“The French philosopher Voltaire, a skeptic who destroyed the faith of many people, boasted that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth. Voltaire died in 1728, but the Bible lives on.
The irony of history is that 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his former house and used his printing presses to print thousands of Bibles. ” LivingWaters.com
Voltaire actually died in 1778.
You know who uses the “just-so” story more than anyone? Yes, of course evolutionists. But you know who has to be in the top ten?
Unfortunately, a lot of preachers feel that they need to bolster their sermons with the perfect, inspirational, tragic, funny and or ironic story. The problem is that there are not enough of those stories to go around so unfortunately they sometimes make them up, or claim that something that happened to someone else actually happened to them. Sometimes they change the outcome of the story to better fit their sermons. (Of course, they should know better.)
Why do evolutionists and preachers and you and I do this? Because they/we are flawed human beings.
A version of the story about Voltaire’s house being used by the Geneva (or some other named) Bible Society after his death is repeated in various versions all over the internet. Mostly, its the same version over and over. Why? If true, its pretty ironic isn’t it?
The delicious irony and the triumph of God’s Word over evil is the reason that Christians are drawn to the story, the reason it has been so widely shared over Christian sites. On the other hand, the reason “rationalists” Atheists, evolutionists and etc. would like to disprove the story is because they recognize the irony of it and they would like to catch Christians telling one of those just-so stories at which evolutionists have excelled.
Their investigations (Snopes and elsewhere) center around the question 1)did he actually make the statements he’s being given credit for making against Christianity and the Bible and 2)whether or not Bibles were actually printed at his house and on his printing press.
What I would like to know is; is the story true or not? A lot of new books repeat the story as fact. Just how far back does this story go?
The results of our research:
The Freethinking Christians’ quarterly register, Volume 1 1823 pg 174
By Freethinking Christians
“Thus it was lately mentioned, at a public religious meeting, that the present possessor of the estate purchased by Gibbon,(English historian and scholar) in Switzerland, from the profits of his writings against religion, expends a large sum annually, in promulgating that gospel which his predecessor sought to undermine.
That the printing-press, at Ferney, which Voltaire employed to print his blasphemies, was now employed, at Geneva, in printing the holy scriptures; and that the room in which David Hume (The most important philosopher ever to write in English, some say), died, at Edinburgh, was used for the first provincial meeting of an Auxiliary Bible Society!”
The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 90, Part 2 1820
CUKIOSO says, he has lately been informed, that the house at Paris in which Voltaire formerly resided is shut up, and has not been opened since his death, pursuant to his Will, and that it was not to be opened until the year 1820. Our Correspondent then inquires if this is really the case ?
Missionary Register, Volume 24
By Church Missionary Society, 1836
Bible Notices in Switzerland and Italy.
I will say nothing about the 2000 miles which I travelled on the business of the Society in France; but will here make a confession, that I broke my tether, and proceeded into Italy. I thought I was entitled, after seven years’ service, to ask for a vacation of one month; and, having travelled about 60,000 miles to promote the object of the Society, I wanted to go and see that Metropolis where a part of the Inspired Volume was written; but where the Bible is now a proscribed book.
I went through Geneva, and was much refreshed by meeting the Committee of the Evangelical Society; with whose proceedings and objects I was so much gratified, that I wrote to this Society to make a liberal grant of 10,000 copies of the French Scriptures to promote the objects of that Society. Our Committee have only granted 5000 ; but I have no doubt they will, ere long, send the other 5000.
Before I left Geneva, my friend observed, ” Probably you will like to see the house where Voltaire lived, and where he wrote his plays.”
Prompted by the spirit of curiosity, so characteristic of an Englishman, to visit the house of this celebrated infidel, I was about to put on my hat to walk into the country; when he said, “It is not necessary you should put on your hat;” and he introduced me over the threshold of one room to another, and said,
” This is the room where Voltaire’s plays were acted, for the amusement of himself and his friends :” and what was my gratification in observing that that room had been converted into a sort of Repository for Bibles and Religious Tracts.
Oh! my Christian Friends, that the spirit of infidelity had been there, to witness the results of their vaticinations respecting the downfall of Christianity ! I know that Voltaire said, that he was living ” in the twilight of Christianity”; but, blessed be God! it was the twilight of the morning, which will bring on the day of universal illumination.
When at Lausanne, I went to see the house in which Gibbon wrote the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; and I was told that therein dwelt one of the Committee and supporters of the Lausanne Bible Society.
The National Preacher, Volumes 5-6 1831 pgs 195-197
“A train of causes operating unseen for half a century, among which the blasphemies of Voltaire bore a prominent part, produced the greatest national convulsion of modern times. The throne and the altar, royalty, nobility, the whole fabric of political and religious institutions, fell with one mighty crash ; and the civilized world felt the concussion.
From all this wreck and ruin, we trust infinite wisdom designs that a new edifice of constitutional government shall arise, as well as a more pure Christianity. But what became of Voltaire, and his press, and his boastful prediction that one man was able to overthrow what twelve apostles had built up ?
That same press with which this champion of infidelity waged war against God and his truth, and threw a continent into commotion, is now employed in printing Bibles.
When we find in the history of the world so many proofs that the providence of God overrules the devices of men, controls human governments, and blesses or blasts their counsels, we see one strong ground of obligation to pray for our rulers.”
Lectures on the nature and dangerous tendency of modern infidelity …1837
Said Voltaire, “I am wearied of hearing it repeated, that twelve men were sufficient to establish Christianity, and I wish to prove that it needs but one to destroy it!” Yet his efforts for its destruction, characterized by hellish ingenuity, and prosecuted with infernal zeal, only tended to purify it and render it more beautiful and lovelyâ€” while he died in despair, without accomplishing the least part of his demoniac purpose, and over his very bones stands a church of Jesus Christ, where the gospel is preached every Sabbath day; and the same press which he used to print his infamous publications, is now used in printing the word of God.
The Berean – Page 49, 1826
“National Tract Socicty.â€”At the first general meeting of this Society, ” the Reverend Mr. Summerfield” spoke as follows:
” He would not dwell upon the importance and usefulness of tracts. Upon that point enough had been said. In speaking of the bright prospects of the Christian Church from the exertions of the present age, he triumphantly referred to that archinfidel, Hume, who predicted the downfall of Christianity in the 19th century.
…..He declared that he already saw tlie evidences of its downfall. It was not the twilight, however, but as it were the dawning light of Christianity which he sawâ€”for with the commencement of the nineteenth century this British and Foreign Bible Society was brought forth.
Voltaire, too, with impotent rage, had assailed Christianity, and had audaciously asserted, that although it took twelve men to plant Christianity, his single arm should root it out. In that day and country, it was customary to sneer at Christians. And among the French nobility, it was an old saying, ‘We’ll leave the poor to the clergy.’ He was thankful that they had been left with the clergy. The poor we have always with us.
Tom Paineâ€”(I thank God that his bones have been rooted up, and no longer pollute the soil of our country)â€”Tom Paine boasted that he had cut down every tree in Paradise. He mentioned these circumstances to show how our religion has been assailed by infidels, and how speedily and gloriously their predictions had been falsified. It was a pleasing fact that Voltaire’s pressâ€”that very press that scattered his baneful Tracts, so that, like the frogs in Egypt, they were found in their houses, their kneading troughs, and their ovensâ€”is now actively employed by the Paris Bible Society. ”
It would seem that Mr. Voltaire, a “Deist” did utter some predictions about the Word and about Christians that certainly proved to be untrue and to be unfulfilled. It’s possible that as to his printing press a single story from an unknown source has simply been repeated but at least one eyewitness claims to have seen stacks of bibles stored in his house. These accounts come from a period of less than fifty years after his death-a time when Voltaire was still well known–his writings well known and the location of his house by those who lived there-well known.