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Examination of the Prophecies
Examination of the Prophecies:Author's Preface
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Matthew
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Mark
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Luke
Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of John

Examination of the Prophecies:The Book of Mark
by Thomas Paine

THE BOOK OF MARK

There are but few passages in Mark called prophecies; and but few in Luke and John. Such as there are I shall examine, and also such other passages as interfere with those cited by Matthew.

Mark begins his book with a passage which he puts in the shape of a prophecy. Mark i, 1, 2. "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: As it is written in the prophets, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee." (Malachi iii, 1.)

The passage in the original is in the first person. Mark makes this passage to be a prophecy of John the Baptist, said by the Church to be a forerunner of Jesus Christ. But if we attend to the verses that follow this expression, as it stands in Malachi, and to the first and fifth verses of the next chapter, we shall see that this application of it is erroneous and false.

Malachi having said, at the first verse, "Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me," says, at the second verse, "But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like a fuller's soap."

This description can have no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, and consequently none to John the Baptist. It is a sense of fear and terror that is here described, and the birth of Christ is always spoken of as a time of joy and glad tidings.

Malachi, continuing to speak on the same subject, explains in the next chapter what the scene is of which he speaks in the verses above quoted, and whom the person is whom he calls the messenger.

"Behold," says he (iv,1), "the day cometh that shall burn like an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day cometh that shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Verse 5: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

By what right, or by what imposition or ignorance Mark has made Elijah into John the Baptist, and Malachi's description of the day of judgement into the birthday of Christ, I leave to the Bishop of Llandaff to settle.

Mark (i, 2, 3), confounds two passages together, taken from different books of the Old Testament. The second verse, "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee," is taken, as I have said before, from Malachi. The third verse, which says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight," is not in Malachi, but in Isaiah, xl, 3.

Whiston says that both these verses were originally in Isaiah. If so, it is another instance of the disordered state of the Bible, and corroborates what I have said with respect to the name and description of Cyrus being in the book of Isaiah, to which it cannot chronologically belong.

The words in Isaiah--"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight"--are in the present tense, and consequently not predictive. It is one of those rhetorical figures which the Old Testament authors frequently used. That it is merely rhetorical and metaphorical, may be seen at the sixth verse: "And the voice said, cry; and he said what shall I cry? All flesh is grass."

This is evidently nothing but a figure; for flesh is not grass otherwise than as a figure or metaphor, where one thing is put for another. Besides which, the whole passage is too general and too declamatory to be applied exclusively to any particular person or purpose.

I pass on to the eleventh chapter.

In this chapter, Mark speaks of Christ riding into Jerusalem upon a colt, but he does not make it the accomplishment of a prophecy, as Matthew has done, for he says nothing about a prophecy. Instead of which he goes on the other tack, and in order to add new honors to the ass, he makes it to be a miracle; for he says, verse 2, it was a colt "whereon never man sat"; signifying thereby, that as the ass had not been broken, he consequently was inspired into good manners, for we do not hear that he kicked Jesus Christ off. There is not a word about his kicking in all the four evangelists.

I pass on from these feats of horsemanship performed upon a jack-ass, to the 15th chapter. At the 24th verse of this chapter, Mark speaks of parting Christ's garments and casting lots upon them, but he applies no prophecy to it as Matthew does. He rather speaks of it as a thing then in practise with executioners, as it is at this day.

At the 28th verse of the same chapter, Mark speaks of Christ being crucified between two thieves; that, says he, the scripture might be fulfilled, "which saith, and he was numbered with the transgressors." The same might be said of the thieves.

This expression is in Isaiah liii, 12. Grotius applies it to Jeremiah. But the case has happened so often in the world, where innocent men have been numbered with the transgressors, and is still continually happening, that it is absurdity to call it a prophecy of any particular person. All those whom the church calls martyrs were numbered with the transgressors.

All the honest patriots that fell upon the scaffolds in France, in the time of Robespierre, were numbered with the transgressors; and if himself had not fallen, the same case according to a note in his own handwriting, had befallen me; yet I suppose the Bishop (of Llandaff) will not allow that Isaiah was prophesying of Thomas Paine.

Mark concludes his book by making Jesus to say to his disciples (xvi, 16-18), "Go ye into all the corners of the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not, shall be damned (fine popish stuff this), and these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Now, the Bishop, in order to know if he has all this saving and wonder-working faith, should try those things upon himself. He should take a good dose of arsenic, and if he please, I will send him a rattlesnake from America.

As for myself, as I believe in God and not at all in Jesus Christ, nor in the books called the Scriptures, the experiment does not concern me.

I pass on to the book of Luke.

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