Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Edith Hamilton, Witness to the Truth

Edith Hamilton, Witness to the Truth ; Christ and His Interpreters, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1957.

It is impossible that only Christ’s thoughts and ideas should have been admitted even to the very first records of him. (15)

…who never held up suffering as a good, who said of himself that he “came eating and drinking,” who declared that men would be judged not by their beliefs, but “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” and whose own judgment was, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (16)

Socrates. Of all men anywhere, at any time, he came closest to the pattern Christ held up. His temper of mind was like Christ’s. With an extraordinary elevation he combined a soberness and moderation very rare in the lives of the saints. In him as in Christ there was a complete absence of ecstasies and transports. … Socrates’ aim too was to arouse men to find that guidance. He knew as Christ did that truth can never be found for men, but only by men. Christ said, “Seek and ye shall find.” Find what? That he did not say. (17)

Christ had never explained himself and had never explained God. Paul explained them both. (19)

It is clear that he took no care to pass on to future generations accurate statements of what he knew. … It would seem beyond doubt that he believed the truth he knew could be expressed in no other way. (23)

Socrates… He never thought, or at any rate he never spoke, about mankind or humanity or society or the public. What he was interested in was each individual he met. He felt an intense, overwhelming, desire for the good of that particular person. (25)

In all the history of Athens we know of only four persons who were persecuted for their opinions and of the four, Socrates alone suffered the death penalty. (27)

Socrates had new ideas; the gods he believed in had not the slightest resemblance to the old, and only the old was dear at that moment of Athens’ misery. … condemned to death her best the greatest citizen because he taught a new religion. And for a moment Athens was satisfied that she had taken a step back to the familiar and the safe and away from the dark menace of the future. (28)

He seemed always to implied, “I know I may be quite wrong.” And this was not merely his manner; he really had no fixed creed, no set of doctrines, which he felt he must make others believe. (29)

No one less dogmatic ever lived… In his speech at his trial he spoke of “a divine agency which comes to me, a sign, a kind of a voice, which I was first conscious of as a child. It never commands me to do anything, but it does forbid me.” That was all. (31)

“To find the Maker and Father of all is hard,” he said, “and having found him it is impossible to utter him.” (31)

Only what each man discovered for himself could be actually true to him. The truth he accepted at secondhand on the word of another remained always unreal to him. (31)

He believed with an unshakeable conviction that goodness and truth were the fundamental realities and that every human being had the capacity to attain to them. All men had within them a guide, a spark of the true light which could lead them to the full light of truth. (33)

Men are not able, it is not in them as human beings, if once they see the shining of the truth, to blot it out completely and forget it. We needs must love the highest when we see it. That is the great Socratic dogma. (34)

He refused to save his life by promising to give up teaching, but he did so with complete courtesy. He told them that would mean leaving the post where God had placed him… if now when od orders me, I were to desert through fear of death. Men of Athens, I honour you and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you. (36)

And yet just before he died, in his last talk with his friends, for a moment he faltered. … What was he to meet after he drank the poison? Immortality or extinction? … That was what he faced and the darkness rolled over him as it did when Christ faced it upon the cross. But through the final anguish of doubt the anchor of his whole life, the pure devotion to the truth, held fast. (40)

…a book inscribed by the hand of God. The idea of an infallible Bible was irresistible when once it had been conceived. … some time after the birth of Christ. Of course with this decision the book grew progressively more holy until every letter was divine and any alteration blasphemous. / The New Testament went through much the same process. The new is never holy. A certain length of time had to pass… (45)

The first statement we know of that the Gospels were sacrosanct and immutable must be dated some hundred and fifty years after the death of Christ, … (46)

Could it be possible that no life of Christ was written for a whole generation after his death? … But St. Paul, the earliest Christian writer we know of, shows a marked indifference to the subject, and St. Luke, the earliest Christian historian, shows exactly the same. St. Paul rarely speaks of anything Christ did, and quotes him almost never. … Paul never did know Christ “after the flesh,” while he was on earth. The Christ of his vision was all in all to him. But the explanation, hardly satisfactory even in his case, fails entirely in the case of Christ’s own disciples, all of whom St. Luke represents in the Acts as feeling in precisely the same way. … they never base their appeals on any description of him, the Lord they had seen and listened to; they never exalt and fortify their converts with the words they had heard him speak. … There is nothing in the entire book to suggest that apart from his death and resurrection the facts of Christ’s life were of any interest to anyone. These men were his apostles and his martyrs, but what he was when he was alive had become unimportant to them. … But inevitably as the years went on men began to wish to have a permanent record to him. (48-9)

A verse in the Acts brings vividly to mind what was not recorded. Paul bids his hearers: “Remember the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” These words are found nowhere else. Some unknown person heard Christ speak them and repeated them to Paul and so they were saved. (52-3)

Did he utter that scathing denunciation of the Pharisees who taught a lofty morality? Was it like him to choose them out for bitter attack and say nothing about the powerful priestly party who had allowed the temple to be turned into a den of thieves? Did he believe in devils who could get into a herd of swine as Rome then was full of, foisted onto the Gospels? He alone can guide us here. (54)

Did he say to his disciples when they went out to preach the kingdom of God, that they must not enter any city of the Samaritans, thus, certainly by implication, banning those heretic Jews from the kingdom, or did he tell the parable about the Samaritan who was neighbour to him that fell among thieves when the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side? He did not say both; it is not hard to decide which he did say. (54)

The example most generally recognized is the last twelve verses of Mark which give a brief resume rather than an account of the Resurrection, together with a statement that he who does not believe will be damned. A list of the miracles follows which Christ’s disciples will perform, among others, handling serpents and drinking poison with immunity. The entire passage is on a level immeasurably below the rest of the Gospel. As early as the fourth century, churchmen held that it was added by some unknown hand when the original ending had been lost, and ever since scholars have agreed. (55)

Another example, which has not been so widely accepted because the idea in it was extremely attractive to Christians, is the statement about the imminent end of the world ascribed to Christ in three Gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Christ is represented as foretelling frightful calamities which are about to happen, and which will usher in his triumph together with that of all his followers. This, except for the part assigned to Christ, is precisely the belief which had comforted the Hebrews for centuries after they had returned from the captivity in Babylon. [58] … Christian Jews… Their instinct would be to turn to it when times were hard, and they would of course ascribe the prophecy to Christ, as their forefathers in each case had ascribed theirs to some great leader of old. Tradition says Mark was written about the time of Nero’s persecution in Rome when the sufferings of the Christians were terrible. … No doubt those responsible thought they were doing a service to the faith. [58] … This is not mere conjecture. In the Acts, which opens directly after Christ’s ascension, there is not a word about the great hope except in one sentence which ends a quotation from an Old Testament prophecy. … it is only once mentioned, when Peter repeated some words of the prophet Joel which end with a reference to the day of the Lord. It is not alluded to again, unless the phrase in the third chapter, “the times of restitution of all things,” is an obscure reference to it. If the awful words in Mark had really been spoken by Christ, as reported, in circumstances of great solemnity just before his death, it is inconceivable that the first Christians never referred to them. (59)

The Sermon on the Mount would be irrelevant in a world that was on the point of coming to an end. (60)

At the very beginning of his public life Christ set his face against signs and wonders. In the wilderness the idea came to him of using his great powers to perform spectacular deeds, and he rejected it. He would have no traffic with wonder-working. (61)

The idea that he could make use of a marvelous deed to bring about good was just what he cast behind him in the second temptation. Is it credible that he returned to it later? The conviction that no wonderful, inexplicable act could prove truth or bring about good, which had carried him through the temptations, shines out unmistakably again and again later in the Gospels. Often he heals a man and bids him, “See thou tell no one.” He will not have men’s belief in him depend upon marvelous cures. To Thomas who insisted that he would accept the truth only if he saw and touched it, Christ said, “Blessed are they which have not seen and yet have believed.” (62)

He who said in one of his rare moments of anger, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh for a sign. There shall no sign be given them,” who “sighed deeply in his spirit and said, Except ye see signs and wonders ye will in no wise believe,” is also represented as working sign and wonders to make men believe. One of the two is true; both cannot be. no one has ever seen in Christ an uncertain mind, wavering between opposites or capable of embracing both at once. (62)

Christ… showed in a single sentence what he thought about wonder-working as a proof of the truth. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, when Dives prays Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to recall them form their evil ways, Abraham tells him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” Dives cries out, “Nay, but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham answers, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” In that one brief sentence Christ dismissed the supernatural as evidence of the truth. (64)

The whole tenor of Christ’s life was against the idea that the mortification of the flesh was good in itself or that self-inflicted pain could be the service of God. Hard as his life and death were, he never held up suffering as a good to be sought. (72)

They were written… when there was no authority anywhere to bring into line what men remembered about Christ and see to it that nothing was said in Ephesus which did not agree with what was said in Rome. The wonder is not that there were differences between them when they were written, but that the most evident contradictions, at the very least, were not done away with later, before every word was declared to have come from God. Nothing would seem easier than for the churchmen toward the end of the second century to have constructed a clear consistent narrative of Christ’s life on the basis of the Gospels. But the truth must be that it was not easy. Otherwise it would have been done. The explanation often given, and it seems reasonable, is that by the time Christians had to have a documentary support, they were confronted with four Gospels which had to be taken as they were because each was the venerated possession of a church too powerful to be offended or ignored, Mark of Rome, John of Ephesus, Matthew of some great city in Palestine, and Luke in Greece. (74-5)

Gospels… None of them ever came into contact with Christ. That has always been accepted as true of Luke and Mark, who do not appear in the gospels, but it is equally true of the authors of Matthew and John. … would never have turned to Mark for information. … He would not have gone to another for any of his material, above all to someone who had not known Christ. (80)

The men who collected the earliest records and reports and made the gospels from them have not left us so much as their names. … The second century was nearing its close before names were attached to all four. (81)

The four evangelists should be looked upon as editors, not authors. From this point of view Mark is the most important. His edition of Christ’s life was the first. Matthew and Luke reedited him; John, whose main sources were different from those used by the other three, still made use of him. (82-3)

…there is an interest in miraculous stories which makes all else that Christ does—and says—of quite secondary importance. (84-5)

…explanations. Christ had not been given to making them. Occasionally he had told his disciples the meaning of a parable, but for the most part he let them wonder. “They understood not that saying and were afraid to ask him.” “They feared exceedingly and said on to another, What manner of man is this?” “They were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.” (85)

In this gospel the tone of lofty authority is absent, such as there is in Matthew’s “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old, but I say unto you,” and in Luke’s, “He that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” … In Matthew when Peter says that he is the Messiah, Christ praises him: … Mark… Christ refuses to be identified as the Messiah. … Christ “rebuked” his disciples, and told them that nothing could be further from the Messianic triumph than the life that lay before him and those who followed him. … It is true that twice in Mark Christ declares that he is the Messiah; at least he says that he will come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, clearly a description of the advent of the triumphant Messiah, but a contradiction that is found in only two verses is not important. They could so easily have been added. (88)

Much of Christ’s greatest teaching is not in Mark. He gives only two or three of the sayings in the Sermon on the Mount. … Mark … his real interest is not in what Christ said, but in what he did. / Mark was a storyteller, not a thinker. It would seem that that too was Peter’s turn of mind. … To Mark, Christ was above all a worker of marvels, endowed with illimitable power, who raised the dead, whom the elements obeyed and demons feared and voices from heaven acclaimed. (88-9)

The teaching Mark records seems to belong to him only. It has nothing to do with the miraculous. The kingdom of God in which it centered, far from being ushered in by marvels, was like that quiet hidden process, the growth of the seed down in the earth up into the blade and the ear and the full corn in the ear. No miracle could bring it to pass nor could it be found by a miracle. Only those could enter it who were at the farthest remove from manifestations of extraordinary powers and strange awesome doings, the humble of spirits, those willing to be lowest of all. Throughout Mark there is this sharp contrast, spectacular wonders on one side, used sometimes to solve difficulties, to calm a dangerous storm or reach a boat far from land, and on the other side the most unspectacular, the most realistic and difficult, solution to the enigma of human life. / Mark never attempted to bring these two pictures of Christ together. (90)

The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of Mark with additions. Almost all of Mark is repeated in Matthew. (90)

Matthew’s additions change the whole spirit. He was a devout Jew turned Christian and there is a marked Jewish slant in his gospel, a disposition absent in Mark. In Matthew when Christ sends his disciples forth to teach, he beds them avoid the Samaritan heretics, hateful to Jews: “Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” … Mark gives a great saying of Christ’s which makes human welfare the test of religious practice, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Matthew … It would have been intolerable to him as a Jew, to whom the due observance of the Sabbath was indubitably one chief reason for man’s existence. (90-1)

For a Jew to become a follower of Christ was much more difficult than for a Greek or a Roman. There was only one way in which he could be acceptable to Jews, if he was seen as the fulfillment of the ages-old expectation of the nation, the one sent from God to deliver God’s people. (91-2)

To the Jews, the Romans were speedily to burn as straw in the fire and Israel have lordship over the earth; … Matthew. Christ is represented as telling his disciples that they shall not all pass away or taste of death or even go over the cities of Israel before they see him coming in his kingdom in the clouds (95)

Matthew… position Christ took in it was inconsistent with his ardent Messianic hopes. He alone of the evangelists put the whole of it into his gospel. There were words in it which must have greatly perplexed and distressed him, but he faithfully set them down. “Resist not evil” has been preserved for us only through Matthew. (98)

…Paul speaks of him in the Epistles. He calls him “the beloved physician” and toward the end of his life he writes from Rome, “Only Luke is with me.” There was clearly a warm friendship between the two and a long association. And yet, just as with Mark, Paul’s theology made no impression on Luke. There is nothing in his gospel any more than in Mark’s about Adam’s sin and Christ being the sacrifice offered to God to enable Him to forgive sin. (102)

Luke followed this authority he shared with Matthew more closely than Matthew did. His gospel shows that Matthew put together sayings of Christ which had been spoken at different times. In Matthew the Sermon on the Mount has no central theme and there is no connection between the several parts. … The Sermon does not read like one talk given at one time, but like a collection of sayings called forth by different events. … Luke … broken up and delivered to fit this occasion and that. (103)

There is one odd little different between the two in regard to the place where the Sermon was delivered and the audience who heard it. … The passage reads as though Luke said that Matthew was wrong. Far from withdrawing into solitude to teach only his disciples, Christ sought the multitudes. He left the mountain and went to where the crowds could gather around him and listen to him. The point has interest because it suggests that Luke may have known Matthew, which goes again the accepted view that neither ever saw the other’s work. (104)

The private sources Luke used were fore the most part superior to those Matthew knew. His gospel is much more beautiful. The account of the birth of Christ is a story unsurpassed for beauty if not unequalled, far beyond Matthew’s. The annunciation too is told only by Luke, and Mary’s answer to Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” So too Gabriel’s words to Zacharias, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God”; Mary’s, “My soul doth magnify the Lord”; Zacharias’, “To give light to them that set in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”; Simeon’s, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”—all are lofty poetry and all are peculiar to this part of Luke. There is nothing of just that order in Matthew or in Mark. Luke found them in some writer known only to him. / The two first chapters in which these passages occur are unlike the rest of the gospel in the strong Jewish feeling they show as well as in their poetry, … Above all, the very essence of the Messianic hope is in Gabriel’s words to Mary, … Luke does not present Christ as the Messiah anywhere else. The idea would have meaning only for a Jew, which Luke was not. Also he was writing to a Roman who would have despised a Jewish cult centered in the triumph of the house of Jacob. / The rest of the gospel is not Jewish, indeed it is occasionally anti-Jewish. … The first two chapters stand by themselves. Some devout Christian Jew wrote them. They may well have been added unaltered to the original gospel. (106)

Luke had another authority which he alone used. … These sayings bear the very impress of Christ, the challenge he flung down to the hard and fast categories of formal religious thought, … (107)

He noted too teachings of Christ about the kingdom of God which were different from those in the two evangelists: from Matthew, to whom it was largely a geographical and political entity, and yet somehow connected with the Day of Judgment… from Mark, … “There be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” (107-8)

Luke alone… God’s kingdom is of the spirit only. Its coming will not be until men possessing it within shall bring it to pass in the world without. … Nevertheless, far beyond Matthew and Mark with their conviction that it will be a swift and glorious triumph, Luke stresses the urgent need to work for its coming. It is men’s first duty, beside which all other duties count for nothing. (109)

The last days of Christ’s life… Luke seems to hurry through the story as if he could not bear to dwell upon that record of pain. He pauses, however, to add an alleviation, an addition which weakens disastrously the austere record in Mark and Matthew of lonely anguish unrelieved: (111)

The earliest authority for the gospels we know of is Peter. … In all four of them he is the same person, clearly drawn and easy to understand. He was a leader among the twelve, an impulsive man, very sure of himself and always ready to talk. (113)

Peter… his firm conviction that he had more common sense than Christ, and that he had to call him back when he wandered too far away from what was reasonable. Once this complacency drew down on him the most severe words Christ ever spoke. He had asked his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” and Peter had answered, “Thou art the Christ.” But when Christ went on to tell them how far his life and death would be from that of the triumph Messiah implied in the answer, Peter, breaking in with his sureness that he knew best, “began to rebuke him saying, Be it far from the thee, Lord: this shall not be  unto thee.” Christ said to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me.” (114)

Of course at the end he denied that he knew Christ. That is the fact chiefly connected with him, but to condemn him alone among the twelve is unjust. … But when Christ was arrested Matthew says, “All the disciples forsook him and fled … But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace.” Poor as the end was, he did more than the others. (115)

An unthinking, hot-headed man, completely sure of himself one moment and completely unsure the next, warm-hearted, … Such was the disciple who was largely responsible for the first  three gospels. Most of what Christ said passed him by. Others noted and recorded the sayings in the Sermon on the Mount. … Only a few of the parables had made any impression of him. But he had a true devotion to Christ, … in striking contrast to his inattentive ears he noted as no one else did the last days of Christ’s life. Only he told what happened in Gethsemane and only he dared to record Christ’s cry upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” / His narrative was filled out by the unknown men from whom Matthew and Luke took their accounts of Christ’s teaching… (115-6)

John. Up to a comparatively short time go he was held to be the apostle. … But scholars today say… the writer was not the apostle, but a discipline of his.  (116)

John depends only a little upon Mark. This was a deliberate rejection  on the author’s part, for he knew Mark and occasionally made use of him. … There are many surface differences. John disagreed with Mark about the order of events and where they took place… In deciding between the two, Papias’ statement must be taken into account account that Mark’s authority, Peter, had paid no attention to what came first or last. … His point of view was different because he faced a different world. His Gospel was the last to be written, not by many years in actual fact, but when a new and enthusiastic and uncompromising religion starts, matters can move quickly. (117)

A new and a great danger… new ideas of Christ which put him farther and farther away form mankind. They were a denial that he had any share in humanity, that he had lived a man among men and suffered death. He could not have inhabited a human body, because all matter was inherently evil, … Christ’s reality was at stake. He wrote his gospel to defend it. (118-9)

…he left out of his gospel Mark’s account of Gethsemane and Christ’s last words on the cross. Both were far too important to be merely passed over. John left them out deliberately. … The sun is not darkened nor the veil of the temple rent. There is no anguish of abandonment as in Matthew and Mark, no joyful serenity as in Luke. The story is told very quietly. … Luke shows Christ’s divinity upon the cross, John his humanity. So Christ says, “I thirst,” and the human suffering  is brought home as in none of the others. Last of all he says, “It is finished.” There could be nothing less dramatic and yet the words are moving far beyond the peacefulness of Luke’s “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (121)

It is an extraordinary realistic account, sober and moderate and restrained as compared with the other three. Yet John would not admit to his gospel that Christ had prayed not to drink of the cup of defeat and defeat, and that he had felt deserted by God as he died. / It is impossible really to understand this refusal. … Men fighting for a cause are not always the best judges of how to advance it. (122)

The first three evangelists had laid all their emphasis upon the part of Christ’s teaching which had to do with men’s bringing about the kingdom of God by doing the will of God. … In the other gospels Christ’s greatest discourse is the Sermon on the Mount. It is straight ethical teaching and completely objective. … In John, Christ’s greatest discourse is in the three chapters which follow the washing of the disciples’ feet directly after the last supper. It is not objective; it is personal, concerned only with Christ’s relation to his disciples. … The Sermon is given by Matthew very early in Christ’s life, and Luke agrees as regards the chief part of it. Moreover that time, directly after the temptation, … Christ … He felt a great confidence in those early days. He knew with absolute certainty that if men would hear him he could teach them how to end the miseries. … But the discourse in John spoken when Christ realized that the kingdom of God was not at hand. Defeat was already upon him and the cross was very near. He was leaving the little band who had followed him, and his last words were to tell them that the bond between himself and them would not be broken. Death could not touch it. (125)

Even his brothers and sisters saw nothing wonderful about him. At any rate, they told no stories about him which seemed to his disciples worthy of record. And his mother we know was not given to talk. (134)

He left the wilderness in the calm and confidence of a crucial choice made. … “The spirit of the Lord … hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, … (137)

Some Sadducees, of the powerful priestly party, came to him—by that time he had a certain notoriety as an itinerant preacher—and they planned to put a question to him in such a way that it would make him ridiculous in the eyes of the crowd. They did not believe in immortality and they told him a story about a woman who had seven husbands and “In the resurrection… whose wife shall she be? … But, strangely, as they looked at him it was somehow conveyed to them that their scorn and ridicule did not touch him, did not reach him. He answered them very gravely. Laughter suddenly became impossible. He told them their question was one only ignorance could ask. … when they shall rise form the dead they neither marry, nor are given in marriage [141] … A bystander, a scribe, of a class highly respected, who had listened to the astonishing interchange, stepped forward to try to test further… asked him what was the first commandment. He was not rebuked. Christ answered that the first of all the commandments was to love God, with all the heart and the soul and the mind and the strength. And the second was like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. His hearer answered him, “Master, thou has said the truth.” These two commandments were worth more, he said, “than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And Jesus said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” … “No man after that,” St. Mark says, “dared ask him any question.” (142)

It was true that the way to life was open to everyone. Whoever sought it would find it. … No creed had to unlock a door to it, no conviction of sin, no acceptance of a savior. … Nevertheless it was hard. … In what we have of his talks to the crowds which gathered around him there is an absence of all appeals to them to seek and find. He never urges them to follow him. On the contrary he warns them what the cost will be. … “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” A requirement the most drastic there could be: Life lived no longer for self. A complete surrender to the service, to the will, of God. (146)

Christ said anyone in trouble becomes thereby your neighbor. All who are suffering have an absolute claim upon you for help. (148)

Christ was even more explicit. He said at the last judgment men would be judged solely on the basis of how they had treated others. Not one world about their belief, (149)

How many too in the listening crowd were shocked when Christ made little of family life. … Christ broke it down. “Then one said unto him, Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he… said, Who is my mother and who are my brethren? (149)

Quite as bad, perhaps worse, was what he said about riches, about all private possessions. … “Sell whatsoever thou hast and give it to the poor.” And the young man “went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” And Jesus said unto his disciples, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” … these words are Christ’s. No one would ever have put them into his mouth, (150)

…resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. [151] The words are so drastic, so extraordinary, … But indeed there has always been a tacit agreement to forget them. Nevertheless this was Christ’s way to end evil. He declared that the evil in the world could be ended on no easier terms. … Noo. Evil could be conquered only by good; hate be ended only by love. (152)

Small wonder that as he went on he saw angry threatening people in the crowds around him. The common people still heard him gladly, but the others, the important men, the responsible pillars of society and the church, were outdone with his ideas. They would upset everything, patriotism, property, the church, the home. Perhaps they understood him better than his disciples did. (152)

The real meaning of Christ’s struggle is seldom considered. … In Gethsemane he prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” There he did not know; he was not sure what God’s will for him was; he asked Him not to lead him into the darkness he saw before him. That cup he prayed not to drink of was not death nor death on a cross. It was the failure of all he had done, of all he had believed he could do. And he prayed, “Thy will be done”—which refuses to me what I know I can do for the suffering of the world; which chooses to destroy what I have begun to upbuild. Christ looked into the impenetrable blackness of the mystery of the Power which calls the stars into being and moves in the atom and through it he saw the light of God. He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.” That was his battle and his victory in Gethsemane. (159)

Just before he died he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” / Words which through all the centuries since have been a source of sorrowful wonder. No one ever denied that he said them. Never would anyone have wanted to make them up. (159)

St. Paul was the first Christian writer. He began to write his epistles only twenty years or so after Christ’s death, and he died some years before the earliest Gospel was written. (163)

In the epistles he quotes Christ directly only once, the words spoken over the bread and wine at the last supper, and once indirectly… (164)

He never refers to anything Christ said, and the conclusion seems inescapable that Christ’s teachings was of no importance to him. Others remembered it and handed it on to those who treasured it, and so we have the Gospels… the whole object of his life was to teach men about Christ. But the vision he had seen occupied his mind to the exclusion of all that he heard of Christ from Christ’s followers. He would not have Christ seen except in that glory of heavenly light. He turned away from the memories of his life. (164)

Quite as noteworthy, perhaps even more so, is the fact that he never speaks of miracles done by Christ. His disregard of Christ’s earthly life does not account for this because the miracles would have been the perfect prelude to his vision. He did not want to look at the dusty wayfarer who longed for a place to lay his head, who never spoke words of glowing appeal, who prayed in Gethsemane. Paul would not say one word to call attention to him. But the miracles, Christ walking on the water, commanding the winds and the waves, bringing the dead to life, showed Christ as it was the passion of Paul’s life to have him seen. Yet he never alluded to one of them—and he is by a number of years the earliest Christian writer. / Christianity soon after Paul’s death was given over to the cult of the miraculous. … Paul has no responsibility whatever for this unfortunate development. (165)

One miracle there was, however, which Paul not only believed but wrote of continually, the resurrection… But that is not to say he believed Christ’s bodily presence had entered the room where his disciples were gathered and demanded food to eat. That would be supernatural and the miracle Paul believed was spiritual. … The Christ he had seen was not a physical body, flesh and blood. He was a “quickening spirit” and a victory over death was the victory of the spirit over sin. (166)

Paul… showed how the Hebrew Scriptures could be Christianized. The could be turned into an allegory. [167] … All Christians had to do was to declare that nothing in the Scriptures was really what it was said to be, but always something else. Allegory flourished unrestrained with Paul’s sponsoring. (168)
He wrote to the Galatians that Abraham’s two sons, one Sarah’s, a free woman, and the other Hagar’s, a bondwoman, “are an allegory; for these are the two covenants; the one form Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For his Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to Jerusalem which is in bondage to her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free… (168)

Paul called himself “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” and he had solid ground for the assertion. A foundation rock of his teaching was the two great basic Hebrew conceptions… the Lord God made heaven and earth and all that in them is, and He demanded one thing from men, to live according to the moral law. This belief was Paul’s birthright as a Hebrew. … But Paul was Greek too. He was born in Tarsus, then a center of the most popular Greek teaching of the day, the Stoic. [168] … In his youth Paul must often have heard Stoics discussing their belief. … Certainly he knew what they taught and approved it, at any rate in part. Zeno, the founder, had declared that there was one supreme God of boundless power and goodness, who was not to be worshipped in temples, unworthy to house Deity, but who dwelt in every man, uniting all into one great commonwealth where there was no distinction between rich or poor, man or woman, bond or free. In St. Paul’s speech on the Areopagus he told the Athenians: “God… dwelleth not in temples made with hands… He hath made of one blood all nations of men...” The words are  statement of the Stoic creed. / The idea that God had made of one blood all nations was foreign to the Jew. (169)

“When you  have shut your door,” Epictetus writes, “say not that you are alone. God is in your room.” “Knowing there is a purpose behind all,” says Seneca, “I do not obey God—I agree with him. I follow him with all my heart and soul, not because I must.” And Marcus Aurelius in his soldier’s tend in the wilderness on the Danube saw life as “offering to God who dwells within you a solder at his post ready to depart form life when the trumpet sounds, serene as he who gives you your discharge.” No words except his own are more like St. Paul than sayings of the greatest Stoics. (171)

The first Christian martyr confronts the first persecutor. ... stoned Stephen, … Paul.. On this his first appearance he bears all the marks of a fanatic of the most repellent kind, one who could watch with no motion of pity a man being killed in a brutal and horrible way. He was young, too, yet already hardened into cruelty. [172] … The young man named Saul at whose feet the clothes were laid to keep them from being spattered with blood, ... He was a terrible menace to the little band of Christians. Great endowments were his. He was a man extraordinarily gifted by nature, with an indomitable will, a surpassing capacity of endurance, a master intellect, a brilliant power for organization, an a genius for leadership. It is impossible not to believe him ambitious in those early days, aware of his great powers and determined to make his mark. ... [174] Paul had reason to be confident in his undertaking to extirpate the Christians. What could they put up as a defence against an able and ruthless man who had all the forces of fanaticism behind him. They were a feeble folk, the Christians, incapable of commonsense calculation, with absolutely no idea of safety first in their heads. Even so, they were increasing at a rate that threatened to make them a public nuisance, not to say a menace. If Paul could put a stop to the whole movement he stood to gain substantial credit. He would have taken a big step forward. So, the Book of Acts says, “He made havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women committed them to prison.” More especially, he presided over Stephen’s death. Then, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” he started to Damascus to attack the Christians there. / Only a short time had passed since he watched Stephen die, perhaps only a few days. Those present at the death had seen a strange and arresting sight, the face of the man who was to be stoned. Looking on him, the Acts says, they “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Angelic serenity, the peace that passeth all understanding, angelic radiance, … He must have started on a journey to Damascus with Stephen’s face perpetually before him. In his mind too were other memories, of the men and women he had “haled to prison,” … From Jerusalem to Damascus is about a hundred miles as the crow flies. On the winding road it was much more. It was a slow journey, like all journeys in those days—nothing to do, no activity to divert a man’s mind. (174-5) … Then, as the journey neared its end, suddenly that happened which changed everything. Anguish of doubt and despairing remorse were lifted from him never to return. … He had been like an untamed horse fighting against the spurs of memory and conscience and horror at himself. (176)

Directly after his conversion he tells us he went “not unto Jerusalem, to them which were apostles before me, but I went into Arabia,” some desert spot, no doubt, to be by himself. It is extraordinarily revealing of the kind of man he was that at the beginning of this completely new life he did not want help from others. He felt no need for support, for reassurance, no desire to talk to those who had seen Christ and lived with him. And yet he knew almost nothing of him who had now become his Lord and Master. But he wished to know nothing except the vision he had seen. That was sufficient for him and throughout his life it remained sufficient. … Made as he was, no man could teach him what he had to learn. He must be alone; he must make the tremendous adjustment form hate to love alone with God. (178)

Paul returned to the world of men with a conviction which swept away what he had been brought up to believe most ardently, that God was a national God with a chosen people, and a God who was pleased with forms and ceremonies. This was a conception, indeed, which had been utterly reprobated by the greatest men of his race. … Isaiah. … They had seen not a God who had a chosen nation, but “all nations gather to the name of the Lord,” … but their grand outlook had long been lost sight of, overgrown with all manner of pettiness. Paul rediscovered it with the help of alien teachers. Greeks showed him the truth Isaiah had known. (179)

Man-made distinctions, as, for instance, between the slave and the freeborn, were mere inconsequential superficialities which the followers of Christ would disdain to notice. Paul’s attitude in this fundamental matter is not always esteemed at its true value. Of course the church was not able to live up to it. (181)

Less important and less grand, but yet with grandeur and profound meaning, is the way he considered the formalities of worship, … They did not matter; they were trifles to be waved aside. He dismissed them all, … Paul did not denounce them; they were not of enough consequence for that. They were well enough if people fancied. (181)

But when, as did sometimes happen, St. Paul fell from the heights that were really the home of his spirit, when he descended to uttering trivialities, the church seized upon them and made them sacrosanct. So she did when he wrote about the importance of women’s covering their hair when they prayed. … What was the most characteristic of him was a sure a grasp of the essential, but sometimes he lost it and always when he turned his mind on women. / His distrust and fear of them was at the bottom of his denunciation of marriage which the church, of course, as a mere matter of common sense, had to ignore. (182-3)

In Arabia… he had faced himself, a man indifferent to human pain even to the degree of cruelty, ambitious, arrogant, an egotist who counted his own ideas of supreme importance and the anguish and the death of others as nothing when weighed in the scale against them, blind to all true values as only the fanatic can be. So Paul had seen himself. And he had found that he could be saved form himself. (184)

Paul would never have said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” He did not care where he laid his head. There is not so much as a hint in his writings that he ever had to put down longing for shelter and comfort and safety. It is true he told the Corinthians, “We both hunger and thirst and are naked and have no certain dwelling place,” but there is nothing of homesick longing in the passage; it is full of fire and resolution, … (187)

Paul… Neither did he see the contradictions he was entangled in when he set forth his charter that all men were equal … and then declared that He had created some “to honour and mercy” and others “to dishonor and destruction.” (189)

What must always be remembered is that his aim, the passion of his life, was to set men free form the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God. To explain God’s plans and purposes was only of secondary importance. (190)

The greatest and most beautiful words he ever wrote are about love, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. It stands with the very best of the New Testament. But, strangely, it is not about the love of God, only about human love. And yet it was never in Paul’s thought that we must reach the divine through the human. The idea was completely foreign to the Jew and Paul always remained, after his conversion as before it, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He would never have said with St. John, “If we love one another God dwelleth in us.” That was not the way he looked at things. He believed in Christ not because he has withdrawn into himself and found Christ speaking to him there, because he was convinced that he had seen and heard Christ. (192-3)

He had a power of feeling, which has hardly been surpassed. Love was a passion to him, an unsounded surging ocean. There he was at his greatest. With his whole being he felt the love of God: (193)

But greater still than these great expressions of divine love is what he wrote of love here on earth. … Sometime in his life he had loved greatly. He had known the love that transcends all selfishness and he had known the suffering such love brings. What he wrote is brief, only thirteen short verses, hardly a quarter of a page, and yet all of human love is there, its pre-eminence and the pain it is bound up with. Apart form it nothing men do is worth anything… (194)

Men would not pay the price he asked, but they could not forget him. And finally the compromise was arranged. Christ became chiefly a mysterious figure upon a cross, dying an awesome death infinitely removed from all other deaths. When he was thought of as having lived, it was a life equally [199] remote. He float over the roads of Galilee, not a human being, but a divine marvel. He had superhuman powers. He was not limited by time or space. What was to happen lay clear before him. He could calm the winds and the waves. There could be no idea that men should be as he was… All they could do was to wonder and adore. So the church turned away from the Sermon on the Mount and the Garden of Gethsemane to an unfathomable mystery, God himself hanging upon a cross. This was their way out. (200)

The first Christians … shared their possessions with each other. “They had all things in common,” the Acts says, “distributing to every man according as he has need.” … Christians thought of themselves as marked [201] out from other not so much by what they believed as by the way they lived. Their religion was called the Way… It was a condition of things which must have lasted for a very short time. Perhaps it existed only in the earliest days in Jerusalem. Paul, the great shaper of Christianity to give to the poor, but no more than that. In later days he was troubled about rich church members, … (202)

It is clear that even before the apostles died the demands made upon a follower of Christ had been notably lessened. Of course as the bars were lowered, more and more people came into the church. It was finally committed to quantity instead of quality. (203)

Christ… never laid down that matter of fundamental importance to an organization, clearly formulated conditions upon which one could enter it. (204)

St. Thoms Aquinas, said he had faith in Christ, first, because Christ had performed miracles, and, second, because he had been foretold by Old Testament prophets. Only third did he place the fact that Christianity taught men how to die. (213)

The able organizers who took hold of the new young life of the Christian Church… turned to the satisfying and by comparison almost solid ground of reasoned statements and logical deductions. That way one could arrive at something dependable. They produced creeds which were miracles of hairsplitting definitions of the eternal and infinite, and minutely reasoned out “schemes of salvation” which were clearly demonstrable form premise to conclusion. And very soon faith, which St. Paul had said was the power of religion without explaining why, became identified with the explanations … (216)

If we had only Paul we would know nothing beyond these few brief statements about Christ’s life. It is a meager account. No personality emerges from it. (222)

To read Paul’s epistles after reading the Gospels is to enter another world where there is vivid colour, rapturous adoration. … The atmosphere of the Gospels seems in comparison quiet and sober, very real. The profundity of Christ’s feeling, the depth of his passion, had no kinship with raptures and ecstasies. Even the miracles hardly affect the impression of tranquility and moderation… (223)

…the one prayer of Socrates which has come down to us. The saints when they prayed were given to exclamation and ejaculations, … When one turns from such words to Christ, there is a sense of leaving a strange if beautiful land of awed ecstasy, and coming home. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And he said unto them, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.” / There is no transport of joyful emotion here. The prayer is tranquil, the tranquility of perfect assurance. A great simplicity and directness are in the words, and a realistic recognition of men’s daily needs seen with an incomparable elevation and beauty. The saints prized the uncommon. Christ saw the dignity and worth of the things that are common to all. / Something life that is in Socrates’ prayer: “Give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the inward and the ourter man be at one. May I reckon wisdom to be wealth, and may I have so much gold as a temperate man and only he can bear and carry. … This prayer, I think, is enough for me.” (225)

Socrates’ approach to life had a resemblance to Christ’s. His temper of mind inclined to moderation and away from enthusiasms. When he talked it was never with the eloquence of soul-stirring appeal. He was bent upon one thing alone, the truth, and for that search calmness is needed and dispassionateness and, above all, freedom form self. … (225)

Socrates… But one aspect of life, the strangest thing in it, did not engage his attention, the mystery of pain. He lived during a time of great distress in Athens, but he did not seek out those who labored and were heavy laden, nor did they seek him. He did not see life in terms of suffering … Christ… he turned the profundity of his thought upon the darkest problem of all, the problem of pain. / “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” These words are spoken by Christ in the Gospel of John. They express the innermost meaning of life as he saw it: enrichment through suffering and death. That is how he looked at the problem: good which could not be brought to pass otherwise, attained through pain. / Yet he never spoke a word to exalt suffering or to bid men seek it. That is the path the church soon took, but without any shadow of authority form him. He never sought or bade others seek what was hard because it was hard. … The self-inflicted pain the lives of saints are full of, is at the opposite pole from the way he looked at suffering and accepted his share of it. (227)

Perfect goodness, perfect selflessness, resulted in the cross, and through it men caught a glimpse of the meaning of unselfish pain. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief—who else could speak to the world’s agony? Anguish suffered for others—what else could prove love? Without the cross Christ could not have been seen. Light can be seen only in darkness. (228)


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