Examination Of The Prophecies

By Thomas Paine, 1807

Review is copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published: 2016.01.28

Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry.
Some rights reserved.
Full Title: Examination Of The Prophecies

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.”

Author: Thomas Paine
Year: 1807
Publisher: Forgotten Books
ISBN 978-1605060309 (U.S.)
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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, Matthew 2:13 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 to images.”
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 any time.

It is little wonder then that the Church kept 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.

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