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Landmarks in the History of Early Christianity



Christianity had been profoundly changed by its passage from Galilee to Jerusalem. Whereas the teaching of Jesus had been the announcement of the kingdom of God, the illustration of its character, and the insistent call to men to repent, the central teaching of the disciples in Jerusalem became the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. But the passage from Jerusalem to Antioch had produced still greater changes. After all, the teaching of the disciples in Jerusalem contained no elements foreign to Judaism. It was probably considered by the Jewish authorities as the erroneous application to Jesus of opinions which, rightly or wrongly, were widely held among the Jews; but nothing in it represented concession to Hellenism. As soon as Hellenism was suspected the Christians were at once driven out. In Antioch, on the other hand, much that was distinctly Jewish was abandoned, and Hellenistic thought adopted, so that Jesus became the divine centre of a cult. It is incredible that he should have been so regarded by the Jews of Jerusalem; it is impossible that he should not have been by Gentiles.

It is remarkable that Paul and the other Antiochean missionaries were willing to accept this development, and to make themselves the enthusiastic agents of its propaganda; but they clearly did so, and the point is of extreme importance for the history of Judaism.1 The only alternative to large concessions to the position of the Dutch

1 See C. Monteflore, Judaism and St. Paul.


radicals is to admit that in the Diaspora the Hellenising of Jews had proceeded more rapidly and far deeper than has as a rule been supposed.

The result is clear, however obscure the process may be; Christianity became a Graeco-Oriental cult, offering salvation, just as did the other mystery religions. It competed with them for the right of succession to the official religion of Rome, and ultimately it triumphed. To understand the situation it is necessary to comprehend the general nature of these cults, and to see the points of likeness and difference in Christianity.

In general all the mystery religions assumed the existence of a Lord, who had passed through various experiences on earth, and finally been glorified and exalted. He had left behind the secret of obtaining the same reward, in the form partly of knowledge, partly of magical ceremonies. His followers knew this secret, and admitted into it those whom the Lord was willing to accept. The initiated obtained protection in this world, and a blessed immortality after death. The Lord was probably not usually identified with the Supreme God; for instance, in Mithraism the Sun, not Mithras, was originally the supreme God, though in the last stages of the cult the difference between the two was apparently blurred, and Mithras became indistinguishable from the Sun.

The Christianity revealed in 1 Corinthians clearly conforms to this type. It has its Lord, Jesus, who is far more than human, but is not identified with the supreme God "the Father";1 he has suffered on earth, but been glorified and exalted, and Christians who accept him in faith, and are initiated into the Church by the sacrament of Baptism, obtain a share in his glory, and will enjoy a blessed immortality. The general resemblance is striking and undeniable. It may be summarised, as was said above, by the statement that Christianity offered men salvation, and was believed to fulfill its offer. Indeed, its

1 1 Cor. viii. 6.


success was partly due not to any difference from the other cults, but to the fact that it made more exclusive claims, combined with a higher ethical standard, than any other.

But what exactly was meant by salvation? No single answer can be given. In one sense salvation was primarily an eschatological concept, though its formulation was different among Jewish-minded and Greek-minded believers. The Jew meant, in the main, that, at the great day when the dead would rise and join the living before the judgement seat of God, he would be safe from the Divine Wrath, be acquitted, and have a place among those who would live in happiness in the Age to Come. The Greek probably thought rather that each soul which was saved would pass at death to a happier and better existence. Ultimately these two strands of eschatology were woven together, though scarcely reconciled, in the elaborate fabric of the Catholic system of purgatory, paradise, resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell.

In another sense salvation meant something different, which was not eschatological. In accordance with the general spirit of the Graeco-Oriental mysteries, there existed a belief that through sacraments men could change their nature, be born again, and—as Irenaeus puts it—become the children of the eternal and unchangeable God instead of the children of mortal man.1 In this way they passed, even before death, into eternal life, and they were raised to an existence beyond the reach of Fate. The basis of this concept was doubtless astral, and at least some early Christians believed that whereas the unbaptized were subject to the inimical decrees of the stars, the regenerate were immune.

Judged by our standards this belief is magical, just as the Jewish eschatology is mythological. Neither has part or lot in modern thinking; this does not necessarily prove that they are wrong, but it means that the problem for us is not one of details, but of opposing systems, the parts of

1 Irenaeus, Apostolio Preaching, p. 3.


which cannot be interchanged. We can, with logical propriety, accept the Graeco-Jewish eschatology or the Graeco-Oriental sacramental regeneration if we reject modern thought. But we cannot, except in intellectual chaos combine the two, or appropriately express modern thought in language belonging to the ancient systems.

The modern man does not believe in any form of salvation known to ancient Christianity. He does believe that so long as life lasts, and he does not know of any limit to its duration, good and evil are realities, and those who do good, and are good, achieve life of increasingly higher and higher potentiality. If anything were gained in practical life by calling this "salvation," it would be right and wise to do so. But in fact it is disastrous, for it obscures thought and confuses language.

Thus there is no doubt as to the general resemblance of the Christian offer of salvation to that of other cults, and the obvious point of difference—the presence of the Jewish eschatology—has no claim to superior truth. What, then, are the points of difference between Christianity and the other cults which explain the triumph of the Church? Two popular but probably mistaken explanations may first be discussed.

It is often said that Christianity had an enormous advantage in that Jesus was an historic person, whereas the Lords of the other cults were not. But closer analysis does not confirm the importance of this difference.

The initiates of the other cults believed that their Lords were historic persons, just as Christians believed that Jesus was. They had, indeed, lived a long time ago, but this was no disadvantage: any one who reads Tatian's Oratio ad Graecos can see how antiquity, not recentness, was regarded as desirable. The general argument of Christians was not that Jesus was historic, and the other Lords were not, but that he fulfilled a true offer of salvation, made in a more remote antiquity than any pagan


religion could claim, while the heathen Lords were demons, misunderstanding the prophecies of the Old Testament, clumsily simulating their fulfillment, and arrogating to themselves the title of God. It was of course an advantage that the "sacred legend" of Christianity was free from the repulsive elements in other cults, which it taxed the ingenuity of a Julian to explain.

Moreover, historical criticism shows that the points in the story of Jesus which played the greatest part in commending Christianity to a generation asking for private salvation are those which are not historic. The element of truth in much perverse criticism, arguing that Jesus never existed, is that the Jesus of history is quite different from the Lord assumed as the founder of Catholic Christianity. The Church conquered the world by offering salvation through a redeeming Lord. Jesus made no such offer: to him the Kingdom of God, the pearl of great price, was the natural inheritance of men, if they would only take it. No supernatural change of nature, but to turn round, abandon all that hindered, and go in the right direction—go home—was the repentance which he required. Probably it was not unique teaching: it is very hard to obey, and it makes no spectacular demands. Its only claim to acceptance is its truth. It did not conquer the world. Nor did Jesus—the Jesus of history—think that it would do so. "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto Life, and few there are that find it."

Thus the theory that Catholic Christianity succeeded because Jesus was an historic person cannot be sustained.

Nor is there much more truth in the attribution of its success to the influence of the personality of Jesus. No doubt it was the personality of Jesus which influenced his immediate followers, made them regard him as the Davidic Messiah or as "Son of Man," and rendered possible their belief in his exaltation to the right hand of God. Without this belief Christianity could never have come into existence; but once the belief was established


it became the foundation of the whole structure, and the personality of Jesus was quite eclipsed by the supernatural value attached to him. Not the men who had known Jesus, but those who had not, converted the Roman Empire, and their gospel was that of the Cross, Resurrection, and Parousia, not the Sermon on the Mount, or an ethical interpretation of the Parables, or a moral imitatio Christi.

The true answer is that Catholic Christianity conquered because it was popular, not because it was true, and failed for the same reason. Permanence, not popularity, is the test of truth; for truth has often no adherents, while error has many.

The permanent truth in Christianity is, I think, to be found in the spirit, or perhaps more correctly the "will," which Jesus had, and tried to hand on to his disciples, of service and self-sacrifice. It calls men to redeem others, rather than to seek redemption for themselves. This is to spiritual life what gravitation is to the physical world. It was known to others before him and after, but it has not yet conquered the world.

But the popular teaching1 which loomed largest in the early days of the Church offered the privilege rather than the responsibility of redemption, and maintained that the Christian was united to the Supreme God—a claim higher than that made by any other cult. This side of Christianity, though not Jewish, was in the main derived from Judaism, from which all the first Christian missionaries accepted the preaching of the one supreme God, whom Paul constantly refers to as "the Father." There has been of recent years much loose writing and looser speech about the "Fatherhood of God." It has even been asserted that this was the special revelation of Jesus. Such a view does not for a moment sustain any critical inves-

1 I would emphasise the word popular. The great missionaries were doubtless inspired by the desire to save others, by the will to minister rather than be ministered to, and by a readiness to give their lives as a ransom for others, but their converts were otherwise minded.


tigation. No doubt Jesus sometimes, possibly often, spoke of God as "Father"; but so did many other Jews. They and he referred to the moral sonship of the righteous, not to a supernatural or sacramental relation. Nor is there any sign that Jesus felt that he had any new revelation as to the nature of God: he was much more intent on telling men what they ought to do to conform to the demands of God.

But after the time of Jesus the use of "Father" as applied to God became more and more general; especially to denote the peculiar relationship—however that may have been conceived—between Jesus and God. This use is especially characteristic of the editor of Matthew, and still more of the Fourth Gospel. It is the correlative to the process by which "Jesus, the Son of God," became "God the Son."

The Hellenistic Christians seem to have been particularly fond of this use; partly perhaps from linguistic reasons. The Greek for Jehovah is icbpios, Lord; but this word had been already taken as the title of Jesus. Therefore when a Christian-speaking Greek wished to refer to Jehovah he could not without ambiguity say "The Lord," and he began to adopt the usage of referring to Jehovah as "the Father." But what would have been the implication to Greek ears of this usage? Two lines were possible: it could be interpreted as referring exclusively to the relation between God and Jesus, or as referring to the relation between God and men. Paul is evidence that the second, as well as the first, was accepted. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are Sons of God." But how would a Greek have understood this verse? Probably he would have thought that it meant that the gift of the Spirit changed men's nature; so that, as Irenaeus said, two generations later, they were no longer mortal men but the children of the immortal God. To the Greek the gift of the Spirit was the gift of divine nature, immortal and incorruptible. That is, of course,


in nowise Jewish: even if Paul meant this, which is doubtful, he did so by virtue of his Greek associations. The question, however, has not been adequately discussed how far this interpretation is exactly the same as that of the other cults. It clearly brought the Christian into direct relation with the Supreme God, through the Lord. Was this so in Mithraism or in the cult of Isis? In both of them it seems rather that the initiate was brought rather into relationship with the Lord.1 Surely it was a real advantage to Christian propaganda that the Church offered union with the Supreme God more definitely than did any rival cult.

Two elements must be distinguished in such teaching. Permanently important in it is the recognition of the fact that a helping hand of grace stretches out from the unknown to help man when he cries from the depths: but it contains also a theory as to the origin and nature of grace. The fact is indisputable, the theory depends on evidence; and there is really none to justify confident assertion. No doubt it was an enormous asset to Christianity to proclaim that the grace found by its adherents came straight from the cause of all existence. The same situation was reproduced after the Reformation, and it

1 This statement would be required to be modified for detailed application to various classes both among Christians and among initiates in the other cults. In all cults there was probably an uneducated substratum which thought very little about the subject. It was satisfied with the fact of salvation, and was not specially interested in its method. On the other hand, the educated with a metaphysical tendency were interested in the relation of the Lord of the cult to the Supreme God, and this might, in time, have produced something similar to the Christological speculations of the fourth century. Apuleius seems to identify the Supreme God with the Lord in a manner which at times reminds the reader of Sabellian Christianity. On the other hand, Heliogabalus seems to have produced a complete amalgam between Mithras and Helios, and reminds us of the tendency of uneducated Christianity in all generations to make the gospel become the preaching of the new God, or the true God, Jesus, of which I heard a somewhat extreme example from a preacher who maintained fervidly that Jehovah was the Hebrew of Jesus.


was an asset to Protestantism to claim direct access to God, without the mediation of saints. Nevertheless, it is hard to see that there is any evidence to favour the theory that grace comes in the one way rather than the other. The element of truth in the early Christian teaching is not the side which was most popular, but rather that which, a little later, partly unconsciously, animated the Church in rejecting Marcionism—the conviction that there is no essential disharmony or final clash in history, that the God of creation is not hostile to the God of grace.1

Moreover, it was not only—or even chiefly—the helping hand of grace in the troubles and sorrows of life which Greek Christians especially hoped for by union with the supreme God or by the power of Jesus. It was rather the gift of eternal Life after death, which was the special characteristic of the Gods. The points of importance are the means whereby they thought that this immortality was obtained, and the nature which they ascribed to it.

The act by which the faithful acquired immortality was Baptism. The history of this distinctively Christian rite is obscure. From the standpoint of the historian of religions it is the combination of a Jewish ceremony with Graeco-Oriental ideas. The Jews had frequently practised ceremonial washing with a religious significance—generally speaking, purification from the guilt of offences against the ritual law; it was also part of the initiation of proselytes, and had been largely practised by John the Forerunner. But in no case did any Jew think that washing could change, sacramentally or magically, the nature of man. A Greek on the other hand, brought up in the atmosphere of the mysteries, might well have thought so. The same is true of the other constituent

1 See the last chapter of F. C. Burkitt's The Gospel History and its Transmission. This chapter is a most clear-sighted analysis of one of the essentials of Catholic truth as opposed to error, and I venture to say this because its importance seems in general to be overlooked.


element in primitive Christian Baptism— the formula "in the name of the Lord Jesus." There is no reason why Jews should not have used the name of Jesus for magical purposes—indeed they undoubtedly did so—for magic was not peculiar to the Greeks. But the ordinary Jew would never have practised magic to secure immortality or to become divine. He believed that immortality was the natural lot of all the chosen people who kept the Law, and would be reached, not through sacraments or secret knowledge, but through the resurrection at the last day. Thus it is possible that the first Jewish Christians may have practised baptism by an extension of the ordinary ritual of proselyte-making, or as a means of securing remission of sins, in the spirit of John the Baptist, but it is extremely improbable that it was for them the sacrament of regeneration to eternal life which it was held to be by Greek Christians.

Turning from the possibilities and probabilities suggested by the history of religion to the evidence of the early literature critically studied, two points stand out as probable. First, Jesus neither practised nor enjoined baptism of any kind; secondly, the Antiochean missionaries always practised baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus." The second point is so obviously proved both by Acts and the Pauline epistles that it requires no discussion. The first has the limitations of the argument from silence, for it rests on the fact that there is no trace of Baptism by Jesus, either by practice or precept, in the synoptic gospels, except a single statement in Matt. xxviii. 19, in which the risen Jesus is represented as commanding the disciples to undertake the conversion of the Gentiles ( ra Wvq ) and their baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That this verse is not historical but a late tradition, intended to support ecclesiastical practice, is shown by the absence of the trine formula of baptism in Acts and the Epistles, and the extreme reluctance with which the apostles, who are sup-


posed to have received this revelation, undertook a mission to the Gentiles. "We have to choose between the account in Matthew, which makes the mission to the Gentiles the result of the command of the risen Jesus in Galilee, or that in Acts, confirmed by Paul, which makes it begin much later from the preaching in Antioch of the scattered adherents of Stephen, and from revelations to Paul and Peter, on the road to Damascus, and at Joppa. There can be little doubt that Acts ought to be trusted on this point.

Few problems are more obscure than the question of the growth of baptism in the Church of this first period. This is due to the fact that the editor of Acts was convinced that baptism was a primitive Christian custom even in Jerusalem, though unlike Matthew he does not attribute it to Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to see indications that his sources did not confirm his opinion. An excellent case can be made for the view that the source used in Acts i. and ii. originally regarded the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost as the fulfillment of the promise attributed to Jesus that his disciples, unlike those of John, should be baptized in the Holy Spirit not in water. The exhortation of Peter in Acts ii. that his hearers should repent and be baptized is so inconsistent with this promise that it seems due to the redactor. Similarly, too, the baptism of Cornelius seems to contradict the context of Peter's own explanation in Acts xi., and may well be redactorial. On the other hand, the later chapters agree with these redactorial additions in regarding baptism as the source of the gift of the Spirit, and there can here be no question of editorial additions, for the references to baptism are clearly part of the fabric of the narrative. The most illuminating evidence, however, is afforded by the chapters describing Philip's work: in these baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus is represented as the custom of Philip, but it does not confer the gift of the Spirit.


This may be the best clue to the historical development of the rite. The Seven, including Philip, were probably the first to convert Gentiles, and inasmuch as the complete breach with Judaism had not yet come, must have regarded their converts as proselytes, and treated them accordingly. Baptism was part of the usual treatment of a proselyte, and the formula "in the name of the Lord Jesus" would merely distinguish these proselytes from others.

A little later the practice would certainly be interpreted by Greeks, or Graeco-Orientals, in the light of the cults which they knew; baptism would become the magical or, at least, sacramental means of salvation, and the Name of Jesus its necessary formula. The development is exactly similar to that passed through by the word "Lord,"—though its origin was Jewish its interpretation was Greek.1

The expectation of immortality conferred by Baptism and membership in the Church of the Lord Jesus varied in form. The Greek eschatology was different from the Jewish, and looked for an immortality for each individual immediately after death. It was, moreover, an immortality of the soul, not of the body. Probably there were many variations of thought on the subject. Some of the most highly educated Greeks may have understood the arguments for and against immaterial Reality, and accepted or rejected them. Roughly speaking, Platonists accepted, Stoics and Epicureans rejected; and it was at least possible for Platonists, if they identified Mind with immaterial Reality, to believe in the immortality of the human mind. But did such Platonists actually exist before Plotinus, or possibly Ammonius Saccus? The fragmentary evidence which exists seems to show that philosophic Greeks were interested in other problems—mainly epistemological and psychological. The belief in the im-

1 See Prolegomena to Acts, pp. 332 ff.


mortality of the soul was preserved by the tradition of the Mysteries,1 not by the Academy.

Stoics and Epicureans, far more important for the first century than Academics, were materialists; but that does not mean that they did not believe in the existence of a human soul or spirit. Spirit was for them merely the most attenuated form of matter. The spirit of man might be dissipated after death, as the grosser material composing his body would be, or it might survive and retain consciousness and memory until the cycle came round when all things, including human careers, would be repeated.

But the first Greek Christians were scarcely influenced by an intelligent comprehension of Stoic metaphysics, and attempts made to trace their direct influence in Paul or elsewhere only show that their vocabulary was more widely used than their problems were understood—a phenomenon not peculiar to the first century. All that can be said with any confidence is that the expectation of blessed immortality—not for all but for the chosen few—fostered by the mysteries was probably most often conceived as the survival of the soul after death, and the soul in turn was conceived as "Spirit," a highly attenuated material existence, which was found until death in the body, and was then released from it.

In some such way the Greeks in Corinth who were converted to Christianity expected immortality. So they did also in the other cults offering salvation. The points of difference in Christianity are in the kind of life which was demanded from initiates, and in the final consummation expected.

Corinthians shows clearly that some Hellenic Christians held that having secured immortality they were free

1 From which indeed Plato had probably obtained it. He justified it, handily enough, from his doctrine of Ideas, but scarcely derived it thence. The triumph of Aristotle destroyed his justification, but the parent stream flowed on placidly, undisturbed by thought.


to do as they liked with their bodies. Paul insisted on the observance of that morality which was central in Judaism. He had rendered his task diificult by his rejection of the Law, but he won his fight, and the permanent association of Jewish morality with the Christian Church and its Hellenic Christology and sacraments was the result.

In the same way Paul contended successfully for the Jewish doctrine of a resurrection, though with some modifications. This was not the same thing as the Greek belief in personal immortality. The Sadducees, indeed, may have Hellenised on this subject, as did some of the Alexandrian Jews, represented by the Wisdom of Solomon. But the bulk of the people followed the Pharisees and looked for a resurrection of the body, at the end of the age.

Paul and the other missionaries continued to teach this Jewish doctrine, but were not at once able to convince their Greek hearers that immortality must necessarily be reached through a resurrection of the body. Presumably the Greeks felt that immortality was sufficient, and a future reunion between an immortal soul and a resuscitated body was as undesirable as improbable. Paul in 1 Corinthians insists on the Jewish doctrine, but he makes the concession to the Greeks that the resurrection will not be of flesh and blood but of a "spiritual" body, that is to say, a body consisting of the most attenuated form of matter. It will be the same body, but it will be changed.

This modified form of Jewish thought was supported by an appeal to the case of Jesus, who had already risen from the dead. The appeal was really far more effective than the rest of Paul's argument, which was not calculated to convince the doubtful, and it has the special importance for the historian that it proves that Paul did not think the risen Jesus had a body of flesh and blood, and believed that in this he was in agreement with all the early witnesses.


Nevertheless, the belief of the Church soon affirmed what remained its unchanged faith until the nineteenth century—the resurrection of the flesh, both of the Lord in the past, and of the Christian in the future. This was the triumph of Jewish thought, and is an exception to the general rule that Christianity became steadily more Hellenic.

The reason why Jewish thought triumphed is difficult to ascertain. Few hypotheses as to a future life have less intrinsic probability than that ultimately reached, which postulates an immortal soul living discarnate until the resurrection day, when it will be reunited to its own resuscitated body, and both will be rewarded or punished by the final judgement of God. Nevertheless this hypothesis supplanted all others.

Two causes may be suggested. The pressure of the Docetic controversy, which insisted that Jesus had never been a real man of flesh and blood, but a spirit appearing in human form, made the Church attach greater weight to the reality of his flesh and blood, even after the resurrection. Hence arose the narratives of the appearances of the risen Jesus in Luke and John, emphasising this point. That they there are secondary seems to be proved by the evidence of 1 Cor. xv. Hence, too, it may be, came the suppression of the missing end of Mark. Following this tendency it was natural to argue, as Paul had done, that Christians like Jesus would be raised with the same bodies which they had had.

A different motive was provided by moral considerations. It is clear that there was danger, even in the Corinth of Paul's days, of men arguing that, having obtained the Spirit and consequent immortality, nothing carnal had any importance: the body had, as it were, but a short time, and might be allowed to enjoy itself as it chose. To combat this danger of an absolutely licentious position the Church maintained that the body was as


eternal as the soul, and that its future happiness depended on its present behaviour.

Both these factors undoubtedly entered into the development of Christian thought; and they were reinforced by the natural desire of man to preserve the pleasures of life in a body of flesh and blood.

The whole question of the expectation of immortality is as obscure as it is interesting. Direct evidence in favour of a survival of individual consciousness after death is provided in the present by psychical research, and from the past by narratives of the apparitions of the dead, among which the story of the appearances of the risen Jesus must be classed. To most minds the evidence does not justify a decisive verdict of any nature.

The "moral" argument is equally evasive. To certain minds in certain moods it seems incredible that extinction can await beings who display the qualities manifested by men at their best, animated by such high purposes, so little fulfilled. In Christian circles the argument has helped to secure the orthodox belief in the resurrection of the body. But, on the other hand, this belief has received a succession of shocks from other considerations. The resuscitation of the flesh has become more and more incredible. Bishop Westcott endeavoured to meet this feeling by reviving the Pauline notion of a body of "Spirit," and was followed by Bishop Gore in so doing. The process was helped by the fact that in the English creed resurrectio carnis is translated resurrection of the body, so that the denial of the Apostles' Creed involved in the Westcott-Gore interpretation could be softened into an apparent affirmation.

Even more serious, though less often expressed, is the moral objection to the judgement, which dooms men to extremes of bliss or misery in accordance as they fall one side or the other of a certain line. The conscience of the


modern man feels that no one deserves either Heaven or Hell. Moreover, this same conscience doubts whether any one really deserves complete perpetuation. All men are of mixed nature; some elements seem to deserve to be eliminated, and others to survive. Thus the moral indictment against the old expectation of judgement is that no one deserves either of its extremes.

A just judgement would be not between man and man, saving one and condemning the other, but between different parts of each of us. For in man good and evil are always present: what we ask for is not complete survival, but the ultimate elimination of some parts and the constant growth of others; we desire change, not permanence.1 Moreover, even in the short space of life which we can observe, elimination and selection are clearly present. The child and the old man are one, not by identity but by continuity of life. The main object of education is to further and confirm this beneficent change. Once more, this, or something like it, is often put forward as the meaning of the doctrine of "judgement." But when the creed states that Jesus will "come again in glory to judge both the quick and dead," it means the Jewish eschatological expectation, and to use its language to express modern thought is unfair to both.

All such thoughts are a priori, and can never convince the reluctant. The path of wisdom is not to weigh the merits of various inconclusive arguments, but to distinguish between Desire and Knowledge.

Desire for most men is to remain essentially as they are. The healthy enjoy life, and even the unhealthy cling to it. If we are candid most of us admit that we should like indefinitely prolonged existence, that we have an infinite curiosity to know what is going to happen in the world, and a wish to take part in its development. That is Desire.

1 This has much in common with Origen's teaching, but unfortunately Origen, was rejected by the Catholic Church.


Over against Desire is Knowledge. We know that matter is indestructible, though it changes its form, and that energy is equally indestructible, but constantly varies its form. If Life be similar to energy this gives us reason to believe that it is permanent, but that its form changes. If, however, Life be a form of Energy, not a force similar to it, there is no reason to expect its permanence. The chief reason against this view is that whereas we can convert heat into electricity, or electricity into light, we cannot—as yet—convert either into Life.

So far Knowledge takes us on the hypothesis that Life is material, for Energy is not outside of the world of matter. But still within the field of Knowledge is the old problem of Immaterial Reality and its relation to Life. To those who are convinced, as I am myself, by the old arguments in favour of Immaterial Reality, conceivable but not imaginable, it is certain that intellectual and moral life belongs to it and shares its attributes of eternity. Metaphysics are more convincing than psychology. But need this mean that this eternal life is personal? No one as yet has answered this question.

And there are further considerations: all that we know of life teaches us that it is a succession of losses. The passage from youth to middle life, and the change from middle life to old age are losses, from which we shrink. No man willingly surrenders the flexibility of youth or the power of middle life. But the experience—shrunk from and postponed though it be—teaches that through loss came gain. Yet none of us ever foresaw the form which the gain would take. After old age comes death: that too is loss. Is it also gain? If Life continue, and that at least seems probable, Knowledge teaches us that it will change its form and that here, too, gain will come through loss. But, it is often said, this is the denial of the survival of personality, and it is personality, not life, which we desire. No doubt we do: but we desire to keep


much which we lose, and yet come to see that only thus could we achieve the greater gain.1

After all, Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequence—a courageous trust in the great purpose of all things and pressing forward to finish the work which is in sight, whatever the price may be. Who knows whether the "personality" of which men talk so much and know so little may not prove to be the temporary limitation rather than the necessary expression of Life?

There was once an archipelago of islands off a mountainous coast separated from each other and from the mainland by the sea. But in course of time the sea dried up, the islands were joined to the great mountain behind them, and it became clear that they had always been united by solid ground under a very shallow sea. If those islands could have thought and spoken what would they have said? Before the event they would have protested against losing their insularity, but would they have done so afterwards, when the water which divided them from each other was gone, and they knew that they were part of the great mountain which before they had, only dimly seen, obscured by the mists rising from the sea?

1 See additional note on p. 107.

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