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PART FOUR

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

CHAPTER 6.

THE HISTORICAL VALUE OF THE WORK (CONTINUED):
PHILIP AND THE EUNUCH.  PETER AND CORNELIUS.

WE have been forced to enter at such length into the discussion of the speech and martyrdom of Stephen that we cannot afford space to do more than merely glance at the proceedings of his colleague Philip, as we pass on to more important points in the work before us. The author states that a great persecution broke out at the time of Stephen's death, and that all (pantes) the community of Jerusalem were scattered abroad "except the Apostles" (plên tôn apostolôn). That the heads of the Church, who were well known should remain unmolested in Jerusalem, whilst the whole of the less known members of the community were persecuted and driven to flight, is certainly an extraordinary and suspicious statement. Even Apologists are obliged to admit that the account of the dispersion of the whole Church is hyperbolic; but exaggeration and myth enter so largely and persistently into the composition of the Acts of the Apostles that it is difficult, after any attentive scrutiny, seriously to treat the work as in any strict sense historical. It has been conjectured by some critics, as well in explanation of this statement as in connection with theories regarding the views of Stephen, that the persecution in question was limited to the Hellenistic community to which Stephen belonged, whilst the Apostles and others, who were known as faithful observers of the law and of the temple worship, [673:1] were not regarded as heretics by the orthodox Jews. The narrative in the Acts does not seem to support the view that the persecution was limited to the Hellenists; but beyond the fact vouched for by Paul, that about this time there was a persecution, we have no data whatever regarding that event.

Philip, it is said, went down to the city of Samaria, and "was preaching the Christ" [673:2] to them. As the statement that "the multitudes with one accord gave heed to the things spoken" to them by Philip is ascribed to the miracles which he performed there, we are unable to regard the narrative as historical, and still less so when we consider the supernatural agency by which his further proceedings are directed and aided. We need only remark that the Samaritans, although only partly of Jewish origin, and rejecting the Jewish Scriptures with the exception of the Pentateuch, worshipped the same God as the Jews, were circumcised, and were equally prepared as a nation to accept the Messiah. The statement that the Apostles Peter and John went to Samaria, in order, by the imposition of hands, to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit to the converts baptised by Philip, does not add to the general credibility of the history. As Bleek [674:1] has well remarked, nothing is known or said as to whether the conversion of the Samaritans effected any change in their relations towards the Jewish people and the temple in Jerusalem. The mission of Philip to the Samaritans, as related in the Acts, cannot in any case be considered as having an important bearing on the question before us. We shall not discuss the episode of Simon at all, although, in the opinion of eminent critics, it contains much that is suggestive of the true character of the Acts of the Apostles. An "Angel of the Lord" (angelos kuriou) speaks to Philip, and desires him to go to the desert way from Jerusalem to Gaza (8:26), where the Spirit tells him (8:29) to draw near and join himself to the chariot of a man of Ethiopia who had come to worship at Jerusalem, and was then returning home. Philip runs thither, and, hearing him read Isaiah, expounds the passage to him, and at his own request the Eunuch is at once baptised. "And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away (pneuma kuriou hêpase) Philip, and the Eunuch saw him no more; for he went on his way rejoicing; but Philip was found at Azotus." [674:4]

Attempts have, of course, been made to explain naturally the supernatural features of this narrative. Ewald, who is master of the art of rationalistic explanation, says with regard to the order given by the angel: "he felt impelled as by the power and the clear voice of an angel" to go in that direction; and the final miracle is disposed of by a contrast of the disinterestedness of Philip with the conduct of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha: it was the desire to avoid reward "which led him all the more hurriedly to leave his new convert"; "and it was as though the Spirit of the Lord himself snatched him from him another way," etc. "From Gaza Philip repaired rapidly northward to Ashdod, etc." [674:5] The great mass of critics reject such evasions, and recognise that the author relates miraculous occurrences. The introduction of supernatural agency in this way, however, removes the story from the region of history. Such statements are antecedently and, indeed, coming from an unknown writer and without corroboration, absolutely incredible, and no means exist of ascertaining what original tradition may have assumed this mythical character. Zeller supposes that only the personality and nationality of the Eunuch are really historical. [675:1] All that need here be added is, that the great majority of critics agree that the Ethiopian was probably at least a Proselyte of the Gate, as his going to Jerusalem to worship seems clearly to indicate. [675:2] In any case, the mythical elements of this story, as well as the insufficiency of the details, deprive the narrative of historical value. [675:3]

The episodes of Stephen's speech and martyrdom and the mission of Philip are, in one respect especially, unimportant for the inquiry on which we are now more immediately engaged. They are almost completely isolated from the rest of the Acts; that is to say, no reference is subsequently made to them as forming any precedent for the guidance of the Church in the burning question which soon arose within it. Peter, as we shall see, when called upon to visit and baptise Cornelius, exhibits no recollection of his own mission to the Samaritans, and no knowledge of the conversion of the Ethiopian. Moreover, as Stephen plays so small a part in the history, and Philip does not reappear upon the scene after this short episode, no opportunity is afforded of comparing one part of their history with the rest. In passing on to the account of the baptism of Cornelius, we have at least the advantage of contrasting the action attributed to Peter with his conduct on earlier and later occasions, and a test is thus supplied which is of no small value for ascertaining the truth of the whole representation. To this narrative we must now address ourselves.

Peter at Lydda and Joppa
As an introduction to the important events at Caesarea, the author of the Acts relates the particulars of a visit which Peter pays to Lydda and Joppa, in the course of which he performs two very remarkable miracles. At the former town he finds a certain man, named Aeneas, paralysed, who had lain on a bed for eight years. Peter said to him: "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ healeth thee: arise and make thy bed." And he rose immediately (9:33-34). As the consequence of this miracle, the writer states that "All who dwelt at Lydda and the Sharon saw him, who turned to the Lord" (9:35). The exaggeration of such a statement is too palpable to require argument. The effect produced by the supposed miracle is almost as incredible as the miracle itself, and the account altogether has little claim to the character of sober history.

This mighty work is altogether eclipsed by a miracle which Peter performs about the same time at Joppa. A certain woman, a disciple, named Tabitha, who was "full of good works," fell sick in those days and died, and when they washed her they laid her in an upper chamber, and sent to Peter at Lydda, beseeching him to come to them without delay. When Peter arrived they took him into the upper chamber, where all the widows stood weeping, and showed coats and garments which Dorcas used to make while she was with them. "But Peter put put them all out, and kneeled down and prayed; and, turning to the body, said: Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and raised her up, and when he called the saints and the widows he presented her alive." Apparently, the raising of the dead did not produce as much effect as the cure of the paralytic, for the writer only adds here: "And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord." (9:36). We shall hereafter have to speak of the perfect calmness and absence of surprise with which these early writers relate the most astonishing miracles. It is evident from the manner in which this story is narrated that the miracle was anticipated. The humerôon in which the body is laid cannot have been the room generally used for that purpose, but is probably the single upper chamber of such a house which the author represents as specially adopted in anticipation of Peter's arrival. The widows who stand by weeping and showing the garments made by the deceased complete the preparation. As Peter is sent for after Dorcas had died, it would seem as though the writer intimated that her friends expected him to raise her from the dead. The explanation of this singular phenomenon, however, becomes clear when it is remarked that the account of this great miracle is closely traced from that of the raising of Jairus' daughter in the Synoptics, [676:2] and more especially in the second Gospel. In that instance Jesus is sent for; and, on coming to the house, he finds people "weeping and wailing greatly." He puts them all forth, like Peter; and, taking the child by the hand, says to her: "'Talitha koum,' which is, being interpreted, Maiden, I say unto thee, arise. And immediately the maiden arose and walked" (Mk. 5:38-42). Baur and others, [677:1] conjecture that even the name "Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas," was suggested by the words Talitha koum, above quoted. The Hebrew original of Tabitha signifies "Gazelle," and they contend that it was used, like Talitha, in the sense generally of: Maiden. [677:2] These two astonishing miracles, reported by an unknown writer, and without any corroboration, are absolutely incredible, and cannot prepossess any reasonable mind with confidence in the narrative to which they form an introduction; and the natural distrust which they awaken is fully confirmed when we find supernatural agency employed at every stage of the following history.

Peter and Cornelius
We are told (10:1 f.) that a certain devout centurion, named Cornelius, "saw in a vision plainly" (eiden en horamati phanerôs) an angel of God, who said to him: "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, who is surnamed Peter, whose house is by the seaside." After giving these minute directions, the angel departed, and Cornelius sent three messengers to Joppa. Just as they approached the end of their journey on the morrow, Peter went up to the housetop to pray about the sixth hour, the usual time of prayer among the Jews. He became very hungry, and while his meal was being prepared he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending as it had been a great sheet let down by four corners, in which were all four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the air. "And there came a voice to him: Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said: Not so, Lord; for I never ate anything common or unclean. And the voice came unto him again a second time: What God cleansed call not thou common. This was done thrice; and straightway the vessel was taken up into heaven." While Peter "was doubting in himself" what the vision which he had seen meant, the men sent by Cornelius arrived, and "the Spirit said unto him: Behold men are seeking thee; but arise and get thee down and go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them." Peter went with them on the morrow, accompanied by some of the brethren, and Cornelius was waiting for them with his kinsmen and near friends whom he had called together for the purpose. "And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped. But Peter took him up, saying: Arise; I myself also am a man." [678:1] Going in, he finds many persons assembled, to whom he said: "Ye know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company with or come unto one of another nation; and yet God showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore, also I came without gainsaying when sent for. I ask, therefore, for what reason ye sent for me?" Cornelius narrates the particulars of his vision, and continues: "Now, therefore, we are all present before God to hear all the things that have been commanded thee of the Lord. Then Peter opened his mouth and said: Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him," and so on. While Peter is speaking, "the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. And they of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also has been poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit; for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter: Can anyone forbid the water that these should not be baptised, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord."

We shall not waste time discussing the endeavours of Kuinoel, Neander, Lange, Ewald, and others, to explain away as much as possible the supernatural elements of this narrative, for their attempts are repudiated by most Apologists, and the miraculous phenomena are too clearly described and too closely connected with the course of the story to be either ignored or eliminated. Can such a narrative, heralded by such miracles as the instantaneous cure of the paralytic Aeneas, and the raising from the dead of the maiden Dorcas, be regarded as sober history? Of course, many maintain that it can, and comparatively few have declared themselves against this. We have, however, merely the narrative of an unknown author to set against unvarying experience, and that cannot much avail. We must now endeavour to discover how far this episode is consistent with the rest of the facts narrated in this book itself, and with such trustworthy evidence as we can elsewhere bring to bear upon it. We have already in an earlier part of our inquiry pointed out that, in the process of exhibiting a general parallelism between the Apostles Peter and Paul, a very close pendant to this narrative has been introduced by the author into the history of Paul. In the story of the conversion of Paul, the Apostle has his vision on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3), and about the same time the Lord in a vision desires Ananias ("a devout man, according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews that dwell" in Damascus), [679:2] "arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one named Saul of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth, and saw in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him that he might receive sight." On this occasion also the gift of the Holy Spirit is conferred, and Saul is baptised (9:10-18). Whilst such miraculous agency is so rare elsewhere, it is so common in the Acts of the Apostles that the employment of visions and of angels, under every circumstance, is one of the characteristics of the author, and may therefore be set down to his own imagination.

Parallel features in conversion of Paul
No one who examines this episode of Cornelius attentively, we think, can doubt that the narrative before us is composed in apologetic interest, and is designed to have a special bearing upon the problem as to the relation of the Pauline Gospel to the preaching of the Twelve. Baur [679:4] has acutely pointed out the significance of the very place assigned to it in the general history, and its insertion immediately after the conversion of Paul, and before the commencement of his ministry, as a legitimation of his Apostleship of the Gentiles. One point stands clearly out of the strange medley of Jewish prejudice, Christian liberalism, and supernatural interference which constitute the elements of the story: the actual conviction of Peter regarding the relation of the Jew to the Gentile, that the Gospel is addressed to the former and that the Gentile is excluded, which has to be removed by a direct supernatural revelation from heaven. The author recognises that this was the general view of the primitive Church, and this is the only particular in which we can perceive historical truth in the narrative. The complicated machinery of visions and angelic messengers is used to justify the abandonment of Jewish restrictions, which was preached by Paul amidst so much virulent opposition. Peter anticipates and justifies Paul in his ministry of the uncircumcision, and the overthrow of Mosaic barriers has the sanction and seal of a divine command. We have to see whether the history itself does not betray its mythical character, not only in its supernatural elements, but in its inconsistency with other known or narrated incidents in the Apostolical narrative.

There has been much difference of opinion as to whether the centurion Cornelius had joined himself in any recognised degree to the Jewish religion before this incident, and a majority of critics maintain that he is represented as a Proselyte of the Gate. The terms in which he is described (10:2) as eusebês kai phoboumenos ton Theon, certainly seem to indicate this, and probably the point would not have been questioned but for the fact that the writer evidently intends to deal with the subject of Gentile conversion, with which the representation that Cornelius was already a proselyte would somewhat clash. Whether a proselyte or not, the Roman centurion is said to be "devout and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and praying to God always" (10:22, cf. 22); and probably the ambiguity as to whether he had actually become affiliated in any way to Mosaism is intentional. When Peter, however, with his scruples removed by the supernatural communication with which he had just been favoured, indicates their Previous strength by the statement: "Ye know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company with or come unto one of another nation" (10:28), the author evidently oversteps the mark, and betrays the unhistorical nature of the narrative; for such an affirmation not only could not have been made by Peter, but could only have been advanced by a writer who was himself a Gentile, and writing at a distance from the events described. There is no injunction of the Mosaic law declaring such intercourse unlawful, [680:3] nor indeed is such a rule elsewhere heard of, and even Apologists who refer to the point have no show of authority by which to support such a statement. Not only was there no legal prohibition, but it is impossible to conceive that there was any such exclusiveness practised by traditional injunction. [680:4] As de Wette appropriately remarks, moreover, even if such a prohibition existed as regards idolaters, it would still be inconceivable how it could apply to Cornelius, "a righteous man and fearing God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews." [681:1] It is also inconsistent with the zeal for proselytism displayed by the Pharisees (Matt. 23:15), the strictest sect of the Jews; and the account given by Josephus of the conversion of Izates of Adiabene is totally against it. [681:3]

Peter's residence with Simon the Tanner
There is a slight trait which, added to others, tends to complete the demonstration of the unhistorical character of this representation. Peter is said to have lived many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner, and it is in his house that the messengers of Cornelius find him. [681:4] Now, the tanner's trade was considered impure amongst the Jews, [681:5] and it was almost pollution to live in Simon's house. It is argued by some commentators that the fact that Peter lodged there is mentioned to show that he had already emancipated himself from Jewish prejudices. However this may be, it is strangely inconsistent that a Jew who has no objection to live with a tanner should, at the same time, consider it unlawful to hold intercourse of any kind with a pious Gentile, who, if not actually a Proselyte of the Gate, had every qualification for becoming one. This indifference to the unclean and polluting trade of the tanner, moreover, is inconsistent with the reply which Peter gives to the voice which bids him slay and eat: "Not so, Lord, for I never ate anything common or unclean." No doubt the intercourse to which Peter refers indicates, or at least includes, eating and drinking with one of another country, and this alone could present any intelligible difficulty, for the mere transaction of business or conversation with strangers must have been daily necessary to the Jews. It must be remarked, however, that, when Peter makes the statement which we are discussing, nothing whatever is said of eating with the Centurion or sitting with him at table. This leads to a striking train of reflection upon the whole episode.

It is a curious thing that the supernatural vision, which is designed to inform Peter and the Apostles that the Gentiles might be received into the Church, should take the form of a mere intimation that the distinction of clean and unclean animals was no longer binding, and that he might indifferently kill and eat. One might have thought that, on the supposition that Heaven desired to give Peter and the Church a command to admit the Gentiles unconditionally to the benefits of the Gospel, this would be simply and clearly stated. This was not done at all, and the intimation by which Peter supposes himself justified in considering it lawful to go to Cornelius is, in the first place, merely on the subject of animals defined as clean and unclean. Doubtless the prohibition as to certain meats might tend to continue the separation between Jew and Gentile, and the disregard of such distinctions of course promoted general intercourse with strangers; but this by no means explains why the abrogation of this distinction is made the intimation to receive Gentiles into the Church. When Peter returns to Jerusalem we are told that "they of the circumcision" -- that is to say, the whole Church there, since at that period all were "of the circumcision," and this phrase further indicates that the writer has no historical standpoint -- contended with him. The subject of the contention, we might suppose, was the baptism of Gentiles; but not so: the charge brought against him was: "Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them" (11:3). The subject of Paul's dispute with Peter at Antioch simply was that, "before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they came he withdrew, fearing them of the circumcision" (Gal 2:12). That the whole of these passages should turn merely on the fact of eating with men who were uncircumcised is very suggestive, and as the Church at Jerusalem make no allusion to the baptism of uncircumcised Gentiles, it would lead to the inference that nothing was known of such an event, and that the circumstance was simply added to some other narrative; and this is rendered all the more probable by the fact that, in the affair at Antioch as well as throughout the Epistle to the Galatians, Peter is very far from acting as one who had been the first to receive uncircumcised Gentiles freely into the Church.

It is usually asserted that the vision of Peter abrogated the distinction of clean and unclean animals so long existing in the Mosaic Law, but there is no evidence that any subsequent gradual abandonment of the rule was ascribed to such a command; and it is remarkable that Peter himself not only does not, as we shall presently see, refer to this vision as authority for disregarding the distinction of clean and unclean meats, and for otherwise considering nothing common or unclean, but acts as if such a vision had never taken place. The famous decree of the Council of Jerusalem, moreover, makes no allusion to any modification of the Mosaic law in the case of Jewish Christians, whatever relaxation it may seem to grant to Gentile converts, and there is no external evidence of any kind that so important an abolition of ancient legal prescriptions was thus introduced into Christendom.

The narrative not historical
We have, however, fortunately one test of the historical value of this whole episode, to which we have already briefly referred, but which we must now more closely apply. Paul himself, in his Epistle to the Galatians, narrates the particulars of a scene between himself and Peter at Antioch, of which no mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles, and we think that no one can fairly consider that episode without being convinced that it is utterly irreconcilable with the supposition that the vision which we are now examining can ever have appeared to Peter, or that he can have played the part attributed to him in the conversion and baptism of uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul writes: "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles, and when they came he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them of the circumcision; and the other Jews also joined in his hypocrisy" (Gal 2:11-13). It will be remembered that, in the case of Cornelius, "they of the circumcision" in Jerusalem, at the head of whom was James, from whom came those "of the circumcision" of whom Peter was afraid at Antioch, contended with Peter for going in "to men uncircumcised and eating with them" (Acts 11:2-3), the very thing which was in question at Antioch. In the Acts, Peter is represented as defending his conduct by relating the divine vision under the guidance of which he acted, and the author states as the result that "When they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying: Then to the Gentiles also God gave repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). This is the representation of the author of the vision and of the conversion of Cornelius, but very different is Peter's conduct as described by the Apostle Paul, very dissimilar the phenomena presented by a narrative upon which we can rely. The "certain who came from James" can never have heard of the direct communication from Heaven which justified Peter's conduct, and can never have glorified God in the manner described, or Peter could not have had any reason to fear them; for a mere reference to his vision, and to the sanction of the Church of Jerusalem, must have been sufficient to reconcile them to his freedom. Then, is it conceivable that after such a vision, and after being taught by God himself not to call any man or thing common or unclean, Peter could have acted as he did for fear of them of the circumcision? His conduct is convincing evidence that he knew as little of any such vision as those who came from James. On the other hand, if we require further proof it is furnished by the Apostle Paul himself. Is it conceivable that, if such an episode had ever really occurred, the Apostle Paul would not have referred to it upon this occasion? What more appropriate argument could he have used, what more legitimate rebuke could he have administered, than merely to have reminded Peter of his own vision? He both rebukes him and argues, but his rebuke and his argument have quite a different complexion; and we confidently affirm that no one can read that portion of the Epistle to the Galatians without feeling certain that, had the writer been aware of such a divine communication -- and we think it must be conceded without question that, if it had taken place, he must have been aware of it [684:1] -- he would have referred to so direct and important an authority. Neither here nor in the numerous places where such an argument would have been so useful to the Apostle does Paul betray the slightest knowledge of the episode of Cornelius. The historic occurrence at Antioch, so completely ignored by the author of the Acts, totally excludes the mythical story of Cornelius.

There are merely one or two other points in connection with the episode to which we must call attention. In his address to Cornelius, Peter says: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (ouk estin prosôpolêmptês ho theos). Now this is not only a thoroughly Pauline sentiment, but Paul has more than once made use of precisely the same expression. Rom. 2:11, "For there is no respect of persons with God" (ou gar estin prosôpolêmpsia para tô theô); and, again, Gal. 2:6, "God respecteth no man's person" (prosôpon ho Theos anthrôpon ou lambanei). [684:2] The author of the Acts was certainly acquainted with the Epistles of Paul, and the very manner in which he represents Peter as employing this expression betrays the application of a sentiment previously in his mind, "Of a truth I perceive," etc. The circumstance confirms what Paul had already said. [684:3] Then, in the defence of his conduct at Jerusalem, Peter is represented as saying: "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptised with water, but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:16). Now these words are by all the Gospels put into the mouth of John the Baptist, and not of Jesus; [684:5] but the author of the Acts seems to put them into the mouth of Jesus at the beginning of the work (1:5), and their repetition here is only an additional proof of the fact that the episode of Cornelius, as it stands before us, is not historical, but is merely his own composition.

The whole of this narrative, with its complicated series of miracles, is evidently composed to legitimate the free reception into the Christian Church of Gentile converts; and, to emphasize the importance of the divine ratification of their admission, Peter is made to repeat to the Church of Jerusalem the main incidents which had just been fully narrated. On the one hand, the previous Jewish exclusiveness both of Peter and of the Church is displayed first, in the resistance of the Apostle, which can only be overcome by the vision and the direct order of the Holy Spirit, and by the manifest outpouring of the Spirit upon the Centurion and his household; and, second, in the contention of the party of the circumcision, which is only overcome by an account of the repeated signs of divine purpose and approval. The universality of the Gospel could not be more broadly proclaimed than in the address of Peter to Cornelius. Not the Jews alone, "but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him." Pauline principles are thus anticipated, and, as we have pointed out, are expressed almost in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles. The Jews who go with Peter were astonished because that on the Gentiles also had been poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit (10:45); and the Church of Jerusalem, on hearing of these things, glorified God that repentance unto life had been given to the Gentiles. It is impossible that the admission of the Gentiles to the privileges of the Church could be more prominently signified than by this episode, introduced by prodigious miracles and effected by supernatural machinery. Where, however, are the consequences of this marvellous recognition of the Gentiles? It does not in the slightest degree preclude the necessity for the Council, which we shall presently consider; it does not apparently exercise any influence on James and the Church of Jerusalem; Peter, indeed, refers vaguely to it, but as a matter out of date and almost forgotten; Paul, in all his disputes with the emissaries of the Church of Jerusalem, in all his pleas for the freedom of his Gentile converts, never makes the slightest allusion to it; it remains elsewhere unknown, and, so far is any evidence goes, utterly without influence upon the primitive Church. This will presently become more apparent; but already it is clear enough to those who will exercise calm reason that it is impossible to consider this narrative, with its tissue of fruitless miracles, as a historical account of the development of the Church.
 


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