BRUNO BAUER: Christ and the Caesars – VIII. The Completion of the New Testament Literature



The Completion of the New Testament Literature.

1. A Great History and a Late Poem.

In a series of images, we have seen the fate of the Empire, the nationalities, and the social classes of the first two centuries of our era unfold before us. As diverse as the figures were that moved before our eyes, they were only shells of one and the same fact. If on the one hand, even at that time, the friends of the old saw in the detachment of citizens from their political and national works only an act of violence by the new world ruler, on the other hand, we recognized in the Empire the consequence and the image of an emancipation of the spirits from their earlier limited daily activities and a political form that corresponded to the ideal of a world community at that time. Personal freedom within the opened world context was the heartfelt desire of that time of decline and decadence, which had been infamous in the history books since the days of Tacitus. The immaterial goods that Greece had produced in a similar time of political decline filled the political void. In Rome and Alexandria, they gathered around the center of Jewish law, and Seneca gave the new associations the image of the completer of humanity, which could ultimately take up the fight with the ruler of Rome.


What do the miracles mean, which, after the creation of the Ur-Gospel, follow each other laboriously in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 10 and 11), so that Peter and the Jerusalem community find the fact that even the Gentiles can partake in salvation? After the Roman friends of Horace had long since entered the synagogue and their successors had in turn raised the Orientals to their higher spiritual moods, was it necessary to have the wonderful vision in which Peter in Joppa was shown all kinds of creeping and crawling creatures and the purity of all of God’s creatures was interpreted? Did the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea have to be prompted to call for Peter through a vision from God, and did Peter, upon the arrival of the Gentile messengers, have to be reminded of obedience again by a heavenly voice? And when the Apostle, pulled helplessly into the course of events and surprised by the miraculous conclusion in Caesarea, could not refuse baptism to the Gentiles, did he have to calm the displeasure of the Jerusalem community only by giving a full account of the miracles that had befallen him in Joppa and in the centurion’s house?


From Greece, the spirits of Heraclitus, Plato, Antisthenes, and Zeno brought to the Western world the call to renounce the world, self-denial, and death, through which man attains divinity and eternal rest. Seneca and his Roman predecessors introduced the wisdom of those Greeks into the masses and into their hearts, and from them come the most powerful sayings that move the soul in the Gospels and apostolic letters. So, did it require a vision, in which a Macedonian man called to the Apostle Paul on the other side of the sea (Acts 16:9), while he was in Troas, to help the West?


The Acts of the Apostles mentions a Jew named Apollos (18:24-26), who was born in Alexandria, “well-versed in the scriptures,” and, fully taught “in the way of the Lord” in Ephesus and recommended to Achaia, where he demonstrated to the Jews from the scriptures that Christ was the promised one. In the first letter to the Corinthians (1:12), he is introduced as a partisan leader alongside Paul and Peter, and after being mentioned again in 3:5, there immediately appears a flutter of colorful combinations of the keyword “wisdom” (“worldly wisdom, cleverness of the world, wisdom of this world, wisdom of the Greeks”), without any of these connections being explained or reasonably related to that man. His person even disappears before all the contrasts for which the types of wisdom are used in a fleeting hurry.

But what does this suddenly rising and quickly disappearing shadow image of a wise man from the Nile city mean against the powerful figure of that school in Alexandria, which, with its science and scriptural research, supported the liberation of the equally powerful circle of Roman allies of the synagogue from the shackles of the law? What little value does that flicker of wisdom in the Corinthian letter have compared to the substantial appearances of the Stoic and Heraclitean logos in the Alexandrian interpretations of the law? And, what is worth noting because the point of the Corinthians’ agitation is also directed towards the valiant champions of Christian freedom and knowledge, against the Gnostics of Alexandria, the fleeting meteor of Apollo?


All these later attempts of the Antoninian period to explain the spread of Christianity among the peoples and to add the foundation for a Christian science to the glory of the Jewish apostles cannot mislead us in our derivation of the original communities from the circles of Rome and Alexandria. And now, in conclusion, we will attempt to present the development of the original gospel at the emerging characteristic points.


2. The Beatitudes and the Elevations of the Law in the Source Texts of Luke and Matthew.

The original Gospel only contains one teaching of Jesus to the people, the parables of the kingdom of heaven, which have been heavily disrupted by later revisers. The sayings that wound the pride of Jewish privilege, which his Jesus employs, are brought about by the attacks that opponents of Jesus have directed against him since his first appearance, and which escalate until the fatal end of the struggle. On the other hand, “Luke the compiler of the original Luke Gospel,” which Marcion had in his hands around 140 AD, and later Matthew, found in the expansions of the original Gospel a series of longer speeches that addressed the people directly, and incorporated them into their collections.

The Beatitudes stand at the top, which Luke still partially shares with us in their original form. They are (Luke 6, 20-23) the reward of the poor, to whom the kingdom of God belongs, of the hungry, who will be filled, of the weeping, who shall laugh, and of those who are hated, rejected and reviled for the sake of the Son of Man, for they shall rejoice and leap on that day.


The joy of these sayings is the same as that with which the Cynics boasted of their nakedness and isolation, and the same elevation above the fullness and pleasure of the world that Seneca described vividly in his Demetrius. The structure of the sentences is patterned after Moses’ blessings on the faithful (Deut. chap. 28), but Luke went too far when he allowed himself, based on the original text that frightens the disobedient with curses, to also follow up his Beatitudes with corresponding woes. The swelling tone of the last “blessed” proves that it was meant to be the conclusion of the whole speech. Moreover, the symmetry of both series is too stiff, and the threat feels cold and destroys the original power of “blessed,” which holds that the pressure of the world is precisely the source of comfort, and the disharmony that is inherent in the current world order is the guarantee of blessedness. Also, the Cynic who felt exalted by the prevailing disharmony and the rule of wandering had no thought of indulging in the humiliation and punishment of the rich and powerful.


Matthew used a version of the original Gospel that had increased the Beatitudes and made it harder to follow. In Luke’s last Beatitude, the fourth, the reader can still keep everything in mind and take in the whole series. The theme of the four sayings is the same, and their impression is infallible. However, the source text used by Matthew added spiritual virtues such as mercy, meekness, purity of heart, and peacemaking to the blessedness of suffering and deprivation. This addition, combined with the changing direction of the material, distracted the reader’s attention. Matthew and his source text no longer felt that the author’s poor, who created the “Blessed” sayings, were already the chosen ones of the world and had the prerequisite that they were not tainted by the pleasures and passions of the world. He himself lets the hungry and destitute “thirst for righteousness.” He adds a cumbersome, unnecessary supplement to the Beatitude for those who are reviled, persecuted, and slandered: “if it is done falsely.” Moreover, he turns the poor into spiritual poor, the poor in spirit, and stimulates many echoes and mental games through this connection, none of which can be brought to a satisfactory harmony.

The discovery of this dependence of Luke’s and Matthew’s on previous expansions of the original Gospel will be tested immediately in the section on the contrast between the old and new laws.


We found the original form of this contrast in Seneca, and a thoughtful adaptation of it in Marcus Aurelius’s self-reflections. Nero’s teacher, the prince of humanity, opposed the wording of the law to its highest elevation in its spiritual meaning and called only the fulfillment of it the right satisfaction owed to oneself and the law. Similarly, after a few sayings about the position of believers as the salt and light of the world, the Son of Man in Matthew opposes the commands given to the fathers with his ideal demands and promises them eternity as the right stabilization of the law (Matthew 5:17-48). “I tell you,” it says at the beginning of this section, “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law.”

Luke fragmented and only preserved individual pieces of the section, of which we can still get a clear idea of the beautiful original structure in Matthew’s collection. He even connects his redaction of the core saying that is supposed to ensure the eternity of the law with the sentence that announces the end of the law (“the law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed”) (Luke 16:15-17). Before that, in his compilation of the Sermon on the Mount, he followed his Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:27-35) with sayings about selflessness and love for enemies that belong to the magnificent parallel of the old and new, while he added only the new contrast to the legal regulation of the marital relationship to the high affirmation of the eternity of the law.


However, whoever had the power of combination to assert the eternal validity of the law down to the smallest dot and to elevate the legal provision that the man must give a divorce certificate to tame his willful wife to such a height that “whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced by her husband commits adultery,” immediately created the entire series of antitheses that we find in Matthew.


Luke also completely misunderstood the beautiful work of this parallel of the old and new. I am speaking of Marcion’s original Luke, who took offense at the eternity that the original introduction of this lesson promised to the law. To him, who brought together numerous variations on the thundering sayings of the original Gospel against statute and law in his work, the eternity of the law seemed to contradict the New, and therefore, as Epiphanius still read in Marcion’s Gospel book, he wrote, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of my word to become void.” However, only the law has dots and strokes, not the word, and only the compiler of the current Luke manuscript restored the law according to his sources.

Matthew has preserved the great structure of the section for us, but, as usual, could not resist inserting sayings into it, such as those about oaths, which treat the theme of oaths in a completely different direction. He also spoiled the pure line of ascension by adding to the previous commandment of neighborly love the extreme demand to hate the enemy in the intensification of the neighborly love commanded by the old law towards kindness to the enemy. He could no longer find the inner seriousness of exaggeration, which, in contrast to the old handover of the murderer to the court, also only assigns a harsh word against the brother to the court, the high council, and the fires of hell and thereby wants to bring the high significance of the moral relationship into view. At the beginning of the saying (with the hovering formula “But I say to you”), he allows unprovoked anger to fall to the court, as if the anger caused by the brother were allowed!


In the saying about divorce (Matthew 5:32), he overlooked that the structure of the new commandment is determined by the direction of the old law and, just as the old law only recognized the man as entitled, the new legislator also only had him in mind. Therefore, in his redaction of the saying, “whoever divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery,” he gave the woman a position that contradicts the starting point of the first author. Finally, by conceding his clause that the man “may divorce his wife in case of adultery,” he cut the lifeblood of the saying, which, in contrast to the previous unrestricted entitlement of the man, wanted to bind him by the holiness of the marital relationship.


Later, when he comes to that section of the evangelical type where the original Gospel leads Jesus’ declaration on the indissolubility of the covenant created by God historically through a testing question of the Pharisees, he brings the saying of the Sermon on the Mount again, this time in the correct form preserved by Luke and once again with the concession of that clause (Matthew 19:9). The saying was very unnecessary here, as in the Gospel of Mark, where a later reviser forced it onto the original Gospel in a very distorted form (Mark 10:12-13), since the matter was already fully resolved in Jesus’ dispute with the Pharisees.


The so-called second Apology of Justin, preserved under his name, which belongs to the age of Antoninus Pius, knew the great antithesis of the old and new law, but did not borrow it from either Matthew or Luke. Instead, the apostolic memoirs, i.e., the Gospel book that the author of that apology used, offered him this masterpiece in the purity of its origin, which, for example, was completely lost in the shared sayings of selfless love in Luke and Matthew. “If you love those who love you,” the latter says (Matthew 5:46-47), “what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” The man whose work has been preserved for us in Justin’s memoirs knew how to characterize the contemptibility of limited and self-interested love differently and knew where the tax collectors belonged. He had written: “If you love only those who love you, what new thing are you doing? Do not even prostitutes do that? If you only lend to those from whom you hope to receive payment, what new thing are you doing? Do not even tax collectors do that?” In his redaction of both sayings, Luke also spoiled their beautiful symmetry by repeating three times that self-interested love and favor are “common to sinners” (Luke 6:32-34).


The misfortune that the artful and profound antithesis of the Old and New suffered already at the hands of the compilers of the present gospel writings reached its climax when this masterpiece fell into the hands of more recent theologians. They took it upon themselves to assert that a new commandment was to replace the law of Moses. Let us not give too much credit to Calvin, who, in the spirit of his church, could not admit a distinction between Moses and Christ, for his opposition to the most powerful turns of these sayings and his tenderness towards the old covenant, since his language and theological bravery still have a kind of naivety. But the anxiety with which more recent theologians, from De Wette, Lücke, and Tholuck to pure believers, seek to pull Jesus of that section out of the fight against Moses’ law and limit it to the quarrel with the Pharisees of his time, as well as the conflict with these inventors of an alleged new legal code, is a sign of a deep decline in Christian spirit and at the same time a great immersion of the German language. I have described both in detail in the Leipzig edition of my Gospel Criticism, as well as in the fourth volume of the Berlin edition, “The Theological Interpretation of the Gospels” (1852).


And the entire cowardice of these men and the limitation of Jesus to the grumbling with a Pharisaic sophistry invented by them was also included by Strauss in his “Life of Jesus.” The “unbiased church interpreters” made it certain for him with their “extended theological horizon” that “Jesus did not think of a revolution of the old religious constitution of his people”; “if he heals on the Sabbath or lets his disciples pluck ears, if he does not introduce fasting and washing at table in his society, that was not against the Mosaic law” but only against the “later pettiness” of the rabbinic legal teachers. And when the thunder of the original gospel and its developer at least impresses the disciple of the “unbiased church interpreters” enough to ascribe to Jesus a direction that goes to “spiritual worship of God and morality,” Neander appears to him as a helper in his embarrassment and comforts him that “it can still be imagined that Jesus only held to this side and did not engage in a detailed examination of the ceremonial side.”


The situation was very serious when the saying was created: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Of the two works produced during the first half of Hadrian’s reign, the Ur-evangelium and the first drafts of the gnostic systems, the latter threatened to surpass the image of the evangelical Jesus who, in his struggle with the people and their leaders, carved his way to victory over the ruins of the law, while at the same time adhering to the unity of divine rule in the old and new covenant. The gnostic revolt against the Jewish God and the break with the past, according to which it, along with its subordinate world spirits, was left to complete dissolution, gained enthusiastic followers in Rome and Alexandria. A reaction arose against this revolutionary current, which did not completely abandon the connection with the past and wanted to organize and shape the revolution, which was also active in the Ur-evangelium. The Stoics had paved the way for this reaction with their ideal interpretation of the law, which did not sever the bond between its letter and its lofty spiritual meaning, and Seneca had already formed the form for ascending from the old wording of the commandment to the ideal meaning. “Not to abolish, but to fulfill!” was the cry of the man who created the antitheses of Matthew. To call him a Jewish Christian, as the followers of the Tübingen School of Theology do, is very meager and hasty; it is more likely that he was a Roman nourished by Seneca’s spirit. The artist who powerfully summed up the idea of dissolution and fulfillment could boldly speak of fulfillment because he was equally confident that he had dissolved the law down to the jot.


3. Variations on the Battle Cries of the Ur-Evangelium.

In addition to this direction, which aimed at the organization of the agitated force of life, there was also the self-feeling of the New in images and representations of its freedom from the old precepts. However, in this field, it no longer produced original creations and was only dependent on variations of the patterns of the Ur-evangelium.

Luke has preserved these imitations for us and included them in that travel report of Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, which expands so enormously that the author himself had to remind us of the time and place of the scene a couple of times (13:22 and 17:11). Perhaps he also inserted some of his own material.


Included among these are the two Sabbath healings (13:10-17 and 14:1-6) – the same battles that had already been won in the Urevangelium long before the journey to Jerusalem, repetitions of battles won. Also, the numerous parables in the same travel account about the preference for the “lost”, finally, the repeatedly demanded indifference towards the world, official duties, and reputation, with which Levi left his tax booth at the call of Jesus and gained the salvation of sinners. Thus, the one who wanted to bury his father first before following the new Master is admonished: “let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:59-60). The other, who wanted permission first to arrange his household affairs before joining the Lord, must hear the word, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” A third, who also offered himself for discipleship, is warned against the narrowness of the pen (the regulation) in which one feels warm and secure and must hear the word that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (9:57-58).


In addition to the saying about the thorough abolition and eternal preservation of every iota of the law, Matthew has also included the word about coming out of the realm of the dead and renouncing the protective four poles of the regulation from his source texts (Matthew 8:19-22), and to the account of the Urevangelium about the victory of faith of the heathen, Canaanite woman, he also incorporates the variation on this demolition of the wall between the Gentiles and the community, namely the same act of faith of the captain of Capernaum, with which Luke (7:1-10) was satisfied for his work.

As soon as the account of the Urevangelium about these battles against the barrier of the Old was presented, one was most likely prompted to consider defending the desecration of the Sabbath. In the real world, Jesus would have only touched the law, but not brought it down, when he justifies the disciples for plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath, and at another time heals a sick man despite the Sabbath. If he appeals to the authority of David, who grabbed the showbread in times of hunger, he only gains as much that in case of need, the law must give way to necessity or yield to a life-threatening situation. The exception proves the rule.


My detailed criticism has shown that later editors of the Ur-Evangelium enriched Jesus’ responses with additions and gave direction to his justification through comprehensive principles in a general sense (e.g. Mark 2:27-28, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath). Unsatisfied with this, new Sabbath stories were created to create the impression of a rule through these repetitions. But in vain! Many individual cases cannot bring the general law, which was the intended expression, into view. The repetition not only splits the attention, but also has a retroactively harmful effect and gives the impression that the first victory was not decisive and the thunder of Jesus’ statement did not strike down the opponents.


The concerns of a later time were not accessible to the creator of the original report and the faith for which he wrote. What had happened once had power for eternity. Just as the community for which the Ur-evangelist created his image of the power of faith of the Canaanite woman was certain of its universalism, so too was the brotherhood of the Hellenes and Jews, to whom the great artist dedicated his work, already beyond the law, including that of the Sabbath. Their faith recognized in the creations of the historical former their own flesh and blood, and what in a single image seemed only occasional and random, expanded in their view to general significance and bore the stamp of necessity. The repetitions that Luke has preserved for us could also never gain respect or even attention, and only those few calls for ruthless rejection of the law and its realm of the dead, which Matthew also borrowed from his sources, have been etched into the community’s memory through their ingenious power.

However, the creator of the original account and the faith for which he wrote were not accessible to the concerns of later times. What had happened once had the power for eternity. Just as the community for whom the Ur-Gospel writer created his image of the faith power of the Canaanite woman was sure of its universalism, so the brotherhood of Greeks and Jews to whom the great artist dedicated his work had already outgrown the law, even that of the Sabbath. Their faith recognized their own flesh and blood in the creations of the historical author, and what seemed to be brought about only occasionally and coincidentally in one picture expanded in their view to general significance and bore the stamp of necessity. The repetitions that Luke has preserved for us could never have gained much attention, let alone respect, and only those few calls for ruthless rejection of the law and its realm of the dead, which Matthew also borrowed from his sources, have impressed themselves on the community through their witty power.


4. History of the Childhood of Jesus.

The Tübingen school and the modern theologians inspired by it have not made any progress in understanding the first two centuries of Christianity beyond the church fathers of the beginning of the third century. Their belief in the Jewish origin of Christianity can match that of Tertullian and Irenaeus. The only unique aspect that distinguishes them is the appearance of a historical construction, according to which the national limitation of their Jewish-Christian community is supposedly broken by a supposedly Pauline impulse that came from somewhere unknown. The miracle that those ancient writers made the constant craftsman of the community, the moderns conceal in a single turning point.


Meanwhile, they have developed great activity to make the limited field of work they have chosen at the supposedly Jewish-Christian primitive community rich and interesting. They have sunk into that ground of early Jewish-Christian direction products of a later time that emerged at the outermost fringe of the victorious church at the end of the second century, such as adventurous compositions like the Clementine literature, which around the year 200 wanted to transform Gnosticism into Jewish monotheism, and works that never gained importance for the church, even the fabulous groups that Epiphanius tells about around the year 400 that tend towards Judaism. But despite all their diligence, they have not been able to raise living trees from these cuttings and create the miraculous garden in which the remedy for heathenism grew. None of these active men has been able to convince their collaborators. The confusion and lifelessness of the garden, to which each of them devoted his effort to make his meager brushwood green, corresponds to the literary dispute that divides them among themselves, and only in a few points do they agree with their basic views. Above all, this includes their assumption that the Gospel of Mark, the Beatitudes and the sayings of the Gospel of Matthew about the old and new laws, and finally the childhood stories of the first and third Gospel are products of their invented Jewish-Christianity.


In the two editions of my critique, I earned the right to counter the claim by the founder of the Tübingen School (see Ferd. Chr. Baur’s critical investigation of the canonical Gospels”, 1847), that these infancy stories of Luke and Matthew are “thoroughly Jewish” and represent the greatest concession to the Judaizers and the prevailing views of birth and childhood in those images, with the tautology that they are thoroughly Christian. I also call them thoroughly Roman.


What did the swarm of educated and noble Romans who ran into the synagogue of the eternal city do? What did the friend of Horace, whom the poet could not stop with a fleeting word during his haste, do in the Jewish sanctuary? The inner anxieties that drove the Romans to the Orientals were certainly not relieved by watching foreign gestures and ceremonies, or memorizing Asian formulas. Just consider (in the Controversies exercises of that time collected by Seneca’s father) the power with which the striving spirits of Rome at that time transformed the Greek treatment of legal collisions into a world of bold moral maxims. Consider how the poets of the new imperial court, Virgil and Horace, and even Ovid, raised their lack of great national traditions and their own raw material with the poetic treasures of Athens and Alexandria. Would the standing guests of the synagogue, who were primarily concerned with the salvation of their own souls, not have attempted to familiarize themselves with the secret there in native formulas? Should they have only marveled at the foreignness in which they sought relief from their oppressions and not cast a glance into its history? And when the younger Seneca came and took his rhetorical exercise into the service of Greek wisdom and created the image of a divine savior, when Vespasian then interwove the oracle of the Jewish God with the history of the imperial power and under his son, Domitian, a prince of the Flavian house, preferred dedication to Judaism over the glory of the imperial power, did the Judaizers of modern theology still need to rise up the victorious counter-image of the empire in Judea and triumph over the world and the law?


For the quiet circle that had formed in Rome since the time of Augustus and had grown under the influence of Alexandria into a potentially dangerous power until the reign of Domitian, a savior and liberator had to come from Judaea. To these expectants, the history in which they saw the preparation for their salvation became more familiar, more intimate, and more manageable than to the born Jews, and in Rome, since the time of Tiberius until Trajan, the form of history had developed that was suitable for the biography of a victor, such as was expected at the two centers of intellectual life at the time.

Valerius Maximus had provided the model for a concise scene in which the statement of a significant man is brought about and stands out strikingly in his collection “Memorable Deeds and Sayings.” In his Caesar biographies, Suetonius linked together the sayings and decisions of his heroes in the different situations of their lives and arranged them according to the unity of the theme, so that the individual groups could be provided with summary inscriptions, as later became customary in our Bible translations.

In this way, the creator of the Ur-Gospel designed his work, and from all of Jewish literature, nothing similar or even comparable can be put alongside it. There is nothing to support the assertion of Eusebius that Mark dedicated his Gospel to his foundation, the community in Alexandria, or that Gregory of Nazianzus wrote it for the service of Italy, or that the Syrian church tradition has it that he wrote it in Latin. Even without relying on these late conjectures, I assert that the author, a born Italian who was at home in Rome and Alexandria, composed the work in the world language of the time, Greek.


In his biographies of the Caesars, Suetonius also showed in the second century how the Son of God, who gave completion to David’s kingdom, had to come into the world, announced and surrounded by signs and wonders, as evidence of his glory. There was no need for Jewish Christians for the evangelical story of the childhood of Jesus to come into existence; nor was it necessary, as Baur believed, for the poet to copy a Jewish messianic image. A genuine Roman, who was not unknown to the allegorist school of Alexandria, was the man to create this work, which in the name of the Master simultaneously took possession of the past for him and presented him as the chosen master of the times before him.


He was indeed also an interpreter of the past. To the child still in the mother’s womb, he lets the one who should prepare the way for him offer his greeting, even while that person was still in his mother’s womb. The future one inspired the forerunner in advance. John was a gift from heaven to an elderly couple, the late-born child of a priest. For the sake of the one who was to bring the light of heaven into the world, a time that had lost its generative power and become incapable of reconciling with heaven was blessed with new life. The child in the manger is the punishing contrast to the self-might of the world, and at the same time, glorifies the helplessness of the earthly as the source of rebirth.


So far, Luke. In Matthew, the understanding that the wise men from the East have of the promised star shines through, something that points to the recognition of the wisdom of heathenism that leads to the community of the future. And when the foreigners come to lay their treasures at the feet of the newborn with homage, it looks as though they are placing the child, to whom the world belongs, into the inheritance of antiquity. However, the Jewish homeland is headed for its destruction. At the cradle of the child, piles of bloody sacrifices fall victim to their hostility. It must be hidden in a foreign land, and even when the persecutor died, it had to say goodbye to its cradle and go to the foreign “circle of nations” (Galilee). Herod, the persecutor, over whose grave the spirit of enmity still lives on, is depicted so dark, terrifying, and powerful that he represents the image of the world power as a whole, which brings suspicion and fear of death to the new.


One should read Ovid’s Fasti and Metamorphoses and the brilliant passages in Virgil’s Aeneid to see how they transformed the early history of Rome into signs of its future and Caesarean completion, and one should not find it impossible that Roman Christians skilled in allegorical art had a hand in the elaboration of these stories of Jesus’ childhood.

5. Gnosticism in the Fourth Gospel.

The success of the Ur-gospel and the dissemination of the initial formulations of gnostic systems belong to the beginning of the reign of Hadrian. In the former, the conqueror of the law moves with the people on common ground, and only the hostility of his superiors forces him, step by step, to a victorious rejection of their invocation of legal and national privilege until, after the most brilliant triumphs and before succumbing to the hatred of his enemies, he proclaims the downfall of the national theocracy and of the entire national polity. The Jesus of the Gnostics, on the other hand, regards the Jewish God as only a subordinate and hostile spirit and immediately launches an attack against him to divest him of his armor, the ordinance, and to disarm him from the outset.


To the author of the original version of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ approach in the Urevangelium was still too gentle and cautious. Therefore, he welcomed the repetitions of collisions with the law that he found in the expanding works of his predecessors and incorporated them into his collection to enliven the scene with fiery calls for breaking with the old. In the spirit of Gnostic harshness, he has his Jesus immediately thunder the verdict of rejection over Jewish people and cult at his first appearance, and declare the break that gradually emerges in the struggle with the parties in the Urevangelium in a deadly way. As we learn from Tertullian’s complaints against Marcion’s gospel, he placed that late incident in Nazareth, which confirms the Urevangelium’s statement that a prophet is not honored in his hometown, at the beginning of his work and gave the rebellion of the people against Jesus’ preaching a bloody character, which only comes in the last moment before the crucifixion in the Urevangelium. Even more, Luke uses the distinctive expressions of the Urevangelist in his description (Luke 4:29) of how the citizens of Nazareth, in their fury, led Jesus out of the city and onto the hilltop (to throw him down to the depths), when depicting how they took Jesus out of the city to Golgotha.


The author of the gospel that occupies the fourth place in the biblical collection, whom we will call the Fourth for brevity, attempted to systematically carry out the Gnostic opposition to Judaism in his writing. But lacking the original spirit of those creators of the first religious history, he turned the certain and measured approach that the Urevangelist takes in the struggle against the law into a monotonous, screaming quarrel that does not move from its place and reaches its highest peak at the beginning. His Jews are a “carnal” people – murderers who prefer to throw stones in barren dispute, finally a group of children of the devil.

Thus, he makes his Lord’s public ministry begin with the final act of war in the Urevangelium. He must hurry to Jerusalem, provoke the fury of the Jews and their authorities with the temple cleansing, and prophesy his death and resurrection with the incomprehensible reference to his body that would conquer death after three days (“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”).


He later makes no mention of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, nothing of the offering of his blood and body in the cup and bread of the Passover evening of the Urevangelium. Instead, his Jesus, having barely “found” the first disciples, must reveal himself as the true wine dispenser at the wedding in Cana and in the dispute with his mother, who asked him to intervene in the wine shortage, he points to the connection of the wine offering, which he eventually grants, with his suffering with a confused and incomprehensible reference to his death (“my time has not yet come”).

An equally confused tangle of analogies and antitheses occurs when his Jesus, in the dispute with the people after the miraculous feeding, relates the true bread, which he will give with his flesh for the life of the world, to the bread of the same, and after piling up offense upon offense, he sets up the new antithesis that the spirit gives life but the flesh is of no use.

The Gnostics speak understandably when they make the God of the Jews a jealous being who fights the son and envoy of the Most High to the death. In contrast, for the Fourth, who remains faithful to the type of the evangelical story to such an extent that he (ch. 4, 22) makes salvation come from the Jews, it is a confused echo of the Gnostic view and at the same time an excessive exaggeration of it when he calls Satan (ch. 8, 44) the father of the Jews and opposes his father to him.

The Christ of the Gnostics, with his spiritual (pneumatic) wisdom, throws down the psychical, merely soulful structure of the Jewish legislator, but he nevertheless gains from a circle of spiritually minded individuals the germ of his community. In the Fourth, the spiritual teacher cannot escape from the contrast with the fleshly sense of his listeners, the people, and his own disciples and only speaks powerfully when no one understands him. He becomes great through the misunderstandings he causes; his self-esteem is raised when his words are in vain, and on the pedestal of exaggerated contrasts and increasing offenses, his height comes into view.


The author of the original gospel of Luke truly depicts Jesus as the center of the kingdom of heaven. He turns the world order upside down, disrupts the legalistic relationships of life, populates his kingdom with sinners, and sends the righteous to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He is a center from which the rays of life emanate and to which they return. In contrast, the Fourth Gospel’s depiction of Jesus is a center without a circle or rays, an atom standing in a lifeless void and seeing only malicious, wicked, and devilish children of Satan. The last of our biblical evangelists created the illusion of a sea of light by repeatedly presenting his point of light.


It is a delight for this evangelist to revel in contrasts, letting his Lord be in opposition to his own spiritual power and to the miracles of the fathers in history and those he had just performed (chapter 6, 26, 30). And yet, this same evangelist performs miracle upon miracle, which are meant to surpass the depictions of the previous gospel literature and form a transition to the exaggerations of the apocryphal literature of the third century. For example, the daughter of Jairus, who in the original gospel had just passed away when Jesus revived her, was surpassed by the raising of the young man from Nain by Luke, who had already been carried out of the city when Jesus revived him. In the Fourth Gospel, this was surpassed by the raising of Lazarus, who had been dead and buried for four days, spreading the stench of death when his reviver arrived. The Fourth Evangelist even brought this long-deceased person back from the bosom of Abraham, where the sight of his happiness prompted the rich man (Luke 16, 27-30), who was suffering in hell, to ask Abraham to send the blessed Lazarus to his five brothers to testify to them and convince them to repent. Despite Abraham’s wise response that if they did not listen to Moses and the prophets, they would not believe even if someone were to rise from the dead, the Fourth Gospel presented the return of Lazarus from the world of the dead as evidence. I have also discovered a similar ghostly doubling of a figure in Luke in the Fourth Gospel’s Nathanael, whom Jesus recognized as the true Israelite when he was alone under the fig tree, unbeknownst to him. The true Israelite appears in Luke as Zacchaeus, who had earned the greeting with which Jesus called him as a true son of Abraham by climbing a fig tree to see him.


The Fourth Gospel, which was written around the middle of Marcus Aurelius’ reign, not only had the works of the Alexandrian Philo in mind, as I have shown in my writing on Philo, but also studied the Gnostics who had preceded him in applying Philo’s doctrine of the Logos to the heavenly world of Christian spirituality. In particular, he found the main determinations that govern his introduction to the Gospel and the words of Jesus in the system of Valentinus. Valentinus was the original creator in this field. He first brought together the spirits that idealistically prefigure the unfoldings of Christian life in the upper heavenly world and guide them in history down here, and ordered them into his witnessing pairs. Grace, which had been a companion to the original ground from eternity, gave birth to the Begotten and Truth; from the Begotten springs the Logos and Life; these two beget humanity and the Church; the fruit of the latter is the Paraclete and Faith. In the spirit of Philo, the Fourth Gospel made the Logos the center of this heavenly category table, and added to it the spirits of life, truth, and grace as its attributes in its historical activity, and made the Paraclete the preserver and completer of his creation.


Without causing offense, he could introduce the basic formulas of Philo and the Gnostics and insert them as lights into his Gospel, as the apologists who defended the new faith in the Antonine period had elevated the Logos of the Stoics and Heraclitus from the ancient Greek sources of Philo and the Gnostics and introduced it into the evangelical view. They had also prepared the way for him by attributing to the Logos revealed in the Gospel a great historical activity already in antiquity and deriving from his inspirations the discoveries of Socrates, Heraclitus, and their like, which contained “a part” of Christianity. This established the bridge to the Fourth Gospel.


I conclude my work with the proof that Gnosticism and, with it, the fusion of Heracleitus’ and Stoic wisdom with Philo, also dominate the so-called Pauline letters. This will lead us to the answer to the question of who Paul really was and whether he was the miracle-worker who allegedly shook the early Jewish-Christian community by calling the “uncircumcised.” First, let us consider the image of the Gentile apostle as presented to us in the biblical Acts of the Apostles.

6. The Paul of the Acts of the Apostles.

However, as I have argued in my “Critique of the Acts of the Apostles” (Berlin 1850) against the Tübingen defender of the church tradition (Baur: “Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ,” Stuttgart 1845), this Paul was created at the same time as the Peter of the same New Testament history book, as a copy of the original, which advances in the sublime figure of the apostle prince.


Both apostles open the gates of the early church to the Gentiles, both are great miracle workers, and both are under divine protection in danger and peril. However, in all these matters, Peter has the upper hand; Paul follows in his footsteps. The former paves the way for the acceptance of the Gentiles; the latter is justified in his similar venture by the authority of Peter. Paul is only allowed to perform a miracle when the head of the apostles proves himself to be the first fruit of the calling and convinces friend and foe of his authority through such a miracle. The reports of both their miracles agree in sentence structure and testify (incidentally) in the harmony of the slightest stylistic turns to their imitation based on the descriptions of the great deeds of Jesus in the original gospel. Even in prison, Peter must first be distinguished by divine assistance before Paul can see the doors of the prison open in the same distress through divine power.


The first outward act of Peter is his unmasking of the magician Simon, who confused the Samaritans (Acts 8:9), and the first outward success of Paul is his miraculous punishment of the magician Elymas, who wanted to stifle the seeds of faith in Paphos, Cyprus (Acts 13:8-11). Just as Peter completed the baptismal work of Philip among the Samaritans, a mixed race that took an undecided position between Jews and Gentiles, by giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit through laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17), Paul gives completion to the disciples of John, an unknown group that shimmered between Christians and Jews, by giving them the Holy Spirit through laying on of hands for the baptism of Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:24, 19:6).


The mechanism of this historical structure requires that Paul enters the field of work among the Gentiles only after Peter, enlightened by a vision, has received into the church the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household as the firstfruits of the Gentiles. Despite this heavenly justification, however, Paul loses himself in the difficulties of his office and is unable to control a dispute that disrupts his work in Antioch over the question of the necessity of circumcision. He is sent to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and elders and seek their decision on the dispute. And even before the court of the early church, it is not he who brings about the solution. Rather, after the dispute has swayed back and forth at first, Peter prepares the decision by recalling the signs of Joppa and Caesarea, and then James gives the casting vote and creates, with reference to Peter’s report, the real decision which absolves the Gentiles from the necessity of circumcision. In his conclusions, the original apostle takes no account of Paul’s experiences and reports.


Paul stands before the bar of the apostolic council, must wait for the decision, and even hears that the foundation of the universal community is nothing more than the restoration of the fallen hut of David, that is, nothing more than an expanded Judaism. The humiliated one must bow even deeper. The court of the early church does not reject his procedure, but it does not approve it unreservedly either, believing that the disputed question can only be settled by establishing four “necessary” provisions that Paul had not yet discovered and whose observance would prove that the Gentiles were serious about conducting themselves properly. And he must accept regulations that he would classify as weak and meager foundations of humanity according to his letters. Indeed, he must witness that Gentile Christians are equated with the strangers of the old covenant through the obligation to observe these four provisions, who, though they did not participate in everything legal, were still obliged to show some respect for the holiness of the chosen people.


For his own part, the apostle to the Gentiles proves to be a strict follower of the law. He takes on vows that require him to visit the temple in Jerusalem for their fulfillment. In his speeches, he defends himself against the accusation of being opposed to the law, which he has not given cause for in the course of the Acts of the Apostles. Before the Jews who rose up against him in Jerusalem, whose changing form ranged from Christian-believing Israelites to a mob and finally to foreign agitators, he appeals (22:3-21) to the mission he received to preach to the Gentiles, which was imposed on him against his will by a higher, superior power, and the last decisive call of the Lord came to him while he was in the temple praying.


In his interrogations before Felix, governor of Judea, and then before Festus, his successor, and even before the council of the high priests, interrogations modeled after Jesus’ interrogations before Pilate, Herod, and the high priests, he stoops to appealing to the sectarian spirit of the Pharisees, whom he had otherwise belonged to. He protests against the accusation that he teaches something new and asserts that he is only persecuted for his teaching on the resurrection by the Sadducee members of the council.

Throughout all the twists and turns of these speeches, the assurance shines through that he is not a violent man, not the destroyer who wanted to break the yoke of the law and destroy the worldly elements of the covenant. He is not a innovator, apostate, or deceiver. He does not teach anything except what is written in the law and the prophets. His hope for the promise given to the fathers is common to him with the twelve tribes of his people.

And just as the Pilate of Luke (23:15) declares to the high priests and leaders of the people, after Herod sent Jesus back to him, “I find no fault in this man concerning those things of which you accuse him, nor does Herod,” so Festus and Agrippa say to each other after the latter had his conversation with Paul (Acts 26:31), “This man has done nothing deserving of death.”


He is also innocent of the fact that his message reached the Gentiles. Although his calling to be a tool for the Gentiles has priority over his mission to the children of Israel in the Acts of the Apostles (9:15) before he is sent, he follows Peter’s principle (Acts 3:25-26), according to which the message of the Resurrected One first belongs to the Jews. On his missionary journeys, he always turns first to the Jews and, in their reluctance, drives them with force to the Gentiles. Only the hatred of the Jews and their obstinacy make the Gospel the property of the nations. It is a coincidence to which they owe the new message; only when the Jews have dispossessed themselves of salvation and made it ownerless can it be transferred to the Gentiles. Even in Rome, he follows this law of his office, turning first to the Jews and threatening them, when he saw the hearts of his fellow tribesmen hardened, that he would find a hearing among the Gentiles.


7. Gnosticism in the Pauline Letters.

So, would the apostle who speaks and zealously writes in the letters attributed to him be the real, historical Paul? That would be a very hasty conclusion.

Dr. Baur may want to give the written letter and his colleagues every opportunity, and, after giving “conviction” room to maneuver, that “the historical truth can only be on one side or the other” given the great gap between the two portrayals of the apostle’s personality and work in his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles, he makes the concession that “no too harmful conclusion should be drawn from their special design for their credibility in general” (see his aforementioned writing, p. 5, 13).

However, when it comes to seriousness and the fact that the pragmatism of the Acts of the Apostles has produced its own separate history that excludes any other image of the apostle, the new question arises as to whether the opposing image that appears in the letters may also be the product of a deliberately planned scheme.


Yes, as my “Critique of the Pauline Epistles” (3 volumes, Berlin 1850-52) has shown, it was developed in opposition to the view whose completion was preserved for us in the Acts of the Apostles. The decades from the last years of Hadrian to the first half of the reign of Marcus Aurelius were occupied by both the progressive redaction of the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistolary literature, and both circles had sharply focused on each other in their work. At the height of this conflict, the Galatians letter sketched a portrait of the apostle that was directed against a redaction of the Acts of the Apostles, which was very close to the one we now have.


I would like to briefly recall my earlier remarks on how intentionally Paul of that letter extols his gospel as personal property, and his vocation as an individual one. He emphasizes how, as a result of his calling at Damascus, he did not go to Jerusalem, but to Arabia, and only after spending three years in Damascus did he go to Jerusalem, where he did not, as one would have expected, associate with the circle of the apostles, but only spoke with Peter and stayed with him for only fourteen days. He solemnly assures that he saw no other apostles than James, the Lord’s brother.

With the same emphasis, he designates his trip to Jerusalem after fourteen years as his second one, so that one does not think of frequent contact with the original community and any influence of the same on his preaching in Cilicia and Syria, and on this occasion, he was only granted the apostleship among the Gentiles alongside Peter’s among the circumcised in a sort of contract, as one had to acknowledge his successes and his vocation.

Consider seriously the conscientiousness of this chronological emancipation of the apostle to the Gentiles from the original community and its leaders, and one will come to appreciate the value of the novel that the Tübingen School and, with them, Renan construct on the basis of the old theological harmonization of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles over time.


I must now answer the question of when the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles and the letters came into being. The handle for the solution to this chronological puzzle is provided by the contacts of the Pauline letters with the formulas of the Gnostic systems, and by setting out my argument at one point of the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-8), I hope that the reader who has followed me so kindly through my interpretations of Greek and Roman authors will also hold this decisive philological investigation in good stead.


In that passage of the aforementioned letter, the humiliation of Christ is contrasted with the spurned plunder that could have granted him equality with God. However, the author of the letter assumes at the same moment that Christ already existed in the form of God before his debasement to earthly appearance and was equal to God, so that the choice that was presented to him as temptation in his heavenly home before his descent to human form is impossible.

In the system of Valentinus, as I have described it in my account of the Hadrianic age, this temptation is real and properly grounded. Here, Sophia, a member of the divine ideal world, could actually feel the urge to grasp the supreme Father and seize his divine greatness. She is a member of the heavenly world, but only one and, moreover, the last of the developments in which the fullness of the divine has been unfolded. For her, the self-awareness of lack was understandable, and she could succumb to the desire for satisfaction with the primordial ground from which she had emerged. She could attempt the plunder; but the Christ of the Letter to the Philippians, who already sits at the side of the Father in the divine form of the Son, does not and need not grasp the idea of such a violent act.


The debasement/renunciation (χένωσις), to which the Jesus of the supposedly Pauline letter submitted instead of committing the robbery against the divinity, is a floating expression that strives in various directions without finding any aim or rest. Its home is in the system of Valentinus, where the unfortunate desire of Sophia to grasp the Absolute as a miscarriage outside the heavenly ideal world falls into nothingness/void (χένωμα) and there develops as a luminous atom into the world and the future scene of that which reconnects the miscarriage with the heavenly world.


Ferd. Chr. Baur, who does not want to separate the Philippians from the authentic works of Paul too much, holds the matter in an undecided suspension, which gives some relief to the horror of a too late composition time, when he believes he finds “the stamp of Gnosis” in it. The letter presupposes rather the complete systematic elaboration of Gnosis; Gnostic formulas are not taken up in it, as Dr. Baur puts it, “in a still unbiased manner”, but are processed with an explicit correction. With a polemical reference to Valentinus’ system, the author of the letter allows his Christ to do voluntarily what the Gnostic Sophia experiences as a result of her sinful self-exaltation. The self-emptying into the form of lowliness, which appears in the system as a metaphysical necessity, has become in the letter a free historical act.

Dr. Baur would also like to keep the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians with their Gnostic echoes as far back as possible from the depths of the second century.

The Pleroma, which in Colossians 1:19-20 decided to dwell in Christ and to reconcile everything to itself, is Valentinus’ united Pleroma, in which the fullness of the births of the original ground unfolds. The “manifold” character of Wisdom, which reveals to the Church the heavenly dominions and powers (Eph. 3:10), is only at home in the system, where the painful passage of the birth of Sophia through a series of manifestations and her return with the pneumatic content of the Church to the heavenly ideal world also has this meaning. In the letter to the Ephesians, however, where Wisdom is the absolute and in its own way unique revelation of the divine, it is a phrase that fades away into nothingness.


Likewise, the image in the Ephesians letter (1:8-10), where Christ descends to the lowest regions of the earth to fill everything and leads the captives of the earth to the heights as the reward for his victory, is only found in the system of Marcion, where the descent into hell to liberate the spirits of freedom held captive by the envious God of the law has a meaning.

According to the analogy of all similar turbulent times in which a philosophical system of theology was employed, metaphysics were exploited for faith in a free divine plan, logical categories received meaning for the defense of revelation, and the rigid necessity of speculative construction learned the pliability of a support for a system of moral freedom. Therefore, we cannot agree with Baur’s assumption that the two letters to the Ephesians and Colossians were written at a time when “the recently circulating Gnostic ideas still appeared as harmless Christian speculations.” The fundamental ideas and formulas of a metaphysical system always become part of the conception and language of a shaken community only after the first hostile clash is over. Only then can we witness the spectacle of metaphysical buzzwords that have been incorporated into theological language, which, with their innate stubbornness, resist their unfamiliar surroundings and disrupt the coherence.


Since the days of Irenaeus, for one and a half millennia, the connection between the Pauline letters and the Gnostics has been explained by the use and distortion of their sayings by the heretics. We owe to the founder of the Tübingen School the proof that the Gnostic implications in several of those letters are rather to be explained by the influence of an already ongoing Gnostic movement. However, he still stopped short with a certain hesitation about the beginnings of this movement and stopped doubting before the two letters to the Corinthians and the writings to the Romans and Galatians. Yet, their authors were also under the influence of Gnosis, namely the developed Gnosis of the second century.


A true tangle of Gnostic images is the contrast between the divine wisdom hidden in mystery and the wisdom of the lords of this world in the First Corinthians (2:6-8). The latter are the world-creating spirits who rule the peoples, their creatures, as property. These “angels, rulers, and powers” are referred to in the Letter to the Romans (8:38) as powerless enemies of the believers and their Lord; in the First Corinthians (15:38), Jesus will one day lay them at the feet of the Father, and only the echo of the enmity that the Jewish god of the Gnostics showed to the vanquisher of the law can explain why the law is reduced to the elements of this world in the Letter to the Galatians (4:3) and in the Letter to the Colossians (2:8, 20). The author of the First Corinthians has in mind this delusion and rage of the Jewish god when he speaks of the lords of this world in the first passage mentioned, saying they did not know the wisdom that appeared in the Lord, or they would not have crucified him.


The emphasis with which the author of the same letter (1:23) opposes his preaching of the crucified Christ to the wisdom of this world can only be explained by his opposition to Gnostic Docetism. Like his contemporaries, he saw in that admonition of the Gnostic masters to their disciples to raise the course of the gospel story and its climax, the crucifixion, to an inner history, to spiritual knowledge and an experience of faith, a lowering of the crucifixion to a mere illusion and wanted to make the fact all the more the center of his preaching. (By the way, Ovid teaches us, when he made the murderers of Caesar strike only a mere image (simulacra nuda), while the man himself (vir, ibid.) wrested himself from the daggers of his enemies and was carried up by the divine mother’s spirit, how close antiquity was to reducing the bloody catastrophe of a divine founder to a mere illusion in contrast to the spirit’s soaring from the fetters of finitude.)


The fruits that the authors of the First Corinthians and the two Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians gained from their study of Philo’s works have already been compiled in my treatise on this master of allegorical scriptural interpretation. Here, I only present the passing remark in which the apostle calls the Galatians (chapter 4, verse 9) “people who know God, or rather are known by God” (γνόντες τὸν θεόν, μᾶλλον δέ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ), in contrast to Philo’s original text in his treatise on the “Cherubim” (page 127). The Alexandrian philosopher develops the idea  that humans do not own what they possess in terms of spirit, reason, and sensation, but rather receive them as gifts from the Creator and are thus under His control. In the context of this explanation, he says: “we are known more than we know” (γνωριζόμεθα μᾶλλον ἤ γνωρίζομεν). This is the origin and motivation of the saying.

An exclamation of triumph with which the author of the Epistle to the Romans refers to his discussion on law and grace in his text, specifically in the section which the arguments from the ninth chapter onwards were added at different times, takes us to the era in which this letter literature was written.

His question (Romans 3:31), “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?” and the answer, “Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (stabilize it) belong to the same period as that masterwork of thought preserved in Matthew’s Gospel, which in the most thorough transformation of the law does not allow even the slightest jot of it to be lost. The question in the Epistle to the Romans has the same meaning as the admonition in the Gospel of Matthew: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law.” And the confidence of one who is sure of the stability of the law in the victory over it corresponds to the boldness that gains the completion and preservation of the old commandments in their dissolution.


The Gnostics’ attack on the law prompted the question in the Epistle to the Romans and the admonition in the Gospel of Matthew, and the stabilization of the law in the Epistle to the Romans and its completion in the Gospel of Matthew are the result of the rebellion against the innovators who seemed to go too far in fulfilling the community’s and its leaders’ desire for a calm organization.


Critical times have always experienced a similar shift in mood. In the initial force of the Reformation, Luther wrote, “we do not want to hear or see Moses,” and Melanchthon in his draft of the doctrine of faith: “it must be acknowledged that the Decalogue is also antiquated,” and a few years later, Luther “established” the commandments in his catechism. Zinzendorf, who called Moses’ law a “horse cure” of past times, had to experience that his community, in the confusion that the revelry in the grace that had become their own nature brought upon them, quietly returned to the commandments. Kant was alarmed by his own heroic act of expelling the Creator and Lawgiver from the real world and sought to defuse the charge of irreligiosity and lawlessness by driving the iron rod of the categorical imperative into the emancipated souls.

The “do not think” of the Gospel of Matthew and the “we stabilize the law” of the Letter to the Romans are meant to remedy a similar eerie feeling, which has disturbed critical ages so far, and to ward off the accusation that the striving spirits are complicit in the excesses of a new freedom movement. The repeated questions of the Letter to the Romans (6, 1. 15), “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” and the answer, “God forbid!” are meant to absolve the congregation of participation in the degeneration that was said to have been noticed among the followers of the new freedom and to give the accusers more justification than the ascetic members of the Gnostic associations deserved.


Despite all this, the author of the Letter to the Galatians in his clumsy and often misguided treatment of the theme of the Letter to the Romans, could not completely escape the domination of Gnostic formulas. For example, he counts the law among the elements of this world, i.e., the order and time of those middle spirits who kept the nations in discipline until the arrival of Christ. And the authors of the two twin letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, despite all the Catholicization of Philonic and Gnostic formulas, lived even more in the imagery of Alexandria, and the power of the painting, as Christ (Col. 2:14) nails the ordinance that testified as a handwriting against the faithful to the cross, recalls the audacity of the original Gnostic rebellion.


The wisdom of the man whose still condensed mass of light and world interpretation later broke forth in Plato’s theory of creation and in the morality of the Stoics – I speak of Heraclitus – is most purely processed in the statements from the foundation of the Letter to the Romans. Therefore, the originality of these statements has always had a stimulating effect in the previous course of church history, provoked criticism, and also brought forth a brilliant episode of renewal in Luther’s equally original spirit.

Both sides that I am now juxtaposing move in the language of imagery. The author of the first chapters of the Letter to the Romans saw the solution to the world puzzle in the historical fact of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, while the wisdom of the Ephesians interprets the fate, the suffering, and the ultimate satisfaction of humanity as a part of the life of the world nature. Mythology is the form in which the explanation of the world order appears on both sides; the Apostle offers the miracle of an event and divine counsel to faith; the ancient sage places the guilt of the soul and its solution in the conflict of nature and its striving for the restoration of its own nature.


But on this common ground of the language of imagery, the philosophical work of the philosopher has the significance of the original soul, which has received an individual embodiment in the evangelical form of salvation. Therefore, even though the philosophical creation appears in the garb of poetry, it has the advantage of an apparent comprehensibility and universality for itself, according to which it provides us with useful services in explaining the biblical mystery.


Thus we understand the Apostle’s saying about the divine act that has locked all creatures under sin when we remember its general presupposition, Heraclitus’ statement about the guilt of finiteness that has drawn the immortal and infinite into its confines on its way down and wants to hold it there. The historical mythology of the Apostle, that sin and through it, death came into the world through one man, corresponds to the natural mythology of Heraclitus, according to which life is a fate debt that our ancestors have passed on to us, and which we must repay in death. On the way and the flight upwards and in the dying off, which according to Heraclitus leads to the rest of the infinite and forms the eternal law of life, Christ has gone ahead of the Apostle, and when the Christian, baptized into the death of the Savior, descends into the grave with him and reaches life, he experiences the truth of Heraclitus’ statement that only in death does man attain completion.


8. Peace agreement between Peter and Paul.

The fact that since the Hadrianic period up to the first years of Marcus Aurelius, it was possible to link a literary tradition of letters to the name of Paul, which occupied a series of active and intellectual men for about forty years, was only possible if the figure of this fighter was already given for a universal community and for freedom from the law in faith. The effort made by the author of the Acts of the Apostles to highlight the preeminent greatness of the Apostle Peter in relation to him is also evidence of this image. However, this does not exclude the fact that in the letters the image of the hero received more significant features, just as the Acts of the Apostles received several adaptations to the glory of the original apostle.


In this competition between both circles, Paul (1 Corinthians 15:9-10) won the prize, that he “labored more abundantly than they all” (in which the author of the letter speaks of the Apostle’s own work and that of his envious predecessors as a closed chapter belonging to the past). In the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 3, verse 5), the group “of the holy apostles” also appears as a group standing in the distance of history and he himself (verse 8) as the “least of all the saints”. He, the smallest and least of the circle of apostles, is the historical confirmation of the saying that the last shall be first and calls himself (1 Corinthians 15:8) an “untimely birth” (ektroma), meaning a miscarriage of fear and distress, an expression that can only be explained from Valentinianism, where Sophia, the last link in the development of divine fullness, gives birth to a miscarriage (ektroma) when trying to grasp the primordial being, which falls into emptiness and becomes the universe and the place of reconciliation. His descent from the tribe of Benjamin, which the author of the first appendix to the foundation of the letter to the Romans (chapters 9-11) attributes to him in the first verse of the last chapter, gives him the same position in relation to the original apostles as that son of Jacob held among his siblings in the order of birth. He is the last, the unexpected, the conclusion, the beloved youngest child. His Latin name, Paulus, also expresses the smallness that the above passages of the letters put in contrast to the greatness to which grace raised him.


This latecomer and late riser, from the moment he entered the life of history, had as his companion the apostolic prince of the original community, the pioneer of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter. The group of both was created in Rome and only gained a significance in the West that was never granted to it in the East, where the philosophical world of the Fourth Gospel reigned alongside the neutral content of the original Gospel.


During the fertile period of the emperors, which we have described in the preceding sections, two powerful spirits worked in the eternal city, acting against each other and at the same time converging in a striving for universality that eventually led to their unification. One of these forces aimed at centralization, making itself the center of the world, demanding general obedience and submission, preserving the traditions of holy Rome amid the ruins of peoples and their idols, and also building on the positive and given aspects in its reforms, such as the progressive development of law.

However, without the other force, which freed the spirits from their national and religious barriers, that centralizing power would not have been able to accomplish its work, and an impenetrable barrier would have stood in its way at every point in the world. This liberating force made the intellectual material of the world fluid and set it in motion, causing the hard atoms to come together and become malleable and useful for a new order.


As soon as Greek wisdom and Jewish law had formed their alliance in the Flavian era, the forces that were at work in the imperial world began to work in the new community as well. The Caesaric principate found its reflection in Peter, the prince of the apostles. This Kephas, meaning the rock, is ranked first among the three whom Jesus takes with him into the room of Jairus’ daughter and onto the mountain of transfiguration in the original gospel, and answers Jesus’ question to his disciples about what they think he is with the response, “You are the Christ.” Gradually, he became the bearer of the positive, tradition, and proper community order. Finally, in one of those expansions that Matthew used in compiling his gospel material, around the middle of Antoninus’s reign, he became the rock on which the Master wants to build his church, and it will be impregnable even to the gates of hell.


In opposition to the need for tradition and conformity, which became too restrictive for some, a rival emerged in the form of Paul, who discarded adherence to tradition, boldly broke with the law, and conquered the West for the crucified one. Paul became the vessel into which the community collected all useful things from the treasures of Philonic allegory and bold Gnostic innovations. The conflict between the two figures culminated in the Acts of the Apostles, which Luke appended to his Gospel, and in the Galatians, which summarized Paul’s polemic against the law and mounted the most heated attack on the belittling of the heathen apostle’s reputation and person in Acts.

The question of where the balance of historical truth lies is entirely irrelevant to us, and regarding the traditional view, which sees the elevation of the apostle-prince to the rock of the church and the reverence with which he guarded the bond between the new community and the God-state of the Old Testament in the Acts of the Apostles as the work of Jewish Christians, I only reiterate my previous statement that these allegedly authentic Jewish traits are genuinely Roman.


The Roman was no less committed to the positive and the statutory than the Jew. In the person of the world ruler, he had the connection between the supreme pontificate and princely power in mind; his art of legislation consisted of merging the old with the inevitable new; he could, therefore, also relate quite well to the image of a worldly apostle prince and satisfy humanity’s innate desire, the creature’s sigh for connection with tradition. For him, Judea had become what Ilium was for the world’s history of a Virgil and Ovid. Moreover, it is crucial that, according to the holy primeval history of the New Testament, no Israelites or Jewish names emerge in the community. The names of the extensive circle of followers who send and receive greetings in the allegedly Pauline letters are Roman or Greek; the Gnostics and apologetic writers of the second century, such as Justin and Athenagoras, are Greek or Roman; the martyr narrative knows (after the supposedly apostolic martyrs) no Jews, and from the time of Tertullian to the conversion of St. Augustine, we hear of no significant Jewish men who dedicated themselves to the service of the new church. From the days of Horace and Augustus to the highest point of fermentation under Hadrian, the Jews were an important ferment, but the productive force came from the Roman-Greek circle.


The changing forms that the small and later arrived figure had to take on as the defender of freedom alongside the rock of the original circle of disciples testify to the struggle of the statutory and legal with the impulses of originality and freedom that shook the community since the days of the Ur-gospel and the Gnostics. The Paul of the Acts of the Apostles fulfills his career in the shackles of the statutory and is the living testimony to the victory of the legalistic. In him Catholicism is announced, which became the master of the community in the last quarter of the second century. However, my earlier criticism of the Pauline letters makes it possible for me to make visible in them the impulses of the hierarchy, the breaking off of previous struggles, and the coincidence of the great questions from which the victor of the century emerged. In this respect, the two Corinthian letters are particularly important.


The hierarch of the first of these letters uses a fictitious and superficially described case of dispute to assert himself as the sole arbitrator of church life. He pours out his ridicule from the fourth chapter onwards over those who want to be something and mean something without him. Yes, I would like, he mocks them, if you were already kings, then I could hope to climb to the summit of power with you. But he himself wants to come soon, measure himself against the power of the inflated ones, and carry war and peace in both hands in front of him; no! now already, in spirit and absent, he appears as an all-powerful ruler and, in the midst of the supposedly openly rebellious community, he hands over the fabricated criminal to Satan. In conclusion, he recommends the rebels to submit to their deacons and describes them as the men who represent in their person the perfection that the community lacks, and, as he adds the greeting “with his own hand” in other letters, he writes the crushing curse over anyone who does not love the Lord.


The author of the letter already knows a general norm of doctrine and belief, which, according to the assumption that the apostle is writing, consists of the teachings and ordinances that he has laid down in all churches (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17). The contrast between the norm and false doctrine is so firm that the author can explain it from the general statement that there must be heresies so that the true believers can become visible.


The Gnostics had given glory to the victory of their Christ over the God of the law and the pagan spirits of the world and without hesitation or conscience, had participated in the sacrificial meals of their pagan neighbors, and even bought meat from these offerings at the market. The author of the First Corinthians proves with his anxious and eccentric phrasings that this freedom had long been acquired in his time. Yet he does not hesitate to recommend self-denial that corresponds to this freedom in practice. He pretends that this indulgence towards the weak is the pure work of love and in the lethargy and weakness of his exhortations, he comes to phrases that even require condescension to the idolatrous fear of the weak. He would prefer to state that the exercise of freedom is of no use, and the abstinence from it does not harm, and yet he loses himself in a series of sentences in which he makes the weak the authority for the free.


In the midst of this back and forth of the champions of freedom and opponents of the law, if they are subject to the commandment of the Petrine Acts of the Apostles (15:29), according to which the pagan increase of the community should avoid idolatrous meals, then in the same letter, the entire structure of the innovator is thrown into the rubble of all other building attempts, and the Catholicism that is free from opposition rises above the divisions of individual masters. The author was unable to describe the divisions of the communities and the differences between a Peter, Paul, and Apollos, any more than the unity of spirit and opinion to which he exhorts the faithful. His power, like that of the entire second century, was not sufficient to grasp the oppositions in which the rich educational development of the time had unfolded in their peculiarity, let alone shape the common goal towards which they were striving. But he was one of those who prepared the ground for the third century, on which the same, based on a few shared convictions, could engage in the dispute over the person of Christ and ignite the conflict of the following two centuries.

The ground on which the author of the First Corinthians worked was like a heap of rubble on which the reminiscences and formulas of the first sixty decades of the second century were scattered around. He himself added the catchwords of the Philonic writings and the Alexandrian Gnosis, with the memories of the earlier struggle for freedom from the law, along with the admonitions to obedience to the hierarchical leaders who had emerged within the communities.


People were exhausted from the struggle that had preoccupied their minds since the days of the original gospel, in support of or against the Law, and they left the decision to future judgment while they gathered in hierarchical order, which came to the rescue of humanity’s eternal fear of the efforts and dangers of freedom. In this exhaustion of mood, which in similar later periods is called indifference and syncretism by church historians, Peter and Paul, who at the time of Hadrian and Gnosis entered history as a pair of fighters, found themselves on the flattened plain, and hand in hand they strode towards the third century as reconciled comrades.


On their further path through the centuries and millennia, they combined the proclamation of the incarnate Logos with the preaching of Plato’s Judaized monotheism. Just as the founder of the Academy came to the aid of the horror of antiquity before Democritus’ atomic theory, so they, too, carefully guarded Athens’ Judaized legacy to soothe humanity’s eternal dread of an explanation of the world from within itself. They inherited the sword of faith, with which the apostolic princes paved the way for their community through the Roman imperial period and stood against the medieval attempts at military dictatorship, as the present pages demonstrate, from the Stoics, who opposed the military triumphs of the Macedonians and Romans with the strength of conscience and conviction. The same sword will flash in the hands of the successors of the Stoics as long and as often as a political power sees only the charter of its privilege and not the work of universal liberation in the collapse of an outdated world order.

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Neil Godfrey

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