“Challenging the Bible”
By Robert G. Ingersoll
By Richard E. Noble
“Challenging the Bible” is a book edited by Dean Tipton and consists of a series of selections from the writings and speeches of Robert G. Ingersoll.
Robert Ingersoll was a politician, lawyer and a wealthy, prominent public speaker in the post Civil War period in the United States. He served as attorney general in the state of Illinois. He was also a popular spokesman in presidential campaigns for the Republican Party. Because of his outward and bold opposition to religion and belief in God in general, he became know as the “Great Agnostic.”
This book deals with some of his public opinions with regards to the Bible.
“Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch” (first five books of the Old Testament) claims Mr. Ingersoll on page eleven and from that point on the onslaught rages forth.
“No one knows the author of “Judges”; no one knows the author of “Ruth”; no one knows the author of First and Second Kings or First and Second Chronicles; the Psalms were not written by David; and Solomon did not write Proverbs or the Song; Isaiah was not the author of the book bearing his name and no one knows the author of Job, Ecclesiastes, Esther or of any book in the Old Testament with the exception of Ezra; and Ecclesiastes was written by an unbeliever.
“We know, too, that the Jews themselves had not decided as to what books were inspired - were authentic - until the second century before Christ.”
Mr. Ingersoll goes on to criticize the Bible not only for its historical inaccuracies and mis-claims but for its scientific ineptness. Mr. Ingersoll believes that if the Bible were truly the inspired word and direction of the Creator of the Universe - certainly its Creator should know its proper workings.
“There are two accounts of the creation in the first and second chapters (and they are at odds with one another) ... Is it well to teach children that God tortured the innocent cattle of the Egyptians? ... Does it make us merciful to believe that God killed the firstborn of the Egyptians - the firstborn of the poor and the suffering people - of the poor girl working at the mill - because of the wickedness of the king? ... We know if we know anything that this book was written by savages - savages who believed in slavery, polygamy and wars of extermination.”
It is clear that Mr. Ingersoll does not believe the Bible to be “inspired” or to represent the “truth” and the “way”. He considers the Bible to be of pagan origin and extremely Godless - in fact on several different occasions he says; “Was Jehovah god or devil?” Mr. Ingersoll asks this question, not once, but continually through the book.
He says that there never was a captivity and we know this because there are no Hebrew words in the Egyptian language; nor Egyptian words in the Jewish language.
“Who wrote the New Testament?” asks Mr. Ingersoll.
“Christian scholars admit that they do not know ... The first mention that has been found of one of our gospels was made about one hundred and eight years after the birth of Christ ... The four gospels do not agree. Matthew, Mark and Luke knew nothing of the atonement, nothing of salvation by faith. They knew only the gospel of good deeds - of charity. They teach that if we forgive others God will forgive us ... With this the gospel of John does not agree. In that gospel we are taught that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; that we must be born again; that we must drink the blood and eat the flesh of Christ. In this gospel we find the doctrine of atonement and that Christ died for us and suffered in our place.
The fact is that the Ascension of Christ was not claimed by his disciples ... At first Christ was a man - nothing more. Mary was his mother, and Joseph his father. Then the claim was made that he was the son of god, and that his mother was a virgin and that she remained a virgin until her death.
“We do not believe in the miracles of Mohammed and yet they are as well attested as this (miracles of Jesus Christ). We have no confidence in the miracles performed by Joseph Smith and yet the evidence is far greater, far better.”
Mr. Ingersoll does not think all that highly of the philosophy of Christ - Resist not evil. If smitten on one cheek turn the other.
“No man has the right to protect himself, his property, his wife and children,” says Mr. Ingersoll. “Government becomes impossible and the world is at the mercy of criminals. Is there any absurdity beyond this?”
Love your enemies.
“Did Christ love his (enemies) when he denounced them as whited sepulchers, hypocrites and vipers? Not to resist evil is absurd; to love your enemies is impossible ... Only the insane could give or follow this advice.”
On the inspiration of the Bible, Mr. Ingersoll has this among other things to say: “Not before about the third century was it claimed or believed that the books composing the New Testament were inspired ... It will be remembered that there were a great number of books of Gospels, Epistles and Acts, and that from these the “inspired” ones were selected by “uninspired” men ... The truth is that the Protestants did not agree as to what books are inspired until 1647, by the Assembly of Westminster.”
It is obvious that Mr. Ingersoll knew his Bible. I must admit; I do not. As a child I was not encouraged to read the Bible. I was told that it was too confusing and its interpretation was the work of scholars. But hearing over and over that it was the greatest book ever written I decided to read it. I read it one time from cover to cover when I was still in my teens. It may be true that it is or was inspired by God but I did not find it inspirational myself - and I felt if it were the work of a God, it certainly was not my God.
I personally felt, and still feel today, that Les Miserable by Victor Hugo was considerably greater and a good deal more inspiring - at least for me.
I was drawn to my religious curiosity not by the Bible but by the notion of God and the idea of a Creator. I felt that if there was truly a Creator of this Universe there should exist at least some rational arguments establishing that notion to my satisfaction.
I began that endeavor as a teenager and I am still actively pursuing proof of that notion today. As of yet I have not been able to do so. And this has been sufficient occupation without any investigation into any Holy Books.
I have decided to read more on the Bible today only because it is being touted in so many different venues and with such passion that I feel more knowledge on this subject is necessary for my basic understanding of what seems to be the cause of much of the consternation, killing and havoc mounting in the world around us today.
Idaho Penitentiary Hospital
4 months ago