A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament

By George Salmon

Chapter 2




In his new Life of Jesus, Strauss has greatly availed himself of the labours of Baur1 and of the school founded by him, called sometimes, from his place of residence, the Tübingen school, or, from the nature of their theories, the Tendency school. It will be advisable to give you, by way of preface to our course, some short account of these theories: not only because of the wide acceptance they have met with from writers of the sceptical school both in Germany and of later years in England, but also because the view which they present of the history of the early Church affects the credit to be given to the testimony of that Church concerning our sacred literature. There is no use in calling a witness without making an attempt to remove prejudices which you know to be entertained, whether against his honesty or his means of information. Therefore, before producing to you evidence as to the reception of the Gospels by the early Church, it is expedient to inquire whether certain speculations are de serving of regard, which represent that Church as having altered so much and so rapidly from its original form, as to be put under a strong temptation to falsify the documents which relate its early history. According to Baur, our books are not the innocent, purposeless collection of legendary tales I for which the disciples of Strauss might take them; all, even those which seem least artful, are put together with a purpose, and have a 'tendency' Just as of Mr. Dickens's novels, one is intended to expose the abuses of the Poor Law system, another of the Court of Chancery, another of Ecclesiastical Courts, and so forth; so each of the Christian books, however innocently it may seem to profess to give straightforward narrative, is really written with a secret design to inculcate certain dogmatic views.

But what are these dogmatic views? To answer this we must expound the history which Baur gives of the early progress of Christianity. He manufactured it mainly out of his own notions of the fitness of things, with very slender support from external authority; and it has obliged him to condemn as forged or interpolated the great mass of existing ancient documents, since they are so perverse as not to be reconcilable with the critic's theory. The main pillar of the theory is a work of by no means great antiquity as com pared with the others which are to be discussed in this course of lectures, being not older than the very end of the second century. I speak of the spurious literature attributed to Clement of Rome, a favourite character with the manufacturers of apocryphal literature in the second or third century. The history of these writings is so remarkable, that I cannot employ a few minutes better than in giving you some account of them. The work originated among the Ebionites, or Jewish-Christian heretical sects. In its earliest form it contained discourses ascribed to the Apostle Peter, both in controversy with heathen, and also with heretics, of whom Simon Magus was made the representative and spokesman. This work underwent a great variety of recastings. It is doubtful whether Clement was introduced into the very earliest form of it; but he was certainly, at a comparatively early date, made the narrator of the story; and the account of Clement's history gradually grew into a little romance, which, no doubt, greatly helped the popularity of the work. Clement tells how he had been brought up as a rich orphan at Rome, his parents having been lost in his early childhood. He gives an affecting account of his search for religious truth, which he seeks in vain among the schools of the philosophers, but there finds nothing but strife and uncertainty. At last news is brought to Rome of the appearance of a wonder working prophet in Palestine. Clement sails in search of him, arrives after the death of Jesus, but meets Peter, and is instructed and converted by him. Travelling about with Peter, he finds first his mother, then his brothers, then his father; and it is from these successive recognitions that the work called the Clementine Recognitions takes its name. This is one of two forms in which the work is still extant; the other, called the Clementine Homilies, being as respects the story substantially the same, but as respects the discourses worked into it, and the doctrine contained in them, a good deal different. The Homilies contain the Ebionite doctrine in its strongest form; in the Recognitions the repulsive features of Ebionitism are softened down, so as to make the book not altogether unfit for use among the orthodox, and in fact the Recognitions are only preserved in a Latin translation made for the use of the orthodox by a Church writer, Rufinus. There is good evidence that another form, still more orthodox, which has not come down to us, was once in circulation. And though the heretical character of these Clementine writings was well known to the Fathers, who therefore rejected their doctrine, yet many of the things these writings tell about Peter passed into Church tradition. In particular, this Clementine literature has had a marvellous share in shaping the history of Christendom, by inventing the story that Peter was Bishop of Rome, and that he named Clement to succeed him in that See.

At the revival of learning these writings were at first treated with contumely as a good-for-nothing heretical figment. Long time passed before it was noted that, though the book be regarded as no more than a controversial novel, yet, dating as it does from the end of the second century, it must be a most valuable source of information as to the history and opinions of the sect from which it emanated. Baur, in particular, has called special attention to the anti-Paulinism of the work; and it is quite true that when we look into it carefully, we find that Paul and his labours are passed over in silence, Peter figuring as the Apostle of the Gentiles a well as of the Jews. In one passage in the Homilies the dislike of Paul passes the bounds of mere silence. For Simon Magus is described as withstanding Peter to the face, and declaring that he was to be blamed.2 Many a reader might innocently overlook the malice of these expressions; but when attention is called to them, we can hardly deny that the coincidence of language with that in the Epistle to the Galatians (ii. 11) leads to the surmise that under the character of Simon a reference to Paul is cloaked; and that Paul is intended by the enemy, ὁ ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος, who opposed St. Peter and St, James. We see also what interpretation is to be put on a controversy as to relative superiority between Simon Magus, who claims to have seen our Lord in vision, and Peter, who had actually seen Him in the flesh. It must be admitted that the writer shows a covert dislike to Paul; but we must remark, at the same time, that the obscurity with which he veils his assault on the Apostle shows plainly that he dared make no open attack, and that his views were, at that time, shared by no influential party in the Church.

But the Tübingen school pounced with avidity on this book. Here, they say, we have the key to the true history of the origin of Christianity. Epiphanius tells us that the Ebionites rejected Paul's Epistles, and looked on him as an apostate. This book, then, may be regarded as a specimen of the feelings towards Paul of an early section of the Christians. Baur's idea is, that in all this anti-Pauline rancour we have a survival of an earlier state of things, the memory of which had been lost, owing to its variance with the Church's sub sequent doctrine. At the beginning of the third century we have, in one corner of the Church, men who hate Paul with the utmost bitterness, though, in deference to the then general opinion, they are obliged to cloak their hatred under disguises. At the same time we have, in another corner of the Church, the Marcionites,3 who recognize no Apostle but Paul, who utterly reject the Jewish religion and the Old Testament, and who set aside all the earlier Apostles as of no authority. What, asks Baur, if these extreme views on both sides be not, as had been supposed, heretical developments, but survivals of a once general state of things? Those who themselves hold our Lord to have been mere man find it natural to believe that this must have been the earliest belief of His followers. Consequently, the theory is that the whole Christian Church was originally Ebionite; that Paul was a heresiarch, or introducer of novel doctrines violently condemned by the great mass of existing believers, of whose feelings towards Paul these Clementine writings are regarded as a fair specimen; that the representations in the Acts of the Apostles that Paul was on good terms with the elder Apostles are altogether false, and that, on the contrary, the early Church consisted of two parties, Pauline and anti- Pauline, bitterly opposed to each other.

Such is the general outline of the theory; but speculation has particularly run wild on the assault on Paul in the Clementines under the mask of Simon Magus. Sceptical critics jump at the conclusion that Simon Magus was the nickname under which Paul was generally known; and some even go so far as to maintain that the account in Acts viii. is a covert libel on St. Paul, which St. Luke, notwithstanding his Paulinism, has been so stupid as to perpetuate in his history; Simon's offer of money to the Apostles representing Paul's attempt to bribe the other Apostles into recognition of his claims by the gift of money which he had collected for the poor saints at Jerusalem. I feel ashamed of repeating such nonsense; but it is necessary that you should know the things that are said; for you may meet these German dreams retailed as sober truth by sceptical writers in this country, many of whom imagine that it would be a confession of inability to keep pace with the progress of critical science, if they ventured to test, by English common sense, the successive schemes by which German aspirants after fame seek to gain a reputation for ingenuity.

A more careful examination of the Clementines shows that they did not emanate from that body which opposed Paul in his lifetime. There appear, in fact, to have been two distinct kinds of Ebionites. One kind we may call Pharisaic Ebionites, who may be regarded as representing those who strove to combine the acknowledgment of the Messiahship, though not the Divinity, of Jesus with the maintenance of the full obligation of the Mosaic Law. They appear never to have been of much influence, and before long to have died out. But the Ebionites among whom the Clementines originated represented quite a different set of opinions, and appear to have been a continuation of the Jewish sect of the Essenes.4 their doctrines was a fanatical horror of the rite of sacrifice, which they could not believe to have been divinely instituted. The whole Temple service was abomination in their eyes. They believed that the true prophet had appeared in divers incarnations, Adam being the first, and Jesus the last. The story of the fall of Adam, of course, they rejected. And with these opinions it was necessary for them to reject great parts of the Old Testament. The Pentateuch alone was used by them, and of this large parts were cut out as interpolated. You will remember that Paley, in his Evidences, quotes an apocryphal Gospel as ascribing to our Lord the saying, 'Be ye good money-changers. This they interpreted as a direction not to be deceived by the false coin which purported to be God's Word. This doctrine, of which the Clementine Homilies are full, would be as repulsive as Paul's own doctrine to the orthodox Jews whom Paul had to encounter; and therefore, as I say, these Clementines have no pretence to date from the times, or to represent the feelings, of his first antagonists in the Christian Church. The true history of these people seems to have been that, after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by Titus, some of the Essene communities, who lived on the other side of Jordan, and who knew that Jesus had predicted the destruction of that Temple to whose rites they always had been opposed, became willing to own Jesus to have been divinely sent, but retained a number of their own peculiar opinions. They appear to have made a few converts among the Jews dispersed by the fall of the capital, but not to have extended themselves very widely; and it is not till the end of the second century, or the beginning of the third, that some of them made their way to Rome. They had among them some men of literary skill, enough at least to produce a forgery. Among the documents they brought to Rome, for instance, was one called the 'Book of Elkesai' which purported to be a revelation of their peculiar doctrines, but for which, it is interesting to remark, no higher antiquity was claimed than the reign of Trajan, a time when all the Apostles were dead. They accounted for this late date by a theory that the ordinary rule of God's Providence was that error should come first, and that the truth which corrected it should be revealed later. An early book of theirs, The Preaching of Peter, was improved, first into the form known as the 'Recognitions, afterwards into the Homilies, and was made to include these Elkesaite revelations. The making Simon Magus the representative of Pauline ideas has all the marks of being an after-thought. There is not a trace of it in the 'Recognitions, through the whole of which, as well as in every part of the Homilies but the one already referred to, Simon is Simon and Paul is Paul. But, from the nature of the composition, the opinions which the writer means to combat must be put into the mouth of some of the characters in the story. When the object is to combat the doctrines of Marcion, Simon is made the exponent of these doctrines. But this furnishes no justification for the statement that there was a general practice of nicknaming Paul as Simon. As far as we can see, the author of the Recognitions is quite ignorant of it.

As the anti-Pauline party is judged of by the Ebionites of the second century, so the school of Marcion is supposed to represent the opposing party. Thus the Christian society is said to have included two schools a Judaizing school and a Gnostic or philosophizing school violently hostile to each! other. It is not exactly our experience that theological schisms heal up so rapidly and so completely that in fifty years no trace remains of them, nor even memory of their existence. But so, we are told, it happened in this case. And as in the process of time the bitterness of the dispute abated, arose the Catholic Church, in which both Peter and Paul were held in honour; and then were attempts made to throw a veil over the early dissensions, and to represent the first preachers of Christianity as at unity among themselves.

It remains to test this whole theory of the conflict of Pauline and anti-Pauline parties in the early Church by comparison with the documentary evidence; and the result is that it bears the test very ill, so much so that, in order to save his theory from destruction, Baur has been obliged to make a tolerably clean sweep of the documents. In four of Paul's Epistles some symptoms may be found which can be interpreted as exhibiting feelings of jealousy or soreness towards the elder Apostles. But there is nothing of the kind in the other nine. The genuineness of these, therefore, must be denied. The Acts of the Apostles represent Paul as on most friendly terms with Peter and James, and these Apostles as taking his side in the controversy as to imposing Judaism on the Gentiles. The Acts, therefore, cannot be true history. Not only the discourses ascribed to Peter in the Acts, but the first Epistle, which the ancient Church unanimously accepted as Peter's, is thoroughly Pauline in doctrine. We must, therefore, disregard ancient testimony, and reject the Epistle. The earliest uninspired Christian document, the Epistle of Clement of Rome, confessedly belongs to the conciliatory Peter and Paul being placed in it on equal terms of reverence and honour. It, too, must be discarded. So, in like manner, go the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, the former of whom writes to the Romans (ch. v.), 'I do not pretend to command you, like Peter or Paul. '

Now, it is very easy to make a theory on any subject if we are at liberty to sweep away all facts which will not fall in with it. By this method the Elkesaites were able to maintain that the Old Testament did not sanction the right of sacrifice, and Marcion that the New Testament did not recognize the God of the Jews. But one has a right to suspect any theorizer if, in order to clear the ground for a foundation for his theory, he has to begin by getting rid of the previously accepted facts. So it is a presumption against this theory of Baur s, that we find him forced to get rid of nearly all the documents purporting to come from the Apostolic age, because, notwithstanding that they have been searched with microscopic minuteness for instances of Pauline and anti-Pauline rancour, scarcely anything of the kind can be found. I will give a specimen or two of these supposed instances, which will enable you to appreciate the amazing amount of misdirected ingenuity which has been spent in elaborating this system. The first is a specimen which is thought by those who have discovered it to be an exceedingly good and striking one. St. Matthew (vii. 22, 23), in the Sermon on the Mount, makes our Lord speak of men who say, Lord, Lord, and who will, at the Last Day, appeal to their prophesying, their driving out devils, and their doing of miracles in the name of Jesus, but who will be rejected by Him as doers of lawlessness (ἀνομία), whom He had never known. It may surprise you to hear that this sentence was coined by the Jewish Christian author of the record as a protest against the opposition to the Law made by Paul and his followers. And it may surprise you more to hear that St. Luke is highly complimented for the skill with which (xiii. 26) he turns this Jewish anti- Pauline saying into one of a Pauline anti-Jewish character. He substitutes the word ἀδικία, injustice, for ἀνομία, lawlessness, and he directs the saying against the Jews, who will one day appeal to having eaten and drunk in the presence of Jesus, and to His having taught in their streets, but, notwithstanding, shall be told by Him to depart as doers, not of ἀνομία, but of iniquity, and shall break forth into loud weeping when they see people coming from the east and west, and north and south, and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while themselves are shut out.

One other sample I will give you. St. Matthew says (x. 27), What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. St. Luke (xii. 3) Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed on the housetops. It is contended that, whereas St. Matthew represents the Apostles as directed to speak in the light and on the house tops, St. Luke turns the phrase into the passive the proclamation shall be by other than the Apostles, namely, by Paul and his party.

When, however, all ingenuity has been tried, there is no ^ escaping the acknowledgment that, if we are to look for an anti-Pauline Gospel, it cannot be any of those we have now. That Matthew's Gospel was made primarily for the use of Jews most critics are agreed. Yet, do we find this Jewish Gospel hostile to the admission of Gentiles? It opens (ii. 1) with an account of Gentile Magi from the distant East com ing to worship the infant Saviour. In the first chapter which relates any miracle (viii. 5), we have an account of one per formed at the request of a Gentile, who is commended as exhibiting faith not to be found in Israel; and on this occasion there is taught the doctrine of the admission of the Gen tiles, not to equal privileges with the Jews, but to a place vacated by the rejection of the Jews. Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is to be noted that the Gentile centurion of St. Matthew is in St. Luke made a kind of Jewish proselyte He loveth our nation, and hath built us our synagogue (vii. 5). In a later chapter of St. Matthew the same doctrine is taught even more plainly The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (xxi. 43). The parting command of our Saviour recorded in this Gospel is, Go ye and make disciples of all nations (xxviii. 19). In the account of our Lord's death, a critic with a keen eye for tendency, might pronounce Matthew strongly anti-Jewish. It is Luke (xxiii. 28), not Matthew, who records our Lord's words of tender pity Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. St. Matthew seems anxious to throw the guilt of our Lord's death off the Gentiles, and on the Jews. Pilate's wife warns her husband to have nothing to do with that just man (xxvii. 19). Pilate himself washes his hands before the multitude and declares that he is innocent of the blood of this just person. The Jews accept the awful burden, and exclaim, His blood be on us, and on our children (ib. 24, 25). Nay, we find in our St. Matthew a trait also found in St. John's Gospel, on account of which the latter has been characterized as strongly anti-Jewish, namely, that the unconverted members of the Jewish nation are spoken of as the Jews, implying that the Christians were an entirely separate community. In the last chapter of St. Matthew (v. 15) we have, This saying is commonly reported among the Jews unto this day. When it is attempted to get rid of these evidences of anti-Jewish tendency by the assertion that none of these things could have been in the original Matthew, we can only reply, that it is open to anyone to say that the original Matthew contained just whatever he likes. But no theory can be said to rest on a scientific basis which, instead of taking cognizance of all the facts, arbitrarily rejects whatever of them do not happen to accord with the hypothesis.

It is plain from what I have said that, when every ingenuity has been expended on our documents, they fail to yield any sufficient evidence of the bitter hostility which, according to Baur's theory, existed between the two great sections of the early Church; and, therefore, these documents are condemned by him and his followers as, at least in their present shape, the work of a later age, which had set to work to remove all traces of the ancient dissensions. Baur acknowledges only five of our books as genuine remains of the Apostolic age four Epistles of Paul and the Apocalypse's The four Epistles are those to the Galatians, Romans, and the two to the Corinthians. It is not much to be grateful for that he grants the genuineness of these, for they carry on their face such marks of strong personal feeling, and are so manifestly not the work of a forger, but the outpouring of a heart stirred to its depths by the incidents of a real life, that whoever should deny their genuineness would pronounce on himself the sentence of incapacity to distinguish true from false. But these Epistles have, in Baur's eyes, the further recommendation, that they are those in which Paul has to deal with his Jewish opponents, and therefore are the most likely to yield proofs of that jealousy of the elder Apostles and hostility to them which Baur's theory demands. After wards, when I come to speak of St. Paul's Epistles and of the Acts of the Apostles, I will try to show how little ground there is for the assertion that the view of Paul's relations to the heads of the Jerusalem Church, exhibited in the Epistle to the Galatians, is irreconcilable with that presented by the Acts. If, indeed, anyone imagines that the Apostles were not men of like passions with ourselves, and therefore counts it a thing impossible that one should feel or express dissatisfaction with the conduct of another; if he cannot believe that they should be differently influenced by different aspects of the truth, or be of various opinion as to the immediate necessity of guarding against different forms of error; why, then, we need not go beyond what the Epistle to the Galatians tells of the dispute between Peter and Paul at Antioch in order to convince him of his mistake. But when we have fully conceded that there was no rigid sameness of utterance among the first preachers of the Gospel, we still fall immensely short of what Baur's theory requires us to grant. In order to adopt, his view, we must hold that the differences between St. Paul and the elder Apostles were not like those which are known to subsist at the present day between political leaders of the same party differences which do not prevent them from sitting in the same cabinet and joining in a common policy; but rather like the differences which separate the leaders of opposite parties, or even of hostile states. The most Ultra montane Roman Catholic could not think worse of Martin Luther than, if we believe our modern guides, the members of the Church of Jerusalem thought of St. Paul.5 The wildest Protestant could not hate the Pope more than St. Paul's Gentile converts are imagined to have hated the Apostles of the circumcision.

But the most wonderful part of the theory is the alleged end of the schism, in which Peter and Paul came to be regarded as brothers, and held in equal honour. That is the same as if we Protestants held in equal honour Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola, and as if it was our popular belief that these two great saints had loved each other as brethren. Surely, the Pauline Christians must have been the most for giving men in the world. They had been victorious along the whole line. The Judaizers had disappeared. No one dreamed of imposing the yoke of circumcision on the Gentiles. Even in the Clementines no such burden is sought to be laid on Gentile converts. Yet these Gentiles agreed in giving equal honour to the great Apostle who had gained them their liberty and to the bigoted Jews who had cast out his name as evil, nicknamed him Balaam and Simon Magus, and organized conspiracy against him wherever he taught! Surely this is a theory not so recommended by probability that we can afford to condone its deficiency in documentary proof; and, for my part, I am well content to abide by the old representations made by the author of the Acts of the Apostles.



1) F. C. Baur (1792-1860) published in the Tübingen Zeitschrift for 1831, a paper on the Christ-party in the Church of Corinth, which contained the germs of the theory of which an account is given in the text. The fully developed theory was given in his Paulus, published in 1845.

2) In order that the coincidence with the Epistle to the Galatians may be more easily recognized, I adopt the language of the Authorized Version in translating ʻἐναντίος ἀνθέστηκάς μοιʼ ʽκατεγνωσμένον με λέγειςʼ (Horn. xvii. 19).

3) The Chronicle of Edessa names A.D. 138 as the date of the rise of the heresy of Marcion, and this is probably as near the truth as we have the, means of going. The heresy had reached formidable dimensions when Justin Martyr wrote his Apology.

4) On these two kinds of Ebionites, see Lightfoot's Galatians, p. 318. The Church History of the period is likely to be misunderstood if the identity of the latter kind with the Elkesaites is not perceived; and if it is not recognized, how little claim these heretics have to represent any considerable body, even of Jewish Christians; and how late their origin was by their own confession.

5) Jamais, en effet, l'Eglise chretienne ne porta dans son seiii une cause de schisme aussi profonde que celle qui agitait en ce moment. Luther et le scolastique le plus routinier differaient moms que Paul et Jacques. Renan, St. Paul, p. 289.