I'm investigating the popular claim that the sceptical French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) "said that the Bible would be a forgotten book within a hundred years, but today his house is the headquarters of the Bible Society."
The earliest appearance of this ironic anecdote that I've come across is in a 1953 American anthology called Treasury of the Christian World. However, there are many variations of the story in circulation, which contradict each other as to the name of the society -- the "British & Foreign Bible Society" or the "Geneva Bible Society" are most often mentioned. Also, the date that this society supposedly acquired Voltaire's house is variously given as "20/50/100 years" after his death.
However, it would appear that today Voltaire's houses in Geneva (Switzerland) and Ferney (France) are both (secular) museums, while his house in Paris is an antique shop and restaurant.
Furthermore, I have statements from the British and French Bible Societies dismissing the entire story as completely fictitious.
Does anyone have further information to add? I'm keen to find out the exact quote from Voltaire about the death of Christianity/the Bible, assuming he did say something to this effect.
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The Red and the Green Stamps
I have done a quick search and only found contradictory things. The only instances of the Voltaire citation I've found were on 'pro-bible' sites. I have found either only references to the citation, or different citations with more or less the same meaning. Here are two of them:
"Dans 100 ans, elle sera aussi périmée qu’un almanach" (in 100 years, it (the bible) wil be as outadated as the almanac)
"Encore un siècle et il n'y aura plus de bible sur terre!" (one more century and there will be no more bibles on earth)
The first one sounds a bit more likely to be a citation of Voltaire, although the fact that there were several of them makes me dubious about its validity.
As for the Bible Society, I've found on the same sites that years after he supposedly said this, a society called 'Maison de la Bible' bought it. I've read claims that it was still active today, but the only 'Maison de la Bible' I've found was situated in Switzerland, and definetely not rue Ferney in France.
Dubious claims, several instances of the citation, and no 'Maison de la Bible' in France, it looks fishy to me. I'll try to search a bit more if I find the time.
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