Apocryphal Acts of Saint Paul
Professor Schmidt has published a photographic copy, a transcription, a German translation, and a commentary of a Coptic papyrus composed of about 2000 fragments, which he has classified, juxtaposed, and deciphered at a cost of infinite labour (“Acta Pauli aus der Heidelberger koptischen Papyrushandschrift Nr. 1″, Leipzig, 1904, and “Zusatze” etc., Leipzig, 1905). Most critics, whether Catholic (Duchesne, Bardenhewer, Ehrhard etc.), or Protestant (Zahn, Harnack, Corssen etc.), believe that these are real “Acta Pauli”, although the text edited by Schmidt, with its very numerous gaps, represents but a small portion of the original work. This discovery modified the generally accepted ideas concerning the origin, contents, and value of these apocryphal Acts, and warrants the conclusion that three ancient compositions which have reached us formed an integral part of the “Acta Pauli” viz. the “Acta Pauli et Theclae”, of which the best edition is that of Lipsius, (“Acta Apostolorum apocrypha”, Leipzig, 1891, 235-72), a “Martyrium Pauli” preserved in Greek and a fragment of which also exists in Latin (op. cit., 104-17), and a letter from the Corinthians to Paul with the latter’s reply, the Armenian text of which was preserved (cf. Zahn, “Gesch. des neutest. Kanons”, II, 592-611), and the Latin discovered by Berger in 1891 (d. Harnack, “Die apokryphen Briefe des Paulus an die Laodicener und Korinther”, Bonn, 1905). With great sagacity Zahn anticipated this result with regard to the last two documents, and the manner in which Saint Jerome speaks of the periodoi Pauli et Theclae (Illustrious Men 7) might have permitted the same surmise with regard to the first.
Another consequence of Schmidt’s discovery is no less interesting. Lipsius maintained — and this was hitherto the common opinion — that besides the Catholic “Acts” there formerly existed Gnostic “Acts of Paul”, but now everything tends to prove that the latter never existed. In fact Origen quotes the “Acta Pauli” twice as an estimable writing (Commentary on John XX.12; De Principiis II.1.3); Eusebius (Church History III.3.5 and III.25.4) places them among the books in dispute, such as the “Shepherd” of Hermas, the “Apocalypse of Peter”, the “Epistle of Barnabas”, and the “Teaching of the Apostles”. The stichometry of the “Codex Claromontanus” (photograph in Vigouroux, “Dict. de la Bible”, II, 147) places them after the canonical books. Tertullian and Saint Jerome, while pointing out the legendary character of this writing, do not attack its orthodoxy. The precise purpose of Saint Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians which formed part of the “Acts”, was to oppose the Gnostics, Simon and Cleobius. But there is no reason to admit the existence of heretical “Acts” which have since been hopelessly lost, for all the details given by ancient authors are verified in the “Acts” which have been recovered or tally well with them.
The following is the explanation of the confusion: The Manicheans and Priscillianists had circulated a collection of five apocryphal “Acts”, four of which were tainted with heresy, and the fifth were the “Acts of Paul”. The “Acta Pauli”, owing to this unfortunate association, are suspected of heterodoxy by the more recent authors such as Philastrius (De haeres., 88) and Photius (Cod., 114). Tertullian (On Baptism 17) and Saint Jerome (Illustrious Men 7) denounce the fabulous character of the apocryphal “Acts” of Paul, and this severe judgment is amply confirmed by the examination of the fragments published by Schmidt. It is a purely imaginative work in which improbability vies with absurdity. The author, who was acquainted with the canonical Acts of the Apostles, locates the scene in the places really visited by Saint Paul (Antioch, Iconium, Myra, Perge, Sidon, Tyre, Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Rome), but for the rest he gives his fancy free rein. His chronology is absolutely impossible. Of the sixty-five persons he names, very few are known and the part played by these is irreconcilable with the statements of the canonical “Acts”. Briefly, if the canonical “Acts” are true the apocryphal “Acts” are false. This, however, does not imply that none of the details have historical foundation, but they must be confirmed by an independent authority.
If we admit according to the almost unanimous opinion of exegetes that Acts 15 and Galatians 2:1-10, relate to the same fact it will be seen that an interval of seventeen years — or at least sixteen, counting incomplete years as accomplished — elapsed between the conversion of Paul and the Apostolic council, for Paul visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:18) and returned after fourteen years for the meeting held with regard to legal observances (Galatians 2:1: “Epeita dia dekatessaron eton”). It is true that some authors include the three years prior to the first visit in the total of fourteen, but this explanation seems forced. On the other hand, twelve or thirteen years elapsed between the Apostolic council and the end of the captivity, for the captivity lasted nearly five years (more than two years at Caesarea, Acts 24:27, six months travelling, including the sojourn at Malta, and two years at Rome, Acts 28:30); the third mission lasted not less than four years and a half (three of which were spent at Ephesus, Acts 20:31, and one between the departure from Ephesus and the arrival at Jerusalem, 1 Corinthians 16:8; Acts 20:16, and six months at the very least for the journey to Galatia, Acts 18:23); while the second mission lasted not less than three years (eighteen months for Corinth, Acts 18:11, and the remainder for the evangelization of Galatia, Macedonia, and Athens, Acts 15:36-17:34). Thus from the conversion to the end of the first captivity we have a total of about twenty-nine years.
Now if we could find a fixed point that is a synchronism between a fact in the life of Paul and a certainly dated event in profane history, it would be easy to reconstruct the Pauline chronology. Unfortunately this much wished-for mark has not yet been indicated with certainty, despite the numerous attempts made by scholars, especially in recent times. It is of interest to note even the abortive attempts, because the discovery of an inscription or of a coin may any day transform an approximate date into an absolutely fixed point. These are
- the meeting of Paul with Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus, about the year 46 (Acts 13:7)
- the meeting at Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, who had been expelled from Rome, about 51 (Acts 18:2)
- the meeting with Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia, about 53 (Acts 18:12)
- the address of Paul before the Governor Felix and his wife Drusilla about 58 (Acts 24:24).
All these events, as far as they may be assigned approximate dates, agree with the Apostle’s general chronology but give no precise results. Three synchronisms, however, appear to afford a firmer basis:
(1) The occupation of Damascus by the ethnarch of King Aretas and the escape of the Apostle three years after his conversion (2 Corinthians 11:32-33; Acts 9:23-26). — Damascene coins bearing the effigy of Tiberius to the year 34 are extant, proving that at that time the city belonged to the Romans. It is impossible to assume that Aretas had received it as a gift from Tiberius, for the latter, especially in his last years, was hostile to the King of the Nabataeans whom Vitellius, Governor of Syria, was ordered to attack (Joseph., “Ant.”, XVIII, v, 13); neither could Aretas have possessed himself of it by force for, besides the unlikelihood of a direct aggression against the Romans, the expedition of Vitellius was at first directed not against Damascus but against Petra. It has therefore been somewhat plausibly conjectured that Caligula, subject as he was to such whims, had ceded it to him at the time of his accession (10 March, 37). As a matter of fact nothing is known of imperial coins of Damascus dating from either Caligula or Claudius. According to this hypothesis Saint Paul’s conversion was not prior to 34, nor his escape from Damascus and his first visit to Jerusalem, to 37.
(2) Death of Agrippa, famine in Judea, mission of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to bring thither the alms from the Church of Antioch (Acts 11:27-12:25). — Agrippa died shortly after the Pasch (Acts 12:3, 12:19), when he was celebrating in Caesarea solemn festivals in honour of Claudius’s recent return from Britain, in the third year of his reign, which had begun in 41 (Josephus, “Ant.”, XIX, vii, 2). These combined facts bring us to the year 44, and it is precisely in this year that Orosius (Hist., vii, 6) places the great famine which desolated Judea. Josephus mentions it somewhat later, under the procurator Tiberius Alexander (about 46), but it is well known that the whole of Claudius’s reign was characterized by poor harvests (Suet., “Claudius”, 18) and a general famine was usually preceded by a more or less prolonged period of scarcity. It is also possible that the relief sent in anticipation of the famine foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28-29) preceded the appearance of the scourge or coincided with the first symptoms of want. On the other hand, the synchronism between the death of Herod and the mission of Paul can only be approximate, for although the two facts are closely connected in the Acts, the account of the death of Agrippa may be a mere episode intended to shed light on the situation of the Church of Jerusalem about the time of the arrival of the delegates from Antioch. In any case, 45 seems to be the most satisfactory date.
(3) Replacing of Felix by Festus two years after the arrest to Paul (Acts 24:27). — Until recently chronologists commonly fixed this important event, in the year 60-61. Harnack, O. Holtzmann, and McGiffert suggest advancing it four or five years for the following reasons:
(1) In his “Chronicon”, Eusebius places the arrival of Festus in the second year of Nero (October, 55-October, 56, or if, as is asserted, Eusebius makes the reigns of the emperors begin with the September after their accession, September, 56-September, 57). But it must be borne in mind that the chroniclers being always obliged to give definite dates, were likely to guess at them, and it may be that Eusebius for lack of definite information divided into two equal parts the entire duration of the government of Felix and Festus.
(2) Josephus states that Felix having been recalled to Rome and accused by the Jews to Nero, owed his safety only to his brother Pallas who was then high in favour. But according to Tacitus (Annal., XIII, xiv-xv), Pallas was dismissed shortly before Britannicus celebrated his fourteenth anniversary, that is, in January, 55. These two statements are irreconcilable; for if Pallas was dismissed three months after Nero’s accession (13 October, 54) he could not have been at the summit of his power when his brother Felix, recalled from Palestine at the command of Nero about the time of Pentecost, arrived at Rome. Possibly Pallas, who after his dismissal retained his wealth and a portion of his influence, since he stipulated that his administration should not be subjected to an investigation, was able to be of assistance to his brother until 62 when Nero, to obtain possession of his goods, Nero had him poisoned.
The advocates of a later date bring forward the following reasons:
(1) Two years before the recall of Felix, Paul reminded him that he had been for many years judge over the Jewish nation (Acts 24:10-27). This can scarcely mean less than six or seven years, and as, according to Josephus who agrees with Tacitus, Felix was named procurator of Judea in 52, the beginning of the captivity would fall in 58 or 59. It is true that the argument loses its strength if it be admitted with several critics that Felix before being procurator had held a subordinate position in Palestine.
(2) Josephus places under Nero everything that pertains to the government of Felix, and although this long series of events does not necessarily require many years it is evident that Josephus regarded the government of Felix as coinciding for the most part with the reign of Nero, which began on 13 October, 54.
In fixing as follows the chief dates in the life of Paul all certain or probable data seem to be satisfactorily taken into account: Conversion, 35; first visit to Jerusalem, 37; sojourn at Tarsus, 37-43; apostolate at Antioch, 43-44; second visit to Jerusalem, 44 or 45; first mission, 45-49; third visit to Jerusalem, 49 or 50; second mission, 50-53; (1 and 2 Thessalonians), 52; fourth visit to Jerusalem, 53; third mission, 53-57; (1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians), 56; (Romans), 57; fifth visit to Jerusalem, arrest, 57; arrival of Festus, departure for Rome, 59; captivity at Rome, 60-62; (Philemon; Colossians; Ephesians; Philippians), 61; second period of activity, 62-66; (1 Timothy; Titus), second arrest, 66; (2 Timothy), martyrdom, 67. (See Turner, “Chronology of the New Testament” in Hastings, “Dict. of the Bible” Hönicke, “Die Chronologie des Lebens des Ap. Paulus”, Leipzig, 1903.
Birth and education
From Saint Paul himself we know that he was born at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39), of a father who was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:26-28; cf. 16:37), of a family in which piety was hereditary (2 Timothy 1:3) and which was much attached to Pharisaic traditions and observances (Philippians 3:5-6).
Saint Jerome relates, on what ground is not known, that his parents were natives of Gischala, a small town of Galilee and that they brought him to Tarsus when Gischala was captured by the Romans (Illustrious Men 5; “In epist. ad Phil.”, 23). This last detail is certainly an anachronism, but the Galilean origin of the family is not at all improbable.
As he belonged to the tribe of Benjamin he was given at the time of his circumcision the name of Saul, which must have been common in that tribe in memory of the first king of the Jews (Philippians 3:5). As a Roman citizen he also bore the Latin name of Paul. It was quite usual for the Jews of that time to have two names, one Hebrew, the other Latin or Greek, between which there was often a certain assonance and which were joined together exactly in the manner made use of by Saint Luke (Acts 13:9: Saulos ho kai Paulos). See on this point Deissmann, “Bible Studies” (Edinburgh, 1903, 313-17.) It was natural that in inaugurating his apostolate among the Gentiles Paul should have adopted his Roman name, especially as the name Saul had a ludicrous meaning in Greek.
As every respectable Jew had to teach his son a trade, young Saul learned how to make tents (Acts 18:3) or rather to make the mohair of which tents were made (cf. Lewin, “Life of Saint Paul”, I, London, 1874, 8-9). He was still very young when sent to Jerusalem to receive his education at the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Possibly some of his family resided in the holy city; later there is mention of the presence of one of his sisters whose son saved his life (Acts 23:16).
From that time it is absolutely impossible to follow him until he takes an active part in the martyrdom of Saint Stephen (Acts 7:58-60; 22:20). He was then qualified as a young man (neanias), but this was very elastic appellation and might be applied to a man between twenty and forty.
Conversion and early labours
We read in the Acts of the Apostles three accounts of the conversion of Saint Paul (9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-23) presenting some slight differences, which it is not difficult to harmonize and which do not affect the basis of the narrative, which is perfectly identical in substance. See J. Massie, “The Conversion of Saint Paul” in “The Expositor”, 3rd series, X, 1889, 241-62. Sabatier, agreeing with most independent critics, has well said (L’Apotre Paul, 1896, 42):
These differences cannot in any way alter the reality of the fact; their bearing on the narrative is extremely remote; they do not deal even with the circumstances accompanying the miracle but with the subjective impressions which the companions of Saint Paul received of these circumstances. . . . To base a denial of the historical character of the account upon these differences would seem therefore a violent and arbitrary proceeding.
All efforts hitherto made to explain without a miracle the apparition of Jesus to Paul have failed. Naturalistic explanations are reduced to two: either Paul believed that he really saw Christ, but was the victim of an hallucination, or he believed that he saw Him only through a spiritual vision, which tradition, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, later erroneously materialized. Renan explained everything by hallucination due to disease brought on by a combination of moral causes such as doubt, remorse, fear, and of physical causes such as ophthalmia, fatigue, fever, the sudden transition from the torrid desert to the fresh gardens of Damascus, perhaps a sudden storm accompanied by lightning and thunder. All this combined, according to Renan’s theory, to produce a cerebral commotion, a passing delirium which Paul took in good faith for an apparition of the risen Christ.
The other partisans of a natural explanation while avoiding the word hallucination, eventually fall back on the system of Renan which they merely endeavour to render a little less complicated. Thus Holsten, for whom the vision of Christ is only the conclusion of a series of syllogisms by which Paul persuaded himself that Christ was truly risen. So also Pfleiderer, who however, causes the imagination to play a more influential part:
An excitable, nervous temperament; a soul that had been violently agitated and torn by the most terrible doubts; a most vivid phantasy, occupied with the awful scenes of persecution on the one hand and on the other by the ideal image of the celestial Christ; in addition the nearness of Damascus with the urgency of a decision, the lonely stillness, the scorching and blinding heat of the desert — in fact everything combined to produce one of those ecstatic states in which the soul believes that it sees those images and conceptions which violently agitate it as if they were phenomena proceeding from the outward world (Lectures on the influence of the Apostle Paul on the development of Christianity, 1897, 43).
We have quoted Pfleiderer’s words at length because his “psychological” explanation is considered the best ever devised. It will readily be seen that it is insufficient and as much opposed to the account in the Acts as to the express testimony of Saint Paul himself.
Paul is certain of having “seen” Christ as did the other Apostles (1 Corinthians 9:1); he declares that Christ “appeared” to him (1 Corinthians 15:8) as He appeared to Peter, to James, to the Twelve, after His Resurrection.
He knows that his conversion is not the fruit of his reasoning or thoughts, but an unforeseen, sudden, startling change, due to all-powerful grace (Galatians 1:12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:10).
He is wrongly credited with doubts, perplexities, fears, remorse, before his conversion. He was halted by Christ when his fury was at its height (Acts 9:1-2); it was “through zeal” that he persecuted the Church (Philippians 3:6), and he obtained mercy because he had acted “ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).
All explanations, psychological or otherwise, are worthless in face of these definite assertions, for all suppose that it was Paul’s faith in Christ which engendered the vision, whereas according to the concordant testimony of the Acts and the Epistles it was the actual vision of Christ which engendered faith.
After his conversion, his baptism, and his miraculous cure Paul set about preaching to the Jews (Acts 9:19-20). He afterwards withdrew to Arabia — probably to the region south of Damascus (Galatians 1:17), doubtless less to preach than to meditate on the Scriptures. On his return to Damascus the intrigues of the Jews forced him to flee by night (2 Corinthians 11:32-33; Acts 9:23-25). He went to Jerusalem to see Peter (Galatians 1:18), but remained only fifteen days, for the snares of the Greeks threatened his life. He then left for Tarsus and is lost to sight for five or six years (Acts 9:29-30; Galatians 1:21). Barnabas went in search of him and brought him to Antioch where for a year they worked together and their apostolate was most fruitful (Acts 11:25-26). Together also they were sent to Jerusalem to carry alms to the brethren on the occasion of the famine predicted by Agabus (Acts 11:27-30). They do not seem to have found the Apostles there; these had been scattered by the persecution of Herod.
Apostolic career of Paul
This period of twelve years (45-57) was the most active and fruitful of his life. It comprises three great Apostolic expeditions of which Antioch was in each instance the starting-point and which invariably ended in a visit to Jerusalem.
First mission (Acts 13:1-14:27)
Set apart by command of the Holy Ghost for the special evangelization of the Gentiles, Barnabas and Saul embark for Cyprus, preach in the synagogue of Salamina, cross the island from east to west doubtless following the southern coast, and reach Paphos, the residence of the proconsul Sergius Paulus, where a sudden change takes place. After the conversion of the Roman proconsul, Saul, suddenly become Paul, is invariably mentioned before Barnabas by Saint Luke and manifestly assumes the leadership of the mission which Barnabas has hitherto directed.
The results of this change are soon evident. Paul, doubtless concluding that Cyprus, the natural dependency of Syria and Cilicia, would embrace the faith of Christ when these two countries should be Christian, chose Asia Minor as the field of his apostolate and sailed for Perge in Pamphylia, eighty miles above the mouth of the Cestrus. It was then that John Mark, cousin of Barnabas, dismayed perhaps by the daring projects of the Apostle, abandoned the expedition and returned to Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas laboured alone among the rough mountains of Pisidia, which were infested by brigands and crossed by frightful precipices. Their destination was the Roman colony of Antioch, situated a seven day’s journey from Perge. Here Paul spoke on the vocation of Israel and the providential sending of the Messias, a discourse which Saint Luke reproduces in substance as an example of his preaching in the synagogues (Acts 13:16-41). The sojourn of the two missionaries in Antioch was long enough for the word of the Lord to be published throughout the whole country (Acts 13:49).
When by their intrigues the Jews had obtained against them a decree of banishment, they went to Iconium, three or four days distant, where they met with the same persecution from the Jews and the same eager welcome from the Gentiles. The hostility of the Jews forced them to take refuge in the Roman colony of Lystra, eighteen miles distant. Here the Jews from Antioch and Iconium laid snares for Paul and having stoned him left him for dead, but again he succeeded in escaping and this time sought refuge in Derbe, situated about forty miles away on the frontier of the Province of Galatia. Their circuit completed, the missionaries retraced their steps in order to visit their neophytes, ordained priests in each Church founded by them at such great cost, and thus reached Perge where they halted to preach the Gospel, perhaps while awaiting an opportunity to embark for Attalia, a port twelve miles distant. On their return to Antioch in Syria after an absence of at least three years, they were received with transports of joy and thanksgiving, for God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
The problem of the status of the Gentiles in the Church now made itself felt with all its acuteness. Some Judeo-Christians coming down from Jerusalem claimed that the Gentiles must be submitted to circumcision and treated as the Jews treated proselytes. Against this Paul and Barnabas protested and it was decided that a meeting should be held at Jerusalem in order to solve the question. At this assembly Paul and Barnabas represented the community of Antioch. Peter pleaded the freedom of the Gentiles; James upheld him, at the same time demanding that the Gentiles should abstain from certain things which especially shocked the Jews.
It was decided, first, that the Gentiles were exempt from the Mosaic law. Secondly, that those of Syria and Cilicia must abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. Thirdly, that this injunction was laid upon them, not in virtue of the Mosaic law, but in the name of the Holy Ghost. This meant the complete triumph of Paul’s ideas.
The restriction imposed on the Gentile converts of Syria and Cilicia did not concern his Churches, and Titus, his companion, was not compelled to be circumcised, despite the loud protests of the Judaizers (Galatians 2:3-4). Here it is to be assumed that Galatians 2 and Acts 15 relate to the same fact, for the actors are the same, Paul and Barnabas on the one hand, Peter and James on the other; the discussion is the same, the question of the circumcision of the Gentiles; the scenes are the same, Antioch and Jerusalem; the date is the same, about A.D. 50; and the result is the same, Paul’s victory over the Judaizers.
However, the decision of Jerusalem did not do away with all difficulties. The question did not concern only the Gentiles, and while exempting them from the Mosaic law, it was not declared that it would not have been counted meritorious and more perfect for them to observe it, as the decree seemed to liken them to Jewish proselytes of the second class. Furthermore the Judeo-Christians, not having been included in the verdict, were still free to consider themselves bound to the observance of the law. This was the origin of the dispute which shortly afterwards arose at Antioch between Peter and Paul. The latter taught openly that the law was abolished for the Jews themselves. Peter did not think otherwise, but he considered it wise to avoid giving offence to the Judaizers and to refrain from eating with the Gentiles who did not observe all the prescriptions of the law. As he thus morally influenced the Gentiles to live as the Jews did, Paul demonstrated to him that this dissimulation or opportuneness prepared the way for future misunderstandings and conflicts and even then had regrettable consequences. His manner of relating this incident leaves no room for doubt that Peter was persuaded by his arguments (Galatians 2:11-20).
Second mission (Acts 15:36-18:22)
The beginning of the second mission was marked by a rather sharp discussion concerning Mark, whom Saint Paul this time refused to accept as travelling companion. Consequently Barnabas set out with Mark for Cyprus and Paul chose Silas or Silvanus, a Roman citizen like himself, and an influential member of the Church of Jerusalem, and sent by it to Antioch to deliver the decrees of the Apostolic council. The two missionaries first went from Antioch to Tarsus, stopping on the way in order to promulgate the decisions of the Council of Jerusalem; then they went from Tarsus to Derbe, through the Cilician Gates, the defiles of Tarsus, and the plains of Lycaonia. The visitation of the Churches founded during his first mission passed without notable incidents except the choice of Timothy, whom the Apostle while in Lystra persuaded to accompany him, and whom he caused to be circumcised in order to facilitate his access to the Jews who were numerous in those places.
It was probably at Antioch of Pisidia, although the Acts do not mention that city, that the itinerary of the mission was altered by the intervention of the Holy Ghost. Paul thought to enter the Province of Asia by the valley of Meander which separated it by only three day’s journey, but they passed through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word of God in Asia (Acts 16:6). These words (ten phrygian kai Galatiken choran) are variously interpreted, according as we take them to mean the Galatians of the north or of the south (see GALATIANS). Whatever the hypothesis, the missionaries had to travel northwards in that portion of Galatia properly so called of which Pessinonte was the capital, and the only question is as to whether or not they preached there. They did not intend to do so, but as is known the evangelization of the Galatians was due to an accident, namely the illness of Paul (Galatians 4:13); this fits very well for Galatians in the north. In any case the missionaries having reached the upper part of Mysia (kata Mysian), attempted to enter the rich Province of Bithynia, which lay before them, but the Holy Ghost prevented them (Acts 16:7). Therefore, passing through Mysia without stopping to preach (parelthontes) they reached Alexandria of Troas, where God’s will was again made known to them in the vision of a Macedonian who called them to come and help his country (Acts 16:9-10).
Paul continued to follow on European soil the method of preaching he had employed from the beginning. As far as possible he concentrated his efforts in a metropolis from which the Faith would spread to cities of second rank and to the country districts. Wherever there was a synagogue he first took his stand there and preached to the Jews and proselytes who would consent to listen to him. When the rupture with the Jews was irreparable, which always happened sooner or later, he founded a new Church with his neophytes as a nucleus. He remained in the same city until persecution, generally aroused by the intrigues of the Jews, forced him to retire. There were, however, variations of this plan. At Philippi, where there was no synagogue, the first preaching took place in the uncovered oratory called the proseuche, which the Gentiles made a reason for stirring up the persecution. Paul and Silas, charged with disturbing public order, were beaten with rods, imprisoned, and finally exiled. But at Thessalonica and Berea, whither they successively repaired after leaving Philippi, things turned out almost as they had planned.
The apostolate of Athens was quite exceptional. Here there was no question of Jews or synagogue, Paul, contrary to his custom, was alone (1 Thessalonians 3:1), and he delivered before the areopagus a specially framed discourse, a synopsis of which has been preserved by Acts 17:23-31 as a specimen of its kind. He seems to have left the city of his own accord, without being forced to do so by persecution. The mission to Corinth on the other hand may be considered typical. Paul preached in the synagogue every Sabbath day, and when the violent opposition of the Jews denied him entrance there he withdrew to an adjoining house which was the property of a proselyte named Titus Justus. He carried on his apostolate in this manner for eighteen months, while the Jews vainly stormed against him; he was able to withstand them owing to the impartial, if not actually favourable, attitude of the proconsul, Gallio. Finally he decided to go to Jerusalem in fulfillment of a vow made perhaps in a moment of danger. From Jerusalem, according to his custom, he returned to Antioch. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians were written during the early months of his sojourn at Corinth. For occasion, circumstances, and analysis of these letters see THESSALONIANS.
Third mission (Acts 18:23-21:26)
Paul’s destination in his third journey was obviously Ephesus. There Aquila and Priscilla were awaiting him, he had promised the Ephesians to return and evangelize them if it were the will of God (Acts 18:19-21), and the Holy Ghost no longer opposed his entry into Asia. Therefore, after a brief rest at Antioch he went through the countries of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23) and passing through “the upper regions” of Central Asia he reached Ephesus (19:1). His method remained the same. In order to earn his living and not be a burden to the faithful he toiled every day for many hours at making tents, but this did not prevent him from preaching the Gospel. As usual he began with the synagogue where he succeeded in remaining for three months. At the end of this time he taught every day in a classroom placed at his disposal by a certain Tyrannus “from the fifth hour to the tenth” (from eleven in the morning till four in the afternoon), according to the interesting addition of the “Codex Bezae” (Acts 19:9). This lasted two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:20).
Naturally there were trials to be endured and obstacles to be overcome. Some of these obstacles arose from the jealousy of the Jews, who vainly endeavoured to imitate Paul’s exorcisms, others from the superstition of the pagans, which was especially rife at Ephesus. So effectually did he triumph over it, however, that books of superstition were burned to the value of 50,000 pieces of silver (each piece about a day’s wage). This time the persecution was due to the Gentiles and inspired by a motive of self-interest. The progress of Christianity having ruined the sale of the little facsimiles of the temple of Diana and statuettes of the goddess, which devout pilgrims had been wont to purchase, a certain Demetrius, at the head of the guild of silversmiths, stirred up the crowd against Paul. The scene which then transpired in the theatre is described by Saint Luke with memorable vividness and pathos (Acts 19:23-40). The Apostle had to yield to the storm. After a stay at Ephesus of two years and a half, perhaps more (Acts 20:31: trietian), he departed for Macedonia and thence for Corinth, where he spent the winter. It was his intention in the following spring to go by sea to Jerusalem, doubtless for the Pasch; but learning that the Jews had planned his destruction, he did not wish, by going to sea, to afford them an opportunity to attempt his life. Therefore he returned by way of Macedonia. Numerous disciples divided into two groups, accompanied him or awaited him at Troas. These were Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia, and finally Luke, the historian of the Acts, who gives us minutely all the stages of the voyage: Philippi, Troas, Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Miletus, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea, Jerusalem.
Three more remarkable facts should be noted in passing. At Troas Paul resuscitated the young Eutychus, who had fallen from a third-story window while Paul was preaching late into the night. At Miletus he pronounced before the ancients of Ephesus the touching farewell discourse which drew many tears (Acts 20:18-38). At Caesarea the Holy Ghost by the mouth of Agabus, predicted his coming arrest, but did not dissuade him from going to Jerusalem.
Saint Paul’s four great Epistles were written during this third mission: the first to the Corinthians from Ephesus, about the time of the Pasch prior to his departure from that city; the second to the Corinthians from Macedonia, during the summer or autumn of the same year; that to the Romans from Corinth, in the following spring; the date of the Epistle to the Galatians is disputed. On the many questions occasioned by the despatch and the language of these letters, or the situation assumed either on the side of the Apostle or his correspondents, see EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS; EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS; EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
Captivity (Acts 21:27-28:31)
Falsely accused by the Jews of having brought Gentiles into the Temple, Paul was ill-treated by the populace and led in chains to the fortress Antonia by the tribune Lysias. The latter having learned that the Jews had conspired treacherously to slay the prisoner sent him under strong escort to Caesarea, which was the residence of the procurator Felix. Paul had little difficulty in confounding his accusers, but as he refused to purchase his liberty. Felix kept him in chains for two years and even left him in prison in order to please the Jews, until the arrival of his successor, Festus. The new governor wished to send the prisoner to Jerusalem there to be tried in the presence of his accusers; but Paul, who was acquainted with the snares of his enemies, appealed to Caesar. Thenceforth his cause could be tried only at Rome. This first period of captivity is characterized by five discourses of the Apostle: The first was delivered in Hebrew on the steps of the Antonia before the threatening crowd; herein Paul relates his conversion and vocation to the Apostolate, but he was interrupted by the hostile shouts of the multitude (Acts 22:1-22). In the second, delivered the next day, before the Sanhedrin assembled at the command of Lysias, the Apostle skillfully embroiled the Pharisees with the Sadducees and no accusation could be brought. In the third, Paul, answering his accuser Tertullus in the presence of the Governor Felix, makes known the facts which had been distorted and proves his innocence (Acts 24:10-21). The fourth discourse is merely an explanatory summary of the Christian Faith delivered before Felix and his wife Drusilla (Acts 24:24-25). The fifth, pronounced before the Governor Festus, King Agrippa, and his wife Berenice, again relates the history of Paul’s conversion, and is left unfinished owing to the sarcastic interruptions of the governor and the embarrassed attitude of the king (Acts 26).
The journey of the captive Paul from Caesarea to Rome is described by Saint Luke with an exactness and vividness of colours which leave nothing to be desired. For commentaries see Smith, “Voyage and Shipwreck of Saint Paul” (1866); Ramsay, “St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen” (London, 1908). The centurion Julius had shipped Paul and his fellow-prisoners on a merchant vessel on board which Luke and Aristarchus were able to take passage. As the season was advanced the voyage was slow and difficult. They skirted the coasts of Syria, Cilicia, and Pamphylia. At Myra in Lycia the prisoners were transferred to an Alexandrian vessel bound for Italy, but the winds being persistently contrary a place in Crete called Goodhavens was reached with great difficulty and Paul advised that they should spend the winter there, but his advice was not followed, and the vessel driven by the tempest drifted aimlessly for fourteen whole days, being finally wrecked on the coast of Malta. The three months during which navigation was considered most dangerous were spent there, but with the first days of spring all haste was made to resume the voyage. Paul must have reached Rome some time in March. “He remained two whole years in his own hired lodging . . . preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, without prohibition” (Acts 28:30-31). With these words the Acts of the Apostles conclude.
There is no doubt that Paul’s trial terminated in a sentence of acquittal, for
- the report of the Governor Festus was certainly favourable as well as that of the centurion.
- The Jews seem to have abandoned their charge since their co-religionists in Rome were not informed of it (Acts 28:21).
- The course of the proceedings led Paul to hope for a release, of which he sometimes speaks as of a certainty (Philippians 1:25; 2:24; Philemon 22).
- The pastorals, if they are authentic, assume a period of activity for Paul subsequent to his captivity. The same conclusion is drawn from the hypothesis that they are not authentic, for all agree that the author was well acquainted with the life of the Apostle. It is the almost unanimous opinion that the so-called Epistles of the captivity were sent from Rome. Some authors have attempted to prove that Saint Paul wrote them during his detention at Caesarea, but they have found few to agree with them. The Epistles to the Colossians, the Ephesians, and Philemon were despatched together and by the same messenger, Tychicus. It is a matter of controversy whether the Epistle to the Philippians was prior or subsequent to these, and the question has not been answered by decisive arguments.
This period is wrapped in deep obscurity for, lacking the account of the Acts, we have no guide save an often uncertain tradition and the brief references of the Pastoral epistles. Paul had long cherished the desire to go to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28) and there is no evidence that he was led to change his plan. When towards the end of his captivity he announces his coming to Philemon (22) and to the Philippians (2:23-24), he does not seem to regard this visit as immediate since he promises the Philippians to send them a messenger as soon as he learns the issue of his trial; he therefore plans another journey before his return to the East. Finally, not to mention the later testimony of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint Epiphanius, Saint Jerome, Saint Chrysostom, and Theodoret, the well-known text of Saint Clement of Rome, the witness of the “Muratorian Canon”, and of the “Acta Pauli” render probable Paul’s journey to Spain. In any case he can not have remained there long, for he was in haste to revisit his Churches in the East. He may have returned from Spain through southern Gaul if it was thither, as some Fathers have thought, and not to Galatia, that Crescens was sent later (2 Timothy 4:10). We may readily believe that he afterwards kept the promise made to his friend Philemon and that on this occasion he visited the churches of the valley of Lycus, Laodicea, Colossus, and Hierapolis.
The itinerary now becomes very uncertain, but the following facts seem indicated by the Pastorals: Paul remained in Crete exactly long enough to found there new churches, the care and organization of which he confided to his fellow-worker Titus (Titus 1:5). He then went to Ephesus, and besought Timothy, who was already there, to remain until his return while he proceeded to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). On this occasion he paid his promised visit to the Philippians (Philippians 2:24), and naturally also saw the Thessalonians. The letter to Titus and the First Epistle to Timothy must date from this period; they seem to have been written about the same time and shortly after the departure from Ephesus. The question is whether they were sent from Macedonia or, which seems more probable, from Corinth. The Apostle instructs Titus to join him at Nicopolis of Epirus where he intends to spend the winter (Titus 3:12). In the following spring he must have carried out his plan to return to Asia (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Here occurred the obscure episode of his arrest, which probably took place at Troas; this would explain his having left with Carpus a cloak and books which he needed (2 Timothy 4:13). He was taken from there to Ephesus, capital of the Province of Asia, where he was deserted by all those on whom he thought he could rely (2 Timothy 1:15). Being sent to Rome for trial he left Trophimus sick at Miletus, and Erastus, another of his companions, remained at Corinth, for what reason is not clear (2 Timothy 4:20). When Paul wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy from Rome he felt that all human hope was lost (4:6); he begs his disciple to rejoin him as quickly as possible, for he is alone with Luke. We do not know if Timothy was able to reach Rome before the death of the Apostle.
Ancient tradition makes it possible to establish the following points:
- Paul suffered martyrdom near Rome at a place called Aquae Salviae (now Tre Fontane), somewhat east of the Ostian Way, about two miles from the splendid Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura which marks his burial place.
- The martyrdom took place towards the end of the reign of Nero, in the twelfth year (St. Epiphanius), the thirteenth (Euthalius), or the fourteenth (Saint Jerome).
- According to the most common opinion, Paul suffered in the same year and on the same day as Peter; several Latin Fathers contend that it was on the same day but not in the same year; the oldest witness, Saint Dionysius the Corinthian, says only kata ton auton kairon, which may be translated “at the same time” or “about the same time”.
- From time immemorial the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul has been celebrated on 29 June, which is the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics.
Formerly the pope, after having pontificated in the Basilica of Saint Peter, went with his attendants to that of Saint Paul, but the distance between the two basilicas (about five miles) rendered the double ceremony too exhausting, especially at that season of the year. Thus arose the prevailing custom of transferring to the next day (30 June) the Commemoration of Saint Paul. The feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (25 January) is of comparatively recent origin. There is reason for believing that the day was first observed to mark the translation of the relics of Saint Paul at Rome, for so it appears in the Hieronymian Martyrology. It is unknown to the Greek Church (Dowden, “The Church Year and Kalendar”, Cambridge, 1910, 69; cf. Duchesne, “Origines du culte chrétien”, Paris, 1898, 265-72; McClure, “Christian Worship”, London, 1903, 277-81).
Physical and moral portrait of Saint Paul
We know from Eusebius that even in his time there existed paintings representing Christ and the Apostles Peter and Paul. Paul’s features have been preserved in three ancient monuments:
- A diptych which dates from not later than the fourth century.
- A large medallion found in the cemetery of Domitilla, representing the Apostles Peter and Paul.
- A glass dish in the British Museum, depicting the same Apostles.
We have also the concordant descriptions of the “Acta Pauli et Theclae”, of Pseudo-Lucian in Philopatris, of Malalas (Chronogr., x), and of Nicephorus (Hist. eccl., III, 37).
Paul was short of stature; the Pseudo-Chrysostom calls him “the man of three cubits” (anthropos tripechys); he was broad-shouldered, somewhat bald, with slightly aquiline nose, closely-knit eyebrows, thick, greyish beard, fair complexion, and a pleasing and affable manner. He was afflicted with a malady which is difficult to diagnose (cf. Menzies, “St. Paul’s Infirmity” in the “Expository Times”, July and Sept., 1904), but despite this painful and humiliating infirmity (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 4:13-14) and although his bearing was not impressive (2 Corinthians 10:10), Paul must undoubtedly have been possessed of great physical strength to have sustained so long such superhuman labours (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Pseudo-Chrysostom, “In princip. apostol. Petrum et Paulum” (in P.G., LIX, 494-95), considers that he died at the age of sixty-eight after having served the Lord for thirty-five years.
The moral portrait is more difficult to draw because it is full of contrasts. Its elements will be found: in Lewin, op. cit., II, xi, 410-35 (Paul’s Person and Character); in Farrar, op. cit., Appendix, Excursus I; and especially in Newman, “Sermons preached on Various Occasions”, vii, viii.
Paul and Christ
This question has passed through two distinct phases. According to the principal followers of the Tübingen School, the Apostle had but a vague knowledge of the life and teaching of the historical Christ and even disdained such knowledge as inferior and useless. Their only support is the misinterpreted text: “Et si cognovimus secundum carnem Christum, sed nunc jam novimus” (2 Corinthians 5:16). The opposition noted in this text is not between the historical and the glorified Christ, but between the Messias such as the unbelieving Jews represented Him, such perhaps as he was preached by certain Judaizers, and the Messias as He manifested Himself in His death and Resurrection, as He had been confessed by the converted Paul. It is neither admissible nor probable that Paul would be uninterested in the life and preaching of Him, Whom he loved passionately, Whom he constantly held up for the imitation of his neophytes, and Whose spirit he boasted of having. It is incredible that he would not question on this subject eyewitnesses, such as Barnabas, Silas, or the future historians of Christ, Saints Mark and Luke, with whom he was so long associated. Careful examination of this subject has brought out the three following conclusions concerning which there is now general agreement:
- There are in Saint Paul more allusions to the life and teachings of Christ than would be suspected at first sight, and the casual way in which they are made shows that the Apostle knew more on the subject than he had the occasion, or the wish to tell.
- These allusions are more frequent in Saint Paul than the Gospels.
- From Apostolic times there existed a catechesis, treating among other things the life and teachings of Christ, and as all neophytes were supposed to possess a copy it was not necessary to refer thereto save occasionally and in passing.
The second phase of the question is closely connected with the first. The same theologians, who maintain that Paul was indifferent to the earthly life and teaching of Christ, deliberately exaggerate his originality and influence. According to them Paul was the creator of theology, the founder of the Church, the preacher of asceticism, the defender of the sacraments and of the ecclesiastical system, the opponent of the religion of love and liberty which Christ came to announce to the world. If, to do him honour, he is called the second founder of Christianity, this must be a degenerate and altered Christianity since it was at least partially opposed to the primitive Christianity. Paul is thus made responsible for every antipathy to modern thought in traditional Christianity.
This is to a great extent the origin of the “Back to Christ” movement, the strange wanderings of which we are now witnessing. The chief reason for returning to Christ is to escape Paul, the originator of dogma, the theologian of the faith. The cry “Zuruck zu Jesu” which has resounded in Germany for thirty years, is inspired by the ulterior motive, “Los von Paulus”. The problem is: Was Paul’s relation to Christ that of a disciple to his master? or was he absolutely autodidactic, independent alike of the Gospel of Christ and the preaching of the Twelve? It must be admitted that most of the papers published shed little light on the subject. However, the discussions have not been useless, for they have shown that the most characteristic Pauline doctrines, such as justifying faith, the redeeming death of Christ, the universality of salvation, are in accord with the writings of the first Apostles, from which they were derived. Julicher in particular has pointed out that Paul’s Christology, which is more exalted than that of his companions in the apostolate, was never the object of controversy, and that Paul was not conscious of being singular in this respect from the other heralds of the Gospel. Cf. Morgan, “Back to Christ” in “Dict. of Christ and the Gospels”, I, 61-67; Sanday, “Paul”, loc. cit., II, 886-92; Feine, “Jesus Christus und Paulus” (1902); Goguel, “L’apôtre Paul et Jésus-Christ” (Paris, 1904); Julicher, “Paulus und Jesus” (1907).
The root idea of Saint Paul’s theology
Several modern authors consider that theodicy is at the base, centre, and summit of Pauline theology. “The apostle’s doctrine is theocentric, not in reality anthropocentric. What is styled his ‘metaphysics’ holds for Paul the immediate and sovereign fact of the universe; God, as he conceives Him, is all in all to his reason and heart alike” (Findlay in Hastings, “Dict. of the Bible”, III, 718). Stevens begins the exposition of his “Pauline Theology” with a chapter entitled “The doctrine of God”. Sabatier (L’apotre Paul, 1896, 297) also considers that “the last word of Pauline theology is: “God all in all”, and he makes the idea of God the crown of Paul’s theological edifice. But these authors have not reflected that though the idea of God occupies so large a place in the teaching of the Apostle, whose thought is deeply religious like that of all his compatriots, it is not characteristic of him, nor does it distinguish him from his companions in the apostolate nor even from contemporary Jews.
Many modern Protestant theologians, especially among the more or less faithful followers of the Tübingen School, maintain that Paul’s doctrine is “anthropocentric”, that it starts from his conception of man’s inability to fulfill the law of God without the help of grace to such an extent that he is a slave of sin and must wage war against the flesh. But if this be the genesis of Paul’s idea it is astonishing that he enunciates it only in one chapter (Romans 7), the sense of which is controverted, so that if this chapter had not been written, or it had been lost, we would have no means of recovering the key to his teaching. However, most modern theologians now agree that Saint Paul’s doctrine is Christocentric, that it is at base a soteriology, not from a subjective standpoint, according to the ancient prejudice of the founders of Protestantism who made justification by faith the quintessence of Paulinism, but from the objective standpoint, embracing in a wide synthesis the person and work of the Redeemer. This may be proved empirically by the statement that everything in Saint Paul converges towards Jesus Christ, so much so, that abstracting from Jesus Christ it becomes, whether taken collectively or in detail, absolutely incomprehensible. This is proved also by demonstrating that what Paul calls his Gospel is the salvation of all men through Christ and in Christ. This is the standpoint of the following rapid analysis:
Humanity without Christ
The first three chapters of the Epistle to the Romans shows us human nature wholly under the dominion of sin. Neither Gentiles nor Jews had withstood the torrent of evil. The Mosaic Law was a futile barrier because it prescribed good without importing the strength to do it. The Apostle arrives at this mournful conclusion: “There is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]; for all have sinned, and do need the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). He subsequently leads us back to the historical cause of this disorder: “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). This man is obviously Adam, the sin which he brought into the world is not only his personal sin, but a predominating sin which entered into all men and left in them the seed of death: “All sinned when Adam sinned; all sinned in and with his sin” (Stevens, “Pauline Theology”, 129).
It remains to be seen how original sin, which is our lot by natural generation, manifests itself outwardly and becomes the source of actual sins. This Paul teaches us in chapter 7, where describing the contest between the Law assisted by reason and human nature weakened by the flesh and the tendency to evil, he represents nature as inevitably vanquished: “For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin” (Romans 7:22-23). This does not mean that the organism, the material substratus, is evil in itself, as some theologians of the Tübingen School have claimed, for the flesh of Christ, which was like unto ours, was exempt from sin, and the Apostle wishes that our bodies, which are destined to rise again, be preserved free from stain. The relation between sin and the flesh is neither inherent nor necessary; it is accidental, determined by an historical fact, and capable of disappearing through the intervention of the Holy Ghost, but it is none the less true that it is not in our power to overcome it unaided and that fallen man had need of a Saviour.
Yet God did not abandon sinful man. He continued to manifest Himself through this visible world (Romans 1:19-20), through the light of a conscience (Romans 2:14-15), and finally through His ever active and paternally benevolent Providence (Acts 14:16; 17:26). Furthermore, in His untiring mercy, He “will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). This will is necessarily subsequent to original sin since it concerns man as he is at present. According to His merciful designs God leads man step by step to salvation. To the Patriarchs, and especially to Abraham, He gave his free and generous promise, confirmed by oath (Romans 4:13-20; Galatians 3:15-18), which anticipated the Gospel. To Moses He gave His Law, the observation of which should be a means of salvation (Romans 7:10; 10:5), and which, even when violated, as it was in reality, was no less a guide leading to Christ (Galatians 3:24) and an instrument of mercy in the hands of God. The Law was a mere interlude until such time as humanity should be ripe for a complete revelation (Galatians 3:19; Romans 5:20), and thus provoked the Divine wrath (Romans 4:15). But good will arise from the excess of evil and “the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by the faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe” (Galatians 3:22). This would be fulfilled in the “fullness of the time” (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10), that is, at the time set by God for the execution of His merciful designs, when man’s helplessness should have been well manifested. Then “God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4).
The person of the Redeemer
Nearly all statements relating to the person of Jesus Christ bear either directly or indirectly on His role as a Saviour. With Saint Paul Christology is a function of soteriology. However broad these outlines, they show us the faithful image of Christ in His pre-existence, in His historical existence and in His glorified life (see F. Prat, “Théologie de Saint Paul”).
(1) Christ in His pre-existence
(a) Christ is of an order superior to all created beings (Ephesians 1:21); He is the Creator and Preserver of the World (Colossians 1:16-17); all is by Him, in Him, and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
(b) Christ is the image of the invisible Father (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15); He is the Son of God, but unlike other sons is so in an incommunicable manner; He is the Son, the own Son, the well-Beloved, and this He has always been (2 Corinthians 1:19; Romans 8:3, 8:32; Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 1:6; etc.).
(c) Christ is the object of the doxologies reserved for God (2 Timothy 4:18; Romans 16:27); He is prayed to as the equal of the Father (2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 1:2); gifts are asked of Him which it is in the power of God alone to grant, namely grace, mercy, salvation (Romans 1:7; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 16:23; etc. before Him every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Philippians 2:10), as every head inclines in adoration of the majesty of the Most High.
(d) Christ possesses all the Divine attributes; He is eternal, since He is the “first born of every creature” and exists before all ages (Colossians 1:15-17); He is immutable, since He exists “in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6); He is omnipotent, since He has the power to bring forth being from nothingness (Colossians 1:16); He is immense, since He fills all things with His plenitude (Ephesians 4:10; Colossians 2:10); He is infinite since “the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him” (Colossians 2:9). All that is the special property of the God belongs of right to Him; the judgment seat of God is the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10); the Gospel of God is the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:1, 1:9, 15:16, 15:19, etc.); the Church of God is the Church of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2 and Romans 16:16 sqq.); the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5), the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9 sqq.).
(e) Christ is the one Lord (1 Corinthians 8:6); He is identified with Jehovah of the Old Covenant (1 Corinthians 10:4, 10:9; Romans 10:13; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16; 9:21); He is the God who has purchased the Church with his own blood” (Acts 20:28); He is our “great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13); He is the “God over all things” (Romans 9:5), effacing by His infinite transcendency the sum and substance of created things.
(2) Jesus Christ as Man
The other aspect of the figure of Christ is drawn with no less firm a hand. Jesus Christ is the second Adam (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49); “the mediator of God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5), and as such He must necessarily be man (anthropos Christos Iesous). So He is the descendant of the Patriarchs (Romans 9:5; Galatians 3:16), He is “of the seed of David, according to the flesh)” (Romans 1:3), “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), like all men; finally, He is known as a man by His appearance, which is exactly similar to that of men (Philippians 2:7), save for sin, which He did not and could not know (2 Corinthians 5:21). When Saint Paul says that “God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), he does not mean to deny the reality of Christ’s flesh, but excludes only sinful flesh.
Nowhere does the Apostle explain how the union of the Divine and the human natures is accomplished in Christ, being content to affirm that He who was “in the form of God” took “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7), or he states the Incarnation in this laconic formula: “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporeally” (Colossians 2:9). What we see clearly is that there is in Christ a single Person to whom are attributed, often in the same sentence, qualities proper to the Divine and the human nature, to the pre-existence, the historical existence, and the glorified life (Colossians 1:15-19; Philippians 2:5-11; etc.). The theological explanation of the mystery has given rise to numerous errors. Denial was made of one of the natures, either the human (Docetism), or the Divine (Arianism), or the two natures were considered to be united in a purely accidental manner so as to produce two persons (Nestorianism), or the two natures were merged into one (Monophysitism), or on pretext of uniting them in one person the heretics mutilated either the human nature (Apollinarianism), or the Divine, according to the strange modern heresy known as Kenosis.
The last-mentioned requires a brief treatment, as it is based on a saying of Saint Paul “Being in the form of God . . . emptied himself (ekenosen eauton, hence kenosis) taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Contrary to the common opinion, Luther applied these words not to the Word, but to Christ, the Incarnate Word. Moreover he understood the communicatio idiomatus as a real possession by each of the two natures of the attributes of the other. According to this the human nature of Christ would possess the Divine attributes of ubiquity, omniscience, and omnipotence. There are two systems among Lutheran theologians, one asserting that the human nature of Christ was voluntarily stripped of these attributes (kenosis), the other that they were hidden during His mortal existence (krypsis).
In modern times the doctrine of Kenosis, while still restricted to Lutheran theology, has completely changed its opinions. Starting with the philosophical idea that “personality” is identified with “consciousness”, it is maintained that where there is only one person there can be only one consciousness; but since the consciousness of Christ was truly human consciousness, the Divine consciousness must of necessity have ceased to exist or act in Him. According to Thomasius, the theorist of the system, the Son of God was stripped, not after the Incarnation, as Luther asserted, but by the very fact of the Incarnation, and what rendered possible the union of the Logos with the humanity was the faculty possessed by the Divinity to limit itself both as to being and activity. The other partisans of the system express themselves in a similar manner. Gess, for instance, says that in Jesus Christ the Divine ego is changed into the human ego. When it is objected that God is immutable, that He can neither cease to be, nor limit Himself, nor transform Himself, they reply that this reasoning is on metaphysical hypotheses and concepts without reality. (For the various forms of Kenosis see Bruce, “The Humiliation of Christ”, p. 136.)
All these systems are merely variations of Monophysitism. Unconsciously they assume that there is in Christ but a single nature as there is but a single person. According to the Catholic doctrine, on the contrary, the union of the two natures in a single person involves no change in the Divine nature and need involve no physical change of the human nature of Christ. Without doubt Christ is the Son and is morally entitled even as man to the goods of His Father, viz. the immediate vision of God, eternal beatitude, the state of glory. He is temporarily deprived of a portion of these goods in order that he may fulfill His mission as Redeemer. This is the abasement, the annihilation, of which Saint Paul speaks, but it is a totally different thing from the Kenosis as described above.
The objective redemption as the work of Christ
We have seen that fallen man being unable to arise again unaided, God in His mercy sent His Son to save him. It is an elementary and often repeated doctrine of Saint Paul that Jesus Christ saves us through the Cross, that we are “justified by His blood”, that “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:9-10). What endowed the blood of Christ, His death, His Cross, with this redeeming virtue? Paul never answers this question directly, but he shows us the drama of Calvary under three aspects, which there is danger in separating and which are better understood when compared:
(a) at one time the death of Christ is a sacrifice intended, like the sacrifice of the Old Law, to expiate sin and propitiate God. Cf. Sanday and Headlam, “Romans”, 91-94, “The death of Christ considered as a sacrifice”. “It is impossible from this passage (Romans 3:25) to get rid of the double idea: (1) of a sacrifice; (2) of a sacrifice which is propitiatory . . . Quite apart from this passage it is not difficult to prove that these two ideas of sacrifice and propitiation lie at the root of the teaching not only of Saint Paul but of the New Testament generally.” The double danger of this idea is, first to wish to apply to the sacrifice of Christ all the mode of action, real or supposed, of the imperfect sacrifices of the Old Law; and second, to believe that God is appeased by a sort of magical effect, in virtue of this sacrifice, whereas on the contrary it was He Who took the initiative of mercy, instituted the sacrifice of Calvary, and endowed it with its expiatory value.
(b) At another time the death of Christ is represented as a redemption, the payment of a ransom, as the result of which man was delivered from all his past servitude (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23 [times egorasthete]; Galatians 3:13; 4:5 [ina tous hypo nomon exagorase]; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7, 14; Colossians 1:14 [apolytrosis]; 1 Timothy 2:6 [antilytron]; etc.) This idea, correct as it is, may have inconveniences if isolated or exaggerated. By carrying it beyond what was written, some of the Fathers put forth the strange suggestion of a ransom paid by Christ to the demon who held us in bondage. Another mistake is to regard the death of Christ as having a value in itself, independent of Christ Who offered it and God Who accepted it for the remission of our sins.
(c) Often, too, Christ seems to substitute Himself for us in order to undergo in our stead the chastisement for sin. He suffers physical death to save us from the moral death of sin and preserve us from eternal death. This idea of substitution appealed so strongly to Lutheran theologians that they admitted quantitative equality between the sufferings really endured by Christ and the penalties deserved by our sins. They even maintained that Jesus underwent the penalty of loss (of the vision of God) and the malediction of the Father.
These are the extravagances which have cast so much discredit on the theory of subsitution. It has been rightly said that the transfer of a chastisement from one person to another is an injustice and a contradiction, for the chastisement is inseparable from the fault and an undeserved chastisement is no longer a chastisement. Besides, Saint Paul never said that Christ died in our stead (anti), but only that he died for us (hyper) because of our sins.
In reality the three standpoints considered above are but three aspects of the Redemption which, far from excluding one another, should harmonize and combine, modifying if necessary all the other aspects of the problem. In the following text Saint Paul assembles these various aspects with several others. We are “justified freely by his grace, through the Redemption, that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to the shewing of his [hidden] justice, for the remission of former sins, through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time; that of himself may be [known as] just, and the justifier of him, who is in the faith of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:24-26). Herein are designated the part of God, of Christ, and of man:
- God takes the initiative; it is He who offers His Son; He intends to manifest His justice, but is moved thereto by mercy. It is therefore incorrect or more or less inadequate to say that God was angry with the human race and that He was only appeased by the death of His Son.
- Christ is our Redemption (apolytrosis), He is the instrument of expiation or propitiation (ilasterion), and is such by His Sacrifice (en to autou aimati), which does not resemble those of irrational animals; it derives its value from Christ, who offers it for us to His Father through obedience and love (Philippians 2:8; Galatians 2:20).
- Man is not merely passive in the drama of his salvation; he must understand the lesson which God teaches, and appropriate by faith the fruit of the Redemption.
The subjective redemption
Christ having once died and risen, the Redemption is completed in law and in principle for the whole human race. Each man makes it his own in fact and in act by faith and baptism which, by uniting him with Christ, causes him to participate in His Divine life. Faith, according to Saint Paul, is composed of several elements; it is the submission of the intellect to the word of God, the trusting abandonment of the believer to the Saviour Who promises him assistance; it is also an act of obedience by which man accepts the Divine will. Such an act has a moral value, for it “gives glory to God” (Romans 4:20) in the measure in which it recognizes its own helplessness. That is why “Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6). The spiritual children of Abraham are likewise “justified by faith, without the works of the law” (Romans 3:28; cf. Galatians 2:16). Hence it follows:
- That justice is granted by God in consideration of faith.
- That, nevertheless, faith is not equivalent to justice, since man is justified “by grace” (Romans 4:6).
- That the justice freely granted to man becomes his property and is inherent in him.
Protestants formerly asserted that the justice of Christ is imputed to us, but now they are generally agreed that this argument is unscriptural and lacks the guaranty of Paul; but some, loth to base justification on a good work (ergon), deny a moral value to faith and claim that justification is but a forensic judgment of God which alters absolutely nothing in the justified sinner. But this theory is untenable, for:
- even admitting that “to justify” signifies “to pronounce just”, it is absurd to suppose that God really pronounces just anyone who is not already so or who is not rendered so by the declaration itself.
- Justification is inseparable from sanctification, for the latter is “a justification of life” (Romans 5:18) and every “just man liveth by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).
- By faith and baptism we die to the “old man”, our former selves; now this is impossible without beginning to live as the new man, who “according to God, is created in justice and holiness” (Romans 6:3-5; Ephesians 4:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11). We may, therefore, establish a distinction in definition and concept between justification and sanctification, but we can neither separate them nor regard them as separate.
A remarkable characteristic of Paulinism is that it connects morality with the subjective redemption or justification. This is especially striking in chapter 6 of the Epistle to the Romans. In baptism “our old man is crucified with [Christ] that, the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer” (Romans 6:6). Our incorporation with the mystical Christ is not only a transformation and a metamorphosis, but a real reaction, the production of a new being, subject to new laws and consequently to new duties. To understand the extent of our obligations it is enough for us to know ourselves as Christians and to reflect on the various relations which result from our supernatural birth: that of sonship to God the Father, of consecration to the Holy Ghost, of mystical identity with our Saviour Jesus Christ, of brotherly union with the other members of Christ. But this is not all. Paul says to the neophytes:
“Thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart unto that form of doctrine, into which you have been delivered. . . . But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting (Romans 6:17, 22).
By the act of faith and by baptism, its seal, the Christian freely makes himself the servant of God and the soldier of Christ. God’s will, which he accepts in advance in the measure in which it shall be manifested, becomes thenceforth his rule of conduct. Thus Paul’s moral code rests on the one hand on the positive will of God made known by Christ, promulgated by the Apostles, and virtually accepted by the neophyte in his first act of faith, and on the other, in baptismal regeneration and the new relations which it produces. All Paul’s commands and recommendations are merely applications of these principles.
(1) The graphic description of the Pauline parousia (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) has nearly all its main points in Christ’s great eschatological discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). A common characteristic of all these passages is the apparent nearness of the parousia. Paul does not assert that the coming of the Saviour is at hand. In each of the five epistles, wherein he expresses the desire and the hope to witness in person the return of Christ, he at the same time considers the probability of the contrary hypothesis, proving that he had neither revelation nor certainty on the point. He knows only that the day of the lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3), and he counsels the neophytes to make themselves ready without neglecting the duties of their state of life (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). Although the coming of Christ will be sudden, it will be heralded by three signs:
- general apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3),
- the appearance of Antichrist (2:3-12), and
- the conversion of the Jews (Romans 11:26).
A particular circumstance of Saint Paul’s preaching is that the just who shall be living at Christ’s second advent will pass to glorious immortality without dying [1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51 (Greek text); 2 Corinthians 5:2-5].
(2) Owing to the doubts of the Corinthians Paul treats the resurrection of the just at some length. He does not ignore the resurrection of the sinners, which he affirmed before the Governor Felix (Acts 24:15), but he does not concern himself with it in his Epistles. When he says that “the dead who are in Christ shall rise first” (proton, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Greek) this “first” offsets, not another resurrection of the dead, but the glorious transformation of the living. In like manner “the evil” of which he speaks (tou telos, 1 Corinthians 15:24) is not the end of the resurrection, but of the present world and the beginning of a new order of things. All the arguments which he advances in behalf of the resurrection may be reduced to three: the mystical union of the Christian with Christ, the presence within us of the Spirit of Holiness, the interior and supernatural conviction of the faithful and the Apostles. It is evident that these arguments deal only with the glorious resurrection of the just. In short, the resurrection of the wicked does not come within his theological horizon. What is the condition of the souls of the just between death and resurrection? These souls enjoy the presence of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8); their lot is enviable (Philippians 1:23); hence it is impossible that they should be without life, activity, or consciousness.
(3) The judgment according to Saint Paul as according to the Synoptics, is closely connected with the parousia and the resurrection. They are the three acts of the same drama which constitute the Day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16). “For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Two conclusions are derived from this text:
(1) The judgment shall be universal, neither the good nor the wicked shall escape (Romans 14:10-12), nor even the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3); all who are brought to trial must account for the use of their liberty.
(2) The judgment shall be according to works: this is a truth frequently reiterated by Saint Paul, concerning sinners (2 Corinthians 11:15), the just (2 Timothy 4:14), and men in general (Romans 2:6-9). Many Protestants marvel at this and claim that in Saint Paul this doctrine is a survival of his rabbinical education (Pfleiderer), or that he could not make it harmonize with his doctrine of gratuitous justification (Reuss), or that the reward will be in proportion to the act, as the harvest is in proportion to the sowing, but that it will not be because of or with a view to the act (Weiss). These authors lose sight of the fact that Saint Paul distinguishes between two justifications, the first necessarily gratuitous since man was then incapable of meriting it (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16), the second in conformity to his works (Romans 2:6: kata ta erga), since man, when adorned with sanctifying grace, is capable of merit as the sinner is of demerit. Hence the celestial recompense is “a crown of justice which the Lord the just judge will render” (2 Timothy 4:8) to whomsoever has legitimately gained it.
Briefly, Saint Paul’s eschatology is not so distinctive as it has been made to appear. Perhaps its most original characteristic is the continuity between the present and the future of the just, between grace and glory, between salvation begun and salvation consummated. A large number of terms, redemption, justification, salvation, kingdom, glory and especially life, are common to the two states, or rather to the two phases of the same existence linked by charity which “never falleth away”.
- Ferdinand Prat. “Saint Paul”. . CatholicSaints.Info. 18 June 2013. Web. 3 July 2015. <>