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THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH
1.THE GENTILES IN THE CHURCH.
(XI 19) THEY THEN THAT WERE SCATTERED THROUGH THE TRIBULATION THAT AROSE ON ACCOUNT OF STEPHEN TRAVELLED (i.e., made missionary journeys) AS FAR AS PHŒNICE AND CYPRUS AND ANTIOCH, SPEAKING THE WORD TO JEWS AND NONE SAVE JEWS. (20) BUT THERE WERE SOME OF THEM, MEN OF CYPRUS AND CYRENE, WHO WHEN THEY ARE COME TO ANTIOCH, USED TO SPEAK TO GREEKS ALSO, GIVING THE GOOD NEWS OF THE LORD JESUS. (21) AND THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM, AND A GREAT NUMBER THAT BELIEVED TURNED UNTO THE LORD.
When Acts was written, the Church of Antioch was only about fifty years old, but already its beginning seems to have been lost in obscurity. It had not been founded, it had grown by unrecorded and almost unobserved steps. In the dispersion of the primitive Church at Jerusalem, during the troubles ensuing on the bold action of Stephen, certain Cypriote and Cyrenaic Jews, who had been brought up in Greek lands and had wider outlook on the world than the Palestinian Jews, came to Antioch. There they made the innovation of addressing not merely Jews but also Greeks. We may understand here (1) that the words used imply successful preaching and the admission of Greeks to the Christian congregation, and (2) that such an innovation took place by slow degrees, and began in the synagogue, where Greek proselytes heard the word. The Cypriote and Cyrenaic Jews began pointedly to include these Greeks of the synagogue in their invitations, and thus a mixed body of Jews and Greeks constituted the primitive congregation of Antioch; but the Greeks had entered through the door of the synagogue (see pp. 62, 85, 156).
In verses 19-21 the narrative for the moment goes back to a time earlier than X and XI 1-18, and starts a new thread of history from the death of Stephen (VII 60). That event was a critical one in the history of the Church. The primitive Church had clung to Jerusalem, and lived there in a state of simplicity and almost community of goods, which was an interesting phase of society, but was quite opposed to the spirit in which Jesus had said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation”. For the time it seemed that the religion of Christ was stagnating into a sociological experiment. Stephen’s vigour provoked a persecution, which dispersed itinerant missionaries over Judea and Samaria (VIII 1-4), first among whom was Philip the colleague of Stephen. New congregations of Christians were formed in many towns (VIII 14, 25, 40, IX 31, 32, 35, 42, X 44); and it became necessary that, if these were to be kept in relation with the central body in Jerusalem, journeys of survey should be made by delegates from Jerusalem. The first of these journeys was made by Peter and John, who were sent to Samaria, when the news that a congregation had been formed there by Philip reached Jerusalem (VIII 14). This may be taken as a specimen of many similar journeys, one of which is recorded (IX 32 f.) on account of the important development that took place in its course. It appears from Acts that Peter was the leading spirit in these journeys of organisation, which knit together the scattered congregations in Judea and Samaria. Hence the first great question in the development of the Church was presented to him, viz., whether Hebrew birth was a necessary condition for entrance into the kingdom of the Messiah and membership of the Christian Church. That question must necessarily be soon forced on the growing Church; for proselytes were not rare, and the Christian doctrine, which was preached in the synagogues, reached them. It was difficult to find any justification for making the door of the Church narrower than the door of the synagogue, and there is no record that any one explicitly advocated the view that Christianity should be confined to the chosen people, though the condition and regulations on which non-Jews should be admitted formed the subject of keen controversy in the following years.
According to Acts, this great question was first presented definitely to Peter in the case of a Roman centurion named Cornelius; and a vision, which had appeared to him immediately before the question emerged, determined him to enter the house and the society of Cornelius, and set forth to him the good news, on the principle that “in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him” (X 35). Peter’s action was immediately confirmed by the communication of Divine grace to the audience in Cornelius’s house; and, though it was at first disputed in Jerusalem, yet Peter’s defence was approved of by general consent.
But this step, though an important one, was only the first stage in a long advance that was still to be made. Cornelius was a proselyte; and Peter in his speech to the assembly in his house laid it down as a condition of reception into the Church that the non-Jew must approach by way of the synagogue (X 35), and become “one that fears God”.
Without entering on the details of a matter which has been and still is under discussion, we must here allude to the regulations imposed on strangers who wished to enter into relations with the Jews. Besides the proselytes who came under the full Law and entered the community of Moses, there was another class of persons who wished only to enter into partial relations with the Jews. These two classes were at a later time distinguished as “Proselytes of the Sanctuary” and “of the Gate”; but in Acts the second class is always described as “they that fear God”33φοβούμενοι or σεβόμενοι τόν θεόν The God-fearing proselytes were bound to observe certain ceremonial regulations of purity in order to be permitted to come into any relations with the Jews; and it is probable that these rules were the four prohibitions enumerated in XV 28, to abstain from the flesh of animals sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from animals strangled, and from marriage within the prohibited degrees (many of which were not prohibited by Greek or Roman law). These prohibitions stand in close relation to the principles laid down in Leviticus XVII, XVIII, for the conduct of strangers dwelling among the Israelites; and it would appear that they had become the recognised rule for admission to the synagogue and for the first stage of approximation to the Jewish communion. They stand on a different plane from the moral law of the Ten Commandments, being rules of purity.
While no one, probably, urged that the Church should be confined to born Hebrews, there was a party in the Church which maintained that those non-Jews who were admitted should be required to conform to the entire “Law of God ”: this was the party of “champions of the circumcision,”44οἰ ἐκ περιτομη, XI 2, Gal. II 12: “some of the sect of the Pharisees that believed,” XV 5. which played so great a part in the drama of subsequent years. This party was silenced by Peter’s explanation in the case of Cornelius, for the preliminary vision and the subsequent gift of grace could not be gainsaid. But the main question was not yet definitely settled; only an exceptional case was condoned and accepted.
The Church Of Antioch then was in a somewhat anomalous condition. It contained a number of Greeks, who were in the position of “God-fearing proselytes,” but had not conformed to the entire law; and the question was still unsettled what was their status in the Church.
2. THE COMING OF BARNABAS AND THE SUMMONING OF SAUL.
(XI 22) AND THE REPORT CONCERNING THEM CAME TO THE EARS OF THE CHURCH IN JERUSALEM; AND THEY SENT FORTH BARNABAS AS FAR AS ANTIOCH: (23) WHO WHEN HE WAS COME, AND HAD SEEN THE GRACE OF GOD, WAS GLAD; AND HE EXHORTED THEM ALL THAT WITH PURPOSE OF HEART THEY SHOULD CLEAVE UNTO THE LORD (24) (FOR HE WAS A GOOD MAN, AND FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OF FAITH); AND MUCH PEOPLE WAS ADDED UNTO THE LORD. (25) AND HE WENT FORTH TO TARSUS TO SEEK FOR SAUL; (26) AND WHEN HE HAD FOUND HIM, HE BROUGHT HIM UNTO ANTIOCH. AND IT CAME TO PASS THAT EVEN FOR A WHOLE YEAR THEY MET IN THE ASSEMBLY, AND TAUGHT MUCH PEOPLE; AND THAT THE DISCIPLES WERE CALLED “CHRISTIANS” FIRST IN ANTIOCH.
As in previous cases, an envoy was sent from the Church in Jerusalem to survey this new congregation, and judge of its worthiness; and Barnabas was selected for the purpose. The same test that had been convincing in the case of Cornelius satisfied Barnabas in Antioch: he saw the grace of God. Then he proceeded to exhort and encourage them, which he was qualified to do because the Divine Spirit was in him. Sparing as Luke is of words, he feels bound to state that Barnabas was qualified by grace for the work (see p. 174). The result of his course of ministration55παρεκάλει, imperfect. was a great increase to the congregation.
Mindful of his former short experience of Saul, Barnabas bethought himself that he was well suited to the peculiar circumstances of the Antiochian congregation: and he accordingly went to Tarsus, and brought Saul back with him to Antioch. This journey must apparently have been made in the early months of A.D. 43; and the rest of that year was spent by the two friends in Antioch. The date shows that the early stages of Christian history in Antioch were slow. The congregation must have grown insensibly, and no marked event occurred, until the attention of the Church in Jerusalem was called to its existence. The one important fact about it was that it came into existence in this peculiar way. But with the advent of Barnabas and Saul, its history enters on a new phase. It became the centre of progress and of historical interest in the Church.
It lies in Luke’s style to give no reason why Barnabas summoned Saul to Antioch. This historian records the essential facts as they occurred; but he does not obtrude on the reader his own private conception as to causes or motives. But we cannot doubt that Barnabas, who became Saul’s sponsor at Jerusalem (IX 27), and related to the Apostles the circumstances of his conversion, knew that God had already called him “to preach Him among the Gentiles” (Gal. I 16), and recognised that this congregation of the Gentiles was the proper sphere for Saul’s work. We find in Barnabas’s action the proof of the correctness of Paul’s contention in Epist. Gal., that his aim as an Apostle had been directed from the first towards the Gentiles; his sphere was already recognised.
As we shall see later, Paul must have spent nearly eight years at Tarsus. Why are these eight years a blank? Why were they such a contrast to the crowded hours of the period that was just beginning? On our hypothesis as to the meaning of Luke’s silence, we conclude that Paul was still not fully conscious of the full meaning of his mission; he was still bound in the fetters of Judaic consistency, and acted as if the door of the synagogue was the portal through which the Nations must find their way into the Church. He had not yet learned, or at least he had not yet so fully shaken himself free from the prejudices of education and tradition as to act on the knowledge, that God “had opened a door of faith unto the nations” (XIV 27, p. 85).
A point in Luke’s style here deserves note. He has mentioned in IX 30 that Saul was sent away to Tarsus; and he now takes up the thread from that point, saying that Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek for Saul. He implies that the reader must understand Tarsus to have been Saul’s headquarters during the intervening period. Not merely. does XI 25 require one to look back, but also IX 30 requires one to look forward; each is the complement of the other, and the two together hit off a long period during which no critical event had to be recorded. The same period, together with the following year in Antioch, is described by Paul himself, Gal. I 21, 22: “Then I came into the climes of Syria and Cilicia: and I continued to be unknown by face to the churches of Judea, but they only heard say, ‘He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith’”. Paul and Luke complete each other, and make up a picture of over ten years of quiet work within the range of the synagogue and its influence.
The words of v. 25 seem harsh until one takes them as a direct backward reference to IX 30, and as implying a statement about the intervening period. The Bezan Commentator, not catching the style of Luke, inserts an explanatory clause, “hearing that Saul is in Tarsus,” which rounds off the sense here by cutting away the necessity of finding in XI 25 the completion of a period of history whose beginning is recorded in IX 30.
The term “Christians” attests that the congregation became a familiar subject of talk, and probably of gossip and scandal, in the city; for obviously the name originated Outside the brotherhood. The Brethren, then, were talked of in popular society as “they that are connected with Christos”: such a title could not originate with the Jews, to whom “the Christ” was sacred. The name Christos therefore must have been the most prominent in the expressions by which the Greek Brethren described or defined their faith to their pagan neighbours. The latter, doubtless, got no clear idea of what this Christos was: some took Christos as one of the strange gods whom they worshipped (XVII 18); others took him as their leader (p. 254). In any case the name belongs to popular slang.
In accordance with the tendency of popular language to find some meaning for strange words, the strange term Christos was vulgarly modified to Chrêstos, the Greek adjective meaning “good, useful,” which seemed to popular fancy a more suitable and natural name for a leader or a deity. “Chrêstians” was the form in which the name was often used; and it occurs in inscriptions.
3. THE ANTIOCHIAN COLLECTION FOR THE POOR OF JERUSALEM.
(XI 27 A) AND AT THIS PERIOD THERE CAME DOWN FROM JERUSALEM PROPHETS TO ANTIOCH. (28A) AND THERE STOOD UP ONE OF THEM, AGABUS BY NAME, AND SIGNIFIED BY THE SPIRIT THAT THERE SHOULD BE GREAT FAMINE OVER ALL THE WORLD; WHICH CAME TO PASS IN THE DAYS OF CLAUDIUS. (29A) AND THE DISCIPLES ACCORDING TO THE MEANS OF THE INDIVIDUAL ARRANGED TO SEND CONTRIBUTIONS FOR RELIEF TO THE BRETHREN SETTLED IN JUDEA. (30A) AND THIS TOO THEY DID, AND DESPATCHED the relief TO THE ELDERS BY THE HAND OF BARNABAS AND SAUL. (XII 25A) AND BARNABAS AND SAUL FULFILLED THE MINISTRATION OF RELIEF, AND RETURNED FROM JERUSALEM BRINGING AS COMPANION JOHN SURNAMED MARK.
Luke’s brief statement about the famine is declared by Dr. Schürer to be unhistorical, improbable, and uncorroborated by other evidence.66Eine ungeschichtliche Generalisirung, and again, ist, wie an sich unwahrscheinlich, so auch nirgends bezeugt (Jüd. Volk I p. 474. Opinions differ widely; for the famine seems to me to be singularly well attested, considering the scantiness of evidence for this period. Suetonius alludes to assiduæ sterilitates causing famine-prices under Claudius, while Dion Cassius and Tacitus speak of two famines in Rome, and famine in Rome implied dearth in the great corn-growing countries of the Mediterranean; Eusebius mentions famine in Greece, and an inscription perhaps refers to famine in Asia Minor.77Le Bas-Waddington no. 1192, Studia Biblica IV p. 52 f. Thus widespread dearth over the Roman world is fully attested independently; beyond the Roman world our evidence does not extend. Dr. Schürer seems to require a distinct statement that a famine took place in the same year all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. But that is too hard on Luke, for he merely says that famine occurred over the whole (civilised) world in the time of Claudius: of course the year varied in different lands.
The great famine in Palestine occurred probably in A.D. 46. The commentators as a rule endeavour, by straining Josephus, or by quoting the authority of Orosius, to make out that the famine took place in 44, and even that it occasioned the persecution by Herod.
The eagerness to date the famine in 44 arises from a mistake as to the meaning and order of the narrative of Acts. Between XI 30 and XII 25 there is interposed an account of Herod’s persecution and his miserable death, events which belong to the year 44; and it has been supposed that Luke conceives these events as happening while Barnabas and Saul were in Jerusalem. But that is not the case. Luke describes the prophecy of Agabus, and the assessment imposed by common arrangement on the whole congregation in proportion to their individual resources. Then he adds that this arrangement was carried out and the whole sum sent to Jerusalem. The process thus described was not an instantaneous subscription. The money was probably collected by weekly contributions, for the congregation was not rich, and coin was not plentiful in Syrian cities. This collection would take a considerable time, as we gather both from the analogy of the later Pauline contribution (p. 288), and from the fact that the famine was still in the future, and no necessity for urgent haste existed. The arrangements were made beforehand in full reliance on the prophecy; but there is no reason to think that the money was used until the famine actually began, and relief was urgently needed. The manner of relief must, of course, have been by purchasing and distributing corn, for it would have shown criminal incapacity to send gold to a starving city; and the corn would not be given by any rational person, until the famine was at its height. When Sir Richard Wallace relieved the distress in Paris after the siege, he did not content himself with telegraphing money from London, nor yet with distributing gold to the starving people in Paris. He brought food and gave it. As he did, so we may be sure did the Antiochian delegates do; and no rational person will suppose that the corn was brought to Jerusalem until the famine was actually raging. But in a land where transport was difficult, preparations took time; and Luke states at the outset the general course of the preparations which the Divine revelation aroused.
Thereafter, before describing the actual distribution of relief in Jerusalem, the author’s method requires him to bring down the general narrative of events in Jerusalem and Judaea to the point when the famine began; and then at last he mentions the actual administering of the relief. He, therefore, tells about the persecution of Herod (which took place near the time when Agabus prophesied), and about Herod’s death; and then at last he mentions the execution of the Antiochian design and the return of the delegates to their own city.
As thus interpreted, Luke’s chronology harmonises admirably with
Josephus. Agabus came to Antioch in the winter of 43–44; and in the early part of
44 Herod’s persecution occurred, followed by his death, probably in the autumn.
In 45 the harvest was probably not good, and provisions grew scarce in the country;
then, when the harvest of 46 failed, famine set in, and relief was urgently required,
and was administered by Barnabas and Saul. It is an interesting coincidence that
relief was given liberally in Jerusalem by Queen Helena (mother of Izates, King
of Adiabene), who bought corn in Egypt and figs in Cyprus, and brought them to Jerusalem
for distribution. She came to Jerusalem in 45, and her visit lasted through the
season of famine; she had a palace in Jerusalem. The way in which she imparted relief
to the starving people illustrates the work that Barnabas and Saul had to
perform.88 Date of the famine. Orosius VII 6 puts it in the fourth
year of Claudius, which began January 25, A.D. 44. But Orosius’s dates at this point
are put one year too early owing to a mistake in adapting to Claudius’s years a
series of events arranged in his authority according to a different system of chronology;
this kind of mistake is known to have been frequently made by ancient chroniclers,
and is proved in Orosius’s case by the fact that he assigns to the tenth year of
Claudius a famine at Rome which Tacitus Ann. II 43 places in A.D. 51 We therefore
take Orosius as an authority for dating the commencement of the famine in 45. Josephus
mentions the famine as having occurred while Tiberius Alexander was procurator of
Judea; and there is general agreement that Alexander’s administration lasted from
46 to 48: though the time when it began was not absolutely certain, July 45 is the
earliest admissible date, and 46 is far more probable: his predecessor Cuspius Fadus
was sent by Claudius in 44, and a good deal occurred during his office. But Josephus
also mentions the famine in connection with Queen Helena’s arrival in 45. Helena,
however, seems to have remained a considerable time, and Josephus’s words are in
perfect accord with our view that scarcity began with a bad harvest in 45.
In the preceding chapter, Lightfoot’s view is quoted according to his edition of Gal., where he says that Barnabas and Saul had come to Jerusalem and returned to Antioch before Herod’s death. Since the chapter was in type, I notice that in a posthumous essay “printed from lecture notes” he dates the famine 45; but that seems hardly consistent with his edition, and as he republished his edition without change throughout his life, it must represent his mature opinion. Perhaps he means that Paul and Barnabas brought the famine-money to Jerusalem a year or more before the famine began, which we cannot accept as a natural or a useful procedure.
The service in Jerusalem must have occupied Barnabas and Saul for. a considerable time. They acted as administrators (διάκονοι) of the relief; and it becomes evident how much is implied in the words of XI 29, XII 25 from the comparison of VI 1 “the daily ministration” of food to the poor. The same term (διακονία) that is used in these cases is applied (with λόγου understood) to the steady constant work of a missionary or an apostle, XX 24, XXI 19, I 17, 25, VI 4. The Antiochian delegates did not merely act as carriers of money; they stayed in Jerusalem through the famine and acted as providers and distributors, using all the opportunity of encouraging and comforting the distressed that was thus afforded. In this way Saul’s second visit to Jerusalem was an important moment in the development of the Church, and is related as such by Luke: it united far-distant parts of the Church at a great crisis; it gave to the poor in Jerusalem the sense of brotherhood with the Antiochian brethren, and to the Antiochian congregation that consciousness of native life and power which comes only from noble work nobly done. But for this end it was necessary that the work should be done from first to last by the Antiochian congregation, and that every starving disciple in Jerusalem should realise that he owed his relief to his brethren at Antioch. Great part of the effect would have been lost, if the delegates had merely handed a sum of money to the leaders in Jerusalem to distribute; and the author, who is so sparing of words, does not fail to assure us that the two delegates “completed the ministration” before they returned to Antioch.
It must be noticed that only the Elders at Jerusalem are here mentioned, whereas in XV Paul and Barnabas were sent to the Apostles and Elders. The marked difference may probably be connected with the author’s conception of the appropriate duties of each. In XV, when a matter of conduct and principle was in question, the Apostles were primarily concerned; but when it was a matter of the distribution of food, the Apostles were not concerned, for it was right that they should not “serve tables,” but “continue in the ministry of the word” (VI 2-4). It would have been quite natural to say that the contributions were sent to the congregation, or to the Brethren, in Jerusalem; and it is apparent that here the Elders represent the congregation of Jerusalem as directors of its practical working, while in XV the Apostles and Elders represent the Church in every aspect. The omission of the Apostles in XI 29 commonly explained on other grounds, not very honourable to them. Even Lightfoot says: “the storm of persecution had broken over the Church of Jerusalem.” One leading Apostle had been put to death; another, rescued by a miracle, had fled for his life. It is probable that every Christian of rank had retired from the city. No mention is made of the Twelve; the salutations of the Gentile Apostles are received by ‘the Elders’. They arrived charged with alms for the relief of the poor brethren of Jerusalem. Having deposited these in trustworthy hands, they would depart with all convenient speed. But Luke expressly says that the administration of the relief was performed in detail by the two Antiochian delegates (XII 25); and one can only marvel that Lightfoot ever stooped to the idea that they sneaked into the city and sneaked out hastily again, leaving the poor without a single “Christian of rank” to minister to them. Nor is there any good reason to think that the Apostles all fled from Jerusalem, and left the disciples to look after themselves. It was not men like that who carried Christianity over the empire within a few years. Such an act of cowardice should not be attributed to the Apostles without distinct evidence; and here the evidence tells in the opposite direction: (1) at the far more serious persecution following the death of Stephen, “all scattered abroad except the Apostles” (VIII 1): (2) it is implied that “James and the Brethren” were in Jerusalem, when Peter escaped from prison and retired (XII 17); and immediately after, Herod went away and the persecution was at an end. The author of Acts evidently had the impression that the guidance of affairs rested with the Apostles in Jerusalem; and they are conceived by him as being there permanently, except when absent on a special mission.
It is not mere accidental collocation, that immediately on the return of Barnabas and Saul comes the record of the flourishing state of the Church in Antioch, with its band of prophets and teachers (XIII 1): the result of their noble work in Jerusalem was apparent in the fuller and more perfect manifestation of Divine power and grace to the Church in Antioch.
Further, when Paul had founded a group of new churches in the four provinces, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, he, as the crowning act of organisation, instituted a general collection among them for the poor at Jerusalem; and arranged that representatives should go up along with himself to Jerusalem bearing the money. His object was both to strengthen the separate congregations by good work, and to strengthen the whole Church by bringing its scattered parts into personal relations of service and help. We cannot doubt that it was his experience of the immense effect produced by the first Divinely ordered contribution which led Paul to attach such importance and devote so much trouble to the organisation of the second general contribution; and he uses the same word to indicate the management of the second fund that Luke uses of the first (διακονεῖν, II Cor. VIII 19).99See Mr. Rendall’s admirable paper in Expositor, Nov., 1893.
The preceding notes have shown how much is contained in the brief record of Luke: all the main points in the execution of the scheme of relief are touched in the few words XI 29, 30, XII 25. But we are not reduced to this single account of the mission to Jerusalem. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, also mentions it; his reason for alluding to it lay in certain incidental and unessential facts that occurred at Jerusalem; but he tells enough to show what was the primary object of the visit. In describing his intercourse with the older Apostles, he mentions his second visit to Jerusalem in the following terms (I expand the concise language of Paul to bring out the close-packed meaning):—
(Gal. II 1) THEN IN THE FOURTEENTH YEAR after it pleased God to call me, I WENT UP AGAIN TO JERUSALEM WITH BARNABAS, AND TOOK TITUS ALSO AS A COMPANION. (2) NOW I may explain that I WENT UP ON AN ACCOUNT OF A REVELATION (which shows how completely my action was directly guided by the Divine will, and how independent it was of any orders or instructions from the Apostles). AND I COMMUNICATED TO THEM WITH A VIEW TO CONSULTATION THE GOSPEL WHICH I CONTINUE PREACHING AMONG THE GENTILES, BUT I did so PRIVATELY TO THOSE WHO WERE RECOGNISED AS THE LEADING SPIRITS, not publicly to the whole body of Apostles; since the latter course would have had the appearance of consulting the official governing body, as if I felt it a duty to seek advice from them; whereas private consultation was a purely voluntary act. MY PURPOSE IN THIS CONSULTATION WAS TO CARRY WITH ME THE LEADING SPIRITS OF THE CHURCH, SINCE MISUNDERSTANDING OR WANT OF COMPLETE APPROVAL ON THEIR PART MIGHT ENDANGER OR FRUSTRATE MY EVANGELISTIC WORK WHETHER IN THE FUTURE OR THE PAST, if doubt or dispute arose as to the rights of my converts to full membership in the Church without further ceremony. (3) NOW, as I have touched on this point, I may mention parenthetically that NOT EVEN WAS MY COMPANION TITUS, GREEK AS HE WAS, REQUIRED TO SUBMIT TO CIRCUMCISION, much less was the general principle laid down that the Jewish rite was a necessary preliminary to the full membership of the Church. (4) FURTHER, THE OCCASION of my consulting the leading Apostles WAS BECAUSE OF CERTAIN INSINUATING FALSE BRETHREN, WHO ALSO CREPT INTO OUR SOCIETY IN AN UNAVOWED WAY TO ACT THE SPY ON OUR FREEDOM (WHICH WE FREE CHRISTIANS CONTINUE ENJOYING THROUGHOUT MY MINISTRY), IN ORDER TO MAKE US SLAVES to the ritual which they count necessary. (5) BUT NOT FOR AN HOUR DID WE YIELD TO THESE FALSE BRETHREN BY COMPLYING WITH THEIR IDEAS, OR EXPRESSING AGREEMENT WITH THEM; AND OUR FIRMNESS THEN WAS INTENDED TO SECURE THAT THE GOSPEL IN ITS TRUE FORM SHOULD CONTINUE IN LASTING FREEDOM FOR YOU to enjoy. (6) BUT FROM THE RECOGNISED LEADERS—HOW DISTINGUISHED SOEVER WAS THEIR CHARACTER IS NOT NOW THE POINT; GOD ACCEPTETH NOT MAN’S PERSON—THE RECOGNISED LEADERS, I SAY, IMPARTED NO NEW INSTRUCTION TO ME; (7) BUT, ON THE CONTRARY, PERCEIVING THAT I THROUGHOUT MY MINISTRY AM CHARGED SPECIALLY WITH THE MISSION TO FOREIGN (NON-JEWISH) NATIONS AS PETER IS WITH THE JEWISH MISSION—(8) FOR HE THAT WORKED FOR PETER TO THE APOSTOLATE OF THE CIRCUMCISION WORKED ALSO FOR ME TO BE THE MISSIONARY TO THE GENTILES—(9) AND PERCEIVING from the actual facts THE GRACE THAT HAD BEEN GIVEN ME, THEY, JAMES AND CEPHAS AND JOHN, THE RECOGNISED PILLARS OF THE CHURCH, GAVE PLEDGES TO ME AND TO BARNABAS OF A JOINT SCHEME OF WORK, OURS TO BE DIRECTED TO THE GENTILES, WHILE THEIRS WAS TO THE JEWS. (10) ONE CHARGE ALONE THEY GAVE US, TO REMEMBER THE POOR brethren at Jerusalem. A DUTY WHICH AS A MATTER OF FACT I at that time MADE IT MY SPECIAL OBJECT TO PERFORM.
As is pointed out elsewhere in full detail, the concluding sentence defines the object which Paul carried out in Jerusalem: other events were incidental. This journey, therefore, is declared in Epist. Gal. to have been made according to revelation, and in Acts the exact circumstances of the revelation are narrated; the object of the visit is described in Acts as being to relieve the distress of the poor brethren in Jerusalem, and in Epist. Gal. Paul says he directed his attention specially to helping the poor brethren; another purpose is said in Epist. Gal. to have been achieved on this journey, v. 3, but Paul immediately adds that this other purpose was carried out as a mere private piece of business, and implies thereby that it was not the primary or official purpose of the journey.
How graceful and delicate is the compliment which the older Apostles paid to Paul! “the only advice and instruction which we have to give is that you continue to do what you have been zealously doing,” so they spoke at the conclusion of his visit. And in what a gentlemanly spirit does Paul refer to that visit! His object is to prove to the Galatians that, on his visits to Jerusalem, he received nothing in the way of instruction or commission from the older Apostles; and to do this he gives an account of his visits. When he comes to the second visit he might have said in the tone of downright and rather coarse candour, “So far from receiving on this occasion, I was sent by Divine revelation to be the giver”. But not even in this hot and hasty letter does he swerve from his tone of respect and admiration, or assume in the slightest degree a tone of superiority to Peter and James. The facts are all there to show the real situation; but they are put so quietly and allusively (the revelation in verse 2, the object in verse 10), as to avoid all appearance of boasting in what was really a very legitimate cause of satisfaction; and even of self-gratulation. It is precisely because on his second visit Paul was so obviously not the recipient, that he appeals to it with such perfect confidence as proving his independence.
Here as everywhere we find that Acts supplements and explains the incidents and arguments used by Paul in his letter. And we see that the influence which we have just ascribed to the visit in promoting the unity and solidarity of the whole Church is fully confirmed by Paul in verse 9; it resulted in a formal recognition by the older Apostles of the co-ordinate Apostolate of the two Antiochian delegates.
The same party in the Church which had criticised Peter’s conduct to Cornelius, was discontented with the conduct of Barnabas and Saul to their companion, Titus; but in the circumstances their discontent did not take public action, though it was so apparent as to put Saul on his guard, and once more they seem to have acquiesced in an exceptional case, as they did in that of Cornelius. But it was now becoming evident that two distinct and opposed opinions existed in the Church, and were likely to come to open conflict; and Saul privately satisfied himself that the leaders were in agreement with himself on the subject of difference.
But why is Acts silent about this? Simply because it never came to an open discussion, and therefore did not reach the proper level of importance. Luke confines himself to the great steps in development. Nor is it strange that Titus is not mentioned by Luke. In carrying the relief to Jerusalem, it is obvious that Barnabas and Saul must have had assistants. The work was one of considerable magnitude, and involved a good deal of organisation. We may gather from Luke that the two envoys were entrusted with the management; but the whole details of purchase, transport, and distribution lie outside of his conception and plan. The essential fact for his purpose was that relief was sent by the congregation in Antioch (XI 30), and its distribution personally carried out by Paul and Barnabas in Jerusalem (XII 25); and he tells us no more. In his letter Paul says that Titus was privately selected associate and not an official; and we may confidently add that he was one of the assistants who were needed to carry out the work described in Acts (see also the omission is made on p. 170.
The only strange fact in reference to Titus, is that he nowhere appears in Acts; and that is equally hard to explain on every theory. Clearly he played a considerable part in the early history of the Church (as Luke himself did); and, on our hypothesis of Luke’s historical insight and power of selecting and grouping details, the complete omission of Titus’s name must be intentional, just as the silence about Luke is intentional. A suggestion to explain the omission is made on p. 390.
The situation on this visit is strikingly different from that described in Acts XV as existing at the next visit (see Chap. VII). Paul has here private communications with the three leading Apostles in prudent preparation against future difficulties. In the later stage, public meetings to hear the recital of his and Barnabas’s experiences among the Gentiles are followed by a formal Council, in which “the leading Apostles stand forth as the champions of Gentile liberty”.
We find ourselves obliged to regard this visit as more important than is generally believed. Canon Farrar, who may be quoted as a clear and sensible exponent of the accepted view, calls it “so purely an episode in the work of St. Paul, that in the Epistle to the Galatians he passes it over without a single allusion ”. According to our view, if it had been a mere episode without influence on the development of the Church, Luke would have passed it unmentioned; but it was a step of great consequence in the development of the Antiochian congregation and of the Church as a whole; and therefore it required a place in this history.
The wonderful revelation described by Paul himself in his second letter to the Corinthians XII 2-4 took place in the fourteenth year before A.D. 56, when that letter was written; and therefore probably occurred in 43 or 44. This brings us near the period when Agabus came to Antioch; but all speculation is barred by the description: he “heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for man to utter”. Another revelation, however, can with certainty be ascribed to this visit, and, specially, to its concluding days.
4. THE RETURN FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH.
(XXII 17) WHEN I HAD RETURNED TO JERUSALEM, AND WHILE I PRAYED IN THE TEMPLE, I FELL INTO A TRANCE, (18) AND SAW HIM SAYING UNTO ME, “MAKE HASTE, AND GET THEE QUICKLY OUT OF JERUSALEM; BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT RECEIVE OF THEE TESTIMONY CONCERNING ME”. (19) AND I SAID, “LORD, THEY THEMSELVES KNOW THAT I IMPRISONED AND BEAT IN EVERY SYNAGOGUE THEM THAT BELIEVED ON THEE: (20) AND WHEN THE BLOOD OF STEPHEN THY WITNESS WAS SHED, I ALSO WAS STANDING BY, AND CONSENTING, AND KEEPING THE: GARMENTS OF THEM THAT SLEW HIM (and therefore they must see that some great thing has happened to convince me)”. (21) AND HE SAID UNTO ME, “DEPART: FOR I WILL SEND THEE FORTH FAR HENCE UNTO THE NATIONS “.
Let us clearly conceive the probable situation at that time. In the famine-stricken city it is not to be supposed that Barnabas and Saul confined their relief to professing Christians, and let all who were not Christians starve. Christian feeling, ordinary humanity, and policy (in the last respect Paul was as little likely to err as in the others), alike forbade an absolute distinction. The Antiochian delegates must have had many opportunities of siding their Jewish brethren, though they addressed their work specially to their Brethren in the Church; and the result must have been that they occupied a position of peculiar advantage for the time, not merely in the Church (where the respect and honour paid them shines through Gal. II 1-10), but also in the city as a whole. Now it was part of Paul’s missionary method not to insist where there was no opening, and not to draw back where the door was open. It might well seem that the remarkable circumstances of his mission to Jerusalem, the revelation by which it was ordered, and the advantage it secured to him in the city, were the opening of a door through which he might powerfully influence his own people. The thought could not fail to occur to Paul; and the remarkable incident described in XXII 17-21 shows that it was in his mind.
This incident is usually assigned to the first visit which Paul paid to Jerusalem after his conversion. But he does not say or even imply that it was his first visit; and we must be guided by the suitability of the circumstances mentioned to the facts recorded about the various visits. Now Luke gives a totally different reason for his departure from Jerusalem at the first visit: he attributes it to the prudence of the Brethren, who learned that a conspiracy was made to slay him, and wished both to save him and to avoid the general danger that would arise for all, if persecution broke out against one. The revelation of XXII 18, to which Paul attributes his departure, suits the first visit very badly; but such discrepancy does not count for much with the modern interpreters, orthodox and “critical” alike, who, having achieved the feat of identifying the second visit of Gal. II 1-10 with the third visit of Acts XV (pp. 59, 154 f.), have naturally ceased to expect agreement between Luke and Paul on such matters. Accordingly, Lightfoot actually quotes the discrepancy between XXII 18 f. and IX 29. to illustrate and defend the discrepancy between Gal. II 2 and Acts XV 4.
Again, the reasoning of XXII 20, 21, is not suitable to the first visit. Paul argues that circumstances make him a peculiarly telling witness to the Jews of the power of Jesus: and the reply is that Jesus will send him far hence to the Nations. Now, the first visit was followed, not by an appeal to the Nations, but by many years of quiet uneventful work in Cilicia and Antioch, within the circle of the synagogue and its influence. But this revelation points to the immediate “opening of a door of belief to the Nations”; and that did not take place until Paul went to Paphos and South Galatia (XIV 27, pp. 41, 85).
To place this revelation on the first visit leads to hopeless embarrassment, and to one of those discrepancies which the orthodox historians, like Lightfoot, labour to minimise, while the critical historians naturally and fairly argue that such discrepancies prove Acts to be not the work of Paul’s pupil and friend, but a work of later origin. On this point I can only refer to what is said on p. 15; on the principle there laid down, we cannot connect XXII 17 f. with IX 28 f.
On the other hand this revelation suits excellently the state of matters. which we have just described at the conclusion of the second visit. Paul was tempted by the favourable opportunity in Jerusalem; and his personal desire always turned strongly towards his Jewish brethren (Rom. IX 1-5). He prayed in the temple: he saw Jesus: he pleaded with Jesus, representing his fitness for this work: and he was ordered to depart at once, “for I will send thee forth far hence to the Nations”. Thereupon he returned to Antioch; and in a few days or weeks a new revelation to the Antiochian officials sent him on his mission to the West, and opened the door of belief to the Nations.
One objection to this view is likely to be made. Many infer from XXII 18 that the visit was short. But there is no implication as to the duration of the visit. The words merely show that Paul was thinking of a longer stay, when the vision bade him hasten away forthwith. The second visit, according to Lightfoot’s supposition, was even shorter than the first, but on our view it began when the failure of harvest in 46 turned scarcity into famine, and it probably lasted until the beginning of 47. Our reference of XXII 17 to the second visit is corroborated by the reading of the two great uncial MSS. in XII 25, “returned to Jerusalem”: this seems to be an alteration made deliberately by an editor, who, because these passages referred to the same visit, tampered with the text of XII 25 to bring it into verbal conformity with XXII 17.
5. THE MISSION OF BARNABAS AND SAUL.
(XIII 1) NOW THERE WAS AT ANTIOCH, CONNECTED WITH “THE CHURCH,”1010Prof. Armitage Robinson, quoted in Church in R. E. p. 52. A BODY OF PROPHETS AND TEACHERS, BARNABAS, SYMEON (SURNAMED NIGER), AND LUCIUS (HE OF CYRENE), WITH MANAËN (FOSTER-BROTHER OF HEROD THE TETRARCH) AND SAUL. (2) AS THESE WERE: LEADING A LIFE OF RELIGIOUS DUTIES AND FASTS, THE: HOLY SPIRIT SAID, “SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK WHEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM”. (3) THEN THEY (i.e., the Church) HELD A SPECIAL FAST, AND PRAYED, AND LAID THEIR HANDS UPON THEM, AND GAVE THEM LEAVE TO DEPART.
A new stage in the development of the Antiochian Church is here marked. It was no longer a mere “congregation”; it was now “the Church” in Antioch; and there was in it a group of prophets and teachers to whom the grace of God was given.
There is indubitably a certain feeling that a new start is made at this point; but it is only through blindness to the style of a great historian that some commentators take this as the beginning of a new document. The subject demanded here a fresh start, for a great step in the development of the early Church was about to be narrated, “the opening of a door to the Gentiles” (XIV 27). The author emphasised this step beyond all others, because he was himself a Gentile; and the development of the Church through the extension of Christian influence was the guiding idea of his historical work.
Probably the variation between the connecting particles (καί and τε) marks a distinction between three prophets, Barnabas, Symeon and Lucius, and two teachers, Manaen and Saul. In Acts VI 5, the list of seven deacons is given without any such variation; and it seems a fair inference that the variation here is intentional.1111Compare Mr. Page’s note on the grouping of the list in I 13. The distinction between the qualifications required in prophets and in teachers is emphasised by Paul in I Cor. XII 28. As regards Barnabas and Saul their difference in gifts and qualifications appears clearly in other places. Everywhere Saul is the preacher and teacher, Barnabas is the senior and for a time the leader on that account.
There is a marked distinction between the general rule of life in v. 2, and the single special ceremony in v. 3. An appreciable lapse of time is implied in 2: after the two envoys returned from Jerusalem, the regular course of Church life went on for a time and, so long as everything was normal, the historian finds nothing to relate. The prophets and teachers had regular duties to which their energies were devoted; and they practised in their life a certain regular rule of fasting. They were not like the Elders, who were chosen as representative members of the congregation; they were marked out by the Divine grace as fitted for religious duties in the congregation. The “work” in v. 2 is defined in the subsequent narrative (XIII 41, XIV 26, XV 3, 38, etc.) as preaching the Gospel in new regions outside of the province Syria and Cilicia, in which there already existed Christian communities.
What is the subject in v. 3? It cannot be the five officials just mentioned, because they cannot be said to lay their hands on two of themselves. Evidently some awkward change of subject takes place; and the simplest interpretation is that the Church as a whole held a special service for this solemn purpose. Codex Bezæ makes all clear by inserting the nominative “all” (πάντες); and on our view this well-chosen addition gives the interpretation that was placed in the second century on a harsh and obscure passage. Similarly in XV 2 it is meant that the congregation appointed the delegates to Jerusalem; and the reader is expected to supply the nominative, though it has not occurred in, the immediately preceding sentence. It seemed to the author so obvious that such action was performed by universal consent, that he did not feel any need to express the nominative. Such a way of thinking was possible only at a very early time. During the second century (if not even earlier) the action of officials began to supersede that of the whole congregation in such matters; and, when even a beginning had been made, it could no longer be assumed as self-evident that such actions as XIII 3, XV 2, were performed by the congregation; and the writer would necessarily express the nominative. The Bezan Reviser belonged to the period when the change had begun and the need of expressing the nominative was felt; but he lived before the time when official action had regularly superseded that of the congregation, for in that case he would have taken the officials in this case to be the agents (as many modern commentators understand the passage).
What was the effect of the public ceremony described in v. 3? The high authority of Lightfoot answers that it constituted Barnabus and Saul as Apostles. He acknowledges that Saul’s “conversion may indeed be said in some sense to have been his call to the Apostleship. But the actual investiture, the completion of his call, took place some years later at Antioch (Acts XIII 2). “He considers that Barnabas and Saul were only prophets before this, and did not become Apostles until they were elevated to that rank by their “consecration to the office” at Antioch (Ed. Galat. p. 96).
Our view, on the contrary, is that Barnabas and Saul were Apostles before this. The Apostle was always appointed by God and not by the Church. The proof of Apostleship lay in the possession of apostolic message and powers, conversion of others and performance of signs. It is an historical anachronism to attribute to this period such belief in the efficacy of a Church-ceremony. Moreover, in XXII 17, 21, and XXVI 17, Paul claims to have been an Apostle from his conversion, and represents his work in Cilicia and Syria as an Apostolate. In Gal. I he declares that his message came direct from God at his conversion. Further, there is no sign in XIII 2, 3, that this “consecration” by the Church was more efficacious than the original Divine call: the ceremony merely blessed Barnabas and Saul for a special work, which was definitely completed in the next three years. In XIV 26 the work for which they had been committed to the grace of God in XIII 2 is declared to be fulfilled; and they returned to their ordinary circle of duties in the Church at Antioch.
The last word in verse 3 should not be “sent them away” (as in the Authorised and Revised Versions). The Spirit sent them away (verse 4); and the Church released them from their regular duties and bade them “God-speed”. The Greek verb (ἀπέλυσαν, like the Latin dimittere) is used of the superior giving his visitor leave to depart (for a visitor in the East is considered to be paying his respects, and does not presume to depart without formal permission to go), or of a host allowing his guests to depart, or of a commanding officer giving soldiers honourable dismissal after their term of service. The correct rendering of this term will prove important at a later stage (p. 155).
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