English, George Bethune (1787-1828). Autograph Letter Signed written to “Mr. K. L. of the Hebrew Congregation Richmond Virginia.”

AUCTION 80 | Thursday, March 28th, 2019 at 1:00 PM
The Valmadonna Trust Library: Further Selections from the Historic Collection. * Hebrew Printing in America. * Graphic & Ceremonial Art

Back to Catalogue View 3D Catalogue Download Catalogue

Lot 121

English, George Bethune (1787-1828). Autograph Letter Signed written to “Mr. K. L. of the Hebrew Congregation Richmond Virginia.”

Eccentric scholar and Christian heretic, George Bethune English answers a Jewish correspondent: “My determined object is to devote every faculty I possess to the destruction of the credit of the New Testament which I look upon as the source of folly, mischief, and fanaticism the most destructive: as having been the parent of all the sufferings of your nation for the last thousand years and more, and as the demure mother of the Inquisition and all its horrors.” Four pages, with integral address panel. Accompanied by: Two further letters (unidentified).

Boston: March 14th 1814

Est: $1,500 - $2,500
George Bethune English was a Harvard theology student who wished to understand why the Jews reject Christianity. In time he became convinced that Christianity was untrue: “[My] curiosity was deeply interested to examine a subject… the reasons, which had prevented a people more interested in the truth of Christianity than any other from believing it… After a long, thorough, and startling examination of their Books… [I] was finally very reluctantly compelled to feel persuaded… the [objections to Christianity of the] Jews were clearly too hard [to answer].” (George Bethune English, “The Grounds of Christianity Examined: By Comparing the New Testament with the Old” (Boston, 1813), p. xii). Because of his controversial book, English was expelled from Harvard and excommunicated by his church. English initiated contacts with Jews, including Gershom Mendes Seixas of Shearith Israel in New York. While Seixas found him mildly interesting, he had absolutely no interest in being drawn into an anti-Christian controversy and forbade English from using his name. English took his interest in forging fellowship with Jews and their refutation of the New Testament to Seixas’ son-in-law, Israel Baer Kursheedt who seems not to have shared his father-in-law’s reticence. Eventually English moved on from his dabbling with Judaism and became a practicing Muslim. (A more detailed account of this letter is available upon request).