5. The Speeches of Paul



The speeches of Paul.

The contradiction that the one who himself appears primarily in the Acts of the Apostles as the Apostle to the Gentiles and as the tool chosen by the Lord to preach to the Gentiles must cede to Peter the glory of the first and decisive conquest, and to the apostles of the primitive community the honor of the umpire’s office over the internal affairs of the Gentile-Christian communities – this contradiction, this dependence on Peter and the original apostles, drives the author so much that he only lets the Apostle to the Gentiles repeat Peter’s teaching, presents salvation only as a continuation of the grace of the God of the Old Testament, and only preaches the risen, not the crucified, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and as the author of forgiveness of sins.


The Apostle to the Gentiles no longer knows anything about his strict opposition to Judaism and the Law. Just as Peter enjoys addressing the people in his speeches in Jerusalem as the “men of Israel” and emphasizes with pleasure that Jesus was raised and sent to them, “the children of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with their fathers,” so Paul emphasizes with particular emphasis in his speech in Antioch in Pisidia that the word of salvation has been sent to them, the Jews, his “brothers, the children of the race of Abraham and those who fear God among them” – (the proselytes who have joined their community). *)

*) Acts 2:14 ανδρες ιουδαιοι και οι κατοικουντες ιερουσαλημ V. 22, id. 3:12 ανδρες ισραηλιται
Acts 13:16 ανδρες ισραηλιται και οι φοβουμενοι – (V. 26 και οι εν υμιν φοβουμενοι ) – τον θεον

The death of Jesus, which the Apostle to the Gentiles makes the center of his preaching and the foundation of the work of salvation in his letters, is in his speech in Antioch (Acts 13:27-30) a catastrophe that was brought about only by chance and only by the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders – a means that had to serve God, against the will of the wrongdoers, to prove Jesus as his chosen one by raising him from the dead – a means that incidentally served to bring salvation, which the inhabitants of the capital city rejected, to the foreign Jews and the Gentiles who had joined them as proselytes *) – – in the speeches of Peter, too, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders, in their ignorance, brought about the glorification that was destined for him when they denied the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 2:23-24, 3:14-15, 10:39-40).

*) 13:26, 27 υμιν . . . οι γαρ . . .


However, both Peter and Paul prove from the Psalm that this glorification was predetermined for the chosen one of God, in which the Holy One of God expresses his confidence that God will not let him see corruption. They both derive the necessity of the reference to Jesus from the fact that David cannot be this Holy One, as he died, was buried, and his tomb has been preserved to the present day and can still be seen (Acts 2:25-31, 13:35-37). Therefore, both apostles prove the necessity of the glorification of the Holy One of God from a Psalm, based on the impossibility of another assumption, namely that David himself is the Holy One, applying to this Psalm verse, just as Jesus in the original Gospel (Mark 12:35-37) shows the impossibility that the Messiah could be David’s son from the Psalm in which David calls the Messiah his Lord. The author of the Acts of the Apostles had this argument in mind and simply repeated it when he proved the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus from the Psalms – he even explicitly reveals his source when he, in Peter’s speech (Acts 2:33-35), cites the same Psalm in which the Jesus of the Gospel demonstrates the infinite superiority of the Messiah over David, and proves that the glorification of Jesus was divinely intended from the beginning, since the heavenly scene that the Psalm presupposes does not apply to David, “who did not ascend into heaven.” The author only gave the argument from the Psalm, which Jesus in the original Gospel used to prove his point, the twist that matched the previous argument from the other Psalm.


While Paul, in his speech in Antioch, presents the story of Jesus, his connection to the promise, and the tragedy that resulted in the proof of his divinity in exactly the same form as Peter had repeated several times before, the author is so careful to suppress any reminder of the sharpness with which Paul developed his opposition to the Law and the significance that the Apostle to the Gentiles attached to the suffering and death of the Savior. He succeeded to such an extent in flattening the level on which the arguments of the Apostle to the Gentiles moved that only in the speeches and statements of Peter can some keywords that remind us of Pauline doctrine be found, but of course only keywords.

Lost keywords of the doctrine of the only saving power of grace and faith are only when Peter reminds the apostles in Jerusalem that God made no distinction between them, the Jews, and the Gentiles and cleansed the hearts of the latter through faith, when he further proves that the attempt to put the yoke of the law on the Gentiles was an injustice because they, the apostles, and their fathers, were not able to bear it, and then concludes with the sentence that faith is common to them as well as to the Gentiles, that only the grace of Jesus Christ can save (15:9-11) — if these sentences had been more than just lost key words, they would also have had the power to force the resolution of the Jerusalem Council, which nevertheless prescribed abstinence from sacrifice to idols, from blood and from suffocation as indispensable for the believing Gentiles, Peter would have had to prove the indifference of these regulations and would never have been allowed to admit that they were the necessary norm of the faithful and that the observance of them was the testimony of their “earnest will” to behave well.


Only once, in the farewell speech of the Apostle to the Gentiles of Ephesus, does the Pauline reminiscence of the church of God occur, which he “acquired by his own blood” (C.20,28). ) – but it is only an “isolated”, accidental, inconsequential reminiscence, and if in the Antiochian discourse (C. 13, 38) there is also an allusion to the apostle’s use of language, that in Christ the believer is justified from all that from which the law of Moses could not justify, this allusion is even so inappropriately applied and processed that it only comes to the result that law and faith are not essentially, but only in degree, different from one another. The law, too, already had justifying power, but it could not yet provide justification for all sins – the law was already strong, but the Lord is stronger. The law was only insufficient, could not yet justify completely, was not yet able and victorious against all sins – the Lord, on the other hand, completes the power of the law, supplements its weakness, accomplishes what it still left him to do.

In the two speeches that the apostle makes to the pagans, namely in the speech with which he referred the people of Lystra to the living God and in the other speech at the Areopagus in Athens, the strong contrast disappears. There is no close relationship that the same Apostle gave to paganism and the One God of revelation; there is no room for the strenuous dialectic with which the Paul of the letters gives the God of Justice, after revealing his invisible nature to the Gentiles, the right to punish them; the strictness of the thought that those who have sinned without law must also be lost without law is finally missing – and that firm association of Gentiles and Jews under sin is not possible, thus leaving no room for pure grace. Incapable of firmly implementing a contrast, the author has made Christianity only a continuation and extension of Judaism, and now softens the contrast between paganism and Judaism. In his Enlightenment, he is an enemy of dialectics, which pushes contrasts to extremes – his liberalism, which forms its own ideal world, sees the sharpness of thought that goes to the root of the contrasts of the real world as a futile and cruel game.


God has not left Himself unwitnessed to the Gentiles, as the apostle in Lystra points out, but in what has He revealed Himself to them? He gave (C. 14, 16) rain and fruitful seasons from heaven and filled their hearts with food and drink.

Thus God, as it is said in the Athenian discourse, caused the Gentiles to seek him, whether they would take hold of him and find him (C. 27, 27) – but why could he count on this possibility? Because he is not far from each one of us – because we live and move and exist in him – because the Greek poet is right with his commonplace: “of the same family we are”.


We – we are his race – we live and breathe in him – to us – he has done much good and given us victories from heaven and fruitful times – to us, the Gentiles and Jews – we, the Gentiles and Jews live and breathe in him and are of the same divine race – in this shared, the antithesis of history, the antithesis of paganism and Judaism is abolished – there are only human beings, only the Jew is the true human being – Christianity is the true Judaism, paganism is the hidden Judaism.

The speech in Lystra ends with this reference to the common benefactor of humanity, because the author was only concerned with dissuading the people of Lystra from their idea that Paul and Barnabas were gods, and from their intention to sacrifice to them. However, when he gave the Apostle the opportunity to expound on his new teaching before a group of heathens in Athens, he completely forgot that he should have shown the reader, on this one occasion that he had created for himself, how Paul acquired the name of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and how he was able to win the hearts of the Gentiles. Instead, his Jewish nature overwhelms him; he cannot bring himself to represent, in all its power, the force that drew the Gentiles to Christianity – in other words, he fails to present the Apostle as the teacher of the Gentiles. This teacher and leader should have been at the same time the liberator from the law and the vanquisher of Judaism at the same time.


Therefore, the author has designed the whole narrative for a rather glaring contrast. The Jew in him moves him to present the matter in such a way that the Gentiles, as soon as they heard of the Risen One, immediately put an end to it and wanted to hear nothing more. The speech, which up to then had simply been monotheistically enlightened and contained nothing new or striking for the enlightened Gentile, had to conclude with this brief mention of the Risen One, so that the Jew – the Christian as the true Jew – could rejoice in his sublimity over the pagan sphere – the author finally made the resurrection the stone of offence on purpose, in order to give the reader’s judgement of the later behaviour of the Sadducees against the apostle the necessary direction in advance. While the sympathy which the Pharisees showed the apostle proves his conformity with Judaism, the Sadducees, who persecuted him because of his doctrine of the resurrection, are to be exposed as pagan-minded. Whoever was able to persecute the apostle was actually no longer a Jew, – had to be a pagan in the depths of his soul – therefore the Sadducees acted like the Athenians and therefore the latter had to ridicule the preaching of the resurrection.

When the author pursued this intention, he partially overlooked that he portrayed the teaching wisdom of the apostle in the most unfavorable light. Paul, according to this portrayal, understands so little how to captivate his audience that he cannot even force the seriousness of the assembly when he moves to the main point. Thus, he does not even satisfy the requirement that is rightfully placed on a teacher and speaker. The author also did not consider that the immortality of the soul was the subject of a controversy that the heathens liked to discuss extensively.


If it is so clear that the speech was made up by the author, then the details of his portrayal, which should have been familiar to anyone even moderately educated, cannot be considered as evidence for the historical character of the event. The Athenians were known throughout the world for their curiosity, talkativeness, and love of debate. To reproduce the charge made against Socrates – “he does not respect the gods of the city and seeks to introduce new ones” – in the mockery of the apostle as a “proclaimer of new gods,” as well as to invent the detail that Paul was brought to the Areopagus to explain his doctrine to the body responsible for religion, did not require any particular knowledge of history. Similarly, it was no secret that in Athens there were altars dedicated to unknown gods, but Paul would never have found an altar with the inscription “to the unknown god” in Athens, nor could he have linked his doctrine of the one and living God to such an inscription. Such an altar did not exist in Athens.

We only mention the farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus, whose later origin is evident from the fact that it reminds church officials, whose office arose later *), of their obligation to be vigilant against false teachers and sectarians, to show that the author did indeed know the Apostle of the Letters, as he unwittingly reveals this acquaintance, but he does not know how to harmoniously weave the features known from the letters into the new image he has drawn of the Apostle.

*) The author also knows the bishops (20:28), but he was careful not to include the whole detail of the later hierarchical constitution in his writing, and when he mentioned the bishops to indicate the greatness of their dignity and responsibility, he phrased it in such a way that it could also be interpreted as a description of the presbyters: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”


That the apostle remembers the false teachers and seducers, with whom he is already fighting in the letters themselves, as a future danger to the church, we will only accept in passing as a testimony to the impression left by the apostle’s letters, so that the apostle’s image would be considered incomplete if he did not remember the false teachers, even if only as an imminent appearance. On the other hand, we may particularly emphasise the detail and discreetness with which the apostle remembers his self-sacrificing behaviour at the end of his speech, and the unmotivated way in which the author introduces this reminder of the apostle’s behaviour, as a brilliant testimony to the impression of the letters.

The apostle reminds us that he (C. 20, 33.34) does not demand silver, nor gold, nor clothing from anyone, but rather that he has procured his need with the work of his hands – but how does he arrive at this reminder? How does he come to affirm his generosity? No reason. There is no occasion for this – the reproach that alone could induce him to do this lies outside – in the Epistles to the Corinthians.

Or did the Apostle want to set an example for the elders? Did he want to motivate them to follow in his footsteps? The author certainly intended this turn of events – at least he has the Apostle immediately add the remark (v.35): “I have shown you everything, that one must work in this way and accept the weak” – but the expression “everything” goes far beyond the last point – that the Apostle showed how one must work refers to his entire activity and cannot be limited to his manual labor alone – finally, accepting the weak is a spiritual act and has nothing to do with renouncing justifiable support.


The author did not achieve his intention and could not naturally introduce the reminder of the apostle’s self-sacrifice. The allusion from the Epistles to the Corinthians was only inserted mechanically.


After having demonstrated the weakness of the author’s imagination by pointing out the fact that in his speech in Antioch, Paul only repeated the phrases that had already been used by Peter in his speeches, the beginning of the same Antioch speech gives us the opportunity to complete this proof.

This introduction is a replica of Stephen’s speech – but at the same time also a weakening of it. While Stephen carries out an artfully designed plan firmly and securely, the whole Jewish history is characterised as a continuous disharmony between the divine plan of salvation and the rebelliousness of the people, so that even the fulfilment which Solomon finally gave to the divine promise to Abraham – (“in this place shall thy seed serve me”) – through the building of beautiful “temples”, the existing law affirms that the divine plans were turned into their opposite under the hands of this people – while Stephen proves from the deadly opposition in which the people placed themselves to Moses and the prophets, the betrayal which the present generation committed against the Messiah, as a natural expression of the national enmity against the holy spirit (7:51-52) – Paul only lists the earlier great deeds of God one after the other in the beginning of his Antiochian speech, so that the redemption of the descendants of David is only a continuation of the earlier graces, at best also the completion of the plan of salvation, which was also carried out in the extermination of the seven Canaanite nations (13:19).


The author could not use the same speech twice, but he was also unable to provide a copy of the original that could claim its own value through the uniqueness of its plan and execution.

Incidentally, this speech of Stephen’s is not able to overturn our earlier statement that real history remains a mystery as long as one holds on to this congregation of the Acts of the Apostles, these leaders and party heads. It is created, like all its surroundings and like the fate of Stephen.

The elaborate plan underlying it can only be designed and executed by the writer. The memory that could immediately grasp it, link by link, with all its intricate interweavings after a single hearing, belongs to the impossible, and a tradition that would be capable of reciting such a systematically elaborated work of art in one breath and always unchanged has never existed.


While in the history of the people, from the appearance of Moses onwards (C. 7, 23-53), the disharmony between the divine plan of salvation and the behavior of the people is the theme, in the introduction of the speech, the idea of ​​contradiction is also held and pursued by the speaker (C. 7, 3-16) by presenting the circumstance that the promise that his offspring would possess the promised land came to Abraham at a moment when he was a stranger in Canaan and had no child, and thus representing the contradiction between the divine plan and human probability, and proving this contradiction, as the divine promise even mocks all human calculation of probability, even in the fact that the sale of Joseph brought the patriarchs to Egypt and they were to grow into a people far from the promised land. But where is the memory that could immediately hold word for word this twofold development of the category of contradiction?

Where was the tradition that, in the repetition of the speech, would always have paid close attention to the point of incidence in the middle of it (vv. 35-37) and would always have remembered the significance that lies in the circumstance that the very Moses whom God had sent as leader and redeemer, and whom the people disowned and rejected, had prophesied of the future prophet whom the Lord would raise up like him?

The diffuse obscurity, finally, in which the contrast and contradiction of the promise that the people would serve God in this place and the sinful and perverse fulfilment that Solomon gave it by building the temple, remains, the obscurity that also hovers over it, why David, by his desire to find a permanent tabernacle for the God of Jacob, did not sin just as his son did by building the temple – should it have remained in memory and tradition for years, many years, perhaps a century, and have been preserved unchanged?


No! Like the whole thing, it comes from the writer.

Stephen is said to have been stoned to death. But he stood before the synod and the synod was not allowed to execute a death sentence independently of the Roman governor.

Of course, not even a sentence was pronounced – the crowd stormed him, pushed him out of the city and stoned him – but there was no room for this tumultuous crowd in the midst of the synod.

How exactly historical it looks that the witnesses laid down their clothes before the stoning – but what a coincidence that they met the place in front of the feet of the young man who was destined to complete the break with Judaism, which Stephen initiated, as Paul and to bring salvation to the Gentiles!

The defense speech of the martyr does indeed correspond to the accusation, which was based on the testimony of false witnesses who claimed that he had spoken blasphemy against the holy place and the law (6:13) – it is a pity, however, that the same accusation is made against Paul, the completer (21:28), and that false witnesses also came forward against the Lord, who claimed to have heard blasphemy against the temple from him (Mark 14:57-58).

Everything is all arranged, except for the fact that the angry mobs lead the martyr outside the city, so that he may find death outside where the Lord suffered – except for the move that the martyr, like his Lord, intercedes for the murderers hei God and commends his spirit to the Lord Jesus, as the Lord Himself had commanded his spirit into the hands of His Father (Luke 23:34, 46).


In short, neither the speech nor the martyrdom of Stephen can make this community, of which the Acts of the Apostles speaks, a real and historical entity. Therefore, when, for example, Dr. Baur says *), “the martyrdom of Stephen and the Christian persecution associated with it confront us with the significance of historical reality”, we lack the account that could really authenticate that martyrdom along with its consequences. And even if the same scholar insists **) that the contrast between Christianity and Judaism first “became more clearly conscious in Stephen”, we lack the historical sources that could attest to the existence of a Stephen who earned the first crown (stephanos) of martyrdom through initiating that break with Judaism.

*) op. cit. p. 38.

**) op. cit. p. 42.



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