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CHAPTER II.

CONTINUATION OF THE FIRST JOURNEY OF PAUL—THE GALATIAN MISSION.

The mission, satisfied with what it had accomplished at Cyprus, resolved to attack the neighbouring coast of Asia Minor. Alone amongst the provinces of that country, Cilicia had heard the new gospel, and possessed churches. The geographical region that we call Asia Minor was by no means united. It was composed of peoples greatly diverse both as regards race and social status. The western part and the entire coast were embraced, from a remote 13antiquity, in the great vortex of that common civilisation of which the Mediterranean was the centre. Since the decadence of Greece, and of the Ptolemaic Egypt, these countries were held to be the countries the most lettered that then existed, or, at least, countries which produced the greatest number of men distinguished in literature. The province of Asia, notably the ancient kingdom of Pergamus, was, as is said to-day, at the head of progress. But the centre of the peninsula had been partly civilised. Local life had continued there as in the times of antiquity. Many of the indigenous languages had not yet disappeared. The state of public opinion was very backward. To speak the truth, the whole of these provinces had but one common characteristic, and that was boundless credulity and an extreme penchant for superstition. The ancient religions, under their Hellenic and Roman transformation, retained many of the features of their primitive form. Several of those religions still enjoyed great popularity, and possessed a certain superiority over the Greco-Roman worships. No other country has produced so many theurgists and theosophists. Apollonius of Tyana was preparing there, at the period at which we are now arrived, his strange fate. Alexander of Aboniticus and Peregrinus Proteus began soon to seduce the provinces; the one by his miracles, his prophecies, and his great demonstrations of piety, the other by his legerdemain. Artemidorus of Ephesus and Ælius Aristides presented the strange spectacle of men combining sincere and truly religious sentiments with ridiculous superstitions and the ideas of charlatans. In no part of the empire was the pious reaction which was brought about at the end of the first century in favour of the ancient religions, and opposed to positive philosophy, more pronounced. Asia Minor was, next to Palestine, the most religious country in the world. Entire regions, such as 14Phrygia, cities such as Tyana, Venasium, Comana, Cæsarea in Cappadocia, Nazianzus, were equally wedded to mysticisms. In many places the priests were still all but sovereigns.

As for the life politic, there was not even a trace of it. All the towns, as if in emulation, were striving to outdo each other in their immoderate adulation of the Cæsars, and of the Roman functionaries. The appellation of “friend of Cæsar” was prized. The cities were disputing with childish vanity the pompous titles of “metropole,” of “very-illustrious,” conferred by imperial rescripts. The country had submitted to the Romans without a violent conquest, at least without national resistance. History does not mention a single serious political rising. Brigandage and anarchy, which for a long time had erected in Taurus, Isauria, Pisidia impregnable strongholds, had come to an end by yielding to the power of the Romans and their allies. Civilisation had spread with surprising rapidity. The traces of the beneficent actions of Claudius, and of the gratitude of the population towards him, despite certain tumultuous agitations, were encountered at every turn. It was not as in Palestine, where the ancient institutions and manners offered a furious resistance. If we except Isauria, Pisidia, the parts of Cilicia which still retained a shade of independence, and up to a certain point in Galatia, the country had lost all national sentiment. It had never had a dynasty proper. The old provincial individualism of Phrygia, Lydia, and Caria had been dead for a long time as political units. The artificial kingdoms of Perigamus, of Bithynia and of Pontus were likewise dead. The whole peninsula had gladly accepted the Roman domination.

We might add with thankfulness; for never, in fact, had domination been legitimatised by so many benefits. “Providence Augustus” was, in good truth, the tutelary genius of the country. The cult 15of the Emperor, that of Augustus in particular, and of Livia, were the dominant religions of Asia Minor. The temples to those terrestrial gods, always associated with the divinity of Rome, were multiplied everywhere. The priests of Augustus, grouped by provinces, under archbishops (ἀρχιερεῖς, a sort of metropolitans or primates), succeeded later in forming a clergy analogous to that which became, beginning with Constantine, the Christian clergy. The political Testament of Augustus had become a kind of sacred text, a public teaching as of beautiful monuments, which were entrusted with making offerings on behalf of all, and of perpetuating them. The cities and the tribes were rivals for the epithets which attested the recollection that they preserved of the great Emperor. Ancient Ninoē di Caria argued with his old Assyrian religion of Mylitta, in order to establish his connection with Cæsar, son of Venus. In all this there was servility and baseness; but over and above, there was the sentiment of a new era—a happiness which they had not up till now enjoyed, and which, in fact, endured unchanged for centuries afterwards. A man who probably assisted at the conquest of his country, Denis of Halicarnassus, wrote a Roman history, to demonstrate to his countrymen the excellencies of the Roman people, to prove to them that that people was of the same race as themselves, and that its glory formed a part of theirs.

After Egypt and Cyrenica, Asia Minor was the country in which there were most Jews. There they formed powerful communities, jealous of their rights, easily alarmed by persecution, having the vexatious habit of always complaining of the Roman authority, and of fleeing for protection outside the city They had succeeded in making themselves important toll-gatherers, and were in reality privileged, as compared with other classes of the population. Not only, in 16fact, was their religion free, but many of the ordinary imposts, which they pretended they could not pay conscientiously, were not exacted from them. The Romans were very favourable to them in these provinces, and almost always took their part in the conflicts which they had with the inhabitants of the country.

Embarking at Neo Paphos, the three missionaries sailed towards the mouth of the Cestrus in Pamphylia, and, ascending the river for a distance of from two to three leagues, arrived at the eminence of Perga, a great and flourishing town, the centre of an ancient worship of Diana, almost as much renowned as that of Ephesus. This religion had a great resemblance to that of Paphos, and it is not impossible that the relations of the two towns, establishing between them a line of ordinary navigation, may have determined the sojourn of the Apostles. In general, the two parallel coasts of Cyprus and Asia Minor seemed to correspond the one to the other. These were the two divisions of the Semitic populations, mixed with divers elements, and which had lost much of their primitive character.

It was at Perga that the rupture between Paul and John-Mark was consummated. John-Mark left the mission and returned to Jerusalem. This incident was doubtless painful to Barnabas, for John-Mark was his relative. But Barnabas, accustomed to submit to everything on the part of his imperious companion, did not abandon the grand design of penetrating into the heart of Asia Minor. The two Apostles plunged into the interior, and travelling always to the north, between the basins of Cestrus and of Eurymedon, traversed Pamphylia, Pisidia, and pressed on as far as mountainous Phrygia. It must have been a difficult and perilous journey. That labyrinth of rugged mountains was guarded by a barbarous population, habituated to brigandage, and 17whom the Romans had with difficulty subdued. Paul, accustomed to the aspect of Syria, must have been surprised at the romantic and picturesque Alpestrine regions, with their lakes, their deep valleys, which may be compared to the environs of Lake Maggiore and of Tessin. At first one is astonished at the singular route of the Apostles—a route which shunned the large centres of population and the routes the most frequented. There is, moreover, little doubt that they followed in the tracks of the Jewish emigration. Pisidia and Lycaonia had towns, such as Antioch in Pisidia, and Iconium, in which great colonies of Jews had established themselves. There the Jews made many conversions; far away from Jerusalem, and freed from the influence of Palestine fanaticism, they lived on good terms with the Pagans. The latter came to the synagogue; and mixed marriages were not infrequent. Paul had been able to learn from Tarsus what advantageous conditions the new faith would find here, in order to establish itself and to fructify. Derbe and Lystra are not very far from Tarsus. The family of Paul might have had some relations, or, at all events, have been well known in these scattered cantons.

Departing from Perga, the two Apostles, after a journey of about forty leagues, arrived at Antioch in Pisidia or Antioch-Cæsarea, in the very heart of the high plateaux of the peninsula. This Antioch had continued to be a town of mediocre importance until it was raised by Augustus to the rank of a Roman colony, with Italian jurisdiction. It then became very important, and changed in part its character. Till now it had been a town of priests, similar, it would seem, to Comana. The temple which had rendered it famous, with its legions of temple slaves and its rich domains, was suppressed by the Romans (twenty-five years before Christ). But this grand religious establishment, as is always the case, left deep traces 18on the manners of the population. It was doubtless in the train of the Roman colony that the Jews had been drawn to Antioch in Pisidia.

According to their custom, the two Apostles presented themselves at the synagogue on the Sabbath. After the reading of the Law and the prophets, the presidents, seeing two strangers who had the appearance of being pious, sent to them inquiring whether they had a few words of exhortation to address to the people. Paul spoke, and expounded the mystery of Jesus, his death and his resurrection. The impression made was marked, and they besought him to come the following Sabbath and continue his discourse to them. A great multitude of Jews and of proselytes followed them out of the synagogue, and during the whole week Paul and Barnabas did not cease to exercise an active ministry. The Pagan population were informed of this incident, and their curiosity was excited.

The following Sabbath the whole city assembled at the synagogue; but the sentiments of the orthodox party had much changed. They repented of the tolerance they had shown the previous Sabbath; the eager multitude irritated the notables; a dispute accompanied with violence began. Paul and Barnabas bravely withstood the tempest; they were not permitted, however, to speak in the synagogue. They retired protesting. “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you,” said he to the Jews; “but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts xiii. 46). From that moment, in fact, Paul became more and more confirmed in the idea that his future was not for the Jews but for the Gentiles; that his ministry on new soil bore much better fruit; that God had specially singled him out to be the Apostle to the nations, and to spread the glad tidings to the ends 19of the earth. His great soul had the special characteristic of enlarging and expanding itself incessantly. The soul of Alexander is the only one I know that had that gift of perennial buoyancy, that indefinable capacity of wishing and of embracing.

The disposition of the Pagan population was found to be excellent. Many were converted and were found at the first attempt to be perfect Christians. We shall see the same thing take place at Philippi, at Alexandria Troas, and in the Roman colonies in general. The attraction that a refined worship had for these good and religious peoples—an attraction which up till then had been manifested through conversions to Judaism—was evinced now through conversions to Christianity. Despite its foreign religion, and perhaps on account of a reaction against that religion, the population of Antioch, like that of Phrygia in general, had a sort of penchant in the direction of monotheism. The new religion, not exacting circumcision and not insisting upon certain paltry observances, was much better calculated than Judaism to attract the pious Pagans; thus, favour was quickly brought over to its side. These scattered provinces, lost amongst the mountains, little accustomed to authority, without historical celebrity and without any importance whatever, were excellent soils for the faith. A Church, somewhat numerous, was established. Antioch in Pisidia became a centre of propagandism whence the doctrine irradiated all around.

The success of the new Gospel amongst the Pagans culminated in putting the Jews into a fury. A pious intrigue was formed against the missionaries. Several of the women of the highest class in the city had embraced Judaism; the orthodox Jews prevailed upon them to speak to their husbands, so as to obtain the expulsion of Paul and Barnabas. The two Apostles, in short, were banished from the city, 20and from the territory of Antioch in Pisidia, by a municipal decree.

Following the apostolic usage, they shook the dust off their feet against the city. They then directed their steps towards Lycaonia, and reached, after a march of about five days across a fertile country, the city of Iconium. Lycaonia was, like Pisidia, an illiterate country, little known, and which had conserved its ancient customs. Patriotism had by no means died out there; manners were pure, and the minds of men, serious and honest. Iconium was a city of ancient religions and of old traditions—traditions which, in many points, approached even those of the Jews. The city, still very small, had just received, or was about to receive, from Claudius, when Paul arrived there, the title of Colony. A high Roman functionary, Lucius Pupius Præsens, procurator of Galatia, had been called the second founder of it, and the city hence changed its ancient name for that of Claudia or of Claudiconium.

The Jews, doubtless because of that circumstance, were numerous there, and had gained over many partisans. Paul and Barnabas spoke in the synagogue: a Church was organised. The missionaries made Iconium a second centre of a very active apostleship, and dwelt there a long time. It was there that Paul, according to a very popular romance during the first half of the third century, must have conquered the most beautiful of all his disciples, the faithful and tender Theckla. But the story has no foundation to rest on. One asks oneself why, if it was by an arbitrary choice, the Asiatic priest, the author of the romance, selected for the scene of his narrative the city of Iconium. Even to-day the Greek women of that country are celebrated for their charms, and exhibit the phenomena of endemic hysteria, which the doctors attribute to the climate. Be that as it may, the success of the Apostles was 21very great. Many Jews were converted; but the Apostles made always more proselytes outside the synagogue, from amongst those sympathetic populations who were no longer satisfied with the old religions. The spotless morality of Paul charmed the good Lycaonians; their credulity, moreover, disposed them to receive with admiration that which they regarded as miracles, and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

The tempest which had forced the preachers to quit Antioch in Pisidia, broke out afresh at Iconium. The orthodox Jews sought to stir up the Pagan population against the missionaries. The city became divided into two parties. There was a riot: people spoke of stoning the two Apostles. They took flight, and quitted the capital of Lycaonia.

Iconium is situated near an intermittent lake, at the entrance of the great steppe which forms the centre of Asia Minor, and which has, even up till now, rebelled against all forms of civilisation. The route towards Galatia, properly speaking, and Cappadocia, was closed. Paul and Barnabas essayed to compass the foot of the arid mountains which form a semicircle round the plain on the south side. These mountains are none other than the northern back of the Taurus; but the central plain being raised considerably above the level of the sea, Taurus attains on that side only a moderate elevation. The country is cold and bleak; the soil, now swampy, now sandy, or cracked by the heat, is painfully dismal. Alone, the mass of the extinct volcano, called now Karadagh, stands like an island in the middle of that boundless sea.

Two small, obscure towns, the position of which is uncertain, became then the theatre of the activity of the Apostles. These two small towns were called Lystra and Derbe. Dropped down in the valleys of the Karadagh, in the middle of poor people devoted to the raising of flocks, in the neighbourhood 22of the most notorious haunts of brigands that antiquity had known, these two towns stood entirely isolated. A civilised Roman felt himself there to be in the midst of savages. The people spoke Lycaonian. Few Jews were to be found there. Claudius, by the establishment of colonies in the inaccessible regions of Taurus, gave to these outlandish cantons more order and security than they had ever before had.

Lystra was the first to be evangelised. A singular incident happened there. In the first days of the sojourn of the Apostles at that town, the rumour spread that Paul had performed a miraculous cure on a lame person. The credulous inhabitants, and the friends of the person on whom the miracle had been wrought, were thereupon seized with a singular idea. It was believed that the Apostles were two divinities who had taken human form in order to walk about among mortals. The belief in their descent from the gods was widely spread, especially in Asia Minor. The life of Apollonius of Tyana became soon to be regarded as the sojourn of a god upon earth. Tyana was not far from Derbe. As an ancient Phrygian tradition—consecrated by a temple, and annual feast and pretty recitations—made Zeus and Hermes to wander thus about in company, people applied to the Apostles the names of these two divine travellers. Barnabas, who was taller than Paul, was Zeus; Paul, who was the chief speaker, was Hermes. There was just outside the gate of the town a temple of Zeus. The priest, warned that a divine manifestation had taken place, and that his god had appeared in the town, took steps to make a sacrifice. The bulls had already been led out and garlands placed on the front of the temple, when Paul and Barnabas arrived on the scene, rending their clothes and protesting that they were but men. The Pagan races, as we have already said, attached to a miracle a 23totally different sense than did the Jews. To the latter, the miracle was a doctrinal argument; to the former, it was the immediate revelation of a god. The aim of the Apostles, when they were preaching to people of that kind, was less of preaching Jesus than of preaching God; their preaching thus became again purely Jewish, or rather deistical. The Jews who have become proselytes, have always felt that that which in their religion is adapted to the universality of mankind is at bottom only monotheism; that all the rest, Mosaic institutions, Messianic ideas, etc., form, as it were, a secondary series of beliefs, constituting the peculiar appanage of the children of Israel, a sort of family heritage, which is not transmissible.

As Lystra had only a few or no Jews of Palestine origin, the life of the Apostle there was for a long time very tranquil. One family in that town was the centre and the school of the highest piety. It was composed of a grandmother named Lois, of a mother named Eunice, and of a young son named Timothy. The two women professed, undoubtedly, the Jewish religion as proselytes. Eunice had been married to a Pagan, who probably was dead before the advent of Paul and Barnabas. Timothy, in the society of these two women, advanced in the study of sacred literature, and in the sentiments of the most ardent devotion; but as he frequently visited the houses of the most devout proselytes, his parents had not had him circumcised. Paul converted the two women. Timothy, who might be fifteen years of age, was initiated into the Christian faith by his mother and his grandmother.

The reports of these conversions spread to Iconium and to Antioch in Pisidia, and re-awakened the anger of the Jews of these two cities. They sent emissaries to Lystra, who provoked a disturbance. Paul was seized by the fanatics, dragged outside the city, 24stoned, and left for dead. The disciples came to his rescue. His wounds were not serious. He re-entered the town, probably by night, and on the morrow set out with Barnabas for Derbe.

They made here a long stay, and won over a great many souls. These two Churches of Lystra and of Derbe were the first Churches which were composed almost entirely of Pagans. We can understand what a difference there must have been between these Churches and those of Palestine, formed in the bosom of pure Judaism, or even that of Antioch, encircled by a Jewish leaven and in a society already Judaised. Here there were subjects completely unprejudiced, honest country folks who were very religious, but of a turn of mind quite different from that of the Syrians. Till now, the preaching of Christianity had prospered only in the large towns, where resided a numerous population, plying their trades. Hence-forward, churches were planted in the villages. Neither Iconium, nor Lystra, nor Derbe was considerable enough in which to found a Church to be compared to that of Corinth or of Ephesus. Paul was in the habit of designating the Christians of Lycaonia by the name of the province in which they dwelt. Now, this province—we mean Galatia—understood the word in the administrative sense in which the Romans had applied it.

The Roman province of Galatia, in fact, by no means embraced simply that country, peopled with Gallic adventurers, of which the town of Ancyra was the centre. It was an artificial agglomeration, corresponding to the transient reunion which was effected at the hands of the Galatian King Amyntas. This personage, after the battle of Philippi, and the death of Dejotarus, received from Antony, Pisidia, then Galatia, together with a part of Lycaonia and of Pamphylia. He was confirmed by Augustus in this possession. At the end of his reign (twenty-five 25years B.C.) Amyntas possessed, outside of Galatia properly speaking, Lycaonia and Isauria, including even Derbe, the south-east and the east of Phrygia, with the towns of Antioch and Apollonia, Pisidia and Cilicia Trachæa. All these countries at his death formed a single Roman province, with the exception of Cilicia Trachæa and the Pamphylian towns. The province which bore the name of Galatia in the official nomenclature, at least under the first Cæsars, included therefore for certain—(1) Galatia, properly speaking, (2) Lycaonia, (3) Pisidia, (4) Isauria, (5) Mountainous Phrygia, with the towns of Apollonia and Antioch. This state of things lasted for a long time. Ancyra was the capital of this large group, comprising almost the whole of central Asia Minor. The Romans were thus not sorry in order to decompose nationalities, and to efface recollections, to change the ancient geographical acceptations and to create arbitrary administrative groups analogous to our departments.

Paul was accustomed to make use of the administrative name to designate each country. The countries he had evangelised, from Antioch in Pisidia to Derbe, were called by him “Galatia;” and the Christians of these countries were to him “Galatians.” That name was to him extremely dear. The Churches of Galatia were embraced amongst those for which the Apostle had the most affection, and which in turn had for him the greatest personal attachment. The recollection of the friendship and the devotion which he had found at the houses of these good people, was one of the deepest impressions of his apostolic life. Several circumstances enhanced the keenness of these recollections. It appears that during his sojourn in Galatia, the Apostle was subject to attacks of weakness, or of the malady which frequently overtook him. The solicitude, the attentions of the faithful proselytes, 26touched him to the heart. The persecutions that they had to suffer together served to create between them a strong bond. That little Lycaonian centre had in its way great importance: St Paul loved to revert to it, as being his first achievement; it was from there that he drew later on two of his most faithful companions, Timothy and Gaius.

He was for four or five years thus absorbed within a quite limited circle. He thought less then of those great rapid journeys, which towards the end of his life became with him a sort of passion, in order to establish firmly the Churches which might serve him as a base of operations. We do not know whether during that time he had any relations with the Church at Antioch, whose mission he had received. The desire of seeing again that Mother Church was awakened in him. He determined to make a journey thence, and proceeded by the opposite route to the one he had already gone by. The two missionaries visited for the second time Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. They took up anew their abodes in these towns, confirming the faithful in the faith, exhorting them to perseverance, to patience, and teaching them that it was only through tribulation that they could enter into the Kingdom of God. For the rest, the constitution of these scattered Churches was very simple. The Apostles chose from amongst each of them elders who after their departure were the depositaries of their authority. The ceremony of their departure was touching. There were fastings and prayers, after which the Apostles recommended the faithful to God, and departed.

From Antioch in Pisidia, the missionaries once more attained to Perga. They made there, moreover, it appeared, a mission which was crowned with success. The city processions, pilgrimages, and grand annual panegyrics, were often favourable to the preaching of the Apostles. From Perga, after a day’s journey, 27they reached Attalia, the great port of Pamphylia. There they embarked for Seleucia; then they returned to great Antioch, where they had, by the grace of God, been liberated five years before.

The mission field was by no means a wide one. It embraced the Island of Cyprus in the sense of its length, and in Asia Minor a broken line of about a hundred leagues. It was the first instance of an apostolic journey of that kind: nothing had been pre-arranged. Paul and Barnabas had to wrestle with the greatest external difficulties. We must not compare these journeys with those of a Francis Xavier or of a Livingstone, backed up by rich associations. The Apostles resembled much more the Socialist workmen, spreading their ideas from tavern to tavern, than the missionaries of modern times. Their trade was forced upon them as a necessity; they were compelled to halt in order to pursue it, and to regulate their movements according to the localities in which they could find work. Hence from delays, from dull seasons, there was much time lost. In spite of the enormous obstacles, the general results of that first mission were immense. When Paul had re-embarked for Antioch, there were several churches of Gentiles. The great step had now been made. All steps of that kind which had taken place anteriorly had been more or less undecided. For all that, they were obliged to give an answer, more or less plausible, to the pure Jews at Jerusalem, who maintained that circumcision was the preliminary obligation of the Christian profession. Moreover, the question had assumed a different form. Another tact of the highest importance was again brought to light; that was the excellent disposition which they had been able to discover among certain races, attached to mythological religions, to receive the gospel. The doctrine of Jesus was evidently about to profit by the species of charm which Judaism 28had until now exercised upon the pious Pagans. Asia Minor, in particular, was destined to become the second Christian soil. After the disasters which were soon to strike the Churches of Palestine, she was destined to be the principal home of the new faith, the theatre of the most important transformations.

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