Landmarks in the History of Early Christianity
by Kirsopp Lake
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We have, then, to imagine the gradual rise of a Hellenising movement among the Christians, of which the Seven were probably the original leaders in Jerusalem, while unknown disciples, of whom we only know that they were successful in Damascus, were carrying it on in other places. The Twelve appear to have regarded the movement with doubt and suspicion, and the Jews in Jerusalem always distinguished between the original disciples and the Hellenists. Gradually, however, the opposition of the Twelve and their followers crumbled away. The final defection, from the point of view of Judaism, was that of Peter. To judge from Acts he had undertaken a mission in Palestine, following up the work of Philip and probably of others, but the story brings to notice one of the characteristic weaknesses of Acts as history. It always omits or minimises differences of opinion and quarrels among Christians. We know this by comparing the Epistles with the Acts. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to suppose that there may well have been far more friction at first between the Hellenist missionaries and the Twelve than Acts suggests. But in the end Peter had a vision at Joppa which convinced him that he was wrong, and he accepted Cornelius as a brother Christian. Acts would have us understand that the whole Church at Jerusalem accepted Peter's position, {60} but in view of the Judaistic controversy, which continued to rage much later than this time, it is certain that this is not in accordance with fact. It is significant that soon after this Peter was put in prison, and on his escape from prison left Jerusalem.[2]

From this time on, if not before, the undoubted head of the Church in Jerusalem was James, the brother of the Lord. What was his attitude towards the Hellenising Christians? Acts would have us understand that he was always on perfectly good terms with Peter, and later on with Paul. But that is hardly the impression given by the Pauline epistles, which very clearly distinguish Peter from James and his emissaries. Paul's view is that Peter was in principle on the same side as himself, and that he therefore had no right to yield to the representatives of James; but he never suggests that James and he were on the same side. Nor had the Jews in Jerusalem any illusions on the subject; when Paul appeared in the temple he was promptly arrested, but not until the popular madness of the year 66 did any of the orthodox Jews think of interfering with James, the head of the Christians in Jerusalem.

Thus Acts plainly has understated the amount of controversy between the Hellenising Christians and the original community. Failure to see this is due to the ultimately complete triumph of the Hellenistic party, who naturally looked on what was really the conservative position as Judaising, {61} whereas the truth was that they themselves were Hellenising.

According to Acts the most successful centre of Hellenistic Christianity was Antioch. Here, too, it is possible that the picture presented by it is one-sided, owing to the fact that, at least in many places, Acts reproduces the tradition of Antioch. Doubtless there were other centres equally important. Neither Ephesus nor Rome seems to have been founded by missionaries from Antioch, though Paul and the other Antiochean missionaries came into their history at an early date.

The controversy between the school of James and the Hellenistic Christians appears to have been very acute in Antioch, but the details are extremely obscure. Acts represents the beginning of the Church at Antioch as due to Hellenistic Christians who left Jerusalem after the death of Stephen. Nor is there any reason to doubt the correctness of this tradition, which is probably that of Antioch itself. A little later Barnabas came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Acts does not state, but seems to imply, that he came down, as Peter had come to Samaria, in order to criticise and control Hellenistic enthusiasm. But, like Peter at Caesarea, he was converted by the Hellenists, and stayed to help their mission. He went further than this: hearing apparently of the success of Paul at Tarsus he sent for him and co-opted him into the service of the Church at Antioch. It is worth noting in passing that the complete absence {62} of any details as to Paul's work in Tarsus, and the silence concerning his movements from the time he left Jerusalem soon after his conversion, proves that this part of Acts is an Antiochean rather than a Pauline tradition.

Soon after this more missionaries arrived from Jerusalem. They do not appear to have been active propagandists, but brought with them a sad story of approaching destitution in the famine which was at hand. The Church at Antioch rose to the necessity and sent Paul and Barnabas with relief.[3] Acts tells us nothing more of what happened, but that soon after Paul and Barnabas, having returned to Antioch, started on the "First Missionary Journey."[4] On their return, however, a mission of protest against their methods arrived from Jerusalem. Paul, Barnabas, and some others went up to Jerusalem; a meeting of the representatives of the two churches was held, and an amicable agreement which was in the main a triumph for Antioch was arrived at.[5]

This appears to be Paul's third visit to Jerusalem after his conversion; but this raises difficulties, and has led to considerable critical investigation and not a little controversy. It had always been supposed that this visit of Paul to Jerusalem was identical with that described in the second chapter of Galatians, but in that chapter Paul, calling God to witness that he is not lying, makes a statement which loses all its point if it was not his second visit. Various {63} attempts to explain this difficulty have been made. One solution of the problem is that the visit to Jerusalem described in Galatians ii. is not identical with that of Acts xv., but is an episode connected with the visit in the time of the famine relief, which the writer of Acts had either not known or thought it unnecessary to recount.[6] According to this theory the visit described in Acts xv. took place after the visit in Galatians had been written. But this theory does not answer the difficulty that the apostolic decrees are not mentioned in the Epistles to the Corinthians, and that it is incredible that they could have been overlooked by Paul if the account in Acts xv. were wholly correct. It seems better to accept the suggestion that the solution of the problem is to be found in the source-criticism of Acts.

The source-criticism of Acts has passed through three more or less spasmodic stages.[7] The first was early in the nineteenth century when a number of scholars endeavoured to analyse the book. Their efforts were not very successful, though they unearthed a great many interesting phenomena. Later on, in the 'nineties, another series of efforts were made with, on the whole, even less success than before. {64} Finally, in our own time there have been some interesting suggestions by Harnack, Schwartz, and Torrey.[8]

The last named has shown extremely good reason for thinking that there is an Aramaic source behind the first fifteen chapters of Acts.[9] He is less convincing when he tries to prove that this was a single document, and that it was faithfully translated without addition or change by the editor of Acts. It seems more probable that there was more than one Aramaic source, and that it was often changed and interpolated by the editor.

Harnack skilfully tries to distinguish two main lines of tradition, that of Antioch and that of Jerusalem. He also thinks the Jerusalem tradition existed in two forms, which can be distinguished as doublets in Acts i.-v. He attaches Acts xv. to the tradition of Antioch, but it seems more probable that it belongs to the Jerusalem tradition. The truth may be as follows: soon after the time when Barnabas had gone over to the Hellenistic party another body of Christians from Jerusalem came to Antioch. In the years which followed there grew up two traditions of what happened next. The tradition at Antioch was that {65} the Christians from Jerusalem had been chiefly concerned with the physical necessities of their Church, though they were undoubtedly men possessed of a prophetic gift. They had so worked on the sympathy of Antioch that it had accepted the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem as a responsibility laid on it by heaven. This tradition is preserved in a short form in Acts xi., and in the Epistle to the Galatians Paul energetically sustained its correctness, incidentally mentioning some other events connected with his stay at Jerusalem, the perversion of which, as he maintained, had given rise to the tradition of Jerusalem. This latter tradition the editor of Acts had found preserved in the document which he has used as the basis of Acts xv., and if any one will read Galatians ii. alongside of Acts xv., not in order to see how much they agree or differ, but rather to note how far they might be different accounts of the same series of events, he will see that Paul's chief contention is that he only saw the leaders of the community at Jerusalem in private, and that they at no time succeeded in imposing any regulations on him. The vigour of his protestations seems to indicate that his opponents had maintained that the meeting was an official one, and that it had imposed regulations, namely, should the theory which is being suggested be correct, the Apostolic Decrees.

The two traditions are naturally quite contradictory; but human nature is so constituted that it is not impossible for two sets of people, especially after {66} some lapse of time, to give entirely different accounts of the same events and to do so in perfectly good faith. The editor of Acts, however, did not realise that the two traditions referred to the same event, and made a mistake in thinking that the meeting which he found described in the Jerusalem source came after and not before the first missionary journey. Ed. Schwartz goes further. He points out that the first missionary journey follows the account of the meeting in Jerusalem given in Acts xi., and that the second journey follows the account given in Acts xv. If there was really only one meeting, was there not really only one journey, which the editor of Acts, or his sources, converted into two?

However this may be, and no agreement among critics is ever likely to be reached, it is at least certain that there was considerable friction between Jerusalem and Antioch, and that Antioch wholly refused to accept the dictation of Jerusalem. On the contrary, it undertook wide-reaching missions, of one of which Paul became the leader, founding churches in Galatia, Asia, and Achaea. Of his career we have an obviously good account, so far as the sequence of events is concerned, in the second part of Acts, and some interesting sidelights on its difficulties and trials in the Pauline epistles.

What were the main characteristics of the preaching to the Gentiles which thus found a centre in Antioch? Its basis was the intellectual heritage from Jerusalem which made the Christians teach that {67} the God of the Jews was the only true God, and that Jesus had been appointed by him as the Man who would judge the world at the end of the age. This represents the teaching in Marcan tradition as to the Son of Man, but Paul also accepted the view that Jesus was the Son of David, though he seems to have eliminated the purely national character of the expected restoration of the kingdom of the Jews under a Davidic king.

The only complete evidence as to the exact form of the expectation which played a part in the teaching of Paul, and presumably in that of the Church of Antioch as a whole, is the invaluable description given in the Epistles[10] of the sequence of events to which Paul looked forward. According to this he expected that Jesus would come on the clouds of heaven; Christians who had died would be raised up, and the rest would be changed, so that they would no longer consist of flesh and blood, but of spirit. But, just as in 4 Ezra, the reign of the Messiah is limited; a time will come when he will deliver up his dominion to God. Then comes "the End," and Paul takes the picture no further. Is it too much to suppose that, like 4 Ezra, he thought that at the End the whole of the present order would cease, and that after it would come the general resurrection and judgement, to which he frequently alludes, followed by the life of the Age to Come? In any case the idea of the limited reign of the Messiah, and the increased {68} emphasis on the descent of Jesus from David, are points of contact with 4 Ezra, and thus make it increasingly possible that Paul thought that the resurrection of Christians to life would be separate from the final resurrection of all to judgement.

This original Christian teaching was essentially Jewish, but much of the phraseology in which it would have been expressed by Jews must have been unintelligible to Greek ears. It therefore soon either disappeared or was transformed. The Kingdom of God, for instance, is as rarely mentioned in the Pauline epistles as it is frequent in the earliest part of the gospels. The word "Christ," translating the Hebrew adjective "anointed," was entirely unintelligible to Greek ears, and became a proper name. "Son of Man" or "Man" would have been even more unintelligible; Paul never used "Son of Man," and it is doubtful whether he uses the word "Man" in the technical apocalyptic sense. But though the words were unintelligible the ideas had not disappeared. The functions attributed to the Son of Man in the gospels still remain attributed to Jesus in the Pauline epistles, though they are scarcely so much emphasised.

The Antiochean missionaries seem to have adopted a new word to take the place of the unintelligible "Messiah" and "Son of Man," and called Jesus "Lord." It is made tolerably certain by comparing the oldest strata of the gospels with the more recent that this word was not used in Jerusalem or in Galilee {69} as a title of Jesus. It may have been used occasionally in Aramaic-speaking circles, but it became dominant in Greek. Its extreme importance is that it was already familiar to the Greek-speaking world in connection with religion. It had become the typical title for the God of one of the Graeco-Oriental cults which offered private salvation[11] to individuals. It was therefore inevitable that whatever the Jews may have meant when they called Jesus Lord, their Greek converts interpreted it in the sense in which the word had become familiar to them, and thought in consequence that Jesus was the divine head of a cult by which each individual might obtain salvation. The full importance of this became obvious in a purely Greek centre such as Corinth, but the process began in Antioch.

This change in the significance attached to Jesus had its correlative effect on the position which the Christians ascribed to themselves. They came inevitably to regard themselves as the members of a new cult which was superior to all others. Only by joining their number was salvation to be found. In this sense they began to interpret the phrase "Kingdom of God," which in many parts of the gospels very obviously means the Christian Church. Few things, however, are more certain than that Jesus had no intention of founding a new society outside the Jewish Church, and none of these passages can with any probability be ascribed to him, even {70} though at least one can, on mechanical grounds, make out a fair case for inclusion in Q.

A correlative change was introduced into the attitude adopted towards the Old Testament. The Antiochean Christians refused to accept it as an obligatory law of conduct; but more and more was it interpreted as prophetic of Jesus, and not only of him but also of the Christian Church. In this way everything that was said of ancient Israel, and all the promises made to it, were transferred to the Christians, who claimed that they, and not the Jews, were the ancient People of God. The complete fulfilment of this process did not, it is true, take place in the time of Paul, but it was not long in coming, and even in the epistles there are many places which show that the Christians regarded themselves as the true heirs of the promise.

This transference of the Jewish scriptures to the Christian Church was probably almost as important for the future history of Christianity as the change which made Jesus the centre of a cult offering private salvation, instead of the prophetic herald of the Kingdom of Heaven, destined by God to be his representative at the End of the Age. It meant that Christianity shared with Judaism the advantage, which no other religion in the Empire had, of being a religion with a Book. Nevertheless the obvious fact that the Book was not originally Christian was destined in the long run to lead to considerable difficulty. Though the Old Testament is not always susceptible {71} of the meaning given to it by Jewish rabbis, it is essentially a Jewish book, and the attempt to find in it a series of prophecies foretelling the coming of Jesus was radically wrong. It could not be supported by any straightforward interpretation, which gave to the Old Testament its original historical meaning. The result was the inevitable growth of an unnatural symbolical interpretation which had little difficulty in extracting anything from anything. It is difficult to estimate whether the result has been more good or evil. It produced good, in that it very soon necessitated the growth of a Christian canon—the New Testament added to the Old—and this preserved much great literature for the advantage of future generations, and was a check upon extravagances of thought. Perhaps most important of all, it provided an ethical standard which successive generations of Christians have never succeeded in practising. They have indeed frequently tried to explain away the contrast between their scriptures and their deeds when it became too oppressive, but they have never quite succeeded, or been able entirely to satisfy themselves by these methods: the letter of scripture has constantly remained a salutary protest against the interpretation put upon it. All this has been of enormous advantage for the Christian Church. But on the other hand the infallibility ascribed to the Bible has been an easy weapon for obscurantism, and a drag on intellectual progress. It has prevented the Church from adopting the discoveries of science and {72} criticism in such a way as to make them applicable to religious life. Bible Christianity[12] in some of its more recent forms has become a serious danger, and in moments of depression a student is apt to ask whether in the irony of history the Bible, which strengthened and supported the Church in its early history, and helped it in many generations to moral reformation, is destined to become an instrument for preventing the adaptation of Christianity to the needs of to-day, and to drive the spirit of religion, which is eternal, from organised Christianity to take refuge once more in some newer forms, more receptive of truth, and less tenacious of error.

[1] It is probable that Paul was at this time settled in Damascus rather than Jerusalem. If so, which synagogue in Jerusalem did he frequent? That of the Cilicians as a native of Tarsus?

[2] Unless this story is misplaced and ought to come before Acts ix. 32.

[3] Acts xi. 27 ff.

[4] Acts xii. 25-xiv. 28.

[5] Acts xv.

[6] See especially O. W. Emmet, The Eschatological Question in the Gospels and other Studies, pp. 191 ff., and K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 274 ff.

[7] The most important names in the first period are Koenigsmann, Schleiermacher, Gfroerer, and Schwanbeck, especially the last; in the second period B. Weiss, Wendt, Sorof, Juengst, J. Weiss, Spitta, Clemen, Hilgenfeld. In general the work of this group is inferior in value to that of their predecessors. A clear and invaluable summary of both is given by W. Heitmuller in the Theologische Rundschau for 1899, pp. 47 ff.

[8] Perhaps Norden's name should be added, but interesting and stimulating though his book Agnostos Theos be, it suffers from ignorance of early Christianity, and has little permanent value for the criticism of Acts.

[9] A. von Harnack, Untersuchungen zu den Schriften des Lukas; E. Schwartz, "Zur Chronologie des Paulus," in the Goettingische Nachrichten, 1907, pp. 263 ff.; C. C. Torrey, "The Composition and Date of Acts," in the Harvard Theological Studies, i. The most damaging criticism of Torrey is that of F. C. Burkitt in the Journal of Theological Studies, Oct. 1919, but I do not think that he answers Torrey's case.

[10] Especially 1 Cor. xv. and 1 Thess. iv.

[11] See p. 76.

[12] The reference is to certain American institutions, connected in the main with evangelising movements.




Christianity had been profoundly changed by its passage from Galilee to Jerusalem. Whereas the teaching of Jesus had been the announcement of the kingdom of God, the illustration of its character, and the insistent call to men to repent, the central teaching of the disciples in Jerusalem became the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. But the passage from Jerusalem to Antioch had produced still greater changes. After all, the teaching of the disciples in Jerusalem contained no elements foreign to Judaism. It was probably considered by the Jewish authorities as the erroneous application to Jesus of opinions which, rightly or wrongly, were widely held among the Jews; but nothing in it represented concession to Hellenism. As soon as Hellenism was suspected the Christians were at once driven out. In Antioch, on the other hand, much that was distinctly Jewish was abandoned, and Hellenistic thought adopted, so that Jesus became the divine centre of a cult. It is incredible that he should have been so regarded by the Jews of {74} Jerusalem; it is impossible that he should not have been by Gentiles.

It is remarkable that Paul and the other Antiochean missionaries were willing to accept this development, and to make themselves the enthusiastic agents of its propaganda; but they clearly did so, and the point is of extreme importance for the history of Judaism.[1] The only alternative to large concessions to the position of the Dutch radicals is to admit that in the Diaspora the Hellenising of Jews had proceeded more rapidly and far deeper than has as a rule been supposed.

The result is clear, however obscure the process may be; Christianity became a Graeco-Oriental cult, offering salvation, just as did the other mystery religions. It competed with them for the right of succession to the official religion of Rome, and ultimately it triumphed. To understand the situation it is necessary to comprehend the general nature of these cults, and to see the points of likeness and difference in Christianity.

In general all the mystery religions assumed the existence of a Lord, who had passed through various experiences on earth, and finally been glorified and exalted. He had left behind the secret of obtaining the same reward, in the form partly of knowledge, partly of magical ceremonies. His followers knew this secret, and admitted into it those whom the Lord was willing to accept. The initiated obtained {75} protection in this world, and a blessed immortality after death. The Lord was probably not usually identified with the Supreme God; for instance, in Mithraism the Sun, not Mithras, was originally the supreme God, though in the last stages of the cult the difference between the two was apparently blurred, and Mithras became indistinguishable from the Sun.

The Christianity revealed in 1 Corinthians clearly conforms to this type. It has its Lord, Jesus, who is far more than human, but is not identified with the supreme God "the Father";[2] he has suffered on earth, but been glorified and exalted, and Christians who accept him in faith, and are initiated into the Church by the sacrament of Baptism, obtain a share in his glory, and will enjoy a blessed immortality. The general resemblance is striking and undeniable. It may be summarised, as was said above, by the statement that Christianity offered men salvation, and was believed to fulfil its offer. Indeed, its success was partly due not to any difference from the other cults, but to the fact that it made more exclusive claims, combined with a higher ethical standard, than any other.

But what exactly was meant by salvation? No single answer can be given. In one sense salvation was primarily an eschatological concept, though its formulation was different among Jewish-minded and Greek-minded believers. The Jew meant, in the main, that, at the great day when the dead {76} would rise and join the living before the judgement seat of God, he would be safe from the Divine Wrath, be acquitted, and have a place among those who would live in happiness in the Age to Come. The Greek probably thought rather that each soul which was saved would pass at death to a happier and better existence. Ultimately these two strands of eschatology were woven together, though scarcely reconciled, in the elaborate fabric of the Catholic system of purgatory, paradise, resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell.

In another sense salvation meant something different, which was not eschatological. In accordance with the general spirit of the Graeco-Oriental mysteries, there existed a belief that through sacraments men could change their nature, be born again, and—as Irenaeus puts it—become the children of the eternal and unchangeable God instead of the children of mortal man.[3] In this way they passed, even before death, into eternal life, and they were raised to an existence beyond the reach of Fate. The basis of this concept was doubtless astral, and at least some early Christians believed that whereas the unbaptized were subject to the inimical decrees of the stars, the regenerate were immune.

Judged by our standards this belief is magical, just as the Jewish eschatology is mythological. Neither has part or lot in modern thinking; this does not necessarily prove that they are wrong, but it means {77} that the problem for us is not one of details, but of opposing systems, the parts of which cannot be interchanged. We can, with logical propriety, accept the Graeco-Jewish eschatology or the Graeco-Oriental sacramental regeneration if we reject modern thought. But we cannot, except in intellectual chaos, combine the two, or appropriately express modern thought in language belonging to the ancient systems.

The modern man does not believe in any form of salvation known to ancient Christianity. He does believe that so long as life lasts, and he does not know of any limit to its duration, good and evil are realities, and those who do good, and are good, achieve life of increasingly higher and higher potentiality. If anything were gained in practical life by calling this "salvation," it would be right and wise to do so. But in fact it is disastrous, for it obscures thought and confuses language.

Thus there is no doubt as to the general resemblance of the Christian offer of salvation to that of other cults, and the obvious point of difference—the presence of the Jewish eschatology—has no claim to superior truth. What, then, are the points of difference between Christianity and the other cults which explain the triumph of the Church? Two popular but probably mistaken explanations may first be discussed.

It is often said that Christianity had an enormous advantage in that Jesus was an historic person, whereas the Lords of the other cults were not. But {78} closer analysis does not confirm the importance of this difference.

The initiates of the other cults believed that their Lords were historic persons, just as Christians believed that Jesus was. They had, indeed, lived a long time ago, but this was no disadvantage: any one who reads Tatian's Oratio ad Graecos can see how antiquity, not recentness, was regarded as desirable. The general argument of Christians was not that Jesus was historic, and the other Lords were not, but that he fulfilled a true offer of salvation, made in a more remote antiquity than any pagan religion could claim, while the heathen Lords were demons, misunderstanding the prophecies of the Old Testament, clumsily simulating their fulfilment, and arrogating to themselves the title of God. It was of course an advantage that the "sacred legend" of Christianity was free from the repulsive elements in other cults, which it taxed the ingenuity of a Julian to explain.

Moreover, historical criticism shows that the points in the story of Jesus which played the greatest part in commending Christianity to a generation asking for private salvation are those which are not historic. The element of truth in much perverse criticism, arguing that Jesus never existed, is that the Jesus of history is quite different from the Lord assumed as the founder of Catholic Christianity. The Church conquered the world by offering salvation through a redeeming Lord. Jesus made no such offer: to him {79} the Kingdom of God, the pearl of great price, was the natural inheritance of men, if they would only take it. No supernatural change of nature, but to turn round, abandon all that hindered, and go in the right direction—go home—was the repentance which he required. Probably it was not unique teaching: it is very hard to obey, and it makes no spectacular demands. Its only claim to acceptance is its truth. It did not conquer the world. Nor did Jesus—the Jesus of history—think that it would do so. "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto Life, and few there are that find it."

Thus the theory that Catholic Christianity succeeded because Jesus was an historic person cannot be sustained.

Nor is there much more truth in the attribution of its success to the influence of the personality of Jesus. No doubt it was the personality of Jesus which influenced his immediate followers, made them regard him as the Davidic Messiah or as "Son of Man," and rendered possible their belief in his exaltation to the right hand of God. Without this belief Christianity could never have come into existence; but once the belief was established it became the foundation of the whole structure, and the personality of Jesus was quite eclipsed by the supernatural value attached to him. Not the men who had known Jesus, but those who had not, converted the Roman Empire, and their gospel was that of the Cross, Resurrection, and Parousia, not the Sermon on the Mount, or an {80} ethical interpretation of the Parables, or a moral imitatio Christi.

The true answer is that Catholic Christianity conquered because it was popular, not because it was true, and failed for the same reason. Permanence, not popularity, is the test of truth; for truth has often no adherents, while error has many.

The permanent truth in Christianity is, I think, to be found in the spirit, or perhaps more correctly the "will," which Jesus had, and tried to hand on to his disciples, of service and self-sacrifice. It calls men to redeem others, rather than to seek redemption for themselves. This is to spiritual life what gravitation is to the physical world. It was known to others before him and after, but it has not yet conquered the world.

But the popular teaching[4] which loomed largest in the early days of the Church offered the privilege rather than the responsibility of redemption, and maintained that the Christian was united to the Supreme God—a claim higher than that made by any other cult. This side of Christianity, though not Jewish, was in the main derived from Judaism, from which all the first Christian missionaries accepted the preaching of the one supreme God, whom Paul constantly refers to as "the Father." There has been of recent years much loose writing and looser speech {81} about the "Fatherhood of God." It has even been asserted that this was the special revelation of Jesus. Such a view does not for a moment sustain any critical investigation. No doubt Jesus sometimes, possibly often, spoke of God as "Father"; but so did many other Jews. They and he referred to the moral son-ship of the righteous, not to a supernatural or sacramental relation. Nor is there any sign that Jesus felt that he had any new revelation as to the nature of God: he was much more intent on telling men what they ought to do to conform to the demands of God.

But after the time of Jesus the use of "Father" as applied to God became more and more general; especially to denote the peculiar relationship—however that may have been conceived—between Jesus and God. This use is especially characteristic of the editor of Matthew, and still more of the Fourth Gospel. It is the correlative to the process by which "Jesus, the Son of God," became "God the Son."

The Hellenistic Christians seem to have been particularly fond of this use; partly perhaps from linguistic reasons. The Greek for Jehovah is kurios, Lord; but this word had been already taken as the title of Jesus. Therefore when a Christian-speaking Greek wished to refer to Jehovah he could not without ambiguity say "The Lord," and he began to adopt the usage of referring to Jehovah as "the Father." But what would have been the implication to Greek {82} ears of this usage? Two lines were possible: it could be interpreted as referring exclusively to the relation between God and Jesus, or as referring to the relation between God and men. Paul is evidence that the second, as well as the first, was accepted. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are Sons of God." But how would a Greek have understood this verse? Probably he would have thought that it meant that the gift of the Spirit changed men's nature; so that, as Irenaeus said, two generations later, they were no longer mortal men but the children of the immortal God. To the Greek the gift of the Spirit was the gift of divine nature, immortal and incorruptible. That is, of course, in nowise Jewish: even if Paul meant this, which is doubtful, he did so by virtue of his Greek associations. The question, however, has not been adequately discussed how far this interpretation is exactly the same as that of the other cults. It clearly brought the Christian into direct relation with the Supreme God, through the Lord. Was this so in Mithraism or in the cult of Isis? In both of them it seems rather that the initiate was brought rather into relationship with the Lord.[5] Surely it was a real advantage to Christian {83} propaganda that the Church offered union with the Supreme God more definitely than did any rival cult.

Two elements must be distinguished in such teaching. Permanently important in it is the recognition of the fact that a helping hand of grace stretches out from the unknown to help man when he cries from the depths: but it contains also a theory as to the origin and nature of grace. The fact is indisputable, the theory depends on evidence; and there is really none to justify confident assertion. No doubt it was an enormous asset to Christianity to proclaim that the grace found by its adherents came straight from the cause of all existence. The same situation was reproduced after the Reformation, and it was an asset to Protestantism to claim direct access to God, without the mediation of saints. Nevertheless, it is hard to see that there is any evidence to favour the theory that grace comes in the one way rather than the other. The element of truth in the early Christian teaching is not the side which was most popular, but rather that which, a little later, partly unconsciously, animated the Church in rejecting Marcionism—the conviction that there is no essential disharmony or {84} final clash in history, that the God of creation is not hostile to the God of grace.[6]

Moreover, it was not only—or even chiefly—the helping hand of grace in the troubles and sorrows of life which Greek Christians especially hoped for by union with the supreme God or by the power of Jesus. It was rather the gift of eternal Life after death, which was the special characteristic of the Gods. The points of importance are the means whereby they thought that this immortality was obtained, and the nature which they ascribed to it.

The act by which the faithful acquired immortality was Baptism. The history of this distinctively Christian rite is obscure. From the standpoint of the historian of religions it is the combination of a Jewish ceremony with Graeco-Oriental ideas. The Jews had frequently practised ceremonial washing with a religious significance—generally speaking, purification from the guilt of offences against the ritual law; it was also part of the initiation of proselytes, and had been largely practised by John the Forerunner. But in no case did any Jew think that washing could change, sacramentally or magically, the nature of man. A Greek on the other hand, brought up in the atmosphere of the mysteries, might well have thought so. The same is true of the other constituent element in primitive Christian Baptism—the formula "in the {85} name of the Lord Jesus." There is no reason why Jews should not have used the name of Jesus for magical purposes—indeed they undoubtedly did so—for magic was not peculiar to the Greeks. But the ordinary Jew would never have practised magic to secure immortality or to become divine. He believed that immortality was the natural lot of all the chosen people who kept the Law, and would be reached, not through sacraments or secret knowledge, but through the resurrection at the last day. Thus it is possible that the first Jewish Christians may have practised baptism by an extension of the ordinary ritual of proselyte-making, or as a means of securing remission of sins, in the spirit of John the Baptist, but it is extremely improbable that it was for them the sacrament of regeneration to eternal life which it was held to be by Greek Christians.

Turning from the possibilities and probabilities suggested by the history of religion to the evidence of the early literature critically studied, two points stand out as probable. First, Jesus neither practised nor enjoined baptism of any kind; secondly, the Antiochean missionaries always practised baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus." The second point is so obviously proved both by Acts and the Pauline epistles that it requires no discussion. The first has the limitations of the argument from silence, for it rests on the fact that there is no trace of Baptism by Jesus, either by practice or precept, in the synoptic gospels, except a single statement in Matt. xxviii. 19, {86} in which the risen Jesus is represented as commanding the disciples to undertake the conversion of the Gentiles (ta ethne) and their baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That this verse is not historical but a late tradition, intended to support ecclesiastical practice, is shown by the absence of the trine formula of baptism in Acts and the Epistles, and the extreme reluctance with which the apostles, who are supposed to have received this revelation, undertook a mission to the Gentiles. We have to choose between the account in Matthew, which makes the mission to the Gentiles the result of the command of the risen Jesus in Galilee, or that in Acts, confirmed by Paul, which makes it begin much later from the preaching in Antioch of the scattered adherents of Stephen, and from revelations to Paul and Peter, on the road to Damascus, and at Joppa. There can be little doubt that Acts ought to be trusted on this point.

Few problems are more obscure than the question of the growth of baptism in the Church of this first period. This is due to the fact that the editor of Acts was convinced that baptism was a primitive Christian custom even in Jerusalem, though unlike Matthew he does not attribute it to Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to see indications that his sources did not confirm his opinion. An excellent case can be made for the view that the source used in Acts i. and ii. originally regarded the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost as the fulfilment of the promise attributed to Jesus {87} that his disciples, unlike those of John, should be baptized in the Holy Spirit not in water. The exhortation of Peter in Acts ii. that his hearers should repent and be baptized is so inconsistent with this promise that it seems due to the redactor. Similarly, too, the baptism of Cornelius seems to contradict the context of Peter's own explanation in Acts xi., and may well be redactorial. On the other hand, the later chapters agree with these redactorial additions in regarding baptism as the source of the gift of the Spirit, and there can here be no question of editorial additions, for the references to baptism are clearly part of the fabric of the narrative. The most illuminating evidence, however, is afforded by the chapters describing Philip's work: in these baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus is represented as the custom of Philip, but it does not confer the gift of the Spirit. This may be the best clue to the historical development of the rite. The Seven, including Philip, were probably the first to convert Gentiles, and inasmuch as the complete breach with Judaism had not yet come, must have regarded their converts as proselytes, and treated them accordingly. Baptism was part of the usual treatment of a proselyte, and the formula "in the name of the Lord Jesus" would merely distinguish these proselytes from others.

A little later the practice would certainly be interpreted by Greeks, or Graeco-Orientals, in the light of the cults which they knew; baptism would become the magical or, at least, sacramental means of {88} salvation, and the Name of Jesus its necessary formula. The development is exactly similar to that passed through by the word "Lord,"—though its origin was Jewish its interpretation was Greek.[7]

The expectation of immortality conferred by Baptism and membership in the Church of the Lord Jesus varied in form. The Greek eschatology was different from the Jewish, and looked for an immortality for each individual immediately after death. It was, moreover, an immortality of the soul, not of the body. Probably there were many variations of thought on the subject. Some of the most highly educated Greeks may have understood the arguments for and against immaterial Reality, and accepted or rejected them. Roughly speaking, Platonists accepted, Stoics and Epicureans rejected; and it was at least possible for Platonists, if they identified Mind with immaterial Reality, to believe in the immortality of the human mind. But did such Platonists actually exist before Plotinus, or possibly Ammonius Saccus? The fragmentary evidence which exists seems to show that philosophic Greeks were interested in other problems—mainly epistemological and psychological. The belief in the immortality of the soul was preserved by the tradition of the Mysteries,[8] not by the Academy. Stoics and Epicureans, far more important for the {89} first century than Academics, were materialists; but that does not mean that they did not believe in the existence of a human soul or spirit. Spirit was for them merely the most attenuated form of matter. The spirit of man might be dissipated after death, as the grosser material composing his body would be, or it might survive and retain consciousness and memory until the cycle came round when all things, including human careers, would be repeated.

But the first Greek Christians were scarcely influenced by an intelligent comprehension of Stoic metaphysics, and attempts made to trace their direct influence in Paul or elsewhere only show that their vocabulary was more widely used than their problems were understood—a phenomenon not peculiar to the first century. All that can be said with any confidence is that the expectation of blessed immortality—not for all but for the chosen few—fostered by the mysteries was probably most often conceived as the survival of the soul after death, and the soul in turn was conceived as "Spirit," a highly attenuated material existence, which was found until death in the body, and was then released from it.

In some such way the Greeks in Corinth who were converted to Christianity expected immortality. So they did also in the other cults offering salvation. The points of difference in Christianity are in the kind of life which was demanded from initiates, and in the final consummation expected.

1 Corinthians shows clearly that some Hellenic {90} Christians held that having secured immortality they were free to do as they liked with their bodies. Paul insisted on the observance of that morality which was central in Judaism. He had rendered his task difficult by his rejection of the Law, but he won his fight, and the permanent association of Jewish morality with the Christian Church and its Hellenic Christology and sacraments was the result.

In the same way Paul contended successfully for the Jewish doctrine of a resurrection, though with some modifications. This was not the same thing as the Greek belief in personal immortality. The Sadducees, indeed, may have Hellenised on this subject, as did some of the Alexandrian Jews, represented by the Wisdom of Solomon. But the bulk of the people followed the Pharisees and looked for a resurrection of the body, at the end of the age.

Paul and the other missionaries continued to teach this Jewish doctrine, but were not at once able to convince their Greek hearers that immortality must necessarily be reached through a resurrection of the body. Presumably the Greeks felt that immortality was sufficient, and a future reunion between an immortal soul and a resuscitated body was as undesirable as improbable. Paul in 1 Corinthians insists on the Jewish doctrine, but he makes the concession to the Greeks that the resurrection will not be of flesh and blood but of a "spiritual" body, that is to say, a body consisting of the most attenuated form of {91} matter. It will be the same body, but it will be changed.

This modified form of Jewish thought was supported by an appeal to the case of Jesus, who had already risen from the dead. The appeal was really far more effective than the rest of Paul's argument, which was not calculated to convince the doubtful, and it has the especial importance for the historian that it proves that Paul did not think the risen Jesus had a body of flesh and blood, and believed that in this he was in agreement with all the early witnesses.

Nevertheless, the belief of the Church soon affirmed what remained its unchanged faith until the nineteenth century—the resurrection of the flesh, both of the Lord in the past, and of the Christian in the future. This was the triumph of Jewish thought, and is an exception to the general rule that Christianity became steadily more Hellenic.

The reason why Jewish thought triumphed is difficult to ascertain. Few hypotheses as to a future life have less intrinsic probability than that ultimately reached, which postulates an immortal soul living discarnate until the resurrection day, when it will be reunited to its own resuscitated body, and both will be rewarded or punished by the final judgement of God. Nevertheless this hypothesis supplanted all others.

Two causes may be suggested. The pressure of the Docetic controversy, which insisted that Jesus had never been a real man of flesh and blood, but a {92} spirit appearing in human form, made the Church attach greater weight to the reality of his flesh and blood, even after the resurrection. Hence arose the narratives of the appearances of the risen Jesus in Luke and John, emphasising this point. That they there are secondary seems to be proved by the evidence of 1 Cor. xv. Hence, too, it may be, came the suppression of the missing end of Mark. Following this tendency it was natural to argue, as Paul had done, that Christians like Jesus would be raised with the same bodies which they had had.

A different motive was provided by moral considerations. It is clear that there was danger, even in the Corinth of Paul's days, of men arguing that, having obtained the Spirit and consequent immortality, nothing carnal had any importance: the body had, as it were, but a short time, and might be allowed to enjoy itself as it chose. To combat this danger of an absolutely licentious position the Church maintained that the body was as eternal as the soul, and that its future happiness depended on its present behaviour.

Both these factors undoubtedly entered into the development of Christian thought; and they were reinforced by the natural desire of man to preserve the pleasures of life in a body of flesh and blood.

The whole question of the expectation of immortality is as obscure as it is interesting. Direct evidence in favour of a survival of individual consciousness after {93} death is provided in the present by psychical research, and from the past by narratives of the apparitions of the dead, among which the story of the appearances of the risen Jesus must be classed. To most minds the evidence does not justify a decisive verdict of any nature.

The "moral" argument is equally evasive. To certain minds in certain moods it seems incredible that extinction can await beings who display the qualities manifested by men at their best, animated by such high purposes, so little fulfilled. In Christian circles the argument has helped to secure the orthodox belief in the resurrection of the body. But, on the other hand, this belief has received a succession of shocks from other considerations. The resuscitation of the flesh has become more and more incredible. Bishop Westcott endeavoured to meet this feeling by reviving the Pauline notion of a body of "Spirit," and was followed by Bishop Gore in so doing. The process was helped by the fact that in the English creed resurrectio carnis is translated resurrection of the body, so that the denial of the Apostles' Creed involved in the Westcott-Gore interpretation could be softened into an apparent affirmation.

Even more serious, though less often expressed, is the moral objection to the judgement, which dooms men to extremes of bliss or misery in accordance as they fall one side or the other of a certain line. The conscience of the modern man feels that no one deserves either Heaven or Hell. Moreover, this same {94} conscience doubts whether any one really deserves complete perpetuation. All men are of mixed nature; some elements seem to deserve to be eliminated, and others to survive. Thus the moral indictment against the old expectation of judgement is that no one deserves either of its extremes.

A just judgement would be not between man and man, saving one and condemning the other, but between different parts of each of us. For in man good and evil are always present: what we ask for is not complete survival, but the ultimate elimination of some parts and the constant growth of others; we desire change, not permanence.[9] Moreover, even in the short space of life which we can observe, elimination and selection are clearly present. The child and the old man are one, not by identity but by continuity of life. The main object of education is to further and confirm this beneficent change. Once more, this, or something like it, is often put forward as the meaning of the doctrine of "judgement." But when the creed states that Jesus will "come again in glory to judge both the quick and dead," it means the Jewish eschatological expectation, and to use its language to express modern thought is unfair to both.

All such thoughts are a priori, and can never convince the reluctant. The path of wisdom is not to weigh the merits of various inconclusive arguments, but to distinguish between Desire and Knowledge.


Desire for most men is to remain essentially as they are. The healthy enjoy life, and even the unhealthy cling to it. If we are candid most of us admit that we should like indefinitely prolonged existence, that we have an infinite curiosity to know what is going to happen in the world, and a wish to take part in its development. That is Desire.

Over against Desire is Knowledge. We know that matter is indestructible, though it changes its form, and that energy is equally indestructible, but constantly varies its form. If Life be similar to energy this gives us reason to believe that it is permanent, but that its form changes. If, however, Life be a form of Energy, not a force similar to it, there is no reason to expect its permanence. The chief reason against this view is that whereas we can convert heat into electricity, or electricity into light, we cannot—as yet—convert either into Life.

So far Knowledge takes us on the hypothesis that Life is material, for Energy is not outside of the world of matter. But still within the field of Knowledge is the old problem of Immaterial Reality and its relation to Life. To those who are convinced, as I am myself, by the old arguments in favour of Immaterial Reality, conceivable but not imaginable, it is certain that intellectual and moral life belongs to it and shares its attributes of eternity. Metaphysics are more convincing than psychology. But need this mean that this eternal life is personal? No one as yet has answered this question.


And there are further considerations: all that we know of life teaches us that it is a succession of losses. The passage from youth to middle life, and the change from middle life to old age are losses, from which we shrink. No man willingly surrenders the flexibility of youth or the power of middle life. But the experience—shrunk from and postponed though it be—teaches that through loss came gain. Yet none of us ever foresaw the form which the gain would take. After old age comes death: that too is loss. Is it also gain? If Life continue, and that at least seems probable, Knowledge teaches us that it will change its form and that here, too, gain will come through loss. But, it is often said, this is the denial of the survival of personality, and it is personality, not life, which we desire. No doubt we do: but we desire to keep much which we lose, and yet come to see that only thus could we achieve the greater gain.[10]

After all, Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequence—a courageous trust in the great purpose of all things and pressing forward to finish the work which is in sight, whatever the price may be. Who knows whether the "personality" of which men talk so much and know so little may not prove to be the temporary limitation rather than the necessary expression of Life?

There was once an archipelago of islands off a mountainous coast separated from each other and from the mainland by the sea. But in course of {97} time the sea dried up, the islands were joined to the great mountain behind them, and it became clear that they had always been united by solid ground under a very shallow sea. If those islands could have thought and spoken what would they have said? Before the event they would have protested against losing their insularity, but would they have done so afterwards, when the water which divided them from each other was gone, and they knew that they were part of the great mountain which before they had only dimly seen, obscured by the mists rising from the sea?

[1] See C. Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul.

[2] 1 Cor. viii. 6.

[3] Irenaeus, Apostolic Preaching, p. 3.

[4] I would emphasise the word popular. The great missionaries were doubtless inspired by the desire to save others, by the will to minister rather than be ministered to, and by a readiness to give their lives as a ransom for others, but their converts were otherwise minded.

[5] This statement would be required to be modified for detailed application to various classes both among Christians and among initiates in the other cults. In all cults there was probably an uneducated substratum which thought very little about the subject. It was satisfied with the fact of salvation, and was not specially interested in its method. On the other hand, the educated with a metaphysical tendency were interested in the relation of the Lord of the cult to the Supreme God, and this might, in time, have produced something similar to the Christological speculations of the fourth century. Apuleius seems to identify the Supreme God with the Lord in a manner which at times reminds the reader of Sabellian Christianity. On the other hand, Heliogabalus seems to have produced a complete amalgam between Mithras and Helios, and reminds us of the tendency of uneducated Christianity in all generations to make the gospel become the preaching of the new God, or the true God, Jesus, of which I heard a somewhat extreme example from a preacher who maintained fervidly that Jehovah was the Hebrew of Jesus.

[6] See the last chapter of F. C. Burkitt's The Gospel History and its Transmission. This chapter is a most clear-sighted analysis of one of the essentials of Catholic truth as opposed to error, and I venture to say this because its importance seems in general to be overlooked.

[7] See Prolegomena to Acts, pp. 332 ff.

[8] From which indeed Plato had probably obtained it. He justified it, handily enough, from his doctrine of Ideas, but scarcely derived it thence. The triumph of Aristotle destroyed his justification, but the parent stream flowed on placidly, undisturbed by thought.

[9] This has much in common with Origen's teaching, but unfortunately Origen was rejected by the Catholic Church.

[10] See Additional Note on p. 141.




Corinth as portrayed in the Epistles of Paul gives us our simplest and least contaminated picture of the Hellenic Christianity which regarded itself as the cult of the Lord Jesus, who offered salvation—immortality—to those initiated in his mysteries. It had obvious weaknesses in the eyes of Jewish Christians, even when they were as Hellenised as Paul, since it offered little reason for a higher standard of conduct than heathenism, and its personal eschatology left no real place for the resurrection of the body. The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians are in the main protests against this Hellenic weakness, and the real monument to Paul in the first two, or perhaps even four, centuries is the success which he had in driving home these protests. Owing to later controversies we are apt to treat Justification by Faith as Paul's greatest contribution to the Church. Possibly that is true, if the whole of Church history be taken into account, but the attempt to reconstruct "Paulinism" on this principle produces the result that the effect of Paul's teaching cannot be traced in any of the {99} Christian writings of the next two centuries. This is obviously absurd: if Paul's writings were preserved so carefully his teaching on some great points must have been regarded as central. Nor, if we succeed in forgetting the emphasis introduced by later controversies, is it hard to see what these points were. As against the Jews, Paul, the Greek, insisted on Freedom from the Law. That stood. As against the Greek, Paul insisted on Jewish morality and on the Resurrection of the body. These also stood. And these three points, if we may judge from subapostolic writings, were those which influenced the Church most. No doubt Paul preached Jesus as the crucified but risen and glorified Lord, and no doubt regarded Baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments, but so did all Hellenic Christians. Probably he would have regarded his doctrine of Faith and Justification as of primary importance, but all the existing evidence seems to show that it failed to convince the Jews, or to be remembered by the Gentiles, until it was rediscovered by Augustine.

Sacramental Christianity with an emphasis on morality was henceforward the true characteristic of the Church. But it had yet to give a more detailed account of the Lord, and to attempt to come to terms with Greek philosophy.

Except with regard to the Second Coming, the Jewish ideas of the Davidic Messiah and of the Son of Man ceased to have any living importance. It {100} was not doubted that the Lord was divine, but there were two ways of considering his divinity. One was to regard Jesus as a man who had been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and had himself been taken up into the sphere of divinity after his death, so that he, as well as the spirit which had been in him, was now divine. This form of thought is generally known as Adoptionism. The other way was to think of Jesus as a pre-existent divine being who had become human.

The difference between the two forms of thought is that whereas Adoptionism postulates a distinct human personality for the human Jesus, which had a beginning in time and was promoted to divinity, the other theory postulates only a divine person who became human. Both theories, therefore, begin with much the same doctrine of God, as consisting, if the metaphor may be used, of the two factors of the Father and the Spirit, who was sometimes called his Son,[1] and was frequently identified with the Logos of the Greek philosophers. There is very little evidence in early Christian writings for that distinction between the Logos and the Spirit which afterward became orthodox.

The competing existence of Adoptionist and Pre-existent Christology does much to explain the early development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Starting with the Father and the Spirit-son, Adoptionism added {101} a third to the sphere of divinity, namely, the glorified Jesus. This belief was preserved in the baptismal formula of the Church of Rome, as found in Justin Martyr, which was "In the name of the Father of all, and in the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit," and though Adoptionism was in the end rejected, it left its permanent mark on Christian theology in the "threeness"[2] of the doctrine of God. The doctrines of Pre-existent Christology could scarcely have had this result,[3] for it is quite clear that the Logos and the Spirit were distinguished only in language, and the Incarnation was, as it were, but an incident in the work of the Logos.

Few things are more needed than study of this side of the growth of Christian doctrine. Harnack's History of Doctrine has indeed done something, but many of the details of his work require to be worked out, and some of his statements need revision.[4] Older books, such as Dorner's History of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, admirable though they are, have little value for this purpose, for they were {102} written chiefly with the object of explaining and leading up to Nicene and Chalcedonian doctrine. All that can be done in these pages is to indicate certain lines, which might be profitably followed up, as to the two chief centres of development, Rome and Ephesus, the former representing in the main Adoptionism and the latter Pre-existent Christology.

After Antioch Rome seems to have been the most important centre of Christianity in the first and early second centuries. Certainly it was more important than Corinth, though in some ways, owing to the preservation of Paul's correspondence, we know more about Corinth than Rome. Fortunately there are extant a number of documents which illustrate its history, though none of them throw any real light on its foundation, for it is unknown who was the founder of the Church in Rome.

The first of these documents is Paul's Epistle to the Romans, but it is very strange how little this tells us as to the history or nature of the Church in that city. Apparently Paul was acquainted with Christians in Rome before he went there himself, but there is no suggestion that he regarded the Church there as the foundation of Peter or of any other of the leading missionaries. It is therefore by no means impossible that the Church of Rome sprang up by the coming to the city in increasing numbers of men who had been converted elsewhere. Whether the Epistle to the Romans was originally intended for that city or {103} not is an open question,[5] but at least it was sent to Rome in one of its forms, and that is after all the most important fact. The most remarkable thing about the revelation which it makes of the Christianity at Rome is that the problems which seem to have interested or distracted the Church are so much more Jewish than Hellenic. The questions of the Law and of the ultimate fate of Israel are so extensively dealt with as to suggest a strongly Jewish element in the Church. Jesus is, as in Corinth, a Redeemer, but the problems of life for those who accepted him suggest Jewish rather than Greek antecedents.

What is the bearing of Romans on the Christology of the Church at Rome? Not, that is to say, what is its evidence as to the thought of Paul, but how are certain phrases in it likely to have been interpreted? The most important passage is Romans i. 1-4: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to God's gospel which He had promised beforehand by His prophets in Holy Scriptures concerning His Son, who became of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was appointed Son of God miraculously according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection {104} from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord."[6] What is this likely to have meant to those who read it in Greek without any knowledge of a "Pre-existent" Christology? I think that they would have been impressed by the parallelisms in the sentence: kata sarka is parallel to kata pneuma hagiosunes and ek spermatos Daveid is parallel to ex anastaseos nekron. It would thus mean that Jesus had been a human being by belonging to the family of David, and had been ordained, or appointed to be a "Spirit of holiness," by being raised from the dead: kata sarka explains the result of genomenon ek spermatos Daveid, and kata pneuma hagiosunes explains the result of horisthentos uhiou ... ex anastaseos nekron. That is Adoptionism, and though the passage has been explained in terms of a Pre-existent Christology by those who for other reasons are convinced that this was the real nature of Paul's doctrine, it could be taken quite easily in this Adoptionist way, for horisthetos could mean "became by means of appointment" quite as well as aphorismenos could mean the same thing with regard to Paul's apostleship.[7] The general impression made by the verse would be, to any one who had Adoptionist views already, that Jesus, who was born {105} as a human being into the family of David (which gave him a certain well-understood claim to the title Son of God), had by the Resurrection been promoted to another kind of sonship, not as a human being of flesh, but as a spiritual being.

The next document in probable chronological order which seems to belong to Rome is the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is much disputed by critics whether it was written in Rome or to Rome, but that it was extant there can hardly be doubted in view of the extensive quotations from it in the Epistle of Clement. It reveals a different mind from that of the Epistle to the Romans, but once more it is Jewish questions which are uppermost. The main problem is the meaning of the ritual law. Nevertheless, as in Romans, there are sufficient traces of sacramental teaching to make it clear that Christianity in Rome as in Corinth meant the sacramental cult of a saving Lord. This was the basis of everything, but the problems which arose from the attempt to work out its implications are as markedly Jewish in Rome as they are Greek in Corinth. It does not mean, of course, that there were no Greeks in Rome, any more than that there were no Jews in Corinth, but the dominating influence was Jewish in one and Greek in the other.

The Epistle to the Hebrews seems at first to be much more obviously "Pre-existent" in its Christology than the Epistle to the Romans, indeed it could well be explained on the theory that it was maintaining a Pre-existent Christology against a {106} rival form of the same general type which identified the pre-existent Christ with an angel. But if one ask whether this would have been clear to a reader with Adoptionist principles, it can be seen that he would very easily have interpreted it in accordance with his own ideas. The question of what the Son of God was before the Incarnation is not the centre of the discussion. What is important is the function of High Priest in Heaven which he now fulfils, and this function is the consequence of his human life. It is true that in the first chapter there are phrases which are most naturally explained by "pre-existent" doctrine, but though the writer appears to be explaining the essential superiority of the Son to angels, in chapter ii. this superiority is the result of the Passion and Resurrection, and in verse 10 the divine being, "through whom and for whom are all things," is distinguished from the leader of our salvation, who is, of course, Jesus.[8] It is plain that this verse, difficult to understand on other lines of thought, is quite intelligible if it be interpreted in the light of that Adoptionism which, as we know from Hermas, used "Son of God" for the Holy Spirit and also for the glorified Jesus.

It is very hard not to discuss this question as though Adoptionism and Pre-existent Christology {107} were consciously competing systems from the beginning. That is of course not true: none of these writers was consciously discussing the question. For this reason elements can be found in the Epistle to the Romans and in the Epistle to the Hebrews which are easily susceptible of an Adoptionist interpretation, and others equally indicative of Pre-existent Christology. This means that Christians at that moment had not formulated the problem. But The Shepherd of Hermas shows that in Rome an important body of Christians did become wholly Adoptionist, and if they used Romans and Hebrews, they probably interpreted the passages indicated above in agreement with their own opinions and passed over the rest—in accordance with the best tradition of Biblical commentators.

A third document is the first Epistle of Peter. If this were really written by Peter it cannot be much later in date than Romans, and would probably be earlier than Hebrews, but it seems increasingly clear that the Epistle refers to a later period, and cannot be the work of the Apostle. It is concerned in the main with the problem of persecution, and though the matter is extremely obscure, on the whole a date early in the second century in the time of Trajan and Pliny seems the most likely. Whether the indications that it comes from Rome are not part of the fiction of its authorship is at least open to question, but the point is not very important. If it be really Roman it shows traces of a further development of sacramental {108} Christianity, but does not throw much light on its details. It has some similarity in language to Romans, but very little in the picture presented of Christianity. The central point in it is the emphasis on baptismal regeneration, which gives Christians the certainty of immortality. The eschatological expectation of the "revelation of Jesus Christ" is strongly marked, but there is no emphasis on the hope of resurrection. On one point, however, there is a close resemblance to Paul. Spirit and flesh are contrasted, and it is clearly implied that after death the Christian, like the Christ, is spirit and not flesh. It throws little light on the question of Adoptionism, for though there is nothing in it which contradicts Pre-existent Christology, there is also nothing in it which would have startled an Adoptionist.

After this[9] comes the first Epistle of Clement, a letter sent by the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth. It is generally dated at the end of the first century, but there is really very little evidence, and it is curious that this date should be accepted with so little hesitation by almost all critics. It is in the main an ethical treatise, more especially on the importance of good order in the community. This {109} teaching is based almost exclusively on the Old Testament.

There is very little in 1 Clement which throws any light on Christology or on sacraments. For the history of doctrine, in fact, 1 Clement is, considering its length, a remarkably disappointing document, but two passages are important. In 1 Clement xlii., "The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ was sent from God," there is a clear statement of the supernatural claims of the apostles, but made in such a way as to imply a lower view of Christ than Nicene orthodoxy: he is the middle term between God and the apostles, and is separated from the one as clearly as from the other. The "Lord" is more than man, but is not God. The excellence of the Lord is also expressed in 1 Clement xxxvi., in words reminiscent of Hebrews. "This is the way" (i.e. the way referred to in Psalms l. 23, "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me, and therein is a way in which I will show him the salvation of God") "beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the defender and helper of our weakness. Through him we fix our gaze on the heights of heaven, through him we see the reflection of his faultless and lofty countenance, through him the eyes of our hearts were opened, through him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms toward the light, through him the Master (i.e. God) willed that we should taste the immortal knowledge, 'who being the brightness of his majesty is by so much greater {110} than angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name.' For it is written that 'Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.' But of his son the Master said thus, 'Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee; ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.'" The resemblance to Hebrews is obvious, but throws less light than might be expected on Clement's Christology. What did he think was the meaning of "To-day have I begotten thee"? The one point which comes out clearly is that the Church was regarded as an institution for the securing of the salvation offered by the death of Christ. It has a divine authority, for just as Christ came from God, so the Apostles came from Christ. It may almost be said that the Epistle has a high Ecclesiology but an undeveloped Christology.

Thus the Christianity revealed by 1 Clement suggests a Church which had accepted Jewish ethics and a Jewish hope for resurrection, and regarded Jesus as the divine messenger of God, who in turn had appointed the Apostles as the foundation of the Church. It is a very simple form of cult, and in the prayer which Clement quotes almost everything is directed towards the Father. It is Hellenised Judaism without the ceremonial law, but with a belief in Jesus and the Church.

The next document concerned with the Church of Rome is in many ways the most important. The Shepherd of Hermas is not an easy book to appreciate {111} at first. It is a series of interviews between Hermas and various supernatural beings who give him good advice. It may be as late as 140, but many think that it is earlier. The book was written with the practical purpose of guiding rightly the Christians in Rome. There is nothing in Hermas which really contradicts anything in 1 Clement, but it supplements it in several directions. In the first place, like Clement, it attaches great importance to the Church. No salvation is possible except in the Church, and those who are and remain in it secure eternal life, or, in the phrase of Hermas himself, "live to God." The only point on which Hermas is really different is that he seems to have nothing to say about a resurrection, and apparently was content with immortality. But this may be merely an accident and cannot be pressed.

The book throws great light on the development of thought and practice in Rome, and its Christology is the most instructive example which we possess of early Adoptionism.

The evidence is so important, and Hermas is in general so little studied, that the main passage (Sim. v. 2. 1 ff.) may be quoted: "Listen to the Parable which I am going to tell you concerning Fasting. A certain man had a field, and many servants, and on part of the field he planted a vineyard. And he chose out a certain servant, who was faithful, in good esteem and honour with him, and he called him and said to him: Take this vineyard which I have planted, and fence it until I come, and do nothing more to the {112} vineyard. And follow this order of mine and you shall have your freedom from me. And the master of the servant went abroad. Now when he had gone the servant took and fenced the vineyard, and when he had finished the fencing of the vineyard he saw that the vineyard was full of weeds. Therefore he reasoned in himself, saying: I have finished this order of the Lord; I will next dig this vineyard, and it will be better when it is dug, and having no weeds will yield more fruit, not being choked by the weeds. He took and dug the vineyard, and pulled out all the weeds which were in the vineyard. And that vineyard became very beautiful and fertile with no weeds to choke it. After a time the master of the servant and the field came, and entered into the vineyard, and seeing the vineyard beautifully fenced, and moreover, dug, and all the weeds pulled up and vines fertile, he was greatly pleased at the acts of the servant. So he called his beloved son, whom he had as heir, and his friends whom he had as counsellors, and told them what he had ordered his servant, and what he had found accomplished. And they congratulated the servant on the character which the master gave him. And he said to them: 'I promised this servant his freedom if he kept the orders which I gave him. Now he has kept my orders, and has added good work in the vineyard, and greatly pleased me. So in reward for this work which he has done I wish to make him joint-heir with my son, because, when he had a good thought he did not put it on one side, but carried {113} it out. The son of the master agreed with this plan, that the servant should be joint-heir with the son. After a few days he made a feast and sent to him much food from the feast. But the servant took the food which was sent to him by the master, kept what was sufficient for himself, and distributed the rest to his fellow-servants. And his fellow-servants were glad when they received the food, and began to pray for him, that he might find greater favour with his master, because he had treated them thus. His master heard of all these doings, and again rejoiced greatly at his conduct. The master again assembled his friends and his son, and reported to them what he had done with the food which he had received, and they were still more pleased that the servant should be made joint-heir with his son."

A little later on the angel explains this passage. There is first a confused discussion as to the work of the Son, and it is not easy to be sure whether the reference is to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus, but finally the following clear statement is given: "The Holy Spirit which is pre-existent, which created all creation, did God make to dwell in the flesh which he willed. Therefore this flesh, in which the Holy Spirit dwelled, served the Spirit well, walking in holiness and purity, and did not in any way defile the spirit. When, therefore, it had lived nobly and purely, and had laboured with the Spirit, and worked with it in every deed, behaving with power and bravery, he chose it as companion with the Holy Spirit; for the conduct {114} of this flesh pleased him, because it was not defiled while it was bearing the Holy Spirit on earth. Therefore he took the Son[10] and the glorious angels as counsellors, that this flesh also, having served the Spirit blamelessly, should have some place of sojourn, and not seem to have lost the reward of its service. For all flesh in which the Holy Spirit has dwelt shall receive the reward if it be found undefiled and spotless. You have the explanation of this parable also."

These passages clearly represent God as having a Son who is the pre-existent Spirit. This Spirit is sent into human beings but leaves them if they are guilty of any misconduct. In the case of one man, however, who is not named but is obviously intended to be Jesus, the Spirit found complete obedience. The result was that the Father proposed to the Son, that is the Spirit, and to the counsellors, that is the angels, that this human being or flesh as Hermas calls it, should be exalted and glorified and put on an equality with the Son. This was done, and the implication of the book is that the same opportunity is offered to all others who are willing to follow their Lord. It is interesting to notice that, though it would be an abuse of language, it might be said that Hermas has a doctrine of the Trinity, but that his Trinity does not consist of Father, Son, and Spirit, {115} but of Father, pre-existent Son, that is the Spirit, and adopted Son, that is Jesus. The exact details, however, of the relations subsisting between those three is a question more easily asked than answered, and the next investigator of Hermas will have to consider it very carefully. It is at present only possible to define the problem. As was said above, Hermas seems to imply that the Spirit existed from the beginning alongside of the Father, but he also implies the existence of many other good spirits opposed to the army of demons who people the world. These good spirits seem at times to be identified with angels, and the question will have some day to be discussed afresh of the relation of these spirits to the Spirit who is the Son of God and of both to the angels. Moreover, the question cannot be solved without taking into account the composition of Hermas. Closely connected with this problem is that of the identification of the Son of God with an angel who is sometimes described as "the most glorious angel" and sometimes named as Michael. Did Hermas think that the Spirit who was the Son is identical with Michael, or that Jesus became Michael, or in what way are the facts to be explained? Finally, did Hermas think that Christians became angels at their death?[11]

On what book did Hermas base his interpretation of Jesus? There is no proof that he made use of any of our existing gospels, just as it is very doubtful whether 1 Clement was acquainted with any of them. {116}

There is, indeed, in 1 Clement one passage referring to the words of Jesus,[12] but it cannot be said that this is a quotation either from Matthew or Luke. It has points of similarity to both, but agrees completely with neither. No theory to explain the facts is convincing, for three are possible. It may be a confused reminiscence of the existing Gospels, or it may be the proof that a harmony was already in existence, or it may be drawn from a document which was used by both Matthew and Luke—in other words, the Q of the critics. Different minds will see different grades of probability in these three hypotheses. But there is no evidence to settle the question.

There is no satisfactory proof that the canonical gospels were known in the Church of Rome until the time of Justin Martyr. If, however, the question be discussed not on the basis of what gospel is quoted by Hermas or Clement, for none of them are by either, but merely on the ground of their doctrinal affinities, the gospel of Mark has the best claim to consideration. According to the other gospels Jesus was the Son of God from his birth, but, though Mark could be otherwise interpreted, the most obvious meaning of the gospel as it stands is that Jesus became Son of God at the baptism when the Spirit descended upon him. {117} It can hardly be merely a coincidence that this gospel is actually attributed by tradition[13] to a Church which was at first adoptionist.

Sacramental adoptionist Christianity seems to be the nearest approach to a complete transformation to a mystery religion with no philosophy, which is found in the history of Christianity, but even here the basis is Jewish.

This is plain in its treatment of conduct. It had apparently accepted the sacramental remission of sins in baptism, and there is no trace in this of any allusion to original sin; the sins which are remitted had been committed by the Christian before his baptism, and there is no suggestion of any inheritance of sin. Hermas never contemplated infant baptism. The baptized Christian started with a clean slate, but what would happen to him if he lapsed again into sin? The Epistle to the Hebrews clearly thought that he had no hope of further forgiveness, and Hermas refers very plainly, if not to the Epistle to the Hebrews itself, at least to teaching which it represents. This teaching was, of course, calculated either to maintain a high standard of conduct or else to change the definition of sin. Apparently none of the other mystery religions ever attached this importance to conduct after initiation, but human nature presented some difficulties in the enforcement of the Christian theory. It was found that the baptized frequently, {118} if not always, lapsed into sin, and that the situation complained of by 4 Ezra was repeating itself.[14] What was the use of a system which offered men immortality, but only on conditions which no one could fulfil?

Hermas solved the problem by having recourse to another element in Jewish thought. He appealed to the possibility of repentance, and put his solution of the problem into the form of a revelation made to him by an angel—the Shepherd of the book. The revelation which Hermas announces is that there is one repentance, but only one, for those who sin after baptism. If repentance is taken merely as an act of contrition this obviously does little to solve the problem: it is not really sufficient to cover the facts of human nature. But for Hermas repentance is much more than contrition. It consists apparently of cheerful submission to all the unpleasant {119} happenings of life, which are regarded as organised by an angel, specially appointed for the purpose, in order to adapt them to the improvement of sinners. From the general characteristic of the parables it is clear that Hermas did not contemplate the immediate restoration of the penitent, or the immediate elimination of sin. Penitence is for him an unpleasant process of education, and I think he contemplates the probability that it is life-long. Like all education it demands that the pupil shall obey his teacher, and the teacher is in this case the angel of repentance, who arranges life so as to make it educative. It is the beginning of the great Catholic system of penance which it is so difficult to estimate at its full value because of its corruption and exploitation in the Middle Ages. Whether one believes in the existence of an angel of repentance or not, the view that life with all its happenings is an education, which gradually teaches men, if they are willing to accept it, how to cease to be sinful, was a great lesson for the second century, and I do not doubt that it had much to do with producing in the next century a Church which, in spite of persecution, ultimately won the assent of the best part of the Roman world. Though the form in which Hermas presented his teaching was mythological and crude it contained truths which cannot be neglected.

No one can read The Shepherd of Hermas without feeling that it has not been adequately discussed by modern scholarship. It is the key to the proper {120} understanding of Roman Christianity at the beginning of the second century, but to use this key properly it must be subjected to a process of criticism to determine the relations of its constituent parts to one another, and to the contemporary or almost contemporary documents—1 Clement and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Adoptionist Christianity was not destined to conquer the world, and though Roman Christianity proved to be the surviving form it had first to change much of its character in a manner which can with some degree of picturesque exaggeration be described as conquest by Ephesus.

The early development of Christianity in Ephesus is more obscure than it is in Rome; it ceased quite soon to flourish in its place of origin, but lived on elsewhere. The documents which represent the first stages of its growth are the later Pauline epistles, and the Fourth Gospel. They are inextricably involved in critical questions which have as yet received less attention than the synoptic problem.

This is especially true of the later epistles. In them, as distinct from the earlier epistles, we have a cosmical Christology which regards Christ as a pre-existent divine person who became a human being. Of that there is no doubt, nor can it be disputed that there are one or two passages in the earlier epistles which seem to pave the way for this kind of thought; but these passages are very few, and as it were wholly {121} incidental. Thus the critical question arises whether these later epistles were written by the same person as the author of the earlier ones. The point has never been discussed fully in England, and by but a very few scholars on the Continent. The result is that it is only possible at present to say that three solutions are possible and are awaiting discussion. The first is that Paul's thought moved very rapidly in the last years of his life, and that the difference between the earlier and the later epistles only represents the development of his thought. This is certainly a possible solution. There is no literary objection to it which cannot adequately be answered. The only doubt is the psychological question whether the development implied is not so great as to be improbable. A second possibility is that the later epistles are not Pauline but are the work of some of Paul's followers. This is also possible, and from the nature of the case scarcely admits of proof or of refutation. The third possibility was suggested in 1877 by H. J. Holtzmann, who thought that Ephesians represents the work of the second generation, and that Colossians was a genuine epistle interpolated by the author of Ephesians. It is said sometimes that this is an incredibly complicated hypothesis. Undoubtedly it is complicated, but so are the facts, and those who regard it as incredible forget that it is merely the application to the Pauline epistles of exactly the same process as every one knows to have been suffered by the epistles of Ignatius. Therefore this theory {122} also is perfectly possible, and ultimately, unless the interest in critical questions dies out altogether, the discussion of these three possibilities is certain to receive fresh attention.[15]

The critical questions concerned with the Fourth Gospel are better known. But whether it is later than the later epistles of Paul, and whether it represents the result of their influence or is a parallel line of thought is another problem which has not yet been fully discussed: in any case, it is cognate with them. No one knows who wrote the Fourth Gospel. Tradition ascribes it to John the son of Zebedee, but all critical probability is against this theory. It seems tolerably clear that the Fourth Gospel was not written by an eye-witness, and that it implies not a knowledge of the historic Jesus so much as an acquaintance with the subapostolic Church. It is apparently an attempt to rewrite the story of Jesus in the interests of a "pre-existent" Christology, and of a high form of sacramental teaching.

Tradition connects both the later Pauline epistles and the Fourth Gospel with the Province of Asia, and especially with Ephesus. There is no reason for doubting this tradition, but it is strange how soon its {123} creative spirit passed to Alexandria, a Church of which the origin is as obscure as the later history is famous.

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