Some Mistakes of Moses, Continued

This was written 133 years ago for a mainly hostile public, and in a time when the Bible was regarded as "every word true and inspired by God". Ingersoll uses the Bible against itself. [Provided by Julian Haydon]


It must not be forgotten that there are two accounts of the creation in Genesis. The first account stops with the third verse of the second chapter. The chapters have been improperly divided. In the original Hebrew the Pentateuch was neither divided into chapters nor verses. There was not even any system of punctuation. It was written wholly with consonants, without vowels, and without any marks, dots, or lines to indicate them.

These accounts are materially different, and both cannot be true. Let us see wherein they differ.

The second account of the creation begins with the fourth verse of the second chapter, and is as follows:

"These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

"And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

"But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

"And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

"And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted and became into four heads.

"The name of the first is Pison; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.

"And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

"And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

"And the name of the third river is Hiddekel; that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.

"And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

"And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helpmeet for him.

"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

"And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man.

"And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

Order of creation in the first account:

1. The heaven and the earth, and light were made.

2. The firmament was constructed and the waters divided.

3. The waters gathered into seas—and then came dry land, grass, herbs and fruit trees.

4. The sun and moon. He made the stars also.

5. Fishes, fowls, and great whales.

6. Beasts, cattle, every creeping thing, man and woman.

Order of creation in the second account:

1. The heavens and the earth.

2. A mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

3. Created a man out of dust, by the name of Adam.

4. Planted a garden eastward in Eden, and put the man in it.

5. Created the beasts and fowls.

6. Created a woman out of one of the man's ribs.

In the second account, man was made before the beasts and fowls. If this is true, the first account is false. And if the theologians of our time are correct in their view that the Mosaic day means thousands of ages, then, according to the second account, Adam existed millions of years before Eve was formed. He must have lived one Mosaic day before there were any trees, and another Mosaic day before the beasts and fowls were created. Will some kind clergymen tell us upon what kind of food Adam subsisted during these immense periods?

In the second account a man is made, and the fact that he was without a helpmeet did not occur to the Lord God until a couple "of vast periods" afterwards. The Lord God suddenly coming to an appreciation of the situation said, "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him an helpmeet for him."

Now, after concluding to make "an helpmeet" for Adam, what did the Lord God do? Did he at once proceed to make a woman? No. What did he do? He made the beasts, and tried to induce Adam to take one of them for "an helpmeet." If I am incorrect, read the following account, and tell me what it means:

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.

"And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

"And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an helpmeet for him."

Unless the Lord God was looking for an helpmeet for Adam, why did he cause the animals to pass before him? And why did he, after the menagerie had passed by, pathetically exclaim, "But for Adam there was not found an helpmeet for him"?

It seems that Adam saw nothing that struck his fancy. The fairest ape, the sprightliest chimpanzee, the loveliest baboon, the most bewitching orangoutang, the most fascinating gorilla failed to touch with love's sweet pain, poor Adam's lonely heart. Let us rejoice that this was so. Had he fallen in love then, there never would have been a Freethinker in this world.

Dr. Adam Clarke, speaking of this remarkable proceeding says:—"God caused the animals to pass before Adam to show him that no creature yet formed could make him a suitable companion; that Adam was convinced that none of these animals could be a suitable companion for him, and that therefore he must continue in a state that was not good (celibacy) unless he became a further debtor to the bounty of his maker, for among all the animals which he had formed, there was not a helpmeet for Adam."

Upon this same subject, Dr. Scott informs us "that it was not conducive to the happiness of the man to remain without the consoling society, and endearment of tender friendship, nor consistent with the end of his creation to be without marriage by which the earth might be replenished and worshipers and servants raised up to render him praise and glory. Adam seems to have been vastly better acquainted by intuition or revelation with the distinct properties of every creature than the most sagacious observer since the fall of man.

"Upon this review of the animals, not one was found in outward form his counterpart, nor one suited to engage his affections, participate in his enjoyments, or associate with him in the worship of God."

Dr. Matthew Henry admits that "God brought all the animals together to see if there was a suitable match for Adam in any of the numerous families of the inferior creatures, but there was none. They were all looked over, but Adam could not be matched among them all. Therefore God created a new thing to be a helpmeet for him."

Failing to satisfy Adam with any of the inferior animals, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and while in this sleep took out one of Adam's ribs and "closed up the flesh instead thereof." And out of this rib, the Lord God made a woman, and brought her to the man.

Was the Lord God compelled to take a part of the man because he had used up all the original "nothing" out of which the universe was made? Is it possible for any sane and intelligent man to believe this story? Must a man be born a second time before this account seems reasonable?

Imagine the Lord God with a bone in his hand with which to start a woman, trying to make up his mind whether to make a blonde or a brunette!

Just at this point it may be proper for me to warn all persons from laughing at or making light of, any stories found in the "Holy Bible." When you come to die, every laugh will be a thorn in your pillow. At that solemn moment, as you look back upon the records of your life, no matter how many men you may have wrecked and ruined; no matter how many women you have deceived and deserted, all that can be forgiven; but if you remember then that you have laughed at even one story in God's "sacred book" you will see through the gathering shadows of death the forked tongues of devils, and the leering eyes of fiends.

These stories must be believed, or the work of regeneration can never be commenced. No matter how well you act your part, live as honestly as you may, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, divide your last farthing with the poor, and you are simply traveling the broad road that leads inevitably to eternal death, unless at the same time you implicitly believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.

Let me show you the result of unbelief. Let us suppose, for a moment, that we are at the Day of Judgment, listening to the trial of souls as they arrive. The Recording Secretary, or whoever does the cross-examining, says to a soul:

Where are you from?

I am from the Earth.

What kind of a man were you?

Well, I don't like to talk about myself. I suppose you can tell by looking at your books.

No, sir. You must tell what kind of a man you were.

Well, I was what you might call a first-rate fellow. I loved my wife and children. My home was my heaven. My fireside was a paradise to me. To sit there and see the lights and shadows fall upon the faces of those I loved, was to me a perfect joy.

How did you treat your family?

I never said an unkind word. I never caused my wife, nor one of my children, a moments pain.

Did you pay your debts?

I did not owe a dollar when I died, and left enough to pay my funeral expenses, and to keep the fierce wolf of want from the door of those I loved.

Did you belong to any church?

No, sir. They were too narrow, pinched and bigoted for me, I never thought that I could be very happy if other folks were damned.

Did you believe in eternal punishment?

Well, no. I always thought that God could get his revenge in far less time.

Did you believe the rib story?

Do you mean the Adam and Eve business?

Yes! Did you believe that?

To tell you the God's truth, that was just a little more than I could swallow.

Away with him to hell!


Where are you from?

I am from the world too.

Did you belong to any church?

Yes, sir, and to the Young Men's Christian Association besides.

What was your business?

Cashier in a Savings Bank.

Did you ever run away with any money?

Where I came from, a witness could not be compelled to criminate himself.

The law is different here. Answer the question. Did you run away with any money?

Yes, sir.

How much?

One hundred thousand dollars.

Did you take anything else with you?

Yes, sir.

Well, what else?

I took my neighbor's wife—we sang together in the choir.

Did you have a wife and children of your own? Yes, sir.

And you deserted them?

Yes, sir, but such was my confidence in God that I believed he would take care of them.

Have you heard of them since?

No, sir.

Did you believe in the rib story?

Bless your soul, of course I did. A thousand times I regretted that there were no harder stories in the Bible, so that I could have shown my wealth of faith.

Do you believe the rib story yet?

Yes, with all my heart.

Give him a harp!

Well, as I was saying, God made a woman from Adam's rib. Of course, I do not know exactly how this was done, but when he got the woman finished, he presented her to Adam. He liked her, and they commenced house-keeping in the celebrated Garden of Eden.

Must we, in order to be good, gentle and loving in our lives, believe that the creation of woman was a second thought? That Jehovah really endeavored to induce Adam to take one of the lower animals as an helpmeet for him? After all, is it not possible to live honest and courageous lives without believing these fables? It is said that from Mount Sinai God gave, amid thunderings and lightnings, ten commandments for the guidance of mankind; and yet among them is not found—"Thou shalt believe the Bible."

In the first account we are told that God made man, male and female, and said to them "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it."

In the second account only the man is made, and he is put in a garden "to dress it and to keep it." He is not told to subdue the earth, but to dress and keep a garden.

In the first account man is given every herb bearing seed upon the face of the earth and the fruit of every tree for food, and in the second, he is given only the fruit of all the trees in the garden with the exception "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" which was a deadly poison.

There was issuing from this garden a river that was parted into four heads. The first of these, Pison, compassed the whole land of Havilah, the second, Gihon, that compassed the whole land of Ethiopia.

The third, Heddekel, that flowed toward the east of Assyria, and the fourth, the Euphrates. Where are these four rivers now? The brave prow of discovery has visited every sea; the traveler has pressed with weary feet the soil of every clime; and yet there has been found no place from which four rivers sprang. The Euphrates still journeys to the gulf, but where are Pison, Gihon and the mighty Heddekel? Surely by going to the source of the Euphrates we ought to find either these three rivers or their ancient beds. Will some minister when he answers the "Mistakes of Moses" tell us where these rivers are or were? The maps of the world are incomplete without these mighty streams. We have discovered the sources of the Nile; the North Pole will soon be touched by an American; but these three rivers still rise in unknown hills, still flow through unknown lands, and empty still in unknown seas.

The account of these four rivers is what the Rev. David Swing would call "a geographical poem." The orthodox clergy cover the whole affair with the blanket of allegory, while the "scientific" Christian folks talk about cataclysms, upheavals, earthquakes, and vast displacements of the earth's crust.

The question, then arises, whether within the last six thousand years there have been such upheavals and displacements? Talk as you will about the vast "creative periods" that preceded the appearance of man; it is, according to the Bible, only about six thousand years since man was created. Moses gives us the generations of men from Adam until his day, and this account cannot be explained away by calling centuries, days.

According to the second account of creation, these four rivers were made after the creation of man, and consequently they must have been obliterated by convulsions of Nature within six thousand years.

Can we not account for these contradictions, absurdities, and falsehoods by simply saying that although the writer may have done his level best, he failed because he was limited in knowledge, led away by tradition, and depended too implicitly upon the correctness of his imagination? Is not such a course far more reasonable than to insist that all these things are true and must stand though every science shall fall to mental dust?

Can any reason be given for not allowing man to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge? What kind of tree was that? If it is all an allegory, what truth is sought to be conveyed? Why should God object to that fruit being eaten by man? Why did he put it in the midst of the garden? There was certainly plenty of room outside. If he wished to keep man and this tree apart, why did he put them together? And why, after he had eaten, was he thrust out? The only answer that we have a right to give, is the one given in the Bible. "And the Lord God said, Behold the man has become as one of us to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken."

Will some minister, some graduate of Andover, tell us what this means? Are we bound to believe it without knowing what the meaning is? If it is a revelation, what does it reveal? Did God object to education then, and does that account for the hostile attitude still assumed by theologians toward all scientific truth? Was there in the garden a tree of life, the eating of which would have rendered Adam and Eve immortal? Is it true, that after the Lord God drove them from the garden that he placed upon its Eastern side "Cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life?" Are the Cherubim and the flaming sword guarding that tree still, or was it destroyed, or did its rotting trunk, as the Rev. Robert Collyer suggests, "nourish a bank of violets"?

What objection could God have had to the immortality of man? You see that after all, this sacred record, instead of assuring us of immortality, shows us only how we lost it. In this there is assuredly but little consolation.

According to this story we have lost one Eden, but nowhere in the Mosaic books are we told how we may gain another. I know that the Christians tell us there is another, in which all true believers will finally be gathered, and enjoy the unspeakable happiness of seeing the unbelievers in hell; but they do not tell us where it is.

Some commentators say that the Garden of Eden was in the third heaven—some in the fourth, others have located it in the moon, some in the air beyond the attraction of the earth, some on the earth, some under the earth, some inside the earth, some at the North Pole, others at the South, some in Tartary, some in China, some on the borders of the Ganges, some in the island of Ceylon, some in Armenia, some in Africa, some under the Equator, others in Mesopotamia, in Syria, Persia, Arabia, Babylon, Assyria, Palestine and Europe. Others have contended that it was invisible, that it was an allegory, and must be spiritually understood.

But whether you understand these things or not, you must believe them. You may be laughed at in this world for insisting that God put Adam into a deep sleep and made a woman out of one of his ribs, but you will be crowned and glorified in the next. You will also have the pleasure of hearing the gentlemen howl there, who laughed at you here. While you will not be permitted to take any revenge, you will be allowed to smilingly express your entire acquiescence in the will of God. But where is the new Eden? No one knows. The one was lost, and the other has not been found.

Is it true that man was once perfectly pure and innocent, and that he became degenerate by disobedience? No. The real truth is, and the history of man shows, that he has advanced. Events, like the pendulum of a clock have swung forward and back ward, but after all, man, like the hands, has gone steadily on. Man is growing grander. He is not degenerating. Nations and individuals fail and die, and make room for higher forms. The intellectual horizon of the world widens as the centuries pass. Ideals grow grander and purer; the difference between justice and mercy becomes less and less; liberty enlarges, and love intensifies as the years sweep on. The ages of force and fear, of cruelty and wrong, are behind us and the real Eden is beyond. It is said that a desire for knowledge lost us the Eden of the past; but whether that is true or not, it will certainly give us the Eden of the future.

Next week: The Fall