This series has twenty-six easy five minute installments. This first installment: Just After Jesus Died.
In grouping the glowing words of Renan, with their fine spiritual interpretations and descriptive eloquence, the judgments of the eminent contemporary Jewish scholar Wise, and Cardinal Newman’s learned yet simple portrayal of the Church as it took form in its early environment, and as it was seen through the media of contemporary governments, customs, and criticisms, it is believed that readers will derive satisfaction, and will be aided in their own inquiries, through this threefold presentation. On so vast a subject, with its momentous implications, no single author, however profound his genius, can do more than contribute a partial essay toward the many-sided truth.
This series is from three of the most important authorities of this topic:
- Histoire des Origines du Christianisme by J. Ernest Renan published in 1881.
- The Origin of Christianity, and a Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by Isaac M. Wise published in 1868.
- by John Henry Newman.
For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
|J. Ernest Renan’s installments:||11|
|Isaac M. Wise’s installments:||8|
|John Henry Newman’s installments:||7|
Renan was a French expert on early Christianity who wrote about the topic from a critical perspective. Isaac Wise was the great Jewish scholar. Newman converted to Catholicism from the Church of England, ending up as a cardinal. He was beatified in 2010.
We begin with J. Ernest Renan.
From the moment of the arrest of Jesus, and immediately after his death, it is probable that many of the disciples had already found their way to the northern provinces. At the time of the Resurrection a rumor was spread abroad, according to which it was in Galilee that he would be seen again. Some of the women who had been to the sepulcher came back with the report that the angel had said to them that Jesus had already preceded them into Galilee. Others said that it was Jesus himself who had ordered them to go there. Now and then some people said that they themselves remembered that he had said so during his lifetime.
What is certain is that at the end of a few days, probably after the Paschal Feast of the Passover had been quite over, the disciples believed they had a command to return into their own country, and to it accordingly they returned. Perhaps the visions began to abate at Jerusalem. A species of melancholy seized them. The brief appearances of Jesus were not sufficient to compensate for the enormous void left by his absence. In a melancholy mood they thought of the lake and of the beautiful mountains where they had received a foretaste of the kingdom of God. The women especially wished, at any cost, to return to the country where they had enjoyed so much happiness. It must be observed that the order to depart came especially from them. That odious city weighed them down. They longed to see once more the ground where they had possessed Him whom they loved, well assured in advance of meeting him again there.
The majority of the disciples then departed, full of joy and hope, perhaps in the company of the caravan which took back the pilgrims from the Feast of the Passover. What they hoped to find in Galilee were not only transient visions, but Jesus himself to continue with them, as he had done before his death. An intense expectation filled their souls. Was he going to restore the kingdom of Israel, to found definitely the kingdom of God, and, as was said, “reveal his justice”? Everything was possible. They already called to mind the smiling landscapes where they had enjoyed his presence. Many believed that he had given to them a rendezvous upon a mountain, probably the same to which with them there clung so many sweet recollections. Never, it is certain, had there been a more pleasant journey. All their dreams of happiness were on the point of being realized. They were going to see him once more! And, in fact, they did see him again. Hardly restored to their harmless chimeras, they believed themselves to be in the midst of the gospel-dispensation period. It was now drawing near to the end of April. The ground is then strewn with red anemones, which were probably those “lilies of the fields” from which Jesus delighted to draw his similes. At each step his words were brought to mind, adhering, as it were, to the thousand accidental objects they met by the way. Here was the tree, the flower, the seed, from which he had taken his parables; there was the hill on which he delivered his most touching discourses; here was the little ship from which he taught. It was like the recommencement of a beautiful dream — like a vanished illusion which had reappeared. The enchantment seemed to revive. The sweet Galilean “Kingdom of God” had recovered its sway. The clear atmosphere, the mornings upon the shore or upon the mountain, the nights passed on the lakes watching the nets, all these returned again to them in distinct visions. They saw him everywhere where they had lived with him. Of course it was not the joy of the first enjoyment. Sometimes the lake had to them the appearance of being very solitary. But a great love is satisfied with little. If all of us, while we are alive, could surreptitiously, once a year, and during a moment long enough to exchange but a few words, behold again those loved ones whom we have lost–death would not be death!
Such was the state of mind of this faithful band, in this short period when Christianity seemed to return for a moment to his cradle and bid to him an eternal adieu. The principal disciples, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, met again on the shores of the lake, and henceforth lived together; they had taken up again their former calling of fishermen, at Bethsaida or at Capernaum. The Galilean women were no doubt with them. They had insisted more than the others on that return, which was to them a heartfelt love. This was their last act in the establishment of Christianity. From that moment they disappear. Faithful to their love, their wish was to quit no more the country in which they had tasted their greatest delight. More than five hundred persons were already devoted to the memory of Jesus. In default of the lost master they obeyed the disciples, the most authoritative — Peter — in particular.
The activity of these ardent souls had already turned in another direction. What they believed to have heard from the lips of the dear risen One was the order to go forth and preach, and to convert the world. But where should they commence? Naturally, at Jerusalem. The return to Jerusalem was then resolved upon by those who at that time had the direction of the sect. As these journeys were ordinarily made by caravan at the time of the feasts, we now suppose, with all manner of likelihood, that the return in question took place at the Feast of Tabernacles at the close of the year 33, or the Paschal Feast of the year 34. Galilee was thus abandoned by Christianity, and abandoned forever. The little Church which remained there continued, no doubt, to exist; but we hear it no more spoken of. It was probably broken up, like all the rest, by the frightful disaster which then overtook the country during the war of Vespasian; the wreck of the dispersed community sought refuge beyond Jordan. After the war it was not Christianity which was brought back into Galilee; it was Judaism.
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