1.In 13th century Europe there was the rumor that someone had written a book where he accused Moses, Jesus and Muhammad of being charlatans and conmen. It was the “Treatise of the Three Impostors.”
2.Yet such a book was never discovered and everything indicates that it never existed.
The origin of the idea behind the book
Research by the French scholar,specialist on Islam, Louis Massignon (1883-1962), trace the origin of the idea of the three impostors to arguments of religious propaganda used by Abu Tahir Sulayman (907-944), third ruler of the Qarmate kingdom of Bahrain, founded by dissidents of an Ismaili(Shia) sect. He had said:
“In this world, three individuals have corrupted men, a shepherd, a physician and a camel driver. And the camel driver was the worst of the jugglers ,the worst of the three conjurers.”
The shepherd would be Moses (who was a shepherd for a period), the physician Jesus (who had done many miracles,healing the sick) and the camel driver was Muhammad.
The first to be accused: brilliant Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen (by no less than the Pope)
The emperor was one of the greatest of the Middle Ages and believed to have made a comment to that effect,about the three impostors.Frederick II Hohenstaufen was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Sicily.In 1239, he was accused in a letter by Pope Gregory IX to have said that the world had been duped by three impostors: Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
To learn more about Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen
It is in French,but you can translate with Google Translate
“Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194-1250), Emperor and King of the Middle Ages and Apostate”
After him, another was accused of writing such a book
In 1250 Thomas Cantimpré affirmed that the one guilty of such a book was Simon of Tournai (who flourished from 1184 to 1200), which shows that in any case the story circulated at the time of Thomas Cantimpré.
Towards the end of the 17th century a book finally appeared with the title “Treatise of the Three Impostors”,saying that Moses, Jesus and Muhammad had been hucksters.Among the first to say he had discovered this anonymous book was John Toland.At the time he was a young man in his twenties.And he was a non-believer, having abandoned Catholicism at the age of 15.Most scholars are of the opinion that the true author of the “Treatise of the Three Impostors” was Toland.
He was the first person to be called free-thinker, by the bishop and philosopher Berkeley.
For Toland, God is simply the physical universe. This universe is eternal, with a spontaneous movement entirely deterministic,that controls life and thought. Living beings come by application of mechanical laws and thought is a movement of the brain. Therefore, the only natural religion is pantheism and Toland was the creator of the word “pantheist”.
His best-known work
“Christianity not Mysterious” (1696)
A polemical book, where Toland attacks Christian dogmas,and praised early Christianity (that of the Nazarenes), as being devoid of mystery, of a clergy and based on natural reason.
Voltaire responded to the book
Voltaire (1694-1778) is the most distinguished French writer of the Age of Enlightenment, that preceded the French Revolution.Voltaire was much more of a literary man than Montesquieu, Diderot and Rousseau.His masterpiece is the satirical novel “Candide” (1759),very funny and sparkling.
The real name of Voltaire
His real name wasn’t Voltaire, Voltaire is an anagram, that is to say a recombination of letters of a certain word.The real name was Jean-Francois Arouet and “Voltaire” is an anagram of the word ” Arouet le J(eune)/the younger/junior “, which in Latin is” AROVETLI “(the I standing for the letter J,the V for the letter U).
The religion of Voltaire
Votaire was a deist,that is,somebody:
1.Who believes there is a God.
2.But that God does not intervene in the world, miracles are impossible.
In 1770 Voltaire wrote a response to the “Treatise of the Three Impostors” with the title “Epistle to the Author of the Book of the Three Impostors”. This book contains his famous phrase:
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.
Voltaire admired Jesus, read:
It is in French:
“Article V of Jesus in Literature, an Imaginary Interview where Voltaire talks with Jesus”
Voltaire was later answered by Bakunin,Russian atheist
“If God exists,it would be necessary to abolish him.”