Original title: “An Examination of the Passages in the New Testament,
quoted from the Old and called Prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. To which is prefixed an Essay
on Dream, showing by what operation of the mind a Dream is produced in sleep, and applying the same
to the account of Dreams in the New Testament. With an Appendix containing my private thoughts of a
Future State. And Remarks on the Contradictory Doctrine in the Books of Matthew and Mark.”
In the collection of Paine’s writings I own, Examination Of The Prophecies was separated from
other works, though it appears to have originally been the bulk of “Part III” of
The Age Of Reason, introduced by Essay
On Dream and Biblical Blasphemy.
As the title indicates, Paine examines the prophecies — specifically the New Testament’s
claims that certain verses in the Old Testament were prophecies about Jesus Christ. He starts with
Matthew 1, the first chapter of the New Testament, which almost immediately asserts that a passage
in Isaiah was a prophecy of Mary’s virgin pregnancy, and goes on to show that what Isaiah
says is not related at all.
Prophecy by prophecy, Paine goes through the four Gospels, each time citing both the N.T. verse that
claims a prophetic fulfillment and then citing the O.T. verse that is supposedly a prophecy, and
easily showing why it doesn’t apply. Sometimes they don’t apply because they
weren’t actually prophecies, sometimes because they clearly refer to some immediate or
soon-to-occur event, and sometimes because the words themselves don’t actually say or mean
what the N.T. writers say they do.
Just as a silly example,
says the reason Jesus’ parents took him to Egypt was to fulfill a prophecy: “Out of
Egypt I called my son”. Paine shows the reader that the “prophecy” referred to is
in Hosea 11:1-2, which is (1) clearly
referring to Israel, the nation, and (2) says Israel fell into sin:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they
were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense
Paine explains: “To make it apply to Jesus Christ, he then must be the person who sacrificed
unto Baalim and burnt incense to graven images”.
What I Liked Least About It
I found very little to dislike about this work. It is written in a brief, concise style that
sticks very closely to the point. However, very near the end, after covering prophecies mentioned
in all four Gospels, Paine suddenly and without warning switches again to his defense and apology
of Deism, asserting that Creation is the true scripture. Then he quotes a long passage from a
Dr. Conyers Middleton on the same topic, and Middleton in turn quotes Cicero, both quotations
which Paine uses to support his theory of Deism — which is basically unrelated to the
topic at hand — examining the prophecies.
What I Liked Most About It
The best part of this book is that anyone could have written it or come to the same
conclusions as Paine, simply by owning and reading a Bible. For centuries, Christians have
read the Gospels’ assertions that the Old Testament prophecied about Jesus, and then were
delighted to find those words in the Old Testament, yet very few took the time to compare what
the N.T. writers claimed against what the O.T. actually said. But any of them could have, at
It is little wonder then that the Church
its members from owning their own Bibles, especially in a language they could read for themselves.
This is a book I know would have made an impact on me, if I had read it during my Christian
days. I know that my own regular readings of the Bible were cause for my later doubt and eventually
my atheism, but I don’t recall these prophecies
figuring into that. I’m certain that if I had ever thought to check them, it would have.