Will some Christian scholar tell us the value of Genesis?
By Robert G. Ingersoll- 1894.
We know that it is not true—that it contradicts itself. There are two accounts of the creation in the first and second chapters. In the first account birds and beasts were created before man.
In the second, man was created before the birds and beasts.
In the first, fowls are made out of the water.
In the second, fowls are made out of the ground.
In the first, Adam and Eve are created together.
In the second, Adam is made; then the beasts and birds, and then Eve is created from one of Adam’s ribs.
These stories are far older than the Pentateuch.
Persian: God created the world in six days, a man called Adama, a woman called Evah, and then rested.
The Etruscan, Babylonian, Phoenician, Chaldean and the Egyptian stories are much the same.
The Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Hindus have their Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life.
So the Persians, the Babylonians, the Nubians, the people of Southern India, all had the story of the Fall of Man and the subtle serpent.
The Chinese say that sin came into the world by the disobedience of woman. And even the Tahitians tell us that man was created from the earth, and the first woman from one of his bones.
All these stories are equally authentic and of equal value to the world, and all the authors were equally inspired.
We know also that the story of the Flood is much older than the book of Genesis, and we know besides that it is not true.
We know that this story in Genesis was copied from the Chaldean. There you find all about the rain, the ark, the animals, the dove that was sent out three times, and the mountain on which the ark rested.
So the Hindus, Chinese, Parsees, Persians, Greeks, Mexicans and Scandinavians have substantially the same story.
We also knew that the account of the Tower of Babel is an ignorant and childish fable.
What then is left in this inspired book of Genesis? Is there a word calculated to develop the heart or brain? Is there an elevated thought—any great principle—anything poetic—any word that bursts into blossom?
Is there anything except a dreary and detailed statement of things that never happened?
Is there anything in Exodus calculated to make men generous, loving and noble?
Is it well to teach children that God tortured the innocent cattle of the Egyptians—bruised them to death with hailstones—on account of the sins of Pharoah?
Does it make us merciful to believe that God killed the firstborn of the Egyptians—the firstborn of the poor and suffering people—of the poor girl working at the mill—because of the wickedness of the King?
Can we believe that the gods of Egypt worked miracles? Did they change water into blood, and sticks into serpents?
In Exodus there is not one original thought or line of value.
We know, if we know anything, that this book was written by savages—savages who believed in slavery, polygamy and wars of extermination. We know that the story told is impossible, and that the miracles were never performed. This book admits that there are other gods besides Jehovah. In the 17th chapter is this verse: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, for, in the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them.”
So, in this blessed book is taught the duty of human sacrifice—the sacrifice of babes.
In the 22d chapter is this command: “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits and of thy liquors: the first born of thy sons thou shalt give unto me.”
Has Exodus been a help or a hindrance to the human race?
Take from Exodus the laws common to all nations, and is there anything of value left?
Is there anything in Leviticus of importance? Is there a chapter worth reading? What interest have we in the clothes of priests, the curtains and candles of the tabernacle, the tongs and shovels of the altar or the hair-oil used by the Levites?
Of what use the cruel code, the frightful punishments, the curses, the falsehoods and the miracles of this ignorant and infamous book?
And what is there in the book of Numbers—with its sacrifices and water of jealousy, with its shew-bread and spoons, its kids and fine flour, its oil and candlesticks, its cucumbers, onions and manna—to assist and instruct mankind? What interest have we in the rebellion of Korah, the water of separation, the ashes of a red heifer, the brazen serpent, the water that followed the people uphill and down for forty years, and the inspired donkey of the prophet Balaam? Have these absurdities and cruelties—these childish, savage superstitions—helped to civilize the world?
Is there anything in Joshua—with its wars, its murders and massacres, its swords dripping with the blood of mothers and babes, its tortures, maimings and mutilations, its fraud and fury, its hatred and revenge—calculated to improve the world?
Does not every chapter shock the heart of a good man? Is it a book to be read by children?
The book of Joshua is as merciless as famine, as ferocious as the heart of a wild beast. It is a history—a justification—a sanctification of nearly every crime.
The book of Judges is about the same, nothing but war and bloodshed; the horrible story of Jael and Sisera; of Gideon and his trumpets and pitchers; of Jephtha and his daughter, whom he murdered to please Jehovah.
Here we find the story of Samson, in which a sun-god is changed to a Hebrew giant.
Read this book of Joshua—read of the slaughter of women, of wives, of mothers and babes—read its impossible miracles, its ruthless crimes, and all done according to the commands of Jehovah, and tell me whether this book is calculated to make us forgiving, generous and loving.
I admit that the history of Ruth is in some respects a beautiful and touching story; that it is naturally told, and that her love for Naomi was deep and pure. But in the matter of courtship we would hardly advise our daughters to follow the example of Ruth. Still, we must remember that Ruth was a widow.
Is there anything worth reading in the first and second books of Samuel? Ought a prophet of God to hew a captured king in pieces? Is the story of the ark, its capture and return of importance to us? Is it possible that it was right, just and merciful to kill fifty thousand men because they had looked into a box? Of what use to us are the wars of Saul and David, the stories of Goliath and the Witch of Endor? Why should Jehovah have killed Uzzah for putting forth his hand to steady the ark, and forgiven David for murdering Uriah and stealing his wife?
According to “Samuel,” David took a census of the people. This excited the wrath of Jehovah, and as a punishment he allowed David to choose seven years of famine, a flight of three months from pursuing enemies, or three days of pestilence. David, having confidence in God, chose the three days of pestilence; and, thereupon, God, the compassionate, on account of the sin of David, killed seventy thousand innocent men!
Under the same circumstances, what would a devil have done?
Is there anything in First and Second Kings that suggests the idea of inspiration?
When David is dying he tells his son Solomon to murder Joab—not to let his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. With his last breath he commands his son to bring down the hoar head of Shimei to the grave with blood. Having uttered these merciful words, the good David, the man after God’s heart, slept with his fathers.
Was it necessary to inspire the man who wrote the history of the building of the temple, the story of the visit of the Queen of Sheba, or to tell the number of Solomon’s wives?
What care we for the withering of Jereboam’s hand, the prophecy of Jehu, or the story of Elijah and the ravens?
Can we believe that Elijah brought flames from heaven, or that he went at last to Paradise in a chariot of fire?
Can we believe in the multiplication of the widow’s oil by Elisha, that an army was smitten with blindness, or that an axe floated in the water?
Does it civilize us to read about the beheading of the seventy sons of Ahab, the putting out of the eyes of Zedekiah and the murder of his sons? Is there one word in First and Second Kings calculated to make men better?
First and Second Chronicles is but a re-telling of what is told in First and Second Kings. The same old stories—a little left out, a little added, but in no respect made better or worse.
The book of Ezra is of no importance. He tells us that Cyrus, King of Persia, issued a proclamation for building a temple at Jerusalem, and that he declared Jehovah to be the real and only God.
Nothing could be more absurd. Ezra tells us about the return from captivity, the building of the temple, the dedication, a few prayers, and this is all. This book is of no importance, of no use.
Nehemiah is about the same, only it tells of the building of the wall, the complaints of the people about taxes, a list of those who returned from Babylon, a catalogue of those who dwelt at Jerusalem, and the dedication of the walls.
Not a word in Nehemiah worth reading.
Then comes the book of Esther:
In this we are told that King Ahasueras was intoxicated; that he sent for his Queen, Vashti, to come and show herself to him and his guests. Vashti refused to appear.
This maddened the King, and he ordered that from every province the most beautiful girls should be brought before him that he might choose one in place of Vashti.
Among others was brought Esther, a Jewess. She was chosen and became the wife of the King. Then a gentleman by the name of Haman wanted to have all the Jews killed, and the King, not knowing that Esther was of that race, signed a decree that all the Jews should be killed.
Through the efforts of Mordecai and Esther the decree was annulled and the Jews were saved.
Haman prepared a gallows on which to have Mordecai hanged, but the good Esther so managed matters that Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows that Haman had built, and the Jews were allowed to murder more than seventy-five thousand of the King’s subjects.
This is the inspired story of Esther.
In the book of Job we find some elevated sentiments, some sublime and foolish thoughts, something of the wonder and sublimity of nature, the joys and sorrows of life; but the story is infamous.
Some of the Psalms are good, many are indifferent, and a few are infamous. In them are mingled the vices and virtues. There are verses that elevate; verses that degrade. There are prayers for forgiveness and revenge. In the literature of the world there is nothing more heartless, more infamous, than the 109th Psalm.
In the Proverbs there is much shrewdness, many pithy and prudent maxims, many wise sayings. The same ideas are expressed in many ways—the wisdom of economy and silence, the dangers of vanity and idleness. Some are trivial, some are foolish, and many are wise. These proverbs are not generous—not altruistic. Sayings to the same effect are found among all nations.
Ecclesiastes is the most thoughtful book in the Bible. It was written by an unbeliever—a philosopher—an agnostic. Take out the interpolations, and it is in accordance with the thought of the Nineteenth Century. In this book are found the most philosophic and poetic passages in the Bible.
After crossing the desert of death and crime—after reading the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles—it is delightful to reach this grove of palms, called the “Song of Solomon.” A drama of love—of human love; a poem without Jehovah—a poem born of the heart and true to the divine instincts of the soul.
“I sleep, but my heart waketh.”
Isaiah is the work of several. Its swollen words, its vague imagery, its prophecies and curses, its ravings against kings and nations, its laughter at the wisdom of man, its hatred of joy, have not the slightest tendency to increase the well-being of man.
In this book is recorded the absurdest of all miracles. The shadow on the dial is turned back ten degrees, in order to satisfy Hezekiah that Jehovah will add fifteen years to his life.
In this miracle the world, turning from west to east at the rate of more than a thousand miles an hour, is not only stopped, but made to turn the other way until the shadow on the dial went back ten degrees! Is there in the whole world an intelligent man or woman who believes this impossible falsehood?
Jeremiah contains nothing of importance—no facts of value; nothing but faultfinding, lamentations, croakings, wailings, curses and promises; nothing but famine and prayer, the prosperity of the wicked, the ruin of the Jews, the captivity and return, and at last Jeremiah, the traitor, in the stocks and in prison.
And Lamentations is simply a continuance of the ravings of the same insane pessimist; nothing but dust and sackcloth and ashes, tears and howls, railings and revilings.
And Ezekiel—eating manuscripts, prophesying siege and desolation, with visions of coals of fire, and cherubim, and wheels with eyes, and the type and figure of the boiling pot, and the resurrection of dry bones—is of no use, of no possible value.
With Voltaire, I say that any one who admires Ezekiel should be compelled to dine with him.
Daniel is a disordered dream—a nightmare.
What can be made of this book with its image with a golden head, with breast and arms of silver, with belly and thighs of brass, with legs of iron, and with feet of iron and clay; with its writing on the wall, its den of lions, and its vision of the ram and goat?
Is there anything to be learned from Hosea and his wife? Is there anything of use in Joel, in Amos, in Obadiah? Can we get any good from Jonah and his gourd? Is it possible that God is the real author of Micah and Nahum, of Habakuk and Zephaniah, of Haggai and Malachi and Zechariah, with his red horses, his four horns, his four carpenters, his flying roll, his mountains of brass and the stone with four eyes?
Is there anything in these “inspired” books that has been of benefit to man?
Have they taught us how to cultivate the earth, to build houses, to weave cloth, to prepare food? Have they taught us to paint pictures, to chisel statues, to build bridges, or ships, or anything of beauty or of use? Did we get our ideas of government, of religious freedom, of the liberty of thought, from the Old Testament? Did we get from any of these books a hint of any science? Is there in the “sacred volume” a word, a line, that has added to the wealth, the intelligence and the happiness of mankind? Is there one of the books of the Old Testament as entertaining as Robinson Crusoe, the Travels of Gulliver, or Peter Wilkins and his Flying Wife? Did the author of Genesis know as much about nature as Humboldt(1767–1835), or Darwin, or Haeckel(1834 – 1919) ? Is what is called the Mosaic Code as wise or as merciful as the code of any civilized nation? Were the writers of Kings and Chronicles as great historians, as great writers, as Gibbon and Draper? Is Jeremiah or Habakuk equal to Dickens or Thackeray? Can the authors of Job and the Psalms be compared with Shakespeare? Why should we attribute the best to man and the worst to God?
SOURCE-ABOUT THE HOLY BIBLE -A Lecture By Robert G. Ingersoll 1894.