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The Origins of the New Testament

Chapter VIII


WE have already seen how the epistolary method of instruction was employed in the early times of Christianity as a complement to the catechesis properly so called. This service was rendered in various ways; sometimes by genuinely authentic letters; sometimes by recourse to literary fiction, which might consist in amplifying the apostolic letters by interpolations, as happened to certain letters of Paul, or in publishing apocryphal letters under apostolic names, as in the case of those put out under the names of Peter, John, James and Jude, as well as of some ascribed to Paul. These letters, whether authentic or not, are samples of Christian teaching in the earliest times. As we follow the evolution of the catechesis we shall find that this epistolary literature reveals three stages, or forms, of its teaching. At its point of departure it is eschatological, concerned, that is, with the coming Kingdom; at the second stage it becomes penetrated by gnosis and begins introducing gnostic themes into both the eschatological and the evangelical teaching; finally, when gnosticism has got out of hand and is producing a flood of heresies, it turns against them, becomes anti-gnostic, and gives the catechesis a turn in that direction.


When Paul set out as an independent missionary, about the year 44-45, he went about the world founding church after church, without fixing his abode anywhere, except when imprisonment immobilized him. In such conditions epistolary relations were the only means by which control could be maintained between the churches and their founder; without them these newly formed communities would have run the risk of dissolution. External difficulties attended the propaganda and internal difficulties were almost inevitable; in addition to which the very peculiar situation of Paul in regard to the other missionaries gave rise to a campaign of abuse against which he had to defend himself. It is a probability as near as possible to certainty that not


all his writings have come down to us, and the same is true of the letters written under somewhat different conditions by the other missionaries, by Barnabas for example, which are irrecoverably lost. The surviving letters and notes of Paul are not correspondence of the ordinary kind; they are all concerned more or less with his apostolic labours, and their interest for us lies precisely in that.

I Thessalonians

The oldest of these letters subsists in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians. [1] The Christian group at Thessalonica had been recruited by Paul, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, in 48-49, and the letter was written from Corinth about 50-51. It is addressed in the name of Paul and his two auxiliaries "to the community of Thessalonica (which is) in God and the Lord Jesus Christ (i, 1)." But the writer, or dictator, of the letter is evidently Paul himself. The believing group forms a spiritual unity, an ecclesia, in God and in Christ. The beginning of the letter (i, 2-10) contains praises which may seem exaggerated, but are really encouragement. The point to be retained is the important indication it gives of the object of the Christian catechesis at this stage:

People tell of you what a reception you gave us, and how you were converted from idols to God, to serve the God who is living and true, and to await the coming from heaven of his Son, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who saves us from the approaching wrath.

Paul seems to have wished greatly to revisit his converts that he might assure himself of their perseverance; but he can do no more than send Timothy from Athens. Timothy on returning finds him at Corinth and gives a most favourable report on his mission, at which Paul is greatly consoled; so let them continue to advance on the good way (ii, 17-iii, 2a, 5b-13). The passage ends thus:

The Lord make you to grow and abound in love among yourselves and towards all men, as ours towards you, to strengthen your hearts, (rendering them) irreproachable in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

[1] For a critical analysis of this document see our Remarques sur la litterature epistolaire du Nouveau Testament (1935), Pp. 85-89.


The dominating feature in the apostle's outlook is, clearly, the Coming. This it is which gives added urgency to the moral precepts, first and foremost to those concerned with conjugal chastity (iv, 2-8) :

For you know what teaching we gave you in the Lord Jesus; that you abstain from unchastity: that each of you learns to possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour, not with passionate lust, like Gentiles who know not God (Psalm lxxix, 6); not to deceive his brother nor do him injury in his own affair, because the Lord is the avenger of all that, as we told you and proved before ... It follows that he who pays no heed to this, it is not to man he pays no heed, but to God.

This has nothing to do with commercial relations; "his own vessel" is his wife, and the affair by which he may receive injury is adultery. This advice on sexual morality, which touches the heart of the existing situation, should be compared with the studied casuistry of i Corinthians vii, where the same matter is dealt with. The same may be said of the counsels that follow (iv, 9-12) on the practice of fraternal love to all men, with this application:

Make it a point of honour to lead quiet lives, to do manual work, as we advised you to do, and to deal honourably with those outside, that you may be dependent on nobody. The Great Event will come as a surprise for everybody, but those who conform to these counsels have nothing to be afraid of. Till the Coming there will be no time for sitting with arms crossed, gazing at the sky (iv, 11, 12; v, 2, 4,6).


The letters to the Corinthians are, in one respect, of less importance to our present inquiry; they deal less with the Christian catechesis and more with the divisions that arose in the community, the difficulties Paul had to face and the means he took to overcome them. The first letter, written about the year 55, when Paul was on the point of leaving Ephesus, was occasioned by divisions that had recently broken out and which the apostle believed he could allay by his message and by sending Timothy. In the letter he entitles himself as "called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God," perhaps because his standing as an apostle was being challenged. In writing to Thessa-


lonica he had claimed no title. The faithful at Corinth, like those at Thessalonica are "waiting for the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, for his second coming in his "day" — the day when the Kingdom of God will appear. But, while there is agreement in this matter, there are divisions in another:

I beseech you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all make the same profession, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be all united in the same feeling and the same thinking. For it has been reported to me of you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are disputes among you. I mean this: one of you says "I am Paul's man"; another, "I am for Apollos"; another, "I am for Cephas." Is Christ then divided? was it Paul who was crucified for you? or was Paul the name in which you were baptized?

We have already seen in what circumstances Apollos won his position among the Corinthians (supra, p. 185). If there was also a party for Cephas, it had not been created by Peter's presence in Corinth, but by people who had doubtless come from Syria with the story that the only genuine apostles were those of the Jerusalem communion. Paul has sent Timothy to Corinth to restore order. Moreover he will soon come himself and, if need be, will apply the rod to those who think too highly of themselves (iv, 17-21). He has heard of a horrible scandal; there is among them a man "living with his father's wife; let this incestuous person be expelled from the community" (v, 1-2, 6-70). As to the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, they must arrange the matter as Paul has already done in Galatia, so that he may find the money ready when he arrives from Macedonia, and if the amount is important he will take their delegates with him to Jerusalem after himself spending some time among them (xvi, 1-9).

In the Second to Corinthians two short letters are embedded which concern this collection, both lodged in the very middle of the Epistle, and it may be said in passing that they are enough to prove it a relatively late compilation; for, plainly, they were not written at the same time. Moreover each letter has its own subject clearly denned and was probably at first written without connection with any other message; finally, the place they occupy shows that they were originally attached to the group of chapters i-vii and later, in order to simplify the transcriber’s


work and get more reading substance, the group x-xiii was attached to the group i-ix, the two being apparently addressed to the same destination. The older of the letters (ix) has inadvertently been placed second.

In the older letter Paul encourages the Corinthians by saying that he has held them up as a model to the Macedonians. "In experiencing this service of yours" the saints at Jerusalem "will praise God for the submission which led you to confess the Gospel of the Christ and for the generosity of your contribution to them and to all" (ix, 13). The collection does, in fact, prove that a real fraternity was established between these young Christian communities and, further, that the "saints" of the mother-church were held by them in respect. The second letter (viii, omitting the mystic gloss of verse 9) states that the collection in Macedonia is now completed and that the Macedonians have shown themselves generous givers; let the Corinthians, then, whose goodwill was expressed when the affair began, lose no time in giving a fitting completion to this fraternal and beneficent work, and let them respond to the efforts of Titus and of the other brethren who are gone with him to Corinth to see the business through.

Titus had first visited Corinth as peacemaker to the quarrelsome community and been successful. "You won his heart," wrote Paul (vii, 15) in a letter earlier than this second note about the collection "and the more completely when he called to mind how teachable you all were, and how you received him with fear and trembling." The fact of the matter is that Titus played the role of mediator, not only between Paul and the Corinthians, but also between Paul and the Jerusalem elders, and that his interest in the collection for their necessities was not unconnected with his mediating work in regard to them.

Perhaps a reminder will here be in place as to who these "saints" were and how it came to pass that they were poor. They were the men of the primitive faith, the original believers, the dauntless heroes of the Great Hope, abiding in Jerusalem and there expecting the coming of the Christ on the clouds with the Kingdom of God in his train. They were poor because they were wholly preoccupied in expectation, in 'waiting and waiting always. Paul himself would never have thought of bidding them,


as he wrote to the Thessalonians, to work for their living and be a charge to nobody.

The First to the Corinthians has told us that there were divisions in the community. Some elements of a second letter, sad and severe in tone, written after Paul had made an attempt at Corinth to allay the mischief, which had only further inflamed it, are preserved in chapters x-xiii of our Second Epistle (x, 1a, c, 2a, 9-11): [1]

I, Paul, who am humble when present with you, am bold when away from you, beg you that when I come I may not have to be bold, that I may not seem to be frightening you with letters. For his letters, they say, are severe and strong, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech of no account. Let him who says that, ponder thus: that as I speak in my letters when absent, so I will act when I come to you.

Paul goes on to defend himself against lack of sincerity in his dealings with the Corinthians. The only fault they could find with him is that of having asked them for nothing and of living among them on help sent him from Macedonia: this charge, if charge it be, he will continue to incur (xi, 6b-12a; xii, 13-15). The reproach of trickery recurs further on (xii, 16) but his reply to it has been suppressed (we need not ask why) and replaced by a reference to the collection (17-18). The author of the substitution, to whom the whole completion is also due, here makes Paul refer to what is written in our chapter ix, without perceiving that he commits an anachronism, the present letter being earlier than that which deals with the mission of Titus. Paul is now ready to come to Corinth for the third time, but fears that he will find there the same controversies and quarrels as before, and that he will have to groan over many who have been sinning of late and have not repented in the least of the unchastity, shamelessness and debauchery they have engaged in (evidently something quite different from the case of incest referred to in the first letter). He repeats that when he comes he will not mince matters, and warns his correspondents of what they may expect, in the hope that it will save him from having to go to extremes (xii, 19-xiii, 2, 10a). Taken realistically this evidence helps us to understand the moral situation, which seems to have improved later, though

[1] See Remarques, 54-57.


much less through Paul's message than by the subsequent intervention of Titus.

The letter of reconciliation, the third written by Paul to the Corinthians, may be extracted from the first bloc of the compilation (i-vii). It was written in the name of Paul and Timothy (i, 1-2). The apostle begins by describing the extreme despondency he has experienced in Asia — impossible for us to say whether it was due to some external peril or to the grief which had overwhelmed him at the thought of the condition in which he had found and left the Corinth group. But God had been pleased to deliver him from that affliction. If he has not kept the promise he made to the Corinthians to visit them again, the reason is that he was unwilling to be twice among them in a state of distress; now he is pleased with what they have decided about the man who had offended; but he waited impatiently at Troas for the return of Titus whom he had sent to Corinth on his behalf; passing through Macedonia he met Titus who told him the happy result of his mission, the sorrow of the Corinthians and their zeal for their apostle. 'T rejoice," he concludes, "that in all things I can rely on you." The message is deeply impressive, though many of its details are dark to us (i, 8-11, 15-20, 23; ii, 1-13; vii, 6-16). But at least it enables us to recognize the authentic accent of Paul when it is his own voice that speaks to us. But if we are helped thereby to understand the personality of the catechist, we have to look elsewhere for the light on his catechism.


On this point, the Epistle to the Galatians, of which the first version goes back to 55-56, will give us a little information. At least we may learn from it something of Paul's method in defending his doctrine and practice against the Judaizing emissaries who had more or less got the upper hand among his Galatian converts. He broaches the matter as follows (i, 6-7):

I am astonished that you so quickly desert him who called you by grace, for another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all; I refer to the people who are upsetting you and trying to overthrow the Gospel of the Christ.

The people to whom he refers retain the promise of the Kingdom and profess that Jesus is the Christ, but they disturb the


conscience of the believers by changing the real conditions under which the promise of the Kingdom was given. And here are the conditions (iii, 6-9, 11, 14a, 15-18, 19b):

Abraham believed in God, and that was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis xv, 6). Understand, then, that men of faith are the very sons of Abraham. Scripture, foreseeing that God would deem the Gentiles righteous in virtue of their faith, predicted it to Abraham: In thee shall all the Gentiles be blessed (Genesis xviii, 18). So then, men of faith are blessed along with faithful Abraham [1] [   ]. That no man is deemed righteous before God by the Law is evident, since the righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk ii, 4). Now the Law is not based on faith, but who does that, by that shall he live (Leviticus xviii, 5) [   ] so that the blessing comes at last to the Gentiles. But then, I speak in terms of human affairs: it is ever the rule that nobody treats a man's will as of no account or makes additions to it. Now it was to Abraham that the promises were made and to his posterity. God did not say to posterities in the plural, but to his posterity (Genesis xii, 7; xxii, 18) which is the Christ. Now I say this: a disposition previously ratified by God cannot be invalidated by the Law which came four hundred years later, so as to cancel the promise. For if the heritage depend on the Law it ceases to depend on the promise. Now it was in promise that God made a gift of the heritage to Abraham, until the posterity should arrive which the promise was concerned with[   ]. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. But if you are in Christ then are you the posterity of Abraham, heirs in virtue of the promise.

After recalling the circumstances in which he had evangelized the Galatians and saying how much he wished he were with them to enlighten them (iv, 11-20), he resumes his theme as follows (iv, 21-23, 28-31):

Tell me, you that want to be under the Law, pay you no attention to the Law? For it is written (Genesis xvi, 15; xxi, 2, 9) that Abraham had two sons, one by a bond and the other by a free woman; but the son of the bond was born according to the flesh, but the son of the free in virtue of the promise [   ]. Now you, brethren are, like Isaac, children of the promise. .But just as then the one born of flesh persecuted the other born according to Spirit, so it is to-day. But what says the Scripture? Drive away the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond shall not Inherit with the son of the free (Genesis xxi, 10). Therefore, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman but of the free woman.

[1] The empty brackets to indicate that an interpolated passage is being omitted.


Then follows an exhortation to forsake error and return to rightmindedness.

Resumption of the Theme in the Epistle to the Romans and extraction from it of the Primitive Message

The theme is resumed, but with better logical order, in Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome, written at the beginning of the year 56, at the moment when the apostle was making his arrangements to leave Corinth for Jerusalem, whence he intended to journey to Rome. Note that the letter to the Thessalonians is addressed to "the community of the Thessalonians which is in God," etc.; those to the Corinthians "to the community of God which is at Corinth"; that to the Galatians "to the communities of Galatia"; whereas the letter to the Romans is destined "for all the beloved of God in Rome" (i, 7). Doubtless there were several Christian groups in Rome, which, without being rivals, were not yet united into a single church. In the preamble (i, 8-17) Paul states his intention and defines the theme which he desires his letter to make good:

So, as much as in me is, I am anxious to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome; for I am not ashamed of the Gospel. For it is the power of God for the salvation of every believer, to the Jew first, but also to the Greek. For God's righteousness is revealed in it by faith and for faith, as it is written, whoso is righteous by faith, shall live (Habakkuk, ii, 4).

And here is how he makes this thesis good (iii, 28-iv, 14, 16-24; iii, 27 adjusts the argument to the interpolated context; cf. ii, 17).

We hold that a man is made completely righteous by faith without? any works of the Law. Is God the God only of the Jews? Is he not also God of the Gentiles! To be sure he is God of the Gentiles, for there is only one God, who will make the circumcised righteous by faith and the uncircumcised by means of it. Are we then abolishing the Law by faith? Not in the least. We are giving the Law a firm basis.

What, then, was it that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, discovered for himself? For if Abraham became righteous by doing the works of the Law, he had something to be proud of, but not before God. For what says the Scripture? Abraham had faith in God and that was imputed to him for righteousness (Genesis xv, 6). Now the wages of a workman are not considered as a favour but as his due,


while to him who does no works, but has faith in him who makes the ungodly righteous, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness. In like manner David describes the blessedness of the man whom God counts as righteous without works on his part. [Here follows the citation of Psalm xxxii, 1-2.]

Was this blessedness promised to the circumcised, or to the uncircumcised as well? Again I say: His faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it imputed? To Abraham as a circumcised man? No, but when he was still uncircumcised. And he afterwards received the sign of circumcision as seal of the righteousness of faith, a righteousness won by him in his uncircumcised condition, to the end that he might be the father of the uncircumcised believers, to whom righteousness would be imputed in like manner, and father also to the circumcised, who follow in the steps of our father Abraham's faith.

The promise made to Abraham that he should inherit the world does not hold in virtue of the Law, but in virtue of the righteousness of faith. For if the followers of the Law are the heirs, their faith is of no account, and the promise given to it comes to nothing [    ]. That is why faith is the one thing that matters, so that all proceeds by favour, and the promise made secure for all posterity, not only for that which follows the Law but for that which is in the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, even as it is written I have made thee father of many nations — all this in the presence of God who makes the dead alive and calls the non-existent into being, and in whom he had faith. From his despair of posterity he passed to hoping in faith that he would become the father of many nations, even as God assured him, thy offspring shall be numberless (Genesis xiii, 16). He knew that his body was virtually dead, for he was nearly a hundred years old, and that Sarah's womb was also dead, but that did not weaken his faith in God's promise. On the contrary his faith asserted itself the more, and he was fully convinced that God was able to give him the promised posterity. And that is why it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now the words "imputed to him" were not written for him alone, but for us as well, according as we have faith in him who raised Jesus from the dead.

The subtility of the argument is entirely in the Rabbinic style. But what becomes of Israel in all this? Is not Israel after all God's chosen people? Paul has his answer to the objection, and in the answer he explains the economy of salvation (ix, 1-50, 6-13, 30-x, 21; xv, 8-12):

I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not; my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit that my sadness is great and my heartache incessant: I could wish myself under the curse of Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen in the flesh who are Israelites; theirs is the


sonship, the glory, the tables of Law, the rite of worship and the promises; of them is the Christ an issue according to the flesh.

Now it is not possible for the word of God to become obsolete. For Israel is not the totality of Israel's descendants; all are not children who are descended from Abraham. No; it is through Isaac that thy posterity shall be reckoned (Genesis xxi, 12). I mean that all children of the flesh are not children of God; only the children of the promise are counted as posterity...

The case of Rebecca's twin sons is then cited. Although both were Isaac's offspring it is yet written of them: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Malachi i, 2-3). Comment is as follows:

What shall we say then? We say that the Gentiles, who were aiming at righteousness, attained it, the righteousness that comes of faith; whereas Israel, who were aiming at a law of righteousness, failed to reach that law. And why? Because they sought it, not by the way of faith, but by conduct, and ran into the stone that makes men stumble, according as it is written. [Here follows citation of Isaiah viii, 14; xxviii, 16. The letter continues (x, 1).]

Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God are for their salvation. I can bear witness to their zeal for God; but not a zeal enlightened by knowledge; for, in their ignorance of the righteousness of God, they failed to submit to it and sought rather to establish their own. For the end of the Law is the Christ, that everyone who believes in him may thereby become righteous. For Moses wrote of the righteousness which comes by the Law, whoso practises that, by that shall he live (Leviticus xviii, 5); but the righteousness which comes of faith speaks differently (Deuteronomy xxx, 12-14): Say not in your heart:

Who will go up to heaven? — to bring the Christ down — or: Who will go down into the abyss! — to bring the Christ up from among the dead. No, what faith-righteousness says is this (Deuteronomy xxx, 14): very close to thee is the word in thy mouth and in thy heart — meaning the word "faith" which we preach. Mouth and heart mark you. For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, saved you shall be. For with the heart we believe to be made righteous, and with the mouth we confess to be saved. For the Scripture says (Isaiah xxviii, 16): Whosoever believes in him shall never be put to confusion. There is no difference here between Jew and Greek, seeing that all have one and the same Lord, who is full of bounty to them that call on him, for everyone who calls on him shall be saved (Joel ii, 32). But how shall they call on a Lord in whom they have no belief? And how believe in a Lord of whom they have never heard? And how shall they hear of him without a preacher? And how shall we preach him unless we are called? — even as Isaiah


writes (lii, 7): how beautiful are the feet of him who brings good tidings. But not all have yielded to the Gospel, even as Isaiah says (liii, 1):

Lord, who has believed our report? So then, faith comes from preaching, and preaching by the word of the Christ. But, say I, have they not heard it? Yes, they have: their voice has gone all over the earth and their words to the end of the world (Psalm xix, 4). Then,-I ask, have they not understood? Moses was the first to say it: I will make you jealous of a nation that is no nation; I will provoke your pity for a nation with no understanding (Deuteronomy xxxii, 21). Then Isaiah boldly says: I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have revealed myself to those who question me not (lxv, 1). And to Israel he cries: I have held out my hands all day long to a disobedient and contradictory people (lxv, 2).

Now I tell you [continuing with xv, 8] that the Christ has been ready to serve the circumcision by showing them God's veracity in confirming the promises made to the patriarchs and that the Gentiles glorify God by his mercy, according as it is written (Psalm xviii, 49): Therefore I will exalt thee among the Gentiles and sing praises to thy Name. And again he says (Deuteronomy xxxii, 43): Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his People. And again (Psalm cxvii, 1): Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and let all peoples extol him. And Isaiah once more (xi, 10): there shall be a shoot of Jesse springing forth to rule the Gentiles: in him shall the Gentiles hope.

At this point the fundamental thesis of the letter written by Paul to the Roman Christians comes to its natural close. The letter is no skeleton outline, but a complete exposition, well balanced and well developed, of what Paul, in the given circumstances, had to say to these Christians. The complementary matter, added by other hands to the original document, is entirely superfluous. Least of all does it need the juxtaposition [1] of a gnosis, which contradicts it at every point of its structure, nor the emollient paraphrases which try to make the gnosis fit in with the primitive teaching here revealed by Paul; nor the violent outbreak against pagans and Jewish sectaries in the opening chapters (i, 18-iii, 26); nor the moral counsels (xii-xv, 7) which are wholly foreign to its theme. We have now to examine the original conclusion of the document (xv, 14-xvi, 16, 190, 20-24).

Paul declares himself persuaded that the recipients of his letter have no need of his exhortations; but, as minister of the Christ among the Gentiles, he simply desires to fortify their good dis-

[1] We say "juxtaposition" in opposition to certain expositors who, without taking the trouble to probe the matter, make it a case of fusion — the fusion of two doctrines.


positions. The truth is that the results of his ministry have been such as to justify him in a certain boldness before God and in a measure of pride in the Christ Jesus. Has he not carried the preaching of the Gospel, starting from Jerusalem, throughout the entire circuit of the Eastern Mediterranean — the statement is somewhat summary, but this was not the moment for entering into detail — and has he not done this while holding to it, "as a point of honour, to preach the Gospel only in places where the Christ's name was unknown, so as not to build on another man's foundation"? All the same, he would have come to Rome long ago, had he not been prevented. These statements should not be taken too literally; none the less there is one thing that may be deduced from them for a certainty: while the Christians of Rome were in considerable numbers, it is clear that they had not been recruited there by renowned propagandists of the new faith, nor by any one of them. They had drifted into the imperial city from various quarters, and such propaganda as they could carry on would be a private affair among individuals. Hence Paul could look upon Rome as new ground. So his intention is to establish himself in Rome for some time with a view to going later into Spain, doubtless with the idea of carrying his message to the furthest point of Western civilization. We should be in error in supposing this to mean that he thought it his mission to convert the then known world. He meant simply that he hoped to carry the name of the Christ, and the announcement that the Kingdom was at hand, to the furthest point he could reach — a simple programme joined with a great simplicity of outlook. The teaching we have just considered fits in with it perfectly.

He goes on to say that before visiting Rome, he must go to Jerusalem to deliver a collection gathered up from the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, and he asks his friends in Rome to help him with their prayers that "he may not fall into the hands of Jewish unbelievers" and that his "service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints there." Of the two conditions only the second seems to have been fulfilled.

There has been much discussion on the long list of salutations at the end of the Epistle, some critics holding, gratuitously enough, that Paul cannot have had so many personal acquaintances in Rome, and supposing, still more gratuitously, that the


list refers to believers in Ephesus: as if, with Ephesus in view, Paul would not have had to salute a formed community, instead of the listed individuals such as he here cites by name. The personal salutations are satisfactorily explained as addressed to believers who belonged to groups scattered over a wide region. The conclusion of the list implies that these persons had now found their way to Rome. This conclusion should be reconstructed as follows (xvi, 16, 190:, 20-23):

Salute each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of the Christ salute you [   ]. For your obedience has come to the knowledge of all [   ]. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet, etc.

Why all the churches should salute certain Ephesian believers by the mouth of Paul is by no means clear, but that Paul should pass on to the Roman Christians the greetings of all the churches he had founded in the East is intelligible enough. Moreover what is said about the common knowledge of their obedience to faith in the Christ is in keeping with what Paul has written in the preamble of his letter (i, 8): "your faith is celebrated throughout the world." The praise bestowed by the two passages clearly concerns the same persons.

We conclude that Paul's original letter to the Romans is an unimpeachable document from which we may learn with certainty the precise form of the eschatological catechesis — the primitive teaching of the End of the World. In substance it was as follows:

Jesus, risen from the dead as Christ and Lord, is at God's right hand; to him and to those who believe in him belongs the "heritage of the world", he will establish the Kingdom of God over the whole earth and annihilate the powers which have so long made it the Kingdom of Satan.


The transformation of the primitive catechesis of the Kingdom, which we have just considered, into the evangelical catechesis of salvation, followed in the steps of the transformation which changed the Christ of the imminent Coming into a divine redeemer, whose terrestrial career, a mystic epiphany more or less substituted for his lately expected epiphany on the clouds,


was so conceived as to make him author of the mystery of salvation. The catechesis of Mark, the catecheses of Matthew and Luke, the catechesis of John show, in that order, the advancing steps of the transformation. But, just as it is impossible to assign a precise date to each new element, as revisers introduced it into the catechesis represented by the four canonical Gospels, so it is equally impossible to fix the dates of those gnostic and anti-gnostic elements which were interpolated into the Epistles named after Paul and into the other Epistles of the New Testament canon.

On what principles these added elements are to be distinguished from the original matter, and their significance explained, may be gathered from our former work Remarques sur la litterature epistolaire du Nouveau Testament (1935). In the present book, therefore, it would be superfluous to demonstrate at length what we have proved in its predecessor, namely, that if Paul be the author of the teaching we have just studied, so far as it is developed in the Epistle to the Romans, it is impossible that he be, at the same time, the author of the gnostic system interpolated between the broken fragments of that teaching, and flatly contradicting it while pretending to give it a firmer standing. Had the two expositions been lodged in the same brain they would have been fused into one, instead of appearing, as they do, at cross purposes and dislocating the Epistle. That is a psychologic and literary fact against which sentiment and theology are powerless. Let the official apologists of Catholicism repeat ad libitum their charge, if they can do so with straight faces, that we have misunderstood the intimate harmony of the Great Apostle's thought and are incapable of placing ourselves at its centre, since we lack the faith that was Paul's. We, on our part, know that these are words without meaning. We know also at what centre these champions of authenticity have taken their stand. It is the centre of accepted convention and of orders received from the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Study.

The Superadded Gnosis, not Paul's, in the Epistle to the Romans

We now proceed to examine the gnosis in Romans, taking account of variations and additions made to it in Galatians and Corinthians. The gnoses in Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians


and Hebrews demand separate consideration as presented under different conditions.

In the gnosis of Romans, Israel and Abraham drop out of view, nor is the theme any longer concerned with the promises made to them, nor with the Christ who is to come, nor with faith in the Christ risen from the dead as the sole condition of admission to the approaching Kingdom of God. It is now a question of the whole human race, in bondage from its beginnings to sin and death, which the Christ, descended straight from heaven, has ransomed by his own death, and is now ready to share his divine immortality with all those who mystically unite themselves to his death and resurrection in the rites of Christian initiation. The essentials of this gnosis have nothing to do with promises contained in the Scriptures; they are concerned with the revelation of the mystery hidden in God till now revealed, which mystery, when occasion demands it, is expressly distinguished from the eschatological catechesis with its foundation in Scripture. Moreover, the two catecheses present marked differences of style as well as of subject-matter. While the eschatological thesis is developed almost in the language of every day, and as though the author were augmentatively conversing with his readers, not as a philosopher, but as a rabbi making good his case with a grand array of subtly interpreted Scripture texts — while this is the way of Paul's catechesis, the gnostic theme on the other hand, with its point of departure in the biblical myth of the first sin, takes form as a system of doctrine, a theory of moral philosophy with a certain measure of logical appeal. In this presentation the argument does not need a Scripture text to support each step of its advance, but bids for acceptance on its own merits in a way which suggests that the system was originally constructed independently of the Epistle into which it has been inserted. Needless to say that with this difference of subject and style there goes a different vocabulary. This will be obvious at once to anyone who will take the pains to compare the two.

Here, to begin with, is the preamble to the gnosis very cleverly inserted before the development of Paul's eschatological theme (iii, 21-24, where it will be noted 21 seems to have been first written to make sequences with i, 16-18, the whole of i, 19-iii, 20 being added later):


But the righteousness of God has now been revealed without the Law [    ]. It is a divine righteousness; but all men can win it by believing in Jesus Christ. For there is no distinction among men in this respect, since all men have sinned and fallen short of the divine glory. This righteousness is bestowed on men as a free gift of grace thanks to the redemption effected by the Christ Jesus, whom God appointed propitiatory victim [    ] to demonstrate his righteousness, after passing over sins committed under his forbearance, and in view of the revelation of his righteousness due to come in this present time and to make it plain that he is, himself, righteous and that he deems every man who has faith in Jesus to be a righteous man.

The making of men righteous by their faith (justification of faith) is still the theme; but it is neither the righteousness, nor the faith that we encountered before. In this new presentation righteousness means liberation from the sin which has ruled the world since Adam, while faith is unwavering confidence in the redemption effected by the death of the Christ in his quality of propitiatory victim for the whole of mankind. The thesis recurs further on in passages now separated but originally forming a single bloc — v, 1-8, l0-vii, 6; viii, 1-9a, 10, 12-13, 23b-25, 28-35, 37-39; iv, 25 makes a forced transition.

We are first told that our hope is grounded on the fact that, while we were yet sinners, God revealed his love for us, the Christ dying on our behalf; reconciled to God by the death of his Son we too are rendered immortal by communion in the death and resurrection of the Son whom God has raised from death. This has providentially come to pass, and the way of it is as follows:

The explanation is that sin came into the world by one man, and death by sin, and that thus all men were doomed to death because all have sinned. For there was sin in the world before the Law was given, but it was not reckoned as sin because there was as yet no Law. But death had dominion from Adam to Moses, even on those who had not sinned after the manner of Adam's transgression, and Adam is a figure of him who was to come.

In this statement there are some enormous absurdities which neither philosophers nor historians need spend time in discussing. Let us rather take up the doctrine of the two Adams, the two heads of the human race — the man, Adam the sinner who stands as the antitype of the other man, Adam the Saviour Jesus Christ.


First Corinthians (xv, 21-22, 45-47) "will tell us that, of the two men, "the first is terrestrial, the second celestial"; the first, "living animal"; the second, "life-giving Spirit." The exposition goes on:

But it is not the case that the trespass committed and the grace bestowed are in equal measure; for while all other men die in consequence of one man's trespass, the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of the one man [    ] Jesus Christ, overflowed in far greater measure to all those others. Nor is the effect on them of this free gift on an equality with the effect which followed the sin of the first sinner. For while the judgment on the one sin was a sentence of condemnation, the free gift after many sins is a sentence of acquittal. For while by one man's sin, death reigned over all mankind through him alone, all who receive the abundant gift of grace and righteousness shall reign in life by that One who is Jesus-Christ — which is a far greater thing. Go to, then: as all mankind was condemned for a single act of sin, so, by a single righteous act, justification for life became available to all. For, as by the disobedience of one man all the other men in the world were made sinners, so by the obedience of One, they are all made righteous. The Law was introduced in order that sin might abound; but where sin abounded grace abounded still more, so that, just as sin formerly reigned by death, grace now reigned by righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

If anyone choose to believe that this wholly abstract, scholastic and false conception of the Law was imagined and professed by a man who had long lived in obedience to the Law, we shall not pause to argue with him. The writer continues:

What are we to infer from this? Shall we remain in sin that grace may abound? . . . Have you forgotten that all of us have been baptized into Christ and, in that, are baptized into his death. This means that we have been buried with him by baptism unto death, so that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glory of the Father, we also are to walk in newness of life. For, if we are associated in his death by this symbol, we are equally associated in his resurrection, knowing, as we do, that our old man has been crucified with him, that the sinful body might be destroyed. . . .

In the same sense the Epistle to the Galatians understands the Christian as a "new creation" (vi, 15); the Second to Corinthians has a like conception (v, 17). The writer proceeds:

Thus there is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of spirit of life in Christ Jesus has delivered thee from the law of sin and death. For God [   ] having sent his own


Son in the semblance of sinful flesh, and because of sin, has condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to flesh but according to spirit.

For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared with the glory due to be revealed in us. For the eager creation longs for the manifestation of the sons of God. For futility has been imposed on the creation, not of its own will, but by the will of him who imposed it, with the hope that the creation itself, as well as ourselves, will be delivered from slavery to corruption, that it too may share the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation is united in suffering and cries of pain till now and not the creation only but [   ] we ourselves inwardly cry with pain as we wait for filiation, for deliverance from our body; for it is in hope that we are saved ...

But we know that to those who love God everything converges to good, to those called according to plan, because those whom he foresaw, them he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be first born among many brothers. Now, whom he predestined, them also he called. Whom he called, them also he deemed righteous, whom he deemed righteous them also he glorified. What, then, shall we say to that? If God is for us, who will be against us?'... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present, nor future, nor powers, nor any other created thing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

A noble theory, conceived by an impassioned soul. And something more. We have here a gnosis sketched in grand outline, but an outline that needs to be filled. For the part played by the Law is strangely lowered. Opposed to the triad Law — sin —  death stands the triad grace — righteousness — immortality. What can the Law be, then, but the auxiliary of sin? Moreover, one sacrament only is thrown into relief — baptism. But palliations are introduced, notably the short dissertation on the inner conflict that arises between the consciousness of duty and the carnal lusts; by this the opposition between the Law and grace, shifted from the ground of abstract theology to the ground of moral philosophy, becomes the opposition of natural desire and spirit, the Law itself becoming "the oldness of the letter" which gives place to "the newness of spirit."

The Gnosis Developed in Second Corinthians

The same point of view, in which the Law regains a significant and positive role in the scheme of salvation, is resumed


and developed at length by the author of certain mystical passages in Second Corinthians (ii, 14-vi, 13). In the extracts we propose to give from this Epistle, Paul the mystic, who is effaced behind his subject in Romans, advances into the foreground:

Our ability comes from God, who himself has made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit. For the letter kills, but the spirit makes alive.

The letter is the Law, and the letter kills if we remain confined within it; rightly understood, then, the ministry of the Law is here, in Second Corinthians, a ministry of death, as we find it in Romans. None the less the Law can lead on to the spiritual gnosis, to the true Gospel of the Christ, playing the part of "pedagogue" (Galatians iii, 21-25). We take up the sequence of our text (2 Corinthians iii, 7):

Now if the ministry of death, in letters graven on stones, shone with such splendour that the children of Israel could not look on Moses' face on account of the passing splendour of it, how much more glorious will be the ministration of the spirit! For if the ministration was glorious when it condemned to death, the ministration which justifies vastly excels it in splendour. Indeed the former splendour was no splendour at all compared with this higher. For, if that which was passing away shone with splendour, how much more glorious shall that shine which will never pass away.

Having such a hope in me, I use no disguises; I am not like Moses, who veiled his face that the children of Israel might not see the passing splendour on it. Ah, but their intelligence was blinded; for, indeed, to this very day the same veil hangs unlifted over the reading out of the Old Covenant, for the Christ alone can take it away; yes, to this very day, when Moses is read, the veil falls on their hearts. But the veil is lifted, from the moment they turn to the Lord (Exodus xxxiv, 34).

The author repeats himself a little, unless the phrases headed by the words "to this very day" are textual variants. But, whichever hypothesis we prefer, the meaning remains the same. We may well ask whether the recruits Paul had gathered in Corinth would have understood a single word of these subtleties. It is true that here the Mosaic revelation counts for something as having a figurative sense; but to what a distance are we now come from Paul's eschatology with its climax in the second coming of the Lord! However, a great advance has been made by admitting the co-ordination of the two Covenants, of which


the gnosis in the Epistle to the Romans gives no sign. But here is the conclusion of our passage:

Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And all of us, with faces uncovered, reflecting the splendour of the Lord, are ourselves transformed into the same image from one splendour to another, the splendour that comes from the Lord, from the spirit.

Ancient Scripture, then, is a figurative enigma, in which the gnostic Christian may read his participation in the splendour of the Christ-Spirit. A kind of mystic vision in which the initiate into a Mystery finally sees himself clothed with the splendour of his God.

The ministry of him whose mission it is to proclaim such a Gospel is unique:

By manifestation of the truth I commend myself to every man's conscience before God. And what if my Gospel is veiled? Veiled it may be, but only among the lost, there where the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they see not , the light of the Gospel of the splendour of the Christ, who is the image of God.

"The god of this age" is the chief archon who presides, with such indifferent success, over the destiny of our world and the present age (compare "the princes of this age" in i Corinthians ii, 8; "the prince of this world" in John xii, 31; xiv, 30; xvi, ii). He may be Satan, but certainly not Marcion's demiurge. As to "the lost" and "the unbelieving," they are not unbelievers in the general doctrines of theology, but those whom the mystic Paul regards as the adversaries of his own doctrine, and whom he treats as Judaizers.

It is not myself that I preach, but Christ Jesus and myself your servant for Jesus.

Following this (iv, 7-15) comes a dithyrambic eulogy of the special apostolate claimed by this mystic Paul, who has also much to say about himself in the Epistle to the Galatians (see our Remarques sur la litterature epistolaire, 33-45, 50-57). We do not propose to repeat here what we have said in that work about the inconceivable pretensions there put forward by the mystic Paul, nor to discuss again the accusations brought by this Paul, Paul only in name, against his straw-made Judaizers, the question


seeming to us sufficiently elucidated in the former discussion. To proceed:

Though my outward man is wearing out, my inner man is renewing itself from day to day; for my light affliction of the moment is preparing me for a plenitude of eternal splendour beyond all conceiving, my gaze being turned not to things visible, but to things invisible; for the visible pass away, but the invisible are for eternity. Indeed know I well that, if the earthly tent I dwell in were to melt away, I have a home from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. ... Being, then, of good heart, and knowing that while at home in the body I am an exile from the Lord — for I walk by faith in him, not by sight of him —  I have no fears, and would rather be an exile from the body and at home with the Lord.

The purely spiritual idea of the resurrection contained in this passage is unmistakable and needs no insistence. How near it brings us to the Song of Love in i Corinthians xiii! But how far it takes us from the eschatological catechesis of the real Paul!

Love of the Christ holds me, my conviction being this: that One having died on behalf of all, all are then dead; and he died for all, that the living should live no more for themselves, but for him who died on their behalf and rose from death. The result is that from henceforth I, for my part, know no man according to the flesh. Even had I known the Christ according to the flesh, I would not now know him in that way. To tell the truth, if any one is in the Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; see, they have become new!

We can hardly hide from ourselves that this mystic notion of salvation was conceived with the eschatological catechesis in mind, perhaps even with an eye to the evangelical catechesis, as the Synopsis presents it in substance. Nor can we fail to see that, on this theory, the Christ of flesh in his human life counts for very little, or even for nothing at all, in comparison with the Christ-Spirit in his immortality. That the intention of it all is to depreciate the Christ of the so-called Judaizers, that is the Christ of the common tradition, is almost equally evident. But what prevailed in the long run was not this uncompromising mysticism. The author goes on:

But all this comes from God, who has reconciled me to himself through the Christ and given me the ministry of reconciliation. Because God was in the Christ, reconciling the world to


himself, not holding men guilty of their transgressions, and implanting in men the message of reconciliation. So, then, I am an ambassador for the Christ, as if God were preaching with my voice. Be reconciled to God! On behalf of Christ I so entreat you! Him who knew not sin, he made to be sin on our behalf, that we poor men may become God's own righteousness in him. Following his leading in all that, I thus exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

Here we come back into the current of the mystic doctrine already encountered in the Epistle to the Romans, but with a marked difference in the emphasis now laid on the unique role attributed to Paul in the economy of salvation, in which he is represented as the accredited ambassador of God to the human race. A purely theoretic conception, if ever there was one, and formed at a great distance from the first Christian age; the more plainly so as the system of gnosis here presented is visibly of later date than even the gnosis in Romans, of which, in certain respects, it offers an attenuation.

The Eucharist Finds Its Place in the Mystery

In all we have had under review no sign has appeared that the eucharistic Supper had any place in the mystery of salvation. Perhaps its place was not denned as early as that of baptism. Or is it not more likely that it was held secret? Does not the fourth Gospel strictly avoid speaking of it in direct language, and is there not a like reserve in the Epistle to the Hebrews? We find it, however, in certain secondary parts of the gnosis presented in First Corinthians; and first of all in the account of the normal course of the Supper (xi, 17, 20-34. See Remarques, 60-64):

For I myself have had it passed on to me from the Lord, and have passed it on to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night when he was betrayed, took bread and, after thanksgiving, broke it and said: "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Likewise, after the meal, the cup, saying: "This cup is the new Covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you shall drink it, in remembrance of me." For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the death of the Lord, until the time when he comes.

The first point to be noticed in the above passage is that the


author has the evangelical catechesis in mind and that he intends his mystic doctrine of the Supper to be set in a frame which by this time had become traditional, that, namely, of the early eschatological view of the Supper, which conceived it as a memorial meal symbolic of the Christ to come, and as a foretaste of the banquet of the elect in the Kingdom of God. In this way the meaning of the concluding formula, "you proclaim the death of the Lord, till the time when he comes," is explained. In like manner we can understand the double meaning involved in the mode of presentation, which exhibits the author as having received from the Lord himself a "tradition" either ignored or forgotten by the Corinthians. He presents the Supper as a tradition, which it really was from its origin, and at the same time fixes the meaning he desires it to have as a mystery, while affecting merely to recall it. Doubtless he found both the bread and the cup, with another commentary, in the story he is here exploiting, and the mention of the Great Coming, is also taken from that source. There is ground for saying, then, that by a kind of compromise between later gnosis and primitive eschatology he has introduced his mystic interpretation of Jesus' last meal into the earlier frame of the eschatological view of the Supper. It follows that this compromise is less ancient than the gnosis we have just considered. It seems, however, to be earlier than Marcion; and the testimony of Justin, who found this very compromise introduced into the synoptic Gospels, attests its relative antiquity (compare our analysis of the story in Mark, supra, p. 100).

Another fragment of First Corinthians is presented under similar conditions — the instruction on eating meat sacrificed to idols (x, 1-22), in which the sacraments of Christian initiation are both mentioned. The author appeals to the sacraments of the desert as a type of the Christian sacraments. The chief interest for us of this curious passage lies in its making of baptism and the eucharist the two parts of one sacrament, so connected that they can be found combined in the Old Testament, which is the last place in the world where one would expect to find them; for the rest, the homiletical character of the passage is made obvious in the moral lesson it is chiefly intended to convey. The comparison would also suggest a form of the sacrament in which water was used instead of wine; but we have discussed that


elsewhere (see The Birth of the Christian Religion, p. 238, and Remarques, 65, n. 2). Let us rather consider the relations which the passage institutes between the Christian Supper and the pagan sacrifice:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is not that communion in the blood of the Christ? The bread which we break, is not that communion in the body of the Christ? Because, though we are many, there is only one bread, only one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

This communion with the Christ is pronounced incompatible with participation in the sacrifices of the pagan religions, even though the meat offered to idols is only meat and the idols themselves nothing at all. But, behind the meat which is only meat and the idol which is nothing, there are the demons, and they are to be reckoned with:

What the pagans sacrifice, to the demons they sacrifice it and not to God; and I would not have you in communion with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot share the Lord's table and the demons' table. What! shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

The Christian has communion with his Lord in the Supper because the Supper mystically realizes the death of Jesus and brings it into spiritual operation. In this we get a clear perception of the idea which the Christian mystery formed of its Christ and see, at the same time, the fundamental affinity between the Christian and the pagan mysteries in their conception of eternal salvation. Another passage of the same Epistle (viii, 4-6) on the question of idol-meat puts the matter beyond all doubt:

About the eating of idol-meats, we know that no idol exists in the world and that there is no God but ours. There may be so-called gods either in heaven or on earth, but, for us, there is only one God, the Father, the source of everything and for whom we exist, and our Lord, Jesus Christ by whom all exists and we exist.

So, then, there is only one God and one Lord, but the universe harbours lesser powers, more or less dangerous, against whose influence we need to protect ourselves. The fundamental


ideas of this Christian gnosis are not far removed from those of pagan mysticism current at the same time.

The Christological Gnosis in Philippians, Colossians and Hebrews

More precise definition of the Christological gnosis is to be found in the short poem picked up by the Epistle to the Philippians (ii, 6-n); in the Epistle to the Colossians (i, 15-20) and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (i, 1-4). On this we confine ourselves to summarizing the conclusions reached in our Remarques.

The poem inserted into the gnostic-moral part of Philippians (see Remarques, 91-95) is the oracle of some Christian prophet, a Christian gnosis earlier than its context in the Epistle, certainly earlier than the gnosis in Hebrews, but probably not earlier than the mystic gnosis of the great Epistles. It conveys the following information.

There existed a being in godlike form, not God himself but a sharer in the divine splendour and under the orders of the Deity. Merit is ascribed to him for not affecting equality with God —  which implies that other beings of the same order had the insolence to put themselves forward as gods and to get themselves worshipped as such. The being in question put off his godlike form to take human form and, in that form, to submit to death in obedience to God; in recompense for that obedience he has been elevated to God's right hand, where he is worshipped as Lord and carries that name. Behind this profession of faith in one only God, and in the kind of shared divinity bestowed on Jesus, there lies a cosmology, a world-economy, a doctrine of salvation, consisting in the restoration of the cosmic and human economy which has been thrown into disorder by the backsliding of mankind and by the fall or failure in duty of certain powers. This background of the poem is purely gnostic. We see it only in glimpses; enough to conjecture its general form but not to reconstitute in all its parts.

A christological poem has been similarly inserted into the Epistle to the Colossians. This, too, is the oracle of a Christian prophet inserted as an afterthought into the Epistle, which is in no sense whatever the work of Paul (see Remarques, 95-101). The cosmogony is different from that in Philippians, and there is


another conception of the divine mediator, a deeper gnosis and probably of later date. Here he is the image of God, living and active, in whom and by whom (so says the second strophe of the poem) the universal balance is to be restored after an overthrow of which we are not told the circumstances. The soteriology is less clearly outlined than in the poem of Philippians. Nevertheless it is made clear that "the first born of all creation" has now become "the first born of the dead"; he has become so by making himself man, undergoing death as man, and by rising from the dead as the first born of the risen: by the power of this saving death the' divine order, "the Pleroma," which has been shattered, will be restored. We are told in the body of the Epistle (ii, 14-15) that the Christ has "brought us all to life with him, having wiped out the writing against us (the Law), with the clauses that condemned us; he has taken them away by nailing them to the cross; having despoiled the Principalities and the Powers, he has put them to shame, triumphing over them by his own might." The "Pleroma" is a gnostic term which should be taken here in the sense given it by the gnosis, that is, as the totality of all divine emanations and creations. The restoration of this Pleroma in the Christ implies reconciliation with God. As to the "body" of this divine redeemer, we are told further on (ii, 9) that "the entire Pleroma of Divinity resides bodily (that is, in the manner of body) in the Christ; thus the "body" and "the Church" are not confined to the believing part of humanity and to the church on earth, but comprise the body of the now balanced universe and the Church whose members are worlds, as the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians (i, 19-23) also understands them. With this meaning we are told (Colossians ii, 10) that the faithful are "pleromed" [1] in the Christ. All that is pure gnosis, if gnosis is to be found anywhere; but not the same gnosis as that of the poem in Philippians. As regards the diversity of gnoses which have found their way into the Epistles, the writer of the present book is altogether innocent; he is not their inventor; he merely endeavours to understand them, but without attributing them, in spite of their manifest diversity, to Paul as the sole author of them all.   

[1] "Complete in him" (A.V.); "made full" (R.V.); "reach your full life" (Moffatt); pleromes in the French. Translator's note.


The Christ-gnosis in Hebrews

Another gnostic definition of the Christ is given in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This gnosis is more deeply studied than the preceding and the author takes greater pains to exhibit the Christian revelation as the consummation of those which God made "to the fathers by the prophets." But here also the Son is an image, an imprint of Divinity, an agent in creation by whom God made "the worlds." The text says "the aeons," which are neither "the age" nor "the worlds," but the series of existences in their harmonious hierarchy and time-order (cf. xi, 3). The author insists that the Son of God is higher than the angels in name, status and nature, the reason for his insistence being that he knows of people who class, or seem to class, the pre-existent Christ in one category with the celestial spirits called angels; is not that pretty much the case with the good Hermas? And might we not, with no great difficulty, interpret the christological poem of Philippians in the same sense? For the rest, the body of the Epistle is mainly occupied in explaining how "purification from sin" is effected, the Son of God having come to earth in order to accomplish, by his death and the offering of his blood, an act of priestly expiation, of which Melchizedek of old was the type.

The author understands the statement about Melchizedek (Genesis xiv, 17-20) in a way of his own (see Remarques, 108-109). The Christ, besides being the true "king of justice" and the true "king of peace," is an eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek. He has come into the world to accomplish a priestly and redeeming work; he is "without father" and "without mother"; therefore "without genealogy" and so "without beginning of days," for he pre-existed his earthly manifestation; nor has his life an ending, because his death began his immortality without any waiting in the tomb, or rising of his body, for he entered the heavenly sanctuary at once and for all "through the veil, that is, through his flesh" (x, 20). Thus he would have us understand the miracle of the rent veil in the synoptic tradition of Mark, Matthew and Luke. This again is gnosis, embroidered on a groundwork of Biblical texts, but genuine gnosis, though linked with the revelations of the Old Covenant.

Moreover, the author himself is at pains to inform us that we are in the realm of gnosis, and the point merits consideration


(v, 11-vi, 2). The doctrine he expounds belongs, he says, to the order of "perfection," that is, of gnostic initiation, and this he distinguishes from what he calls "the elementary theme of the Christ," meaning the common catechesis of his time and place. This catechesis, as we have already shown (p. 43), was still almost entirely eschatological in its teaching.

The comparison of his readers to little children, whose normal nourishment was the milk of this elementary doctrine, shows that he knew the analogous remark of the mystic "Paul" who in First Corinthians (iii, 1-3) employs this same comparison, informing 'his readers that, because they are incapable of receiving it, he has withheld from them the wisdom which, in the self-same context, he nevertheless expounds for their instruction. In both cases the contradiction arises in the same way. It comes from the fact that the primitive catechesis, under the lapse of time and the evolution of ideas, had come to seem more or less obsolete and that pains were being taken by new teachers to comment and correct it in the light of a teaching with another character. So strange a perspective allows no other explanation, though many commentators, even critics, are still loth to perceive it.

The Gnosis in the First Epistle of Timothy and the First of Peter The short Christological creed, rhythmically formulated, in i Timothy iii, 16 must here be mentioned: it is perceptibly older than its context (see Remarques 118-119):

He was manifested in the flesh,
he was vindicated in the spirit;
He was seen by the angels,
he was preached among the Gentiles;
He was believed on in the world,
he was taken up into glory.

This poem has the same character as those in the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians and Hebrews, and the same spiritual idea of the resurrection, by which the Christ is "vindicated," the glory of his immortality making good the ignominy of his death.

The First Epistle of Peter is inspired by an analogous doctrine, but the author adds to it on his own responsibility a descent into hell, in which the mystic gnosis is coloured by a touch of pagan mythology (iii, 18-22; iv, 6, see Remarques, 120-131). Both


gnosis and style begin to show signs of decay; both are derivative in their relation to most of the gnoses previously considered.

The romance of the descent into hell is borrowed from the Book of Enoch and mediately from old Eastern mythologies. The "spirits that were in prison" are the fallen angels who, mating with women, produced the giants and provoked the punishment of the Deluge. To these fallen spirits the Christ-Spirit goes with the good news; they are the first to submit to the immortal Christ, the other celestial powers being conquered by his ascent into heaven, as these others are by his descent into hell. The preaching of the Gospel to the general mass of the dead was accomplished by the Christ himself on the occasion of his instructing the fallen angels. Thus all who lived on earth before the coming of the Christ have had their chance of salvation; condemned to death as "men of the flesh" and as punishment for their sins, the grace of God has enabled them to live again in spiritual glory. It would seem, then, that this author knew only of a spiritual resurrection, whether for the Christ himself or for the human believer.

Moral Teaching in the Epistles

All our Epistles are more or less weighted with moral teaching. The earlier Gospel catechesis had its own, as the preaching of Jesus had, and that from the very first. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" is an urgent appeal for a change of life. But it will be more in keeping with our present purpose to point out briefly how the interest taken by the mystic teaching of the Epistles in the moralization of life extends progressively over wider fields in proportion as excitement about the Second Coming passed into decline, and even, with many, to the point of extinction. Hence the insistence with which the moral renewal, implied in the spiritual and mystic rebirth of the believer, is brought to the front; hence, too, the production of short codes of religious morality, clearly such, for the individual, for the family and for social relationships. The last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans are thus occupied (xii-xv, 7), in which we may note especially the surcharge, out of relation to its context, recommending obedience to established powers, because they come from God (xiii, 1-7) — certainly this proclamation


of the divine origin of the imperial powers does not belong to the first Christian age (see Remarques, 30-31). Some parts of First Corinthians are short treatises on moral discipline, or even of casuistry, such as the instructions about marriage and virginity (vii). The teaching on spiritual gifts (charismata), which concern the right ordering of Christian assemblies (xii, xiv) appears under like conditions, but with this striking difference, that the interpolation in its midst of the Song of Love (xiii) is on an infinitely higher level than the disciplinary matter which the singer of it had before him and into which he or somebody else thought the hymn might be fittingly inserted (see Remarques, 69-74). The instructions on the control of "speaking with tongues" (glossolaly) may be placed side by side with the queer little dissertation on the veiling of women (xi, 5-16) while praying or prophesying, and we may recall the more recent interpolations which forbid them to speak at all (xiv, 34a-35; cf. i Timothy ii, 8-15).

The Epistle to the Galatians contains instruction in mystic morality conceived in the same spirit as the distinctively gnostic passages (v, 13-26; vi, 7-10, 12-16). The Epistle to the Colossians, taken, as a whole, is a moralizing gnosis, but it includes special precepts for wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves and masters. The Epistle to the Ephesians is in the same case, except that it waters down the moralities of Colossians. Finally, the First of Peter is a mystico-moral homily with special applications; respect for established authority (probably imitated from Romans xiii, 1-7); advice to slaves, wives, husbands, and encouragement to martyrs. In the last we are told that to suffer for the name of Christ and as a good Christian is a thing of little moment, provided one has not to suffer for crime of the common order (iv, 12-19). But the counsels which the author addresses to the leaders of the Christian flock, where the Christ is characterized as the chief shepherd, place him in the time of the Pastoral Epistles, although, unlike them, he makes no allusion to the gnostic peril.


Would Christianity have survived if it had not been supported by faith in the imminent coming of God's Kingdom and the


parousia of the Lord Jesus? The question is idle in view of what happened. There is no doubt that the minds of thoughtful Christians were early preoccupied, as was natural, with the delay of the Lord's Second Coming. Reasons for the delay were found; but the fact is that, in the end, such reasons ceased to be sought for, because, without dismissing the Christian hope in its primitive form, it became modified and softened down in a way to render the delay no longer tormenting. But that was the work of long centuries which lie outside the scope of the present history. What does lie within our scope is to show how the expectation of the Second Coming was soon reduced, from its first fever-heat, by faith in the invisible presence and help, here and now, of the immortal Christ. Moreover, a consciousness more intimate and more profoundly mystical was soon grafted on to this. It was the consciousness of everlasting union, begun in the present life, with the Christ of the mystery. The sensitive consciousness of Christ's life in his Church and in each soul that belonged to him had the effect, in the end, of virtually neutralizing the anxious expectancy in which the first believers waited for the resurrection of the dead and the coming of the Kingdom, but without destroying belief in either.

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians gives the impression of a real disquietude about the matter. The chief object of this Epistle is the short dissertation (ii, 1-12) on the delay of the Lord's arrival and the manifestation of a person whom we may call Antichrist, though in reality he was a false Jewish Messiah, probably Barkochba (see Remarques, 89-91). The delay in the fulfilment of prophecy was to be of brief duration and the Lord would arrive in the very near future. But although the prophecy remained unfulfilled this apocryphal Epistle was not compromised on that account: Marcion himself kept a place for it in his collection, and that very shortly after it appeared. It should not be overlooked that the author, who seems to have been a man full of common sense, gives his readers some excellent advice on the necessity of daily work, imitated from an authentic part of the First Epistle (iv, 11, 12). We may conclude, then, that while faith was apt to grow anxious about the Second Coming, there was no great difficulty in reassuring it, even at this early date.


A broader explanation of the delay is offered in a secondary fragment of the Epistle to the Romans (xi) where the question is discussed whether the reprobation of the Jews is final or temporary. Their reprobation is declared to be provisional the hardening of the Israelite majority having been providentially arranged to give time for the accession of the pagans. That achieved, Israel will be reconciled and the resurrection of the dead, the Great Event, will follow. And here the author of the explanation breaks out in admiration of the "depth" of the divine wisdom. Note the perceptible intercalation of the same idea in the synoptic apocalypse (Mark xiii, 10; Matthew xxiv, 14 where it is added "and then will come the end"; Luke xxi, 24 touching "the times of the Gentiles" represents a different idea).

The conflict, more or less open, between the mystical conception of salvation and the teaching on the coming End is clearly portrayed in the gnostic Epistles attributed to Paul, where eschatological Christianity is directly attacked as Judaizing error; on the other side, the letters of the Christ to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation denounce the disciples of the gnostic Paul as false Christians and a danger to the true faith (see Remarques, 141-146). The conflict ended in a compromise, but not till after much wrangling.

The substitution of mystical Christianity for its eschatological predecessor might be described as discreetly effected by the mystical "Paul" of the Epistles and the author of Hebrews; but the change was not effected in the faith of the churches as the two writers conceived it. The First Epistle of Peter would belong to the same category, except that the author is not fully conscious of his gnosticism. Nevertheless certain exaggerated forms of the gnosis, so outrageous that they had to be treated as heretical, had the effect of producing some reaction to the eschatological cause. The place of some of the Epistles in the evolution of this conflict and its final solution is not otherwise easily determined.

The Epistle of James is a strange specimen of moral teaching combined with the minimum, not of gnosis only, but of eschatology. The author devotes a free, but -not violent criticism to the theory of salvation by faith without works, which he refutes by exegetical means similar to that employed by Paul in


constructing the doctrine. There is nothing to show that he was referring to the other, the mystical, theory of salvation to be found in the Epistle to the Romans as it has come down to us. While he was not ignorant in the matter, his incomprehension of it is such as to be equivalent to radical hostility. What is most interesting in his case is the cavalier way in which he criticizes the doctrine, as though it were a mischievous opinion of no great importance, the mere mention of which was enough to condemn it. In the history of Christian literature this Epistle belongs to the pre-canonical age of the New Testament when the writings attributed to Paul were not considered as in any sense authoritative, or worthy to be placed on the same level as the Scriptures of the Old Covenant.

The Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and to Peter

The three Epistles known as Pastoral have all the same object  — the institution of a system of government which will put the churches in a posture for effective resistance to the attacks of dangerous innovators.

To understand this effort of resistance it will be helpful to go back at this point to a passage in Acts (xx, 18-35) which has the same object, we refer to the discourse which Paul is supposed to have addressed to the elders of Ephesus whom he had summoned to Miletus apparently to receive his final instructions, and which commentators have described as a model of pastoral theology. And indeed, the discourse, though apocryphal, is an outstandingly fine piece of its kind and for us highly instructive, since it was composed in full view of the gnostic crisis in the second quarter of the second century, and in the same spirit as our three Pastoral Epistles. The Apostle begins by recalling his own devoted activity, more or less in imitation of the gnostic "Paul." He foresees the fate in store for him at the end of his journey to Jerusalem and declares himself ready to sacrifice his life. Here are his admonitions:

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the holy Spirit has made you bishops to feed the Lord's church, which he has purchased with his blood.

This carries us forward to a time much later, than Paul's meeting with the elders who came to bring him a collection


made in Asia for the Jerusalem saints. The churches have their appointed heads, elders or supervisors, priests or bishops, placed by God's will and the Christ's in authority over the flock now threatened by destructive propaganda:

I know well that after my departure grievous wolves will come, not sparing the flock, and that even from among yourselves men will arise with perverse speech in their mouths, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, remembering that for three years, night and day, I ceased not to exhort every one with tears.. . .

He concludes by recalling the virtues in which he has set them an example. Who were the heretics here aimed at in particular? Gnostics, surely, in the second quarter of the second century. But which? And where was this discourse composed? If in Asia, who would be the heretics whom the author describes as rising up "even from among yourselves" of the Asiatic churches? And of these who was more dangerous between 130 and 140 than Marcion? At all events we here come into contact with the very theme with which the writers of pseudo-apostolic letters, and the Pastorals in the first place, were continually occupied about the same time.

Our three Pastoral Epistles are so closely related that a common origin is quite possible and, were their literary composition homogeneous, their date would be easily determined. A glance at the conclusion of the First to Timothy (vi, 20-21), where the Antitheses of Marcion are aimed at under their proper name, would be enough to settle the matter. Moreover, Marcion knew only ten Epistles of Paul's; had the Pastorals in 140 figured in the collection of the Apostle's letters Marcion would certainly have retained them. But the first draft of the Epistles may be contemporary with the outburst of Marcionism.

Having made elsewhere a detailed analysis of these documents {Remarques, 114-126) we shall here confine ourselves to two points in the First to Timothy: the instruction to pray for persons in authority and for the emperor in particular (ii, 1-3) and, yet more important, the regulations laid down for the choice of bishops and deacons (iii, 1-6).

The episcopal function is regarded as of great importance (iii, 1-7). The qualities enumerated in detail as requisite for the


office are, in one part, such as would be demanded in a high functionary of the temporal order. This gives a clue to the date, and the fact that the bishop is spoken of in the singular is to the same effect. To be sure, he is not expressly distinguished from the priest (elder), but it is pretty plain that, while the episcopate is not yet fully monarchical, it is nearly so. And the rules laid down are not solely for the man to be elected; they are equally for his electors. The same is true of what is said about deacons, who are mentioned in the plural, since their number is to be proportioned to the size and the needs of the church. The deacons, or "ministers" (iii, 8-13), whose business is concerned with external order and material needs, must possess qualities analogous to those demanded in a bishop. Care is taken to specify the virtues needed in their wives, and it is obvious that these same virtues are indispensable, and for stronger reasons, in the wife of the bishop. There is also a discipline for widows of whom a certain number, wisely selected, are well fitted to serve the community (v, 3, 5-7, 15; it would seem that v, 4, 8-14, 16 is a complementary surcharge).

The advice given to Timothy presumably implies that he is a kind of archbishop presiding over the organization of all the churches (iii, 14-15; iv, 6; v, 1-2; vi, 3-5, 8-14, 16). Note how in these instructions, which belong to the first draft of the letter, the obligation is stressed to guard the words of faith and good doctrine, to turn a deaf ear to "impious fables and old wives' tales" and to reprove the man "who teaches a strange doctrine and is not devoted to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ; conceited sect-makers who delight in vain arguments and see in religion a means of making money." (He would be indeed a bold man who maintained that such a sample of gnosis came from Paul.) Have done with novelties; there is a fixed deposit; a doctrine of faith; an orthodoxy; so we must have a rule of faith, a discipline for conduct, and there must be men in authority to compel the observance of what is prescribed. There is no getting away from the fact that the spiritual atmosphere of all this is wholly different from that of the oldest Epistles. Nascent orthodoxy, indeed, is already summed up in a profession of faith (ii, 5-6; v, 21). The brevity of v, 21 is highly significant: "I adjure thee before God, Christ Jesus and the elect angels" — note


this trinity — "to obey the rules without prejudice, doing nothing in partiality." With this goes violent denunciation of indiscipline, gnostic or otherwise. The denunciation, however, is made here in terms too general to permit our identifying the persons aimed at.

A more precise denunciation, but surely of later date, is that which some reviser has joined on to the short Christological poem quoted above ("he was manifest in the flesh," etc. (iv, 1-5), see p. 267). The denunciation is given as a revelation of the Spirit (iv, 1). The formula of introduction, "the Spirit says," may strike us at first as strange, but is unquestionably in the same class as that found in the Apocalypse (ii, 7, 11, 17, 29; iii, 6, 13, 22): "He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." The Spirit and the Christ are two names for the same (cf. 2 Thessalonians ii, 2 and especially 2 Corinthians iii, 17). The Christian prophets, as they uttered their oracles at the bidding of the Spirit, were speaking in the name of the immortal Christ. Now there can be no doubt that in the passage before us the Spirit is aiming at Marcion and his adepts, who prohibited marriage and abstained from certain foods precisely as here described, while they attributed the creation of the visible world, not to the supreme God, but to an inferior deity. The text before us thus falls into line with the explicit denunciation of Marcion's Antitheses at the end of the Epistle (vi, 20-21). To the same chronological level (circa 140) belongs the advice to Timothy to drink a little wine (v, 23). But the interest of him who gives the advice is not really in the condition of Timothy's "stomach." This is his way of implicitly condemning the abstinence of the encratites, and in particular of Marcion, who would not allow the use of wine even for the Holy Supper.

The same remarks apply to the solemn adjuration addressed to Timothy towards the end of the Epistle (vi, 13-16). This has the sound of a formal profession of faith; and that indeed is what it is. The commandment to be guarded is the "deposit" spoken of in the concluding injunction (vi, 20-21; supra, p. 273). The deposit is a "precept," that is, the Christ's teaching as deposited in the Gospel books. In like manner, the "good confession" of the martyred Christ is an echo of the Gospels; but they are not the source from which the mention of Pontius Pilate has been taken; that comes from a profession of Christian faith already


officially adopted. Nevertheless, the background of this creed is the Gospel scheme of the Passion, and it is significant that the final utterance, on the invisible God, whom no man has seen or can see, is closely related to the fourth Gospel (John i, 18; vi, 46; cf. Matthew xi, 27). This suggests the question whether the Pastorals are also of Asiatic origin. The question is reasonable. But what we have to be clear about, first and foremost, is that this profession of faith, in which the eschatological and the Gospel catecheses seem to meet, is anti-Marcionite in its essential aim. It is against Marcion that the author so impressively affirms the identity of the one eternal God, master of all things, with God, the creator of the world and Father of Jesus Christ. We are here in the full current of the anti-Marcionite reaction between 150 and 170.

The Second to Timothy gives less space than the First to questions of Church discipline, but while affecting to enter into personal details (discussed in Remarques, 122 — 125) it presents Paul as the type which Timothy — that is, the leading churchman  — must make his model (cf. Acts xx, 18-35, supra, p. 272). The apostle, represented as a prisoner in Rome, orders Timothy, who is at Ephesus, to come to him, and at the same time gives him instructions which, if they were authentically Paul's, would have been no more needed and no more appropriate than those of the first Epistle. It is worth noting that the author seems to be acquainted with the Book of Acts in its traditional form, iii, 11 being apparently a reference to the fictitious stories in Acts xiii-xiv, 20 (cf. supra, p. 181); further, that he combats an advanced form of gnosis and that, in some secondary additions, the Epistle expressly repudiates it, and Marcion in particular.

Paul is represented as rejoicing in the memory of Timothy's affection for him and in the sincerity of his faith; let him revive the gift of God which he received by the imposition of Paul's hands (in i Timothy iv, 14 Timothy has been ordained by the Elders; but the difference is not of essential import and the two indications are compatible). Let him be strong and unashamed of his captive master, nor discouraged from bearing testimony to the Gospel, which Paul, spite of his sufferings, continues to preach in full confidence; let him guard the instructions received from the apostle, that "good deposit"; let him pass on the


teaching he has kept to safe men, and fight on like a good soldier of the Christ. If we wish to reign with the Christ, we must die with him and for him, as Paul himself has died: this is the doctrine to be preached, paying no heed to disputes that lead to nothing, silly questionings and arguings, but always using gentleness in dealing with the enemies, if perchance God will bring them to conversion and grant them escape from the snares of the demon. Timothy knows what Paul has suffered; all who would live in the Christ are thus persecuted, while the impostors go from bad to worse, "seducers and seduced." So let Timothy preach on like a brave man; yes, even though the time be come when men are running after teachers who pander to their passions. As for Paul, he has had his day, finished his course, kept the faith, and he knows that God has a crown ready for him; and it will soon be his. All this makes a homogeneous whole, in which the modernists of that day were duly branded, but not without an effort to bring them over to the true faith.

Emphasis should be laid on the injunction to Timothy to avoid the "impious babblings" of those who declare that the resurrection has already taken place (ii, 16-18). The surcharged passage ii, 19-26 (which joins on to 14-15) may be aimed at the Marcionites. The attack on the seducers of women (iii, 6-9) is directed against the licentious gnostic sects, such as that of Marcos, the disciple of Valentinus. The praise of the ancient Scriptures (iii, 15-16), a sudden intrusion in the context, is also a counterblow at the gnostics who rejected the Old Testament, and to Marcion as the chief of them.

The Epistle to Titus

The Epistle to Titus seems to be founded on the false supposition that Titus was a disciple of Paul on the same level as Timothy. So far as we can judge from the authentic text he was nothing of the kind (see Remarques, 125-126). Equally in substance as in form the Epistle to Titus has a closer resemblance to the First to Timothy than to the Second, and might even be considered a duplicate of the First; just as Paul is supposed to have left Timothy at Ephesus in the quality of chief bishop, so he is made to leave Titus in Crete to carry out the organization of the churches founded in that island. In all the towns Titus is


to institute "elders" (priests) as bishops (i, 5-9); the bishop is to possess such and such qualities, substantially as in the First to Timothy (iii, 1-4), with more insistence laid on the need for his being a master in doctrine. For there seem to have been in Crete many circumcised heretics fond of Jewish fables; but the quoted saying of Epimenides on the vices of the Cretans is a mere literary ornament and gives no clue to the sectaries the author has in mind (i, 10-16). They are certainly the same persons who, towards the end of the letter, are said to busy themselves with "fools' questions, genealogies, disputes about the Law." Perhaps Crete is not the region where they were really to be found. It is not impossible that certain heirs of the Pauline tradition kept up the strife against Paul's adversaries, representatives of common Christianity, and treated them as Judaizers. While not impossible it is not very probable, and the artificiality of the whole composition makes it useless to search for precise applications.

Titus is to preach sound doctrine and to give specified counsels, some to old men, some to old women, some to young people, some to slaves (ii, 1-11). The series is parallel to that found in other Epistles notably in i Timothy. This must have been the common theme of catechism (cf. i Peter ii, 13-iii, 7).

The grace of God has appeared to men that they may follow the laws of the good life, in expectation of the manifestation in splendour of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here we have the identification of the Christ with God which is also to be met with in both Epistles to Timothy. This, as we have remarked elsewhere, is not a feature of Marcionism but of modalism (see Remarques, 116).

In giving this teaching Titus is to speak with authority and to enforce respect for his office (cf. i Timothy iv, 12). He will command obedience to magistrates (cf. i Timothy ii, 1-2; Romans xiii, 1-7; i Peter ii, 13-14); he will enjoin the practice of benevolence to all men and bid Christians remember that they were formerly as mad as other people, until God in his pity was pleased to save them by the bath of regeneration (passage about the effusion of the Spirit, iii, 6-7, seems to have been added); let every man, then, apply himself to good works and keep away from vain disputes; let the man who foments faction by those means be thrust out, if he fails to mend his ways after due warn-


ing (iii, ii). All this makes a kind of summary of the more diffuse synthesis, or compilation, represented by i Timothy; it has a studied conciseness and lays greater emphasis on the exclusion of incorrigible modernists; it is also free from surcharges directly aimed at the Marcionites.

The first draft of the Pastorals seems to have been anti-gnostic but not expressly anti-Marcionite; the canonized edition is formally anti-gnostic with some new matter added directly against Marcion; thus we may infer that the first draft was earlier than the explosion of Marcionism and the canonical later. Books of this kind were the more eagerly received by the Church into her apostolic collection at a time when she was setting up the New Testament as a barrier against the inundation of gnosis;

they openly condemned the gnostic heresies, and represented the first effort to stem the flood in the name of a tradition deemed to be apostolic, embodied and guarded by bishops regularly appointed to rule the churches. Henceforth the function of teaching is to be in the hands of these bishops, and the prophets are no longer to have a place at their side. In i Timothy i, 18 and iv, 14 there are indications that the prophets took part in what we might call Timothy's episcopal consecration; but once consecrated, the role of teacher is the bishop's exclusive privilege. The formula "The Spirit says," in i Timothy iv, 1 (supra, p. 275) is a conventional clichι introducing an oracle deemed to be traditional.

The Epistle of Jude

"With an apostolic title, and an opening and conclusion appropriate to a letter, the Epistle of Jude is, in the body of it, an antignostic fulmination, or rather a fragment of diatribe set in the frame of an Epistle. The title-address (1-2), visibly marking a distinction from that given to the Epistle of James (i, 1) presents the author as one of those whom the Gospel calls "brothers" of Jesus (Mark vi, 3; Matthew xiii, 55). But, as James modestly calls himself "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," so Jude not less modestly calls himself "servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James." The doxology (24-25) which serves as colophon, shows some signs of modalism, resembling the pre-


amble in that respect. In this intervening space (3-23) we find a series of object lessons; first, of the Israelites rescued from Egypt, of whom large numbers were destroyed for their unbelief; next, of the disloyal angels, who deserted their posts and are now in prison (these are the imprisoned angels, to whom the Christ preached in hell, mentioned in i Peter iii, 19-20; see supra, p. 267); finally, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah whom God exterminated for their filthiness. The sectaries whom the author is denouncing have revived all these abominations, although the example of the archangel Michael when he disputed •with the Devil over the body of Moses ought to teach them better manners towards the Celestial Powers (this refers to an incident related in the apocryphal book called Assumption of Moses). These impious scoundrels repeat the crimes of others who stand accused — Cain, Balaam, Korah, of whom Enoch wrote; and a quotation follows which can be found at the beginning of the Book of Enoch (Ethiopian version). The false teachers are finally characterized as drivelling critics, pompous orators and flatterers with an eye to the main chance.

As to you, beloved, remember the words of prediction spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, which told you: "At the end of the time mockers will appear who go the way of their impious lusts." These are they who make schism, psychics, not having the spirit, etc. (17-19).

We note, but without lingering on the point, the equivocal phrasing peculiar to this outlook, phrasing which always recurs in parallel cases, for example, in 2 Peter iii, 2-3. Here, plainly, the innovators aimed at boast of being "spiritual" (which they are not) and treat as "psychics" (which they are themselves) the common run of Christians. Compare what the mystic "Paul" is made to say, in 1 Corinthians iii, 1-4, about "spirituals" and "carnals."

In spite of its quotations from apocryphal books, which for us constitutes its originality, there is no disguising the fact that this diatribe against gnosis is a feeble composition, and as violent as feeble. Nevertheless, the author, so far as we can understand him, enjoins his readers at the end to save those who are perishing while avoiding defilement by too close contact. What makes the composition an apostolic letter is nothing more than the address


in the preamble and the doxology of the colophon. As the Second of Peter is inspired by the diatribe which forms the corpus of the composition, and derives nothing from its epistolary form, it is possible that pseudo-Peter did not know it as an Epistle, but knew and used only the document, afterwards furnished with a framework of epistolary form at the beginning and the end. Hypothetically therefore we may place the diatribe between the years 130 and 140, and its conversion into the pretended Epistle of Jude about 150.

The Second Epistle of Peter

Pseudo-Peter has made full use of Jude's diatribe, but has omitted his quotations from apocryphal books, which perhaps were beginning to come under suspicion in pseudo-Peter's circle. While the Second of Peter already depends for its central part (ii) on the diatribe which constitutes the substance of Jude, its first part (i, 3-21), in which he exalts the testimony of the prince of the apostles, is as clearly dependent on the apocalypse of Peter — the capital point for the understanding of this falsely attributed Epistle (see Remarques, 131-137). The third part (iii) is the author's direct refutation of the gnostic sect which was pouring mockery on the delay of the Second Coming. Peter's pretension to the universal apostolate is announced in the superscription (i, 1-2) which has the strong look of a form in regular use.

An easy transition introduces the second part of the Epistle (ii). As there were false prophets in olden time, so now there will arise, among "believers," false teachers who pervert the truth. This is followed by a denunciation of gnostics in general, especially those with immoral tendencies, all in better logical order than the corresponding part of Jude. There is no mention of the unbelieving Jews, so ill-placed in Jude at the head of his list of reprobates: after recalling the disloyal angels, the people drowned in the Deluge are next brought in, as they must have been in the source (cf. i Peter iii, 19-20; iv, 6); what follows is a paraphrase of this common source. For himself, when not following his source, the writer is much preoccupied, by jests that are being made in certain quarters about the delay of the parousia (iii, 1-13). The pain he has taken to keep his instruction in line with the


First to Peter is significant, notwithstanding the difference in dates between the two. Some of the surcharges in the first Epistle, such as iii, 19-20; iv, 6, can hardly be much earlier than the Second. Our author answers the mockers as best he can; the world, he remarks, has already perished by water in Noah's flood, and the present world is going to perish by fire. God, in his pity, is delaying the event in order that all of us may have time to repent; but a thousand years are to him as but one day. Nevertheless, the day of the Lord will come like a thief (cf. i Thessalonians v, 2; Matthew xxiv, 43-44; Luke xii, 39-40). In that day the heavens will disappear in roaring flame; the elements will become white hot and melt and the whole earth with everything in it will be consumed to ashes.

With this prospect before him let every man keep himself unspotted and undefiled, making the most of the respite (iii, 14-18) "as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him has also written to you," etc. The warranty here given by Peter to Paul provides the critic with a valuable clue. It is clear that, by the time these words were written, Peter and Paul, in spite of what the Epistles make the latter say, had become definitely reconciled in the current tradition concerning them: and, further, that Paul's Epistles were held to be Scripture, though certain heretics, with Marcion certainly in the first rank, were strangely perverting them. This could not have been written before the year 170. But one would gladly know what Epistles the writer had in view. Was it the original collection of ten? Or that of thirteen; or that of fourteen, with Hebrews included? This last is possible, if the writer were of Alexandria.

The Three Epistles of John

The three Epistles named after John keep more or less closely to the Fourth Gospel, and it is not surprising that the satellites present the critic with the same problems as the parent orb. Not that their origin presents even the shadow of doubt; all three come from the same workshop, if the term may be used, as the Gospel, not so much completing as convoying it, and helping to promote its diffusion and its credit. The first Epistle especially, which has the form not of a letter but of a homily, and is not all


of one piece, seems to have been compiled in the closest possible connection with the Gospel book. The fact that certain passages are written in regular rhythm has given rise to the conjecture that the formless instructions are the paraphrase of a didactic poem analogous to the chief discourses in the fourth Gospel. But there is no other proof of the hypothesis.

A solemn prologue, in heavy-handed imitation of the prologue to the Gospel, reveals the general intention of the book (i, 1-4):

That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have gazed upon and our hands have touched concerning the Word of life (life has been manifested, and we have seen, we testify and declare unto you the eternal life that was with the Father and has been revealed to us); that, I say, which we have seen and heard we announce unto you, to the end that you may have communion with us; verily our communion is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And this we write that your joy may be complete.

This opening is enough to give the character of the whole: a watery paraphrase of the ideas which form the base of the Gospel, tiresome in its repetitions — life, light, love, union with God and in God. We leave the matter there and proceed to point out some notable peculiarities of the compilation. We read (ii, 1b-2):

If anyone sin, he has a defender with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is, himself, propitiation for our sins, but not for ours alone; for the sins also of the whole world.

When those words were written the fourth Gospel had not yet spoken of "another Defender, the Spirit of the Truth," the Paraclete, who would fill the place of the Christ, now gone back to God, in helping the faithful (John xiv, 16-17; xv, 26; xvi, 13; cf. supra, p. 221-223).

The author knows the Apocalypse and on two occasions speaks of the Antichrist, but for the purpose of explaining — very freely it must be confessed — that Antichrist is already come in the person of divers heretical teachers. On the first occasion these heretics are denounced for denying that Jesus is the Christ (ii, 18-22). On the second occasion we are told that the spirits must be proved, "because many false prophets are come into the


world"; and the test is this: "every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ come in the flesh is of God," and whosoever does not confess Jesus "is of Antichrist, of whom you have heard say that he is coming and who now is already in the world." This second denunciation aims at Docetism and, very probably, at Marcion. In the first case the author — if he weighed his words, which is not certain — is not thinking of the Docetists but of people who distinguish the heavenly aeon, which was the Christ, from the man Jesus, this would be the error attributed by tradition to Cerinthus who maintained that the aeon Christ was united only for a time with the man Jesus, a doctrine which might be adjusted with a little forcing to the Gospel catechesis of Mark. "Whatever be their precise application the two denunciations presuppose an outbreak of gnostic heresies in the Asiatic circles to which the Epistle belongs, the probability being that the two denunciations are not concerned with the same heresy, since they are not by the same writer. We shall presently see, moreover, that the second Epistle is in line with the second denunciation, which would thus be the later of the two.

Towards the end of the Epistle we come upon a remarkable surcharge clearly aimed at Docetism, the relation of which to a surcharge to the same effect in the fourth Gospel cannot be fortuitous. The author is in course of proving that whosoever believes in Jesus and obeys the law of love is born of God and is, by his faith, victorious over the world (v, 1-5). The faith in question is based on the witness that God has rendered to his Son, the witness being that God has given us the eternal life which is in his Son (v, 9-12). At this point the author, intentionally picking up the original conclusion of the Fourth Gospel (John xx, 31), proceeds to write: "I have written this to you that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God." But some reviser of the Epistle, before introducing the testimony thus rendered by God to his Son, has thought fit to insert the following gloss (v, 6-7. Verse 5 is a late interpolation, which does not here concern us) about the Christ and the witness rendered to him.

This is he who comes by water and by blood, Jesus Christ, not with water only, but with water and with blood;


And he who bears witness is the Spirit
because the Spirit is the truth. So there are three that bear witness;
Spirit, water, blood;
and the three make one.

We have already pointed out the relation between this parenthesis and the incident of the lance-thrust in the story of the Passion (pp. 209, 232), and the inference to be drawn from that relation for the common history of the Gospel and the Epistles.

The two short Epistles that follow have more resemblance to letters; but they were never addressed to anybody. Both are explicitly attributed to the Elder, that is to the person whom the fourth Gospel invests with authority as the beloved disciple and the author of the Gospel itself.

The first is written for a church whom it names Lady Elect. Her children are bidden to practise charity and be on their guard against seducers who, denying that Jesus is come in the flesh, are Antichrist and people not to be received into houses nor saluted in the street (4-11). This discloses the purpose of our short letter — to support the denunciation of Docetic gnosis in the first Epistle.

The third letter is supposedly written to a believer in the church to which the former was addressed. This time the object is to commend the travelling brethren who carry the good doctrine —  i.e. the Johannine writings — to the care of friends, and to discredit the church leaders who, like the conceited Diotrephes, refuse to receive the Elder and his books. The reference is to the bishops who would have nothing to do with the new fourth Gospel and drove out its supporters.

To sum up. The Epistles called after John contain religious and moral doctrine co-ordinated to that of the fourth Gospel, denunciation of certain gnostic heresies, and highly forced reasons for accepting the testimony supposed to guarantee the apostolic character of those doctrines and of the writings that contain them. The two short Epistles and the canonical edition of the first go back to the neighbourhood of 150-160 and the first version of the first Epistle to 135-140.

Return to the Table of Contents of Alfred Loisy's The Origins of the New Testament

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