« PreviousContinue »
Jesus had been depicted in the synoptic gospels as instituting an exclusive Judaic dispensation, a door had been thrown open to the Gentiles for which a sufficient warrant was required. Matthew makes use of a prophecy of Isaiah to impute to Jesus the extension of his mission to the Gentiles, attributing to him the declaration, that “ he shall show judgment to the Gentiles;" “and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Can it be that these are the lips, in the same stage of the dispensation then said to be in course of introduction, which had prohibited his followers from going near the Gentiles, or addressing any word to them? Taking the matured Judaic scheme into account in all its allied parts, as delineated in the synoptic gospels, and as carried out in action according to the book of Acts, it is impossible to believe that the alleged founder of the faith could thus have stultified himself. Either he shut out hope from the Gentiles, or he gave it. He could not have done both. The use thus made of Isaiah, is probably therefore an interpolation brought in by a Gentile hand, after the Gentiles had secured their footing in the Christian community.
The synoptists conclude their narratives with the direct statement that Jesus, after his resurrection, gave a positive command that his gospel should be announced to all nations, as being applicable to all. Luke has the saving clause that they were to begin this action at Jerusalem. Could the master, possibly, have blown hot and cold in this way, giving a distinct interdiction in his life-time, and abrogating this after death? Nothing had changed but his own self, from being a man in natural life, to becoming one in resurrectionlife. How did this affect the races of people to be dealt with ? It will be said that his death involved consequences of such importance as to have opened up an entirely new dispensation. This, however, is not what the flow of the history puts before us. The death of Jesus, followed by his resurrection, secured nothing further, in the estimation of his people, in the first Judaic days of Christianity, than a headship in power for the advantage of those who were his. He is said to have preached this when in the flesh, and the accomplishment of the prediction altered nothing. The shedding of his blood for the benefit of the whole human race was an idea that sprang up later, when the Gentiles had obtained admittance. That was not a circumstance apprehended at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, when he is said to have instituted his wider dispensation to embrace the Gentiles equally with the Jews. It is, therefore, apparent that at this time Jesus could not have made the opening for the Gentiles attributed to him, and the command ascribed to him must have been interpolated in the several gospels.
The book of Acts shows conclusively that there has been such building up of the record. We see that for a time after the death of Jesus his disciples considered themselves restricted in their ministration to the Jews only. He had interdicted their going among the Gentiles or addressing themselves to them, and this interdict still operated among them. So the history is framed. If Jesus, at his resurrection, had plainly declared to them that his gospel was to be offered to all nations, they could not have failed to see that the interdict had been removed, and they would have acted accordingly. It may be said that they were too confused at the apparition of Jesus to understand the nature of his injunction. Why, then, was it addressed to them at such a time by the all-knowing one? But they received subsequently, as it is said, endowment from the Holy Ghost at Pentecost to qualify them for all their work, and then, at least, the character of the mission entrusted to them should have been apparent to their minds. There can be no other conclusion by which to stand than that Jesus gave no such injunction to address all nations equally.
One part of the record is apt to afford means for overthrowing some other part. It is impossible to receive the statement of the miraculous endowment at Pentecost, and yet to convict the persons endowed of ignorance of the first essential duty for which they were commissioned, and thus endowed; namely, that they should proclaim the alleged saviour of mankind to every nation of the earth. And if the doctrines of the divinity of Jesus, and of his sacrificial death, are integral portions of his system, the endowment was a defective one which left them unprovided with these important constituents.
Again, the vision to Peter is dispersed by the subsequent action of Paul and Barnabas. They preached to the Gentiles on the authority of the Jewish scriptures. Notwithstanding the alleged vision, the emissaries from Judea strove so far to put down the action as to call for the recognition of strict Judaism in requiring the Gentiles to be circumcised. In the discussion that ensued, neither the injunction of Jesus, nor the said vision, were appealed to as authorizing the call of the Gentiles, which was supported by appeal to the Jewish scriptures. The said injunction and vision must then be set down as nullities.
The conduct ascribed to Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians, when he came forward as the apostle of the Gentiles, furthermore fatally overthrows the other portions of the record. If Jesus had solemnly selected his band of apostles to be the witnesses of all that he had said and done, and had commissioned them to carry his message to the ends of the earth ; if the Holy Ghost had been sent down from heaven to empower them to deliver this message; if a vision from above had visited Peter to arm him with confidence to address the Gentiles; how do we come to have in the Paul of the Galatians a special “apostle of the Gentiles," who could make it his boast that he never went near the constituted apostles; that he received his doctrine from above, and not by contact with flesh and blood; and that when, years later, he met with the apostles, they were incapable of instructing him in a particle of what he was bound to know. In this portraiture of Paul there is a total disallowance of all the other means said to have been divinely instituted for the enlightenment of mankind, and especially the Gentile portion of them. We are warranted, upon all grounds, in arriving at the conclusion that this movement towards the Gentiles was effected in some other manner than under the miraculous agency with which it is sought to justify and support the action. The step was not taken under the injunction of the risen Jesus, or through the bestowal of the vision to Peter, or by means of the special revelation made to Paul, as severally alleged. These are things of naught, put in for the sake of effect, and mutually destructive. Paul and Barnabas, Greek citizens, acting on passages in the Jewish scriptures which encouraged them, thought proper, of their own minds, and against the course taken by the first disciples of Jesus—that is against all constituted ecclesiastical authority—to proclaim him to the Gentiles. They did so in the Greek city of Antioch, a place in which Josephus informs us the Jews were already in his time proselytizing. These were the natural means that suggested and advanced the movement, which was due to the force of circumstances and the propensities of the human mind, and to no special divine agency or manifestations.
The next change, apparently, that was effected was the conversion of the death of Jesus into an expiatory offering. This was a mighty alteration to suggest in the scheme of the reformed Jewish faith centring round Jesus. The teaching imputed to the founder that repentance insured forgiveness, and that all in the last day would be judged according to their works, had to be set aside for the sense that atonement required to be made for sin by the outpouring of his blood, before there could be any access to God, or acceptance by him. It was a doctrine not announced by Jesus, and was unknown to his immediate followers. It sprang upon the community at a later day, and had to be sustained with all the special authority claimed for its preacher in the Epistle to the Galatians. This was the secret of the overthrow of all the prior machinery. The instructions of Jesus when in the flesh, his enunciations when he showed himself at his resurrection, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the angelic messenger sent to prepare Cornelius, and the “opening” of a door in "heaven" to shed forth a vision upon Peter, all went for nothing. “ Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” in this sense of the sacrifice, was the one thing necessary to be known and believed in, and this one thing had not been revealed on any of the alleged previous occasions, whatever the importance with which the manifestations had been surrounded. No wonder the writer of the Epistle to the Galatians found it necessary to sweep the whole paraphernalia that had preceded him away, and launch himself, and his doctrine, on his hearers, from an entirely new foundation. This, our second Paul, it will be remembered, was apparently the author of the Epistles to the Corinthians as well as that to the Galatians. His bold measure has established itself, but at the expense of the previous record. The parabolic teaching of Jesus is found absolutely defective. How could Abraham testify to Dives out of heaven, in the region of the departed, that Moses and the prophets sufficed for the guidance and deliverance of his brethren from the perils of hell, if the only passport was the blood of Jesus? How could the divine father have thrown his arms round the prodigal son without the atoning and justifying blood being first pleaded between them? How could the suppliants using “the Lord's prayer,” asking for forgiveness as they had forgiven others, hope for mercy without the offering of the indispensable blood ? The picture of the paternal aspect of the Almighty, numbering the hairs of our heads, not letting a sparrow fall to the ground but under his ordering guidance, clothing the lilies in glorious apparel, “making his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain on the just and on the unjust,” was all unreal, if in truth he had placed the whole world under a curse, and was turning on them a look of wrath, to be averted only by blood.
Something has been done for the defective record to patch it up with the needed ingredient of the sacrifice. The saying of Jesus that he gave his life as “a ransom for many,” the institution of the lord's supper, as recounted in the synoptic gospels, and such passages as that in John, which says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” certainly savour of the sacrifice, but do not actually proclaim it. The obligation was one of too vital consequence to be left to be guessed at. The sinner's jeopardy, and remedy, had to be plainly shown to him. The requisition that alone provided salvation had to be very clearly announced, especially to a Jewish mind, when it was a human sacrifice that had to be depended on. As much, however, as could be done for the record was, perhaps, bere effected. And if we are to credit our second Paul, to him, or his time, the introduction of the eucharist is to be attributed. It is at this point only that the Pauline epistles exhibit any positive conformity to the gospel narrative, and the correspondence may be due to the interpolation or doctoring effected, as I suggest, in the gospels. “For I have received of the Lord,” this writer declares, “that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you;