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Till now, the Church of Jerusalem presents itself to the outside world as a little Galilean colony. The friends whom Jesus had made at Jerusalem, and in its environs, such as Lazarus, Martha, Mary of Bethany, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, had disappeared from the scene. The Galilean group, who pressed around the Twelve, alone remained compact and active. The preachings of these zealous disciples were incessant, and subsequently, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and far away from Judea, the sermons of the apostles were represented as public occasions, being delivered in 56presence of assembled multitudes. Such a construction appears to have been put upon a number of those convenient images of which legend is so prodigal. The authorities who had caused Jesus to be put to death would not have permitted the renewal of such scandals. The proselytism of the faithful was chiefly carried on by means of struggling conversions, in which the fervour of their souls was communicated to their neighbours. Their preachings under the porticoes of Solomon were addressed to circles, not at all numerous. But the effect of this was only the more profound. Their discourses consisted principally of quotations from the Old Testament, by which it was sought to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The reasoning was at once subtle and feeble, but the entire exegesis of the Jews of that time was of the same kind, while the deductions which the doctors of the Mischna drew from the texts of the Bible were no more convincing.

More feeble still was the proof invoked in support of their arguments, which was drawn from pretended prodigies. It was impossible to doubt that the apostles did not believe that they could work miracles. Miracles were regarded as the sign of every divine mission. Saint Paul, imbued with much of the spirit the most ripe of the first Christian school, believed he wrought them. It was held as certain that Jesus had performed them. It was but natural that the series of these divine manifestations should be continued. In fact, thaumaturgy was a privilege of the apostles until the end of the first century. The miracles of the apostles were of the same character as those of Jesus, and consisted principally, but not exclusively, in the healing of the sick, and in exorcising the possessed of devils. It was pretended that their shadows alone sufficed to operate these marvellous cures. These prodigies were accounted to be the regular gifts of the Holy Spirit, and held the same rank as the gifts of knowledge, preaching and prophesy. In the third century 57the Church believed itself still to be in possession of the same privileges, and to exercise as a sort of right the power of healing diseases, of casting out devils, and of predicting the future. Ignorance rendered everything possible in this respect. Do we not see in our day, honest men, who, however, lack scientific knowledge, deceived in an enduring manner by the chimeras of magnetism and other illusions?

It is not by reason of innocent errors, or by the pitiful discourses we read in the Acts, by which we are to judge of the means of conversion which laid the foundations of Christianity. The real preaching was the private conversations of these good and sincere men; it was the reflection always noticeable in their discourses, of the words of Jesus; it was above all their piety, their gentleness. The attraction of communistic life carried with it also a great deal of force. Their houses were a sort of hospitals, in which all the poor and the forsaken found asylum and succour.

One of the first to affiliate himself with the rising society was a Cypriote, named Joseph Hallevi, or the Levite. Like the others, he sold his land and carried the price of it to the feet of the Twelve. He was an intelligent man, with a devotion proof against everything, and a fluent speaker. The apostles attached him closely to themselves and called him Bar-naba, that is to say, “the son of prophesy,” or of “preaching.” He was accounted, in fact, of the number of the prophets, that is to say, of the inspired preachers. Later on we shall see him play a capital part. Next to Saint Paul, he was the most active missionary of the first century. A certain Mnason, his countryman, was converted about the same time. Cyprus possessed many Jews. Barnabas and Mnasou were undoubtedly Jewish by race. The intimate and prolonged relations of Barnabas with the Church at Jerusalem, induces the belief that Syro-Chaldaic was familiar to him.

A conquest, almost as important as that of Barnabas 58was that of one John, who bore the Roman surname of Marcus. He was a cousin of Barnabas, and was circumcised. His mother, Mary, enjoyed an easy competency; she, was likewise converted, and her dwelling was more than once made the rendezvous of the apostles. These two conversions appear to have been the work of Peter. In any case, Peter was very intimate with mother and son; he regarded himself as at home in their house. Even admitting the hypothesis that John-Mark was not identical with the real or supposed author of the second Gospel, his rôle was, nevertheless, a very considerable one. Later, we shall see him accompanying Paul, Barnabas, and even Peter himself, in their apostolic journeys.

The first flame was thus spread with great rapidity. The men, the most celebrated of the apostolic century, were almost all gained over to the cause in two or three years, by a sort of simultaneous attraction. It was a second Christian generation, similar to that which had been formed five or six years previously, upon the shores of Lake Tiberias. This second generation had not seen Jesus, and could not equal the first in authority. But it was destined to surpass it in activity and in its love for distant missions. One of the best known among the new converts was Stephen, who, before his conversion, appears to have been only a simple proselyte. He was a man full of ardour and of passion. His faith was of the most fervent, and he was considered to be favoured with all the gifts of the Spirit. Philip, who, like Stephen, was a zealous deacon and evangelist, attached himself to the community abort the sane time. He was often confounded with his namesake, the apostle. Finally, there were converted it this epoch, Andronicus and Junia, probably husband and wife, who, like Aquila and Priscilla, later on, were the model of an apostolic couple, devoted to all the duties of missionary work. They were of the blood of Israel, and were in the closest relations with the apostles.


The new converts, when touched by grace, were all Jews by religion, but they belonged to two very different classes of Jews. The one class was the Hebrews; that is to say, the Jews of Palestine, speaking Hebrew or rather Armenian, reading the Bible in the Hebrew text; the other class was “Hellenists,” that is to say, Jews speaking Greek, and reading the Bible in Greek. These last were further sub-divided into two classes, the one being of Jewish blood, the other being proselytes, that is to say, people of non-Israelitish origin, allied in divers degrees to Judaism. These Hellenists, who almost all came from Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, or Cyrene, lived at Jerusalem in distinct quarters. They had their separate synagogues, and formed thus little communities apart. Jerusalem contained a great number of these special synagogues. It was in these that the words of Jesus found the soil prepared to receive it and to make it fructify.

The primitive nucleus of the Church at Jerusalem had been composed wholly and exclusively of Hebrews; the Aramaic dialect, which was the language of Jesus, was alone known and employed there. But we see that from the second or third years after the death of Jesus, Greek was introduced into the little community, where it soon became dominant. In consequence of their daily relations with the new brethren, Peter, John, James, Jude, and in general the Galilean disciples, acquired the Greek with much more facility than if they had already known something of it. An incident, of which we are soon to speak, shows that this diversity of tongues caused at first some divisions in the community, and that the relations of the two factions were not of the most agreeable kind. After the destruction of Jerusalem, we shall see the “Hebrews,” retire to beyond Jordan, to the heights of Lake Tiberias, and form a separate Church, which had a separate destiny. But in the interval, between these two events, it does not appear that the diversity of 60languages was of any consequence in the Church. The Orientals have a great facility for learning languages; in the cities everybody invariably speaks two or three tongues. It is then probable that those of the Galilean apostles who played an active part, acquired the practise of speaking Greek; and came even to make use of it in preference to the Syro-Chaldaic, when the faithful, speaking Greek, became the much more numerous. The Palestinian dialect came, therefore, to be abandoned from the day in which people dreamed of a wide-spread propaganda. A provincial patois, which was rarely written, and which was not spoken beyond Syria, was as little adapted as could be to such an object. Greek, on the contrary, was necessarily imposed on Christianity. It was at the time the universal language, at least for the eastern basin of the Mediterranean. It was, in particular, the language of the Jews who were dispersed over the Roman empire. At that time, as in our day, the Jews adopted with great facility the tongues of the countries in which they resided. They did not pique themselves on purism; and this is the reason that the Greek of primitive Christianity is so bad. The Jews, even the most instructed, pronounced badly the classic tongue. Their sentences were always modelled upon the Syriac; they never got rid of the unwieldiness of the gross dialects which the Macedonian conquest had imported.

The conversions to Christianity became soon much more numerous amongst the “Hellenists” than amongst the “Hebrews.” The old Jews at Jerusalem were but little drawn towards a sect of provincials, moderately advanced in the single science that a Pharisee appreciated—the science of the law. The position of the little Church in regard to Judaism was, as with Jesus himself, rather equivocal. But every religious or political party carries in itself a force that dominates it, and obliges it, despite itself, to revolve in its own 61orbit. The first Christians, whatever their apparent respect for Judaism was, were in reality only Jews by birth or by exterior customs. The true spirit of the sect came from another source. That which grew out of official Judaism was the Talmud; but Christianity has no affinity with the Talmudic school. This is why Christianity found special favour amongst the parties, the least Jewish belonging to Judaism. The rigid orthodoxists took to it but little; it was the new corners, people scarcely catechised, who had not been to any of the great schools, free from routine, and not initiated into the holy tongue, which lent an ear to the apostles and the disciples. Lightly considered by the aristocracy of Jerusalem, these parvenues of Judaism took in this way a sort of revenge. It is always the young and newly formed portions of a community that have the least respect for tradition, and who are the most carried away by novelties.

In these classes so little subject to the doctors of the law, credulity was also, it seems, more naive and more complete. That which distinguished the Talmudic Jews was not credulity. The credulous Jew, the lover of the marvellous, whom the Latin satirists knew, was not the Jew of Jerusalem; he was the Hellenist Jew, at once very religious and little instructed, and, consequently, very superstitious. Neither the half-incredulous Sadducee, nor the rigorous Pharisee, could be much affected by the theurgy popular in the apostolic circle. But the Judæus Apella, at whom the epicurean Horace laughed, was easy to convince. Social questions, besides, interested particularly those not benefited by the wealth which the temple and the central institutions of the nation caused to flow into Jerusalem. Yet it was in allying itself to the desires so very analogous to what is now called “socialism” that the new sect laid the solid foundation upon which was to be reared the edifice of its future.

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