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Title: Silanus the Christian
Author: Abbott, Edwin Abbott
Language: English
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SILANUS THE CHRISTIAN


_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

    CLUE: A Guide through Greek to Hebrew Scripture
    (Diatessarica—Part I).
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    THE CORRECTIONS OF MARK (Diatessarica—Part II).
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                                 SILANUS
                              THE CHRISTIAN

                                   BY
                             EDWIN A. ABBOTT
                AUTHOR OF “PHILOCHRISTUS” AND “ONESIMUS”

                 “_The love of Christ constraineth us._”
                              2 COR. V. 14.

                                 LONDON
                         ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
                                  1906

                               Cambridge:
                       PRINTED BY JOHN CLAY, M.A.
                        AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.



TO THE MEMORY OF EPICTETUS

NOT A CHRISTIAN BUT AN AWAKENER OF ASPIRATIONS THAT COULD NOT BE
SATISFIED EXCEPT IN CHRIST



PREFACE


Many years have elapsed since the author was constrained (not by _a
priori_ considerations but by historical and critical evidence) to
disbelieve in the miraculous element of the Bible. Yet he retained the
belief of his childhood and youth—rooted more firmly than before—in
the eternal unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the
supernatural but non-miraculous incarnation of the Son as Jesus Christ,
and in Christ’s supernatural but non-miraculous resurrection after He had
offered Himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The belief is commonly supposed to be rendered impossible by the
disbelief. This book is written to shew that there is no such
impossibility.

The vast majority of the worshippers of Christ base their worship to a
very large extent—as the author did in his early youth under the cloud
of Paley’s _Evidences_—on their acceptance of His miracles as historical
facts. In the author’s opinion this basis is already demonstrably unsafe,
and may be at any moment, by some new demonstration, absolutely destroyed.

Nevertheless such worshippers, if their worship is really genuine—that
is to say, if it includes love, trust, and awe, carried to their highest
limits, and not merely that kind of awe which is inspired by “mighty
works”—will do well to avoid this book. If doubt has not attacked them,
why should they go to meet it? In pulling up falsehood by the roots
there is always a danger of uprooting or loosening a truth that grows
beside it. Historical error, if honest, is better (and less misleading)
than spiritual darkness. For example, it is much better (and less
misleading) to remain in the old-fashioned belief that a good and wise
God created the world in six days than to adopt a new belief that a bad
or unwise or careless God—or a chance, or a force, or a power—evolved it
in sixty times six sextillions of centuries.

To such genuine worshippers of Christ, then, as long as they feel safe
and sincere in their convictions, this book is not addressed. They are
(in the author’s view) substantially right, and had better remain as they
are.

But there may be some, calling themselves worshippers of Christ, who
cannot honestly say that they love Him. They trust His power, they bow
before Him as divine; but they have no affection at all for Him, as
man, or as God. What St Paul described as the “constraining” love of
Christ has never touched them. And yet they fancy they worship! To them
this book may be of use in suggesting the divinity and loveableness of
Christ’s human nature; and any harm the book might do them can hardly be
conceived as equal to the harm of remaining in their present position.
One may learn Christ by rote, as one may learn Euclid by rote, so as to
be almost ruined for really knowing either. For such learners the best
course may be to go back and begin again.

It is, however, to a third class of readers that the author mainly
addresses himself. Having in view the experiences of his own early
manhood, he regards with a strong fellow feeling those who desire to
worship Christ and to be loyal and faithful to Him, if only they can
at the same time be loyal and faithful to truth, and who doubt the
compatibility of the double allegiance.

These, many of them, cannot even conceive how they can worship Christ at
the right hand of God, or the Son in the bosom of the Father in heaven,
unless they first believe in Him as miraculously manifested on earth.
Not being able to accept Him as miraculous, they reject Him as a Saviour.
To them this book specially appeals, endeavouring to shew, in a general
and popular way—on psychological, historical, and critical grounds—how
the rejection of the claim made by most Christians that their Lord is
miraculous, may be compatible with a frank and full acceptance of the
conclusion that He is, in the highest sense, divine.

Detailed proofs this volume does not offer. These will be given in a
separate volume of “Notes,” shortly to be published. This will be of a
technical nature, forming Part VII of the series called Diatessarica.
The present work merely aims at suggesting such conceptions of history,
literature, worship, human nature, and divine Being, as point to a
foreordained conformation of man to God, to be fulfilled in the Lord
Jesus Christ, of which the fulfilment may be traced in the Christian
writings and the Christian churches of the first and second centuries.

It also attempts, in a manner not perhaps very usual, to meet many
objections brought against Christianity by those who assert that its
records are inadequate, inaccurate, and contradictory. Instead of
denying these defects, the author admits and emphasizes them as being
inseparable from earthen vessels containing a spiritual treasure, and
as (in some cases) indirectly testifying to the divinity of the Person
whom the best efforts of the best and most inspired of the evangelists
inadequately, though honestly, portray. Specimens of these defects are
freely given, shewing the modifications, amplifications, and (in some
case) misinterpretations or corruptions, to which Christian tradition was
inevitably exposed in passing from the east to the west during a period
of about one hundred and thirty years, dating from the Crucifixion.

These objects the author has endeavoured to attain by sketching an
autobiography of an imaginary character, by name Quintus Junius Silanus,
who in the second year of Hadrian (A.D. 118) becomes a hearer of
Epictetus and a Christian convert, and commits his experiences to paper
forty-five years afterwards in the second year of Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus and Lucius Verus (A.D. 163).

                                                         EDWIN A. ABBOTT.

    _Wellside, Well Walk, Hampstead._

        _28 Aug. 1906._



_SUMMARY_


_Quintus Junius Silanus, born 90 A.D., goes from Rome at the suggestion
of his old friend Marcus Æmilius Scaurus, to attend the lectures of
Epictetus in Nicopolis about 118 A.D._

_Scaurus (like Silanus, an imaginary character) born about 50 A.D., is a
disabled soldier, and has been for many years a student of miscellaneous
Greek literature, including Christian writings. In reply to a letter
from Silanus, extolling his new teacher, Scaurus expresses his belief
that Epictetus has passed through a stage of infection with “the
Christian superstition,” from which he has borrowed some parts of the
superstructure while rejecting its foundation._

_Silanus, in order to defend his teacher Epictetus from what he considers
an unjust imputation, procures the epistles of Paul. His interest in
these leads him to the “scriptures” from which Paul quotes. Thence he is
led on to speculate about the nature of the “gospel” preached by Paul,
and about the character and utterances of the “Christ” from whom that
“gospel” originated. The epistles convey to him a sense of spiritual
strength and “constraining love.” He determines to procure the Christian
gospels._

_During all this time he is occasionally corresponding with Scaurus and
attending the lectures of Epictetus, which satisfy him less and less.
Contrasted with the spiritual strength in the epistles of Paul the
lectures seem to contain only spiritual effervescence. And there is an
utter absence of “constraining love.”_

_When the three Synoptic gospels reach Silanus from Rome, he receives at
the same time a destructive criticism on them from Scaurus. Much of this
criticism he is enabled to meet with the aid of the Pauline epistles.
But enough remains to shake his faith in their historical accuracy. Nor
does he find in them the same presence that he found in the epistles, of
“constraining love.” The result is, that he is thrown back from Christ._

_At this crisis he meets Clemens, an Athenian, who lends him a gospel
that has recently appeared, the gospel of John. Clemens frankly admits
his doubts about its authorship, and about its complete accuracy, but
commends it as conveying the infinite spiritual revelation inherent in
Christ less inadequately than it is conveyed by the Synoptists._

_A somewhat similar view is expressed by Scaurus, though with a large
admixture of hostile criticism. He has recently received the fourth
gospel, and it forms the subject of his last letter. While rejecting much
of it as unhistorical, he expresses great admiration for it, and for
what he deems its fundamental principle, namely, that Jesus cannot be
understood save through a “disciple whom Jesus loved.”_

_While speculating on what might have happened if he himself had come
under the influence of a “disciple whom Jesus loved,” Scaurus is struck
down by paralysis. Silanus sets sail for Italy in the hope of finding his
friend still living. At the moment when he is losing sight of the hills
above Nicopolis where Clemens is praying for him, Silanus receives an
apprehension of Christ’s “constraining love” and becomes a Christian._

       *       *       *       *       *

No attempt has been made to give the impression of an archaic or Latin
style. Hence “Christus” and “Paulus” are mostly avoided except in a few
instances where they are mentioned for the first time by persons speaking
from a non-Christian point of view. Similar apparent inconsistencies will
be found in the use of “He” and “he,” denoting Christ. The use varies,
partly according to the speaker, partly according to the speaker’s mood.
It varies also in quotations from scripture according to the extent to
which the Revised Version is followed.

The utterances assigned to Epictetus are taken from the records of his
sayings by Arrian or others. Some of these have been freely translated,
paraphrased, and transposed; but none of them are imaginary. When Silanus
says that his friend Arrian “never heard Epictetus say” this or that,
the meaning is that the expression does not occur in Epictetus’s extant
works, so far as can be judged from Schenkl’s admirable Index.

The words assigned to Arrian, Silanus’s friend, when speaking in his own
person, are entirely imaginary; but the statements made about Arrian’s
birthplace and official career are based on history.

Any words assigned by Scaurus to his “friend” Pliny, Plutarch, or
Josephus, or by Silanus to “the young Irenæus,” or Justin, may be taken
to be historical. The references will be given in the volume of Notes.

Scaurus and Silanus occasionally describe themselves as “finding marginal
notes” indicating variations in their MSS. of the gospels. In all such
cases the imaginary “marginal notes” are based on actual various readings
or interpolations which will be given in the volume of Notes. Most of
these are of an early date, and may be based on much earlier originals;
and care has been taken to exclude any that are of late origin. But
the reader must bear in mind that we have no MSS. of the gospels, and
therefore no “marginal notes,” of so early a date as 118 A.D.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                             PAGE

        I THE FIRST LECTURE                               15

       II EPICTETUS ON THE GODS                           25

      III ARRIAN ON THE OATH OF THE CHRISTIANS            33

       IV SCAURUS ON EPICTETUS AND PAUL                   41

        V EPICTETUS ALLUDES TO JEWS                       54

       VI PAUL ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST                      65

      VII DAVID AND MOSES                                 77

     VIII EPICTETUS ON SIN                                85

       IX ARRIAN’S DEPARTURE                              91

        X EPICTETUS ON DEATH                              97

       XI ISAIAH ON DEATH                                102

      XII ISAIAH ON PROVIDENCE                           109

     XIII EPICTETUS ON PROVIDENCE                        117

      XIV PAUL’S CONVERSION                              125

       XV EPICTETUS’S GOSPEL                             136

      XVI PAUL’S GOSPEL                                  143

     XVII EPICTETUS CONFESSES FAILURE                    151

    XVIII PAUL’S ONLY RECORD OF WORDS OF CHRIST          160

      XIX HOW SCAURUS STUDIED THE THREE GOSPELS          172

       XX SCAURUS ON FORGIVENESS                         183

      XXI SCAURUS ON THE CROSS                           193

     XXII SCAURUS ON MARK                                201

    XXIII SCAURUS ON SOME OF THE MIRACLES                211

     XXIV SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S BIRTH                      220

      XXV SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S DISCOURSES                 234

      XXVI SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (I)          248

     XXVII SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (II)         257

    XXVIII THE LAST LECTURE                              267

      XXIX SILANUS MEETS CLEMENS                         280

       XXX SILANUS CONVERSES WITH CLEMENS                291

      XXXI CLEMENS ON THE FOURTH GOSPEL                  302

     XXXII CLEMENS LENDS SILANUS THE FOURTH GOSPEL       312

    XXXIII SCAURUS ON THE FOURTH GOSPEL                  322

     XXXIV THE LAST WORDS OF SCAURUS                     333

      XXXV CLEMENS ON THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST            347

     XXXVI SILANUS BECOMES A CHRISTIAN                   360


ERRATA.

Transcriber’s Note: the errata have been corrected.

    Page  49, _for_ “offending to” _read_ “offending.”

      ”  134, _for_ “a divine” _read_ “divine.”



CHAPTER I

THE FIRST LECTURE


“_I forbid you to go into the senate-house.” “As long as I am a senator,
go I must._” Two voices were speaking from one person—the first, pompous,
coarse, despotic; the second, refined, dry, austere. There was nothing
that approached stage-acting—only a suggestion of one man swelling out
with authority, and of another straightening up his back in resistance.
These were the first words that I heard from Epictetus, as I crept
late into the lecture-room, tired with a long journey over-night into
Nicopolis.

I need not have feared to attract attention. All eyes were fixed on
the lecturer as I stole into a place near the door, next my friend
Arrian, who was absorbed in his notes. What was it all about? In answer
to my look of inquiry Arrian pushed me his last sheet with the names
“Vespasian” and “Helvidius Priscus” scrawled large upon it. Then I knew
what it meant. It was a story now nearly forty years old—which I had
often heard from my father’s old friend, Æmilius Scaurus—illustrating
the duty of obeying the voice of the conscience rather than the voice of
a king. Epictetus, after his manner, was throwing it into the form of a
dialogue:—

“_Vespasian._ I forbid you to go into the senate-house.

“_Priscus._ As long as I am a senator, go I must.

“_Vespasian._ Go, then, but be silent.

“_Priscus._ Do not ask my opinion, and I will be silent.

“_Vespasian._ But I am bound to ask it.

“_Priscus._ And I am bound to answer, and to answer what I think right.

“_Vespasian._ Then I shall kill you.

“_Priscus._ Did I ever say that I could not be killed? It is yours to
kill; mine, to die fearless.”

I give his words almost as fully as Arrian took them down. But his tone
and spirit are past man’s power to put on paper. He flashed from Emperor
to Senator like the zig-zag of lightning with a straight down flash
at the end. This was always his way. He would play a thousand parts,
seeming, superficially, a very Proteus; but they were all types of two
characters, the philosopher and the worldling, the follower of the Logos
and the follower of the flesh. Moreover, he was always in earnest, in
hot earnest. On the surface he would jest like Menander or jibe like
Aristophanes; but at bottom he was a tragedian. At one moment he would
point to his halting leg and flout himself as a lame old grey-beard with
a body of clay. In the next, he was “a son of Zeus,” or “God’s own son,”
or “carrying about God.” Never at rest, he might deceive a stranger into
supposing that he was occasionally rippling and sparkling with real mirth
like a sea in sunlight. But it was never so. It was a sea of molten metal
and there was always a Vesuvius down below.

I suspect that he never knew mirth or genial laughter even as a child.
He was born a slave, his master being Epaphroditus, a freedman of Nero’s
and his favourite, afterwards killed by Domitian. I have heard—but not
from Arrian—that this master caused his lameness. He was twisting his leg
one day to see how much he could bear. The boy—for he was no more—said
with a smile, “If you go on, you will break it,” and then, “Did not I
tell you, you would break it?” True or false, this story gives the boy
as I knew the man. You might break his leg but never his will. I do not
know whether Epaphroditus, out of remorse, had him taught philosophy;
but taught he was, under one of the best men of the day, and he acquired
such fame that he was banished from Rome under Domitian, with other
philosophers of note—whether at or before the time when Domitian put
Epaphroditus to death I cannot say. In one of his lectures he described
how he was summoned before the Prefect of the City with the other
philosophers: “Come,” said the Prefect, “come, Epictetus, shave off your
beard.” “If I am a philosopher,” he replied, “I am not going to shave it
off.” “Then I shall take your head off.” “If it is for your advantage,
take it off.”

But now to return to my first lecture. Among our audience were several
men of position and one at least of senatorial rank. Some of them seemed
a little scandalized at the Teacher’s dialogue. It was not likely that
the Emperor would take offence, for in the second year of Hadrian we
were not in a Neronian or Domitian atmosphere; moreover, our Teacher
was known to be on good terms with the new Emperor. But perhaps their
official sense of propriety was shocked; and, in the first sentence of
what follows, Epictetus may have been expressing their thoughts: “‘_So
you, philosophers, teach people to despise the throne!_’ Heaven forbid!
Which of us teaches anyone to lay claim to anything over which kings
have authority? Take my body, take my goods, take my reputation! Take my
friends and relations! ‘Yes,’ says the ruler, ‘but I must also be ruler
over your convictions.’ Indeed, and who gave you this authority?”

Epictetus went on to say that if indeed his pupils were of the true
philosophic stamp, holding themselves detached from the things of the
body and with their minds fixed on the freedom of the soul, he would
have no need to spur them to boldness, but rather to draw them back from
over-hasty rushing to the grave; for, said he, they would come flocking
about him, begging and praying to be allowed to teach the tyrant that
they were free, by finding freedom at once in self-inflicted death: “Here
on earth, Master, these robbers and thieves, these courts of justice and
kings, have the upper hand. These creatures fancy that they have some
sort of authority over us, simply because they have a hold on our paltry
flesh and its possessions! Suffer us, Master, to shew them that they have
authority over nothing!” If, said he, a pupil of this high spirit were
brought before the tribunal of one of the rulers of the earth, he would
come back scoffing at such “authority” as a mere scarecrow: “Why all
these preparations, to meet no enemy at all? The pomp of his authority,
his solemn anteroom, his gentlemen of the chamber, his yeomen of the
guard—did they all come to no more than this! These things were nothing,
and I was preparing to meet something great!”

On the scholar of the unpractical and cowardly type, anxiously preparing
“what to say” in his defence before the magistrate’s tribunal, he
poured hot scorn. Had not the fellow, he asked, been practising “what
to say”—all his life through? “What else,” said he, “have you been
practising? Syllogisms and convertible propositions!” Then came the
reply, in a whine, “Yes, but he has authority to kill me!” To which the
Teacher answered, “Then speak the truth, you pitiful creature. Cease your
imposture and give up all claim to be a philosopher. In the lords of the
earth recognise your own lords and masters. As long as you give them this
grip on you, through your flesh, so long must you be at the beck and
call of every one that is stronger than you are. Socrates and Diogenes
had practised ‘what to say’ by the practice of their lives. But as for
you—get you back to your own proper business, and never again budge from
it! Back to your own snug corner, and sit there at your leisure, spinning
your syllogisms:

    ‘In thee is not the stuff that makes a man
    A people’s leader.’”

Thence he passed to the objection that a judicial condemnation might
bring disgrace on a man’s good name. “The authorities, you say, have
condemned you as guilty of impiety and profanity. What harm is there
in that for you? This creature, with authority to condemn you—does he
himself know even the meaning of piety or impiety? If a man in authority
calls day night or bass treble, do men that know take notice of him?
Unless the judge knows what the truth is, his ‘authority to judge’ is
no authority. No man has authority over our convictions, our inmost
thoughts, our will. Hence when Zeno the philosopher went into the
presence of Antigonus the king, it was the king that was anxious, not
the philosopher. The king wished to gain the philosopher’s good opinion,
but the philosopher cared for nothing that the king could give. When,
therefore, you go to the palace of a great ruler, remember that you
are in effect going to the shop of a shoemaker or a grocer—on a great
scale of course, but still a grocer. He cannot sell you anything real or
lasting, though he may sell his groceries at a great price.”

At the bottom of all this doctrine about true and false authority, there
was, as I afterwards understood, a belief that God had bestowed on all
men, if they would but accept and use it, authority over their own
wills, so that we might conform our wills to His, as children do with a
Father, and might find pleasure, and indeed our only pleasure, in doing
this—accepting all bodily pain and evil as not evil but good because it
comes from His will, which must be also our will and must be honoured and
obeyed. “When,” said he, “the ruler says to anyone, ‘I will fetter your
leg,’ the man that is in the habit of honouring his leg cries, ‘Don’t,
for pity’s sake!’ But the man that honours his will says, ‘If it appears
advisable to you, fetter it’.”

“_Tyrant._ Won’t you bend?

“_Cynic._ I will not bend.

“_Tyrant._ I will show you that I am lord.

“_Cynic._ You! impossible! I have been freed by Zeus. Do you really
imagine that He would allow His own son to be made a slave? But of my
corpse you _are_ lord. Take it.”

In this particular lecture Epictetus also gave us a glimpse of a wider
and more divine authority imparted by God to a few special natures,
akin to Himself, whereby, as God is supreme King over men His children,
so a chosen few may become subordinate kings over men their brethren.
Like Plato, he seemed to look forward to a time when rulers would
become philosophers, or else philosophers kings. Nero and Sardanapalus,
Agamemnon and Alexander, all came under his lash—all kings and rulers of
the old _régime_. Not that he denied Agamemnon a superiority to Nero,
or the right to call himself “shepherd of the people” if he pleased.
“Sheep, indeed,” he exclaimed, “to submit to be ruled over by you!” and
“Shepherd, indeed, for you weep like the shepherds, when a wolf has
snatched away a sheep!”

From these old-fashioned rulers he passed to a new and nobler ideal of
kingship: “Those kings and tyrants received from their armed guards the
power of rebuking and punishing wrongdoing, though they might be rascals
themselves. But on the Cynic”—that was the term he used—“this power is
bestowed by the conscience.” Then he explained to us what he meant by
“conscience”—the consciousness of a life of wise, watchful, and unwearied
toil for man, with the co-operation of God. “And how,” he asked, “could
such a man fail to be bold and speak the truth with boldness, speaking,
as he does, to his own brethren, to his own children and kinsfolk? So
inspired, he is no meddler or busybody. Supervising and inspecting the
affairs of mankind, he is not busying himself with other men’s matters,
but with his own. Else, call a general, too, a busybody, when he is busy
inspecting his own soldiers!”

This was, to me, quite a new view of the character of a Cynic. But
Epictetus insisted on it with reiteration. The Cynic, he said, was
Warrior and Physician in one. As a warrior, he was like Hercules,
wandering over the world with his club and destroying noxious beasts and
monsters. As a physician, he was like Socrates or Diogenes, going about
and doing good to those afflicted with sickness of mind, diagnosing
each disease, prescribing diet, cautery, or other remedy. In both these
capacities the Cynic received from God authority over men, and men
recognised it in him, because they perceived him to be their benefactor
and deliverer.

There are, said Epictetus, in each man two characters—the character of
the Beast and the character of the Man. By Beast he meant wild or savage
beast, as distinct from tame beast, which he preferred to call “sheep.”
“Sheep” meant the cowardly, passive-greedy passions within us. “The
Beast” meant the savage, aggressive-greedy nature, not only stirring us
up to external war against our neighbours, but also waging war to the
death against our inward better nature, against the “Man.” The mark or
stamp of the Beast he connected with Nero. “Cast it away,” he said. The
opposite mark or stamp he connected with the recently deceased Emperor,
Trajan. If we acted like a beast, he warned us that we should become like
a beast, and then, according to his customary phrase, “_You will have
lost the Man_.” And was this, asked he, nothing to lose? Over and over
again he repeated it: “_You have thrown away the Man_.” It was in this
light—as a type of the Man—that he regarded Hercules, the first of the
Cynics, the Son of God, going on the errands of the Father to destroy the
Beast in its various shapes, typifying an armed Missionary, but armed
for spiritual not for fleshly warfare, destroying the Beast that would
fain dominate the world. But it was for Diogenes that he reserved his
chief admiration, placing him (I think) even above Socrates, or at all
events praising him more warmly—partly, perhaps, out of fellow-feeling,
because Diogenes, too, like himself, had known what it was to be a slave.
Never shall I forget the passage in this lecture in which he described
Alexander surprising the great Cynic asleep, and waking him up with a
line of Homer:—

    “To sleep all night suits not a Councillor,”

—to which Diogenes replied at once in the following line, claiming for
himself the heavy burden (entrusted to him by Zeus) of caring like a king
for all the nations of the earth:—

    “Who holds, in trust, the world’s vast orb of cares.”

Diogenes, according to our Teacher, was much more than an Æsculapius
of souls; he was a sovereign with “the sceptre and the kingdom of the
Cynic.” Some have represented Epictetus as claiming this authority for
himself. But in the lecture that I heard, it was not so. Though what he
said might have been mistaken as a claim for himself, it was really a
claim for “the Cynic,” as follows. First he put the question, “How is it
possible for one destitute, naked, homeless, hearthless, squalid, with
not one slave to attend him, or a country to call his own, to lead a life
of equable happiness?” To which he replied, “Behold, God hath sent unto
you the man to demonstrate in act this possibility. ‘_Look on me, and
see that I am without country, home, possessions, slaves; no bed but the
ground, no wife, no children—no palace to make a king or governor out of
me—only the earth, and the sky, and one threadbare cloak! And yet what
do I want? Am I not fearless? Am I not free? When saw ye me failing to
find any good thing that I desired, or falling into any evil that I would
fain have avoided? What fault found I ever with God or man? When did I
ever accuse anyone? Did anyone ever see me with a gloomy face? How do I
confront the great persons before whom you, worldlings, bow abashed and
dismayed? Do not I treat them as cringing slaves? Who, that sees me, does
not feel that he sees in me his natural Lord and Master?_’”

I confess that up to this point I had myself supposed that he was
speaking of himself, standing erect as ruler of the world. But in the
next instant he had dropped, as it were, from the pillar upon which
he had been setting up the King, and now, like a man at the pedestal
pointing up to the statue on the top, he exclaimed, “Behold, these are
the genuine Cynic’s utterances: this is his stamp and image: this is his
aim!”

He passed on to answer the question, What if the Cynic missed his aim,
or, at least, missed it so far as exerting the royal authority over
others? What if death cut his purpose short? In that case, he said, the
will, the purpose, the one essential good, had at all events remained
in its purity; and how could man die better than in such actions? “If,
while I am thus employed, death should overtake me, it will suffice me if
I can lift up my hands to God and say, ‘The helps that I received from
thee, to the intent that I might understand and follow thy ordering of
the universe, these I have not neglected. I have not disgraced thee, so
far as in me lay. See how I have used these faculties which thou hast
given me! Have I ever found fault with thee? ever been ill-pleased with
anything that has happened or ever wished it to happen otherwise? Thou
didst beget me, and I thank thee for all thou gavest me. I have used to
the full the gifts that were of thy giving and I am satisfied. Receive
them back again and dispose them in such region as may please thee. Thine
were they all, and thou hast given them unto me.’” Then, turning to us,
he said, “Are you not content to take your exit after this fashion? Than
such a life, what can be better, or more full of grace and beauty? Than
such an end, what can be more full of blessing?”

There was much more, which I cannot recall. I was no longer in a mood
to note and remember exact words and phrases, and I despair of making
my readers understand why. Able philosophers and lecturers I had heard
before, but none like this man. Some of those had moved me to esteem and
gained my favourable judgement. But this man did more than “move” me. He
whirled me away into an upper region of spiritual possibility, at once
glad and sad—sad at what I was, glad at what I might be. Alcibiades says
in the Symposium of Plato that whereas the orator Pericles had only moved
his outer self to admiration, the teaching of Socrates caught hold of his
very soul, “whirling it away into a Corybantic dance.” I quoted these
words to Arrian as we left the lecture-room together, and he replied
that they were just to the point. “Epictetus,” he said, “is by birth a
Phrygian. And, like the Phrygian priests of Cybele, with their cymbals
and their dances, he has just this power of whirling away his hearers
into any region he pleases and making them feel at any moment what he
wishes them to feel. But,” added he thoughtfully, “it did not last with
Alcibiades. Will it last with us?”

I argued—or perhaps I should say protested—at considerable length, that
it would last. Arrian walked on for a while without answering. Presently
he said, “This is your first lecture. It is not so with me. I, as you
know, have heard Epictetus for several months, and I admire him as
much as you do, perhaps more. I am sure he is doing me good. But I do
not aim at being his ideal Cynic. ‘_In me is not the stuff_’—I admit
his censure—that makes a man into a King, bearing all the cares of all
mankind upon his shoulders. My ambition is, some day, to become (as you
are by birth) a Roman citizen”—he was not one then, nor was he Flavius
Arrianus, but I have called him by the name by which he became known
in the world—“and to do good work in the service of the Empire, as an
officer of the State and yet an honest man. For that purpose I want to
keep myself in order—at all events to some reasonable extent. Epictetus
is helping me to do this, by making me ashamed of the foul life of the
Beast, and by making me aspire to what he calls ‘the Man.’ That I feel
day by day, and for that I am thankful.

“But if you ask me about the reality of this ‘authority,’ which our
Teacher claims for his Cynic, then, in all honesty, I must confess to
doubts. Socrates, certainly, has moved the minds of civilised mankind.
But then he had, as you know, a ‘daemonic something’ in him, a divine
voice of some kind. And he believed in the immortality of the soul—a
point on which you have not yet heard what Epictetus has to say. As to
Diogenes, though I have always faithfully recorded in my notes what our
Teacher says about him, yet I do not feel that the philosopher of the tub
had the same heaven-sent authority as Socrates, or as Epictetus himself.
And, indeed, did you not yourself hear to-day that God gives us authority
over nothing but our own hearts and wills? How, then, can the Cynic claim
this authority over others, except as an accident? But I forget. Perhaps
Epictetus did not mention to-day his usual doctrine about ‘good’ and
‘evil,’ about ‘peace of mind’ and about the ‘rule’ of our neighbours as
being ‘no evil’ to us. It reappears in almost every lecture. Wait till
you have heard this.

“Again, as to the origin of this authority, the Teacher tells us that
it is given by God—or by Gods, for he uses both expressions. But by
what God or Gods? Is not this a matter of great importance? Wait till
you have heard him on this point. Now I must hasten back to my rooms
to commit my notes to writing while fresh in my memory. We meet in the
lecture-room to-morrow. Meantime, believe me, I most heartily sympathize
with you in your admiration of one whom I account the best of all living
philosophers. I have all your conviction of his sincerity. Assuredly,
whencesoever he derives it, he has in him a marvellous power for good.
The Gods grant that it may last!”



CHAPTER II

EPICTETUS ON THE GODS


Arrian was right in thinking that the next lecture would be on the Gods.
I had come to Nicopolis at the end of one of the lecture-courses, and had
heard its conclusion—the perfecting of the Cynic. The new course began by
describing the purpose of God in making man.

But at the outset the subject was, not God, but the Logos—that word so
untranslateable into our Latin, including as it does suggestions of our
Word, Discourse, Reason, Logic, Understanding, Purpose, Proportion, and
Harmony. Starting from this, Epictetus first said that the only faculty
that could, as it were, behold itself, and theorize about itself, was the
faculty of the Logos, which is also the faculty with which we regard,
and, so to speak, mentally handle, all phenomena. From the Logos, or
Word, he passed to God, as the Giver of this faculty: “It was therefore
right and meet that this highest and best of all gifts should be the
only one that the Gods have placed at our disposal. All the rest they
have not placed at our disposal. Can it be that the Gods did not wish
to place them in our power? For my part, I think that, if they had been
able, they would have entrusted us also with the rest. But they were
absolutely unable. For, being on earth, and bound up with such a body as
this”—and here he made his usual gesture of self-contempt, mocking at his
own lame figure—“how was it possible that we should not be prevented by
these external fetters from receiving those other gifts? But what says
Zeus?”—with that, the halting mortal, turning suddenly round, had become
the Olympian Father addressing a child six years old: “_Epictetus, if it
had been practicable, I would have made your dear little body quite free,
and your pretty little possessions quite free too, and quite at your
disposal. But as it is, don’t shut your eyes to the truth. This little
body is not your very own. It is only a neat arrangement in clay._”

After a pause, the Epictetian Zeus continued as follows, falling from “I”
to “we.” Some of our fellow-scholars declared to Arrian after lecture
that Epictetus could not have meant this change, and they slightly
altered the words in their notes. I prefer to give the difficult words of
Zeus as Arrian took them down and as I heard them: “_But, since I was not
able to do this_, WE _gave you a portion of_ OURSELVES, _this power_”—and
here Epictetus made believe to put a little box into the child’s hand,
adding that it contained a power of pursuing or avoiding, of liking or
disliking—“_Take care of this, and put in it all that belongs to you. As
long as you do this, you will never be hindered or hampered, never cry,
never scold, and never flatter._”

The change from I to WE was certainly curious; and some said that “we
gave,” _edōkamen_, ought to be regarded as two words, _edōka men_, “I
gave on the one hand.” But “on the one hand” made no sense. Nor could
they themselves deny that Epictetus made Zeus say, first, “_I_ was
not able,” and then, “a part of _ourselves_.” I think the explanation
may be this. Epictetus had many ways of looking at the Divine Nature.
Sometimes he regarded it as One, sometimes as Many. When he thought of
God as supporting and controlling the harmonious Cosmos, or Universe,
then God was One—the Monarch or General to whom we all owed loyal
obedience. Often, however, “Gods” were spoken of, as in the expression
“Father of Gods and men,” and elsewhere. Once he reproached himself (a
lower or imaginary self) for repining against the Cosmos because he was
lame, almost as if the Cosmos itself were Providence or God: “Wretched
creature! For the sake of one paltry leg, to impeach the Cosmos!” But
he went on to call the Cosmos “the Whole of Things.” And then he called
on each man to sacrifice some part of himself (a lame man, for example,
sacrificing his lame leg) to the Universe: “What! Will you not make a
present of it (_i.e._ the leg) to the Whole of Things? Let go this leg
of yours! Yield it up gladly to Him that gave it! What! Will you sulk
and fret against the ordinances of Zeus, which He—in concert with the
Fates present at your birth and spinning the thread for you—decreed and
ordained?”

I remember, too, how once, while professing to represent the doctrines
of the philosophers in two sections, he spoke, in the first section, of
“Him,” but in the second, of “Them,” thus: “The philosophers say that we
must in the first place learn this, the existence of _God_, and that _He_
provides for the Universe, and that nothing—whether deed or purpose or
thought—can lie hidden from _Him_. In the next place [we must learn] of
what nature _They_ (_i.e._ the Gods) are. For, of whatever nature _They_
may be found to be, he that would fain please _Them_ and obey [Them] must
needs endeavour (to the best of his ability) to be made like unto _Them_.”

What did he mean by “THEM”? And why did he use THEM directly after
HIM? I believe he did it deliberately. For in the very next sentence
he expressed God in a neuter adjective, “If THE DIVINE [BEING] is
trustworthy, man also must needs be trustworthy.” He seemed to me to
pass from masculine singular to masculine plural and from that to neuter
singular, as much as to say, “Take notice. I use HIM, THEM, and IT in
three consecutive sentences, and all about God, to shew you that God is
not any one of these, but all.”

Similarly, after condemning the attempt of philosophers to please the
rulers of the earth, he said, “I know whom I must needs please, and
submit to, and obey—God and _those next to Him_.” But then he continued
in the singular (“_He_ made me at one with myself” and so on). And I
think I may safely say that I never heard him allow his ideal philosopher
or Cynic to address God in the plural with “ye” or “you.” It was always
“thou,” as in the utterance I quoted above—“Thine were they all and thou
gavest them to me.”

Well, then, whom did he mean by “those next to” God? I think he
referred to certain guardian angels—“daemons” he called them, and so
will I, spelling it thus, so as to distinguish it from “demon” meaning
“devil”—one of whom (he said) was allotted by God to each human being.
This, according to Epictetus, did not exclude the general inspection of
mankind by God Himself: “To each He has assigned a Guardian, the Daemon
of each mortal, to be his guard and keeper, sleepless and undeceivable.
Therefore, whenever you shut your doors and make darkness in the house,
remember never to say that you are alone. For you are not alone. God is
in the house, and your Daemon is in the house. And what need have these
of light to see what you are doing?”

This guardian Daemon, or daemonic Guardian, was said by some of our
fellow-scholars to be the portion of the divine Logos within us, in
virtue of which our Teacher distinguished men from beasts. Notably did he
once make this distinction—in answer to some imaginary questioner, who
was supposed to class man with irrational animals because he is subject
to animal necessities. “Cattle,” replied Epictetus, “are works of God,
but not preeminent, and certainly not parts of God; but thou”—turning to
the supposed opponent—“art a fragment broken off from God; thou hast in
thyself a part of Him. Why then ignore thy noble birth? Why dost thou not
recognise whence thou hast come? Wilt thou not remember, in the moment of
eating, what a Being thou art—thou that eatest—what a Being it is that
thou feedest? Wilt thou not recognise what it is that employs thy senses
and thy faculties? Knowest thou not that thou art feeding God, yea,
taking God with thee to the gymnasium? God, God dost thou carry about,
thou miserable creature, and thou knowest it not!”

We were rather startled at this. In what sense could a miserable creature
“carry about God”? Epictetus proceeded, “Dost thou fancy that I am
speaking of a god of gold or silver, an outside thing? It is within
thyself that thou carriest Him. And thou perceivest not that thou art
defiling Him with impure purposes and filthy actions! Before the face of
a mere statue of the God thou wouldst not dare to do any of the deeds
thou art daily doing. Yet in the presence of the God Himself, within
thee, looking at all thy acts, listening to all thy words and thoughts,
thou art not ashamed to continue thinking the same bad thoughts and doing
the same bad deeds—blind to thine own nature and banned by God’s wrath!”

From this it appeared that the Daemon in each man was good and veritably
God, and turned men towards God and goodness; but that some did not
perceive the presence and were deaf to the voice. These were “miserable
wretches” and “banned by God’s wrath.” Thus in some sense, the same
God seemed to be the cause of virtue in some but of vice in others.
This accorded with a saying of Epictetus on another occasion that God
“ordained that there should be summer and winter, fruitfulness and
fruitlessness, _virtue and vice_.” Then the question arose, To how many
did the Logos of God bring virtue and to how many did it result in vice?
And again, Did it bring virtue to as many as the Logos of God, or God,
desired? Or was He unable to fulfil His desire, as in the case of that
imaginary opponent, for example, so that the Supreme would have to say
to him, as to Epictetus, “If I could have, I would have. But now, make
no mistake. I could not bring virtue unto thee.” I was disposed to think
that Epictetus would have laid the blame on the opponent, who, he would
have said, might have obeyed the Logos in himself, if he had chosen to
do so. According to our Teacher’s doctrine, God would say to this man
nothing more cruel, or less just, than He says to all, “I could not
force virtue on thee, nor on any man. If I forced virtue on thee, virtue
would cease to be virtue and God would cease to be God.” But still the
uneasy feeling came to me—not indeed at the time of this lecture (or at
least not to any great extent) but afterwards—that the God of Epictetus
was hampered by what Epictetus called “the clay,” which He “would have
liked” to make immortal, if He “had been able.” What if each man’s “clay”
was different? Who made the clay? What if God controlled nothing more
than the shaping of the clay, and this, too, only in conjunction with
the Fates? What if the Fates alone were responsible for the making of
the clay? In that case, must not the Fates be regarded as higher Beings,
even above the Maker of the Cosmos—higher in some sense, but bad Beings
or weak Beings, spoiling the Maker’s work by supplying Him with bad
material so that He could not do what He would have liked to have done?

Epictetus, I subsequently found, would never see difficulties of this
kind. He represented the Supreme as a great stage manager, allotting
to all their appropriate parts: “Thou art the sun; go on thy rounds,
minister to all things. Thou art a heifer; when the lion appears, play
thy part, or suffer for it. Thou art a bull; fight as champion of the
herd. Thou canst lead the host against Ilium; be thou Agamemnon. Thou
canst cope with Hector; be thou Achilles.” He did not add, “Thou canst
spit venom and slander against the good and great; be thou Thersites.”
But I did not think of that at the time.

For the moment, I was carried away by the fervour of the speaker. “He,”
I said, “has been a slave, the slave of Nero’s freedman; he has seen
things at their worst; and yet he believes that virtue, freedom, and
peace, are placed by God in the power of all that will obey the Logos,
His gift, within their hearts!” So I believed it, or persuaded myself
that I believed it. Epictetus insisted, in the strongest terms, that the
divine Providence extends to all. “God,” he said, “does not neglect a
single one, even of the least of His creatures.” Stimulating us to _be_
good instead of _talking_ about being good, he exclaimed, “How grand
it is for each of you to be able to say, _The very thing that people
are solemnly arguing about in the schools as an impossible ideal, that
very thing I am accomplishing. They are, in effect, expatiating on my
virtues, investigating me, and singing my praises. Zeus has been pleased
that I should receive from my own self a demonstration of the truth of
this ideal, while He Himself tests and tries me to see whether I am a
worthy soldier of His army, and a worthy citizen of His city. At the same
time it has been His pleasure to bring me forward that I may testify
concerning the things that lie outside the will, and that I may cry aloud
to the world, ‘Behold, O men, that your fears are idle! Vain, all vain,
are your greedy and covetous desires. Seek not the Good in the outside
world! Seek it in yourselves! Else, ye will not find it.’ Engaging me
for such a mission, and for such a testimony as this, God now leads me
hither, now sends me thither; exhibits me to mankind in poverty, in
disease—ruler in fact but no ruler in the eyes of men—banishes me to the
rocks of Gyara, or drags me into prison or into bonds! And all this, not
hating me. No, God forbid! Who can hate his own best and most faithful
servant? No, nor neglecting me. How could He? For He does not neglect
the meanest of His creatures. No, He is training and practising me, He
is employing me as His witness to the rest of mankind. And I, being set
down by Him for such high service as this—can I possibly find time to
entertain anxieties about where I am, or with whom I am living, or what
men say about me? How can I fail to be, with my whole might and my whole
being, intent on God, and on His commandments and ordinances?_”

I noted with pleasure here the words, “He does not neglect the meanest
of His creatures.” To the same effect elsewhere, speaking of Zeus, he
said, “In very truth, the universal frame of things is badly managed
unless Zeus takes care of all His own citizens, in order that they may be
blessed like unto Himself.” A little before this, he said about Hercules,
“He left his children behind him without a groan or regret—not as though
he were leaving them orphans, for he knew that no man is an orphan,”
because Zeus is “Father of men.”

In all these passages describing the fatherhood of God and the sonship
of man, Epictetus spoke of virtue as being, by itself, a sufficient
reward, in respect of the ineffable peace that it brings through
the consciousness of being united to God. But how long this union
lasted, and whether its durability was proof against death—as Socrates
taught—about this he had hitherto said nothing. The Cynic, he again and
again insisted, was God’s son; but he did not insist that the son was
as immortal as the Father. Sometimes indeed he described the man of
temperance and self-control as “banqueting at the table of the Gods.”
Still more, the man that had passed beyond temperance into contempt of
earthly things—a rank to which Arrian and I did not aspire—such a Cynic
as this he extolled as being not only fellow-guest with the Gods but also
fellow-ruler. These expressions reminded me of what we used to learn by
heart in Rome concerning the man described by Horace as “just and firm
of purpose.” The poet likened him to Hercules transported aloft to the
fiery citadel of heaven, and to the Emperor Augustus drinking nectar
at the table of the Gods. But this was said about Augustus while he
was still alive; and the poem did not seem to me to prove that Horace
believed in the immortality of the soul. However, what Epictetus said
about that will appear hereafter. For the present, I must explain why the
teaching of Epictetus concerning the Gods, although it carried me away
for a time, caused me bewilderment in the end, and made me feel the need
of something beyond.



CHAPTER III

ARRIAN ON THE OATH OF THE CHRISTIANS


Up to the time of my coming to Nicopolis, my faith in the Gods had been
like that of most official and educated Romans. First I had a literary
belief not only in Zeus but also in Apollo, Athene, Demeter, and the rest
of the Gods and Goddesses of Homer, tempered by a philosophic feeling
that some of the Homeric and other myths about them, and about the less
beautiful divinities, were not true, or were true only as allegories.
In the next place I had a Roman or official belief in the destiny of
the empire, and a recognition that its unity was best maintained by
tolerating the worships of any number of national Gods and Goddesses;
provided they did not tend to sedition and conspiracy, nor to such vices
as were in contravention of the laws. Lastly, I recognised as the belief
of many philosophers—and was myself half inclined to believe—that One
God, or Zeus, so controlled the whole of things that it would hardly be
atheistic if I sometimes regarded even Apollo, and Athene, and others,
as personifying God’s attributes rather than as being Gods and Goddesses
in themselves—although I myself, without scruple and in all willingness,
should have offered them both worship and sacrifice. Personally, apart (I
think) from the influences of childhood, I always shrank from definitely
believing that the One God ever had been, or ever could be, “alone.”

It was with these confused opinions or feelings that I became a pupil of
Epictetus. And at first, whatever he asserted about God, or the Gods,
he made me believe it—as long as he was speaking. When he said “God,”
or “Zeus,” or “Father,” or “HIM,” or “THEM,” or “Providence,” or “The
Divine Being,” or “The Nature of All Things,” or whatever else, he
dragged me as it were to the new Name, and made me follow as a captive
and do it homage. But afterwards there came a reaction. The limbs of
my mind, so to speak, became tired of being dragged. I longed for rest
and found none. My homage, too, was dissipated by distraction. When
he repeated as he often did—addressing each one of us individually,
and therefore (I assumed) me among the rest—“Thou carriest about God,”
he seemed to say to me, “Look within thyself for Him whom thou must
worship.” That was not helpful, it was the reverse of helpful—at least,
to me. I felt vaguely then (and now as a Christian I know) that men have
need not only to look within, but also (and much more) to look up—up to
the Father in heaven with the aid of His Spirit on earth. It was due to
Epictetus that at this time I—however faintly—began to feel this need.

Epictetus seemed to have no consistent view either of the unity of God
or of the possibility of plural Gods. In Rome, we have three altars to
the Goddess Febris, or Fever. Epictetus once referred to Febris in the
reply of a philosopher to a tyrant. The latter says, “I have power to
cut off your head”; the former replies, “You are in the right. I quite
forgot that I must pay you homage as people do to Fever and Cholera, and
erect an altar to you, _as indeed in Rome there is an altar to Fever_.”
It was hardly possible to mistake the Master’s mockery of this worship.
On the other hand, he was bitterly sarcastic against those who denied the
existence of Demeter, the Koré her daughter, and Pluto the husband of
the Koré. These deities our Master regarded as representing bread. “O,
the gratitude,” he exclaimed, “O, the reverence of these creatures! Day
by day they eat bread; and yet they have the face to say ‘We do not know
whether there is any such a being as Demeter, or the Koré, or Pluto!’” It
never seemed to occur to him that the worshippers of Febris might retort
on him, “Day by day scores of people in Rome have the fever, and yet you
have the face to say to us Romans, ‘I do not know whether there is any
such a being as Febris or Cholera!’”

I think he never spoke of Poseidon, Ares, or Aphrodite, and hardly ever
of Apollo. Even Athene he mentioned only thrice in Arrian’s hearing
(so he told me), twice speaking of her statue by Phidias, and once
representing Zeus as bemoaning His solitude (according to some notion,
which he ridiculed) after a universal conflagration of gods and men and
things, “Miserable me! I have neither Hera, nor Athene, nor Apollo!” It
was for Zeus alone, as God, that our Teacher reserved his devotion. And
for Him he displayed a passionate enthusiasm, the absolute sincerity of
which it never entered into my mind to question; nor do I question it
now. Under this God he served as a soldier, or lived as a citizen. To
this God he testified as a witness that others might believe and worship.
In this view of human life—as being a testimony to God—his teaching was
most convincing to me, even when I felt, as I always did, that something
was wanting in any conception of God that regarded Him as ever being
“alone.”

Now I pass to another matter, not of great interest to me at the time,
but of great importance to me in its results, because it led to my first
knowledge—that could be called knowledge—of the followers of the Lord
Jesus Christ. It arose from a passage in the lecture I described in my
last chapter. Epictetus was speaking about “the whole frame of things” as
being a kind of fluid, in which the thrill of one portion affects all the
rest, and about God and the Guardian Dæmon as feeling our every motion
and thought. He concluded by calling on us to take an oath—a military
oath, or _sacramentum_, as we call it in Latin—such as soldiers take to
the Emperor. “They,” he said, “taking on themselves the life of service
for pay, swear to prefer above all things the safety of Cæsar. You, who
have been counted worthy of such vast gifts, will you not likewise swear,
and, after taking your oath, abide by it? And what shall the oath be?
Never to disobey, never to accuse, never to find fault with any of the
gifts that have been given by Him; never to do reluctantly, never to
suffer reluctantly, anything that may be necessary. This oath is like
theirs—after a fashion. The soldiers of Cæsar swear not to prefer another
to him; God’s soldiers swear to prefer themselves to everything.”

On me this came somewhat as bathos. But it was a frequent paradox with
him; and of course, in one sense, it was not a paradox but common sense.
What he meant by bidding us “prefer _ourselves_” was “prefer _virtue_,”
which he always described as each man’s true “profit.” Everyone, he
said, must prefer his own “profit” to everything else, even to father,
brothers, children, wife. Zeus Himself—so he taught—prefers His own
“profit”—which consists in being Father of all. Take away this thin
veil of apparent egotism, and the oath might be described as an oath to
live and die for righteousness, for the Logos or Word of God within us,
and, thus, for God Himself. But why, I thought, disguise loyalty under
the mask of self-seeking? This notion of a military oath taken to God,
and at the same time to oneself—and an oath, so to speak, of negative
allegiance, not to do this or that—did not inspire me with the same
enthusiasm as the more positive doctrine and the picture of the wandering
Cynic going about the world and actively doing good and destroying evil.

Arrian, however, was taking down this passage about the military oath
with even more than his usual earnestness and rapidity. “Did that impress
you?” said I, as we left the lecture-room together. “On me it fell a
little flat.” He did not answer at once. Presently, as if rousing himself
from a reverie, “Forgive me,” he said, “I was thinking of something that
occurred in our neighbourhood about fifteen years ago. You know I was
born in Bithynia. Well, about that time, there was a great outbreak of
that Jewish superstition of which you must often have heard in Rome,
practised by the followers of Christus. They are suspected of all sorts
of horrible crimes and abominations, as you know, I dare say, better than
I do, being familiar with what the common people say about them in Rome.
Moreover the new work just published by your Tacitus—a lover of truth
if any man is—severely condemns them. I am bound to say our Governor
did not think so badly of them as Tacitus does. Perhaps in Rome and in
Nero’s time they were more savage and vicious than among us in Bithynia
recently. However, that matters little. The question was not about
their private vices or virtues. Our Governor believed them guilty of
treasonable conspiracy. So he determined to stop it.

“Stop it he did; or, at all events, to a very great extent. But the
point of interest for me is, that when these fellows were had up before
our Governor—it was Caius Plinius Cæcilius Secundus, an intimate
friend of the Emperor Trajan—he found there was really no mischief at
all to be apprehended from them. Secundus had heard something about a
_sacramentum_, or military oath—and this is my point—which these people
were in the habit of taking at their secret meetings. Naturally this
convinced him at first that there must be something wrong. But, when he
came to look into it, the whole thing came to no more than what I will
now tell you. I am sure of my facts for I heard them from his secretary,
who had a copy of his letter to the Emperor. It was to this effect,
‘_They affirm that the sum total of their crime or error is, that they
were wont, on an appointed day, to meet together before daybreak and to
sing an alternate chant to Christus, as to a God, and to bind themselves
by an oath—not, as conspirators do, to commit some crime in common,
but to avoid committing theft, robbery, adultery, fraud, breach of
faith. This done, they break up. It is true they return to take food in
common, but it is a mere harmless repast._’ After the Governor had gone
carefully into the matter, putting a few women to the torture to get at
the truth, he came to the conclusion that this so-called military oath,
or _sacramentum_, had no harm whatever in it. The thing was merely a
perverted superstition run wild. He very sensibly adopted the mild course
of giving the poor deluded people a chance of denying their faith as they
called it. The Emperor sanctioned his mildness. Most of them recanted.
Things settled down, and promised to be very much as they were before. At
least so the Governor thought. We, outside the palace, were not quite so
sanguine. But anyhow, what struck me to-day was the similarity between
the military oath of these Christians and the military oath prescribed by
our great Teacher to his Cynics.”

“But,” said I, “does it not seem to you that our military oath ought
to be a positive one, namely, that we Cynics will go anywhere and do
anything that the General may command—and not a negative one, that we
will abstain from grumbling against His orders?” Arrian replied, “As to
that, I think our Master follows Socrates, who expressly says that he had
indeed a daemon, or at all events a daemonic voice; but that it told him
only what to avoid, not what to do.” “Surely,” replied I, “what Socrates
said on his trial was, ‘How could I be fairly described as introducing
new daemons when saying that _a voice of God manifestly points out to me
what I ought to do_?’” “I do not remember that,” said my friend, “but we
are near my rooms. Come in and let us look into Plato’s Apologia.”

So we went in, and Arrian took out of his book-case Plato’s account of
the Speech of Socrates before the jury that condemned him to death.
“There, Silanus,” said he, “you see I was right.” And he pointed to these
words, “There comes to me, as you have often heard me say, a divine and
daemonic something, which indeed my prosecutor Meletus mentioned and
burlesqued in his written indictment. This thing, in its commencement,
dates back (I believe) from my boyhood, a kind of Voice that comes to me
from time to time, and, whenever it comes, it always”—“Mark this,” said
Arrian—“_turns me back from doing that (whatever it may be) which I am
purposing to do, but never moves me forward_.”

I seemed fairly and fully confuted. But suddenly it occurred to me to ask
my friend to let me see Xenophon’s version of the same speech. He brought
it out. I was not long before I disinterred the very words that I have
quoted above, “_a Voice of God that manifestly points out to me what I
ought to do_.” And the context, too, indicated that the Voice—which he
calls _daemonic_, or a _daemonion_—gave positive directions, recognised
as such by his friends.

This very important difference between Plato and Xenophon in regard to
the daemon of Socrates, as described by Socrates himself, interested
Arrian not a little. “Come back,” he said, “in the evening, when I shall
have finished reducing my notes to writing, and let us put the two
versions side by side and see how many passages we can find agreeing.”
So I came back after sunset, and we sat down and went carefully through
them. And, as far as I remember, we could not find these two great
biographers of this great man agreeing in so much as a dozen consecutive
words in their several records of his Apologia, his only public speech.
Presently—Arrian having Xenophon in his hand and I Plato—I read out the
well-known words of Socrates about Anytus and Meletus, his accusers,
and about their power to kill him but not to hurt him. “What,” said
I, “is Xenophon’s version of this?” “He omits it altogether,” replied
Arrian; “but I see, reading on, that he puts into the mouth of Socrates
an entirely different saying about Anytus, after the condemnation. Let
me see the Plato.” Taking it from my hand, he observed, “Our Master,
Epictetus, who is continually quoting these words of Plato’s, never
quotes them exactly. ‘Anytus and Meletus may kill me but they cannot hurt
me’—that is always his condensed version. But you see it is not Plato’s,
Plato’s is much longer.”

So the conversation strayed away in a literary direction. We talked
a great deal—without much knowledge, at least on my part—about oral
tradition. I remarked on the possibilities in it of astonishing
divergences and distortions of doctrine—“unless,” said I, as I rose up
to go, “it happens, by good fortune, to be taken down at the time by
an honest fellow like you, who loves his teacher, but loves the truth
more, so that he just sets down what he hears, as he hears it.” “I do my
best,” said Arrian; “but if it were not nearly midnight, I could shew you
that even my best is not always good enough. I suspect that such sayings
of our Master as become most current will be very variously reported a
hundred years hence.”

“Good-night,” said I, and was opening the door to depart, when it flashed
upon me that all this time, although we had been discussing Socrates, and
assuming a resemblance between him and our Master, we had said nothing
about that great doctrine in the profession of which Socrates breathed
his last—prescribing a sacrifice to Æsculapius as though death were the
beginning of a higher life—I mean the immortality of the soul. “I will
not stay now,” said I, “but we have not said a word about Epictetus’s
doctrine concerning the immortality of the soul; could you lend me some
of your notes about it?” “He seldom speaks of it,” replied my friend;
“when he does, it is not always easy to distinguish between metaphor and
not-metaphor. My notes, so far, do not quite satisfy me that I have done
him justice. He is likely to touch on it in the next lecture or soon
after. I should prefer you to hear for yourself what he says.”

“One more question,” said I. “Did our Master ever, in your hearing, refer
to that last strange saying of Socrates, ‘We owe a cock to Æsculapius’?
Sometimes it seems to me the finest epigram in all Greek literature.”
“Never,” replied Arrian. “He has never mentioned it either in my hearing,
or in the hearing of those whom I have asked about it. And I have asked
many.”

Departing home I found myself almost at once forgetting our long literary
discussion about oral tradition, in the larger and deeper question
touched on in the last few minutes. Why should not Arrian have been able
to “do justice” to Epictetus in this particular subject? Was it that
our Teacher did not quite “do justice” to himself? Then I began to ask
what Epictetus had meant precisely by such expressions as that men may
become “fellow-banqueters” and even “fellow-rulers” with “the Gods.” “If
God Himself is immortal, how,” said I, “can ‘God’s own son’ fail to be
immortal also?”

All through that night, even till near dawn, I was harassed with wild
and wearying dreams. I travelled, wandering through wilderness after
wilderness in quest of Socrates and nowhere finding him. Wherever I went
I seemed to hear a strange monotonous cry that followed close behind me.
Presently I heard a flapping of wings, and I knew that the sound was the
crowing of the cock that was to be offered for Socrates to Æsculapius.
Then it became a mocking, inarticulate, human voice striving to utter
articulate speech. At last I heard distinctly, “If Zeus could have, he
would have. If he could have, he would have. But he could not.”



CHAPTER IV

SCAURUS ON EPICTETUS AND PAUL


The cock was still crowing when I started out of my dream. It was not
yet dawn but sleep was impossible. When Arrian called to accompany me
to lecture, he found me in a fever and sent in a physician, by whose
advice I stayed indoors for two or three days. During this enforced
inaction, I resolved to write to my old friend Scaurus. Marcus Æmilius
Scaurus—for that was his name in full—had been a friend of my father’s,
years before I was born; and his advice had been largely the cause of my
coming to Nicopolis. Scaurus had seen service; but for many years past he
had devoted himself wholly to literature, not as a rhetorician, nor as
a lover of the poets, but as “a practical historian,” so he called it.
By this he meant to distinguish himself from what he called “ornamental
historians.” “History,” he used to say, “contains truth in a well; and I
like trying to draw it out.”

For a man of nearly seventy, Scaurus was remarkably vigorous in mind
and thought, with large stores of observation and learning, of a sort
not common among Romans of good birth. His favourite motto was, “Quick
to perceive, slow to believe.” I used to think he erred on the side
of believing too little, and his friends used to call him Miso-mythus
or “Myth-hater.” But over and over again, when I had ventured to
discuss with him a matter of documentary evidence, I had found that his
incredulity was justified; so that I had come to admit that there was
some force in his protest, that he ought to be called, not “Myth-hater,”
but “Truth-lover.”

In the year after my fathers death, when I was wasting my time in Rome,
and in danger of doing worse, Scaurus took me to task as befitted my
father’s dearest friend—a cousin also of my mother, who had died while
I was still an infant. He had long desired me to enter the army, and
I should have done so but for illness. Now that my health was almost
restored, he returned to his previous advice, but suggested that, for
the present, I might spend a month or two with advantage in attending
the lectures of Epictetus, of whom he knew something while he was in
Rome, and about whom he had heard a good deal since. When I demurred, and
told him that I had heard a good many philosophers and did not care for
them, he replied, “Epictetus you will not find a common philosopher.” He
pressed me and I yielded.

Since my coming to Nicopolis, I had written once to tell him of my
arrival, and to thank him for advising me to come to so admirable a
teacher. But I had been too much absorbed in the teaching to enter into
detail. Now, having leisure, and knowing his great interest in such
subjects, I wrote to him even more fully than I have done for my readers
above, sending him all my lecture notes; and I asked him what he judged
to be the secret of Epictetus, which made him so different from other
philosophers. Nor did I omit to tell him of my talk with Arrian about the
Christians and their _sacramentum_.

Many days elapsed, and I had been attending lectures again for a long
time, before his letter in reply reached Nicopolis; but I will set it
down here, as also a second letter from him on the same subject. In the
first, Scaurus expressed his satisfaction at my meeting with Arrian (whom
he knew and described as an extremely sensible and promising young man,
likely to get on). He added a hope that I would take precisely Arrian’s
view of the advantage to be derived from philosophy. But a large part
of his letter—much more than I could have wished—was occupied with our
“wonderful discovery” (as he called it) that Plato and Xenophon disagreed
in their versions of the Apologia of Socrates. On this he rallied us as
mere babes in criticism, but, said he, not much more babyish than many
professed critics, who cannot be made to understand that—outside poetry,
and traditions learned by rote, and a few “aculeate sayings” (so he
called them) of philosophers and great men—no two historians ever agree
independently—he laid stress on “_independently_”—for twenty consecutive
words, in recording a speech or dialogue. “I will not lay you a wager,”
said he, “for it would be cheating you. But I will make you an offer.
If you and Arrian, between you, can find twenty identical consecutive
words of Socrates in the whole of Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Plato’s
Dialogues, I will give you five hundred sesterces apiece[1]. Your failure
(for fail you will) ought to strike you as all the more remarkable
because both Plato and Xenophon tell us that Socrates used to describe
himself as ‘_always saying the same things about the same subjects_.’
That one similar saying they have preserved. For the rest, these two
great biographers, writing page upon page of Socratic talk, cannot agree
exactly about ‘_the same things_’ for a score of consecutive words!”

He added more, not of great interest to me, about the credulity of
those who persuaded themselves that Xenophon’s version must be spurious
just because it differed from Plato’s, whereas, said he, this very
difference went to shew that it was genuine, and that Xenophon was
tacitly correcting Plato. But concerning the secret of Epictetus he said
very little—and that, merely in reference to the _sacramentum_ of the
Christians which I mentioned in my first letter. On this he remarked that
Pliny, with whom he had been well acquainted, had never mentioned the
matter to him. “But that,” he said, “is not surprising. His measures to
suppress the Christian superstition did not prove so successful as he
had hoped. Moreover he disliked the whole business—having to deal with
mendacious informers on one side, and fanatical fools or hysterical women
on the other. And I, who knew a good deal more about the Christians than
Pliny did, disliked the subject still more. My conviction is, however,
that your excellent Epictetus—rationalist though he is now, and even less
prone to belief than Socrates—has not been always unscathed by that same
Christian infection (for that is the right name for it).

“Partly, he sympathizes with the Christian hatred or contempt for ‘the
powers of this world’ (to use their phrase) and partly with their
allegiance to one God, whom he and they regard as casting down kings
and setting up philosophers. But there is this gulf between them. The
Christians think of their champion, Christus, as having devoted himself
to death for their sake, and then as having been miraculously raised from
the dead, and as, even now, present among them whenever they choose to
meet together and ‘sing hymns to him as to a God.’ Epictetus absolutely
disbelieves this. Hence, he is at a great disadvantage—I mean, of course,
as a preacher, not as a philosopher. The Christians have their God,
standing in the midst of their daily assemblies, before whom they can
‘corybantize’—to repeat your expression—to their hearts’ content. Your
teacher has nothing—nay, worse than nothing, for he has a blank and feels
it to be a blank.

“What does he do then? He fills the blank with a Hercules or a Diogenes
or a Socrates, and he corybantizes before that. But it is a make-believe,
though an honest one. I have said more than I intended. You know how I
ramble on paper. And the habit is growing on me. Let no casual word of
mine make you doubt that Epictetus is thoroughly honest. But honest men
may be deceived. Be ‘quick in perceiving, slow in believing.’ Keep to
Arrian’s view of a useful and practical life in the world, the world as
it is, not as it might be in Plato’s Republic—which, by the way, would be
a very dull place. Farewell.”

This letter did not satisfy me at all. “Honest men,” I repeated, “may be
deceived.” True, and Scaurus, though honest as the day, is no exception.
To think that Epictetus, _our_ Epictetus—for so Arrian and I used to call
him—had been even for a time under the spell of such a superstition as
this! I had always assumed—and my conversation with Arrian about what
seemed exceptional experiences in Bithynia had done little to shake my
assumption—that the Christians were a vile Jewish sect, morose, debased,
given up to monstrous secret vices, hostile to the Empire, and hateful
to Gods and men. What was the ground for connecting Epictetus with
them? Contempt for rulers? That was no new thing in philosophers. Many
of them had despised kings, or affected to despise them, without any
intention of rebelling against them. What though Epictetus suggested,
in a hyperbolical or metaphorical way, a religious _sacramentum_ for
philosophers? This was quite different from that of the Christians as
mentioned by Arrian. I could not help feeling that, for once, my old
friend had “perceived” little and “believed” much.

Perhaps my reply shewed traces of this feeling. At all events, Scaurus
wrote back, asking whether I had observed in him “a habit of basing
conclusions on slight grounds.” Then he continued “I told you that I
knew a good deal about the Christians. I also know a great deal more
about Epictetus than you suppose. When I was a young man, I attended the
lectures of that most admirable of philosophers, Musonius Rufus. About
the time when I left, Epictetus, then a slave, was brought to the classes
by his master, Epaphroditus; and Rufus, whom I shall always regard with
respect and affection, spoke to me about his new pupil in the highest
terms. Afterwards he often told me how he tried to arm the poor boy with
philosophy against what he would have to endure from such a master. Many
a time have I thought that the young philosopher must have needed all his
Stoic armour, going home from the lecture-room of Rufus to the palace of
Nero’s freedman.

“But I also remember seeing him long before that, when he came one
morning as a mere child not twelve years old, along with Epaphroditus, to
Nero’s Palace. I was then about fourteen or fifteen. After we had left
the Palace—my father and I—we came upon him again on that same evening,
staring at some Christians, smeared with pitch and burning away like so
many flaring torches, to light the Imperial Gardens—one of Nero’s insane
or bestial freaks! I have never been able to forget the sight, and I have
often thought that he could never forget it. Somewhere about that time,
one of the Christian ringleaders, Paulus by name, was put to death. As
happens in such cases, his people began to collect every scrap of his
writings that could be found. A little volume of them came into my hands
some twenty years ago. But long before that date, all through the period
when Epictetus was in Rufus’s classes, the Christian slaves in Rome had
in their hands the letters of this Paulus or Paul. One of them, the
longest, written to the Christians in Rome (a few years before Paul was
brought to the City as a prisoner) goes back as far as sixty years ago.
Some are still earlier. I saw the volume more than once in Cæsar’s Palace
in the days of Vespasian. This Paul was one of the most practical of men,
and his letters are steeped in practical experience. Epictetus, besides
being a great devourer of literature in general, devoured in particular
everything that bore on practical life. The odds are great that he would
have come across the book somewhere among his slave or freedman friends.

“But I do not trust to such mere antecedent probabilities. You must know
that, ever since Epictetus set up as a philosopher, I have followed
his career with interest. Recluse though I am, I have many friends and
correspondents. These, from time to time, have furnished me with notes of
his lectures. Well, when I came to read Paul’s letters, I was prepared to
find in them certain general similarities to Stoic doctrine; for Paul was
a man of Tarsus and might have picked up these things at the University
there. But I found a great deal more. I found particularities, just of
the sort that you find in your lectures. Paul’s actual experiences had
been exactly those of a vagrant Æsculapius or Hercules. Your friend
idealizes the wanderings of Hercules; Paul enacted them. Paul journeyed
from city to city, from continent to continent, everywhere turning
the world upside down—Jerusalem, Damascus, Antioch, Ephesus, Colossæ,
Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Jerusalem again—last of all, Rome.
Everywhere the slaves, the poor, the women, went after him. Everywhere he
came into collision with the rulers of the earth. If he did not proclaim
a war between them and his God, he at all events implied war.

“Now this is just what Epictetus would have liked to do. Only he could
not often get people to take him in the same serious way, because he
had not the same serious business in hand. I verily believe he was not
altogether displeased when the Prefect of the City banished him with
other philosophers of note under Domitian. I know certain philosophers
who actually made money by being thus banished. It was an advertisement
for their lectures. Don’t imagine that _your_ philosopher made, or wished
to make, money. No. But he made influence—which he valued above money.

“However, the Emperors and Prefects after Domitian were not such fools.
They knew the difference between a real revolution and a revolution on
paper. A mere theoretical exaltation of the mind above the body, a mere
scholastic laudation of kingship over the minds of men as superior to
kingship over their bodies—these things kings tolerate; for they mean
nothing but words. But a revolution in the name of a _person_—a person,
too, supposed by fanatics to be living and present in all their secret
meetings, ‘wherever two or three are gathered together,’ for that is
their phrase—this may mean a great deal. A person, regarded in this way,
may take hold of men’s spirits. Missionaries pretending—or, still worse,
believing—that they are speaking in the name of such a person, may lead
crowds of silly folk into all sorts of sedition. They may refuse, for
example, to adore the Emperor’s image and to offer sacrifice to the Gods
of the State; or they might even attempt to subvert the foundations of
society by withholding taxes, or by encouraging or inculcating some
wholesale manumission of slaves. This sort of thing means war, and Paul,
fifty years ago, was actually waging this war. Epictetus longs to be
waging it now. As he cannot, he takes pleasure in urging his pupils
to it, painting an imaginary battle array in which he sees imaginary
soldiers waging, or destined to wage, imaginary conflicts with imaginary
enemies.

“Hence that picturesque contrast (in the lecture you transcribed for
me) between the unmarried and the married Cynic—which, besides the
similarity of thought, contains some curious similarities to the actual
words of Paul. It ran thus, ‘The condition of the times being such as it
is, opposing forces, as it were, being drawn up in line of battle’—that
was his expression. Well, what followed from this non-existent,
hypothetical, imminent conflict? The Philosopher, it seems, must be a
soldier, ‘_undistracted_, wholly devoted to the ministry of God, able to
go about and visit men, not bound fast to private personal duties, not
_entangled_ in conditions of life that he cannot honourably transgress.’
And then he describes at great length a married Cynic dragged down from
his royal throne by the claims and encumbrances of a nursery. Now this
same ‘undistractedness’ (using the very word) of unmarried life Paul
himself has mentioned in a letter to the Corinthians, where he says that
‘owing to the pressing necessity’ of the times, it was good for a man
to be unmarried, and that he wished them to be ‘free from anxiety.’ He
concludes ‘But I speak this for your own profit, not that I may cast
a noose round you but that you may with all seemliness attend on the
Lord _undistractedly_.’ Again, he writes to one of his assistants or
subalterns, ‘Endure hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No one engaged in a campaign is _entangled_’—your friend’s word again—‘in
the affairs of civil life.’

“I lay little stress on the similarity of word, but a great deal on the
similarity of thought. There is no such conflict as Epictetus describes.
There is no such ‘line of battle’—not at least for us, Romans, or for
you, Cynics. But _there is for the Christians_—arrayed as they are
against the authorities of the Empire. And that reminds me of your
Epictetian antithesis between ‘the Beast’ and ‘the Man.’ It is a little
like a Christian tradition about ‘the Beast.’ By ‘the Beast’ they mean
Nero. They have never forgotten his treatment of them after the fire.
For a long time after his death they had a notion—I believe some of them
have it still—that the Beast may rise from the dead and persecute them
again. They also expect—I cannot do more than allude to their fantastic
dreams—a sort of ‘Son of Man’ to appear on the clouds taking vengeance on
the armies of the Beast. So, you see, they, too, recognise an opposition
between the Man and the Beast. Only, with the Christians it is of a date
much earlier than Epictetus. It goes back to a Jewish tradition, which
represents a sort of opposition between the empires of Beasts and the
empire of the Son of Man, in a prophet named Daniel, some centuries ago.

“Epictetus, of course, does not believe in all this. But still he
persuades himself that there is such a ‘line of battle’ in the air,
and that he and his followers can take part in this aerial conflict
by ‘going about the world’ as spiritually armed warriors, making
themselves substantially miserable—or what the world would call
such—while championing the cause of unsubstantial good against evil. All
that you wrote to me about the missionary life and its hardships—its
destitution, homelessness, nakedness, yes, even the extraordinary phrase
you added from Arrian’s notes about the cudgelled Cynic, how he ‘must
be cudgelled like a donkey, and, in the act of being cudgelled, must
love his cudgellers as being the father of all and brother of all’—all
this I could match, in a compressed form, from a passage in my little
Pauline volume. Here it is: ‘_For I think that God has made a show of us
Missionaries_’—Missionaries, or Apostles, that is their name for their
wandering Æsculapii—‘_like condemned criminals in the arena. We have been
made a theatre-show to the universe, to angels and men …:—up to this
very moment, hungering, thirsting, naked, buffeted, driven from place
to place, toiling and labouring with our own hands. Reviled, we bless;
persecuted, we endure. Men imprecate evil on us, we exhort them to their
good. We have been made as the refuse of the universe, the offscouring of
all, up to this very moment._’

“Again, elsewhere, Paul brings in that same Epictetian contrast between
the external misery and the internal joy of the Missionary: ‘_Never
needlessly offending anyone in anything, lest the Service_’—which your
philosopher calls ‘the service of God’—‘_be reproached, but in everything
commending ourselves as the Servants of God, in much endurance, in
tribulations, in necessities, in hardships, in scourgings, in prisons,
in tumults, in toils, in watchings, in fastings_.’ Now comes the
contrast, indicating that all these things are superficial trifles,
the petty pin-pricks inflicted by the spite of the contemptible world,
but underneath lie the solid realities:—‘_in purity, in knowledge, in
longsuffering, in kindness and goodness, in the holy spirit, in love
unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God_.’

“This leads Paul to the thought of the armour of God, and the friends and
enemies of God, the good and the evil, which this wandering Christian
Hercules has to deal with: ‘_By the arms of righteousness, on the right
hand and on the left; by glory and dishonour; by ill report and good
report_—,’ he means, I think, ‘glory in the sight of God, dishonour
in the sight of men,’ and again, ‘ill report on earth, good report in
heaven.’ And so he continues, ‘_as knaves and true_’—that is, ‘knaves in
appearance, in the world’s false judgment, but true men in the sight of
Him who judges truly.’ It is a marvel of compression. And it is kept up
in what follows:—‘_misunderstood_ [_i.e._ by men] _and well understood_
[_i.e._ by God]; _dying, and behold we live; under the headsman’s
scourge, yet not beheaded; grieving, but always rejoicing; beggars, but
making many rich; having nothing, yet having all things for ever!_’

“You will be tired of this. But your zeal for your new teacher brought
it on you. You admire his ‘fervour.’ Then what do you think of this
man’s fervour? He could give points to Epictetus both for fervour and
for compression. I admit that Paul has not your master’s dramatic flash,
irony, and epigrammatic twist. But, as for ‘fervour,’ here, I contend,
is the original Falernian, which your friend Epictetus has watered down.
Not that I blame him, either as regards style or in respect of morality.
His humorous description of the nursery troubles of the married Stoic
was very good—for his purpose, and for a lecture. But it would not have
suited Paul. A lecturer must not be too brief. If Epictetus were to pack
stuff in his lectures as Paul packs it in his epistles, your lesson would
sometimes not last five minutes.

“But I am straying from the question, which is, whether Epictetus
borrowed. Let me give you another instance. The Christians are permeated
with two notions, the first is, that they have received an ‘invitation,’
‘summons,’ or ‘calling’ (_Klēsis_ they call it) to a heavenly Feast in
a Kingdom of Heaven. The second is, that, if they are to attain to this
Feast, they must pass through suffering and persecution, by ‘witnessing’
or ‘testifying’ to Christ, as being their King, in opposition to the Gods
of the Romans. This ‘witness,’ or _martyria_, is so closely associated in
their minds with the notion of persecution that ‘martyrdom,’ with them,
has come to imply, almost always, death. Now, as far as I know, the
Greeks do not anywhere use the word ‘calling’ in this sense. But look at
what Epictetus says about a sham philosopher, who, having been ‘called’
by God to be a beggar, ‘disgraces his _calling_’: ‘How then dost thou
mount the stage now? It is in the character of a witness _called_ by God,
who says “Come thou, and bear witness to me.”’ Then the sham philosopher
whines out, ‘I am in a terrible strait, O Lord, and most unfortunate.
None take thought for me; none give to me. All blame me. All speak evil
of me.’ To which Epictetus replies, ‘Is this the witness thou wouldst
bear, _bringing shame on the calling wherewith He hath called thee_, in
that He honoured thee with so great an honour, and counted thee _worthy_
to be promoted to the high task of such a witnessing?’ Now this phrase,
‘worthy of the calling,’ is Pauline in thought, and Pauline in word. Here
is an instance, from a letter to the Thessalonians, ‘That our God would
_count you worthy of the calling_.’ And Paul writes to the Ephesians,
‘That ye walk _worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called_.’

“Again, you yourself remarked to me on the strangeness and originality
of Epictetus’s expression about ‘eating,’ namely, that, in the very act
of eating, or going to the gymnasium, or whatever else, the philosopher
was to remember that he was ‘feeding on God’ and ‘carrying about God,’
and that he must not ‘defile’ the image of the God within him. Well, I
admit it is strange, but I do not admit that it is original. I can match
it in the first place with another passage from Epictetus himself, where
he bids some of his uppish pupils, who wished to reform the world, first
to reform themselves. ‘In this way,’ he said, ‘when eating, help those
who eat with you; when drinking, those who drink with you.’ In the next
place, I can match both out of the letter to the Corinthians, which says,
‘Ye are _God’s temple_,’ and ‘If anyone destroys _God’s temple_, him will
God destroy,’ and again, ‘Your body is _the temple of the Holy Spirit_,
which ye have from God.’ It adds that people cause shame to others and
injury to themselves by greediness at the sacred meals they take in
common; and lastly, says Paul, ‘_Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or
whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God._’ There are things like
this, of course, in Seneca, but none, as far as I know, that come so near
as Epictetus does to the language of Paul.

“I could quote more from Paul, and also from other sacred books of the
Christians, to shew that Epictetus is indebted to them. But I have been
already led on by the fascination—to me it is a fascination—of a merely
literary discussion, to say more than enough, and a great deal more
than I intended. Let me conclude with an extract from a letter I lately
rummaged up from my dear old friend Pliny, whom I greatly miss. He was
the former Governor of Bithynia about whom you wrote. It refers to a
very fine fellow, Artemidorus by name, a military tribune, son-in-law of
the excellent Musonius (Epictetus’s teacher, whom I mentioned above).
‘Among the whole multitude of those who in these days call themselves
philosophers, you will hardly find one so sincere, genuine, and true,
as Artemidorus. I say nothing about his bodily endurance of heat and
cold and the most arduous toil, of his indifference to the pleasures of
the table, of the strict control with which he keeps his eyes and his
passions in order. These are great virtues, but only great in others. In
him they are but trifles compared with his other merits.’

“So wrote Pliny. Well, for me at all events, ‘to keep eyes and passions
in order’ is not ‘a trifle.’ Perhaps it is not ‘a trifle’ for you. I
fully believe that Musonius’s successor—for as such I regard Epictetus—in
spite of some opinions in which I cannot quite follow him, will help you
to attain this object. Give yourself wholly to that. I knew Artemidorus.
So did your father. We both thought him the model of a soldier and a
gentleman. Believe me, my dear Quintus, it would be one of the greatest
comforts in my last moments if I could feel assured that—to some slight
extent in consequence of advice from me—the son of my old friend Decimus
Junius Silanus was following in the footsteps of one whom he so esteemed
and admired. Farewell.”

This was the end of the letter. But out of it dropped a paper containing
a sealed note. On the paper were these words: “To convince you that I
had not judged your philosopher unfairly, I transcribed a few passages
from other Christian documents, containing words assigned by Christians
to Christ himself, which seem to me to have influenced Epictetus. On
second thoughts, I have come to think it was waste of my time. That it
might not waste yours too, I was on the point of throwing the thing into
the fire. But I decided to send it rather than let you suppose me to be
a crotchety, suspicious, prejudiced old man, ungenerous towards one whom
both you and I respect with all our hearts. I grant that I am slow to
believe in new _facts_; but I need hardly assure you, my dearest Quintus,
that I am not slow to believe in good _motives_—the motives of good men,
tried, tested, and proved, by such severe trials as have befallen your
admirable Master. Rather than suspect me thus, break the seal and read
it at once. But I hope you will not want to read it. Discussions of this
sort must not be allowed to distract your energies as they might do.
Better burn it. Or keep it—till you are military tribune.”

[1] In “Notes on Silanus,” 2809_a_, the author repeats this offer.



CHAPTER V

EPICTETUS ALLUDES TO JEWS


I did not open the sealed note, though I was not convinced that Epictetus
had been a borrower. Paulus the Christian had begun to interest me,
because of Scaurus’s quotations and remarks on his style. Indeed he
interested me so much that I determined at once to procure a copy of his
letters. But Christus himself—whom I call Christus here to distinguish
the meaning with which I used the name then from that with which I began
to use the name of “Christ” soon afterwards—Christus, I say, at that
moment, did not interest me at all.

Moreover I was impressed by what Scaurus said about a military career.
Though too young to remember much about the shameful days of Domitian,
yet I had heard my father describe the anguish he used to feel, when
letters from the Emperor to the Senate came announcing a glorious victory
(duly honoured with a triumph) after which would come a private letter
from Scaurus informing him that the victory was a disgraceful defeat.
And even later on, even after the successes of Trajan, my father, in
conversations with Scaurus, had often expressed, in my hearing, still
lingering apprehensions of a time when the barbarians might break in like
a flood upon the northern borders of the empire—if ever the imperial
throne were cursed with a second Domitian. Patriotism would be even more
needed then, he said, than when Marius beat back the Cimbri. All this
gave additional weight to Scaurus’s remarks. “Artemidorus,” I said,
“shall be my model. I will try to be a good soldier and a good Stoic in
one.” So I locked up the note, still sealed.

Here I may say that afterwards, when I did open it, it did not greatly
influence the course of my thoughts. By that time, I had come to think
that Scaurus was right, and that Epictetus had really borrowed from the
Christians. I opened it, therefore, not because I distrusted the fairness
and soundness of his judgment, but because I trusted it and looked to
him for information. As a fact, it rather confirmed his hypothesis of
borrowing, but did not demonstrate anything. The real influence of that
little note in my cabinet amounted, I think, to little more than this.
In the period I am now about to describe, while daily studying the works
of Paulus the Christian, I was beginning to ask myself “If Paulus the
follower of Christus was so great a teacher, must not Christus have
been greater?” In those days, when taking out Paul’s epistles from my
bookcase, I used often to see that packet lying there, with WORDS OF
CHRISTUS on it, and the seal unbroken. Then I used to say “If only I
could make up my mind to open you, you might tell me wonderful things.”
This stimulated my curiosity. It was one of many things—some little, some
great—that led me toward my goal.

The reader may perhaps think that I, a Roman of equestrian rank, must
have been already more prone to the Christian religion than I have
admitted, if I attempted to procure a copy of Paul’s epistles from a
bookseller in Nicopolis frequented by my fellow-students. But I made no
such attempt. Possibly our bookseller there would not have had a copy.
Probably he would not have confessed it if he had. In any case, I did
not ask him. It happened that I needed at this time certain philosophic
treatises (of Chrysippus and others). So I wrote to a freedman of my
father’s in Rome, an enterprising bookseller, who catered for various
tastes, giving him the titles of these works and telling him how to
prepare and ornament them. Then I added that Æmilius Scaurus had sent me
some remarkable extracts from the works of one Paulus, a Christian, and
that the volume seemed likely to be interesting as a literary curiosity.
This was perhaps a little understating the case. But not much. With
Flaccus, my Roman bookseller, I felt quite safe. Rather than buy Paul’s
epistles from Sosia in Nicopolis, I am sure I should not have bought
them at all. Such are the trifles in our lives on which sometimes our
course may depend—or may seem to have depended.

Meantime I had been attending lectures regularly and had become familiar
with many of Epictetus’s frequently recurring expressions of doctrine.
They were still almost always interesting, and generally impressive.
But his success in forcing me to “feel, for the moment, precisely what
he felt”—how often did I recognise the exact truth of this phrase of
Arrian’s!—made me begin to distrust myself. And from distrust of myself
sprang distrust of his teaching, too, when I found the feeling fade away
(time after time) upon leaving the lecturer’s presence. When I sat down
in my rooms to write out my notes, asking myself, “Can I honestly say
I hope to be ever able to do this or that?” how often was I obliged to
answer, “No!”

I could not trust his judgment about what we should be able to do,
because I could not trust his insight into what we were. Two causes
seemed to keep him out of sympathy with us. One was his own singular
power of bearing physical pain—almost as though he were a stone and not
flesh and blood. He thought that we had the same, or ought to have it.
Another cause was his absorption in something that was not human, in
a conception of God, whom (on some evidence clear to him but not made
clear by him to us, or at all events not to me) he _knew_ (not trusted
or believed, but _knew_) to have bestowed on him, Epictetus, the power
of being at once—not in the future, but at once, here on earth, at all
times, and in all circumstances—perfectly blessed. Having his eyes fixed
on this Supreme Giver of Peace, our Master often seemed to me hardly
able to bring himself to look down to us, except when he was chiding our
weakness.

Passing over several of the lectures that left me in the condition
I have endeavoured to describe, I will now come to the one in which
Epictetus alluded to Christians. “Jews” he called them. But he defined
them in such a way as to convince Arrian that he meant Christians. Even
if he did not, the impression produced on me was the same as if he had
actually mentioned them by name. The lecture began with the subject of
“steadfastness.” “A practical subject, this,” I said to myself, “for one
in training to be a second Artemidorus.” But the “steadfastness” was not
of the sort demanded in camps and battlefields. The essence of good, said
the lecturer, is right choice, and that of evil a wrong choice. External
things are not in our power, internal things are: “This Law God has laid
down, _If thou wilt have good, take it from thyself_.” Then followed one
of the now familiar dialogues, of which I was beginning to be a little
tired, between a tyrant threatening a philosopher, who points out that
he cannot possibly be threatened. The tyrant stares and says, “I will
put you in chains.” The wise man replies, “It is my hands and feet that
you threaten.” “I will cut off your head,” shouts the tyrant. “It is my
head that you threaten,” replies the philosopher. After a good deal more
of this, a pupil is supposed to ask, “Does not the tyrant threaten _you_
then?” To this the lecturer replies, “Yes, if I fear these things. But
if I have a feeling and conviction that these things are nothing to me,
then I am not threatened.” Then he appealed to us, “Of whom do I stand
in fear? What things must he be master of to make me afraid? Do you say,
‘The master of things that are in your power’? I reply, ‘There is no such
master.’ As for things not in my power, what are they to me?”

Epictetus had a sort of rule or canon for us beginners, by which we were
to take the measure of the so-called evils of life: “Make a habit of
saying at once to every harsh-looking apparition of this sort, ‘You are
an apparition and not at all the thing you appear to be. Are you of the
number of the things in my power, or are you not? If not, you are nothing
to me.’” Applying this to a concrete instance, our Master now dramatized
a dialogue between himself and Agamemnon, who is supposed to be passing
a sleepless night in anxiety for the Greeks, lest the Trojans should
destroy them on the morrow.

“_Epict._ What! Tearing your hair! And you say your heart leaps in
terror! And all for what? What is amiss with you? Money-matters?

“_Ag._ No.

“_Epict._ Health?

“_Ag._ No.

“_Epict._ No indeed! You have gold and silver to spare. What then
is amiss with you? That part of you has been neglected and utterly
corrupted, wherewith we desire etc. etc.”

Here Epictetus—after some customary technicalities—turned to us like a
showman, to explain the royal puppet’s condition: “‘How _neglected_?’
you ask. He does not know the essence of the Good for which he has been
created by nature, nor the essence of evil. He cries out, ‘Woe is me, the
Greeks are in peril’ because he has not learned to distinguish what is
really his own etc. etc.” After this apostrophe, which I have condensed,
he resumed the dialogue:

“_Ag._ They are all dead men. The Trojans will exterminate them.

“_Epict._ And if the Trojans do not kill them, they are never, never to
die, I suppose!!

“_Ag._ O, yes, they’ll die. But not at one blow, not to a man, like this.

“_Epict._ What difference does it make? If dying is an evil, then,
surely, whether they die all together or one by one, it is equally an
evil. And do you really think that dying will be anything more than the
separating of the paltry body from the soul?

“_Ag._ Nothing more.

“_Epict._ And you, when the Greeks are in the act of perishing, is the
door of escape shut for you? Is it not open to you to die?

“_Ag._ It is.

“_Epict._ Why then bewail? Bah! You, a king! And with the sceptre of
Zeus, too! A king is never unfortunate, any more than God is unfortunate.
What then are you? A shepherd in truth! For you weep, like the
shepherds—when a wolf carries off one of their sheep. And these Greeks
are fine sheep to submit to being ruled over by you. Why did you ever
begin this Trojan business? Was your desire imperilled etc. etc.?” [Here
I omit more technicalities.]

“_Ag._ No, but my brother’s darling wife was carried away.

“_Epict._ And was not that a great blessing, to be deprived of a ‘darling
wife’ who was an adulteress?

“_Ag._ Were we then to submit to be trampled on by the Trojans?

“_Epict._ Trojans? What are the Trojans? Wise or foolish? If wise, why
make war against them? If foolish, why care for them?”

I doubt whether Epictetus quite carried his class with him on this
occasion. He certainly did not carry me, though he went on consistently
pouring out various statements of his theory. For the first time in my
experience of his lectures, I began to feel that his reiterations were
really tedious. My thoughts strayed. I found myself questioning whether
my model soldier and philosopher, Artemidorus, could possibly accept this
teaching. Would Trajan, I asked, have been so sure of beating Decebalus,
if he had considered the disgrace of Rome a matter “independent of
choice,” and therefore “nothing to him,” “neither good nor evil”?

From this reverie I was roused by a sudden transition—to a picture of
a well-trained youth going forth to a conflict worthy of his mettle.
And now, I thought, we shall have something more like the ideal of my
first lecture, a Hercules or Diogenes, going about to help and heal.
But perhaps Epictetus drew a distinction between a Diogenes and mere
well-trained youths, mere beginners in philosophy. At all events, what
followed was only a kind of catechism to prepare us against adversity,
and especially against official oppression. “Whenever,” said he, “you are
in the act of going into the judgment hall of one in authority, remember
that there is also Another from above, taking note of what is going on,
and that you must please Him rather than the authority on earth.” This
catechism he threw into the form of a dialogue between the youth and
God—whom he called “Another.”

“_Another._ Exile, prison, bonds, death, and disgrace—what used you to
call these things in the Schools?

“_Pupil._ I? Things indifferent.

“_Another._ Well, then, what do you call them now? Can it be that _they_
have changed?

“_Pupil._ They have not.

“_Another._ You, then—have _you_ changed?

“_Pupil._ I have not.

“_Another._ Say, then, what are ‘things indifferent’?

“_Pupil._ The things outside choice.

“_Another._ Say also the next words.

“_Pupil._ Things indifferent are nothing to me.

“_Another._ Say also about things good. What things used you to think
good?

“_Pupil._ Right choice, right use of phenomena.

“_Another._ And what the end and object?

“_Pupil._ To follow thee.

“_Another._ Do you say the same things still?

“_Pupil._ I say the same things still.

“_Another._ Go your way, then, and be of good cheer, and remember these
things, and you will see how a young and well-trained champion towers
above the untrained.”

I wanted to hear him explain why he spoke of “_Another_,” instead of
Zeus, or God. It struck me that he meant to suggest to us that in this
visible world, whenever we say “_this_,” we must also say, in our
minds, “_another_,” to remind ourselves of the invisible counterpart.
“Especially must we say ‘_Another_’”—this, I thought, was his
meaning—“when we speak about rulers. Visible rulers are mostly bad. We
must prevent them from encroaching on the place that should be filled in
our hearts by the Other, the invisible Ruler.”

Instead of this explanation, however, he concluded his lecture by warning
us against insincerity, or “speaking from the lips,” and against trying
to be on both sides, when we ought to choose between two contending
sides. This he called “trimming.” And here it was—while addressing an
imaginary “trimmer”—that he used the word “Jew.”

“Why,” said he—addressing the sham philosopher—“why do you try to impose
on the multitude? Why pretend to be a Jew, being really a Greek? Whenever
we see a man trimming, we are accustomed to say, ‘This fellow is no Jew,
he is shamming.’ But when a man has taken into himself _the feeling
of the dipped and chosen_”—these were his exact words, uttered with
a gesture and tone of contempt—“then he is, both in name and in very
truth, a Jew. Even so it is with us, having merely a sham baptism; Jews
in theory, but something else in fact; far away from any real feeling
of our theory, and far away from any intention of putting into practice
the professions on which we plume ourselves—as though we knew what they
really meant!” I could not quite make out this allusion to Jews. But
there was no mistaking his next sentence, and it was the last in the
lecture, “So, I repeat, it is with us. We are not equal to the fulfilment
of the responsibilities of common humanity, not even up to the standard
of Man. Yet we would fain take on ourselves in addition the burden of a
philosopher. And what a burden! It is as though a weakling, without power
to carry a ten-pound weight, were to aspire to heave the stone of Ajax!”

Thus he dismissed us. I went out, feeling like the “weakling” indeed, but
without the slightest “aspiration to heave the stone of Ajax.” Perhaps
Arrian wished to encourage me. For after we had walked on awhile in
silence, he said, “The Master was rather cutting to-day. I remember his
once saying that we ought to come away from him, not as from a theatre
but as from a surgery. To-day the surgeon used the knife, and we don’t
like it.”

“But what good has the knife done us?” I exclaimed. “If only I could feel
that the surgeon had cut out the mischief, a touch of the knife should
not make me wince. But the mischief within me seems more mischievous,
and my strength for good less strong, for some things that I have heard
to-day. Is a Roman to say, when fighting against barbarians for the name
and fame of Rome, ‘These things are nothing to me’? Is Diogenes, healing
mankind, his brethren, to say, ‘Your diseases are nothing to me’? And
that fine phrase in the Catechism, ‘follow thee’—is it not really a
disguised form of ‘follow myself’? Does it not mean, ‘follow the _logos_
within me, my own reason, or my own reasonable will,’ or ‘follow my own
peace of mind, on which my mind is bent, to the neglect of everything
else’?”

“It does not mean that, for Epictetus himself, I am convinced,” said
Arrian. “I believe not, for him,” said I; “but it has that meaning for
me. His teaching does not teach—not me, at least, however it may be
with others—the art of being steadfast. And what about others? Did not
he himself just now admit that his _logos_ was less powerful than the
_pathos_ of the Jews to produce steadfastness? What, by the way, is this
_pathos_? Does it mean passionate and unreasonable conviction? And who on
earth are these Jews that are ‘dipped and chosen’?”

My friend’s face brightened. Perhaps it was a relief to him to pass from
theology to matter of literary fact. “I think,” he replied, “that he must
mean the Jewish followers of Christus—the Christians, about whom we were
lately talking.” “Then why,” said I, “does not he call them Christians?”
“I do not know,” replied Arrian, “He has never mentioned either
Christians or Christus in my hearing; but he has, in one lecture at all
events, used the term ‘Galilæans’ to mean the Christians. And I feel sure
that he means them here, because the other Jews do not practise baptism,
except for proselytes, whereas the Christians are all baptized.” “But,”
said I, “he does not call them ‘baptized.’ He calls them ‘dipped’.” “That
is his brief allusive way,” said Arrian. “You know that we provincials,
and sometimes even Athenians too, speak of _dipping_ the hair, or, if I
may invent the word, _bapting_ it, where the literary people speak of
_blacking_ or _dyeing_ it. That is just what our Master means. These
Christians are not merely _baptized_; they are _bapted_. That is to say,
they are permanently and unalterably stained, or dyed in grain. They are.
We are not. That is his meaning. Afterwards, as you noticed, he dropped
into the regular word ‘_baptism_,’ and spoke of us as _sham-baptists_.”

“But he also called them _chosen_,” said I, “—that is to say, if he
meant _chosen_, and not _caught_ or _convicted_.” Arrian smiled. “You
have hit the mark without knowing it,” said he. “I noticed the word and
took it down. It is another of his jibes! These Christians actually call
themselves ‘_elect_’ or ‘_chosen_.’ I heard all about it in Bithynia.
They profess to have been ‘called’ by Christus. Then, if they obey this
‘calling,’ and remain steadfast, following Christus, they are said to be
‘_chosen_’ or ‘_elect_.’ But our Master believes this ‘_calling_’ and
‘_choosing_’ to be moonshine, and these Christian Jews to be the victims
of a mere delusion, _caught_ by error. So he uses a word that might mean
‘_chosen_’ but might mean also ‘_caught_.’ They think themselves the
former. He thinks them the latter.”

I hardly know why I refrained from telling my friend what Scaurus had
told me about the probability that Epictetus had borrowed from the
Christians. Partly it was, I think, because it was too long a story to
begin just then; and I thought I might shock Arrian and not do Scaurus
justice. Partly, I was curious to question Arrian further. So after a
short silence, during which my friend seemed lost in thought, I said
to him, “You know more about the Christians than I do. Do you think
Epictetus knows much about them? And what precisely does he mean by
‘_feeling_,’ when he speaks of ‘taking up the _feeling_ of the dipped’?”

“As for your first question,” said Arrian, “I am inclined to think that
he knows a great deal about them. How could it be otherwise with a young
slave in Rome under Nero, when all the world knew how the Christians
were used to light the Emperor’s gardens? Moreover his contrast between
the Jew and the Greek seemed to me to come forth as though it had been
some time in his mind, though it had not broken out till to-day. He
spoke with the bitterness of a conviction of long standing. If—contrary
to his own rules—he could be ‘troubled,’ I should say our Master felt
a real ‘trouble’ in being forced to confess that the Jew is above the
Greek in steadfastness and constancy. As to your second question, I think
he means that, whereas Greeks attain to wisdom through the reason (or
_logos_) these Jews follow their God, or Christus, through what we Greeks
call emotion or affection (_i.e._ _pathos_). And I am half disposed to
think that this word _pathos_ was used by him on the other occasion when
he spoke of the Christian Jews as Galilæans.” “Could you quote it?”
said I. “No, not accurately,” said Arrian, “it is rather long, and has
difficulties. I should prefer you to have it exactly. Come into my rooms.
I am going out on business, so that we cannot talk about it at present.
But you shall copy it down.”

So I went in to copy it down. Arrian left me after finding the place for
me in his notes. “You will see,” he said, “that the Galilæans are there
described as being made intrepid ‘_by habit_.’ Well, that is certainly
how I took the words down. But I am inclined to think it might have been
‘_by feeling_’—which seems to me to make better sense. But read the whole
context and judge for yourself. The two phrases are easily confused. Now
I leave you to your copying. _Prosit!_ More about this, to-morrow.”



CHAPTER VI

PAUL ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST


The lecture from which I was transcribing was on “fearlessness.” What,
it asked, makes a tyrant terrible? The answer was, “his armed guards.”
A child, or madman, not knowing what guards and weapons mean, would
not fear him. Men fear because they love life, and a tyrant can take
life. Men also love wealth, wife, children. These things, too, a tyrant
can take; so men fear him. But a madman, caring for none of these
things, and ready to throw them away as a child might throw a handful
of sand—a madman does not fear. Now came the words about “custom” and
“Galilæans” to which Arrian had called my attention: “Well, then, is not
this astonishing? Madness can now and then make a man thus fearless!
_Custom can make the Galilæans fearless!_ Yet—strange to say—reason and
demonstration cannot make anyone understand that God has made all that is
in the world, and has made the world itself, in its entirety, absolutely
complete in itself and unimpeded in its motions, and has also made its
separate parts individually for the use of all the parts collectively!”

The context made me see the force of Arrian’s remark. Epictetus appeared
to be mentioning three influences under which men might resist the
threats and tortures of a tyrant. In the first place was the “madness”
of a lunatic. In the third place was the “logic,” or demonstration, of
philosophy. In the second place, it would make good sense to suppose
that Epictetus meant “feeling,” or “passionate enthusiasm.” This passage
would then accord with the one mentioned above. Both passages would then
affirm that the Christian Jews or Galilæans can do under the influence
of “feeling” what the Greek Philosophers, or “lovers of wisdom,” cannot
do with all the aid of reason (or “_logos_”). “Custom” would not make
good sense unless the “Galilæans,” or Christians, had made a “custom” of
hardening their bodies by severe asceticism. This (I had gathered from
Arrian) was not the fact. In any case, it seemed clear that Epictetus
was here again contrasting some kind of Jew with the Greek to the
disadvantage of the latter.

Curiosity led me to read on a little further. The text dealt with Man’s
place in the Cosmos, or Universe, as follows: “All the other parts of
the Cosmos except man are far removed from the power of intelligently
following its administration. But the living being that is endowed with
_logos_, or reason, has therein a kind of ladder by which he may reason
the way up to all these things. Thus he, and he alone, can understand
that he is a part, and what kind of part, and that it is right and fit
that the parts should yield to the whole.” This reminded me of the saying
I have quoted above, “Will you not make a contribution of your leg to the
Universe?” I think he meant “Will you not offer up your lameness, as a
decreed part of the whole system of things, and as a sacrifice from you
to the Supreme?”

This reasonable part of the Cosmos, this “living being that is endowed
with _logos_,” Epictetus declared to be “_by nature_ noble, magnanimous,
and free.” Consequently, said he, it discerns that, of the things around
it, some are at its disposal, while others are not; and that, if it will
learn to find its profit and its good in the former class, it will be
perfectly free and happy, “being thankful always for all things to God.”

This puzzled me not a little. I could not understand how Epictetus
explained the means by which these “noble, magnanimous, and free”
creatures, created so “_by nature_,” had degenerated into the weaklings,
fools, profligates, and oppressors, upon whom he was constantly pouring
scorn. Was not each man a “part” of the Cosmos? Was not the Cosmos
“perfect and exempt from all disorder or impediment in any of its
motions”? Did not each “part” in it—and consequently man—partake in this
perfection and exemption, being “made for the service of the whole”? What
cause did Epictetus find for the folly, vice, and injustice that he so
often satirised and condemned as “subject to the wrath of God”? Man was a
compound of “clay” and “logos.” The fault could not lie in the “logos.”
Was it, after all, the mere “clay” that caused all this mischief? And
then, lost in thought, turning over the loose sheets of Arrian’s notes,
one after the other, I came again on the passage I have quoted above
from Epictetus, “If I could have, I would have”—laying the fault, as it
seemed, upon the “clay.” I could not help asking, “If God ‘could’ not
remedy it, how much less ‘could’ I, being ‘clay,’ remedy myself, ‘clay’?”

Musing on these things I returned to my rooms, and was sitting down to
write to Scaurus, when my servant entered with a parcel, from Rome,
he said, forwarded by Sosia our bookseller. It contained the books I
had ordered from Flaccus, with a letter from him, describing in detail
the pains he had taken in having some of the rolls of Chrysippus and
Cleanthes transcribed and ornamented, and saying that in addition to the
“curious little volume containing the epistles of Paulus,” which, as I
no doubt anticipated, were “not in the choicest Greek,” he had forwarded
an epistle to the Hebrews. “This,” he said, “does not include in the
commencement the usual mention of Paulus’s name, and it is not in his
style. But I understand that it originated from the school of Paulus.”

There was more to the same effect, for Flaccus and I were on very
friendly terms; and he was a good deal more than a mere seller of books.
But I passed over it, for I was in haste to open the parcel. At the top
were the copies of Cleanthes, Chrysippus, and others, in Flaccus’s best
style. At the bottom of all were two rolls of flimsy papyrus. The larger
and shabbier of the two fell to the ground open, and as I took it up, my
eye lit on the following passage:—“_Who shall separate us from the love
of Christ? Shall tribulation or suffering or persecution or hunger or
nakedness or peril or the sword? As it is written:_

    _‘For thy sake are we done to death all the day long:_
    _We were accounted as sheep of the shambles.’_

_Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that
loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor sovereignties, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to
separate us from that love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord._”

“This, at all events,” said I, “Scaurus cannot say that Epictetus has
borrowed from Paul. Never have I heard Epictetus mention the word ‘love’;
and here, in this one short passage, Paul uses it twice!” My next thought
was that Scaurus was quite right in his estimate of Paul’s style. It was
indeed terse, intense, fervid, strangely stimulating and constraining.
“There is no lack of _pathos_,” I said, “Let us now test the _logos_.” So
I sat down to study the passage, trying to puzzle out the meaning of the
separate words and phrases.

“_The love of Christ._” Well, Christus was their leader. The Christians
still loved him, and clung to his memory. That was intelligible. But
“that love of God which was in Christ” perplexed me. I read the whole
passage over again. Gradually I began to see that the passage implied
the Epictetian ideal—according to Scaurus, not Epictetian but Pauline
or Christian—of a Son of God standing fearless and erect in the face of
enemies, tyrants, oppression, death. But it also suggested invisible
enemies—“angels and sovereignties” that seemed to be against the sons of
God. And still I could not make out the expression, “that love of God
which is in Christ Jesus.”

So I turned back to the words at the bottom of the preceding column:—“_If
God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not His own Son but
delivered him up for us all, how shall He not also, with him, freely give
us all things? It is God that maketh and calleth us righteous: who is
he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died—or rather that was
raised from the dead, who is on the right hand of God, who also maketh
intercession for us._” And so, coming to the end of the column, I looked
on again to the words with which I had begun, “_Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?_”

Now I could understand. “This,” said I, “is a great battle. There are
sovereignties of evil against the good. The Son of the good God is
supposed to devote himself to death, fighting against the hosts of evil.
Or rather the Father sends him into the battle and he goes willingly.
This Christus of the Galilæans is regarded by them as we Romans might
think of one of the Decii plunging into the ranks of the enemy and
devoting himself to death for the salvation of Rome. Philosophers might
ask inconvenient questions about the nature of the God to whom the brave
man devotes himself—whether it is Pluto, or Zeus, or Nemesis, or Fate. No
philosopher, perhaps, would approve of this theory. But, in practice, the
bravery stirs the spirits of those who believe it. Even if the sacrifice
is discreditable to the Gods accepting it, it is creditable to the man
making it.”

Turning back still further, I found that Paul imagined the Cosmos—or
“creation” as he called it—to have gone wrong. He did not explain how.
Nor did he prove it. He assumed it, looking forward, however, to a time
when the wrong would be made right, and even more right than if it had
never gone wrong: “_For I reckon that the sufferings of this present
season are not fit to be spoken of in comparison of the glory that is
destined to be revealed and to extend to us. For the earnest expectation
of the creation waiteth intently for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the creation was made subject to change, decay, corruption—not
willingly but for the sake of Him that made it thus subject—in hope, and
for hope: because even this very creation, now corrupt, shall be made
free from the slavery of corruption and brought into the freedom of the
glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole of creation
groaneth together and travaileth together—up to this present time._”

This struck me as a very different message from that of Epictetus about
Zeus. Both Paul and Epictetus seemed to agree as regards the past, that
certain things had happened that were not pleasing to God, taken by
themselves. But whereas the Greek said about God, “He would have, if He
could have; but He could not,” the Jew seemed to say, “He can, and He
will. Only wait and see. It will turn out to have been for the best.”

Reading on, I found something corresponding to Epictetus’s doctrine of
the indwelling Logos, namely, that each of us has in himself a fragment
of the Logos of God,—but Paul called it Spirit—in virtue of which we may
claim kinship with Him, being indeed God’s children. Epictetus, however,
never said that we were to pray to our Father for help. He seemed to
think that each must derive his help from such portion of the Logos as
each possessed. “Keep,” he said, “that which is your own,” “Take from
yourselves your help,” “Within each man is ruin and help,” “Seek and ye
shall find within you,” or words to that effect. Paul’s doctrine was
different, teaching that we do not at present possess salvation and help
to their full extent, but that we must look forward in hope: “_And not
only so, but we ourselves also, though possessing the firstfruits of
the Spirit—we ourselves also, I say, groan within ourselves, waiting
earnestly for the adoption, namely, the ransoming and deliverance of
our body_”—as though a time would come when that very same clay, which
(according to Epictetus) the Creator would have wished to make immortal
but could not, would be transmuted and transported in some way out of the
region of flesh into the region of the spirit.

Moreover, besides looking onward in hope, we must also (Paul said) look
upward for help. Epictetus, too, as I have said above, sometimes spoke of
looking “upward,” and of the Cynic stretching up his hands to God. That,
however, was not in prayer but in praise.

Epictetus never used the word “prayer” in my hearing except of foolish,
idle, or selfish prayers. But Paul represented the Logos, or rather the
Spirit, within us, as an emotional, not a merely reasonable power. “It
searcheth all things, yea, even the deep things of God,” he said to the
Corinthians; and by it (so he told the Romans in the passage I was just
now quoting) the children express to the Father, and the Father receives
from the children, their wants and aspirations: “_For by hope were we
saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopeth for that which
he seeth? But if we hope for that which we fail to see, then in patient
endurance we earnestly wait for it. And in the same way the Spirit also
taketh part with our weakness. For as to what we should pray for,
according to our needs, we do not know. But the Spirit itself maketh
representation in our behalf in sighings beyond speech. Now He that
searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind and temper of the Spirit,
because, being in union and accord with God, it maketh representation in
behalf of the saints._”

This passage I only vaguely understood. For I started with the
preconception that the spirit or breath or wind, must be only another
metaphor—like “word”—to describe a “fragment” of God (as Epictetus called
the Logos in man). I did not as yet understand that this Spirit might be
regarded as, at one and the same moment, in heaven with God and on earth
with men, representing the love and will of God to man below, and the
love and prayers of man to God above. Still I perceived that in some way
it was connected with the Christian Christ; and that the Father and the
Spirit and Christ were in some permanent relation to each other and to
man, by which relation man and God were drawn together. And this led me
back again to the words, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
and “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Comparing this “love” with the friendship felt by the Epictetian Diogenes
for the whole human race, I found the latter thin and poor. The Greek
philosopher, being a “friend” of the Father of Gods and men, seemed
to me to be friendly to men in the region (so to speak) of the Logos,
“because”—I was disposed to add—“the Logos within him, in a ‘logical’
way, commanded him to be friendly to them, for consistency’s sake,
as being ‘logically’ akin to him.” Perhaps some reaction against the
constant inculcation of loyalty to the Logos during the last few weeks
led me to be a little unfair to the Epictetian ideal. But, fair or
unfair, these were my thoughts at the moment, while I was turning over
the letters addressed by this wandering Jewish Diogenes to some of the
principal cities of Greece and Asia, coming every now and then on such
sentences as these: “_I have strength for all things in Him that giveth
me inward power_”: “_Being made powerful with all power, in accordance
with the might of His glory, so that we rejoice in endurance and
longsuffering, being thankful to the Father_”: “_Be ye made powerful in
the Lord and in the might of His strength._” Here I noted that he did not
say (as Epictetus did) “take power from yourselves.” Moreover Paul added
“_Put on the panoply of God._” Then I turned back again to the Roman and
Corinthian letters; and still the same thoughts and phrases met me, about
“_power_” in various contexts, such as “_demonstration of Spirit and
power_,” and “_abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit_.”
“_Love_,” too, was represented as an irresistible power. “_The love of
Christ constraineth us_,” he said. And then he added, “_One died for
all_” and “_He died for all, that the living should be living no longer
to themselves, but to Him that for their sake died and was raised up from
death._”

There was a great deal in this Roman letter that was almost total
darkness to me at first. The references to Abraham—and, still more, those
to Adam, coming abruptly in the phrases, “death reigned from Adam,” and
“the transgression of Adam”—perplexed me a great deal till I perceived
that the Jews fixed their hopes on God’s promise to their forefather
Abraham, just as Romans—if they believed Virgil—might fix theirs on the
forefather of the Julian race. As Æneas was the divine son of Anchises,
so Isaac, by promise, was the divinely given son of Abraham. Paul, I
thought, might draw a parallel between our Æneas and his Isaac, as though
both were receivers of divine promises of empire extending over all the
nations of the earth. At this Jewish fancy (so I called it) I remember
smiling at the time, and quoting Virgil from a Jew’s point of view:

    “Tantæ molis erat _Judæam_ condere gentem.”

But I soon perceived, not only that Paul was in serious earnest, quite as
much as Virgil, but also that his scheme, or dream, of universal empire
for the seed of Abraham was compatible with the fact of universal empire
for the seed of Anchises. Rome, the new Troy, claimed dominion over
nothing but men’s bodies. The new Jerusalem claimed it over men’s souls.

I did not fully take all this into my mind till I had read the story of
Abraham and Isaac in the scriptures, as I shall describe later on. But,
with Virgil’s help, and Roman traditions, I partially understood it even
now; and I remember asking myself, “If Virgil were now alive, would he be
as sanguine as this Jew? Is not Rome on the wane? Ever since the Emperor
cried to Varus, ‘Give me back my legions!’ have we not had qualms of fear
lest we should be beaten back by the barbarians? Do not even the wisest
of our rulers say, ‘Let us draw the line here. Let us conquer no more’?
But this Jew sets no limits to his conquests. His projects may be mad.
But at least he has some basis of fact for them. If he has conquered so
far, why not further?”

As to “the transgression of Adam,” I remained longer in the dark. But
I perceived from other passages in the epistles (and from the Jewish
scriptures soon afterwards) that the story of Adam and Eve resembled some
versions that I had read of the story of Epimetheus and Pandora, who
caused sins and pains to come into the world, but “hope” came with them.
Adam and Eve did the same. But Paul believed that the “hope” sprang from
a promise of a higher and nobler life than would have been possible if
Adam and Eve had never gone wrong. I took this for a mere legend, but
a legend that might represent the will of Zeus—namely, that man should
not stand still, but that he should go on growing, from age to age, in
righteousness, which, as Plato says, is the attribute of man that makes
him most like God.

Thus I was led on to higher and higher inferences about Paul’s “power.”
First, it was real power, attested by facts—facts visible in great
cities of Europe and Asia. In the next place, this power was based on
faith and hope. Lastly, this faith and this hope—although they extended
to everything in heaven and earth (since everything was to be bettered,
purified, drawn onward or upward to what Plato might call its _idea_ in
God, that is, its perfection)—were themselves based on Christ, as having
once died, but now being alive for ever in heaven.

But not only in heaven. For Paul seemed to think of Christ as also still
perpetually present with, and in, his disciples on earth. Socrates
in the Phædo says “As soon as I have drunk this poison I shall be no
longer remaining among you, but shall be off at once to the isles of the
blessed.” But Paul spoke of Christ’s love, and spirit, and of Christ
himself, as still remaining amongst his followers. I knew that the common
people think of Hercules as descending from heaven now and then to do a
man a good turn; and at this I had always been disposed to laugh. But
Paul’s view of Christ as being always in heaven, and yet also always on
earth, among, or in the hearts of, those who loved him—this seemed to me
more noble and more credible; though I did not believe it.

Now I was to be led a step further. For while I was repeating Paul’s
words “one died for all,” and again, “one died,” it occurred to me
“Yes, but he does not say _how_ he died. Is he ashamed to speak of the
shamefulness of the death, the slave’s death, death upon the cross?” So
I looked through the Roman letter, right to the end, and I could find no
mention of the “cross” or of “crucifying.” But in the very next column,
where the first Corinthian letter began, I found this passage: “_Christ
sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel, not in wisdom of ‘logos’
(i.e. word), lest the cross of Christ should be emptied of its power. For
as to the ‘logos’ of the cross, to those indeed who are going the way of
destruction, it is folly: but to us, who are going the way of salvation,
it is the power of God. For it is written:_

    _‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise_
    _And the subtlety of the subtle will I bring to naught.’_

_Where is the ‘wise’? Where is the learned writer? Where is the ‘subtle’
discusser and disputer of this present age?_”

Then followed some very difficult words: “_Hath not God made foolish
the wisdom of the Cosmos? For since, in the wisdom of God, the Cosmos,
through that wisdom, recognised not God, God decreed through the
foolishness of the proclamation of the gospel to save them that go the
way of belief: for indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks seek after
wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified; to the Jews, a stumbling block;
to the other nations, a folly; but, to the called and summoned—Christ the
power of God and the wisdom of God._”

I have translated this literally so as to leave it as obscure to the
reader as it was to me when I first read it. Even when I had read it over
two or three times, there was a great deal that I could not understand.
But it appeared to me to be ironical. It suggested that the “logos” of
God may be different from the “logos” of men, or at all events, the
“logos” of Greek philosophers. I had for some time been drawing near
to a belief that “logos” might include feeling as well as reason. But
this strange contrast between the unwise “wisdom of logos” and the wise
“logos of the cross” came upon me as (possibly) a new revelation. As
for the saying “the Greeks seek wisdom,” it reminded me how Epictetus
used to deride the man of mere logic, words without deeds, the futile
spinner of syllogisms. “Epictetus,” I said to myself, “would agree with
this accusation.” But then I reflected that Paul would perhaps class
Epictetus himself among these futile Greeks; and had not my Master
himself confessed that the Jew, by mere force of “pathos,” outclassed the
Greek in resolution and steadfastness, although the latter was backed by
“logos”? The conclusion fell upon me, like a blow, “Here is Paul boasting
as a conqueror what my Master confesses as a man conquered! Both agree
that the ‘feeling’ of the Jew is more powerful in producing courage than
the ‘reasonableness’ of the Greek!”

I did not like this turn of things. But I was intensely interested in
it; and it quite decided me to continue the investigation. The question
turned on “logos” and I quoted to myself Plato’s precept, “Follow the
logos.” Epictetus made much of “logos.” Well, I would “follow the
‘logos,’” in its fullest sense, and would try to find out whether it
did, or did not, indicate that “feeling,” as well as “reason,” may help
us towards the knowledge of God. Dawn was appearing when I rolled up the
little volume and placed it in my cabinet by the side of Scaurus’s sealed
note with WORDS OF CHRISTUS on it. That reminded me of my old friend.
What would he think of all this?

I sat down at once and wrote to him that I had not opened his note.
If I ever did, it would be, I said, because I accepted his verdict.
Epictetus really did seem to have borrowed from Paul. The subject was
very interesting to me from a historical as well as a literary point of
view; and I hoped he would not think it waste of time if I investigated
it a little further. At the same time, I sent a note to Flaccus. Æmilius
Scaurus, I said, had sent me some “words of Christus” extracted from
Christian books, and I desired to receive the books themselves. As for
the “scriptures” from which Paul so frequently quoted in their Greek
form, I knew that I should have no difficulty in procuring copies of
all or most of them from Sosia. This I resolved to do on the morrow, or
rather in the day that was now dawning. It was not a lecture-day. Even
if it had been, in the mood in which I then was, I should have thought a
lecture or two might be profitably missed.



CHAPTER VII

DAVID AND MOSES


The Greek translation of the Scriptures shewn me by Sosia was in several
volumes of various sizes and in various conditions. Unrolling the one
that shewed most signs of use, I found that, although it was in prose, it
was a translation of Hebrew poems, mostly very short, and of a lyrical
character. One of them had in its title the name of “David,” which I had
met with in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Sosia told me that he was the
greatest of the ancient kings of the Jews. Ordering the other volumes
to be sent to my rooms, I took this back with me, and began to read it
immediately, beginning with the poem on which I had chanced in the shop.

It was a prayer for purification from sin: “Pity me, O God, according to
thy great pity, and according to the multitude of thy compassions blot
out my transgression. Cleanse me still more from my crime, and purify me
from my sin.” So far, the poem was intelligible to me. I was familiar
with the religious rites of cleansing from blood-guiltiness—mentioned in
connexion with Orestes and many others by the Greek poets and recognised
in various forms all over the world. So I said, “This king has committed
homicide. He has been purified with lustral rites and sacrifices. But he
needs some further rites: ‘Cleanse me still more,’ he says. The poem will
tell me, I suppose, what more he needs.”

After adding some words to the effect that the transgression was
against God, against God alone, the king continued, “For behold, in
transgressions was I created at birth, and in sins did my mother conceive
me. For behold, thou hast ever loved truth; thou hast shewn unto me the
hidden secrets of thy wisdom. Thou wilt sprinkle me with hyssop and I
shall be purified; thou wilt wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Here I was at a stand. It seemed to me a great and sudden descent to a
depth of superstition, to suppose that this particular additional rite of
“cleansing with hyssop” could satisfy the king’s conscience. Moreover I
thought that “wisdom” must mean the wisdom of the Greeks. It was not till
afterwards that I discovered how great a gulf separates our syllogistic
or rhetorical or logical “wisdom” from that of the Jews—which means
“knowledge of the righteousness of the Creator based upon reverence.”
Thence comes their saying, “Reverence for God is the beginning of
_wisdom_.”

These two misunderstandings almost led me to put down the book in
disgust. But the passionateness of the king’s prayer made me read
its opening words once again. Then I felt sure I must have done him
injustice. So I read on. Presently I came to the words, “Create in me a
clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away
from thy countenance, and take not thy holy spirit from me.” These made
me ashamed of having taken “hyssop” literally. I saw now that it was just
as much metaphorical as “whiter than snow,” and that it meant a deep
and inward purification—of the heart, not of the body. Still more was I
ashamed when I came to the words, “If thou hadst delight in sacrifice
I would have given it to thee, but thou wilt take no pleasure in whole
burnt-offerings. The sacrifice for God is a broken spirit. A broken and
contrite heart God will not despise.”

This was all new and strange doctrine to me. The graceful lines of Horace
about the efficacy of the simplest sacrifice—of meal and salt—from the
hand of an innocent country girl, and about its superiority to the
proffered bribe of a hecatomb from a man of guilt, these I knew by heart;
but they did not touch the present question, which was as to how the
man of guilt could receive purification, without a hecatomb, without
the blood of bulls and goats. And the question went even beyond that.
For the king said that he had been “in sins” even from the beginning,
even before birth. Did he speak of himself alone, or of himself as the
type of erring mankind? I thought the latter. He seemed to me to say,
“Man is from the first an animal, born to follow appetite. In part (no
doubt) he is a divine being, born to follow the divine will; but in part
he is an animal, born to follow animal propensity.” So far this agreed
with Epictetus’s doctrine about the Beast. The Beast, at the beginning,
tyrannizes over the divine Man, so that the human being may be said to
be in sin—and indeed is in sin, as soon as he becomes conscious of the
tyranny within him. “No lustral rites, no blood of bulls and goats,” the
king seemed to say, “can purify this human heart of mine now that it has
been tainted and corrupted by submitting to the Beast within me. A moment
ago, my prayer was ‘Purge me with hyssop,’ but now it is ‘Destroy me and
create me anew,’ ‘Take away my old heart and give me a new heart.’”

These last words were quite contrary to the doctrine of Epictetus, who
taught us that we are to receive strength and righteousness from that
which is within our own hearts. And, thought I, is not the king’s prayer
superstitious? The witches in Rome suppose they can draw down the moon
by incantations. This king David in Judæa supposes he can draw down “a
clean heart” and “a right spirit” by passionate invocation to the God of
the Jews! Are not the two superstitions parallel? Would not Epictetus
say so? Would not all the Cynics say so? I thought they would: and, as
I was rolling up the little book, I said, “It is a fine and passionate
poem, but the prayer is not one for a philosopher.” Then, however, it
occurred to me that there was a true and a deep philosophy—though I knew
not of what school—in the doctrine that the true and purifying sacrifice
for guilt is a penitent heart. That set me pondering the whole matter
again and reflecting on some of the things in my own life of which I
was most ashamed, things that I would have given much to forget, and a
great deal more to undo. In the end, I found myself thinking—not saying,
but thinking of it as a possible prayer—“In me, in me, too, create a
clean heart, O thou God of forgiveness!” It might not be a prayer for
philosophers, but I could not help feeling that it might be a good prayer
for me.

While I was placing my new volume by the side of Paul’s epistles it
occurred to me that the words I had just been reading might throw some
light on a passage in the epistle to the Romans at which I had glanced
last night. Then I could make nothing of it. Now I read it again: “I know
that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing. To will
[that which is good] is present with me, but to do is not present. I will
to do good and I do it not. I will not to do evil, and I do it.” This
now seemed to me a truer description of the state of things (within me
at all events) than the view mostly presented to us in our lecture-room.
Epictetus often talked as though we had merely to will, and then what we
willed—at least so far as concerns the mind and the things in the mind’s
province—would at once come to pass. True, he did not always say this.
Sometimes he insisted on the need of training or practice, and then he
likened the Cynic to an athlete preparing for the Olympian games. But it
seemed to me that he habitually underrated the difficulty of conforming
the human to the divine will: and he never—never even once, as far as I
know—recognised the need or efficacy of repentant sorrow.

My immediate conclusion was that, although it was not for me to decide
between the “feeling” of the Jews and the “reason” of the Greeks in
general, yet one thing was certain—I had a good deal to learn from the
former. So I welcomed the arrival of Sosia’s servant bringing the rest
of my new books. A good many of them I unrolled and cursorily inspected
at once. Both from their number, and from the variety of their subjects,
it was clear that I should only be able to study a few. I resolved to
confine myself to such parts as bore on Paul’s epistles, and to dispense
with lectures for a day or two. Then it occurred to me that Arrian, who
had proposed to resume to-day our conversation on the Jews and Galilæans,
might come in at any moment. I put away the Jewish books and went to his
lodging, thinking that I could perhaps tell my friend of my new studies
in order to explain to him my non-attendance at lecture. Instead of
Arrian, however, I found a note informing me that he had been obliged to
go suddenly to Corinth (in connexion with some business of his father’s)
but hoped to return before long.

This saved explanation; and I spent several days (during his prolonged
absence) in studying my new volumes. They led me into a maze—or rather,
maze after maze—of bewildering novelties. Sosia had told me that my
first volume, containing five books, was called by the Jews “the Law.”
But it included pedigrees, poems, prophecies, histories of nations, and
stories of private persons. The legal portion of it was largely devoted
to details about feasts and purificatory sacrifices—the very things that
David appeared to call needless. However, when I came to look into the
Law more closely, I found that its fundamental enactments were humane
and gentle—so much so as to give me the impression of being unpractical.
It enjoined on the Jews kindness to strangers as well as to citizens.
While retaining capital punishment, it prohibited torture. At least I
took that to be a fair inference from the fact that it even forbade the
infliction of more than forty blows with the scourge, on the ground
that a “brother”—that was the word—must not be so far degraded as to
become “vile” in the eyes of his fellow-citizens. It also placed some
limitations on the right of masters to punish slaves, even when the
latter were foreigners.

Having been accustomed to regard the Jews as unique for their moroseness
and unneighbourliness I was all the more astonished at these things. It
occurred to me then, as it does sometimes now, that the Law was almost
too humane to have been ever fully obeyed by the greater part of the
people. For example, even the slaves, even the beasts of burden, were to
have one day in seven as a holiday, on which all labour was forbidden.
Periodic remission of debts was enacted by law! This surprised me most
of all. To think that the revolutionary measure—so our Roman historians
called it—for which our tribunes of the people had contended in vain
under the Republic, should here be found legalised by the Law of
Moses—and this, too, not as an exceptional and isolated condonation, but
as a regular remission after a fixed number of years!

“How,” I asked, “could the Lawgiver expect people to lend money to
borrowers if the creditor knew that in the course of a few months
the obligation to pay the debt would cease?” Was he blind to the most
manifest tendencies of human nature? No, I found he was not blind to
them. He simply said that they must be resisted: “Beware,” said he, “that
there be not a base thought in thine heart, saying, The seventh year, the
year of release, is at hand.”

This notion of forbidding an action, or abstinence from action, in a
code of laws as being “base”—not as being “subject to a penalty of such
a kind,” or “a fine of so much,” was quite new to me. I had given some
time to the study of Roman law, and had always assumed that when the law
says “Do this,” it adds a punishment in some form or other, “Do this, or
you shall suffer this or that.” But here, embedded in the Law of Moses,
was a law, or rather a recommendation, without penalty. And presently I
found that the last of their Ten Greater Laws—if I may so call them—was
of the same kind. It could not possibly be enforced—for it forbade
“coveting”! Only a few days ago, before I had bought these books from
Sosia, I had read in Paul’s epistle to the Romans “I should not have
known covetousness if the law had not said, _Thou shalt not covet_”; and
these words had puzzled me a good deal. I had thought that they must
refer to some “law” of a spiritual kind, such as we might call “the law
of the conscience” or “the law of our higher nature,” or the like. Yet I
felt that this interpretation did not quite agree with the context. Now
I found, to my utter astonishment, that this was the very letter of the
first clause of the tenth of the Greater Laws, “Thou shalt not covet.”

To crown all, I found that elsewhere the whole of the code was based by
the Lawgiver on two fundamental precepts. The first was, “Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God,” and this love was to call forth all the powers of
mind and soul and body. The second was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself.” How was either of these to be enforced? “Love,” say all the
poets, “is free.” The Law neither prescribed nor suggested any means of
enforcing these two Great Commandments of “loving.” And how could “love”
be at once “free,” as poetry protests, and yet a part of the Law, as
Moses testified? There seemed no answer to this question, unless some
God could make us willing and eager to enforce the two commandments on
ourselves, constraining us (so to speak) by love to love both Him and
one another. “Truly,” said I, “this Law of Moses is very ambitious.” It
seemed to aim at more than Law could accomplish. It reminded me of a
sentence I had found in one of my new volumes, entitled “Proverbs,” “The
light of the Lord is as the breath of men; He searcheth the storehouses
of the soul.”

Somewhat similar was a saying imputed to Epictetus—which I had not heard
from Arrian but from a fellow-student—reproving one of his disciples
in these words, “Man, where are you putting it? See whether the basin
is dirty!” The disciple, though an industrious scholar, was of impure
life; and Epictetus meant that, if the vessel of his soul was foul, all
the knowledge put into that vessel would also become foul. The moral
was, “First cleanse the vessel!” So the Jewish Proverb seemed to say,
“The light of the Lord must first search the storehouse of the soul:
then the food taken out from the storehouse will be pure and wholesome.”
This brought me back to the words of David, who seemed to think that
the searching and cleansing must come from God and not from man alone,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!”

Comparing these two fundamental or Greatest Laws of Moses with the
fundamental law of Epictetus, “Keep the things that are thine own,”
I thought at first that the Jew and the Greek were entirely opposed.
On second thoughts, however, I perceived that in “the things that are
thine own” Epictetus would include justice and kindness, and all social
so-called virtues so far as they did not interfere with one’s own peace
of mind—for he would perhaps exclude pity, and certainly sympathy in
the full sense of the term. But Epictetus thought that people could be
sufficiently kind and just and virtuous without other aid than that of
the “logos” within them. David did not, in his own case, unless that
which was _within_ him had been cleansed or renewed by a Power regarded
as _outside_ him, to whom he prayed as God. There seemed to me, in this
difference of “within” and “outside,” more than a mere difference of
metaphor. But I had no time to think over the matter. For, just as I
was regretting that Arrian was not with me to talk over some of these
subjects, Glaucus, coming in to borrow a book, informed me that he had
met my friend late in the previous night coming from the quay. I had
intended to stay at home that morning. But now, finding that Glaucus was
on his way to the lecture, I resolved to accompany him, expecting to meet
Arrian there.



CHAPTER VIII

EPICTETUS ON SIN


When we reached the lecture-room, a little late, we found it unusually
crowded. My place was taken, and I could not see Arrian in his customary
seat. Epictetus was in one of his discursive moods. He began with the
assertion—by this time familiar to me, but somewhat distasteful now,
fresh as I was from the atmosphere of the Jewish writings—that Gods
and men alike seek nothing but “their own profit.” As in most of his
epigrams, he meant just the opposite of what he seemed to assert. He
hated high-flown language as much as he loved high thought and action.
Even when he mentioned “the beautiful”—on which most Greeks go off into
rhapsodies—he almost always subordinated it to the “logos” or told us
that we must look for it in ourselves. So here again. Man, he declared,
must give up all things—property, reputation, children, wife, country,
if they are incompatible with his true “profit.” Then, of course, he
shewed that man’s “profit” is virtue, so that we need not give up these
blessings unless their possession is incompatible with virtue.

What he said next was new to me. A father, losing a child in death,
must not say “I have lost my child,” but “I have given it back.” When I
say “new,” I mean new in his teaching. But I had recently met something
like it in my books of Hebrew poems, “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath
taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Later on, I heard Epictetus
repeat this almost in the same form. This seemed to me not only beautiful
and devout but also consistent with reasonable faith.

But I could not follow him when, in reply to the objection, “He that took
away this thing from me is a villain,” he said, “What does it matter to
you by whom the Giver asked back the gift?” It seemed to me that a recoil
from villainy, as well as delight in virtue, ought to find a place even
in the calmest of mankind. No philosopher, he said, can have an “enemy,”
because no one can do him any harm or touch anything that really belongs
to him. This was true—in a sense. Its reasonableness contrasted with
the passionate poetry of the Jews, which I had found full, too full, of
talk about enemies. And yet, the more I meditated on the contrast, the
more this “What does it matter to you?” seemed to become a cold-blooded,
unnatural, and immoral question. Surely it ought to “matter” to us a
great deal whether we suffered loss from some neighbour’s forgetfulness
or from some enemy’s premeditated and malignant treachery. He went on
in the same chilling style. “Desire,” said he, “about that which is
happening, that it shall happen. Then you will have a stream of constant
peace.” I seemed to see Priam “desiring that which was happening” when
he saw Troy burned and the women ravished! His son, Polites, was being
butchered by Pyrrhus before his eyes, and the old king was standing by,
placidly enjoying “a stream of constant peace”!

Then Epictetus said, “An uneducated man blames others for his own evils.
A beginner blames himself. An educated man blames neither others nor
himself.” After this, he introduced what he called the law laid down
by God. “Right convictions make the will and purpose good. Crooked and
perverse convictions make the will bad. This law,” he said, “God has laid
down, and He says to each of us, ‘If you will have anything that is good,
take it from yourself’.” Then came another mention of the law—“the divine
law” he now called it. It was connected with “right convictions,” as to
which he asked “What are these?” His reply was, “They are such as a man
ought to meditate on all the day long. We must have such a conviction as
will prevent us from attaching our feelings to anything that is other
than our own—whether companion, or place, or bodily exercise, or even
the body itself. We must remember the law and have it always before our
eyes.”

This phrase, “meditate all the day long,” reminded me of some words of
David, which I had been reading the day before, “Oh how I love thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.” Other Hebrew expressions also came into
my mind concerning the sweetness and fragrance of the Lord’s commandment,
how the poet “opened his mouth and drew in his breath” to taste its
delight. These I could understand, when they applied to a law of love,
a law of the emotions, a “feeling.” But I wondered what Epictetus could
produce for us of a nature to kindle such enthusiasm. He continued, “And
what is the divine law? It is this. First, Keep the things that are your
own. Secondly, Do not claim things not your own; use them, if given; do
not desire them, if not given. Thirdly, When anything is being taken from
you, give it up at once in a detached spirit, and with gratitude for the
time during which one has used it.”

“Keep the things that are your own!”—This he placed first, and on this
he laid most emphasis, dwelling on each syllable. I fancied that he
knew he was disappointing us and almost took pleasure in it as though
he were administering to us a wholesome but bitter medicine. “You find
this sour,” he seemed to say: “Sour or not, it is the truth, the only
solid and safe truth. It is not the dream of a poet, or the scheme of a
student. It is the plan of a man of business, practicable for all—for
slaves as well as free men, for individuals in a desert as well as for
communities in a city. ‘Love your neighbour’—that is expecting too much.
‘Do not covet what is your neighbour’s’—that is expecting too little.
‘Keep that which belongs to you!’ There you have a rule that makes you
independent of all neighbours.” I was miserably disappointed; yet I could
not help respecting and admiring our Master’s unflinching frankness, his
determination to force us to face the austere truth, and his contempt for
anything that seemed incapable of being put into practice at all times
and in all circumstances.

He spoke next of “sin” or “error.” Some of his language strangely
resembled Paul’s, but with great differences. He made mention of a
“conflict,” but he seemed mostly to mean “a conflicting state of
things,” “logical contradiction,” or inconsistency. It might be called
self-contradiction, taken as including actions, and not words alone. He
also used the very same phrase as Paul’s “that which he willeth he doeth
not,” but not in the same way, as may be seen from the following extract
which I took down exactly: “Every error includes self-contradiction. For
since the person erring does not wish to err but to go straight, it is
clear that what he wills to do he does not do.… Now every soul endowed
with ‘logos’ by nature is disposed to dislike self-contradiction. As long
as a man has not followed up the facts and perceived that he is in a
state of self-contradiction, he is in no way prevented from doing things
that are self-contradictory; but, when he has followed them up, he must
necessarily revolt from the self-contradiction.… Here then comes in the
need of the teacher skilled in ‘logos’ … but the teacher needs also power
to refute what is wrong and to stimulate the pupil to what is right. This
teacher will give the erring man a glimpse into the self-contradiction in
which he errs, and will make it clear to him _that he is not doing that
which he wills to do and that he is doing that which he wills not to do_.
As soon as this is made clear to the person in error, he will, of himself
and of his own accord, depart from his error.”

Then he supposed a case where a man had relapsed from philosophy into a
profligate and shameless life. And first he tried to shew the offender
how much he had lost in losing modesty and decency and true manliness.
“There was a time,” he said, “when you counted this as the only loss
worth mentioning.” Next, he shewed each of us how to regain what we
had lost. “It is you yourself,” he exclaimed, “you yourself, no other
whom you have to blame. Fight against yourself! Tear yourself away to
seemliness, decency, and freedom.”

Lastly, he appealed—as I had never heard him do before—to the feelings
of loyalty and affection that we might entertain for himself. I thought
he must be recalling his old days in Rome, when he, a boy and a slave,
in the house of Epaphroditus, might be exposed to the temptations and
coercions to which such slaves were subject; and he asked his pupils
to imagine their feelings if someone came to them reporting that their
Master, Epictetus, had been forced to succumb.

“If,” said he, very slowly and deliberately, with emphasis on each
syllable, “if someone were to come and tell you that a certain man was
compelling _me_”—here he hurried onward—“to lead the sort of life that
you are now leading, to wear the sort of dress that you wear, to perfume
myself as you perfume yourself, would you not go off straightway and
lay violent hands on the man that was thus abusing me? Rescue yourself,
then, as you would have rescued me. You need not kill anyone, strike
anyone, go anywhere. Talk to yourself! Persuade (who else should do it
better?)—persuade yourself.”

Never, in my experience, had Epictetus more nearly fulfilled the promise
made in his behalf by Arrian—that he would always make his hearers feel,
for the moment, precisely what he wished them to feel. There were two
or three in the class notorious for their profligacy; but the appeal
went home to others as well, conscious of minor derelictions. “Persuade
yourself!” There was no need of it. We were all, to a man, already
persuaded. Infants and babies though we were, we could all stand up and
walk—for the moment. He proceeded in the same spirit-stirring tone, as
though—now that we had all resolved to go on this arduous journey with
him as a guide—he would go first and shew us how to push our way through
the forest.

“First of all,” said he, “give sentence against the present state of
things.” He did not say “_against yourselves_.” That would have been too
discouraging. We were to condemn “_the present state of things_”; that
is, our present self. “In the next place,” he continued, “do not give up
hope of yourself. Do not behave like the poor-spirited creatures who,
because of one defeat, give themselves up altogether and let themselves
be carried downward by the stream. Take a lesson from the wrestling-ring.
That young fellow yonder has had a fall. ‘Get up,’ says the trainer,
‘Wrestle again, and go on till you get your full strength.’ Act you in
the same spirit. For, mark you, there is nothing more pliable than the
human soul. You must _will_. Then the thing is done, and the crooked is
made straight. On the other hand, go to sleep; and then all is ruined.
From your own heart comes either your destruction or your help.”

He concluded with a word of warning. Perhaps some of us might appeal to
his own _dictum_ about seeking our own “profit,” as being the only right
and wise course. He met it as follows: “After this, do you say ‘What
good shall I get by it?’ What greater ‘good’ do you look for than this?
Whereas you once were shameless, you will now have received again the
faculty of an honourable shame. From the orgies of vice you will have
passed into the ranks of virtue. Formerly faithless and licentious, you
will now be faithful and temperate. If you seek any other objects better
than these, go on doing still the things you are doing now. Not even a
God can any longer save you.”



CHAPTER IX

ARRIAN’S DEPARTURE


When we came out from the crowded room, as Arrian was nowhere to be seen,
I went at once to his lodging. To my surprise, he was busy packing,
amid books and papers, and a student’s other belongings. “Thanks,
many thanks,” he said, “for this timely visit. This is my last day in
Nicopolis. I was just coming round to wish you good-bye. You know I had
to go to Corinth. Well, when I got there, I found a letter from my father
bidding me wait a few days for further news from him; and on the fourth
day came a message that I was to conclude my studies at once and return
to Bithynia, as his health had quite given way and his affairs required
all my attention. I had intended to start to-day at the fifth hour; but
I have just learned that the vessel will not sail till the eighth. So
sit down. Epictetus there is not time to call upon. When I write to you
I shall ask you to deliver him a letter from me. Sit down, and begin by
telling me about the lecture I have just missed, while it is fresh in
your memory.”

When I had finished, he said, turning over the papers he was sorting,
“I remember another of his lectures in which he warned us against a
licentious and effeminate life. Here it is, and these are his exact
words: ‘Do not, in the name of the Gods, do not you, young man, fall back
again! Nay, rather go back to your home and say, now that you have once
heard this warning, _It is not Epictetus that has said this. How should
he? It is some God wishing well to me and speaking through him. It would
never have come into the mind of Epictetus to say this, for it is never
his custom to make personal appeals. Come, then; let us obey the voice
of God, lest we fall under God’s wrath._’ I have never forgotten these
words, and I trust I never shall. I think a God speaks through Epictetus.
Do you not agree with me?”

“I do indeed,” said I, “but I am not convinced that God speaks all that
Epictetus says, and that there is not more to be spoken. For example, he
says, ‘You have but to will and it is done.’ Is that a common experience?
Is it yours? He says, ‘Take from yourself the help you need.’ Do you find
in yourself all the help you need? When you fall, he says, ‘Get up,’
as though we were boys in the wrestling-ring. But what if we have been
stunned? What if one’s ankle is sprained or a leg broken? Do you remember
what you said to me at the end of my first lecture, ‘Will it last?’ You
also said that Epictetus could make us feel just what he wished us to
feel—as long as he was speaking. Well, while I was sitting on the bench
in the lecture-room, I felt that getting up from vice was as easy as
sitting on that bench. When I walked out, it began to seem less easy. Now
that I am quite away from the enchanter, talking the matter quietly over
with you, the feeling has almost vanished; and I am obliged to repeat
your question about this, and about much more of our Master’s doctrine,
‘Will it last?’”

“Some of it will last,” said Arrian, “We must not expect impossibilities.
I have heard him admit that it is impossible to be sinless already,
but he bade us remember that it is possible to be always intent on not
sinning.” “Did he mean,” asked I, “by ‘already,’ that we could not be
sinless in this life, but that we might be sinless at what he calls the
feast of the Gods, after death?” Arrian did not at once reply. Presently
he said, “I do not think so. I believe he meant that we must not expect
to be sinless as soon as we have reached the intermediate stage of what
he calls ‘the half-educated man.’ We must wait till we have reached the
further stage, that of complete education, where, as you said just now, a
man never blames himself, because he does not find in himself any fault
that he could blame.”

Here Arrian made a still longer pause. Then he continued, in his usual
slow, deliberate way, but with a touch of hesitation that was not usual
with him, “I have here a few duplicates of my notes. Among them are some
on the subject on which your remarks bear, and about which (I gather) you
would like to question me—the immortality of the soul. In my hearing, he
has seldom used that precise phrase. And, when he has used the epithet
‘immortal,’ it has generally applied to life like that of Tithonus—I
mean, a deathless life in this present world. To desire such a life,
deathless and free from disease, he thinks unreasonable. But I remember
his saying once, that he was prepared for death, ‘_whether it were the
death of the whole or of a certain part_’—that was his expression. And
I think he may possibly believe that the Logos within us is reabsorbed,
after death, into some kind of quintessential or divine fire from which
it sprang. But I cannot say that this satisfies me.”

Neither did it satisfy me. But I said nothing. Arrian, too, was silent,
turning over some of his papers and marking passages for my perusal. But
presently, rousing himself, “Did you agree with me,” he said, “about the
passage you transcribed, when we last met, concerning that sect of the
Jews which he called the Galilæans?” I could see that Arrian wished to
divert the conversation to “the Galilæans,” as being a subject of a less
serious character than the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. But
the subject of the Galilæans or Jews had become much more serious for
me now than it had been when we last conversed together. How much more,
I shrank from telling him, in the few minutes at our disposal. He was
good, just, a truthful scholar, a gentleman, and a kind friend. Given a
few days more—even a few hours—in one another’s company, and I should
not have kept my secret from him. But how could I hope, in so brief
an interval, and amid so many preoccupations, to make him understand
what a vast continent of new history, religion, literature—and, above
all, “feeling” as opposed to “logic”—had emerged before my mind’s eye,
during my recent voyages of exploration in the scriptures and in Paul’s
epistles? So I replied briefly that I agreed with his view. Epictetus, I
said, seemed to me to be speaking, not of the Galilæan “custom,” but of
their “feeling,” as also in the case of the Jews. “And indeed,” I added,
“the force of this ‘feeling’ in producing courage appears to me most
remarkable.” With these words I rose to go.

“Well,” said he, “I fear we shall hardly meet again in Nicopolis. But I
shall always cherish the recollection of the hours we have spent together
here, and of our common respect for our common Master, whom you already
love, and whom, if you come to know him as I do—in his home, and in his
kindness to those who need kindness—you will (I trust) love still more.”
“I do love him,” said I. “But tell me, do you love all his teaching about
indifference to what is happening? You know how our Master scoffs at the
agony of Priam looking on the ruin of Troy. Well, suppose you were a
Roman citizen, as I am sure you will be before long. Or, rather, suppose
you were our new Emperor Hadrian, and saw the northern barbarians not
only at our gates but inside our walls, and the City in flames, and the
Dacians doing in Rome what the Greeks did in Troy to the Trojan men and
women, would you, our Emperor Hadrian, feel it right to say, ‘All this
is nothing to me’?” “By the immortal Gods,” exclaimed Arrian, “I should
not.” “And if Epictetus were in Hadrian’s place, or Priam’s place, do you
think he could say it?”

I had to wait for an answer. “What I am going to say,” he replied at
last, “may seem to you monstrous. But I really cannot reply No. I cannot
tell what he would say. I am not able to judge him as I should judge
others.” Then he proceeded, with an animation quite unusual in him, “Of
any other Hadrian or Priam I should say that such an utterance stamped
him as either liar, or beast, or stone. But Epictetus—absorbed in Zeus,
devoted to His will, resolved to believe that His will is good, and
seeing no way out of the belief that all things happen in accordance with
His will—might not Epictetus conceivably feel, in moments of ecstasy,
that all these fires and furies, massacres and outrages, cannot prevent
him from believing in Zeus and being one with Zeus, so that he himself,
Epictetus, might be, nay, must be, in the bosom of Zeus (so to speak) at
the very moment when not only Rome, but all the cities, villages, and
hamlets of the world—nay, when the universe itself was being cast into
destruction? Well, I am out of my depth. I confess it. But will you not
agree with me thus far, that _if_ Epictetus said that he felt thus, he
would really feel thus?”

“Yes,” replied I, “I am sure that he would not say it unless he felt
it. But I am not sure that he might not feel it merely because he had
forced himself to feel it. However, let us say no more now on such subtle
matters. It is no small help to have been lifted up by such a teacher
above the mere life of the flesh. We part, do we not, in full agreement
that Epictetus has been, for both of us, a guide to that which is good?”
And thus we did part. I accompanied him to the quay. “May we meet again,”
were my last words. “May it be soon,” were his.

But we never met. The death of his father plunged him almost immediately
into domestic cares and matters of business. When the pressure of private
affairs relaxed, it was soon followed by affairs of state. This was due
in part perhaps to his having been a pupil of Epictetus. The new emperor,
long before he became emperor, had always admired our Master; whose
recommendation (I am inclined to think) had something to do with Arrian’s
subsequent promotions. At all events, when I was on service in the north,
I heard without any surprise, and with a great deal of pleasure, that
my former fellow-student—known now to literary circles as Flavianus, a
Roman citizen, and author of the Memoirs of Epictetus—had been appointed
governor of Cappadocia.

From time to time we corresponded. But it was not upon the topics that
used to engross us in old days. He took a great interest in geography.
Military service, at one time in the north and then in the east, gave
me some knowledge of this subject, which I was glad to place at his
disposal. He also studied military affairs with a view to writing on
Alexander. Here again I was of use to him. But we never resumed in our
letters that subject about which he had once said to me, “More of this
to-morrow.” Our paths had branched off, leading us far away from each
other in everything except mutual good will and respect. He had become a
Roman magistrate. Subsequently he was a priest of Demeter. I had become a
Roman soldier, but—a Christian. Many of my friends knew this and I have
little doubt that Arrian guessed it. Privately I feel sure he always
loved me. Officially he must have been forced to disapprove. Hadrian,
it is true, discouraged informations against the Christians, and I had
been hitherto connived at: but could I condemn my old friend if he shrank
from opening up old speculations that might lead him into unofficial,
suspected, and dangerous results? Much more might I myself rather feel
condemned for keeping silence. Sometimes I have felt thus. But not often.
More often I feel that it was better for him not to know what I know,
than to know it, in a sense, and to reject it. Presented in mere writing,
I felt sure that it would have been rejected. Writings and books brought
me on the way to Christ, but something more was needed to make me receive
Christ.

Arrian, I think, avoided such opportunities as presented themselves
for meeting. I am sure I did. If we had met, surely I should have been
constrained to open my mind to him. Once, at least, I touched (in a
letter) on our old conversation about “logos” and “pathos.” He replied
that, in his new career, both “logos” and “pathos” had to give place to
_pragmata_, “business,” which, he thought, was likely to take up all his
energies during the rest of his life.

Even if I had opened my mind, I cannot help thinking that his would
have remained unchanged. One thing, however, I do not think about, but
know—namely, that, if we had met, Arrian and I would still have had
common ground, as of old, in our love of truth and justice, and that we
should still have esteemed, respected, and loved each other. For myself,
love him I always shall, not for his own sake alone, but also because
he helped me directly and immediately to understand Epictetus, and
indirectly and ultimately to perceive the existence of something beyond
any truth that Epictetus could teach.



CHAPTER X

EPICTETUS ON DEATH


Returning to my rooms, I sat down to think out my problems alone.
Presently, on taking up the lecture-notes Arrian had given me, I found
that the title of the first was, “What is meant by being in desolation
or deserted? And who can call himself deserted?” The subject suited my
mood, and I began to read it, as follows: “Desolation is the condition of
a man unhelped. To be alone is not necessarily to be deserted. To be in
the midst of a multitude is not always to be undeserted. A man may be in
the centre of a crowd of his own slaves. But still, if he has just lost a
brother, he may be deserted. We may travel alone, yet never feel deserted
till we fall into the midst of a band of robbers. It is not the face of
a man that delivers us from desolation; it is the presence of someone
faithful and trustworthy, thoughtful and kind, good and helpful.”

I liked this. But afterwards the lecture strayed into what seemed to me
controversial theology or metaphysics, “If being alone suffices to make
you deserted, then say that Zeus Himself is deserted when the final fire
comes round in its cycle, consuming the universe. Say that He bewails His
loneliness exclaiming ‘Alas, me miserable! I have no Hera now! No Athene!
No Apollo! Not a single brother, son, or relation!’ Some people actually
do assert that Zeus behaves like this in the final fire!” I gathered
that he was attacking some philosophic tenet. But it did not interest
me any more than his subsequent assertion—or rather assumption—that
“Zeus associates with Himself, reposes on Himself, and contemplates the
nature of His own administration.” I have never felt drawn towards the
conception of a self-admiring, or a solitary God.

Arrian’s next note bore on the peace of the universe, a peace proclaimed
by the Logos, a peace resembling, but far surpassing, the peace
proclaimed by the Emperor, such a peace that every man can say, even
when he is alone, “Henceforth no evil can befall me. For me, robbers
and earthquakes have no existence. All things are full of peace, full
of tranquillity. Whether I am travelling on the high road, or living
in the city, whether in public assemblies or among private friends and
neighbours, nothing can harm me. There is Another, not myself, who makes
it His care to supply me with food. He it is that clothes me. He, not
myself, gave me the perceptions of my body. He, not myself, bestowed on
me the conceptions of my mind.”

Then followed a passage about death, which Arrian, during our last
conversation, had marked for my special attention: “_But if at any moment
He ceases to supply you with the things needful for your existence, then
take heed! In that moment He is sounding the bugle for you to cease the
conflict. He is saying to you, ‘Come!’ And whither? Into no land of
terrors. Simply into that same region from which you entered into being.
Into the company of such existences as are friendly and akin to you. Into
the elements. Such part as was fire in you will depart into fire; such
part of earth as was in you, into earth; such part of air or wind as was
in you, into air or wind; of water, into water. No Hades! No Acheron! No
Cocytus! No Pyriphlegethon! All things are full of Gods and dæmons!_” By
this I think he meant “good Gods and guardian angels.” He concluded thus,
“_Having such thoughts as these in his heart, looking up to the sun, the
moon, and the stars, and enjoying the earth and the sea, man has no more
right to call himself deserted than to call himself unhelped._”

It was not clear to me how I could continue to call myself “helped”
when I was on the point of being dissolved into the four elements.
If I were a criminal, successful in escaping punishment on earth, I
might deem it “help” (after a fashion) to know that I should be equally
successful after quitting the earth, because I need not fear Hades and
its three rivers as enemies. But where were the “friends”? The four
elements promised but cold friendship! Arrian’s comment rose to my mind,
and a second time I assented to it, “I cannot say that this satisfies
me.” Epictetus was so averse from anything like cant or insincerity of
expression that I was amazed—as I still am—that he could use, in such a
context, the words “friendly and akin.” Surely Sappho’s cry was truer,
when she wandered alone through the woods where she had once been loved
by Phaon—

    “This place is now dead dust. He was its life.”

What would it profit that my “fiery part” should return to fire? It might
as well go astray into water, or earth, or into extinction, as far as
I cared. To be still loved would have been to be still in some kind of
home. But who would love my four elements? I should be “not I,” but only
four severed portions of what had once been “I,” fragments incapable even
of mourning, wandering among “dead dust,” no better than “dead dust”
themselves! How infinitely should I have preferred that Epictetus—if he
could not honestly accept the confident hope of Socrates concerning a
life after death,—should have said simply this, “As to what Zeus does
with our souls after death, others think they know much. I know nothing,
except that He does what is best.”

Reviewing passages in which Epictetus had mentioned the “soul,” I was
more perplexed than ever. For in those he distinctly recognised the
“_soul_” as “_better than the flesh_,” or “_better than the body_,” and
as using the body as its instrument. When, therefore, he spoke of God as
saying to man, “Come!” he ought to have supposed God to be addressing
_the whole man, soul as well as body, or perhaps the soul alone_, (using
the body, or the flesh, as its instrument). But if God said to the human
soul “Come!” how could He go on to say “Such part as was fire in you”
and so on, just as though we knew, without proof, that the _soul_ was
composed of nothing but fire, earth, air and water? We knew no such
thing. On the contrary, Epictetus continually assumed that we have within
ourselves “mind” and “logos.” He also said that “The being of God” is
“mind, knowledge, right logos.” Now he could hardly suppose that “mind”
and “logos” were composed of fire, earth, air, and water. For my part, I
did not feel that I knew anything certain about the distinctions between
“mind,” “soul,” “logos” and “I.” But those who made distinctions appeared
to me under an obligation to say what they meant by them.

It appeared to me that our Master had been inconsistent. As a rule, he
dealt with each of us as having a soul that was our real self, and a
body that was the tool of the soul. “Tyrants,” he would say, “can hurt
your _body_ but they cannot hurt _you_.” Might not a pupil of his go
on consistently to say, “Death can kill your _body_ but it cannot kill
_you_”? This, at all events, was what Socrates meant, when he said,
“As for me, Meletus could not hurt me.… He might kill, or banish, or
degrade,” for he certainly meant “kill” the _body_, not “kill” the _soul_.

Subsequently, when I came to read the Christian gospels, I found two of
them making this distinction in the words, “Be not afraid of them that
kill the body.” One of them added, “but cannot kill the soul,” the other
added “but cannot do anything more.” Then I understood more clearly why
Epictetus said nothing about what became of the soul after death. For
these two Christian writers spoke of a possibility that the soul might
be “destroyed in hell” or “cast into hell.” Now this was just what
Epictetus did not himself believe, and wished to make others disbelieve.
He preferred to give up the belief of Socrates that the good “go to the
islands of the blessed” after death, rather than believe also that the
bad go to a place of the accursed. Hence he dropped all thought of the
essential part, or parts, of man, namely, the soul, mind, and logos, as
soon as he came to speak of man’s death.

The consequence was that Epictetus confused us by an ambiguous use of
“_you_.” As long as we were alive he said to us, “_You_ must regard your
body as a mere tool,” where by “you” he meant the incorporeal part of
man. As soon as we were on the point of death, he said to us, “Do not
be alarmed. _You_ are going into the four elements,” where by “you” he
apparently meant our corporeal part. I felt sure then (as I do now) that
he did not intend to confuse us. He seemed to me to have been confused by
his own intense desire to persuade himself that men must do good without
hope of any reward at all except the consciousness of doing good in this
present life. I had not at that time read the Christian gospels; but
several passages in Paul’s epistles occurred to me as contrary to this
doctrine of Epictetus, and I thought that our Master might have been
biassed in part by Paul (as Scaurus had suggested)—only not, in this
instance, imitating Paul, but contradicting him. So I took up the epistle
to the Romans intending to read what Paul said there about Christ’s death
and resurrection.



CHAPTER XI

ISAIAH ON DEATH


I took up the epistle to the Romans, but I did not read it long. Another
subject stepped in to claim immediate attention in the first words on
which I lighted. They were these, “Isaiah cries aloud on behalf of
Israel, _Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the
sea, the remnant [alone] shall be saved_,” and then, “Even as Isaiah has
foretold, _If the Lord of Sabaoth had not left seed to us, we should
have become as Sodom and should have been made like unto Gomorrah_.”
Previously when I had read these words I could neither understand them
nor see the way to understand them, not knowing the meaning of “Sodom”
and “Gomorrah,” nor even “Isaiah.” But now, knowing that Isaiah was
one of the principal Hebrew prophets, I began to see that many obscure
passages of Paul might become clearer to me if I first studied this
prophet. This view was confirmed when I found Paul, later on, quoting
him again, “But Isaiah is very bold and says, _I was found by them that
sought me not, I became manifest to them that consulted me not_; but
with reference to Israel he says, _All the day long, I stretched out my
hands to a people disobedient and gainsaying_.” The name also occurred
toward the close of the epistle thus, “Isaiah says, _There shall be the
root of Jesse, and he that is raised up to rule over the nations; on him
shall the nations set their hope_.” These last words reminded me of the
doctrine of Epictetus about Diogenes “to whom are entrusted the peoples
of the earth and countless cares in their behalf.”

But I did not know what “root of Jesse” meant. The name, “Jesse,” I
faintly remembered reading in the poems of David; but where it was I
could not recall. Hence the phrase was obscure. I determined to put off
the further study of Paul for the present, and to glance through the
book of Isaiah in the hope of meeting this and other passages quoted
above. Accordingly I unrolled the prophecy and began to read it from the
beginning.

At first, the language was clear—though the Greek was as bad as in the
poems of David. The “children” of God, said the prophet (meaning the
ancient Jews or Hebrews, whom he often spoke of as “Israel”) had rebelled
against their Father and were being punished with fire and sword by
hostile nations executing God’s vengeance on their impiety. Then came
the sentence I quoted above, from Paul, about the “remnant.” After this,
the prophet introduced “the Lord”—that is the God of the Jews—as saying
that He cared no longer for their incense or their offerings because they
came from hands stained with blood. This was somewhat like the saying
of Horace about Phidyle mentioned above. But what followed was not like
anything in Horace: “Wash you, make you clean; cease to do evil, learn
to do good; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless,
plead for the widow.” If they would act thus, then, said God, “though
your sins be red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” As though
the nation were molten metal in a crucible, and He Himself were refining
them with fire, the Lord said to the whole people of Israel, “I will
purge away thy dross … afterwards thou shalt be called the city of
righteousness.”

I had begun to hope that I should be able to understand this author as
easily as Euripides and much more easily than Æschylus. But now came
obscurities. First I read of a golden age. People were to “beat their
swords into ploughshares,” and not to “learn war any more.” Then I found
a mention of general destruction as by a universal earthquake. Then came,
without any chronological or other order apparent to me, the following
pictures, or predictions:—a land without a ruler governed by children and
women; a picture of luxurious ladies of rank, a list of their dresses,
ornaments, jewels and cosmetics; a “branch of the Lord, beautiful and
glorious”; a purifying with a “spirit of burning”; “a song of my beloved
touching his vineyard”—all confused together (so it seemed to me at the
time) like the prophecies of the Sibyl.

As far as I could see, most of these prophecies dealt with the internal
corruption of the nation. The “vineyard” of the Lord was the people
of Israel. When He visited the vineyard, looking for fruit, said the
prophet, “He looked for judgment but behold oppression.” After this,
came a vision of the Lord’s glory, and then predictions of external
calamities, and invasions of foreign nations. But yet there was a promise
of the birth of a Deliverer, a Prince of Peace, to sit “upon the throne
of David.” Following this, at some interval, were the words for which
I was searching, about “the root of Jesse.” And now I could understand
them, for they were preceded by this prediction, “There shall come
forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots
shall bear fruit.” Just before that, there had been a description of an
invading army, coming as the instrument of the Lord’s wrath and “lopping
the boughs with terror” and hewing down “the high ones of stature.”

Then all was clear to me. I perceived the connexion between the “child”
that was to sit on “the throne of David,” and the “shoot out of the stock
of Jesse.” The two together brought back to my mind that passage which I
could not before recall from the Psalms, “The prayers of David the son of
Jesse are ended.” The words of Isaiah were like those of Sophocles where
he is speaking of the destruction of the royal house of Laius. Sophocles
calls the surviving child the “root,” and laments because the axe of Fate
was destroying it just when a branch was on the point of “shooting up”
from the “stock” so as to produce fruit. So now, but in an opposite mood
of hope and joy, Isaiah said that the royal house of David the son of
Jesse would not be exterminated, though many of its scions would be cut
off. A “branch” would “shoot up” and the succession to the kingdom would
be maintained.

In the same way, I perceived, the great Julius, or the Emperor Augustus,
being descended from Iulus, the son of Æneas, might be called “the shoot
out of the stock of Anchises,” transported from Asia to Europe so as to
“shoot up” into a new kingdom more glorious than the old. This, too,
explained the word “remnant” used by Paul. As the Trojan followers of
Æneas were a “remnant,” so too must be the Jewish followers of this
“child,” a remnant left from defeat, disaster, and captivity, after a
great “lopping of the boughs with terror.” Virgil sang about the empire
of the house of Iulus not as a prophet, but as a poet, prophesying, so
to speak, after the event. Isaiah appeared merely to predict empire as a
prophet, and a false prophet, prophesying what had not been, and never
would be, an “event.” The tree of the empire of Rome was erect for all
the world to look on. The tree of the kingdom of Jesse appeared to me as
extinct as the house of Laius. So I thought then.

Yet I knew that Paul looked at the matter differently and regarded
these prophecies as having been, or as about to be, fulfilled. And
when I looked more closely into the sayings of Isaiah about the future
kingdom, I saw that many of them were capable of two meanings. Sometimes
the prophet appeared to be contemplating a kingdom established in the
ordinary way by force of arms—a conquest achieved, or at all events
preceded, by fire, sword, and desolation. But, for the most part, it
seemed to be an empire of peace to be brought about by some kind of
persuasion, or feeling. A sudden conviction was to take hold of all the
nations of the earth, so that they were to exclaim, with one consent, as
at the sound of a trumpet, “Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of
the Lord,” meaning the Temple in Jerusalem.

In this kingdom, however brought about, the Lord was to be King, and
there was to be a “covenant” between Him and all the citizens or
subjects, a covenant of righteousness. The subjects were to obey the
King and the King would give them a righteous spirit. In some respects
the covenant of obedience was to resemble that philosophic oath which
Epictetus had enjoined on us, namely, to consult our own interests, to
be true to ourselves (meaning, to the spirit of righteousness within
us). But the prophet regarded righteousness as loyalty, or truth, not to
ourselves, but to our King.

That seemed to me one great difference between the Greeks and the Hebrews
in their notions of worship. The Greeks, when they lifted their thoughts
above themselves, looked, in the first place, each man to his several
city, and in the next place, to the Gods. They did not think in the first
place of the Gods. For the Gods were many, while the City was one. But
the ancient Jews, the men of Israel, or at least their prophets, looked
to their Lord God as their King—the Father, or sometimes the Husband, of
Israel. Although they were many tribes, they had but one God, the Lord
God, who had delivered them from the land of Egypt. This Lord God was a
God of justice and truth, hating oppression, a defender of the widow and
the fatherless. To be loyal to Him was righteousness.

And herein—as I soon began to perceive—was the great difference between
the view of righteousness or justice taken by Isaiah and that taken by
our Roman lawyers, or any lawyers bound to a written law. The lawyer’s
righteousness was legality; the prophet’s was loyalty. Epictetus and
Isaiah agreed together in aiming at loyalty, not legality. Both disliked
obedience paid to mere rules and commandments of men. But the former for
the most part inculcated loyalty that seemed like loyalty to oneself;
the latter, loyalty to God. This precept of Isaiah agreed with the
fundamental law prescribed in the code of Moses that the men of Israel
were to “love” the Lord their God.

After searching carefully to see what the prophet said concerning the
immortality of the soul (about which Moses seemed to be silent) I could
find little of a definite kind. In one passage I read “The dead shall
arise and they that are in the tombs shall be roused up.” But the
preceding lines said “The dead shall assuredly not see life”; so that it
was not clear whether the words meant that one nation should be destroyed
for ever and another nation should be raised up from destruction to
life. The prophet appeared to be thinking of the nation collectively,
more often than of separate citizens. The metaphor of the Vine of Israel
seemed to be almost always in his thoughts. And his hope seemed to be,
not concerning separate branches, that every branch should remain; but
that, in spite of being cruelly pruned and cut down almost to the ground,
the tree, as a whole, would yet grow up and bear fruit. I noticed also
that a certain king called Hezekiah, when praying to be delivered from a
disease likely to prove fatal, spoke as though there were no life after
death.

But there was one passage, of very mysterious import, which seemed to
point to a different conclusion. It spoke about a “servant of God,” of
mean aspect but destined to be a great Deliverer—such as Epictetus had
described—“bearing upon him the cares” of multitudes. He was to grow up
“as a root in the thirsty ground,” which suggested that he was to be “the
root of Jesse” above mentioned. But he was not to be like Æneas, “the
root” of Anchises. For Æneas divided the spoils in Italy as the prize of
his sword. But this Deliverer—so the prophet declared—was “despised and
reckoned as naught.” He was “delivered over” to the enemies of his nation
as a ransom to save his fellow-countrymen, and it was by their wickedness
that “he was led to death.” Yet in the end, said the prophet, “He will
inherit many men, and will divide the spoils of the strong, because his
soul was delivered over to death, and he was reckoned among criminals,
and he carried the sins of many and he was delivered over on account of
their crimes.”

This was altogether beyond my comprehension at the time. But I saw that
I should have to return to this prophecy hereafter; for I recognised
its last words as having been quoted by Paul in writing to the Romans.
I found afterwards that the passage in Paul spoke about “believing in
Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was _delivered over
for the sake of our transgressions_, and was raised up for the sake of
our being made righteous.” For the present, however, the passage in
Isaiah about the “servant” of God seemed to me important, for this reason
mainly, because it indicated a belief in a life after death. And so did
another difficult passage—if Paul had interpreted it rightly. My copy of
the prophecy said, “Death by its strength hath swallowed up”; but the
margin said “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and these latter words,
too, I recognised as being quoted by Paul; and this, or some similar,
sense appeared to be required by the context.

It was growing late and I was obliged to break off. But I resolved to
return to the book next morning before lecture. So far as I had read,
it appeared to me that the prophet did not formally recognise the
immortality of the soul in general. But in the case of the Suffering
Servant he did seem to recognise it. Having the Servant in my mind,
I unrolled the book of Isaiah to other passages using the same word,
such as, “for my _servant_ David’s sake,” “But thou, Israel, art my
_servant_,” “My _servant_ whom I have chosen.” At last I came to “the
seed of Abraham my _friend_.” In all these passages, God was supposed to
be speaking. Then it occurred to me, “Did the prophet make an exception
for the Suffering Servant only? Did he not also believe that Abraham’s
soul was immortal?” It seemed to me impossible that if the God of the
Jews were asked, “Where is Abraham thy friend?” He would reply—or
that the prophet would regard Him as replying—“Resolved into the four
elements.” On the whole, I was led to the conclusion that Isaiah implied,
though he did not express, some kind of doctrine of human immortality
dependent on the relation between man and God.



CHAPTER XII

ISAIAH ON PROVIDENCE


Even when I was in the act of rolling up the book of Isaiah, very late at
night, it occurred to me that the question “Is there a life after death?”
might be connected with another, “Is there to be hereafter a reign of
righteousness?” I tried to give my mind rest by thinking of other things;
but this second question came back to me again and again both before and
after I retired to rest. Epictetus spoke about “the sceptre and throne
of Diogenes”: but I knew he would not assert that the philosopher’s
“sceptre” implied any present kingdom except over his own mind and the
minds of a small band of Cynics—small in comparison with Stoics and
Epicureans, and nothing at all in comparison with the non-philosophic
myriads. As for a kingdom of righteousness after death in another world,
I was now certain that Epictetus did not expect it; and I began to doubt
whether he expected such a kingdom at any time in this world. If to
believe in Providence means to believe in a God who foresees and prepares
that which is best—I could not understand where Epictetus could find a
basis for such a belief.

With the Jews, it was otherwise. They, I could see, had received a
special training, which made them, more than any other nation known to
me, begin by expecting a reign of righteousness on earth. Beginning thus,
and being largely disappointed, they might be led on to expect a reign of
righteousness in heaven. Their history was like a collection of stories
for children, teeming with what a child might call surprises, but a
prophet judgments—evil, uppermost, suddenly cast down; humble patient
goodness, chastened by pains and trials, lifted up to lordship over its
past oppressors. Examples occurred to me before I slept, and many more
during the night, in my waking moments. I had not noticed them so clearly
when reading the Law consecutively. Now, grouped together, they came
almost as a new revelation—if not of history, at all events of legend,
and of a nation’s thoughts, and of the training through which the Jew
Paul must have passed in his childhood and youth.

First, there was Abraham—Abraham the homeless, going out from unbelievers
to worship the one God, and receiving a promise that he should be the
father of blessing, for multitudes in all the nations of the earth;
Abraham the childless, rewarded with the child of promise; Abraham the
kind and yielding, who gave way to his kinsman Lot, so that the older
patriarch was content with the inferior pastures while the younger chose
the fertile lands of Sodom and Gomorrah; Abraham the father of the one
child that embodied the truth of the one God, offering up that child on
the altar, and receiving him back as if from Hades; Abraham the landless,
without a foot of ground in the land promised to him, buying with money
a cave to bury his family. “Surely,” I said, “the story of Abraham, in
itself, is a compendium of national history not indeed for Rome, but for
a nation of peace (if only the nation could live up to it!) most fit for
training a child to become a citizen in the City of Righteousness!”

If the life of Abraham was full of surprises or paradoxes, so too were
the lives of the other patriarchs and leaders of the nation. Isaac,
“laughter,” laid himself down to die in appearance, but to “laugh”
at death in reality. Esau was the “elder,” yet he was to “serve the
younger.” Jacob was promised lordship over his brother in the future, but
he bowed down before him in the present. The same patriarch, a poor man,
with nothing but his “staff,” became rich and prosperous. Yet, because
he had deceived his father, he in turn was deceived by his children and
sorely tried by their contentions. Through Samuel, the little child,
God rebuked Eli the high priest; and the little one became the prophet
and judge of Israel. David, the despised and youngest of many brethren,
became the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Such was the history of the great men of the ancient Jews—tried, but
triumphing over trial. On the other hand, the history of the mass of the
common people, from the time when they were a family of twelve sons,
shewed them as going astray, lying, quarrelling and rebelling. For this
they were punished by plagues and enemies; then, delivered by judges or
prophets; but only, as it seemed, again to fall away, and to be delivered
again; so that the reader of the histories, apart from the prophecies,
might well suppose that these ebbs and flows were to go on for ever; that
Israel was to be always imperfect, always liable to rebellion; and that
the promise to Abraham was never to be fulfilled. More especially might a
reader of the histories anticipate this when he saw the great empires of
the east, Assyria and Babylon, leading the tribes away into captivity and
destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Such were my thoughts by night concerning the Law and the Histories
of Israel. Resuming the study of the prophecy early next morning, I
perceived that in the sins and backslidings of the people there was
yet another and far deeper illustration of what might be called “the
law of paradoxes.” Not only came prosperity out of adversity but also
righteousness out of sin, and out of punishment promise. Some of
Isaiah’s most comforting prophecies arose from the invasion of Israel
by Assyria. In this connexion there came a promise about a “child” that
was to be “born,” of whom it was said “the government shall be upon his
shoulder.” These things reminded me of passages in the poems, where the
poet—musing on the chastisements and deliverances that followed the sins
of Israel—exclaims “His mercy endureth for ever,” or “I remember the days
of old, I meditate on all thy doings.” In the history of Greece and Rome
I could find comparatively few stories of such “doings.” How indeed could
I reasonably expect them? Romans and Greeks worship many Gods, but only
one Father of Gods and men. Athens might claim Athene, and other cities
might have their special patrons among the Gods. But how could it be
supposed that the Father of Gods and men would make any one nation His
peculiar care? Virgil says that Venus was on the side of the future Rome,
and that Jupiter favoured Venus; but Juno intervenes for Carthage. Then
Jupiter has to compromise between Juno and Venus, or to conciliate Juno
by laying the blame on fate! “How different,” I exclaimed, “all this is
from the Hebrew egotism that represents the one God as continually saying
to Israel ‘Thee have I chosen’!”

Yet I had hardly uttered the word “egotism” before I felt inclined to
qualify it, adding, “But it is not ‘egotism’ from Paul’s point of view.”
For indeed Paul seemed to think that God chose Abraham, not for Abraham’s
own sake—or at all events not merely for Abraham’s own sake—but for the
sake of “all the nations of the earth,” to bring light and truth to
them. Epictetus spoke of Diogenes as “bearing on himself the orb of the
world’s vast cares.” Somewhat similarly—when I took up the Law of the
Jews to revise the thoughts that had come to me in the night—I found the
Law describing the life of Abraham the friend of God. For I did not find
Abraham blessed or happy—as the world would use the terms “blessing” and
“happiness.”

Abraham begins as a homeless wanderer, going forth from his kindred at
the bidding of the one true God; and a homeless wanderer he remains
to the end. He is a father of kings but no king himself, not even a
landowner! He has to buy with money land enough to bury his dead! His
life is one of intercession as well as concession. Abraham intercedes
for the dwellers in Sodom and Gomorrah, feeling it a painful thing that
even a few righteous should suffer with the many. Once indeed Abraham
becomes a soldier. But it is not for himself. It is for his kinsman and
for the rescue of captives. Abraham makes himself a servant, waiting at
table upon his guests. Abraham offers to God the life of his only son.
If Paul was right, and if the children of Abraham mean the men that
do such things as these in such a spirit as this, and if “the seed of
Abraham” is the man that incarnates this spirit, then, I thought, there
was perhaps no egotism when the prophet of Israel represented God as
saying to the descendant of Abraham, “Thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob
whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” For it may mean
“I have not chosen the rich, I have not chosen the great and strong.
I have chosen the good and kind and truthful and courageous; him only
have I chosen.” And soon afterwards God says, “I have chosen thee in the
furnace of affliction,” that is to say, “I have not chosen thee to make
thee selfishly happy and prosperous, but to make thee my servant, like
Abraham, for the service of all the world.”

The same truth appeared to apply to Moses, who, next to Abraham, might
be called the greatest of the “servants of the Lord.” Even from the
cradle he was in peril of death. He delivered his countrymen, as it
were, against their will. The burden of their rebellions pressed on him
through his life, and caused him to be cut off from the land of promise
in the moment of his death. He saw it from afar off but was not allowed
to enter it. He was prohibited because of his sin; and his sin fell upon
him because his people sinned. “The Lord was wroth with me,” said Moses,
“for your sakes.” That was the greatest burden of all. With the lives of
Abraham and Moses before me, it seemed that the greatest servants were
also the greatest sufferers.

Having this fresh light, I turned again to the description of the
Suffering Servant in Isaiah. Did the prophet mean some particular
prince of the house of David who was actually “chosen in the furnace of
affliction” in order to deliver Israel? Or did he mean Israel itself,
scattered through the world and afflicted in order that it might deliver
the world? Plato modelled his Republic in the form of a man: had Isaiah
any such double meaning? Did he predict a second David delivering sinful
Israel, and also a purified Israel delivering a sinful world? Was he
carried, so to speak, by the past into the future? That is to say, had
he in mind some prince actually tortured and imprisoned, and as good as
dead, for the sake of the people, and did the prophet regard this prince
as destined to be raised up from the darkness of the prison house and to
reign on earth? Or else was the prince, though actually killed, destined
to be raised up and to reign after death in his own person, or to reign
in the person of his descendants?

About all these questions I felt that it was not for me to judge. I did
not know enough about the history of the people and the language of their
poets and prophets. But there remained with me this general truth, as
being not only at the bottom of this prophecy, but also pervading the
history of Israel, namely, that in order to make a great nation, great
men must die for its sake. And I began to conceive a possibility that the
greatest of all men, some real “son of Abraham”—I mean some spiritual
son of Abraham, not necessarily a Jew—might arise in the history of the
world, who might be willing to die not for one nation alone but for all
the nations of the empire. But how? And against what enemies? As soon
as I asked myself these questions, the conception faded away. I thought
of Nero enthroned in Rome, and of the Beast enthroned in the heart of
man. Against either of these foes I did not understand how the death of
any “son of Abraham,” or “servant of God,” could avail. How could such a
Servant “divide the spoils of the strong, because his soul was delivered
over to death”? This was beyond me.

For the rest, Isaiah appeared to me to carry on throughout the book
of his prophecies that thread of unexpectedness about which I spoke
above—I mean, that what prophets (foreseeing them) call judgments, men
of the world (not foreseeing) call surprises. Yes, and even prophets
and righteous men—not foreseeing enough—often lift up their hands in
amazement, exclaiming, “This hath God wrought!” or “The stone that the
builders rejected hath become the headstone of the corner!” But there was
a dark as well as a bright side in these surprises. The disappointments
were often most strange. For example, Isaiah saw a vision of the
Lord “high and lifted up.” But with what result? The prophet himself
was straightway cast down with the thought of being “unclean.” Even
afterwards, when his lips had been cleansed with the coal from off the
altar so that he might deliver God’s message, the message was, “Hear ye,
indeed, but understand not!”—because his warning was to be rejected.
And so it was throughout, paradox on paradox! Israel was “chosen” in
one sentence, “backsliding” in the next. The “despised and rejected”
servant was to be “lifted up.” The transgressions of the world were to be
taken away by a deliverer, who was to be “reckoned among transgressors.”
Sometimes, as if despairing of the noble and learned among his own
people, the prophet seemed to appeal to the poor and simple, according to
the words of David, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou
ordained strength!” Sometimes he even seemed to turn away from Israel
itself—at all events from the majority of the nation—to the remnant, and
to the pious among other nations, as though they, yes, even foreigners,
might receive the fulfilment of the promise made to the seed of Abraham!

Amid all these (to me) perplexing paradoxes, one thing was
clear—constituting a great difference between Isaiah and Epictetus. The
former saw God in history. The latter did not. Epictetus said (as I have
shewn in a previous chapter) that, up to the time of death, man can
always find peace by following the “logos” within himself during life;
after death he ceases to exist. “Bearing these things in mind,” said he,
“and seeing the sun and moon and stars, and enjoying the earth and sea,
man is not deserted any more than unhelped.” These words now returned
to my mind, and I perceived the force of what they did _not_ say. They
said that God was to be seen in the sun and moon and stars; but they did
_not_ say that He was to be seen where Isaiah saw Him, in the nations of
the earth controlled by the Supreme. It is true that Isaiah, too—like
Epictetus—bade his readers look up to the stars as witnesses to God. But
Isaiah seemed to me to reckon men superior to stars.

David certainly did so. David had “considered” all the glories of the
visible heaven. Yet he counted them inferior to “man,” who was “made
but little lower than God,” and inferior to the “son of man,” who had
received “dominion” over God’s works. In the same spirit, Isaiah, as
it seemed to me, spoke of the Maker of the heavenly bodies as being
adorable, not because He had made them multitudinous and bright, but
because He led them like a flock—as though even a star might wander but
for the kindness of the divine Shepherd. Moreover God seemed to him to
be controlling the mighty powers of the heaven for the service of man,
“_Behold, the Lord, the Lord, He cometh with strength, and His arm with
lordship. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. As a
shepherd shall He shepherd His sheep, and with His arm He shall gather
the lambs, and encourage those that are with young. Who measured out the
water with His hand, and the heaven with a span, and all the earth with
His fingers? Who established the mountains by measure and the valleys
with a scale? Who hath known the mind of the Lord and who hath become His
fellow counsellor so as to instruct Him?_”

Thus, according to the prophet, there was to be a great advent in which
God was to “come” with “reward.” He predicted a future “shepherding” of
the “sheep” and “gathering” of the “lambs,” corresponding to the past
“measuring” of the “heaven.” According to the philosopher there was to
be no such future. All things were to go round and round. Instead of
“sheep” or “lambs,” bubbles in an eddy seemed a more appropriate metaphor
to describe the results of human life in accordance with the general
tendency of Epictetian doctrine.



CHAPTER XIII

EPICTETUS ON PROVIDENCE


It was now almost the third hour and I was on the point of rolling up the
volume, when a fellow-student suddenly entered to borrow some writing
materials. Thrusting the book in my garment I supplied him with what he
needed, and we hastened together to the lecture-room.

We conversed, about trivial subjects, but my mind was not in them. It was
with Isaiah. I could not help marvelling that a native of so small and
weak a country should take so wide and imperial a view of the movements
of the nations. In a Roman, I could have understood it better; or in a
Greek of the days of Alexander. But that a Jew—whose people was as it
were the shuttlecock between the great empires surrounding it—that a
Jewish prophet should think such thoughts filled me with astonishment.
Then I wondered what Epictetus would say on the administration of the
world if he ever dealt with it fully. “He,” I said, “was a Phrygian and
a slave. Is it possible that he, too, like Isaiah, could speak in this
imperial fashion?” Arriving somewhat late, we found the room almost
filled; but my seat was vacant, and I was glad to find Glaucus next to
me, in the place vacated by Arrian’s departure.

Epictetus was just beginning his first sentence. I will give it as
Glaucus took it down, exactly: “Be not surprised if other animals, all
except ourselves, have ready at hand the things needful for their bodily
wants provided for them, not only food and drink but also bedding, and
no need of sandals or blankets or clothes—while we have need of all
these additional things.” He proceeded to say that the beasts were our
servants, and that it would be extremely inconvenient for us if we had
“to clothe, shoe, and feed sheep and asses! As if,” said he, “a colonel
had to shoe and clothe his regiment before they could do the service
required of them! And yet men complain, instead of being thankful!” Any
single created thing, he said, would suffice to demonstrate Providence
to a grateful mind. Then he instanced the production of milk from grass
and of cheese from milk. Thence he passed from the “works” of Nature
to “by-works,” such as the beard, distinguishing man from woman. This
(I think) was one of his customary digressions against the fashion of
smooth-skinned effeminacy: “How much more beautiful than the comb of
cocks! How much more noble than the mane of lions! Therefore it was our
duty to preserve God’s appointed tokens of manhood: it was our duty not
to give them up, not to confuse (so far as lay in us) the classes, male
and female, distinguished by Him.”

“Are these,” he continued, “the only works of Providence in our behalf?
What praise can be proportionate to our benefits? Had we understanding,
we should be ever hymning the graces He has bestowed on us. Whether
digging, or ploughing, or eating, ought we not to sing the appropriate
hymn to God, saying ‘Great is God, because He hath given us tools
wherewith to till the ground,’ ‘Great is God, who hath given us hands,
and the power of swallowing, and a stomach, and a faculty of growing in
stature painlessly and insensibly, and of breathing even when we sleep’?
Hymns and praises such as these we ought to sing on each occasion. But
the greatest and most divine hymn of all should be sung in thanks for
that power”—he meant the Logos—“which intelligently recognises all these
blessings, and which duly and methodically employs them. But _you_ are
silent. What then? Since you, like the common herd, are blind to God’s
glory, it was but fit that there should be some one herald, though it be
but one, to fill the place left empty by your default, and to chant the
hymn that goes up to God in behalf of all. What else am I fit to do, a
halting old man like me, except to sing the praises of God?”

And so he drew toward the conclusion of the first part of his lecture.
Were he a nightingale or a swan, he said, he would do as a nightingale or
a swan—that is to say, utter mere sounds, songs without words, songs void
of reasonable thoughts, without Logos—“But as it is, I am endowed with
Logos. Accordingly I must sing hymns to God. This is my special work.
This I do. Never will I abandon this post of duty, as long as it is given
to me. And I invite and urge you also to the same task of song.” From
this he proceeded to speak of “the things of the Logos,” or “the logical
things,” as being “necessary”; and he spoke of the Logos as that which
“articulates”—by which he meant, distinguishes the joints and connexions
of all other things—and also as being that which accomplishes all other
things. He appeared to mean that this Logos was reason; and he assumed
that it is “impossible that anything should be better than reason.” But
he refused to enter into the question, If the Logos within us goes wrong,
what shall set it right? His language at this point was very obscure. The
impression left upon me was that Logos, with him, meant two different
things and that he did not distinguish them. When he sang hymns to God in
accord with the Logos, I thought he must intend to include something more
than reason; but when he passed on to say that “the things of the Logos”
(or “the logical things”) are necessary, he seemed to mean “reason” alone.

Later on, he returned to his first subject: “When you are in the act of
blaming Providence for anything, reflect, and you will recognise that it
has happened in accordance with Logos.” Then, taking the case of some man
supposed to have been defrauded of a large sum of money, he placed in his
mouth the objection that, if the fraud is “in accordance with Logos,” it
would seem that injustice is “in accordance with Logos.” For, said the
objector, “the unjust man has the advantage.” “In what respect?” asked
Epictetus. “In money,” says the objector. To which Epictetus replied,
“True, for he is better than you are for this purpose”—he meant, for
making money—“because he flatters, he casts away shame, he is always
unweariedly working for money. But consider. Does he get the better of
you in respect of faithfulness and honour?” Then he rebuked us, would-be
philosophers, for being angry with God for bestowing on us His best
gifts, namely virtues, and for allowing bad men to take away from us what
was not good in itself, namely, our worldly possessions.

This view of Providence and of wealth seemed to differ from the one
assumed in Isaiah and often stated by Moses and David. For they had
taught me that righteousness, and truth, and obedience to parents,
and neighbourly kindness, tend to “length of days” and to peace and
prosperity on the earth—for the righteous man himself as well as for the
community; and they also distinguished honest wealth, acquired by labour,
from dishonest wealth acquired by greediness and injustice. But Epictetus
here made no such distinction.

The Jewish poems recognised it as being, at all events on the surface, a
strange thing that a righteous man should be subjected to exceptional,
crushing, and continuous calamities by the visitations of God. Epictetus
appeared to teach us that God had ordained some men to be restless,
pushing, shameless, and greedy, that they may take away the wealth
acquired honestly by the good and honest and just. God had made these
rascals “better” than the virtuous—in rascality! Then he called on us
to admire or accept this ordinance or law: “Why fret, then, fellow? You
have the better gift. Remember, therefore, all of you always, and have
it by heart and on the lips, _This is a Law of Nature that the better
should have—in the province in which he is better—the advantage of the
inferior_. Then none of you will fret any more.”

In his general theory, Epictetus was careful to separate himself from
those who maintain that the Gods do not interfere with the affairs of
men, or never interfere except on great and public occasions, and he
approved of the words of Ulysses to the Allseeing, quoted by Socrates,
“Thou seest my every motion.” If man, he said, can embrace the world
in his thought, and if the air and sun can include all things in their
influence, why cannot God? But this seemed to lead to the conclusion that
the influence of God is being perpetually and ubiquitously exerted on
men in order to produce knaves, slaves, tyrants, and fools: for such our
Master appeared to deem the majority of mankind.

In practice, Epictetus avoided such a blasphemy against God, by drawing
no inference as to Providence from any of the laws or institutions of
men, for he appeared to regard human institutions as radically bad. At
all events he allowed his pupils—as I have shewn above—to say that the
rulers of the world are “thieves and robbers” and that the courts of
justice are “courts of injustice.” His belief in Providence was—I seemed
to see clearly—based on nothing but the consciousness of the Logos within
himself. The Logos in the vast majority of mankind appeared to him to
have done them no good: so he could not argue from that.

When someone mentioned the fate of the Emperor Galba as disproving a
belief in Providence, Epictetus implied a scornful disavowal of any
intention to base belief on any such historical event. Nor did he ever
refer to God as controlling the movements of nations. In answer therefore
to my silent question, “Does our Master see God in the history of
individuals or nations?” his teaching seemed to reply “No, I see it in
nothing except Socrates, Diogenes, and a few other philosophers, and also
in myself. Beyond this little group of souls, though I feel myself able
to infer God in everything, I cannot really infer Him in anything mental
or spiritual. Hence I am driven to such physical instances as butter,
cheese, stomachs, and beards!”

On leaving the lecture-room I chatted with Glaucus and tried hard to be
cheerful. But how I missed Arrian! I felt inclined to turn Epicurean.
The “careless” gods of Epicurus seemed at least less unloveable than the
Providence of Epictetus. Too much depressed for any kind of study, I did
not return to my lodging but walked out into the country by unfrequented
paths, resting after mid-day in a little village inn. Coming out, toward
the close of the afternoon, I found an acquaintance of mine, Apronius
Rufus, standing in the porch and amusing himself by throwing figs and
nuts to a crowd of boys just emerging from the doors of a neighbouring
school. From scrambling and scuffling the boys had come to fighting—all
but two or three, who held aloof with an air of sulky superiority; and
one, I think, saw the schoolmaster in the distance. My acquaintance was
attending the Epicurean classes in Nicopolis. We Cynics called the
followers of Epicurus “swine,” and I could not resist the temptation
of saying, “Rufus, you are making converts. When they grow up, these
little pigs will do you credit.” He laughed good-humouredly: “Not all of
them, Silanus! A few, as you see yonder, remain of your persuasion, true
Cynics, that is to say, puppies or prigs. But we do pretty well. Nature
is for us, though you and the schoolmaster are allied against us. By the
way, I think I see your ally coming round the corner. I will be off. Two
against Hercules are one too many. Farewell!” “Farewell!” said I, “Your
wit is as much stronger than mine as your philosophy is weaker.”

“But _is_ it weaker?” thought I, as he strode back to Nicopolis, and I
in the opposite direction. Was not Apronius right in saying that Nature
was on his side? Does not Providence, like Circe, throw down figs and
nuts for us human creatures to make us swine? Is she not always saying
to us, “Push, and be greedy! Then you will get what you want”? And did
not Epictetus acquiesce in this, in effect, saying to the two or three
non-pushers, “Be content. The others, the masses of men, are ‘better’
than you are for pushing and for kicking and for fighting like greedy
swine”? But who made them “better”? Was it not Nature? And how could
I feel sure that this same Nature or Providence that made “grass” (as
Epictetus said) to produce “milk and butter and cheese,” did not make man
to produce scrambling and scuffling and fighting—a spectacle for some
amused God, who watches from the windows of heaven, like Apronius Rufus
from the inn-door on earth?

After a long circuit, returning to Nicopolis, I sat down to rest in a
copse when the sun was drawing towards the west. Tired out by my walk,
I fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun had set and the evening star was
shining. As I sat in silence gazing upon it, better thoughts were brought
to me. “Five minutes,” I said, “with Hesper teach more about Providence
than an hour with Epictetus.” Then it occurred to me, “But, were I Priam,
and were this the evening before Troy was taken, would not Hesper shine
as brightly before me? What does Hesper prove?” Presently, the lesser
stars began to appear, growing each moment in number. Then I remembered
how Moses represents the Lord God appearing to Abraham (when he was as
yet childless) and saying to him, “Look up to the heaven and number
the stars, if thou art able to number them all. So shall thy seed be.”
And what had come of it all? A nation that was no nation, a race of
captives, known to us in Rome chiefly as hating pork and strangers no
less than they loved their sabbaths. Then I thought, “Had Hesper any more
favour for Abraham than for Priam? Perhaps the stars promised peace and
prosperity to both and broke their promise! What Troy is, that Jerusalem
is. Nay, worse. Troy has produced a New Troy. Where is the New Jerusalem?
And where is the great nation promised to Abraham? A flock (or flocks) of
exiles, fanatics, and slaves!”

Just then came into my mind the memory of some words about the stars in
Isaiah. I had taken the book with me to lecture. So I unrolled it till I
came to them: “_Lift up your eyes on high and see. Who hath appointed all
these? He that leadeth forth His host in a numbered array. He will call
them all by name. Because of thy great glory, and in the might of thy
strength, not one escapeth from thine eye._” Then the prophet declared
that, even as the stars of heaven are made visible in the darkness, so
the seed of Abraham was not hidden by any darkness from God’s eye: “_Say
not, O Jacob (ah, why didst thou dare to say it, O Israel?) ‘My way is
hidden from God, and my God hath taken away judgment and hath departed
from me.’ Hast thou not even now found out the truth? Hast thou not
clearly heard it? The God eternal, the God that framed and fashioned
the earth, even to its furthest corners, He will not faint for hunger,
nor is there any fathoming of His wisdom. To them that hunger He giveth
strength—but sorrow to them that have no grief. For hunger shall fall on
the youths, and weariness on the young men, and the chosen warriors shall
utterly lose strength; but they that wait patiently for God shall renew
their strength; they shall put forth wings like eagles; they shall run
and not be weary; they shall walk erect and shall not faint for hunger._”

I could not believe all this. But neither could I disbelieve it. One
voice said to me, “The poet is casting on the God of the stars the
mantle that he has borrowed from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
But another voice kept saying to me, “Wait patiently for God: He shall
renew thy strength.” In the afternoon, when I had thrown myself down to
rest, I had thought that I would give up the search after truth, get rid
of all my books, leave Nicopolis, and go at once into the army. Now I was
more hopeful. But I could not give any logical reason for my hope. Isaiah
had not convinced me. Far from it! The promise to Abraham seemed still to
me to have resulted in failure. I had broken off my study of Paul, almost
at its commencement, in order to study Isaiah. And Isaiah, without Paul,
presented many difficulties that might perplex wiser minds than mine.
“Grant,” said I, “that David the son of Jesse was a great poet. Grant
that Isaiah was a great prophet. Yet what were their poems and prophecies
except so many pillars of vapour, or, if of substance, then substantial
failures; pillars with the capital gone and the shaft broken, no longer
sustaining anything? Their temple is burned a second time, never to be
rebuilt; the rod of Jesse, cut off from the very root, with no life left
in it, ‘despised indeed and rejected’ but with no compensation of being
‘exalted’ or of ‘dividing the spoils of the strong’!”

All these things I said over and over again to myself. But still another
voice, deeper than my own, seemed to be repeating “Wait patiently on God
and He will renew thy strength! Wait patiently! Wait!” Up to the moment
of retiring to rest that night my mind was in a state of oscillation. On
the one hand, Scaurus might be right, and my best course might be to give
up the study of philosophy, and to prepare myself for a military career.
On the other hand, there appeared nothing in these poems or prophecies of
Isaiah that would make a man less fit to be a soldier. My last thought
was, “I should like to see how the modern Jew, Paul, takes up the
teaching of the ancient Jew, Isaiah. I have but glanced at his quotations
as yet.” So I decided to examine this point on the following day.



CHAPTER XIV

PAUL’S CONVERSION


Hitherto my study of Christian or Jewish literature had never followed my
intentions. I had intended to read Paul continuously. But first Isaiah,
then David, then Moses, and then Isaiah again, had intervened. I was
going forward all the while, but by a winding course, like a stream among
hills and rocks. Now again I have to describe how—although I sat down
with a determination to digress no more but to read through the epistles
from the beginning to the end—I was led off to another investigation.

The first phrase in the volume did not long occupy me. True, I had
greatly disliked it when I first glanced at it, a few days ago—“Paul
a _slave_ of Jesus Christ.” “Slave” was always used by Epictetus in a
bad sense, and I had then thought it savoured of servility. But now I
knew that the translation of Isaiah often used it to denote a devoted
servant of God; and it seemed to me that Paul had perhaps no other word
that could so well express how he felt bound to service by Christ’s
“constraining love.”

Nor did the next words now cause me much difficulty:—“_Called_ to be an
_apostle_, _set apart_ to preach the _good tidings_ of God, which He
promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures.” Scaurus
had told me how Epictetus had borrowed from the Christians this notion of
being “called” to bear testimony to God. Whether he was right or wrong,
he had prepared me to find “called” in such a passage as this. It was
connected here with an “apostle,” that is, someone “_sent_” by God. This,
too, seemed natural. Though Epictetus did not use the noun, he often
used the verb to describe his ideal Cynic—and especially Diogenes—as
being “_sent_” to proclaim the divine law. “Set apart” I understood to
mean “set apart” by special endowments of body and mind such as Epictetus
frequently attributed to Socrates and Diogenes.

As to the “good tidings,” I knew that Epictetus would have considered it
to be a message from God to this effect, “Children, I have placed your
true happiness in your own control. Take it from yourselves, each of
you, from that which is within you.” But what was Paul’s “good tidings”?
Isaiah had described God’s messengers as “proclaiming good tidings,”
namely, that God was coming to the aid of men: “As a shepherd will He
shepherd His flock and with His arm will He gather the lambs.” Epictetus,
as I have shewn above, scoffed at this metaphor of “shepherd.” But I
could not help liking it. Homer used it about kings, Isaiah about God.
I thought Paul meant, in part, that God would manifest Himself as the
righteous King.

But I knew that Paul must also mean more, and that he would not have
claimed the attention of the Romans for a mere repetition of an ancient
written prophecy. Any child able to read could have repeated that. Paul
must have more good news—either about the Shepherd, or about the time, or
about the certainty of His coming. At this point, it occurred to me, “Why
wait for the gospels that Flaccus is to send me? Why not search through
the epistles to find out what Paul’s gospel is?” But I checked myself,
saying, “No more digressions.” The next words were these: “Concerning
His Son, who came into being from the seed of David according to the
flesh; who was defined Son of God, in power, according to the spirit of
holiness, from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
These words I have translated literally and obscurely so as to indicate
to the reader how exceedingly obscure they seemed to me. “I must pass
on,” I said, “I can make nothing of this. What follows may make things
clearer.”

I began to read on, but soon desisted. The words that followed took
no hold of my mind. I tried, and tried again, but was irresistibly
dragged back to “resurrection of the dead,” and “power,” and “spirit of
holiness,” and “defined”—especially to “resurrection.” What kind of
“resurrection”? During my childhood I had heard my father tell a story
or legend how, just before the battle of Philippi, the spirit of the
great Julius appeared to Brutus, saying “Thou shalt see me at Philippi.”
There Brutus slew himself. And Scaurus had remarked that a similar fate
had overtaken others of the conspirators; so that some might declare
that Julius had power to rise from the grave and turn the swords of his
assassins against themselves. That, if true, was an instance of the power
of a man, or a man-god, rising from the dead in a spirit of vengeance.
But Paul spoke of “resurrection of the dead,” and “power,” in connexion
with a “spirit of holiness.” Paul (I knew that already from the epistles)
had been an enemy of Christ, as Brutus had been of Cæsar. Comparing the
two conquests, I asked whether more “power” might not be claimed for
Christ’s “spirit of holiness” than for Cæsar’s spirit of vengeance. For
Paul, instead of being killed by Christ, had been made a willing and
profitable “slave.” Brutus had been forced to turn his sword against
himself; Paul had been constrained by love to turn his new sword, “the
sword of the spirit,” against the enemies of his new Master.

What light did this passage throw on the causes of Paul’s conversion?
I read it over again. Christ, he said, “came into being,” or was born,
“of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Well, that might be one
cause. A Jew would be more likely to accept as king a descendant of the
house of David. And besides, Jews might think that such a birth fulfilled
the prophecy above mentioned about “the root of Jesse.” But there might
be many born “of the seed of David according to the flesh.” That which
“defined” Christ to be “the Son of God” was “the resurrection of the
dead”; and the “defining” was “in power” and “according to the spirit
of holiness.” By these last words, Paul seemed to separate Christ’s
resurrection from any such apparition as that of Julius, or other ghosts
and phantasms; which may appear to this man or to that, and then vanish,
either caused by evil magic, and doing an evil and magical work, or doing
no work at all; whereas the rising again of Christ was caused by a holy
power and resulted in a work of abiding power and “holiness.”

This it was that led me into a new digression. Recalling how the spirit
of Cæsar was said to have appeared and spoken to Brutus, I desired to
know what words the spirit of Christ said to Paul, and when and how
Christ appeared to him. I wished also to inquire about the nature of Paul
himself, before and after his conversion; and whether he shewed signs of
restlessness, and of ambition to become a leader in a new sect. Perhaps I
should have spared myself this searching if I had known that, along with
the gospels, Flaccus was sending me Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. But the
results of the search were helpful to me. So I will set them down in case
they may be helpful to others.

First, then, I found that, before his conversion, Paul had been a Jew
of the strictest kind. “Ye have heard,” he said to the Galatians, “how
that beyond measure I used to persecute the church of God and laid it
waste, and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age
among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions
of my fathers.” That expression “ye have heard” clearly shewed that it
was a matter of notoriety. The writer meant (I thought) not only “ye have
heard from me,” but also “from others,” perhaps meaning his enemies,
the Judaizers (often mentioned in this epistle), who pointed at him the
finger of scorn, saying, “This is the man that changed his mind. This man
thought once as we do.” To the Philippians also Paul said that he had
every claim to be confident “in the flesh,” being “A Hebrew of Hebrews;
as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the
righteousness that is in the law, blameless.” So also he said to one of
his assistants, Timothy, that he, Paul, had been “the chief of sinners”
because he had persecuted the church.

Elsewhere I found him writing to the Romans that his heart sorrowed for
his countrymen and that he could almost have prayed to be “accursed from
Christ” for their sake, for they, he said, had the Patriarchs, and to
them were made the promises; and he expressed a fervid hope that in the
end the nation would receive the promises, though for a time they were
shut out. What he said to the Romans convinced me, in an indirect way,
almost as strongly as what he said to the Galatians and Philippians,
that Paul had been a genuine patriot, observing the traditions, as well
as the written law, of the Jews, and persecuting the Christians with all
his might because he thought (as we also were wont to think in Rome) that
they were a pestilential sect, destructive of law, order, and morality.
So much for what Paul was before his conversion.

Next, as to what happened to him at the moment of his conversion. First
I turned to the Corinthian letter describing the appearances of Christ
after death, to see whether anything had escaped me in the context—any
words uttered by Christ to Paul, for example, at the time. But there
was nothing except the bald statements, by this time familiar to me,
“He is recorded to have been raised on the third day according to the
scriptures; and he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; afterwards he
appeared to above five hundred brethren, of whom the greater part remain
till now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to
all the apostles; and last of all, as unto one born out of due time, he
appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet
to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.” All this
Paul had previously delivered to the Corinthians—so says the letter—as a
“tradition,” and as a part of his “gospel.”

This gave me no help. All that I could infer from it was that Christ
probably “appeared” to his enemy Paul in the same way in which he had
“appeared” to his friends and followers, and that the “appearing” must
have been of a cogent kind, since it convinced an enemy. Nor did I gain
much more from the Galatian account, which was as follows: “But when it
was the good pleasure of God—who set me apart for this service even from
my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace—to reveal His Son in me that
I might make it my life’s work to preach the good tidings about him among
the nations, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither
did I go up to Jerusalem to those that had been apostles before me, but I
went away into Arabia, and turned back again to Damascus.”

Here I was in doubt whether “reveal His Son _in me_,” meant “reveal
_by my means_,” or “reveal _in my heart_,” that is, “unveil in my
soul the image of the Son, which up to that time I had smothered with
self-will and obstinacy”—as though “the Son” had been all the while in
Paul’s heart, but he had been refusing to acknowledge him. This latter
interpretation I preferred. But still there was no mention of any words
uttered by Christ to Paul at the moment of his conversion. Only, as Paul
implies elsewhere that he had not seen Jesus in the flesh, that is, in
person, I presumed that there must have been some such utterance as “I am
Jesus,” or “I am the crucified”:—else, how would Paul have recognised the
appearance?

As to the place of conversion, however, some light was afforded by
the words “I turned back to Damascus,” shewing that he had been near
Damascus when it happened. And the epistle to the Corinthians said that
he had been let down in a basket from Damascus so as to escape the Jews.
It appeared that he was persecuting the Christians up to the time of
his conversion; that he was doing this in or near Damascus when he was
converted; and that the Jews living in that city turned against him after
his conversion, so that he had to escape from them.

Hereupon I tried to imagine Paul the persecutor, in his course of
“persecuting the church,” suddenly stopped by an apparition of Christ.
In respect of his acts, Paul—though he could not possibly have been so
cruel—might be compared to Nero, who also persecuted the Christians.
But in respect of righteousness and truth and fervour, Paul was like
Epictetus. Then I recalled the story recently told me by Scaurus, how
he and his father had come suddenly upon the young Epictetus, in the
Neronian gardens, staring upon the Christians in their torments, and how
Scaurus had remarked upon the ineffaceableness of the impression produced
on his own mind and (as he believed) on that of my future Teacher. That
I could well understand. But Scaurus and Epictetus were merely passive
spectators. Paul was a perpetrator. “How much deeper,” I said, “and all
the more deep and terrible in proportion to his sense of justice and
truth, must have been the impression on Paul’s mind, when he suddenly
woke up to the fact that he had been persecuting the followers of Truth,
the disciples of the Suffering Servant of God, predicted by the prophets!”

Then it appeared to me that perhaps the precise _words_ uttered by
Christ in that moment of Paul’s shock and agony were not of so much
importance as the _feeling_ of shock and agony itself, followed by a
great wrenching away of prejudices and misconceptions, and by a sudden
influx of a dazzling light on eyes habituated to darkness. Looking again
at the Philippian letter, I perceived how much Paul had to give up, how
lightly he regarded the sacrifice of all his prospects of prosperity and
promotion among his own people: “_But whatever things were once gains to
me, these I have counted as loss for Christ’s sake. Nay, more, I count
all things as loss for the sake of the preeminence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord; for whose sake I suffered the loss of all that I
had, and I count it all as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and
be found in Him—not having as my own righteousness that which is of the
law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that is
from God based on that faith—that I may know Him, and the power of His
resurrection and fellowship with His sufferings, being conformed with His
death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead! Not
that I have already received, or am already perfected. But I pursue the
chase, if by any means I may seize as a prize that for which I was also
seized as a captive by Christ Jesus!_”

These last words made me understand how Paul might have regarded Christ
as manifested _in_ him rather than _to_ him. Isaiah saw God uplifted
on high _outside_ him. But Paul felt the Son of God enthroned as
sovereign _within_ him: I remembered reading in some drama how the wife
of a dethroned and submissive sovereign goads him to rebel against his
successor, saying—

                                  “Hath he deposed
    Thine intellect? Hath he been _in thy heart_?”

This was just what Paul experienced and exulted in avowing. Christ had
“deposed” Paul’s former self, and substituted a new self of his own as
viceroy, to rule Paul, “in his heart.” A soldier might say that Christ,
in the moment of taking Paul prisoner, had (so to speak) given him back
his sword, saying “Use it on my side among all the nations of the earth,
that they also may receive the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins.”
But in fact (according to Paul’s view) Christ had done much more than
this. He had given Paul a new sword, “the sword of the spirit.” He had
also made his whole nature anew, according to Paul’s own saying, “If any
man be in Christ, he is a new creature, behold all things are made new.”

Not that I was as yet convinced that Christ had actually risen from the
dead. For I did not yet feel sure that Paul might not have been deceived
by himself and by the Christians. But I did now feel sure that Paul was
honest and did not knowingly deceive his readers. And it was becoming
more and more difficult to believe that self-deception or Christian
deception could have produced effects on multitudes of men so great and
permanent as those which were plainly discernible in the epistles.

I remember at this time trying to prevent my growing admiration for
Paul’s work from blinding me to his defects. Such phrases as “let him
be anathema,” and “dogs,” and “whose belly is their glory,” and “I
would that those who are thus desolating you would even emasculate
themselves”—these and others I marked with red in my volume. I knew
Epictetus would have condemned them. But I soon perceived that these
fiery flashes of wrath were reserved for those whom Paul regarded as
proud and greedy ensnarers and oppressors of helpless souls; proud of
knowledge that was no knowledge; greedy of money and influence to which
they had no right; shutting their eyes against the light, and dragging
back poor pilgrims just as they were on the point of entering into the
City of Truth. Towards others, even if they might have appeared as
rivals, he seemed to me to feel no rivalry, merging all such feeling in
allegiance to Christ. Some, he said to the Philippians, preached Christ
“thinking to add affliction” to his bonds, out of jealousy and spite.
“What then?” he says, “Whatever may be the motive, Christ is preached,
and I rejoice. Yea, and I will rejoice.” In the same spirit he wrote to
the church of Corinth concerning those among them who said, “I am of
Apollos,” “I am of Cephas,” “I am of Paul”—condemning all partisanship,
although he gently reminds them of his singular relation to them, “Even
though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet ye have not many
fathers: for in Christ Jesus through the Gospel I begot you.”

Another detail interested me. Paul (I found) differed greatly from
Epictetus in physical constitution, Epictetus used to teach us that a
Cynic had no business to be “infirm” of body. At all events, he said,
no such person can do the work of a Cynic Missionary. When he extolled
“the sceptre of Diogenes,” he used to tell a story of the way in which
that philosopher, lying by the roadside, sick of a fever, called on the
wayfarers to admire him. It was the road to Olympia, and people were on
the way to the games: “Villains!” he shouted to them, “Stay! Are you
going all that way to Olympia to see athletes fight or perish, and will
you not stay to behold a contest between a man and a fever?” But this
contest, I think, ended in Diogenes’s death. As a rule, both he and
Socrates had been perfectly and robustly healthy: and Epictetus seemed
somewhat to despise those who were otherwise.

Paul, on the other hand, frequently spoke of his “weakness,” meaning
physical infirmity or sickness. It was “owing to _weakness_,” he told the
Galatians, that he preached the gospel for the first time among them; and
he called it a “temptation (or, trial) in the flesh.” This I took to mean
that he had been delayed in Galatia by some sickness, and had founded the
Church there while in that condition. So to the Corinthians he said, “In
_weakness_ and in fear and in trembling did I come addressing myself to
you.” But that letter went on to say, “And my word and my preaching were
not in the persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit
and _power_”—so that “power” went hand in hand with “weakness.” Once
at least I found Paul praying to be delivered from “weakness.” “I will
not boast about myself”—so he writes to the Corinthians—“except in my
weaknesses.” And then he went on to explain the “boasting” as being quite
different from that of Diogenes. For the Cynic cried, in effect, “Come
and see how strong I am!” But Paul meant that he would “boast” because,
when he felt weakest, then his Master came to his aid and made him
strong. This he expressed in a way that perplexed me at first: “_There
was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me,
that I might not be lifted up above measure. About this, I besought the
Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace
sufficeth for thee, for in weakness is Power made perfect._”

For some time I could not understand this phrase, “_an angel of Satan_.”
But afterwards I found Paul writing to his Thessalonian converts that,
when he wished to come to help them, “Satan _hindered_ him,” so that
Satan appeared to be a _hinderer_ of the gospel. Then it seemed to me
that among the Jews and Christians certain diseases might be regarded as
demons, or the work of demons—just as, in Rome, “Fever” is worshipped
as divine and has temples. This fact I had heard Epictetus mention; and
he also condemned those who pray to be delivered from fever. The right
course was, he said, “to have the fever rightly.” Paul seemed to say,
“first pray to be delivered from fever, if it seems to hinder you from
doing the work of the Lord. Then, if it be revealed to you as the will of
the Lord that you should bear the fever, be sure that He will make your
bodily weakness spiritually strong. Thus the temptation from Satan, the
Hinderer and Adversary, shall be turned into a strengthening trial from
God, your Helper and Friend.”

Summing up the marvellous changes that seemed to have come about for
Paul in consequence of Christ’s “appearing” to him, I was more than ever
disposed to believe that it was of a divine origin and a great deal more
than a mere “appearing.” I thought it must have been an “appearing” to
the inner eye, the spirit, as well as to the outer eye.

When we Romans and Greeks use the word “spirit,” we mostly think of a
shadowy unreal appearance of the dead. We should not call Jupiter, or
Zeus, a “spirit.” But I perceived that, with Paul, “spirit” was more
real—and, if I may so say, more eternally solid—than “body.” It was the
real “person.” The word “person” in Greek, as also in Latin, means a
“mask” or “character.” There is, with us, no one word to express “real
person.” Common people think the body real, but the spirit unreal. Paul
used the name “spiritual body” to describe a “real person,” raised from
the dead in Christ. Well, then, it seemed to me that the power of Christ
on Paul might be described, not only as an “appearing” but also as the
grasp of a “real person,” “taking hold of” Paul’s spirit with a spiritual
hand so as to strengthen and direct him. What else was it that made him
so strong?

The strength of Epictetus in bearing trials and sufferings had long
excited my admiration. But now the strength of Paul seemed greater.
Epictetus bore—or at least professed to bear—only his own burdens. As
for those of others, he said, “These are nothing to me.” Paul was like
a gentle nurse or tender mother with the weaklings among his converts.
“Who,” he asked, “is made to stumble, and I burn not? Who is weak, and I
am not weak?” And yet, in his weakness, he was a very Hercules or Atlas,
strong enough to bear “the care of all the churches”! This “weak” man was
always fighting, always craving to fight, and always conquering—up to the
time of his impending departure, when he exclaimed that he had “fought
the good fight”! And through what an extent of the civilised world! “From
Jerusalem to Illyricum”—so he wrote to the Romans! In that same letter
he announced his intention of carrying the eagles of the New Empire into
Rome itself, and of passing onward from Rome to the invasion of Spain!
No wonder that he felt able to say, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in
outrages, in straits and necessities, in persecutions and hardships, in
Christ’s behalf; for in the moment when I am weak, in that moment I am
strong.”

“I am strong”! Yes. Rolling up the volume as I retired to rest that
night, I was constrained to agree with that, at all events. “About some
things,” said I, “or perhaps about many things in your letters I am
doubtful; but assuredly you are strong. I myself am also certain that
you are honest. But that you are strong—and that, too, with a strength
that comes from faith in the resurrection of your Master—this not even an
atheist or Epicurean could deny.”



CHAPTER XV

EPICTETUS’S GOSPEL


I went somewhat unwillingly to the next day’s lecture. It would
probably be interesting, I thought; but I could no longer deny that I
was beginning to feel doubtful about that. And certainly I was more
interested in Paul’s letters. Soon after I was seated, Glaucus came in.
He looked worn and haggard, but there was no time to ask him questions.
The subject of the lecture was, How are we to struggle with adversity?
The answer was, By bearing in mind that death is no evil; that defamation
is nothing but the noise of madmen; and that only the rich, the lords
and rulers of the earth, are the subjects of tragedies. But the main
point was that “the door” is always open: “Do not be more cowardly
than children. The moment they are tired, they say, ‘I won’t play any
more.’ Say you the same, ‘I won’t play any more.’ And be off. But if you
stay, don’t keep on complaining.” This topic had become familiar. What
followed, though not quite novel, interested me more, because it seemed
to bear on the Jewish Law.

First came a general descant on the advantages of being absolutely free
from fear. Why should a man fear? Had he not power over everything that
might cause him fear? Then a pupil was supposed to ask for more rules of
life, saying, “But give me commandments.” The reply was, “Why am I to
give you commandments? Has not Zeus given you commandments? Has He not
given and appointed for you what is your own, unhindered and unshackled;
but what is not your own, hindered and shackled? Well, then, what is the
commandment? Of what nature is the strict injunction with which you have
come into the world from Zeus? It is this, ‘Keep in all ways the things
that are yours, desire not the things that are for others’.… Having such
suggestions and commands from Zeus, what further commands can you crave
from me?” He finished this section of his discourse thus, “Bring these
commandments, bring your preconceptions, bring the demonstrations of
the philosophers, bring the words you have often heard and have often
yourself spoken, read, and pondered.”

I could not feel sure whether “bring” meant “bring to bear on each
point,” or “bring to your aid”; but, in either case, this conclusion, to
me at least, was disappointing. “It is all very true,” I thought, “and
strictly according to reason. We are sure we have ‘preconceptions.’ We
are not sure that we receive strength, in this or that emergency, from
any being except ourselves. And yet how tame—and, in emergencies, how
flat and unhelpful—such an utterance as this appears in comparison with
the oracle that the Christian believed he had heard from his Lord, ‘My
grace is sufficient for thee. For Power is made perfect in weakness’!”

The rest of the lecture was more lively and expressed with more novelty,
but old in substance—addressed to those who wanted to enjoy the best
seats in the theatre of life but not to be squeezed by the crowd. His
prescription was, “Don’t go to see it at all, man, and then you will not
be squeezed. Or, if you like, go into the best seats, when the theatre
is empty, and enjoy the sun there.” Then he added something that made my
companion Glaucus shrug his shoulders and cease taking notes, “Remember
always, _We squeeze ourselves, we pinch ourselves_. For example, we
will suppose you are being reviled. What is the harm in that? Why pinch
yourself on that account? Go and revile a stone. What harm will you do
the stone? Well then, when you are reviled, listen like a stone. And then
what harm does the reviler do you?”

We went out together, Glaucus and I. I think I have said before that
Glaucus had some troubles at that time in his home at Corinth, but of
what kind I did not exactly know. “Silanus,” he said presently to me,
with a bitter smile, “I am pinching myself with my shoe.” “Then take it
off,” said I. “By the immortal Gods,” he exclaimed, “I wish I could! But
what if my shoe is the universe? What if it is⸺” He stopped. I replied
at once, like a faithful disciple of Epictetus, “Not the universe,
Glaucus, but your opinions about the universe.” “Well then,” said he, “my
‘opinions about the universe.’ What if my ‘opinions about the universe’
include ‘opinions about’ certain persons and things—home, father, mother,
sister, and other such indifferent trifles? To put an imaginary case,
could I by ‘taking off’ my ‘opinion about’ my father, take my father
out of prison, or save him from death, or others from disgrace worse
than death? No, Silanus, I am beginning to be a little tired of hearing
‘Remember always, _You pinch yourselves_.’ Often it is so. But not
always. What say you?”

What ought I to have said? I knew exactly what was the correct thing
to say. “In such cases, give up the game. The door is open. Do you say
the universe pinches you? Then take off your shoe by going out of the
universe.” This would have been the orthodox consistent answer. But I
was inconsistent, not indeed in words, but in a heretical glance of
sympathy, which Glaucus—I could see—interpreted rightly. We parted. As I
walked slowly back to my rooms, I had leisure to reflect that the gospel
of Epictetus had no power to strengthen Glaucus, and—I began to fear—no
power to strengthen me, except to bear comparative trifles. It was not
strong enough—at least in me—to stand up against the great and tragic
calamities of human life.

With these thoughts, I sat down once more to study Paul’s epistles from
the beginning. Once more (but now for the last time) I was led into a
digression. It was the word “gospel” that thus dragged me away, coming
upon me (in Paul’s first sentence) just when I had been deploring the
failure of the “gospel” of Epictetus. Reading on, I found that Paul’s
“gospel” had been “promised beforehand, through God’s prophets, in the
holy scriptures concerning His son.” A little later, the writer said, “I
am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is God’s power tending to salvation
for every one that hath faith, Jew first, and then Greek. For God’s
righteousness is therein revealed, from faith tending to faith, even as
it is written, ‘Now the righteous shall live by faith’.”

The next words surprised me by mentioning “God’s wrath” as a part of the
gospel: “For there is revealed therein _God’s wrath_ from heaven against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold down the truth in
unrighteousness.” But I immediately perceived that it might be regarded
as “gospel” or “good tidings” to be informed that God does really feel
“wrath” at unrighteousness, or injustice, and that He will sooner or
later judge and punish it. Accordingly I was not surprised to find Paul,
soon afterwards, connecting “gospel” and “judging” thus: “In the day when
God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel, through Jesus
Christ.”

From this I perceived that Paul’s gospel promised a righteous judgment
as well as immortality. But how could it be proved that there would be
this righteous judgment? Paul said that it was “revealed _from faith to
faith_.” He added, “_as it is written_”; and a note in the margin of my
MS. shewed me that he was referring to a certain prophet named Habakkuk.
I unrolled the passage. It seemed that this Habakkuk was living in times
when his nation was grievously oppressed. The oppressors were like
fishermen catching the oppressed at their pleasure. The prophet, standing
on a tower, said to the people, “Wait and have faith. The righteous shall
live by faith.” Paul meant that if we would begin by having some faith
in a righteous God, in spite of appearances on the surface of things, we
should be helped to rise “from faith to more faith,” and consequently
that we should “live”—that is have _real_ life. Faith seemed to Paul
needful for life. Life without faith seemed to him no real life but a
living death.

As I read on, I saw that this kind of “faith” was regarded by Paul as
the foundation of all righteousness. He quoted scripture thus, “Abraham
had faith in God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Then
I remembered that he had quoted the same passage in writing to the
Galatians, in order to prove to them that the seed of Abraham did not
obtain righteousness by doing the works prescribed in the code of Moses,
but by following in the faith of their forefather. Now this faith, in
the case of Abraham, had seemed to me at first of a narrow and selfish
nature:—“God will keep His promise to _me_, God will give _me_ a child in
my old age.” But Paul shewed that the promise concerned “all the nations
of the earth,” and that Abraham was not selfish in his faith—any more
than in his pleading with God for such righteous people as might be in
Sodom and Gomorrah when he said, “Shall not the judge of all the earth
do right?” This faith in God’s truth and righteous judgments was at the
bottom of Paul’s gospel, and Paul taught that it was at the bottom of all
righteousness both of Jews and Gentiles.

But here came a great difficulty and obstacle in the way of faith,
because, when men departed from God’s righteousness, God Himself (so
Paul taught) departed from them for a time, allowing them to do the
unrighteousness that was in their hearts and to judge unjustly. For
this cause (according to Paul) God introduced Law into the world, and
especially the Law of Moses. The Law was brought in to represent His
righteousness in a poor rough fashion, until the time should come when
He would send into the world the real righteousness or justice, the real
judge or spirit of judgment. Such a judge (according to Paul’s gospel)
was Jesus Christ, judging the world already to some extent, but destined
to judge it in complete righteousness, “in the day when God shall judge
the secrets of men according to my gospel,” said Paul, “through Jesus
Christ.”

At this point came the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, enabling
Paul to say, “Wait, and you will see justice done”; whereas Epictetus was
forced to say, in effect, “Justice will never be done,”—not at least what
a plain man would call justice—“since the justice of this life was, is,
and will be, oppression, and no second life is ever to exist.”

The only passage in which Epictetus (as far as I could recollect)
described a good judge, was one in which the philosopher was supposed to
hold a dialogue with the Censor, or Judge, of Nicopolis. The man was an
Epicurean; and Epictetus, after representing him as boasting that he was
“a judge of the Greeks,” and that he could order imprisonment or flogging
at his discretion, replied that this was coercing, not judging. “Shew
us,” said he, “the things that are unprofitable for us and we shall avoid
them. Make us passionate imitators of yourself, as Socrates made men
of himself. He was really a ruler of men. For he, above all others, so
framed men that they subordinated to him their inclinations, aversions,
and impulses.”

This seemed to me, at first, a fine ideal of a spiritual judge. I
contrasted it with Paul’s picture of the Lord as Judge taking vengeance
in fire upon His enemies; and Epictetus seemed to have the advantage. But
on consideration it appeared that Epictetus was confusing his hearers by
passing suddenly from a judge to a ruler. According to his own account
elsewhere, Socrates did not persuade a thousandth part of those to whom
he addressed himself. On the other hand Paul distinguished two aspects
of Christ. In one, He appeared as constraining His subjects to love Him
and to become “passionate imitators” of Him. In the other, He appeared
as a judge, making the guilty shrink from their own guilt, and feel pain
at their own sin, when the light of judgment reveals them to themselves.
Paul spoke of “fire” according to the metaphors of the scriptures. He
appeared to be describing the Supreme Judge as destroying the evil while
purifying the good—as fire may destroy some things but purify others.

This was not the only occasion when the gospel of Epictetus seemed to
me—not at first, but upon full consideration—inferior to the gospel of
Paul in recognising facts fairly and fully. For example, Paul, in the
epistle I was now reading, adopted the ancient Jewish tradition that
death came into the world as a result of the sin of the first man Adam.
According to this view, death was a “curse.” Now Epictetus appeared to
be directly attacking this doctrine when he spoke as follows, “If I knew
that disease had been destined to come upon me at this very moment, I
would rush towards it—just as my foot, if it had sense, would rush to
defile itself in the mire. Why are ears of corn created? Is it not that
they may be parched and ripened? And are they to be parched and ripened,
and yet not reaped? Surely, then, if they had sense, the ears of wheat
ought not to pray never to be reaped. Nay, this is nothing short of a
curse upon wheat—never to be reaped! So you ought to know that _it is
nothing short of a curse upon men, not to die_. It is all the same as not
being ripened—not to be reaped.”

How much finer, thought I at first, is this doctrine of Epictetus than
the doctrine of Paul! And how superstitious is that Hebrew story about
a serpent, causing death to fall upon man as a curse from God! But
coming back to the matter again after I read some way in the epistle,
and thinking over what “death” meant to Epictetus and what it meant to
Paul, I began to waver. For Epictetus thought that “death” meant being
dissolved into the four elements. And how was this like “being ripened
and reaped”? When corn is reaped, men get good from it. But when I am
“reaped,” that is to say, distributed into my four elements, who will get
any good from that? So, once more, the gospel of Epictetus, as compared
with the gospel of Paul, seemed to be deficient not only in power but
also in directness and clearness of statement.

It reminded me of the saying of Paul when he said that God sent him to
preach the gospel “_not in wisdom of word_ lest the cross of Christ
should be made of no effect.” “Wisdom of word” appeared to mean “calling
old facts by new names without revealing any new truth.” So far as I
could understand the gospel of Epictetus, his language about my being
“ripened and reaped” was like that other earlier promise that I should
find “friends” in the four elements when I passed into them in the
dissolution of death. It was all “wisdom of word.”



CHAPTER XVI

PAUL’S GOSPEL


In contrasting Epictetus with Paul to the disadvantage of the former,
I was far from imagining that the latter had unloosed the knot of the
origin of sin. But at all events he recognised the existence of the knot.
Epictetus ignored it, or failed to recognise it. He spoke in the same
breath of God’s ordaining “vice and virtue, winter and summer,” as though
God’s appointing that some men shall be bad caused him no more difficulty
than His appointing that some days shall be cold.

Paul, on the other hand, treated death as though it were a curse in the
intention of Satan, but a blessing (or step towards blessing) through the
controlling will of God. He also spoke of a spiritual body rising out
of the dead earthly body, as flower and fruit rise out of the decaying
seed. I did not at first feel sure what he meant by this. Flower and
fruit resemble seed in that they can be touched. Did Paul mean that the
spiritual body resembled the earthly body in being tangible, besides
being more beautiful? I thought not. It seemed to me possible that a
person in the flesh, dying, might become a person in the spirit, living
for ever. A man’s actions and sufferings, sown in the transient flesh,
might after death become part of the flower of the imperishable spirit,
the real man, the spiritual body. That, I thought, was what Paul meant.
This belief I found also stimulative to well-doing, according to the
saying of Paul himself, “I press on, if by any means I may attain to the
resurrection of the dead.” Moreover I remembered the “angel of Satan”
appointed for Paul to keep him from pride, and how he prayed against it,
and received a revelation “My grace is sufficient for thee.” If prayer
and strength were brought about for Paul by an “adversary” of prayer,
might not righteousness be brought about for the human race by the
“adversary” of righteousness? I did not myself at that time believe in
the existence of such an “adversary”; but Paul’s belief seemed to me not
unreasonable.

This turned me to other passages in the epistles concerning “Satan,” or
the “angels of Satan,” or “principalities and powers.” And I contrasted
them with what Epictetus had said, “All things are full of Gods and
daemons,” meaning good daemons. Once more, the words of Epictetus seemed
the nobler. But were they true? What did they amount to in fact? Nothing
except “wisdom of word,” calling the four elements “friends”! Thus in
the end—though very slowly and reluctantly—I was brought, first, to
understand, and then to favour, Paul’s opinion, namely, that so far as we
can see the truth in the “enigma” of the “mirror” of this world, there is
being waged a battle of good against evil, order against disorder, light
against darkness, life against death.

What Isaiah said concerning the stars and God’s “leading them forth”
gave me some help, just when I was thinking about the “conflict between
light and darkness.” For how, I thought, does God bring forth the stars
except through the hand of His angel of darkness? Yet we, men, mostly
speak of “darkness” as an enemy. And so, in a sense, it often is. Yet
it is revealed in the aspect of a servant of God when besides bringing
us the blessing of rest and sleep it leads forth the hosts of glories
that (except for darkness) would never have been perceived. So, darkness
brings God’s greatness to light. Paul certainly predicted that the same
truth would hereafter be recognised about death and about the apparent
disorder of Nature, and her “groanings and travailings”; and it seemed to
me that he extended the same doctrine even to sin.

The result was that I found myself content to accept—in a manner, and
provisionally—what Paul said about “Satan” and about “principalities”
and at the same time what he said to the effect that all things are from
God and through God and to God, and, “For them that believe, all things
work together for good.” In my judgment, it was better—yes, and more
reasonable, in Paul’s sense of the word “reason”—to feel that I was in
the Universe fighting a real fight against evil but looking up to God as
my Helper, than to feel that there was no evil or enemy for me anywhere
except in myself, and no friend either. So in the end I said, “Better to
have been under the curse of death with Paul, if the curse may lead to a
supreme blessing of life eternal in the presence of the Father, than to
pass out of life with Epictetus, without any experience of curse at all,
as so much earth, air, fire and water, into the nominal friendship of
Gods and daemons!”

In allowing myself thus to be led away by my new Jewish teacher I was not
influenced by his letters alone, but by legends and traditions—to some of
which he referred—in the Hebrew histories, visions, and prophecies. Some
of these taught, predicted, prefigured, or suggested that, while man and
the brute forces of man and nature blindly imagine that they are moving
the wheel of the universe, God alone is really moving it, and is using
them to move it, towards His own decreed and foreordained purpose.

To the most beautiful of all such visions I was drawn by these words of
Paul, “Know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah?” Here a marginal
note in my MS. referred me to the whole story, how Elijah, having slain
with the sword the adversaries of God, was himself forced to flee from
the sword of King Ahab, to Mount Horeb or Sinai, where the Law had once
been given to Israel amid lightnings and thunders. And here the prophet
was taught that God is not in the principalities of Nature, not in the
tempest or fire or earthquake, but in “the still small voice.” This
agreed with a passage in Isaiah concerning the Deliverer, “He shall
not cry aloud.” In comparison with these and other similar poems and
prophecies, the best things that the Greeks have written began to appear
to me like mere “wisdom of word.”

As regards the time when Paul’s “good news” or “gospel” of “the righteous
judgment” of God was to be fulfilled, I gathered that the judgments of
God had been revealed to the apostle as having been working from the
beginning of the world—seen, as it were, through openings in a veil—in
the deluge, in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the punishment
of the Egyptians for persecuting Israel, in the punishments of Israel
during and after the Exodus, and especially in their captivity and
the destruction of their temple. But he seemed to believe that he had
received also some special revelation about a judgment to fall upon the
Jews, or upon all mankind, as soon as the gospel had been proclaimed to
the world, but not before.

His language, however, varied. To the Philippians he spoke as though he
were in doubt whether to desire to depart and to be with Christ, or to
“remain in the flesh” for the sake of his converts. This shewed that he
contemplated the possibility of his dying before the Lord’s coming. And
this was made still clearer in some of his sayings to Timothy, such as
“I have fought the good fight,” if taken with their contexts. But to the
Thessalonians he wrote somewhat differently. It appeared that certain of
them were grievously disappointed because some of their brethren had died
before the Lord’s coming. Paul wrote to console them, saying that they,
too—that is the dead brethren—would be raised up. “We that are alive,” he
said, “shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep”—as though
he anticipated that, on the day of the Coming, the greater number of the
brethren, and he among them, would be still “alive.”

From several of these passages, and from similar words in the prophets,
I gathered that, had he lived long enough to witness it, Paul would have
considered the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus to have been a “day of
the Lord” or “day of judgment.” But he was assured that the greatest day
of all would not arrive till the sins of mankind had come to a head.
Also it appeared to me that Paul did not profess to know when the last
“judgment” would come to pass, and that he, like other Christians, at
first expected it to come soon, and afterwards changed his mind.

Summing up the results of my study, I found that Paul’s gospel appeared
to be good news in a double aspect, first outside us, then inside us.
First, it said that man was made by a perfectly good God to be, in
the end, perfectly good, but was allowed by the Maker to fall into
imperfection, through Satan, as a step towards perfection. This could be
seen in the history of God’s judgments from the beginning, but most of
all in the fact that the Son of God, having been sent into the world as
a son of David, for the salvation of all the nations of the earth, and
having been killed by the Jews, had been raised from the dead to save and
judge mankind in righteousness. Secondly, it said that there was in every
human being a faculty of faith in the goodness and love and righteous
judgments of God, and that this faith, when fixed on the Saviour, enabled
men to receive His spirit of righteousness and His love, to await His
judgments, and to lead a life of righteousness on earth followed by an
immortality of blessedness in heaven.

Comparing this with the gospel of Epictetus I could not but feel that
Paul’s was far more helpful, but also more difficult to believe. Yet
it was not incredible. Epictetus himself recognised in Socrates some
traces of a power to frame men to his own will. If Socrates the Athenian,
and Diogenes the Sinopian, and others, whom God called “His own sons,”
had this power in some degree, in proportion to their possession of a
share of the divine Logos, why might not Jesus the Jew be regarded as
possessing this power to the fullest extent, having the fulness of the
Logos so that he could succeed where Socrates and Diogenes and Epictetus
failed?

I write here “Jesus the Jew,” to shew that, at that time, I did not
know that Jesus was called the Nazarene, nor had I any notion that he
was born otherwise than naturally “of the seed of David.” But I clearly
perceived that Paul placed Jesus far above all patriarchs and prophets.
Also I think (but am not quite sure) that I already understood Paul to
believe that the Son of God was Son from the beginning of the world,
before taking flesh as “the seed of David”—but not in any miraculous
way. About this point I did not employ my thoughts. The question for me
was, Had this Jesus the power attributed to him by Paul’s gospel—to
conform men to himself? I was obliged to answer, “Yes, with some men.”
For the epistles had long ago compelled me to give up the notion that the
Christians were a vicious, immoral, and rebellious sect. It was clear to
me that they were above the average in morality. And as for Paul himself,
I felt sure that Jesus had exerted this power over him, and, through him,
over vast multitudes in various nations.

Now, too, having a clearer conception of Paul’s gospel, I began to
understand better something that had perplexed me a good deal on the
first reading—I mean Paul’s description to the Galatians of the course
he took immediately after his conversion. I had expected that he would
have said something to this effect, “You Galatians are revolting from my
gospel. But it is the true gospel. I have told you the truth about all
Christ’s words and deeds. It is true that I did not know Him—or hear Him,
or even see Him—in the flesh. But after I was converted, I took great
pains to ascertain as soon as possible, from those who had known Him in
the flesh, all that He did and said. I wrote down these traditions at
once, and read them again and again till I knew them by heart. These are
the traditions I gave you.” This is what I had expected Paul to say. But
what I found him actually saying to the Galatians was this: “_I make
known unto you brethren, as to the gospel preached by me, that it is not
on any human footing, nor did I receive it from any human being, nor was
I taught it as teaching, but [it came to me] through revelation of Jesus
Christ._”

What he meant by “gospel” was—I now perceived—_not Christ’s teaching
before the resurrection, but His teaching after the resurrection_.
And this included an unfolding of the will of God as revealed in the
scriptures and in all the history of Israel. This appeared in what
followed. The Galatians all knew (he said) how bitterly he had persecuted
the Christians. For he had been a most bigoted and bitter zealot of
strict Judaism. But, said he, “_When it pleased God to reveal His Son in
me that I might preach His good tidings among the nations, straightway I
conferred not with flesh and blood, nor went I up to Jerusalem to those
that were apostles before me, but I went away to Arabia._” Afterwards
(but not in this context) he spoke of “Mount Sinai in Arabia.” Sinai
being the place where Moses received the revelation of the old Law, and
where Elijah, too, received the revelation of the “still small voice,” I
had assumed (at the time of reading the epistle) that Paul went to Mount
Sinai in Arabia that he also might receive his revelation of the new Law
of Christ. Perhaps, however, it merely meant that he wished to be alone.
If so, I was wrong. But it does not seem to me, even now, wrong to infer
that, all through that sojourn in Arabia, Paul was in communion with
that same Jesus Christ, who had recently appeared to him, and who had
converted him from an enemy into a friend.

The same Galatian letter described Paul as not going up to Jerusalem till
“three years” had elapsed. Even then he remained only “fifteen days”
in Jerusalem, and saw (as I gathered) only one or two of the apostles,
and did not go up again till “after the space of fourteen years.” All
these details about time he appeared to add, not out of any jealousy
of the older apostles, but to shew that he did not attach importance
to the things that Christ had said “in the flesh,” before death, in
comparison with the things that He had said after death, “being raised
up according to the spirit of holiness.” And who could be surprised at
this? The things that Christ said after death, when He had been “defined
as Son of God from the resurrection of the dead”—how should not these
be more deeply impressed upon the mind of the hearers, and also be most
deep and spiritual in themselves, being reserved till the disciples were
spiritually prepared to receive them?

So the gospel of Paul resolved itself into this, that God, having decreed
from the beginning that men should love Him as Father and one another as
brethren, had sent His Son into the world to enable them to do this, by
dying for them, and by imparting to them His Spirit. The Son dictated no
code of laws to obey. All that He asked was faith in Himself as the Son
of God, dying for men, and victorious over sin and death. This seemed
simple, but its simplicity did not deceive me into imagining that I
believed it. “That is all that is needed,” said I, as I closed the volume
of the epistles; “but it is more than I possess, or can possess. Paul’s
gospel is not a message but a person. It is, as he says somewhere,
‘Christ, dwelling in the heart through faith.’ I feel no such indwelling.
In the gospel of Epictetus I am neither able nor willing to believe. I
might perhaps be willing, but I am not able, to believe in the gospel of
Paul.”



CHAPTER XVII

EPICTETUS CONFESSES FAILURE


From such thoughts about my own desires and inabilities it was a relief
to turn to some definite matter of fact. I had been spending several
hours in attempting to find out what Paul’s gospel was. But what was
Christ’s gospel, so far as it could be gathered from the epistles? This
I had made no attempt to discover. “Epictetus,” I reflected, “though
he does not profess to teach a gospel of Socrates or Diogenes, yet
frequently quotes from them. Might I not expect to find at least a few
words of Christ—whether uttered before or after the resurrection—quoted
here and there in some at least of these numerous letters?” Hitherto I
had met with none. But now, on rapidly unrolling the volume and searching
onwards from the end of the epistle to the Romans, I came to a quotation
that had escaped me. It was in the first of the Corinthian letters,
following immediately after some details (not of great interest) about
women’s head-covering. I had just time to note that the passage contained
the words “the Lord Jesus said,” and “on the night on which he was
delivered over,” when my servant announced that Glaucus wished to see me,
and I put the book aside.

Ostensibly Glaucus had come to compare some of his lecture notes with
mine. But I soon found that his real object was to forget his troubles
in the society of a friend. To forget them, not to reveal them. He
avoided anything that might lead to personal questions, and I respected
his reticence. When, however, he rose to go, he made some remark on the
difficulty of retaining the imperturbability on which Epictetus was
always insisting, “under the sword of Damocles.” Knowing vaguely that
his alarm was not for himself but for others, I suggested that he might
return at once to Corinth. “I would do so,” he said, “but my father
expressly bids me remain at Nicopolis.” He said this uneasily, and with a
wistful look, as though he suspected that something was amiss and longed
for advice. “If action of any kind is possible,” said I, “take it. If
not⸺.” Then I stopped. “Well,” said he, “‘if not’⸺.” He waited for me
to complete my sentence. I would gladly have left it uncompleted. For
the truth was that I had begun the sentence in one mood and was being
called on to complete it in another. When I said, “If not,” I had a flash
of faith coming with a sudden memory of Isaiah’s message about God as
the Shepherd of the stars and his exhortation to “wait patiently on the
Lord.” But it had vanished and left me in the dark. “‘If not’⸺,” repeated
Glaucus for the second time. I ought to have replied, “Then at least
keep yourself ready for action.” What I did say, or stammer out, was,
something about “waiting and trusting.”

Glaucus looked hard at me. “‘_Wait and trust!_’ That is to say, ‘_Wait
and believe_.’ That is not like you, Silanus. You don’t mean it, I see.
It is not like you to say what you don’t mean. I would sooner have heard
you repeat your old friend Scaurus’s advice, which was more like ‘_Wake
and disbelieve_.’ ‘Wait,’ say you, ‘and trust.’ Trust whom? Wait for
what? Wait for the river of time to run dry? I have kept you up too late.
Sleep well, and may sleep bring you better counsel for me!” So saying, he
departed, but turned at the door to fling a final jibe at me, “Silanus,
you are a Roman and I am only a Greek. But you must not think we Greeks
are quite ignorant of your Horace. And what says he about waiting?
_Rusticus expectat_: ‘Hodge sits by the river.’ Farewell, and sleep well.”

This was bitter medicine; but I had deserved it, and it did me good. My
cheeks burned with shame as I recalled his words “It is not like you
to say what you don’t mean.” Had I come to this? Was this the result
of my study of these Jewish writings? And yet, did I not “mean” it?
Was not the fact rather this, that in my own mind I did to some extent
mean and believe it? But it was a dormant belief. And I had no power to
communicate it to others. Then I perceived the reason. I had said “Wait
and trust.” But Isaiah said “Wait thou _upon the Lord_.” In preaching my
gospel to Glaucus I had left out “_the Lord_”—the life and soul of the
precept! If “the Lord” had been in me, as He was in Isaiah and in Paul, I
could not have left Him out. But I left Him out because He was not in me.
The truth was that I had no true gospel to preach.

In great dejection I was on the point of retiring to rest when it
occurred to me that I had left unfinished, and indeed hardly begun, the
study of Christ’s words in the Corinthian epistle. Too weary to resume it
now, I extinguished the light and flung myself down to forget in sleep
all thought of study. But I could not forget. All through the dreams of
a restless and troubled night ran threads of tangled imaginations about
what those words would prove to be, intertwined with other imaginations
about the words of Christ to Paul at his conversion. Along with these
came shadows or shapes, with voices or voice-like sounds:—Epictetus
gazing on the burning Christians in Rome, Paul listening to the voice of
Christ near Damascus, Elijah on Horeb amid the roar of the tempest. Last
of all, I myself, Silanus, stood at the door of a chamber in Jerusalem
where Christ (I knew) was present with His disciples, and from this
chamber there began to steal forth a still small voice, breathing and
spreading everywhere an unspeakable peace—when a whirlwind scattered
everything and hurried me away to the Neronian gardens in Rome.

There, someone, masked, took me by the hand and forced me to look at the
Christian martyrs whom he was causing to be tortured. I thought it was
Nero. But the mask fell off and it was Paul. The martyrs looked down on
us and blessed us. Paul trembled but held me fast. I felt that I had
become one with him, a persecutor and a murderer. They all looked up to
heaven as though they saw something there. At that, Paul vanished, with
a loud cry, leaving me alone. Fear fell upon me lest, if I looked up, I
should see that which the martyrs saw. So I kept my eyes fixed on the
ground. But the blessings of those whom I had persecuted seemed to enter
into me taking me captive and forcing me to do as they did. Then I too
looked up. And I saw—that which they saw, Jesus the crucified. I tried to
cry out “I see nothing, I see nothing,” but my voice would not speak. I
struggled to regain control over my tongue, and in the struggle I awoke.

I had dreamed long past my usual hour for rising; and the lecture was
already beginning when I took my seat next Glaucus. It was a relief
to me to find him there; for his late outbreak of bitterness had made
me fear that he might prove a deserter. Epictetus was describing man
as being the work of a divine Artist, a wonderful sculpture, he said,
superior to the Athene of Phidias. Appealing to us individually, “God,”
he said, “has not only created you, but has also trusted you to yourself
alone, and committed the guardianship of you to yourself, saying ‘I
had no one more trustworthy than yourself to take charge of yourself.
Preserve this person for me, such as he is by nature, modest, faithful,
magnanimous’”—and he added many other eulogistic epithets. Here Glaucus
passed me his notes with a bitter smile, pointing to the words “preserve
me this person such as he is by nature.” He had marked them with a query.
Nor could I help querying them in my mind. I felt that at all events
they were liable to be interpreted in a ridiculous way. My thought was,
“Paul bids us trust in God or in the Son of God. Epictetus never does
this. But here he says that God trusts us to ourselves. Does He then
trust babies to preserve themselves? And if not, when does He begin to
trust us—whether as boys or as youths or as men—to preserve ourselves as
we are by nature?” And here I may say that, as regards belief, or trust,
or faith, Epictetus differed altogether from Paul. The former inveighed
against babblers, who “trust” their secrets to strangers, and against
the Academic philosopher for saying “_Believe_ me it is impossible to
find anything to be _believed_ in.” But he never insisted (as Paul does)
on the marvellous power possessed by a well-based belief or faith to
influence men’s lives for good. For the most part Epictetus used the word
“belief,” like the words “pity” and “prayer,” in a bad sense.

But to return to the lecture. In order to illustrate his favourite topic
of the necessity of seeking happiness in oneself, Epictetus, as it were,
called up Medea on the stage, expostulating with her for her want of
self-control: “Do not desire your husband, then none of your desires
will fail to be realised.” She complained that she was to be banished
from Corinth. “Well,” said he, “Do not desire to remain in Corinth.”
He concluded by advising her to desire that which God desires. “And
then,” said he, “who will hinder or constrain you any more than Zeus is
constrained?” To me, even as a dramatic illustration, such advice seemed
grotesque. Nor was it a good preparation for what followed, in which he
bade us give up desires and passions relating, not only to honour and
office, but also to country, friends, children: “Give them all up freely
to Zeus and to the other Gods. Make a complete surrender to the Gods. Let
the Gods be your pilots. Let your desires be with them. Then how can your
voyage be unprosperous? But if you envy, if you pity, if you are jealous,
if you are timid, how do you dare to call yourself a philosopher?”

I could perceive that Glaucus was ill pleased at this, and especially at
the connexion of “pity” with “envy”—though it was not the first time, nor
the last, that I heard Epictetus speak of “pity” in this contemptuous
way. Perhaps others were in the same mood as Glaucus, and perhaps our
Teacher felt it. If he did, he at all events made no effort to smooth
away what he had said. Far from it, he seemed to harden himself in order
to reproach us for our slackness and for being philosophers only in name.
“Observe and test yourselves,” he exclaimed, “and find out what your
philosophy really is. You are Epicureans—barring perhaps a few weak-kneed
Peripatetics. Stoic reasonings, of course, you have in plenty. But shew
me a Stoic man! Shew me only one! By the Gods, I long, I long to see one
Stoic man. But perhaps you have one—only not as yet quite completed? Shew
him, then, uncompleted! Shew him to me a little way towards completion!
I am an old man now. Do me this one last kindness! Do not grudge me this
boon—a sight that up to this day my eyes have never enjoyed!”

We were all very quiet at this outburst, so unusual in our Teacher. Two
or three youths near my seat seemed stimulated rather than depressed.
But to me it seemed a sad confession of failure, amounting, in effect,
to this, “I have taught from the days of Vespasian to the second year of
Hadrian. My business has been to produce Stoics. Up to this day, a real
Stoic is”—these were his words—“_a sight that up to this day my eyes have
never enjoyed_.” What a contrast, thought I, between _my_ Teacher (for
“mine” I still called him) and that other, the Jew, Paul, (whom I refused
to call “mine”) who numbered his pupils by cities, and whose campaigns
from Jerusalem to Rome, through Asia and Greece, had been a succession of
victories, leading trains of prisoners captive under the banner of the
Crucified!

What followed amazed me, forcing me to the conclusion that Epictetus was
profoundly ignorant of human nature, at all events of our nature, and
perhaps of his own. For instead of saying, “We have been on the wrong
road,” or “You have not the power to walk, and I have not the power to
make you walk,” he found fault with himself and us, without attempting to
shew what the fault was. At first it seemed our lack of noble ambition.
“Not one of you,” he exclaimed, “desires, from being man, to pass
into becoming God. Not one of you is planning how he may pass through
the dungeon of this paltry body to fellowship with Zeus!” But then he
shifted his ground, saying, in effect, “I am your teacher. You are my
pupils. My aim is so to perfect your characters that each of you may
live unrestrained, uncoerced, unhindered, unshackled, free, prosperous,
blessed, looking to God alone in every matter great or small. You, on
your side, come here to learn and to practise these things. Why, then, do
you fail to do the work in hand, if you on your side have the right aim,
object, and purpose, and _I on my side—in addition to right aim, object,
and purpose—have the right preparation_? What is deficient?”

Here was our Master assuming as absolutely certain that he had “_the
right preparation_”! But that was just the point on which I had long
felt doubtful, and was now beginning to feel absolutely certain in a
negative sense. However, he continued with the same perfect confidence
in himself and in the practicability of his theory, “I am the carpenter,
you the material. If the work is practicable, and yet is not completed,
the fault must rest with you or with me.” Then he concluded with the
following personal appeal; these were his exact words, “Is not this
matter”—he meant the art of living as a son of Zeus, free, and in perfect
peace—“capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own hands? Nay,
it is the only thing that is in our own hands. Wealth is not in our own
hands, health is not, reputation is not. Nothing is—except the right
use of our imaginations. This is the only thing that is by nature ours,
unpreventable, unhinderable. Why do you not perform it then? Tell me
the reason. Your non-performance is either my fault, or your fault, or
the natural and inherent fault of our business. Now our business, in
itself, is practicable, and is indeed the only business that is always
practicable. It remains, then, that the fault rests either with me, or
with you, or, which is nearer the truth, with both of us. What is to be
done, then? Are you willing that we should begin together, at last though
late, to bring this purpose into effect? Let bygones be bygones. Only let
us begin. Believe me, and you will see.”

With that, he dismissed us. I was curious to know what Glaucus thought
of it, so I waited for him to speak. To my surprise, he said, “It is not
often that the Master speaks in this way or suggests that he himself may
be in fault. Who knows? He may have something new in store. I felt so
angry with him at the beginning of the lecture that I was within an ace
of going straight out. But now, as he says, ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ I
shall go on with him a little longer. What say you? For the most part he
is too cold for me, always talking about the Logos within us, and the
God within us, as though I, Glaucus the son of Adeimantus, who need the
help of all the Gods that are, were myself all the God that I needed! He
chills me with his Logos. But when he appealed to us in that personal way
‘Believe me,’ he gave me quite a new sensation. Did it not stir you? I
don’t think I ever heard him say that before.”

“It did stir me,” said I, “and I am sure I never heard him say it
before. Plato represents Socrates as always persuading his hearers to
‘follow the Logos,’ not to follow Socrates; and Epictetus, for the most
part, uses similar language. For the rest, I am not sure that our Master
will do me all the good I had hoped. But I shall do as you do. We shall
still sit, I hope, together.” So we parted.

I had not said more than the truth. Epictetus had stirred me, but not in
the way in which he had stirred Glaucus. “Let bygones be bygones”—the
“bygones” of nearly forty years! Why were they to be “bygones”? Had they
no lesson to teach? Did they not suggest that for forty years Epictetus
had been on the road to failure and that he had consequently failed?
Could I believe that during all that time Epictetus himself had been
deficient in “purpose”? Not for a day! Not for a moment!

As I sat down to revise the notes of my lecture, it occurred to me that
Glaucus—who was of a much less settled temperament than Arrian—must
have heard better news from home, and that this helped him to take a
brighter view of things in general and of philosophy in particular. “If
my old friend were here,” said I, “would he not regard Glaucus’s change
of mood as one more instance of Epictetus’s power to ‘make his hearers
feel precisely what he desired them to feel’? But what if I went on to
say that this ‘power’ was mere rhetoric, not indeed ‘wisdom of word’ in
the sense of hair-splitting logic, but ‘wisdom of speech,’ the knowledge
of the language and imagery best fitted to stir the emotions? What would
Arrian say to that?”

I mentally constructed a dialogue between us. “There is something more,
Silanus.” “But what more?” “That I do not know. Only I know there is
something more behind.” Then Scaurus’s explanation recurred to me of that
“something more behind.” For Scaurus had asserted that Epictetus had been
touched by what he called the Christian superstition, which, although he
had shaken it off, had left in his mind a blank, a vacant niche, which
he vainly tried to fill with the image of a Hercules or a Diogenes. That
brought back to my thoughts Scaurus’s first mention of “Christus”; and
then it came upon me as a shock that I had spent half-an-hour in my
rooms, musing over Epictetus and Glaucus and Arrian, and there, on the
table before me, was Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians containing
his only quotation of the words of the Lord, and I had taken no notice of
it. So I put my notes aside and unrolled the epistle.



CHAPTER XVIII

PAUL’S ONLY RECORD OF WORDS OF CHRIST


The first words of the sentence were, “For _I_ received from the Lord”—he
emphasized “_I_,” as though it meant “_I myself_,” or “Whatever others
may have received, _I_ received so and so”—“that which I also delivered
over to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was to be
delivered over.…” Here I paused and looked back, to see what “for” meant
(in “_for_ I received”) and why Paul was introducing this saying of the
Lord. I found that the apostle had been warning the Corinthians thus,
“Ye meet together, not for the better, but for the worse.” In the first
place, he said, there were dissensions among them, and in the next place,
“When ye come together it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper,
for each one taketh his own supper, and one is hungry while another
is drunken.” Then I understood that the Lord’s Supper meant that same
Christian feast of which Arrian had spoken. This interested me because
in Rome, as a boy, I had heard it said that the Christians partook of “a
Thyestean meal,” that is, they killed children and served up the flesh to
the parents. This I do not think I had myself believed, except perhaps in
the nursery; but it was commonly taken as truth among the lower classes
in Rome.

Now I perceived that the meal was to have been a joint one—like that
of the Spartan public meals or syssitia, where all fed alike. But in
that luxurious city of Corinth many of the Christians had introduced
Corinthian luxury and turned the public meal into a group of private
meals, so that some had too little and others too much. Paul tried to
bring them back to better things by telling them what Christ said to his
disciples on the night of his last meal, “the night on which he was to
be delivered over.” He implied that their meal ought to have been like
Christ’s last meal; and now the question for me was, what that, the
Lord’s Supper, was like.

But first I had to ask myself the meaning of Christ’s being “delivered
over.” About this I had no doubt that it referred to the prophecy in
Isaiah concerning the Suffering Servant, who “was _delivered over_ on
account of our sins.” These words Paul had quoted in the epistle to
the Romans, and he elsewhere spoke of God, or the Father, as “giving,”
or “_delivering over_,” the Son for the salvation of mankind. Now both
Isaiah and Paul had made it quite clear that the Servant, or Son, thus
“delivered over” by the Father, goes voluntarily to death, and this I
assumed to be the case here. But I did not know by what agency God was
said to have “delivered him over.” I thought it might be by a warning or
dæmonic voice, as in the case of Socrates, bidding him surrender himself
to the laws of his country. Or Christ’s own people, the citizens of
Jerusalem, might have delivered him up to Pilate, to procure their own
exemption from punishment on account of some rebellion or sedition. Or he
might be said to have been delivered over by a decree of Fate, to which
he voluntarily submitted.

So much was I in the dark that for a moment I thought of Christ as
fighting at the head of an army of his countrymen and giving himself
up for their sakes, like Protesilaus or the Decii; and I tried to
picture Christ doing this, or something like this. But I failed. Still
I was being guided rightly so far as this, that I began faintly to
recognise that this “delivering over” might be not a mere propitiation
of Nemesis, occurring now and then in battles, but part of the laws of
the Cosmopolis, occurring often when a deliverance is to be wrought for
any community of men. Of such a propitiation Protesilaus was the symbol,
concerning whom Homer says,

    “First of the Achæans leaped he on Troy’s shore
    Long before all the rest.”

He leaped first, in order to fall first. But his country rose by his
fall. His wife sorrowed, “desolate in Thessaly,” and his house was left
“half built.” But in the minds of men he abides among the firstfruits of
the noble dead, who have counted it life to lay down life for others.
This legend I now began to apply to spiritual things. I was being
prepared to believe that the sons of God in all places and times must
needs be in various ways and circumstances “delivering themselves over”
as sacrifices to the will of God, in proportion to their goodness,
wisdom, and strength—the good spending their life-blood for the evil, the
wise for the foolish, the strong for the weak.

After this, came a sentence that perplexed me greatly, “This is my body,
which is in your behalf. Do this to my remembering or reminding.” Not
being able to make any sense at all of this, I read on, in hope of light:
“In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new
covenant in my blood.” The word “covenant” helped me a little, because I
had found Paul speaking elsewhere to the Corinthians in his own person
about a “new covenant” and an “old covenant.” Also to the Galatians
he mentioned “two covenants,” one of which, he said, “corresponds to
Mount Sinai.” So I turned to the scripture that described how God made
a “covenant” with Israel that they should obey the Law given to them
from Mount Sinai. It had these words: “And Moses, having taken the
blood”—that is, the blood from a “_sacrifice of salvation_” consisting
of bullocks—“sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood
of the covenant that the Lord has covenanted with you concerning all
these words’.” The blood of the old covenant (I perceived) was blood of
“sprinkling,” purifying the body. David prayed for something more than
that, when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right
spirit within me.” So it occurred to me that the “new covenant” was to
purify, not the body but the heart and the spirit, entering into man and
becoming part of him so as to cleanse him from within.

This seemed to agree with Paul’s opinion, and with what I had read in
Isaiah, that the sacrifices of bulls and goats cannot make the heart
clean. Now, therefore, going back again to the first words “This is my
body, which is in your behalf,” I inferred that Christ was speaking about
Himself as being the “_sacrifice of salvation_” above mentioned, and that
He used these words, purposing to devote Himself to death for the people,
in order to redeem them from sin by purifying their hearts.

I am writing now in old age. Forty-five years have passed since the night
when I first read, “This is my body, which is in your behalf.” During
that interval I have done my best to ascertain the exact words spoken by
the Saviour in His own tongue. And now it is much more clear to me than
it was then that the Lord Jesus was herein giving Himself, His very self,
both as a legacy to the disciples and also as a ransom for their souls.
But even then I perceived that some such meaning must be attached to the
words, and that they could not have been invented by any disciple; and
they made me marvel more than anything else that I had met with in the
Jewish scriptures or Paul’s epistles. Such a confidence did they shew in
the power of His own love, as being stronger than death! I do not say
that I believed that the words had been fulfilled. But I felt sure that
Christ had uttered them in the belief of their being fulfilled; and, just
for a few moments, the notion that He should have been deceived seemed to
me so contrary to the fitness of things, and to the existence of any kind
of Providence, that I almost believed that they must have had some kind
of fulfilment. I did not stay to ask, “How fulfilled?” I merely said,
“This is divine, this is like the ‘still small voice.’ This is past man’s
invention. This must be from God.”

Then I checked myself, doubt rising up within me. “Paul,” I said, “was
not present on the night of the Last Supper. He says concerning these
words, ‘I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you.’
Is it not strange that the oracles or revelations supposed by Paul to
have been delivered to him by Jesus after the resurrection should have
included matters of historical fact, and historical utterances, which
could have been ascertained from the disciples that heard them? I must
wait till I receive the Christian gospels from Flaccus.”

Then this also occurred to me. “Socrates, too, like Christ, was unjustly
condemned. Socrates might have escaped from death, but he refused. The
dæmonic voice that told him what to do and not to do, bade him remain and
die, and he obeyed. In effect, then, this voice from heaven ‘_delivered
over_’ Socrates to death. Or he may be said to have ‘_delivered himself
over_.’ Now what were the last words of Socrates? Did he leave any such
legacy to his disciples? Might I not find some help here? For assuredly
Socrates, like Christ, endeavoured to make men better and wiser.” I
remembered hearing Epictetus say—and I recognised the truth of the
saying—“Even now, when Socrates is dead, the memory of the words and
deeds of his life is no less profitable to men, perhaps it is more so,
than when he lived.” So I turned over Arrian’s notes and found several
remarks of our Master about Socrates and his contempt for death; and with
what a humorous appearance of sympathy he accepted the jailer’s tears,
though he himself felt they were altogether misplaced. At last I came to
a passage where Epictetus compared Socrates, on his trial, and in his
last moments, to a man playing at ball: “And what was the ball in that
case? Life, chains, exile, a draught of poison, to be parted from a wife,
to leave one’s children orphans. These were his playthings, but none the
less he kept on playing and throwing the ball with grace and dexterity.”

This was enough, and more than enough. It was hopeless, I perceived, to
search in Epictetus for what I sought—some last legacy of Socrates to his
disciples, implying that he longed to help them after death. Epictetus
would have rebuked me, saying, “How could he help them when he was
dissolved into the four elements? What could Socrates bequeath to them
beyond the memory of his words and deeds?”

Failing Epictetus, I took out from my bookcase such works of Plato and
Xenophon as might contain the last thoughts of Socrates. Both of these
writers believed in the immortality of the soul. Yet I could not find
either of them asserting, or suggesting, that Socrates felt any trouble
or anxiety for his friends and for their faith, nor any token of a
hope that his soul might help theirs after his death—or rather, to use
his phrase, after he had “transferred his habitation.” When I tried to
find such a hope, I could not feel sure that I was interpreting the
words honestly. It seemed to me that I was importing something of the
Jewish _pathos_, or feeling, into an utterance of the Greek _logos_. I
still retained the conviction that Socrates, in his last moments, had
his disciples at heart, and that, in enjoining that last sacrifice to
Æsculapius, he wished to stimulate them to something more spiritual and
more permanent than that single literal act. But I longed for something
more. I thought of Christ’s “constraining love,” and how a man might
be “constrained” in a natural way by the love of the dead—the love of
a wife, father, mother, or child. Such a love I said, might be no less
powerful, for help and comfort, than the hate of Clytemnestra following
Orestes for evil. Æneas (I remembered) used the word “_image_,” speaking
to the spirit of Anchises, “Thy _image_, O my father, constrained me to
come hither.” But Anchises replies that he himself had been all the while
following his son in his perilous wanderings, so that it was not a mere
“_image_.” It was a _presence_. “Is it possible,” I asked, “that Christ,
not in poetry but in fact, thought of bequeathing to His disciples such a
_presence_, to follow and help them after His death?”

Yes. It seemed quite possible, nay, almost certain—that Christ thought
this. But who, except a Christian, would believe that the thought was
more than a dream? “Scaurus,” I said, “who often jests at me as a
dreamer, would now jest more than ever. Here am I, pondering poetry,
when I ought to be studying history! Yet how can I study history in
Paul, when Paul himself tells me that he received these words from one
that had died—presumably therefore in a vision? The right course will
be to wait till Flaccus sends me the gospels. These may chance to be
historical biographies—not records of things seen, or words heard, in
visions.” And then Scaurus’s saying recurred to me, that no two writers
agree independently in recording a speech or conversation for twenty
consecutive words that are exactly the same. “And this,” said I, “I hope
to test before many days are over, with regard to these mysterious words
of Christ.”

But before rolling up the book it came into my mind that Paul said
somewhere to the Romans “I beseech you therefore by the compassionate
mercies of God to present your bodies a _living sacrifice_, holy,
acceptable to God.” Having found these words and read them carefully
over, I thought that the writer must have had in view some allusion to
the sacrifice of Isaac. For that was the only “living sacrifice” that I
could find (and indeed it is the only one) mentioned in scripture. Then I
turned to the first book of the Law and there I found that God’s promise
of Isaac to Abraham had been called a covenant, and this, said Paul to
the Galatians, was, so to speak, the real _thought_ of God. The covenant
of Sinai was only an afterthought. The sign of Abraham’s covenant by
promise was in the blood of circumcision stamped permanently on man’s
body. The sign of the covenant of Sinai was in the blood of bullocks
merely sprinkled on the body. Also there was yet another covenant between
God and man, earlier than both of these. This, the earliest covenant of
all, was with Noah. Now the sign of this was not on man at all, but on
the sky, being the rainbow. And in the covenant with Noah there was no
mention of blood (either of man or beast) except this—that man was not to
taste the blood of beasts when he ate their flesh, and that he was not to
pour out the blood of men, much less to taste of it.

Then it seemed to me that the words and thoughts of Christ, being a Jew,
must be studied in the light of the words and thoughts of his countrymen
the ancient Jews. The first covenant, that of Noah, said, “The blood is
the life, therefore ye shall not taste of blood; and whosoever shall
taste of blood, whether of man or beast, shall die; and whosoever shall
pour out the blood of man, his blood shall be poured out and he shall
die.” This was confirmed by the Covenant of Moses the Lawgiver. Then came
a second covenant, that of the Son, saying, “I have changed all that.
I am the New Covenant. The New Covenant is in my blood, that is, in my
life. My blood is truly my life. Ye shall taste of my blood. It shall be
poured out for all, as a living sacrifice. Whosoever shall taste of my
blood shall not die but shall live for ever, even as I live.”

Looking back now to that moment, I seem to perceive that I was being led
on by the Spirit of God, far beyond my own natural powers of thought and
reason, in order that I might have some foretaste of the revelation of
the Lord’s sacrifice, so as to be strengthened and prepared for the trial
that was shortly to fall upon me, when I was to be dragged away from the
shore that I had just touched, back again into the tumultuous deep. For
a long time I continued musing on this mystery, and turning over passage
after passage in Paul’s epistles describing how believers are all one
“in Christ,” and “Christ in them,” and how they are made righteous, or
brought near to God, “in the blood of Christ.”

So passed the greater part of the day, up till the ninth hour. Then came
a reaction. The thought of Scaurus returned, and of his criticisms. “He
is right,” I said, “I am a dreamer. I will go out into the fields.” So I
went out, taking my Virgil as company. When I came into the woods I sat
down in the warmth of the westering sun. There, for a time, listening to
the songs of the thrushes and the cooing of the doves, I felt at peace,
and opened my Virgil, intending to read about the bees and the fields.
But I had brought the Æneid by mistake, and the first words I met were
these:

    “Si nunc se nobis ille aureus arbore ramus
    Ostendat nemore in tanto!”

Then back again came suggestions of doubt. For I recognised it as a kind
of oracle from the Gods, that I must still be seeking for the light of
the truth in the dark forest of error, and that I could not find it
without divine help. “But,” said I, as I started up to return home, “it
shall be such help as a Roman may accept without shame. The faith of
Junius Silanus shall never be constrained by spells, or incantations, or
by anything except reasonable conviction and the force of facts.”

Returning home as the sun was sinking I found letters awaiting me. Among
these, one was from Flaccus, saying that he had sent me three little
Christian books called “gospels,” in accordance with my order. After
his usual fashion, addressing me as the son of his old master, but also
as a companion in the fellowship of book-lovers, he added some remarks
on the contents of the parcel. “The third of these books,” he said, “is
written by a man of some education, named Lucas, a companion of Paulus
(whose works I recently sent you); and he has published a supplementary
volume, which I have ventured to add although you did not order it.
The supplement is entitled ‘The Acts of the Apostles,’ that is, of the
missionaries sent out by Christus. The ‘gospel,’ as you probably know,
is a record of the acts and words of Christus himself. Also, as you are
interested in this sect, I have sent you a book called the Revelation of
John. It is written in most extraordinary Greek, without pretensions to
grammar, much less to style. But it has some poetic touches in it. Of
the eastern style, of course. But that you will understand. This John
was himself—(I am told)—one of their ‘apostles,’ and a man of note among
the Christians. He is said to have written it soon after the reign of
Domitian.”

There was also a letter from Scaurus, or rather a packet of letters. Out
of it fell a separate note of the nature of a postscript, and I read that
first, as follows: “Two things I forgot to say. First, if you decide
to open my sealed note about the similarities of Paul and Epictetus, I
shall not now feel hurt. For the reasons I have given in my letter, I
hope you will not open it, because I trust you will turn your mind to
other matters. But I do not now regard that note as important. By this
time, you probably have the books of the Christians. You also know more
than you did about Epictetus, so you have been able to judge for yourself
whether I have not spoken the truth. But now—I repeat—my advice is to put
the whole investigation aside. Go to Illyria and see whether you cannot
find an opening there for a military philosopher.”

As to the sealed note, I have explained above that, when I opened it, I
found it was, as Scaurus said, of very little importance to me—knowing
what I then knew. Such effect as it had on me was produced before I had
opened it, because it provoked my curiosity and stimulated me to study
the books of the Christians.

The postscript continued as follows. “The second thing, much more
important, concerns a fundamental matter in this Christian superstition.
You know, I am sure, from Paul’s letters, that the ancient Jews—better
called Israelites—have always claimed that God has honoured them above
all nations by making a special ‘treaty’ or ‘covenant’ with them. Well,
Paul admits this for Jews, but claims for Christians that they have a
still better ‘treaty’ or ‘covenant,’ which he calls ‘new,’ as distinct
from that of the Jews, which he calls ‘old.’ He represents his leader,
Christ, as making or ratifying this ‘new covenant’ with his blood, on the
night on which he was betrayed. Not only this, but he gives the exact
words uttered by Christ—and, mark you, _this is the only occasion on
which he quotes any words of Christ at all_. Not only this, but he says
that he received them from his leader; ‘I received from the Lord that
which I also delivered over to you.’ Now, Silanus, look for yourself. Do
not believe me. Look in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, some way
after the middle, and see whether he does not quote these words, ‘This
cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as ye are drinking,
to my remembering.’ What the words mean I do not precisely know. But
there they are. Next look in the three gospels⸺”

“Now,” said I, “I shall get light.” I put down the letter and took up the
three gospels—the packet from Flaccus. But a glance shewed that it would
be a long and difficult business to find the passage in them, and to
compare their three versions with the one in Paul’s epistle. So I turned
to the postscript again, “Next look in the three gospels and prepare to
be surprised. You will find the following four facts. First, none of
them contain the words ‘Do this to my remembering.’ Secondly, the latest
gospel (that of Lucas) makes no mention of a ‘covenant.’ Thirdly, the two
earliest gospels do not call the covenant ‘new.’ Fourthly, the Greek word
may mean not ‘covenant’ at all, but ‘testament’; and the meaning may be
that their leader bequeaths them his blood—whatever that may mean—by his
last will and testament.

“Now I put it to you, Silanus, as a reasonable man, whether it is worth
while investigating a superstition as to which the earliest documents
disagree concerning such a fundamental fact (or rather allegation).
These Christians—for I am informed they mostly take Paul’s view—assert
that their Founder made a ‘_new covenant_’ between them and God on a
special night. Three of them give accounts—detailed accounts—of all
manner of things that happened on that night. A fourth, Paul, professes
to give the very words of the Founder of the Covenant, as he received
them from the Founder himself, not alive of course but dead! And he,
Paul, _alone of the four, mentions the phrase_ ‘_new covenant_.’ What do
you think of this?”

Indeed I did not know what to think of it. And Scaurus’s next words
almost decided me to take his view of the whole matter, to put away
all my Jewish and Christian books and to have done with every kind of
philosophy. “Spare me,” so the postscript proceeded, “for the sake of the
immortal Gods, my dearest Quintus, spare me the pain—during the few years
or months of life that may still remain for me—of seeing the son of my
dearest friend ensnared in the net of a beguiling superstition that must
lead you away from your duty to your country. Be kind to me and to your
father.”

Not having read the preceding part of his letter, I was amazed at this
outburst of alarm in my behalf. But I perceived that, with his usual
sympathetic insight, he had read some of my thoughts almost before I was
conscious of them myself, and I was grateful to him. If he had stopped
there, I sometimes think things might have happened differently. But he
continued, “_Truth_, as Sophocles says, _is always right_. Be true to the
truth. Be true to yourself. Amid all the shifting fancies and falsehoods
around you, esteem the knowledge of yourself the only knowledge that
is certain and unchangeable. In that respect the old philosophers were
right. ‘Know thyself’ is the only divine precept. On self-knowledge
alone is based the only covenant—if indeed it is fit to imagine any
covenant—between God and man.”

From these last words I found myself in absolute revolt. During the
past few days I had come to think that perhaps the only certain and
unchangeable truth was that self-knowledge without other knowledge is
impossible, or, if possible, most harmful. Dissenting from these last
words I went back to dissent further, or rather to draw a different
inference. “Truth is always right.” Then could it be right for me to
give up the search for truth, lest I should pain myself or Scaurus? From
my father, one of the most just and honourable of men, how often had I
heard the maxim, _Audi alteram partem_! Why should I not “hear the other
side” since that very day had placed at my disposal (thanks to Flaccus)
the means of doing this? Scaurus had indirectly challenged me to do it.
My father had, in a sense, commanded it. Before I retired to rest that
night, I resolved to devote the whole of the next day, and as much time
as I could spare afterwards, to the examination of the Christian gospels.



CHAPTER XIX

HOW SCAURUS STUDIED THE THREE GOSPELS


Beginning with the passages that described the Lord’s Supper, I soon
found that Scaurus was correct in saying that the words of the Lord
quoted by Paul were not in any of the gospels. But my copy of Luke—an
old one, having been transcribed in the reign of the emperor Nerva as
the scribe stated—contained a note in the margin, not in the scribe’s
handwriting, “After ‘_my body_,’ some later copies have these words,
‘_which is being given in your behalf. Do this to my remembering; and the
cup likewise, after supping, saying, This cup is the new testament in my
blood which is being shed for you_’.” Now these words were very similar
to Paul’s quotation, and Flaccus had told me that Luke was a companion of
Paul. So I reflected that Luke must often have partaken of the Christian
Supper with Paul, and must have heard these words from Paul. Why
therefore were the words omitted in Luke, except in “some later copies”?
Mark, Matthew, and Paul agreed in inserting some mention of “covenant.”
Why did Luke, Paul’s companion, alone omit it?

Looking into the matter more closely, I found that Luke, though he
omitted the phrase about “covenant,” _inserted in his context some
mention of “covenanting,” or “making covenant,”_ as follows: “I
_covenant_ unto you as my Father _covenanted_ unto me.” The “covenant”
was “a kingdom, that ye may eat and drink at my table.” Also, in the
same context, Jesus said, “The kings of the nations lord it over them,
and those who play the despot over them are called”—I think he meant,
“called” by their flatterers—“benefactors. But you, not so.” And Jesus
went on to say, “He that ruleth must be as he that serveth,” and, “I am
among you as he that serveth.” The words “my Father covenanted unto me”
appeared to mean a covenant of sacrifice, namely, that the Son was to
sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world, and to pass, through that
sacrifice, into the Kingdom at the right hand of the Father. And the
other words meant that Jesus “covenanted” with the disciples that they
should sacrifice themselves in like manner, taking Him as it were into
themselves, by drinking the blood of the sacrifice (that is, His blood)
and eating its flesh or body (that is, His body). And thus they, too,
being made one with Him, were to pass into the Kingdom.

Such a “covenant” as this, would, I perceived, be so “new” that it might
be described as turning the world upside down—all the kings serving their
subjects, all the masters waiting on their servants. This was indeed
strange. But it was not peculiar to Luke. Mark and Matthew (I found) had
a similar doctrine, though not in this passage; only, instead of “I am
among you as he that serveth,” they had, “to give his soul as a ransom
for many.” This accorded with what was said above, namely, that the
“covenant,” or condition, on which the Son came into the world, was, that
He should be the “servant,” or “sacrifice,” or “ransom,” for mankind. All
three names expressed aspects of one and the same thing. David had said,
“The sacrifice of the Lord is a contrite spirit.” That meant, contrite
for _one’s own_ sins. Jesus seemed to go outside a man’s self, and to
say, “The sacrifice of the Lord is a spirit of service _to others_.”
Romans, I reflected, would call this doctrine either an impracticable
dream, or—if practicable, and if attempted—a pestilent revolution. But
once more the thought recurred that the Jew would say to us, as the
Egyptian said to Solon, “You Romans are but children,” and that, although
Rome had the power (as Virgil said) of “subjecting the proud oppressors
in war,” it might not have what Epictetus described as the power of the
true Ruler (which this Jewish Ruler seemed to claim), namely, to draw the
subjects towards the ruler with the chain of “passionate affection.”

Scaurus next asserted that some disagreements here between the
evangelists arose from translating Hebrew into Greek. Where Mark has
“and they drank,” Matthew has “drink ye.” Scaurus said that the same
Hebrew might produce these two Greek translations. “Also,” said he,
“supposing Jesus to have said in his native tongue, _This is my body for
you_, some might take ‘for you’ to mean ‘given _to you_ as a gift,’ but
others ‘given _for you_ as a sacrifice’.” Hence he inferred that it was
hardly possible to discover what Jesus actually said, because, besides
differences of memory in the witnesses, there might be differences of
translation in those who remembered the same words. But on the other
side, if Scaurus was right, the facts shewed the independence of the
witnesses, as well as their honesty and accuracy. If Jesus used one
Jewish phrase that might imply two meanings, it seemed natural that his
disciples should try to express both meanings in Greek. The nearness of
the Passover (at the time when the words were uttered), and the connexion
in scripture between “covenant” and “sacrifice,” and many things
that I had read in Paul’s epistles, made me believe that “sacrifice”
was implied. Why should not the disciples suppose that their Saviour
bequeathed a legacy _to_ them that was also a sacrifice _for_ them? This
seemed to me a beautiful and intelligible belief.

The result was that I resolved not to give up the study of these books.
Repeating my father’s maxim, _Audi alteram partem_, “Scaurus,” I said,
“shall be on one side, and the three gospels”—which I spread out on the
table—“shall be on the other.” I soon found, however, that my task was
not so simple. There was not merely “the other side,” there were often
three “sides”—so strangely did the gospels vary. Scaurus made a fourth,
or, rather, a commentary on the three. From my youth up (thanks largely
to Scaurus) I had some skill in comparing histories. It was necessary
first (I perceived) to have the three gospels side by side. For this
purpose, the penknife and the pen—the former for transposing, the latter
for transcribing—had to be freely used. Mark’s gospel I preserved intact.
Extracts from Matthew and Luke—copying or cutting them out—I placed
parallel to the corresponding passages in Mark. I also made use of
marginal notes in my MS. referring me to parallel passages in the other
gospels or in the scriptures. Some days were spent in this labour. After
that, I determined to attend lectures regularly, but to devote all my
leisure to a close examination of the gospels with the help of Scaurus’s
comments. Now I must speak of his letter.

It began, as his postscript had ended, with a personal appeal, warning
me against a tendency to dreaming, “which,” said he, “I think you must
have inherited from my Etrurian grandmother, whose blood runs in your
veins—through your dear mother—as well as in mine. I myself, at times,
have to fight against it.” Then he cautioned me against the Jews. “They
are all of them,” he said, “dangerous people, though in different
ways. There are two sorts, plotters and dreamers; the plotters, all
for themselves; the dreamers, all for someone else, or something else
(the Gods know what!) outside themselves. Now a dreamer in the west,
mostly a Greek (for a Roman dreamer is a rare bird) is a harmless
creature—dreaming passively. But the Jewish dreamer dreams actively. He
is, to use the Greek adjective, _hypnotic_. If I might invent a Greek
verb, I would say that he ‘_hypnotizes_’ people. He makes others dream
what he dreams. And his dreams are not the dreams of Morpheus, ‘golden
slumbers’ on ‘heaped Elysian flowers.’ No, they are often dreams like
those of Hercules Furens—destroying himself and his friends while he
thinks he is destroying ‘powers of evil’! I have known several Jews, some
very good, more very bad; only one, perhaps, half-and-half. That was
Flavius Josephus, whose histories you have read. He could be all things
to all men in a very clever way, mostly for his people, sometimes for
himself.

“Paul was all things to all men in a very different way, and always the
same way. Paul, as you know, frankly warns his readers, ‘I am become all
things to all men that I may by all means save some,’ and ‘I became to
the Jews a Jew that I might gain the Jews’—not for himself, of course,
but for his Master, the King of the Jews. I have never told you, before,
something that I will tell you now—to warn you against these Jews,
especially the Christian Jews. I once saw this Paul, only once. I was but
a boy. He was standing, chained, in a corridor in the palace, waiting
to be heard. One of the Prætorian guard was talking to him and Paul was
replying, while my father and I were passing by; and my father, having
something to say to the guardsman, made some courteous remark to Paul
about interrupting their talk. Paul stood up. He was rather short, and
bent down besides with the weight of his chains; and the guardsman (quite
against regulations) had put a stool for him to rest on. He reached up
his face to my father’s as though he could not see very distinctly:
but it was not exactly the eyes, but the look in them, the unearthly
look, that I shall never forget. No doubt, he was thankful for the few
syllables of kindness. It seemed to me as if he wished to return the
kindness in kind. He said something. What it was I don’t know. Probably
bad Greek or worse Latin. Thanks of some sort, no doubt. But it was
the look—the look and the tone, that struck me. Struck! No, rather,
bewitched. For days and nights afterwards I saw that man’s face, and
heard his voice in my dreams. I did not like the dreams. But he made me
dream. He was a retiarius. If he had had me alone for a day or two, I
feel even now that he would have caught me in his Christian net. I don’t
want you to be caught.”

Then Scaurus went on to speak of himself at some length. I will set down
his exact words for two reasons. First, they shew what pains he had taken
to prepare himself for the work of a critic. Secondly, his letter seemed
to me to explain in part why he was so set against what he called the
soporific or hypnotic art of Paul. He and I approached the apostle in
different circumstances. I came to Paul before coming to the gospels.
He read the gospels first, and found it impossible to believe them.
Then, with a mind settled and fixed against belief, approaching Paul, he
found—this I believe to be the fact—that Paul was drawing him towards
Christ. He resisted the constraint, thinking that he was resisting a
sort of witchcraft. Yes, and even to the end of his life, he fought
against the truth, seeing it masked as falsehood. Yet assuredly he loved
the truth and spared no pains to reach it. Let my old friend speak for
himself in what I will call—


SCAURUS’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

“While I am in the mood for telling secrets I may say that, for me, too,
this Christian superstition has not been without attractions; and, had
there been anything solid in it, I think I should have ascertained it.
You must know that in the last year or two of Domitian this sect was
brought into notice in Rome among the highest circles by rather painful
circumstances—painful, I mean, to me. I had retired from the army. As
soon as I had recovered from my wounds, enough to be able to limp about,
I looked round me for something to do. I was not in favour with the
Emperor. He had lost reputation in the Dacian war; and he was supposed
to dislike those officers—there were only a few—who had done creditably
in that most discreditable business. I was supposed to be one of the
few. At all events, in the ‘regrettable incident’ of Fuscus, I brought
off most of my men safe, and we did not run away. Well, I thought I had
better lead a retired life. So under the plea of disablement—which was
unfortunately only too true, as I was lamed for life—I kept at home
in Tusculum all through the reign of Domitian, giving myself up to
literature.

“Even as a boy, I was very fond of Greek, and I liked learning it in
my own way and not according to the ways of my masters. My way was to
commit to memory—and to keep in memory by constant repetition, a very
different thing from mere ‘committing’—great masses of such literature
as I liked best. Many and many a time have I met and passed a friend
or schoolfellow in the Via Sacra, and heard his voice behind me, ‘Are
you going to cut me, Scaurus?’ But I had not been ‘Scaurus’ when I
passed him. I had been Medea frantic, or Demosthenes haranguing the
Athenians, or Plato describing Thales on the well’s brink, or—for I was
an eclectic—Thucydides recording his personal experiences of the plague.
I kept this up, even in the army. Many a long night in Dacia has been
shortened in the company of my friends, the great Greek authors. The
result of all this was, that when I reached consular age, and, instead
of going in for consulships, went in for lameness and literature, I was
well provided, so far as concerned the Greek raw material, for critical
studies.

“Well, as time went on, extending the course of my reading, I happened
to pick up in Flaccus’s shop a Greek translation of the Hebrew book of
Job. It was a chaos, with occasional lucidities—some of them magnificent.
On my shewing it to a learned Jew (whom Josephus had recommended to me)
he explained to me that the Greek translators had often been misled
by similarities of Hebrew words. Hebrew is a queer language. It has
vowels but does not write them. I saw at once what an abundant source
of error this might be. Even in Latin, where vowels are written, I have
known Greeks go wrong by rendering _amnis_ as though it were _omnis_.
How much more, if there were no vowels! My rabbi—that is their name
for ‘teacher’—informed me that even the Greek-speaking Jews were now
beginning to be dissatisfied with the Seventy (that is the name they give
to their authorised version). Several new translations of some of the
books were floating about, he said, and a good and faithful translation
of the whole would probably be produced before long. This interested me.
Under his guidance I studied the parallelisms in the two books of Esdras
and other books of theirs. I learned just enough Hebrew to understand how
it would be possible for an expert to go back to a lost Hebrew original
from two extant parallel Greek translations. You see what I mean. A very
little knowledge of Latin might enable anyone to see, that, in two Greek
documents, ‘_oaks_’ and ‘_flintstones_,’ being parallel, point to a Latin
‘_ilices_’ or ‘_silices_’—the reading being doubtful—from which two
Greeks have been translating.

“Now I must pass to the last year or last but one of Domitian. You have
heard your father speak of Flavius Clemens (not exactly a strong man,
but a good one) who was put to death by his uncle, the Emperor, for
‘Judaism’ (so it was called) and his poor wife exiled. ‘Judaism,’ with
our people, was only a more respectable name for ‘Christianism,’ though
the two superstitions are poles asunder. Poor Domitilla was a downright
Christian. Her husband Clemens was at all events Christian enough for
Domitian’s purposes. He was put to death and his effects confiscated. I
bought a few of his books as memorials of my old friend, and among these
were certain Christian publications called ‘gospels.’

“Every Christian missionary is supposed to ‘preach the gospel’; so, of
course, there might be, theoretically, as many gospels as missionaries,
and ‘a gospel according to’ each missionary, if each chose to write down
what he preached. Accordingly I gather from Flaccus that there have
been a great number of these ‘gospels’; but only three are now in large
demand among Christians in Rome—the three he sent you. The earliest of
these is ‘The Gospel according to Mark.’ That it is the earliest you
can see thus. Put them (that is, of course, the parallel parts of them)
in three columns, Mark in the middle. Then imagine three schoolboys
seated together—Sinister, Medius, and Dexter—writing a translation of
Homer. Suppose Sinister and Dexter to be cribbing from Medius, who sits
between them. The experienced schoolmaster will speedily discover that,
whenever Sinister and Dexter closely agree, it is because they cribbed
from Medius. Similarly Matthew and Luke largely copied—not ‘cribbed,’ for
they did it honestly enough, no doubt—from Mark. Consequently (subject
to certain exceptions, which I will state later on) Matthew and Luke
_never agree together—in those parts of the gospel where there are three
parallel narratives—without also agreeing with Mark_. Don’t trust me for
this. Try it yourself.”

I did try it. And I found that—subject to the exceptions defined
by Scaurus in another letter—his statement was correct. His letter
continued, “So I began with Mark. Do not suppose that I began with any
prejudice against him. On the contrary, your old friend, whom you are so
fond of calling Misomythus, must plead guilty, I fear, to a latent desire
of the philomythian kind—that Mark might contain truth and not myth. But
hereby hangs another tale, and I must begin another confession.

“Among Domitilla’s slaves was one especially dear to her, her librarian,
whom she would (no doubt) have manumitted if she had anticipated the blow
that was soon to fall on her husband and his household. He was an old
man, of Alexandrian extraction, and of some education, simpleminded as a
child, perfectly honest, giving an impression of firmness, gentleness,
and dignity, quite unusual in a slave. I liked old Hermas—that was his
name, you must have seen him, I think, in your childhood—for his own
sake, as well as for his love of literature. When I bought the books
I bought him at the same time. He was nearly seventy and ailing. The
calamities of his mistress helped him to his grave, and he died a few
days after he had come to my household. We had very little talk together,
and least of all at our last meeting; but what we had then, I never
forgot. It happened thus. One afternoon, when he came into the library a
little later than usual—slowly, and painfully, and leaning on his staff—I
happened to have Domitilla’s three gospels rolled out on the table before
me. There were some notes in the margin of Matthew. These were in his
neat small handwriting and I was looking at them. ‘Not Domitilla’s hand,
I think,’ said I, with a smile. He shook his head, opened his lips as if
to speak, looked long and wistfully at me, as if he would greatly have
liked to talk about something more than mere librarian’s business. But
all he said was, ‘Will my lord give his instructions for the day’s work?’
I gave them. They were that he should go to bed and keep there till he
was fit for business. He bowed, moved slowly toward the door, turned and
looked at me a second time with that same expression, only more intense;
then left the room without a word. I felt strangely drawn towards the old
man, and had almost called him back. But I did not. ‘To-morrow,’ I said,
‘to-morrow.’

“Unexpected business took me from Tusculum late in that afternoon and
kept me away for three days. On my return I was told that Hermas was no
more. He had earnestly desired to see me, they said; and when he found
that I had left Tusculum, and that my return might be delayed, and
that his voice was failing, and death perhaps imminent, he had spent
his last strength in writing a letter, which, by his request, was to
be left by his side until he was carried to the funeral pyre—in case I
might come to take it. I went at once to his bedside and read it there.
I keep it still. But I will not transcribe it for anyone, not even for
you, Silanus. It is a confidence between me and old Hermas, a private
confession of a dream of his. A dream fulfilled and to be fulfilled, he
says. All a dream, I say. Who shall decide? Though I will not give you
the words, you shall have the substance of his letter.

“Well, then, if I might believe this letter, he, old Hermas, lying dead
on the couch before my eyes, was not really dead, but only on the way to
a beautiful city of justice and truth, to which all the just, honourable,
and truthful might attain, Roman, Greek, Jew, Scythian, rich and poor,
bond and free, high-born and low-born. No franchise was needed except
a patient and laborious pursuit of virtue. In this city no one citizen
was greater than another. If anyone could be called greatest, it was the
one that made of least account his own pleasures, his own wealth, fame,
and reputation, serving the state and his fellow-citizens in all things.
Yet it was not a republic, for it had a king. But this king was not a
despot like the kings of the east, abhorred by Greeks and Romans. The
kingdom was a family at unity with itself, the citizens being closely
bound by affection to their king as father and to their fellow-citizens
as brethren. ‘And if,’ said Hermas, ‘you desire to be drawn towards that
king and to become one with all the fellow-citizens of the City of Truth,
I beseech you, my dear lord and benefactor—being, as you are, a lover
of truth—to study with all patience those books of my dearest mistress
Domitilla, which I saw before you on that day on which you spoke to me
your words—your last words to me, so God wills it—words of kindness
following deeds of kindness, for which may the Father in heaven be kind
to you for ever and ever.’

“A postscript added a further request, that I would search for other
papyri, which contained the epistles of Paul, and which, he said,
belonged to Domitilla’s library, though he had been unable to find
them. ‘These,’ he said, ‘give a clue to the meaning of many things that
are obscure in the gospels; for in the gospels traditions derived from
different documents or witnesses, are sometimes set down without uniform
arrangement, and without proportion; so that, in Mark, a whole column of
forty lines might be given, for example, to the exorcism of some evil
spirit, and only three or four lines to some principal and fundamental
saying of Christ. But Paul, though he was neither an eye-witness nor an
ear-witness, understood spiritual things, according to his saying, _We
have the mind of Christ_.’

“This was written on the day before his death. Another postscript, added
on the following day, contained nothing but a hope or prayer that he
might meet me in the City of Truth. I should add that I searched at
the time in vain for Domitilla’s copy of Paul’s letters. It was not
till three years afterwards that I read them, having procured a copy
from another source. Sometimes I regret this and ask myself whether
Hermas might have been right in thinking that Paul would have led me to
understand the gospels better. But I cannot think that the Gods have
decreed that those alone shall find the way to the City of Truth who may
happen to have studied four Christian papyri in a particular order. Now
I must pass from all this prattle about regrets, hopes, prayers, and
preconceptions, to describe my exploration of the gospels and my search
for historical fact.”



CHAPTER XX

SCAURUS ON FORGIVENESS


At this point, Scaurus had drawn two lines, thus:

[Illustration]

Then the letter continued, “These two lines, my dear Silanus, represent
two portions of Mark’s ‘_gospel_’—which word you know, I presume, that
the Christians use, as the Greeks do, to mean ‘_good news_.’ Well,
the short thin line represents the portion given by Mark to the moral
precepts or sayings of Christ. The long thick line represents the portion
given to framework—for example, to describing a certain John, called the
Baptist, who, so to speak, introduces Christ to the people; to casting
out devils; to healing specified diseases, fever, leprosy, paralysis,
blindness, deafness, dumbness, lameness; to the raising up of a child
apparently dead; to the destruction of a herd of swine by suffering
devils to enter into them; to walking on water; to calming a tempest; to
a feeding (or rather two feedings) of thousands of men with a few loaves
and fishes; to blasting a fig-tree (but that comes later on); to the
character of Herod the tetrarch, and his birth-day feasting, ending in
the beheading of the above-mentioned John; to the finding of an ass by
the disciples in exact accordance with Christ’s predictions and precepts;
lastly, to very minute details of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. There
are also a few fables, called parables, likening the good news, or
gospel, to seed, which will not grow if sown in wrong places but will
grow without man’s interference if sown rightly. But, all this while,
about the good news itself, and about its nature, and about the persons
to whom the good news is to be brought, and about the good that it will
do people—hardly one word! Do not take my word for this. Take your own
copy of Mark and look at the first words of Jesus, ‘Repent and believe
the gospel.’ But what gospel? Jesus has not mentioned the word before.
This is a specimen of the whole work. It is not a gospel at all. It
leaves out essential things. It is only the frame of a gospel.”

I did not see at first how to answer this. But on looking into the matter
it seemed to me that Scaurus had not noticed Mark’s first words, “The
beginning of the _gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written in Isaiah the
prophet_.” Moreover Christ’s first words were not “Repent,” but “_The
time is fulfilled_, and the kingdom of God hath drawn near. Repent and
believe in the gospel.” Now the first mention of “preaching the gospel”
in Isaiah is in a passage that begins thus: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my
people, saith God … because _her humiliation is fulfilled, her sin is
loosed.… The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of
the Lord_ … and the glory of the Lord shall appear and all flesh shall
see _the salvation of God_ …”; and soon afterwards come the words, “Unto
a high mountain get thee up, O thou _that preachest the gospel_ to Sion.”
A marginal note in my Isaiah said that—instead of “_her humiliation
is fulfilled_”—the right translation was “_her time of service is
fulfilled_,” which resembled Mark, “_The time is fulfilled_”—words
omitted by Matthew and Luke.

Reviewing Mark and Isaiah together, I came to the conclusion that Mark
took for granted that his readers would refer to the passage in Isaiah,
and that he meant, in effect, this: “_The beginning of the gospel of
Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s gospel_ (namely, ‘Comfort
ye my people because _the time is fulfilled and her sin is loosed_’).”
John the Baptist, according to Mark, fulfilled _Isaiah’s prophecy_. He
was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way,” namely, for
this gospel of the salvation of God. Then came Jesus saying, in the words
_of Isaiah_, “‘_The time is fulfilled_,’ that is, _for the gospel of the
‘loosing of sins_’; believe in this gospel.” Looked at in this way,
Mark, though brief and obscure, did not seem to me to have “_left out_”
what was (as Scaurus said) “essential,” but to have referred his readers
to Isaiah for what was essential, if they were not already familiar with
the passage, so that they might understand the meaning to be, “Believe
in _the gospel of the loosing_, or _forgiveness, of sins, predicted by
Isaiah, and fulfilled now_.”

Scaurus’s next objection was this: “Soon after telling us that Jesus
called four men away from being fishers of fish to be ‘fishers of
men’—without explaining the nature or object of this ‘fishing,’ Mark
says, ‘Men were amazed at his teaching. For his way of teaching was that
of one having authority and not as the way of the scribes.’ But what
kind of ‘_authority_’? Listen to the rabble, how they define it (a few
lines lower down). ‘What is this? A novel teaching! With _authority_ does
he dictate even to the unclean spirits and they obey him.’ Now Flavius
Josephus has told me that he himself has known a conjurer or exorcist
cast out an unclean spirit or demon—in the presence of Vespasian and
his officers—and make it knock over a bucket of water in its exit: but
he never told me—and you may be sure he would never have supposed—that
the conjurer, on the strength of his exorcisms, would claim to preach a
gospel!”

This struck me at first as a very forcible objection. And I was not
surprised that Matthew omitted the whole of this narrative; for it is
liable to be misunderstood. But I found on examination that Jesus did
not (as Scaurus said) “claim to preach a gospel” on the strength of such
exorcisms. On the contrary, Mark and Luke say soon afterwards, that Jesus
“would not allow the demons to speak because they knew him.” Moreover I
found that the man from whom the demon was said to have been expelled
cried out that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.” So it appeared possible
that Jesus—if he possessed, like Apollo or Æsculapius, some divine power
of healing—might heal lunatics or possessed persons among others, and yet
might not claim, on the strength of such exorcisms alone, to preach a
gospel. From what I had read in Paul’s epistles, and also from my recent
reading of Isaiah’s prediction of the “gospel,” it seemed to me more
likely that Jesus would connect his gospel—though what the connexion
would be I did not yet see—with the forgiveness of sins.

And this indeed I found to be the subject of Scaurus’s next objection;
“Then Jesus says that he will cure a man of paralysis in order that the
spectators ‘may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to
forgive sins.’ Now this is the first mention of ‘the Son of man.’ Who, or
of what nature, is this Son of man? There is no answer.”

Scaurus spoke thus, perhaps, because he had in his mind some passages in
the Jewish scriptures where a “son of man” is described as coming on the
clouds to judge mankind, and others where a “son of man” means “son of a
mere mortal.” He may have thought that Mark ought to have explained which
of the two was meant.

But Paul’s epistles had shewn me that, when he regarded Christ as having
authority over all things, he, Paul, was in the habit of quoting one of
the most beautiful of David’s Psalms, which said, “What is man that thou
art mindful of him, and _the son of man_ that thou visitest him? For thou
hast made him but little lower than the angels.” Now here my MS. said,
in the margin of the Psalm—as I quoted it above—“_but little lower than
God_.” Then David continued, “Thou hast _subjected all things under his
feet_.” These words “subjecting all things” are frequently applied by
Paul to the reign or lordship of Christ over mankind. And “to subject”
was precisely the word used by Epictetus concerning the ideal ruler,
when he taught us that Socrates had the power “so to frame his hearers”
that they would “_subject_” their wills to his. It seemed to me, then,
that if Scaurus had said to Mark “Why did you not explain which _son of
man_ Jesus meant?” Mark might have replied, “_Because the Lord Jesus did
not recognise two ‘sons of man.’_ He taught us that the son of man on
earth is intended by God to be the son of man in heaven, and that the
son of man, even on earth, is superior to the moon and the stars, having
‘authority over all things’.”

Afterwards I found that Jesus (in Matthew) quotes elsewhere part of
another passage in this same psalm of David, namely, “Out of the mouth
of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength, because of thine
adversaries, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” Paul
taught that the “adversaries” of the Lord are the angels of Satan,
and the “enemy” is the devil, and these are like wild beasts seeking
to devour the soul of man. David, therefore, might be interpreted
spiritually as meaning that God has given “authority” to the Son of
man, not only over the visible “beasts of the field” but also over the
invisible “beasts” that attack the heart of man. “Over these”—Paul
might say—“hath the Son of man received authority that he may still the
enemy and avenger,” that is to say, that he may put Satan to silence
by delivering man from the bondage of sin. Some thought of this kind
occurred to me at the time. And I was confirmed in it afterwards when I
found in the gospels elsewhere mention of “authority” to “trample on, or
rule over,” wild “beasts” of various kinds. The facts seemed to shew that
Jesus often meditated on this beautiful poem of David and on the power
given by God to “the Son of man” and to “babes and sucklings”—to whom
Jesus appears often to refer under the title of “the little ones.”

These considerations to some extent met Scaurus’s next objection: “Now as
to _authority to forgive sins_—what is meant by this? I can forgive you
a _debt_ of a thousand sesterces. But I cannot forgive you a _theft_ of
a thousand sesterces—except in the language of the people. Whether you
stole them from me or from somebody else, that makes no difference. You
remain a thief—a past thief of course—till the end of your days. Jupiter
himself, as Horace in effect declares, cannot unthieve you.”

This caused me a great deal of thought. It was logical, yet I felt it
was not true. It seemed to me, for example, that if two sons had stolen
money from two several fathers, one father might so deal with the child
that he might feel himself forgiven, even though he had to pay the money
back again; while another father, though not exacting the money, might
make the boy feel that he was not forgiven, and that he would be a thief
all his life long. Even Epictetus, I remembered, said about Diogenes,
“He goes about like a physician feeling the pulses of his patients, and
saying, ‘You have a fever; you, a headache; you, the gout. You must fast;
you must eat; you must not bathe; you must have the knife; you must have
cautery.’” He was talking of mental or spiritual diseases. Well, to be
slavishly afraid of God—was not this a disease? And to one thus diseased,
might not a healing Son of God come with a message from the Father, “He
loves you, though He may punish. He will punish as a Father that loves.
Steal no more; He will not treat you as a thief. Sin no more; He will not
treat you as a sinner.”

Epictetus once declared that Diogenes had been sent before us as a
reconnoitrer into the regions of death and had brought back his report,
“There is nothing terrible there.” I never could quite understand on
what grounds our Teacher based this assertion, unless it was because the
Cynic himself had absolutely no fear of death. It was more easy for me to
understand—I do not say, to prove, but to understand—that a great prophet
might bring a similar report from the Father of men, “I come from the
House of God to tell you that there is nothing terrible there—except for
the cruel and base. There is nothing but kindness and justice and true
fatherhood.” About the alleged “report” of Diogenes, I had felt that—if
I believed it—it would deliver me from bondage to the fear of death.
Similarly I felt, about the message or gospel of this Jewish prophet,
that—if I believed it—it might raise me above fears into a region of love
and trust and loyalty to the righteous Father. This was only theory. I
did not believe it. But I felt the possibility of believing and of being
strengthened by the belief.

Scaurus next objected to the words, “I came not to call the righteous
but sinners.” This was in Mark and Matthew. “Luke,” he said, “adds ‘to
repentance’; and that of course is meant. Now it is quite right that
‘sinners’ should be ‘called’ to ‘repentance.’ But is that ‘good news’? Is
that ‘gospel’? And, if it is, what about ‘the righteous’? They, it seems,
are not ‘called.’ There is no ‘gospel’ for them!”

Here Scaurus seemed on strong ground. And I felt that he might urge
against Mark what Epictetus says about Diogenes, namely, that the ideal
physician inspects others, besides those who are manifestly diseased,
in order to see who are healthy and who are not. But then I asked
myself, “Who are ‘the righteous’?” And the answer Paul put into my mouth
was, “None are righteous except through faith in God’s Son.” That is
to say, “None are righteous save through the Spirit of Sonship. None
are righteous through the Law.” Moreover, on examining the context, I
found that the words “I came not to call the righteous” were uttered to
unrighteous, envious people, the Pharisees, who grudged forgiveness of
sins to the sinners. Elsewhere Luke described the Pharisees as “counting
themselves to be righteous and despising others.” That is, they were
“righteous” in their own estimation. In reality, then, Jesus regarded
all men as in need of health, that is to say, in need of righteousness.
Also, what Jesus called “repenting” was what the prophets call “turning
to Jehovah.” So the message of the gospel was, “Turn ye to the Lord
and He will forgive you and will grant health to your souls.” This was
addressed to all that needed better health, that is, to all the nation.
But some made themselves blind to their own sinful acts and deaf to the
sinful utterances of their own hearts. These could not hear the gospel.
The “call” of the gospel did not come into their ears. But it was not the
gospel’s fault but theirs.

The more I thought over Scaurus’s trenchant criticism, the stronger
grew my suspicion that Romans and Greeks might be inferior to the best
of the Jews in the knowledge of the depths of human nature. I knew from
Paul’s epistles that the apostle recognised a certain mysterious power
of forgiving sins and infirmities by bearing them. This Paul called “the
law of Christ,” saying, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the
law of Christ,” and again, “If anyone be overtaken in a fault, do ye, who
are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.” This word,
“restore,” came into my mind when Scaurus said, “Once a thief, always a
thief.” It seemed to me truer to say that a father might “restore” his
child, after the theft, so that he might be honest for the rest of his
life. This power of “restoring” was (as indeed it still is) a great
mystery to me. But it is a mysterious fact, not a mere imagination.

Also Scaurus himself said, “It is very likely that many of the poorer
Jews were called ‘sinners’ by the Pharisees for breaking small and
perhaps disputed rules about purification or about the exact observance
of the sabbath. This my rabbi admitted, although he did not care to say
much about it. I can understand that Christ might deal epigrammatically
(so to speak) with poor creatures of this kind by pronouncing them
‘forgiven’ or ‘righteous.’ But they would be just as ‘righteous’ as
before; neither more righteous nor less righteous; his ‘pronouncing’
would make no difference. The Jews closely connect ‘pronouncing
righteous’ and ‘making righteous,’ as though the sentence of the judge
is anything more than the expression of the judge’s opinion! But it is a
pure delusion.”

I did not think Scaurus was right. It did not seem to me that the voice
of the true Son of man, saying, “I pronounce you righteous in the name of
the Father of men,” would be of the same kind or efficacy as the voice of
a lawyer, saying, “Having in view sect. 3 of chap. 4 of such and such a
Code, I pronounce you not guilty.” I had come to feel that the Son of man
represented the “authority” of humanity—divine humanity, such humanity
as commends itself (without support from statute law) to the consciences
of mankind. The Pharisees (I thought) might have _made_ some of these
poor men really _unrighteous_ by making them frightened of God—as though
He were an austere lawgiver or hard taskmaster. The Son, delivering them
from this servile terror, and raising them into a wholesome fear, that
is to say, into a free and loving reverence for a righteous God, might
bring the Spirit of the Father into their hearts, thus _making_ them
_righteous_. If so, Christ’s voice, saying “I forgive you,” would not
be a mere judge’s “sentence,” or expression of “opinion.” It would be a
power, causing the guilty to feel, and to be, forgiven.

Scaurus then said, “Now pass on, and you will find nothing worth
mentioning except a wilderness of wonders and portents until the twelve
apostles are sent out to ‘preach the gospel.’ And now, say you, Jesus
must surely tell his missionaries what this ‘gospel’ is. But no. Not
a word about it. Mark himself says, ‘They preached that men should
repent.’ Wholesome tidings, no doubt, but hardly _good_ tidings!” Here,
as before, Scaurus (as it seems to me) had failed to see that Jews would
understand Mark’s meaning to be “They preached that men should turn to
God and receive forgiveness”—which would be “good tidings.” Moreover he
had omitted Christ’s doctrine that “the Son of man is lord even of the
sabbath,” to which Mark alone (I found) prefixed “The sabbath was made
for man and not man for the sabbath.” According to this doctrine God
seemed to say to men, “Priests, temples, sacrifices, fasts, sabbaths,
rites and ceremonies, psalms, hymns, and prayers—all these I have given
you for your own sake, to draw you nearer to me.” This, in a way,
was like the doctrine of Epictetus, that each man must take an oath
to himself to think of his own interest. But in another way it was
different. For Matthew added, “I desire kindness, not sacrifice.” That
went to the root of the difference between Epictetus and Christ. The
former said, “Think of your own virtue”; the latter, “Think how your
neighbour needs your kindness.” According to the gospel, the rule of God
was, “Draw near to me.” Then, in answer to men’s question, “How draw
near?” the reply was, “Draw near to one another. That is the best way.
Drawing near to me by sabbaths or sacrifices is a second best way. The
second best must not interfere with the first best.”

It appeared to me that Scaurus dealt with Mark more severely than he
would have dealt with Plato. Plato regards “justice,” not as obedience
to the written laws, but as “doing that which is best for all.” If
therefore retribution of good and evil comes on the welldoer and on the
evildoer, severally, as being “the best thing” for each and for all,
this is “justice.” But Scaurus quoted Mark, “In the moment when ye stand
praying, forgive, if ye have any charge against anyone, that your Father
also in heaven may forgive you your trespasses,” and then said, “This is
not just. If I forgive my slave for robbing me or for cruelly maiming
one of his fellow-slaves, does it follow that Jupiter should forgive me
for theft or murder? Not in the least. He ought to punish me twice over,
first, for unjustly forgiving crime, and then for being a criminal
myself.” Here Scaurus was thinking of remitting penalty, whereas Mark
meant bearing the burden of sin. And, although the matter was not then as
clear to me as it is now, I could see how a man wronged, and prosecuting
the wrong-doer, not as offending against society and justice but as
offending against himself—a man that does not wish to “do the best thing”
for offenders and for the community—creates for himself an image of a God
bad and selfish and unforgiving like himself; so that either he trembles
before his bad God and is a slave; or else he regards himself as the
favourite of a bad God, and becomes confirmed in his own badness.

On the whole, though I was forced to admit the justice of many
charges that Scaurus brought against Mark—and especially the charge
of disproportion, and of neglecting great doctrines while emphasizing
small details of narrative—still I was satisfied that Mark did contain
a gospel, namely, the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins. Scaurus
called Mark’s gospel a mere frame. It seemed to me that it would have
been less untrue to call it a picture in which the principal figure was
not clearly seen because of intervening objects and inferior figures. Or
it might be called a drama in which the leading character is too often
absent from the stage; or, when present, he speaks too little, while
minor characters are allowed to speak too much.



CHAPTER XXI

SCAURUS ON THE CROSS


Scaurus continued, “I pass over a good many columns in Mark before I come
to anything of the nature of a precept. Then I find the following, ‘There
is nothing outside the man, entering into him, that can defile him.’ Now
you might suppose that this would have been good news, addressed as it
is, to the needy multitude. For it would have enabled them (you may say)
to eat pork like their Greek neighbours and would have saved them trouble
and expense in preparing food.

“But look at the context. Jesus is upholding the written law of Moses
against the teachers of unwritten traditions. These teachers told people
that if a particle of this or that came off their hands into their
mouths while they were eating, they were defiled. These traditions also
prescribed minute regulations about preparing meat, and about avoiding
meat sold in the markets of Greek cities. Look at Paul’s Corinthian
letters about this. These regulations must have been very inconvenient
for the poor Jews in the Greek cities of Galilee. Jesus stood up for the
poor, and for the written law, which said nothing about such details.
Long after the crucifixion, Peter was told by ‘the Lord’ in a vision
(you will find it in the Acts) that he might eat anything he liked, pork
included. But Jesus said nothing of the kind before his death. Turn to
the Acts and you will find it as I have said.”

I turned, and found, as usual, that Scaurus was right, though there
was no special mention of pork in the Acts, but only of “beasts and
creeping things,” which Peter calls “unclean.” Scaurus continued, “Now
look carefully at what follows in Mark and Matthew. Mark represents the
disciples—but Matthew represents Peter—as questioning Christ privately
about this startling saying. The questioners are said to have called it a
‘parable.’ There was no ‘parable’ about it at all. But the fact was that,
_after the resurrection, it was revealed to Peter, or to the disciples_,
that the meaning of the saying ‘Nothing outside defileth’ went far beyond
its original scope; so that it swept away the whole of the Levitical
ordinances about things ‘unclean.’ If you examine Mark’s words carefully
you will see that he inserts a comment of his own (which Matthew omits)
namely that Jesus _uttered these words_ ‘_purifying all kinds of food_.’
If by ‘purifying,’ Mark meant ‘purifying _in effect_,’ or ‘purifying,
_as the disciples subsequently understood_,’ then he was right. If he
meant ‘purifying _at once_,’ or ‘purifying _in such a way as to abrogate
immediately the Levitical prohibitions_,’ then he was wrong; for that was
not the meaning.

“What indeed do you suppose would have happened, if Jesus and his
disciples had sat down to a dinner of pork on that same day? They would
have been stoned by the multitude. The meaning was limited as I have
said above. Mark has probably mixed together what occurred before, and
what occurred after, the crucifixion. It was very natural. How many
of the ‘dark sayings’ or ‘parables’ of Jesus might remain ‘dark’ to
the disciples, till they reflected on them after his death! Moreover
the evangelists believed that Jesus, after his death, rose again and
appeared on several occasions to the disciples, apart from the rest of
the world—that is, ‘in private’—and that he explained to them after
death what had been dark sayings during his life. How inevitable for
biographers—writing thirty, forty, or fifty years after the events they
narrated—sometimes to confuse explanations, or other words of Christ,
uttered ‘in private’ after death, with those uttered before death,
whether in private or not! I shall have to mention other instances of
such confusion. It is not surprising that Luke omits the narrative.”

I could not deny the force of this. But, though it derogated from Mark
as a witness, it did not seem to me to derogate from Christ as a prophet.
I felt that no wise teacher could have desired, thus by a side-blow, to
sweep away the whole of the national code of purifications. So I was
ready to accept Scaurus’s view, at all events provisionally.

“I pass over,” said Scaurus, “the precept, ‘Beware of leaven,’ which
was certainly metaphorical; and two narratives of feeding multitudes
with ‘loaves,’ which in my opinion are metaphorical; and a mention of
‘crumbs,’ which my reason leads me to interpret in one way, while my
desire suggests another. About this I shall say something later on, as
also about predictions of being killed and rising again. Now I reach
these words, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him disown himself,
and _take up his cross and follow me_. For whosoever desires to save his
life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for the sake of me
and the gospel shall save it.’ Note that these words are preceded by
a prediction that the Son of man must be ‘killed.’ Also remember that
the ‘cross’ is a punishment sanctioned by Roman but not by Jewish law.
Bearing these facts in mind, imagine yourself in the crowd, and tell me
what you would think Christ meant, if he turned round to you and said,
‘You must take up your cross.’ Do not read on to see what I think; for I
doubt whether Christ used these words. But, if he did use them, tell me
what you think he meant by them.”

I was taken aback by this. For I perceived that the sense required a
metaphorical rendering, and, at the same time, that such a metaphor was
almost impossible among any Jews, _before Christ’s crucifixion_. At first
I tried to justify it from Paul’s epistles, which declared that, in
Christ’s death, “_all died_”—meaning that all, by sympathy, died to sin
and rose again to righteousness. Paul said also “I have been crucified
with Christ,” and “our old man”—meaning “our old human nature”—“has been
crucified with Him,” and “the world has been crucified to me and I to the
world.” But these expressions were all based on the Christian belief that
the “cross” was the way to “resurrection.” They were quite intelligible
after the resurrection, but not before it.

Then I tried to imagine myself in the circle of disciples surrounding
Socrates in prison, and the Master, with the bowl of poison in his hands,
preparing to drink it, and looking up to us and saying, “If you intend
to be disciples worthy of me, you too must be prepared to take up the
hemlock bowl.” What, I asked, should I have understood by this? It seemed
to me that the words could only mean “You, too, must be prepared to be
put to death by your countrymen.”

Now as the hemlock bowl was the regular penalty among the Athenians,
so the cross (as Scaurus had said) was the regular penalty among the
Romans _but not among the Jews_. So, when I tried honestly to respond to
Scaurus’s appeal, and to imagine myself in the crowd following Jesus, and
the Master turning round to us, and saying, “Take up your cross,” I was
obliged to admit, “I should have taken the Master to mean, ‘If you are to
be worthy followers of mine, you must be prepared _to be put to death as
rebels by the Romans_’.”

Scaurus took the same view. “Well,” he continued, “I will anticipate your
answer, for it seems to me you can only come to one conclusion. You,
in the crowd, would take the words to mean that you must follow your
Master to the death against the Romans. But all intelligent readers of
the Christian books ought to know that he could not have said that. He
was a visionary, and utterly averse to violence, so averse that he was
on one occasion reproached for his inaction by John the Baptist—who once
said to him, in effect, ‘Why do you leave me in prison? Why do you not
stir a hand to release me?’ Moreover, if Jesus had said this, what would
the chief priests have needed more than this, to get Pilate to put him
to death: ‘This man said to the rabble, If you are intending to follow
me, you must go with the cross on your shoulders’? ‘Can you prove this?’
would have been Pilate’s reply. They would have proved it. Then sentence
would have followed at once as a matter of course. And who can deny that
it would have been just?”

I certainly could not deny it. Then Scaurus pointed out to me how
Luke avoided this dangerous interpretation, by inserting “daily,” so
as to give the words a metaphorical twist, “Let him take up his cross
_daily_.” But this, he said, was manifestly an addition of Luke’s. If
Jesus had inserted “daily” why should Mark and Matthew have omitted it?
“Daily” would make no sense till a generation had passed away, so that
“to be crucified with Christ” had become a metaphorical expression for
mortifying the flesh. On this point, at all events, Scaurus seemed to me
to be right.

He continued as follows, “I am disposed to think that Mark has
misunderstood a Jewish phrase as referring to the cross when it really
referred to something else. You know that, in Rome, a rascally slave,
regarded as being on the way to crucifixion, is called ‘_yoke-bearer_,’
which means practically ‘_cross-bearer_.’ Mark, who has a good many
Latinisms, might regard _‘take the yoke’ as meaning ‘take the cross’—if
the former expression could be proved to have been used by Jesus_. Still
more easily might ‘_take the yoke_’ be regarded as equivalent to ‘_take
the cross_’ _if it could be proved that the Jews themselves connected
‘taking the yoke’ with martyrdom_.

“Both these facts can be proved. In the first place, Christ actually
said to the disciples, ‘_Take my yoke_ upon you.’ It is true that
this saying is preserved by Matthew alone; but its omission by others
is easily explained, as I will presently shew. In my judgment, it is
certain that Christ did give this precept, and that it had nothing to do
with crucifixion. The context in Matthew declares that the kingdom of
heaven is revealed only to ‘babes’—whom Christ elsewhere calls ‘little
ones’ or those who make themselves ‘least’ in the kingdom of God—and
soon afterwards come the words, ‘_Take my yoke upon you_ and learn from
me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ This is the fundamental truth
of Christ’s teaching, that those who make themselves the humblest of
servants to one another are greatest in his ‘kingdom.’ In order to reign,
one must serve, or ‘_take the yoke_.’

“The next fact is that Jews of the present day—so I am credibly
informed—would say of a Jewish martyr that he ‘_took the yoke_ upon
himself,’ when he made a formal profession of obedience to the Law just
before death. This I must ask you to take for granted. It would be
too long to prove and explain.” I suppose Scaurus heard this from the
teacher he called “his rabbi.” It was confirmed, to my own knowledge,
by something that happened nearly thirty years ago when one of the most
famous Jewish teachers, Akiba by name, was put to death under Hadrian. I
heard it said by a credible eyewitness that “they combed his flesh with
combs of iron,” and another added “Yes, and Akiba, all the while, kept
_taking upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven_,” by which he
meant repeating the profession of faith.

“A third fact,” said Scaurus, “is that the Christians, from a very early
period, used the word ‘_yoke_’ in a depreciatory sense to mean the
‘bondage’—as they called it—of the Law of Moses. Paul calls the latter
‘_the yoke of bondage_.’ The Christians, at their first public council,
speak of it as ‘_a yoke_’; and a Christian writer named Barnabas says
that ‘the new law’ is ‘_without the yoke of necessity_.’ I suspect that
among the Greeks and Romans the servile associations of ‘yoke’ have also
tended to the disuse of the term among the Christians of the west. You
may object that the associations of ‘cross’ are still more disgraceful
than those of ‘yoke.’ But I do not think they would be so for Christians,
who regarded the disgrace of the cross as a step upward to what they
call ‘the crown of life.’ Indeed I am rather surprised that Matthew’s
tradition ‘Take my yoke upon you’ has been retained at all, even by a
single evangelist.”

Most of this was new to me. But, even if it was true—as seemed to me not
unlikely—the same conclusion followed as above. The mistake derogated
from Mark, not from Christ. Indeed Scaurus’s interpretation seemed to
me to exalt Christ. For might not some people, of austere and fanatical
minds, find it easier to “_take up the cross_,” that is, to lacerate and
torture themselves, than to “_take up the yoke_,” that is, to make their
lives subservient to the community in a spirit of willing self-sacrifice?
Indeed Scaurus himself said, “If I am right, the Christians have lost
by this misunderstanding. When I say ‘lost,’ I mean ‘lost in respect of
morality.’ For some may ‘_take up the cross_’ like the priests of Cybele,
finding a pleasure in gashing themselves—such is human nature. But it
is not so exciting a thing to ‘_take up the yoke_’ if it implies making
oneself a drudge for life to commonplace people.”

This seemed very true. And afterwards I was not surprised to find that
the fourth gospel contains no precept to “take up the cross.” But it
commands Christians to “love one another”—a precept that nowhere occurs
in Mark. Also what Scaurus said about “making oneself a drudge” was, in
effect, inculcated by the fourth gospel where it commands the disciples
to “wash one another’s feet.” Sometimes I have asked why this gospel did
not restore the old tradition about “yoke.” Perhaps the writer avoided it
as he avoids “faith,” and “repentance,” and other technical terms that
might come between Christians and Christ. Scaurus himself said, “There
seems to me more morality in the old rule of Moses, ‘Love thy neighbour
as thyself’ than in either ‘Take up the cross’ or ‘Take up the yoke.’
If ever this Christian superstition were to overrun the world, I could
conceive of a time when half the Christians might fight with the war-cry
of ‘the yoke,’ and the other half with the war-cry of ‘the cross,’
cutting one another’s throats for these emblems. But I could not so
easily conceive of a time when men would ever cut one another’s throats
with the war-cry, ‘We love one another’.”

These words of Scaurus seemed to me at the time to be quite true. Now,
forty-five years afterwards, they seem to me true as to fact, but not
quite true as to interpretation. For, since what Scaurus called “the old
rule of Moses” included “Love God,” as well as “Love thy neighbour,” it
followed that the Lord Jesus, in saying “Take my yoke,” meant “Serve
God,” as well as “Serve man.” And, in order to serve God, must not one be
prepared to suffer, as God also is called “longsuffering”? And of such
“suffering” can there be any better emblem than Christ’s cross?

I cannot honestly deny the force of the evidence adduced by Scaurus to
prove that the Saviour did not really utter the precept of “taking up
the cross,” and that He did utter the precept of “taking up the yoke.”
But I can honestly accept the former as an interpretation of the latter,
an interpretation fit for Greeks and Romans when the gospel was first
preached, and likely to be fit for all the races of the world till the
time of the coming of the Lord. If Scaurus is right, only the precept of
the yoke was inculcated by Christ in word. But all agree that the precept
of the cross was inculcated by Christ in act. Both metaphors seem needed,
and many more, to help the disciples of the Lord to apprehend the nature
of His Kingdom, or Family.



CHAPTER XXII

SCAURUS ON MARK


Scaurus continued as follows: “I now come to a passage where Mark
represents Christ as saying, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my
words, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him.’ This suggests to me
for the first time (re-perusing these strange books after an interval of
more than twenty years) that I may have been blaming Mark for not doing
what, as a fact, he had no intention of doing—I mean, for not giving a
collection of Christ’s utterances in connexion with the ‘good news.’ If
we were to question Mark about the expression ‘me and my words,’ and to
say, ‘What words do you refer to?’ perhaps he might reply, ‘I do not
profess to give Christ’s _words_, but only their tenor.’ Perhaps Mark has
in view a person, or character, rather than any gospel of ‘words.’ And
I think I ought to have explained that, at the very outset of his work,
Mark described a divine Voice (a thing frequently mentioned in Jewish
traditions of the present day about their rabbis) calling from heaven
to Christ, ‘Thou art my beloved Son.’ It is this perhaps that Mark may
consider a ‘gospel,’ namely, that God, instead of sending prophets to the
Jews, as in old days, now sends a Son.”

This did not seem to me a complete statement of the fact. “Gospel,” as
I have said above, seemed to me to have meant, in Mark, the gospel of
forgiveness of sins promised by Isaiah. And Scaurus himself was justly
dissatisfied with his own explanation, for he proceeded, “Still, this
is not satisfactory. For ought not the Son to have a message, as a
prophet has? Nay, ought not the Son to have a much better message? The
Voice from heaven is repeated at the stage of the gospel at which we
have now arrived. But both before and now, it is apparently heard by no
unbelievers. Nor does Christ himself ever repeat it to unbelievers. He
never says, ‘I am _the Son of God_,’ nor even, ‘I am _a Son of God_.’ He
simply goes about, curing diseases, and saying ‘The sabbath is made for
man,’ and, on one occasion, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee,’ and, ‘The son
of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins,’ and a few more things of
this sort. What is there in all this that would induce Christ to use such
an expression as, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of _my words_’?
I could understand his saying ‘of me,’ but not ‘of _my words_.’ Surely
it would have been better to say, ‘Whosoever shall be unjust, or an
adulterer, or a murderer, I will be ashamed of him’.”

Here it seemed to me that Scaurus had not quite succeeded in his attempt
to do justice to Mark by reconsidering his gospel in the light of the
words “Thou art my beloved Son.” For suppose a Son of God to have come
into the world, like an Apollo or Æsculapius of souls. Suppose Him to
have had a power, beyond that of Moses and the prophets, of instilling
into their hearts a new kind of love of God and a new kind of love of
neighbour. Lastly, suppose this Son of God to feel quite contented, and
indeed best pleased, to call Himself Son of man, because He regarded
man as the image of God, and because He felt, within Himself, God and
man made one. Would not such a Son of God say, just as Epictetus might
say, “Preserve the Man,” “Give up everything for the Man,” “Save the
Man within you, destroy the Beast”? Only, being a Jew, He would not say
“Man,” but “Son of man,” exhorting His disciples to be loyal to “the Son
of man” and never to disown or deny “the Son of man.”

I was confirmed in this view by a mention (in this part of Mark) of
“angels” with “the Son of man,” thus: “The Son of man also shall be
ashamed of him when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the
holy angels.” This seemed to say that the Son of man although, as David
said according to one interpretation of the Psalm, “_below the angels_”
on earth, will be manifested in the glory of the Father _with the
attendant angels_ in heaven—thus reconciling the two aspects of the Son
of man described by David and Daniel.

I noticed, however, that Matthew, in this passage, does not say (as Mark
and Luke do) “the Son of man will be ashamed”; and it occurred to me
that, where Christ used the phrase “Son of man,” and spoke about “the
coming of the Son of man,” different evangelists might render these
phrases differently so as to make the meaning brief and clear for Greeks.
Indeed Scaurus himself suggested something of this kind, saying that some
might use “I” or “me” for “Son of man” (in Christ’s words). He also added
that “the Son of man” might sometimes be paraphrased as “the Rule, or
Law, of Humanity”; and, said he, “Matthew has a very instructive parable,
in which the Son of man in his glory and with his angels is introduced as
seated on his throne, judging the Gentiles at the end of the world. Then
those who have been kind and helpful and humane are rewarded because—so
says the Son of man—‘Ye have been kind to _me_.’ ‘When have we been kind
to _thee_?’ they reply. The Son answers, ‘Ye have been kind to _the least
and humblest of my brethren_. Therefore ye have been kind to me.’ This
goes to the root of Christ’s doctrine. The Son of man is humanity and
divinity, one with man and one with God, humanity divine.”

Scaurus went on to say that Mark’s sayings about the Son of man would
have been much clearer if some parable or statement of this kind had been
inserted making it clear that Christ as it were identified himself with
the empire of the Son of man mentioned by the prophet Daniel, against the
empire of the Beasts. “There is always a tendency,” said Scaurus, “among
men of the world, and perhaps among statesmen quite as much as among
soldiers—yes, and it exists among some philosophers, too, spite of their
creeds—to deify force. I own I admire Christ for deifying humanity. But
his biographers—Mark, in particular—do not make the deification clear.
If I were to lend my copy of Mark to a fairly educated Roman gentleman,
I really should not be surprised if he were to come to me, after reading
it right through from beginning to end, and ask me, ‘Who _is_ this Son
of man?’” These words impressed me at the time; but much more afterwards
when I actually met this very question in the fourth gospel, asked by the
multitude at the end of Christ’s preaching, “Who _is_ this Son of man?”

“After this,” said Scaurus (not speaking quite accurately, for he
omitted, as I will presently shew, one short but important saying of
Christ) “comes a statement that a certain kind of lunacy cannot be
cured by the disciples unless they fast as well as pray. But here, I am
convinced, Mark has made some mistake through not understanding ‘faith as
a grain of mustard-seed,’ which the parallel Matthew has. That is a very
interesting phrase, which I must go into another time.

“Close on this, occurs a prediction, with part of which I will deal
later on. But about part of it I will say at once that I find it quite
unintelligible. It is, ‘The Son of man is on the point of being betrayed
into the hands _of men_.’ Why ‘_of men_’? Surely he could not be betrayed
into the hands of anyone else! I observe that Mark and Luke say, ‘They
were ignorant of this saying,’ and I am not surprised. I presume it
is simply a repetition of Christ’s prediction of his violent death,
introduced in order to emphasize his foreknowledge of the treachery of
one of his own disciples. But I do not understand ‘_of men_’.”

As to this, I have shewn above that the word rendered by Scaurus
“betrayed,” occurs in Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant,
“He was _delivered over_ for our transgressions,” and that it is quoted
from Isaiah by Paul. I had always rendered it “delivered over.” And
now, too, it appeared to me much more likely that the Lord Jesus used
the word in that sense. If so, it would have no reference to treachery,
but would mean “delivered over by the Father.” This would explain “_of
men_,” because it would mean that the Father _in heaven_ delivers over
His Son “into the hands _of men_” _on earth_. I have heard that one of
the brethren, a learned man, explains “_of men_” as being opposed to
“of Satan,” but “men” seems to me more likely to be in antithesis to
“God.” I found afterwards that in the gospels the word “deliver over” is
regularly used about Judas Iscariot “delivering over” Jesus to the Jews.
So Scaurus may be right. But Paul’s rendering seems to me to make better
sense in Christ’s predictions.

I had been prepared by Paul and by Isaiah to recognise that Christ might
have had in view the thought that the Son was to be “delivered over”
to death by the Father for the salvation of men. Scaurus had not been
thus prepared. Otherwise I think he would have been more patient with
obscurities in Mark. Mark seemed to me to assume that his readers would
know the general drift of “the gospel” as Isaiah predicted it, as Christ
fulfilled it, and as the apostles preached it. Hence he was not so
careful as the later evangelists to make his meaning clear to those who
had no such knowledge. Take, for example, the words “If any one desires
to be first he shall be last.” “This,” said Scaurus, “might mean ‘He
shall be degraded so as to be last’.” Scaurus also attacked the saying
that whosoever receives a child in Christ’s name receives Christ, and,
“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall
surely not enter therein.” “I suppose,” said he, “this means we are to
put aside the vices of youth and manhood and to start afresh. But that is
more easily said than done. And there is nothing in Mark to shew how it
can be done.”

Here Scaurus seemed to me not to have quite done justice to Mark, because
he had not given weight to the precept at the very beginning of his
book. It was very short, and might easily have escaped me but for Paul’s
guidance. Paul, I knew, taught that Abraham was “made righteous” by
“having faith” in God’s good tidings. Hence I had noted, what Scaurus
had not noted, that _Mark, alone of the evangelists, placed the precept
“Have faith,” in the first sentence uttered by Christ, saying “Have faith
in the gospel.”_ This, then, I perceived—this “faith in the gospel” was
supposed by Mark to have power to “make men righteous.”

This seemed, from a Christian point of view, to answer Scaurus’s
objection, “‘Start afresh’ is more easily said than done.” The answer
was—not my answer, but such an answer as I thought a Christian might
make—“Yes, it is much more easily said than done. But the Son of God has
authority both to say it and to give power to do it. He says, in effect,
‘_Be thou able to start afresh_,’ and the man _is_ ‘_able to start
afresh_’.”

Then, if Scaurus replied, “Prove this,” Paul came forward saying, “I at
all events have received power to ‘start afresh.’ Even my enemies will
attest what I have been, a persecutor of the Christians. Now I have been
‘forgiven’ by Him that has authority to forgive. The old things are
passed away. Behold, they are become new.” And if Scaurus had said, “But
have others been enabled to ‘start afresh’?” Paul would have answered,
“Yes, multitudes, from the Euphrates to the Tiber. Do not trust me. Take
a little journey from Tusculum into the poorest alleys of Rome, and
judge for yourself.” Here I felt Paul would have been on such strong
ground that Scaurus would have given way. “Paul”—he might have said—“is
superstitious, and under hallucinations, but I must frankly confess he
has the power to help people to ‘start afresh’.” That is just what I,
too, felt. It was quite different from the feeling inspired in me by my
own Teacher. When Epictetus said “Let bygones be bygones,” “Let us start
afresh,” “Only begin and we shall see,” I felt, almost at once, that he
was imagining impossibilities. When Paul said “There is a new creation,”
I felt that he was describing not only a possibility but also a fact—a
fact for himself and for multitudes of others; not indeed a fact for me,
but, even for me, a possibility.

To return to Scaurus. “At last,” said he, “I came upon a definite
precept to shew how perfection could be obtained. A rich young man asks
Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus replies, ‘One thing is
lacking to thee. Go, sell thy substance, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.’ Definite enough!
But is it consistent with morality? Is it not entirely against Paul’s
protest, ‘Though I give all my goods to the poor and have not love, I
am nothing’?” Here Scaurus did not seem to me so fair as usual. For,
knowing the gospels as well as he did, he was aware that Jesus did not
enjoin this rule on all, for example, on Zacchæus. He laid down no rules.
One man He bade go home, another He bade follow Him. Moreover Scaurus,
who accused Epictetus of borrowing from Christ, knew that Epictetus
inculcated poverty and unmarried life, not on all his disciples, but on
any Cynic wishing to go as a missionary; and therefore he ought not to
have inferred that Jesus inculcated poverty on all His disciples because
He gave it as a precept in answer to the question, “What lack I yet?”
For my part, although I was not at that time a Christian, yet when I
read Mark’s words, “Jesus, looking upon him, loved (or embraced) him
and said, _One thing is lacking to thee_”—I could understand that, for
this particular man, the “one thing lacking” really might be that he
should “sell all that he had,” and that Jesus, knowing this, gave the
precept out of His great love. Scaurus called this “a definite precept to
shew how perfection could be obtained.” But I found only Matthew saying
“If thou wouldest be perfect.” Mark and Luke did not here use the word
“perfect.”

Scaurus proceeded thus: “Little remains to be added in the way of
precepts. There is a repetition of ‘whosoever desires to be great, he
shall be your servant.’ And this is supported by the saying that ‘the Son
of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister.’ Then comes a most
startling statement, ‘All things that ye pray and ask, believe that ye
received them and they shall be unto you,’ and, ‘In the moment when ye
stand praying⸺’ but I have spoken of that above. I really do not think
that I have omitted anything of importance. Does not this amaze you?”

About the “startling statement” I will speak later on. But here I may say
that Scaurus had omitted one short precept “Have salt in yourselves.”
And this, to some extent, answered one or two of his objections. For,
as I understood it, “Have salt in yourselves” corresponded to a saying
of Epictetus, who bade us seek help from “the Logos within us.” On one
occasion (noted above) Epictetus, rebuking one of our students for
saying, “Give me some precepts to guide me,” replied, “Have you not the
Logos to guide you?” Mark appeared to me to represent Christ as saying,
“Take into your hearts the spirit of the Son, which the Son gives you.
It will be the salt of life, life for you and life passing from you to
others, purifying all your words and actions by imbuing your heart.”
Elsewhere, also, Mark represented Christ as condemning the Pharisees
(in the words of Isaiah) because, though they honoured God with their
lips, their heart was far from Him and they “taught as doctrines the
commandments of men.” Mark seemed to say “Obey the commandments of the
Logos,” not “of men.” Still, I could not but admit that this brief
metaphor, overlooked by Scaurus, might easily be overlooked or underrated
by hundreds of other readers less careful and candid; and I was forced to
sympathize—though not wholly to agree—with the outburst of disappointment
which concluded his letter. “O that my old friend Plutarch had had the
writing of the life of this Jewish prophet! Or that at least he had been
at Mark’s elbow, to check him when he began descanting on extraneous
matters and to remind him that his readers wanted to hear what he had to
say about Christ, not about John the Baptist or Herod Antipas! Many of
my friends think but poorly of Plutarch; but he would have been at all
events infinitely superior to Mark. I do not wish to be hard upon the
latter. The chariot of the gospel, so to speak, was already moving before
he was harnessed to it, and he (not being a disciple of special insight
or information) had to go the chariot’s way. Although his book hardly
ever quotes prophecy it is based on prophecy and continually alludes to
prophecy. It does not deal with Christ’s life as the ancient Jews dealt
with the lives of Moses, Samuel, and David. Though it plunges into the
midst of things like a book of the prophets—Jeremiah, for example, or
Ezekiel—it does not give the words of the prophet in full, but runs off
into all sorts of minor matters.

“You remember what Plutarch says about the importance of expression
in biography. Mark occasionally attempts to represent a sort of
expression—mostly by means of such phrases as ‘being moved with
compassion,’ ‘being grieved,’ ‘looking steadfastly at him,’ ‘turning
round,’ and so on. But the deeper sort of ‘expression,’ the prophet’s
attitude towards God and man, towards the past and the future, towards
the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men—this he does not represent.
Not at least consciously. Perhaps he does, sometimes, unconsciously,
when he preserves Christ’s darker sayings where the later writers alter
or omit them. For this, he deserves thanks. But, in spite of this,
Mark’s gospel remains, _me judice_—regard being had to the greatness
of the prophet whose life he is writing—the most inadequate of all the
biographies I know.”

So far Scaurus. But his admission that Mark “sometimes preserves Christ’s
darker sayings where the later writers alter or omit them” suggested to
me that, in summing up, he felt that he might have passed over some of
Mark’s unique traditions. And, as a fact, he had omitted “every one shall
be salted with fire,” and three passages declaring that “_all things are
possible_.” He also omitted the precept “Be at peace with one another.”
Matthew and Luke omit all these, except that Matthew once has “_all
things are possible_.”

This last tradition presents manifest difficulty. I have heard
unbelievers scoff at it and ask whether “evil things” are “possible” for
God. Moreover Scaurus himself urged on one occasion that not even God can
undo the past. Later on, when I studied the gospels with more leisure, it
seemed to me that, in saying “all things,” the Lord Jesus had constantly
in view “the things of the invisible world” or “the things pertaining to
the redemption of man.” So I found “all things” used in Paul’s epistle
to the Philippians, declaring that the Lord Jesus Christ was to “fashion
anew the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of
his glory, according to the working whereby _he is able even to subject
all things unto himself_.”

When I came to read the fourth gospel (called John’s), finding how often
it supports Mark against Luke, I looked about for this word “possible”
or “able” (for one and the same Greek adjective represents the two
meanings). But John nowhere uses it. So I thought, “This then is an
exception.” But I soon found that John expressed Mark’s saying, though
in a different way. It is in a paradox, saying that the Son is “_able to
do nothing from himself_.” This looks like a confession of _not_ “_being
able_.” But the sentence proceeds, “_unless he sees the Father doing
something_”; and, after this, “The Father loveth the Son and sheweth
him all things that He Himself is doing.” So the meaning really was,
“_The Son can do all that the Father is doing and wills the Son to do._”
John did not therefore deny the power of the Son. He asserted it. But
he disliked speaking of “power.” He avoided all words that mean “able,”
“strong,” “powerful”—meaning “might” as distinct from “right.” He prefers
“authority,” as when he says that the Son has “_authority_ to lay down
his life and to take it again.”

My conclusion was that Mark had recorded the actual words of Jesus, “all
things are possible,” assuming that his readers, being instructed in the
teaching of the apostles, would understand that the words had a spiritual
meaning, “All things are put by the Father under the feet of the Son
of man.” But sometimes, as in the Healing of the Lunatic, the meaning
might be ambiguous, or the context might not be so given as to make the
words clear. Hence Luke always omitted or altered them, as being obscure
and likely to be misunderstood. John paraphrased and explained them. If
these facts were correct, it followed that a great debt was due to Mark
for preserving the difficult truth when there must have been a great
temptation to omit it or to alter it into what was easy but not true.
Scaurus gave some weight, but hardly weight enough (I thought) to this
merit in Mark.



CHAPTER XXIII

SCAURUS ON SOME OF THE MIRACLES


“And now,” continued Scaurus, “I will tell you how the vision of the City
of Truth and Justice, conjured up for me by that dear old dreamer Hermas,
vanished into thin air. I intended to have spoken first about some of the
miracles; but I will come back to them afterwards. For the present, turn
over your Mark till you come nearly to the middle, and you will find a
story about an act of healing at a distance. I have heard a Greek doctor
tell stories of a man’s being influenced by the death of a twin brother
at a distance. He invented the word _telepatheia_ to express it. Well,
I will invent an analogous word for healing at a distance—_teliatreia_.
However, it is not from the miraculous point of view that I wish to
discuss the story, but simply as a question of morality.

“It contains these words, ‘It is not fit to take the children’s bread
and to cast it unto the dogs.’ Who says this? Jesus. To whom? To a poor
woman, called ‘Greek, Syrophœnician by extraction.’ What is her offence?
She has been asking Jesus to cast an evil spirit out of her daughter.
Now what do you think of that? The Greeks, of old, affected to call all
non-Greeks barbarians. But would their philosophers, would Socrates, or
gruff Diogenes, or any respectable Greek philosopher, say such a thing
to any non-Greek woman? I admit that Jesus ultimately granted this
poor creature’s request. But that was only because she answered with
the tact and patience of a Penelope, acquiescing in the epithet ‘dogs’
and replying, ‘Yea, Lord, yet even the dogs beneath the table eat of
the crumbs of the children.’ Had it not been for her almost superhuman
gentleness, she would have retired rejected, gaining from her petition
nothing but the reproach of ‘dog.’ I write bitterly. I confess I felt
bitter when I saw so noble and sublime a character as that of this
Jewish prophet apparently degraded and polluted by an indelible taint of
national uncharitableness.”

I was beginning to investigate the passage, when my eyes fell on a note
that Scaurus had appended at the bottom of the column. “Since writing
this, I have looked into the passage again, to see whether I could have
been misled. And I notice that Luke omits the whole narrative. Also,
while Mark represents the _woman_ as coming to Jesus and ‘asking him’ to
heal the child, Matthew represents the _disciples_ as coming to Jesus
and ‘asking him’ to send her away. I should like to be able to believe
that the woman was really a Jewess turned Gentile, that the disciples
tried to drive the woman away, calling themselves ‘the children’ and her
‘the dog,’ that Jesus replied, as in Matthew, ‘It was precisely these
lost degraded ones that I was sent to restore.’ In order to obtain this
meaning, the changes of the text would not be very great. But I fear this
cannot be maintained.”

I caught at Scaurus’s explanation, and was sorry that he himself did not
hold to it. For I was more troubled by this objection of his than by
anything else that he had said; and I thought long over it. Finally, I
came to the conclusion that Scaurus was nearly right; that this woman,
though called “a Syrophœnician by extraction,” was a Jewess (as Barnabas
the Jew is called “a Cyprian by extraction”) and that she had fallen away
into Greek idolatry and an evil life, so that Jesus—being, like Paul, all
things to all men and women—was on this one occasion cruel in word in
order to be kind in deed, stimulating her to better things. This agreed
with Paul’s use of the word “dogs,” which assuredly he would not have
applied except to “evil-doers.” If, however, it should be demonstrated
that the woman was not a Jewess, and not leading an impure life, and that
Jesus (not the disciples) used these words to her, then I should still
believe in the kindness of Jesus, although these words were apparently
unkind. No one would suspect cruelty, in a man habitually kind, except
on very strong evidence. Here the evidence was not strong. The witnesses
were two, not three; and the two narratives disagreed in important
details. This was the conclusion to which I then came.

If Scaurus had read the epistles before the gospels, approaching the
latter with some feeling of Christ’s constraining “love,” he could
hardly have stumbled (so I thought and so I think still) at this single
narrative. Jesus did not call the centurion a “dog.” Jesus had also
supported the law of kindness against the law of the sabbath. He had said
that “that which goes into the mouth” does not defile a man. He had eaten
and drunk with publicans and sinners. How was it possible that a prophet
of such broad and lofty views as these could call a poor afflicted woman
a “dog” simply because she was not a Jewess? I longed to be near my old
friend and to appeal to his common sense and justice, and I felt sure
that I should have convinced him. Even if Jesus bade the missionaries at
first go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” that seemed to
me quite consistent with a purpose that in the end the gospel should be
proclaimed to all nations.

In another narrative, which had caused me difficulty of the same kind,
Scaurus gave me help. It is not in Mark. But I will set it down here
because it bears on kindness. Matthew and Luke represented a disciple as
asking to be allowed, before following Christ, to “bury” his father, and
as not being allowed. “As to this,” said Scaurus, “I have no doubt that
the man meant, ‘Suffer me to wait at home till I have seen my aged father
into the grave and have duly buried him.’ Similarly Esau says, in effect,
‘My father will die before long. I will wait till I have mourned for him
before killing Jacob.’ So, in Latin, we say ‘I have buried them all,’
meaning ‘I have survived and buried all my relations.’ My rabbi confirms
me in this view. Christ always defends nature and natural affection
against man’s conventions, so that it seems to me absurd to suppose that
he would enjoin anything really inhuman.”

Scaurus next proceeded to attack the miraculous part of Mark’s narrative.
Mark, he said, considering the smallness of his gospel, describes many
more miracles, relatively, than Matthew and Luke. “As to miracles,” said
he, “I am ready to believe in anything, miraculous or non-miraculous, on
sufficient evidence. But the evidence about Mark’s miracles leads me to
two conclusions. Some of them occurred but were not miraculous. The rest,
although they were honestly supposed to have occurred, did not occur.

“Let us take the first class first. Mark calls them ‘powers,’ _i.e._
works of power. That is a good name for them. But Mark seems to think
that, if a man has ‘power’ to cast out demons and perform cures without
medical means, such a one must be a great prophet or even a Son of God.
To that I demur. I remember, when I was in Dacia, one of my men was down
with fever, and bad fever, too. But when the bugles sounded out one
night, and the enemy came on, beating in our outposts and pouring into
our camp on the backs of some of our cowardly rascals, this brave fellow
was up and doing, without helmet or armour, in the front with the best of
them. Next morning, he was none the worse. Nor was there any relapse. He
was quite cured. I think I have told you how Josephus described to me the
casting out of a demon in the presence of Vespasian. And I might remind
you of Tacitus’s story about the cure of a blind man by the same emperor.
I suspect, however, that the former was a mere conjuring trick and that
the latter was got up by the priests of—Serapis, I think it was. So I
lay no stress on either. But I have spoken to many sensible physicians,
who tell me that paralysis and some kinds of fever can be cured by what
they call an emotional shock. Often the cure does not last. Some of these
physicians go a little further and ascribe to certain persons a peculiar
power of quieting restless patients and pacifying or even healing the
insane. But I entirely refuse to believe that, if a man has such a power,
he can consequently claim to be a Son of God.”

About the objection thus raised by Scaurus I have said enough already.
It seemed to me that the power of permanently healing the paralysed, and
permanently pacifying and healing the insane, was quite different from
that of startling a paralysed man into a temporary activity. The former
appeared to me allied with moral power and with steadfastness of mind,
and likely to be an attribute of the Son of God. Still I was sorry that
Mark devoted so much space to it. Here I agreed, in part, with Scaurus.

He then passed to the second class of miracles, “those that were honestly
supposed to have occurred, but did not occur.” “If,” said he, “I assert
that Mark turned metaphorical traditions into literal prose, you must not
suppose that I accuse him of dishonesty. All the ancient Jews did it.
Look at the story of Joshua, describing how he stopped the sun. Perhaps
also you have read how God caused a stream to spring up from the Ass’s
Jawbone (originally a hill of that name, like the headland or peninsula
called _Ass’s Jawbone_ in Laconia, which you and I passed together some
five or six years ago). The second (the jawbone miracle) is somewhat
different in origin from the first (the sun miracle). There are many
shades of verbal misunderstanding capable of converting non-fact into
alleged fact. There was all the more excuse for this error in Christian
Jews (such as Mark and others) because of two reasons. In the first
place, the prophets had predicted that all manner of disease (blindness,
deafness, lameness) would be cured in the days of the Messiah (using
even such expressions as ‘thy dead men shall awake’). In the second
place, Christ did actually—as I have admitted—cure some diseases, such
as insanity, fever, and paralysis. How, then, could it be other than a
difficult task, in such circumstances, to distinguish the literal from
the metaphorical traditions about the cures effected by Christ?”

I could all the less deny the force of these remarks because I had been
studying the words, “Whatsoever things ye ask, praying, believe that ye
have received them and they shall be unto you.” These words, if applied
literally—to bread, for example, or money—were manifestly not true.
Indeed they were absurd. How could a man honestly believe that he had
received a thousand sesterces in the act of praying for them? But if
applied spiritually, as in Paul’s prayer concerning the thorn in the
flesh, they might (I felt) be true for one endowed with great faith. Paul
prayed that the “thorn” might “depart” from him. In one sense it did not
depart. But in another sense, it did depart because God so increased his
strength that the “thorn” became as nothing.

Now in this same passage of Mark I found the following: “Whosoever shall
say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted and thrown into the sea,’ and shall not
doubt in his heart but believes in that very moment that what he says is
happening, it shall be unto him.” Luke also elsewhere had, “If ye have
faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye would say to this sycamine-tree,
‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would have obeyed you.”
I took for granted that “mountain,” “mustard-seed,” and “sycamine-tree,”
must all have been metaphorically used.

Scaurus confirmed this view, saying that the Jews were in the habit of
calling a learned interpreter of the Law an uprooter of mountains, _i.e._
of spiritual obstacles blocking the path of the students of the law. But
then he added something that amazed me, “Matthew has, ‘If ye have faith,
and doubt not, ye shall not only do the deed of the fig-tree, but even
if ye say to this mountain, Be lifted and thrown into the sea, it shall
come to pass.’ Now, ‘mountain’ being metaphorical, you might naturally
anticipate that Matthew intended ‘fig-tree’ to be metaphorical. But if
you look back a little, you will find that _Matthew actually imagines
that there was a literal fig-tree in question_. So does Mark. He and
Matthew turn the metaphor into a literal miracle, as follows.

“In the first place, Jesus comes to a literal fig-tree, seeking literal
fruit. He finds none. Consequently, say Mark and Matthew, a curse of
barrenness was pronounced on it by Jesus. What followed? The tree was at
once ‘dried up,’ or (according to Mark) ‘dried up from the roots.’ Now
first note that the Hebrew word that means ‘barren’ means also ‘_root
up_,’ ‘_cut off_,’ or ‘_cut down_.’ Then pass to Luke. He omits the
whole of this _miracle_ about a fig-tree. But he has a _parable_ about a
fig-tree. The Lord of a vineyard comes to a barren fig-tree, and gives
orders that it shall be ‘_cut down_.’ The vinedresser intercedes for it
that it may be spared for one year more in case it may bear fruit.”

I looked and found that the story in Mark and Matthew was as Scaurus
had described it. But another detail astonished me. It was a phrase
that followed the words, “While they were passing by early in the
morning”—_i.e._ the morning after the curse had been pronounced—“they
saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots.” Instead of writing that they
were all amazed at the speed with which the curse had been fulfilled,
Mark wrote, “And _Peter, remembering it_, says to him, ‘Rabbi, behold,
the fig-tree that thou cursedst is withered up’.” Trying to put myself in
the place of Peter, I asked, “What should I have done when I approached
the spot? How could I fail to be on the alert to note the tree that my
Master cursed yesterday? How could any of my companions fail? How was it
possible that any of us could forget? How could I possibly talk about
‘_remembering_’ it? How, therefore, could a historian suppose it needful
to insert that I, or any of us, ‘_remembered_’?”

Turning to Matthew, I found that he got rid of “remembering,” and of
“Peter” too, by making the miracle occur instantaneously, thus, “He
said unto it [_i.e._ to the tree], ‘Let there be no fruit from thee
henceforward for ever.’ And immediately the fig-tree withered away. And
when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, ‘How did the fig-tree
immediately wither away’?”

Scaurus explained the whole matter as follows: “Look at Ezekiel’s
saying, ‘I the Lord have _dried up the green tree_,’ and its context.
You will find that ‘_the green tree_’ is Tyre. Elsewhere Luke has a
proverb about ‘the green tree and the dry,’ where ‘the dry’ refers to
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. So here, the fig-tree, green
but barren, is Jerusalem. Luke has given the parable correctly. The Lord
of the vineyard, he says, comes to a fig-tree, _i.e._ Jerusalem, in the
vineyard, that is, in Judah. He does not say that it is green, but we
may imagine that. However, it has no fruit. ‘Let it be cut down,’ says
the Lord. Well, I have shewn you that ‘Let it be _cut down_’ might mean,
in Hebrew, ‘Let it be _barren_ so that none may eat fruit from it,’ or
‘Let it be _dried up_.’ As a historical fact, the fig-tree was _cut
down_, or _dried up_, when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. But that
was not immediate. It was long after the resurrection. _When Jerusalem
was destroyed_, the disciples _remembered_”—this explained my difficulty
above mentioned—“that the Lord had pronounced this curse on Jerusalem. I
could shew you, if space allowed, that the name ‘Peter’ (which would be
in Hebrew ‘Simon’) might be confused (in Hebrew) with our Latin phrase
‘qui cum eo erant’ meaning ‘those that were with him,’ _i.e._ Christ’s
disciples, and also that Mark’s phrase ‘passing by _early_’ may be
an error for ‘passing along to _inspect_, _visit_, or _seek_ fruit.’
Having regard to the fact that Peter died a year or two before the city
was destroyed, I am inclined to think that it was ‘the disciples,’ not
‘Peter,’ that ‘remembered.’ But there is no space for details. It must
suffice to have shewn you how a _parable_ of Jesus, about _cutting down_
a fig-tree, ‘_remembered_’ by his disciples long afterwards as referring
to Jerusalem, has been converted by Mark and Matthew into a portentous
miracle about _withering_ a fig-tree instantaneously (according to
Matthew) or by the following morning (according to Mark).”

This explanation of “_remembering_” seemed exactly to meet my difficulty.
I accepted it at once. Subsequently I found that the fourth gospel twice
represents the disciples as “_remembering_,” after Christ’s resurrection,
things that He had said or done before the resurrection, which things, at
the time, they had not fully understood. Moreover that gospel declared
that, up to the evening before Christ’s crucifixion, His words had been
“dark sayings” to them, but that the Spirit would “call them back to
their minds,” or “remind them” of their meaning. This confirmed me in
the conclusion that the Withering of the Fig-Tree was a parable, not a
history, and that the disciples “_remembered_” it, and were reminded of
its meaning by the Holy Spirit, after the Lord had risen from the dead.

Scaurus added a reference to a lecture of Epictetus, which, he said, I
must have heard, and which bore on the story of the fig-tree. I had heard
it and remembered it well. The subject was, in effect, “The Precocious
Philosopher.” Epictetus likened him to a precocious fruit-tree. “You have
flowered too soon,” he said; “The winter will scorch you up, or rather
you are already frostbitten. Let me alone! Why do you wish me, before
my season”—he meant, blooming before the seasonable preparation—“to be
withered away as you are withered yourself?” This, Scaurus said, was
perhaps borrowed from Mark. I examined the text of the lecture, and it
seemed to me that his conjecture was by no means improbable.

Scaurus proceeded, “I could go through Mark’s other miracles in the same
way—those I mean that are not acts of healing—and shew you that they are
all metaphors misunderstood. But I have given too much space to these
unimportant matters. At least I consider them unimportant except so far
as they shew Mark to be historically untrustworthy. Now I must pass to
more important things, merely adding—as an instance of this man’s curious
want of all sense of proportion—that while giving—how often must I repeat
this!—a whole column to Herod Antipas’s birthday and its consequences,
he does not give one line, or one word, to Christ’s resurrection—except
in predictions made by Christ himself or in statements made by angels.
I am not a Christian, nor a half-way Christian. But I have an immense
admiration for Christ and an immense curiosity to know the exact facts
about his life, death, and subsequent influence on his disciples. To
me therefore, simply as a historian—or as a mere man interested in the
affairs of men—this absolute silence about that which should have been
most fully stated and supported by the evidence of eyewitnesses, is
nothing short of provoking. Will you not agree with me, after this, that
Mark is the most inadequate of biographers?”

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read this. “Scaurus,” I said,
“must for once have made a mistake, or his copy of Mark must have been
defective.” But my copy confirmed his. It ended with the words, “For
they were afraid.” This was too much for me. Perhaps I was overwrought
with long and close study and with the strain of attempting to grapple
with Scaurus’s criticisms. I remember to this day—and not with entire
self-condemnation, for it was Mark, not Mark’s subject, that disappointed
me—that in a sudden storm of passion I threw the gospel down and vowed I
would never look at it again.



CHAPTER XXIV

SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S BIRTH


On the following morning my indignation against Mark began to seem
certainly hasty and possibly unjust. True, his book was apparently
without beginning or end, disfigured by superfluities and omissions, and
extraordinarily disproportioned. But what if he had no time to revise
it? What if it was a collection of notes about Christ’s mighty works and
short sayings, which he was intending to combine with a collection of
Christ’s doctrine when he died—died perhaps suddenly, perhaps was put
to death? I tried to find excuses for his work. Still, I could not deny
that, if Scaurus was right as to the story of the fig-tree, the earliest
of the evangelists shewed a deplorable inability to distinguish the
things that preceded Christ’s resurrection from the things that followed
it. I resolved, however, that this should not deter me from continuing
my study of the other gospels. My disappointment with Mark increased
my admiration—it was not then more than admiration—for Christ, whom he
seemed to me to have failed to represent. “Perhaps,” said I, “Matthew and
Luke will do more justice to the subject.” So I took up their gospels.
The resurrection was what I most wanted to read about. But I decided to
begin at the beginning.

“In style, proportion, arrangement, and subject-matter,” said Scaurus,
“Matthew and Luke are much more satisfactory than Mark, although
Mark often preserves the earliest and purest form of Christ’s short
sayings. When I say ‘Matthew,’ you must understand that I do not know
who he is. I am convinced that Matthew the publican, one of Christ’s
twelve apostles, is not responsible for the work called by his name.
Flaccus—whom I more than suspect of Christian proclivities—knows a good
deal about these matters. Well, according to Flaccus, ‘Matthew’ wrote
in Hebrew. ‘Everyone agrees about it,’ he says. An early Hebrew gospel
would naturally be attributed to Matthew. He, being a ‘publican,’ or
tax-collector, would necessarily be able to write. Peter and John are
said to have been ignorant of letters. There are more styles than one
in Matthew—a fact that suggests compilation. Luke, an educated man, and
perhaps identical with a ‘beloved physician’ mentioned in one of Paul’s
epistles, certainly compiled his books from various sources; ‘Matthew’
almost certainly did the same. Later on, I will speak of their versions
of Christ’s discourses. Now I must confine myself to their accounts of a
very important subject—Christ’s supernatural birth.”

Up to this point I had been reading with little interest, doubting
whether it would not be better to pass on to the accounts of the
resurrection. As I have explained above, my study of Paul’s epistles
had not led me to believe that there would be anything miraculous about
the birth of Christ. The phrase “supernatural birth,” therefore, came
on me quite unexpectedly. What followed, riveted my attention: “Mark,
as you know, says nothing about Christ’s parentage. First he gives, as
title, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’—where, by the way,
old Hermas has written, in my margin, ‘some add, _Son of God_.’ Then
there is a Voice from heaven, at the moment of Christ’s baptism, heard
(apparently) only by John the Baptist and Jesus, ‘Thou art my beloved
Son.’ A similar Voice occurs later on. Mark represents a blind man as
calling Jesus ‘son of David,’ and his fellow-townsmen say, ‘Is not this
the carpenter, the son of Mary?’ This might indicate merely that Joseph
the carpenter was dead. But ‘Son of Mary’ might be used in two other
ways. The enemies of Jesus might use it to suggest that he was a bastard.
The worshippers of Jesus might use it (later on) to shew that he was a
Son of God, not born of any human father. Matthew has, ‘Is not this the
carpenter’s son?’ This, however, Matthew might write not as his own
belief, but as that of Christ’s fellow-townsmen. Luke, who has ‘Is not
this Joseph’s son?’, gives the whole of the narrative quite differently.
I should add that the first Voice from heaven is differently given in
some copies of Luke.” I examined this at once. My copy had a marginal
note, “Some have, _Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee_.”

“You see,” said Scaurus, “in these early divergences, traces of early
differences as to the time and manner in which Jesus became the Son of
God. Paul appears to me to have believed that the sonship pre-existed
in heaven. ‘God,’ he says, ‘in the fulness of time, sent forth His son,
born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those that
were under the law.’ In Job, ‘born of a woman’ implies imperfection, or
mortality. In Paul, ‘born of a woman’ and ‘born under the law’ imply two
self-humiliations undergone by the Son of God. Paul’s view is that the
Redeemer must needs make himself one with those whom he redeems. Since
the Jews were not only ‘born of a woman’ but also ‘born under the law,’
the Son of God came down from heaven and placed himself under both these
humiliations. Paul, therefore, seems to have regarded the divine birth
as taking place in heaven from the beginning, but the human birth as a
self-humbling on earth, wherein the Son of God becomes incarnate in the
form of the son of Joseph, of the seed of David, after the flesh.”

This had been my inference from Paul’s epistles, as I have said above.
But what followed was quite new to me: “You are aware from Paul’s
epistles that Christ is regarded by him as preeminently the Seed of
Promise, Isaac being merely the type. Well, listen to what Philo, a Jew,
somewhat earlier than Paul, declares about the birth of Isaac. Philo
says, ‘The Lord begot Isaac.’ Philo describes Sarah as ‘becoming pregnant
when alone and visited by God.’ It was God also, he says, who ‘opened the
womb of Leah.’ Moses, too, ‘having received Zipporah, finds her pregnant
by no mortal.’ All this is, of course, quite distinct from our popular
stories of the love affairs of Jupiter. You may see this from Philo’s
context: ‘It is fitting that God should converse, in an opposite manner
to that of men, with a nature undefiled, unpolluted, and pure, the
genuine Virgin. For whereas the cohabitation of men makes virgins wives
(lit. women), on the other hand when God begins to associate with a soul,
what was wife before He now makes Virgin again.’ I could quote other
instances, but these will suffice. Now I ask you to reflect how such
language as this would be interpreted in the west, not only by slaves,
but even by people of education, unaccustomed to the language of the
east, but familiar with our western stories of the births of Hercules,
Castor and Pollux, Bacchus and others.”

I saw at once that the language would be liable to be taken literally.
But on the other hand it seemed to me that no disciple of Paul could
accept anything like our western stories. Scaurus had anticipated an
objection of this kind in his next words: “You must not suppose, however,
that Hebrew literature contains, or that Jewish or Christian thought
would tolerate, such stories as those in Ovid. Nor will you find anything
of this kind in Matthew and Luke, to whose narratives we will now pass.
Matthew says, rather abruptly, that Joseph, finding Mary, his betrothed
but not yet his wife, to be with child, and intending to put her away
secretly, received a vision of an angel and a voice bidding him not to
fear to take to himself Mary his wife, for she was with child from the
Holy Spirit, and ‘she will bring forth a child and thou shalt call his
name Jesus.’ Luke, after a much longer introduction (about which I shall
speak presently), says that a vision and a voice came to Mary—he does not
mention one to Joseph—bidding her not to fear, and saying ‘Thou shalt
conceive and bring forth a child, and shalt call his name Jesus.’ In
theory, it is of course possible that two similar visions might come, one
to Mary and another to Joseph, bidding both ‘not to fear.’ But Matthew
adds something that points to an entirely different explanation: ‘Now all
this hath come to pass that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
Lord through the prophet, saying, _Behold the virgin shall be with child
and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel_’.”

These words I had myself read in Isaiah and had taken as referring to a
promise made in the context, namely, that in a short time—two or three
years, just time enough for a child to be conceived and to be born and
to grow up to the age when it could say “father” and “mother”—the kings
of Syria and Samaria would be destroyed. Accordingly Isaiah says that
he himself married a wife immediately afterwards and that the prophecy
was fulfilled. Having recently read these words more than once, I was
prepared to find that Scaurus interpreted them in the same way. He added
that the most learned of the Jews themselves did the same, and that the
Hebrew does not mention “virgin,” but “young woman.” “This,” said he, “I
heard from a learned rabbi, who added, ‘The LXX is full of blunders, but
we are hoping for a more faithful rendering, from a very learned scholar
named Aquila, which will probably appear soon’.” Here I may say that this
translation has actually appeared—it came out about ten years ago—in
quite unreadable Greek, but very faithful to the Hebrew; and it renders
the word, not “virgin,” but “young woman,” as Scaurus had said.

It was this very rendering that caused a coolness between me and Justin
of Samaria. It happened, I am sorry to say, shortly before he suffered
for the sake of the Saviour, in this present year in which I am writing.
I chanced to meet him coming out of the school of Diodorus, in his
philosopher’s cloak as usual, but hot and flustered, not looking at
all like a philosopher. Some people—Jews, to judge by their faces—were
jeering and pointing after him in mockery. Justin—furious with them,
but also (as I thought) worried and uncomfortable in himself—appealed
to me: “I have been contending for the Lord,” said he, “against these
dogs. They flout and mock me for demonstrating how fraudulently and
profanely they have mutilated the Holy Scriptures, cancelling some parts
and altering others, when translating them into Greek.” Then he instanced
this very passage, in which he said the Jews had vilely corrupted the
rendering of the Hebrew from “virgin” to “young woman.” I would have kept
silence; but, as he pressed me to say whether I did not agree with him,
I was obliged to reply that I did not; and I added that not only Aquila
rendered it thus, but other good scholars, many of them Christians. Upon
this, he flung away from me in disgust, without one word of salutation,
and I never saw him again.

The fact was, he had committed himself in writing, about ten years
before, to this false charge against the Jews, and to many other baseless
accusations. There was no way out of it now, but either to retract or to
face it out. He was a brave man and knew how to face death. But he was
not brave enough to allow himself to be conquered by facts. Samaritan by
birth, he had something of the Samaritan—but not of the Good Samaritan—in
his hatred of the Jews. Had he loved the truth as much as he hated those
whom he called truth’s enemies, he would perhaps have gone on to cease
from his hate, and would have become no less faithful as a Christian than
as a martyr.

Now I must return to Scaurus. “Luke,” said he, “was an educated man,
and saw at once that this prophecy about ‘the virgin’ did not apply. So
he omitted it. This he had a right to do. It was only an evangelist’s
opinion, not a statement of anything that had actually occurred. But
there remained the tradition of _fact_, namely, that an angel had
appeared and had announced the future birth of a child begotten from
the Holy Spirit. Luke regarded this announcement as made to the mother,
like the announcements—not the same of course, but similar—made to
Sarah, Rebecca, and the mothers of Samson and Samuel. Moreover in
Matthew’s account—as I judge from Hermas’s marginal notes—there are many
variations, some of which leave it open to believe that the utterance
to Joseph (like that to Abraham before Isaac’s birth) referred merely
to God’s spiritual generating, so that Jesus, though the Son of God
according to the spirit, was yet, according to the flesh, the son of
David by descent from Joseph. Luke expresses his disagreement from
this view by giving various utterances of Mary and the angel at such
length that they may be called hymns or poems. And indeed—if judged
liberally and not by the pedantical rules of Atticists or over-strict
grammarians—they are poems, by no means without beauty.

“Luke adds another narrative in which he makes the birth of John the
Baptist serve as a foil (so to speak) to the birth of Christ. John,
like Christ, was born as a child of promise, after a vision of an angel.
But there the likeness ceases. The vision is to the father, not to the
mother. The father disbelieves and is punished by dumbness. Elizabeth,
the mother, was not a virgin. She, like the wife of Abraham, was barren
up to old age. There is no vision to Elizabeth, and no mention of divine
generation. If a Jew, Philo for example, were to say to Luke, ‘Your
Messiah may have been a son of God and yet son of Joseph (as Isaac was
son of Abraham)’ Luke might reply, ‘Read my book, and you will see that
it was not so. John the Baptist might be called son of God after this
fashion, but Jesus was born in quite a different manner’.”

After this, Scaurus went on to treat of Christ’s pedigrees, as given by
Matthew and Luke, shewing Christ’s descent, the former from Abraham, the
latter from Adam. These details I shall not give in full. Scaurus had
something of the mind of a lawyer and something of the eagerness of a
hound hunting by scent, and, as he said himself, when once on a trail
he could not stop. “Matthew,” said he, “omits three consecutive kings
of Judah in one place and a fourth in another. I pointed this out to
my old rabbi above-mentioned, and he laughed and said, ‘My own people
do that sort of thing. History is not our strong point. We like facts
to fit nicely, and this writer of yours has made them fit. Does he not
himself almost tell you that he is squaring matters, when he says that
there are fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from
David to the captivity, and fourteen from the captivity to Christ? This
is symmetrical, but it is not what your model Thucydides would call
history.’ My rabbi went on to say, ‘A more serious blunder, from our
point of view, is that this Christian has included in the ancestry of his
Christ a king called Jeconiah about whom one of our prophets, Jeremiah,
says, “Write ye this man childless, for no man of his seed shall prosper,
sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah”.’ Then,
seeing the two papyri lying side by side on the table before me, he
added, ‘I see you have another pedigree there, does that make the
same blunder?’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘the author was named Luke, a physician,
an educated man and a great compiler of documents. He gives quite a
different pedigree.’ ‘I am not surprised,’ said my rabbi. ‘If he was a
sensible man, he could hardly do otherwise’.”

So far Scaurus. He did not anticipate what I have lived to experience.
Quite recently I heard some Christians use this very mention of Jeconiah
in an opposite direction, namely, as a proof that Matthew believed Jesus
to have descended from God, but _not_ from Joseph after the flesh. In
particular, I have heard a young but rising teacher, Irenæus by name,
argue as follows, “If indeed He had been the son of Joseph, He could
not, according to Jeremiah, be either king or heir, for Joseph is shewn
to be the son of Joachim and Jeconiah as also Matthew sets forth in his
pedigree.” Then he went on to quote Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jeconiah
should be childless and have no successor on the throne of David. And
his argument was to this effect, “Christ is the royal son of David.
Therefore He could not have descended from Jeconiah, Joseph’s ancestor.
Matthew knew this. Therefore Matthew, though giving Joseph’s pedigree,
did not mean to imply that Jesus was the son of Joseph.” And this seemed
to convince those who heard him! I also heard this same Irenæus, in the
same lecture, say, “If He were the son of Joseph, how could He be greater
than Solomon, … or greater than David, when He was generated from the
same seed, and was a descendant of these men?” After we had gone out
from Irenæus’s lecture, I asked the friend sitting next to me to explain
this argument to me; for it seemed to me to prove that a man could not
be greater than his ancestors. “Ah, but you forget,” he replied, “_what_
ancestors. They were _royal_ ancestors. How could the son of a mere
carpenter be greater than David or Solomon?” It seemed to me that the
sinless son of “a mere carpenter” might be greater in the eyes of God
than a whole world of such royal sinners. But I found it hard to convince
him that I was even speaking seriously!

To return to Scaurus. He dealt next with the pedigree in Luke. “You might
have supposed in these circumstances,” said he, “that Luke would drop
the pedigree of Joseph altogether, and give only that of Mary. Well,
he has not done this. Another course would have been to state clearly
that Jesus was not really, but only putatively, the son of Joseph (being
really the son of God) and to add that he gave the pedigree of Joseph, as
Matthew gives it, because Joseph was the putative father. Well, he has
not quite done this either; but he has done half of it. He has written
‘being the son, as was supposed, of Joseph.’ But he has also given a
pedigree of Joseph differing from that of Matthew in that portion which
extends from Joseph to David. What do you think of this?”

I thought that the whole thing was a cobweb and wished Scaurus would pass
to something more interesting. But he continued, “My rabbi suggested
that Luke had invented a new genealogy. But when I dissented—for I am
convinced that neither Luke nor Matthew invented, and that these early
writers generally were very simple honest souls—he asked me whether I
knew of any instance in the gospels where the name spelt in Greek _Eli_
or _Heli_ was misunderstood. I replied that there was one instance where
Jesus used it to mean _my God_, but the bystanders took it to mean
_Elias_. ‘Well then,’ said the rabbi, ‘I should not be surprised if your
honest compiler Luke, a learned man perhaps in Greek, but innocent of
Hebrew, had got hold of some tradition saying, _Jesus was supposed to be
the son of Joseph, being the son of God_. Though in Hebrew there is a
difference between the spelling of _El_, God, and the name _Eli_, there
is not much difference in Greek. And Luke, having once started on the
scent of a new pedigree supposed to connect Jesus with _Heli_, ransacked
various Jewish genealogies till he found one containing the name, and
adopted it as a substitute for Matthew’s.’ This was what my rabbi
suggested. All I can say is that it seems to me more probable than that
Luke invented the genealogy.”

Scaurus entered into further details to vindicate Luke’s honesty,
concluding as follows, “My own belief is that the parents of John and of
Jesus were good, pure, simple, noble-minded people, liable to dreams and
to the seeing of visions and to the hearing of voices. As to ‘dreams,’
by the way, look at the earliest account of the Lord’s appearing to
Solomon, ‘In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon _in a dream … Solomon
awoke, and behold it was a dream_.’ Then look at the later account in
Chronicles, ‘_In that night did God appear unto Solomon_.’ No ‘dream’ and
no ‘awaking’! _Verbum sapienti!_ The facts above alleged—to which I could
add—when combined with the influence of prophecy—seem to me to explain
everything in Matthew’s and Luke’s Introductions as being at once morally
truthful and historically untrue.”

Later on, Scaurus said, “Luke himself in his story of Christ’s childhood,
does not seem to me to be so consistent as an educated writer would have
been if he had been dishonestly inventing. For he represents Mary as
saying to her son, ‘Behold, thy father and I seek thee sorrowing.’ By
‘thy father’ she means Joseph. But could she have used this language, or
felt this sorrow, if she had realised indeed that her son was not one of
the many children of the Father of Gods and men, but that he was unique,
God incarnate? This and many other points convince me that Luke (in his
account of the birth) is not composing fiction, but only compiling,
harmonizing, adapting, and moulding into a historical shape, what should
have been preserved as poetic legend.”

Scaurus then gave one more detail from Mark, “who,” said he, “meagre
though he is, often records actual history where later accounts disguise
it. Mark says that, when Jesus was preaching the gospel, his own family
(literally ‘_those from him_,’ that is, ‘_those of his household_’) ‘came
to lay hands on him; for they said, _He is beside himself_.’ Matthew and
Luke omit this. But Matthew and Luke agree with Mark when the latter
goes on to describe how the mother of Jesus and his brethren come to the
place where he is preaching. Not being able to reach him through the
crowd, they send word that they desire to speak to him. Jesus does not go
out nor stop his preaching. Those who obeyed the gospel, he said, were
his mother and his brethren. I have said that Matthew and Luke omit the
attempt of Christ’s family to stop him from preaching as being out of
his mind. Probably variations in the text enabled them honestly to omit
it, believing it to be erroneous. And indeed how could they believe
otherwise? How could Matthew and Luke believe that Mary would accompany
the brethren of Jesus in an attempt to ‘lay hands’ on him after recording
what they have previously recorded about the supernatural birth? Lay
hands on her divine Son, the Son of God, engaged in proclaiming the will
of his Father in heaven! The story might well seem to them incredible.
But it bears the plain stamp of genuine truth.”

Scaurus then pointed out the divergence between Matthew and Luke as to
the manner in which Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem. This I omit.
But in the course of it he shewed me how Matthew has been influenced
by prophecies applied by the Christian Jews to Christ, as being their
Deliverer from Captivity, and their Comforter in time of trouble. “For
example,” said he, “since ‘_Egypt_’ in Hebrew poetry is often synonymous
with ‘_bondage_,’ the Christian Jews might naturally praise God in their
songs and hymns for fulfilling, through Christ, the prophecy, ‘Out of
Egypt have I called my son,’ i.e. Israel, meaning that God had called
them, the new Israel, out of ‘_bondage_’ (as Paul often says) into the
liberty of the children of God. But Matthew takes this as meaning that,
when Christ was a little child, he was literally ‘_called out of Egypt_.’
Hence he is driven to infer that he must have been taken to Egypt. For
such a journey he finds a reason by supposing that it was to escape
from the sword of Herod. He fits in this story with another prophecy
representing Rachel as weeping for her children, and as being consoled
by the Lord. Hence Matthew infers a massacre of children by Herod in
Bethlehem, corresponding, on a small scale, to the wholesale destruction
from which the infant Moses escaped. But such a massacre is not mentioned
by any evangelist, or by Josephus, or by any other historian or writer
known to me.”

I was depressed by this, and eager to pass on to something more
satisfactory. So was Scaurus. “I have no desire,” he said, “to dwell on
these points. I am interested in the biographies of all great teachers,
philosophers, and lawgivers, as well as conquerors—_so far as they are
true_. Untruth gives me no pleasure, but disappointment—unmixed except
for the slight pleasure one may find in tracking an error to its hole and
killing it.

“With much greater pleasure shall I turn to Matthew’s and Luke’s
accounts of the words and deeds of Christ. Only I will add that, were I
a Christian, I should long for a new gospel that would go back to facts,
rejecting these additions of Matthew and Luke. Not that I would go back
to Mark. By ‘_facts_,’ I do not mean such facts as John the Baptist’s
diet of locusts and clothing of camel’s hair. But surely a genuine
worshipper of Christ—I can conceive such a thing; for after all, what
is more worthy of worship on earth, next to God Himself, than ‘the man
that is as righteous as possible,’ concerning whom Socrates says that
there is ‘nothing more like God’?—I say a genuine Christian, if he were
also a philosopher, might surely find it possible to state in a few
simple words his conviction that, whereas John the son of Zachariah was
sent by the Logos, and contained only a portion of the Logos, Jesus the
son of Joseph was actually the Logos incarnate. I wholly reject such a
notion myself, partly because I am not sure that I believe that there is
any divine Logos at all—having, in fact, given up speculating on these
matters. But if I were as sure on that point as your Epictetus is, and if
I were a Christian to boot, I am not sure that I should have any great
difficulty in believing that some one man might exist—might be ‘sent into
the world,’ I suppose, a Christian would say—as different from ordinary
possessors of the Logos as steam is from water—after all, steam is
water—superior to Numa the Roman, superior to Lycurgus the Spartan, to
Solon the Athenian, yes, superior to Moses the Hebrew.

“You will be disposed to smile at my ‘Moses,’ as an anticlimax. But
let me tell you that this Moses was a very great man. He was a genuine
maker of a republic. I don’t mention your friend’s ideal, Diogenes, for
I don’t regard him as a maker of anything. I do not even mention my own
favourite Socrates. He is not for the man in the street. He is a maker
of thinkers. I am speaking of makers of men, and contemplating the
possibility of a unique Maker, a Creator of an altogether new social
condition. Well, then, suppose I believed in the Logos in heaven and the
Logos on earth. Your philosophers would tell me to regard it as a divine
flame lighting many human torches without self-diminution. Granted. Then
I should believe that every man had his share of the Logos; some, a
great share; others, a very great one. Why should I not contemplate the
possibility of a unique and complete man, not ‘sharing,’ but containing
or being—a man that might be or contain the totality, or, as Paul says,
the fulness, of the Logos? I see weak points in this torch-analogy except
as an illustration of the belief; yet the belief itself does not appear
to me against reason. But enough of this rambling! I have discerned of
late many signs that I am growing old, and none more patent than this
tendency to expatiate on my cast-off Christian explorations begun in the
years when I was vigorous. I pass, and with great relief, to some things
that are real possessions—I mean some portions of Matthew’s and Luke’s
versions of Christ’s discourses.”

For my part, it was not with unmixed “relief” that I turned to the
next portion of Scaurus’s letter. His conclusions about Christ’s birth
had merely accorded with my inferences from Paul’s epistles; but he
had shaken my faith in Matthew and Luke as trustworthy historians; and
I looked forward with misgivings to his further criticism, which, I
feared, might prove destructive. In this depression, I endeavoured to
recall the words of Paul to the Corinthians about having a “treasure
in earthen vessels.” Mark certainly was an “earthen vessel.” Matthew
appeared likely to be no better, so far as I could judge from his story
of Christ’s birth and childhood. Luke, trying to reduce these legends to
historic shape, did not seem to me to have succeeded, in spite of all
his pains and sincerity. While I was unrolling the Corinthian epistle
to refresh my memory, the thought occurred to me, “Is it possible that
any God should choose such writers to set forth the life and character
of His Son! How could the All-wise be guilty of such foolishness?” I
had hardly uttered the word “_foolishness_” when my eyes fell on the
words, “The _foolishness_ of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.” Then I
became more modest. “God’s ways,” I said, “are not our ways. Perhaps He
desires to force us to think and to feel for ourselves.” I felt grateful
even to Mark because he alone had preserved some of Christ’s deep and
difficult sayings. And in the end I recurred to the thought that had been
of late growing stronger and stronger within me concerning the possible
inferiority of Romans and Greeks to Jews in things of the spirit.
“Thucydides,” I said, “would have surpassed Isaiah in describing exactly
the campaign of Sennacherib against Hezekiah. But in describing visions
and judgments of the Lord, Isaiah is, perhaps, the man, and Thucydides
the babe. I will continue my exploration, with Scaurus as a guide.”



CHAPTER XXV

SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S DISCOURSES


“Matthew and Luke,” said Scaurus, “go even beyond Mark in the inculcation
of a doctrine, beautiful after a fashion, but unjust, and impracticable.
Mark says, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Surely, that is as far as
reason can let us go. I should say it is farther. But Matthew and Luke
say, ‘Love your enemies.’ Now I can recall one passage where Epictetus
says that the Cynic must love the men that thrash him, but I am sure that
his general view is this, ‘The man that treats me thus behaves like a
beast, or like a mere scourge in the hand of Zeus, whose pleasure it is
thus to try me. How can I hate a beast? Or how can I hate a scourge?’”

Then, after reminding me how he had declared that Epictetus borrowed from
the Christians, he said, “This, I think, is an instance. The Christian
really loves the beast-like man because he believes the man to be made
in the image of God and degraded by Satan. The Christian really pities
him; he is troubled for the man’s sake. Christ says ‘Pray for him’;
and the Christian honestly prays, ‘This man is behaving like a beast.
God help him!’ The Epictetian does not recognise prayer or pity; he
recognises his own peace of mind as God’s supreme gift. ‘This man,’ he
says, ‘is behaving like a beast. But it is no evil to me. I must see that
it does not interfere with my peace of mind. I must beware of pitying
him.’ Elsewhere Epictetus says that when you are reviled you are to
make yourself a ‘stone,’ whereas Christ says, ‘Bless them that curse
you.’ This exceptional sentence, then, in which Epictetus speaks about
‘loving one’s cudgellers’ appears to me a case where our friend, while
cutting away the Christian foundation, has tried to keep the Christian
superstructure. Perhaps the view of Epictetus (at all events in word and
in appearance) is somewhat selfish. But certainly the Christian precept
is contrary to justice and common sense. One ought no more to love the
wicked than to admire the ugly.”

This seemed at first convincing, or, at all events, overpowering. But he
went on to connect it with the doctrine of forgiveness, which Matthew
and Luke included in the Lord’s Prayer. “This doctrine,” said Scaurus,
“I have mentioned above, as being in Mark, although he does not give
the Lord’s Prayer. It is, in fact, intended by Christ to be the very
basis of his community. Now of course, Silanus, you and I and all
reasonable people are agreed that we ought to be patient, and equable,
and to condone faults to our equals, and not to lose our temper with our
inferiors, if (as Epictetus says) a slave ‘brings us vinegar instead of
oil.’ And a magnanimous man will put up with much greater offences than
these, sometimes with injustice or fraud, sometimes even with insults,
if he feels that his honour is not touched by them, or that society does
not require a prosecution of the offence. But there is all the world of
difference between this—which any gentleman would do, philosopher or no
philosopher—and the extraordinary dishonesty—for I can call it by no
other name—reduced to a system by the Christians, of ‘letting people off’
in the hope that God may ‘let you off.’ I do not want to be ‘let off’ by
God. I should prefer to say (as Epictetus says to the tyrant) ‘If it seem
advisable, punish me’.”

As soon as Scaurus used this argument, I perceived that he confused the
remission of penalty with the forgiveness of sin, that power of “bearing
the burdens” of others, and of “restoring” others, which, as I have shewn
above, Paul recognised as a fact and which Paul made me recognise as a
fact, though a very mysterious fact. Hence, reasoning backward, I saw
that this faculty of discerning the image of God in the most sinful of
sinners, and of pitying the sinner, yes, and even of loving him, might
belong to God Himself, and to men in so far as they are like God. If so,
the existence of this power of loving one’s enemies was a reality, just
as the power of forgiving was a reality. “Scaurus himself,” I said, “has
and uses this power. He often sees good in people where most men would
fail to see it. He likes those in whom others see nothing to like. I can
conceive that a Son of God might not only possess but impart a power of
this kind, increased to such a degree that it might be justly called a
new power.”

“The curious thing,” said Scaurus, “about this doctrine of loving and
forgiving is this. Although it appears unpractical and paradoxical,
yet the ‘kingdom’ (to use the Christian word) based on this doctrine
is, I must confess, not unpractical at all, but on the contrary a very
solid and inconvenient fact in a great number of our largest cities and
among the poorest and most squalid of the populace. Note the difference
between the kingdom of the Christian and that of the Stoic. The Christian
missionary cries aloud like a herald, ‘Repent ye; the kingdom of God
is at hand,’ the Cynic says ‘_I am a king_,’ or—to quote Epictetus
exactly—‘Which of you, having seen me, does not recognise in me his
natural king and master?’ The former prays, and teaches his proselytes
to pray, looking up to a God in heaven, ‘Thy kingdom come’; the latter
neither prays nor enjoins prayer of any kind.

“I suppose no Greek or Roman philosopher would apply the title of king
to God quite as freely and naturally as Hebrew and Jewish writers do;
for when we Romans say ‘king,’ we think of ‘tyrant.’ But apart from that
(which is only a superficial difference of word) our philosophers have
little or none of that expectation which underlies the words ‘Thy kingdom
come.’ The Christians assert (supported by Matthew and Luke) that Christ
himself taught them to pray thus. They anticipate a new kingdom—new
family, if you prefer the term—where all the world will be brothers and
sisters doing the will of the Father. When they pray ‘Thy kingdom come,’
they mean ‘Thy will be done.’ Indeed Matthew has inserted ‘Thy will be
done’ in his version of the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps it was a paraphrase,
which Luke has rejected because it was not a part of the original. But
in any case, ‘Thy will be done’ is well adapted to make the meaning of
‘kingdom’ clear in the churches of the west. If a Christian philosopher
were to write a gospel, I should not wonder if he were to go still
further and drop the word ‘kingdom’ altogether, because it is calculated
to give a false impression to all that are unacquainted with the Hebrew
or Jewish method of speech.” Scaurus was nearly right here. When I came
to study the fourth gospel, I found that Jesus is represented as never
using the word except in explanations to Nicodemus and Pilate.

“Now,” said Scaurus, “I do not deny that there are advantages in this
scheme of a kingdom over the whole world, where the king is not a despot
but a beneficent ruler to whom all may feel heartily and permanently
loyal. _As compared with Christ_, such Epictetian ‘kings’ as Socrates,
Diogenes, and Zeno, pass before us like solitary champions, fighting, so
to speak, each for his own hand. Or we may liken them to torchbearers,
lighting up the darkness for a time but not succeeding in transmitting
the torch to a successor. They depart. There is a momentary wake of
light. It disappears. Then we have to wait for a new torchbearer, or a
new champion; and the fighting, or the torch-waving, has to begin all
over again. Take notice of my qualification—‘as compared with Christ.’
Even thus qualified, perhaps my remarks about Socrates are too strong.
For assuredly his light has not gone out. But to tell the truth, resuming
my study of these half-forgotten gospels in the light of Paul’s epistles,
I find myself sometimes admiring rather to excess that visionary
letter-writer and practical church-builder. Our philosophers do not
consolidate a kingdom. The Christians do. I am impressed by what Paul
calls somewhere their ‘solid phalanx.’ There is something about it that I
cannot quite fathom.”

I too was impressed by Scaurus’s confession that he had somewhat changed
his mind about the gospels in consequence of Paul’s epistles. It seemed
to me to explain some inconsistencies in his letters. Also I noted that
Paul’s phrase was “the solid phalanx _of your faith_,” and that perhaps
“_faith_” explained “_phalanx_.” Scaurus now passed to the doctrine of
New Birth. “I call it thus,” said he, “for brevity. Mark expresses it
ambiguously, saying that no man can enter into the kingdom unless he
receives it ‘as a little child.’ Now this might mean ‘as he receives a
little child.’ And this interpretation is rather favoured by the fact
that, somewhat earlier, Mark has a doctrine about ‘receiving one of such
little children.’ I suspect some mystical doctrine is concealed in Mark.
But Matthew has, ‘unless ye turn and become as little children.’ There
is no mistaking that. Now I say, in the first place, this is impossible;
in the second place, it is wrong. First, it is impossible. The Father of
heaven, says Horace, may send fair weather to-day and foul tomorrow. But
not even He—

    ‘⸺ diffinget infectumque reddet
    Quod fugiens simul hora vexit.’

You must agree with me. Jupiter cannot cause what has been done to have
been not done. In the next place, it is wrong. A full-grown man has no
right to divest himself of full-grown faculties. How much better is the
doctrine of Epictetus, ‘My friend, you have fallen down. Get up. Try
again.’ This is possible. This is encouraging. But tell the same man,
‘Become a little child,’ ‘Be born again’! He will think you are playing
the fool with him.”

I wondered why Scaurus did not see that here again he was inconsistent.
He had forgotten the admissions he had made in view of Paul’s epistles.
In the cities of Asia and Greece, some of the vilest among the vile had
been told by Paul, “You must become new creatures in Christ,” “You must
die to sin and rise again to righteousness.” They did not “think he was
playing the fool.” They had (as Scaurus confessed) been morally “born
again.” Moreover Paul had met his objection as to “full-grown faculties”
by saying, “Be ye babes in respect of malice, but in understanding be
full-grown men.” Still I was sorry that the gospels had expressed this
obscurely. Neither of us had as yet read the fourth gospel. That makes
the doctrine quite clear by shewing that what is needed is not to be
“born over again”—for one might be “born over again” ten times worse than
one was before—but to be “born _from above_.” This was quite different
from “causing what has been done to have been not done.” It meant
“created anew,” or “reshaped,” so that the Spirit of Christ, within
the Christian, dominated the flesh. Both here and elsewhere, Scaurus’s
criticisms would have been very different, if he had known the fourth
gospel.

“The next point to be considered,” said Scaurus, “is the laws for the new
kingdom. Matthew has grouped together a collection of precepts as a code.
Some of these contrast what ‘has been said,’ or ‘has been said to men of
old,’ with what Christ now says. Apparently Matthew intended this code
of laws (uttered, he says, on a ‘mountain’) to correspond to the code
promulgated on Mount Sinai. But Luke (who by the way omits the ‘mountain’
and makes the scene ‘a place on the plain’) while giving many of these
precepts, scatters them about his gospel specifying various occasions on
which several of them were uttered; and he never inserts the contrasting
clause above-mentioned. The conclusion I draw is, that Christ promulgated
no law at all. Law deals almost exclusively with actions. Christ dealt
almost exclusively with motives, as the last of the Ten Commandments
does. When Christ inculcates actions, they are often metaphorical or
hyperbolical, as when he says, ‘If you are struck on one cheek, turn the
other to the striker,’ ‘Let not your right hand know what your left hand
does,’ ‘If a man takes your cloak, give him your coat too,’ and, ‘If
anyone wants to make you go a mile with him, go two miles,’—to which last
precept, by the way, Epictetus would say, No.”

I think Scaurus was referring to a passage where Epictetus said,
“Diogenes, if you seized any possession of his, would sooner give it
up to you than follow you on account of it.” Scaurus went on to say,
“Matthew’s habit of grouping sentences makes it difficult to distinguish
sayings uttered before the resurrection from those uttered after it. For
example, he speaks of a power of ‘binding and loosing’ given to Peter, in
connexion with a mention of the ‘church.’ On another occasion, a similar
power is given to the other disciples, again in connexion with the
‘church.’ Now this ‘binding and loosing’ is not mentioned by any other
evangelist. What does it mean? And when was this saying uttered?

“My rabbi tells me that ‘binding and loosing’ is regularly used by
the Jews to indicate that a rabbi ‘forbids’ or ‘sanctions’ a certain
action—for example, the eating of a particular food. Thus in the Acts of
the Apostles, the Lord would be said by the Jews to ‘loose’ the eating of
food that was before unclean, saying to Peter, ‘Arise, kill and eat.’ And
I can conceive that a gospel might describe Jesus as saying to Peter, ‘I
give thee this power of loosing unclean food, that thou and the rest of
my disciples may henceforth eat with the Gentiles, and in their houses,
asking no questions concerning the food.’ But I do not myself believe
that Christ used the phrase ‘bind and loose’ in this sense. I think he
connected it with that strange doctrine of forgiveness of sins on which
he laid so much stress, and that it was uttered after the resurrection,
when the term ‘church’ might be more naturally used.” Scaurus was so far
right in this that I afterwards found in the fourth gospel a doctrine,
not indeed about “binding and loosing,” but about “imprisoning and
loosing” or “arresting and loosing”; and this was connected with “sins,”
and Christ gave this power to the disciples after the resurrection.

Scaurus continued, “Look at Matthew’s words in one of these passages,
‘But if he refuse to hear the church, let him be unto thee as the heathen
and the publican,’ and then, at some interval, ‘Where two or three are
gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.’ Then look
at the last words of Matthew’s gospel, uttered after the resurrection,
‘Behold I am with you always.’ Does not the saying, ‘I am there in the
midst of you when you are gathered together,’ come more appropriately
from Christ, appearing after the resurrection, than from Christ before
the resurrection? I think so. The context indicates a tradition of some
utterance made after the resurrection, conveyed through some apostle
in a Jewish form, promising Christ’s presence to the disciples. Paul
assumes such a presence, writing to the Corinthians ‘When ye are gathered
together, and my spirit, together with the power of the Lord Jesus
Christ, to deliver over such a one to Satan.’ These last words about
‘Satan’ I do not profess to comprehend fully; but they seem to me to
imply the opposite of ‘loosing’—some kind of’ ‘binding’ or ‘remanding to
prison.’ And it is to take place in the presence of Christ, with Paul’s
spirit, when the church of Corinth is ‘gathered together’.”

I thought Scaurus was probably right as to the date of this promise.
But I was much more impressed by what he said concerning the tradition,
in Luke, “_Eat those things that are served up to you_.” This, in Luke,
was almost meaningless to me, but it had been full of meaning in Paul’s
epistle to the Corinthians, where the apostle spoke about meat sold in
Gentile markets: “If an unbeliever invites you, and ye desire to accept,
_eat everything that is served up to you, asking no questions_.”

Scaurus said, “This tradition about ‘_eating what is served up_’ occurs
nowhere in the gospels except in Luke’s account of the sending of
the Seventy, beginning, ‘After these things the Lord appointed other
seventy.’ Now this word ‘_appoint_’ does not in the least necessitate the
conclusion that Christ appointed the Seventy before the resurrection.
Look at the ‘_appointment_’ of the thirteenth apostle in the place of
Judas. The Acts says ‘Lord, _appoint_ him whom thou hast chosen.’ Then
Matthias is ‘_appointed_.’ The Lord is supposed to ‘_appoint_’ him in
answer to the prayer. Concerning this, Luke might say, ‘_After these
things the Lord appointed Matthias_.’ If these words had been inserted
in the gospel, they would have given the false impression that Jesus,
while living, had appointed Matthias. Well, that is just the impression—a
false one—that Luke gives as to the ‘_appointment_’ of the Seventy. The
fact is that the Seventy (a number often used by the Jews to denote
all the nations or languages of the world) represent the missionaries
_‘appointed’ after the Lord’s death to go to the cities of the Gentiles
to prepare them for the Coming of the Lord from heaven_. These were
to go into the houses of Gentiles. Though Jews, they were to eat of
Gentile food—‘_everything that is served up_.’ Without this explanation,
the tradition has no meaning—or, if any, an unworthy one, ‘Do not be
fastidious. If you cannot have pleasant food, eat unpleasant food.’
This seems to me absurd. But with this explanation, the precept becomes
intelligible and necessary.”

This convinced me. Moreover Luke’s use of “the Lord,” for “Jesus”—since
“the Lord” would be more likely to be used than “Jesus” after the
resurrection—seemed slightly to favour Scaurus’s conclusion. He passed
next to a tradition of Matthew’s about abstinence from marriage “for
the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” On this he said, “Looking at Paul’s
advice to the Corinthians about celibacy and marriage, and at the
distinction he draws between ‘advice,’ and ‘allowance’ and ‘command,’
and ‘not I but the Lord,’ I am convinced that Paul spoke on his own
responsibility, except as to Christ’s insistence on the old tradition in
Genesis, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ I mean that Christ upheld monogamy
against polygamy and against that modified form of polygamy which arose
from the husband’s unrestricted, or scarcely restricted, right of
divorce. Soon after the resurrection, in the midst of persecutions, when
the Christians expected that Christ might speedily return and carry them
up to heaven, it was natural that the Corinthians should apply for advice
to Paul, and other churches to other apostles.

“My belief is that Christ’s words extended to only the first half of
Matthew’s tradition. The disciples complain, in effect, ‘If a man cannot
divorce his wife when he dislikes her, it is best not to marry.’ To
this Christ replies, as I interpret him, ‘Not all grasp the mystery of
the true marriage contemplated from the beginning (namely, “the two
shall become one”) but only those to whom it is given.’ This seems to
me to have been explained in a wrong sense in the words that follow
about ‘eunuchs.’ At all events, Paul twice quotes the words quoted
by Christ (about the ‘two’ becoming ‘one’) as though they were the
basis of his doctrine about marriage and also a type of the mysterious
wedlock between Christ and the church. I do not think, however, that
any confident conclusion is deducible. Christ elsewhere indicates—when
dealing with an imaginary case where a woman has married seven brothers
consecutively—that the marriage tie does not extend to the next life. By
the Jews, marriage is, and was, regarded as honourable, and almost as a
duty. But a Jewish sect called the Essenes, or some of them, practised
celibacy; and you know how Epictetus inculcates celibacy on his Cynics
of the first class. These facts, and the pressure of hard times, and
Paul’s example, may not only have favoured abstinence from marriage among
Christians but also have favoured some tampering with tradition in order
to enjoin celibacy. A letter to Timothy speaks of certain heretics as
‘forbidding to marry.’ Perhaps the only safe conclusion about Matthew’s
tradition is that no conclusion can be deduced from it.”

Scaurus next discussed the question whether Christ inculcated poverty
on his disciples. He denied it. Not that he denied Luke to be more
correct verbally in saying “Blessed are _the poor_” than Matthew in
“Blessed are _the poor in spirit_.” But he asserted that Christ meant
“_poor in spirit_.” Similarly (said Scaurus) Christ meant “hungering
_after righteousness_,” as Matthew says, though Luke was right verbally
in omitting “after righteousness.” For, according to Scaurus, “Christ
hardly ever used such words as ‘bread,’ ‘leaven,’ ‘water,’ ‘hunger,’
‘thirst,’ ‘fire,’ ‘salt,’ ‘treasure,’ and so on, except metaphorically.”
Then he quoted the following instance out of Mark’s version of Christ’s
instructions to the twelve apostles, where, he said, Mark’s metaphors had
been misunderstood literally—and consequently altered—by Matthew and Luke.

“Mark,” said he, “has, ‘that they should take nothing for the journey,
_save a staff only_, no bread, no wallet, no money for the purse.’
Matthew and Luke have ‘_no staff_.’ Now turn to Genesis, where Jacob
thanks God for helping him on his journey, ‘I passed over Jordan with
_my staff_.’ He _means_, ‘with _my staff only_.’ Philo explains this
‘_staff_’ metaphorically, as ‘training,’ _i.e._ the instruction or
guidance given by God. David says to God, ‘Thy rod and _thy staff_ are
my help,’ or words to that effect—manifest metaphor. My rabbi shewed me
a Jewish paraphrase of Jacob’s words, ‘I had neither gold, nor silver,
nor herds, but _simply my staff_.’ He also told me that this ‘_staff_’
was supposed by the Jews to have been given by God to Adam from whom it
descended to the patriarchs in succession. This shews that Jews might
find no difficulty in Christ’s metaphor, ‘Go forth with _nothing but
a staff_,’ _i.e._ the staff of Jacob, the rod and staff of God. But
Greeks and Romans would naturally take the word literally as meaning
‘walking-stick.’ Then they would find a difficulty, asking, ‘Why should
Jesus say, _No bread, no wallet—only a walking-stick_?’ Hence many,
writing largely for Gentiles, might alter it into ‘_no walking-stick_.’
This is what Matthew and Luke have done. Similarly they altered Mark’s
metaphor ‘_but shod with sandals_,’ _i.e._ with light shoes fit for the
‘beautiful feet’ of the preachers of the gospel, into ‘_no boots_,’ or
words to that effect. The error is the same. Jewish metaphor has been in
each case taken literally by Matthew and Luke.”

Scaurus added a few remarks on Christ as a historical character, “dimly
traceable,” he said, “in the combined testimony of Mark, Matthew, and
Luke”—where I thought he might have added, “and in the epistles of
Paul.” His main thought was that, in spite of all the defects of these
three writers, it was possible to discern in Christ a successor of Moses
and Isaiah. “This man,” said Scaurus, “may be regarded in two aspects.
As a lawgiver, he took as the basis of his republic a re-enactment,
in a stronger form, of the two ancient laws that enjoined love of the
Father and love of the brethren. As a prophet, he saw a time when all
mankind—recognising in one another (man in man and nation in nation) some
glimpse of the divine image, and of the beauty of divine holiness—would
beat their swords into ploughshares, and go up to the City of peace,
righteousness, and truth, to worship the Father of the spirits of all
flesh. Isaiah had foreseen this. But this prophet was also possessed with
a belief, beyond Isaiah’s, in the unity of God and man. He was persuaded
that the true Son of man was the Son of God, higher than the heavens.
I think also that he trusted—but on what grounds I do not know, unless
it was an ingrained prophetic belief, found in all the great prophets,
carried to its highest point in this prophet—that, as light follows on
darkness, so does joy on sorrow, righteousness on sin, and life on death.
A Stoic would say that these things alternate and that all things go
round. But this Jewish prophet believed that all things in the end would
go up—up to heaven. That is how I read his expectation. Feeling himself
to be one with God, he placed no limits, except God’s will, to the mighty
works that God might do for him in his attempt to fulfil God’s purpose
of exalting men from darkness to light and from death to life.

“It is in some of these mysterious aspirations,” said Scaurus, “that I
cannot follow this prophet of the Jews. At times he seems to me to act
and speak (certainly Paul speaks thus) as though God had caused mankind
to take (if I may say so) one disease in order to get rid of another.
I am speaking of moral disease. God seems to Paul to have allowed
man to contract the disease of sin in order to rise to a health of
righteousness, higher than would have been possible if he had not sinned.
On these and other mystical notions this Jewish prophet may perhaps base
views of forgiveness, and of love, and of the efficacy of his own death
for his disciples, all of which perplex me. Sometimes I reject them
entirely. Sometimes I am in doubt.” These last words of Scaurus seemed
to me to explain many inconsistencies in his letters. But how could I be
surprised? Was I consistent myself? Was not my own mind at that instant
fluctuating like a very Euripus? I could understand his doubts only too
well.

He concluded by contrasting Christ with John the Baptist. “The one
point,” said Scaurus, “in which these two prophets or reformers agreed,
was that the Lord God would intervene for the people, if only the people
would return to Him. But in other respects they appear to me to have
altogether differed. John the Baptist seems to have desired to bring
about a remission of debts in accordance with the Law of Moses, as
insisted on by previous prophets. He also desired an equalisation of
property. That is what I gather from the gospels themselves, interpreted
in the light of the ancient Law of the Jews. Moreover Josephus told me
that Herod the tetrarch put John to death on political grounds, because
he seemed likely to stir up the people to sedition, nor did he ever
mention the influence of Herodias as contributing to the prophet’s
execution. Of course the story about the dancing and the oath may be
true, and yet the oath may have been a mere excuse for getting rid of an
inconvenient person. John was not unwilling (as I gather) to resort to
the sword of Gideon or the fire of Elijah if the word of the gospel did
not suffice to establish the new kingdom.

“Jesus, on the other hand, was absolutely averse to violence. Jesus was
penetrated with the belief in the power of ‘little ones’ and ‘babes’ and
‘sucklings.’ How far he anticipated the future in store for himself I
cannot say. Sometimes I am inclined to believe that he thought God would
intervene at the last moment and deliver him from the jaws of death.
Sometimes he seems to have deliberately faced death with the conviction
that he would be swallowed up by it for a short time, emerging from it to
victory.

“The Baptist certainly expected to be delivered by Jesus from the prison
in which he was being kept by Antipas, and to have been disappointed
by his friend’s inaction. It must have been a very bitter moment for
the latter when John sent to reproach him, as good as saying, ‘Are you,
too, a false Messiah? Will you leave me to perish in prison? Are you
really our Deliverer, or must we, the whole nation, turn from you as a
laggard, and wait for another?’ In my opinion, this was the very greatest
temptation to which Jesus was exposed. In that moment—as I judge when
I try to guess the eastern metaphor corresponding to western fact—Jews
would say that Satan said to Christ ‘Worship me, and I will give you the
empire of the world,’ or ‘Take the risk! Throw yourself down from the
pinnacle! See whether God will save you!’ In plain words, the temptation
was, ‘Appeal to the God of battles! Rouse the people to arms, first
against Antipas, and then against the Romans!’ For a perfectly unselfish
and noble nature, believing in divine interventions, this must indeed
have been a great, a very great temptation.”

Scaurus finished this part of his letter by quoting a passage that I had
long had in mind, but I had forgotten its context, “Do you remember,
Silanus, how the old Egyptian priest says in the Timaeus, ‘Solon, Solon,
you Greeks are always boys’? Then comes the reason, ‘_You have not in
your souls any ancient belief based on tradition from the days of old_.’
Well, we Romans are in the same position as the poor Greeks. So are the
Egyptians for the matter of that. For it is not antiquity alone, but
_divine_ antiquity, that counts. None of us have this divine antiquity
of ‘tradition from the days of old’ going back to such characters as
Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. I think we must put up with our
inferiority. These things we had better leave to others. We have, as
Virgil says, ‘arts’ of our own, the arts of war and empire. There, we
are men, full-grown men. But as compared with Moses, Isaiah, and above
all with this Jesus, or Christ, I must frankly confess I sometimes feel
myself a ‘boy,’ and never so much as now. My conclusion is, _I will keep
to the things in which I am not a ‘boy.’_ Do you the same.”



CHAPTER XXVI

SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (I)


Passing next to the subject of Christ’s resurrection, “To deal first,”
said Scaurus, “with Christ’s alleged predictions that he would ‘rise
again,’ what strikes me as the strangest point in them is his frequent
mention of being ‘_betrayed_.’ For the rest, if Jesus believed himself to
be the Messiah or Christ—as I think he did, if not at first, yet soon—or
even if he did not believe himself to be the Christ, but thought that
he was to reform the nation, I can well understand that he adopted the
language of one of their prophets, Hosea by name, who says, ‘Come and
let us return unto the Lord … he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
After two days will he revive us. On the third day he will raise us up,
and we shall live in his sight.’ Using such language as this, a later
Jewish prophet, such as Christ, might lead his followers up to Jerusalem
at the Passover, not knowing whether he should live or die, but convinced
that the Lord would work some deliverance for Israel. And the predictions
of ‘scourging,’ and ‘smiting,’ and ‘spitting,’ I could also understand,
as coming from the prophets. But ‘betrayal’ is not mentioned by the
prophets, and I cannot understand its insertion here.”

With this I have dealt above, and with the double sense of the word
meaning “deliver over” and “betray.” I now found that the evangelists
sometimes apply the word to the act of Judas the betrayer (because by his
betrayal Christ was “delivered over” to the Jews); and Scaurus regarded
it as meaning “betray” here. I could not however believe that Jesus,
when predicting His death, used the word in the sense “_betray_.” It
seemed to me that He predicted that His end would be like that of the
Suffering Servant in Isaiah, namely, that He would be “_delivered over_”
as a ransom for the sins of the people by the will of His Father. Long
afterwards, I found that, whereas the Greek in Isaiah has “_delivered
over for_,” the Hebrew has “_make intercession for_.” Then I saw, even
more clearly than before, the reason why Christ may have often repeated
this prediction, if He foresaw that His death would “make intercession”
for the people. The evangelists rendered this so that it might be
mistaken for “would be betrayed.” But Paul made the matter clear.

Scaurus added that the rising again was predicted as about to occur,
sometimes “on the third day,” as in Hosea, but sometimes “after three
days,” corresponding to a period of three days and three nights spent by
Jonah (according to a strange Hebrew legend) in a whale’s belly. And he
also said, “Mark and Matthew represent Jesus as saying, concerning what
he would do after death, ‘I will go before you _to Galilee_.’ But Luke
omits these words. Later on, after the resurrection, Mark and Matthew
again mention this prediction; but there Luke has ‘remember that which
he said to you _while yet in Galilee_.’ My rabbi tells me that the words
‘to Galilee’ might easily be confused with other expressions having quite
a different meaning. This seems to me probable, but into these details
I cannot now enter. I take it, however, that Luke knew Mark’s tradition
‘_to Galilee_,’ and rejected it as erroneous. Matthew also says that
certain women, meeting Jesus after death, ‘took hold of his feet,’ and
Jesus sent word by them to the disciples to ‘depart _into Galilee_.’ Here
you see ‘_Galilee_’ again. But this tradition is not in any other gospel.
Luke makes no mention of any appearance in _Galilee_.”

These discrepancies about “Galilee” might have interested me at any other
time; but “_took hold of his feet_”—this was the assertion that amazed me
and carried away my thoughts from everything else. I had approached the
subject of the Resurrection through Paul, who mentions Christ merely as
having “appeared” to several of the apostles and last of all to himself.
I had all along assumed that the “appearances” of the Lord to the other
apostles had been of the same kind as the appearance to Paul, that is
to say, supernatural, but not material nor tangible. Having read what
Paul said about the spiritual body and the earthly body, I had supposed
that Christ’s earthly body remained in the tomb but that His spiritual
body rose from the dead, passed out of the tomb—as a spirit might pass,
not being confinable by walls or gates or by the cavernous sides of a
tomb—and “appeared” to the disciples, now in this place, now in that.
That the “spiritual body” meant the _real spiritual “person”_—and not
a mere “shade” or breath-like “spirit” of the departed—this (as I have
explained above) I had more or less understood. But I had never supposed
that the “body” could be touched. And now, quite unexpectedly, Scaurus
thrust before me, so to speak, a tradition that some women “_took hold of
Christ’s feet_” after He had risen from the dead.

“Of course,” said Scaurus, “most critics would say at once that the
women lied. But in the first place, even if they did lie, that would
not explain why Mark and Luke omitted it. For you may be quite sure
the evangelists would not believe that the women told a lie; and, if
they believed that the women told the truth, why should they not report
it? For the fact, if a fact, is a strong proof of resurrection. In
the next place, I am convinced that the Christian belief in Christ’s
resurrection is far too strong to have been originated by lies. I believe
it was originated by visions, and that the stories about these visions
were exaggerated in various ways, but never dishonest ways. In this
particular case, the explanation probably is, that the women saw a vision
of Christ in the air and ‘_would have held_ it fast by the feet,’ that
is, _desired to do so, but could not_. I could give several instances
from the LXX where ‘_would have_’ is thus dropped in translation. The
belief of the Christians was, that Christ ascended to heaven. The
women are perhaps regarded as _desiring to grasp his feet while he was
ascending_, but Christ prevents them, sending them away to carry word to
his ‘_brethren_’—for so he calls them—of his resurrection.” I had not,
at the time, knowledge enough to judge of Scaurus’s explanation; but I
afterwards found that “_would have_” might be thus dropped, and that the
fourth gospel represents a woman as attempting, or desiring, to “touch”
Jesus, but as being prevented (by the words “touch me not”) because
He had “_not yet ascended_”; and Jesus says to her “_Carry word to my
brethren_.” Scaurus’s explanation was confirmed by these facts.

Scaurus continued as follows, “Mark, the earliest of the evangelists,
contains no account of the resurrection, except as an announcement
made by angels. He says that the women “were afraid” when they heard
this announcement; and there he ends. But in my copy of Mark there is
an appendix (not in the handwriting of the same scribe that wrote the
gospel) which begins, ‘Now having arisen on the first day of the week
he became visible at first to Mary of Magdala, out of whom he had cast
seven devils.’ Then it says that Jesus ‘was manifested in a different
form’ to two of his previous companions, when walking in the country.
Then it mentions a third and last manifestation to ‘the eleven’ seated
at a meal.” I turned at once to my copy of Mark, but there was no such
appendix. It ended with the words “for they were afraid.”

Scaurus proceeded, “This appendix is not at all in Mark’s style, but it
is probably very ancient. Luke mentions no appearance of Christ to women.
But he describes an appearance to two disciples walking toward a village
near Jerusalem; or rather, not to them while walking, for Jesus did not
appear to them at first so as to be recognised; he first walked and
talked with them and ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.’
Then, in the village, during the breaking of bread, he was recognised
by them, and vanished. As regards ‘walking,’ I may mention that the
ancient Jews describe God as ‘_walking with Israel_,’ and I have read in
a Christian letter, ‘_The Lord journeyed with me_,’ meaning ‘enlightened
me.’ So the word may be used metaphorically. These two disciples
expressly mention a ‘vision of angels’ spoken of by the women, who told
them that angels had announced that Christ had risen from the dead; but,
according to Luke, the two disciples and their companions disbelieved the
women’s tale. And not a word is said by Luke, then or afterwards, about
any appearance of Christ himself to women.

“You can see for yourself, Silanus, under what a disadvantage this
Mark-Appendix placed these poor, simple, ignorant, honest Christians,
when it called as their first witness to the resurrection a woman that
had been formerly a lunatic. I believe they have been already attacked
by their Jewish enemies on this ground. If they have not been, I am
sure they will be. Luke, a physician and an educated man, chooses his
ground much more sensibly. First, he omits all direct mention, in his own
narrative, of manifestations to women. Secondly, he says, in effect—not
in narrative but in dialogue—‘The women _did_ see an apparition, but
it was only of angels.’ Thirdly, ‘the _men_ (and men are not liable
to the hysterical delusions of women)—the _men_,’ he says, ‘treated
the women’s vision as a mere delusion. The _men_ saw Jesus himself.’
Possibly Luke was influenced by Paul, who in his list of the witnesses
of manifestations makes no mention of women. The Law of Moses does not
expressly exclude women’s testimony. But Josephus once told me that his
countrymen allowed neither women nor slaves to give public testimony. So
it is clear that Jewish tradition has interpreted the Law as excluding
women, and that Paul, when controverting Jews, would not appeal to
the evidence of women, because Jews would not accept it. Perhaps Luke
followed in the same path.

“Luke also makes the following attempt to meet the objections of those
who might urge that Christ’s apparition was not a rising of the actual
body from the grave. He represents Christ as saying to the disciples,
‘Handle me’—as a proof that he was not a disembodied spirit. Now I do
not believe that Luke invented this, although he, the latest of the
three evangelists, is alone in recording it. Curiously enough, I have
only recently been reading a letter—very wild and extravagant but
manifestly genuine—written some four or five years ago by a Christian
named Ignatius, which throws light on these very words in Luke. A
few months after writing it, the man suffered as a Christian here in
Rome, and his letters naturally had a vogue. Flaccus sent me a copy
as a curiosity. Well, this letter says that when Christ came to his
disciples—Ignatius says ‘_to those around Peter_’ but the meaning is ‘to
Peter and his companions,’ that is, ‘to Christ’s disciples,’ as I have
explained above—in the flesh, after his resurrection, he said to them,
‘Take, handle me, and see that I am not a bodiless dæmon.’ Then Ignatius
adds—and these are the words I want you to mark—‘Straightway they
_touched_ him and believed, having been _mixed with his flesh and blood_.’

“Do you remember my laughing at you as a boy because you translated
Diodorus Siculus literally, ‘They _touched_ one another because of
extreme need,’ when it ought to have been, ‘They _fed on_ one another’?
I quoted to you, at the time, the saying of Pythagoras, ‘Do not _touch_
a white cock,’ _i.e._ ‘do not _feed on_ it.’ There are many instances of
this meaning. Well, the Christians believed that they _fed on_ Christ.
His _‘flesh and blood was mixed’ with theirs_—or they were ‘_mixed_’
with his—when they _fed on_ him in their sacred meal. If there were some
Greek traditions saying ‘they _touched_ him,’ meaning ‘they _fed on_
him,’ there would naturally be other traditions about ‘_touching_’ Jesus
meaning that they ‘_handled_’ him. The latter would suggest that they
touched the wounds in his body inflicted during the crucifixion.”

I remembered my boyish mistake, and I saw clearly that Christians would
have had much more excuse for making a similar one. Scaurus added, “This
also explains Ignatius’s curious use of ‘take’ (as in Mark and Matthew).”
At first I could not understand what Scaurus meant; but on looking at
Ignatius’s Greek, which Scaurus gave me, I perceived that the words were
not “_Take hold of me_, handle me,” but “_Take_,” _i.e._ “_Take_ me,” or
“_Take_ my body (as a whole).” Now “_take_” is similarly used by Mark and
Matthew in the sentence “_Take_, eat, this is my body,” where Mark omits
“eat.”

“Moreover,” continued Scaurus, “Luke goes on to relate that Jesus said to
the disciples, ‘Have ye anything to eat?’ and that _they gave_ him some
broiled fish, and that he ate in their presence. Christians in Rome have
been in the habit—it would take too long to explain why—of using FISH as
the emblem of Christ. The sense requires ‘_he gave_,’ not ‘_they gave_.’
I think Luke has confused ‘_he gave_’ with ‘_they gave_.’ The confusion,
in Greek, might arise from one erroneous letter.” After giving me
several instances of such confusion, he said, “I should not be surprised
if some later gospel stated the fact more correctly, namely, that _Christ
gave_ the disciples ‘fish’.” This I afterwards found to be the case in
the fourth gospel.

Scaurus then proceeded, “I think, however, that Luke’s error may
have arisen in part from another tradition, which he has preserved
in the Acts—somewhat like that of the Christian Ignatius which I
have quoted above. Ignatius spoke of ‘_mixing_,’ Luke, in the Acts,
speaks of ‘_incorporating_’—I can think of no better word to give the
meaning—saying that Jesus, ‘_in the act of being incorporated with_’ the
disciples, bade them not to depart from Jerusalem till they had received
the Holy Spirit. Now this word ‘_incorporate_’—which is used of men
brought into a city, hounds into a pack, soldiers into a squadron, and so
on—is adapted to represent that close union which is a mark of almost all
the Christians, who say with Paul that they are ‘one body in Christ’ and
‘members one of another.’ But this compact union of Christians is also
represented by their Eucharist, so that Paul says to the Corinthians,
in effect, not only, ‘Ye are one body,’ but also ‘Ye are one loaf.’
And I rather think that some Christians at the present time, in their
Eucharists, pray that, as the grains of wheat scattered in the field are
made into one, so the scattered children of God may be gathered into one.
I think you must see how easily errors might spring up from metaphors
of this kind used in the various churches of the empire, among people
varying in language, customs, and traditions, and for the most part
illiterate.

“Even in the letter of Ignatius above-mentioned, a scribe has altered the
word ‘mixed’ into ‘constrained’ in the margin; and I am not surprised.
I do not by any means accuse Luke of dishonesty, nor of carelessness.
He did his best. But he was probably a physician—a man of science
therefore—and liked to have things definitely and scientifically stated.
This word above-mentioned, ‘being made into one compact body with them,’
might easily be supposed to mean ‘partaking of salt with them,’ that
is, ‘sharing a meal with them.’ That rendering had the advantage of
constituting a definite proof of Christ’s resurrection with a body that
might be called in some sense material, since it (_i.e._ the body) was
capable of eating. Then, of course, Luke would adapt his other accounts
of the resurrection to this tradition, which he would naturally regard
as one of central importance. But, though honest and pains-taking, Luke
appears to me to have altered and corrupted what was perhaps, in some
sense, a real—yes, I will admit, in some sense, a real—manifestation (if
indeed any visions are real) into a mere non-existent physical sign or
proof.

“Luke represents Jesus as feeding on his own body in order to satisfy
his unbelieving disciples that he is really among them. I can easily
imagine how very different may have been the feelings of those simple
enthusiasts, the early Galilæan disciples, when they used these
words—never dreaming that they would be reduced to dry, evidential
prose—in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, praising the Lord for
allowing them to ‘sit at His table,’ and to ‘eat and drink with Him,’ or
for making them ‘sharers in the sacred food of His body’ and ‘partners
of His board.’ It was only, after a generation or more had passed away,
outside the atmosphere of Galilee—it was only to a compiler laboriously
tracing back the truth through documents—that all these phrases would
suggest the thought of Jesus proving his reality by partaking of food
that his disciples give to him.

“It may be said, as though it were to Luke’s discredit, ‘He represents
Peter as positively testifying to this eating.’ Of course he does. You
know how speeches are written, even in the most accurate histories. No
historian, as a rule, professes to record a speech of any length exactly.
If Luke first inferred that Christ ate with the apostles after his death,
he would also naturally go on to infer that Peter, in attesting Christ’s
resurrection, must necessarily have included some mention of this fact.
I cannot blame him. I think he was perfectly honest, though in error.” I
agreed. But it seemed to me an error much to be regretted.

On one point, however, Scaurus seemed to me to be not quite accurate,
when he said of Luke, “He represents Peter as positively testifying to
this eating.” For Peter’s speech was to this effect, “God raised him up
on the third day and granted that he should be manifested—not to all the
people but to witnesses previously appointed by God, namely us, who ate
with him and drank with him—after he had risen from the dead.” Scaurus
regarded this as meaning that “the eating and drinking” of Christ’s
disciples took place “after his death.” Even if that had been so, it
might be that Jesus was merely present (not eating and drinking) when
the disciples ate and drank: and something of this kind I afterwards
found in the fourth gospel. But I punctuated the words differently, and
interpreted them differently, as meaning that the “_manifestation_”
(not the “eating”) _took place after the resurrection_; and that the
manifestation was limited to those who had been Christ’s intimate
companions, or as the Greeks say, “_sharers of his table_,” _during his
life_.

I remembered also an old remark of Scaurus’s about our modern Roman
use of “convivo,” meaning “I _live with_,” and how easily it might be
taken to mean the ordinary “convivor,” meaning “I _feast with_.” Since
that, I have found that, in other ways, “_living with_” and “_eating
with_” may be easily confused. For these reasons I concluded that the
supposition that Jesus ate with the disciples after His resurrection was
not justified.



CHAPTER XXVII

SCAURUS ON CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (II)


“I now come,” said Scaurus, “to one of the most interesting of all the
traditions of the resurrection—the ‘rolling away of the stone’ from the
tomb. As to the alleged facts, all the evangelists agree. But Mark alone
has preserved traces of what I take to be the historical fact, namely,
that the narrative, as it now stands, has sprung from Christian songs
and hymns based on Hebrew scriptures and Jewish traditions. I shewed you
above how the precept, ‘Go forth with the staff alone,’ did not mean
‘with a walking-stick’ but ‘with the staff of God,’ a metaphor from the
story of Jacob in Genesis. Curiously enough, the same story will help us
to explain the rolling away of the stone.

“There Jacob rolls away the stone from the well for Rachel in order that
her flocks may obtain water. The Jews have many symbolical explanations
of this ‘rolling of the stone.’ One is, that the stone is the evil nature
in man. When worshippers go into the synagogue, the stone (they say) is
rolled away. When they come out, it is rolled back again. Philo comments
fully on the somewhat similar action of Moses helping the daughters of
Jethro, taking it in a mystical sense. The scriptures may be regarded as
the ‘water of life’ or ‘living water.’ The ‘stone’ prevents the ‘water’
from issuing to those that thirst for it. You may perhaps remember that
Paul says something of the same kind, but using a different metaphor.
To this day, he says, a ‘veil’ lies on the hearts of the Jews when the
scriptures are read. So Luke says—concerning one of Christ’s predictions
about his resurrection—‘it was _veiled_ from them.’ Luke also relates
that Christ, after the resurrection, conversed with two disciples,
but did not make himself visible to them till he had ‘interpreted the
scriptures’ to them. Then, when he broke bread, ‘their eyes were opened
and they recognised him.’ This ‘interpreting,’ the two disciples call
‘opening the scriptures.’ The ‘_opening of the scriptures_’ might be
called ‘_taking the veil from the heart_,’ or ‘_rolling away the stone_.’
But the last phrase might still better be used for ‘_rolling away the
burden of unbelief_’.”

All this seemed fanciful to me. But as I knew very little about Jewish
tradition I waited to see what traces of this poetic language Scaurus
could shew in the Greek text of Mark. Before passing to that, however,
Scaurus shewed me, from Isaiah, that “the stone” might be used in two
senses, a good and a bad; a good, for believers, as being “the stone
that had become the head of the corner”; but a bad, for unbelievers, as
“the stone of stumbling and rock of offence.” And he said that the stone
rolled away by Jacob was called by some Jews the Shechinah or glory
of God. According to Matthew, the “stone” at the door of the tomb was
“sealed” by the chief priests, the enemies of Christ. There it stood, as
an enemy, saying to the disciples, “Your faith is vain. He will come out
no more. He is dead.” This was “_a stone of stumbling_.” On the other
hand Scaurus said he had read an epistle written by Peter, which bids the
disciples come to Christ as “_a living stone_.”

“Now,” said Scaurus, “taking the accounts literally, we must find it
impossible to explain how the women, at about six o’clock in the morning,
could expect to find men at the tomb ready and willing to roll the stone
away for them; or, if guards were on the spot, how the guards could be
induced to allow it. And there are also other difficulties, too many to
enumerate, in the differences between the evangelists as to the object of
the women’s visit. But taking the account as originally a poem, we are
able to recognise (I think) two or three historic facts found in Mark
alone.

“First, take the statement that the women ‘said,’ or ‘said to
themselves,’ ‘Who _will roll_ away the stone for us from the door of the
tomb?’ I am not surprised that someone has altered this into, ‘Who _has
rolled_ away the stone for us?’ Improbable though the latter is, it is at
all events conceivable. But it is inconceivable that women, going to the
guarded door of a prison, should ask, as a literal question, ‘Who will
open the door for us?’ Taken literally, Mark’s text implies something
almost as absurd as this. But now take it as a prayer to heaven. Then you
may illustrate it by the language of the Psalmist, ‘Who will rise up for
me against the evil-doers? Who will stand up for me against the workers
of iniquity?’—followed by ‘Unless the Lord had been my help my soul had
soon dwelt in silence.’ So the Psalmist says, ‘Who will bring me into
the fenced city?’ and then adds, ‘Hast not thou cast us off, O God?’ You
see in all these cases the question is really a prayer, a passionate and
almost desperate prayer, implying ‘What man will do this for us? No man.
No one but God.’ So it is in the Law, ‘Who will go up to heaven? Who will
go down into the deep?’ These last words Paul quotes as the utterance of
something approaching to despair. So I take the women’s words as having
been originally a cry to God, ‘Who, if not God, will roll away the stone!’

“Secondly, note that Mark says nothing about any guards at the tomb.
According to him, no obstacle was to be anticipated by the women, in
their attempt to enter the tomb, except the weight of the stone, which
was ‘exceeding great.’ No other evangelist says this. But I have seen
traditions describing the stone as so heavy that twenty men could
scarcely roll it, or that it required the efforts of the elders and
scribes aided by the centurion and his soldiers. In my opinion the
omission of the ‘greatness’ by Matthew and Luke, and the literalising of
it by later traditions, arise from a misunderstanding of its poetical and
spiritual character. The ‘stone’ was ‘exceeding great’ in this sense,
that it could not be moved except by the help of God.

“Thirdly, ‘the women _looked up_ and saw it (_i.e._ the stone) _rolled
upward_,’ that is, as I take it, to heaven, in a vision. The word here
used for ‘look up’ may mean ‘regain sight,’ as though the women were
blind to the fact till they had uttered their aspiration (‘who will roll
it away?’) and then their eyes were opened. Anyhow, it is more than
‘looked.’ I think it means ‘saw in a vision’.” I was certainly astonished
at this use of “look up,” but much more at the “_rolling up_” of the
stone.

“As to Mark’s ‘_rolling up_’,” said Scaurus, “I have looked everywhere,
trying to find his word used by others in the sense of ‘roll away,’
or ‘roll back.’ But in vain. Its use here is all the more remarkable
because, when Jacob rolls away the stone for Rachel, the word ‘_roll
away_’ is used. You may say, ‘This shews that the term is not borrowed
from Jacob’s story.’ I cannot agree with that. The Christian hymn might
contrast Jacob, the type of Christ, rolling the stone merely on one side,
with Christ, the fulfilment, rolling it right up to heaven. I should add
that a marginal note in Mark inserts an ascension of angels with Jesus at
this point.”

In attempting to do justice to this narrative and to Scaurus’s criticisms
of it, I felt at a great disadvantage owing to my ignorance of Jewish
literature and thought; and at first I was much more disposed to put
by the whole story as an inexplicable legend than to accept Scaurus’s
explanation. But afterwards, looking at Matthew’s narrative, I found
that Matthew described an “angel” as “rolling away the stone,” and as
saying to the women, “Fear not.” This seemed decidedly to confirm the
conclusion that the women saw “a vision of angels” (a phrase used by
Luke) in which vision the stone was seen rolled away—or (as Mark says)
“rolled upward”—when the angels went up to heaven. But all this—though
it confused and wearied me—did not prevent me from believing that the
spirit, or spiritual body, of Christ had really risen from the dead,
since I had all along supposed that this alone was what was meant by
Christ’s resurrection, in accordance, as it appeared to me, with Paul’s
statements. Nothing that Scaurus had said, so far, seemed to me to shake
Paul’s testimony to the resurrection.

But Scaurus’s next remarks dealt with this matter, and greatly shook
my faith. “I had almost forgotten,” he said, “to speak of Christ’s
appearance to Paul. It was clearly a mere image of Paul’s thought,
called up by his conscience—nothing more. I need write no further about
it. Flaccus has sent you Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. If you are curious,
look there, and you will find enough and more than enough. My belief is,
that, if Stephen had not seen Christ, Paul would not have seen Christ.
That puts the matter epigrammatically, and therefore (to some extent)
falsely; for all epigrams are partly false. But it is mainly true. There
may have been other Stephens whom Paul persecuted. But Stephen, I think,
summed up the effect of all. Read what Paul says to the Romans about the
persecuted and their conquest of persecutors:—‘Bless them that persecute
you’; that is, instead of resorting to the fire of vengeance against
one’s enemy, use, he says, the refiner’s fire of kindness, ‘for in
doing this thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head’; finally, ‘Be not
conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.’ Read this. Then reflect
that Paul ‘persecuted.’ Then read the Acts and see how he persecuted
Stephen, and how Stephen interceded for his enemies. I take it that Paul
is writing from experience—that the intercession of Stephen ‘overcame’
Paul (_he_ would say ‘overcame,’ _I_ should say ‘hypnotized’ him) and
compelled Paul to see what Stephen saw, namely, Jesus raised from the
dead and glorified. Read the Acts and see if I am not right.”

It had not occurred to me before, while I was reading what Flaccus’s
letter said incidentally about the inclusion of the Acts of the Apostles
in my parcel, that this book would probably give me Luke’s account of the
conversion of the apostle Paul, which had been so much in my thoughts, in
my conjectures, and even in my dreams. Now, therefore, although barely a
dozen lines of Scaurus’s letter remained to read, I immediately put them
aside and took up the Acts. Here I found that I had been wrong in most
of my wild anticipations about the circumstances of Paul’s conversion;
but I had been right in supposing that the conversion took place near
Damascus, and that the utterance of Christ would contain the words, “I
am Jesus.” Moreover the words, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
accorded (not indeed exactly but as to their general sense) with my dream
about the Christian martyrs—how they looked at me, as though saying, Why
didst thou rack me? Why didst thou torture me?; and how they blessed me,
and looked up to heaven; and how they made me fear lest I, too, should be
compelled to look up and see what they saw.

Now therefore once more I was seized with a kind of fellow-feeling for
Paul as he journeyed to Damascus. I began again to imagine his efforts to
prevent himself from thinking of Stephen, and from seeing Stephen’s face
looking up to heaven, and from hearing Stephen’s blessing. It seemed to
me that I, too, should have rebelled as Paul rebelled at first, striving
against my conscience, like the bullock that kicks against the goad.
Then I asked, “Should I have done what Paul did afterwards? Should I,
too, have been ‘overcome’ as Paul was, being brought under the yoke?” I
thought I might have been.

But was it seemly or right that a free man should be brought under a
“yoke”? That was the question I had now to answer. I seemed to have come
to the branching of the paths. All depended on the nature of the “yoke.”
What was it? On the one hand, Paul said it was “the constraining love of
Christ.” He had made me feel that there was nothing base in it, nothing
to be ashamed of. Nay, under Paul’s influence, this “yoke” had begun to
seem an ensign of the noblest warfare, a sign of royalty, the emblem of
service undertaken by God Himself, the yoke of the risen Saviour, the
Son of God, enthroned by the Father’s side in heaven, and in the hearts
of men on earth. But on the other side stood Scaurus, maintaining that
all these Jewish stories were dreams—not falsehoods, but self-deceits
more dangerous than falsehoods. He had also convinced me that the
gospels contained an unexpected multitude of errors and exaggerations
and disproportions. This I could not honestly deny. Thus the gospels
flung me back—or at least, as interpreted by Scaurus, seemed to fling me
back—from the faith to which I was just on the point of attaining through
the epistles. In my bewilderment I was no longer able to say clearly and
firmly as before, “Nevertheless the moral power of the gospel is attested
by facts that Scaurus and Arrian both admit, facts that Epictetus would
be only too glad to allege for himself—by myriads of souls converted
from vice to virtue. Does not this moral power rest on reality?”

The Christians themselves seemed to attach so much importance to “Christ
in the flesh” that I began to attach importance too. The evangelists
appeared to say, in effect, “If we cannot prove that Christ in the flesh
arose from the dead, then we admit that He has not arisen.” So they—or
rather my impression about them—led me away to say the same thing. A
few days ago, I had neither desired nor expected that Christ should be
demonstrated to have risen in the flesh. Now I said, “I fear it cannot
be proved that Christ in the flesh, that Christ’s tangible body, rose
from the dead. Nay, more, I feel that the belief in what might be called
a tangible resurrection arose from some such causes as Scaurus has
specified. So I must give up all belief.”

I ought to have waited. I ought to have asked, “All belief in _what_?”
“Belief in _what kind_ of resurrection?” Scaurus himself had casually
admitted that visions, though not presenting things tangible, might
present things real. If so, then the visions of Israel might be real,
the visions to Abraham and the patriarchs, to Moses, to the prophets.
These might be a series of lessons given to the teachers in the east
to be passed on to the learners in the west. Among the latest of these
was a vision of “one like unto a Son of man.” He was represented as
“coming” with the clouds of heaven. That was a noble vision. Yet how
much better and nobler would be a vision of the Son of man “coming”
into the hearts of men, taking possession of them, reigning in them,
establishing a kingdom of God in them! Such a Son of man had been
revealed to Paul, “defined” as “the Son of God” “from the resurrection of
the dead.” Being both God and man He brought (so Paul said) God and man
into one, imparting to all men the sense of divine sonship, the light of
righteousness and spiritual life, triumphant over spiritual darkness and
death. This is what I ought to have thought of, but did not.

Such an all-present power of divine sonship Paul seemed also to have in
view when he likened belief in the risen Saviour to the faith described
by Moses in Deuteronomy. The true believer, said Paul, is not the slave
of place, saying, “Who shall go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ
down to us from the right hand of God. Nor does he say, “Who shall go
down to the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up to us from the dead. The
word of faith is “very near.” It is “in the heart.” It says, “Believe
_with the heart_ that God raised Christ from the dead.” Such belief is
not from the “eyes” nor from the “understanding”—as if one saw with one’s
own eyes the door of the grave burst open by an angel, or heard the facts
attested in a lawcourt by a number of honest and competent eyewitnesses
incapable of being deceived and of deceiving. To say, “I believe it
because Marcus or Gaius believed it,” is to avow a belief in Marcus or
Gaius, not in Christ, unless the avower can go on to say “and because I
have felt the risen Saviour within me.”

He alone really and truly believes in the resurrection of Christ
whose belief is based on personal experience. If he has that, he can
contemplate without alarm the divergences of the gospels in their
narratives of this spiritual reality. He will understand the meaning
of Paul’s words, “It pleased God to _reveal His Son in me_”—not “to
me,” but “_in me_.” For indeed it is a revelation—not a demonstration
from the intellect and senses alone—derived from all our faculties
when enlightened by God. God draws back the veil from our fearful and
faithless hearts and gives us a convincing sense of Christ at His right
hand and in ourselves. This “conviction” is derived from no source but
the convincing Spirit of the Saviour, coming to us in various ways, and
through many instruments, but mostly through disciples whom the Saviour
loves, and who have received not only His Spirit but also the power of
imparting it to others.

All these things I knew afterwards, but not at the time I am now
describing. I had indeed already some faint conjecture of the truth,
but not such as I could put into definite words. I was defeated. In the
bitterness of defeat I exclaimed, “There is more beyond, but I cannot
reach it. I cannot even suggest it. These evangelists give me no help.
They take part with Scaurus against me. I am beaten and must surrender.”
Yet I felt vaguely that I was not fairly beaten. I was like a baffled
suitor retiring from a court of justice, crushed by a hostile verdict,
victorious in truth and equity, but beaten and mulcted of all his estate
on some point of technical law.

In this mood, sullen and sick at heart, weary of evidence and evidential
“proofs” that were no proofs, and irritated rather with the evangelists
than with Scaurus—who, after all, was doing no more than his duty in
pointing out what appeared to him historical errors—I was greatly moved
by an appeal to my love of truth with which my old friend concluded his
letter. It was to this effect.

“Well, Silanus, now I have really done. I cannot quite understand what
induced me to take up so much of my time, paper, and ink—and your time,
too, which is worse—and all to kill a dead illusion. Why do I say ‘dead’
if it was never alive? Perhaps it was once nearly alive even in my
sceptical soul. I think I have mentioned before that I, even I, have had
moments when the dream of that phantom City of Truth and Justice had
attractions for me. Perhaps I fancied it might be possible to receive
this Jewish prophet as a great teacher and philosopher—helpful for the
morals of private life at all events, even though useless for politics
and imperial affairs—apart from the extravagant claims now raised for him
by his disciples. But it is gone—this illusion—if it ever existed. The
East and the West cannot mix. If they did, their offspring would be a
portent. This Christian superstition is a mere creature of feeling, not
of reason. I do not say it has done me harm to study it. Else I would not
have sent you this letter. It is perhaps a bracing and healthful exercise
to remind ourselves now and then that things are not as we could wish
them to be, and that we must not ‘feign things like unto our prayers.’ A
truthful man must see things as they are in truth. The City of Dreams has
closed its gates against me, and I am shut out. It is warm in there. I
am occasionally cold. So be it! Theirs is the fervour of the fancy, the
comfortable warmth of the not-true. I must wrap myself in the cloak of
truth—a poor uncomfortable thing, perhaps, but (as Epictetus would say)
‘my own.’ Truth, my dear Silanus, is your own, too—that is to say, truth
to your own reason, truth to your own conscience. Never let wishes or
aspirations wrest that from you. ‘_Keep what is your own!_’”

For the time, this appeal was too strong for me. I wrote to Scaurus
briefly confessing that the City of Dreams had had attractions for me, as
well as for him, but that I had resolved to put the thought away, though
I might, perhaps, continue a little longer the study of the Christian
books, which I, too, had found very interesting. When I grew calmer, I
added a postscript, asking whether it was not possible that “feeling,” as
well as “reason,” might play a certain lawful part in the search after
truths about God. My last words were an assurance that, whereas I had
been somewhat irregular of late in my attendance at Epictetus’s lectures,
I should be quite regular in future. This indeed was my intention. As
things turned out, however, the next lecture was my last.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE LAST LECTURE


Awaking early next morning, two or three hours before lecture, I spent
the time in examining the gospels, and in particular the accounts of
Christ’s last words. So few they were in Mark and Matthew that I could
not anticipate that Luke would omit a single one of them or fail to give
them exactly. They were uttered in public and in a loud voice. According
to Mark and Matthew, they were a quotation from a Psalm, of which the
Jewish words were given similarly by the two evangelists. They added a
Greek interpretation. Luke, to my amazement, omitted both the Jewish
words and the Greek interpretation. Afterwards, Mark and Matthew said
that Jesus, in the moment of expiring, cried out again in a loud voice.
On this occasion they gave no words. But there Luke mentioned words.
Luke’s words, too, were from a Psalm, but quite different in meaning from
the words previously given by Mark and Matthew.

Still more astonished was I to find what kind of words the two earliest
evangelists wrote down as the last utterance of Christ—“My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me?” That Christ said this I could hardly believe.
Reading further, I found that some of the men on guard exclaimed “This
man calls for Elias”—because the Jewish word “Heli” or “Eli,” “my God,”
resembles the Jewish “Elias.” I wished that these men might prove true
interpreters. Then I found that, although Luke mentions neither “Eli” nor
“Elias,” he nevertheless mentions “Elios” or “Helios,” which in Greek
means “sun.” This occurred in the passage parallel to Eli or Heli. What
Luke said was that there was an “eclipse,” or “failing,” of “the sun.”
I thought then (and I think still) that Luke was glad—as a Christian
historian might well be without being at all dishonest—to find that
Mark’s “Eli” had been taken, at all events by some, not to mean “my God.”
Perhaps some version gave “Elios,” or “Helios,” “sun.” This Luke might
gladly accept. Indeed, in the genitive, which is the form used by Luke,
the word “Heliou” may mean either “of the sun” or “of Elias.”

But, on reflection, I could not find much comfort from Luke’s version.
For the difficult version seemed more likely to be true. And how could
there be an “eclipse” of the sun during Passover, when the moon was at
the full? Then I looked at the Psalm from which the words were taken, and
I noted that although it began with “Why hast thou forsaken me?” it went
on to say that God “hath not hid his face from him, but when he cried
unto him he heard him.” Also the Psalm ended in a strain of triumph,
as though this cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” would end in comfort
and strength for all the meek, so that “all the ends of the earth shall
remember and turn unto the Lord.” Nevertheless this did not satisfy me.
And even the help that I afterwards received from Clemens (about whom
I shall speak later on) left me, and still to this day leaves me, with
a sense that there is a mystery in this utterance beyond my power to
fathom, though not beyond my power to believe.

I was still engaged in these meditations when my servant brought me a
letter. It was from Arrian, informing me of the death of his father,
which would prevent him from returning to Nicopolis. He also requested
me to convey various messages to friends to whom he had not been able to
bid farewell owing to his sudden departure. In particular he enclosed a
note, which he asked me to give to Epictetus. “Add what you like,” he
said, “you can hardly add too much, about my gratitude to him. I owe
him morally more than I can express. Moreover in the official world,
where everybody knows that our Master stands well with the Emperor, it
is sometimes a sort of recommendation to have attended his lectures. And
perhaps it has helped me. At all events I have recently been placed in
a position of responsibility and authority by the Governor of Bithynia.
I like the work and hope to do it fairly well. Even the mere negative
virtue of not taking bribes goes for something, and that at least I can
claim. I am not able, and never shall be able, to be a Diogenes, going
about the province and healing the souls of men. But I try to do my duty,
and I feel an interest in getting at the truth, and judging justly among
the poor, so far as my limited time, energy and intelligence permit.

“In the towns, among the artisans and slaves, I have been surprised to
find so many of the Christians. You may remember how we talked about this
sect more than once. You thought worse of them than I did. But I don’t
think you had much more basis than the impressions of your childhood,
derived from what you heard among your servants and the common people in
Rome. I have seen a great deal of them lately and have been impressed by
the high average of their morality, industry, and charity to one another.

“You never see a Christian begging. What is more, they set their faces
against the exposing of children. I have often thought that our law is
very defective in this respect. We will not let a father strangle his
infant son, but we let him kill it by cold, starvation, or wild beasts.
Every such death is the loss of a possible soldier to the state. It
is a great mistake politically, and I am not sure whether it is right
morally. When I first came to Nicopolis I used to hear it said that our
Epictetus—one of the kindest of men I verily believe—once adopted a baby
that was on the point of being exposed by one of his friends, got a nurse
for it, and put himself to a lot of trouble. I sometimes wonder why he
did not first give his friend the money to find a nurse and food for the
baby, and then give him a good sharp reprimand for his inhumanity. For
I call it inhuman. But I never heard Epictetus say a word against this
practice. The Jews as well as the Christians condemn it. Perhaps the
latter, in this point, merely followed the former; but in most points the
Christians seem to me superior to the Jews.

“I am proud to call myself a philosopher, and perhaps I should be prouder
than Epictetus would like if I could call myself a Roman citizen; but
I am free to confess that there are points in which philosophers and
Romans could learn something from these despised followers of Christus.
_Fas est et a Christiano doceri._ I have been more impressed than I
can easily explain to you on paper by the behaviour of this strangely
superstitious sect. There is a strenuous fervour in their goodness—I mean
in the Christians, I am not now speaking of the Jews—which I don’t find
in my own attempts at goodness. I am, at best, only a second-class Cynic,
devoid of fervour.

“You may say, like an orthodox scholar of Epictetus, ‘Let them keep
their fervour and leave me calmness.’ But these men have both. They
can be seasonably fervid and seasonably calm. I have heard many true
stories of their behaviour in the last persecution. Go into one of
their synagogues and you may hear their priest—or rather prophet, for
priests they have none—thundering and lightening as though he held the
thunderbolts of Zeus. Order the fellow off for scourging or execution,
and he straightway becomes serenity itself. Not Epictetus could be more
serene. Indeed, where an Epictetian would ‘make himself a stone’ under
stripes and say, ‘They are nothing to me,’ a Christian would rejoice to
bear them ‘for the sake of Christus.’ And even Epictetus, I think, could
not reach the warmth, the glow, of their affection for each other. I am
devoutly thankful that I did not occupy my present office under Pliny. It
has never been my fate to scourge, rack, torture, or kill, one of these
honest, simple, excellent creatures, whose only fault is what Epictetus
would call their ‘_dogma_’ or conviction—surely such a ‘dogma’ as an
emperor might almost think it well to encourage among the uneducated
classes, in view of its excellent results. Farewell, and be ever my
friend.”

The third hour had almost arrived and I had to hasten to the lecture-room
taking with me the note addressed to Epictetus. All the way, I could
think of nothing but the contrast between what Arrian had said about
the Christians, and what Mark and Matthew had said about Christ’s last
words—the servants tranquil, steadfast, rejoicing in persecution; their
Master crying “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It perplexed
me beyond measure.

In this bewilderment, I took my accustomed place beside Glaucus, who
greeted me with even more than his usual warmth. He seemed strangely
altered. It was no new thing for him to look worn and haggard. But to-day
there was a strange wildness in his eyes. Absorbed though I was in my
own thoughts, I could not help noticing this as I sat down, just before
Epictetus began.

The lecture was of a discursive kind but might be roughly divided into
two parts, one adapted for the first class of Cynics, those who aspired
to teach; the other for the second class, those who were content to
practise. The first class Epictetus cautioned against expecting too much.
No man, he said, not even the best of Cynic teachers, could control the
will of another. Socrates himself could not persuade his own son. It was
rather with the view of satisfying his own nature, than of moving other
men’s nature, that Socrates taught. Apollo himself, he said, uttered
oracles in the same way. I believe he also repeated—what I have recorded
before—that Socrates “did not persuade one in a thousand” of those whom
he tried to persuade.

I remembered a similar avowal in Isaiah when the prophet declares that
his message is “Hear ye indeed, but understand not”; and this, or
something like it, was repeated by Jesus and Paul. But Isaiah says,
“Lord, how long?” And the reply is that the failure will not be for ever.
In the Jewish utterances, there was more pain but also more hope. I
preferred them. Nor could I help recalling Paul’s reiterated assertions
that everywhere the message of the gospel was a “power,”—sometimes indeed
for evil, to those that hardened themselves against it, but more often
for good—constraining, taking captive, leading in triumph, and destined
in the end to make all things subject to the Son of God. Compared with
this, our Master’s doctrine seemed very cold.

In the next place, Epictetus addressed himself to the larger and lower
class of Cynics, those who were beginning, or who aspired only to the
passive life. These he exhorted to set their thoughts on what was their
own, on their own advantage or profit—of course interpreting profit in
a philosophic sense as being virtue, which is its own reward and is the
most profitable thing for every man. It was all, in a sense, very true,
but again I felt that it was chilling. It seemed to send me down into
myself, groping in the cellars of my own nature, instead of helping
me to look up to the sun. Most of it was more or less familiar; and
there was one saying that I have quoted above, to the effect that the
universe is “badly managed if Zeus does not take care of each one of His
own citizens in order that they like Him may be divinely happy.” Now I
knew that Epictetus did not use the word _eudæmon_, or divinely happy,
referring to the next life, for he did not believe that a “citizen of
Zeus” would continue to exist, except as parts of the four elements, in
a future life. He meant “in this life.” And if anyone in this life felt
unhappy—more particularly, if he “wept”—that was a sign, according to
Epictetus, that he was not a “citizen of Zeus.” For he declared that
Ulysses, if he wept and bewailed his separation from his home and wife—as
Homer says he did—“was not good.” So it came to this, that no man must
weep or lament in earnest for any cause, either for the sins or sorrows
of others, or for his own, on pain of forfeiting his franchise in the
City of Zeus. I had read in the Hebrew scriptures how Noah, and Lot,
and others of the “citizens of God,” lived alone amongst multitudes of
sinners; but they, and the prophets too, seemed to be afflicted by the
sins around them. Also Jesus said in the gospels, “O sinful and perverse
generation! How long shall I be with you and bear you!” as though it were
a burden to him. And I had come to feel that every good man must in some
sense bear the sins and carry the iniquities of his neighbours—especially
those of his own household, and his own flesh and blood. So I flinched
from these expressions of Epictetus, although I knew that they were quite
consistent with his philosophy.

Glaucus, I could clearly see, resented them even more than I did. He was
very liable to sudden emotions, and very quick to shew them. Just now
he seemed unusually agitated. He was writing at a great pace, but not (I
thought) notes of the lecture. When Epictetus proceeded to warn us that
we must not expect to attain at once this perfection of happiness and
peace, but that we must practise our precepts and wait, Glaucus stopped
his writing for a moment to scrawl something on a piece of paper. He
pushed it toward me, and I read “_Rusticus expectat_.” I remembered that
he had replied to me in this phrase when I had given him some advice
about “waiting patiently,” saying that all would “come right,” or words
to that effect. I did not now feel that I could say, “All will come
right.” Perhaps my glance in answer to Glaucus expressed this. But he
said nothing, merely continuing his writing, still in great excitement.

Epictetus proceeded to repeat that “pity” must be rejected as a fault.
The philosopher may of course love people, but he must love them as
Diogenes did. This ideal did not attract me, though he called Diogenes
“mild.” The Cynic, he said, is not really to weep for the dead, or with
those sorrowing for the dead. That is to say, he is not to weep “_from
within_.” This was his phrase. Perhaps he meant that, although in the
antechamber and even in some inner chambers of the soul there may be
tearful grief, and sorrow, and bitterness of heart, yet in the inmost
chamber of all there must be peace and trust. But he did not say this. He
said just what I have set down above. At the words “_not from within_,”
Glaucus got up and began to collect his papers, as though intending to
leave the room. The next moment, however, he sat down and went on writing.

The lecture now turned to the subject of “distress”—which interested me
all the more because I had noticed in the morning that Luke had described
Christ as being “in distress” when he prayed fervently in the night
before the crucifixion. But it seemed to me that Luke and Epictetus were
using the same word for two distinct things. Epictetus meant “distress”
about things not in our power, and among these things he included the
sins of our friends and neighbours. But Luke seemed to mean “distress”
about things in Christ’s power, because (according to Luke’s belief)
Christ had a power of bearing the sins of others. If so, Luke did not
mean what Epictetus meant, namely, nervous, faithless, and timid worry or
terror, but rather an _agōn_, or conflict, of the mind, corresponding to
the _agōn_, or conflict, of the body when one is wrestling with an enemy,
as Jacob was said by the Hebrews to have wrestled with a spirit in Penuel.

At this point, after repeating what I had heard him say before,
concerning the grace and dexterity with which Socrates “played at ball”
in his last moments—the ball being his life and his family—Epictetus
passed on to emphasize the duty of the philosopher to preserve his peace
of mind even at the cost of detaching himself from those nearest and
dearest to him. Suppose, for example, you are alarmed by portents of
evil, you must say to yourself “These portents threaten my body, or my
goods, or my reputation, or my children, or my wife; but they do not
threaten _me_.” Then he insisted on the necessity of placing “the supreme
good” above all ties of kindred. “I have nothing to do,” he exclaimed,
“with my father, but only with the supreme good.” Scarcely waiting for
him to finish his sentence, Glaucus rose from his seat, pressed some
folded papers into my hand, and left the room.

I think Epictetus saw him go. At all events, he immediately put
himself, as it were, in Glaucus’s place, as though uttering just such
a remonstrance as Glaucus would have liked to utter, “Are you so hard
hearted?” To this Epictetus replied in his own person, “Nay, I have
been framed by Nature thus. God has given me this coinage.” What our
Master really meant was, that God has ordained that men should part with
everything at the price of duty and virtue. “Duty” or “virtue” is to be
the “_coin_” in exchange for which we must be ready to sell everything,
even at the risk of disobeying a father. A father may bid his son betray
his country that he, the father, may gain ten thousand sesterces. In
such a case the son ought to reply—as Epictetus said—“Am I to neglect my
supreme good that you may have it [_i.e._ what you consider your supreme
good]? Am I to make way for you? What for?” “I am your father,” says the
father. “Yes, but you are not my supreme good.” “I am your brother,”
says the brother. “Yes, but you are not my supreme good.”

All this (I thought) was very moral in intention, but might it not have
been put differently—“Father, I must needs disobey you for your sake as
well as mine,” “Brother, you are going the way to dishonour yourself
as well as me”? Glaucus could not have taken offence at that. However,
this occasional austerity was characteristic of our Teacher. Perhaps it
was an ingredient in his honesty. He liked to put things sometimes in
their very hardest shape, as though to let his pupils see how very cold,
reasonable, definite, and solid his philosophy was, how self-interested,
how calculating, always looking at profit! Yet, in reality, he had no
thought for what the world calls profit. His eyes were fixed on the glory
of God. This alone was _his_ profit and _his_ gain. But unless we were as
God-absorbed as he was—and which of us could boast that?—it was almost
certain that we should to some degree misunderstand him. Just now, he was
in one of these detached—one might almost call them “non-human”—moods.

A few moments ago, I had been sorry that Glaucus went out. But I ceased
to regret it when I heard what followed. It was in a contrast between
Socrates and the heroes of tragedy, or rather the victims of calamity.
We must learn, he said, to exterminate from life the tragic phrases,
“Alas!” “Woe is me!” “Me miserable!” We must learn to say with Socrates,
on the point of drinking the hemlock, “My dear Crito, if this way is
God’s will, this way let it be!” and not, “Miserable me! Aged as I am,
to what wretchedness have I brought my grey hairs!” Then he asked, “Who
says this? Do you suppose it is someone in a mean or ignoble station?
Is it not Priam? Is it not Œdipus? Is it not the whole class of kings?
What else is tragedy except the passionate words and acts and sufferings
of human beings given up to a stupid and adoring wonder at external
things—sufferings set forth in metre!”

This seemed to me gratuitously cruel. If ever human being deserved pity,
was it not the poor babe Œdipus, predestined even before birth to evil,
cast out to die on Mount Cithaeron, but rescued by the cruel kindness
of a stranger—to kill his own father, to marry his own mother, to beget
children that were his brothers and sisters, and to die, an exile, in
self-inflicted blindness, bequeathing his evil fate to guilty sons and
a guiltless daughter! But Epictetus would not let Œdipus alone: “It is
among the rich, the kings, and the despots, that tragedies find place. No
poor man fills a tragic part except as one of the chorus. But the kings
begin with prosperity, commanding their subjects (like Œdipus) to fix
garlands on their houses in joy and thankfulness to the Gods. Then, about
the third or fourth act, comes ‘Alas, Cithaeron, why didst thou receive
and shelter me?’ Poor, servile wretch, where are your crowns now? Where
is your royal diadem? Cannot your guards assist you?”

All this was in stage-play, the agony of the king and the scoffing of
the philosopher so life-like as to be quite painful—at least to me.
Then Epictetus turned to us in his own person: “Well, then, in the act
of approaching one of these great people, remember this, that you are
going to a tragedian. By ‘_tragedian_’ I do not mean an _actor_, but a
_tragic person_, Œdipus himself. But perhaps you say to me ‘Yes, but
such and such a lord or ruler may be called blessed. For he walks with a
multitude’”—of slaves, he meant—“‘around him.’ See, then! I too go and
place myself in company with that multitude. Do not I also ‘walk with a
multitude’? But to sum up. Remember that the door is always open. Do not
be more cowardly than the children. When they cease to take pleasure in
their game, they cry at once ‘I will not play any more.’ So you, too, as
soon as things appear to you to point to that conclusion, say, ‘I will
not play any more.’ And be off. Or, if you stay, don’t keep complaining.”

This was the end of the lecture, and I felt gladder than ever that
Glaucus had gone; for he seemed to me to have been just in the mood to
take to heart that last suggestion, “The door is always open.” I hastened
to his rooms, but he was not there. I found however that he was expected
back soon, for he was making preparations for a journey. Leaving word
that I should call again in an hour, I determined to use the interval to
leave Arrian’s note with Epictetus.

The Master was disengaged and gave me a most kindly welcome, asking
with manifest interest about Arrian and his prospects, and giving me
to understand that he had heard of me, too, from Arrian and others.
His countenance always expressed vigour, but on this occasion it had
even more than its usual glow. Perhaps he was a little flushed with
the exertion of his lecture. Perhaps he was glad to hear that at least
one pupil, likely to do good work in the world, was remembering him
gratefully in Bithynia. Possibly he thought another such pupil stood
before him. I had never seen him close, face to face. Now I felt strongly
drawn towards him, but not quite as pupil to master. From the moment
of leaving the lecture-room that day, I had been repeating, “Alas,
Cithaeron, why didst thou receive and preserve me?” Poor Œdipus! He
seemed to sum up the cry of myriads of mortals predestined to misery. And
what gospel had my Master for them? Nothing but mockery, “Poor, servile
wretches!”

Yet I had felt almost sure, even from the first utterance of the cruel
words, that he had not intended to be cruel. Now, as I stood looking down
into his face and he up at mine, some kind of subtle fellowship seemed
to spring up between us. At least I felt it in myself and thought I saw
it in him. And it grew stronger as we conversed. I rapidly recalled the
reproach he had just now addressed to himself in his lecture, as coming
from one of his pupils, “Are you so hard hearted?” At the moment I had
asked “Could it possibly be true?” Now I knew it was not true. Certainly
he had been absorbed in God. His God was not the God of Christ. It was
a Being of Goodness of some sort, but impersonal, an Alone, not a real
Father. Such as it was, however, Epictetus had been absorbed in it. He
motioned to me to be seated, and began to question me about friends of
his in Rome.

I was on the point of replying, when the door burst open and Glaucus
suddenly rushed in, beside himself with fury. Striding straight up to
Epictetus, he began pouring forth a tale of wrongs, treacheries, outrages
and malignities, perpetrated on his family in Corinth. He took no notice
of my presence, and I doubt whether he was even aware of it, as he burst
out into passionate reproaches on our Master for teaching that a son must
witness such sufferings in a father or mother, brother or sister, and
say, “These evils are no evils to me.”

It would serve no useful purpose, nor should I be able, to set down
exactly what Glaucus said. Let it suffice that he had only too much
reason for burning indignation against certain miscreants in Corinth. He
had only that morning received news—which had been kept back from him by
treachery—that cruel and powerful enemies had brought ruin, desolation,
and disgrace upon his family. His father had been suddenly imprisoned on
false charges, his sister had been shamefully humiliated, and his mother
had died of a broken heart. “Epictetus,” he cried, “do you hear this? Or
do you make yourself a stone to me, as you bid us make ourselves stones
when men smite us and revile us? Do you still assert that there are no
evils except to the evil-minded? By Zeus in heaven, if there is a Zeus
and if there is a heaven, I would sooner torture myself like a Sabazian,
or be crucified like a Christian, or writhe with Ixion in hell, that I
might at least cry out in the hearing of Gods and men, ‘These things
_are_ evil, they _are_, they _are_,’ than be transported to the side of
the throne above with you, looking down on the things that have befallen
my father, mother, and sister, and repeating my Epictetian catechism, _I
am in perfect bliss and blessedness; these things are no evils to me_!
O man, man, are you a hypocrite, or are you indeed a stone?” So saying,
without waiting for a word of reply, he rushed from the room.

I went with him. I was not sure—nor am I now—whether Epictetus wished me
to stay or to go. But I thought Glaucus needed me most. My heart went
out to him when I heard for the first time how shamefully he had been
deceived and how cruelly his family had been outraged, and I did not
know what he might do in his despair. Besides, if I had stayed, could
Epictetus have helped me to help my friend? What would his helping have
been? It could have been nothing more—if he had been consistent—than to
repeat for the thousandth time that Glaucus’s “trouble,” and my “trouble”
for Glaucus’s sake, were mere _dogmas_, or “convictions,” and that
our “convictions” were wrong and must be given up. Would he have been
consistent? Would he have said these things?

To this day I cannot tell. As I followed Glaucus out of the room, while
in the act of turning round to close the door, I had my Master at a
disadvantage. I saw him, but he did not see me. His head was drooping.
The light was gone from his face; the eyes were lacking their usual
lustre; the forehead was drawn as if in pain. It was no longer Epictetus
the God-absorbed, but Epictetus the God-abandoned. If I had turned to
him with a reproach, “Epictetus, you are breaking your own rule. You
are sorrowing, sorrowing in earnest,” would he have replied, “No, only
in appearance, not _from within_”? I do not think he would. He was too
honest. To this day I verily believe that for once, at least for that
once, our Master broke his own rule and felt real “_trouble_.” And I love
him the better for it. That indeed is how I always like to remember his
face—as I saw it for the last time, not knowing that it was the last,
through the closing door—clouded with real grief, while I was leaving
him for ever without farewell, never trusting so little in his teaching,
never loving the teacher so much.



CHAPTER XXIX

SILANUS MEETS CLEMENS


We walked on together, both of us silent, till we came to Glaucus’s
rooms. “Farewell,” said he. I replied that I would come in to see whether
I could help him to make arrangements for his journey. He said nothing,
but suffered me to enter. For some time I busied myself with practical
matters. So did Glaucus. But every now and then he stopped, and sat down
as though dazed. I questioned him about his journey and time of starting.
Finding that only two or three hours remained, I urged him to rouse
himself. “It will be of no use,” he said, “but you are right.” Then he
exclaimed bitterly, “Am I not obeying Epictetus? Am I not making myself
a stone?” “Not quite,” said I, “for a stone feels nothing. You are worse
than a stone. For you feel much, yet do nothing to help those for whom
you feel.” “Thank you for that,” said he. Then he roused himself. He did
injustice to Epictetus, yet I perceived, as never before, how harmful
this “stone-doctrine”—if I may so call it—might prove to many people.

I have no space, nor have I the right, to describe more fully Glaucus’s
private affairs, the courage, affection, and steadfastness with which he
bore the burdens of his family and saved his father and sister from their
worst extremity. His course was different from Arrian’s. Arrian remained
outside the fold. Glaucus found peace as I did. And I know that many
a suffering soul in Corinth suffered the less because Glaucus, having
experienced such a weight of sorrow himself, had learned the secret of
lightening it for others. He died young, thirty years ago, but he lived
long enough to “fight the good fight.”

Our last words together, as he was in the act of departing, I remember
well: “What was that you said to me, Silanus, about waiting and having
one’s strength renewed?” It was from Isaiah. I repeated it. Then I
added, “But I spoke the words, I fear, because I had once felt them
to be true. I did not quite feel them to be true at the moment when I
repeated them to you. Perhaps I was not quite honest, or at least not
quite frank.” “Then you don’t hold to them now?” said he. “God knows,”
said I. “Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. For the most part I think I
do. I believe that there is good beneath all the evil, if only we could
see it, or at least good in the end, good far off.” “Then” replied he,
“you believe, perhaps, in a good God?” “I hope I may hereafter believe,”
said I, “nay, I am almost certain I believe in a good God now. But, if I
do, it is in a God that is fighting against evil, a God that may perhaps
share in our afflictions and in our troubles.” “What?” said he, “you,
a pupil of Epictetus, believe that God Himself can be troubled! Then
of course you believe that a good man may be troubled?” “Indeed I do,”
said I. “At least I half believe it about God, and wholly about man.”
“Then you think I have a right to be troubled. You are a heretic.” “We
are heretics together,” said I. “You have a right to be troubled, and I
to be troubled with you.” “Thank you, and thank the Gods, for that at
least!” said he. “Do you know,” said I, “that I am certain that Epictetus
felt troubled too, for your sake? I saw him when he did not see me, as I
was leaving the room; and I could not be mistaken.” “Ah!” said Glaucus,
drawing in his breath. Then suddenly, as we were clasping hands in our
last farewell, he added “Do not think too much about those scrawls!” And
before I had time to ask his meaning, he had ridden away.

Returning to my rooms, I put away my lecture-notes and took out the
gospels. But I could not read, and longed to be in the fresh air. As
I rose from my seat to go out, my first thought was, “I will take no
books with me.” But Mark happened to be in my hand, the smallest of the
gospels. “This,” I said, “will be no weight.” But it weighed a great deal
in the rest of my life, as the reader will soon see.

Before long, unconsciously seeking familiar solitudes, I found myself on
the way to the little coppice where some days ago I had seen Hesperus
above the departed sun, and Isaiah had shed on me the influence of his
promise of peace. “Now,” said I sadly to myself, “I have with me a book
that calls itself the fulfilment of that promise. But it fulfils nothing
for me.” As I spoke, and drew the book from the folds of my garment,
several pieces of paper fell on the ground. When I picked them up, I
found—what I had completely forgotten—Glaucus’s “scrawls.” I thought they
would contain some requests to perform commissions for him in Nicopolis,
or to convey messages to friends, and that he might have written these
in the lecture-room when he expected to hear news that might call him
suddenly away. But they were something quite different. The first that I
opened was entitled “A Postscript,” written in verse, rallying me upon my
advice about “waiting.” It shewed me how Glaucus, too, had been affected,
not only by the lecture that drove him from the room, but also by that
saying of Epictetus concerning Zeus (“He would have if he could have”)
which had disturbed me so much. It was wildly written as Glaucus himself
confessed: but I will give it here, because—besides being a rebuke to me,
and to all teachers that preach a gospel they do not feel—it shews how
Epictetus himself, the perfection of honesty, stirred up in an honest
and truthful pupil questionings and doubts that he could not satisfy or
silence:

    _POSTSCRIPT._

    _If you, my Silanus_
    _(Who think hopelessness heinous,_
    _And lectured me lately_
    _So sweetly, sedately._
    _Discussing, dilating,_
    _I will not say “prating,”_
    _On the great use of waiting,_
    _You, whom I respected_
    _But never suspected,_
    _Never, no never,_
    _Of being so clever)_
    _Would but do your endeavour_
    _To find more rhymes for “ever,”_
    _Then cease would I never_
    _But rhyme on for ever,_
    _Like that horrible lecture,_
    _Our Master’s conjecture,_
    _About Zeus, a kind creature,_
    _Whose principal feature_
    _Was his frankly regretting_
    _That the Fates keep upsetting,_
    _By their cruel preventions,_
    _His noble intentions;_
    _“’Tis not that I would not,_
    _But I could not, I could not,”_
    _So said Zeus in a lecture_
    _Our Master’s conjecture._

    _P.S. Mad, isn’t it? But isn’t the lecture madder?_

    _P.P.S. I do hope and trust the Master is mad. I must go out._

The larger “scrawl” touched me more nearly because it condemned those who
indulge in “self-deceiving” and “call it believing”—a thing that Scaurus
dreaded, and taught me to dread; and I was in special dread of it at that
time. I have been in doubt whether to give this in full. But I am sure
Glaucus, now in peace, would not take it amiss that his wild words of
trouble should be recorded if they may help others who have lost peace
for a time. So I give it to the reader just as Glaucus gave it to me.
Outside was written, in large letters, “RUSTICUS EXPECTAT.” Before the
verses came a letter in prose as follows:

    _Rusticus sends greeting to Silanus._

    _I am scrawling you a little poem, Silanus, to distract myself
    from this accursed lecture, lest Epictetus should make me
    absolutely sick with his nauseating stuff about the duty of
    sons not to be troubled by the troubles of their parents. Some
    days ago you gave me some edifying advice. Here is the answer
    to it—a little drama._

    _Dramatis personae only two:—(1) Rusticus, for shortness called
    Hodge, i.e. Glaucus the Rustic, or perhaps Glaucus persuaded by
    Silanus, so that Glauco-Silanus is the true Rustic, unless you
    like to take the rôle entirely for yourself. Anyhow Hodge is
    a great fool; (2) The River, i.e. Destiny, alias Fate, alias
    Zeus, alias the God of Epictetus, alias the Whirlpool of the
    All, alias Nothing in Particular._

    _The metre is appropriate to the subject matter, i.e.
    whirlpooly, eddyish, chaotic. There is no villain. The River
    would be if it could. But it can’t—not being able to help being
    what it is—like Zeus, you know, who said in our lecture-room
    recently, “I would if I could but I couldn’t.” Hodge starves or
    drowns. This should make a tragedy. But he is such a fool that
    he turns it into a comedy—for the amusement of the Gods. They
    are intensely amused—which perhaps should turn the thing back
    again into a tragedy. Comedy or tragedy? Or tragicomedy? Or
    burlesque? I give it up. The one thing certain is, Chaos!_

        _RUSTICUS EXPECTAT._

        _Hodge sits by the river_
        _Awaiting, awaiting._
        _Across he is going_
        _If it will but stop flowing._
        _But when? There’s no knowing._
        _He dare not try swimming_
        _In those waves full and brimming._
        _On foot there’s no going,_
        _And there’s no chance of rowing._
        _So there he sits blinking_
        _And calling it “thinking”!_
        _God nor man can deliver_
        _His soul from that river,_
        _But Hodge won’t believe it_
        _His soul can’t receive it!_
        _Himself he’s deceiving,_
        _But he styles it “believing”!_
        _So this simpleton artless_
        _To a THING that is heartless_
        _Prays!—yes, takes to praying_
        _In the hope of its staying_
        _His soul to deliver:_
        _“Good river, kind river,_
        _Across I’d be going_
        _If you would but stop flowing_
        _Stay! pity my moping!_
        _I’m hoping, I’m hoping_
        _That you won’t flow for ever._
        _Oh, say, will you never_
        _Cease flowing, cease flowing?_
        _Across I’d be going,_
        _Rest! Flow not for ever!”_
        _Says the river, deep river:_
        _“I care not a stiver_
        _For all your long waiting_
        _And praying and prating_
        _And whining and pining_
        _And hoping and moping._
        _Wait, if you like waiting,_
        _Prate, if you like prating,_
        _Pray, if you like praying,_
        _But think not I’m staying,_
        _Dream not I’m delaying_
        _For a man and his praying,_
        _For his smiling or frowning,_
        _His swimming or drowning._
        _Hope, if you’re for hoping,_
        _Mope, if you’re for moping,_
        _I’m not made for consoling_
        _But for rolling and rolling_
                        _For ever._
        _Time’s stream none can sever._
        _Then cease your endeavour_
        _Your soul to deliver_
        _By coaxing the river._
        _Cease shall I never_
        _But flow on for ever_
                        _FOR EVER.”_

I was walking slowly onward, with the paper in my hand, my eyes bent on
the ground. Suddenly a shadow, and a courteous salutation, made me aware
that a stranger had met me and was passing by. Surprised and startled, I
recovered myself after a moment and turned round to answer his greeting.
He, too, turned, a man past threescore as I guessed, but vigorous, erect,
with a dignity of carriage that appeared at the first glance. He bowed
and passed on. The face reminded me of someone, but I could not think
who it was. I turned again to Glaucus’s paper. “Don’t think too much of
those scrawls” had been his last words. But how could I help thinking of
them? How many myriads were in the same case! The myriads did not say
what Glaucus said. But how many of them felt it! They had not suffered
perhaps as he had, but they had suffered enough—crushed, maimed,
forsaken!

Yes, FORSAKEN! As I uttered the word aloud, there came back to me both
the face of the stranger and the face like his, the face that I had not
been able to recall. I had been thinking of old Hermas, whom I had seen
as a child of five or six and had never forgotten. Scaurus’s letters had
recently brought him back to my memory again and again, depicting him
just as I remembered him, and suggesting to me all sorts of new questions
as to the mystery that lay behind those quiet eyes and that strong gentle
look, which even in my childhood had left on me an indelible impression.
I had been asking myself, What was the secret of it? Now I knew. Hermas
was _not_ “_forsaken_.” And this man, the man I had just met, he too
looked _not_ “_forsaken_.” “Yet I wonder,” said I, “what that stranger
would think if Hermas were to invite him to worship a Son of God whose
last words to the Father were, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ Epictetus,
I know, would declare that the words expressed an absolute collapse of
faith. How would old Hermas explain them? And what would Scaurus say if
I confessed that I found no God anywhere in heaven or earth to whom my
heart was so drawn as this ‘forsaken’ Christ? What would the Psalmist
say if I used his words thus, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there
is none on earth that I should desire in comparison with thee, O, thou
FORSAKEN SON OF GOD!’”

By this time I had reached the wood. Pacing up and down, full of
distracting thoughts, I came on the place where I had had my first vision
of peace. There, tired out in body and mind, I threw myself down to rest.
Presently, feeling in the folds of my garment for the gospel of Mark,
I could not find it. Yet I had felt it when I first drew out Glaucus’s
paper. There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps as exactly as
possible in the hope of hitting on the place where I must have dropped
it. But I had not gone a hundred paces before I heard a rustling in the
bushes, and the tall stranger reappeared and a second time saluted me.

I returned his salutation. Then we were both silent. Nothing was in
his hand, yet I felt sure that he had found my book, and I waited for
him to speak. But a moment’s reflection shewed me his difficulty. Was
he, a stranger, to ask a Roman knight whether he had dropped one of the
religious books of a proscribed superstition? It was for me, if for
either, to begin. I liked the stranger’s look even better than before
and felt that he could be trusted; so I told him of my loss. He at once
placed the volume in my hands saying that he had come back to restore
it, believing me to be the owner. I thanked him heartily. He replied
that I was welcome, then waited a moment or two, as though to allow me
to say more if I pleased. I stood silent, wanting to speak, but as it
were tongue-bound—not so much afraid as ashamed. At last, I stammered
out something about the wood and its distance from Nicopolis. He smiled
as though he understood my embarrassment. Then he repeated that I was
welcome and moved away.

I had suffered him to go a dozen paces when a voice said within me, “Why
do you let him go? Scaurus let Hermas go and repented it. You said that
this man did not look ‘forsaken.’ Why do you let him ‘forsake’ you? Why
do you make yourself ‘forsaken’? Perhaps he can help you.” I called
him back. “Sir,” said I, “pardon me one question. Doubtless you looked
at this roll to find some clue to its owner?” “I did,” he replied. “I
am interested,” said I, “in this little book”⸺. Then I paused. I had
grown into the habit of adding—in writing to Flaccus, to Scaurus, and in
speaking to myself too—“from a literary point of view,” “as a historical
investigation,” and so on. But now I could not say such things. In
the first place, they would not be true. In the second place, I knew
instinctively that the man would know that they were not true. Moreover
I had a presentiment that he was to be to me what Hermas had almost been
to Scaurus. On the other hand, had I the right to ask a perfect stranger
whether he had studied a Christian gospel? He read my thoughts. “You
desire,” he said, “to ask me something more. Am I acquainted with this
book? That, I think, is your question? If so, I say, ‘Yes’.” “There
are,” said I, very slowly, and almost as if the words were drawn out of
me by force, “some few things that I greatly admire and many things that
greatly perplex me, in this little book. I think I might understand some
of the latter, had I some guidance.” “I am but a poor guide,” he replied.
“Nevertheless, if it is your will, I am quite willing. I have an hour’s
leisure. Then I must go on my business. Shall we sit down here?”

So we sat down, and I began to question him about Mark and the other
gospels. But before I describe our conversation, I must remind my readers
that at that time, forty-five years ago, in the second year of Hadrian,
the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, were not regarded as on the
same level as scripture, nor as entirely different from other writings
composed by pious Christians such as, for example, the epistle of Clemens
Romanus to the Corinthians. No doubt, some Christians, even at that date,
were disposed to rank the three gospels by themselves as superior to all
others past or future; and some of them may have asserted that the number
three was, as it were, predicted in the Law. For Moses said, “Out of
the mouth of two witnesses” (that might be Mark and Matthew) “or three
witnesses” (that would include Luke) “shall every word be established.”
But if they spoke thus, I do not know of it.

On the contrary, I have heard, that about the very time of our
conversation, that is in the second year of Hadrian, there were
traditions about Mark (current in the neighbourhood of Ephesus) placing
him on a very much lower level than the Hebrew prophets. Some used to
accuse him (as I have confessed above that I was perhaps too prone to
do) of being disproportioned and lengthy in unimportant detail. An Elder
near Ephesus defended Mark. He laid the blame on the necessities of the
case, saying that Mark recorded what he had heard from Peter, and that
Peter adapted his teachings to the needs of the moment, so that “Mark
committed no error” in writing some things as he did. Whether this Elder
was right or wrong, his words shewed that neither he, defending Mark,
nor his opponents, attacking Mark, regarded the evangelist as perfect.
Indeed his gospel was generally underrated, being placed far below that
of Matthew and Luke, because people did not perceive that Mark often
contained the account that was the truest—although expressed obscurely or
in such a way as to cause some to stumble.

At that time it would have been thought profane to put Mark or Luke
on the same level with Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah and the
prophets, to whom “the word of the Lord” is said to have “come.” Luke
never says, “The word of the Lord came to me,” but, in effect, this: “I
have traced things back carefully and accurately, and have thought it
well to set them forth in chronological order.” Matthew, as being an
apostle, might have been placed on a different footing. But as he wrote
in Hebrew, and his gospel was circulated in Greek, it was not thought
that we had the very words of the apostle. Moreover Matthew’s words often
differed in such a way from Luke’s, that even a child could perceive that
two writers were describing the same words of the Lord in two different
versions, so that both could not be exactly correct. And, very often,
Luke’s version appeared better than Matthew’s.

Yet even in the reign of Trajan there had perhaps been springing up
among a few people the belief that the three gospels above-mentioned
were not only superior to others then extant but also to others that
might hereafter be written. These men thought that Luke had said the last
word on the things that were to be believed, correcting what was obscure
in Mark and adding what was wanting. Perhaps it was natural that those
who thus favoured Luke’s gospel should be for a time averse to a fourth
gospel. I believe that my friend Justin of Samaria, who suffered as a
martyr in this very year in which I am now writing, always retained a
prejudice of this kind, favouring the three gospels, and especially Luke.
Even though he could not sometimes avoid using some of the traditions
that had found a place in the fourth gospel, he disliked to quote it
as a gospel, and, as far as I know, never did quote it verbally in his
writings.

On the other hand, some of the younger brethren now go into the opposite
extreme, and maintain, not only that the fourth gospel is to be accepted,
but also that the number four was, as it were, predestined. This seems
to me as unreasonable as it would have been to maintain, in Trajan’s
time, that the gospels must be three because of the “three witnesses”
prescribed by Moses on earth, and the three in heaven (the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit) and the three angels that visited Abraham,
and so on. Yet I have actually heard the teacher Irenæus—the young man
about whom I spoke above—asserting that the gospels must needs be four to
correspond with the four quarters of the globe, the four elements, the
four living creatures in Ezekiel, and other quadruplicities.

However, I thank God that, when I was a young man, no such
stumbling-block as this lay between me and my Saviour. Nor was any such
belief in the necessity of four gospels entertained by my new friend
Clemens—for that was his name, though he was not a Roman but an Athenian.
He had long accepted the three gospels as containing the truth about
Christ and about His constraining love. Recently, he had accepted the
fourth gospel as also containing the same truth. But he neither believed
nor expected me to believe that every word in these four writings was so
inspired as to convey the unmixed truth. It was in these circumstances
and with these preconceptions—or perhaps I should rather say freedom from
preconceptions—that Clemens and I began our conversation.



CHAPTER XXX

SILANUS CONVERSES WITH CLEMENS


I explained to Clemens that I had been attending the lectures of
Epictetus. He had taught us, I said, to neglect external things, and to
value virtue, as being placed by God in our own power and a possession
open to all. “This,” said I, “has strengthened me—this and the influence
of his character—in the determination to lead a life above the mere
pleasures of the flesh. But, on the other hand, Epictetus teaches us that
we are never to be troubled, not even by the troubles or misdoings of
those nearest and dearest to us. We are to say, ‘These things are nothing
to us’.” I then explained to Clemens how this doctrine had repelled me,
and how I had been led by an accident to study the letters of Paul, in
which I found a very different doctrine.

“Paul,” said I, “counts many external things as evil, and especially
the errors and transgressions of his converts. These he feels as evils
and pains to himself. Yet he always seems hopeful and helpful, full of
strength both for himself and for others. I have felt drawn towards him,
and, through him, to the prophet Jesus, or Christ, whom he calls Son of
God. Paul speaks of himself as led towards this Jesus by a ‘constraining
love’ filling the heart with joy and peace. I have felt something of
this, or at least have felt the possibility of it. In my childhood,
‘Christus’ was called one of the vilest of the vile, and I believed
it. Now I have come to regard him as—I know not what. Just now I said
‘prophet.’ But Epictetus calls Diogenes God’s ‘own son.’ Christ, in my
judgment, stands far above Diogenes and perhaps even above Socrates. When
I say ‘above Socrates,’ I do not mean in reason, but in feeling, and in
the power to draw men towards kindness and steadfast welldoing. I think I
had come almost to the point of calling this Jesus ‘God’s own son’ in a
very real sense, as being above all other men, yes, and more—more than I
could understand. And then⸺.”

“And then?” said Clemens. I had paused. He waited an instant longer,
questioning, or rather interpreting me, with his eyes. “And then,” said
he, “something threw you back?” “Yes,” said I, “something threw me back.
And what do you think it was? Paul drew me on. But the author of this
little book, he, and Matthew, and Luke—these threw me back. It happened
in many ways. I must tell you the last first. A friend, a fellow-student,
has just now left me for Corinth, crushed to the earth by the most
shameful outrages on his family. I wished to give him some comfort, to
point him towards some hope, to give him what you Christians—for surely
you are a Christian?” He assented. “Well, what you Christians call ‘good
tidings’ or ‘gospel.’

“Now if I could believe Paul, I should have a ‘gospel.’ For then the
spirit of Jesus, having risen from the dead, would be travelling about
the world everywhere at hand to strengthen His disciples, and to comfort
their hearts, and to assure them that all will be well in the end. ‘I
have prevailed over death’—so His Spirit would say to us—‘I will always
help the poor and oppressed. I will never forsake them till I have made
them sharers in my eternal kingdom.’ This it would say to each one of
us, ‘You, Gaius, or you, Marcus, I will be with you always. I will never
forsake you.’ But how can I believe these beautiful assurances, when I
find Mark declaring (and Matthew agreeing with him) that Christ’s last
articulate utterance was, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
How can I assure my friend that God never forsakes the oppressed, if He
forsook His own Son? And how can I deny that ‘forsaking,’ when the Son
Himself says, _Why hast thou forsaken?_? Epictetus forbade us to admit
that we are ever alone. ‘God,’ said he, ‘is always within you.’ Is not
that the better and nobler doctrine? If the better and nobler doctrine
is not true, does it not follow that the truth is bad and ignoble, and
that, in real truth, there is no good and noble power controlling the
world? Which of the two is right, Epictetus or Christ?”

“Both, I think,” said Clemens. He had been listening with attention
and manifest sympathy, but without any change in that steadfast look
of peace and trust which his face habitually wore. I seemed to read in
his countenance at once pain and faith, pain for my burden, faith that
he could help me to bear it or to cast it away. Presently he added, “Do
not suppose that by answering so briefly and quickly I wished to cut
short your objection or to deny the difficulty. Far from it. You have
asked, I think, one of the hardest questions, perhaps the very hardest,
that could be put to a worshipper of Christ. Often have I thought of it,
and I should not like to answer it hastily. You know perhaps that Luke
omits these words, and that he mentions, instead, something about the
‘sun’?” “Yes,” said I, “but that seemed to me only to shew that Luke was
willing to accept a version that removed the difficulty in the original.”
“I agree with you,” said Clemens, “and, if so, that indicates that the
difficulty was recognised before Luke compiled his gospel. Certainly,
certainly, those wonderful words were really uttered.”

Then he said, “First let me give you an explanation that is not
unreasonable and may have some truth in it. You know, I dare say, that
the words are from the Psalms?” “Yes,” I replied, “but the Psalmist
changes his mood. He goes on to say, ‘He hath not hid his face from
him, but, when he cried unto him, he heard him,’ and afterwards, ‘All
the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord’.” “You
have mentioned,” said Clemens, “the very words that seem to some of our
brethren to answer your question; for they say that the Lord had in mind
the whole of the Psalm when He quoted the first words, and that He meant
this, ‘I cry unto thee, O Father, in the words of scripture _Why hast
thou forsaken me?_ knowing that thou hast not indeed hidden thy face from
me, but thou art hearing me: and all the ends of the earth shall remember
my crying and thy hearing and shall turn unto thee’.”

“And are not you content with this explanation?” said I. “Not quite,”
said Clemens. “For, though this may be true, more may be true. I have
read in another gospel, later than these three, that the Son did no work
on earth and uttered no word, without looking up to the Father in heaven
and listening to the Father’s voice, which told Him from time to time
what to do and to say. And I have heard one of the brethren, a man full
of spiritual understanding, and well read in the scriptures, interpret
the question as though it were a real question, not an exclamation—the
Son questioning the Father as to His will. If that were so, the Son might
be conceived as saying, ‘For what reason, O Father, hast thou forsaken
me for a while and hidden the light of thy countenance from me? Teach
me, O Father, in order that I also may be willing to be forsaken, and
may desire to be deprived of the light of thy countenance.’ And then the
Father replies, ‘I forsake thee, O my Son, because thou must needs die,
and in my presence is the fulness of life. The time hath come for thee to
give up thy life, that is, to lose my presence for a brief space, that
all men may gain for ever by thy brief loss and be saved from death by
thy sacrifice of life.’ And after this, said the brother, the Lord cried
out a second time. What He said then, Mark and Matthew have not recorded;
but they write that He then expired or sent forth His Spirit. The brother
I am speaking of believed that the Son, by crying aloud ‘Why hast thou
forsaken?’ prepared Himself to be willingly forsaken, and to be under the
darkness of this momentary forsaking just before He gave up His life as a
sacrifice for men.”

“But you say,” said I, “that Epictetus, too, is right.” “Certainly,”
replied Clemens. “Epictetus says that men, God’s children, are never
‘alone.’ And that is true. Indeed I can shew you presently a new
Christian gospel—the one I mentioned just now—which represents Christ
as saying this very thing, ‘Ye shall leave me alone—and yet I am _not
alone_, because the Father is with me.’ Look at the matter thus. Do we
not know that God may be regarded as being in all places at once, so that
to speak of Him as ‘here and not there’ is no less a metaphor than to
speak of His ‘hiding His countenance,’ or ‘bearing us in His arms’? God
therefore is, as Epictetus often affirms, ‘within us.’ But is He not also
(as I think Epictetus seldom or never affirms) ‘outside us’? Is not the
Psalmist’s metaphor right when he says that God, being outside us, hides
His face sometimes from His children? Sometimes He does this because
they have sinned, in order that they may seek His face and cease to sin.
But does He not also do this when men have not sinned, in order that the
righteous may become more righteous and the pure more pure, by longing
more than ever for the sight of His countenance and by thirsting anew for
His presence?

“I do not quite like to explain the dealings of God with men by anything
that frail human creatures do in sport. And yet there is something so
sacred (at least I think so) in the relations between parents and young
children, that I have been sometimes led to liken God hiding His face
from His children to a mother hiding her face from the babe in her arms.
She hides it, but only for a moment, only that the child may be the more
joyful afterwards. And the arms never let go their embrace.” Then, after
a pause, he added, “But perhaps you say, ‘Do not you Christians believe
that Christ was already perfectly righteous, and perfectly pure, and that
He already rejoiced to the utmost in the Father’s love? Why then should
God forsake such a Son? Why should He hide His face from the Holy One,
even for a time?’ That, I think, is the question you would like to ask?”

Reading assent in my face, he proceeded, “Some might reply that this
question has been answered by the brother above-mentioned, who says, in
effect, ‘The Son was forsaken by the Father, not that the Son might be
made purer, or freed from sin, but that He might know the Father’s will
and might prepare Himself for His imminent self-sacrifice.’ But is that—I
will not say a complete answer, for who will venture to say that he knows
completely all the purpose of the Father in causing the Son to feel
forsaken?—is it even an answer that ought rightly to satisfy us? Will you
be patient with me, my friend—for friends we are already (are we not?)
in our joint search after truth⸺” “We are indeed,” said I, “and I would
gladly hear your fullest thoughts on this matter.” “Permit me then,”
said he, “to put another thought before your mind, namely, that the Son
of God, being Son of man, may have been forsaken by the Father in order
to learn, as a man, the heights and depths of human nature, and to what
an abyss of darkness the purest and most faithful saint may sometimes
sink; and how even in that abyss, the saint may feel, through faith,
that there are still beneath him the arms of God, not indeed supporting
him but ready to support him; and that he is—as the prophets say about
Israel—‘forsaken’ yet ‘not forsaken.’ No height in saintliness is higher
than such a faith as this.

“The scriptures tell us,” he continued, “that man is to love God with
all his heart and with all his soul and with all his power, and with all
his understanding. You know this?” I nodded assent. “Consider then how
you and I will feel in the moments or hours before our departure, if God
has decreed that we shall pass away by a slow and tedious passage, with
a gradual weakening of our mental and spiritual powers, a chill of the
heart, a deadening of the understanding, and a fading away of the fire of
the soul; so that it is no longer possible for us, no longer permitted
to us by God Himself, to love Him with all our human powers, because our
powers themselves are becoming powerless. May we not then perhaps feel
our grasp on the hand of the heavenly Father loosening, and our souls
slipping back from the supporting strength of His presence, downward, and
still downward, into the darkness of the infinite abyss? Should that hour
of trial come upon us, would it not be a very present help in our trouble
to know that the Lord, the Saviour, the Eternal Son of God, in the form
of man, was troubled likewise?”

Indeed I thought it would—_if_ only I “knew” it. I suppose my face must
have shewn this, for Clemens, without waiting for an answer, continued
with a kindling countenance, “And now, dearest brother, be still more
patient with me while I put one more thought before you. You have been
talking to me about ‘trouble’ and about your friend’s ‘trouble’: and
you said that it made you, as well as your friend, feel ‘forsaken’.” I
assented. “And you were not ashamed,” he continued, “of feeling his
‘trouble’ to some extent as yours, nor was your friend ashamed of feeling
the ‘trouble’ of his family? Well, then, believe me, the Lord Jesus
Christ felt the troubles of all His disciples, friends, followers, yes,
all the troubles of all the sinful children of men, as though they were
His own troubles. And in feeling ‘troubled’ along with others I venture
to think that He also felt ‘forsaken’ along with others.

“This is sacred ground. I fear even to kneel, much less to tread upon
it. But I think the Lord Jesus meant this also, amidst a multitude of
meanings, ‘O Father, why hast thou forsaken me, making me feel one with
the sinners whom thou forsakest? Is it that thou art breaking for a time
the sensible bond between me and thee in order to bind me to them? Is it
that I may be made one with them, so as to make them one with me? Wouldst
thou make me to be sin that the world may be made to be righteousness?’”

I remembered the words of Paul, “Him that knew not sin God _made sin_ in
our behalf”: but I had never understood them before. Nor did I now, but I
thought I caught a glimpse of their meaning. It was only a glimpse, and
I sat silent, afraid as it were to move lest I should lose it. I seemed
in a new world, or rather, in a mixed world, in which the old and the new
were contending. I could neither see clearly nor move freely as yet. I
felt that light and freedom were around and very near, forcing their way
towards me, if I would but reach out my hand to them. But I could not do
it.

“I feel,” said I, “as though, in time, these hard words might become
intelligible, or rather, I should say, beautiful and full of comfort to
me. But how different they are from the last words of Socrates!” “Most
different,” replied Clemens. “Often have I pondered on the difference.
I was born in Athens, and I admire the literature and language of my
native city. But my mother was of Jewish extraction; and when I worship,
and pray, and feel sorrow, and seek consolation, it is in the thought
and phrase (though not in the language) of my mother’s people. And again
and again have I reflected on the strange contrast between the two ‘last
words,’ the Jewish and the Greek. These ‘last words’ represent last
thoughts. Socrates felt righteous, and happy, and not ‘forsaken,’ and
not at all anxious about his friends nor about his doctrine. The Lord
Jesus felt forsaken—doubly forsaken. First He sorrowed for His disciples
because He knew that they would forsake Him; and He prayed for them that
they might not utterly fail. Afterwards He Himself felt forsaken by the
Father.

“Perhaps, so far, Socrates may seem to have the advantage. But what has
followed? Socrates is enshrined in books, a companion and dear friend of
students for ever, but in books. He is not for the crowd in the street,
nor for the ploughman in the field, nor for the poor, the simple, and
the unlettered. And though he may fortify some of us against the fear
of death, he does not bring the deepest consolation to those who are
suffering under a perpetual burden of pains or sorrows. But the Spirit
of the Lord Jesus moves among all sorts and conditions of life in all
the races of mankind, bringing joy to them that rejoice righteously, and
wholesome sorrow to those that sin, and strength to the heavy laden, and
comfort to all that mourn, and freedom from all servile fear. Yes, He
brings freedom, even to those enemies against whom He makes war, turning
their consciences against themselves and making them His willing captives
to lead others captive in turn. For indeed this captivity is no captivity
but an embracing with the arms of a Father revealed in the Son according
to the words of Hosea ‘I taught Ephraim to walk. I took him in my arms.
He knew not that I healed him. I drew him with cords, with bands of
love.’ Dear friend, it is my firm conviction that those only can relieve
pain of the heart who have felt pain of the heart. Those only can save
the forsaken who have felt forsaken. It was in fact because Christ had
been forsaken that He was enabled to draw Paul towards Him with the cords
of His constraining love.”

“But,” said I, “if love was the foundation of Christ’s doctrine, how is
it that Mark hardly ever mentions it? Should I be wrong in saying that
Mark never mentions ‘love’ at all except in one place where Jesus, being
asked what is the greatest commandment, quotes from the scripture the
ancient commandment to love God and one’s neighbour?” “Alas,” replied
Clemens, “you would be only too right! Yet believe me, Christ’s doctrine
of doctrines was ‘love’—and that, too, not the old commandment, but a new
commandment, because Christ introduced into the world a new kind of love,
a more powerful love, a constraining love. This He imparted through His
blood to His disciples, as is made clear in this new gospel”—and here he
took a roll out of his garment—“about which I spoke to you lately, and in
a letter, by the same author, which is an appendix to the gospel.” And
then he read to me, from John’s gospel, the words, “A new commandment
give I unto you that ye love one another,” and “By this shall all men
know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another”; and he
pointed out the newness and greatness of the love, reading the words,
“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his
friends.” Lastly, he added, from the epistle, “God is love.”

All this astonished me not a little, and I replied, “Here at last, it
seems to me, we have the only true gospel, Paul’s gospel, the gospel of
the constraining love of Christ. But how came it to pass that, whereas
this was the true gospel, such a gospel as Mark’s, full of marvels, and
portents, and exorcisms, should be the first published to the world—so I
have been told on good authority—a gospel that gives a whole column to
the dancing of the daughter of Herodias and not one line to ‘love one
another’?”

“Often and often,” replied Clemens, “have I asked myself the same
question. I think, though I am not sure, that the reason is this. After
the resurrection of the Lord, the apostles went forth to the world to
attest the resurrection, and to preach the gospel, saying, in effect,
what we find Peter and Paul actually saying in their epistles. But
perhaps you have not read Peter’s epistle?” I had not. “If you had, you
would have found that Peter, like Paul, teaches this commandment of love.
Doubtless all the apostles did the same. Consequently, before any gospels
were written, all the churches were familiar with this doctrine of love,
and with the doctrine of the resurrection. These were the important
things. These had been handed down by the apostles to the elders, and
by the first generation of the elders to the second. These, therefore,
the churches knew. But the unimportant things, as Paul deemed them, the
things that concerned Christ in the flesh, and His works of healing and
of casting out spirits, and His sayings in the flesh to the disciples,
and His discussions and controversies with the Pharisees, and how He was
delivered over to Pilate, and how He suffered this and that particular
humiliation (such as ‘spitting’ and ‘smiting’) in exact accordance with
the scriptures—these things the churches had not committed to memory in
any kind of detail. These therefore the earliest evangelist wrote down.
Hence it came to pass that he recorded, in large measure, not the most
important but the least important things.”

“I understand now,” said I, “but is it not to be regretted?” “For all
reasons but one,” replied Clemens, “I think it is to be regretted. I
am often sorry that Mark does not give us the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose
he omitted it, as being known to everybody. But, as it is, we have two
versions, and Matthew’s is very different from Luke’s. A version by Mark
might have taught us whether the two versions are from one original,
or whether the Lord gave His disciples two prayers at two different
times—perhaps one before the resurrection, one after it. Again, Mark does
not give us any account of the Lord’s resurrection. Some think that a
page of the manuscript of his gospel was lost. I, too, once thought so;
but now I am disposed to think that he stopped short here, saying, ‘Here
begins the testimony of the apostles. It is their part to testify to the
Lord’s resurrection.’ In any case it is to be regretted.”

“But,” said I, “your expression, just now, was, ‘to be regretted for _all
reasons but one_.’ What did you mean by that?” “I meant,” said Clemens,
“that if all the evangelists had agreed exactly in their reports of all
Christ’s words, there might have been, amidst many advantages, this one
disadvantage, the danger that the letter of the words of the Lord might
have become a second law, like the law of Moses, to be interpreted by
lawyers. In that case, what the Lord said about divorce, and marriage,
and about the manner of life of the evangelists, and their sustenance,
and about giving up or retaining one’s possessions—all these things might
have been collected into a small code. On this code might have been
written a large commentary; on that, perhaps, another commentary, still
larger. Thus the Church of Christ might have drifted into the legalities
of men far away from the one true law of Christ, as it is defined in
Paul’s epistles ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens,’ and (in the new gospel
that I shewed you just now) ‘Love one another with the love with which I
have loved you’.”

“Tell me more about that new gospel,” said I. “I would gladly do so,”
said Clemens, “if time permitted. But the shadows are lengthening and
the hour we were to spend together is past. Most willingly would I stay
with you, but my work calls me away. Tomorrow, however, if you would
like to come to my lodging in the house of Justus, at the corner of the
market-place, soon after sunset, I shall have returned to Nicopolis,
and you shall have a sight of the new gospel and such aid as I can give
you in explaining it.” So we parted for the time, after I had eagerly
accepted his invitation.



CHAPTER XXXI

CLEMENS ON THE FOURTH GOSPEL


“How many things I should have asked him if he could only have stayed!”
was my first thought, as Clemens disappeared behind the bushes. My
next thought was, “How many new things I already have to think about!”
Mechanically I turned homewards and took a few steps on the way to the
city. Then I sat down to reflect.

Not many minutes had elapsed before I heard footsteps behind me.
Presently, a little on my left, Clemens, without noticing me, passed
striding hastily onwards in the direction of Nicopolis. I called to him.
He turned and came up to me with an exclamation of joy, “I am thankful to
have found you so soon. It has been on my mind that I ought to have at
least explained to you why I did not offer to lend you this new gospel.”
“I would not have lent it to anyone had I been in your place,” said I.
“Yes,” said Clemens, “you would have. Trust me, dear friend, if you
believed this gospel, as I do, you would long to lend it to those who did
not as yet believe it. But the truth is, I did not wish to lend it to you
without a few words of introduction, for which I feared there would be no
time. I forgot that the moonlight would suffice to guide me to the end of
my journey. Have you leisure and desire for a little more conversation?
Without it, I fear this little book might make you stumble, might even
repel you. It is entirely different from the other three gospels both
in its style and in its language. Whether reporting Christ’s sayings or
relating His actions, it almost always differs from the earlier accounts.
It is also largely different in the facts related. What say you?”

“I say ‘Thanks,’ with all my heart,” replied I; then, as we sat down
together, “May I ask first, who wrote it?” “You not only may, but ought,”
he replied. “It is just the question I expected from you, and, alas! just
one of the questions that I cannot answer in the usual way by saying ‘A
the son of B.’ It seems to hint the authorship in dark expressions. At
the end of the book it says, ‘This is the disciple that beareth witness
of these things and he that wrote these things’; but the texts vary and
it is not quite clear whether the ‘writer’ and the ‘bearer of witness’
are one and the same. Nor does it give any name to the witness or the
writer, nor any means of ascertaining the name or names, except that
it describes him, a little before, as being ‘the disciple whom Jesus
loved, who also leaned on His breast,’ i.e. at the last supper. Also,
going back further, I find it written concerning a certain flow of blood
and water from the side of the Saviour on the cross, ‘He that hath seen
hath borne witness and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith
true, that ye may believe.’ Going back further still, and comparing the
beginning with the end of the gospel, the reader is led indirectly to the
conclusion that the disciple that ‘hath borne witness’ is John the son of
Zebedee.

“This John is often referred to as one of the chief apostles, in the
three gospels; but his name is not so much as once mentioned in the
fourth. Whenever ‘John’ occurs in this gospel, it is always John the
Baptist, even though ‘Baptist’ is not added. Not till the last chapter
does it become clear that the author is one of the ‘sons of Zebedee’.”
“But might it not be James?” said I. “It might,” replied Clemens, “but
for the following fact. The gospel goes on to say, in effect, that,
whereas Peter was to be crucified hereafter, this disciple was to live
so long that a report sprang up in the church that he would never die.
Now this could not apply to James, as he was beheaded quite early in the
history of the church. It follows therefore that the author was John,
who, though he became a martyr, or witness, for the Saviour, survived his
martyrdom and lived to a great age.”

This seemed to me an unsatisfactory way of writing history, and not
quite fair to readers. For ought they not to be partly guided, in
their judgment of the historian’s statements, by their knowledge of his
character, and of his opportunities for obtaining information? “How much
more satisfactory,” said I, “is the honest straightforwardness of the
Greek writer, ‘This is the third year of the history that Thucydides
compiled’.” “You are right,” replied Clemens, “I cannot deny it. It
would have been more satisfactory—if it could have been written with
truth—that we should read at the end of this little roll, ‘I John, the
son of Zebedee, wrote this work.’ But what if he did not write it yet
had a great part in originating it? What if there was some kind of joint
production, revision, or correction, of the work, so that it would not
have been true to say, ‘I John wrote it’?”

“Is there any evidence of this?” I asked. “A little,” he replied.
“It is the only one of the four gospels that contains ‘we’ in its
conclusion, thus, ‘_We_ know that his testimony is true.’ I have also
heard a tradition that it was revealed to Andrew that John was to write
the gospel and that his fellow-disciples and bishops should revise it.
But the following is more important evidence: John the son of Zebedee
wrote a book called the Apocalypse—have you seen it?” I said that I had
glanced at it. “It was written when he was a very old man, after he had
been sent to the mines in Patmos by Domitian, and it is written in, I
will not say bad Greek, but a dialect of Greek entirely different from
that of any of the gospels or epistles. Now the fourth gospel is written
in very fair Greek and in a style as different as possible from that
of the Apocalypse. It is quite impossible that John, after writing the
Apocalypse when he was eighty or ninety, should then write a gospel in a
style so absolutely different.”

“Then why,” said I, “should the gospel be called by his name?” “I explain
it thus,” said Clemens. “When John returned from Patmos a very old man,
saved from the fiery trial of the sufferings he had undergone—both before
his condemnation and also afterwards in the mines—it was natural that
every word uttered by him should be treasured up. I have heard it said
that he could hardly be carried into the church, and that, when there,
he repeated nothing but ‘Little children, love one another.’ In time,
the brethren grew weary of this and remonstrated with him. This seems to
have gone on for a long while. For (as I have said above) a report was
current about him that he would ‘never die’ but would wait for the Lord’s
coming. There is no record (known to me) of any time, place, or manner,
of his departure. I infer that, during the period of his decrepitude,
the brethren at Ephesus would collect traditions from him and preach his
gospel for him as far as they could. Afterwards, when it was clear that
he would die, the gospel would be reduced to writing.” “But this,” said
I, “greatly lowers the value of the gospel as history.” “It does,” said
he, “and its historical value may also be lowered by the fact that, even
before the gospel was written, the apostle was a great seer of visions. A
seer is not the best kind of historian. He is liable to mix vision with
fact. Especially might this be done by a seer that had seen Christ both
before and after Christ’s death. But still I greatly value this gospel
because, like the epistles of Paul, it seems to me to go to the root
of the matter. I told you just now that the old man, when he could say
nothing else, repeated over and over again the words ‘Little children,
love one another.’ When they asked him to say something else, he said
‘that was enough.’ And the old man was right. It is ‘enough’—if we can
receive strength to do it.”

“This greatly attracts me,” said I. “But, if your explanation is true, a
great deal depends upon the apostle’s friend, or friends, who wrote down
the substance of his traditions and arranged them as a gospel.” “A great
deal, as you say,” replied Clemens. “I have been informed that there was
a great teacher near Ephesus, who was called preeminently ‘_the Elder_’—a
name given, I believe, by students to their teacher, even in some of the
schools of the Stoics. Has that ever fallen within your experience?”
“Something of the kind,” I replied. “I remember that Epictetus lately
spoke of himself as ‘_the Elder_.’ It seemed to me a modest way of saying
‘I whom you call your Teacher, or your Master, but I merely call myself
your Elder.’ He said we ought to be so superior to the fear of death
that his great business ought to be to keep us from dying too soon,
not to make us fearless of death. ‘This,’ he said, ‘ought to engage the
attention of _the Elder_ sitting in this chair.’ And then he added, ‘This
ought to be the great struggle of _your Teacher_ and _Trainer_, if indeed
you had such a one’—as though Elder and Teacher were much the same thing.”

“That,” said Clemens, “is exactly to the point. Well then, you must know
that John the son of Zebedee is commonly supposed to have written not
only a gospel but also an epistle, or perhaps three epistles. The first
epistle is quite in the style of the gospel, but it mentions not ‘John,’
nor even ‘I,’ at the beginning, but ‘_we_,’ ‘That which _we_ have heard.’
The two other letters, which are very short, begin, ‘_The Elder_ to
so-and-so.’ These two letters are in style similar to that of the first,
but some doubt exists as to their authorship, and I have seen it written,
in connexion with them, that the Wisdom of Solomon was not written by
Solomon but ‘by his friends to do him honour.’ Whoever wrote that, seems
to have believed that ‘_the Elder_’ mentioned in the two epistles was not
John the son of Zebedee but one of his ‘friends’.”

“What was the Elder’s name?” said I. “The two epistles do not mention
it,” replied Clemens. “But the Elder near Ephesus of whom I spoke
above, was called by the same name as the son of Zebedee, ‘John’; and
the tradition that mentions him (along with another teacher named
Aristion) appears to distinguish the two Johns, mentioning both in the
same sentence. I ought to add that I mentioned this same Elder above as
defending Mark on the ground that he was the mere interpreter of Peter.
‘Mark,’ said the Elder, ‘made it his single object to leave out nothing
of the things that he heard and to say nothing that was false therein.’
Now you will find—I think I have already mentioned the fact—that this
new gospel frequently intervenes, where Luke omits, or alters, anything
that is in Mark, so as to explain Mark’s obscurity or set forth Mark’s
tradition in different language. This points to the conclusion that the
writer of the fourth gospel agreed with the Elder called John in his
verdict on Mark, which is, in effect, ‘Not erroneous in fact though
imperfect in expression.’ My own belief is that this tradition about
two persons of the same name is accurate; and that, besides John the
Apostle, there was also the Elder John, residing in or near Ephesus about
the same time.”

“But,” I asked, “might not ‘John the elder’ naturally be taken to mean
‘older in age’ as opposed to ‘John the younger’? And is it not strange
that, in view of the great age of John the Apostle, such a distinctive
appellation should be given to his namesake?” “Perhaps it would be,”
replied Clemens. “But it is not given. Have you not noticed that I did
not speak of ‘_John the Elder_’ but of ‘_the Elder, John_’? The two are
quite different. The former (at least among Christians) would simply mean
‘John the Presbyter or Elder’ as distinct from ‘John the Deacon,’ ‘John
the Bishop,’ and so on. But ‘the Elder, John’—a phrase twice repeated in
my tradition—may imply that the teacher was known during his life among
his pupils as ‘_the Elder_,’ and that, after his death, ‘John’ was added
for the sake of clearness. I believe it was the custom to describe the
elders near Ephesus in this indefinite way.”

The view here taken by Clemens has been somewhat confirmed of late
years by a practice that I have noticed—a bad practice, I think—in the
young Irenæus. In the course of his lectures, when referring to his
authority—instead of mentioning an elder by name, Polycarp, Aristion,
Papias, John, as the case may be—he used such expressions as “He that is
greater than we are,” “The divine old man and herald of the truth,” “He
that is superior to us,” and all these, as far as I could gather, about
elders in the province of Ephesus. Concerning this indefiniteness I am
in the same mind now as I was when I replied to Clemens, “It is very
unfortunate.”

“It is,” said he, “but I believe it is fact. Well then, according to my
view, one particular elder of these Johannine elders—I mean the elders in
the region of Ephesus collected round the aged apostle, John the son of
Zebedee—was so much superior to the rest that he was called preeminently
‘_the_ Elder.’ If ‘the Elder’ preached and wrote for John the Apostle,
and if the Elder’s name was John, there would be an additional reason why
the writer of the gospel would avoid the name John (except in connexion
with John the Baptist) throughout the gospel.

“But my conviction is that the aged apostle, besides preferring oral
tradition to books (as you will see from the last lines of his work),
shrank from putting himself forward as the author by the name of
‘John,’ and insisted that, if he was to be mentioned at all, it was to
be only by the title, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ John the Elder
may have accepted this condition because he felt it to express a deep
truth—namely, that the Lord Jesus is best known through some one whom He
has loved.

“You know how carefully the Greeks distinguish ‘voice’ or ‘sound’ from
‘word.’ Well, this new gospel introduces John the Baptist as testifying
to Christ and saying that he was a mere voice, ‘I am the _voice_ of one
crying in the wilderness, _Make straight the way of the Lord_.’ To the
inferior and preparatory witness is given a distinctive name ‘John.’ The
superior and perfected witness was also called ‘John’ after the flesh;
but the writer of the gospel preferred that the name after the flesh
should be dropped, yes, and even his distinctive personality merged, as
it were, in the title, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.”

“But you spoke, above, about ‘brethren’ as perhaps preaching John’s
gospel for him during his decrepitude. Now you seem to incline to think
that only one man wrote it?” “Yes,” replied Clemens, “I used ‘brethren’
first, to leave the question open. Then I endeavoured to give reasons
for thinking it was one brother; and this conclusion is supported by
the style. There are some slight differences in this gospel between the
words of the Lord and the words of the evangelist, in respect of style.
That is natural; indeed, one would expect many more. But, taken as a
whole, the gospel does not shew many styles, as Luke’s does, but only one
style—extending to the words of all characters introduced in the book, so
that it is sometimes hard to say where a speaker ceases to speak and the
evangelist begins to comment.”

“But this is surely astonishing,” said I, “that the author should have
so little regard for the words of the Lord as not to make it absolutely
and always clear where they end, and where his own comments, or the words
of someone else, begin.” “It is astonishing,” said Clemens, “but I am
disposed to think that John the Apostle himself may in some cases have
left his friends in doubt; and the Elder—or whoever it was that wrote
the gospel—may have thought it best to leave the ambiguity as he found
it. I pointed out to you above how the differences between the three
gospels had this advantage that they forced the reader to think of the
spirit rather than the letter of the words of the Lord. But they also
had a danger, namely, that men might be puzzling their brains as to the
differences of scribes and reporters instead of refreshing their hearts
with the Spirit of Christ. Now if the Elder had, so to speak, simply
added a fourth parallel column to the three existing parallel columns
of the sayings of the Lord, the result might have been to increase that
danger.

“You may say that if the Elder felt sure that he had received the exactly
correct form of the Lord’s words from John the Apostle, he ought to
have set them down thus, whatever might be the consequences. But I do
not believe that he did feel sure. More probably he knew that it was
impossible, from the old man’s reminiscences, to restore the words
exactly, as uttered by Jesus, and that it was best not to attempt a
restoration, but to prefer paraphrase, giving their spiritual essence.
Or else, in cases where the three evangelists differed seriously among
themselves, the Elder might think it best to substitute an entirely new
tradition on the same subject.”

“Is it not possible,” said I, “that some part of the gospel may have been
written at an earlier date? Are there for example any expressions that
shew the Temple to have been still standing at the time of writing?”
“I have looked through the volume, searching for such evidence,”
replied Clemens, “and can find absolutely nothing except a phrase in a
rather obscure and corrupt passage about the existence of a pool, an
intermittent pool, near Jerusalem. Now of course a pool is not destroyed
even when a neighbouring city is utterly destroyed; and parts of
Jerusalem continued to be inhabited, after its capture by Titus, although
the walls, and a large part of the city, were razed to the ground. The
gospel says, ‘There _is_ in Jerusalem a pool … having five porches.’ I
have not ascertained whether this pool is still used (as the narrative
says it was then) for medicinal purposes, and whether the ‘porches’
still exist. I must also confess my belief that this is one of several
narratives in which perhaps allegory may have modified history. But in
any case the phrase ‘there is a pool’ seems to me to afford no basis,
worth calling such, for a hypothesis of date. It seems to me of little
more importance than if a writer said ‘There _is_ a mountain called the
Mount of Olives’ or ‘There _is_ a brook called Kedron.’ I could, if you
liked, discuss the passage with you more fully.”

“Let me rather ask you,” said I, “about a matter that greatly interests
me. The words of Christ at the last supper—does John give them as Mark
and Matthew do, or as Luke, or as Paul?” “That is a case,” said Clemens,
“where John does not correct but substitutes. He does not give these
words at all. But he inserts a narrative about Christ’s washing the feet
of the disciples, and a precept that the disciples are to do the same.
The ‘washing of feet,’ as I could shew you if time allowed, is connected
with sacrifice, in Leviticus. As to the partaking of the bread and wine,
he says expressly that the Saviour gave some of it to Judas—meaning (I
think) to shew that there was no efficacy for good in the food, apart
from faith and love.”

“And what,” I asked, “as to the words about ‘forsaking’ uttered on the
cross, where Luke again differs from Mark and Matthew?” “Here,” replied
Clemens, “I do not feel sure whether John introduces a new saying
altogether, or gives the substance of the old saying in Mark. Certainly
he does not agree with Luke. And let me add that I have examined a great
number of passages where words of Mark, being obscure or difficult, are
altered or omitted by Luke, and I find that in almost every case John
intervenes to support Mark—only expressing Mark’s meaning more clearly
and spiritually.

“Concerning the ‘forsaking,’ I suggested to you before that it is a
metaphor. If so, the reality may be expressed by other metaphors in the
scriptures, such as ‘I have lost the light of thy countenance,’ ‘I am
cast away from the joy of thy presence,’ ‘My soul is deprived of the
fountain of thy light.’ The Psalms say, ‘O God, my God … my soul is
athirst for thee,’ and again, ‘My soul thirsteth for God, … when shall
I come and appear before God?’ The ‘thirst’ implies absence from God.
It will be satisfied by ‘coming’ to God. Well, John represents Jesus as
saying, ‘I thirst,’ in accomplishment of ‘the scriptures.’ Then (as I
take it) the soldiers misunderstand this thirst as meaning simply literal
thirst. They offer Christ vinegar. Christ ‘took it,’ says the gospel.
Then He said, ‘It is finished’ and ‘rested His head’—that is to say, on
the bosom of the Father, and ‘delivered over His spirit’.”

“‘Rested His head’ is a strange expression,” said I. “It is,” said
Clemens, “but it occurs in Matthew and Luke as follows, ‘The Son of
man hath not where to rest His head,’ meaning ‘He hath no home, no
resting-place, on earth, but only with the Father above.’ One of the
ablest Greek scholars among the brethren assures me that John also uses
the phrase to mean this; and I believe it is not used in Greek in any
other sense. So, too, ‘delivered over His spirit’ signifies that in the
supreme moment the ‘delivering over’ of the Suffering Servant was not
passive but active. He delivered Himself over. But I ought to add that,
in Aramaic, the same verb means (in different forms) ‘finish,’ ‘deliver
over,’ and—the word used here by Mark and Luke—‘expire’.”

Scaurus had said something of this kind concerning the three gospels, and
had argued that it increased the difficulty of ascertaining what Christ
actually said. But I had supposed that it would not extend to a gospel
written in a Greek city like Ephesus and so long after the other gospels,
when Greek traditions might be expected to predominate. I was depressed
by this frank avowal on the part of Clemens, and remained in silence for
a moment or two weighing its consequences.



CHAPTER XXXII

CLEMENS LENDS SILANUS THE FOURTH GOSPEL


Clemens waited patiently for me to resume our conversation. Soon it
occurred to me that I had been unreasonable in my expectations if the
circumstances were as he had described them. Suppose this new gospel
to have originated from the reminiscences of John the son of Zebedee,
a fisherman of Galilee, and the aged author of such a book as the
Apocalypse. How could such traditions, if set down exactly as they came
from the old man’s lips, fail to abound in Jewish phrases and thoughts
such as I had met with in the apocalyptic work? But these would have
made the gospel very unsuitable for Greeks and Romans and indeed for
almost all except Jews. It was therefore natural, and indeed almost
necessary, that the old man’s recollections, after being imparted to his
friends, who would probably be the elders of Ephesus, should be freely
interpreted, or perhaps paraphrased, in a form fit for all readers. Such
interpreters, or such an interpreter, might not always be perfectly
successful.

It was foolish of me not to have foreseen this. But still I was
disappointed. “This,” said I, “adds a new element of uncertainty, if John
has sometimes preserved traditions of Christ’s words translated from
the Jewish tongue.” “It does,” said Clemens, “and so does another fact
that applies both to Greek and to Hebrew or Aramaic. You know that, in
Greek, ‘he _said_’ or ‘_used to say_,’ or ‘it _says_,’ often signifies
‘he _meant_’ or ‘it _means_.’ The same is true in Hebrew. Hence if an
evangelist or scribe, after giving Christ’s actual words, for example,
‘_Do righteousness_,’ were to add ‘But he meant, _Do alms_’—because,
in Hebrew, ‘righteousness’ often means ‘alms’—it would be possible to
misinterpret the addition as meaning ‘But he [also] _said_ (or, _used to
say_) _Do alms_,’ thus erroneously creating a second precept. For these
and other reasons I cannot feel sure that the saying ‘I thirst,’ about
which we were just now conversing, may not be a paraphrase of the Lord’s
words about being ‘forsaken.’ John the son of Zebedee may have known
that the latter words were misunderstood from the first by the soldiers,
and also that they were misinterpreted by some Christians. Hence I think
the aged apostle may have prayed for a revelation as to the true meaning
of the words, and it may have been revealed to him, ‘The Lord said—that
is, He really said, His real meaning was—that He “_thirsted_”.’ This
indeed would be a surprise or paradox compared with what the gospel says
elsewhere. But the scriptures are full of such paradoxes.”

“But how ‘elsewhere’?” said I. “Do you mean that here Christ feels thirst
whereas ‘elsewhere’ He quenches thirst? I do not remember that.” “I
forgot,” replied Clemens, “that you had not read the new gospel. That
gospel represents Christ as saying to a sinful woman, ‘Give me to drink,’
and afterwards, to the same woman, ‘He that believeth on me shall never
thirst,’ and, after that, to the Jews, ‘If any one be athirst, let him
come unto me and drink.’ This same gospel says that the ‘food’ of the Son
is to do the will of the Father. This, then, may be described as His meat
and drink. If, therefore, He ‘thirsts,’ He is athirst to do the Father’s
will, so that He hungers and thirsts for righteousness in the souls of
sinful men and women, thirsting to free them from thirst by giving them
the water of life. All through His life He has not thirsted because the
living water has been passing freely from the Father to Him and from
Him to others. But now, on the point of death, the Giver of the water
of life is Himself caused to thirst for it! The Father, in His infinite
love, causes the Son Himself to thirst for that love! Instead of helping
others, the Son is constrained to ask as it were to be helped—in order
that He may help others better. This is perhaps the deepest and most
wonderful of all the Lord’s deep sayings—‘I thirst for the righteousness
and love of God, that I and mine may be in the Father, and that the
Father may be in me and mine.’ In the end, this will be one of the Lord’s
words that ‘will never pass away.’ But what was its effect at the time?
When Socrates uttered his last wishes, Crito was at hand to say, ‘This
shall be done.’ But when Christ cried ‘I thirst,’ no friend was at hand
to satisfy that thirst, and the cry was taken by the soldiers as meaning,
‘I thirst for a little of your sour wine’!”

“It seems to me,” said I, “that you regard this gospel, not exactly as
history, but as history mingled with poetry or with vision?” “Not quite
so,” said Clemens. “I should prefer to say, ‘as history _interpreted_
through spiritual insight or poetic vision.’ I take the historical fact
to be that there came into the world, as man, a divine Being, endowed
with a power of drawing man and God into one, by drawing the hearts of
men towards Himself, and, through Himself, to the Father. Making men one
with Himself, He also made them one with each other in Himself. This is
the great historical fact, the fact of facts, foreordained before the
foundation of the world. This, then, is the fact that needs to be brought
out clearly in the history of Christ—not the facts (though they are
facts) that the Pharisees often washed their hands and that the daughter
of Herodias danced before John the Baptist was beheaded. Well, then, put
yourself in the position of—whoever it was that wrote this fourth gospel,
say, ‘the Elder.’ Imagine him returning fresh from an interview with the
old man John, the son of Zebedee, who will not allow himself to be called
a ‘son of thunder’⸺.”

“But why,” said I, “should he not have allowed himself to be called
John the son of Zebedee? And why should he object to be called one of
the sons of thunder, if Jesus called him so?” “As to the latter name,”
replied Clemens, “I very much doubt whether Mark has translated the term
correctly; I will tell you why, another time: but assuredly he was not a
noisy ‘son of thunder’ as we should understand the phrase in the west.

“As to the former name, you will find in this gospel that ‘Simon son of
John’ is thrice mentioned as Peter’s name, in a passage where Peter is
rebuked for having denied his Master. It is, so to speak, his name after
the flesh, his unregenerate name. ‘Peter,’ or ‘stone,’ is his regenerate
name. So, ‘_John son of Zebedee_’ would be this disciple’s unregenerate
name. The fourth gospel never uses that name except once, in the phrase
‘the sons of Zebedee,’ on the same occasion on which Peter is rebuked
as ‘_Simon son of John_.’ For the most part John the son of Zebedee is
described (in this gospel) as ‘the other disciple’—that is, the one as
yet unheard, the one whose testimony is still to be given. Or else, the
name is connected with Christ’s love—‘the disciple that Jesus loved.’
He feels that he owes all that he has, his very being, to the fact that
Jesus _loved him_, that Jesus made him what he now is. Moreover Jesus
gave him, by perpetual visions after His death, an insight into the
meanings of His words uttered before death. Hence he might feel that
Christ’s words, once dark sayings, have now become clear. From being old,
they have become quite new, so as to require an altogether new record.”

“I am not sure,” said I, “that I understand your meaning. Do you hold
that the fourth gospel differs from the three because of the special
character of John the son of Zebedee, or because of the special
interpretation of ‘the Elder’?” “Because of both,” said Clemens. “Then,”
said I, “you think that John the son of Zebedee, far from being a
‘son of thunder’ in the sense in which Pericles might be so called by
Aristophanes, was a man of a retiring and vision-seeing nature, who
merged himself in Christ; and that his namesake, the Elder, believed
that the aged apostle was as it were a mirror, in whom, and in whose
traditions, it was possible to discern more of Christ’s real expression
than in the ancient document of Mark.”

“That comes near the truth, I think,” replied Clemens. “And yet I
should be very far from denying that Mark, and the other early gospels,
are right in several features apparently omitted by John—for example,
Christ’s love of ‘the little ones,’ and His anxiety lest they should
be caused to stumble, and His insistence on the necessity of receiving
the Kingdom of God as little children. But it seems to me that some of
these precepts about ‘little ones’ may have been misunderstood so that
the brethren needed Paul’s warning, ‘Be _not little children_ in your
minds,’ and again, ‘In malice be babes, but _in understanding be men_.’
The root of all these precepts was the divine feeling of ‘littleness,’ or
‘childhood,’ or ‘sonship.’ This is realised in the Son of God doing the
will of the Father. In order to do that will on earth, He must be always
keeping His eyes on the Father in heaven. The earlier gospels represent
Christ with His eyes fixed on the ‘little ones’ on earth, the sick, the
sorrowful, the ignorant, the sinful. That also is true. The new gospel
appears to me to attempt to shew how the two truths are combined.”

“But you surely do not mean to say,” I exclaimed, “that Jesus, in the
new gospel, never makes mention of the ‘little ones’ or the ‘little
children,’ so frequently mentioned by the earlier evangelists!” “I do
indeed,” replied Clemens. “He does not make mention of either term
once, except that, after the resurrection, seeing the disciples engaged
in labour that has lasted through the night and effected nothing, He
calls to them and says ‘Little children!’ But yet, although He does not
elsewhere use the word ‘children,’ He has the thought constantly before
Him. At the beginning of the gospel, He teaches that men must be ‘_born
from above_,’ that is, become little children in the eyes of God. Towards
the end, He uses a mother’s word to them (‘_teknia_,’ ‘darlings’). He
also says, ‘I will not leave you _orphans_,’ and declares that His
disciples are to be in Himself, the Son. Now to be in the Son, means to
be made ‘a little child’ in the perfect sense of Christ’s meaning.”

“Perhaps,” said I, “this explains why Paul seldom mentions the word
‘little children’.” “‘Seldom’,” said Clemens, “is not the right word.
Paul _never_ mentions it, except in the warning I mentioned above.
Moreover John, in his epistle, says, ‘I have written unto you little
children, _because ye have known the Father_.’ That word ‘_known_’
goes to the root of the matter. The essence of ‘little childhood,’ in
Christ’s sense, is _not ignorance, but knowledge_—‘knowing the Father.’
And ‘knowing the Father’ implies loving the Father, or desiring the
Father. There are cases where ‘desire’ may perhaps be well substituted
for ‘love,’ so as to indicate that kind of love which leads one onwards
to the object desired. This gospel seems to me to attempt to express—if
I may so speak in accordance with the prophets of Israel—a desire of God
for man, producing a desire of man for God. The work of the Son of God is
to unite these two desires. This is a great mystery, a mystery past mere
logic, that God, the Creator, should ‘desire.’ Yet I accept it—as it has
been expressed by a certain holy woman of Athens, whom I verily believe
to have been inspired by God, ‘The Son of God chose to be lifted up upon
the tree of the Cross that we might receive the food of angels. And what
is this food of angels? It is the desire of God, which draws to itself
the desire that is in the depths of the soul and they make one thing
together’.”

This saying was beyond me at the time. But I felt that it contained
truth, and that I should grow into some apprehension of it. And what
Clemens had said, though very strange at first, had been gradually
growing to seem possible and even reasonable, if one may use the word
concerning that which accords with the spiritual Logos—namely, that the
Son of God, being human, was caused to feel forsaken by God, and to
desire God, and to ask why this strange feeling of forsakenness, this
unwonted, unsatisfied desire, was brought upon Him by the Father. Then,
according to the saying of this holy woman of Athens, the answer of
the Father was, “In receiving this forsakenness and this desire for my
presence, thou art receiving from me my desire, which draws up to me thy
desire, and they two make one together.”

But to return to Clemens, whom I began to trust all the more because I
felt that he was keeping back nothing from me. “What I am attempting,”
said he, “to express, but expressing very feebly, is this. I am trying
to put myself in the position of the Elder, preaching the gospel for
John the son of Zebedee in Ephesus, some time after the aged apostle
returned from his martyrdom in Patmos, when he was quite decrepit and no
longer able to be carried into the midst of the congregation, to utter
even a few words. If I came into that old man’s presence and heard
from him traditions about the Master, whom he loved and who loved him,
I might say, ‘Here indeed is a revelation of Christ. Here I feel Christ
Himself.’ Nevertheless, on going out, I might find it very hard to make
a chronological and consecutive history out of his utterances. Sometimes
he might be describing past fact; sometimes he might be prophesying the
future; sometimes he might speak of the past as if still present—as
though he were even now with his Master in Cana or Jerusalem; sometimes
he might be rapt in a present ecstasy; sometimes he might be describing
ecstatic visions of the past; sometimes he might speak in poetic
metaphor, sometimes in literal prose; but always he would be penetrated
and imbued with the love of Christ. The result—for me, I confess it—would
be that I should go out, thinking, ‘This is not history in the common
sense of the term. But it is something, I will not say better, but more
needed by the church, than a mere history of facts such as a writer like
Mark could have given with fuller information. It gives glimpses into a
divine and human personality that includes in itself a real history—a
history of a great invisible war of good against evil, a great invisible
redemption, God coming down to earth to lift man up to heaven’.”

“But,” said I, “do not Matthew and Luke give these glimpses in their
description of the incarnation?” “I should rather have said,” replied
Clemens, “that, instead of giving glimpses, they attempt to describe a
spiritual fact in the language of material history. John, you will find,
does not make this attempt. He simply says that ‘the Logos became flesh.’
Then he introduces disciples believing in their Master as Messiah,
undeterred by their supposition that He is ‘the son of Joseph’ and ‘from
Nazareth.’ John assumes all through his gospel that Jesus came down from
heaven and is to go up thither again. He refuses to recognise that this
coming down and this going up are impossible for the Son of God incarnate
as the son of Joseph. All this appears to me true. And in many respects
I admire this little book more than I can find time or words to express.
Yet I must deal frankly with you and confess that this new gospel, like
the rest, appears to me inadequate. What gospel would be otherwise?
All the written records of Christ’s words and acts seem to me to have,
as their main use, the awakening in us of a want of something more, a
sense of something insufficient and imperfect and unjust to the reality,
so that we cry vehemently to God for the reality, the living truth, the
spiritual light—such light as no words or books can give us. The Spirit
alone can bestow it, crying within us Abba, Father. Some interpreters,
however, seem in a special degree to have ‘the mind of Christ.’ Among the
foremost of these seems to me to stand ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.”

“I understand,” said I, “at least I think I do, a little. You mean that
the written biographies must first make the reader feel that they are
dead in comparison with the living person. Then the reader is to feel
drawn towards his ideal of the living person, and more and more drawn,
so that in the end⸺.” “In the end,” said Clemens, “assuredly the living
Person will come to him, or draw him to Himself, if he will but be
patient in waiting, walking according to the light he already has.” On
this he rose to depart. “One word more,” said I. “You told me that John
gives nearly a quarter of his gospel to the doctrine of the Lord on the
night on which He was delivered over. Does he give much space to the
period after the resurrection? And what does he say about that? Does he
agree with Matthew and Luke?”

“No,” said Clemens, “he differs greatly, and, as it appears to me,
deliberately, intending to correct them. For example, Matthew represents
certain women as taking hold of Christ’s feet, before He sends them
to carry word to His ‘brethren.’ John says that Jesus said to Mary
Magdalene, ‘Touch me not for I am not yet ascended to my Father,’ and
then sends her to His ‘brethren.’ Luke says that Christ said to all the
disciples, ‘Handle me,’ to shew that He was not a bodiless spirit. John
says that an offer of this nature was made to Thomas, but mentions no
such offer to any other disciple. Luke says that the disciples gave Jesus
food and He ate. John says that Jesus gave food to the disciples. In all
these points John appears to me to be nearer than Matthew and Luke to the
truth. And sometimes I think that the touching of Christ’s body by the
disciples in the Eucharist, that is to say, the touching of the bread and
tasting of the wine in our sacred meal, has been taken by Luke (if not by
Matthew) in a literal sense”—here Clemens agreed with Scaurus—“whereas
John understood the meaning correctly. But at the same time I think that
the Saviour may have been visibly present at the Eucharist, shewing the
wounds in His body, though it was not a body that could be touched.”

“Does it not seem to you,” I asked, “that this agrees better with Paul’s
descriptions of the manifestations of Jesus after death?” “Yes,” said
Clemens, “and in other respects John seems to me to be nearer the truth.
For he apparently represents Christ as having ascended to the Father
before He could be ‘touched,’ that is to say, before His spiritual body
and blood could be imparted to the disciples. Moreover, whereas Matthew
places before the Resurrection a tradition relating how Christ imparts to
the disciples authority to bind and to loose i.e. to forgive sins, John
places it afterwards. And John also describes Peter as plunging into the
water and coming to Jesus after the Resurrection,—which seems to me a
symbol of Peter passing through the waters of temptation to the Saviour
whom he had denied. But Matthew places it before the Resurrection and
takes it literally, as though Peter tried to walk on literal water and
was nearly drowned, but for the Lord’s help.”

“Then,” said I, after a long pause—for I was not prepared to find Clemens
so far in agreement with Scaurus, an unbeliever, concerning the facts
of the Christian histories—“you are very far indeed from saying, ‘I
believe in every word of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, as being
historically accurate.’ Nay, I can hardly think you would say that, even
about the gospel of John?” “Assuredly,” he replied, “I would not say that
about any of the gospels. Indeed, dear friend, do you yourself think you
would venture to say as much as that, even about the history of your
favourite Thucydides? And does it not seem to you that, in any book that
describes the life of a man, the greater the man, and the more living the
life, the greater must be the failure of the book, and the deadness of
the book, as compared with the inexpressible spirit, not to be expressed
in any book, no, not in a universe of books?”

Then, rising, and pointing seaward, “Look!” he said, “the moon is up
already! Now indeed I must stay with you no longer. I have done my best
to deal fairly with you, even to the point perhaps of being not quite
fair to this little book, which I now hold in my hand, and am about to
place in yours, if you desire it. But are you sure that you do still
desire it? If you do indeed, I shall most gladly lend it, and you can
return it to me, this time to-morrow, at the house of Justus. But be
honest with me as I have tried to be with you. Do not take it as yet
if you are not prepared to read it as a book that comes from the east
through a western medium; a book that mingles, so as not always to be
clearly distinguished, words of the Lord with words of the evangelist,
facts and visions, histories and prophecies, metaphors that may be
misunderstood, and poems that may be taken as literal prose. It will make
you feel perhaps irritated, certainly unsatisfied. Perhaps you may end
in saying, ‘I want much more, I want to see the person to whom this book
points, but whom no book can make me feel.’ Then it will have done you
good. But perhaps you will put it aside and say, ‘I want no more’.”

He paused, and looked anxiously at me. “In that case,” continued he,
“I shall have done you harm. But what say you? After this warning, do
you—a Roman with Greek training, a reader of Homer and Thucydides—do you
still desire to see this little volume that is neither a true poem nor
a true history, a biography that hardly professes to draw the life of
Jesus as He was, but only to make us feel that it must be felt, if at
all, through ‘a disciple whom Jesus loved’?” I assured him that I greatly
desired to read it and thanked him with all my heart for the loan, and
for the frankness of his warning. “Farewell,” said he, placing the book
in my hand, “my friend, my brother—brother in the search after truth,
farewell!” “Your help,” said I, as he turned away from me, “has been more
like that of a father.” He stopped and looked round at me for a moment.
“Would indeed,” said he, “that it might prove so! Farewell!”



CHAPTER XXXIII

SCAURUS ON THE FOURTH GOSPEL


The sun had set, and the moon was well above the sea, when, after parting
from Clemens, I turned towards Nicopolis, with the new gospel in my hand.
Unrolling it, I found twilight enough to read the first few lines while
I walked slowly for some two or three hundred paces. Then I stood still
to read better in the fading light. When it had quite faded, I sat down
repeating what I had read.

“In the beginning was the Logos.” Never shall I forget the unexpectedness
of those words. I had supposed that the Christians altogether rejected
the Logos except as meaning “utterance” or “doctrine.” “In the beginning”
was, in some senses, familiar. I had read in Mark, “The _beginning_ of
the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Luke, too, had spoken of “those who were
from the _beginning_ eyewitnesses and ministers of the Logos.” But how
different was Luke’s “Logos” and Luke’s “beginning” from this!

I read on: “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God.”
What did “with” mean? Was the Logos “at home with God”? Or “conversing
with God”? Or “in union with God”? Or did “with” include all these
meanings? And what was this Logos? The next words gave the answer: “The
Logos was God.”

These words alone, contrasted with Luke’s preface, sufficed to indicate
a difference between Luke and John, just such as Clemens had suggested.
Luke began with a reference to many inadequate “attempts” to draw up
a relation about what he called “the _facts_”—meaning “_facts_” as
distinct from _fancies_—“consummated among us.” Then, like a careful
compiler, he distinguished his authorities, giving the first place to
“_eyewitnesses_,” the second to accessories, or “_ministers_.” These
were eyewitnesses, he said, “from the beginning”; and he declared that
he had followed and traced their evidence from the fountain head. John,
like a prophet, went back to a “beginning” of which there could be no
“eyewitnesses.” He did not say, as Luke did, “_it seemed good to me_” to
write. He said—as though he had himself been with Him who was from the
beginning—“_The Logos was God._”

Glancing down the column before folding up the scroll, I could barely
read in the fast expiring twilight the words, “And the Logos became flesh
and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only
begotten from the Father.” Clemens had prepared me for such words. As I
understood them, the “glory” did not mean any splendour of material light
or fire, such as is mentioned sometimes in the theophanies of Greek,
Roman, and Hebrew writers, but the glory of God’s constraining love.
But I greatly desired to study the words in their context. Repeating
them over and over again, as I rolled up the book, I hurried homeward.
Star after star came out in the darkness; and with each new star a new
suggestion of invisible “glory” shone on me more clearly. “This gospel,”
I said, “will grow on me like these visible glories. Night by night, and
day by day, its words will become less strange and more wonderful.”

On my arrival, I lit my lamp, and sat down at once, preparing to continue
my reading, when my servant entered with a letter. Not recognising the
superscription, I put it on one side. The boy waited about in the room,
doing nothing that needed doing. I was on the point of dismissing him,
when he said, “Sir, I think it is from Tusculum; but the superscription
is not in my lord’s handwriting.” Looking again, I saw that it was
in the handwriting of Marullus, Scaurus’s secretary. Scaurus usually
superscribed his letters to me with his own hand. In alarm about his
health, I tore the letter open, and throwing the cover hastily aside,
glanced at the beginning. This reassured me. It was from Scaurus, and in
his handwriting.

My apprehensions were soon banished. He had been ill, he said, but had
now recovered after a somewhat severe attack. Then the old war-horse
passed on to his favourite battle-field—criticism of Christian gospels.
I was in the act of putting the letter down—for I had had enough, for
the present, of criticizing the old gospels, and was longing to study
the new one—when I caught sight of the words “fourth gospel,” and
discovered that he had recently procured the very book I was beginning
to read, and that his letter contained a discussion of it. This was not
quite welcome—not, at least, at the moment. I wished to read the gospel
first, for myself, before looking at Scaurus’s criticism, which (I felt
sure) would be destructive. “Yet,” thought I, “I have heard Clemens on
the one side; ought I not to hear Scaurus on the other? If Scaurus goes
wrong, ought I not to be able to find it out?” Scaurus was always fair
and honest, and had helped me hitherto, even when I had not agreed with
him. These considerations made me finally decide to read the letter and
the gospel together, comparing each criticism with the passage or subject
criticized, as I went on.

“Let me begin,” wrote Scaurus, “with the point that will most interest
you. I have accused Epictetus of borrowing from the Christians. I now
assert that this writer—Flaccus tells me that the Christians say it was
John the son of Zebedee; I am sure they are wrong, but for convenience
I will call him John—this man John deliberately contradicts Epictetus,
using our friend’s language but in a different or opposite sense, or with
opposite conclusions.

“For example, Epictetus mocks at Agamemnon for calling himself a shepherd
of the people. He dislikes the Homeric language and says ‘Shepherd you
are in truth; for you weep, _as the shepherds do, when a wolf snatches
away one of their sheep_.’ John makes Christ distinguish between the good
shepherd and the hireling. It is only the hireling that _flees and lets
the wolf snatch away the sheep_. In John, Christ says, ‘I am the good
shepherd,’ and ‘_The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep_.’

“Again, Epictetus declares that a good man never weeps. He blames
Ulysses in particular for weeping at his separation from Penelope. John
represents Christ as shedding tears in sympathy with a woman weeping for
her dead brother.

“Epictetus constantly says that self-knowledge is everything—herein
(I must admit) going with other philosophers. John represents Christ
as saying, ‘This is eternal life, to know thee, the only true God and
Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ It is impossible that Christ could
have uttered the last part of this sentence exactly as it stands. But
that does not weaken my argument, which is, that John (alone of the
evangelists) insists on other-knowledge, not on self-knowledge, as being
the essential thing. And this he does throughout his gospel.”

Then Scaurus came to that cardinal doctrine of Epictetus which had
caused Glaucus and me so many searchings of heart. “You know,” he said,
“that Epictetus teaches that no good man is ever troubled. It is not
John’s custom to contradict what he deems errors in a formal and direct
way. But if he had resorted for once to direct methods, he could hardly
have contradicted this Epictetian doctrine more effectively than he
does in his indirect dramatic fashion. He represents Christ as thrice
‘troubled.’ First—on the same occasion on which he lets fall tears in
sympathy with the woman above mentioned—he is said to have ‘troubled
himself.’ Secondly, on an occasion when he is (as I take it) preparing
for some act of self-sacrifice, he says, ‘Now is my soul troubled.’ On a
third occasion, when announcing that he is to be betrayed by one of the
Twelve, he is said to have been ‘troubled in spirit.’ I cannot doubt that
this description of threefold ‘trouble’ is intended to attack the Stoic
doctrine that the wise and good man is to shrink from ‘trouble’.” This
convinced me, and it convinces me still.

Scaurus proceeded to say, “Some innocent readers of this gospel might
say, ‘Well at all events John agrees with Epictetus in his use of the
term Logos.’ And (no doubt) the first three lines of the gospel might
suggest this. But read on, and you will find the two are in absolute
opposition. The Logos, in John, instead of being the philosophic Logos or
reason, is really an unreasonable and hyperbolical sort of love, regarded
by him as born from God, and as part of God’s personality, and as
constituting unity in God’s nature. This Logos he regards as incarnate as
a man for the purpose of uniting mankind to God! This doctrine Epictetus
would absolutely reject.

“Later on, in this gospel, you will find Christ saying to the disciples,
‘Ye are clean on account of the Logos that I have spoken to you.’ Now
Epictetus also connects cleanness with the Logos. ‘It is impossible,’
he says, ‘that man’s nature should be altogether clean, but the Logos
being received into it, as far as possible attempts to make it cleanly.’
Verbally, there is an appearance of agreement. Read the two contexts,
however, and you will find that, whereas Epictetus makes ‘cleanness’
consist in right convictions, John makes it consist in a mystical
doctrine of sacrifice, or service, typified by the Master’s washing the
feet of the disciples.

“I could give you other instances of the way in which John uses other
language of philosophers in a non-philosophic sense. But his use of
Logos suffices for my purpose. It gives the clue to the whole gospel.
This writer adds one more to my list of Christian _retiarii_. The
innocent reader, unrolling the book and reading its first words, prepares
himself for a Platonic treatise in which he is to ‘follow the Logos’ in
accordance with Socratic precept. Then, step by step, he is lured on into
regions of non-logic and sentiment, till the net suddenly descends on
him, and he finds himself repeating, ‘the Logos became flesh’.”

What Scaurus said interested me but did not convince me as to John’s
motive. Nor did Scaurus himself adhere to it. He did not always use the
epithet “retiarian” in a bad sense. As I have said above, I had come to
believe that right “feeling,” rather than right “reason,” may be regarded
as revealing the nature of God. So I did not feel that John was beguiling
his readers. But Scaurus’s criticism helped me to recognise the extreme
skill and tact—as well as the terseness, beauty, and solemnity—with
which the evangelist introduces the doctrine of the incarnation. And I
could not help agreeing with my friend’s next remark, “The man that wrote
the Apocalypse—though he, too, was a prophet and a poet in his line—could
no more have written this prologue than Ennius could have written the
Æneid.”

After some more observations on the difference of style in the Apocalypse
and the Gospel, he returned to the criticism of the latter. “Compare,”
he said, “the prologue and the conclusion with the rest of this book,
and you will see that there is some mystery about its authorship.
Under one style it conveys two currents of thought. Sometimes it
repeats itself like an old man. Sometimes it is as brief and dark as an
oracle. Moreover, some events—such as the expulsion of the tradespeople
from the temple—which ought to come at the end—this writer places
at the beginning. It has occurred to me that he must have started
with the intention of describing nothing but Christ’s acts in Judæa
and then changed his mind. Or is it possible that documents arranged
Hebrew-fashion—last, first—have been interpreted Greek-fashion and
consequently reversed? Allegory is most strangely mixed with fact. There
is a wedding in which water is changed into wine. This is allegory. The
Bride is the Church. The water of the law is changed into the wine of the
gospel. After that, comes a statement that Christ spoke about destroying
the temple and building it in three days. This is, according to Mark
and Matthew, history. Luke took it as not history and left it out. John
took it as history and allegory and put it in. But how differently from
Mark and Matthew! Look at the passages. John often does this. I mean,
that where Luke differs from Mark, John (who prefers Mark) intervenes to
support the latter.”

This general remark (about John’s “preferring Mark”) agreed with what
Clemens had said. As for the particular instance, I found that Scaurus
was right. Mark and Matthew had mentioned a project to “destroy the
temple” as having been imputed to Christ by false witnesses. Luke omitted
it. John declared that Christ said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple!”
and that Christ “spoke about the temple of his body.”

“If I could believe,” continued Scaurus, “that John the son of Zebedee,
the author of the Apocalypse, had any part in the production of this
gospel, I should be disposed to say that he must have contributed to
it, not as a scribe, but as a prophet or seer. Take, for example, the
description, recorded in this gospel alone, of a flow of blood and water
from the side of Christ on the cross. I do not believe for a moment
that this was invented, any more than Luke’s description of the sweat
of blood on the night before the crucifixion. But I should explain the
two as resulting from two quite different causes, differing as the
authors differ. Luke was not a seer, but a man of literature, a student
of documents. He found some narrative based on the expression that it
was ‘a night of watching and sweat’—which you know very well means in
Greek ‘watching and anxious toil.’ The narrator took this literally. This
literal interpretation commended itself to Luke, who desired to connect
the death of Christ with the Jewish sacrificial ‘blood of sprinkling’.”
I had not noticed in Luke any tradition about “sweat.” But on referring
to my copy I found that, though not in the text, words of this kind were
written in the margin.

Scaurus went on to shew in detail that John’s tradition was quite
different in origin. It was supported by an asseveration, “He that hath
seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true; and _he knoweth_ that
he saith true that ye also may believe.” As to this, Scaurus said,
“Only a little child, a baby Gaius, would use such an asseveration as
‘_Gaius knows_ that Gaius is telling the truth.’ ‘He knoweth’ means ‘HE
knoweth,’ _i.e._ ‘The Lord knoweth.’ HE is often thus used in the epistle
that forms a sort of epilogue to this gospel. The prophet, or seer, is
appealing to his Lord about the truth of the vision of blood and water,
which the Lord has revealed to him. In the Bible ‘he that seeth’ is a
common phrase for ‘the seer,’ a man habitually seeing visions. When John
came back from Patmos and wrote the Apocalypse, he might naturally be
called by preeminence, ‘he that hath seen.’ Or the phrase might apply to
this special vision: ‘The seer (he that hath seen) hath borne witness
to the vision of the stream of blood and water, and HE (_i.e._ the Lord)
knoweth that his witness is true.’

“I do not deny that the vision is a fulfilment of a prophecy—which you
may have read in the book of Zechariah—concerning a certain ‘fountain
to cleanse sin and defilement.’ But still I say that it is an honest,
genuine, vision, not an invention. That it is not a fact could be proved,
if needful. According to the other evangelists, some women were present
near the cross, but no men are mentioned. It is extremely doubtful
whether two streams of water and blood could issue from the side. If
they had issued, and if John had been present, the soldiers would not
have let him stand near enough to distinguish them. My copy of Matthew,
in a marginal note, has a similar tradition, but _before the death_, and
without any order from Pilate to kill the crucified criminals—as if a
soldier would dare to do this at his own pleasure! A book called Acts of
John (only recently circulated, Flaccus tells me) contains other visions
of John, and, among them, some revealed during the crucifixion. The Acts
is not written by the author of this new gospel, and it is very wild and
fanciful; but it suggests that visions may have been falsely ascribed to
John because he was known to have really seen visions (like laws falsely
assigned to Numa because he was supposed to have really made laws). I
take it that John the son of Zebedee may have had a vision of this kind
about a ‘fountain’ of blood and water. This may have been current among
the Christians for some time. My annotator in Matthew seems to have found
it in a wildly improbable form. The new gospel gives it less improbably.”

Scaurus then commented on the contrast between what he called the
“soaring” thought of the book and its occasionally “pedestrian” or
vernacular language, as when John preserves the old traditional “crib”
for “bed”—a word abominated by Atticists and avoided by Luke. He also
commented on his ambiguities, his subtle plays on words, his variations
in the forms of words, and his veiled allusions—utterly unlike anything
that might be expected from a fisherman of Galilee—declaring that the
writer must have been conversant with the works of Philo as well as with
the teaching of the Cynics.

Then he pointed out how Christ in this gospel never uses the word “cross”
but always speaks of being “lifted up”—a phrase, he said, current among
Jews as well as Roman slaves, to mean “hanged” or “crucified”: and he
gave it as an instance of the writer’s irony—and of his recognition that
things low in man’s eyes are high in God’s eyes—that a criminal’s death
is called by this writer “being exalted,” or “being glorified.” “Have you
not”—he said—“heard your servants ever say that Geta has been ‘lifted
up,’ or that Syrus has been a rich man and has ‘fed multitudes’—meaning
that the poor wretch has been crucified and has fed multitudes of crows
with his flesh on the cross?” I had often heard it; and I was astonished
that such a phrase could be used in this gospel. Scaurus continued, “He
uses this vernacular talk, this unfeeling slavish jest, to represent the
very highest truth of Christian doctrine, that the Redeemer is to be
‘exalted’ by suffering on the cross so as to give his flesh and blood to
be the food of all the world!”

According to Scaurus, although the style was very different indeed from
that of Philo, and although the writer knew (what Philo did not) that the
Septuagint was often erroneous, yet there was a great likeness between
John and Philo in respect of their symbolism. Of this he gave a great
number of instances. And he also quoted allusions to Jewish proverbs or
sayings, one of which I will set down here, because it has given rise to
an error among some of the brethren at the present day.

John represents the Jews as saying to Jesus, “Thou art not yet fifty
years old.” Now, according to Scaurus, this referred to an enactment in
the Law that the Levites must serve with laborious service “up to fifty
years of age,” after which they are exempt, so that the saying, “Thou
art not yet fifty” meant, “Thou art but a junior Levite,” used as a term
of reproach. “This enactment,” said Scaurus, “was applied by Philo to
inferior spiritual attainment, and, I have no doubt, was used allusively
by John. But it might easily give the impression that Christ was about
fifty years old and that the Jews meant the saying literally.”

I mention this because I have myself heard the young Irenæus maintain
that Christ was actually about fifty years of age. And he not only
quoted John in support of this assertion but declared that it was also
the opinion of the elders conversant with John. When I heard him, I
remembered what Scaurus had said. I have never had any doubt that Scaurus
was right. At the same time it seems to me that a Jewish allusion of this
kind was extremely liable to be misunderstood, and that the writer of
this gospel would not perhaps have set it down if he had not received it
from the originator, John the son of Zebedee. This, however, is only my
conjecture. The error of Irenæus is a fact. And I could mention another
of the brethren, who wrote a commentary on John, and actually altered
“fifty” to “forty”—I suppose, to make sense! Both these errors arose from
not understanding John’s allusion.

Then Scaurus passed to the structure of the work which, he said, under
appearance of great simplicity, and of an iteration that might sometimes
seem almost garrulous or senile, conformed to certain Jewish rules of
twofold and threefold attestation. He shewed how the book—describing
a new creation of the world—begins and ends with six days. He also
shewed how the author takes pleasure in refrains of words, and cycles or
repetitions of events. For example, he describes Christ as being baptized
at the beginning in one Bethany and anointed at the end in another
Bethany. “I could give you,” he said, “other instances of this sort of
thing. The book is a poem, not a history.”

About this I was not yet able to judge; but I felt that by “poem” he
did not mean “mere fiction.” For he had already admitted that the book
contained historical as well as spiritual truth. And knowing his deep
love of goodness, I was not altogether surprised at what came next: “O my
dear Quintus, while reading this extraordinary book I have been more than
once tempted to say, ‘Along with a great deal that I do not want, this
man almost gives me what I do want—what I have been long desiring.’ I
have told you how, years ago, I craved for a city of truth and justice.
Well, I knew the Jews were a narrow, bigoted, and uncharitable race. No
Jewish philosopher or prophet was likely to be my guide to such a city.
But Isaiah was an exception. And somehow I fancied that this Jesus might
be a developed Isaiah, and that his new city would have over its gates,
‘Entrance free. Not even Roman patricians excluded.’ But what did I find
in some of the earliest gospels? In effect, this, ‘None but the lost
sheep of the House of Israel admitted here!’

“Now comes this latest of all the evangelists and says, ‘We have changed
all that. The old inscription is taken down. See the new inscription,
ROOM FOR ALL! We welcome the universe. Read me, and see what I say about
_other sheep_, and about _one flock, one shepherd_.’ To all which I
reply, ‘Alas, my unknown but well-intentioned friend, I see, too clearly,
that your friendliness exceeds your judgment. You honestly think that
your gospel is so good that it must be true. You are not, I feel sure,
decoying me—not consciously at least. You are the decoy bird. You have
been decoyed yourself to decoy others. But Scaurus is too old a bird to
be caught in such a manifest net. Whence this new doctrine? Why was it
not in the earliest gospels?’ I think John would find it hard to answer
that question! If I had come to Jesus the Nazarene and said to him, ‘What
shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ I doubt not that he would have
replied to me, ‘Marcus Æmilius Scaurus, you doubtless think yourself a
great person, as much superior to the low born Pontius Pilate as Pilate
thinks himself superior to me. Understand, then, that I have no message
for you. You know what name I gave to the Syrophœnician woman. I give the
same to you’.”

This passage was written in very large irregular characters, especially
towards the close, quite unlike my old friend’s usual hand. Then
followed these words, in his own neat regular writing—as though he had
been interrupted and resumed his pen in a cooler mood—“Let me try to be
honest. I may have said rather more than I meant. I meant this fifteen
years ago. Perhaps I mean it still. But after reading this new gospel, I
feel somewhat less certain. Still, I fear that the truth may be as I have
said.”



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE LAST WORDS OF SCAURUS


Had I read to the end of Scaurus’s letter I should not have been so
startled by this sudden outburst. As it was, I had but a faint perception
of the cause. I did not give weight enough to the indications—slight
to others but they ought to have been clear to me—that the old man
was writing under a great mental strain. Striving to be fair to the
evangelists, he desired also to do justice to himself, half repenting
that he had rejected the Saviour, half vindicating the rejection on
the ground that truth constrained it. The whole tone of his letter—the
handwriting itself, if I had only noted it more closely—should have made
me perceive that he was passing rapidly through many transient phases,
and that this outburst of passionate indignation—not with Christ but
with what he supposed to be Mark’s Christ—was but one of them. I did not
notice these things. I was too much wrapped up in my own thoughts, and in
imaginations of what I could have said, and how I could have pleaded with
him for Christ.

It was now late, and I could read no more. I retired to rest—but not at
first to peaceful rest. Thoughts and dreams, fancies and phantoms, passed
indistinguishably before me: Scaurus and Clemens opposing one another,
Hermas mediating, while Epictetus looked on; Troy, Rome, Jerusalem, and
the City of Truth and Justice coming down from heaven; sunset and sunrise
ushered by Hesper and Phosphor—with snatches of familiar utterances about
“perceiving,” “believing,” and “deceiving,” and mocking repetitions of
“logos,” “logos”—a confused, shifting, and multitudinous medley that
resolved itself at last into one vast and dizzying whirlpool, in which
all existence seemed endlessly revolving round a central abyss, when
suddenly I heard “In the beginning was the Logos.” Then the whirlpool was
drawn up to the sky as though it had been a painted curtain; and we were
standing below, Scaurus and I, and Clemens, and Epictetus, and Hermas—all
of us gazing upwards to an unspeakable glory ascending and descending
between heaven and earth. Then I fell into a peaceful sleep.

Next morning I continued reading the letter. “About the marvels or
miracles in this gospel,” said Scaurus, “it is worth noting that
the author mentions only seven, that is to say, seven before the
resurrection. This, I believe, is the number assigned to Elijah, whereas
Elisha has fourteen—having ‘a double portion’ of Elijah’s spirit. This
selection of seven is one among many indications that the work uses
Jewish symbolism. I have shewn above that the Jewish genealogies are
sometimes adapted in that way, as with Matthew’s ‘fourteen generations.’
A more important fact is that this writer calls the miracles ‘signs’—not
‘mighty works,’ which is the term in the three gospels. This is very
interesting and I like him for it. He hates the words ‘strong,’ and
‘mighty,’ and ‘mighty work.’ For the matter of that, so does Epictetus.
Both would agree that it is only slaves that obey ‘the stronger.’

“He also dislikes arithmetical ‘greatness’ and discussions about ‘who
is the greatest?’ He prefers to lay stress on unity. Christians, he
thinks, are ‘one with the Son,’ or they are ‘in’ the Son, or the Son
is ‘in’ them. They are also to be ‘one,’ as the Father and the Son are
‘one.’ When men are regarded in this way, arithmetical standards of
greatness—based on one’s income, or on the amount of one’s alms, or the
amount of one’s prayers, or one’s sufferings, or one’s converts—become
ridiculous. He is quite right.

“He makes no mention of ‘repentance.’ That, I think, is because he
prefers such expressions as ‘coming to God’ or ‘coming to the light,’
rather than mere ‘change of mind.’ He never uses the noun ‘faith’ or
‘belief.’ Probably he found it in use as a technical term among some
foolish Christians—speaking of ‘faith that moves mountains’—who forgot to
ask ‘faith in _what_?’ For the same reason, no doubt, he preferred the
word ‘signs’ to ‘mighty works,’ because the former—at all events while it
was a novel term—might make men ask ‘signs of _what_?’ The phrase ‘mighty
work’ makes us ask nothing. Nor does a ‘mighty’ work prove anything,
except that the doer is ‘mighty’—perhaps a giant, perhaps a magician,
perhaps a God. Who is to decide? Epictetus says that Ceres and Pluto are
proved to be Gods because they produce ‘bread.’ So this John represents
Christ as producing bread and wine and healing disease and raising the
dead; and these are ‘signs’ that he is a Giver of divine gifts and a
Healer, like Apollo.

“In the case of one miracle, omitted by Luke, John intervenes and gives
the sign a different aspect—I mean the one in which Mark and Matthew
represent Christ as walking over the water to the disciples in a storm
and as coming into their boat. John represents Christ as standing on the
edge of the sea and as drawing the disciples safely to himself as soon as
they cry out to him. I have no doubt that the story is an allegory. But
John seems to me to give it in the nobler, and perhaps the earlier, form.

“There were probably multitudes of exorcisms performed by Jesus, as I
have said to you before. But John does not mention a single instance.
Perhaps he thought that more than enough had been said about these things
by the earlier evangelists. On the other hand, he describes the healing
of a man born blind, and the raising of a man named Lazarus from the
dead, after he had lain in the tomb three days.

“The nearest approach to this is a story in Luke about raising from the
coffin a young man, the son of a widow. I was long ago inclined to think
Luke’s story allegorical, and a curious book, which recently came into
my hands, confirms this view. It is assigned to Ezra, but was really
written, at least in its present form, about five and twenty years ago.
I think it mixes Jewish and Christian thought. Ezra sees a vision of
a woman sorrowing for her only child. She has had no son till after
‘thirty years’ of wedlock. The son grew up and was to be married. When
he ‘entered into his wedding chamber, he fell down and died.’ Presently
it is explained, ‘The woman is Sion.’ For ‘thirty years’ there was ‘no
offering.’ After ‘thirty years,’ Solomon ‘builded the city and offered
offerings.’ Then Jerusalem was destroyed. But Ezra sees a new city
builded, ‘a large place.’ It is a strange mixture. David, says the
scripture, was a ‘son of thirty years’ when he began to reign, and he
may be supposed to have died about the time when the Temple began to be
built. On the other hand Christ also was a ‘son of thirty years’ when he
began to preach the gospel, and Christ might be said to have died at the
time when he entered the Temple to purify it (that is, as Jews might say,
‘entered the wedding chamber’).

“I don’t profess to explain all this Ezra-allegory. The only point
worth noting is that it describes events that befell _the City_ and
_the Temple_ of the Jews as though they befell _persons_—a ‘woman’ and
a deceased ‘son.’ Luke omits the charge brought against Christ that
he threatened to destroy ‘_the temple_’ and build another. But there
can be no doubt that there was some basis of fact for the charge. John
gives that basis, by saying that Christ had in view a ‘_body_,’ meaning
himself. This indicates that Luke was misled through not understanding
Jewish metaphor. So here Luke may have been misled again. He found a
tradition describing the ‘raising up’ of the ‘widow’s son,’ and he took
it literally.” The explanation thus suggested by Scaurus seemed to me
probable. It explained why Luke omitted “the raising up of the temple.”
It also explained why Mark and Matthew omitted “the raising up of the
widow’s son.”

Scaurus proceeded to the account of the raising of Lazarus. “This
narrative,” he said, “is extremely beautiful and may perhaps have had
some basis of historical fact. Luke speaks of a Lazarus, who dies, and
is carried after death into Abraham’s bosom. Some Christians might take
this Lazarus for a historical character. But I do not think any confusion
arising from that story can have had very much to do with the story in
John. The latter seems to me to have been thrown into allegorical form,
so that Lazarus may represent humanity, first, corrupt, mere ‘_flesh
and blood_’; secondly, raised up by ‘_the help of God_.’ ‘My God helps’
is the meaning of Eliezer or Lazarus. Philo sees in the name these two
associations. Also a Christian writer named Barnabas has some curious
traditions that may bear on this name; and so have the Jews. Possibly
John may mean—over and above the man Lazarus—the human race, raised up to
life by the Messiah at the intercession of two sisters, representing the
Jewish and the Gentile Churches of the Christians. Similarly I am told
that Christians describe the two sisters Leah and Rachel as representing
the Synagogue and the Church.

“For my part, having spoken to many physicians, and having investigated
some instances of revivification, I have come to the conclusion that
Jesus possessed a remarkable power of healing the sick and even perhaps
of restoring life to those from whom (to all appearance) life had
recently departed. Nay, I am dreamer enough to go beyond anything that
physicians would allow, and to suppose that Christ may have had a certain
power of what I called above _teliatreia_, ‘healing at a distance,’
producing a corresponding _telepatheia_, or ‘being healed at a distance.’
But there is against this particular narrative the objection—not to be
overcome except by very strong evidence indeed—that the other evangelists
say nothing about this stupendous miracle. Having in view Christ’s
precept to the disciples, ‘Raise the dead,’ I see how easily honest
Christians might be led to take metaphor for fact. It is much more easy
to explain how the narratives of the widow’s son and of Lazarus may have
arisen from misunderstanding in the two latest gospels, than to explain
how, though true, they were omitted in the two earliest.”

Upon this, I read the story of the raising of Lazarus two or three
times over. It appeared to me certain that the writer of the gospel
must have taken the story as literally true. But I saw how easy it was
to mistake metaphor for literal meaning in stories of this kind. I was
also impressed by what Scaurus said concerning the precept, “Raise the
dead,” which is recorded by Matthew. No other writer mentions this; and I
had assumed, at the time of which I am now speaking, that it was meant
spiritually, and that Luke omitted it because he thought that it might be
misunderstood as having a literal meaning. And here I may say, writing
forty-five years afterwards, that I have lately spoken to several of the
brethren about this precept. Some leave it out of their text of Matthew.
Some refuse to say anything about it. But I have not as yet found a
single brother ready to admit that Jesus must have used it, or even
probably used it, metaphorically.

All this I did not know at the time when I was reading Scaurus’s letter;
but I recognised the force of his arguments and was constrained to
sympathize with his disappointment when he proceeded as follows: “O, my
dearest Quintus, what earthen vessels, what mere potsherds, these gospel
writers are, even the best of them, in comparison with the man whom they
fail to set before us! Yes, even this John, whom I regard as by far the
greatest of them all, even he is a failure—but in his case, perhaps, from
want of knowledge, not from want of insight. As for the others, why do
they not trust to the greatness of their subject, the man Jesus Christ?
Why can they not believe that the Logos might become incarnate as a man,
that is to say, a real man—what Jesus himself calls ‘son of man’? Why do
they lay so much stress on mere ‘mighty works,’ some of which, even if
they could be proved to have happened, would give us little insight into
the real greatness of their Master, whom they wish us to worship?

“For my part, I take such stories as those of the destruction of the
swine and the withering of the fig-tree, to be allegories misinterpreted
as facts. But even if I were shown to be wrong, they would not prove to
me that I was right in worshipping the doer of such wonders. If I can
judge myself aright, I, Marcus Æmilius Scaurus, am quite prone enough
already to worship the God of the Thunderbolts and the God of War. These
Jews might have taught me better. They have, to some extent—especially
this fourth writer. But how much more from the first might have been
effected if, from the first, they had recognised the truth taught in the
legend of Elijah—that the Lord is ‘not in the earthquake’ but ‘in the
still small voice’!”

At this point, Scaurus’s handwriting became irregular and sometimes not
easy to read. “I have been interrupted again,” he said. “This time, it
was Flaccus. Now I take up my pen positively for the last time, wondering
why I take it up, and why I ramble on in this maundering fashion. I think
it is because I feel as though you and I were dreaming together, and I am
loth to leave off. There is no one else in the world with whom I can thus
dream in partnership. This shall really be my last dreaming.

“Do not be vexed with me, Quintus, for charging Flaccus _not_ to send you
a copy of this little book. He told me that for some time past you had
been interested in these subjects, and that, if he could find another
copy, he intended to forward it to you. The rascal added something about
‘mere literary interest.’ I suspect him of Christian tendencies. Your
recent letters have reassured me. But I cannot help feeling that there
have been moments with you, as with me, when the ‘interest’ was more than
‘merely literary.’ I had half thought of sending you my copy. But I shall
not. The subject is too fascinating—like chess; and, like chess, it leads
to nothing. I was glad to hear—in your last letter, I think—that you were
now giving your mind to practical affairs. If you decide on the army at
once, there is likely to be work soon in Illyria.

“Things also look cloudy, not black yet but cloudy, in Syria. In spite
of the thrashing they got from the late Emperor, these Jews have not yet
learned their lesson. They are as stubborn and obstinate as Hannibal made
us out to be:—

    _‘Gens quae cremato fortis ab Ilio_
    _Jactata Tuscis aequoribus sacra_
      _Natosque maturosque patres_
        _Pertulit Ausonias ad urbes,_
    _Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus_
    _Nigrae feraci frondis in Algido_
      _Per damna, per caedes, ab ipso_
        _Ducit opes animumque ferro.’_

“How every word of this would suit the Jews! I mean in their past
history. According to my news (from a friend of Rufus the new Governor)
it may suit their future, too; and we may have to take Jerusalem again.
Then—to quote Isaiah and Horace in one—there will be another ‘lopping
of the boughs’ in the future. But I mean their past. I wonder whether
you understand what I am dreaming of. Probably not, and it is not worth
explaining. Nor indeed am I well enough to explain clearly and briefly.
I have been going in too much for books of late, and feel at this moment
(to quote an old friend) ‘dead from the waist down.’ However—as I am not
going to write about these Jews again—I will scribble my last thoughts to
the end.

“How strange it would have been, then, my dearest Quintus, if these
Jews—I mean the Jewish Jews not the Christian Jews—how strange, I say,
it would have been, looked at as a poem, if these fellows had fulfilled
Hannibal’s prophecy. They went some way towards it. Though their Ilium
has been twice burned they are still alive, numerous, and active. Their
‘ilex’ has had ‘pruning’ enough, heaven knows, from the Roman axe of
late, and from the Assyrian and Babylonian axes in days gone by. But they
want pruning still. Witness a score of eastern cities, where they have
lately been massacring myriads of Greeks—not, I own, without having seen
myriads of their countrymen massacred first.

“Their disadvantage has been that they have never made a new start
as Æneas did, so as to turn old Troy into new Rome. Æneas could take
his gods with him. The Jews could not. The only place where they have
done anything of the kind is Alexandria. There they have an imitation
temple—not a rival temple of course, but an imitation—and there they
are at their best. But elsewhere the stubborn creatures—from Gaul to
Euphrates—recognise no home or sacred ground except in a little corner of
Syria. Providence has done its best to detach them from this servitude by
using Titus to destroy their temple a second time, and by leaving their
sacred utensils no existence except upon Titus’s arch. But still they
are servants of the _genius loci_, so to speak. As they cannot serve the
temple, they serve the ground on which it stands and the traditions that
have collected round it.

“The Christian Jews have immense advantages. They are like the Trojan
Romans. The Christians have left their Troy (that is to say, carnal
Jerusalem) in order to dwell in Rome (that is to say, heavenly Jerusalem)
the city of truth, the city of justice, the city of freedom and universal
brotherhood. Their sacred fire is the Holy Spirit. Their sacred vessels
are human beings. Every great city in Asia contains their ‘holy things.’
To celebrate their feast on the body and blood of their Saviour, a table
of pine wood, a platter, and a mug, supply them with all they need!
A little bread, and wine mingled with water, have taken the place of
Solomon’s hecatombs! Surely this is the very perfection of religious
simplicity—an ambassador in a plain Roman toga amid the courtiers of a
Ptolemy!

“Again, when we Romans call on Jupiter, offering our costliest white
oxen, who supposes that Jupiter descends? But when these Christians meet,
without a denarius in their pockets, three in a room, they tell you that
Christ is with them. What is more, many of them believe it! What is most,
some of them act as though they believed it! I have called their city
a city of dreams, and I repeat it. But, mark you, a city of dreams has
one great advantage over a city of bricks or stone. You can smash the
latter. But neither Nero, nor Trajan, has been able to smash the former;
and I begin to doubt whether it could be smashed by Hadrian, if he tried.
At the present rate, I should not be surprised if, in the next hundred
years, the empire from the Euphrates to Britain were dotted with colonies
of Christ.

“‘Let arms of war give place to the gown of peace!’ So sang the lawyer
of Arpinum when he tried his hand at poetry. He was better advised, in
his lawyer’s gown, when he confessed ‘Laws are silent among arms.’ But
there is a third power more powerful than either laws or arms. You won’t
believe me when I tell you its name. It is ‘dreams.’ Yes, ‘Among dreams,’
says Scaurus—and he knows, having been himself a dreamer, in his day,
besides being a bit of a soldier and a good deal of a looker on—‘Among
dreams, arms are vain.’ I don’t say they are ‘_silent_.’ That is their
contemptible feature—they are _not_ ‘silent.’ But they are impotent.
Mars against dreams may make what fuss and bustle he pleases, clash,
clang, thunder, like the brazen wheels of Salmoneus. But his thundering
will effect nothing. Nor will his steel. ‘_Frustra diverberet umbras._’

“When I say ‘dreams,’ do not take me to mean that the personality of a
great prophet is a ‘dream.’ But the notion that an empire can be spun
out of it, or built on it, seems to me a dream. Yet there is something
attractive in it—I mean in the conception of a soul like a vast magnet,
attracting and magnetizing a group of souls, of which each in turn
becomes a new magnet, magnetizing a group of its own, and so on, and so
on, till the whole empire (or family) of souls is bound together by this
magnetic law. Yes, ‘law’ one may call it, not a magical incantation, but
a natural law, the law of the spiritual magnet. It is all very strange.
Yet, given the personality, it is possible.

“For it all comes to this, a personality—nothing more. There is nothing
new in what the Christians call their Testament or Covenant—nothing new
at all, from the Jewish point of view, except that the new Jews have cast
aside a great deal of the Covenant of the old Jews. I sometimes think
the Christian leader was really what Socrates calls himself, a ‘cosmian’
or ‘cosmopolite,’ going back, behind the law of Moses, to a beginning
of things before unclean food was Levitically forbidden and before free
divorce was Levitically sanctioned. His two fundamental rules are the
same, both for Jews and for Christians, ‘Love God,’ ‘Love man.’

“The difference is, that to the Christians (so they assert) Christ has
introduced a new kind of love, a new power of love. He has not only
breathed it into his disciples but also given them (they say) the power
of breathing it into others. The question is, Have they this power? I am
obliged to admit—from what I hear—that a good many of them appear to me
to have it. This is the real miracle. This, if true, is sunlight. All the
so-called miracles of their books, even if true, are the merest, palest
moonlight compared with this.

“This dreamer seems to me to have planned an imperial peace throughout
his cosmopolis, to be brought about, not by threats based on the power
of inflicting death, not by edicts on stone backed by punishments with
steel, but by means of a spirit that is to creep into our hearts,
dethrone our intellects, drag us in triumph behind his chariot wheels,
making us fanatically happy when we are in love with him—and with all
the weak, the foolish, the suffering, and the oppressed—and making us
unreasonably unhappy, foolishly sad and sick at heart, when we resist a
blind affection for others and when we consult our own interests and our
own pleasures, following the path of prudent wisdom.

“In one respect, this work of John’s has proved me a false prophet. I
prophesied that East and West could not unite in one religion. They
_have_ united—on paper, and in theory—in this little book. But I also
said that, if they did unite, their offspring would be a portent. To that
I adhere. If John’s form of the Christian superstition were to overspread
the world, do you seriously suppose that it would remain in his form?
No, it is impossible but that the spiritual will be despiritualised.
The superstition of pure spirit will probably become a superstition of
unmixed matter. The life will be narrowed to the Body and the Blood.
The Body and the Blood will be narrowed down still further to the Bread
and the Wine. Then their hyperbolical self-sacrifice will give way to
hyperbolical malignity. How these Christians will, in due time, hate one
another! How they will wall in, and imprison, the Spirit that bloweth
whither it listeth! How they will war against one another for their
Prince of Peace! How they will philosophize and hair-split about the
Father and the Son, tearing one another in pieces for the unity of the
one God! And yet, and yet, even if all my prophecies of the worst come to
pass, might not a Christian philosopher of those far-off days say that
the ‘worst is often the corruption of the best,’ and that his Prophet
had discovered a ‘best,’ buried for a time beneath all this rubbish
and litter, but destined to emerge and grow into the tree of a great
spiritual empire? It may be so. I do not deny that there may be such a
‘best.’ But it is not for me.

“I give it up. The problem of the Sphinx is too hard for my brains.
Perhaps Destiny knows its own mind, and it may be a good mind—not my
mind, but perhaps an infinitely better and wiser. Perhaps this Christian
superstition is intended to found an empire after the Spirit, an empire
of ‘the Son of man,’ like, but unlike, the empires of Egypt, Babylon,
Greece, Rome. Daniel dreamed this for Jewish Jews. It may come true for
Christian Jews. If it should come, what a tyranny it will be—for those,
at least, who are tyrants at heart! The yoke of the Imperium Romanum
will be nothing to the yoke of the Imperium Romanochristianum. We Romans
despotize over bodies: the Roman Christians will despotize over souls.
‘Debellare superbos’ is only one of our arts. ‘Pacis imponere mores’ is
a second. ‘Parcere subjectis’ is a third. These Roman Christians will
know how to crush, but not how to spare. What saints it will create—for
the spiritual! What devils—for the carnal! And which will win in the
end, saint or devil? I incline, with oscillation, to the saint. But I
am sick and tired of inclinations and oscillations; I want to _know_. I
_know_ that the sun shines. I want to _know_—just at this moment I feel
very near knowing, nearer than I ever have been in my whole life—that the
world has been made all of a piece, and is being shaped by the Maker to
one end, and that, the best.

“O, my dear Silanus, I am weary of these books. I must go out into the
fresh air and see the sun. Books, books, books! I agree with Epictetus,
who thinks that Chrysippus wrote some two hundred too many. I agree
with John, too, who says, in effect, that not all the pens and paper in
the world could draw the portrait of his master—or rather his friend,
for ‘friend,’ not ‘servant,’ is the title at the end of the book. That
reminds me, by the way, of a beautiful thought in this gospel—I mean
that the author is ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’! As much as to say,
‘Do you want to know Jesus? Then get a _friend_ of his—some one _whom
Jesus loved_—to introduce you. There is no other way. Not an impartial
biographer—he is of no use—but a _friend_.’ And I think he means to hint,
at the close of his little book, that there always will be, ‘tarrying,’
till Jesus comes again, a ‘disciple whom Jesus loved,’ to represent him
to the world.

“That is most true. That is real insight, the insight of an artist and
a prophet in one. I can forgive John almost all his faults—ambiguities,
artificialities, statements of non-fact as fact, I can condone them all
as orientalisms or Alexandrian Judaisms—for the sake of this one truth,
that we cannot know the greatest of the departed great, save through a
human being that has loved him and has been loved by him. This is the
thought with which John ends and with which I will end. I wish to part
friends with him. Indeed at this moment, for his sake, I could almost
call myself an amateur Christian. But then I pull myself together and
recognise that it only proves what I have said to you a score of times,
and now repeat for the last time, that whereas we Romans are only coarse,
clumsy, brutal Samnites, these Christians are the wiliest, kindest, and
gentlest of retiarii.

“And that makes me think of old Hermas. You remember I told you of our
last interview. It comes back to me while I am finishing this last dream.
I always felt there was more in his face than I could understand. Now,
after reading this gospel, I seem, just at this moment, to understand
his face for the first time, quite well. The old man had in him the
love of ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ It had been breathed into his
being. This it was that half fascinated me, shining out of his eyes as
he silently left the room on that afternoon—to me unforgettable—when I
dismissed him. What if I had not dismissed him? What if⸺.”

These words were the last of a column. They were the last that Scaurus
was ever to write. The next column was blank. At first I thought he had
been again interrupted and had forgotten to finish the letter. But then
I recollected with alarm that, quite contrary to custom, the cover had
not been directed in his handwriting. I had thrown it hastily aside on
the previous evening. Now I searched for it and my alarm was speedily
justified. Inside was a short and hurried note from Marullus saying that
my dear old friend had been struck suddenly with paralysis in the act of
writing to me. A messenger (said Marullus) who happened to be at that
moment waiting to carry Scaurus’s letter, would carry at the same time
Marullus’s note. On the following day, whatever might happen, he would
send a second letter by a special messenger.

It was now drawing towards evening. I hastened out to ascertain how soon
a vessel, available for my purpose, would be leaving Nicopolis. Finding
that I could start on the following day at noon, I determined not to wait
for Marullus’s second letter but to make preparations for an immediate
return.



CHAPTER XXXV

CLEMENS ON THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST


Scaurus, and not the fourth gospel, nor any other book, person, or
thing, was uppermost in my mind, when, late in the evening, I hurried
to the house of Justus to keep my engagement with Clemens. Two or three
hours ago, I had been longing for this interview. Now I would willingly
have avoided it. I seemed to see my old friend speechless on his bed in
Tusculum, saying to me with his eyes, “Do not desert me. Do not go over
to the enemy.” Not till later did I feel that Scaurus could not have
called Clemens “enemy.”

“I am tired of books”—so Scaurus had written. So was I, quite tired. I
wanted to think, not talk; or, if to talk, to talk about Scaurus, not
about gospels or books of any sort. “How glad should I be to exchange
this interview for five minutes’ chat with old Marullus!”—that was my
thought when I found myself, more than an hour after sunset, sitting face
to face with Clemens.

I returned him the book—so precious to me yesterday—with some words of
formal thanks. What should I say next? About the one subject that filled
all my thoughts I felt no desire to talk to a stranger—“yes” (I said to
myself) “a stranger to Scaurus, though a friend, a real friend, to me.”
Yet something had to be said. I began by excusing myself, at an absurd
length, for being late. Clemens acknowledged the excuse with a slight
inclination of the head. His face was questioning me, and his eyes were
reading me. But he left it to me to speak, and to open our interview if
I desired one. Then I blundered out some absurd stuff—in the way of
humour!—about the possibility that he might suppose me to have forgotten
my engagement.

Clemens did not seem in the least ruffled or even surprised. After a
pause, in which the questioning look gave place to one of sympathy, he
said, very slowly and gently, “No, my dear friend, I could not suppose
that. Nor could you think that I could suppose that. Some trouble, I
perceive, has befallen you. You felt bound to keep your engagement with
me, and you have done so. You did right. But you will not do right if you
stay longer, out of courtesy to me, when your conscience tells you that
it would be better for you to be alone.”

When I entered the room, I had distinctly preferred to be alone. Even
now, I so far desired solitude that I murmured some words of thanks
for his consideration, and rose to go. But something kept me standing
irresolute. I do not know what it was at first. Certainly it was not any
thought about the new gospel. Perhaps it was my new friend’s directness,
truthfulness and insight, in discerning and brushing aside my pretence,
and his kind and courteous way of forgiving it, that made me suddenly
feel, “This is a man that Scaurus would have liked to know. This is a man
that Scaurus would like me to know. He tells me to go if I feel that it
will be ‘better’ for me to be alone. But will it be ‘better’?”

It may have been this that checked my going. I do not know for certain.
But I do know what decided me to stay. I suddenly saw Scaurus. He was
in the library at Tusculum, with his back to me, at his writing-table,
but not writing, half risen from his seat, and looking towards the door,
which was slowly closing. As it closed, he turned and looked round at me,
with such a sadness as I had never seen on his face except once or twice,
when I had gone wrong and he was striving to lead me right. I knew what
he meant, as well as if he had said the words aloud, “Hermas is gone, and
I shall repent it through my life. Do not let your Hermas go!” I resumed
my seat and tried to collect my thoughts.

It seemed to me now only right and natural that I should tell Clemens of
Scaurus’s illness and of my intention to leave Nicopolis on the morrow.
He took my departure as a matter of course. Could he be of service,
he asked, in making arrangements for my sailing? I assured him that
everything had been done that was needful for that day. Then I told him
how Scaurus had urged me to join Epictetus’s classes, and that he wished
me afterwards to join the army. Finding him interested and sympathetic,
I gave him an account of my old friend’s life, his affection for me, his
love of research, his literary pursuits, and his study of Jewish as well
as Greek literature, not omitting his early reading of the gospels, nor
forgetting to tell him about old Hermas the Christian, his librarian. He
listened with more and more attention. “I am not surprised,” he said,
“that you love so good a friend and so honest a man.”

Presently I said, “I wonder whether it would be still possible and
right for me to join the army, if⸺” and there I stopped. “Dear friend,”
said he, “if that unmentioned thing were to come to pass, trust me that
nothing would be possible or right for you against which your conscience
cried out, and nothing wrong that your conscience permitted. Some might
condemn your decision—whether to join the army or not to join. But you
would not be bound by their condemnation. Your conscience would receive
guidance. Those who follow on that unmentioned path do not follow with
an ‘if.’ Should that path be taken, it would be, not on conditions, but
because of a friendly constraint. Let us not speak of that now. Tell me
more about your friend.” “I have his letter here,” said I, “and would
read it if you cared to hear it. But it deals freely, very freely, with
the gospels. Once, at least, I think my old friend is unfair to them.
It would perhaps pain you.” “It would not pain but please me,” said he.
“I always like to hear honest, able, and educated men speak their minds
freely about our Christian writings. The pity of it is, that we have
hitherto had few such critics. If we had had them when the gospels were
first written, perhaps they would have contained fewer things that may in
after times cause some of the faithful to stumble.”

So I began to read Scaurus’s letter to him. At first I omitted portions
here and there, either because they were personal, or because they might
hurt the feelings of a Christian. Presently, halting in the middle of a
bitter saying, I finished the sentence in my own way—somewhat awkwardly.
Clemens smiled. “Pardon me,” said he, “for interrupting you. I am not a
master of styles. Yet, if I mistake not, those last words did not come
from Æmilius Scaurus. If I am wrong, forgive me. But if I am right in
thinking that you altered something to spare my feelings, then let me
assure you again that it would trouble me that you should do this, even
though the criticism came from the bitterest enemy of the Christians. As
it is, I have learned already to esteem your friend as a genuine lover
of truth, and one from whom I have even now learned some things and
hope to learn more. The more you will allow me to learn (without giving
pain to yourself) the better shall I be pleased.” “Well then,” said I,
“we will talk about the letter afterwards. For the present, I will read
on steadily without omitting a single word, unless you stop me.” And
so I did. Clemens listened intently, without stopping me, only he now
and then, especially towards the end, expressed assent or interest, or
sympathy, by a slight movement or inarticulate murmur; till we came to
the last words, the uncompleted sentence, suggesting what might have
happened on one memorable afternoon, if he had not dismissed a “disciple
whom Jesus loved.” This I did not read, but I placed the letter before
him. “These,” said I, “were his last words, the very last.”

He read them, and turned away his face. I thought, and rightly, that he
was feeling with me. But I am sure now that he was also praying for me,
and for Scaurus too. For a time we sat in silence. I was the first to
break it, expressing my sorrow that the story of the Syrophœnician woman
should have led Scaurus to form what seemed to me a wrong conception of
Christ. “But you see,” replied Clemens, “he revolted from that wrong
conception, or was ready to revolt from it, at the last moment of all.
And I agree with you that, if he had approached that story with the
preparation that Paul gave you, he would have regarded it as you did.
I am sure Christ was never cruel to anyone. If He really uttered those
seemingly cruel words to that sorrowful woman, He was cruel in word,
only that He might be the more kind and the more helpful in deed. He
intended this gospel to be preached to all the world, though He waited
for the Father to teach Him the time and the manner of the preaching to
the Gentiles.”

“Is there anything in John’s gospel,” said I, “that resembles this
story?” “There is a dialogue,” he replied, “between Christ and a
Samaritan woman, who is described as living in sin, just as you have
suggested concerning the Syrophœnician. And Christ chides her, but with
great gentleness, and finally reveals Himself to her as Messiah. It has
occurred to me that this is one of the many instances where John steps in
to remove a misunderstanding liable to be caused by some passage in Mark,
which Luke omits.”

Then he added, “I will talk with you, if you please, about the letter or
the gospel or anything else, if you really desire it. But if you would
wish to be alone with your own thoughts (as you well might wish), do not,
I beseech you, stay longer. You have laid me under a debt by introducing
me to a genuine lover of truth on whom the Light of the World has dawned,
even though it may not be given to him to see the full day. May he find
peace!”

I was quite willing to stay now. “Do you agree with Scaurus,” said I,
“that John alludes in parts of his gospel to the teaching of Epictetus?”
“I feel sure,” replied Clemens, “that John alludes to the doctrine of
the Stoics and Cynics. Now Epictetus has been, for some years past, most
widely known among all classes, rich, poor—yes, and slaves, too—as the
representative of the Cynic doctrine. So that your friend seems to me
likely to be right.” “Scaurus,” said I, “mentions self-knowledge and
God-knowledge as if the former were inculcated by Epictetus, the latter
by John, in opposition. Is that so, in your opinion?” “Not quite,”
said he, “but nearly so. All the Stoics lay stress, as you know, on
self-knowledge. Epictetus, perhaps more than most, teaches men to look
for God within themselves. Luke also—alone of the evangelists—has one
tradition of this kind, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ John, feeling
that many were prevented thereby from looking for God out of themselves,
laid stress on the latter. That is to say, John paraphrased Christ’s
teaching about ‘the Father in heaven’ in such a form that it should be
more familiar to the Greeks, urging them to ‘know God.’ So Paul is said
by Luke to have taken as his text on the Areopagus an inscription TO THE
UNKNOWN GOD; and he tried to teach the philosophers that God could be
‘known.’ But neither Paul nor John would deny that self-knowledge, and
the consciousness of our own sins, and the sense of our own burdens, are
necessary if we are to have our burdens lightened, our sins forgiven, and
our souls brought into the light of the glory of the knowledge of God.”

“And as to the ‘troubling’ of Christ,” said I, “mentioned thrice in the
fourth gospel, do you agree with Scaurus that there, too, the author
is alluding to Epictetus?” “I do indeed,” said he. “I did so from the
first moment when I read the new gospel. Man is born to trouble as the
sparks fly upward. We are born to be lifted up to heaven by troubles. But
trouble of soul does not mean confusion or turbidness of soul. Trouble is
on the surface, peace is beneath, peace that is deeper than the deepest
of depths. In the world, says the Saviour, we shall have tribulation,
and tribulation brings trouble with it. But He bids us be of good cheer
amidst and beneath all our trouble, because He has overcome the world.
Perhaps, however, John emphasizes this doctrine of ‘trouble,’ not out of
hostility to the Cynic philosophy, but rather out of a friendly feeling
to it, as much as to say, ‘This notion of yours, that you must avoid
“trouble,” is the weak point in your teaching. It tends to lower you to
the level of the Epicureans. And it gives you a false and unworthy notion
of God, who is our Father, and who bears the troubles of His children’.”

From that we passed to other matters, most of which I shall omit—details
about the fourth gospel, about its authorship and about Scaurus’s view,
that it blended history with allegory. On some of these he thought that
Scaurus might be correct. But he was doubtful as to the possibility of
explaining, as Scaurus had suggested, the different order in which the
evangelists place the purification of the Temple. “For,” said he, “it
seems to me scarcely possible that, within the time from Tiberius to
Trajan, an evangelist should be led to change the order of such an event
simply because of its order in some one book—because it was placed at
what Gentiles might take to be the beginning (being really the end) of
a Hebrew gospel.” At the same time Clemens admitted that there was an
astonishing difference of opinion among Christians as to the period of
Christ’s preaching, “and,” said he, “instead of quoting statements or
referring to historical facts, they often quote prophecies, or argue from
the fitness of things. It is all very unsatisfactory.”

Of this I afterwards had experience. For, after I had become a Christian,
I found that some, even though they received the gospel of John, argued
that Christ could only have preached for one year—because Isaiah contains
the words, “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”! On the other
hand, the young Irenæus, bitterly attacking this view, maintained that
Christ must have preached till His fortieth or fiftieth year! As I have
said above, I have actually heard him supporting this extraordinary
supposition by appealing to the authority of the elders that had seen
John!

Clemens therefore admitted that he could not feel certain as to the
order of events in John’s gospel. It might be, he said, that two events,
mentioned in different parts of the gospel as taking place at, or before,
a feast, and apparently at, or before, different feasts, might really
have taken place at, or before, the same feast. Among several details in
which he agreed with Scaurus, one was the narrative of the Walking on
the Water. Concerning this he said that, according to John, the walking
was not really _on_ the water, any more than a city is really “_on_ a
sea” when it is said to lie “_on_ the Ægean” or “_on_ the Hadriatic.”
He also agreed with Scaurus as to the story about Peter plunging into
the water to come to Christ, which might (he thought) explain Matthew’s
story, according to which Christ first walked on the water, and then
Peter attempted to walk on it towards the Lord, but failed. Both these,
he thought, might be metaphorical.

As regards what Scaurus had said concerning the ambiguity of many words
and phrases in the fourth gospel, Clemens admitted it. “But,” said he,
“my conviction is that the writer did not use them thus for the mere
purpose of being ambiguous, like the oracle ‘Aio te, Æacida.’ I do not
deny that he plays upon words, but so does Isaiah. He also repeats and
varies phrases, but so do all the prophecies and the Psalms. Similarly
he is often dark and obscure. But are there not obscurities also in
Æschylus, and Pindar, and in the deepest thoughts of Plato? And whence
do these arise? Not surely from a desire to be ambiguous, but from the
lawful feeling of a great poet, prompted to use strange language, and
sometimes dark language, that is put into his mind to express strange
and dark thoughts. So it is with John, at least in my judgment. And as
to other parts, which seem artificial—as, for example, when he repeats
things twice or thrice in a kind of refrain—I should plead in the same
way that a poet, even when most inspired, follows rules. Æschylus and
Pindar do not break the laws of Greek metre. Well, Jewish tradition also
has rules of its own, quite different from ours, and I believe John
observes them.”

Then he referred to John’s use of the word “logos.” Scaurus had described
John as leading on his readers from _logos_ to _pathos_. Clemens admitted
that this was true if _pathos_ meant the affections and included that one
affection in particular which we call “love.” And he justified John’s
course. “For,” said he, “if the Logos is related to God as word is to
thought, must we not say that ‘word’ should include every expression of
thought, and that the perfect Logos must be the expression of the perfect
thought? And what thought can be more perfect than that which Scaurus
himself suggests, in his similitude of a magnet attracting all things
to itself and causing each attracted object to attract others, so that
the multitudinous world is made one harmony? And in the region of the
affections, what is this but the highest kind of love, as your friend
himself testifies, binding men together in families, cities, nations,
and destined, in the end, to unite all as citizens of the city of the
universe, or children in the family of God?”

Then Clemens added, without any questioning from me, that he entirely
concurred with Scaurus in his feeling that the miracles or signs of
Christ, however far they might be literally true, would not be so
convincing a proof of His greatness as the power of His Spirit to infuse
peace and power, yes, and wisdom, and harmony of thought, into the minds
of those who received Him. “I do not mean to assert,” said he, “that
all who receive Christ remain steadfast in Him. Many have fallen away
through subtle temptations of the world and the flesh; some few, under
persecution and the open cruelty of the devil. But as to these last I
have noted this. Strong men have fallen while boasting ‘We can endure
every torture.’ Weak women have stood fast confessing ‘We can do nothing.
Our strength is in the Lord. Our Saviour will stand fast for us.’ Yes,
that has been the great miracle, to see slaves changed to nobles,
peasants and clowns to orators, fools become wise, and human beasts, not
worthy to be called men—ape-like and wolf-like creatures—transmuted into
citizens of the kingdom of God.

“And that reminds me of what I specially admired in your friend—the
sagacity with which he penetrated to the root of the matter, declaring
that our religion is, in reality, no religion at all (not at least
what augurs or priests would call a religion) but only union with a
personality, a Lord and Saviour and Friend, who is in us and in whom we
are, ‘a very present help in trouble.’ We have no system of sacrifices.
For He is our sacrifice offered up once visibly on the cross, and
offering Himself up invisibly and continually in the hearts of His
faithful disciples. We have no code of laws. For He is our law, uttered
by Himself once to the ears of the disciples in the two commandments
‘Love God’ and ‘Love thy neighbour,’ when He shewed them how to make all
men ‘neighbours’; and now He utters the same law to our hearts, every
moment of our lives, giving us a strong desire to do that which is best
for our ‘neighbours,’ and helping us to see what is best, and, seeing it,
to do it.”

When Clemens said, “He is our sacrifice,” I thought of Paul’s words,
“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” and of “the blood of
sprinkling” about which Scaurus had written. And this led me to ask
concerning that other tradition which (Scaurus had told me) was written
in the fourth gospel alone, about blood and water issuing from Christ’s
side.

“That,” said Clemens, “was the only passage in your friend’s letter where
I was strongly moved to ask you to stop reading that we might talk of
it at once. His view was new to me. Yet I confess I had always found it
difficult to explain how the writer could call on himself to testify to
what he himself had asserted. If Æmilius Scaurus should prove right,
that difficulty of mine would be removed. Moreover I cannot but admit
that John, or any other disciple, would probably have been prevented by
the soldiers from approaching to the cross close enough to distinguish
the water from the blood flowing from His side. Yet it came on me as a
shock to believe that this particular narrative—to which I attach great
importance—was based on a vision. Now the shock is somewhat softened. I
have been thinking over your friend’s arguments. He is quite right in
saying that in John’s epistle, which may be called an epilogue to his
gospel, the words ‘He knoweth,’ as expressed in this particular emphatic
phrase, would mean ‘Jesus knoweth.’ The meaning may be the same here.
Nevertheless, even if it is so, and even if the narrative describes a
vision, I should still feel as certain as ever that this vision expressed
the real eternal truth.”

“What do you mean,” I said, “by eternal truth?” “I mean this,” replied
Clemens, “that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross appears to me
foreordained from eternity and destined to last to eternity, as the
symbol of the fundamental law of the universe, what Scaurus calls the Law
of the Magnet. Call it a dream, if you please. Then such is my dream. But
I act on it, or try to act on it, as a reality. The Father gives His life
to men in giving His Son to them. The life, says the scripture, is the
blood. Some of our brethren would not scruple to say ‘God gives His blood
to men.’ I would rather say God has been giving of His life to men from
the time when man was first created—not only as a Father and a Mother,
but also as a Servant, serving His servants, nursing His children,
‘washing their feet’ (so to speak) as a nurse does, and as Christ did.
There are two spiritual realities, or, if you like, two metaphors, to
express this spiritual reality. One is, that life or blood is to be
infused, like new blood, into our veins. The other is, that in this life,
or life-blood, we are also to bathe ourselves, that we may be born again.
I know that this will seem to you and to many others an exaggerated, or
(as I have heard it called) an ‘unsavoury and distasteful similitude.’
But these protests are outweighed, in my mind, by the faith and feeling
of multitudes of simple devout Christians of the deepest and purest
insight. One of these, a woman—the most inspired of all women known to
me with holy wisdom—continually speaks of bathing herself in the blood
of Christ crucified; and so do some of our most inspired poets. You have
spoken to me of ‘the constraining love of Christ.’ One of our poets—a
man experienced in troubles and knowing only too well what it is to feel
forsaken of God—describes it thus in the person of Christ:—

    _‘Mine is an unchanging love,_
    _Higher than the heights above,_
    _Deeper than the depths beneath,_
    _Free and faithful, strong as death.’_

Do not these words seem to you to come from the heart? Are they not
heart-realities? Yet they are metaphors. Well, this same poet speaks of
‘seeing by faith’ the ‘stream’ supplied by Christ’s ‘flowing wounds.’ Are
such visions, or metaphors, or heart-realities, lightly to be discarded?
Speaking for myself, I cannot give up this heart-fact—if I may so call
it—for fact it is to me, whether seen by the material or by the spiritual
eye. Some may think it to be spiritually false. For them it must be (in
efficacy) false, even if it were historically true. For me it is true.”

He checked himself, and then continued, “Do not suppose, dear brother
and fellow-seeker after truth, that I expect all others to see the truth
in the same form in which I see it. Only I should hope to induce them
to see the same truth in _some_ form. See here these words”—and he took
up a scroll and shewed them to me—“‘Every wise man is a ransom for the
bad.’ Do they remind you of anything?” “Yes,” said I, “they are like
the saying in Mark and Matthew, ‘The Son of man came to give his soul
a ransom for many.’ Luke omits those words.” “He does,” said Clemens.
“Luke has ‘I am among you as one that serveth.’ John combines the two
views. For first he represents Jesus as girt with a napkin like a servant
pouring forth water in a basin and washing the feet of the disciples; and
then he represents Him as pouring forth His blood and water for their
souls.”

Then Clemens told me that the words “Every wise man is a ransom for the
bad” were written by Philo of Alexandria, who, though a Jew, was also
a philosopher, and he shewed me a similar passage in the same writer,
to the effect that the good and worthy and wise are both the physicians
and the ransoms of every community in which they exist. Then he took up
Ezekiel and read to me the vision of the dry bones in the valley, and
how they come together into living bodies, being quickened by the breath
of the Lord. Next he turned to Greek literature, touching on the old
allegory of Amphion, whose music was so sweet that the very stones were
constrained by it to come together in unity building up the walls of a
great city.

“Should we be wrong,” said Clemens, “in saying that all these
metaphors (to which others might be added) from various nations and
literatures—about ‘harmony,’ and ‘service,’ and ‘ransom,’ and ‘blood,’
and ‘breath’—point to one deep truth, not exaggerated by Philo, that the
less are purified by the greater, and that the greater are intended to
sacrifice their independence and to come together with the less, in order
to create cities and nations, which are the larger families that lead men
towards the Fatherhood of God? No doubt, the greater are also purified
by the less. Every community is built up and bound together by the
self-sacrifice of all. And this binding together implies a purification
of all, a cutting away of excessive protuberances, a purging away of
selfish, isolating, schism-making qualities, so that each soul may take
its place in the wall of the City of Concord. But still, as a rule, the
less are purified by the greater; the most selfish by the least selfish;
families by the father and the mother; peoples by their true princes,
priests, and prophets. Prince, priest, prophet, each according to his
several gift, washes the feet of his inferiors, and spends his life to
increase and ennoble theirs. Looking back to our childhood, do we not
recognise this, as a matter of our own experience? How then can we call
God Father, and yet refuse to believe that He may be as loving as a human
father, and that God’s children may be purified by God Himself, giving
His own blood in the blood of His Son as a ransom for the sinful souls of
men?”

As he said these words, he stood up, extending his hand. “I have allowed
myself,” he said, “to keep you too long, when you have many things to do.
Once or twice, intending to check myself, I have broken loose again. I
will not a third time. Only this word, this one additional word. Believe
me, Æmilius Scaurus was right, in saying ‘The religion of the Christians
is a person.’ But your friend went on to say ‘_and nothing more_.’ I
should prefer to say the same thing differently. ‘Our religion is a
person—_and nothing less_.’”



CHAPTER XXXVI

SILANUS BECOMES A CHRISTIAN


It was very late, but I was unwilling to say farewell. During the last
two or three hours, Clemens had in some strange way so associated himself
with my thoughts of Scaurus that I now began to feel as though, in
parting from my new friend, I should be parting from the old one—whose
living self I should perhaps not see again in Tusculum and whose likeness
I was leaving in Nicopolis. But Clemens would not resume his seat.
Quoting Scaurus’s words with a kindly smile, “It takes a great deal,” he
said, “to make you ‘tired of books’.” “Perhaps my old friend would not
have been tired,” I replied, “if he had had you as his interpreter. I
wish he could have been present with us to-night.” “I shall always think
of him as a friend,” said Clemens, “for your sake, for his own sake, and
for truth’s sake.”

Then he asked me at what hour I was to set sail, to-morrow, “or rather,”
said he, “to-day, for it is long past midnight.” “About noon,” I replied.
“Long before noon,” said he, “I must be at some distance from Nicopolis
on a visit to some sick folk. But I expect to be returning, by way of
the wood where we first conversed together, just in time to catch sight
of your vessel before it disappears round the cape. So you must think of
me then as wishing you over again from a distance the good things that I
now wish you face to face.” “When we last parted,” said I, as we clasped
hands at the open door, “you wished me peace. Wish it me again.” “May
peace,” he said, “be multiplied to you!” Then, drawing me gently towards
himself, after standing for a moment as though unable to speak, “that
peace,” he said, “which passes understanding!”

When I returned to my lodging I found a messenger awaiting me with a note
from Marullus. Scaurus was still living, though unconscious. The doctors
thought it possible, though not probable, that he might recover for a
short time. “I fear,” said Marullus, “that, by the time you receive these
lines, my dear patron will be no more. If you wish to come, in the slight
hope of seeing him, you will do well to come at once.” I was prepared for
this, so that it made no difference in my arrangements. These were nearly
completed except for writing letters of farewell to friends in Nicopolis.

The sun was well above the horizon before I began the letter that I had
reserved for the last—my farewell to Epictetus. To several acquaintances
I had been scribbling away, fluently enough. Nor had I been at a loss
for what to say to the one or two more intimate friends to whose
kindness I was indebted. But, all the time, there had been in my mind
an undercurrent of anxious questioning as to what I should say to the
man to whom I owed most. Should I explain? Should I confess? Should I
distinguish between what I had received from him for which I was his
debtor, and what I had not been able to receive so that I could not call
myself indebted? To what end? Whatever might happen in the future, I
could never cease to be grateful to him for having raised me to a higher
sense of a life above the level of the Beast, and for stimulating me to
follow and revere the Man. What though a new ideal of the Man had been
presented to me? Did that make me less Epictetus’s debtor? Nay, did it
not possibly increase my debt, because, but for him, I might not have
taken—if ever I should be proved to have taken—the path that led towards
a higher and nobler goal?

I wrote, tore up, re-wrote, corrected, re-corrected, and again re-wrote.
There was a want of directness in all my attempts, and they all ended
in tearing up. At last I said, “I will try to write as my Master
himself would have written.” That made my letter of the briefest. After
explaining my sudden departure, and thanking him for his teaching, “I
am your debtor,” I wrote, “and always shall be.” I was on the point of
adding, “If ever I possess myself, I shall owe myself to you.” But the
words struck me as familiar. Then I remembered something like them in the
Epistle to Philemon: “I say not unto thee how that thou owest to me even
thine own self.” Could I say with strict Epictetian truth that I owed to
Epictetus as much as Philemon owed to Paul? I re-wrote it thus: “If ever
I possess myself I shall in large measure owe myself to you.” That had
the disadvantage of being a little longer, but the advantage of being
quite true. Sealing the letter that I might not be tempted to alter it
again, I threw myself down for two or three hours of rest.

A little before noon my servant roused me. All was ready, and we went
down at once to the quay. Besides the usual bustle—sailors, fishermen,
merchants, passengers mostly in a hurry—there was some dispute (I know
not what, but I think it was among the fishermen). This added to the
confusion. Not many blows were interchanged, but there was no lack of
threats, imprecations, scurrilous jests, and obscene abuse. As I was
making my way through the crowd, some one touched me on the shoulder.
It was my Epicurean friend, Apronius Rufus, whom I had last seen in the
little village of Lycus, scattering nuts and figs to make the schoolboys
scramble. I had caught sight of him, a minute or two before, lounging
in a corner and looking on at the quarrelsome crowd; but being in no
mood for his jests I had turned aside in the vain hope that he would
not see me. As soon as he overtook me, he began in his usual fashion,
“What brings you here at this hour, most serious Cynic? A truant humour,
I fear. For it is lecture time, or at all events not much past: and
Epictetus gives long lessons. Yet no. You are no truant. Truants don’t
look so serious. You have come here as a philosopher, to see life as
it is, and to set up as a heretic. You come from books to things; from
ideals to facts. Good! Now begin to learn! Look at these bipeds! Look,
and listen! Up above, in your schoolroom, they were ‘sons of God,’ were
they not! Look, then, at that son of God hitting his brother son of God
in the eye! Listen to those two daughters of God and their harmonious
antiphon!”

I was vexed, but let him talk on, as being the best means of getting
myself free from him without explanation; and he, following close behind
me, kept pouring his jests into my ear, till, I suppose, he got a clearer
view of my face. For he suddenly checked himself, saying, “But, my dear
Silanus, pardon me if something is really wrong. You would not, I am
sure, let my idle talk pain you. Your servant is here with baggage.
I fear some bad news is taking you from Nicopolis.” Then I briefly
explained.

He had some slight acquaintance with Scaurus and was instantly and
sincerely apologetic. “I was a fool,” said he, “not to have noticed that
something was amiss. Really I am grieved. And Scaurus, too! That fine
old soldier! Often have I heard my father speak of his splendid service
in Moesia. Well, Silanus, there are humanities as well as philosophies.
Believe me, I feel with you. Farewell! Forgive me as sincerely as I
condemn myself.” He pressed my hand, and I his. He was a good fellow at
heart and died in Syria, a soldier’s death—such as Scaurus would have
approved and no Cynic could have censured.

In a few minutes, we were outside the port, seeing from a distance
(without hearing) the bustle on the quay. It was not an unpleasing
scene—now. A few minutes more, and the whole of the city stood out as a
bright picture in a framework of fields. Presently Nicopolis was receding
and lessening. Hills rose up behind. The frame was becoming the picture
and Nicopolis a small part in it. I paced the deck, this way and that,
turning in my mind all that had befallen me since I had gazed on these
same scenes in reversed order, arriving from Italy. How few days ago
in time! How many ages ago in thought and experience! “What strange
things,” I exclaimed, “what marvellous things have happened to me! Am
I not a changed man?” Then a sense of unreality began to creep over
me. “Am I not, after all, the same Silanus, recovering from a dream?
Have these ‘strange things’ been real things? Have they not been mere
pictures—pictures of the mind, phantasms, dreams, from which I, the old
Silanus, am now awaking to find myself just what I was in old days when I
was wasting my time in Rome?”

I looked back on Nicopolis and it was now little more than a hamlet, and
the quay was a dot. But it still loomed large on my mind. I had spoken
of “phantasms” and “dreams.” But I could not think of the human scene in
the harbour as a “dream.” Only too life-like were those bipeds—noisy,
scurrilous, vile, obscene! How unworthy of the bright and glorious
sunlight in which all things were bathed at that moment of full noon—all
things in heaven and earth! How glorious was everything except man! Yes,
everything except man! Rufus spoke in jest, but did he not speak the
truth? What were those “sons of God” on the quay? Surely, surely, they
were “sons of clay,” mere puppets to play with and break! To this day I
cannot tell why just at this moment so strong a temptation should have so
suddenly seized me. But seize me it did. I write it as it happened, that
others may take heart if the same thing should happen to them. It was
God’s way of dealing with me, suffering me to be almost cast down by evil
that He might lift me up for good.

Feeling the evil coming, I tried at first to strengthen myself with the
sayings of my Master, Epictetus, “See then that thou do nothing as a
beast. Else thou hast lost the Man. Thou hast not fulfilled the promise
of the Man,” and again, “Man is a being that has nothing more sovereign
than his will. He has all other things in subjection to this.” Then I
thought of Man as the Psalmist describes him, saying to God, “Thou hast
put all things under his feet … yea, and the beasts of the field,” and
how the Christians regarded this as meaning that Man was to triumph over
sin.

But, against these hopeful thoughts, there rose up, first, the
confessions of Epictetus that he had never succeeded in producing a Man
of this kind, nor anything approaching to it; and then the words of the
other Psalm, “Man being in honour hath no understanding, but is like
unto the beasts that perish.” I longed to believe the good Voices, but
truth seemed to compel me to believe the bad Voices. Worst and strongest
of all, there rose up recollections of my own evil deeds, words, and
thoughts, from childhood upwards, and they strengthened the Voices of
evil. I could not at that moment recall the brighter and better side of
my own life. I could not remind myself how different a man in a crowd
may be for a moment from the same man in his home and at his work during
his daily life. It seemed to me that I ought to be on my guard against
hoping contrary to facts. Was not Glaucus right in taunting me with
“self-deceiving,” which I called “believing”? Was it not the plain and
manifest fact that the Beast was Lord over the Man?

Again and again this question put itself before me, as though from the
mouth of the Beast, saying, “Am I not your Lord? Can you honestly deny
it?” And at that instant I could not deny it. Never had I felt so weak,
so forsaken—abandoned by all the hopes that had been lately gathering
round me, more hopeless than if I had never entertained them.

But just when I seemed to be touching the bottom of the lowest depth, I
received a sense of the nearness of help. If I could not trust in the
Good, at least I could rebel against the Evil. What though the Beast
be Lord of mankind? “At least,” I exclaimed, “there are those who will
not be his slaves—Epictetus, Scaurus, my father, others known to me,
multitudes unknown. Rather than submit to the Beast, it is better to
be on the conquered side—along with the good, and worthy and noble. It
is better, yes much better, to be on the side of the Man crushed down,
trampled on, destroyed!” Then a great longing fell on me that the Man
thus crushed down and destroyed by the Beast might prove to be not
destroyed in the end, for such a Man, if only He existed, seemed the only
fit object of worship for mankind. Yes, victorious or defeated, He alone
was to be worshipped. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none
upon earth that I desire in comparison with thee, O thou FORSAKEN SON OF
GOD!”

As I uttered these words I remembered where I had first uttered them—on
the hills yonder, while I was thinking of Glaucus’s troubles just before
I met my new friend Clemens. That made me think of him and of his promise
to wait on the hill, and look on my vessel as it vanished, and “wish
me well.” I glanced back over the stern just in time to see our little
coppice disappearing. “Clemens,” I said, “is there. Clemens is praying
for me.” With that, there came back to me all he had said about the power
of the FORSAKEN to help those who felt “forsaken”; and about the “cross,”
as the real throne whereon the Son of man reigns as the real king and
subjects all things to Himself. In that moment I understood how both the
Psalms were true: “Man being in honour—_as the world counts honour_—is
like unto the beasts that perish.” But “man being in honour—_as God
counts honour_—is uplifted on the throne of suffering and reigns over
those for whom He suffers and whom He redeems.” A sudden conviction fell
upon me that here at last I had the light that makes all things clear,
and I cried from the deepest depth of my being, “Whom have I in heaven
but thee, O thou forsaken one that art NOT FORSAKEN? And there is none
upon earth that I desire in comparison with thee. Make no long tarrying,
O my Helper and my Redeemer!”

All this, which takes time to describe, passed in the twinkling of an
eye, and then something befell me that I cannot exactly describe. Only
I know that it was no act of reason. Nor was it vision. It was more
like feeling. The arm of the Lord seemed to lift me up and carry me to
something that I felt to be the Cross. Then the thought of the Cross sent
down upon me the thought of an overwhelming flood of the mighty love and
pity of God, the Father of the fatherless and Servant of the meanest of
His servants, descending on my soul from the side of the Saviour and
bathing me in His purifying blood, creating me anew in the eternal Son.
And thus, at last, after so many delays, refusals, and resistances,
willingly led captive out of the dominion of darkness and fear and sin, I
was carried as a little child into the joy of the family of God.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I reached Tusculum, Scaurus was in his grave. He had died on the
day when I left Nicopolis, and about noon. I could not discover among
his papers any last instructions, or indications of any wishes connected
with the subject of his last letter. Only I found a paper with “For
Hermas’s tomb” on it. Below was written in large characters IN PEACE. I
asked Marullus whether he understood this. He said that on the morning
of the last day of his active and conscious life the old man had gone
(with Marullus’s aid, for he was very feeble) to see the tomb he had
erected for Hermas in years gone by. After standing for some time silent
he repeated aloud the last words of the inscription, “For memory’s sake.”
“That,” said he, “is not enough.” Then, as they walked home, he said,
“Hermas would have liked IN PEACE. There is room. See that those words
are added.” I saw that they were added. I also placed them on Scaurus’s
own tomb.

For the rest, in the years that followed—forty-five in number—nothing has
befallen me that would greatly interest my readers. I became a soldier.
Many of the brethren condemned me for it. But when the war broke out
in Illyria I felt that, although a Christian, I had no right to cease
to become a Roman, or to spare my blood, if need arose, in defence of
the peace of the Empire. In doing this, I was glad to think that I had
fulfilled Scaurus’s last wish. Clemens also supported me.

From him I received several letters before I went to Illyria. Soon
afterwards, he passed away in Corinth, but not before he had done for
Glaucus the same service that he did for me. His first letter told me
that he had seen my vessel at noontide from the hills above Nicopolis,
and that he had kept his promise of “wishing me well.” He always called
me brother; and no brother could have been more brotherly. But assuredly
he was more than that. Paul sowed the seed of the gospel in my heart, but
it was the spirit of Clemens that helped to quicken and to foster it. He
was my father in the faith.

Yet Scaurus, too, was a helper—helper in deed even when opposing in
word—guiding me indirectly towards the City of Truth. I have read
Apologies for the Christian faith written by worthy men—Justin for
example and others. But they have not helped me towards Christ as Scaurus
did. They have been special pleaders for their religion, and sometimes
great manipulators of words and arguments. But what Scaurus said, even in
dispraise of the gospels, was often so qualified by praise, admiration,
yes, and love, of the character of the Saviour, that it had much more
effect with me than the arguments of Justin afterwards had, when I
came to know them. Moreover Scaurus was such a lover of truth, and so
quick and keen to detect an untruth, that in meeting his attacks upon
the gospels I felt I had met the worst. I doubt not that he has found
peace in one of the “many mansions.” If I may not call him my father
in the faith, yet certainly he was the kindest of stepfathers, helping
me to the living Truth by causing me to love all truth, and indirectly
strengthening my feet in the path towards the Saviour by not suffering me
to walk too soon.

And you, too, good Epictetus, truthloving, keen Epictetus—I will not say
“kind Epictetus,” not at least always kind in word, though always good
at heart even when most bitter in word—always fervid against falsehood,
always zealous with a fiery zeal for that strange cold aspect of a
“Father of all” in which you placed your trust and strove to make us
place ours: what shall I say of you and how thank you for the help you
gave me! How often in Rome and Tusculum, how often on nightwatches in
Illyria, Moesia, and the East, have I seen your face, dear Master, as I
saw it for the last time in Nicopolis, leaving you without bidding you
farewell, spying on you unfairly through the open door, and detecting
you in the act of breaking the rules of your own philosophy by feeling
trouble, real trouble, for a sorely troubled disciple! Epictetus in
trouble, yes, Epictetus in trouble, that is how I shall remember you to
my dying day, as seen in the moment when I trusted your teaching least
and loved you most, when you dropped the veil of your philosophy to shew
me your real human heart—my “tutor” to bring me to Christ.

THE END

CAMBRIDGE: PRINTED BY JOHN CLAY, M.A., AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.





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