Get the CD Now!

The Birth of the Christian Religion

Chapter V

THE APOSTLE PAUL

IN Christian tradition Saul-Paul has become a massive influence embodied in a personality ever dear to Protestants as that of a father, but not easily grasped nor understood by the critical historian. The perplexity of the critic in presence of this more or less authentic patron saint of religious individualism is due to the fact that the human figure of him whom we conventionally name "the Apostle," which seems clear-cut so long as our faith is unshaken in most of the writings that bear his name, progressively loses its outlines in proportion as we become aware of the artificial elements in the documents concerning him. The present author does not claim to reconstitute his figure but only to fix its main features by means of probable hypotheses based on the glimpses we can get of his real activities.

1. FROM ANTIOCH TO CORINTH

We have seen how, when Barnabas went off to preach the Gospel in his own country of Cyprus, probably at the end of the year 44, Paul took the road into Asia Minor accompanied by Silas. That his expedition received the unqualified blessing of the Antioch community, as the Book of Acts affirms (xv, 40), we take leave to doubt. For never again did Paul return to that neighbourhood, [1] and never did he speak of the Antioch community as his base of operations; even in the Epistle to the Galatians he recalls no memory of his ministry in the city at the side of Barnabas. The link between him and that centre of the apostolate was finally severed; for it was there that he had broken with all his brother apostles.

His little schism, however, did not deprive him of all his friends. Silas, as we have seen, had been the bearer of the letter from Jerusalem and time had been given him to become acquainted with Paul and Barnabas. Returned now to Antioch, we find Silas, if not taking the side of Paul for his conduct proves that he was of neither party exclusively at least

152

associating himself with the new work Paul was about to set on foot. This work no doubt attracted Silas, Paul himself having personally gained his goodwill. Paul, though at variance with the other missionaries, did not regard himself as excommunicated, nor was he so in fact, nor did Silas think of him as being in that condition. So, without reserve, he joined himself to this pioneer of the Gospel with his grand projects for the cause of the Christ and his capacity for giving them effect. In the sequel Silas did not remain permanently at the side of Paul and we shall have to ask why he left it, just as we have asked why he came to be there in the first instance. It is worthy of note that Silas was a Jew by origin and that Titus, a converted pagan who had followed Paul to Jerusalem did not follow him in the mission he undertook with Silas; only after some years, and then transitorily, shall we find him at Paul's side, in Corinth. Perhaps there were certain aspects or peculiarities in Paul's character which exhausted the patience of collaborators otherwise loyal and of goodwill. After all, we have no ground whatever for interpreting his rupture with Barnabas in a sense unfavourable to that apostle. It is probable that another companion, Luke (Lucas), a convert of Antioch, and pagan by origin, joined Paul and Silas in their apostolic expedition. [2]

It was quite natural, but is also highly significant, that Paul, who was a native of Tarsus, began his work as an independent apostle in regions bordering on his native country, regions which could not have been altogether unknown to him, instead of at once proceeding to some important centre of the empire, Ephesus, Corinth, Alexandria, Rome. It suggests that he had no thought, at the beginning of his ministry, of the unique and universal mission to the human race usually attributed to him; certainly he can have had in his head no map of the Mediterranean world, with the stages marked in advance, province by province and city by city, as far as Rome and thence into Spain. His first attack was on the place nearest at hand and, keeping continually on the move, he would pass from one to the next as opportunity offered and the course of events made possible. His first thought accordingly was to make for Pamphilia and Pisidia, where he knew of Jewish communities which perhaps would give the Gospel a favourable hearing.

153

The first halt of our wandering preachers was at Derbe where they had some success, for a Derbe man, Gaius, is found soon afterwards in the company of believers that went on with Paul (Acts xx, 4); but Acts gives no detail about the mission there. [3] From Derbe Paul made for Lystra where there was further success, this being the place where he recruited Timothy, most faithful of all his disciples and the one who followed him to the end (xvi, 1-3). If Acts are to be believed, Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and of a pagan father, and was circumcised by Paul "because of the Jews which were in those quarters." This indication, implicitly contradicted by the Epistle to the Colossians, [4] is probably a tendentious counterbalance to what is said in Galatians about the uncircumcised Titus (Gal. ii, 3).

From Lystra the apostolic company passed on to Iconium where it had to make a rather long stay, Paul preaching in the synagogue and recruiting both Jews and proselytes. But the majority of the Jews proved refractory and soon became hostile, even stirring up the pagans against the new preacher, with the result that a riot broke out and Paul was stoned. [5] Quitting the scene he now conveyed himself to Antioch of Pisidia where he preached under the same conditions and had a like experience. The next project of the missionaries was to evangelize the coast towns of Asia Minor, but they were "forbidden by the Holy Spirit" (xvi, 6), by which we may understand that the obstructions they had met with suggested a dream or mystic vision which turned the steps of the apostolic group towards Phrygia and Galatia proper. If the Epistle to the Galatians can be trusted Paul fell sick and remained for some time in these regions. [6] But he continued to preach and not without success, founding several communities recruited mainly from among the pagans. [7]

"After they were come to Mysia," the Gospel heralds, who now seem to have been steering a rather haphazard course, "assayed to go into Bithynia but" circumstances not favouring the plan "the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not; and passing by Mysia" without any attempt to preach there "they came to Troas." Painful experiences, of which no detail is given, here lie concealed. We can hardly fail to see that after his rupture with Barnabas Paul had plunged into Asia Minor somewhat at a venture, without formed plan and without great resources, and

154

that he went on his way guided by opportunities, or turned back by difficulties, to which the revelations of the Spirit adapted themselves, as best they could. He had not come to Troas to preach, for it was only at a later date that he was to find there "an open door" and was able to form a group of Christians. His object was to get clear of regions where an ugly reception awaited the good news, and so he took ship at Troas without yet knowing where he would disembark. A vision, which we may suppose to have been occasioned by some useful information picked up on board about the Jewries of Macedonia, settled the matter. "A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia appeared before him who appealed to him and said 'Come to Macedonia and help us.' And when he had seen the vision we at once endeavoured to enter Macedonia, persuaded that God so called us to preach the Gospel unto them." [8]

The travellers disembarked at Neapolis (Cavalla) whence they took the road to Philippi. Knowing nobody in the town they went on the following Sabbath to the place of prayer beside a watercourse and sitting down waited for the chance of encountering some Jews. That day the only people to come were women, among them one who was well-off, a seller of purple and a native of Thyatira "whose heart the Lord opened, so that she was interested in what Paul told her" (xvi, 11-14). Soon afterwards this Lydia, now baptized, takes the missionaries into her house and so puts them into a more favourable condition for launching their propaganda in the town, with the result that Paul gets together a considerable group of converts consisting mainly if not exclusively of pagans. But the success of their propaganda got them into difficulties. There came a day when Paul and Silas were violently laid hold of by people who dragged them before the magistrates of Philippi and charged them as follows: "these men are a serious nuisance to our town: the fellows are Jews and teach customs which it is unlawful for us Romans to have anything to do with." The two missionaries are then whipped and put in prison, but soon afterwards released on the intervention of some friendly people who go bail for them, on condition, however, that they clear out of the town forthwith. [9] The statements about the beginning of the Philippi mission (xvi, 11-15) are plain and precise, probably coming from the source of Acts:

155

but the sequel is cut about, the editor introducing at the start of it the incident of the pythoness, which, had it occurred, would at once have compelled Paul to quit Phillipi, where he must have remained long enough to form a numerous and very faithful group of believers. The story of the pythoness exorcised by Paul, whose cure is said to have caused his arrest (xvi, 16-19) if not invented entire by the editor, can only be his romantic version of something that really happened. The only offence charged against Paul was his propaganda and the charge must have been sustained by the evidence of that alone. The editor had his reasons for trying to put readers off the scent. For the significant point here to be remarked is that a popular rising was caused by Jewish propaganda which directly and openly ran counter to the religious foundation of the Roman empire. That was the objection brought against the Christian religion up to the moment of its final victory. That the objection was brought against it at the very beginning is entirely natural.

At Thessalonica, where Paul made his next halt, "there was a synagogue of the Jews," the Jewish colony there being much more important than at Philippi. For three sabbaths in succession the apostle was able to discourse "on the Scriptures explaining and proving that the Christ must needs suffer and rise from the dead, and that Jesus is the Christ." A few Jews were convinced by these arguments and "a much greater number of Greeks and among them several persons of quality" (xvii, 1-4). [10] But the mass of the Jews showed an ugly temper and Paul was compelled to continue his teaching outside the synagogue. By this outside preaching he had time to recruit a considerable band of believers; the difficulties which followed seem to have come chiefly from the Jews. Under similar conditions he was able to found a community at Berea. [11]

Leaving Silas in the latter town he now comes with Timothy to Athens.12 Here he spends himself to no purpose. The editor of Acts has attempted to conceal his failure by the fiction of his speech to the Areopagus (xvii, 22-31). He would here give us a specimen of the teaching which Paul, according to him, was wont to address to audiences of highly educated pagans; [13] it is a philosophical apology in the style of those published by Aristides, Athenagoras and Justin in the second century a trait

156

which would suffice to date the editing of Acts. A verse from the poet Aratus is somewhat playfully quoted, [14] as though by way of replacing the quotations from the prophets with which the editor adorns Paul's other discourses, all the rest of the story being contrived to furnish this fine oration with a framework and stage-setting. The failure encountered at Athens might easily have been foreseen; nowhere else could audiences have been found less ready to be impressed by an apocalyptic message.[15] Before quitting the place Paul had received news from Thessalonica which decided him to send Timothy to that city, [16] giving him a rendezvous at Corinth and charging him to bring Silas along with him (i Thess. iii, 2, 6; Acts xviii, 5). It will be noticed that Paul's auxiliaries move from place to place as freely as he does, and that the new Christian groups keep him informed of what is going on in their midst by messengers and correspondence. Without these frequent contacts the improvised communities might easily have dissolved.

To Corinth accordingly the apostle, travelling alone, now betakes himself, probably in course of the year 50. He seems to have arrived there without resources and in low spirits after the check he had received in Athens. Meeting Aquila, a Jew of Pontus already won over to faith in the Christ, together with his wife Prisca or Priscilla, he installed himself in their house, these people being tent-makers, which was his own trade. There he remained, working for his living, until the arrival of Silas and Timothy [17] who brought him money furnished by the communities in Macedonia in particular, doubtless, by the group at Philippi and the good Lydia (2 Cor. xi, 9). [18] Thanks to this he was now at leisure to devote himself again to his preaching and took lodgings near to the synagogue in the house of a Judaizing pagan named Titius Justus. [19] Thus for a time he was able to teach in the synagogue and to make a fair number of conversions, including Crispus the chief ruler. As in other places, the majority of the Jews were not slow to declare themselves against the Gospel, so that Paul had to continue his teaching outside the synagogue and henceforth to make his converts for the most part among the well-disposed pagans. Here his harvest was outstandingly plentiful, insomuch that the Corinth community may well have been, at least in point of numbers, the

157

most considerable of all his personal foundations. For eighteen months [20] his Corinth mission went on (xviii, 11). The Epistles show that, by his own activity and that of his auxiliaries, Christian groups were founded at Cenchrea, the Port of Corinth, and in some of the towns of Achaia (Rom. xvi, 1; 2 Cor. i, 1).

It is hard to say what elements of authentic reminiscence are contained in the story of the Jewish riot which is said to have resulted in Paul being haled before the pro-consul Gallic. As arranged by the editor of Acts the story comes in as a surcharge and outside that of the mission at Corinth. Gallio's proconsulate there must have covered the second half of the year 51, and the first of 52. [21] This date would be priceless for fixing the Pauline chronology, and could always be used provisionally, were it not, unfortunately, that the editor of Acts may have got his information about the Corinthian magistracy of Gallic from other sources than Luke's original document, and exploited the name for his own ends, just as he exploited the name of Sergius Paulus in his story about the mission to Cyprus which in all probability Paul never made (xiii, 4-12). [22] Taking the Gallio incident as it stands, all that is clear in it is the apologetic purpose of the editor. He had risked the conversion of Sergius Paulus, but to make Gallic turn Christian was beyond his editorial courage; so he contented himself with ascribing to him the attitude which in his, the editor's, view the Roman authorities ought to take in regard to the conflict which separated Christianity from Judaism, the attitude, namely, of refusing to be mixed up in a Jewish theological quarrel, of not confirming the excommunication of the Christians by the Jews and of leaving the former to go their own way under the official protection guaranteed to the latter. A doubt is permissible as to' whether Gallic understood the matter quite in that sense.

2. FROM CORINTH TO JERUSALEM

His work m Corinth nearly done, Paul, in company with Aquila and Priscilla, embarked for Ephesus, probably in the fall of the year 52, but immediately left his two companions in that city, being anxious to revisit the communities he had founded in Galatia. [23] Perhaps he had been warned that a great effort was

158

in preparation to detach them from his Gospel. While he was absent on this business there arrived at Ephesus a disciple named Apollos, native of Alexandria, a learned and eloquent man well versed in the Scriptures, who got a hearing in the synagogue. [24] The editor of Acts seems much concerned to prevent Apollos from being regarded as the original founder of Ephesian Christianity which, in point of fact, he seems to have been. For the anecdote about the twelve disciples, found by Paul at Ephesus on his return, [25] who were unacquainted with the baptism of the Spirit must refer if it has any historical reality to converts made by Apollos, here fictitiously presented, along with Apollos himself, as Christians insufficiently taught and in need of further instruction Apollos by Aquila and Priscilla and the twelve disciples by Paul himself. This distinction has probably no greater weight than the similar story by the same editor about the converts made by Philip in Samaria who, though baptized, had not received the Holy Spirit, of which we are invited to think the Jerusalem apostles were the depositaries. [26] To transform Apollos and the twelve disciples into disciples of John converted at Ephesus into disciples of the Christ, as most critics and some mythologues are eager to do, is a somewhat risky procedure. The facts are simply that Apollos, having set the evangelization of Ephesus well on foot, decided to go on to Corinth, and that "the brethren," among whom doubtless were chiefly Aquila and Priscilla, furnished him with a letter of recommendation to the community (xviii, zy). [27] At Corinth his success was as brilliant as at Ephesus and his reputation soon began to outshine that of Paul.

There may be significance in the fact that Apollos, who has had such good success at Ephesus in the absence of Paul, disappears before Paul's arrival there; and the same will happen at Corinth, whence Apollos will again depart before Paul comes back. We may suspect, but without committing ourselves to risky conclusions, that the two teachers thought it wiser not to meet on the field of their missionary activity, and that their friends encouraged them, or at least encouraged Apollos, in that precaution. On returning to Ephesus as soon as Paul was ready to quit that city for Corinth, Apollos appears to have been extremely reserved (i Cor. xvi, 12). He cannot be represented

159

as holding entirely with the Judaizers, but neither was he exactly on the line of Paul from the hellenic-Christian point of view. We should regard him as a teacher less jealous for his own doctrines and apostolic privilege than Paul was, and ready, like Paul and the others, to go wherever he could find an open door. His position may have been similar to that of Barnabas, inclining to hellenism, but in good relations with the old believers in Palestine; in Corinth we shall find his partisans associating with Peter's on lines somewhat opposed to Paul. He was probably urged to go to Corinth by friends he had made in Ephesus, perhaps even by Aquila and Priscilla, who knew the many advantages of the Corinthian field. Moreover, notwithstanding their relations with Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were of the same way of thinking as Apollos in regard to the common Christianity.

In this connexion it should be noted that Silas (Sylvanus), who was still with Paul at Corinth, having borne him company all the way from Antioch, is now no longer at his side. As a companion of Paul he makes no further appearance and tradition puts him later at the side of Peter (i Peter v, 12). It was at Corinth that the two apostolic labourers took their separate ways, perhaps in consequence of some personal coolness. The source of Acts can hardly have failed to leave a record of their separation, which the editor would be very careful to omit. To remain for long the companion of Paul a docile temper was necessary, like that of the good Timothy. Luke was not always at his side; however deeply he may have been attached to his person he does not seem to have been as closely associated with his ministry.

Meanwhile Paul returned to Ephesus and preached in the synagogue for three months on end. But a lively opposition declaring itself and the Jews scoffing openly at the faith he was offering them, he carried his teaching elsewhere, and continued it for two years [28] in a room he had hired from a certain Tyrranus, where he taught daily, thus exchanging, so to say, the pulpit of the preacher for the platform of the public lecturer. From all of which we may infer that a wide currency attended this teaching, to us so extraordinary in its contents and yet indisputably successful to a degree which baffles our reason. The angry opposition

160

it awakened, of which the detailed manifestations escape us, [29] was commensurate with the success. But, as happened in the case of Corinth, the Ephesus mission was fraught with consequence not only for the development of the Ephesian community, which owed its beginnings to Apollos, but for the evangelization of other towns in that region.

Having taught at Ephesus for two years under these conditions, Paul formed a project which, with his past achievements in view, should not strike us as too ambitious, that of carrying the Gospel to Rome, but not until he had gone to Jerusalem with the collection he would first take up from the groups of believers in Macedonia and Achaia, as well as from those he was now forming in Asia. [30] These collections were to some extent imitated from those regularly made among the Jews for the support of the temple worship; and that no doubt is the reason why the editor of Acts is perseveringly silent on the subject. [31]

The true motive which led Paul to go to Jerusalem before making for Rome is not clearly indicated in the Epistles and we can only guess what it was. During his stay at Ephesus Paul had received the news that divisions, not entirely due to the activities of Apollos, were growing apace at Corinth. It seems that believers, or wandering preachers coming from Palestine or Syria to Corinth, as also to Galatia, had given it out to the communities founded by Paul that their apostle was not a genuine apostle and was not recognized as such by the authorized custodians of the Gospel. It is impossible to say what authority these people had to denounce him in this manner, but at least there can be no doubt that they expressed the general uneasiness of the earliest formed communities as to the doings of an apostle whose independence was too pronounced for their liking. [32] It must have been for the purpose of allaying their alarm that Paul found it opportune to fulfil the promise he had made twelve years previously to the elders of Jerusalem (Gal. ii, 10). [33] But it seems likely that the state of affairs at Corinth determined him to keep this promise with the least possible delay and in a manner most likely to defeat the manoeuvres of the enemy.

Reading the Epistle to the Galatians one might think that the extreme Judaizers were trying to compel the uncircumcised believers in Galatia to submit to the Jewish observances. But this

161

conclusion falls to the ground on closer scrutiny of the facts. For the credit of Paul was being undermined in the same way at Corinth as in Galatia without the apostle saying a word to the Corinthians about the legal observances. The Epistle to the Galatians falsely accuses Peter and Barnabas of trying to impose Judaism on the uncircumcised converts at Antioch, and consequently exaggerates the danger of Judaization by which the Galatians were threatened, but about which Paul says nothing to frighten the Corinthians; moreover, while explaining to the Romans the economy of salvation by the sole means of faith in the Christ, his arguments are not in the form of a defence against high authorities who would deny the principle of that faith, but against those who have accused him of failing in respect for the Law of Moses and for the people of the Promise. (Cf. Romans ix-xi.)

His experience at Corinth could not fail to induce in him some degree of moderation. Before quitting Ephesus he had sent out two of his auxiliaries, Timothy and Erastus, to hasten the collections in Macedonia and Achaia. [34] But Timothy had promptly returned to Asia with bad news: the conflict in Corinth between Paul's party and his enemies was going from bad to worse. As he had written to the Corinthians, before sending them Timothy, and had told them that he would come to Corinth himself after visiting Macedonia, he now judged it expedient to go there immediately. He did so, and came off badly. [35] His presence in Corinth, far from causing appeasement, gave rise to a grievous dispute in which he seems to have been humiliated before an unscrupulous opponent (2 Cor. ii, 5-11). [36] Returned to Asia he wrote, in a kind of despair, [37] a severe letter which he described later on as having afflicted the Corinthians for the health of their souls. [38] What proved more useful than the letter was the mediation of Titus who happened to be at Corinth at the very moment when his help was most needed to pacify the Corinthians. [39] There are grounds for thinking that this man, a member of the Antioch community who had formerly taken part in the Jerusalem meeting (Gal. ii, i), had come to Corinth with the original intention of pacifying Paul himself, and that, fortified by his first success, lie then consented to intervene in making peace between the Corinthians and Paul

162

who was now disposed to be more agreeable to the old missionaries and to the Jerusalem community.

Paul meanwhile was at Troas where he founded a new Christian group while he waited for Titus who was returning by way of Macedonia. Becoming impatient he went back to Macedonia himself and met Titus who had made peace with the Corinthians. The immediate result was a new letter, full of joy and consolation, and incompletely reproduced in 2 Cor. i-ii, 13; vii, 6-16. Paul pardons the wrong done him (2 Cor. ii, 5-11). Titus wishes to go a second time to Corinth to complete the collection (2 Cor. viii). The good Titus then disappears from Paul's company, having no doubt more important business on hand elsewhere. We should think of him as an effective and conscientious worker for the peace of Christianity in the time of its birth when it was threatened with schism by the doings of Paul and by his pretensions. Let us remember that Titus did not follow Paul when he went his own way after the conflict at Antioch; we must suppose him to have been on good terms with Peter, Barnabas and the Antioch headquarters.

Returning to Corinth for the last time [40] at the end of the year 55 or 56, [41] Paul spent three months in the city. Then it was that he wrote the Epistle to the Romans [42] that is to say the authentic parts of it, the document on which the canonical Epistle is based. The letter was addressed to a community mainly recruited from uncircumcised pagans with no inclination to Judaism, not at least to the point of themselves accepting circumcision and the Jewish observances. Thus we read (i, 13-15): "I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that often I purposed to come unto you  and hitherto I have been prevented that I might have some fruit among you, as among the other Gentiles. I owe a duty to Greeks and to barbarians, to the wise and to the ignorant. So, to the utmost of my power, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you also." On looking closely into the matter we perceive that Paul, in developing his idea that the Gentiles must share the faith of Abraham in order to share the promise made to that patriarch, was less concerned in confuting the advocates of circumcision than in establishing the authority of his own mission. And he explains why the business of the collection obliges him to go to Jerusalem before coming to Rome: "But

163

now I go to Jerusalem to do a service to the saints. For it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a charitable offering to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem" (xv, 25-26).

From this we gather that Paul regarded his friendly action towards the mother-community in Jerusalem as likely to raise his credit when he arrived in Rome and to ensure the support of the Roman believers for his intended mission to Spain. For to Spain he certainly meant to go. But why to Spain? Because, in his view of the world, Spain represented its uttermost limit, and that the Gospel would have been preached everywhere when he had completed the "circle" of the Mediterranean (xv, 19, 22-23) a somewhat imaginary framework for his ever overflowing activity. Strange as these particulars are to our minds, account of them must be taken by those who would understand the man and his work.

The projects of Paul were not realized according to plan. In the spring of the year 56 (or 57) he embarked at Cenchrea with Macedonia as his first destination. The Jewish plot mentioned in Acts (xx, 3) must be an arbitrary explanation of this detour, the true reason being that the bearers of the collection from the Macedonian communities had not arrived in Corinth, as soon as Paul desired, to set out with him on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he would go himself, then, and gather them together. We have already seen how the editor of Acts is deliberately silent about this collection as likely to upset his apologetic aim by showing, as it would, that from the very first Christianity tended to organize itself outside Judaism. It was not Paul's intention to be himself alone the bearer of the money collected among his Gentile converts for the saints at Jerusalem, partly because he would not have it suspected that he was actuated only by his personal interest, but also because he was eager to bring the representatives of the communities he had founded in person before the elders at Jerusalem. The list of Paul's travelling companions (xx, 4) is made up, for the most part, of the gift-bearers: Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica certainly carried the subscriptions raised in their respective communities. It is surprising that no mention is made of a representative from Philippi; but it may well be that the list is not complete. The two Asiatics, Tychicus and Trophimus,

164

would take the collection from Ephesus; they were not due to come to Corinth and Paul would pick them up at Miletus. Timothy and perhaps Gaius [43] figure as Paul's assistant missionaries, not as representatives of the Galatian communities whose collections were not to be passed through Corinth, but sent directly to Jerusalem as mentioned incidentally in i Cor. xvi, 1. None the less the apostle and his associates constituted a small embassy to Jerusalem from the converted Gentile world.

As a pilgrim under a vow, to be accomplished in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost, [44] Paul, on departing, shaved his head. This vow has perplexed certain critics who regard Paul as no more capable of such a thing than a good Protestant would be of taking a vow to Our Lady. And it is true enough that to find the author of the Law-sin-death theory acting like a fervent nazir is not what we expect. But Paul did not necessarily conform to all the theories his writings impute to him. It is certain that the information comes from the source of Acts, for the editor, either not understanding it, or thinking he might cut it into two, has made it unintelligible. While the real Paul did not impose the Law on his Gentile converts he seems himself to have meticulously observed it, at least in regard to cult practice.

The delegates from Corinth went with him, bearing the contribution from Achaia. But Paul lingered by himself among the groups in Macedonia, gathering the delegates from those regions, and, having stayed at Philippi for the week of Unleavened Bread, only after reaching Troas rejoined a part of the company which had embarked with him at Corinth; [45] there was now a Christian group at Troas to receive the travellers. [46] Thence he went on to Assos by land, his companions going by sea; after which they all kept to the sea route, sailing by short stages along the coast. "Paul," we read, "had decided to pass Ephesus by, so as to avoid losing time in Asia; for he hasted in the hope of reaching Jerusalem in time for the Day of Pentecost" (Acts xx, 16). This motive does not, by itself, explain why Ephesus was avoided, seeing that the company was making a stop at Miletus. The community at Ephesus might have put pressure on Paul to remain among them at a time when a stay there had become dangerous for him. The rendezvous for the delegates from Asia was therefore fixed at Miletus. [47] At

165

Patara a ship was found on the point of sailing for Phoenicia; this carried them to Tyre, [48] thence to Ptolemais, whence Paul proceeded on foot to Caesarea.

Here the whole apostolic company was entertained by Philip. This former companion of Stephen and one of the Seven had established himself at Caesarea immediately after the dispersion of Stephen's group and had gathered round him a small band of believers. A special point is made of informing us that he had four virgin daughters endowed with the gift of prophecy (xxi, 19). The purpose of the original author of Acts in mentioning them was certainly to make them utter a prophecy analogous to that which the later editor thought would be more decently placed in the mouth of a male prophet. All that concerns Agabus is fiction of the editor who has already made use of the same person for another fiction (xi, 27-28). The prophecy was that Paul would fall into enemy hands at Jerusalem. [49] Everybody, his companions no less than the local believers, now implored him to go no further. But Paul replied that he would not renounce his project, even though it meant that he would perish in the Holy City: whereupon they all abandoned themselves to the will of God. Perhaps the scene has been to some extent arranged by the original author, Luke. But the attitude ascribed to Paul is intelligible. At all costs the task to which he had committed himself in preparing his journey to Jerusalem must be carried out to the end. A few of the Caesarea believers added themselves to Paul's company and went on with him to Jerusalem where they had procured the hospitality of Mnason, an "old disciple." Evidently this Mnason, who came from Cyprus, was, like Philip, a "hellenist" and well disposed to Paul. [50] It remained to make contact with the Hebrew believers, on whose account the expedition has been undertaken.

3. FROM JERUSALEM TO ROME

Next day Paul and his retinue were received by James and the collection from the communities was presented to the Jerusalem elders. Omitting all mention of the collection, which was the principal object of the expedition, the editor of Acts confines himself to saying that Paul, after saluting the company, proceeded

166

at once "to set forth in detail all that God had done among the Gentiles by his ministry" (xxi, 15-16). The offering was accepted; Paul's account of his mission was then heard and due satisfaction expressed. But the elders did not disguise from Paul the danger he was running from the Jews who regarded him as no better than the preacher of an apostasy. They then proceeded to advise him, by way of making himself less conspicuous, to join up with four nadirs of their community, who were on the look out for some charitable person to pay their expenses, [51] and to fulfil his vow as one of their company. Such at least seems to be the meaning of the elders' discourse as it was given by Luke in the original document. But the editor of canonical Acts would have it understood [52] that the "believing" Jews who were seeking Paul were Jewish-Christian believers, and that it was to them, Jewish Christians, that Paul must prove, by becoming a nazir, that he was not an apostate to the Law, as he was accused of being. All this, in the given circumstances, is wholly unintelligible and irrelevant. These Jewish Christians were not to be counted by "thousands," as the edited text declares, but were chiefly to be found in the very audience to which Paul had just recounted his triumphs. The members of that audience knew perfectly well why Paul was accused of being an apostate to the Law, but they also knew that in strictness the charge was unfounded, since Paul dispensed with the Law only in the case of Gentile converts. Apart from that, the advice to take on the character of a nazir, as the elders are made by the editor to recommend, would, if adopted, prove nothing by itself; in point of fact Paul's adoption of it was not proclaimed, and his recognition came about by chance. Now, since the normal observance of the vow was for thirty days, [53] the nature of the case makes it morally certain, and our texts confirm the certitude, that Paul took his vow as a nazir on leaving Corinth and timed it to be completed in Jerusalem; he was still under the vow on his arrival and could not do otherwise than join up with persons in the same condition, [54] not for the purpose of showing himself more openly but for the opposite purpose of being less conspicuous, as appears plainly in the course of the narrative. Perhaps the editor was unwilling to represent Paul as one who would hide himself; but his chief concern was to maintain his thesis that Paul and the Christians were the best Jews in the

167

world, Christianity when rightly understood being the true Judaism. [55]

Paul accepts the elders' advice, repairs to the temple with the four nadirs of the Jerusalem community and the day is fixed for the discharge of the vow (xxi, 26). But on that day, the seventh or eighth after Paul's arrival, some Jews from Asia, who have met him on the street with Trophimus of Ephesus, catching sight of him in the holy place, cry out on the profanation, believing or pretending that he has introduced an uncircumcised person into the sacred precincts. The crowd rushes in; Paul is dragged out of the temple and the priests close the gates. Paul would have been killed had not the tribune of the cohort in barracks at the Tower of Antonia received timely notice that a mob was gathering and violence afoot; he hurries to the spot with his soldiers, gets possession of Paul, puts him in chains and asks the cause of the trouble. Getting no clear answer in the tumult he carries Paul off to the fortress and orders him to be put to the question. Whereupon Paul declares himself a Roman citizen and his chains are at once taken off. Meanwhile the Jewish authorities, informed of what has happened, at once put in a claim to the prisoner demanding that, as guilty of an offence against religion, he must be given up to them. [56] Fortified by a vision, [57] and perceiving that his sole chance of safety lies in his status as a Roman citizen, Paul insists on his right to be judged by Roman Law. Without further delay the tribune then despatches him to Caesarea and tells his accusers to state their case before the procurator Felix. [58]

This simple and well co-ordinated story has been dismembered by the editorial fictions of canonical Acts. In the story of Paul's arrest by the Roman soldiery, and before they carry him to the Tower of Antonia, a gross interpolation, easily recognizable as such, [59] has been introduced. It represents him, when half beaten to death by the blows he had received, as capable of delivering on the spot a long speech for the benefit of the tribune and the mob, in which he expounds his merits as a faithful Jew and tells the whole story of his conversion and calling to the Gentiles (xxi, 37-xxii, 22) a fine opportunity to represent the Jews, on hearing the latter proposition, as lifting up their voices in protest against the conversion of the pagans (xxii, 22)! From what follows our

168

interpolator would lead us to infer that Paul disclosed his status as a Roman citizen [60] only in order to escape the torture; in fact the legal conditions of the affair are thrown into confusion by any device that occurs to him, and always for the purpose of closing our eyes to the fact that Paul's manoeuvres were consciously aimed from the first at escaping from the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim, which was bringing the charge against him. He forgets to say that the Sanhedrim claimed to judge Paul, and that Paul rejected its right to judge him, not for having profaned the Temple, but as a cause of trouble in the synagogues outside Palestine. In contrast to this the editor has imagined a sitting of the Sanhedrim convoked by the tribune to get information about Paul, which ends in nothing because the Pharisees and Sadducees fall to quarrelling about the resurrection; [61] in all of which he is aiming to show that orthodox Judaism and Christianity agree in principle about the survival of the dead. But that was not the question at issue. Finally we are given to understand that Paul was transferred to Caesarea merely to put him out of range of Jewish plots on his life. At this point the editor gives the rein to his imagination and creates for Paul an unexpected nephew whose revelations induce the Tribune to despatch Paul to Caesarea. [62] The editor even goes the length of inventing an official report from the tribune Lysias to the procurator Felix containing cautious testimony to Paul's innocence. [63] To avow the simple reality of the facts would not have served the editorial purpose. He would say nothing about the Sanhedrim claiming the right to judge Paul, because, by doing so, he would have been led to admitting that Paul had denied the right of a Jewish tribunal to judge him, and that this was the reason why the tribune had referred the case to the procurator and sent Paul to Caesarea, admissions he was not willing to make. The plain fact is that Paul escaped from the clutches of the Jewish authorities only by establishing his Roman citizenship; but, for all that, he was not yet saved.

Arrived before the procurator Felix, Paul undergoes a simple interrogation as to his identity and is then remanded under guard to Herod's pretorium pending the presentation of the Sanhedrim's petition. [64] When this has been done, Felix, who was well informed about the Christian sect, adjourns the final solution of the

169

affair and keeps Paul in custody, leaving him free to see his friends and receive their ministrations. [65]

As a political measure the adjournment had the double advantage of keeping the accused agitator quiet for the time being and of not handing over to the Sanhedrim a Roman citizen whom the procurator had no right to abandon to its jurisdiction. It is conceivable, moreover, that the question of the legitimacy of the Christian propaganda from the Jewish point of view was not clear to the first Roman magistrate called to adjudicate in the matter, even though he understood his duty no more rigorously than Felix is said to have understood his. And there was yet another question of equal if not greater import, of which Paul himself does not seem to have thought, but demanding urgent consideration. Was not this propaganda, which the Jews declared to be an infraction of the traditional law of their religion, equally condemned by the laws and fundamental principles of the Roman Empire?

It is a common practice with the editor of Acts to amplify his story by repeating an incident twice over. When, therefore, we find the judicial action taken by the Sanhedrim before Felix repeated before Festus who succeeded him as procurator, we might suspect, in view of the editor's habits that we have here another instance of his duplications. But, in the present case, the duplication seems to be only partial, the change of procurator [66] coming from the source document and the editor merely antedating to the time of Felix the fuller debate under Festus. The question at issue, which Felix had decided to adjourn, was a question of jurisdiction; this, when referred to him, Festus considered his duty required him to decide in favour of the Sanhedrim. Paul's appeal to the tribunal of the Emperor was determined by that decision, with the result that the root question, that of Paul's culpability, though touched upon during the debate on competence, was not directly examined and adjudicated till the accused arrived in Rome. Thus we may conclude that the adjournment by Felix, the change of procurator at the end of two years and the measures taken for the custody of the prisoner in the interval come from the source. But the mise-en-scene of the judicial enquiry before Felix, the discourse of the accuser's advocate and Paul's defence are all in the editor's manner,

170

though a few of the details he may very well have picked out from the source document.

Felix became procurator of Judea in the year 52. The exact date of his recall in uncertain, but not earlier than 55 and, probably, not later than 58. Festus remained procurator till his death in 61. It is not surprising that Felix, who had been some years in office, was tolerably well informed about the Christian movement, at least as the Jews understood it; [67] in contrast to Festus who found the case of Paul brought before him in court at the very beginning of his magistracy. But this explanation of the adjournment does not, in the source document, imply the personal interest in the case which our canonical text attributes to Felix. Luke's object was rather to indicate the political motive of the delay, which lay in the difficulty of the case and the danger of a hasty solution. The private interviews with Paul of Felix and his wife Drusilla, daughter of Agrippa I, are editorial fiction, doubling the grand scene which the editor will construct later on, in which great persons, Agrippa II and his Queen Berenice, brother and sister of Drusilla, make their appearance on the stage. From what we know of the private characters of Felix and Drusilla, their qualifications as Paul's catechumens were of mediocre promise. [68]

Paul had been kept prisoner at Caesarea for two years (probably 56-58) when Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Hardly was Festus installed when the Sanhedrim, judging the occasion opportune for taking up the case again, renewed its plea in his court. Festus, no doubt, was unwilling to begin his tenure of office by disobliging the subjects of his administration; he yielded to the demand and soon afterwards received the delegates of Jewish authority in his official residence at Caesarea. Having heard a statement of the case, he declared himself incompetent to deal with it, on the ground that the matter in dispute was distinctly of a religious nature and of interest only to Jews; he would therefore remit the case to the judgment of the Sanhedrim. But Paul, as a Roman citizen, was not without means of escape from a decision which would deliver him to judges from whom he knew what to expect. Using his right of appeal, he invoked the jurisdiction of the emperor and demanded trial by Caesar. The appeal, legally formulated, was granted. Festus, after conferring with his

171

Council, gave his verdict: "thou hast appealed to Caesar; to Caesar thou shalt go" (xxv, 1-12).

It may be that the Sanhedrim had calculated that Paul would not dare formally to repudiate its jurisdiction, since, in so doing, he would place himself outside Judaism. Paul, on his side, having staked his hopes on Roman justice, had probably flattered himself that the procurator would pronounce the petition of the Sanhedrim unfounded, and order his discharge; he was a Roman citizen and his conduct was in keeping with Roman law. But the previous attitude of Felix must have caused him to reflect, and perhaps suggested to him the idea of having recourse, if the need should arise, to the higher jurisdiction that every citizen could claim. It is even possible that Festus, on deciding to send the case back to the Sanhedrim, as one with which he was incompetent to deal, himself reminded the prisoner of his right of appeal to Caesar. In any case, Paul, when the decisive moment came, seems to have had no hesitation. The choice before him being only between the sentence of death which the Sanhedrim had in store for him and the chance of a discharge offered by appealing to Caesar, he chose the Emperor's tribunal. Such was the door, so to speak, to which the Christian, escaping from Judaism, ran for safety. Did Paul indulge in illusions as to what the attitude of the imperial tribunal would be? We cannot say. Did he think that Caesar in Rome would be less accessible to Jewish influence and less inclined to consider the interests of Judaism than his procurator in Palestine? Did he even hope that Caesar, by giving him his liberty, would recognize the legality, or rather the permissibility of the Christian propaganda? Perhaps. But the contrary was to happen, insomuch that one might almost accuse the apostle of some imprudence in bringing the cause of Christianity in his own person before Caesar. But it may well be that it was but the faintest glimmer of hope that decided him to do what he did. His appeal would take him to Rome, and, if Caesar were pleased to declare him innocent, the years of his captivity would not have been wasted time.

The essential features of the proceedings are preserved in canonical Acts. But there are a few retouches and interested additions. The preliminary petition of the Sanhedrim is falsely presented as a request for a favour, and the editor has added, on

172

his own responsibility, a plot of the Jews to kill Paul before the judgment asked for had been delivered (xxv, 3). The judicial inquiry is sketched from the source, but probably shortened, the arguments having been partly anticipated, as we have seen, in xxiv, 1-21. The decision of Festus to refer the case to the Sanhedrim which resulted in Paul appealing to Caesar is turned into a benevolent proposition, designed to oblige the Jews by the procurator, who asks Paul if he is "willing" to be judged by him at Jerusalem [69] a false perspective of the case in which it is implied that the procurator would hold the proceedings in the presence of the Sanhedrim, whose sentence of death would be ratified by him before execution. Paul's appeal to Caesar is intelligible only on the assumption that Festus recognized the competence of the Sanhedrim to deal with the main issue; this it was that left Paul with no alternative but an appeal to Caesar. The terms of the appeal and the final sentence of Festus cannot be otherwise explained. But the editor has left his mark in what he makes Paul say about Festus being persuaded of his innocence and wanting to make his person a "present" to the Jews. [70]

The meeting of Festus with Agrippa II and the pomp and ceremony of the conference arranged for the satisfaction of this Jewish kinglet are mere editorial padding intended to provide a setting for a new speech by Paul in his own defence and a new testimony to his innocence in which the Herodian prince backs up the Roman procurator. Superficially at least this concoction is better balanced than many of the others and shows that the editor spared no pains in its composition; Paul's speech for example being constructed in the amphigoric style deemed proper in addressing royal personages. None the less the fiction taken as a whole is founded on a ludicrous improbability, the supposition, namely, that Festus had nothing to put into the report which he was bound to send to Rome along with the prisoner and hoped to get matter for the report after Paul's examination before Agrippa (xxv, 25-27). [71] It is clear that the procurator, on deciding to send Paul back to the Sanhedrim, judged that there was a real case for the Jewish tribunal and that, on the appeal intervening, it was no longer for him to furnish an account of the matter at issue, this being sufficiently furnished by the complaint of the Sanhedrim

173

annexed to his report. But, in making Agrippa declare (xxvi, 31) that Paul would have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar, [72] the editor gives us a clear hint that Caesar in the upshot did not set him at liberty, and that he was the victim of judicial error, if not of gross injustice.

4. IMPRISONMENT AND DEATH

A few days after the session of the court into which Paul had flung his appeal to Caesar, he was remitted with other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the cohort Augusta, for conduct into Italy. They embarked at Caesarea in a ship of Adramyttium which made sail for the coast of Asia; Luke was with Paul; [73] Aristarchus of Thessalonica being also of the company. The Adramyttium ship not being a government vessel the companions of Paul [74] would be entered as passengers, unless they had been granted permission to go with him as his servants. Next day the ship made Sidon where Julius allowed Paul to visit the brethren in the town. Thence, after a trying voyage, they arrived at Myra in Lycia where the centurion transhipped his charges to an Alexandrian vessel about to sail for Italy. But navigation became more and more difficult, and the ship, in manoeuvring to winter in Crete, at the port of Phoenix, was caught by a tempest and buffeted about the Mediterranean for fourteen days, till finally it struck a rock near the island of Malta, whence the shipwrecked company saved themselves by swimming, or on rafts hastily put together. [75]

The inhabitants of the island treated them with great humanity, and the head man of the island, Publius by name, sheltered them for three days. In Malta they were forced to remain for three months, until the return of weather favourable for navigation. The shipwreck took place towards the end of November and the departure from Malta the following March. The story of Paul bitten by a viper and receiving no hurt, and the cures operated by him on the sick of the island are within the range of possibility, but not beyond the editor's power of invention. [76]

Julius and his prisoners left Malta in another ship of Alexandria bearing the sign of the Dioscuri; three days were spent at Syracuse, one at Rhegium; after another day's sailing, anchor was

174

dropped at Puteoli and the perilous voyage was ended.. Soon they were in Rome.

The procession of Christians from Rome coming out to meet the prisoner at Appii Forum is obviously an insertion by the editor; the Forum was a day's journey from Rome in the Appian Way, and to give the captive apostle a triumphal reception at that place would have been neither easy nor well timed. So far as our information goes, the believers in Rome do not seem to have rallied round Paul during his captivity, which explains why the editor shows them so eager to meet him. The stay among the brethren at Puteoli (xxviii, 14) which ends the story of the journey, prepares the way for a display of devotion by the Christians of Rome.

The reality was more sombre. Arrived in Rome the prisoner was remitted by the centurion to the prefect of the pretorium. This person, Burrus, who held the post till the year 62, it must have been who authorized Paul, as Acts relate, [77] to take a lodging in the city, where he was to remain, with a soldier charged to guard him, until the arrival of delegates from the Sanhedrim to lay the charge against him. These conditions, we are told, continued for two years, Paul enjoying a relative liberty and unhindered in preaching his Gospel to those who came to visit him.

It is of set purpose that the editor of Acts allows no word to pass of what followed. Had the trial of Paul ended in acquittal, most assuredly he would have put it on record. The doubled scene of interviews between Paul and the Jews (xxviii, 17-28), enhanced by the final gloss [78] on the liberty given to Paul for private preaching, fictitious if anything is, constitutes the conclusion of the Book of Acts as our editor would have it. In that conclusion he gives a symbolic summary of the apologetic thesis which dominates his editing of the book:

Christianity is the true Judaism, now represented by the Gentiles, because it has been rejected by the blinded Jews, and is entitled to that liberty of preaching which was not refused even to Paul in his captivity. An ideal and a theory!

One fails to see by what means or by what authority Paul, just arrived as a prisoner in Rome, was able to gather around him the leading persons of the Jewish community; and the motive of their eagerness to satisfy him is equally obscure. The speech

175

attributed to Paul (xxviii, 17-20) is intended to show that his appeal to Caesar must not be construed as a repudiation of Judaism. The assertion which concludes it, "for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain," in which the apostle of the Gentiles poses as the authentic representative of the Jewish faith, is the very thesis of the editor, but a thesis which Paul himself would have had some difficulty in upholding as an account of the true meaning of his apostleship. The conclusion of the second interview (xxviii, 23-28) [79] gets lost in allegorical symbolism. The editor, employing the same methods as for the fictitious session of the Sanhedrim before Lysias, represents the Jews as divided on the value of the Christian thesis, without the better disposed adhering to it more closely than the most determined of its adversaries: whereupon Paul, for the edification of posterity, hurls a text of Isaiah [80] at the wrangling group, the classical text employed in the New Testament for this purpose, in which the Eternal passes judgment on his hardened people. Israel having defaulted, the turn of the Gentiles has now come! The artifice of these stage-effects is apparent from the way in which Paul is given the air of announcing, for the first time, the rejection of the Jews for their hardness of heart; but it was important to repeat once more, as the last word, how the conversion of the pagans had directly resulted from Jewish incredulity (xxviii, 28). Thus the reader could not possibly mistake the moral of everything the canonical Book of Acts has told him. In default of believing Jews the bearers of the Gospel must needs carry it to pagans: but the believing pagans, in virtue of their religious profession, have won the right to be counted the heirs of the promise and the only real Jews.

The interests of history would be better served by the smallest authentic information about the issue of Paul's trial. It is certain that some time elapsed before a decision was reached, and probable that the verdict when it came was a sentence of death for the apostle and that his execution followed. To know the grounds on which the judgment was based, which we can only guess, would be knowledge of immense value to the historian. As to the delay of the trial, we may suppose that the Jewish authorities were in no hurry to get on with the prosecution and imperial justice no more hurried in terminating an affair of which, at first, it did not grasp the significance, taking it merely for a quarrel

176

among the Jews. But this only makes us the more curious to know why, at some given moment, the case was reopened and settled. This new and final phase occurred, no doubt, at the end of the two years mentioned in Acts. If that brings us to the year 64, it follows that the occasion for suddenly taking up the trial of Paul would be that which set on foot the persecution of the Christians in Rome after the burning of the city.

But this plausible view does not seem the most probable. The somewhat abrupt conclusion of Acts has a didactic purpose: the book ends where it ought to end to serve the intentions of the editor who has foreshadowed a tragic close to the trial, but is unwilling to disclose the precise nature of the end because, by so doing, he would ruin his apologetics, while his object would be better attained by insinuating that Paul was innocent of the charge on which he was condemned, whatever that charge might be. It has been maintained by some critics, whose procedure would certainly be somewhat naive were it not for the interested motives that often prompt it, that Paul was freed from the first accusation before the imperial tribunal, that he resumed his apostolic labours for some time afterwards, even went to Spain as he intended, [81] or, if not, returned to the East although Acts gives us clearly to understand that he never returned and finally came back to Rome and was put to death with Peter in 64. All of which is legend and conjecture. The two apostles were not destined to die together, but a later tradition brought them together in death, after they were dead, by way of honouring them as founders of a church which neither of them had founded, but whose prestige was enhanced by the legend of such founders. It is more probable that Paul died first, say in the year 62, and that Peter, if he died in Rome, according to an obscure tradition, not contradicted by any ancient evidence, was swept away in what is called the Neronic persecution.

The so-called Epistles of the Captivity, if written from Rome, as they probably were, contain little precise information about the two years which were beyond a doubt the last of Paul's life. Almost nothing is to be derived from the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, except that Paul during the first part of his detention in Rome was full of confidence in the future: he tells Philemon to prepare a lodging for him because he is hoping soon

177

to return to his friends. Timothy is with him acting as his scribe; Philippians (i, 1) assign him the same position. Aristarchus and Luke ("the dear physician") are there also. Tychicus who had probably been with him since his journey to Jerusalem with the collection, will carry his letter to the Colossians and visit them on his behalf. Mark, who figures in tradition as the interpreter of Peter, here turns up in the retinue of Paul: a preaching tour may soon bring him to Colossi and the brethren there are bidden to give warm welcome to this "cousin of Barnabas." The information is scanty and perhaps fragile.

In Philippians the outlook to the future is more sombre. While, on the one hand, he can say that his case has attracted much attention "throughout the pretorium" that is, the imperial tribunal and outside it, and that the Gospel has had some profit thereby; while, at the end of the Epistle, he seems proud to send to the faithful at Philippi salutations from "the brethren who are of Caesar's household"; while he affirms that his imprisonment "has given many of the brethren confidence in Christ," encouraging them by his presence, though a prisoner, to speak the Word without fear yet, after all this, he has to add that other propagandists are equally zealous to stir up ill will and to increase his afflictions. Resignation touched with melancholy. Here we find him still hoping for his liberty but facing the possibility of his death. In praising Timothy, whom he will send to Philippi as soon as he can, he writes as one who feels himself all alone (ii, 19-23). Of the Roman community he says nothing. If his trial ends well he will himself come to Philippi. So he thinks no more of going to Spain; nor will he stay in this Rome, so long the object of his dreams; to the East he will return though, if we may trust the Epistle to the Romans, [82] there was no place left there to which he could carry his message (Rom. xv, 19, 23-24).

That the presence of Paul in Rome gave rise to propagandist effort in the two directions he indicates, and that the effort was crowned with success, should cause no astonishment: it explains why the number of victims in the Neronic persecution was so large. Whether Peter was among those whom he discreetly accuses of adding to his afflictions we can only conjecture. The Christian world was then a small one, but the whole of it had an interest in Paul's case. Nothing is more natural than that

178

 agents of the Gospel, considerable in number and weighty in influence, should be found active in promoting it at the time, and in the place where the least clairvoyant could see that its fortunes would be determined. That these gospellers were not all eager to come into close relations with Paul is also, given the quarrels of the past and the distress of the present, what we might expect. Needless to say the groups of believers recruited under the two types of apostleship did not constitute a single, homogeneous and centralized community. They were distinct fraternities, carrying the same label and sharing approximately the same hope. We cannot say whether the persecution, which made no distinction between the two, had the effect of uniting what remained of them or whether unity came little by little, until completely achieved at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second.

Had Paul's case been examined in Palestine its Jewish interest would have been apparent and, had the Sanhedrim been judge, what was at stake quickly understood. Paul would have been condemned as an adversary of the Law, as a debaucher of faithful Jews, as a maker of false proselytes, as the founder of a pretended Jewish sect whose root principle, the abrogation of Law, at least in all that concerned the admission of the uncircumcised and the insignificance of Law for salvation, was the very negation of Judaism. It was in these terms that the charge was brought to Rome. That it remained in this form to the end is not certain, nor even probable. The condemnation may have been obtained by a Jewish intrigue which brought into play some powerful influence at the imperial court. But it is also possible, in view of the probable date of the verdict, that the case was examined under all the rules of procedure and that the attention of the judge had been called to the true character of Christianity. In that case the question to be decided by the court would be the legality of the Christian propaganda, as the Epistle to the Philippians seems to say (i, 16), a question brought into the law courts for the first time in the trial of Paul; and it would be upon that propaganda, represented in the person of its great apostle, that sentence of death was pronounced by a Roman judge. Continuing the hypothesis, the court would understand, or at least glimpse the fact, that the new sect was not to be

179

confounded with Judaism, since it claimed to have its place outside Jewish nationality and tradition, and that it embodied only the intolerance of the Jews, now converted into universal propaganda against the established cults and so against the Roman empire which recognized them all as more or less its own. Thus the Roman government, here acting with full knowledge of what it was about, would have declared the Christian propaganda illegal in the highest degree, and Paul by appealing to Caesar in Rome, would have brought about the official denunciation of the Christian religion in that city.

But the main interest of his career is to be sought elsewhere. Thanks to the meagre information preserved for us in the Book of Acts and completed by authentic elements in the Epistles, we are able to form some idea of the way Christianity spread itself between the years 30 and 60, from the East to the West; we see it rejected at its birth by Judaism, and yet making headway everywhere by the help of Judaism, in spite of Judaism and at the expense of Judaism. We may think of it as a train of powder winding into every part of the Roman empire where Judaism had found a footing. Most assuredly the career of Paul is a remarkable sample of this astonishing propaganda. But no more than a sample, and very far from epitomizing or representing the whole movement. Official Judaism, which supported the Sadducees side by side with the Pharisees, and tolerated the Essenes, repudiated Christianity, with violence and from the very first, as treason, as apostasy. It did so because the Christians in claiming Jesus as the Lord Christ and making him an object of worship, with salvation depending on faith in Jesus alone, insulted the Law and destroyed it. Of this new religion Paul was one of the initiators but by no means the only one, nor the first. The Christian propaganda had other agents, some known to us and many more unknown, who laboured in the pagan world under the same conditions as Paul, undeterred by the minor differences among them, all of them more than suspect in the eyes of Judaism, all destined to speedy condemnation by the imperial authority of Rome.

 


Return to the Table of Contents of Alfred Loisy's The Birth of the Christian Religion

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!
MLA
Style

Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-hoole.html>.