Contradictions in Thomas Paine’s
The Age of Reason
Thomas Paine wrote The Age of Reason in 1784. In it he included his views on the religions known throughout the world. For this, he was ridiculed and despised by many in society. Thomas Paine once said that a sermon he heard at the age of eight impressed him with the cruelty inherent in Christianity and made him a rebel forever. It is my opinion that, because of this, he lived the rest of his life never to actually study the Bible or Christianity. Because he “was a rebel forever” to the Christian religion, he was compelled to write of it in the 11th chapter of his book The Age of Reason, and quite inaccurately at that. I believe that Thomas Paine did not know enough of the Bible to speak against it; and in this paper, I plan to expose the contradictions in Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason when compared to the Bible and evidence proving that the Bible is accurate. The contradictions most important are Paine’s assumption that the stories of the bible are all hearsay and also his claim that Christianity is the worship of a man rather than an omnipotent God.
First, let us prove that the Bible is an incredibly accurate source of history. It is a fact that over 25,000 sites have been discovered that have connection to the Old Testament period. Not only have these discoveries provided external confirmation to hundreds of scriptural assertions, but also, not one archaeological discovery has ever contradicted a biblical reference. The Bible is the only religious book in which the people and places contained in it are verified by history and archaeology. Discovered in 1947 at Qumran the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the reliability of the biblical text. These scrolls, dating from 3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D., are the earliest copies of Old Testament books. Their predicated and fulfilled prophecies provide evidence for the divine origin of the Bible.
Going back to the excerpt from The Age of Reason, Paine says that the Bible and the stories contained in it are all hearsay.
“When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave
out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that
her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right
to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence
than their bare word for it: but we have not even this; for neither Joseph or
Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is only reported by others that they
said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not choose to rest my belief upon
What I think that he failed to do was research before he wrote. Everything about the birth of Christ was prophesied hundreds of years before it actually happened. The evidence of Jesus’ life is that he was seen by over 500 known witnesses; an empty tomb; Jesus’ disciples would not change their story in the face of execution. Even small details of Christ’s life were prophesied hundreds of years before his birth. The virgin conception was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 in which Isaiah says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” and was fulfilled in the book of Matthew in the first chapter, approximately 750 years later. The birth of Christ at Bethlehem was predicted in Micah 5:2 and was fulfilled in Luke 2:4-11. The miracles performed by Jesus were prophesied in Isaiah 53:5-6 and were fulfilled in Matthew 9:35. Jesus’ miracles were performed in the open and served to validate his claims. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed thousands of people from a handful of food, demonstrated power over nature and even raised the dead. No first century eyewitness ever denied Jesus’ ability to do miracles. Christ’s being crucified with thieves was predicted in Isaiah 53:12 and accounted for by an eyewitness in Luke 23:33. The prophecy that Jesus’ side would be pierced during his crucifixion was written in Zechariah 12:10 and fulfilled by John, a disciple, in John 19:34. The burial of Jesus by the government in a rich man’s tomb was predicted in Isaiah 53:9 and fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60. Now, in the times of the Jesus’ death, it was rule to break the legs of the crucified so that they would not be able to hold themselves up anymore and die. In Psalm 34:20, it is written that Jesus’ no bones will be broken in Jesus’ body. More than five centuries later, this is confirmed in John 19:33-36. Thallus, historian of the 3rd book of histories (52 A.D.) recorded the darkness (speculated as a solar eclipse) which occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus. The darkness was prophesied in Amos 8:9 and recorded by Matthew in Matthew 27:45.
Not only did Paine call hearsay what is written history, but he also misinterpreted, from lack of knowledge, the Christian system of faith. Paine says in the 11th chapter, “As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of atheism; a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of man-ism with but little deism, and is as near to atheism as twilight is to darkness.” The Bible, the foundation of the Christian system of faith, speaks against this thought in many instances. I have chosen those from the New Testament, after Christ’s birth, to prove that the foundation of Christianity even after Christ has always been to worship God and not man. Matthew 4:10 says, “Jesus said, …it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Jesus himself said this. Why would Christians be set on worshipping him if even he says to worship God? Matthew 15:9 says, “But in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Mark 12:29 says, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Isreal; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Jesus taught the lessons of the Ten Commandments, in which is held the first commandment that says, “thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20).” Jesus as a man is against God’s law to be a worshipped thing. Jesus is worshipped as God because he is a part of God, part human and part spiritual, but he is not worshipped as a man. “I and my Father are one (John 10:30).” Matthew 22:37 says, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Christianity is not “man-ism.” It clearly explains that God should be worshipped. Jesus was a human example, sent by God as part of God, to show us how to live as humans and glorify God. Jesus spread the message of the Word of God.
Thomas Paine wrote The Age of Reason toward the end of his career as a writer. In it he included his views on many religions practiced throughout the countries of the world. He focused especially on the Christian religion. Thomas Paine said that at the age of eight, he heard a sermon preached that impressed him with the cruelty inherent in the Christian religion and made him a rebel forever. It is my opinion that this sermon, and probably some other unpleasant experiences with those claiming to be Christians, compelled him to write his beliefs on the Christian religion in The Age of Reason. It was my purpose through this paper to prove otherwise two of Thomas Paine’s main assumptions that lead to further discussion in his writing. First, the assumption that he makes that the Bible and its stories of Jesus Christ and the saints is all “hearsay upon hearsay.” And, second, the claim that the Christian system of faith is “man-ism,” and “as close to atheism as twilight is to darkness.” I included passages that prove that the Bible is an incredibly accurate historical source, passages from the Bible that are amazing predictions of Christ’s life that were fulfilled, and also passages from the Bible, the foundation of the Christian religion, that speak for the worship of God and speak against the worship of any other thing. Thomas Paine was incorrect in these assumptions and I have given reason to prove this. He clearly did not research the foundation of the religion in which he chose to be a rebel.
I wrote this paper in my American Literature class over some contridictions I saw in Thomas Paine's writings.
Word Count: 1537