« AnteriorContinuar »
saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be buili; and to the temple thy foundations shall be laid: thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, &c."
What audacity of church and priestly ignorance it is to impose this book upon the world as the writing of Isaiah, when Isaiah, according to their own chronology, died socn after the death of Hezekiah, which was 698 years before. Christ; and the decree of Cyrus, in favour of the Jews returning to Jerusalem, was, according to the same chronology, 536 years before Christ; which was a distance of time between the two of 162 years. I do not suppose that the compilers of the Bible made these books, but rather that they picked up some loose, anonymous essays, and put them together under the names of such authors as best suited their purpose. They have encouraged the imposi tion, which is next to inventing it; for it was impossible but they must have observed it.
When we see the studied craft of the scripture-makers, in making every part of this romantic book of school-boy's eloquence, bend to the monstrous idea of a Son of God, begotten by a ghost on the body of a virgin, there is no imposition that we are not justified in suspecting them of. Every phrase and circumstance are marked with the barbarous hand of superstitious torture, and forced into meanings it was impossible they could have. The head of every chapter, and the top of every page, are blazoned with the names of Christ and the church, that the unwary reader might suck in the error before he began to read.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, Isaiah, chap vii. ver. 14, has been interpreted to mean the person called Jesus Christ, and his mother Mary, and has been echoed through Christendom for more than a thousand years; and such has been the rage of this opinion, that scarcely a spot in it but has been stained with blood and marked with desolation in consequence of it. Though it is not my intention to enter into controversy on subjects. of this kind, but to confine myself to shew that the Bible. is spurious; and thus, by taking away the foundation, to overthrow at once the whole structure of superstition raised thereon; I will, however, stop a moment to expose the fallacious application of this passage.
Whether Isaiah was playing a trick with Ahaz, king of Judah, to whom this passage is spoken, is no business of mine; I mean only to shew the mis-application of the pas sage, and that it has no more reference to Christ and his
mother than it has to me and my mother. The story is simply this:
The king of Syria and the king of Israel (I have already inentioned that the Jews were split into two nations, one of which was called Judea, the capital of which was Jeru salem, and the other Israel) made war jointly against Ahaz king of Judah, and marched their armies towards Jerusalem. Ahaz and his people became alarmed, and the account says, ver. 2, " Their hearts were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind."
In this situation of things, Isaiah addresses himself to Ahaz, and assures him in the name of the Lord (the cant phrase of all the prophets) that these two kings should not succeed against him; and to satisfy Ahaz that this should be the case, tells him to ask a sign. This, the account says, Ahaz declined doing; giving as a reason that he would not tempt the Lord; upon which Isaiah, who is the speaker, says, ver. 14. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; and the 16th verse says, "And before this child shall kno to refuse the evil, and chuse the good, the land which thou abhorrest or dreadest (meaning Syria and the kingdom of Israel) shall be forsaken of both her kings." Here then was the sign, and the time limited for the completion of the assurance or promise: namely, before this child should know to refuse the evil, and chuse the good.
Isaiah having committed himself thus far, it became necessary to him, in order to avoid the imputation of being a false prophet, and the consequence thereof, to take measures to make this sign appear. It certainly was not a difficult thing, in any time of the world, to find a girl with child, or to make her so; and perhaps Isaiah knew of one before-hand; for I do not suppose that the prophets of that day were any more to be trusted than the priests of this; be that however as it may, he says in the next chapter, ver. 2, "And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, and I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bare a son."
Here then is the whole story, foolish as it is, of this child and this virgin; and it is upon the bare-faced perversion of this story, that the book of Matthew, and the impudence and sordid interests of priests in latter times, have founded a theory which they call the gospel; and have applied this story to signify the person they call Jesus Christ; begotten, they say, by a ghost, whom they call holy, on the body of a woman, engaged in marriage, and afterwards married, whom they call a virgin, 700 years after this foolish story was told; a theory which, speaking
for myself, I hesitate not to believe, and to say, is as fabulous and as false as God is true (7).
But to shew the imposition and falsehood of Isaiah, we have only to attend to the sequel of this story; which, though it is passed over in silence in the book of Isaiah, is related in the 28th chapter of the 2d Chronicles; and which is, that of these two kings failing in their attempt against Abaz, king of Judah, as Isaiah had pretended to foretel in the name of the Lord, they succeeded; Ahaz was defeated and destroyed; an hundred and twenty thousand of his people were slaughtered; Jerusalem was plundered, and two hundred thousand women, and sons and daughters, carried into captivity. Thus much for this lying prophet and impostor Isaiah, and the book of falsehoods that bears his name. I pass on to the book of
Jeremiah. This prophet, as he is called, lived in the time that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, in the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah; and the suspicion was strong against him, that he was a traitor in the interest of Nebuchadnezzar. Every thing relating to Jeremiah shews him to have been a man of an equivocal character: in his metaphor of the potter and the clay, chap. xviii. he guards his prognostications in such a crafty manner, as always to leave himself a door to escape by, in case the event should be contrary to what he had predicted.
In the 7th and 8th verses of that chapter, he makes the Almighty to say, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and destroy it: if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent me of the evil that I thought to do unto them." Here was a proviso against one side of the case: now for the other side.
Verses 9 and 10, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice: then I will repent me of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." Here is a proviso against the other side; and, according to this plan of prophesying, a prophet could never be wrong, however mistaken the Almighty might be. This sort of absurd subterfuge, and this manner of speaking of the Almighty, as one would speak of a man, is consistent with nothing but the stupidity of the Bible.
As to the authenticity of the book, it is only necessary to read it in order to decide positively, that, though some
(7) In the 14th verse of the viith chapter, it is said, that the child should be called Immanuel; but this name was not given to either of the children, otherwise than as a character, which the word signifies. That of the prophetess was called Maher-shalal-hash-baz, and that of Mary was called Jesus.
passages recorded therein may have been spoken by Jereiniah, he is not the author of the book. The historical parts, if they can be called by that name, are in the most confused condition; the same events are several times repeated, and that in a manner different, and sometimes in contradiction to each other; and this disorder runs even to the last chapter, where the history, upon which the greater part of the book has been employed, begins a new, and ends abruptly. The book has all the appearances of being a medley of unconnected anecdotes, respecting persons and things of that time, collected together in the same rude manner as if the various and contradictory accounts, that are to be found in a bundle of newspapers, respecting persons and things of the present day, were put together without date, order or explanation. I will give two or three examples of this kind.
It appears, from the account of the 37th chapter, that the army of Nebuchadnezzar, which is called the army of the Chaldeans, had besieged Jerusalem some time; and on their hearing that the army of Fharaoh, of Egypt, was
arching against them, they raised the siege, and retreated for a time. It may here be proper to mention, in order to understand this confused history, that Nebuchadnezzar hai besieged and taken Jerusalein, during the reign of Jehoiakim, the predecessor of Zedekiah; and that it was Nebuchadnezzar who had made "Zedekiah king, or rather vice-roy; and that this second siege, of which the bock of Jeremiah treats, was in consequence of the revolt of Zedekiah against Nebuchadnezzar. This will, in some measure, account for the suspicion that alfixes itself to Jeremiah of being a traitor, and in the interest of Nebuchadnezzar, whom Jeremiah calls, in the 436 chap. ver. 10, the servant of God.
The 11th verse of this chapter (the 37th) says, "And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem, for fear of haraoh's army, that Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalein, to go (as this account states) into the land of Penjamin, to separate him. self thence in the midst of the people; and when he was in the gute of Benjamin a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans; then Jeremiah said, It is false, I fall not away to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah being thus stopped and accused, was, after being examined, committed to prison, on suspicion of being a traitor, where he remained, as is stated in the last verse of this chapter.
But the next chapter gives an account of the imprisonment of Jeremiah, which has no connection with this account, but ascribes his imprisonment to another circumstance, and for which we must go back to the 21st chap
ter. It is there stated, ver. 1, that Zedekiah sent Pashur, the son of Malchiah, and Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah the priest, to Jeremiah, to enquire of him concerning Nebuchadnezzar, whose army was then before Jerusalem; and Jeremiah said to them, ver. 8, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I set before you the way of life, and the way of death; he that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he that goeth out and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto hitn for a prey.'
This interview and conference breaks off abruptly at the end of the 10th verse of the 21st chapter; and such is the disorder of this book, that we have to pass over sixteen chapters, upon various subjects, in order to come at the continuation and event of this conference; and this brings us to the first verse of the 38th chapter, as I have just mentioned.
The 38th chapter opens with saying, "Then Shapatiah, the son of Mattan; Gedaliah, the son of Pashur; and Jucal, the son of Shelemiah; and Pashur the son of Malchiah; (here are more persons mentioned than in the 21st chapter) heard the words that Jeremiah spoke unto the people saying, Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in this city, shall die by the sword, the famine, and by the pestilence, but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live; (which are the words of the conference) therefore, (say they to Zedekiah) We beseech thee, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people in speaking such words unto them; for this man seeketh not the wel fare of the people but the hurt;" and at the 6th verse it is said, "Then they took Jeremiah, and put him into a dungeon of Malchiah."
These two accounts are different and contradictory. The one ascribes his imprisonment to his attempt to escape out of the city; the other to his preaching and prophesying in the city; the one to his being seized by the guard at the gate; the other to his being accused before Zedekiah, by the conferees (8).
(8) I observed two chapters, 16th and 17th, in the first book of Samuel, that contradict each other with respect to David, and the manner he became acquainted with Saul; as the 37th and 38th chapters of the book of Jeremiah contradict each other with respect to the cause of Jeremiah's imprisonment.
In the 16th chapter of Samuel, it is said, that an evil spirit of God troubled Saul, and that his servants advised him (as a remedy) "to seek out a man who was a cunning player on the harp." And Saul said, ver. 17, " Provide now a man that can play well and bring him unto me." Then answered one of his servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse, the