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The phrase "In 100 years, the Bible would be a forgotten and unknown book" is attributed to Voltaire in a bunch of Christian sites.

Examples:

Does anyone know of a primary source for this supposed quote?

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    Looking into this I found a variant: "Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth!"
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 18:37

2 Answers 2

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[Ah, the joy of trying to prove a negative. I'm happy to edit or delete if anyone finds an authoritative citation.]

I've not found anything to confirm that Voltaire ever said (or wrote) this.

The sermonillustrator link is a bit vague, but it seems to point in a similar direction to a blog entry by Doctor (of Divinity, Ph.D in Ministry - both based on his own account) Daniel Merritt. The entry can be found here and has also been posted here.

Merritt appears to be considering a two part question : whether Voltaire said it, and whether "the very house in which he once lived and wrote was used by the Evangelical Society of Geneva as a storehouse for Bibles and Gospel tracts and the printing presses he used to print his irreverent works was used to print Bibles. " He produces an impressive and apparently authoritative record that certainly looks like it confirms this other part of the story. Merritt appears to suggest that evidence for one part of the question demonstrates an answer to the other.

Other sources, for example David Ross and our own Christianity SE (which links to both Ross and Merritt, but doesn't reach consensus), question the accuracy of the claim regarding the house.

Merritt's specific conclusion on the quote, mentioned only briefly a few paragraphs from the end of his blog entry, is that "this writer could not find the exact quote that usually accompanies the story".

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    This is the same as what I found. It seems like Merritt would have a strong incentive to find a source of the quote if it existed, so not finding it is evidence (NOT proof) that no primary source exists. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like it would be out of character for Voltaire to have said such a thing, so it wouldn't be surprising if one day someone found a letter from Voltaire where he did actually say it.
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 19:19
  • @RobWatts - Absolutely to both points. I can imagine him saying it too. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 19:22
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As alluded to in another answer, the 1849 appendix of 33rd Report of the Annual Bible Society summarizes a statement by Rev. William Snodgrass, D.D., and the summary says:

...Voltaire , who predicted that in the nineteenth century the Bible would be only known as a relic of antiquity. He [Snodgrass] could say while on this topic...These infidels...

Note "These infidels" plural, even though only one infidel, Voltaire, is mentioned in the summary.

There are earlier documents that suggest that Snodgrass or the person summarizing him blended statements about David Hume and Voltaire.

A 1825 summary of a statement of Rev. Summerfield speaking in New York city at the formation of the American Tract Society was:

...that arch infidel , Hume , who predicted the downfall of Christianity in the 19th century. ... Voltaire too , with impotent rage , assailed Christianity , and boasted that although it took twelve men to plant it , his single arm should root it out. ... He [Summerfield] mentioned these circumstances to show how our religion has been assailed by infidels , and how speedily and gloriously their predications have been falsified. It was a pleasing fact , that Voltaire's press - 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 ovens - is now actually employed by the Paris Bible Society . In the very chamber , too , where Hume uttered his evil prophecy the first Committee assembled for forming the Edinburgh Bible Society.

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