By Adolf Jülicher
THE GENUINE EPISTLES OF PAUL
§ 3. The Apostle Paul
1. The man to whose extant writings we shall first turn our attention was a Jew of the purest Jewish blood (Gal. ii. 15, i. 18 fol.; 2 Cor. xi. 22; Rom. xi. 1; Philip. iii. 4 fol.) and belonged, according to his own account, to the tribe of Benjamin. Jerome tells us that he was born in the little Galilean town of Gischala, and if this is correct—which is, however, doubtful—Paul and his family must have migrated very early to Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia. In the Acts he is simply mentioned as ʽa man of Tarsusʼ; but according to xxii. 8, he was also born there, and certainly such a title could hardly have been applied to him if he had merely made & passing sojourn in Tarsus during one of his missionary journeys. The year of his birth is unknown, but it cannot have been very far from the beginning of our era, for before his conversion be makes his appearance in public in a way which would have been hardly possible for a Jew of less than thirty years of age; his mind had had time to take firm root in the Rabbinical theology before he cast aside what had once seemed so precious to him; while after 60 A.D. he speaks of himself from his prison as ʽPaul the aged.ʼ1 The fact that. he reckoned himself among the ʽchief apostles,ʼ also, would be best explained by supposing that there was no substantial difference of age between Jesus and himself, and that he was at most two or three years the younger. At his circumcision he was given the Jewish name of Saul, by which alone he is spoken of in the Acts as far as xiii. 9.; there, however, we learn that he also bore the name of Paul, which he uses exclusively in his epistles. There is nothing in the Acts to indicate that he adopted this second name at that particular moment—possibly in order to symbolise his new birth—and it is still less probable that his meeting with Sergius Paulus the Proconsul of Cyprus was the occasion of the change. Double names were becoming the fashion in the East at that time, and it was especially common to couple a Greek with a Semitic name, so that our Apostle might very well have been called both Saul and Paul from his youth up. He would then have left it to the changing milieux in which he happened to find himself to call him by whichever name they found most convenient; so that to Greeks he would always have been Paul.2
Paul did not spring by any means from the lowest class. His whole bearing would be sufficient to show this; but we also have evidence that his family possessed the Ronan civitas long before his birth. That he should have learnt a trade—that of tent-maker or tanner according to Acts xviii. 3 —is no objection to this theory, since such was the very general custom among the Jewish scribes. On his missionary journeys it is clear that he had no private means at his disposal, but the apostate would have scorned to accept any support from his yet unconverted family. No doubt he intended to become a Rabbi and with this view betook himself when still quite a young man to Jerusalem, where teachers as distinguished as Gamaliel the Elder were at that time to be found.3 Here he remained true to that extreme Pharisaism
§ 3.] THE APOSTLE PAUL 30
which was the tradition of his family; he could not be strict enough in his observance of the Law, and he looked with burning hatred, ready for any and every act of violence, upon the small body of the followers of Jesus who had so rudely attacked the Pharisaic ideal of the Messiah, and therefore, in spite of their attachment to the Law, could never hope to be tolerated or even recognised by the Pharisee pure and simple. Jesus himself he had not seen (2. Cor. v. 16 proves nothing whatever either way), so that he probably did not arrive in Jerusalem until after his death, but the persecution and extermination of his followers seemed to Paul a worthy task to which to devote his life.4 On some such errand he had set out one day for Damascus,5 when the reaction suddenly and irresistibly came upon him. He describes the occurrence himself as a direct revelation of Christ vouchsafed to him in or near Damascus, and charging him with the task of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.6 Of course this vision had its pyschological preparation within him; instead of the proud self-satisfaction of the average Jew, which, in the words of Philipp. vii. 6, could bear witness to itself ʽas touching the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless,ʼ Paul had already known moments when he had felt all the bitter pain of one sold unto sin and condemned to a helpless doing of evil in spite of all his love for good, and had cried in his woe ʽWho is it that will save me?ʼ The little he had heard of the sayings of Jesus had long since made an impression upon him, and the courage and contempt for death that he had witnessed among the Christian community had already begun to exercise his conscience. It was now only the obstinacy of the Pharisee, determined to seek salvation ʽin the Law,ʼ through his own merits, that still combated the σκάνδαλον of the Gospel preached by these innovators, and this precisely because such a man would naturally be more alive than they to the logical conclusions of their faith. Ina Paul of Tarsus the struggle between his own religious experience and the Jewish tradition could have but one ending— it led him inevitably to the vision of that Jesus whom he had striven so hard to believe a false prophet and a traitor, throned in heavenly glory, to the instant acceptance of the Lordʼs call and the entrance by baptism into the ranks of his disciples.
The narrative of these events in the Acts7 is of a somewhat legendary character, as, indeed, is the case with nearly all those parts of the book that bear on the first and larger half of Paulʼs missionary life; it is only when we come to the later part that we find it drawing from trustworthy sources. Here we may rely almost without exception on the information it gives as to the order of succession of the chief stations of his missionary travels, but its indications of time are less valuable and are often put in the form of conjecture by the writer himself. Fortunately, however, we may learn enough from the actual letters of the Apostle to give us a tolerably clear idea of his fortunes after his conversion. Immediately after his vision (Gal. i. 16 fol.) he went into Arabia, returning some time later to Damascus and thence after three yearsʼ absence to Jerusalem. He only left Damascus under compulsion, for according to 2. Cor. xi. 32 an attempt was made on his life by the Ethnarch of the Arabian King Aretas —probably prompted, like all such later persecutions, by the inconvenient zeal he displayed in his enthusiasm for the new religion. A singular hypothesis has been put forward, based on the ʽimmediatelyʼ of Gal. i. 16 and on the similarity with which Paul describes his sojourn in Arabia and that which took place afterwards in Syria, that he spent these three years in solitude in the Arabian desert, silently meditating upon his experience or developing undisturbed his peculiar system of doctrine—as though ʽArabiaʼ were mere desert, and Paulʼs vocation that of the scientific theologian! No, a definite office had been laid upon him in his vision, and Paul was not the man to hesitate an instant in the discharge of all the duties of that office, while it need not surprise us that he did not at once achieve brilliant successes that left their mark on universal history.
When he found the country east of the Jordan closed to him it was necessary to seek some other field of enterprise, and what more natural than that he should turn to his own country of Syria and Cilicia? He merely touched at Jerusalem on his way thither, and himself declares that his fortnightʼs stay in the city was of a purely private and secret nature; he wisely contented himself while there with visiting Peter and being introduced by him to James the brother of the Lord. In any case the words of Gal. i. 18 and 22 effectually exclude the possibility of his having had any disputes at this time with the ʽHellenistsʼ of the Jewish capital.8 He remained in the new scene of his activity for fourteen years9 and doubtless used Antioch as his base of operations, as the Primitive Apostles used Jerusalem; for although he may not have been the actual founder of the Christian community there—which early became one of importance—he regarded himself at least as the representative of the whole Gentile-Christianity of the city.10 The report in the Acts11 rests no doubt on good authority when it tells us that Paul spent a considerable time at Antioch and was at first continually going back to it. It is clear, on the other hand, that he did not confine himself to preaching in this one city for fourteen years continuously, but that he laboured for the Gospel in many parts of Syria and Cilicia, sometimes alone and sometimes with companions, while it is conceivable that even the so-called first missionary journey to Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia and Lycaonia12 may have fallen within this period. It is true that in the Acts this journey is made to follow on a second visit of the converted Paul to Jerusalem,13 while within this period of fourteen years Paul certainly did not set foot within the borders of Judea; but this would not be the only error of the Acts relating to that period, and, on the other hand, although Paul himself only mentions his labours in Syria and Cilicia, he may not necessarily have meant to exclude an occasional excursion into neighbouring unconverted countries. Only this journey of Paul and Barnabas cannot have been very important or successful; otherwise Paul would certainly have mentioned it in Gal. i. 21.
Seventeen years after he had left Jerusalem as the deadly foe of the Christian community there, he returned to make his appearance publicly in its midst, and with him went the Jewish Christian Barnabas and the Gentile Titus whom he had himself converted to the Gospel. This was a step which he would not even yet have dared to take on his own responsibility, but its necessity had been revealed to him in a vision, and the state of affairs outside his own Church now demanded a settlement which Paul could only hope to effect in a satisfactory manner by personal intercourse with the universally acknowledged heads of the new sect. According to Gal. ii. 2-5 Paul was in danger of seeing his labour wasted; there were certain members of the community, whom Paul can only describe as ʽfalse brethren privily brought in,ʼ who disputed the truth of his Gospel, because he offered it and all its promises without stipulating that the convert should accept the Mosaic Law along with his new faith, and because he did not even insist upon the circumcision of the converted Gentile; thus, since they appealed to the authority of Jesus himself and of his chosen Twelve, they must doubtless have excited considerable distrust of Paul and his programme and have worked against him both directly and indirectly. But Paul was certain of the justice of his cause, while the immediate sense of his divine mission lent him additional strength, and he ventured to appeal to the Apostles themselves to decide the quarrel: that is to say, to recognise his rights and his liberty. It was a very judicious move of his to take with him his fellow-worker Barnabas, who had long been respected in Jerusalem, and Titus, the most distinguished of the Greeks he had himself converted; the ʽpillars of the Churchʼ in Jerusalem should see and hear this uncircumcised Christian, should learn what experiences he had to tell and listen to his prophetic words; then they should ask themselves whether the spirit which dwelt in him was of a different sort from theirs. Paulʼs expectations were fulfilled, for although there may have been a good deal of sympathy for those false brethren among the community of Jerusalem, the elders received Titus, uncircumcised as he was, into the Church, acknowledged the supernatural nature of the summons that made Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles, and with it his equality with Peter. This last concession was made necessary, in spite of all objections, by Paulʼs success, which could only be the work of God. The Jewish world they kept for themselves, but delivered the Gentiles over to Paul, and the seal was set upon the perfect harmony thus established, by Paulʼs promise to collect money among the converted Gentiles for the suffering Church at Jerusalem. Paul probably proposed this task himself, for his attitude towards the leaders of the Primitive Church would be much more happily attested by such a collection than by any written recommendations, which he would have been too proud to accept or to use. It is impossible to be on bad terms with or to despise the man from whom one accepts a favour, and, the conditions being what they were, love and mutual esteem must clearly have existed between giver and receiver.
There was now nothing to detain Paul longer in Jerusalem, and he returned to take up his interrupted task at Antioch in the old way. A visit from Peter, which took place soon after this, must have given him much pleasure by proving to the world the keen interest taken by the greatest of the Primitive Apostles in the welfare of the Gentile communities, and a friendly understanding among all the Christians of Antioch was promoted by it. But Peter was soon followed by ʽcertain men from James,ʼ who protested against his eating with the uncircumcised as a breach of the Mosaic Law, and he and all the other Jewish Christians at Antioch, with the exception of Paul, were prevailed upon to abandon this custom of fellowship at meals, although till now no objection had been raised against it. Paul, however, regarded this change not only as a mere temporary compromise based on purely artificial grounds, but as a treacherous misinterpretation of the true Gospel, and at a meeting of the community when all the faithful, including the envoys of James, were present, he accused his fellow-Apostle in the bitterest terms of pusillanimity and even of treachery to the faith.14
What the sequel was to this painful dispute we do not learn, but we should have no justification for asserting that it resulted in a definite breach between the parties concerned. Even in the Epistle to the Galatians Paul speaks of Barnabas and Peter in far too friendly a way to leave room for the supposition that a dissolution of the agreement described in ii. 8, 10 was contemplated on the ground of this one serious difference. Paul does not relate the occurrence for the purpose of prejudicing his readers against Peter or of lowering him in their eyes, but simply to illustrate in the most striking way his own unchanging steadfastness and independence at a critical juncture. But it is easy to imagine that after these disputes he longed to turn his back upon Antioch and the neighbourhood where he and Barnabas had hitherto worked together, and that he began to seek some new field for his labours in distant lands. The statement in Acts xv. 40 fol., that Paul set out in company with one Silas (= Silvanus) but without Barnabas, is very probably correct; he first went through Syria and Cilicia ʽconfirming the churchesʼ and doubtless encouraging them to resist Judaistic demands; and then, as a result of the visit of the Lycaonian and Fisidian brethren, he succeeded in gaining another travelling companion in the person of Timothy, so that with these two he could now set out on his great northward and northwestward journey through Galatia and Phrygia to the Troad, and even, contrary to his expectation, to Macedonia and Achaia. The incidents of these travels can best be ascertained by referring to the Epistles Paul wrote at the time. According to Acts xviii. 18-23 he journeyed from the capital of Achaia via Caesarea (in Palestine) and possibly Jerusalem (?) back to Antioch, but soon afterwards started on a second journey, of which the ultimate goal was Ephesus.
Hence we are accustomed to distinguish three missionary journeys; but in reality this merely encourages the false impression that Paul began his missionary career with the events of Acts xiii.; it is more practical to distinguish his spheres of work, thus; Arabia with Damascus for three years; Syria and the neighbouring districts for fourteen years (or fifteen if we consider the Cyprian voyage to have taken place after the assembly in Jerusalem); then after the dispute with Peter, Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia (including Corinth) for three years, and finally Asia for over two and a quarter, according to Acts xix. 8 and 10, or for three full years according to xx. 31. The visits to Macedonia and Achaia included in this last period do not form a missionary journey in the strictest sense; Paulʼs gaze was now directed further westwards, towards Rome and Spain, and his intention rather was to take leave of his Greek communities, and merely to appear once more in Jerusalem with the fruits of a collection made during several years by the Greeks for their poorer brethren in that city. His arrival at Jerusalem for a feast of Pentecost probably took place one year after his departure from Ephesus. Here the heaviest blow of all was dealt him; at the demand of the Jews he was immediately taken prisoner and transported to Caesarea; there, however, he was not definitely condemned, because he lodged an appeal to the Emperor, but after a tedious delay, lasting two years according to the Acts, was sent by order of the Procurator Festus to Rome by sea. His departure took place in early autumn, and owing to a shipwreck which compelled him to spend the winter in Malta he did not arrive in Rome until the spring of the next year. The last words of the Acts concerning him are that he lived there for two years longer, under military supervision, but otherwise unhindered in his labours for the Gospel.
With this the relative chronology of Paulʼs life is established with tolerable certainty. A period of seventeen years is required from his conversion to the so-called. Apostolic Council of Acts xv. and Galatians ii., and another of ten or eleven years from that point to the last words of the Acts. But the task of assigning this chain of events to its place in general chronology is none the less difficult. As yet we know of only two fixed landmarks by which to guide ourselves: (a) King Aretas died in the year 40 A.D. at latest, so that Paulʼs flight from Damascus, which was caused by his ethnarch, could not have taken place later than that year; thus 87 a.v. is the terminus ad quem for his conversion. (b) In the summer of 62 the successor of Festus, one Albinus, was already at work in Judea, so that Paulʼs despatch as a prisoner to Rome cannot be dated later than the autumn of the year 61. It cannot, however, be placed much earlier, for Festus did not hold his office long, so that, ceteris paribus, the autumn of the year 60 would perhaps be the most probable date for Paulʼs departure from Caesarea towards Rome. By calculating back from this point according to the dates given in the Acts—of which none but the two years for the Cesarean imprisonment are open to doubt— we are able to fix the Apostolic Council at or near the year 52 and the conversion of Paul at the year 35. No objection can be raised against this last, for if Jesus was crucified in A.D. 29 or 30, five years would be amply sufficient to account for the development of a Messianic community into an abomination in the eyes of strict Pharisaism, and also for the corresponding development which changed Paul from a silent member of the school of Gamaliel into a furious persecutor— though one who already belonged at heart to the persecuted —of the community at Damascus. His execution at Rome in the time of Nero—a tradition which no one cares to dispute— would then fall in the year 63, and would have no connection, as we are so prone to assume, with the so-called Neronian persecution of the summer of 64. But in any case we should. find it difficult to believe that Paul was ever suspected of incendiarism; while, when we take Neroʼs character and the state of things in Rome at that time into account, a sudden and fatal turn in the Apostleʼs trial, unexpected even by himself, would need no special explanation such as the unwonted agitation produced by the fire of Rome.
In recent times great popularity has been won by the hypothesis (which indeed is not a new one) that Paul was released at the end of the two years mentioned in Acts xxvili. 30, and that he set out on his travels once more, visiting Spain and also his old communities in the East, but that he was then again thrown into prison, and this time executed. Thus Zahn assumes that Paul left Rome in the autumn of the year 63, returned to it in the spring of 66 and was executed either at the end of that year or at the beginning of the next. Harnack finds room for this mysterious fourth journey between 59 and 63. Nothing, however, speaks in favour of such an hypothesis except the interested but vain desire of apologists to save the Pastoral Epistles; the passage in the first Epistle of Clement15 in which the martyrdom of Paul is mentioned in distinct terms (after that of Peter, to which, however, the reference is not quite so plain), gives us rather the impression that the victims of the persecution in question suffered later than Peter and Paul, for if the writer had known that Paul was martyred in 67 and the supposed incendiaries as early as 64, would he have passed on from the subject of Peter and Paul to speak of them with the words, ʽTo these men [Peter and Paul], who walked in such holy wise, was joined (συνηθροίσθη) a great host of the elect, who... have become a glorious ensample unto usʼ? We may search the whole of the Acts in vain for any indication that Paul was but temporarily debarred from his work; indeed the farewell discourse at Miletus points in the clearest terms to the very opposite conclusion. Nor can I detect in vy. xxviii. 30 fol. any reference whatever to a subsequent release of the Apostle; the words, ʽhe taught, no man forbidding him,ʼ are surely meant in silent contrast to the implied sequel, that he was forbidden, and if Paul had taken up his teaching again afterwards in the old way the writer could hardly have kept silence on the subject. The rash idea, moreover, that Luke was keeping back this last period of the labours of Paul, together with the story of his glorious martyrdom, to form the material for a third book equal in bulk to the Gospel and the Acts, is destroyed by the reflection that even if he meant to include some of the doings of Peter, Matthias and Thomas, his material cannot have been sufficient. Simple-minded readers have construed a journey to Spain out of Romans xv. 28, without making the slightest effort to find a place for it in Paulʼs life; others with equal justice have discovered a reference in Philippians i. 25 and ii. 24 to his release after the first Roman imprisonment; but the Acts know nothing of this so-called ʽprimitive tradition.ʼ With great tact the book breaks off at the last point at which the labours of the hero-Apostle for the Kingdom of God can be described—at the moment when he has succeeded in proclaiming the Word of the Cross in the West, at the very steps of the imperial throne,—and the writer refrains from relating the tragic ending of Paulʼs life because it was not his desire to write a biography of Paul, but to describe the triumphal march of the Gospel under the leadership of the Apostles. In his eyes the ʽActs of the Apostlesʼ came to an end with the last day on which Paul could preach the Lord Jesus fully and frankly, ʽno man forbidding him.ʼ
2. With this rapid sketch of the Apostleʼs life we have not yet attained the most important materials for a realisation of his personality. This would require above all that we should absorb ourselves in his world of thought, in the grandeur of his peculiar religious convictions, and in his conception of the Gospel,—a task which must be left to another branch of the subject, New Testament theology, to discharge. But too much stress cannot be laid upon the fact that Paul was in no sense of the words a theologian or a dogmatist. Many of the errors of criticism—even of the most modern—arise from the habit of calling attention to supposed contradictions in the different Epistles, which Paul, it is thought, would never have made, or of seeking for a hard and fast line of development for his religious views, arranging the Epistles according to it, and rejecting everything which does not fit in with the arrangement. Paul was far too great a genius not to have room in his mind for ideas that differed very widely. Things Jewish and things anti-Jewish were almost evenly balanced in his thoughts and in his temperament, while he himself never observed the antagonism between them. This alone would necessitate a certain oscillation in his mind between free speculation and Rabbinical logic; but he never regarded himself as having nothing more to learn; rather he was always open by his very nature to new and higher knowledge, troubling himself little about the stages by which it was attained. His cry to the Philippians16: ʽIf in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you: only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk,ʼ—applied with at least equal force to himself. Nor must we forget that in his case even the knowledge which was absolute and incontestable might often be expressed in the most varied forms, according to his mood at the time, his adversaries, or the circumstances of the case.
But the fact remains that Paul has a right to be called the Apostle κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, the disciple who raised the Messianic faith, hitherto but the creed of a Jewish sect, to the position of a world-religion. Immense as were the inward difficulties he had to overcome at first—and not only, it seems, before his conversion—those which he encountered all his life from the outside world during the execution of his work can hardly have been less. The words of 2. Cor. xi. 23-29 show clearly enough how incomplete is the picture given in the Acts of his struggles and his heroism; every step that he took was won at the risk of his life, in the face of the hatred of Jews and fanatical Jewish Christians and of the contempt of the Gentiles; there was no indignity, no suffering, no misfortune that he was not forced to bear. Untiring in his labours as a preacher, he earned his livelihood by bodily toil, often at night,17 and but rarely accepted presents even from his most faithful followers.18 At the same time his health was by no means sound; the ʽinfirmity of the fleshʼ of Gal. iv. 13 can scarcely have been a mere passing trouble, and in 2. Cor. iv. 7-12 he dwells at length upon the ʽdyingʼ which he ʽbears about in the body.ʼ Moreover the ʽthorn in the fleshʼ of 2. Cor. xii. 7-9 has given rise to the very probable suggestion that after his conversion he became an epileptic— a fact assuredly not unconnected with that highly strung religious temperament which was continually manifesting itself in ʽvisionsʼ and ʽrevelations.ʼ He remained unmarried, and never enjoyed the happiness of family life;19 his duties were all towards Christ and the Gospel, and rival duties towards man he could not undertake. It is true that through his Epistles we come to know of a whole host of helpers who willingly obeyed their masterʼs orders, but even in later years he experienced disappointments20 like those caused him at an earlier date by John Mark and Barnabas.21 And that he was the one guiding spirit of the band is abundantly shown by the fact that not a trace can be found of any systematic continuation of his lifeʼs work by any one of these disciples after he himself had passed away.
How, then, can we explain the unexampled success— as compared with that of other Apostles—which attended the preaching of this sickly, insignificant-looking man? How did he manage to win this multitude of followers for a Gospel so foreign to the Greek genius, and in a world so strange to him? And, once won, how did he succeed in holding it together in such firmly-knit communities? The phrase ʽbecause the time was fulfilledʼ is scarcely a sufficient answer to the question, and the appeal ʽto the strength of God made perfect in weaknessʼ is but an evasion of the point at issue. Certainly it was not by his learning that Paul made his impression—the few quotations from Greek literature that may be found in his Epistles22 scarcely point to an original acquaintance with the classics. They might easily have remained in his memory from his school days, or he might have acquired them by mere intercourse with men of general cultivation. Nor can he have excelled in eloquence, for his enemies readily assert—though only in reference to one of his defeats—that his speech was ʽcontemptible.ʼ23 He probably spoke as he wrote, for he used to dictate his Epistles and certainly never troubled to polish them, or to spend time upon the elegance of their style. We may, in fact, form our idea of hismanner of speech from these Epistles. But of course his missionary preaching, and the Epistles that have come down to us, cannot have been much alike in their contents. He would naturally have expressed himself otherwise in addressing a Christian community than in speaking to an audience of Gentiles who had never heard the name of Christ before,24 and to whom he had first to explain the fundamental religious ideas of repentance, of faith in the one true God, of the Resurrection and the Day of Judgment. The discourses which the Acts put into his mouth on such occasions contain much that he must undoubtedly have made use of, but they are at all events but attempts on the part of the author to indicate the way in which the Apostle might have set about his task, and we should decline to put much faith in them, if for no other reason than that we are told in the Acts that Paul used always to preach in the synagogues first, and only turned to the Gentiles when Israel repulsed him—a statement which in the face of Gal. i. 16, ii. 2, 5 and 9, and 1. Thess. is quite untenable. Nor would a man of Paulʼs stamp ever have acted so rigidly according to programme. He seized his openings wherever he happened to find them, making use of such fellow-labourers or fellow-travellers as chance threw in his way, or starting from the house of some friend who had perhaps offered him hospitality on the recommendation of a relation at home; but besides such means as these he can never have shrunk from appearing openly in the streets or at popular gatherings, or from visiting the synagogues whenever the slightest chance of success presented itself, so as to sow the seed among his own compatriots. Without all these varied attempts he would not so often have come into conflict with the authorities. Then as soon asa convert was won at any place, fresh hearers would be brought. in by him from among his own acquaintance, and thus some communities must have grown with great rapidity from the very beginning. ʽThe curiosity of the Greeks and their search after something especially to satisfy the religious needs of the average man, whom no philosophy could help, was of use in procuring him an attentive hearing, while the magnificent promises that he brought with him won over the class of men to whom but little of Paulʼs message could be brought home beyond a few historical facts and the hopes it held out for the future.
Meanwhile whether our Apostle possessed in any very high degree the gifts of ruling men and of reading their hearts appears doubtful from the Epistles to the Corinthians; he judged everything and everybody according to his own standard, nor was his ideal of ʽChrist all in allʼ favourable to a tender consideration of individual peculiarities. It could not have been easy, moreover, for one who could never be false to the Jewish theologian within him, to identify himself with the Greek point of view, or even to recognise any justification for a conception of the world so different from his own. He was perhaps always too ready to yield to his so-called ʽvisions,ʼ especially in shaping his plan of operations,25 so that the charge of vacillation was not only raised against him but appears to have had some foundation. The passion that drove him to such questionable utterances against Jews and Judaists as those of Gal. v. 12 or Philip. iii. 2—which led him to pronounce the sharpest judgment of all—ʽfor they all seek their ownʼ—against friends who, perhaps for very good reasons, had for once not obeyed his call26—must undoubtedly have led him into indiscretions of speech in his intercourse with obstinate Gentiles; but he possessed dogged courage, unswerving faith in his subject and his calling, a passion for self-sacrifice however great, the ever infectious zeal of the enthusiast, wonderful animation and warmth of speech, and finally that touching tenderness of feeling shown in Philip. iv. 10, 20—qualities compared with which a few deficiencies of manner hardly weigh in the scale, and which could not fail to lay all the best of his converts, once gained, under the lasting spell of his influence.
3. A writer in the strictest sense Paul did not profess to be, nor is there any need to discuss the question whether he was specially qualified to be one or not. But he has left us some letters, addressed to fellow-believers, whether individuals or whole communities. They are his letters, even where the superscription tells us that one or more companions were writing with him; for the continual oscillation between ʽIʼ and ʽweʼ—which, by the way, is certainly not due to chance alone—shows that the responsibility for the contents rests only upon him. As he had had no sharers in the work of founding his communities, so he had no collaborators in writing his Epistles. These Epistles, however, in spite of the fact that they are always intended as writings of the moment addressed to a narrow circle of readers, yet approach much more nearly to the position of independent literary works than the average letters of great men in modern times. For it is characteristic of Paulʼs writings that he can never confine himself to the narrow and individual aspect of a thing; unconsciously he will lift the smallest question into a higher sphere and place it on a wider basis: take his instruction to the Corinthians on ʽspiritual giftsʼ and their different values, for instance, and see to what a lofty level he raises it by the sudden insertion of the hymn to love! Again, he likes to be certain of his ground before he decides a point, and his arguments habitually lead down deeper and deeper into the very foundations of his faith.
The Epistle to the Romans is in its main features written according to a scheme already well thought out; and the digressions with which in 2. Corinthians iii—v. Paul surrounds his tolerably simple theme—that he is not ashamed of his weakness and has no need to defend himself—reveal a height of art which in anyone else would suggest conscious skill. No later doctor of the Church, not even excepting Tertullian and Augustine, ever delivered himself, in thirty pages, of thoughts so abundant, so bold and so profound as those Paul sets forth here in three; while the loftiness of tone which he displays prohibits any idea that he was merely jotting down a hasty answer to a letter received from the community—a message on paper. Paul was fully conscious of the duty laid upon him, even in absence, to share with his communities the best of that spiritual grace which had been vouchsafed to him. Thus, without knowing or intending it, Paul became by his letters the creator of a Christian literature. It has indeed been asserted that he was already familiar with some writings of Christian origin, but this cannot be proved. As to older usage, he follows it so far as to begin his letters with an address in which the names of writer and recipient are conjoined in a salutation, and to end them with good wishes; but the numerous additions in the address to the names of both sender and recipient at once betray their Christian origin, while the words of greeting themselves are especially Christian in form (χάρις ὑμῖν, etc., for χαίρειν, χαίρετε and the like).
More important, however, is the fact—which we can only perceive through his Epistles—that Paul created a new language for the new religion. Of course he understood the Hebrew that was spoken at that time in the schools of Jerusalem, but there can be no doubt that Greek must have been much more natural to a man who studied the Old Testament almost exclusively in the Greek translation, or Septuagint; and the hypothesis that his writings were translated into Greek from a first draft in Aramaic is almost as romantic as the suggestion that on his missionary travels he was only able to communicate with the Gentiles by means of an interpreter. He was, on the contrary, fully master of the language, not indeed of the Greek of the Classical period, but of the colloquial ʽHellenisticʼ (ἡ κοινή), into which he had also infused a strong Hebrew element arising from his education and his study of the Septuagint. But he was not satisfied with the materials furnished by these two sources; wherever it seemed necessary he had the courage to coin new words and phrases—ἀκαιρεῖσθαι, for instance, in Philip. iv. 10, and the expression ἐν Χριστῷ εἶναι—and to words long in existence he sometimes gave a new meaning. His writings are not equalled in point of vocabulary by any part of the Septuagint, and even within the New Testament he is superior to all in the wealth and variety of his expressions and his boldness in using them. But his style is neither smooth, elegant nor correct, and he himself never considered that he excelled in the art of writing.27 He pays little attention to euphony or to the artistic construction and rounding-off of his periods; the words συνκοινωνὸς τῆς ῥίζης τῆς πιότητος τῆς ἐλαίας, for instance, of Rom. xi. 17 are oratorically ugly, as well as the thrice repeated ἐν ὑμῖν of 1. Cor. xi. 18 and 19 and the ἐν παντί beside ἐν πᾶσι of 2. Cor. xi. 6. The passage beginning at Rom. ii. 18 is overburdened with synonymous expressions; nor does his tendency towards pleonasms reveal itself only in the later Epistles; γάρ is repeated four times in quick succession in the short sentences of Rom. ii. 11-14,28 and δέ seven times in 1. Cor. vii. 6-12 and xiv. 4b-6a. The periods in Philip. ii. 20 fol., iii. 7-11, ii. 5-11 and i. 27-80, also, are halting and confused.
In a letter wholly devoid of punctuation, many of the Apostleʼs words must have been unintelligible, although in dictating he might have made them quite clear to his secretary through accentuation and gesture; unintentionally, too, a few difficult anacolutha arose, and even in the Epistle to the Romans it may easily be seen that Paul never kept to any carefully thought-out arrangement of his sentences, but put down whatever the inspiration of the moment suggested to him. His chain of though tis often disconnected, his conclusions—even apart from the groundless character of his exegetic method—not above reproach; similes and allegories miss the mark because the general conception is faulty, and the complaint of 2. Pet. iii. 16 that in the Epistles of Paul are ʽsome things hard to be understoodʼ is not without justice. Certainly they are not easy reading with their throng of hurrying thoughts, their tersely expressed ideas, sometimes no more than indicated, their passages of dialectic demanding the strictest attention beside stirring outbursts of stormy passion. Nevertheless Paul must be ranked as a great master of language, for his words are never forced or artificial, but always suit his subject and his mood, whether he is advising, exhorting, threatening, rebuking or consoling. Unconsciously he makes use of the tricks of popular speech with the greatest effect, sometimes of striking metaphors,29 or of short and compressed word-pictures,30 of rhetorical questions31 and of effective anaphorae,32 and even groups of antitheses,33 word-plays34 and oxymora35 are not wanting. But he avoids all straining for effect through the observance of oratorical rules; he finds without effort the most striking form for his lofty ideas; and it is because his innermost self breathes through every word that most of his Epistles bear so unique a charm.
4. We must not, however, indiscriminately accept as Pauline all that the Church has handed down to us under that name. The Epistle to the Hebrews does not even profess to be by Paul, and of the remaining thirteen a few are exceedingly doubtful, while about half are still hotly contested. We must at any rate keep the possibility in view, not only that various writings early became attributed to the Apostle through error and false conjecture (like most of the ʽpseudo-Cyprianicʼ tracts to Cyprian), but that they were deliberately composed and circulated under his name. We should do well, however, to avoid the word ʽforgeryʼ in this connection; it is only to the advantage of an exceedingly narrow view of history that we should attach ideas of fraud and deceit to writings published by men of a later generation under cover of some honoured name in the past; we thus make it easy to say that Holy Church cannot possibly have accepted such scandalous fabrications. The boundless credulity of ecclesiastical circles, to which so many of the New Testament Apocrypha—among them an actual Epistle of Jesus36—have owed their lasting influence, will not be got rid of by a profession of moral indignation, any more than we shall do away with the facts that the ethical notion of literary property is a plant of modern growth (a history of editions ought to be written sidé by side with that of the Pseudepigrapha!); that believers frequently borrowed from the books of other believers, or of unbelievers, without mentioning any source and without considering themselves in any way as thieves; and that with the best intentions and the cleanest consciences they put such words into the mouth of a revered Apostle as they wished to hear enunciated with Apostolic authority to their contemporaries, while yet they did not regard themselves in the smallest degree as liars and deceivers. Not only would the indifference of orthodox theology to questions of genuineness go to prove this, but the countless pseudepigrapha known to us arose for the most part within the Church itself, and there is really no specific difference between the arbitrary way in which copyists and exegetists treated the sacred writings, or the literary habit, say, of composing discourses to be placed under the name of Peter or Paul, or the representation of Jesus as delivering a sermon on a given occasion which had first been put together out of several separate fragments,—and the attempt to construct complete Pauline or at any rate Apostolic letters after the existing models. The adulteratio scripturae of which the Fathers occasionally speak with such horror, consisted in giving an heretical meaning to the word of God, forgery in making heretical additions to it, or removing by erasure some of the fine gold of the original. And if even some modern scholars often show an entirely undeveloped sense of the difference between historical truth and what they consider as religious truth, we must not blame the Christians of the first and second centuries if, with still stronger subjectivism, they applied their conception of truth solely to the substance of their religious consciousness, and were quite indifferent as to the form in which it was clothed.
The anecdote told by Tertullian in his ʽDe Baptismo,ʼ ch. 17, of the Asiatic Presbyter who had to give up his office for fraudulently ascribing his ʽActs of Theklaʼ to Paul, is a case in point, for the Presbyter declares that it was his love for Paul that drove him to write, and therefore he cannot have had an evil conscience; while his judges, including our informant, were not shocked by his literary fraud as such, but by his venturing to advocate heresies in his book, such as that of the right of women to preach and baptize. So that it is not necessary to point to the widespread custom among the philosophers of that age, especially among the Pythagoreans, of passing off their own writings as the works of the most ancient masters, or to the infinity of spurious compositions then current under the names of Demosthenes, Alexander, or Plato, the authors of which were certainly not mere deceivers; nor even to recall the fact that in Jewish apocalyptic literature all revelations without exception are ascribed to men of old—Daniel, Ezra, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.,—for even without these parallels we may assert that the tendency in the Early Church towards ʽliterary disguisesʼ was just as strong as it was naive. In the West a certain perception of the difference between romance and history was perhaps more common, and certainly Irenaeus and Augustine would never have composed an Epistle under the name of Paul. But even here the criticism applied to anyone who put himself forward under the aegis of Apostolic authority was only concerned with questions of tradition and orthodoxy; any work that could produce plausible evidence and was unexceptionable as to doctrine, was allowed to pass unchallenged. It would thus be more than wonderful if from among this mass of pseudo-Apostolic writings none had found their way into the New Testament: more extraordinary still, however, if all the twenty-one canonical Epistles were to belong to that class, for, after all, a forgery is usually an imitation of some greater original, as is so clearly shown in all the ʽapocryphalʼ Gospels, Apocalypses, and Histories of the Apostles. Paul must first have written his Epistles and these Epistles have won repute and influence, before those who had not the courage to appear openly under their own names could attempt to influence Christendom in the customary form of the didactic letter, or could put forward their Apostolic reflections under cover of the name of Peter, Paul or John.
Four of the Epistles of Paul have not been disputed even by the Tübingen School, and only those who lack all critical power have attempted to shake them. They are those to the Romans, the Corinthians and the Galatians. The three Pastoral Epistles are now generally regarded as spurious, but the majority of those who hold this view are in favour of the genuineness of 1. Thessalonians, Philippians and Philemon; 2. Thessalonians and Ephesians are almost universally given up, as well as large parts of Colossians. I do not, however, hold that the objections even to these last three are insuperable.
1) Philemon, ver. 9.
2) Cf, Deissmannʼs Bibelstudien (1895), vol. i, pp. 181 fol.
3) Acts xxii. 3.
4) Gal. i. 13.
5) Acts ix, 1-19,
6) Gal. 415-17; 1. Cor. xv. 8.
7) ix, 1-30.
8) Acts ix. 28 fol.
9) Gal. ii 1.
10) Gal. ii. 11 fol.
11) xiv. 28; xv. 35 and xviii. 22.
12) Acts xiii. 4-xiv. 26.
13) xi. 30, xii. 25.
14) Gal. ii. 11-21.
15) Ch. v. fol.
16) iii, 15 fol.
17) 1. Thess. i..9.
18) 2, Cor. xi. 8 fol.; Philip. iv. 15.
19) 1. Cor. vii. 7, ix. 5.
20) Cf. Philip. ii. 20 fol.
21) Acts xiii. 13 and xv. 35 fol.
22) 1. Cor. xv. 33.
23) 2. Cor. x. 10
24) 1. Thess. i. 9 and 10.
25) 2. Cor. i. 15 fol.; Acts xvi. 7.
26) Philip. ii. 21.
27) 2. Cor. xi. 6.
28) Cf. 1. Cor. xi. 18-23.
29) Gal. v.15; 2. Cor. xi. 20.
30) 1. Cor. xiii, 1-2; Gal. iv. 19.
31) Rom. ii. 21-26.
32) E.g., the 4 πάντα of 1 Cor. xiii. 7, the 8 οὐ of xiii. 4-6, and cf. the fine monotony of phrase of Rom. ii. 17 fol.
33) E.g., 2. Cor. vi. 8-10.
34) E.g., that in Rom. iii. 2 fol., on πιστεύεσθαι, ἀπιστεῖν, πίστις, and in Gal, y. 7 fol. on πείθεσθαι and πεισμονή.
35) Rom. i. 20, τὰ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ . . . καθορᾶται.
36) To King Abgarus of Edessa (see Huseb. Hist. Ecc. I. 13).