The second part of Age of Reason sees Thomas Paine freed from his French captivity and able to access the “holy” books which he plans to attack, and spends no time in the opening to express his true feelings. When beginning his discussion of the Old Testament he holds back nothing:
When we read in the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, etc., that they (the Israelites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who, as history itself shows, had given them no offence; that they put all those nations to the sword; that they spared neither age nor infancy; that they utterly destroyed men, women, and children; that they left not a soul to breathe- expressions that are repeated over and over again in those books, and that, too, with exulting ferocity- are we sure these things are facts? Are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned these things to be done? and are we sure that the books that tell us so were written by his authority?
The violence carried out in the Old testament is in and of itself evidence that those books are not the Word of God. We are required to suspend disbelief and permit that God would destroy the wholly innocent for no apparent reason, and doing so would have been righteous in God’s eyes:
The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. To believe, therefore, the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God; for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend?
Aside from the incredulity that a just and loving God would order the slaughter of the innocent, Thomas Paine next focuses on the authenticity of authorship and believability of the testimony contained within the books. We understand works of science to stand on their own, regardless of their authors, as well as works of art such as the Aeneid and Odyssey, written around 800BCE, or by other authors such as Plato or Aristotle.
Regardless of the author, those works would still be worthy of admiration if the author was Homer or anyone else. We don’t necessarily believe the events described therein, they are to be admired purely for their artistic value. However, the Bible’s authenticity rests on their authorship, as well as their testimonial content, because they are said to be the Word of God. Thomas Paine states as his express goal:
My intention is to show that those books are spurious, and that Moses is not the author of them; and still further, that they were not written in the time of Moses, nor till several hundred years afterward; that they are no other than an attempted history of the life of Moses, and of the times in which he is said to have lived, and also of the times prior thereto, written by some very ignorant and stupid pretenders to authorship, several hundred years after the death of Moses…
Paine firstly suggests that it is highly unlikely that any person would write of themselves in third person, as the Old Testament is written, supposedly by Moses, and if he indeed wrote it in third person, then by stating: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” he is apparently boasting of his meekness, which would make him the opposite of meek, and quite absurd. There are numerous points in the books where it is clearly evident that Moses could not be the writer, for various reasons, such as change in tone or description of events where Moses could not have been present, such as after his death.
Thomas Paine next asserts that Moses could not have been the writer of the Old Testament because there is reference in Genesis to a town called Dan, which did not exist until after the death of Sampson, which occurred over 300 years after the supposed death of Moses. The Book of Judges makes clear that a people called Danites came into a town called Laish and destroyed it, thereafter staying there and calling it Dan.
This story occurs in the Book of Judges after the death of Sampson, which again, is chronologically over 300 years after when we are told the death of Moses occurred. Either way we approach the chronology of The Book of Judges, either by chronological arrangement of the chapters or historical order of events, the destruction of Laish could only have been carried out either 20 years after the death of Joshua, who was the successor to Moses, or 331 years after the death of Moses, either way, Moses could not have written Genesis, which must therefore be an anonymous work.
Moses, if he existed and the accounts are true, is declared by Paine to be one of the most vile and evil leaders that ever walked the earth. Here he is quoted to command his army to kill men, women, and children of another city, and to keep the virgins for themselves as slaves:
Have ye saved all the women alive? behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the council of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women-children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.Moses the Lawgiver
Of course, this is not an accurate quote and Moses likely never existed, but these legends were orally passed down, which implies some kernel of truth. There are numerous events described in the books of Genesis, Joshua, Samuel, Ruth, and Judges, which conclusively show that the authors to whom the books are ascribed could not have written them.
The main problems with their historicity is that they mention events, such as battles, deaths, and contain use of language, which are all asynchronistic to the times of which they wrote. Consequently, the supposed authors could not have known about the events, and felt it necessary to explain language they used which was no longer in use because such a length of time had gone by.
Without getting into minutiae details fit for a dissertation, I don’t believe it necessary to recount each and every instance of chronological inconsistencies, such as the taking of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, or of Rabbah, or the discussion of the size of a bed of a “giant” king, as well as descriptions of events which occurred after the deaths of the writers.
One passage in the book of Joshua is a clear fabrication indicative of the impossible veracity of these books, because it describes the sun and moon standing still at his command, which would have been an event witnessed by the entire planet and certainly recorded in many or most cultures’ records. Thomas Paine concludes his discussion of the five books of the Torah such:
The evidence I have produced, and shall produce in the course of this work, to prove that the Bible is without authority, will, while it wounds the stubbornness of a priest, relieve and tranquilize the minds of millions; it will free them from all those hard thoughts of the Almighty which priestcraft and the Bible had infused into their minds, and which stood in everlasting opposition to all their ideas of his moral justice and benevolence.
Paine next turns to the two Books of Kings and two Books of Chronicles, the two books of each name are asserted to be written by one author, and both of which describe similar events in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah/Judea, although strangely neglecting to describe some of the most significant miraculous events mentioned in one book but not the other.
An example would be Elijah ascending into heaven by a chariot of fire, which is not mentioned in Chronicles. The revival of a person being buried after touching the bones of Elisha, was likewise neglected by Chronicles, among other similar events.
Furthermore, Paine makes an interesting point in that neither Kings or Chronicles mentions any of the prophets described in those latter books, besides Isaiah, and Jeremiah (briefly in the final chapter). If the prophets were men of such wide renown and possessed significant authority in their day, being employed as soothsayers for kings, why were they almost completely neglected from those supposedly “historical” works?
Finally, Thomas Paine convincingly shows that Genesis was written after Chronicles, due to a passage in Genesis directly referencing Chronicles for its timeline. The passage in Chronicles to which Genesis refers presumes to list the descendants of David, one of whom is Zedekiah, who was stated to be king during the time that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, around 600BCE. Therefore, Genesis could not have been written before that time.
We next touch on the Book of Ezra, which recounts the numbers of persons returning from the Babylonian captivity about 530BCE, wherein the author lists the numbers of persons who returned, but adds them up incorrectly according to his own numbers, by approximately 12,000. This major error calls into question his entire account.
The Book of Nehemiah makes the exact same error, stating the same total as Ezra, but his specific list of tribes and families who returned from Babylon is off by over 11,000. This seems to indicate that the final totals were edited after the fact, but no one took the trouble to actually make sure the specific lists of people matched the totals provided, perhaps the editors assumed no one would actually add the names provided together.
The Book of Job is reviewed in essence and concluded by Thomas Paine to not be a part of the Bible, buttressed by the opinions of other scholars. The book has no history, violence, fairy tales, or any other indication that it is written in the style of the other books. References to astronomy and philosophy are made in Job, keeping the Greek names for celestial bodies, and there is no indication that the ancient Israelites or Judeans had any knowledge of these sciences.
Additionally, the language used is far more complex than usual for the other books, which indicates introduction of new words from another language. Consequently, the Book of Job is believed to have been written by a gentile and translated into Hebrew, perhaps by an Israelite, perhaps not. No original text has been found, however.
Paine next gets into The Book Isaiah, which cannot have been a prophetic book of any kind, because his prophesy that the attack of the Kingdom of Israel and Syria united in war against Judah would fail was spurious, and his king Ahaz was defeated and killed! How can any other prophesy from Isaiah be taken as accurate?
But apparently Christianity uses numerous passages in Isaiah to claim he had foretold the coming of Jesus… Regardless of the fact that Isaiah, if he existed, spoke approximately 700 years before the Jesus figure was supposed to have lived, was talking about the then current war of Israel against Judah, and the virgin birth he predicted actually occurred at the time, according to him.
The Book of Jeremiah fares no better in its prophetic accuracy, as his claim that the king of Judah, Zedekiah, would be spared by the king of Babylon upon his conquest of Judah, and he would die in peace with a king’s funeral is entirely contradicted by the 52nd chapter where Zedekiah’s son is killed by Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes are put out, and he is carried into captivity in chains to be kept imprisoned until his death.
And if he lied to Zedekiah because he was a double agent, well then he’s certainly no man of God and nothing more than a lying conman, which means all his prophesies are untrustworthy.
After conquering the Old Testament, Thomas Paine ventures directly into the New Testament and begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ stated in the books of Matthew and Luke, which contradict one another entirely, except for the first and last names on the list of Joseph and David, respectively, and therefore either one or the other is false, and there is no reason to presume that either is actually true:
Truth is a uniform thing; and as to inspiration and revelation, were we to admit it, it is impossible to suppose it can be contradictory. Either, then, the men called apostles are impostors, or the books ascribed to them has been written by other persons and fathered upon them, as is the case with the Old Testament.
All modern conjecture and apologetics for this discrepancy bear no rational explanation. Some state one book goes through the line of Joseph and the other of Mary, and there are numerous other explanations.
Modern scholars regard this entire issue as theological fantasy, with no basis in fact of the genealogy; it having been extremely unlikely that such a poor family as Joseph and Mary would have kept a genealogy of their roots, and even more unlikely that it would be royal, meanwhile they were living in squalor.
Another significant point raised is that Herod’s executions of all children under two years of age is only mentioned in Matthew, in spite of the very likely fact that this type of event would have been widely known and very likely recorded in multiple places contemporaneously.
Furthermore, nothing is said of John, who, like Jesus was under the age of two, and it is not mentioned that he escaped anywhere, and yet he remained alive and well when Jesus returned from Egypt.
Only Matthew mentions an earthquake and the dead walking the streets upon the Resurrection… If such an event occurred it would be corroborated in many places to the slightest detail. The books completely contradict one another on the entire topic of events after the Resurrection and discovery of the supposedly empty tomb.
Paine concludes such contradictory evidence of the events following the Resurrection would cause a witness to be sanctioned for perjury in a court. Consequently, we can conclude to a certainty that none of the supposed writers of those books could have been present at the scene of the Resurrection.
Thomas Paine next goes through a number of philosophical discussions regarding the epistles of Paul and the nature of the statements so far as their irrelevance to the validity of the Gospels:
Whether the fourteen epistles ascribed to Paul were written by him or not, is a matter of indifference; they are either argumentative or dogmatical; and as the argument is defective and the dogmatical part is merely presumptive, it signifies not who wrote them.
In the conclusion section of the Age of Reason, Thomas Paine quickly reviews his statements from the first part of the book concerning revelation, and reiterates that it is only revelation when revealed directly by God, and not by man to other men:
His account of it to another person is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells…
Belief in revelation as told by a person to others becomes worship of other men, and therefore removes one yet farther from direct communication with God. This is generally how the priests and other ordained “holy” persons have functioned throughout history; standing between man and God and speaking directly for God, dictating the thoughts and actions of humanity as suits them best.
Paine concludes with a discussion of Deism, his own ‘faith’, and has this to say:
Deism, then, teaches us, without the possibility of being deceived, all that is necessary or proper to be known. The creation is the Bible of the Deist. He there reads, in the handwriting of the Creator himself, the certainty of his existence and the immutability of his power, and all other Bibles and Testaments are to him forgeries. The probability that we may be called to account hereafter will, to a reflecting mind, have the influence of belief; for it is not our belief or disbelief that can make or unmake the fact… pure and simple Deism does not answer the purpose of despotic governments. They cannot lay hold of religion as an engine, but by mixing it with human inventions, and making their own authority a part; neither does it answer the avarice of priests, but by incorporating themselves and their functions with it, and becoming,
like the government, a party in the system.
As a Deist, Paine was a strong proponent of science and technological progress:
The principles of science lead to this knowledge; for the Creator of man is the Creator of science; and it is through that medium that man can see God, as it were, face to face.
At this point we would do well to wind up our review of this work, because the rest of the “conclusion” section generally restates that which has already been said: religion is a blight on the physical and spiritual freedom of mankind, it creates nothing but fanatics or atheism, and it has brought no salvation to humanity, although it has caused limitless violence and despair.
There is no evidence that Thomas Paine was a Freemason, or a member or any other secret society, as many of the founders indeed were, however, by his writings we can surmise that Paine was well read in the various writings of these organizations.
Because Paine was a Deist, as were many of the other founders such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Ben Franklin, etc., some of whom were initiates into the “mysteries” of ancient Egypt through Freemasonry, we can conclude that Deism is very likely the “religion” of those secret organizations, or something similar, and what Paine has written down in the Age of Reason is all well known to those who belong(ed) to them.
Since it is likely that the truth of the origins of mainstream religion and the secrets behind its creation, as outlined in Age of Reason, are well known to some of the higher degree initiates who belong to secret societies, there must be concrete reasons why these secrets are not revealed to the masses.
We can reasonably presume that these groups do not disclose their hidden knowledge because they view religion as serving a fundamental purpose: as providing a measure of stability and control over the masses who would otherwise have nothing to hold their social bonds and obligations together. Uncontrollable chaos would surely ensue.
Because Paine was not an initiate, he was merely warned not to publish this work, but not harmed physically, as has been done many times to those who have sworn not to disclose the secrets of the “mysteries”. Ben Franklin wrote a strongly worded letter, rebuking Paine’s desire to expose the nature of religion, after reading some of Paine’s work.
In it he warned that his book would not change many hearts and minds, but would very likely bring down a furious hail storm on his own head until his last days, in addition to this correct prediction, Franklin stated that religion served an important purpose:
…Think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it.Ben Franklin
Here we have a clear statement by Franklin, a Mason and member of the occult Hellfire Club, an initiate into the mysteries, that he would not advise disclosing the truth about religion because it is a web which necessarily binds much of society together, and allows the ruling elite to maintain their power over nations and peoples.
After the publication of Age of Reason, Paine became an outspoken opponent of George Washington, another historic Freemason, whom he suspected was attempting to undermine him, which may or may not have been true.
Paine was subject to many attacks, much hostility, and rejection after his work was published. He was ostracized for the remainder of his life and six people attended his funeral. His body was not accepted into any cemetery and had to be buried on his own property.
His body was dug up later with intent to re-bury him back in Britain, but apparently the individual died before the task could be completed and the body was lost. Such was the fate of one of the most decent and purest revolutionaries who spent his entire life fighting for the liberation of humanity from all forms of bondage.
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