Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion 





It is obvious that every consideration which represents the decree as more completely emancipating Gentile Christians from Mosaic obligations, and admitting them into free communion with believers amongst the Jews, places it in more emphatic contradiction to historical facts and the statements of the Apostle Paul. The unanimous adoption of such a measure in Jerusalem, on the one hand, and, on the other, the episode at Antioch, the fear of Peter, the silence of Paul, and the attitude of James, become perfectly inconceivable. If, on the contrary, the conditions were seriously imposed and really meant anything, a number of difficulties spring up of which we shall presently speak. That the prohibitions, in the opinion of the author of the Acts, constituted a positive and binding obligation can scarcely be doubted by anyone who considers the terms in which they are laid down. If they are represented as a concession, they are nevertheless recognised as a "burden," and they are distinctly stated to be the obligations which "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit" as well as to the Council to impose. The qualification, that the restrictive clauses had no binding force "independently of the circumstances which dictated them," in so far as it has any meaning beyond the unnecessary declaration that the decree was only applicable to the class for whom it was framed, seems to be inadmissible. The circumstance which dictated the decree was the counter-teaching of Jewish Christians, that it was necessary that the Gentile converts should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. The restrictive clauses are simply represented as those which it was deemed right to impose; and, as they are stated without qualification, it is holding the decision of the "Holy Spirit" and of the Church somewhat cheap to treat them as mere local and temporary expedients. This is evidently not the view of the author of the Acts. Would it have been the view of anyone else if it were not that, so far as any external trace of the decree is concerned, it is an absolute myth? The prevalence of practices to which the four prohibitions point is quite sufficiently attested to show that, little as there is any ground for considering that such a decree was framed in such a manner, the restrictive clauses are put forth as necessary and permanently binding. The very doubt which exists as to whether the prohibitions were not intended to represent the conditions imposed on Proselytes of the Gate shows their close analogy to them, and it cannot be reasonably asserted that the early Christians regarded those conditions either as obsolete or indifferent. The decree is clearly intended to set forth the terms upon which Gentile Christians were to be admitted into communion, and undoubtedly is to be taken as applicable not merely to a few districts, but to the Gentiles in general.

Paul's account excludes the Decree
The account which Paul gives of his visit not only ignores any such decree, but excludes it. In the first place, taking into account the Apostle's character and the spirit of his Epistle, it is impossible to suppose that Paul had any intention of submitting, as to higher authority, the Gospel which he preached, for the judgment of the elder Apostles and of the Church of Jerusalem. Nothing short of this is involved in the account in the Acts, and in the form of the decree which promulgates, in an authoritative manner, restrictive clauses which "seemed good to the Holy Spirit" and to the Council. The temper of the man is well shown in Paul's indignant letter to the Galatians. He receives his Gospel, not from men, but by direct revelation from Jesus Christ; and so far is he from submission of the kind implied that he says: "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so say I now again: If any man preach any Gospel to you other than that ye received, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8-9). That the Apostle here refers to his own peculiar teaching, and does so in contradistinction to the Gospel preached by the Judaisers, is evident from the preceding words: "I marvel that ye are so soon removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different Gospel; which is not another, only there are some that trouble you, and desire to pervert the Gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:6-7). Passing from this, however, to the restrictive clauses in general, how is it possible that Paul could state, as the result of his visit, that the "pillar" Apostles "communicated nothing" after hearing his Gospel, if the four conditions of this decree had thus been authoritatively "communicated"? On the contrary, Paul distinctly adds that, in acknowledging his mission, but one condition bad been attached: "Only that we should remember the poor; which very thing I also was forward to do."As one condition is here mentioned, why not the others, had any been actually imposed? It is argued that the remembrance of the poor of Jerusalem which is thus inculcated was a recommendation personally made to Paul and Barnabas; but it is clear that the Apostle's words refer to the result of his communication of his Gospel, and to the understanding under which his mission to the Gentiles was tolerated.

We have already pointed out how extraordinary it is that such a decision of the Council should not have been referred to in describing his visit, and the more we go into details the more striking and inexplicable, except in one way, is such silence. In relating the struggle regarding the circumcision of Titus, for instance, and stating that he did not yield, no, not for an hour, to the demands made on the subject, is it conceivable that, if the exemption of all Gentile Christians from the initiatory rite had been unanimously conceded, Paul would not have added to his statement about Titus, that not only he himself had not been compelled to give way in this instance, but that his representations had even convinced those who had been Apostles before him, and secured the unanimous adoption of his own views on the point? The whole of this Epistle is a vehement and intensely earnest denunciation of those Judaisers who were pressing the necessity of the initiatory rite upon the Galatian converts. [720:3] Is it possible that the Apostle could have left totally unmentioned the fact that the Apostles and the very Church of Jerusalem had actually declared circumcision to be unnecessary? It would not have accorded with Paul's character, it is said, to have appealed to the authority of the elder Apostles or of the Church in a matter in which his own apostolic authority and teaching were in question. In that case, how can it be supposed that he ever went at all up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and elders about this question? If he was not too proud to lay aside his apostolic dignity and, representing the Christians of Antioch, to submit the case to the Council at Jerusalem, and subsequently to deliver its decree to various communities, is it consistent with reason or common sense to assert that he was too proud to recall the decision of that Council to the Christians of Galatia? It must, we think, be obvious that, if such an explanation of Paul's total silence as to the decree be at all valid, it is absolutely fatal to the account of Paul's visit in the Acts. This reasoning is not confined to the Epistle to the Galatians, but, as Paley points out, applies to the other Epistles of Paul, in all of which the same silence is preserved.

Moreover, the apologetic explanation altogether fails upon other grounds. Without appealing to the decree as an authority, we must feel sure that the Apostle would at least have made use of it as a logical refutation of his adversaries. The man who did not hesitate to attack Peter openly for inconsistency, and charge him with hypocrisy, would not have hesitated to cite the decree as evidence, and still less to fling it in the faces of those Judaisers who, so short a time after that decree is supposed to have been promulgated, preached the necessity of circumcision and Mosaic observances in direct opposition to its terms, whilst claiming to represent the views of the very Apostles and Church which had framed it. Paul, who never denies the validity of their claim, would most certainly have taunted them with gross inconsistency and retorted that the Church of Jerusalem, the Apostles, and the Judaisers who now troubled him and preached circumcision and the Mosaic law had, four or five years previously, declared, as the deliberate decision of the Holy Spirit and the Council, that they were no longer binding on the Gentile converts. By such a reference "the discussion would have been foreclosed." None of the reasons which are suggested to explain the undeniable fact that there is no mention of the decree can really bear examination, and that fact remains supported by a great many powerful considerations, leading to the very simple explanation which reconciles all difficulties: that the narrative of the Acts is not authentic.

We arrive at the very same results when we examine the Apostle's references to the practices which the conditions of the decree were intended to control. Instead of recognising the authority of the decree or enforcing its prescriptions, he does not even allow us to infer its existence, and he teaches disregard at least of some of its restrictions. The decree enjoins the Gentile Christians to abstain from meats offered to idols. Paul tells the Corinthians to eat whatever meat is sold in the shambles without asking questions for conscience sake, for an idol is nothing in the world, "neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse." [722:1] It is not conceivable that the Apostle could so completely have ignored the prohibition of the decree if he had actually submitted the question to the Apostles, and himself so distinctly acquiesced in their decision as to distribute the document amongst the various communities whom he subsequently visited. To argue that the decree was only intended to have force in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, to which, as the locality in which the difficulty had arisen which had originally led to the Council, the decree was, in the first instance, addressed, is highly arbitrary; but when, proceeding further, Apologists [722:2] draw a distinction between those churches "which had already been founded, and which had felt the pressure of Jewish prejudice" (Acts 16:4), and "brotherhoods afterwards formed and lying beyond the reach of such influences," as a reason why no notice of the decree is taken in the case of the Corinthians and Romans, the special pleading ignores very palpable facts. "Jewish prejudices" are represented in the Acts of the Apostles themselves as being more than usually strong in Corinth. There was a Jewish synagogue there, augmented probably by the Jews expelled from Rome under Claudius (Acts 18:2), and their violence against Paul finally obliged him to leave the place (Acts 18:6, 12 f.). Living in the midst of an idolatrous city, and much exposed to the temptations of sacrificial feasts, we might naturally expect excessive rigour against participation, on the one hand, and perhaps too great indifference, on the other; and this we actually find to have been the case. It is in consequence of questions respecting meats offered to idols that Paul writes to the Corinthians, and, whilst treating the matter in itself as one of perfect indifference, merely inculcates consideration for weak consciences. [722:5] It is clear that there was a decided feeling against the practice; it is clear that strong Jewish prejudices existed in the Jewish colony at Corinth, and wherever there were Jews the eating of meats offered to idols was an abomination. The sin of Israel at Baalpeor [722:6] lived in the memory of the people, and abstinence from such pollution (Dan. 1:8 f.) was considered a duty. If the existence of such "Jewish prejudices" was a reason for publishing the decree, we have, in fact, more definite evidence of them in Corinth than we have in Antioch, for, apart from this specific mention of the subject of eating sacrificial meats, the two Apostolic letters abundantly show the existence and activity of Judaistic parties there, which opposed the work of Paul, and desired to force Mosaic observances upon his converts. It is impossible to admit that, supposing such a decree to have been promulgated as the mind of the Holy Spirit, there could be any reason why it should have been unknown at Corinth so short a time after it was adopted. When, therefore, we find the Apostle not only ignoring it, but actually declaring that to be a matter of indifference, abstinence from which it had just seemed good to the Holy Spirit to enjoin, the only reasonable conclusion is that Paul himself was totally ignorant of the existence of any decree containing such a prohibition. There is much difference of opinion as to the nature of the porneiareferred to in the decree, and we need not discuss it; but in all the Apostle's homilies upon the subject there is the same total absence of all allusion to the decision of the Council.

No trace of Decree anywhere
Nowhere, can any practical result from the operation of the decree be pointed out, nor any trace even of its existence. The assertions and conjectures, by which those who maintain the authenticity of the narrative in the Acts seek to explain the extraordinary absence of all external evidence of the decree, labour under the disadvantage of all attempts to account for the total failure of effects from a supposed cause, the existence of which is in reality only assumed. It is customary to reply to the objection that there is no mention of the decree in the Epistles of Paul, or in any other contemporary writing, that this is a mere argument a silentio. Is it not, however, difficult to imagine any other argument, from contemporary sources, regarding what is affirmed to have had no existence, than that from silence? Do Apologists absolutely demand that, with prophetic anticipation of future controversies, the Apostle Paul should obligingly have left on record that there actually was no Council such as a writer would subsequently describe, and that the decree which he would put forward as the result of that Council must not be accepted as genuine? It is natural to expect that, when writing of the very visit in question, and dealing with subjects and discussions in which, whether in the shape of historical allusion, appeal to authority, taunt for inconsistency, or assertion of his own influence, some allusion to the decree would have been highly appropriate, if not necessary, the Apostle Paul should at least have given some hint of its existence. His not doing so constitutes strong presumptive evidence against the authenticity of the decree, and all the more so as no more positive evidence than silence could possibly be forthcoming of the non-existence of that which never existed. The supposed decree of the Council of Jerusalem cannot on any ground be accepted as a historical fact.

Alleged circumcision of Titus
We may now return to such further consideration of the statements of the Epistle as may seem necessary for the object of our inquiry. No mention is made by the Apostle of any official mission on the subject of circumcision, and the discussion of that question arises in a merely incidental manner from the presence of Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile Christian. There has been much discussion as to whether Titus actually was circumcised or not, and there can be little doubt that the omission of the negative ois oude from Gal. 2:5 has been in some cases influenced by the desire to bring the Apostle's conduct upon this occasion into harmony with the account, in Acts 16:3, of his circumcising Timothy. We shall not require to enter into any controversy on the point, for the great majority of critics are agreed that the Apostle intended to say that Titus was not circumcised, although the contrary is affirmed by a few writers. It is obvious from the whole of the Apostle's narrative that great pressure was exerted to induce Titus to submit, and that Paul, if he did not yield even for an hour the required subjection, had a long and severe struggle to maintain his position. Even when relating the circumstances in his letter to the Galatians, the recollection of his contest profoundly stirs the Apostle's indignation; his utterance becomes vehement, but cannot keep pace with his impetuous thoughts; and the result is a narrative in broken and abrupt sentences, whose very incompleteness is eloquent, and betrays the irritation which has not even yet entirely subsided. How does this accord with the whole tone of the account in the Acts? It is customary with Apologists to insert so much between the lines of that narrative, partly from imagination and partly from the statements of the Epistle, that they almost convince themselves and others that such additions are actually suggested by the author of the Acts himself. If we take the account of the Acts without such transmutations, it is certain that not only is there not the slightest indication of any struggle regarding the circumcision of Titus, "in which St. Paul maintained at one time almost single-handed the cause of Gentile freedom," [724:1] but no suggestion that there had ever been any hesitation on the part of the leading Apostles and the mass of the Church regarding the point at issue. The impression given by the author of the Acts is undeniably one of unbroken and undisturbed harmony: of a Council in which the elder Apostles were of one mind with Paul, and warmly agreed with him that the Gentiles should be delivered from the yoke of the Mosaic law and from the necessity of undergoing the initiatory rite. What is there in such an account to justify in any degree the irritation displayed by Paul at the mere recollection of this visit, or to merit the ironical terms with which he speaks of the "pillar" Apostles?

We may now consider the part which the Apostles must have taken in the dispute regarding the circumcision of Titus. Is it possible to suppose that, if the circumcision of Paul's follower had only been demanded by certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, unsupported by the rest, there could ever have been any considerable struggle on the point? Is it possible, further, to suppose that, if Paul had received the cordial support of James and the leading Apostles in his refusal to concede the circumcision of Titus, such a contest could have been more than momentary and trifling? Is it possible that the Apostle Paul could have spoken of "certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed" in such terms as: "to whom we yielded by the submission (eixamen tê hupotagê), no, not for an hour" (Gal 2:5); or that he could have used this expression if those who pressed the demand upon him had not been in a position of authority, which naturally suggested a subjection which Paul upon this occasion persistently refused? It is not possible. Of course many writers who seek to reconcile the two narratives, and some of whom substitute, for the plain statements of the Acts and of the Apostle, an account which is not consistent with either, suppose that the demand for the circumcision of Titus proceeded solely from the "false brethren," although some of them suppose that at least these false brethren may have thought they had reason to hope for the support of the elder Apostles. [725:2] It is almost too clear for dispute that the desire that Titus should be circumcised was shared or pressed by the elder Apostles. According to the showing of the Acts, nothing could be more natural than the fact that James and the elders of Jerusalem who, so long after (21:20 f.), advised Paul to prove his continued observance of the law, and that he did not teach the Jews to abandon circumcision, should on this occasion have pressed him to circumcise Titus. The conduct of Peter at Antioch, and the constant opposition which Paul met with from emissaries of James and of the Apostles of the Circumcision upon the very point of Gentile circumcision, all support the inevitable conclusion, that the pressure upon Paul in the matter of Titus was not only not resisted by the Apostles, but proceeded in no small degree from them.

The irony of Paul
This is further shown by the remainder of Paul's account of his visit and by the tone of his remarks regarding the principal Apostles, as well as by the historical data which we possess of his subsequent career. We need not repeat that the representation in the Acts both of the Council and of the whole intercourse between Paul and the Apostles is one of "unbroken unity." [726:1] The struggle about Titus and the quarrel with Peter at Antioch are altogether omitted, and the Apostolic letter speaks merely of "our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:25 f.). The language of Paul is not so pacific and complimentary. Immediately after his statement that he had "yielded by the submission, no, not for an hour," Paul continues: "But from those who seem to be something (apo de tôn dokountôn einai ti) -- whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person -- for to me those who seem (oi dokountes) (to be something) communicated nothing, but, on the contrary, etc., and when they knew the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seem to be pillars (oi dokountes styloi einai), gave to me and Barnabas right hands of fellowship that we (should go) unto the Gentiles," etc. (Gal 2:6, 9). The tone and language of this passage are certainly depreciatory of the elder Apostles, and, indeed, it is difficult to understand how anyone could fail to perceive and admit the fact. It is argued by some, who recognise the irony of the term oi dokountes applied to the Apostles, that the disparagement which is so transparent in the form oi dokountes einai ti, "those who seem to be something," is softened again in the new turn which is given to it in verse 9, oi dokountes styloi einai, "these who seem to be pillars," in which, it is said, "the Apostle expresses the real greatness and high authority of the twelve in their separate field of labour." [726:4] It seems to us that this interpretation cannot be sustained. Paul is ringing the changes on oi dokountes, and contrasting with the position they assumed, and the estimation in which they were held, his own experience of them and their inability to add anything to him. "Those who seem to be something," he commences, but immediately interrupts himself, after having thus indicated the persons whom he meant, with the more direct protest of irritated independence: "whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person." These dokountescommunicated nothing to him, but, on the contrary, when they knew the grace given to him, "those who seem to be pillars" gave him hands of fellowship, but nothing more, and they went their different ways, he to the Gentiles and they to the circumcision. If the expression oi dok. styloi einai be true, as well as ironically used, it cannot be construed into a declaration of respect, but forms part of a passage whose tone throughout is proudly depreciatory. This is followed by such words as "hypocrisy" (hupokrisis) and "condemned" (kategnôsmenos) applied to the conduct of Peter at Antioch, is well as the mention of the emissaries of James as the cause of that dispute, which add meaning to the irony. This is not the only occasion on which Paul betrays a certain bitterness against the elder Apostles. In his second letter to the Corinthians, 11:5, he says, "For I reckon that I am not a whit behind the over much Apostles" (tôn huperlian apostolôn), and again, 12:11, "For in nothing was I behind the over much Apostles" (ton huperlian apostolôn); and the whole of the vehement passage in which these references are set shows the intensity of the feeling which called them forth. To say that the expressions in the Galatian Epistle and here are "depreciatory, not indeed of the twelve themselves, but of the extravagant and exclusive claims set up for them by the Judaisers," [727:1] is an extremely arbitrary distinction. They are directly applied to the Apostles, and oi dokountes einai ti cannot be taken as irony against those who overestimated them, but against the dokountes themselves. Paul's blows generally go straight to their mark.

Meyer argues that the designation of the Apostles as oi dokountes is purely historical, and cannot be taken as ironical, inasmuch as it would be inconsistent to suppose that Paul could adopt a depreciatory tone when he is relating his recognition as a colleague by the elder Apostles; [727:2] and others consider that verses 8, 9, 10 contain evidence of mutual respect and recognition between Paul and the Twelve. Even if this were so it could not do away with the actual irony of the expressions; but do the facts support such a statement? We have seen that, in spite of the picture of unbroken unity drawn by the author of the Acts and the liberal sentiments regarding the Gentiles which he puts into the mouth of Peter and of James, Paul had a severe and protracted struggle to undergo in order to avoid circumcising Titus. We have already stated the grounds upon which it seems certain that the pressure upon that occasion came as well from the elder Apostles as the "false brethren," and critics who do not go so far as to make this positive affirmation, at least recognise the passive, and, therefore, to a large extent, compliant, attitude which the Apostles must have held. It is after narrating some of the particulars of this struggle that Paul uses the terms of depreciation which we have been discussing; and, having added, "for to me those who seem (to be something) communicated nothing," he says, "but, on the contrary, when they saw that I have been entrusted with the Gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with that of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the Apostleship of the circumcision wrought also for me unto the Gentiles); and when they knew the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, who seem to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas right hands of fellowship, that we (should go) unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision -- only that we should remember the poor; which very thing I also was forward to do." It will be observed that, after saying they "communicated nothing" to him, the Apostle adds, in opposition, "but, on the contrary" (alla tounantion). In what did this opposition consist? Apparently in this -- that, instead of strengthening the hands of Paul, they left him to labour alone. They said: "Take your own course; preach the Gospel of the uncircumcision to Gentiles, and we will preach the Gospel of the circumcision to Jews." [728:1] In fact, when Paul returned to Jerusalem for the second time after fourteen years, he found the elder Apostles not one whit advanced towards his own universalism; they retained their former Jewish prejudices, and remained, as before, Apostles of the circumcision. Notwithstanding the strong Pauline sentiments put into Peter's mouth by the author of the Acts, and his claim to have been so long before selected by God that by his mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe, Paul singles out Peter as specially entrusted with the Gospel of the circumcision; and, in the end, after Paul has exerted all his influence, Peter and the rest remain unmoved, and allow Paul to go to the Gentiles, while they confine their ministry, as before, to the Jews. The success of Paul's work amongst the heathen was too palpable a fact to be ignored; but there is no reason to believe that the conversion of the Gentiles, upon his terms, was more than tolerated at that time, or the Gentile Christians admitted to more than such imperfect communion with the Jewish Christians as that of Proselytes of the Gate in relation to Judaism. This is shown by the conduct of Peter at Antioch after the supposed Council, and of the Jews with him, and even of Barnabas, through fear of the emissaries of James, whose arrival certainly could not have produced a separation between Jewish and Gentile Christians had the latter been recognised as in full communion.

The final attitude merely toleration
The "hands of fellowship" clearly was a mere passive permission of Paul's mission to the Gentiles, but no positive and hearty approval of it testified by active support. It must, we think, be evident to anyone who attentively considers the passage we are examining, that there is no question in it of a recognition of the Apostolate of Paul. The elder Apostles consent to his mission to the Gentiles, whilst they themselves go to the circumcision; but there is not a syllable which indicates that Paul's claim to the title of Apostle was ever either acknowledged or discussed. It is not probable that Paul would have submitted such a point to their consideration. It is difficult to see how the elder Apostles could well have done less than they did, and the extent of their fellowship seems to have simply amounted to toleration of what they could not prevent. The pressure for the circumcision of the Gentile converts was an attempt to coerce, and to suppress the peculiar principle of the Gospel of uncircumcision, and, though that effort failed through the determined resistance of Paul, it is clear, from the final resolve to limit their preaching to the circumcision, that the elder Apostles in no way abandoned their view of the necessity of the initiatory rite. The episode at Antioch is a practical illustration of this statement. Hilgenfeld ably remarks: "When we consider that Peter was afraid of the circumcised Christians, there can be no doubtthat James, at the head of the primitive community, made the attempt to force heathen Christians to adopt the substance of Jewish legitimacy, by breaking off ecclesiastical community with them." [729:1] The Gentile Christians were virtually excommunicated on the arrival of the emissaries of James, or at least treated as mere Proselytes of the Gate; and the pressure upon the Galatian converts of the necessity of circumcision by similar Judaising emissaries, which called forth the vehement and invaluable Epistle before us, is quite in accordance with the circumstances of this visit. The separation agreed upon between Paul and the elder Apostles was not in any sense geographical, but purely ethnological. It was no mere division of labour, [729:2] no suitable apportionment of work. The elder Apostles determined, like their Master before them, to confine their ministry to Jews, whilst Paul, if he pleased, might go to the Gentiles; and the fact that Peter subsequently goes to Antioch, as well as many other circumstances, shows that no mere separation of localities, but a selection of race, was intended. If there had not been this absolute difference of purpose, any separation would have been unnecessary, and all the Apostles would have preached one Gospel indifferently to all who had ears to hear it; such strange inequality in the partition of the work could never have existed: that Paul should go unaided to the gigantic task of converting the heathen, while the Twelve reserved themselves for the small but privileged people. All that we have said at the beginning of this section of the nature of primitive Christianity, and of the views prevalent amongst the disciples at the death of their Master, is verified by this attitude of the Three during the famous visit of the Apostle of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, and Paul's account is precisely in accordance with all that historical probability and reason, unwarped by the ideal representations of the Acts, prepare us to expect. The more deeply we go into the statements of Paul the more is this apparent, and the more palpable does the inauthenticity of the narrative of the Council appear.

The words of Paul in describing the final understanding are very remarkable, and require further consideration. The decision that they should go to the circumcision and Paul to the Gentiles is based upon the recognition of a different Gospel entrusted to him, the Gospel of the uncircumcision, as the Gospel of the circumcision is entrusted to Peter. It will be remembered that Paul states that, on going up to Jerusalem upon this occasion, he communicated to them the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, and it is probable that he made the journey more especially for this purpose. It appears from the account that this Gospel was not only new to them, but was distinctly different from that of the elder Apostles. If Paul preached the same Gospel as the rest, what necessity could there have been for communicating it at all? What doubt that by any means he might be running, or had run, in vain? He knew perfectly well that he preached a different Gospel from the Apostles of the Circumcision, and his anxiety probably was to secure an amicable recognition of the Gentile converts, whom he had taught to consider circumcision unnecessary and the obligation of the law removed. Of course there was much that was fundamentally the same in the two Gospels, starting as they both did with the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah; but their points of divergence were very marked and striking, and more especially in directions where the prejudices of the Apostles of the circumcision were the strongest. Avoiding all debatable ground, it is clear that the Gospel of the uncircumcision, which proclaimed the abrogation of the law and the inutility of the initiatory rite, must have been profoundly repugnant to Jews, who still preached the obligation of circumcision and the observance of the law. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Gal. 3:1), said the Gospel of the uncircumcision. "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing … For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:2, 6). "For neither circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Gal. 6:15). The teaching which was specially designated the Gospel of the circumcision in contradistinction to this Gospel of the uncircumcision, held very different language. There is no gainsaying the main fact -- and that fact, certified by Paul himself and substantiated by a host of collateral circumstances, is more conclusive than all conciliatory apologetic reasoning -- that, at the date of this visit to Jerusalem (c. AD 50-52), the Three, after hearing all that Paul had to say, allowed him to go alone to the Gentiles, but themselves would have no part in the mission, and turned as before to the circumcision.

Paul's mission according to Acts
There is another point to which we must very briefly refer. The statements of Paul show that, antecedent to this visit to Jerusalem, Paul had been the active Apostle of the Gentiles, preaching his Gospel of the uncircumcision, and that subsequently he returned to the same field of labour. If we examine the narrative of the Acts, we do not find him represented in any special manner as the Apostle of the Gentiles; but, on the contrary, whilst Peter claims the honour of having been selected that by his voice the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe, Paul is everywhere described as going to the Jews, and only when his teaching is rejected by them does he turn to the Gentiles. It is true that Ananias is represented as being told by the Lord that Paul is a chosen vessel "to bear my name both before Gentiles and kings, and the sons of Israel" (9:15); and Paul subsequently recounts how the. Lord had said to himself, "Go, for I will send thee far hence unto Gentiles" (22:21; cf. 26:17). The author of the Acts, however, everywhere conveys the impression that Paul very reluctantly fulfils this mission, and that if he had but been successful amongst the Jews he never would have gone to the Gentiles at all. Immediately after his conversion, he preaches in the synagogues at Damascus and confounds the Jews (9:20, 22), as he again does during his visit to Jerusalem (9:28 f.). When the Holy Spirit desires the Church at Antioch to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto he has called them, they continue to announce the word of God "in the synagogues of the Jews" (13:5), and in narrating the conversion of the Roman proconsul at Paphos it is said that it is Sergius Paulus himself who calls for Barnabas and Saul, and seeks to bear the word of God (13:7). When they came to Antioch in Pisidia they go into the synagogue of the Jews (13:14 f., 42 f.) as usual, and it is only after the Jews reject them that Paul and Barnabas are described as saying: "It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you: seeing that ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (13:46). In Iconium, to which they next proceed, however, they go into the synagogue of the Jews (14:1 f.), and later it is stated that Paul, on arriving at Thessalonica, "as his custom was," went into the synagogue of the Jews, and for three Sabbaths discoursed to them. [732:2] At Corinth it was only when the Jews opposed him and blasphemed that Paul is represented as saying: "Your blood be upon your own head; I will henceforth, with a pure conscience, go unto the Gentiles." It is impossible to distinguish from this narrative any difference between the ministry of Paul and that of the other Apostles. They all address themselves mainly and primarily to the Jews, although, if Gentiles desire to eat of "the crumbs which fall from the children's bread," they are not rejected. Even the Pharisees stirred heaven and earth to make proselytes. In no sense can the Paul of the Acts be considered specially an Apostle of the Gentiles, and the statement of the Epistle to the Galatians (Gal. 2:9) has no significance, if interpreted by the historical work.

"To the Jew first" erroneous: Jewish precedence opposed to Paul's Gospel
Apologists usually reply to this objection that the practice of Paul in the Acts is in accordance with his own words in the Epistle to the Romans, 1:16, in which it is asserted he recognises the right of the Jews to precedence. In the authorised version this passage is rendered as follows: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." [732:4] (dynamis gar theou estin eis sôtêrian panti tô pisteuonti, Ioudaiô te prôton kai Hellêni.) As a matter of fact, we may here at once state that the word prôton, "first," is not found in Codices B and G, and that it is omitted from the Latin rendering of the verse quoted by Tertullian. [732:5] That the word upon which the controversy turns should not be found in so important a MS. as the Vatican Codex., or in so ancient a version as Tertullian's, is very significant; but, proceeding at once to the sense of the sentence, we must briefly state the reasons which seem to us conclusively to show that the usual reading is erroneous. The passage is an emphatic statement of the principles of Paul. He declares that he is not ashamed of the Gospel, and he immediately states the reason: "for it is a power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). He is not ashamed of the Gospel, because he recognises its universality; for, in opposition to the exclusiveness of Judaism, he maintains that all are "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus ... There is neither Jew nor Greek ... for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3:26). "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor unicircumcision, but faith working through love" (Gal 5:6). The reason which he gives is that which lies at the basis of the whole of his special teaching; but we are asked to believe that, after so clear and comprehensive a declaration, he at once adds the extraordinary qualification: "Ioudaiô te prôton kai Hellêni, rendered "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." What is the meaning of such a limitation? If the Gospel be a power of God unto salvation "to everyone that believeth" (panti tô pisteuonti), in what manner can it possibly be so "to the Jew first"? Can it be maintained that there are comparative degrees in salvation? "Salvation" is obviously an absolute term. If saved at all, the Jew cannot be more saved than the Greek. If, on the other hand, the expression be interpreted as an assertion that the Jew has a right of precedence, either in the offer or the attainment of salvation, before the Greek, the manner of its realisation is almost equally inconceivable, and a host of difficulties, especially in view of the specific Pauline teaching, immediately present themselves. There can be no doubt that the Judaistic view distinctly was that Israel must first be saved before the heathen could obtain any part in the Messianic kingdom, and we have shown that this idea dominated primitive Christianity, and inseparable from this was the belief that the only way to a participation in its benefits lay through Judaism. The heathen could only obtain admission into the family of Israel, and become partakers in the covenant, by submitting to the initiatory rite. It was palpably under the influence of this view, and with a conviction that the Messianic kingdom was primarily destined for the children of Israel, that the elder Apostles, even after the date of Paul's second visit to Jerusalem, continued to confine their ministry "to the circumcision." Paul's view was very different. He recognised and maintained the universality of the Gospel, and, in resolving to go to the heathen, he practically repudiated the very theory of Jewish preference which he is here supposed to advance. If the Gospel, instead of being a power of God to salvation to every man who believed, was for the Jew first, the Apostolate of the Gentiles was a mere delusion and a snare. What could be the advantage of so urgently offering salvation to the Greek, if the gift, instead of being "for every one that believeth," was a mere prospective benefit, inoperative until the Jew had first been saved? "Salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek," if it have any significance whatever of the kind argued -- involving either a prior claim to the offer of salvation or precedence in its distribution -- so completely destroys all the present interest in it of the Gentile, that the Gospel must to him have lost all power. To suppose that such an expression simply means that the Gospel must first be preached to the Jews in any town to which the Apostle might come, before it could legitimately be proclaimed to the Gentiles of that town, is childish. We have no reason to suppose that Paul held the deputy Sergius Paulus, who desired to hear the word of God and believed, in suspense until the Jews of Paphos had rejected it. The cases of the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius throw no light upon any claim of the Jew to priority in salvation. Indeed, not to waste time in showing the utter incongruity of the ordinary interpretation, we venture to affirm that there is not a single explanation, which maintains a priority assigned to the Jew in any way justifying the reference to this text, which is capable of supporting the slightest investigation. If we linguistically examine the expression Ioudaiô te prôton kai Hellênai, we arrive at the same conclusion, that prôton is an interpolation, for we must maintain that proton with teand kai must be applied equally both to "Jew" and "Greek," and cannot rightly be appropriated to the Jew only, as implying a preference over the Greek. The sense, therefore, can only be properly and intelligibly given by disregarding proton and simply translating the words, "both to Jew and Greek." [734:1] This was the rendering of the ancient Latin version quoted by Tertullian in his work against Marcion: "Itaque et hic, cum dicit: Non enim me pudet evangelii, virtus enim dei est in salutem omni credenti, Judaeo et Graeco, quia justitia dei in eo revelatur ex fide in fidem." [734:2] We are not left without further examples of the very same expression, and an examination of the context will amply demonstrate that Paul used it in no other sense. In the very next chapter the Apostle twice uses the same words. After condemning the hasty and unrighteous judgment of man, he says: "For we know that the judgment of God is according to truth … who will render to every one according to his works; to them who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that act out of factious spirit and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, anger, and wrath: affliction and distress upon every soul of man that worketh evil, both of Jew and of Greek (Ioudaiou te [prôton] kai Hellênos, A. V. "of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile"); but glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good, both to Jew and to Greek (Ioudaiô te (prôton) kai Hellêni, A. V. 'to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile"). For there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:2, 6-11). How is it possible that, if the Apostle had intended to assert a priority of any kind accorded to the Jew before the Gentile, he could at the same time have added, "For there is no respect of persons with God"? If salvation be "to the Jew first," there is very distinctly respect of persons with God. The very opposite, however, is repeatedly and emphatically asserted by Paul in this very epistle. "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek" (ou gar estin diastolê Ioudaiou te kai Hellênos), he says, "for the same Lord of all is rich unto all them that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12-13). Here we have the phrase without prôton. Nothing could be more clear and explicit. The precedence of the Jew is directly excluded. At the end of the second chapter, moreover, he explains his idea of a Jew: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outwardly in flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in spirit not letter" (Rom. 2:28). If anything further were required to prove that the Apostle does not by the expression, Ioudaiô te (prôton) kai Hellêni, intend to indicate any priority accorded to the Jew, it is supplied by the commencement of the third chapter. "What, then, is the advantage of the Jew? Or what the profit of circumcision?" It is obvious that, if the Apostle had just said that the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, "to Jew first and also to Greek," he had stated a very marked advantage to the Jew, and that such an inquiry as the above would have been wholly unnecessary. The answer which he gives to his own question, however, completes our certainty. Much every way," he replies; but in explaining what the "much" advantage was, we hear no more of "to Jew first": "Much every way: for first indeed they were entrusted with the oracles of God" (Rom 3:1). And, after a few words, he proceeds: "What then? Are we better? Not at all; for we before brought the charge that both Jews and Greeks (Ioudaious te kai Hellênas) are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9). Here, again, there is no prôton. There can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who understands what Paul's teaching was, and what he means by claiming the special title of "Apostle to the Gentiles," that in going "to the heathen" after his visit to Jerusalem, as before it, there was no purpose in his mind to preach to the Jews first, and only on being rejected by them to turn to the Gentiles, as the Acts would have us suppose; but that the principle which regulated his proclamation of the Gospel was that which we have already quoted: "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord of all is rich unto all them that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12-13).

The circumcision of Timothy
Still more incongruous is the statement of the Acts that Paul took Timothy and circumcised him because of the Jews. According to this narrative, shortly after the supposed Council of Jerusalem, at which it was decided that circumcision of Gentile converts was unnecessary; immediately after Paul had, in spite of great pressure, refused to allow Titus to be circumcised; and after it had been agreed between the Apostle of the Gentiles and James and Cephas and John that, while they should go to the circumcision, he, on the contrary, should go to the heathen, Paul actually took and circumcised Timothy. Apologists, whilst generally admitting the apparent contradiction, do not consider that this act involves any real inconsistency, and find reasons which, they affirm, sufficiently justify it. Some of these we shall presently examine, but we may at once say that no apologetic arguments seem to us capable of resisting the conclusion arrived at by many independent critics, that the statement of the Acts with regard to Timothy is opposed to all that we know of Paul's views, and that for unassailable reasons it must be pronounced unhistorical. The author of the Acts says: "And he (Paul) came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, son of a believing Jewish woman, but of a Greek father; who was well reported of by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those places (kai labôn perietemen auton dia tous Ioudaious tou ontas en tois topois ekeinois); for they all knew that his father was a Greek (êdeisan gar hapantes hoti Hellên ho patêr autou huperchen)" (Acts 16:1-3). The principal arguments of those who maintain the truth and consistency of this narrative briefly are: Paul resisted the circumcision of Titus because he was a Greek, and because the subject then actually under consideration was the immunity from the Jewish rite of Gentile Christians, which would have been prejudiced had he yielded the point. On the other hand, Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother, and, whilst there was no principle here in question, Paul circumcised the companion whom he had chosen to accompany him in his missionary journey, both as a recognition of his Jewish origin and to avoid offence to the Jews whom they should encounter in the course of their ministry, as well as to secure for him access to the synagogues which they must visit: Paul in this instance, according to all Apologists, putting in practice his own declaration (1 Cor. 9:19-20): "For being free from all men, I made myself servant unto all that I might gain the more; and unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews."

It must be borne in mind that the author who chronicles the supposed circumcision of Timothy makes no allusion to the refusal of Paul to permit Titus to be circumcised; an omission which is not only singular in itself, but significant when we find him, immediately after, narrating so singular a concession of which the Apostle makes no mention. Of course it is clear that Paul could not have consented to the circumcision of Titus, and we have only to consider in what manner the case of Timothy differed so as to support the views of those who hold that Paul, who would not yield to the pressure brought to bear upon him in the case of Titus, might, quite consistently, so short a time after, circumcise Timothy with his own hand. It is true that the necessity of circumcision for Gentile Christians came prominently into question, during Paul's visit to Jerusalem, from the presence of his uncircumcised follower Titus, and no doubt the abrogation of the rite must have formed a striking part of the exposition of his Gospel, which Paul tells us he made upon this occasion; but it is equally certain that the necessity of circumcision long continued to be pressed by the Judaistic party in the Church. It cannot fairly be argued that, at any time, Paul could afford to relax his determined and consistent attitude as the advocate for the universality of Christianity and the abrogation of a rite, insistence upon which, he had been the first to recognise, would have been fatal to the spread of Christianity. To maintain that he could safely make such a concession of his principles and himself circumcise Timothy, simply because at that precise moment there was no active debate upon the point, is inadmissible; for his Epistles abundantly prove that the topic, if it ever momentarily subsided into stubborn silence, was continually being revived with renewed bitterness. Pauline views could never have prevailed if he had been willing to sacrifice them for the sake of conciliation whenever they were not actively attacked.

The difference of the occasion cannot be admitted as a valid reason; let us, therefore, see whether any difference in the persons and circumstances removes the contradiction. It is argued that such a difference exists in the fact that, whilst Titus was altogether a Gentile, Timothy, on the side of his mother at least, was a Jew; and Thiersch, following a passage quoted by Wetstein, states that, according to Talmudic prescriptions, the validity of mixed marriages between a Jewess and a Gentile was only recognised upon the condition that the children should be brought up in the religion of the mother. In this case, he argues, Paul merely carried out the requirement of the Jewish law by circumcising Timothy, which others had omitted to do, and thus secured his admission to the Jewish synagogues to which much of his ministry was directed, but from which he would have been excluded had the rite not been performed. [738:1] Even Meyer, however, in reference to this point, replies that Paul could scarcely be influenced by the Talmudic canon, because Timothy was already a Christian and beyond Judaism. [738:2] Besides, in point of fact, by such a marriage the Jewess had forfeited Jewish privileges. Timothy, in the eyes of the Mosaic law, was not a Jew, and held, in reality, no better position than the Greek Titus. He had evidently been brought up as a Gentile, and the only question which could arise in regard to him was whether he must first become a Jew before he could be fully recognised as a Christian. The supposition that the circumcision of Timothy, the son of a Greek, after he had actually become a Christian without having passed through Judaism, could secure for him free access to the synagogues of the Jews, may show how exceedingly slight at that time was the difference between the Jew and the Christian, but it also suggests the serious doubt whether the object of the concession, in the mind of the author of the Acts, was not rather to conciliate the Judaic Christians than to represent the act as one of policy towards the unbelieving Jews. The statement of the Acts is that Paul circumcised Timothy "because of the Jews which were in those places; for they all knew that his father was a Greek." If the reason which we are discussing were correct, the expression would more probably have been, "for they knew that his mother was a Jewess." The Greek father might, and probably did, object to the circumcision of his son, but that was no special reason why Paul should circumcise him. On the other hand, the fact that the Jews knew that his father was a Greek made the action attributed to Paul a concession which the author of the Acts thus represented in its most conciliatory light. The circumcision of Timothy was clearly declared unnecessary by the apostolic decree, for the attempt to show that he was legitimately regarded as a Jew utterly fails. It is obvious that, according to Pauline doctrine, there could be no obligation for anyone who adopted Christianity to undergo this initiatory rite. It is impossible reasonably to maintain that any case has been made out to explain why Timothy, who had grown into manhood without being circumcised, and had become a Christian whilst uncircumcised, should at that late period be circumcised. Beyond the reference to a Talmudic prescription, in fact, which, even if he knew it, could not possibly have been recognised by Paul as authoritative, there has not been a serious attempt made to show that the case of Timothy presents exceptional features reconciling the contradiction otherwise admitted as apparent.

Contrary to Paul's principles
The whole apologetic argument, in fact, sinks into one of mere expediency: Timothy, the son of a Jewess and of a Greek, and thus having a certain affinity both to Jews and Gentiles, would become a much more efficient assistant to Paul if he were circumcised and thus had access to the Jewish synagogues; therefore Paul, who himself became as a Jew that he might win the Jews, demanded the same sacrifice from his follower. But can this argument bear any scrutiny by the light of Paul's own writings? It cannot. Paul openly claims to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, and just before the period at which he is supposed to circumcise Timothy he parts from the elder Apostles with the understanding that he is to go to the Gentiles who are freed from circumcision. It is a singular commencement of his mission, to circumcise the son of a Greek father after he had become a Christian. Such supposed considerations about access to synagogues and conciliation of the Jews would seem more suitable to a missionary to the circumcision than to the Apostle of the Gentiles. It must be apparent to all that in going more specially to the Gentiles, as he avowedly was, the alleged expediency of circumcising Timothy falls to the ground, and, on the contrary, that such an act would have compromised his whole Gospel. Paul's characteristic teaching was the inutility of circumcision, and upon this point he sustained the incessant attacks of the emissaries of James and the Judaistic party without yielding or compromise. What could have been more ill-advised under such circumstances than the circumcision with his own hands of a convert who, if the son of a Jewess, was likewise the son of a Greek, and had remained uncircumcised until he had actually embraced that faith which, Paul taught, superseded circumcision? The Apostle who declared: "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing" (Gal 5:2), could not have circumcised the Christian Timothy; and if any utterance of Paul more distinctly and explicitly applicable to the present case be required, it is aptly supplied by the following: "Was any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any man been called in refused to make in the case of Titus, 'I that the truth of the Gospel might abide," but equally maintained in the face of the pillar Apostles, when he left them and returned to the Gentiles whilst they went back to the circumcision. Paul's idea of being "all things to all men" is illustrated by his rebuke to Peter -- once more to refer to the scene at Antioch. Peter apparently practised a little of that conciliation which Apologists, defending the unknown author of the Acts at the expense of Paul, consider to be the sense of the Apostle's words. Paul repudiated such an inference, by withstanding Peter to the face as condemned, and guilty of hypocrisy. Paul became all things to all men by considering their feelings, and exhibiting charity and forbearance, in matters indifferent. He was careful not to make his liberty a stumbling block to the weak. "If food maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh for ever lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Cor. 8:13). Self-abnegation in the use of enlightened liberty, however, is a very different thing from the concession of a rite, which it was the purpose of his whole Gospel to discredit, and the labour of his life to resist. Once more we repeat that the narrative of the Acts regarding the circumcision of Timothy is contradictory to the character and teaching of Paul as ascertained from his Epistles, and, like so many other portions of that work which we have already examined, must be rejected as unhistorical.

Paul's conduct in Acts unhistorical
We have already tested the narrative of the author of the Acts by the statements of Paul in the first two chapters of the Galatians at such length that, although the subject is far from exhausted, we must not proceed further. We think that there can be no doubt that the role assigned to the Apostle Paul in Acts 15 is unhistorical, and it is unnecessary for us to point out the reasons which led the writer to present him in such subdued colours. We must, however, before finally leaving the subject, very briefly point out a few circumstances which throw a singular light upon the relations which actually existed between Paul and the elder Apostles, and tend to show their real, if covert, antagonism to the Gospel of the uncircumcision. We may at the outset remark, in reference to an objection frequently made - that Paul does not distinctly refer to the Apostles as opposing his teaching, and does not personally attack them -- that such a course would have been suicidal in the Apostle of the Gentiles, whilst on the other hand it could not but have hindered the acceptance of his Gospel, for which he was ever ready to endure so much. The man who wrote, "If it be possible, as much as dependeth on you be at peace with all men" (Rom. 13:18), could well be silent in such a cause. Paul, in venturing to preach the Gospel of the uncircumcision, laboured under the singular disadvantage of not having, like the Twelve, been an immediate disciple of the Master. He had been "as the one born out of due time" (Gal. 2:2), and although he claimed that his Gospel had not been taught to him by man, but had been received by direct revelation from Jesus, there can be no doubt that his apostolic position was constantly assailed. The countenance of the elder Apostles, even if merely tacit, was of great importance to the success of his work; and he felt this so much that, as he himself states, he went up to Jerusalem to communicate to them the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, "lest by any means I might be running or did run in vain" (1 Cor. 15:8). Any open breach between them would have frustrated his labours. Had Paul been in recognised enmity with the Twelve who had been selected as his special disciples by the Master, and been repudiated and denounced by them, it is obvious that his position would have been a precarious one. He had no desire for schism. His Gospel, besides, was merely a development of that of the elder Apostles; and, however much they might resent his doctrine of the abrogation of the law and of the inutility of circumcision, they could still regard his Gentile converts as at least in some sort Proselytes of the Gate. With every inducement to preserve peace if by any means possible, and to suppress every expression of disagreement with the Twelve, it is not surprising that we find so little direct reference to the elder Apostles in his epistles. During his visit to Jerusalem he did not succeed in converting them to his views. They still limited their ministry to the circumcision, and he had to be content with a tacit consent to his work amongst the heathen. But although we have no open utterance of his irritation, the suppressed impatience of his spirit, even at the recollection of the incidents of his visit, betrays itself in abrupt sentences, unfinished expressions, and grammar which breaks down in the struggle of repressed emotion. We have already said enough regarding his ironical references to those "who seem to be something," to the "overmuch Apostles," and we need not again point to the altercation between Paul and Cephas at Antioch, and the strong language used by the former.

The Corinthian Parties
Nothing is more certain than the fact that, during his whole career, the Apostle Paul had to contend with systematic opposition from the Judaic Christian party; and the only point regarding which there is any difference of opinion is the share in this taken by the Twelve. As we cannot reasonably expect to find any plain statement of this in the writings of the Apostle, we are forced to take advantage of such indications as can be discovered. Upon one point we are not left in doubt. The withdrawal of Peter and the others at Antioch from communion with the Gentile Christians, and, consequently, from the side of Paul, was owing to the arrival of certain men from James, for the Apostle expressly states so. No surprise is expressed, however, at the effect produced by these tines apo Iakôbou, and the clear inference is that they represented the views of a naturally antagonistic party -- an inference which is in accordance with all that we elsewhere read of James. It is difficult to separate the tines apo Iakôbou from the tines of the preceding chapter (1: 7) who "trouble" the Galatians, and "desire to pervert the Gospel of Christ," asserting the necessity of circumcision, against whom the Epistle is directed. Again we meet with the same vague and cautious designation of Judaistic opponents in his second Epistle to the Corinthians (3:1), where "some" (tines) bearers of "letters of commendation" (systatikôn epistolôn), from persons unnamed, were attacking the Apostle and endeavouring to discredit his teaching. By whom were these letters written? We cannot, of course, give an authoritative reply, but, we may ask, by whom could letters of commendation possessing an authority which could have weight against that of Paul be written, except by the elder Apostles? We have certain evidence in the first Epistle to the Corinthians that parties had arisen in the Church of Corinth in opposition to Paul. These parties were distinguished, as the Apostle himself states, by the cries, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ", (1 Cor 1:12) (Egô men eimi Paulou, ego de Kêpha, egô de Christou).Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the precise nature of these parties, there can be no doubt that both the party "of Cephas" and the party "of Christ" held strong Judaistic views, and assailed the teaching of Paul and his Apostolic authority. It is very evident that the persons to whom the Apostle refers in connection with "letters of commendation" were of these parties.

Apologists argue that "in claiming Cephas as the head of their party they had probably neither more nor less ground than their rivals, who sheltered themselves under the names of Apollos and of Paul." [743:2] It is obvious, however, that, in a Church founded by Paul, there could have been no party created with the necessity to take his name as their watchword, except as a reply to another party which, having intruded itself, attacked him, and forced those who maintained the views of their own Apostle to raise such a counter cry. The parties "of Cephas" and "of Christ" were manifestly aggressive, intruding themselves, as the Apostle complains, into "other men's labours" (2 Cor. 10:13); and this, in some manner, seems to point to that convention between the Apostle and the Three -- that he should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision -- which, barely more than passive neutrality at the beginning, soon became covertly antagonistic. The fact that the party "of Paul" was not an organised body, so to say, directed by the Apostle as a party leader, in no way renders it probable that the party of Cephas, which carried on active and offensive measures, had not much more ground in claiming Cephas as their head. One point is indisputable, that no party ever claims any man as its leader who is not clearly associated with the views it maintains. The party "of Cephas," representing Judaistic views, opposing the teaching of Paul and joining in denying his Apostolic claims, certainly would not have taken Peter's name as their watch-cry if he had been known to hold and express such Pauline sentiments as are put into his mouth in the Acts, or had not, on the contrary, been intimately identified with Judaistic principles. Religious parties may very probably mistake the delicate details of a leader's teaching, but they can scarcely be wrong in regard to his general principles. If Peter had been so unfortunate as to be flagrantly misunderstood by his followers, and, whilst this party preached in his name Judaistic doctrines and anti-Pauline opinions, the Apostle himself advocated the abrogation of the law as a burden which the Jews themselves were not able to bear, and actively shared Pauline convictions, is it possible to suppose that Paul would not have pointed out the absurdity of such a party claiming such a leader?

The fact is, however, that Paul never denies the claim of those who shelter themselves under the names of Peter and James, never questions their veracity, and never adopts the simple and natural course of stating that, in advancing these names, they are impostors or mistaken. On the contrary, upon all occasions he evidently admits, by his silence, the validity of the claim. We are not left to mere inference that the adopted head actually shared the views of the party. Paul himself distinguishes Peter as the leader of the party of the circumcision in a passage in his letter to the Galatians already frequently referred to (Gal. 2:7 f.), and the episode at Antioch confirms the description, and leaves no doubt that Peter's permanent practice was to force the Gentiles to Judaise. For reasons which 'we have already stated, Paul could not but have desired to preserve peace, or even the semblance of it, with the elder Apostles, for the Gospel's sake; and he, therefore, wisely leaves them as much as possible out of the question and deals with their disciples. It is obvious that policy must have dictated such a course. By ignoring the leaders and attacking their followers, he suppressed the chief strength of his opponents and kept out of sight the most formidable argument against himself -- the concurrence with them of the elder Apostles. On the one hand, the Epistles of Paul bear no evidence of any active sympathy and co-operation with his views and work on the part of the elder Apostles. On the other, Paul is everywhere assailed by Judaistic adversaries who oppose his Gospel and deny his Apostleship, and who claim as their leaders the elder Apostles.

Paul and the Twelve
If, even without pressing expressions to their extreme and probable point, we take the contrast drawn between his own Gospel and that of the circumcision, the reality of the antagonism must be apparent. "For we are not as the many (oi polloi[745:1] which adulterate the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, before God, speak we in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:17). Later on in the letter, after referring to the intrusion of the opposite party into the circle of his labours, Paul declares that his impatience and anxiety proceed from godly jealousy at the possible effect of the Judaistic intruders upon the Corinthians. "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we did not preach, or if ye receive another spirit which ye received not, or another Gospel which ye did not accept, ye bear well with him. For I think I am not a whit behind the overmuch Apostles (tôn huperlian apostolôn)." [745:3] This reference to the elder Apostles gives point to much of the Epistle that is ambiguous, and more especially when the Judaistic nature of the opposition is so clearly indicated a few verses further on: "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's seed? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool), I am more; in labours more abundantly, in prisons exceedingly, in deaths often," etc. (2 Cor. 11:22 f.)

It is argued that the Twelve had not sufficient authority over their followers to prevent such interference with Paul, and that the relation of the Apostle to the Twelve was: "Separation, not opposition, antagonism of the followers rather than of the leaders, personal antipathy of the Judaisers to St. Paul, rather than of St. Paul to the Twelve." [745:5] It is not difficult to believe that the antipathy of Paul to the Judaisers was less than that felt by them towards him. The superiority of the man must have rendered him somewhat callous to such dislike. [746:1] But the mitigated form of difference between Paul and the Twelve here assumed, although still very different from the representations of the Acts, cannot be established, but, on the contrary, must be much widened before it can justly be taken as that existing between Paul and the elder Apostles. We do not go so far as to say that there was open enmity between them, or active antagonism of any distinct character on the part of the Twelve to the Apostle of the Gentiles; but there is every reason to believe that they not only disliked his teaching, but endeavoured to counteract it by their own ministry of the circumcision. They not only did not restrain the opposition of their followers, but they abetted them in their counter-assertion of Judaistic views. Had the Twelve felt any cordial friendship for Paul, and exhibited any active desire for the success of his ministry of the uncircumcision, it is quite impossible that his work could have been so continuously and vexatiously impeded by the persecution of the Jewish Christian party. The Apostles may not have possessed sufficient influence or authority entirely to control the action of adherents, but it would be folly to suppose that, if unanimity of views had prevailed between them and Paul, and a firm and consistent support had been extended to him, such systematic resistance as he everywhere encountered from the party professing to be led by the "pillar" Apostles could have been seriously maintained, or that he could have been left alone and unaided to struggle against it. If the relations between Paul and the Twelve had been such as are intimated in the Acts of the Apostles, his Epistles must have presented undoubted evidence of the fact. Both negatively and positively they testify the absence of all support, and the existence of antagonistic influence on the part of the elder Apostles; and external evidence fully confirms the impression which the Epistles produce. [746:2]

Denunciation of Paul in the Apocalypse
From any point of view which may be taken, the Apocalypse is an important document in connection with this point. If it be accepted as a work of the Apostle John -- the preponderance of evidence and critical opinion assigns it to him -- this book, of course, possesses the greatest value as an indication of his views. If it be merely regarded as a contemporary writing it still is most interesting as an illustration of the religious feeling of the period. The question is: does the Apocalypse contain any reference to the Apostle Paul, or throw light upon the relations between him and the elder Apostles? If it do so, and be the work of one of the styloi, nothing obviously could be more instructive. In the messages to the seven churches there are references and denunciations which, in the opinion of many able critics, are directed against the Apostle of the Gentiles and his characteristic teaching. Who but Paul and his followers can be referred to in the Epistle to the Church of Ephesus: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and that thou canst not hear wicked persons: and didst try them which say they are Apostles and are not, and didst find them liars"? (Rev. 2:2) Paul himself informs us not only of his sojourn in Ephesus, where he believed that "a great and effectual door" was opened to him, but adds, "there are many adversaries" (antikeimenoi polloi) (1 Cor. 16:9). The foremost charge brought against the churches is that they have those that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, "to eat things offered unto idols." [747:3] The teaching of Paul upon this point is well known, 1 Cor. 8:1 f., 10:25 f., Rom. 14:2 f., and the reference here cannot be mistaken; and when in the Epistle to the Church of Thyatira, after denouncing the teaching "to eat things offered unto idols," the Apocalyptist goes on to encourage those who have not this teaching, "who knew not the depths of Satan (ta bathê tou satana), [748:1] as they say" the expression of Paul himself is taken to denounce his doctrine; for the Apostle, defending himself against the attacks of those parties "of Cephas" and "of Christ" in Corinth, writes: "But God revealed (them) to us through his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God" (ta bathê tou theou) -- "the depths of Satan" rather, retorts the Judaistic author of the Apocalypse. Ta bathê does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Again, in the address to the Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, when the writer denounces those "who say that they are Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9, 3:9), whom has he in view but those Christians whom Paul had taught to consider circumcision unnecessary and the law abrogated? We find Paul, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, so often quoted, obliged to defend himself against these Judaising parties upon this very point: "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's seed? So am I." [748:3] It is manifest that his adversaries had vaunted their own Jewish origin as a title of superiority over the Apostle of the Gentiles.

We have, however, further evidence of the same attack upon Paul regarding this point. Epiphanius points out that the Ebionites denied that Paul was a Jew, and asserted that he was born of a Gentile father and mother, but that, having gone up to Jerusalem, he became a proselyte and submitted to circumcision in the hope of marrying a daughter of the high priest. But afterwards, according to them, enraged at not securing the maiden for his wife, Paul wrote against circumcision and the Sabbath and the law. [748:4] The Apostle Paul, whose constant labour it was to destroy the particularism of the Jew and raise the Gentile to full, free, and equal participation with him in the benefits of the New Covenant, could not but incur the bitter displeasure of the Apocalyptist, for whom the Gentiles were, as such, the type of all that was common and unclean. In the utterances of the seer of Patmos we seem to hear the expression of all that Judaistic hatred and opposition which pursued the Apostle who laid the axe to the root of Mosaism, and, in his efforts to free Christianity from trammels which, more than any other, retarded its triumphant development, aroused against himself all the virulence of Jewish illiberality and prejudice. The results at which we have arrived might be singularly confirmed by an examination of the writings of the first two centuries, and by observing the attitude assumed towards the Apostle of the Gentiles by such men as Justin Martyr, Papias, Hegesippus, and the author of the Clementines; but we have already devoted too much space to this subject, and here we must reluctantly leave it.

The development of Christianity
The steps by which Christianity was gradually freed from the trammels of Judaism, and became a religion of unlimited range and universal fitness, were clearly not those stated in the Acts of the Apostles. Its emancipation from Mosaism was not effected by any liberal action or enlightened guidance on the part of the elder Apostles. At the death of their Master the Twelve remained closely united to Judaism, and evidently were left without any understanding that Christianity was a new religion which must displace Mosaic institutions, and replace the unbearable yoke of the Law by the divine liberty of the Gospel. To the last moment regarding which we have any trustworthy information, the Twelve, as might have been expected, retained all their early religious customs and all their Jewish prejudices. They were simply Jews believing that Jesus was the Messiah; and if the influence of Paul enlarged their views upon some minor points, we have no reason to believe that they ever abandoned their belief in the continued obligation of the Law, and the necessity of circumcision for full participation in the benefits of the Covenant. The author of the Acts would have us believe that they required no persuasion, but anticipated Paul in the gospel of uncircumcision.

It is not within the scope of this work to inquire how Paul originally formed his views of Christian universalism. Once formed, it is easy to understand how rapidly they must have been developed and confirmed by experience amongst the Gentiles. Whilst the Twelve still remained in the narrow circle of Judaism and could not be moved beyond the ministry of the circumcision, Paul, in the larger and freer field of the world, must daily have felt more convinced that the abrogation of the law and the abandonment of circumcision were essential to the extension of Christianity amongst the Gentiles. He had no easy task, however, to convince others of this, and he never succeeded in bringing his elder colleagues over to his views. To the end of his life Paul had to contend with bigoted and narrow-minded opposition within the Christian body, and if his views ultimately triumphed, and the seed which he sowed eventually yielded a rich harvest, he himself did not live to see the day, and the end was attained only by slow and natural changes. The new religion gradually extended beyond the limits of Judaism. Gentile Christians soon outnumbered Jewish believers. The Twelve whose names were the strength of the Judaistic opposition one by one passed away; but, above all, the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Christian community secured the success of Pauline principles and the universalism of Christianity. The Church of Jerusalem could not bear transplanting. In the uncongenial soil of Pella it gradually dwindled away, losing first its influence and, soon after, its nationality. The divided members of the Jewish party, scattered amongst the Gentiles, and deprived of their influential leaders, could not long retard the progress of the liberalism which they still continued to oppose and to misrepresent. In a word, the emancipation of Christianity was not effected by the Twelve, was no work of councils, and no result of dreams; but, receiving its first great impulse from the genius and the energy of Paul, its ultimate achievement was the result of time and natural development.

The Acts of the Apostles not historical
We have now patiently considered the "Acts of the Apostles," and although it has in no way been our design exhaustively to examine its contents, we have more than sufficiently done so to enable the reader to understand the true character of the document. The author is unknown, and it is no longer possible to identify him. If he were actually the Luke whom the Church indicates, our results would not be materially affected; but the mere fact that the writer is unknown is obviously fatal to the Acts as a guarantee of miracles. A cycle of supernatural occurrences could scarcely, in the estimation of any rational mind, be established by the statement of an anonymous author, and more especially one who not only does not pretend to have been an eye-witness of most of the miracles, but whose narrative is either uncorroborated by other testimony or inconsistent with itself, and contradicted on many points by contemporary documents.

The phenomena presented by the Acts of the Apostles become perfectly intelligible when we recognise that it is the work of a writer living long after the occurrences related, whose pious imagination furnished the Apostolic age with an elaborate system of supernatural agency, far beyond the conception of any other New Testament writer, by which, according to his view, the proceedings of the Apostles were furthered and directed, and the infant Church miraculously fostered. On examining other portions of his narrative, we find that they present the features which the miraculous elements rendered antecedently probable. The speeches attributed to different speakers are all cast in the same mould, and betray the composition of one and the same writer. The sentiments expressed are inconsistent with what we know of the various speakers, and when we test the circumstances related by previous or subsequent incidents and by trustworthy documents, it becomes apparent that the narrative is not an impartial statement of facts, but a reproduction of legends or a development of tradition, shaped and coloured according to the purpose or the pious views of the writer.

Our comparison of passages of his two works with the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus seems to us to prove that the date at which the author of the third Synoptic and the Acts of the Apostles composed those works must be set at least at the beginning of the second century, and he is thus so far removed from the events which he chronicles that there is ample room, if not necessity, for the exercise of imagination in narrating the career of the Apostles who are supposed to carry on the work of Jesus after his death. In the third Gospel he had, certainly, the records of earlier writers, to whom he refers in his opening lines, to guide him; and here his exaggeration is not so extreme as it became after he proceeded to relate the course of Christianity, when Peter, James, and John extended their missionary labours, and Paul became the eloquent Apostle of the Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles, composed with more unfettered imagination, bears none of the marks of sober veracity. The Epistles of Paul enable us to correct his statements and to recognise his zealous, but ineffectual, efforts to harmonise the teaching of the elder Apostles, to whom Christianity was still merely a development of Judaism, with the new and enlarged doctrines of the Apostle of the Uncircumcision, which transformed the Mosaic precepts into a universal religion.

Written by an author who was not an eye-witness of the miracles related; who describes events not as they really occurred, but as his pious imagination supposed they ought to have occurred; who seldom touches history without distorting it by legend, until the original elements can scarcely be distinguished; who puts his own words and sentiments into the mouths of the Apostles and other persons of his narrative, and who represents almost every phase of the Church in the Apostolic age as influenced, or directly produced, by supernatural agency -- such a work is of no value as evidence for occurrences which are in contradiction to all experience. The Acts of the Apostles, therefore, is not only an anonymous work, but upon due examination its claims to be considered sober and veracious history must be emphatically rejected. It cannot strengthen the foundations of supernatural religion, but, on the contrary, by its profuse and indiscriminate use of the miraculous it discredits miracles, and affords a clearer insight into their origin and fictitious character.

< Previous Section      Contents      Home      Top of Page      Next section >