Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus


Paul disbelieved.—Neither his divine Commission nor his inward Conversion ever credited by the Apostles or their Jerusalem Disciples.—Source of Proof stated.



Void, as we have seen, of all title to credence, is the story of Paul's commission from Jesus:—void may it be seen to be, even if taken by itself, and without need of resort to any counter-evidence. Who could have expected to have found it, moreover, disproved by the most irresistible counter-evidence—by the evidence of the Apostles themselves? Yes: of the Apostles themselves, of whom it will plainly enough be seen, that by not so much as one of them was it ever believed: no, not to even the very latest period, of which any account has reached us: namely that, at which the history of the Acts of the Apostles closes, or that of the date of the last-written of Paul's Epistles, whichsoever of the two may be the latest.

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In regard to the story of his conversion, its cause, and manner,—it has been seen, that it is either from himself directly, or from an adherent of his, the author of the Acts,—who had it from himself, unless Ananias was a person known to the author of the Acts, and heard by him,—it is from Paul, and Paul alone, that all the evidence, which the case has happened to supply, has been derived.

In regard to the degree of credence given, to his pretence to the having received a commission from Jesus, still the same remark applies: still, either from himself, or from the same partial, and, as will be seen, not altogether trustworthy, narrator, comes the whole of the evidence, with which the case happens to have furnished us.



Jerusalem, according to the Acts, was the headquarters of the noble army of the Apostles: the ordinary residence of that goodly fellowship:—a station, which they none of them ever quitted, for any considerable length of time.

In the course of the interval, between the date assigned by Paul to his conversion, and that of the last particulars we have of his history,—mention, more or less particular, may be found of four visits of his—distinctly four related visits, and no more than four,—to that metropolis of the new Church. On no one of these occasions, could he have avoided[Pg 137] using his endeavours, towards procuring admittance, to the fellowship of the distinguished persons, so universally known in the character of the select companions and most confidential servants of Jesus: of that Jesus, whom, in the flesh at any rate, he never so much as pretended to have ever seen: from whom he had consequently, if they thought proper to impart it, so much to learn, or at least to wish to learn: while to them he had nothing to impart, except that which, if anything, it was only in the way of vision, if in any way, that he had learned from Jesus.

That on three at least of these four occasions, viz. the 1st, 3d, and 4th, he accordingly did use his endeavours to confer with them, will be put out of dispute by direct evidence; and that, in the remaining one, namely that which in the order of time stands second,—successfully or not, his endeavours were directed to the same purpose,—will, it will be seen, be reasonably to be inferred from circumstantial evidence. In the character of an additional occasion of intercourse, between him and one of the Apostles, namely, Peter, the chief of them,—will be to be added, that which will be seen taking place at Antioch; immediately upon the back, and in consequence, of the third of these same visits of his to Jerusalem.

As to the mode of his conversion as above stated,—the time, for him to have stated it to them, was manifestly that of the first of these four visits;—say his reconciliation-visit: and that, of that first visit, to see them, or at any rate the chief of them, namely, Peter, was the object,—is what, in his Epistle to the Galatians, we shall see him declaring in express terms.

After all—that story of his, in which the supposed manner of his conversion is related, as above,—did he so much as venture to submit it to them? The[Pg 138] more closely it is examined, the less probable surely will be seen to be—his having ventured, to submit any such narrative, to a scrutiny so jealous, as theirs, under these circumstances, could not fail to be.

One of two things at any rate will, it is believed, be seen to a certainty: namely, Either no such story as that which we see, nor anything like it, was ever told to them by him; or, if yes, it obtained no credit at their hands.



For proof, of the disbelief, which his story will, it is believed, be found to have experienced, at the hands of those supremely competent judges,—the time is now come, for collecting together, and submitting in a confronted state to the reader, all the several particulars that have reached us, in relation to these four important visits.

Between the first-recorded and the last-recorded of the four, the length of the interval being so considerable as it will be seen to be, namely, upwards of 17 years at the least,—and, in the course of the interval, so numerous and various a series of incidents being to be seen comprised,—the consequence is—that this one topic will unavoidably spread itself to such an extent, as to cover the whole of the chronological field of the history of the Church in those eventful times. A sort of necessity has thus been found, of taking a view of the principal part of all those several incidents, in a sort of historical[Pg 139] order, in a succeeding part of this work: hence, of that which, for the proof of what has just been advanced, will here be necessary to be brought to view,—no inconsiderable portion will be an anticipation, of that which belongs properly to the historical sketch, and, but for this necessity, would have been reserved for it.



Thick clouds, and those covering no small portion of its extent, will, after everything that can be done to dispel them, be found still hanging over the field of this inquiry. But, if to the purpose of the present question, sufficient light be elicited; in whatever darkness any collateral points may remain still involved, the conclusion will not be affected by it.

As to the credibility of Paul's story,—taken in itself, and viewed from the only position, from which we, at this time of day, can view it,—the question has just been discussed.

That which remains for discussion is—whether, from the Church, which Paul found in existence—the Church composed of the Apostles of Jesus, and his and their disciples—it ever obtained credence.

On this occasion, to the Apostles more particularly must the attention be directed: and this—not only because by their opinion, that of the great body of those disciples would, of course, on a point of such vital importance, be governed; but, because, in the case of these confidential servants and habitual attendants of Jesus, the individuals, of whom the body[Pg 140] is composed, and who are designated by one and the same denomination, are always determinable: determinable, in such sort, that, at all times, wheresoever they are represented as being, the eye can follow them.

To judge with what aspect Paul with his pretensions was viewed by them, always with a view to the main question—whether, in any particular, the alleged supernatural cause of his outward conversion, and thence of his presumable inward conversion, ever obtained credence from them;—one primary object, which requires to be attended to, is—personal intercourse; viz. the sort of personal intercourse, which between him on the one part, and them, or some of them, on the other part, appears to have had place.

Of this intercourse, the several interviews, which appear to have had place, will form the links. Correspondent to those interviews will be found to be so many visits: all of them, except one, visits made by him to the great original metropolis of the Christian world—Jerusalem:—the scene of the acts and sufferings of the departed Jesus:—the ordinary abode of these his chosen disciples and successors. If, to these visits of Paul's is to be added any other interview,—it will be in another city, to wit, Antioch: and, in this instance, between Paul, and not, as in the case of the other visits might naturally be expected, the Apostles in a body; but one, or some other small number of members, by whom a visit to that place was made, in consequence of their having been selected for that purpose, and deputed by the rest.

Of the interviews corresponding with these visits, the real number,—and not only the real number, but the number upon record,—is unhappily, in no inconsiderable degree, exposed to doubt; for, considering[Pg 141] the terms they were upon, as we shall see, at the interviews produced by Paul's first Jerusalem visit, it does not by any means follow, that, between the persons in question, because there were two more such visits, there was, on each occasion, an interview.

Two of them, however, at any rate, if any degree of credence whatever be given to the documents, remain altogether clear of doubt: and whatever uncertainty may be found to attach upon any of the others, may be regarded as so many fixed points: fixed points, forming so many standards of reference, to which the others may in speaking of them be referred, and by reference to which the reality and time of those others, will be endeavoured to be ascertained.

For the designation of the visits which produced these two unquestionable interviews, the terms Reconciliation Visit, and Invasion Visit, will here be employed: the former being that which gave rise to the first-mentioned of the two interviews, which, after the conversion, appear for certain to have had place between the rival and contending powers; the other, to the last.

1. By the Reconciliation Visit is here meant—that visit—by which was produced the first interview, which, after the conversion of Paul, had place between him and any of the Apostles. Its title to this appellation is altogether unquestionable. After these proceedings of Paul's, by which the destruction of so many of the Christians had already been effected, and that of all the rest was threatened,—it was not possible, that, without a reconciliation,—if not an inward at any rate an outward one,—any interview, on both sides voluntary, should have taken place. Of the Apostles, Peter was the acknowledged[Pg 142] chief: that it was for the purpose of seeing Peter, that a visit of Paul's to Jerusalem—the first of those mentioned by him—was made,—is acknowledged by himself: acknowledged, in that Epistle of his, to his Galatian disciples, of which so much will have to be said, Gal. i. and ii.[20] Without the assistance of some mediator, scarcely was it in the nature of the case, that, in any way, any such reconciliation could have been effected. In the person of Barnabas,—a most munificent patron, as will be seen, of the infant church,—this indispensable friend was found.

According to the received chronology, the time of this visit was A.D. 38. In the account, given in the Acts, Acts 16:6, of the conjunct missionary excursion made from Antioch by Paul and Barnabas—an excursion, the commencement of which is, by that same chronology, placed in the year 53,— Galatia stands fifth, in the number of the places, which they are spoken of as visiting. Of any visit, made in that country, either before this or after it, no mention is to be found in the Acts, except in Acts 18:23: on which occasion, he is spoken of as revisiting Galatia, "strengthening the churches."[21]

Of what passed on the occasion of this visit, the account, given as above by Paul, will be seen receiving explanation, from what is said of this same visit in the Acts.

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ACTS ix. 26 to 30.

26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.—But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.—And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.—And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.—Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cęsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

2. By the Invasion Visit is here meant—that visit of Paul to Jerusalem, by which his arrestation, and consequent visit to Rome in a state of confinement, were produced. Invasion it may well be termed: the object of it having manifestly been—the making, in that original metropolis of the Christian world, spiritual conquests, at the expense of the gentle sway of the Apostles: spiritual acquisitions—not to speak of their natural consequences, temporal ones. It was undertaken, as will be seen, in spite of the most strenuous exertions, made for the prevention of it: made, not only by those, whose dominions he was so needlessly invading, but by the unanimous remonstrances and entreaties of his own adherents.

The date—assigned to the commencement of this visit, is A.D. 60. Interval, between this his last recorded visit and his first, according to the received chronology, 22 years.

Neither of the occasion of it, nor of any individual occurrence which took place in the course of it, have we any account—from any other source than the history of the Acts. Paul's account is all in generals.

3. Paul's Jerusalem Visit the Second.—According to the Acts, Acts 11:30, "which also they did, and[Pg 144] sent it to the Elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul," between these two indisputable interviews of Paul's with the Apostles occurs another visit, herein designated by the name of the Money-bringing Visit. Under the apprehension of a predicted dearth, money is sent from the Antioch to the Jerusalem saints. Barnabas, and with him Paul, are employed in the conveyance of it. Time, assigned to this Visit, A.D. 43. Of this visit, not any the least trace is to be found in any Epistle of Paul's. Yet, in this Epistle of his to his Galatians, he will be seen undertaking in a manner, to give an account, of every visit of his to Jerusalem, in which, with reference to spiritual dominion, between himself and the Apostles, anything material had ever passed.

By this silence of Paul's, no counter-evidence is opposed, to the account given of this visit in the Acts. What may very well be is,—that he went along with the money, and departed, without having had any personal communication with any Apostle, or even with any one of their disciples.

4. Deputation Visit. Paul's Jerusalem Visit the Third—say his Deputation Visit. According to the Acts,[22] Paul being at the Syrian Antioch, certain men came thither from Judea, teaching, that Mosaic circumcision is necessary to Christian salvation. Dissension being thus produced, Paul, and Barnabas as usual with him, are dispatched to confer on this subject with the Apostles and the Elders—Time, assigned to this visit, A.D. 52. Interval between the first and this third visit—years 15.

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In addition to the first Jerusalem Visit, mentioned as above by Paul, to wit, in the first chapter of his Epistle to his Galatians,—in the second, mention is made of another.

Of the incidents mentioned by Paul, as belonging to this other visit, scarcely can any one, unless it be that of his having Barnabas for a companion, be found, that presents itself as being the same with any incident mentioned in the Acts, in the account given of the above named Deputation Visit. But, between the two accounts, neither does any repugnance manifest itself: and, forasmuch as, in a statement, the purpose of which required that no interview, in which anything material passed between him and the Apostles, should pass unnoticed,—he mentions no more than one visit besides the first,—it seems reasonable to conclude, that it was but one and the same visit, that, in the penning of both these accounts, was in view.

As far as appears, it is from the account thus given by Paul of the second, of the two visits mentioned by him as made to Jerusalem, that the received chronology has deduced the year, which it assigns to the Deputation Visit, as recorded in the Acts.

In Paul's account alone—in Paul's, and not in that in the Acts—is the distance given in a determinate number of years. According to one of two interpretations, 17—the number above mentioned as adopted in the current chronology—is the number of years mentioned by Paul as intervening between[Pg 146] those two visits. But even in this place, a circumstance that must not pass altogether unnoticed is,—that, according to another interpretation, to which the text presents itself as almost equally open, the length of the interval would be considerably greater. Galatians i. 17: "Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before me: but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days." After what period?—after that of his conversion? or after the expiration of this his second visit to Damascus? Reckoning from this latter period, the interval may be ever so much greater than that of the three years: for, to the three years may be added an indefinite length of time for the second, and even for the first, of his abodes at Damascus. But, as we advance, reason will appear for concluding, that, being in the eyes of the Damascus rulers, as well as the Jerusalem rulers, a traitor—in the highest degree a traitor—his abode at Damascus could not, at either of these times, have been other than short as well as secret.

Gal. ii. 1: "Then, fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus also." This being supposed to be the Deputation Visit, these fourteen added to the former three, make the seventeen.

5. Peter's Antioch Visit.—In Paul's Epistle, addressed to his Galatians, as above,—immediately after the mention of his own second Jerusalem Visit as above, comes the mention of an interview, which he says he has at Antioch with Peter: "Peter being come," he says, "to that place." Gal. ii. 11. In the Acts, 15:22, immediately upon the back of the accounts of the Deputation Visit, as above,—comes[Pg 147] an account of what may be called a counter Deputation Visit. Of the former Deputation Visit, according to the Acts, the result is—from the Apostles, the Elders, and the whole Church, a letter, concluding with a decree: and "by men chosen of their own company," this letter is stated as having been carried to Antioch: and, with these men, so chosen, Paul and Barnabas are stated as returning to Antioch, from which city, as above, they had been deputed. As and for the names of "chosen men," those of Judas, surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, are mentioned: "chief men among the brethren" is another title by which they are, both of them, distinguished. To these, no other names are added: in particular, not that of Peter. Thus far the Acts.

As to Paul, in the account he gives, of the discussion, to which, after—and apparently, as above, in consequence of—his secondly mentioned interview with Peter at Jerusalem,—no mention is made either of Judas Barsabas, or of Silas: of Peter—and him alone—it is, that, on this occasion, any mention is made. Peter comes, as it should seem, to Antioch from Jerusalem; which last city seems to have been his ordinary abode. But, on this occasion likewise, in addition to this visitor, mention is again made of Barnabas, of whom, as far as appears, from the time of the Reconciliation Visit down to this time, Antioch was the ordinary abode. In relation to each of these several Visits, a brief preparatory indication of the topic or topics, which will be brought to view, when an account comes to be given of it, may in this place have its use.

I. Reconciliation Visit.—On this occasion, a difficulty that naturally presents itself—is—if the relation is in substance true, and the occasion is the same—how it can have happened, that if Peter was[Pg 148] at Antioch—Peter, the universally acknowledged chief of the Apostles—no mention should be to be found of him in the Acts: instead of him, two men as yet unknown—this Judas Barsabas, and this Silas—neither of them of the number belonging to the goodly fellowship of the Apostles,—being the only persons mentioned.

But, for this difficulty, conjecture presents a solution, in which there is nothing either in itself improbable, or inconsistent with either of the two accounts—that of Paul as above, and that in the Acts. This is—that those two were the men, and the only men, deputed in the first instance: but, that after them, at no long interval, came thither to their assistance that chief of the Apostles. Whether the importance of the question be considered—to wit, whether, upon being received as Christians, Gentiles should be obliged to submit to Mosaic circumcision—whether the importance of the question, or the strenuousness of the debates to which it is spoken of as having given rise, Acts 15:2, be considered—the visit of the chief of the Apostles at Jerusalem, to the scene of controversy at Antioch, presents not any supposition, to which any imputation of improbability seems to attach.

ACTS xv. 1 to 34.

1. And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.—When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders about this question.—And being brought on their way by the Church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles, and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.—And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the Apostles and Elders, and they declared all things that God had[Pg 149] done with them.—But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.—And the Apostles and Elders came together for to consider of this matter.—And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe.—And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us:—And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.—Now therefore why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?—But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they.—Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.—And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me.—Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.—And to this agree the words of the Prophets; as it is written,—After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:—That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doeth all these things.—Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.—Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:—But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.—For Moses of old time hath in every city, them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day.—Then pleased it the Apostles and Elders, with the whole Church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.—And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.—Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised; and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment:—It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul;—Men that have hazarded their lives[Pg 150] for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.—We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.—For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;—That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.—So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the Epistle.—Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.—And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.—And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the Apostles.—34. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.

GALATIANS ii. 1 to the end.

1. Then fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.—And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain.—But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.—And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.—To whom we gave place by subjection, no not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.—But of those, who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man's person) for they who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me.—But contrariwise, when they saw that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the Gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter:—For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles.—And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.—Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.—But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.—For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew, and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.—And the other Jews[Pg 151] dissembled likewise with him, insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away by their dissimulation.—But when I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?—We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,—Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.—But if while we seek to be justified by Christ we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.—For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.—For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.—I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—21. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Of the falsity of his story concerning the manner of his conversion,—one proof, that has been given, has been deduced from the inconsistency, of the several accounts which we have of it—all of them originally from himself—as compared with one another.

Of the erroneousness of the notion of his having ever been in the eyes of the Apostles what he professed himself to be—of this, and at the same time of the want of correctness, and trustworthiness, in every account, which, by him, or from him, is to be seen rendered, of his proceedings, adventures, and dangers—proof will, on the ensuing occasions, be afforded, by evidence of this same kind: by similar instances of inconsistency, which will be all along brought to view.

On the occasion of his first visit to Jerusalem—to[Pg 152] the metropolis of Christendom—will be to be noted—1. The cause and manner of his arrival. 2. The circumstances of his abode—its duration, and business. 3. The cause and circumstances of his departure. 4. The general result of this his expedition.

1. Of the cause of his visit, and manner of his arrival, we shall see two different accounts: namely, one, given by himself directly, in an epistle of his to his disciples in Galatia; the other, by a man, who afterwards became his adherent and travelling companion—namely the author of the Acts.

2. Of the duration and business of his abode, we shall see, in like manner, two different accounts, delivered respectively by those same pens.

3. So, of the cause of his departure;—from the same two sources.

4. So, of the circumstances of it.

5. Of the general result of this same expedition of his, we have no fewer than three different accounts: namely, the same two as above; with the addition of a third, as reported, in the Acts, to have been given by Paul himself, in the course of the speech he made, at the time of his fourth visit, to an assembled multitude, headed by the constituted authorities among the Jews:—when, after having been dragged by force out of the Temple, he would—had he not been saved by a commander of the Roman guard—have been torn to pieces.

On this occasion, we shall find, that, by his own confession, made for a particular purpose—for the purpose of saving his life—under an exigency which allowed no time for the study of consistency, and recorded by the blindness and inconsiderateness of his biographer;—we shall find, that the account, whatever it was, which, on the occasion of this his[Pg 153] first visit, he gave of himself to the Apostles, failed altogether in its endeavours to obtain credence.


Topics under Visit II.—MONEY-BRINGING VISIT.

Of the occasion and particulars of the second of these four visits, we have but one account: viz. that which is to be seen in the Acts.

Compared with what belongs to the other visits, that which belongs to this is but of small importance. The information, to be collected from it, will, however, be seen to be this: namely, that this was the second, of the attempts he made to join himself to the Apostles: and that it succeeded no better than the first. It did not even succeed so well: for, notwithstanding the claims which the business of it gave him to their regard—it was to bring them a sum of money, the fruit of the liberality of the Church at Antioch—he could not so much as obtain admittance into the presence of any one of them. Without much hesitation, this may be affirmed. If he had, he would have made mention of it: for, it will be seen, that, whatsoever apparent countenance he ever succeeded in obtaining from them, it was his care to make the most of it.

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Of the occasion, and particulars, and termination, of the third of these four visits, we have two, and but two, accounts: one—that given in the Acts; the other—that given by Paul himself, as above, in his letter to his Galatians: that in the Acts, the only one which goes into particulars; and which must accordingly be taken for the basis of the narrative, and in that character be brought to view in the first instance: that given by Paul himself confining itself to generals; but, as far as it goes, much more to be depended upon, and affording much more instruction, than that given in the Acts.

Among its immediate consequences, this third visit appears to have had some sort of intercourse between Paul and Saint Peter at Antioch—the next most considerable seat of the new religion after Jerusalem; at Antioch, to which city, Paul,—who, with Barnabas, had been settled there,—was on his return: Peter being then on a temporary visit, made to that place, for the final settlement of the business, by which the last preceding visit of Paul to Jerusalem had been occasioned.

At the time of this visit, the residence of Paul was at this same Antioch. The occasion of it was—the dissemination there, of a doctrine, which, by certain persons not named, had been imported thither from Jerusalem: a doctrine, according to which it was taught to the brethren—"Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." For the settlement of this important matter,—Barnabas,[Pg 155] with Paul for his companion, besides other companions not named, was, by the brethren at Antioch, now, for the second time, sent, as a delegate, to the brethren at Jerusalem.

On every one of these three visits, it was under the protection of this Barnabas (it will be seen) that Paul had presented himself:—on the first of them, for the purpose of making known his conversion, and, if possible, forming a connection with the brethren there;—the second, for the purpose of bringing them money, the fruits of the respect and affection of the brethren at Antioch;—the third time, for the settlement of this important point of doctrine. As for Barnabas, he was a Cypriot, who, as will be seen, had an establishment at Jerusalem: and who, by his indefatigable zeal, added to his unrivalled munificence, appears to have obtained an influence not exceeded by any but that of the Apostles.

Of this same Deputation Visit, being the third of the recorded visits of Paul to Jerusalem,—followed by, and coupled with, one of Peter to Antioch—Gal. ii. 11, the place of Paul's residence,—two most important results, or alleged results, are mentioned: the first, mentioned by the author of the Acts alone, the decree, of a council, composed of the Apostles and certain other persons, by the name of Elders, at Jerusalem;—which decree, together with a letter, was from thence sent by the hands of Judas Barsabas and Silas, to the brethren at Antioch; Paul and Barnabas being of the party, on their return to that same place: the other result, mentioned by Paul alone, a sort of partition treaty, by which the field of doctrinal labour, and thence of spiritual dominion was divided between him, (Paul), on the one part, and the Apostles on the other. The Jewish world,[Pg 156] for a less ambiguous designation would hardly find a sufficient warrant, to remain with the Apostles; the Gentile world, to be left free to the exertions of the declared convert and self-constituted Apostle. As to the decree and letter, reasons for questioning the authenticity of these documents will be hereinafter brought to view, Ch. 6. Of the partition treaty, the reality presents itself as altogether natural and probable—and, by circumstantial as well as direct evidence, sufficiently established: by direct evidence supported, by circumstantial evidence confirmed.


Topics under Visit IV.—INVASION VISIT.

Of the occasion of the fourth and last of these four visits—call it Paul's Invasion Visit—we have, though but from one immediate source, what may, to some purposes, be called two distinct and different accounts, included one within another: to wit, that which the historian gives as from himself, and that which he puts into the mouth of his hero, whose adventures he is relating. On this subject, from the mouth of the hero, the historian has not given us, and probably could not give us, anything but mystery. From the circumstances, it will be seen, whether the appellation Invasion Visit, by which this last of his recorded visits to Jerusalem is here distinguished, is not fully justified.

Neither, of the occurrences which took place during the course of it, nor of the mode in which it terminated, have we any more than one account; viz.[Pg 157] the account which, speaking in his own person, is given of it by the author of the Acts.[23]

But, upon one part of this account—and that a part in itself in no small degree obscure—light, and that such as, it is believed, will be found to dispel the darkness, will be seen thrown, by an article of the Mosaic law: upon which article, light will be seen reciprocally reflected, by the application here recorded as having been made of it. This regards the Temple scene:—an expensive ceremony spun out for days together only to produce the effect of an Oath.

On the occasion of this visit, in spite of a universal opposition on the part of all concerned—his own adherents and dependents, as well as his adversaries of all classes included,—Paul, for reasons by himself studiously concealed,—and, if brought to light at all, brought to light no otherways than by inference,—will be seen making his entry into Jerusalem, as it were by force. In the hope of freeing themselves, as it should seem, of this annoyance, it is,—that the rulers of the Christian church, insist upon his clearing[Pg 158] himself from certain suspicions, in the harbouring of which the whole church had concurred.[24]

[Pg 159]



On the occasion of this portion of history, it seems particularly material, to bring to view an observation, which, on the occasion of every portion of history, it will, it is believed, be of no small use to have in remembrance.

In comparison of self-written biography, scarcely does any other biography deserve the name.

Faint, indeterminate, uninstructive, deceptive, is the information furnished by any other hand, of whatsoever concerns the state of the mental frame, in comparison of what is furnished by a man's own. Even of those particulars which make against himself,—even of those motives and intentions which he would most anxiously conceal,—more clear and correct, as far as it goes, if not more complete—is the information given by him, than any which is commonly afforded, even by an impartial hand. By a man's own hand, not unfrequently is information afforded, of a sort which makes against himself, and[Pg 160] which would not, because it could not, have been afforded by any other hand, though ever so hostile. He states the self-condemnatory mental facts, the blindness of self-partiality concealing from his eyes the condemnatory inference: or, even with his eyes open, he lays himself under the imputation: bartering merit in this or that inferior shape, for the merit of candour, or for the hope of augmenting the probative force of his own self-serving evidence, in favour of every other merit for which it is his ambition to gain credence.


[20] Gal. i. 18. "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days."

[21] Of any mention made of Galatia, in any of the Books of the New Testament, the following are, according to Cruden's Concordance, the only instances: 1 Cor. xvi. 1. "... have given order to the churches at Galatia." Times, assigned to these Epistles, A.D. 59. 2 Tim. iv. 10: "Crescens is departed to Galatia." A.D. 66. 1 Pet. i. 1: "to the strangers scattered in Galatia." Date A.D. 60.

[22] Acts xv. 1-4. 1. "And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.—When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders about this question.—And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.—And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the Apostles and Elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them."

[23] Be this as it may, that he must have been in the way to hear, from various persons present, accounts, such as they were, of what was said by Paul,—seems to follow almost of course. This seems applicable even to the latest of the two occasions; for, though the place, Cęsarea, was some distance from Jerusalem, 56 miles,—yet the distance was not so great, but that the persons, who were attached to him, might, for the most part, be naturally supposed to have followed him: and in particular the historian, who, according to his history, continued in Paul's suite till, at the conclusion of this his forced excursion, he arrived at Rome.

But, on the subject of possible materials, one concluding query here presents itself. On a subject such as that in question, on an occasion, such as that in question, for a purpose such as that in question, a speech such as either of those in question, might it not, by a person in the historian's situation—not to speak of other situations—be just as easily made without any special materials, as with any the most correct and complete stock of materials?

[24] Between Paul's third visit, and that which is here reckoned as his fourth, another is, by some, supposed[I.] to, have been taken place; on which supposition, this concluding one, which is here styled the fourth, ought to be reckoned the fifth.

But, for the support of this supposition, the grounds referred to for this purpose do not seem sufficient:—not that, if the supposition were true, any consequence material to the present purpose would follow.

For this supposition, what ground there is, consists in a passage in the Acts:—Acts 18:20, 21, 22.

20. When they, the Jews at Ephesus, desired [him] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem; but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

And when he had landed at Cęsarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

There we have the grounds of the supposition. But, what is the support they give to it?—declaration, affirming the existence of an intention, is one thing; actually existing intention is another. Even supposing the existence of the intention in question,—intention is one thing; corresponding action, another. Jerusalem is not mentioned. Cęsarea being on the sea-coast, Jerusalem is indeed in the interior: and therefore, it may be said, is a place, to which, if a man went from Cęsarea, he would "go up:" but, from Cęsarea, it being on the coast, a man could not go to any place in Judaea not on the coast, without going up.

So much for place:—and now as to time. The time mentioned as the object of the intention, is the passover; but, that the time, at which, being gone up, Paul "saluted the church"—this being all which, upon this going up, he is here stated as doing—that this time was the passover, is not stated.

As to the salute here stated as given to the church,—at the conclusion, and as a material part of the result, of this inquiry, it will appear plain beyond all doubt, that, if by "the church" be understood any member of it at Jerusalem, besides two, or at most three, of the Apostles,—according to this interpretation, from the time of his Conversion Visit to Damascus antecedently to his first visit to Jerusalem, down to the last visit here reckoned as his fourth—there never was a day on which the church would have received his salute.

What will also be rendered manifest is—that it was an object with the author of the Acts, to induce a belief, that Paul, before the conclusion of his first visit, was upon good terms with the church, and so continued to the last: and that, to this end, a purposed misrepresentation was employed by the historian.

Not that, in regard to the visit here in question, to the purpose of the argument—it makes any sort of difference, whether it had place or had not. If it had place, neither the conclusion, nor any part of the argument, will be seen to require any variation in consequence.

[I.] Wells's Historical Geography of the Old and New Testament, ii. 271. Ch. 5. Of Saint Paul's Travels and Voyages into Asia. "St. Paul (says Wells very composedly) "having kept the passover at Jerusalem, went thence down, &c."—And for this the Acts are quoted as above: but the Acts, it will here be seen, say no such thing.

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