positive ground one way or the other as to the character of the second epistle of Paul to Timothy.–My opinion was expressed six days ago. My opinion is that you cannot connect Paul with it.
I ask you do you discover anything in the epistles themselves to justify the supposition that they were forged?–Yes, I have clear evidence, and if you examine the Christian evidences you will find that the titles to the Old and New Testaments have been held to be forged.
I am not speaking as to the titles.–I have not finished. I was saying that the ecclesiastical writers of the earlier ages used the names of people not connected with the book at all. I refer to the titles distinguishing between them and the contents of the letters. There is nothing in the contents to show the authorship.
I can understand that a work may not be Charles Bradlaugh’s though it has "C. Bradlaugh" affixed to it; but here we have in the body of the letter a statement like this: "Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ to Timothy", do you say that was not written by the writer of the letter?–I have not the slightest evidence connecting the writer of the prefix with the body of the letter (The body of most of Paul’s letters contain the expression, "I, Paul", frequently, e.g.: 2Cor. 10:1), and further than that I can give no answer.