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Title: Supernatural Religion, Vol. III. (of III) - An Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation
Author: Cassels, Walter Richard, 1826-1907
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[The Right of Translation is Reserved.]

"Credulity is as real, if not so great, a sin as unbelief."

Archbishop Trench.

"The abnegation of reason is not the evidence of faith, but the
confession of despair."

Canon Lightfoot.

PG EDITOR'S NOTE: This file has been provided with an image of the
original scan for each page which is linked to the page number in the
html file. Nearly every page in the text has many Greek passages which
have been indicated where they occur by [———] as have many complex
tables; these passages may be viewed in the page images. Some of the
pages have only a few lines of text and then the rest of the page is
taken up with complex footnotes in English, Greek and Hebrew. The reader
may click on the page numbers in the html file to see the entire page
with the footnotes. —DW




Before we proceed to examine the evidence for miracles and the reality
of Divine Revelation which is furnished by the last historical book of
the New Testament, entitled the "Acts of the Apostles," it is well that
we should briefly recall to mind some characteristics of the document,
which most materially affect the value of any testimony emanating from
it. Whilst generally asserting the resurrection of Jesus, and his bodily
ascension, regarding which indeed it adds fresh details, this work
presents to us a new cycle of miracles, and so profusely introduces
supernatural agency into the history of the early church that, in
comparison with it, the Gospels seem almost sober narratives. The
Apostles are instructed and comforted by visions and revelations, and
they, and all who believe, are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak
with other tongues. The Apostles are delivered from


prison and from bonds by angels or by an earthquake. Men fall dead or
are smitten with blindness at their rebuke. They heal the sick, raise
the dead, and handkerchiefs brought from their bodies cure diseases and
expel evil spirits.

As a general rule, any document so full of miraculous episodes and
supernatural occurrences would, without hesitation, be characterized as
fabulous and incredible, and would not, by any sober-minded reader, be
for a moment accepted as historical. There is no other testimony for
these miracles. Let the reader endeavour to form some conception of
the nature and amount of evidence necessary to establish the truth of
statements antecedently so incredible, and compare it with the testimony
of this solitary and anonymous document, the character and value of
which we shall now proceed more closely to examine.

It is generally admitted, and indeed it is undeniable, that no distinct
and unequivocal reference to the Acts of the Apostles, and to Luke as
their author, occurs in the writings of Fathers before one by Irenæus(1)
about the end of the second century. Passages are, however, pointed out
in earlier writings as indicating the use and consequent existence of
our document, all of which we shall now examine.


Several of these occur in the "Epistle to the Corinthian s," ascribed
to Clement of Rome. The first, immediately compared with the passage to
which it is supposed to be a reference,(1) is as follows:--


The words of the Epistle are not a quotation, but merely occur in the
course of an address. They do not take the form of an axiom, but are a
comment on the conduct of the Corinthians, which may have been suggested
either by written or oral tradition, or by moral maxims long before
current in heathen philosophy.2 It is unnecessary to enter minutely into
this, however, or to indicate the linguistic differences between the
two passages, for one point alone settles the question. In the Acts:
the saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," is distinctly
introduced as a quotation of


"words of the Lord Jesus," and the exhortation "to remember" them,
conveys the inference that they were well known. They must either have
formed part of Gospels now no longer extant, as they are not found in
ours, or have been familiar as the unwritten tradition of sayings of the
Master. In either case, if the passage in the Epistle be a reference
to these words at all, it cannot reasonably be maintained that it must
necessarily have been derived from a work which itself distinctly quotes
the words from another source. It would be against every principle
of evidence, under such circumstances, to affirm the passage to be an
allusion to this special work, of whose previous existence we have
no independent evidence.(1) The slight coincidence in the expression,
without indication that any particular passage is in the mind of the
author, and without any mention of the Acts, therefore, is no evidence
of the existence of that work.

A few critics point to some parts of the following passage as showing
acquaintance with Acts:--"Through jealousy Paul also pointed out the way
to the prize of patience, having borne chains seven times, having been
put to flight, having been stoned; having become a preacher both in
the East and in the West, he gained the noble renown due to his faith;
having taught the whole world righteousness, and come to the extremity
of the West, and having suffered martyrdom by command of the rulers,
he was thus removed from the world and went to the holy place, having
become a most eminent


example of patience."(1) The slightest impartial consideration, however,
must convince any one that this passage does not indicate the use of the
"Acts of the Apostles." The Epistle speaks of seven imprisonments, of
some of which the Acts make no mention, and this must, therefore, have
been derived from another source.(2) The reference to his "coming to the
extremity of the West" [------], whatever interpretation be put upon it,
and to his death, obviously carries the history further than the Acts,
and cannot have been derived from that document.

The last passage, which, it is affirmed,(3) shows acquaintance with the
Acts of the Apostles is the following: "But what shall we say regarding
David who hath obtained a good report [------]? unto whom [------] God
said: 'I found a man after mine own heart, David, the son of Jesse: in
everlasting mercy I anointed him.'"(4) This is said to be derived from
Acts xiii. 22: "And when he removed him he raised up to them David for
king; to whom also he


gave testimony [------]: I found David the son of Jesse, a man after
mine own heart, who will do all my will."(1) The passage, however, is
compounded of two quotations loosely made from the Septuagint version
of the Old Testament, from which all the quotations in the Epistle are
taken. Ps. lxxxviii. 20: "I found David my servant; in holy mercy I
anointed him."(2) And 1 Sam. xiii. 14: "A man after his own heart."(3)
Clement of Alexandria quotes this passage from the Epistle, and for "in
everlasting mercy" reads "with holy oil" [------]

as in the Psalm.(4) Although, therefore, our Alexandrian MS. of the
Epistle has the reading which we have given above, even if we suppose
that the Alexandrian Clement may have found a more correct version in
his MS., the argument would not be affected. The whole similarity lies
in the insertion of "the son of Jesse," but this was a most common
addition to any mention of David, and by the completion of the passage
from the Psalm, the omission of "who will do all my will," the
peculiar phrase of the Acts, as well as the difference of introductory
expressions, any connection between the two is severed, and it is
apparent that the quotation of the Epistle may legitimately be referred
to the Septuagint,(5) with which it agrees much more closely


than with the Acts. In no case could such slight coincidences prove
acquaintance with the Acts of the Apostles.(1)

Only one passage of the "Epistle of Barnabas" is referred to by any
one(2) as indicating acquaintance with the Acts. It is as follows, c. 7:
"If therefore the son of God, being Lord, and about to judge quick and
dead [------] suffered," &c. This is compared with Acts x. 42... "and to
testify that it is he who has been appointed by God judge of quick and
dead" [------]. Lardner, who compares the expression of the Epistle
with Acts, equally compares it with that in 2 Tim. iv. 1... "and Christ
Jesus who is about to judge the quick and dead" [------], to which it is
more commonly referred,(3) and 1 Pet. iv. 5... "to him who is ready to
judge quick and dead" [------]. He adds, however: "It is not possible to
say, what text he refers to, though that in Timothy has (he same words.
But perhaps there is no proof that he refers to any. This was an article
known to every common Christian; whereas this writer (whoever he be) was
able to teach the Christian religion, and that without respect to any
written gospels or epistles."(4) It is scarcely


necessary to add anything to this. There is of course no trace of the
use of Acts in the Epistle.(1)

It is asserted that there is a "clear allusion"(2) to Acts in the Pastor
of Hermas. The passages may be compared as follows:-- [------]

The slightest comparison of these passages suffices to show that the one
is not dependent on the other. The Old Testament is full of passages in
which the name of the Lord is magnified as the only source of safety and
salvation. In the Pauline Epistles likewise there are numerous passages
of a similar tenour. For instance, the passage from Joel ii. 32, is
quoted Rom. x. 13: "For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord
shall be saved" [------](3) There was in fact no formula more current
either amongst the Jews or in the early Church; and there is no
legitimate ground for tracing such an expression to the Acts of the


The only other passage which is quoted(1) as indicating acquaintance
with Acts is the following, which we at once contrast with the supposed
parallel:-- [------]

Here again a formula is employed which is common throughout the
New Testament, and which, applied as it is here to those who were
persecuted, we have reason to believe was in general use in the early
Church. It is almost unnecessary to point out any examples. Everywhere
"the name" of God or of Jesus is the symbol used to represent the
concrete idea, and in the heavenly Jerusalem of the Apocalypse the
servants of God and of the Lamb are to have "his name" on their
foreheads. The one expression, however, which is peculiar in the
passage: "counted worthy,"--in the Acts [------], and in the Pastor
[------],--is a perfectly natural and simple one, the use of which
cannot be exclusively conceded to the Acts of the Apostles. It is found
frequently in the Pauline Epistles, as for instance in 2 Thes. i. 5,
where, after saying that they give thanks to God for them and glory
in the churches of God for the patience and faith with which the
Thessalonians endure


persecutions, the writer continues: "which is a token of the righteous
judgment of God, that ye may he counted worthy [------] of the kingdom
of God, for which ye also suffer [------];" and again, in the same
chapter, v. 11, 12, "Wherefore we also pray always for you that our
God may count you worthy [------] of the calling, and fulfil all good
pleasure of goodness and work of faith with power; _that the name of
our Lord Jesus may he glorified in you_ [------]" &c. The passage we are
examining cannot be traced to the "Acts of the Apostles."(1) It must be
obvious to all that the Pastor of Hennas does not present any evidence
even of the existence of the Acts at the time it was written.(2)

Only two passages in the Epistles of pseudo-Ignatius are pointed out as
indicating acquaintance with the Acts, and even these are not advanced
by many critics. We have already so fully discussed these Epistles that
no more need now be said. We must pronounce them spurious in all their
recensions and incapable of affording evidence upon any point earlier
than towards the end of the second century. Those, however, who would
still receive as genuine the testimony of the three Syriac Epistles must
declare that they do not present any trace of the existence of the Acts,
inasmuch as the two passages adduced to show the use of that work do not
occur in those letters. They are found in the shorter recension of
the Epistles to the Smyrnæans and Philadelphians. We might, therefore,
altogether refuse to examine the


passages, but in order to show the exact nature of the case made out by
apologists, we shall briefly refer to them. We at once compare the first
with its supposed parallel.(1)


There is nothing in this passage which bears any peculiar analogy to the
Acts, for the statement is a simple reference to a tradition which is
also embodied both in the third Synoptic(2) and in the fourth Gospel;(3)
and the mere use of the common words [------] and [------] could not
prove anything. The passage occurs in the Epistle immediately after a
quotation, said by Jerome to be taken from the Gospel according to the
Hebrews, relating an appearance of Jesus to "those who were with Peter,"
in which Jesus is represented as making them handle him in order to
convince them that he is not an incorporeal spirit.(4) The quotation
bears considerable affinity to the narrative in the third Synoptic
(xxiv. 39), at the close of which Jesus is represented as eating with
the disciples. It is highly probable that the Gospel from which the
writer of the Epistle quoted contained the same detail, to which this
would naturally be a direct


descriptive reference. In any case it affords no evidence of the
existence of the Acts of the Apostles.(1)

The second passage, which is still more rarely advanced,(2) is as
follows:-- [------]

The only point of coincidence between these two passages is the use of
the word "wolves." In the Epistle the expression is [------], whilst in
Acts it is [------]. Now the image is substantially found in the Sermon
on the Mount, one form of which is given in the first Synoptic, vii.
15,16, and which undeniably must have formed part of many of the Gospels
which are mentioned by the writer of the third Synoptic. We find Justin
Martyr twice quoting another form of the saying: "For many [------]
shall arrive in my name, outwardly indeed clothed in sheep's skins,
but inwardly being ravening wolves [------]."(3) The use of the term
as applied to men was certainly common in the early Church. The idea
expressed in the Epistle is more closely found in 2 Timothy iii. 1 ff.,
in the description of those who are to come in the last days, and who
will (v. 6) "creep into the houses and make captive [------] silly women
laden with sins, led away with divers lusts."


The passage cannot be traced to the Acts,(1) and the Ignatian Epistles,
spurious though they be, do not present any evidence of the existence of
that work.(2)

Only two sentences are pointed out in the "Epistle of Polycarp" as
denoting acquaintance with the Acts. The first and only one of these on
which much stress is laid is the following:(3) [------]

It will be obvious to all that, along with much similarity, there is
likewise divergence between these sentences. In the first phrase the use
of [------] in the Epistle separates it from the supposed parallel,
in which the word is [------]. The number of passages in the Pauline
Epistles corresponding with it are legion (e.g. 2 Cor. iv. 14, Ephes.
i. 20). The second member of the sentence, which is of course the more
important, is in reality, we contend, a reference to the very Psalm
quoted in Acts immediately after the verse before us, couched in not
unusual phraseology. Psalm xvi. 10 (Sept. xv.), reads:


"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" [------].(1) In Ps. xviii.
5 (Sept. xvii. 5) we have, "The pains of hell [------] compassed me
about."(2) The difference between the [------] of the Epistle and the
[------] of the Acts is so distinct that, finding a closer parallel in
the Psalms to which reference is obviously made in both works, it is
quite impossible to trace the phrase necessarily to the Acts. Such a
passage cannot prove the use of that work,(3) but, if it could, we might
inquire what evidence for the authorship and trustworthiness of the Acts
could be deduced from the circumstance?(4)

The second passage, referred to by a few writers,(5) is as follows:--

It is not necessary to do more than contrast these passages to show
how little the "Epistle of Polycarp" can witness for the "Acts of the
Apostles." We have already examined another supposed reference to
this very passage, and the expressions in the Epistle, whilst scarcely
presenting a single point of linguistic analogy to


the sentence in the Acts, only tend to show how common and natural such
language was in the early Church in connection with persecution. Whilst
we constantly meet with the thought expressed by the writer of the
Epistle throughout the writings of the New Testament, we may more
particularly point to the first Petrine epistle for further instances of
this tone of exhortation to those suffering persecution for the cause.
For instance, 1 Pet. ii. 19 ff, and again iii. 14,(1) "But if ye even
suffer [------] for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye." In the
next chapter the tone is still more closely analogous. Speaking of
persecutions, the writer says, iv. 13, ".... but according as ye are
partakers of Christ's sufferings rejoice," &c. &c. 14. "If ye are
reproached in Christ's name [------] blessed are ye, for the spirit
of glory and of God resteth upon you." 15. "For let none of you suffer
[------] as a murderer," &c. &c. 16. "But if as a Christian, let him
not be ashamed, but let him praise God in this name [------]" &c. &c.
Nothing but evidential destitution could rely upon the expression in the
"Epistle of Polycarp" to show acquaintance with Acts.

Few apologists point out with confidence any passages from the
voluminous writings of Justin Martyr, as indicating the use of the Acts
of the Apostles. We may, however, quote such expressions as the more
undaunted amongst them venture to advance. The first of these is the
following:(2) "For the Jews having the prophecies and ever expecting
the Christ to come knew him not [------], and not only so, but they also
maltreated him. But


the Gentiles, who had never heard any thing regarding the Christ until
his Apostles, having gone forth from Jerusalem, declared the things
concerning him, and delivered the prophecies, having been filled with
joy and faith, renounced their idols and dedicated themselves to the
unbegotten God through the Christ"(1) This is compared with Acts xiii.
27, "For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers not knowing this
(man) [------] nor

yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day,
fulfilled them by their judgment of him," &c. 48. "But the Gentiles,
hearing, rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord," &c.(2) We may
at once proceed to give the next passage. In the Dialogue with Trypho,
Justin has by quotations from the prophets endeavoured to show that the
sufferings of Christ, and also the glory of his second advent had been
foretold, and Trypho replies: "Supposing these things to be even as thou
sayest, and that it was foretold that Christ was to suffer [------],
and has been called a Stone, and after his first coming, in which it had
been announced that he was to suffer, should come in glory, and become
judge of all, and eternal king and priest;" &c.,(3) and in another
place, "For


if it had been obscurely declared by the prophets that the Christ should
suffer [------] and after these things be lord of all," &c.(1) This is
compared with Acts xxvi. 22, ".... saying nothing except those things
which the prophets and Moses said were to come to pass, (23) whether
the Christ should suffer [------], whether, the first out of the
resurrection from the dead, he is about to proclaim light unto the
people and to the Gentiles."(2) It is only necessary to quote these
passages to show how unreasonable it is to maintain that they show
the use of the Acts by Justin. He simply sets forth from the prophets,
direct, the doctrines which formed the great text of the early Church.
Some of the warmest supporters of the canon admit the "uncertainty"
of such coincidences, and do not think it worth while to advance them.
There are one or two still more distant analogies sometimes pointed out
which do not require more particular notice.(3) There is no evidence
whatever that Justin was acquainted with the Acts of the Apostles.(4)


Some apologists(1) claim Hegesippus as evidence for the existence of the
Acts, on the strength of the following passages in the fragment of his
book preserved by Eusebius. He puts into the mouth of James the Just,
whilst being martyred, the expression: "I beseech (thee) Lord God,
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is compared
with the words said to have been uttered by the martyr Stephen, Acts
vii. 60, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.,, The passage is more
commonly advanced as showing acquaintance with Luke xxiii. 34, and we
have already discussed it.(2) Lardner apparently desires it to do double
duty, but it is scarcely worth while seriously to refer to the claim
here. The passage more generally relied upon, though that also is only
advanced by a few,(3) is the following, "This man was a faithful witness
both to Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ,"(4) [------]. This
is compared with Acts xx. 21, where Paul is represented as saying of
himself, ".... testifying fully both to Jews and Greeks repentance
toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [------]. The two
passages are totally different both in sense and language, and that the
use of Acts is deduced from so distant an analogy only serves to show
the slightness of the evidence with which apologists have to be content.


Papias need not long detain us, for it is freely admitted by most
divines that he does not afford evidence of any value that he was
acquainted with the Acts. For the sake of completeness we may however
refer to the points which are sometimes mentioned. A fragment of the
work of Papias is preserved giving an account of the death of Judas,
which differs materially both from the account in the first Synoptic and
in Acts i. 18 f.(1) Judas is represented as having gone about the world
a great example of impiety, for his body having swollen so much that
he could not pass where a waggon easily passed, he was crushed by
the waggon so that his entrails emptied out [------]. Apollinaris of
Laodicæa quotes this passage to show that Judas did not die when he hung
himself, but subsequently met with another fate, in this way reconciling
the statements in the Gospel and Acts.(2) He does not say that Papias
used the story for this purpose, and it is fundamentally contradictory
to the account in Acts i. 18, 19. "Now this man purchased a field with
the reward of the unrighteousness, and falling headlong burst asunder
in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out" [------]. It is scarcely
necessary to argue that the passage does not indicate any acquaintance
with Acts(3) as some few critics are inclined to assert.(4) The


next analogy pointed out is derived from the statement of Eusebius that
Papias mentions a wonderful story which he had heard from the daughters
of Philip (whom Eusebius calls "the Apostle,") regarding a dead man
raised to life.(1) In Acts xxi. 8, 9, it is stated that Philip the
evangelist had four daughters. It is hardly conceivable that this should
be advanced as an indication that Papias knew the Acts. The last point
is that Eusebius says: "And again (he narrates) another marvel regarding
Justus who was surnamed Barsabas; how he drank a baneful poison and by
the grace of the Lord sustained no harm. But that this Justus, after the
Ascension of the Saviour, the holy apostles appointed with Matthias, and
that they prayed (on the occasion) of the filling up of their number
by lot instead of the traitor Judas, the scripture of the Acts thus
relates: 'And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was
surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said,' &c."(2)
Whatever argument can be deduced from this, obviously rests entirely
upon the fact that Papias is said to have referred to Justus who was
named Barsabas, for of course the last sentence is added by Eusebius
himself, and has nothing to do with Papias. This is fairly admitted by
Lardner and others. Lardner says: "Papias does undoubtedly give some
confirmation to the history of the Acts of the Apostles, in what he says
of Philip; and especially in what he says of Justus, called


Barsabas. But I think it cannot be affirmed, that he did particularly
mention, or refer to, the book of the Acts. For I reckon, it is Eusebius
himself who adds that quotation out of the Acts, upon occasion of what
Papias had written of the before-mentioned Barsabas."(1) There is
no evidence worthy of attention that Papias was acquainted with the

No one seriously pretends that the Clementine Homilies afford any
evidence of the use or existence of the Acts; and few, if any, claim the
Epistle to Diognetus as testimony for it.(3) We may, however, quote the
only passage which is pointed out. ".... these who hold the view that
they present them (offerings) to God as needing them might more rightly
esteem it foolishness and not worship of God. For he who made the
heaven and the earth, and all things in them, and who supplies to us all
whatever we need, can himself be in need of none of those things which
he himself presents to those who imagine that they give (to him)."(4)
This is


compared with Acts xvii. 24: "The God that made the world and all things
in it, he being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made
with hands; (25) neither is served by men's hand as though he needed
anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life and breath and all
things."(1) There is nothing here but a coincidence of sense, though
with much variation between the two passages, but the Epistle argues
from a different context, and this illustration is obvious enough to be
common to any moralist. There is not a single reason which points to the
Acts as the source of the writer's argument.

Basilides and Valentinus are not claimed at all by apologists as
witnesses for the existence of the Acts of the Apostles, nor is Marcion,
whose Canon, however, of which it formed no part, is rather adverse to
the work than merely negative. Tertullian taunts Marcion for receiving
Paul as an apostle, although his name is not mentioned in the Gospel,
and yet not receiving the Acts of the Apostles in which alone his
history is narrated;(2) but it does not in the least degree follow from
this that Marcion knew the work and deliberately rejected it.

A passage of Tatian's oration to the Greeks is pointed out by some(3)
as showing his acquaintance with the Acts. It is as follows: "I am not
willing to worship the creation


made by him for us. Sun and moon are made for us: how, therefore, shall
I worship my own servants? How can I declare stocks and stones to be
gods?... But neither should the unnameable [------] God be presented
with bribes; for he who is without need of anything [------] must not
be calumniated by us as needy [------]."(l) This is compared with Acts
xvii. 24, 25, quoted above, and it only serves to show how common such
language was. Lardner himself says of the passage: "This is much the
same thought, and applied to the same purpose, with Paul's, Acts xvii.
25, _as though he needeth anything_. But it is a character of the Deity
so obvious, that I think it cannot determine us to suppose he had an
eye to those words of the Apostle."(2) The language, indeed, is quite
different and shows no acquaintance with the Acts.(3) Eusebius states
that the Severians who more fully established Tatian's heresy rejected
both the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles.(4)

Dionysius of Corinth is rarely adduced by any one as testimony for the
Acts. The only ground upon which he is at all referred to is a statement
of Eusebius in mentioning his Epistles. Speaking of his Epistle to the
Athenians, Eusebius says: "He relates, moreover, that Dionysius the
Areopagite who was converted to the faith by Paul the Apostle, according
to the account given in the


Acts, was appointed the first bishop of the church of the Athenians."(1)
Even apologists admit that it is doubtful how far Dionysius referred to
the Acts,(2) the mention of the book here being most obviously made by
Eusebius himself.

Melito of Sardis is not appealed to by any writer in connection with
our work, nor can Claudius Apollinaris be pressed into this service.
Athenagoras is supposed by some to refer to the very same passage in
Acts xvii. 24, 25, which we have discussed when dealing with the work of
Tatian. Athenagoras says: "The Creator and Father of the universe is
not in need of blood, nor of the steam of burnt sacrifices, nor of
the fragrance of flowers and of incense, he himself being the perfect
fragrance, inwardly and outwardly without need."(3) And further on: "And
you kings indeed build palaces for yourselves; but the world is not
made as being needed by God."(4) These passages occur in the course of a
defence of Christians for not offering sacrifices, and both in language
and context they are quite independent of the Acts of the Apostles.

In the Epistle of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons, giving an account of
the persecution against them, it is said that the victims were praying
for those from whom they suffered cruelties: "like Stephen the perfect


'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' But if he was supplicating
for those who stoned him, how much more for the brethren?"(l) The prayer
here quoted agrees with that ascribed to Stephen in Acts vii. 60. There
is no mention of the Acts of the Apostles in the Epistle, and the source
from which the writers obtained their information about Stephen is of
course not stated. If there really was a martyr of the name of Stephen,
and if these words were actually spoken by him, the tradition of the
fact, and the memory of his noble saying, may well have remained in
the Church, or have been recorded in writings then current, from one
of which, indeed, eminent critics conjecture that the author of Acts
derived his materials,2 and in this case the passage obviously does not
prove the use of the Acts. If, on the other hand, there never was such
a martyr by whom these words were spoken, and the whole story must be
considered an original invention by the author of Acts, then, in that
case, and in that case only, the passage does show the use of the
Acts.(3) Supposing that the use of Acts be held to be thus indicated,
what does this prove? Merely that the Acts of the Apostles were in
existence in the year 177-178, when the Epistle of


Vienne and Lyons was written. No light whatever would thus be thrown
upon the question of its authorship; and neither its credibility nor its
sufficiency to prove the reality of a cycle of miracles would be in the
slightest degree established.

Ptolemæus and Heracleon ueed not detain us, as it is not alleged that
they show acquaintance with the Acts, nor is Celsus claimed as testimony
for the book.

The Canon of Muratori contains a very corrupt paragraph regarding the
Acts of the Apostles. We have already discussed the date and character
of this fragment,(1) and need not further speak of it here. The sentence
in which we are now interested reads in the original as follows:

"Acta autem omnium apostolorum sub uno libro scribta sunt lucas obtime
theofile conprindit quia sub præsentia eius singula gerebantur sicute et
semote pas-sionem petri euidenter declarat sed et profectionem pauli ab
urbes ad spania proficescentis."

It is probable that in addition to its corruption some words may have
been lost from the concluding phrase of this passage, but the following
may perhaps sufficiently represent its general sense: "But the Acts of
all the Apostles were written in one book. Luke included (in his work)
to the excellent Theophilus only the things which occurred in his own
presence, as he evidently shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter and
also the setting forth of Paul from the city to Spain."

Whilst this passage may prove the existence of the Acts about the end of
the second century, and that the authorship of the work was ascribed
to Luke, it has no further value. No weight can be attached to the
statement of


the unknown writer beyond that of merely testifying to the currency of
such a tradition, and even the few words quoted show how uncritical he
was. Nothing could be less appropriate to the work before us than the
assertion that it contains the Acts of _all_ the Apostles, for it must
be apparent to all, and we shall hereafter have to refer to the point,
that it very singularly omits all record of the acts of most of the
apostles, occupies itself chiefly with those of Peter and Paul, and
devotes considerable attention to Stephen and to others who were not
apostles at all. We shall further have occasion to show that the writer
does anything but confine himself to the events of which he was an
eye-witness, and we may merely remark, in passing, as a matter. which
scarcely concerns us here, that the instances given by the unknown
writer of the fragment to support his assertion are not only irrelevant,
but singularly devoid themselves of historical attestation.

Irenæus(1) assigns the Acts of the Apostles to Luke, as do Clement
of Alexandria,(2) Tertullian,(3) and Origen,(4) although without any
statements giving special weight to their mention of him as the author
in any way counterbalancing the late date of their testimony. Beyond
showing that tradition, at the end of the second century and beginning
of the third, associated the name of Luke with this writing and the
third Gospel, the evidence of these Fathers is of no value to us. We
have already incidentally mentioned that some heretics either ignored or
rejected the book, and to the Marcionites and Severians


we may now add the Ebionites(1) and Manichæans.(2) Chrysostom complains
that in his day the Acts of the Apostles were so neglected that many
were ignorant of the existence of the book and of its authors.(3) Doubts
as to its authorship were expressed in the ninth century, for Photius
states that some ascribed the work to Clement of Rome, others to
Barnabas, and others to Luke the evangelist.(4)

If we turn to the document itself, we find that it professes to be
the second portion of a work written for the information of an unknown
person named Theophilus, the first part being the Gospel, which, in our
canonical New Testament, bears the name of "Gospel according to Luke."
The narrative is a continuation of the third Synoptic, but the actual
title of "Acts of the Apostles," or "Acts of Apostles" [------],(5)
attached to this [------] is a later addition, and formed no part of the
original document. The author's name is not given in any of the earlier
MSS., and the work is entirely anonymous. That in the prologue to the
Acts the writer clearly assumes to be the author of the Gospel does
not in any way identify him, inasmuch as the third Synoptic itself
is equally anonymous. The tradition assigning both works to Luke the
follower of Paul, as we have seen, is first met with


towards the end of the second century, and very little weight can be
attached to it. There are too many instances of early writings,
several of which indeed have secured a place in our canon, to which
distinguished names have been erroneously ascribed. Such tradition is
notoriously liable to error.

We shall presently return to the question of the authorship of the
third Synoptic and Acts of the Apostles, but at present we may so far
anticipate as to say that there are good reasons for affirming that they
could not have been written by Luke.(1)

Confining ourselves here to the actual evidence before us, we arrive at
a clear and unavoidable conclusion regarding the Acts of the Apostles.
After examining all the early Christian literature, and taking every
passage which is referred to as indicating the use of the book, we see
that there is no certain trace even of its existence till towards the
end of the second century; and, whilst the writing itself is anonymous,
we find no authority but late tradition assigning it to Luke or to any
other author. We are absolutely without evidence of any value as to
its accuracy or trustworthiness, and, as we shall presently see, the
epistles of Paul, so far from accrediting it, tend to cast the most
serious doubt upon its whole character. This evidence we have yet to
examine, when considering the contents of the Acts, and we base our
present remarks solely on the external testimony for the date and
authorship of the book. The position, therefore, is simply this: We
are asked to believe in the reality of a great number of miraculous and

     1 The reader is referred to an article by the author in the
     Fortnightly Rev., 1877, p. 496 ff., in which some
     indications of date, and particularly those connected with
     the use of writings of Josephus, are discussed.


occurrences which, obviously, are antecedently incredible, upon the
assurance of an anonymous work of whose existence there is no distinct
evidence till more than a century after the events narrated, and to
which an author's name--against which there are strong objections--is
first ascribed by tradition towards the end of the second century. Of
the writer to whom the work is thus attributed we know nothing beyond
the casual mention of his name in some Pauline Epistles. If it were
admitted that this Luke did actually write the book, we should not be
justified in believing the reality of such stupendous miracles upon his
bare statement As the case stands, however, even taking it in its most
favourable aspect, the question scarcely demands serious attention, and
our discussion might at once be ended by the unhesitating rejection of
the Acts of the Apostles as sufficient, or even plausible, evidence for
the miracles which it narrates.


If we proceed further to discuss the document before us, it is from
no doubt as to the certainty of the conclusion at which we have now
arrived, but from the belief that closer examination of the contents of
the Acts may enable us to test this result, and more fully to understand
the nature of the work and the character of its evidence. Not only will
it be instructive to consider a little closely the contents of the Acts,
and to endeavour from the details of the narrative itself to form
a judgment regarding its historical value, but we have in addition
external testimony of very material importance which we may bring to
bear upon it. We happily possess some undoubted Epistles which afford us
no little information concerning the history, character, and teaching of
the Apostle Paul, and we are thus enabled to compare the statements
in the work before us with contemporary evidence of great value. It is
unnecessary to say that, wherever the statements of the unknown author
of the Acts are at variance with these Epistles, we must prefer the
statements of the Apostle. The importance to our inquiry of such further
examination as we now propose to undertake consists chiefly in the light
which it may throw on the credibility of the work. If it be found that


portions as we are able to investigate are inaccurate and untrustworthy,
it will become still more apparent that the evidence of such a document
for miracles, which are antecedently incredible, cannot even be
entertained. It may be well also to discuss more fully the authorship of
the Acts, and to this we shall first address ourselves.

It must, however, be borne in mind that it is quite foreign to our
purpose to enter into any exhaustive discussion of the literary problem
presented by the Acts of the Apostles. We shall confine ourselves to
such points as seem sufficient or best fitted to test the character of
the composition, and we shall not hesitate to pass without attention
questions of mere literary interest, and strictly limit our examination
to such prominent features as present themselves for our purpose.

It is generally admitted, although not altogether without exception,(1)
that the author of our third synoptic Gospel likewise composed the
Acts of the Apostles. The linguistic and other peculiarities which
distinguish the Gospel are equally prominent in the Acts. This fact,
whilst apparently offering greatly increased facilities for identifying
the author, and actually affording valuable material for estimating
his work, does not, as we have already remarked, really do much towards
solving the problem of the authorship, inasmuch as the Gospel, like its
continuation, is anonymous, and we possess no more precise or direct
evidence in connection with the one than in the case of the other. We
have already so fully examined the testimony for the third Gospel that
it is unnecessary for us to recur to it. From about the end of the
second century we find the Gospel and Acts of the


Apostles ascribed by ecclesiastical writers to Luke, the companion of
the Apostle Paul. The fallibility of tradition, and the singular phase
of literary morality exhibited during the early ages of Christianity,
render such testimony of little or no value, and in the almost total
absence of the critical faculty a rank crop of pseudonymic writings
sprang up and flourished during that period.(1) Some of the earlier
chapters of this work have given abundant illustrations of this fact. It
is absolutely certain, with regard to the works we are considering, that
Irenæus is the earliest writer known who ascribes them to Luke, and that
even tradition, therefore, cannot be traced beyond the last quarter of
the second century. The question is--does internal evidence confirm or
contradict this tradition?

Luke, the traditional author, is not mentioned by name in the Acts of
the Apostles.(2) In the Epistle to Philemon his name occurs, with those
of others, who send greeting, verse 23, "There salute thee Epaphras, my
fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus; 24. Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke,
my fellow-labourers." In the Epistle to the Colossians, iv. 14, mention
is also made of him:--"Luke, the beloved physician,(3) salutes you, and
Demas." And again, in the 2 Epistle to Timothy, iv. 10:--"For


Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and departed into
Thessalouica, Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia: 11. Only Luke is
with me."

He is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament;(1) and his name is
not again met with till Irenæus ascribes to him the authorship of the
Gospel and Acts. There is nothing in these Pauline Epistles confirming
the statement of the Fathers, but it is highly probable that these
references to him largely contributed to suggest his name as the
author of the Acts, the very omission of his name from the work itself
protecting him from objections connected with the passages in the
first person to which other followers of Paul were exposed, upon the
traditional view of the composition. Irenæus evidently knew nothing
about him, except what he learnt from these Epistles, and derives from
his theory that Luke wrote the Acts, and speaks as an eye-witness in the
passages where the first person is used. From these he argues that Luke
was inseparable from Paul, and was his fellow-worker in the Gospel, and
he refers, in proof of this, to Acts xvi. 8 ff.,(2) 13 ff., xx. 5 ff.,
and the later chapters, all the details of which he supposes Luke to
have carefully written down. He then continues: "But that he was not
only a follower, but likewise a fellow-worker of the Apostles, but
particularly of Paul, Paul himself has also clearly shown in the
Epistles, saying:..." and he quotes 2 Tim. iv. 10, 11, ending: "Only
Luke is with me," and then adds, "whence he shows that he was


always with him and inseparable from him, &c, Ac."(1) The reasoning of
the zealous Father deduces a great deal from very little, it will be
observed, and in this elastic way tradition "enlarged its borders" and
assumed unsubstantial dimensions. Later writers have no more intimate
knowledge of Luke, although Eusebius states that he was born at
Antioch,(2) a tradition likewise reproduced by Jerome.(3) Jerome
further identifies Luke with "the brother, whose praise in the Gospel
is throughout all the churches" mentioned in 2 Cor. viii. 18, as
accompanying Titus to Corinth.(4) At a later period, when the Church
required an early artist for its service, Luke the physician was
honoured with the additional title of painter.(5) Epiphanius,(6)
followed later by some other


writers, represented him to have been one of the seventy-two disciples,
whose mission he alone of all New Testament writers mentions. The view
of the Fathers, arising out of the application of their tradition to the
features presented by the Gospel and Acts, was that Luke composed
his Gospel, of the events of which he was not an eye-witness, from
information derived from others, and his Acts of the Apostles from what
he himself, at least in the parts in which the first person is employed,
had witnessed.1 It is generally supposed that Luke was not born a Jew,
but was a Gentile Christian.

Some writers endeavour to find a confirmation of the tradition, that
the Gospel and Acts were written by Luke "the beloved physician," by the
supposed use of peculiarly technical medical terms,(2) but very
little weight is attached by any one to this feeble evidence which is
repudiated by most serious critics, and it need not detain us.

As there is no indication, either in the Gospel or the Acts, of the
author's identity proceeding from himself, and tradition does not offer
any alternative security, what testimony can be produced in support of
the ascription of


these writings to "Luke"? To this question Ewald shall reply: "In
fact," he says, "we possess only one ground for it, but this is fully
sufficient. It lies in the designation of the third Gospel as that
'according to Luke' which is found in all MSS. of the four Gospels.
For the quotations of this particular Gospel under the distinct name
of Luke, in the extant writings of the Fathers, begin so late that they
cannot be compared in antiquity with that superscription; and those
known to us may probably themselves only go back to this superscription.
We thus depend almost alone on this superscription."(1) Ewald generally
does consider his own arbitrary conjectures "fully sufficient," but it
is doubtful, whether in this case, any one who examines this evidence
will agree with him. He himself goes on to admit, with all other
critics, that the superscriptions to our Gospels do not proceed from the
authors themselves, but were added by those who collected them, or
by later readers to distinguish them.(2) There was no author's name
attached to Marcion's Gospel, as we learn from Tertullian.(3) Chrysostom

very distinctly asserts that the Evangelists did not inscribe their
names at the head of their works,(4) and he recognizes that, but for
the authority of the primitive Church which added those names, the
superscriptions could not have proved the authorship of the Gospels. He
conjectures that the sole superscription which may


have been placed by the author of the first Synoptic was simply
[------].(1) It might be argued, and indeed has been, that the
inscription [------], "according to Luke," instead of [------] "Gospel
of Luke," does not actually indicate that "Luke" wrote the work any
more than the superscription to the Gospels "according to the Hebrews"
[------] "according to the Egyptians" [------] has reference to
authorship. The Epistles, on the contrary, are directly connected
with their writers, in the genitive, [------], and so on. This
point, however, we merely mention _en passant_. By his own admission,
therefore, the superscription is simply tradition in another form, but
instead of carrying us further back, the superscription on the most
ancient extant MSS., as for instance the Sinaitic and Vatican Codices of
the Gospels, does not on the most sanguine estimate of their age, date
earlier than the fourth century.(2) As for the Acts of the Apostles, the
book is not ascribed to Luke in a single uncial MS., and it only begins
to appear in various forms in later codices. The variation in the titles
of the Gospels and Acts in different MSS. alone shows the uncertainty of
the superscription. It is clear that the "one ground," upon which Ewald
admits that the evidence for Luke's authorship is based, is nothing but
sand, and cannot support his tower. He is on the slightest consideration
thrown back upon the quotations of the Fathers, which begin too late for


purpose, and it must be acknowledged that the ascription of the
third Gospel and Acts to Luke rests solely upon late and unsupported

Let it be remembered that, with the exception of the three passages
in the Pauline Epistles quoted above, we know absolutely nothing
about Luke. As we have mentioned, it has even been doubted whether the
designation "the beloved physician" in the Epistle to the Colossians,
iv. 14, does not distinguish a different Luke from the person of that
name in the Epistles to Philemon and Timothy. If this were the case, our
information would be further reduced; but supposing that the same Luke
is referred to, what does our information amount to? Absolutely nothing
but the fact that a person named Luke was represented by the writer of
these letters,(1) whoever he was, to have been with Paul in Rome,
and that he was known to the church of Colossæ. There is no evidence
whatever that this Luke had been a travelling companion of Paul, or that
he ever wrote a line concerning him or had composed a Gospel. He is
not mentioned in Epistles written during this journey and, indeed,
the rarity and meagreness of the references to him would much
rather indicate that he had not taken any distinguished part in the
proclamation of the Gospel. If Luke be [------] and be numbered amongst
the Apostle's [------], Tychicus is equally "the beloved brother and
faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord."(2) Onesimus the
"faithful and beloved brother,"(3)

     1 We cannot discuss the authenticity of these Epistles in
     this place, nor is it very important that we should do so.
     Nor can we pause to consider whether they were written in
     Rome, as a majority of critics think, or elsewhere.


and Aristarchus, Mark the cousin of Barnabas, Justus and others are
likewise his [------].(1) There is no evidence, in fact, that Paul was
acquainted with Luke earlier than during his imprisonment in Rome, and
he seems markedly excluded from the Apostle's work and company by such
passages as 2 Cor. i. 19.(2) The simple theory that Luke wrote the Acts
supplies all the rest of the tradition of the Fathers, as we have seen
in the case of Irenæus, and to this mere tradition we are confined in
the total absence of more ancient testimony.

The traditional view, which long continued to prevail undisturbed, and
has been widely held up to our own day,(3) represents Luke as the author
of the Acts, and, in


the passages where the first person is employed, considers that he
indicates himself as an actor and eye-witness. These passages, where
[------] is introduced, present a curious problem which has largely
occupied the attention of critics, and it has been the point most firmly
disputed in the long controversy regarding, the authorship of the Acts.
Into this literary labyrinth we must not be tempted to enter beyond a
very short way; for, however interesting the question may be in itself,
we are left so completely to conjecture that no result is possible
which can materially affect our inquiry, and we shall only refer to it
sufficiently to illustrate the uncertainty which prevails regarding the
authorship. We shall, however, supply abundant references for those who
care more minutely to pursue the subject.

After the narrative of the Acts has, through fifteen chapters, proceeded
uninterruptedly in the third person, an abrupt change to the first
person plural occurs in the sixteenth chapter.(1) Paul, and at least
Timothy, are represented as going through Phrygia and Galatia, and
at length "they came down to Troas," where a vision appears to Paul
beseeching him to come over into Macedonia. Then, xvi. 10, proceeds:
"And after he saw the vision, immediately we endeavoured [------] to
go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us [------]
to preach the Gospel unto them." After verse 17, the direct form of
narrative is as suddenly dropped as it was taken up, and does not
reappear until xx. 5, when, without explanation, it is resumed and
continued for ten verses. It is then again abandoned, and recommenced in
xxi. 1-18, and xxvii. 1, xxviii. 16.

     1 It is unnecessary to discuss whether xiv. 22 belongs to
     the [------] sections or not.


It is argued by those who adopt the traditional view,(1) that it would
be an instance of unparalleled negligence, in so careful a writer as the
author of the third Synoptic and Acts, to have composed these sections
from documents lying before him, written by others, leaving them in the
form of a narrative in the first person, whilst the rest of his work was
written in the third, and that, without doubt, he would have assimilated
such portions to the form of the rest. On the other hand, that he
himself makes distinct use of the first person in Luke i. 1-3 and Acts
i. 1, and consequently prepares the reader to expect that, where it
is desirable, he will resume the direct mode of communication; and
in support of this supposition, it is asserted that the very same
peculiarities of style and language exist in the [------] passages as
in the rest of the work. The adoption of the direct form of narrative
in short merely indicates that the author himself was present and an
eye-witness of what he relates,(3) and that writing as he did for
the information of Theophilus, who was well aware of his personal
participation in the journeys he records, it was not necessary for him
to give any explanation of his occasional use of the first person.

Is the abrupt and singular introduction of the first person in these
particular sections of his work, without a word of explanation, more
intelligible and reasonable upon the traditional theory of their
being by the author himself as an eye-witness? On the contrary, it is
maintained, the phenomenon on that hypothesis becomes much more

     2  Some writers also consider as one of the reasons why
     Luke, the supposed author, uses the first person, that where
     he begins to do so he himself becomes associated with Paul
     in his work, and first begins to preach the Gospel.
     Thiersch, Die Kirche im ap. Zeit., p. 137; Baumgarfen, Die
     Apostelgeschichte, i. p. 496.


inexplicable. On examining the [------] sections it will be observed
that they consist almost entirely of an itinerary of journeys, and that
while the chronology of the rest of the Acts is notably uncertain and
indefinite, these passages enter into the minutest details of daily
movements (xvi. 11, 12; xx. 6, 7,11,15; xxi. 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10,18;
xxvii. 2; xxviii. 7, 12, 14); of the route pursued, and places through
which often they merely pass (xvi. 11,12; xx. 5, 6,13,15; xxi. 1-3, 7;
xxvii. 2 ff.; xxviii. 11-15), and record the most trifling circumstances
(xvi. 12; xx. 13; xxi. 2, 3, 15; xxviii. 2, 11). The distinguishing
feature of these sections in fact is generally asserted to be the stamp
which they bear, above all other parts of the Acts, of intimate personal
knowledge of the circumstances related.

Is it not, however, exceedingly remarkable that the author of the Acts
should intrude his own personality merely to record these minute details
of voyages and journeys? That his appearance as an eye-witness should
be almost wholly limited to the itinerary of Paul's journeys and to
portions of his history which are of very subordinate interest? The
voyage and shipwreck are thus narrated with singular minuteness of
detail, but if any one who reads it only consider the matter for a
moment, it will become apparent that this elaboration of the narrative
is altogether disproportionate to the importance of the voyage in the
history of the early Church. The traditional view indeed is fatal to
the claims of the Acts as testimony for the great mass of miracles it
contains, for the author is only an eye-witness of what is comparatively
unimportant and commonplace. The writer's intimate acquaintance with the
history of Paul, and his claim to participation in his work, begin and
end with his actual


journeys. With very few exceptions, as soon as the Apostle stops
anywhere, he ceases to speak as an eyewitness and relapses into
vagueness and the third person. At the very time when minuteness of
detail would have been most interesting, he ceases to be minute. A very
long and important period of Paul's life is covered by the narrative
between xvi. 10, where the[------] sections begin, and xxviii. 16, where
they end; but, although the author goes with such extraordinary
detail into the journeys to which they are confined, how bare and
unsatisfactory is the account of the rest of Paul's career during that
time!(l) How eventful that career must have been we learn from 2 Cor.
xi. 23-26. In any case, the author who could be so minute in his record
of an itinerary, apparently could not, or would not, be minute in his
account of more important matters in his history. In the few verses, ix.
1-30, chiefly occupied by an account of Paul's conversion, is comprised
all that the author has to tell of three years of the Apostle's life,
and into xi. 19--xiv. are compressed the events of fourteen years of his
history (cf. Gal. ii. l).(2) If the author of those portions be the same
writer who is so minute in his daily itinerary in the [------] sections,
his sins of omission and commission are of a very startling character.
To say nothing more severe here, upon the traditional theory he is an
elaborate trifler.

Does the use of the first person in Luke i. 1-3 and Acts i. 1 in any way
justify or prepare(3) the way for the


sudden and unexplained introduction of the first person in the sixteenth
chapter? Certainly not. The [------] in these passages is used solely in
the personal address to Theophilus, is limited to the brief explanation
contained in what may be called the dedication or preface, and is at
once dropped when the history begins. If the prologue of the Gospel be
applied to the Acts, moreover, the use of earlier documents is at once
implied, which would rather justify the supposition that these passages
are part of some diary, from which the general editor made extracts.(1)
Besides, there is no explanation in the Acts which in the slightest
degree connects the [------] with the [------].(2) To argue that
explanation was unnecessary, as Theophilus and early readers were well
acquainted with the fact that the author was a fellow-traveller with the
Apostle, and therefore at once understood the meaning of "We,"(3) would
destroy the utility of the direct form of communication altogether; for
if Theophilus knew this, there was obviously no need to introduce the
first person at all, in so abrupt and singular a way, more especially to
chronicle minute details of journeys which possess comparatively little
interest. Moreover, writing for Theophilus, we might reasonably expect
that he should have stated where and when he became associated with
Paul, and explained the reasons why he again left and rejoined him.(4)
Ewald suggests that possibly the author intended to have indicated his
name more distinctly at the end of his work;(5) but this merely shows
that, argue as he will,


he feels the necessity for such an explanation. The conjecture is
negatived, however, by the fact that no name is subsequently added. As
in the case of the fourth Gospel, of course the "incomparable modesty"
theory is suggested as the reason why the author does not mention his
own name, and explain the adoption of the first person in the [------]
passages;(1) but to base theories such as this upon the modesty or
elevated views of a perfectly unknown writer is obviously too arbitrary
a proceeding to be permissible.(2) There is, besides, exceedingly little
modesty in a writer forcing himself so unnecessarily into notice, for
he does not represent himself as taking any active part in the events
narrated; and, as the mere chronicler of days of sailing and arriving,
he might well have remained impersonal to the end.

On the other hand, supposing the general editor of the Acts to have made
use of written sources of information, and amongst others of the diary
of a companion of the Apostle Paul, it is not so strange that, for one
reason or another, he should have allowed the original direct form of
communication to stand whilst incorporating parts of it with his work.
Instances have been pointed out in which a similar retention of the
first or third person, in a narrative generally written otherwise,
is accepted as the indication of a different written source, as for
instance in Ezra vii. 27--ix; Nehemiah viii.--x.; in the Book of Tobit
i. 1-3, iii. 7 ff., and other places;s and Schwanbeck has


pointed out many instances of a similar kind amongst the chroniclers of
the middle ages.(1) There are various ways in which the retention of the
first person in these sections, supposing them to have been derived from
some other written source, might be explained. The simple supposition
that the author, either through carelessness or oversight, allowed the
[------] to stand(2) is not excluded, and indeed some critics, although
we think without reason, maintain both the third Gospel and the Acts to
be composed of materials derived from various sources and put together
with little care or adjustment.(3) The author might also have inserted
these fragments of the diary of a fellow-traveller of Paul, and retained
the original form of the document to strengthen the apparent credibility
of his own narrative; or, as many critics believe, he may have allowed
the first person of the original document to remain, in order himself to
assume the character of eyewitness, and of companion of the Apostle.(4)
As we shall see in the course of our examination of the Acts, the
general procedure of the author is by no means of a character to
discredit such an explanation.

We shall not enter into any discussion of the sources from which critics
maintain that the author compiled his


work. It is sufficient to say that, whilst some profess to find definite
traces of many documents, few if any writers deny that the writer
made more or less use of earlier materials. It is quite true that the
characteristics of the general author's style are found throughout the
whole work.1 The Acts are no mere aggregate of scraps collected and
rudely joined together, but the work of one author in the sense that
whatever materials he may have used for its composition were carefully
assimilated, and subjected to thorough and systematic revision to adapt
them to his purpose.(2) But however completely this process was carried
out, and his materials interpenetrated by his own peculiarities of style
and language, he did not succeed in entirely obliterating the traces of
independent written sources. Some writers maintain that there is a very
apparent difference between the first twelve


chapters and the remainder of the work, and profess to detect a much
more Hebraistic character in the language of the earlier portion,(1)
although this is not received without demur.(2) As regards the [------]
sections, whilst it is admitted that these fragments have in any case
been much manipulated by the general editor, and largely contain his
general characteristics of language, it is at the same time affirmed
that they present distinct foreign peculiarities, which betray a
borrowed document.(3) Even critics who maintain the [------] sections
to be by the same writer who composed the rest of the book point out
the peculiarly natural character and minute knowledge displayed in these
passages, as distinguishing them from the rest of the Acts.(4) This
of course they attribute to the fact that the author there relates his
personal experiences; but even with this explanation it is apparent
that all who maintain the traditional view do recognize peculiarities
in these sections, by which they justify the ascription of them to an
eye-witness. For the reasons which have been very briefly indicated,
therefore, and upon other


strong grounds, some of which will be presently stated, a very large
mass of the ablest critics have concluded that the [------] sections
were not composed by the author of the rest of the Acts, but that they
are part of the diary of some companion of the Apostle Paul, of which
the Author of Acts made use for his work,(1) and that the general writer
of the work, and consequently of the third Synoptic, was not Luke at


A careful study of the contents of the Acts cannot, we think, leave
any doubt that the work could not have been written by any companion or
intimate friend of the Apostle Paul.(1) In here briefly indicating some
of the reasons for this statement, we shall be under the necessity of
anticipating, without much explanation or argument, points which will
be more fully discussed farther on, and which now, stated without
preparation, may not be sufficiently clear to some readers. They may
hereafter seem more conclusive. It is unreasonable to suppose that a
friend or companion could have written so unhistorical and defective
a history of the Apostle's life and teaching. The Pauline Epistles are
nowhere directly referred to, but where we can compare the narrative
and representations of Acts with the statements of the Apostle, they are
strikingly contradictory.(2)


His teaching in the one scarcely presents a trace of the strong and
clearly defined doctrines of the other, and the character and conduct
of the Paul of Acts are altogether different from those of Paul of
the Epistles. According to Paul himself (Gal. i. 16--18), after his
conversion, he communicated not with flesh and blood, neither went up
to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him, but immediately went
away into Arabia, and returned to Damascus, and only after three years
he went up to Jerusalem to visit Kephas, and abode with him fifteen
days, during which visit none other of the Apostles did he see "save
James, the brother of the Lord." If assurance of the correctness of
these details were required, Paul gives it by adding (v. 20): "Now
the things which I am writing to you, behold before God I lie not."
According to Acts (ix. 19--30), however, the facts are quite different.
Paul immediately begins to preach in Damascus, does not visit Arabia
at all, but, on the contrary, goes to Jerusalem, where, under the
protection of Barnabas (v. 26, 27), he is introduced to the Apostles,
and "was with them going in and out." According to Paul (Gal. i. 22),
his face was after that unknown unto the churches of Judaea, whereas,
according to Acts, not only was he "going in and out" at Jerusalem with
the Apostles, but (ix. 29) preached boldly in the name of the Lord, and
(Acts xxvi. 20) "in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judaea,"
he urged to repentance. According to Paul (Gal. ii. 1 ff.), after
fourteen years he went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus,


"according to a revelation," and "privately" communicated his Gospel
"to those who seemed to be something," as, with some irony, he calls
the Apostles. In words still breathing irritation and determined
independence, Paul relates to the Galatians the particulars of that
visit--how great pressure had been exerted to compel Titus, though a
Greek, to be circumcised, "that they might bring us into bondage," to
whom, "not even for an hour did we yield the required subjection." He
protests, with proud independence, that the Gospel which he preaches
was not received from man (Gal. i. 11, 12), but revealed to him by God
(verses 15, 16); and during this visit (ii. 6, 7) "from those seeming
to be something [------], whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to
me--God accepteth not man's person--for to me those who seemed
[------] communicated nothing additional." According to Acts, after his
conversion, Paul is taught by a man named Ananias what he must do (ix.
6, xxii. 10); he makes visits to Jerusalem (xi. 30, xii. 25, &c), which
are excluded by Paul's own explicit statements; and a widely different
report is given (xv. 1 ff.) of the second visit. Paul does not go,
"according to a revelation," but is deputed by the Church of Antioch,
with Barnabas, in consequence of disputes regarding the circumcision of
Gentiles, to lay the case before the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem.
It is almost impossible in the account here given of proceedings
characterised throughout by perfect harmony, forbearance, and unanimity
of views, to recognize the visit described by Paul. Instead of being
private, the scene is a general council of the Church. The fiery
independence of Paul is transformed into meekness and submission. There
is not a word of the


endeavour to compel him to have Titus circumcised--all is peace and
undisturbed good-will. Peter pleads the cause of Paul, and is more
Pauline in his sentiments than Paul himself, and, in the very presence
of Paul, claims to have been selected by God to be Apostle of the
Gentiles (xv. 7--11). Not a syllable is said of the scene at Antioch
shortly after (Gal. ii. 11 ff.), so singularly at variance with the
proceedings of the council, when Paul withstood Cephas to the face.
Then, who would recognize the Paul of the Epistles in the Paul of Acts,
who makes such repeated journeys to Jerusalem to attend Jewish feasts
(xviii. 21,1 xix. 21, xx. 16, xxiv. 11, 17, 18); who, in his journeys,
halts on the days when a Jew may not travel (xx. 5, 6); who shaves
his head at Cenchrea because of a vow (xviii. 18); who, at the
recommendation of the Apostles, performs that astonishing act of
Nazariteship in the Temple (xxi. 23), and afterwards follows it up by
a defence of such "excellent dissembling" [------]; who circumcises
Timothy, the son of a Greek and of a Jewess, with his own hands
(xvi. 1--3, cf. Gal. v. 2); and who is so little the apostle of the
uncircumcision that he only tardily goes to the Gentiles when rejected
by the Jews (cf. xviii. (J). Paul is not only robbed of the honour of
being the first Apostle of the Gentiles, which is conferred upon Peter,
but the writer seems to avoid even calling him an apostle at all,(2) the
only occasions upon which he does so being indirect (xiv. 4, 14); and
the title equally applied to Barnabas, whose claim to it is more than
doubted. The


passages in which this occurs, moreover, are not above suspicion, "the
Apostles" being omitted in Cod. D. (Bezae) from xiv. 14. The former
verse in that codex has important variations from other MSS.

If we cannot believe that the representation actually given of Paul in
the Acts could proceed from a friend or companion of the Apostle, it
is equally impossible that such a person could have written his history
with so many extraordinary imperfections and omissions. We have already
pointed out that between chs. ix.--xiv. are compressed the events of
seventeen of the most active years of the Apostle's life, and also that
a long period is comprised within the [------] sections, during which
such minute details of the daily itinerary are given. The incidents
reported, however, are quite disproportionate to those which are
omitted. We have no record, for instance, of his visit to Arabia at
so interesting a portion of his career (Gal. i. 17), although the
particulars of his conversion are repeated with singular variations no
less than three times (ix. xxii. xxvi.); nor of his preaching in Illyria
(Rom. xv. 19); nor of the incident referred to in Rom. xvi. 3, 4. The
momentous adventures in the cause of the Gospel spoken of in 2 Cor.
xi. 23 ff. receive scarcely any illustration in Acts, nor is any notice
taken of his fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor. xv. 32), which
would have formed an episode full of serious interest. What, again, was
"the affliction which happened in Asia," which so overburdened even so
energetic a nature as that of the Apostle that "he despaired even of
life?" (2 Cor. ii. 8 f.) Some light upon these points might reasonably
have been expected from a companion of Paul. Then, xvii. 14--16, xviii.
5 contradict 1 Thess. iii. 1, 2, in a way scarcely possible in such a


companion, present with the Apostle at Athens; and in like manner the
representation in xxviii. 17-22 is inconsistent with such a person,
ignoring as it does the fact that there already was a Christian Church
in Rome (Ep. to Romans). We do not refer to the miraculous elements so
thickly spread over the narrative of the Acts, and especially in the
episode xvi. 25 ff., which is inserted in the first [------] section,
as irreconcilable with the character of an eye-witness, because it is
precisely the miraculous portion of the book which is on its trial;
but we may ask whether it would have been possible for such a friend,
acquainted with the Apostle's representations in 1 Cor. xiv. 2 ff., cf.
xii.--xiv., and the phenomena there described, to speak of the gift of
"tongues" at Pentecost as the power of speaking different languages (ii.
4--11, cf. x. 46, xix. 6)

It will readily be understood that we have here merely rapidly and
by way of illustration referred to a few of the points which seem to
preclude the admission that the general author of the Acts could be an
eyewitness,(1) or companion of the Apostle Paul, and this will become
more apparent as we proceed, and more closely examine the contents of
the book. Who that author was, there are now no means of ascertaining.
The majority of critics who have most profoundly examined the problem
presented by the Acts, however, and who do not admit Luke to be the
general author, are agreed that the author compiled the [------]
sections from a diary kept by some companion of the Apostle Paul during
the journeys and voyages to which they relate, but opinion is very
divided as to the person


to whom that diary must be ascribed. It is of course recognized that
the various theories regarding his identity are merely based upon
conjecture, but they have long severely exercised critical ingenuity.
A considerable party adopt the conclusion that the diary was probably
written by Luke.(1) This theory has certainly the advantage of whatever
support may be derived from tradition; and it has been conjectured,
not without probability, that this diary, being either written by, or
originally attributed to, Luke, may possibly have been the source from
which, in course of time, the whole of the Acts, and consequently the
Gospel, came to be ascribed to Luke.(2) The selection of a comparatively
less known name than that of Timothy, Titus or Silas,(3) for instance,
may thus be explained; but, besides, it has the great advantage that,
the name of Luke never being mentioned in the Acts, he is not exposed
to criticism, which has found serious objections to the claims of other
better known followers of Paul.

There are, however, many critics who find difficulties in the way of
accepting Luke as the author of the "we" sections, and who adopt the
theory that they were pro-


probably composed by Timothy.(1) It is argued that, if Luke had been the
writer of this diary, he must have been in very close relations to Paul,
having been his companion during the Apostle's second mission journey,
as well as during the later European journey, and finally during the
eventful journey of Paul as a prisoner from Caesarea to Rome. Under
these circumstances, it is natural to expect that Paul should mention
him in his earlier epistles, written before the Roman imprisonment, but
this he nowhere does. For instance, no mention whatever is made of
Luke in either of the letters to the Corinthians nor in those to the
Thessalonians; but on the other hand, Timothy's name, together with that
of Silvanus (or Silas), is joined to Paul's in the two letters to the
Thessalonians, besides being mentioned in the body of the first Epistle
(iii. 2, 6); and he is repeatedly and affectionately spoken of in the
earlier letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. iv. 17, xvi. 10), and his name
is likewise combined with the Apostle's in the second Epistle (2 Cor. i.
1), as well as mentioned in the body of the letter, along with that
of Silvanus, as a fellow-preacher with Paul. In the Epistle to the
Philippians, later, the name of Luke does not appear, although, had he
been the companion of the Apostle from Troas, he must have been known to
the Philippians, but on the other hand, Timothy is again associated in
the opening greeting of that Epistle. Timothy is known to have


been a fellow-worker with the Apostle, and to have accompanied him in
his missionary journeys, and he is repeatedly mentioned in the Acts as
the companion of Paul, and the first occasion is precisely where the
[------] sections commence.(1) In connection with Acts xv. 40, xvi.
3,10, it is considered that Luke is quite excluded from the possibility
of being the companion who wrote the diary we are discussing, by the
Apostle's own words in 2 Cor. i. 19:(2) "For the Son of God, Christ
Jesus, who was preached among you by us, by me and Silvanus and
Timothy," &c, &c. The eye-witness who wrote the journal from which the
[------] sections are taken must have been with the Apostle in Corinth,
and, it is of course always asserted, must have been one of his
[------], and preached the Gospel.(3) Is it possible, on the supposition
that this fellow-labourer was Luke, that the Apostle could in so marked
a manner have excluded his name by clearly defining that "us" only meant
himself and Silvanus and Timothy? Mayerhoff(4) has gone even further
than the critics we have referred to, and maintains Timothy to be the
author of the third Synoptic and of Acts.

We may briefly add that some writers have conjectured Silas to be the
author of the [------] sections,(5) and others


have referred them to Titus.(1) It is evident that whether the [------]
sections be by the unknown author of the rest of the Acts, or be part of
a diary by some unknown companion of Paul, introduced into the work by
the general editor, they do not solve the problem as to the identity
of the author, who remains absolutely unknown. We have said enough to
enable the reader to understand the nature of the problem regarding the
author of the third Synoptic and of the Acts of the Apostles, and whilst
for our purpose much less would have sufficed, it is evident that the
materials do not exist for identifying him. The stupendous miracles
related in these two works, therefore, rest upon the evidence of an
unknown writer, who from internal evidence must have composed them very
long after the events recorded. Externally, there is no proof even of
the existence of the Acts until towards the end of the second century,
when also for the first time we hear of a vague theory as to the name
and identity of the supposed author, a theory which declares Luke not
to have himself been an eye-witness of the occurrences related in the
Gospel, and which reduces his participation even in the events narrated
in the Acts to a very small and modest compass, leaving the great
mass of the miracles described in the work without even his personal
attestation. The theory, however, we have seen to be not only
unsupported by evidence, but to be contradicted by many potent
circumstances. We propose now, without exhaustively examining the
contents of the Acts, which would itself require a separate treatise, at
least to


consider some of its main points sufficiently to form a fair judgment
of the historical value of the work, although the facts which we have
already ascertained are clearly fatal to the document as adequate
testimony for miracles, and the reality of Divine Revelation.


The historical value of the Acts of the Apostles has very long been the
subject of vehement discussion, and the course of the controversy
has certainly not been favourable to the position of the work. For a
considerable time the traditional view continued to prevail, and little
or no doubt of the absolute credibility of the narrative was ever
expressed. When the spirit of independent and enlightened criticism
was finally aroused, it had to contend with opinions which habit had
rendered stereotype, and prejudices which took the form of hereditary
belief. A large body of eminent critics, after an exhaustive
investigation of the Acts, have now declared that the work is not
historically accurate, and cannot be accepted as a true account of the
Acts and teaching of the Apostles.(1)


The Author of the Acts has been charged with having written the work
with a distinct design to which he subordinated historical truth, and
in this view many critics have joined, who ultimately do not accuse
him absolutely of falsifying history, but merely of making a deliberate
selection of his materials with the view of placing events in the light
most suitable for his purpose. Most of those, however, who make this
charge maintain that, in carrying out the original purpose of the Acts,
the writer so freely manipulated whatever materials he had before
him, and so dealt with facts whether by omission, transformation or
invention, that the historical value of his narrative has been
destroyed or at least seriously affected by it.1 On the other hand, many
apologetic writers altogether deny the existence of any design on the
part of the


author such as is here indicated, which could have led him to suppress
or distort facts,(1) and whilst some of them advance very varied and
fanciful theories as to the historical plan upon which the writer
proceeds, and in accordance with which the peculiarities of his
narrative are explained, they generally accept the work as the genuine
history of the Acts of the Apostles so far as the author possessed
certain information. The design most generally ascribed to the writer of
the Acts may, with many minor variations, be said to be apologetic
and conciliatory: an attempt to reconcile the two parties in the early
church by representing the difference between the views of Peter and
Paul as slight and unimportant, Pauline sentiments being freely placed
in the mouth of Peter, and the Apostle of the Gentiles being represented
as an orthodox adherent of the church of Jerusalem, with scarcely such
advanced views of christian universality as Peter; or else, an effort
of Gentile Christianity to bring itself into closer union with the
primitive church, surrendering, in so doing, all its distinctive
features and its Pauline origin, and representing the universalism by
which it exists, as a principle adopted and promulgated from the very
first by Peter and the Twelve. It is not necessary, however, for us to
enter upon any minute discussion of this point, nor is it requisite, for
the purposes of our inquiry, to determine whether the peculiar character


of the writing which we are examining is the result of a perfectly
definite purpose controlling the whole narrative and modifying every
detail, or naturally arises from the fact that it is the work of a pious
member of the Church writing long after the events related, and imbuing
his materials, whether of legend or ecclesiastical tradition, with his
own thoroughly orthodox views: history freely composed for Christian
edification. We shall not endeavour to construct any theory to account
for the phenomena before us, nor to discover the secret motives or
intentions of the writer, but taking them as they are, we shall simply
examine some of the more important portions of the narrative, with a
view to determine whether the work can in any serious sense be regarded
as credible history.

No one can examine the contents of the Acts without perceiving that some
secret motive or influence did certainly govern the writer's mind,
and guide him in the selection of topics, and this is betrayed by many
peculiarities in his narrative. Quite apart from any attempt to discover
precisely what that motive was, it is desirable that we should briefly
point out some of these peculiarities. It is evident that every man who
writes a history must commence with a distinct plan, and that the choice
of subjects to be introduced or omitted must proceed upon a certain
principle. This is of course an invariable rule wherever there is order
and arrangement. No one has ever questioned that in the Acts of the
Apostles both order and arrangement have been deliberately adopted and
the question naturally arises: What was the plan ol the Author? and upon
what principle did he select, from the mass of facts which might have
been related regarding the Church in the Apostolic ages, precisely those


which he has inserted, to the exclusion of the rest?(1) What title will
adequately represent the contents of the book? for it is admitted by
almost all critics that the actual name which the book bears neither
was given to it by its author nor properly describes its intention and
subject.(2) The extreme difficulty which has been felt in answering
these questions, and in constructing any hypothesis which may fairly
correspond with the actual contents of the Acts, constitutes one of
the most striking commentaries on the work, and although we cannot here
detail the extremely varied views of critics upon the subject, they
are well worthy of study.(3) No one now advances the theory which was
anciently current that the Author simply narrated that of which he was
an eye-witness.(4) Its present title [------] would lead us to expect
an account of the doings of the Apostles in general, but we have nothing
like this in the book. Peter and Paul occupy the principal parts of the
narrative, and the other Apostles are scarcely mentioned.


James is introduced as an actor in the famous Council, and represented
as head of the Church in Jerusalem, but it is much disputed that he was
either an Apostle, or one of the Twelve. The death of James the brother
of John is just mentioned. John is represented on several occasions
during the earlier part of the narrative as the companion of Peter,
without, however, being prominently brought forward; and the rest of
the Twelve are left in complete obscurity. It is not a history of the
labours of Peter and Paul, for not only is considerable importance given
to the episodes of Stephen and Philip the Evangelist, but the account
of the two great Apostles is singularly fragmentary. After a brief
chronicle of the labours of Peter, he suddenly disappears from the
scene, and we hear of him no more. Paul then becomes the prominent
figure in the drama; but we have already pointed out how defective is
the information given regarding him, and he is also abandoned as soon as
he is brought to Rome: of his subsequent career and martyrdom, nothing
whatever is said. The work is not, as Luther suggested, a gloss on the
Epistles of Paul and the inculcation of his doctrine of righteousness
through faith, for the narrative of the Acts, so far as we can compare
it with the Epistles, which are nowhere named in it, is generally in
contradiction to them, and the doctrine of justification by faith is
conspicuous by its absence. It is not a history of the first Christian
missions, for it ignores entirely the labours of most of the Apostles,
omits all mention of some of the most interesting missionary journeys,
and does not even give a report of the introduction of Christianity into
Rome. It is not in any sense a Paulinian history of the Church, for if,
on the one side, it describes the Apostles of the Circumcision as


promulgating the universalism which Paul preached, it robs him of his
originality, dwarfs his influence upon the development of Christianity,
and is, on the other hand, too defective to represent Church history,
whether from a Paulinian or any other standpoint. The favourite
theory: that the writer designed to relate the story of the spread
of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome, can scarcely be maintained,
although it certainly has the advantage of a vagueness of proportions
equally suitable to the largest and most limited treatment of history.
But, in such a case, we have a drama with the main incident omitted; for
the introduction of the Gospel into Rome is not described at all, and
whilst the author could not consider the personal arrival at Rome of the
Apostle Paul the climax of his history, he at once closes his account
where the final episode ought to have commenced.

From all points of view, and upon any hypothesis, the Acts of the
Apostles is so obviously incomplete as a history, so fragmentary and
defective as biography, that critics have to the present day failed in
framing any theory which could satisfactorily account for its anomalies,
and have almost been forced to explain them by supposing a partial,
apologetic or conciliatory, design, which removes the work from the
region of veritable history. The whole interest of the narrative, of
course, centres in the two representative Apostles, Peter and Paul, who
alternately fill the scene. It is difficult to say, however, whether
the account of the Apostle of the Circumcision or of Paul is the more
capriciously partial and incomplete. After his miraculous liberation
from the prison into which he had been cast by Herod, the doings of
Peter are left unchronicled, and although he is reintroduced for a
moment to plead the cause of the


Gentiles at the Council in Jerusalem, he then finally retires from the
scene, to give place to Paul. The omissions from the history of Paul are
very remarkable, and all the more so from the extreme and unnecessary
detail of the itinerary of some of his journeys, and neither the blanks,
on the one hand, nor the excessive minuteness, on the other, are to be
explained by any theory connected with personal knowledge on the part of
Theophilus. Of the general history of the primitive Church and the life
and labours of the Twelve, we are told little or nothing. According to
the Author the propagation of the Gospel was carried on more by angelic
agency than apostolic enthusiasm. There is a liberal infusion of
miraculous episodes in the history, but a surprising scarcity of facts.
Even where the Author is best informed, as in the second part of the
Acts, the narrative of Paul's labours and missionary journeys, while
presenting striking omissions, is really minute and detailed only in
regard to points of no practical interest, leaving both the distinctive
teaching of the Apostle, and the internal economy of the Church almost
entirely unrepresented. Does this defective narrative of the Acts of
the Apostles proceed from poverty of information, or from the arbitrary
selection of materials for a special purpose? As we proceed, it
will become increasingly evident that, limited although the writer's
materials are, the form into which they have been moulded has
undoubtedly been determined either by a dominant theory, or a deliberate
design, neither of which is consistent with the composition of sober

This is particularly apparent in the representation which is given of
the two principal personages of the narrative. Critics have long clearly
recognised that the


Author of the Acts has carefully arranged his materials so as to present
as close a parallelism as possible between the Apostles Peter and
Paul.(1) We shall presently see how closely he assimilates their
teaching, ascribing the views of Paul to Peter, and putting Petrine
sentiments in the mouth of Paul, but here we shall merely refer to
points of general history. If Peter has a certain pre-eminence as a
distinguished member of the original Apostolic body, the equal claim of
Paul to the honours of the Apostolate, whilst never directly advanced,
is prominently suggested by the narration, no less than three times, of
the circumstances of his conversion and direct call to the office by the
glorified Jesus. The first miracle ascribed to Peter is the healing of
"a certain man lame from his mother's womb" [------] at the beautiful
gate of the Temple,(2) and the first wonder performed by Paul is also
the healing of "a certain man lame from his mother's womb" [------] at

Ananias and Sapphira are punished through the instrumentality of
Peter,(4) and Elymas is smitten with blindness at the word of Paul;(5)
the sick are laid in the streets that the shadow of Peter may fall upon
them, and they are healed, as are also those


vexed with unclean spirits;(l) handkerchiefs or aprons are taken to the
sick from the body of Paul, and they are healed, and the evil spirits go
out of them;(2) Peter withstands Simon the sorcerer,(3) as Paul does
the sorcerer Elymas and the exorcists at Ephesus;(4) if Peter heals the
paralytic Æneas at Lydda,(5) Paul restores to health the fever-stricken
father of Publius at Melita;(6) Peter raises from the dead Tabitha, a
disciple at Joppa,(7) and Paul restores to life the disciple Eutychus at
Troas;(8) Cornelius falls at the feet of Peter, and worships him, Peter
preventing him, and saying: "Rise up! I myself also am a man,"(9) and in
like manner the people of Lystra would have done sacrifice to Paul, and
he prevents them, crying out: "We also are men of like passions with
you;"(10) Peter lays his hands on the people of Samaria, and they
receive, the Holy Ghost and the gift of tongues,(11) and Paul does
the same for believers at Ephesus;(12) Peter is brought before the
council,(13) and so is Paul;(14) the one is imprisoned and twice
released by an angel,(15) and the other is delivered from his bonds by a
great earthquake;(16) if Peter be scourged by order of the council,(17)
Paul is beaten with many stripes at the command of the magistrates
of Philippi.(18) It is maintained that the desire to equalise the
sufferings of the two Apostles in the cause of the Gospel, as he has
equalised their miraculous displays, probably led the Author to omit all
mention of those


perils and persecutions to which the Apostle Paul refers in support
of his protest, that he had laboured and suffered more than all
the rest.(1) If Paul was called by a vision to the ministry of the
Gentiles,(2) so Peter is represented as having been equally directed by
a vision to baptize the Gentile Cornelius;(3) the double vision of Peter
and Cornelius has its parallel in the double vision of Paul and Ananias.
It is impossible to deny the measured equality thus preserved between
the two Apostles, or to ignore the fact that parallelism like this is
the result of premeditation, and cannot claim the character of impartial

The speeches form an important element in the Acts of the Apostles,
and we shall now briefly examine them, reserving, however, for future
consideration their dogmatic aspect. Few, if any writers, however
apologetic, maintain that these discourses can possibly have been spoken
exactly as they are recorded in the Acts. The utmost that is asserted
is that they are substantially historical, and fairly represent the
original speeches.(4) They were derived, it is alleged, either from
written sources, or oral


tradition, and many, especially in the second part, are supposed to have
been delivered in the presence of the Author of the work. This view is
held, of course, with a greater or less degree of assurance as to
the closeness of the relation which our record bears to the original
addresses; but, without here very closely scrutinizing hesitation or
reticence, our statement fairly renders the apologetic position. A large
body of able critics, however, deny the historical character of these
speeches,(1) and consider them mere free compositions by the Author
of the Acts, at the best being on a par with the speeches which many
ancient writers place in the mouths of their historical personages, and
giving only what the writer supposed that the speaker would say under
the circumstances. That the writer may have made use of such materials
as were within his reach, or endeavoured to embody the ideas which
tradition may broadly have preserved, may possibly be admitted, but that
these discourses can seriously be accepted as conveying a correct report
of anything actually spoken by the persons in whose mouths they are put
is, of course, denied. It is,


obviously, extremely improbable that any of these speeches could have
been written down at the time.(1) Taking even the supposed case that the
Author of the Acts was Luke, and was present when some of the speeches
of Paul were delivered, it is difficult to imagine that he immediately
recorded his recollection of them, and more than this he could not
have done. He must continually have been in the habit of hearing the
preaching of Paul, and therefore could not have had the inducement of
novelty to make him write down what he heard. The idea of recording them
for posterity could not have occurred to such a person, with the belief
in the approaching end of all things then prevalent. The Author of the
Acts was not the companion of Paul, however, and the contents of the
speeches, as we shall presently see, are not of a character to make it
in the least degree likely that they could have been written down for
separate circulation. Many of the speeches in the Acts, moreover, were
delivered under circumstances which render it specially unlikely that
they could have


been reported with any accuracy. At no time an easy task correctly to
record a discourse of any length, it is doubly difficult when those
speeches, like many in Acts, were spoken under circumstances of great
danger or excitement. The experience of modern times, before the
application of systems of short-hand, may show how imperfectly speeches
were taken down, even where there was deliberate preparation and set
purpose to do so, and if it be suggested that some celebrated orations
of the last century have so been preserved, it is undeniable that what
has been handed down to us not only does not represent the original, but
is really almost a subsequent composition, preserving little more than
some faint echoes of the true utterance. The probability that a correct
record of speeches made, under such circumstances, in the middle of the
first century could have been kept, seems exceedingly small. Even, if
it could be shown that the Author of the Acts took these speeches
substantially from earlier documents, it would not materially tend
to establish their authenticity; for the question would still remain
perfectly open as to the closeness of those documents to the original
discourses; but in the absence of all evidence, whether as to the
existence or origin of any such sources, the conjecture of their
possible existence can have no weight. We have nothing but internal
testimony to examine, and that, we shall see, is totally opposed to the
claim to historical value made for those discourses.

Apologists scarcely maintain that we have in the Acts a record of the
original discourses in their completeness, but in claiming
substantial accuracy most of them include the supposition at least of
condensation.(1) The longest


discourse in the Acts would not have taken more than six or seven
minutes to deliver,(1) and it is impossible to suppose that what is
there given can have been the whole speech delivered on many of the
occasions described. For instance, is it probable that King Agrippa who
desires to hear Paul, and who comes "with great pomp" with Berenice to
do so, should only have heard a speech lasting some five minutes.
The Author himself tells us that Paul was not always so brief in his
addresses as any one might suppose from the specimens here presented.(2)
It is remarkable, however, that not the slightest intimation is given
that the speeches are either merely substantially reported or are
abridged, and their form and character are evidently designed to convey
the impression of complete discourses. If the reader examine any of
these discourses, it will be clear that they are concise compositions,
betraying no marks of abridgment, and having no fragmentary looseness,
but, on the contrary, that they are highly artificial and finished
productions, with a continuous argument. They certainly are singularly
inadequate, many of them, to produce the impressions described; but at
least it is not possible to discover that material omissions have been
made, or that their periods were originally expanded by large, or even
any, amplification. If these speeches be regarded as complete, and
with little or no condensation, another strong element is added to
the suspicion as to their authenticity, for such extreme baldness and
brevity in the declaration of a new religion,


requiring both explanation and argument, cannot be conceived, and in
the case of Paul, with whose system of teaching and doctrine we are well
acquainted through his Epistles, it is impossible to accept such meagre
and onesided addresses, as representations of his manner. The statement
that the discourses are abridged, and a mere _résumé_ of those
originally delivered, however, rests upon no authority, is a
mere conjecture to account for an existing difficulty, and is in
contradiction to the actual form of the speeches in Acts. Regarded as
complete, their incongruity is intensified, but considered as abridged,
they have lost in the process all representative character and
historical fitness.

It has been argued, indeed, that the different speeches bear evidence
to their genuineness from their suitability to the speakers, and to the
circumstances under which they are said to have been spoken; but
the existence of anything but the most superficial semblance of
idiosyncratic character must be denied. The similarity of form, manner,
and matter in all the speeches is most remarkable, as will presently be
made more apparent, and the whole of the doctrine enunciated amounts to
little more than the repetition, in slightly varying words, of the
brief exhortation to repentance and belief in Jesus, the Christ. that
salvation may be obtained,(1) with references to the ancient history of
the Jews, singularly alike in all discourses. Very little artistic skill
is necessary to secure a certain suitability of the word to the action,
and the action to the word; and certainly evidence is reduced to a
very low ebb when such agreement as is presented in the Acts is made an
argument for authenticity. Not only is the consistency of the sentiments
uttered by


the principal speakers, as compared with what is known of their opinions
and character, utterly disputed, but it must be evident that the
literary skill of the Author of the Acts was quite equal to so simple
a task as preserving" at least such superficial fitness as he displays,
and a very much greater amount of verisimilitude might have been
attained, as in many works of fiction, without necessarily involving the
inference of genuineness.

It has been freely admitted by critics of all schools that the author's
peculiarities of style and language are apparent in all the speeches of
the Acts,(1) and this has been so often elaborately demonstrated that
it is unnecessary minutely to enter upon it again. It may not be out of
place to quote a few lines from the work of one of the ablest and most
eminent advocates of the general authority of the Acts. Speaking of the
speeches of Paul, Lekebusch says:--"The speeches of our Book, in fact,
are calculated, perhaps more than anything, to excite doubt regarding
its purely historical character. But here everything depends upon an
unbiassed judgment. We are sufficiently free from prejudice to make the
admission to recent criticism that the speeches are not verbally given
as they were originally delivered, but are composed by the author of the
Acts of the


Apostles. Schleiermacher, certainly, has confidently asserted their
originality. He thinks: 'If the speeches were separately reported they
could not but appear just as we find them in the Acts of the Apostles.'
But his remarks, however ingenious and acute they may be, do not stand
the test of a thorough examination of the individual speeches. No one
who impartially compares these, one with another, and particularly their
style with the mode of expression of the Author in the other sections,
can help agreeing with Eichhorn, when, in consonance with his view
regarding the uniform character of the Acts, on the grounds quoted, page
14, he ascribes the composition of the speeches to the writer from
whom the whole book in all its parts proceeds."(1) To this impartial
expression of opinion, Lekebusch adds a note:--"In saying this, it is
naturally not suggested that our author simply _invented_ the speeches,
independently, without any historical intimation whatever as to the
substance of the original; the_ form_ only, which certainly is here very
closely connected with the substance, is hereby ascribed to him."(2)
Lekebusch then merely goes on to discuss the nature of the author's
design in composing these speeches. The reasons given by Eichhorn, which
Lekebusch quotes at "page 14," referred to above, had better be added
to complete this testimony. After referring to the result of Eichhorn's
"very careful examination" of the internal character of the Acts,
Lekebusch says:--"He finds, however, that, 'throughout the whole Acts
of the Apostles there prevails the same style, the same manner, the same
method and mode of expression' (ii. 35). Not


even the speeches, which one at first might take for inserted documents,
seem to him 'from a strange hand, but elaborated by the same from which
the whole book, with its three parts, proceeds.' 'Various peculiarities
existing in the speeches' prove this to him, independent of the
similarity of the style, and that, 'although they are put into the
mouths of different persons, they nevertheless follow one and the same
type, make use of one and the same mode of argument, and have so much
that is common to them that they thereby prove themselves to be
speeches of one and the same writer' (ii. 38). From these circumstances,
therefore, it seems to Eichhorn 'in the highest degree probable,
that Luke, throughout the whole Acts of the Apostles, writes as an
independent author, and apart from all extraneous works.' And in this
view he is 'strengthened by the resemblance of the style which runs
through the whole Acts of the Apostles, through speeches, letters, and
historical sections,' as well as by the fact that, 'through the whole
book, in the quotations from the Old Testament, a similar relation
prevails between the Greek text of the Septuagint and that of Luke' (ii.
43)."(1) We have thought it well to quote these independent opinions
from writers who range themselves amongst the defenders of the
historical character of the Acts, rather than to burden our pages with
a mass of dry detail in proof of the assertion that the peculiarities
of the author pervade all the speeches indifferently, to a degree which
renders it obvious that. they proceed from his pen.

Without entering into mere linguistic evidence of this, which will be
found in the works to which we have


referred,(1) we may point out a few general peculiarities of this nature
which are worthy of attention. The author introduces the speeches of
different persons with the same expression:--"he opened his mouth," or
something similar. Philip "opened his mouth" [------](1) and addressed
the Ethiopian (viii. 35). Peter "opened his mouth (and) said" [------],
when he delivered his discourse before the baptism of Cornelius (x. 34).
Again, he uses it of Paul:--"And when Paul was about to open his mouth
[------], Gallio said," &c. (xviii. 14). The words with which the speech
of Peter at Pentecost is introduced deserve more attention:--"Peter
lifted up his voice and said unto them" [------] (ii. 14). The verb
[------] occurs again (ii. 4) in the account of the descent of the Holy
Spirit and the gift of tongues, and it is put into the mouth of Paul
(xxvi. 25) in his reply to Festus, but it occurs nowhere else in the
New Testament. The favourite formula(3) with which all speeches open is,
"Men (and) Brethren" [------], or [------] coupled with some other term,
as "Men (and) Israelites" [------], or simply[------] without addition.
[------], occurs no less than thirteen times. It is used thrice by
Peter,(4) six times by Paul,(5) as well as by


Stephen,(1) James,(2) the believers at Pentecost,(3) and the rulers of
the Synagogue.(4) The angels at the Ascension address the disciples as
"Men (and) Galileans" [------].(5)

Peter makes use of [------] twice,(6) and it is likewise employed by
Paul,(7) by Gamaliel,(8) and by the Jews of Asia.(9) Peter addresses
those assembled at Pentecost as [------].(10) Paul opens his Athenian
speech with [------],(11) and the town-clerk begins his short appeal to
the craftsmen of Ephesus: [------].(12) Stephen begins his speech to the
Council with Men, Brethren and Fathers, hear [------], and Paul uses
the very same words in addressing the multitude from the stairs of the

In the speech which Peter is represented as making at Pentecost, he
employs in an altogether peculiar way (ii. 25--27) Psalm xvi., quoting
it in order to prove that the Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah was
a necessary occurrence, which had been foretold by David. This is
principally based upon the tenth verse of the Psalm: "Because thou wilt
not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou give thy Holy One [------]
to see corruption [------]."(14) Peter argues that David both died and
was buried, and that his sepulchre is with them to that day, but that,
being a prophet, he foresaw and spake here of the Resurrection of
Christ, "that neither was he left in Hades nor did his flesh see


corruption {------}."(1) Is it not an extremely singular circumstance
that Peter, addressing an audience of Jews in Jerusalem, where he might
naturally be expected to make use of the vernacular language, actually
quotes the Sep-tuagint version of the Old Testament, and bases his
argument upon a mistranslation of the Psalm, which, we may add, was in
all probability not composed by David at all?(2) The word translated
"Holy One," should be in the plural: "holy ones,"{3} that is to say:
"thy saints," and the word rendered [------]corruption, really signifies
"grave" or "pit." 4 The poet, in fact, merely expresses his confidence
that he will be preserved alive. The best critics recognize that Ps.
xvi. is not properly a Messianic Psalm


at all,(1) and many of those who, from the use which is made of it in
Acts, are led to assert that it is so, recognize in the main that it can
only be applied to the Messiah indirectly, by arguing that the prophecy
was not fulfilled in the case of the poet who speaks of himself, but was
fulfilled in the Resurrection of Jesus. This reasoning, however, totally
ignores the sense of the original, and is opposed to all legitimate
historical interpretation of the Psalm. Not dwelling upon this point
at present, we must go on to point out that, a little further on (xiii.
35--37), the Apostle Paul is represented as making use of the very same
argument which Peter here employs, and quoting the same passage from Ps.
xvi. to support it This repetition of very peculiar reasoning, coupled
with other similarities which we shall presently point out, leads to the
inference that it is merely the author himself who puts this argument
into their mouths,(2) and this conclusion is strengthened by the
circumstance that, throughout both Gospel and Acts, he always quotes
from the Septuagint,(3) and even when that version departs from


the sense of the original It may be well to give both passages in
juxta-position, in order that the closeness of the analogy may be more
easily realized. For this purpose we somewhat alter the order of the


Not only is this argument the same in both discourses, but the whole of
Paul's speech, xiii. 16 ff., is a mere reproduction of the two speeches
of Peter, ii. 14 ff. and iii. 12 ff., with such alterations as the
writer could introduce to vary the fundamental sameness of ideas and
expressions. It is worth while to show this in a similar way:--







Paul's address likewise hears close analogy with the speech of
Stephen, vii. 2 ff., commencing with a historical survey of the
earlier traditions of the people of Israel, and leading up to the same
accusation that, as their fathers disregarded the prophets, so they
had persecuted and slain the Christ. The whole treatment of the subject
betrays the work of the same mind in both discourses. Bleek, who admits
the similarity between these and other speeches in Acts, argues that:
"it does not absolutely follow from this that these speeches are
composed by one and the same person, and are altogether unhistorical;"
for it is natural, he thinks, that in the apostolical circle, and in the
first Christian Church, there should have existed a certain uniform type
in the application of messianic passages of the Old Testament, and in
quotations generally, to which different teachers might conform without
being dependent on each other.1 He thinks also that, along with the
close analogy, there is also much which is characteristic in the
different speeches. Not only is this typical system of quotation,
however, a mere conjecture to explain an actual difficulty, but it is
totally inadequate to account for the phenomena. If we suppose, for
instance, that Paul had adopted the totally unhistorical application of
the sixteenth Psalm to the Messiah, is it not a very extraordinary thing
that in all the arguments in his


Epistles, he does not once refer to it? Even if this be waived, and it
be assumed that he had adopted this interpretation of the Psalm, it will
scarcely be asserted that Paul, whose independence and originality
of mind are so undeniable, and whose intercourse with the apostolical
circle at any time, and most certainly up to the period when this speech
was delivered, was very limited,(1) could so completely have caught the
style and copied the manner of Peter that, on an important occasion like
this, his address should be a mere reproduction of Peter's two speeches
delivered so long before, and when Paul certainly was not present. The
similarity of these discourses does not consist in the mere application
of the same Psalm, but the whole argument, on each occasion, is repeated
with merely sufficient transposition of its various parts to give
a superficial appearance of variety. Words and expressions, rare or
unknown elsewhere, are found in both, and the characteristic differences
which Bleek finds exist only in his own apologetic imagination. Let
it be remembered that the form of the speeches and the language are
generally ascribed to the Author of the Acts. Can any unprejudiced
critic deny that the ideas in the speeches we are considering are
also substantially the same? Is there any appreciable trace of the
originality of Paul in his discourses? There is no ground whatever,
apart from the antecedent belief that the various speeches were actually
delivered by the men to whom they are ascribed, for asserting that we
have here the independent utterances of Peter and Paul. It is internal
evidence alone, and no avowal on the part of the author, which leads to
the conclusion that the form of the speeches is the author's, and there
is no internal evidence


which requires us to stop at the mere form, and not equally ascribe the
substance to the same source. The speeches in the Acts, generally,
have altogether the character of being the composition of one mind
endeavouring to impart variety of thought and expression to various
speakers, but failing signally either from poverty of invention or
from the purpose of instituting a close parallel in views, as well as
actions, between the two representative Apostles.

Further to illustrate this, let us take another speech of Peter which he
delivers on the occasion of the conversion of Cornelius, and it will be
apparent that it also contains all the elements, so far as it goes, of
Paul's discourse. [------]



Again, to take an example from another speaker, we find James
represented as using an expression which had just before been put into
the mouth of Paul, and it is not one in the least degree likely to occur
independently to each. The two passages are as follows:-- [------]

The fundamental similarity between these different speeches cannot
possibly be denied;(2) and it cannot be


reasonably explained in any other way than by the fact that they were
composed by the author himself, who had the earlier speeches ascribed
to Peter still in his memory when he wrote those of Paul,(1) and who, in
short, had not sufficient dramatic power to create altogether distinct
characters, but simply made his different personages use his own
vocabulary to express his own somewhat limited range of ideas. Setting
his special design aside, his inventive faculty only permitted him to
represent Peter speaking like Paul, and Paul like Peter.

It is argued by some, however, that in the speeches of Peter, for
instance, there are peculiarities of language and expression which show
analogy with the first Epistle bearing his name in the New Testament
Canon,(2) and, on the other hand, traces of translation in some of them
which indicate that these speeches were delivered originally in Aramaic,
and that we have only a version of them by the Author of the Acts, or
by some one from whom he derived them.(3) As regards the first of these
suppositions, a few phrases only have been pointed out, but they are
of no force under any circumstances, and the whole theory is quite
groundless.(4) We do not con-


consider it worth while to enter upon the discussion, and those who
desire to do so are referred to the works just indicated. There are two
potent reasons which render such an argument of no force, even if the
supposed analogies were in themselves both numerous and striking, which
actually they are not The authenticity of the Epistles bearing the
name of Peter is not only not established, but is by very many eminent
critics absolutely denied; and there is no certainty whatever that any
of the speeches of Peter were delivered in Greek, and the probability
is that most, if not all, of that Apostle's genuine discourses must have
been spoken in Aramaic. It is in fact asserted by apologists that
part or all of the speeches ascribed to him in the Acts must have been
originally Aramaic, although opinion may differ as to the language in
which some of them were spoken. Whether they were delivered in Aramaic,
or whether there be uncertainty on the point, any conclusion from
linguistic analogies with the Epistles is obviously excluded. One
thing is quite undeniable: the supposed analogies are few, and the
peculiarities distinguishing the Author of Acts in these speeches are
extremely numerous and general. Even so thorough an apologist as Tholuck
candidly acknowledges that the attempt to prove the authenticity of the
speeches from linguistic analogies is hopeless. He says: "Nevertheless,
a comparison of the language of the Apostles in their Epistles and in
these speeches must in many respects be less admissible than that of the
character and historical circumstances, for indeed if the language and
their peculiarities be compared, it must first be established that all
the reported speeches were delivered in the Greek language, which is
improbable, and of one of which (xxii. 1, 2) the contrary is expressly


stated willingly admitting that upon this point difference of opinion is
allowable, we express as the view which we have hitherto held that, from
ch. xx. onwards, the speeches delivered by Paul are reported more in
the language of Luke than in that of Paul."(1) This applies with double
force to Peter,(2) whose speeches there is still greater reason to
believe were delivered in Aramaic, and there is difference of opinion
amongst the critics we have referred to even as to whether these
speeches were translated by the Author of the Acts, or were already
before him in a translated form, and were subsequently re-edited by him.
We have already shown cause for believing that the whole discussion is
groundless, from the fact that the speeches in Acts were simply composed
by the author himself, and are not in any sense historical, and this we
shall hereafter further illustrate.

It may be worth while to consider briefly the arguments advanced for
the theory that some of the speeches show marks of translation. It
is asserted that the speech of Peter at Pentecost, ii. 14 ff., was
delivered in Aramaic.(3) Of course it will be understood that we might


be quite prepared to agree to this statement as applied to a speech
actually delivered by Peter; but the assertion, so far as the speeches
in Acts are concerned, is based upon what we believe to be the erroneous
supposition that they are genuine reports of discourses. On the
contrary, we maintain that these speeches are mere compositions by
the author of the work. The contention is, however, that the speech
attributed to Peter is the translation of a speech originally delivered
in Aramaic. In ii. 24, Peter is represented as saying: "Whom God raised
up having loosed the pains of death [------], because it is not possible
that he should be held [------] by it." It is argued by Bleek and
others(1) that, as the context proves, the image intended here was
evidently the "snares" or "cords" of death, a meaning which is not
rendered by the Greek word [------]. The confusion is explained, they
contend, when it is supposed that, in his Aramaic speech, Peter made use
of a Hebrew expression, equally found in Aramaic, which means as well
"snares" or "cords" as "pains" of death. The Greek translator, probably
misled by the Septuagint,(2) adopted the latter signification of the
Hebrew word in question, and rendered it [------] "pains," which is
absolutely inappropriate, for, they argue, it is very unnatural to say
of one who had already suffered death, like Christ, that he had been
held prisoner by the "pains" of death, and loosed from them by the
resurrection. There is, however, very little unanimity


amongst apologists about this passage. Ebrard(1) asserts that [------]
"pains" is the correct translation of the Hebrew expression, as in Ps.
xviii. 5, and that the Hebrew word used always expresses pains of birth,
the plural of the similar word for "cord" or "snare" being different.
Ebrard, therefore, contends that the Psalm (xviii. 5) does not mean bonds
or snares of death but literally "birth-pains of death," by which the
soul is freed from the natural earthly existence as by a second birth
to a glorified spiritual life. We need not enter further into the
discussion of the passage, but it is obvious that it is mere assumption
to assert, on the one hand, that Peter made use of any specific
expression, and, on the other, that there was any error of translation
on the part of the author of Acts. But agreeing that the Hebrew is
erroneously rendered,(2) the only pertinent question is: by whom was the
error in question committed? and the reply beyond any doubt is: by
the lxx. who translate the Hebrew expression in this very way. It is
therefore inadmissible to assert from this phrase the existence of an
Aramaic original of the speech, for the phrase itself is nothing but a
quotation from the Sep-tuagint.(3)

The expression [------] occurs no less than three times in that version:
Ps. xvii. 5 (A. V. xviii.), cxiv. 3 (A. V. cxvi.) and 2 Sam. xxii. 6;
and in Job


xxxix. 2, we have [------]. When it is remembered that the author of
Acts always quotes the Septuagint version, even when it departs from the
sense of the Hebrew original, and in all probability was only acquainted
with the Old Testament through it, nothing is more natural than the use
of this expression taken from that version; but with the error already
existing there, to ascribe it afresh and independently to the Author
of Acts, upon no other grounds than the assumption that Peter may have
spoken in Aramaic, and used an expression which the author misunderstood
or wrongly rendered, is not permissible. Indeed, we have already pointed
out that, in this very speech, there are quotations of the Old Testament
according to the lxx. put into the mouth of Peter, in which that version
does not accurately render the original.(1)

The next trace of translation advanced by Bleek(2) is found in ii.
33,(3) where Peter speaks of Christ as exalted: "[------]." There can be
no doubt, Bleek argues, that there is here a reference to Psalm ex. 1,
and that the apostle intends to speak of Christ's elevation "_to_ the
right (hand) of God;" whereas the Greek expression rather conveys
the interpretation: "_by_ the right (hand) of God." This expression
certainly comes, he asserts, from a not altogether suitable translation
of the Hebrew. To this on the other hand, much may be objected.
Winer,(4) followed by others, defends the construction, and affirms that
the passage may without


hesitation, be translated "_to_ the right (hand) of God."(1) In which
case there is no error at all, and the argument falls to the ground.
If it be taken, however, either that the rendering should be or was
intended to be "by the right (hand) of God"(2) i.e., by the power
of God, that would not involve the necessity of admitting an Aramaic
original,(3) because there is no error at all, and the argument simply
is, that being exalted by the right hand of God, Jesus had poured forth
the Holy Spirit; and in the next verse the passage in Ps. ex. 1 (Sept.
cix.) is accurately quoted from the Septuagint version: "Sit thou on
my right (hand)" [------]. In fact, after giving an account of the
crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the speaker ascribes his
subsequent exaltation to the power of God.(4)

We have seen that at least the form of the speeches in Acts is
undoubtedly due to the author of the book, and that he has not been able
to make the speeches of the different personages in his drama differ
materially from each other. We shall hereafter have occasion to examine
further the contents of some of these speeches, and the circumstances
under which it is alleged that they were spoken, and to inquire whether
these do not confirm


the conclusion hitherto arrived at, that they are not historical, but
merely the free composition of the Author of Acts, and never delivered
at all. Before passing on, however, it may be well to glance for a
moment at one of these speeches, to which we may not have another
opportunity of referring, in order that we may see whether it presents
any traces of inauthenticity and of merely ideal composition.

In the first chapter an account is given of a meeting of the brethren
in order to elect a successor to the traitor Judas. Peter addresses the
assembly, i. 16 if., and it may be well to quote the opening portion of
his speech: 16. "Men (and) brethren, this scripture must needs have
been fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spake before
concerning Judas, who became guide to them that took Jesus, 17. because
he was numbered with us and obtained the lot of this ministry. 18.
Now [------] this man purchased a field with the wages of the iniquity
[------], and falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all
his bowels gushed out; 19. and [------] it became known(1) unto all the
dwellers at Jerusalem, so that that field was called in their own tongue
[------] Acheldamach, that is: field of blood. 20. For [------] it is
written in the book of Psalms: 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let
no man dwell therein,' and 'his office let another take,'" &c, &c. Now
let it be remembered that Peter is supposed to be addressing an audience
of Jews in Jerusalem, in the Hebrew or Aramaic language, a few


weeks after the crucifixion. Is it possible, therefore, that he should
give such an account as that in vs. 18, 19, of the end of Judas, which
he himself, indeed, says was known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem?
Is it possible that, speaking in Aramaic to Jews, probably in most part
living at and near Jerusalem, he could have spoken of the field being so
called by the people of Jerusalem "in their own tongue?" Is it
possible that he should, to such an audience, have translated the word

The answer of most unprejudiced critics is that Peter could not have
done so.(1) As de Wette remarks: "In the composition of this speech the
author has not considered historical decorum."(2) This is felt by most
apologists, and many ingenious theories are advanced to explain away
the difficulty. Some affirm that verses 18 and 19 are inserted as a
parenthesis by the Author of the Acts,(3) whilst a larger number contend
that only v. 19 is parenthetic.(4) A very cursory examination of the
passage, however, is sufficient to show that the verses cannot be
separated. Verse 18 is connected with the preceding by the [------], 19
with 18 by [------], and verse 20 refers to 10, as indeed it also does
to 17 and 18, without which the passage from the Psalm, as applied to
Judas, would be unintelligible. Most critics, therefore,


are agreed that none of the verses can be considered parenthetic.(1)
Some apologists, however, who feel that neither of the obnoxious verses
can be thus explained, endeavour to overcome the difficulty by asserting
that the words: "in their own tongue" [------] and: "that is: the field
of blood" [------] in verse 19, are merely explanatory and inserted by
the Author of Acts.(2) It is unnecessary to say that this explanation
is purely arbitrary, and that there is no ground, except the difficulty
itself, upon which their exclusion from the speech can be based.

In the cases to which we have hitherto referred, the impossibility of
supposing that Peter could have spoken in this way has led writers to
lay the responsibility of unacknowledged interpolations in the speech
upon the Author of Acts, thus at once relieving the Apostle. There are
some apologists, however, who do not adopt this expedient, but attempt
to meet the difficulty in other ways, while accepting the whole as a
speech of Peter. According to one theory, those who object that Peter
could not have thus related the death of Judas to people who must
already have been well acquainted with the circumstances have totally
overlooked the fact, that a peculiar view of what has occurred is taken
in the narrative, and that this peculiar view is the principal point of
it According to the statement made, Judas met his miserable end in the
very field which he had bought with


the price of blood. It is this circumstance, it appears, which Peter
brings prominently forward and represents as a manifest and tangible
dispensation of Divine justice.(1) Unfortunately, however, this is
clearly an imaginary moral attached to the narrative by the apologist,
and is not the object of the supposed speaker, who rather desires to
justify the forced application to Judas of the quotations in verse 20,
which are directly connected with the preceding by [------]. Moreover,
no explanation is here offered of the extraordinary expressions in verse
19 addressed to citizens of Jerusalem by a Jew in their own tongue.
Another explanation, which includes these points, is still more
striking. With regard to the improbability of Peter's relating, in
such a way, the death of Judas, it is argued that, according to the
Evangelists, the disciples went from Jerusalem back to Galilee some
eight days after the resurrection, and only returned, earlier than
usual, before Pentecost to await the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus.
Peter and his companions, it is supposed, only after their return became
acquainted with the fate of Judas, which had taken place during their
absence, and the matter was, therefore, quite new to them; besides, it
is added, a speaker is often obliged on account of some connection with
his subject to relate facts already known.(2) It is true that some of
the Evangelists represent this return to Galilee(3) as having taken
place, but the author of the third Gospel and the Acts not only

     3 Mt. xxviii. 10, 10; Mk. xvi. 7; John xxi. 1. I)r. Farrar,
     somewhat pertinently, asks: "Why did they (the disciples)
     not go to Galilee immediately on receiving our Lord's
     message? The circumstance is unexplained... Perhaps the
     entire message of Jesus to them is not recorded; perhaps
     they awaited the end of the feast." Life of Christ, ii. p.
     441, note 1.


does not do so but excludes it.(1) In the third Gospel (xxiv. 49), Jesus
commands the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are endued with
power from on high, and then, after blessing them, he is parted from
them, and they return from Bethany to Jerusalem.(2) In Acts, the author
again takes up the theme, and whilst evidently giving later traditions
regarding the appearances after the resurrection, he adheres to his
version of the story regarding the command to stay in Jerusalem. In i.
4, he says: "And being assembled together with them he commanded
them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the
Father," etc.; and here again, verse 12, the disciples are represented,
just before Peter's speech is supposed to have been delivered, as
returning from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. The Author of Acts and
of the third Synoptic, therefore, gives no countenance to this theory.
Besides, setting all this aside, the apologetic hypothesis we are
discussing is quite excluded upon other grounds. If we suppose that
the disciples did go into Galilee for a time, we find them again in
Jerusalem at the election of the successor to Judas, and there is no
reason to believe that they had only just returned. The Acts not only
allow of no interval at all for the journey to Galilee between i. 12-14
and 15 ff., but by the simple statement

     2 We shall hereafter have to go more fully into this, and
     shall not discuss it here. The third Gospel really
     represents the Ascension as taking place on the day of the
     Resurrection; and Acts, whilst giving later tradition, and
     making the Ascension occur forty days after, does not amend,
     but confirms the previously enunciated view that the
     disciples had been ordered to stay in Jerusalem.


with which our episode commences, v. 15: "And in these days" [------],
Peter conveys anything but the impression of any very recent return
to Jerusalem. If the Apostles had been even a few days there, the
incongruity of the speech would remain undiminished; for the 120
brethren who are said to have been present must chiefly have been
residents in Jerusalem, and cannot be. supposed also to have been
absent, and, in any case, events which are represented as so well known
to all the dwellers in Jerusalem, must certainly have been familiar
to the small Christian community, whose interest in the matter was so
specially great. Moreover, according to the first Synoptic, as soon
as Judas sees that Jesus is condemned, he brings the money back to the
chief priests, casts it down and goes and hangs himself, xxvii. 3 ff.
This is related even before the final condemnation of Jesus and before
his crucifixion, and the reader is led to believe that Judas at once put
an end to himself, so that the disciples, who are represented as being
still in Jerusalem for at least eight days after the resurrection, must
have been there at the time. With regard to the singular expressions in
verse 19, this theory goes on to suppose that, out of consideration for
Greek fellow-believers, Peter had probably already begun to speak in
the Greek tongue; and when he designates the language of the dwellers
in Jerusalem as "their own dialect," he does not thereby mean Hebrew
in itself, but their own expression, the peculiar confession of the
opposite party, which admitted the cruel treachery towards Jesus, in
that they named the piece of ground Hakel Damah.(1) Here, again, what
assumptions! It is generally recognized that Peter must have spoken in


Aramaic, and even if he did not, [------](1) cannot mean anything but
the language of "all the-dwellers at Jerusalem." In a speech delivered
at Jerusalem, in any language, to an audience consisting at least in
considerable part of inhabitants of the place, and certainly almost
entirely of persons whose native tongue was Aramaic, to tell them
that the inhabitants called a certain field "in their own tongue"
Acheldamach, giving them at the same time a translation of the word, is
inconceivable to most critics, even including apologists.

There is another point which indicates not only that this theory is
inadequate to solve the difficulty, but that the speech could not have
been delivered by Peter a few weeks after the occurrences related. It
is stated that the circumstances narrated were so well known to the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, that the field was called in their own tongue
Acheldamach. The origin of this name is not ascribed to the priests or
rulers, but to the people, and it is not to be supposed that a popular
name could have become attached to this field, and so generally adopted
as the text represents, within the very short time which could have
elapsed between the death of Judas and the delivery of this speech. Be
it remembered that from the time of the crucifixion to Pentecost the
interval was in all only about seven weeks, and that this speech was
made some time before Pentecost, how long we cannot tell, but in any
case, the interval was much too brief to permit of the popular adoption
of the name.(2) The whole passage has much more the character of a
narrative of


events which had occurred at a time long past, than of circumstances
which had taken place a few days before.

The obvious conclusion is that this speech was never spoken by Peter,
but is a much later composition put into his mouth,1 and written for
Greek readers, who required to be told about Judas, and for whose
benefit the Hebrew name of the field, inserted for local colouring, had
to be translated. This is confirmed by several circumstances, to which
we may refer. We shall not dwell much upon the fact that Peter is
represented as applying to Judas two passages quoted from the Septuagint
version of Ps. lxix. 25 (Sept lxviii.) and Ps. cix. (Sept cviii.) which,
historically, cannot for a moment be sustained as referring to
him.(2) The first of these Psalms is quoted freely, and moreover the
denunciations in the original being against a plurality of enemies,
it can only be made applicable to Judas by altering the plural "their"
[------] to "his habitation" [------], a considerable liberty to take
with prophecy. The Holy Spirit is said to have


spoken this prophecy "concerning Judas" "by the mouth of David," but
modern research has led critics to hold it as most probable that neither
Ps. lxix.(1) nor Ps. cix.(2) was composed by David at all. As we know
nothing of Peter's usual system of exegesis, however, very little weight
as evidence can be attached to this. On the other hand, it is clear that
a considerable time must have elapsed before these two passages from the
Psalms could have become applied to the death of Judas.(3)

The account which is given of the fate of Judas is contradictory to
that given in the first Synoptic and cannot be reconciled with it,
but follows a different tradition.(4) According to the first Synoptic
(xxvii. 3 ff.), Judas brings back the thirty pieces of silver, casts
them down in the Temple, and then goes and hangs himself. The chief
priests take the money and buy with it the Potter's field, which is not
said to have had any other connection with Judas, as a place for the
burial of strangers. In the Acts, Judas himself buys a field as a
private possession, and instead


of committing suicide by hanging, he is represented as dying from a fall
in this field, which is evidently regarded as a special judgment upon
him for his crime. The apologetic attempts to reconcile these two
narratives,(1) are truly lamentable. Beyond calling attention to this
amongst other phenomena presented in this speech, however, we have not
further to do with the point at present We have already devoted too much
space to Peter's first address, and we now pass on to more important


We now enter upon a portion of our examination of the Acts which is
so full of interest in itself that peculiar care will be requisite to
restrain ourselves within necessary limits. Hitherto our attention has
been mainly confined to the internal phenomena presented by the document
before us, with comparatively little aid from external testimony,
and although the results of such criticism have been of no equivocal
character, the historical veracity of the Acts has not yet been tested
by direct comparison with other sources of information. We now propose
to examine, as briefly as may be, some of the historical statements in
themselves, and by the light of information derived from contemporary
witnesses of unimpeachable authority, and to confront them with
well-established facts in the annals of the first two centuries. This
leads us to the borders not only of one of the greatest controversies
which has for half a century occupied theological criticism, but also
of still more important questions regarding the original character and
systematic development of Christianity itself. The latter we must here
resolutely pass almost unnoticed, and into the former we shall only
enter so far as is absolutely necessary to the special object of our
inquiry. The document before us professes to give a narrative of the
progress of the


primitive Church from its first formation in the midst of Mosaism, with
strong Judaistic rules and prejudices, up to that liberal universalism
which freely admitted the christian Gentile, upon equal terms, into
communion with the christian Jew. The question with which we are
concerned is strictly this: Is the account in the Acts of the Apostles
of the successive steps by which Christianity emerged from Judaism, and,
shaking off the restrictions and obligations of the Mosaic law, admitted
the Gentiles to a full participation of its privileges historically
true? Is the representation which is made of the conduct and teaching
of the older Apostles on the one hand, and of Paul on the other, and of
their mutual relations an accurate one? Can the Acts of the Apostles, in
short, be considered a sober and veracious history of so important and
interesting an epoch of the christian Church? This has been vehemently
disputed or denied, and the discussion, extending on every side into
important collateral issues, forms in itself a literature of voluminous
extent and profound interest. Our path now lies through this debatable
land; but although the controversy as to the connection of Paul with
the development of Christianity and his relation to the Apostles of the
Circumcision cannot be altogether avoided, it only partially concerns
us. We are freed from the necessity of advancing any particular theory,
and have here no further interest in it than to inquire whether the
narrative of the Acts is historical or not. If, therefore, avoiding
many important but unnecessary questions, and restricting ourselves to
a straight course across the great controversy, we seem to deal
insufficiently with the general subject, it must be remembered that the
argument is merely incidental to our inquiry, and that we not only do


pretend to exhaust it, but distinctly endeavour to reduce our share in
it to the smallest limits compatible with our immediate object.

According to the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, the apostolic
age presents a most edifying example of concord and moderation. The
emancipation of the Church from Mosaic restrictions was effected without
strife or heart-burning, and the freedom of the Gospel, if not attained
without hesitation, was finally proclaimed with singular largeness
of mind and philosophic liberality. The teaching of Paul differed in
nothing from that of the elder apostles. The christian universalism,
which so many suppose to have specially characterized the great Apostle
of the Gentiles, was not only shared, but even anticipated, by the elder
Apostles. So far from opposing the free admission of the Gentiles to the
christian community, Peter declares himself to have been chosen of God
that by his voice they should hear the gospel,(1) proclaims that
there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile,(2) and advocates
the abrogation, in their case at least, of the Mosaic law.(3) James,
whatever his private predilections may be, exhibits almost equal
forbearance and desire of conciliation. In fact, whatever anomalies and
contradictions may be discoverable, upon close examination, beneath this
smooth and brilliant surface, the picture superficially presented is
one of singular harmony and peace. On the other hand, instead of that
sensitive independence and self-reliance of character which has been
ascribed to the Apostle Paul, we find him represented in the Acts as
submissive to the authority of the "Pillars" of the church, ready to
conform to their


counsels and bow to their decrees, and as seizing every opportunity
of visiting Jerusalem, and coming in contact with that stronghold
of Judaism. Instead of the Apostle of the Gentiles, preaching the
abrogation of the law, and more than suspected of leading the Jews
to apostatize from Moses,(1) we find a man even scrupulous in his
observance of Mosaic customs, taking vows upon him, circumcising Timothy
with his own hand, and declaring at the close of his career, when a
prisoner at Rome, that he "did nothing against the people or the customs
of the fathers."(2) There is no trace of angry controversy, of jealous
susceptibility, of dogmatic difference in the circle of the apostles.
The intercourse of Paul with the leaders of the Judaistic party is of
the most unbroken pleasantness and amity. Of opposition to his ministry,
or doubt of his apostleship, whether on the part of the Three, or of
those who identified themselves with their teaching, we have no hint. We
must endeavour to ascertain whether this is a true representation of
the early development of the Church, and of the momentous history of the
apostolic age.

In the epistles of Paul we have, at least to some extent, the means of
testing the accuracy of the statements of the Acts with regard to him
and the early history of the Church. The Epistles to the Galatians,
to the Corinthians (2), and to the Romans are generally admitted to be
genuine,(3) and can be freely used for this purpose. To these we shall
limit our attention, excluding other epistles, whose authenticity is
either questioned or denied, but in doing so no material capable of
really affecting the result is set aside. For the same reason, we


must reject any evidence to be derived from the so-called Epistles of
Peter and James, at least so far as they are supposed to represent the
opinions of Peter and James, but here again it will be found that they
do not materially affect the points immediately before us. The veracity
of the Acts of the Apostles being the very point which is in question,
it is unnecessary to say that we have to subject the narrative to
examination, and by no means to assume the correctness of any statements
we find in it. At the same time it must be our endeavour to collect from
this document such indications--and they will frequently be valuable--of
the true history of the occurrences related, as may be presented between
the lines of the text.

In the absence of fuller information, it must not be forgotten that
human nature in the first century of our era was very much what it is in
the nineteenth, and certain facts being clearly established, it will
not be difficult to infer many details which cannot now be positively
demonstrated. The Epistle to the Galatians, however, will be our most
invaluable guide. Dealing, as it does, with some of the principal
episodes of the Acts, we are enabled by the words of the apostle Paul
himself, which have all the accent of truth and vehement earnestness, to
control the narrative of the unknown writer of that work. And where this
source fails, we have the unsuspected testimony of his other epistles,
and of later ecclesiastical history to assist our inquiry.

The problem then which we have to consider is the manner in which the
primitive Church emerged from its earliest form, as a Jewish institution
with Mosaic restrictions and Israelitish exclusiveness, and finally
opened wide its doors to the uncircumcised Gentile, and assumed


the character of a universal religion. In order to understand the
nature of the case, and be able to estimate aright the solution which is
presented by the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, it is necessary
that we should obtain a clear view of the actual characteristics of
Christianity at the period when that history begins. We must endeavour
to understand precisely what view the Apostles had formed of their
position in regard to Judaism, and of the duty which devolved upon
them of propagating the Gospel. It is obvious that we cannot rightly
appreciate the amount of persuasion requisite to transform the primitive
Church from Jewish exclusive-ness to Christian universality, without
ascertaining the probable amount of long rooted conviction and religious
prejudice or principle which had to be overcome before that great change
could be effected.

We shall not here enter upon any argument as to the precise views which
the Founder of Christianity may have held as to his own person and work,
nor shall we attempt to sift the traditions of his life and teaching
which have been handed down to us, and to separate the genuine spiritual
nucleus from the grosser matter by which it has been enveloped and
obscured. We have much more to do with the view which others took of the
matter, and, looking at the Gospels as representations of that which was
accepted as the orthodox view regarding the teaching of Jesus, they
are almost as useful for our present purpose as if they had been more
spiritual and less popular expositions of his views. What the Master
was understood to teach is more important for the history of the first
century than what he actually taught without being understood. Nothing
is more certain than the fact that Christianity, originally, was


developed out of Judaism, and that its advent was historically
prepared by the course of the Mosaic system, to which it was so closely
related.(1) In its first stages during the apostolic age, it had no
higher ambition than to be, and to be considered, the continuation
and the fulfilment of Judaism, its final and triumphant phase. The
substantial identity of primitive Christianity with true Judaism was
at first never called in question; it was considered a mere internal
movement of Judaism, its development and completion, but by no means its
mutilation. The idea of Christianity as a new religion never entered
the minds of the Twelve or of the first believers, nor, as we shall
presently see, was it so regarded by the Jews themselves. It was
in fact, originally, nothing more than a sect of Judaism, holding a
particular view of one point in the creed and, for a very long period,
it was considered so by others, and was in no way distinguished from
the rest of Mosaism.(2) Even in the Acts there are traces of this, Paul
being called "a ringleader of the sect [------] of the Nazarenes,"(3)
and the Jews of Rome being represented as referring to Christianity by
this term.(4) Paul before the Council not


only does not scruple to call himself "a Pharisee, the son of a
Pharisee," but the Pharisees take part with him against the more
unorthodox and hated sect of the Sadducees.(1) For eighteen centuries
disputes have fiercely raged over the creed of Christendom, and the
ingenuity of countless divines has been exhausted in deducing mystic
dogmas from the primitive teaching, but if there be one thing more
remarkable than another in that teaching, according to the Synoptics,
it is its perfect simplicity. Jesus did not appear with a ready-made
theology, and imposed no elaborate system of doctrine upon his
disciples. Throughout the prophetic period of Mosaism, one hope had
sustained the people of Israel in all their sufferings and reverses:
that the fortunes of the nation should finally be retrieved by a scion
of the race of David, under whose rule it should be restored to a future
of unexampled splendour and prosperity. The expectation of the Messiah,
under frequently modified aspects, had formed a living part in the
national faith of Israel. Primitive Christianity, sharing but recasting
this ancient hope, was only distinguished from Judaism, with whose
worship it continued in all points united, by a single doctrine, which
was in itself merely a modification of the national idea: the belief
that Jesus of Nazareth was actually the Christ, the promised Messiah.
This was substantially the whole of its creed.(2)


The synoptic Gospels, and more especially the first,(1) are clearly a
history of Jesus as the Messiah of the house of David, so long announced
and expected, and whose life and even his death and resurrection are
shown to be the fulfilment of a series of Old Testament prophecies.(2)
When his birth is announced to Mary, he is described as the great one,
who is to sit on the throne of David his father, and reign over the
house of Jacob for ever,(3) and the good tidings of great joy to all the
people [------], that the Messiah is born that day in the city of David,
are proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds of the plain.(4) Synieon
takes the child in his arms and blesses God that the words of the Holy
Spirit are accomplished, that he should not die before he had seen the
Lord's anointed, the Messiah, the consolation of Israel.(5) The Magi
come to his cradle in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Messiah indicated
by the prophet,(6) to do homage to him who is born King of the Jews,(7)
and there Herod seeks to destroy him,(8) fulfilling another


prophecy.(1) His flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth are equally
in fulfilment of prophecies.(2) John the Baptist, whose own birth as
the forerunner of the Messiah had been foretold,(3) goes before him
preparing the way of the Lord, and announcing that the Messianic kingdom
is at hand. According to the fourth Gospel, some of the twelve had been
disciples of the Baptist, and follow Jesus on their master's assurance
that he is the Messiah. One of these, Andrew, induces his brother Simon
Peter also to go after him by the announcement:--"We have found the
Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (i. 35ff. 41). And
Philip tells Nathaniel:--"We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and
the Prophets did write: Jesus, the son of Joseph, who is from Nazareth"
(i. 45). When he has commenced his own public ministry, Jesus is
represented as asking his disciples:--"Who do men say that I am?" and
setting aside the popular conjectures that he is John the Baptist,
Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, by the still more direct
question:--"And whom do ye say that I am? Simon Peter answered
and said:--Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And in
consequence of this recognition of his Messiahship, Jesus rejoins:--"And
I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my


It is quite apart from our present object to point out the singular
feats of exegesis and perversions of historical S3nse by which passages
of the Old Testament are forced to show that every event in the history,
and even the startling novelty of a suffering and crucified Messiah,
which to Jews was a stumbling-block and to Gentiles folly,(1) had been
foretold by the prophets. From first to last the Gospels strive to prove
that Jesus was the Messiah, and connect him indissolubly with the
Old Testament. The Messianic key-note, which is struck at the outset,
regulates the strain to the close. The disciples on the way to Emmaus,
appalled by the ignominious death of their Master, sadly confide to
the stranger their vanished hope that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they now
merely call "a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the
people," was the Christ "who was about to redeem Israel," and Jesus
himself replies:--"O foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets spake! Was it not needful that the Christ (Messiah) should
suffer these things and enter into his glory? And, beginning at Moses
and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning himself."(2) Then, again, when he appears to the
eleven, immediately after, at Jerusalem, he says:--"'These are the words
that I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be
fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses and the prophets and
the Psalms concerning me.' Then opened he their understanding that
they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them:--'Thus it is
written, that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead the third


The crucifixion and death of Jesus introduced the first elements of
rupture with Judaism, to which they formed the great stumbling-block.(1)
The conception of a suffering and despised Messiah could naturally never
have occurred to a Jewish mind.(2) The first effort of Christianity,
therefore, was to repair the apparent breach by proving that the
suffering Messiah had actually been foretold by the prophets; and to
re-establish the Messianic character of Jesus, by the evidence of his
resurrection.(3) But, above all, the momentary deviation from orthodox
Jewish ideas regarding the Messiah was retraced by the representation
of a speedy second advent, in glory, of the once rejected Messiah to
restore the kingdom of Israel, by which the ancient hopes of the people
became reconciled with the new expectation of Christians. Even before
the Ascension, the disciples are represented in the Acts as asking
the risen Jesus:--"Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to
Israel?"(4) There can be no doubt of the reality and


universality of the belief, in the Apostolic Church, in the immediate
return of the glorified Messiah and speedy "end of all things."(1)

The substance of the preaching of the Apostles in Acts, simply is that
Jesus is the Christ,(2) the expected Messiah.(3) Their chief aim is
to prove that his sufferings and death had been foretold by the
prophets,(4) and that his resurrection establishes his claim to the
title.(5) The simplicity of the creed is illustrated by the rapidity
with which converts are made. After a few words, on one occasion, three
thousand(6) and, on another, five thousand(7) are at once converted. No
lengthened instruction or preparation was requisite for admission into
the Church.(8) As soon as a Jew acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah he
thereby became a Christian.(9) As soon as the


three thousand converts at Pentecost made this confession of faith
they were baptized.(1) The Ethiopian is converted whilst passing in his
chariot, and is immediately baptized,(2) as are likewise Cornelius
and his household after a short address from Peter.(3) The new faith
involved no abandonment of the old. On the contrary, the advent of the
Messiah was so essential a part of Judaic belief, and the Messianic
claim of Jesus was so completely based by the Apostles on the fulfilment
of prophecy--"showing by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ,"--that
recognition of the fact rather constituted firmer adhesion to Mosaism,
and deeper faith in the inviolable truth of the Covenant with Israel. If
there had been no Mosaism, so to say, there could have been no Messiah.
So far from being opposed either to the form or spirit of the religion
of Israel, the proclamation of the Messiah was its necessary complement,
and could only be intelligible by confirmation of its truth and
maintenance of its validity. Christianity--belief in the Messiah--in its
earlier phases, drew its whole nourishment from roots that sank deeply
into Mosaism. It was indeed nothing more than Mosaism in a developed
form. The only difference between the Jew and the Christian was that the
latter believed the Messiah to have already appeared in Jesus, whilst
the former still expected him in the future;(4) though even this


was singularly diminished, in appearance at least, by the Christian
expectation of the second advent.

It is exceedingly important to ascertain, under these circumstances,
what was the impression of the Apostles as to the relation of believers
to Judaism and to Mosaic observances, although it must be clear to any
one who impartially considers the origin and historical antecedents of
the Christian faith, that very little doubt can have existed in their
minds on the subject. The teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the synoptic
Gospels, is by no means of a doubtful character, more especially when
the sanctity of the Mosaic system in the eyes of a Jew is borne in mind.
It must be apparent that, in order to remove the obligation of a Law
and form of worship believed to have been, in the most direct sense,
instituted by God himself, the most clear, strong, and reiterated order
would have been requisite. No one can reasonably maintain that a few
spiritual expressions directed against the bare letter and abuse of
the law, which were scarcely understood by the hearers, could have been
intended to abolish a system so firmly planted, or to overthrow Jewish
institutions of such antiquity and national importance, much less that
they could be taken in this sense by the disciples. A few passages in
the Gospels, therefore, which may bear the interpretation of having
foreseen the eventual supersession of Mosaism by his own more spiritual
principles, must not be strained to support the idea that Jesus taught
disregard of the Law. His very distinct and positive lessons, conveyed
both by precept and practice, show, on the contrary, that not only he
did not intend to attack pure Mosaism, but that he was understood both
directly and by inference to recognise and confirm it. In the Sermon on
the Mount, Jesus


states to the disciples in the most positive manner:--"Think not that
I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy but to
fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot
or one tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be accomplished."(1)
Whether the last phrase be interpreted: till all the law be
accomplished, or till all things appointed to occur be accomplished, the
effect is the same. One clear explicit declaration like this, under the
circumstances, would outweigh a host of doubtful expressions. Not only
does Jesus in this passage directly repudiate any idea of attacking
the law and the prophets, but, in representing his mission as their
fulfilment, he affirms them, and associates his own work in the closest
way with theirs. If there were any uncertainty, however, as to
the meaning of his words it would be removed by the
continuation:--"Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these
commandments, even the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called
least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them,
he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."(2) It would be
difficult for teaching to be more decisive in favour of the maintenance
of the law, and this instruction, according to the first Synoptic, was
specially directed to the disciples.(3) When Jesus goes on to show that
their righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and
to add to the letter of the law, as interpreted by those of old, his own
profound interpretation of its


spirit, he only intensifies, without limiting, the operation of the law;
he merely spiritualises it. He does no more than this in his lessons
regarding the observance of the Sabbath. He did not in point of fact
attack the genuine Mosaic institution of the day of rest at all, but
merely the intolerable literalism by which its observance had been made
a burden instead of "a delight." He justified his variation from the
traditional teaching and practice of his time, however, by appeals to
Scriptural precedent.(1)

As a recent writer has said: "....the observance of the Sabbath, which
had been intended to secure for weary men a rest full of love and peace
and mercy, had become a mere national Fetish--a barren custom fenced in
with the most frivolous and senseless restrictions."(2) Jesus restored
its original significance. In restricting some of the permissive clauses
of the Law, on the other hand, he acted precisely in the same spirit.
He dealt with the Law not with the temper of a revolutionist, but of a
reformer, and his reforms, so far from affecting its permanence, are a
virtual confirmation of the rest of the code.(3) Ritschl, whose views on
this point will have some weight with apologists, combats the idea
that Jesus merely confirmed the Mosaic moral law, and abolished the
ceremonial law. Referring to one particular point of importance, he
says:--"He certainly contests the duty of the Sabbath rest, the value of
purifications and sacrifices, and the validity of divorce; on the other
hand, he leaves unattacked the value of circumcision, whose regulation
is generally reckoned as part of the


ceremonial law; and nothing justifies the conclusion that Jesus
estimated it in the same way as Justin Martyr, and the other Gentile
Christian Church teachers, who place it on the same line as the
ceremonies. The only passage in which Jesus touches upon circumcision
(John vii. 22) rather proves that, as an institution of the patriarchs,
he attributes to it peculiar sanctity. Moreover, when Jesus, with
unmistakable intention, confines his own personal ministry to the
Israelitish people (Mk. vii. 27, Mt. x. 5, 6), he thereby recognises
their prior right of participation in the Kingdom of God, and also,
indirectly, circumcision as the sign of the preference of this people.
The distinction of circumcision from ceremonies, besides, is perfectly
intelligible from the Old Testament. Through circumcision, to wit, is
the Israelite, sprung from the people of the Covenant, indicated as
sanctified by God; through purification, sacrifice, Sabbath-rest must
he continually sanctify himself for God. So long, therefore, as the
conception of the people of the Covenant is maintained, circumcision
cannot be abandoned, whilst even the prophets have pointed to the merely
relative importance of the Mosaic worship."(1)

Jesus everywhere in the Gospels recognises the divine origin of the
law,(2) and he quotes the predictions of the prophets as absolute
evidence of his own pretensions. To those who ask him the way to
eternal life he indicates its commandments,(3) and he even enjoins the
observance of its ceremonial rites.(4) Jesus did not abrogate the


Mosaic law; but, on the contrary, by his example as well as his
precepts, he practically confirmed it.(1)

According to the statements of the Gospels, Jesus himself observed the
prescriptions of the Mosaic law.(2) From his birth he had been brought
up in its worship.(3) He was circumcised on the eighth day.(4) "And when
the days of their purification were accomplished, according to the law
of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
even as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male, &c, &c, and
to give a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the
Lord," &c, &c.(5) Every year his parents went to Jerusalem at the feast
of the Passover,(6) and this practice he continued till the close of his
life. "As his custom was, he went into the Synagogue (at Nazareth) and
stood up to read."(7) According to the fourth Gospel, Jesus goes up to
Jerusalem for the various festivals of the Jews,(8) and the feast of
the Passover, according to the Synoptics, was the last memorable supper


with his disciples,(1) the third Synoptic representing him as saying:
"With desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
for I say unto you that I shall not any more eat it until it be
fulfilled hi the kingdom of God."(2) However exceptional the character
of Jesus, and however elevated his views, it is undeniable that he lived
and died a Jew, conforming to the ordinances of the Mosaic law in all
essential points, and not holding himself aloof from the worship of the
Temple which he purified. The influence which his adherence to the
forms of Judaism must have exerted over his followers(3) can scarcely
be exaggerated, and the fact must ever be carefully borne in mind in
estimating the conduct of the Apostles and of the primitive Christian
community after his death.

As befitted the character of the Jewish Messiah, the sphere of the
ministry of Jesus and the arrangements for the proclamation of the
Gospel were strictly and even intensely, Judaic. Jesus attached to his
person twelve disciples, a number clearly typical of the twelve tribes
of the people of Israel;(4) and this reference is distinctly adopted
when Jesus is represented, in the Synoptics, as promising that, in the
Messianic kingdom, "when the Son


of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory," the Twelve also "shall sit
upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel;"(1) a promise
which, according to the third Synoptist, is actually made during the
last supper.(2) In the Apocalypse, which, "of all the writings of the
New Testament is most thoroughly Jewish in its language and imagery,"(3)
the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb are written upon the twelve
foundations of the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem, upon the twelve gates
of which, through which alone access to the city can be obtained, are
the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.(4) Jesus
himself limited his teaching to the Jews, and was strictly "a minister
of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made
unto the fathers."(5) To the prayer of the Canaanitish woman: "Have
mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David," unlike his gracious demeanour to her
of the bloody issue,(6) Jesus, at first, it is said, "answered her not
a word;" and even when besought by the disciples--not to heal her
daughter, but--to "send her away," he makes the emphatic declaration: "I
was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."(7) To her
continued appeals he lays


down the principle: "It is not lawful to take the children's bread and
cast it to the dogs." If after these exclusive sentences the boon is
finally granted, it is as of the crumbs(1) which fall from the master's
table.(2) The modified expression(3) in the second Gospel: "Let the
children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's
bread and cast it to the dogs;" does not affect the case, for it equally
represents exclusion from the privileges of Israel, and the Messianic
idea fully contemplated a certain grace to the heathen when the children
were filled. The expression regarding casting, the children's bread "to
the dogs" is clearly in reference to the Gentiles, who were so called by
the Jews.(4) A similar, though still stronger use of such expressions,
might be pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount in the first


Gospel (vii. 6): "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither
cast your pearls before swine." It is certain that the Jews were in
the habit of speaking of the heathen both as dogs and swine--unclean
animals,--and Hilgenfeld,(1) and some other critics, see in this verse
a reference to the Gentiles. We do not, however, press this application
which is, and may be, disputed, but merely mention it and pass on. There
can be no doubt, however, of the exclusive references to the Gentiles in
the same sermon, and other passages, where the disciples are enjoined
to practise a higher righteousness than the Gentiles. "Do not even the
publicans... do not even the Gentiles or sinners the same things."(2)
"Take no thought, &c, for after all these things do the Gentiles seek;
but seek ye, &c, &c."(3) The contrast is precisely that put with some
irony by Paul, making use of the common Jewish expression "sinner" as
almost equivalent for "Gentile;"(4) In another place the first Synoptic
represents Jesus as teaching his disciples how to deal with a brother
who sins against them, and as the final resource, when every effort at
reconciliation and justice has failed, he says: "Let him be unto thee
as the Gentile [------] and the publican." (Mt. xviii. 17.) He could
not express in a stronger way to a Jewish mind the idea of social and
religious excommunication.

The instructions which Jesus gives in sending out the Twelve, however,
express the exclusiveness of the


Messianic mission, in the first instance at least, to the Jews, in a
very marked manner. Jesus commands his disciples: "Go not into a way of
the Gentiles [------] and into a city of the Samaritans enter ye not;
but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye
go, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand."(1) As if more
emphatically to mark the limitation of the mission, the assurance is
seriously added: "For verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over
the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man come."(2) It will be observed
that Jesus here charges the Twelve to go rather "to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel" in the same words that he employs to the
Canaanitish woman to describe the exclusive destination of his own
ministry.(3) In coupling the Samaritans with the Gentiles there is
merely an expression of the intense antipathy of the Jews against them,
as a mixed and, we may say, renegade race, excluded from the Jewish
worship although circumcised, intercourse with whom is to this day
almost regarded as pollution.(4) The third Gospel, which omits the
restrictive instructions of Jesus to the Twelve given by the first
Synoptist, introduces another episode of the same description: the
appointment and mission of Seventy disciples,(6) to which we must very
briefly refer. No mention whatever is made of this incident in the other
Gospels, and these disciples are not referred to in any other part of
the New Testament.(6) Even Eusebius remarks that no


catalogue of them is anywhere given,(1) and, after naming a few persons,
who were said by tradition to have been of their number, he points out
that more than seventy disciples appear, for instance, according to
the testimony of Paul.(2) It will be observed that the instructions, at
least in considerable part, supposed to be given to the Seventy in the
third. Synoptic are, in the first, the very instructions given to the
Twelve. There has been much discussion regarding the whole episode,
which need not here be minutely referred to. For various reasons the
majority of critics impugn its historical character.(3) A large number
of these, as well as other writers, consider that the narrative of this
appointment of seventy disciples, the number of the nations of the earth
according to Jewish ideas, was introduced in Pauline universalistic
interest,(4) or, at least, that the number is


typical of Gentile conversion, in contrast with that of the Twelve who
represent the more strictly Judaic limitation of the Messianic mission;
and they seem to hold that the preaching of the seventy is represented
as not confined to Judaea, but as extending to Samaria, and that it thus
denoted the destination of the Gospel also to the Gentiles. On the
other hand, other critics, many, though by no means all, of whom do
not question the authenticity of the passage, are disposed to deny
the Pauline tendency, and any special connection with a mission to
the Gentiles, and rather to see in the number seventy a reference to
well-known Judaistic institutions.(1) It is true that the number of
the nations was set down at seventy by Jewish tradition,(2) but, on the
other hand, it was the number of the elders chosen by Moses from amongst
the children of Israel by God's command to help him, and to whom God
gave of his spirit(3)s and also of the national


Sanhedrin, which, according to the Mischna,(1) still represented the
Mosaic council. This view receives confirmation from the Clementine
Recognitions in the following passage: "He therefore chose us twelve who
first believed in him, whom he named Apostles; afterwards seventy-two
other disciples of most approved goodness, that even in this way
recognising the similitude of Moses the multitude might believe that
this is the prophet to come whom Moses foretold."(2) The passage here
referred to is twice quoted in the Acts: "Moses indeed said: A prophet
will the Lord our God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like
unto me," &c.(3) On examination, we do not find that there is any ground
for the assertion that the seventy disciples were sent to the Samaritans
or Gentiles, or were in any way connected with universalistic ideas.
Jesus had "stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem," and sent
messengers before him who "went and entered into a village of the
Samaritans to make ready for him," but they repulsed him, "because his
face was as though he would go to Jerusalem."(4) There is a decided
break, however, before the appointment of the seventy. "After these
things [------] the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them
two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself
was about to come."(5) There is not a single word in the instructions


given to them which justifies the conclusion that they were sent to
Samaria, and only the inference from the number seventy, taken as
typical of the nations, suggests it. That inference is not sufficiently
attested, and the slightness of the use made of the seventy disciples
in the third Gospel--this occasion being the only one on which they are
mentioned, and no specific intimation of any mission to all people being
here given--does not favour the theory of Pauline tendency. So far as we
are concerned, however, the point is unimportant. Those who assert the
universalistic character of the episode generally deny its authenticity;
most of those who accept it as historical deny its universalism.

The order to go and teach all nations, however, by no means carries us
beyond strictly Messianic limits. Whilst the Jews expected the Messiah
to restore the people of Israel to their own Holy Land and crown them
with unexampled prosperity and peace, revenging their past sorrows upon
their enemies, and granting them supremacy over all the earth, they
likewise held that one of the Messianic glories was to be the conversion
of the Gentiles to the worship of Jahveh. This is the burden of the
prophets, and it requires no proof. The Jews, as the people with whom
God had entered into Covenant, were first to be received into the
kingdom. "Let the children first be filled,"(1) and then the heathen
might partake of the bread. Regarding the ultimate conversion of the
Gentiles, therefore, there was no doubt; the only questions were as to
the time and the conditions of admission into the national fellowship.
As to the time, there never had been any expectation that the heathen
could be turned to Jahveh in numbers before the appearance of the


Messiah, but converts to Judaism had been made in all ages, and
after the dispersion, especially, the influence of the Jews upon the
professors of the effete and expiring religions of Rome, of Greece, and
of Egypt was very great, and numerous proselytes adopted the faith of
Israel,(1) and were eagerly sought for(2) in spite of the abusive terms
in which the Talmudists spoke of them.(3) The conditions on the other
hand were perfectly definite. The case of converts had been early
foreseen and provided for in the Mosaic code. Without referring to
minor points, we may at once say that circumcision was indispensable to
admission into the number of the children of Israel.(4) Participation
in the privileges of the Covenant could only be secured by accepting
the mark of that Covenant. Very many, however, had adopted Judaism to a
great extent, who were not willing to undergo the rite requisite to full
admission into the nation, and a certain modification had gradually
been introduced by which, without it, strangers might be admitted into
partial communion with Israel. There were, therefore, two classes
of proselytes,(5) the first called Proselytes of the Covenant or of
Righteousness, who were circumcised, obeyed the whole Mosaic law, and


were fully incorporated with Israel, and the other called Proselytes
of the Gate,(1) or worshippers of Jahveh, who in the New Testament are
commonly called [------].

These had not undergone the rite of circumcision, and therefore were
not participators in the Covenant, but merely worshipped the God
of Israel,(4) and were only compelled to observe the seven Noachian
prescriptions. These Proselytes of the Gate, however, were little more
than on sufferance. They were excluded from the Temple, and even the
Acts of the Apostles represent it to be pollution for a Jew to have
intercourse with them: it requires direct Divine intervention to induce
Peter to go to Cornelius, and to excuse his doing so in the eyes of the
primitive Church.(3) Nothing short of circumcision and full observance
of the Mosaic law could secure the privileges of the Covenant with
Israel to a stranger, and in illustration of this we may again point to
the Acts, where certain who came from Judaea, members of the primitive
church, teach the Christians of Antioch: "Except ye have been
circumcised after the custom of Moses ye cannot be saved."(4)

     1 We need not discuss the chronology of this class.

     2  It is scarcely necessary to speak of the well-known case
     of Lzates, King of Adiabene, related by Josephus. The Jewish
     merchant Ananias, who teaches him to worship God according
     to the religion of the Jews, is willing, evidently from the
     special emergency of the case and the danger of forcing
     Izates fully to embrace Judaism in the face of his people,
     to let him remain a mere Jahveh worshipper, only partially
     conforming to the Law, and remaining uncircumcised'; but
     another Jew from Galilee, Eleazer, versed in Jewish
     learning, points out to him that, in neglecting
     circumcision, he breaks the principal point of the Law.
     Izates then has himself circumcised.    Josephus, Antiq. xx.
     2, § 3 f.

     3  Acts x. 2 ff, xi. 2 ft. Dr. Lightfoot says: "The Apostles
     of the circumcision, even St. Peter himself, had failed
     hitherto to comprehend the wide purpose of God. With their
     fellow-countrymen they still held it unlawful for a Jew to
     keep company with an alien' (Acts x. 28)." Galatians, p.


This will be more fully shown as we proceed. The conversion of the
Gentiles was not, therefore, in the least degree an idea foreign to
Judaism, but, on the contrary, formed an intimate part of the Messianic
expectation of the later prophets. The conditions of admission to the
privileges and promises of the Covenant, however, were full acceptance
of the Mosaic law, and submission to the initiatory rite.(1) That small
and comparatively insignificant people, with an arrogance that would
have been ridiculous if, in the influence which they have actually
exerted over the world, it had not been almost sublime, not only
supposed themselves the sole and privileged recipients of the oracles
of God, as his chosen and peculiar people, but they contemplated nothing
short of universal submission to the Mosaic code, and the supremacy of
Israel over all the earth.

We are now better able to estimate the position of the Twelve when the
death of their Master threw them on their own resources, and left them
to propagate his Gospel as they themselves understood it. Born a Jew
of the race of David, accepting during his life the character of the
promised Messiah, and dying with the mocking title "King of the Jews"
written upon his cross, Jesus had left his disciples in close communion
with the Mosaism which he had spiritualized and ennobled, but had not
abolished. He himself had taught them that "it becomes us to fulfill all
righteousness," and, from his youth upwards, had set them the example of


enlightened observance of the Mosaic law. His precept had not belied
his example, and whilst in strong terms we find him inculcating the
permanence of the Law, it is certain that he left no order to disregard
it. He confined his own preaching to the Jews; the first ministers of
the Messiah represented the twelve tribes of the people of Israel;.and
the first Christians were of that nation, with no distinctive worship,
but practising as before the whole Mosaic ritual. What Neander savs
of "many," may, we think, be referred to all: "That Jesus faithfully
observed the form of the Jewish law served to them as evidence that this
form should ever preserve its value."(1) As a fact, the Apostles and
the early Christians continued as before assiduously to practise all the
observances of the Mosaic law, to frequent the Temple(2) and adhere to
the usual strict forms of Judaism.(3) In addition to the influence of
the example of Jesus and the powerful effect of national habit, there
were many strong reasons which obviously must to Jews have rendered
abandonment of the law as difficult as submission to its full
requirements must have been to Gentiles. Holding as they did the Divine
origin of the Old Testament, in which the observance of the Law was
inculcated on almost every page,


it would have been impossible, without counter-teaching of the most
peremptory and convincing character, to have shaken its supremacy;
but beyond this, in that theocratic community Mosaism was not only the
condition of the Covenant, and the key of the Temple, but it was also
the diploma of citizenship, and the bond of social and political
life. To abandon the observance of the Law was not only to resign the
privilege and the distinctive characteristic of Israel, to relinquish
the faith of the Patriarchs who were the glory of the nation, and to
forsake a divinely appointed form of worship, without any recognized
or even indicated substitute, but it severed the only link between the
individual and the people of Israel, and left him in despised isolation,
an outcast from the community. They had no idea, however, that any such
sacrifice was required of them. They were simply Jews believing in the
Jewish Messiah, and they held that all things else were to proceed as
before, until the glorious second coining of the Christ.(1)

The Apostles and primitive Christians continued to hold the national
belief that the way to Christianity lay through Judaism, and that the
observance of the law was obligatory and circumcision necessary to
complete communion.(2) Paul describes with unappeased


irritation the efforts made by the community of Jerusalem, whose
"pillars" were Peter, James, and John, to force Titus, a Gentile
Christian, to be circumcised,(1) and even the Acts represent James
and all the elders of the Church of Jerusalem as requesting Paul, long
after, to take part with four Jewish Christians, who had a vow and
were about to purify themselves and shave their heads and, after the
accomplishment of the days of purification, make the usual offering in
the Temple, in order to convince the "many thousands there of those who
have believed and are all zealous for the law," that it is untrue that
he teaches: "all the Jews who are among the Gentiles apostacy [------]
from Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children,
neither to walk after the customs," and to show, on the contrary, that
he himself walks orderly and keeps the Law.(2) As true Israelites, with
opinions fundamentally unchanged by belief that Jesus was the Messiah,
they held that the Gospel was specially intended for the people of the
Covenant, and they confined their teaching to the Jews.(3) A Gentile
whilst still uncircumcised, even although converted, could not, they
thought, be received on an

     1 Gal ii. 3 ff. As we shall more fully discuss this episode
     hereafter, it is not necessary to do so here.

     2 Acts xxi. 18--26; cf. xv. i. Paul is also represented as
     saying to the Jews of Rome that he has done nothing"
     against the customs of their Fathers."

     3 Dr. Lightfoot says: "Meanwhile at Jerusalem some years
     past away before the barrier of Judaism was assailed. The
     Apostles still observed the Mosaic ritual; they still
     confined their preaching to Jews by birth, or Jews by
     adoption, the proselytes of the Covenant," &c. Paul's Ep. to
     Gal. p. 287. Paley says: "It was not yet known to the
     Apostles, that they were at liberty to propose the religion
     to mankind at large. That 'mystery,' as St. Paul calls it
     (Eph. iii. 3-6), and as it then was, was revealed to Peter
     by an especial miracle." A view of the Evidence, &c, ed.
     Potts, 1850, p. 228.


equality with the Jew, but defiled him by contact.(1) The attitude of
the Christian Jew to the merely Christian Gentile, who had not entered
the community by the portal of Judaism, was, as before, simply that of
the Jew to the proselyte of the Gate. The Apostles could not upon any
other terms have then even contemplated the conversion of the Gentiles.
Jesus had limited his own teaching to the Jews, and, according to the
first Gospel, had positively prohibited, at one time at least, their
going to the Gentiles, or even to the Samaritans, and if there had been
an order given to preach to all nations it certainly was not accompanied
by any removal of the conditions specified in the Law.(2) It has been
remarked that neither party, in the great discussion in the Church
regarding the terms upon which Gentiles might be admitted to the
privileges of Christianity, ever appealed in support of their views
to specific instructions of Jesus on the subject.(3) The reason is
intelligible enough. The Petrine party, supported as they were by the
whole weight of the Law and of Holy Scripture, as well as by the example
and tacit approval of the Master, could not have felt even that degree
of doubt which precedes an appeal to authority.

     2 Dr. Lightfoot says: "The Master himself had left no
     express instructions. He had charged them, it is true, to
     preach the Gospel to all nations, but how this injunction
     was to be carried out, by what changes a national Church
     must expand into an universal Church, they had not been
     told. He had indeed asserted the sovereignty of the spirit
     over the letter; he had enunciated the great principle--as
     wide in its application as the law itself--that' man was not
     made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.' He had
     pointed to the fulfilment of the law in the Gospel. So fer
     he had discredited the law, but he had not deposed it or
     abolished it. It was left to the Apostles themselves under
     the guidance of the Spirit, moulded by circumstances and
     moulding them in turn, to work out the great change."   St.
     Paul's Ep. to Gal. 286.


The party of Paul, on the other hand, had nothing in their favour
to which a specific appeal could have been made; but in his constant
protest that he had not received his doctrine from man, but had been
taught it by direct revelation, the Apostle of the Gentiles, who was
the first to proclaim a substantial difference between Christianity and
Judaism,(1) in reality endeavoured to set aside the authority of the
Judaistic party by an appeal from the earthly to the spiritualized
Messiah. Even after the visit of Paul to Jerusalem about the year 50,
the elder Apostles still retained the views which we have shown to have
been inevitable under the circumstances, and, as we learn from Paul
himself, they still continued mere "Apostles of the Circumcision,"
limiting their mission to the Jews.(2)

The Apostles and the primitive Christians, therefore, after the death of
their Master, whom they believed to be the Messiah of the Jews, having
received his last instructions, and formed their final impressions
of his views, remained Jews, believing in the continued obligation to
observe the Law and, consequently, holding the initiatory rite essential
to participation in the privileges of the Covenant. They held this not
only as Jews believing in the Divine origin of the Old Testament and of
the Law, but as Christians confirmed by the example and the teaching of
their Christ, whose very coming was a substantial ratification of the
ancient faith of Israel. In this position they stood when the


Gospel, without their intervention, and mainly by the exertions of the
Apostle Paul, began to spread amongst the Gentiles, and the terms of
their admission came into question. It is impossible to deny that the
total removal of conditions, advocated by the Apostle Paul with all the
vehemence and warmth of his energetic character, and involving nothing
short of the abrogation of the Law and surrender of all the privileges
of Israel, must have been shocking not only to the prejudices but also
to the deepest religious convictions of men who, although Christians,
had not ceased to be Jews, and, unlike the Apostle of the Gentiles,
had been directly and daily in contact with Jesus, without having been
taught such revolutionary principles. From this point we have to proceed
with our examination of the account in the Acts of the relation of the
elder Apostles to Paul, and the solution of the difficult problem before


Before the Apostle of the Gentiles himself comes on the scene, and
is directly brought in contact with the Twelve, we have to study
the earlier incidents narrated in the Acts, wherein, it is said, the
emancipation of the Church from Jewish exclusiveness had already either
commenced or been clearly anticipated. The first of these which demands
our attention is the narrative of the martyrdom of Stephen. This
episode, although highly interesting and important in itself, might, we
consider, have been left unnoticed in connection with the special point
now engaging our attention, but such significance has been imparted to
it by the views which critics have discovered in the speech of Stephen,
that we cannot pass it without attention. If this detention be, on the
one hand, to be regretted, it will on the other be compensated by the
light which may be thrown on the composition of the Acts.

We read(l) that in consequence of murmurs amongst the Hellenists against
the Hebrews, that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution
of alms, seven deacons were appointed specially to attend to such
ministrations. Amongst these, it is said, was Stephen,(2)


"a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." Stephen, it appears, by no
means limited his attention to the material interests of the members of
the Church, but being "full of grace and power, did great wonders and
signs [------] amongst the people." "But there arose certain of those of
the synagogue which is called (the synagogue) of the Libertines(1) and
Cyrenians and Alexandrians and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing
with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit
by which he spake. Then they suborned men who said: We have heard him
speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the
people and the elders and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized
him, and brought him to the Council, and set up false witnesses who
said: This man ceaseth not to speak words against the holy place and
the law; for we have heard him say, that Jesus, this Naza-rene, shall
destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered
to us." The high-priest asks him: Are these things so? And Stephen
delivers an address, which has since been the subject of much discussion
amongst critics and divines. The contents of the speech taken by
themselves do not present any difficulty, so far as the sense is
concerned, but regarded as a reply to the accusations brought against
him by the false witnesses, the defence of Stephen has perhaps been
interpreted in a greater variety of ways than any other part of the
New Testament. Its shadowy outlines have been used as a setting for the
pious thoughts of subsequent


generations, and every imaginable intention has been ascribed to the
proto-martyr, every possible or impossible reference detected in the
phrases of his oration. This has mainly arisen from the imperfect nature
of the account in the Acts, and the absence of many important details
which has left criticism to adopt that "divinatorisch-combinatorische"
procedure which is so apt to evolve any favourite theory from the inner
consciousness. The prevailing view, however, amongst the great majority
of critics of all schools is, that Stephen is represented in the Acts
as the forerunner of the Apostle Paul, anticipating his universalistic
principles, and proclaiming with more or less of directness the
abrogation of Mosaic ordinances and the freedom of the Christian
Church.(1) This view was certainly advanced by Augustine, and lies at
the base of his famous saying: "Si sanctus Stephanus sic non oras-set,
ecclesia Paulum non haberet,"(2) but it was first clearly enunciated by
Baur, who subjected the speech of Stephen to detailed analysis,(3)
and his interpretation has to a large extent been adopted even by
apologists. It must be clearly understood that adherence to this reading
of the aim and meaning of the speech, as it is given in the Acts, by no
means involves an admission of its authenticity, which, on the contrary,
is impugned by Baur himself, and by a large number of independent
critics. We have the misfortune of differing most materially from the
prevalent view regarding the contents of the speech, and we maintain
that, as it stands in the Acts, there is not a


word in it which can be legitimately construed into an attack upon the
Mosaic law, or which anticipates the Christian universalism of Paul.
Space, however, forbids our entering here upon a discussion of this
subject, but the course which we must adopt with regard to it renders it
unnecessary to deal with the interpretation of the speech. We consider
that there is no reason for believing that the discourse put into the
mouth of Stephen was ever actually delivered, but on the contraiy
that there is every ground for holding that it is nothing more than a
composition by the Author of the Acts. We shall endeavour clearly to
state the reasons for this conclusion.

With the exception of the narrative in the Acts, there is no evidence
whatever that such a person as Stephen ever existed. The statements of
the Apostle Paul leave no doubt that persecution against the Christians
of Jerusalem must have broken out previous to his conversion, but no
details are given, and it can scarcely be considered otherwise than
extraordinary, that Paul should not in any of his own writings have
referred to the proto-martyr of the Christian Church, if the account
which is given of him be historical. It may be argued that his own share
in the martyrdom of Stephen made the episode an unpleasant memory, which
the Apostle would not readily recall. Considering the generosity of
Paul's character on the one hand, however, and the important position
assigned to Stephen on the other, this cannot be admitted as an
explanation, and it is perfectly unaccountable that, if Stephen really
be a historical personage, no mention of him occurs elsewhere in the New

Moreover, if Stephen was, as asserted, the direct forerunner of Paul,
and in his hearing enunciated


sentiments like those ascribed to him, already expressing much more than
the germ--indeed the full spirit--of Pauline universality, it would be
passing strange that Paul not only tacitly ignores all that he owes to
the proto-martyr, but vehemently protests: "But I make known unto you,
brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For
neither did I receive it from man, nor was taught it, but by revelation
of Jesus Christ."(1) There is no evidence whatever that such a person
exercised any such influence on Paul.(2) One thing only is certain, that
the speech and martyrdom of Stephen made so little impression on
Paul that, according to Acts, he continued a bitter persecutor of
Christianity, "making havoc of the Church."

The statement, vi. 8, that "Stephen, full of grace and power, did
great wonders and signs among the people" is not calculated to increase
confidence in the narrative as sober history; and as little is the
assertion, vi. 15, that "all who sat in the Council, looking stedfastly
on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." This, we
think, is evidently an instance of Christian subjective opinion made
objective.(3) How, we might ask, could it be known to the writer that
all who sat at the Council saw this? Neander replies that probably it is
the evidence of members of the Sanhedrin of the impression made on
them by the aspect of Stephen.(4) The intention of the writer, however,
obviously is to describe a supernatural

     3 It is further very remarkable, if it be assumed that the
     vision, Acts vii. 55, actually was seen, that, in giving a
     list of those who have seen the risen Jesus (1 Cor. xv. 5--
     8), which he evidently intends to be complete, he does not
     include Stephen.


phenomenon,(1) and this is in his usual manner in this book, where
miraculous agency is more freely employed than in any other in the
Canon. The session of the Council commences in a regular manner,(2) but
the previous arrest of Stephen,(3) and the subsequent interruption of
his defence, are described as a tumultuous proceeding, his death being.
unsanctioned by any sentence of the Council.(4) The Sanhed-rin, indeed,
could not execute any sentence of death without the ratification of the
Roman authorities,(5) and nothing is said in the narrative which implies
that any regular verdict was pronounced; but, on the contrary, the
tumult described in v. 57 f. excludes such a supposition. Olshausen(6)
considers that, in order to avoid any collision with the Roman power,
the Sanhedrin did not pronounce any formal judgment, but connived at the
execution which some fanatics carried out. This explanation, however,
is inadmissible, because it is clear that the members of the Council
themselves, if also the audience,


attacked and stoned Stephen.(1) The actual stoning(2) is carried out
with all regard to legal forms;(3) the victim being taken out of the
city,(4) and the witnesses casting the first stone,(5) and for this
purpose taking off their outer garments. The whole account, with its
singular mixture of utter lawlessness and formality, is extremely
improbable,(6) and more especially when the speech itself is considered.
The proceedings commence in an orderly manner, and the high priest calls
upon Stephen for his defence. The council and audience listen patiently
and quietly to his speech, and no interruption takes place until he
has said all that he had to sav, for it must be apparent that when
the speaker abandons narrative and argument and breaks into direct
invective, there could not have been any intention to prolong the
address, as no expectation of calm attention after such denunciations
could have been natural. The tumult cuts short the oration precisely
where the author had exhausted his


subject, and by temporary lawlessness overcomes the legal difficulty of
a sentence which the Sanhedrin, without the ratification of the Roman
authority, could not have carried out. As soon as the tumult has
effected these objects, all becomes orderly and legal again; and,
consequently, the witnesses can lay their garments "at a young man's
feet whose name was Saul." The principal actor in the work is thus
dramatically introduced. As the trial commences with a supernatural
illumination of the face of Stephen, it ends with a supernatural vision,
in which Stephen sees heaven opened, and the Son of Man standing at the
right hand of God. Such a trial and such an execution present features
which are undoubtedly not historical.

This impression is certainly not lessened when we find how many details
of the trial and death of Stephen are based on the accounts in the
Gospels of the trial and death of Jesus.(1) The irritated adversaries of
Stephen stir up the people and the elders and scribes, and come upon him
and lead him to the Council.(2) They seek false witness against him;(3)
and these false witnesses accuse him of speaking against the temple
and the law.(4) The false witnesses who are set up against Jesus with
similar testimony, according to the first two Synoptics, are strangely
omitted by the third. The reproduction of this trait here has much that
is suggestive. The high priest asks: "Are these things so?"(5) Stephen,


the close of his speech, exclaims: "I see the heavens opened, and the
Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." Jesus says: "Henceforth
shall the Son of Man be seated on the right hand of the power of
God."(1) Whilst he is being stoned, Stephen prays, saying: "Lord Jesus,
receive my Spirit;" and, similarly, Jesus on the cross cries, with a
loud voice: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and, having
said this, he expired."(2) Stephen, as he is about to die, cries, with
a loud voice: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge; and when he said
this he fell asleep;" and Jesus says: "Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do."(3) These two sayings of Jesus are not given
anywhere but in the third Synoptic,(4) and their imitation by Stephen,
in another work of the same Evangelist, is a peculiarity which deserves
attention. It is argued by apologists(5) that nothing is more natural
than that the first martyrs should have the example of the suffering
Jesus in their minds, and die with his expressions of love and
resignation on their lips. On the other hand, taken along with other
most suspicious circumstances which we have already pointed out, and
with the fact, which we shall presently demonstrate, that the speech of
Stephen is nothing more


than a composition by the Author of Acts, the singular analogies
presented by this narrative with the trial and last words of Jesus in
the Gospels seem to us an additional indication of its inauthenticity.
As Baur(1) and Zeller(2) have well argued, the use of two expressions
of Jesus only found in the third Synoptic is a phenomenon which is
much more naturally explained by attributing them to the Author, who
of course knew that Gospel well, than to Stephen who did not know it
at all.(3) The prominence which is given to this episode of the first
Christian martyrdom is intelligible in itself, and it acquires fresh
significance when it is considered as the introduction of the Apostle
Paul, whose perfect silence regarding the proto-martyr, however,
confirms the belief which we otherwise acquire, that the whole narrative
and speech, whatever unknown tradition may have suggested them, are, as
we have them, to be ascribed to the Author of the Acts.

On closer examination, one of the first questions which arises is: how
could such a speech have been reported? Although Neander(4) contends
that we are not justified in asserting that all that is narrated
regarding Stephen in the Acts occurred in a single day, we think it
cannot be doubted that the intention is to describe the arrest, trial,
and execution as rapidly following each other on the same day. "They
came upon him, and seized him, and


brought him to the Council, and set up false witnesses, who said,"
&c.(1) There is no ground here for interpolating any imprisonment, and
if not, then it follows clearly that Stephen, being immediately called
upon to answer for himself, is, at the end of his discourse, violently
carried away without the city to be stoned. No preparations could have
been made even to take notes of his speech, if upon any ground it were
reasonable to assume the possibility of an intention to do so; and
indeed it could not, under the circumstances, have been foreseen that he
should either have been placed in such a position, or have been able to
make a speech at all. The rapid progress of all the events described,
and the excitement consequent on such tumultuous proceedings, render
an ordinary explanation of the manner in which such a speech could have
been preserved improbable, and it is difficult to suppose that it could
have been accurately remembered, with all its curious details, by
one who was present. Improbable as it is, however, this is the only
suggestion which can possibly be advanced. The majority of apologists
suppose that the speech was heard and reported by the Apostle Paul
himself,(2) or at least that it was communicated or written down either
by a member of the Sanhedrin, or by some one who was present.(3)
As there is no information on the point, there is ample scope for
imagination, but when we come to consider its linguistic and other
peculiarities, it must be borne in


mind that the extreme difficulty of explaining the preservation of
such a speech must be an element in judging whether it is not rather
a composition by the Author of Acts. The language in which it was
delivered, again, is the subject of much difference of opinion, many
maintaining that it must have originally been spoken in Aramaic,(1)
whilst others hold that it was delivered in Greek.(2) Still, a
large number of critics and divines of course assert that the speech
attributed to Stephen is at least substantially authentic. As might
naturally be expected in a case where negative criticism is arrayed
against a canonical work upheld by the time-honoured authority of the
church, those who dispute its authenticity(3) are in the minority. It is
maintained by the latter that the language is more or less that of the
writer of the rest of the work, and that the speech in fact as it
lies before us is a later composition by the Author of the Acts of the

Before examining the linguistic peculiarities of the speech, we may very
briefly point out that, in the course of the historical survey, many
glaring contradictions of the statements of the Old Testament occur.(4)
Stephen says


(vs. 2, 3) that the order to Abraham to leave his country was given to
him in Mesopotamia before he dwelt in Haran; but, according to Genesis
(xii. 1 ff) the call is given whilst he was living in Haran. The speech
(v. 4) represents Abraham leaving Haran after the death of his father,
but this is in contradiction to Genesis, according to which(1) Abraham
was 75 when he left Haran. Now, as he was born when his father Terah was
70,(2) and Terah lived 205 years,(3) his father was only 145 at the
time indicated, and afterwards lived 60 years. In v. 5 it is stated that
Abraham had no possession in the promised land, not even so much as to
set his foot on; but, according to Genesis,(4) he bought the field of
Ephron in Machpelah. It is said (v. 14) that Jacob went down into Egypt
with 75 souls, whereas, in the Old Testament, it is repeatedly said that
the number was 70.(5) In v. 16, it is stated that Jacob was buried
in Schechem in a sepulchre bought by Abraham of the sons of Emmor in
Schechem, whereas in Genesis(6) Jacob is said to have been buried in
Machpelah; the sepulchre in Schechem, in which


the bones of Joseph were buried, was not bought by Abraham, but
by Jacob.(1) Moses is described (v. 22) as mighty in words, but in
Exodus(2) he is said to be the very reverse, and Aaron in fact is
sent with him to speak words for him. These are some of the principal
variations. It used to be argued that such mistakes were mere errors
of memory, natural in a speech delivered under such circumstances and
without preparation,(3) and that they are additional evidence of
its authenticity, inasmuch as it is very improbable that a writer
deliberately composing such a speech could have committed them. It is
very clear, however, that the majority of these are not errors of memory
at all, but either the exegesis prevailing at the time amongst learned
Jews, or traditions deliberately adopted, of which many traces are
elsewhere found.(4)

The form of the speech is closely similar to other speeches found in the
same work. We have already in passing pointed out the analogy of parts
of it to the address of Peter in Solomon's porch, but the speech of Paul
at Antioch bears a still closer resemblance to it, and has been called
"a mere echo of the speeches of Peter and Stephen."(5) We must refer the
reader to our general comparison of the two speeches of Peter and Paul
in question,(6) which sufficiently showed, we think,


that they were not delivered by independent speakers, but on the
contrary that they are nothing more than compositions by the author of
the Acts. These addresses which are such close copies of each other, are
so markedly cast in the same mould as the speech of Stephen, that they
not only confirm our conclusions as to their own origin, but intensify
suspicions of its authenticity. It is impossible, without reference to
the speeches themselves, to shew how closely that of Paul at Antioch is
traced on the lines of the speech of Stephen, and this resemblance
is much greater than can be shown by mere linguistic examination.
The thoughts correspond where the words differ. There is a constant
recurrence of words, however, even where the sense of the passages is
not the same, and the ideas in both bear the stamp of a single mind. We
shall not attempt fully to contrast these discourses here, for it would
occupy too much space, and we therefore content ourselves with giving
a few illustrations, begging the reader to examine the speeches
themselves. [------]





It is argued that the speech of Stephen bears upon it


the stamp of an address which was actually delivered.(1) We are not able
to discover any special indication of this. Such an argument, at the
best, is merely the assertion of personal opinion, and cannot have any
weight. It is quite conceivable that an oration actually spoken might
lose its spontaneous character in a report, and on the other hand that
a written composition might acquire oratorical reality from the skill of
the writer. It would indeed exhibit great want of literary ability if
a writer, composing a speech which he desires to represent as having
actually been spoken, altogether failed to convey some impression of
this. To have any application to the present case, however, it must not
only be affirmed that the speech of Stephen has the stamp of an address
really spoken, but that it has the character of one delivered under such
extraordinary circumstances, without premeditation and in the midst of
tumultuous proceedings. It cannot, we think, be reasonably asserted
that a speech like this is peculiarly characteristic of a man suddenly
arrested by angry and excited opponents, and hurried before a council
which, at its close, rushes upon him and joins in stoning him. Unless
the defence attributed to Stephen be particularly characteristic of
this, the argument in question falls to the ground. On the contrary, if
the speech has one feature more strongly marked than another, it is
the deliberate care with which the points referred to in the historical
survey are selected and bear upon each other, and the art with which the
climax is attained. In showing, as we have already done, that the speech
betrays the handy work of the Author of the Acts, we have to a large
extent disposed of any claim


to peculiar individuality in the defence, and the linguistic analysis
which we shall now make will conclusively settle the source of the
composition. We must point out here in continuation that, as in the rest
of the work, all the quotations in the speech are from the Septuagint,
and that the author follows that version even when it does not fairly
represent the original.(1)

We may now proceed to analyse the language of the whole episode from
vi. 9 to the end of the seventh chapter, in order to discover what
linguistic analogy it bears to the rest of the Acts and to the third
Synoptic, which for the sake of brevity we shall simply designate
"Luke." With the exception of a very few words in general use, every
word employed in the section will be found in the following analysis,
based upon Bruder's 'Concordance,'(2) and which is arranged in the order
of the verses, although for greater clearness the whole is divided into

We shall commence with a list of the words in this section which are not
elsewhere used in the New Testament. They are as follows:--[------],
vi. 11; [------]t vi. 12; [------], vii. 16;(3) [------], vii. 19, but
[------], occurs several times in Acts, see below, vii. 21; [------],
vii. 24; [------], vii. 26; [------], vii. 45, this word, which is
common amongst


Greek writers,(1) is used in lxx. 2 Chron. xxxi. 12; [------], vii. 52.
These nine words are all that can strictly be admitted as [------], but
there are others, which, although not found in any other part of the
Acts or of the Gospel, occur in other writings of the New Testament, and
which must here be noted. [------], vi. 11, occurring 1 Tim. i. 13, 2
Tim. iii. 2, 2 Pet. iL 11, Rev. xiii. 5; [------], however, is used four
times in Acts, thrice in Luke, and frequently elsewhere, and [------] in
Luke v. 21. [------] vi. 13, used Rev. ii. 2, xxi. 8; [------], vi. 14,
Rom. i. 23, ' 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52, Gal. iv. 20, Heb. i. 12, almost purely
a Pauline word; [------], vii. 5, elsewhere fourteen times; [------],
vii. 16, also Gal. i. 6, Heb. vii. 12, xi. 5 twice (lxx. Gen. v. 24),
Jude 4; [------], vii. 24, also 2 Pet. ii. 7; [------], vii. 26, also
John vi. 52, 2 Tim. ii. 24, James iv. 2; [------], vii. 38, also Rom.
iii. 2, Heb. v. 12, 1 Pet. iv. 11; [------], vii. 39, also 2 Cor. ii. 9,
Phil. ii. 8; [------], vii. 53, also Rom. xiii. 2, cf. Gal. iii. 19, but
the writer makes use of [------], see vii. 44, below; [------], vii. 58,
also Rom. xiii. 12, Eph. iv. 22, 25, Col. iii. 8, Heb. xii. 1, James
i. 21, 1 Pet, ii. 1. If we add these ten words to the preceding, the
proportion of [------] is by no means excessive for the 67 verses,
especially when the peculiarity of the subject is considered, and it is
remembered that the number of words employed in the third Gospel, for
instance, which are not elsewhere found, greatly exceeds that of the
other Gospels, and that this linguistic richness is characteristic of
the author.

There is another class of words which may now be


dealt with: those which, although not elsewhere found either in the
Acts or Gospel, are derived from the Sep-tuagint version of the Old
Testament. The author makes exclusive use of that version, and in
the historical survey, of which so large a portion of the speech is
composed, his mind very naturally recalls its expressions even where he
does not make direct quotations, but merely gives a brief summary of its
narratives. In the following list where words are not clearly taken from
the Septuagint version(1) of the various episodes referred to, the reasons
shall be stated:--


We shall now, by way of disposing of them, take the words which require
little special remark, but are used as well in the rest of the Acts and
in the Gospel as in other writings of the New Testament:-- [------]





We shall now give the words which may either be regarded as
characteristic of the author of the Acts and Gospel, or the use of which
is peculiar or limited to him:-- [------]







To this very remarkable list of words we have still to add a number of
expressions which further betray the author of the Acts and Gospel:--







It is impossible, we think, to examine this analysis, in which we might
fairly have included other points which we have passed over, without
feeling the certain conviction that the speech of Stephen was composed
by the author of the rest of the Acts of the Apostles. It may not be
out of place to quote some remarks of Lekebusch at the close of an
examination of the language of the Acts in general, undertaken for the
purpose of ascertaining the literary characteristics of the book,
which, although originally having no direct reference to this episode
in particular, may well serve to illustrate our own results:--"An
unprejudiced critic must have acquired the conviction from the foregoing
linguistic examination that, throughout the whole of the Acts of the
Apostles, and partly also the


Gospel, the same style of language and expression generally prevails,
and therefore that our book is an original work, independent of written
sources on the whole, and proceeding from a single pen. For when the
same expressions are everywhere found, when a long row of words which
only recur in the Gospel and Acts, or comparatively only very seldom
in other works of the New Testament, appear equally in all parts, when
certain forme of words, peculiarities of word-order, construction
and phraseology, indeed even whole sentences, recur in the different
sections, a compilation out of documents by different earlier writers
can no longer be thought of, and it is 'beyond doubt, that we have to
consider our writing as the work of a single author, who has impressed
upon it the stamp of a distinct literary style' (Zeller, Theol.
Jahrb..1851, p. 107). The use of written sources is certainly not
directly excluded by this, and probably the linguistic peculiarities,
of which some of course exist in isolated sections of our work, may
be referred to this. But as these peculiarities consist chiefly of
[------], which may rather be ascribed to the richness of the author's
vocabulary than to his talent for compilation, and in comparison with
the great majority of points of agreement almost disappear, we must from
the first be prepossessed against the theory that our author made use
of written sources, and only allow ourselves to be moved to such a
conclusion by further distinct phenomena in the various parts of our
book, especially as the prologue of the Gospel, so often quoted for the
purpose, does not at all support it. But in any case, as has already
been remarked, _the_ opinion that, in the Acts of the Apostles, the
several parts are strung together almost without


alteration, is quite irreconcilable with the result of our linguistic
examination. Zeller rightly says:--'Were the author so dependent a
compiler, the traces of such a proceeding must necessarily become
apparent in a thorough dissimilarity of language and expression. And
this dissimilarity would be all the greater if his sources, as in that
case we could scarcely help admitting, belonged to widely separated
spheres as regards language and mode of thought. On the other hand, it
would be altogether inexplicable that, in all parts of the work, the
same favourite expressions, the same turns, the same peculiarities
of vocabulary and syntax should meet us. This phenomenon only becomes
conceivable when we suppose that the contents of our work were brought
into their present form by one and the same person, and that the work
as it lies before us was not merely _compiled_ by some one, but was also
_composed_ by him.'"(1)

Should an attempt be made to argue that, even if it be conceded that
the language is that of the Author of Acts, the sentiments may be those
actually expressed by Stephen, it would at once be obvious that such
an explanation is not only purely arbitrary and incapable of proof, but
opposed to the facts of the case. It is not the language only which can
be traced to the Author of the rest of the Acts but, as we have shown,
the whole plan of the speech is the same as that of others in different
parts of the work. Stephen speaks exactly as Peter does before him and
Paul at a later period. There is just that amount of variety which a
writer of not unlimited resources can introduce to express the views of


different men under different circumstances, but there is so much which
is nevertheless common to them all, that community of authorship cannot
be denied. On the other hand, the improbabilities of the narrative, the
singular fact that Stephen is not mentioned by the Apostle Paul, and the
peculiarities which may be detected in the speech itself receive their
very simple explanation when linguistic analysis so clearly demonstrates
that, whatever small nucleus of fact may lie at the basis of the
episode, the speech actually ascribed to the martyr Stephen is nothing
more than a later composition put into his mouth by the Author of the


We have been forced to enter at such length into the discussion of the
speech and martyrdom of Stephen, that we cannot afford space to do more
than merely glance at the proceedings of his colleague Philip, as we
pass on to more important points in the work before us. The author
states that a great persecution broke out at the time of Stephen's
death, and that all [------] the community of Jerusalem were scattered
abroad "except the Apostles" [------]. That the heads of the Church, who
were well known, should remain unmolested in Jerusalem, whilst the whole
of the less known members of the community were persecuted and driven to
flight, is certainly an extraordinary and suspicious statement.(1) Even
apologists are obliged to admit that the account of the dispersion of
the whole Church is hyperbolic;(2) but exaggeration and myth enter
so largely and persistently into the composition of the Acts of the
Apostles, that it is difficult, after any attentive scrutiny, seriously
to treat the work as in any strict sense historical at all. It has been


conjectured by some critics, as well in explanation of this statement
as in connection with theories regarding the views of Stephen, that
the persecution in question was limited to the Hellenistic community to
which Stephen belonged, whilst the Apostles and others, who were known
as faithful observers of the law and of the temple worship,(1) were not
regarded as heretics by the orthodox Jews.(2) The narrative in the Acts
does not seem to support the view that the persecution was limited to
the Hellenists;(3) but beyond the fact vouched for by Paul that about
this time there was a persecution, we have no data whatever regarding
that event. Philip, it is said, went down to the city of Samaria,
and "was preaching the Christ"(4) to them. As the statement that "the
multitudes with one accord gave heed to the things spoken" to them by
Philip is ascribed to the miracles which he performed there, we are
unable to regard the narrative as historical, and still less so when we
consider the supernatural agency by which his further proceedings are
directed and aided. We need only remark that the Samaritans, although
only partly of Jewish origin, and rejecting the Jewish Scriptures with
the exception of the Pentateuch, worshipped the same God as the Jews,
were circumcised, and were equally prepared as a nation to accept the
Messiah. The statement that the Apostles Peter and John went to Samaria,
in order, by the imposition of hands, to bestow the gift of the Holy
Spirit to the


converts baptized by Philip, does not add to the general credibility of
the history.(1) As Bleek(2) has well remarked, nothing is known or said
as to whether the conversion of the Samaritans effected any change in
their relations towards the Jewish people and the temple in Jerusalem;
and the mission of Philip to the Samaritans, as related in the Acts,
cannot in any case be considered as having any important bearing on the
question before us. We shall not discuss the episode of Simon at all,
although, in the opinion of eminent critics, it contains much that is
suggestive of the true character of the Acts of the Apostles. An "Angel
of the Lord" [------] speaks to Philip, and desires him to go to the
desert way from Jerusalem to Gaza,(3) where the Spirit tells him(4) to
draw near and join himself to the chariot of a man of Ethiopia who had
come to worship at Jerusalem, and was then returning home. Philip runs
thither, and hearing him read Isaiah, expounds the passage to him, and
at his own request the Eunuch is at once baptized. "And when they came
up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away [------] Philip,
and the eunuch saw him no more; for he went on his way rejoicing; but
Philip was found at Azotus."(5) Attempts have of course been made to
explain naturally the supernatural features of this narrative.(6) Ewald,
who is master of the art of rationalistic explanation, says, with regard
to the order given by the angel: "he felt impelled as by the power and
the clear voice of an angel" to go in that


direction; and the final miracle is disposed of by a contrast of the
disinterestedness of Philip with the conduct of Gehazi, the servant of
Elisha: it was the desire to avoid reward, "which led him all the more
hurriedly to leave his new convert"; "and it was as though the Spirit of
the Lord himself snatched him from him another way," &c, &c. "From Gaza
Philip repaired rapidly northward to Ashdod, &c."(l) The great mass
of critics reject such evasions, and recognise that the Author relates
miraculous occurrences. The introduction of supernatural agency in
this way, however, removes the story from the region of history. Such
statements are antecedently, and, indeed, coming from an unknown writer
and without corroboration, are absolutely incredible, and no means exist
of ascertaining what original tradition may have assumed this mythical
character. Zeller supposes that only the personality and nationality
of the Eunuch are really historical.(2) All that need here be added is,
that the great majority of critics agree that the Ethiopian was probably
at least a Proselyte of the Gate,(3) as his going to Jerusalem to
worship seems clearly to indicate.(4) In any


case, the mythical elements of this story, as well as the insufficiency
of the details, deprive the narrative of historical value.(1) The
episodes of Stephen's speech and martyrdom and the mission of Philip
are, in one respect especially, unimportant for the inquiry on which we
are now more immediately engaged. They are almost completely isolated
from the rest of the Acts: that is to say, no reference whatever is
subsequently made to them as forming any precedent for the guidance of
the Church in the burning question which soon arose within it. Peter, as
we shall see, when called upon to visit and baptize Cornelius, exhibits
no recollection of his own mission to the Samaritans, and no knowledge
of the conversion of the Ethiopian. Moreover, as Stephen plays so small
a part in the history, and Philip does not reappear upon the scene after
this short episode, no opportunity is afforded of comparing one part of
their history with the rest. In passing on to the account of the baptism
of Cornelius, we have at least the advantage of contrasting the action
attributed to Peter with his conduct on earlier and later occasions, and
a test is thus supplied which is of no small value for ascertaining the
truth of the whole representation. To this narrative we must now address

As an introduction to the important events at Cæsarea, the Author of the
Acts relates the particulars of a visit which Peter pays to Lydda
and Joppa, during the course of which he performs two very remarkable
miracles. At the former town he finds a certain man named Æneas,


paralysed, who had lain on a bed for eight years. Peter said to him:
"Æneas, Jesus the Christ healeth thee; arise and make thy bed." And he
arose immediately.(1) As the consequence of this miracle, the writer
states that: "All who dwelt at Lydda and the Sharon saw him, who turned
to the Lord."(2) The exaggeration of such a statement(3) is too palpable
to require argument The effect produced by the supposed miracle is
almost as incredible as the miracle itself, and the account altogether
has little claim to the character of sober history.

This mighty work, however, is altogether eclipsed by a miracle which
Peter performs about the same time at Joppa. A certain woman, a
disciple, named Tabitha, who was "full of good works," fell sick in
those days and died, and when they washed her, they laid her in an upper
chamber, and sent to Peter at Lydda, beseeching him to come to them
without delay. When Peter arrived they took him into the upper chamber,
where all the widows stood weeping, and showed coats and garments which
Dorcas used to make while she was with them. "But Peter put them all
out, and kneeled down and prayed; and, turning to the body, said:
Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat
up. And he gave her his hand, and raised her up, and when he called the
saints and the widows, he presented her alive." Apparently, the raising
of the dead did not produce as much effect as the cure of the paralytic,
for the writer only adds here: "And it was known throughout all Joppa;
and many believed in the Lord."(4) We shall hereafter have to speak
of the perfect calmness and absence of surprise with which these early
writers relate


the most astonishing miracles. It is evident from the manner in which
this story is narrated that the miracle was anticipated.(1) The [------]
in which the body is laid cannot have been the room generally used for
that purpose, but is probably the single upper chamber of such a house
which the author represents as specially adopted in anticipation of
Peter's arrival.(2) The widows who stand by weeping and showing the
garments made by the deceased complete the preparation. As Peter is sent
for after Dorcas had died, it would seem as though the writer
intimated that her friends expected him to raise her from the dead. The
explanation of this singular phenomenon, however, becomes clear when
it is remarked that the account of this great miracle is closely traced
from that of the raising of Jairus' daughter in the Synoptics,(3) and
more especially in the second Gospel.(4) In that instance Jesus is sent
for; and, on coming to the house, he finds people "weeping and wailing
greatly." He puts them all forth, like Peter; and, taking the child
by the hand, says to her: "'Talitha koum,' which is being interpreted:
Maiden, I say unto thee, arise. And immediately the maiden arose and
walked."(5) Baur and others(6) conjecture that even the name "Tabitha,
which by


interpretation is called Dorcas," was suggested by the words [------],
above quoted. The Hebrew original of [------] signifies "Gazelle," and
they contend that it was used, like [------], in the sense generally
of: Maiden.(l) These two astonishing miracles, reported by an unknown
writer, and without any corroboration, are absolutely incredible, and
cannot prepossess any reasonable mind with confidence in the narrative
to which they form an introduction, and the natural distrust which they
awaken is folly confirmed when we find supernatural agency employed at
every stage of the following history.

We are told(2) that a certain devout centurion, named Cornelius, "saw
in a vision plainly" [------] an angel of God, who said to him: "Thy
prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now
send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, who is surnamed Peter, whose
house is by the sea side." After giving these minute directions, the
angel departed,



and Cornelius sent three messengers to Joppa. Just as they approached
the end of their journey on the morrow, Peter went up to the housetop to
pray about the sixth hour, the usual time of prayer among the Jews.(1)
He became very hungry, and while his meal was being prepared he fell
into a trance and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending as
it had been a great sheet let down by four corners, in which were all
four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the
air. "And there came a voice to him: Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But
Peter said: Not so Lord; for I never ate anything common or unclean. And
the voice came unto him again a second time: What God cleansed call not
thou common. This was done thrice; and straightway the vessel was taken
up into heaven." While Peter "was doubting in himself" what the vision
which he had seen meant, the men sent by Cornelius arrived, and "the
Spirit said unto him: Behold men are seeking thee; but arise and get
thee down and go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them."
Peter went with them on the morrow, accompanied by some of the brethren,
and Cornelius was waiting for them with his kinsmen and near friends
whom he had called together for the purpose. "And as Peter was coming
in, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped. But Peter
took him up, saying: Arise; I myself also am a man."(2) Going in, he
finds many persons assembled, to whom he said: "Ye know how it is an
unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company with, or come
unto one of another nation; and yet God showed me that I should not call


any man common or unclean. Therefore also I came without gainsaying when
sent for. I ask, therefore, for what reason ye sent for me?" Cornelius
narrates the particulars of his vision and continues: "Now, therefore,
we are all present before God to hear all the things that have been
commanded thee of the Lord. Then Peter opened his mouth and said: Of
a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every
nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to
him," and soon. While Peter is speaking, "the Holy Spirit fell on all
those who heard the word. And they of the circumcision who believed were
astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles
also has been poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit; for they heard
them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter: Can any
one forbid the water that these should not be baptized, which have
received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be
baptized in the name of the Lord."

We shall not waste time discussing the endeavours of Kuinoel, Neander,
Lange, Ewald, and others, to explain away as much as possible the
supernatural elements of this narrative, for their attempts are
repudiated by most apologists, and the miraculous phenomena are too
clearly described and too closely connected with the course of the story
to be either ignored or eliminated. Can such a narrative, heralded by
such miracles as the instantaneous cure of the paralytic Æneas, and
the raising from the dead of the maiden Dorcas, be regarded as sober
history? Of course many maintain that it can, and comparatively few have
declared themselves against this.(1) We have, however, merely the


narrative of an unknown author to set against unvarying experience, and
that cannot much avail. We must now endeavour to discover how far this
episode is consistent with the rest of the facts narrated in this book
itself, and with such trustworthy evidence as we can elsewhere bring to
bear upon it. We have already in an earlier part of our inquiry pointed
out that in the process of exhibiting a general parallelism between the
Apostles Peter and Paul, a very close _pendant_ to this narrative has
been introduced by the author into the history of Paul. In the story
of the conversion of Paul, the Apostle has his vision on the way to
Damascus,(1) and about the same time the Lord in a vision desires
Ananias ("a devout man, according to the law, having a good report of
all the Jews that dwell" in Damascus),(2) "arise, and go to the street
which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one
named Saul of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth, and saw in a vision a
man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him that he might
receive sight." On this occasion also the gift of the Holy Spirit is
conferred and Saul is baptized.(3) Whilst such miraculous agency is so
rare elsewhere, it is so common in the Acts of the Apostles that the
employment of visions and of angels, under every circumstance, is one of
the characteristics of the author, and may therefore be set down to his
own imagination.

No one who examines this episode attentively, we


think, can doubt that the narrative before us is composed in apologetic
interest,(1) and is designed to have a special bearing upon the problem
as to the relation of the Pauline Gospel to the preaching of the Twelve,
Baur(2) has acutely pointed out the significance of the very place
assigned to it in the general history, and its insertion immediately
after the conversion of Paul, and before the commencement of his
ministry, as a legitimation of his apostleship of the Gentiles. One
point stands clearly out of the strange medley of Jewish prejudice,
Christian liberalism, and supernatural interference which constitute
the elements of the story: the actual conviction of Peter regarding the
relation of the Jew to the Gentile, that the Gospel is addressed to the
former and that the Gentile is excluded,(3) which has to be removed by
a direct supernatural revelation from heaven. The author recognises that
this was the general view of the primitive church, and this is the only
particular in which we can perceive historical truth in the narrative.
The complicated machinery of visions and angelic messengers is used to
justify the abandonment of Jewish restrictions, which was preached by
Paul amidst so much virulent opposition. Peter anticipates and justifies
Paul in his ministry of the uncircumcision, and the overthrow of Mosaic
barriers has the sanction and seal of a divine command. We have to see
whether the history itself


does not betray its mythical character, not only in its supernatural
elements, but in its inconsistency with other known or narrated
incidents in the apostolical narrative. There has been much difference
of opinion as to whether the centurion Cornelius had joined himself in
any recognised degree to the Jewish religion before this incident, and
a majority of critics maintain that he is represented as a Proselyte
of the Gate.(1) The terms in which he is described, [------], certainly
seem to indicate this, and probably the point would not have been
questioned but for the fact that the writer evidently intends to deal
with the subject of Gentile conversion, with which the representation
that Cornelius was already a proselyte would somewhat clash.(2) Whether
a proselyte or not, the Roman centurion is said to be "devout and
fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and
praying to God always;"(3) and probably the ambiguity as to whether he
had actually become affiliated in any way to Mosaism is intentional.
When Peter, however, with his scruples removed by the supernatural
communication with which he had just been favoured, indicates their
previous strength by the statement: "Ye know how it is an unlawful thing
for a man that is a Jew to keep company with or come unto


one of another nation,"(1) the author evidently oversteps the mark,
and betrays the unhistorical nature of the narrative; for such an
affirmation not only could not have been made by Peter, but could only
have been advanced by a writer who was himself a Gentile, and writing
at a distance from the events described. There is no injunction of the
Mosaic law declaring such intercourse unlawful,(2) nor indeed is such a
rule elsewhere heard of, and even apologists who refer to the point have
no show of authority by which to support such a statement(3) Not only
was there no legal prohibition, but it is impossible to conceive that
there was any such exclusiveness practised by traditional injunction.(4)
As de Wette appropriately remarks, moreover, even if such a prohibition
existed as regards idolaters, it would still be inconceivable how it
could apply to Cornelius: "a righteous man and fearing God, and of good
report among all the nation of the Jews."(5) It is also inconsistent
with the zeal for proselytism displayed by the Pharisees,(6) the
strictest sect of the Jews; and the account given by Josephus of the


conversion of Izates of Adiabene is totally against it.(1) There is a
slight trait which, added to others, tends to complete the demonstration
of the unhistorical character of this representation. Peter is said to
have lived many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner, and it is in
his house that the messengers of Cornelius find him.(2) Now the tanner's
trade was considered impure amongst the Jews,(3) and it was almost
pollution to live in Simon's house. It is argued by some commentators
that the fact that Peter lodged there is mentioned to show that he had
already emancipated himself from Jewish prejudices.(4) However this may
be, it is strangely inconsistent that a Jew who has no objection to live
with a tanner should, at the same time, consider it unlawful to hold
intercourse of any kind with a pious Gentile, who, if not actually a
Proselyte of the Gate, had every qualification for becoming one. This
indifference to the unclean and polluting trade of the tanner, moreover,
is inconsistent with the reply which Peter gives to the voice which bids
him slay and eat:--"Not so, Lord, for I never ate anything common or
unclean." No doubt the intercourse to which Peter refers indicates, or
at least includes, eating and drinking with one of another country,
and this alone could present any intelligible difficulty, for the mere
transaction of business or conversation with strangers must have been
daily necessary to the Jews. It must be remarked, however, that, when
Peter makes the statement which we are discussing, nothing whatever is
said of eating with the Centurion or sitting with him


at table. This leads to a striking train of reflection upon the whole
episode. It is a curious thing that the supernatural vision, which is
designed to inform Peter and the Apostles that the Gentiles might be
received into the Church, should take the form of a mere intimation that
the distinction of clean and unclean animals was no longer binding, and
that he might indifferently kill and eat One might have thought that,
on the supposition that Heaven desired to give Peter and the Church a
command to admit the Gentiles unconditionally to the benefits of the
Gospel, this would be simply and clearly stated. This was not done at
all, and the intimation by which Peter supposes himself justified in
considering it lawful to go to Cornelius is, in the first place, merely
on the subject of animals defined as clean and unclean. Doubtless the
prohibition as to certain meats might tend to continue the separation
between Jew and Gentile, and the disregard of such distinctions of
course promoted general intercourse with strangers; but this by no means
explains why the abrogation of this distinction is made the intimation
to receive Gentiles into the Church. When Peter returns to Jerusalem
we are told that "they of the circumcision"--that is to say, the whole
Church there, since at that period all were "of the circumcision,"
and this phrase further indicates that the writer has no historical
stand-point--contended with him. The subject of the contention we might
suppose was the baptism of Gentiles; but not so: the charge brought
against him was:--"Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst
eat with them."(1) The subject of Paul's dispute with Peter at Antioch
simply was that, "before that certain came from James, he did eat with


the Gentiles; but when they came he withdrew, fearing them of the
circumcision."(1) That the whole of these passages should turn merely on
the fact of eating with men who were uncircumcised, is very suggestive,
and as the Church at Jerusalem make no allusion to the baptism of
uncircumcised Gentiles, it would lead to the inference that nothing was
known of such an event, and that the circumstance was simply added to
some other narrative; and this is rendered all the more probable by the
fact that, in the affair at Antioch as well as throughout the Epistle
to the Galatians, Peter is very far from acting as one who had been the
first to receive uncircumcised Gentiles freely into the Church.

It is usually asserted that the vision of Peter abrogated the
distinction of clean and unclean animals so long existing in the Mosaic
law,(2) but there is no evidence that any subsequent gradual abandonment
of the rule was ascribed to such a command; and it is remarkable that
Peter himself not only does not, as we shall presently see, refer to
this vision as authority for disregarding the distinction of clean and
unclean meats, and for otherwise considering nothing common or unclean,
but acts as if such a vision had never taken place. The famous decree
of the Council of Jerusalem, moreover, makes no allusion to any
modification of the Mosaic law in the case of Jewish Christians,
whatever relaxation it may seem to grant to Gentile converts, and there
is no external evidence of any kind whatever that so important an


abolition of ancient legal prescriptions was thus introduced into

We have, however, fortunately one test of the historical value of this
whole episode, to which we have already briefly referred, but which
we must now more closely apply. Paul himself, in his Epistle to the
Galatians, narrates the particulars of a scene between himself and Peter
at Antioch, of which no mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles,
and we think that no one can fairly consider that episode without being
convinced that it is utterly irreconcilable with the supposition that
the vision which we are now examining can ever have appeared to Peter,
or that he can have played the part attributed to him in the conversion
and baptism of uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul writes: "But when Cephas
came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was condemned.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles,
but when they came he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them of
the circumcision, and the other Jews also joined in his hypocrisy."(1)
It will be remembered that, in the case of Cornelius, "they of the
circumcision" in Jerusalem, at the head of whom was James, from whom
came those "of the circumcision" of whom Peter was afraid at Antioch,
contended with Peter for going in "to men uncircumcised and eating with
them,"(2) the very thing which was in question at Antioch. In the Acts,
Peter is represented as defending his conduct by relating the divine
vision under the guidance of which he acted, and the author states as
the result that, "When they heard these things they held their peace and
glorified God, saying: Then to the Gentiles also God gave repentance


unto life."(1) This is the representation of the author of the vision
and of the conversion of Cornelius, but very different is Peter's
conduct as described by the Apostle Paul, very dissimilar the phenomena
presented by a narrative upon which we can rely. The "certain who came
from James" can never have heard of the direct communication from Heaven
which justified Peter's conduct, and can never have glorified God in the
manner described, or Peter could not have had any reason to fear them;
for a mere reference to his vision, and to the sanction of the Church of
Jerusalem, must have been sufficient to reconcile them to his freedom.
Then, is it conceivable that after such a vision, and after being taught
by God himself not to call any man or thing common or unclean, Peter
could have acted as he did for fear of them of the circumcision? His
conduct is convincing evidence that he knew as little of any such vision
as those who came from James. On the other hand, if we require further
proof it is furnished by the Apostle Paul himself. Is it conceivable
that, if such an episode had ever really occurred, the Apostle Paul
would not have referred to it upon this occasion? What more appropriate
argument could he have used, what more legitimate rebuke could he have
administered, than merely to have reminded Peter of his own vision? He
both rebukes him and argues, but his rebuke and his argument have quite
a different complexion; and we confidently affirm that no one can read
that portion of the Epistle to the Galatians without feeling certain
that, had the writer been aware of such a divine communication--and we
think it must be conceded without question that, if it had taken place,


must have been aware of it(1)--he would have referred to bo direct and
important an authority. Neither here nor in the numerous places where
such an argument would have been so useful to the Apostle does Paul
betray the slightest knowledge of the episode of Cornelius. The historic
occurrence at Antioch, so completely ignored by the author of the Acts,
totally excludes the mythical story of Cornelius.(2)

There are merely one or two other points in connection with the episode
to which we must call attention. In his address to Cornelius, Peter
says: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons"
[------]. Now this is not only a thoroughly Pauline sentiment, but Paul
has more than once made use of precisely the same expression. Rom. ii.
11. "For there is no respect of persons with God "[------], and, again,
Gal. ii. 6,"

God respecteth no man's person," [------].(3) The author of the Acts was
certainly acquainted with the epistles of Paul, and the very manner
in which he represents Peter as employing this expression betrays
the application of a sentiment previously in his mind, "Of a truth I
perceive," &c. The circumstance confirms what Paul had already said.(4)
Then, in the defence of his conduct at Jerusalem, Peter is represented
as saying: "And I remembered the word of the Lord,

     1 Indeed the reference to this case, supposed to be made by
     Peter himself, in Paul's presence, excludes the idea of
     ignorance, if the Acts be treated as historical.

     4 Compare further x. 35 ff. with Rom. ii. iii., &o. The
     sentiments and even the words are Pauline.


how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized
with the Holy Spirit."(l) Now these words are by all the Gospels put
into the mouth of John the Baptist, and not of Jesus,(2) but the author
of the Acts seems to put them into the mouth of Jesus at the beginning
of the work,(3) and their repetition here is only an additional proof of
the fact that the episode of Cornelius, as it stands before us, is not
historical, but is merely his own composition.

The whole of this narrative, with its complicated series of miracles, is
evidently composed to legitimate the free reception into the Christian
Church of Gentile converts and, to emphasize the importance of the
divine ratification of their admission, Peter is made to repeat to
the Church of Jerusalem the main incidents which had just been fully
narrated. On the one hand, the previous Jewish exclusiveness both of
Peter and of the Church is displayed, first, in the resistance of the
Apostle, which can only be overcome by the vision and the direct order
of the Holy Spirit, and by the manifest outpouring of the Spirit upon
the Centurion and his household; and second, in the contention of
them of the circumcision, which is only overcome by an account of the
repeated signs of divine purpose and approval. The universality of the
Gospel could not be more broadly proclaimed than in the address of Peter
to Cornelius. Not the Jews alone, "but in every nation, he that feareth
him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him." Pauline principles
are thus anticipated and, as we have pointed out, are expressed almost
in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles.(4) The Jews who go with


Peter were astonished because that on the Gentiles also had been poured
out the gift of the Holy Spirit,(1) and the Church of Jerusalem, on
hearing of these things, glorified God that repentance unto life had
been given to the Gentiles. It is impossible that the admission of
the Gentiles to the privileges of the Church could be more prominently
signified than by this episode, introduced by prodigious miracles and
effected by supernatural machinery. Where, however, are the consequences
of this marvellous recognition of the Gentiles? It does not in the
slightest degree preclude the necessity for the Council, which we shall
presently consider; it does not apparently exercise any influence on
James and the Church of Jerusalem; Peter, indeed, refers vaguely to
it, but as a matter out of date and almost forgotten; Paul, in all his
disputes with the emissaries of the Church of Jerusalem, in all his
pleas for the freedom of his Gentile converts, never makes the slightest
allusion to it; it remains elsewhere unknown and, so far as any evidence
goes, utterly without influence upon the primitive church.(2) This will
presently become more apparent; but already it is clear enough to those
who will exercise calm reason that it is impossible to consider this
narrative with its tissue of fruitless miracles as a historical account
of the development of the Church.


We have now arrived at the point in our examination of the Acts in which
we have the inestimable advantage of being able to compare the narrative
of the unknown author with the distinct statements of the Apostle Paul.
In doing so, we must remember that the author must have been acquainted
with the Epistles which are now before us, and supposing it to be his
purpose to present a certain view of the transactions in question,
whether for apologetic or conciliatory reasons or for any other cause,
it is obvious that it would not be reasonable to expect divergencies
of so palpable a nature that any reader of the letters must at once too
clearly perceive such contradictions. When the Acts were written, it is
true, the author could not have known that the Epistles of Paul were
to attain the high canonical position which they now occupy, and might,
therefore, use his materials more freely; still a certain superficial
consistency it would be natural to expect. Unfortunately, our means of
testing the statements of the author are not so minute as is desirable,
although they are often of much value, and seeing the great facility
with which, by apparently slight alterations and omissions, a different
complexion can be given to circumstances regarding which no very


full details exist elsewhere, we must be prepared to seize every
indication which may enable us to form a just estimate of the nature of
the writing which we are examining.

In the first two chapters of his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle
Paul relates particulars regarding some important epochs of his life,
which likewise enter into the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles. The
Apostle gives an account of his own proceedings immediately after his
conversion, and of the visit which about that time he paid to Jerusalem;
and, further, of a second visit to Jerusalem fourteen years later, and
to these we must now direct our attention. We defer consideration of the
narrative of the actual conversion of Paul for the present, and
merely intend here to discuss the movements and conduct of the Apostle
immediately subsequent to that event. The Acts of the Apostles represent
Paul as making five journeys to Jerusalem subsequent to his joining the
Christian body. The first, ix. 26 ff., takes place immediately after his
conversion; the second, xi. 30, xii. 25, is upon an occasion when the
Church at Antioch are represented as sending relief to the brethren of
Judæa by the hands of Barnabas and Saul, during a time of famine; the
third visit to Jerusalem, xv. 1 ff., Paul likewise pays in company with
Barnabas, both being sent by the Church of Antioch to confer with
the Apostles and Elders as to the necessity of circumcision, and the
obligation to observe the Mosaic law in the case of Gentile converts;
the fourth, xviii. 21 ff, when he goes to Ephesus with Priscilla and
Aquila, "having shaved his head in Cenchrea, for he had a vow;" and
the fifth and last, xxi. 15 ff, when the disturbance took place in the
temple which led to his arrest and journey to Rome.


The circumstances and general character of these visits to Jerusalem,
and more especially of that on which the momentous conference is
described as having taken place, are stated with so much precision, and
they present features of such marked difference, that it might have been
supposed there could not have been any difficulty in identifying,
with certainty, at least the visits to which the Apostle refers in his
letter, more especially as upon both occasions he mentions important
particulars which characterised those visits. It is a remarkable fact,
however, that, such are the divergences between the statements of the
unknown author and of the Apostle, upon no point has there been more
discussion amongst critics and divines from the very earliest times,
or more decided difference of opinion. Upon general grounds, we have
already seen, there has been good reason to doubt the historical
character of the Acts. Is it not a singularly suggestive circumstance
that, when it is possible to compare the authentic representations of
Paul with the narrative of the Acts, even apologists perceive so much
opening for doubt and controversy?

The visit described in the ninth chapter of the Acts is generally(1)
identified with that which is mentioned in the first chapter of the
Epistle. This unanimity, however, arises mainly from the circumstance
that both writers clearly represent that visit as the first which Paul
paid to Jerusalem after his conversion, for the details of the two
narratives are anything but in agreement with each other. Although,
therefore, critics are forced to agree as to the bare identity of
the visit, this harmony is immediately disturbed on examining the two
accounts, and whilst the one party find the statements in the Acts

     1 There have, however, been differences of opinion also
     regarding this.


reconcilable with those of Paul, a large body more or less distinctly
declare them to be contradictory, and unhistorical.(1) In order that the
question at issue may be fairly laid before the reader, we shall give
the two accounts in parallel columns. [------]



Now, it is obvious that the representation in the Acts of what Paul
did after his conversion differs very widely from the account which the
Apostle himself gives of the matter. In the first place, not a word is
said in the former of the journey into Arabia; but, on the contrary, it
is excluded, and the statement which replaces it directly
contradicts that of Paul. The Apostle says that after his conversion:
"Immediately(l) [------] I conferred not with flesh and blood," but
"went away into Arabia," The author of the Acts says that he spent
"some days" [------] with the disciples in Damascus, and "immediately"
[------] began to preach in the synagogues. Paul's feelings are so
completely misrepresented that, instead of that desire for retirement
and solitude which his


words express,(1) he is described as straightway plunging into the
vortex of public life in Damascus. The general apologetic explanation
is, that the author of the Acts either was not aware of the journey
into Arabia, or that, his absence there having been short, he did not
consider it necessary to mention it There are no data for estimating the
length of time which Paul spent in Arabia, but the fact that the Apostle
mentions it with so much emphasis proves not only that he attached
considerable weight to the episode, but that the duration of his visit
could not have been unimportant. In any case, the author of the Acts,
whether ignorantly or not, boldly describes the Apostle as doing
precisely what he did not. To any ordinary reader, moreover, his whole
account of Paul's preaching at Damascus certainly excludes altogether
the idea of such a journey, and the argument that it can be. inserted
anywhere is purely arbitrary. There are many theories amongst
apologists, however, as to the part of the narrative in Acts, in which
the Arabian journey can be placed. By some it is assigned to a period
before he commenced his active labours, and therefore before ix. 20,(2)
from which the.words of the author repulse it with singular clearness;
others intercalate it with even less reason between ix. 20 and 21;(3)
a few discover some indication of it in the [------] of ver. 22,(4) an
expression, however, which refuses to be forced into such service;
a greater number place it in the[------] of ver. 23,(5) making that
elastic phrase embrace this as well


as other difficulties till it snaps under the strain. It seems evident
to an unprejudiced reader that the [------] are represented as passed in
Damascus.(1) And, lastly, some critics place it after ix. 25, regardless
of Paul's statement that from Arabia he returned again to Damascus,
which, under the circumstances mentioned in Acts, he was not likely to
do, and indeed it is obvious that he is there supposed to have at once
gone from Damascus to Jerusalem. These attempts at reconciliation are
useless. It is of no avail to find time into which a journey to Arabia
and the stay there might be forcibly thrust. There still remains the
fact that so far from the Arabian visit being indicated in the Acts, the
[------] of ix. 20, compared with the [------] of Gal. i. 16, positively
excludes it, and proves that the narrative of the former is not

There is another point in the account in Acts which further demands
attention. The impression conveyed by the narrative is that Paul went
up to Jerusalem not very long after his conversion. The omission of
the visit to Arabia shortens the interval before he did so, by removing
causes of delay, and whilst no expressions are used which imply a
protracted stay in Damascus, incidents are introduced which indicate
that the purpose of the writer was to represent the Apostle as losing no
time after his conversion before associating himself with the elder

     3 We shall not discuss the indication given in 2 Cor. xi. 32
     of the cause of his leaving Damascus, although several
     contradictory statements seem to be made in it.


Apostles and obtaining their recognition of his ministry; and this view,
we shall see, is confirmed by the peculiar account which is given of
what took place at Jerusalem. The Apostle distinctly states, i. 18, that
three years after his conversion he went up to visit Peter.(1) In
the Acts he is represented as spending "some days" [------] with the
disciples, and the only other chronological indication given is that,
after "many days" [------], the plot occurred which forced him to leave
Damascus. It is argued that [------] is an indefinite period, which may,
according to the usage of the author(2) indicate a considerable space
of time, and certainly rather express a long than a short period.(3) The
fact is, however, that the instances cited are evidence, in themselves,
against the supposition that the author can have had any intention of
expressing a period of three years by the words [------]. We suppose
that no one has ever suggested that Peter staid three years in the house
of Simon the tanner at Joppa (ix. 43); or, that when it is said that
Paul remained "many days" at Corinth after the insurrection of the Jews,
the author intends to speak of some years, when in fact the [------]
contrasted with the expression (xviii. 11): "he continued there a year
and six months," used regarding his stay previous to that disturbance,
evidently reduces the "yet many days" subsequently spent there to a very
small compass. Again, has any one ever suggested that in the

     1 "The 'straightway' of ver. 16 leads to this conclusion:
     'At first I conferred not with flesh and blood, it was only
     after the lapse of three years that I went to Jerusalem.'"
     Lightfoot, Oalatians, p. 83.

     3  "The difference between the vague 'many days' of the Acts
     and the definite 'three years' of the Epistle is such as
     might be expected from the circumstances of the two
     writers."    Lightfoot, lb., p. 89, note 3.


account of Paul's voyage to Rome, where it is said (xxvii. 7) that,
after leaving Myrra "and sailing slowly many days" [------], they had
scarcely got so far as Cnidus, an interval of months, not to say years,
is indicated? It is impossible to suppose that, by such an expression,
the writer intended to indicate a period of three years.(1) That the
narrative of the Acts actually represents Paul as going up to Jerusalem
soon after his conversion, and certainly not merely at the end of three
years, is obvious from the statement in ver. 26, that when Paul arrived
at Jerusalem, and was assaying to join himself to the disciples, all
were afraid of him, and would not believe in his conversion. The author
could certainly not have stated this, if he had desired to imply that
Paul had already been a Christian, and publicly preached with so much
success at Damascus, for three years.(3) Indeed, the statements in ix.
26 are irreconcilable with the declaration of the Apostle, whatever view
be taken of the previous narrative of the Acts. If it be assumed that
the author wishes to describe the visit to Jerusalem as taking place
three years after his conversion, then the ignorance of that event
amongst the brethren there and their distrust of Paul are utterly
inconsistent and incredible; whilst if, on the other hand, he represents
the Apostle as going to Jerusalem with but little delay in Damascus, as
we contend he does, then there is no escape from the conclusion that the
Acts, whilst thus giving a narrative consistent with itself,


distinctly contradicts the deliberate assertions of the Apostle. It is
absolutely incredible that the conversion of a well-known persecutor of
the Church (viii. 3 ff.), effected in a way which is represented as so
sudden and supernatural, and accompanied by a supposed vision of the
Lord, could for three years have remained unknown to the community of
Jerusalem. So striking a triumph for Christianity must have been rapidly
circulated throughout the Church, and the fact that he who formerly
persecuted was now zealously preaching the faith which once he destroyed
must long have been generally known in Jerusalem, which was in such
constant communication with Damascus.

The author of the Acts continues in the same strain, stating that
Barnabas, under the circumstances just described, took Paul and brought
him to the Apostles [------], and declared to them the particulars
of his vision and conversion, and how he had preached boldly at
Damascus.(1) No doubt is left that this is the first intimation the
Apostles had received of such extraordinary events. After this, we
are told that Paul was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem,
preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. Here again the declaration
of Paul is explicit, and distinctly contradicts this story both in the
letter and the spirit. He makes no mention of Barnabas. He states that
he went to Jerusalem specially with the view of making the acquaintance
of Peter, with whom he remained fifteen days; but he emphatically
says:--"But other of the Apostles saw I not, save [------] James, the
Lord's brother;" and then he adds the solemn declaration


regarding his account of this visit:--"Now the things which I write unto
you, behold, before God, I lie not." An asseveration made in this tone
excludes the supposition of inaccuracy or careless vagueness, and the
specific statements have all the force of sworn evidence. Instead of
being presented "to the Apostles," therefore, and going in and out with
them at Jerusalem, we have here the emphatic assurance that, in addition
to Peter, Paul saw no one except "James, the Lord's brother." There has
been much discussion as to the identity of this James, and whether he
was an apostle or not, but into this it is unnecessary for us to enter.
Most writers agree at least that he is the same James, the head of the
Church at Jerusalem, whom we again frequently meet with in the Pauline
Epistles and in the Acts, and notably in the account of the Apostolic
council. The exact interpretation to be put upon the expression [------]
has also been the subject of great controversy, the question being
whether James is here really called an apostle or not; whether [------]
is to be understood as applying solely to the verb, in which case the
statement would mean that he saw no other of the Apostles, but only
James;(1) or to the whole phrase, which would express that he had seen
no other of the Apostles save James.(2) It is admitted by many of those
who think that in this case the latter signification must be adopted
that grammatically either interpretation is permissible. Even supposing


rightly or wrongly James is here referred to as an Apostle, the
statement of the Acts is, in spirit, quite opposed to that of the
Epistle; for when we are told that Paul is brought "to the Apostles"
[------], the linguistic usage of the writer implies that he means much
more than merely Peter and James. It seems impossible to reconcile
the statement, ix. 27, with the solemn assurance of Paul,(1) and if we
accept what the Apostle says as truth, and we cannot doubt it, it must
be admitted that the account in the Acts is unhistorical.

We arrive at the very same conclusion on examining the rest of the
narrative. In the Acts, Paul is represented as being with the Apostles
going in and out, preaching openly in Jerusalem, and disputing with the
Grecian Jews.(2) No limit is here put to his visit, and it is difficult
to conceive that what is narrated is intended to describe a visit
of merely fifteen days. A subsequent statement in the Acts, however,
explains and settles the point Paul is represented as declaring to King
Agrippa, xxvi. 19 f.: "Wherefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient
unto the heavenly vision, but first unto those in Damascus, and
throughout all the region of Judaea, and to the Gentiles, I was
declaring that they should repent


and turn to God," &c. However this may be, the statement of Paul does
not admit the interpretation of such public ministry. His express
purpose in going to Jerusalem was, not to preach, but to make the
acquaintance of Peter; and it was a marked characteristic of Paul to
avoid preaching in ground already occupied by the other Apostles before
him.(1) Not only is the account in Acts apparently excluded by such
considerations and by the general tenor of the epistle, but it is
equally so by the direct words of the Apostle (i. 22):--"I was unknown
by face unto the churches of Judaea." It is argued that the term:
"churches of Judæa" excludes Jerusalem.(2) It might possibly be asserted
with reason that such an expression as "the churches of Jerusalem" might
exclude the churches of Judæa, but to say that the Apostle, writing
elsewhere to the Galatians of a visit to Jerusalem, and of his conduct
at that time, intends, when speaking of the "churches of Judæa," to
exclude the principal city, seems to us arbitrary and unwarrantable. The
whole object of the Apostle is to show the privacy of his visit and his
independence of the elder Apostles. He does not use the expression as a
contrast to Jerusalem. Nothing in his account leads one to think of any
energetic preaching during the visit, and the necessity of finding
some way of excluding Jerusalem from the Apostle's expression is simply
thrust upon apologists by the account in Acts. Two passages are referred
to as supporting the exclusion of Jerusalem from "the churches of
Judaea." In John iii. 22, we read: "After


these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa." In
the preceding chapter he is described as being at Jerusalem. We have
already said enough about the geographical notices of the author of the
fourth Gospel.(1) Even those who do not admit that he was not a native
of Palestine are agreed that he wrote in another country and for
foreigners. "The land of Judæa," was therefore a natural expression
superseding the necessity of giving a more minute local indication which
would have been of little use. The second instance appealed to, though
more doubtfully,(2) is Heb. xiii. 24: "They from Italy salute you."
We are at a loss to understand how this is supposed to support the
interpretation adopted. It is impossible that if Paul went in and out
with the Apostles, preached boldly in Jerusalem, and disputed with the
Hellenistic Jews, not to speak of what is added, Acts xxvi. 19 f., he
could say that he was unknown by face to the churches of Judæa. There is
nothing, we may remark, which limits his preaching to the Grecian Jews.
Whilst apologists maintain that the two accounts are reconcilable, many
of them frankly admit that the account in Acts requires correction from
that in the Epistle;(3) but, on the other hand, a still greater number
of critics prouounce the narrative in the Acts contradictory to the
statements of Paul.(4)


There remains another point upon which a few remarks must be made. In
Acts ix. 29 f. the cause of Paul's hurriedly leaving Jerusalem is a plot
of the Grecian Jews to kill him. Paul does not in the Epistle refer to
any such matter, but, in another part of the Acts, Paul is represented
as relating, xxii. 17 f.: "And it came to pass, that, when I returned to
Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I was in a trance and saw him
saying unto me: Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for
they will not receive thy witness concerning me," &c, &c. This account
differs, therefore, even from the previous narrative in the same book,
yet critics are agreed that the visit during which the Apostle is said
to have seen this vision was that which we are discussing.(1) The writer
is so little a historian working from substantial facts that he forgets
the details of his own previous statements; and in the account of the
conversion of Paul, for instance, he thrice repeats the story with
emphatic and irreconcilable contradictions. We have already observed his
partiality for visions, and such supernatural agency is so ordinary a
matter with him that, in the first account of this visit, he altogether
omits the vision, although he must have known of it then quite as much
as on the second occasion. The Apostle, in his authentic and solemn
account of this visit, gives no hint of any vision, and leaves no
suggestion even of that public preaching which is described in the
earlier, and referred to in the later, narrative in the Acts.(2) If we


had no other grounds for rejecting the account as unhistorical this
miraculous vision, added as an after-thought, would have warranted our
doing so.

Passing on now to the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we
find that Paul writes:--"Then, after fourteen years, again I went up
to Jerusalem..." [------]. He states the particulars of what took place
upon the occasion of this second visit with a degree of minuteness which
ought, one might have supposed, to have left no doubt of its identity,
when compared with the same visit historically described elsewhere; but
such are the discrepancies between the two accounts that, as we have
already mentioned, the controversy upon the point has been long and
active.(1) The Acts, it will be remembered, relate a second visit
of Paul to Jerusalem, after that which we have discussed, upon which
occasion it is stated (xi. 30) that he was sent with Barnabas to convey
to the community, during a time of famine, the contributions of the
Church of Antioch. The third visit of the Acts is that (xv.) when Paul
and Barnabas are said to have been deputed to confer with the Apostles
regarding the


conditions upon which Gentile converts should be admitted into the
Christian brotherhood. The circumstances of this visit, more nearly than
any other, correspond with those described by the Apostle himself in
the Epistle (ii. 1 ff.), but there are grave difficulties in the way of
identifying them. If this visit be identical with that described Acts
xv., and if Paul, as he states, paid no intermediate visit to Jerusalem,
what becomes of the visit interpolated in Acts xi. 30? The first point
which we must endeavour to ascertain is exactly what the Apostle intends
to say regarding the second visit which he mentions. The purpose of Paul
is to declare his complete independence from those who were Apostles
before him, and to maintain that his Gospel was not of man, but directly
revealed to him by Jesus Christ. In order to prove his independence,
therefore, he categorically states exactly what had been the extent of
his intercourse with the elder Apostles. He protests that, after his
conversion, he had neither conferred with flesh and blood nor sought
those who had been Apostles before him, but, on the contrary, that he
had immediately gone away to Arabia. It was not until three years had
elapsed that he had gone up to Jerusalem, and then only to make the
acquaintance of Peter, with whom he had remained only fifteen days,
during which he had not seen other of the Apostles save James, the
Lord's brother. Only after the lapse of fourteen years did he again
go up to Jerusalem. It is argued(1) that when Paul says, "he went up
again," [------], the word [------] has not the force of [------],
and that, so far from excluding any intermediate journey, it merely
signifies a


repetition of what had been done before, and might have been used of any
subsequent journey. Even if this were so, it is impossible to deny that,
read with its context, [------] is used in immediate connection with the
former visit which we have just discussed. The sequence is distinctly
marked by the [------] "then," and the adoption of the preposition
[------]--which may properly be read "after the lapse of,"(1)--instead
of [------], seems clearly to indicate that no other journey to
Jerusalem had been made in the interval. This can be maintained
linguistically; but the point is still more decidedly settled when the
Apostle's intention is considered. It is obvious that his purpose would
have been totally defeated had he passed over in silence an intermediate
visit. Even if, as is argued, the. visit referred to in Acts xi. 30 had
been of very brief duration, or if he had not upon that occasion had
any intercourse with the Apostles, it is impossible that he could have
ignored it under the circumstances, for by so doing he would have left
the retort in the power of his enemies that he had, on other occasions
than those which he had enumerated, been in Jerusalem and in contact
with the Apostles. The mere fact that a visit had been unmentioned would
have exposed him to the charge of having suppressed it, and suspicion is
always ready to assign unworthy motives. If Paul had paid such a hasty
visit as is suggested, he would naturally have mentioned the fact and
stated the circumstances, whatever they were. These and other reasons
convince the majority of critics that the Apostle here enumerates all
the visits which he had paid to Jerusalem since his conversion.(2) The
visit referred to in Gal. ii. 1 ff.


must be considered the second occasion on which the Apostle Paul went to

This being the case, can the visit be identified as the second visit
described in Acts xi. 30? The object of that journey to Jerusalem, it
is expressly stated, was to carry to the brethren in Jerusalem the
contributions of the Church of Antioch during a time of famine; whereas
Paul explicitly says that he went up to Jerusalem, on the occasion
we are discussing, in consequence of a revelation, to communicate the
Gospel which he was preaching among the Gentiles. There is not a word
about contributions. On the other hand, chronologically it is impossible
that the second visit of the Epistle can be the second of the Acts.
There is some difference of opinion as to whether the fourteen years
are to be calculated from the date of his conversion,(1) or from
the previous journey.(2) The latter seems to be the more reasonable
supposition, but in either case it is obvious that the identity is
excluded. From various data,--the famine under Claudius, and the time of
Herod Agrippa's


death,--the date of the journey referred to in Acts xi. 30 is assigned
to about a.d. 45. If, therefore, we count back fourteen or seventeen
years, we have as the date of the conversion, on the first hypothesis,
a.d. 31, and on the second, a.d. 28, neither of which of course is
tenable. In order to overcome this difficulty, critics(1) at one time
proposed, against the unanimous evidence of MSS., to read instead of
[------] in Gal. ii. 1, [------] "after four years;" but this violent
remedy is not only generally rejected, but, even if admitted for the
sake of argument, it could not establish the identity, inasmuch as the
statements in Gal. ii. 1 ff. imply a much longer period of missionary
activity amongst the Gentiles than Paul could possibly have had at that
time, about which epoch, indeed, Barnabas is said to have sought him in
Tarsus, apparently for the purpose of first commencing such a career;a
certainly the account of his active ministry begins in the Acts only in
Ch. xiii. Then, it is not possible to suppose that, if such a dispute
regarding circumcision and the Gospel of the uncircumcision as is
sketched in Gal. ii. had taken place on a previous occasion, it could
so soon be repeated, Acts xv., and without any reference to the former
transaction. Comparatively few critics, therefore, have ventured to
maintain that the second visit recorded in the Epistle is the same
as the second mentioned in the Acts (xi. 30), and in modern times the
theory is almost entirely abandoned. If, therefore, it be admitted that
Paul mentions all the journeys which he had made to Jerusalem up to the
time at which he wrote, and that his second visit was not the second


of the Acts, but must be placed later, it follows clearly upon the
Apostle's own assurance that the visit mentioned in Acts xi. 30,
xii. 25, cannot have taken place and is unhistorical, and this is the
conclusion of the majority of critics,(1) including many apologists,
who, whilst suggesting that, for some reason, Barnabas may alone have
gone to Jerusalem without Paul, or otherwise deprecating any imputation
of conscious inaccuracy to the author, still substantially confirm
the result that Paul did not on that occasion go to Jerusalem, and
consequently that the statement is not historical. On the other hand, it
is suggested that the additional visit to Jerusalem is inserted by the
author with a view to conciliation, by representing that Paul was in
constant communication with the Apostles and community of Jerusalem, and
that he acted with their approval and sympathy. It is scarcely possible
to observe the peculiar variations between the narratives of the Acts
and of Paul without feeling that the author of the former deliberately
sacrifices the independence and individuality of the great Apostle of
the Gentiles.

The great mass of critics agree in declaring that the


second visit described in the Epistle is identical with the third
recorded in the Acts (xv.), although a wide difference of opinion exists
amongst them as to the historical value of the account contained in the
latter. This general agreement renders it unnecessary for us to enter at
any length into the arguments which establish the identity, and we shall
content ourselves with very concisely stating some of the chief reasons
for this conclusion. The date in both cases corresponds, whilst there
are insuperable chronological objections to identifying the second
journey of the Epistle with any earlier or later visit mentioned in
Acts. We have referred to other reasons against its being placed earlier
than the third visit of Acts, and there are still stronger objections
to its being dated after the third. It is impossible, considering the
object of the Apostle, that he could have passed over in silence such a
visit as that described Acts xv., and the only alternative would be
to date it later than the composition of the Epistle, to which the
narrative of the Acts as well as all other known facts would be
irreconcilably opposed. On the other hand, the date, the actors, the
cause of dispute, and probably the place (Antioch) in which that dispute
originated, so closely correspond, that it is incredible that such a
coincidence of circumstances should again have occurred.

"Without anticipating our comparison of the two accounts of this visit,
we must here at least remark that the discrepancies are so great that
not only have apologetic critics, as we have indicated, adopted the
theory that the second visit of the Epistle is not the same as the third
of the Acts, but is identical with the second (xi. 30), of which so few
particulars are given, but


some, and notably Wieseler,(1) have maintained it to have been the same
as that described in Acts xviii. 21 ff., whilst Paley and others(2)
have been led to the hypothesis that the visit in question does not
correspond with any of the visits actually recorded in the Acts, but is
one which is not referred to at all in that work. These


theories have found very little favour, however, and we mention them
solely to complete our statement of the general controversy. Considering
the fulness of the report of the visit in Acts xv. and the peculiar
nature of the facts stated by the Apostle himself in his letter to the
Galatians, the difficulty of identifying the particular visit referred
to is a phenomenon which cannot be too much considered. Is it possible,
if the narrative in the Acts were really historically accurate, that any
reasonable doubt could ever have existed as to its correspondence with
the Apostle's statements? We may here at once say that, although many of
the critics who finally decide that the visit described in Acts xv. is
the same as that referred to in the second chapter of the Epistle
argue that the obvious discrepancies and contradictions between the two
accounts may be sufficiently explained and reconciled, this is for very
strong reasons disputed,1 and the narrative in the Acts, when tested
by the authentic statements of the Apostle, pronounced inaccurate and

It is only necessary to read the two accounts in order to understand
the grounds upon which even apologists like Paley and Wieseler feel
themselves compelled


to suppose that the Apostle is describing transactions which occurred
during some visit either unmentioned or not fully related in the
Acts, rather than identify it with the visit reported in the fifteenth
chapter, from which it so essentially differs. A material difference is
not denied by any one, and explanations with a view to reconciliation
have never been dispensed with. Thiersch, who has nothing better than
the usual apologetic explanations to offer, does not hesitate to avow
the apparent incongruities of the two narratives. "The journey," he
says, "is the same, but no human ingenuity can make out that also the
conference and the decree resulting from it are the same."(1) Of course
he supposes that the problem is to be solved by asserting that
the Apostle speaks of the private, the historian of the public,
circumstances of the visit. All who maintain the historical character of
the Acts must of course more or less thoroughly adopt this argument, but
it is obvious that, in doing so, they admit on the one hand the general
discrepancy, and on the other, if successful in establishing their
position, they could do no more than show that the Epistle does not
absolutely exclude the account in the Acts. Both writers profess to
describe events which occurred during the same visit; both record
matters of the highest interest closely bearing on the same subject; yet
the two accounts are so different from each other that they can only be
rescued from complete antagonism by complete separation. Supposing the
author of the Acts to be really acquainted with the occurrences of this
visit, and to have intended to give a plain unvarnished account of them,
the unconscious ingenuity with which he has omitted the important facts
mentioned by Paul and


eliminated the whole of the Apostle's individuality would indeed be as
remarkable as it is unfortunate. But supposing the Apostle Paul to have
been aware of the formal proceedings narrated in the Acts, characterized
by such unanimity and liberal Christian feeling, it would be still more
astonishing and unfortunate that he has not only silently passed them
over, but has conveyed so singularly different an impression of his
visit.(1) As the Apostle certainly could not have been acquainted with
the Acts, his silence regarding the council and its momentous decree,
as well as his ignorance of the unbroken harmony which prevailed are
perfectly intelligible. He of course only knew and described what
actually occurred. The author of the Acts, however, might and must have
known the Epistle to the Galatians, and the ingenuity with which the
tone and details of the authentic report are avoided or transfigured
cannot be ascribed to mere accident, but must largely be attributed to
design, although also partly, it may be, to the ignorance and the pious
imagination of a later age. Is it possible, for instance, that the
controversy regarding the circumcision of Titus, and the dispute with
Peter at Antioch, which are so prominently related in the Epistle, but
present a view so different from the narrative of Acts, can have been
undesignedly omitted? The violent apologetic reconciliation which is
effected between the two accounts is based upon the foregone conclusion
that the author of the canonical Acts, however he may seem to deviate
from the Apostle, cannot possibly contradict him or be

     1 "Our difficulty in reading this page of history arises not
     so much from the absence of light as from the perplexity of
     cross lights. The narratives of St. Luke and St. Paul only
     then cease to conflict, when we take into account the
     different positions of the writers and the different objects
     they had in view."   Lightfoot, St Paul's Ep. to the Gal.,
     p. 294.


in error; but the preceding examination has rendered such a position
untenable, and here we have not to do with a canonized "St. Luke," but
with an unknown writer whose work must be judged by the ordinary rules
of criticism.

According to the Acts, a most serious question is raised at Antioch.
Certain men from Judaea came thither teaching: "Except ye have been
circumcised after the manner of Moses ye cannot be saved." After much
dissension and disputation the Church of Antioch appoint that Paul and
Barnabas, "and certain others of them" shall go up to Jerusalem unto the
Apostles and elders about this question. The motive of the journey is
here most distinctly and definitely described. Paul is solemnly deputed
by the church to lay before the mother Church of Jerusalem a
difficult question, upon the answer to which turns the whole future of
Christianity. Paul's account, however, gives a very different complexion
to the visit:--"Then, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem
with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. But I went up according to
revelation [------] and communicated to them the Gospel which I preach
among the Gentiles," &c. Paley might well say:--"This is not very
reconcilable."(1) It is argued,(2) that the two


statements may supplement each other; that the revelation may have been
made to the Church of Antioch and have led to the mission; or that,
being made to Paul, it may have decided him to undertake it. If however,
we admit that the essence of truth consists not in the mere letter but
in the spirit of what is stated, it seems impossible to reconcile these
accounts. It might be granted that a historian, giving a report of
events which had occurred, might omit some secret motive actuating the
conduct even of one of the principal persons with whom he has to do; but
that the Apostle, under the actual circumstances, and while protesting:
"Now the things which I am writing unto you, behold, before God, I lie
not!" should altogether suppress the important official character of
his journey to Jerusalem, and give it the distinct colour of a visit
voluntarily and independently made [------], is inconceivable. As we
proceed, it will become apparent that the divergence between the
two accounts is systematic and fundamental; but we may here so far
anticipate as to point out that the Apostle explicitly excludes an
official visit not only by stating an "inward motive," and omitting all
mention of a public object, but by the expression:--"and communicated
to them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to
those who," &c. To quote Paley's words: "If by 'that Gospel,' he meant
the immunity of the Gentile Christians from the Jewish law (and I know
not what else it can mean), it is not easy to conceive how he should
communicate that privately, which was the subject of his public
message;"(1) and


we may add, how he should so absolutely alter the whole character of his
visit. In the Acts, he is an ambassador charged with a most important
mission; in the Epistle, he is Paul the Apostle, moved solely by his own
reasons again to visit Jerusalem. The author of the Acts, however, who
is supposed to record only the external circumstances, when tested is
found to do so very imperfectly, for he omits all mention of Titus, who
is conjectured to be tacitly included in the "certain others of them,"
who were appointed by the Church to accompany Paul, and he is
altogether silent regarding the strenuous effort to enforce the rite of
circumcision in his case, upon which the Apostle lays so much stress.
The Apostle, who throughout maintains his simply independent attitude,
mentions his taking Titus with him as a purely voluntary act, and
certainly conveys no impression that he also was delegated by the
Church. We shall presently see how significant the suppression of Titus
is in connection with the author's transformation of the circumstances
of the visit. In affirming that he went up "according to revelation,"
Paul proceeds in the very spirit in which he began to write this
epistle. He continues simply to assert his independence, and equality
with the elder Apostles. In speaking of his first journey he has this
object in view, and he states precisely the duration of his visit and
whom he saw. If he had suppressed the official character of this second
visit and the fact that he submitted for the decision of the Apostles
and elders the question of the immunity of the Gentile converts from
circumcision, and thus curtly ascribed his going to a revelation, he
would have compromised himself in a very serious manner, and exposed
himself to a charge of disingenuousness of which his enemies would not


failed to take advantage. But, whether we consider the evidence of the
Apostle himself in speaking of this visit, the absence of all external
allusion to the supposed proceedings when reference to them would have
been not only most appropriate but was almost necessary, the practical
contradiction of the whole narrative implied in the subsequent conduct
of Peter at Antioch, or the inconsistency of the conduct attributed in
it to Paul himself, we are forced back to the natural conclusion that
the Apostle does not suppress anything, and does not give so absurdly
partial an account of his visit as would be the case if the narrative
in the Acts be historical, but that, in a few rapid powerful lines, he
completes a suggestive sketch of its chief characteristics. This
becomes more apparent at every step we take in our comparison of the two

If we pass on to the next stage of the proceedings, we find an equally
striking divergence between the two writers, and it must not escape
attention that the variations are not merely incidental but are thorough
and consecutive. According to the Acts, there was a solemn congress held
in Jerusalem, on which occasion the Apostles and elders and the Church
being assembled, the question whether it was necessary that the Gentiles
should be circumcised and bound to keep the law of Moses was fully
discussed, and a formal resolution finally adopted by the meeting. The
proceedings in fact constitute what has always been regarded as the
first Council of the Christian Church. The account in the Epistle does
not seem to betray any knowledge of such a congress.(1) The Apostle
himself says merely:--"But I


went according to revelation and communicated to them [------] the
Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which
seemed (to be something) [------]."(1) The usual apologetic explanation,
as we have already mentioned, is that whilst more or less distinctly
the author of Acts indicates private conferences, and Paul a public
assembly, the former chiefly confines his attention to the general
congress and the latter to the more private incidents of his visit.(2)
The opinion that the author of Acts "alludes in a general way to
conferences and discussions preceding the congress,"(3) is based upon
the statement xv. 4, 5: "And when they came to Jerusalem they were
received by the Church and by the Apostles and the elders, and declared
all that God did with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the
Pharisees, who believed, saying: That it is necessary to circumcise them
and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the Apostles and the
elders came together to see regarding this matter. And when there had
been much disputation, Peter rose up and said," &c. If it were admitted
that more than one meeting is here indicated, it is clear that the words
cannot be legitimately strained into a reference to more


than two conferences. The first of these is a general meeting of the
Apostles and elders and of the Church to receive the delegates from
Antioch, and the second is an equally general and public conference
(verse 6): not only are the Apostles and elders present but also the
general body of Christians, as clearly appears from the statement (ver.
12) that, after the speech of Peter, "all the multitude [------]
kept silence."(l) The "much disputation" evidently takes place on the
occasion when the Apostles and elders are gathered together to consider
the matter. If, therefore, two meetings can be maintained from the
narrative in Acts, both are emphatically public and general, and
neither, therefore, the private conference of the Epistle. The main fact
that the author of the Acts describes a general congress of the Church
as taking place is never called in question.

On the other hand, few who appreciate the nature of the discrepancy
which we are discussing will feel that the difficulty is solved by
suggesting that there is space for the insertion of other incidents in
the Apostle's narrative. It is rather late now to interpolate a general
Council of the Church into the pauses of the Galatian letter. To suppose
that the communications of Paul to the "Pillar" Apostles, and the
distressing debate regarding the circumcision of Titus, may be inferred
between the lines of the account in the Acts, is a bold effort of
imagination; but it is far from being as hopeless as an attempt to
reconcile the discrepancy by thrusting the important public congress
into some corner of the


Apostle's statement. In so far as any argument is advanced in support
of the assertion that Paul's expression implies something more than the
private conference, it is based upon the reference intended in the words
[------]. When Paul says he went up to Jerusalem and communicated "to
them" his Gospel, but privately [------], whom does he mean to indicate
by the [------]? Does he refer to the Christian community of Jerusalem,
or to the Apostles themselves? It is pretty generally admitted that
either application is permissible; but whilst a majority of apologetic,
together with some independent, critics adopt the former,(1) not a few
consider, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Calvin did before them, that
Paul more probably referred to the Apostles.(2) In favour of the former
there is the fact, it is argued, that the [------] is used immediately
after the statement that the Apostle went up "to Jerusalem," and that it
may be more natural to conclude that he speaks of the Christians there,
more especially as he seems to distinguish between the communication
made [------] and [------];(3) and, in support of this, "they"


in Gal. i. 23, 24, is, though we think without propriety, referred
to. It is, on the other hand, urged that it is very unlikely that
the Apostle would in such a way communicate his Gospel to the whole
community, and that in the expressions used he indicates no special
transaction, but that the [------] is merely an indefinite statement
for which he immediately substitutes the more precise [------](1) It
is quite certain that there is no mention of the Christian community of
Jerusalem to which the [------] can with any real grammatical necessity be
referred; but when the whole purport of the first part of the Apostle's
letter is considered the reference to the Apostles in the [------]
becomes clearer. Paul is protesting the independence of his Gospel, and
that he did not receive it from man but from Jesus Christ. He wishes to
show that he was not taught by the Apostles nor dependent upon them.
He states that after his conversion he did not go to those who were
Apostles before him, but, on the contrary, went away to Arabia, and only
three years after he went up to Jerusalem, and then only for the purpose
of making the acquaintance of Peter, and on that occasion other of
the Apostles saw he none save James the Lord's brother. After fourteen
years, he continues to recount, he again went up to Jerusalem, but
according to revelation, and communicated to them, i.e. to the Apostles,
the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. The Apostles


have been in the writer's mind throughout, but in the impetuous flow of
his ideas, which in the first two chapters of this epistle outrun the
pen, the sentences become involved. It must be admitted, finally,
that the reference intended is a matter of opinion and cannot be
authoritatively settled. If we suppose it to refer to the community of
Jerusalem, taking thus the more favourable construction, how would
this affect the question? Can it be maintained that in this casual and
indefinite "to them" we have any confirmation of the general congress
of the Acts, with its debates, its solemn settlement of that momentous
proposition regarding the Gentile Christians, and its important decree?
It is impossible to credit that, in saying that he "communicated to
them" the Gospel which he preached amongst the Gentiles, the Apostle
referred to a Council like that described in the Acts, to which, as a
delegate from the Church of Antioch, he submitted the question of the
conditions upon which the Gentiles were to be admitted into the Church,
and tacitly accepted their decision.(1) Even if it be assumed that the
Apostle makes this slight passing allusion to some meeting different
from his conference with the pillar Apostles, it could not have been
a general congress assembled for the purpose stated in the Acts and
characterised by such proceedings. The discrepancy between the two
narratives is not lessened by any supposed indication either in the
Epistle or in the Acts of other incidents than those actually described.
The suggestion that the dispute about Titus involved some


publicity does not avail, for the greater the publicity and importance
of the episode the greater the difficulty of explaining the total
silence regarding it of the author of Acts. The more closely the two
statements are compared the more apparent does it become that the author
describes proceedings which are totally different in general character,
in details, and in spirit, from those so vividly sketched by the Apostle

We shall have more to say presently regarding the irreconcilable
contradiction in spirit between the whole account which is given in
the Acts of this Council and the writings of Paul; but it may be more
convenient, if less effective, if we for the present take the chief
points in the narrative as they arise and consider how far they are
supported or discredited by other data. We shall refer later to the
manner in which the question which leads to the Council is represented
as arising and at once proceed to the speech of Peter. After there
had been much disputation as to whether the Gentile Christians must
necessarily be circumcised and required to observe the Mosaic law, it is
stated that Peter rose up and said: xv. 7. "Men (and) brethren, ye know
that a good while ago God made choice among you that the Gentiles by my
mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. 8. And God which
knoweth the hearts bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit
even as unto us; 9. and put no distinction between us and them, having
purified their hearts by the faith. 10. Now, therefore, why tempt ye
God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our
fathers nor we were able to bear? 11. But by the grace of our Lord Jesus
we believe we are saved even as also they."(1)


The liberality of the sentiments thus put into the mouth of Peter
requires no demonstration, and there is here an explicit expression
of convictions, which we must, from his own words, consider to be the
permanent and mature views of the Apostle, dating as they do "from
ancient days" [------] and originating in so striking and supernatural
a manner. We may, therefore, expect that whenever we meet with an
authentic record of Peter's opinions and conduct elsewhere, they should
exhibit the impress of such advanced and divinely imparted views. The
statement which Peter makes: that God had a good while before selected
him that the Gentiles by his voice should hear the Gospel, is of course
a reference to the case of Cornelius, and this unites the fortunes of
the speech and proceedings of the Council with that episode. We have
seen how little ground there is for considering that narrative, with its
elaborate tissue of miracles, historical. The speech which adopts it
is thus discredited, and all other circumstances confirm the conclusion
that the speech is not authentic.(1) If the name of Peter were erased
and that of Paul substituted, the sentiments expressed would be
singularly appropriate. We should have the


divinely appointed Apostle of the Gentiles advocating complete immunity
from the Mosaic law, and enunciating Pauline principles in peculiarly
Pauline terms. When Peter declares that "God put no distinction between
us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith,(1) but
by the grace [------] of our Lord Jesus Christ we believe we are saved
even as also they," do we not hear Paul's sentiments, so elaborately
expressed in the Epistle to the Romans and elsewhere? "For there is no
difference between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord of all is rich unto
all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the
Lord shall be saved"(2).... "justified freely by his grace [------]
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."(3) And when Peter
exclaims: "Why tempt ye God to put a yoke [------] upon the neck of the
disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" have we
not rather a paraphrase of the words in the Epistle to the Galatians?
"With liberty Christ made us free; stand fast, therefore, and be not
entangled again in a yoke [------] of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto
you that if ye be circumcised Christ will profit you nothing. But I
testify again to every man who is circumcised that he is a debtor to
do the whole law.(4)... For as many as are of works of law are under a
curse," &c(5) These are only a few sentences of which the speech in
Acts is an echo, but no attentive reader can fail to perceive that it
contains in germ the whole of Pauline universalism.


From the Pauline author of the Acts this might fairly be expected, and
if we linguistically examine the speech, we have additional evidence
that it is simply, like others which we have considered, a composition
from his own pen. We shall, as briefly as possible, refer to every word
which is not of too common occurrence to require notice, and point out
where they are elsewhere used. The opening [------] occurs elsewhere in
the Acts 13 times, as we have already pointed out, being the favourite
phrase placed in the mouth of all speakers; [------], x. 28, xviii. 25,
xix. 15, 25, xx. 18, xxii. 19, xxiv. 10, xxvi. 3, 26, and elsewhere only
5 times. The phrase [------] at the beginning of a sentence has been
pointed out, in connection with a similar way of expressing the personal
pronoun in x. 28, [------], and [------], as consequently characteristic
of Peter, and considered "important as showing that these reports
are not only according to the _sense_ of what was said, but the words
spoken, _verbatim_."(1) This is to overlook the fact that the very same
words are put into the mouth of Paul. Peter commences his speech, xv.
7: [------] Paul begins his speech at Miletus, xx. 18: [------]; and
at Ephesus, Demetrius the silversmith commences his address, xix. 25:
[------] Cf. xxiii. 15. [------], xv. 21, xxi. 16; Luke ix. 8, 19;
elsewhere 6 times; the expression [------] does not elsewhere occur in
the New Testament, but [------] is common in the Septuagint. Cf. Ps.
xliii. 1, lxxvi. 5, cxlii. 5, Isaiah xxxvii. 26, Lament, i. 7, ii. 17,
&c, &c. [------], i. 2, 24, vi. 5, xiii. 17, xv. 22, 25; Luke


4 times, elsewhere 11 times, and of these the following with inf., Act*
i. 24 f., xv. 22, 25, Ephes. L 4. With the phrase [------](1) may be
compared that of Paul, xiii. 17,[------], and 1 Cor. i. 27, in which
[------] occurs twice, as well as again in the next verse, 28. [------]
i. 16, in. 18, 21; iv. 25; Luke i. 70; and the whole phrase [------],
may be compared with the words put into Paul's mouth, xxii. 14: [------]
xx. 24, in Paul's Epistles (4) 33 times, and elsewhere 42 times. Verse
8. [------] only occurs here and in i. 24, [------] where it forms part
of the prayer at the election of the successor to Judas. We have fully
examined the speech of Peter, i. 16 ffi, and shown its unhistorical
character, and that it is a free composition by the author of the Acts;
the prayer of the assembly is not ascribed to Peter in the work itself,
though apologists, grasping at the [------], assert that it must have
been delivered by that Apostle; but, with the preceding speech, the
prayer also must be attributed to the pen of the author; and if it be
maintained that Peter spoke in the Aramaic tongue(2) it is useless to
discuss the word at all, which of course in that case must be allowed to
belong to the author. [------], Acts 12- times, Luke 2, rest frequently;
with the phrase [------] may be compared Paul's words in xiii. 22,
[------]. Verse 9, [------], x. 20, xi. 2, 12, Paul 7 times, &c


[------], xii. 6, xiii. 42; Luke xi. 51, xvi. 26; rest 4 times.
[------], Acts 27 times, Luke 3, Paul 9, rest 15 times; re...
[------]Acts 33 times, Luke 5, Paul 4, rest 10 times--[------] is
clearly characteristic of the author, [------], Acts 15, Luke 11 times,
rest very frequently. [------], x. 15, xi. 9; Luke 7, and elsewhere
20 times, [------], x. 33, xvi. 36, xxiii. 15; an expression not found
elsewhere in the New Testament, and which is also indicative of the
Author's composition. Verse 10, [------], v. 9, xvi. 7, xxiv. 6; Luke
iv. 2, xi. 16, xx. 23, rest frequently; the question of Jesus in Luke
and the parallel passages, [------]; will occur to every one. [------],
Acts 12, Luke 6 times, the rest frequently. [------] does not occur
elsewhere, either in the Acts or third Gospel, but it is used precisely
in the same sense by Paul, Gal. v. 1, in a passage to which we have
called attention a few pages back(1) in connection with this speech.
[------], xx. 37, Luke xv. 20, xvii. 2; Romans xvi. 4, Matth. xviii.
6, Mark ix. 42; [------] occurs 4 times, [------], vi. 10, xix. 16, 20,
xxv. 7, xxvii. 16; Luke 8 times and elsewhere 15 times. [------], iii.
2, ix. 15, xxi. 35; Luke 5, Paul 6, rest 12 times. Verse 11, [------]
Acts 1? times, Luke 8, Paul 61 times, rest frequently. [------], Acts
38, Luke 9 times, rest frequently. [------], Acts 12, Luke 18 times,
rest frequently, [------], is also put into the mouth of Paul, xxvii.
25, and is not elsewhere found in the New Testament; [------], i. 11,
vii. 28; Luke xiii. 34; Matth. xxiii. 37, 2 Tim. iii. 8. [------], v.
37, xviii. 19; Luke xi. 7, 2, xx. 11, xxii. 12 and elsewhere in the
New Testament 17 times. It cannot be doubted that the language of this
speech is that of the author of the Acts, and no serious attempt has


been made to show that it is the language of Peter. If it be asserted
that, in the form before us, it is a translation, there is not the
slightest evidence to support the assertion; and it has to contend with
the unfortunate circumstance that, in the supposed process, the words of
Peter have not only become the words of the author, but his thoughts the
thoughts of Paul.

We may now inquire whether we find in authentic records of the Apostle
Peter's conduct and views any confirmation of the liberality which is
attributed to him in the Acts. He is here represented as proposing the
emancipation of Gentile Converts from the Mosaic law: does this accord
with the statements of the Apostle Paul and with such information as we
can elsewhere gather regarding Peter? Very much the contrary.

Peter in this speech claims that, long before, God had selected him
to make known the Gospel to the Gentiles, but Paul emphatically
distinguishes him as the Apostle of the Circumcision; and although,
accepting facts which had actually taken place and could not be
prevented, Peter with James and John gave Paul right hands of
fellowship, he remained, as he had been before, Apostle of the
Circumcision(1) and, as we shall see. did not practise the liberality
which he is said to have preached. Very shortly after the Council
described in the Acts, there occurred the celebrated dispute between
him and Paul which the latter proceeds to describe immediately after
the visit to Jerusalem: "But when Cephas came to Antioch," he writes, "I
withstood him to the face, for he was condemned. For before certain
came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he
withdrew and separated himself,


fearing those of the Circumcision. And the other Jews also joined in
his hypocrisy, insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their
hypocrisy. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to
the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Cephas before all: If thou being
a Jew livest [------] after the manner of Gentiles and not after the
manner of Jews, how compellest [------] thou the Gentiles to adopt the
customs of the Jews? [------]"(1)

It is necessary to say a few words as to the significance of Peter's
conduct and of Paul's rebuke, regarding which there is some difference
of opinion.(2) Are we to understand from this that Peter, as a general
rule, at Antioch and elsewhere, with enlightened emancipation from
Jewish prejudices, lived as a Gentile and in full communion with Gentile
Christians?(3) Meyer(4) and others argue that by the use of the present
[------], the Apostle indicates a continuous practice based upon
principle, and that the [------] is not the mere moral life, but
includes the external social observances of Christian community: the
object, in fact, being to show that upon principle Peter held the
advanced liberal views of Paul, and that the fault which he committed
in withdrawing from free intercourse with the Gentile Christians was
momentary, and merely the result of "occasional timidity and weakness."
This theory cannot bear the test of examination. The account of Paul is
clearly this: _when Cephas came to Antioch_, the


stronghold of Gentile Christianity, _before certain men came from
James_, he ate with the Gentiles, but as soon as these emissaries
arrived he withdrew, "fearing those of the circumcision." Had his normal
custom been to live like the Gentiles, how is it possible that he
could, on this occasion only, have feared those of the circumcision?
His practice must have been notorious; and had he, moreover, actually
expressed such opinions in the congress of Jerusalem, his confession of
faith having been so publicly made, and so unanimously approved by
the Church, there could not have been any conceivable cause for such
timidity. The fact evidently is, on the contrary, that Peter, under the
influence of Paul, was induced for the time to hold free communion with
the Gentile Christians; but as soon as the emissaries of James appeared
on the scene, he became alarmed at this departure from his principles,
and fell back again into his normal practice. If the present [------]
be taken to indicate continuous habit of life, the present [------]
very much more than neutralizes it. Paul with his usual uncompromising
frankness rebukes the vacillation of Peter: by adopting even for a
time fellowship with the Gentiles, Peter has practically recognised
its validity, has been guilty of hypocrisy in withdrawing from his
concession on the arrival of the followers of James, and is condemned;
but after such a concession he cannot legitimately demand that Gentile
Converts should "judaize." It is obvious that whilst Peter lived as
a Gentile, he could not have been compelling the Gentiles to adopt
Judaism. Paul, therefore, in saying: "Why compellest thou [------] the
Gentiles to adopt the customs of the Jews? [------]," very distinctly
intimates that the normal practice of Peter was to compel


Gentile Christians to adopt Judaism. There is no escaping this
conclusion for, after all specious reasoning to the contrary is
exhausted, there remains the simple fact that Peter, when placed in a
dilemma on the arrival of the emissaries of James, and forced to decide
whether he will continue to live as a Gentile or as a Jew, adopts the
latter alternative, and as Paul tells us "compels" (in the present) the
Gentiles to judaize. A stronger indication of his views could scarcely
have been given. Not a word is said which implies that Peter yielded to
the vehement protests of Paul, but on the contrary we must undoubtedly
conclude that he did not; for it is impossible to suppose that Paul
would not have stated a fact so pertinent to his argument, had the elder
Apostle been induced by his remonstrance to walk uprightly according
to the truth of the Gospel which Paul preached, and both to teach and
practice Christian universalism. We shall have abundant reason, apart
from this, to conclude that Peter did not yield, and it is no false
indication of this, that, a century after, we find the Clementine
Homilies expressing the bitterness of the Petrine party against the
Apostle of the Gentiles for this very rebuke, and representing Peter
as following his course from city to city for the purpose of refuting
Paul's unorthodox teaching.

It is contended that Peter's conduct at Antioch is in harmony with his
denial of his master related in the Gospels, and, therefore, that such
momentary and characteristic weakness might well have been displayed
even after his adoption of liberal principles. Those who argue in this
way, however, forget that the denial of Jesus, as described in the
Gospels, proceeded from the fear of death, and that such a reply to a
merely compromising question


which did not directly involve principles, is a very different thing
from conduct like that at Antioch where, under one influence, a line
of action was temporarily adopted which ratified views upon which the
opinion of the Church was divided, and then abandoned merely from fear
of the disapproval of those of the Circumcision. The author of the Acts
passes over this altercation in complete silence. No one has ever called
in question the authenticity of the account which Paul gives of it. If
Peter had the courage to make such a speech at the Council in the very
capital of Judaic Christianity, and in the presence of James and
the whole Church, how could he possibly, from fear of a few men from
Jerusalem, have shown such pusillanimity in Antioch, where Paul and
the mass of Christians supported him? If the unanimous decision of the
Council had really been a fact, how easily he might have silenced any
objections by an appeal to that which had "seemed good to the Holy
Spirit" and to the Church! But there is not the slightest knowledge of
the Council and its decree betrayed either by those who came from James,
or by Peter, or Paul. The episode at Antioch is inconsistent with the
conduct and words ascribed to Peter in the Acts, and contradicts the
narrative in the fifteenth chapter which we are examining.(1)

The author of the Acts states that after Peter had spoken, "all the
multitude kept silence and were hearing


Barnabas and Paul declaring what signs and wonders God had wrought among
the Gentiles by them."(1) We shall not at present pause to consider
this statement, nor the _rôle_ which Paul is made to play in the whole
transaction, beyond pointing out that, on an occasion when such a
subject as the circumcision of the Gentiles and their subjection to the
Mosaic law was being discussed, nothing could be more opposed to
nature than to suppose that a man like the author of the Epistle to the
Galatians could have assumed so passive, and subordinate an attitude.(2)
After Barnabas and Paul had spoken, James is represented as saying: "Men
(and) brethren, hear me. Simeon declared how God at first did visit the
Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this agree
the words of the prophets; as it is written: 'After this I will return,
and will build again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down;
and I will build again the ruins thereof, and will set it up: that the
residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom
my name has been called, saith the Lord who doeth these things, known
from the beginning.' Wherefore, I judge that we trouble not those from
among the Gentiles who are turning to God; but that we write unto them
that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication,
and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations
of old hath in every city those who preach him, being read in the
synagogues every Sabbath."(3) There are many reasons for which this


speech also must be pronounced inauthentic.(1) It may be observed, in
passing, that James completely disregards the statement which Barnabas
and Paul are supposed to make as to what God had wrought by them among
the Gentiles; and, ignoring their intervention, he directly refers to
the preceding speech of Peter claiming to have first been selected to
convert the Gentiles. We shall reserve discussion of the conditions
which James proposes to impose upon Gentile Christians till we come to
the apostolic decree which embodies them.

The precise signification of the sentence with which (ver. 21) he
concludes has been much debated, but need not detain us long. Whatever
may be said of the liberal part of the speech it is obvious that the
author has been more true to the spirit of the time in conceiving this
and other portions of it, than in composing the speech of Peter. The
continued observance of the Mosaic ritual, and the identity of the
synagogue with the Christian Church are correctly indicated; and when
James is again represented (xxi. 20 ff.) as advising Paul to join those
who had avow, in order to prove that he himself walked orderly and was
an observer of the law, and did not teach the Jews to apostatize from
Moses and abandon the rite of circumcision, he is consistent in
his portrait It is nevertheless clear that, however we may read the
restrictions which


James proposes to impose upon Gentile Christians, the author of Acts
intends them to be considered as a most liberal and almost complete
concession of immunity. "I judge," he makes James say, "that we trouble
not those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God;" and again, on
the second occasion of which we have just been speaking, in referring
to the decree, a contrast is drawn between the Christian Jews, from
whom observance of the law is demanded, and the Gentiles, who are only
expected to follow the prescriptions of the decree.

James is represented as supporting the statement of Peter how God
visited the Gentiles by "the words of the Prophets," quoting a passage
from Amos. ix. 11, 12. It is difficult to see how the words, even
as quoted, apply to the case at all, but this is immaterial. Loose
reasoning can certainly not be taken as a mark of inauthenticity. It is
much more to the point that James, addressing an assembly of Apostles
and elders in Jerusalem, quotes the prophet Amos freely from the
Septuagint version,(1) which differs widely in the latter and more
important part from the Hebrew text.(3) The passage in the Hebrew reads:
ix. 11. "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is
fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his
ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old, 12. that they may
possess the remnant of


Edom, and of all the heathen upon whom my name is called, saith the
Lord that doeth this." The authors of the Septuagint version altered the
twelfth verse into: "That the residue of men may seek after the Lord and
all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doeth
these things."(1) It is perfectly clear that the prophet does not, in
the original, say what James is here represented as stating, and that
his own words refer to the national triumph of Israel, and not to the
conversion of the Gentiles. Amos in fact prophesies that the Lord will
restore the former power and glory of Israel, and that the remnant of
Edom and the other nations of the theocracy shall be re-united, as they
were under David. No one questions the fact that the original prophecy
is altered, and those who desire to see the singular explanations of
apologists may refer to some of the works indicated.(2) The question
as to whether James or the author of the Acts is responsible for the
adoption of the Septuagint version is felt to be a serious problem.
Some critics affirm that in all probability James must have spoken in
Aramaic;(3) whilst others maintain that he delivered this


address in Greek.(1) In the one case, it is supposed that he quoted the
original Hebrew and that the author of the Acts or the document from
which he derived his report may have used the Septuagint; and in the
other, it is suggested that the lxx. may have had another and more
correct reading before them, for it is supposed impossible that James
himself could have quoted a version which was actually different from
the original Hebrew. These and many other similar explanations, into
which we need not go, do little to remove the difficulty presented by
the fact itself. To suppose that our Hebrew texts are erroneous in order
to justify the speech is a proceeding which does not require remark. It
will be remembered that, in the Acts, the Septuagint is always employed
in quotations from the Old Testament, and that this is by no means
the only place in which that version is used when it departs from the
original. It is difficult to conceive that any intelligent Jew could
have quoted the Hebrew of this passage to support a proposal to free
Gentile Christians from the necessity of circumcision and the observance
of the Mosaic Law. It is equally difficult to suppose that James, a
bigoted leader of the Judaistic party and the head of the Church
of Jerusalem, could have quoted the Septuagint version of the Holy
Scriptures, differing from the Hebrew, to such an assembly. It is
useless to examine here the attempts to make the passage quoted a
correct interpretation of the prophet's meaning, or seriously to
consider the proposition that this alteration of a prophetic utterance
is adopted as better


expressing "the mind of the Spirit." If the original prophecy did not
express that mind, it is rather late to amend the utterances of the
prophets in the Acts of the Apostles.

We may now briefly examine the speech linguistically. Verse 13: The
opening as usual is [------], but the whole phrase [------] is put into
the mouth of Paul in xxii. 1, [------], and with but little variation
again in xiii. 16. Cf. ii. 22. The use of the Hebrew form [------] in
speaking of Peter, has been pointed out by Bleek(1) and others, after
Lightfoot,(2) as a characteristic peculiarity showing the authenticity
of the speech. The same form occurs in 2 Pet. i. 1, but its use in that
spurious epistle is scarcely calculated to give weight to its use here.
If it be characteristic of anyone, however, its use is characteristic
of the author of the third Gospel and the Acts, and in no case is it
peculiarly associated with James. In addition to the instance referred
to above, and Apoc. vii. 7, where the tribe of Simeon is thus named, the
Jewish form [------] of the name Simon occurs four times only in the New
Testament, and they are conflned to our author: Acts xiii. 1; Luke ii.
25, 34, iii. 30. Being acquainted with the Jewish form of the name,
he made use of it in this speech probably for the effect of local
colouring. [------], xv. 12, xxi. 19; Luke xxiv. 35, and nowhere else
except John i. 18--it is peculiar to the author, [------], Acts 11, Luke
16 times, and elsewhere frequently, [------], iii. 26, vii. 12, xi. 26,
xiii. 46, xxvi. 20; Luke 10 times; Jam. iii. 17; Paul 10 times, rest
frequently. [------], vi. 3, vii. 23, xv. 36; Luke i. 68,


78, vii. 16; Matth. xxv. 36, 43, Hebr. ii. 6, Jam. i. 27, that is to
say 7 times used by the author and only 4 times in the rest of the New
Testament; compare especially Luke i. 68, and vii. 16. [------] opposed
to [------], xxvi. 17, 23. The expression [------] occurs ii. 38, iv.
17, 18, v. 28, 40; Luke ix. 48, 49, xxi. 8, xxiv. 47, and only 5 times
in the rest of the New Testament. Verse 15: [------], v. 9; Luke v. 36,
and Matth. xviii. 19, xx. 2, 13 only. Verse 16: In this quotation
from Amos, for the i[------] of the Septuagint, the Author substitutes
[------], which phrase occurs elsewhere in Acts vii. 7, xiii. 20, xviii.
1; Luke v. 27, x. 1, xii. 4, xvii. 8, xviii. 4. [------], v. 22 and 9
times elsewhere. Verse 18: [------], i. 19, ii. 14, iv. 10, 16, ix. 42,
xiii. 38, xix. 17, xxviii. 22, 28 = 10 times in Acts; Luke i. 44, xxiii.
49; elsewhere only in Rom. i. 19, John xviii. 15, 16,--a characteristic
word. So likewise is the expression [------], iii. 21, Luke i. 70;
[------] occurs in Ephes. iii. 9, Col. i. 26. These words are added to
the passage quoted from the Septuagint. Verse 19: [------] is used 11
times in Acts; Luke i. 35, vii. 7; by Paul 18 times, Ep. Jam. twice, and
elsewhere 25 times. [------], 22 times in Acts; Luke 6 times, Paul
37 times, Ep. Jam. 6, and elsewhere 44 times, [------] is not found
elsewhere in the New Testament. [------], Acts 11, Luke 7, Jam. v. 19,
20, rest 19 times; the phrase [------] is a favourite and characteristic
expression of the Author, who uses it ix. 35, xi. 21, xiv. 15, xxvi.
20, and Luke i. 16, and it does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament
except in 1 Pet. ii. 25. Verse 20: [------], xxi. 25, and Hebr. xiii. 22
only. [------] xv. 29, Luke vi. 24, vii. 6, xv. 20, xxiv. 13, 1 Thess.
iv. 3, v. 22, 1 Tim. iv. 3, 1 Pet. ii. 11, and


elsewhere 7 times; in both passages of the Ep. to the Thess. it is used
with [------] as here. [------] is not elsewhere found. [------], vii.
41; 6 times by Paul, and elsewhere 3: it occurs very frequently in
the Septuagint. [------], xv. 29, xxi. 25; Paul 8, elsewhere 15 times.
[------], xv. 29, xxi. 25, a technical word. [------], Acts 12, Luke 11
times, rest frequently, [------], ii. 40, viii. 33, xiii. 36, xiv. 16;
Luke 13 times, Matth. 13, Mk. 5, rest 5 times. [------], xv. 7, xxi. 16;
Luke ix. 8, 19, elsewhere 7 times. [------], xv. 36, xx. 23, xxiv. 12;
Luke viii. 1, 4, xiii. 22, and elsewhere only in Tit. i. 5. [------],
viii. 5, ix. 20, x. 37, 42, xix. 13, xx. 25, xxviii. 31; Luke 9, Paul
14, elsewhere 30 times. [------], Acts 9, Luke 20, rest 35 times, the
whole phrase [------] occurs again in the Acts, being put into the mouth
of Paul xiii. 27, and [------] being used by the writer in xviii. 4.
[------], Acts 20; Luke 15, rest 22 times, [------], viii. 28, 30 twice,
32, xiii. 27, xv. 31, xxiii. 34; Luke 3, and elsewhere 22 times. This
analysis confirms the conclusion that the speech of James at the
Council proceeds likewise from the pen of the general author, and the
incomprehensible liberality of the sentiments expressed, as well as the
peculiarity of the quotation from Amos according to the Septuagint, thus
receive at once their simple explanation.

If we now compare the account of James's share in granting liberal
conditions to Gentile Christians with the statements of Paul, we arrive
at the same result. It is in consequence of the arrival of "certain
men from James" [------] that Peter through fear of them withdrew from
communion with the


Gentiles. It will be remembered that the whole discussion is said to
have arisen in Antioch originally from the judaistic teaching of certain
men who came "from Judæa," who are disowned in the apostolic letter.(1)
It is unfortunate, however, to say the least of it, that so many of
those who systematically opposed the work of the Apostle Paul claimed to
represent the views of James and the mother Church.(2) The contradiction
of the author of the Acts, with his object of conciliation, has but
small weight before the statements of Paul and the whole voice of
tradition. At any rate, almost immediately after the so-called Apostolic
Council, with its decree adopted mainly at the instigation of James, his
emissaries caused the defection of Peter in Antioch and the rupture with
Paul. It is generally admitted, in the face of the clear affirmation
of Paul, that the men in question must in all probability have been
actually sent by James.3 It is obvious that, to justify the fear of so
leading an apostle as Peter, not only must they have been thus deputed,
but must have been influential men,

     2 "Of the Judaizers who are denounced in St. Paul's Epistles
     this much is certain, that they exalted the authority of the
     Apostles of the Circumcision; and that, in some instances at
     least, as members of the mother Church, they had direct
     relations with James, the Lord's brother. But when we
     attempt to define those relations, we are lost in a maze of
     conjecture."   Lightfoot, Ep. to the Gal., p. 353.


representing authoritative and prevalent judaistic opinions. We shall
not attempt to divine the object of their mission, but we may say that
it is impossible to separate them from the judaistic teachers who urged
circumcision upon the Galatian Christians and opposed the authority of
the Apostle Paul. Not pursuing this further at present, however, it
is obvious that the effect produced by these emissaries is quite
incompatible with the narrative that, so short a time before, James and
the Church of Jerusalem had unanimously promulgated conditions, under
which the Gentile Christians were freely admitted into communion,
and which fully justified Peter in eating with them. The incident at
Antioch, as connected with James as well as with Peter, excludes the
supposition that the account of the Council contained in the Acts can be
considered historical. The Apostolic letter embodying the decree of the
Council now demands our attention. It seemed good to the Apostles and
the elders with the whole Church to choose two leading men among the
brethren, and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, and they
wrote by them (xv. 23):--"The Apostles and brethren which are elders
unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and
Cilicia, greeting. 24. Forasmuch as we heard that certain which went out
from us troubled you with words, subverting your souls, to whom we gave
no commandment, 25. it seemed good unto us, having become of one mind,
to choose out and send men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26. men that have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. 27. We have, therefore, sent Judas and Silas, who shall also
tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28. For it seemed good to
the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these


things: 29. that ye abstain from meats offered to idols and from blood,
and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep
yourselves ye shall do well. Fare ye well." l It is argued that
the simplicity of this composition, its brevity and the absence of
hierarchical tendency, prove the authenticity and originality of the
epistle. Nothing, however, could be more arbitrary than to assert that
the author of the Acts, composing a letter supposed to be written under
the circumstances, would have written one different from this. We shall,
on the contrary, see good reason for affirming that he actually did
compose it, and that it bears the obvious impress of his style. Besides,
Zeller(2) has pointed out that, in a document affirmed to be so removed
from all calculation or object, verse 26 could hardly have found a
place. The reference to "our beloved" Barnabas and Paul, as "men that
have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," is
scarcely consistent with the primitive brevity and simplicity which are
made the basis of such an argument.

In the absence of better evidence, apologists grasp at extremely slight
indications of authenticity, and of this nature seems to us the mark
of genuineness which Bleek and others(3) consider that they find in the


that the name of Barnabas is placed before that of Paul in this
document. It is maintained that, from the 13th chapter, the author
commences to give the precedence to Paul, but that, in reverting to the
former order, the synodal letter gives evidence both of its antiquity
and genuineness. If any weight could be attached to such an indication,
it is unfortunate for this argument that the facts are not as stated,
for the order "Barnabas and Paul" occurs at xiv. 12 and 14, and even in
the very account of the Council at xv. 12. The two names are mentioned
together in the Acts sixteen times, Barnabas being named first eight
times (xi. 30, xii. 25, xiii. 1, 2, 7, xiv. 12, 14, xv. 12), and Paul as
frequently (xiii. 43, 46, 50, xv. 2 twice, 22, 25, 35). Apologists
like Lekebusch(1) and Oertel(2) reject Bleek's argument. The greeting
[------] with which the letter opens, and which, amongst the Epistles of
the New Testament, is only found in that bearing the name of James
(i. 1), is said to be an indication that the letter of the Council was
written by James himself.(3) Before such an argument could avail, it
would be necessary, though difficult, to prove the authenticity of the
Epistle of James, but we need not enter upon such a question. [------]
is the ordinary Greek form of greeting in all epistles,(4) and the
author of Acts, who writes purer Greek than any


other writer in our Canon, naturally adopts it. Not only does he do so
here, however, but he makes use of the same [------] in the letter of
the chief captain Lysias (xxiii. 26),(1) which also evidently proceeds
from his hand. Moreover, the word is used as a greeting in Luke i. 28,
and not unfrequently elsewhere in the New Testament, as Mattli. xxvi.
49, xxvii. 29, xxviii. 9, Mark xv. 18, John xix. 3,2 John 10, 11.
Lekebusch,(2) Meyer,(3) and Oertel(4) reject the argument, and we may
add that if [------] prove anything, it proves that the author of
Acts, who uses the word in the letter of Lysias, also wrote the synodal
letter. In what language must we suppose that the Epistle was originally
written? Oertel maintains an Aramaic original,(5) but the greater number
of writers consider that the original language was Greek.(6) It cannot
be denied that the composition, as it stands, contains many of the
peculiarities of style of the author of Acts;(7) and these are, indeed,
so marked that even apologists like Lekebusch and Oertel, whilst
maintaining the substantial authenticity of the Epistle, admit that
at least its actual form must be ascribed to the general author. The
originality of the form being abandoned, it is difficult to perceive any
ground for asserting the originality and genuineness of


the substance. That assertion rests solely upon a vague traditional
confidence in the Author of Acts, which is shown to be without any solid
foundation. The form of this Epistle clearly professes to be as genuine
as the substance, and if the original language was Greek, there is
absolutely no reason why the original letter should have been altered.
The similarity of the construction to that of the prologue to the third
Gospel, in which the personal style of the writer may be supposed to
have beeu most unreservedly shown, has long been admitted:--


A more detailed linguistic examination of the Epistle, however, confirms
the conclusion already stated. Verse 23: [------], ii. 23, v. 12, vii.
25, xi. 30, xiv. 3, xix. 11, 26, and elsewhere the expression is only
met with in Mark vi. 2; the phrase [------] finds a parallel in xi. 30,
[------], k. t. X. The characteristic expression [------], is repeated,
xi. 1, xvi. 7, xxvii. 2, 5, 7. Verse 24: [------], xiii. 46, xiv. 12,
Luke vii. 1, xi. 6, cf. i. 1; Paul 5, rest only 2 times. [------], xvii.
8,13, Luke i. 12, xxiv. 38, elsewhere thirteen times. [------] is not
found elsewhere, but the preference of our writer for compounds
of [------], and [------] is marked, and of these consists a large
proportion of his [------], Acts 15, Luke 14 times, and frequently
elsewhere; the phrase [------], may be compared with xiv. 22, [------],
cf. xiv. 2. [------]


not elsewhere found in Acts, but it occurs Matth. xvi. 20, Mark v. 43,
vii. 36 twice, viii. 15, ix. 9, and Heb. xii. 20. Verse 25: [------],
Acts 8, Luke 11, Paul 17 times, elsewhere frequently. [------], i. 14,
ii. 1, 46, iv. 24, v. 12, xii. 57, viii. 6, xii. 20, xviii. 12, xix.
29; so that this word, not in very common use even in general Greek
literature, occurs 10 times elsewhere in the Acts, but, except in Rom.
xv. 6, is not employed by any other New Testament writer. [------],
i. 2, 24, vi. 5, xiii. 17, xv. 7, 22, Luke vi. 13, x. 42, xiv. 7, and
elsewhere 11 times, [------], Acts 11, Luke 10 times, elsewhere common,
[------] is not elsewhere used in Acts, but is found in Luke iii.
22, ix. 35, xx. 13, Paul 13 times, and is common elsewhere. Verse 26:
[------], Acts 13, Luke 17 times, and common elsewhere, [------], xxi.
13, v. 41, ix. 16, Rom. i. 5, 3 John 7. Verse 27: [------], Acts 25,
Luke 26 times, elsewhere very frequently. [------], xv. 32. [------],
Acts 14, Luke 11, rest 21 times, [------], Luke vi. 23, 26; [------],
Acts i. 15, ii. 1, 44, iii. 1, iv. 26, xiv. 1; Luke vi. 33, xvii. 35.
Verse 28: [------], Acts 12, Luke 4, Paul 6, elsewhere 13 times; the
same expression, [------]... is also found in Luke iii. 13. [------],
Acts 13, Luke 6, elsewhere 21 times. [------] is not elsewhere met with
in Acts, but occurs Matt. xx. 12, 2 Cor. iv. 17, Gal. vi. 2, 1 Thes.
il 6, Apoc. ii. 24. [------], viii. 1, xx. 23, xxvii. 22, Luke
15, elsewhere 13 times. [------] is not elsewhere found in the New
Testament. Verse 29: [------], xv. 20, Luke vi. 24, vii. 6, xv. 20,
xxiv. 13, elsewhere 12 times. [------], xxi. 25, 1 Cor. viii. 1, 4, 7,
10, x. 19, 28, Apoc. ii. 14, 20. [------] occurs only in Luke ii. 51.
[------], Acts 12, Luke 6, Paul 15, elsewhere 5 times only, [------],


usual Greek formula for the ending of a letter, [------], is nowhere
else used in the New Testament, except at the close of the letter of
Lysias, xxiii. 30.

Turning now from the letter to the spirit of this decree, we must
endeavour to form some idea of its purport and bearing. The first point
which should be made clear is, that the question raised before the
Council solely affected the Gentile converts, and that the conditions
contained in the decree were imposed upon that branch of the Church
alone. No change whatever in the position of Jewish Christians was
contemplated; they were left as before, subject to the Mosaic law.(1)
This is very apparent in the reference which is made long after to the
decree, Ch. xxi. 20 ff., 25, when the desire is expressed to Paul by
James, who proposed the decree, and the elders of Jerusalem, that he
should prove to the many thousands of believing Jews all zealous of the
law, that he did not teach the Jews who were among the Gentiles apostasy
from Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children,
neither to walk after the customs. Paul, who is likewise represented, in
the Acts, as circumcising with his own hand, after the decision of the
Council had been adopted, Timothy the son of a Greek, whose mother was
a Jewess, consents to give the Jews of Jerusalem the required proof. We
have already shown at the commencement of this section, that


nothing was further from the minds of the Jewish Christians than the
supposition that the obligation to observe the Mosaic law was weakened
by the adoption of Christianity; and the representation in the Acts
is certainly so far correct, that it does not pretend that Jewish
Christians either desired or sanctioned any relaxation of Mosaic
observances on the part of believing Jews. This cannot be too distinctly
remembered in considering the history of primitive Christianity. The
initiatory rite was essential to full participation in the Covenant.
It was left for Paul to preach the abrogation of the law and the
abandonment of circumcision. If the speech of Peter seems to suggest
the abrogation of the law even for Jews, it is only in a way which
shows that the author had no clear historical fact to relate, and merely
desired to ascribe, vaguely and indefinitely, Pauline sentiments to
the Apostle of the circumcision. No remark whatever is made upon these
strangely liberal expressions of Peter, and neither the proposition of
James nor the speech in which he makes it takes the slightest notice
of them. The conduct of Peter at Antioch and the influence exercised by
James through his emissaries restore us to historical ground. Whether
the author intended to represent that the object of the conditions of
the decree was to admit the Gentile Christians to full communion with
the Jewish, or merely to the subordinate position of Proselytes of the
Gate, is uncertain, but it is not necessary to discuss the point. There
is not the slightest external evidence that such a decree ever existed,
and the more closely the details are examined the more evident does
it become that it has no historical consistency. How, and upon what
principle, were these singular conditions selected? Their heterogeneous
character is at once apparent, but not so the


reason for a combination which is neither limited to Jewish customs nor
sufficiently representative of moral duties. It has been argued, on
the one hand, that the prohibitions of the apostolic decree are simply
those, reduced to a necessary minimum, which were enforced in the case
of heathen converts to Judaism who did not join themselves fully to the
people of the Covenant by submitting to circumcision, but were admitted
to imperfect communion as Proselytes of the Gate.(1) The conditions
named, however, do not fully represent the rules framed for such cases,
and many critics consider that the conditions imposed, although they may
have been influenced by the Noachiaii prescriptions, were rather moral
duties which it was, from special circumstances, thought expedient to
specify.(2) "We shall presently refer to some of these conditions,
but bearing in mind the views which were dominant amongst primitive
Christians, and more especially, as is obvious, amongst the Christians
of Jerusalem where this decree is supposed to have been unanimously
adopted, bearing in mind the teaching which is said to have led to the
Council, the episode at Antioch, and the systematic judaistic
opposition which retarded the work of Paul and subsequently affected his
reputation, it may be instructive


to point out not only the vagueness which exists as to the position
which it was intended that the Gentiles should acquire, as the effect of
this decree, but also its singular and total inefficiency. An apologetic
writer, having of course in his mind the fact that there is no trace of
the operation of the decree, speaks of its conditions as follows: "The
miscellaneous character of these prohibitions showed that, taken as
a whole, they had no binding force independently of the circumstances
which dictated them. They were a temporary expedient framed to meet a
temporary emergency. Their object was the avoidance of offence in mixed
communities of Jew and Gentile converts. Beyond this recognised aim and
general understanding implied therein, the limits of their application
were not defined."1 In fact the immunity granted to the Gentiles was
thus practically almost unconditional.

It is obvious, however, that every consideration which represents the
decree as more completely emancipating Gentile Christians from Mosaic
obligations, and admitting them into free communion with believers
amongst the Jews, places it in more emphatic contradiction to historical
facts and the statements of the Apostle Paul. The unanimous adoption
of such a measure in Jerusalem, on the one hand, and, on the other,
the episode at Antioch, the fear of Peter, the silence of Paul, and the
attitude of James become perfectly inconceivable. If on the contrary the
conditions were seriously imposed and really meant anything, a number
of difficulties spring up of which we shall presently speak. That the
prohibitions, in the opinion of the author of the Acts, constituted a
positive and binding obligation can scarcely be doubted by anyone who
considers the terms in which they are laid down. If


they are represented as a concession they are nevertheless recognised as
a "burden," and they are distinctly stated to be the obligations which
"it seemed good to the Holy Spirit" as well as to the Council to impose.
The qualification, that the restrictive clauses had no binding force
"independently of the circumstances which dictated them," in so far as
it has any meaning beyond the unnecessary declaration that the decree
was only applicable to the class for whom it was framed, seems to
be inadmissible. The circumstance which dictated the decree was the
counter-teaching of Jewish Christians, that it was necessary that the
Gentile converts should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. The
restrictive clauses are simply represented as those which it was deemed
right to impose; and, as they are stated without qualification, it is
holding the decision of the "Holy Spirit" and of the Church somewhat
cheap to treat them as mere local and temporary expedients. This is
evidently not the view of the author of the Acts. Would it have been the
view of anyone else if it were not that, so far as any external trace
of the decree is concerned, it is an absolute myth? The prevalence of
practices to which the four prohibitions point is quite sufficiently
attested to show that, little as there is any ground for considering
that such a decree was framed in such a manner, the restrictive clauses
are put forth as necessary and permanently binding. The very doubt which
exists as to whether the prohibitions were not intended to represent the
conditions imposed on Proselytes of the Gate shows their close analogy
to them, and it cannot be reasonably asserted that the early Christians
regarded those conditions either as obsolete or indifferent. The decree
is clearly intended to set forth the terms upon which Gentile Christians


to be admitted into communion, and undoubtedly is to be taken as
applicable not merely to a few districts, but to the Gentiles in

The account which Paul gives of his visit not only ignores any such
decree, but excludes it. In the first place, taking into account the
Apostle's character and the spirit of his Epistle, it is impossible
to suppose that Paul had any intention of submitting, as to higher
authority, the Gospel which he preached, for the judgment of the elder
Apostles and of the Church of Jerusalem.(1) Nothing short of this is
involved in the account in the Acts, and in the form of the decree
which promulgates, in an authoritative manner, restrictive clauses which
"seemed good to the Holy Spirit" and to the Council. The temper of
the man is well shown in Paul's indignant letter to the Galatians. He
receives his Gospel, not from men, but by direct revelation from Jesus
Christ and, so far is he from submission of the kind implied, that he
says: "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto
you any Gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be
accursed. As we have said before, so say I now again: If any man preach
any Gospel to you other than that ye received, let him be accursed."(2)
That the Apostle here refers to his own peculiar teaching, and does so
in contradistinction to the Gospel preached by the Judaizers, is evident
from the preceding words: "I marvel that ye are so soon removing from
him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different Gospel;
which is not another, only there are


some that trouble you, and desire to pervert the Gospel of Christ."(1)
Passing from this, however, to the restrictive clauses in general, how
is it possible that Paul could state, as the result of his visit, that
the "pillar" Apostles "communicated nothing" after hearing his Gospel,
if the four conditions of this decree had thus been authoritatively
"communicated"? On the contrary, Paul distinctly adds that, in
acknowledging his mission, but one condition had been attached: "Only
that we should remember the poor; which very thing I also was forward to
do."(2) As one condition is here mentioned, why not the others, had any
been actually imposed? It is argued that the remembrance of the poor of
Jerusalem which is thus inculcated was a recommendation personally made
to Paul and Barnabas, but it is clear that the Apostle's words refer to
the result of his communication of his Gospel, and to the understanding
under which his mission to the Gentiles was tolerated.

We have already pointed out how extraordinary it is that such a decision
of the Council should not have been referred to in describing his visit,
and the more we go into details the more striking and inexplicable,
except in one way, is such silence. In relating the struggle regarding
the circumcision of Titus, for instance, and stating that he did not
yield, no, not for an hour, to the demands made on the subject, is it
conceivable that, if the exemption of all Gentile Christians from the
initiatory rite had


been unanimously conceded, Paul would not have added to his statement
about Titus, that not only he himself had not been compelled to give way
in this instance, but that his representations had even convinced those
who had been Apostles before him, and secured the unanimous adoption of
his own views on the point? The whole of this Epistle is a vehement and
intensely earnest denunciation of those Judaizers who were pressing the
necessity of the initiatory rite upon the Galatian converts.(1) Is it
possible that the Apostle could have left totally unmentioned the fact
that the Apostles and the very Church of Jerusalem had actually declared
circumcision to be unnecessary? It would not have accorded with Paul's
character, it is said, to have appealed to the authority of the elder
Apostles or of the Church in a matter in which his own apostolic
authority and teaching were in question. In that case, bow can it be
supposed that he ever went at all up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and
elders about this question? If he was not too proud to lay aside his
apostolic dignity and, representing the Christians of Antioch, to submit
the case to the Council at Jerusalem, and subsequently to deliver its
decree to various communities, is it consistent with reason or common
sense to assert that he was too proud to recall the decision of that
Council to the Christians of Galatia? It must, we think, be obvious
that, if such an explanation of Paul's total silence as to the decree be
at all valid, it is absolutely fatal to the account of Paul's visit in
the Acts. This reasoning is not confined to the Epistle to the Galatians
but, as Paley

     1 "Turning from Antioch to Galatia, we meet with Judaic
     teachers who urged circumcision on the Gentile converts,
     and, as the best means of weakening the authority of St.
     Paul, asserted for the Apostles of the Circumcision the
     exclusive right of dictating to the Church." Lightfoot, Ep.
     to the Gal. p. 353.


points out, applies to the other Epistles of Paul, in all of which the
same silence is preserved.

Moreover, the apologetic explanation altogether fails upon other
grounds. Without appealing to the decree as an authority, we must feel
sure that the Apostle would at least have made use of it as a logical
refutation of his adversaries. The man who did not hesitate to attack
Peter openly for inconsistency, and charge him with hypocrisy, would not
have hesitated to cite the decree as evidence, and still less to fling
it in the faces of those Judaizers who, so short a time after that
decree is supposed to have been promulgated, preached the necessity of
circumcision and Mosaic observances in direct opposition to its terms,
whilst claiming to represent the views of the very Apostles and Church
which had framed it. Paul, who never denies the validity of their claim,
would most certainly have taunted them with gross inconsistency and
retorted that the Church of Jerusalem, the Apostles, and the Judaizers
who now troubled him and preached circumcision and the Mosaic law had,
four or five years previously, declared as the deliberate decision of
the Holy Spirit and the Council, that they were no longer binding on the
Gentile converts. By such a reference "the discussion would have been
foreclosed." None of the reasons which are suggested to explain the
undeniable fact that there is no mention of the decree can really bear
examination, and that fact remains supported by a great many powerful
considerations, leading to the very simple explanation which reconciles
all difficulties, that the narrative of the Acts is not authentic.

We arrive at the very same results when we examine the Apostle's
references to the practices which the conditions of the decree were
intended to control. Instead of recognising the authority of the decree,
or enforcing its


prescriptions, he does not even allow us to infer its existence, and
he teaches disregard at least of some of its restrictions. The decree
enjoins the Gentile Christians to abstain from meats offered to idols.
Paul tells the Corinthians to eat whatever meat is sold in the shambles
without asking questions for conscience sake, for an idol is nothing in
the world, "neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not
are we the worse."(1) It is not conceivable that the Apostle could so
completely have ignored the prohibition of the decree if he had actually
submitted the question to the Apostles, and himself so distinctly
acquiesced in their decision as to distribute the document amongst the
various communities whom he subsequently visited. To argue that the
decree was only intended to have force in Antioch, and Syria, and
Cilicia, to which, as the locality in which the difficulty had arisen
which had originally led to the Council, the decree was, in the first
instance, addressed, is highly arbitrary; but, when proceeding further,
apologists(2) draw a distinction between those churches "which had
already been founded, and which had felt the pressure of Jewish
prejudice (Acts xvi. 4)," and "brotherhoods afterwards formed and lying
beyond the reach of such influences," as a reason why no notice of the
decree is taken in the case of the Corinthians and Romans, the
special pleading ignores very palpable facts. "Jewish prejudices" are
represented in the Acts of the Apostles themselves as being more than
usually strong in Corinth. There was a Jewish synagogue there, augmented
probably by the Jews expelled from Rome under Claudius,(3) and their
violence against


Paul finally obliged him to leave the place.(1) Living in the midst of
an idolatrous city, and much exposed to the temptations of
sacrificial feasts, we might naturally expect excessive rigour against
participation, on the one hand, and perhaps too great indifference, on
the other; and this we actually find to have been the case. It is in
consequence of questions respecting meats offered to idols that Paul
writes to the Corinthians, and whilst treating the matter in itself as
one of perfect indifference, merely inculcates consideration for weak
consciences.(2) It is clear that there was a decided feeling against
the practice; it is clear that strong Jewish prejudices existed in the
Jewish colony at Corinth, and wherever there were Jews the eating
of meats offered to idols was an abomination. The sin of Israel at
Baalpeor(3) lived in the memory of the people, and abstinence from such
pollution(4) was considered a duty. If the existence of such "Jewish
prejudices" was a reason for publishing the decree, we have, in fact,
more definite evidence of them in Corinth than we have in Antioch, for,
apart from this specific mention of the subject of eating sacrificial
meats, the two apostolic letters abundantly show the existence and
activity of Judaistic parties there, which opposed the work of Paul, and
desired to force Mosaic observances upon his converts. It is impossible
to admit that, supposing such a decree to have been promulgated as the
mind of the Holy Spirit, there could be any reason why it should have
been unknown at Corinth so short a time after it was adopted. When,
therefore, we find the Apostle not only ignoring it, but actually
declaring that to be a matter of indifference, abstinence from which it
had just seemed


good to the Holy Spirit to enjoin, the only reasonable conclusion is
that Paul himself was totally ignorant of the existence of any decree
containing such a prohibition. There is much difference of opinion as
to the nature of the [------] referred to in the decree, and we need not
discuss it; but in all the Apostle's homilies upon the subject there is
the same total absence of all allusion to the decision of the Council.

Nowhere can any practical result from the operation of the decree be
pointed out, nor any trace even of its existence.1 The assertions
and conjectures, by which those who maintain the authenticity of the
narrative in the Acts seek to explain the extraordinary absence of all
external evidence of the decree, labour under the disadvantage of all
attempts to account for the total failure of effects from a supposed
cause, the existence of which is in reality only assumed. It is
customary to reply to the objection that there is no mention of the
decree in the Epistles of Paul or in any other contemporary writing,
that this is a mere argument _a silentio_. Is it not, however, difficult
to imagine any other argument, from contemporary sources, regarding
what is affirmed to have had no existence, than that from silence 1 Do
apologists absolutely demand that, with prophetic anticipation of future
controversies, the Apostle Paul should obligingly have left on record
that there actually was no Council such as a writer would subsequently
describe, and that the decree which he


would put forward as the result of that Council must not he accepted as
genuine? It is natural to expect that, when writing of the very visit in
question, and dealing with subjects and discussions in which, whether
in the shape of historical allusion, appeal to authority, taunt for
inconsistency, or assertion of his own influence, some allusion to the
decree would have been highly appropriate, if not necessary, the Apostle
Paul should at least have given some hint of its existence. His
not doing so constitutes strong presumptive evidence against the
authenticity of the decree, and all the more so as no more positive
evidence than silence could possibly be forthcoming of the non-existence
of that which never existed. The supposed decree of the Council of
Jerusalem cannot on any ground be accepted as a historical fact.(1)

We may now return to such further consideration of the statements of the
Epistle as may seem necessary for the object of our inquiry. No mention
is made by the Apostle of any official mission on the subject of
circumcision, and the discussion of that question arises in a merely
incidental manner from the presence of Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile
Christian. There has been much discussion as to whether Titus actually
was circumcised or not, and there


can be little doubt that the omission of the negative [------] from
Gal. ii. 5, has been in some cases influenced by the desire to bring the
Apostle's conduct upon this occasion into harmony with the account, in
Acts xvi. 3, of his circumcising Timothy.(1) We shall not require to
enter into any controversy on the point, for the great majority of
critics are agreed that the Apostle intended to say that Titus was not
circumcised, although the contrary is affirmed by a few writers.(2) It
is obvious from the whole of the Apostle's narrative that great pressure
was exerted to induce Titus to submit, and that Paul, if he did not
yield even for an hour the required subjection, had a long and severe
struggle to maintain his position. Even when relating the circumstances
in his letter to the Galatians, the recollection of his contest
profoundly stirs the Apostle's indignation; his utterance becomes
vehement, but cannot keep pace with his impetuous thoughts, and
the result is a narrative in broken and abrupt sentences whose very
incompleteness is eloquent, and betrays the irritation which has not
even yet entirely subsided. How does this accord with the whole tone of
the account in the Acts? It is customary with apologists to insert so
much between the lines of that narrative, partly from imagination and
partly from the statements of the Epistle, that they almost convince
themselves and others that such additions are actually suggested by the
author of the Acts himself. If we take the account of the Acts, however,
without such transmutations, it is certain that not only is there not
the slightest indication of any struggle regarding the


circumcision of Titus, "in which St. Paul maintained at one time almost
single-handed the cause of Gentile freedom,"(1) but no suggestion that
there had ever been any hesitation on the part of the leading Apostles
and the mass of the Church regarding the point at issue. The impression
given by the author of the Acts is undeniably one of unbroken and
undisturbed harmony: of a council in which the elder Apostles were of
one mind with Paul, and warmly agreed with him that the Gentiles should
be delivered from the yoke of the Mosaic law and from the necessity
of undergoing the initiatory rite. What is there in such an account
to justify in any degree the irritation displayed by Paul at the mere
recollection of this visit, or to merit the ironical terms with which he
speaks of the "pillar" Apostles?

We may, however, now consider the part which the Apostles must have
taken in the dispute regarding the circumcision of Titus. Is it possible
to suppose that, if the circumcision of Paul's follower had only
been demanded by certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed,
unsupported by the rest, there could ever have been any considerable
struggle on the point? Is it possible, further, to suppose that, if Paul
had received the cordial support of James and the leading Apostles in
his refusal to concede the circumcision of Titus, such a contest could
have been more than momentary and trifling? Is it possible that the
Apostle Paul could have spoken of "certain of the sect of the Pharisees
who believed" in such terms as: "to whom we yielded by the submission
[------] no not for an hour?"(2) or that he could have used this
expression if those who pressed the demand upon him had not been in a


of authority, which naturally suggested a subjection which Paul upon
this occasion persistently refused? It is not possible. Of course many
writers who seek to reconcile the two narratives, and some of whom
substitute for the plain statements of the Acts and of the Apostle, an
account which is not consistent with either, suppose that the demand for
the circumcision of Titus proceeded solely from the "false brethren,"(1)
although some of them suppose that at least these false brethren may
have thought they had reason to hope for the support of the elder
Apostles.(2) It is almost too clear for dispute, however, that the
desire that Titus should be circumcised was shared or pressed by the
elder Apostles.(3) According to the showing of the Acts, nothing could
be more natural than the fact that James and the elders of Jerusalem
who, so long after (xxi. 20 if.), advised Paul to prove his continued
observance of the law and that he did not teach the Jews to abandon
circumcision, should on this occasion have pressed him to circumcise
Titus. The conduct of Peter at Antioch, and the constant opposition
which Paul met with from emissaries


of James and of the Apostles of the Circumcision upon the very point of
Gentile circumcision, all support the inevitable conclusion, that the
pressure upon Paul in the matter of Titus was not only not resisted by
the Apostles, but proceeded in no small degree from them.

This is further shown by the remainder of Paul's account of his visit
and by the tone of his remarks regarding the principal Apostles, as well
as by the historical data which we possess of his subsequent career. We
need not repeat that the representation in the Acts both of the Council
and of the whole intercourse between Paul and the Apostles is one of
"unbroken unity."(1) The struggle about Titus and the quarrel with
Peter at Antioch are altogether omitted, and the Apostolic letter speaks
merely of "our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have given up their
lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"(2) The language of Paul is
not so pacific and complimentary. Immediately after his statement that
he had "yielded by the submission, no, not for an hour," Paul continues:
"But from those who seem to be something [------]--whatsoever they were
it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person;--for to me
those who seem [------] (to be something) communicated nothing, but, on
the contrary, &c. &c., and when they knew the grace that was given to
me, James and Cephas and John, who seem to be pillars [------], gave to

me and Barnabas right hands of fellowship that we (should go) unto
the Gentiles," &c. &c.(3) The tone and language of this passage are


depreciatory of the elder Apostles,(1) and, indeed, it is difficult to
understand how any one could fail to perceive and admit the fact. It is
argued by some who recognise the irony of the term [------] applied to
the Apostles, that the disparagement which is so transparent in the form
[------], "those who seem to be something," is softened again in the
new turn which is given to it in ver. 9, [------], "those who seem to
be pillars," in which, it is said, "the Apostle expresses the real
greatness and high authority of the twelve in their separate field of
labour."(2) It seems to us that this interpretation cannot be sustained.
Paul is ringing the changes on [------], and contrasting with the
position they assumed and the estimation in which they were held, his
own experience of them, and their inability to add anything to him.
"Those who seem to be something," he commences, but immediately
interrupts himself, after having thus indicated the persons
whom he meant, with the more direct protest of irritated
independence:--"whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to me: God
accepteth not man's person." These [------] communicated nothing to him,
but, on the contrary, when they knew the grace given to him, "those who
seem to be pillars" gave him hands of fellowship, but nothing more,
and they went their different ways, he to the Gentiles and they to the
circumcision. If the


expression: [------] be true, as well as ironically used, it cannot be
construed into a declaration of respect, but forms part of a passage
whose tone throughout is proudly depreciatory. This is followed by such
words as "hypocrisy" [------] and "condemned" [------] applied to the
conduct of Peter at Antioch, as well as the mention of the emissaries of
James as the cause of that dispute, which add meaning to the irony.
This is not, however, the only occasion on which Paul betrays a certain
bitterness against the elder Apostles. In his second letter to the
Corinthians, xi. 5, he says, "For I reckon that I am not a whit behind
the over much Apostles" [------], and again, xii. 11, "For in nothing
was I behind the over much Apostles" [------]; and the whole of the
vehement passage in which these references are set shows the intensity
of the feeling which called them forth. To say that the expressions
in the Galatian Epistle and here are "depreciatory, not indeed of the
twelve themselves, but of the extravagant and exclusive claims set up
for them by the Judaizers,"(1) is an extremely arbitrary distinction.
They are directly applied to the Apostles, and [------] cannot be taken
as irony against those who over-estimated them, but against the [------]
themselves. Paul's blows generally go straight to their mark. Meyer
argues that the designation of the Apostles as [------] is purely
historical, and cannot be taken as ironical, inasmuch as it would be
inconsistent to suppose that Paul could adopt a depreciatory tone when
he is relating his recognition as a colleague by the elder Apostles;(2)
and others consider that


ver. 8, 9, 10 contain evidence of mutual respect and recognition between
Paul and the twelve. Even if this were so, it could not do away with
the actual irony of the expressions; but do the facts support such a
statement? We have seen that, in spite of the picture of unbroken unity
drawn by the author of the Acts, and the liberal sentiments regarding
the Gentiles which he puts into the mouth of Peter and of James, Paul
had a severe and protracted struggle to undergo in order to avoid
circumcising Titus. We have already stated the grounds upon which it
seems certain that the pressure upon that occasion came as well from the
elder Apostles as the "false brethren," and critics who do not go so far
as to make this positive affirmation, at least recognise the passive,
and therefore to a large extent compliant, attitude which the Apostles
must have held. It is after narrating some of the particulars of this
struggle that Paul uses the terms of depreciation which we have
been discussing; and having added, "for to me those who seem (to be
something) communicated nothing," he says, "_but, on the contrary_,
when they saw that I have been entrusted with the Gospel of the
uncircumcision, even as Peter with that of the circumcision (for he that
wrought for Peter unto the Apostleship of the circumcision, wrought also
for me unto the Gentiles); and when they knew the grace that was given
unto me, James and Cephas and John, who seem to be pillars, gave to me
and Barnabas right hands of fellowship, that we (should go) unto the
Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision: only that we should remember
the poor; which very thing I also was forward to do." It will be
observed that, after saying they "communicated nothing" to him, the
Apostle adds, in opposition, "but, on the


contrary" [------]. In what does this opposition consist? Apparently in
this, that, instead of strengthening the hands of Paul, they left him to
labour alone. They said: "Take your own course; preach the Gospel of
the uncircumcision to Gentiles, and we will preach the Gospel of the
circumcision to Jews."(1) In fact, when Paul returned to Jerusalem for
the second time after fourteen years, he found the elder Apostles not
one whit advanced towards his own uni-versalism; they retained their
former Jewish prejudices, and remained as before Apostles of the
circumcision.(2) Notwithstanding the strong Pauline sentiments put into
Peter's mouth by the author of the Acts, and his claim to have been so
long before selected by God that by his mouth the Gentiles should hear
the word of the Gospel and believe, Paul singles out Peter as specially
entrusted with the Gospel of the circumcision; and, in the end, after
Paul has exerted all his influence, Peter and the rest remain unmoved,
and allow Paul to go to the Gentiles, while they confine their ministry
as before to the Jews. The success of Paul's work amongst the heathen
was too palpable a fact to be ignored, but there is no reason to believe
that the conversion of the Gentiles, upon his terms, was more than
tolerated at that time, or the Gentile Christians admitted to more
than such imperfect communion with the Jewish Christians as that of
Proselytes of the Gate in relation to Judaism. This is shown by the
conduct of Peter at Antioch after the supposed Council, and of the Jews
with him, and even of Barnabas,


through fear of the emissaries of James, whose arrival certainly could
not have produced a separation between Jewish and Gentile Christians had
the latter been recognised as in full communion.

The "hands of fellowship" clearly was a mere passive permission of
Paul's mission to the Gentiles, but no positive and hearty approval of
it testified by active support.(1) It must, we think, be evident to any one
who attentively considers the passage we are examining, that there is no
question whatever in it of a recognition of the Apostolate of Paul.(2)
The elder Apostles consent to his mission to the Gentiles, whilst they
themselves go to the circumcision; but there is not a syllable which
indicates that Paul's claim to the title of Apostle was ever either
acknowledged or discussed. It is not probable that Paul would have
submitted such a point to their consideration. It is difficult to see
how the elder Apostles could well have done less than they did, and the
extent of their fellowship seems to have simply amounted to toleration
of what they could not prevent. The pressure for the circumcision of the
Gentile converts was an attempt to coerce, and to suppress the peculiar
principle of the Gospel of uncircumcision; and though that effort failed
through the determined resistance of Paul,


it is clear, from the final resolve to limit their preaching to the
circumcision, that the elder Apostles in no way abandoned their view
of the necessity of the initiatory rite. The episode at Antioch is
a practical illustration of this statement. Hilgenfeld ably
remarks:--"When we consider that Peter was afraid of the circumcised
Christians, there can be no doubt _that James, at the head of the
primitive community, made the attempt to force heathen Christians
to adopt the substance of Jewish legitimacy, by breaking off
ecclesiastical community with them_."(1) The Gentile Christians were
virtually excommunicated on the arrival of the emissaries of James, or
at least treated as mere Proselytes of the Gate; and the pressure
upon the Galatian converts of the necessity of circumcision by similar
Judaizing emissaries, which called forth the vehement and invaluable
Epistle before us, is quite in accordance with the circumstances of this
visit. The separation agreed upon between Paul and the elder Apostles
was not in any sense geographical, but purely ethnological.(2) It was no
mere division of labour,(3) no suitable apportionment of work. The elder
Apostles determined, like their Master before them, to confine their
ministry to Jews, whilst Paul, if he pleased, might go to the Gentiles;
and the mere fact that Peter subsequently goes to Antioch, as well as
many other


circumstances, shows that no mere separation of localities, but a
selection of race was intended. If there had not been this absolute
difference of purpose, any separation would have been unnecessary, and
all the Apostles would have preached one Gospel indifferently to all
who had ears to hear it; such strange inequality in the partition of
the work could never have existed: that Paul should go unaided to the
gigantic task of converting the heathen, while the Twelve reserved
themselves for the small but privileged people. All that we have said at
the beginning of this section of the nature of primitive Christianity,
and of the views prevalent amongst the disciples at the death of their
Master, is verified by this attitude of the Three during the famous
visit of the Apostle of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, and Paul's account is
precisely in accordance with all that historical probability and reason,
unwarped by the ideal representations of the Acts, prepare us to expect.
The more deeply we go into the statements of Paul the more is this
apparent, and the more palpable does the inauthenticity of the narrative
of the Council appear.

The words of Paul in describing the final understanding are very
remarkable and require further consideration. The decision that they
should go to the circumcision and Paul to the Gentiles is based upon the
recognition of a different Gospel entrusted to him, the Gospel of the
uncircumcision, as the Gospel of the circumcision is entrusted to Peter.
It will be remembered that Paul states that, on going up to Jerusalem
upon this occasion, he communicated to them the Gospel which he preached
among the Gentiles, and it is probable that he made the journey more
especially for this purpose. It appears from the account that this
Gospel was not only new to them, but was


distinctly diflferent from that of the elder Apostles. If Paul preached
the same Gospel as the rest, what necessity could there have been
for communicating it at all? What doubt that by any means he might be
running, or had run, in vain? He knew perfectly well that he preached a
diflferent Gospel from the Apostles of the circumcision, and his anxiety
probably was to secure an amicable recognition of the Gentile converts
whom he had taught to consider circumcision unnecessary and the
obligation of the law removed. Of course there was much that was
fundamentally the same in the two Gospels, starting as they both did
with the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah; but their points of
divergence were very marked and striking, and more especially in
directions where the prejudices of the Apostles of the circumcision were
the strongest Avoiding all debatable ground, it is clear that the Gospel
of the uncircumcision, which proclaimed the abrogation of the law
and the inutility of the initiatory rite, must have been profoundly
repugnant to Jews, who still preached the obligation of circumcision
and the observance of the law. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of
the law"(1) said the Gospel of the uncircumcision. "Behold, I, Paul, say
unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing....
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor
uncircumcision, but faith working through love."(2) "For neither
circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."(3)
The teaching which was specially designated the Gospel of the
circumcision, in contradistinction to this Gospel of the uncircumcision,
held very diflferent language. There is no gainsaying the


main fact--and that fact, certified by Paul himself and substantiated
by a host of collateral circumstances, is more conclusive than all
conciliatory apologetic reasoning--that, at the date of this visit to
Jerusalem (c. a.d. 50-52), the Three, after hearing all that Paul had to
say, allowed him to go alone to the Gentiles, but themselves would have
no part in the mission, and turned as before to the circumcision.

There is another point to which we must very briefly refer. The
statements of Paul show that, antecedent to this visit to Jerusalem,
Paul had been the active Apostle of the Gentiles, preaching his Gospel
of the uncircumcision, and that subsequently he returned to the same
field of labour. If we examine the narrative of the Acts, we do not find
him represented in any special manner as the Apostle of the Gentiles,
but, on the contrary, whilst Peter claims the honour of having been
selected that by his voice the Gentiles should hear the word of the
Gospel and believe, Paul is everywhere described as going to the Jews,
and only when his teaching is rejected by them does he turn to the
Gentiles. It is true that Ananias is represented as being told by the
Lord that Paul is a chosen vessel "to bear my name both before Gentiles
and kings, and the sons of Israel;"(1) and Paul subsequently recounts
how the Lord had said to himself, "Go, for I will send thee far hence
unto Gentiles."(2) The author of the Acts, however, everywhere conveys
the impression that Paul very reluctantly fulfils this mission, and that
if he had but been successful amongst the Jews he never would have gone
to the Gentiles at all. Immediately after his conversion, he preaches in
the synagogues at Damascus and confounds the Jews,(3) as he


again does during his visit to Jerusalem.(1) When the Holy Spirit
desires the Church at Antioch to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work
whereunto he has called them, they continue to announce the word of God
"in the synagogues of the Jews,"(2) and in narrating the conversion
of the Roman proconsul at Paphos, it is said that it is Sergius Paulus
himself who calls for Barnabas and Saul, and seeks to hear the word of
God.(3) When they came to Antioch in Pisidia, they go into the synagogue
of the Jews(4) as usual, and it is only after the Jews reject them that
Paul and Barnabas are described as saying:--"It was necessary that the
word of God should first be spoken to you: seeing that ye thrust it from
you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to
the Gentiles."(5) In Iconium, to which they next proceed, however, they
go into the synagogue of the Jews,(6) and later, it is stated that
Paul, on arriving at Thessalonica, "as his custom was," went into the
synagogue of the Jews, and for three Sabbaths discoursed to them.(7) At
Corinth, it was only when the Jews opposed him and blasphemed, that
Paul is represented as saying: "Your blood be upon your own head; I
will henceforth, with a pure conscience, go unto the Gentiles." It is
impossible to distinguish from this narrative any difference between
the ministry of Paul and that of the other Apostles. They all address
themselves mainly and primarily to the Jews, although if Gentiles desire
to eat of "the crumbs which fall from the children's bread" they are
not rejected. Even the Pharisees stirred heaven and earth to make
proselytes. In no sense can


the Paul of the Acts be considered specially an Apostle of the
Gentiles, and the statement of the Epistle to the Galatians(1) has no
significance, if interpreted by the historical work.

Apologists usually reply to this objection, that the practice of Paul
in the Acts is in accordance with his own words in the Epistle to the
Romans, i. 16, in which, it is asserted, he recognizes the right of the
Jews to precedence. In the Authorised Version this passage is rendered
as follows:--"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is
the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew
first and also to the Greek."(2) [------] As a matter of

fact we may here at once state that the word [------] "first," is
not found in Codices B and G, and that it is omitted from the Latin
rendering of the verse quoted by Tertullian.(3) That the word upon which
the controversy turns should not be found in so important a MS. as
the Vatican Codex or in so ancient a version as Tertullian's is very
significant, but proceeding at once to the sense of the sentence, we
must briefly state the reasons which seem to us conclusively to
show that the usual reading is erroneous. The passage is an emphatic
statement of the principles of Paul. He declares that he is not ashamed
of the Gospel, and he immediately states the reason: "for it is a power
of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth."(4) He is not ashamed
of the Gospel because he recognizes its universality; for, in


opposition to the exclusiveness of Judaism, he maintains that all are
"sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is neither Jew nor
Greek... for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's
then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise."(1) "For in
Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision,
but faith working through love."(2) The reason which he gives is that
which lies at the basis of the whole of his special teaching; but we are
asked to believe that, after so clear and comprehensive a declaration,
he at once adds the extraordinary qualification: [------], rendered
"to the Jew first and also to the Greek." What is the meaning of such a
limitation? If the Gospel be a power of God unto salvation "to every one
that believeth" [------], in what manner can it possibly be so "to the
Jew first"? Can it be maintained that there are comparative degrees in
salvation? "Salvation" is obviously an absolute term. If saved at all,
the Jew cannot be more saved than the Greek. If, on the other hand, the
expression be interpreted as an assertion that the Jew has a right of
precedence either in the offer or the attainment of salvation before the
Greek, the manner of its realization is almost equally inconceivable,
and a host of difficulties, especially in view of the specific Pauline
teaching, immediately present themselves. There can be no doubt that the
judaistic view distinctly was that Israel must first be saved, before
the heathen could obtain any part in the Messianic kingdom, and we have
shown that this idea dominated primitive Christianity; and inseparable
from this was the belief that the only way to a participation in its
benefits lay through Judaism. The


heathen could only obtain admission into the family of Israel, and
become partakers in the covenant, by submitting to the initiatory rite.
It was palpably under the influence of this view, and with a conviction
that the Messianic kingdom was primarily destined for the children of
Israel, that the elder Apostles, even after the date of Paul's second
visit to Jerusalem, continued to confine their ministry "to the
circumcision." Paul's view was very different. He recognized and
maintained the universality of the Gospel and, in resolving to go to the
heathen, he practically repudiated the very theory of Jewish preference
which he is here supposed to advance. If the Gospel, instead of being
a power of God to salvation to every man who believed, was for the Jew
first, the Apostolate of the Gentiles was a mere delusion and a snare.
What could be the advantage of so urgently offering salvation to the
Greek, if the gift, instead of being "for every one that believeth,"
was a mere prospective benefit, inoperative until the Jew had first been
saved? "Salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek," if it have
any significance whatever of the kind argued,--involving either a prior
claim to the offer of salvation, or precedence in its distribution,--so
completely destroys all the present interest in it of the Gentile, that
the Gospel must to him have lost all power. To suppose that such an
expression simply means, that the Gospel must first be preached to
the Jews in any town to which the Apostle might come before it could
legitimately be proclaimed to the Gentiles of that town, is childish. We
have no reason to suppose that Paul held the deputy Sergius Paulus, who
desired to hear the word of God and believed, in suspense until the Jews
of Paphos had


rejected it. The cases of the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius throw no
light upon any claim of the Jew to priority in salvation. Indeed, not
to waste time in showing the utter incongruity of the ordinary
interpretation, we venture to affirm that there is not a single
explanation, which maintains a priority assigned to the Jew in any way
justifying the reference to this text, which is capable of supporting
the slightest investigation. If we linguistically examine the expression
[------], we arrive at the same conclusion, that [------] is an
interpolation, for we must maintain that [------] with [------] and
[------] must be applied equally both to "Jew" and "Greek," and cannot
rightly be appropriated to the Jew only, as implying a preference
over the Greek.(1) The sense, therefore, can only be properly and
intelligibly given by disregarding [------] and simply translating the
words: "both to Jew and Greek."(2) This was the rendering of the ancient
Latin version quoted by Tertullian in his work against Marcion: "Itaque
et hie, cum dicit: Non enim me pudet evangelii, virtus enim dei est in
salutem omni credenti, Judæo et Græco, quia justitia dei in eo revelatur
ex fide in fidem.,,(3) We are not left without further examples of
the very same expression, and an examination of the context will amply
demonstrate that Paul used it in no other sense. In the


very next chapter the Apostle twice uses the same words. After
condemning the hasty and unrighteous judgment of man, he says: "For we
know that the judgment of God is according to truth.... who will
render to every one according to his works; to them who by patience in
well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: but
unto them that act out of factious spirit and do not obey the truth but
obey unrighteousness, anger, and wrath: affliction and distress upon
every soul of man that worketh evil, both of Jew and of Greek [------],
A. V. "of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile"; but glory and honour
and peace to every one that worketh good, both to Jew and to Greek
[------], A. V. "to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile"). For there
is no respect of persons with God."(1) How is it possible that, if the
Apostle had intended to assert a priority of any kind accorded to the
Jew before the Gentile, he could at the same time have added: "For there
is no respect of persons with God "? If salvation be "to the Jew first,"
there is very distinctly respect of persons with God. The very opposite,
however, is repeatedly and emphatically asserted by Paul in this very
epistle. "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek" [------],
he says, "for the same Lord of all is rich unto all them that call
upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
saved."(2) Here, we have the phrase without [------]. Nothing could be
more clear and explicit. The precedence of the Jew is directly excluded.
At the end of the second chapter, moreover, he explains his idea of a


"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision
which is outwardly in flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and
circumcision is of the heart, in spirit not letter."(1) If anything
further were required to prove that the Apostle does not by the
expression: [------], intend to indicate any priority accorded to the
Jew, it is supplied by the commencement of the third chapter. "What then
is the advantage of the Jew? or what the profit of circumcision?" It is
obvious that if the Apostle had just said that the Gospel was the power
of God unto salvation, "to Jew first and also to Greek," he had stated a
very marked advantage to the Jew, and that such an inquiry as the above
would have been wholly unnecessary. The answer which he gives to his
own question, however, completes our certainty. "Much every way," he
replies; but in explaining what the "much" advantage was, we hear no
more of "to Jew first:" "Much every way: for first indeed they were
entrusted with the oracles of God."(1) And, after a few words, he
proceeds: "What then? are we better? Not at all; for we before brought
the charge that both Jews and Greeks [------] are all under sin."(3)
Here, again, there is no [------]. There can be no doubt in the mind of
any one who understands what Paul's teaching was, and what he means by
claiming the special title of "Apostle to the Gentiles," that in going
"to the Heathen" after his visit to Jerusalem, as before it, there was
no purpose in his mind to preach to the Jews first and only on being
rejected by them to turn to the Gentiles, as the Acts would have us
suppose; but that the principle which regulated his proclamation of the
Gospel was that which we have


already quoted: "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek;
for the same Lord of all is rich unto all them that call upon him. For
whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."(1)

Still more incongruous is the statement of the Acts that Paul took
Timothy and circumcised him because of the Jews. According to this
narrative, shortly after the supposed Council of Jerusalem at which
it was decided that circumcision of Gentile Converts was unnecessary;
immediately after Paul had in spite of great pressure refused to allow
Titus to be circumcised; and after it had been agreed between the
Apostle of the Gentiles and James and Cephas and John that while they
should go to the circumcision, he, on the contrary, should go to the
heathen, Paul actually took and circumcised Timothy. Apologists, whilst
generally admitting the apparent contradiction, do not consider that
this act involves any real inconsistency, and find reasons which,
they affirm, sufficiently justify it. Some of these we shall presently
examine, but we may at once say that no apologetic arguments seem to
us capable of resisting the conclusion arrived at by many independent
critics, that the statement of the Acts with regard to Timothy is
opposed to all that we know of Paul's views, and that for unassailable
reasons it must be pronounced unhistorical.(2) The author of the Acts
says: "And he (Paul) came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold a certain
disciple was there, named Timothy, son of a


believing Jewish woman, but of a Greek father; who was well reported of
by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth
with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were
in those places [------]; for they all knew that his father was a Greek
[------]."(1) The principal arguments of those who maintain the truth
and consistency of this narrative briefly are: Paul resisted the
circumcision of Titus because he was a Greek, and because the subject
then actually under consideration was the immunity from the Jewish rite
of Gentile Christians, which would have been prejudiced had he yielded
the point. On the other hand, Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother,
and whilst there was no principle here in question, Paul circumcised the
companion whom he had chosen to accompany him in his missionary journey,
both as a recognition of his Jewish origin and to avoid offence to the
Jews whom they should encounter in the course of their ministry, as well
as to secure for him access to the synagogues which they must visit:
Paul in this instance, according to all apologists putting in practice
his own declaration (1 Cor. ix. 19-20): "For being free from all men,
I made myself servant unto all that I might gain the more; and unto the
Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews."

It must be borne in mind that the author who chronicles the supposed
circumcision of Timothy makes no allusion to the refusal of Paul to
permit Titus to be circumcised; an omission which is not only singular
in itself, but significant when we find him, immediately after,
narrating so singular a concession of which the


Apostle makes no mention. Of course it is clear that Paul could not have
consented to the circumcision of Titus, and we have only to consider in
what manner the case of Timothy differed so as to support the views of
those who hold that Paul, who would not yield to the pressure brought to
bear upon him in the case of Titus, might, quite consistently, so short
a time after, circumcise Timothy with his own hand. It is true that the
necessity of circumcision for Gentile Christians came prominently into
question, during Paul's visit to Jerusalem, from the presence of his
uncircumcised follower Titus, and no doubt the abrogation of the rite
must have formed a striking part of the exposition of his Gospel, which
Paul tells us he made upon this occasion; but it is equally certain
that the necessity of circumcision long continued to be pressed by the
judaistic party in the Church. It cannot fairly be argued that, at any
time, Paul could afford to relax his determined and consistent attitude
as the advocate for the universality of Christianity and the abrogation
of a rite, insistence upon which, he had been the first to recognise,
would have been fatal to the spread of Christianity. To maintain that
he could safely make such a concession of his principles and himself
circumcise Timothy, simply because at that precise moment there was
no active debate upon the point, is inadmissible; for his Epistles
abundantly prove that the topic, if it ever momentarily subsided into
stubborn silence, was continually being revived with renewed bitterness.
Pauline views could never have prevailed if he had been willing to
sacrifice them for the sake of conciliation, whenever they were not
actively attacked.

The difference of the occasion cannot be admitted


as a valid reason; let us, therefore, see whether any difference in the
persons and circumstances removes the contradiction. It is argued that
such a difference exists in the fact that, whilst Titus was altogether
a Gentile, Timothy, on the side of his mother at least, was a Jew; and
Thiersch, following a passage quoted by Wetstein, states that, according
to Talmudic prescriptions, the validity of mixed marriages between a
Jewess and a Gentile was only recognized upon the condition that the
children should be brought up in the religion of the mother. In this
case, he argues, Paul merely carried out the requirement of the Jewish
law by circumcising Timothy, which others had omitted to do, and thus
secured his admission to the Jewish synagogues to which much of his
ministry was directed, but from which he would have been excluded had
the rite not been performed.(1) Even Meyer, however, in reference
to this point, replies that Paul could scarcely be influenced by the
Talmudic canon, because Timothy was already a Christian and beyond
Judaism.(2) Besides, in point of fact, by such a marriage the Jewess had
forfeited Jewish privileges. Timothy, in the eyes of the Mosaic law,
was not a Jew, and held, in reality, no better position than the Greek
Titus. He had evidently been brought up as a heathen, and the only
question which could arise in regard to him was whether he must first
become a Jew before he could be fully recognized as a Christian. The
supposition that the circumcision of Timothy, the son of a Greek,
after he had actually become a Christian without having passed through


could secure for him free access to the synagogues of the Jews, may show
how exceedingly slight at that time was the difference between the Jew
and the Christian, but it also suggests the serious doubt whether the
object of the concession, in the mind of the author of the Acts, was not
rather to conciliate the Judaic Christians, than to represent the act as
one of policy towards the unbelieving Jews. The statement of the Acts is
that Paul circumcised Timothy "because of the Jews which were in those
places; for they knew all that his father was a Greek." If the reason
which we are discussing were correct, the expression would more probably
have been: "for they knew that his mother was a Jewess." The Greek
father might, and probably did, object to the circumcision of his son,
but that was no special reason why Paul should circumcise him. On the
other hand, the fact that the Jews knew that his father was a Greek made
the action attributed to Paul a concession which the author of the Acts
thus represented in its most conciliatory light. The circumcision of
Timothy was clearly declared unnecessary by the apostolic decree, for
the attempt to show that he was legitimately regarded as a Jew utterly
fails. It is obvious that, according to Pauline doctrine, there could
be no obligation for anyone who adopted Christianity to undergo this
initiatory rite. It is impossible reasonably to maintain that any case
has been made out to explain why Timothy, who had grown into
manhood without being circumcised, and had become a Christian whilst
uncircumcised, should at that late period be circumcised. Beyond the
reference to a Talmudic prescription, in fact, with which there is not
the slightest evidence that Paul was acquainted, and which, even if he
did know of it, could not possibly have been recognised by him as


authoritative, there has not been a serious attempt made to show that
the case of Timothy presents exceptional features which reconcile the
contradiction otherwise admitted as apparent.

The whole apologetic argument in fact sinks into one of mere expediency:
Timothy, the son of a Jewess and of a Greek, and thus having a certain
affinity both to Jews and Gentiles, would become a much more efficient
assistant to Paul if he were circumcised and thus had access to the
Jewish synagogues; therefore Paul, who himself became as a Jew that he
might win the Jews, demanded the same sacrifice from his follower. But
can this argument bear any scrutiny by the light of Paul's own writings?
It cannot. Paul openly claims to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, and
just before the period at which he is supposed to circumcise Timothy, he
parts from the elder Apostles with the understanding that he is to go
to the Gentiles who are freed from circumcision. It is a singular
commencement of his mission, to circumcise the son of a Greek father
after he had become a Christian. Such supposed considerations about
access to synagogues and conciliation of the Jews would seem more
suitable to a missionary to the circumcision, than to the Apostle of the
Gentiles. It must be apparent to all that in going more specially to
the Gentiles, as he avowedly was, the alleged expediency of circumcising
Timothy falls to the ground, and on the contrary that such an act would
have compromised his whole Gospel. Paul's characteristic teaching was
the inutility of circumcision, and upon this point he sustained the
incessant attacks of the emissaries of James and the Judaistic party
without yielding or compromise. What could have been more ill-advised


such circumstances than the circumcision with his own hands of a convert
who, if the son of a Jewess, was likewise the son of a Greek, and had
remained uncircumcised until he had actually embraced that faith which,
Paul taught, superseded circumcision? The Apostle who declared: "Behold,
I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you
nothing,"(1) could not have circumcised the Christian Timothy; and if
any utterance of Paul more distinctly and explicitly applicable to the
present case be required, it is aptly supplied by the following: "Was
any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Hath
any man been called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised....
Let each abide in the same calling wherein he was called."(2)

Apologists quote very glibly the saying of Paul: "Unto the Jews I became
as a Jew, that I might gain Jews," as sufficiently justifying the act
which we are considering; but it is neither applicable to the case, nor
is the passage susceptible of such interpretation. The special object of
Paul at that time, according to his own showing,(3) was not to gain Jews
but to gain Gentiles; and the circumcision of Timothy would certainly
not have tended to gain Gentiles. If we quote the whole passage from
which the above is extracted, the sense at once becomes clear and
different from that assigned to it: "For being free from all men, I made
myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more; and unto the Jews I
became as a Jew that I might gain Jews; to them under law, as under law,
not being myself under law, that I might gain them under law; to them
without law, as without law,--not being without law to God, but under
law to Christ,--


that I might gain them without law; to the weak I became weak that I
might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by
all means save some. And all things I do for the Gospel's sake, that I
may become a partaker thereof with them."(l) It is clear that a man who
could become "all things to all men," in the sense of yielding any point
of principle, must be considered without principle at all, and no one
could maintain that Paul was apt to concede principles. Judged by his
own statements, indeed, his character was the very reverse of this.
There is no shade of conciliation when he declares: "But though we, or
an angel from heaven, should preach any Gospel unto you other than that
we preached unto you, let him be accursed.... For am I now making men my
friends, or God? or am I seeking to please men? if I were still pleasing
men, I should not be a servant of Christ."(2) The Gospel of which he
speaks, and which he protests "is not after men," but received "through
a revelation of Jesus Christ,"(3) is that Gospel which Paul preached
among the Gentiles, and which proclaimed the abrogation of the law
and of circumcision. Paul might in one sense say that "circumcision is
nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of
God;"(4) but such a statement, simply intended to express that there was
neither merit in the one nor in the other, clearly does not apply to the
case before us, and no way lessens the force of the words we have quoted
above: "If ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing." In Paul
such a concession would have been in the highest degree a sacrifice
of principle, and one which he not only refused to make in the case of
Titus, "that the truth of the


Gospel might abide," but equally maintained in the face of the pillar
Apostles, when he left them and returned to the Gentiles whilst they
went back to the circumcision. Paul's idea of being "all things to all
men" is illustrated by his rebuke to Peter,--once more to refer to
the scene at Antioch. Peter apparently practised a little of that
conciliation, which apologists, defending the unknown author of the Acts
at the expense of Paul, consider to be the sense of the Apostle's words.
Paul repudiated such an inference, by withstanding Peter to the face as
condemned, and guilty of hypocrisy. Paul became all things to all men by
considering their feelings, and exhibiting charity and forbearance, in
matters indifferent He was careful not to make his liberty a stumbling
block to the weak. "If food maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no
flesh for ever lest I make my brother to offend."(1) Self-abnegation in
the use of enlightened liberty, however, is a very different thing from
the concession of a rite, which it was the purpose of his whole Gospel
to discredit, and the labour of his life to resist. Once more we repeat
that the narrative of the Acts regarding the circumcision of Timothy is
contradictory to the character and teaching of Paul as ascertained from
his Epistles, and like so many other portions of that work which we have
already examined must, as it stands, be rejected as unhistorical.

We have already tested the narrative of the author of the Acts by the
statements of Paul in the first two chapters of the Galatians at such
length that, although the subject is far from exhausted, we must not
proceed further. We think that there can be no doubt that the role
assigned to the Apostle Paul in Acts xv. is unhistorical,(2)


and it is unnecessary for us to point out the reasons which led the
writer to present him in such subdued colours. We must, however, before
finally leaving the subject, very briefly point out a few circumstances
which throw a singular light upon the relations which actually existed
between Paul and the elder Apostles, and tend to show their real, if
covert, antagonism to the Gospel of the uncircumcision. We may at the
outset remark, in reference to an objection frequently made that Paul
does not distinctly refer to the Apostles as opposing his teaching and
does not personally attack them, that such a course would have been
suicidal in the Apostle of the Gentiles, whilst on the other hand it
could not but have hindered the acceptance of his Gospel, for which he
was ever ready to endure so much. The man who wrote: "If it be possible,
as much as dependeth on you, be at peace with all men,"(1) could well be
silent in such a cause. Paul, in venturing to preach the Gospel of the
uncircumcision, laboured under the singular disadvantage of not having,
like the Twelve, been an immediate disciple of the Master. He had been
"as the one born out of due time,"(2) and although he claimed that his
Gospel had not been taught to him by man but had been received by direct
revelation from Jesus, there can be no doubt that his apostolic position
was constantly assailed. The countenance of the elder Apostles, even if
merely tacit, was of great


importance to the success of his work; and he felt this so much that,
as he himself states, he went up to Jerusalem to communicate to them the
Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles: "lest by any means I might
be running or did run in vain."(1) Any open breach between them would
have frustrated his labours. Had Paul been in recognized enmity with the
Twelve who had been selected as his special disciples by the Master, and
been repudiated and denounced by them, it is obvious that his position
would have been a precarious one. He had no desire for schism. His
Gospel, besides, was merely a development of that of the elder Apostles;
and, however much they might resent his doctrine of the abrogation of
the law and of the inutility of circumcision, they could still regard
his Gentile converts as at least in some sort Proselytes of the Gate.
With every inducement to preserve peace if by any means possible, and
to suppress every expression of disagreement with the Twelve, it is not
surprising that we find so little direct reference to the elder Apostles
in his epistles. During his visit to Jerusalem he did not succeed in
converting them to his views. They still limited their ministry to the
circumcision, and he had to be content with a tacit consent to his
work amongst the heathen. But although we have no open utterance of
his irritation, the suppressed impatience of his spirit, even at the
recollection of the incidents of his visit, betrays itself in abrupt
sentences, unfinished expressions, and grammar which breaks down in the
struggle of repressed emotion. We have already said enough regarding
his ironical references to those "who seem to be something," to the
"overmuch Apostles," and we need not again point


to the altercation between Paul and Cephas at Antioch, and the strong
language used by the former.

Nothing is more certain than the fact that, during his whole career, the
Apostle Paul had to contend with systematic opposition from the Judaic
Christian party;(1) and the only point regarding which there is any
difference of opinion is the share in this taken by the Twelve. As we
cannot reasonably expect to find any plain statement of this in the
writings of the Apostle, we are forced to take advantage of such
indications as can be discovered. Upon one point we are not left in
doubt. The withdrawal of Peter and the others at Antioch from communion
with the Gentile Christians, and consequently from the side of Paul,
was owing to the arrival of certain men from James, for the Apostle
expressly states so. No surprise is expressed, however, at the effect
produced by these [------], and the clear inference is that they
represented the views of a naturally antagonistic party, an inference
which is in accordance with all that we elsewhere read of James. It is
difficult to separate the [------] from the [------] of the preceding
chapter (i.7) who "trouble" the Galatians, and "desire to pervert the
Gospel of Christ," asserting the necessity of circumcision, against whom
the epistle is directed. Again we meet with the same vague and cautious
designation of judaistic opponents in his second Epistle to the
Corinthians (iii. 1), where


"some" [------] bearers of "letters of commendation" [------] from
persons unnamed, were attacking the Apostle and endeavouring to
discredit his teaching. By whom were these letters written? We cannot
of course give an authoritative reply, but we may ask: by whom could
letters of commendation possessing an authority which could have weight
against that of Paul be written, except by the elder Apostles?' We have
certain evidence in the first Epistle to the Corinthians that parties
had arisen in the Church of Corinth in opposition to Paul. These parties
were distinguished, as the Apostle himself states, by the cries: "I
am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ."(2)
[------]. Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the precise
nature of these parties, there can be no doubt that both the party
"of Cephas" and the party "of Christ" held strong Judaistic views and
assailed the teaching of Paul, and his apostolic authority. It is very
evident that the persons to whom the Apostle refers in connection with
"letters of commendation" were of these parties.

Apologists argue that: "in claiming Cephas as the head of their party
they had probably neither more nor


less ground than their rivals who sheltered themselves under the names
of Apollos and of Paul."(1) It is obvious, however, that, in a Church
founded by Paul, there could have been no party created with the
necessity to take his name as their watchword, except as a reply to
another party which, having intruded itself, attacked him, and forced
those who maintained the views of their own Apostle to raise such a
counter-cry. The parties "of Cephas" and "of Christ" were manifestly
aggressive, intruding themselves, as the Apostle complains, into "other
men's labours,"(2) and this in some manner seems to point to that
convention between the Apostle and the Three, that he should go to the
Gentiles and they to the circumcision which, barely more than passive
neutrality at the beginning, soon became covertly antagonistic. The fact
that the party "of Paul" was not an organized body, so to say, directed
by the Apostle as a party leader, in no way renders it probable that the
party of Cephas, which carried on active and offensive measures, had
not much more ground in claiming Cephas as their head. One point is
indisputable, that no party ever claims any man as its leader who is not
clearly associated with the views it maintains. The party "of Cephas,"
representing judaistic views, opposing the teaching of Paul, and joining
in denying his apostolic claims, certainly would not have taken Peter's
name as their watch-cry if he had been known to hold and express such
Pauline sentiments as are put into his mouth in the Acts, or had not, on
the contrary, been intimately identified with judaistic principles.
To illustrate the case by a modern instance: Is it possible to suppose
that, in any considerable city in this country,


a party holding ritualistic opinions could possibly claim the present
Archbishop of Canterbury as its leader, or one professing "broad-church"
views could think of sheltering itself under the name of the Archbishop
of York? Religious parties may very probably mistake the delicate
details of a leader's teaching, but they can scarcely be wrong in regard
to his general principles. If Peter had been so unfortunate as to
be flagrantly misunderstood by his followers and, whilst this party
preached in his name judaistic doctrines and anti-Pauline opinions, the
Apostle himself advocated the abrogation of the law, as a burden which
the Jews themselves were not able to bear, and actively shared Pauline
convictions, is it possible to suppose that Paul would not have pointed
out the absurdity of such a party claiming such a leader?

The fact is, however, that Paul never denies the claim of those who
shelter themselves under the names of Peter and James, never questions
their veracity, and never adopts the simple and natural course of
stating that, in advancing these names, they are imposters or mistaken.
On the contrary, upon all occasions he evidently admits, by his silence,
the validity of the claim.(1) We are not left to mere inference that the
adopted head of the party actually shared the views of the party. Paul
himself distinguishes Peter as the head of the party of the circumcision
in a passage in his letter to the Galatians already frequently referred
to,(2) and the episode at Antioch confirms the description, and leaves
no doubt that Peter's permanent practice was to force the Gentiles to
judaize. For reasons which we have already stated, Paul could not but
have desired to preserve peace, or even the


semblance of it, with the elder Apostles, for the Gospel's sake; and he,
therefore, wisely leaves them as much as possible out of the question
and deals with their disciples. It is obvious that policy must have
dictated such a course. By ignoring the leaders and attacking their
followers, he suppressed the chief strength of his opponents and
kept out of sight the most formidable argument against himself: the
concurrence with them of the elder Apostles. On the one hand,
the epistles of Paul bear no evidence to any active sympathy and
co-operation with his views and work on the part of the elder Apostles.
On the other, Paul is everywhere assailed by judaistic adversaries who
oppose his Gospel and deny his apostle-ship, and who claim as their
leaders the elder Apostles.

If, even without pressing expressions to their extreme and probable
point, we take the contrast drawn between his own Gospel and that of the
circumcision, the reality of the antagonism must be apparent. "For we
are not as the many [------](1) which adulterate the word of God; but as
of sincerity, but as of God, before God, speak we in Christ."(2) Later
on in the letter, after referring to the intrusion of the opposite party
into the circle of his labours, Paul declares that his impatience
and anxiety proceed from godly jealousy at the possible effect of the
judaistic intruders upon the Corinthians. "But I fear, lest by any
means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, your thoughts


be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is in Christ. For
if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we did not preach, or if
ye receive another spirit which ye received not, or another Gospel which
ye did not accept, ye bear well with him. For I think I am not a whit
behind the overmuch Apostles [------]."(1)

This reference to the elder Apostles gives point to much of the epistle
which is ambiguous, and more especially when the judaistic nature of the
opposition is so clearly indicated a few verses further on: "Are they
Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they Abraham's seed?
so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool), I am more;
in labours more abundantly, in prisons exceedingly, in deaths often,"
&c, &c.(2)

It is argued that the Twelve had not sufficient authority over their
followers to prevent such interference with Paul, and that the
relation of the Apostle to the Twelve was: "separation, not opposition,
antagonism of the followers rather than of the leaders, personal
antipathy of the Judaizers to St. Paul, rather than of St. Paul to the
Twelve."(3) It is not difficult to believe that the antipathy of Paul
to the Judaizers was less than that felt by them towards him. The
superiority of the man must have rendered him somewhat callous to such
dislike.(4) But the mitigated form of difference between Paul and
the Twelve here assumed, although still very different from the
representations of the Acts,


cannot be established, but on the contrary must be much widened before
it can justly be taken as that existing between Paul and the elder
Apostles. We do not go so far as to say that there was open enmity
between them, or active antagonism of any distinct character on the part
of the Twelve to the Apostle of the Gentiles, but there is every reason
to believe that they not only disliked his teaching, but endeavoured to
counteract it by their own ministry of the circumcision. They not only
did not restrain the opposition of their followers, but they abetted
them in their counter-assertion of judaistic views. Had the Twelve felt
any cordial friendship for Paul, and exhibited any active desire for the
success of his ministry of the uncircumcision, it is quite impossible
that his work could have been so continuously and vexatiously impeded by
the persecution of the Jewish Christian party. The Apostles may not
have possessed sufficient influence or authority entirely to control the
action of adherents, but it would be folly to suppose that, if unanimity
of views had prevailed between them and Paul, and a firm and consistent
support had been extended to him, such systematic resistance as he
everywhere encountered from the party professing to be led by the
"pillar" Apostles could have been seriously maintained, or that he
could have been left alone and unaided to struggle against it. If the
relations between Paul and the Twelve had been such as are intimated
in the Acts of the Apostles, his epistles must have presented undoubted
evidence of the fact Both negatively and positively they testify the
absence of all support, and the existence of antagonistic influence on
the part of the elder Apostles, and external evidence fully confirms the
impression which the epistles produce.(1)


From any point of view which may be taken, the Apocalypse is an
important document in connection with this point. If it be accepted as
a work of the Apostle John--the preponderance of evidence and critical
opinion assigns it to him--this book, of course, possesses the greatest
value as an indication of his views. If it be merely regarded as a
contemporary writing, it still is most interesting as an illustration
of the religious feeling of the period. The question is: Does the
Apocalypse contain any reference to the Apostle Paul, or throw light
upon the relations between him and the elder Apostles? If it does so,
and be the work of one of the [------], nothing obviously could be more


instructive. In the messages to the seven churches, there are references
and denunciations which, in the opinion of many able critics, are
directed against the Apostle of the Gentiles and his characteristic
teaching.(1) Who but Paul and his followers can be referred to in the
Epistle to the Church of Ephesus: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and
thy patience, and that thou canst not bear wicked persons: and didst
try them which say they are Apostles and are not, and didst find them
liars"?(2) Paul himself informs us not only of his sojourn in Ephesus,
where he believed that "a great and effectual door" was opened to him,
but adds, "there are many adversaries" [------].(3) The foremost charge
brought against the churches is that they have those that hold the
teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before
the sons of Israel, "to eat things offered unto idols."(4) The teaching
of Paul upon this point is


well known, 1 Cor. viii. 1 ff., x. 25 ff., Rom. xiv. 2 ff., and the
reference here cannot be mistaken; and when in the Epistle to the church
of Thyatira, after denouncing the teaching "to eat things offered unto
idols," the Apocalyptist goes on to encourage those who have not this
teaching, "who knew not the depths of Satan, [------],(1) as they say"
the expression of Paul himself is taken to denounce his doctrine; for
the Apostle, defending himself against the attacks of those parties "of
Cephas" and "of Christ" in Corinth, writes: "But God revealed (them)
to us through his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even
the depths of God" [------]--"the depths of Satan" rather, retorts the
judaistic author of the Apocalypse. [------] does not occur elsewhere
in the New Testament Again, in the address to the churches of Smyrna
and Philadelphia, when the writer denounces those "who say that they are
Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan,"(2) whom has he in view
but those Christians whom Paul had taught to consider circumcision
unnecessary and the law abrogated? We find Paul in the Epistle to the
Corinthians, so often quoted, obliged to defend himself against these
judaising parties upon this very point: "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are
they Israelites? so am I. Are they Abraham's seed? so am I."(3) It is
manifest that his adversaries had vaunted their own Jewish origin as a
title of superiority over the Apostle of the Gentiles. We


have, however, further evidence of the same attack upon Paul regarding
this point. Epiphanius points out that the Ebionites denied that Paul
was a Jew, and asserted that he was born of a Gentile father and
mother, but that, having gone up to Jerusalem, he became a proselyte and
submitted to circumcision in the hope of marrying a daughter of the high
priest. But afterwards, according to them, enraged at not securing the
maiden for his wife, Paul wrote against circumcision and the Sabbath and
the law.(1) The Apostle Paul, whose constant labour it was to destroy
the particularism of the Jew, and raise the Gentile to full, free, and
equal participation with him in the benefits of the New Covenant, could
not but incur the bitter displeasure of the Apocalyptist, for whom the
Gentiles were, as such, the type of all that was common and unclean. In
the utterances of the seer of Patmos we seem to hear the expression of
all that judaistic hatred and opposition which pursued the Apostle
who laid the axe to the root of Mosaism and, in his efforts to free
Christianity from trammels which, more than any other, retarded its
triumphant development, aroused against himself all the virulence of
Jewish illiberality and prejudice. The results at which we have arrived
might be singularly confirmed by an examination of the writings of the
first two centuries, and by observing the attitude


assumed towards the Apostle of the Gentiles by such men as Justin
Martyr, Papias, Hegesippus, and the author of the Clementines; but we
have already devoted too much space to this subject, and here we must
reluctantly leave it.

The steps by which Christianity was gradually freed from the trammels of
Judaism and became a religion of unlimited range and universal
fitness were clearly not those stated in the Acts of the Apostles. Its
emancipation from Mosaism was not effected by any liberal action or
enlightened guidance on the part of the elder Apostles. At the death
of their Master, the Twelve remained closely united to Judaism, and
evidently were left without any understanding that Christianity was a
new religion which must displace Mosaic institutions, and replace the
unbearable yoke of the law by the divine liberty of the Gospel. To the
last moment regarding which we have any trustworthy information, the
Twelve, as might have been expected, retained all their early religious
customs and all their Jewish prejudices. They were simply Jews believing
that Jesus was the Messiah; and if the influence of Paul enlarged their
views upon some minor points, we have no reason to believe that they
ever abandoned their belief in the continued obligation of the law, and
the necessity of circumcision for full participation in the benefits
of the Covenant. The author of the Acts would have us believe that
they required no persuasion, but anticipated Paul in the Gospel of
uncircumcision. It is not within the scope of this work to inquire how
Paul originally formed his views of Christian universalism. Once formed,
it is easy to understand how rapidly they must have been developed and
confirmed by experience amongst


the Gentiles. Whilst the Twelve still remained in the narrow circle of
Judaism and could not be moved beyond the ministry of the circumcision,
Paul, in the larger and freer field of the world, must daily have felt
more convinced that the abrogation of the Law and the abandonment of
circumcision were essential to the extension of Christianity amongst the
Gentiles. He had no easy task, however, to convince others of this, and
he never succeeded in bringing his elder colleagues over to his
views. To the end of his life, Paul had to contend with bigoted and
narrow-minded opposition within the Christian body, and if his views
ultimately triumphed, and the seed which he sowed eventually yielded a
rich harvest, he himself did not live to see the day, and the end was
attained only by slow and natural changes. The new religion gradually
extended beyond the limits of Judaism. Gentile Christians soon
outnumbered Jewish believers. The Twelve whose names were the strength
of the judaistic opposition one by one passed away; but, above all, the
fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Christian community secured
the success of Pauline principles and the universalism of Christianity.
The Church of Jerusalem could not bear transplanting. In the uncongenial
soil of Pella it gradually dwindled away, losing first its influence
and soon after its nationality. The divided members of the Jewish
party, scattered amongst the Gentiles, and deprived of their influential
leaders, could not long retard the progress of the liberalism which
they still continued to oppose and to misrepresent. In a word, the
emancipation of Christianity was not effected by the Twelve, was no work
of councils, and no result of dreams; but, receiving its first great
impulse from the genius and the energy of Paul, its ultimate


achievement was the result of time and natural development.

We have now patiently considered the "Acts of the Apostles," and
although it has in no way been our design exhaustively to examine its
contents, we have more than sufficiently done so to enable the reader
to understand the true character of the document. The author is unknown,
and it is no longer possible to identify him. If he were actually the
Luke whom the Church indicates, our results would not be materially
affected; but the mere fact that the writer is unknown is obviously
fatal to the Acts as a guarantee of miracles. A cycle of supernatural
occurrences could scarcely, in the estimation of any rational mind, be
established by the statement of an anonymous author, and more especially
one who not only does not pretend to have been an eye-witness of most
of the miracles, but whose narrative is either uncorroborated by other
testimony or inconsistent with itself, and contradicted on many points
by contemporary documents. The phenomena presented by the Acts of the
Apostles become perfectly intelligible when we recognize that it is the
work of a writer living long after the occurrences related, whose pious
imagination furnished the apostolic age with an elaborate system
of supernatural agency, far beyond the conception of any other New
Testament writer, by which, according to his view, the proceedings
of the Apostles were furthered and directed, and the infant Church
miraculously fostered. On examining other portions of his narrative,
we find that they present the features which the miraculous elements
rendered antecedently probable. The speeches attributed to


different speakers are all cast in the same mould, and betray the
composition of one and the same writer. The sentiments expressed are
inconsistent with what we know of the various speakers. And when we test
the circumstances related by previous or subsequent incidents and by
trustworthy documents, it becomes apparent that the narrative is not
an impartial statement of facts, but a reproduction of legends or a
development of tradition, shaped and coloured according to the purpose
or the pious views of the writer. The Acts of the Apostles, therefore,
is not only an anonymous work, but upon due examination its claims to be
considered sober and veracious history must be emphatically rejected. It
cannot strengthen the foundations of supernatural Religion, but, on the
contrary, by its profuse and indiscriminate use of the miraculous it
discredits miracles, and affords a clearer insight into their origin and
fictitious character.



Turning from the Acts of the Apostles to the other works of the New
Testament, we shall be able very briefly to dispose of the Catholic
Epistles, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. The so-called
Epistles of James, Jude, and John, do not contain any evidence which,
even supposing them to be authentic, really bears upon our inquiry into
the reality of Miracles and Divine Revelation; and the testimony of the
Apocalypse affects it quite as little. We have already, in examining
the fourth Gospel, had occasion to say a good deal regarding both the
so-called Epistles of John and the Apocalypse. It is unnecessary to
enter upon a more minute discussion of them here. "Seven books of
the New Testament," writes Dr. Westcott, "as is well known, have been
received into the Canon on evidence less complete than that by which
the others are supported."(1) These are "the Epistles of James, Jude,
2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse." We have
already furnished the means of judging of the nature of the


evidence upon which some of the other books have been received into
the Canon, and the evidence for most of these being avowedly "less
complete," its nature may be conceived. Works which for a long period
were classed amongst the Antilegomena, or disputed books, and which
only slowly acquired authority as, in the lapse of time, it became more
difficult to examine their claims, could not do much to establish the
reality of miracles. With regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews, we may
remark that we are freed from any need to deal at length with it, not
only by the absence of any specific evidence in its contents, but by the
following consideration. If the Epistle be not by Paul,--and it not only
is not his, but does not even pretend to be so,--the author is unknown,
and therefore the document has no weight as testimony. On the other
hand, if assigned to Paul, we shall have sufficient ground in his
genuine epistles for considering the evidence of the Apostle, and it
could not add anything even if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included
in the number.

The first Epistle of Peter might have required more detailed treatment,
but we think that little could be gained by demonstrating that the
document is not authentic, or showing that, in any case, the evidence
which it could furnish is not of any value. On the other hand, we are
averse to protract the argument by any elaboration of mere details which
can be avoided. If it could be absolutely proved that the Apostle Peter
wrote the epistle circulating under his name, the evidence for miracles
would only be strengthened by the fact that, incidentally, the doctrine
of the Resurrection of Jesus is maintained. No historical details are
given, and no explanation of the reasons for which the writer believed
in it.


Nothing more would be proved than the point that Peter himself believed
in the Resurrection. It would certainly be a matter of very deep
interest if we possessed a narrative written by the apostle himself,
giving minute and accurate details of the phenomena in consequence of
which he believed in so miraculous an event; but since this epistle does
nothing more than allow us to infer the personal belief of the writer,
unaccompanied by corroborative evidence, we should not gain anything by
accepting it as genuine. We are quite willing to assume, without
further examination, that the Apostle Peter in some way believed in the
Resurrection of his Master. For the argument regarding the reality
of that stupendous miracle, upon which we are about to enter, this is
tantamount to assuming the authenticity of the epistle.

Coming to the Epistles of Paul, it will not be necessary to go into the
evidence for the various letters in our New Testament which are ascribed
to him, nor shall we require to state the grounds upon which the
authenticity of many of them is denied. Accepting the Epistles to the
Galatians, Corinthians and Romans in the main as genuine compositions
of the Apostle, the question as to the origin of the rest, so far as our
inquiry is concerned, has little or no interest. From these four letters
we obtain the whole evidence of Paul regarding miracles, and this we
now propose carefully to examine. One point in particular demands our
fullest attention. It is undeniable that Paul preached the doctrine of
the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, and believed in those events.
Whilst, therefore, we shall not pass over his supposed testimony for the
possession of miraculous powers, we shall chiefly devote our attention
to his evidence for the central dogmas of Supernatural Religion, the
Resurection and Ascension of


Jesus. We shall not, however, limit our examination to the testimony
of Paul, but, as the climax of the historical argument for miracles,
endeavour to ascertain the exact nature of the evidence upon which
belief is claimed for the actual occurrence of those stupendous events.
For this, our inquiry into the authorship and credibility of the
historical books of the New Testament has at length prepared us, and it
will be admitted that, in subjecting these asserted miracles to calm and
fearless scrutiny--untinged by irreverence or disrespect, if personal
earnestness and sincere sympathy with those who believe are any
safeguards,--the whole theory of Christian miracles will be put to its
final test.


It is better, before proceeding to examine the testimony of Paul for the
Resurrection, to clear the way by considering his evidence for miracles
in general, apart from that specific instance. In an earlier portion
of this work(1) the following remark was made: "Throughout the New
Testament, patristic literature, and the records of ecclesiastical
miracles, although we have narratives of countless wonderful works
performed by others than the writer, and abundant assertion of the
possession of miraculous power by the Church, there is no instance
whatever, that we can remember, in which a writer claims to have
himself performed a miracle."(2) It is asserted that this statement is
erroneous, and that Paul does advance this claim.(3) It may be well to
quote the moderate


words in which a recent able writer states the case, although not with
immediate reference to the particular passage which we have quoted.
"... In these undoubted writings St. Paul certainly shows by incidental
allusions, the good faith of which cannot be questioned, that he
believed himself to be endowed with the power of working miracles, and
that miracles, or what were thought to be such, were actually wrought
both by him and by his contemporaries. He reminds the Corinthians
that 'the signs of an Apostle were wrought among them... in signs, and
wonders, and mighty deeds' [------]--the usual words for the higher
forms of miracle--2 Cor. xii. 12). He tells the Romans that 'he will not
dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by(1)
him to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty
signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God' [------]. He asks


Galatians whether 'he that ministereth to them the Spirit, and worketh
miracles [------] among them, doeth it by the works of the law, or
by the hearing of faith?' (Gal. iii. 5.) In the first Epistle to the
Corinthians, he goes somewhat elaborately into the exact place in the
Christian economy that is to be assigned to the working of miracles and
gifts of healing (1 Cor. xii. 10, 28, 29)."(1)

We shall presently examine these passages, but we must first briefly
deal with the question whether, taken in any sense, they furnish
an instance "in which a writer claims to have himself performed _a
miracle_." It must be obvious to any impartial reader, that the remark
made in the course of our earlier argument precisely distinguished the
general "assertion of the possession of miraculous power by the Church,"
from the explicit claim to have personally performed "a miracle" in the
singular. If, therefore, it were even admitted "that St. Paul treats the
fact of his working miracles as a matter of course, _to which a passing
reference is sufficient_," such "incidental allusions" would not in
the least degree contradict the statement made, but, being the only
instances producible, would in fact completely justify it. General and
vague references of this kind have by no means the force of a definite
claim to have performed some particular miracle. They partake too much
of that indiscriminate impression of the possession and common exercise
of miraculous powers which characterized the "age of miracles" to have
any force. The desired instance, which is not forthcoming, and to
which alone reference was made, was a case in which, instead of vague
expressions, a writer, stating with precision the particulars, related
that he himself had,


for instance, actually raised some person from the dead. As we then
added, even if Apostles had chronicled their miracles, the argument for
their reality would not have been much advanced; but it is a curious
phenomenon not undeserving of a moment's attention that apologists can
only refer to such general passages, and cannot quote an instance in
which a specific miracle is related in detail by the person who is
supposed to have performed it. Passing references on a large scale
to the exercise of miraculous power, whilst betraying a suspicious
familiarity with phenomena of an exceptional nature, offer too much
latitude for inaccuracy and imagination to have the weight of an
affirmation in which the mind has been sobered by concentration to
details. "Signs and wonders," indefinitely alluded to, may seem much
more imposing and astonishing than they really are, and it may probably
be admitted by everyone that, if we knew the particulars of the
occurrences which are thus vaguely indicated and which may have been
considered miraculous in a superstitious age, they might to us possibly
appear no miracles at all. General expressions are liable to an
exaggeration from which specific allegations arc more frequently free.
If it be conceded that the Apostle Paul fully believed in the possession
by himself and the Church of divine Charismata, the indefinite
expression of that belief, in any form, must not be made equivalent to
an explicit claim to have performed a certain miracle, the particulars
of which are categorically stated.

Passing from this, however, to the more general question, the force of
some of these objections will be better understood when we consider the
passages in the Epistles which are quoted as expressing Paul's belief in
miracles, and endeavour to ascertain his real views: what it is he


actually says regarding miracles; and what are the phenomena which
are by him considered to be miraculous. We shall not waste time in
considering how, partly through the influence of the Septuagint, the
words [------], and [------] came to be used in a peculiar manner by New
Testament writers to indicate miracles. It may, however, be worth while
to pause for a moment to ascertain the sense in which Paul, who wrote
before there was a "New Testament" at all, usually employed these words.
In the four Epistles of Paul the word [------] occurs six times. In
Rom. iv. 11 Abraham is said to have received the "sign [------] of
circumcision," in which there is nothing miraculous. In 1 Cor. i. 22
it is said: "Since both Jews require signs [------](1) and Greeks seek
after wisdom;" and again, 1 Cor. xiv. 22: "Wherefore the tongues are
for a sign [------] not to the believing but to the unbelieving," &c. We
shall have more to say regarding these passages presently, but just now
we merely quote them to show the use of the word. The only other places
in which it occurs(2) are those pointed out, and which are the subject
of our discussion. In Rom. xv. 19 the word is used in the plural and
combined with [------]: "in the power of signs and wonders" [------];
and in the second passage, 2 Cor. xii. 12, it is employed twice, "the
signs [------] of the apostle "and the second time again in combination
with [------] and [------], "both in signs" [------], &c. The word
[------] is only twice met with in Paul's writings; that is to say, in
Rom. xv. 19 and 2 Cor. xii. 12; and on both occasions, as we


have just mentioned, it is combined with [------].(1) On the other hand,
Paul uses [------] no less than 34 times(2) and, leaving for the present
out of the question the passages cited, upon every occasion, except
one, perhaps, the word has the simple signification of "power." The
one exception is Rom. viii. 38, where it occurs in the plural: [------]
"powers," the Apostle expressing his persuasion that nothing will be
able to separate us from the love of God, "nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers
[------], nor height, nor depth," &c., &c. In 1 Cor. xiv. 11, where the
authorized version renders the original: "Therefore, if I know not the
meaning [------] of the voice," it has still the same sense.

Before discussing the passages before us we must point out that there
is so much doubt, at least, regarding the authenticity of the last two
chapters of the Epistle to the Romans that the passage, Rom. xv. 18, 19,
can scarcely be presented as evidence on such a point as the reality
of miracles. We do not intend to debate the matter closely, but shall
merely state a few of the facts of the case and pass on, for it would
not materially affect our argument if the passage were altogether beyond
suspicion. The Epistle, in our authorized text, ends with a long and
somewhat involved doxology, xvi. 25-27; and we may point out here that
it had already seemed to be brought to a close not only at the end of
chapter xv. (33) but also at xvi. 20. The doxology, xvi. 25-27, which


more particularly demands our attention, is stated by Origen(1) to be
placed in some MSS at the end of ch. xiv.; and a similar statement is
made by Cyril, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact and others. We find
these verses actually so placed in L, and in upwards of 220 out of 250
cursive MSS. of Byzantine origin, in an account of ancient MSS. in Cod.
66, in most of the Greek Lection-aries, in the Slavonic and later Syriac
versions as also in the Gothic, Arabic, (in the polyglot and triglot
text) and some MSS. of the Armenian. They are inserted both at the end
of xiv. and at the end of the Epistle by the Alexandrian Codex,(2) one
of the most ancient manuscripts extant, and by some other MSS.(3) Now,
how came this doxology to be placed at all at the end of chapter xiv.?
The natural inference is that it was so placed because that was the end
of the Epistle. Subsequently, chapters xv. and xvi. being added, it is
supposed that the closing doxology was removed from the former position
and placed at the end of the appended matter. This inference is
supported by the important fact that, as we learn from Origen,(4) the
last two


chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, including the doxology (xvi.
25-27) did not exist in Marcion's text, the most ancient form of it of
which we have any knowledge. Tertullian, who makes no reference to these
two chapters, speaks of the passage, Rom. xiv. 10, as at the close (in
clausula) of the epistle,(1) and he does not call any attention to their
absence from Marcion's Epistle. Is it not reasonable to suppose that
they did not form part of his copy? In like manner Irenæus, who
very frequently quotes from the rest of the Epistle, nowhere shows
acquaintance with these chapters. The first writer who distinctly makes
use of any part of them is Clement of Alexandria. It has been argued
both that Marcion omitted the two chapters because they contain what was
opposed to his views, and because they had no dogmatic matter to induce
him to retain them; but, whilst the two explanations destroy each other,
neither of them is more than a supposition to account for the absence of
what, it may with equal propriety be conjectured, never formed part of
his text.

The external testimony, however, does not stand alone, but is supported
by very strong internal evidence. We shall only indicate one or two
points, leaving those who desire to go more deeply into the discussion
to refer to works more particularly concerned with it, which we shall
sufficiently indicate. It is a very singular thing that all, who, when
he wrote this epistle had never been in Rome, should be intimately
acquainted with so many persons there. The fact that there was much


between Rome and other countries by no means accounts for the
simultaneous presence there of so many of the Apostle's personal
friends. Aquila and Priscilla, who are saluted (xvi. 3), were a short
time before (1 Cor. xvi. 19) in Ephesus.(1) It may, moreover, be
remarked as a suggestive fact that when, according to the Acts (xxviii.
14 ff.), Paul very soon afterwards arrived in Rome, most of these
friends seem to have disappeared,(2) and the chief men of the Jews
called together by Paul do not seem to be aware of the existence of
a christian body at Rome.(3) Another point is connected with the very
passage which has led to this discussion, xv. 18, 19 read: 18. "For
I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not
wrought by me, in order to [------] the obedience of the Gentiles, by
word and deed, 19. in the power of signs and wonders [------] in the
power of the Spirit [------]; so that from Jerusalem and round about
unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ;" &c. The
statement that "from Jerusalem" he had "fully preached" the Gospel is
scarcely in agreement with the statement in the Epistle to the Galatians
i. 17-23, ii. 1 ff Moreover, there is no confirmation anywhere of the
Apostle's having preached as far as Illyricum, which was then almost
beyond the limits of civilization. Baur suggests that in making his
ministry commence at Jerusalem, there is too evident a concession made
to the Jewish Christians, according to whom every preacher of the Gospel
must naturally commence his career at the holy city. It would detain us
much too long to enter upon an analysis of these two


chapters, and to show the repetition in them of what has already
been said in the earlier part of the Epistle; the singular analogies
presented with the Epistles to the Corinthians, not of the nature of
uniformity of style, but of imitation; the peculiarity of the mention of
a journey to Spain as the justification of a passing visit to Rome, and
perhaps a further apology for even writing a letter to the Church there
which another had founded; the suspicious character of the names which
are mentioned in the various clauses of salutation; and to state
many other still more important objections which various critics have
advanced, but which would require more elaborate explanation than can
possibly be given here. It will suffice for us to mention that the
phenomena presented by the two chapters are so marked and curious that
for a century they have largely occupied the attention of writers of all
shades of opinion, and called forth very elaborate theories to account
for them; the apparent necessity for which in itself shows the insecure
position of the passage. Semler,(1) without denying the Pauline
authorship of the two chapters, considered they did not properly belong
to the Epistle to the Romans. He supposed xvi. 3-16 to have been merely
for the messenger who carried the Epistle, as a list of the persons
to whom salutations were to be given, and to these, ch. xv. was to be
specially delivered and considered ch. xv. to be a separate letter,
addressed to the leaders of the Roman Church, as an Epistle to the
community in general, being sealed up and ready for any opportunity of
transmission, but none presenting itself before


his arrival in Corinth, the apostle there, upon an additional sheet,
wrote xvi. and entrusted it with the letter to Phoebe. Eichhorn(1)
supposed that the parchment upon which the Epistle was written was
finished at xiv. 23; and, as Paul and his scribe had only a small sheet
at hand, the doxology only, xvi. 25-27, was written upon the one side of
it, and on the other the greetings and the apostolic benediction,
xvi. 21-24, and thus the letter was completed; but, as it could not
immediately be forwarded, the apostle added a fly-leaf with ch. xv.
Bertholdt(2) Guericke(3) and others adopted similar views more or less
modified, representing the close of the Epistle to have been formed by
successive postscripts. More recently, Renan(4) has affirmed the epistle
to be a circular letter addressed to churches in Rome, Ephesus, and
other places, to each of which only certain portions were transmitted
with appropriate salutations and endings, which have all been collected
into the one Epistle in the form in which we have it. David Schulz
conjectured that xvi. 1-20 was an epistle written from Rome to the
church at Ephesus; and this theory was substantially adopted by
Ewald,--who held that xvi. 3-20 was part of a lost epistle to
Ephesus,--and by many other critics.(5) Of course the virtual
authenticity of the xv.-xvi. chapters, nearly or exactly as they are,
is affirmed by many writers. Baur, however, after careful investigation,
pronounced the two chapters inauthentic, and in this he is followed by
able critics.(6) Under all these circumstances it is obvious


that we need not occupy ourselves much with the passage in Rom. xv. 18,
19, but our argument will equally apply to it. In order to complete this
view of the materials we may simply mention, as we pass on, that the
authenticity of 2 Cor. xii. 12 has likewise been impugned by a few
critics, and the verse, or at least the words [------], as well as Rom.
xv. 19, declared an interpolation.(1) This cannot, however, so far as
existing evidence goes, be demonstrated; and, beyond the mere record of
the fact, this conjecture does not here require further notice.

It may be well, before proceeding to the Epistles to the Corinthians,
which furnish the real matter for discussion, first to deal with the
passage cited from Gal iii. 5, which is as follows:--"He then that
supplieth to you the Spirit and worketh powers [------] within you
[------], (doeth he it) from works of law or from hearing of faith?"(2)
The authorised version reads: "and worketh miracles among you;" but this
cannot be maintained, and [------] must be rendered "within you," the
[------] certainly retaining its natural signification when used with
[------], the primary meaning of which is itself to in-work. The vast
majority of critics of all schools agree in this view.(3) There is an
evident reference to iii 2,


and to the reception of the Spirit, here further characterised as
producing such effects within the minds of those who receive it,(1) the
worker who gives the Spirit being God. The opinion most commonly held is
that reference is here made to the "gifts" [------], regarding which the
Apostle elsewhere speaks,(2) and which we shall presently discuss, but
this is by no means certain and cannot be determined. It is equally
probable that he may refer to the spiritual effect produced upon the
souls of the Galatians by the Gospel which he so frequently represents
as a "power" of God. In any case, it is clear that there is no external
miracle referred to here, and even if allusion to Charismata be
understood we have yet to ascertain precisely what these were. We shall
endeavour to discover whether there was anything in the least degree
miraculous in these "gifts," but there is no affirmation in this passage
which demands special attention, and whatever general significance it


may have will be met when considering the others which are indicated.

the first passage in the Epistles to the Corinthians, which is pointed
out as containing the testimony of Paul both to the reality of miracles
in general and to the fact that he himself performed them, is the
following, 2 Cor. xii. 12: "Truly the signs [------] of the Apostle were
wrought in you [------] in all patience, both in signs and wonders and
powers [------]"(1) We have to justify two departures in this rendering
from that generally received. The first of these is the adoption of
"wrought in you," instead of "wrought among you" and the second the
simple use of "powers" for [------], instead of "mighty works." We shall
take the second first We have referred to every passage except 1 Cor.
xii. 10, 28, 29, in which Paul makes use of the word [------], and
fortunately they are sufficiently numerous to afford us a good insight
into his practice. It need not be said that the natural sense of
[------] is in no case "mighty works" or miracles, and that such an
application of the Greek word is peculiar to the New Testament and,
subsequently, to Patristic literature. There is, however, no ground
for attributing this use of the word to Paul. It is not so used in the
Septuagint, and it is quite evident that the Apostle does not employ
it to express external effects or works, but spiritual phenomena or
potentiality. In the passage, Gal. iii. 5, which we have just discussed,
where the word occurs in the plural, as here, it is understood to
express "powers." We may quote the rendering of that passage by the
Bishop of Gloucester:


"He then, _I say_, that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh
_mighty_ powers within you, _doeth he it_ by the works of the law or by
the report of faith?"(1) Why "mighty" should be inserted it is difficult
to understand, but the word is rightly printed in italics to show that
it is not actually expressed in the Greek. "What was the exact nature
of these 'powers'... it is impossible to determine," observes another
scholar quoted above,(2) on the same passage.3 In 1 Cor. xii. 10, 28,
29, where the plural [------] again occurs, the intention to express
"powers"(4) and not external results--miracles--is perfectly clear, the
word being in the last two verses used alone to represent the "gifts."
In all of these passages the word is the representative of the "powers"
and not of the "effects."(5) This interpretation is rendered more clear
by, and at the same time confirms, the preceding phrase, "were wrought
in you "[------]. 'Powers' [------], as in Gal. iii. 5, are worked
"within you," and the rendering of that passage being so settled, it
becomes authoritative for this. If, however, direct confirmation of
Paul's meaning be required we have it in Rom. vii. 8, where we find the
same verb used with [------] in this sense: "But sin.... wrought in
me [------] all manner of coveting," &c.; and with this may also
be compared 2 Cor. vii. 11.... "what earnestness it wrought in you"


[------]. It was thus Paul's habit to speak of spiritual effects wrought
"within," and as he referred to the "powers" [------] worked "within"
the souls of the Galatians, so he speaks of them here as "wrought in"
the Corinthians. It will become clear as we proceed that the addition
to [------] of "signs and wonders" does not in the least affect this
interpretation. In 1 Cor. xiv. 22, the Apostle speaks of the gift of
"tongues" as "a sign" [------].

Upon the supposition that Paul was affirming the actual performance of
miracles by himself, how extraordinary becomes the statement that
they "were wrought in all patience," for it is manifest that "in all
patience" [------] does not form part of the signs, as some have argued,
but must be joined to the verb [------].(1) It may be instructive to
quote a few words of Olshausen upon the point:--"The [------] is not
altogether easy. It certainly cannot be doubtful that it is to be joined
to [------] and not to what follows; but for what reason does Paul here
make it directly prominent that he wrought his signs in all patience?
It seems to me probable that in this there may be a reproof to the
Corinthians, who, in spite of such signs, still showed themselves
wavering regarding the authority of the Apostle. In such a position,
Paul would say, he had, patiently waiting, allowed his light to shine
amongst them, certain of ultimate triumph."(3) This will hardly be
accepted by any one as a satisfactory solution of the difficulty, which
is a real one if it be assumed that Paul, claiming to have performed


miracles, wrought them "in all patience." Besides the matter is
complicated, and the claim to have himself performed a miracle still
more completely vanishes, when we consider the fact that the passive
construction of the sentence does not actually represent Paul as the
active agent by whom the signs were wrought. "Truly the signs of the
apostle were wrought," but how wrought? Clearly he means by the Spirit,
as he distinctly states to the Gala- tians. To them "Jesus Christ (the
Messiah) was fully set forth crucified," and he asks them: Was it from
works of the Law or from hearing in faith the Gospel thus preached
to them that they "received the Spirit"? and that he who supplies the
Spirit "and worketh powers" in them does so? From faith, of course.(1)
The meaning of Paul, therefore, was this: His Gospel was preached among
them "in all patience," which being received by the hearing of faith,
the Spirit was given to them, and the signs of the apostle were thus
wrought among them. The representation is made throughout the Acts that
the apostles lay their hands on those who believe, and they receive the
Holy Spirit and speak with tongues. If any special "sign of the apostle"
can be indicated at all, it is this; and in illustration we may point to
one statement made in the Acts. Philip, the evangelist, who was not an
apostle, is represented as going into Samaria and preaching the Messiah
to the Samaritans, who give heed to the things spoken by him, and
multitudes are baptized (viii. 5, 6, 12), but there was not the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit which usually accompanied the apostolic
baptism. "And the Apostles in Jerusalem, having heard that Samaria had
received the word of God, sent unto them Peter and John; who


when they came down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy
Spirit--for as yet he had fallen upon none of them, but they had only
been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they (the
Apostles) their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit."(1) We
may further refer to the episode at Ephesus (Acts xix. Iff.) where
Paul finds certain disciples who, having only been baptized into John's
baptism, had not received the Holy Spirit, nor even heard whether there
was a Holy Spirit, (xix. 6.) "And Paul having laid his hands upon them,
the Holy Spirit came on them, and they were speaking with tongues and

When we examine Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians we find ample
assurance that the interpretation here given of this passage is correct,
and that he does not refer, as apologists have maintained, to miracles
wrought by himself, but to the Charismata, which were supposed to have
been bestowed upon the Corinthians who believed, and which thus were the
signs of his apostleship. The very next verse to that which is before us
shows this: "Truly the signs of the Apostle were wrought in you in all
patience.... 13. For [------] what is there wherein ye were inferior
to the other Churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to
you?" The mere performance of signs and wonders did not constitute their
equality; but in the possession of the Charismata,--regarding which
so much is said in the first epistle, and which were the result of
his preaching,--they were not inferior to the other Churches, and only
inferior, Paul says with his fine irony, in not having, like the other
Churches with their apostles, been called upon to acquire the merit of


bearing his charges. What could be more distinct than the Apostle's
opening address in the first Epistle: "I thank my God always, on your
behalf, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus;
that in everything ye were enriched by him (at the time of their
conversion(1), in all utterance and in all knowledge: even as the
testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: _so that ye come behind in no
gift_ [------]," &c. For this reason they were not inferior to the other
Churches, and those were the signs of the Apostle which were wrought in
them. Paul very distinctly declares the nature of his ministry amongst
the Corinthians and the absence of other "signs": 1 Cor. i. 22 f. "Since
both Jews demand signs [------] and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we
[------] preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block and unto
Gentiles foolishness, but unto those who are called, both Jews and
Greeks, Christ the power [------] of God and the wisdom of God." The
contrast is here clearly drawn between the requirement of Jews (signs)
and of Greeks (wisdom) and Paul's actual ministry: no signs, but a
scandal [------] to the Jew, and no wisdom, but foolishness to the
Greek, but this word of the cross [------] "to us who are being saved
is the power [------] of God" (i. 18).(2) The Apostle tells us what
he considers the "sign of the Apostle," when, more directly defending
himself against the opponents who evidently denied his apostolic claims,
he says vehemently: 1 Cor. ix. 1 flf. "Am I not free? Am I not an
Apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? _are not ye my work in the
Lord?_ If I be not an Apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you:
_for the seal


[------] of my Apostleship are ye in the Lord_."(1) It cannot, we think,
be doubted, when the passage 2 Cor. xii. 12 is attentively considered,
that Paul does not refer to external miracles performed by him, but to
the Charismata which he supposed to be conferred upon the Corinthian
Christians on their acceptance of the Gospel which the Apostle preached.
These Charismata, however, are advanced as miraculous, and the passages
1 Cor. xii. 10, 28, 29 are quoted in support of the statement we are
discussing, and these now demand our attention.

It may be well at once to give the verses which are referred to, and
in which it is said that Paul "goes somewhat elaborately into the exact
place in the Christian economy that is to be assigned to the working of
miracles and gifts of healing" (1 Cor. xii. 10, 28, 29). It is necessary
for the full comprehension of the case that we should quote the context:
xii. 4. "Now there are diversities of gifts [------], but the same
Spirit; 5. and there are diversities of ministries [------], and the
same Lord; 6. and there are diversities of workings [------], but it
is the same God who worketh the all in all [------]: 7. But to each is
given the manifestation of the Spirit [------] for profit; 8. For to one
is given by the Spirit a word of wisdom [------]; to another a word of
knowledge [------] according to the same Spirit; 9. to another faith
[------] in the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings [------] in
the one Spirit; 10. to another (inward) workings of powers [------]


[------]; to another prophecy [------]; to another discerning of
spirits [------]; to another kinds of tongues [------]; to another
interpretation of tongues [------]; 11. but all these worketh [------]
the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each severally as he wills."
After illustrating this by showing the mutual dependence of the
different members and senses of the body, the Apostle proceeds: v. 28.
"And God set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets,
thirdly teachers, after that powers [------], after that gifts of
healings [------], helpings [------], governings [------], kinds of
tongues [------]. 29. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all
teachers? are all powers [------]? 30. have all gifts of healings
[------]? do all speak with tongues [------]? do all interpret

Before we commence an examination of this interesting and important
passage, it is essential that we should endeavour to disabuse our
minds of preconceived ideas. Commentators are too prone to apply to the
Apostle's remarks a system of interpretation based upon statements made
by later and less informed writers, and warped by belief in the reality
of a miraculous element pervading all apostolic times, which have been
derived mainly from post-apostolic narratives. What do we really know
of the phenomena supposed to have characterized the Apostolic age,
and which were later, and are now, described as miraculous? With the
exception of what we glean from the writings of Paul, we know absolutely
nothing from any contemporary writer and eye-witness. In the Gospels and
in the Acts of the Apostles, we have detailed accounts of many miracles


to have been performed by the Apostles and others; but these narratives
were all written at a much later period, and by persons who are unknown,
and most of whom are not even affirmed to have been eye-witnesses.(1)
In the Acts of the Apostles, we have an account of some of the very
Charismata referred to by Paul in the passage above quoted, and we shall
thus have the advantage of presently comparing the two accounts. We
must, however, altogether resist any attempt to insert between the lines
of the apostle's writing ideas and explanations derived from the Author
of the Acts and from patristic literature, and endeavour to understand
what it is he himself says and intends to say. It must not be supposed
that we in the slightest degree question the fact that the Apostle Paul
believed in the reality of supernatural intervention in mundane affairs,
or that he asserted the actual occurrence of certain miracles. Our
desire is as far as possible to ascertain what Paul himself has to say
upon specific phenomena, now generally explained as miraculous, and
thus, descending from vague generalities to more distinct statements,
to ascertain the value of his opinion regarding the character of such
phenomena. It cannot fail to be instructive to determine something of
the nature of Charismata from an eye-witness who believed them to have
been supernatural. His account, as we have seen, is the most precious
evidence of the Church to the reality of the miraculous.

The first point which must be observed in connection with the Charismata
referred to by Paul in the passage before us is that, whilst there are
diversities amongst them, all the phenomena described are ascribed to

     1 It is suggestive that the curious passage Mk. xvi. 17--18
     is not even by the author of the second Gospel, but a later


"one and the same Spirit dividing to each severally as he wills;" and,
consequently, that, although there may be differences in their form
and value, a supernatural origin is equally assigned to all the "gifts"
enumerated. What then are these Charismata? "A word of wisdom," "a
word of knowledge," and "faith" are the first three mentioned. What
the precise difference was, in Paul's meaning, between the utterance
of wisdom [------] and of knowledge [------] it is impossible now with
certainty to say, nor is it very essential for us to inquire. The two
words are combined in Rom. xi. 33: "O the depths of the riches and
wisdom [------] and knowledge [------] of God!" and in this very epistle
some varying use is made of both words. Paul tells the Corinthians (1,
i. 17) that Christ did not send him "in wisdom of word "[------] or
utterance: and (ii. 1) "not with excellency of word or wisdom" [------],
cf. ii. 4); and further on he says (i. 30) that Christ Jesus "was made
unto us wisdom [------] from God." The most suggestive expressions,(1)
however, are the following, we think: 1 Cor. ii. 6. "But we speak wisdom
[------] among the perfect, yet not the wisdom [------] of this age, nor
of the rulers of this age, that come to nought, 7. but we speak God's
wisdom [------] in mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before
the ages unto our glory, 8. which none of the rulers of this age has
known, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of
Glory. 9. But as it is written, 'What eye saw not/ &c. &c. 10. But unto
us God revealed them through the Spirit....... 11....


even so also the things of God knoweth no one but the Spirit of God. 12.
But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is
from God, that we might know the things that are freely given us by God;
13. which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom,
but in words taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to
the spiritual"(1) [------]. It is quite clear from all the antecedent
context that Paul's preaching was specially the Messiah crucified,
"Christ the power of God and the wisdom [------] of God," and we may
conclude reasonably that the [------] of our passage was simply the
eloquent utterance of this doctrine. In like manner, we may get some
insight into the meaning which Paul attached to the word "knowledge"
[------]. It will be remembered that at the very opening of the first
Epistle to the Corinthians Paul expresses his thankfulness that in
everything they were enriched in Christ Jesus: i. 5. "in all utterance
[------] and in all knowledge [------], 6. even as the testimony of the
Christ was confirmed in you;" that is to say, according to commentators,
by these very Charismata. Later, speaking of "tongues," he says (1
Cor. xiv. 6): "... What shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you
either in revelation or in knowledge [------], or in prophecy, or in
teaching?" We obtain a clearer insight into his meaning in the second
Epistle, in the passage 2 Cor. ii. 14-16, and still more in iv. 3-6 and
x. 5, where he describes metaphorically his weapons as not carnal, but
strong through God, "casting down reasonings and every high thing that
exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into


_captivity_ every thought to the obedience of the Christ;" and if we ventured
to offer an opinion, it would be that Paul means by [------] simply
Christian theology. We merely offer this as a passing suggestion.
Little need be said with regard to the gift of "faith" (marts), which is
perfectly intelligible.

Apologists argue that by these three gifts" some supernatural form of
wisdom, knowledge, and faith is expressed, and we shall have something
more to say on the point presently; but here we merely point out that
there is no ground whatever for such an assertion except the fact
that the Apostle ascribes to them a supernatural origin, or, in
fact, believes in the inspiration of such qualities. All that can be
maintained is that Paul accounts for the possession of characteristics
which we now know to be natural, by asserting that they are the direct
gift of the Holy Spirit. There is not the faintest evidence to show
that these natural capabilities did not antecedently exist in the
Corinthians, and were not merely stimulated into action in Christian
channels by the religious enthusiasm and zeal accompanying their
conversion; but, on the contrary, every reason to believe this to
be the case, as we shall further see.(1) In fact, according to the
Apostolic Church, every quality was a supernatural gift, and all ability
or excellence in practical life directly emanated from the action of the
Holy Spirit. We may now proceed to "gifts of healings" [------](2) which
it will be noted are doubly in the plural,


indicating, as is supposed, a variety of special gifts, each having
reference probably to special diseases. What is there to show that
there was anything more miraculous in "gifts of healings" than in the
possession of an utterance of wisdom, an utterance of knowledge, or
faith? Nothing whatever. On the contrary, everything, from the unvarying
experience of the world, to the inferences which we shall be able to
draw from the whole of this information regarding the Charismata,
shows that there was no miraculous power of healing either possessed or
exercised. Reference is frequently made to the passage in the so-called
Epistle of James as an illustration of this, v. 14: "Is any sick among
you? let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over
him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15. And the
prayer of faith shall save the afflicted, and the Lord shall raise
him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him." The
context, however, not only shows that in this there is no allusion
to any gift of healing or miraculous power, but seems to ignore the
existence of any such gift. The epistle continues: v. 16. "Confess
therefore your sins one to another, and pray for one another that ye may
be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much when it is
working." And then the successful instance of the prayer of Elijah that
it might not rain and again that it might rain is given. The passage
is merely an assertion of the efficacy of prayer, and if, as is not
unfrequently done, it be argued that the gifts of healings were probably
applied by means of earnest prayer for the sick, it may be said that
this is the only "gift" which is supposed to have descended to our
times. It does not require much argument, however, to show that the
reality of a miraculous gift cannot be demonstrated


by appealing to the objective efficacy of prayer. We may, in passing,
refer apologists who hold the authenticity of the Epistles to the
Philippians and to Timothy to indications which do not quite confirm the
supposition that a power of miraculous healing actually existed in the
apostolic Church. In the Epistle to the Philippians, ii. 25 ff., Paul
is represented as sending Epaphroditus to them (v. 26) "Since he was
longing after you all and was distressed because ye heard that he was
sick. 27. For, indeed, he was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on
him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow
upon sorrow. I sent him, therefore, the more anxiously, that, when ye
see him, ye may rejoice again, and that I may be the less sorrowful."
The anxiety felt by the Philippians, and the whole language of the
writer, in this passage, are rather inconsistent with the knowledge that
miraculous power of healing was possessed by the Church, and of course
by Paul, which would naturally have been exerted for one in whom so
many were keenly interested. Then, in 2 Tim. iv. 20, the writer says:
"Trophimus I left at Miletus sick." If miraculous powers of healing
existed, why were they not exerted in this case? If they were exerted
and failed for special reasons, why are these not mentioned? It is
unfortunate that there is so little evidence of the application of
these gifts. On the other hand, we may suggest that medical art scarcely
existed at that period in such communities, and that the remedies
practised admirably lent themselves to the theory of "gifts" of
healings, rather than to any recognition of the fact that the accurate
diagnosis of disease and successful treatment of it can only be the
result of special study and experience. The next gift mentioned is (v.
10) "workings of powers"


[------] very unwarrantably rendered in our "authorized" version "the
working of miracles." We have already said enough regarding Paul's use
of [------]. The phrase before us would be even better rendered in-or
inward-workings of powers(1) and the use made of [------] by Paul
throughout his epistles would confirm this. It may be pointed out that
as the gifts just referred to are for "healings" it is difficult to
imagine any class of "miracles" which could well be classed under a
separate head as the special "working of miracles" contemplated by
apologists. Infinitely the greater number of miracles related in the
Gospels and Acts are "healings" of disease. Is it possible to suppose
that Paul really indicated by this expression a distinct order
of "miracles" properly so called? Certainly not Neither the words
themselves used by Paul, properly understood, nor the context permit us
to suppose that he referred to the working of miracles at all. We have
no intention of conjecturing what these "powers" were supposed to be;
it is sufficient that we show they cannot rightly be exaggerated into
an assertion of the power of working miracles. It is much more probable
that, in the expression, no external working by the gifted person is
implied at all, and that the gift referred to "in-workings of powers"
within his own mind, producing the ecstatic state, with its usual
manifestations, or those visions and supposed revelations to which Paul
himself was subject. Demonaics, or persons supposed to be possessed of
evil spirits, were called [------] and it is easy to conceive how anyone
under strong religious


impressions, at that epoch of most intense religious emotion, might,
when convulsed by nervous or mental excitement, be supposed the subject
of inward workings of powers supernaturally imparted. Every period of
religious zeal has been marked by such phenomena.(1) These conclusions
are further corroborated by the next gifts enumerated. The first
of these is "prophecy" [------], by which is not intended the
mere foretelling of events, but speaking "unto men edification and
exhortation and comfort," as the Apostle himself says (xiv. 3); and an
illustration of this may be pointed out in Acts iv. 36 where the name
Barnabas = "Son of prophecy," being interpreted is said to be "Son of
Exhortation" [------].

To this follows the "discerning (or judging) of spirits" [------], a
gift which, if we are to judge by Paul's expressions elsewhere, was
simply the exercise of natural intelligence and discernment. In an
earlier part of the first Epistle, rebuking the Corinthians for carrying
their disputes before legal tribunals, he says, vi. 5: "Is it so that
there is not even one wise man among you who shall be able to discern
[------] between his brethren?" Again, in xi. 31, "But if we discerned
[------] we should not be judged [------]" (cf vv. 28, 29), and in
xiv. 29, "Let Prophets speak two or three, and let the others discern"

We reserve the "kinds of tongues" and "interpretation of tongues"
for separate treatment, and proceed to vv. 28ff. in which, after
illustrating his meaning by the analogy of the body, the Apostle resumes


observations upon the Charismata, and it is instructive to consider
the rank he ascribes to the various gifts. He classes them: "First,
apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, after that powers, after
that gifts of healings, helpings, governings, kinds of tongues." These
so-called miraculous gifts are here placed in a lower class than those
of exhortation and teaching, which is suggestive; for it is difficult to
suppose that even a man like Paul could have regarded the possession of
such palpable and stupendous power as the instantaneous and miraculous
healing of disease, or the performance of other miracles, below the
gift of teaching or exhortation. It is perfectly intelligible that the
practice of medicine as it was then understood, and the skill
which might have been attained in particular branches of disease by
individuals, not to speak of those who may have been supposed to be
performing miracles when they dealt with cases of hysteria or mental
excitement, might appear to the apostle much inferior to a gift
for imparting spiritual instruction and admonition; but the actual
possession of supernatural power, the actual exercise of what was
believed to be the personal attribute of God, must have been considered
a distinction more awful and elevated than any gift of teaching. It
will be noticed also that other Charismata are here introduced, whilst
"discerning of spirits" is omitted. The new gifts, "helpings" and
"governings," have as little a miraculous character about them as any
that have preceded them. Is it not obvious that all special ability, all
official capacity, is simply represented as a divine gift, and regarded
as a "manifestation of the Spirit?"

It is important in the highest degree to remember that the supposed
miraculous Charismata are not merely conferred upon a few persons, but
are bestowed upon all


the members of the Apostolic Church.(1) "The extraordinary Charismata
which the Apostles conferred through their imposition of hands," writes
Dr. von Dollinger, "were so diffused and distributed, that nearly every
one, or at any rate many, temporarily at least, had a share in one gift
or another. This was a solitary case in history, which has never since
repeated itself, and which, in default of experience, we can only
approximately picture to ourselves. One might say: the metal of the
Church was still glowing, molten, formless, and presented altogether
another aspect than, since then, in the condition of the cold and
hardened casting."(2) The apologetic representation of the case is
certainly unique in history and, therefore, in its departure from
all experience might, one might have thought, have excited suspicion.
Difficult as it is to picture such a state, it is worth while to
endeavour to do so to a small extent. Let us imagine communities of
Christians, often of considerable importance, in all the larger cities
as well as in smaller towns, all or most of the members of which were
endowed with supernatural


gifts, and, amongst others, with power to heal diseases and to perform
miracles; all the intellectual and religious qualities requisite for
the guidance, edification, and government of the communities supplied
abundantly and specially by the Holy Spirit; the ordinary dependence of
society on the natural capacity and power of its leaders dispensed with,
and every possible branch of moral culture and physical comfort provided
with inspired and miraculously-gifted ministries; the utterance of
wisdom and knowledge, exhortation and teaching, workings of healings,
discernment of spirits, helpings, governings, kinds of tongues
supernaturally diffused throughout the community by God himself. As a
general rule, communities have to do as well as they can without such
help, and eloquent instructors and able administrators do not generally
fail them. The question, therefore, intrudes itself: Why were ordinary
and natural means so completely set aside, and the qualifications which
are generally found adequate for the conduct and regulation of
life supplanted by divine Charismata? At least, we may suppose that
communities endowed with such supernatural advantages, and guided by the
direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, must have been distinguished in
every way from the rest of humanity, and must have presented a spectacle
of the noblest life, free from the weakness and inconsistency of the
world, and betraying none of the moral and intellectual frailties
of ordinary society. At the very least, and without exaggeration,
communities in every member of which there existed some supernatural
manifestation of the Holy Spirit might be expected to show very marked
superiority and nobility of character. When we examine the Epistles of
Paul and other ancient documents, we find anything but supernatural


qualities in the Churches supposed to be endowed with such miraculous
gifts. On the contrary, it is scarcely possible to exaggerate the
intensely human character of the conduct of such communities, their
fickleness, the weakness of their fidelity to the Gospel of Paul,
their wavering faith, and the ease and rapidity with which they are
led astray, their petty strifes and discords; their party spirit,
their almost indecent abuse of some of their supposed gifts, such as
"tongues," for which Paul rebukes them so severely. The very
Epistles, in fact, in which we read of the supernatural endowments and
organization of the Church are full of evidence that there was nothing
supernatural in them. The primary cause, apparently, for which the first
letter was written to the Corinthians was the occurrence of divisions
and contentions amongst them (i. 10 ff.), parties of Paul, of Apollos,
of Cephas, of Christ, which make the Apostle give thanks (i. 14) that
he had baptized but few of them, that no one might say that they were
baptized into his name. Paul had not been able to speak to them as
spiritual but as carnal, mere babes in Christ (iii. 1 f.); he fed them
with milk, not meat, for they were not yet able, "nor even now are ye
able," he says, "for ye are yet carnal. For whereas there is among you
envying and strife; are ye not carnal?" He continues in the same strain
throughout the letter, admonishing them in no flattering terms. Speaking
of his sending Timothy to them, he says (iv. 18 f.): "But some of you
were puffed up, as though I were not coming to you; but I will come to
you shortly, if it be the Lord's will, and will know, not the speech
of them who are puffed up, but the power." There is serious sin amongst
them, which they show no readiness to purge


away. Moreover these Corinthians have lawsuits with each other (vi. 1
ff.), and, instead of taking advantage of those supernatural Charismata,
they actually take their causes for decision before the uninspired
tribunals of the heathen rather than submit them to the judgment of the
saints. Their own members, who have gifts of wisdom and of knowledge,
discerning of spirits and governings, have apparently so little light to
throw upon the regulation of social life, that the Apostle has to enter
into minute details for their admonition and guidance. He has even to
lay down rules regarding the head-dresses of women in the Churches (xi.
3 ff.). Even in their very Church assemblies there are divisions of a
serious character amongst them (xi. 18 ff.). They misconduct themselves
in the celebration of the Lord's supper, for they make it, as it were,
their own supper, "and one is hungry and another is drunken." "What!"
he indignantly exclaims, "have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or
despise ye the Church of God?" To the Galatians Paul writes, marvelling
that they are so soon removing from him that called them in the grace
of Christ unto a different Gospel (i. 6). "O foolish Galatians," he says
(iii. 1), "who bewitched you?" In that community also, opposition to
Paul and denial of his authority had become powerful.

If we turn to other ancient documents, the Epistles to the seven
Churches do not present us with a picture of supernatural perfection in
those communities, though doubtless, like the rest, they had received
these gifts. The other Epistles of the New Testament depict a state of
things which by no means denotes any extraordinary or abnormal condition
of the members. We may quote a short passage to show that we do not


this representation unduly. "But certainly," says Dr. von Dollinger,
"in spite of a rich outpouring of spiritual gifts vouchsafed to it,
a community could fall into wanton error. Paul had in Corinth,
contemporaneously with his description of the charismatic state of
the church there, to denounce sad abuses. In the Galatian community,
Judaistic seduction, and the darkening of Christian doctrine through the
delusion as to the necessity of the observance of the law, had so much
increased that the Apostle called them fools and senseless, but at the
same time he appealed to the proof which was presented by the spiritual
gifts and miraculous powers, in which they had participated not through
the observance of the law, but through faith in Christ (Gal. iii. 2, 5).
Now at that time the Charismata of teaching and knowledge must already
have been weakened or extinguished in these communities, otherwise so
strong an aberration would not be explicable. Nowhere, however, in this
Epistle is there any trace of an established ministry; on the contrary,
at the close, the 'spiritual' among them are instructed to administer
the office of commination.

But, generally, from that time forward, the charismatic state in
the Church more and more disappeared, though single Charismata, and
individuals endowed with the same, remained. In the first Epistle to the
believers in Thessalonica, Paul had made it specially prominent that his
Gospel had worked there, not as mere word, but with demonstration of the
power of the Holy Spirit (i. 5). In the Epistles to the Philippians and
Colossians, there is no longer the slightest intimation of, or reference
to, the Charismata, although in both communities the occasion for
such an allusion was very appropriate--in Philippi through the Jewish


and in Colossæ on account of the heretical dangers and the threatening
Gnostic asceticism. On the other hand, in the Epistle to the
Philippians, bishops and deacons are already mentioned as ministers
of the community. Then, in the Pastoral Epistles, not only is there no
mention of the Charismata, but a state of the community is set forth
which is wholly different from the charismatic. The communities in
Asia Minor, the Ephesian first of all, are partly threatened, partly
unsettled by Gnostic heresies, strifes of words, foolish controversies,
empty babbling about matters of faith, of doctrines of demons, of an
advancing godlessness corroding like a gangrene (1 Tim. iv. 1-3, vi.
3 ff. 20, 2 Tim. ii. 14 ff.). All the counsels which are here given to
Timothy, the conduct in regard to these evils which is recommended to
him, all is of a nature as though Charismata no longer existed to any
extent, as though, in lieu of the first spiritual soaring and of the
fulness of extraordinary powers manifesting itself in the community, the
bare prose of the life of the Church had already set in."(1) Regarding
this it is not necessary for us to say more than that the representation
which is everywhere made, in the Acts and elsewhere, and which seems
to be confirmed by Paul, is that all the members of these Christian
communities received the Holy Spirit, and the divine Charismata, but
that nowhere have we evidence of any supernatural results produced by
them. If, however, the view above expressed be accepted, the difficulty
is increased; for, except in the allusions of the Apostle to Charismata,
it is impossible to discover any difference between communities which
had received miraculous spiritual "gifts" and those which had not done
so. On the contrary, it


might possibly be shown that a church which had not been so endowed,
perhaps on the whole exhibited higher spiritual qualities than another
which was supposed to possess the Charismata. In none are we able
to perceive any supernatural characteristics, or more than the very
ordinary marks of a new religious life. It seems scarcely necessary to
depart from the natural order of nature, and introduce the supernatural
working of a Holy Spirit to produce such common-place results. We
venture to say that there is nothing whatever to justify the assertion
of supernatural agency here, and that the special divine Charismata
existed only in the pious imagination of the Apostle, who referred every
good quality in man to divine grace.

We have reserved the gift of "Tongues" for special discussion, because
Paul enters into it with a fulness with which he does not treat any of
the other Charismata, and a valuable opportunity is thus afforded us of
ascertaining something definite with regard to the nature of the gift;
and also because we have a narrative in the Acts of the Apostles of the
first descent of the Holy Spirit, manifesting itself in "Tongues," with
which it may be instructive to compare the Apostle's remarks. We may
mention that, in the opinion of many, the cause which induced the
Apostle to say so much regarding Charismata in his first letter to
the Corinthians was the circumstance, that many maintained the gift of
tongues to be the only form of "the manifestation of the Spirit." This
view is certainly favoured by the narrative in the Acts, in which not
only at the first famous day of Pentecost, but on almost every occasion
of the imposition of the Apostle's hands, this is the only gift
mentioned as accompanying the reception of the Holy


Spirit. In any case, it is apparent from the whole of the Apostle's
homily on the subject, that the gift of tongues was especially valued
in the Church of Corinth.(1) It is difficult to conceive, on the
supposition that amongst the Charismata there were comprised miraculous
gifts of healings, and further power of working miracles, that these
could have been held so cheap in comparison with the gift of Tongues;
but in any case, a better comprehension of what this "gift" really was
cannot fail to assist us in understanding the true nature of the whole
of the Charismata. It is evident that the Apostle Paul himself does not
rank the gift of tongues very highly, and indeed, that he seems to value
prophecy more than all the other Charismata (xiv. 1 ff.); but the simple
yet truly noble eloquence with which (xiii. 1 ff.) he elevates above all
these gifts the possession of spiritual love is a subtle indication of
their real character. Probably Paul would have termed christian Charity
a gift of the Spirit as much as


he does "gifts of healings" or "workings of powers;" but, however rare
may be the virtue, it is not now recognized as miraculous, although it
is here shown to be more desirable and precious than all the miraculous
gifts. Even Apostolic conceptions of the Supernatural cannot soar above
the range of natural morality.

The real nature of the "gift of Tongues" has given rise to an almost
interminable controversy, and innumerable treatises have been written
upon the subject. It would have been impossible for us to have
exhaustively entered upon such a discussion in this work, for which it
only possesses an incidental and passing interest; but fortunately such
a course is rendered unnecessary by the fact that, so far as we
are concerned, the miraculous nature of the "gift" alone comes into
question, and may be disposed of without any elaborate analysis of past
controversy or minute reference to disputed points. Those who desire to
follow the course of the voluminous discussion will find ample materials
in the treatises which we shall at least indicate in the course of our
remarks, and we shall adhere as closely as possible to our own point of

In 1 Cor. xii. 10, the Apostle mentions, amongst the other Charismata,
"kinds of tongues" [------] and "interpretation of tongues" [------], as
two distinct gifts. In v. 28 he again uses the expression [------],
and in a following verse he inquires: "do all speak with tongues"
[------](1) "do all interpret" [------]? He says shortly after, xiii. 1:
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels [------] and have not
love," &c. In the following chapter the expressions used in discussing
the gift vary.


In xiv. 2 he says: "he that speaketh with a tongue"(1) [------](2) using
the singular; and again (v. 22), of "the tongues" [------], being a
sign; and in v. 26, each "hath a tongue" [------]. The word [------]
or [------] has several significations in Greek. The first and primary
meaning "the tongue": as a mere member of the body, the organ of speech;
next, a tongue, or language; and further, an obsolete or foreign word
not in ordinary use. If we inquire into the use of [------] in the New
Testament, we find that, setting aside the passages in Acts, Mark, and
1 Cor. xii.-xiv., in which the phenomenon we are discussing is referred
to, the word is invariably used in the first sense, "the tongue,"(3)
except in the Apocalypse, where the word as "language" typifies
different nations.(4) Any one who attentively considers all the
passages in which the Charisma is discussed will observe that no uniform
application of any one signification throughout is possible. We may
briefly say that all the attempts which have been made philologically to
determine the true nature of the phenomenon which the Apostle discusses
have failed to produce any really satisfactory result, or to secure the
general adhesion of critics. It is we think obvious that Paul does not
apply the word, either in the plural or in the singular, in its ordinary
senses, but makes use of [------] to describe phenomena connected with
speech, without intending strictly to apply it either to the tongue or
to a definite language. We


merely refer to this in passing, for it is certain that no philological
discussion of the word can materially affect the case; and the argument
is of no interest for our inquiry. Each meaning has been adopted by
critics and been made the basis for a different explanation of the
phenomenon. Philology is incapable of finally solving such a problem.

From the time of Irenæus,(1) or at least of Origen, the favourite theory
of the Fathers, based chiefly upon the narrative in Acts of the descent
of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, was that the disciples
suddenly became super-naturally endowed with power to speak other
languages which they had not previously learned, and that this gift was
more especially conferred to facilitate the promulgation of the Gospel
throughout the world. Augustine went so far as to believe that each of
the Apostles was thus enabled to speak all languages.(2) The opinion
that the "gift of tongues" consisted of the power, miraculously
conferred by the Holy Ghost, to speak in a language or languages
previously unknown to the speaker long continued to prevail, and it is
still the popular, as well as the orthodox, view of the subject.(3) As
soon as


the attention of critics was seriously directed to the question,
however, this interpretation became rapidly modified, or was altogether
abandoned. It is unnecessary for us to refer in detail to the numerous
explanations which have been given of the phenomenon, or to enumerate
the extraordinary views which have been expressed regarding it; it will
be sufficient if, without reference to minor differences of opinion
respecting the exact form in which it exhibited itself, we broadly state
that a great majority of critics, rejecting the theory that [------]
means to speak languages previously unknown to the speakers, pronounce
it to be the speech of persons in a state of ecstatic excitement,
chiefly of the nature of prayer or praise, and unintelligible to
ordinary hearers.(1) Whether


this speech consisted of mere inarticulate tones, of excited
ejaculations, of obsolete or uncommon expressions and provincialisms, of
highly poetical rhapsodies, of prayer in slow scarcely audible accents,
or of chaunted mysterious phrases, fragmentary and full of rapturous
intensity, as these critics variously suppose, we shall not pause
to inquire. It is clear that, whatever may have been the form of the
speech, if instead of being speech in unlearnt languages supernaturally
communicated, [------] was only the expression of religious excitement,
however that may be supposed to have originated, the pretentions of the
gift to a miraculous character shrink at once into exceedingly small

Every unprejudiced mind must admit that the representation that the
gift of "tongues," of which the Apostle speaks in his Epistle to the
Corinthians, conferred upon the recipient the power to speak foreign
languages before unknown to him, may in great part be traced to the
narrative in Acts of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of
Pentecost. Although a few apologists advance the plea that there may
have been differences in the manifestation, it is generally recognized
on both sides that, however differently described by the two writers,
the [------] of Paul and of the Acts is, in reality, one and the same
phenomenon. The impression conveyed by the narrative has been applied to
the didactic remarks of Paul, and a meaning forced upon them which
they cannot possibly bear. It is not too much to say that, but for the
mythical account in the Acts, no one would ever have supposed that the
[------] of Paul was the gift of speaking foreign languages without
previous study or practice. In the interminable controversy regarding
the phenomenon, moreover, it seems to us to have been a


fundamental error, on both sides too often, to have considered it
necessary to the acceptance of any explanation that it should equally
suit both the remarks of Paul and the account in Acts.(1) The only
right course is to test the narrative by the distinct and authoritative
statements of the Apostle; but to adopt the contrary course is much the
same procedure as altering the natural interpretation of an original
historical document in order to make it agree with the romance of some
unknown writer of a later day. The Apostle Paul writes as a contemporary
and eye-witness of phenomena which affected himself, and regarding which
he gives the most valuable direct and indirect information. The
unknown author of the Acts was not an eye-witness of the scene which he
describes, and his narrative bears upon its very surface the clearest
marks of traditional and legendary treatment. The ablest apologists
freely declare that the evidence of Paul is of infinitely greater value
than that of the unknown and later writer, and must be preferred
before it. The majority of those who profess to regard the narrative
as historical explain away its clearest statements with startling
ingenuity, or conceal them beneath a cloud of words. The references to
the phenomenon in later portions of the Acts are in themselves quite
inconsistent with the earlier narrative in ch. ii. The detailed
criticism of Paul is the only contemporary, and it is certainly the only
trustworthy, account we possess regarding the gift of "tongues."(2) We
must, therefore, dismiss from our minds, if possible, the bias which the
narrative in the Acts has unfortunately


created, and attend solely to the words of the Apostle. If his report of
the phenomenon discredit that of the unknown and later writer, so much
the worse for the latter. In any case it is the testimony of Paul which
is referred to and which we are called upon to consider, and later
writers must not be allowed to invest it with impossible meanings. Even
if we had not such undeniable reasons for preferring the statements of
Paul to the later and untrustworthy narrative of an unknown writer, the
very contents of the latter, contrasted with the more sober remarks of
the Apostle, would consign it to a very subordinate place.

Discussing the miracle of Pentecost in Acts, which he, of course,
regards as the instantaneous communication of ability to speak in
foreign languages, Zeller makes the following remarks: "The supposition
of such a miracle is opposed to a right view of divine agency, and of
the relation of God to the world, and, in this case in particular, to
a right view of the constitution of the human mind. The composition and
the properties of a body may be altered through external influence, but
mental acquirements are attained only through personal activity, through
practice; and it is just in this that spirit distinguishes itself from
matter: that it is free, that there is nothing in it which it has
not itself spontaneously introduced. The external and instantaneous
in-pouring of a mental acquirement is a representation which refutes
itself." In reply to those who object to this reasoning he retorts: "The
assertion that such a miracle actually occurred contradicts the analogy
of all attested experience, that it is invented by an individual or by
tradition corresponds with it; when, therefore, the historical writer
has only the choice between these two


alternatives, he must according to the laws of historical probability,
under all the circumstances, unconditionally decide for the second. He
must do this even if an eyewitness of the pretended miracle stood before
him; he must all the more do so if he has to do with a statement which,
beyond doubt not proceeding from an eye-witness, is more possibly
separated by some generations from the event in question."(1)

These objections are not confined to rationalistic critics and do not
merely represent the arguments of scepticism. Neander expresses similar
sentiments,(2) and after careful examination pronounces the narrative
in Acts untrustworthy, and, adhering to the representations of Paul,
rejects the theory that [------] was speech in foreign languages
supernaturally imparted. Meyer, who arrives at much the same result as
Neander, speaks still more emphatically. He says: "_This_ supposed gift
of tongues (all languages), however, was in the apostolic age, partly
_unnecessary_ for the preaching of the Gospel, as the preachers
thereof only required to be able to speak Hebrew and Greek; partly _too
general_, as amongst the assembly there were certainly many who were not
called to be teachers. And, on the other hand, again, it would also have
been _premature_, as, before all, Paul the apostle of the Gentiles would
have required it, in whom nevertheless there is as little trace of
any _subsequent_ reception of it as that he preached otherwise than in
Hebrew and Greek. _But now, how is the event to be historically judged?_
Regarding this the following is to be observed: As the instantaneous
bestowal of facility in a foreign language is neither logically possible
nor psychologically


and morally conceivable, and as not the slightest intimation of such a
thing in the Apostles is perceptible in their Epistles and elsewhere (on
the contrary, comp. xiv. 11); as, further, if it was only momentary,
the impossibility increases, and as Peter himself in his speech does
not once make the slightest reference to the foreign languages:
therefore,--whether, without any intimation in the text, one consider
that Pentecost assembly as a representation of all future Christianity,
or not--the occurrence, as Luke relates it, cannot be transmitted in its
actual historical circumstance."(1)

Let us a little examine the particulars of the narrative in Acts ii.
All the brethren were assembled in one place, a house [------], on the
morning of the day of Pentecost. In the preceding chapter (i. 15) we
learn that the number of disciples was then about 120, and the crowd
which came together when the miraculous occurrence took place must have
been great, seeing that it is stated that 3,000 souls were baptized
and added to the Church upon the occasion (ii. 41). Passing over the
statement as to the numbers of the disciples, which might well surprise
us after the information given by the Gospels,2 we may ask in what house
in Jerusalem could such a multitude have assembled? Apologists have
exhausted their ingenuity in replying to the question, but whether
placing the scene in one of the halls or courts of the Temple, or in
an imaginary house in one of the streets leading to the Temple, the
explanation is equally vague and unsatisfactory. How did the multitude
so rapidly know of what was passing in a private house? We shall say
nothing at present of the sound of the


"rushing mighty wind" which filled all the house, nor of the descent of
the "tongues as of fire," nor of the various interpretations of these
phenomena by apologetic writers. These incidents do not add to the
historical character of the narrative, nor can it be pronounced either
clear or consistent. The brethren assembled "were all filled with the
Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [------], as the
Spirit gave them utterance."(1) Apologists, in order somewhat to
save the historical credit of the account and reconcile it with the
statements of Paul, have variously argued that there is no affirmation
made in the narrative that speech in foreign languages previously
unknown was imparted. The members of the fifteen nations who hear the
Galilaeans speaking "in our own language wherein we were born" [------]
are disposed of with painful ingenuity; but, passing over all this, it
is recognized by unprejudiced critics on both sides that at least the
author of Acts, in writing this account, intended to represent the
brethren as instantaneously speaking those previously unknown foreign
languages. A few writers represent the miracle to have been one of
hearing rather than of speaking, the brethren merely praising God in
their own tongue, the Aramaic, but the spectators understanding in their
various languages.(2) This only shifts the difficulty from the speakers
to the hearers, and the explanation is generally repudiated. It is,
however, freely granted by all that history does not exhibit a single
instance of such a gift of tongues having ever been made useful for the
purpose of


preaching the gospel.(1) Paul, who claimed the possession of the gift
of tongues in a superlative degree (1 Cor. xiv. 18), does not appear
to have spoken more languages than Aramaic and Greek. He writes to the
Romans in the latter tongue and not in Latin, and to the Galatians
in the same language instead of their own. Peter, who appears to have
addressed the assembled nations in Greek on this very occasion, does
not in his speech either refer to foreign languages or claim the gift
himself, for in v. 15 he speaks only of others: "For _these_ [------]
are not drunken." Every one remembers the ancient tradition recorded
by Papias, and generally believed by the Fathers, that Mark accompanied
Peter as his "interpreter" [------].(2) The first Epistle bearing the
name of Peter, and addressed to some of the very nations mentioned
in Acts, to sojourners "in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and
Bithynia," is written in Greek; and so is the "Epistle to the Hebrews"
and the other works of the New Testament. Few will be inclined to deny
that, to take only one language for instance, the Greek of the writings
of the New Testament leaves something to be desired, and that, if the
writers possessed such a supernatural gift, they evidently did not speak
even so important and current a language with absolute purity. "Le style
des ecrivains sacred," writes a modern


apologist, "montre clairement qu'ils ont appris la langue grecque et
qu'ils ne la possedent pas de droit divin et par inspiration, car
ils l'ecrivent sans correction, en la surchargeant de locutions
hebraiques."(1) In fact, as most critics point out, there never was
a period at which a gift of foreign tongues was less necessary for
intercourse with the civilized world, Greek being almost everywhere
current. As regards the fifteen nations who are supposed to have been
represented on this great occasion, Neander says: "It is certain that
amongst the inhabitants of towns in Cappadocia, in Pontus, in Asia
Minor, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Cyrene, and in the parts of Libya and Egypt
peopled by Greek and Jewish colonies, the Greek language was in great
part more current than the old national tongue. There remain, out of
the whole catalogue of languages, at most the Persian, Syriac, Arabic,
Greek, and Latin. The more rhetorical than historical stamp of the
narrative is evident."(2)

This rhetorical character, as contradistinguished from sober history, is
indeed painfully apparent throughout. The presence in Jerusalem of Jews,
devout men "from every nation under heaven" is dramatically opportune,
and thus representatives of the fifteen nations are prepared to appear
in the house and hear their own languages in which they were born spoken
in so supernatural, though useless, a manner by the brethren. They are
all said to have been "confounded" at the phenomenon, and the writer
adds, ii. 7f: "And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying, Behold,
are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in
our own


language wherein we were born?" &c. Did all the multitude say this?
Or is not this the writer ascribing, according to his view, probable
sentiments to them? How again did they know that the hundred and twenty
or more brethren were Galilaean? Further on, the writer adds more of
the same kind, v. 12, 13: "And they were all amazed and were in doubt,
saying one to another: What may this mean? But others mocking said, They
are full of sweet wine." Is it not a strange manner of accounting
for such a phenomenon as (v. 11) hearing people speaking in their own
tongues the great works of God to suppose that they are drunken? People
speaking with tongues, in Paul's sense (1 Cor. xiv. 23, 24, 33), and
creating an unintelligible tumult, might well lead strangers to say
that they were either mad or drunken, but the praise of God in foreign
language, understood by so many, could not convey such an impression.
Peter does not, in explanation, simply state that they are speaking
foreign languages which have just been supernaturally imparted to them,
but argues (v. 15) that "these are not drunken, as ye suppose, for it is
the third hour of the day,"--too early to be "full of sweet wine," and
proceeds to assert that the phenomenon is, on the contrary, a fulfilment
of a prophecy of Joel in which, although the pouring out of God's Spirit
upon all flesh is promised "in the last days," and as a result that:
"your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall
see visions and your old men shall dream dreams," not a single word
is said of any gift of "tongues," foreign or otherwise. The miraculous
phenomenon in question is not mentioned in the prophecy of which it
is supposed to be the accomplishment. It does not much help matters to
argue that the miracle, although not for future use, was intended as a


sign. We shall see what Paul says regarding [------] as a sign, but we
may here merely point out that the effect produced in the Corinthian
Church is rather an impression of madness, whilst here it leads to a
mocking accusation of drunkenness. The conversion of the 3,000 is by no
means referred to the speaking with tongues, but simply to the speech
of Peter (ii. 37£ 41). From every point of view, there is no cohesion
between the different parts of the narrative; it is devoid of
verisimilitude. It is not surprising that so many critics of all shades
of opinion recognize unhistorical elements in the narrative in Acts,(1)
not to use a stronger term. To allow such an account to influence our
interpretation of Paul's statements regarding the gift of tongues is
quite out of the question; and no one who appreciates the nature of the
case and who carefully examines the narrative of the unknown writer can,
we think, hesitate to reject his theory of a supernatural bestowal of
power to speak foreign languages, before unknown.

It is not difficult to trace the origin of the account in Acts and,
although we cannot here pause to do so with any minuteness, we may at
least indicate the lines upon which the narrative is based. There is no
doubt that then, as now, the Jews commemorated at the feast of Pentecost
the giving of the law on Sinai.(2) It seemed


good to the author of Acts that the prophet like unto Moses,(1) who was
to abrogate that law and replace it by a dispensation of grace, should
inaugurate the new law of love and liberty(2) with signs equally
significant and miraculous. It is related in Exodus xix. 18 that the
Lord descended upon Sinai "in fire," and that the whole mount quaked
greatly. The voice of God pronounced the decalogue and, as the
Septuagint version renders our Ex. xx. 18: "All the people saw the
voice, and the lightnings and the voice of the trumpet and the mountain
smoking."(3) According to Rabbinical tradition, however, when God came
down to give the law to the Israelites, he appeared not to Israel alone,
but to all the other nations, and the voice in which the law was given
went to the ends of the earth and was heard of ail peoples.(4) It will
be remembered that the number of the nations was supposed to be seventy,
each speaking a different language, and the law was given in the one
sacred Hebrew tongue. The Rabbins explained, however: "The voice from
Sinai was divided into 70 voices and 70 languages, so that all nations
of the earth heard (the law), and each heard it actually in its own
language."(5) And again: "Although the ten commandments were promulgated
with one single tone, yet it is said (Exod. xx. 15), 'All people heard
the voices' (in the plural and not the voice in the singular); "the
reason is: As the voice went forth it was divided into seven voices,


and then into seventy tongues, and every people heard the Law in its own
mother-tongue."(1) The same explanation is given of Ps. lxviii. 11, and
the separation of the voice into seven voices and seventy tongues
is likened to the sparks beaten by a hammer from molten metal on the
anvil.(2) Philo expresses the same ideas in several places. We can
only extract one passage in which, speaking of the giving of the law on
Sinai, and discussing the manner in which God proclaimed the decalogue,
he says: "For God is not like a man in need of a voice and of a
tongue... but it seems to me that at that time he performed a most holy
and beseeming wonder, commanding an invisible voice to be created in
air, more wonderful than all instruments,.... not lifeless, but neither
a form of living creature composed of body and soul, but a reasonable
soul full of clearness and distinctness, which formed and excited the
air and transformed it into flaming fire, and sounded forth such an
articulated voice, like breath through a trumpet, that it seemed to
be equally heard by those who were near and those furthest off."(3) A
little further on he says: "But from the midst of the fire streaming
from heaven, a most awful voice sounded forth, the flame being
articulated to language familiar to the hearers, which made that which
was said so vividly clear, as to seem rather seeing than


hearing it."(1) It requires no elaborate explanation to show how this
grew into the miracle at Pentecost at the inauguration of the Christian
dispensation, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a
rushing mighty wind which filled all the house where the disciples were,
and there appeared to them tongues as of fire parting asunder which sat
upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak with other tongues, even as the Spirit gave them
utterance, so that devout men from every nation under heaven heard them
speaking, everyone in his own language wherein he was born, the great
works of God.(2)

When we turn to the other passages in the Acts where the gift of tongues
is mentioned, we find that the interpretation of foreign languages
supernaturally imparted is quite out of place. When Peter is sent to
Cornelius, as he is addressing the centurion and his household, and even
before they are baptized (x. 44), "the Holy Spirit fell on all them
who hear the word;" and the sign of it is (v. 46) that they are heard
"speaking with tongues and magnifying God" [------], precisely like the
disciples at Pentecost (cf ii. 11, xi. 15f.). Now as this gift fell on
all who heard the word (x. 44), it could not be a sign to unbelievers;
and the idea that Cornelius and his house immediately began to speak in
foreign languages, which, as in the case


of the Corinthians, probably no one understood, instead of simply
"magnifying God" in their own tongue, which everyone understood, is
almost ludicrous, if without offence we may venture to say so. The same
remarks apply to xix. 6. We must again allow an eminent apologist,
who will not be accused of irreverence, to characterise such a
representation. "Now in such positions and such company, speech in
foreign tongues would be something altogether without object and without
meaning. Where the consciousness of the grace of salvation, and of a
heavenly life springing from it, is first aroused in man, his own mother
tongue verily, not a foreign language, will be the natural expression
of his feelings. Or we must imagine a magical power which, taking
possession of men, like instruments without volition, forces them to
utter strange tones--a thing contradicting all analogy in the operations
of Christianity."(1) The good sense of the critic revolts against the
natural submission of the apologist.

We have diverged so far in order prominently to bring before the reader
the nature and source of the hypothesis that the gift of "tongues"
signifies instantaneous power to speak unlearnt foreign languages. Such
an interpretation is derived almost entirely from the mythical narrative
in the Acts of the Apostles. We shall now proceed to consider the
statements of the Apostle Paul, and endeavour to ascertain what the
supposed miraculous Charisma really is. That it is something very
different from what the unknown writer represents it in the episode
of Pentecost cannot be doubted. "Whoever has, even once, read with
attention what Paul writes of the speaking with tongues in the
Corinthian community," writes Thiersch, "knows that the difference
between that gift of tongues


and this (of Acts ii.) could scarcely be greater. There, a speech
which no mortal can understand without interpretation, and also no
philologist, but the Holy Spirit alone can interpret; here, a speech
which requires no interpretation. That gift serves only for the
edification of the speaker, this clearly also for that of the hearer.
The one is of no avail for the instruction of the ignorant; the other,
clearly, is imparted wholly for that purpose."(1)

It may be well that we should state a few reasons which show that Paul,
in his first letter to the Corinthians, does not intend, in speaking of
[------], to represent speech in foreign languages. In the very outset
of his dissertation on the subject (xiv. 2), Paul very distinctly
declares as the principal reason for preferring prophecy to the gift of
tongues: "For he that speaketh with a tongue [------] speaketh not unto
men but unto God: for no one understandeth(2) [------]." How could
this be said if [------] meant merely speaking a foreign language? The
presence of a single person versed in the language spoken would in
such a case vitiate the whole of Paul's argument. The statement made
is general, it will be observed, and not limited, to one community, but
applied to a place like Corinth, one of the greatest commercial cities,
in which merchants, seamen, and visitors of all countries were to be
found, it would have been unreasonable to have characterized a foreign
tongue as absolutely unintelligible. In xiv. 9, Paul says: "So likewise
ye, unless ye utter by the tongue [------] words


easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye will
be speaking into air." How could Paul use the expression "by the tongue"
if he meant a foreign language in v. 2 and elsewhere? He is comparing
[------] in the preceding verses with the sounds of musical instruments,
and the point reached in v. 9 clearly brings home the application of
his argument: the [------] is unintelligible, like the pipe or harp, and
unless the tongue utter words which have an understood meaning, it is
mere speaking into air. Is it possible that Paul would call speech in a
language, foreign to him, perhaps, but which nevertheless was the mother
tongue of some nation, "speaking into air"? In such a case, he must have
qualified his statement by obvious explanations, of which not a word
appears throughout his remarks. That he does not speak of foreign
languages is made still more clear by the next two verses, v. 10:
in which, continuing his argument from analogy, he actually compares
[------] with speech in foreign languages, and ends, v. 11: "If,
therefore, I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him
that speaketh a barbarian (foreigner) and he that speaketh a barbarian
(foreigner) in my judgment."' Paul's logic is certainly not always
beyond reproach, but he cannot be accused of perpetrating such an
antithesis as contrasting a thing with itself. He, therefore, explicitly
distinguishes (v. 10) [------] "kinds of languages"(2) from (xii. 10,
28, &c.) [------] "kinds of tongues." In xiv. 6, Paul says: "If I come
unto you speaking with tongues [------] what shall I profit you, unless
I shall


speak to you either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophecy,
or in teaching?" [------]; and then he goes on to compare such
unintelligible speech with musical instruments. Now it is obvious that
revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching might equally be expressed
in foreign languages, and, therefore, in "speaking with tongues" it is
no mere difficulty of expression which makes it unprofitable, but that
general unintelligibility which is the ground of the whole of Paul's
objections. Paul exclaims (v. 18): "I thank God I speak with a tongue
[------](1) more than ye all, (19) but in a church I would rather speak
five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than
ten thousand words in a tongue [------]."(2) We have already pointed out
that there is no evidence whatever that Paul could speak many languages.
So far as we have any information, he only made use of Greek and
Aramaic, and never even preached where those languages were not current.
He always employed the former in his Epistles, whether addressed to
Corinth, Galatia, or Rome, and his knowledge even of that language was
certainly not perfect. Speaking "with a tongue" cannot, for reasons
previously given, mean a foreign language; and this is still
more obvious from what he says in v. 19, just quoted, in which
he distinguishes speaking with a tongue from speaking with his
understanding. Five words so spoken are better than ten thousand in a
tongue, because he speaks


with the understanding in the one case and without it in the second.
It is clear that a man speaks with his understanding as much in one
language as another, but it is the main characteristic of the speech we
are discussing that it is throughout opposed to understanding: cf. vv.
14, 15. It would be inconceivable that, if this gift really signified
power to speak foreign languages, Paul could on the one hand use the
expressions in this letter with regard to it, and on the other that he
could have failed to add remarks consistent with such an interpretation.
For instance is it possible that the Apostle in repressing the exercise
of the Charisma, as he does, could have neglected to point out some
other use for it than mere personal edification? Could he have omitted
to tell some of these speakers with tongues that, instead of wasting
their languages in a church where no one understood them, it would be
well for them to employ them in the instruction of the nations whose
tongues had been supernaturally imparted to them? As it is, Paul checks
the use of a gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit, and reduces its operation
to the smallest limits, without once indicating so obvious a sphere of
usefulness for the miraculous power. We need not, however, proceed to
further arguments upon this branch of the subject; although, in treating
other points, additional evidence will constantly present itself. For
the reasons we have stated, and many others, the great majority of
critics are agreed that the gift of tongues, according to Paul, was not
the power of speaking foreign languages previously unknown.(1) But for
the narrative in Acts ii. no one would ever have thought of such an


Coming now to consider the two Charismata, "kinds of tongues" and "the
interpretation of tongues," more immediately in connection with our
inquiry, as so-called miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, we shall
first endeavour to ascertain some of their principal characteristics.
The theory of foreign languages supernaturally imparted without previous
study may be definitively laid aside. The interpretation of tongues may
go with it, but requires a few observations. It is clear from Paul's
words throughout this dissertation that the interpretation of tongues
not only was not invariably attached to the gift of tongues(1) (1 Cor.
xiv. 13, 27, 28), but was at least often a separate gift possessed
without the kinds of tongues (cf. xii. 10, 28, xiv. 26, 28). Nothing can
be more specific than xii. 10"... to another kinds of tongues; and to
another interpretation of tongues;" and again, v. 30: "do all speak with
tongues? do all interpret?" This is indeed presaged by the "diversities
of gifts," &c, of xii. 4 ff. Upon the hypothesis of foreign languages,
this would presuppose that some spoke languages which they could not
interpret, and consequently could not understand, and that others
understood languages which they could not speak. The latter point is
common enough in ordinary life; but, in this instance, the miracle of
supernaturally receiving a perfect knowledge of


languages, instantaneously and without previous study, is as great as to
receive the power to speak them. The anomaly in the miracle, merely to
point out a suggestive discrepancy where all is anomalous, is that
the gift of tongues should ever have been separated from the gift of
interpretation. If a man understand the foreign language he speaks he
can interpret it; if he cannot interpret it, he cannot understand it;
and if he cannot understand it, can he possibly speak it? Certainly not,
without his having been made a perfectly mechanical instrument
through which, apart from the understanding and the will, sounds are
involuntarily produced, which is not to be entertained. Still pursuing
the same hypothesis,--the one gift is to speak languages which no one
understands, the other to understand languages which no one speaks.
Paul never even assumes the probability that the "tongue" spoken is
understood by any one except the interpreter. The interpretation of such
obscure tongues must have been a gift very little used,--never, indeed,
except as the complement to the gift of tongues. The natural and useful
facility in languages is apparently divided into two supernatural and
useless halves. The idea is irresistibly suggested, as apparently it was
to the Apostle himself, whether it would not have been more for the good
of mankind and for the honour of Christianity, if, instead of these two
miraculously incomplete gifts, a little natural good sense, five
words even, to be spoken in the vernacular tongue and requiring no
interpretation had been imparted. If, instead of foreign languages, we
substitute the utterance of ecstatic religious excitement, the anomaly
of speaking a language without understanding it or being understood
becomes intelligible; and equally so the interpretation,


unaccompanied by the power of speaking. It is obvious in both cases
that, as no one understands the tongue, no one can determine whether the
interpretation of it be accurate or not. But it is easily conceivable
that a sympathetic nervous listener might suppose that he understood the
broken and incoherent speech of ecstasy and might interpret it according
to his own stimulated imagination. The mysterious and unknown are
suggestive texts, and there is nothing more infectious than religious
excitement. In all this, however, is there anything miraculous?

We need not further demonstrate that the chief and general
characteristic of "kinds of tongues" was that they were unintelligible
(cf. 1 Cor. xiv. 2, 6-11, 13-19). Speaking with the spirit [------] is
opposed to speaking with the understanding [------] (cf. vv. 14-16, &c).
They were not only unintelligible to others, but the speaker himself
did not understand what he uttered: v. 14. "For if I pray with a tongue
[------] my spirit [------] prayeth, but my understanding [------] is
unfruitful" (cf. 15 f. 19). We have already pointed out that Paul speaks
of these Charismata in general, and not as affecting the Corinthians
only; and we must now add that he obviously does not even insinuate
that the "kinds of tongues" possessed by that community was a spurious
Charisma, or that any attempt had been made to simulate the gift; for
nothing could have been more simple than for the Apostle to denounce
such phenomena as false, and to distinguish the genuine from the
imitated speech with tongues. The most convincing proof that his remarks
refer to the genuine Charisma is that the Apostle applies to himself the
very same restrictions in the use of "tongues" as he enforces upon the


(vv. 18-19, 6, &c), and characterises his own gift precisely as he does
theirs (vv. 6, 11, 14, 15, 19).

Now what was the actual operation of this singular miraculous gift, and
its utility whether as regards the community or the gifted individual?
Paul restricts the speaking of "tongues" in church because, being
unintelligible, it is not for edification (xiv. 2 ff. 18 f. 23, 27, 28).
He himself does not make use of his gift for the assemblies of believers
(vv. 6, 18). Another ground upon which he objects to the use of "kinds
of tongues" in public is that all the gifted apparently speak at once
(vv. 23, 27 f. 33). It will be remembered that all the Charismata and
their operations are described as due to the direct agency of the Holy
Spirit (xii. 4 ff.); and immediately following their enumeration, ending
with "kinds of tongues" and "interpretation of tongues," the Apostle
resumes: v. 11. "but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit,
dividing to each severally as he wills;" and in Acts ii. 4 the brethren
are represented as speaking with tongues "as the Spirit gave them
utterance." Now the first thought which presents itself is: How can a
gift which is due to the direct working of the Holy Spirit possibly be
abused? We must remember clearly that the speech is not expressive
of the understanding of the speaker. The [------] spoke under the
inspiration of the supernatural Agent, what neither they nor others
understood. Is it permissible to suppose that the Holy Spirit could
inspire speech with tongues at an unfitting time? Can we imagine that
this Spirit can actually have prompted many people to speak at one and
the same time to the utter disturbance of order? Is not such a gift of
tongues more like the confusion of tongues in Babel(1)


than a christian Charisma? "And the Lord said:...Go to, let us go down
and there confound their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech."(1) In spite of his abstract belief in the divine
origin of the Charisma, Paul's language unconsciously betrays practical
doubt as to its character. Does not such sarcasm as the following seem
extremely indecorous when criticising a result produced directly by the
Holy Spirit? (xiv. 23) "If, therefore, the whole church be come into
one place and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned and
unbelieving persons will they not say that ye are mad?" At Pentecost
such an assembly was supposed to be drunken.(2) The whole of the counsel
of the Apostle upon this occasion really amounts to an injunction to
quench the Spirit. It is quite what might be expected in the case of
the excitement of ecstatic religion, that the strong emotion should
principally find vent in the form of prayer and praise (vv. 15 ff.),
equally so that it should be unintelligible and that no one should know
when to say "Amen" (v. 16), and that all should speak at once, and still
more so that the practical result should be tumult (vv. 23, 33). All
this, it might appear, could be produced without the intervention of the
Holy Spirit. So far, is there and utility in the miracle?

But we are told that it is "for a sign." Paul argues upon this point in
a highly eccentric manner. He quotes (v. 21) Isaiah xxviii. 11, 12, in a
form neither agreeing with the Septuagint nor with the Hebrew, a passage
which has merely a superficial and verbal analogy with the gift of
tongues, but whose real


historical meaning has no reference to it whatever: "In the Law it is
written, that with men of other tongues and with the lips of others will
I speak unto this people; and yet for all that they will not hear me,
saith the Lord." The Apostle continues with singular logic: "So that
[------] the tongues are for a sign [------] not to those who believe
but to the unbelieving; but prophecy is not for the unbelieving but
for those who believe. If, therefore, the whole church be come into
one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned
or unbelieving persons, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all
prophesy and there come in an unbeliever... he is convicted by all...
and so falling on his face he will worship God, reporting that God is
indeed in you." The Apostle himself shows that the tongues cannot be
considered a sign by unbelievers, upon whom, apparently, they produce
no other impression than that the speakers are mad or drunken. Under
any circumstances, the "kinds of tongues" described by the Apostle are
a very sorry specimen of the "signs and wonders and powers" of which
we have heard so much. It is not surprising that the Apostle prefers
exhortation in a familiar tongue. In an ecstatic state, men are
incapable of edifying others: we shall presently see how far they can
edify themselves. Paul utters the pith of the whole matter at the very
outset of his homily, when he prefers exhortation to kinds of tongues:
v. 2. "For he that speaketh with a tongue speaketh not unto men but unto
God: for no one under-standeth, but in Spirit he speaketh mysteries"
[------]. It is not possible to read his words without the impression
that the Apostle treats the whole subject with suppressed impatience.
His mind was too prone to believe in spiritual mysteries, and his


nature too susceptible to religious emotion and enthusiasm to permit him
clearly to recognize the true character of the gift of "tongues;" but
his good sense asserted itself and, after protesting that he would
rather speak five words with his understanding than ten thousand words
in a tongue, he breaks off with the characteristic exclamation (v. 20):
"Brethren, become not children in your minds" [------]. The advice is
not yet out of place.

What was the private utility or advantage of the supernatural gift?
How did he who spoke with a tongue edify himself? (v. 4.) Paul clearly
states that he does not edify the church (vv. 2 ff.). In the passage
just quoted the Apostle, however, says that the speaker "with a tongue"
"speaketh to God"; and further on (vv. 18, 19) he implies that, although
he himself does not use the gift in public, he does so in private.
He admonishes (v. 28) any one gifted with tongues, if there be no
interpreter present, to "keep silence in a church, but let him speak to
himself and to God." But in what does the personal edification of the
individual consist? In employing language, which he does not comprehend,
in private prayer and praise? In addressing God in some unintelligible
jargon, in the utterance of which his understanding has no part? Many
strange purposes and proceedings have been attributed to the Supreme
Being, but probably none has been imagined more incongruous than a
gift of tongues unsuitable for the edification of others, and not
intelligible to the recipient, but considered an edifying substitute in
private devotion for his own language. This was certainly not the form
of prayer which Jesus taught his disciples.(1) And this gift was valued


more highly in the Corinthian Church than all the rest! Do we not get
an instructive insight into the nature of the other Charismata from
this suggestive fact? The reality of miracles does not seem to be
demonstrated by these chapters.(1)

We have already stated that the vast majority of critics explain
[------] as speech in an ecstatic condition;(2) and all the phenomena
described by Paul closely correspond with the utterance of persons in
a state of extreme religious enthusiasm, and excitement, of which many
illustrations might be given from other religions before and since the
commencement of our era, as well as in the history of Christianity
in early and recent times. Every one knows of the proceedings of the
heathen oracles, the wild writhings and cries of the Pythoness and the
mystic utterances of the Sibyl. In the Old Testament there is allusion
to the ecstatic emotion of the prophets in the account of Saul, 1 Sara.
xix. 24; cf. Isaiah viii. 19, xxix. 4. The Montanists exhibited similar
phenomena, and Tertullian has recorded several instances of such
religious excitement, to which we have elsewhere referred. Chrysostora
had to repress paroxysms of pious excitement closely resembling these
in the fourth century;(3) and even down to our own times instances have
never been wanting of this form of hysterical religion. Into none of
this can we enter here. Enough, we trust, has been said to show the true
character of the supposed supernatural Charismata of Paul from his own
account of them, and the information contained in his epistles.


Although we have been forced to examine in considerable detail the
passages in the writings of Paul cited by apologists in support of
miracles, the study is one of great value to our inquiry. These are the
only passages which we possess in which a contemporary and eye-witness
describes what he considers supernatural phenomena, and conveys to us
his impression of miraculous agency. Instead of traditional reports of
miracles narrated by writers who are unknown, and who did not witness
the occurrences in question, we have here a trustworthy witness dealing
with matters in which he was personally interested, and writing a
didactic homily upon the nature and operation of Charismata, which he
believed to be miraculous and conferred upon the Church by the immediate
agency of the Holy Spirit. The nineteenth century here comes into direct
contact with the age of miracles, but at the touch the miracles vanish,
and that which, seen through the golden mist of pious tradition, seems
to possess unearthly power and beauty, on closer examination dwindles
into the prose of every day life. The more minutely reported miracles
are scanned, the more unreal they are recognized to be. The point to
which we now desire to call attention, however, is the belief and the
mental constitution of Paul. We have seen something of the nature and
operation of the gift of tongues. That the phenomena described proceeded
from an ecstatic state, into which persons of highly excitable nervous
organization are very liable to fall under the operation of strong
religious impressions, can scarcely be doubted. Eminent apologists(1)
have gravely illustrated the phenomena by the analogy of mesmerism,


somnambulism and the effects of magnetism. Paul asserts that he was
subject to the influence, whatever it was, more than anyone, and
there is nothing which is more credible than the statement, or more
characteristic of the Apostle. We desire to speak of him with the
profoundest respect and admiration. We know more, from his epistles, of
the intimate life and feelings of the great Apostle of the Gentiles than
of any other man of the apostolic age, and it is impossible not to feel
warm sympathy with his noble and generous character. The history of
Christianity, after the death of its Founder, would sink almost into
common-place if the grand figure of Paul were blotted from its pages.
But it is no detraction to recognize that his nervous temperament
rendered him peculiarly susceptible of those religious impressions which
result in conditions of ecstatic trance, to which, as we actually
learn from himself, he was exceptionally subject. The effects of this
temperament probably first made him a Christian; and to his enthusiastic
imagination we owe most of the supernatural dogmas of the religion which
he adopted and transformed.

One of these trances the Apostle himself recounts,(1) always with the
cautious reserve: "whether in the body or out of the body I know not,
God knoweth," how he was caught up to the third heaven, and in Paradise
heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak; in
immediate connection with which he continues: "And lest I should be
exalted above measure by the excess of the revelations, there was given
to me a stake [------] in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me"(2)
This was one of


the "visions [------] and revelations [------] of the Lord" of which he
speaks, and of which he had such an excess to boast. Can any one doubt
that this was nearly akin to the state of ecstatic trance in which he
spoke with tongues more than all the Corinthians? Does any one suppose
that Paul, "whether in the body or out of the body," was ever actually
caught up into "the third heaven," wherever that may be? or doubt that
this was simply one of the pious hallucinations which visit those who
are in such a state? If we are seriously to discuss the point,--it is
clear that evidence of such a thing is out of the question; that Paul
himself admits that he cannot definitely describe what happened; that we
have no other ground for considering the matter than the Apostle's own
mysterious utterance; that it is impossible for a person subject to such
visions and hallucinations to distinguish between reality and seeming;
that this narrative has not only all the character of hallucination, but
no feature of sober fact; and finally that, whilst it accords with all
experiences of visionary hallucination, it contradicts all experience of
practical life. We have seen that Paul believes in the genuineness and
supernatural origin of the divine Charismata, and he in like manner
believes in the reality of his visions and revelations. He has equal
reason, or want of reason, in both cases.

What, however, was the nature of the "stake in the flesh" which, upon
the theory of the diabolical origin of disease, he calls "an angel of
Satan to buffet me"? There have been many conjectures offered, but one
explanation which has been advanced by able critics has special force
and probability. It is suggested that this "stake in the flesh," which
almost all now at


least recognise to have been some physical malady, and very many suppose
to have been headache or some other similar periodical and painful
affection, was in reality a form of epilepsy.(1) It has been ably argued
that the representation of the malady as "an angel of Satan" to buffet
him, directly connects it with nervous disorders like epilepsy, which
the Jews especially ascribed to diabolical influence; and the mention of
this [------] in immediate continuation of his remarks on "visions" and
"revelations," which a tendency to this very malady would so materially
assist in producing, further confirms the conjecture.(2) No one can
deny, and medical and psychological annals prove, that many men have
been subject to visions and hallucinations which have never been
seriously attributed to supernatural causes. There is not one single
valid reason removing the ecstatic visions and trances of the Apostle
Paul from this class.

We do not yet discuss the supposed vision in which he saw the risen
Jesus, though it is no exception to the rest, but reserve it for the
next chapter. At present, it suffices that we point out the bearing of
our examination of Paul's general testimony to miracles upon our future
consideration of his evidence for the Resurrection. If it be admitted
that his judgment as to the miraculous character of the Charismata is
fallacious, and that what he considered miraculous were simply natural
phenomena, the theory of the reality of miracles


becomes less tenable than ever. And if, further, it be recognized, as we
think it necessarily must be, that Paul was subject to natural ecstatic
trances, with all their accompanying forms of nervous excitement: "kinds
of tongues," visions, and religious hallucinations, a strong and clear
light will fall upon his further testimony for miraculous occurrences
which we shall shortly have before us.



When the evidence of the Gospels regarding the great central dogmas
of ecclesiastical Christianity is shown to be untrustworthy and
insufficient, apologists appeal with confidence to the testimony of the
Apostle Paul. We presume that it is not necessary to show that, in
fact, the main weight of the case rests upon his epistles, as undoubted
documents of the apostolic age, written some thirty or forty years after
the death of the Master. The retort has frequently been made to the
earlier portion of this work that, so long as the evidence of Paul
remains unshaken, the apologetic position is secure. We may quote a few
lines from an able work, part of a passage discussed in the preceding
chapter, as a statement of the case: "In the first place, merely as
a matter of historical attestation, the Gospels are not the strongest
evidence for the Christian miracles. Only one of the four, in its
present shape, is claimed as the work of an Apostle, and of that the
genuineness is disputed. The Acts of the Apostles stand upon very much


same footing with the Synoptic Gospels, and of this book, we are
promised a further examination. But we possess at least some undoubted
writings of one who was himself a chief actor in the events which
followed immediately upon those recorded in the Gospels; and in these
undoubted writings St. Paul certainly shows by incidental allusions, the
good faith of which cannot be questioned, that he believed himself to be
endowed with the power of working miracles, and that miracles, or
what were thought to be such, were actually wrought by him and by his
contemporaries..... Besides these allusions, St. Paul repeatedly refers
to the cardinal miracles of the Resurrection and Ascension; he refers
to them as notorious and unquestionable facts at a time when such an
assertion might have been easily refuted. On one occasion he gives a
very circumstantial account of the testimony on which the belief in the
Resurrection rested (1 Cor. xv. 4-8). And not only does he assert
the Resurrection as a fact, but he builds upon it a whole scheme of
doctrine: 'If Christ be not risen,' he says, 'then is our preaching
vain, and your faith is also vain.' We do not stay now to consider the
exact philosophical weight of this evidence. It will be time enough
to do this when it has received the critical discussion that may be
presumed to be in store for it But as external evidence, in the legal
sense, it is probably the best that can be produced, and it has
been entirely untouched so far."(1) We have already disposed of the
"allusions" above referred to. We shall in due time deal with the rest
of the statements in this passage, but at present it is sufficient to
agree at


least with the remark that, "as external evidence," the testimony of
Paul "is probably the best that can be produced." We know at least who
the witness really is, which is an advantage denied us in the case of
the Gospels. It would be premature to express surprise, however, that
we find the case of miracles, and more especially of such stupendous
miracles as the Resurrection and Ascension, practically resting upon
the testimony of a single witness. This thought will intrude itself, but
cannot at present be pursued.

The allegation which we have to examine is that the Founder of
Christianity, after being dead and buried, rose from the dead and did
not again die, but after remaining sometime with his disciples ascended
with his body into heaven.(1) It is unnecessary to complicate the
question by adding the other doctrines regarding the miraculous birth
and divine origin and personality of Jesus. In the problem before us,
certain objective facts are asserted which admit of being judicially
tested. We have nothing to do here with the vague modern representation
of these events, by means of which the objective facts vanish, and
are replaced by subjective impressions and tricks of consciousness or
symbols of spiritual life. Those who adopt such views have, of course,
abandoned all that is real and supernatural in the supposed events.
The Resurrection and Ascension which we have to deal with are events
precisely as objective and real as the

     1 In the Articles of the Church of England this is expressed
     as follows: Art. ii. ".....who truly suffered, was
     crucified, dead, and buried, &c., &c." Art. iii. "As Christ
     died for us, and was buried; so also it is to be believed
     that He went down into Hell." Art iv. "Christ did truly rise
     again from death, and took again Hie Body, with flesh,
     bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of
     man's nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there
     sitteth, until He return to judge all men at the last day."


death and burial,--no ideal process figured by the imagination or
embodiments of christian hope, but tangible realities, historical
occurrences in the sense of ordinary life. If Jesus, after being
crucified, dead and buried, did not physically rise again from the dead,
and in the flesh,(1) without again dying, "ascend into Heaven," the
whole case falls to the ground. These incidents, although stupendous
miracles, must have been actual occurrences. If they did not really take
place, our task is at an end. If it be asserted that they really did
take place their occurrence must be attested by adequate evidence.
Apologists, whilst protesting that the occurrences in question are
believed upon ordinary historical evidence, and that Christianity
requires no indulgence, but submits itself to the same tests as any
other affirmation, do not practically act upon this principle; but, as
soon as it is enunciated, introduce a variety of special pleas which
remove the case from the domain of history into that of theology, and
proceed upon one assumption after another until the fundamental facts
become enveloped and, so to say, protected from judicial criticism by a
cloud of religious dogmas and hypotheses.(2) By confining our attention
to the simple facts which form the basis of the whole superstructure of
ecclesiastical Christianity, we may avoid much confusion of ideas, and

     1 The disappearance of the body from the sepulchre, a point
     much insisted upon, could have had no significance or
     reality if the body did not rise and afterwards ascend.

     2 A work of this kind may be mentioned in illustration: Dr.
     West-cott's "Gospel of the Resurrection." The argument of
     this work is of unquestionable ability, but it is chiefly
     remarkable, we think, for the manner in which the direct
     evidence is hurried over, and a mass of assertions and
     assumptions, the greater part of which is utterly untenable
     and inadmissible, is woven into specious and eloquent
     pleading, and does duty for substantial testimony.


restrict the field of inquiry to reasonable limits. We propose,
therefore, to limit our investigation to the evidence for the reality of
the Resurrection and Ascension.

What evidence could be regarded as sufficient to establish the reality
of such supposed occurrences? The question is one which demands the
serious attention and consideration of every thoughtful man. It is
obvious that the amount of evidence requisite to satisfy our minds as
to the truth of any statement should be measured by the nature of the
statement made and, we may as well add, by its practical importance to
ourselves. The news that a man was married or a child born last week is
received without doubt, because men are married and children are born
every day; and although such pieces of gossip are frequently untrue,
nothing appears more natural or in accordance with our experience. If
we take more distant and less familiar events we have no doubt that
a certain monarch was crowned, and that he subsequently died some
centuries ago. If we ask for the evidence for the statement, nothing
may be forthcoming of a very minute or indubitable nature. No absolute
eye-witness of the coronation may have left a clear and detailed
narrative of the ceremony; and possibly there may no longer be extant a
sufficiently attested document proving with certainty the death of
the monarch. There are several considerations, however, which make us
perfectly satisfied with the evidence, incomplete as it may be. Monarchs
are generally crowned and invariably die; and the statement that any one
particular monarch was crowned and died is so completely in conformity
with experience, that we have no hesitation in believing it in the
specific case. We are satisfied to believe such


ordinary statements upon very slight evidence, both because our
experience prepares us to believe that they are true, and because we do
not much care whether they are true or not. If life, or even succession
to an estate, depended upon either event, the demand for evidence, even
in such simple matters, would be immensely intensified. The converse of
the statement, however, would not meet with the same reception. Would
anyone believe the affirmation that Alfred the Great, for instance, did
not die at all? What amount of evidence would be required before such
a statement could be pronounced sufficiently attested? Universal
experience would be so uniformly opposed to the assertion that such
a phenomenon had taken place, that probably no evidence which could
readily be conceived could ensure the belief of more than a credulous
few. The assertion that a man actually died and was buried, and yet
afterwards rose from the dead, is still more at variance with human
experience. The prolongation of life to long periods is comparatively
consistent with experience; and if a life extending to several centuries
be incredible it is only so in degree, and is not absolutely contrary to
the order of nature, which certainly under present conditions does not
favour the supposition of such lengthened existence, but still does not
fix hard and fast limits to the life of man. The resurrection of a man
who has once been absolutely dead, however, is contrary to all human
experience, and to all that we know of the order of nature. If to this
we add the assertion that the person so raised from the dead never again
died, but after continuing some time longer on earth, ascended bodily to
some invisible and inconceivable place called Heaven, there to "sit at
the right hand of God," the shock to reason and common


sense becomes so extreme, that it is difficult even to realize the
nature of the affirmation. It would be hopeless to endeavour to
define the evidence which could establish the reality of the alleged

As the central doctrines of a religion upon which the salvation of
the human race is said to depend, we are too deeply interested to
be satisfied with slight evidence or no evidence at all. It has not
unfrequently been made a reproach that forensic evidence is required of
the reality of Divine Revelation. Such a course is regarded as perfectly
preposterous, whether the test be applied to the primary assertion that
a revelation has been made at all, or to its contents. What kind of
evidence then are we permitted decorously to require upon so momentous
a subject? Apparently, just so much as apologists can conveniently set
before us, and no more. The evidence deemed necessary for the settlement
of a Scotch Peerage case, or a disputed will, is, we do not hesitate to
say, infinitely more complete than that which it is thought either pious
or right to expect in the case of Religion. The actual occurrence of the
Resurrection and Ascension, however, is certainly a matter of evidence
and, to retort, it is scarcely decent that any man should be required
to believe what is so opposed to human experience, upon more imperfect
evidence than is required for the transfer of land or the right to a
title, simply because ecclesiastical dogmas are founded upon them,
and it is represented that unless they be true "our hope is vain." The
testimony requisite to establish the reality of such stupendous miracles
can scarcely be realized. Proportionately, it should be as unparalleled
in its force as those events are in fact. One point, moreover, must
never be forgotten. Human testimony is exceedingly fallible at its


best It is liable to error from innumerable causes, and most of all,
probably, when religious excitement is present, and disturbing elements
of sorrow, fear, doubt, or enthusiasm interfere with the calmness
of judgment. When any assertion is made which contradicts unvarying
experience, upon evidence which experience knows to be universally
liable to error, there cannot be much hesitation in disbelieving
the assertion and preferring belief in the order of nature. And when
evidence proceeds from an age not only highly exposed to error, from
ignorance of natural laws, superstition, and religious excitement,
but prolific in fabulous reports and untenable theories, it cannot be
received without the gravest suspicion. We make these brief remarks, in
anticipation, as nothing is more essential in the discussion upon which
we are about to enter than a proper appreciation of the allegations
which are to be tested, and of the nature of the testimony required for
their belief.

We shall not limit our inquiry to the testimony of Paul, but shall
review the whole of the evidence adduced for the Resurrection and
Ascension. Hitherto, our examination of the historical books of the
New Testament has been mainly for the purpose of ascertaining their
character, and the value of their evidence for miracles and the
reality of Divine Revelation. It is unnecessary for us here minutely
to recapitulate the results. The Acts of the Apostles, we have shown,
cannot be received as testimony of the slightest weight upon any of
the points before us. Written by an unknown author, who was not an
eye-witness of the miracles related; who describes events not as they
occurred, but as his pious imagination supposed they ought to have
occurred; who seldom touches history without transforming it by legend
until the


original elements can scarcely be distinguished; who puts his own words
and sentiments into the mouths of the Apostles and other persons of his
narrative; and who represents almost every phase of the Church in
the Apostolic age as influenced, or directly produced, by means
of supernatural agency; such a work is of no value as evidence for
occurrences which are in contradiction to all human experience. Briefly
to state the case of the Gospels in other words than our own, we repeat
the honest statement of the able writer quoted at the beginning of
this chapter: "In the first place, merely as a matter of historical
attestation, the Gospels are not the strongest evidence for the
Christian miracles. Only one of the four, in its present shape, is
claimed as the work of an Apostle, and of that the genuineness is
disputed."(l) We may add that the third Synoptic does not, in the
estimation of any one who has examined the Acts of the Apostles, gain
additional credibility by being composed by the same author as the
latter work. The writers of the four Gospels are absolutely unknown to
us, and in the case of three of them, it is not even affirmed that they
were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and Ascension and other miracles
narrated. The undeniably doubtful authorship of the fourth Gospel, not
to make a more positive statement here, renders this work, which was not
written until upwards of half a century, at the very least, after
the death of Jesus, incapable of proving anything in regard to the
Resurrection and Ascension. A much stronger statement might be made,
but we refer readers to our former volumes, and we shall learn something
more of the character of the Gospel narratives as we proceed.

Although we cannot attach any value to the Gospels


as evidence, we propose, before taking the testimony of Paul, to survey
the various statements made by them regarding the astounding miracles we
are discussing. Enough has been said to show that we cannot accept any
statement as true simply because it is made by a Gospel or Gospels.
When it is related in the first Synoptic, for instance, that Pilate took
water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent
of this man's blood: see ye to it,"(1)--an incident to which no
reference, be it said in passing, is made by the other evangelists,
although it is sufficiently remarkable to have deserved notice,--we
cannot of course assume that Pilate actually said or did anything of
the kind. A comparison of the various accounts of the Resurrection and
Ascension, however, and careful examination of their details, will be
of very great use, by enabling us to appreciate the position of the case
apart from the evidence of Paul. The indefinite impression fostered by
apologists, that the evidence of the Gospels supplements and completes
the evidence of the Apostle, and forms an aggregate body of testimony
of remarkable force and volume, must be examined, and a clear conception
formed of the whole case.

One point may at once be mentioned before we enter upon our examination
of the Gospels. The Evangelists narrate such astonishing occurrences
as the Resurrection and Ascension with perfect composure and absence of
surprise. This characteristic is even made an argument for the truth
of their narrative. The impression made upon our minds, however, is the
very reverse of that which apologists desire us to receive. The writers
do not in the least degree seem to have realised the


exceptional character of the occurrences they relate, and betray the
assurance of persons writing in an ignorant and superstitious age,
whose minds have become too familiar with the supernatural to be at all
surprised either by a resurrection from the dead or a bodily ascension.
Miracles in their eyes have lost their strangeness and seem quite
common-place. It will be seen as we examine the narratives that a
stupendous miracle, or a convulsion of nature, is thrown in by one or
omitted by another as a mere matter of detail. An earthquake and the
resurrection of many bodies of saints are mere trifles which can
be inserted without wonder or omitted without regret The casual and
momentary expression of hesitation to believe, which is introduced, is
evidently nothing more than a rhetorical device to heighten the reality
of the scene. It would have been infinitely more satisfactory had we
been able to perceive that these witnesses, instead of being genuine
denizens of the age of miracles, had really understood the astounding
nature of the occurrences they report, and did not consider a miracle
the most natural thing in the world.


In order more fully to appreciate the nature of the narratives which
the four evangelists give of the last hours of the life of Jesus, we
may take them up at the point where, mocked and buffeted by the Roman
soldiers, he is finally led away to be crucified. Let no one suppose
that, in freely criticising the Gospels, we regard without emotion the
actual incidents which lie at the bottom of these narratives. No one can
form to himself any adequate conception of the terrible sufferings of
the Master, maltreated and insulted by a base and brutal multitude,
too degraded to understand his noble character, and too ignorant to
appreciate his elevated teaching, without pain; and to follow his course
from the tribunal which sacrificed him to Jewish popular clamour to the
spot where he ended a brief but self-sacrificing life by the shameful
death of a slave may well make sympathy take the place of criticism.
Profound veneration for the great Teacher, however, and earnest interest
in all that concerns his history rather command serious and unhesitating
examination of the statements made with regard to him, than discourage
an attempt to ascertain the truth; and it would be anything but respect
for his memory to accept without question the Gospel accounts of his


simply because they were composed with the desire to glorify him.

According to the Synoptics, when Jesus is led away to be crucified, the
Roman guard entrusted with the duty of executing the cruel sentence find
a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, and compel him to carry the cross.(1) It
was customary for those condemned to crucifixion to carry the cross, or
at least the main portion of it, themselves to the place of execution,
and no explanation is given by the Synoptists for the deviation from
this practice which they relate. The fourth Gospel, however, does not
appear to know anything of this incident or of Simon of Cyrene, but
distinctly states that Jesus bore his own cross.(2) On the way to
Golgotha, according to the third Gospel, Jesus is followed by a great
multitude of the people, and of women who were bewailing and lamenting
him, and he addresses to them a few prophetic sentences.(3) We might
be surprised at the singular fact that there is no reference to this
incident in any other Gospel, and that words of Jesus, so weighty in
themselves and spoken at so supreme a moment, should not elsewhere
have been recorded, but for the fact that, from internal evidence, the
address must be assigned to a period subsequent to the destruction of
Jerusalem. The other evangelists may, therefore, well ignore it.


It was the custom to give those about to be crucified a draught of
wine containing some strong opiate, which in some degree alleviated the
intense suffering of that mode of death. Mark(1) probably refers to this
(xv. 23) when he states that, on reaching the place of execution,
"they gave him wine [------] mingled with myrrh." The fourth Gospel
has nothing of this. Matthew says (xxvii. 34): "They gave him vinegar
[------] to drink mingled with gall"(2) [------]. Even if, instead of
[------] with the Alexandrian and a majority of MSS., we read [------],
"wine," with the Sinaitic, Vatican, and some other ancient codices,
this is a curious statement, and is well worthy of a moment's notice
as suggestive of the way in which these narratives were written.
The conception of a suffering Messiah, it is well known, was more
particularly supported, by New Testament writers, by attributing
a Messianic character to Ps. xxii., lxix., and Isaiah liii., and
throughout the narrative of the Passion we are perpetually referred to
these and other Scriptures as finding their fulfilment in the sufferings
of Jesus. The first Synoptist found in Ps. lxix. 21 (Sept. lxviii. 21):
"They gave me also gall [------] for my food, and in my thirst they
gave me vinegar [------] to drink;" and apparently in order to make the
supposed fulfilment correspond as closely as possible, he combined
the "gall" of the food with the vinegar or wine in strangely literal
fashion,(3) very characteristic, however, of

     1 We shall, for the sake of brevity, call the Gospels by the
     names assigned to them in the Canon.

     2 There have been many attempts to explain away [------],
     and to make it mean either a species of Vermuth or any
     bitter substance (Olahausen, Leidensgeech., 168); but the
     great mass of critics rightly retain its meaning, "Gall."
     So Ewald, Meyer, Bleek, Strauss, Weisse, Schenkel, Yolk-mar,
     Alford, Wordsworth, &c, &c.


the whole of the evangelists. Luke, who seems not to have understood
the custom known perhaps to Mark, represents (xxiii. 36) the soldiers as
mocking Jesus by "offering him vinegar "(l) [------]; he omits the gall,
but probably refers to the same Psalm without being so falsely literal
as Matthew.

We need not enter into the discussion as to the chronology of the
Passion week, regarding which there is so much discrepancy in the
accounts of the fourth Gospel and of the Synoptics, nor shall we
pause minutely to deal with the irreconcilable difference which, it is
admitted,(2) exists in their statement of the hours at which the events
of the last fatal day occurred. The fourth Gospel (xix. 4) represents
Pilate as bringing Jesus forth to the Jews "about the sixth hour"
(noon). Mark (xv. 25), in obvious agreement with the other Synoptics as
further statements prove, distinctly says: "And it was the third hour
(9 o'clock a.m.), and they crucified him." At the sixth hour (noon),
according to the three Synoptists, there was darkness over the earth
till about the ninth hour (3 o'clock p.m.), shortly after which time

     1 Luke omits the subsequent offer of "vinegar" (probably the
     Pasco of the Roman soldiers) mentioned by the other
     Evangelists. We presume the reference in xxiii. 36 to be the
     same as the act described in Mt xxvii. 34 and Mk. xv. 23.


Jesus expired.(1) As, according to the fourth Gospel, the sentence
was not even passed before midday, and some time must be allowed for
preparation and going to the place of execution, it is clear that
there is a very wide discrepancy between the hours at which Jesus
was crucified and died, unless, as regards the latter point, we take
agreement in all as to the hour of death. In this case, commencing at
the hour of the fourth Gospel and ending with that of the Synoptics,
Jesus must have expired after being less than three hours on the cross.
According to the Synoptics, and also, if we assign a later hour for the
death, according to the fourth Gospel, he cannot have been more than six
hours on the cross. We shall presently see that this remarkably rapid
death has an important bearing upon the history and the views formed
regarding it. It is known that crucifixion, besides being the most
shameful mode of death, and indeed chiefly reserved for slaves and the
lowest criminals, was one of the most lingering and atrociously cruel
punishments ever invented by the malignity of man. Persons crucified,
it is stated and admitted,(2) generally lived for at least twelve hours,
and sometimes even survived the excruciating tortures of the cross for
three days. We shall not further anticipate remarks which must hereafter
be made regarding this.

We need not do more than again point out that no two of the Gospels
agree upon so simple, yet important, a point as the inscription on the
cross.(3) It is argued that "a close


examination of the narratives furnishes no sufficient reason for
supposing that all proposed to give the same or the entire inscription,"
and, after some curious reasoning, it is concluded that "there is
at least no possibility of showing any inconsistency on the strictly
literal interpretation of the words of the evangelist."(1) On the
contrary, we had ventured to suppose that, in giving a form of words
said to have been affixed to the cross, the evangelists intended to
give the form actually used, and consequently "the same" and "entire
inscription," which must have been short; and we consider it quite
inconceivable that such was not their deliberate intention, however
imperfectly fulfilled.

We pass on merely to notice a curious point in connection with an
incident related by all the Gospels. It is stated that the Roman
soldiers who crucified Jesus divided his garments amongst them, casting
lots to determine what part each should take. The clothing of criminals
executed was the perquisite of the soldiers who performed the duty, and
there is nothing improbable in the story that the four soldiers decided
by lot the partition of the garments--indeed there is every reason to
suppose that such was the practice. The incident is mentioned as the
direct fulfilment of the. Ps. xxii. 18, which is quoted literally from
the Septuagint version (xxi. 18) by the author of the fourth Gospel.
He did not, however, understand the passage, or disregarded its true
meaning,(2) and in order to make the incident accord


better, as he supposed, with the prophetic Psalm, he represents that the
soldiers amicably parted the rest of his garments amongst them without
lot, but cast lots for the coat, which was without seam: xix. 24. "They
said, therefore, among themselves: Let us not rend it, but cast lots
for it, whose it shall be; that the Scripture might be fulfilled: They
parted my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. These
things, therefore, the soldiers did." The evangelist does not perceive
that the two parts of the sentence in the Psalm really refer to the same
action, but exhibits the partition of the garments and the lots for the
vesture as separately fulfilled. The Synoptists apparently divide the
whole by lot.(1) They do not expressly refer to the Psalm, however,
except in the received text of Matth. xxvii. 35, into which and some
other MSS. the quotation has been interpolated.(2) That the narrative
of the Gospels, instead of being independent and genuine history, is
constructed upon the lines of supposed Messianic Psalms and passages of
the Old Testament will become increasingly evident as we proceed.

It is stated by all the Gospels that two malefactors--the first and
second calling them "robbers"--were crucified with Jesus, the one on the
right hand and the other on the left. The statement in Mark xv. 28, that
this fulfilled Isaiah liii. 12, which is found in our received text, is
omitted by all the oldest codices, and is an interpolation,(2) but we
shall hereafter have to speak of this point in connection with another
matter, and we now

     2  "Certainly an interpolation."     Wettcott, Int. to Study
     of Gospels, p. 325, n. 2.

     3 "Certainly an interpolation."  Westcott, lb. p. 326, n. 5.


merely point out that, though the verse was thus inserted here, it is
placed in the mouth of Jesus himself by the third Synoptist (xxii. 37),
and the whole passage from which it was taken has evidently largely
influenced the composition of the narrative before us. According to the
first and second Gospels,(1) the robbers joined with the chief priests
and the scribes and elders and those who passed by in mocking and
reviling Jesus. This is directly contradicted by the third Synoptist,
who states that only one of the malefactors did so (xxiii. 39 flf.):
"But the other answering rebuked him and said: Dost thou not even fear
God seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for
we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man did nothing
amiss. And he said: Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.
And he said unto him: Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with
me in paradise." It requires very little examination to detect that this
story is legendary,(2) and cannot be maintained as historical. Those
who dwell upon its symbolical character(3) do nothing to establish its
veracity. This exemplary robber speaks like an Apostle, and in praying
Jesus as the Messiah to remember him when he came into his kingdom, he
shows much more than apostolic appreciation of the claims and character
of Jesus. The


reply of Jesus, moreover, contains a statement not only wholly
contradictory of Jewish belief as to the place of departed spirits, but
of all Christian doctrine at the time as to the descent of Jesus into
Hades. Into this, however, it is needless for us to go.(1) Not only do
the other Gospels show no knowledge of so interesting an episode,
but, as we have pointed out, the first and second Synoptics positively
exclude it. We shall see, moreover, that there is a serious difficulty
in understanding how this conversation on the cross, which is so
exclusively the property of the third Synoptist, could have been
reported to him.

The Synoptics represent the passers by and the chief priests, scribes,
and elders, as mocking Jesus as he hung on the cross. The fourth Gospel
preserves total silence as to all this. It is curious, also, that the
mocking is based upon that described in the Psalm xxii., to which we
have already several times had to refer. In v. 7 f. we have: "All they
that see me laughed me to scorn: they shot out the lip; they shook the
head (saying), 8. He trusted on the Lord, let him deliver him, let him
save him (seeing) that he delighteth in him."(2) Compare with this Mt.
xxvii. 39 ff., Mk. xv. 29 ff., Luke xxiii 35. Is it possible to suppose
that the chief priests and elders and scribes could actually have quoted
the words of this Psalm, there put into the mouth of the Psalmist's
enemies, as the first Synoptist represents (xxvii 43)?(3) It is obvious
that the speeches ascribed


to the chief priests and elders can be nothing more than the expressions
which the writers considered suitable to them, and the fact that they
seek their inspiration in a Psalm which they suppose to be Messianic is

We have already mentioned that the fourth Gospel says nothing of any
mocking speeches. The author, however, narrates an episode (xix. 25-27)
in which the dying Jesus is represented as confiding his mother to
the care of "the disciple whom he loved," of which in their turn the
Synoptists seem to be perfectly ignorant. We have already elsewhere
remarked that there is no evidence whatever that there was any disciple
whom Jesus specially loved, except the repeated statement in this
Gospel. No other work of the New Testament contains a hint of such an
individual, and much less that he was the Apostle John. Nor is there any
evidence that any one of the disciples took the mother of Jesus to his
own home. There is, therefore, no external confirmation of this episode;
but there is, on the contrary, much which leads to the conclusion that
it is not historical.(1) There has been much discussion as to whether
four women are mentioned (xix. 25), or whether "his mother's sister" is
represented as "Mary, the wife of Clopas," or was a different person.
There are, we think, reasons for concluding that there were four, but in
the doubt we shall not base any argument on the point. The Synoptics(2)
distinctly state that "the women that followed him from Galilee," among
which were "Mary Magdalene and Mary


the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of Zebedee's sons,"(l)
and, as the third Synoptic says, "all his acquaintance"(2) were standing
"afar off" [------]. They are unanimous in saying this, and there
is every reason for supposing that they are correct.(3) This is
consequently a contradiction of the account in the fourth Gospel that
John and the women were standing "by the cross of Jesus." Olshausen,
Lucke and others suggest that they subsequently came from a distance up
to the cross, but the statement of the Synoptists is made at the close,
and after this scene is supposed to have taken place. The opposite
conjecture, that from standing close to the cross they removed to a
distance has little to recommend it. Both explanations are equally
arbitrary and unsupported by evidence.

It may be well, in connection with this, to refer to the various sayings
and cries ascribed by the different evangelists to Jesus on the cross.
We have already mentioned the conversation with the "penitent thief,"
which is peculiar to the third Gospel, and now that with the "beloved
disciple," which is only in the fourth. The third Synoptic(4) states
that, on being crucified, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do," a saying which is in the spirit of Jesus and
worthy of him, but of which the other Gospels do not take any notice.(5)
The fourth Gospel again has a cry (xix. 28): "After this, Jesus
knowing that all things are now fulfilled, that the Scripture might be
accomplished, saith:


I thirst."(1) The majority of critics(2) understand by this that "I
thirst" is said in order "that the Scripture might be fulfilled" by
the offer of the vinegar, related in the following verse. The Scripture
referred to is of course Ps. lxix. 21: "They gave me also gall for my
food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar [------] to drink;" which
we have already quoted in connection with Matth. xxvii. 34. The third
Synoptic (xxiii. 36) represents the vinegar as being offered in mockery
at a much earlier period, and Matthew and Mark(3) connect the offer of
the vinegar with quite a different cry from that in the fourth Gospel.
Nothing could be more natural than that, after protracted agony, the
patient sufferer should cry: "I thirst," but the dogmatic purpose, which
dictates the whole narrative in the fourth Gospel, is rendered obvious
by the reference of such a cry to a supposed Messianic prophecy. This is
further displayed by the statement (v. 29) that the sponge with vinegar
was put "upon hyssop" [------],--the two Synoptics have "on a reed"
[------],--which the Author probably uses in association with the
paschal lamb,(4) an idea present to his mind throughout the


passion. The first and second Synoptics(1) represent the last cry of
Jesus to have been a quotation from Ps. xxii. 1: "Eli (or Mk., Eloi),
Eli, lema sabacthani? that is to say: My God, my God, why didst thou
forsake me?" This, according to them, evidently, was the last articulate
utterance of the expiring Master, for they merely add that "when he
cried again with a loud voice," Jesus yielded up his spirit.(2) Neither
of the other Gospels has any mention of this cry. The third Gospel
substitutes: "And when Jesus cried with a loud voice, he said: Father,
into thy hands I commend my spirit, and having said this he expired."(3)
This is an almost literal quotation from the Septuagint version of Ps.
xxxi. 5. The fourth Gospel has a totally different cry (xix. 30),
for, on receiving the vinegar, which accomplished the Scripture, he
represents Jesus as saying: "It is finished" [------], and immediately
expiring. It will be observed that seven sayings are attributed to Jesus
on the cross, of which the first two Gospels have only one, the third
Synoptic three, and the fourth Gospel three. We do not intend to express
any opinion here in favour of any of these, but we merely point out the
remarkable fact that, with the exception of the one cry in the first
two Synoptics, each Gospel has ascribed different sayings to the
dying Master, and not only no two of them agree, but in some important
instances the statement of the one evangelist seems absolutely to
exclude the accounts of the others. Every one knows the hackneyed
explanation of apologists, but in works which repeat each other so much
elsewhere, it certainly is a curious phenomenon that there is so little


agreement here. If all the Master's disciples "forsook him and fled,"(1)
and his few friends and acquaintances stood "afar off" regarding his
sufferings, it is readily conceivable that pious tradition had unlimited
play. We must, however, return to the cry recorded in Matthew and
Mark,(2) the only one about which two witnesses agree. Both of them give
this quotation from Ps. xxii. 1 in Aramaic: Eli (Mark: Eloi), Eli,(3)
lema sabacthani. The purpose is clearly to enable the reader to
understand what follows, which we quote from the first Gospel: "And some
of them that stood there, when they heard it said: This man calleth for
Elijah.... The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elijah cometh
to save him."(4) It is impossible to confuse "Eli" or "Eloi" with
"Elijahu"(5) and the explanations suggested by apologists are not
sufficient to remove a difficulty which seems to betray the legendary
character of the statement. The mistake of supposing that Jesus called
for Elijah could not possibly have been made by those who spoke Aramaic;
that strangers not perfectly understanding Aramaic should be here
intended cannot be maintained, for the suggestion is represented as
adopted by "the rest." The Roman soldiers had probably never heard
of Elijah; and there is nothing whatever to support the allegation of
mockery(6) as accounting for the singular


episode. The verse of the Psalm was too well known to the Jews to admit
of any suggested play upon words.

The three Synoptics state that, from the sixth hour (mid-day) to the
ninth (3 o'clock), "there was darkness over all the earth" [------].(1)
The third Gospel adds: "the sun having failed" [------](2)

By the term "all the earth" some critics(3) maintain that the evangelist
merely meant the Holy Land,(4) whilst others hold that he uses the
expression in its literal sense.(5) The fourth Gospel takes no notice
of this darkness. Such a phenomenon is not a trifle to be ignored in any
account of the crucifixion, if it actually occurred. The omission of all
mention of it either amounts to a denial of its occurrence or betrays
most suspicious familiarity with supernatural interference. There have
been many efforts made to explain this darkness naturally, or at least
to find some allusion to it in contemporary history, all of which have
signally failed. As the moon was at the full, it is admitted that the
darkness could not have been an eclipse.(6) The Fathers


appealed to Phlegon the Chronicler, who mentions(1) an eclipse of
the sun about this period accompanied by an earthquake, and also to a
similar occurrence referred to by Eusebius,(2) probably quoted from the
historian Thallus, but, of course, modern knowledge has dispelled the
illusion that these phenomena have any connection with the darkness we
are discussing, and the theory that the evangelists are confirmed in
their account by this evidence is now generally abandoned.(3) It is
apart from our object to show how common it was amongst classical and
other writers to represent nature as sympathising with national or
social disasters;(4) and as a poetical touch this remarkable darkness
of the Synoptists, of which no one else knows anything, is quite
intelligible. The statement, however, is as seriously and deliberately
made as any other in their narrative, and does not add to its
credibility. It is palpable that the account is mythical,(5) and it
bears a strange likeness to passages in the Old Testament, from the
imagery of which the representation in all probability was derived.(6)
The first and second Gospels state that when Jesus


cried with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit, "the veil of the
temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom."(1) The third
Synoptic associates this occurrence with the eclipse of the sun, and
narrates it before the final cry and death of the Master.(2) The fourth
Gospel takes no notice of so extraordinary a phenomenon. The question
might be asked: How could the chief priests, who do not appear to have
been at all convinced by such a miracle, but still continued their
invincible animosity against the Christian sect, reveal the occurrence
of such a wonder, of which there is no mention elsewhere? Here again the
account is legendary and symbolical,(3) and in the spirit of the age of

The first Synoptist, however, has further marvels to relate. He states
in continuation of the passage quoted above: "and the earth was shaken
[------] and the rocks were rent and the sepulchres were opened, and
many bodies of the saints who slept were raised; and they came out of
the sepulchres after his resurrection, and entered into the holy city
and appeared unto many."(5) How great must be the amazement of anyone
who may have been inclined to suppose the Gospels soberly historical
works, on finding that the other three evangelists do not even mention


astounding occurrences related by the first Synoptist! An earthquake
[------](1) and the still more astounding resurrection of many saints
who appeared unto "many," and, therefore, an event by no means secret
and unknown to all but the writer, and yet three other writers, who give
accounts of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and who enter throughout
into very minute details, do not even condescend to mention them! Nor
does any other New Testament writer chronicle them. It is unnecessary to
say that the passage has been a very serious difficulty for apologists;
and one of the latest writers of this school, reproducing the theories
of earlier critics, deals with it in a Life of Christ, which "is
avowedly and unconditionally the work of a believer,"(2) as follows: "An
earthquake shook the earth and split the rocks, and as it rolled away
from their places the great stones which closed and covered the cavern
sepulchres of the Jews, so it seemed to the imaginations of many to have
disimprisoned the spirits of the dead, and to have filled the air with
ghostly visitants, who after Christ had risen appeared to linger in
the Holy City." In a note he adds "Only in some such way as this can I
account for the singular and wholly isolated allusion of Matt. xxvii. 52,
53."(3) It is worthy of note, and we may hereafter


refer to the point, that learned divines thus do not scruple to adopt
the "vision hypothesis" of the resurrection. Even if the resurrection of
the saints so seriously related by the evangelist be thus disposed of,
and it be assumed that the other Gospels, likewise adopting the "vision"
explanation, consequently declined to give an objective place in their
narrative to what they believed to be a purely subjective and unreal
phenomenon, there still remains the earthquake, to which supernatural
incident of the crucifixion none of the other evangelists think it worth
while to refer. Need we argue that the earthquake(1) is as mythical as
the resurrection of the saints?(2) In some apocryphal writings even the
names of some of these risen saints are given.(3) As the case actually
stands, with these marvellous incidents related solely by the
first Synoptist and ignored by the other evangelists, it would seem
superfluous to enter upon more detailed criticism of the passage, and to
point out the incongruity of the


fact that these saints are said to be raised from the dead just as
the Messiah expires, or the strange circumstance that, although
the sepulchres are said to have been opened at that moment and the
resurrection to have then taken place, it is stated that they only came
out of their graves after the resurrection of Jesus. The allegation,
moreover, that they were raised from the dead at that time, and before
the resurrection of Jesus, virtually contradicts the saying of the
Apocalypse (i. 5) that Jesus was the "first begotten of the dead," and
of Paul (1 Cor. xv. 20) that he was "the first fruits of them who have
fallen asleep."(1) Paul's whole argument is opposed to such a story; for
he does not base the resurrection of the dead upon the death of Jesus,
but, in contradistinction, upon his resurrection only. The Synoptist
evidently desires to associate the resurrection of the saints with the
death of Jesus to render that event more impressive, but delays
the completion of it in order to give a kind of precedence to the
resurrection of the Master. The attempt leads to nothing but confusion.
What could be the object of such a resurrection? It could not be
represented as any effect produced by the death of Jesus, nor even by
his alleged resurrection, for what dogmatic connection could there be
between that event and the fact that a few saints only were raised
from their graves, whilst it was not pretended that the dead "saints"
generally participated in this resurrection? No intimation is given that
their appearance to many was for any special purpose, and certainly no
practical result has ever been traced to it. Finally we might ask: What
became of these saints raised from the dead? Did they die again? Or did
they also "ascend into Heaven?"(2)

     1 Can the author of the Apocalypse, or Paul, ever have heard
     of the raising of Lazarus?


A little reflection will show that these questions are pertinent. It
is almost inconceivable that any serious mind could maintain the actual
truth of such a story, upon such evidence. Its objective truth not being
maintainable, however, the character of the work which advances such
an unhesitating statement is determined, and at least the value of its
testimony can without difficulty be settled.

The continuation of this episode in the first Synoptic is quite in
keeping with its commencement. It is stated: "But when the centurion and
they that were with him watching Jesus saw the earthquake [------] and
the things that were done [------] they feared greatly, saying, Truly
this was a son of God" [------].(1) In Mark the statement is very
curiously varied: "And when the centurion who stood over against him saw
that he so expired, he said: Truly this man was a son of God."(2) It is
argued on the one hand that the centurion's wonder here was caused
by Jesus dying with so loud a cry, and the reading of many MSS.
would clearly support this;(3) and on the other that the cause of his
exclamation was the unexpectedly rapid death of Jesus. Whichever view be
taken, the centurion's deduction, it must be admitted, rests upon


singularly inconclusive reasoning. We venture to think that it is
impossible that a Roman soldier could either have been led to form such
an opinion upon such grounds, or to express it in such terms. In Luke,
we have a third reading: "But when the centurion saw what was done, he
glorified God, saying: Certainly this man was righteous"(1) [------].
There is nothing here about the "Son of God;" but when the writer
represents the Roman soldier as glorifying God, the narrative does not
seem much more probable than that of the other Synoptists.

The fourth Evangelist of course does not refer to any such episode, but,
as usual, he introduces a very remarkable incident of his own, of which
the Synoptists, who record such peculiar details of what passed, seem
very strangely to know nothing. The fourth evangelist states: "The Jews,
therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies might not
remain upon the cross on the sabbath, (for that sabbath-day was a high
day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken and they might be
taken away. So the soldiers came and brake the legs of the first, and
of the other who was crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus, as
they saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of
the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came
out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his
witness is true: and that man knoweth that he saith what is true, that
ye also may believe. For these things came to pass that the Scripture
might be fulfilled: A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another
Scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced."(2) It is
inconceivable that, if this


actually occurred, and occurred more especially that the "Scripture
might be fulfilled," the other three Evangelists could thus totally
ignore it all.(1) The second Synoptist does more: he not only ignores
but excludes it, for (xv. 43 f.) he represents Joseph as begging the
body of Jesus from Pilate "when evening was now come." "And Pilate
marvelled if he were already dead; and calling unto him the centurion,
he asked him whether he had been long dead. And when he knew it of the
centurion he gave the corpse to Joseph."(2) Now, although there could
be no doubt on the point, the fourth Gospel clearly states (xix. 38,
[------] that Joseph made his request for the body after the order had
been given by Pilate to break the legs of the crucified, and after it
had been executed as above described. If Pilate had already given the
order to break the legs, how is it possible he could have marvelled, or
acted as he is described in Mark to have done?

It is well known that the Crurifragium, which is here applied, was
not usually an accompaniment of crucifixion, though it may have
been sometimes employed along with it,(3) but that it was a distinct
punishment. It consisted in breaking, with hammers or clubs, the bones
of the condemned from the hips to the feet. We shall not discuss
whether in the present case this measure really was adopted or not. The
representation is that the Jews requested Pilate to break the legs of
the crucified that the bodies might be removed before the Sabbath, and


that the order was given and executed. The first point to be noted is
the very singular manner in which the leg-breaking was performed. The
soldiers are said to have broken the legs of the first and then of the
other who was crucified with Jesus, thus passing over Jesus in the first
instance; and then the Evangelist says: "_but when they came to Jesus_,
as they saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs, but one
of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side." This order of procedure
is singular; but the whole conduct of the guard is so extraordinary that
such details become comparatively insignificant. An order having been
given to the Roman soldiers, in accordance with the request of the Jews,
to break the legs of the crucified, we are asked to believe that
they did not execute it in the case of Jesus! It is not reasonable
to suppose, however, that Roman soldiers either were in the habit of
disregarding their orders, or could have any motive for doing so in
this case, and subjecting themselves to the severe punishment for
disobedience inflicted by Roman military law. It is argued that they saw
that Jesus was already dead, and therefore that it was not necessary to
break his legs; but soldiers are not in the habit of thinking in this
way: they are disciplined to obey. The fact is, however, that the
certainty that Jesus was dead already did not actually exist in their
minds, and could scarcely have existed seeing that the death was so
singularly rapid, for in that case why should the soldier have pierced
his side with a spear? The only conceivable motive for doing so was to
make sure that Jesus really was dead;(1) but is it possible to suppose
that a Roman soldier, being in the slightest doubt, actually chose to
assure himself in


this way when he might still more effectually have done so by simply
obeying the order of his superior and breaking the legs? The whole
episode is manifestly un-historical.(1)

It is clear that to fulfil in a marked way the prophecies which the
writer had in his mind, and wished specially to apply to Jesus, it was
necessary that, in the first place, there should have been a distinct
danger of the bones being broken, and at the same time of the side not
being pierced. The order to break the legs of the crucified is therefore
given, but an extraordinary exception is made in favour of Jesus, and
a thrust with the lance substituted, so that both passages of the
Scripture are supposed to be fulfilled.(3) What Scriptures, however, are
fulfilled? The first: "A bone of him shall not be broken," is merely the
prescription with regard to the Paschal lamb, Ex. xii. 46,(3) and the
dogmatic view of the fourth Evangelist leads him throughout to represent
Jesus as the true Paschal lamb. The second is Zech. xii. 10,(4) and
any one who reads the passage, even without the assistance of learned
exegesis, may perceive that it has no such application as our Evangelist
gives it. We shall pass over, as not absolutely necessary for our
immediate purpose, very many important details of the episode; but
regarding this part of the subject we may say that we consider it
evident that, if an order was given to break the legs of the crucified
upon this occasion, that


order must have been executed upon Jesus equally with any others who may
have been crucified with him.

There has been much discussion as to the intention of the author in
stating that, from the wound made by the lance, there forthwith came
out "blood and water" [------]; and likewise as to whether the special
testimony here referred to in the third person is to attest more
immediately the flow of blood and water, or the whole episode.(1)
In regard to the latter point, we need not pause to discuss the
question.(2) As to the "blood and water," some see in the statement made
an intention to show the reality of the death of Jesus,(3) whilst others
more rightly regard the phenomenon described as a representation of
a supernatural and symbolical incident,(4) closely connected with the
whole dogmatic view of the Gospel. It is impossible not to see in this
the same idea as that expressed in 1 John v. 6: "This is he that came by
water and blood, Jesus Christ; not in the water only, but in the water
and the blood."(5) As a natural incident it cannot be entertained, for
in no sense but mere quibbling could it be said that "blood and water"
could flow from such a wound, and as a supernatural


phenomenon it must be rejected. As a proof of the reality of the death
of Jesus, it could only have been thought of at a time when gross
ignorance prevailed upon all medical subjects. We shall not here discuss
the reality of the death of Jesus, but we may merely point out that the
almost unprecedentedly rapid decease of Jesus was explained by Origen(1)
and some of the Fathers as miraculous. It has been argued that the
thrust of the lance may have been intended to silence those objectors
who might have denied the actual death on the ground that the legs
of Jesus were not broken like those of the two malefactors,(2) and it
certainly is generally quoted as having assured the fact of death.
The statement that blood flowed from the wound, however, by no means
supports the allegation and, although we may make little use of the
argument, it is right to say that there is no evidence of any serious
kind advanced of the reality of the death of Jesus, here or in the other

The author of the fourth Gospel himself seems to betray that this
episode is a mere interpolation of his own into a narrative to which it
does not properly belong.(4) According to his own account (xix. 31), the
Jews besought Pilate that the legs might be broken and that the bodies
"might be taken away" [------], The order to do this was obviously

     3  It has likewise been thought that the representation in
     Mark xv. 44, that Pilate marvelled at the rapid death of
     Jesus, and sent for the centurion to ascertain the fact, was
     made to meet similar doubts, or at least to give assurance
     of the reality of the death.


for the legs are forthwith broken and of coarse, immediately after, the
bodies in pursuance of the same order would have been taken away.
As soon as the Evangelist has secured his purpose of showing how the
Scriptures were fulfilled by means of this episode, he takes up the
story as though it had not been interrupted, and proceeds v. 38: "After
these things" [------], that is to say after the legs of the malefactors
had been broken and the side of Jesus pierced, Joseph besought Pilate
that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave leave. But,
if v. 31f. be historical, the body must already have been taken away.
All the Synoptics agree with the fourth Gospel in stating that Joseph of
Arimathaea begged for and obtained the body of Jesus from Pilate.(1) The
second and third Synoptics describe him as belonging to the Council, but
the first Gospel merely calls him "a rich man," whilst the fourth
omits both of these descriptions. They all call him a disciple
of Jesus--secretly for fear of the Jews, the fourth Gospel
characteristically adds--although the term that he was "waiting for
the Kingdom of God," used by the second and third Gospels, is somewhat
vague. The fourth Gospel, however, introduces a second personage in the
shape of Nicodemus, "who at the first came to him by night,"(2) and who,
it will be remembered, had previously been described as "a ruler of the
Jews."(3) The Synoptics do not once mention such a person, either in the
narrative of the Passion or in the earlier chapters, and there are
more than doubts as to his historical character.(4) The accounts of the
Entombment given by the three

     1 According to Luke xxiii. 53, Joseph actually "took down"
     the body.


Synoptists, or at least by the second and third, distinctly exclude the
narrative of the fourth Gospel, both as regards Nicodemus and the part
he is represented as taking. The contradictions which commence here
between the account of the fourth Gospel and the Synoptics, in fact, are
of the most glaring and important nature, and demand marked attention.
The fourth Gospel states that, having obtained permission from Pilate,
Joseph came and took the body of Jesus away. "And there came also
Nicodemus,... bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred
pound weight. They took, therefore, the body of Jesus, and wound it in
linen cloths with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the
garden a new sepulchre wherein was never man yet laid. There, therefore,
on account of the preparation of the Jews [------], they laid Jesus, for
the sepulchre was at hand" [------].(1)

According to the first Synoptic, when Joseph took the body, he simply
wrapped it "in clean linen" [------] and "laid it in his own new
sepulchre, which he hewed in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to
the door of the sepulchre, and departed."(2) There is no mention of
spices or any anointing of the body,(3) and the statement that the women
provide for this is not made in this Gospel. According to the writer,
the burial is complete, and the sepulchre finally closed. Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary come merely "to behold the sepulchre" at the end of


Sabbath.(1) The fourth Evangelist apparently does not know anything of
the sepulchre being Joseph's own tomb, and the body is, according to
him, although folly embalmed, only laid in the sepulchre in the garden
on account of the Sabbath and because it was at hand. We shall refer to
this point, which must be noted, further on.

There are very striking differences between these two accounts, but
the narratives of the second and third Synoptists are still more
emphatically contradictory of both. In Mark,(2) we are told that Joseph
"bought linen, and took him down and wrapped him in the linen, and laid
him in a sepulchre which had been hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone
against the door of the sepulchre." There is no mention here of any
embalming performed by Joseph or Nicodemus, nor are any particulars
given as to the ownership of the sepulchre, or the reasons for its
selection. We are, however, told:(3) "And when the Sabbath was past,
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices
that they might come and anoint him." It is distinctly stated in
connection with the entombment, moreover, in agreement with the first
Synoptic:(4) "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld
where he was laid."(5) According to this account and that of the
first Gospel, the women, having remained to the last and seen the body
deposited in the sepulchre, knew so little of its having been embalmed
by Joseph and Nicodemus, that they actually purchase the spices and come
to perform that office themselves.

In Luke, the statement is still more specific, in


agreement with Mark, and in contradiction to the fourth Gospel. Joseph
took down the body "and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre
that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.... And women
who had come with him out of Galilee followed after, and beheld the
sepulchre _and how his body was laid_. And they returned and prepared
spices and ointments." Upon the first day of the week, the author
adds: "they came unto the sepulchre bringing the spices which they had

Which of these accounts are we to believe? According to the first
Gospel, there is no embalmment at all; according to the second and third
Gospels, the embalmment is undertaken by the women, and not by Joseph
and Nicodemus, but is never carried out; according to the fourth Gospel,
the embalmment is completed on Friday evening by Joseph and Nicodemus,
and not by the women. According to the first Gospel, the burial is
completed on Friday evening; according to the second and third, it is
only provisional; and according to the fourth, the embalmment is final,
but it is doubtful whether the entombment is final or temporary; several
critics consider it to have been only provisional.(2) In Mark, the women
buy the spices "when the Sabbath was past" [------];(3) in Luke before
it has begun;(4) and in Matthew and John they do not buy them at all. In
the first and fourth Gospels, the women come after the Sabbath merely
to behold the sepulchre,(5) and in the second and third, they bring the
spices to complete the burial.


Amid these conflicting statements we may suggest one consideration. It
is not probable, in a hot climate, that a wounded body, hastily laid
in a sepulchre on Friday evening before six o'clock, would be disturbed
again on Sunday morning for the purpose of being anointed and embalmed.
Corruption would, under the circumstances, already have commenced.
Besides, as Keim(l) has pointed out, the last duties to the dead were
not forbidden amongst the Jews on the Sabbath, and there is really
no reason why any care for the body of the Master which reverence or
affection might have dictated should not at once have been bestowed.

The enormous amount of myrrh and aloes--"about a hundred pound weight"
[------]--brought by Nicodemus has excited much discussion, and adds
to the extreme improbability of the story related by the fourth
Evangelist.(3) To whatever weight the [------] may be reduced, the quantity
specified is very great; and it is a question whether the body thus
enveloped "as the manner of the Jews is to bury" could have entered
the sepulchre. The practice of embalming the dead, although well known
amongst the Jews, and invariable in the case of Kings and noble or very
wealthy persons, was by no means generally prevalent In the burial of
Gamaliel the elder, chief of the party of the Pharisees, it is stated
that over 80 pounds of balsam were burnt in his honour by the proselyte
Onkelos;(3) but this quantity, which was considered very


remarkable, is totally eclipsed by the provision of Nicodemus.

The key to the whole of this history of the burial of Jesus, however, is
to be found in the celebrated chapt. liii. of "Isaiah." We have already,
in passing, pointed out that, in the third Gospel (xxii. 37), Jesus is
represented as saying: "For I say unto you, that this which is written
must be accomplished in me: And he was reckoned among transgressors."
The same quotation from Is. liii. 12 is likewise interpolated in Mk. xv.
28. Now the whole representation of the burial and embalmment of Jesus
is evidently based upon the same chapter, and more especially upon v.
9, which is wrongly rendered both in the Authorized Version and in the
Septuagint, in the latter of which the passage reads: "I will give the
wicked for his grave and the rich for his death."(1) The Evangelists
taking this to be the sense of the passage, which they suppose to be a
Messianic prophecy, have represented the death of Jesus as being with
the wicked, crucified as he is between two robbers; and through Joseph
of Arimathaea, significantly called "a rich man" [------] by the first
Synoptist, especially according to the fourth Evangelist by his addition
of the counsellor Nicodemus and his hundred pounds weight of mingled
myrrh and aloes, as being "with the rich in his death." Unfortunately,
the passage in the "prophecy" does not mean what the Evangelists have
been led to understand, and the ablest Hebrew scholars and critics are
now agreed that both phrases quoted refer, in true Hebrew manner, to one
representation, and that the word above


translated "rich" is not used in a favourable sense, but that the
passage must be rendered: "And they made his grave with the wicked and
his sepulchre with the evil-doers," or words to that effect.(1) Without
going minutely into the details of opinion on the subject of the
"servant of Jehovah" in this writing of the Old Testament, we may add
that upon one point at least the great majority of critics are of one
accord: that Is. liii. and other passages of "Isaiah" describing
the sufferings of the "Servant of Jehovah" have no reference to the
Messiah.(3) As we have


touched upon this subject it may not be out of place to add that Psalms
xxii.(1) and lxix.,(2) which are so frequently quoted in connection with
the passion, and represented by New Testament and other early writers as
Messianic, are determined by sounder principles of criticism applied
to them in modern times not to refer to the Messiah at all. We have
elsewhere spoken of other supposed Messianic Psalms quoted in the New

"We now come to a remarkable episode which is peculiar to the first
Synoptic and strangely ignored by all the other Gospels. It is stated
that the next day--that is to say, on the Sabbath--the chief priests and
the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying: "Sir, we remember that
that deceiver said while he was yet alive: After three


days I am raised [------]. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be
made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him
away and say unto the people: He is risen from the dead: so the last
error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them: Ye have a
guard [------]: go, make it as sure as ye can. So they went and made the
sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, with the guard."(l) Not only do the
other Evangelists pass over this strange proceeding in total silence,
but their narratives exclude it, at least those of the second and third
Synoptists do so. The women came with their spices to embalm the body,
in total ignorance of there being any guard to interfere with their
performance of that last sad office for the Master. We are asked to
believe that the chief priests and the Pharisees actually desecrated
the Sabbath by sealing the stone, and visited the house of the heathen
Pilate on so holy a day, for the purpose of asking for the guard.(2)
These priests are said to have remembered and understood a prophecy of
Jesus regarding his resurrection, of which his disciples are represented
to be in ignorance.(3) The remark about "the last error," moreover,
is very suspicious. The ready acquiescence of Pilate is quite
incredible.(4) That he should employ Roman soldiers to watch the
sepulchre of a man who had been crucified cannot be entertained; and his
friendly: "Go, make it as sure as ye


can," is not in the spirit of Pilate. It is conceivable that to satisfy
their clamour he may, without much difficulty, have consented to
crucify a Jew, more especially as his crime was of a political character
represented as in some degree affecting the Roman power; but, once
crucified, it is not in the slightest degree likely that Pilate would
care what became of his body, and still less that he would employ Roman
soldiers to mount guard over it.

It may be as well to dispose finally of this episode, so we at once
proceed to its conclusion. When the resurrection takes place, it is
stated that some of the guard went into the city, and, instead of making
their report to Pilate, as might have been expected, told the chief
priests all that had occurred. A council is held, and the soldiers are
largely bribed, and instructed: "Say that his disciples came by night
and stole him while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears
we will persuade him and make you free from care. So they took the money
and did as they were taught."(1) Nothing could be more simple than
the construction of the story, which follows the usual broad lines of
legend. The idea of Roman soldiers confessing that they slept whilst on
watch, and allowed that to occur which they were there to prevent! and
this to oblige the chief priests and elders, at the risk of their lives!
Then are we to suppose that the chief priests and council believed this
story of the earthquake and angel, and yet acted in this way? and if
they did not believe it, would not the very story itself have led to
the punishment of the men, and to the confirmation of the report they
desired to spread, that the disciples had stolen the body? The large
bribe seems to have been very ineffectual, however, since the Christian
historian is able to report precisely what the


chief priests and elders instruct them to say.(1) Is it not palpable
that the whole story is legendary?(2) If it be so, and we think it
cannot be doubted, a conclusion which the total silence of the other
Gospels seems to confirm, very suggestive consequences may be deduced
from it. The first Synoptist, referring to the false report which the
Sanhedrin instruct the soldiers to make, says: "And this saying was
spread among the Jews unto this day."(3) The probable origin of
the legend, therefore, may have been an objection to the Christian
affirmation of the resurrection to the above effect; but it is
instructive to find that Christian tradition was equal to the occasion,
and invented a story to refute it. It is the tendency to this very
system of defence and confirmation, everywhere apparent, which renders
early Christian tradition so mythical and untrustworthy.

We now enter upon the narrative of the Resurrection itself. The first
Synoptist relates that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to behold
the sepulchre "at the close of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn into the
first day of the week" [------],(4) that is to say, shortly after six
o'clock on the evening of Saturday, the end of the Sabbath, the dawn of
the next day being marked by the


glimmer of more than one star in the heavens.(1) The second Synoptic
represents that, "when the Sabbath was past," Mary Magdalene, and Mary
the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, and that they came to the
sepulchre "very early on the first day of the week after the rising of
the sun" [------].(2) The third Synoptist states that the women who came
with Jesus from Galilee came to the sepulchre, but he subsequently more
definitely names them: "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the
mother of James, and the other women with them,"(3)--a larger number
of women,--and they came "upon the first day of the week at early dawn"
[------]. The fourth Evangelist represents that Mary Magdalene only(4)
came to the sepulchre, on the first day of the week, "early, while it
was yet dark" [------].(5)

The first Evangelist indubitably makes the hour at which the women come
to the sepulchre different and much earlier than the others, and at the
same time he represents them as witnessing the actual removal of the
stone, which, in the other three Gospels, the women already find
rolled away from the mouth of the sepulchre.(6) It will, therefore, be
interesting to follow the first Synoptic. It is here stated: 2. "And
behold there was a great earthquake [------]: for an angel of the Lord
descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon
it. 3. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as


snow. 4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead
men. 5. And the angel answered and said unto the women: Fear ye not, for
I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified. 6. He is not here:
for he was raised [------] as he said: Come, see the place where he lay.
7. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he was raised [------]
from the dead, and behold he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall
ye see him: behold, I have told you. 8. And they departed quickly
from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and ran to tell his
disciples."(1) We have here in the first place another earthquake and
apparently, on the theory of the course of cosmical phenomena held
during the "Age of Miracles," produced by the angel who descended to
roll away the stone from the sepulchre. This earthquake, like the others
recorded in the first Synoptic, appears to be quite unknown to the other
Evangelists, and no trace of it has been pointed out in other writings.
With the appearance of the angel we obviously arrive upon thoroughly
unhistorical ground. Can we believe, because this unknown writer tells
us so, that "an angel,"(2) causing an earthquake, actually descended and
took such a part in this transaction? Upon the very commonest

     2 Compare his description with Dan. x. 6. It is worthy of
     consideration also that when Daniel is cast into the den of
     lions a stone is rolled upon the mouth of the den, and
     sealed with the signet of the king and his lords, vi. 17.


principles of evidence, the reply must be an emphatic negative. Every
fact of science, every lesson of experience excludes such an assumption,
and we may add that the character of the author, with which we are
now better acquainted, as well as the course of the narrative itself,
confirms the justice of such a conclusion.(1) If the introduction of the
angel be legendary, must not also his words be so? Proceeding, however,
to examine the narrative as it stands, we must point out a circumstance
which may appropriately be mentioned here, and which is well worthy of
attention. The women and the guard are present when the stone is
rolled away from the sepulchre, but they do not witness the actual
Resurrection. It is natural to suppose that, when the stone was removed,
Jesus, who, it is asserted, rises with his body from the dead, would
have come forth from the sepulchre: but not so; the angel only says, v.
6: "He is not here: for he was raised [------];" and he merely invites
the women to see the place where he lay. The actual resurrection is
spoken of as a thing which had taken place before, and in any case it
was not witnessed by any one. In the other Gospels, the resurrection
has already occurred before any one arrives at the sepulchre; and the
remarkable fact is, therefore, absolutely undeniable, that there
was not, and that it is not even pretended that there was, a single
eye-witness of the actual Resurrection. The empty grave, coupled with
the supposed subsequent appearances of Jesus, is the only evidence of
the Resurrection. We shall not, however, pursue this further at present.
The removal of the stone is not followed by any visible result. The
inmate of the sepulchre is not


observed to issue from it, and yet he is not there. May we not ask what
was the use, in this narrative, of the removal of the stone at all? As
no one apparently came forth, the only purpose seems to have been to
permit those from without to enter and see that the sepulchre was empty.

Another remarkable point is that the angel desires the women to go
quickly and inform the disciples: "he goeth before you into Galilee:
there shall ye see him." One is tempted to inquire why, as he rose
from the dead in Jerusalem and, in spite of previous statements, the
disciples are represented as being there also,(1) Jesus did not appear
to them in the Holy City, instead of sending them some three days'
journey off to Galilee. At the same time, Jesus is represented by the
first two Synoptics as saying at the last Supper, when warning the
disciples that they will all be offended at him that night and be
scattered: "But after I shall have been raised, I will go before you
into Galilee."(2) At present we have only to call attention to the fact
that the angel gives the order. With how much surprise, therefore, do we
not immediately after read that, as the women departed quickly to tell
the disciples in obedience to the angel's message, v. 9: "Behold Jesus
met them, saying, Hail. And they came up to him and laid hold of his
feet, and worshipped him. 10. Then saith Jesus unto them: Be not afraid:
go, tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there they shall
see me."(3) What was the use of the angel's message since Jesus himself
immediately after appears and delivers the very same instructions in
person? This sudden and apparently unnecessary appearance has all the
character of an afterthought. One point,


however, is very clear: that the order to go into Galilee and the
statement that there first Jesus is to appear to the disciples are
unmistakable, repeated and peremptory.

We must now turn to the second Gospel. The women going to the sepulchre
with spices that they might anoint the body of Jesus--which, according
to the fourth Gospel, had already been fully embalmed and, in any case,
had lain in the sepulchre since the Friday evening--are represented as
saying amongst themselves: "Who will roll us away the stone from the
door of the sepulchre?"(1) This is a curious dramatic speculation, but
very suspicious. These women are apparently not sufficiently acquainted
with Joseph of Arimathaea to be aware that, as the fourth Gospel
asserts, the body had already been embalmed, and yet they actually
contemplate rolling the stone away from the mouth of a sepulchre which
was his property.(2) Keim has pointed out that it was a general rule(3)
that, after a sepulchre had been closed in the way described, it should
not again be opened. Generally, the stone was not placed against the
opening of the sepulchre till the third day, when corruption had already
commenced; but here the sepulchre is stated by all the Gospels to have
been closed on the first day, and the unhesitating intention of the
women to remove the stone is not a happy touch on the part of the second
Synoptist. They find the stone already rolled away.(4) Ver. 5: "And
entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right
side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were

     4 Mk. xvi. 4. The continuation: "for it was very great" [--
     ----], is peculiar, but of course intended to represent the
     difficulty of its removal.


affrighted. 6. And he saith unto them: Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus
of Nazareth, the crucified: he was raised [------]; he is not here;
behold the place where they laid him. 7. But go, tell his disciples and
Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as
he said unto you. 8. And they went out and fled from the sepulchre: for
trembling and astonishment seized them, and they said nothing to any
one; for they were afraid."(1) In Matthew, the angel rolls away the
stone from the sepulchre and sits upon it, and the women only enter to
see where Jesus lay, upon his invitation. Here, they go in at once,
and see the angel ("a young man") sitting at the right side, and are
affrighted. He re assures them and, as in the other narrative, says:
"he was raised." He gives them the same message to his disciples and
to Peter, who is specially named, and the second Synoptic thus fully
confirms the first in representing Galilee as the place where Jesus is
to be seen by them. It is curious that the women should say nothing to
anyone about this wonderful event, and in this the statements of the
other Gospels are certainly not borne out. There is one remarkable point
to be noticed, however, that, according to the second Synoptist also,
not only is there no eye-witness of the Resurrection, but the only
evidence of that marvellous occurrence which it contains is the
information of the "young man," which is clearly no evidence at all.
There is no appearance of Jesus to any one narrated, and it would seem
as though the appearance described in


Matt, xxviii. 9 f. is excluded. It is well known that Mark xvi. 9-20
did not form part of the original Gospel and is inauthentic. It is
unnecessary to argue a point so generally admitted. The verses now
appended to the Gospel are by a different author and are of no value as
evidence. We, therefore, exclude them from consideration. In Luke, as
in the second Synoptic, the women find the stone removed, and here it
is distinctly stated that "on entering in they found not the body of the
Lord Jesus. 4. And it came to pass as they were perplexed thereabout,
behold two men stood by them in shining garments; 5. And as they were
afraid, and bowed their faces to the earth, they said unto them: Why
seek ye the living among the dead? 6. He is not here, but was raised
[------]; remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
7. saying, that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of
sinful men, and be crucified and the third day rise again. 8. And they
remembered his words, 9. and returned from the sepulchre, and told all
these things unto the eleven and to all the rest.... 11. And these words
appeared to them as an idle tale, and they believed them not."(1) The
author of the third Gospel is not content with one angel, like the first
two Synoptists, but introduces "two men in shining garments," who seem
suddenly to stand beside the women, and instead of re-assuring them, as
in the former narratives, rather adopt a tone of reproof (v. 5). They
inform the women that "Jesus was raised;" and here again not only has no
one been an eye-witness of the resurrection, but the women only hear of
it from the angels. There is one striking peculiarity in the above


account. There is no mention whatever of Jesus going before his
disciples into Galilee to be seen of them, nor indeed of his being seen
at all; but "Galilee" is introduced by way of a reminiscence. Instead
of the future, the third Synoptist substitutes the past and, as might be
expected, he gives no hint of any appearances of Jesus to the disciples
beyond the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. When the women tell the disciples
what they have seen and heard, they do not believe them. The thief on
the cross, according to the writer, was more advanced in his faith and
knowledge than the Apostles. Setting aside Mat. xxviii. 9,10, we have
hitherto no other affirmation of the Resurrection than the statement
that the sepulchre was found empty, and the angels announced that Jesus
was raised from the dead.

The account of the fourth Evangelist, however, differs completely from
the narratives of all the Synoptists. According to him, Mary Magdalene
alone comes to the sepulchre and sees the stone taken away. She
therefore runs and comes to Simon Peter and to "the other disciple whom
Jesus loved," saying: "They took [------] the Lord out of the sepulchre
and we know not [------](1) where they laid [------] him. 3. Peter,
therefore, went forth and the other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4. And the two ran together; and the other disciple outran Peter and
came first to the sepulchre; 5. and stooping down, looking in, he seeth
the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. C. Then cometh Simon Peter
following him and went into the

     1 From the use of this plural, as we have already pointed
     out, it is argued that there were others with Mary who are
     not named. This by no means follows, but if it were the case
     the peculiarity of the narrative becomes all the more


sepulchre and beholdeth the linen clothes lying, 7. and the napkin that
was on his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped in one
place by itself. 8. Then went in, therefore, the other disciple also,
who came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed. 9. For as yet
they knew not the scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead. 10.
So the disciples went away to their own homes."(1) Critics have long
ago pointed out the careful way in which the actions of "the beloved
disciple" and Peter are balanced in this narrative. If the "other
disciple" outstrips Peter, and first looks into the sepulchre, Peter
first actually enters; and if Peter first sees the careful arrangement
of the linen clothes, the other sees and believes. The evident care with
which the writer metes out a share to each disciple in this visit to
the sepulchre, of which the Synoptics seem totally ignorant, is very
suggestive of artistic arrangement, and the careful details regarding
the folding and position of the linen clothes, which has furnished so
much matter for apologetic reasoning, seems to us to savour more of
studied composition than natural observation. So very much is passed
over in complete silence which is of the very highest importance, that
minute details like these, which might well be composed in the study, do
not produce so much effect as some critics think they should do. There
is some ambiguity as to what the disciple "believed," according to v.
8, when he went into the sepulchre; and some understand that he simply
believed what Mary Magdalene had told them (v. 2), whilst others hold
that he believed in the resurrection, which, taken in connection with
the following verse, seems undoubtedly to be the author's meaning. If
the former were the reading it would be too trifling a point to be so


prominently mentioned, and it would not accord with the contented return
home of the disciples. Accepting the latter sense, it is instructive
to observe the very small amount of evidence with which "the beloved
disciple" is content. He simply finds the sepulchre empty and the linen
clothes lying, and although no one even speaks of the resurrection, no
one professes to have been an eye-witness of it, and "as yet they
know not the scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead," he is
nevertheless said to see and believe.

It will have been observed that as yet, although the two disciples
have both entered the sepulchre, there has been no mention whatever of
angels: they certainly did not see any. In immediate continuation of
the narrative, however, we learn that when they have gone home, Mary
Magdalene, who was standing without at the tomb weeping, stooped down
and, looking into the sepulchre,--where just before the disciples had
seen no one,--she beheld "two angels in white sitting, one at the head
and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus lay. 13. They say unto her:
Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them: Because they took away
[------] my Lord, and I know not where they laid him."(1) This again is
a very different representation and conversation from that reported
in the other Gospels. Do we acquire any additional assurance as to the
reality of the angels and the historical truth of their intervention
from this narrative? We think not. Mary Magdalene repeats to the angels
almost the very words she had said to the disciples, v. 2. Are we to
suppose that "the beloved disciple," who saw and believed, did not
communicate his conviction to the others, and that Mary was left


precisely in the same doubt and perplexity as before, without an idea
that anything had happened except that the body had been taken away and
she knew not where it had been laid? She appears to have seen and spoken
to the angels with singular composure. Their sudden appearance does not
even seem to have surprised her.

We must, however, continue the narrative, and it is well to remark the
maintenance, at first, of the tone of affected ignorance, as well as the
dramatic construction of the whole scene: v. 14. "Having said this, she
turned herself back and beholdeth Jesus standing, and knew not that
it was Jesus. 15. Jesus saith unto her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom
seekest thou? She, supposing that it was the gardener, saith unto him:
Sir, if thou didst bear him hence, tell me where thou didst lay him,
and I will take him away. 16. Jesus saith unto her: Mary. She turned
herself, and saith unto him in Hebrew:(1) Rabboni, which is to say,
Master. 17. Jesus saith unto her: Touch me not [------]; for I have not
yet ascended to the Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them: I
ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. 18. Mary
Magdalene cometh announcing to the disciples that she has seen the Lord,
and he spake these things unto her."(2) To those who attach weight
to these narratives and consider them historical, it must appear
astonishing that Mary, who up to the very last had been closely
associated with Jesus, does not recognise him when he thus appears
to her, but supposes him at first to be the gardener. As part of the
evidence of the Gospel, however,

     1 This is the reading of the Vatican and Sinaitic codices,
     besides D and many other important MSS.


such a trait is of much importance, and must hereafter be alluded to.
After a couple of days not know Jesus whom she had daily seen for so
long! The interpretation of the reply of Jesus, v. 17: "Touch me not,"
&c, has long been a bone of contention among critics, but it does not
sufficiently affect the inquiry upon which we are engaged to require
discussion here.(1) Only one point may be mentioned in passing, that
if, as has been supposed in connection with Mt. xxviii. 9, Jesus be
understood to repel, as premature, the worship of Mary, that
very passage of the first Gospel, in which there is certainly no
discouragement of worship, refutes the theory. We shall not say more
about the construction of this dialogue, but we may point out that, as
so many unimportant details are given throughout the narrative, it is
somewhat remarkable that the scene terminates so abruptly, and leaves so
much untold that it would have been of the utmost consequence for us to
know. What became of Jesus, for instance? Did he vanish suddenly? or did
he bid Mary farewell, and leave her like one in the flesh? Did she not
inquire why he did not join the brethren? whither he was going? It is
scarcely possible to tell us less than the writer has done; and as it
cannot be denied that such minor points as where the linen clothes


lay, or whether Mary "turned herself back" (v. 14) or "turned herself"
(v. 16) merely, cannot be compared in interest and importance to the
supposed movements and conduct of Jesus under such circumstances, the
omission to relate the end of the interview, or more particular
details of it, whilst those graphic touches are inserted, is singularly
instructive. It is much more important to notice that here again there
is no mention of Galilee, nor, indeed, of any intention to show himself
to the disciples anywhere, but simply the intimation sent to them: "I
ascend unto my Father and your Father," &c, a declaration which seems
emphatically to exclude further "appearances," and to limit the vision
of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene. Certainly this message implies in
the clearest way that the Ascension was then to take place, and the only
explanation of the abrupt termination of the scene immediately after
this is said is, that, as he spoke, Jesus then ascended. The subsequent
appearances related in this Gospel must, consequently, either be
regarded as an after-thought, or as visions of Jesus after he had
ascended. This demands serious attention. We shall see that after
sending this message to his disciples he is represented as appearing to
them on the evening of the very same day.

According to the third Synoptic, the first appearance of Jesus to
any one after the Resurrection was not to the women, and not to Mary
Magdalene, but to two brethren,(1) who were not apostles at all, the
name of one of whom, we are told, was Cleopas.(2) The story of the
walk to Emmaus is very dramatic and interesting, but it is clearly
legendary.(3) None of the other Evangelists


seem to know anything of it. It is difficult to suppose that Jesus
should after his resurrection appear first of all to two unknown
Christians in such a manner, and accompany them in such a journey. The
particulars of the story are to the last degree improbable, and in its
main features incredible, and it is indeed impossible to consider
them carefully without perceiving the transparent inauthenticity of
the narrative. The two disciples were going to a village called
Emmaus threescore furlongs distant from Jerusalem, and while they are
conversing Jesus joins them, "but their eyes were holden that they
should not know him." He asks the subject of their discourse, and
pretends ignorance, which surprises them. Hearing the expression of
their perplexity and depression, he says to them: 25. "O foolish and
slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spake. 26. Was it not
necessary that the Christ should suffer these things, and enter into his
glory? 27. And beginning at Moses and at all the prophets, he expounded
unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." When
they reach the village, he pretends to be going further (v. 28), but
they constrain him to stay. 30. "And it came to pass, as he sat at meat
with them he took the bread and blessed and brake, and gave to them; 31.
and their eyes were opened, and they knew him, and he vanished out of
their sight." Now why all this mystery? why were their eyes holden that
they should not know him? why pretend ignorance? why make "as though
he would go further?" Considering the nature and number of the alleged
appearances of Jesus, this episode seems most disproportionate and


inexplicable. The final incident completes our conviction of the
unreality of the whole episode: after the sacramental blessing and
breaking of bread, Jesus vanishes in a manner which removes the story
from the domain of history. On their return to Jerusalem, the Synoptist
adds that they find the Eleven, and are informed that "the Lord was
raised and was seen by Simon." Of this appearance we are not told
anything more.

Whilst the two disciples from Emmaus were relating these things to the
eleven, the third Synoptist states that Jesus himself stood in the midst
of them: v. 37. "But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed
that they saw a spirit." The apparent intention is to represent a
miraculous sudden entry of Jesus into the midst of them, just as he
had vanished at Emmaus; but, in order to re-assure them, Jesus is
represented as saying: v. 39. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is
I myself; handle me and behold, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones
as ye see me having. 41. And while they yet believed not for joy, and
wondered, he said unto them: Have ye here any food? 42. And they gave
him a piece of a broiled fish.(1) 43. And he took it and did eat before
them," The care with which the writer demonstrates that Jesus rose again
with his own body is remarkable, for not only does he show his hands and
feet, we may suppose for the purpose of exhibiting the wounds made by
the nails by which he was affixed to the cross, but he eats, and thereby
proves himself to be still possessed of his human organism. It is
apparent, however, that there is direct contradiction between this and
the representation of his vanishing at Emmaus,


and standing in the midst of them now. The Synoptist who is so lavish in
his use of miraculous agency naturally sees no incongruity here. One
or other alternative must be adopted:--If Jesus possessed his own
body after his resurrection and could eat and be handled, he could not
vanish; if he vanished, he could not have been thus corporeal. The
aid of a miracle has to be invoked in order to reconcile the
representations. We need not here criticise the address which he is
supposed to make to the disciples,(1) but we must call attention to
the one point that Jesus (v. 49) commands the disciples to tarry
in Jerusalem until they be "clothed with power from on high." This
completes the exclusion of all appearances in Galilee, for the narrative
proceeds to say, that Jesus led them out towards Bethany and lifted up
his hands and blessed them: v. 51. "And it came to pass, while blessing
them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven;" whilst
they returned to Jerusalem, where they "were continually in the temple"
praising God. We shall return to the Ascension presently, but, in the
meantime, it is well that we should refer to the accounts of the other
two Gospels.

According to the fourth Gospel, on the first day of the week, after
sending to his disciples the message regarding his Ascension, which we
have discussed, when it was evening: xx. 19. "And the doors having been
shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and
stood in the midst, and saith unto them: Peace be unto you. 20. And
having said this, he

     1 The statement in xxiv. 44, however, is suggestive as
     showing how the fulfilment of the Prophets and Psalms is in
     the mind of the writer. We have seen how much this idea
     influenced the account of the Passion in the Gospels.


showed unto them both his hands and his side. The disciples, therefore,
rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21. So then he said to them again:
Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent me, I also send you. 22. And
when he said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye
the Holy Spirit: 23. Whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven unto
them; whosesoever ye retain they are retained." This appearance of Jesus
to the eleven bears so far analogy to that in the third Gospel, which
we have just examined, that it occurs upon the same day and to the same
persons. Is it probable that Jesus appeared twice upon the same evening
to the eleven disciples? The account in the fourth Gospel itself
confirms the only reasonable reply: that he did not do so; but the
narrative in the third Synoptic renders the matter certain. That
appearance was the first to the eleven (xxiv. 36 f.), and he then
conducted them towards Bethany, and ascended into heaven (v. 50 f.).
How then, we may inquire, could two accounts of the same event differ so
fundamentally? It is absolutely certain that both cannot be true. Is it
possible to suppose that the third Synoptist could forget to record the
extraordinary powers supposed to have been on this occasion bestowed
upon the ten Apostles to forgive sins and to retain them? Is it
conceivable that he would not relate the circumstance that Jesus
breathed upon them, and endowed them with the Holy Ghost? Indeed, as
regards the latter point, he seems to exclude it, v. 49, and in the
Acts (ii.) certainly represents the descent of the Holy Spirit as taking
place at Pentecost. On the other hand, can we suppose that the fourth
Evangelist would have ignored the walk to Bethany and the solemn parting
there? or the injunction to remain in Jerusalem?


not to mention other topics. The two episodes cannot be reconciled.

In the fourth Gospel, instead of showing his hands and feet, Jesus is
represented as exhibiting "his hands and his side," and that this is not
accidental is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that Thomas, who is
not present, refuses to believe (v. 25) unless he see and put his finger
into the print of the nails in his hands and put his hand into his side;
and Jesus, when he appears again, allows him (v. 27) to put his finger
into his hands and his hand into his side. In the Synoptic, the wound
made by that mythical lance is ignored and, in the fourth Gospel,
the wounds in the feet. The omission of the whole episode of the
leg-breaking and lance-thrust by the three Synoptics thus gains fresh
significance. On the other hand, it may be a question whether, in the
opinion of the fourth Evangelist, the feet of Jesus were nailed to the
cross at all, or whether, indeed, they were so in fact. It was at least
as common, not to say more, that the hands alone of those who were
crucified were nailed to the cross, the legs being simply bound to it
by cords. Opinion is divided as to whether Jesus was so bound or whether
the feet were likewise nailed, but the point is not important to our
examination and need not be discussed, although it has considerable
interest in connection with the theory that death did not actually ensue
on the cross, but that, having fainted through weakness, Jesus, being
taken down after so unusually short a time on the cross, subsequently
recovered. There is no final evidence upon the point.

None of the explanations offered by apologists remove the contradiction
between the statement that Jesus bestowed the Holy Spirit upon this
occasion and that of the


third Synoptic and Acts. There is, however, a curious point to notice
in connection with this: Thomas is said to have been absent upon this
occasion, and the representation, therefore, is that the Holy Spirit was
only bestowed upon ten of the Apostles. Was Thomas excluded? Was he
thus punished for his unbelief? Are we to suppose that an opportunity
to bestow the Holy Spirit was selected when one of the Apostles was not
present?(l) We have, however, somewhat anticipated the narrative (xx. 24
if.), which relates that upon the occasion above discussed Thomas, one
of the Twelve, was not present, and hearing from the rest that they have
seen the Lord, he declares that he will not believe without palpable
proof by touching his wounds. The Evangelist continues: v. 26. "And
after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas was with
them. Jesus cometh, the doors having been shut [------], and stood in
the midst and said: Peace be unto you. 27. Then saith he to Thomas:
Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand
and put it into my side, and be not unbelieving but believing. 28.
Thomas answered and said unto him: My Lord and my God. 29. Jesus saith
unto him: Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are
they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

The third Synoptic gives evidence that the risen Jesus is not
incorporeal by stating that he not only permitted himself to be handled,
but actually ate food in their presence. The fourth Evangelist attains
the same result in a more artistic manner through the doubts of Thomas,
but in allowing him actually to put his finger into the prints of the
nails in his hands, and his hand into the


wound in his side, he asserts that Jesus rose with the same body as
that which had hung on the cross. He, too, however, whilst doing this,
actually endows him with the attribute of incorporeality; for, upon both
of the occasions which we are discussing, the statement is markedly made
that, when Jesus came and stood in the midst, the doors were shut where
the disciples were. It can scarcely be doubted that the intention of the
writer is to represent a miraculous entry.(1)

We are asked, however, to believe that when Thomas had convinced himself
that it was indeed Jesus in the flesh who stood before him, he went to
the opposite extreme of belief and said to Jesus: [------] "My Lord
and my God!" In representing that Jesus, even before the Ascension, was
addressed as "God" by one of the Twelve, the Evangelist commits one of
those anachronisms with which we are familiar, in another shape, in the
works of great painters, who depict pious bishops of their own time as
actors in the scenes of the Passion. These touches, however, betray
the hand of the artist, and remove the account from the domain of sober
history. In the message sent by Jesus to his disciples he spoke of
ascending "to your God and my God," but the Evangelist at the close of
his Gospel strikes the same note as that upon which he commenced his
philosophical prelude.

We shall only add one further remark regarding this episode, and it is
the repetition of one already made. It is much to be regretted that
the writer does not inform us how these interviews of Jesus with his
disciples terminated. We are told of his entry, but not


of his mode of departure. Did he vanish suddenly? Did he depart like
other men? Then, it would be important to know where Jesus abode
during the interval of eight days. Did he ascend to heaven after each
appearance? or did he remain on earth? Why did he not consort as
before with his disciples? These are not jeering questions, but
serious indications of the scantiness of the information given by the
Evangelists, which is not compensated by some trifling detail of no
value occasionally inserted to heighten the reality of a narrative. This
is the last appearance of Jesus related in the fourth Gospel; for the
character of Ch. xxi. is too doubtful to permit it to rank with the
Gospel. The appearance of Jesus therein related is in fact more palpably
legendary than the others. It will be observed that in this Gospel,
as in the third Synoptic, the appearances of Jesus are confined to
Jerusalem and exclude Galilee. These two Gospels are, therefore, clearly
in contradiction with the statement of the first two Synoptics.(2)

It only remains for us to refer to one more appearance of Jesus: that
related in the first Synoptic, xxviii. 16 ff. In obedience to the
command of Jesus, the disciples are represented as having gone away into
Galilee, "unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them." We have not
previously heard anything of this specific appointment. The Synoptist
continues: v. 17. "And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some
doubted. 18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying: All authority
was given to me [------] in heaven and on earth. 19. Go ye and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; 20. teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; and lo, I am with


you all the days, unto the end of the world." This appearance not only
is not mentioned in the other Gospels, but it excludes the appearances
in Judaea, of which the writer seems to be altogether ignorant. If he
knew of them, he practically denies them.

There has been some discussion as to what the doubt mentioned in v. 17
refers, some critics maintaining that "some doubted" as to the propriety
of worshipping Jesus, whilst others more correctly consider that they
doubted as to his identity,(1) but we need not mention the curious
apologetic explanations offered.(2) Are we to regard the mention
of these doubts as an "inestimable proof of the candour of the
Evangelists"? If so, then we may find fault with the omission to tell
us whether, and how, those doubts were set at rest. As the narrative
stands, the doubts were not resolved. Was it possible to doubt
without good reason of the identity of one with whom, until a few days
previously, the disciples had been in daily and hourly contact at least
for a year, if not longer? Doubt in such a case is infinitely more
decisive than belief. We can regard the expression, however, in no other
light than as a mere rhetorical device in a legendary narrative. The
rest of the account ueed have little further discussion here. The
extraordinary statement in v. 18(3) seems as clearly the expression of
later theology as the baptismal formula


in v. 19, where the doctrine of the Trinity is so definitely expressed.
Some critics suppose that the Eleven were not alone upon this occasion,
but that either all the disciples of Jesus were present, or at least the
500 brethren l to whom Paul refers, 1 Cor. xv. G. This mainly rests on
the statement that "some doubted," for it is argued that, after the
two previous appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem mentioned by
the other Evangelists, it is impossible that the Eleven could have felt
doubt, and consequently that others must have been present who had not
previously been convinced. It is scarcely necessary to point out the
utter weakness of such an argument. It is not permissible, however, to
patch on to this Gospel scraps cut out of the others.

It must be clear to every unprejudiced student that the appearances
of Jesus narrated by the four Gospels in Galilee and Judæa cannot
be harmonised,(2) and we have shown that they actually exclude each
other.(3) The first Synoptist records (v. 10) the order for the
disciples to go into Galilee, and with no further interruption than the


mention of the return of the discomfited guard from the sepulchre to the
chief priest, he (v. 16) states that they went into Galilee, where
they saw Jesus in the manner just described. No amount of ingenuity can
insert the appearances in Jerusalem here without the grossest violation
of all common sense. This is the only appearance to the Eleven recorded
in Matthew.

We must here again point out the singular omission to relate the manner
in which this interview was ended. The episode and the Gospel, indeed,
are brought to a very artistic close by the expression, "lo, I am with
you all the days unto the end of the world," but we must insist that
it is a very suggestive fact that it does not occur to these writers
to state what became of Jesus. No point could have been more full
of interest than the manner in which Jesus here finally leaves the
disciples, and is dismissed from the history. That such an important
part of the narrative is omitted is in the highest degree remarkable and
significant. Had a formal termination to the interview been recounted,
it would have been subject to criticism, and by no means necessarily
evidence of truth; but it seems to us that the circumstance that it
never occurred to these writers to relate the departure of Jesus is a
very strong indication of the unreality and shadowy nature of the whole

We are thus brought to consider the account of the Ascension, which is
at least given by one Evangelist. In the appendix to the second Gospel,
as if the later writer felt the omission and desired to complete the
narrative, it is vaguely stated: xvi. 19. "So then after the Lord spake
unto them he was taken up into heaven and sat on the right hand of
God."(1) The


writer, however, omits to state how he was taken up into heaven; and
sitting "at the right hand of God" is an act and position which those
who assert the "Personality of God" may possibly understand, but which
we venture to think betrays that the account is a mere theological
figment. The third Synoptist, however, as we have incidentally shown,
gives an account of the Ascension. Jesus having, according to the
narrative in xxiv. 50 ff., led the disciples out to Bethany, lifted up
his hands and blessed them: v. 51. "And it came to pass while blessing
them he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven."(1) The whole
of the appearances narrated in the third Synoptic, therefore, and the
Ascension are thus said to occur on the same day as the Resurrection.(2)
In Matthew, there is a different representation made, for the time
consumed in the journey of the disciples to Galilee obviously throws
back the Ascension to a later date. In Mark, there is no appearance
at all recorded, but the command to the disciples to go into Galilee
confirms the first Synoptic. In the fourth Gospel, Jesus revisits the
eleven a second time after eight days; and, therefore, the Ascension is


necessarily later still. In neither of these Gospels, however, is there
any account of an ascension at all.

We may here point out that there is no mention of the Ascension in any
of the genuine writings of Paul, and it would appear that the theory
of a bodily ascension, in any shape, did not form part of the oldest
Christian tradition.(1) The growth of the legend of the Ascension is
apparent in the circumstance that the author of the third Gospel follows
a second tradition regarding that event, when composing Acts.(2) Whether
he thought a fuller and more detailed account desirable, or it seemed
necessary to prolong the period during which Jesus remained on earth
after his Resurrection and to multiply his appearances, it is impossible
to say, but the fact is that he does so. He states in his second work:
that to the Apostles Jesus "presented himself alive after he suffered by
many proofs, being seen [------] by them during forty days, and speaking
of the things concerning the Kingdom of God." It is scarcely possible to
doubt that the period of forty days is suggested by the Old Testament(3)
and the Hebrew use of that number, of which indeed we already find
examples in the New Testament in the forty days temptation of Jesus in
the wilderness,(4) and his fasting forty days and forty nights.(5) Why


Jesus remained on earth this typical period we are not told,(1) but
the representation evidently is of much more prolonged and continuous
intercourse with his disciples than any statements in the Gospels have
led us to suppose, or than the declaration of Paul renders in the least
degree probable.

If indeed the account in Acts were true, the numbered appearances
recited by Paul show singular ignorance of the phenomena of the
Resurrection. We need not discuss the particulars of the last interview
with the Apostles, (i. 4 if.) although they are singular enough, and
are indeed elsewhere referred to, but at once proceed to the final
occurrences: v. 9. "And when he had spoken these things, while they are
looking he was lifted up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10. And as they were gazing stedfastly into the heaven as he went,
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11. which also said: Men
of Galilee [------], why stand ye looking into the heaven? This Jesus,
who was taken up from you into the heaven, shall come in like manner
as ye saw him going into the heaven. 12. Then returned they into
Jerusalem," &c. A definite statement is here made of the mode in
which Jesus finally ascended into heaven, and it presents some of the
incongruities which might have beeu expected. The bodily Ascension
up the sky in a cloud, apart from the miraculous nature of such an
occurrence, seems singularly to localise "Heaven," and to present views
of cosmical and celestial phenomena suitable certainly to the age of the
writer, but which are not endorsed by modern science.

     1 The testimony of the Epistle of Barnabas (c. xv.) does not
     agree with this.


The sudden appearance of the "two men in white apparel," the usual
description of angels, is altogether in the style of the author of Acts,
but does it increase the credibility of the story? It is curious that
the angels open their address to the Apostles in the same form as almost
every other speaker in this book. One might ask, indeed, why such an
angelic interposition should have taken place? for its utility is not
apparent, and in the short sentence recorded nothing which is new is
embodied. No surprise is expressed at the appearance of the angels, and
nothing is said of their disappearance. They are introduced, like
the chorus of a Greek play, and are left unceremoniously, with an
indifference which betrays complete familiarity with supernatural
agency. Can there be any doubt that the whole episode is legendary?(1)

It may not seem inappropriate to mention here that the idea of a bodily
Ascension does not originate with the author of the third Synoptic and
Acts, nor is it peculiar to Christianity. The translation of Enoch(2)
had long been chronicled in the sacred books; and the ascent of
Elijah(3) in his whirlwind and chariot of fire before the eyes of Elisha
was another well-known instance. The vision of Daniel (vii. 13), of one
like the "Son of man" coming with the clouds of heaven, might well
have suggested the manner of his departure, but another mode has been
suggested.(4) The author of Acts was, we maintain, well acquainted with
the works of Josephus.(5)


We know that the prophet like unto Moses was a favourite representation
in Acts of the Christ. Now, in the account which Josephus gives of the
end of Moses, he states that, although he wrote in the holy books that
he died lest they should say that he went to God, this was not really
his end. After reaching the mountain Abarim he dismissed the senate;
and as he was about to embrace Eleazar, the high priest, and Joshua,
"a cloud suddenly having stood over him he disappeared in a certain
valley."(1) This, however, we merely mention in passing.

Our earlier examination of the evidence for the origin and authorship of
the historical books of the New Testament very clearly demonstrated
that the testimony of these works for miracles and the reality of Divine
Revelation, whatever that testimony might seem to be, could not be
considered of any real value. We have now examined the accounts which
the four Evangelists actually give of the Passion, Resurrection, and
Ascension, and there can be no hesitation in stating as the result that,
as might have been expected from works of such uncertain character,
these narratives must be pronounced mere legends, embodying vague and
wholly unattested tradition. As


evidence for such stupendous miracles, they are absolutely of no value.
No reliance can be placed on a single detail of their story. The aim of
the writers has obviously been to make their narrative of the various
appearances of Jesus as convincing as possible,(1) and they have freely
inserted any details which seemed to them calculated to give them
impressiveness, force, and verisimilitude.

A recent apologetic writer has said: "Any one who will attentively read
side by side the narratives of these appearances on the first day of
the resurrection, will see that they have only been preserved for us in
general, interblended and scattered notices (see Matt, xxviii. 16; Luke
xxiv. 34; Acts i. 3), which, in strict exactness, render it impossible,
without many arbitrary suppositions, to produce from them a _certain_
narrative of the order of events. The lacuna, the compressions, the
variations, the actual differences, _the subjectivity of the narrators
as affected by spiritual revelations_, render all harmonies at the best
uncertain."(2) Passing over without comment, the strange phrase in
this passage which we have italicised, and which seems to claim divine
inspiration for the writers, it must be obvious to any one who has
carefully read the preceding pages that this is an exceedingly moderate
description of the wild statements and irreconcilable contradictions of
the different narratives we have examined. But such as it is, with all
the glaring inconsistencies and impossibilities of the accounts even
thus subdued, is it possible for any one who has formed even a faint
idea of the extraordinary nature of the allegations which have to be
attested, to


consider such documents really evidence for the Resurrection and bodily

The usual pleas which are advanced in mitigation of judgment against
the Gospels for these characteristics are of no avail. It may be easy
to excuse the writers for their mutual contradictions, but the pleas
themselves are an admission of the shortcomings which render their
evidence valueless. "The differences of purpose in the narrative of
the four Evangelists,"(1) may be fancifully set forth, or ingeniously
imagined, but no "purpose" can transform discordant and untrustworthy
narratives into evidence for miracles. Unless the prologue to the third
Gospel be considered a condemnation of any of the other Synoptics which
may have existed before it, none of the Evangelists makes the smallest
reference to any of his brethren or their works. Each Gospel tacitly
professes to be a perfectly independent work, giving the history of
Jesus, or at


least of the active part of his life, and of his death and Resurrection.
The apologetic theory, derived from the Fathers, that the Evangelists
designed to complete and supplement each other, is totally untenable.
Each work was evidently intended to be complete in itself; but when
we consider that much the greater part of the contents of each of
the Synoptics is common to the three, frequently with almost literal
agreement, and generally without sufficient alteration to conceal
community of source or use of each other, the poverty of Christian
tradition becomes painfully evident. We have already pointed out the
fundamental difference between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptics.
In no part of the history does greater contradiction and disagreement
between the three Synoptics themselves and likewise between them and the
fourth Gospel exist, than in the account of the Passion, Resurrection
and Ascension. It is impossible to examine the four narratives carefully
without feeling that here tradition, for natural reasons, has been more
than usually wavering and insecure. Each writer differs essentially from
the rest, and the various narratives not only disagree but exclude
each other. The third Synoptist, in the course of some years, even
contradicts himself. The phenomena which are related, in fact, were too
subjective and unsubstantial for sober and consistent narrative, and
free play was allowed for pious imagination to frame details by the
aid of supposed Messianic utterances of the Prophets and Psalmists of

Such a miracle as the Resurrection, startling as it is in our
estimation, was common-place enough in the view of these writers. We
need not go hack to discuss the story of the widow's son restored to


life by Elijah,(1) nor that of the dead man who revived on touching the
bones of Elisha.(2) The raising from the dead of the son of the widow of
Nain(3) did not apparently produce much effect at the time, and only one
of the Evangelists seems to have thought it worth while to preserve the
narrative. The case of Jairus' daughter,(4) whatever it was, is regarded
as a resurrection of the dead and is related by two of the Synoptists;
but the raising of Lazarus is only recorded by the fourth Evangelist.
The familiarity of the age with the idea of the resurrection of the
dead, however, according to the Synoptists, is illustrated by the
representation which they give of the effect produced by the fame of
Jesus upon Herod and others. We are told by the first Synoptist that
Herod said unto his servants: "This is John the Baptist; he was raised
from the dead; and therefore the powers work in him."(5) The second
Synoptist repeats the same statement, but adds: "But others said that
it is Elijah; and others said that it is a prophet like one of
the prophets."(6) The statement of the third Synoptist is somewhat
different. He says: "Now Herod the tetrarch heard all that was
occurring: and he was perplexed because it was said by some that John
was raised from the dead, and by some that Elijah appeared, and by
others that one of the old prophets rose up. And Herod


said: John I beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things, and
he sought to see him."()1 The three Synoptists substantially report the
same thing; the close verbal agreement of the first two being an example
of the community of matter of which we have just spoken. The variations
are instructive as showing the process by which each writer made the
original form his own. Are we to assume that these things were really
said? Or must we conclude that the sayings are simply the creation of
later tradition? In the latter case, we see how unreal and legendary are
the Gospels. In the former case, we learn how common was the belief in
a bodily resurrection. How could it seem so strange to the Apostles that
Jesus should rise again, when the idea that John the Baptist or one
of the old prophets had risen from the dead was so readily accepted by
Herod and others? How could they so totally misunderstand all that the
chief priests, according to the first Synoptic, so well understood of
the teaching of Jesus on the subject of his Resurrection, since the
world had already become so familiar with the idea and the fact?

Then, the episode of the Transfiguration must have occurred to every
one, when Jesus took with him Peter and James and John into a high
mountain apart, "and he was transfigured before them; and his face did
shine as the sun, and his raiment became white as the light. And behold,
there was seen [------] by them Moses and Elijah


talking with him;" and then "a bright cloud overshadowed them" and "a
voice came out of the cloud: This is my beloved son," &c. "And when the
disciples heard they fell on their face and were sore afraid."(1) The
third Synoptist even knows the subject of their conversation: "They were
speaking of his decease which he was about to fulfil in Jerusalem."(2)
This is related by all as an objective occurrence.(3) Are we to accept
it as such? Then how is it possible that the disciples could be so
obtuse and incredulous as they subsequently showed themselves to be
regarding the person of Jesus, and his resurrection? How could the
announcement of that event by the angels to the women seem to them as
an idle tale, which they did not believe?(4) Here were Moses and Elijah
before them, and in Jesus, we are told, they recognized one greater
than Moses and Elijah. The miracle of the Resurrection was here
again anticipated and made palpable to them. Are we to regard the
Transfiguration as a subjective vision? Then why not equally so
the appearances of Jesus after his passion? We can regard the
Transfiguration, however, as nothing more than an allegory without
either objective or subjective reality. Into this at present we cannot
further go. It is sufficient to repeat that our examination has shown
the Gospels to possess no value as evidence for the Resurrection and


We may now proceed to examine the evidence of Paul. "On one occasion,"
it is affirmed in a passage already quoted, "he gives a very
circumstantial account of the testimony upon which the belief in the
Resurrection rested (1 Cor. xv. 4--8)."(1) This account is as follows:
1 Cor. xv. 3. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also
received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4.
and that he was buried, and that he has been raised [------] the third
day according to the Scriptures, 5. and that he was seen by Cephas, then
by the Twelve. 6. After that, he was seen by above five hundred brethren
at once [------], of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but
some are fallen asleep. 7. After that, he was seen by James; then by all
the Apostles. 8. And last of all he was seen by me also as the one
born out of due time."(2) Can this be considered a "very circumstantial
account"? It may be exceedingly unreasonable, but we must at once
acknowledge that we are not satisfied. The testimony


upon which the belief in the Resurrection rests comprised in a dozen
lines! for we may so far anticipate as to say that this can scarcely be
regarded as a _resume_ of evidence which we can find elsewhere. We shall
presently point out a few circumstances which it might be useful to

The Apostle states, in this passage, that the doctrines which he had
delivered to the Corinthians he had himself "received." He does not
pretend to teach them from his own knowledge, and the question naturally
arises: From whom did he "receive" them? Formerly, divines generally
taught that Paul received these doctrines by revelation, and up to
recent times apologists have continued to hold this view, even when
admitting the subsidiary use of tradition.(1) If this claim were
seriously made, the statements of the Apostle, so far as our inquiry
is concerned, would certainly not gain in value, for it is obvious that
Revelation could not be admitted to prove Revelation. It is quite true
that Paul himself professed to have received his Gospel not from men,
but from God by direct revelation, and we shall hereafter have
to consider this point and the inferences to be drawn from such
pretensions. At present, the argument need not be complicated by any
such supposition, for certainly Paul does not here advance any such
claim himself, and apologetic and other critics agree in declaring the
source of his statements to be natural historical tradition.(2) The
points which he


delivered and which he had also received are three in number: (1) that
Christ died for our sins; (2) that he was buried; and (3) that he has
been raised the third day. In strictness the [------] might oblige us
to include, "and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve," after
which the construction of the sentence is changed. It is not necessary
to press this, however, and it is better for the present to separate the
dogmatic statements from those which are more properly evidential.

It will be observed that, although the death, burial, and resurrection
are here taught as "received," evidence only of one point is offered:
that Jesus "was seen by" certain persons. We have already pointed out
that the Gospels do not pretend that any one was an eye-witness of
the Resurrection itself, and it is important to notice that Paul, the
earliest and most trustworthy witness produced, entirely passes over the
event itself, and relies solely on the fact that Jesus was supposed to
have been seen by certain persons to prove that he died, was buried, and
had actually risen the third day. The only inference which we here wish
to draw from this is, that the alleged appearances are thus obviously
separated from the death and burial by a distinct gulf. A dead body, it
is stated, or one believed to be dead, is laid in a sepulchre: after a
certain time, it is alleged that the dead person has been seen alive.
Supposing the first statement to be correct, the second, being in
itself, according to all our experience, utterly incredible, leaves
further a serious gap in the continuity of evidence. What occurred in
the interval between the burial and the supposed apparition? If it be
asserted--as in the Gospels it is--that, before the


apparition, the sepulchre was found empty and the body gone, not only
may it be replied that this very circumstance may have assisted in
producing a subjective vision, but that, in so far as the disappearance
of the body is connected with the appearance of the person apparently
alive, the fact has no evidential value. The person supposed to be dead,
for instance, may actually not have been so, but have revived; for,
although we have no intention ourselves of adopting this explanation
of the Resurrection, it is, as an alternative, certainly preferable
to belief in the miracle. Or, in the interval, the body may have been
removed from a temporary to a permanent resting place unknown to
those who are surprised to find the body gone;--and in the Gospels the
conflicting accounts of the embalming and hasty burial, as we have seen,
would fully permit of such an argument if we relied at all on those
narratives. Many other means of accounting for the absence of the body
might be advanced, any one of which, in the actual default of testimony
to the contrary, would be irrefutable. The mere surprise of finding a
grave empty which was supposed to contain a body betrays a blank in the
knowledge of the persons, which can only be naturally filled up. This
gap, at least, would not have existed had the supposed resurrection
occurred in the presence of those by whom it is asserted Jesus "was
seen." As it is, no evidence whatever is offered that Jesus really died;
no evidence that the sepulchre was even found empty; no evidence that
the dead body actually arose and became alive again; but skipping over
the intermediate steps, the only evidence produced is the statement
that, being supposed to be dead, he is said to have been seen by certain


There is a peculiarity in the statement to which we must now refer. The
words, "according to the Scriptures" [------] are twice introduced into
the brief recapitulation of the teaching which Paul had received
and delivered: (1) "That Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures," and (3) "that he has been raised the third day according to
the Scriptures." It is evident that mere historical tradition has only
to do with the fact "that Christ died," and that the object: "for our
sins," is a dogmatic addition. The Scriptures supply the dogma. In the
second point, the appeal to Scripture is curious, and so far important
as indicating that the resurrection on the third day was supposed to
be a fulfilment of prophecy; and we have thus an indication, regarding
which we must hereafter speak, of the manner in which the belief
probably originated. The double reference to the Scriptures is
peculiarly marked, and we have already more than once had occasion to
point out that the narratives of the Gospels betray the very strong and
constant influence of parts of the Old Testament supposed to relate to
the Messiah. It cannot, we think, be doubted by any independent critic,
that the details of these narratives were to a large extent traced from
those prophecies. It is in the highest degree natural to suppose that
the early Christians, once accepting the idea of a suffering Messiah,
should, in the absence of positive or minute knowledge, assume that
prophecies which they believed to have reference to him should actually
have been fulfilled, and that in fact the occurrences corresponded
minutely with the prophecies. Too little is known of what really took
place, and it is


probable that Christian tradition generally was moulded from foregone

What were the "Scriptures," according to which "Christ died for our
sins," and "has been raised the third day?" The passages which are
generally referred to, and which Paul most probably had in view, are
well known: as regards the death for our sins,--Isaiah liii., Ps. xxii.
and lxix,; and for the resurrection,--Ps. xvi. 10, and Hosea vi. 2. We
have already pointed out that historical criticism has shown that the
first four passages just indicated are not Messianic prophecies at
all,(1) and we may repeat that the idea of a suffering Messiah
was wholly foreign to the Jewish prophets and people. The Messiah
"crucified," as Paul himself bears witness, was "to Jews a stumbling
block,"(2) and modern criticism has clearly established that the parts
of Scripture by which the early Christians endeavoured to show that such
a Messiah had been foretold can only be applied by a perversion of the
original signification. In the case of the passages supposed to foretell
the Resurrection, the misapplication is particularly flagrant. We have
already discussed the use of Ps. xvi. 10, which in Acts(3) is put into
the mouth of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and shown that the
proof passage rests upon a mistranslation of the original in the
Septuagint.(4) Any reader who will refer to Hosea vi. 2 will see that
the passage in no way applies to the Messiah,(5) although undoubtedly it
has influenced the formation of the doctrine


of the Resurrection. The "sign of the prophet Jonah," which in Mt. xii.
40 is put into the mouth of Jesus is another passage used with equal
incorrectness, and a glimpse of the manner in which Christian tradition
took shape, and the Gospels were composed, may be obtained by comparing
with the passage in the first Synoptic the parallel in the third
(xi. 29--31).(1) We shall have more to say presently regarding the
resurrection" on the third day."

We may now proceed to examine the so-called "very circumstantial account
of the testimony on which the belief in the Resurrection rested." "And
that he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. After that he was seen
by above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain
unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen
by James, then by all the Apostles, and last of all he was seen by me
also."(2) There can be no doubt, we think, from the terms in which
this statement is made, that Paul intended to give the appearances in
chronological order.(3) It would likewise be a fair inference that he
intended to mention all the appearances of which he was aware. So far,
the account may possibly merit the epithet "circumstantial," but in all
other respects it is scarcely possible to conceive any statement less
circumstantial. As to where the risen Jesus was seen by these persons,
in what manner, and under what circumstances, and at what time, we are
not vouchsafed a single particular. Moreover, the Apostle was not


present on any of these occasions, excepting of course his own vision,
and consequently merely reports appearances of which he has been
informed by others, but he omits to mention the authority upon which
he makes these statements, or what steps he took to ascertain their
accuracy and reality. For instance, when Jesus is said to have been
seen by five hundred brethren at once, it would have been of the highest
importance for us to know the exact details of the scene, the proportion
of inference to fact, the character of the Apostle's informant, the
extent of the investigation into the various impressions made upon the
individuals composing the five hundred, as opposed to the collective
affirmation. We confess that we do not attach much value to such appeals
to the experience of 500 persons at once. It is difficult to find out
what the actual experience of the individuals was, and each individual
is so apt to catch the infection of his neighbour, and join in
excitement, believing that, though he does not himself see or feel
anything, his neighbour does, that probably, when inquiry is pressed
home, the aggregate affirmation of a large number may resolve itself
into the actual experience of very few. The fact is, however, that in
this "very circumstantial account" we have nothing whatever except a
mere catalogue by Paul of certain appearances which he did not himself
see--always excepting his own vision, which we reserve--but merely had
"received" from others, without a detail or information of any kind.

If we compare these appearances with the instances recorded in the
Gospels, the result is by no means satisfactory. The first appearance is
said to be to Cephas. It is argued that Paul passes in silence over the
appearances to women, both because the testimony of women was


not received in Jewish courts, and because his own opinions regarding
the active participation of women in matters connected with the Church
were of a somewhat exclusive character.(1) The appearance to Cephas
is generally identified with that mentioned, Luke xxiv. 34.(2) Nothing
could be more cursory than the manner in which this appearance is
related in the Synoptic. The disciples from Emmaus, returning at once
to Jerusalem, found the Eleven and those who were with them saying: "The
Lord was raised indeed, and was seen by Simon." Not another syllable
is said regarding an appearance which, according to Paul, was the first
which had occurred. The other Gospels say still less, for they ignore
the incident altogether. It is difficult to find room for such an
appearance in the Gospel narratives. If we take the report of Paul to
be true, that Jesus was first seen by Cephas, the silence of three
Evangelists and their contradictory representations, on the one hand,
and the remarkable way in which the third Gospel avoids all but the mere
indirect reference to the occurrence, on the other, are phenomena which
we leave apologists to explain.(3)

He is next seen "by the Twelve." This vision is identified with that
narrated in John xx. 19 flf. and Luke xxiv. 36 ff,,(4) to which, as
Thomas was absent on the first occasion, some critics understand the
episode in John xx. 2C if. to be added. On reference to our discussion


these accounts, it will be seen that they have few or no elements
of credibility. If the appearance to the Twelve mentioned by Paul be
identified with these episodes, and their details be declared authentic,
the second item in Paul's list becomes discredited.

The appearance to 500 brethren at once is not mentioned in any of the
Gospels, but critics, and especially apologetic critics, assert with
more or less of certainty the identity of the occasion with the scene
described in Matth. xxviii. 16 ff.(1) We remarked whilst discussing the
passage that this is based chiefly on the statement that "some doubted,"
which would have been inconsistent, it is thought, had Jesus already
appeared to the Eleven.(2) The identity is, however, denied by others.3
The narrative in the first Synoptic would scarcely add force to the
report in the Epistle. Is it possible to suppose, however, that, had
there been so large a number of persons collected upon that occasion,
the Evangelist would not have mentioned the fact? On the other hand,
does it not somewhat discredit the statement that Jesus was seen by so
large a number at once, that no record of such a remarkable occurrence
exists elsewhere?(4) How could the tradition of such an event, witnessed
by so many, have so completely perished that neither in the Gospels nor


nor in any other writing, is there any reference to it, and our only
knowledge of it is this bare statement, without a single detail? There
is only one explanation: that the assembly could not have recognized
in the phenomenon, whatever it was, the risen Jesus,(1) or that
subsequently an explanation was given which dispelled some temporary
illusion. In any case, we must insist that the total absence of all
confirmation of an appearance to 500 persons at once alone renders
such an occurrence more than suspicious. The statement that the greater
number were still living when Paul wrote does not materially affect the
question. Paul doubtless believed the report that such an appearance had
taken place, and that the majority of witnesses still survived, but
does it necessarily follow that the report was true? The survivors were
certainly not within reach of the Corinthians, and could not easily be
questioned. The whole of the argument of Paul which we are considering,
as well as that which follows, was drawn from him by the fact that, in
Corinth, Christians actually denied a resurrection, and it is far from
clear that this denial did not extend to denying the Resurection of
Jesus himself.(2) That they did deny this we think certain, from the
care with which Paul gives what he considers evidence for the fact.
Another point may be mentioned. Where could so many as 500 disciples
have been collected at one time? The author of Acts states (i. 15) the
number of the Christian community gathered together to elect a successor
to Judas as "about 120." Apologists, therefore, either suppose the
appearance to 500 to have taken place in Jerusalem, when numbers of


from Galilee and other parts were in the Holy City, or that it occurred
in Galilee itself, where they suppose believers to have been more
numerous.(1) This is the merest conjecture; and there is not even ground
for asserting that there were so many as 500 brethren in any one place,
by whom Jesus could have been seen.

The appearance to James is not mentioned in any of our Gospels. Jerome
preserves a legend from the Gospel of the Hebrews, which states that
James, after having drunk the cup of the Lord, swore that he would not
eat bread until he should see him risen from the dead. When Jesus rose,
therefore, he appeared to James; and, ordering a table and bread to be
brought, blessed and broke the bread, and gave it to James.(2) Beyond
this legendary story there is no other record of the report given
by Paul. The occasion on which he was seen by "all the Apostles" is
indefinite, and cannot be identified with any account in the Gospels.

It is asserted, however, that, although Paul does not state from whom he
"received" the report of these appearances of the risen Jesus, he must
have heard them from the Apostles themselves. At any rate, it is added,
Paul professes that his preaching on the death, burial, and Resurrection
is the same as that of the other Apostles.(3) That the other Apostles
preached the resurrection of Jesus may be a fact, but we have no
information as to the precise statements they made. We shall presently
discuss the doctrine from this point of view, but here we must confine
ourselves to Paul. It is undeniable that Paul


neither enters into details nor cites authority for the particular
appearances which he mentions. As for the inference that, associating
with the Apostles, he must have been informed by them of the appearances
of Jesus, we may say that this by no means follows so clearly as is
supposed. Paul was singularly independent, and in his writings he
directly disclaims all indebtedness to the elder Apostles. He claims
that his Gospel is not after man, nor was it taught to him by man, but
through revelation of Jesus Christ(1) Now Paul himself informs us of
his action after it pleased God to reveal his Son in him that he might
preach him among the Gentiles. It might, indeed, have been reasonably
expected that Paul should then have sought out those who could have
informed him of all the extraordinary occurrences supposed to have taken
place after the death of Jesus. Paul does nothing of the kind. He is
apparently quite satisfied with his own convictions. "Immediately,"
he says, in his wondrously human and characteristic letter to the
Galatians, "I communicated not with flesh and blood; neither went I away
to Jerusalem to them who were Apostles before me, but I went away to
Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went
up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and abode with him fifteen days; but
other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the brother of the Lord.
Now the things which I write, behold before God I lie not.... Then after
fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem,"(2)--upon which occasion,
we know, his business was not of a nature to allow us to suppose he
obtained much information regarding the Resurrection. We may ask: Is
there that thirst for information


regarding the facts and doctrines of Christianity displayed here, which
entitles us to suppose that Paul eagerly and minutely investigated the
evidence for them? We think not. Paul made up his own mind in his own
way and, having waited three years without asking a question, it is not
probable that the questions which he then asked were of any searching
nature. The protest that he saw none of the other Apostles may prove
his independence, but it certainly does not prove his anxiety for
information. When Paul went up to make the acquaintance of Cephas his
object clearly was not to be taught by him, but to place himself in
communication with the man whom he believed to be the chief of the
Apostles and, we may assume, largely with a view to establish a friendly
feeling, and secure his recognition of his future ministry. We should
not, of course, be justified in affirming that the conversation
between the two great Apostles never turned upon the subject of the
Resurrection, but we think that it is obvious that Paul's visit was not
in the least one of investigation. He believed; he believed that certain
events had occurred "according to the Scriptures;" and the legitimate
inference from Paul's own statements must be that, in this visit after
three years, his purpose was in no way connected with a search for
evidential information. The author of Acts, it will be remembered,
represents him as, before any visit to Jerusalem, publicly and boldly
preaching in Damascus that Jesus is the Son of God, and "confounding the
Jews.... proving that this is the Christ."(1) This representation,
it will be admitted, shows an advanced condition of belief little
supporting the idea of subsequent investigation. When all conjectures
are exhausted, however, we have the one distinct fact


remaining, that Paul gives no authority for his report that Jesus was
seen by the various persons mentioned, nor does he furnish any means by
which we can judge of the nature and reality of the alleged phenomena.
We continue here to speak of the appearances to others, reserving the
appearance to himself, as standing upon a different basis, for separate

What is the value of this evidence? The fact to be proved is that, after
a man had been crucified, dead, and buried, he actually rose from the
dead, and appeared alive to many persons. The evidence is that Paul,
writing some twenty years after the supposed miraculous occurrences,
states, without detailed information of any kind, and without pretending
to have himself been an eyewitness of the phenomena, that he has been
told that Jesus was, after his death and burial, seen alive on the
occasions mentioned! As to the Apostle Paul himself, let it be said in
the strongest and most emphatic manner possible that we do not suggest
the most distant suspicion of the sincerity of any historical
statement he makes. We implicitly accept the historical statements, as
distinguished from inferences, which proceed from his pen. It cannot be
doubted that Paul was told that such appearances had taken place. We do
not question the fact that he believed them to have taken place; and we
shall hereafter discuss the weight to be attached to this circumstance.
Does this, however, guarantee the truth of the reports or inferences of
those who informed the Apostle? Does the mere passage of any story
or tradition through Paul necessarily transmute error into
truth--self-deception or hallucination into objective fact? Are
we--without any information as to what was really stated to Paul, as to
the personality and character of his


informants, as to the details of what was believed, to have occurred, as
to the means taken or which it might have been possible to take to test
the reality of the alleged phenomena, without an opportunity of judging
for ourselves on a single point--to believe in the reality of these
appearances simply because Paul states that he has been informed that
they occurred, and himself believes the report?

So far as the belief of Paul is concerned, we may here remark that his
views as to the miraculous Charismata in the Church do not prepare us to
feel any confidence in the sobriety of his judgment in connection
with alleged supernatural occurrences. We have no reliance upon his
instinctive mistrust of such statements, or his imperative requirement
of evidence, but every reason to doubt them. On the other hand, without
in any way imputing wilful incorrectness or untruth to the reporters of
such phenomena, let it be remembered how important a part inference has
to play in the narrative of every incident, and how easy it is to draw
erroneous inferences from bare facts.(1) In proportion as persons are
ignorant, on the one hand, and have their minds disturbed, on the other,
by religious depression or excitement, hope, fear, or any other powerful
emotion, they are liable to confound facts and inferences, and both to
see and analyse wrongly. In the case of a supposed appearance

     1 We may merely in passing refer to the case of Mary
     Magdalene in the fourth Gospel. She sees a figure standing
     beside her, and infers that it is the gardener:--presently
     something else occurs which leads her to infer that she was
     mistaken in her first inference, and to infer next, that it
     is Jesus. It is a narrative upon which no serious argument
     can be based, but had she at first turned away, her first
     inference would have remained, and, according to the
     narrative, have been erroneous. We might also argue that, if
     further examination had taken place, her second inference
     might have proved as erroneous as the first is declared to
     have been.


alive of a person believed to be dead, it will scarcely be disputed,
there are many disturbing elements, especially when that person has just
died by a cruel and shameful death, and is believed to be the Messiah.
The occurrence which we at any time see is, strictly speaking, merely
a series of appearances, and the actual nature of the thing seen is
determined in our minds by inferences. How often are these inferences
correct? We venture to say that the greater part of the proverbial
incorrectness and inaccuracy which prevails arises from the circumstance
that inferences are not distinguished from facts, and are constantly
erroneous. Now in that age, under such circumstances, and with Oriental
temperaments, it is absolutely certain that there was exceptional
liability to error; and the fact that Paul repeats the statements of
unknown persons, dependent so materially upon inference, cannot possibly
warrant us in believing them when they contradict known laws which
express the results of universal experience. It is infinitely more
probable that these persons were mistaken, than that a dead man returned
to life again, and appeared to them. We shall presently consider how
much importance is to be attached to the mere belief in the occurrence
of such phenomena, but with regard to the appearances referred to by
Paul, except in so far as they attest the fact that certain persons may
have believed that Jesus appeared to them, such evidence has not the
slightest value, and is indeed almost ludicrously insufficient to
establish the reality of so stupendous a miracle as the Resurrection.
It will have been observed that of the Ascension there is not a
word--obviously, for Paul the Resurrection and Ascension were one act.

Having so far discussed Paul's report that Jesus rose


from the dead and was seen by others, we turn to his statement that,
last of all, he was seen also by himself. In the former cases, we have
had to complain of the total absence of detailed information as to the
circumstances under which he was supposed to have been seen; but it
may be expected that, at least in his own case, we shall have full and
minute particulars of so interesting and extraordinary a phenomenon.
Here again we are disappointed. Paul does not give us a single detail.
He neither tells us when, where, nor how he saw Jesus. It was all the
more important that he should have entered into the particulars of this
apparition, because there is one peculiarity in his case which requires
notice. Whereas it may be supposed that in the other instances Jesus is
represented as being seen immediately after the Resurrection and before
his Ascension, the appearance to Paul must be placed years after that
occurrence is alleged to have taken place. The question, therefore,
arises: Was the appearance to Paul of the same character as the former?
Paul evidently considers that it was. He uses the very same word when he
says "he was seen [------] by me," that he employs in stating that
"he was seen [------] by Cephas" and the rest, and he classes all the
appearances together in precisely the same way. If, therefore, Paul
knew anything of the nature of the appearances to the others, and yet
considers them to have been of the same nature as his own, an accurate
account of his own vision might have enabled us in some degree to
estimate that of the others. Even without this account, it is something
to know that Paul believed that there was no difference between the
earlier and later appearances. And yet, if we reflect that in the
appearances immediately after the Resurrection the representation is
that Jesus possessed the very same body that had


hung on the cross and been laid in the sepulchre, and that, according
to the Gospels, he exhibited his wounds, allowed them to be touched,
assured the disciples of his corporeality by permitting himself to be
handled, and even by eating food in their presence, and that in the
case of Paul the appearance took place years after Jesus is said to have
ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God, the identity
of the apparitions becomes a suggestive feature.

The testimony of Paul must at least override that of the Gospels, and
whatever may have been the vision of Paul, we may fairly assume that
the vision of Peter and the rest was like it. Beyond this inference,
however, Paul gives us no light with regard to the appearance of Jesus
to himself. He merely affirms that Jesus did appear to him. "Have I not
seen Jesus our Lord?" he says in one place.(1) Elsewhere he relates:
"But when he was pleased, who set me apart from my mother's womb, and
called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might
preach him among the Gentiles; immediately, I communicated not with
flesh and blood.... but I went away into Arabia and returned again
unto Damascus."(2) Various opinions have been expressed regarding the
rendering of [------].

The great majority of critics agree that the direct and natural sense
must be adopted: "to reveal his son in me," that is to say, "within me,"
"in my spirit."(3) Others maintain that [------] must be


rendered "through me,"(1) giving [------] the sense of [------]; but
in that case the following context would be quite unnecessary.
Hilgenfeld(2) thinks that the meaning is "in his person;" and
Ruckert(3) and a few others read "to me." The liberties taken by
interpreters of the New Testament with the preposition [------], too
frequently from preconceived dogmatic reasons, are remarkable. The
importance of this passage chiefly lies in the question whether the
revelation here referred to is the same as the appearance to him of
Jesus of the Corinthian letter. Some critics incline to the view that
it is so,(4) whilst others consider that Paul does not thus speak of
his vision, but rather of the doctrine concerning Jesus which formed his
Gospel, and which Paul claimed to have received, not from man, but by
revelation from God.(5) Upon this point we have only a few remarks to
make. If it be understood that Paul refers to the appearance to him of
Jesus, it is clear that he represents it in these words as a subjective
vision, within his own consciousness. If, on the other hand, he do not
refer to the appearance, then the passage loses all distinct reference
to that occurrence. We do not intend to lay any further stress upon the
expression than this, and it is fair to add that we do not think there
is any special reference to the apparition of Jesus in the


passage, but simply an allusion to his conversion to Christianity, which
the Apostle considered a revelation in his mind of the true character
and work of the Christ which had previously been so completely
misunderstood by him. We may as well say at once that we desire to take
the argument in its broadest form, without wasting time by showing that
Paul himself uses language which seems to indicate that he recognised
the appearance of Jesus to have been merely subjective. The only other
passage which we need now mention is the account which Paul gives,
2 Cor. xii. 2 ff, of his being caught up to the third heaven. A few
critics consider that this may be the occasion on which Jesus appeared
to him, to which he refers in the passage of the former letter which
we are considering,(1) but the great majority are opposed to the
supposition. In any case there is no evidence that the occasions are
identical, and we therefore are not entitled to assume that they are so.

It will have been observed that we have hitherto confined our attention
wholly to the undoubted writings of Paul. Were there no other reason
than the simple fact that we are examining the evidence of Paul himself,
and have, therefore, to do with that evidence alone, we should be
thoroughly justified in this course. It is difficult to clear the mind
of statements regarding Paul and his conversion which are made in the
Acts of the Apostles, but it is absolutely essential that we should
understand clearly what Paul himself tells us and what he does not, for
the present totally excluding Acts. What then does Paul himself tell us
of the circumstances under which he saw Jesus?


Absolutely nothing. The whole of his evidence for the Resurrection
consists in the bare statement that he did see Jesus. Now can the fact
that any man merely affirms, without even stating the circumstances,
that a person once dead and buried has risen from the dead and been seen
by him, be seriously considered satisfactory evidence for so astounding
a miracle? Is it possible for any one of sober mind, acquainted with
the nature of the proposition, on the one hand, and with the innumerable
possibilities of error, on the other, to regard such an affirmation even
as evidence of much importance in such a matter? We venture to say that,
in such a case, an affirmation of this nature, even made by a man of
high character and ability, would possess little weight. If the person
making it, although of the highest honour, were known to suppose himself
the subject of constant revelations and visions, and if, perhaps, he had
a constitutional tendency to nervous excitement and ecstatic trance, his
evidence would have no weight at all. We shall presently have to speak
of this more in detail in connection with Paul. Such an allegation even
supported by the fullest information and most circumstantial statement
could not establish the reality of the miracle; without them, it has no
claim to belief. What is the value of a person's testimony who simply
makes an affirmation of some important matter, unaccompanied by
particulars, and the truth of which cannot be subjected to the test of
even the slightest cross-examination? It is worth nothing. It would not
be received at all in a Court of Justice. If we knew the whole of the
circumstances of the apparition to Paul, from which he inferred that
he had seen the risen Jesus, the natural explanation of the supposed
miracle might be


easy. There were no other witnesses of it. This is clear; for, had there
been, Paul must have mentioned them as he mentioned the five hundred.
We have only the report of a man who states that he had seen.Jesus,
unconfirmed by any witnesses. Under no circumstances could isolated
evidence like this be ol much value. Facts and inferences are alike
uncorroborated, but on the other hand are contradicted by universal

When we analyse the evidence, it is reduced to this: Paul believed that
he had seen Jesus. This belief constitutes the whole evidence of Paul
himself for the Resurrection. It is usual to argue that the powerful
effect which this belief produced upon Paul's life and teaching renders
this belief of extraordinary force as evidence. This we are not prepared
to admit. If the assertion that Jesus appeared to him had not been
believed by Paul, it would not have secured a moment's attention. That
this belief affected his life was the inevitable consequence of such
belief. Paul eminently combined works with faith in his own life. When
he believed Jesus to be an impostor, he did not content himself with
sneering at human credulity, but vigorously persecuted his followers.
When he came to believe Jesus to be the Messiah, he was not more
inactive, but became the irrepressible Apostle of the Gentiles. He
acted upon his convictions in both cases; but his mere persecution
of Christianity no more proved Jesus to be an impostor than his mere
preaching of Christianity proved Jesus to be the Messiah. It only proved
that he believed so. He was as earnest in the one case as in the other.
We repeat, therefore, that the evidence of Paul for the Resurrection
amounts to


nothing more than the unfeigned belief that Jesus had been seen by him.
We shall presently further examine the value of this belief as evidence
for so astounding a miracle.

We must not form exaggerated conceptions of the effect upon Paul of
the appearance to him of Jesus. That his convictions and views of
Christianity were based upon the reality of the Resurrection is
undeniable, and that they received powerful confirmation and impulse
through his vision of Jesus is also not to be doubted, but let us clear
our minds of representations derived from other sources and clearly
understand what Paul himself does and does not say of this vision, and
for this purpose we must confine ourselves to the undoubted writings of
the Apostle. Does Paul himself ascribe his conversion to Christianity to
the fact of his having seen Jesus? Most certainly not. That is a notion
derived solely from the statements in Acts. The sudden and miraculous
conversion of Paul is a product of the same pen which produced the story
of the sudden conversion of the thief on the cross, an episode equally
unknown to other writers. Paul neither savs when nor where he saw Jesus.
The revelation of God's Son in him not being an allusion to this vision
of Jesus, but merely a reference to the light which dawned upon Paul's
mind as to the character and mission of Jesus, there is no ground
whatever, from the writings of the Apostle himself, to connect the
appearance of Jesus with the conversion of Paul. The statement in the
Epistle to the Galatians simply amounts to this: When it pleased him
who elected him from his mother's womb, and called him by his grace, to
reveal to his mind the truth concerning his Son, that he might preach


him among the Gentiles, he communicated not with flesh and blood,
neither did he go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before him,
but immediately went away to Arabia, and after that returned again to
Damascus. It can scarcely be doubted that Paul here refers to his change
of views--to his conversion--but as little can it be doubted that he
does not ascribe that conversion to the appearance to him of Jesus
spoken of in the Corinthian letter.

Let any reader who honestly desires to ascertain the exact position of
the case ask himself the simple question whether, supposing the Acts of
the Apostles never to have existed, it is possible to deduce from this,
or any other statement of Paul, that he actually ascribes his conversion
to the fact that Jesus appeared to him in a supernatural manner. He may
possibly in some degree base his apostolic claims upon that appearance,
although it may be doubted how far he does even this; if he did so, it
would only prove the reality of his belief, but not the reality of the
vision; but there is no evidence whatever in the writings of Paul that
he connected his conversion with the appearance of Jesus. All that
we can legitimately infer seems to be that, before his adoption of
Christianity, he had persecuted the Church;(1) and further it may be
gathered from the passage in the Galatian letter, that at the time when
this change occurred he. was at Damascus. At least he says that from
Arabia he "returned again to Damascus," which seems to imply that he
first went from that city to Arabia. When we consider the expressions
in the two letters, it becomes apparent that Paul does not set forth any
instantaneous conversion of the


character related elsewhere. To the Galatians he describes his election
from his mother's womb and call by the grace of God as antecedent to the
revelation of his Son in him: "When he who separated me from my mother's
womb and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me,
that I might preach him among the Gentiles," &c. And if the reading
"through me" be adopted, the sense we are pointing out becomes still
more apparent. In the Corinthian letter again, the expressions should be
remarked: v. 8. "And last of all he was seen by me also, as the one born
out of due time. 9. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit
to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God: 10. but
by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was (bestowed)
upon me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all,
yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11. Whether, therefore, it were
I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed."(1) Peter sees Jesus first,
Paul sees him last; and as the thought uppermost in his mind in
writing this epistle was the parties in the Corinthian Church, and the
opposition to himself and denial even of his apostleship, the mention
of his having seen Jesus immediately leads him to speak of his apostolic
claims. "Am I not an Apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" he had
just before exclaimed, and proceeded to defend himself against his
opponents: here again he reverts to the same


subject, with proud humility calling himself, on the one hand, "the
least of the Apostles," but, on the other, asserting that he had
"laboured more than they all." He is led to contrast his past life with
his present; the time when he persecuted the Church with that in
which he built it up. There is, however, no allusion to any miraculous
conversion when he says: "by the grace of God I am what I am." He
may consider his having seen the Lord and become a witness of his
resurrection one part of his qualification for the Apostolate, but
assuredly he does not represent this as the means of his conversion.

We shall not pause to discuss at length how far being a witness for the
resurrection really was made a necessary qualification for the apostolic
office. The passages, Luke xxiv. 48, Acts i. 22, ii. 32, upon which the
theory mainly rests, are not evidence of the fact which can for a moment
be accepted. It is obvious that the Twelve were apostles from having
been chosen disciples of the Master from the commencement of his active
career, and not from any fortuitous circumstance at its close. If
Paul says: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" he
continues: "Are ye not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle unto
others, yet I am at least to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are
ye in the Lord. My defence to them that examine me is this."(1) There
can be no doubt that the claims of Paul to the Apostolate were, during
his life, constantly denied, and his authority rejected. As we have
elsewhere pointed out, there is no evidence that his apostleship was
ever recognised by the elder Apostles, nor that his claim was ever
submitted to them. Even in the


second century, the Clementine Homilies deny him the honour, and make
light of his visions and revelations. All the evidence we possess shows
that Paul's vision of Jesus did not secure for him much consideration in
his own time, a circumstance which certainly does not tend to establish
its reality.

What weight can we, then, attach to the representation in the Acts of
the Apostles of the conversion of Paul? Our examination of that work
has sufficiently shown that none of its statements can be received as
historical. Where we have been able to compare them with the epistles
of Paul, they have not been in agreement. Nothing could be more obvious
than the contradiction between the narrative of Paul's conduct after his
conversion, according to Acts, and the account which Paul gives in the
Galatian letter. We need not repeat the demonstration here. Where we
possess the means of comparison, we discover the inaccuracy of Acts. Why
should we suppose that which we cannot compare more accurate? So far as
our argument is concerned, it matters very little whether we exclude the
narrative of the conversion of Acts or not. We point out, however,
that there is no confirmation whatever in the writings of Paul of the
representation of his conversion by means of a vision of Jesus, which,
upon all considerations, may much more reasonably be assigned to a
somewhat later period. If we ventured to conjecture, we should say that
the author of Acts has expanded the scattered sayings of Paul into this
narrative, making the miraculous conversion by a personal interposition
of Jesus, which he therefore relates no less than three times,
counterbalance the disadvantage of his not having followed Jesus in the


flesh.(1) It is curious that he has introduced the bare statement into
the third Synoptic, that Jesus "was seen by Simon" [------],(2) which
none of the other evangelists mentions, but which he may have found,
without farther particulars, [------], in the Epistle whence he derived,
perhaps, materials for the other story. In no case can the narrative in
Acts be received as evidence of the slightest value; but in order not to
pass over even such statements in silence, we shall very briefly examine

The narrative is repeated thrice: in the first instance (ix. 1 ff.) as
a historical account of the transaction; next (xxii. 4 if.) introduced
into a speech supposed to be delivered by Paul to the Jews when taken
prisoner in consequence of their uproar on finding him in the Temple
purifying himself with the four men who had a vow,--a position which
cannot historically be reconciled with the character and views of Paul;
and, thirdly, again put into the mouth of the Apostle (xxvi. 9 ff.)
when he pleads his cause before King Agrippa. Paul is represented in the
headlong career of persecuting the Church, and going with letters from
the high priest empowering him to bring Christian men and women bound
unto Jerusalem. "And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh
to Damascus, and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of the
heaven, and he fell upon the earth and heard a voice saying unto him:
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise and go into the
city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."(3) In the second
account, there is so far


no very wide discrepancy, but there, as in the third, the time is said
to be about noon. There is a very considerable difference in the third
account, however, more especially in the report of what is said by
the voice: xxvi. 13. "At midday, O King, I saw in the way a light from
heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and
those journeying with me; 14. And when we all fell to the earth, I
heard a voice saying unto me in the Hebrew tongue: Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against pricks. 15.
And I said: Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said: I am Jesus whom thou
persecutest. 16. But rise and stand upon thy feet; for I was seen by
thee for this purpose, to choose thee a minister and a witness both of
these things which thou sawest, and of the things in which I will appear
unto thee; 17. delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles,
unto whom I send thee; 18. to open their eyes, that they may turn them
from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that
they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a lot among them which are
sanctified by faith that is in me."(1)


It will be admitted that this address is widely different from that
reported in the two earlier accounts. Apologists argue that, in this
third narrative, Paul has simply transferred from Ananias to Jesus the
message delivered to him by the former, according to the second account.
Let us first see what Ananias is there represented as saying. Acts xxii.
14: "And he said: The God of our fathers chose thee, to know his will
and to see the Righteous One'(1) 15. for thou shalt be a witness to him
unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard." (2) Now Paul clearly
professes in the speech which he is represented as delivering before
Agrippa to state what the voice said to him: "And he said," "and I
said," "and he said," distinctly convey the meaning that the report is
to be what actually was said. If the sense of what Ananias said to
him is embodied in part of the address ascribed to the voice, it is
strangely altered and put into the first person; but, beyond this,
there is much added which neither appears in the speech of Ananias
nor anywhere else in any of the narratives. If we further compare the
instructions given to Ananias in the vision of the first narrative with
his words in the second and those ascribed to the voice in the third, we
shall see that these again differ very materially. Acts ix. 15. "But the
Lord said unto him: Go; for this man is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear
my name before Gentiles and kings, and the sons of Israel: 16. For I
will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake."(3)

     1 It will be remembered that this epithet occurs in Acts
     iii. 14, vii. 52, and nowhere else in the New Testament.


What must we think of a writer who deals so freely with his materials,
and takes such liberties even with so serious a matter as this heavenly
vision and the words of the glorified Jesus?

In the third account, Jesus is represented as saying: "It is hard for
thee to kick against pricks."(1) This is a well-known proverbial
saying, frequently used by classical Greek and Latin authors,(2) and
not altogether strange to Hebrew. It is a singularly anthropomorphic
representation to put such a saying into the mouth of the divine
apparition, and it assists in betraying the mundane origin of the whole
scene. Another point deserving consideration is, that Paul is not told
what he is to do by the voice of Jesus, but is desired to go into the
city to be there instructed by Ananias. This is clearly opposed to
Paul's own repeated asseverations. "For neither did I receive it from
man nor was taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ,"(3)
is his statement. The details of the incident itself, moreover, are
differently stated in the various accounts and cannot be reconciled.
According to the first account, the companions of Paul "stood
speechless" (ix. 7); in the third, they "all fell to the earth" (xxvi.
14). The explanation, that they first fell to the ground and then rose
up, fails


satisfactorily to harmonise the two statements; as does likewise the
suggestion that the first expression is simply an idiomatic mole of
saying that they were speechless, independent of position. Then again,
in the first account, it is said that the men stood speechless, "hearing
the voice [------] but seeing no one."' In the second we are told: "And
they that were with me saw indeed the light; but they heard not the
voice [------] of him speaking to me."(2) No two statements could be
more contradictory. The attempt to reconcile them by explaining the verb
[------] in the one place "to hear" and in the other "to understand"
is inadmissible, because wholly arbitrary. It is quite obvious that the
word is used in the same sense in both passages, the difference being
merely the negative. In the third account, the voice is described as
speaking "in the Hebrew tongue,"(3) which was probably the native
tongue of the companions of Paul from Jerusalem. If they heard the voice
speaking Hebrew, they must have understood it The effort to make the
vision clearly objective, and, at the same time, to confine it to Paul,
leads to these complications. The voice is heard, though the speaker is
not seen, by the men, in the one story, whilst the light is seen, and
the voice not heard, in the other, and yet it speaks in Hebrew according
to the third, and even makes use of classical proverbs, and uses
language wondrously similar to that of the author of Acts.

We may remark here that Paul's Gospel was certainly not revealed to him
upon this occasion; and, therefore, the expressions in his epistles upon
this subject must be referred to other revelations. There is, however,


another curious point to be observed. Paul is not described as having
actually seen Jesus in the vision. According to the first two accounts,
a light shines round about him and he falls to the ground and hears a
voice; when he rises he is blind.(1) If in the third account, he sees
the light from heaven above the brightness of the sun shining round
about him and his companions,(2) they equally see it, according to the
second account.(3) The blindness, therefore, is miraculous and symbolic,
for the men are not blinded by the light.(4) It is singular that Paul
nowhere refers to this blindness in his letters. It cannot be doubted
that the writer's purpose is to symbolise the very change from darkness
to light, in the case of Paul, which, after Old Testament prophecies,
is referred to in the words ascribed, in the third account,(5) to the
voice. Paul, thus, only sees the light which surrounds the glorified
Jesus, but not his own person, and the identification proceeds only from
the statement: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." It is true that
the expression is strangely put into the mouth of Jesus, in the third
account: "for I was seen by thee [------] for this purpose," &c,(6)
but the narrative excludes the actual sight of the speaker, and it is
scarcely possible to read the words just quoted, and their context,
without being struck by their incongruity. We need not indicate the
sources of this representation of light shrouding the heavenly vision,
so common in the Old Testament. Before proceeding to the rest of the
account, we may point out in passing the similarity of the details of
this scene to the vision of Daniel x. 7-9.


Returning, however, to the first narrative, we are told that, about
the same time as this miracle was occurring to Paul, a supernatural
communication was being made to Ananias in Damascus: ix. 10. "And to him
said the Lord in a vision: Ananias. And he said, Behold I am here,
Lord. 11. And the Lord said unto him: Rise and go to the street which is
called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul,
of Tarsus; for, behold he prayeth; 12. and he saw a man named Ananias
who came in and put his hand on him that he might receive sight. 13. But
Ananias answered, Lord, I heard from many concerning this man, how much
evil he did to thy saints in Jerusalem: 14. And here he hath authority
from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15. But
the Lord said, Go, &c. (quoted above). 17. And Ananias went away, and
entered into the house; and having put his hands on him said: Brother
Saul, the Lord hath sent me, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in
the way by which thou earnest, that thou mightest receive sight and be
filled with the Holy Spirit. 18. And immediately there fell from
his eyes as it were scales; and he received sight, rose up, and was
baptized, and having taken food was strengthened." We have already had
occasion to point out, in connection with the parallelism kept up
in Acts between the Apostle of the Gentiles and the Apostle of the
Circumcision, that a similar double vision is narrated by the author as
occurring to Peter and Cornelius. Some further vision is referred to in
v. 12; for in no form of the narrative of Paul's vision on the way to
Damascus is he represented as seeing a man named Ananias coming to him
for the purpose described. Many questions are


suggested by the story just quoted. How did Ananias know that Paul had
authority from the chief priests to arrest any one? How could he
argue in such a way with the Lord? Did he not then know that Jesus had
appeared to Paul on the way? How did he get that information? Is it not
an extraordinary thing that Paul never mentions Ananias in any of
his letters, nor in any way refers to these miracles? We have already
referred to the symbolic nature of the blindness, and recovery of sight
on receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized, and this is rendered
still more apparent by the statement: v. 9. "And he was three days
without sight, and neither did eat nor drink." We may further point out
that in immediate connection with this episode Paul is represented,
in the second account, as stating that, on going to Jerusalem, he has
another vision of Jesus:xxii. 17. "And it came to pass that, when I
returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I was in a trance,
18. and saw him saying unto me: Make haste, and get thee quickly out of
Jerusalem; for they will not receive thy witness concerning me. 19. And
I said: Lord, they themselves know that I was wont to imprison and beat
in every synagogue them that believe on thee. 20. And when the blood of
Stephen, thy witness, was shed, I also was standing by and consenting,
and keeping the garments of them that slew him. 21. And he said unto
me: Go, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." It seems
impossible, considering the utter silence of Paul, that the apparition
to which he refers can have spoken to him at length as described upon
these occasions.(1) We have elsewhere remarked


that there is not the slightest evidence in his own or other writings
connecting Stephen with Paul, and it may be appropriate to add here
that, supposing him to have been present when the martyr exclaimed: "Lo,
I behold the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right
hand of God,"(1) it is singular that he does not name him as one of
those by whom Jesus "was seen."

To resume this discussion, however: we have already shown that the
statements of the Acts regarding Paul's conduct after this alleged
vision are distinctly in contradiction with the statements of Paul.
The explanation here given of the cause of Paul's leaving Jerusalem,
moreover, is not in agreement with Acts ix. 29 f., and much less
with Gal. i. 20 ff. The three narratives themselves are full of
irreconcilable differences and incongruities, which destroy all
reasonable confidence in any substantial basis for the story. It is
evident that the three narratives are from the same pen, and betray the
composition of the author of Acts.(2) They cannot be regarded as true
history.(3) The hand of the composer is very apparent in the lavish use
of the miraculous, so characteristic of the whole work.


It is worth while to catalogue the supernatural incidents of this
episode. 1 The vision; 2 Companions hearing the voice but seeing no man,
or not hearing the voice but seeing the light; 3 Paul's blindness; 4
Vision of Ananias; 5 Restoration of sight to Paul; 6 Trance of Paul in
Jerusalem. Such a narrative cannot be received in evidence.

The whole of the testimony before us, then, simply amounts to this: Paul
believed that he had seen Jesus some years after his death: there is no
evidence that he ever saw him during his life.(1) He states that he had
"received" that he was seen by various other persons, but he does not
give the slightest information as to who told him, or what reasons he
had for believing the statements to be correct. And still less does he
narrate the particulars of the alleged appearances or even of his own
vision. Although we have no detailed statements of these extraordinary
phenomena, we may assume that, as Paul himself believed that he had
seen Jesus, certain other people of the circle of his disciples likewise
believed that they had seen the risen Master. The whole of the evidence
for the Resurrection reduces itself to an undefined belief on the part
of a few persons, in a notoriously superstitious age, that after Jesus
had died and been buried they had seen him alive. These visions, it is
admitted, occurred at a time of the most intense religious excitement,
and under circumstances of wholly exceptional mental agitation and
distress. The wildest alternations of fear, doubt, hope and


indefinite expectation added their effects to oriental imaginations
already excited by indignation at the fate of their Master, and sorrow
or despair at such a dissipation of their Messianic dreams. There was
present every element of intellectual and moral disturbance. Now must we
seriously ask again whether this bare and wholly unjustified belief can
be accepted as satisfactory evidence for so astounding a miracle as the
Resurrection? Can the belief of such men, in such an age, establish the
reality of a phenomenon which contradicts universal experience? It comes
to us in the form of bare belief from the Age of Miracles, unsupported
by facts, uncorroborated by evidence, unaccompanied by proof of
investigation, and unprovided with material for examination. What is
such belief worth? We have no.hesitation in saying that it is absolutely
worth nothing.

We might here well bring our inquiry to a close, for we have no further
evidence to deal with. The problem, however, is so full of interest that
we cannot yet lay it down, and although we must restrain our argument
within certain rigid limits, and wholly refrain from entering into
regions of mere speculation, we may further discuss the origin and
nature of the belief in the Resurrection. Recognizing the fact that,
although its nature and extent are very indefinite, there existed
an undoubted belief that, after his death, Jesus was seen alive; the
argument is advanced that there must have been a real basis for this


"The existence of a Christian society," says an apologetic writer, "is
the first and (if rightly viewed) the final proof of the historic truth
of the miracle on which it was founded. It may indeed be said that the
Church was founded upon the belief in the Resurrection, and not upon the
Resurrection itself: and that the testimony must therefore be limited
to the attestation of the belief, and cannot reach to the attestation
of the fact. But belief expressed in action is for the most part the
strongest evidence which we can have of any historic event. Unless,
therefore, it can be shown that the origin of the apostolic belief in
the Resurrection, with due regard to the fulness of its characteristic
form, and the breadth and rapidity of its propagation can be
satisfactorily explained on other grounds, the belief itself is a
sufficient proof of the fact."(1) This is obviously Paley's argument
of the Twelve men(2) in a condensed form. Belief in action may be the
strongest evidence which we can have of any historic event; but when
the historic event happens to be an event in religious history, and an
astounding miracle like the Resurrection, such bare evidence, emanating
from such an age, is not very strong evidence, after all. The breadth
and rapidity of its propagation absolutely prove nothing but belief in
the report of those who believed; although it is very far from evident
that people embraced Christianity from a rational belief in the
Resurrection. No one pretends that the Gentiles who believed made a
preliminary examination of the truth of the Resurrection. If breadth


and rapidity of propagation be taken as sufficient proof of the truth
of facts, we might consider Buddhism and Mahomedanism as satisfactorily
attested creeds. There could not be a greater fallacy than the
supposition that the origin of a belief must be explained upon other
grounds, or that belief itself accepted as a sufficient proof of the
fact asserted. The truth or falsehood of any allegation is determined
by a balance of evidence, and the critic is no more bound to account for
the formation of erroneous belief than he is bound to believe because he
may not, after a great lapse of time, be able so clearly to demonstrate
the particular manner in which that erroneous belief originated, that
any other mode is definitely excluded. The belief that a dead man rose
from the dead and appeared to several persons alive is at once disposed
of upon abstract grounds. The alleged occurrence is contrary to
universal experience; but on the other hand the prevalence of defective
observation, mistaken inference, self-deception and credulity, any of
which might lead to such belief, are only too well known to it. Is it
necessary to define which peculiar form of error is present in every
false belief, before, with this immense preponderance of evidence
against it, we finally reject it? We think not. Any explanation
consistent with universal experience must be adopted, rather than a
belief which is contradictory to it.

There are two theories which have been advanced to explain the origin
of the apostolic belief in the Resurrection, to which we may now briefly
refer; but it must be clearly understood that the suggestion of an
explanation is quite apart from our examination of the actual evidence
for the Resurrection. Fifty


explanations might be offered and be considered unsatisfactory without
in the least degree altering the fact, that the testimony for the final
miracle of Christianity is totally insufficient, and that the allegation
that it actually occurred cannot be maintained. The first explanation,
adopted by some able critics, is that Jesus did not really die on the
cross, but being taken down alive, and his body being delivered to
friends, he subsequently revived. In support of this theory, it is
argued that Jesus is represented by the Gospels as expiring after having
been but three to six hours upon the cross, which would have been an
un-precedentedly rapid death. It is affirmed that only the hands and
not the feet were nailed to the cross. The crurifragium, not usually
accompanying crucifixion, is dismissed as unknown to the three
Synoptists, and only inserted by the fourth Evangelist for dogmatic
reasons, and of course the lance-thrust disappears with the
leg-breaking. Thus the apparent death was that profound faintness which
might well fall upon such an organization after some hours of physical
and mental agony on the cross, following the continued strain and
fatigue of the previous night. As soon as he had sufficiently recovered,
it is supposed that Jesus visited his disciples a few times to re-assure
them, but with precaution on account of the Jews, and was by them
believed to have risen from the dead, as indeed he himself may likewise
have supposed, reviving as he had done from the faintness of death.(1)


Seeing, however, that his death had set the crown upon his work, the
Master withdrew into impenetrable obscurity and was heard of no more.

We have given but the baldest outline of this theory; for it would
occupy too much space to represent it adequately and show the ingenuity
with which it is worked out, and the very considerable support which it
receives from statements in the Gospels, and from inferences deducible
from them. We do not ourselves adopt this explanation, although it must
be clearly repeated that, were the only alternative to do so, or to fall
back upon the hypothesis of a miracle, we should consider it preferable.
A serious objection brought against the theory seems to be, that it is
not natural to suppose that, after such intense and protracted fatigue
and anxiety followed by the most cruel agony on the cross, agony both of
soul and body,(1) ending in unconsciousness only short of death, Jesus
could within a short period have presented himself to his disciples with
such an aspect as could have conveyed to them the impression of


victory over death by the Prince of Life. He must still, it is urged,
have presented the fresh traces of suffering and weakness little
calculated to inspire them with the idea of divine power and glory. This
is partly, but not altogether, true. There is no evidence, as we shall
presently show, that the appearances of Jesus occurred so soon as is
generally represented; and, in their astonishment at again seeing the
Master whom they supposed to be dead, the disciples could not have been
in a state minutely to remark the signs of suffering,(1) then probably,
with the power of a mind like that of Jesus over physical weakness,
little apparent. Time and imagination would doubtless soon have effaced
from their minds any such impressions, and left only the belief that he
had risen from the dead to develop and form the Christian doctrine.
A more powerful objection seems to us the disappearance of Jesus.
We cannot easily persuade ourselves that such a teacher could have
renounced his work and left no subsequent trace of his existence. Still,
it must be admitted that many explanations might be offered on this
head, the most obvious being that death, whether as the result of the
terrible crisis through which he had passed, or from some other cause,
may soon after have ensued. We repeat, however, that we neither advance
this explanation nor think it worth while to discuss it seriously, not
because we think it untenable, although we do not adopt it, but because
we consider that there is another explanation of the origin of belief in
the Resurrection which

     1 The repeated statement in the Gospels that the women and
     his disciples did not at first recognize the risen Jesus,
     are quoted in connection with this point.


is better, and which is in our opinion the true one. We mean that which
is usually called the "vision-hypothesis."

The phenomenon which has to be accounted for is the apostolic belief
that, after he had been dead and buried, Jesus "was seen" [------] by
certain persons. The explanation which we offer, and which has long been
adopted in various forms by able critics,1 is, that doubtless Jesus
was seen, but the vision was not real ^and objective, but illusory
and subjective; that is to say: Jesus was not himself seen, but only
a representation of Jesus within the minds of the beholders. This
explanation not only does not impeach the veracity of those who
affirmed that they had seen Jesus, but, accepting to a certain extent
a subjective truth as the basis of the belief, explains upon well-known
and natural principles the erroneous inference deduced from the
subjective vision. It seems to us that the points to be determined
are simple and obvious: Is it possible for a man to mistake subjective
impressions for objective occurrences? Is it possible that any
considerable number of persons can at the same time receive similar
subjective impressions and mistake them for objective facts? If these
questions can be answered affirmatively,


and it can be shown that the circumstances, the characters, the
constitution of those who believed in the first instance, favoured the
reception of such subjective impressions, and the deduction of erroneous
inferences, it must be admitted that a satisfactory explanation can thus
be given of the apostolic belief, on other grounds than the reality of a
miracle opposed to universal experience.

No sooner is the first question formulated than it becomes obvious
to every one who is acquainted with psychological and physiological
researches, or who has even the most elementary knowledge of the
influence of the mind upon the body, that it must at once be answered in
the affirmative. Indeed the affirmation that subjective impressions, in
connection with every sense, can be mistaken for, and believed to be,
actual objective effects, is so trite that it seems almost superfluous
to make it. Every reader must be well acquainted with illustrations of
the fact. The only difficulty is to deal authoritatively with such a
point within moderate compass. We must limit ourselves to the sense
of sight "There are abundant proofs," says Sir Benjamin Brodie, "that
impressions may be made in the brain by other causes simulating those
which are made on it by external objects through the medium of the
organs of sense, thus producing false perceptions, which may, in the
first instance, and before we have had time to reflect on the subject,
be mistaken for realities."(1) The limitation here introduced: "before
we have had time to reflect on the subject," is of course valid in
the case of those whose reason is capable of rejecting the false
perceptions, whether on the ground of natural


law or of probability; but, in anyone ignorant of natural law, familiar
with the idea of supernatural agency and the occurrence of miraculous
events, it is obvious, reflection, if reflection of a sceptical kind
can even be assumed, would have little chance of arriving at any true
discrimination of phenomena. Speaking of the nervous system and its
functions, and more immediately of the relation of the Cerebrum to the
Sensorium and the production of spectral illusions, Dr. Carpenter says,
in his work on the "Principles of Mental Physiology," which is well
worth the study of those interested in the question we are discussing:
"Still stronger evidence of the same associated action of the Cerebrum
and Sensorium, is furnished by the study of the phenomena designated as
Spectral Illusions. These are clearly sensorial states not excited by
external objects; and it is also clear that they frequently originate
in cerebral changes, since they represent creations of the mind, and
are not mere reproductions of past sensations." Dr. Carpenter refers
in illustration to a curious illusion to which Sir John Herschel
was subject, "in the shape of the involuntary occurrence of Visual
impressions, into which Geometrical regularity of form enters as the
leading character. These were not of the nature of those ocular Spectra
which may be attributed with probability to retinal changes."(1) Dr.
Carpenter then continues: "We have here not a reproduction of sensorial
impressions formerly received; but a construction of new forms, by a
process which, if it had been carried on consciously, we should have
called imagination. And it is difficult to see


how it is to be accounted for in any other way, than by an unconscious
action of the cerebrum; the products of which impress themselves on
the sensorial consciousness, just as, in other cases, they express
themselves through the motor apparatus."(1) The illusions described by
Sir John Herschel who, as he himself says, was "as little visionary as
most people" should be referred to.

Of the production of sensations by ideas there can be no possible
doubt(2) and, consequently, as little of the realisation by the person
in whom they are produced of subjective impressions exactly as though
they were objective. With regard to false perceptions, Dr. Carpenter
says: "It has been shown that the action of ideational states upon
the Sensorium can modify or even produce sensations. But the action of
pre-existing states of Mind is still more frequently shown in modifying
the interpretation which we put upon our sense-impressions. For since
almost every such interpretation is an act of judgment based upon
experience, that judgment will vary according to our mental condition at
the time it is delivered; and will be greatly affected by any dominant
idea or feeling, so as even to occasion a complete mis-interpretation of
the objective source of the sense-impression, as often occurs in what is
termed 'absence of mind.' The following case, mentioned by Dr. Tuke(3)
as occurring within his own knowledge, affords a good example of this
fallacy:--'A lady was walking one day from Penryn to Falmouth, and
her mind being at that time, or recently, occupied by the subject of
drinking-fountains, thought she saw


in the road a newly-erected fountain, and even distinguished an
inscription upon it, namely--"_If any man thirst let him come unto me
and drink_." Some time afterwards, she mentioned the fact with pleasure
to the daughters of a gentleman who was supposed to have erected it.
They expressed their surprise at her statement, and assured her that
she must be quite mistaken. Perplexed with the contradiction between the
testimony of her senses and of those who would have been aware of the
fact had it been true, and feeling that she could not have been deceived
(" for seeing is believing "), she repaired to the spot, and found to
her astonishment that no drinking-fountain was in existence--only a
few scattered stones, which had formed the foundation upon which the
suggestion of an expectant imagination had built the superstructure.
The subject having previously occupied her attention, these sufficed to
form, not only a definite erection, but one inscribed by an appropriate
motto corresponding to the leading idea.'"(1)

We may give as another illustration an illusion which presented itself
to Sir Walter Scott(2) He had been reading, shortly after the death of
Lord Byron, an account in a publication professing to detail the habits
and opinions of the poet. As Scott had been intimate with Lord Byron
he was deeply interested in the publication, which contained some
particulars relative to himself and other friends. "Their sitting-room
opened into an entrance hall, rather fantastically fitted up with
articles of armour, skins of wild animals, and the like. It was when
laying down his book,


and passing into this hall, through which the moon was beginning to
shine, that the individual of whom I speak saw, right before him, and
in a standing posture, the exact representation of his departed friend
whose recollection had been so strongly brought to his imagination. He
stopped for a single moment, so as to notice the wonderful accuracy with
which fancy had impressed upon the bodily eye the peculiarities of dress
and posture of the illustrious poet. Sensible, however, of the delusion,
he felt no sentiment save that of wonder at the extraordinary accuracy
of the resemblance, and stepped onward towards the figure, which
resolved itself, as he approached, into the various materials of which
it was composed. These were merely a screen, occupied by great-coats,
shawls, plaids and such other articles as usually are found in a country
entrance-hall. The spectator returned to the spot from which he had seen
the illusion, and endeavoured, with all his power, to recall the image
which had been so singularly vivid. But this was beyond his capacity,"
&C.1 Although Sir Walter Scott might be sensible of the delusion, it may
be more than doubted whether, in the first century of our era, such an
apparition proceeding from or connected with religious agitation of mind
would have been considered so.

Dr. Abercrombie(2) mentions many instances of spectral illusions, "some
of the most authentic facts" relating to which he classes under the head
of "intense mental conceptions so strongly impressed upon the mind as,
for the moment, to be believed to have a real existence."


We cannot, however, venture to quote illustrations.(1) Dr. Hibbert, in
whose work on Apparitions many interesting instances are to be found,
thus concludes his consideration of the conditions which lead to such
illusions: "I have at length concluded my observations on what may
be considered as the leading mental laws which are connected with the
origin of spectral impressions. The general inference to be drawn from
them is,--that _Apparitions are nothing more than morbid symptoms, which
are indicative of an intense excitement of the renovated feelings of the
mind_."(2) Subjective visions, believed to have had objective reality,
abound in the history of the world. They are familiar to all who have
read the lives of the Saints, and they have accompanied the progress
of Christianity in various forms from the trances of Montanism to the
vision of the "Immaculate Conception" in the Grotto of Lourdes.

If we turn to the inquiry whether a similar subjective impression can
be received by many persons at one time and be mistaken by them for
an objective reality, an equally certain reply in the affirmative must
unhesitatingly be given. The contagiousness of emotion is well known,(3)
and the rapidity with which panic, for instance, spreads from a
single individual to the mass is remarked every day. The most trifling
incident, unseen by more than a few and, therefore, more pliant in the

     1 Every one remembers the case of Luther and his visions of
     the Devil.


of the many, has instantaneously convinced multitudes of the most
erroneous inferences. We need not refer, moreover, to the numerous
religious and other mental epidemics which have swept over the face of
the world, infecting society with the wildest delusions. From Montanism
to camp meetings and revivals in our own day, it has been demonstrated
that religious excitement and dominant ideas have spread with
astonishing rapidity and power amongst the circles in which they have
arisen. In certain states of nervous expectation, false impressions are
instantaneously transmitted from one to another in a religious assembly.
Dr. Carpenter says: "Moreover, if not only a single individual, but
several persons should be 'possessed' by one and the same idea or
feeling, the same misinterpretation may be made by all of them; and in
such a case the concurrence of their testimony does not add the least
strength to it.--Of this we have a good example in the following
occurrence cited by Dr. Tuke, as showing the influence of a 'dominant
idea' in falsifying the perceptions of a number of persons at
once:--'During the conflagration at the Crystal Palace in the winter
of 1866-67, when the animals were destroyed by the fire, it was supposed
that the Chimpanzee had succeeded in escaping from his cage. Attracted
to the roof, with this expectation in full force, men saw the unhappy
animal holding on to it, and writhing in agony to get astride one of the
iron ribs. It need not be said that its struggles were watched by those
below with breathless suspense, and as the newspapers informed us 'with
sickening dread.' But there was no animal whatever there; and all this
feeling was thrown away upon a tattered piece of blind, so torn as to
resemble to the eye of fancy, the body, arms, and legs of an ape!' (Op.
cit., p. 44.) Another


example of a like influence affecting several individuals simultaneously
in a similar manner is mentioned by Dr. Hibbert in his well-known
Treatise on Apparitions:--'A whole ship's company was thrown into the
utmost consternation by the apparition of a cook who had died a few
days before. He was distinctly seen walking a-head of the ship, with a
peculiar gait by which he was distinguished when alive, through having
one of his legs shorter than the other. On steering the ship towards
the object, it was found to be a piece of floating wreck.' Many similar
cases might be referred to, in which the imagination has worked up into
'apparitions' some common-place objects, which it has invested with
attributes derived from the previous Mental state of the observer; and
the belief in such an apparition as a reality, which usually exists in
such cases, unless antagonized by an effort of the reason, constitutes a

We must maintain indeed that a number of persons assembled under the
influence of strong similar ideas, and excited by the same active
religious emotion are more likely to be affected by similar subjective
impressions to the extent of believing them to be objective than one or
two would be. The excitement of each acts upon the whole body, and is
itself increased by reaction from the aggregate emotion. Each receives
impressions from the other, which are vividly felt even without being
verified by personal experience. The most nervous temperament in the
assembly gives the final impetus to the excited imagination of the
rest. In moments of supreme expectation and doubt, enthusiasm overcomes
reason. If one man see, if one man hear, the mental impression is
credited with an objective cause, even when unfelt by others, and then a


similar impression is soon carried from the brain to the sensorium
of all. This does not involve the supposition of a diseased mind in
ordinary cases, and in the instances which we have in view the false
perceptions were, obviously, determined and encouraged by foregone
conclusions of a nature rarely possible and, when existing, rarely
resisted. "There are many persons," adds Dr. Carpenter, "quite sane upon
ordinary matters, and even (it may be) distinguished by some special
form of ability, who are yet affected with what the writer once heard
Mr. Carlyle term a 'diluted insanity;' allowing their minds to become so
completely 'possessed' by 'dominant ideas,' that their testimony as
to what they declare themselves to have witnessed--even when several
individuals concur in giving exactly the same account of it--must be
regarded as utterly untrustworthy."(1)

That subjective impressions can, in the opinion of eminent apologists,
be recorded by an Evangelist as objective reality, we have already
pointed out in connection with the statement of the first Synoptist,
that "Many bodies of the saints were raised; and they came out of the
sepulchres after his resurrection and appeared unto many." (xxvii. 52
f.) Dean Milman and Canon Farrar explain this by the supposition that
the earthquake "seemed to have filled the air with ghostly visitants,
who after Christ had risen appeared to linger in the Holy City."(2) It
follows as a logical consequence that, as this subjective impression
felt by many at once is described in the Gospel as objective, these
writers not only admit the possibility of such a mistake on the part


of the observers, but that the Gospel, in adopting that mistake, may be
suspected of a similar course in recording the appearances of Jesus.

We have thus replied to the question whether the "vision hypothesis"
could explain the belief of five hundred, or even of eleven persons who
supposed they had seen Jesus at once, and we do not think that any one
who seriously considers the Age, and the circumstances under which the
phenomenon is alleged to have occurred, can doubt that such belief could
very easily have resulted from merely subjective impressions. Before
going further into the discussion of the matter, however, we must again,
with a little more minuteness, call attention to the date of the actual
statements upon which the whole argument turns. The Apostle Paul writes
about a quarter of a century after the time when it is said that Jesus
"was seen" by those whom he names. Whatever opinion may be formed as to
the amount of information obtained by Paul during the visit he paid to
Jerusalem for the purpose of making the acquaintance of Peter, it is
undeniable that some years had elapsed between the time when Jesus is
supposed to have been seen and the time when Paul could have received
information regarding these appearances from any of the Apostles. If we
date the death of Jesus in the year 33, almost the latest date assigned
to it by any eminent critic, and the conversion of Paul about a.d.
38-40,(1) it will be remembered that the


Apostle himself states that he did not go to Jerusalem till three years
after, which brings us to a.d. 41-43 as the earliest time when Paul
first came in personal contact with Peter and James. He did not go up to
Jerusalem again for fourteen years after that, and we have no reason
for believing that he met any of the Apostles in the interval, but the
contrary, from his own account of that second visit, Gal. ii. 2. He
could not, therefore, have heard anything of the appearances of Jesus
even from Peter and James till some eight to ten years after they had
taken place. From the other Apostles, in all probability, he cannot have
heard anything till nearly twenty years had elapsed since they supposed
they, had seen Jesus.

Where did he get his information regarding the 500 brethren at once?
From whom did he get it? If the supposed appearance took place, as so
many suppose, in Galilee, the date of his information is still more
uncertain. If, on the other hand, it occurred in Jerusalem, whilst so
many of the numbers were visitors only, it is obvious that the greater
part must subsequently have left the Holy City and become scattered to
their respective homes. The difficulty of obtaining information from
more than a few of the 500 becomes obvious. In any case, from no
authority which we are entitled to assume could Paul have been minutely
informed of these appearances less than eight to ten years after they
occurred, and then of the vision of the Eleven, only from one of the
number to whom the first vision occurred. Now, no one who considers
the operation of memory, even in persons of more than usual sobriety of
imagination, dealing with circumstances not likely to be exaggerated
or distorted by feeling in the course of time, can doubt that, in ten


all the circumstances of such occasions, amidst which much excitement
certainly prevailed, must have assumed a very different aspect from what
they originally bore. We may be permitted to quote a few words on this
subject: "Though we are accustomed to speak of memory as if it consisted
in an exact reproduction of past states of Consciousness, yet experience
is continually showing us that this reproduction is very often inexact,
through the modification which the 'trace' has undergone in the
interval. Sometimes the trace has been partially obliterated; and what
remains may serve to give a very erroneous (because imperfect) view of
the occurrence..... And where it is one in which our own Feelings are
interested, we are extremely apt to lose sight of what goes against
them, so that the representation given by Memory is altogether
one-sided. This is continually demonstrated by the entire dissimilarity
of the accounts of the same occurrence or conversation, which shall be
given by two or more parties concerned in it, even when the matter is
fresh in their minds, and they are honestly desirous of telling the
truth. And this diversity will usually become still more pronounced
with the lapse of time: the trace becoming gradually but unconsciously
modified by the habitual course of thought and feeling; so that when it
is so acted on after a lengthened interval as to bring up a reminiscence
of the original occurrence, that reminiscence really represents, not the
actual occurrence, but the modified trace of it."(1) This is specially
likely to occur where, as in our case, there were Old Testament
prophecies supposed to describe minutely the sufferings, death, and
resurrection of the Messiah, to furnish lines which the transformation
of memory must


insensibly follow. Unconsciously, we may be certain, the misty outlines
of the original transaction would acquire consistency and take form
according to the tenor of so infallible an index. It would require
a memory of iron and of more than stubborn doggedness to resist the
unobtrusive influence of supposed prophecies. Be it clearly understood
that we speak of an unconscious process, which is perfectly consistent
with complete belief that the transformed trace exactly represents what
originally took place.

But adhering more closely to the point before us, can we suppose that
the account which Paul received of these appearances, after that lapse
of time, was a perfectly sober and unwarped description of what actually
took place? We think not. Is it possible that the vision of the 500,
for instance, had escaped the maturing influence of time? or that of the
Eleven? We believe that it is not possible. However, Paul does not
give a single detail, and consequently this argument mainly affects the
abstract value of all such evidence whether at first or second hand, but
it likewise makes more vague the original transaction, so indefinitely
sketched for us, which we have to explain. What was it the 500 really
saw? "Jesus," says the report matured by time; and modern divines taking
the statement in its most objective sense, demand an explanation of the
unknown phenomenon which led 500 to believe that they actually saw the
risen. Master. Did the 500 originally think anything of the kind? What
impression did the individuals receive? Did any two receive precisely
the same impressions? There is not the slightest evidence that they did.
Although Paul gives the most meagre report of these appearances that
could well be conceived, it must be remembered that the


impression made upon his own mind was not by the events themselves, but
by the narrative of the events recounted at least eight or ten years
afterwards. There can be po doubt that, earlier, Paul the persecutor
must also frequently have heard of the Resurrection, and of alleged
occasions when Jesus had been seen after his death and burial, from
persecuted members of the Christian community, but beyond the undefined
certainty of this we are not entitled to go. That what he heard must
have received warmth of colouring from the fire of persecution is
most probable. Of this, however, we shall speak presently. It is not
necessary further to enlarge upon the superstition of the age of which
we write. We have elsewhere quoted the opinion of an orthodox divine and
Hebrew scholar on the character of the Jewish people about that period.
"Not to be more tedious, therefore, in this matter," he says, "let two
things only be observed: i. That the nation under the second Temple, was
given to magical arts beyond measure; and ii. That it was given to an
easiness of believing all manner of delusions beyond measure."(1) And
again: "It is a disputable case whether the Jewish nation were more
mad with superstition in matters of religion, or with superstition in
curious arts."(2) Even supposing the Twelve to have been men of superior
intelligence to most of their fellow countrymen of the period, it cannot
reasonably be questioned that they were "men of like passions" and
failings with the rest, and that, as were the most eminent men of all
countries for centuries after, they were ignorant of the true order of
nature, full of superstitious ideas regarding cosmical phenomena, and
ready at all times to


believe in miracles and supernatural interference with the affairs of
life. As Jews, moreover, they had inherited belief in angelic agency,
and divine apparitions. The Old Testament is full of narratives in which
Jehovah appears to the Patriarchs and Lawgivers of Israel. Celestial
visions had been familiar to every Jew from his infancy, and the
constant personal communications of the Almighty with his peculiar
people were still the most sacred traditions of the nation.

Nursed in the prevalent superstition of the time, educated by the Law
and the Prophets to familiarity with the supernatural, and prepared by
the fervid imagination of their race to recognize wonders in heaven and
earth,(1) the disciples were naturally prepared for the great Christian
Miracle. The special circumstances in which they were placed at the
death of Jesus conduced in the highest degree to excite that expectant
attention which, in their state of profound agitation, rendered them
readily susceptible of extraordinary impressions. The disciples had
for a long period followed Jesus and felt the influence of his elevated
character. It may be doubted how far they had entered into the spirit
of his sublime teaching, or understood the spiritual wisdom which lay
beneath the noble simplicity of his language, but it cannot be doubted
that his personal greatness must have produced a profound effect upon
their minds. When they came at last to understand, if in a material and
imperfect way, his views as to his Messianic character, they can have
had little difficulty in believing, in spite of the mysterious lowliness
and humility of his aspect, although probably in a sense widely
different from his own, that


the hope of Israel had at last come, and that the hour of her redemption
was at hand. It is probable that, as the enmity of the priests and
rulers increased, and the danger of his position became more apparent,
whilst he disdained unworthily to shrink from his public work, he must
have felt all the peril before him, and observed the anxiety of his
followers. It may be conceived that, under such circumstances, his
teachings may have assumed even a higher spirituality than before and,
rising above the clouds of the present, soared out into that calmer
future when the religion he founded would be accepted by men, and
become a light to the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel. It
is probable that he may have spoken of his death in spiritual terms as a
sacrifice for them and for the world, which would secure the triumph of
his work and regenerate mankind. Comforting those who had left all and
followed him, but from whom he might so soon be parted, and knowing
their doubts and fears, he must have re-assured their minds by
inspiriting views of the inseparable nature of his union with those who
loved him and did his commandments; his spirit dwelling within them
and leading them safely through the world, in the peace and security
of souls raised by the truth beyond the reach of its corruption and its

That they must have felt the strongest conviction of his Messianic
character, we think cannot be doubted, however confused may have been
their ideas of the exact nature of his office and of the manner in
which his coming was to secure the triumph of Israel The shock to their
expectations and the utter dissipation of their hopes which must have
been felt in the first moment of his arrest, hurried trial, and cruel


condemnation can well be imagined. It is probable that in that first
moment of terror and bewilderment the disciples indeed all forsook him
and fled. No one who had consorted with the Great Teacher, however, and
felt the influence of his mind, could long have resisted the reaction to
nobler thoughts of him. In all the bitterness of sorrow for the loss of
their master and friend, in horror at his agonizing and shameful death,
and in doubt, consternation, and almost despair, they must have gathered
together again and spoken of these strange events. Believing Jesus to
have been the Messiah, how could they interpret his death on the cross?
If he was the Messiah could he thus die?(1) If Enoch and Elijah, if
Moses, precursors of the Messiah, had not seen death, how could that
prophet like unto Moses whom Jehovah had raised up end his career by a
shameful death on the cross?

Throughout that time of fiery trial and supreme mental agitation, they
must have perpetually sought in their own minds some explanation of the
terrible events then occurring and seeming to blast all their hopes,
and doubtless mystic utterances of Jesus must have assumed new meanings,
meanings probably different from his own. In the accounts of the coming
Messiah in the prophets, they must have searched for some light by which
to solve the inexplicable problem. Is it not conceivable that, in that
last time of danger and darkness, when he saw the persecution against
him become more vehement, and felt that the path which he had chosen
led him through danger and distress perhaps to death, Jesus may, in the
bitter contemplation of that fanatical opposition of bigotry and


superstition have applied to himself the description of the suffering
servant of Jehovah, suffering--as all noble souls have done who are
in advance of their age, and preach great truths which condemn either
directly or by implication the vices and follies of their time,--"the
oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely," and, worse still, the
ignoble insults of popular ignorance and fickleness? Here might seem to
them the solution of the enigma; and returning from that first flight of
terror and bewilderment, feeling all the intense reaction of affection
and grief and faith in the Master quickened by shame at their
abandonment of him in his moment of supreme danger and affliction,
still believing that he must be the Messiah, and in mute longing and
expectation of the next events which were to confirm or confound their
hopes, the disciples must have been in the climax of nervous agitation
and excitement, and ready to receive any impression which might be
suggested in their embarrassment.(1)

According to Paul it was Peter who first saw the risen Jesus. According
to the first and fourth Gospels, the first appearance was to the women,
and notably, in the latter, to Mary Magdalene out of whom had been cast
"seven devils," and whose temperament probably rendered her unusually
susceptible of all such impressions. Did Paul intentionally omit all
mention of the appearances to the women, or did he not know of them?
In the latter case, we have an instructive light thrown on the Gospel
tradition; in the former, the first suggestion

     1 Ewald points out that, according to the belief of the
     period, the souls of the dead hovered for a time between
     heaven and earth, and he considers that the belief
     undeniably played an important part in this sphere of
     visions of the Christ    Gesch. d. V. Isr., vi. p. 72 a.


of the Resurrection becomes even more clearly intelligible. It will be
observed that in all this explanation we are left chiefly to conjecture,
for the statements in the Gospels cannot, upon any point, be used with
the slightest confidence. On the other hand, all that is demanded is
that a probable or possible explanation of the origin of the belief in
the Resurrection should be given; and in the total absence of historical
data we are entitled to draw inferences as to the course of events at
the time. It may well be that a mistake as to the sepulchre, rendered
not improbable if any hint of the truth be conveyed in the conflicting
traditions of the Gospel, or one of many other suggestions which might
be advanced, might lead the women or Peter to believe that the sepulchre
was empty. Or some other even trifling circumstance, which we no longer
can indicate with precision, might convey to the women or to Peter, in
their state of nervous excitement, the last impulse wanting to cause
that rapid revulsion from extreme depression, which is so suitable to
the state which we may perhaps be allowed to call creative subjectivity.
If we are to accept the indications scattered about the New Testament,
the impetuous ardent temperament of Peter was eminently one to bound
into sudden ecstatic enthusiasm, and in all probability some commonplace
or trifling incident may have been the spark which kindled into flame
the materials already at glowing heat. The strong subjective impression
that Jesus had risen would create a vision of him which, at once
confirming previous conclusions, resolving perplexing doubts and
satisfying feverish expectations, would be accepted by each mind with
little or no question as an objective reality. If Peter, or even the


women, brought to the disciples the assurance that they had seen the
Lord, we cannot doubt that, in the unparalleled position in which they
were then placed, under all the circumstances of intense feeling and
religious excitement at the moment, such emotions would be suddenly
called into action as would give to these men the impression that they
had seen the Master whom they had lost. These subjective impressions
would be strengthened daily and unconsciously into ever more objective
consistency, and being confirmed by supposed prophecy would be affirmed
with a confidence insensibly inspired by dogmatic considerations.1 That
the news would fly from believer to believer, meeting everywhere excited
attention and satisfying eager expectancy, is certain; and that these
devout souls, swayed by every emotion of glad and exultant enthusiasm,
would constantly mistake the suggestions of their own thoughts for
objective realities is probable. Jesus died, was buried, and rose again
"according to the Scriptures." This would harden every timid supposition
into assurance; and as time went on, what was doubtful would become
certain, what was mysterious, clear; and those who had seen nothing
would take up and strengthen the tradition of those who had seen the

It is argued that there was not time for the preparation of the
disciples to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus between his
crucifixion and "the third day," when that event is alleged to have
occurred, and, consequently, no probability of subjective impressions of
so unexpected a nature being received. To those


apologists who adopt this argument we might point to many passages in
the Gospels, which affirm that the resurrection on the third day was
predicted. These, however, we assign of course to a later date. The
argument assumes that there was no preparation in the teaching of Jesus,
which, as we have endeavoured to suggest, is not the case. If there had
been no other, the mere assurance that he was the Messiah must have led
to reflections, which demanded some other sequel to his career than the
death of a slave. The mere suggestion of such a problem as must have
proposed itself to the minds of the disciples: If all is to end
here, Jesus was not the Messiah: if he was the Messiah, what will now
happen?--must have led to expectant attention. But there was much
more than this. In such moments as those of the Passion, thought works
feverishly and fast. It is not to be supposed that Peter and the rest
did not foresee the end, when Jesus was led away prisoner in the hands
of his enemies. It is still less to be imagined that their minds
were not ceaselessly revolving that problem, on the solution of which
depended their fondest hopes and highest aspirations.1 It is most
probable, indeed, that no time could have found the disciples in a state
so ripe for strong impressions as that immediately succeeding the death
of their Master. There are, however, other aspects in which this point
may be placed. What evidence is there that Jesus was seen, or supposed
to have been seen, on the third day? Absolutely none worthy of the name.
Paul does not say that he was, and as for the Gospels their


statement is of no value, and the tradition which they record may be
set down as a foregone dogmatic con-elusion. Paul very distinctly shows
this. He says: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also
received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
that he was buried, and that he has been raised the third day, according
to the Scriptures."(1) The repetition of the phrase "according to the
Scriptures" is very marked, and points to the fact that the purpose for
which Jesus died--"for our sins"--and the date of his resurrection--"the
third day"--are statements directly based upon Scripture. We have
mentioned that the Scriptures supposed to indicate the third day, do
not really apply to the Messiah at all, but this does not affect the
question before us. Now believing this epoch to be defined in prophecy,
this is precisely one of those points upon which memory would, in the
lapse of time, be most likely to adjust itself to the prophecy. We will
assume that Jesus was not "seen" before the third day. It is obvious
that if he was seen forty days after, it might be affirmed that he had
been actually raised long before, on the third day. The vision occurring
on the third day itself, even, could not prove that he had not "risen"
before. There is, in fact, no way that we can see of fixing the third
day except the statement ol "Scripture," and, the moment we accept that,
we must recognize the force of dogmatic influence.(2) The fact that the
third day has from early

     2 We do not go into any argument based on the order given in
     the first two Synoptics to go into Galilee--a three
     days' journey at least--where the disciples were to see
     Jesus. Nor need we touch upon other similar points which
     arise out of the narratives of the Gospels.


times been set apart as the Christian Sabbath, does not prove anything.
If the third day was believed to be the day indicated by "Scripture" for
the Resurrection, of course that day would be selected as the time at
which it must have occurred, and on which it should be commemorated. So
far as the vision hypothesis is concerned, the day is of no consequence
whatever, and the objection upon this point has no force.

There is another consideration which we must mention, which is not
only important in connection with an estimate of the evidence for
the Resurrection, but the inferences from which clearly support the
explanation we are proposing. Before stating it we may, in passing,
again refer to the fact that it is nowhere affirmed that anyone was an
eye-witness of the actual Resurrection. It is supposed to be proved by
the circumstance that Jesus was subsequently "seen." Observe, however,
that the part of this miracle which could not well have been ascribed to
subjective impressions--the actual resurrection--is, naturally enough,
not seen by anyone, but that which comes precisely within the scope of
such subjective action is said to have been seen by many. To come at
once to our point, however, neither Paul, nor the Gospels, nor Christian
tradition in any form, pretends that Jesus was seen by any one but his
disciples and those who believed in him. In fact, Jesus only appeared to
those who were prepared by faith and expectant attention to see him in
the manner we assert. We are at present merely speaking of the earlier
appearances, and reserving Paul for separate discussion. Why, we may
inquire, did Jesus not appear to his


enemies as well as to his friends?(1) Nothing of course could have been
more intelligible than his desire to comfort and reassure those who
believed in and mourned for him, but to do this by no means excluded
a wider manifestation of himself, supposing him to have actually risen
from the dead. On the hypothesis that he only rose again and was seen
through the yearning and enthusiastic faith of his followers, the reason
why he was not seen by others is not hard to find. Yet it might be
thought that the object of at once establishing beyond doubt his
supernatural mission, and convincing his enemies of their crime, and the
Jews of their blindness and folly, was important enough. Had he shown
himself to the Chief Priests and elders, and confounded the Pharisees
with the vision of him whom they had so cruelly nailed to the accursed
tree, how might not the future of his followers have been smoothed, and
the faith of many made strong! Or if he had stood again in the Courts of
the Roman Procurator, no longer a prisoner buffeted and spat upon, but
the glorious Messiah, beyond the reach of Jewish malignity or Roman
injustice. But no, he was seen by none but those devoted to him. We
shall of course be told by apologists that this also was "for the trial
of our faith;" though to anyone who earnestly reflects, it must seem
childish to ask men to believe what is beyond their reason, yet conceal
the evidence by which reason is supposed to be guided. The reply,
however, is clear: for the trial of our faith or for any other reason,
it is nevertheless certain that this evidence does not exist.


When the argument which we are now discussing was first advanced long
ago by Celsus, Origen had no better refutation than, after admitting the
fact that Jesus was not after his resurrection seen as before publicly
and by all men, to take refuge in the belief that the passage of
Paul regarding his appearances contains wonderful mysteries which, if
understood, would explain why Jesus did not show himself after that
event as he had done before it.(1)

We must now proceed to show that the vision of Paul is satisfactorily
explained by the same hypothesis.(2) We have already proved that there
is no evidence of any value that Paul's conversion was due to his
having seen Jesus in a manner which he believed to be objective and
supernatural. To represent the arch persecutor Paul transformed in
a moment, by a miraculous vision of Jesus, into the Apostle of the
Gentiles was highly characteristic of the author of

     1 Contra Cels., ii. 63. It is curious that, in an earlier
     chapter, Origen, discussing the question of Celsus,--whether
     any one who had been actually dead had ever risen with a
     real body, says that if Celsus had been a Jew who believed
     that Elijah and Elisha had raised little children he could
     not have advanced this objection. Origen adds that he thinks
     the reason why Jesus appeared to no other nation but the
     Jews was, that they had become accustomed to miracles, and
     could, by comparing the works of Jesus and what was told of
     him with what had been done before, recognize that he was
     greater than all who had preceded him.   ii. 57.


Acts, who further represents Paul as immediately preaching publicly in
Damascus and confounding the Jews. Widely different is the statement of
Paul. He distinctly affirms that he did not communicate with flesh and
blood, nor went he up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before
him, but that he immediately went away into Arabia. The Fathers
delighted in representing this journey to Arabia as an instance of
Paul's fervour and eagerness to preach the Gospel in lands over which
its sound had not yet gone forth. There can be no doubt, however, we
think, that Paul's journey to Arabia and his sojourn there were for
the purpose of reflection.(1) It is only in legends that instantaneous
spiritual revolutions take place. In sober history the process is more
slow and progressive. We repeat that there is no evidence which can at
all be accepted that Paul's conversion was effected by a vision, and
that it is infinitely more probable that it was, so to say, merely
completed and crowned by seeing Jesus; but, at the same time, even if
the view be held that this vision was the decisive circumstance which
induced Paul at once to resign his course of persecution and embrace
Christianity, our argument is not materially affected. In any case, much
silent, deep, and almost unconscious preparation for the change must
long before have proceeded in the mind of Paul, which was finally
matured in the Arabian waste. Upon no view that is taken can this be
excluded; upon every ground of common sense, experience, and necessary
inference, it must be admitted.


Indifference is the only great gulf which separates opinions. There was
no stolid barrier of apathy between Saul of Tarsus and belief in the
Messiah-ship of Jesus. In persecuting Christianity, Paul proved two
things: the earnestness and energy of his convictions, and the fact
that his attention was keenly directed to the new sect. Both points
contributed to the result we are discussing. Paul's Judaism was no mere
formalism. It was the adoption, heart and soul, of the religion of
his people; which was to him no dead principle, but a living faith
stimulating that eager impetuous character to defend its integrity with
"fire and sword." He did not, like so many of his countrymen, turn away
with scorn from the followers of the despised Nazarene and leave them
to their delusion; but turned to them, on the contrary, with the fierce
attraction of the zealot whose own belief is outraged by the misbelief
of others. The earnest Jew came into sharp collision with the earnest
Christian. The earnestness of each was an element of mutual respect. The
endurance and firmness of the one might not melt the bigoted resolution
of the other, but it arrested his attention and commanded his
unconscious sympathy. Just so would the persecutor have endured and
resisted persecution; so, subsequently, he actually did meet it. And
what was the main difference between the persecutor and the persecuted?
It consisted in that which constituted the burden of the apostolic
preaching: the belief that "this was the Christ." The creed of the new
sect at least was not complicated. It was little more at that time
than a question of identity, until Paul himself developed it into an
elaborate system of theology.


In this question of identity, however, there was comprised a vast change
of national ideas. To the devout Jew,--looking for the hope of Israel,
yearning and praying for the advent of that Son of David who was to
sit upon the throne of his fathers, restore the fortunes of the people,
drive out the heathen and subdue the nations again to the yoke of
Israel, establishing the worship of Jehovah in its purity and turning
the Gentiles to the service of the God of Gods,--it was an abhorrent
thought that the lowly peasant who had died a shameful death on Golgotha
should be represented as the Messiah, the promised King of the Jews.
Still there was something sufficiently startling in the idea to excite
reflection. A political aspirant, who pretended to play the part, and
after some feeble attempt at armed insurrection had been crushed by the
heel of the Roman, could not have attracted attention. In that, there
would have been no originality to astonish, and no singularity to
require explanation. This man, on the contrary, who was said to be the
Messiah, assumed no earthly dignity; claimed no kingdom in this world;
had not even a place to lay his head; but ended a short and unambitious
career as the teacher of a simple but profound system of morality by
death on a cross. There was no vulgar imitation here. This was the
reverse of the Messiah of the Jews. In spite of so much dissimilarity,
however, there was in the two parties a fundamental agreement of belief.
The Jew expected the Messiah; the Christian believed he had now come.
The Messiah expected by the Jew was certainly a very different Saviour
from the despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth, but at the root of the


Christian faith lay belief in a Messiah. It was a thoroughly Jewish
belief, springing out of the covenant with the fathers, and based upon
the Law and the Prophets. The difference was not one of principle but
one of details. Their interpretation of the promises was strangely
dissimilar, but the trust of both was in the God of Israel. To pass from
one to the other did not involve the adoption of a new religion, but
merely a modification of the views of the old. Once convinced that
the Messiah was not a political ruler but a spiritual guide, not a
victorious leader, but a suffering servant of Jehovah, the transition
from judaic hopes to recognition of Jesus was almost accomplished.

It is clear that Paul in his capacity of Persecutor must have become
well acquainted with the views of the Christians, and probably must
have heard them repeatedly expounded by his captives before the Jewish
Sanhedrin.1 He must have heard the victims of his blind religious zeal
affirming their faith with all that ecstatic assurance which springs out
of persecution. The vision of Peter contributed to the vision of
Paul. There can be no doubt that Paul must have become aware of the
application to Jesus of Old Testament prophecies, and of the new
conception thence derived of a suffering Messiah. The political horizon
was certainly not suggestive of the coming of the Lord's Anointed. Never
had the fortunes of Israel been at a lower ebb. The hope of a Prince of
the house of David to restore dominion to the fallen race was hard to
entertain. The suggestion of an alternative theory based upon a new
interpretation of the prophets, if startling, was not untimely, when the
old confidence


was becoming faint in many minds, and the hope of his coming seemed so
distant and unsure. If we do not misjudge the character of Paul, however
shocked he may have been at first by the substitution of a crucified
Nazarene for the triumphant Messiah of his earlier visions, there must
have been something profoundly pleasing to his mind in the conception of
a spiritual Messiah. As he became familiar with the idea, it is probable
that flashes of doubt must have crossed his mind as to the correctness
of his more material views. If the belief were true, which Christians
professed, that this Jesus, despised and rejected of men, was actually
the suffering servant of Jehovah, and this servant of Jehovah the
Messiah! If the claim of this Jesus who had been esteemed smitten of God
and afflicted, had been verified by his rising again from the dead and
ascending to the right hand of God! This aspect of the Messianic idea
had a mystery and significance congenial to the soul of Paul. The
supernatural elements could have presented no difficulties to him.
Belief in the Resurrection was part of his creed as a Pharisee. That the
risen Messiah should have been seen by many, the fundamental idea once
admitted, could not surprise the visionary Jew. We can well imagine
the conflict which went on in the ardent mind of Paul when doubts first
entered it; his resistance and struggle for the faith of his youth;
the pursuance as duty of the course he had begun, whilst the former
conviction no longer strengthened the feverish energy; the excitement of
religious zeal in the mad course of persecution, not to be arrested in
a moment, but become, by growing doubt, bitterness and pain to him; the


inflicted sending its pang into his own flesh. There was ample
preparation in such a situation for the vision of Paul.

The constitution and temperament of the Apostle were eminently
calculated to receive impressions of the strongest description.(1) We
have mentioned the conjecture of many able men that his "stake in the
flesh" was a form of epilepsy. It is, of course, but a conjecture,
though one which has great probability,(2) and we must not treat it
otherwise; but, if it could be proved correct, much light would be
thrown upon Paul's visions. We have discussed the Apostle's statements
regarding the supernatural Charismata in the Church, and have seen his
extreme readiness to believe in the lavish bestowal of miraculous gifts
where others could recognise but ordinary qualities. That Paul should
be able to claim the power of speaking with tongues more than all the
Corinthians, whose exercise of that spiritual gift he so unceremoniously
restrains, is in perfect keeping with all that we elsewhere learn about
him. Everywhere we find the keenly impressionable nature so apt to
fall into the ecstatic state when brought under the influence of active
religious emotion. "I must glory," he exclaims with irresistible impulse
on coming to a theme so congenial to him, "I must glory; it is not
indeed expedient, but I will come to visions and revelations of the
Lord."(3) Even when he speaks of the stake in his flesh, which he does
in such suggestive connection with his visions, he describes it as sent
lest he should "be exalted above measure by the


excess of the revelations."(1) We have so repeatedly had to refer to
Paul's claim to have received his Gospel by special revelation that we
need not again speak of it here. If we could quote Acts as a genuine
representation of Christian tradition regarding Paul, we might point out
the visions and revelations therein so freely ascribed to him, but
his own writings are amply sufficient for our purpose. Even his second
journey to Jerusalem is attributed to the direction of revelation.(2)

The only vision regarding which the Apostle gives any particulars is
that referred to, 2 Cor. xii. 2: "I know a man in Christ above fourteen
years ago (whether in the body I know not, whether out of the body
I know not, God knoweth), such an one caught up even unto the third
heaven. 3. And I know such a man (whether in the body or out of the body
I know not, God knoweth), 4. that he was caught up into paradise and
heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5.
For such an one will I boast," etc.(3) It has been argued from this
passage and the repetition of the expression "whether in the body or
out of the body I know not," that Paul himself could clearly distinguish
objective facts from subjective impressions.(4) No interpretation could
well be more erroneous. It is evident that Paul has no doubt whatever of
his having been in the third heaven and in Paradise, and as little of


his having heard the unspeakable words. That is quite objectively real
to him. His only doubt is whether the body was caught up with his
soul upon this occasion.(1) No one who has carefully considered such
phenomena and examined the statements here made can have any doubt as to
the nature of this vision. The conception of being caught up into "the
third heaven," "into Paradise," and there hearing these "unspeakable
words which it is not lawful for a man to utter," betrays in no doubtful
manner the source of the subjective impressions. Of course, divines who
are prepared to see in this passage the account of an actual objective
event will not consider it evidence that Paul had subjective visions
which he believed to have been objective facts; but to those who, more
rightly and reasonably, we think, recognize the subjective character of
the vision, it must at once definitely settle the point that Paul could
mistake subjective impressions for objective realities, and consequently
the argument for the similar subjectivity of the vision of Jesus becomes
complete. The possibility of such a mistake is precisely what apologists
question. Here is an instance in which the mistake has clearly been made
by Paul.

The Apostle's own statements show him to have been superlatively
visionary and impressionable, with restless nervous energy it is true,
but, at the same time, with keen physical and mental susceptibility.
Liable to be uplifted by "the excess of revelations," glorying in
"visions and revelations of the Lord," possessing ecstatic


powers more than all others, subjecting his very movements, his visits
to Jerusalem, to the direction of impulses which he supposed to be
revelations: there has never been a case in which both temperament
and religious belief more thoroughly combined to ascribe, with perfect
conviction, objective reality to subjective impressions connected with
divine things then occupying his mind.

Paul moreover lived in a time when the Messianic longing of the Jews
led them to be profoundly interested students of the later apocalyptic
writings, which certainly made a deep impression upon the Apostle, and
in which he must have been struck by the image of the promised Messiah,
like the Son of Man, coming on the clouds of heaven (Dan. vii. 13, cf.
1 Cor. xv. 47).(1) At no time was such a vision more likely to present
itself to him, than when his mind was fixed upon the Messianic idea with
all the intensity of one who had been persecuting those who asserted
that the Messiah had already come. Here was reason for all that
concentration of thought upon the subject which produces such visions:
and when doubt and hesitation entered into that eager intense spirit,
the conflict must have been sharp and the nerves highly strung. The
Jesus whom he saw with his mind's eye was the climax of conviction
in such a nature; and the vision vividly brought to him his own
self-reproachful thoughts for cruelly mistaken zeal, and the remorse of
noble souls which bounds to reparation. He devoted himself as eagerly
to Christianity, as he had previously done to Judaism. He changed the
contents but not the form of his mind.(2) Paul the


Christian was the same man as Paul the Jew; and in abandoning the
conception of a Messiah "according to the flesh," and placing his
whole faith in one "according to the spirit," he displayed the same
characteristics as before. The revolution in his mind, of which so much
is said, was merely one affecting the Messianic idea. He did not at
a bound become the complete Apostle of the Gentiles, but accepting at
first nothing more than belief in a Messiah according to the spirit, his
comprehensive and peculiar system of theology was, "of course, only the
result of subsequent reflection. That his conviction should have been
completed by a subjective vision is no more strange than that he should
believe in supernatural Charismata, miraculous speaking with tongues,
and being actually caught up into the third heaven, into Paradise, and
hearing there unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to
utter. Paul evidently never questioned the source of his visions. They
were simply accepted as divine revelations, and they excited all the
less of misgiving in his soul from the fact that, without doubt, they
expressed the expected solution of problems which intensely occupied his
mind, and reflected conclusions already practically formed by his own

There remain two points to be briefly considered.


The first of these is the assertion, constantly made in various shapes,
that the cardinal miracles of the Resurrection and Ascension were
proclaimed as unquestionable facts, without contradiction, at a time
when such an assertion might have been easily refuted. The production of
the body, the still occupied sepulchre, it is said, would have set such
pretensions at rest It is unnecessary to say that the proclamation
of the Resurrection and Ascension as facts proved nothing beyond
the belief, perhaps, of those who asserted them. So far as Paul is
concerned, we may seek in vain for any assertion of a bodily Ascension.
But there is not the slightest evidence to show when the Resurrection
and Ascension were first publicly proclaimed as unquestionable facts.
Even the Gospels do not state that they were mentioned beyond the
circle of disciples. The second Synoptist, who does not state that Jesus
himself was seen by any one, makes the curious affirmation at the
close of his Gospel as we have it, that the women, on receiving the
announcement of the Resurrection from the angels, and the command for
the disciples and Peter to go into Galilee, "went out and fled from the
sepulchre; for trembling and astonishment seized them, and they said
nothing to any one; for they were afraid."(1) In the fourth Gospel,
although the "beloved disciple" went into the sepulchre, "and he saw and
believed," it is related of him and Peter: "So the disciples went away
again unto their own home."(2) The Eleven, in fact, who all forsook
their Master and fled--who are represented as meeting with closed doors
"for fear of the Jews"--with closed doors after eight days, it is
again said, although, a week before, ten of them are said to have seen
Jesus--were not likely to expose


themselves to the fate of Jesus by rushing into the highways and
asserting the Resurrection. Beyond the statement of the Gospels, the
value of which we have seen, and a statement accompanied by so many
confused circumstances, there is no evidence whatever that the sepulchre
was found empty. There is no evidence that the sepulchre was really
known to the disciples, none of whom, probably, was present at the
crucifixion; and it might well be inferred that the women, who are
represented as ignorant that the body had already been embalmed, yet
who are the chief supposed witnesses for the empty sepulchre and the
informants of the disciples, were equally ignorant of the sepulchre in
which the body was laid. We might ask whether the 500 brethren who are
said to have seen Jesus at the same time came from Galilee, or wherever
they were, and examined the state of the sepulchre? We have already
said, however, that if the sepulchre had been shown to be empty, the
very last thing which could be proved by that circumstance would be the
correctness of the assertion that it had become so in consequence of a
stupendous miracle. On the other hand, if it had been shown that it was
occupied by a body, it is exceedingly doubtful whether the fact would
have convinced any one not previously sure that Jesus could not have
risen from the dead, and he would not have required such evidence. When
the Resurrection was publicly proclaimed as a fact, the body could
no longer have been recognizable, and the idea that any of those in
authority could have thought such demonstration necessary to refute a
story whispered about amongst an obscure sect in Jerusalem, or even
more courageously asserted, is a product of later times. When Jesus of
Nazareth, the head of the nascent sect, was suppressed


by a shameful death, his humble and timid followers were obviously for
a time despised; and there is little reason to suppose that the chief
priests and rulers of the Jews would have condescended to any public
contradiction of their affirmations, if they had even felt indifference
to the defilement of exposing for such a purpose a decaying body to
the gaze of Jerusalem. This kind of refutation is possible only in the
imagination of divines. Besides, what evidence is there that even a
single indifferent person found the sepulchre empty? There is not an
iota of proof.

On the contrary, there is the very strongest evidence that when the
assertion of the Resurrection and Ascension as "unquestionable facts"
was made, it was contradicted in the only practical and practicable way
conceivable: (1.) by all but universal disbelief in Jerusalem; (2.)
by actual persecution of those who asserted it. It is a perfectly
undeniable fact that the great mass of the Jews totally denied the
truth of the statement by disbelieving it, and that the converts to
Christianity who soon swelled the numbers of the Church and spread its
influence amongst the nations were not the citizens of Jerusalem, who
were capable of refuting such assertions, but strangers and Gentiles.
The number of the community of Jerusalem after the forty days seems to
be stated by the author of Acts as "about 120," and although the numbers
added to the Church, according to this document, are evidently fabulous,
the converts at Pentecost are apparently chiefly from amongst the devout
men of every nation upon earth congregated at Jerusalem. To this
hour the Jews have retained as their inheritance the denial by their
forefathers of the asserted facts. The assertion, secondly, was
emphatically denied by the persecution, as soon as it


became worth any one's while to persecute, of those who made it. It
was in this way denied by Paul himself, at a time when verification was
infinitely more possible than when he came to join in the assertion. Are
we to suppose that the Apostle took no trouble to convince himself of
the facts before he began to persecute? He was in the confidence of the
high priests it seems, can he ever have heard the slightest doubt from
them on the subject? Is it not palpable that Paul and his party, by
their very pursuit of those who maintained such allegations, stigmatized
them as falsehoods, and perhaps as imposture? If it be said that Paul
became convinced of his mistake, it is perfectly obvious that his
conversion was not due to local and circumstantial evidence, but to
dogmatic considerations and his supposed vision of Jesus. He disbelieved
when the alleged occurrences were recent and, as it is said, capable of
refutation; he believed when the time for such refutation had passed.

The second point to which we have referred is the vague and final
objection of apologists that, if the vision of Jesus was merely
subjective, the fabric of the Church and even of Christianity is based
upon unreality and self-deception. Is this possible? they ask. Is it
possible that for eighteen centuries the Resurrection and Ascension
have been proclaimed and believed by millions, with no other original
foundation than self-delusion? The vagueness and apparent vastness of
this objection, perhaps, make it a formidable _argumentum ad hominem_,
but it vanishes into very small proportions as we approach it. Must
we then understand that the dogmas of all religions which have been
established must have been objective truths? and that this is a
necessary inference from their wide adoption? If so, then all


historical religions before Christianity, and after it, must take rank
as substantially true. In that case the religion of the Veda, of Buddha,
of Zoroaster, of Mahomet, for instance, can as little be based on
unreality and self-deception as Christianity. They have secured wide
acceptance from mankind. Millions have for centuries devoutly held their
tenets, and to this day the followers of Sakya Muni are as numerous as
the believers in the religion of Paul. If not, the objection at once
falls to the ground as an argument, and the problem becomes a simple
matter of evidence, which has been fully discussed and disposed of.

When we analyse the fact, it becomes apparent that, ultimately, belief
in the Resurrection and Ascension resolves itself into the belief of a
few or of one. It requires very little reflection to perceive that the
Christian Church is founded much more upon belief in the Resurrection
than on the fact itself.(1) Nothing is more undeniable than the
circumstance that not more than a very small number of men are even
alleged to have seen the risen Jesus. The mass of those who have
believed in the Resurrection have done so because of the assurance of
these few men, and perhaps because they may have been led to think that
the event was predicted in Scripture. Up to this day, converts to the
dogma are made, if made at all, upon the assurance of Paul and the
Gospels. The vast question at last dwindles down to the inquiry: Can a
few men, can one man, draw erroneous inferences and be honestly deceived
by something supposed to have been seen? We presume that there can be no
hesitation in giving an affirmative reply. The rest follows as a matter


course. Others simply believe the report of those who have believed
before them. In course of time, so many believe that it is considered
almost outrageous to disbelieve or demand evidence. The number of those
who have believed is viewed at last as an overwhelming proof of the
truth of the creed.

It is a most striking and extraordinary fact that the life and teaching
of Jesus have scarcely a place in the system of Paul. Had we been
dependent upon him we should have had no idea of the Great Master who
preached the Sermon on the Mount, and embodied pure truths in parables
of such luminous simplicity. His noble morality would have remained
unknown, and his lessons of rare spiritual excellence have been lost to
the world. Paul sees no significance in that life, but concentrates all
interest in the death and resurrection of his Messiah. In the sepulchre
hewn out of the rock are deposited the teaching and example of Jesus,
and from it there rises a mystic Christ lost in a halo of theology.
The ecclesiastical Christianity which was mainly Paul's work has almost
effaced the true work of Jesus. Too little can now be traced of that
teaching, and few are the genuine records of his work which have
survived the pious enthusiasm evoked by his character. Theology has done
its worst with the life; and that death, which will ever be the
darkest blot upon history, has been represented as the climax of divine
beneficence. The Resurrection and Ascension have deified Jesus of
Nazareth; but they have done so at the expense of all that was most
truly sublime in his work.


The world will gain when it recognises the real character and source of
such dogmas, and resigns this inheritance from the Age of Miracles. For,
although we lose a faith which has long been our guide in the past, we
need not now fear to walk boldly with Truth in the future, and turning
away from fancied benefits to be derived from the virtue of his death,
we may find real help and guidance from more earnest contemplation of
the life and teaching of Jesus.



We have seen that Divine Revelation could only be necessary or
conceivable for the purpose of communicating to us something which we
could not otherwise discover, and that the truth of communications which
are essentially beyond and undiscoverable by reason cannot be attested
in any other way than by miraculous signs distinguishing them as divine.
It is admitted that no other testimony could justify our believing the
specific Revelation which we are considering, the very substance of
which is supernatural and beyond the criticism of reason, and that its
doctrines, if not proved to be miraculous truths, must inevitably be
pronounced "the wildest delusions." "By no rational being could a
just and benevolent life be accepted as proof of such astonishing

On examining the alleged miraculous evidence for Christianity as Divine
Revelation, however, we find that even if the actual occurrence of the
supposed miracles could be substantiated, their value as evidence would
be destroyed by the necessary admission that miracles are not limited
to one source and are not exclusively associated with truth, but are
performed by various spiritual Beings, Satanic as well as Divine, and
are not always evidential, but are sometimes to be regarded as delusive
and for the trial of faith. As the doctrines supposed to be revealed


are beyond Reason, and cannot in any sense be intelligently approved
by the human intellect, no evidence which is of so doubtful and
inconclusive a nature could sufficiently attest them. This alone would
disqualify the Christian miracles for the duty which miracles alone are
capable of performing.

The supposed miraculous evidence for the Divine Revelation, moreover,
is not only without any special divine character, being avowedly common
also to Satanic agency, but it is not original either in conception or
details. Similar miracles are reported long antecedently to the
first promulgation of Christianity, and continued to be performed for
centuries after it. A stream of miraculous pretension, in fact, has
flowed through all human history, deep and broad as it has passed
through the darker ages, but dwindling down to a thread as it has
entered days of enlightenment. The evidence was too hackneyed and
commonplace to make any impression upon those before whom the Christian
miracles are said to have been performed, and it altogether failed to
convince the people to whom the Revelation was primarily addressed.
The selection of such evidence for such a purpose is much more
characteristic of human weakness than of divine power.

The true character of miracles is at once betrayed by the fact that
their supposed occurrence has thus been confined to ages of ignorance
and superstition, and that they are absolutely unknown in any time or
place where science has provided witnesses fitted to appreciate and
ascertain the nature of such exhibitions of supernatural power. There is
not the slightest evidence that any attempt was made to investigate the
supposed miraculous occurrences, or to justify the inferences so freely
drawn from them, nor is there any reason to


believe that the witnesses possessed, in any considerable degree, the
fulness of knowledge and sobriety of judgment requisite for the purpose.
No miracle has yet established its claim to the rank even of apparent
reality, and all such phenomena must remain in the dim region of
imagination. The test applied to the largest class of miracles,
connected with demoniacal possession, discloses the falsity of all
miraculous pretension.

There is no uncertainty as to the origin of belief in supernatural
interference with nature. The assertion that spurious miracles have
sprung up round a few instances of genuine miraculous power has not a
single valid argument to support it. History clearly demonstrates
that, wherever ignorance and superstition have prevailed, every obscure
occurrence has been attributed to supernatural agency, and it is freely
acknowledged that, under their influence, inexplicable and miraculous
are convertible terms. On the other hand, in proportion as knowledge of
natural laws has increased, the theory of supernatural interference with
the order of nature has been dispelled, and miracles have ceased. The
effect of science, however, is not limited to the present and future,
but its action is equally retrospective, and phenomena which were once
ignorantly isolated from the sequence of natural cause and effect,
are now restored to their place in the unbroken order. Ignorance and
superstition created miracles; knowledge has for ever annihilated them.

To justify miracles, two assumptions are made: first, an Infinite
Personal God; and second, a Divine design of Revelation, the execution
of which necessarily involves supernatural action. Miracles, it is
argued, are not contrary to nature, or effects produced without adequate


causes, but on the contrary are caused by the intervention of this
Infinite Personal God for the purpose of attesting and carrying out the
Divine design. Neither of the assumptions, however, can be reasonably
maintained. The assumption of an Infinite Personal God: a Being at once
limited and unlimited, is a use of language to which no mode of human
thought can possibly attach itself. Moreover, the assumption of a God
working miracles is emphatically excluded by universal experience of the
order of nature. The allegation of a specific Divine cause of miracles
is further inadequate from the fact that the power of working miracles
is avowedly not limited to a Personal God, but is also ascribed to other
spiritual Beings, and it must, consequently, always be impossible to
prove that the supposed miraculous phenomena originate with one and not
with another. On the other hand, the assumption of a Divine design of
Revelation is not suggested by antecedent probability, but is derived
from the very Revelation which it is intended to justify, as is likewise
the assumption of a Personal God, and both are equally vicious as
arguments. The circumstances which are supposed to require this Divine
design, and the details of the scheme, are absolutely incredible, and
opposed to all the results of science. Nature does not countenance any
theory of the original perfection and subsequent degradation of the
human race, and the supposition of a frustrated original plan of
creation, and of later impotent endeavours to correct it, is as
inconsistent with Divine omnipotence and wisdom as the proposed
punishment of the human race and the mode devised to save some of them
are opposed to justice and morality. Such assumptions are essentially
inadmissible, and totally fail to explain and justify miracles.


Whatever definition be given of miracles, such exceptional phenomena
must at least be antecedently incredible. In the absence of absolute
knowledge, human belief must be guided by the balance of evidence,
and it is obvious that the evidence for the uniformity of the order of
nature, which is derived from universal experience, must be enormously
greater than can be the testimony for my alleged exception to it. On the
other hand, universal experience prepares us to consider mistakes of
the senses, imperfect observation and erroneous inference as not
only possible, but eminently probable on the part of the witnesses of
phenomena, even when they are perfectly honest and truthful, and more
especially so when such disturbing causes as religious excitement and
superstition are present. When the report of the original witnesses
only reaches us indirectly and through the medium of tradition, the
probability of error is further increased. Thus the allegation of
miracles is discredited, both positively by the invariability of the
order of nature, and negatively by the fallibility of human observation
and testimony. The history of miraculous pretension in the world, and
the circumstances attending the special exhibition of it which we are
examining, suggest natural explanations of the reported facts which
wholly remove them from the region of the supernatural.

When we proceed to examine the direct witnesses for the Christian
miracles, we do not discover any exceptional circumstances neutralizing
the preceding considerations. On the contrary, we find that the case
turns not upon miracles substantially before us, but upon the mere
narratives of miracles said to have occurred over eighteen hundred years
ago. It is obvious that, for such narratives to possess any real force
and validity, it is essential that


their character and authorship should be placed beyond all doubt. They
must proceed from eye-witnesses capable of estimating aright the nature
of the phenomena. Our four Gospels, however, are strictly anonymous
works. The superscriptions which now distinguish them are undeniably
of later origin than the works themselves, and do not proceed from the
composers of the Gospels. Of the writers to whom these narratives are
traditionally ascribed only two are even said to have been apostles, the
alleged authors of the second and third Synoptics neither having
been personal followers of Jesus, nor eyewitnesses of the events they
describe. Under these circumstances, we are wholly dependent upon
external evidence for information regarding the authorship and
trustworthiness of the four canonical Gospels.

In examining this evidence, we proceeded upon clear and definite
principles. Without forming or adopting any theory whatever as to the
date or origin of our Gospels, we simply searched the writings of the
Fathers, during a century and a half after the events in question, for
information regarding the composition and character of these works, and
even for any certain traces of their use, although, if discovered, these
could prove little beyond the mere existence of the Gospels used at
the date of the writer. In the latter and minor investigation, we were
guided by canons of criticism previously laid down, and which are based
upon the simplest laws of evidence. We found that the writings of the
Fathers, during a century and a half after the death of Jesus, are a
complete blank so far as any evidence regarding the composition and
character of our Gospels is concerned, unless we except the tradition
preserved by Papias, after the middle of the second century, the details
of which fully justify


the conclusion that our first and second Synoptics, in their present
form, cannot be the works said to have been composed by Matthew and
Mark. There is thus no evidence whatever directly connecting any of
the canonical Gospels with the writers to whom they are popularly
attributed, and later tradition, of little or no value in itself, is
separated by a long interval of profound silence from the epoch at which
they are supposed to have been composed. With one exception, moreover,
we found that, during the same century and a half, there is no certain
and unmistakable trace even of the anonymous use of any of our Gospels
in the early Church. This fact, of course, does not justify the
conclusion that none of these Gospels was actually in existence during
any part of that time, nor have we anywhere suggested such an inference,
but strict examination of the evidence shows that there is no positive
proof that they were. The exception to which we refer is Marcion's
Gospel, which was, we think, based upon our third Synoptic, and
consequently must be accepted as evidence of the existence of that work.
Marcion, however, does not give the slightest information as to the
authorship of the Gospel, and his charges against it of adulteration
cannot be considered very favourable testimony as to its infallible
character. The canonical Gospels continue to the end anonymous documents
of no evidential value for miracles. They do not themselves pretend to
be inspired histories, and they cannot escape from the ordinary rules
of criticism. Internal evidence does not modify the inferences from
external testimony. Apart from continual minor contradictions
throughout the first three Gospels, it is impossible to reconcile the
representations of the Synoptics with those of the fourth Gospel. They
mutually destroy each other as evidence. They must


be pronounced mere narratives compiled long after the events recorded,
by unknown persons who were neither eye-witnesses of the alleged
miraculous occurrences, nor hearers of the statements they profess to
report. They cannot be accepted as adequate testimony for miracles and
the reality of Divine Revelation.

Applying similar tests to the Acts of the Apostles, we arrived at
similar results. Acknowledged to be composed by the same author who
produced the third Synoptic, that author's identity is not thereby made
more clear. There is no evidence of the slightest value regarding its
character, but, on the other hand, the work itself teems to such an
extent with miraculous incidents and supernatural agency, that the
credibility of the narrative requires an extraordinary amount of
attestation to secure for it any serious consideration. When the
statements of the author are compared with the emphatic declarations of
the Apostle Paul, and with authentic accounts of the development of
the early Christian Church, it becomes evident that the Acts of the
Apostles, as might have been supposed, is a legendary composition of a
later day, which cannot be regarded as sober and credible history, and
rather discredits than tends to establish the reality of the miracles
with which its pages so suspiciously abound.

The remaining books of the New Testament Canon required no separate
examination, because, even if genuine, they contain no additional
testimony to the reality of Divine Revelation, beyond the implied
belief in such doctrines as the Incarnation and Resurrection. It is
unquestionable, we suppose, that in some form or other the Apostles
believed in these miracles, and the assumption that they did so,
supersedes the necessity for


examining the authenticity of the Catholic Epistles and Apocalypse. In
like manner, the recognition as genuine of four Epistles of Paul, which
contain his testimony to miracles, renders it superfluous to discuss the
authenticity of the other letters attributed to him.

The general belief in miraculous power and its possession by the Church
is brought to a practical test in the case of the Apostle Paul. After
elaborate consideration of his letters, we came to the unhesitating
conclusion that, instead of establishing the reality of miracles, the
unconscious testimony of Paul clearly demonstrates the facility with
which erroneous inferences convert the most natural phenomena into
supernatural occurrences.

As a final test, we carefully examined the whole of the evidence for
the cardinal dogmas of Christianity, the Resurrection and Ascension of
Jesus. First taking the four Gospels, we found that their accounts of
these events are not only full of legendary matter, but that they even
contradict and exclude each other, and so far from establishing the
reality of such stupendous miracles, they show that no reliance is to
be placed on the statements of the unknown authors. Taking next the
testimony of Paul, which is more important as at least authentic and
proceeding from an Apostle of whom we know more than of any other of the
early missionaries of Christianity, we saw that it was indefinite and
utterly insufficient. His so-called "circumstantial account of the
testimony upon which the belief in the Resurrection rested" consists
merely of vague and undetailed hearsay, differing, so far as it can
be compared, from the statements in the Gospels, and without other
attestation than the bare fact that it is repeated by Paul, who
doubtless believed it, although he had not himself been a witness


of any of the supposed appearances of the risen Jesus which he so
briefly catalogues. Paul's own personal testimony to the Resurrection
is limited to a vision of Jesus, of which we have no authentic details,
seen many years after the alleged miracle. Considering the peculiar
and highly nervous temperament of Paul, of which he himself supplies
abundant evidence, there can be no hesitation in deciding that this
vision was purely subjective, as were likewise, in all probability, the
appearances to the excited disciples of Jesus. The testimony of Paul
himself, before his imagination was stimulated to ecstatic fervour by
the beauty of a spiritualized religion, was an earnest denial of the
great Christian dogma emphasized by the active persecution of those who
affirmed it, and a vision, especially in the case of one so constituted,
supposed to be seen many years after the fact of the Resurrection had
ceased to be capable of verification, is not an argument of convincing
force. We were compelled to pronounce the evidence for the Resurrection
and Ascension absolutely and hopelessly inadequate to prove the reality
of such stupendous miracles, which must consequently be unhesitatingly
rejected. There is no reason given, or even conceivable, why allegations
such as these, and dogmas affecting the religion and even the salvation
of the human race, should be accepted upon evidence which would be
declared totally insufficient in the case of any common question of
property or title before a legal tribunal On the contrary, the more
momentous the point to be established, the more complete must be the
proof required.

If we test the results at which we have arrived by general
considerations, we find them everywhere confirmed and established. There
is nothing original in the


claim of Christianity to be regarded as Divine Revelation, and nothing
new either in the doctrines said to have been revealed, or in the
miracles by which it is alleged to have been distinguished. There has
not been a single historical religion largely held amongst men which has
not pretended to be divinely revealed, and the written books of which
have not been represented as directly inspired. There is not a doctrine,
sacrament or rite of Christianity which has not substantially formed
part of earlier religions; and not a single phase of the supernatural
history of the Christ, from his miraculous conception, birth and
incarnation to his death, resurrection and ascension, which has not
had its counterpart in earlier mythologies. Heaven and hell, with
characteristic variation of details, have held an important place in the
eschatology of many creeds and races. The same may be said even of the
moral teaching of Christianity, the elevated precepts of which, although
in a less perfect and connected form, had already suggested themselves
to many noble minds and been promulgated by ancient sages and
philosophers. That this Inquiry into the reality of Divine Revelation
has been limited to the claim of Christianity has arisen solely from a
desire to condense it within reasonable bounds, and confine it to the
only Religion in connection with which it could practically interest us

There is nothing in the history and achievements of Christianity which
can be considered characteristic of a Religion divinely revealed for
the salvation of mankind. Originally said to have been communicated to a
single nation, specially selected as the peculiar people of God, and for
whom distinguished privileges were said to be reserved, it was almost
unanimously rejected by that


nation at the time, and it has continued to be repudiated by its
descendants with singular unanimity to the present day. After more than
eighteen centuries, this Divine scheme of salvation has not obtained
even the nominal adhesion of more than a third of the human race,(1) and
if, in a census of Christendom, distinction could now be made of
those who no longer seriously believe in it as Supernatural Religion,
Christianity would take a much lower numerical position. Sakya Muni,
a teacher only second in nobility of character to Jesus, and who, like
him, proclaimed a system of elevated morality, has even now almost twice
the number of followers, although his missionaries never sought converts
in the West. Considered as a scheme Divinely devised as the best, if
not only, mode of redeeming the human race, and saving them from eternal
damnation, promulgated by God himself incarnate in human form, and
completed by his own actual death upon the cross for the sins of the
world, such results as these can only be regarded as practical


failure, although they may not be disproportionate for a system of
elevated morality.

We shall probably never be able to determine how far the great Teacher
may through his own speculations or misunderstood spiritual utterances
have suggested the supernatural doctrines subsequently attributed to
him, and by which his whole history and system soon became transformed;
but no one who attentively studies the subject can fail to be struck by
the absence of such dogmas from the earlier records of his teaching. It
is to the excited veneration of the followers of Jesus, however, that we
owe most of the supernatural elements so characteristic of the age
and people. We may look in vain even in the synoptic Gospels for the
doctrines elaborated in the Pauline Epistles and the Gospel of Ephesus.
The great transformation of Christianity was effected by men who had
never seen Jesus, and who were only acquainted with his teaching after
it had become transmuted by tradition. The fervid imagination of the
East constructed Christian theology. It is not difficult to follow
the development of the creeds of the Church, and it is certainly most
instructive to observe the progressive boldness with which its dogmas
were expanded by pious enthusiasm. The New Testament alone represents
several stages of dogmatic evolution. Before his first followers had
passed away the process of transformation had commenced. The disciples,
who had so often misunderstood the teaching of Jesus during his life,
piously distorted it after his death. His simple lessons of meekness and
humility were soon forgotten. With lamentable rapidity, the elaborate
structure of ecclesiastical Christianity, following stereotyped lines of
human superstition, and deeply coloured by Alexandrian


philosophy, displaced the sublime morality of Jesus. Doctrinal
controversy, which commenced amongst the very Apostles, has ever since
divided the unity of the Christian body. The perverted ingenuity
of successive generations of churchmen has filled the world with
theological quibbles, which have naturally enough culminated of late in
doctrines of Immaculate Conception, and Papal Infallibility.

It is sometimes affirmed, however, that those who proclaim such
conclusions not only wantonly destroy the dearest hopes of humanity, but
remove the only solid basis of morality; and it is alleged that, before
existing belief is disturbed, the iconoclast is bound to provide a
substitute for the shattered idol. To this we may reply that speech or
silence does not alter the reality of things. The recognition of
Truth cannot be made dependent on consequences, or be trammelled by
considerations of spurious expediency. Its declaration in a serious
and suitable manner to those who are capable of judging can never
be premature. Its suppression cannot be effectual, and is only a
humiliating compromise with conscious imposture. In so far as morality
is concerned, belief in a system of future rewards and punishments,
although of an intensely degraded character, may, to a certain extent,
have promoted observance of the letter of the law in darker ages and
even in our own, but it may, we think, be shown that education and
civilization have done infinitely more to enforce its spirit. How far
Christianity has promoted education and civilization, we shall not here
venture adequately to discuss. We may emphatically assert, however, that
whatever beneficial effect Christianity has produced has been due,
not to its supernatural dogmas, but to its simple morality. Dogmatic


on the contrary, has retarded education and impeded science. Wherever it
has been dominant civilization has stood still. Science has been judged
and suppressed by the light of a text or a chapter of Genesis. Almost
every great advance which has been made towards enlightenment has
been achieved in spite of the protest or the anathema of the Church.
Submissive ignorance, absolute or comparative, has been tacitly fostered
as the most desirable condition of the popular mind. "Except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven," has been the favourite text of Doctors of Divinity
with a stock of incredible dogmas difficult of assimilation by the
virile mind. Even now, the fiction of theological resistance is a
constant waste of intellectual power. The early enunciation of so pure
a system of morality, and one so intelligible to the simple as well as
profound to the wise, was of great value to the world, but experience
being once systematized and codified, if higher principles do not
constrain us, society may safely be left to see morals sufficiently
observed. It is true that, notwithstanding its fluctuating rules,
morality has hitherto assumed the character of a Divine institution, but
its sway has not, in consequence, been more real than it must be as the
simple result of human wisdom, and the outcome of social experience.
The choice of a noble life is no longer a theological question, and
ecclesiastical patents of truth and uprightness have finally expired.
Morality, which has ever changed its complexion and modified its
injunctions according to social requirements, will necessarily be
enforced as part of human evolution, and is not dependent on religious
terrorism or superstitious persuasion. If we are disposed to say:


_Cui bono?_ and only practise morality, or be ruled by right principles, to
gain a heaven or escape a hell, there is nothing lost, for such grudging
and calculated morality is merely a spurious imitation which can as
well be produced by social compulsion. But if we have ever been really
penetrated by the pure spirit of morality, if we have in any degree
attained that elevation of mind which instinctively turns to the true
and noble and shrinks from the baser level of thought and action,
we shall feel no need of the stimulus of a system of rewards and
punishments in a future state which has for so long been represented as
essential to Christianity.

As to the other reproach, let us ask what has actually been destroyed
by such an inquiry pressed to its logical conclusion. Can Truth by
any means be made less true? Can reality be melted into thin air? The
Revelation not being a reality, that which has been destroyed is only an
illusion, and that which is left is the Truth. Losing belief in it
and its contents, we have lost absolutely nothing but that which the
traveller loses when the mirage, which has displayed cool waters
and green shades before him, melts swiftly away. There were no cool
fountains really there to allay his thirst, no flowery meadows for his
wearied limbs; his pleasure was delusion, and the wilderness is blank.
Rather the mirage with its pleasant illusion, is the human cry, than the
desert with its barrenness. Not so, is the friendly warning; seek not
vainly in the desert that which is not there, but turn rather to
other horizons, and to surer hopes. Do not waste life clinging to
ecclesiastical dogmas which represent no eternal verities, but search
elsewhere for truth which may haply be found. What should we think of
the man who persistently repulsed


the persuasion that two and two make four from the ardent desire to
believe that two and two make five? Whose fault is it that two and two
do make four and not five? Whose folly is it that it should be more
agreeable to think that two and two make five than to know that they
only make four? This folly is theirs who represent the value of life
as dependent on the reality of special illusions, which they have
religiously adopted. To discover that a former belief is unfounded is to
change nothing of the realities of existence. The sun will descend as it
passes the meridian whether we believe it to be noon or not. It is idle
and foolish, if human, to repine because the truth is not precisely what
we thought it, and at least we shall not change reality by childishly
clinging to a dream.

The argument so often employed by theologians that Divine Revelation is
necessary for man, and that certain views contained in that Revelation
are required by our moral consciousness, is purely imaginary and
derived from the Revelation which it seeks to maintain. The only thing
absolutely necessary for man is Truth; and to that, and that alone, must
our moral consciousness adapt itself. Reason and experience forbid the
expectation that we can acquire any knowledge otherwise than through
natural channels. We might as well expect to be supernaturally nourished
as supernaturally informed. To complain that we do not know all that
we desire to know is foolish and unreasonable. It is tantamount to
complaining that the mind of man is not differently constituted. To
attain the full altitude of the Knowable, whatever that may be, should
be our earnest aim, and more than this is not for humanity. We may be
certain that information which is beyond the ultimate


reach of Reason is as unnecessary as it is inaccessible. Man may know
all that man requires to know.

We gain more than we lose by awaking to find that our Theology is human
invention and our eschatology an unhealthy dream. We are freed from
the incubus of base Hebrew mythology, and from doctrines of Divine
government which outrage morality and set cruelty and injustice in
the place of holiness. If we have to abandon cherished anthropomorphic
visions of future Blessedness, the details of which are either of
unseizable dimness or of questionable joy, we are at least delivered
from quibbling discussions of the meaning of [------], and our eternal
hope is unclouded by the doubt whether mankind is to be tortured in hell
for ever and a day, or for a day without the ever. At the end of life
there may be no definite vista of a Heaven glowing with the light of
apocalyptic imagination, but neither will there be the unutterable
horror of a Purgatory or a Hell lurid with flames for the helpless
victims of an unjust but omnipotent Creator. To entertain such libellous
representations at all as part of the contents of "Divine Revelation,"
it was necessary to assert that man was incompetent to judge of the
ways of the God of Revelation, and must not suppose him endowed with the
perfection of human conceptions of justice and mercy, but submit to call
wrong right and right wrong at the foot of an almighty Despot. But now
the reproach of such reasoning is shaken from our shoulders, and returns
to the Jewish superstition from which it sprang.

As myths lose their might and their influence when discovered to be
baseless, the power of supernatural Christianity will doubtless pass
away, but the effect of the revolution must not be exaggerated, although


cannot here be fully discussed. If the pictures which have filled for so
long the horizon of the Future must vanish, no hideous blank can rightly
be maintained in their place. We should clearly distinguish between what
we know and know not, but as carefully abstain from characterising that
which we know not as if it were really known to us. That mysterious
Unknown or Unknowable is no cruel darkness, but simply an impenetrable
distance into which we are impotent to glance, but which excludes no
legitimate speculation and forbids no reasonable hope.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Supernatural Religion, Vol. III. (of III) - An Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation" ***

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