Thomas Paine's Bible Study of the New Testament

 

 Of The Books of the New Testament
Address to the Believers in the Book Called the Scriptures

 

The New Testament contains twenty-seven books, of which four are called Gospels; one called the Acts of the Apostles; fourteen called the Epistles of Paul; one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; one called the Revelation. 

None of those books have the appearance of being written by the persons whose names they bear, neither do we know who the authors were. They come to us on no other authority than the Church of Rome, which the Protestant Priests, especially those of New England, call the Whore of Babylon. 

This church, or to use their own vulgar language, this whore, appointed sundry councils to be held, to compose creeds for the people, and to regulate Church affairs. Two of the principal of these councils were that of Nice, and of Laodicea (names of the places where the councils were held) about three hundred and fifty years after the time that Jesus is said to have lived. Before this time there was no such book as the New Testament. 

But the Church could not well go on without having something to show, as the Persians showed the Zend-Avesta, revealed they say by God to Zoroaster; the Bramins of India, the Shaster, revealed, they say, by God to Brama, and given to him out of a dusky cloud; the Jews, the books they call the Law of Moses, given they say also out of a cloud on Mount Sinai. 

The Church set about forming a code for itself out of such materials as it could find or pick up. But where they got those materials, in what language they were written, or whose handwriting they were, or whether they were originals or copies, or on what authority they stood, we know nothing of, nor does the New Testament tell us. 

The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and as, after the lapse of more than three hundred years, no handwriting could be proved or disproved, the Church, which like former impostors had then gotten possession of the State, had everything its own way. It invented creeds, such as that called the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicean Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged. 

Of those called Gospels, above forty were presented, each contending to be genuine. Four only were voted in, and entitled: the Gospel according to St. Matthew -- the Gospel according to St. Mark -- the Gospel according to St. Luke -- the Gospel according to St. John. 

This word according, shows that those books have not been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but according to some accounts or traditions, picked up concerning them. The word "according" means agreeing with, and necessarily includes the idea of two things, or two persons. 

We cannot say, The Gospel written by Matthew according to Matthew, but we might say, the Gospel of some other person according to what was reported to have been the opinion of Matthew. Now we do not know who those other persons were, nor whether what they wrote accorded with anything that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John might have said. There is too little evidence, and too much contrivance, about those books to merit credit. 

The next book after those called Gospels, is that called the Acts of the Apostles. This book is anonymous; neither do the councils that compiled or contrived the New Testament tell us how they came by it. The Church, to supply this defect, say it was written by Luke, which shows that the Church and its priests have not compared that called the Gospel according to St. Luke and the Acts together, for the two contradict each other. 

The book of Luke, xxiv., makes Jesus ascend into heaven the very same day that it makes him rise from the grave. The book of Acts, i. 3, says that he remained on earth forty days after his crucifixion. There is no believing what either of them says. 

The next to the book of Acts is that entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle[1] to the Romans." This is not an Epistle, or letter, written by Paul or signed by him. It is an Epistle, or letter, written by a person who signs himself TERTIUS, and sent, as it is said in the end, by a servant woman called Phebe. The last chapter, ver. 22, says, "I Tertius, who wrote this Epistle, salute you."  Who Tertius or Phebe were, we know nothing of. 

The epistle is not dated. The whole of it is written in the first person, and that person is Tertius, not Paul. But it suited the Church to ascribe it to Paul. There is nothing in it that is interesting except it be to contending and wrangling sectaries. The stupid metaphor of the potter and the clay is in chapter ix. 

The next book is entitled "The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians." This, like the former, is not an Epistle written by Paul, nor signed by him. The conclusion of the Epistle says, "The first epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, by Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, and Timotheus." 

The second epistle entitled, "The second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians," is in the same case with the first. The conclusion of it says, "It was written from Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas." 

A question may arise upon these cases, which is, are these persons the writers of the epistles originally, or are they the writers and attestors of copies sent to the councils who compiled the code or canon of the New Testament? If the epistles had been dated this question could be decided; but in either of the cases the evidences of Paul's hand writing and of their being written by him is wanting, and, therefore, there is no authority for calling them Epistles of Paul. We know not whose Epistles they were, nor whether they are genuine or forged. 

The next is entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians." It contains six short chapters, yet the writer of it says, vi. 11, "Ye see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand." If Paul was the writer of this it shows he did not accustom himself to write long epistles; yet the epistle to the Romans and the first to the Corinthians contain sixteen chapters each; the second to the Corinthians and that to the Hebrews thirteen each. 

There is something contradictory in these matters. But short as the epistle is, it does not carry the appearance of being the work or composition of one person. Chapter v, 2, says, "If ye be circumcised Christ shall avail you nothing." It does not say circumcision shall profit you nothing, but Christ shall profit you nothing. Yet in vi, 15, it says "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." 

These are not reconcilable passages, nor can contrivance make them so. The conclusion of the epistle says it was written from Rome, but it is not dated, nor is there any signature to it, neither do the compilers of the New Testament say how they came by it. We are in the dark upon all these matters. 

The next is entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians." Paul is not the writer. The conclusion of it says, "Written from Rome unto the Ephesians by Tychicus." 

The next is entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians." Paul is not the writer. The conclusion of it says, "It was written to the Philippians from Rome by Epaphroditus." It is not dated. Query, were those men who wrote and signed those Epistles journeymen Apostles, who undertook to write in Paul's name, as Paul is said to have preached in Christ's name? 

The next is entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians." Paul is not the writer. Doctor Luke is spoken of in this Epistle as sending his compliments.  "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you." (iv, 14). It does not say a word about his writing any Gospel.  The conclusion of the epistle says, "Written from Rome to the Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus." 

The next is entitled, "The first and the second Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians." Either the writer of these Epistles was a visionary enthusiast, or a direct impostor, for he tells the Thessalonians, and, he says, he tells them by the Word of the Lord, that the world will be at an end in his and their time; and after telling them that those who are already dead shall rise, he adds, iv, 17, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord." 

Such detected lies as these, ought to fill priests with confusion, when they preach such books to be the Word of God. These two Epistles are said in the conclusion of them, to be written from Athens. They are without date or signature. 

The next four Epistles are private letters. Two of them are to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon. Who they were, nobody knows. 

The first to Timothy, is said to be written from Laodicea. It is without date or signature. The second to Timothy, is said to be written from Rome, and is without date or signature. The Epistle to Titus is said to be written from Nicopolis in Macedonia. It is without date or signature.  The Epistle to Philemon is said to be written from Rome by Onesimus. It is without date. 

The last Epistle ascribed to Paul is entitled, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews," and is said in the conclusion to be written from Italy, by Timothy.  This Timothy (according to the conclusion of the epistle called the second Epistle of Paul to Timothy) was Bishop of the Church of the Ephesians, and consequently this is not an Epistle of Paul. 

On what slender cobweb evidence do the priests and professors of the Christian religion hang their faith! The same degree of hearsay evidence, and that at third and fourth hand, would not, in a court of justice, give a man title to a cottage, and yet the priests of this profession presumptuously promise their deluded followers the Kingdom of Heaven. A little reflection would teach men that those books are not to be trusted to; that so far from there being any proof they are the Word of God, it is unknown who the writers of them were, or at what time they were written, within three hundred years after the reputed authors are said to have lived. 

It is not the interest of priests, who get their living by them, to examine into the insufficiency of the evidence upon which those books were received by the popish councils who compiled the New Testament. But if Messrs. Linn and Mason would occupy themselves upon this subject (it signifies not which side they take, for the event will be the same) they would be better employed than they were last Presidential election, in writing jesuitical electioneering pamphlets. The very name of a priest attaches suspicion on to it the instant he becomes a dabbler in party politics. 

The New England priests set themselves up to govern the state, and they are falling into contempt for so doing.  Men who have their farms and their several occupations to follow, and have a common interest with their neighbors in the public prosperity and tranquility of their country, neither want nor choose to be told by a priest who they shall vote for, nor how they shall conduct their temporal concerns. 

The cry of the priests that the Church is in danger, is the cry of men who do not understand the interest of their own craft; for instead of exciting alarms and apprehensions for its safety, as they expect, it excites suspicion that the foundation is not sound, and that it is necessary to take down and build it on a surer foundation. Nobody fears for the safety of a mountain, but a hillock of sand may be washed away! Blow then, O ye priests, "the Trumpet in Zion," for the Hillock is in danger.



[1] According to the criterion of the Church, Paul was not an apostle; that appellation being given only to those called the Twelve. Two sailors belonging to a man-of-war got into a dispute upon this point, whether Paul was an apostle or not, and they agreed to refer it to the boatswain, who decided very canonically that Paul was an acting apostle but not rated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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