Genesis 51 — Ben Franklin’s favorite part of the Bible

There’s a longer explanation, but this needs to be put out where it can be caught by search engines.

Ben Franklin reads to a bird, statue at the University of Pennsylvania - photo via Priyank

Benjamin Franklin reading the Pennsylvania Gazette, or “Ben on the Bench” (with a bird), statue at the University of Pennsylvania – photo via Priyank

This is the 51st chapter of the Book of Genesis, as related by Benjamin Franklin.  This copy of the text comes from a newspaper, The Otago Witness, December 2, 1887, page 35, courtesy of a website called Papers Past, maintained by the National Library of New Zealand.

Paste It in Your Bible.

A Chapter Verily Like the Original— How Benjamin Franklin Surprised Ms Friends.

Over 100 years ago the following so-called “Genesis 51” was used to puzzle Biblical scholars, and today, were it read aloud in any mixed company, it is questionable if its fraudulent nature would be discovered, so beautifully is the spirit and language of the Old Testament imitated : —

1. And it came to pass after these things, that Abraham sat in the door of his tent, about the going down of the sun.

2. And behold a man, bowed with age, came from the way of the wilderness leaning on a staff.

3. And Abraham arose and met him, and said unto him, Turn in, I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night, and thou shalt arise early on the morrow, and go thy way.

4. But the man said, Nay, for I will abide under this tree.

5. And Abraham pressed him greatly; so he turned, and they went into the tent, and Abraham baked unleavened bread, and they did eat.

6. And when Abraham saw that the man blessed not God, he said unto him, Wherefore does thou not worship the most high God, Creator of heaven and earth?

7. And the man answered and said, I do not worship the God thou speakest of, neither do I call upon his name; for I have made to myself a God which abideth always in my house and provideth me with all things.

8. And Abraham’s zeal was kindled against the man, and he arose and drove him forth with  blows into the wilderness.

9. And at midnight God called unto Abraham, saying, Abraham, where is the stranger?

10. And Abraham answered and said, Lord, he would not worship Thee, neither would he call upon Thy name, therefore have I driven him out from before my face into the wilderness.

11. And God said, Have I not borne with him these hundred and ninety and eight years, and nourished him, and clothed him notwithstanding his rebellion against me, and couldst not thou, that art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night ?

12. And Abraham said. Let not the anger of my Lord wax against His servant; lo! I have sinned, forgive me, I pray thee.

13. And Abraham arose and went forth into the wilderness, and sought diligently for the man, and found him and returned with him to the tent, and when he had entreated him kindly, he sent him away on the morrow with gifts.

14, And God spake again unto Abraham, saying, For this thy sin shall thy seed be afflicted four hundred years in a strange land.

15. But for thy repentance will I deliver them, and they shall come forth with power, and with gladness of heart, and with much substance.

In 1759, when in England as agent for the colony of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin privately printed this “Chapter,” as he always termed it.  Taking only a sheet of paper, he kept it laid in his Bible at the end of Genesis, and used to amuse himself by reading it aloud to his friends, and hearing them express their surprise that they had never recollected reading it, and their openly expressed admiration of the moral it carried with it. Its origin is unknown.  It has been traced back 700 years to a Persian poet, who simply says “it was so related.” It must be very old.

Ben Franklin’s version of Chapter 51 of the Book of Genesis is a hoax.  There is no such chapter.

11 Responses to Genesis 51 — Ben Franklin’s favorite part of the Bible

  1. […] pensiamo che addirittura Benjamin Franklin era famoso per le sue burle letterarie (arrivò persino a inventarsi il cinquantunesimo capitolo della Genesi). In questa puntata, quindi, ci limiteremo a elencarne alcuni notevoli, di cui magari avete già […]


  2. Ron Walter says:

    Ben Franklin had a wonderful sense of humor, was a bit of a prankster, and particularly enjoyed playing them on Christians, as he considered their religion to be a fabrication, and their pious nature somewhat comical. Franklin believed in the Deist God, a religion that sprung out of age of reason philosophy. You would not recognize your God, in his.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Priyank Desai, thanks for putting the photo up — it was the best of that statue that I could find anywhere. Nice shot, and a clear need for it!


  4. Priyank Desai says:

    Thanks for the credit Ed!! Just came across your blog because of it!


  5. Lower writes:
    Ediacaran, the Bible tells Jews under the Mosaic law to stone those within their nation who work on Saturday. I’m doubting Bob would fall into that category…especially since the New Testament believer is no longer under the Mosaic Law of Moses.

    and yet that sure doesn’t stop your side from trying to enforce the supposed laws against homosexuality.


  6. […] Borrowed, mostly, with express permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. […]


  7. lowerleavell says:

    Ediacaran, the Bible tells Jews under the Mosaic law to stone those within their nation who work on Saturday. I’m doubting Bob would fall into that category…especially since the New Testament believer is no longer under the Mosaic Law of Moses.


  8. Ediacaran says:

    Thanks, Ed, that’s the marker I had in mind, with the epitaph he wrote when he was young (the actual stone overlying the grave being much simpler).


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Ben Franklin’s epitaph:

    Ben Franklin's epitaph

    Ben Franklin’s epitaph, as he wrote it in his relative youth (Library of Congress image):
    Ben Franklin's epitaph, in his hand - Library of Congress

    U.S. story of Franklin’s passing, and the epitaph, at this link.

    (Don’t know how to shrink it, sorry.)


  10. Ediacaran says:

    Bob, Ben Franklin was a believer, but not being a christian, he just believed in a god different from the one they worship. The bible also says to stone people to death for collecting firewood on Saturday. Do you believe and obey everything you read in it?

    Ed, can you post a photo of Franklin’s gravestone for us? Thanks!


  11. Bob Barton says:

    While he was very intelligent and a great leader, Franklin was an unbeliever. George Whitfield witnessed to him many times to no avail. Christians should be kind to everyone, but that does not mean accepting their unbelief as just another way. The Bible says:
    Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.


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