Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus


Interview the Fourth.—Peter at Antioch.—Deputies to Antioch from Jerusalem, Judas and Silas.—Paul disagrees
with Peter and Barnabas, quits Antioch, and on a Missionary Excursion takes with him Silas.
What concerns the Partition Treaty, down to this Period, reviewed.—Peter and the Apostles justified.



We now come to the last of the four different and more or less distant occasions on which a personal intercourse, in some way or other, is recorded as having had place, between Paul on the one part, and the Apostles or some of them on the other, antecedently to that, on which Paul's history, so far as any tolerably clear, distinct, and material, information has descended to us, closes. Of this interview, the scene lies at Antioch: Peter having, for some consideration no otherwise to be looked for than by conjecture, been led to pay a visit, to that place of Paul's then habitual abode, after, and, as seems probable, in consequence of, Paul's third recorded visit to Jerusalem—his Deputation Visit.

Let us now cast an eye on the documents. Respecting[Pg 250] Paul's disagreement with Peter, the only one we have, is that which has been furnished us by Paul himself. It consists of the following passage in his Epistle to his Galatians.

GALATIANS 2:11 to 16.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.—For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.—And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.—But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?—We who are Jews by nature and not sinners of the Gentiles,—knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Let us now see the account, given in the Acts, of what passed in Antioch, in relation to Paul, Barnabas and Silas,—during a period, which seems to be either the same, or one in contiguity with it, probably antecedent to it.

ACTS 15:35 to 41.

Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord with many others also.—And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren, in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.—And Barnabas determined to take with them John whose surname was Mark.—But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.—And the contention[Pg 251] was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark and sailed unto Cyprus;—And Paul chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.—And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

With regard to Paul's separation from Barnabas, departure from Antioch, and taking Silas for a companion,—we have nothing from Paul himself: nothing, from any other source, than, as above, the Acts.

In Paul's account, however, may be seen a passage, Gal. 2:13, by which some light is thrown upon the breach of Paul with Barnabas. In the Acts, though the "contention" is said to be "sharp," no cause is stated for it, other than a difference respecting the choice of a companion: namely, on an excursion, which they are represented as having agreed to make, in the company of each other, as before.

But, according to Paul, he had had cause of complaint, against his old friend Barnabas, on another account. Barnabas had sided with the Apostles: Barnabas had been "carried away with their dissimulation"; by the dissimulation of those Apostles of Jesus, the virtuous simplicity of the self-constituted Apostle, so he desires his Galatian disciples to believe, had been foiled.

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In no place can this man exist, but to exercise hostility or provoke it: with no man can he hold intercourse, without acting towards him, if not in the character of a despot, in that either of an open and audacious, or in that of a secret adversary, or both. Against Peter, at Jerusalem, in his Deputation Visit, he is intriguing, while he is bargaining with him. With the same Peter, when arrived at Antioch, he quarrels: for, at Antioch, Peter was but a visitor—a stranger; Paul, with Barnabas for his constant supporter, was on his own ground: no betrayed rulers there to fear—no persecuted Christians. He quarrels—so he himself informs his Galatians—he quarrels with the chief of the Apostles: he "withstands him to his face." Why? because, forsooth, "he was to be blamed." In conclusion, to such a pitch,—by the degree of success, whatever it was, which by this time he had experienced,—to such a pitch of intemperance, had his mind swelled—he quarrels even with Barnabas: with Barnabas—in all his three antecedent visits to Jerusalem, his munificent protector, and steady adherent: with that Barnabas, in whose company, and under whose wing, one of his missionary excursions had already been performed. Acts 11:19-27; Ib. 2:37-40.

At Antioch, the number of his competitors could not but be considerable: at Antioch, the number of years, which he appears to have passed in that city,[Pg 253] considered,—the number of his enemies could not be small. He accordingly plans, and executes, a new missionary excursion. He stands now upon his own legs: no Barnabas now,—no necessary protector, to share with him in his glory: to share with him, in equal or superior proportion, in the profit of his profession: in that profit, the image of which, in all its shapes, was flitting before his eyes,—and which we shall accordingly see him gathering in, in such unequalled exuberance. He now looks out for a humble companion—an assistant: he finds one in Silas: that Silas, whom, with Judas Barsabas, we have seen come to Antioch, deputed by the Apostles and their disciples, to conclude, in that second metropolis, the negotiation, commenced in the first metropolis of the new Christian world. Deserter from the service in which he was sent, Silas enlists in that of the daring and indefatigable adventurer. Thus much, and no more, do we learn concerning him: for, in the picture drawn in the Acts, no character is given to him, except the being found in company with Paul, in some of the places which Paul visits: except this exercise of the locomotive faculty, nothing is there to distinguish him from the common stock of still-life.

From this fourth recorded epoch in the intercourse between Paul and the Apostles, we now pass to that which stands fifth and last, to wit: that which was produced by his fourth and last visit to Jerusalem:—his Invasion Visit, A.D. 62.

In the interval, come four years,—occupied by a series of successive excursions and sojournments,—in the course of which, all mention of Silas is dropped, without remark: dropped, in the same obscure and inexplicit manner, in which the historian affords to the reader, supposing him endowed with[Pg 254] the requisite degree of attention, the means of discovering, Acts 16:10, that not long after the commencement of this same period, the historian himself, whoever he was, was taken into the train of the self-constituted Apostle. To the reader is also left the faculty, of amusing himself in conjecturing, about what time, and in what manner, this latter event may have taken place; an event, from which such important consequences have resulted.

Of these portions of Paul's life, some view will come to be taken, in a succeeding chapter, under another head:—under the head of Paul's supposed miracles: for, it is in the account given of his achievements and adventures, and of the transactions in which, in the course of this period, he was engaged,—it is in the course of this account, that we shall have to pick up, the supposed accounts of supposed miracles, which, in this part of the Acts history lie interspersed. This review must of necessity be taken, for the purpose of placing in a true light, the evidence, supposed to be thus afforded, in support of his claims to a supernatural commission.

To this change of connection on the part of Silas,—from the service of the Apostles of Jesus to that of the self-constituted Apostle,—the character of defection on the part of Silas,—seduction on the part of Paul,—may here be ascribed without difficulty. By the Apostles, one Gospel was preached—the Gospel of Jesus:—we see it in the Evangelists. By Paul, another and different Gospel was preached:—a Gospel, later and better, according to him, than that which is to be seen in the Evangelists:—a Gospel of his own. If, even down to this time, mutual prudence prevented an open and generally conspicuous rupture,—there was on his part, at any rate, an opposition. If, to men, whose conduct and temper were[Pg 255] such as they uniformly appear to have been,—any such word as party can, without disparagement, be applied, here were two parties. He, who was for the self-constituted Apostle, was against the Apostles of Jesus. In a word, in the language of modern party, Silas was a rat.



In regard to the Partition Treaty,—taking the matter from Paul's first, or Reconciliation Visit, A.D. 35, to his departure from Antioch, on his missionary excursion, after the interview he had had at that city with Peter,—the state of the affairs, between Paul and the Apostles, seems to have been thus:—

1. On the occasion, and at the time, of his first Jerusalem Visit—his Reconciliation Visit—a sort of reconciliation—meaning at least an outward one—could not,—consistently with the whole train, of what is said of his subsequent intercourse and interviews with the Apostles,—could not but have taken place.

2. Of this reconciliation, the terms were—that, on condition of his preaching in the name of Jesus,—they would not, to such persons in Jerusalem and elsewhere, as were in connection with them,—speak of him any longer in the character of a persecutor: for, by his disobedience and breach of trust, as towards the Jerusalem constituted authorities,—such he had put it out of his power to be any longer: not speak of him as a persecutor, but, on the contrary, as an associate:—he taking up the name of Jesus:[Pg 256] and preaching—never in his own, but on every occasion in that holy, name.

3. On this occasion,—it being manifest to both parties, that, by his intimate acquaintance with the Greek language, and with the learning belonging to that language, he was in a peculiar degree well qualified to spread the name of Jesus among the Gentiles in general;—that is, among those to whom the Jewish was not a vernacular language;—whereas their acquaintance with language was confined to their own, to wit, the Jewish language;—on this occasion, it followed of course, from the nature of the case, and almost without need of stipulation, that,—leaving to them, for the field of their labours, Jerusalem, and that part of the circumjacent country, in which the Jewish alone was the language of the bulk of the population,—he should confine his exertions, principally if not exclusively, to those countries, of which Greek was, or at any rate Hebrew was not, the vernacular language.

To him, at that time, it was not in the nature of the case, that absentation from Jerusalem, or any part of the country under the same dominion, should be matter of regret. Within that circle, he could not, for any length of time, abide publicly, for fear of the legal vengeance of the constituted authorities: nor yet among the Christians; although from their chiefs he had obtained, as above, a sort of prudential endurance; considering the horror, which his persecution of them had inspired, and the terror, with which, until his conversion had been proved in the eyes of all by experience, he could not as yet fail to be regarded.

Whatever was the object of his concupiscence,—whether it were the fund—and we have seen how attractive the bait was—which, at that time, in that[Pg 257] metropolis of the Christian world, offered itself to an ambitious eye,—still, though his opportunities had as yet confined his exertions to the second city in that increasing world, his eyes never ceased looking to the first.

Twice, accordingly, between the first of his Visits,—his Reconciliation Visit—and this his last interview with Peter,—we see him visiting that inviting spot: each time, protected and escorted by the munificent Barnabas and his influence—to make him endurable: each time with a public commission—to make him respected:—- the first time with money in his hand—to make him welcome.

That, all this while, neither good faith nor prudence were capable of opposing to the violence of his ambition, any effectual check,—- is abundantly manifest.

That good faith was not, we learn distinctly from himself. For though, from the very nature of the two correlative situations, it is out of all question, as above, that, without some agreement to the effect above mentioned, he could not, even with the benefit of every possible means of concealment, have been preserved for two days together from the vengeance which pressed upon him, from below as well as from above; yet still was he, by his secret intrigues, Gal. 1:11, violating the treaty, at the expense of those upright, patient, and long-suffering men, to whose observance of it, he was every day indebted for his life.

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Of the financial stipulation, the account we have has been seen:—an account given by one of the parties to it—Paul:—the other party being—the Apostles. In the instance of Paul, in the demonstration, supposed to be given of it, the worldliness, of the motives which gave birth to it, has in a manner been taken for granted. Well, then, if in the one instance such was the character of it,—in the other instance, can it have been any other? The question is a natural one; but not less so is the answer. For note, the stipulation is express—that, by Paul—by Paul out of the profits of his vocation—the poor, meaning the poor of Jerusalem—the poor among the disciples of the Apostles—should be remembered. Remembered, and how? Remembered, by payment of the money—into the hands, either of the Apostles themselves, or, what comes to the same thing, some other persons, in connection with them, and acting under their influence. Now, then, once more. Of the man, by whom the money was to be paid—of this man, the motives, you say, were worldly: is it credible then, that they should have been less so, in the instance of the men by whom they were to be received?

Answer. Oh! yes, that it is. Between the two cases, there is this broad difference. Whatever Paul might receive, he would receive for himself: whatever,[Pg 259] after payment made, under the treaty, to the use of the Jerusalem poor, he retained,—he might retain for his own use. But the Apostles—that which, if anything, they received, in the name of the poor, and as for the use of that same poor,—would they—could they, for their own use, retain it, or any part of it? Not they, indeed. Not in their hands were the poor's funds: not in theirs, but in a very different set of hands:—in the hands of a set of trustees—of the trustees already mentioned in this work, Ch. 2—of those administrators, whose function, to every reader who has not the Greek original in view, is so unfortunately disguised by the word Deacons. And these deacons, by whom appointed? By the Apostles? No; but, by the whole communion of the saints—by the whole number of the members of the Christian commonwealth;—and in the way of free election,—election, on the principle of universal suffrage. Monarchists and Aristocrats! mark well!—of universal suffrage.

So much for the treaty itself. Now, as to the subsequent conduct of the parties, under it, and in relation to it. As to the partition—Paul to the Gentiles, Peter and his associates to the Jews—such was the letter of it. Such being the letter—what, at the same time, was the spirit of it? Manifestly this: on the one hand, that the field, to which Paul's exertions should apply themselves, and confine themselves, should be that field, for the cultivation of which, with any prospect of success, he was exclusively qualified: on the other hand, that the field, to which their exertions should apply themselves and confine themselves, should be that, for the cultivation of which, they were—if not exclusively, at any rate more peculiarly, qualified. In a word—that, of all that portion of the world, that presented itself as open to the[Pg 260] exertions, of those who preached in the name of Jesus,—they should reserve to themselves that part which was already in their possession, to wit, Jerusalem, and its near neighbourhood, together with such parts of Judea, and its neighbourhood, of which their own language, the Hebrew, was the vernacular language: this minute portion of the world reserved, all the rest was to be left open to him: over every other part of it he was to be at liberty to cast forth his shoe. Judea—the country of the Jews? say, rather, the Jews themselves:—the Jews wherever found: for, revelation apart, it was in language, that Paul's pretensions—his exclusive qualifications—consisted. The Apostles spoke nothing but Hebrew: Paul was learned, and eloquent, in a certain sort, in Greek.

In regard to the interpretation to be put upon this treaty,—suppose any doubt to have place,—in the word Gentile, would obviously the seat and source of it to be to be found. Suppose, on the one hand persons to be the objects, of which it was meant to be designative,—then, let there be but so much as one single uncircumcised man in Jerusalem, or elsewhere,—to whom, in the view of gaining him over to their communion, the Apostles, or, with their cognizance, any of their disciples, addressed themselves,—here would, on their part, be a breach of the treaty. Suppose, on the other hand, places to be the objects, of which it was meant to be designative,—on that supposition, within that tract of country, within which alone, the necessary means, of communicating with the bulk of the population, were in their possession,—they might apply themselves, to all persons without restriction: and this, still without any real breach of the agreement—of the spirit and real import of the agreement.

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In respect either of persons or places, by the agreement, according to this—the obvious sense of it—what was it that Paul gave up? In truth, just nothing. Had his mind been in a sober state,—strange indeed, if the field thus afforded by the whole heathen world, was not wide enough for his labour: in all parts of it he could not be at once; and the most promising parts were open to his choice. Cessation of Paul's hostilities excepted, what was it that the Apostles gained? Not much more.

As already observed—what was not gained by it, is what is above: what was really gained by it, is what follows.

What Paul gained was—exemption from the annoyance, which otherwise he would everywhere have been exposed to have received, by being designated as the quondam notorious persecutor, and still unreconciled enemy, of the Apostles and their disciples:—in a word, of all others who preached in the name of Jesus.

That which the Apostles actually gained, was—that confirmation and extension of their influence, which followed of course, upon every extension, received by that field, within which the influence of the name of Jesus was extended.

That which, besides what is above, they ought to have gained, but did not gain, is—exemption from all such annoyance, as could not but be inflicted on them, in proportion as Paul, preaching to persons, to whom they had access, a Gospel which was his, and not theirs,—should, while in pretence and name an associate, be, in truth and effect, an adversary and opponent.

This is what—though they not only should have gained, but might also reasonably have expected to gain—they did not gain. For, not to insist any more[Pg 262] on his secret intrigues in Jerusalem itself, and his open opposition in the second Jerusalem, Antioch, as above; we shall—when we come to the next and last of his interviews with the Apostles on the occasion of his Invasion Visit—see, to what lengths the madness of his ambition carried him, in that birthplace and metropolis of the Christian world.

By the sort of connection, which, notwithstanding such obvious and naturally powerful principles of discrimination, have on each occasion, been visible, as between the undoubted Apostles, and this self-styled one—three distinguishable questions cannot but, from time to time, have been presenting themselves:—1. The sort of countenance—partial, cold, and guarded as it was—shown by the old established and goodly fellowship to the ever-intruding individual—is it credible? 2. Can it, in fact, have been manifested, in conjunction with a disbelief, on their part, of his pretensions to a degree of supernatural favour with the Almighty, equal or superior to their own? 3. And, if not only possible, but actual—was it, in point of morality, justifiable?

By a few obvious enough considerations, an answer—and, it is hoped, a not altogether unsatisfactory one,—may be given to all these questions.

As to whatever was natural in the course of the events, Barnabas was necessary to the rising Church: and Paul was, all along, necessary, or, at least, was so thought, to Barnabas.

1. Barnabas was necessary to the Church. Already, it has been seen, how preeminent was the support received by it from his munificence. In him, it had found at once the most liberal of benefactors, and, unless Peter be an exception, the most indefatigable of agents. On the part of no one of even the chosen servants of Jesus, do proofs of equal zeal and activity present themselves to our view.

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In an ensuing chapter, we shall see Peter trying his strength among the Gentiles. Yet, from the direction thus given to his Apostolic zeal, no violation of the treaty, it will be seen, can with justice be imputed to him, if the interpretation above given to the word Gentiles be correct.

1. In the first place,—according to the Acts, the date of this excursion is antecedent to that third interview, which took place on the occasion of Paul's third Jerusalem Visit—his Deputation Visit: that is to say, to the time, at which, and not before, though, if the above reasoning be just, in a sort of general terms the preliminaries had been agreed upon, the general preliminary arrangements were followed, confirmed, explained, and liquidated, by more particular ones.

2. In the next place—of all the places,—which, in the course of this excursion of Peter's, are mentioned as having been visited by him,—there is not one, that Paul is mentioned as having ever visited: whereas, in the first of them that is mentioned, the Apostles are mentioned as having already a band of disciples.[42]

3. In the third place,—the date, assigned to this excursion of Peter's, is, by several years, antecedent even to the first, of the several excursions of Paul's, of which mention is made in the Acts. In the received chronology—date assigned to the commencement of Peter's excursion, A.D. 35; date assigned to Paul's first excursion, A.D. 45.

While Peter was thus occupying himself, Paul was still at Tarsus:[43] at Tarsus—his own birthplace—whereto,—in consequence of the danger, to which his life had been exposed by his first Jerusalem Visit, his Reconciliation Visit,—he had taken his flight.[44]

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4. In the fourth place,—notwithstanding the perpetual hostility of Paul's mind, as towards Peter and the rest of the Apostles,—on no occasion, on the score of any breach of this article in the partition treaty, is any complaint, on the part of Paul, to be found. When dissatisfaction is expressed, doctrine alone is mentioned by him as the source of it: doctrine, the ostensible; dominion, the original and real source.

Spite of the treaty,—spite of the manifest interest, of the only genuine religion of Jesus—the Gospel taught by the Apostles,—still in places to which they had access—in places in which, in consequence, they had formed connections,—he persisted in intruding himself: intruding himself, with that Gospel which he says himself, was his, not theirs—and not being theirs, was not Jesus's:—intruding himself, in places, in which, even had his Gospel been Jesus's, their connections being established, there existed no demand for him and his. Can this be doubted of? If yes, all doubt will at any rate be removed, when,—spite of all the endeavours that could be employed, either by them or by his own adherents, to prevail upon him to desist,—we shall see him entering Jerusalem on his Invasion Visit: as if, while, for preaching the religion of Jesus, all the world, with the exception of the Jewish part of it, was not enough for this intruder,—the Apostles of Jesus—eleven in number, with their elected associate, Matthias,—were not, all together, enough, for that small part of it.

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The name he preached in, that indeed not his own, but Jesus's: but the doctrine he preached—the Gospel, as he called it—not Jesus's, nor anybody else's, but his own. All this, as he has the assurance to declare,—all this did he preach without their knowledge. And why without their knowledge? because, as he himself has the still more extraordinary assurance to declare—for confession is the result not of assurance, but weakness—because, as he himself acknowledges,—if so it had been, that this Gospel of his had come to the knowledge of the Apostles—of those associates, to whom he was all along holding out the right hand of fellowship, this Gospel of his could not have been listened to—this preaching of his would have been in vain.

Already, however—for in this he may be believed—already, throughout this first intercourse, though the expression is not used till he came to speak of the third,—already must the right hand of fellowship have been held out, and on both sides: and, what followed of course,—and was not only affirmed by his statement, but demonstrated by the result,—on this last occasion was the treaty again brought upon the carpet and confirmed, after such modifications as it may naturally have received, from the consideration of intervening incidents.

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[42] Acts 9:32. "And it came to pass, as Peter passed through all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda."

[43] Acts 11:25. "Then departed Barnabas for to seek Saul." A.D. 43.

[44] Acts 9:30, "Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cęsarea and sent him forth to Tarsus."

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