Click to donate today!
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Saul of Tarsus
The actual founder of the Christian Church as opposed to Judaism; born before 10 C.E.; died after 63. The records containing the views and opinions of the opponents of Paul and Paulinism are no longer in existence; and the history of the early Church has been colored by the writers of the second century, who were anxious to suppress or smooth over the controversies of the preceding period, as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles and also by the fact that the Epistles ascribed to Paul, as has been proved by modern critics, are partly spurious (Galatians, Ephesians, I and thy, Titus, and others) and partly interpolated.
Not a Hebrew Scholar; a Hellenist.
Saul (whose Roman cognomen was Paul; see Acts 13:9) was born of Jewish parents in the first decade of the common era at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 9:11, 21:39, 22:3). The claim in Romans 11:1 and Philippians 3:5 that he was of the tribe of Benjamin, suggested by the similarity of his name with that of the first Israelitish king, is, if the passages are genuine, a false one, no tribal lists or pedigrees of this kind having been in existence at that time (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 1:7,5; Pes. 62b; M. Sachs, "Beiträge zur Sprach- und Alterthumsforschung," 1852, 2:157). Nor is there any indication in Paul's writings or arguments that he had received the rabbinical training ascribed to him by Christian writers, ancient and modern; least of all could he have acted or written as he did had he been, as is alleged (Acts 22:3), the disciple of Gamaliel I., the mild Hillelite. His quotations from Scripture, which are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version, betray no familiarity with the original Hebrew text. The Hellenistic literature, such as the Book of Wisdom and other Apocrypha, as well as Philo (see Hausrath, "Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte," 2:18-27; Siegfried, "Philo von Alexandria," 1875, pp. 304-310; Jowett, "Commentary on the Thessalonians and Galatians," 1:363-417), was the sole source for his eschatological and theological system. Notwithstanding the emphatic statement, in Philippians 3:5, that he was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews"—a rather unusual term, which seems to refer to his nationalistic training and conduct (comp. Acts 21:40, 22:2), since his Jewish birth is stated in the preceding words "of the stock of Israel"—he was, if any of the Epistles that bear his name are really his, entirely a Hellenist in thought and sentiment. As such he was imbued with the notion that "the whole creation groaneth" for liberation from "the prison-house of the body," from this earthly existence, which, because of its pollution by sin and death, is intrinsically evil (Galatians 1:4; Romans 5:12, 7:23-24, 8:22; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 2 Corinthians 5:2,4; comp. Philo, "De Allegoriis Legum," 3:75; idem, "De Vita Mosis," 3:17; idem, "De Ebrietate," § 26; and Wisdom 24). As a Hellenist, also, he distinguished between an earthly and a heavenly Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49; comp. Philo, "De Allegoriis Legum," 1:12), and, accordingly, between the lower psychic. life and the higher spiritual life attained only by asceticism (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1-31, 9:27, 15:50; comp. Philo, "De Profugis," § 17; and elsewhere). His whole state of mind shows the influence of the theosophic or Gnostic lore of Alexandria, especially the Hermes literature recently brought to light by Reizenstein in his important work "Poimandres," 1904 (see Index, s. "Paulus," "Briefe des Paulus," and "Philo"); hence his strange belief in supernatural powers (Reizenstein, c. pp. 77, 287), in fatalism, in "speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 12-; comp. Reizenstein, c. p. 58; Dieterich, "Abraxas," pp. 5 et seq.; Weinel, "Die Wirkungen des Geistes und der Geister," 1899, pp. 72 et seq.; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 2 Corinthians 12:1-6; Ephesians 3:3), and in mysteries or sacraments (Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26, 2:2, 4:3; Ephesians 1:9, 3:4, 6:19)—a term borrowed solely from heathen rites.
There is throughout Paul's writings an irrational or pathological element which could not but repel the disciples of the Rabbis. Possibly his pessimistic mood was the result of his physical condition; for he suffered from an illness which affected both body and mind. He speaks of it as "a thorn in the flesh," and as a heavy stroke by "a messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians 12:7), which often caused him to realize his utter helplessness, and made him an object of pity and horror (Galatians 4:13). It was, as Krenkel ("Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte und Briefe des Apostels Paulus," 1890, pp. 47-125) has convincingly shown, epilepsy, called by the Greeks "the holy disease," which frequently put him into a state of ecstasy, a frame of mind that may have greatly impressed some of his Gentile hearers, but could not but frighten away and estrange from him the Jew, whose God is above all the God of reason (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:13; 10:10; 11:1,16; 12:6). The conception of a new faith, half pagan and half Jewish, such as Paul preached, and susceptibility to its influences, were altogether foreign to the nature of Jewish life and thought. For Judaism, religion is the hallowing of this life by the fulfilment of its manifold duties (see see JUDAISM): Paul shrank from life as the domain of Satan and all his hosts of evil; he longed for redemption by the deadening of all desires for life, and strove for another world which he sawin his ecstatic visions. The following description of Paul is preserved in "Acta Pauli et Theclæ," an apocryphal book which has been proved to be older and in some respects of greater historic value than the canonical Acts of the Apostles (see Conybeare, "Apollonius' Apology and Acts, and Other Monuments of Early Christianity," pp. 49-88, London, 1894):
"A man of moderate stature, with crisp [scanty] hair, crooked legs, blue eyes, large knit brows, and long nose, at times looking like a man, at times like an angel, Paul came forward and preached to the men of Iconium: 'Blessed are they that keep themselves chaste [unmarried]; for they shall be called the temple of God. Blessed are they that mortify their bodies and souls; for unto them speaketh God. Blessed are they that despise the world; for they shall be pleasing to God. Blessed be the souls and bodies of virgins; for they shall receive the reward of their chastity.'"
It was by such preaching that "he ensnared the souls of young men and maidens, enjoining them to remain single "(Conybeare, c. pp. 62, 63, 67; comp. ib. pp. 24-25; Galatians 3:38; 1 Corinthians 7:34-36; Matthew 19:12; Clement of Rome, Epistle § 12).
Whatever the physiological or psychological analysis of Paul's temperament may be, his conception of life was not Jewish. Nor can his unparalleled animosity and hostility to Judaism as voiced in the Epistles be accounted for except upon the assumption that, while born a Jew, he was never in sympathy or in touch with the doctrines of the rabbinical schools. For even his Jewish teachings came to him through Hellenistic channels, as is indicated by the great emphasis laid upon "the day of the divine wrath" (Romans 1:18; 2:5,8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Colossians 3:6; comp. Sibyllines, 3:309 et seq., 332; 4:159,161 et seq.; and elsewhere), as well as by his ethical monitions, which are rather inconsistently taken over from Jewish codes of law for proselytes, the DIDACHE and DIDASCALIA. It is quite natural, then, that not only the Jews (Acts 21:21), but also the Judæo-Christians, regarded Paul as an "apostate from the Law" (see Eusebius, c. 3:27; Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses," 1:26,2; Origen, "Contra Celsum," 5:65; Clement of Rome, "Recognitiones," 1:70. 73).
To judge from those Epistles that have all the traits of genuineness and give a true insight into his nature, Paul was of a fiery temper, impulsive and impassioned in the extreme, of ever-changing moods, now exulting in boundless joy and now sorely depressed and gloomy. Effusive and excessive alike in his love and in his hatred, in his blessing and in his cursing, he possessed a marvelous power over men; and he had unbounded confidence in himself. He speaks or writes as a man who is conscious of a great providential mission, as the servant and herald of a high and unique cause. The philosopher and the Jew will greatly differ from him with regard to every argument and view of his; but both will admit that he is a mighty battler for truth, and that his view of life, of man, and of God is a profoundly serious one. The entire conception of religion has certainly been deepened by him, because his mental grasp was wide and comprehensive, and his thinking bold, aggressive, searching, and at the same time systematic. Indeed, he molded the thought and the belief of all Christendom.
Jewish Proselytism and Paul.
Before the authenticity of the story of the so-called conversion of Paul is investigated, it seems proper to consider from the Jewish point of view this question: Why did Paul find it necessary to create a new system of faith for the admission of the Gentiles, in view of the fact that the Synagogue had well-nigh two centuries before opened its door to them and, with the help of the Hellenistic literature, had made a successful propaganda, as even the Gospels testify? (Matthew 23:15; see Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., 3:102-135,420-483; J. Bernays, "Gesammelte Abhandlungen," 1885, 1:192-282, 2:71-80; Bertholet, "Die Stellung der Israeliten und Juden zu den Fremden," 1896, pp. 257-302.) Bertholet (c. pp. 303-334; but see Schürer, c. 1:126) and others, in order that they may reserve the claim of universality for Christianity, deny the existence of uncircumcised proselytes in Judaism, and misconstrue plain Talmudic and other statements referring to God-fearing Gentiles (Bertholet, c. pp. 338-339); whereas the very doctrine of Paul concerning the universal faith of Abraham (Romans 4:3-18) rests upon the traditional interpretation of Genesis 12:3 (see Kuenen, "Prophets and Prophecy in Israel," pp. 379, 457) and upon the traditional view which made Abraham the prototype of a missionary bringing the heathen world under the wings of the Shekinah (Gen. R. , with reference to Genesis 12:5; see ABRAHAM; JUDAISM; PROSELYTE). As a matter of fact, only the Jewish propaganda work along the Mediterranean Sea made it possible for Paul and his associates to establish Christianity among the Gentiles, as is expressly recorded in the Acts (10:2; 13:16,26,43,50; 16:14; 17:4,17; 18:7); and it is exactly from such synagogue manuals for proselytes as the DIDACHE and the DIDASCALIA that the ethical teachings in the Epistles of Paul and of Peter were derived (see Seeberg, "Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit," 1903, pp. 1-44).
The answer is supplied by the fact that Jewish proselytism had the Jewish nation as its basis, as the names "ger" and "ger toshab" for "proselyte" indicate. The proselyte on whom the Abrahamic rite was not performed remained an outsider. It was, therefore, highly important for Paul that those who became converted to the Church should rank equally with its other members and that every mark of distinction between Jew and Gentile should be wiped out in the new state of existence in which the Christians lived in anticipation. The predominating point of view of the Synagogue was the political and social one; that of the Church, the eschatological one. May such as do not bear the seal of Abraham's covenant upon their flesh or do not fulfil the whole Law be admitted into the congregation of the saints waiting for the world of resurrection? This was the question at issue between the disciples of Jesus and those of Paul; the former adhering to the view of the Essenes, which was also that of Jesus; the latter taking an independent position that started not from the Jewish but from the non-Jewish standpoint. Paul fashioned a Christ ofhis own, a church of his own, and a system of belief of his own; and because there were many mythological and Gnostic elements in his theology which appealed more to the non-Jew than to the Jew, he won the heathen world to his belief.
In the foreground of all of Paul's teaching stands his peculiar vision of Christ, to which he constantly refers as his only claim and title to apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:8; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 1:1,12,16, on which see below). The other apostles saw Jesus in the flesh; Paul saw him when, in a state of entrancement, he was carried into paradise to the third heaven, where he heard "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Evidently this picture of Christ must have occupied a prominent place in his mind before, just as MEṬAṬRON (Mithra) and Akteriel did in the minds of Jewish mystics (ANGELOLOGY; see MERKABAH). To him the Messiah was the son of God in a metaphysical sense, "the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15), "the heavenly Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:49; similar to the Philonic or cabalistic ADAM ḲADMON), the mediator between God and the world (1 Corinthians 8:6), "the first-born of all creation, for by him were all things created" (Colossians 1:15-17), identical also with the Holy Spirit manifested in Israel's history (1 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:17; comp. Wisdom 10:1.-12:1; Philo, "De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat," § 30; see also Jew. Encyc. 10:183b, s. Preexistence of the Messiah).
It is, however, chiefly as "the king of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8), as ruler of the powers of light and life eternal, that Christ is to manifest his cosmic power. He has to annihilate Satan or Belial, the ruler of this world of darkness and death, with all his hosts of evil, physical and moral (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Paul's "gnosis" (1 Corinthians 8:1,7; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Timothy 6:20) is a revival of Persian dualism, which makes of all existence, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, a battle between light and darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; Ephesians 5:8-13; Colossians 1:13), between flesh and spirit (1 Corinthians 15:48; Romans 8:6-9), between corruption and life everlasting (1 Corinthians 15:50,53). The object of the Church is to obtain for its members the spirit, the glory, and the life of Christ, its "head," and to liberate them from the servitude of and allegiance to the flesh and the powers of earth. In order to become participants in the salvation that had come and the resurrection that was nigh, the saints were to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light, the breastplate of love, and the helmet of hope (Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11. 1 Thessalonians 5:8; comp. Wisdom 5:17-18; Isaiah 59:17; "the weapons of light of the people of Israel," Pesiḳ, R. 33 [ed. Buber, p. 154]; Targ. Yer. to Exodus 33:4; "the men of the shields" ["ba'ale teresin"], a name for high-ranking Gnostics, Ber. 27b; also "the vestiture of light" in Mandæan lore, "Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie," 18:575-576).
The Crucified Messiah.
How then can this world of perdition and evil, of sin and death, be overcome, and the true life be attained instead? This question, which, according to a Talmudic legend (Tamid 32a), Alexander the Great put to the wise men of the South, was apparently the one uppermost also in the mind of Paul (see Kabisch,"Die Eschatologie des Paulus," 1893); and in the form of a vision of the crucified Christ the answer came to him to "die in order to live." This vision, seen in his ecstatic state, was to him more than a mere reality: it was the pledge ("'erabon" of the resurrection and the life of which he was in quest. Having seen "the first-born of the resurrection" (1 Corinthians 15:20-24; the Messiah is called "the first-born" also in Midr. Teh. to Psalms 89:28, and in Ex. R. 19:7), he felt certain of the new life which all "the sons of light" were to share. No sooner had the idea taken hold of him that the world of resurrection, or "the kingdom of God," had come, or would come with the speedy reappearance of the Messiah, than he would invest with higher powers "the elect ones" who were to participate in that life of the spirit. There can be no sin or sensual passion in a world in which the spirit rules. Nor is there need of any law in a realm where men live as angels (comp. "The dead is free from all obligations of the Law," Shab. 30a, 151b; Niddah 61b). To bring back the state of paradise and to undo the sin of Adam, the work of the serpent, which brought death into the world—this seems to have been the dream of Paul. The baptism of the Church, to which sinners and saints, women and men, Jews and Gentiles, were alike invited, suggested to him the putting off of the earthly Adam and the putting on of the heavenly Adam (Romans 6). He was certain that by the very power of their faith, which performed all the wonders of the spirit in the Church (1 Corinthians 12, ), would the believers in Christ at the time of his reappearance be also miraculously lifted to the clouds and transformed into spiritual bodies for the life of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 8). These are the elements of Paul's theology—a system of belief which endeavored to unite all men, but at the expense of sound reason and common sense.
There is possibly a historical kernel to the story related in the Acts (7:58-9:1-31, 22:3-21, 26:10-19), that, while on the road to Damascus, commissioned with the task of exterminating the Christian movement antagonistic to the Temple and the Law (ib. 6:13), Paul had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (comp. 1 Samuel 26:18); that in consequence of this vision he became, with the aid of Ananais, one of the Christian seers, "a chosen vessel unto me [Christ], to bear my name before the Gentiles." According to the Acts (7:58; 9:2; 22:5; 25:1,10-12), Paul was a young man charged by the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem with the execution of Stephen and the seizure of the disciples of Jesus. The statement, however (ib. 22:8-9), that, being a zealous observer of the law of the Fathers, "he persecuted the Church unto death," could have been made only at a time when it was no longer known what a wide difference existed between the Sadducean high priests and elders, who had a vital interest in quelling the Christian movement, and the Pharisees, who had no reason for condemning to death either Jesusor Stephen. In fact, it is derived from the Epistle to the Galatians (1:13-14), the spuriousness of which has been shown by Bruno Baur, Steck, and most convincingly by Friedrich Maehliss ("Die Unechtheit des Galaterbriefs," 1891). The same is the case with Philippians 3:5. Acts 22:17-18 speaks of another vision which Paul had while in the Temple, in which Jesus told him to depart from Jerusalem and go with his gospel to the Gentiles. Evidently Paul entertained long before his vision those notions of the Son of God which he afterward expressed; but the identification of his Gnostic Christ with the crucified Jesus of the church he had formerly antagonized was possibly the result of a mental paroxysm experienced in the form of visions.
Barnabas and Other Hellenists.
Whether the Hellenists in Jerusalem, at the head of whom stood Stephen, Philip, and others named in Acts 7:1-5, exerted an influence upon Paul, can not be ascertained: that Barnabas, who was a native of Cyprus, did, may be assumed with certainty. He was Paul's older companion, apparently of a more imposing stature (Acts 14:12); and, according to ib. 9:27, he introduced Paul to the apostles and induced him (11:25) to cooperate with him in the church of Antioch. The two traveled together as collectors of charity for the poor of the Jerusalem church (ib. 11:30, 15:2; Apostle), and as preachers of the gospel (ib. 13:3,7,13,14,43,46,50; 14:14,20; 15:2,12,22,35), Paul soon becoming the more powerful preacher. Finally, on account of dissensions, probably of a far more serious nature than stated either in Acts 15:36-39 or Galatians 2:13, they separated. That both Paul and Barnabas held views different from those of the other apostles may be learned from 1 Corinthians 9:6. Paul's relation to see APOLLOS also was apparently that of a younger colaborer to an older and more learned one (1 Corinthians 1:10, 3:5-23, 16:12).
His Missionary Travels.
According to Acts 13, , xvii- (see Jew. Encyc. 9:252-254, s. NEW TESTAMENT), Paul began working along the traditional Jewish line of proselytizing in the various synagogues where the proselytes of the gate and the Jews met; and only because he failed to win the Jews to his views, encountering strong opposition and persecution from them, did he turn to the Gentile world after he had agreed at a convention with the apostles at Jerusalem to admit the Gentiles into the Church only as proselytes of the gate, that is, after their acceptance of the Noachian laws (Acts 15:1-31). This presentation of Paul's work is, however, incompatible with the attitude toward the Jews and the Law taken by him in the Epistles. Nor can any historical value be attached to the statement in Galatians 2:1-10 that, by an agreement with the seeming pillars of the Church, the work was divided between Peter and Paul, the "gospel of circumcision" being committed to the one, and the "gospel of uncircumcision" to the other; as the bitter and often ferocious attacks against both the Jews and the apostles of the Judæo-Christian Church (in Philippians 3:2 he calls them "dogs") would then have been uncalled for and unpardonable. In reality Paul had little more than the name of apostle in common with the actual disciples of Jesus. His field of work was chiefly, if not exclusively, among the Gentiles; he looked for a virgin soil wherein to sow the seeds of the gospel; and he succeeded in establishing throughout Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor churches in which there were "neither Jews nor Gentiles," but Christians who addressed each other as "brethren" or "saints." Regarding his great missionary journeys as described in the Acts after older documents, see Jew. Encyc. c. pp. 252-254. As to the chronology, much reliance can not be placed either on Galatians 1:17-2:3 or on the Acts with its contradictory statements.
From 2 Corinthians 11:24-32 (comp. ib. 6:4; 1 Corinthians 4:11) it may be learned that his missionary work was beset with uncommon hardships. He labored hard day and night as a tent-maker for a livelihood (Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:12, 9:6-18). He says (2 Corinthians 9) that more frequently than any other apostle he was imprisoned, punished with stripes, and in peril of death on land and sea; five times he received the thirtynine stripes in the synagogue, obviously for some public transgression of the Law (Deuteronomy 25:3); three times was he beaten with rods, probably by the city magistrates (comp. Acts 16:22); once he was stoned by the people; and thrice he suffered shipwreck, being in the water a night and a day. In Damascus he was imprisoned by King Aretas at the instigation, not of the Jews, as is stated by modern historians, but of the Jerusalem authorities; and he escaped through being let down in a basket from a window (2 Corinthians 11:24-32; comp. Acts 27:41). He was besides this constantly troubled with his disease, which often made him "groan" for deliverance (1 Thessalonians 2:2,19-3:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 4:7-5:5, 12:7; Galatians 4:14).
Corinth and Ephesus, the two great centers of commerce, with their strangely mixed and turbulent as well as immoral population, offered to Paul a large field for his missionary work; and, because the Jews there were few and had little influence, he had free scope and ample opportunity to build up a church according to his plans. He was greatly aided therein by the Roman protection which he enjoyed (Acts 18:12-17, 19:35-40). Yet as long as the church at Jerusalem was in his way he found little comfort and satisfaction in his achievements, though he proudly recounted the successes which marked his journeys throughout the lands. It was to Rome that his efforts gravitated. Not Athens, whose wisdom he decried as "folly" (1 Corinthians 1:17-24), but Rome's imperial city, whose administrative system he had learned to admire, attracted and fascinated his mind by its world-wide horizon and power. Consciously or unconsciously, he worked for a church with its world-center in Rome instead of in Jerusalem. A prisoner in the years 61-63 (Philippians 1:7,16), and probably also a martyr at Rome, he laid the foundation of the world-dominion of pagan Christianity. (For futher biographical details, which form the subject of much dispute among Christians, but are of no special interest for Jewish readers, see the article "Paul" in Hauck,"Real-Encyc.," in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," and similar works.)
Paul's Church versus the Synagogue.
In order to understand fully the organization and scope of the Church as mapped out by Paul in his Epistles, a comparison thereof with the organization and the work of the Synagogue, including the Essene community, seems quite proper. Each Jewish community when organized as a congregation possessed in, or together with, its synagogue an institution (1) for common worship, (2) for the instruction of young and old in the Torah, and (3) for systematic charity and benevolence. This threefold work was as a rule placed in charge of men of high social standing, prominent both in learning and in piety. The degree of knowledge and of scrupulousness in the observance of the Torah determined the rank of the members of the Synagogue. Among the members of the Essene brotherhood every-day life with its common meals came under special rules of sanctity, as did their prayers and their charities as well as their visits to the sick, the Holy Spirit being especially invoked by them as a divine factor, preparing them also for the Messianic kingdom of which they lived in expectation (ESSENES). The Christian Church, in adopting the name and form of the Essene Church (Εκκλησία; see CONGREGATION), lent to both the bath (see BAPTISM) and the communion meals (see AGAPE) a new character.
Influence of the Greek Mysteries.
Paul, the Hellenist, however, knowingly or unknowingly, seems to have taken the heathen cult associations as his pattern while introducing new features into the Church (see Anrich, "Das Antike Mysterienwesen in Seinem Einfluss auf das Christenthum," 1894; Wobbermin, "Religionsgeschichtliche Studien zur Frage der Beeinflussung des Urchristenthums Durch das Antike Mysterienwesen," 1896, p. 153; Hatch, "Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church," 1890, pp. 281-296; Cumont, "Die Mysterien des Mithra, Deutsch von Gehrich," 1903, pp. 101, 118-119; Anz, "Ursprung des Gnosticismus," 1897, pp. 98-107; Reizenstein and Kabisch, c.). To him baptism is no longer a symbolic rite suggestive of purification or regeneration, as in Jewish and Judæo-Christian circles (see BAPTISM), but a mystic rite by which the person that enters the water and emerges again undergoes an actual transformation, dying with Christ to the world of flesh and sin, and rising with him to the world of the spirit, the new life of the resurrection (Romans 6:1-10).
Still more is the partaking of the bread and the wine of the communion meal, the so-called "Lord's Supper," rendered the means of a mystic union with Christ, "a participation in his blood and body," exactly as was the Mithraic meal a real participation in the blood and body of Mithra (see Cumont, c.). To Paul, the Holy Spirit itself is not an ethical but a magic power that works sanctification and salvation. It is a mystic substance permeating the Church as a dynamic force, rendering all the members saints, and pouring forth its graces in the various gifts, such as those of prophesying, speaking in tongues, and interpreting voices, and others displayed in teaching and in the administration of charity and similar Church functions (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12,; see Kabisch, c. pp. 261-281). The Church forms "the body of Christ" not in a figurative sense, but through the same mystic actuality as that by which the participants of heathen cults become, through their mysteries or sacraments, parts of their deities. Such is the expressed view of Paul when he contrasts the "table of Christ" with the "table of the demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). While Paul borrows from the Jewish propaganda literature, especially the Sibyllines, the idea of the divine wrath striking especially those that commit the capital sins of idolatry and incest (fornication) and acts of violence or fraudulence (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Thessalonians 4:5), and while he accordingly wishes the heathen to turn from their idols to God, with desire of being saved by His son (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10), his Church has by no means the moral perfection of the human race for its aim and end, as has Judaism. Salvation alone, that is, redemption from a world of perdition and sin, the attainment of a life of incorruption, is the object; yet this is the privilege only of those chosen and predestined "to be conformed to the image of His [God's] son" (Romans 8:28-30). It is accordingly not personal merit nor the greater moral effort that secures salvation, but some arbitrary act of divine grace which justifies one class of men and condemns the other (ib. ). It is not righteousness, nor even faith—in the Jewish sense of perfect trust in the all-loving and all-forgiving God and Father—which leads to salvation, but faith in the atoning power of Christ's death, which in some mystic or judicial manner justifies the undeserving (Romans 3:22, ,; comp. see FAITH; for the mystic conception of faith, πίστις, in Hellenism alongside of gnosis, see Reizenstein, c. pp. 158-159).
The Mystery of the Cross.
Heathen as is the conception of a church securing a mystic union with the Deity by means of sacramental rites, equally pagan is Paul's conception of the crucifixion of Jesus. While he accepts the Judæo-Christian view of the atoning power of the death of Jesus as the suffering Messiah (Romans 3:25, 8:3), the crucifixion of Jesus as the son of God assumes for him at the very beginning the character of a mystery revealed to him, "a stumbling-block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks" (1 Corinthians 1:23-2:2, 2:7-10). It is to him a cosmic act by which God becomes reconciled to Himself. God sent "his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh" in order to have His wrath appeased by his death. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up," so that by his blood all men might be saved (Romans 5:8; 8:3,32). To a Jewish mind trained by rabbinical acumen this is not pure monotheistic, but mythological, thinking. Paul's "Son of God" is, far more than the Logos of Philo, an infringement of the absolute unity of God. While the predicate "God" applied to him in Titus 2:13 may be put to the account of Paul's school rather than to his own, throughout all the Epistles a share in the divinity is ascribed to Jesus in such a manner as to detract from the glory of God. He is, or is expected to be, called upon as"the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 10:13; Philippians 2:10-11). Only the pagan idea of the "man-God" or "the second God," the world's artificer, and "son of God" (in Plato, in the Hermes-Tot literature as shown by Reizenstein, c.), or the idea of a king of light descending to Hades, as in the Mandæan-Babylonian literature (Brandt, "Die Mandäische Religion," 1889, pp. 151-156), could have suggested to Paul the conception of a God who surrenders the riches of divinity and descends to the poverty of earthly life in order to become a savior of the human race (1 Corinthians 15:28, with ref. to Psalms 8:6-7; Philippians 2:6-10). Only from Alexandrian Gnosticism, or, as Reizenstein (c. pp. 25-26; comp. pp. 278, 285) convincingly shows, only from pagan pantheism, could he have derived the idea of the "pleroma," "the fulness" of the Godhead dwelling in Christ as the head of all principality and power, as him who is before all things and in whom all things consist (Colossians 1:15-19, 2:9).
Paul's Opposition to the Law.
Paul's attitude toward the Law was by no means hostile from the beginning or on principle, as the interpolated Epistle to the Romans and the spurious one to the Galatians represent it. Neither is it the legalistic (nomistic) character of Pharisaic Judaism which he militates against, as Jesus in the Gospels is represented as doing; nor was he prompted by the desire to discriminate between the ceremonial and the moral laws in order to accentuate the spiritual side of religion. Still less was he prompted by that allegorizing method of which Philo ("De Migratione Abrahami," § 16) speaks as having led many to the disregard of certain ceremonial laws, such as circumcision (M. Friedländer, "Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Christenthums," pp. 149, 163, Vienna, 1894). All such interpretations fail to account for Paul's denunciation of all law, moral as well as ceremonial, as an intrinsic evil (Hausrath, "Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte," 2d ed., 3:14). According to his arguments (Romans 3:20, 4:15, vii-), it is the Law that begets sin and works wrath, because without the Law there is no transgression. "I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (ib. 7:7). He has no faith in the moral power of man: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (ib. 7:18). What he is aiming at is that state in which the sinfulness of the flesh is entirely overcome by the spirit of Christ who is "the end of the Law" (ib. 10:4), because he is the beginning of the resurrection. For Paul, to be a member of the Church meant to be above the Law, and to serve in the newness of the spirit under a higher law (ib. 7:4-6,25). For in Christ, that is, by the acceptance of the belief that with him the world of resurrection has begun, man has become "a new creature: the old things are passed away . . . all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). For Paul, the world is doomed: it is flesh beset by sin and altogether of the evil one; hence home, family life, worldly wisdom, all earthly enjoyment are of no account, as they belong to a world which passes away (1 Corinthians 7:31). Having at first only the heathen in view, Paul claims the members of the Church for Christ; hence their bodies must be consecrated to him and not given to fornication (ib. 6:15). In fact, they ought to live in celibacy; and only on account of Satan's temptation to lust are they allowed to marry (ib. 6:18-7:8). As regards eating and drinking, especially of offerings to idols, which were prohibited to the proselyte of the gate by the early Christians as well as by the Jews (comp. Acts 15:29), Paul takes the singular position that the Gnostics, those who possess the higher knowledge ("gnosis"; 1 Corinthians 8:1, 13:2, 14:6; 2 Corinthians 4:6; comp. Reizenstein, c. p. 158), are "the strong ones" who care not for clean and unclean things and similar ritualistic distinctions (Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Only those that are "weak in faith" do care; and their scruples should be heeded by the others. The Gnostic principle enunciated by Porphyrius ("De Abstinentia," 1:42), "Food that enters the body can as little defile free man as any impurity cast into the sea can contaminate the ocean, the deep fountain of purity" (comp. Matthew 15:11), has in Paul's system an eschatological character: "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17; comp. Ber. 17a; Jew. Encyc, 5:218, s. ESCHATOLOGY). As he stated in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
The original attitude of Paul to the Law was accordingly not that of opposition as represented in Romans and especially in Galatians, but that of a claimed transcendency. He desired "the strong ones" to do without the Law as "schoolmaster" (Galatians 3:24). The Law made men servants: Christ rendered them "sons of God." That is, their nature was transformed into an angelic, if not altogether divine, one (Romans 8:14-29; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3).
Law for the Proselyte.
Only in admitting the heathen into his church did he follow the traditional Jewish practise of emphasizing at the initiation of proselytes "the law of God," consisting in "Love thy neighbor as thyself," taken from Leviticus 19:18 (Romans 13:8-10 contains no allusion to Jesus' teaching). Also in the mode of preparing the proselyte—by specifying to him the mandatory and prohibitive commandments in the form of a catalogue of virtues or duties and a catalogue of sins, making him promise to practise the former, and, in the form of a "widdui" (confession of sins), to avoid the latter—Paul and his school followed, in common with all the other apostles, the traditional custom, as may be learned from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-10; Colossians 3:5-14; Rom. i: 29 (comp. J. Rendel Harris, "The Teaching of the Apostles," 1887, pp. 82-84; Galatians 5:13-23, copied from Rom. c.; so also Ephesians 2-; ii-; 1 John 3-; Hebrews 13; see Seeberg, "Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit," 1903, pp. 9-22, and DIDACHE). A comparison of the "Didascalia"with Paul's various admonitions in the Epistles likewise shows how much he was indebted to Essene teachings (See Jew. Encyc. 4:588-590, s. DIDASCALIA, where it is shown in a number of instances that the priority rests with the Jewish "Didascalia" and not, as is generally believed, with Paul). Also "turning from darkness to light" (1 Thessalonians 5:4-9; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:7-11; and elsewhere) is an expression borrowed from Jewish usage in regard to proselytes who "come over from the falsehood of idolatry to the truth of monotheism" (see Philo, "De Monarchia." 1:7; idem, "De Pœnitentia," §§ 1-2; comp. "Epistle of Barnabas," 19:1-20:1). It is rather difficult to reconcile these moral injunctions with the Pauline notion that, since law begets sin, there should be no law ruling the members of the Church. It appears, however, that Paul used frequently the Gnostic term τέλειος= "perfect," "mature" (1 Thessalonians 5:4,10; Philippians 3:12,15; 1 Corinthians 2:6, 13:12 et seq., 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:28). This term, taken from Grecian mysteries (see Light-foot, "Epistles to the Colossians," ad loc.), and used also in Wisdom 4:13, 9:6, suggested an asceticism which in some circles of saints led to the unsexing of man for the sake of fleeing from lust (Wisdom 3:13-14; Philo, "De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur," § 48; Matthew 19:12; see Conybeare, c. p. 24). For Paul, then, the Christian's aim was to be mature and ready for the day when all would be "caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" and be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). To be with Christ, "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," is to become so "complete" as to be above the rule of heavenly bodies, above the "tradition of men," above statutes regarding circumcision, meat and drink, holy days, new moon, and Sabbath, all of which are but "a shadow of the things to come"; it is to be dead to the world and all things of the earth, to mortify the members of the flesh, to "put off the old man" with his deeds and passions, and put on the new man who is ever renewed for the highest knowledge of God (gnosis), so that there is "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 2:9-3:11; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:7: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump").
Conflict with Judaism and the Law.
Far then from making antagonism to the Law the starting-point of his apostolic activity, as under the influence of the Epistle to the Romans is assumed by almost all Christian theologians, except the so-called Dutch school of critics (see Cheyne and Black, "Encyc. Bibl." s. "Paul and Romans, Epistle to the"), there is intrinsic evidence that Paul's hostile attitude to both the Law and the Jews was the result of his conflicts with the latter and with the other apostles. There is no bitter hostility or antagonism to the Law noticeable in lonians (2:14b-16 is a late interpolation referring to the destruction of the Temple), Colossians, nthians (15:56 is obviously interpolated), or nthians (where 3:6-4:4, on closer analysis, also proves to be a late addition disturbing the context); and so little opposition to the Law does Paul show in those epistles first addressed to the Gentiles, that in 1 Corinthians 14:21 he quotes as the "law"—that is, Torah in the sense of Revelation—a passage from Isaiah 28:11; whereas he avoids the term "law" (νόμος) elsewhere, declaring all statutes to be worthless human teaching (Colossians 2:22).
Antinomianism and Jew-Hatred.
His antinomian theology is chiefly set forth in the Epistle to the Romans, many parts of which, however, are the product of the second-century Church with its fierce hatred of the Jew, e.g., such passages as 2:21-24, charging the Jews with theft, adultery, sacrilege, and blasphemy, or 9:22 and 11:28 (comp. 3:2). The underlying motive of Paul—the tearing down of the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile—is best expressed in Ephesians 2:14-22, where it is declared that the latter are no longer "gerim" and "toshabim" (A. V. "strangers" and "foreigners"), but "fellow citizens with the saints" of the Church and fully equal members "of the household of God." In order to accomplish his purpose, he argues that just as little as the heathen escapes the wrath of God, owing to the horrible sins he is urged to commit by his clinging to his idols, so little can the Jew escape by his Law, because "the law worketh sin and wrath" (Romans 4:15). Instead, indeed, of removing the germ of death brought into the world by Adam, the Law was given only to increase sin and to make all the greater the need of divine mercy which was to come through Christ, the new Adam (ib. 5:15-20). By further twisting the Biblical words taken from Genesis 15:6, which he interprets as signifying that Abraham's faith became a saving power to him, and from Genesis 17:5, which he takes as signifying that Abraham was to be the father of the Gentiles instead of nations, he argues that the saving grace of God lies in faith (that is, blind belief) and not in the works of the Law. And so he declares faith in Jesus' atoning death to be the means of justification and salvation, and not the Law, which demands servitude, whereas the spirit of Christ makes men children of God (Romans 4-). The Pauline Jew-hatred was ever more intensified (see ib. -, and comp. 9:31)—which is clear evidence of a later origin—and culminates in Galatians 3, where, besides the repetition of the argument from Genesis 15:6 and 17:5, the Law is declared, with reference to Deuteronomy 28:26 and Habakkuk 2:4 (comp. Romans 1:17), to be a curse from which the crucified Christ—himself "a curse" according to the Law (Deuteronomy 21:23; probably an argument taken up from controversies with the Jews)—was to redeem the believer. Another sophistic argument against the Law, furnished in Galatians 3:19-24, and often repeated in the second century (Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:38,53; Aristides, "Apologia," 14:4), is that the Law was received by Moses as mediator from the angels—a quaint notion based upon Deuteronomy 33:2, LXX.; comp. Josephus, "Ant." 15:5, § 3—and that it is not the law of God, which is a life-giving law of righteousness. Furthermore the laws of the Jews and the idolatrous practises of the heathen are placed equally low as mere servitude of" the weak and beggarly elements" (="planets"; Galatians 4:8-11), whereas those that have put on Christ by baptism have risen above alldistinctions of race, of class, and of sex, and have become children of God and heirs of Abraham (ib. 3:26-29; what is meant by the words" There shall be neither male nor female" in verse 28 may be learned from Galatians 5:12, where eunuchism is advised; see B. Weiss's note ad loc.).
The Old Testament and the New.
The Pauline school writing under Paul's name, but scarcely Paul himself, worked out the theory, based upon Jeremiah 31:30-31, that the Church of Christ represents the new covenant (COVENANT; see NEW TESTAMENT) in place of the old (Romans 11:27; Galatians 4:24; Hebrews 8:6-13, 9:15-10:17; and, following these passages, 1 Corinthians 11:23-28). Similarly the interpolator of 2 Corinthians 3:6-4:4, in connection with ib. 3:3, contrasts the Old Testament with the New: the former by the letter of the Law offering but damnation and death because "the veil of Moses" is upon it, preventing God's glory from being seen; the latter being the life-giving spirit offering righteousness, that is, justification, and the light of the knowledge (gnosis) of the glory of God as reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. It is superfluous to state that this Gnostic conception of the spirit has nothing to do with the sound religious principle often quoted from 1 Corinthians 3:6: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." The privilege of seeing God's glory as Moses did face to face through a bright mirror held out in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (comp. Suk. 45b; Lev. R. 1:14) to the saints in the future is claimed in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:4 as a power in the actual possession of the Christian believer. The highest hope of man is regarded as realized by the writer, who looks forward to the heavenly habitation as a release from the earthly tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
Spurious Writings Ascribed to Paul.
This unhealthy view of life maintained by Paul and his immediate followers was, however, changed by the Church the moment her organization extended over the world. Some epistles were written in the name of Paul with the view of establishing more friendly relations to society and government than Paul and the early Christians had maintained. While Paul warns his church-members not to bring matters of dispute before "the unjust," by which term he means the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 6:1; comp. Jew. Encyc. 4:590), these very heathen powers of Rome are elsewhere praised as the ministers of God and His avengers of wrong (Romans 13:1-7); and while in 1 Corinthians 11:5 women are permitted to prophesy and to pray aloud in the church provided they have their heads covered, a later chapter, obviously interpolated, states, "Let your women keep silence in the churches" (ib. 14:34). So celibacy (ib. 7:1-8) is declared to be the preferable state, and marriage is allowed only for the sake of preventing fornication (Ephesians 5:21-33), while, on the other hand, elsewhere marriage is enjoined and declared to be a mystery or sacrament symbolizing the relation of the Church as the bride to Christ as the bridegroom (BRIDE).
A still greater change in the attitude toward the Law may be noticed in the so-called pastoral epistles. Here the Law is declared to be good as a preventive of wrong-doing (1 Timothy 1:8-10), marriage is enjoined, and woman's salvation is declared to consist only in the performance of her maternal duty (ib. 2:12,15), while asceticism and celibacy are condemned (ib. 4:3). So all social relations are regulated in a worldly spirit, and are no longer treated, as in Paul's genuine epistles, in the spirit of otherworldliness (ib. -; 2 Timothy 2:4-6; Titus. -; see comp. Didascalia). Whether in collecting alms for the poor of the church on Sundays (1 Corinthians 16:2) Paul instituted a custom or simply followed one of the early Christians is not clear; from the "We" source in Acts 20:7 it appears, however, that the church-members used to assemble for their communion meal in memory of the risen Christ, the Lord's Supper, on the first day of the week—probably because they held the light created on that day to symbolize the light of the Savior that had risen for them (see the literature in Schürer," Die Siebentägige Woche," in "Zeitschrift für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft," 1905, pp. 1-2). Little value can be attached to the story in Acts 18:18 that Paul brought a Nazarite sacrifice in the Temple, since for him the blood of Christ was the only sacrifice to be recognized. Only at a later time, when Pauline and Judean Christianity were merged, was account again taken, contrary to the Pauline system, of the Mosaic law regarding sacrifice and the priesthood; and so the Epistle to the Hebrews was written with the view of representing Jesus as "the high priest after the order of Melchizedek" who atoned for the sins of the world by his own blood (Hebrews 4:14-5:10, -). However, the name of Paul, connected with the epistle by Church tradition, was not attached to it in writing, as was the case with the other epistles.
Paul and Paulinism.
How far, after a careful analysis discriminating between what is genuine in Paul's writings and what is spurious and interpolated, he may yet be regarded as "the great religious genius" or the "great organizer" of the Christian Church, can not be a matter for discussion here. Still the credit belongs to him of having brought the teachings of the monotheistic truth and the ethics of Judaism, however mixed up with heathen Gnosticism and asceticism, home to the pagan world in a form which appealed most forcibly to an age eager for a God in human shape and for some means of atonement in the midst of a general consciousness of sin and moral corruption. Different from Simon Magus, his contemporary, with whom he was at times maliciously identified by his opponents, and in whose Gnostic system sensuousness and profanity predominated, Paul with his austerity made Jewish holiness his watch word; and he aimed after all, like any other Jew, at the establishment of the kingdom of God, to whom also his Christ subordinated himself, delivering up the kingdom to the Father when his task of redemption was complete, in order that God might be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). He was an instrument in the hand of Divine Providence to win the heathen nations for Israel's God of righteousness.
His System of Faith.
On the other hand, he construed a system of faithwhich was at the very outset most radically in conflict with the spirit of Judaism: (1) He substituted for the natural, childlike faith of man in God as the ever-present Helper in all trouble, such as the Old Testament represents it everywhere, a blind, artificial faith prescribed and imposed from without and which is accounted as a meritorious act. (2) He robbed human life of its healthy impulses, the human soul of its faith in its own regenerating powers, of its belief in its own self and in its inherent tendencies to goodness, by declaring SIN (3) to be, from the days of Adam, the all-conquering power of evil ingrained in the flesh, working everlasting doom; the deadly exhalation of Satan, the prince of this world, from whose grasp only Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the prince of the other world, was able to save man. (3) In endeavoring to liberate man from the yoke of the Law, he was led to substitute for the views and hopes maintained by the apocalyptic writers the Christian dogma with its terrors of damnation and hell for the unbeliever, holding out no hope whatsoever for those who would not accept his Christ as savior, and finding the human race divided between the saved and the lost (Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15, 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). (4) In declaring the Law to be the begetter of sin and damnation and in putting grace or faith in its place, he ignored the great truth that duty, the divine "command," alone renders life holy; that upon the law of right-cousness all ethics, individual or social, rest. (5) In condemning, furthermore, all human wisdom, reason, and common sense as "folly," and in appealing only to faith and vision, he opened wide the door to all kinds of mysticism and superstition. (6) Moreover, in place of the love greatly extolled in the panegyric in 1 Corinthians 13—a chapter which strangely interrupts the connection between ch. and —Paul instilled into the Church, by his words of condemnation of the Jews as "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction" (Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 3:9, 4:3), the venom of hatred which rendered the earth unbearable for God's priest-people. Probably Paul is not responsible for these outbursts of fanaticism; but Paulinism is. It finally led to that systematic defamation and profanation of the Old Testament and its God by Marcion and his followers which ended in a Gnosticism so depraved and so shocking as to bring about a reaction in the Church in favor of the Old Testament against the Pauline antinomianism. Protestantism revived Pauline views and notions; and with these a biased opinion of Judaism and its Law took possession of Christian writers, and prevails even to the present (comp., e.g., Weber, "Jüdische Theologie," 1897, where Judaism is presented throughout simply as "Nomismus"; Schürer's description of the life of the Jew "under the law" in his "Gesch." 3d ed., 2:464-496; Bousset, "Religion des Judenthums in Neu-Testamentlichen Zeitalter," 1903, p. 107; and the more popular works by Harnack and others; and see also Schechter in "J. Q. R." 3:754-766; Abrahams, "Prof. Schürer on Life Under the Jewish Law," ib. 11:626; and Schreiner, "Die Jüngsten Urtheile über das Judenthum," 1902, pp. 26-34).
- Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s. Paul, where the main literature is given;
- Eschelbacher, Das Judenthum und das Wesen des Christenthums, Berlin, 1905;
- Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., 3:413-425;
- Moritz Loewy, Die Paulinische Lehre vom Gesetz, in Monatsschrift, 1903-4;
- Claude Monteflore, Rabbinic Judaism and the Epistles of Paul, in J. Q. R. 13:161.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Saul of Tarsus'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/s/saul-of-tarsus.html. 1901.
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19