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Among all the great men of antiquity there is none, with the exception of Cicero, whom we may know so intimately as Saul of Tarsus. The main facts of his career have been recorded by a contemporary, who was probably his friend and travelling companion. A collection of letters, addressed to the little religious communities which he founded, reveals the character of the writer no less than the nature of his work. Alone among the first preachers of Christianity, he stands before us as a living man. Οἱοϛ πἑπνυται, τοι δε σκιαι ἁἱσσουσι. We know very little in reality of Peter and James and John, of Apollos and Barnabas. And of our divine Master no biography can ever be written.

With St. Paul it is quite different. He is a saint without a luminous halo. His personal characteristics are too distinct and too human to make idealisation easy. For this reason he has never been the object of popular devotion. Shadowy figures like St. Joseph and St. Anne have been divinised and surrounded with picturesque legends; but St. Paul has been spared the honour or the ignominy of being coaxed and wheedled by the piety of paganised Christianity. No tender fairy-tales are attached to his cult; he remains for us what he was in the flesh. It is even possible to feel an active dislike for him. Lagarde ('Deutsche Schriften,' p. 71) abuses him as a politician might vilify an opponent. 'It is monstrous' (says he) 'that men of any historical training should attach any importance to this Paul. This outsider was a Pharisee from top to toe even after he became a Christian'—and much more to the same effect. Nietzsche describes him as 'one of the most ambitious of men, whose superstition was only equalled by his cunning. A much tortured, much to be pitied man, an exceedingly unpleasant person both to himself and to others.... He had a great deal on his conscience. He alludes to enmity, murder, sorcery, idolatry, impurity, drunkenness, and the love of carousing.' Renan, who could never have made himself ridiculous by such ebullitions as these, does not disguise his repugnance for the 'ugly little Jew' whose character he can neither understand nor admire. These outbursts of personal animosity, so strange in modern critics dealing with a personage of ancient history, show how vividly his figure stands out from the canvas. There are very few historical characters who are alive enough to be hated.

It is, however, only in our own day that the personal characteristics of St. Paul have been intelligently studied; and the most valuable books about him are later than the unbalanced tirades of Lagarde and Nietzsche, and the carping estimate of Renan. In the nineteenth century, Paul was obscured behind Paulinism. His letters were studied as treatises on systematic theology. Elaborate theories of atonement, justification, and grace were expounded on his authority, as if he had been a religious philosopher or theological professor like Origen and Thomas Aquinas. The name of the apostle came to be associated with angular and frigid disquisitions which were rapidly losing their connexion with vital religion. It has been left for the scholars of the present century to give us a picture of St. Paul as he really was—a man much nearer to George Fox or John Wesley than to Origen or Calvin; the greatest of missionaries and pioneers, and only incidentally a great theologian. The critical study of the New Testament has opened our eyes to see this and many other things. Much new light has also been thrown by studies in the historical geography of Asia Minor, a work in which British scholars have characteristically taken a prominent part. The delightful books of Sir W.M. Ramsay have now been supplemented by the equally attractive volume of another travelling scholar, Professor Deissmann. A third source of new information is the mass of inscriptions and papyri which have been discovered in the last twenty years. The social life of the middle and lower classes in the Levant, their religious beliefs and practices, and the language which they spoke, are now partially known to us, as they never were before. The human interest of the Pauline Epistles, and of the Acts, is largely increased by these accessions to knowledge.

The Epistles are real letters, not treatises by a theological professor, nor literary productions like the Epistles of Seneca. Each was written with reference to a definite situation; they are messages which would have been delivered orally had the Apostle been present. Several letters have certainly been lost; and St. Paul would probably not have cared much to preserve them. There is no evidence that he ever thought of adding to the Canon of Scripture by his correspondence. The Author of Acts seems not to have read any of the letters. This view of the Epistles has rehabilitated some of them, which were regarded as spurious by the Tübingen school and their successors. The question which we now ask when the authenticity of an Epistle is doubted is, Do we find the same man? not, Do we find the same system? There is, properly speaking, no system in St. Paul's theology, and there is a singularly rapid development of thought. The 'Pastoral Epistles' are probably not genuine, though the defence of them is not quite a desperate undertaking. Of the rest, the weight of evidence is slightly against the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, the vocabulary of which differs considerably from that of the undoubted Epistles; and the short letter called 2 Thessalonians is open to some suspicion. The genuineness of Ephesians is not of great importance to the student of Pauline theology, unless the closely allied Epistle to the Colossians is also rejected; and there has been a remarkable return of confidence in the Pauline authorship of this letter. All the other Epistles seem to be firmly established.

The other source of information about St. Paul's life is the Acts of the Apostles, the value of which as a historical document is very variously estimated. The doubts refer mainly to the earlier chapters, before St. Paul appears on the scene. Sane criticism can hardly dispute that the 'we-passages,' in which the writer speaks of St. Paul and himself in the first person plural, are the work of an eye-witness, and that most of the important facts in the later chapters are from the same source. The difficult problem is concerned with the relation of this writer to the editor, who is responsible for the 'Petrine' part of the book. There is very much to be said in favour of the tradition that this editor, who also compiled the Third Gospel, was Lucas or Lucanus, the physician and friend of St. Paul. It does not necessarily follow that he was the fellow-traveller who in a few places speaks of himself in the first person. Luke (if we may decide the question for ourselves by giving him this name) must have been a man of very attractive character; full of kindness, loyalty, and Christian charity. He is the most feminine (not effeminate) writer in the New Testament, and shows a marked partiality for the tender aspects of Christianity. He is attracted by miracles, and by all that makes history picturesque and romantic. His social sympathies are so keen that his gospel furnishes the Christian socialist with nearly all his favourite texts. Above all, he is a Greek man of letters, dominated by the conventions of Greek historical composition. For the Greek, history was a work of art, written for edification, and not merely a bald record of facts. The Greek historian invented speeches for his principal characters; this was a conventional way of elucidating the situation for the benefit of his readers. Everyone knows how Thucydides, the most conscientious historian in antiquity, habitually uses this device, and how candidly he explains his method. We can hardly doubt that the author of Acts has used a similar freedom, though the report of the address to the elders of Ephesus reads like a summary of an actual speech. The narrative is coloured in places by the historian's love for the miraculous. Critics have also suspected an eirenical purpose in his treatment of the relations between St. Paul and the Jerusalem Church.

Saul of Tarsus was a Benjamite of pure Israelite descent, but also a Roman citizen by birth. His famous old Jewish name was Latinised or Graecised as Paulos (Σαὑλοϛ means 'waddling,' and would have been a ridiculous name); he doubtless bore both names from boyhood. Tarsus is situated in the plain of Cilicia, and is now about ten miles from the sea. It is backed by a range of hills, on which the wealthier residents had villas, while the high glens of Taurus, nine or ten miles further inland, provided a summer residence for those who could afford it, and a fortified acropolis in time of war. The town on the plain must have been almost intolerable in the fierce Anatolian summer-heat. The harbour was a lake formed by the Cydnus, five or six miles below Tarsus; but light ships could sail up the river into the heart of the city. Thus Tarsus had the advantages of a maritime town, though far enough from the sea to be safe from pirates. The famous pass called the 'Cilician Gates' was traversed by a high-road through the gorge into Cappadocia. Ionian colonists came to Tarsus in very early times; and Ramsay is confident that Tarshish, 'the son of Javan,' in Gen. x. 4, is none other than Tarsus. The Greek settlers, of course, mixed with the natives, and the Oriental element gradually swamped the Hellenic. The coins of Tarsus show Greek figures and Aramaic lettering. The principal deity was Baal-Tarz, whose effigy appears on most of the coins. Under the successors of Alexander, Greek influence revived, but the administration continued to be of the Oriental type; and Tarsus never became a Greek city, until in the first half of the second century B.C. it proclaimed its own autonomy, and renamed itself Antioch-on-Cydnus. Great privileges were granted it by Antiochus Epiphanes, and it rapidly grew in wealth and importance. Besides the Greeks, there was a large colony of Jews, who always established themselves on the highways of the world's commerce. Since St. Paul was a 'citizen' of Tarsus, i.e. a member of one of the 'Tribes' into which the citizens were divided, it is probable (so Ramsay argues) that there was a large 'Tribe' of Jews at Tarsus; for no Jew would have been admitted into, or would have consented to join, a Greek Tribe, with its pagan cult.

So matters stood when Cilicia became a Roman Province in 104 B.C. The city fell into the hands of the barbarian Tigranes twenty years later, but Gnaeus Pompeius re-established the Roman power, and with it the dominance of Hellenism, in 63. Augustus turned Cilicia into a mere adjunct of Syria; and the pride of Tarsus received a check. Nevertheless, the Emperor showed great favour to the Tarsians, who had sided with Julius and himself in the civil wars. Tarsus was made a 'libera civitas,' with the right to live under its own laws. The leading citizens were doubtless given the Roman citizenship, or allowed to purchase it. Among these would naturally be a number of Jews, for that nation loved Julius Cæsar and detested Pompeius. But Hellenism could not retain its hold on Tarsus. Dion Chrysostom, who visited it at the beginning of the second century A.D., found it a thoroughly Oriental town, and notes that the women were closely veiled in Eastern fashion. Possibly this accounts for St. Paul's prejudice against unveiled women in church. One Greek institution, however, survived and flourished—a university under municipal patronage. Strabo speaks with high admiration of the zeal for learning displayed by the Tarsians, who formed the entire audience at the professors' lectures, since no students came from outside. This last fact shows, perhaps, that the lecturers were not men of wide reputation; indeed, it is not likely that Tarsus was able to compete with Athens and Alexandria in attracting famous teachers. The most eminent Tarsians, such as Antipater the Stoic, went to Europe and taught there. What distinguished Tarsus was its love of learning, widely diffused in all classes of the population.

St. Paul did not belong to the upper class. He was a working artisan, a 'tent-maker,' who followed one of the regular trades of the place. Perhaps, as Deissmann thinks, the 'large letters' of Gal. vi. 11 imply that he wrote clumsily, like a working man and not like a scribe. The words indicate that he usually dictated his letters. The 'Acts of Paul and Thekla' describe him as short and bald, with a hook-nose and beetling brows; there is nothing improbable in this description. But he was far better educated than the modern artisan. Not that a single quotation from Menander (1 Cor. xv. 33) shows him to be a good Greek scholar; an Englishman may quote 'One touch of nature makes the whole world kin' without being a Shakespearean. But he was well educated because he was the son of a strict Jew. A child in such a home would learn by heart large pieces of the Old Testament, and, at the Synagogue school, all the minutiæ of the Jewish Law. The pupil was not allowed to write anything down; all was committed to the memory, which in consequence became extremely retentive. The perfect pupil 'lost not a drop from his teacher's cistern.' At the age of about fourteen the boy would be sent to Jerusalem, to study under one of the great Rabbis; in St. Paul's case it was Gamaliel. Under his tuition the young Pharisee would learn to be a 'strong Churchman.' The Rabbis viewed everything from an ecclesiastical standpoint. The interests of the Priesthood, the Altar, and the Temple overshadowed everything else. The Priestly Code, says Mr. Cohu, practically resolves itself into one idea: Everything in Israel belongs to God; all places, all times, all persons, and all property are His. But God accepts a part of His due; and, if this part is scrupulously paid, He will send His blessing upon the remainder. Besides the written law, the Pharisee had to take on himself the still heavier burden of the oral law, which was equally binding. It was a seminary education of the most rigorous kind. St Paul cannot reproach himself with any slackness during his novitiate. He threw himself into the system with characteristic ardour. Probably he meant to be a Jerusalem Rabbi himself, still practising his trade, as the Rabbis usually did. For he was unmarried; and every Jew except a Rabbi was expected to marry at or before the age of twenty-one.

He suffered from some obscure physical trouble, the nature of which we can only guess. It was probably epilepsy, a disease which is compatible with great powers of endurance and great mental energy, as is proved by the cases of Julius Cæsar and Napoleon. He was liable to mystical trances, in which some have found a confirmation of the supposition that he was epileptic. But these abnormal states were rare with him; in writing to the Galatians he has to go back fourteen years to the date when he was 'caught up into the third heaven,' The visions and voices which attended his active ministry prove nothing about his health. At that time anyone who underwent a psychical experience for which he could not account believed that he was possessed by a spirit, good or bad. It is significant that Tertullian, at the end of the second century, says that 'almost the majority of mankind derive their knowledge of God from visions.' The impression that St. Paul makes upon us is that of a man full of nervous energy and able to endure an exceptional amount of privation and hardship. A curious indication, which has not been noticed, is that, as he tells us himself, he five times received the maximum number of lashes from Jewish tribunals. These floggings in the Synagogues were very severe, the operator being required to lay on with his full strength. There is evidence that in most cases a much smaller number of strokes than the full thirty-nine was inflicted, so as not to endanger the life of the culprit. The other trials which he mentions—three Roman scourgings, one stoning, a day and night spent in battling with the waves after shipwreck, would have worn out any constitution not exceptionally tough.

We must bear in mind this terrible record of suffering if we wish to estimate fairly the character of the man. During his whole life after his conversion he was exposed not only to the hardships of travel, sometimes in half-civilised districts, but to 'all the cruelty of the fanaticism which rages like a consuming fire through the religious history of the East from the slaughter of Baal's priests to the slaughter of St. Stephen, and from the butcheries of Jews at Alexandria under Caligula to the massacres of Christians at Adana, Tarsus, and Antioch in the year 1909 '—(Deissmann). It is one evil result of such furious bigotry that it kindles hatred and resentment in its victims, and tempts them to reprisals. St. Paul does speak bitterly of his opponents, though chiefly when he finds that they have injured his converts, as in the letter to the Galatians. Modern critics have exaggerated this element in a character which does not seem to have been fierce or implacable. He writes like a man engaged in a stern conflict against enemies who will give no quarter, and who shrink from no treachery. But the sharpest expression that can be laid to his charge is the impatient, perhaps half humorous wish that the Judaisers who want to circumcise the Galatians might be subjected to a severer operation themselves (Gal. v. 12). The dominant impression that he makes upon us is that he was cast in a heroic mould. He is serenely indifferent to criticism and calumny; no power on earth can turn him from his purpose. He has made once for all a complete sacrifice of all earthly joys and all earthly ties; he has broken (he, the devout Jewish Catholic) with his Church and braved her thunders; he has faced the opprobrium of being called traitor, heretic, and apostate; he has 'withstood to the face' the Palestinian apostles who were chosen by Jesus and held His commission; he has set his face to achieve, almost single-handed, the conquest of the Roman Empire, a thing never dreamed of by the Jerusalem Church; he is absolutely indifferent whether his mission will cost him his life, or only involve a continuation of almost intolerable hardship. It is this indomitable courage, complete self-sacrifice, and single-minded devotion to a magnificently audacious but not impracticable idea, which constitute the greatness of St. Paul's character. He was, with all this, a warm-hearted and affectionate man, as he proves abundantly by the tone of his letters. His personal religion was, in essence, a pure mysticism; one worships a Christ whom he has experienced as a living presence in his soul. The mystic who is also a man of action, and a man of action because he is a mystic, wields a tremendous power over other men. He is like an invulnerable knight, fighting in magic armour.

It is an interesting and difficult question whether we should regard the intense moral dualism of the Epistle to the Romans as a confession that the writer has had an unusually severe personal battle with temptation. The moral struggle certainly assumes a more tragic aspect in these passages than in the experience of many saintly characters. We find something like it in Augustine, and again in Luther; it may even be suggested that these great men have stamped upon the Christian tradition the idea of a harsher 'clash of yes and no' than the normal experience of the moral life can justify. But it is not certain that the first person singular in such verses as 'O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?' is a personal confession at all. It may be for human nature generally that he is speaking, when he gives utterance to that consciousness of sin which was one of the most distinctive parts of the Christian religion from the first. It does not seem likely that a man of so lofty and heroic a character was ever seriously troubled with ignominious temptations. That he yielded to them, as Nietzsche and others have suggested, is in the highest degree improbable. Even if the self-reproaches were uttered in his own person, we have many other instances of saints who have blamed themselves passionately for what ordinary men would consider slight transgressions. Of all the Epistles, the Second to the Corinthians is the one which contains the most intimate self-revelations, and few can read it without loving as well as honouring its author.

We know nothing of the Apostle's residence at Jerusalem except the name of his teacher. But it was at this time that he became steeped in the Pharisaic doctrines which loamed the framework in which his earlier Christian beliefs were set. It is now recognised that Pharisaism, far from being the antipodes of Christianity, was rather the quarter where the Gospel found its best recruits. The Pharisaic school contained the greater part of whatever faith, loyalty and piety remained among the Jewish people; and its dogmatic system passed almost entire into the earliest Christian Church, with the momentous addition that Jesus was the Messiah. A few words on the Pharisaic teaching which St. Paul must have imbibed from Gamaliel are indispensable even in an article which deals with Paul, and not with Paulinism.

The distinctive feature of the Jewish religion is not, as is often supposed, its monotheism, Hebrew religion in its golden age was monolatry rather than monotheism; and when Jahveh became more strictly 'the only God,' the cult of intermediate beings came in, and restored a quasi-polytheism. The distinctive feature in Jewish faith is its historical and teleological character. The God of the Jew is not natural law. If the idea of necessary causation ever forced itself upon his mind, he at once gave it the form of predestination. The whole of history is an unfolding of the divine purpose; and so history as a whole has for the Jew an importance which it never had for a Greek thinker, nor for the Hellenised Jew Philo. The Hebrew idea of God is dynamic and ethical; it is therefore rooted in the idea of Time. The Pharisaic school modified this prophetic teaching in two ways. It became more spiritual; anthropomorphisms were removed, and the transcendence of God above the world was more strictly maintained. On the other hand, the religious relationship became in their hands narrower and more external. The notion of a covenant was defined more rigorously; the Law was practically exalted above God, so that the Rabbis even represent the Deity as studying the Law. With this legalism went a spirit of intense exclusiveness and narrow ecclesiasticism. As God was raised above direct contact with men, the old animistic belief in angels and demons, which had lasted on in the popular mind by the side of the worship of Jahveh, was extended in a new way. A celestial hierarchy was invented, with names, and an infernal hierarchy too; the malevolent ghosts of animism became fallen angels. Satan, who in Job is the crown-prosecutor, one of God's retinue, becomes God's adversary; and the angels, formerly manifestations of God Himself, are now quite separated from Him. A supramundane physics or cosmology was evolved at the same time. Above Zion, the centre of the earth, rise seven heavens, in the highest of which the Deity has His throne. The underworld is now first divided into Paradise and Gehenna. The doctrine of the fall of man, through his participation in the representative guilt of his first parents, is Pharisaic; as is the strange legend, which St. Paul seems to have believed (2 Cor. xi. 3), that the Serpent carnally seduced Eve, and so infected the race with spiritual poison. Justification, in Pharisaism as for St. Paul, means the verdict of acquittal. The bad receive in this life the reward for any small merits which they may possess; the sins of the good must be atoned for; but merits, as in Roman Catholicism, may be stored and transferred. Martyrdoms especially augment the spiritual bank-balance of the whole nation. There was no official Messianic doctrine, only a mass of vague fancies and beliefs, grouped round the central idea of the appearance on earth of a supernatural Being, who should establish a theocracy of some kind at Jerusalem. The righteous dead will be raised to take part in this kingdom. The course of the world is thus divided into two epochs—'this age' and 'the age to come.' A catastrophe will end the former and inaugurate the latter. The promised deliverer is now waiting in heaven with God, until his hour comes; and it will come very soon. All this St. Paul must have learned from Gamaliel. It formed the framework of his theology as a Christian for many years after his conversion, and was only partially thrown off, under the influence of mystical experience and of Greek ideas, during the period covered by the letters. The lore of good and bad spirits (the latter are 'the princes of this world' in I Cor. ii. 6, 8) pervades the Epistles more than modern readers are willing to admit. It is part of the heritage of the Pharisaic school.

It is very unlikely (in spite of Johannes Weiss) that St. Paul ever saw Jesus in the flesh. But he did come in contact with the little Christian community at Jerusalem. These disciples at first attempted to live as strict members of the Jewish Church. They knew that the coming Messiah was their crucified Master, but this belief involved no rupture with Judaism. So at least they thought themselves; the Sanhedrin saw more clearly what the new movement meant. The crisis came when numerous 'Hellenists' attached themselves to the Church—Jews of the Dispersion, from Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere. A threatened rupture between these and the Palestinian Christians was averted by the appointment of seven deacons or charity commissioners, among whom Stephen soon became prominent by the dangerously 'liberal' character of his teaching. Philo gives important testimony to the existence of a 'liberal' school among the Jews of the Dispersion, who, under pretext of spiritualising the traditional law, left off keeping the Sabbath and the great festivals, and even dispensed with the rite of circumcision. Thus the admission of Gentiles on very easy terms into the Church was no new idea to the Palestinian Jews; it was known to them as part of the shocking laxity which prevailed among their brethren of the Dispersion. With Stephen, this kind of liberalism seemed to have entered the group of 'disciples.' He was accused of saying that Jesus was to destroy the temple and change the customs of Moses. In his bold defence he admitted that in his view the Law was valid only for a limited period, which would expire so soon as Jesus returned as Messiah. This was quite enough for the Sanhedrin. They stoned Stephen, and compelled the 'disciples' to disperse and fly for their lives. Only the Apostles, whose devotion to the Law was well known, were allowed to remain. This last fact, briefly recorded in Acts, is important as an indication that the persecution was directed only against the liberalising Christians, and that these were the great majority. Saul, it seems, had no quarrel with the Twelve; his hatred and fanaticism were aroused against a sect of Hellenist Jews who openly proclaimed that the Law had been abrogated in advance by their Master, who, as Saul observed with horror, had incurred the curse of the Law by dying on a gibbet. All the Pharisee in him was revolted; and he led the savage heretic-hunt which followed the execution of Stephen.

What caused the sudden change which so astonished the survivors among his victims? To suppose that nothing prepared for the vision near Damascus, that the apparition in the sky was a mere 'bolt from the blue,' is an impossible theory. The best explanation is furnished by a study of the Apostle's character, which we really know very well. The author of the Epistles was certainly not a man who could watch a young saint being battered to death by howling fanatics, and feel no emotion. Stephen's speech may have made him indignant; his heroic death, the very ideal of a martyrdom, must have awakened very different feelings. An undercurrent of dissatisfaction, almost of disgust, at the arid and unspiritual seminary teaching of the Pharisees now surged up and came very near the surface. His bigotry sustained him as a persecutor for a few weeks more; but how if he could himself see what the dying Stephen said that he saw? Would not that be a welcome liberation? The vision came in the desert, where men see visions and hear voices to this day. They were very common in the desert of Gobi when Marco Polo traversed it. 'The Spirit of Jesus,' as he came to call it, spoke to his heart, and the form of Jesus flashed before his eyes. Stephen had been right; the Crucified was indeed the Lord from heaven. So Saul became a Christian; and it was to the Christianity of Stephen, not to that of James the Lord's brother, that he was converted. The Pharisee in him was killed.

The travelling missionary was as familiar a figure in the Levant as the travelling lecturer on philosophy. The Greek language brought all nationalities together. The Hellenising of the East had gone on steadily since the conquests of Alexander; and Greek was already as useful as Latin in many parts of the West. A century later, Marcus Aurelius wrote his Confessions in Greek; and even in the middle of the third century, when the tide was beginning to turn in favour of Latin, Plotinus lectured in Greek at Rome. Christianity, within a few years after the Crucifixion, had allied itself definitely with the speech, and therefore inevitably with the spirit, of Hellenism. At no time since have travel and trade been so free between the West of Europe and the West of Asia. A Phrygian merchant (according to the inscription on his tomb) made seventy-two journeys to Rome in the course of his business-life. The decomposition of nationalities, and the destruction of civic exclusiveness, led naturally to the formation of voluntary associations of all kinds, from religious sects to trade unions; sometimes a single association combined these two functions. The Oriental religions appealed strongly to the unprivileged classes, among which genuine religious faith was growing, while the official cults of the Roman Empire were unsatisfying in themselves and associated with tyranny. The attempt of Augustus to resuscitate the old religion was artificial and unfruitful. The living movement was towards a syncretism of religious ideas and practices, all of which came from the Eastern provinces and beyond them. The prominent features in this new devotion were the removal of the supreme Godhead from the world to a transcendental sphere; contempt for the world and ascetic abnegation of 'the flesh'; a longing for healing and redemption, and a close identification of salvation with individual immortality; and, finally, trust in sacraments ('mysteries,' in Greek) as indispensable means of grace or redemption. This was the Paganism with which Christianity had to reckon, as well as with the official cult and its guardians. The established church it conquered and destroyed; the living syncretistic beliefs it cleansed, simplified, and disciplined, but only absorbed by becoming itself a syncretistic religion. But besides Christians and Pagans, there were the Jews, dispersed over the whole Empire. There were at least a million in Egypt, a country which St. Paul, for reasons unknown to us, left severely alone; there were still more in Syria, and perhaps five millions in the whole Empire. In spite of the fecundity of Jewish women, so much emphasised by Seeck in his history of the Downfall of the Ancient World, it is impossible that the Hebrew stock should have multiplied to this extent. There must have been a very large number of converts, who were admitted, sometimes without circumcision, on their profession of monotheism and acceptance of the Jewish moral code. The majority of these remained in the class technically called 'God-fearers,' who never took upon themselves the whole yoke of the Law. These half-Jews were the most promising field for Christian missionaries; and nothing exasperated the Jews more than to see St. Paul fishing so successfully in their waters. The spirit of propagandism almost disappeared from Judaism after the middle of the second century. Judaism shrank again into a purely Eastern religion, and renounced the dangerous compromise with Western ideas. The labours of St. Paul made an all-important parting of the ways. Their result was that Christianity became a European religion, while Judaism fell back upon its old traditions.

It is very unfortunate that we have no thoroughly trustworthy records of the Apostle's earlier mission preaching. The Epistles only cover a period of about ten years; and the rapid development of thought which can be traced during this short time prevents us from assuming that his earlier teaching closely resembled that which we find in the Letters. But if, during the earlier period, he devoted his attention mainly to those who were already under Jewish influence, we may be sure that he spoke much of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of His approaching return, these being the chief articles of faith in Judaic Christianity. This was, however, only the framework. What attracted converts was really the historical picture of the life of Jesus; his message of love and brotherhood, which they found realised in the little communities of believers; and the abolition of all external barriers between human beings, such as social position, race, and sex, which had undoubtedly been proclaimed by the Founder, and contained implicitly the promise of an universal religion. We can infer what the manner of his preaching was from the style of the letters, which were probably dictated like extempore addresses, without much preparation. He was no trained orator, and he thoroughly disdained the arts of the rhetorician. His Greek, though vigorous and effective, is neither correct nor elegant. His eloquence is of the kind which proceeds from intense conviction, and from a thorough knowledge of Old Testament prophecy and psalmody—no bad preparation for a religious teacher. If at times he argued like a Rabbi, these frigid debates were as acceptable to ancient Jews as they are to modern Scotsmen. And when he takes fire, as he deals with some vital truth which he has lived as well as learned and taught, he establishes his right to be called what he never aimed at being—a writer of genius. Such passages as 1 Cor. xiii., Phil, ii., Rom. viii., rank among the finest compositions in later Greek literature. Regarded merely as a piece of poetical prose, 1 Cor. xiii. is finer than anything that had been written in the Greek language since the great Attic prose-writers. And if this was dictated impromptu, similar outbursts of splendid eloquence were probably frequent in his mission-preaching. Their effect must have been overwhelming, when reinforced by the flashing eye of the speaker, and by the absolute sincerity which none could doubt who saw his face and figure, furrowed by toil and scarred by torture.

In addressing the Gentiles, we may assume that he followed the customary Jewish line of apologetic, denouncing the folly of idolatry—an aid to worship which is quite innocent and natural in some peoples, but which the Jews never understood; that he spoke much of judgment to come; and especially that he contrasted the pure and affectionate social life of the Christian brotherhood with the licentiousness, cruelty, injustice, oppression, and mutual suspicion of Pagan society. This argument probably struck home in very many 'Gentile' hearts. The old civilisation, with all the brilliant qualities which make many moderns regret its destruction, rested on too narrow a base. The woman and the slave were left out, the woman especially by the Greeks, and the slave by the Romans. Acute social inequalities always create pride, brutality, and widespread sexual immorality. And when the structure which maintained these inequalities is itself tottering, the oppressed classes begin to feel that they are unnecessary, and to hope for emancipation. When St. Paul drew his lurid pictures of Pagan society steeped in unnatural abominations, without hope for the future, 'hateful and hating one another,' and then pointed to the little flock of Christians—among whom no one was allowed to be idle and no one to starve, and where family life was pure and mutual confidence full, frank and seldom abused—the woman and the slave, of whom Aristotle had spoken so contemptuously, flocked into his congregations, and began to organise themselves for that victory which Nietzsche thought so deplorable.

It is not necessary in this essay to traverse again the familiar field of St. Paul's missionary journeys. The first epoch, which embraces about fourteen years, had its scene in Syria and Cilicia, with the short tour in Cyprus and other parts of Asia Minor. The second period, which ends with the imprisonment in A.D. 58 or 59, is far more important. St. Paul crosses into Europe; he works in Macedonia and Greece. Churches are founded in two of the great towns of the ancient world, Corinth and Ephesus. According to his letters, we must assume that he only once returned to Jerusalem from the great tour in the West, undertaken after the controversy with Peter; and that the object of this visit was to deliver the money which he had promised to collect for the poor 'saints' at Jerusalem. He intended after this to go to Rome, and thence to Spain—a scheme worthy of the restless genius of an Alexander. He saw Rome indeed, but as a prisoner. The rest of his life is lost in obscurity. The writer of the Acts does not say that the two years' imprisonment ended in his execution; and if it was so, it is difficult to see why such a fact should be suppressed. If the charge against him was at last dismissed, because the accusers did not think it worth while to come to Rome to prosecute it, St. Luke's silence is more explicable. In any case, we may regard it as almost certain that St. Paul ended his life under a Roman axe during the reign of Nero.

'There is hardly any fact' (says Harnack) 'which deserves to be turned over and pondered so much as this, that the religion of Jesus has never been able to root itself in Jewish or even upon Semitic soil.' This extraordinary result is the judgment of history upon the life and work of St. Paul. Jewish Christianity rapidly withered and died. According to Justin, who must have known the facts, Jesus was rejected by the whole Jewish nation 'with a few exceptions.' In Galilee especially, few, if any, Christian Churches existed. There are other examples, of which Buddhism is the most notable, of a religion gaining its widest acceptance outside the borders of the country which gave it birth. But history oilers no parallel to the complete vindication of St. Paul's policy in carrying Christianity over into the Græco-Roman world, where alone, as the event proved, it could live. This is a complete answer to those who maintain that Christ made no break with Judaism. Such a statement is only tenable if it is made in the sense of Harnack's words, that 'what Gentile Christianity did was to carry out a process which had in fact commenced long before in Judaism itself, viz. the process by which the Jewish religion was inwardly emancipated and turned into a religion for the world.' But the true account would be that Judaism, like other great ideas, had to 'die to live,' It died in its old form, in giving birth to the religion of civilised humanity, as the Greek nation perished in giving birth to Hellenism, and the Roman in creating the Mediterranean empire of the Caesars and the Catholic Church of the Popes. The Jewish people were unable to make so great a sacrifice of their national hopes. With the matchless tenacity which characterises their race they clung to their tribal God and their temporal and local millennium. The disasters of A.D. 70 and of the revolt under Hadrian destroyed a great part of the race, and at last uprooted it from the soil of Palestine. But conservatism, as usual, has had its partial justification. Judaism has refused to acknowledge the religion of the civilised world as her legitimate child; but the nation has refused also to surrender its life. There are no more Greeks and Romans; but the Jews we have always with us.

St. Paul saw that the Gospel was a far greater and more revolutionary scheme than the Galilean apostles had dreamed of. In principle he committed himself from the first to the complete emancipation of Christianity from Judaism. But it was inevitable that he did not at first realise all that he had undertaken. And, fortunately for us, the most rapid evolution in his thought took place daring the ten years to which his extant letters belong. It is exceedingly interesting to trace his gradual progress away from Apocalyptic Messianism to a position very near that of the fourth Gospel. The evangelist whom we call St. John is the best commentator on Paulinism. This is one of the most important discoveries of recent New Testament criticism.

In the earliest Epistles—those to the Thessalonians—we have the naïve picture of Messiah coming on the clouds, which, as we now know, was part of the Pharisaic tradition. In the central group the Christology is far more complex. Besides the Pharisaic Messiah, and the records of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, we have now to reckon with the Jewish-Alexandrian idea of the generic, archetypal man, which is unintelligible without reference to the Platonic philosophy. Philo is here a great help towards understanding one of the most difficult parts of the Apostle's teaching. We have also, fully developed, the mystical doctrine of the Spirit of Christ immanent in the soul of the believer, a conception which was the core of St. Paul's personal religion, and more than anything else emancipated him from apocalyptic dreams of the future. We have also a fourth conception, quite distinct from the three which have been mentioned—that of Christ as a cosmic principle, the instrument in creation and the sustainer of all his in the universe. We must again have recourse to Philo and his doctrine of the Logos, to understand the genesis of this idea, and to the Fourth Gospel to find it stated in clear philosophical form. In this second period, these theories about the Person of Christ are held concurrently, without any attempt to reconcile or systematise them. The eschatology is being seriously modified by the conception of a 'spiritual body,' which is prepared for us so soon as our 'outward man' decays in death. The resurrection of the flesh is explicitly denied (1 Cor. xv. 50); but a new and incorruptible 'clothing' will be given to the soul in the future state. Already the fundamental Pharisaic doctrine of the two ages—the present age and that which is to come—is in danger. St. Paul can now, like a true Greek, contrast the things that are seen, which are temporal, with the things that are not seen, which are eternal. The doctrine of the Spirit as a present possession of Christians brings down heaven to earth and exalts earth to heaven; the 'Parousia' is now only the end of the existing world-order, and has but little significance for the individual. These ideas have not displaced the earlier apocalyptic language; but it is easy to see that the one or the other must recede into the background, and that the Pharisaic tradition will be the one to fade.

The third group of Epistles—Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians—are steeped in ideas which belong to Greek philosophy and the Greek mystery-religions. It would be impossible to translate them into any Eastern language. The Rabbinical disputes with the Jews about justification and election have disappeared; the danger ahead is now from theosophy and the barbarised Platonism which was afterwards matured in Gnosticism. The teaching is even more Christocentric than before; and the Catholic doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ is more prominent than individualistic mysticism. The cosmology is thoroughly Johannine, and only awaits the name of the Logos.

This receptiveness to new ideas is one of the most remarkable features in St. Paul's mind. Few indeed are the religious prophets and preachers whose convictions are still malleable after they have begun to govern the minds of others. St. Paul had already proved that he was a man who would 'follow the gleam,' even when it called him to a complete breach with his past. And the further development of his thought was made much easier by the fact that he was no systematic philosopher, but a great missionary who was willing to be all things to all men, while his own faith was unified by his strength of purpose, and by the steady glow of the light within.

It is difficult for us to realise the life of his little communities without importing into the picture features which belong to a later time. The organisation, such as it was, was democratic. The congregation as a whole exercised a censorship over the morals of its members, and penalties were inflicted 'by vote of the majority' (2 Cor. ii. 6). The family formed a group for religious purposes, and remained the recognised unit till the second century. In Ignatius and Hermas we find the campaign against family churches in full swing. The meetings were like those of modern revivalists, and sometimes became disorderly. But of the moral beauty which pervaded the whole life of the brotherhoods there can be no doubt. Many of the converts had formerly led disreputable lives; but these were the most likely to appreciate the gain of being no longer outlaws, but members of a true family. The heathen were amazed at the kind of people whom the Christians admitted and treated like brethren; but in the first century scandals do not seem to have been frequent. Women, who were probably always the majority, enjoyed a consideration unknown by them before. The extreme importance attached by the early Church to sexual purity made it possible for them to mix freely with Christian men; indeed, the strange and perilous practice of a 'brother' and a virgin sharing the same house seems to have already begun, if this is the meaning of the obscure passage in I Cor. vii. 36.

Chastity and indifference to death were the two qualities in Christians which made the greatest impression on their neighbours. Galen is especially interesting on the former topic. But we must add a third characteristic—the cheerfulness and happiness which marked the early Christian communities. 'Joy' as a moral quality is a Christian invention, as a study of the usage of χαρα in Greek will show. Even in Augustine's time the temper of the Christians, 'serena et non dissolute hilaris' was one of the things which attracted him to the Church. The secret of this happy social life was an intense realisation of corporate unity among the members of the confraternity, which they represented to themselves as a 'mystery'—a mystical union between the Head and members of a 'body.' It is in this conception, and not in ritual details, that we are justified in finding a real and deep influence of the mystery-cults upon Christianity. The Catholic conception of sacraments as bonds uniting religious communities, and as channels of grace flowing from a corporate treasury, was as certainly part of the Greek mystery-religion as it was foreign to Judaism. The mysteries had their bad side, as might be expected in private and half-secret societies; but their influence as a whole was certainly good. The three chief characteristics of mystery-religion were, first, rites of purification, both moral and ceremonial; second, the promise of spiritual communion with some deity, who through them enters into his worshippers; third, the hope of immortality, which the Greeks often called 'deification,' and which was secured to those who were initiated.

It is useless to deny that St. Paul regarded Christianity as, at least on one side, a mystery-religion. Why else should he have used a number of technical terms which his readers would recognise at once as belonging to the mysteries? Why else should he repeatedly use the word 'mystery' itself, applying it to doctrines distinctive of Christianity, such as the resurrection with a 'spiritual body,' the relation of the Jewish people to God, and, above all, the mystical union between Christ and Christians? The great' mystery' is 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col i. 27). It was as a mystery-religion that Europe accepted Christianity. Just as the Jewish Christians took with them the whole framework of apocalyptic Messianism, and set the figure of Jesus within it, so the Greeks took with them the whole scheme of the mysteries, with their sacraments, their purifications and fasts, their idea of a mystical brotherhood, and their doctrine of 'salvation' (σωτηρἱα is essentially a mystery word) through membership in a divine society, worshipping Christ as the patronal deity of their mysteries.

Historically, this type of Christianity was the origin of Catholicism, both Western and Eastern; though it is only recently that this character of the Pauline churches has been recognised. And students of the New Testament have not yet realised the importance of the fact that St. Paul, who was ready to fight to the death against the Judaising of Christianity, was willing to take the first step, and a long one, towards the Paganising of it. It does not appear that his personal religion was of this type. He speaks with contempt of some doctrines and practices of the Pagan mysteries, and will allow no rapprochement with what he regards as devil-worship. In this he remains a pure Hebrew. But he does not appear to see any danger in allowing his Hellenistic churches to assimilate the worship of Christ to the honours paid to the gods of the mysteries, and to set their whole religion in this framework, provided only that they have no part nor lot with those who sit at 'the table of demons'—the sacramental love-feasts of the heathen mysteries. The dangers which he does see, and against which he issues warnings, are, besides Judaism, antinomianism and disorder on the one hand, and dualistic asceticism on the other. He dislikes or mistrusts 'the speaking with tongues' (γλωσσολαλἱα), which was the favourite exhibition of religious enthusiasm at Corinth. (On this subject Prof. Lake's excursus is the most instructive discussion that has yet appeared. The 'Testament of Job' and the magical papyri show that gibberish uttered in a state of spiritual excitement was supposed to be the language of angels and spirits, understood by them and acting upon them as a charm.) He urges his converts to do all things 'decently and in order.' He is alarmed at signs of moral laxity on the part of self-styled 'spiritual persons'—a great danger in all times of ecstatic enthusiasm. He is also alive to the dangers connected with that kind of asceticism which is based on theories of the impurity of the body—the typical Oriental form of world-renunciation. But he does not appear to have foreseen the unethical and polytheistic developments of sacramental institutionalism. In this particular his Judaising opponents had a little more justification than he is willing to allow them.


There is something transitional about all St. Paul's teaching. We cannot take him out of his historical setting, as so many of his commentators in the nineteenth century tried to do. This is only another way of saying that he was, to use his own expression, a wise master-builder, not a detached thinker, an arm-chair philosopher. To the historian, there must always be something astounding in the magnitude of the task which he set himself, and in his enormous success. The future history of the civilised world for two thousand years, perhaps for all time, was determined by his missionary journeys and hurried writings. It is impossible to guess what would have become of Christianity if he had never lived; we cannot even be sure that the religion of Europe would be called by the name of Christ. This stupendous achievement seems to have been due to an almost unique practical insight into the essential factors of a very difficult and complex situation. We watch him, with breathless interest, steering the vessel which carried the Christian Church and its fortunes through a narrow channel full of sunken rocks and shoals. With unerring instinct he avoids them all, and brings the ship, not into smooth water, but into the open sea, out of that perilous strait. And so far was his masterly policy from mere opportunism, that his correspondence has been 'Holy Scripture' for fifty generations of Christians, and there has been no religious revival within Christianity that has not been, on one side at least, a return to St. Paul. Protestants have always felt their affinity with this institutionalist, mystics with this disciplinarian. The reason, put shortly, is that St. Paul understood what most Christians never realise, namely, that the Gospel of Christ is not a religion, but religion itself, in its most universal and deepest significance.

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