So his influence was weakened and his progress retarded among the Gentiles till finally, after ten years of hard work, he concluded upon going to Jerusalem and, if possible, effecting a compromise with the apostolic congregation.
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.
In the fifth place, and this was the worst, they could not forgive him for preaching the theological kingdom of heaven. A kingdom of Israel — a throne of David, a Davidian prince, a Zion and a Jerusalem in heaven, and slavery, misery, and oppression on earth — was so new and foreign to them, so contrary to what they had heard from their Master, that they could not accept it. What should become of Peter’s Messiah, of the hopes and promises connected with the second advent, if all at once the whole scheme is transported from earth to heaven? It was too much disappointment, they could not endure it. Those men did not understand that Paul had carefully to avoid every conflict with the Roman authorities. He was too prudent to be crucified. They could not comprehend that his great object was not to remove the evil at once; he intended to sow the seed, to bring forth the plant; to give to the heathens correct notions of God, duty, responsibility, purity, holiness, morality, justice, humanity, and freedom, which in proper time should necessarily break the chains, revolutionize the sentiments, and elevate the views, hopes, aspirations, and designs of the nations.
They could not comprehend that their Messiah and kingdom of heaven, together with his terrible message of the end of all flesh and the last judgment day, were means, and nothing but means, to captivate and reform the heathen. His Son of God was crucified and resurrected from the dead to forewarn all of the approaching end of all flesh; to show that in a little while all the dead should resurrect and the living should be changed to spiritual beings. He had been given all power by the Almighty to conduct the catastrophe of the world, and would be present at the last judgment day. But after all that is over, the earth and man changed to a new state of spiritual life, then the Son of God returns the kingdom to the Father, and God will be again all in all. So the Son of God was a general superintendent, the demiurge for the time being, a doctrine of which the apostles had no knowledge, and to which they could not give their consent. He could not get them to understand that these were the means for the conversion of the Gentiles, and that he had quite another gospel for the enlightened portion of the community. They could not see that among heathens used to apotheosis, man-worship, and plastic gods, ideas, to become effective, must put on concrete and tangible bodies.
They could not imagine that the sensuality and corruption of the age required heroic and terror-striking means to rouse and to move the masses; and so the dissensions and troubles between Paul and the nascent Church increased with the success of Paul among the Gentiles. His epistles, one and all, are polemics, not against heathenism or against Judaism, but against his colleagues in Jerusalem, whom, together with their doctrines, he treats in a most reckless manner. They could not write to counterbalance Paul — in fact, there were no writers of any note among them. Therefore, only one side of the polemics, that of Paul, is fully represented in the New Testament; and the side of the Jewish Christians remained mostly matter of tradition.
Messengers were sent to follow Paul to undo his gospel and preach that of the apostles; to introduce the law and circumcision among the Gentile Christians. Those messengers in many cases succeeded, notwithstanding the thundering epistles of Paul. So his influence was weakened and his progress retarded among the Gentiles till finally, after ten years of hard work, he concluded upon going to Jerusalem and, if possible, effecting a compromise with the apostolic congregation. It was a dangerous time for him to go to Jerusalem, for just then the fanatic high-priest, Ananias, had convened a court of his willing tools, tried James, the brother of Jesus, and, finding him guilty, of what God only knows, had him and some of his associates executed — a bloody deed, which cost him his office, on account of the loud and emphatic protestations of the Jews before Agrippa II and the Roman governor. Therefore, Paul was cautioned by prophets and friends not to go to Jerusalem.
But he was not the man to be frightened by dangers; he was the very type of boldness and courage. He went to Jerusalem to effect a conciliation with the Church. A synod met in the house of James the apostle, who had succeeded the former James as head of the Church, and Paul was told to do that against which his conscience, his honor, his manhood must have revolted: he was required to play the hypocrite in Jerusalem, in order to pacify the brethren who were angry at him. The thousands of Jews, they said, who were zealous for the law, and were informed how Paul taught the people to forsake Moses, to give up circumcision and the ancient customs, hearing of his presence in Jerusalem, “the multitude must needs come together,” which points to the Jewish Christians faithful to the law. Therefore they advised him to go through the mockery of a purification at the Temple, “to be at charges,” as they called it, with some who had vowed a vow, and make the prescribed sacrifices after the purification.
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