TABLE OF CONTENTS.
|Introduction––Critical Examination of Original Documents||7
|Chapter I.––Formation of Beliefs Relative to the Resurrection
of Jesus.––The Apparitions at Jerusalem||54
|Chapter II.––Departure of the Disciples from Jerusalem.––Second
Galilean Life of Jesus||71
|Chapter III.––Return of the Apostles to Jerusalem.––End of
the Period of Apparitions||83
|Chapter IV.––Descent of the Holy Spirit; Ecstatical and
|Chapter V.––First Church at Jerusalem; its Character Cenobitical||104
|Chapter VI.––The Conversion of the Hellenistic Jews and Proselytes||122
|Chapter VII.––The Church Considered as an Association of Poor
People.––Institution of the Diaconate.––Deaconesses and Widows||130
|Chapter VIII.––First Persecution.––Death of Stephen.––Destruction
of the First Church of Jerusalem||144
|Chapter IX.––First Missions.––Philip the Deacon||154
|Chapter X.––Conversion of St. Paul||162
|Chapter XI.––Peace and Interior developments of the Church of Judea||179
|Chapter XII.––Establishment of the Church of Antioch||196
|Chapter XIII.––The Idea of an Apostolate to the
|Chapter XIV.––Persecution of Herod Agrippa I.||214
|Chapter XV.––Movements Parallel to, and Imitative of
Christianity.–– Simon of Gitto||226
|Chapter XVI.––General Progress of the Christian Missions||236
|Chapter XVII.––State of the World in the First Century||252
|Chapter XVIII.––Religious Legislation of the Period||278
|Chapter XIX.––The Future of Mission||290
Critical Examination of Original Documents
The first book of our History of the Origins of Christianity brought us down [after His birth and life] to the death and burial of Jesus; and we must now resume the subject at the point where we left it––that is to say, on Saturday, the fourth of April, in the year 33. The work will be for some time yet a sort of continuation of the life of Jesus. Next to the glad months, during which the great Founder laid the bases of a new order of things for humanity, these few succeeding years were the most decisive in the history of the world. It is still Jesus, who, by the holy fire kindled. in the hearts of a few friends from the spark He himself has placed there, creates institutions of the highest originality, stirs and transforms souls, and impresses on everything His divine seal. It shall be ours to show how, under this influence, always active and victorious over death, the doctrines of faith in the resurrection, in the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the gift of tongues, and in the power of the Church, became firmly established. We shall describe the organization of the Church of Jerusalem, its first trials, and its
. . . It will readily be understood that a man [the apostle Luke] who possesses such a disposition is . . . only anxious to edify the reader. Luke scarcely concealed this tendency; he writes “that Theophilus should understand the truth of that which the catechists had taught him.”39 He thus had already a settled ecclesiastical system which he taught officially, and the limit of which, as well as that of evangelical history40 itself, was probably fixed. The dominant characteristics of the Acts, like that of the third Gospel41 are a tender piety, a lively sympathy for the Gentiles,42 a conciliatory
39 Luke i 4.
40 Acts i: 22.
41 See Vie de
Jesus, p xxxix, etc.
42 This is obvious, especially in the history of the centurion Cornelius [Acts 10:30-48].
spirit, a marked tendency towards the supernatural, a love for the humble and lowly, a large democratic sentiment, or rather a persuasion that the people were naturally Christian, and that the upper class prevented them from following out their good instincts,43 an exalted idea of the power of the Church and of its leaders, and a remarkable leaning towards social communism.44 The methods of composition are the same in the two works; and indeed in regard to the history of the apostles, are about as we would be in relation to evangelical history, if our only idea of the latter were derived from the Gospel according to St. Luke. . . .43 Acts ii. 47;
iv. 33; v.13, 26. Cf. Luke, xxiv. 19-20.
44 Acts ii. 44-45, iv. 34 etc., v. 1, etc.
of thieves and cut-throats. Stupidity and mediocrity are the bane of certain Protestant countries, where, under the pretext of common sense and Christian spirit, art and science are both absolutely degraded Lucretia of Rome and Saint Theresa, Aristophanes and Socrates, Voltaire and Francis of Assisi, Raphael and St. Vincent de Paul, all enjoyed, to an equal degree, the right of existence, and humanity would have been lessened, had a single one of these individual elements been wanting.
Formation of Beliefs Relative to the Resurrection
Jesus, although constantly speaking of resurrection and of a new life, had not declared very plainly that he should rise again in the flesh.1
The disciples, during the first hours which elapsed after his death [30 A.D.], had, in this respect, no fixed hope. The sentiments which they so artlessly confide to us show that they believed all to be over. They bewail and bury their friend, if not as one of the common herd who had died, at least as a person whose loss was irreparable;2 they were sorrowful and cast down; the expectation which they had indulged of seeing him realize the salvation of Israel, is proved to have been vanity; we should speak of them as of men who have lost a grand and beloved illusion.
But enthusiasm and love do not recognize situations unfruitful of results. They amuse themselves with what is impossible, and, rather than renounce all hope, they do violence to every reality. Many words of their Master which they remembered––those, above all, in which he had predicted his future advent––might be interpreted to mean that he would rise from the tomb.3
Such a belief was, otherwise, so natural, that the faith of the disciples would have been sufficient to have invented it in all its parts. The great prophets Enoch
of Jesus.––The Apparitions at Jerusalem
1 Mark xvi. 11;
Luke xviii. 34; xxiv. 44;
John xx. 9, 24, and following verses. The contrary opinion in
Matt. xii. 40;
xxi. 4, 24;
xvii. 9, 23;
Mark viii. 34;
ix. 9, 10-31;
Luke ix. 22; xi. 29, 30; xviii. 31 et seq.; xxiv. 6-8. Justin, Pial. cum Tryph. 106, proceeds from a source on which, beginning from a certain epoch, considerable reliance may be placed as to the annoucements which Jesus had made in reference to his resurrection. The synopticals acknowledge, moreover, that if Jesus spake of it at all, his disciples understood nothing of it. (Mark ix. 10, 32; Luke xviii. 34; compare Luke xxiv. 8, and John ii. 21, 22).
2. Mark xiii. 10; Luke xxiv. 17, 21.
3. Preceding passages, especially Luke xvii. 24, 25;
and Elijah had not tasted death. They began to imagine that the patriarchs and the chief fathers of the old law were not really dead, and that their bodies were sepulchered at Hebron, alive and animated.4 To Jesus had happened the same fortune which is the lot of all men who have riveted the attention of their fellow-men. The world, accustomed to attribute to them superhuman virtues, could not admit that they had submitted to the unjust, revolting, iniquitous law of the death common to all. At the moment at which Mahomet expired, Omar rushed from the tent, sword in hand, and declared that he would hew down the head of any one who should dare to say that the prophet was no more.5
Death is so absurd a thing when it smites the man of genius or the man of large heart, that people will not believe in the possibility of such an error on the part of nature. Heroes do not die. What is true existence but the recollection of us which survives in the hearts of those who love us? For some years this adored Master had filled the little world by which He was surrounded with joy and hope; could they consent to allow Him to the decay of the tomb? No; He had too entirely lived in those who surrounded Him, that they could but affirm that after his death He would live for ever.6
The day which followed the burial of Jesus (Saturday the 15th of the month Nisan), was occupied with such thoughts as these. All manual labor was forbidden on account of the Sabbath. But never was repose more fruitful. The Christian conscience had, on that day, only one object; the Master laid low in the tomb. The women, especially, overwhelmed him in spirit with the
4. Talmud of Babylon, Baba, Bathra, 58. a., and the Arabic extract given by the Abbé Bargès, in the Bulletin de l’Oeuvre des Pélérinages en terre Sainte, February 1863.
5. Ibn. Hischam, Sirot Errasoul, édit. Wüsdenfeld, 1012, and the following pages.
6. Ps. xvi. 10. The sense [meaning] of the original is a little different. But the received versions thus translate the passage.
when the faithful, mutually inebriated, and imposing upon each other by their mutual conceits, passed their days in constant excitement, and were lifted up with the most exalted notions. The visions multiplied without ceasing. Their evening assemblies were the usual periods for their production.53 When the doors were closed and all were possessed with their besetting idea, the first who fancied that he heard the sweet word schalom, “salutation,” or “peace,” gave the signal. All then listened, and very soon heard the same thing.
Then it was that there was great joy among these simple souls when they knew that the Master was in the midst of them. Each one tasted of the sweetness of this thought, and believed himself to be favored with some inward colloquy. Other visions were noised abroad of a different description, and recalled that of the travelers of Emmaus. At meal-time they saw Jesus appear, take the bread, bless it and break it, and offer it to the one whom He honored with a vision of Himself.54
In a few days a complete cycle of stories, widely differing in their details, but inspired by the same spirit of love and absolute faith, was formed and disseminated. It is the greatest of errors to suppose that legendary lore requires much time to mature; sometimes a legend is the product of a single day. The Sunday evening [16 of Nisan, 5 April] had not passed before the legend of Jesus was held as a reality. Eight days afterwards, the character of the resuscitated life which had been conceived for him, was stayed in its progress, at least as regards its essential characteristics.
53. John xx. 26. The passage xxi. 14 supposes it is true that there were only two apparitions at Jerusalem before the assembled disciples. But the passages xx. 30, and xxi. 25, give us far more latitude. Compare Acts i. 3.
54. Luke xxiv. 41; Gospel of the Hebrews, in St. Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, 2; conclusion of Mark, in St. Jerome, Adv. Pelag., ii.
Departure of the Disciples from Jerusalem.––Second Galilean Life of Jesus.
The most earnest desire of those who have lost a dear friend is to revisit the places where they have lived with him. It was no doubt this feeling which, some days after the events of Easter, induced the disciples to return to Galilee. From the moment of the arrest of Jesus, and immediately after His death, it is probable that many of His disciples had already taken their departure for the northern provinces. At the period of the resurrection, a report was spread that it was in Galilee that they would see him again. Some of the women who had been at the sepulchre returned with the statement that the angel had told them that Jesus had already preceded them into Galilee.1 Others said that it was Jesus himself who had told them to meet him there.2 Sometimes they even fancied that they remembered how that He had told them so in his lifetime. 3 It is, however, certain, that at the end of some days, perhaps after they had completed the solemnities of the Paschal feast, the disciples believed that they had received a commandment to return to their own country, and they returned accordingly.4 Perhaps the visions began to diminish in frequency at Jerusalem. A sort of homesickness possessed them. The short apparitions of Jesus were not sufficient to compensate for the
1. Matt. xxviii. 7; Mark xvi. 7.
2. Matt. xxviii. 10.
3. Ibid. xxvi. 32.
4. Matt. xxviii. 16; John xxi; Luke xxiv. 49, 50, 52, and the
Acts i. 3, 4, are in flagrant contradiction to Mark xvi. 1-8, and Matthew. The second conclusion of Mark (xvi. 9, et seq.), and even of the two others which are not a part of the received text, appeared to be included in the system of Luke. But this cannot avail in opposition to the harmony of even a portion of the synoptical tradition with the fourth Gospel, and even indirectly with Paul (I. Cor. xv. 5-8), on this point.
. . . . The result alone
counts in such a matter. Faith purifies all. The material incident which has produced the belief in the resurrection was not the veritable cause of the resurrection. It was love that made Jesus rise again; and this love was so powerful that a little risk was sufficient to build up the universal faith. If Jesus had been less loved, if the belief of the resurrection had had less reason for its establishment, these sorts of risks would have been incurred in vain; nothing would have come of it. A grain of sand causes the fall of a mountain, when the moment for the fall of the mountain has arrived. The grandest results are produced altogether from causes very grand aud very insignificant. The grand results alone are real; the little ones only serve to hasten the production of an effect which has been a long time in a state of preparation.
Return of the Apostles to Jerusalem.–– End of the
The apparitions, in the meanwhile, as is usually the ease in all 'movements of too credulous enthusiasm, began to diminish. Popular chimeras are nearly allied to contagious diseases; quickly do they become stale aud change their shape. The activity of these ardent souls was already turned in another direction. That which they believed they had heard from the lips of their beloved aud resuscitated friend, was the command to go before him to preach and to convert the world. But where should they commence? Naturally at Jerusalem.1
Period of Apparitions.
The return to Jerusalem was accordingly resolved upon by those who at this time directed the movements of the sect. As these journeys were ordinarily made in caravansaries at the periods of the feasts, we may suppose, with sufficient probability, that the return of which we are treating, took place at the feast of Tabernacles at the end of the year thirty-three [A.D.] or at the Paschal feast of the year thirty-four [A.D.]. Galilee was, accordingly, abandoned by Christianity, and abandoned for all time. The little church which remained there, doubtless, still existed; but we intend to speak no more of it. It was probably crushed, like all the rest, by the frightful catastrophe which overwhelmed the country during the war of [Vespasian . . . . ]
|Ed. Note: "The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostles, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy," says
Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, Chapter XV, § I, p 243. (Background).
1. Luke xxiv. 47.
has taken an equal share, Cephas eclipses her and sends her to oblivion. No more sermons on the Mount; no more of the possessed ones cured; no more courtesans convinced of sin; no more of those wonderful fellow-laborers in the work of redemption, whom Jesus had not repulsed. God truly has disappeared. The history of the Church will henceforth be often the history of treacheries than subservient to the idea of Jesus. But, such as it is, this history is still a hymn to his glory. The words and image of the illustrious Nazarene will stand out in the midst of infinite miseries, as a sublime ideal––we shall the better understand how grand He was, when we shall see how paltry were His disciples.
Descent of the Holy Spirit; Ecstatical and
Mean, narrow, ignorant, inexperienced they were, as much as was possible for them to be. Their simplicity of mind was extreme; their credulity had no bounds. But they had one quality; they loved their Master to madness. The remembrance of Jesus, the only moving power of their life, had possessed them constantly and entirely; and it was clear that they existed only on account of Him who, during two or three years, had so completely attached and seduced them to Himself. The safety of minds of a secondary class, who are unable to love God directly––that is, to discover the truth, create the beautiful, and do what is right of themselves––is the loving of some one in whom there shines forth a reflection of the true, the beautiful, aud the good. The majority of mankind require a graduated worship. The multitude of worshipers pant for a mediator between themselves and God.
When an individual has succeeded in gathering around his person, by a highly elevated moral tie, a number of other individuals, and then dies, it invariably happems that the survivors, who were perhaps up to that time often divided amongst themselves by rivalries and differences of opinion, become bound together by a mutual and fast friendship. A thousand cherished images of the past, which their regret, form a common
|Ed. Note: Renan here shows his hostility to the resurrection doctrine.|
Descent of the Holy Spirit; Ecstatical and Prophetical Phenomena.
. . . treasure to them. One way of loving a dead person is to love those with whom we have known him to associate. We court their society that we may recall to our minds the times which are no more. A profound saying of Jesus 1 is then discovered to be true to the letter: “The dead one is present in the midst of those who are united again by his memory.”
The affection which the disciples entertained for each other during the lifetime of Jesus, was thus increased tenfold after his death. They formed a little society, very retired, and they lived exclusively within themselves. The number of them at Jerusalem was one hundred and twenty.2 Their piety was active, and as yet, completely restrained by [within] the forms of Jewish religionism. The temple was their chief place of worship.3
No doubt, they labored for their living; but manual labor occupied but [only] a small place in the Jewish economy. Every Jew had a trade, and this trade implied no lack of learning or of gentle breeding. With us in our day , our material needs are so difficult to satisfy that a man who lives by manual labor is obliged to work twelve or fifteen hours a day; the man of leisure alone can apply himself to intellectual pursuits; the acquisition of learning is a rare and expensive matter. But in these old societies, of which the East of our own day furnishes some idea; in those climates where nature is so lavish for man's wants, and exacts so little in return––the life of a laborer left plenty of leisure [Utopia, see p 106 infra]. A sort of method of common instruction rendered every man well up in the prevailing ideas. Food and raiment [clothing] sufficed;4 a few hours of moderate labor were enough to provide them. The remaining portion of
1. Matt. xviii. 20.
2. Acts i. 15. The greater part of these "five hundred brethren" doubtless remained in Galilee. . . .
3. Luke xxiv. 53; Acts ii. 46; compare Luke ii. 37; Hegesippus in Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. ii. 23.
4. Deuteron. x. 18; I. Tim. vi. 8.
the day was devoted to [family, leisure, study] . . . .
that they desired, in the absence of a language which could interpret their sentiments, to display themselves to the world by a lively and brief expression of their entire inner being.
First Church of Jerusalem; Its Character Cenobitical.
The custom of living in a community professing one identical faith, and indulging in one and the same expectation, necessarily produced many habits common to all the society. Very soon rules were enacted, and established a certain analogy between this primitive church and the cenobitical establishments with which Christianity became acquainted at a later period. Many of the precepts of Jesus conduced to this; the true ideal of the gospel life in a monastery––not a monastery closed in with iron gratings, a prison of the type of the Middle Ages, with the separation of the two sexes, but an asylum in the midst of the world, a place set apart for the spiritual life, a free association or little confraternity, tracing around it a rampart which may serve to dispel cares that are hurtful to the kingdom of God.
All, then, lived in common, having only one heart and one mind.1
No one possessed aught which individually belonged to him. On becoming disciples of Jesus, they sold their goods and presented to the society [First Century Church] the [sale] price of them. The chiefs [Twelve Apostles] of the society [First Century Church] then distributed the common possessions according to the needs of each member. They dwelt in one neighborhood only.2 They took their meals together, and continued to attach to them the mystic sense [spiritual meaning] which Jesus had ordered.3
|Ed. Note: For more on the First Century Christian Church Utopia, see, e.g.,
Prof. Thomas Wharton Collens, "Preaching" (March 1868)
T. V. Favorite, "What! Can't Be A Christian and A Socialist?" in Vol. XVIII, Issue 8, Machinists Monthly Journal (August 1906), p 700
Rev. Dennis Hird, Jesus the Socialist (London: The Clarion Press, 1908)
Rev. Conrad Noel, Socialism in Church History
(Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1911)
"Christian Communism" (Wikipedia)
Theology Prof. José P. Miranda, Marx y la Biblia: Critica a la Filosofia de la Opresion, transl. John Eagleson, Marx and the Bible: A Critique of the Philosophy of Oppression (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1974) (Background)
For background on the opposite viewpoint, the heathen viewpoint of absolute property rights, click here. The heathen viewpoint is what First Century Christians were rejecting. Christians believe that God owns the planet, everything, thus can specify its distribution, how it is to be divided among the populace. Heathens, adherents to the then prevalent Zeus / Jupiter Greco-Roman paganism religion, believe otherwise, i.e., in the heathen doctrine of "private property."
Many hours of the day they spent
1. Acts ii. 42-47; iv. 32, 37; v. 1, 11; vi. 1, et seq.
2. Ibid. ii.44, 46, 47.
3. Ibid. ii. 46.
in prayer. These prayers were sometimes improvised in a loud voice; oftener they were silent meditations. Their states of ecstasy were frequent, and each one believed himself to be incessantly favored with the divine inspiration. Their harmony was perfect; no quarreling about dogmas, no dispute respecting precedence. The tender recollection of Jesus prevented all dissensions. A lively and deeply rooted joy pervaded their hearts.4 Their morals were austere, but marked by a sweet and tender sympathy. They assembled in houses to pray and abandon themselves to ecstatic exercises.5 The remembrance of those two or three years rested upon them like that of a terrestrial paradise, which Christianity would henceforth pursue in all its dreams, and to which it would endeavor to return in vain. Who, indeed, does not see that such an organization could only be applicable to a very little church? But, later on, the monastic life will resume on its own account this primitive ideal, which the church universal will hardly dream of realizing.
That the author of the “Acts,” to whom we owe the picture of this first Christianity at Jerusalem, has somewhat over colored it, and in particular has exaggerated the community of goods which prevailed there, is quite possible. The author of the “Acts” is the same as the author of the third Gospel, who, in his life of Jesus, is accustomed to shape his facts according to his own theories,6
and with whom a tendency to the doctrine of “ebionism”7 ––that is to say, of absolute poverty––is very perceptible. Nevertheless, the story of the “Acts” cannot be entirely without foundation. [With respect to Jesus']
4 No literary production has ever so often repeated the word “joy” as the New Testament. See I. Thess. i. 6;
Rom. xiv. 17; xv. 13; Galat. v. 22; Philip. i. 25;
I John i. 4, &c.
5 Acts xii. 12.
6 See Life of Jesus, p. xxxix, et seq.
7. Ebionim means “poor folk.” See Life of Jesus, p. 182, 183.
communistic axioms which we read of in the third Gospel [Luke], certain it is that a renunciation of the goods of this world and a giving of alms, carried so far as even the despoiling of self, was entirely conformable to the spirit of His preaching . . . . Two centuries later, Christianity produced still on the pagans the effect of a communist sect.10 We must remember that the Essenians or Thereapeutians had already produced the model of this description of life, which sprang very legitimately from Mosaism. The Mosaic code being essentially moral, and not political, naturally produced a social Utopia [see p 92, supra, and Rev. Theodore Weld, Bible . . . (1837), p 44]. . . . Such a life in the East is by no means such as it has been in our West. In the East, one can abundantly enjoy nature and life without possessing anything. Man, in these countries, is always free because he has few cares;
|Ed. Note: For more on the First Century Christian Church Utopia, see, e.g., pp 24,
92, 124, 132,
"It is clear that at Jerusalem a kind of religious communism was once practiced," says Prof. Robert M. Grant, Augustus to Constantine: The Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World (Westminster / John Knox Press, 1970, 2004), Chapter XIX, "Christian Ways of Life," § VII, "Attitudes Toward Property," p 268.
The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago: Moody Bible Institue, 1976) agrees, see comment on Acts 2:44: "This community of goods seems to have been limited to the early years of the Jerusalem church only." After that, apostasy set in. See examples of the wholly different doctrines emphasized and preached, and crimes committed, by the 2 Cor. 11:13-15 apostates, in Prof. Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided what Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).
And "from Epiphanes we have fragments of a treatise On Righteousness [c. 130-160 A.D.] in which he advocated absolute communism. He appealed to nature as his norm. [Cf. Ps. 19:1, Ps. 97:6, Isaiah 1:3, etc.] There is equality in the heavens as shown by the stars; sunlight is given to all equally; crops were meant to be shared by all. Starting from these examples, Epiphanes went on to claim that land, money . . . should be held in common," says Prof. Grant, Augustus to Constantine, Chapter XIX, "Christian Ways of Life," § III, "Gnostic Ways of Life," pp 260, and citing "Epiphanes in Clement, Str., 3, 6-9; cf. R. M. Grant, Gnosticism: An Anthology (London, 1961), 39-40.
"Irenaeus [c. 115 - c. 202 A.D.] . . . regards the possession of private property as based on sinful actions. 'All of us,' he says, 'have either small or great possessions, derived from 'the mammon of iniquity'" (Luke 16:9, 4, 30, 1). The possessions came to us, first, from avarice before our conversion, or second, from the injustice of parents, relatives, or friends, not to mention, third, our own efforts as Christians," says Prof. Grant, Augustus to Constantine, supra, § IV, "Anti-Gnostic Ethics," p 261.
The alleged “Christians," apostates in reality, who reject the First Century system do not "'take the Bible seriously,'" analysis cited by Prof. Diana Butler Bass, Ph.D., in A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (New York: HarperOne, 2009), Part III, "The Word," Chapter 8, "Devotion: Speaking of Faith," § 1, "Reading," p 163. (Review).
10 Lucian, Death of Peregrinus [c. 167 A.D.], 13.
|Ed. Note: Here is context for Prof. Renan's statement, supra, that, "Christianity produced still on the pagans the effect of a communist sect." Renan means that pagans consider Christian doctrine, e.g., Acts 2:44-45, 4:32, 34 on common ownership, as communist.
Karl Marx, Ph.D. [1818 – 1883] was German. Prof. Renan [1823-1892] was French. Their lives substantially overlapped.
Theology Prof. José P. Miranda, El Cristianismo de Marx (1978), transl. John Drury, Marx against the Marxists: The Christian Humanism of Karl Marx (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1980), Chapter 8, "The Gospel Roots of Marx's Thought," and Chapter 9, "Marx's Thought as a Conscious Continuation of Early Christianity," says that Karl Marx was a Christian and thus described himself as "a good Christian," p 225.
"Marx was baptized in Trier in 1824," p 226.
"His high school paper of 1835 on a passage from St. John's Gospel (MEW/EB 1:598-601) demonstrates that Marx was not only baptized but did in fact hold the Christian faith," p 226.
"Marx clearly identifies his movement with early Christianity," p 227. And "we can readily see Marx's desire that the communist movement imitate primitive Christianity . . .," p 227.
Marx's "1872 speech makes it quite clear that there is a conscious and basic identity between authentic Christianity and Marx's movement in their efforts to establish the heavenly kingdom on earth," p 229.
Marx said, "Here, then is the simple and definitive solution . . . the necessity of erecting a free and independent Christian state . . . ," p 230.
For examples contrasting Bible orthodoxy vs. conservative heresy, see, e.g., James Martin, SJ, "The Not-so-Social Gospel" (Thursday, 23 August 2012) (Examples of the conservative Rewrite of the New Testament)
the slavery of labor is there unknown. We willingly suppose that the communism of the primitive Church . . . had a large community of poor people at Jerusalem, governed by the apostles, and to whom donations from all the places where Christianity existed was was sent. . . . The faithful of Jesus would no doubt be taken for devotees of great precision of manner; for they scrupulously observed all the Jewish customs, praying at the appointed hours,15 and observing all the precepts of the law [Bible Society Management Laws]. They were Jews, only differing from the others in their belief that the Messiah had already come. People . . . looked upon them as
15 Ibid. iii. 1.
[Christians were deemed] a sect of Hasidim, or pious people. By being affiliated with them, they became neither schismatics nor heretics,16
any more than a man ceases to be a Protestant on becoming a disciple of Spenser, or a Catholic because he is a member of the order of St. Francis or St. Bruno. They [Christians] were beloved by the people on account of their piety, their simplicity, and sweetness of temper.17
The aristocrats of the temple, no doubt, regarded them with disfavor. But the sect made little noise; it was quiet and tranquil, thanks to its obscurity. At eventide, the brethren returned to their quarters and partook of the meal, divided into groups18 as a mark of brotherhood and in remembrance of Jesus, whom they always saw present in the midst of them. The head of the table brake the bread, blessed the cup,19
and handed them round as a symbol of union in Jesus. The commonest act of life thus became the most holy and reverential one.
These family repasts, always favorites with the Jews,20 were accompanied by prayers and pious ejaculations, and abounded in a pleasant sort of joyfulness. They thought again of the time when Jesus cheered them by His presence; they fancied that they saw Him; and soon it was bruited abroad that Jesus had said: “As often as ye break the bread, do it in remembrance of me.”21
The bread itself became, in a certain manner, Jesus; regarded as the only souse of strength for those who had loved him, and who still lived by him. These repasts, which were always the principal symbol of Christianity and the very life of its mysteries,22 were at first served every night;23 but soon custom restricted them to Sunday evenings24 only; and later, the mystic repast was transferred to the morning.25 It is probable
16. James, for instance, was all his life a pure Jew.
17. Acts ii. 47; iv. 33;
18. Acts ii. 46.
19. I. Cor. x. 16; Justin, Apol. i. 65-67.
20. Joseph., Antiq. XIV. x. 8, 12.
21. Luke xxii. 19; I. Cor. xi. 24, et seq.; Justin, passage already cited.
22. In the year 57 [A.D.], the institution called the Eucharist already abounded with abuses (I. Cor. xi. 17, et seq.), and was, in consequence, ancient.
23. Acts xx. 7; Pliny, Epist. x. 97. Justin, Apol. i. 67.
24. Acts xx. 7, 11.
25. Pliny, Epist. x. 97.
that at the period of the history which we are now treating, the holiday [Sabbath, Lord’s Day] of each week was still, with the Christians even, the Saturday.26 The apostles chosen by Jesus, and who were supposed to have received from Him a special command to announce to the world the kingdom of God, had, in the little community, an undoubted superiority [rank, status]. One of their first cares, as soon as they saw the sect quietly settled at Jerusalem, was to fill up the void which Judas [Iscariot] of Kerioth had left in its ranks.27 The opinion that this Judas had betrayed his Master and became the cause of his death, became more generally received. The legend was mixed up with him, and daily they learned some new circumstance which increased the blackness of his deed. He had bought for himself a field near the old necropolis of Hakeldama, to the south of Jerusalem, and there he lived a retired life.28
Such was the artless excitement which pervaded the whole of the little church, that in order to replace him they had recourse to the plan of casting lots. In general, in times of great religious excitement, this method of deciding is preferred, for it is admitted on principle that nothing is fortuitous, that the matter is hand is the principal object of the divine attention, and that the part which God takes in any matter is greater in proportion to the weakness of man.
The only condition was, that the candidates should be selected from the number of the older disciples, who had been witnesses of the entire series of events since the baptism by John. This considerably reduced the number of those who were eligible. Only two were found in tbe ranks, Joseph Bar-Saba, who bore the name of Justus,29 and Matthias. The lot fell upon Mathias,
26. John xx. 26, does not satisfactorily prove the contrary. The Ebionites always observed the Sabbath. St. Jerome, in Matt. xii, commencement.
27. Acts i. 15-26.
28. See Life of Jesus, p. 437, et seq.
29. Compare Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. iii. 39 (according to Papias).
who from that time was counted in the number of the Twelve. But this was the only example of such an replacing. The apostles were considered hitherto as leaving been named by Jesus once for all, aud as not proposing to have any successors. The idea of a permanent college [succession], preserving in itself all the life and strength of association, was judiciously rejected for a time. The concentration of the Church into an oligarchy did not occur until much later.
We must guard, moreover, against the misunderstandings which this appellation of “apostle” may induce, and which it has not failed to occasion. From a very remote [early] period, the idea was formed, by some passages of the Gospels, and above all by the analogy of the life of St. Paul, that the apostles were essentially traveling missionaries, distributing amongst themselves in a certain way the world in advance, and traversing as conquerors all the kingdoms of the earth.30 A cycle of legends was invented in respect to this gift, and imposed upon ecclesiastical history.31 Nothing is more opposed to the truth.32 The twelve disciples were permanently settled at Jerusalem; up to the year 60, or thereabouts, they did not leave the holy city, except on temporary missions. And in this way is explained the obscurity in which the greater part of the central council remained; very few of them had any particular duty to perform. They formed a sort of a sacred college or a senate, 33 unequivocally destined to represent tradition and a conservative spirit. In the end they were discharged from all active duty, because they had only to preach and to pray;34 as yet the brilliant feats of preaching had not
|Ed. Note: See, e.g.,
Notre Dame Theology Professor Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (Harper, 1997), p 33.
The former clergy system, via Aaron, has been susperseded by that of Christ, Hebrews 7:12-14. A succession was distinctly provided in the prior system, Hebrews 7:5 and 7:23.
"The Lord," Christ, had specified in detail the succession process for the Church in the preceding dispensation of Israel, i.e., the priesthood and high priesthood succession process, specified as to be Aaron's descendants.
Christ, however, specified no succession process for the Church in this dispensation. “Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.” "The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another." This means that Christ intended no succession to occur. He provided no succession process, no successor. In the prior Covenant, the succession process via a hereditary priesthood was minutely, in detail, provided for by "the Lord," Christ, along with the details of their job description. For example, see Leviticus 1:7-17,
Numbers 3:6, 32,
19:3-7, etc. See also "List of High Priests of Israel."
"The Lord," Christ, does quite sharply differently in the New Testament, i.e., no such data. See, e.g., Matthew 24:5-14, stating that many deceivers would succeed Him, but nothing about any legitimate succession. And see background.
Truly, "Expressio unius est exclusio alterius" - "The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another."
30. Justin, Apol. i. 39, 50.
31. Pseudo-Abias, etc.
32. Compare I. Cor. xv. 10, with Romans xv. 19.
33. Gal. i. 17, 19.
34. Acts vi. 4.
fallen to their lot. Scarcely were their names known out of Jerusalem; and about the year 70 or 80 the catalogues which were published of these twelve primary elect ones only agreed in the principal names.35
The “brothers of the Lord” appear to have been often with the “apostles,” although they were distinguished from them.36 Their authority was at least equal to that of the apostles. These two groups constituted, in the nascent Church, a sort of aristocracy, based entirely upon the greater or less intimacy which they had had with the Master. It was these men whom St. Paul called “pillars” of the Church of Jerusalem.37 We see, moreover, that no distinctions of ecclesiastical hierarchy were yet in existence. The title was nothing; the personal authority was everything. [Re] celibacy . . . 38 . . . it required time to conduct all these germs to their full development. Peter and Philip were married, and were the fathers of sons and daughters.39
The term by which the assembly of the faithful was distinguished,was the Hebrew word Kahal, which was rendered by the essentially democratic word , Ecclesia, which means the convocation of the people in the ancient Grecian cities, the summons to assemble at the Pnyx or the Agora. Commencing about the second or third century before Jesus Christ, Athenian democracy became a sort of common law wherever the Hellenic language was spoken; many of these terms,40 on account of their being used in the Greek confraternities, were introduced into the language of Christianity. It was in reality the popular life, for centuries
Matt. x. 2-4; Mark iii. 16-19;
Luke vi. 14-16;
36. Acts i.14;
Gal. i. 19;
I. Cor. ix. 5.
37. Gal. ii. 9.
38. See Life of Jesus, p. 307.
39. See Life of Jesus, p. 150. Compare Papias in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39; Polycrates, Ibid. v. 24; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. iii. 6; vii. 11.
40. For instance , perhaps . See Wescher, in the Archeological Review, April, 1866.
The Conversion of the Hellenistic Jews and Proselytes
Up to the present time the Church of Jerusalem has practically been only a little Galilean colony. The friends of Jesus in Jerusalem and its vicinity, such as Lazarus, Martha and Mary of methane, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had disappeared from the scene. Only the Galilean group gathered around the twelve apostles remained, compact and active; and meanwhile these zealous apostles were indefatigable in the work of preaching. Subsequently, after the fall of Jerusalem, and in places distant from Judea, it was reported that the sermons of the apostles had been delivered in public places and before large assemblages.1 The authorities who had put Jesus to death would not permit the revival of such stories. The proselytism of the faithful was chiefly carried on by means of pointed conversations, during which their hearty earnestness was gradually communicated to others.2 They preached under the portico of Solomon to audiences limited in number, but on whom they produced a most marked effect; their sermons consisted chiefly in such quotations from the Old Testament as would support . . . that Christ was the Messiah.3 . . .
1. Acts, first chapters.
2. Acts v. 42.
3. See, for example, ii. 34, &c., and in general all the first chapters.
[Note] the means of conversion employed by the
founders of Christianity. The private conversations of these good and earnest men, the reflection of the words of Jesus in their discourses, and above all, their piety and gentleness, formed the real power of their preaching. Their communistic life also had its attractions. Their house was like a hospice, where all the poor and forsaken found a refuge and an asylum.
Among the first who attached himself to the young society was a Cypriot called Joseph Hallevi, or the Levite, who, like many others, sold his land and laid the money at the feet of the apostles. He was an intelligent and devoted man, and a facile speaker. The apostles soon attached him to their band, and called him Bar-naba, which means the "son of prophecy," or "of preaching."12 . . . .
12 Acts iv. 36-37. Cf. ibid. xv. 32.
The Church Considered as an Association of Poor People.—
A comparison of the history of religion shows, as a general truth, that all those religions not contemporary with the origin of language itself, owe their establishment to social rather than theological causes. This was assuredly the case with Buddhism, the prodigious success of which may be traced to its social element, rather than to the nihilistic principle on which it was based. It was in proclaiming the abolition of castes, and establishing, in his words, “a law of grace for all,” that Sakya-Mouni and his disciples gained the adherence, first of India, and then of the largest portion of Asia.1 . . . .
Like Christianity, Buddhism was a movement of the lower classes. lts great attraction was the facility it afforded the poor to elevate themselves by the profession of a religion which improved their condition and offered them inexhaustible assistance and sympathy.
The poor were a numerous class in Judea during the first century. The country was naturally scantily provided with luxuries. In these countries where industry is almost unknown, almost every fortune owes its origins either to richly endowed religious institutions or government patronage. The riches of the temple were for a
Institution of the Diaconate.—Deaconesses and Widows.
1. See the accounts collected and translated by Eugene Burnouf. Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism , i. p. 137, and the following pages, and particularly pp. 198, 199.
long time the exclusive appanage of a limited number of nobles. The Asmoneans gathered around their dynasty a circle of rich families; and the Herods considerably increased the welfare and luxury of a certain class of society. But the real theocratic Jew, turning his back upon Roman civilization, only became poorer.
He belonged to a class of holy men, fanatically pious, rigidly observant of the law, and miserably and abjectly poor. From this class, the sects of enthusiasts so numerous at this period received their recruits.
The universal dream of these people shadowed forth the triumph of the poor Jew who remained faithful, and the humiliation of the rich, who were considered as renegades and traitors, because of their civilization and different mode of life. Intense indeed was the hatred entertained by these poor fanatics against the splendid edifices which now began to adorn the country and against the public works of the Romans.2 Obliged as they were to toil for their daily bread on these structures, which to them seemed monuments of pride and forbidden luxury, they considered themselves the victims of men who were rich, wicked, corrupt, and infidels to the Divine Law.
In such a social state an association for mutual benefit would naturally receive a warm welcome. The little Christian Church appeared to be a paradise. This family of simple and united brethren attracted people from every quarter, who in return for that which they brought [as donations, Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:32, Acts 11:29] secured a settled future, the society of congenial friends, and precious spiritual hopes. The general custom of converts3 was to convert into specie [money] their property, which usually consisted of little farms
2. See Life of Jesus.
3. Acts. ii. 45;
iv. 34, 37;
. . . To unmarried people in particular the exchange of their plots of land for shares in a society which would secure them a place in the Heavenly Kingdom, could not be otherwise than advantageous. Several married persons did likewise. Care was taken that the new associates should contribute their entire effects to the common fund without retaining any portion for private use.4 Indeed, as each one received from the common treasury in proportion to his needs, and not in proportion to his contributions, every reservation [holding-back] of property was a fraud on the community.
Such fraud consists of “concealing and embezzling the proceeds of property,” says Prof. Thomas W. Collens, "Preaching," in The Communist, Vol I, Issue 3, pp 17-18 at 17 (March 1868). See also
Rev. Dennis Hird, Jesus the Socialist (London: The Clarion Press, 1908), p 17.
The fraud was to pretend to abide by the New Testament duty, “from each according to
his ability, to each according to his need," but to in fact not do so.
Such attempts at organization show a surprising resemblance to certain Utopian experiments made recently; but with the important difference that Christian communism rested on a religious basis, which is not the case with modern socialism. It is evident that an association whose dividends were declared not in proportion to the capital subscribed, but in proportion to individual needs,5
must rest only upon a sentiment of exalted self-abnegation and an ardent faith in a religious ideal.
Under such a social constitution, however, and despite of the high degree of fraternity, the administrative difficulties were necessarily numerous. The difference of language between the two factions [Jewish, Greek] of the community inevitably led to misapprehensions. The Jews of higher birth could not restrain a feeling of contempt for their more humble brethren in the faith, and soon expressed their dissatisfaction. “The Hellenists,” whose numbers daily increased, complained that their widows received less at the distributions the those of the “Hebrews.”6
Ed. Note: Such “self-abnegation” is called “denying oneself and following Chirst,” Luke 9:23-26. Such “self-abnegation” obeys the "new commandment," to “love one another as [Christ] loved you,” John 15:12-13. This requires to “esteem others better than self,” Phil. 2:3-8, in practice, not merely verbally, James 2:15-16, 5-7.
Ed. Note: Re this New Testament daily distribution of food via the Church as per need, this parallels the Old Testament Church system, daily food being provided, Exodus 16:18, each receiving according to need, none too little, none too much. Christ had said in Matthew 6:31-34, not to worry re one's daily necessities. Christ had commended
the widow who gave 100%, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4. In both Exodus and Acts, we see them [daily needs] being taken care of, via the divinely instituted daily system.|
Until this time the apostles had attended to the financial affairs of the community;
4. Acts v. 1, and following verses.
5. Ibid. ii. 45; iv. 35.
6. Ibid. vi. 1, &c.
but, feeling now the necessity of delegating to others this part of their authority, they proposed to confide the administrative duties to seven experienced and leading men. The proposition was accepted, and at the election, Stephanus or Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, were chosen. This last was a simple proselyte from Antioch, and Stephen, perhaps, was the same.7 It seems that, in opposition [contrast] to the course followed in the election of the Apostle Matthew, the choice of the seven administrators was not made from a group of primitive [original] disciples, but from the new converts, aud especially from the Hellenists. The names of all of them, indeed, were purely Greek. Stephen was the leading spirit of the seven, who, in accordance with the established rite, were formally presented to the apostles, and confirmed by them in the ceremony of laying on of hands.
The administrators thus designated received the Syriac name of Schammaschin, and were also sometimes called “the seven,” in the same manner that the apostles were called “the twelve.”8 Such was the origin of the Diaconate [Decons], the most ancient of sacred and ecclesiastical orders. In imitation of the church of Jerusalem, all the other churches introduced the Diaconate, and the institution spread with marvelous rapidity. This institution, indeed, elevated the care of the poor to an equality with religious services. It was a proclamation of the truth that social questions should be the first to occupy the attention of man. It was the introduction of political economy into religious affairs. The deacons were the best preachers of Christianity, and we shall soon see how they played. their part as evan-
7. See chapter vi.
8. Acts xxi. 8.
gelists. As organizers, financial directors, and administrators, they had a still more important part. These practical men in perpetual contact with the poor, the rich, and the women, visited everywhere, observed everything, and by their exhortations were the most efficient agents of conversion.9
They did much more than the apostles who remained stationary at the central point of authority in Jerusalem; and to them we are indebted for the most prominent and solid features of Christianity.
From a very early period, women were admitted to this employment;10 and, as in these days, they were called “sisters.”11 At first they were widows;12 but later, virgins were preferred for this office.13 Admirable tact was shown by the Church in this movement. These good and simple men, with that profound science [wisdom] which comes from the heart, laid the basis of that grand system of charity which is the peculiar merit of Christianity. They had no precedent for such an institution.
Ed. Note: Actually, there was precedent. See Exodus 16:18, each receiving according to need, none too little, none too much. Christ had said in Matthew 6:31-34, not to worry re one's daily necessities. The New Testament daily food distribution via the Church as per need, flows from the foregoing.|
A vast system of benevolence and of reciprocal aid, to which the two sexes brought their diverse qualities, and lent their united efforts for the relief of human misery, was the holy creation which resulted from the travail of these two or three first years––the most prolific years in the history of Christianity. It is certain that the vital thoughts of Jesus filled the souls of His disciples and directed all their acts. Justice, indeed, demands that to Jesus should be referred the honor of all the great deeds of His apostles. It ls probable that during His life He laid the foundations of these establishments which were successfully developed so soon after His death.
9. See Phil. i. 1; 1 Timothy iii. 8, and following.
Romans xvi. 1, 12; I Timothy iii. 11; v. 9, and following. Pliny Epist. x. 97.
Rom. xvi. 1;
I. Cor. ix. 5; Philemon 2.
12. I Tim. v. 9, and following.
13. Constit. Apost. vi. 11
Women, naturally were attracted towards a community where the weak were so cordially protected. Their position in society had previously been humble and precarious; widows, particularly, notwithstanding several protecting laws, were but little respected,14
and often even abandoned to misery. Many of the doctors [clergy] were opposed to giving them any religious education.15
The Talmud placed along with the other pests of mankind, the gossiping and inquisitive widow, who spent her days in chatting with her neighbors, and the maiden who wasted her time in incessant praying.16
The new religion offered to these poor and neglected souls a sure and honorable asylum.17 Several women occupied a prominent place in the Church, and their houses served as places of meeting;18 while those who had no houses were formed into a species of feminine presbyteral body,19 comprising probably the virgins, who did important duty in charitable works. Those institutions, regarded as the fruit of a later Christianity, such as congregations of women, nuns, and sisters of charity, were really one of its first creations, the beginning of its influence, and the most perfect expression of its spirit. The admirable idea of consecrating by a sort of religious character and subjecting to regular discipline those women who were not in the bonds of marriage, is peculiarly and entirely Christian. The word “widow” became a synonym for a person devoted to religious works, consecrated to God, and, consequently, a “deaconess.”20
In those countries, where the wife at her twenty-fourth year already began to fade, and where there was no middle state between the child and the old woman, it was practically a new life which was
14. Sap. ii. 10; Eccl. xxxvii. 17; Matthew xxiii. 14; Mark xii. 40;
Luke xx. 47;
James i. 27.
15. Mischna, Sota, iii. 4.
16. Talmud of Babylon, Sota 22 a; Comp. I. Tim. v. 13.
17. Acts vi. 1.
18. Ibid. xii. 12.
19. I. Tim. v. 9, and following. Compare Acts ix. 39, 41.
20. I. Tim. v. 3, and following.
thus opened for that portion of the human race the most capable of devotion.
The times of the Seleucidae [312 B.C. - 63 B.C.] had been a terrible epoch for female depravity. Never before were known so many domestic dramas, and such a series of poisonings and adulteries. The wise men of that day considered woman as a scourge to humanity; as the first cause of baseness and shame; as an evil genius whose only part in life was to impair whatever there was of good in the opposite sex [men]. Christianity changed all this. At that age which, to our view, is yet youth, but at which the existence of the Oriental woman is so gloomy, so fatally prone to evil suggestions, the widow could, by covering her head with a black shawl,21 become a respectable person worthily employed, and, as a deaconess, the equal of the most esteemed men in the community. The difficult and dubious position of the childless widow, Christianity elevated even to sanctity.22 The widow became almost the equal of the maiden. So was i"8@(D4" “beautiful old age,”23 venerated and useful, and receiving the respect usually awarded to a mother. These women, constantly going to and fro, were the most useful missionaries of the new religion. Protestants are in error in viewing the facts through the light of the system of modern individuality. Socialism and cenobitism are primitive features of Christianity.
The bishop and priest of later days did not yet exist; but that intimate familiarity of souls not bound by ties of blood, known as the pastoral ministry, was already founded. This was always the special gift of Jesus, and, as it were, a heritage from Him. Jesus had often said
21. Sap. ii. 10; Ecclesiastes vii. 27; Ecclesiasticus vii. 26, and following; ix. 1, and following; xxv. 22, and following; xxvi. 1, and following; xlii. 9, and following.
22. For the costume of the widows of the Eastern Church, see the Greek manuscript No. 64 in the Bibliothèque Imperiale (old building), fol. 11. The costume to this day is very nearly the same the type, the religious female of the east, being the widow, as that of the Latin nun is the virgin.
23. Compare the “Shepherd” of Hermas, vis. ii. ch. 4.
that He was more than father and mother, and that those who followed Him must forsake those beloved beings.
Christianity placed some things above the family. It created a fraternity and spiritual marriages. The ancient system of marriages, which without restriction placed the wife in the power of the husband, was mere slavery. The moral liberty of woman began when the Church gave her in Jesus a friend and a guide, who advised and consoled her, always listened to her grievances, and sometimes advised resistance. Women need a governing power, and are only happy when governed; but it is necessary that they should love the one who wields that power. This is what neither ancient society, Judaism, nor Islamism, were able to do.
Woman never had a religious conscience, a moral individuality, or an opinion of her own, previous to Christianity. Thanks to the Bishops and to monastic life, Radegonda found means for escaping from the arms of a barbarous husband. The life of the soul being all that is really of importance, it is just and reasonable that the pastor who would make the divine chords of the heart vibrate, the secret counselor who holds the key of the conscience, should be more than a father, more than a husband.
In one sense Christianity was a reaction against the too narrow domestic system of the Aramaic race. The old Aramaic societies only admitted married men, and were singularly strict in their view of the marriage relation. All this was something analogous to the English family––a narrow, closed up, contracted circle––an egotism of several, as withering to the soul as the egotism of an individual. Christianity, with its divine
idea of the liberty of God, corrected these exaggerations. And first it allotted to every one the duties common to mankind. It saw that the family relation was not of sole importance in life, or at least that the duty of reproducing the human race did not devolve on every one; and that there should be persons freed from these duties, which are undoubtedly sacred, but not intended for every one. The same exceptions made in favor of the hetaerae like Aspasia by Greek society, and of the cortigiana like Imperia, in recognition of the necessities of polished society, Christianity made for the public welfare.
It admitted different classes in society. There are people who find it more delightful to be loved by a hundred people than by five or six; and for these the family in its ordinary conditions seems insufficient, cold and wearisome. Why, then, should we extend to all, the exigencies of our dull and mediocre social system? His temporal family is not sufficient for man; he feels the need of brothers and sisters besides those of the flesh.
By its hierarchy of different social functions, the primitive Church seemed to conciliate for the time these opposing exigencies. We shall never understand, never comprehend, how happy these people were under these holy regulations which sustained liberty without restraining it, and permitted at the same time the advantages of communistic and private life.
|Ed. Note: But in fact we can "understand . . . comprehend" such happiness. See, e.g.,
Phillip Bannowsky, “Capitalism Produces Rich Bankers, but Socialism Produces Happiness” (The News Journal [Delaware], 24 May 2009) (“Socialism is better than capitalism. So say 20 percent of Americans, and another 27 percent say they can't say which is better, according to an April 9 Rasmussen poll. . . . Forbes Magazine . . . report this month that the happiest countries tend to be Scandinavian socialist democracies. . . . enjoy entitlements like free college, extensive elder care, and 52-week paid maternity leave.”)
Tom Gallagher, "The Remarkable Resilience of This Socialism Thing" (1 June 2010) ("Twenty-nine percent of the nation, it seems, has "a positive reaction to the word "socialism" (with 59% in the negative) -- according to the Pew Research Center's latest findings. [And see] the February 16, 2009 Newsweek cover announcing, "'We are all socialists now' . . . someone explained how he held a "positive view of socialism because after all it's what Our Lady [Bible Religion] wants.'"
It [the Bible lifestyle] was far different from the confusion of our artificial societies, in which the sensitive soul so often finds it cruelly isolated. In these little refuges which they call churches, the social atmosphere was sweet and inviting; the member lived there in the same faith and actuated by the same hopes. But
it is clear that these conditions could not apply to a very large [unconverted] society. When entire countries became Christianized, the system of the first churches became a Utopian idea, only partially realized in monasteries, and the monastic life in this sense was the continuation of the primitive churches.26 . . .
A large share of the credit, certainly, of these great creations should be given to Judaism. Each one of the Jewish communities scattered along the shores of the. Mediterranean was already a sort of church, with its charitable treasury. Almsgiving, always recommended by the elders,27
was a recognized precept; it was practiced in the temple and in the synagogues,28
and it was deemed the first duty of the proselyte.29 In every age Judaism was noted for its careful attention to the poor, and the fraternal charity which it inspired.
It would be highly unjust to hold. up Christianity as a reproach to Judaism, since to the latter primitive [First Century] Christianity owes almost everything. It is when we look upon the Roman world that we are the most astonished at the miracles of charity performed by the Church. Never did a profane society, recognizing only [pagan] right for its basis, produce such admirable effects. The law of every profane, or, if I may say so, every philosophic system of society, is liberty, sometimes equality, but never fraternity. [Colossians 2:8.] To charity, viewed as a right, it acknowledges no obligations; it only pays attention to individuals; it finds charity often inconvenient, and neglects it. Every attempt to apply the public funds [taxes] to the aid of the poor
26. I Cor. xii. entire.
27. The Pietistic congregations of America, who are to the Protestants what convents are to the Catholics, resemble in many points the primitive churches. Bridel, Recits Americains. (Lausanne, 1861).
28. Prov. iii. 27, and the following; x. 2;
xi. 4; xxii. 9; xxvii. 27; Eccl. iii. 23, and the following; xviii. 14; xx. 13, and the following; xxxi. 11; Tobit, ii. 15, 22; iv. 11; xii. 9; xiv. 11; Daniel iv. 24; Talmud of Jerusalem; Peah. 15, b.
29. Matthew vi. 2; Mischna, Schekalim, v. 6; Talmud of Jerusalem, Demai, fol. 23, b.
savors of communism. When a man dies of hunger, when entire classes languish in misery, the policy of the profane [heathen, capitalist] social system limits itself to acknowledging that the fact is unfortunate. It [conservative "philosophy" or "logic"] can easily show that there is no civil order without liberty [freedom, limited government]; now, as a consequence of liberty, he who has nothing, and can get nothing, perishes from hunger. That is indeed logical; but [apart from God’s commandments] there is no guard against the abuse of logic. The necessities of the most numerous class [can only temporarily] result in dispensing with it [the abuse of logic, i.e., the disregard of God'sredistribution-of-wealth commands and principles].
|Ed. Note: This disregard of God's commands in favor of carnal "logic" explains why "conservatives" historically oppose social programs, including but not limited to social security, medicare, welfare, unemployment compensation, health care, anti-discrimination, etc. Conservatives continue to adhere to, wish to conserve, the old pagan Roman notions; that is why they are called conservative! Conservatives pejoratively mislabel social welfare programs as "communist," refusing to recognize their Judeo-Christian origins.
Conservatives continue to adhere to, wish to conserve, the old pagan "philosophy" or "vain deceits," because they do not accept the Apostle James' warning and instructions (James 2:5-6, 13-20), nor Paul's Colossians 2:8 warning likewise against pagan logic. Because such conservative philosophic "vain deceits" rely on "logic" apart from God's commandments, social programs are always at risk of being repealed or under-funded.
Institutions purely political and civil are not enough; social and religious aspirations claim a religious satisfaction. The glory of the Jewish [Hebrew] people is, that they boldly proclaimed this principle. The Jewish [Hebrew, Bible] law is social, and not political; the prophets, the authors of the Apocalypses, were the promoters of social and political revolutions.
In the first half of the first century, in the presence of profane [heathen, capitalist] civilization, the absorbing idea of the Jews was to repel . . . the Roman system . . . and to proclaim the excellence of their theocratic law. “The law is happiness,” was the idea of such Jewish thinkers as Philon and Josephus. The laws of other people [pagans] were intended to secure [pagan notions of] justice, and had nothing to do with the goodness and happiness of man; while on the other hand, the Jewish [Hebrew, Bible] law descended to [included] the details of moral education [via 613 commandments]. Christianity is only the development [fullness] of this idea [pursuant to Christ’s focus on going beyond the letter of the law, see, e.g., Matthew 5:20-48]. Each church is a [holiness center] where all possess rights over all the others; where there should be neither poor nor wicked; and where, consequently, every individual is careful to guard and restrain himself [bring every thought into captivity, 1 Cor. 10:5]. Primitive [First Century] Christianity may be defined as a vast association of poor people; as a heroic struggle against egotism,
founded upon the idea that no one has a right to more than is absolutely necessary for him, and that all the superfluity belongs to those who possess nothing. It will at once be seen that with such a [Christian/Communist] spirit and the Roman [pagan/capitalist] spirit, war to the death must ensue; and that Christianity, on its part, can never dominate the world without important modifications of its native tendencies and its original programme [until Christ comes to establish His rule including these principles, Dan. 2:44, Matt. 25:31-46, Luke 21:27, Rev. 5:10, Rev. 19:15-16].
But the needs which it [Christianity/Communism] represents will always last. The communistic life during the second half of the Middle Ages, serving for the abuses of an intolerant church, the monastery having become a mere feudal fief, or the barracks for a dangerous and fanatic military modern feeling, became bitterly opposed to the cenobitic [First Century Christian] system. We have forgotten that it was in the [Biblical] communistic life that the soul of man experienced its fullest joy. The song, “Oh, how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,”30 has ceased to be our refrain. But when modern [capitalist] individualism shall have borne its latest fruits, when humanity, shrunken and saddened, shall also have become weak and impotent [Jeremiah 25:33; Micah 5:10-11; Ezekiel 6:6; Rev 6:8; 9:15, 9:18; Matthew 24:22; Isaiah 24:3, 6], it will return to these great institutions and stern disciplines; when our [pagan/capitalist] material society––I should say our world of pigmies––shall have been scrourged with whips by the heroic and the idealistic, then the communistic system will regain all its force [at Christ’s return]. Many great things such as science, will be organized under a monastic [service-to-humanity] form. Egotism, the essential law of [pagan] civil law, of civil society, will be insufficient for great minds; all coming, from whatever point of view, will be opposed to vulgarity. The words of Jesus and the ideas of the Middle Ages in regard to poverty will again
30. Ps. cxxxiii.
be appreciated. It will be understood that the possession of anything implies an inferiority, and that the founders of the mystic life disputed for centuries as to whether Jesus owned even that which he used for his daily wants. The Franciscan subtleties will become again great social problems. The splendid ideal devised by the author of the Acts will be inscribed as a prophetic revelation at the gates of the paradise of humanity:
Let us not anticipate events. It is now about the year 36. [Roman Emperor] Tiberius at Caprea [headquarters] could have no more doubt that a formidable enemy to the empire was growing up. In two or three years the new sect had made surprising progress; now counted several thousands of adherents.32
It was easy to foresee that its conquests would be chiefly among the Hellenists and proselytes. The Galilean group, which had heard the Master [Jesus Christ in person], though preserving its precedence [priority, rank, status], seemed almost lost in the current of newcomers who spoke Greek.33
At the time of which we speak, no heathen, that is to say, no man who had not held previous relations with Judaism, had entered into
|“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common, neither was any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need. And they continuing with one accord in the temple and breaking bread [eating] from house to house, did eat their meat [food] with gladness and singleness of heart.”31|
31. Acts ii. 44-47; iv. 32-35.
32. See chapter vi.
33. Acts vi. 5; xi. 20.
the church; but proselytes performed important functions in it. The jurisdiction of the disciples had also largely extended, and was no longer simply a little college of Palestineans, but included people of Cyprus, Antioch, and Cyrene, and of almost all the points on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean where Jewish colonies had been established. Egypt alone knew nothing of the primitive Church, and for a long time remained ignorant. The Jews of that country were almost in a state of schism with those of Judea. They had customs of their own . . . and were almost entirely unaffected by the great religious movement at Jerusalem.
First Persecution.––Death of Stephen.––Destruction
It was inevitable that the preachings of the new sect, even while they were disseminated with much reserve, should revive the animosities which had accumulated against its Founder, and had ultimately resulted in His death. The Sadducee family of Hanan, which had caused the death of Jesus, was still reigning. Joseph Caiaphas occupied, up to the year 36, the sovereign Pontificate, the effective power of which he left to his father-in-law Hanan, and to his relations, John and Alexander.1
These arrogant and pitiless personages saw with impatience a troop of good holy men, without any official position, gaining the favor of the crowd.2 Once or twice Peter, John, and the principal members of the apostolical college, were thrust into prison and condemned to be beaten.
This was the punishment inflicted on heretics.3 The authorization of the Romans was not necessary for its infliction. As may well be supposed, these brutalities did but excite the ardor of the apostles. They came forth from the Sanhedrin, where they had just undergone flagellation, full of joy at having been deemed worthy to undergo contumely for Him whom they loved.4 Eternal puerility of penal repressions, applied to things of the soul! They passed, no doubt, for men of order, for models of prudence and wisdom, these
of the First Church of Jerusalem.
1. Acts iv. 6. See Life of Jesus.
2. Acts iv. 1-31; v. 37-41.
3. See Life of Jesus.
4. Acts v. 41.
blunderers, who seriously believed in the year 36 [A.D. that] they could put down Christianity with a few whippings!
These outrages were perpetrated principally by the Sadducees,5 that is to say by the upper clergy, who surrounded the temple, and derived thence immense profits6 It does not seem that the Pharisees displayed towards the sect the animosity they showed to Jesus. The new believers were people pious and strict in their manner of like, not a little like the Pharisees themselves.
The rage which the latter felt against the Founder sprang from the superiority of Jesus––a superiority which He took no pains to disguise. His delicate sarcasms, His intellect, the charm there was about Him, His hatred to [ward] hypocrites, had enkindled a savage ire. The apostles, on the contrary, were destitute of wit; they never employed irony. The Pharisees were at certain moments favorable to them; many Pharisees even became Christians.7 The terrible anathemas of Jesus against Pharisaism had not yet been written, and tradition of the words of the Master was neither general nor uniform.8
These first Christians were, moreover, people so inoffensive, that many persons of the Jewish aristocracy, without exactly forming part of the sect, were well disposed towards them. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who had known Jesus, remained, no doubt linked in bonds of brotherhood with the church. The most celebrated Jewish Doctor of the times, Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, grandson of Hillel, a man of' broad and very tolerant ideas, gave his opinion, it is said, in the Sanhedrin in favor of the freedom of Gospel preaching. The author of The Acts puts into his mouth some excellent reasoning, which ought to be the rule of con-
5. Ib. iv. 5-6; v. 17. Comp. James ii. 6.
6. in Acts i.; in Josephus Ant. xx. viii. 8.
7. Acts xv. 5; xxi. 20.
8. Let us add that the reciprocal antipathy of Jesus and the Pharisees seems to have been exaggerated by the synoptical Evangelists, perhaps on account of the events which, at the time of the great war [68 A.D. - 70 A.D.], led to the flight of the Christians beyond the Jordan. It cannot be denied that James, brother of the Lord, was pretty nearly a Pharisee.
duct for Governments whenever they find themselves confronted with novelties in the intellectual or moral order. . . .
The Church at Jerusalem, already so strongly organized, was obliged [due to the violent persecution recorded in Acts 8:1-4] to disperse. The apostles, ac-
cording to a principle which seems to have taken strong hold of their minds,28
did not leave the city [Jerusalem]. It was probably so with all the purely Jewish group, with those who were called the “Hebrews.”29
But the great community, with its meals in common, its diaconal services, its varied exercises ceased thenceforth, and was never again reconstructed upon its first model. It had lasted three or four years.
|Ed. Note: Wherefore Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) said “Extincto nomine Christianorum.”
The Church deteriorated to little more than merely "preaching the word," Acts 8:4. Bribery, simony, soon surfaced, Acts 8:18-19.
Jude in Jude 3 and Christ in Rev. 2:4 urged returning to "the faith once delivered," the "first love," but to no avail. The uniquely New Testament Christian system was gone forever. No Church thereafter even teaches Luke 14:33, Acts 2:44, Acts 4:32, 34, etc, much less, has its members adhere. This deterioration in the Church is a "famine" of the word of God, Amos 8:11.
When the Reformation came about, and the public could read the Bible, they re-discovered doctrines and practices including the above. German peasants sought to begin to implement them. The “reformer” Martin Luther was enraged at this nascent pro-Bible attitude, so he favored killing the pro-Bible peasants! See “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants” (May 1525), “Martin Luther,” and Upton Sinclair, Profits of Religion (1917), § on “Face of Caesar.”
In short, "The Christianity of the New Testament simply does not exist. . . what has to be done is to throw light upon a criminal offense against Christianity prolonged through centuries, perpetuated by millions (more or less guiltily), whereby they have cunningly, under the guise of perfecting Christianity, sought little by little to cheat God out of Christianity and have succeeded in making Christianity exactly the opposite of what is in the New Testament," says Soren Kirkegaard [1813-1855], Attack upon Christendom (1854-1855), pp 32-33.
"If . . . Christ Himself had been taken by His [alleged] later followers as the model and pattern . . . and a serious attempt had been made to [continue] His life and teaching as the standard and norm for the Church [as was done through the period described in this chapter], Christianity would have [remained] something vastly different from what it [supposedly] became. Then 'heresy' would have been as it is not now, deviation from His way, His teaching, His spirit, His kingdom . . . What we may properly call 'Galilean Christianity' had a short life [as Renan says], though there have been notable attempts to revive it and make it live again, and here and there spiritual prophets have insisted that anything else other than this simple Galilean religion is 'heresy'; but the main line of historic development has taken a different course and has marked the emphasis very differently," says Prof. Rufus M. Jones, D.D., Litt.D., LL.D. (1863-1948), The Church's Debt to Heretics (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924), pp 15-16.
Renan says above, "the great community, with its meals in common, its diaconal services, its varied exercises ceased thenceforth, and was never again reconstructed upon its first model. It had lasted three or four years." With respect to this "Fall of the Church," revival or restoration was attempted by some groups. "The Anabaptists of the 16th century, the radical Puritans of the 17th century, and the Poetist and Evangelical movements of the 18th century [made such attempt based on their] common conviction that religious and social salvation are to be found through the restitution or restoration of the Christian community as it existed before the Fall of the Church. Their view of church history . . . is primitivist. . . . they divided Church history into three periods: the golden age of the Early Church (with the communism of the Church at Jerusalem a model), the Fall of the Church (with Constantine and the centuries of political privilege and material prosperity); the Restitution of the True Church--beginning with their own movement, and involving the recovery of true Christian community. A number of the communities presented by Nordhoff . . . are clearly restitutionist in their purpose and program," says Chicago Theological Seminary Professor Franklin H. Littell (5 June 1965), p xvii of his "Prefatory Essay" for Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901), The Communistic Societies of the United States: From Personal Visit and Observation (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1875, reprinted, Shocken Books, 1965).
Littell notes, p xix, "Most of the prestorationist] communities founded in earlier America have died out."
Sinclair Lewis would later observe: “no one in this room, including your pastor, believes in the Christian religion. Not one of us would turn the other cheek [Matt. 5:39]. Not one of us would sell all that he has and give to the poor. Not one of us would give his coat to some man who took his overcoat. Every one of us lays up all the treasure he can. We don't practice the Christian religion. We don't intend to practice it. Therefore, we don't believe in it. Therefore I resign, and I advise you to quit lying and disband [the congregation],” Elmer Gantry (1927), Chapter XXIX, Section VII, paragraph 4, p 385. And see James Benedict Moore, M.A., "The Sources of Elmer Gantry," The New Republic 143 (8 August 1960).
Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) had said “Extincto nomine Christianorum.”
It was for nascent Christianity an unequaled good fortune that its first attempts at association, essentially communist, were so soon broken up. Attempts of this kind engender abuses so shocking, that communist establishments are condemned to crumble away in a very short time,30
or very soon to ignore the principle on which they are created.31 Thanks to the persecution of the year 37, the cenobitic Church of Jerusalem was saved from the test of time. It fell in its flower, before interior difficulties had undermined it. It remained like a splendid dream, the memory of which animated in their life of trial all those who had formed part of it, like an ideal to which Christianity will incessantly aspire to return, without ever succeeding.32
Those who know what an inestimable treasure for the members still existing of the St. Simonian Church is the memory of Mónilmontant, what friendship it creates between them, what joy gleams from their eyes as they speak of it, will comprehend the powerful link established between the new brethren by the fact of having loved and then suffered together. Great lives have nearly always to remember a few mantles during which they felt God––months which, though existing only in memory, delight all the after years of their lives.
|Ed. Note: Renan here unfortunately shows his hostility to the First Century|
Christian Church economic system, aka "Christian Communism."
28. Compare Acts i. 4;
viii. 1, 14; Gal. i. 17, et seq.
29. Acts ix. 25-30 prove, in fact, that in the mind of the author the expressions of viii. 1 had not a meaning so absolute as might be supposed. [Except that after the first panic was over some of the disciples, at first wholly scattered, may have returned by the time of Saul’s arrival––Tr.]
30. This happened in the case of the Essenians.
31. This happened to the Franciscans.
32. I.Thess. ii. 14.
The leading part, in the persecution we have just recounted, was played by that young Saul whom we have already found contributing, as far as in him lay, to the murder of Stephen. This furious man, furnished with a permission from the priests, entered into houses suspected of concealing Christians, took violent hold of men and women, and dragged them into prison or before the tribunals.33 Saul prided himself on there being no one of his generation so zealous as himself for the traditions.34 Often, it is true, the mildness, the resignation of his victims astonished him; he experienced a sort of remorse; he imagined hearing these pious women, hoping for the Kingdom of God, whom he had thrown into prison, say to him during the night, with a gentle voice: “Why persecutest thou us?” The blood of Stephen, by which he was almost literally stained, sometimes disturbed his vision. Many things he had heard said of Jesus went to his heart. This superhuman being, in his ethereal life, whence he sometimes issued to reveal himself in short apparitions, haunted him like a spectre. But Saul repulsed such thoughts with horror; he confirmed himself with a sort of frenzy in the faith of his traditions, and he was dreaming of new cruelties against those who attacked them. His name had become the terror of the faithful; the fiercest outrages, the most sanguinary perfidies, were dreaded at his hands.35
33. Acts. viii. 3;
ix. 13, 14, 21, 26;
xxii. 4, 19;
and the following; Gal. i. 13, 23;
I. Cor. xv. 9;
Phil. iii. 6;
I. Tim. i. 13.
34. Gal. i. 14; Acts. xxvi. 5; Phil. iii. 5.
35. Acts ix. 13, 21, 26.
First Missions.––Philip the Deacon.
The persecution of the year 37 [C.E.] had for its result, as always happens, the expansion of the doctrine it was wished to arrest. Until then the Christian preaching had scarcely extended beyond Jerusalem; no mission had been undertaken; inclosed within its lofty but narrow communion, the mother Church had not radiated around itself nor formed any branches. The dispersion of the little supper-table scattered the good seed to the four winds. The members of the Church of Jerusalem, violently driven from their quarters, spread themselves throughout Judea and Samaria,1 and preached everywhere the kingdom of God. The deacons in particular, disengaged from their administrative functions by the ruin of the Community, became excellent evangelists. They were the active young element of the sect, in opposition to the somewhat heavy element constituted by the apostles and the “Hebrews.” One single circumstance, that of language, would have sufficed to create in these latter an inferiority in respect to preaching. They spoke, at least as their habitual tongue, a dialect which the Jews themselves did not use at a few leagues [miles] distance from Jerusalem. It was to the Hellenists that fell all the honor of the grand conquest, the recital of which is henceforth to be our principal object.
The theatre of the first of these missions, which was
1. Acts viii. 1, 4; xi. 19.
Conversion of St. Paul.
But the year 38 [A.D.] is marked in the history of the nascent Church by a new and important conquest. It was during that year1
that we may safely place the conversion of that saint whom we saw a participant in the stoning of Stephen, and a principal agent in the persecution of 37 [A.D.], and who now, by a mysterious act of grace, becomes the most ardent of the disciples of Jesus.
Paul was born at Tarsus, in Cilicia,2 in the year 10 [A.D.] or 12 [A.D.] of our era.3 According to the manner of that day, his name was Latinized into that of Paul;4 yet he did not regularly adopt this last name until he became the apostle of the Gentiles.5 Paul was of the purest Jewish blood.6 His family, probably originally from the town of Gischala, in Galilee,7 professed to belong to the tribe of Benjamin;8 and his father enjoyed the title of Roman citizen, 9 no doubt inherited from ancestors who had obtained that honor either through purchase or through services rendered to the [Roman] state. Perhaps his grandfather had obtained it for aid given to Pompey during the Roman conquest (63 B.C.). His family, like most of the old and. solid Jewish houses, belonged to the sect of Pharisees.10 Paul was reared according to the strictest principles of this sect,11 although he subsequently repudiated its narrow dogmas, he always retained its asperity, its exaltation, and its ardent faith.
1. This date resulted from the comparison of chapters ix., xi., xii. of the Acts with Gal. i. 18; ii. 1, and from the synchronism presented by Chapter xii. of the Acts with profane [secular] history, a synchronism which fixes the date of the incidents detailed in this chapter at the year 44.
2. Acts. ix. 11; xxi. 39; xxii. 3.
3. In the Epistle to Philemon, written about the year 61, he calls himself an “old man” (v. 9); Acts vii. 57, he calls himself a young man.
4. In the same way that those named “Jesus” often called themselves “Jason”; the “Josephs,” “Hegesippe”; the “Eliacim,” “Alcime,” etc. St. Jerome (De Viris Ill. 5) supposes Paul took his name from the proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts xiii. 9). Such an explanation seems hardly admissible. If the Acts only give to Saul the name of “Saul,” after his relations with that personage, that would argue that the supposed conversion of Sergius was the first important act of Paul as apostle of the Gentiles.
5. Acts xiii. 9, and following. The closing phrases of all the Epistles; II. Peter iii. 15.
6. The Ebionite calumnies (Epiphan. Adv. haer. xxx. 16, 25) should not be seriously taken.
7. St. Jerome, loc. cit. Inadmissible as the present St. Jerome, though this tradition appears to have some foundation.
8. Rom. xi. 1; Phil. iii. 5.
9. Acts xxii. 28.
10. Acts xxiii. 6.
11. Phil. iii. 5; Acts xxvi. 5.
During the epoch of Augustus, Tarsus was a very flourishing city. The population, though chiefly of the Greek and Aramaic races, included as was common in all the commercial towns,12
a large number of Jews. The taste for letters and the sciences was a marked characteristic of the place; and no city in the world, not even excepting Athens and Alexandria, was so rich in scientific institutions and schools.13 The number of learned men which Tarsus produced, or who pursued their studies there, was truly extraordinary;14 but it should not therefore be imagined that Paul received a careful Greek education. The Jews rarely frequented the institutions of secular instruction.15
The most celebrated schools of Tamus were those of rhetoric,16
where the Greek classics received the first attention. It is hardly probable that a man who had taken even elementary lessons in grammar and rhetoric would have written in the incorrect non-Hellenistic style of the Epistles of St. Paul. He talked habitually and fluently in Greek,17
and he wrote or rather dictated18
in that language; but his Greek was that of the Hellenistic Jews, a Greek replete with Hebraisms and Syriacisms, scarcely intelligible to a lettered man of that period, and which can only be accounted for by his Syrian turn of mind. He himself recognized the common and defective character of his style.19
Whenever it was possible he spoke Hebrew––that is to say, the Syro-Chaldaic of his time.20 It was in this language that he thought, and it was in this language that he was addressed by the mysterious voice on the road to Damascus.21
Nor did his doctrine show any direct adaptation made from Greek philosophy. The verse quoted. from the Thais of Menander, that occurs in his writings,22 is one
12. Acts vi. 9; Philo, Leg. ad Caium, § 36.
13. Strabo, XIV. x. 13.
14. Ibid. XIV. x. 14, 15; Philostratus Vie d’Apollonius, 1, 7.
15. Jos. Ant., last paragraph, Cf. Vie de Jésus.
16. Philostratus, loc. cit.
17. Acts xvii. 22, etc; xxi. 37.
18. Gal. vi. 11; Rom. xvi. 22.
19. ii. Cor. xi. 6.
20. Acts xxi. 40. I have elsewhere explained the source of the word . Hist. des Langes Semit. ii. 1, 5; iii. 1, 2.
21. Acts xxvi. 14.
22. I. Cor. xv. 33, Cf. Meinecke, Menandri fragm. p. 75.
of those versified proverbs which were familiar to the public, and could easily have been quoted by one who had not read the original.. . . .
counsel;95 he established no school; and the emotions he excited were those of curiosity rather than of sympathy. The faithful felt that he was a brother, but a brother marked by singular peculiarities. They believed him incapable of treachery; but amiable and mediocre natures always experience sentiments of mistrust and alarm when brought in contact with powerful and original minds, whom they acknowledge as their superiors, and who they know must surpass them.
95. Gal. i. 16. It is the sense of .
Peace and Interior Developments of the Church of Judea.
From the year 38 [A.D.] to the year 44 [A.D.] no persecution seems to have weighed upon the church.1 The faithful, no doubt, were far more prudent than before the death of Stephen, and avoided speaking in public. Perhaps, also, the troubles of the Jews who, during all the second part of the reign of Caligula [37 A.D. - 41 A.D.], were at variance with that prince [emperor], contributed to favor the nascent sect. The Jews, in fact, were active persecutors in proportion to the good understanding they maintained with the Romans. To buy or to recompense their tranquillity, the latter were led to augment their privileges, and in particular that one to which they clung most closely––the right of killing persons whom they regarded as unfaithful to their law.2 Now the period at which we have arrived was one of the most stormy of all in the turbulent history of this singular people.
The antipathy which the Jews, by their moral superiority, their odd customs, and also by their severity, excited in the populations among whom they lived, was at its height, especially at Alexandria [Egypt].3 This accumulated hatred took advantage, for its own satisfaction, of the coming to the imperial throne of one of the most dangerous madmen that ever wore a crown.
1. Acts. ix. 31.
2. See the atrociously naïve avowal of 3 Macc. vii. 12, 13.
3. Read the third book (apocryphal) of Maccabees, entire, and compare it with that of Esther.
entered upon that career of sacred peregrinations and preachings which made of him [Paul] the type of the traveling missionary.
Establishment of the Church of Antioch.
The new faith was propagated from one neighborhood to another with astonishing rapidity. The members of the Church of Jerusalem who had been dispersed immediately after the death of Stephen, pushing their conquests along the coast of Phoenicia, reached Cyprus and Antioch. They were as yet guided by an unvarying principle of refusing to preach the gospel to the Jews.1 Antioch, “the metropolis of the East,” the third city of the world,2 was the centre of this Christendom of northern Syria. It was a city with a population of more than 500,000 souls, almost as large as Paris before its recent extensions,3 and the residence of the Imperial Legate of Syria. Suddenly advanced to a high degree of splendor by the Seleucidae, it had only to profit by the Roman occupation of it. In general, the Seleucidae had surpassed the Romans in the taste for theatrical decorations as applied to great cities. Temples, aqueducts, baths, basilicas, nothing was wanting [lacking] at Antioch in what constituted a grand Syrian city of that period. The streets banked by colonnades, with their crossroads decorated with statues, had there more of symmetry and regularity than anywhere
else.4 A Corso, ornamented with four ranges of columns, forming two covered galleries with a wide avenue in the midst, crossed the city from one
Acts vi. 19.
2. Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ii. 4. Rome and Alexandria [Egypt] were the two chief ones; compare Strabo xvi. ii. 5.
3. Compare Otfried Müller, Antiochan Antiquities, Göttingen, 1839, p. 68. John Chrysostom, on Saint Ignatius, 4 (opp. t. ii. p. 597, edit. Montfaucon): On Matthew, Homilies lxxxv. 4. (vol. viii. p. 810). He estimates the population of Antioch at two hundred thousand souls, without counting slaves, infants,, and the immense suburbs. The present city has a population of not more than seven thousand.
4. The corresponding streets of Palmyra, Gerasium, gadara, and Sebaste, were probably imitations of the grand Corso of Antioch.
cepted from the very first a fraternal alliance with the Gentiles.50 It was then on the shores of the Orontes that the religious fusion of races, dreamed of by Jesus, or to speak more fully, bysix centuries of prophets, became a reality.
Gal. ii. 11 et seq. presumes it to be so.
The Idea of an Apostolate to the Gentiles.––Saint Barnabas.
Great was the excitement at Jerusalem1 on hearing what had passed [happened] at Antioch. Notwithstanding the kindly wishes of a few of the principal members of the Church of Jerusalem, Peter in particular, the Apostolic College continued to be influenced by mean and unworthy ideas. On every occasion when they heard that the good news had been announced to the heathen, these veteran Christians manifested signs of disappointment. The man who this time triumphed over this miserable jealousy, and who prevented the narrow exclusiveness of the “Hebrews” from ruining the future of Christianity, was Barnabas. He was the most enlightened member of the Church at Jerusalem. He was the chief of the liberal and progressive party, and wished the church to be open to all. Already he had powerfully contributed to remove the mistrust with which Paul was regarded; and this time, also, he excited a marked influence. Sent as a delegate of the apostolical body to Antioch, he examined and approved of all that had been done, and declared that the new Church had only to continue in the course upon which it had entered. Conversions were effected in great numbers. The vital and creative force of Christianity appeared to be concentrated at Antioch. Barnabas,
1. Acts xi. 22, &c.
. . . During an entire year Barnabas and Paul cooperated actively. This was a most brilliant, and, without doubt, the most happy year in the life of Paul. The prolific originality of these two great men raised the Church of Antioch to a degree of grandeur to which no Christian Church had previously attained. Few places in the world had experienced more intellectual activity than the capital of Syria. During the Roman epoch, as in our time [19th century], social and religious questions were brought to the surface principally at the centers of population. A sort of reaction against the general immorality which later made Antioch the special abode of stylites and hermits was already felt; and the true doctrine thus found in this city more favorable conditions for success than it had yet met.
An important circumstance proves, besides, that it was at Antioch that the sect for the first time had full consciousness of its existence; for it was in this city that it received a distinct name. Hitherto its adherents had called themselves “believers,” “the faithful,” “saints,” “brothers,” “the disciples”; but the sect had no public and official name. It was at Antioch that the title of Christianus was devised. The termination [ending] of the word is Latin, not Greek, which would indicate that it was selected by the Roman [police] authority as an appellation of the [Roman] police,19 like Herodiani, Pompeiani,
19. The passages, I Peter iv. 16, and James ii. 7, compared with Suet. Nero, 16 and Tacitus, Ann., xv. 44, confirm this idea. See also Acts xxvi. 28.
Caesariani. In any case, it is certain that such a name was the work of the pagan population. . . .
|Ed. Note: Like the Herodians, Pompeians, Caesarians, Christians likewise expected and planned to immediately take over the government. That is their prayer goal, "thy kingdom [government] come, thy will [rulership] be done [now, immediately] on earth as in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Modern terms for politicial parties include, in the U.S., Republicans, Democrats, Greens, etc.; in the UK, Tories, Conservatives, etc. Each party plans to be the immediate next government, whether Herodian, Pompeiaan, Tory, Republican, Democrat, Green, or Christian.
Christians were conspicuously doing that, readying to become the immediate next government. Rome preached the rulership of Caesar; Christians preached the rulership of Christ, Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14. Rome provided food for the people, the Church provided food likewise, Acts 6:1-5. Rome allowed economic disparities; the Church precluded them Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35. Rome had a military; the Church was anti-war. Rome had courts and judges; the Church wanted the members to learn to be judges, 1 Cor. 6:1-5. And so on.
The Roman secret police naturally reacted, developed their name as "Christians" for their leader Christ, just as Herodians were named for their leader Herod, Pompeians named for their leader Pompey, and Caesarians for their leader Caesar.
The Jews . . . continued to call the new sect “Nazarenes” . . .
faithful were wealthy when they entered the Church. Antioch furnished the pecuniary capital for the founding of Christianity, and it is easy to imagine the total difference in manner and spirit which this circumstance alone would create between the two churches. Jerusalem remained the city of the poor of God of the ebionim of those simple Galilean dreamers, intoxicated, as it were, with the expectation of the kingdom of Heaven.30 Antioch, almost a stranger to the words of Jesus, which it had never heard, was the church of action and of progress. Antioch was the city of Paul; Jerusalem, the seat of the old apostolic college, wrapped up in its dreamy fantasies, and unequal to the new problems which were opening, but dazzled by its incomparable privileges, and rich in its unsurpassed recollections.
A certain circumstance soon brought all these traits into bold relief. So great was the lack of forethought in this half-starved Church of Jerusalem, that the least accident threw the community into distress. Now in a country, destitute of economic organization, where commerce is almost without development, and where the sources of welfare are limited, famines are inevitable. A terrible one occurred in the reign of [Roman Emperor] Claudius [41 C.E. - 54 A.D.], in the year 44 [A.D].31 When its threatening symptoms appeared, the veterans at Jerusalem decided to seek succor from the members of the richer churches of Syria. An embassy of prophets was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch.32 One of them, named Agab, who was in high reputation for his prophetic power, was suddenly inspired, and announced that the famine was now at hand. The faithful were deeply moved at the evils which menaced the mother Church, to which
30. James ii. 5, &c.
31. Acts xi. 28; Jos. Ant. XX., ii, 6; v. 2; Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 8, 12. Comp Acts xii. 20; Tac. Ann. xii. 43; Suet. Claud. 18; Dion Cass. lx. 11. Aurelius Victor Cas., 4; Euseb. Chron. year 43, etc. The reign of Claudius was afflicted almost every year by partial famines.
32. Acts xi. 27, &c.
they still deemed themselves tributary. A collection was made, at which every one gave according to his means, and Barnabas was selected to carry the funds obtained to the brethren in Judea.33 Jerusalem for a long time remained the capital of Christianity. There were centered the objects peculiar to the faith, and there only were the apostles.34 But a great forward step had been taken. For several years there had been only one completely organized Church, that of Jerusalem––the absolute center of the faith, the heart from which all life proceeded and through which it circulated; but it no longer maintained this monopoly. The church at Antioch was now a perfect church. It possessed all the hierarchy of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It was the starting-point of the missions,35 and their headquarters.36 It was a second capital, or rather a second heart, which had its own proper action, exercising its force and influence in every direction.
It is easy to foresee that the second capital must soon eclipse the first. The decay of the church at Jerusalem was, indeed, rapid. It is natural that institutions founded on communism should enjoy at the beginning a period of brilliancy, for communism involves high mental exaltation; and it is equally natural that such institutions should very quickly degenerate, because communism is contrary to the instincts of human nature [the unconverted carnal mind, Romans 8:7].
During a moment of great religious excitement, a man readily believes that he can entirely sacrifice his selfish individuality and his peculiar interests; but egotism has its revenge, in proving that absolute disinterestedness engenders evils more serious than by the suppression of individual rights in property it had hoped to avoid.
|Ed. Note: Renan again shows his hostility to the First Century|
Christian Church economic system, aka "Christian Communism.
33. The book of Acts (xi. 30; xii. 25) includes Paul in this journey. But Paul declares that between his first sojourn of two weeks and his journey for the affair of the circumcision, he did not visit Jerusalem. (Gal. ii. 1). See Introduction.
34. Gal. i., 17-19.
35. Acts xiii. 3; xv. 36; xviii. 23.
36. Ibid. xiv. 25;   xviii. 22.
Persecution of Herod Agrippa the First.
Barnabas found the Church of Jerusalem in great trouble. The year 44 [A.D.] was perilous to it. Besides the famine, the fires of persecution which had been smothered since the death of Stephen were rekindled.
Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, had succeeded, since the year 41, in reconstituting the kingdom of his grandfather. Thanks to the favor of Caligula, he had reunited under his domination Batania, Trachonites, a part of the Hauran, Cibilene, Galilee, and the Persea.1
The ignoble part which he played in the tragicomedy which raised Claudius to the empire,2 completed his fortune. This vile Oriental, in return for the lessons of baseness and perfidy he had given to Rome, obtained for himself Samaria and Judea, and for his brother Herod the kingdom of Chalcis.3 He had left at Rome the worst memories, and the cruelties of Caligula were attributed in part to his counsels.4 The army and the pagan cities of Sebaste and Cesarea, which he sacrificed to Jerusalem, were averse to him.5 But the Jews found him to be generous, munificent, and sympathetic. He sought to render himself popular with them, and affected a polity quite different from that of Herod the Great. The latter was much more regardful of the Greek and Roman world than of the Jewish. Herod Agrippa, on the contrary, loved Jerusalem,
1. The inscriptions of these countries fully confirm the indications of Josephus. (Comptes Rendus de l’Acad. des Inscr. I. B. L., 1865, pp. 106, 109.)
2. Josephus, Ant. xix. iv. B. J., ii. xi.
3. Ib. xix. v. i.; vi. i; B. J., II. xi. 5; Dion Cassius, LX. 8.
4. Dion Cassius, LIX. 24.
5. Josephus, Ant. xix. ix. 1.
Movements Parallel to and Imitative of Christianity.––Simon of Gitto.
We have now arrived at a period when Christianity may be said to have become established. In the history of religions it is only the earliest years during which their existence is precarious. If a creed can triumphantly pass through the severe ordeals which await every new system, its future is assured. With sounder judgment than other contemporary sects, such as the Essenes, the Baptists, and the followers of Judas the Gaulonite, who clung to and perished with the Jewish institutions, the founders of Christianity displayed rare prevision in going forth at an early period to disseminate and root their new opinions over the broad expanse of the Gentile world. The meagerness of the allusions to Christianity which are found in Josephus, in the Talmud, and in the Greek and Latin writers, need not surprise us. Josephus is transmitted to us by Christian copyists|, who have omitted everything uncomplimentary to their faith. It is possible that he wrote more at length concerning Jesus and the Christians than is preserved in the edition which has been handed down to us. The Talmud in like manner, during the Middle Age, and after its first publication, underwent much abridgment and alteration.1 This resulted from the severe criticisms of the text by Christian writers, and from the burning
1. It is well known that no MS. of the Talmud is extant to control [guide] the printed editions.
of a number of unlucky Jews who were found in possession of a work containing what were considered blasphemous passages. As to the Greek and Latin writers, it is not surprising that alley paid little attention to a movement which they could not comprehend, and which was going on within a narrow space foreign to them. Christianity was lost to their vision upon the dark background of Judaism. It was only a family quarrel amongst the subjects of a degraded nation; why trouble themselves about it? The two or three passages in which Tacitus and Suetonius mention the Christians show that the new sect, even if generally beyond the visual circle of full publicity, was, notwithstanding, a prominent fact, since we are enabled at intervals to catch a glimpse of it defining itself with considerable clearness of outline through the mist of public inattention.
The relief of Christianity above the general level of Jewish history in the first century has also been somewhat diminished, by the fact that it was not the only movement of the kind. At the epoch we have arrived at, Philo had finished his career, so wholly consecrated to the love of virtue. The sect of Judas the Gaulonite still existed. This agitator had left the perpetuation of his ideal to his sons, James, Simon, and Menahem. The two former were crucified by command of the renegade procurator Tiberius Alexander.2 Menahem remained, and is destined to play an important part in the final catastrophe of the nation.3 In the year 44, an enthusiast by the name of Theudas arose, announcing the speedy deliverance of the Jews, calling on the people to follow him to the desert, and promising like
2. Jos., Ant., XX., v. 2.
3. Jos. B. J., II., xvii. 8-10; Vita, 5.
General Progress of the Christian Missions.
We have seen Barnabas leaving Antioch in order to carry to the faithful at Jerusalem the contributions of their brethren in Syria, and arriving at Jerusalem in time to be present at several of the excitements occasioned there by the persecution of [by] Herod Agrippa.1 Let us now follow him again to Antioch, where, at this period, all the creative energy of the sect seems to have been concentrated.
Barnabas took back a zealous assistant his cousin John-Mark, the disciple of Peter,1 and the son of that Mary at whose house the chief apostle loved to stay. Doubtless in calling this new co-worker to his aid, he had already in view the great enterprise in which they were to embark. Perhaps he foresaw the disputes it would occasion, and was well pleased to engage in it one who was understood to be the right hand of Peter, whose influence in general matters was predominant.
The enterprise itself was no less than a series of great missions starting from Antioch and seeking the conversion of the world. Like all the great resolves of the early Church, this idea was ascribed to a direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost. A special call, a supernatural election, was believed to have been vouchsafed to the Church of Antioch while engaged in fasting and prayer. Perhaps one of the prophets of the Church, Menahem,
Acts xii. 1,   25. Remark the context.
2. 1 Peter v. 13; Papias in Euseb. Hist. Acc. iii. 39.
or Lucius, uttered under the power of the gift of tongues the words intimating that Paul and Barnabas were predestined to
this mission.3 Paul was convinced that God had chosen him from his mother's womb for this task, to which thenceforth he exclusively devoted himself.4
The two apostles took with them, as an assistant in the details of their enterprise, the John-Mark whom Barnabas had brought from Jerusalem.5 When the preparations were completed, after fasting and prayer, and laying on of hands as a sign of the authority conferred by the Church itself on the apostles,6 they were commended to the grace of God, and set out.7 Whither they should journey, and what races they should evangelize, is what we are now to learn.
The early missions were all directed westward, or in other words adopted the Roman empire for their scene of operations. Excepting some small provinces between the Tigris and the Euphrates under the rule of the Arsacides, the Parthian countries received no Christian missions during the first century.8 Until the reigns of the Sassanides, Christianity did not pass eastward beyond the Tigris. This important fact was due to two causes, the Mediterranean sea, and the Roman empire.
For a thousand years the Mediterranean had been the great pathway of ideas and civilizations. The Romans, in extirpating its pirates, had rendered it an unequaled method of intercourse [travel]. A numerous coasting-marine made it very easy to pass from point to point on the borders of this immense lake. The comparative safety of the imperial highways, the protection afforded by the civil authority, the diffusion of the Jews around the Mediterranean coasts, the spreading of the Greek
3. Acts xiii. 2.
4. Gal. i. 15, 16; Acts xvii. 15, 21; xxvi. 17-18; 1 Cor. i. 1; Rom. i. 1, 5; xv. 15, etc.
5. Acts xiii. 5.
6. The author of Acts, being a partisan of the hierarchy and of church-domination, has perhaps inserted this circumstance. Paul knew nothing of any such ordination or consecration. He received his commission from Christ, and did not consider himself any more especially the envoy of the church of Antioch than that of Jerusalem.
7. Acts xiiii. 3; xiv. 25.
8. In I. Peter v. 13, Babylon means Rome.
State of the World in the First Century.
The political condition of the world was most melancholy. All [political] power was concentrated at Rome aud in the legions. The most shameful and degrading scenes were daily enacted. The Roman aristocracy, which had conquered the world, and which alone of all the people had any voice in public business under the Caesars, had abandoned itself to a Saturnalia of the most outrageous wickedness the human race ever witnessed. Caesar and Augustus, in establishing the imperial power, saw perfectly the necessities of the age. The world was so low in its political relations, that no other form of government was possible. Now that Rome had conquered numberless provinces, the ancient constitution, which was based upon the existence of a privileged patrician class, a kind of obstinate and malevolent Tories, could not continue.1 But Augustus had signally neglected every suggestion of true policy, by leaving the future to chance. Destitute of any canon of hereditary succession, of any settled rules concerning adoption, and of any law regulating election, Caesarism was like an enormous load on the deck of a vessel without ballast. The most terrible shocks were inevitable. Three times in a century, under Caligula, Nero, and Domitian, the greatest power that was ever united in one person [the position of Roman Emperor] fell into the hands of most ex-
1. Tacit. Ann, i. 2; Florus, iv. 3; Pomponius in the Digest, 1; I. Tit. ii., fr. 2
travagant and execrable men. Horrors were enacted which have hardly been surpassed by the monsters of the Mongol dynasties. In that fatal list of monarchs, one is reduced to apologizing for a Tiberius, who only attained thorough detestableness towards the close of his life; and for a Claudius, who was only eccentric, blundering, and badly advised. Rome became a school of vice and cruelty. It should be added that the vice came, in a great degree, from the East, from those parasites of low rank and those infamous men whom Egypt and Syria sent to Rome,2 and who, profiting by the oppression of the true Romans, succeeded in attaining great influence over the wretches who governed. The most disgusting ignominies of the empire, such as the apotheosis of the emperors and their deification during life, came from the East, and particularly from Egypt, which was at that period one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the earth.
However, the veritable Roman nature still survived, and nobility of soul was far from extinct. The lofty traditions of pride and virtue, which were preserved in a few families, attained the imperial throne with Nerva, and gave its splendor to the age of the Antonines, of which Tacitus is the elegant historian. An age in which such true and noble natures as those of Quintilian, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger were produced, need not be wholly despaired of. The corruption of the surface did not extend to the great mass of seriousness and honor which existed in the better Roman society, and many examples are yet preserved of devotion to order, duty, peace, and solid integrity. There were in the noble houses admirable wives and sisters. 4
2. Helicon. Apelles, Euceres, etc. The Oriental kings were considered by the Romans to surpass in tyranny the worst of the emperors. Dion. Cassius lix. 24.
3. See inscription of the Parasite of Antony in the Comptes Rendus de l’Acad. des Inscr. et B. L., 1864, p. 166, etc. Comp. Tacit. Ann. iv. 55, 56.
4. See for example the funeral oration on Turia by her husband, Q. Lucretius Vespillo, of which the complete epigraphic text was first published by Mommsen in Memoires de l’Academie de Berlin, 1863, p. 455, &c. Compare funeral oration on Mordia (Orelli, Inscr. Lat. No. 4860), and on Matilda by the emperor Adrian (Mem. de l’Acad. de Berlin, u. s. 483, &c.) We are too much preoccupied by passages of the Latin satirists in which the vices of women are sharply exposed. It is as if we were to design a general tableau of the morals of the seventeenth century from Mathurin, Regnier, and Boileau.
. . . . Not a solitary liberal or benevolent arrangement was ever
devised by that cruel aristocracy which, as long as the republic endured, wielded such an oppressive authority.
|Ed. Note: For background on the Roman aristocracy and their oppression of the average person, see, e.g.,
Edward C. Rogers, Letters on Slavery
(Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855), pp 15-23
Prof. Michael Parenti, Ph.D., The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome (New York: The New Press, 2003) (Excerpt, video).
At the epoch we are now considering [the 40's A.D.], the colossal fortune and luxury of the nobility, the vast agglomerations of people at certain points, and above all the peculiar and implacable hard-heartedness [covetousness] of the Romans [rich] had caused the rise of pauperism. The indulgence [e.g., food distributions] of some of the emperors to the Roman mob [oppressed poor people] had aggravated this evil. The spectula, the tesserae frumentariae, or public distributions of corn [food] . . . no remedy for misery. In this, as is many other things, the Oriental world was superior. The Jews possessed real institutions of charity. [First Century Christians had a utopia, infra.] The Egyptian temples seems to have sometimes had a fund for the poor. The male and female colleges of the Serapeum at Memphis were also to some extent charitable establishments. The terrible crisis in which humanity was passing in the capital was scarcely perceived in distant provinces, where the mode of life remained more simple [rural, agrarian]. The reproach of having poisoned the whole earth, the likening of Rome to a harlot . . .
Religious Legislation of the Period.
During the first century of the Christian era, the empire, while manifesting more or less hostility to the religious innovations which were imported from the East, did not declare open war against them. The doctrine of a state-religion was not clearly defined or vigorously upheld. At different epochs under the republic, foreign rites had been proscribed, especially those of Sabazius, Isis, and Serapis.1 But those mysterious systems presented such irresistible attractions to the common people, that the proscription proved unavailing.2
When (A. U. C. 535 [218 B.C.]) the demolition of the temple of Isis and Serapis was decreed, not a workman could be found to commence it, and the consul himself had to set the example by breaking down the doors with an axe.3 It is evident that the Latin creed was no longer satisfying to the masses; and we may suppose with good reason that it was for the purpose of gratifying the popular instincts that the rites of Isis and Serapis were reestablished by Caesar.4
That great man, with the profound and liberal intuition which characterized him, had shown himself favorable to entire freedom of conscience.5 Augustus was more attached to the national religion.6 He had an antipathy to the Oriental creeds,7 and prohibited the
1. Val. Max. I. ii; Liv. XXXIX, 8-18; Cic. De Legibus, II. 8; Dion Halic., II. 20; Dion Cass., XL. 47; XLII. 26; Tertull. Apol. 6; Adv. nationes, I. 10.
2. Propert., IV. i. 17; Lucian. VIIII. 831; Dion Cass. XLVII. 15; Arnob. ii. 73.
3. Val Maxim. I. iii. 3.
4. Dion Cass. XLVII. 15.
5. Jos.XLV. x. Comp. Cic., Pro Flacco, 28.
6. Suet., Aug., 31, 93; Dion Cass. iii. 36.
7. Suet. Aug., 93.
The Future of Missions.
Such was the world which the Christian missionaries undertook to convert. It may now be readily perceived, it seems to me, that the enterprise was nothing impossible, and that its success was no miracle. The world was fermenting with moral longings to which the new religion answered admirably. Manners were losing their rudeness; a purer religion was looked for; and the notions of human rights and social improvement were everywhere gaining ground. On the other hand, credulity was extreme, and the number of educated persons very limited. To such a world, a few earnest apostles had only to present themselves, believing in one God and, as disciples of Jesus, imbued with the most beneficent moral doctrine the ears of men ever listened to, and they could not fail to be heard. The imaginary miracles which they mingled with their teaching would not hinder their success; for the number of those who woald refuse to believe in the supernatural or miraculous was very small. If the apostles were humble and poor, so much the better. Humanity, in the condition it had then arrived at, could not be saved but by an effort springing from the masses. The ancient heathen religions were not susceptible of reform. The Roman state was what the state always will be––rigid, dry, and unyielding. In such a world perishing for want of
love, the future is the property of him who can touch the living spring of popular devotion, to do which, Greek liberalism and the old Roman gravity were alike impotent.
The founding of Christianity is in this view the mightiest work which the men of the people have ever accomplished. At an early day, it is true, we find men and worsen of high rank at Rome joining themselves to the Church; and about the end of the first century, the examples of Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla show that Christianity was penetrating almost within the palace of the Caesars.1 From the time of the first Autonines there were some rich men in the Christian communities; and near the close of the second century we find in them a few of the most distinguished persons of the empire.2 But at the commencement, all or nearly all were of humble condition.3 The noble and powerful of the earth were found in the earliest churches no more than in Galilees following the footsteps of Jesus. Now in these great movements the beginning is the decisive moment. The glory of a religion belongs entirely to its founders. Religion, in fact, is an affair of faith, and to exercise faith is an easy thing; the master-work is to inspire it.
When we try to become acquainted with the marvelous origin of Christianity, we ordinarily regard matters by the standards of our own day, and are thus led into grave errors. The man of the people in the first century, especially in the Greek and Oriental countries, was in no wise similar to what he is amongst us, and at this day. Education had not then separated classes as widely as at present. The Mediterranean races, excepting the Latin
1. See de Rossi, Bull. di Arch. Crist. 3d year, Nos. 3, 5, 6, 12. Eg. Pomponia Graecina (Tac. Ann. xiii. 32) under Nero as already characteristic; but it is not certain that she was a Christian.
2. See de Rossi, Roma Sotteranea I. p 309; and pl. xxi. No. 12 and the epigraphic collations of Leon Renier, Comptes Rend. de l’Acad. des Inscr. et B. L. 1865, p. 289, etc., and of Creuly, Rev. Arch. Jan 1866, p. 63-64. Comp. de Rossi, Bull. 3d year, No. 10, p 77-79.
3. I. Cor. i. 26; etc.;
James, ii. 5, etc.
. . . . The primitive Christians were essentially “poor; it was their rightful title.5 Even if a Christian possessed riches in the second and third centuries [A.D.] he was, in spirit, a tennior, and was saved from persecution by claiming the privilege of the law concerning the “collogia tenuiorum.”6 All the Christians
5. Ebionim. See Vie de Jesus, p. 179, et seq.; James ii. 5 et seq. Comp. Matt. v. 3.
6. See ante, p 269, 272.
were not slaves or persons of low rank; but the social equivalent of a Christian was a slave; and the same terms were applied to both; while the cardinal virtues of the servile condition—gentleness, humility, and resignation—were aimed at by both alike. The heathen writers were unanimous on this point. All of them without exception recognize in the Christian the traits of servile character, such as indifference to public affairs, a subdued and melancholy air, a severe estimate of the vices of the age [era], and a settled aversion to the theaters, baths, gymnasia, and public games.7
In a word, the heathen were the world; the Christians were not of the world. They were a little flock [Luke 12:32; Matt. 7:14] apart, hated of the world, reproving its iniquities.8 Seeking to keep themselves “unspotted from the world.”9 The ideal of the Christian will be wholly opposed to the worlding.10 The sincere Christian will love to be humble, and cultivate the virtues of the poor and simple and self-abasing. . . . . The Christian will set no store by architecture, sculpture, or painting; he is too much of an idealist. . . .
7. Tac. Ann., xv. 44; Plin. Epist., x. 97; Suet. Nero, 16; Domit., 15; Philopatris; Rutil. Numat., i. 389, et seq., 440, et seq.
8. John xv. 17, et seq.; xvi. 8, et seq., 33; xvii. 15, et seq.
9. James i. 27.
10. I allude to the essential and primitive tendencies of Christianity, not to the transformed Christianity now preached, especially that of the Jesuits.
. . . Another law [characteristic, trait] appears at this period, which will not fail to have its influence upon the history of Christianity. The establishment of Christianity corresponds in time with the suppression of political life in the Mediterranean world. The subjects of the imperial sway had ceased to have a country. If any one sentiment [characteristic] was wholly wanting [lacking] in the founders of the Church, it was patriotism. They were not even cosmopolites, citizens of the world; for the planet was to them only a place of exile, and they were idealists in the most absolute sense. The country is a composite object; it has body and soul. The soul is its recollections, customs, legends, misfortunes, hopes, and common regrets; the body its soil, race, language, mountains, rivers, characteristic productions.
But there were never any people so regardless [heedless, uncaring] of all this as the primitive [First Century] Christians. Judea could not retain their affection. A few years passed, and they had forgotten the walks of Galilee. The glories of Greece and Rome were foolishness to them. The regions in which Christianity first rooted itself––Syria, Cyprus, and Asia Minor––could not recall the period when they had been free [independent].
Greece and Rome still possessed much national pride. But at Rome the patriotism was hardly felt outside the army and a few families; while in Greece, Christianity flourished only in Corinth, a city which, after its destruction by Mummius and its rebuilding by Caesar, was a mixture of men [people] from every land. The true Greek tribes were then, as now, very exclusive in their notions, absorbed in the memory of their past; and paid little heed to the new doctrine. They proved but half-way Christians.
|Ed. Note: First Century Christians deemed themselves as "not of this [politico-military] system [thus] do not fight in the wars of the kingdoms of this world," says John W. Ritenbaugh of The Bible Tools Website, citing Philippians 3:20, "our citizenship is in heaven," 2 Corinthians 5:20, Christians "are ambassadors for Christ" (Christians' allegiance is to Christ, the King of the Kingdom of God); and 1 Peter 2:11, Christians are "strangers and pilgrims" in a foreign land. The national duty is, by adherence to the Divine Laws, to set a good example to other nations, not to fight them. Deuteronomy 4:6-7.
First Centry Christians deemed their real citizenship is in heaven, i.e., Christians are citizens of heaven itself. That is Christian's country, from which Christians are now [temporarily] absent, and from which Christians await a savior, a different government, the Lord [President, Prime Minister, King, Emperor] Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20.
First Century Christians had the same attitude as
Abraham toward their country. When God told him to leave his country, to found a different country, Genesis 12:1-2, he did so without question, having no loyalty to it, but instead, his allegiance, loyalty, was to God. Abraham is a "friend of God," James 2:23, the "father of the faithful,"
Galatians 3:16-29, Romans 4:11. Abraham knew that "friendship with the world is enmity to God," James 4:4. Abraham is an example to all Bible-adherents. Christians thus do not and cannot "serve their country" with its borders in politico-geographic terms.
Christians "were not concerned with [Roman politics, for example, with the issue of] restoring the Roman republic or with any particular form of government order. On the practical question of cultus . . . they [Christians] rejected the demands of Roman civic life," says Prof. Robert M. Grant, Augustus to Constantine: The Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World (Westminster / John Knox Press, 1970, 2004), Chapter VI, "Rome and the Christians," § I, "Antecedents and Predcedents," p 79.
For more background, see, e.g., Charles Sumner, LL.D., "The True Grandeur of Nations" (Boston, 4 July 1845), especially p 68.
On the other hand, the gay, luxurious, and pleasure-loving inhabitants of Asia and Syria, accustomed to a life of enjoyment, of easy manners, and used to accept the customs and laws of every new conqueror, had nothing in the shape of national pride or cherished traditions to lose. The early centers of Christianity––Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome––were, if I may so express it, public cities; cities like modern Alexandria, whither all races gather, and where the a union between the citizen and the soil which constitutes a nation, were entirely destroyed.
The interest of the public in social questions is always in inverse ratio to its preoccupation with politics. Socialism advances when patriotism becomes weak. Christianity was an explosion of social and religious ideas which was to be expected as soon as Augustus had suppressed political contests. It was destined, like Islamism, to become in essence an enemy of the tendency to separate nationality. Many ages and many schisms will be necessary [over future centuries] before national established churches can be derived out of a religion which started with the negation of the idea of any earthly home or country; which arose at an epoch when cities and citizens were no more [non-existent], and which the stern and vigorous republican spirit of old Greece and Italy would have surely expelled as deadly poison to the state [government].
Here then is one of the causes of the grandeur of the new religion. Humanity is diverse and changeable in feeling, and constantly agitated by contradictory desires. Great is the country and sacred are
the heroes of Marathon, Thermopylae, Valmy, and Fleurus. One’s country, however, is not everything here below. Man is a man and a child of God before he is a Frenchman or a German. The kingdom of God, that eternal vision which cannot be torn out of the heart of man, is the protest of his nature against the exclusiveness of patriotism. The idea of a great and universal organization of the race to bring about its greatest welfare and its moral improvement, is both legitimate and Christian.
The state [government, nation] knows and can know only one thing, the organization of self-interest. This is something, for self-interest is the strongest and most engrossing of human motives. But it is not enough. Governments founded on the theory that man is composed of selfish wants and desires alone, have proved greatly mistaken. Devotion is as natural as egotism to the man of noble race, and religion is organized devotion. Let none expect, then, to do without religion or religious associations. Every forward step of modern society will render the need of religion more imperious.
We can now see how these recitals of strange events may prove illustrative and instructive. We need not reject the lesson because of certain traits which the difference of times and manners has invested with an odd or unusual aspect. . . .
Let us suppose a hu-
manity ten times as [morally] powerful as we are; it would be infinitely more religious. It is even probable that at this degree of sublime elevation, being freed from material cares and. egotism, endowed with perfect judgment and appreciation, and perceiving clearly the baseness and nothingness of all that is not true, good, or beautiful, man would be wholly a religious being, and would spend his days in ceaseless adoration, passing from ecstasy to ecstasy of religious rapture, and living and dying in the loftiest delight of the soul. Egotism is the measure of inferiority, and decreases as we recede from the animal nature. A perfected being would no longer be selfish, but purely religious. The progress of humanity, then, cannot destroy or weaken religion, but will develop and increase it.
But it is time that we return to the three missionaries, Paul, Barnabas, aud Mark whom we left as they sallied forth from Antioch by the Seleucian gate. In my third book I shall attempt to trace the footsteps of these messengers of good report, by land and sea, in calm and storm, through good and evil days. I long to recount that unequaled epic; to depict those tossing waves so often traversed, and those endless journeyings in Asia and Europe, during which the Gospel-seed was sown. The great Christian Odyssey begins. Already the apostolic bark [vessel] has spread its sails, and the freshening breeze rejoices to bear upon its wings the words of Jesus.