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THE TIDINGS OF THE NEW PEOPLE AND OF THE THIRD RACE: THE HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF CHRISTENDOM
The gospel was preached simultaneously as the consummation of Judaism, as a new religion, and as the restatement and final expression of man's original religion. Nor was this triple aspect preached merely by some individual missionary of dialectic gifts; it was a conception which emerged more or less distinctly in all missionary preaching of any scope. Convinced that Jesus, the teacher and the prophet, was also the Messiah who was to return ere long to finish off his work, people passed from the consciousness of being his disciples into that of being his people, the people of God: ὑμεῖς γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν (1 Pet. ii. 9: “Ye are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession”); and in so far as they felt themselves to be a people, Christians knew they were the true Israel, at once the new people and the old.
This conviction that they were a people—i.e., the transference of all the prerogatives and claims of the Jewish people to the new community as a new creation which exhibited and realized whatever was old and original in religion—this at once furnished adherents of the new faith with a political and historical self-consciousness. Nothing more comprehensive or complete or impressive than this consciousness can be conceived. Could there be any higher or more comprehensive conception than that of the complex of momenta afforded by the Christians' 241estimate of themselves as “the true Israel,” “the new people,” “the original people,” and “the people of the future,” i.e., of eternity? This estimate of themselves rendered Christians impregnable against all attacks and movements of polemical criticism, while it further enabled them to advance in every direction for a war of conquest. Was the cry raised, “You are renegade Jews”—the answer came, “We are the community of the Messiah, and therefore the true Israelites.” If people said, “You are simply Jews,” the reply was, “We are a new creation and a new people.” If, again, they were taxed with their recent origin and told that they were but of yesterday, they retorted, “We only seem to be the younger People; from the beginning we have been latent; we have always existed, previous to any other people; we are the original people of God.” If they were told, “You do not deserve to live,” the answer ran, “We would die to live, for we are citizens of the world to come, and sure that we shall rise again.”
There were one or two other quite definite convictions of a general nature specially taken over by the early Christians at the very outset from the stores accumulated by a survey of history made from the Jewish standpoint. Applied to their own purposes, these were as follows:—(1) Our people is older than the world; (2) the world was created for our sakes;406406By means of these two convictions, Christians made out their case for a position superior to the world, and established a connection between creation and history. (3) the world is carried on for our sakes; we retard the judgment of the world; (4) everything in the world is subject to us and must serve us; (5) everything in the world, the beginning and course and end of all history, is revealed to us and lies transparent to our eyes; (6) we shall take part in the judgment of the world and ourselves enjoy eternal bliss. In various early Christian documents, dating from before the middle of the second century, these convictions find expression, in homilies, apocalypses, epistles, and apologies,407407Cp. the epistles of Paul, the apocalypse of John, the “Shepherd” of Hermas (Vis. ii. 4. 1), the second epistle of Clement (xiv.), and the Apologies of Aristides and Justin (II. vii.). Similar statements occur earlier in the Jewish apocalypses. and nowhere else did 242Celsus vent his fierce disdain of Christians and their shameless, absurd pretensions with such keenness as at this point.408408He is quite aware that these pretensions are common to Jews and Christians, that the latter took them over from the former, and that both parties contended for the right to their possession. Μετὰ ταῦτα , observes Origen (c. Cels. IV. xxiii.), συνήθως ἑαυτῷ γελῶν τὸ Ἰουδαίων καὶ Χριστιανῶν γένος πάντας παραβέβληκε νυκτερίδων ὁρμαθῷ ἢ μύρμηξιν ἐκ καλιᾶς προελθοῦσιν ἢ βατράχοις περὶ τέλμα συνεδρεύουσιν ἢ σκώληξιν ἐν βορβόρου γωνίᾳ ἐκκλησιάζουσι καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαφερομένοις, τίνες αὐτῶν εἶεν ἁμαρτωλότεροι, καὶ φάσκουσιν ὅτι πάντα ἡμῖν ὁ θεὸς προδηλοῖ καὶ προκαταγγέλλει, καὶ τὸν πάντα κόσμον καὶ τὴν οὐράνιον φορὰν ἀπολιπὼν καὶ τὴν τοσαύτην γῆν παριδὼν ἡμῖν μόνοις πολιτεύεται καὶ πρὸς ἡμᾶς μόνους ἐπικηρυκεύεται καὶ πέμπων οὐ διαλείπει καὶ ζητῶν, ὅπως ἀεὶ συνῶμεν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἀναπλάσματί γε ἑαυτοῦ παραπλησίους ἡμᾶς ποιεῖ σκώληξι, φάσκουσιν ὅτι ὁ θεός ἐστιν, εἶτα μετ᾽ ἐκεῖνον ἡμεῖς ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ γεγονότες πάντῇ ὅμοιοι τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἡμῖν πάντα ὑποβέβληται, γῆ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ ἀὴρ καὶ ἄστρα, καὶ ἡμῶν ἕνεκα πάντα, καὶ ἡμῖν δουλεύειν τέτακται. λέγουσι δέ τι παρ᾽ αὐτῷ οἱ σκώληκες, ἡμεῖς δηλαδή, ὅτι νῦν, ἐπειδή τινες [ἐν] ἡμῖν πλημμελοῦσιν, ἀφίξεται θεὸς ἢ πέμψει τὸν υἱόν, ἵνα καταφλέξῃ τοὺς ἀδίκους, καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ σὺν αὐτῷ ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἔχωμεν. καὶ ἐπιφέρει γε πᾶσιν ὅτι ταῦτα [μᾶλλον] ἀνεκτὰ σκωλήκων καὶ βατράχων ἢ Ἰουδαίων καὶ Χριστιανῶν πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαφερομένων (“In the next place, laughing as usual at the race of Jews and Christians, he likens them all to a flight of bats, or a swarm of ants crawling out of their nest, or frogs in council on a marsh, or worms in synod on the corner of a dunghill, quarrelling as to which of them is the greater sinner, and declaring that ‘God discloses and announces all things to us beforehand; God deserts the whole world and the heavenly region and disregards this great earth in order to domicile himself among us alone; to us alone he makes his proclamations, ceasing not to send and seek that we may company with him for ever.' And in his representation of us, he likens us to worms that declare ‘there is a God, and next to him are we whom he has made in all points like unto himself, and to whom all things are subject—land and water, air and stars; all things are for our sakes, and are appointed to serve us.' As he puts it, the worms, i.e., we Christians, declare also that ‘since certain of our number commit sin, God will come or send his son to burn up the wicked and to let the rest of us have life eternal with himself.' To all of which he subjoins the remark that such discussions would be more tolerable among worms and frogs than among Jews and Christians”).
But for Christians who knew they were the old and the new People, it was not enough to set this self-consciousness over against the Jews alone, or to contend with them for the possession of the promises and of the sacred book;409409This controversy occupies the history of the first generation, and stretches even further down. Although the broad lines of the position taken up by Christians on this field were clearly marked out, this did not exclude the possibility of various attitudes being assumed, as may be seen from my study in the third section of the first volume of the Texte u. Untersuchungen (1883), upon “the anti-Jewish polemic of the early church.” settled on the soil of the Greek and Roman empires, they had to define 243their position with regard to this realm and its “people.” The apostle Paul had already done so, and in this he was followed by others.
In classifying mankind Paul does speak in one passage of “Greeks and barbarians” alongside of Jews (Rom. i. 14), and in another of “barbarians and Scythians” alongside of Greeks (Col. iii. 11); but, like a born Jew and a Pharisee, he usually bisects humanity into circumcised and uncircumcised—the latter being described, for the sake of brevity, as “Greeks.”410410Even in the passage from Colossians the common expression “Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision” (Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος, περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία) is put first; “barbarian, Scythian, bond and free” (βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος) follows as a rhetorical amplification. Beside or over against these two “peoples” he places the church of God as a new creation (cp., e.g., 1 Cor. x. 32, “Give no occasion of stumbling to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God”). Nor does this mere juxtaposition satisfy him. He goes on to the conception of this new creation as that which is to embrace both Jews and Greeks, rising above the differences of both peoples into a higher unity. The people of Christ are not a third people to him beside their neighbors. They represent the new grade on which human history reaches its consummation, a grade which is to supersede the previous grade of bisection, cancelling or annulling not only national but also social and even sexual distinctions.411411It was in the conception of Christ as the second Adam that the conception of the new humanity as opposed to the old, a conception which implies a dual division, was most deeply rooted. The former idea obviously played a leading part in the world of Pauline thought, but it was not introduced for the first time by him; in the Messianic system of the Jews this idea already held a place of its own. In Paul and in other Christian thinkers the idea of a dual classification of mankind intersects that of a triple classification, but both ideas are at one in this, that the new humanity cancels the old. Compare, e.g., Gal. iii. 28: οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, or Gal. v. 6: ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε ἀκροβυστία, ἀλλὰ πίστις δι᾽ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη (cp. vi. 15, οὔτε γὰρ περιτομή τι ἐστιν οὔτε ἀκροβυστία, ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις, and 2 Cor. v. 17). 1 Cor. xii. 13: ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι. 244Coloss. iii. 11: ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος, περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία, βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος. Most impressive of all is Ephes. ii. 11 f.: μνημονεύετε ὅτι ποτὲ ὑμεῖς τὰ ἔθνη . . . . ἦτε ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραήλ . . . . (ὁ Χριστός) ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας . . . . ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὑτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην, καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξῃτοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι. Finally, in Rom. 9-11 Paul promulgates a philosophy of history, according to which the new People, whose previous history fell within the limits of Israel, includes the Gentile world, now that Israel has been rejected, but will embrace in the end not merely “the fulness of the Gentiles” (πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν) but also “all Israel” (πᾶς Ἰσραήλ).
Greeks (Gentiles), Jews, and the Christians as the new People (destined to embrace the two first)—this triple division now becomes frequent in early Christian literature, as one or two examples will show.412412For Christians as the new People, see the “Shepherd” of Hermas, and Barn. v. 7 (Χριστὸς) ἑαυτῷ τὸν λαὸν τὸν καινὸν ἑτοιμάζων (Christ preparing himself the new people); vii. 5, ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν μέλλων τοῦ λαοῦ τοῦ καινοῦ προσφέρειν τὴν σάρκα (Christ about to offer his flesh for the sins of the new people); xiii. 6, βλέπετε . . . . τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον [new and evidently young] εἶναι πρῶτον (ye see that this people is the first); 2 Clem. ad Cor. ii. 3, ἔρημος ἐδόκει εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ λαὸς ἡμῶν, νυνὶ δὲ πιστεύσαντες πλείονες ἐγενόμεθα τῶν δοκούντων ἔχειν θεόν (“Our people seemed to be forsaken of God, but now we have become more numerous by our faith than those who seemed to possess God”); Ignat., ad Ephes. xix.-xx.; Aristides, Apol., xvi. (“truly this people is new, and a divine admixture is in them”); Orac. Sibyll., i. 383 f., βλαστὸς νεός ἀνθήσείεν ἐξ ἐθνῶν (“a fresh growth shall blossom out of the Gentiles”). Bardesanes also calls the Christians a new race. Clement (Paed. I. v. 15, on Zech. ix. 9) remarks: οὐκ ἤρκει τὸ πῶλον εἰρηκέναι μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ νέον προσέθηκεν αὐτῷ, τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ νεολαίαν τῆς ἀνθρωπότητος . . . . ἐμφαίνων (“To say ‘colt' was not enough; ‘young' had to be added, in order to bring out the youth of humanity”); and in I. v. 20 he observes, νέοι ὁ λαὸς ὁ καινὸς πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου λαοῦ τὰ νέα μαθόντες ἀγαθά (“In contradistinction to the older people, the new people are young because they have learned the new blessings”). See also I. vii. 58, καὶ γὰρ ἦν ὡς ἀληθῶς διὰ μὲν Μωσέως παιδαγωγὸς ὁ κύριος τοῦ λαοῦ τοῦ παλαιοῦ, δι᾽ αὑτοῦ δὲ τοῦ νέου καθηγεμὼν λαοῦ, πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον (“For it was really the Lord who instructed the ancient people by Moses; but the new people he directs himself, face to face”). The expression “new people” was retained for a long while in those early days; cp., e.g., Constant., ad s. Coet. xix., κατὰ χρόνον τοῦ Τιβερίου ἠ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἐξέλαμψε παρουσία . . . . ἠ τε νέα τοῦ δήμου διαδοχὴ συνέστη, κ.τ.λ. (“About the time of Tiberius the advent of the Saviour flashed on the world . . . . and the new succession of the people arose,” etc.). On the other hand, Christians are also the “non-gens,” since they are not a nation; cp. Orig., Hom. I. in Ps. xxxvi. (vol. xii. p. 155): “Nos sumus ‘non gens' [Deut. xxxii. 21], qui pauci ex ista civitate credimus, et alii ex alia, et nusquam gens integra ab initio credulitatis videtur assumpta. Non enim sicut Iudaeorum gens erat vel Aegyptiorum gens ita etiam Christianorum genus gens est una vel integra, sed sparsim ex singulis gentibus congregantur.”—For Christians as a distinctive genus, or as the genus of the truly pious, see Mart. Polyc., iii. 2, ἠ γενναιότης τοῦ θεοφιλοῦς καὶ θεοσεβοῦς γένους τῶν Χριστιανῶν (“the brave spirit of the God-beloved and God-fearing race of Christians”); xiv., πᾶν τὸ γένος τῶν δικαίων (“the whole race of the righteous”); Martyr. Ignat. Antioch., ii., τὸ τῶν Χριστιανῶν θεοσεβὲς γένος (“the pious race of Christians”). Also Melito, in Eus., H.E., iv. 26. 5, τὸ τῶν θεοσεβῶν γένος (“the race of the pious”), Arnobius, i. 1 (“Christiana gens”), pseudo-Josephus, Testim. de Christo (τὸ φῦλον τῶν Χριστιανῶν—the tribe of the Christians); Orac. Sibyll., iv. 136, εὐσεβέων φῦλον, etc. Several educated Christians correlated the idea of a new and at the same time a universal people with the Stoic cosmopolitan idea, as, for example, Tertullian, who points out more than once that Christians only recognise one state, i.e., the world. Similarly, Tatian writes (Orat., xxviii.): “I repudiate your legislation; there ought to be only one common polity for all men” (τῆς παρ᾽ ὑμῖν κατέγνων νομοθεσίας· μίαν μὲν γὰρ ἐχρῆν εἶναι καὶ κοινὴν ἁπάντων τὴν πολιτείαν). This democratic and cosmopolitan feature of Christianity was undoubtedly of great use to the propaganda among the lower and middle classes, particularly throughout the provinces. Religious equality was felt, up to a certain degree, to mean political and social equality as well.245
The fourth evangelist makes Christ say (x. 16): “And other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd.” And again, in a profound prophetic utterance (iv. 21 f.): “The hour cometh when neither in this mountain [that of the Samaritans, who stand here as representatives of the Gentiles] nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father; ye worship what ye know not; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth.” This passage is of importance, because it is something more than a merely formal classification; it defines, in a positive manner, the three possible religious standpoints and apportions them among the different peoples. First of all, there is ignorance of God, together with an external and therefore an erroneous worship (=the Gentiles, or Samaritans); secondly, there is a true knowledge of God together with a wrong, external worship (= the Jews); and thirdly, there is true knowledge of God together with worship that is inward and 246therefore true (=the Christians). This view gave rise to many similar conceptions in early Christianity; it was the precursor of a series of cognate ideas which formed the basis of early Christian speculations upon the history of religion. It was the so-called “gnostics” in particular who frankly built their systems upon ideas of this kind. In these systems, Greeks (or pagans), Jews, and Christians sometimes appear as different grades; sometimes the two first are combined, with Christians subdivided into “psychic” (ψύχικοι) and “pneumatic” (πνευμάτικοι) members; and finally a fourfold division is also visible, viz., Greeks (or pagans), Jews, churchfolk, and “pneumatic” persons.413413It is impossible here to go into the question of how this ethnological division of humanity intersected and squared with the other religious division made by the gnostics, viz., the psychological (into “hylic,” “psychic,” and “pneumatic” persons). During that period, when religions were undergoing transformation, speculations on the history of religion were in the air; they are to be met with even in inferior and extravagant systems of religion.414414With regard to the religious system of the adherents of Simon Magus, we have this fragmentary and obscure piece of information in Irenæus (I. xxiii.): Simon taught that “he himself was he who had appeared among the Jews as the Son, who had descended in Samaria as the Father, and made his advent among other nations as the holy Spirit” (“Semetipsum esse qui inter Judaeos quidem quasi fllius apparuerit, in Samaria autem quasi pater descenderit, in reliquis vero gentibus quasi spiritus sanctus adventaverit”). But from all this we must turn back to writers of the Catholic church with their triple classification.
In one early Christian document from the opening of the second century, of which unfortunately we possess only a few fragments (i.e., the Preaching of Peter, in Clem., Strom., vi. 5. 41), Christians are warned not to fashion their worship on the model of the Greeks or of the Jews (μὴ κατὰ τοὺς Ἕλληνας σέβεσθε τὸν θεόν . . . μηδὲ κατὰ Ἰουδαίους σέβεσθε . . . . μηδὲ κατὰ Ἰουδαίους σέβεσθε). Then we read: ὥστε καὶ ὑμεῖς ὁσίως καὶ δικαίως μανθάνοντες ἃ παραδίδομεν ὑμῖν, φυλάσσεσθε καινῶς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ σεβόμενοι· εὕρομεν γὰρ ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς καθῶς ὁ κύριος λέγει· ἰδοὺ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καινὴν διαθήκην οὐχ ὡς διεθέμην τοῖς πατράσιν ὑμῶν ἐν ὄρει Χωρήβ· νέαν ἡμῖν διέθετο, τὰ γὰρ Ἑλλήνων καὶ Ἰουδαίων παλαιά, ὑμεῖς δὲ οἱ καινῶς αὐτὸν τρίτῳ γένει σεβόμενοι Χριστιανοί (“So 247do you keep what you have learnt from us holily and justly, worshipping God anew through Christ. For we find in the scriptures, as the Lord saith, Behold I make a new covenant with you, not as I made it with your fathers in Mount Horeb. A new covenant he has made with us, for that of the Greeks and Jews is old, but ye who worship him anew in the third manner are Christians”).415415The term “religio Christiana” does not occur till Tertullian, who uses it quite frequently. The apologists speak of the distinctive θεοσέβεια of Christians.
This writer also distinguishes Greeks, Jews, and Christians, and distinguishes them, like the fourth evangelist, by the degree of their knowledge and worship of God. But the remarkable thing is his explicit assumption that there are three classes, neither more nor less, and his deliberate description of Christianity as the new or third genus of worship. There are several similar passages which remain to be noticed, but this is the earliest of them all. Only, it is to be remarked that Christians do not yet call themselves “the third race”; it is their worship which is put third in the scale. The writer classifies humanity, not into three peoples, but into three groups of worshippers.
Similarly the unknown author of the epistle to Diognetus. Only, with him the conception of three classes of worshippers is definitely carried over into that of three peoples (“Christians esteem not those whom the Greeks regard as gods, nor do they observe the superstition of the Jews . . . . [thou enquirest] about the nature of this fresh development or interest which has entered life now and not previously,” ch. i.; cp. also ch. v.: “They are attacked as aliens by the Jews, and persecuted by the Greeks”). This is brought out particularly in his endeavor to prove that as Christians have a special manner of life, existing socially and politically by themselves, they have a legitimate claim to be ranked as a special “nation.”
In his Apology to the Emperor Pius, Aristides distinctly arranges human beings in three “orders,” which are equivalent to nations, as Aristides assigns to each its genealogy—i.e., its historical origin. He writes (ch. ii.): φανερὸν γάρ ἐστιν ἡμῖν, ὦ βασιλεῦ, ὅτι τρία γένη εἰσὶν ἀνθρώπων ἐν τῷδε τῷ κόσμῳ· ὧν 248εἰσὶν οἱ τῶν παρ᾽ ὑμῖν λεγομένων θεῶν προσκυνηταὶ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ Χριστιανοί· αὐτοὶ δὲ πάλιν οἱ τοὺς πολλοὺς σεβόμενοι θεοὺς εἰς τρία διαιροῦνται γένη, Χαλδαίους τε καὶ Ἕλληνας καὶ Αἰγυπτίους (then follows the evidence for the origin of these nations, whilst the Christians are said to “derive their genealogy from Jesus Christ”).416416“It is clear to us, O king, that there are three orders of mankind in this world; these are, the worshippers of your acknowledged gods, the Jews, and the Christians. Furthermore, those who worship a plurality of gods are again divided into three orders, viz., Chaldeans, Greeks, and Egyptians.” In the Syrian and Armenian versions the passage runs somewhat otherwise. “This is clear, O king, that there are four races of men in the world, barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians” (omitting altogether the further subdivision of the Greeks into three classes). Several scholars prefer this rendering, though it should be noted that Hippolytus also, in Philos., x. 30 (twice) and 31 (twice), contrasts the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks with the Jews and Christians. Still, the question is one of minor importance for our present purpose.—Justin (Dial. cxxiii.) also derives Christians from Christ, not as their teacher but as their progenitor: ὡς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἑνὸς Ἰακὼβ ἐκείνου, τοῦ καὶ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπικληθέντος, τὸ πᾶν γένος ὑμῶν προσηγόρευτο Ἰακὼβ καὶ Ἰσραήλ, οὕτω καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ γεννήσαντος ἡμᾶς εἰς θεὸν Χριστοῦ . . . . καὶ θεοῦ τέκνα ἀληθινὰ καλούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν . . . . (“As all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, so from Christ who begat us unto God . . . . we are called, and we are, God's true children”).
How seriously Irenæus took this idea of the Christians as a special people, is evident from his remarks in iv. 30. The gnostics had attacked the Jews and their God for having appropriated the gold and silver vessels of the Egyptians. To which Irenæus retorts that it would be much more true to accuse Christians of robbery, inasmuch as all their possessions originated with the Romans. “Who has the better right to gold and silver? The Jews, who took it as a reward for their labor in Egypt? or we, who have taken gold from the Romans and the rest of the nations, though they were not our debtors?” This argument would be meaningless unless Irenæus regarded Christians as a nation which was sharply differentiated from the rest of the peoples and had no longer anything to do with them. As a matter of fact, he regarded the exodus of Israel from Egypt as a type of the “profectio ecclesiae e gentibus” (iv. 30. 4).
The religious philosophy of history set forth by Clement of Alexandria rests entirely upon the view that these two nations, 249Greeks and Jews, were alike trained by God, but that they are now (see Paul's epistle to the Ephesians) to be raised into the higher unity of a third nation. It may suffice to bring forward three passages bearing on this point. In Strom., iii. 10. 70, he writes (on the saying “where two or three are gathered together,” etc.): εἴη δ᾽ ἂν καὶ ἡ ὁμόνοια τῶν πολλῶν ἀπὸ τῶν τριῶν ἀριθμουμένη μεθ᾽ ὧν ὁ κύριος, ἡ μία ἐκκλησία, ὁ εἷς ἄνθρωπος, τὸ γένος τὸ ἕν. ἢ μή τι μετὰ μὲν τοῦ ἑνὸς τοῦ Ἰουδαίου ὁ κύριος νομοθετῶν ἦν, προφητεύων δὲ ἤδη καὶ τὸν ῾Ιερεμίαν ἀποστέλλων εἰς Βαβυλῶνα, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς ἐξ ἐθνῶν διὰ τῆς προφητείας καλῶν, συνῆγε λαοὺς τοὺς δύο, τρίτος δὲ ἦν ἐκ τῶν δυεῖν κτιζόμενος εἷς καινὸν ἄνθρωπον, ᾧ δὴ ἐμπεριπατεῖ τε καὶ κατοικεῖ ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ (“Now the harmony of the many, calculated from the three with whom the Lord is present, might signify the one church, the one man, the one race. Or was the Lord legislating with the one Jew [at Sinai], and then, when he prophesied and sent Jeremiah to Babylon, calling some also from the heathen, did he collect the two peoples together, while the third was created out of the twain into a new man, wherein he is now resident, dwelling within the church”). Again, in Strom., v. 14. 98, on Plato's Republic, iii. p. 415: εἰ μή τι τρεῖς τινας ὑποτιθέμενος φύσεις, τρεῖς πολιτείας, ὡς ὑπέλαβόν τινες, διαγράφει, καὶ Ἰουδαίων μὲν ἀργυρᾶν, Ἑλλήνων δὲ τρίτην [a corrupt passage, incorrectly read as early as Eus., Prepar., xiii. 13; on the margin of L there is the lemma, Ἑλλήνων σιδηρὰν ἢ χαλκήν, Χριστιανῶν χρυσῆν], Χριστιανῶν δέ, οἷς ὁ χρυσὸς ὁ βασιλικὸς ἐγκαταμέμικται, τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα (“Unless he means by his hypothesis of three natures to describe, as some conjecture, three polities, the Jews being the silver one, and the Greeks the third [the lemma running thus:—“The Greeks being the iron or brass one, and the Christians the gold one”], along with the Christians, with whom the regal gold is mixed, even the holy Spirit”). Finally, in Strom., vi. 5. 42: ἐκ γοῦν τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς παιδείας, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τῆς νομικῆς εἰς τὸ ἓν γένος τοῦ σωζομένου συνάγονται λαοῦ οἱ τὴν πίστιν προσιέμενοι, οὐ χρόνῳ διαιρουμένων τῶν τριῶν λαῶν, ἵνα τις φύσεις ὑπολάβοι τριττάς, κ.τ.λ. (“From the Hellenic discipline, as also from that of the law, those who accept the faith are gathered into the one race of the people who are saved—not 250that the peoples are separated by time, as though one were to suggest three different natures,” etc.).417417Clement (Strom., ii. 15. 67) once heard a “wise man” explain that Gentiles (“seat of the ungodly”), Jews (“way of sinners”), and heretics (“seat of the scornful”) were meant in Ps. i. 1. This addition of “heretics” is simply due to the passage under discussion.
Evidence may be led also from other early Christian writers to show that the triad of “Greeks (Gentiles), Jews, and Christians” was the church's basal conception of history.418418The letter of Hadrian to Servianus (Vopisc., Saturnin., viii.) is to be included among these witnesses, if it is a Christian fabrication: “Hunc (nummum) Christiani, hunc Judaei, hunc omnes venerantur et gentes” (“Christians, Jews, and all nations worship this one thing, money”). It was employed with especial frequency in the interpretation of biblical stories. Thus Tertullian enlists it in his exposition of the prodigal son (de Pudic., viii. f.); Hippolytus (Comm. in Daniel, ed. Bonwetsch, p. 32) finds the Christians in Susanna, and the Greeks and Jews in the two elders who lay snares for her; while pseudo-Cyprian (de Mont. Sina et Sion, vii.) explains that the two thieves represent the Greeks and Jews. But, so far as I am aware, the blunt expression “We Christians are the third race” only occurs once in early Christian literature subsequent to the Preaching of Peter (where, moreover, it is simply Christian worship which is described as the third class), and that is in the pseudo-Cyprianic tract de Pascha Computus (c. 17), written in 242-243 A.D. Unfortunately, the context of the expression is not quite clear. Speaking of hell-fire, the author declares it has consumed the opponents of Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, “et ipsos tres pueros a dei filio protectos—in mysterio nostro qui sumus tertium genus hominum—non vexavit” (“Without hurting, however, those three lads, protected by the Son of God—in the mystery which pertains to us who are the third race of mankind”). It is hard to see how the writer could feel he was reminded of Christians as the third race of men by the three children who were all-pleasing in God's sight, although they were cast into the fiery furnace; still, reminded he was, and at any rate the inference to be drawn from the passage is that he must have been familiar with the description of Christians as a “third race.” What sense he attached to it, we 251are not yet in a position to determine with any certainty; but we are bound to assume, in the first instance, from our previous investigations, that Christians were to him a third race alongside of the Greeks (Gentiles) and Jews. Whether this assumption is correct or false, is a question to be decided in the second section of our inquiry.
The consciousness of being a people,419419Cp. the first book of the Church History of Eusebius, especially ch. iv.: τῆς μὲν γὰρ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ παρουσίας νεωστὶ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἐπιλαμψάσης, νέον ὁμολογουμένως ἔθνος, οὐ μικρὸν οὐδ᾽ ἀσθενὲς οὐδ᾽ ἐπὶ γωνίας που γῆς ἱδρυμένον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν πολυανθρωπότατόν τε καὶ θεοσεβέστατον . . . . τὸ παρὰ τοῖς πᾶσι τῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ προσηγορίᾳ τετιμημένον (“It is agreed that when the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ recently broke upon all men, there appeared a new nation, admittedly neither small nor weak nor dwelling in any corner of the earth, but the most numerous and pious of all nations . . . . honored by all men with the title of Christ”). and of being indeed the primitive and the new people, did not remain abstract or unfruitful in the church; it was developed in a great variety of directions. In this respect also the synagogue had led the way at every point, but Christianity met its claim by making that claim her own and extending it, wherever this was possible, beyond the limits within which Judaism had confined it.
There were three cardinal directions in which the church voiced her peculiar consciousness of being the primitive people. (1) She demonstrated that, like any other people, she had a characteristic life. (2) She tried to show that so far as the philosophical learning, the worship, and the polity of other peoples were praiseworthy, they were plagiarized from the Christian religion. (3) She began to set on foot, though merely in the shape of tentative ideas, some political reflections upon her own actual importance within the world-empire of Rome, and also upon the positive relation between the latter and herself as the new religion for the world.
1. The proofs advanced by early Christianity with regard to its πολιτεία [citizenship] were twofold. The theme of one set was stated by Paul in Philippians iii. 20: “Our citizenship (πολιτεία) is in 252heaven” (cp. Heb. xiii. 13 f.: “Let us go outside the camp . . . . for here we have no permanent city, but we seek one which is to come”). On this view Christians feel themselves pilgrims and sojourners on earth, walking by faith and not by sight; their whole course of life is a renunciation of the world, and is determined solely by the future kingdom towards which they hasten. This mode of life is voiced most loudly in the first similitude of Hermas, where two cities with their two lords are set in opposition—one belonging to the present, the other to the future. The Christian must have nothing whatever to do with the former city and its lord the devil; his whole course of life must be opposed to that of the present city, with its arrangements and laws. In this way Christians were able emphatically to represent themselves as really a special people, with a distinctive course of life; but they need not have felt surprised when people took them at their word, and dismissed them with the remark: πάντες ἑαυτοὺς φονεύσαντες πορεύεσθε ἤδη παρὰ τὸν θεὸν καὶ ἡμῖν πράγματα μὴ παρέχετε (“Go and kill yourselves, every one of you; begone to God at once, and don't bother us”), quoted by Justin, Apol., II. iv.
This, however, represented but one side of the proof that Christianity had a characteristic life and order of its own. With equal energy an attempt was made to show that there was a polity realized in Christianity which was differentiated from that of other nations by its absolute morality (see above, pp. 205 f.). As early as the apostolic epistles, no point of dogma is more emphatically brought forward than the duty of a holy life, by means of which Christians are to shine as lights amid a corrupt and crooked generation. “Not like the Gentiles,” nor like the Jews, but as the people of God—that is the watchword. Every sphere of life, down to the most intimate and trivial, was put under the control of the Spirit and re-arranged; we have only to read the Didachê in order to find out the earnestness with which Christians took “the way of life.” In line with this, a leading section in all the Christian apologies was occupied by the exposition of the Christian polity as a polity which was purely ethical, the object being in every case to show that this Christian polity was in accordance with the highest moral 253standards, standards which even its opponents had to recognize, and that for this very reason it was opposed to the polity of the other nations. The Apologies of Justin (especially I. xiv. f.), Aristides (xv.), Tatian and Tertullian especially, fall to be considered in this light.420420The belauded description in the epistle to Diognetus (v. 6) is a fine piece of rhetoric, but not much more than that. The author manages to express three aspects, as it were, in a single breath: the Christian polity as the climax of morals, the Christian aloofness from the world, and the inwardness by which this religion was enabled to live in the midst of the world and adapt itself to all outward conditions without any loss of purity. A man who is able to weave these ideas into one perfect woof, either stands on the high level of the fourth evangelist—a position to which the author can hardly be promoted—or else incurs the suspicion of paying no serious attention to any one of the three ideas in question. The conviction that they are in possession of a distinctive polity is also voiced in the notion of Christians as the army of the true God and of Christ.421421Hermas (Sim. ix. 17) brings forward one most important aspect of the Christian polity, viz., its power of combining in a mental and moral unity peoples of the most varied capacities and customs. The stones built into the tower (i.e., the church) from the various mountains (the nations) are at first many-colored, but upon being built in, they all acquire the same white color: λαβόντες τὴν σφραγῖδα μίαν φρόνησιν ἔσχον καὶ ἕνα νοῦν, καὶ μία πίστις αὐτῶν ἐγένετο καὶ μία ἀγάπη . . . . διὰ τοῦτο ἡ οἰκοδομὴ τοῦ πύργου μιᾷ χρόᾳ ἐγένετο λαμπρὰ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος (“On receiving the seal they had one understanding and one mind, one faith and one love became theirs . . . . wherefore the fabric of the tower became of one color, bright as the sun”); cp. also Iren., I. 10. 2. Celsus (c. Cels., VIII. lxxii.) longed ardently for such a unity of mankind, instead of humanity being split up into nationalities. But he regarded it as a mere Utopia. Εἰ γὰρ δὴ οἷόν τε εἰς ἕνα συμφρονῆσαι νόμον τοὺς τὴν ᾿Ασίαν καὶ Εὐρώπην καὶ Λιβύην Ἕλληνάς τε καὶ βαρβάρους ἄχρι περάτων νενεμημένους (“Were it at all possible that the inhabitants of Asia, Europe, and Libya, Greeks and barbarians alike, should unite to obey one law”). On which Origen remarks: ἀδύνατον τοῦτο νομίσας εἶναι ἐπιφέρει [sc. Celsus] ὅτι ὁ τοῦτο οἰόμενος οἶδεν οὐδέν (“Judging this an impossibility, he adds that anyone who thinks it possible knows nothing at all”).
2. The strict morality, the monotheistic view of the world, and the subordination of the entire life of man, private and social, to the regulations of a supreme ethical code—all this is “what has been from the very first” (“quod ab initio fuit”). Now as the church finds this once more repeated in her own life, she recognizes in this phenomenon the guarantee that she herself, though apparently the youngest of the nations, is in reality the oldest. Furthermore, as she undertakes to bring forward proof for this conviction by drawing upon the books of Moses, which she appropriated for her own use (cp. Tatian, Theophilus, 254Clement, Tertullian, and Julius Africanus),422422Note in passing that this marks the beginning in general of the universal chronography of history, and consequently of the general Christian outlook upon the entire course of human history. she is thereby dethroning the Jewish people and claiming for herself the primitive revelation, the primitive wisdom, and the genuine worship. Hence she acquires the requisite insight and courage, not merely to survey and appropriate for herself the content of all connected with revelation, wisdom, and worship that had appeared on the horizon of other nations, but to survey and estimate these materials as if they were merely copies made from an original in her own possession. We all know the space devoted by the early Christian apologies to the proof that Greek philosophy, so far as it merited praise and was itself correct, had been plagiarized from the primitive literature which belonged to Christians. The efforts made in this direction culminate in the statement that “Whatever truth is uttered anywhere has come from us.” The audacity of this assertion is apt to hide from us at this time of day the grandeur and vigor of the self-consciousness to which it gives expression. Justin had already claimed any true piece of knowledge as “Christian,” whether it occurred in Homer, the tragedians, the comic poets, or the philosophers. Did it never dawn on him, or did he really suspect, that his entire standpoint was upset by such an extension of its range, and that what was specifically “Christian” was transformed into what was common to all men? Clement of Alexandria, at any rate, who followed him in this line of thought, not merely foresaw this inference, but deliberately followed it up.
By comparing itself with philosophy, early Christianity gave itself out as a “philosophy,” while those who professed it were “philosophers.” This, however, is one form of its self-consciousness which must not be overrated, for it is almost exclusively confined to the Christian apologetic and polemic. Christians never doubted, indeed, that their doctrine was really the truth, and therefore the true philosophy. But then it was infinitely more than a philosophy. It was the wisdom of God. They too were different from mere philosophers; they were God's 255people, God's friends. It suited their polemic, however, to designate Christianity as philosophy, or “barbarian” philosophy, and adherents of Christianity as “philosophers.” And that for two reasons. In the first place, it was the only way of explaining to outsiders the nature of Christian doctrine—for to institute a positive comparison between it and pagan religions was a risky procedure. And in the second place, this presupposition made it possible for Christians to demand from the State as liberal treatment for themselves as that accorded to philosophy and to philosophic schools. It is in this light, pre-eminently, that we must understand the favorite parallel drawn by the apologists between Christianity and philosophy. Individual teachers who were at the head either of a school (διδασκαλεῖον) within the church or of an independent school, did take the parallel more seriously;423423Such teachers, with their small groups, hardly felt themselves to be the “primitive people.” Their consciousness of entire independence was expressed in the titles of “gifted “and “learned.” We shall have to discuss the Christian διδασκαλεῖα [instruction] and its significance for the Christian propaganda in another connection; but we can well understand how pagans found the Christians' claim to be “learned” and “philosophers” a peculiarly ridiculous and presumptuous pretension. On their part, they dubbed Christians as credulous, and scoffed at them as πιστοί (“believers”), who put faith in foreign fables and old wives' gossip. but such persons were in a certain sense merely adjuncts of catholic Christendom.424424They have nothing to do with the primitive shape assumed by Christianity, that of Jesus as the teacher and the disciples as his pupils.
The charge of plagiarism was not merely levelled against philosophy, so far as philosophy was genuine, but also against any rites and methods of worship which furnished actual or alleged parallels to those of Christianity. Little material of this kind was to be found in the official cults of the Greeks and Romans, but this deficiency was more than remade up for by the rich spoil which lay in the mysteries and the exotic cults, the cult of Mithra, in particular, attracting the attention of Christian apologists in this connection at a very early period. The verdict on all such features was quite simple: the demons, it was argued, had imitated Christian rites in the cults of paganism. If it could not be denied that those pagan rites and sacraments were older than their Christian parallels, the plea readily suggested itself that the demons had given a 256distorted copy of Christianity previous to its real appearance, with the object of discrediting it beforehand. Baptism, the Lord's supper, the rites of expiation, the cross, etc., are instances in point. The interests of dogma are always able to impinge on history, and they do so constantly. But here we have to consider some cases which are specially instructive, since the Christian rites and sacraments attained their final shape under the influence of the mysteries and their rites (not, of course, the rites of any special cultus, but those belonging to the general type of the mysteries), so that dogma made the final issue of the process its first cause. Yet even in this field the quid pro quo appears in a more favorable light when we notice that Christendom posits itself as the original People at the dawn of human history, and that this consciousness determines their entire outlook upon that history. For, in the light of this presupposition, the Christians' confiscation of those pagan rites and ceremonies simply denotes the assertion of their character as ideally human and therefore divine. Christians embody the fundamental principles of that divine revelation and worship which are the source of human history, and which constitute the primitive possession of Christianity, although that possession has of course lain undiscovered till the present moment.
3. The most interesting side of the Christian consciousness of being a people, is what may be termed, in the narrower sense of the word, the political. Hitherto, however, it has been studied less than the others. The materials are copious, but up till now little attention has been paid to them. I shall content myself here with laying bare the points of most inportance.425425Tertullian's sentence (Apol., xxxviii.): “Nulla magis res nobis aliena quam publica; unam omnium rempublicam agnoscimus, mundum” (“Nothing is more alien to us than politics; we acknowledge but one universal state, the world”) has a Stoic tinge; at best, it may be taken with a grain of salt. Besides, people who despise the state always pursue a very active policy of their own.
The political consciousness of the primitive church was based on three presuppositions. There was first of all the political element in the Jewish apocalyptic, which was called forth by the demand of the imperial cultus and the terror of the persecution. Then there was the rapid transference of the gospel from 257the Jews to the Greeks, and the unmistakable affinity between Christianity and Hellenism, as well as between the church and the world-wide power of Rome. Thirdly, there was the fall and ruin of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. The first of these elements stood in antithesis to the two others, so that in this way the political consciousness of the church came to be defined in opposite directions and had to work itself out of initial contradictions.
The politics of Jewish apocalyptic viewed the world-state as a diabolic state, and consequently took up a purely negative attitude towards it. This political view is put uncompromisingly in the apocalypse of John, where it was justified by the Neronic persecution, the imperial claim for worship, and the Domitianic reign of terror. The largest share of attention, comparatively speaking, has been devoted by scholars to this political standpoint, in so far as it lasted throughout the second and the third centuries, and quite recently (1901) Neumann has discussed it thoroughly in his study of Hippolytus. The remarkable thing is that although Christians were by no means nunmerous till after the middle of the second century, they recognized that Christianity formed the central point of humanity as the field of political history as well as its determining factor. Such a self-consciousness is perfectly intelligible in the case of Judaism, for the Jews were really a large nation and had a great history behind them. But it is truly amazing that a tiny set of people should confront the entire strength of the Roman empire,426426Tertullian was the first who was able to threaten the state with the great number of Christians (Apol., xxxvii., written shortly before 200 A.D.), for up till then people had merely endeavored to hold out the terrors of the calamities at the close of the world and the return of Christ. Although Christians still lacked a majority in the empire, still (from the outset) a substitute for this, so to speak, was found in the telling fact of the broad diffusion of Christianity throughout the whole empire and beyond its bounds. Even as early as the first generations, the fact that Christians were to be found everywhere strengthened and molded their self-consciousness. In contrast to nations shut up within definite boundaries, even though these were as large as those of the Parthians, Tertullian calls Christians (Apol., xxxvii.) the “gens totius orbis,” i.e., the people of the whole world. And this had been felt long before even Tertullian wrote. that it should see in the persecution of the Christians the chief role of that empire, and that it should make 258the world's history culminate in such a conflict. The only explanation of this lies in the fact that the church simply took the place of Israel, and consequently felt herself to be a people; this implied that she was also a political factor, and indeed the factor which ranked as decisive alongside of the state and by which in the end the state was to be overcome. Here we have already the great problem of “church and state” making its appearance, and the uncompromising form given to it at this period became normal for succeeding ages. The relationship between these two powers assumed other forms, but this form continued to lie concealed beneath them all.
This, however, is only one side of the question. The transition of the gospel from the Jews to the Greeks, the unmistakable affinity between Christianity and Hellenismn, as well as between the church and the Roman world-power, and finally the downfall of the Jewish state at the hands of Rome—these factors occasioned ideas upon the relation of the empire to the church which were very different from the aims of the accepted apocalyptic. Any systematic treatment of this view would be out of place, however; it would give a wrong impression of the situation. The better way will be, as we are dealing merely with tentative ideas, to get acquainted with the most important features and look at them one after another.
2 Thess. ii. 5-7 is the oldest passage in Christian literature in which a positive meaning is attached to the Roman empire. It is represented there, not as the realm of antichrist, but, on the contrary, as the restraining power by means of which the final terrors and the advent of antichrist are held in check. For by τὸ κατέχον (ὁ κατέχων), “that which (or he who) restrains,” we must understand the Roman empire. If this be so, it follows that the church and the empire could not be considered merely as diametrically opposed to each other.
Rom. xiii. 1 f. makes this quite plain, and proceeds to draw the inference that civil authority is θεοῦ διάκονος (“a minister of God”), appointed by God for the suppression of wickedness; resistance to it means resistance to a divine ordinance. Consequently one must not merely yield to its force, but obey it for conscience' sake. The very payment of taxes is a moral 259duty. The author of 1 Pet. ii. 13 ff.427427Cp. Tit. iii.1. With regard to Paul's language in Romans, one may recollect what a quiet and happy time the early years of Nero were. expresses himself in similar terms. But he goes a step further, following up the fear of God directly with honor due to the emperor (πάντας τιμήσατε, τὴν ἀδελφότητα ἀγαπᾶτε, τὸν θεὸν φοβεῖσθε, τὸν βασιλέα τιμᾶτε).428428Greek Christians usually called the emperor βασιλεύς (“king”), a common title in the East, where it had not the same servile associations as “rex” had on the lips of people in the West. But βασιλεύς was also a title of the Lord Christ (κύριος Χριστός) which Christians dared not avoid uttering (not merely on account of “the kingdom of God,” βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, but also because Jesus had called himself by this name: John xviii. 33 f.). This occasioned a painful dilemma, though prudent Christians made strenuous efforts to repudiate the apparent treason which their religious usage of this title inevitably suggested, and to make it clear that by “kingdom” and “king” they understood nothing earthly or human, but something divine (so already Justin's Apol., I. vi.). Some hotspurs, no doubt, declared to their judges that they recognised only one king or emperor (God or Christ), and so drew upon themselves just punishment. But these cases were very rare. Christ was also called “imperator” in the West, but not in writings intended for publicity. Nothing could be more loyal than this conception, and it is noticeable that the author was writing in Asia Minor, among the provinces where the imperial cultus flourished.
Luke begins his account of Christ with the words (ii. 1): ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. As has been correctly surmised, the allusion to the emperor Augustus is meant to be significant. It was the official and popular idea that with Augustus a new era dawned for the empire; the imperial throne was its “peace,” the emperor its saviour (σωτήρ). Behind the earthly saviour, Luke makes the heavenly appear—he, too, is bestowed upon the whole world, and what he brings is peace (ver. 14, ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη).429429Even the expression used in Eph. ii. 14, αὐτὸς ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν (“he is our peace”), is modelled on the language applied to the emperor in Asia Minor. I have shown elsewhere how strongly this language has influenced the terminology of Luke in the above-mentioned passage of his gospel. No doubt we have to think of Micah v. 4, in connection with Eph. ii. 14 and Luke ii. 14. But this converging of different lines was quite characteristic of the age and the idea in question. Luke hardly intended to set Augustus and Christ in hostile opposition; even Augustus and his kingdom are a sign of the new era. This may also be 260gathered front the book of Acts, which in my opinion has not any consciously political aim; it sees in the Roman empire, as opposed to Judaism, the sphere marked out for the new religion, it stands entirely aloof from any hostility to the emperor, and it gladly lays stress upon such facts as prove a tolerant mood on the part of the authorities towards Christians in the past.
Justin (Apol., I. xii.) writes to the emperor: ἀρωγοὶ ὑμῖν καὶ σύμμαχοι πρὸς εἰρήνην ἐσμὲν πάντων μᾶλλον ἀνθρώπων (“We, more than any others, are your helpers and allies in promoting peace”), admitting thereby that the purpose of the empire was beneficial (pax terrena), and that the emperors sought to effect this purpose. Also, in describing Christians as the power430430Wherever mention is made of the power of the Christian people which upholds the state and frees humanity, it is always these two factors which are in view—their strict morality and their power over demons. Others also wield the former weapon, though not so well. But the second, the power over demons, pertains to Christians alone, and therefore they render an incomparable service to the state and to the human race, small though their numbers may be. From this conviction there grew up in Christianity the consciousness of being the power which conserves and emancipates mankind in this world. best adapted to secure this end—inasmuch as they shun all crime, live a strictly moral life, and teach a strict morality, besides scaring and exorcising those supreme enemies of mankind, the demons—he too, in a certain sense, affirms a positive relationship between the church and the state.
When the author of the epistle to Diognetus differentiates Christians from the world (the state) as the soul from the body (ch. vi.) and elaborates his account of their relationship in a series of antitheses, he is laying down at the same time a positive relation between the two magnitudes in question: ἐγκέκλεισται μὲν ἡ ψυχὴ τῷ σώματι, συνέχει δὲ αὐτὴ τὸ σῶμα· καὶ Χριστιανοὶ κατέχονται μὲν ὡς ἐν φρουρᾷ τῷ κόσμῳ, αὐτοὶ δὲ συνέχουσι τὸν κόσμον (“The soul is shut up in the body, and yet holds the body together; so Christians are kept within the world as in a prison, yet they hold the world together,”). Similarly Justin (Apol. II. vii.).
All this implies already a positive political standpoint,431431I might also include here the remark of Athenagoras in his “Supplicatio” to the emperors (xviii.): ἔχοιτε ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτῶν καὶ τὴν ἐπουράνιον βασιλείαν ἐξετάζειν· ὡς γὰρ ὑμῖν πατρὶ καὶ υἱῷ πάντα κεχείρωται, ἄνωθεν τὴν βασιλείαν εἰληφόσιν—βασιλέως γὰρ ψυχὴ ἐν χειρὶ θεοῦ, φησὶ τὸ προφητικὸν πνεῦμα—οὕτως ἑνὶ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ παῤ αὐτοῦ λόγῳ υἱῷ νοουμένῳ ἀμερίστῳ πάντα ὑποτέτακται (“May you be able to discover the heavenly kingdom by considering yourselves! For as all things are subject to you, father and son, who have received the kingdom from above—since the king's soul is in the hand of God, saith the spirit of prophecy,—so are all things subordinate to the one God and to the Logos proceeding from him, even the Son, who is not apprehended apart from him”). but 261the furthest step in this direction was taken subsequently by Melito (in Eus., H.E., iv. 26). It is no mere accident that he writes in loyal Asia Minor. By noting Luke's suggestion with regard to Augustus, as well as all that had been already said elsewhere upon the positive relations subsisting between the church and the world-empire, Melito could advance to the following statement of the situation in his Apology to Marcus Aurelius:—
“This philosophy of ours certainly did flourish at first among a barbarian people. But springing up in the provinces under thy rule during the great reign of thy predecessor Augustus, it brought rich blessings to thine empire in particular. For ever since then the power of Rome has increased in size and splendor; to this hast thou succeeded as its desired possessor, and as such shalt thou continue with thy son if thou wilt protect the philosophy which rose under Augustus and has risen with the empire, a philosophy which thine ancestors also held in honor along with other religions. The most convincing proof that the flourishing of our religion has been a boon to the empire thus happily inaugurated, is this—that the empire has suffered no mishap since the reign of Augustus, but, on the contrary, everything has increased its splendor and fame, in accordance with the general prayer.”
Melito's ideas432432Tertullian's opinion was different. He knew of no solidarity of Christianity and the empire: “Sed et Cæsares credidissent super Christo, si aut Cæsares non essent necessarii saeculo, aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Cæsares” (Apol., xxi.: “Yes, the very Cæsars would have believed on Christ, if Cæsars had not been necessary to the world, or if they could have been Cæsars and Christians as well”). need no analysis; they are plainly and clearly stated. The world-empire and the Christian religion are foster-sisters; they form a pair; they constitute a new stage of human history; the Christian religion means blessing and welfare to the empire, towards which it stands as the inward to the outward. Only when Christianity is protected and permitted to develop 262itself freely, does the empire continue to preserve its size and splendor. Unless one is to suppose that Melito simply wanted to flatter—a supposition for which there is no ground, although there was flattery in what he said—the inference is that in the Christianity which formed part of the world-empire he really recognized a co-ordinate and sustaining inward force. Subsequent developments justified this view of Melito, and in this light his political insight is marvellous. But still more marvellous is the fact that at a time like this, when Christians were still a feeble folk, he actually recognized in Christianity the one magnitude parallel to the state, and that simply on the ground of religion—i.e., as being a spiritual force which was entrusted with the function of supporting the state.433433Cp. also Orig., c. Cels., VIII. lxx.: ἀλλ᾽ οἱ καθ᾽ ὑπόθεσιν Κέλσου πάντες ἂν πεισθέντες Ῥωμαῖοι εὐχόμενοι περιέσονται τῶν πολεμίων ἤ οὐδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν πολεμήσονται, φρουρούμενοι ὑπὸ θείας δυνάμεως, τῆς διὰ πεντήκοντα δικαίους πέντε πόλεις ὅλας ἐπαγγειλαμένης διασῶσαι (“According to the notion of Celsus, if all the Romans are brought to believe, they will either overcome their foes by praying, or refrain from fighting altogether, being guarded by that power divine which promised to save five entire cities for the sake of fifty just persons”).
There is yet another early Christian writer on whom the analogy of Christendom and the world-empire dawned (a propos of its œcumenical range); only, he attempted to explain it in a very surprising fashion, which betrayed a deep hostility towards the empire. Hippolytus writes (in Dan., iv. 9): “For as our Lord was born in the forty-second year of the emperor Augustus, whence the Roman empire developed, and as the Lord also called all nations and tongues by means of the apostles and fashioned believing Christians into a people, the people of the Lord, and the people which consists of those who bear a new name—so was all this imitated to the letter by the empire of that day, ruling ‘according to the working of Satan': for it also collected to itself the noblest of every nation, and, dubbing them Romans, got ready for the fray. And that is the reason why the first census took place under Augustus, when our Lord was born at Bethlehem; it was to get the men of this world, who enrolled for our earthly king, called Romans, while those who believed in a heavenly king were termed Christians, bearing on their foreheads the sign of victory over death.”263
The œcumenical range of the Roman empire is, therefore, a Statanic aping of Christianity. As the demons purloined Christian philosophy and aped the Christian cultus and sacraments, so also did they perpetrate a plagiarism against the church by founding the great imperial state of Rome! This is the self-consciousness of Christendom expressed in perhaps the most robust, but also in the most audacious form imaginable! The real cosmopolitan character of Christianity is stated by Octavius (Min. Felix, xxxiii.) thus: “Nos gentes nationesque distinguimus: deo una domus est mundus hic totus” (“We draw distinctions between nations and races, but to God the whole of this world is one household”).
Origen's political views are more accurate, but how extravagant are his ideas! In chapters lxvii.-lxxv. of his eighth book against Celsus, by dint of a fresh interpretation given to a primitive Christian conception, and a recourse to a Platonic idea, he propounds the idea that the church, this κόσμος τοῦ κόσμου (in Joh. vi. 38), or universe of the universe, is the future kingdom of the whole world, destined to embrace the Roman empire and humanity itself, to amalgamate and to replace the various realms of this world.. Cp. ch. lxviii.: “For if, in the words of Celsus, all were to do as we do, then there is no doubt whatever that even the barbarians would become law-abiding and humane, so soon as they obeyed the Word of God; then would all religions vanish, leaving that of Christ alone to reign. And reign it will one day, as the Word never ceases to gain soul after soul.” This means the reversal of the primitive Christian hope. The church now presents itself as the civilizing and cohesive power which is to create, even in the present age, a state that shall embrace an undivided humanity. Origen, of course, is not quite sure whether this is feasible in the present age. No further away than ch. lxxii., a propos of the question (to which Celsus gave a negative answer) whether Asia, Europe, and Libya, Greeks and barbarians alike, could agree to recognize one system of laws, we find him writing as follows: “Perhaps,” he says, “such a result would not indeed be possible to those who are still in the body; but it would not be impossible to those who are released from the body” (καὶ τάχα ἀληθῶς ἀδύνατον μὲν τὸ τοιοῦτο τοῖς ἔτι ἐν 264σώμασι οὐ μὲν ἀδύνατον καὶ ἀπολυθεῖσιν αὐτῶν).434434I do not understand, any more than Origen did, the political twaddle which Celsus (lxxi.) professes to have heard from a Christian. It can hardly have come from a Christian, and it is impossible nowadays to ascertain what underlay it. I therefore pass it by. In II. xxx. he writes: “In the days of Jesus, righteousness arose and fulness of peace, beginning with his birth. God prepared the nations for his teaching, by causing the Roman emperor to rule over all the world; there was no longer to be a plurality of kingdoms, else would the nations have been strangers to one another, and so the apostles would have found it harder to carry out the task laid on them by Jesus, when he said, ‘Go and teach all nations.'”
In his reply to Celsus (III. xxix.-xxx.), this great father of the church, who was at the same time a great and sensible statesman, submits a further political consideration, which is not high-flown this time, but sober. It has also the advantage of being impressive and to the point. Although the passage is somewhat lengthy. I quote it here, as there is nothing like it in the literature of early Christianity [Greek text in Hist. Dogma, ii. 126]:—
“Apollo, according to Celsus, required the Metapontines to consider Aristeas as a god. But the Metapontines considered Aristeas was a man, and perhaps not even a respectable man, and this conviction of theirs seemed to them more valid than the declaration of the oracle that Aristeas was a god and deserving of divine honor. Consequently they would not obey Apollo, and no one regarded Aristeas as a god. But with regard to Jesus, we may say that it proved a blessing to the human race to acknowledge him as God's son, as God appearing in a human soul and body. . . . . God, who sent Jesus, brought to nought all the conspiracies of the demons and gave success to the gospel of Jesus over the whole earth for the conversion and amelioration of mankind, causing churches everywhere to be established, which should be ruled by other laws than those of superstitious, licentious, and evil men. For such is the character of the masses who constitute the assemblies throughout the various towns. Whereas, the churches or assemblies of God, whom Christ instructs, are ‘lights in the world,' compared to the 265assemblies of the districts among which they live as strangers. For who would not allow that even the inferior members of the church, and such as take a lower place when judged by the standard of more eminent Christians—even these are far better people than the members of profane assemblies?
“Take the church of God at Athens; it is a peaceable and orderly body, as it desires to please God, who is over all. Whereas the assembly of the Athenians is refractory, nor can it be compared in any respect to the local church or assembly of God. The same may be said of the church of God at Corinth and the local assembly of the people, as also of the church of God at Alexandria and the local assembly in that city. And if any candid person hears this and examines the facts of the case with a sincere love for the truth, he will admire him who conceived the design and was able to realize it, establishing churches of God to exist as strangers amid the popular assemblies of the various cities. Furthermore, if one compares the council of the Church of God with that of the cities, one by one, it would be found that many a councillor of the church is worthy to be a leader in God's city, if such a city exists in the world; whereas other councillors in all parts of the world show not a trait of conduct to justify the superiority born of their position, which seems to give them precedence over their fellow-citizens. Such also is the result of any comparison between the president of the church in any city and the civic magistrates. It will be found that, in the matter of conduct, even such councillors and presidents of the church as are extremely defective arid indolent compared to their more energetic colleagues, are possessed of virtues which are in general superior to those of civic councillors and rulers.”
At this point I shall break off the present part of our investigation. The evidence already brought forward will suffice to give some idea of how Christians held themselves to be the new People and the third race of mankind, and also of the inferences which they drew from these conceptions. But how did the Greeks and Romans regard this phenomenon of Christianity with its enormous claims? This is a question to which justice must be done in an excursus.266
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