Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SACRED BOOKS. - The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
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THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SACRED BOOKS. - Blaise Pascal, The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal 
The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal, translated from the text of M. Auguste Molinier by C. Kegan Paul (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901).
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THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SACRED BOOKS.
THE Premiss.—Moses was a man of genius. If then he ruled himself by his reason, he should say nothing clearly which was directly against reason.
So all the apparent weaknesses are strength. Example: the two genealogies in Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. What can be more clear than that this was not concerted?
Proof of Moses.—Why should Moses make the lives of men so long, and their generations so few?
Because it is not the length of years, but the number of generations which renders matters obscure.
For truth is impaired only by the change of men. And yet Moses places two things, the most memorable that can be imagined, that is to say the creation and the deluge, so near that we can reach from one to the other.
Another proof.—The longevity of the patriarchs, instead of causing the loss of past history, was the rather serviceable for its preservation. For if we are not always well instructed in the history of our ancestors, it is because we have never lived much with them, and because they are often dead before we have ourselves attained the age of reason. But when men lived so long, children lived long with their parents, and long conversed with them. Now, their conversation could only be of the history of their ancestors, since to that all history was reduced, and men did not study science or art, which now take up so much of our daily discourse. We see also that at that time men took special care to preserve their genealogies.
Shem, who saw Lamech, who saw Adam, saw also Jacob, who saw those who saw Moses; therefore the deluge and the creation are true. This is conclusive among certain people who clearly understand it.
When the creation of the people began to stand at a distance, God provided a single contemporary historian, and appointed a whole people as the guardians of this book, in order that the history might be the most authentic in all the world, that all men might learn a thing so necessary to know, yet so impossible to be known in any other way.
If the story in Esdras is credible, then it must be believed that Scripture is Holy Scripture. For this story is founded only on the authority of those who allege that of the Seventy, which shows that the Scripture is holy.
Therefore if the tale be true, we find our proof therein, if not we have it elsewhere. Thus those who would ruin the truth of our Religion, founded on Moses, establish it by the same authority by which they attack it. Thus by this providence it still exists.
On Esdras.—The story that the books were burnt with the temple shown to be false by The Book of Maccabees. Jeremiah gave them the law.
The story that he recited the whole by heart. Josephus and Esdras note that he read the book. Baronius, Ann. 180. Nullus penitus Hebræorum antiquorum reperitur qui tradiderit libros periisse et per Esdram esse restitutos, nisi in IV. Esdræ.
The story that he changed the letters.
Philo, in Vita Moysis: Illa lingua ac charactere quo antiquitus scripta est lex, sic permansit usque ad LXX.
Josephus says the Law was in Hebrew when it was translated by the Seventy.
Under Antiochus and Vespasian, when they wished to abolish the books, and when there was no prophet, they could not do so. And under the Babylomans when there had been no persecution, and when there were so many prophets, would they have allowed them to be burnt?
Josephus derides the Greeks who would not allow . . .
Tertullian.—Perinde potuit abolefactam eam violentia cataclysmi in spiritu rursus reformare, quemadmodum et Hierosolymis Babylonia expugnatione deletis, omne instrumentum Judaicæ literaturæ per Esdram constat restauratum. Lib. I. De Cultu fœmin. cap. iii.
He says that Noah might as easily have restored by the spirit the book of Enoch, destroyed by the deluge, as Esdras have restored the Scriptures lost during the Captivity.
Θεὸς ὲν τῇ ὲπὶ Ναβουκοδονὸσορ αἰχμαλωσίᾳ τοῦ λαοῦ διαϕθαρεισῶν τῶν γραϕῶν, ἐνέπνευσε Ἐσδρᾷ τῷ ιερεῖ ἐκ τῆς ϕυλῆς Λεοὶ τοῦς τῶν προγεγονότων προϕητῶν πάντας ἀναταξάσται λόγους, καὶ ἀποκαταστῆσαι τῷ λαῷ τὴν δὶά Μωσέως νομοθησίαν. He alleges this to prove that it is not incredible that the Seventy should have explained the holy Scriptures with that uniformity which we admire in them. Euseb. lib. v. Hist. cap. 8. And he took that from Saint Irenæus.
Saint Hilary in his preface to the Psalms says that Esdras arranged the Psalms in order.
The origin of this tradition comes from the Book of Esdras.
Deus glorificatus est, et Scripturæ veræ divinæ creditæ sunt, omnibus eandem et eisdem verbis et eisdem nominibus recitantibus ab initio usque ad finem, uti et præsentes gentes cognoscerent quoniam per inspirationem Dei interpretatæ sunt Scripturæ, et non esset mirabile Deum hoc in eis operatum, quando in ea captivitate populi quæ facta est a Nabuchodonosor corruptis Scripturis et post septuaginta annos Judæis descendentibus in regionem suam, et post deinde temporibusArtaxerxis Persarum regis inspiravit Hesdra sacerdoti tribus Levi præteritorum prophetarum omnes rememorare sermones et restituere populo eam legem quæ data est per Moysen.
Against the Story in Esdras, II. Maccab. 2. Josephus, Antiquities, II. 1.—Cyrus took occasion from the prophecy of Isarah to release the people. The Jews held property in peace under Cyrus in Babylon, therefore they might well have the Law.
Josephus, in the whole history of Esdras, says not a single word of this restoration.—II. Kings, xvii. 37.
Scripture has provided passages of consolation and warning for every condition of life.
Nature seems to have done the same thing by her two infinities, natural and moral, for we shall always have those who are higher and lower, who are more and less able, who are noble and in low estate, in order to abate our pride, and raise our lowliness.
Order, against the objection that the Scripture has no order.—The heart has its own order; the mind too has its own, which is by premisses and demonstrations, that of the heart is wholly different. It were absurd to prove that we are worthy of love by putting forth in order the causes of love.
Jesus Christ and Saint Paul use the order of charity, not of the intellect, for they wish to warm, not to teach; the same with Saint Augustine. This order consists mainly in digressions on each point which may illustrate the main end, and keep it ever in view.
God and the Apostles foreseeing that the seed of pride would cause heresies to spring up, and not wishing to give them occasion to arise by defining them, have placed in the Scripture and the prayers of the Church contrary words and sentences to produce their fruit in time.
So in morals he gives charity to produce fruits contrary to lust.
He who knows the will of his master will be beaten with more stripes, because of the power he has by his knowledge. Qui justus est justificetur adhuc, because of the power which he has by justice. From him who has received most will the greatest account be demanded, because the aid received has given him greater power.
There is an universal and essential difference between the actions of the will and all other actions.
The will is one of the chief organs of belief, not that it forms belief, but that things are true or false according to the side on which we view them. The will which chooses one side rather than the other turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see, thus the mind, moving in accord with the will, stays to look at the side it chooses, and so judges by what it sees.
All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities of Scripture, which they honour because of what is divinely clear. And all things work together for evil to the reprobate, even what is clear, which they blaspheme because of the obscurities they do not understand.
How many stars have telescopes discovered for us which did not exist for the philosophers of old. Men have roundly taken holy Scripture to task in regard to the great multitude of stars, saying: “We know that there are only a thousand and twenty-two. ”
The meaning changes according to the words which express it. The meaning receives its dignity from words instead of giving it. We must seek examples of this.
Words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged produce different effects.
[P. 125, l. 9.]Quis mihi det. Num. xi. 29. The true reading is, Quis tribuat ut omnis populus prophetet.
[P. 125, l. 18.]If the story in Esdras is credible. In the 14th Chapter of the Second Book of Esdras God appears to Esdras in a bush, and orders him to assemble the people and deliver the message. Esdras replies, “I will go as thou hast commanded me, and reprove the people which are present, but they that shall be born afterward who shall admonish them? . . . . For thy law is burnt, therefore no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the works that shall begin. But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning.” . . . Then God ordered him to take five scribes, to whom for forty days he dictated the ancient law.
[P. 125, l. 29.]Jeremiah gave them the law. See 2 Maccabees, ch. xi.
[P. 128, l. 2.]Qui justus est justificetur adhuc. Apocal. xvii. 4.
[P. 128, l. 23.]a thousand and twenty-two. This was the number of stars comprised in the Catalogue of Ptolemy, according to the system of Hipparchus.