Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Old Testamant

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Old Testament, The. A name for the collection of Jewish sacred books which came into use when Paul used the phrase "New Testament" [see]. There are few more striking illustrations of the soporific effect upon the intellect of religious organization than the acceptance of this as inspired (in the strict sense) by nearly all scholars in Christendom until the appearance of Deism, and by large numbers of refined or well-educated men and women until recent times, "In the Old Testament," says Bishop Barnes, "are found folk-lore, defective history, half-savage morality, and obsolete forms of worship, based upon primitive and erroneous ideas of the nature of God" (Should Such a Faith Offend, p. 74). The detached observer must use even less polite language, and the excuses which are made for still investing it with a unique prestige and imposing it upon children in our national schools are so poor as to seem insincere. It is not a "unique account of the growth of a religion," but an almost unique falsification of such growth. Divines prefer to say that the literature which the Hebrews had at the time of the Babylonian Captivity was, at the close of that period, "redacted" by writers of the sacerdotal class. Since the aim of these writers was to establish solidly the cult of Jahveh and the power of his priests by imposing upon the people an untrue version of their early history and that of the cult and priesthood, the word "redacted" itself verges upon untruthfulness. It is now the general opinion of experts that the Hebrews had no Jahveh before the fourteenth century B.C., and that everything in their history is uncertain for five centuries afterwards. There is not much more sincerity in the excuse that the Old Testament is "great literature." The overwhelmingly greater part of the work is literature only in the sense that it is written composition, and the poetical passages in some of the prophets and psalms are largely unfit for children, and owe a good deal of their beauty to the fact that they were translated in an age of poetry and vivid imagination. The various writings do not in any age reach the best level, intellectually or morally, of contemporary civilizations, and, on account of the closing of the canon in the third century, they do not even show how the Dispersal lifted a large number of the Jews to those levels, so that they conceal a very important section of the growth of Hebrew religion.
    The chief sections and features of the work are discussed in a score of subsidiary articles. In criticizing it one has to remember that the great majority of Jews and Christians, or at least four-fifths of the readers of the Bible, are entirely ignorant of the Ezraist revision [see] and forgeries, and take it to be in some sense "the Word of God" and incapable of serious error. Better-educated or more liberal Christians complain that Rationalists are out-of-date when they criticize the Old Testament on the lines of Paine or Ingersoll. One might justly retort, since most of the work of Biblical criticism has been performed by clerics, that the Rationalist is merely attempting to bring up the immense half-educated majority of Church-members to the level of enlightenment of the Modernist and of most (perhaps) of the Congregationalists - very small body. It is a fact of primary importance that it is the official teaching of the Church of Rome, accepted by all Catholics but a very slender minority (who dare not express their views), and of the Methodist and other Churches, and the belief of the majority even in the Baptist and Anglican Churches, that criticism has not substantially affected the traditional conception of the Old Testament; and the concern of the more liberal that we should concentrate on their position is mainly due to a consciousness that people are most apt to leave the Churches when their eyes are opened. An examination of the British Museum five-yearly Subject Catalogues, or lists of books about the Bible or the Old Testament or the several parts thereof, will show that at least four books out of five published in this country, and these have generally the larger circulation, run on the old lines and claim that the Higher Criticism is entirely false. American books are represented in these lists mainly by the more scholarly works, and the result is as misleading as the experience of the Rationalist who meets only educated members of Churches or reads only books they read. The situation in the United States and Canada is worse than in Great Britain. Works on the Old Testament of the crassest Fundamentalist type sell by the million. The Press is compelled to accommodate itself to this aggressive majority. A daily with almost the largest circulation of any London paper published a series of articles of the crudest character on "heroines of the Old Testament"; few papers fail to support topical news from the Near East with notes that imply the soundness of the Fundamentalist idea of the Old Testament. Against all this the output of Rationalist books on the Old Testament is infinitesimal, and the three or four that have been published in a quarter of a century have had no influence.
    When we set aside the artificial pretexts of Jews and Christians who accept the modern critical view of the Old Testament - the claims that it is a unique literature or contains a superior moral or religious literature, by which they alleviate their surrender of the old view - their position does not invite criticism, and their plea that Rationalism ought to concern itself with them instead of "flogging a dead horse" (the very live and aggressive four-fifths of the members of the Churches) is foolish. They agree that the stories of the first few chapters of Genesis [see] are, directly or indirectly, of Babylonian origin, and that the narrative, to the end of the Hexateuch, is fabulous or is confirmed by independent testimony only on a few points which have no importance. They agree that the so-called "historical books" (Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles) which follow are so full of anachronism, contradictions, and absurdities, that we cannot to-day say what documents or traditions the Ezraist "redactors" had before them and what was their value. They agree that the prophets did not prophesy, that the earlier prophets have a "half-savage morality," and that the later evince a contact with civilization; and they recognize the very different values and dates of "the Wisdom Books."
    Except that they are rarely candid about the intensely phallic and polytheistic cults of the Hebrews before the Captivity, and are still too prone, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, to claim superiority to contemporary culture, the Rationalist, whom they like to represent as "extreme" or "outdated," does not substantially differ from them. His aim is to instruct the majority, duped by their cheap literature, in this sound view of the Old Testament; nor will any Rationalist of experience take any notice of the quite untruthful plea that it disturbs or saddens these folk to be disillusioned. Scores of works for this purpose are recommended in various articles of this Encyclopaedia [see Archaeology; Babel; Babylonian Captivity; Bible; Canon; Chaldamis; Creation; Daniel; David; Decalogue; Deluge; Deuteronomy; Dispersal; Ecclesiastes; Eden; Elohist; Ezra; Fall; Genesis; Gilgamesh; Golden Age; Hammurabi; Hebrews; Hymns; Isaiah; Jahveh; Jews; Joshua; Justice; Messiah; Monotheism; Moses; Priestly Code; Prophets; Song of Solomon], but these works are hardly suitable for people of little leisure or education. A few plain but substantial small manuals - on the borrowed stories of Genesis, the fabulous narrative from Abraham to Joshua, the true early history of the Hebrews as now suggested by Jewish scholars, the Ezraist forgery, and the contemporary moral and intellectual level in each age as compared with the Hebrew - would be of considerable educational value.

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