The Cradle of the Christ: A Study in Primitive Christianity by Frothingham, Octavius Brooks
Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
THE CRADLE OF THE CHRIST.
A STUDY IN PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY.
BY OCTAVIUS BROOKS FROTHINGHAM.
NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS. 182 FIFTH AVENUE. 1877.
COPYRIGHT, G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS. 1877.
The literary intention of this volume is sufficiently declared in the opening paragraph, and need not be foreshadowed in a preface; but as the author's deeper motive may be called in question, he takes the liberty to say a word or two in more particular explanation. The thought has occurred to him on reading over what he has written, as a casual reader might, that, in his solicitude to make his positions perfectly clear, and to state his points concisely, he may have laid himself open to the charge of carrying on a controversy under the pretence of explaining a literature. Such a reproach, his heart tells him, would be undeserved. He disclaims all purpose and desire to weaken the moral supports of any form of religion; as little purpose or desire to undermine Christianity, as to revive Judaism. It is his honest belief that no genuine interests of religion are compromised by scientific or literary studies; that religion is independent of history, that Christianity is independent of the New Testament. He is cordially persuaded that the admission of every one of his conclusions would leave the institutions of the church precisely, in every spiritual respect, as they are; and in thus declaring he has no mental reserve, no misty philosophical meaning that preserves expressions while destroying ideas; he uses candid, intelligible speech. The lily's perfect charm suffers no abatement from the chemist's analysis of the slime into which it strikes its slender root; the grape of the Johannisberg vineyards is no less luscious from the fact that the soil has been subjected to the microscope; the fine qualities of the human being, man or woman, are the same on any theory, the bible theory of the perfect Adam, or Darwin's of the anthropoid ape. The hero is hero still, and the saint saint, whatever his ancestry. We reject the inference of writers like Godfrey Higgins, Thomas Inman, and Jules Soury, who would persuade us that Christianity must be a form of nature-worship, because nature-worship was a large constituent element in the faiths from which it sprung; why should we not reject the inference of those who would persuade us that Christianity is doomed because the four gospels are pronounced ungenuine? Christianity is a historical fact; an institution; it stands upon its merits, and must justify its merits by its performances; first demonstrating its power, afterward pressing its claim; vindicating its title to exist by its capacity to meet the actual conditions of existence, and then asking respect the ground of good service. The church that arrogates for itself the right to control the spiritual concerns of the modern world must not plead in justification of its pretension that it satisfied the requirements of devout people of another hemisphere, two thousand years ago. The religion that fails to represent the religious sentiments of living men will not support itself by demonstrating the genuineness of the New Testament, the supernatural birth of Jesus, or the inspiration of Paul. Other questions than these are asked now. When a serious man wishes to know what Christianity has to say in regard to the position of woman in modern society, a quotation from a letter to the christians in the Greek city of Corinth, is not a satisfactory reply. Christianity must prove its adaptation to the hour that now is; its adaptation to days gone by, is not to the purpose.
The church of Rome had a glimpse of this, and revealed it when it took the ground that the New Testament did not contain the whole revelation; that the source of inspiration lay behind that, used that as one of its manifestations, and constantly supplied new suggestions as they were needed. Cardinal Wiseman did not hesitate to admit that the doctrine of trinity was not stated in the New Testament, though undoubtedly a belief of the church. It would have been but a step further in the same direction, if Dr. Newman should declare that the critics might have their way with the early records of the religion, which, however curious as literary remains, were not essential to the constitution or the work of the church. Strauss and Renan may speculate and welcome; the mission of the church being to bless mankind, their labors are innocent. A church that does not bless mankind cannot be saved by Auguste Nicolas; a church that does bless mankind cannot be injured by Ernest Renan.
Leading protestant minds, without making so much concession as the church of Rome, have practically accepted the position here maintained. It is becoming less common, every day, to base the claims of Christianity on the New Testament. The most learned, earnest, and intelligent commend their faith on its reasonableness, confronting modern problems in a modern way. St. George Mivart quotes no scripture against the doctrine of evolution. No one reading Dr. McCosh on the development hypothesis, would suppose him to be a believer in the inspiration of the bible. He reasons like a reasonable man, meeting argument with argument, feeling disposed to confront facts with something harder than texts. The well instructed christian, if he enters the arena of scientific discussion at all, uses scientific weapons, and follows the rules of scientific warfare. The problems laid before the modern world are new; scarcely one of them was propounded during the first two centuries of our era; not one was propounded in modern terms. The most universal of them, like poverty, vice, the relations of the strong and the weak, present an aspect which neither church, Father, nor Apostle would recognize. Whatever bearing Christianity has on these questions must be timely if it is to be efficacious.
The doctrine of christian development, as it is held now by distinguished teachers of the christian church, implying as it does incompleteness and therefore defect in the antecedent stages of progress points clearly to the apostolic and post apostolic times as ages of rudimental experience, tentative and crude. Why should not the entertainers of this doctrine calmly surrender the records and remains of the preparatory generations to antiquarian scholars who are willing to investigate their character? No discovery they can make will alter the results which the centuries have matured. They will simply more clearly exhibit the process whereby the results have been reached.
We may go further than this, and maintain that the unreserved abandonment to criticism of the literature and men of the early epochs would be a positive advantage to Christianity, for thereby the religion would be relieved from a serious embarrassment. The duty, assumed by christians, of vindicating the truth of whatever is found in the New Testament imposes grave difficulties. It is safe to say that a very large part of the disbelief in Christianity proceeds from doubts raised by Strauss, Renan, and others who have cast discredit on some portions of this literature. Christians have their faith shaken by those authors; and doubtless some who are not christians are prejudiced against the religion by books of rational criticism. The romanist, failing to establish by the New Testament, or by the history of the first two centuries, the primacy of Peter, the supremacy of Rome, the validity of the sacraments, the divine sanction of the episcopacy, loses the convert whom the majestic order of the papacy might attract. The protestant, failing to prove by apostolic texts his cardinal dogmas, pre-destination, atonement, election, must see depart unsatisfied, the inquirer whom a philosophical exposition might have won. The necessity of justifying the account of the miraculous birth of Jesus repels the doubter whom a purely intellectual conception of incarnation might have fascinated; and the obligation to believe the story of a physical resurrection is an added obstacle to the reception of a spiritual faith in immortality. Scholarship has so effectually shown the impossibility of bringing apostolical guarantee for the creed of christendom, that the creed cannot get even common justice done it while it compromises itself with the beliefs of the primitive church. The inspiration of the New Testament is an article that unsettles. Naturally it is the first point of attack, and its extreme vulnerability raises a suspicion of weakness in the whole system. The protestant theology, as held by the more enlightened minds, is capable of philosophical statement and defence; but it cannot be stated in New Testament language, or defended on apostolical authority. The creed really has not a fair chance to be appreciated. Its power to uphold spiritual ideas, and develop spiritual truths; its speculative resources as an antagonist of scientific materialism, animal fatalism, and sensualism, are rendered all but useless. Powerful minds are fettered, and good scholarship is wasted in the attempt to identify beginnings with results, roots with fruits.
This is a consideration of much weight. When we remember how much time and concern are given to the study of the New Testament for controversial or apologetic purposes, to establish its genuineness, maintain its authority, justify its miracles, explain away its difficulties, reconcile its contradictions, harmonize its differences, read into its texts the thoughts of later generations, and then reflect on the lack of mind bestowed on the important task of recommending religious ideas to a world that is spending enormous sums of intellectual force on the problems of physical science and the arts of material civilization, the close association of the latest with the earliest faith seems a deplorable misfortune. If there ever was a time when the purely spiritual elements in the religion of the foremost races of mankind should be developed and pressed, the time is now; and to miss the opportunity by misplacing the energy that would redeem it is anything but consoling to earnest minds.
Thus might reason a full believer in the creed of christendom, a devoted member of the church; Greek, Roman, German, English. The man of letters viewing the situation from his own point, will, of course, feel less intensely the mischiefs entailed by the error; but the error will be to him no less evident. It is sometimes, in war, an advantage to lose outworks that cannot be defended without fatally weakening the line, drawing the strength of the garrison away from vulnerable points, and exposing the centre to formidable assault. The present writer, though no friend to the christian system, believes himself to be a friend of spiritual beliefs, and would gladly feel that he is, by his essay, rather strengthening than weakening the cause of faith, by whatever class of men maintained.
I. FALSE POSITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
II. THE MESSIAH.
III. THE SECTS.
IV. THE MESSIAH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
V. THE FIRST CHRISTIANS.
VI. PAUL'S NEW DEPARTURE.
VII. THE LAST GOSPEL.
VIII. THE WESTERN CHURCH.
FALSE POSITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The original purpose of this little volume was to indicate the place of the New Testament in the literature of the Hebrew people, to show in fact how it is comprehended in the scope of that literature. The plan has been widened to satisfy the demands of a larger class of readers, and to record more fully the work of its leading idea. Still the consideration of the New Testament literature is of primary importance. The writer submits that the New Testament is to be received as a natural product of the Hebrew genius, its contents attesting the creative power of the Jewish mind. He hopes to make it seem probable to unprejudiced people, that its different books merely carry to the last point of attenuation, and finally exhaust the capacity of ideas that exerted a controlling influence on the development of that branch of the human family. To profundity of research, or originality of conclusion, he makes no claim. He simply records in compact and summary form, the results of reading and reflection, gathered in the course of many years, kept in note books, revised year by year, tested by use in oral instruction, and reduced to system by often repeated manipulation. The resemblance of his views, in certain particulars, to those set forth by German critics of the school of Strauss or of Baur, he is at no pains to conceal. His deep indebtedness to them, he delights to confess. At the same time he can honestly say that he is a disciple of no special school, writes in the interest of no theory or group of theories, but simply desires to establish a point of literary consequence. All polemic or dogmatical intention he disavows, all disposition to lower the dignity, impair the validity, or weaken the spiritual supports of Christianity. His aim, truly and soberly speaking, is to set certain literary facts in their just relation to one another.
It has not been customary, nor is it now customary to assign to the New Testament a place among the literary productions of the human mind. The collection of books bearing that name has been, and still is regarded by advocates of one or another theory of inspiration, as of exceptional origin, in that they express the divine, not the human mind; being writings super-human in substance if not in form, containing thoughts that could not have occurred to the unaided intelligence of man, neither are amenable to the judgment of uninspired reason. To read this volume as other volumes are read is forbidden; to apply to it ordinary critical methods is held to be an impertinence; to detect errors or flaws in it, as in Homer, Plato, Thucydides, is pronounced an unpardonable arrogance. A book that contains revelations of the supreme wisdom and will must be accepted and revered, must not be arraigned.
Criticism has therefore, among believers chiefly we may almost say solely, been occupied with the task of establishing the genuineness and authenticity of the writings, harmonizing their teachings, arranging their contents, explaining texts in accordance with the preconceived theory of a divine origin, vindicating doubtful passages against the objections of skeptics, and extracting from chapter and verse the sense required by the creed. Literature has been permitted to illustrate or confirm points, but has not been called in to correct, for that would be to judge the infinite by the finite mind.
In accordance with this accepted view of the New Testament as a miraculous book, students of it have fallen into the way of surveying it as a detached field, unconnected by organic elements with the surrounding territory of mind; have examined it as if it made no part of an extensive geological formation, as men formerly took up an aërolite or measured a boulder. The materials of knowledge respecting the book have been sought within the volume itself, neither Greek, Roman, German nor Englishman presuming to think that a beam from the outside world could illumine a book
Which gives a light to every age, Which gives, but borrows none.
The rationalists it is needless to say, avoided this error, but they betrayed a sense of the peril arising from it, in the polemical spirit that characterized much of their writing. In Germany, the tone of rationalism was more sober and scientific than elsewhere, because biblical questions were there discussed in the scholastic seclusion of the University, in lectures delivered by learned professors to students engaged in pursuits purely intellectual. The lectures were not addressed to an excitable multitude, as such discourses are, to a certain extent, in France or England, and particularly in America, and consequently stirred no religious passions. The books published were read by a small class of specialists who studied them as they would treatises in any other department of ancient literature. Nearly half a century ago the disbelief in miracles, portents, and supernatural interventions, was entertained and published by German university professors; stories of prodigies were discredited on the general ground of their incredibility, and the books that reported them were set down as untrustworthy, whatever might be the evidence of their genuineness. A miraculous narrative was on the face of it unauthentic. Efforts were accordingly made to bring the New Testament writings within the categories of literature. Criticism began the task by applying rules of "natural" interpretation to the legendary portions, thus abolishing the supernatural peculiarity and leaving the merely human parts to justify themselves. The method was the best that offered, but it was unscientific; "unnaturally natural;" confused from the necessity of supplementing knowledge by conjecture, and faulty through the amount of arbitrary supposition that had to be introduced. Attention was directed to the historical or biographical aspect of the books, and only incidentally to their literary character, as productions of their age.
The method pursued by Strauss was strictly scientific and literary, though on the surface it seemed to be concerned with biographical details. By treating the narratives of miracles as mythical rather than as legendary, as intellectual and dogmatic rather than as fanciful or imaginary creations, and by tracing their origin to the traditionary beliefs of the Old Testament, he ran both literatures together as one, showing the new to be a continuation or reproduction of the old. The construction, otherwise, of the New Testament literature concerned him but incidentally. The first "Life of Jesus," published in part in 1835, was devoted to the discussion of the gospels as books of history. The second--a revision--was published in 1864, contained a much larger proportion of literary matter in the form of documentary discussion, made frequent references to Baur, and other writers of the Tübingen School, and attached great weight to their conclusions. In the "Old and the New Faith," published nearly ten years later, the main conclusions of Baur are adopted as the legitimate issue of literary criticism, though without attempt at formal reconciliation with his own original view.
Baur's method was original with himself. He finds the key to the secret of the composition of the first three Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and portions of other books, in the quarrel between Paul and Peter feelingly described in the second chapter of the letter to the Galatians. The "synoptical" Gospels, he contends, and with singular ingenuity argues, are the results of that controversy between the broad and the narrow churches; are not, therefore, writings of historical value or biographical moment, but books of a doctrinal character, not controversial or polemical,--mediatorial and conciliatory rather than aggressive,--but written in a controversial interest, and intelligible only when read by a controversial light. Baur called his the "historical" method, as distinguished from the dogmatical, the textual, the negative; because his starting point was a historical fact, namely, the actual dispute recorded, in language of passionate earnestness, by one of the parties to it, and distinctly confessed in the attitude of the other. But Baur's method has a still better title to be called literary, for it is concerned with the literary composition of the New Testament writings, and with the dispute as accounting for their existence and form. His studies on the fourth Gospel, and on the life and writings of the Apostle Paul, are admirable examples of the unprejudiced literary method; by far the most intelligent, comprehensive and consistent ever made; simply invaluable in their kind. They contain all that is necessary for a complete _rationale_ of the New Testament literature. These, taken in connection with his "History of the First Three Centuries," his "Origin of the Episcopate," his "Dogmengeschichte," put the patient and attentive student in possession of the full case. But Baur lacked constructive talent of a high order, and has been less successful than inferior men in embracing details in a wide generalization.
Renan adopts the method of the early rationalists, but applies it with a freedom and facility of which they were incapable. He takes up the Gospels as history, and sifts the literature in order to get at the history. He claims to possess the historical sense, by virtue of which he is able to separate the genuine from the ungenuine portions of the Gospels. It is a point with him to show how the character of Jesus was moulded by the spirit of his age, and by the literature on which he was nurtured; but his treatment of the evangelical narratives as a mass of biographical notes reflecting, with more or less correctness, the personality of Jesus, is not quite compatible with a rational or even a literary treatment of them as a continuation of the traditions of the Hebrew people. The constructive force being centred in Jesus himself, the full recognition of the creative genius of the Hebrew mind, which was illustrated in Jesus and his age, was precluded. Renan is in a measure compelled to make Jesus a prodigy--an exceptional person, who baffles ordinary standards of judgment; and in so doing distorts the connection between him, the generations that went before, and the generations that came after. Strauss does more justice to the New Testament literature, in attempting only its partial explanation. Baur does more justice to it in seeking a literary explanation of the writings as they are. Renan picks and chooses according to our arbitrary criterion, which capriciously disports itself over a field covered with promiscuous treasures.
Lord Amberley's more recent attempt reveals the weakness of the common procedure. Without the learning of Strauss, the perspicacity of Baur, or the brilliant audacity of Renan, he strays over the field, making suggestions neither profound nor original, and rather obliterating the distinct impressions his predecessors have made than making new ones of his own. His chapter on Jesus will illustrate the confusion that must issue from a false method, which does not deserve to be called a method at all.
Books have been written about the New Testament by the thousand--libraries of books; but they merely supplant and refute one another. Each is entitled to as much consideration as the rest, and to no more. The old materials are turned over and over; the texts are subjected to new cross-examinations; the chapters and incidents are shuffled about with fresh ingenuity; new suppositions are started; new combinations are made; but all with no satisfactory result. Whether it be Auguste Nicolas, who reconstructs the Gospels to justify the predispositions of Romanism; or Edmond de Pressensé, who does the same service for liberal Protestantism; or Henry Ward Beecher, who constructs a Christ out of the elements of an exuberant fancy; or William Henry Furness, who is certain that "naturalness" furnishes the touchstone of historical truth; the conclusion is about equally inconclusive.
The literary method avoids the dogmatical embarrassments incident to the supernatural theory; offers easy solutions of difficult problems; connects incidents with their antecedents; interprets dark sayings by the light of association; and places fragments in the places where they belong. An exhaustive application of this treatment would probably explain every passage in the New Testament writings. A partial application of it like the present will indicate at least some of the capacities of the method.
The literary treatment differs from the dogmatical represented by the older theologians who used the New Testament as a text book of doctrine; from the purely exegetical or critical, which consisted in the impartial examination of its separate parts; from the destructive or decomposing treatment pursued by the so-called "rationalism;" and from the "historical," as employed by Baur and the "Tübingen school." It is in some respects more comprehensive and positive than either of these, while in special points it adopts all but the first. Every other method presents a controversial face, and is something less than scientific, by being to a certain degree inhospitable. This consults only the laws which preside over the literary expression given to human thoughts.
It has been customary with christians to widen as much as possible the gulf between the Old and the New Testaments, in order that Christianity might appear in the light of a fresh and transcendent revelation, supplementing the ancient, but supplanting it. The most favorable view of the Old Testament regards it as a porch to the new edifice, a collection of types and foregleams of a grandeur about to follow. The Old Testament has been and still is held to be preparatory to the New; Moses is the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. The contrast of Law with Gospel, Commandment with Beatitude, Justice with Love, has been presented in every form. Christian teachers have delighted to exhibit the essential superiority of Christianity to Judaism, have quoted with triumph the maxims that fell from the lips of Jesus, and which, they surmised, could not be paralleled in the elder Scriptures, and have put the least favorable construction on such passages in the ancient books as seemed to contain the thoughts of evangelists and apostles. A more ingenuous study of the Hebrew Law, according to the oldest traditions, as well as its later interpretations by the prophets, reduces these differences materially by bringing into relief sentiments and precepts whereof the New Testament morality is but an echo. There are passages in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, even tenderer in their humanity than anything in the gospels. The preacher from the Mount, the prophet of the Beatitudes, does but repeat with persuasive lips what the law-givers of his race proclaimed in mighty tones of command. Such an acquaintance with the later literature of the Jews as is readily obtained now from popular sources, will convince the ordinarily fair mind that the originality of the New Testament has been greatly over-estimated. Even a hasty reading of easily accessible books, makes it clear that Jesus and his disciples were Jews in mind and character as well as by country and race; and will render it at least doubtful whether they ever outgrew the traditions of their birth. Paul's claim to be a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin," is found to be more than justified by his writings; and even John's exalted spirituality proves to be an aroma from a literature which Christianity disavows. The phrases "Redemption," "Grace," "Faith," "Baptism," "Salvation," "Regeneration," "Son of Man," "Son of God," "Kingdom of Heaven," are native to this literature, and as familiar there as in gospel or epistle. The symbolism of the Apocalypse, Jewish throughout, with its New Jerusalem, its consecration of the number twelve,--twelve foundations, twelve gates, twelve stars, twelve angels,--points to deeper correspondences that do not meet the eye, but occur to reflection. We remember that the New Testament constantly refers to the Old; that great stress is laid on the fulfilment of ancient prophecies; that Jesus explicitly declares, at the opening of his ministry, that he came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to reaffirm and complete them, saying with earnest force "till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled." We discover that his criticisms bore hard on the casuists who corrupted the law by their glosses, but were made in the interest of the original commandment, which had been caricatured. In a word, so completely is the space between the old dispensation and the new bridged over, that the most delicate and fragile fancies, the lightest imagery, the daintiest fabrics of the intellectual world are transported without rent or fracture, across the gulf opened by the captivity, and the deserts caused by the desolating quarrels that attended the new attempts at reconstruction, while the massive ideas that lie at the foundation of Hebraic thought, wherever found, are landed without risk or confusion in the new territory. Between the Jewish and the Christian scriptures there is not so much as a blank leaf.
If this can be made apparent without over-stating the facts, everything in the New Testament, from the character of Jesus, and the constitution of the primitive church, to the later development by Paul, and the latest by John, must be subjected to a revision, which though fatal to Christianity's claim to be a special revelation, will restore dignity to the Semitic character, and consistency to the development of historic truth. Better still, it will heal the breach between two great religions, and will contribute to that disarmament of faiths from which good hearts anticipate most important results. Of all this hints only can be given in a short essay like this; but if the hints are suggestive in themselves or from their arrangement, a service will be rendered to the cause of truth that may deserve recognition.
The period of the captivity in Babylon, which is commonly regarded as a period of sadness and desolation, a blank space of interruption in the nation's life, was, in reality, a period of intense mental activity; probably the highest spiritual moment in the history of the people. Dispossessed of their own territory, relieved of the burden and freed from the distraction of politics, their disintegrating tribal feuds terminated by foreign conquest, living, as unoppressed exiles, in one of the world's greatest cities, with opportunities for observation and reflection never enjoyed before, having unbroken leisure in the midst of material and intellectual opulence, the true children of Israel devoted themselves to the task of rebuilding spiritually the state that had been politically overthrown. The writings that reflect this period, particularly the later portions of Isaiah, exhibit the soul of the nation in proud resistance against the unbelief, the disloyalty, the worldliness, that were demoralizing the less noble part of their countrymen. The duty was laid on them to support the national character, revive the national faith, restore the national courage, and rebuild the national purpose. To this end they collected the traditions of past glory, gathered up the fragments of legend and song, reanimated the souls of their heroes and saints, developed ideas that existed only in germ, arranged narratives and legislation, and constructed an ideal state. There is reason to believe that the real genius of the people was first called into full exercise, and put on its career of development at this time; that Babylon was a forcing nursery, not a prison cell; creating instead of stifling a nation. The astonishing outburst of intellectual and moral energy that accompanied the return from the Babylonish captivity attests the spiritual activity of that "mysterious and momentous" time. When the hour of deliverance struck, the company of defeated, disheartened, crushed, to all seeming, "reckless, lawless, godless" exiles came forth "transformed into a band of puritans." The books that remain from those generations, Daniel, the Maccabees, Esdras, are charged with an impetuous eloquence and a frenzied zeal.
The Talmud, that vast treasury of speculation on divine things, had its origin about this period. Recent researches into that wilderness of thought reveal wonders and beauties that were never till recently divulged. The deepest insights, the most bewildering fancies, exist there side by side. The intellectual powers of a race exhausted themselves in efforts to penetrate the mysteries of faith. The fragments of national literature that had been rescued from oblivion, were pondered over, scrutinized, arranged, classified, with a superstitious veneration that would not be satisfied till all the possibilities of interpretation had been tried. The command to "search the scriptures" for in them were the words of eternal life, was accepted and faithfully obeyed. "The Talmud" says Emanuel Deutsch, "is more than a book of laws, it is a microcosm, embracing, even as does the Bible, heaven and earth. It is as if all the prose and poetry, the science, the faith and speculation of the old world were, though only in faint reflections, bound up in it _in nuce_." The theme of discussion, conjecture, speculation, allegory was, from first to last, the same,--the relation between Jehovah and his people, the nature and conditions of salvation, the purport of the law, the bearing of the promises. The entire field of investigation was open, reaching all the way from the number of words in the Bible to the secret of infinite being. No passage was left unexposed with all the keenness that faith aided by culture could supply; and when reason reached the end of its tether, fancy took up the work and threaded with unwearied industry the mazes of allegory.
Among the problems that challenged solution was the one touching the Messiah, his attributes and offices, his nature and his kingdom. This theme had inexhaustible capacities and infinite attraction, for it was but another form of the theme of national deliverance which was uppermost in the Hebrew mind.
The history of the Messianic idea is involved in the obscurity that clouds the early history of Israel; and this again is embarrassed with the extreme difficulty of deciding the antiquity of the Hebrew scriptures. At what moment was Israel fully persuaded of its providential destiny? That is the question. For the germs of the Messianic idea were contained in the bosom of that persuasion. That the idea was slow in forming must be conceded under any estimate of its antiquity; for its development depended on the experiences of the nation, and these experiences underwent in history numerous and violent fluctuations. The hope of a deliverer came with the felt need of deliverance, and the consciousness of this need grew with the soreness of the calamity under which the nation groaned, as the character of it was determined by the character of the calamity. The national expectation was necessarily vague at first. It rested originally on the tradition of a general promise given to Abraham that his descendants should be a great and happy nation, blessing and redeeming the nations of the earth; that their power should be world-wide, their wealth inexhaustible, their peace undisturbed, their moral supremacy gladly acknowledged. "The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face; they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thy hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord, and walk in his ways; and all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord."
As a promise made by Jehovah must be kept, the anticipation of its fulfilment became strong as the prospect of it grew dim. The days of disaster were the days of expectation. The prophets laid stress on the condition, charged the delay upon lukewarmness, and urged the necessity of stricter conformity with the divine will; but the people, oblivious of duty, held to the pledge and cherished the anticipation. When the national hope assumed the concrete form of faith in the advent of an individual, when the conception of the individual became clothed in supernatural attributes, is uncertain. Probably the looked-for deliverer was from the first regarded as more than human. It could hardly be otherwise, as he was to be the representative and agent of Jehovah, an incarnation of his truth and righteousness. The Hebrews easily confounding the human with the super-human, were always tempted to ascribe supernatural qualities to their political and spiritual leaders, believing that they were divinely commissioned, attested and furthered; and the person who was to accomplish what none of them had so much as hopefully undertaken, would naturally be clothed by an enthusiastic imagination, with attributes more than mortal. The poets depicted the stories of the future restoration in language of extraordinary splendor. Joel, some say eight hundred years before Jesus, two hundred years before the first captivity, foreshadows the restoration, but without any portraiture of the victorious Prince. A century and a half later we will suppose, the first Isaiah speaks of the providential child of the nation, on whose shoulder the government shall rest, whose name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty Potentate, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; whose dominion shall be great, who shall fix and establish the throne and kingdom of David, through justice and equity for ever, and in peace without end; a lineal descendant from David, a sprout from his root.
"The spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, "The spirit of wisdom and understanding, "The spirit of counsel and might, "The spirit of knowledge and fear of Jehovah. "Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, "And faithfulness the girdle of his reins; "To him shall the nation repair, "And his dwelling place shall be glorious."
The second Isaiah, supposed to have written during the exile and not long before its termination, associates the hope of restoration and return with king Cyrus, on whose clemency the Jews built great expectations, intimating even that he might be the promised deliverer. "He saith of Cyrus: 'He is my shepherd; he shall perform all my pleasure.' He saith of Jerusalem: 'She shall be built;' and of the temple: 'Her foundation shall be laid.'"
In the book of Daniel, by some supposed to have been written during the captivity, by others as late as Antiochus Epiphanes (B. C., 175), the restoration is described in tremendous language, and the Messiah is portrayed as a supernatural personage, in close relation with Jehovah himself. He is spoken of as a man, yet with such epithets as only a Jewish imagination could use in describing a human being. Heinrich Ewald, in the fifth volume of his history of the people of Israel, devotes twenty-three pages to an account of the development of the national expectation of a Messiah, which he calls "the second preparatory condition of the consummation in Jesus." After alluding to Joel's fervent anticipation, and Isaiah's description of the glory that was to come through the King, in whom the spirit of pure divinity penetrated, animated and glorified everything, so that his human nature was exalted to the God-like power, whose actions, speech, breath even attested deity, he says: "It is not to be questioned that this most exalted form of the conception of the anticipated Messiah appeared in the midst of the latter period of this history, when before the great victory of the Maccabees, the eternal hopes of Israel were disturbed in their foundations along with its political prospects, and the advent of a King of David's line seemed wholly impossible. At this time the deathless hope became more interior and imperishable in this new, glorious, celestial idea, and the Messiah presented himself before prophetic vision as existing from all eternity, along with the indestructible prerogatives of Israel, which were thought of as existing in an ideal realm, ready to manifest themselves visibly when the hour of destiny should come. And we are able, on historical grounds, to assume that the deep-souled author of the book of Daniel, was the man who first sketched the splendid shape of the Messiah, and the superb outline of his kingdom, in his far-reaching, keen, suggestive, luminous phrases; while immediately after him the first composer of our book of Enoch developed the traits furnished him, with an equal warmth of language and a spiritual insight, not deeper perhaps, but quieter and more comprehensive." Ewald supposes the book of Enoch to have been written at various intervals between 144 and 120 (B. C.) and to have been completed in its present form in the first half of the century that preceeded the coming of Christ. The book was regarded as of authority by Tertullian, though Origen and Augustine classed it with apocryphal writings. In it the figure of the Messiah is invested with super-human attributes. He is called "The Son of God," "whose name was spoken before the sun was made;" "who existed from the beginning in the presence of God," that is, was pre-existent. At the same time his human characteristics are insisted on. He is called "Son of Man," even "Son of Woman," "The Anointed," "The Elect," "The Righteous One," after the style of earlier Hebrew anticipation. The doctrines of angelic orders and administrations, of Satan and his legions, of resurrection and the final judgment, though definitely shaped, perhaps by association with Persian mythologies, lay concealed in possibility within the original thought of ultimate supremacy which worked so long and so actively, though so obscurely, in the mind of the Jewish race.
The books of Maccabees, belonging, according to Ewald, to the last half century before Christ, contain significant hints of the future beliefs of Israel. In the second chapter of II. Maccabees, verses 4-9, we read: "It is also found in the records that Jeremy the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain where Moses climbed up and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremy came thither he found a hollow cave wherein he laid the tabernacle and the ark and the altar of incense, and then stopped the door. And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it; which, when Jeremy perceived, he blamed them, saying: As for that place it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy. Then shall the Lord show them these things, and the glory of the Lord shall appear, and the cloud also, as it was showed unto Moses." Is it a stretch of conjecture on the tenuous thread of fancy to find this reappearance described in Revelations XI., 19, in these words: "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in the temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail?" In the twenty-first chapter the seer describes himself as "carried away in the spirit to a great and high mountain" and shown "that great city the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven, from God." And he heard a great voice out of heaven, saying: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men; He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, their God." The heavenly Jerusalem that came from the clouds is the heavenly city, the germ whereof was carried up and hidden in the cloud by Jeremy, the prophet. The apocryphal books of the Old Testament lodge the ancient Hebraic idea in the very heart of the New.
The earliest phases of the Messianic hope were the most exalted in spirituality. As the fortunes of the people became entangled with those of other states, and the heavy hand of foreign oppression was laid upon them, the anticipation lost its religious and assumed a political character. The Messiah assumed the aspect of a temporal prince, no other conception of him meeting the requirements of the time. The dark days had come again, and were more threatening than ever. Sixty-three years before the birth of Jesus, Pompey the Great, returning from the East, flushed with victory, approached Jerusalem. The city shut its gates against him, but the resistance, though stubborn, was overcome at last, and Judæa was, with the rest of the world, swept into the mass of the Roman empire. The conqueror, proud but magnanimous, spared the people the last humiliation. He respected no national scruples, perhaps made a point of disregarding them; he even penetrated into the Holy of Holies, a piece of sacrilegious audacity that no Gentile had ventured on before him; but he was considerate of the national spirit in other respects, and left the State, in semblance at least, existing. He quelled the factions that distracted the country, repaired the ruin caused in the city by the siege, restored the injured temple, and departed leaving the country in the hands of native rulers, the Empire being thrown into the background. In the background, however, it lurked, a vast power, holding Judæa dependent and tributary. The Jewish state was closely bounded and sharply defined; a portion of its wealth was absorbed in taxes. An iron arm repressed the insurgent fanaticism that ever and anon broke out in zeal for Jehovah. The loyalty that was kept alive by religious traditions and was only another name for religious enthusiasm, was not allowed expression. Still the even pressure of imperial power was not cruelly felt, and by the better portion of the people was preferred to ceaseless discord and anarchy. The lower orders, easily roused to fanaticism, provoked the Roman rule to more evident and stringent dominion. Julius Cæsar, passing by on his way to Egypt, paused, saw the situation, and increased the authority of Antipater, his representative, whom he raised to the dignity of Procurator of Judæa. The rule of Antipater was, in the main, just, and commended itself to the rational friends of the Jewish State. He rebuilt the wall which the assaults of war had thrown down, pacified the country, and earned by his general moderation the praise of the patriotic. But Antipater, besides being the representative of a Gentile despotism, was of foreign race, an Idumæan, of the abhorred stock of Edom. Spiritual acquiescence in the rule of such a prince was not to be expected.
Antipater was the founder of the Herodian dynasty. Whatever may have been the ulterior designs which the princes of this dynasty had at heart, whether they meditated an Eastern Empire centering in Palestine, Jerusalem being the great metropolis, a purpose kept secret in their breasts till such time as events might justify them in throwing off the dominion of Rome which they had used as an assistance in their period of weakness; or whether they hoped to combine Church and State in Judæa in such a way that each might support the other; or whether, in their passion for splendor, they plotted the subversion of religion by the pomp of pagan civilization; the practical result of their dominion was the exasperation of the Hebrew spirit.
Herod, the son of Antipater, deserved, on several accounts, the title of Great that history has bestowed on him. He was great as a soldier, great as a diplomatist, great as an administrator. Made king in his youth; established in his power by the Roman senate; confirmed in his state by Augustus; entrusted with all but unlimited powers; absolved from the duty to pay tribute to the empire; his long reign of more than forty years was of great moment to the Jewish state. Internally he corrupted it, but externally he beautified it. The superb temple, one of the wonders and ornaments of the Eastern world, was of his building, and so delicately as well as munificently was it done, that the shock of removing the old edifice to make room for the new was quite avoided. He adorned the city besides, with sumptuous monuments and structures. His palaces, theatres, tombs were of unexampled magnificence. Nor was his attention confined to the city of Jerusalem; Cæsarea was enriched with marble docks and palaces; Joppa was made handsome; Antonia was fortified. Games and feasts relieved the monotony of Eastern life, and gratified the Greek taste for splendid gaiety. But this was all in the interest of paganism. If he rebuilt the temple at Jerusalem, he rebuilt also the temple at Samaria. If he made superb the worship of Jehovah in the holy city, he encouraged heathen worship in the new city of Cæsarea. This introduction of Roman customs deeply offended the religious sense of the nation. Outside the city walls he had an amphitheatre for barbarous games. Inside, he had a theatre for Greek plays and dances. The castle, Antonia, well garrisoned, a castle and a palace combined, commanded the temple square. The Roman eagle, fixed upon the front of the temple, was an affront that no magnificence or munificence could atone for. His private life was not calculated to win the favor of a severely puritanical people, or persuade them of the advantage of being under imperial dominion. The Greek legends on his coins, his ostentatious encouragement of foreign usages and people, his rude treatment of Hebrew prejudices, and his haughty bearing towards the "first families" added bitterness to the misery of foreign sway.
Yet the situation became worse at his death. For his successors had his audacity without his prudence, and were disposed, as he was, to be oppressive, without being, as he was, magnificent. He did keep the nation at peace by his tyranny, if by his cruelty he undermined security and provoked the disaffection that made peace impossible after him. The last acts ascribed to him, the order that the most eminent men of the nation should be put to death at his decease, and that the infants of Bethlehem, the city of David, should be massacred, attest more than the vulgar belief in his cruelty; they bear witness to a conviction that the spirit of the people was not dead, that the despotism of Rome had failed to crush the hope of Israel. The death of Herod, which occurred when Jesus was a little child, was followed by frightful social and political convulsions. For two or three years all the elements of disorder were afoot. Between pretenders to the vacant throne of Herod, and aspirants to the Messianic throne of David, Judæa was torn and devastated. Revolt assumed the wildest form, the higher enthusiasm of faith yielded to the lower fury of fanaticism; the celestial visions of a kingdom of heaven were completely banished by the smoke and flame of political hate. Claimant after claimant of the dangerous supremacy of the Messiah appeared, pitched a camp in the wilderness, raised the banner, gathered a force, was attacked, defeated, banished or crucified; but the frenzy did not abate. Conservative Jews, in their despair, sent an embassy to Rome, praying for tranquility under the equitable reign of law. They wanted no king like Herod, or of Herod's line; they prayed to be delivered from all kings who were not themselves subject to imperial responsibility. The governor of Syria they would acknowledge. The petition was not granted. Herod's three sons, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip divided their father's dominion between them; Judæa was made a Roman province, subject to taxation like any other.
The best of the three kings was Philip, who received as his portion the North Eastern division, the most remote from the centre of disturbance. He was a quiet, well-disposed man, who staid at home, attended to his own business, developed the resources of his dominion, and showed himself a father to his people. Cæsarea Philippi was built by him; Bethsaida was rebuilt. Antipas, called also Herod, was appointed ruler over Galilee and Peræa; a cunning, unprincipled man, nicknamed "the fox;" despotic and wilful, like his father, and like his father, fond of display. He built Dio Cæsarea, as it was afterwards called, and Tiberias, on the sea of Galilee. He too was a good deal of a pagan, and deeply outraged the Hebrew conscience by repudiating his wife, the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king, and marrying the wife of his half-brother, Philip. He was an oriental despot, superstitious, luxurious, sensual, wilful and weak; quite destitute of the statesmanship required in the ruler of a turbulent province, where special care and skill were necessary to reconcile the order of civil government with the aspiration after theocratic supremacy. The spiritual fear, which compelled him to stand in awe of religious enthusiasm, put him on more than half earnest quest of prophetic messengers, made him curious about miracles and signs, and anxious not to offend needlessly the higher powers, was incessantly at war with the self-regarding policy which resented the smallest encroachment on his own authority. To maintain his ducal state, and meet the cost of his public and private extravagance, he imposed heavy taxes, and collected them in an unscrupulous fashion, which made him and the empire he represented extremely unpopular. Jealous of his prerogative, and ambitious of regal rank, he brought himself into disagreeable collision with the aspirations of the people he governed. His immediate neighborhood to the centres of Jewish enthusiasm,--he lived in the very heart of it, for Galilee was the seat and head-quarters of Hebrew radicalism--made his every movement felt. In him the spirit of the Roman empire was, in the belief of the people, incarnate.
The oldest brother, Archelaus, held the chief position, bore the highest title, received the largest tribute, more than a million of dollars, and resided in Judæa, nearer the political centre of the country. His reign was short. His cruelty and lawlessness, his disregard of private and public decencies raised his subjects against him. Augustus, on an appeal to Rome for redress, summoned him to his presence, listened to the charges and the defence, and banished him to Gaul. This was in the year 6 of our era, only three years after the death of Herod. The reign of his brothers, Philip and Antipas, covered the period of the life of Jesus.
The "taxing" which excited the wildest uproar against the Roman power, took place at this period,--A. D. 7,--under Cyrenius or Quirinus, governor of Syria; it was the first general tax laid directly by the imperial government, and it raised a furious storm of opposition. The Hebrew spirit was stung into exasperation; the puritans of the nation, the enthusiasts, fanatics, the zealots of the law, the literal constructionists of prophecy, appealed to the national temper, revived the national faith, and fanned into flame the combustible elements that smouldered in the bosom of the race. A native Hebrew party was formed, on the idea that Judæa was for the Jews; that the rule of the Gentile was ungodly; that all support given to it was disloyalty to Jehovah. The popular feeling broke out in open rebellion; the fanaticism of the "zealots" affected the whole nation. Whoever had the courage to draw the sword in the name of the Messiah was sure of a following, though there was no chance that the uprising would end in anything but blood and worse oppression. The most extravagant expectations were cherished of miraculous furtherance and super-human aid. The popular imagination, inflamed by rhetoric taken from Daniel, Enoch, and other apocryphal books, went beyond all sober limits. The primary conditions of divine assistance, sanctity, fidelity, patience, meekness of trust, reverence for the Lord's will, were neglected and forgotten; the promise alone was kept in view; the word of Jehovah was alone remembered; his command was disregarded. But the Lord's promise was not kept. Every new uprising was followed by fresh impositions; the detestable dominion was fastened upon the people more hopelessly than ever. The temper of the domination became bitter and contemptuous, as it had not been before. The name of Jew was synonymous to Roman ears with vulgar fanaticism.
In place of Archelaus, Augustus sent procurators, as they were called, Coponius, Marcus Ambivius, Annius Rufus. The country was generally tranquil under their short administrations; but the internal feuds were not pacified. The enthusiasm of the Jews provoked the malignity of the Samaritans, who, having been longer wonted to foreign rule, less resented it, and were not unwilling to put themselves in league with the despot to crush an ancient foe. It is related that during the administration of Coponius, some evil-minded Samaritans, stole into the open temple of Jerusalem, on the passover night, and threw human bones into the holy place. The building was desecrated for the season and must be purified by special sacrifices before it could be used again. The dastardly act was associated, in the minds of the people, with the insulting degradations of the Gentile power, and the spirit of rebellion was exasperated.
Augustus died A. D. 14, and was succeeded by Tiberius, whose policy towards Judæa, was not oppressive so much as contemptuous. He was too merciful to the "sick man" to drive away the carrion flies that were already surfeited, and let in a fresh swarm of blood-suckers. His viceroys enjoyed a long term of office and plundered at leisure. Pontius Pilate was appointed to this position in the year 26, about four years before the public appearance of Jesus, and was kept there till the year 37. He was, in many respects, a good administrator: overbearing, of course, for he was a Roman; his subjects were by nature, irritating, and by reputation, factious. He was greedy of gain, though not rapacious or extortionate; not a man of high principle; not a sympathetic or sentimental man, cold, indifferent, apathetic rather; still, moderate, and, on the whole, just; liable to mistakes through stubbornness and imprudence, but neither cruel, jealous, nor vindictive. The reputation of being all these was easily earned by a man in his position; for the Jews were sensitive, not easily satisfied, and disposed to construe unfavorably any acts of a foreign ruler. As viceroys went, Pilate was not a bad man, nor was he a bad specimen of his class. The smallest imprudence might precipitate riot in Jerusalem. On one occasion, the troops from Samaria, coming to winter at Jerusalem, were allowed to carry, emblazoned on their banner, the image of the emperor, to which the Roman soldiers attached a sacred character. The sight of the idolatrous standard on the morning of its first exhibition created great excitement. A riot broke forth at once; a deputation waited on the governor at Cæsarea, to protest against the outrage and demand the removal of the sacrilege. Pilate firmly withstood the supplicants, thinking the honor of the emperor at stake. Five days and five nights the petitioners stayed, pressing their demand. On the sixth day, the governor, wearied by their importunity and resolved to put an end to the annoyance, had his judgment-seat placed on the race-course, ordered troops to lie concealed in the near neighborhood, and awaited the visit of the Jews. The deputation came as usual with their complaint; at a signal, the soldiers appeared and surrounded the suppliants, while the procurator threatened them with instant death, if they did not at once retire to their homes. The stern puritans, nothing daunted, threw themselves at his feet, stretched out their necks, and cried: 'It were better to die than to submit to insult to our holy laws.' The astonished governor yielded, and the insignia were removed.
On another occasion Pilate was made sensible of the inflammable character of the people with whom he had to deal. He had allowed the construction, perhaps only the restoration, of a costly aqueduct to supply the city, but more especially the temple buildings, with pure water. It was built at the instance of the Sanhedrim and the priests, to whom an abundance of water was a prime necessity. In consideration of this fact, as well as of the circumstance that the benefit of the improvement accrued wholly to the Jewish people, it seemed to Pilate no more than just that the expense should be defrayed from moneys in the temple treasury that were set apart for such purposes. There is no evidence that his action was unreasonable or his method of pursuing it offensive; but clamors at once arose against his project, and on occasion of his coming to Jerusalem a tumultuous crowd pressed on him, and insulting epithets were flung at him from the rabble. To still and scatter them soldiers were sent, in ordinary dress, with clubs in their hands, their weapons being concealed, to overawe the malcontents. This failing, and the tumult increasing, the signal of attack was given; the soldiers fell to with a will; blood was shed; innocent and guilty suffered alike. As this occurred on a feast day, near the Prætorium, and not far from the temple itself, it is quite possible that the sacred precincts were disturbed by the uproar, and that the stain of blood touched consecrated pavement. The popular mind, excited and maddened, seized on the occurrence, represented it as a deliberate affront on the part of the governor, and charged him with mingling the blood of innocent people with the sacrifices they were offering to Jehovah. It is not unlikely that the "tower of Siloam" which fell, crushing eighteen citizens, was a part of this very aqueduct wall, and its fall may have been and probably was, regarded as a judgment on the work and on all who countenanced it. That it made a profound impression on the popular imagination appears in the gospel narratives written many years afterwards. Ewald supposes that this accident happened at an early stage of the work, and was a leading cause of the fanatical outbreak that expressed the popular discontent.
Philo tells a story of Pilate's administration, so characteristic that it deserves repeating, although, as Ewald remarks, it may be another version of the incident of the standards. Ewald, however, is inclined to think it a distinct occurrence. According to this narrative, Pilate, in honor of the emperor, and in accordance with a custom prevalent throughout the empire, especially in the East, caused to be set up in a conspicuous place in Jerusalem, two votive shields of gold, one bearing the name of Tiberius, the other his own. The shields had nothing on them but the names; no image, no inscription, no idolatrous emblem, simply the two names. But even this was resented by the fiery populace who could not endure the lightest intimation of their subjection to a Gentile power. The indignation reached the aristocracy; at least, the force of the movement did; and the sons of Herod, all four of them, accompanied by members of the first families and city officials, formally waited on Pilate to demand the removal of the tablets, and on his refusal went to Rome to lay the matter before Tiberius, who granted, on his part, the request. Be the incident as recorded true or not, the record of it by so near a contemporary and so clear a judge as Philo, throws a strong light on the situation, brings the two parties into bold relief, as they confront one another, and affords a glimpse into the secret workings of Hebrew political motives.
The pressure of the Roman authority was incessant and severe, though the apparatus of it was kept in the background. The governor held his court and head-quarters at Cæsarea, a seaport town on the Mediterranean, about mid-way between Joppa on the south, and the promontory of Carmel on the north, admirably situated with regard to Rome, on the one side, and Palestine on the other. For strategic purposes the place was well chosen. The military force in the country was not large--about a thousand men--but it was effectively disposed. The castle of Antonia, in the city of Jerusalem, contained a garrison judiciously small, but sufficient for an exigency. The viceroy was present in the Holy City on public days when great assemblages of people, gathered together under circumstances provocative of insurrection, required closer watch than usual. He had a residence there, and a judgment-seat on a marble balcony in front of the palace; he exercised regal powers, held the issues of life and death, could depose priests of any order; in short, ruled the subject people with as much consideration as the peculiar circumstances of the case demanded, but no more. The people were never permitted to forget their subject condition. The hated tax-gatherer went his rounds, exacting tribute to the empire. The evolutions of soldiers gave an aspect of omnipresence to the foreign dominion. The hope of deliverance lost its spiritual character, and took on decidedly a political shape. The anticipation of the Messiah became less ideal, but more intense. The armed figure of king David haunted the dreams of fanatics; even the angels that hovered before the imagination of gentler enthusiasts wore breast-plates and had swords in their hands. The kingdom looked for was no reign of truth, mercy, and kindness, but a reign of force, for force alone could meet force.
The popular aspect of the Messianic hope was political, not religious or moral. The name "Messiah," was synonymous with "King of the Jews;" it suggested political designs and aspirations. The assumption of that character by any individual drew on him the vigilance of the police. In this condition of affairs the public sentiment was divided between the Conservatives and the Radicals. The first party comprised the wealthy, settled, permanent, cautious people whose patriotism was tinged with prudent reflection. They saw the hopelessness of revolt, its inevitable failure, and the worse tyranny that would follow its bloody suppression; they put generous interpretations on the acts and intentions of the imperial power, did justice and a little more than literal justice to acts of clemency or forbearance, appreciated the value of the Roman supremacy in preserving internal quiet and keeping other plunderers at a distance; and had confidence that patience and diplomacy would accomplish what force could not undertake. They were careful, therefore, to maintain a good understanding with the powers that were, and frowned on all attempts to revive the national spirit.
The conservatives were of all shades of opinion, and of all parties; the radicals were, as is usually the case, confined mostly to those who had little to lose, either of wealth, reputation, or social position. The supremacy of Israel, the restoration of the Jewish Commonwealth, the overthrow of the wealthy and powerful, the reinstatement of the poor, the unlettered, the weak, the suffering, the downtrodden "children of Abraham," composed the group of ideas which made up the sum of their intellectual life. The Roman dominion was abhorred not because it was cruel, but because it was sacrilegious. Diplomacy, with these, was another word for time-serving; policy another phrase for cowardice; they detested prudence as ignoble; they distrusted conciliation as apostacy; they put the worst construction on the fairest seeming deeds, dreading nothing so much as agreement between the chief men of Israel and the minions of the empire.
The educated and responsible classes were chiefly conservative. No sect was so entirely, for no sect comprised all of these classes; but some sects were naturally more conservative than others. The Sadducees were, on the whole, the most so; not by reason of their creed particularly, but through the influence of their historical antecedents. After the capture of Jerusalem by Ptolemy, 320 B. C., some hundred thousand Jews went to Egypt and attained consequence there; had their own religious rites and temple. Contact with Greek thought and life there enlarged their minds. Their old-fashioned Hebraism seemed strait and prim by the side of the splendid exuberance of Gentile life in Alexandria. Jerusalem looked, in the distance, like a provincial town; the wealth of pagan literature dwarfed their Scriptures to the dimensions of a single deep but narrow tradition. They were Jews still, but bigoted Jews no longer. How unreasonable seemed now the prejudices of exclusive race! how unwise the attempts to maintain peculiarities of custom! how fanatical the efforts to impose them upon others! The world was large and various: the order of the world followed the track of no one law-giver, prophet or saint.
The sect of Sadducees is supposed to have risen from this pagan soil. It was a sect of rationalists, free-thinkers, skeptics, eclectics; Jews, but not dogmatists of any school. They believed in culture and general progress, and had the characteristic traits of men so believing. They were cool, unimpassioned, scientific; sentimentalism they abjured; enthusiasm to them was folly. They were glad to graft Greek culture on Hebrew thought, and would not have been sorry to see the small Hebrew state absorbed by some world-wide civilization. Moses they revered, and his law; but the aftergrowth, priestly and prophetic, they discarded. No doubt they thought the priests superstitious, the prophets mad, the restorationists a set of fools, the vision of Israel's future supremacy the mischievous nightmare of distempered minds. As a literary class the Sadducees were few and select; aristocratic in taste, supercilious in manners. They were in favor with the governors placed over the people by Roman authority, on account of their cultured moderation; and in return for social and political support, received offices in the State, and even in the Church. Caiaphas, the high priest in the time of Jesus, was a Sadducee, and was raised to that dignity by Valerius Gratus, Pilate's predecessor in office.
The Sadducee was a man of the world; not in the bad sense, but in the strict sense of the term. Disbelieving in immortality, he confined his view to the possibilities of the time; disbelieving in angels and special providences, he put confidence in temporal powers; disbelieving the doctrine of divine decrees and manifest destiny, he pursued the calculations of policy and held himself within the reasonable compass of human motives. Compromisers on principle, the Sadducees were unpopular in a community of earnest Jews. They bore bad names, were called epicureans, sensualists, materialists, cold-blooded aristocrats, allies of despotism; but they deserved these abusive appellations no more than men of the same description in modern states deserve them. The abusive epithet was one of the penalties they had to pay for the intellectual and social consequence they enjoyed.
The Pharisees were more numerous, more commonplace and more popular. They were, in fact, the great popular sect. They were of more recent origin than the Sadducees, their history going back only about a century and a half before the time of Jesus. Their name, which means "exclusive" or "elect," "set apart," sufficiently indicates their character. They were the "strait" sect; Hebrews of the Hebrews; Puritans of the Puritans; the quintessence of theocratic fervor and patriotic faith; the true Israel. Strict constructionists they were; friends to the law and the testimony; worshippers of the letter and the form; painstaking preservers of every iota of the written word; firm believers in the destiny of Israel, in the special providence that could accomplish it, in the angelic powers whose agency might be needed to fulfil it, in the future life when it was to be fulfilled. They held to the law, and they held to the prophets, major and minor; they could divide the word of the Lord to a hair.
The Pharisees have usually been called a sect; they were not so much a sect as a party. Church and State being one in the conception of a theocracy, or government of God, the devotee and the politician were the same person; the dogmatist was the democrat; the man of narrowest creed was the man of widest sympathies; the most exclusive theologian was the most popular partisan. To keep Israel true to the faith, and, in consequence of that to save it from political decline, was, from the first, the Pharisee's mission. He never lost it from his view. His eye was steadily fixed on the issues of the day, as they involved the destinies of the future. In order that he might be a patriot, he was anxious to preserve unimpaired his puritanism; and in order that he might preserve his puritanism unimpaired, he attended diligently to the duties of patriotism.
The Pharisee cherished the Messianic hope. It was part of his faith in the destiny of Israel, and the great practical justification of his belief in the resurrection of the dead; he believed in personal immortality, because he believed in the Christ who would come to bestow it. It was an article of the patriot's creed; the joy of the Messianic felicity being the reward for fidelity to Israel. The hope presented to him its political aspect, that being the aspect really fascinating to patriotic contemplation. The moral and spiritual aspects were incidental to this. In fact the moral and spiritual aspects were scarcely thought of. It was reserved for Christianity to develop these when the literal doctrine had lost its interest, and the heavenly kingdom had been transported from the earth to the skies. A thousand and a half of years have not spiritualized the belief with the multitude. Still the Pharisaic doctrine is the accepted faith; a purely rational human faith in immortality is entertained by the philosophical few. The Pharisees constituted a sort of Young Men's Hebrew Association, loosely organized for the maintenance of the faith and the fulfilment of the destiny of Israel.
But while all Pharisees shared the same general beliefs, all were not of the same mind on questions of immediate policy. They were divided into conservative and radical wings. The conservatives, whether from temperament, position, conviction, or selfish interest, deprecated sudden or violent measures which would defeat their own ends and make a bad state of things worse. They counselled moderation, patience, acquiescence in the actual and inevitable. They discountenanced the open expressions of discontent, advised submission to law, and preached the duty of strict religious observance as the proper preparation, on their part, for the providential advent of the Son of Man. No doubt this policy was prompted in many cases by timidity, and in many cases by time-serving craft; but no doubt it was in many cases suggested by sober statesmanship. The conservative Pharisee was even less popular than the Sadducee; for the Sadducee pretended to no belief in Israel's providential destiny, and to no sympathy with Israel's Messianic hope; while the Pharisee made conspicuous protestation of orthodox zeal. Evidence of the popular dislike of the conservative Pharisee abounds. He was looked upon as a renegade. He was called pretender and hypocrite, wolf in sheep's clothing, a whited sepulchre. He was ridiculed and lampooned. All manner of heartlessness was charged against him, as being a monster of inhumanity. "The Talmud," says Deutsch, "inveighs even more bitterly and caustically than the New Testament, against what it calls 'the plague of Pharisaism;' 'the dyed ones,' 'who do evil deeds, like Zimri, and require a goodly reward, like Phinehas;' 'who preach beautifully, but behave unbeautifully.'" Their artificial interpretations, their divisions and sub-divisions, their attitudes and posturings were parodied and caricatured. The conventional Pharisee was classed under one of six categories: he did the will of God, but from interested motives; he was forever doing the will of God, but never accomplishing it; he performed absurd penances to avoid imaginary sins; he accepted office in the character of saint; he sanctimoniously begged his neighbor to mention some duty he had inadvertently omitted, his design being to seem faithful in all things when he was faithful in nothing; or, if sincerely devout, he was devout from fear. He had no credit given him for his virtues, and more than due discredit for his vices. In time of peril the conservatives out-numbered the radicals, for radicalism was dangerous; and the feeling between the two classes was the bitterer on this account; the conservatives hating the radicals whom they could not disown, the radicals despising the conservatives who were their brothers in faith. Each party compromised the other precisely where misapprehension was most exasperating.
For the radicalism of the time was exclusively, we may say, pharisaic. There was no other of any considerable account. None but believers in the restoration of Israel, in the triumphant vindication of her faith in a new and complete social order and in absolute political independence; none but believers in divine interposition, and a personal resurrection of the faithful for the enjoyment of felicity in the Messianic kingdom; none but devout students of the scripture, recipients of the whole tradition, visionaries of the literal or spiritual order, could entertain so audacious a hope; and all these were Pharisees.
The Essenes, a mystical and secluded sect, dwelt apart, took no interest in public affairs, and exerted no influence on public opinion. Peculiar in their usages, secret in their proceedings, contemplative in their habits, quietists and dreamers, they so transfigured and sublimated the views which they shared with their compatriots, that no point of practical contact was visible. From them no prophet or reformer came. The soul of the Hebrew faith was all they recognized; the body of it they were indifferent to. That in many respects their doctrines, precepts, social usages and religious practices corresponded with those held by conscientious Jews, need not be questioned. It does not follow that they originated or communicated them. Such opinions were simply adopted as a common inheritance. The Essenes rather withdrew than imparted their belief. All the ingenuity of DeQuincey is unavailing to establish a practical relation between the Essenes and any popular movement in Judæa. These movements were led by the more enthusiastic of the Pharisees, and followed by the multitude that shared their ideas.
The "lawyers" and "scribes," Pharisees for the most part by profession, were in consequence of their profession, conservative. Men of learning, well balanced in mind, carefully educated, good linguists, masters often in theology, philosophy, moral science, familiar as any were with natural history, the mathematics, botany, engaged in the study and exposition of the sacred books, they were from the scholastic nature of their pursuits, disinclined to take part in popular reforms. There were no zealots among them; they were men of moderate opinions and calm tempers, capable of stubborn resistance to the elements of agitation, but incapable of vehement sympathies with enthusiasm.
The "Herodians," were a limited and never a popular party, who hoped that, in some way, the deliverance of Israel might come through the family of Herod, as being Jews but not bigots, of foreign extraction but of oriental genius, whose dynasty had been, and might again be, independent of Rome. These men were interested in public affairs, watched narrowly the signs of the times in politics, but were as jealous on the one side, of popular outbreaks, as they were on the other, of imperial domination. Deliverance, in their judgment, was to come by diplomacy, not by enthusiasm. They had no religious creed that distinguished them as a party. Some may have been Sadducees; more, probably were Pharisees; but whether Pharisees or Sadducees, they were in no danger of being demagogues or the dupes of demagogues. The party was in existence at the period of Jesus; but it could not have been strong. Its influence, if it ever had any, was declining with the decreasing significance of the Herodian line. We hear little of them in the literature of the time; with the final and absolute supremacy of Rome, they disappeared. The casual mention of them, once in Matthew and once in Mark, on the same occasion, and in connection with the Pharisees, is evidence that they were still in existence late in the first century. That is their last appearance.
THE MESSIAH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The earliest writings of the New Testament, the genuine letters of Paul, written not far from the year 60, thirty years more or less after the received date of the crucifixion of Jesus, take up and continue the line of Jewish tradition. No traces exist of literature produced between the opening of the century and the epistolary activity of the apostle of the Gentiles. The times were unfavorable to the production and the preservation of literary work. The earliest gospels, even granting their genuineness and authenticity, cannot be assigned to so early a period, cannot be crowded back beyond the year 70, and must probably be placed later by ten, fifteen, twenty years. They bear evidently on their pages the impress of ideas which Paul made current. Their authors, when not disciples of his school, respected it and had regard to its claim. The gospel of Luke betrays, in its whole structure the shaping hand of a Pauline adherent. Its catholicity, its anti-Judaic spirit, its frequent and approving mention of Samaritans, its doctrine of demons and powers of the infernal world, its constant recognition in precept and parable of the claims of the heathen on the salvation of the Christ, are a few of the plain marks of a genius foreign to that of Palestine. The gospel of Mark is similarly though not so eminently or so minutely characterized. Even the gospel of Matthew contains deposits from this formation. The language of one verse in the eleventh chapter,--"All things are delivered unto me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him," confesses in every word, its Pauline origin. The passage lies like a boulder on a common.
Though concerned with a period anterior to the apostle's conversion, with events whereof he had no knowledge, and with a life from which he professed to derive only his impulse, the gospels are written, not in the style of chronicles or memoirs, but in the style of disquisitions rather. Far from being the artless, guileless, unstudied compositions they have passed for, they are imbued with an atmosphere of reflection, are ingeniously elaborate and, in parts painfully studied. They are meditated biographies, in which the biographical material is selected and qualified by speculative motives. Nevertheless, these are the only fragments presumably of historical character that we possess. The period that Paul's ministry supposes must be searched for in these after-minded books. Hence arise grave literary difficulties. Several points must be borne in mind; the absence of any contemporaneous account of the ministry of Jesus; the utter dearth of early memoranda; the advanced age of the evangelists at the time they wrote, even on the common reckoning, and the effect of age in weakening recollection, suggesting fancies, raising queries, inflaming imaginations, making the mind receptive of theories and marvels; the influence on the disciples and on the intellectual world of a man so powerful as Paul, and the altered speculative climate of the later apostolic age. The literary laws forbid under these circumstances our reading the gospel narratives as authentic histories--constrain us in fact to read them, in some sort, as disquisitions, making allowance as we go along, for the infusion of doctrinal elements.
The actual Jesus is, thus understood, inaccessible to scientific research. His image cannot be recovered. He left no memorial in writing of himself; his followers were illiterate; the mind of his age was confused. Paul received only traditions of him, how definite we have no means of knowing, apparently not significant enough to be treasured, nor consistent enough to oppose a barrier to his own speculations. The character of Jesus is a fair subject for discussion and conjecture; but at this stage in a literary study such discussion and conjecture would be out of place. We have at present simply to inquire into the character of the Messianic hope as it was illustrated in the ante-Pauline period. This task is less difficult, and may be accomplished without detriment to moral or spiritual qualities which Jesus may have possessed.
The earliest phase of the Messianic hope in the New Testament must have corresponded with prevalent expectations of Israel in the early period of our first century. What that was has been described. The "Son of Man" of Matthew, Mark and Luke, their Pauline elements being eliminated, meets the requirements in every respect, and in no particular transcends them. He is a radical Pharisee who has at heart the enfranchisement of his people. He is represented as being a native of Galilee, the insurgent district of the country; nurtured, if not born in Nazareth, one of its chief cities; reared as a youth amid traditions of patriotic devotion, and amid scenes associated with heroic dreams and endeavors. The Galileans were restless, excitable people, beyond the reach of conventionalities, remote from the centre of power ecclesiastical and secular, simple in their lives, bold of speech, independent in thought, thorough-going in the sort of radicalism that is common among people who live "out of the world," who have leisure to discuss the exciting topics of the day, but too little knowledge, culture, or sense of social responsibility to discuss them soundly. Their mental discontent and moral intractability were proverbial. They were belligerents. The Romans had more trouble with them than with the natives of any other province. The Messiahs all started out from Galilee, and never failed to collect followers round their standard. The Galileans more than others, lived in the anticipation of the Deliverer. The reference of the Messiah to Galilee is therefore already an indication of the character he is to assume.
Another indication, equally pointed, is the brief association with Bethlehem, the city of David, and the pains taken to connect the Messiah with the royal line. The early traditions go out of their way to prove this. A labored genealogy is invented to show the path of his descent. Prophecy and song are called in to ratify his lineage. Inspired lips repeat ancient psalms announcing the glory that is to come to the House of David. An angel promises Mary that her son shall have given unto him "the throne of his father, David, and shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever." The Messiah is called the "Son of David;" an appellation that carried the idea of temporal dominion and no other. The legends respecting the massacre of the children in Bethlehem and the flight into Egypt, belong to the same circle of prediction.
Another indication to the same purpose is the patient effort to represent the Messiah as fulfilling Old Testament anticipations. "That the scripture might be fulfilled" is the reiterated explanation of his ordinary actions. The earliest records miss no occasion for declaring the Messiah's fidelity to the law of Moses. Among the first words put into his mouth is the earnest protestation: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to establish;" and this statement is followed by a detailed contrast between the literal and the spiritual interpretation of the law, precisely in the vein of the prophets who held themselves to be the true friends of the code which the priests and formalists perverted. There is nothing in this criticism disrespectful to the commandments, or beyond the mark of orthodox scripture.
The visit to the Baptist, who, entertaining the popular notion of the Messiah, and believing in his speedy advent, welcomed Jesus to the vacant position; Jesus' response to the call, and acceptance of the _role_, are in the same vein. Let it not be forgotten that the later misgivings of the Baptist were raised by the apparent failure of the Messiah to justify expectation; that John, from his prison, sends a sharp message, and that the Messiah, instead of correcting the precursor's crude idea, simply bids him be patient and construe the signs in faith.
The story of the Temptation in the Wilderness, closely patterned after incidents in the career of Moses, is calculated to join the two closely by similarity of experience. That the Messiah should be tempted is quite within the circle of later Jewish conceptions, as the literature of the Talmud proves.
The story of the Transfiguration derives its point from the circumstance that the spirits with whom the chosen one held communion were Moses and Elias, the law-giver and the prophet of the old dispensation.
The phrase "Kingdom of Heaven," so frequent on the Messiah's lips, had but one meaning, which was universally understood. It described a temporal rule, the reign of a prince of David's line. No class of people accepted the phrase in any different sense. The Christ nowhere corrects the vulgar opinion, or places his own in opposition to it. The evangelist intends to convey the idea that he is in full accord with the general feeling.
The questions put to the Messiah and the answers given to them are additional evidence of this assent; the question, for example, concerning the obligation to pay tribute to the Roman government, a test question touching the very heart of Jewish patriotism, and the cautious reply, calculated to evade the peril of a categorical declaration which was felt to be called for, and to be due. The rejoinder of the Christ is designed to satisfy the popular expectation without raising popular uproar. It is the answer of a patriot, but not of a zealot. Had the Messiah not corresponded to the image in the Jewish imagination, the inquiry might have been summarily dismissed. Its evasion proves not that the Christ transcended the average expectation, but that he shared it. The version of the incident given in Matthew XVII, confirms this judgment; for according to that account the Messiah privately admits the exemption from tribute, and then provides miraculously for its payment, "lest we should give offence."
The nature of the excitement caused by the Messiah is another evidence of the spirit in which he wrought. Everywhere he is greeted as the Messiah, the son of David; everywhere the multitudes flock to him, as to the expected king. His intimate friends are never disabused of the notion that they, if they continue firm in their allegiance, will hold places of honor at his right hand. He reminds them of the stringency of the conditions, but does not condemn the idea. An ambitious mother presents her two sons as candidates for preferment, asking for them seats at his right and left hand, on his coming to glory. He rebukes the selfishness of the ambition, says that seats of honor are for those that earn them, not for those that desire them, adding that he has no authority to assign places even to the worthiest; but he does not discountenance the notion that he shall sit in glory, that there will be places of honor on either side of him, or that the faithful servants will occupy them. Indeed, his reply confirms that anticipation.
The multitude, impressed by his claim, desire to make him a king. He removes himself; not because he repudiates all right to the office, he nowhere hints that, and in places he more than hints the contrary,--but because he is not prepared to avow his pretension. The time is not ripe for a manifesto.
The writers about this period take especial pains to limit the conception of the Messiah within the boundaries of the average patriotic ideal. They make him declare to the twelve disciples, as he sends them forth, that before they shall have carried their message to the cities of Israel the Son of Man would announce himself. On a later occasion he is made to say: "There are some here who will not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his glory." Declarations like these are pointedly inconsistent with an intellectual or moral idea of the kingdom. The notion of progress, instruction, regenerating influence, gradual elevation through the power of character, is precluded. The kingdom is to come in time, suddenly, unexpectedly, by a shock of supernatural agency, at the instant the Lord wills; the Son of Man himself knows not when, for it is not dependent on his activity as a reformer, his success as a teacher, or his influence as a person, but on the decree of Jehovah.
The attempt on the popular feeling in Jerusalem, strangely called the triumphal entrance of the Messiah into the holy city, is unintelligible except as a political demonstration; whether projected by the Christ or by his followers, or by the Christ urged by the importunate expectations of his followers, whether undertaken hopefully or in desperation, it nowhere appears that it was made in any moral or spiritual interest. All the incidents of the narrative point to a political end, the public assertion of the Christ's Messianic claim. The ass, used instead of the chariot or the horse by royalty on state occasions, and especially alluded to by the prophet Zechariah in connexion with the coming of Zion's King; the palm branches and hosannahs, emblems of sacred majesty; the cries of the attendant throng loudly proclaiming the Messiah; the Galileaan composition of the crowd, marking the revolutionary temper of it; the blank reception of the pageant by the citizens who were too wary to commit themselves to the chances of collision with the Roman authorities; the complete failure of the demonstration in the heart of conservative Judæa; the bearing of the Christ himself as of one conscious of a sublime but perilous mission; all these things find ready explanation by the popular conception of the Messiah, as a national deliverer, but are unintelligible on any other theory.
The unspiritual character of the Messiah's attitude is made yet more apparent as the history draws to a close. The violent purging of the temple can only by great vigor of interpretation be made to bear any save a national complexion. It was the assertion of Jehovah's right to his own domain; an indignant, passionate assertion; the declaration of a zealot whose zeal overrode considerations of wisdom.
The Christ's bearing before his Roman judge is of the same strain; the proud silence of the arraigned prince; the bold assertion of kingliness, when challenged; the stately defiance of the pagan's wrath; the appeal to supernatural support; the prediction of angelic succor in the hour of need, in strict accordance with the apocalyptic expressions thrown out at the last supper, and reverberated in tremendous rhetoric on the Mount of Olives and in the palace of the high priest, expressions in full and literal harmony with the Jewish conceptions of the Christ's relations with the angelic world, wholly in the spirit of Daniel, Enoch, and other apocryphal writings, leave no doubt on the mind that this personage moved within the limits of the common Messianic conception. Pilate condemns him reluctantly, feeling that he is a harmless visionary, but is obliged to condemn him as one who persistently claimed to be the "King of the Jews," an enemy of Cæsar, an insurgent against the empire, a pretender to the throne, a bold inciter to rebellion. The death he undergoes is the death of the traitor and mutineer, the death that would have been decreed to Judas the Gaulonite, had he been captured instead of slain in battle, and that was inflicted on thousands of his deluded followers. The bitter cry of the crucified as he hung on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" disclosed the hope of deliverance that till the last moment sustained his heart, and betrayed the anguish felt when the hope was blighted; the sneers and hootings of the rabble expressed their conviction that he had pretended to be what he was not.
The miracles ascribed to the Christ, so far from being inconsistent with the ordinary conception of the Messianic office, were necessary to complete that conception. It was expected that the Messiah would work miracles. This was one of his prerogatives; a certificate of his commission from Jehovah, and an instrument of great service in carrying out his designs. To the Jew of that, as of preceding periods, to the crude theist of all periods, the belief in miracles was and is easy. In such judgment, the will of God is absolute, and when should that will be exerted if not at providential crises of need, or in furtherance of his servants' work? The special miracles attributed to the Christ of the earliest New Testament literature are, as Strauss conclusively shows, patterned after performances which met satisfactorily the demands of the Jewish imagination; being either repetitions of ancient marvels, or concrete expressions of ideal faith. The miracles of this Christ are precisely adjusted to the exigencies of his calling, in no respect transcending or falling short of that standard.
The moral precepts put into the Messiah's mouth are also what he might be expected to utter. The teachings of the sermon on the Mount are echoes, and not altogether awakening or inspiring echoes, of ancient ethical law. The beatitudes do not exceed in beauty of sentiment or felicity of phrase, lovely passages that gem the pages of prophet, psalmist and sage. Portions of the morality are harsh, ungracious, intemperate, almost inhuman as compared with the mellow grandeur of the older law. Several of the parables, if taken in an ethical sense, contain moral injunctions or insinuations that are quite unjustifiable; the parable, for example, of the laborers in the vineyard, the last of whom, though they have worked but one hour, receive the same compensation as the early comers, who had borne the burden and heat of the day;--the parable of the steward, which, literally construed, palliates abuse of trusts;--the parable of Dives and Lazarus, which teaches the evil lesson that felicity or infelicity hereafter is consequent on fortune or misfortune here. These and other parables are deprived of their dangerous moral tendency by being removed from the ethical category, and made to convey lessons of a different kind. Read the story of the laborers in the vineyard as intended to justify Jehovah in granting the same spiritual favors to the newly called Gentiles as to the descendants of Abraham who, from the first, answered to the call addressed to them:--read the story of the steward as conveying an explanation of the Pauline policy in making capital with the Gentiles by offering to them on easy terms the promises that the Jews showed themselves unworthy of, and rejected:--read the story of Dives and Lazarus as containing the idea that the "poor in spirit," the outcast, to whom the mansions of the Lord's house, the patrimony of Abraham had never been opened, the people who had nothing but faith,--whom even pagan dogs commiserated,--should enjoy the blessedness of the Messiah's kingdom rather than those who claimed a prescriptive right to it on the ground of descent or privilege,--and the difficulty of reconciling them with moral principle is avoided. These parables and others of like tenor, do not belong to the first layer of Messianic tradition, but to the second deposit made by the Apostle Paul.
To the same period belong other parables that contain larger ideas than the Jewish Messiah of the first generation could entertain. Such are the story of the net cast into the sea and gathering in of every kind, that is, "Greeks and Romans, barbarians, Scythians, bond and free," not Hebrews only,--the miscellaneous haul being impartially examined--sweetness of quality, not forms of scale being made the condition of acceptance;--the story of the good Samaritan, designed to place people reckoned idolators and miscreants on a higher spiritual level than anointed priests of whatever order, who postponed mercy to sacrifice. Could the Jewish Messiah attribute to Samaritans a grace that was the highest adornment of faithful Jews? The story of the prodigal son belongs to the same category. The elder brother, who has always been at home, dutiful but ungracious niggardly and covetous, is the Jew who has never left the homestead of faith, but has stayed there, confidently expecting the Messianic inheritance as the reward of his conventional orthodoxy. The younger brother is the Gentile, the infidel, the pagan apostate, who throws off the parental authority and reduces himself to spiritual beggary. He spends all; he contents himself with refuse; is more heathenish than the heathen themselves; swinish in his habits. Yet this spiritual reprobate, by his unseemly behavior, forfeits no privilege. The "mansion" of the Father's house is still open to him when he shall choose to return. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob waits and watches for the penitent; sees him a great way off; runs to meet him; throws his arms about his neck; reinstates him in his place; celebrates his arrival by feasting, and puts him above the elder brother who had been working in the field while the prodigal had been rioting in the city. Such a lesson from the lips of the Jewish Messiah would have been astonishing indeed. It would have gone far towards overturning his claim. We know that some years later the lesson was inculcated as a cardinal doctrine by Paul and regarded as a heresy by the Christ's personal disciples, and it is in accordance with literary laws to refer to this later period the ideas that were native to it.
The religious beliefs imputed to the Messiah we are sketching, are the ordinary beliefs of his age and people. His faith is the faith of the Pharisees. His idea of God is the national idea softened, as it always had been, by a gentle mind. It thinks as his countrymen thought about Providence, fate and freedom, good and evil, destiny, the past and the future of his race. He believes in the resurrection and the judgment, the blessedness that is in store for the faithful Israelite, the misery that awaits the unworthy children of Abraham. His moral classifications are the technical classifications of the enthusiastic patriot, who confounded national with rational principles of judgment. He believes in good and bad angels, in guardian spirits and demoniacal possession. A Pharisee of the narrow literal school he is not. His allegiance to the Mosaic law is spiritual, not slavish; his faith in the perpetuity of the temple worship is unencumbered with formalism; he discriminates between the priestly office and the priestly character, between the form and the essence of sacrifice; yet is he capable of lurid feelings and bitter thoughts towards the Pharisees of another school; he cannot enter into the mind of the Sadducee; and the scribe is a person he cannot respect. On this side his intolerance occasionally breaks forth with inconsiderate heat. He calls his opponents "blind guides," "hypocrites," "whited sepulchres," and threatens them with the wrath of the Eternal.
The Messiah's essential conception of his office does not differ materially from that of his countrymen. He is no military leader; he puts no confidence in the sword; he incites to no revolt. But he does not trust to intellectual methods for his success; the success that he anticipates is not such as follows the promulgation of ideas, or the establishment of moral convictions. He looks for demonstrations of power, not human but super-human. The hosts that surround him, and are reckoned on to sustain him, are the hosts of heaven, marshalled under the Lord and prepared to sweep down upon the Lord's foes when the hour of conflict shall strike. He will not draw the sword himself, or allow his followers to gird on weapons of war; but he is more than willing to avail himself of legions irresistible in might. James Martineau has touched this point with a master hand: "The non-resistant principle meant no more in the early church than that the disciples were not to anticipate the hour fast approaching of the Messiah's descent to claim his throne. But when that hour struck there was to be no want of 'physical force' no shrinking from retribution as either unjust or undivine. The 'flaming fire,' the 'sudden destruction,' the 'mighty angels,' the 'tribulation and anguish,' were to form the retinue of Christ, and the pioneers of the kingdom of God. The new reign was to come _with force_, and on nothing else in the last resort was there any reliance; only the army was to arrive from heaven before the earthly recruits were taken up. 'My kingdom,' said Jesus, 'is not of this world, else would my servants fight;' an expression which implies that no kingdom of this world can dispense with arms, and that he himself, were he the head of a human polity, would not forbid the sword: but while 'legions of angels' stood ready for his word, and only waited till the Scripture was fulfilled, and the hour of darkness was passed, to obey the signal of heavenly invasion, the weapon of earthly temper might remain in its sheath."
It is not affirmed here that the actual Jesus corresponded to this Messianic representation; that he filled it and no more; that it correctly and adequately reported him. It may possibly present only so much of him as the average of his contemporaries could appreciate. They may be right who are of opinion that the fourth evangelist comes nearer to the historical truth than the first. That the earliest New Testament conception of the Messiah has been correctly portrayed in the preceding sketch may be granted without prejudice to the historical Jesus. They only who assume the identity of this Hebrew Messiah with the man of Nazareth, need place him in the niche that is here made for the Messiah. There are others more noble. Let each decide for himself, on the evidence, to which he belongs. Some will decide that the first account of a wonderful person must, from the nature of the case, be the falsest; others will decide that in the nature of things it must be the truest. Whichever be the decision the literary image remains unimpaired. Whether time should be judged requisite to emancipate the living character from the associations of its environment, and bring it into full view; or whether on the other hand time should be regarded as darkening and confusing the image, for the reason that it allows the growth of legends and distorting theory, is a question that will be touched by-and-by. For the present it suffices to show what the earliest representation was, and to trace its descent from the traditions of the race. The materials are adequate for this, whether for more or not. The form of Jesus may be lost, but the form of the Messiah is distinct.
THE FIRST CHRISTIANS.
The death of the Messiah did not discourage his followers, as it might have done had he presented the coarser type of the anticipation illustrated by Judas of Galilee whose insurrection had been extinguished in blood some years before, yet the movement of Judas did not cease at his death, but troubled the state for sixty years. His two sons, James and John, raised the Messianic standard fifteen years or thereabouts after the crucifixion of Jesus, and were themselves crucified. Their younger brother, Menahem, renewed the attempt twenty years later, and so far succeeded that he cut his way to the throne, assumed the part of a king, went in royal state to the temple, and but for the fury of his fanaticism might have re-erected temporarily the throne of David. But this kind of Messiah, besides being savage, was monotonous. His appeal was to the lower passions; the thoughtful, imaginative, contemplative, poetic, were not drawn to him. His followers, adherents not disciples,--might, at the best, have founded a dynasty, they could not have planted a church. The pure enthusiasm of the Christ, his entire singleness of heart, the absence in him of private ambition or self-seeking, his confidence in the heavenly character of his mission, his reliance on super-human aid, his sincere persuasion that the purpose of his calling would not be thwarted by death, insured his hold on those who had trusted him. They did not lose their conviction that he was the Messiah; they anticipated his return, in glory, to complete his work; in that anticipation they waited, watched and prayed. The name "Christians" was, we are told, given, in derision, to the believers in Antioch. But if they had chosen a name for themselves, they could not have hit on a more precisely descriptive one. "Christians" they were; believers that the Christ had come, that the crucified was the Christ, that he would reappear and vindicate his claim. This was their single controlling thought, the only thought that distinguished them from their countrymen who rejected the Messiahship of their friend. They were Jews, in every respect; Jews of Jews, enthusiastic, devout, pharisaic Jews, the firmest of adherents to the Law of Moses, unqualified receivers of tradition, diligent students of the scriptures, constant attendants at the temple worship, urgent in supplication, literal in creed, and punctual in observance; acquiescent in the claims of the priesthood, scrupulous in all Hebrew etiquette. They were determined that the Master, at his coming, should find them ready.
James, "the Lord's brother," set an example of sanctity worthy of a high-priest. In fact, he assumed the position of a priest, and filled it with such austerity that he was called "the righteous." He tasted, says Hegesippus, neither wine nor strong drink; he ate nothing that had life; his hair was never shorn; his body was never anointed with oil, or bathed in water; his garments were of linen, never of wool; so perfect was he in all righteousness that, though no consecrated priest, he was permitted to enter the holy place behind the veil of the temple, and there he spent hours in intercession for the people, his knees becoming as hard as a camel's from contact with the stone pavement. To those who asked him the way to life, he replied: "Believe that Jesus is the Christ." When some dissenters protested against this declaration and asked him to retract it, he repeated it with stronger emphasis; when the malcontents who revered him, but would have none of his Messiah, raised a tumult and tried to intimidate him, he reiterated the statement, adding: "He sits in heaven, at the right hand of the Supreme power, and will come in clouds." For this testimony, says tradition, he laid down his life.
The fellow-believers of James imitated him as closely as they could. They were proud of their descent from Abraham; they were tenacious of the privileges granted to the twelve tribes; they kept up their relation with the synagogue; they had faith in forms of observance; they revered the Sabbath; their trust in the literal efficacy of prayer was implicit; they were excessively jealous of intellectual activity outside of their narrow communion; their anticipations were confined to the restoration of Israel, and never wandered into the region of social improvement or moral progress; in general ethical and social culture they were not interested.
They had no ecclesiastical establishment apart from the Jewish Church; no separate priesthood, no sacraments, no cultus, no rubric, no calendar, no liturgy. The validity of sacrifice they maintained, the doctrine of sacrifice possessing a deeper significance for them from the growing faith that their Lord was himself the paschal lamb, the shedding of whose blood purchased the remission of sins. Hence a special encouragement of the sacerdotal spirit, an exaggerated sense of the efficacy of blood, a theory of atonement more searching and absolute than had prevailed in the ancient church. The later doctrine of atonement in the christian church may have grown from this small but vital germ.
They had no dogma peculiar to themselves, the doctrines of the old Church being all they needed; they had no trinity or beginning of trinity; no christology; no doctrine of Fall; no theory of first and second Adam; no metaphysic; no philosophy of sin and salvation; no interior mystery of experience. Whatever newness of creed they avowed, was owing to their acknowledgment of the Christ, and consisted in a few very simple inferences from this tenet. Of course even slow-minded, literal, external men could not entertain a belief like that, and not be pushed by it to certain practical conclusions. The expectation of the Christ's coming would necessarily raise questions respecting the conditions of acceptance with him, the character of his dominion, the duration of it, the social changes incidental to it; but it does not appear that speculation on these subjects was carried far. A crude millenarianism developed itself early; a cloudy theory of atonement found favor; for the rest, conjecture, it was little more, dwelt contentedly within the confines of rabbinical lore.
There was nothing peculiar in their moral precepts or usages, nothing that should effect a change in the received ethics of the nation. Their essential creed involved no practical innovation on private or social moralities. The mosaic code was familiar to them from childhood. The popular commentaries on it were promulgated from week to week in the synagogues, and their validity was no more questioned by the Christians than by the most orthodox of Jews.
The daily existence of these people was retired and simple. They had frequent meetings for talk, song, mutual cheer and confirmation; full of expectation and excitement they must have been; wild with memories and hopes. For the believers lived out of themselves, in an ideal, a supernatural sphere; their hearts were in heaven with their Master, whose form filled their vision, whose voice they seemed to hear, from whom came, as they fancied, impressions, intimations, influences, unspoken but breathed messages interpreted by the soul. They were visionaries. Their life was illusion. They were transported beyond themselves at times, by the prospect of the Lord's nearness. Their minds were dazed; their feelings raised to ecstasy; in vision they saw the heavens open and fiery tongues descend. Their small upper chamber seemed to tremble and dilate in sympathy with their feelings; the ceiling appeared to lift; they were moved by an impulse which they could not account for, and regarded themselves as inspired.
In these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that they lived in communities by themselves, preferring the society of their fellows; that they had a common purse, a common table; that they were ascetic and celibate; that they withdrew from public affairs and from private business, and approached nearly to the Essenes, with whom they had much in common, perpetuating the habit of monasticism, which became afterwards so prominent a feature in the Eastern church.
Nor is it surprising that they regarded the intimate friends of their Christ with a peculiar veneration, and ascribed to them extraordinary gifts. The basis of the future hierarchy was laid in the honor paid to these few men. They were credited with supernatural insight, and with the possession of miraculous power. Their touch was healing; their mere shadow comforted; their approval was blessing; their displeasure cursed. What they ratified was fixed; what they permitted was decreed. Their word was law; it was for them to admit and to exclude. The penalty of excommunication was in their hands, to be inflicted at their discretion. Superstition went so far as to concede to them the alternatives of life and death. The legend of Ananias and Sapphira is evidence of a credulity that set not reason only, but conscience at defiance. In their infatuation they believed that the Christ above communicated a saving spiritual grace to such as the apostles touched with their fingers.
Very singular, but very consistent and logical were the views of death entertained by the brotherhood in Christ. As their Lord delayed his coming, the elders grew old and fell asleep. There was a brotherhood of the dead as well as of the living; the living became few; the dead many. Questions arose respecting the destination of those departed. That they had perished was not to be thought of; as little to be thought of was the possibility of their forfeiting their privilege of sharing the believers' triumph. The resurrection the disciples had always believed in. That, at the coming of the Messiah there would be a general resurrection of the faithful Israelites from their graves, in field or rock, was part of their ancestral faith. But now, the matter was brought home to them with painful reality. The Christ might come at any moment; the dead were their own immediate kindred, their parents and brethren. The problem presented no difficulties to their minds however agitating it might be to their hearts. The Lord would come; of that there could be no doubt; the dead would rise, that was certain; but in what form? In what order? Would the living have precedence of them? Where would the meeting take place? How would the dead know that the time of resurrection had arrived? The answer came promptly as the question. The trumpet of the angels would proclaim the event to all creatures, visible and invisible. The elect would respond to the summons; the gates of Hades would burst asunder. In etherial forms, lighter than air, more radiant than the morning, the faithful who had died "in the Lord," would ascend; the living would exchange their terrestrial bodies for bodies celestial, and thus "changed," "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," would mount upward to join them, and all together would "meet the Lord in the air." For the believers the grave had no victory and death no sting.
In all this the Christians were strictly within the circle of Jewish thought. The belief in the resurrection wore different aspects in different minds; the vision of the hereafter floated many-hued before the imaginations of men. The fiery zealots who "took the kingdom of heaven by violence," dreamed of the resurrection of the body, and of tangible privileges of dominion in the terrestrial millennium. The milder enthusiasts, who could not believe that flesh and blood could inherit the kingdom of God, were constrained to invent a "spiritual world" for the accommodation of spiritual bodies. Some conjectured that the etherial forms would mount to their native seat, only at the termination of the thousand years reign; the spiritual world being brought in at the end, as a device of eschatology to dispose finally of the saints who could neither die nor remain longer on earth. Others surmised that the spiritual world would claim its own at once, there being no place on earth where the risen could live and no occupations in which they could engage. The cruder faith was the earlier.
The fanatics, as described in the second Book of Maccabees, an apocryphal writing of the second century before Christ, hoped for a corporeal resurrection and a visible supremacy. Of seven sons, who, with their mother, were barbarously executed because they refused to deny their religion by eating swines' flesh, one declares: "The King of the world shall raise us up who have died for his laws, into everlasting life;" another, holding forth his hands (to be cut off), said courageously, "These I had from heaven, and for his laws I despise them, and from him I hope to receive them again." The next shouts: "It is good being put to death by men, to look for hope from God, to be raised up again by him; as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life." Finally, when all the seven have died heroically, with words of similar import on their lips, the mother is put to death, having exhorted her youngest born to faithfulness with the exhortation: "Doubtless the Creator of the world who formed the generation of man, and found out the beginning of all things, will also, of his own mercy, give you breath and life again, as ye now regard not your own selves for his laws' sake." The same book records the suicide of Razis: "One of the elders of Jerusalem, a lover of his countrymen, and a man of very good report, who for his kindness was called a Father of the Jews, for in former times he had been accused of Judaism, and did boldly jeopard his body and life with all vehemency for the religion of the Jews;" "choosing rather to die manfully than to come into the hands of the wicked, to be abused otherwise than beseemed his noble birth, he fell on his sword. Nevertheless, while there was yet breath within him, being inflamed with anger, he rose up, and though his blood gushed out like spouts of water, and his wounds were grievous, yet he ran through the midst of the throng, and, standing upon a steep rock, when as his blood was now quite gone, he plucked out his bowels, and taking them in both his hands, he cast them upon the throng, and calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to restore him those again, he thus died."
The angel of the book of Daniel calls up a fairer vision: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever."
Something like this, perhaps, was the anticipation of the Christ sketched in the last chapter. The personal conception is shadowy. There is nothing to indicate positively that he departed from the usual opinion of a physical resurrection and a kingdom of heaven on earth, a period of terrestrial happiness under the rule of Jehovah. The declaration to the thief on the cross: "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise," belongs to a later tradition, corresponding to the ideas of Paul. The parable of Dives and Lazarus must be assigned to the same circle of doctrine. The saying respecting children, "Their angels always behold the face of my father in heaven," conveys no more than the belief in guardian spirits. The "angels" are not departed children, but the watchers over the lives of living ones. The reply given to the Sadducees, in Matt. XXII., "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven," implies that the temporal condition of the Messiah's subjects will differ in important respects from their present social estate, but does not suggest a celestial locality for its organization; and the declaration that follows: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living," affirms merely that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not annihilated, that they are, or will be, alive; but how, where, or when, is left undecided. The expression, "Thy kingdom come," in the paternoster, so different from the latter petition: "May we come into thy kingdom," looks towards an earthly paradise. The succeeding phrase, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," points in the same direction. It is probable that the Christ, living and expecting to live, contemplated the establishment of his Messianic dominion in Palestine. After his death and disappearance, the thoughts of his friends turned elsewhither, and with an increasing steadiness, as his return was delayed, and the probabilities of their going to him outweighed the probabilities of his coming to them. The change of expectation was, it is likely, a gradual, silent, and unperceived one, effected slowly, and not completed till a new conception of the Christ supplanted the old one, and transformed every feature of the Messianic belief. In less than twenty-five years after the death of Jesus, this change was so far effected that it was capable of full literary expression. The writings that publish it, are the genuine letters of Paul, and other scriptures produced under the inspiration of his idea.
PAUL'S NEW DEPARTURE.
There is reason to think, as we have said, that the first Messianic impulse would have spent itself ineffectually in a few years, had not a fresh impulse been given by a new conception of the Messiah. The Christ outlined in the earliest literature of the New Testament would hardly have founded a permanent church, or given his name to a distinct religion. A new conception came, in due time, from an unexpected quarter, through a man who was both Jew and Greek; Jew by parentage, nurture, training and genius; Greek by birth-place, residence and association; a man well versed in scripture, a pupil of approved rabbis, familiar with the talmud, and deeply interested in talmudical speculation; a Pharisee of the straitest sect; an enthusiast--yes, a fanatic by temperament; on the other hand, a mind somewhat expanded by intercourse with the people and the literature of other nations. Paul's feeling on the "Christ question" was always intense. He made it a personal matter, even in his comparative youth; distinguishing himself by his zeal in behalf of correct opinion on the subject. He appears, first, a young man, as a persecutor of the Jews who believed that the Christ had actually come, and who were waiting for his return in clouds. That idea seemed to him visionary and dangerous; he made it his business to exterminate it by violence, if necessary. But the fury of his demonstration proved his interest in the general idea. He was at heart a Messianic believer, though not in that style. A Messianic believer he continued to be, but to the end as little as at first, in that style. To the ordinary belief he never was "converted;" his repudiation of it was perhaps at no time less vehement than it was at the beginning; as his own thought matured, his rejection of the faith he persecuted in his youth, became it seems more deliberate, if less violent.
As he pursued one phase of the Messianic expectation, another aspect of it burst upon him with the splendor of a revelation, and determined his career. The man who had breathed fury against one type, became the apostle of another. The same fiery zeal that blasted the one, warmed the other into life. In the book of the "Acts of the Apostles," the first martyr at whose stoning Paul assisted, bore the Greek name "Stephen," whence, as well as from other indications, it has been surmised by Baur and others that he was a precursor of the future "Gentile party," pursued and slain by the "orthodox" on account of his infidelity to the cause of Hebrew national exclusiveness. If this conjecture be admitted, the deed Paul had abetted, may have been the immediate cause of his own moral revulsion of feeling. The slain over-came the slayer. The dying hand committed to the fierce bystander the torch it could carry no further. The murdered Greek raised up the apostle to the Greeks, thus avenging himself by sending his adversary to martyrdom in the same cause for which he himself bled. In religious fervors such reactions have been frequent.
For Paul was, from first to last, the same person, in no natural feature of mind or character changed. His religious belief remained essentially, even incidentally unaltered. A Pharisee he was born, and a Pharisee he continued. The pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection was the corner stone of his system, the beginning, middle and end of his faith, the starting point of his creed. His conception of God was the ordinary conception, unqualified, unmitigated, uncompromised. The divine sovereignty never suffered weakening at his hands. One can hardly open the epistle to the Jewish Christians in Rome, without coming across some tremendous assertion of the absolute supremacy of God. Read the passage in the first chapter, 20-26 verses; in the second chapter, 6-12 verses; in the ninth chapter, 14-23 verses; in the eleventh chapter, first verse and onward. Read 1 Corin., fifteenth chapter, 24-29 verses. The old fashioned Jewish conception is expressed in language simply revolting in its bald inhumanity. The views of Divine Providence set forth in some of these sentences are anthropomorphitic to a degree that is amazing in an intellectual man of his age and race. His discussions of fate and free-will betoken the sternness of a dogmatic, rather than the discernment of a philosophic, mind. His notion of history has the narrowness of the national character. His ethics are taken from the law of Moses, and not from the more benignant versions of it. The grandest ethical chapter he ever wrote, the twelfth chapter of Romans, contains no less than three instances of grave infidelity to the highest standard of morality in his own scriptures. Rabbi Hillel said: "Love peace, and pursue peace; love mankind, and bring them near the law. The moral condition of the world depends on three things,--Truth, Justice, and Peace." Paul says: "If it be possible, _so much as lyeth in you_, live peaceably with all men," implying clearly that it might not always be possible, and in such cases was not to be expected. The tacit proviso in the phrase "so much as lyeth in you," discharges the obligation of its imperative character; as if conscious that the duty might prove too much for the moral power, he will not impose it. It is written in the Talmud: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor; even if he be a criminal, and has forfeited his life, practise charity towards him in the last moments." Paul drops far below this when he bids his disciples, "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath" (make room for wrath that is wrath indeed.) "For it is written, 'vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'" Therefore (because the Lord's vengeance will be more terrible than yours), "if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." That is, by showing kindness you will inflict on him tenfold agony!
Such a disciple would not adorn the membership of a modern Peace Society. The language ascribed to him in Ephesians bristles with military metaphor; "Fight the good fight of faith," "The helmet of salvation," "The sword of the Spirit," "Armor of light."
In the days of our own anti-slavery conflict, his dictum, "Slaves obey your masters, in fear and trembling, in singleness of heart," was a tower of strength and a fountain of refreshment to many an upholder of the patriarchal system. The later Christians in the West could safely justify their quiet toleration of the system of slavery in the Roman Empire by the precepts of the foremost apostle. If the genuineness of the epistle to Philemon could be maintained, the case would wear a different look. But it is much more than doubtful whether even that qualified humanity proceeded from his pen.
In our own generation the apostle is a serious stumbling block in the way of "evangelical" women who are friendly to the aspirations of their sex. He showed the most stubborn Hebrew principles on this subject. "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands"; "Let your women keep silence in the churches; if they wish to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." "It is permitted them to be under obedience." The Hindoo scripture spoke better: "Where women are honored, there the deities are pleased. Where they are dishonored there all religious acts become fruitless."
How can the most conservative Republicans accept as teacher a man who counsels religious men, in _proportion as they are religious_, to surrender their full, unqualified, sincere allegiance to established authorities because they are established, however despotic, ferocious nay vile they may be; even to such despotisms as that of Nero;--maintaining that resistance to such is equivalent to resisting the ordinance of God?--giving this not as the counsel of prudence, but as the dictate of conscience, thus proclaiming exemption from criticism or assault, for inhuman tyrannies? Nothing short of this is inculcated by the sweeping declaration: "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; the established powers are ordained of God." No doubt the bidding was given in view of a turbulent or insurrectionary spirit among the Israelites in Rome, but it is given without explanation or limit. It ratifies the divine right of kings: sanctions the principle that might makes right. Paul was an enthusiast for ideas; not a theologian, not a social reformer, but one whose zeal was spent on doctrines. Prevailingly intellectual, his whole nature was fused by the electric touch of a new thought.
Paul's acquaintance with the Talmud is evidenced by his writings. His use of allegory, his fanciful analogies, his mystical interpretations, his play on words, his passion for types and symbols, his ingenious speculations on history and eschatology, betray his familiarity with that curious literature. He found a mine of precious material in the mythical Adam Cædmon, the progenitor, the prototype, the "federal head" of the race, the man who was not a man but a microcosm, created by special act from sifted clay; a creature whose erected head touched the firmament, whose extended body reached across the earth; a being to whom all save Satan did obeisance; who, but for his transgression, would have enjoyed an immortality on earth; whose sin entailed on the human race all the evils, material and moral, that have cursed the world; the primordial man, who contained in himself the germs of all mankind; whose corruption tainted the nature of generations of descendants. The Talmud exhausts speculation on this prodigious personality. The doctrine of the christian church for fifteen hundred years was not so much colored as shaped by the rabbis who exercised their subtlety on this tempting theme. Philo, a contemporary of Paul, is in no respect behind the most imaginative in his conjectures on this sublime legend. That Paul, a student of the Talmud, fell in with them, should excite no surprise. That he added nothing is due probably to the fact that there was nothing to add.
From the Talmud, also, and from other rabbinical writings, Paul derived a complete angelology, a department of speculation in which the Jewish literature after the captivity was exceedingly prolific--Metathron, Sandalphon, Akathriel, Suriel, were familiar to his mind. It is a bold suggestion made by Dr. Isaac M. Wise, the Hebrew rabbi fresh from the Talmud, that Metathron,--[Greek: meta thronon], near the throne, called by eminent titles, "king of the angels," "prince of the countenance," impressed Paul's imagination and was the original of his Christ. Between this supreme angel, co-ordinate with deity and spiritually akin to him, and the Christ of Paul's conception, the correspondence seems to be too close to be accidental; so close, indeed, that some, unable to deny or to confute it, are driven to surmise that the first conception originated with the apostle. It is more probable however, though not provable, that the rabbinical idea was the earlier, and that the apostle took that as well as the Adam Cædmon from the rabbis. The "prince of angels" precisely met his requirement as a counter-vailing power to Adam, and supplied a ground for his theory of the second Adam, the "living spirit," the "Lord from Heaven," the primal man of a new creation, the first born of a new progeny, the originator of a "law of life" which should check and counteract the "law of sin and death." The second Man was the counterpart of the first.
[Footnote 1: Origin of Christianity, p. 335-341.]
He is a man, yet is he no man; his flesh is only "the likeness of sinful flesh," liable to death, but not implicating the personality in dying. He is the spiritual, heavenly, ideal man; celestial, glorious, image of God, translucent, sinless, impeccable; pre-existent, of course; without father or mother; an expression of divinity; a creator of new worlds for the habitation of the "Sons of God." His birth is an entrance into humanity from an abode of light. The mission of this transcendent being is, in a word, to break the force of transmitted sin, and reverse the destiny of the race. He imparts the principle of life, which is to restore all things. A multitude of incidental points are involved in this fundamental one, points of theology, anthropology, history, ethics, metaphysics, that present no difficulty to one who has this key. The long disquisitions on the Mosaic law, the discussions on the privileges of the Hebrew race and the rights of other races were necessary. The familiar doctrine of the resurrection derived fresh interest from association with the general theory, inasmuch as it supplied a ground-work for the expectation that the glorified One would reappear; and the hypothesis of a "spiritual" body, ventured and fully developed by the rabbis, even illustrated by analogies of the "corn of wheat" which the apostle makes so much of in the fifteenth chapter of I. Corinthians, supplied all else that was wanting to complete the scheme. The Christ, being sinless, was held to be incorruptible; death had no dominion over him, was in fact in his case, an "excarnation," the preparation for an ascent to the realm of light he came from, and to his seat at the right hand of his Father, instead of being a descent into the region of darkness to which mortals are doomed. The doctrine of last things follows from the doctrine of first things. They who are one with Christ through faith share his deathlessness. If they die, it is merely a temporary retirement, in which they await the coming of their Lord, who will in his own time call them out of their prison house. The larger number, however, were not, in the apostle's belief, destined to die at all; but might look as he did, to be transfigured, by the putting off of their vile bodies, and the putting on of glorious bodies like that of the great forerunner. In his amplifications on this theme, Paul shows little originality, and adds nothing important to the material lying ready to his hand.
The advantage his scheme gave him as a preacher to the Gentiles is too obvious to be dwelt on. As a Greek by birth and culture, he was interested in the fate of other nations besides the Jews. A system of religion adapted to the traditions and satisfactory to the hopes of a peculiar people,--a national, exclusive religion in the benefits whereof none but Jews might share, and from whose grace no lineal descendant of Abraham could be excluded, did not commend itself to this man, half Jew, half Greek. The faith that obtained his allegiance, and awoke his zeal must possess a _human_ character by virtue of which its message could be carried to all mankind. Such a faith his new theory of the Christ gave him. He could say to his Greek friends: "This religion that I bring you is no Hebrew peculiarity. Its Christ is no son of David, but a son of God; its heaven is no Messianic kingdom in Judæa, but a region of light above the skies; its principle is faith, not obedience to a ceremonial or legal code; it dispenses entirely with the requirements of the law of Moses; makes no account of sacrifices or priests; presumes on no acquaintance with Hebrew scriptures, or reverence for Hebrew men; questions of circumcision and uncircumcision are trivial and impertinent. The religion of Christ addresses you as men, not as Jewish men; it appeals to the universal sense of moral and spiritual infirmity, and offers a moral and spiritual, not a technical deliverance; instead of limiting, it will enlarge you; instead of binding, it will emancipate you; its genius is liberty, through which you are set free from ceremonialism, ritualism, dogmatism, moralism, and are made partakers of a new intellectual life."
Not all at once did this scheme unfold itself before the apostle's vision. Gradually it came to him as he meditated alone, or experimented with it on listeners in remote places. Naturally, he avoided the associations of the people he had persecuted, and the teachers they looked up to. He had nothing to learn from them; he understood their system and was dissatisfied with it, in short, rejected it. Their Jewish Messiah, literal, national, hebraic, was not an attractive personage to his mind. The promise of felicity in a Jewish kingdom of heaven was not enchanting. The daily life of the believers in Jerusalem was formal, unnatural, repulsive to one who had "walked large" in foreign cities and realms of thought. The apostles, Peter, James, John, had nothing important to tell him that he did not know already. The earthly details of the life of Jesus might have interested him, but the interior character and the human significance of the Christ were the main thing, and these he may have thought himself more in the way of appreciating by a temporary retirement to the depths of his own consciousness. Having matured his thoughts, he did put himself in communication with the original disciples, with what result is frankly stated in his letter to the Galatians: "To those who seemed to be somewhat (what they were is no concern of mine, God accepteth no man's person), but who in conference added nothing to me, I did not give way, in subjection, no, not for an hour." So heated he becomes, as he remembers this interview, that he can scarcely write coherently about it. The two conceptions of the Christ and his office were so far apart, that he did not, to his dying day, form intimate relations with the teachers of the primitive gospel. They taught an uncongenial scheme.
From the first, Paul's sphere of action was the Gentile world to which his message was adapted. If his first appeal was addressed to Jews, it was simply because Christianity, as he understood it, being an outgrowth from Jewish thought, a development of Jewish tradition, should naturally be more intelligible and more welcome to them than to people who had no historical or literary preparation for it. But he took the broad ground with them, and addressed his word to outsiders the moment stubbornly dogmatical Jews declined to receive it on his terms. The attempt made by the author of the "Acts of the Apostles," to show that Paul modified or qualified his scheme to bring it into harmony with the older scheme that he supplanted, fails from the circumstance that the writer discerns no peculiarity in his theory of the Christ, and consequently misses completely the ground of any antagonism.
This is written in the persuasion that the "Acts of the Apostles" is not trustworthy as history; has in fact no historical intent, but belongs to the class of writings that may be called conciliatory, or mediatorial, designed to bring opposing views together, to heal divisions, and smooth over rough places. By pulling hard at both ends of the string, dragging Peter towards Paul, and Paul towards Peter, ascribing to both the same opinions, imputing to both the same designs, and passing both through the same experiences, the author would make his readers believe that they stood on the same foundation. The grounds of the opinion above stated cannot be given here; but there are grounds for it, and solid ones, as any one may discover who will take the pains to look at Edward Zeller's essay on the "Acts," or any other argument from an unprejudiced point of view. The conclusion may be arrived at, however, by a shorter process, namely, by taking Paul's Christology as given by himself in his own letters, and then considering how completely it is excluded from the book. It seems to the present writer nothing less than certain, as plain as any point of literary criticism can be, that the "Acts of the Apostles" is not to be relied on for information respecting the life and opinions of the apostle Paul. In this opinion writers belonging to very different schools of religious philosophy, Mackay, for example, and Martineau, are cordially agreed. This must henceforth be regarded as one of the points established. The firmer the apprehension of Paul's peculiarity, the stronger is the conviction that the description of his conduct in the book of "Acts" must be fanciful. If he tells the truth, as there is no reason to doubt, the unknown author of the "Acts" romances.
The necessity that Paul was under of commending his christology to the Jews, a self-imposed necessity in part, inasmuch as his own genius being Jewish, imposed it on him, embarrassed the movement of his mind to such a degree that he was never able to do perfect justice to his own theory. Much time was spent in explaining his conduct to orthodox Jews, or in answering questions raised by hebrew casuistry. The epistle to the Romans, the most labored of his compositions, is a long argument addressed to his countrymen in Rome, with the design of persuading them that Jehovah was quite justified in accepting Gentiles who conformed to his requirements, and in rejecting children of Abraham who did not. This is the burden of the letter. The argument is lighted up by splendid bursts of eloquence, and diversified by keen remarks on points of psychology. But, omitting two or three of the chapters and scattered passages in others, the remainder is intellectually arid and devoid of human interest. The same may be said of the letter to the Galatians. The epistles to the Thessalonians, and those to the Corinthians, are occupied chiefly with matters of local and incidental concern. It is probable that Paul's genius was disastrously circumscribed within hebrew limits after all; that he never completely emancipated himself even from the old time traditions of his people; that the Jewish half of the man was not the weaker half. A philosopher he was not; a theologian, in the great sense, he was not; a metaphysician he was not; a psychologist he was not. He was an apostle, a preacher. The problems he discussed were formal rather than vital, and the spirit in which he discussed them was the temper of the dogmatist rather than that of the seer. However this may be, it may be affirmed that his system contained no strictly original ideas; that his leading thoughts, and even the phases of his thought, were borrowed from the literature of his nation, or, at least, may be found there.
It is a frequent remark that, but for St. Paul, Christianity might have had no life out of Judæa; which is tantamount to saying that it might have had no prolonged or extended life at all, but would have perished as an incidental phase of Judaism. The remark is essentially just; at the same time it must be remembered that the Christianity which Paul devised and planted was a system quite unlike that of his predecessors, though still another phase of Judaism, a divergent and cosmopolitan phase.
Other pieces of literature, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Hebrews, which, whether the compositions of Paul or not, contain developments of his thought, and may be called "Pauline," carry further his central speculation and apply his principle to the new problems that presented themselves in the social life of the religion; yet these do not go beyond the lines of Jewish thought. The significant passage in Philippians, "Who, although he was in the form of God, thought not that an equality with God, was a thing he ought greedily to grasp at," suggests the Greek mythus of Lucifer, who fell because, being already the brightest of beings, he was discontented with a formal inferiority of rank. His crime consisted in rapaciously grasping at a power which was, in all but the name, his own. The Christ, in contrast, was satisfied with the substance; he willingly resigned pretension to the position. But the Greek mythus was the reflection of a legend from the farther East, and came to this author more naturally through Judaism than through Paganism. According to Neander's classification the Gnostics, from whom this theosophic conception came, were Judaistic. Gieseler's classification leads to the same inference, for the Alexandrian Gnosis was the product of Greek thought, blended with Jewish. The classification of Gieseler has regard to the source whence the speculation came; that of Neander to the tendency of the speculation. In whichever aspect we view the myth, its Jewish character is apparent. The writer has pushed his speculations into new fields that yet lay within the ancestral domain. He describes the Christ as being but the semblance of a man, in "fashion" a man, not in substance. The thought is a further development, yet a strictly logical one, of Paul's idea that the Christ was made "in the likeness of sinful flesh." The two expressions are parallel, in fact identical; "body," in Pauline phrase being, from the nature of the case, "sinful body." The writer speaks of the dominion of the Christ as extended over the three spheres, heaven, earth, and the under-world; scarcely thereby enlarging the scope of a previous thought, for as much as these spheres were comprehended in the dominion of the Christ who "created the worlds," the new worlds that constituted the new creation, whereof he was Lord.
The letter to the Hebrews, an exceedingly elaborate exposition of the close relation between the new faith and the old, an argument and a plea for the new faith as containing in substance all that the old contained in form, is Jewish in coloring throughout, an exaggeration of Jewish ideas. The argument is that Christianity excels Judaism in its own excellencies. The Christ is called "high priest," "perpetual priest," possessing the power to confer endless life. By the sacrifice of himself he has entered at once into the holy of holies. He has tasted death for every man--another way of saying that he has deprived death for every man of its bitterness. He has destroyed the devil who held the kingdom of death. He has reconciled man with God by abolishing death, and with death sin, which is the strength of death. The Christ is represented as the author of salvation to all that obey him; he lives forever to make intercession; his blood purges men's consciences from reliance on dead works; he, once for all, has devoted himself to bear the sins of many; he will come again, and bring salvation to such as wait for him; all these are merely completed expressions of the idea enunciated by Paul.
The Christ himself is described in this epistle as "the appointed heir of all things;" "the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person;" "upholding all things by the word of His power;" "the First Begotten;" "the object of adoration by the angels." To support this view, the Old Testament is ingeniously quoted and misapplied. The influence of Jewish thought appears also in the passages that describe the Christ as an agent, appointed to his office; an official, "sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on High;" as fulfilling His mission and obtaining His glory through suffering; as subjected to human experiences of temptation; as strictly sub-ordinate to God.
The scriptures entitled "Colossians" and "Ephesians" betray still greater familiarity with Alexandro-Jewish conceptions, and a yet deeper sympathy with them. The Christ is here "the image of God, the first-born of every creature." It is declared that "by Him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth; things visible and invisible; thrones, dominions, principalities, powers; by Him and for Him they were created." "He is far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, whether in this world or the world to come." He is "all in all." He is the pleroma, the fulness, the abyss of possibility. "The fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him visibly." He exhausts the divine capacity of expression. He is the reality of God. Towards mankind he is the reconciler. In him "all things are gathered together in one." By the blood of his cross he has made peace and reconciled all things to himself; things on earth and things in heaven. In a striking passage, the writer of "Ephesians" describes the Christ as first descending into the under world to release the captives bound in the chains of Satan, and thence ascending up on high and sending down gifts to men.
Both of these compositions abound in Gnostic phraesology. The abstruse terms "Mystery," "Wisdom," "Æon," "Prince of the Powers" recur again and again, and always with the cabalistic meaning. The writers are caught in the meshes of Oriental speculation, and apparently make no effort to extricate themselves. On the contrary, they welcome their enthralment, taking the binding cords to be guiding strings towards the truth. So far, again, instead of escaping from the Jewish tradition we are tethered to it more securely than before. The literature of the New Testament is seen to be still a continuation and completion of the literature of the Old. The earliest form of the Messianic doctrine is completely distanced. Scarcely a trace of it remains. Of the throne of David not a word. Not a word of Moses and the Prophets, of the historical fulfilment of ancient prediction, of the temple worship, of the chosen people. Pharisees and Sadducees are alike omitted. The very word "kingdom," as denoting a visible Messianic reign, is dropped. But the territory of Judaism has not been abandoned. Galilee is deserted; Jerusalem is overthrown; but the schools of the rabbins are open.
It will be remarked that the moral teaching is more vague and mystical than it was in the early time. The theological spirit prevails over the human; the ecclesiastical supersedes the ethical. Practical principle is postponed to theoretical doctrine. The virtues prescribed are ghostly, technical; the graces of a church, not the qualities of a brotherhood. The intellectual air is thinner and more difficult to inhale. The spiritual atmosphere is not inspiring. Intelligence can make nothing of writing like this: "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject in all things to their husbands. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." The absence of rational ground for duty in the most familiar relations of life could not be more explicitly declared than in a passage like this. That such an age should have had a scientific system of morality cannot be expected; but that the traditional system should have been lost, and a fantastical one set up in its place, is a testimony to the influence of the mystical spirit. The fanciful morality of a small and enthusiastic body may be interesting to the members of the body and influential on their conduct; but it is no evidence of health in the moral constitution of the generation. The representation of the Christian warfare as a conflict "not against flesh and blood,"--that is, against organized evil in society and the State,--"but against principalities, against powers, against the princes of darkness, against wicked spirits that dwell in the air," is another evidence that conscience had become visionary. Such reasoning is of a piece with the argument for there being four gospels and no more, namely, that there were four quarters of the heaven, and four winds; or with the argument for perpetual virginity, that it supplied the Church with vestals. Such theologising shows how far speculation may be separated from reality and yet be entertained by human minds.
THE LAST GOSPEL.
The author of the fourth Gospel is unknown, but it is incredible that this wonderful book, wonderful for finish of literary execution as well as for vigor of intellectual conception, was written by a Galilean fisherman; a man of brooding and morbid disposition, whose intemperate zeal earned for him the title "son of thunder;" who, according to Luke, proposed to call down fire from heaven to consume certain Samaritans that declined to receive the master; who, according to the same authority, rebuked certain others that conjured by the Christ's name, but did not join his company; who, through his mother, asked for one of the best seats in the "kingdom;" a man who was most intimately associated with the James described in a former chapter; a man who late in life, had a reputation for intolerance which started a tradition of him to the effect that being in the public bath, and seeing enter the heretic Cerinthus, he rushed out, calling on all others to follow, if they would not be overwhelmed by the ruin such a blasphemer would pull down on their heads. All the traditions respecting John are to the same purport; his constant association with James and Peter, both disciples of the narrowest creed; his advocacy of chiliasm, the doctrine of the millennial reign of a thousand years, as testified to by Ephesian presbyters on the authority of Irenæus; the description of him, reported by Eusebius, as a "high priest wearing the mitre," standing in the order of succession therefore as a hierarch of the ancient dispensation, a churchman maintaining the ancient symbolical rites.
That such a composition as the fourth Gospel was written by such a man, in his old age too, the laws of literary criticism cannot admit. To the present writer the ungenuineness of the fourth Gospel has for several years seemed as distinctly proved as any point in literary criticism can be. To maintain the Johannean origin of the book, it must be assumed that the apostle lived to an extreme old age, nearly double the full three score years and ten allotted to mankind; that his entire nature changed in the interval between his youth and his senility; that, without studying in the schools, he became a profound adept in speculative philosophy; and that by the same miraculous bestowment, he acquired a skill in letters surpassing that of any in his generation, far surpassing that of Paul, who was an educated man, and completely casting into the shade Philo, the best scholar of a former era. All this, too, must be assumed, for there is not a fragment of the evidence to support the bold presumption of authorship.
The book belongs nearer to the middle than the beginning of the second century, and is the result of an attempt to present the Christ as the incarnate Word of God. The author is not obliged to go far to find his materials; they lie ready shaped to his hand in the writings of Philo and the Gnostics of his century. The thread of Hebrew tradition, has, by this time, become exceedingly thin; vestiges of the popular Jewish conception appear, but faintly, here and there. Nicodemus recognizes the divine character of the Christ by his power to work miracles. The Christ respects the tradition which accorded special privileges to the genuine "children of Abraham;" he declares to the woman of Samaria that "salvation is of the Jews;" he announces that eternal life consists in the knowledge of God, and the acceptance of his Son. Moses is said to have written of the Christ. Father Abraham rejoiced to see his day. Isaiah sang his glory, and spake of him. The brazen serpent is a type of his mission to deliver.
For the rest, the conceptions of deity, of providence, of salvation, of the eternal world, are quite different from the recognized Hebrew conceptions--the title given to God sixty times in the gospel, while the word "God," occurs less than twenty, is "Father," and this term is used, not in the sense of Matthew's "Our Father in Heaven," which describes the Old Testament Jehovah under his more amiable aspect, but rather as designating the _abyss of potential being_, as the term is employed in the trinitarian formula, in which the Godhead is broken up into three distinctions; the declaration "God is Spirit," or, as the language equally well permits, "Spirit is God," intimates that the individuality of God has disappeared, that the idea of deity has become intellectual. The one hundred and thirty-ninth psalm expresses perhaps as mystical an apprehension of God as the old Hebrew thought admits of, but that psalm retains the divine individuality; the limits are nowhere transgressed; it is a sympathetic, regardful eye that searches the secret place, and an attentive mind that notes the unarticulated thought. The intelligence loses no point of clearness in becoming penetrative. But in the fourth Gospel, the individuality is gone altogether. The Father "loveth," but with an abstract, impersonal sympathy; the Father "draweth," but with an organic, elemental attraction; the Father "hath life in himself," and hath given the Son to "have life in himself;" but neither the possession nor the communication of this power implies the bestowal of a concrete gift. The Father "judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son"--a phrase intimating that he had gone into retirement, had withdrawn from active interest in human concerns, had sunk into the depths of the Absolute. The expression "God is Spirit," taken alone, conveys no idea that is not contained in the Hebrew conception of the formless Jehovah; but when taken in connection with other expressions, it is seen to convey something more, and something different. The formless God may be strictly local; the "Spirit" is diffused.
In this book, the Christ takes the place of God, as the revealed or manifest God; he is the Logos, the incarnate word. "He was with God in the beginning." "All things were made by him." "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." "He hath life in himself." He is the only begotten son, who came down from heaven; he is in heaven. All judgment is committed to him; in him the divine glory is manifest; apart from him is no spiritual life; he is the vine, the door; he is the intercessor through whom prayer must be transmitted in order to be made availing.
The divine presence is taken out of nature, and transferred to the spiritual world; God is made ecclesiastical and dogmatic. Men are saved, not by natural piety and excellence, but by faith in the Christ as the Logos. The whole sum of Christianity is conveyed in this one position: _the manifestation of the Divine Glory in the Only Begotten Son_. This manifestation is of itself, the coming of salvation, the gift of God's life to mankind. By this, the Christ overcomes the powers of darkness and evil. He has come a light into the world; by him come grace and truth; to believe in him is a sign of God's working. He that cometh to him shall never hunger; he that believeth on him shall never thirst. It is enough that blind men believe; to die, believing in him, is to live; to live, believing in him, is to be saved from the power of death, and made immortal. To believe in him is the same thing as to believe in the Father. Not to believe in him, is to be consigned to spiritual death with sinners; to believe on the Son is to have everlasting life. This idea recurs with monotonous perseverance, some sixty times.
That this conception of the Christ is not original with our author has already been said many times. It had been in the world two hundred years before his day, and had worked its way into the substance of the later Jewish thought. The personification of the divine reason early occurred to the Jews who had been touched with the passion for speculation in the city of Alexandria. Long ago attention was called by Andrews Norton, among ourselves, to bold personifications of wisdom and the divine reason, in the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. "She is the breath of the power of God, a pure influence proceeding from the glory of the Almighty. She is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness." Chapters seven and eight of the Book of Wisdom contain an apotheosis of wisdom as the creative power. In the eighteenth chapter the imagery grows much stronger. "Thine almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man-of-war into the midst of a land of destruction." The twenty-fourth chapter of Ecclesiasticus is devoted to the same theme. The Word is described as a being: the first born of God; the active agent in creation; having its dwelling-place in Israel, its seat in the Law of Moses.
Philo pushes the speculation much further. The Logos is with him a most interesting subject of discourse, tempting him to wonderful feats of imagination. There is scarcely a personifying or exalting epithet that he does not bestow on the divine Reason. He describes it as a distinct being; calls it "A Rock," "The Summit of the Universe," "Before All Things," "First-begotten Son of God," "Eternal Bread from Heaven," "Fountain of Wisdom," "Guide to God," "Substitute for God," "Image of God," "Priest," "Creator of the Worlds," "Second God," "Interpreter of God," "Ambassador of God," "Power of God," "King," "Angel," "Man," "Mediator," "Light," "The Beginning," "The East," "The Name of God," "Intercessor." The curious on this subject may consult Lücke's Introduction to the Fourth Gospel, or Gfrörer's Philo, and he will be more than satisfied that the Logos of the fourth Gospel is the same as Philo's, and has the same origin.
Christian scholars who admit this have been anxious to break the force of the inference, by allowing the similarity of the conception and then supposing the evangelist to have stated the doctrine that he might stamp it as heresy. But he nowhere does stamp it as heresy. He puts it boldly on the front of his exposition and constructs his whole work in conformity with it. Instead of refuting it or denouncing it, he carries the idea out in all its applications, supplementing it with a completeness that Philo never thought of.
The Logos becomes a man; "is made flesh;" appears as an incarnation; in order that the God whom "no man has seen at any time," may be manifested. He has no parentage; is not born, even supernaturally; he passes through no childish passages; receives no nurture in a home; has no experience of growth or development. The incident of his baptism by John in the sacred river is carefully excluded, that whole episode, so important in the earliest narratives, being dismissed in the phrase, "Upon whom thou shalt see the spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." John says of him: "This is he that, coming after me, is preferred before me, for he existed before me." "I saw the spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him." "I knew him not, but came, baptizing with water, that he might be made manifest to Israel." "I am a voice crying in the desert." Every word negatives the notion that the Logos received consecration at the hands of a prophet of the old dispensation. He is pre-existent; he comes from heaven; he is full of grace and truth; of his fulness all have received, grace upon grace.
The temptation is omitted for the same reason. The divine word cannot, even in form, undergo the experience of moral discipline. The bare suggestion of evil taint is foreign to him. He must not come near enough to evil to repel it. A dramatic scene in Matthew represents the conflict between the Messiah and the Prince of the World; a conflict inconceivable in the case of a divine being who is, by nature, Lord of the entire spiritual universe,--whose mere appearance dispels the night.
Even the story of the transfiguration, which in some respects would seem admirably illustrative of the logos theory, is omitted, probably for the reason that Moses and Elias are the prominent personages in it.
As a thing of course, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane is unmentioned. A suggestion of it occurs in a previous chapter, (XII. 27), but in another connection, and for an opposite purpose, namely, to extort a tribute to the glory of the Logos.
The cross on which the Word is suspended, is transfigured into an elevation of honor. On it the Son of God endures no mortal agony; by it he is "lifted up" that he may "draw all men" unto him. His crucifixion is a consummation, a triumph. He mounts, shows himself, and vanishes away. The suffering is an appearance of suffering. The shame is turned to glory. The tormentors are agents in accomplishing a transformation. The god passes, without a groan or an expression of weakness; clear as ever in his perceptions, seeing his mother and the beloved disciple standing together, he says: "woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother." Knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said "I thirst;" having received the vinegar, he remarked "it is finished," bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. From his dead form issue streams of water and blood, a last sign, as the conversion of water into wine was the first, that the dispensation of Law, symbolized by John's water baptism, and the dispensation of the spirit symbolized by wine and by blood, were both completed in him.
The resurrection of the Christ is not described as the resurrection of a body, but as the apparition of a spiritual form. It is not recognized by Mary through any external resemblance to a former self, but through a spiritual impression; it stands suddenly before her, forbids her touch, is not palpable, and as suddenly disappears; the Logos ascends "to the Father;" returns, bringing the spirit that he had promised; enters the chamber where the disciples are gathered, the door being carefully closed from fear of the Jews, enters without opening the door, is visible for an instant, and is no more seen; re-enters for the purpose of giving palpable demonstration of his reality to the doubting Thomas, who, however does not accept it, receives the skeptic's homage and again disappears.
These apparitions and occultations are frequent in the gospel, the Christ's outward form being only a façade, removable at pleasure. The numerous comings and goings, hidings, disclosures, presences, absences, are accounted for on this supposition, better than on any other. He goes up to the feast at Jerusalem, not openly, but "as it were in secret," veiled, disguised. He comes before the crowd many of whom must have been familiar with his person, but is unrecognized; he discloses himself for a moment, speaks exciting words that raise a tumult, and then, at the height of the turmoil, becomes invisible. "They sought to take him; but no man laid hands on him, _for his hour was not yet come_." On a subsequent occasion his hearers, intensely aroused by his language, took up stones to cast at him; but he "_hid himself_, and went out of the temple, _going through the midst of them_, and so passed by." His enemies sought to take him, but "he escaped out of their hands." Having spoken, he departs, and hides himself; but again, without apparently changing his locality or absenting himself for any period, he is again heard proclaiming his mission.
There is no history in this book. The incarnate Word can have no history. His career being theological, the events in it cannot be other than spectral. He is not in the world of cause and effect. His actions are phenomenal; the passages of his life do not open into one another, do not lead anywhere; nothing follows anything else, nothing moves; there is no progress towards development. The biography is a succession of scenes, a diorama. There are no sequences or consequences. Stones are taken up, but never thrown; hands are uplifted to strike, but no blow is delivered. The movement to arrest is never carried out. The miracles are not deeds of power or mercy, they are signs, thrown out to attract popular attention, demonstrations of the divine presence; sometimes merely symbolical foreshadowings or interpretations of speculative ideas, as in the case of the turning of water into wine at the "marriage feast;" the opening of the blind man's eyes, signifying that he was come a light into the world; the resurrection of Lazarus, a scenic commentary on the text, "I am the resurrection and the life." These are pictures not performances. None of them are mentioned in the earlier traditions, for the probable reason that they never occurred, never were rumored to have occurred. They were designed by the artist of the fourth Gospel, for his private gallery of illustrations. The artist was a Greek Jew who took Hebrew ideals for his models, but he was sometimes obliged to go far to find them. The hint for the conversion of the water into wine, may have come from the legends of Israelite sojourn in Egypt, where Moses, the first deliverer, turned water into blood, the mystical synonym of wine; Elisha may have furnished a study for the elaborate picture of the blind man's cure, and Isaiah may have supplied the motive for it, in his famous prophecy that the eyes of the blind shall be opened. The studies for the grand cartoon of Lazarus were made possibly while the artist mused over the stories of Elijah raising the son of the widow, or of Elisha reviving one already dead by mere contact with his bones.
In the veins of the Logos flows no passionate blood. His language is vehement, but suggests no corresponding emotion; the words are not vascular. Certain superficial peculiarities of these discourses are noticeable at once, their length, their stateliness, their absoluteness, their loud-voiced, declamatory character, their oracular tone. But little scrutiny is required to discover that they are monotones; that their theme is always the same, namely, the claims of the Christ; that they unfold no system of moral or spiritual teaching, proceed in no rational order, arrive at no conclusions; that they contain no arguments, answer no questions, meet no inquiring states of mind; that they resemble orations more than discourses of any other kind, but are unlike orations, in having neither beginning middle nor end, in quite lacking point and application, in proceeding no whither, in simply standing still and reiterating the same sublime abstractions, without regard to logical or rhetorical proprieties.
This being discovered, the conclusion follows swiftly, that the divine Logos could not discourse otherwise. His addresses, like his deeds, are designed to be revelations of himself; expressions, not of his thoughts, but of his being, not of his character, but of his nature. They are the Word made articulate, as his wonders are the Word made mighty, as his form is the Word made visible. A human being, seeking to convince, persuade, instruct mankind, will from necessity pursue a different course from the divine Reason presenting itself to "the world." Its very audiences are impersonal, consisting not of individuals or of parties, but of abstractions labelled "Jews," who come like shadows, so depart.
So unhuman is the Christ, so entirely without near relations with mankind, that when he has left the world, a substitute may be provided for him, in the shape of the Holy Spirit, another personality proceeding from him and his Father, and appointed to complete his work; to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; to guide the disciples into all truth; to bring to their remembrance all that had been said to them; to comfort them, and abide with them for ever. The idea loses itself in vagueness at times, now being identified with the Christ, now appearing as a Spirit of Truth, now being an indwelling presence, now an effluence from the Logos. But all the while something like an individual consciousness is preserved; the spirit is as palpable as the Logos himself was. Here is already the germ of a trinity maturing within the bosom of the Hebrew monotheism. The process has been simple; the consecutive steps have been inevitable. But in the process the solid ground of Judaism has been left; the massive substance of the ancient faith has been melted into cloud.
How entirely nebulous it has become under the action of speculative mind is strikingly apparent on examination of the ethical characteristics of the fourth gospel. The concrete virtues of the ancient race, the honest human righteousness and charity have disappeared, and in their place are certain spectral "graces" which have quality of a technical, but little of a human sort. That, according to the Logos doctrine men are saved, not by natural goodness or piety but by faith in the Christ, is written all over the book. But this is not the point. It is not enough that character has no saving power, it is dispensed with; and instead of it, something is set up which possesses none of the elements of character. The compact principles of human duty which hold so large a place in the Old Testament scriptures, and are so essential in the earliest Messianic conception, are not found here, at all. The sermon on the mount is omitted. The beatitudes are unmentioned. The parables are not remembered. There is no chapter in the book that bears comparison in point of moral vigor or nobleness with the twelfth chapter of Romans, or the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians. Humanity has shrunk to the dimensions of an incipient Christendom. The men and women whom the Jesus of Matthew addresses, to whom Paul makes appeal, are men and women no more; not even Jews by race, not even a knot of radical Jews; they are "disciples," "believers," "brethren." Christians, not fellow men, are to love one another. "So shall ye be my disciples, if ye have love one for another." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples." Of the broad human love, the recognition of brotherhood on the human ground, duty to love those who are _not_ disciples, there is not a word. The common _faith_, not the common _nature_, is the bond. The promises in the fourteenth chapter, the warnings in the fifteenth, the counsel in the sixteenth, the consecration in the seventeenth are all for the believers, not for the doers; for the doers only so far as they are believers, and within the limits of the believing community. The tender word "love" shrinks to ecclesiastical proportions. "If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him;" but the words are not words of exhortation to practical righteousness, they are words of admonition against unbelief. "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" but the commandments are not the wholesome enactments of the Hebrew decalogue, but a bidding to "walk by the light while ye have the light," "to do the will of Him that sent me," which is "to believe on him whom He hath sent." "He that believeth not is condemned already in his not believing in the only begotten Son of God." There is no sweeter word than "love;" there is no more comprehensive law than the law of love; but when love is changed from a virtue to a sentiment, and when the duty of practising it is limited to members of a doctrinal communion, the practical issue is more likely to be sectarian narrowness than human fellowship.
As the speculation rises the spectral character of the morality becomes more startling. The so-called epistles of John carry the Logos idea considerably further than the gospel does. The mission of the Logos is more sharply discriminated. He is described as a sin offering. "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." "He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin." The word "manifested" is the key to the doctrine. "The Son of God was _manifested_ that He might destroy the works of the devil." It is the same conception as in the gospel; the Prince of Light confronting the Prince of Darkness, shaming him and _attracting_ away his subjects. The anti-Christ now comes into view; the sin unto death is named; the second advent is announced, though not according to the millennial anticipations of a former day. "He that denieth that Jesus is the Christ is a liar." "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." "Every spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." Belief or unbelief in the incarnation of the Logos is made the test of one's spiritual relationship, marking him as a candidate for eternal felicity in the realm of the blessed, or as a victim of endless misery in the realm of Satan. Thus the very heart of natural goodness is eaten out. Of virtue there remains small trace. A great deal of very strong language is used about sin, but _sins_ are not particularized. Sin, as an abstraction, a principle, a power, a force, a deep seated taint in the nature, ineradicable except by the infusion of a new spirit of life, is represented as the dreadful thing; and Love, another abstraction, is raised to honor as a spiritual grace, equally unconnected with the human will. "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love." The words have a deep and tender sound. But the consideration that "the beloved" are those only who confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, that all others are the reverse of "beloved," causes that neither the depth nor the sweetness remains. The love does not mean compassion, or pity, or good-will, or helpfulness; it has no reference to the poor, the needy, the sick, sorrowful, wicked; it has no downward look, is destitute of humility, is as far as can well be from the love described by Paul in his perfect lyric. It is, we may say, the opposite of that, being a quality that distinguishes the elect from the non-elect, and makes their special election the more sure.
The literary character of the fourth gospel must be remarked on as a peculiar indication of the mental exhaustion that accompanies the last stages of an intellectual movement. The literature of the century preceding Jesus fairly throbs with personal vitality. It is scarcely more than an expression of individual energies. The earliest writings of the New Testament, the genuine letters of Paul, are animated in every line by his own vehement personality; the speculative portions of them stir the blood, so real are the issues presented, so vital are the interests at stake. Shapeless, and sometimes incoherent, the thoughts tumble out of the writer's overcharged heart. The Christ is an ideal personage, but his mission is tremendously real; we are moved by a battle cry as the apostle's ideas burst upon us.
The literature of the succeeding period, though more elaborate and self-conscious, bearing traces of reflection, and even artifice in composition, is yet warm with the presence of a real purpose. But the fourth gospel is a purely literary work; a composition, the production of an artist in language. Its author, perhaps because he was simply an artist in language, is unknown. Trace of an historical Jesus in it there is none. No breath from the world of living men blows through it; no stir of social existence, no movement of human affairs ruffles its calm surface. The people are not real people, the issues are not real issues, the conflict is not a real conflict. We have a book, not a gospel.
The writer formally announces the subject of his spiritual drama, and then proceeds to develop it, according to approved rules of literary art. First comes the prologue, setting forth in a few sententious passages the cardinal idea of the piece. This occupies eighteen verses of the first chapter, and is followed by the introduction of John the Baptist and his testimony. This occupies eighteen verses more. The manifestation of the Logos to the first company of disciples is described with due circumstance in the remainder of the chapter. The symbolical opening of the public ministry, at Cana, the first open "manifestation of the glory" in the miracle of turning water into wine, by which is signified the calling to substitute a spiritual for a natural order, occupies the first ten verses of the second chapter. Then the ministry of revelation begins, with signs and demonstrations. The city of Jerusalem is chosen as the scene of it; and the scene never changes for longer than a moment, and then it changes without historical, or biographical motive. The cleansing of the temple is placed at the beginning, with undisguised purpose to announce his claim, and the dialectical contest is opened. Nicodemus, "a ruler of the Jews," seeks a nocturnal interview, betrays the ignorance of the kingdom which characterizes all save the regenerate, even the wisest, and gives occasion to the Christ to declare the intrinsic superiority of the Son of God, and the conditions of salvation through him; Nicodemus furnishing the starting point for a lofty declamation which soars beyond him into the region of transcendental ideas. The Baptist, instead of doubting, as in Matthew, and sending an embassy to the Christ to ascertain the reasons of his not disclosing himself, is himself questioned by skeptical disciples, and re-assures them by words that are an echo of the Christ's own.
The interview with the woman of Samaria is introduced for the purpose of extracting another confession of the Christ's supremacy from a different order of mind. Nicodemus represented Judaism in its pride of authority and learning. The woman of Samaria represents the ignorant, superstitious, yet stubborn idolatry reckoned by the Jews as no better than heathenism; her "five husbands" are the five sects into which Judaism was divided. She too is pictured to us as sitting by a well and _drawing water_. The conversation begins with the Christ's declaration of his power to create perennial springs of water in the heart, and leads immediately up to the great disclosure of himself. Superstition, like superciliousness, listens and is persuaded. The mention of Galilee is necessary to account for the episode in Samaria, but nothing occurs there. The next scene is laid again in Jerusalem. The _water_ of Bethesda is brought into competition with the quickening spirit of the Christ; the cure of the sick man introduces a mystical discourse on the spiritual sufficiency of the Son of God.
Another scene is presented, and once more in Jerusalem. Another series of tableaux is arranged. This time the Christ is pictured as breaking bread and _walking on water_, whence occasion is taken to descant on the bread of life. For the purpose of making a fresh appearance in Jerusalem, and presenting his claim under a new aspect, Galilee is called into requisition again, but as usual, the drama is enacted in Jerusalem, which is the centre of the opposition. This time, the Christ, having declined to go up in his own character to meet his critics, goes up in disguise, incognito, and amazes the congregated multitude by his superb assumptions of authority, and his overwhelming denunciations of all who do not receive him; denunciations so uncompromising, that dissensions are created. "Some would have taken him, but none laid hands on him." As always, the demonstration results in bringing out his friends and enemies, in showing who were and who were not his own, which is the aim and end of every manifestation. The Logos presents himself, makes his statement, asserts his prerogative, offers the alternative of spiritual life or death, and retires, leaving the result to the spiritual laws.
The story of the woman taken in adultery which immediately follows this passage, probably made no part of the original gospel, as it appears out of all connection. It is pronounced by some of the best critics to be ungenuine. The obvious improbability of its incidents, the locality of it,--the Mount of Olives,--the Christ's mysterious proceeding of writing on the ground, and his unaccountable verdict, deprive the tale of all but literary interest. It is interesting in a literary point of view, or would be if it were set in literary relations; for it illustrates the Christ's supremacy, his supernatural power of rebuke and insight, his authority to grant absolution on purely theological grounds. The doctrine that none but the guiltless are entitled to pronounce sentence on guilt would put an end to censorship of every kind, but is quite in accordance with the ethical tone of the book. The author however, turns the incident to no account, but proceeds with new scenes in his speculative drama. "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" the Christ enters once more into the old debate, once more the claim is challenged, once more the angry discussion flows on, becoming, at this juncture more violent than ever; terrible denunciations leap from the divine lips; the adversaries are called a devil's brood, liars, murderers at heart. At the close of the final outburst, the unseen hands raise the visionary stones, but "Jesus hid himself, went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
The speech however is continued; the main doctrine of it, namely that the Christ is the Light of the World, being illustrated by the miracle of giving sight to a man "blind from his birth,"--the story being told at great length and with exceedingly minute detail, so as to cover every point of circumstance. This seems to be a critical moment in the development of the idea. The vehemence subsides for a time, and the light of the world shines gently as a shepherd's lantern showing wandering sheep the way to the true fold. But the softest word stirs up anger; the "Jews" take up stones, not to throw them, but to exhibit temper, and the act closes tranquilly like those that preceded it.
The resurrection of Lazarus prepares the way for the closing scenes. That such a story, so artificially constructed, so evidently introduced for effect, told by one writer and not as much as alluded to by the others, told with so much circumstance and with so little regard for biographical probability, told for a dogmatical purpose, and fitted into the narrative at the precise juncture where a turning point was wanted, should be accepted as history by any unfettered mind; that a critic like Renan, professing a profound reverence for the character of Jesus, should have admitted it as in some sense true, and should have been driven in explanation of it to a theory utterly fatal to the moral character of the "colossal" man he celebrates, thus sacrificing the moral greatness of Jesus to a perverse sense of historical truth, proves the obstinacy of traditional prejudice. The narrative is too evidently a literary device, one would think, to deceive anybody of awakened discernment. Its manifest artifice is such that it alone would be enough to cast suspicion on all the miraculous narrations of the book.
"From that day forth the Jews took counsel together to put him to death." The crisis has come, and events hasten on towards the catastrophe, which, as has been said, was no catastrophe, but a consummation. Mary, instead of sitting at his feet as a disciple, anoints them with spikenard and wipes them with the hair of her head; the holy woman performing the act elsewhere ascribed to a sinner, the act itself being a ceremony of consecration, instead of a mark of penitence. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem, elsewhere described as the Messiah's own project, is converted into a spontaneous demonstration in his honor, rendered by "much people," who had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. "Certain Greeks" present themselves and ask an introduction, as to a royal personage. They are the first fruits of the Gentile world; their coming is welcomed as a sign of final victory. "The hour is come," says Jesus, on receiving them, "that the Son of Man should be glorified." The heavens echo his exclamation; an audible voice, interpreted as the voice of an angel, pronouncing the glorification certain and eternal. The Son of God adds his own interpretation, confirming that of his friends; prophesies the speedy judgment of the world and his own elevation to glory by means of the cross, makes his last statement, and the dialectical war is at an end.
The rest of the life is given to the disciples. The last supper, its agony and distress of mind omitted, is an occasion for impressing on "his own" the lesson of mutual love. The departure of Judas on his errand is the signal for a burst of rapture. Words of consolation, mingled with promises of the "Spirit of Truth," "The Comforter," words of blessing too follow, intended to beget in his friends the feeling that, though absent, he will still be present with them. They are bidden to remember him as the source of their life; are admonished to keep unbroken the spiritual bond that unites them to him in vital sympathy; are assured that the mission he came to earth to discharge will be fulfilled by the Holy Ghost; and finally are solemnly consecrated by priestly supplication as the rescued children of God.
The story of the arrest is told in a strain equally suited to the idea on which the book is constructed. In full consciousness of his position, Jesus steps forth out of the shadow of mystery to meet Judas and his troop, who have come, expecting to find him in his garden retreat. The soldiers, over-awed by the apparition, start backward and fall to the ground, prostrate before the Son of God. The trial goes on before Annas and Caiaphas, priests, and Pilate, Roman viceroy. The powers of Church and State pronounce on him; before the powers of Church and State he announces himself and makes his royal claim. In the presence of the High Priest, who is scarcely more than a name in this proceeding, introduced in order that Judaism might have one more opportunity of rejecting the majesty of heaven, Jesus suffers an indignity at the hands of one of the prelate's officers; but Pilate, the pagan, shudders before the awful personage who tells him that he could have no power at all except it were given him from above; that he was but a tool of providence. The guilt of the execution is thus transferred from his shoulders to destiny; for the Jews, no less than the governor, are fated. The hour of glorification has come, and the Son of Man moves with stately step towards his ascension.
The process of withdrawal from the visible sphere has already been described. It is not effected at once. As a lantern in the hand of one walking in a wood flashes out and again hides itself, becoming dimmer and dimmer until finally it quite disappears, so the Son of God is many times visible and invisible before he vanishes altogether from sight. No bodily ascension is necessary to bear away one whose coming and going are not conditioned by space or time. His form has always been a translucent veil, which could at pleasure be removed. His mission ended, there is no more occasion for his self-revelation, and he is unseen. The unreality of a representation like this must be too apparent to be argued.
From this exposition it appears that the New Testament literature is, in some sort, to the end, a continuation of the literature of the Old Testament. As the earliest phase of Christianity was Judaism, with a belief in the Messiah's advent superadded, so the first literature of Christianity is the literature of Judaism, written on the supposition that the Christ has come. Judaism is Christianity still expectant of a Christ to come, or, as with the radical Jews, unexpectant of a personal Messiah; Christianity is Judaism with the expectation fulfilled. The Judaic element was not limited to the little knot of Jerusalemites who hung about the holy city and waited there for the Christ's coming; it was conspicuous in the system of Paul, and so far from being absent from the later form, known by the name of John, determines the cardinal idea of that, and shapes its bent. Whatever additions are made, grow out of this cardinal idea, as branches from its stem. The strict monotheism of the Hebrew faith is sacrificed to the Messianic conception. The Christ in time becomes a twin Deity, a Holy Ghost being required to fill up the gulf between godhead and humanity.
But for the fury of the discord that arose and deepened between the Jews who accepted the Christ and the Jews who preferred still to wait for him, the later, as well as the earlier form of Christianity, might possibly have been merged in Judaism. The believers in the Messianic advent were radical to the point of fanaticism. They were the restless advocates of change, agitators, revolutionists. Their passionate zeal could not brook indifference or coolness. Nothing short of a fervid allegiance satisfied them. The recusants had to bear hard names, as the gospels attest. The ill-fortune of the Messiah, the bitter opposition he encountered, his untimely death, were charged upon the faithlessness of the nation who would not confess him. These, and not the Roman Government that actually put him to death, were held answerable for his crucifixion; thus a discord was planted, which all the generations of Christendom have failed to eradicate. There has, from that time to this, been implacable hatred between Christian and Jew.
The separation, which might have been healed or obliterated, had this been the sole cause of it, was widened by the subsequent breach between the christians themselves, which drew attention off from the previous issue. The position taken by Paul, that the mission of the Christ was extended to the Gentiles and comprehended them on precisely the same conditions with the Jews, was exceedingly disagreeable and even shocking to the conservatives, who held that the Christ was sent to Israel only, and especially to that portion of Israel that clung tenaciously to the traditions of the law. The necessary criticism of the Law which Paul's position required, the apparent disrespect shown to Moses and the prophets, the disregard of the ancestral claim set up by the "children of Abraham," the substitution of an interior principle--faith--which any heathen might adopt, for the old fashioned legal requirements to which none but orthodox Jews could conform, was hardly less than blasphemous in their regard; and a feud was begun, which in violence and rancor, excelled the quarrel between the orthodox christians and the Jews. The traces of this controversy, plainly marked in the writings of Paul, are visible on the literature of his own and of the succeeding period, and disappear only in the events of greater significance incident to the fall of Jerusalem, the complete dispersion of the Jews, and the blending of parties in the Western Empire. Ferdinand Christian Baur may have pushed too far in some directions, his theory that the entire gospel literature of the New Testament was determined as to its form by the exigencies of this controversy, the canonical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the "Acts of the Apostles" all being written in the interest of reconciliation; but his fundamental position, as in the case of Strauss, has never been carried, or even shaken, by assault. The extreme points in controversy are fixed with a good deal of certainty. Paul's own statement in the second chapter of Galatians is fairly explicable only on the supposition of a violent collision, the nature of which is there defined, the bearings of which are indicated in that and in other undoubted writings of the apostle. Many passages therein are unintelligible on any other hypothesis. The Apocalypse and the Epistle of James, as clearly set forth the opposite view, in language and implication of the strongest kind, and in a spirit of decided antagonism. The "Acts of the Apostles" is, as elsewhere hinted, prepared with a view of making it appear that no controversy existed; that Peter carried the gospel to the Gentiles, and that Paul insisted on the validity of circumcision, the mark of initiation into the Jewish church. The narrative is so forced, the incidents so artificial, the aim so evident, the limitation of view so marked, that the book betrays its own character. To admit the genuineness of the "Acts" is to throw into confusion the little history that we certainly know, and to unfix the continuity of events. How far the three first gospels correspond in purpose with the "Acts," is a nice question, which need not be answered here, which may be left unanswered without detriment to the soundness of the general theory. Whether or no the controversy was of such absorbing moment, whether or no it lasted as long as Baur believes, or exerted as wide an influence on literature, its effect in drawing the thoughts away from the earlier dispute between the Messianic and the anti-Messianic Jews, and in detaching the christians from their original associations is unimpaired. From the breaking out of that dispute, which occurred within fifteen or twenty years of the crucifixion, at the latest, Christianity followed its own law of development.
But, though thus discarded, disowned, finally detested, the very name of Jew, as early as the fourth gospel, being associated with a stiff-necked bigotry impenetrable to conviction, the old religion maintained its sway over the child that had taken its portion of goods and gone away to make a home of its own. The Palestinian and Asiatic literature of the young faith bears the stamp of its Hebrew lineage, as has been shown. The Christ sprung from its bosom, was instructed in its schools, was glorified through its imagination. The resurrection was its prophecy; the heaven to which he ascended was of its building and coloring; the throne whereon he seated himself was of its construction; the Father at whose right hand he reigned was its own ancient deity. His very name, the name he continues to bear to this day,--Messiah--is the name whereby she loved to describe her own ideal man. In the depth of his degradation, in the heat of his persecution, in the agony of his despair, the Jew could reflect that his relentless oppressor owed to him the very faith he was compelled to curse. The victim was the conqueror. The reflection may still have been bitter; whatever sweetness it brought was flavored with vengeance, except in the greatest souls who loved their religion better than their fame.
THE WESTERN CHURCH.
Our story is not yet told. As regards the New Testament books, though the genius that produced them was Eastern, the judgment that brought them together in a single collection was Western. No list of the New Testament books pretending to carry weight was made until the year 360. For two centuries and a half there was no Christian bible. The canon, as it now stands, was fixed by Pope Innocent I., A. D. 405, by a special decree. Why precisely these books were selected from the mass of literature then in existence and use, is--except in two or three cases where the prevailing sentiment of the actual Church threw out a book like Enoch or kept in a book like the Apocalypse--still open to conjecture. In such a dilemma Schwegler's conjecture, that the irenical or reconciling books were retained, and the partisan writings dropped, is as plausible as any, perhaps more so. The Church of Rome had two patron saints--Peter and Paul; it claimed to be founded by both Apostles, and, on this principle, adopted its canon of scripture. The New Testament, by its arrangement, was, it is claimed, an expression in literature of the Catholic claim.
As regards the Christ idea, though formed in the East, the West gave it currency, made it the central feature of a vast religious system, crowned it and placed it on a throne. Had the creative thought of Judaism been confined to the East, our concern with it need have gone no further. But the thought was not confined to the East, even in the widest comprehension of that term. The Jews were everywhere. The repeated disasters which befel their country gave fresh impulse to their creed. Their ideas spread as their state diminished; and their ideas were so vital that they captured and engaged the floating speculations of the Gentile world whenever they were encountered. In Alexandria, where Jews had been for two hundred and fifty or three hundred years, and whither they flocked by thousands after each fresh national disaster, the faith, instead of being extinguished by the flood of speculation in that busy centre of the world's thought, revived, drew in copious supplies of blood from the Greek spirit, and entered on a new career. If it be true, as is declared in Smith's Dictionary of Geography, that when the city of Alexandria was founded (B. C. 332) it was laid out in three sections, one of which was assigned to the Jews, their political and social influence must have corresponded to their numbers. Prof. Huidekoper revives and reärgues the belief, that travelled men of letters from Greece, preëminent among them, Plato, who visited Egypt, borrowed from the Jews the ideas which ennobled and beautified the Greek philosophy. The doctrines of the Stoics, Greek and Roman, bear, in Mr. Huidekoper's opinion, evident marks of Jewish origin. This is going, we think, beyond warrant of the facts. We may claim much less and still place very high the intellectual sway of this remarkable people. It may be confidently asserted, that in portions of Asia Minor, Syria, and Northern Egypt, their faith had largely displaced the ancient superstitions.
The splendid literature of the Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom, the rich fund of speculation in the Talmud, the intellectual wealth of Philo, the Pauline and Johannean Gnosis, brilliantly attest their intellectual vigor. The Rev. Brooke Foss Walcott, in Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible," declares, that from the date of the destruction of Jerusalem, in the year 70, the power of Judaism "as a present living force, was stayed." But such a statement can be accepted only in a much qualified sense. The destruction of Jerusalem put an end to the State more completely than the overthrow of any modern city could do; for the holy city was the home of the national life in a peculiar sense; it was the seat of the national worship in which the national life centred. With the temple fell the institutions that rested on the temple. When the walls were thrown down and the grand buildings levelled, it was like erasing the marks of history, tearing up the roots of tradition and setting the seal of destiny on the nation's future. The territory was small; the power of the great city was felt in every part of it, and the quenching of its light left the land in darkness. But the catastrophe which terminated the existence of the State, gave a new life to the religious idea and opened a new arena for its conquests. It greatly increased the number of Jews in the city of Rome, the imperial city of the West, the conquering metropolis; raised the congregations already existing there to a position of considerable importance; served to unite, by the sympathy of a common sorrow, parties that had been divided; had the effect in some measure to weaken antipathies, harmonize opinions and inflame zeal; in a word, transferred to Italy the faith that, in outward form, had been crushed in Palestine. Thenceforth Judaism, which had been a blended worship and polity, ceased to be a polity, and became more intensely than ever, because more exclusively, a worship.
The history of the settlement of Jews in Rome, is naturally obscure. Being mainly of the mercantile and trading class their presence there might have been expected early. They were restless, enterprising, industrious, eager and skilful in barter; and Rome attracted all such, being the business centre of the western world. Political affairs at home were never long favorable to peaceful pursuits, and were frequently in such confusion that the transactions of ordinary existence were precarious. The numbers that were carried away to Babylon comprised it is probable the more eminent class. As many, if not more, found their way to other cities, and of these Rome received its share. The earliest mention brings them before us as already of consequence from their wealth and intelligence. Sixty years before the christian era, Cicero commended Lucius Valerius Flaccus, prætor of the district of Asia Minor, because he did not encourage an exorbitant expenditure of money on the construction of the temple, by Jews, the exportation of whose wealth from Rome was felt as an evil. He states that under the directions of Flaccus, one hundred pounds weight of gold ($25,000) had been seized at Apamea, in Asia Minor; twenty pounds at Laodicea. The Jews were rich. Their demonstrations of grief at the death of Julius Cæsar, the conqueror of their conqueror, Pompey, and the enlightened friend of the people, argued by the number and loudness of the voices, the presence of a multitude. One may read in any book of Jewish history that Josephus reckoned at eight thousand the Jews who were present, when at the death of king Herod, his son Archelaus appeared before Augustus; that the poor among them were numerous enough to procure from Augustus a decree authorizing them to receive their share of the bounty of corn on another day, when the day of general distribution fell on their Sabbath; that one emperor expelled them as a dangerous element in the city; that another for the same reason laid special penalties and burdens on them; that the aristocratic party was steadily hostile to them. Tacitus, their enemy, speaks of the deportation of four thousand young Israelites to Sardinia. Josephus makes the astounding, the fabulous statement that in the year 66, the Jews in Rome required two hundred and fifty-six thousand lambs for their paschal commemoration. Such a provision would imply a population of two million and a half at least. That the Jews were of some importance is attested by the comments made on them by Roman writers; by Martial, who alludes to their customs in his epigrams; by Ovid, who criticises their observance of the Sabbath as having the character of a debasing superstition and introduces a shirk who, having exhausted all pretexts, makes a pretext of respecting the Sabbath in order not to incur the ill will of the Jews; by Persius, who remarks satirically on the Sabbath observances and the rite of circumcision; by Plutarch, who minutely describes the Mosaic system of laws. Satire betrays fear as well as dislike. The great writer disdains to caricature people who are inconspicuous. Juvenal was a great writer, and his envenomed raillery against the Jews has become familiar by quotation. It would seem, from his invectives, that Jewish ideas and practices had crept into public approval, and were exerting an influence on the education of Roman youth. He complains bitterly of parents who bring up their children to think more of the laws of Moses than of the laws of their country.--"Some there are, assigned by fortune to Sabbath fearing fathers, who adore nothing but the clouds and the genius of the sky; who see no distinction between the swine's flesh as food and the flesh of man. Habitually despising the laws of Rome, they study, keep and revere the code of Judæa, a tradition given by Moses in a dark volume. The blame is with the father, with whom every seventh day is devoted to idleness, and withdrawn from the uses of life." Juvenal lived in the latter part of the first and the early part of the second century, about a generation after the destruction of Jerusalem. Admitting the genuineness of the passage, and the ground of the criticism, neither of which is disputed, the influence of the Jews was by no means contemptible.
[Footnote 2: Bellum Judaicum, VII. 17.]
Milman conjectures that while the number of Jews in Rome was much increased, their respectability as well as their popularity were much diminished by the immense influx of the most destitute as well as of the most unruly of the race, who were swept into captivity by thousands after the fall of Jerusalem. This may be true. There is reason to believe that the importation of so great a number of strangers was attended by poverty, distress, and squalor, horrible to think of. It could not have been otherwise. That they should infest and infect whole districts of the city; that they should pitch their vagabond tents on vacant plots of ground, and should change fair districts, gardens and groves into disreputable and foul precincts; that they should resort to mean trades for support, peddling, trafficking in old clothes, rags, matches, broken glass, or should sink into mendicancy, is simply in the nature of things, But it is fair to suppose that the exiles from Jerusalem would bring with them the memory of their sufferings during the unexampled horrors of that tremendous war; would bring with them also a fiercer sense of loyalty to the faith for which such agonies had been borne, such sacrifices had been made. That they held their religion dear, is certain. Their Sabbaths were observed, their laws revered, their synagogues frequented, their peculiarities of race cherished and perpetuated by tradition from father to son. There is reason to think that they anticipated the Christians in their practice of burying their dead in the catacombs, which bore a strong resemblance to the rocky caverns where in the fatherland, their ancestors were laid. The catacombs in the neighborhood of the Transtevere, the district where the Jews mostly lived, are plainly associated with them. The seven-branched candlestick appears on the wall, and the inscriptions bear witness to the pious constancy of the race. They made proselytes among the pagans weary of their decrepit and moribund faiths, and thus extended the religious ideas which they so tenaciously held. Among themselves there was close association, partly from tradition and partly from race. Some semblance of their ancient institutions was kept up; their general council; their tribunal of laws. Circumstances alone prevented them from maintaining their ancestral religion in its grandeur. Seneca, about the middle of the first century, represents Jewish usages as having pervaded all nations; he is speaking of the Sabbath. Paul found thriving synagogues, wherever he went, and wrote to some that he could not visit, before the destruction of Jerusalem made the final dispersion.
[Footnote 3: See Milman's Jews, II. p. 461.]
The Messianic hope was strong in these people; all the stronger on account of their political degradation. Born in sorrow, the anticipation grew keen in bitter hours. That Jehovah would abandon them, could not be believed. The thought would be atheism. The hope kept the eastern Jews in a perpetual state of insurrection. The cry, "lo here, lo there!" was incessant. The last great insurrection, that of Bar-Cochab, revealed an astonishing frenzy of zeal. It was purely a Messianic uprising. Judaism had excited the fears of the Emperor Hadrian, and induced him to inflict unusual severities on the people. He had forbidden circumcision, the rite of initiation into their church; he had prohibited the observance of the Sabbath and the public reading of the law, thus drying up the sources of the national faith. He had even threatened to abolish the historical rallying point of the religion by planting a Roman colony on the site of Jerusalem and building a shrine to Jupiter on the place where the temple had stood. Measures so violent and radical could hardly have been prompted by anything less alarming than the upspringing of that indomitable conviction which worked at the heart of the people. The effect of the violence was to stimulate that conviction to fury. The night of their despair was once more illumined by the star of the east. The banner of the Messiah was raised. Portents as of old were seen in the sky; the clouds were watched for the glory that should appear. Bar-Cochab, the "son of the star," seemed to fill out the popular idea of the deliverer. Miracles were ascribed to him; flames issued from his mouth. The vulgar imagination made haste to transform the audacious fanatic into a child of David. Multitudes flocked to his standard. "The whole Jewish race throughout the world," says Milman, "was in commotion; those who dared not betray their interest in the common cause openly, did so in secret, and perhaps some of the wealthy Jews in the remote provinces privately contributed from their resources." "Native Jews and strangers swelled his ranks. It is probable that many of the fugitives from the insurgents in Egypt and Cyrene had found their way to Palestine and lay hid in caves and fastnesses. No doubt some from the Mesopotamian provinces came to the aid of their brethren." "Those who had denied or disguised their circumcision, hastened to renew that distinguishing mark of their Israelitish descent, to entitle themselves to a share in the great redemption." The insurrection gained head. The heights about Jerusalem were seized and occupied; fortifications were erected; caves were dug, and subterranean passages cut between the garrisoned positions; arms were collected; nothing but the "host of angels" was needed to insure victory. The angels did not appear; the Roman legions did. The carnage, during the three or four years of the war--for so long and possibly longer, the war lasted--was frightful. The Messiah, not proving himself a conqueror, was held to have proved himself an impostor, the "son of a lie." The holy city was once more destroyed, this time completely. A new city, peopled by foreigners, arose on its site. The effect of the outbreak, which was felt far and wide, in time and space, was disastrous to Jewish influence in the empire. From this time Judaism lost its good name, and at the same time its hold on the cultivated mind of Europe. Fanaticism so wild and destructive was entitled to no respect.
[Footnote 4: See Huidekoper's "Judaism in Rome," p. 325-329.]
The Christians, of course, took no part in the great rising, and had no interest in it. It was their faith that the Messiah had already come; and however confident their expectation of his reappearance to judge the nations and redeem his elect, time had so far sobered the hopes of even the rudest among them, that they no longer looked for a man of war, no longer were attracted by banners in the hands of ruffians or trumpet blasts blown by human lips. The feeling was gaining ground, if it was not quite confirmed, that instead of waiting for the Christ to come to them, they were to go to him in his heaven. Hence, Jews, though they might be in the essentials of their religious faith, they were wholly alienated from those of their race who looked for a cosmical or political demonstration. That this want of sympathy and failure to participate, widened the breach between them and the Jews who still expected a temporal deliverer, there can be little question; that in times of great excitement, the Christian Jews were exposed to scoffing and persecution is equally undeniable. Bar-Cochab treated them with extreme cruelty. It is even probable that in Rome and the provinces of the empire a settled hatred of the Christians animated Jews of the average stamp, and found expression in the usual forms of popular malignity. It is easy to believe that Jews in Rome, possessing influence in high quarters, thrust Christians between themselves and persecution. This, indeed, is extremely probable. But that, in ordinary times, an active animosity prevailed on the part of the Jews of the old school against Jews of the new school, is not clearly proved. The latter were orthodox, conservative Jews, loyal to the national faith in every respect save one, namely, their persuasion that the Christ was no longer to be looked for, having already appeared. To those Jews, who had abandoned the belief that he would appear, or who had allowed that belief to sink into the background of their minds, the belief of the Christians would occasion no bitterness. It is still a common impression that the persecution recorded in the book of "The Acts of the Apostles," to which Stephanos, the Greek convert, fell a victim, was directed by Jews against Christians. But it has been made to appear more than probable,--admitting the historical truth of the narrative--that the assault was made by the Judaizing upon the anti-Judaizing Christians; the Jews who were not Christians at all, taking no part in it. The reasoning upon which this conclusion is based, will be found in Zeller's book on the "Acts," an exhaustive treatise which must be studied by anybody who would understand that curious composition. The main positions may be apprehended by the intelligent reader on carefully perusing the story as written, and noting the conspicuous fact, that the quarrel is between radicals and conservatives; between the advocates of a broad policy, comprehending Greeks and Romans on the same terms with Jews, and the champions of a restricted policy, confining the benefits of the Messiah's advent to the true Israelites.
[Footnote 5: See "Judaism in Rome," p. 245.]
The destruction of Jerusalem was one of the causes that may have operated to close this gulf. By breaking up the head-quarters of the Christian conservatism, and dispersing the lingerers there among the inhabitants of Gentile cities, it weakened their ties, widened their experience, softened their prejudices, and prepared them to accept the larger interpretation of their faith. The writings of the New Testament, all of them produced after the destruction of Jerusalem, some of them fifty or sixty years after, none of them less than ten or fifteen years, bear traces of this enlargement. The Jewish christians living in Greek and Roman Cities could hardly avoid the temptations to adopt that view of their faith which commended it to the communities whereof they were a part, and this was the view presented by Paul and his school, the intellectual, or, as some prefer to call it, the "spiritual" view. According to this view, also, the new religion was grafted on the old, Judaism was the foundation; the root from which sprung the branches, however widely spreading. Paul, as has been remarked, addressed himself invariably to Jews, in the first instance, and turned to the Gentiles only when the Jews rejected him. The essential beliefs of the religious Jew he retained, never exchanging them for the beliefs of Paganism, or qualifying them with the speculations of heathen philosophy. He labored in the interest of the faith of Israel, broadly interpreted, nor, in respect of his fundamental conceptions, did he ever wander far from the religion of his fathers. The spiritual distance between the school he founded, and the school that in his life time he opposed, was not so wide that it might not in course of time, be diminished, until at length it disappeared entirely. Parties holding the same cardinal belief, will not forever be separated by incidental barriers, especially when, as was the case with the destruction of Jerusalem, providence moves the chief barriers away.
Other inducements to a good understanding between the two parties of Christian Jews were at work. Heresies of all sorts were springing up within the churches, which could be suppressed only by the moral power of a common persuasion in the minds of the chief bodies. Questions were raised which neither branch of the christian community could satisfactorily answer; controversies arose, demanding something like an ecclesiastical authority to adjust. Unless the new religion was to split into petty sections and be pulverized to nothingness, the restoration of old breaches was an absolute necessity. The danger was of too sudden and artificial a compromise between the main divisions, resulting in a compact organization that might arrest the movements of the spirit of liberty. The church did eventually obtain supremacy in dogma and rite, through the imperative demand for unity that was urgently pressed early in the second century.
Judaism contained in its bosom two elements, one stationary, the other progressive; one close, the other expansive; one centralizing in Judæa and waiting till it should attract the outer world to it, the other forth reaching beyond Palestine, and seeking to commend the faith of Israel to those who knew it not. These two elements coëxisted from early times, and caused perpetual ferment by their struggles to overmaster each other. The priest stood for the one principle, the narrower, the fixed, the instituted; the prophet stood for the other, the intellectual, the expansive, the progressive. The priest stayed at home to administer the ordinances; the prophet journeyed about, to spread the salvation. The priest was a fixture, the prophet was a missionary.
The two divisions of the earliest Christian community represented these counter tendencies. The school of Peter, James, and John, the hierarchal, conservative school, maintained the attitude of expectation. They waited and prayed, exacted rigid compliance with ordinances; clung to their associations with places and seasons; were tenacious of holy usages; required punctuality and accuracy of posturing, were strict in conformity with legal prescriptions, made a point of circumcision, or other rites of initiation into the true church. The school of Paul and Apollos took up the principle of universality, dispensed with whatever hampered their movements and impeded their action, and, taking essential ideas only, making themselves "all things to all men, if peradventure, they might win some," preached the message freely, to as many as would hear. The two principles, however discordant in operation, demanded each other. They could not long exist apart; the unity and the universality were mutually complementary. Unity alone, would bring isolation, solitariness, and ultimate death from diminution. Universality alone would lead to dissipation, attenuation, and disappearance. It was therefore not long before the extremes drew together and met.
Lecky, the historian of European morals, assigns as a reason why the Jews in Rome were less vehemently persecuted than the Christians, that "the Jewish religion was essentially conservative and unexpansive. The Christians, on the other hand, were ardent missionaries." Would it not be more exact to say that the Jews of one school were essentially conservative and unexpansive; that the Jews of another school were ardent missionaries? That the one school should be persecuted, while the other was left in peace, was perfectly natural, especially in communities where their essential identity was not understood. There is no necessity for supposing that the two faiths were actually distinguished because one attracted attention and provoked attack, while the other did nothing of the kind. Not history only, but common observation furnishes abundant examples of faiths fundamentally the same, meeting very different fortunes, according to the attitude which circumstances compelled them to assume. The Christians might have presented the aggressive front of Judaism, as Paul did, and still not have forfeited their claim to be true children of Israel.
There is, in fact, no doubt that discerning persons perceived the substantial identity of the two religions. It is conceded on all sides, by Jewish and by Christian writers,--Milman and Salvador, Jost and Merivale, corroborating one another,--that Jews were taken for Christians and Christians for Jews. They were subjected to the same criticism; they were exposed to the same contumely. Indeed it may be questioned whether the early persecutions that were inflicted on the Christians were not really directed against the Jews, whose reputation for restlessness and fanaticism, for stiffness and intolerance, was established in the minds of all classes of society. The Jews were a mark for persecution before there was a Christian in Rome, before the Christian era began. They were persecuted on precisely the same pretexts that were used in the case of the Christians. They had a recognized locality, standing and character. They were many in number and considerable in influence. The lower orders disliked their austerity; the higher orders dreaded their organization; philosophers despised them as superstitious; politicians hated them as intractable; emperors used them when they wished to divert angry comment from their own acts. They were "fair game" for imperial pursuit. A raid on the Jews was popular. It is possible, to say the least, that the Christians would have passed unmolested but for their association with the Israelites. This is no novel insinuation; Milman hinted at it more than a quarter of a century ago, in his "History of Christianity." "When the public peace was disturbed by the dissensions among the Jewish population of Rome, the summary sentence of Claudius visited both Jews and Christians with the same indifferent severity. So the Neronian persecution was an accident arising out of the fire at Rome; no part of a systematic plan for the suppression of foreign religions. It might have fallen on any other sect or body of men who might have been designated as victims to appease the popular resentment. Accustomed to the separate worship of the Jews, to the many, Christianity appeared at first only as a modification of that belief." The same conjecture is more boldly ventured in the History of Latin Christianity. "What caprice of cruelty directed the attention of Nero to the Christians, and made him suppose them victims important enough to glut the popular indignation at the burning of Rome, it is impossible to determine. The cause and extent of the Domitian persecution is equally obscure. The son of Vespasian was not likely to be merciful to any connected with the fanatic Jews." "At the commencement of the second century, under Trajan, persecution against the Christians is raging in the East. That, however, (I feel increased confidence in the opinion), was a local, or rather Asiatic persecution, arising out of the vigilant and not groundless apprehension of the sullen and brooding preparation for insurrection among the whole Jewish race (with whom Roman terror and hatred still confounded the Christians), which broke out in the bloody massacres of Cyrene and Cyprus, and in the final rebellion, during the reign of Hadrian, under Bar-Cochab." If the Christians made themselves particularly obnoxious, they did so by their zeal for beliefs which they shared with the Jews and derived from them; beliefs in the personality of God, the immediateness of Providence, the law of moral retribution, and the immortal destinies of the human soul. Their belief in the ascended and reigning Christ gave point to their zeal; but the Jews, too, clung to their hope of the Christ, and through the vitality of their hope were known.
[Footnote 6: History of Christianity, II; p. 8.]
[Footnote 7: Vol. I.; p. 528.]
The importance ascribed to Christianity as a special moral force working in the constitution of the heathen world, is, by recent admission, acknowledged to have been much exaggerated. The chapter on "The state of the world toward the middle of the first century" in Renan's "Apostles," sums up with singular calmness, clearness and easy strength, the influences that were slowly transforming the social condition of the empire; the nobler ideas, the purer morals, the amenities and humanities that were stealing in to temper the violence, mitigate the ferocity, soften the hardness and uplift the grossness of the western world. Samuel Johnson's little essay on "The Worship of Jesus" is a subtle glance into the same facts, tracing the efficacy of powers that co-operated in producing the atmospheric change which was as summer succeeding winter over the civilized earth. Mr. Lecky, with broader touch, but accurately and conscientiously, paints a noble picture on the same subject. But other artists, of a different school, make the same representation. Merivale, lecturing in 1864, on the Boyle foundation, in the Chapel Royal, at Whitehall, on the "Conversion of the Roman Empire," in the interest of the christian Church, says, "the influence of Grecian conquest was eminently soothing and civilizing; it diffused ideas of humanity and moral culture, while the conquerors themselves imbibed on their side the highest of moral lessons, lessons of liberality, of toleration, of sympathy with all God's human creation." "Plutarch, in a few rapid touches, enforced by a vivid illustration which we may pass over, gives the picture of the new humane polity, the new idea of human society flashed upon the imagination of mankind by the establishment of the Macedonian Empire. Such, at least, it appeared to the mind of a writer five centuries later; but there are traces preserved, even in the wrecks of ancient civilization, of the moral effect which it actually produced on the feelings of society, much more nearly contemporaneous. The conqueror, indeed, perished early, but not prematurely. The great empire was split into fragments, but each long preserved a sense of the unity from which it was broken off. All were leavened more or less with a common idea of civilization, and recognized man as one being in various stages of development, to be trained under one guidance and elevated to one spiritual level. In the two great kingdoms of Egypt and Syria, which sprang out of the Macedonian,--in the two great cities of Alexandria and Antioch, to which the true religion owes so deep a debt,--the unity of the human race was practically asserted and maintained." "After three centuries of national amalgamation, the result of a widespread political revolution, after the diffusion of Grecian ideas among every people, from the Ionian to the Caspian or the Red Sea, and the reception in return, of manifold ideas, and in religious matters of much higher ideas, from the Persian, the Indian, the Egyptian and the Jew, the people even of Athens, the very centre and eye of Greece, were prepared to admit the cardinal doctrine of Paul's preaching."
The same writer cordially admits the moral grandeur and the moral power of the philosophers whose teaching had, for several generations, been leavening the thought and ennobling the humanity of the Roman world. "The philosophy of the Stoics, the highest and holiest moral theory at the time of our Lord's coming,--the theory which most worthily contended against the merely political religion of the day, the theory which opposed the purest ideas and the loftiest aims to the grovelling principles of a narrow and selfish expediency on which the frame of the heathen ritual rested--was the direct creation of the sense of unity and equality disseminated among the choicer spirits of heathen society by the results of the Macedonian conquest. But for that conquest it could hardly have existed at all. It was the philosophy of Plato, sublimed and harmonized by the political circumstances of the times. It was what Plato would have imagined, had he been a subject of Alexander."
"It taught, nominally at least, the equality of all God's children--of Greek and barbarian, of bond and free. It renounced the exclusive ideas of the commonwealth on which Plato had made shipwreck of his consistency. It declared that to the wise man all the world is his country. It was thoroughly comprehensive and cosmopolitan. Instead of a political union it preached the moral union of all good men,--a city of true philosophers, a community of religious sentiment, a communion of saints, to be developed partly here below, but more consummately in the future state of a glorified hereafter. It aspired, at least, to the doctrine of an immortal city of the soul, a providence under which that immortality was to be gained, a reward for the good, possibly, but even more dubiously, a punishment of the wicked."
Merivale, it will be understood, writing in the interest of Christianity, makes note of the limitations of the Stoic Philosophy, calls it vague, unsatisfactory and aristocratic, the "peculiarity of a select class of minds;" and so it was, to a degree; but that it had a mighty influence throughout the intellectual world, as much as any system of belief could have, must be confessed. So far as ideas went, it comprehended the wisest and best there were. As respected the authority by which the ideas were recommended and guaranteed, it was the authority of the intellectual lights of the world. To say that the truths were limited, is to say what may be said of every intellectual system under the sun, including the beliefs of christian apostles which the christian Church has outgrown. To say that they were not final, is to say what will be affirmed of every intellectual system till the end of time. There the beliefs were, stated, urged, preached with earnestness by men of live minds, fully awake to the needs of the society they adorned, thinking and writing, not for their own entertainment, but for the improvement of mankind. Their books were not read by the multitude, the multitude could not read: scarcely can they read now. But the men influenced the directors of opinion, the makers of laws, the builders of institutions, the wealthy, the instructed, the high in place.
Nor must it be forgotten that these ideas of philosophy did not remain cold speculations. They bore characteristic fruits in humanity of every kind. The brotherhood was not a sentiment, it was a principle of wide beneficence. The charities of this gospel attested the presence of a warm heart in the metropolis of the heathen world. Of this there can no longer be any doubt. Works like that of Denis' "Histoire des Theories et des Idées Morales dans l'Antiquité," reveal a condition of becoming in the Roman Empire that might dispel the fears of the most skeptical in regard to the continuous moral progress of the race. The immense popular distributions of corn which from being occasional had become habitual in Rome, were as a rule prompted by no humane feeling, were not designed to mitigate suffering or express compassion. They were in the main, devices for gaining popularity. Caius Gracchus, who, more than a century before Christ, carried a law making compulsory the sale of corn to the poor at a nominal price, was perhaps actuated by a worthier motive; but it is doubtful whether his successors were. Cato of Utica was not. Clodius Pulcher was not. The emperors were obliged to purchase popularity by these enormous bribes. It is said that Augustus caused the monthly distribution to be made to two hundred thousand people. Half a million claimed the bounty under the Antonines. The addition of a ration of oil to the corn; the substitution of bread for the corn; the supplementing of this by an allowance of pork; a subsequent supply of the article of salt to the poor on similarly easy terms; the distribution of portions of land; the imperial legacies, donations, gratuities, mentioned as bestowed on occasion; the public baths provided and thrown open to all at a trifling expense, were also means of winning or retaining the good will of a fickle and turbulent populace. They neither expressed a humane sentiment nor produced a humane result. They were suggested by ambition, no better sometimes than that of the demagogue, and they begot idleness, and demoralization. But some part of the beneficence must have sprung from a more generous motive. The interest manifested by several emperors in public education, and the appropriation made for the maintenance of the children of the poor, five thousand of whom are said, by Pliny, to have been supported by the government, under Trajan, who presume never heard of Christianity,--cannot fairly be ascribed to political motives. The private charities of the younger Pliny, who devoted a small patrimony to the maintenance of poor children in Como, his native place; of Coelia Macrina, who founded a charity for one hundred at Terracina; Hadrian's, bounties to poor women; Antonine's loans of money to the poor at reduced rates of interest; the institutions dedicated to the support of girls by Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius; the private infirmaries for slaves; the military hospitals, certainly owed their existence to a humane feeling. Pliny is responsible for the statement that both in Greece and Rome the poor had mutual insurance societies which provided for their sick and infirm members. Tacitus expatiates on the generosity of the rich, who, on occasion of a catastrophe near Rome, threw open their houses and taxed their resources to relieve the suffering.
[Footnote 8: For references, see Lecky's "European Morals," II., p. 79-81.]
Such acts attest a genuine kindness. The protests of the best citizens against the bloody gladiatorial shows,--a protest so eager and persistent that the trade of the gladiator was seriously injured--must have been in the highest degree unpopular, for the populace found in these shows their favorite amusement. The remonstrances of philanthropic men against the barbarities of the penal code; the call for the abolishment of the death penalty; the pity for the woes of neglected children; the indignation at the crime of infanticide; the earnest interest taken in the problems of prostitution and the most revolting aspects of pauperism were such as might have proceeded from nineteenth century people. Stronger words were never spoken by American abolitionists than were uttered by pagan lips against the slavery that was pulling down the Roman State.
[Footnote 9: See Denis, II., p. 55-218.]
That beneficence in the Roman Empire during the latter half of the first century and the first half of the second was fitful, formal, limited, and unimpassioned, as compared with the charities of Christians in their communities, need not be said; of course it was. The Christians succeeded to the legacies of kindness left by the pagans; they were comparatively few in number, and were bound to one another by peculiar ties; they were themselves of the great family of the poor; they were obliged to help one another in the only way they could, by personal effort and sacrifice. Their traditions, too, of beneficence were oriental. The difference in spirit between Roman and Christian charity cannot be fairly described as a difference between heathen charity and christian; it is more just to call it a difference between Eastern charity and Western. The Orientals, including the Jews, made beneficence in its various forms, an individual duty. Kindness to the sick, the unfortunate, the poor, compassion with the sorrowful, almsgiving to the destitute, hospitality to the stranger, are virtues characteristic of all eastern people. The New Testament chiefly echoes the sentiment of the Old on this matter, and the Old Testament chimes in with the voices of eastern teachers. In the West, government undertook responsibilities which in oriental lands, were assumed by individuals; people were to a much greater degree massed in orders and classes; the distance was wider between the governors and the governed, and considerations of state more gravely affected the actions which elsewhere seemed to concern only the private conscience and heart. The question of advantage between these two systems is still an open one. In every generation there have been some, christians too, who preferred the western method to the eastern, as being less costly, and more methodical; the debate on the relative advantages and disadvantages of the personal and the impersonal methods still goes on in modern communities; neither system prevails exclusively in any christian land; the Latin races still, as a rule, prefer the Roman way, France for example, where charity is a matter of public rather than of private concern.
The mischiefs of the oriental method were apparent before Christianity appeared, and its zealous adoption of them early awakened misgivings. The indiscriminate almsgiving, the elevation of poverty to the rank of a privilege, the glorification of self-impoverishment, the acceptance of feeling as a divine monitor, and of emotion as a heavenly instinct, the substitution of the worship of the heart for deference to reason, the loose compassion, the practical and professed communism--for some of the fathers maintained that all property was based on usurpation, that all men had a common right in the earth, and that none was entitled to hold wealth except as a trust for others--soon disclosed disastrous results. Against the evils that are fairly chargeable upon the wholesale measures of the imperial bounty, must be offset the equally grave, and in some respects, not dissimilar evils incident to the unprincipled practice of loving kindness on the part of the bishops and their flocks, the increase of the dependent, the encouragement of pauperism, the waste of wealth, the worse waste of humanity. National philanthropy in London and New York finds no more serious obstacle to its advance than the benevolence that is inculcated in the name of Christ, and by authority of the New Testament. It is the battle of science against sentiment.
The increased devoutness that showed itself in the empire, about the beginning of the second century, the pious passion that broke out, is attributable to natural causes, that have been mentioned by every author who has written on the subject. It is familiar knowledge that the decay of institutions, the disintegration of social bonds, the general decline of positive religious faith, a decline partly due, possibly, to the tolerance which placed all faiths side by side, was followed, or we might say accompanied by a longing after divine things that was wild in the fervor of its impulse. The complacent reign of skepticism was succeeded by a volcanic outbreak of superstition. What has been called "a storm of supernaturalism" burst forth, with the usual accompaniments of frenzy, and took possession of all classes. Only general causes of this can be assigned. That it was due to any special influence cannot be alleged. That it was due to any "supernatural" interposition of heaven, is an unnecessary supposition. The cursory reader of the history of the empire, as written by intelligent modern scholars, of whatever school, sees plainly enough the pass that things had come to and how they came to it. Christianity came in on the wave of this movement, felt its force, struck into its channel, was borne aloft on its bosom. It is customary to speak of all this spiritual ferment as a preparation for Christianity; it was such a preparation as left Christianity little of a peculiar kind to do. What new element it introduced, it would be hard to say now, however easy it seemed half a century ago. The desert land of heathenism has been explored, and the result is a discovery of fertile plains instead of barrenness. The distinction between the ante-Christian and the post-christian eras is, if not obliterated, yet so far effaced, that the transition from one to the other is natural and facile.
The longing for spiritual satisfaction that stirred in the heart of the empire, found neither its source nor its gratification exclusively in the religion that afterwards became the professed faith of Rome. It slaked its thirst at older fountains. Such longings will, at need, open fountains of living water for their own supply. Passing through the valley of Baca they create a well, the streams whereof fill the pools. The smitten rock pours out its torrents. The hungry soul creates its harvest as it goes along, feeding itself by the way with food that seems to fall miraculously from the sky. It makes a religion if there be none at hand. A new heaven peopled with angels; a new earth full of providences come into being at its call. But in this emergency the religion was extant in the world, already venerable, already proved. It was the religion of Israel, with all that was necessary to attract attention and command reverence; a holy God, an immediate providence, a solemn history, a glorious prophecy, an inspiring hope, traditions, institutions, a temple, a priesthood, sacrifices, a code of laws, ceremonial and moral, poetry, learning, music, mystery, stately forms of men and women, judges, kings, heroes, martyrs, saints, a superb literature, legends of virtue, festivals of joy, visions of resurrection and judgment, precepts of righteousness, promises of peace, songs of victory and of sorrow, dreams of a heavenly kingdom to be won by obedience to divine law, tender lessons of charity, stern lessons of denial, fascinating attractions and yet more fascinating fears, gentle persuasions and awful menaces, calculated to lay hold on every mood, to thrill and to satisfy every human emotion. The religion of Israel lacked little but outward prestige of power and wealth to make it precisely what the time required; and in times of real earnestness the prestige of power and wealth is readily dispensed with. The unfashionable faith is the very one to attract worldly people on their first awakening to spiritual sensibility. The show of worldliness is then, to the worldly, particularly offensive. "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life," delight in abasing themselves before rags and filth, wishing to reach the opposite extreme. The graces of the religious character, humility, meekness, self-accusation, contrition, find in associations with the coarse, the hard, the repulsive, their fittest expression. Hence it was that Judaism, heretofore the faith of the despised, became the faith of the despisers. Its very dogmatism, its proud exclusiveness and intolerance, were in its favor. Its haughty reserve assisted it; its superb disdain of other faiths, its boast of antiquity, its claim to a monopoly of the future of the race, exerted a weird spell over the dazed and decrepit minds of the superstitious, high and low. Its lofty belief in miracle and sign, fairly constrained the skeptical to bow the head.
The interest felt in Judaism, and its influence on society in its high places, have already been alluded to, and need not be further insisted on. The testimony of Juvenal--the testimony of sarcasm and complaint--is enough to establish the fact that a curiosity amounting to infatuation had taken possession especially of the women of Rome.
If it be asked why Judaism, then, was not made the religion of the empire, instead of Christianity, which it hated with all the fervor of close relationship, the answer is at hand: _Judaism laid no emphasis on its cosmopolitan features, and discouraged belief in the historical fulfilment of its own prophecy_. The charge that it was a _national_ religion, the religion of a race, it was at no pains to repel; on the contrary, it seems to have exaggerated this claim to distinction, standing on its dignity, despising the arts of propagandism and demanding the submission of other creeds. This attitude alone might have recommended the religion in some quarters, and would not have seriously embarrassed it in any, supposing it to have been loftily and worthily sustained. A graver cause of its unpopularity was its failure to lay stress on its Messianic idea. It would abate nothing of its monotheistic grandeur. Its God was the everlasting, the infinite, the formless, the invisible. The command to make of Him no image whatever, either animal or human, to associate Him with neither place nor time, was obeyed to the letter. Among a people extremely sensitive to grace of form and beauty of color, the Jews had no art; they set up no statue; they painted no picture; they allowed no emblem that could be worshipped. Their Holy Spirit was an influence; their Messiah was a distant hope; their kingdom of heaven was a dream. The Christians of both schools--the conservative and the liberal--thrust into the foreground the conceptions which their co-religionists kept in the shadow of anticipation. In their belief, prophecy was fulfilled. The Messiah had come; he had taken on human shape; he had passed through an earthly career; he had ascended in visible form to the skies; he sat there at the right hand of the Majesty on high; he was active in his care for his own, suffering and sorrowing on earth; he sent the Holy Spirit, the comforter and guide to his friends in their affliction; he was the immediate God; he heard and answered prayer; he pardoned sin; he opened the gates of heaven to believers. They did not scruple to make images of him; to represent him in emblems; to eke out their own rude art by adopting the art which the heathen had ceased to venerate, and, where they could, re-dedicating statues of Apollo and Jupiter to their Christ. They were eager to have legendary portraits accepted as faithful likenesses of their Lord. Fables were invented, like that of Veronica's napkin, to give currency to certain heads as the Christ's own image of himself miraculously imprinted on a cloth. They claimed to have seen him, in moments of ecstasy; they ascribed to his prompting, states of feeling, purposes and courses of action. By every means they created and deepened the impression that the Divinity they worshipped was a real God, and no intellectual abstraction.
This was the very thing the pagan world wanted--a _personal_ Deity, Providence, Saviour. Through their acquiescence in this demand, other oriental faiths, without a tithe of Israel's grandeur--mythological, superstitious, sensual even--gained a popularity that Judaism could not attain. The strange Egyptian divinities drew many to their shrines. Three emperors--Commodus, Caracalla and Heliogabalus--are said to have been devoted to the mysteries of Isis and Serapis. Juvenal describes Roman women as breaking the ice on the frozen Tiber, at the dawn of day, and plunging thrice into the stream of purification; as painfully dragging themselves on bleeding knees around the field of Tarquin; as projecting pilgrimages to Egypt, expeditions in search of the holy water required at the shrine of the goddess. The Persian Mithras had his throngs of adoring devotees. The prominence given at this period to the statues of Mithras, the existence of temples to Isis and Serapis, attest the power that these divinities exerted over the imagination of the Italian people. These people demanded deities human in shape and attributes. So clamorous were they for images, that they would consecrate them at any cost of decency. The emperor Augustus was deified. His statue on the public square, his insignia on a banner, his name on a shield excited veneration. The noblest religion without a human centre was less prized than the ignoblest with one, and the faith of Israel was compelled to yield to the degrading fascinations of the Bona Dea.
The Christian Jews, with their Messiah, took the popular desire at its best, and satisfied it. The image they presented, though to the mind's eye only, was so much more gracious than the loveliest that eastern or western art furnished that its acceptance was assured. Early in the fourth century the impression made was too deep to be overlooked by the controllers of public opinion. The politic Constantine, seeking a spiritual ally, and finding none among the faiths of his own land, called in the Nazarene to aid him in establishing an empire over the souls of his subjects. Christ was king in fact before he was formally crowned.
But the true history of his reign began with the ceremony of his coronation; the history of Christianity as a distinct religion commences with the so-called "conversion" of Constantine. Latin Christianity was the first, some think the consummate, in fact the only, Christianity. The adoption of the religion as the State Church, was for it a new creation. From that moment, began the efforts to complete its dogmatical system by a succession of councils, the first one, that of Nicæa, being held A. D. 325, about twelve years after the imperial "conversion;" that of Sardica--ecclesiastically of great importance--in 347, and the councils of Arles and of Milan in 352.
Once seated on a throne of power, a crown on his head, a sceptre in his hand, clothed with authority, protected by armies, girded with law, instigator of policies, chief of ceremonies, the Christ in heaven rapidly completed the structure whereof Constantine had placed the corner-stone. The materials he gathered right and left, wherever they were to be found. Right of supremacy made them his. Judaism gave temple, and synagogue, the organization of its priesthood, the distinction between priest and layman, its worship, music, scripture, litany, sentiment and usage of prayer, its ascetic spirit, its doctrines of resurrection and judgment, its code of righteousness, its altar forms, its history, and its prophecy. Paganism was laid under contribution for its military spirit. The "stations" of the Passion, were copied from army usage, so were its practical temper, its regard for precedent law and policy, its rules of obedience, its distrust of speculation, its horror of schism, its passion for unity, its skill in diplomacy, its solid respect for authority. Quietly, without leave asked, or apology offered, the insignia of the old faiths were transferred to the new. The title of Sovereign Pontifex, or bridgemaker--given originally to the chief of the guild of mechanics, passed along from the period of the earliest kings through persons of consular dignity, and finally bestowed on the Roman emperors; a title given at first, in commemoration of the _pons Janicularis_, which joined the city to the highest of the surrounding hills--was conferred on the bishops or popes whose office it was to bridge over the gulf between the earth and the celestial mountains. The statues of Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury, Orpheus, did duty for the Christ. The Thames river god officiates at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Peter holds the keys of Janus. Moses wears the horns of Jove. Ceres, Cybele, Demeter, assume new names as "Queen of Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Maria Illuminatrix;" Dionysius is St. Denis; Cosmos is St. Cosmo; Pluto and Proserpine resign their seats in the hall of final judgment, to the Christ and his mother. The Parcæ depute one of their number, Lachesis, the disposer of lots, to set the stamp of destiny upon the deaths of Christian believers. The _aura placida_ of the poets, the gentle breeze, is personified as Aura and Placida. The _perpetua felicitas_ of the devotee becomes a lovely presence in the forms of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas, guardian angels of the pious soul. No relic of Paganism was permitted to remain in its casket. The depositories were all ransacked. The shadowy hands of Egyptian priests placed the urn of holy water at the porch of the basilica, which stood ready to be converted into a temple. Priests of the most ancient faiths of Palestine, Assyria, Babylon, Thebes, Persia, were permitted to erect the altar at the point where the transverse beam of the cross meets the main stem. The hands that constructed the temple in cruciform shape had long become too attenuated to cast the faintest shadow. There Devaki with the infant Crishna, Maya with the babe Boodha, Juno with the child Mars, represent Mary with Jesus in her arms. Coarse emblems are not rejected; the Assyrian dove is a tender symbol of the Holy Ghost. The rag bags and toy boxes were explored. A bauble which the Roman school-boy had thrown away was picked up and called an "agnus dei." The musty wardrobes of forgotten hierarchies furnished costumes for the officers of the new prince. Alb and chasuble recalled the fashions of Numa's day. The cast off purple habits and shoes of pagan emperors beautified the august persons of christian Popes. The cardinal must be contented with the robes once worn by senators. Zoroaster bound about the monks the girdle he invented as a protection against evil spirits, and clothed them in the frocks he had found convenient for his ritual. The Pope thrust out his foot to be kissed, as Caligula, Heliogabalus, and Julius Cæsar had thrust out theirs. Nothing came amiss to the faith that was to discharge henceforth the offices of spiritual impression. Stoles, veils, croziers, were all in requisition without too close scrutiny of their antecedents. A complete investigation of this subject will probably reveal the fact that Christianity owes its entire wardrobe, ecclesiastical, symbolical, dogmatical, to the religions that preceded it. The point of difficulty to decide is in what respect Christianity differs from the elder faiths. This is the next task its apologists have to perform.
But this question does not concern us here. Having indicated the source whence the religion proceeded, and the process by which the successive stages in its development were reached, we have done all that was purposed. We have tried to make it clear that the Messianic conception from which it started, and from which its life was derived at each period of its growth, presided over its destiny in the western world, and introduced it to the place of honor it was afterwards called to fill.
What that place was and how the Church filled it has been told in a multitude of historical books. The history of Christianity is not the story of a developing idea, but a record of the achievements of an idea developed, organized, instituted. From the date of the established religion, the writings of the New Testament became the literature of the earliest period. In the western world the mind of Christendom expanded to deeper and wider thoughts, a new literature was originated of great richness, affluence and beauty, and gave expression to ideas which, in the primitive period could not have been formed. The Greek and Latin Fathers, the schoolmen, the catholic theologians, Italian, Spanish, French, the German mystical writers, the Protestant divines and preachers, have produced writings unsurpassed in intellectual strength and spiritual discernment. The possibilities of speculation have been exhausted; the abysses of reflection have been sounded; the heights of meditation have been scaled. The christian idea of salvation has been applied to every phase of human experience, and to every problem of social life. The rudimental conceptions have been distanced; the original limitations have been overpassed. Rites have been charged with new significance, symbols loaded with new meanings, doctrines interpreted in new senses. Christianity as the modern world knows it, is a new creation. The name of Messiah is spoken, but with feelings unknown to the Jews of the first and second century. The New Testament is regarded as a store house of germs, a magazine of texts to be interpreted by the light of the full orbed spirit, and unfolded to meet the needs of an older world. The cord which connected the religion with the mother faith of Israel was broken and the faith entered on an independent existence. To the cradle succeeds the cathedral.
It will be remarked that in the foregoing chapters no account is given of Jesus, and no account made of him. His name has not been written except where the common usage of speech made it necessary. The writer has carefully avoided occasion for expressing an opinion in regard to his character, his performance, or his claim; has carefully avoided so doing; the omission has been intentional. The purpose of his essay is to give the history of an idea, not the history of a person, to trace the development of a thought, not the influence of a life, letting it be inferred whether the life were necessary, and if necessary, wherein and how far necessary to the shaping of the thought. But this task will not be judged to have been fairly discharged unless he declares the nature of the inference he himself draws. The question "What think ye of the Christ?" meaning "What think ye of Jesus?" may be fairly put to him, and should be frankly answered. That there are two distinct questions here proposed, need not at the close of this essay be said. Jesus is the name of a man; Christ, or rather The Christ, is the name of an idea. The history of Jesus is the history of an individual; the history of the Christ is the history of a doctrine. An essay on the Christ-idea touches the person of Jesus, only as he is associated with the Christ-idea or is made a representative of it. Had he not been associated with that idea, either through his own design or in the belief of his countrymen, the omission of all mention of his name would provoke no criticism. The common opinion that he was in some sense the Christ; that but for him the Christ-idea would not have been made conspicuous in the way and at the time it was; that the existence of the Christian Church, the conversion of Paul, the composition of the New Testament, the course of religious thought in the eastern and western world was directed by his mind; that the social life,--the morals and manners, the heart, conscience, feeling, soul--of mankind, in the earlier and later centuries of his era was determined by his character, renders necessary a word of comment on the validity of his individual claim.
If either of the four gospels is to be accepted as biography it must be the first, as being the earliest in date, and as containing less than either of the others of speculative admixture. The first gospel rests, according to an ancient tradition, on memoranda or notes taken by a companion of Jesus and afterwards written out, in the popular language of the country, for the use of the disciples and others in Judæa and Galilee. The disappearance of all save a few fragments of this book, and of any writing answering in description to it, the impossibility of identifying it with the present Gospel of Matthew, or of proving that the existing Gospel of Matthew rests upon it; the comparatively late date to which our Greek Matthew must be assigned--thirty years at least, probably fifty or sixty after Jesus' death, and the absolute failure of all attempts to trace its records to an eye witness of any sort, (say nothing of a competent eye witness, clear of head, tenacious of memory, veracious in speech,) all conspire to stamp with imprudence the conjecture that the Christ of Matthew and the Jesus of history were one and the same. This would be the case were the picture harmoniously proportioned, as it is not.
[Footnote 10: The character and influence of the "Gospel of the Hebrews" and of other books of the same kind is considered in full by Mr. S. Baring-Gould in "The Lost and Hostile Gospels." Mr. Baring-Gould argues that while neither of our present Gospels is entitled to be called genuine in the ordinary sense, they contain authentic biographical materials. It is his opinion that "at the close of the first century almost every Church had its own Gospel, with which alone it was acquainted. But it does not follow that these Gospels were not as trustworthy as the four which we now alone recognize." (p. 23.) Mr. Baring-Gould's argument is not strong. The first mention of the "Gospel of the Hebrews" is no earlier than the middle of the second century; the remaining fragments of it are too few and too undecisive to be of weight; and it was, by all confession, written in the interest of the Nazarene or Judaizing Christians. Mr. Baring-Gould himself classes it with the Clementine writings and calls them "The Lost Petrine Gospels."]
The fourth Gospel is usually accepted as the work of a disciple, the "loved disciple," the bosom friend, whose apprehension of the spiritual character of Jesus was much keener and truer than that of any business man, any mere follower, any commonplace, inconspicuous person like Matthew. But the fourth Gospel, allowing that it was written by John the disciple, must, to insist on a former remark, have been written in his extreme old age, and after a mental and spiritual transformation so complete as to leave no trace of the Galilean youth whom Jesus took to his heart. The zealot has become a mystic; the Palestinian Jew has become an Asiatic Greek: the "son of thunder" is a philosopher; the fisherman is a cultivated writer, acquainted with the subtlest forms of speculation. Is it conceivable that such a man should have retained his impressions of biographical incidents and personal traits, or that retaining them he should have allowed them their due prominence in his record? can his picture be accepted as a portrait?
Certainly, some are impatient to say, and for this very reason; as the perfect, the only portrait; the picture of the very man, the biography of his soul; we accept it as we accept Plato's portrait of Socrates. But do we accept Plato's portrait of Socrates, as a piece done to the life? Plato was a great artist, as all the world knows from his authentic works. But even in his case, we do not know whether he, in depicting Socrates, meant to paint the man as he really was, or an ideal head, conceived according to the Socratic type. To compare John's portrait of Jesus with Plato's portrait of Socrates, is besides, a proceeding quite illogical; for we must assume, in the first place, that John painted this portrait of Jesus, and in the next place that the portrait must be a good one because he painted it,--this being the only piece of his ever on exhibition.
To say with Renan and others that the idealized likeness must from the nature of the case be the correct one, because such a person as Jesus was, is best seen at a distance and by poetic gaze, is again to beg the question. How do we know that Jesus was such a person? How do we know that the most spiritual apprehension of him, was the truest; that they judged him most justly, who judged him from the highest point; that the glorifying imaginations alone presented his full stature and proportions, that the ordinary minds immediately about him necessarily misconstrued and misrepresented him? In the order of experience, historical and biographical truth is discovered by stripping off layer after layer of exaggeration and going back to the statements of contemporaries. As a rule, figures are reduced, not enlarged, by criticism. The influence of admiration is recognized as distorting and falsifying, while exalting. The process of legend-making begins immediately, goes on rapidly and with accelerating speed, and must be liberally allowed for by the seeker after truth. In scores of instances the historical individual turns out to be very much smaller than he was painted by his terrified or loving worshippers. In no single case has it been established that he was greater, or as great. It is no doubt, conceivable that such a case should occur, but it never has occurred, in known instances, and cannot be presumed to have occurred in any particular instance. The presumptions are against the correctness of the glorified image. The disposition to exaggerate is so much stronger than the disposition to underrate, that even really great men are placed higher than they belong oftener than lower. The historical method works backwards. Knowledge shrinks the man. Eminent examples that jump to recollection instantly confirm this view.
The case of Mahomet is in point. Here, the critical procedure was twofold; first to rescue a figure from the depths of infamy and then to recover the same figure from the cloudland of fancy. Under the pressure of christian hate the fame of Mahomet sank to the lowest point. He was impostor, liar, cheat, name for all shamefulness. From this muck heap he has been plucked by valiant hands, and placed on the list of heroes. Now another process is beginning, to find precisely what kind of hero he was; and it is safe to say that under this process the dimensions of the hero shrink. The arabian estimate of the prophet will not bear close examination. The glamor of pious enthusiasm being dispelled, the traits of nationality show themselves; the ecstasy is seen to be complicated with epilepsy; the revelations partake of the general oriental character; the truths are the cardinal truths of the semitic religions; the personal qualities are of the same cast that distinguishes the arabian mind. The detestation and the homage are both unjustifiable.
Another example in point is Buddha; a name covered by ages of fable, and so thickly that his historical existence was long doubted. It was questioned whether he was anything more substantial than a vision. The mist of legend has already been so far dispersed that a grand form is discerned moving up and down in India. Presently it will be measured and outlined. It is safe to predict intellectual and moral shrinkage of the person under the operation of this scrutiny. Just now the impression of his greatness is somewhat overpowering. He looks morally gigantic as compared with teachers who are better known. We quote his sayings with unbounded admiration; we commend his life as an illustration of whatever most exalts humanity. But if the time ever comes when his lineaments are fully revealed to sight, he will be found neither much greater nor much better than his generation justified.
The critics of Strauss' "Life of Jesus" insisted on the necessity of a historical foundation for his character. Such a person they declared must have lived; he could not have been invented. Strange position to take, in view of the fact that idealization is one of the commonest feats of mankind; that the human imagination is continually constructing heroes out of poltroons, and transmuting lead into gold! Some idealization there is, by the general confession of unprejudiced men. The whole cannot be received as literal fact. There is here and there a bit of color put on to heighten the effect. Who shall decide how much? If the figure is glorified a little, why not a great deal? If a great deal, why not altogether? The materials for constructing the person being given, as they are, in the hebrew genius, and the plastic power being provided as it is, by the hebrew enthusiasm, the result might have been predicted, a good way in advance of history. The argument against Strauss' method proves too much.
The critics of Baur urged with ceaseless iteration the absurdity of accounting for the New Testament, and explaining the developments of the first century, by means of bodiless ideas, substituting phantoms of thought for persons, intellectual issues for the interactions of living men. Life, it was said, presupposes life; life alone generates life. To create a New Testament out of rabbinical fancies is preposterous. True enough. History is not spectral; but neither are ideas spectral. Ideas imply living minds, and living minds are persons. But the persons are not of necessity single individuals. They may be multitudes; they may be generations; they probably are a nation. The individuals that loom up conspicuously represent multitudes, an epoch, of which they are mouth pieces and agents. Do no individuals whatever loom up? None the less creative is the epoch; none the less vital are the ideas. The great events of the world depend not on individuals, but on the cumulative force and providential meeting of wide social tendencies that have been gathering head for ages and pointing in certain directions. Mahomet, a sensitive, receptive, responsive spirit, gave a name to the arabian movement; he neither originated it, nor finally shaped it. Luther, brave, self-poised, independent soul, was not the author of the Reformation, though he gave character to it. Others had gone before him, and broken a way. The time for reformation had come, thousands were watching for the light which Luther descried, and eagerly aided in its diffusion. Innumerable sparks burst into flame. He was child, not father of the movement; so it may have been with Jesus, with Peter, with Paul. They presupposed the ideas of their age, and the agency of living men. The literature of the New Testament, which is all that Baur concerned himself with, stands for what it is, a literature; a product of intellectual activity in the age that created it. The popular notion that Scripture was penned by men whose minds were full of thoughts not their own, but God's, contains a rational truth. All great literature, all literature that is not occasional, incidental, ephemeral, is inspired in this sense. The writers held the pen while the spirit of their age, of many ages, of all ages at length, rolled through them. It is true of all representative, of all national books. It is true of the "Iliad" of Homer, of Dante's Divina Commedia, of the Book of Job, the Koran, the "Three Kings," the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Dhammapada, the elder Edda. Such books as express the mind of an epoch are productions of an era, not of a man. The productive force is in the time. The man is of moment but incidentally. In discussing such works, all consideration of the man may be dispensed with. Strauss and Baur were Hegelians, who regarded the world-movements described in literatures and events, as moments in the experience of God. Nothing to them, therefore, was spectral. In tracing the pedigree of ideas, they felt themselves to be tracing the footprints of Deity.
The difficulty of constructing one harmonious character from the four gospels of the New Testament need not be expatiated on here. It is a difficulty that never has been overcome, and that increases in dimensions with our knowledge of the book. It is, of course possible, not easy, but possible, for one standing at either extreme to drag the opposite extreme into apparent accord. The believer in the divinity of the Christ planting himself on the doctrine of the Logos, reads his theory into the earlier gospels, loads the language with meaning it was never meant to bear, stretches the homely incidents on the rack of his hypothesis, and painfully excavates the figure he has already laid there. The believer in the humanity of the Christ, pursuing the opposite method, belittles the Johannean conception till it comes within the compass of his argument, dilutes the statements, expurgates and attenuates the thought, till nothing remains but sentimentalism. Each vindicates one view by sacrificing the other. To one who would preserve both representations, the task of combination is desperate. They are the centres of two opposite systems. One is a human being, a man; the other is a demi-god. One is a teacher of moral and religious truth; the other is an incarnation of the truth. One indicates the way; the other _is_ the way. One invites to life; the other _is_ the life. One talks about God and immortality; the other manifests God, and _is_ immortality. One points to heaven; the other "is in heaven." One is a helpful human friend; the other is a divine Saviour. One claims allegiance on the ground of his providential calling; the other demands spiritual surrender on the ground of his transcendent nature. One collects a body of disciples; the other forms and consecrates a church, and puts it in charge of a Holy Spirit, that shall save it from error and evil. After what has been said in previous chapters it is unnecessary to enlarge. Let whoever will take Furness' portrait of Jesus on one hand, and Pressensé's on the other; let him place them side by side; let him subject them to close scrutiny, comparing each with the original sketches; and he will rise from the contemplation satisfied that the two pictures cannot represent the same person.
Scarcely less is the difficulty of constructing a harmonious character from the first gospel alone. Renan brought to this experiment rare powers of mind, and a singular skill in letters. An orientalist, well versed in the productions of eastern genius; an accomplished literary investigator, practised in discerning between the genuine and the spurious; without dogmatic prejudice or predilection, neither christian nor anti-christian; enthusiastic, yet critical; approaching the subject from the historical direction; preparing himself laboriously for his task, and devoting to it all the capacity there was in him, Renan yet signally failed to construct a morally harmonious figure. Though conceiving Jesus as simply a man, he was obliged to resort to most obnoxious extravagances to make the narratives cohere. The "Vie de Jesus" is a standing refutation of the theory that the elements of a harmonious biography are to be found in the first gospel. It is the Christ of the first gospel who curses unbelieving and inhospitable cities; who threatens to deny in heaven those that deny him on earth; who speaks of the unpardonable sin, that "shall not be forgiven, either in this world, or in the world to come;" who will have none called "Master" but himself; who condemns to "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" those who have not assisted "these my brethren;" who bids his friends regard as no better than "a heathen man and a publican," the offender who will not listen to the Church; who launches indiscriminate invective against scribes and pharisees; who anticipates sitting on a throne, a judge of all nations, with his chosen followers sitting on twelve thrones of authority in the same kingdom. These statements must be qualified, allegorized, "spiritualized" a good deal, before they can be made congenial with the attributes of meekness, humility, gentleness, patience, loving-kindness, human sympathy, benevolence, justice, that adorn the image of a human Jesus. One set of qualities or the other, must be disavowed, unless we would incur the reproach that has fallen on Renan, of transforming Jesus into a terribly magnificent, and superbly unlovely person. Of this there is no necessity, for there is no necessity for constructing a harmonious character, on any hypothesis. We are not called on to construct a character at all. We may frankly own that the materials for constructing a character are not furnished. The first gospels exhibit stages in the development of the Christ idea; they do not give a portraiture of the man Jesus.
The hypothesis of mental and sentimental development in the experience of Jesus comes to the aid of the believers. Signs of such an interior progress do certainly appear, or can be made to appear by force of enthusiastic exegesis. The teacher who admonishes his disciples not to cast their pearls before swine, relates, with approval, the parable of the sower who flung his seed right and left, heedless that some fell on thorns that grew up and choked them, and some on stony ground, where having no root, they withered away. The man who twice frigidly repulsed the Canaanite woman who begged on her knees the boon of his compassion, telling her that he was not sent, save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, adding, "it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs," not only extends his effectual sympathy to her in her immediate need, but is found afterward, seeking and saving these very lost, going into the wilderness to find them that had gone astray, visiting the country of the pagan Gergesenes, and opening the blind eyes of Samaritans. The twelve disciples called and sent to the twelve tribes of Israel, one to each tribe, none to spare for the people beyond the borders of Palestine, became later seventy apostles commissioned to carry the message of the kingdom to all the tribes of the earth. The exorciser of evil spirits begins by casting devils into the herd of swine, thus "spoiling the pig-market" of a village, herein showing himself a true Jew, and ends by sitting at meat with publicans and sinners. By ingenious piecing, light skipping over dates and discrepancies careless of sequence and consequence, with resolute purpose to extract from the documents, by all or any means, a consistent human character, the development theory may be pushed a little way. But it soon comes against an insurmountable difficulty; the stream narrows just where it ought to widen, namely, as it approaches the ocean. It is towards the end of his career that the fanaticism discloses itself. The terrible outbreaks of anger, the invectives, the diatribes, the superb claims of authority, the horrid descriptions of the day of judgment, the discouragement and despair, come at the last. The serenity disappears; the sunlight pales; the day closes in mist. The man shrinks, instead of expanding, as he grows.
This is Renan's account of it; an account more deeply colored with gloom than need be; for that the baffled, tortured Jesus, lost his moral poise, and became a deliberate impostor, is not fairly deducible from any text; but the account is still essentially close and natural. Starting, as Renan does, from the position that the four gospels contain materials for an intelligible portraiture of Jesus; that those materials may be discovered, sifted, and arranged so as to produce a well proportioned figure; and that the principle of this human construction, must, on the supposition, be the principle according to which the characters of men are and must be constructed, namely, by tracing the actions and reactions between them and the circumstances of their time and place; starting, we say, from this position, it is difficult to avoid the inferences that he draws in regard to the disastrous effect that skepticism and opposition had on the mental and moral character of the hero. That "he made no concession to necessity;" that "he boldly declared war against nature, a complete rupture with kindred;" that "he exacted from his associates an utter abandonment of terrestrial satisfactions, an absolute consecration to his work," is no more than the plain texts imply. Renan does not strain language when he says: "In his excess of rigor, he went so far as to suppress natural desire. His requirements knew no bounds. Scorning the wholesome limitations of human nature, he would have people live for him only, love him alone." "Something preternatural and strange mingled with his discourse; as if a fire was consuming the roots of his life, and reducing the whole to a frightful desert. The sentiment of disgust towards the world, gloomy and bitter, of excessive abnegation which characterizes christian perfection, had for its author, not the sensitive joyous moralist of the earlier time, but the sombre titan, whom a vast and appalling presentiment carried further and further away from humanity. It looks as though, in these moments of conflict with the most legitimate desires of the heart, he forgot the pleasure of living and loving, of seeing and feeling." "It is easy to believe that from the view of Jesus, at this epoch of his life, every thought save for the kingdom of God, had wholly disappeared. He was, so to speak, entirely out of nature; family, friends, country had no meaning to him." "A strange passion for suffering and persecution possessed him. His blood seemed the water of a second baptism he must be bathed in, and he had the air of one driven by a singular impulse to anticipate this baptism which alone could quench his thirst." "At times his reason seemed disturbed. He experienced inward agitations and agonies. The tremendous vision of the kingdom of God, ceaselessly flaming before his eyes, made him giddy. His friends thought him, at moments, beside himself. His enemies declared him possessed by a devil. His passionate temperament, carried him, in an instant, over the borders of human nature. * * * Urgent, imperious, he brooked no opposition. His native gentleness left him; he was at times rude and fantastical. * * * At times his ill humor against all opposition pushed him to actions unaccountable and preposterous. It was not that his virtue sank; his struggle against reality in the name of the ideal became insupportable. He hurled himself in angry revolt against the world. * * * The tone he had assumed could not be sustained more than a few months. It was time for death to put an end to a situation strained to excess, to snatch him from the embarrassments of a path that had no issue, and, delivered from a trial too protracted, to introduce him, stainless, into the serenity of his heaven."
This is strong language, even shocking to minds accustomed to worship a character of ideal perfection. But it is scarcely bolder than the case warrants. The privilege to pick and choose material has its limits. We have no right to take what pleases us and leave the rest. Statements that rest on equal evidence deserve equal acceptance. If the result be not agreeable, the responsibility is not with the critic.
The only wonder is that such a person as the literal record justifies, should be accepted as the founder of a religion. How can Renan stand before his portrait of Jesus, and say, "the man here delineated merits a place at the summit of human grandeur;" "this is the supreme man; a sublime personage;" "every day he presides over the destiny of the world; to call him divine is no exaggeration; amid the columns that, in vulgar uniformity crowd the plain, there are some that point to the skies and attest a nobler destiny for man; Jesus is the loftiest of these; in him is concentred all that is highest and best in human nature." Such a conclusion is not justified by the premises. The homage is not warranted by the facts. It will not do to make out a catalogue of human weaknesses, and then urge those very weaknesses as a chief title to glory.
In the opinion of some it is wiser and kinder to confess at once that the image of Jesus has been irrecoverably lost. In the judgment of these, it is unphilosophical to set up an ideal where none is required. No doubt every effect must have a cause, but to assume the cause, or to insist on the validity of any single or special cause, is unscientific. Each event has many causes, a complexity of causes. Renan himself says: "It is undeniable that circumstances told for much, in the success of this wonderful revolution. Each stage in the development of humanity has its privileged epoch, in which it reaches perfection without effort, by a sort of spontaneous instinct. The Jewish state offered the most remarkable intellectual and moral conditions that the human race ever presented. It was one of those divine moments when a thousand hidden forces conspire to produce grand results, when fine spirits are supported by floods of admiration and sympathy."
In truth, was such a person as Jesus is presumed to have been, necessary to account for the existence of the religion afterwards called Christian? As an impelling force he was not required, for his age was throbbing and bursting with suppressed energy. The pressure of the Roman empire was required to keep it down. The Messianic hope had such vitality that it condensed into moments the moral results of ages. The common people were watching to see the heavens open, interpreted peals of thunder as angel voices, and saw divine portents in the flight of birds. Mothers dreamed that their boys would be Messiah. The wildest preacher drew a crowd. The heart of the nation swelled big with the conviction that the hour of destiny was about to strike, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The crown was ready for any kingly head that might dare to assume it. That in such a state of things anticipation should fulfil itself, the dream become real, the vision become solid, is not surprising. It was not the first time faith has become fact. The first generation of our era exhibited no phenomena that preceding generations had not prepared for and could not produce. No surprising original force need have been manifested. The spirit was the native spirit of the old vine growing in the old vineyard.
Jesus is not necessary to account for the ethics of the New Testament. They were as has been said, the native ethics of Judaism, unqualified. The breadth and the limitation, the ideal beauty and the practical point were alike Jewish. The gorgeous abstractions, gathered up in one discourse, look like fresh revelations of God; as autumn leaves plucked and set in a vase seem more luminous than do myriads of the same leaves covering the mountains and the meadows, their crimson and gold blending with the brown of the soil and the infinite blue of the sky. The ethics of the New Testament, like the ethics of the Old, have their root in the faith that Israel was a chosen people; in the expectation of a king in whom the faith should be crowned; in the anticipation of a judgment day, a national restoration, a celestial sun-burst, a final felicity for the faithful of Israel. The enthusiasm, the extravagance, the fanaticism, the passive trust, the active intolerance, the asceticism, the arbitrariness, bespeak in the one case as in the other, the presence of an intense but narrow spirit. They are not the ethics of this world. They are not temporal. The power of an original, creative soul should be attested by some modification of the popular code, rather than by an exaggeration of it. We should look for something new, not for a more emphatic repetition of the old. But nothing new appears. The exaggerations are exaggerated; the precepts suggested by the distant prospect of the kingdom are simply reiterated in view of its speedy establishment. Trust in Providence and faith in the Messiah are all in all; the virtues of common existence are less and less. The inhumanities that Renan ascribes to an access of fanaticism in Jesus are the humanities of an unreal Utopia.
The prodigious manifestation of mental and spiritual force that broke out in Paul requires no explanation apart from his own genius. He never saw Jesus and apparently was incurious about him. His originality was intellectual, and his system bears no trace of a foreign personality. As Renan says: "The Christ who communicates private revelations to him is a phantom of his own making;" "It is himself he listens to, while fancying that he hears Jesus." If ever man was self-motived, self-impelled, self-actuated, it was he. He needed no prompter. Hot of brain and heart, he was only too swift to move. Whether, as some think, driven by over-mastering ambition to lead a new movement, or, as others contend, constrained by inward urgency to attempt a moral reform on a speculative basis, or, according to yet a third supposition, eager to bear the glad tidings of the gospel to the gentile world, his own genius was from first to last, his guide and inspiration. There is no evidence to prove that his "conversion" added anything new to the mass of his moral nature, or changed the quality of ruling attributes, or determined the bent of his will to unpremeditated issues. He was converted to the Christ, not to Jesus; and his conversion to the Christ, was nothing absolutely unprepared for. His zeal for Israel blazed furiously against the disciples who claimed that the Christ had come, and to the end of his stormy days it still continued to burn against disciples of the narrow school who would not believe he had come to any but Jews. His zeal for Israel, sent him away by himself to meditate a grander Christ. The Christ, not Jesus, was his watch-cry. A man of ideas, intensely interested in speculative questions, keenly alive to the joy of controversy and the ecstasy of propagandism, he filled his boiler with water as he rushed along, leaving Peter and the rest to fill theirs at the nazarene spring. So little is Jesus to be credited with Paul's achievement, that it is the fashion to call his a distinct movement. Enthusiastic admirers of his genius, call him the real founder of Christianity. Severe critics of his claim accuse him of corrupting the religion of Jesus in its spirit, and diverting it from its purpose. On either supposition, he was not a disciple.
The worship of Jesus, it has been said, is the redeeming feature of Christianity. This evidently is the opinion of John Stuart Mill, who writes, confounding, as is usual, Jesus with the Christ: "The most valuable part of the effect on the character which Christianity has produced by holding up in a divine person a standard of excellence and a model for imitation, is available even to the absolute unbeliever, and can nevermore be lost to humanity. For it is Christ rather than God whom Christianity has held up to believers as the pattern of perfection for humanity. It is the God incarnate, more than the God of the Jews or of nature, who being idealized has taken so great and salutary a hold on the modern mind;" and more to the same effect, in the essay on Theism. Before Mr. Mill's intellectual eccentricities were as well understood as they are now, this testimony to the humanizing influence of christian, as distinct from philosophical theism, would have possessed great weight. As it is, it only excites our wonder that so keen and inexorable a thinker should so completely lose sight of facts. That Christendom has worshipped the Christ is true. Is it true that it has worshipped Jesus? Again we might say: Yes;--the Jesus who demanded faith in himself as the condition of salvation; the Jesus who depicted the Son of Man, sitting on a throne of judgment, summoning before him all nations, and placing the sheep on his right hand, the goats on his left; the Jesus who threatened everlasting fire, and spoke of the devil and his angels; the Jesus who made the church umpire in matters of faith and works; the Jesus who bade his friends forsake father and mother, brother and sister for his sake. But did Christendom ever deify the man of the Beatitudes, the relator of the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the friend of publicans and sinners? Is Jesus the central figure in the Nicene, or the Athanasian creed? Is he the God of Calvin, or of Luther, of Augustine, even of Borromeo, or Fénélon? Long before the dogmatical or ecclesiastical system of Christendom was formed, the image of Jesus had faded away from the minds of christians, if it ever was stamped there. That it was ever stamped there is not quite apparent. In the east there exists no trace of it after the apostolic age, or beyond the circle of his personal friends. In the west the personal influence is not distinctly visible at any distance. From the reported heroism of the early christian centuries no solid conclusion can be drawn, for the reason that the reports come from panegyrists like Tertullian, and from a period when the apostolic age had become a tradition. Writers like Neander make the most of a few recorded instances of devotion which distinguished the christians from the pagans about them; and James Martineau uses them as evidence of an original spiritual genius in the young religion. They are indeed beautiful, but they do not refer back so far as the historical Jesus for their source of inspiration. That in a community composed, with scarcely an exception, of poor people, the ordinary social distinctions should be unobserved; that slaves, among whom in early times many converts were made, should have been acknowledged as brethren in Christ; should have appeared in public religious meetings as equal with the rest _before the Lord_; should have partaken of the communion on the same terms, taking their place among the believers, and receiving the passionless kiss of brotherhood and of sisterhood, is not surprising, especially when it is considered that these slaves belonged to hardy, white races, that they discharged, some of them at least, the most honorable offices of labor, and were, except for the mere accident of their condition, physically as well as morally, peers of the best.
It is simply in the course of nature that poor people, grouped in communities, sharing a common and a painful lot, should help each other in times of trouble. The christians did so. At every weekly or monthly service collections were made for the relief of the poor, the sick, the infirm, the aged, widows, prisoners, and toilers in the mines. These contributions were sent to the points of greatest need, converging on occasion from many directions at centres of extreme necessity. It is recorded that about the middle of the third century several members of the church in Numidia, men and women, were carried off captive by barbarians. The Numidian churches being poor applied to the Metropolitan church at Carthage. Cyprian, the bishop there, collected more than four thousand dollars in his diocese and sent the money as ransom, with a letter full of sentiments of kindness. On another occasion a portion of the sacred vessels of the sanctuary were sold to raise funds for a similar purpose. In this there was nothing strange. The acts were done in strict conformity with a long established usage.
A more remarkable example often cited in evidence that the spirit of Jesus was alive still in the societies that worshipped him as Lord, occurred in the year 254, shortly after the Decian persecution, the most general and the most hideous to which the church had been exposed. In consequence of this persecution, which was attended with such slaughter that the unburied bodies poisoned the air, a fearful pestilence broke out in the city of Alexandria. Unhappily for the literalness of the truth, it is Lactantius who tells the story. "The plague," he says, "made its appearance with tremendous violence and desolated the city, so that, as Dionysius, the Christian bishop writes, there were not so many inhabitants left, of all ages, as heretofore could be numbered between forty and seventy. In this emergency the persecuted christians forgot all but their Lord's precept, and were unwearied in their attendance on the sick, many perishing in the performance of this duty by taking the infection. 'In this way,' says the bishop with touching simplicity, 'the best of the brethren departed this life, some ministers, and some deacons,' the heathen having abandoned their friends and relations to the care of the very persons whom they had been accustomed to call men-haters. A like noble self-devotion was shown at Carthage, when the pestilence which had desolated Alexandria made its appearance in that city, and, I quote the words of a contemporary, 'all fled in horror from the contagion, abandoning their relations and friends, as if they thought that by avoiding the plague, any one might also exclude death altogether. Meanwhile the city was strewed with the bodies or rather carcasses of the dead, which seemed to call for pity from the passers by, who might themselves so soon share the same fate; but no one cared for anything but miserable pelf; no one trembled at the consideration of what might so soon befall him in his turn; no one did for another what he would have wished others to do for him. The bishop hereupon called together his flock, and, setting before them the example and teaching of their Lord, called on them to act up to it. He said that if they took care only of their own people, they did but what the commonest feeling would dictate; the servant of Christ must do more, he must love his enemies, and pray for his persecutors; for God made his sun to rise and his rain to fall on all alike, and he who would be the child of God must imitate his Father.' The people responded to his appeal; they formed themselves into classes, and they whose poverty prevented them from doing more gave their personal attendance while those who had property aided yet further. No one quitted his post but with his life." The example shows the more gloriously against the dark background of horror that stood so near. Yet, to the misery of the persecution by which the people were educated in sympathy, patience, fortitude, and willingness to resign life, the benignant heroism must, in part, have been due. Previous to the persecution the spirit of consecration had departed from the church. Christianity had become a social and class affair. Luxury had crept in, and eaten up the heart of conviction. The alliance of church and state had been especially disastrous to the church, the mingling of secular ambition with spiritual aspiration operating fatally on the finer qualities of faith. Few could have suspected then that the spirit of Jesus had ever been with the church. The persecution purged the christian communities with fire. The surface was burned over, and only the roots and seeds were left in the ground. The persecution ended, tranquillity being restored, the roots burgeoned, the seeds sprung up, all the heroism of the two dreadful years, all the patience and fortitude turned to gentleness; and a copious rain of mercy, blessing every body, even the persecutors, was the result of the battle's thunder and flame. The suffering that had been endured softened the heart towards all suffering. The persecutors no longer active or hateful, their passive forbearance seemed, in contrast with their recent fury, a species of mercy calling for positive gratitude. Not to be hated was felt to be identical with being loved; not to kill was by sudden revulsion of emotion, accepted as a kindly saving of life. To be kind to those who had desisted from hurting was natural. Besides, the persecution was incited and pressed by the government in Rome. The populace even there were not responsible for it, and in the distant provinces simply followed the metropolitan precedent. Their infatuation had therefore its pitiable as well as its outrageous aspect. They too were victims of the imperial policy, were perishing of the contagion which that policy caused, and thus were paying a terrible penalty for their own unwitting crime. It is unnecessary to suppose that any personal contagion from the character of Jesus, stealing through the murky ages of eastern and western life, communicated its saving grace to the Carthaginian brotherhood. Uninspired human nature is sufficient to explain the beneficent display.
The conclusion is that no clearly defined traces of the personal Jesus remain on the surface or beneath the surface of Christendom. The silence of Josephus and other secular historians may be accounted for without falling back on a theory of hostility or contempt. The Christ-idea cannot be spared from Christian development, but the personal Jesus, in some measure, can be.
In some measure, not wholly; the earliest period of the church does require his presence; the first, the original, the only disciples lived under the influence of a great personalty, and were moulded by it. Their attachment to a commanding friend is avowed in the apparently authentic parts of the New Testament. If we know anything about those men, it is that they lived, moved and had their being in the memory of a great friend. Their attachment to him took hold of their heart-strings. They were haunted by him. This appears in their frequent meetings for the expression and confirmation of their feelings, in their communion suppers, memorial occasions purely and always, without a trace of mysticism or a shade of awe; in their attachment to the places he had consecrated by his presence; in their affection for each other. Ignorant they were, unintellectual, unspiritual in the moral sense of the word, rather impervious to ideas, dull, common place, simple-hearted. They were not soaring spirits, audacious, independent like Paul, but exactly the reverse, timid, self-distrustful, pusillanimous by constitution. Their ambition flew low, fluttering round sparkling jewels on the Messianic crown. Their master was not such an one as they would have chosen, had they been allowed to select. He met none of their expectations, he fulfilled none of their hopes. His rebuke was more frequent and more cordial than his praise. Their stupidity annoyed him, their selfishness grieved his heart. Instead of justifying their confidence in him as the Christ, he utterly overthrew one form of it by allowing himself to be captured, convicted and put to death. Still they clung to his memory. True, they clung to him in the conviction that he was the Christ and would have confessed themselves dupes had that conviction been dispelled. But why was it not dispelled? Why did they believe, in the face of the crushing demonstration of the cross? They anticipated his return, because he had told them he should reappear in clouds. But why did they believe him? Why did they believe, when month after month, year after year, went by and still he did not return? It was because they loved him, and trusted him in spite of evidence. When he did not return, they thought he meant to try their faith; still they met together; still they prayed and waited, imagining themselves to be in intimate communion with him in his skies.
That these men, with their unworthy conceptions of the kingdom, accepted him as their Christ, proves not only that his power over them was very great, but that he himself lived on the highest level of hebrew thought, and illustrated the highest type of hebrew character; that he was a genuine prophet and saint; all the more so, perhaps, for the completeness of his self-abnegation. Had he raised the standard of revolt, and appealed to arms, his name might have been more conspicuous in secular history. He sacrificed himself wholly; kept no shred of preëminence for his own behoof.
Hence, the person of Jesus, though it may have been immense, is indistinct. That a great character was there may be conceded; but precisely wherein the character was great, is left to our conjecture. Of the eminent persons who have swayed the spiritual destinies of mankind, none has more completely disappeared from the critical view. The ideal image which christians have, for nearly two thousand years worshipped under the name of Jesus, has no authentic, distinctly visible counterpart in history.
This conclusion will be distressing to those who have accorded to Jesus, by virtue of a perfect humanity a certain primacy over the human race, and even to those who, regarding him as the complete fulfilment and perfect type of human character have looked to him as the beacon star "guiding the nations, groping on their way." It will be welcome only to the few calm minds who feel the force of ideas, the regenerating power of principles. These will rejoice to be relieved of the last thin shadow of a supernatural authority in the past, and committed without reserve to the support and solace of simple humanity trained in the humble observance of uninterrupted law. Their gratitude for the human influence of the person is unqualified by distrust of the claims of the individual.
The Christ of the fourth Gospel--the incarnate Word--who has been asserting absolute spiritual creatorship over his disciples, calling himself the vine whereof they were branches, the door by which they must enter, the light by which they must walk, the way their steps must tread,--says to them at the critical hour: "It is expedient for you that I go away; if I go not away the Comforter cannot come to you." There was danger in his personal continuance. They were to live not in dependence on him, but in communion with the "Spirit of Truth," which, as proceeding from him and from the Father also, was to bring freshly home to them what he had said, and to guide them further on to all truth. How many times must those words be repeated, with new applications in the new exigencies of faith! How little disposition do we find in his followers to heed them! They have gone on with the process of idealization, placing him higher and higher; making his personal existence more and more essential; insisting more and more urgently on the necessity of private intercourse with him; letting the Father subside into the background as an "effluence," and the Holy Ghost lapse from individual identity into impersonal influence, in order that he might be all in all as regenerator and saviour. From age to age the personal Jesus has been made the object of an extreme adoration, till now, faith in the living Christ is the heart of the gospel; philosophy, science, culture, humanity are thrust resolutely aside, and the great teachers of the race are extinguished in order that his light may shine.
Yet from age to age the warning has been given again, the vain farewell has been spoken, "it is expedient for you that I go away." Perhaps he went, in one form; but he quickly re-appeared in another; and each new presentation had its own special kind of evil effect. The Christ of Peter, James and John retired to make room for Paul's "Lord from heaven." He withdrew in favor of the incarnate Word. The incarnate Word loses itself in the Second Person of the Trinity. The imagination of man, unable to invent further transformations rested here: Christendom for fifteen hundred years has knelt in awe before the divine image it projected on the clouds of heaven. But the work of disenchantment began early. The sublimated ideal slowly came down from the skies. The glorified Christ assumed the lineaments of a human being, from Deity became archangel, chief of all the celestial hierarchy; from archangel slipped down through the ranks of spirits, till he occupied the place of Son of God, preëxistent, and in attributes, super-human; thence he declined a step to the position of premiership over the human family, the inaugurator of a new type of man, virgin-born as indicating that he was not the natural product of the generations but was introduced into nature by an original law; a further lapse from the supreme dignity brought him to the plane of humanity, but reported him as miraculously endowed with gifts from the Holy Spirit, supernaturally graced with attributes of power and wisdom, sent on a special mission to found a church and declare a law, raised from the dead to demonstrate immortality, and lifted to the skies to establish the presence of a living Deity. To this eminent station he bids farewell to stand as the perfect man, teacher, reformer, saint, before the enthusiastic gaze of humanitarians, who made amends for the spoliation of his celestial wardrobe by the splendor with which they endowed his human soul. Here the idealists place him, still claiming for him no exceptional birth, no super-human origin, no preëxistence, no miraculous powers over nature, no superiority of wit or wisdom, no immunity from errors of opinion or mistakes of judgment, no fated sanctity of will, no moral impeccability, but ascribing to him an unerringness of spiritual insight, an even loftiness of soul, an incorruptibility of conscience, a depth and comprehensiveness of humanity which raise him far above the plane of history, and tempt them to look longingly backward, instead of directing a steady gaze forward. But this figure is now seen to be an ideal, like the rest unjustified by chronicle or by fact. The comforter, which is the spirit of truth, requires that he should go away, following his predecessors into the realm of majestic and beneficent illusion. The Christ in every guise disappears and there remain only the uneven and incomplete footprints of a son of man from which we can conclude only that a regal person at one time passed that way.
All these transformations, it will be observed, came in the order of mental development, each timely and beneficent in its place. The crowning and the dis-crowning were alike inevitable and good. The glorification and the disappearance were both justified. The final change comes neither too late nor too soon; _not too late_, for still the immense majority of mankind live in sentiment and imagination, worship ideal shapes, being quite incapable of appreciating knowledge, loving truth, or obeying principles. It will be generations yet, before any save the comparatively few think they can live without this great friend at their side. Sentiment is conservative. The poetic feeling detains in picturesque form the ideas which if exposed to the action of clear intelligence would be rejected as unsubstantial. The imagination like the ivy loves to beautify ruins, making even robber castles and deserted palaces attractive to tourists. Wordsworth, the poet of Nature expresses the feeling that will at times come over powerful and cultivated minds, in moods of sentiment--
The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the Moon, The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers, For this, for everything, we are out of tune, It moves us not;--Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn, Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea, Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
This is pure sentiment. The sea was as lovely to Wordsworth, is as lovely to Tyndall, as it was to the superstitious Greeks. The winds awaken similar emotions in the sensitive being. Why then, should Wordsworth, having all that is or ever was to be had, beauty of form, movement, color, regret the superstition that peopled the sea with fanciful beings and animated the winds with supernatural spirits? Why not be content with the facts, and the more content, because the fancies are gone that disguised them? Is it not a weakness to love dreams better than realities? Mr. Leslie Stephen, in his admirable "History of English Thought in the XVIII century" explains this mood of mind by saying that for the expression of feeling symbols are necessary, and superstition supplies all the symbols there are. The bare truth may awaken emotions, but it gives them no voice, and emotion unuttered, becomes feeble; in all but sensitive natures it dies. "In time," says Mr. Stephen, "the loss may be replaced, the new language may be learnt; we may be content with direct vision, instead of mixing facts with dreams; but the process is slow; and till it is completed, the new belief will not have the old power over the mind. The symbols which have been associated with the hopes and fears, with the loftiest aspirations and warmest affections of so many generations may be proved to be only symbols; but they long retain their power over the imagination." It is not wise, therefore, to be impatient with sentiment that has so valid an excuse; nor is it magnanimous to stigmatize as weak and childish the romantic attachment to the symbol which is all that remains, which, with the unthinking, unadventurous multitude is so large a part of what abides of the mind's spiritual endowment. We must be patient with the conservatism that is born, not of fear, but of feeling, sympathizing when we can, with those that grieve when the idols lose their sanctity, and rejoicing that sentiment has the power to break the shock caused by the sudden dispelling of illusions. At the same time, it must be remembered that intellect is the propelling force in the intellectual world; that the acute, unimaginative, determined minds, impatient of the mists, however beautiful, that conceal knowledge, clear a way for the homes and gardens of the new generations; that the love of truth, simple and unadorned, is the mother at last of real beauty.
The disappearance of the resplendent figure of the Christ from the heaven of our philosophy has not, therefore, come _too soon_; for thinking, clear-sighted, brave and resolute minds there are. Discerning eyes, bright and gentle, look out and see the fields, sown with new seed, whitening for a new harvest. To such as these Jesus is no longer necessary for faith in humanity, for enthusiasm and constancy in humanity's service. Heroic men and saintly women exist in such numbers and in such variety that they sit in judgment on the judges, and call the censors to account. The education of mankind in the qualities that knit and adorn society has gone so far that these virtues require no longer a super-human representative to give them honor. Knowledge of every kind has so abundantly increased that the aid of revelation to throw light on important subjects is not demanded. Philosophy, literature, science have taken possession of the fields once occupied by the surmise of faith, and are carefully mapping out the departments of speculation. The problems that remain dark,--and they are the many,--we are content should remain so till light comes from the proper sources. The darkest of them, no darker than they have always been, are no longer complicated by the difficulties of revelation which added enigmas where there were enough before, but lie open to all the light that can be thrown upon them. The confusion introduced into the orderly sequence of the world's development by the exceptionally providential man subsides, and the cumulative power of history is brought to bear on the necessities of the hour. Relieved from the sacred duty of turning backward for the form of the perfect man, thereby overlooking the present and suspecting the future, we are permitted to estimate fairly the conditions of the present existence, and to prepare for the future with unprejudiced, rational minds. The standard of moral attainment and the quality of moral character set up as authoritative by any single race, however distinguished, by any one era, however brilliant, abuses and injures the standards of other races, and casts suspicion on the attributes of other generations. The belief that at some time humanity has already come to full flower, discourages the laborers in the human garden. Humanity is still a-making; its perfection is prophecy not history.
The lesson of the hour is self-dependence, or rather, if we prefer, dependence on the laws of reason. It will be a gain for truth when true thoughts shall be welcomed because they are true, not because they are spoken by a particular sage; when erroneous thoughts shall be judged by their demerits, without fear of casting affront on the character of a saint. James Martineau's tender wisdom gains nothing in charm by being attributed to his beautiful fiction of a Christ, and Mr. Moody's painful caricatures of Providence have an unfair advantage in being sheltered behind the authority of the Hebrew Messiah. The holy beauty of Mr. Martineau's ideal person is more than offset by the awful grandeur of the "evangelical" Avenger, equally a creature of imagination. In the realm of fancy the lurid conception outlasts and overwhelms the radiant one. Safety lies in withdrawal from the realm of fancy, and domestication in the humbler realm of fact. The lesson can be now safely taught. Let men learn it as soon as they will. Dependence on individual personalities has been the rule hitherto; dependence on general ideas and organic laws, dependence on discovered fact and intelligent conclusion, will be the reliance hereafter. As for the demands of the heart, which must have persons to cling to, they will adjust themselves to the new science and will satisfy themselves in the future as they have done in the past. Are all the fine personalities dead? Then the sooner we give them a chance to revive by removing the prodigious personality whose shadow has blighted them, the better for us. Are there none to love with enthusiastic ardor? Who have made us think so, if not they by whom all amiable and adorable attributes have been claimed before? Are there no feet it is an honor to sit at, no heads it is a privilege to anoint, no hands it is a dignity to kiss? Whose fault can this be, if not theirs who challenged the adoration of men and women and pronounced it consecrated because rendered to him for one? Are there no leaders worth following, no causes worth espousing? They that think so must be listening to the voice that bade men follow in Galilee, and sighing because they cannot take up the cross that was imposed on the faithful in the cities of Judæa.
The imagination of man has not lost its power or forgotten its function since it performed the prodigious task of enthroning its hope by the side of the godhead. It is adequate to new and healthier performance. A world of fresh materials lies before it; new heavens display their glories; a new earth offers opportunity and prospect; a new humanity presents its varieties of good and evil. New beauties gladden the open vision; new glories fascinate the kindling hope. The regions of possibility, so far from being exhausted, have but begun to disclose their treasures. The realities of to-day surpass the ideals of yesterday. Art has a new birth. Poetry has a new birth. Philosophy teems with new births. These all look forward with confident expectation. Why should religion, which has built up more grandeurs than any of them, turn her back to the new day, confess her creative power exhausted, and creep back to the images of her own idolatry? The Christ-idea, become human, will surpass its old triumphs.
To meet the wishes of such as may desire to know on what grounds his opinions are founded, or to pursue them further, the author gives the titles of a few books that may be profitably consulted. It were easy to make a long list of erudite works; much easier than to make a short list of accessible and suggestive volumes. In an essay prepared for the intelligent and thoughtful, not for the learned or scholarly class, reference to stores of erudition would be out of place. For this reason, the pages are left unencumbered with notes, and the books cited are purposely such as come within easy reach of general readers. The better known book is preferred before the less known, the conservative when it will answer the purpose, before the destructive. If the whole case were presentable in English, none but English authorities would be mentioned. Unfortunately for the general reader, the best literature is in German or French, much of which is still untranslated. To indicate these is a necessity for those who are acquainted with those languages, while those who are not, will, it is believed, find enough in English writings reasonably to satisfy their need.
The titles of the books indicate sufficiently the points on which they throw light. The classical references, which are numerous, are most copious in Denis and Huidekoper, though Lecky, Renan, Johnson and others cite all the most important.
Allen, J. H. Hebrew Men and Times.
Baur, F. C. Kanonische Evangelien. Paulus,--(Translated.) Drei Ersten Jahrhunderte. Socrates und Christus. Die Tübinger Schule. Ursprung des Episcopäts.
Baring-Gould, S. Lost and Hostile Gospels.
Buddha. Romantic History of.
Cohen. Les Deicides, (Translated.)
Coquerel, A. Histoire du Credo. Les premieres Transformations Historiques du Christianisme. Des Beaux Arts en Italie.
Cowper, B. Harris. The Apocryphal Gospels.
Deutsch, E. The Talmud.
Didron. Iconographie Chretienne, (Translated.)
Ewald, Heinrich. History of the People Israel. Prophets of the Old Testament. Drei Ersten Evangelien. English Life of Jesus.
Fontané's. Le Christianisme Moderne.
Furness, W. H. Life of Jesus. Jesus and his Biographers.
Gingsburg, The Essenes
Geiger. Judenthum und Seine Geschichte.
Greg, W. R. The Creed of Christendom.
Huet, F. La Revolution Religieuse.
Huidekoper, F. Judaism at Rome.
Hennell, C. C. Origin of Christianity. Christian Theism.
Hennell, S. S. Christianity and Infidelity. Present Religion.
Holyoake. Christianity and Secularism.
Johnson, S. The Worship of Jesus.
Jost. Geschichte des Judenthum.
Knight, Richd. Payne. The Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology.
Lecky, W. E. H. History of European Morals
Lundy, J. P. Monumental Christianity.
Martineau, James. Studies of Christianity.
Merivale, Charles. Conversion of the Roman Empire.
Milman, H. H. History of the Jews. History of Christianity. History of Latin Christianity.
Maury, Alfred. Les Legendes Pieuses du Moyen Age. La Magie et l'astrologie dans l'antiquité et au Moyen Age.
Neander, A. Life of Jesus. Planting and Training of the Church.
Newman, F. W. History of the Hebrew Monarchy. Phases of Faith. Catholic Union.
Nicolas, Michel. Des Doctrines Religieuses des Juifs. Essais de Philos. et d'histoire religieuse. Etudes Critiques sur la Bible. Les Evangiles Apocryphes. Le Symbole des Apotres.
Philippson. Developpement de l'idee religieuse.
Parker, Theodore. Discourse of Religion.
Pressensé, Ed. De. Jesus Christ, son temps, sa vie, son oeuvre.
Renan, Ernest. Life of Jesus. The Apostles. St. Paul. L'Antichrist. Etudes d'Histoire religieuse.
Reville, A. Histoire du Dogme de la Divinité de Jésus Christ. Essais de Critique religieuse. Etudes Critiques sur l'evangile selon St. Matthieu. Quatre Conferences sur le Christianisme. La vie de Jésus de M. Renan. Theodore Parker. L'enseignement de Jésus Christ comparée a celui de ses Disciples.
Reuss, Ed. Histoire du Canon dans l'église Chretienne. The Apostolic Age. (Translated.)
Rodrigues. Origin du Sermon de la Montagne.
Schenkel. Character of Jesus (tr. by Furness).
Schwegler, A. Das Nachapostolische Zeitalter.
Strauss. Leben Jesu. (Translated.) Leben Jesu fur das Deutsche Volk. Christliche Glaubenslehre. The Old Faith and the New. Supernatural Religion.
Schlesinger, M. The Historical Jesus of Nazareth.
Salvador. Jésus Christ et sa Doctrine.
Tayler, J. J. The Fourth Gospel.
Thierry, A. Tableau de l'empire Romain.
Vacherot Etienne. La Religion.
Weber, C. F. Neue Untersuchung über das Alter und Ansehen des Ev. der Hebräer.
Wise, Isaac M. The Origin of Christianity.
Zeller, Ed. Acts of the Apostles. (Translated.) Strauss und Renan. (Translated.)
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