With Paul begins the new form of Christianity and the struggle with the representatives of the old form.
Today we continue Christianity Appears
with a selection from The Origin of Christianity, and a Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by Isaac M. Wise published in 1868. The selections are presented in a series of installments for 5 minute daily reading.
Previously in Christianity Appears.
Place: The Levant
Now Paul’s gospel came in. Here is your choice. There are death and damnation; here are life and happiness everlasting. God has sent his Son in advance of the approaching catastrophe to warn you, and he is appointed now to conduct the end of all flesh. Cling to him and be saved, or believe not and be condemned forever. So he came to the heathens. This was his gospel. How did he succeed? We will explain after a brief pause.
All passages in the Gospels and the Acts which have reference to the above Christology, to the end of things or against it — in which the synoptics most fatally contradict one another — are the products of writers long after Paul, when the attempts to reconcile Jewish and Gentile Christianity were made. For with Paul begins the new form of Christianity and the struggle with the representatives of the old form. Within ten years he traversed the land from Antioch to Athens, in three different journeys, and established his bishopric, the first Christian congregations among the Gentiles. He organized them fully, with deacons and deaconesses, preachers and prophets; and he was their bishop, their oracle, their revelation, and their demi-god. He let his converts believe that they could do wonderful things, in healing the sick, driving out demons, prophesying and speaking with strange tongues, because it served his purposes, although he did none of these things. He gave them the Holy Ghost, i.e., he regenerated their feelings and pacified their stormy passions, suppressed their brutal lusts, and elevated their aspirations to higher ideals. He did not feel that sovereign contempt for money which the Master did whom he glorified; for he, like the other apostles, took his pay, and argued with the Corinthians, like a good Pharisean lawyer, that bishops and preachers must be paid — an argument well understood by the dignitaries of the Church to this day.
Wonderful, indeed, is the progress which Paul made among the Gentiles in ten years. Like a pillar of fire, he traversed the deserts of heathenism; like a second Elijah, he battled against the priests and prophets of Baal, and conjured down the fire from heaven to his assistance. Within ten years he laid the foundation of a new civilization, of the reorganization of society on the new basis. He did not live to see it realized, but he saw the new system take root and promise golden fruit. Wonderful, we maintain, was his success; for he was not only opposed by the entire heathen world, and by the orthodox Jews, although he proclaimed their God and their doctrines, their religion and their hopes, but was also most strenuously opposed by the apostles and the nascent congregation in Jerusalem, whose Master he glorified, and whose cause he made the cause of the world. The dissensions between Paul and the apostles were of a very serious character, and there was ample cause for them.
In the first place, he took it upon himself to be an apostle, and they had their college of Twelve, to which none could be added, especially not Paul, who had never seen Jesus of Nazareth. He maintained that God had appointed him, God had revealed his Son and his Gospel to him; but the apostles did not believe it, and never acknowledged him as an apostle. At the end of his journeys, Peter, James, and John, three out of Twelve, acknowledged him as an apostle to the Gentiles, but not to the Jews. The rest never did, which, of course, was a great trouble and drawback to Paul among his own converts.
In the second place, they could never forgive him for the idea of going to the Gentiles. Peter, who had become a pious Essene and considered it unlawful to go to the house or into the company of a Gentile; James, who dreaded the idea of eating of the bread of the Gentile, and made a hypocrite in this point of Peter at Antioch — and they were the heads of the Church — could not forgive Paul’s innovation in going to the Gentiles. Paul was sensible enough to silence them by begging money for them, and to appoint the Sunday for collections to be made for the saints of Jerusalem. But it was too much for them that Paul went to the Gentiles.
In the third place, he changed their whole religion into a new sort of mythology. He made of Jesus a Son of God, of which they had no knowledge. He preached vicarious atonement, bodily resurrection, the end of the old covenant and the beginning of a new, the end of all flesh, the last judgment — all of which was foreign to them; not one word of all that had their Master told them, and they knew only what he did tell them. They naturally looked upon him as an unscrupulous innovator. They had not experience and forethought enough to understand that Paul’s success among the heathens depended on that means. They were pious men who prayed much, believed seriously, and had no knowledge of the world as it was.
In the fourth place, they could not possibly give their consent to Paul’s abrogation of the whole law, knowing, as they did, how their Master respected every tittle, every iota of the law; that he had come to fulfil the law, and to reestablish the theocracy; how could they possibly think of the idea of abolishing Sabbath and holidays, circumcision and ablutions, all and everything, to be guided by the phantom of hope, love, and faith, against which James argues in his epistle with all the energy of his soul? Those inexperienced saints did not know that the Pharisean doctors held similar theories, and that Paul could not possibly hope to meet with any success among the Gentiles if he had come to them with the laws of the Jews. They were Roman citizens, who contemned the laws of the barbarians. Had Paul come with the word Judaism on his lips, he would have surely failed. Had he come to enforce a foreign law, he would have been laughed at as a madman. They did not know that Paul cared not for an hundred and one laws, as long as the essence and substance could be saved and preserved; that he held that laws are local, the spirit is universal; that laws are limitations, the spirit is free and the property of all men of all ages and climes; that he was determined to drop everything which could retard his progress.
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