2. THE APOSTOLIC
 CHURCH
 

 St. Stephen, med. illum ms.

Adapted from: Walker, “Period I. From the Beginnings to the Gnostic Crisis”, 1.4-1.7, pp. 22-40.

 [2.1] The Palestinian Christian Communities   [2.2] Paul and Gentile Christianity
[2.3] The Close of the Apostolic Age   [2.4] The Interpretation of Jesus


[2].1. THE PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES

 


[2].1. THE PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
 

 

 

THE Christian community in Jerusalem seems to have grown rapidly. It speedily included Jews who had lived in the dispersion as well as natives of Galilee and Judæa, and even some of the Hebrew priests. By the Christian body the name “church” was very early adopted. The designation comes from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, where it had been employed to indicate the whole people of Israel as a divinely called congregation. As such it was a fitting title for the true Israel, the real people of God, and such the early Christians felt themselves to be. The early Jerusalem company were faithful in attendance at the temple, and in obedience to the Jewish law, but, in addition, they had their own special services among themselves, with prayer, mutual exhortation, and “breaking of bread” daily in private houses.(1 Acts 2:46) This “breaking of bread” served a twofold purpose. It was a bond of fellowship and a means of support for the needy. The expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord made the company at Jerusalem a waiting congregation, in which the support of the less well-to-do was provided by the gifts of the better able, so that they “had all things common.”(1 Acts 2:44) The act was much more than that, however. It was a continuation and a reminder of the Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples before His crucifixion. It had, therefore, from the first, a sacramental significance.

Organization was very simple. The leadership of the Jerusalem congregation was at first that of Peter, and in a lesser degree of John. With them the whole apostolic company was associated in prominence, though whether they constituted so fully a governing board as tradition affirmed by the time that Acts was written may be doubted. Questions arising from the distribution of aid to the needy resulted in the appointment of a committee of seven, (Acts 6:1-6) but whether this action was the origin of the diaconate or a temporary device to meet a particular situation is uncertain. The utmost that can be said is that the duties thus entrusted resembled those later discharged by deacons in the Gentile churches. At an early though somewhat later period “elders” are mentioned, (Acts 11:30) though whether these were simply the older members of the church, (As Acts 15:23 might imply.) or were officers (Acts 14:23.) not improbably patterned after those of the Jewish synagogue, is impossible to determine.

The Congregation In Jerusalem

The Jerusalem congregation was filled with the Messianic hope, it would seem at first in a cruder and less spiritual form than Jesus had taught. (See Acts 1:6) It was devoted in its loyalty to the Christ, who would soon return, but “whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things.” (Acts 3:21.) Salvation it viewed as to be obtained by repentance, which included sorrow for the national sin of rejecting Jesus as the Messiah as well as for personal sins. This repentance and acknowledgment of loyalty was followed by baptism in the name of Christ, as a sign of cleansing and token of new relationship, and was sealed with the divine approval by the bestowment of spiritual gifts.(Acts 2:37, 38) This preaching of Jesus as the true Messiah, and fear of a consequent disregard of the historic ritual, led to an attack by Pharisaic Hellenist Jews, which resulted in the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, by stoning at the hands of a mob. The immediate consequence was a partial scattering of the Jerusalem congregation, so that the seeds of Christianity were sown throughout Judaea, in Samaria, and even in as remote regions as Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch, and the island of Cyprus. Of the original Apostles the only one who is certainly known to have exercised a considerable missionary activity was Peter, though tradition ascribes such labors to them all. John may have engaged, also, in such endeavor, though the later history of this Apostle is much in dispute.

The comparative peace which followed the martyrdom of Stephen was broken for the Jerusalem church by a much more severe persecution about A. D. 44, instigated by Herod Agrippa I, who from 41 to his death in 44, was vassal-king over the former territories of Herod the Great. Peter was imprisoned, but escaped death, and the Apostle James was beheaded. In connection with the scattering consequent upon this persecution is probably to be found whatever truth underlies the tradition that the Apostles left Jerusalem twelve years after the crucifixion. At all events, Peter seems to have been only occasionally there henceforth; and the leadership of the Jerusalem church fell to James, “the Lord’s brother,” who even earlier had become prominent in its affairs. (Gal. 1:19, 2:9; Acts 21:18.) This position, which he held till his martyr’s death about 63, has often been called a “bishopric,” and undoubtedly it corresponded in many ways to the monarchical bishopric in the Gentile churches. There is no evidence, however, of the application to James of the term “bishop” in his lifetime. When the successions of religious leadership among Semitic peoples are remembered, especially the importance attached to relationship to the founder, it seems much more likely that there was here a rudimentary caliphate. This interpretation is rendered the more probable because James’s successor in the leadership of the Jerusalem church, though not chosen till after the conquest of the city by Titus in 70, was Simeon, esteemed Jesus’ kinsman.

Under the leadership of James the church in Jerusalem embraced two parties, both in agreement that the ancient law of Israel was binding on Christians of Jewish race, but differing as to whether it was similarly regulative for Christian converts from pagan ism. One wing held it to be binding on all; the other, of which James was a representative, was willing to allow freedom from the law to Gentile Christians, though it viewed with disfavor such a mingling of Jews and Gentiles at a common table as Peter was disposed, for a time at least, to welcome. (Gal. 2:12-16) The catastrophe which ended the Jewish rebellion in the year 70 was fateful, however, to all the Christian communities in Palestine, even though that of Jerusalem escaped the perils of the siege by flight. The yet greater overthrow of Jewish hopes under Hadrian, in the war of 132 to 135, left Palestinian Christianity a feeble remnant. Even before the first capture of the city, more influential foci of Christian influence were to be found in other portions of the empire. The Jerusalem church and its associated Palestinian communities were important as the fountain from which Christianity first flowed forth, and as securing the preservation of many memorials of Jesus’ life and words that would otherwise have been lost, rather than as influencing, by direct and permanent leadership, the development of Christianity as a whole.

 [2].2. PAUL and GENTILE CHRISTIANITY

 


[2].2. PAUL and GENTILE CHRISTIANITY
 

 

 

AS has already been mentioned, the persecution which brought about Stephen’s martyrdom resulted in the planting of Christianity beyond the borders of Palestine. Missionaries, whose names have perished, preached Christ to fellow Jews. In Antioch a further extension of this propaganda took place. Antioch, the capital of Syria, was a city of the first rank, a remarkably cosmopolitan meeting-place of Greeks, Syrians, and Jews. There the new faith was preached to Greeks. The effect of this preaching was the spread of the Gospel among those of Gentile antecedents. By the populace they were nicknamed “Christians”—a title little used by the followers of Jesus themselves till well into the second century, though earlier prevalent among the pagan . Nor was Antioch the farthest goal of Christian effort. By 51 or 52, under Claudius, tumults among the Jews consequent upon Christian preaching by unknown missionaries attracted governmental attention in Rome itself. At this early period, however, Antioch was the center of development. The effect of this conversion of those whose antecedents had been pagan was inevitably to raise the question of the relation of these disciples to the Jewish law. Should that rule be imposed upon Gentiles, Christianity would be but a Jewish sect; should Gentiles be free from it Christianity could become a universal religion, but at the cost of much Jewish sympathy. That this inevitable conflict was decided in favor of the larger doctrine was primarily the work of the Apostle Paul.

Paul, whose Hebrew name, Saul, was reminiscent of the hero of the tribe of Benjamin, of which he was a member, was born in the Cilician city of Tarsus, of Pharisaic parentage, but of a father possessed of Roman citizenship. Tarsus was eminent in the educational world, and at the time of Paul’s birth was a seat of Stoic teaching. Brought up in a strict Jewish home, there is no reason to believe that Paul ever received a formal Hellenic education. He was never a Hellenizer in the sense of Philo of Alexandria. A wide-awake youth in such a city could not fail, however, to receive many Hellenic ideas, and to become familiar, in a measure at least, with the political and religious atmosphere of the larger world outside his orthodox Jewish home. Still, it was in the rabbinical tradition that he grew up, and it was as a future scribe that he went, at an age now unknown, to study under the famous Gamaliel the elder, in Jerusalem. How much, if anything, he knew of the ministry of Jesus other than by common report, it is impossible to determine. His devotion to the Pharisaic conception of a nation made holy by careful observance of the Jewish law was extreme, and his own conduct, as tried by that standard, was “blameless.” Always a man of the keenest spiritual insight, however, he came, even while a Pharisee, to feel deep inward dissatisfaction with his own attainments in character. The law did not give a real inward righteousness. Such was his state of mind when brought into contact with Christianity. If Jesus was no true Messiah, He had justly suffered, and His disciples were justly objects of persecution. Could he be convinced that Jesus was the chosen of God, then He must be to him the first object of allegiance, and the law for opposition to the Pharisaic interpretation of which He died—and Paul recognized no other interpretation—must itself be abrogated by divine intervention.

Though the dates of Paul’s history are conjectural, it may have been about the year 35 that the great change came— journeying to Damascus on an errand of persecution he beheld in vision the exalted Jesus, who called him to personal service. What may have been the nature of that experience can at best be merely conjectured; but of its reality to Paul and of its transforming power there can be no question. Henceforth he was convinced not only that Jesus was all that Christianity claimed Him to be, but he felt a personal devotion to his Master that involved nothing less than union of spirit. He could say: “ I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. (Gal. 2:20) The old legalism dropped away, and with it the value of the law. To Paul henceforth the new life was one of a new friendship. Christ had become his closest friend. He now viewed man, God, sin, and the world as through his friend’s eyes. To do his friend’s will was his highest desire. All that his friend had won was his. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

        Pauls Missions

 

PAULS MISSIONS

 

 


With an ardent nature such as Paul’s this transformation manifested itself at once in action. Of the story of the next few years little is known. He went at first into Arabia—a region in the designation of that age not necessarily far south of Damascus. He preached in that city. Three years after his conversion he made a flying visit to Jerusalem, where he sojourned with Peter and met James, “the Lord’s brother.” He worked in Syria and Cilicia for years, in danger, suffering, and bodily weakness. (e.g. 2 Cor. 11 and 12) Of the circumstances of this ministry little is known. He can hardly have failed to preach to Gentiles ; and, with the rise to importance of a mixed congregation at Antioch, he was naturally sought by Barnabas as one of judgment in the questions involved. Barnabas, who had been sent from Jerusalem, now brought Paul from Tarsus to Antioch, probably in the year 46 or 47. Antioch had become a great focal point of Christian activity; and from it in obedience, as the Antiochian congregation believed, to divine guidance, Paul Barnabas set forth for a missionary journey that took them to Cyprus and thence to Perga, Antioch b Bisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe—the so-called first missionary journey described in Acts 13 and 14. Apparently the most fruitful evangelistic endeavor thus far in the history of the church, it resulted in the establishment of a group of congeegations in southern Asia Minor, which Paul afterward addressed as those of Galatia, though many scholars would find the Galatian churches in more northern and central regions of Asia Minor, to which no visit of Paul is recorded.

   The growth of the church in Antioch and the planting of mixed churches in Cyprus and Galatia now raised the question of Gentile relation to the law on a great scale. The congregation in Antioch was agitated by visitors from Jerusalem who asserted: “Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses ye cannot be saved.”(Acts 15:1) Paul determined to make a test case. Taking with him Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, as a concrete example of non-legalistic Christianity, he went with Barnabas to Jerusalem and met the leaders there privately. The result reached with James, Peter, and John was a cordial recognition of the genuineness of Paul’s work among the Gentiles, and an agreement that the field should be divided, the Jerusalem leaders to continue the mission to Jews, of course with maintenance of the law, while Paul and Barnabas should go with their free message to the Gentiles.(Gal. 2:1-10) It was a decision honorable to both sides; but it was impossible of full execution. What were to be the relations in a mixed church? Could law-keeping Jews and law-free Gentiles eat together? That further question was soon raised in connection with a visit of Peter to Antioch.(Gal. 2:11-6) It led to a public discussion in the Jerusalem congregation, probably in the year 49—the so-called Council of Jerusalem—and the formulation of certain rules governing mixed eating.(Acts 15:6-29) To Paul, anything but the freest equality of Jew and Gentile seemed impossible. To Peter and Barnabas the question of terms of common eating seemed of prime importance. Paul withstood them both. He must fight the battle largely alone, for Antioch seems to have held with Jerusalem in this matter of intercourse at table.

   Then followed the brief years of Paul’s greatest missionary activity, and the period to which we owe all his epistles. Taking with him a Jerusalem Christian, of Roman citizenship, Silas by name, he separated from Barnabas by reason of disagreement regarding eating, and also by dissension regarding the conduct of Barnabas’s cousin, Mark.(Acts 15:36-40) A journey through the region of Galatia brought him Timothy as an assistant. Unable to labor in western Asia Minor, Puul and his companions now entered Macedonia, founding churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, being coldly received in Athens, and spending eighteen months in successful work in Corinth (probably 51-53). Meanwhile the Judaizers had been undermining his apostolic authority in Galatia, and from Corinth he wrote to these churches his great epistle vindicating not merely his own ministry, but the freedom of Christianity from all obligation to the Jewish law. It was the charter of a universal Christianity. To the Thessalonians he also wrote, meeting their peculiar difficulties regarding persecution and the expected coming of Christ.

   Taking Aquila and Priscilla, who had become his fellow laborers in Corinth, with him to Ephesus, Paul left them there and made a hurried visit to Jerusalem and Antioch. On his return to Ephesus, where Christianity had already been planted, he began a ministry there in 53?-56y). Largely successful, it was also full of opposition ami of such peril that Paul “despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:3) and ultimately had to flee. The Apostles’ burdens were but increased during this stay at Ephesus by moral delinquencies, party strife, and consequent rejection of his authority in Corinth. These led not merely to his significant letters to the Corinthians, but on departure from Ephesus, to a stay of three months in Corinth itself. His authority was restored. In this Corinthian sojourn he wrote the greatest of his epistles, that to the Romans.

   Meanwhile Paul had never ceased to hope that the breach between him and his Gentile Christians and the rank and file of the Jerusalem church could be healed. As a thank-offering for what the Gentiles owed to the parent community, he had been collecting a contribution from his Gentile converts. This, in spite of obvious peril, he determined to take to Jerusalem. Of the reception of this gift and of the course of Paul’s negotiations nothing is known; but the Apostle himself was speedily arrested in Jerusalem and sent a prisoner of the Roman Government to Caesarea, doubtless as an inciter of rioting. Two years’ imprisonment (57?-59?) led to no decisive result, since Paul exercised his right of appeal to the imperial tribunal at Rome, and were followed by his adventurous journey to the capital as a prisoner. At Rome he lived in custody, part of the time at least in his own hired lodging, for two years (60?-62?). Here he wrote to his beloved churches our Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and briefer letters to Philemon and to Timothy (the second epistle). Whether he was released from imprisonment and made further journeys is a problem which still divides the opinion of scholars, but the weight of such slight evidence as there is appears to be against it. There is no reason to doubt the tradition that he was beheaded on the Ostian way outside of Rome; but the year is uncertain. Tradition places his martyrdom in connection with the great Neronian persecution of 64. It was not conjoined in place with that savage attack, and may well have occurred a little earlier without being dissociated in later view from that event.

Paul’s heroic battle for a universal, non-legalistic Christianity has been sufficiently indicated. His Christology will be considered in another connection.(§1.7) Was he the founder or the remaker of Christian theology? He would himself earnestly have repudiated these imputations. Yet an interpretation by a trained mind was sure to present the simple faith of primitive Christianity in somewhat altered form. Though Paul wrought into Christian theology much that came from his own rabbinic learning and Hellenic experience, his profound Christian feeling led him into a deeper insight into the mind of Christ than was possessed by any other of the early disciples. Paul the theologian is often at variance with the picture of Christ presented by the Gospels. Paul the Christian is profoundly at one.

Paul’s conception of freedom from the Jewish law was as far as possible from any antinomian undervaluation of morality. If the old law had passed away, the Christian is under “the law of the Spirit of life.” He who has the Spirit dwelling in him, will mind “the things of the Spirit,” and will “mortify the deeds of the body.” (Rom. 8:2, 5, 13) Paul evidently devoted much of his training of converts to moral instruction. He has a distinct theory of the process of salvation. By nature men are children of the first Adam, and share his inheritance of sin ;(Rom. 5:12-19) by adoption (a Roman idea) we are children of God and partakers of the blessings of the second Adam, Christ. (Rom. 8:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:45) These blessings have special connection with Christ’s death and resurrection. To Paul, these two events stand forth as transactions of transcendent significance. His attitude is well expressed in Gal. 6:14: “Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and the reason for this glorying is twofold, that sin is thereby forgiven and redemption wrought, (Rom. 3:24-26) and that it is the source and motive of the new life of faith and love. (Gal. 2:20) This degree of emphasis on Christ’s death was certainly new. To Paul the resurrection was no less important. It was the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, (Rom. 1:4) the promise of our own resurrection, (1Cor. 15:12-19) and the guarantee of men’s renewed spiritual life. (Rom. 6:4-11) Hence Paul preached “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1Cor. 2:2) or “Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18)

The power by which men become children of the second Adam is a free gift of God through Christ. It is wholly undeserved grace. (Rom. 3:24) This God sends to whom He will, and withholds from whom He will. (Rom. 9:10-24) The condition of the reception of grace on man’s part is faith. (Rom. 3:25-28) “If you confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:9) This doctrine is of great importance, for it makes the essence of the Christian life not any mere belief about Christ, nor any purely forensic justification, as Protestants have often interpreted Paul, but a vital, personal relationship. The designation of Jesus as “Lord” was one, as Bousset has pointed out, (Kyrios Christos, Göttingen, 1913) which had its rise in the Gentile churches of Syria, not impossibly in Antioch, and was the natural expression of those who had long been accustomed to employ it regarding their highest objects of veneration for their devotion to their new “Master”. To Paul, it is an epitome of his faith. Christ is the “Lord,” himself the “slave.” Nor is confidence in the resurrection less necessary, as the crowning proof of Christ’s divine Sonship. (Rom. 1:4)

The Christian life is one filled with the Spirit. All graces are from Him, all gifts and guidance. Man having the Spirit is a new creature. Living the life of the Spirit, he no longer lives that of the “flesh.” But that all-transforming and indwelling Spirit is Christ Himself. “The Lord is the Spirit.” (2Cor. 3:17) If Christ thus stands in such relation to the individual disciple that union with Him is necessary for all true Christian life, He is in no less vital association with the whole body of believers—the church. Paul uses the word church in two senses, as designating the local congregation, Philippi, Corinth, Rome, “the church that is in their house,” and as indicating the whole body of believers, the true Israel. In the latter sense it is the body of Christ, of which each local congregation is a party. (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18) From Christ come all officers and helpers, all spiritual gifts. (Eph. 40:11 Cor. 12:4-11) He is the source of the life of the church, and these gifts are evidence of His glorified lordship. (Eph. 4:7-10)

Like the early disciples generally, Paul thought the coming of Christ and the end of the existing world-order near; though his views underwent some modification. In his earlier epistles he evidently believed it would happen in his lifetime. (1Thess. 4:13-18) As he came toward the close of his work he felt it likely that he would die before the Lord’s coming. (Phil. 1:23,24; 2Tim. 4:6-8) Regarding the resurrection, Paul had the greatest confidence. Here, however, Hebrew and Greek ideas were at variance. The Hebrew conception was a living again of the flesh. The Greek, the immortality of the soul. Paul does not always make his position clear. Romans 8:11 looks like the Hebrew thought; but the great passage in 1 Cor. 15:35-54 points to the Greek. A judgment is for all, (2Cor. 5:10.) and even among the saved there will be great differences. (1Cor. 3:10-15) The end of all things is the subjection of all, even Christ, to God the Father. (1Cor. 15:20-28)

Pauline Mysticism

 

 

PAULINE MYSTICISM

 

 


 

2 COR. 12:1-10 (Visions and Revelations)

 

I MUST boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord

Καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, οὐ συμφέρον μέν, ἐλεύσομαι δὲ εἰς ὀπτασίας καὶ ἀποκαλύψεις κυρίου.  

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows

2  οἶδα ἄνθρωπον ἐν Χριστῷ πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων, εἴτε ἐν σώματι οὐκ οἶδα, εἴτε ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος οὐκ οἶδα, ὁ θεὸς οἶδεν, ἁρπαγέντα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ.  

3 And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows --  4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

3  καὶ οἶδα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνθρωπον, εἴτε ἐν σώματι εἴτε χωρὶς τοῦ σώματος οὐκ οἶδα, ὁ θεὸς οἶδεν,  4  ὅτι ἡρπάγη εἰς τὸν παράδεισον καὶ ἤκουσεν ἄρρητα ῥήματα ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι.

  5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.  6Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

5  ὑπὲρ τοῦ τοιούτου καυχήσομαι, ὑπὲρ δὲ ἐμαυτοῦ οὐ καυχήσομαι εἰ μὴ ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις.  6  Ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσω καυχήσασθαι, οὐκ ἔσομαι ἄφρων, ἀλήθειαν γὰρ ἐρῶ· φείδομαι δέ, μή τις εἰς ἐμὲ λογίσηται ὑπὲρ ὃ βλέπει με ἢ ἀκούει [τι] ἐξ ἐμοῦ  

  7 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 

7  καὶ τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. διὸ ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι, ἐδόθη μοι σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί, ἄγγελος σατανᾶ, ἵνα με κολαφίζῃ, ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι

8 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;  9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

.  8  ὑπὲρ τούτου τρὶς τὸν κύριον παρεκάλεσα ἵνα ἀποστῇ ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ.  9  καὶ εἴρηκέν μοι· ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις μου, ἡ γὰρ δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται. ἥδιστα οὖν μᾶλλον καυχήσομαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις μου, ἵνα ἐπισκηνώσῃ ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ ἡ δύναμις τοῦ Χριστοῦ.  

10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

10  διὸ εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθενείαις, ἐν ὕβρεσιν, ἐν ἀνάγκαις, ἐν διωγμοῖς καὶ στενοχωρίαις, ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι.

 

 

2 COR. 3:12-18 (Our Transfiguration)

 


Transfiguration, 6th c. St. Catherine's, Sinai

12 SINCE we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. 14 Ἔχοντες οὖν τοιαύτην ἐλπίδα πολλῇ παρρησίᾳ χρώμεθα͵ 13 καὶ οὐ καθάπερ Μωϋσῆς ἐτίθει κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ͵ πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀτενίσαι τοὺς υἱοὺς Ἰσραὴλ εἰς τὸ τέλος τοῦ καταργουμένου.
But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  14 ἀλλὰ ἐπω ρώθη τὰ νοήματα αὐτῶν. ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς δια θήκης μένει μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον͵ ὅτι ἐν Χριστῷ κα ταργεῖται·
15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; 15 ἀλλ΄ ἕως σήμερον ἡνίκα ἂν ἀναγινώσκη ται Μωϋσῆς κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτῶν κεῖται·
16 but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. 16 ἡνίκα δὲ ἐὰν ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον͵ περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα. ῃ
17 NOW the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  17 ὁ δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν· οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου͵ ἐλευθερία.

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [transfigured] into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

18 ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες ἀνακεκα λυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν͵ καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος.

 

 

 [2].3. THE CLOSE OF THE APOSTOLIC AGE

 


[2].3. THE CLOSE of the APOSTOLIC AGE
 

 

 

THE history and fate of most of the Apostles is unknown. Though Peter cannot have been in Rome while Paul was writing his letters to the Romans, the cumulative force of such intimations as have survived make the conclusion probable that Peter was in Rome for a short time at least, and that his stay ended in martyrdom by crucifixion in the Neronian persecutions.[1] Such a stay, and especially such a death, would link him permanently with the Roman Church. On the other hand, a residence of John in Ephesus is much less certain.

The Neronian Persecution

The persecution under Nero was as fierce as it was local. A great fire in Rome, in July, 64, was followed by charges unjustly involving the Christians, probably at Nero’s instigation, to turn popular rumor from himself. Numbers suffered death by horrible torture in the Vatican gardens, where Nero made their martyrdom a spectacle.[2] Thenceforth he lived in Christian tradition as a type of antichrist; but the Roman Church survived in strength. The destruction of Jerusalem at the close of the Jewish rebellion, in 70, was an event of more permanent significance. It almost ended the already waning influence of the Palestinian congregations in the larger concerns of the church. This collapse, and the rapid influx of converts from pagan antecedents soon made Paul’s battle for freedom from law no longer a living question. Antioch, Rome, and before the end of the century, Ephesus, were now the chief centers of Christian development. The converts were mostly from the lower social classes, (1Cor. 1:26-28) though some of better position, notably women, were to be found among them. Such were Lydia of Philippi, (Acts 16:14.) and, in much higher station, probably the consul, Flavius Clemens, and his wife, Flavia Domitilla, who suffered the one death and the other sentence of banishment in Rome under Domitian, in 95. To Domitilla, the Roman Church owed one of its oldest catacombs. Of this persecution under Domitian (81-96) few details are known, but it must have been of severity in Rome and in Asia Minor. (1Clement, I; Rev. 2:10,13; 7:13,14)

The Letter of James

Yet though some gleanings can be recovered from this period, the forty years from 70 to 110 remain one of the most obscure periods in church history. This is the more to be regretted because they were an epoch of rapid change in the church itself. When the characteristics of the church can once more be clearly traced its general conception of Christianity shows surprisingly little of the distinctive stamp of Paul. Not only must many now unknown missionaries have labored in addition to the great Apostle, but an inrush of ideas from other than Christian sources, brought undoubtedly by converts of pagan antecedents, modified Christian beliefs and practices, especially regarding the sacraments, fastings, and the rise of liturgical forms. The old conviction of the immediacy of the guidance of the Spirit faded, without becoming wholly extinguished. The constitution of the church itself underwent, in this period, a far-reaching development, of which some account will be given (§1.9).

An illustration of this non-Pauline Christianity, though without evidence of the infiltration of pagan ideas, is to be seen in the Epistle of James. Written late in the first century or early in the second, it [has often been regarded by Protestant – but generally not by Catholic - authors as] poor in theological content. Its directions are largely ethical. Christianity, in the conception of the writer, is a body of right principles duly practised. Faith is not, as with Paul, a new, vital, personal relationship. It is intellectual conviction which must be supplemented by appropriate action. It is a new and simple moral law. (James 1:25; 2:14-26)

The Gospels

To this obscure period is due the composition of the Gospels. No subject in church history is more difficult. It would appear, however, that at an early period, not now definitely to be fixed, a collection of the sayings of Christ was in circulation. Probably not far from 75-80, and according to early and credible tradition at Rome, Mark’s Gospel came into existence. Its arrangement was not purely historic, the selection of the materials being determined evidently by the importance attached to the doctrines and ecclesiastical usages which they illustrated. With large use of the collection of sayings and of Mark, Matthew and Luke’s Gospels came into being, probably between 80 and 95; the former probably having Palestine as its place of writing, and the latter coming, there is some reason to believe, from Antioch. The Johannine Gospel is distinctly individual, and may not unfairly be ascribed to Ephesus, and to the period 95-110. Other gospels were in circulation, of which fragments survive, but none which compare in value with the four which the church came to regard as canonical. There seems to have been little of recollections of Jesus extant at the close of the first century which was not gathered into the familiar Gospels. That this was the case may be ascribed to the great Jewish war and the decline of the Palestinian Hebrew congregations. To the Gospels the church owes the priceless heritage of its knowledge of the life of its Master, and a perpetual corrective to the one-sidedness of an interpretation, which, like even the great message of Paul, pays little attention to His earthly ministry

[1].7. THE INTERPRETATION OF JESUS

 


[2].4. THE INTERPRETATION of JESUS
 

 

 

The Earliest Christologies

AN inevitable question of the highest importance which arose with the proclamation of Christianity, and must always demand consideration in every age of the church, is: What is to be thought of the Founder? The earliest Christology, as has been pointed out, was Messianic. Jesus was the Messiah of Jewish hope, only in a vastly more spiritual sense than that hope commonly implied. He had gone, but only for a brief time. (Acts 3:21) He was now in exaltation, yet what must be thought of His earthly life, that had so little of “glory” in it, as men use that term? That life of humiliation, ending in a slave’s death, was but the fulfilment of prophecy. God had foreshadowed the things that “His Christ should suffer. (Acts 3:13) Early Jewish Christian thought recurred to the suffering servant of Isaiah, who was “wounded for our transgressions.” (Isaiah 53:5) Christ is the “servant” or “child,” (παῖς Θεοῦ) in the early Petrine addresses. (Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30) The glorification was at the resurrection. He is now “by the right hand of God exalted.” (Acts 2:32, 33; 4:10,12) This primitive conception of the suffering servant exalted, persisted. It is that, in spite of a good deal of Pauline admixture, of the epistle known as 1 Peter. Clement, writing from Rome to the Corinthians, 93-97, also shares it. (1Clement, 16), as does the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didache 9, 10) It does not necessarily imply pre-existence. It does not make clear the relationship of Christ to God. It had not thought that problem out.

An obvious distinction soon was apparent. The disciples had known Christ in His life on earth. They now knew Him by His gifts in His exaltation. They had known Him after the flesh; they now knew Him after the spirit (Rom. 1:3, 4)—that is as the Jesus of history and the Christ of experience. To superficial consideration, at least, these two aspects were not easy of adjustment. The Jesus of history lived in a definite land, under human conditions of space and time. The Christ of experience is Lord of all His servants, is manifested as the Spirit at the same moment in places the most diverse, is omnipresent and omniscient. Paul regards it as a mark of Christianity that men call upon Him everywhere.(1 Cor. 1:3) He prays to Him himself. (2 Cor. 12:8, 9) In his most solemn asseveration that his apostleship is not of any human origin, Paul classes God and Christ together as its source. (Gal. 1:1) These attributes and powers of the Christ of experience are very like divine, it is evident; and they inevitably raised the question of Christ’s relation to the Father as it had not been raised thus far, and in a mind of far subtler powers and greater training and education than that of any of the earlier disciples, that of Paul.

Paul knew Hebrew theology well, with its conception of the divine “wisdom” as present with God before the foundation of the world. (Prov. 8:22, 9) He also knew something of Stoicism, with its doctrine of the universal, omnipresent, fashioning divine intelligence, the Logos, that in many ways resembled the Hebrew wisdom. He knew the Isaian conception of the suffering servant. To Paul, therefore, the identification of the exalted Christ with the divine wisdom—Logos—was not only easy, but natural; and that wisdom—Logos—must be preexistent and always with God. He is “the Spirit of God,” (1 Cor. 2:10, 11) the “wisdom of God.” (1Cor. 1:24) “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9) Even more, as in the Stoic conception of the Logos, He is the divine agent in creation; “all things have been created through Him and unto Him.” (Col. 1:16) Though Paul probably never in set terms called Christ God,[3] he taught Christ’s unity in character with God. He “knew no sin”; (2 Cor. 5:22) He is the full manifestation of the love of God, which is greater than any human love, and the motive spring of the Christian life in us. (Rom. 8:39, 5:7, 3; Gal. 2:20) It is plain, therefore, that though Paul often calls Christ man, he gives Him an absolutely unique position, and classes Him with God.

If the Christ of experience was thus pre-existent and post-existent in glory for Paul, how explain the Jesus of history? He was the suffering servant. (Phil. 26-11) His humble obedience was followed, as in the earlier Petrine conception, by the great reward. “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the name which is above every name . . . that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Paul looks upon the whole earthly life of Jesus as one of humiliation. It was indeed significant. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19) Yet it was only “by the resurrection” that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power.” (Rom. 1:4) Paul’s Christology combines, therefore, in a remarkable manner, Hebrew and Gentile conceptions. In it appear the suffering and exalted servant, the pre-existent divine wisdom, the divine agent in creation, and the redeemer power who for man’s sake came down from heaven, died, and rose again.

Christologies of the Gospels

Within half a generation of Paul’s death, however, a differing interpretation appeared, probably representing an independent line of thought. It was that of the Gospel of Mark. The writer knew nothing of Paul’s view of Christ’s pre-existence. In his thought, Christ was from His baptism the Son of God by adoption. (Mark 1:9-11.) That He was the Son of God thenceforth, in all His earthly lot, is the evangelist’s endeavor to show. There was humiliation, indeed, but there was a glory also in His earthly life, of which Paul gives no hint. He had not to wait for the demonstration of the resurrection. The voice from heaven declared Him the Son at baptism. The man with an unclean spirit saluted Him at His first preaching as “the Holy One of God” (1:24). The spirits of those possessed cried, “Thou art the Son of God” (3:12). He was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, while a heavenly voice proclaims: “This is my beloved Son” (9:2-3). The evangelist can only explain the lack of universal recognition in Christ’s lifetime on earth by the declaration that He charged spirits and disciples not to make Him known (eg.. 1:34, 3:12, 5:43, 9:9). It is evident that this is a very different interpretation from that of Paul.

Mark’s view was evidently unsatisfactory to his own age. It had no real theory of the incarnation. It does not trace back the sonship far enough. If that sonship was manifested in a portion of Christ’s life, why not in all His life ? That impressed the writers of the next two Gospels, Matthew and Luke. Like Mark, they have no trace of Paul s doctrine of pre-existence—their authors did not move in Paul’s theological or philosophical realm. But they make the manifestation of Christ’s divine sonship date from the very inception of His earthly existence. He was of supernatural birth. Like Mark, both regard His life as other than one of humiliation only.

Yet for minds steeped in the thoughts of Paul even these could not be satisfying interpretations. A fourth Gospel appeared about 95-110, probably in Ephesus, which sprang into favor, not only on account of its profoundly spiritual interpretation of the meaning of Christ, but because it combined in one harmonious presentation the divided elements of the Christologies which had thus far been current. In the Gospel which bears the name of John, the pre-existence and creative activity of Christ is as fully taught as by Paul. Christ is the Logos, the Word who “was with God, and the Word was God”; “All things were made by Him” (1:1,3). There is no hint of virgin birth, as in Matthew and Luke, but a real, though unexplained, incarnation is taught: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14). The tendency of the earlier Gos-pels to behold glory, as well as humiliation, in Christ’s earthly life is carried much further. That life is one primarily in which He “manifested His glory” (2:11, see 1:14). He declares to the woman of Samaria that He is the Messiah (4:26). He is regarded as “making Himself equal with God” (5:18). He remembers the glory of His pre-existence (17:5). He walks through life triumphantly conscious of His high divine mission. In the account of the Garden of Gethsemane no note appears of the anguished prayer that this cup pass from Him. (18:1-11; compare Mark 1432-42) In the story of the crucifixion there is no anguished cry: “ My God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Mark 15:34); rather, as with a sense of a predetermined work accomplished, He dies with the words: “ It is finished.” (John 19:30) Beyond question this Christology was eminently satisfactory to the second century. It gave an explanation, natural to the age, of that lordship which Christian feeling universally ascribed to Christ. It united the most valued portions of the older Christologies. Though much dissent from it was to appear, it was formative of what was to triumph as orthodoxy.

In spite of this Johannine Christology, traces of more naive and less philosophic interpretations survived. Such were those of the obscure relics of extreme Judaizing Christianity, known in the second century as Ebionites. To them, Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, who so completely fulfilled the Jewish law that God chose Him to be the Messiah. He improved and added to the law, and would come again to found a Messianic kingdom for the Jews. Such, in a very different way, was Hermas of Rome (115-140), who strove to combine Paul’s doctrine of “the holy pre-existent Spirit which created the whole creation” (Hermas, Sim., 5:6), with that of the suffering and exalted servant. The “servant,” pictured as a slave in the vineyard of God, is the “flesh in which the holy Spirit dwelt . . . walking honorably in holiness and purity, without in any way defiling the Spirit” (Hermas, Sim., 5:6) . As a reward, God chose the “flesh,” i. e., Jesus, “as a partner with the holy Spirit”; but this recompense is not peculiar to Him. He is but a forerunner, “for all flesh, which is found undefiled and unspotted, wherein the holy Spirit dwelt, shall receive a reward” (Hermas, Sim., 5:6). This is, of course, in a sense adoptionist. It was not easy for unphilosophic minds to combine in one harmonious picture the Jesus of history and the Christ of experience; and even in philosophic interpretations this contrast had much to do with the rise and wide spread of Gnosticism in the second century.

The Nature of Salvation

The significance of the Gospel according to John in the development of Christology has been noted; its influence in the interpretation of salvation was no less important. With it are to be associated the Johannine Epistles. This literature probably had its rise in a region, Ephesus, where Paul long worked. Its position is Pauline, but developed in the direction of a much intenser mysticism. This mysticism centers about the thoughts of life and union with Christ, both of which are Pauline, and yet treated in a way unlike that of Paul.  Life, is the great word of the Johannine literature. He who knows the Christ of present experience has life. “This is life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.” (1 John 17:3; see also 3:16, 36, 6:47, 10:27, 28, etc.) For the writer, the world is divisible into two simple classes; “He that hath the Son hath the life, he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.” (1 John 5:12; compare John 3:36) By life, the author does not mean simple existence. To him it is blessed, purified immortality. “Now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that if He shall be manifested we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2.) This life is based on union with Christ, and this union is a real sacramental participation. One can but feel that there is here the influence of ideas -similar to those of the mystery religions. Paul had valued the Lord’s Supper. To him it was a “communion” of the body and blood of Christ, a “remembrance” of Christ, through which; “Ye proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.” (1 Cor. 10:16, 11:24, 26) The Johannine literature goes further; “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood ye have not life in yourselves.” (John 6:53) The Lord’s Supper is already a mystical sacrament necessary for that union with Christ which is to procure a blessed immortality.

Ignatius of Antioch

The Johannine literature stands on a spiritual plane of utmost loftiness. It is instructive to see how some of these problems looked to a contemporary of the same general school, an equally earnest Christian, but of far less spiritual elevation. Such a man is Ignatius of Antioch. Condemned as a Christian in his home city, in the last years of Trajan, 110-117, he was sent a prisoner to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. Of his history little is known, but from his pen seven brief letters exist, six of them written to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna; and one a personal note to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. They are full of gratitude for kindnesses shown on his journey, of warnings against spiritual perils, and of exhortations to unity. Their significance for the history of Christian institutions will be considered in Section IX. Ignatius has the same lofty Christology as the Johannine literature. Christ’s sacrifice is “the blood of God.” (Eph. I.) He greets the Romans in “Jesus Christ our God.” Yet he did not identify Christ wholly with the Father. “He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, but Son of God by the divine will and power.” (Smyrn., 1) As in the Johannine literature, Ignatius held union with Christ necessary for life; “Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not true life” (Tral. 9.)—and that life is ministered through the Lord’s Supper. His conception of the Eucharist entails mystical – almost magical –  transformation. He says of it: “ Breaking one bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote that we should not die but live forever in Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 20)  Ignatius’s most original thought was that the incarnation was the manifestation of God for the revelation of a new humanity. Before Christ the world was under the devil and death’. Christ brought life and immortality. (Eph. 19, 20.)

In the Johannine and the Ignatian writings alike, salvation was life, in the sense of the transformation of sinful mortality into blessed immortality. This thought had roots in Paul’s teaching. Through the school of Syria and Asia Minor this became, in the Greek-speaking church, the conception of salvation. It was one that lays necessary emphasis on the person of Christ and the incarnation. The Latin conception, as will be seen, was that salvation consists in the establishment of right relations with God and the forgiveness of sins. This, too, had its Pauline antecedents. It necessarily lays prime weight on divine grace, the death of Christ, and the atonement. These conceptions are not mutually exclusive; but to these differences of emphasis is ultimately due much of the contrast in the later theological development of East and West.



[1] 11 Peter 5:12; John 21:18, 19. 1 Clement, 5, 6; Ignatius, Romans, 4:3; Irenæus, Against Heresies, 3:1:1; Caius of Rome in Eusebius, Church History, 2:25: 5 7,

[2] Tacitus Annals 15.44; Ayer, A Source-Book for Ancient Church History, p. 6.

[3] The translations, which imply that, in Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13, are for various reasons to be rejected as Pauline.

 


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