Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus


Paul disbelieved continued.—First of his four Visits to Jerusalem after his Conversion; say
Jerusalem Visit I. or Reconciliation Visit.—Barnabas introducing him from Antioch to the Apostles.



Already on another occasion, and for a different purpose, have the two accounts, between which this self-contradiction manifests itself, been brought to view: viz. on the occasion of the accounts, given or supposed to be given, by Paul, of the cause and manner of his conversion:—accounts given in the[Pg 161] first place, in writing, and consequently, with all requisite time for deliberation, in his Epistle to the Galatians:—given, or supposed to be given, in the next place, by a speech spoken, namely, that which, in the Acts is reported as spoken by him, on the occasion of his trial, to Festus and Agrippa:—Festus, the Roman Proconsul, Agrippa, the Jewish King.

In the whole account of this matter, as given by Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, how much of truth there probably was, and how much of falsehood or misrepresentation,—has been seen already in some measure, ch. II. i. 5, and will be seen more fully as we advance.

As to his motive for this visit, he has endeavoured to keep it to himself: but, by the result, according to the account he himself gives of it, it is betrayed. It was—to effect the so much needed reconciliation:—his reconciliation with the Apostles:—the Apostles, in relation to whom his disregard is professed, the need he had of them, no otherwise than virtually, nor yet the less effectually confessed. Without an interval of considerable length between his conversion and this visit, all such reconciliation would have been plainly hopeless. From this circumstance, the length, as alleged by him, of his abode in Arabia, receives obvious and highly probative confirmation. The confirmation is, indeed, reciprocal. The nature of his situation, proves the need he had, of an interval of considerable length, before any hope of reconciliation could be fulfilled, or, naturally speaking, so much as conceived: by this circumstance, his abode in some other country is rendered probable to us: and this other country may, for aught we know, as well have been the country mentioned by him—to wit, Arabia, as any other: and, thus it is, that this assertion, of his having been three years in Arabia, between the[Pg 162] time of his departure from Jerusalem to Damascus, and his return to Jerusalem to see Peter, is confirmed:—confirmed, by the natural length, of the interval, requisite to the affording any, the least chance, that Peter could be induced to meet upon terms of amity and intercourse a man, in whom he beheld the murderer of a countless multitude of human beings, linked to him by the closest bonds of self-regarding interest, as well as sympathy and brotherly love.

As to contradiction, contradiction cannot easily be much more pointed, than it will be seen to be, between the account in respect of time, as given in this instance by Paul, and the account given of it by his historiographer in the Acts. On a double ground, it is Paul's account that claims the precedence. Of his account, such as it is, the rank, in the scale of trustworthiness, is that of immediate evidence; that of his historiographer, no higher than that of unimmediate evidence:—evidence once removed; having, for its most probable and least untrustworthy source, that same immediate evidence. Paul's evidence is, at the same time, not only more circumstantiated, but supported by the reasons which he has combined with it. Not till three years after his alleged miraculous conversion, did he go near to any of the Apostles.—Why?—Because, though, at that time, for reasons which he has left us to guess, he had regarded himself as having considerable need of them,—till that time he did not regard himself as having any need of them. And, why was it, that, for so great a length of time, he did not regard himself as having any need of them?—The answer he himself gives us, Gal. i. 10: ... "do I seek to please men?—I certify to you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me, is not after man.—For I received it not of[Pg 163] man, nor was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.—When it pleased God, who called me by his grace,—to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:—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.—But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother."

Thus far Paul himself. Let us now see, what is said in regard to the time, by his subsequent attendant and historiographer. Acts ix.... "as he (Saul) journeyed, he came near Damascus, and, suddenly there shined round him a light," &c.—ver. 8. "And Saul arose from the earth, and ... they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.—And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.—And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision ...—... go into the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus....—17. And Ananias ... entered into the house, and ... said, Brother Saul, the Lord ... hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight....—And ... he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.—And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.—And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues,....—22.... and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus,....—And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him.—... and they watched the gates day and night to kill him.—Then the disciples[Pg 164] took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.—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."

With what the historiographer says in his own person, agrees, as to the particular point now in question, what, in the studied oration, he puts into Paul's mouth. In that account likewise, immediately after the mention of what Paul did at Damascus,—follows, the mention of what he did at Jerusalem: and, as to everything done by him among the Gentiles, not only does the mention of it come after the mention of what was done by him at Jerusalem, but, between the two, comes the mention, of whatever was done by him, in any of the coasts of Judea. Acts 26:19. "Whereupon, O, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:—but showed, first unto them of Damascus, and of Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea; and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."

Here then, according to Paul's own account, after his visit to Damascus from Jerusalem, he visited Arabia, and moreover Damascus a second time, before he made his visit to Jerusalem to see Peter: before this visit did he make both those other visits; and, in making them, pass three years, with or without the addition, of the time, occupied by his first visit to Damascus,—and the time, occupied by his abode in Arabia. According to Paul's own account then, between his second departure from, and his[Pg 165] arrival at, Jerusalem from thence, there was an interval either of three years, or of so much more than three years. On the contrary, according to both the accounts given of the matter by his historiographer in the Acts, there was not between the two events in question, any interval other than such as the journey from the one to the other—about 130 British miles as the crow flies, say about 160, allowance made for turnings and windings,—would require.

Now, as between Jews and Gentiles, alias heathens:—to which of these two descriptions of persons, were his preachings addressed in the first instance?

According to his Epistle to his Galatians, preaching to the heathen being his peculiar destination, this accordingly is the vocation upon which he proceeded in the first place: and we have seen how probable it is, not to say certain, that, in this particular, what he asserted was true. His appointment being to "the heathen," he conferred not with flesh and blood: i.e. with the Apostles, their immediate disciples, or other flesh and blood of the Christian persuasion: for, of any such conference—of any assistance or support from any such quarter, he has, in this same Epistle, been declaring and protesting—most vehemently protesting—that he had no need. Neither then for the purpose of conference with "those who were Apostles," as he says, "before him," nor for any other purpose, went he up to Jerusalem: no, not till either three years after his conversion, or three years, with the addition of another term of unmeasurable length.

Now then, how stands this matter according to the Acts—according to the speech put into Paul's mouth by the author of the Acts? Instead of the Gentiles being the description of persons, to whom, in the first[Pg 166] instance, he applies his labours,—it is the Jews. What he shows is "shown," in the first place, to those "of Damascus;" then "at Jerusalem;" then "throughout all the coasts of Judea;" and, not till then—to the Gentiles: of his abode in Arabia—of any visit of his to Arabia—not any of the slightest mention, or so much as allusion to it. But, all this while, for anything that appears to the contrary, Arabia was completely open to him: whereas, after the offence he had committed against the authority of the ruling powers at Judea, it was not, morally speaking, in the nature of things that he could have continued in any place coming within that description—have continued, long enough to make any sensible impression: and, in Jerusalem in particular, in this same Epistle to the Galatians, from which the above particulars are taken,—it was, as he himself declares, only in secrecy, that, even fourteen years after this, he ventured to disseminate those doctrines, whatever they were, that were peculiar to himself, 2nd Gal.: 1, 2. "Then, fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me. 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."

Thus stands the contrariety:—the contrariety, between Paul's own account of his own proceedings, and the account, which, by the author of the Acts, he is represented as giving of them, on another occasion. Says Paul himself, in his own Epistle to his Galatians—After my conversion, it was to the Gentiles that I applied myself first: to the Jews, not till afterwards; nor then, to any considerable extent. Says the author of the Acts, in a speech, which he[Pg 167] puts into the mouth of Paul—It was to the Jews that he applied himself first, and that to a great extent: to the Gentiles, not till afterwards.

Thus stands the contrariety, taken in itself. As to the cause, it will neither be far to seek, nor dubious. In the differences of situations, occasions, and purposes in view—in the differences, that had place in respect of all those particulars—it will be found.

On the occasion, on which Paul himself speaks, what was the persuasion which it was his endeavour to produce? It was—that, for a number of years, commencing from the moment of his conversion,—with no persons, who, to this purpose, could be called Jews, had he, to any such purpose as this, had any intercourse: for, this being admitted, it followed, of course, that, if, on the subject of the religion of Jesus, he had really received the information he declared himself to have received, it was not from the Apostles, that he had had it, or any part of it. "On them (says he) I am perfectly independent: to them I am even superior. With Jesus they had no communication but in a natural way; with the same Jesus I have had communication in a supernatural way:—in the way of 'revelation.' My communication with him is, moreover, of a date posterior to theirs—to any that they can pretend to: in so far as there is any contrariety between that I teach and what they teach, it is for theirs, on both these accounts—it is for theirs, to yield to mine. From God is my doctrine: in opposition to it, if either they, or any other men presume to preserve, let the curse of God be on their heads. ver. 8. Accordingly, at the time of my first visit to Jerusalem after my conversion, no communication had I with them, for, no such communication, teaching as I did from revelation, could I stand in need of, I had already passed[Pg 168] three years at least in Arabia, teaching to the Gentiles there my peculiar doctrine. This peculiar doctrine, as I made no scruple of teaching it to those Gentiles, as little, on the occasion of that visit of mine to Jerusalem, did I make any scruple of teaching it to Jews as well as Gentiles. True it is, I did not then teach it publicly:—I did not teach my peculiar doctrine, so publicly as they did theirs. But, as to this comparative secrecy, it had for its cause the advantage of being free from opposition; for, had the fact of my teaching this doctrine so different from theirs—been known to them,—they might have opposed it, and thus my labours might have been lost."

Whether, in the representation here given of what he says to his Galatians, there be any misrepresentation, the reader may judge.

On the occasion, on which his historian represents him as speaking, what now, as to this same matter, was the persuasion, which the nature of his situation required him to endeavour to produce? It was, that Jews were the sort of persons, with whom, during the period in question, he had, to the purpose in question, been holding intercourse: Jews, even in preference to—not to say to the exclusion of—Gentiles: so far is he from being now represented, as stating himself to have held converse with Gentiles, to the exclusion of Jews; which is, that of which he himself has been seen taking so much pains to persuade his Galatian disciples. Yes: as far as competition could have place, Jews, on this occasion, in preference, at least, to Gentiles: for, on this occasion, what he was labouring at was—to recommend himself to the favour of his Jewish Judge, King Agrippa, Acts 26:8-21, by magnifying the services he had been rendering to the Jews, his very accusers not excepted:[Pg 169] services, to the rendering of which, close and continued intercourse, during that same period, could not but have been necessary.

On this occasion, being accused of—his historian does not choose to say what,—his defence was—that, of the persecution he was suffering, his preaching the resurrection was the only real cause: that, having been born and bred a Pharisee,—in preaching that doctrine, so far from opposing, he had been supporting, with all his might, the principles maintained by the constituted authorities: adducing, in proof of the general proposition, the evidence furnished by a particular fact, the resurrection, that had place in the case of Jesus, Acts 25:19: that when, in his conversion vision, Jesus gave him his commission, the principal object of that commission was—the instruction of the Gentiles: to wit, by informing them—that, to such of them as would believe in the resurrection, and repent of their sins, and do works accordingly,—the benefit of it would be extended: that to this mandate, it was true, he did not ultimately fail to pay substantial obedience: yet, such was his affection for his brethren the Jews,—that it was not till, for a considerable time, he had been conferring on them the benefit of his labours, that he betook himself to the Gentiles. Acts 26:19. "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:—But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea; and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, &c.—For these causes the Jews caught me in the Temple, and went about to kill me."

The repugnancy (says somebody), the repugnancy, is—not between Paul and Paul—but between Paul and the author of the Acts; and, since the facts in question are occurrences in which Paul himself[Pg 170] was either agent or patient, to the author of the Acts, and not to Paul, is the incorrectness, wherever it be, to be imputed. Be it so: for the purpose of the argument at least, be it so: but, if so it be, what are we to think of the author of the Acts? Take away the author of the Acts, what becomes of Paul? Take away the authority of the Acts in the character of an inspired writer—writing from supernatural inspiration, after an immediate and continued intercourse, in some unexplained and inexplicable manner, with the Almighty,—what remains, then, of the evidence, on the ground of which the mighty fabric of Paul and his doctrine has been erected?

A man, who is thus continually in contradiction—sometimes with himself, at other times with the most unimpeachable authorities—what credence can, with reason and propriety, be given to his evidence, in relation to any important matter of fact? at any rate, when any purpose, which he himself has at heart, is to be served by it? Of such a man, the testimony—the uncross-examined and uncross-examinable testimony—would it, of itself, be sufficient to warrant a verdict, on a question of the most inconsiderable pecuniary import? how much less then, on questions, in comparison of which those of the greatest importance which the affairs of this life admit of, shrink into insignificance? Even, suppose veracity, and every other branch of probity, unimpeached and unimpeachable,—if such confusion of mind, such want of memory, such negligence, in relation to incidents and particulars, of too immensely momentous a nature, to escape, at any interval of time, from the most ordinary mind;—if such want of attention, such deficiency, in respect of the most ordinary intellectual faculties and attainments, are discernible in his narrative,—what solid, what substantial ground of dependence can it furnish, or even leave in existence?

[Pg 171]

Of this sort are the questions for which already no inconsiderable warrant has, it is believed, been found; nor, if so, throughout the whole remaining course of this inquiry, should they ever be out of mind.



On this head, in addition to, and in explanation of, the sort of narrative given in the Acts,—information, of the most instructive and impressive stamp, may be seen furnished by himself: at the head of it, may be placed that, which may be seen in his Epistle to his Galatian converts.

At Jerusalem was the board-room in which sat the Council of the Apostles: of those men, to whom their bitterest enemies would not, any more than their disciples and adherents, have refused the appellation of constant companions and selected disciples of the departed Jesus. To them was known, everything that, in relation to Jesus, was known to any one else: and moreover, in unlimited abundance, particulars not capable of being known by any one else.

As to Paul, let us suppose him now a believer in Jesus; and, on this supposition, note what could not but have been the state of his mind, with relation to those select servants of Jesus.

In them he beheld the witnesses—not only of the most material and characteristic acts and sayings of their Master, but of his death, and its supernatural[Pg 172] consequences—the resurrection and ascension, with which it had been followed.

In them he beheld—not only the witnesses of his miracles, but a set of pupils, to whom such powers of working the like miracles—such miraculous powers, in a word, as it had pleased him to impart,—had been imparted.

In their labours, he beheld the causes of whatsoever prosperity, he found the society, established by them, in possession of.

In himself, he beheld the man, who, with such distinguished acrimony and perseverance, had done his utmost, for the destruction of that society, into which, for the purposes, indication of which has been so clearly given by his own pen, he was preparing to intrude himself.

To form an ostensible cause for his intrusion,—in addition to such information, as, by means of his persecution, it had happened to him to extract from those whom he had been persecuting, what, on his part, had he?—He had his own learning, his own talents, his own restless and audacious temper, and the vision he had got up:—the baseless fabric of that vision, a view of which has just been given.

Of the representation thus given of the matter,—whether we take his own account of it, or that of the Acts,—suppose the truth to rest upon no other ground than this vision, with or without that other vision, which has been seen so slenderly tacked to it, and so strangely inserted into it,—thus slender is the ground, on which we shall find him embarking upon his enterprize,—assuming to himself, without modification or apology, the name of an Apostle,—thrusting himself into the society, and putting himself altogether upon an equality, not to say more than an equality, with the whole company of the[Pg 173] men, whose title to that appellation was above dispute:—those of them who, among the chosen, had been the most favoured, not excepted.

GALATIANS i. 11-23.

11. But I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man.—For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.—For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it:—And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.—But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,—To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood,—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.—But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.—Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.—Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;—And was unknown by face unto the Churches of Judea which were in Christ.—But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

Thus, however indistinctly and incoherently stated, stands the matter, on the surface of both these accounts. On the surface. But, by a little reflection on the nature of the case—the obvious and indisputable nature of the case—as collected from all accounts, as already brought to view in a preceding chapter II, we shall be led to another conception, and the only tenable one.

The plan of worldly ambition—that plan by which we have already seen his outward conversion produced—had been not only formed, but acted upon:—acted upon, during a course of at least three years:[Pg 174] of three years, employed at Damascus in preparation,—in Arabia in probation. What remained, and was now become necessary, was—some sort of countenance from the Apostles: from the Apostles, and thence, if possible, from the rest of the then existing Church. Necessary altogether was this countenance for his support: for, to this plan the name of Jesus was essential. It was in that name, that all his operations were to be carried on:—in that name, from the use of which it was to be universally understood, that it was according to directions, and with support, from the departed Jesus, that by this, his newly-enlisted servant, everything was said and done.

In Damascus—yes:—in Damascus, where were the only persons, with whom, for the purpose of his dominion, he could with safety communicate: that is to say, persons, whom his commission from the Jerusalem authorities had placed under his power. In Arabia—yes: where, though he had made no progress of which he saw any advantage in giving any account—he at any rate had not experienced any opposition, of such a sort as to engage him to drop his scheme. In those comparatively distant countries—yes. But, in Jerusalem—the birthplace of Jesus and his religion,—in that metropolis, within which, or the near neighbourhood of it, all the witnesses of its rise and progress—all the proselytes, that had been made to it, were collected,—and from whence, and to which, the votaries of that religion, out of which it had sprung, would be continually flocking from all quarters;—in this place, for a man, known so notoriously to them all as a persecutor, in whose scheme of persecution they had all of them been involved,—for such a man to have, all on a sudden, begun preaching and acting, in the name of that Jesus, whom, to use his own language, he had[Pg 175] persecuted—such an enterprise as this, which, even with the utmost support which it was in their power to give, would have been audacity, would, without some sort of countenance from them,—have been downright madness.

To perfect success it was necessary, that not only these shepherds of the Church pasture, but, through them the whole flock, should thus be brought under management. So far as regarded those same rulers, we shall find him, in a certain degree,—and even, with reference to his purpose, in a sufficient degree,—successful. But, with reference to the Disciples in general, and to all those rulers but three,—it will be seen to have completely failed.

Circumstanced as he was, to those rulers alone, was it possible for him to have addressed himself, with any the smallest hope. To any assembly of the faithful at large, to have repaired with no better recommendation than his vision story,—even with Barnabas, ready, as we shall see, to take him by the hand,—would have been plainly hopeless. Not less so would it have been—to present himself to the Apostles,—if, in support of such proposition as he had to make,—nothing more apposite, nothing to them in their situation more credible, than this same vision story,—had been capable of being produced. On them, therefore, the case seems already pretty well ripe for the conclusion, that, no such story was ever attempted to be passed. But, setting aside that aėrial argument,—inducements of a more substantial nature, such as we shall find brought to view by Paul himself, were neither on this occasion wanting,—nor could, at any time, have been out of the view of that same Barnabas, whom we shall see appearing so often, in the character of his generous patron and steady friend. "On this plan, might Barnabas say[Pg 176] to them,—On this plan, which he has chalked out for himself, he will be acting—not only not in opposition to, but even in furtherance of, your wishes and endeavors. Grecian as he is,—skilled in that language, and that learning, which serves a man as a passport through the whole of the Gentile world,—it is to that world that his labours will confine themselves; a field surely ample enough for the most comprehensive views. To you he will leave,—and leave certainly without privation, and therefore naturally without regret,—that field, of which you are already in possession,—and, by the boundaries of which, your means of convenient culture are circumscribed."

"On this plan,—not only will your exertions remain unimpeded, but the influence of the name of Jesus—that name, on the influence of which those same exertions are so materially dependent for their success,—will, in proportion to Paul's success, be extended."

In a discourse, to this effect, from the generous and enlightened mediator,—may be seen the natural origin of that agreement, which, further on in its place, under the name of the partition treaty, there will be occasion to bring, in a more particular manner, under review.

But, what is little less evident, than the propriety and prudence of this plan, viewed at least in the point of view in which it might not unnaturally be viewed by Barnabas, is—the impossibility, of coming forward, with any tolerable prospect of success, with any such plan in hand, in presence of a vast and promiscuous assemblage. To engage, on the part of any such assemblage, not to say any steady confidence, but any the slightest hope,—that, from an enemy even to death, the same man would become a[Pg 177] partner and assistant,—would require a most particular and protracted exposition, of all those facts and arguments, which the requisite confidence would require for its support:—a detail, which no such assembly would so much as find time to listen to, were it possible for it to find patience.

Even in the case of the Apostles themselves,—taking the whole council of them together, the nature of the plan, it will be seen, admitted not of any successful negotiation. Accordingly, to the chief of them alone, to wit, to Peter, was it so much as the intention of Paul to make any communication of it in the first instance: and, in the whole length of the intercourse, such as it was, that he kept up with, them—in all the four visits, in the course of which that intercourse was kept up—being a period of not less than twenty-five years, to wit, from the year 35 to the year 60,—with no more than three of the eleven, will he be seen so much as pretending to have had any personal interview: they not seeing him, except when they could not avoid it; and the others never seeing him at all.



After his conversion—after the time at which, if he is to be believed, he saw that first-mentioned of his visions—that vision, by which the most strenuous opponent of the new religion was changed into one who, in profession, was the most active of its supporters,—what was the course he took? Did he repair immediately to Jerusalem from whence he[Pg 178] came? Did he present himself to the eleven Apostles—to the confidential companions of the departed Jesus, to lay before them his credentials? to report to those by whom everything about Jesus that was to be known to man was known—what had been experienced by him?—by him, Paul, by whom, till the moment of that experience, nothing of it whatever had been known? Not he, indeed. Behold what he says himself.

Instead of so doing, off he goes, in the first instance to Arabia; from whence, at the end of a length of time not specified, he returns to Damascus. At length, however, to Jerusalem he does repair: at length, into the presence of those against whose lives he had so long conspired,—he now uses his endeavours to intrude himself.

At length? at the end then of what length of time? At the end of three years? Yes: but from what point of time computed? From the time of his conversion on the road,—or from the last day of his stay at Damascus, upon his return thither from Arabia? By that man, let an answer to these questions be given—by that man who can find grounds for it.

Thus much, however, may, at any rate, be said:—of the length of this interval three years is the minimum.

In what view did it occur to him to seek this conference? in what view to make the attempt? and in what view delay it?

1. As to his view in seeking it,—it must be left to inference:—to conjecture, grounded on circumstances.

2. Being engaged, as he was, in the plan of making converts to a religion, called by him the religion of Jesus,—and this among the nations at large—among[Pg 179] others besides those in the bosom of whose religion the founder of the new religion had been born;—feeling, as it seemed to him, the need, of information in various shapes—concerning the acts and sayings of Jesus;—not having, for the purpose, had, as yet, access, to any of the persons, to whom the benefit, of an interview with Jesus, upon terms of peculiar confidence, had been imparted;—he was desirous, of taking this—his only course—for rectifying the misconception, under which, to no small extent, he must probably have been labouring,—and filling up the deficiencies, under which he could not but be labouring.

3. Obvious is the need he had, of countenance from these universally acknowledged chiefs, of the religion professed to be taught by him.

Good, says some one: but, having, from the first, been thus long labouring, under the need of information,—how happened it, that he so long delayed, the exertions he made at length, for the obtaining of it?

The answer is surely not unobvious.

Had the time, of his presenting-himself, been when the memory of his conversion was fresh,—when the memory, of the vision, by which it was to be stated as having been effected, would, supposing it really experienced, have been fresh also,—in such case, the narrative, true or untrue, would have found, opposed to its reception, all imaginable repugnance, in so many ulcerated minds: and, on the supposition of its being untrue, he—the supposed percipient and actually narrating witness—he, who knew nothing about the subject of his testimony, would have had to submit himself to the severest imaginable cross-examination, at the hands of those, to whom everything about Jesus was matter of perfect knowledge.

Thus the matter would have stood, in the first instance.[Pg 180] On the other hand, as time ran on, several results, favourable to his design, would naturally have taken place.

1. The exasperation, produced by the experience of the persecution suffered at his hands, would have been diminished.

2. His own recollection, of the particulars, might be supposed less vivid.

3. The curiosity, respecting them, would have become less eager.

4. Time might have given admission to behaviour on his part, of a sort, by which distrust might be lessened, confidence strengthened.

Well; now we have him at Jerusalem,—and for the first time after his conversion. When thus, at Jerusalem,—of those whom he went to see, whom did he actually see? Answer, Peter for one; James, whom he styles the Lord's brother, and who, according to him, though not literally a brother, was, however, a kinsman of Jesus:—these two, according to his own shewing; these two, and no more. "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But of the other Apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother." Gal. 1:18, 19.



Such as hath been seen is Paul's account of the matter:—Paul's own account, of the interval that elapsed, between his conversion, and the first of his[Pg 181] subsequent visits to Jerusalem:—to the residence of the Christians, whom he had been persecuting, and of the rulers, under and by the authority of whom, the persecution had been carried on. Such, loose as it is, is his account, of the interval between these two events: and of the place, in which, either almost the whole, or at any rate the greatest part of it, was passed.

Such was Paul's own account of his own proceedings,—at the distance of twenty-five years and more. Compare with it, now, the account, given by his historiographer—given, of the interval, that, according to him, had place, between these same two events. Acts 9:19-29.

Here, no three years' sojournment in Arabia: no visit to that country: no notice, of any place, other than Damascus, as being a place, in which the whole, or any part, of the time in question, was passed. In a position, with respect to each other, scarcely different from that of contiguity,—are the two events brought together. The blood of their disciples scarce washed from off his hands, when, with Barnabas for his introducer, he presents himself to the Apostles!

At the very time, when the Jerusalem rulers, would have been expecting to receive from him, the proofs of his punctuality, in the execution of the important plan, of official oppression, of which, at his own instance, he had been solemnly constituted and appointed the instrument; when, after going over to and forming a league with the criminals, for such they must have been called, whom he had been commissioned by these rulers to bring to justice;—at this very time it is, that he returns to the seat of their dominion:—to the place in which, at that very time, his return to them, with the intended victims in captivity, could not but be the subject of universal expectation!

[Pg 182]

Let any one now judge, whether, in any state of things, natural or supernatural, the sort of conduct thus supposed is credible.

At Damascus, instead of presenting himself to the Damascus rulers, to whom the commission of which he was the bearer was addressed,—the first persons, whom, according to this account, Acts 9:19, he sees, are "the disciples," i.e., the persons whom, by that commission, he was to arrest: and, with them, instead of arresting them, he passes "certain days."

These certain days ended,—does he thereupon, with or without an apology, present himself to these same rulers? Not he, indeed. Not presenting himself to them, does he, by flight or otherwise, take any measures, for securing himself, against their legitimate and necessarily intended vengeance? No such thing:—instead of doing so, he runs in the very face of it. He shows himself in the Jewish synagogues, in the public places of worship: and there, instead of preaching Moses and his law, he preaches Christ,—that Christ, whose disciples he was commissioned to extirpate.

This breach of trust—this transgression, which, however commendable in itself, could not but,—in the eyes of all those by whom, or for whom, he was in trust,—be a most flagitious and justly punishable act of treachery,—could it even from the first, for so much as two days, together, remain unknown? Not it, indeed: if, in this particular, to this same conversion story, as related by this same author, any credit is due. For, according to this same account,—in this same journey, and at the very time of his conversion vision, was he alone? No; he had companions: companions, who, whatsoever became of him, would, at the very time of his entrance, unless any cause can be shown to the contrary, have entered[Pg 183] thither in due course. Well, then—ask the men in authority,—"This Paul, in whose train you came,—where is he, what has become of him?" Such would of course have been the questions put to these, his companions, even on the supposition, that by these same companions, no visit had, of their own accord, been paid to these same rulers, under whose authority they went to place themselves.

At length,—and the days which by this time had elapsed were "many,"—he finds it expedient to quit Damascus. He is driven from thence: but by what force? By the exercise of the legal authority of the offended rulers? in a word, by public vengeance? No: but by a private conspiracy—nothing more: for, to these rulers,—so different are they from all other rulers,—whether their authority is obeyed or contemned, has, all the while, been matter of indifference.

ACTS ix. 19-30.

19. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.—And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.—But all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?—But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.—And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:—But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.—Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.—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[Pg 184] 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.—30. Which, when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cęsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

In the above account—a remarkable incident is presented, by the occasion and manner of his escape from Damascus. In part, it has for its support an assertion made by Paul himself; but, as usual, as to part it is scarcely reconcileable with the account he gives of it. In respect of the adventure of the basket, the two accounts agree: and thus the occasion is identified and fixed. It is in respect of the description of the persons, by whom the attack upon him was made or meditated, that the accounts differ. According to the Acts, the hostile hands are those of the Jews, who are spoken of as so many unauthorized and criminal conspirators: but, according to Paul, they are those of the constituted authorities—a governor acting under a king.

31. "In Damascus"—says he, in 2 Cor. 11:32-33—"In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me. And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."

Now, supposing the adverse force to have been that of a band of conspirators, it was natural for them to watch the "city gates": a more promising resource they could scarcely have had at their command. But, suppose it to have been that of the governor,—what need had he to watch the gates? he might have searched houses. By the reference made, to a matter of fact, which, supposing it real, must in its nature have been notorious—to wit, the existence of a king, of the name in question, in the country[Pg 185] in question, at the time in question—a comparative degree of probability seems to be given to Paul's account. A curious circumstance is—that, in this Epistle of Paul's, this anecdote of the Basket stands completely insulated; it has not any the slightest connection with anything that precedes or follows it.

In the Acts' account, as already observed, Chap. 4, it looks as if it was immediately after the adventure of the basket, that he went on this his first visit to the Apostles at Jerusalem: for, as we see, it is immediately thereupon that his arrival at that city is mentioned. If so, the abode he had then been making at Damascus, was probably after his return from Arabia: that return from Arabia, which we have seen him speaking of in his Epistle to the Galatians, Gal. i. 15. "When it pleased God ... to reveal his son to me, that I might preach him to the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; 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." &c.

"After three years?"—three years, reckoning from what time? Here we see the ambiguity, and along with it the difficulty. If reckoning from his conversion,—then we have the three years, to be spent—partly in Damascus, partly in Arabia: in Damascus, in obtaining, perhaps, from the Christianized Jews—in return for the impunity given to them by the breach of the trust committed to him by the Jerusalem rulers—money, for defraying his expenses while in Arabia. If, reckoning from his escape from Damascus in a basket, then we have three years, during which not so much as any the[Pg 186] faintest trace of him is perceptible. All, therefore, that is clear is—that according to his account of the matter, there was an interval of at least three years between his conversion, and this first of his subsequent Jerusalem visits—this visit of his to Jerusalem, to see the Apostles.

Between the two interpretations,—in respect of length of time, observe here the difference. According to one of them, between the conversion and the first Jerusalem visit, we have an interval of three years, and no more: and, in this interval, three lengths of time—one passed in Damascus, another in Arabia, a third, terminated by the basket adventure, passed also in Damascus, are all included: the entire interval determinate: but its parts, all of them, indeterminate. According to the other interpretation, we have also three lengths of time: the first, indeterminate, passed in Damascus; the second, as indeterminate, passed in Arabia; the third, passed in Damascus, and this a determinate one—namely, the three years. Thus, upon the first supposition, the interval consists of three years, and no more: upon the second supposition, it consists of three years, preceded by two lengths of time, which are both indeterminate, but one of which—that passed in Arabia—may have been to any amount protracted.

Upon either supposition,—it seems not unlikely, that it was immediately after his escape from Damascus, that this first visit of his to Jerusalem took place. And, the greater the preceding interval of time, whether passed in Arabia or Damascus, the less unpromising his prospect, that the resentments, produced by the provocations given by him to the Christians, by his persecution of them,—and to the Jewish rulers, by his treachery towards them,—should, both, have to such a degree subsided, as to[Pg 187] render even so short a stay, as that of fifteen days which he mentions, consistent with personal safety. Yet, as we see in the Acts, are these two events spoken of as if they had been contiguous: at any rate, it is in contiguity that they are spoken of.

Uncertainties crowd upon uncertainties. At the time of Paul's conversion,—had Damascus already this same king, named Aretas, with a governor under him? If so, how happens it, that, of this state of the government, no intimation is perceptible, in the account given of that conversion in the Acts? Was it—that, at that time, there existed not any such monarchical personage? but that, before the adventure of the basket, some revolution had placed him there?

According to Paul's account,—the state of things, produced in Damascus by his exertions, was somewhat curious. On the face of this account, in ordinary there was no garrison in Damascus: it was only by special order from the monarch, and for no other purpose than the bringing to justice—or what was called justice—the person of the self-constituted Apostle,—that a garrison was put into the town, with a governor for the command of it.

What a foundation all this for credence! and, with it, for a system of religious doctrine to build itself upon!—religious doctrine—with the difference between eternal happiness and eternal misery depending upon it!

[Pg 188]



Between these two accounts, such being the discordance—where shall we find the cause of it? Answer: in the different views, in which, at the time of writing, the two accounts were penned: in the different objects, to the accomplishment of which, at the time of penning their respective accounts, the endeavours of the two writers were directed.

The author of the Acts—what, then, was his object? To obtain for his patron—his chief hero—alive or dead—a recognition, as universal as possible, in his assumed character of an Apostle. The more complete the recognition, bestowed upon him by those most competent of all judges,—the more extensive the recognition he might look for, at the hands of all other their fellow-believers.

Sufficient was this—sufficient for the general purposes of the party—in the eyes of a person other than Paul, even though that other person was a protegé, a retainer, a satellite.

Sufficient this was not, however, to the arrogance of the head of the party—Paul himself: at least, at the time of his writing this his letter to his Galatian converts.

Think you, says he, that any relation, I have ever borne to any of those who were Apostles before me, had, on my part, anything in it of dependence? Think you, that I ever stood in need of anything at their hands? Think you, that I had ever any more need of them, than they of me? Not I, indeed. The[Pg 189] Gospel, which I have always preached—neither from them did I receive it, nor from them, in preaching it, did I ever seek or receive any assistance. Gal. i. 11, 12. Think you, that I stood in any need, or ever supposed myself to stand in any need, of any acceptance or acknowledgement at their hands? Not I, indeed. When my revelation had been received by me, did I present myself to them, for any such purpose as that of remuneration and acceptance? Not I, indeed. I went not to them: I went not so much as to Jerusalem, where they then were: I conferred not with flesh and blood:—off I went to Arabia; and when my business in Arabia was at an end, even then, did I repair to Jerusalem? Not I, indeed. I returned again to Damascus. True it is, to Jerusalem I did go at last.—But when?—Not till three years afterwards. Well—and, when I was at Jerusalem, how many, and which of them, think you that I saw? Think you, that I put myself to any such trouble, as that of seeing them all together? the whole herd of them? No. Peter was naturally a chief among them: with him I had accordingly some business to settle:—him, accordingly, I saw, as also James, whom, as being a brother, or other near kinsman, of Jesus, I had a curiosity to see.

Paul himself wrote at one time; this his disciple at another: each of them pursued the purpose of the time. Not on this occasion, at any rate,—perhaps not on any other, was there anything, that either wrote, concerted between them.[25] Of this want of concert, what has just been seen is one of the consequences.

[Pg 190]

Reserved as we have seen him, in regard to time and other circumstances,—one circumstance more there is, for which our curiosity is to no small amount, debtor, to the author of the Acts. This is—information, of the means—of the channel, through which Paul obtained the introduction, which, without mention made of the object, we have seen him acknowledging that, so far as concerned Peter, he was desirous of: and that to such a degree, as to undertake a journey from Damascus to Jerusalem, some 120 or 130 miles, for the purpose.

Repugnancy, so natural, and naturally so vehement—even at the end of three years, or the still greater number of years—by what means could he remove it, or so much as flatter himself with a prospect of being able to remove it? To this question, it is to the author of the Acts that we are indebted for an answer: and that answer a satisfactory one:—it was by the assistance of Barnabas, that the object, so far as it was accomplished, was accomplished.

To the religion of Jesus, after as well as before this,—to the Apostles in particular before this,—Barnabas was a supporter of no small importance.

At the time when the financial arrangements were for the second time settled;[26]—when, from the substance of the opulent among the faithful, enough was collected for the support of all the indigent;—among those, by whom, on this second occasion, lands and houses, were for this purpose sold, particular persons are, on this second occasion, for the first time mentioned. The first place is occupied by this Barnabas:[Pg 191] and not till after him come Ananias and Sapphira—the unfortunate pair, of whose fate mention will have to be made in another place.

Joses was, it seems, the original name—the proper name of this beneficent protector: Barnabas, the Son of consolation, Acts 4:36, was no more than a title of honour,—a token of gratitude. A title of honour? and by whom conferred? Even by the Apostles. By Barnabas, therefore, whatsoever thereafter comes to be reported as done,—it is by the Son of consolation that we are to understand it to have been, and to be, done.

As to the arguments, by which this son of consolation succeeded,—in prevailing, upon two, and, if we are to believe Paul, no more than two, of these so lately persecuted or threatened servants of Jesus,—to be, for a few days, upon speaking terms, with him, who so lately had been their deadly, as well as open enemy,—it is from imagination, with judgment for her guide, that they must, if at all, be deduced from the surrounding circumstances of the case.

As to these arguments, however,—whatever were the rest of them, of two of them a hint is given by the author of the Acts: these are,—the story of the conversion,—and the boldness of the preaching, which at Damascus was among the first-fruits of it. Those which, under the guidance of judgment, imagination would not find much difficulty in adding, are,—the evil—that might result from his enmity, in case the advances then made by him were rejected,—and the useful service, which, by the blessing of God, might be hoped for at his hands, if admitted in the character of an ally and cooperator: at any rate, so long as the whole field of his exertions, and in particular the geographical part of it, continued different from theirs.

[Pg 192]

With Peter, on whatever account, it was Paul's own desire to hold a conference:—so we have seen him declaring to the Galatians. To this Peter, whom he was desirous of seeing, and whom at length he succeeded in seeing,—to this Peter did he then himself tell the story of his vision, of his conversion, and the mode of it? If at any time he did,—at any rate, if the author of the Acts is to be believed,—it was not till Barnabas, the son of consolation, had told it for him. Had it been by himself that his story had been to be told in the first instance,—he would thereby have stood exposed to cross-examination: and, among those things, which Barnabas might in his situation say for him,—were many things, which, if at all, he could not, with anything like an equal prospect of good effect, have said for himself. To any asseveration of his own,—in any promises of future amity, it was not in the nature of the case, that from his own mouth they should give credence. But, when by Barnabas, of whose zeal in their cause they had received such substantial proofs—when from this son of consolation they received assurance, that Paul had actually engaged himself in that line of service, which he professed himself desirous to embrace;—that he had engaged so far, that no prospect of safe retreat could reasonably be in his view;—then it was, that, without imprudence, they might, venture to hold at least a conference with him, and hear and see what he had to say for himself.

As to the account, given on this occasion by Barnabas, of the famous vision,—had it been but preserved, it would probably have been no less curious than those which we have been already seeing. Though we cannot be precisely assured in what way,—we may be pretty well assured, that, in some way or other, additions would have been to be seen made in it, to the list of variations.

[Pg 193]

But, the great advantage,—producible, and probably produced, by the opening of the matter, as performed by Barnabas,—was this: in company with those arguments, by which the sincerity of Paul was to be demonstrated,—would naturally come those, by which intimation would be given, of the advantage there might be, in forbearing to apply too strict a scrutiny, to this important statement. The interests, which, in the character of motives, pleaded for the acceptance, of the advance made towards reconciliation and mutually advantageous cooperation,—would, in this manner, prepare the way, for receiving, without any troublesome counter-interrogation, the important narrative: or, perhaps, for considering the matter, as already sufficiently explained, by the son of consolation,—in such sort that, to the new Apostle, the trouble of repeating a narrative, which he must already have so frequently found himself under the necessity of repeating, might be spared.

The greater was the importance, of the service thus rendered to Paul by the son of consolation,—the more studiously, in giving the account, as above, of the intercourse with the Apostles at Jerusalem,—the more studiously, would he avoid all mention of it.[27]

[Pg 194]



Fifteen days, if Paul is to be believed—fifteen days, and no more,—was the length of time, during which his intercourse with Peter continued: Gal. i. 18, that same length of time, and no greater, it may without much rashness be inferred, was his stay at Jerusalem.

These fifteen days,—or whatever, if anything longer, was the duration of his stay in that seat of their common religion,—in what occupations were they employed? It is in the Acts, if anywhere, that this question will receive its answer. It was in "disputing against the Grecians." Acts 9:29.

That such should have been his occupation, is in his situation altogether natural.

Of a sort of partition treaty, as having, at one time, been entered into between himself and Peter,—Paul, in his so-often mentioned letters to the Galatians, informs us in express terms. As to the time, which, on that occasion, he has in view,—it was, according to appearance, not the time of this his first visit, but of the third. At that third visit, the treaty was, at any rate, either entered into for the first time, or confirmed: receiving, at the same time, what was on both sides agreed upon, as an amendment requisite to add to it, in respect of clearness, correctness, or completeness.

But, at this visit, it seems altogether natural, that, with more or less of these same qualities, a treaty of[Pg 195] this sort took place. By the sort of relation, produced between them, by the state of interests,—the existence of an agreement of this sort seems sufficiently probabilized: and, from the few words, in which, by the author of the Acts, mention is made of the Grecians, and of Paul's disputes with them,—the inference receives the confirmation afforded by direct evidence.

With the Grecians then it was, that these disputations of Paul were held. Why with the Grecians, and no other? The reason is no mystery. Greek was the language of Paul: Greek, for anything that appears, was not the language of Peter, or of any other of the Apostles. Applying himself to the Grecians, and to them alone,—Paul might, to any amount, have given additional extent to his own dominion, without subtracting anything from theirs.

Not productive, it should seem, of much fruit,—was this portion, of the new Apostle's labours. No sooner are we informed, of the boon thus offered to these Grecian Gentiles, than comes, moreover, the further information, that some there were, that "went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him," it is added, "to Cęsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." Acts 9:29.

Meantime, those men, who went about to slay him,—who were they? Possibly they were Grecians, if by the disputation in question, the annoyance produced was so intolerable to them, as to be productive of a wish and enterprise thus flagitious: and, if the evidence afforded by the rules of grammar be in this case regarded as conclusive,—the pronoun they having for its last possible antecedent the substantive Grecians—these, and no other, must have been the intended murderers. On the other hand, among the heathen—the philosophical disputants of this nation,—disputations,[Pg 196] having any such abstractions for their subject, were not wont to be productive, of any such practical and flagitious consequences. Among the heathens, moreover, it appears not, that, antecedently to his conversion, the zeal of Paul had led him to put any to death: on the other hand among the Christianized Jews, his fellow-religionists, the number of persons, of whom he had put to death some, and in other ways plagued others, was unhappily but too great. By the religion into which they had been converted,—revenge, it is true, was not (as in that which they were converted from) magnified, but prohibited: but, the influence of it has never been equally efficient upon all minds.

Be this as it may,—upon his leaving Jerusalem, it was to the region of Syria and Cilicia, that, at this time, he betook himself. So, in his letter to his Galatians, he himself says, Gal. 1:21; and, by what is said in the Acts, he is not contradicted, but confirmed. By himself what is mentioned is—the region, viz. Syria and Cilicia: by the Acts what is mentioned is—the cities, viz. Cęsarea and Tarsus. Cęsarea,—whether at that time it was in Syria or not,—was, at any rate, little, if anything, out of the way, from Jerusalem to Tarsus. Cęsarea was a town upon the coast:—one among those maritime towns, which, whether parts or not of Syria, are in the way between the inland city, of Jerusalem, and the coast of Cilicia: with which coast, by a river,—Tarsus, marked in the map with the mark of a capital town, appears to communicate.

In speaking of this change of place, the terms employed by Paul, are general terms,—"I came." By what means he came, he does not mention: nor does there appear any particular reason why he should have mentioned them.

[Pg 197]

In the Acts, the account is more particular:—he was, in a manner, forced from the one place to the other:—he was, at any rate, escorted: it was by "the brethren," he was so dealt with. "Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cęsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." Acts 9:30.

By the brethren?—Yes.—But by what brethren? By the general body of the Christians, or any that belonged to it? No:—for, it was from their wrath, that he was making his escape. No:—not by the justly exasperated many; but by such few adherents as, under such prodigious disadvantage, his indefatigable artifice and energy had found means to conciliate.



In relation to this subject, we have two, and no more than two, accounts,—both from the same pen,—that of the historiographer in the Acts; and these two accounts, as usual, contradictory of each other. The first, in the order of the history, is that given by him in his own person: Acts 9:27, 28, 29. The other, is that given by him in the person of Paul: namely, in the course of his supposed first-made and unpremeditated speech,—when, on the occasion of his last visit to Jerusalem—his Invasion Visit, he was pleading for his life before the angry multitude. Acts 22:17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

Now then, let us compare the two accounts.

Speaking in his own person,—it is to the fear of[Pg 198] certain Grecians, that the historiographer ascribes Paul's departure for Jerusalem. In disputing with them, he had been speaking "boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus": and thereupon,—and as we are desired to believe, therefore,—came certain designs and endeavours to slay him. Designs? on the part of whom? Answer:—on the part of those same Grecians: cause of these designs and endeavours, irritation, so it is intended we should suppose,—irritation, produced in the breasts of those same Grecians;—and produced by the dispute.

Now, as to the words of the historiographer, speaking in his own person. It is immediately after the mention of Paul's transactions with the Apostles and the other disciples, that after saying, Acts 9:28, that "... he was with them coming in and going out of Jerusalem," the narrative continues thus: ver. 29; "And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians, but they went about to slay him: ver. 30; Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cęsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus."

Such is the account given, of the departure of Paul from Jerusalem, on the occasion in question—given by the historiographer, speaking in his own person, of the manner of the departure, and at the same time of the cause of it. Behold now how different is the account given, of the same matter, by the same historiographer, in the same work, when speaking in the person of his hero. Nothing now as to any disputes with Grecians: nothing now of these, or any other human beings, in the character of beings who were angry with him, and that to such a degree, that, to save his life, it was deemed necessary by his adherents,—styled on this occasion "the brethren," to take charge of him, as we have seen, and convey him from Jerusalem to Cęsarea and elsewhere.

[Pg 199]

The case seems to be—that, between the time of writing the account which has just been seen, and the time for giving an account of the same transaction in the person of the hero, as above,—a certain difficulty presented itself to the mind of the historiographer: and, that it is for the solution of this difficulty, that he has recourse, to one of his sovereign solvents—a trance. The difficulty seems to have been this: The class of persons, whom, on that first visit of his he had exasperated, were—not "Grecians," or any other Gentiles, but Christians: Christians, the whole body of them—Apostles and Disciples together: the same class of persons, to which belonged those who, on the occasion of this his last visit—the Invasion Visit—were to such a degree exasperated, by this fourth intrusion of his, as to be attempting his life. How hopeless any attempt would have been, to make them believe, that it was not by themselves, but by a set of Heathens, that his life was threatened on that former occasion, is sufficiently manifest. Here then comes a demand, for a substitute, to that cause, which, distant as the time was, could not, however, be altogether absent from their memory: and which, so far as it was present, could not but heighten their exasperation:—this substitute was the trance.

The cause of the departure is now—not the fear of any human being, but the express command of "the Lord":—a command delivered in the course, and by means, of this same trance. Moreover, as if, from such a quarter, commands were not sufficient of themselves; on the present occasion, it will be seen, they came backed by reasons. Was it that, as the historiographer has been telling us in his own person, certain Grecians were exasperated? No: but that the persons, to whom, with Barnabas for his supporting[Pg 200] witness, Acts 9:27, he had been telling his story, gave no credit to it: so that, by a man with his reputation in this state, nothing in the way of his business was to be done.

But now let us see the text. It comes immediately after that passage, in which Paul is made to speak of Ananias, as giving orders to him, in the name of the Lord: orders, concluding in these words: Acts 22:16: ... "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." This said,—his story, as told to the multitude, continues thus: "And it came to pass that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance: And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live."

It may now be seen, how useful and convenient an implement this same trance was: how well adapted, to the occasion on which it was employed. Taken by itself, this story about the enraged Grecians might serve to impose upon readers in general: but, to the knowledge of the really enraged Christians, whose wrath he was endeavouring to assuage,—it was not only too palpably false to be related to them, but too much so, to be even for a moment supposed to be[Pg 201] related to them: hence came the demand for the supernatural cause. Nothing, it is evident, could be better suited to the purpose. The assertion was of the sort of those, which, how palpably soever untrue, are not exposed to contradiction by direct evidence: and which, supposing them believed, ensure universal respect, and put all gainsayers to silence.

An incident not unworthy here of notice, is—the sort of acknowledgment contained in the words—"for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me." In this may be seen—a confirmation of the important fact, so fully proved on the occasion of the first or Reconciliation Visit: and we see—with what consistency and propriety, the mention of it comes in, on the present occasion: namely, in a speech, made to a multitude, of which, many of those,—by whom he had been disbelieved and rejected on that former occasion,—must of course have formed a part.

Such is the fact, which, after having communicated to us, in his own person, Acts 9:26, "they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple," the historiographer is frank enough to communicate to us a second time, through the mouths of Paul and "the Lord," the one within the other. True enough this information: and, moreover, at Jerusalem, as well when the historiographer was writing, as when Paul was speaking, notorious enough: or we should hardly have had it here and now. But, what a truth to put into the mouth of Paul, whose title to credence for his claim, is so effectually destroyed by it!

To return to what, on the occasion of the first visit, is said by the historiographer, in his own person, about the Grecians. That it was false, as to the main point,—namely, that it was by the fear of those same[Pg 202] Gentiles that he was driven out of Jerusalem,—is now, it is hoped, sufficiently evident. But, as to his having held disputation with them,—in this there seems not to be anything inconsistent or improbable: and this part, supposing it true, might, in so far as known, help to gain credence for that which was false.

A circumstance—not altogether clear, nor worth taking much trouble in the endeavour to render it so, is—on the occasion of this dialogue, the change made, of the supernatural vehicle, from a vision into a "trance." Whatsoever, if any, is the difference,—they agree in the one essential point: namely, that it is in the power, of any man, at any time, to have had as many of them as he pleases: hearing and seeing, moreover, in every one of them, whatsoever things it suits his convenience to have heard or seen.—"I saw a vision:" or, "I was in a trance": either postulate granted, everything whatsoever follows.

This trance, it may be observed, is of a much more substantial nature than any of the visions. By Paul in his road vision,—vision as it was,—neither person nor thing, with the exception of a quantity of light, was seen: only a voice, said to be the Lord's, heard. In this trance, the Lord is not only heard, but seen. In those visions, that which is said to have been heard, amounts to nothing: on the present occasion, what is said to have been heard, is material to the purpose, and perfectly intelligible. Not that there could be any use in Paul's actually hearing of it: for what it informed him of, was nothing more than that which, at the very time, he was in full experience of. But, in a situation such as his, it was really of use to him, to be thought to have heard it: and therefore it is, that, in the speech ascribed to him, he is represented as saying that he heard it.

[Pg 203]


[25] In the current chronology, this Epistle to the Galatians is placed in the year 58; on the part of the author of the Acts, the first mention of his being in the company of Paul is placed in the year next following, to wit, 59. Note, that at the end of the Epistle to the Galatians, it is stated to be written from Rome: yet, according to the current chronology, his arrival at Rome, in custody, from Jerusalem,—at which time unquestionably he had never as yet visited Rome,—did not take place till the year 62.

[26] First time, Acts ii. 45. Second time, Acts iv. 34.

[27] "I conferred not with flesh and blood." (Gal. ii. 16.) "Of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me." Not till "after three years" did I go "up to Jerusalem to see Peter." With language in this strain, it would have harmonized but indifferently, to have added, "nor should I have seen him then, had it not been for Barnabas."

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