Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion 




IT is better, before proceeding to examine the testimony of Paul for the Resurrection, to clear the way by considering his evidence for miracles in general, apart from that specific instance. In an earlier portion of this work [756:1] the following remark was made: "Throughout the New Testament, patristic literature, and the records of ecclesiastical miracles, although we have narratives of countless wonderful works performed by others than the writer, and abundant assertion of the possession of miraculous power by the Church, there is no instance that we can remember in which a writer claims to have himself performed a miracle." [756:2] It is asserted that this statement is erroneous, and that Paul does advance this claim. It may be well to quote the moderate words in which a recent able writer states the case, although not with immediate reference to the particular passage which we have quoted: "…In these undoubted writings St. Paul certainly shows, by incidental allusions, the good faith of which cannot be questioned, that he believed himself to be endowed with the power of working miracles, and that miracles -- or what were thought to be such -- were actually wrought both by him and by his contemporaries. He reminds the Corinthians that 'the signs of an Apostle were wrought among them… in signs and wonders and mighty deeds' (en sêmeiois kai terasi kai dynamesi -- the usual words for the higher forms of miracle -- 2 Cor. 12:12). He tells the Romans that 'he will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by [756:3] him to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God' (en dynamei sêmeiôn kai teratôn, en dynamei pneumatos Theou, Rom. 15:18-19). He asks the Galatians whether 'he that ministereth to them the Spirit and worketh miracles (ho energôn dynameis) among them doeth it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?' (Gal. 3:5). In the first Epistle to the Corinthians he goes somewhat elaborately into the exact place in the Christian economy that is to be assigned to the working of miracles and gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29)." [757:1]

Paul's statements regarding miracles
We shall presently examine these passages, but we must first briefly deal with the question whether, taken in any sense, they furnish an instance "in which a writer claims to have himself performed a miracle." It must be obvious to any impartial reader that the remark made in the course of our earlier argument precisely distinguished the general "assertion of the possession of miraculous power by the Church," from the explicit claim to have personally performed "a miracle" in the singular. If, therefore, it were even admitted that St. Paul treats the fact of his working miracles as a matter of course, to which a passing reference is sufficient,'' such "incidental allusions" would not in the least degree contradict the statement made, but, being the only instances producible, would in fact completely justify it. General and vague references of this kind have by no means the force of a definite claim to have performed some particular miracle. They partake too much of that indiscriminate impression of the possession and common exercise of miraculous powers which characterised the "age of miracles" to have any force. The desired instance, which is not forthcoming, and to which alone reference was made, was a case in which, instead of vague expressions, a writer, stating with precision the particulars, related that he himself had, for instance, actually raised some person from the dead. As we then added, even if Apostles had chronicled their miracles, the argument for their reality would not have been much advanced; but it is a curious phenomenon not undeserving of a moment's attention that Apologists can only refer to such general passages, and cannot quote an instance in which a specific miracle is related in detail by the person who is supposed to have performed it. Passing references on a large scale to the exercise of miraculous power, whilst betraying a suspicious familiarity with phenomena of an exceptional nature, offer too much latitude for inaccuracy and imagination to have the weight of an affirmation in which the mind has been sobered by concentration to details. "Signs and wonders," indefinitely alluded to, may seem much more imposing and astonishing than they really are, and it may probably be admitted by everyone that, if we knew the particulars of the occurrences which are thus vaguely indicated, and which may have been considered miraculous in a superstitious age, they might to us possibly appear no miracles at all. General expressions are liable to an exaggeration from which specific allegations are more frequently free. If it be conceded that the Apostle Paul fully believed in the possession by himself and the Church of divine Charismata, the indefinite expression of that belief, in any form, must not be made equivalent to an explicit claim to have performed a certain miracle, the particulars of which are categorically stated.

Passing from this to the more general question, the force of some of these objections will be better understood when we consider the passages in the Epistles which are quoted as expressing Paul's belief in miracles, and endeavour to ascertain his real views: what it is he actually says regarding miracles; and what are the phenomena which are by him considered to be miraculous. We shall not waste time in showing how, partly through the influence of the Septuagint, the words sêmeion, teras, and dynamis came to be used in a peculiar manner by New Testament writers to indicate miracles. It may, however, be worthwhile to pause for a moment to ascertain the sense in which Paul, who wrote before there was a "New Testament" at all, usually employed these words. In the four Epistles of Paul the word sêmeion occurs six times. In Rom. 4:11 Abraham is said to have received the "sign (sêmeion) of circumcision," in which there is nothing miraculous. In 1 Cor. 1:22 It is said: "Since both Jews require signs (semeia[758:1] and Greeks seek after wisdom"; and again, 1 Cor. 14:22: Wherefore the tongues are for a sign (sêmeion) not to the believing, but to the unbelieving," etc. We shall have more to say regarding these passages presently, but just now we merely quote them to show the use of the word. The only other places in which it occurs [758:2] are those pointed out, and which are the subject of our discussion. In Rom. 15:19 the word is used in the plural and combined with teras: "in the power of signs and wonders" (sêmeiôn kai teratôn); and in the second passage (2 Cor. 12:12) it is employed twice, "the signs (ta sêmeia) of the apostle" and the second time again in combination with teras and dynamis, "both in signs" (sêmeiois), etc. The word terasis only twice met with in Paul's writings; that is to say, in Rom. 15:19 and 2 Cor. 12:12; and on both occasions, as we have just mentioned, it is combined with sêmeion[759:1] On the other hand, Paul uses dynamis no less than 34 times, [759:2] and, leaving for the present out of the question the passages cited, upon every occasion, except one, perhaps, the word has the simple signification of "power." The one exception is Rom. 8: 38, where it occurs in the plural: dynameis, "powers," the Apostle expressing his persuasion that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, "nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers (dynameis), nor height, nor depth," etc. In 1 Cor. 14:11, where the authorised version renders the original, "Therefore, if I know not the meaning (dynamin) of the voice," it has still the same sense.

The last two chapters of Romans
Before discussing the passages before us we must point out that there is so much doubt, at least, regarding the authenticity of the last two chapters of the Epistle to the Romans that the passage (Rom. 15:18-19) can scarcely be presented as evidence on such it point as the reality of miracles. We do not intend to debate the matter closely, but shall merely state a few of the facts of the case and pass on, for it would not materially affect our argument if the passage were altogether beyond suspicion. The Epistle, in our authorised text, ends with a long and somewhat involved doxology (16:25-27); and we may point out here that it had already seemed to be brought to a close not only at the end of chap. 15 (33), but also at 16:20. The doxology (16:25-27), which more particularly demands our attention, is stated by Origen [759:3] to be placed in some MSS. at the end of chapter 14; and a similar statement is made by Cyril, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and others. We find these verses actually so placed in L, and in upwards of 220 out of 250 cursive MSS. of Byzantine origin, in an account of ancient MSS. in Cod. 66, in most of the Greek Lectionaries, in the Slavonic and later Syriac versions as also in the Gothic, Arabic (in the polyglot and triglot text), and some MSS. of the Armenian. They are inserted both at the end of 14 and at the end of the Epistle by the Alexandrian Codex, [759:4] one of the most ancient manuscripts extant, and by some other MSS. [760:1] Now, how came this doxology to be placed at all at the end of chapter 14? The natural inference is that it was so placed because that was the end of the Epistle. Subsequently, chapters 15 and 16 being added, it is supposed that the closing doxology was removed from the former position and placed at the end of the appended matter. This inference is supported by the important fact that, as we learn from Origen, [760:2] the last two chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, including the doxology (16:25-27), did not exist in Marcion's text, the most ancient form of it of which we have any knowledge. Tertullian, who makes no reference to these two chapters, speaks of the passage (Rom. 14:10) as at the close (in clausula) of the Epistle, [760:3] and he does not call any attention to their absence from Marcion's Epistle. Is it not reasonable to suppose that they did not form part of his copy? In like manner Irenaeus, who very frequently quotes from the rest of the Epistle, nowhere shows acquaintance with these chapters. The first writer who distinctly makes use of any part of them is Clement of Alexandria. It has been argued that Marcion omitted the two chapters because they contain what was opposed to his views, and because they had no dogmatic matter to induce him to retain them; but, whilst the two explanations destroy each other, neither of them is more than a supposition to account for the absence of what, it may with equal propriety be conjectured, never formed part of his text.

The external testimony does not stand alone, but is supported by very strong internal evidence. We shall only indicate one or two points, leaving those who desire to go more deeply into the discussion to refer to works more particularly concerned with it, which we shall sufficiently indicate. It is a very singular thing that Paul, who, when he wrote this Epistle, had never been in Rome, should be intimately acquainted with so many persons there. The fact that there was much intercourse between Rome and other countries by no means accounts for the simultaneous presence there of so many of the Apostle's personal friends. Aquila and Priscilla, who are saluted (16:3), were a short time before (1 Cor. 16:19) in Ephesus. [761:1] It may, moreover, be remarked as a suggestive fact that when, according to the Acts (28:14 f.), Paul very soon afterwards arrived in Rome, most of these friends seem to have disappeared, and the chief men of the Jews called together by Paul do not seem to be aware of the existence of a Christian body at Rome (Acts 28:21-22). Another point is connected with the very passage which has led to this discussion. In Rom. 15:18-19, we read: 18. "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, in order to (eis) the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19. in the power of signs and wonders (en dynamei sêmeiôn kai teratôn) in the power of the Spirit (en dynamei pneumatos); so that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ," etc. The statement that "from Jerusalem" he had "fully preached" the Gospel is scarcely in agreement with the statement in the Epistle to the Galatians, 1:17-23, 2:1 f. Moreover, there is no confirmation anywhere that the Apostle preached as far as Illyricum, which was then almost beyond the limits of civilisation. Baur suggests that in making his ministry commence at Jerusalem there is too evident a concession made to the Jewish Christians, according to whom every preacher of the Gospel must naturally commence his career at the holy city. It would detain us much too long to enter upon an analysis of these two chapters, and to show the repetition in them of what has already been said in the earlier part of the Epistle; the singular analogies with the Epistles to the Corinthians, not of the nature of uniformity of style, but of imitation; the peculiarity of the mention of a journey to Spain as the justification of a passing visit to Rome, and perhaps a further apology for even writing a letter to the Church there which another had founded; the suspicious character of the names which are mentioned in the various clauses of salutation; and to state many other still more important objections which various critics have advanced, but which would require more elaborate explanation than can possibly be given here. It will suffice for us to mention that the phenomena presented by the two chapters are so marked and curious that, for a century, they have largely occupied the attention of writers of all shades of opinion, and called forth very elaborate theories to account for them; the apparent necessity for which in itself shows the insecure position of the passage. [762:1] Semler, without denying the Pauline authorship of the two chapters, considered they did not properly belong to the Epistle to the Romans. He supposed 16:3-16 to have been intended merely for the messenger who carried the Epistle, as a list of the persons to whom salutations were to be given, and to these chapter 15 was to be specially delivered. Paulus [762:2] considered chapter 15 to be a separate letter, addressed specially to the leaders of the Roman Church, chapters 1-14 being the Epistle to the community in general. The Epistle then being sealed up and ready for any opportunity of transmission, but none presenting itself before his arrival in Corinth, the apostle there, upon an additional sheet, wrote ch. 16 and entrusted it with the letter to Phoebe. Eichhorn [762:3] supposed that the parchment upon which the Epistle was written was finished at 14:23; and, as Paul and his scribe had only a small sheet at hand, the doxology only, 16:25-27, was written upon the one side of it, and on the other the greetings and the apostolic benediction diction, 16:21-24, and thus the letter was completed; but, as it could not immediately be forwarded, the apostle added a fly-leaf with chapter 15. Bertholdt, [762:4] Guericke, [762:5] and others, adopted similar views more or less modified, representing the close of the Epistle to have been formed by successive postscripts. Renan [762:6] has affirmed the Epistle to be a circular letter addressed to churches in Rome, Ephesus, and other places, to each of which only certain portions were transmitted with appropriate salutations and endings, which have all been collected into the one Epistle in the form in which we have it. David Schulz conjectured that 16:1-20 was an Epistle written from Rome to the church at Ephesus; and this theory was substantially adopted by Ewald -- who held that 16:3-20 was part of a lost Epistle to Ephesus -- and by many other critics. [762:7] Of course the virtual authenticity of the 15-16 chapters, nearly or exactly as they are, is affirmed by many writers. Baur, however, after careful investigation, pronounced the two chapters inauthentic, and in this he is followed by able critics. [762:8] Under all these circumstances it is obvious that we need not occupy ourselves much with the passage in Rom. 15:18-19, but our argument will equally apply to it. In order to complete this view of the materials, we may simply mention, as we pass on, that the authenticity of 2 Cor. 12:12 has likewise been impugned by a few critics, and the verse, or at least the words sêmeiois kai terasin kai dynamein, as well as Rom. 15:19, declared an interpolation. This cannot, however, so far as existing evidence goes, be demonstrated; and, beyond the mere record of the fact, this conjecture does not here require further notice.

Testimony of Paul to miracles
It may be well, before proceeding to the Epistles to the Corinthians, which furnish the real matter for discussion, first to deal with the passage cited from Gal. 3:5, which is as follows: "He then that supplieth to you the Spirit and worketh powers (dynameis) within you (en humin), (doeth he it) from works of law or from hearing of faith?" [763:1] The Authorised Version reads, "and worketh miracles among you"; but this cannot be maintained, and en humin must be rendered "within you," the en certainly retaining its natural signification when used with energein, the primary meaning of which is itself to in-work. The vast majority of critics of all schools agree in this view. [763:2] There is an evident reference to 3:2, and to the reception of the Spirit, here further characterised as producing such effects within the minds of those who receive it, [763:3] the worker who gives the Spirit being God. The opinion most commonly held is that reference is here made to the "gifts" (charismata), regarding which the Apostle elsewhere speaks, [763:4] and which we shall presently discuss; but this is by no means certain, and cannot be determined. It is equally probable that he may refer to the spiritual effect produced upon the souls of the Galatians by the Gospel which he so frequently represents as a "power" of God. In any case, it is clear that there is no external miracle referred to, and even if allusion to Charismata be understood we have yet to ascertain precisely what these were. We shall endeavour to discover whether there was anything in the least degree miraculous in these "gifts," but there is no affirmation in this passage which demands special attention, and whatever general significance it may have will be met when considering the others which are indicated.

The first passage in the Epistles to the Corinthians, which is pointed out as containing the testimony of Paul both to the reality of miracles in general and to the fact that he himself performed them, is the following (2 Cor. 12:12): "Truly the signs (sêmeia) of the Apostle were wrought in you (kateirgasthê en humin) in all patience, both in signs and wonders and powers (en sêmeios te kai terasin kai dynamesin)." We have to justify two departures in this rendering from that generally received. The first of these is the adoption of "wrought in you," instead of "wrought among you"; and the second, the simple use of "powers" for dynameis, instead of "mighty works." We shall take the second first. We have referred to every passage except 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 29, in which Paul makes use of the word dynameis, and, fortunately, they are sufficiently numerous to afford us a good insight into his practice. It need not be said that the natural sense of dynameis is in no case "mighty works" or miracles, and that such an application of the Greek word is peculiar to the New Testament and, subsequently, to Patristic literature. There is, however, no ground for attributing this use of the word to Paul. It is not so used in the Septuagint, and it is quite evident that the Apostle does not employ it to express external effects or works, but spiritual phenomena or potentiality. In the passage (Gal. 3:5) which we have just discussed, where the word occurs in the plural, as here, it is understood to express "powers." We may quote the rendering of that passage by the Bishop of Gloucester: "He then, I say, that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh mighty powers within you, doeth he it by the works of the law or by the report of faith?" [764:2] Why "mighty" should be inserted it is difficult to understand; but the word is rightly printed in italics to show that it is not actually expressed in the Greek. "What was the exact nature of these 'powers' … it is impossible to determine," observes another scholar quoted above, [765:1] on the same passage. [765:2] In 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 29, where the plural dynameis again occurs, the intention to express "powers" [765:3] and not external results -- miracles -- is perfectly clear, the word being in the last two verses used alone to represent the "gifts." In all of these passages the word is the representative of the "powers" and not of the "effects." [765:4] This interpretation is rendered more clear by, and at the same time confirms, the preceding phrase, "were wrought in you" (kateirgasthê en humin). "Powers" (dynameis) as in Gal. 3:5, are worked "within you," and, the rendering of that passage being so settled, it becomes authoritative for this. If direct confirmation of Paul's meaning be required, we have it in Rom. 7:8, where we find the same verb used with en in this sense: "But sin … wrought in me (kateirgasato en emoi) all manner of coveting," etc.; and with this may also be compared 2 Cor. 7:11 … "what earnestness it wrought in you" (kateirgasato en [765:5] humin). It was thus Paul's habit to speak of spiritual effects wrought "within," and, as he referred to the "Powers" (dynameis) worked "within" the souls of the Galatians, so he speaks of them here as "wrought in" the Corinthians. It will become clear as we proceed that the addition to dynameis of "signs and wonders" does not in the least affect this interpretation. In 1 Cor. 14:22 the Apostle speaks of the gift of "tongues" as "a sign" (sêmeion).

Upon the supposition that Paul was affirming the actual performance of miracles by himself, how extraordinary becomes the statement that they "were wrought in all patience," for it is manifest that "in all patience" (en pasê hupomonê) does not form part of the signs, as some have argued, but must be joined to the verb (kateirgasthe). [765:6] It may be instructive to quote a few words of Olshausen upon the point: "The en pasê hupomonê is not altogether easy. It certainly cannot be doubtful that it is to be joined to kateirgasthe, and not to what follows; but for what reason does Paul here make it directly prominent that he wrought his signs in all patience? It seems to me probable that in this there may be a reproof to the Corinthians, who, in spite of such signs, still showed themselves wavering regarding the authority of the Apostle. In such a position, Paul would say, he had, patiently waiting, allowed his light to shine amongst them, certain of ultimate triumph." [766:1] This will hardly be accepted by anyone as a satisfactory solution of the difficulty, which is a real one if it be assumed that Paul, claiming to have performed miracles, wrought them "in all patience." Besides, the matter is complicated, and the claim to have himself performed a miracle still more completely vanishes, when we consider the fact that the passive construction of the sentence does not actually represent Paul as the active agent by whom the signs were wrought. "Truly the signs of the apostle were wrought," but how wrought? Clearly he means by the Spirit, as he distinctly states to the Galatians. To them "Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was fully set forth crucified," and he asks them: was it from works of the law, or from hearing in faith the Gospel thus preached to them, that they "received the Spirit"? and that he who supplies the Spirit "and worketh powers" in them does so? From faith, of course (Gal 3:1 f.). The meaning of Paul, therefore, was this: his Gospel was preached among them "in all patience," which being received by the hearing of faith, the Spirit was given to them, and the signs of the apostle were thus wrought among them. The representation is made throughout the Acts that the apostles lay their hands on those who believe, and they receive the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues. If any special "sign of the apostle" can be indicated at all, it is this; and in illustration we may point to one statement made in the Acts. Philip, the evangelist, who was not an apostle, is represented as going into Samaria and preaching the Messiah to the Samaritans, who give heed to the things spoken by him, and multitudes are baptised (8:5, 6, 12), but there was not the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which usually accompanied the apostolic baptism. "And the Apostles in Jerusalem, having heard that Samaria had received the word of God, sent unto them Peter and John; who when they came down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit -- for as yet he had fallen upon none of them, but they had only been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they (the Apostles) their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17). We may further refer to the episode at Ephesus (Acts 19:1 f.) where Paul finds certain disciples who, having only been baptised into John's baptism, had not received the Holy Spirit, nor even heard whether there was a Holy Spirit. (19:6) "And Paul having laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they were speaking with tongues and prophesying."

When we examine Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, we find ample assurance that the interpretation here given of this passage is correct, and that he does not refer, as Apologists have maintained, to miracles wrought by himself, but to the Charismata, which were supposed to have been bestowed upon the Corinthians who believed, and which thus were the signs of his apostleship. The very next verse to that which is before us shows this: "Truly the signs of the Apostle were wrought in you in all patience… 13. For (gar) what is there wherein ye were inferior to the other Churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you?" The mere performance of signs and wonders did not constitute their equality; but in the possession of the Charismata -- regarding which so much is said in the first epistle, and which were the result of his preaching -- they were not inferior to the other Churches, and only inferior, Paul says with his fine irony, in not having, like the other Churches with their apostles, been called upon to acquire the merit of bearing his charges. What could be more distinct than the Apostle's opening address in the first Epistle: "I thank my God always, on your behalf, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything ye were enriched by him (at the time of their conversion), [767:1] in all utterance and in all knowledge -- even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you -- so that ye come behind in no gift (charismati)," etc.? For this reason they were not inferior to the other Churches, and those were the signs of the Apostle which were wrought in them. Paul very distinctly declares the nature of his ministry amongst the Corinthians and the absence of other "signs": 1 Cor. 1:22 f. "Since both Jews demand signs (sêmeia) and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we (hêmeis de) preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block and unto Gentiles foolishness, but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power (dynamin) of God and the wisdom of God." The contrast is here clearly drawn between the requirement of Jews (signs) and of Greeks (wisdom) and Paul's actual ministry; no signs, but a scandal (skandalon) to the Jew, and no wisdom, but foolishness to the Greek, but this word of the cross (logos ho tou staurou) "to us who are being saved is the power (dynamis) of God" (1:18). [767:2] The Apostle tells us what he considers the "sign of the Apostle," when, more directly defending himself against the opponents who evidently denied his Apostolic claims, he says vehemently: 1 Cor. 9:1 f. "Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an Apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal (sphragis) of my Apostleship are ye in the Lord." [768:1] It cannot, we think, be doubted, when the passage (2 Cor. 12:12) is attentively considered, that Paul does not refer to external miracles performed by him, but to the Charismata which he supposed to be conferred upon the Corinthian Christians on their acceptance of the Gospel which the Apostle preached. These Charismata, however, are advanced as miraculous, and the passages (1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29) are quoted in support of the statement we are discussing, and these now demand our attention.

It may be well at once to give the verses which are referred to, and in which it is said that Paul "goes somewhat elaborately into the exact place in the Christian economy that is to be assigned to the working of miracles and gifts of healing" (1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29). It is necessary for the full comprehension of the case that we should quote the context, 12:4. "Now there are diversities of gifts (charismatôn), but the same Spirit; 5. and there are diversities of ministries (diakoniôn), and the same Lord; 6. and there are diversities of workings (energêmatôn), but it is the same God who worketh the all in all (ho energôn ta panta en pasin): 7. But to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit (phanerôsis tou pneumatos) for profit; 8. For to one is given by the Spirit a word of wisdom (logos sophias); to another a word of knowledge (logos gnôseôs) according to the same Spirit; 9. to another faith (pistis) in the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings (charismata iamatôn) in the one Spirit; 10. to another (inward) workings of powers (energêmata dynameôn); to another prophecy (prophêteia); to another discerning of spirits (diakrisis pneumatôn); to another kinds of tongues (genê glôssôn); to another interpretation of tongues (ermêneia glôssôn); 11. but all these worketh (energei) the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each severally as he wills." After illustrating this by showing the mutual dependence of the different members and senses of the body, the Apostle proceeds: v. 28. "And God set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, after that powers (dynameis), after that gifts of healings (charismata iamatôn), helpings (antilêmpseis), governings (kubernêseis), kinds of tongues (genê glôssôn). 29. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all powers (dynameis)? 30. have all gifts of healings (charismata iamatôn)? do all speak with tongues (glôssais lalousin)? do all interpret (diermêneuousin)?"

Nature of the Charismata
Before we commence an examination of this interesting and important passage, it is essential that we should endeavour to disabuse our minds of preconceived ideas. Commentators are too prone to apply to the Apostle's remarks a system of interpretation based upon statements made by later and less-informed writers, and warped by belief in the reality of a miraculous element pervading all apostolic times, which have been derived mainly from post-apostolic narratives. What do we really know of the phenomena supposed to have characterised the Apostolic age, and which were later, and are now, described as miraculous? With the exception of what we glean from the writings of Paul, we know absolutely nothing from any contemporary writer and eye-witness. In the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles we have detailed accounts of many miracles said to have been performed by the Apostles and others; but these narratives were all written at a much later period, and by persons who are unknown, and most of whom are riot even affirmed to have been eye-witnesses. [769:1] In the Acts of the Apostles we have an account of some of the very Charismata referred to by Paul in the passage above quoted, and we shall thus have the advantage of presently comparing the two accounts. We must, however, altogether resist any attempt to insert between the lines of the Apostle's writing ideas and explanations derived from the author of the Acts and from patristic literature, and endeavour to understand what it is he himself says and intends to say. It must not be supposed that we in the slightest degree question the fact that the Apostle Paul believed in the reality of supernatural intervention in mundane affairs, or that he asserted the actual occurrence of certain miracles. Our desire is as far as possible to ascertain what Paul himself has to say upon specific phenomena, now generally explained as miraculous, and thus, descending from vague generalities to more distinct statements, to ascertain the value of his opinion regarding the character of such phenomena. It cannot fail to be instructive to determine something of the nature of Charismata from an eye- witness who believed them to have been supernatural. His account, as we have seen, is the most precious evidence of the Church to the reality of the miraculous.

The first point which must be observed in connection with the Charismata referred to by Paul in the passage before us is that, whilst there are diversities amongst them, all the phenomena described are ascribed to "one and the same Spirit dividing to each severally as he wills"; and, consequently, that, although there may be differences in their form and value, a supernatural origin is equally assigned to all the "gifts" enumerated. What, then, are these Charismata? "A word of wisdom," "a word of knowledge," and "faith" are the first three mentioned. What the precise difference was, in Paul's meaning, between the utterance of wisdom (sophia) and of knowledge (gnôsis) it is impossible now with certainty to say, nor is it very essential for us to inquire. The two words are combined in Rom. 11:33, "O the depths of the riches and wisdom (sophias) and knowledge (gnôseôs) of God!" and in this very Epistle seine varying use is made of both words. Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:17) that Christ did not send him "in wisdom of word" (ouk en sophia logou) or utterance: and (2:1) "not with excellency of word or wisdom" (logou ê sophias, cf. 2: 4); and further on he says (1: 30) that Christ Jesus "was made unto us wisdom (sophia) from God." The most suggestive expressions [770:1] are the following, we think: 1 Cor. 2:6. "But we speak wisdom (sophian) among the perfect, yet not the wisdom (sophian) of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, that come to nought, 7. but we speak God's wisdom (Theou sophian) in mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the ages unto our glory 8. which none of the rulers of this age has known, for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. 9. But as it is written, 'What eye saw not,' etc. 10. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit… 11.even so also the things of God knoweth no one but the Spirit of God. 12. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that are freely given us by God; 13. which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to the spiritual"  [770:2] (pneumatikois pneumatika synkrinontes).

It is quite clear from all the antecedent context that Paul's preaching was specially the Messiah crucified, "Christ the power of God and the wisdom (sophian) of God," and we may conclude reasonably that the logos sophias of our passage was simply the eloquent utterance of this doctrine. In like manner, we may get some insight into the meaning which Paul attached to the word "knowledge" (gnôsis). It will be remembered that at the very opening of the first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul expresses his thankfulness that in everything they were enriched in Christ Jesus: 1:5, "in all utterance (logô) and in all knowledge (gnôsei), 6. even as the testimony of the Christ was confirmed in you"; that is to say, according to commentators, by these very Charismata. Later, speaking of "tongues," he says (1 Cor. 14:6): "...What shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either in revelation or in knowledge (en gnôsei), or in prophecy, or in teaching?" We obtain a clearer insight into his meaning in the second Epistle, in the passage 2 Cor. 2:14-16, and still more in 4:3-6 and 10: 5, where he describes metaphorically his weapons as not carnal, but strong through God, "casting down reasonings and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of the Christ"; and if we ventured to offer an opinion, it would be that Paul means by logos gnôseôs simply Christian theology. We merely offer this is a passing suggestion. Little need be said with regard to the gift of "faith" (pistis), which is perfectly intelligible.

Apologists argue that by these three "gifts" some supernatural form of wisdom, knowledge, and faith is expressed, and we shall have something more to say on the point presently; but here we only point out that there is no ground for such an assertion except the fact that the Apostle ascribes to them a supernatural origin, or, in fact, believes in the, inspiration of such qualities. All that can be maintained is that Paul accounts for the possession of characteristics which we now know to be natural by asserting that they are the direct gift of the Holy Spirit. There is not the faintest evidence to show that these natural capabilities did not antecedently exist in the Corinthians, and were not merely stimulated into action in Christian channels by the religious enthusiasm and zeal accompanying their conversion; but, on the contrary, every reason to believe this to be the case, as we shall further see. [771:1] In fact, according to the Apostolic Church, every quality was a supernatural gift, and all ability or excellence in practical life directly emanated from the action of the Holy Spirit.

We may now proceed to "gifts of healings" (charismata iamatôn), [771:2] which it will be noted are doubly in the plural, indicating, as is supposed, a variety of special gifts, each having reference probably to special diseases. What is there to show that there was anything more miraculous in "gifts of healings" than in the possession of an utterance of wisdom, an utterance of knowledge, or faith? Nothing whatever. On the contrary, everything, from the unvarying experience of the world, to the inferences which we shall be able to draw from the whole of this information regarding the Charismata, shows that there was no miraculous power of healing either possessed or exercised. Reference is frequently made to the passage in the so-called Epistle of James as an illustration of this, 5:14: "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15. And the prayer of faith shall save the afflicted, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him." The context, however, not only shows that in this there is no allusion to any gift of healing or miraculous power, but seems to ignore the existence of any such gift. The Epistle continues: 5:16. "Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray for one another that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much when it is working." And then the successful instance of the prayer of Elijah, that it might not rain, and again that it might rain, is given. The passage is merely an assertion of the efficacy of prayer, and if, as is not unfrequently done, it be argued that the gifts of healing were probably applied by means of earnest prayer for the sick, it may be said that this is the only "gift" which is supposed to have descended to our times. It does not require much argument to show that the reality of a miraculous gift cannot be demonstrated by appealing to the objective efficacy of prayer. We may, in passing, refer Apologists who hold the authenticity of the Epistles to the Philippians and to Timothy to indications which do not quite confirm the supposition that a power of miraculous healing actually, existed in the Apostolic Church. In the Epistle to the Philippians, 2:25 f., Paul is represented as sending Epaphroditus to them (v. 26), "Since he was longing after you all and was distressed because ye heard that he was sick. (27) For, indeed, he was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him, therefore, the more anxiously, that, when ye see him, ye may rejoice again, and that I may be the less sorrowful." The anxiety felt by the Philippians, and the whole language of the writer, in this passage, are rather inconsistent with the knowledge that miraculous power of healing was possessed by the Church, and of course by Paul, which would naturally have been exerted for one in whom so many were keenly interested. Then, in 2 Tim. 4:20, the writer says, "Trophimus I left at Miletus sick." If miraculous powers of healing existed, why were they not exerted in this case? If they were exerted and failed for special reasons, why are these not mentioned? It is unfortunate that there is so little evidence of the application of these gifts. On the other hand, we may suggest that medical art scarcely existed at that period in such communities, and that the remedies practised admirably lent themselves to the theory of "gifts" of healings, rather than to any recognition of the fact that the accurate diagnosis of disease and successful treatment of it can only be the result of special study and experience.

The next gift mentioned is (v. 10) "workings of powers" (energêmata dynameôn), very unwarrantably rendered in our "authorised" version "the working of miracles." We have already said enough regarding Paul's use of dynamis. The phrase before us would be even better rendered in- or inward-workings of powers, [773:1] and the use made of energein by Paul throughout his Epistles would confirm this. It may be pointed out that, as the gifts just referred to are for "healings," it is difficult to imagine any class of "miracles" which could well be classed under a separate head as the special "working of miracles" contemplated by Apologists. Infinitely the greater number of miracles related in the Gospels and Acts are "healings" of disease. Is it possible to suppose that Paul really indicated by this expression a distinct order of "miracles" properly so-called? Certainly not. Neither the words themselves used by Paul, properly understood, nor the context, permit us to suppose that he referred to the working of miracles at all. We have no intention of conjecturing what these "powers" were supposed to be; it is sufficient that we show they cannot rightly be exaggerated into an assertion of the power of working miracles. It is much more probable that, in the expression, no external working by the gifted person is implied at all, and that the gift referred to "in-workings of powers" within his own mind, producing the ecstatic state, with its usual manifestations, or those visions and supposed revelations to which Paul himself was subject. Demoniacs, or persons supposed to be possessed of evil spirits, were called energoumenoi, and it is easy to conceive how anyone under strong religious impressions, at that epoch of most intense religious emotion, might, when convulsed by nervous or mental excitement, be supposed the subject of inward workings of powers supernaturally imparted. Every period of religious zeal has been marked by such phenomena. [773:2] These conclusions are further corroborated by the next gifts enumerated. The first of these is "prophecy" (prophêteia), by which is not intended the mere foretelling of events, but speaking "unto men edification and exhortation and comfort," as the Apostle himself says (14:3); and an illustration of this may be pointed out in Acts 4:36, where the name Barnabas = "Son of prophecy," being interpreted is said to be "Son of Exhortation" (uios paraklêseôs). To this follows the "discerning (or judging) of spirits" (diakrisis pneumatôn), a gift which, if we are to judge by Paul's expressions elsewhere, was simply the exercise of natural intelligence and discernment. In an earlier part of the first Epistle, rebuking the Corinthians for carrying their disputes before legal tribunals, he says, 6:5, "Is it so that there is not even one wise man among you who shall be able to discern (diakrinai) between his brethren?" Again, in 11:31, "But if we discerned (diekrinomen) we should not be judged (ekrinometha)" (cf. v. 28, 29), and in 14:29, "Let Prophets speak two or three, and let the others discern" (diakrinetôsan).

We reserve the "kinds of tongues" and "interpretation of tongues" for separate treatment, and proceed to verses 28 f., in which, after illustrating his meaning by the analogy of the body, the Apostle resumes his observations upon the Charismata, and it is instructive to consider the rank he ascribes to the various gifts. He classes them: "First Apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, after that powers, after that gifts of healings, helpings, governings, kinds of tongues." These so-called miraculous gifts are here placed in a lower class than those of exhortation and teaching, which is suggestive; for it is difficult to suppose that even a man like Paul could have regarded the possession of such palpable and stupendous power as the instantaneous and miraculous healing of disease, or the performance of other miracles, below the gift of teaching or exhortation. It is perfectly intelligible that the practice of medicine as it was then understood, and the skill which might have been attained in particular branches of disease by individuals, not to speak of those who may have been supposed to be performing miracles when they dealt with cases of hysteria or mental excitement, might appear to the Apostle much inferior to a gift for imparting spiritual instruction and admonition; but the actual possession of supernatural power, the actual exercise of what was believed to be the personal attribute of God, must have been considered a distinction more awful and elevated than any gift of teaching. It will be noticed also that other Charismata are here introduced, whilst "discerning of spirits" is omitted. The new gifts, "helpings" and "governings," have as little a miraculous character about them as any that have preceded them. Is it not obvious that all special ability, all official capacity, is simply represented as a divine gift, and regarded as a "manifestation of the Spirit"?

It is important in the highest degree to remember that the supposed miraculous Charismata are not merely conferred upon a few persons, but are bestowed upon all the members of the Apostolic Church. [775:1] "The extraordinary Charismata which the Apostles conferred through their imposition of hands," writes Dr. von Döllinger, "were so diffused and distributed that nearly every one, or at any rate many, temporarily at least, had a share in one gift or another. This was a solitary case in history, which has never since repeated itself, and which, in default of experience, we can only approximately picture to ourselves. One might say: the metal of the Church was still glowing, molten, formless, and presented altogether another aspect than, since then, in the condition of the cold and hardened casting." [775:2] The apologetic representation of the case is certainly unique in history, and, therefore, in its departure from all experience might well have excited suspicion. Difficult as it is to picture such a state, it is worth while to endeavour to do so to a small extent. Let us imagine communities of Christians, often of considerable importance, in all the larger cities as well as in towns, all or most of the members of which were endowed with supernatural gifts, and, amongst others, with power to heal diseases and to perform miracles; all the intellectual and religious qualities requisite for the guidance, edification, and government of the communities supplied abundantly and specially by the Holy Spirit; the ordinary dependence of society on the natural capacity and power of its leaders dispensed with, and every possible branch of moral culture and physical comfort provided with inspired and miraculously-gifted ministries; the utterance of wisdom and knowledge, exhortation and teaching, workings of healings, discernment of spirits, helpings, governings, kinds of tongues supernaturally diffused throughout the community by God himself. As a general rule, communities have to do as well as they can without such help, and eloquent instructors and able administrators do not generally fail them. The question, therefore, intrudes itself: Why were ordinary and natural means so completely set aside, and the qualifications which are generally found adequate for the conduct and regulation of life supplanted by divine Charismata? At least, we may suppose that communities endowed with such supernatural advantages, and guided by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, must have been distinguished in every way from the rest of humanity, and must have presented a spectacle of the noblest life, free from the weakness and inconsistency of the world, and betraying none of the moral and intellectual frailties of ordinary society. At the very least, and without exaggeration, communities in every member of which there existed some supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit might be expected to show very marked superiority and nobility of character.

Apparent effects of the Charismata
When we examine the Epistles of Paul and other ancient documents, we find anything but supernatural qualities in the Churches supposed to be endowed with such miraculous gifts. On the contrary, it is scarcely possible to exaggerate the intensely human character of the conduct of such communities: their fickleness; the weakness of their fidelity to the Gospel of Paul; their wavering faith, and the case and rapidity with which they are led astray; their petty strifes and discords; their party spirit; their almost indecent abuse of some of their supposed gifts, such as "tongues," for which Paul rebukes them so severely. The very Epistles, in fact, in which we read of the supernatural endowments and organisation of the Church are full of evidence that there was nothing supernatural in them. The primary cause, apparently, for which the first letter was written to the Corinthians was the occurrence of divisions and contentions amongst them (1:10 f.), parties of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, of Christ, which make the Apostle give thanks (1:14) that he had baptised but few of them, that no one might say that they were baptised into his name. Paul had not been able to speak to them as spiritual, but as carnal, mere babes in Christ (3:1 f.); he fed them with milk, not meat, for they were not yet able, "nor even now are ye able," he says, "for ye are yet carnal. For whereas there is among you envying and strife; are ye not carnal?" He continues in the same strain throughout the letter, admonishing them in no flattering terms. Speaking of his sending Timothy to them, he says (4:18 f.): "But some of you were puffed up, as though I were not coming to you; but I will come to you shortly, if it be the Lord's will, and will know, not the speech of them who are puffed up, but the power." There is serious sin amongst them, which they show no readiness to purge away. Moreover, these Corinthians have lawsuits with each other (6:1 f.), and, of taking advantage of those supernatural Charismata, they actually take their causes for decision before the uninspired tribunals of the heathen rather than submit them to the judgment of the saints. Their own members, who have gifts of wisdom and of knowledge, discerning of spirits and governings, have apparently so little light to throw upon the regulation of social life that the Apostle has to enter into minute details for their admonition and guidance. He has even to lay down rules regarding the head-dresses of women in the Churches (11:3 f.). Even in their very church assemblies there are divisions of a serious character amongst them (11:18 f.). They misconduct themselves in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, for they make it, as it were, their own supper, "and one is hungry and another is drunken." "What!" he indignantly exclaims, "have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the Church of God?" To the Galatians Paul writes, marvelling that they are so soon removing from him that called them in the grace of Christ unto a different Gospel (1:6). "O foolish Galatians," he says (3:1), "who bewitched you?" In that community, also, opposition to Paul and denial of his authority had become powerful.

If we turn to other ancient documents, the Epistles to the seven Churches do not present us with a picture of supernatural perfection in those communities, though doubtless, like the rest, they had received these gifts. The other Epistles of the New Testament depict a state of things which by no means denotes any extraordinary or abnormal condition of the members. We may quote a short passage to show that we do not strain this representation unduly. "But, certainly," says Dr. von Döllinger, "in spite of a rich outpouring of spiritual gifts vouchsafed to it, a community could fall into wanton error. Paul had in Corinth, contemporaneously with his description of the Charismatic state of the Church there, to denounce sad abuses. In the Galatian community Judaistic seduction, and the darkening of Christian doctrine through the delusion as to the necessity of the observance of the law, had so much increased that the Apostle called them fools and senseless; but, at the same time, he appealed to the proof which was presented by the spiritual gifts and miraculous powers, in which they had participated not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Now, at that time the Charismata of teaching and knowledge must already have been weakened or extinguished in these communities, otherwise so strong an aberration would not be explicable. Nowhere, however, in this Epistle is there any trace of an established ministry; on the contrary, at the close the "spiritual" among them are instructed to administer the office of commination. But, generally, from that time forward, the Charismatic state in the Church more and more disappeared, though single Charismata, and individuals endowed with the same, remained. In the first Epistle to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul had made it specially prominent that his Gospel had worked there not as mere word, but with demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit (1:5). In the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians there is no longer the slightest intimation of, or reference to, the Charismata, although in both communities the occasion for such an allusion was very appropriate -- in Philippi through the Jewish opponents, and in Colossae on account of the heretical dangers and the threatening Gnostic asceticism. On the other hand, in the Epistle to the Philippians bishops and deacons are already mentioned as ministers of the community. Then, in the Pastoral Epistles, not only is there no mention of the Charismata, but a state of the community is set forth which is wholly different from the Charismatic. The communities in Asia Minor, the Ephesian first of all, are partly threatened, partly unsettled by Gnostic heresies, strifes of words, foolish controversies, empty babbling about matters of faith, of doctrines of demons, of an advancing godlessness, corroding like a gangrene (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 6:3 f. 20, 2 Tim. 2:14 f). All the counsels which are here given to Timothy, the conduct in regard to these evils which is recommended to him, all is of a nature as though Charismata no longer existed to any extent, as though, in lieu of the first spiritual soaring and of the fulness of extraordinary powers manifesting itself in the community, the bare prose of the life of the Church had already set in." [778:1] Regarding this, it is not necessary for us to say more than that the representation which is everywhere made, in the Acts and elsewhere, and which seems to be confirmed by Paul, is that all the members of these Christian communities received the Holy Spirit, and the divine Charismata, but that nowhere have we evidence of any supernatural results produced by them. If, however, the view above expressed be accepted, the difficulty is increased; for, except in the allusions of the Apostle to Charismata, it is impossible to discover any difference between communities which had received miraculous spiritual "gifts" and those which had not done so. On the contrary, it might possibly be shown that a Church which had not been so endowed, perhaps, on the whole, exhibited higher spiritual qualities than another which was supposed to possess the Charismata. In none are we able to perceive any supernatural characteristics, or more than the very ordinary marks of a new religious life. It seems scarcely necessary to depart from the natural order of nature, and introduce the supernatural working of a Holy Spirit to produce such common-place results. We venture to say that there is nothing to justify the assertion of supernatural agency here, and that the special divine Charismata existed only in the pious imagination of the Apostle, who referred every good quality in man to divine grace.

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