Bruno BAUER — Seven (now Eight) Works Translated into English

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Until recently, an English translation of Bruno Bauer’s Christianity Exposed (1843) has only been available through a library or Edwin Mellen University Press. Now, however, Google Books has made Bruno Bauer’s famous work public — though it is in German. BUT the better news is that when one opens it in Google Reader and runs a cursor over the German text, a little box pops up giving one the option to have an instant translation of the selected text! Nice. — https://books.google.com.au/books/about … edir_esc=y Click on the READ EBOOK link in the left margin.

I have translated seven volumes of Bruno Bauer’s works into English and make them freely accessible here. I am not a German speaker and the Fraktur or Gothic font is not my closest friend so I have relied heavily on machine translation tools — Google Translate, DeepL and ChatGPT, often comparing them paragraph by paragraph for the preferable rendering into English. I have made an effort to manually check all pages for accuracy and comprehensibility but unfortunately the complexity and highly abstract commentary by Bauer sometimes stretched me to the limits of my abilities. Most of the text, I trust, is easier to read than those sections, but I encourage anyone who sees errors or can propose better translations to let me know.

Christ and the Caesars is commercially available — or rather it is very difficult to obtain — so I have provided here a fresh translation for open access.

BRUNO BAUER: Critique of the Gospel of John – English translation 1840

BRUNO BAUER: Critique of the Gospel History – English translation 1841-42

BRUNO BAUER: Acts of the Apostles – in English 1850

BRUNO BAUER: Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin – in English 1850-51

BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – English translation 1852 — Primarily a response to David Strauss and his Life of Jesus and the assumption of oral tradition behind the gospels

BRUNO BAUER: Criticism of the Pauline Letters – in English 1852

BRUNO BAUER: Christ and the Caesars – in English 1877

Albert Schweitzer on Bruno Bauer

One might suppose that between the work of Strauss and that of Bauer there lay not five, but fifty years—the critical work of a whole generation. . . .

The only critic with whom Bauer can be compared is Reimarus. Each exercised a terrifying and disabling influence upon his time. No one else had been so keenly conscious as they of the extreme complexity of the problem offered by the life of Jesus. . . .

For us the great men are not those who solved the problems, but those who discovered them. Bauer’s Criticism of the Gospel History is worth a good dozen Lives of Jesus, because his work, as we are only now coming to recognise, after half a century, is the ablest and most complete collection of the difficulties of the Life of Jesus which is anywhere to be found. . . .

Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. A. & C. Black, 1910. pp. 151, 159






8. The Composition of Acts of the Apostles

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey



The Composition of Acts of the Apostles

Let us especially keep in mind the parallelism of Peter and Paul, then the undeniable testimonies that speak for the fact that the miracles of both apostles are intentionally and with full consciousness copied from the miracle reports of the Gospels, finally the artistic machinery that suddenly brings the course of events to a halt, when everything was already ready for the Apostle of the Gentiles to enter into his role, and which only allows the events to run their course again when Peter has in the meantime left and won the firstfruits of the Gentiles – thus the theological views on the origin and composition of the Acts of the Apostles will no longer be able to assert themselves against the correct explanation.


If, for example, de Wette *) says: “very naturally, although without any clear intention on the part of the author, there is a first part in C. 1-12 and a second part in C. 13-28”, this machinery rather points to a very definite, very clearly recognisable intention which the author pursued with perfectly clear consciousness and which he certainly also achieved in his own way, in that this machinery very artfully intertwines both parts.

*) Introduction p. 223.

Schneckenburger **) also thinks that “the book can best be divided with de Wette according to the main parts of the material, which is up to C. 13 is more general, while the following chapters have Paul as the sole hero and the wide non-Palestinian world as the geographical setting,” he combines with this the further opinion that the author, when he deals in the second part only with Paul, knew very well what was happening at the same time in Palestine and what the other apostles were doing, so we do no longer even need to ask where the traces of this richer consciousness of the author show themselves, but we can at once, with reference to the proof hitherto given of the free creation of the whole work, put down the proposition *) that the author knew only so much of the history of his Church as he pleased to create, and that the presupposition of the readers that he might well know more than he expressly reports would have been most unwelcome and embarrassing to him. He rather wanted to give the impression that he gave everything he knew and that he knew everything that had taken place under the Lord’s guidance up to his time in the church and with its chosen witnesses.

**) op. cit. p. 49.

*) By leaving aside the mistakes of the author, in which his knowledge of the Pauline epistles and his dependence on the presuppositions of the same are betrayed.


If Schneckenburger **) then thinks that the narratives of the first part were taken by the author from the tradition of the early church, and if he combines this view in part with at least the hypothesis of others that the author had already found this tradition in written records, then we need only refer to our proof, that the miracles of Paul are copied from the miracle reports of the Gospels in the same way as the deeds and destinies of Peter, and that the conformity of the method followed in this copying bears irrefutable witness to the simultaneity of the origin of both parts and to the unity of the author. Before we put it on the account of the most monstrous and mysterious coincidence that, for example, the first reproduction of the miracle of Jesus on Peter’s mother-in-law – (the miracle of Peter on Aeneas 9:2-34) – was casually presented and only later in the miracle of Paul on the father of Publius (28:7-9) – we prefer to acknowledge the fact that one author created both accounts, that the one author who, during the first imitation, already had the second one in mind and knew that the precisely corresponding imitation would follow in it.

**) op. cit. p. 154. 156.


The first part of the Acts of the Apostles never existed on its own, but the same author, who in the second part made the Apostle of the Gentiles a miracle worker and protégé of heaven after the model of the evangelical Jesus, created the miraculous figures of the first part after the same model and had the Apostle of the Gentiles in mind as the chosen instrument of his Lord from the beginning and already at the first construction of his work. When, for example, immediately before the Ascension Jesus tells the disciples that they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (1:8), the author sees before his eyes the original apostles who began the proclamation of the Gospel in the Holy Land and in Samaria, and he sees behind them the Apostle to the Gentiles who carried the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. When the disciples fill the gap that the traitor brought into the holy number of twelve and choose Matthias, the author is already thinking of the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom the Lord Himself called, and he counts on the reader coming to the conclusion of his own accord that he is the true substitute, the one called afterwards, i.e. the one whom the Lord had appointed to complete the circle of disciples. If the miracle of Pentecost depicts the universal destiny of the congregation in advance, who fulfilled this wonderful prophecy in its entirety? Who else but the witness whom the Lord won at Damascus and whom he accompanied and led on his missionary journeys until he finally brought him to the promised goal of his activity, to Rome? Why, finally, must James, John’s brother, fall as a martyr shortly before the appearance of the Apostle to the Gentiles? Only so that he might stand in a new way, so that he might stand quite clearly and evidently as the substitute ordered by the Lord, and so that at the same time, through the fate of the disciple he replaced, the outcome of his own life might be indicated, even declared to be a divine destiny.


But the account of the first great missionary journey of the Apostle to the Gentiles (13:1-14, 28) is surely *) a “special memoir” which the author of Acts found and simply inserted into his work? So the author of this memorandum happened to find that Paul is only the copy of Peter, of Peter who was portrayed by another author in such a way that his image could make the most indisputable claims to originality? The copy was made independently of the original – before the original was fixed? And the author of this memorandum happened to find that Paul is the same copy of Peter that he is in the course of his activity – he happened to strike the same note that others struck in their memoranda – he was so fortunate in his tendency that his memorandum could easily be added to the memoranda of others? No! Whoever elaborated Peter’s sermons in the first part, also created the copy in the presentation of the Apostle to the Gentiles at Antioch – whoever created Paul’s miracle on Elymas, had immediately before created Peter’s great deeds on Simon Magus and Ananias – it is the same author who called the miracles of both Apostles on a lame-born into existence – one and the same author lets the Apostle to the Gentiles on his first great journey, as later, first address the Jews, and the writer, who composed the apostle’s sermon to the Gentiles at Lystra, knew that he would later bring him once more – at Athens – into the situation in which horror at the Gentile nature moved him to a peroration to the Gentiles – the same writer who made Barnabas the companion of the apostle on his first missionary journey, had with deliberate intention made him the well-deserving and respected member of the early church (4: 35-36), who was from the beginning destined to introduce the Apostle to the Gentiles and to his missionary activity.

*) as Schneckenburger also assumes.


From none of the persons who appear in the Acts of the Apostles could the author receive notes or memoranda about the early days of the church and about the history of the Apostle to the Gentiles, for what they know, do and speak, they know, do and speak only through him. They are his creatures. Barnabas could not tell him anything, nor could he be the centre of a special memoir, for this Barnabas, who exits in the Acts of the Apostles, is from the outset only a means of historical pragmatism. Timothy could tell him nothing, because this Timothy of Acts with his unnatural circumcision is only an artificially created counter-image to Titus of the Epistle to the Galatians. Silas could not tell him anything about the apostle’s second journey of discord, for his experiences in the prison of Philippi only took place in that world in which the miracles that freed Peter from prison were capable of being repeated effortlessly and without danger. Finally, the four daughters of Philip, with whom Paul and his companions met in Caesarea (21:9), could not have told the author anything, for with their gift of prophecy they only serve to form the prophetic environment for the appearance of Agabus, who announced to the apostle the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem.


But since in the beginning of the report on the second major missionary journey a man appears who (16:10) speaks in the first person – with a direct and confident “we” – and with this “we” also appears later, in the report on the last journey to Jerusalem and on the journey to Rome, do the theologians not have every right to accept from the 16th chapter onwards a memoir *) that comes from an eye-witness and thus deserves – indeed, may demand – unconditional faith?

*) and indeed to accept it with the confidence which, for example, de Wette displays? (Introduction p. 232.)

Unhappy eyewitness, who appears just there (16:10), where the failed reproduction of the relation in which the Jesus of the Gospels stood to the demons, brought the Apostle of the Gentiles into the prison, from which the failed renewal of the faith of the miraculous power, which once assisted Peter, delivered him!

Unhappy eyewitness, who (20:5-13) comes forward with his We again at the moment when in the miracle of the apostle on the dead Eutychus the tortured recovery of the miracle should take place, which the Jesus of the Gospels had performed on the daughter of Jairus, and of the miracle which Peter had performed on Dorcas!


Poor eyewitness who has to hear in Caesarea e” (21:10-12) that the fate of the Jesus of the Gospels is to be repeated on the Apostle – again unfortunate eyewitness who, with his We, with which he accompanies the sea voyage to Rome and witnesses the arrival in the metropolitan city (C. 17, 1-18, 6), also has to witness the literal repetition of the miracle which Jesus had performed on Peter’s mother-in-law (C. 28, 7)!

This eyewitness could only see the events whose truth he affirms with his “we” in the ideal world which the author of the Acts of the Apostles created and modelled on the miraculous world of the Gospels. That is, he is made with his “we” like the world in which he lives and travels, which he sees and witnesses.


If the unity of plan and tendency, the continuous and always constant use of the evangelical image of the Saviour, the fact that Peter and Paul only received their form with regard to each other – if all this proves the unity of the author of the Acts of the Apostles, there are also some features in it, some inconsistencies, contradictions and repetitions, which virtually contradict and overturn this result – contradict it – and yet it retains its truth!

They contradict it – and yet it retains its truth! they overthrow it – and yet it remains unshakeable, it holds up irrefutably on the basis of that proof.


So several authors and yet only one? Several workers and yet the work comes from only one?

That is so! The Gospel of Luke, too, comes from One author – One wrote the Original Gospel, which is preserved to us most purely in the writing of Mark and which Urlukas based his compilation on – Only One was Ur-Luke, who inserted into the Original Gospel the late variations that others had made on it, and the author of the present Gospel of Luke enriched this compilation with additions, which represented to him the expansion of the Gospel historical material that had been accomplished in the meantime.

One of them originally created the Acts of the Apostles, but his creation gradually received various additions, expansions, intermediate remarks, variations, and the compiler who compiled the present Gospel of Luke proceeded with the Acts of the Apostles as he did with the original of his Gospel – he imposed on it a part of the additions and extensions which he found in the various redactions of the same, and thereby brought about the shifts in the material, the inconsistencies and incorrectnesses which in the present form of the Acts of the Apostles disturb the flow of the whole. Even if he did not cause all of these inconsistencies, even if he found a part of them already in the basic material of the work, they were still only possible through later hands and arose through the insertion of later variations.

It is impossible, for example, that the original creator first described the sorcerer whom Paul found on the island of Paphos as a Jewish false prophet, named Bar Jesus, and then, immediately after noticing that he was in the vicinity of Sergius Paulus and proceeding to the apostle’s fight with him, suddenly described him as the sorcerer Elymas (13:6-8). The hesitation and uncertainty of the later hand is rather betrayed by the addition to the latter name: “for thus his name is interpreted” – this hesitant addition therefore speaks for the fact that the latter name belongs to the original and that the former name and the remark that the sorcerer was a Jew comes from a later editor who proceeded from the assumption that Paul always and everywhere had to fight only with Jews. Probably the magician Elymas was originally a Gentile like his Petrine archetype the magician Simon.


The account at the turning point where Paul separates from Barnabas and joins Silas is also highly irregular. Barnabas suggests to him to take John Mark with him on the intended missionary journey, as if he was with them in Antioch (15:37), and so far it had only been reported that he had separated from them on his own authority on the earlier journey and had gone to Jerusalem (13:13). Furthermore, Paul took Silas with him on his new journey, as if he were in Antioch, and it was reported that he who had brought the apostle’s decree to Antioch with Judas was sent to the apostles in Jerusalem (15:33, 40). A later hand has wisely inserted the remark after the latter note (V. 34) that Silas remained in Antioch, but in this way it could not possibly succeed in removing the confusion that earlier reworkers had brought into this turning point.


If the prophets and teachers in Antioch receive a command from the Spirit to separate Barnabas and Paul for the work they are called to do while they are serving the Lord and fasting (13:2), this pragmatism corresponds to the overall design of the work in which Paul himself, while praying in the temple, hears the voice of the Lord sending him to the Gentiles (22:7-21), and where the prophet Agabus predicts his future fate to him (21:11). However, the preceding enumeration of those teachers and prophets, in which Paul and Barnabas appear so strange as if they had not yet appeared, so strange that the hypothesis could arise that here (13:1) begins an independent memorandum about the first missionary journey of the apostle – this overloaded and disturbing enumeration can only come from a later hand.

We have indeed seen at decisive points that the author was not able to form a tenable motive and to carry it out firmly and securely – so the uncertain accumulation of motives that finally drive the apostle to Jerusalem can also be his work. The overcrowding, however, which the penultimate journey to Jerusalem (18:21, 22) brings into the account, the circumstance that the apostle, after leaving Ephesus, immediately returns to convert the disciples of John (19:1), the circumstance further that the journey to Jerusalem (18: 22) is almost furtive, only furtively alluded to – all this makes it possible that this overcrowding was originally a variation on the last journey to Jerusalem, and that the confusion of the account is due to the compiler, who took this innovation into the original structure of the whole, and now had to almost conceal the superfluous journey to Jerusalem, and could only let it happen in a furtive way.


Otherwise, the author liked to vary his themes himself – as an example, we will give another variation, which one might be tempted to consider as the work of a later hand and as evidence of the gradual expansion and filling out of the Acts of the Apostles, if the original were not imitated in the copy with a knowledge of detail and an interest in detail that could only belong to the original creator.
Twice it is reported that the members of the early church sold their possessions and put the proceeds at the disposal of the community (2:45; 4:34-35). Both times, a miracle follows this note – the first time, Peter’s miracle with the lame man (3:1-10), and the second time, Peter’s miracle with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10). Both miracles made a great impression on the people, and they marvel at the apostles, who are in the hall of Solomon, like supernatural beings (3:11; 5:11-13). As a result of both miracles, the apostles are brought to trial, both times Peter speaks, both times he brings out the contrast that the one whom his judges have killed has been raised from the dead (4:10. Compare 3:13-15; 5:30-31), both times he appeals to the fact that one must obey God rather than men (4:19; 5:29), and finally, in both cases, the matter is settled by the judges forbidding the apostles to speak to the people about Jesus (4:17-21; 5:40).



As for the question of the time in which the Acts of the Apostles were written, this work is so deeply involved in the history of the Gospels, and the criticism of the latter is at present so securely established, that the answer to that question can be found with positive certainty.

Marcion, who became known by his system at the beginning of the second third of the second century, possessed only the foundation which was later extended to the present Gospel of Luke.

It was only in the second third of the second century that the compiler, who expanded the writing of Ur-Luke into the present Gospel of Luke, was able to find the Acts of the Apostles, which had made the revolutionary of the Pauline epistles an apologist *), and to connect it with his writing of the Gospels.

*) How far this transition from revolution to apologetics was already prepared in these letters themselves, we will show in the following critique of them.

Find them! – Because he did not create it anymore than he created his Gospel work; he only connected it loosely with his Gospel, for even though he expanded the ending of the original Luke text, which originally contained only the Lord’s command to the disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations (Luke 24:46-47), as well as the note of the Ascension (vv. 50-51), and added his own additions that connect with the account of the miracle of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles (vv. 48-49, 52-53), he could not overcome the contradiction of the views and assumptions of both works – indeed, he did not even attempt to mitigate it and left it in all its harshness. He immediately follows the Gospel that has the Lord ascend into heaven on the day of his resurrection and at Bethany in the plain with a work whose author, however, had determined that Jesus ascended into heaven on the fortieth day after his resurrection, specifically from the Mount of Olives. He did not want to leave us any doubt that he is innocent of this contradiction and that he only caused it by combining two works of others.


His Pentecost miracle also takes us to the late period to which the standpoint and tendency of the author of the Acts of the Apostles takes us. The Pentecost celebration, which unites the apostles, becomes a celebration of the new law and a counter-image of the legislation of Sinai through the miracle that they suddenly speak in all the languages of the world and the listeners from all the nations of the world each hear his language *). Josephus, however, does not yet know that the Pentecost had any relation to the legislation – the original Gospel does not yet know the Pentecost, does not need it and has completely and solemnly entrusted the disciples with their task and equipped them with the power to carry it out when, after His resurrection, the Lord gives the commandment that they should now go into the whole world and preach the Gospel.

*) The fact that the author (Acts 2:9-11) wants to list and group all the nations of the world according to their linguistic differences, although he also includes linguistically related groups, and that his enumeration yields the number 16, so that the foreigners present should represent the descendants of the 16 grandsons of Noah, we only mention in passing, as well as the mistake that those foreigners in Acts 2:5 are said to be Jews residing in Jerusalem, yet in verse 9 they are described as people who are living abroad.


Later, after the original Gospel had undergone multiple revisions, all of which, like the Gospel of Luke, considered the Lord’s farewell to the disciples as a sufficient and adequate introduction to apostolic work and a full guarantee of the universal mission of the Church, only later, when apostolic activity became the subject of a separate historical narrative, could the pleonasm arise that the Lord’s farewell, which in the original Gospel was absolutely miraculous and conclusively final, received its subsequent confirmation and fulfillment at Pentecost.

(We only need to mention in passing here that the theory found in the Philonic writings *), according to which the voice that proclaimed the law on Sinai reached to the end of the world, emerged from heavenly fire, or rather consisted of the fire itself, which articulated in the dialect that was innate and familiar to the listeners, must have been known to the author of the Acts of the Apostles and provided him with the elements for his miracle of language, his fiery tongues, i.e. the flickering flames of fire on the heads of the disciples, and the occasion for his combination of the Pentecost and the giving of the law feast.)

*) de sept. et fest. p. 1193 de decalogo p. 748-750.

The late origin of the Pentecostal miracle is finally proved by the use which the author of it made of the category of speaking in tongues. He took the category from the Pauline epistles, uses it as generally known, and even believes to use it in the sense in which it is used in the Pauline epistles, thus not noticing that while his “speaking with tongues” is speaking in foreign languages, hitherto foreign to the disciples, but known in themselves, the speaking with tongues in the Pauline epistles means the instantaneous creation of formulas and expressions that went beyond the ordinary language in general and formed, as it were, a completely new language.


The objection, whether Paul after the fall of Jerusalem could still be portrayed as a temple worshiper, whether in the late time, when the “early church” of Jerusalem had long since lost its influence and importance, the Apostle to the Gentiles could be placed in this dependent relationship to it, will not make the result of our investigation any more shaky. The former objection can only be clumsy against the proof that the Acts of the Apostles is a historical fiction that must use local colors, and the importance that the early church together with the primitive apostles has in this fiction, the preponderance that it has over Paul, we have already explained perfectly when we interpreted the whole Acts of the Apostles as the work of that Judaism, which has survived to the present day in the Christian Church. It transformed the original creation into a gift from heaven and the past, subjected the authority to its own power, and made the gain of the revolution, the bold conquest, a legitimate legacy of tradition.

At the same time that this Judaism produced the Acts of the Apostles, it modeled the cultus, constitution, and discipline of the church on the Old Testament hierarchy, without needing to see the temple and its service. When this Judaism formed the Christian hierarchy, the temple had long since fallen and had long since lost its worshippers.



One more question! Theologians have expressed it so far in the form of questioning whether the Acts of the Apostles were written before the martyrdom of the Apostle or whether it presupposed this death as known and real.

However, since the Acts of the Apostles, as a work of fiction and reflection, cannot report anything to us about Paul’s life, since the journey of the apostle to the Gentiles to Rome, along with his Roman citizenship, has also been shown to be a free creation of the author, and since the later legends about the martyrdom of the Gentile apostle – legends that reveal their origin from the rivalry in which Paul and Peter competed for the principal and true palm of victory and which become adventures – do not introduce us into real history, the question for us can only be: at what stage of development was the legend of the martyrdom of the Gentile apostle when the Acts of the Apostles were written, or did the author of the Acts know anything at all about his hero’s Roman martyrdom?

When the author reports at the end of his work (Acts 28:30-31) that Paul preached the kingdom of God in Rome for two years without hindrance, he acts as if he has these two years behind him and knows the turn of events that occurred after their conclusion, but he does not even hint at what this turn of events was. Nevertheless, throughout his work, he assumes that the Roman martyrdom was the culmination of the apostle’s career. The farewell that the apostle takes from the leaders of the Ephesian community in Miletus happens once and for all and is so generally worded that it is clear that it applies to all the communities with which he has been in contact: “And now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again” (Acts 20:25). When he went to Jerusalem for the last time, he was really driven to Rome and did not rest anywhere because the Spirit did not allow him to, and the Lord told him himself in a nocturnal vision (Acts 23:11) that he had to testify in Rome just as he had testified about him in Jerusalem – Rome is thus the goal of his career, the culmination of his work, and can this culmination be anything other than tragic when Stephen, who initiated the break with the Jewish people, fell as a martyr, and the apostle, who made room for him just before the beginning of his great work so that he could enter the circle of apostles as his replacement, and when James was the victim of the hostility that the secular power harbored against the community?


The author’s presupposition is therefore clear and pervades his work visibly and undoubtedly – why did he not elaborate it at the end of the same and develop it in detail?

In the fourth gospel, which was written after the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is already the martyr of the Lord (C. 21, 18. 19) – in the first letter of Clemens *) Paul and Peter stand next to each other as martyrs – while the place where Peter suffered is not yet determined in this letter, the end of the west where Paul witnessed with his blood is supposed to be Rome in any case, both apostles in the letter of the Corinthian Dionysius to you Romans *) are so closely connected with each other that both found the church of Corinth, both go to Italy at the same time and suffer martyrdom here at the same time – both apocryphal letters belong to the age in which the Acts of the Apostles were written – so why, we must ask again, why did the author of the latter not historically elaborate at the end of his work a premise that was certain to him and his time?

*) C.5.

*) In Eusebius hist. eccl. 2, 25

He did not dare – he shrank from the criminalistic and bloody detail that would have been required to execute his assumption – it was enough for him that his time would find an assumption that they shared with him in his work, even without the bloody ending.



7. The viewpoint of the author of the Acts of the Apostles

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey



The viewpoint of the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

What de Wette, with the brevity required by the dignity of a textbook, simply presents as fact, Schneckenburger, by taking a hypothesis of Dr. Baur as a basis, seeks to establish with at least some certainty, and Schwegler has finally sought to make it fully comprehensible by inserting it into a larger historical context.


When de Wette *) refers to the justification of the teachings and effectiveness of the Apostle Paul “against the narrow-minded views of the Jewish Christians” as a “subordinate pragmatic aspect of the historical narrative” in the Acts of the Apostles, Schneckenburger **) describes the Judaizers, against whose “hostility and accusations” the Apostle to the Gentiles is to be defended, as faithful Israelites who believed that the influx of the “mass” of Gentiles into the church threatened the privilege of the chosen people, following the lead of Dr. Baur. Finally, Schwegler ***) identifies “reconciliation, mutual approximation, and unity” of the two conflicting parties, the Paulinists and the Petrinists, as the purpose pursued by the author of the Acts of the Apostles in the composition of his work, and calls this apologetic historian a “Paulinist who, in a time still predominantly inclined towards Jewish Christianity and among a generation still prejudiced against the person, doctrine, and activity of the Apostle to the Gentiles, could only obtain recognition for Pauline universalism by making sacrifices.”

*) Textbook of the Introduction to the N. T. 1848. p. 223. 224.

**) op. cit. p. 90. 217. Baur, der Apostel Paulus, p. 347. 349.

***) Post-apostolic age ll. 73. 74. 113.

The insignificant disagreement of these scholars regarding the relationship between the apologetic purpose pursued by the author of the Acts of the Apostles and his historical narrative, their disagreement about the extent of the influence that his apologetic purpose had on the existing historical flow, is no longer of interest to us, now that it has been shown that the Acts of the Apostles is entirely a free creation and artificial product. While de Wette may push cautious belief the furthest, carefully distinguishing the historical narrative from that pragmatic perspective, calling it only a subordinate aspect and thus blunting the entire question of the habit of faith out of love, while Schneckenburger may attribute greater influence to the pragmatic purpose of the author, such as the fact that “Paul is only presented from his side facing Judaism, with omission and modification of what could bother the Judaizers,” and while Schwegler may extend the limits within which the purpose pursued by the author of the Acts of the Apostles “transformed the actual course of events and circumstances,” these scholars still share the assumption that the author was given the actual historical circumstances and that he modified them more or less in the interest of his purpose.


Having established the origin of the Acts of the Apostles as a product of free reflection, we can calmly leave these scholars to their debate about the extent to which the author’s tendency influenced the transformation of historical facts. We will use their agreement as well as their differences to draw attention to the difficulty of their fundamental assumptions. In this regard, it will be only Messrs. Schwegler and Schneckenburger who can engage us, as the audacity with which Mr. de Wette presents his few sentences, assertions, and clauses is too far beyond our scope.


“Against all the hostility and accusations of the Judaizers”, the author of the Acts of the Apostles wanted to defend the Apostle Paul in the “matter of the Gentiles”, as Schneckenburger assumes – “in a time still predominantly turned towards Jewish Christianity”, according to Schwegler, he wanted to bring Pauline universalism to recognition.

So the same purpose, the same tendency, the same interest! But how is it possible that the author of the Acts of the Apostles, who according to Schneckenburger wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Schwegler around the middle of the second century, could find the same opponents in both cases, take the same part and pursue the same purpose? How is it possible that an insightful and adroit Pauline, whether he appeared in the Neronian period or a century later, could in both cases find the struggle waged for the recognition of his teacher at the same stage, that he could consider the position taken by the writer of Acts as the most appropriate and fitting to decide the battle in his master’s favour?

In other words, a definition of the purpose of the Acts of the Apostles that conveniently finds its historical substrate in the time before the destruction of Jerusalem and a century later cannot be correct, – a view of history that is able to find exactly the same parties and these parties in exactly the same position in two points in time that are separated from each other by a century – (and by what a century, by what battles and decisions!) – cannot be other than erroneous.


And who are the opponents that the author of the Acts of the Apostles wanted to appease and win over? Really those Jewish Christians who were concerned about the crowds of Gentiles who flocked to the Church in such numbers after the overthrow of the law “that they soon exceeded the number of believing Israelites” – to whom the thought that the Gentiles should enjoy salvation before the chosen people was unbearable? Really those Jewish Christians whose views and fears, as Schneckenburger thinks, “a careful consideration of the Epistle to the Romans” teaches us, – those Jewish Christians who, as Dr. Baur has really proved with the help of the Epistle to the Romans, alarmed and frightened by the disproportion between the encroaching crowd of Gentiles and the small number of believing Jews, dared to assert that “for the sake of the Jews the Gentiles should be excluded from the grace of the Gospel?”

But there never were such people – the Epistle to the Romans, as the renewed examination of it and the correct determination of its origin will prove, knows nothing of them, and in the Acts of the Apostles they appear nowhere, after once the clumsy pragmatism of miracles had removed the equally clumsily formed misgivings of the early church against the admission of the Gentiles and their deliverance from the law.

And if the Acts of the Apostles was written around the middle, in the second half of the second century – in this later time there should still have been Jewish Christians who denied the calling of the Gentiles, who at most only wanted to grant them salvation on the condition that they first submitted to Judaism through complete submission to the Law? At that time, “Jewish Christianity” still held sway, so that a Pauline could only get the Apostle of the Gentiles to recognise him at the price of the smallest compromises?


Where is the evidence that the universalism of the congregation had to beg for a precarious existence around the middle of the second century?

Nowhere – nowhere can they be found.

Schwegler himself has to show how bad the situation is with regard to his basic premise when he lets his Pauline Fathers beg for a meagre and even humiliating recognition “in a time still predominantly turned towards Jewish Christianity, among a generation still prejudiced against the Apostle to the Gentiles”.

But still? still? By leaving the time in which Paulinism really fought – a time which itself has yet to be “elucidated” and which can only really be formed from the criticism of the Pauline letters – to itself for now and placing ourselves in the middle of the second century – what was the expression of the “Jewish Christianity” which still prevailed at that time – what were the prejudices which the generation of that time still harboured against the Apostle to the Gentiles?

Was there any party worth mentioning that was not convinced of the universal purpose of Christianity? A party that did not grant salvation to the Gentiles? Any party worth mentioning that wanted to accept the Gentiles into the church only on condition of their complete submission to the law?

None of the above.

So what did the parties argue about that the author of Acts wanted to reconcile? Mr. Schwegler will be as unable to say as all those who believe they have recognised and interpreted the entire history of the first two Christian centuries, if they attribute all movements, struggles and developments to the one opposition of the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians, the Petrines and the Paulines.


So what were they arguing about? What was it that made the Jewish Christians bitter against Paul, or at least aroused their suspicion and worried them?

None of the scholars who have dealt with this question in modern times has been able to say, and the author of the Acts of the Apostles himself did not know, could no longer know, since the dispute between the Pauline and Jewish Christian parties had reached its end in his time and the points of contention had become blurred, confused, forgotten. When the author wanted to bring about the final catastrophe and let the fate of the Apostle to the Gentiles be fulfilled through the suspicion, yes, through the hostility of the believing Jews in Jerusalem, he was so incapable of forming a real and tenable opposition that he made one approach after another and always ended up with another, an ever more impossible and untenable opposition. By the time he wrote his work, the earlier, the historical contrast between the Pauline and the Judaeo-Christian movements had become blurred and incomprehensible – only unsubstantiated echoes of an earlier contrast occasionally penetrate his presentation, but the contrast itself does not appear in reality, the author cannot present it and no longer understands it.

At the moment of the dispute, when the opposition was still alive and active, a work like the Acts of the Apostles would have been impossible – as the difference between Paulinism and the Judaeo-Christian direction, a difference which, of course, can only be brought back to its truly historical form through a renewed critique of the Pauline letters, it would not have occurred to anyone to weave a “reconciling veil” *) in the Acts of the Apostles and to count on a reconciliation of the differences by throwing this veil over the points of contention – no one would have listened to the “peace proposal” if **) the Acts of the Apostles was presented as such.

*) Schwegler, op. cit. p. 73.

**) Same p. 74.


When the Acts of the Apostles were written, the tension of the parties had already collapsed, the opposition had already been veiled, the difference blurred, peace had already been made – the Acts of the Apostles is not a proposal for peace, but the expression and conclusion of peace and relaxation.

The Acts of the Apostles does not want to have an effect on genuine, original Pauline Christians, for example, with the intention of getting them to be tolerant and lenient towards the Jewish Christians, and it could not have had this intention because such Pauline Christians no longer existed. Nor does it want to make the Jewish Christians tolerant of the Pauline Christians, because this opposition no longer exists, because it was already obliterated. The author of the Acts of the Apostles does not live in the opposition in which the Pauline epistles move, nor in the opposition which modern scholars presuppose in every stage of the history of early Christianity; in his consciousness, rather, the elements of that earlier opposition had run into one another – when he wrote, the parties had melted away and the unity in whose element he lived had already been established.


So what did he want? What did he achieve in his work?

First, those who, like Schwegler, start from the premise that he wrote in a “time still predominantly inclined towards Jewish Christianity” may answer the question whether the dominance of this Jewish Christianity, which the author of Acts wanted to “reconcile” with Pauline Christianity, was later completely broken, whether this Jewish being was later completely subjugated to the Christian principle!

But we only say so, without waiting for their answer: The Acts of the Apostles first brought Judaism to dominion and recognition within the congregation, it helped to close the chain that connected the congregation with the Jewish world, and the church held fast to the Acts of the Apostles and recognized it as the canonical expression of its consciousness, because it wanted this covenant with Judaism and this Jewish marriage with the past and with heaven.

The author of the Acts of the Apostles gave form, flesh and blood and a sanctioning history to Judaism, which had neutralised the original conflicts and their struggle.

“To Judaism,” we say, even though this term, which we have immediately put in the title of our work because it is the only correct one, will cause some offence.

Judaism, which has prevailed in the Acts of the Apostles and received its balance with Paulinism, is of course not the historical Jewish people. Rather, the Jewish people as such is hostile to the church in Acts – “the Jews” are the opponents of the church, their opposition to salvation is determined and remains the same from beginning to end, their nature and character is finished, they persist in their nature, persecute Paul as they persecuted the original apostles: – in short, they stand outside and can only harbour enmity for the church.


The Judaism which triumphs in the Acts of the Apostles is not the Jewish Christianity of which modern scholars have so much to say – it has nothing against the freedom of the Gentile Christians, nor does it intend to impose the yoke of the law on them. On the contrary, on the ground on which this Judaism prevailed, the freedom of the Gentile Christians and the universality of the community were an undeniable truth, and the former opposition between the Gentile and Jewish Christians was disappearing.

The Judaism we speak of is rather a power that, although in changing forms, has maintained its dominance until modern times. It still worked and operated in the ignorance of the rationalists, who concealed their lack of historical knowledge by assuming a mediated revelation and expressed their inability to distinguish and recognize different historical epochs, for example, by assuming a messianic dogma before the emergence of Christianity and the Gospels. It still worked until recently in the apologetics of Hengstenberg and his attempt to demonstrate the New Testament in the Old, that is, to conceal and eliminate the difference and opposition in the development of religious consciousness. It gives the freethinkers the courage to speak of research after the works of criticism, but in reality, they retain all the essential categories of the old belief system in the vagueness of their minds. It is the eternal opponent of specificity, historical differences, original formation, self-determined decision, and the shaking that the self-determined hero, who draws the resolution and strength for his action from the source of his inner being, brings into the life of habit and into the world of regulation and tradition. It is the tireless power that immediately flattens and brings into conformity with the existing level as soon as a new force emerges. It fills in the incisions that the creative self-power makes in the usual course of history, pushes the boundary markers left by the hero as a testimony of his work far back into the past, and makes the discovery an outflow of tradition. It is the power that quickly submits the revolution that the discovering hero brought about to the past and tradition, thereby securing the discovery but also reducing it to the comprehension of the masses.


We call this power Judaism, which is a conservative, reconciling, counter-revolutionary force that nonetheless ensures the gains of the revolution. It received its classical expression in the Old Testament, in the inability of the Israelites to perceive historical differences, in the Jewish transformation of later historical products into a divinely inspired tradition – in short, in Jewish theism, which condemns the historical creator to impotence and hands over the prerogative of revelation to heaven. And indeed, this power has maintained its influence in the church through the original inheritance that the new community received from the Old Testament and even gained a larger terrain for its influence.


No! It was not a self-determined revolution – that is the main theme which the author of the Acts of the Apostles carries out in the interest of this Judaism – there was nothing original or creative, it was not a sacrilege of self-power when Paul brought salvation to the Gentiles and freed them from the law – he only did what heaven wanted, and heaven had already accomplished it through Peter before him.

The historical struggle is over, the opposition blurred, the revolution completed, the birth pains of the new creation forgotten – the revolutionary is incorporated into the holy chain of tradition – the Judaism of the church has blurred the characteristics of the epochs – it has submitted to the human creator and returned the honor due to God and tradition.

After this meaning of the Acts of the Apostles has become clear to us from the text itself, we only have to summarize some results of our investigation in order to eliminate several prejudices about its composition and determine the time of its writing.


6. Paul the Apologist

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by Neil Godfrey



Paul the Apologist

If Paul, as portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles, had to share the fame of miraculous power with Peter, and even had the honor of being worthy of direct revelations from heaven and wonderful visions, which he could only make use of after it was legitimized by the same privilege given to Peter, and finally, if entry into his historical sphere of influence was only possible after Peter had opened it for him – in short, if he had to sacrifice all his individuality and originality and give up his historical significance in favor of the primitive apostles – then during his last stay in Jerusalem, this work of humiliation was completed, and even the apostles protested against the idea that he was a revolutionary, as the people perceived him, and as he appears in the letters.


He now expounds his own protest, whereas hitherto events and their entanglements had deprived him of the glory of originality and of revolutionary power. He did not sacrifice the glory of the conquest himself, but the circumstance that Peter won the first fruits of paganism and first surrendered the privilege of Judaism, wrested from his hand the palm of the first victory which the epistles bestow on him. But now he himself assures us that he is a strictly legal man and that it could not have occurred to him to leave the legal ground – now he is the apologist of himself and proves by his legal conduct that the reproach of his opponents that he wants to undermine the appeal of the law is unfounded. If the revolution that triumphs in the dedication of salvation to the Gentiles cannot be denied, he at least excuses it by invoking the irresistible force that his heavenly Lord had driven him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Finally, in Rome and in his dealings with the local Jewish community, another side of his apologetics is completed, as he formulates a principle that he has strictly followed throughout his entire activity in pure generality: with their stubborn resistance to salvation, the Jews themselves are to blame for his turning to the Gentiles with the Gospel.


Thus, he presents the apology for his work and his person in three forms: – he is a strictly legal man, only the irresistible force of heaven drove him to the Gentiles, and the Jews themselves, in their blindness, pointed him to the sphere of activity to which his Lord had called him.

Therefore, the contrast against the letters reaches its highest point. Let’s see if he can maintain it.


The legalism of the apostle

Even before his last journey to Jerusalem, the apostle was driven to the holy city by his legal duty. He had just arrived in Ephesus and had left the synagogue, the Jews there invited him to stay for a long time, but duty *) called him to Jerusalem, he had to hold the upcoming feast there, the consideration of his legal duty made him overlook the possible and, given the willingness of the Jews, almost certain successes of his apostolic activity [in Ephesus] – he left for Caesarea, but actually only stole away to Jerusalem, i.e. the author only hints at the actual departure. i.e. the author only furtively hints at the actual departure for Jerusalem by only reporting that the apostle, “after he had gone up and greeted the church **), returned to Antioch”.

*) 18:21. δει με παντως …..

**) V. 22. ἀναβὰς …..


But why so furtively? Why does the author only hint at the fact that the departure for the holy city really took place in a fleetingly thrown participle? Why does he even avoid the name of the holy city?

The reason why the author uses the motive as evidence for the apostle’s legalistic attitude is because it is repeated shortly thereafter, and a detailed report on the journey to Jerusalem would have created a disturbing pleonasm.
Before his last trip to Jerusalem, when the apostle left Europe, he waited in Philippi until the Passover was over (Acts 20:6), thus demonstrating his legalistic attitude again by observing the festival in peace, even if not in the midst of the sacrificing community in Jerusalem. However, he did indeed want to celebrate a festival in the holy city when he bid farewell to Greece, the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 20:16), and he was in such a hurry to be in Jerusalem at the right time that he even bypassed Ephesus and summoned the elders of the local church to Miletus.
If the fear of overcrowding the narrative led the author to conceal the previous trip to Jerusalem, he, on the other hand, created an overabundance of motives in his account of the apostle’s last journey, which proves the uncertainty of his pragmatism and overall destroys his festival pragmatism.

The Feast of Pentecost drew the apostle to Jerusalem and at least hastened his journey. He had already made the decision to travel before, while he was in Ephesus in the midst of a fruitful ministry. Despite the success that surrounded him in Ephesus, he wanted to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome – he said, “I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).


He was only called to Jerusalem by the holy significance and legal importance of the city – he had to visit Jerusalem before he went to Rome – so he says later in his speech to Felix himself (24:11, 17) that he came to Jerusalem purely and solely with the intention of worshipping, and that after an absence of several years – (the author forgets that the apostle had secretly stolen away to Jerusalem shortly before) – he was driven by the desire to sacrifice in the holy city.

In the speech to the elders at Miletus, on the other hand, he gives a completely different motive for the journey: the spirit has bound him, a supernatural power drives him to Jerusalem towards his destiny – he does not know his destiny, only that he knows that bonds and tribulations await him in Jerusalem – the spirit has proclaimed it to him from city to city and has not let him rest because of this testimony, driving him inexorably on – he suspects that his career will soon be complete (20:22-24).

Each of these two motives, however, makes the other superfluous – both even lay claim to such exclusive validity that they finally exclude each other – i.e. they originated in writing, but the writer’s skill was not great enough to bring them both into an intelligible connection.

In another respect, the report is overfilled, but this overfilling is at the same time a contradiction that drags the whole into its unhappy fate.

The day after his arrival in Jerusalem, Paul went to James and the elders, heard from them that the believing Jews of the capital were disturbed by the rumour that he was persuading the foreign Jews to apostatise from Moses, and received from them the advice to join four men who had taken a vow upon themselves and to be purified together with them in order to prove the groundlessness of the rumour and to show that he was also walking in strict observance of the law (21:20-24). Paul follows the advice, takes those four men with him to the temple and lets himself be purified together with them by haircut and sacrifice.


So it had happened by chance that Paul had taken the same vow on his arrival in Jerusalem, that he had let his hair grow as a result of this vow?

Indeed, the author answers, already in Greece the apostle had taken a vow, already in Cenchrea he had had his hair shaved *) – the author wants to prepare and explain here what happened in Jerusalem, he wants to report the beginning of the vow from which Paul released himself in Jerusalem, but he was mistaken in making the shaving of the hair, which signifies the end of the vow, the beginning of it, and he did not consider that it was impossible for the apostle on his journeys and in his constant contact with pagans to avoid the defilements which the Rasiraean had to flee from all.

*) 18:18. That Paul is the one who had the vow on himself is proven by the continuing unity of the subject vv. 18,19: ειχε . . . κατηντησε . . . κατέλιπε and the distinction of the apostle from the others xxx

Paul had already had to take a vow for a long time if he was to be able to join those four men on the mission. The author wanted to avoid this difficulty earlier, but he made the preparations so badly that the later event remains impossible. The event remains impossible.


James presupposes that the rumour that troubled the Jews in Jerusalem concerning the apostle was false – this presupposition is so certain to him that he considers every word about it to be useless, – Paul, too, does not say a word about the fact that he does abolish the law, nor does he give an apologetic discussion about the fact that this rumour does have a reason, but otherwise is based on a misunderstanding, he says nothing about the sense and extent to which he abolishes the law – rather, he tacitly agrees with James that the rumour lacks all foundation, and immediately knows how to follow his advice and to prove by the public solution of his vow that, with his strict legalism, an unfaithfulness to the law, such as the rumour presupposes in him, is impossible for him.

The Gentiles are not mentioned in the accusation which the rumour brought against him, only that he was accused of seducing the foreign Jews to apostasy from Moses and leading them not to circumcise their children and not to observe the legal customs, – and only James mentions in passing (21:25), that by the prompt suppression of this rumour the liberty of the Gentile Christians should not be affected, – only this anxiously added clause, which is partly intended to lift the inner improbability of the report, perhaps to cover it altogether, only serves to complete its dissolution.

The clause in itself is completely meaningless, since the rumor of the apostle’s unlawful transgression does not even remotely consider relying on a maxim that he observed towards the Gentiles. Neither by that rumor, nor by the Apostle’s obedience to the advice that James gave him, is the freedom of the Gentile Christians threatened, since it hardly existed on the ground that the current controversy took place.


On the contrary! That accusation, which had reached the ears of the believing Jews in Jerusalem, was supposed to encompass everything that was known about Paul, – was supposed to sum up his entire revolutionary activity in one expression – the people who spread that rumour wanted to attack Paul’s entire effectiveness – the crime of which he was accused was supposed to characterise his entire being.

His opposition to the law – and that is the main thing and the reason for the confusion that runs through the account and throws it to the ground – is thus misconceived in that accusation – wrongly approved and conceded in James’ clause – (he is right to spare the Gentiles from circumcision) – wrongly limited and brought back to its supposed correct limit – (so that the clause is based on the assumption that he would certainly violate the law if he wanted to exempt the believing Jews from circumcising their children, which is not the case).

When the author wanted to clear the apostle of the accusation that he was a revolutionary, he had to specify the accusation in some way. The accusation that he did not keep the law and did everything in his power to overthrow it would have been too general and vague — later, when the crisis broke out and the foreign Jews aroused the rebellion against the apostle, they generally only accused him of his enmity against the people, the law and the temple (21:28) – later, in the speeches in which the apostle justifies himself against his enemies, even reproach and accusation take on new forms and shapes, thus the author proves his inability to express in his “proper” way the real and historical opposition that Paul had formed against the law.


Not only his incapacity (the work of confusion thus still continues), but he also proves that it was actually impossible for him to form an accusation that was somewhat reminiscent of the apostle’s struggles and of his opponents’ accusations. His Paul is not a revolutionary, he did nothing that could even arouse the suspicion of the believing Jews; what he did among the Gentiles is only the continuation of the value of Peter, and if he remitted circumcision to the Gentiles, he acted under the authorisation of the primitive apostles and only carried out their express decision, which was moreover inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The revolutionary, the victorious opponent of the law stands outside, fights and wins in the letters – in the Acts of the Apostles he is to be cleansed from the stain of the revolutionary attitude – from a stain that fell on him through no fault of his own.

So how to shape the stain? How to formulate the accusation? How? It was a matter of the author’s fancy and art. When, therefore, he had at least to introduce the collision, to form it intelligibly, when it was a question of putting down a groundless rumour and at the same time leaving the Gentiles in peace and quiet and in the enjoyment of their liberty, he formed that rumour that the apostle was leading the Jews to apostasy from Moses, he formed the accusation which, according to the conditions in which he himself lived, was at most still the most conceivable crime of which the apostle could be accused, and he added the safeguarding clause of James.


Hence the thoroughgoing confusion!

But it remains the case that the accusation that the Apostle wants to free the Jews from the yoke of the Law, strikes at his whole historical effectiveness, and that the Apostle, by refuting the accusation, is to prove his unconditional and complete loyalty to the Law. He is not a revolutionary – an attack on the law, such as the rumour ascribes to him, would have been an outrage which he – he, the strictly legal man – found utterly impossible.

The Paul of Acts thus disavows the Paul of the Epistles – the apologist disavows the revolutionary – only this disavowal is unfortunate in so far as nothing in Acts could give rise to the suspicion that the apostle was a revolutionary.

Only in the Epistles does the man live and work who, in the freedom he won for the Gentiles, at the same time founded the freedom of the Jewish Christians and, by freeing the Gentiles, overthrew the law altogether. But this fighter and liberator, whom the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles disavows, will never recognise him either.

The Paul of the Epistle to the Galatians asserts his abolition of the law so absolutely, asserts it so ruthlessly for Jews and Gentiles, that the thought of any exemption is impossible to him and would even appear as a betrayal of the dearly bought freedom. He does not want to know that the freedom of the Gentile Christians, as an exceptional privilege, should not interfere with the legal custom of the Jewish Christians – nor does he think of leaving the Jews their law and only preserving the freedom of the Gentiles by a proviso in addition to their legality.


Instead of giving the apologists of today, who partly admit the contradiction between Paul’s behaviour and conduct in the Acts of the Apostles and his own statements in the Epistles, but hope to eliminate it by the assertion *) that the apostle, “if he did not want to be unfaithful to himself,” must have sent “more detailed explanations” before he followed the plan devised by James, – instead of taking away their hope and showing that the author of the Acts of the Apostles does not know and does not need explanations that would correct James’ presuppositions, since he knows nothing of the apostle’s activity and teaching that is directed against the law, – instead we prefer to point out how the author completely destroys his report by the way in which he brings about the catastrophe.

*) For example, Schneckenburger, op. cit. p. 64. 65.

The many myriads of believing Jews of whom James speaks (21:20) are, according to the own presuppositions of the Acts of the Apostles, an impossibility and cannot hold their own next to the presuppositions of the Epistles, according to which the early church consisted of poor alms-receivers.

When James explains that the zeal for the law of these thousands of believing Jews and their suspicion, which the rumor about the apostle’s revolutionary teaching has instilled in them, is to be feared, he particularly relies on the fact that a meeting of this multitude, as soon as they hear of Paul’s arrival, is absolutely necessary and cannot be avoided *) – and indeed an official, communal meeting, since the author knows very well that a popular gathering **), a gathering of the crowd, is not a meeting and both are precisely distinguished by language.

*) V. 22. παντως δει πληθος συνελθειν

**) V. 30. συνδρομη του λαου


Nevertheless, the author had the following popular gathering in mind already when he made James express his concern about the inevitable meeting of the community – he wanted to motivate and prepare this gathering in advance – but when the tumultuous gathering actually takes place (V. 30), the whole people of Jerusalem are on the square and the Jewish-Christian zealots have disappeared – yes, so completely disappeared and forgotten that it is only foreign Jews (V. 27) who have to come out and incite the crowd, the whole people ***) against the Apostle.

***) V. 27. παντα τον οχλον

The author himself eliminated the myriads of believing Jews, together with their suspicion, and he was right to do so, for the creation of these countless believers and zealots was a misguided one from the start and could not hold its own next to the brethren who received the apostle kindly on his arrival in Jerusalem, and next to the elders together with James, who supported him with their benevolent counsel. The contrast between these brothers and the hostile myriads is chaotic and groundless – the worrying position that the myriads of law-seekers occupy destroys the connection between the congregation and its leaders and rulers – those “myriads” therefore only experience their deserved fate when they are soon forgotten by the author.



The apostle’s speeches of defence

No! He is not a revolutionary – not a man of violence who, by virtue of his sense of self, rebels against the statutes of the old world and throws them down – he is not an opponent of the law – not the powerful destroyer who wants to destroy the law and free the world from its yoke – he is innocent – the apostle himself demonstrates this in his speech before the people, before Felix and Agrippa and, what is more, he shows before the synod with what anxiousness he seeks to obey every letter of the law.

This is not an innovator, who, with the same eagerness with which the apostle speaks to the people (22:3-21), presents the mission he received from the Gentiles, the mission that had not even been charged to him previously, as one that he could not avoid and that was even forced upon him by a higher power against his will. Thoroughly instructed in the paternal law at the feet of Gamaliel and a zealot for it, he was cast down by the Lord and when he wanted to work among the Jews in Jerusalem, he was sent by him to the Gentiles. Even then, when the Lord had taken him, he did not leave the connection with the Law, for Ananias, a legally pious man, introduced him to his ministry and he was kneeling in prayer in the temple when the Lord sent him to the Gentiles.


Thus no innovator speaks like the apostle, when he, before King Agrippa (26:2-23), again leads the proof from the notoriously established circumstance that he formerly belonged to the strictest sect of the Jews, that he did not throw himself into a work out of frivolous courage, into which rather the irresistible force of his Lord placed him – no! even that for which he is now accused is nothing new, – he hopes for nothing new, but only for the promise made to the fathers, and this hope is still common to him with the twelve tribes of his people – he also does not teach one word apart from what the prophets and Moses taught (26:6-7, 22).

He is no rebel, no apostate, for even if his opponents call the association to which he now belongs a sect, he still serves in it, as he explains to Felix (24:14-15), only the God of his fathers, he believes only what is written in the Law and the Prophets, and his only hope is that there will be a resurrection of the dead.

If these turns of phrase were perhaps only timid, his behaviour before the Synod is downright inappropriate, unattractive, and the position he gives himself to the Pharisaic part of the Synod can be called unworthy.

The Apostle uses a mistake of the high priest, which immediately causes his supporters to strike him on the mouth for the beginning of his defense speech, to “tell the truth” to the barbarian and at the same time to prove with what conscientiousness he follows the law, while his opponents do not respect it. He attacks the high priest, even using an insult against him, but when he is reminded whether he wants to insult the high priest, he retracts his outburst and assures that he did not know it was the high priest, otherwise he would certainly have shown him the respect that the law requires (23:1-5).


He acts as if he did not know the high priest – he wants to say that he had to conclude from his conduct that he was not the high priest – he secretly rejoices in the cleverness with which he strikes a blow at the high priest, tells him the truth and at the same time protects himself against the consequences of his dishonourable conduct against “the chief of his people”, – Unfortunately, however, only the author himself has spoiled the apostle’s unpleasant joy in his cleverness, this ugly tickle over his modesty, by having him address the high priest in his outburst as this authoritative person who sits in judgement over him *).

*) V. 3. και συ καθη κρινων με κατα τον νομον ;

Equally unsightly and unworthy is the eagerness and self-abasement with which the Apostle appeals to the sectarian spirit of the Pharisees in order to win them over to his side against the Sadducean assessors of the Sanhedrin – unsightly the zeal with which he exclaims and assures: “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees!” – unworthy the turn he takes, avoiding the actual accusation and pretending to be accused for the sake of hope and because of the resurrection of the dead – (“of the righteous and the unrighteous,” as he adds in his speech before Felix) – The author does achieve his purpose and ultimately enjoys the pleasure that the two factions in the Sanhedrin confront each other and the Pharisees outright declare that they find nothing wrong with the accused, even admitting that a spirit or angel – (as if the Damascus appearance were one of the disputed points or had even been mentioned in the course of the proceedings!) – could have spoken with him. However, the author enjoys this pleasure only at the expense of the Apostle, who must discard everything he is in the letters for the sake of this triumph, and at the expense of probability, as despite the author, it remains impossible that the Pharisees, if the Apostle really wanted to avoid the actual point of contention, would have allowed it and forgotten that the belief in the resurrection of the dead is not at all the same as the belief in the risen Jesus.



Nor do we want to argue with today’s apologist about whether the apostle was capable of answering to the people and the authorities in such a fearful and unworthy manner – rather, we will put an end to all arguments and free the apostle from the stain that the author’s unattractive composition casts on him, by showing how these negotiations before the spiritual and temporal rulers, as well as the catastrophe with which they ended, are copied verbatim from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ interrogations and the final tragedy of his life.

The Roman governor, who had imprisoned the apostle in the popular tumult, first sends him before the Sanhedrin, Paul then has to answer before the governor Felix and finally meets with King Agrippa – so the sequence is repeated in which the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel first stands before the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate, and finally before Herod.


When Jesus pleads before the Synod, the servants strike him on the face – (Mark 14:65) – so the high priest gives orders to strike the apostle on the mouth *).

The Synedrium “bound” Jesus and “delivered” him to Pilate – so the prophet Agabus prophesied to the apostle when he stopped in Caesarea on his last journey to Jerusalem that the Jews would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles **).

Pilate initially refuses to comply with the Jews’ intentions, “knowing (Mark 15:20) that the chief priests had delivered him up only out of envy” – so Felix also seeks to stall the Jews, “knowing full well how the matter stood” (24:22).

Pilate’s wife learns in a dream that Jesus is a righteous man, warns her husband and the latter, when he has to give in to the people, declares that he does not want to be guilty of the blood of this righteous man – so Felix, with his wife Drusilla, a Jewess, listens to the apostle about his faith, is frightened when he hears his argument, and is only strengthened in his intention to stall the cause ***).

*) The scene John 18:22-23 is only copied from the Acts of the Apostles.

**)Mark 15:1 δήσαντες . . . παρέδωκαν
Acts 21: 11. δησουσιν . . . και παραδωσουσιν.

***) Acts 24:24-25. Whether the author had the present Gospel of Matthew (27:19, 24) in mind or a source scripture used by the compiler of the same, this question does not belong here.


Felix – whose hesitation the author clumsily explains even from the circumstance that he hoped for a bribe from Paul for his release – wants to show the Jews a favor as he leaves his post and leaves the Apostle behind in custody (Acts 24:27) – Festus, his successor, wants to show the Jews a favor again and proposes to the Apostle, although the case has already been referred to Rome and is settled, whether he wants to be judged in Jerusalem (25:9) – the author has combined a twofold allusion from the Gospels into one – he thought of the fact that Pilate used to show favor to the people by releasing a prisoner at Passover, and at the same time of the other circumstance that Pilate finally wanted to do enough for the people and their hatred of the accused when he released Barabbas and offered them Jesus *).

*) Mark 15:15. βουλομενος τω οχλω το ικανον ποιησαι
Acts 24:27. θελων χαριτας καταθεσθαι
Acts 25:9. θελων χαριν καταθεσθαι

The overcrowding which the author brought from the source material of Luke’s Gospel in the original arrangement of the last tragedy has been faithfully repeated by the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

As Herod happened to be in Jerusalem in those days when the cause of Jesus came before Pilate, so it happened that Agrippa also happened to be “several days” in Caesarea, where Paul’s trial was being conducted. (Luke. 23:7, Acts 25:13.)

Herod had for some time desired to see Jesus, when the Roman governor granted him his wish-so Agrippa says to the governor Festus: “I would also like to hear the man,” and Festus promises him the fulfilment of his wish. *)

*) Luke 23, 8. ην γαρ θελων εξ ικανου ιδειν αυτον
Acts 25, 22. εβουλομην και αυτος του ανθρωπου ακουσαι


Herod is in the company of his soldiers when Jesus stands before him – Agrippa, accompanied by the captains, enters the judgment house where he will see the apostle **).

**) Luke 23:11. συν τοις στρατευμασιν αυτου
Acts 25:23. συν τοις χιλιαρχοις

“You have brought this man to me as if he would draw away the people,” Pilate declares to the chief priests and rulers of the people after Herod had sent Jesus back, “and behold, I find in this man none of the things of which you accuse him, nor does Herod” – even when he stood before Herod, “nothing has been done to him that is worthy of death” – so the governor and Agrippa say to each other after the apostle’s conversation with the latter has ended: “this man has done nothing worthy of death” – both agree with the favourably disposed Pharisees of the Sanhedrin, who also declare that they find nothing wrong in this man ***)

***) Luke 23:15. ουδεν αξιον θανατου εστιν πεπραγμενον αυτω
Acts 26:31. ουδεν θανατου αξιον πρασσει ο ανθρωπος ουτος
Acts 23:9. ουδεν κακον ευρισκομεν εν τω ανθρωπω τουτω

Pilate certainly wanted to release Jesus – so Agrippa also says to Festus: this man could have been released if he had not appealed to the emperor (26:23) – but the fate of both must be fulfilled in spite of the good will and the favourable mood of their Gentile judges – Pilate finally hands over Jesus to the will of the Jews – Festus hands over Paul to the official who takes him to Rome *)

*) Luke 23:25. παρεδωκε
Acts 27:1. παρεδιδουν

But now we also know what to make of the Roman citizenship, which the apostle is said to have possessed from birth, against all historical probability. It is a means of pragmatism to fulfil the destiny **) that wanted him in Rome, and if we find no other reliable evidence that the apostle was really once in Rome, then the Acts of the Apostles are also unable to vouch for the fact that the apostle appeared in Rome. For the journey of which it reports, the stay in the metropolis which it describes, is only a work of pragmatism, and is only intended to give the apostle the opportunity to express in basically full clarity and generality the basic apologetic maxim which he followed from the beginning and throughout the whole course of his activity.

It is about the esteem in which he held the Jews.

**) In passing it should be noted: – his citizenship and the appeal to it frees the apostle from the scourging that was already intended for him (22:24) and that is really carried out on Jesus (Mark 15:15) – earlier in Philippi (16:23) the apostle had been scourged, but the authorities of the city were also frightened when they heard that he was a Roman citizen.



The basic apologetic framework of the apostle

Although the apostle’s appointment to the ministry, that he should bear the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, was clear from the beginning and established (9:15) by divine revelation, he still appeared directly after his conversion before the Jews only. Even the bad experience he had of their malice – they threatened his life and forced him to flee from Damascus – could not stop him from trying again with them when he arrived in Jerusalem, but again he had to flee because the obdurate were still trying to kill him (9:20-30).

He tried again with the stubborn and turned to them when he appeared on his first missionary journey to Antioch in Pisidia – but again with the same unfortunate success, whereupon he openly and frankly *) stated his principle with Barnabas – (a principle, by the way, with whose establishment Peter had likewise preceded him 3:25-26) – “to you,” he cries, “the word of God had to be proclaimed first, but now that you have cast it from you and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.”

*) 13:46. παρρησιασάμενοί

Nevertheless, he still does not appear as the resolute and independent apostle to the Gentiles as he characterises himself in the Epistle to the Galatians. When the hatred of the Jews had driven him out of Antioch, he immediately preached in the synagogue of Iconium (14:1) – in order to arouse the Jewish hatred anew, which then pursued him to Derbe and Lystra, where he found no Jews, so that his effectiveness among the Gentiles had to be disturbed and interrupted by the Jewish persecutors of Antioch and Iconium who were rushing after him.


n the second great journey of discord, the same course of events, the same entanglement, the same end in Thessalonica and before (17: 2-14) – indeed, at the very moment when the author describes the apostle’s public appearance in the marketplace of Athens as a consequence *) of the impression made on him by the sight of the pagan nature of the city, he cannot refrain from inserting in the sentence indicating this consequence the note that the apostle appeared in the synagogue before the Jews, he thus confuses the construction of the sentence to the extent that he separates the consequence from the occasion.

*) 17:17 οὖν

In Corinth the scene is repeated which had already taken place in Antioch: – the apostle first addresses the Jews, teaches in their synagogue, but when they interrupted him with blasphemies, he explained to them that he leaves them to their fate and “now goes vindicated to the Gentiles. (18:5-6.)

In vain – as if he meant only the Gentiles of this one city, in the midst of which he then teaches for a year and a half – as if he were not the Apostle to the Gentiles par excellence, he first teaches again in the synagogue in Ephesus, until the obduracy of the Jews forces him to use the school of a Gentile for his lectures (19:8-9).


In Rome, finally, the same beginning, the same entanglement, but this time a conclusion of really general importance – a really final decision!

Immediately after his hasty arrangements were made, Paul called a meeting of the heads of the Roman Jews – they agreed on a day on which he was to give them a detailed lecture on his teaching – they appeared on the appointed day, Paul preaches to them about Jesus from the law and the prophets – the Jews, however, got into inner discord because of his teaching and left him after he reminded them of the saying of Isaiah about the hardness of heart and obduracy of this people and explained to them that salvation is sent to the Gentiles and that they will hear it (C. 28, 25 – 28). 28, 25 – 28).

This people, the Jewish people and the Gentiles, now stand in opposition to each other with their opposite nature and destiny, decidedly and forever.

The matter is ended, the matter is decided and the author has achieved his purpose.

Paul is and remains the apostle to the Gentiles, but he did not bring about the break with Judaism either wilfully or of his own accord; rather, the Jews, through their obstinacy and obduracy, brought about and forced the break.

Paul was faithful and compliant to Judaism even after his conversion and throughout his entire ministry, but the Jews rejected him and drove him to the Gentiles.

The apostle broke through the barrier of Judaism, but only with the help of the Jews, who pushed him away and thus caused him to go to the Gentiles.


Christianity is universal and also extends to the Gentiles – but only the hatred of the Jews has made it the property of the Gentiles.

By achieving this purpose and brilliantly proving the innocence of the Apostle, the author of the Acts of the Apostles has achieved even more – he has robbed Christianity of its creative and conquering power, and only by the chance that the Jews opposed him, has he made it the principle of life and salvation for the nations – his Paul does not turn to the Gentiles by virtue of his original and independent conviction that salvation belongs to them, but he brings them the gift of the gospel only after the Jews have rejected it – he does not act from the outset in the certainty that the Gentiles are the heirs of salvation, but he brings it to them only after the Jews have dispossessed themselves and made the heavenly treasure ownerless – in short, the author has finally achieved so much that the great turning point that the Paul of the letters brings about through his own conviction and establishes on the basis of the power and universality of the gospel itself is only due to chance – the chance that the Jews did not accept the offered salvation.

And yet he did not achieve his actual intention, as he rather betrayed his intention through the uniformity with which he repeatedly and constantly allows his Paul to turn to the Jews despite his calling as the apostle to the Gentiles and despite all adverse experiences. He exposes his intention completely and at the same time destroys any thought of implementation by letting the Apostle in Rome follow the same maxim and only refer to the disbelief of the Jews as a reason to turn to the Gentiles. In order to achieve his intention, the author must present the matter as if there was no community in Rome yet – he must therefore forget and make his readers forget that at the time when Paul entered Rome as a prisoner, the Epistle to the Romans must already have been written and that the Roman community is presupposed to be world-famous from the same letter – finally, he must speak of the Jews, as Paul explained to them that he carried his chains for the sake of the hope of Israel, in such a way that it is clear that they had not yet had the opportunity to get to know the new sect closely and were only dependent on the rumor that told them that it was being contradicted everywhere (Acts 28:22). However, the author was not completely able to deny the assumption that he had to exclude; rather, by letting “the brothers” (v. 15) from Rome come to meet the Apostle upon his arrival, he unintentionally revealed that he was aware of the assumption that there was already a community in Rome at that time, which was so familiar and insurmountable that he could not completely deny it despite his best intentions. –


We now summarize our investigation.




5. The Speeches of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey



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.



4. The Apostles’ Convention

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by Neil Godfrey



The Apostles’ Convention

A local dispute in Antioch, which was accidentally caused by some arrivals from Judea by their assertion of the necessity of circumcision for salvation, causes a decision that settles the whole dispute about the necessity of the law, secures the freedom of the Gentile Christians and establishes the peace of the parties.

But again, it is not Paul who conquers and secures the freedom of the Gentile Christians – but he and Barnabas, since both cannot control the unrest caused by those arrivals from Judea, are sent by the church of Antioch to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders to get their decision on the question (15:1-2).

If Paul’s activity had been initiated by the early church from the beginning and had received its legitimation from the leaders of the church, he now had to get the document from Jerusalem that would resolve the question of the position of the Gentile Christians, and he had to get it before he started his great missionary journey to Europe.

The apostles and the elders of Jerusalem come together as a court of justice when, after the arrival of the Antiochene envoys and after their report on the work of divine grace outside among the Gentiles, the question of dispute (v. 5) was once again stirred up by Pharisees who had become believers and insisted on the unconditional validity of the Mosaic Law – no! no! The author has already forgotten that the Antiochian envoys are to present the already pending dispute for solution, and only now, after their arrival, does he allow the dispute to break out through the preaching of the converted Pharisees.


Enough, – the court meets – a public hearing takes place in the presence of the congregation (v. 12) – it is debated, finally a decision is made and the congregation helps to give it the force of law by agreeing to it.

After the argument had wavered unsuccessfully at first, Peter prepares the decision by recalling how “the Gentiles”, the heathen in general, heard the word of the Gospel through his mouth and how God had testified about them through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then Paul and Barnabas tell about the great deeds the Lord has accomplished through them among the Gentiles. But only James gives the decisive statement, creates the real decision and, what is more, only refers to Peter’s report in his argumentation – only relies on the testimony which God had laid down in Peter’s work. He does not pay any attention to what Paul and Barnabas have said. He only proves from Peter’s report and deed that “God has accepted a people from the Gentiles for His name” – only from Peter’s report and deed does he draw (vv. 14-16) this conclusion, which he proves with the prophecy of Amos. The agreement of Peter’s deed with the prophecy has therefore decided the matter and James only gives the decisive answer by drawing attention to this agreement and drawing the conclusion. While Paul stands humbly before the Apostolic Council with Barnabas and must await the decision, he even has to hear that the foundation of the universal church is nothing new, but only the restoration and renewal of the fallen tabernacle of David – nothing but an expanded Judaism, and that the conversion of the Gentiles is only their attachment to the glorified Judaism.


The Creator of the new freedom must humble himself even deeper: —- the council of the early church does not reject Paul’s approach, but also does not approve it unreservedly. Instead, they believe that they can only give the real decision by (v. 28) establishing four “necessary” provisions, which Paul had not yet adhered to, and whose observance would only prove (v. 29) that the Gentile Christians are serious about “behaving properly.” Therefore, the Apostle must quietly endure that dogmas, which he would consider as “weak and worthless elemental forces” and rudiments of humanity, as “worldly elements” (Gal. 4:9, Col. 2:20-21), are imposed on Gentile Christians as highly necessary.

Yes, the apostle must experience that the Gentile Christians, through the obligation to these four regulations, are put on a par with the Gentiles of the OT. who, even if they did not participate in all the lawful things, were nevertheless forced to show some consideration for the holiness of the chosen people and had to comply with the law of the chosen people in four respects: They had to refrain from participating in idol worship, they were not allowed to eat anything with blood or strangled, and they had to avoid the prohibited sexual relations *). If the Gentile Christians are allowed all other freedoms besides observing those four points, what does this leniency mean other than the recognition that they occupy an equally exceptional position in the community, just as the foreigners who lived among the chosen people were part of its theocratic union? And if circumcision is specifically waived for them, does not this leniency still put them on the same level as the foreigners of the Old Testament, for whom circumcision was also not required, even though it would have made them fully-fledged members of the legal community?

*) Leviticus 20:2, 17:12, 17:15, 18:26.


While the Paul of the Epistles knows nothing of these four regulations and even contradicts the first point, which forbids the eating of things sacrificed to idols, since he declares this eating to be indifferent, in the Acts of the Apostles he recognises the decision of the early church and its leaders to such an extent that there is nothing left for him to do but to deliver it to the church – simply to hand over the solution. He and Barnabas come to Antioch with the delegates of the early church, assemble the crowd, deliver the decree to them and the community feels reassured and uplifted by this decision (15:30-31). And when he went on, “travelling through the cities”, he again had nothing more to do than to hand over the apostle’s decree, and always a consequence of this spreading is that the churches are strengthened in the faith (16:4, 5).

The contradiction between the subordinate role assigned to Paul in Acts alongside the leaders of the early church and the force with which the apostle asserts and enforces his independence in the epistles is so great that even the apologists must acknowledge it, albeit with evasive words, but can never compensate for it. If, for example, Schneckenburger *) says that one turned to Jerusalem because of the Antiochian discord, it was “natural, because in a certain sense the authority of Jerusalem was recognised in all the congregations”, he does not take into account that it is at the same time about Paul and that he does not recognise this authority in his everyday affairs. If Schneckenburger, on the other hand, finds it natural that “now a decree went out from Jerusalem that made the Gentile Christians secure,” he does not bring up the fact that Paul fights for their freedom in his own strength and makes them secure beside and against Jerusalem. If it seems very natural to him that Paul simply spreads the decision of the primitive apostles in his congregations “because he hoped thereby to oppose the Judaizers with a more respectable defence than his own spiritual authority was capable of, he can only ascribe this hope and intention to the apostle if he carefully refrains from how jealously he preserved his independence and that he always wanted to decide only by virtue of his own authority and by virtue of the revelation that was given to him personally.

*) op. cit. p. 72, 73.


chnecktnburgrr is of the opinion that the report of the Acts of the Apostles and the communications of the apostle (Gal. 2) about his negotiations with the apostles at Jerusalem refer to the same fact – (and indeed, if a parallel is to be proved in the apostle’s letters, that report can only be brought together with these statements of the Epistle to the Galatians) – but the contradictions between the two cannot be attributed to a mere “difference of viewpoint”. The apostle’s own account does not help us to “complete the picture” *) which the author of Acts draws of the teacher of the Gentiles, but both are mutually exclusive.

*) ibid. p. 76.


Step by step, the two portrayals exclude each other.

Immediately after his conversion, the Paul of Acts preaches the Gospel to the Jews in Damascus, but persecutions that immediately rise up against him force him to flee and he goes to Jerusalem. The stay in Damascus is so short that the author counts by days **), and the fact that the disciples in Jerusalem, when the apostle wanted to join them, avoid him (9:26) is also consistent with this assumption of the historian – they do not think it is possible that he is a disciple, and their suspicion was natural, since the conversion had happened shortly before and the news of it had not yet reached Jerusalem.

**) “after a number of days” the persecution broke out 9:23, ως δε επληρουντο ημεραι ικαναι

The same assumption is made by the author in the two accounts that Paul gives of his conversion. In the first account – the speech to the people – the Apostle is given the command by his Lord to go to the Gentiles only when he prays in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21) – so here in Jerusalem is where the vision from Damascus is completed. Both visions are essentially one vision – they are just two acts that take place in different locations but form an immediately connected whole, and therefore cannot be separated by a longer interval. And they are indeed closely connected, for the Apostle returns to Jerusalem (v. 17) after his conversion, as if he can only stay there; his trip to Damascus has fulfilled its purpose.


In the second account – the defence before King Agrippa – his first appearance in Damascus and Jerusalem is just as closely connected: – “first I preached, says the apostle (26:20), to those in Damascus and Jerusalem”, then to all of Judea and the Gentiles.

In the Epistle to the Galatians the apostle assures us that after his conversion he did not go to Jerusalem (1:17-18) but to Arabia, then “returned to Damascus, and after three years went to Jerusalem, and here, besides Peter, he only saw James, the brother of the Lord. Only James, no one else of the other apostles, he assures with great pride and invokes God (v. 20) that he is not lying – not lying, while in the Acts of the Apostles Barnabas introduces him to the circle of apostles immediately after his first stay in Jerusalem – not lying, when he claims that he is unknown to the face of the church in Judea (v. 22). 22), while according to the account in Acts, after a fine introduction in the circle of the apostles, he preaches to the church of Jerusalem until persecutions force him to flee.

Only after fourteen years had passed since his first visit to Jerusalem, according to the Galatians letter (2:1-2), Paul went up to the holy city again in response to a revelation to discuss his gospel with the apostles. He united with them, agreeing that the Gentiles belonged to him and the children of circumcision belonged to them – this being the only trip that can be compared with the journey to the council of the early church in the Book of Acts in terms of its purpose and success. However, it remains the case that this trip is explicitly referred to as the second one in the Galatians letter, while in the Book of Acts it is the third one.


The apostle of the Epistle to the Galatians does not know anything about the second one of the Acts of the Apostles, which (11:30) only had the purpose of bringing alms – if it nevertheless wanted to intrude, then he would adamantly include it, since he, in order to preserve his independence, insists that he only made these two journeys to Jerusalem in that time period.

The second journey of the Acts of the Apostles cannot be the second journey of the Epistle to the Galatians, since the purpose of both – the purpose that each of them had alone – is completely different.

So the contradiction remains that the second journey of the Epistle to the Galatians is the third of the Acts of the Apostles – to which is added the contradiction that not even the first and third journeys of the Acts of the Apostles can be separated by the period of fourteen years, Finally, the negotiations that follow the third journey of Acts and the second journey of Galatians about the relationship between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians have an essentially different format and an equally different result.


In the Acts of the Apostles it is a public, official negotiation that leads to a legal decision of the congregation – the negotiation that the Epistle to the Galatians speaks of is conducted privately between Paul and the pillar apostles (C. 2, 9), James, Peter and John.

The Paul of Galatians stands up for his rights and forces the three pillar apostles to recognise him – the Paul of Acts, hardly noticed, has to stand before the barriers of the convention and submit unconditionally to the decision of the congregation.

The former comes to Jerusalem of his own accord, as a result of a revelation, in order to discuss every case with the original apostles, and the private negotiation which he initiates with them is the only correct course worthy of him which he could take – the latter, however, is sent by the Antiochian congregation in order to obtain a decision and solution from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for a question and a dispute which he could not master.

He stands alone in Jerusalem and when he defended the freedom of Titus from circumcision against “intruding brethren”, the apostles were at least passive “and they did not indicate with a word that the demands of the law-setters were not also theirs – he, on the other hand, received from them the document that secured the freedom of the Gentile Christians.

However, the three apostles in the Galatians letter do recognize Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. They shake hands with him, expressing their willingness to have fellowship with him *). However, this fellowship is reduced to the observance of neutrality, that they will tolerate each other’s separate spheres of influence. There are two gospels, the gospel of the Gentiles and the gospel of circumcision, two spheres of influence in which grace operates, two teachings, and the peace treaty that the apostles of circumcision make with the apostle to the Gentiles contains only the declaration of neutrality, that they will let each other alone and tolerate one another. In short, the original apostles of the Galatians letter allow Paul to work on his own field and leave him to his own responsibility. Therefore, they are very cautious about interfering in his sphere of influence, which is a foreign world for them. In the Book of Acts, however, they are the ones who ensure the freedom of the Gentile Christians and intervene decisively in their living conditions. They sanction what they only tolerate under Paul’s responsibility in the Galatians letter. They act as supreme arbitrators and owners of a domain that, in the Galatians letter, is just outside their inheritance as foreign property and a foreign conquest.

*) 2:9 δεξιας εδωκαν . . . . κοινωνιας


These contradictions must be recognised and can never be resolved in the sense that their conflict ceases. They can only be explained, i.e. recognised as the products of two different points of view.

That the author of the Acts of the Apostles, when he wrote his work, followed a very definite purpose, and also calculated quite precisely, is proved by the fact that he excerpted several characteristic features from the life of the apostle, which were known to him from his letters.


He does not mention Titus at all, so he does not report that Paul did not allow him to be circumcised; on the other hand he emphasises very deliberately how the apostle, when he came to Derbe and Lystra, circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess but of a Greek father, purely and solely for the sake of the Jews (C. 16, 1-3), – purely and solely for the sake of the Jews, because they knew very well that Timothy’s father was a Greek, so that they also had no claims on him – Timothy was also not destined to work among the Jews. The apostle had only appointed him as a companion for his further journeys – but he circumcised him so as not to cause offence to the Jews by taking an uncircumcised man with him as a helper on his journeys – purely and solely for the sake of the Jews, in order to show that he did not want to get in the way of the law.

That is, the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles allows himself to be driven by the consideration of the Jews to an action that the apostle of the Epistle to the Galatians was not capable of. The author of the Acts of the Apostles first created this timorous act of the apostle – if we also consider how he placed it in the same close connection with the apostle’s decree and the quarrel with Barnabas, in which the struggle for the freedom of Titus stands with the negotiations about the freedom of the Gentile Christians and with the groundless behaviour of Barnabas, then we will no longer be in doubt about the author’s intention.

He does not mention the Antiochian quarrel between the apostle and Peter, and he could not include it in his writing, since Peter’s fear of the men who came from James (Gal. 2:12) was impossible, when the latter had only just tipped the scales in favour of the freedom of the Gentile Christians at the Jerusalem Council.


Of course he could not mention that Barnabas was seduced by Peter and his Jewish environment (Gal. 2:13) – instead he lets a third person cause the rift between Barnabas and Paul in that the former (Act. 15:37-40) was the one who would bring John Mark with him on the journey, but Paul did not want him because he had previously departed from him (13:13). Only Paul’s dislike of Mark is to blame for the dilemma – Barnabas had not caused the separation through his personal behaviour.

Paul also does not mention the collection that he gathered in Europe for the early church, and whose delivery was the purpose of his last trip to Jerusalem – of course not! – as it served as a gesture of love from the Gentile Christians to the Jewish Christians and as the only bond that could connect the separated, theoretically separated, in a practical way. At the same time, it testified that their life journeys were completely separate and that they lived in such different worlds that the only bond that could still connect them to some extent was the memory of the early church for the Gentile Christians, and the proof of that memory could only be a donation. On the other hand, in the Book of Acts, the early church creates the freedom of the Gentile Christians and regulates their circumstances.

He could not incorporate the collection into his work, especially since its collection was the only stipulation that the three pillars of the Galatians letter (Gal. 2:10) added to their private agreement with Paul and their concession to recognize him in his own sphere of influence. Meanwhile, in the Book of Acts, the author added a completely different judgments to the decision of the early church, which established the freedom of the Gentile Christians and should apply to the life of the Gentile Christians.


He only involuntarily remembers this collection when he has the Apostle in his speech before Felix describe the purpose of his journey to Jerusalem (24:17) as the offering of a sacrifice and alms – only these alms are offered by the Apostle as his personal gift *) and is offered “to his people”, to the Jews in general, not to the Christian community in Jerusalem.

*) παρεγενομην ελεημοσυνας ποιησων

Earlier, when he had begun his work abroad in Antioch, the apostle brought a collection to Jerusalem on behalf of the elders of this church (11:27-30) – this alone was only arranged by chance, because the brethren in Judea wanted to be helped in an upcoming famine prophesied by the prophet Agabus. It is the freely formed counterpart to the collection, the raising of which the apostles in the Galatian letter laid out for the apostle as a stipulation and condition of their recognition, just as the author, with well-considered intention, had made John Mark the companion of the apostle and created his anger (12:25, 13:13), in order to later bring about the rift with Barnabas in his own way. If one wanted to call the report of the Antiochian collection with Schneckenburger **) much too “harmless” to bear the suspicion that it was a freely formed metamorphosis of the collection of the Pauline letters – the notes on John Mark much too “simple, harmless and unbiased”, *) than that they could be regarded as calculated preparations for the break with Barnabas – if, then, one were to acknowledge intention and calculation only in the case where the author calls them out, one would be asking a thing of impossibility and more of the author than he could and was allowed to do.

**) ibid. p. 114.

*) Ibid. p. 108.


With such deliberate intent, the author suppresses any memory of the partisan struggles within the church and of the battles the apostle had to wage with the Judaizing party, that he does not even let him preach the gospel during his first journey through Galatia and Phrygia. (16:6) – Galatia with its tearing battles over the validity of the law and with the testimony of the Epistle to the Galatians about the battles the apostle had to fight with the Judaizing zealots of the churches there, was the most dangerous country for the author, therefore he lets the apostle pass through it quietly and silently “and would have achieved in his way what he aimed at, if only he had not, during the apostle’s second passage through Galatia and Phrygia (C. 18, 24) he had established churches in these countries without reporting their foundation, and had let the apostle strengthen them without explaining how the apostle came to relate to these churches. But he had to be inconsistent. He finally had to admit that there were also churches with which the apostle had communicated.

But in this he is consistent, that he suppresses everything that could remind of those inner struggles of the church. Only the faithless Jews persecute the apostle and pursue him – within the church, on the other hand, there is peace and unity and false teachers are even impossible to the extent that the apostle has to prophesy about them and portray them as deceivers who will only appear after his return (20:29-30). Only once, when he came to Jerusalem for the last time, did the believing Jews express some concern about the rumour that the apostle was leading the foreign Jews to apostasy from Moses (21:20-21), but it was only a rumour, the groundlessness of which Paul proved by showing his strictly legal attitude.


Thus, there was no fighting or struggle, and even the freedom of the Gentile Christians was safe-guarded by the early church in Jerusalem on the occasion of an accidental misunderstanding. The apostolic decree was a foundation that made any further dispute and discord impossible!

And yet history tells of a deep discord that divided the congregations, of a struggle that only came to an end when, around the middle of the second century, the value of circumcision had so declined that it was no longer mentioned in the Clementines and only the course of life was praised as the means of rebirth and deliverance from paganism, that in the Epistle of Barnabas *) circumcision is completely refuted and even called a mirage with which an evil spirit bewitched the Jews, while God had not spoken of a carnal circumcision. Ignatius opposes the true, the upper, i.e. the spiritual circumcision to the false and lower circumcision **).

*) Ch. 7.

**) κατω περιτομη ad. Philad. c. 6


Where, then, did the struggle come from that led to this late conclusion of peace, after a solution had already been given in the Apostles’ Decree that must make every dispute impossible and cut off all questions from the outset?

We have already given the answer by proving the late origin of the Acts of the Apostles. The peace that followed the struggle, the peace that surrounded the author in his time, – he transferred this peace to the early days of the Church, and by this anachronism brought about the problem, which is, however, insoluble on the grounds of his work, of how this ancient and original peace could ever again be lost in the struggle.

In the Apostles’ Decree he laid down the judgement of his time on the freedom of the Jewish Christians and the recognition of this freedom, and he created this decree freely and independently.*)

*) Schwegler has drawn attention to the stylistic similarity of the Decree and the Prologue to the Gospel of Luke. (Post-apostolic era I. 127.)

The late editor of the Gospel, which Marcion had in his hands, styled the Decree after the Prologue, which he prefixed to the Gospel of Urlukas:

Luke 1:1-3 επειδηπερ πολλοι επεχειρησαν αναταξασθαι . . . εδοξε καμοι παρηκολουθηκοτι ανωθεν πασιν ακριβως καθεξης σοι γραψαι . . .

Acts 15:24, 25 επειδη ηκουσαμεν οτι . . . εδοξεν ημιν γενομενοις ομοθυμαδον . . . . πεμψαι προς υμας . . . .

The author also proved his skill for the pure Greek style in the entrance to the speech of the rhetor Tertullus before the governor Felix (24:3). It was only fortunate for him that his rhetor gave in immediately after the elegantly and artistically styled entrance (v. 4), did not promise to delay the governor too long and went straight to the point. In other words, it was difficult for the author to write in this style for more than one episode, and he sought to return to his usual course as soon as possible.


By the way, at the very moment when the freedom of the Gentile Christians was to be secured by borrowing the clauses that he attached to the apostolic decree from the Old Testament provisions regarding the position of gentiles, he created the illusion that Gentile Christians should occupy the same exceptional position within the community as the gentiles did in the midst of the holy people, according to the assumption of those provisions. However, when he modeled the clause that Gentile Christians should refrain from fornication on the provision that strangers should avoid forbidden degrees in marriage, this allusion probably sufficed for him, and he would likely have regarded the question of whether fornication referred to marriage within forbidden degrees or even second marriage as somewhat intrusive.




3. The Conversion of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey



The Conversion of Paul.

The differences between the author’s own account and the portrayal that Paul himself gives of his conversion before the people and later before King Agrippa will never be of practical service to those who wish to use them *) to eliminate some gaudy features and to move the event from its external appearance to the interior of the apostle. For example, if Paul says in his speech before the people (22:9) that his companions did not hear the voice of the Lord who spoke to him before Damascus, while the author tells the opposite in his historical account (9:7), we should not admire the fidelity of the tradition that carried Paul’s entire speech unchanged, nor the conscientiousness of the author who transmitted this deviating feature in the Apostle’s speech unchanged, even though he had given a different picture of the event in his historical account. Such a tradition, possessing a memory so mechanical and a breath so long that it could recite the same material in various forms unchanged, has never existed **). Moreover, even that deviation would not be able to turn the miracle into an internal occurrence of the mind. In his speech before the people, Paul also announces that the appearance of the Lord was a wonderful and truly visible one, and cites the fact that his companions also saw the heavenly light that flashed around him in the middle of the day and were terrified by the enormity, to confirm the sensory reality. It is irrelevant whether the companions heard the voice without seeing the one who spoke with Paul, or whether they saw the miraculous light, the envelope, the sensory body of the appearance and did not hear the voice – in both cases they were witnesses of the appearance, and only the author’s changing interest would lead him to shift the features of the picture and to put them in the opposing position. In his own account, he only wanted to establish the reality of the voice that Paul heard beyond doubt – that is why the companions must also hear it. *) Later, when Paul justifies himself before the people, he wanted to ensure the divine legitimacy of his mission against even the slightest doubt – that is why it must now be shown that Paul was really and solely the purpose of the appearance. He now hears the voice alone.

*) as, for example, also Dr. Baur, the Apostle Paul p. 64.

**) as is proven in my critique of the Gospels.

*) and he still followed the original most faithfully, which he used for his depiction. For he has before his eyes the description of the Viston of Daniel (Dan. 10:7), which the Prophet also saw alone, while his companions, who did not see it, were seized with horror – (at the miraculous voice). Dan. 10:6. καὶ ἡ φωνὴ τῶν λόγων αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὄχλου. V. 7 καὶ εἶδον ἐγὼ Δανιηλ μόνος τὴν ὀπτασίαν καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ οὐκ εἶδον τὴν ὀπτασίαν ἀλλ᾿ ἢ ἔκστασις μεγάλη ἐπέπεσεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς


The author proceeded as freely as later in the apostle’s speech before King Agrippa, in which Jesus (26:17) immediately at his first appearance appoints the apostle to the Gentiles, while in the earlier historical account (C. 9, 15) Ananias is the only means by which Paul could learn his new destiny, since circumstances led him to the field of his activity.


On the basis of the report of the Acts of the Apostles, the previous theological dispute as to whether the vision of the Apostle was a sensory = external or an internal one, is unfruitful – the effort to burden the later tradition with the disturbing sensory experience and yet to form a kind of historical course out of all the individual features, is fruitless, for the report knows only one course of events, the sensually miraculous one, and if it is no longer regarded with all its individual features *) as a witness to the miraculous event, then it no longer exists at all and is even deprived of any basis for the dispute about the nature of the phenomenon.

*) The apostle’s blindness and his healing from it is and remains a part of the miracle, and Dr. Baur tries in vain to make the former a spiritual affliction, the latter a spiritual orientation, and to attribute to tradition the transformation of the spiritual blindness into a physical one.

Without the account of the Acts of the Apostles, we know nothing of the way in which the conversion of the apostle took place – but as the account stands, it excludes any natural mediation of this change, any preparation by an inner struggle of the soul. Either one believes the account as it stands and believes the various accounts of the Acts of the Apostles, or one admits that this account tells us nothing about the conversion of the Christian persecutor and cannot tell us anything.


According to the premise of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is so firmly established in Judaism, his conviction of the unconditional justification of the law is so certain, his will to uphold the law at all costs is so determined, that only heavenly power can win him over for the church and the conversion of the Gentiles.

His conviction, his will, his decision, his inclination do not and shall not come into consideration. He should not even fight within himself, should not waver, should not be inwardly broken or even inwardly involved with the world he is fighting against, but should be purely decided, a whole man, clear about himself and determined to assert the law and the Jewish privilege.

Although he is decided against the new teaching par excellence, he is nevertheless to be called – but since this calling happens against his will, the Lord Himself must intervene to make it possible, i.e. break his will and cast him down Himself.

Even at the moment when the Lord breaks him and throws him down, the new thing that hits him finds so little prepared place and point of contact within him that he lets the new thing pass him by and asks the Lord: “What do you want me to do?” and the Lord has to send him to the city so that he can learn from Ananias, who immediately receives the necessary revelation, what he has to do (9:6).

According to the Acts of the Apostles, this is the only course of events that Paul’s conversion had, and could only have, – the only necessary course of events, so that it would be beyond all doubt and certain that the Lord had called the man who was to bear His name before the nations, and the Lord had to draw His chosen witness to Himself with such striking force, so that the calling of the Gentiles and their justification would also be revealed as His work and His will.


It is only a continuation of this testimony when later the Holy Spirit, on a journey through Asia Minor, forbids the apostle to preach the word, and when finally in the vision at Troas the interpretation of this prohibition follows, when a man from Macedonia appears to him, who calls him to come over to Macedonia and help them; this call of the Lord (C. 16, 10) turns into an explicit command to stay in Corinth without fear, because there he has a many people. In Jerusalem the Lord appears to the apostle and tells him (C.23,11) that he has to go over to Macedonia and help them. ) that He will testify of Him in Rome as well as here in Jerusalem.

Visions and appearances reveal to the apostle his destiny – the author was therefore allowed to venture, in the lecture which Paul gives to the people, to change the opening which in the actual historical account of Paul’s conversion Ananias receives into one which the apostle himself received in the temple during his first sojourn in Jerusalem (22: 21) – and finally, after reporting all these visions, he was able to weave into the “Apostle’s” last account of his conversion the Lord’s reference to these following visions: – you shall be a witness of this, says the Lord already before Damascus (26:16), “what” you have seen, and of the visions in which I will yet manifest myself to you.

Like this reference to the later visions, like the transformation of the word to Ananias into a direct opening to Paul – like the visions that call the apostle to Europe, hold him in Corinth and point him to Rome, the vision that casts him down before Damascus and transforms him from the legal zealot into the apostle to the Gentiles is also created from the outset and is the free work of the writer of history.


Like the conversion of the Apostle to the Gentiles, the conversion of Cornelius by Peter is also created. The parallel goes so far that both miracles move through two interlocking visions.

The miracles that result in the conversion and baptism of the pagan Cornelius are also necessary, because without them none of the things that are brought about by them and only by them would have happened. The vision of the animals, all of which God has cleansed so that man no longer has the right to call some of them unclean and to shun them as such, is something entirely new for the apostle; it is connected neither to a previous development nor to an inner struggle of his spirit, it finds nothing related to it within himself; Peter does not even know how to interpret the vision and only a wonderful chain of circumstances into which he is drawn involuntarily unlocks his understanding of it.

As little as Cornelius, when the angel of the Lord commands him to fetch Peter, knows the intentions of heaven – (Peter must tell him what to do) (10:6) – so little does the apostle know, when he had followed the Lord’s call and is already in the house of Cornelius, what he should do with the pagan captain (V. 29). Only when he hears about Cornelius’ vision and realizes how it is connected with his own in a divinely intended context, he discovers that God does not show partiality (V. 34) and that all kinds of people who fear Him and do what is right are pleasing to Him, and therefore he wants to also take members of his community from the circle of the Gentiles – and even then it is still a wonder that, as a result of his preaching, the Spirit falls on the present Gentiles and they speak in tongues, which finally convinces him of what it is all about (v. 47) and that he cannot deny baptism to the called Gentiles.


What happened to Cornelius and his household is just as unprepared for in the history of the early Church up to that point, and just as unheard of and unexpected for the entire community of the apostle, so bewildering in fact, that the believers who accompanied Peter to Caesarea were horrified when they (10:45) experienced that even on the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out – in a phenomenon that contradicted all their notions and expectations; they could hardly come to terms with it, indeed, they were so reluctant to accept it that Peter had to calm them down expressly by remarking whether anyone could deny baptism to those who had received the Holy Spirit. Only reluctantly and subdued by a supernatural force, the believers of the circumcision bow to the unexpected event, admitting that they cannot prevent the water of baptism, which is flows over the barrier of Judaism to the nations. If it had depended on them alone, they would have denied the holy water to the Gentiles – if the Lord had not impelled Peter, the Gentile from Caesarea would have remained without the comfort of baptism – if the most extraordinary miracles had not intervened, the apostle himself would not have known what to do with the Gentile in the house of Cornelius.


That only a miracle, only the openly and unmistakably expressed will of heaven could bring about the admission of the Gentiles into the church, that therefore what happened in Caesarea had no basis and point of connection in the previous history of the church, was shown once again when Peter, on his return to Jerusalem, received the bitterest reproaches from the believers that he (11:2-3) had entered with uncircumcised men and had eaten with them.

Indeed, Peter also silences these dissatisfied ones (11:18) by explaining to them the miraculous course of the event that had troubled them – but if it was striking up to this point that an event which was decisive for the community had no preparatory elements within it, neither in the mind of its most important leader, and had to receive its possibility from heaven, it is now highly surprising that the great, decisive, and miraculously wrought and testified event was not actually decisive and did not have the consequences that it deserved.

The early church was not touched by the change that had taken place in Caesarea; as if heaven had not yet pronounced its judgement. Later, long after the Gentiles had really been won over, the believers in Judea demanded that those whom the Lord Himself had called should earn their blessedness through circumcision. All that had been done so far was therefore in vain, unsuccessful, forgotten, as good as unprecedented. Peter first has to remember (15:7) the deed that the Lord had done through him a long time ago – in the early days *) of the church, and James refers to Peter’s account of how the Lord first (v. 14) formed a people out of the Gentiles for His name, in order to enforce the freedom of the believing Gentiles from circumcision – – so only now does the event take effect? And Peter was the chosen means by which God won the firstfruits of the Gentiles?

*) ‘αφ ημερειν αρχαιων.


Peter was the first to bring the “Gentiles” to the church? And James says this at the same moment when Paul stood before the barriers of the Apostolic Convention “and awaited its pronouncement on the freedom of the Gentile Christians?

Only now does this event take effect? Is the original intention of heaven revealed?

Indeed! Only now can the author achieve his goals! That is why the event had to remain unsuccessful for so long, so that it could only now exert its true and original effect. Now Paul has already worked among the Gentiles and is waiting for the decision on his effectiveness before the Apostolic Convention – only now can it be shown that the deed God accomplished through Peter was done for his sake, so that his work among the Gentiles would be justified. Paul is justified through Peter.

The author already had this justification in mind when he reported and created the conversion of Cornelius. The purpose that Peter’s action serves also made this action possible.

The conquest of paganism is a deed that Peter accomplished. He alone deserves the honour, he alone has the merit of having broken through the obstacles of paganism. Paul is no longer a creator, he did not establish the freedom of the Gentile Christians, he did nothing special or unique when he brought the Gentiles to the Lord – Peter is the original, the creator, the pioneer.


This contradiction against the presupposition of the Pauline letters, according to which Peter is only the apostle of the circumcision, Paul the chosen and only apostle of the Gentiles, Schneckenburger tries in vain to eliminate by the remark that the appointment of Peter for the circumcision “does not exclude an exceptional activity of the kind represented by the conversion of Cornelius” *). The deed that Peter performed on Cornelius is “according to the account of the Acts of the Apostles not an exception and isolated, but a groundbreaking, forever decisive deed – one that sanctifies everything similar that follows it. This is how it is understood at the Apostles’ Convention by the Apostle James, and James advocates it as the author wants it to be understood.

*) op. cit. p 178.

Of course, after such a groundbreaking and sanctifying act, there should be no attacks on Paul’s way of acting on the part of the Jerusalem congregation – but Schneckenburger is also unable to resolve this contradiction, which the author of the Acts of the Apostles brings into his own premises, when he recalls **) “what a difference it is to succumb to the overwhelming impression of an evidently divine manifestation in a particular case and to now recognize the principle realized in his case in all cases, contrary to the entire previous way of thinking.”

**) op. cit., p. 179.


The revelation in the case of Cornelius was not a special case, but a sanctioning fact – an event of general significance, as the believers in Jerusalem, when Peter explained the events to them, expressly acknowledged that it was now *) clear that God had also given repentance to the Gentiles for life. If it was divine will that Cornelius received baptism – and that it was so was acknowledged by the initially reluctant Jewish Christians – then this will also had general, binding force for all times. Once the principle had been realised by God, even if only in one case – and that God had acted is expressly emphasised by James – no one was allowed to resist in the later cases in which the same principle was realised.

*) 11:18. ἄρα γε καί . . . .

So we are left with the absolutely correct explanation that James gives to the event of Caesarea: God Himself decided, for all times and cases, and decided through Peter as the chosen instrument, so that the same apostle, who in the Pauline epistles is preferably and only the apostle of the circumcision, is denied the title of conqueror of the Gentiles. Peter won the Gentiles of the church; Peter won the Gentiles their freedom.

Just as certainly, however, there remains the contradiction that the miracle of Caesarea remains unsuccessful, that the community of Jerusalem resists the freedom of the Gentiles despite the clear and for all times binding will of the Godhead itself – above all, there remains the contradiction, that the primitive apostles only remember this miracle when Paul had already begun to set the Gentile world in motion – finally, the contradiction that the whole interest of the Acts of the Apostles revolves around the recognition and appreciation of Paul’s effectiveness among the Gentiles.


Also in the Acts of the Apostles Paul is the only and real apostle to the Gentiles and yet Peter is his original, Peter deserves the glory and the merit of having founded the freedom of the Gentile Christians.

In other words: Peter wins over the Gentiles, convinces the Gentiles that the Gentiles are called – Peter legitimates and sanctions the effectiveness of Paul – Peter has the honour of the process – but since he is supposed to justify the real Apostle to the Gentiles, even through this legitimation the reproach against the latter resounds that he proceeded too boldly when he redeemed the Gentiles from the law, and too quickly when he gave up the privilege of the Jews over the Gentiles.

Even the tribute that the Acts of the Apostles pay to Peter is permeated by the memory of the earlier, real battle that Paul waged with Judaism and the latter against Paul, i.e. also by the memory of the old fact that Paul won over the nations.

The Acts of the Apostles bears witness to the victory that Judaism, i.e. Jewish interest in the church, won when it subjugated Paul and his life, deprived him of his originality and transferred his historical honour to Peter. The Christian Judaism of the Jews was far from overturning the undeniable and invincible fact that the Gospel also belonged to the nations; it also recognized Paul’s divine calling and his merit in the conversion of the Gentiles, but it only makes the effectiveness of the apostle to the Gentiles legitimate by sanctioning his action through the process of Peter. It even defends Paul against the accusation that he acted too quickly and hastily when he won the nations to the Gospel and at the same time freed them from the law – Peter’s deed is “his” protective and legal title – but this defence must, against its will, acknowledge that Paul was the creator and liberator.


The honour Peter wins is a late conquest of Judaism within the congregation – through the apologia, on the other hand, which Peter’s deed is supposed to serve, the memory of the earlier struggle against Paul and the deed as it appears in the Pauline epistles unmistakably resounds.

The honour that Peter wins is a late triumph over Judaism within the community – the apology, on the other hand, which Peter’s deed is supposed to serve, unmistakably echoes the memory of the earlier struggle against Paul and the facts as they appear in the Pauline epistles. The same relationship is repeated in another respect. If we consider how carefully the apostle of the epistles emphasises that he did not receive the gospel from men, but through direct revelation of the Lord (Gal. 1:12), and how he has to answer for the visions and revelations of the Lord against adversaries and enviers (2 Cor. 12:1), it is at least this much clear that the judgement of his apostolic reputation also depended on the judgement of his visions. Well then! The Acts of the Apostles recognise miraculous visions as a real source of divine revelation, but in such a way that they also confer the honour of this direct contact with the Lord on Peter and, through the revelations that the latter received, ensure the credibility of those that were given to Paul. Paul is not the only visionary — already Stephen, who initiated the break with the Jewish people, has a vision before the synod, in that the Son of Man appears to him sitting at the right hand of God, and Philip, one of the deacons of the early church, is directed by an angel (8:26) to the Ethiopian in need of salvation.


In the same way, as a result of the victory that Christian Judaism had claimed over him, after he had lost the glory of his own creative significance, Paul was surrounded by a multitude of witnesses, all of whom testified to his perfect conformity to the early church at Jerusalem and to his intimate connection with it.

Ananias, who is involved in the vision of Damascus and was supposed to open his calling on behalf of the Lord, is (22:12) a legally pious man who had a good reputation among the Jews who lived in Damascus. Barnabas, the deserving member of the early church, introduces him to the apostles in Jerusalem, stands up for him, since they shunned him at first and did not trust him, and tells (9:27) how the Lord Himself had called him. Since he was threatened with danger in Jerusalem, the brothers sent him to Tarsus (9:30) and from there Barnabas fetched him and led him to Antioch, where he had opened up a wide sphere of activity (11:25). With Barnabas he was then sent to the elders of the church of Jerusalem to hand over the proceeds of a collection that had been organised for the brethren in Judea at Antioch (11:30, 12:25). When he left Jerusalem again with Barnabas, he took John Mark with him, the same one in whose parental home Peter found the brothers gathered in prayer after his rescue from prison (12:12). Even now, when he left Antioch and started his first great missionary journey, he did not set out on his own initiative, he did not directly follow the voice of the Spirit, but the church received the revelation of the Spirit and the commission to “set apart Barnabas and Paul to the work to which they were called” and to send them into their ministry (13:2-3). Later on, it becomes clear that he is also closely associated with Philip, that deacon of the early church who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. He stays with him in Caesarea, and the same prophet of the early church who, through his prophecy about the impending famine, had brought about the collection for Antioch, announces to him, as he binds his hands and feet, the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-11).


Where this pragmatism has brought about the most conspicuous linking of the facts, its intention and origin will also be betrayed.
Why does Paul, although the Lord had already designated him as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), allow himself to be sent to Tarsus by the early church in Jerusalem when the Jews were plotting against him? Why does he remain here quietly until Barnabas fetches him to Antioch? Why is he resting while the Lord had sent him away from Jerusalem immediately among the Gentiles (Acts 22:18, 21)? How is it that the author completely suppresses the historical fact when he leaves the Gentile apostle idle in Tarsus, while later he cannot completely deny the impression of it?

But the question is not just about Paul. At the same moment when he sits idly in Tarsus, other threads are also left dangling that the author had previously thrown out, and other events continue to have necessary consequences without results, and only at the moment when Paul is called back to work, does the author pick up those threads again and allow the earlier events to lead to their consequences.


The whole church of Jerusalem was scattered after the execution of Stephen – only the apostles remained (8:1) – but why is nothing mentioned about the activity of the dispersed except what Philip did in Samaria and with the Ethiopian stranger? Why is the outward activity of the believers suddenly interrupted after it had begun so successfully? Why does Philip leave Caesarea after such a promising beginning (8:40)? Why is he forgotten, why are the dispersed not remembered – why does the whole work abroad stop?

Why do the dispersed, after being completely forgotten, reappear so late and so suddenly? Why is their effectiveness in the circle of the Greeks at Antioch – at least the effectiveness that some Cyprians and Cyreneans among them were found in the circle of those Greeks *) – introduced as a consequence of the preceding?

*) Namely only this second part of the whole sentence 11:19-20, that they spoke to the Greeks (ελαλουν προς τοις ελληνας) is introduced by the “therefore” in the beginning of the sentence (οι μεν ουν).

Why? Nothing could be clearer! The preceding, on which the conversion of the Antiochian Greeks depends, is Peter’s great deed to Cornelius – the miraculous event which (11:18) also brings the believers in Jerusalem to the conviction that God has given the Gentiles repentance for life. Those foreign Jews who addressed the Greeks in Antioch with their sermon are said not to have “heard” directly of Peter’s deed, not to have been directly dependent on the pioneer – but they did not break ground themselves either. It “turned out that now, when Peter had opened the way, they preached the gospel to the Greeks. Only now, when Peter had gone ahead, was it proper for others to come forward and address the Gentiles. It was only now that Paul was to leave – that is why the early church sent Barnabas to Antioch to see the work there, and Barnabas, having seen the grace of God in the Gentiles, brought Paul from Tarsus and introduced him into his congregation.


The whole thing is a pragmatic machine, made to give Peter the glory of having been the first to bring divine grace to the Gentiles. Just as a machine is mechanically brought to a standstill by a pressure, so the external work that had already begun suddenly comes to a standstill – Philip celebrates in Caesarea, the scattered members of the early church have all but disappeared, even Paul has to “idle away” in Tarsus – only after Peter’s action is the machinery set in motion again: the scattered preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and Paul is now allowed to enter into fine work.

Mechanically, as the machine is set in motion, it is also put together by the author. Not to mention that he wanted to precede Paul’s appearance with the general, great prelude, which continued in the suffering of the Apostle to the Gentiles, he also needed the dispersal of the church in Jerusalem for the purpose of initiating the conversion of the Gentiles in “Antioch”. But at the same time, the apostles in Jerusalsem were still important to him, so they must be spared from the general persecution and remain in the temple city. The opponents must spare the heads of the hated sect and exempt them from persecution. For the following story of Paul, he needs the whole original congregation in Jerusalem – that is why it is there immediately after the general dispersion and in spite of it. He needs a calm and solid foundation for the operation of his machine – therefore the persecution is suddenly forgotten and the church in all Judea, Galilee and Samaria has rest and peace (9:1).


He summons the storm and summons it up again as he pleases – after Paul has already begun his work, he even causes the storm (C. 12) to rumble again *), but the machine will never become real history and those who nevertheless want to erect a historical edifice on the work of this man and interpret the dispersion of the church in such a way **) that as a result of an inner conflict only the Hellenists had reason to fear the fury of the Jews, while the “Judaizers” on the other hand remained and could remain, are building on an untenable foundation. As long as one continues to speak of this church, which presupposes the Acts of the Apostles, to make assumptions about the relationship of the “party” which it assumes, to hold fast to these men whom it calls the leaders and heads of the party, so long will one not arrive at the real history. In order to get to the bottom of history, one must dig deeper and first remove the chimerical construction of the Acts of the Apostles.

*) The execution of James, brother of John, by Herod, an event whose historical character we have to examine only in the context of the examination of all the statements of James.

**) such as Dr. Baur, op. cit. p. 38, 39.


Like the machinery that suddenly stands still for Peter’s sake, only to be set in motion again by Peter, the report of the Apostles’ Convention will also fall to the ground.




2. How Miracles Help

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey


How Miracles Help

When the author had transformed the religious theologian into a sorcerer, he was also compelled to boast of the man who (1 Cor. 15:30) was hourly in danger and whose sufferings and “incessant” afflictions gave him the right to boast of himself that (2 Cor. 4:10) he was carrying the dying Jesus around in his body (2 Cor. 4:10), only to involve him in apparent dangers, i.e. as soon as he got into a danger, to immediately remove the appearance as if he could be seriously and severely affected by it.


The man of God must not really suffer; divine help comes at the moment when a distress or danger threatens to become serious and a contradiction of his covenant with heaven; suffering and persecution, on the contrary, must result in his glorification.

Even the accidents of nature must be powerless against him: if an adder gets into his hand, so that people expect his death at any moment, nothing bad must happen to him and people must get the idea that he is a god (28:3-6); if a storm rises on a sea voyage and the ship seems certain to sink, God gives him the whole ship’s company (27:20, 24) and for his sake it is saved.

At one point he has to retreat from the fury of the Jews, whose envy had aroused the conversion of the Gentiles, and leave Pisidian Antioch but the sorrow of this fate is infinitely outweighed by the joy that it must give the apostle, since it proves how right he was when he said immediately before that it was his principle to preach the Word of God to the Jews first, so that their obduracy would be proof that salvation must come to the Gentiles (13:46-50). His adverse fate is important for his theory, necessary even, since he carries out his divine destiny as teacher of the Gentiles – it is the indispensable link in a theoretical proof.

Immediately after the flight of the apostle from Antioch, the same hatred of the “Jews” drives him out of Iconium — when he then proved himself great before the Gentiles in Lystra, even the Jews of Antioch and Iconium come and bring the people to revolt against him (14: 2-19) — this alone is only the continuation and completion of the trial that his fate in Antioch provided – the author therefore, with deliberate intention, sent the same Jews who initiated the trial in Antioch and who continued it in Iconium to complete it in Lystra.


Once this testing had been carried out, however, the apostle could no longer be subjected to severe suffering without it bouncing off his majesty and high destiny. The series of sufferings that hit him, for example, during his last stay in Jerusalem, became a corresponding series of glorifications and finally only served to pave his way to Rome. In Philippi (16:22-40) he is beaten with Silas and thrown into prison, but here too it must be shown that the attempts of his enemies bring about the opposite of what they intended and only result in the brilliant revelation of his covenant with heaven.

The nature and origin of the conflicts which the apostle experienced during his last stay in Jerusalem will be revealed to us later; for now we are only concerned with his miraculous fate in Philippi and the side story which contains the account of Peter.

Paul and Silas let themselves be whipped and thrown into prison, although, as is shown on the following morning, when the captains of the city were frightened when they heard that both were Roman citizens, this privilege, if they had claimed it in the first place, would have prevented all maltreatment – only they were to be whipped, they were to be thrown into prison, so that the omnipotence of heaven could declare for them, they were to mention their citizenship *) only in the morning, when the captains of the city had announced their freedom to them, so that these, in their fright, would see fit to come themselves and lead them out of prison.

*) How questionable this is, how Paul, of whose Roman citizenship the epistles still know nothing, how in association with him also Sllas comes to this privilege, we will leave untouched here.


The miracle, which revealed the two prisoners to be the friends of heaven, was also worth the fact that they did not invoke their civil privilege. When they prayed aloud at midnight, so that the prisoners heard them, an earthquake immediately arose, which burst open all the doors of the prison and loosed the shackles of all the prisoners **), including those who were imprisoned alongside Paul and Silas.

**) 16:26 πάντων τὰ δεσμιὰ 

The jailer is awakened from his sleep by the shaking, and when he sees that the doors are open, he intends to fall on his sword, thinking that the prisoners have escaped. He is not allowed to think about investigating what has actually happened or to check if the prisoners have truly escaped, so that Paul (Verse 28) can shout to him that everyone – everyone, Paul must speak of everyone, because the author does not have time and space to report what Paul’s and Silas’ fellow prisoners have done – is still there.

In the wonderful element that abolishes all distances, Paul can speak from the innermost prison cell to the jailer, who has just awakened from sleep and is separated from the apostle by cells and corridors, and make himself heard. In the miraculous light that illuminates the event, the jailer immediately knows that it is a miracle and has happened for the sake of Paul. He forgets the other prisoners and throws himself at the feet of the apostle and his companion, even though he had just intended to fall on his sword out of fear of the chief magistrates. Suddenly, he knows that their anger is dispelled, and after he and his household have received baptism, he hosts a banquet for the apostles in his home that same night. In fact, the next morning the chief magistrates announce the freedom of the two prisoners, so their inexplicable change of heart coincides miraculously with the change in the prisoners’ situation during the night. However, Paul insists that they come and release them themselves, and they do come and ask both of them to leave their city. They act just like the Gadarenes, who also felt only terror before the mighty power of Jesus and asked him to leave their land. The author of the Acts of the Apostles even copied the corresponding Gospel account word for word, to leave us in no doubt about his source. *)

*) Acts 16:39 και ελθοντες παρεκαλεσαν αυτους και  ηρωτων εξελθειν της πολεως
Mark 5:15 και ερχονται . . . V. [17 – corrected from 16]  και ηρξαντο παρακαλειν αυτον απελθειν απο των οριων αυτων 


The contradictions through which Peter’s corresponding experience moves also work so thoroughly that they break it up and lift it out of the real world into that ideal region in which everything, even the impossible, is possible. Everything, even the utterly incoherent, is inwardly connected.


Why were Peter and John, after helping the lame man to his feet, arrested by the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees? Because of the miracle they had performed before the eyes of the people? However, the question is put to the two in the Sanhedrin: “by what authority or in what name did you do this?” – Peter, in his speech of defence, proceeds from the assumption that he and his comrade would be judged because of the benefit they had done to a sick person (4:7, 9) – but of a part of their opponents the author expressly remarks (V. 2) that they had brought about the arrest of the disciples because of their teaching and because they taught in Jesus the resurrection of the dead, – why, then, is this reason for the arrest not brought up by the judges? Simply because the author had only one interest this time, only one intention to achieve, and only wanted to punish the opponents of the apostles by the fact that their measures and legal proceedings led to the official certification of their sins. Why, then, does he mention, before the Sadduceans, their opposition to the disciples’ sermon on the resurrection, their annoyance at their preaching? Why does he not bring out the hostile interest of the Sadducees in the course of the judicial proceedings? Simply because he knows beforehand that soon afterwards a second arrest of the apostles will take place and as a result the opposition of the Sadducees will really come to the fore – but he does not consider that this opposition is not directed against the disciples, but rather causes an inner discord in the Sanhedrin itself – Furthermore, he introduced this contrast much too early and when he was already exhibiting it (4:2), he was idly slacking off.


The miracle is thus for now the reason for the arrest, the subject of the trial, and its complete authentication the purpose of the author. But why do the judges ask: “In whose name are you doing this? Why? The question could not have occurred to them, since they had arrested the disciples as heads of the new sect, and therefore also knew whom they proclaimed as their Lord and Master – but the author put the question into their mouths, so that Peter might have an opportunity to “prove his boldness” and preach before them the name in which alone salvation is given (vv. 10-12).

Why do they ask, “by what authority did ye do this?” Because the Jesus of the Gospels is the original “apostolic” founder of the Church, because therefore also the disciples must hear the same question which was put to the Lord after the cleansing of the Temple *), and because now, after this question, Peter’s answer led all the more surely to the conclusion that Jesus is the true author of the miracle and, by the miraculous crast which he communicates to the disciples, puts beyond doubt their authority to “found” his Church.

*) Acts 4:7 εν ποια δυναμει . . . . εποιησατε τουτο . . .
Mark 11:28 εν ποια εξουσια ταυτα ποιεις

The opponents’ attack must be to their own detriment – their questions must lead to their embarrassment – if the fact that a “lame” person jumps on Peter’s word promotes the growth of the church, the opponents’ limitation must at the same time prove the “solid” foundation on which the church rests.


The church works miracles – the limitations of its opponents prove its power.

The opponents are so limited and lacking in understanding that they only now, in the course of the negotiations, discover that the disciples (4:13) are not the idiots and unlearned people they thought they were – i.e. the author only now lets them get to know the disciples’ gift of oratory and their art of interpreting Scripture by forgetting that they (4:1) when Peter preached his great sermon about the Risen Lord, so that they must have known long ago how powerfully Peter knew how to speak and how skilfully he knew how to handle the testimonies of the Scriptures from his Master. The author does not consider at all that the Jewish authorities must have known of the danger when they decided to arrest the chiefs of the new sect – but he does not consider it because he wanted to leave the opponents, after they had citied the disciples before the highest court in a correct appreciation of the danger, in the unrecognised danger.

Another intermediary must confound the opponents and bear irrefutable testimony to the miraculous nature of the wonder – namely, the healed man who stands beside the two disciples during the trial. The author himself feels how inappropriate and impossible his presence is and hopes to anticipate the reader’s objections by noting (4:14) that the judges “had nothing to say” when they saw him standing next to the disciples. However, this does not explain how he could have entered the courtroom, nor how he could have filled the interim period from the moment when the healed man (3:11) joined the two disciples until the trial, nor how he could have cleared the healed man’s path from the temple, through the prison, to the courtroom.


The Sanhedrin must at last “admit” to itself – and this confession was just what the author wanted to bring about by his unfortunate pragmatism – that they cannot judge the arrested and deny the miracle, since the same (V. 16) is known to all the “inhabitants” of Jerusalem. They even see themselves so constrained by the force of the facts that they can neither come to a decision nor to a sentence – the fear of the people (V. 21) compels them to release the arrested without fail – but if the people were to be feared to such a degree and the public admiration they paid to the great deed demanded such unconditional consideration, then the arrest was also an impossibility from the outset.

Nevertheless, the arrest was repeated soon afterwards. All the apostles were thrown into prison. The angel of the Lord frees them and commands them to teach publicly in the temple. When the Sanhedrin learns of their bold work in the temple, it sends out the centurion with the servants and – these? They bring the disciples to trial, but (5:26) “not by force, for they feared” the people. *)

*) Mark 11:32 εφοβουντο τον λαον, απαντες γαρ . . . .
Acts 4:16 οτι μεν γαρ γνωστον . . . . πασι . . . .

After the consideration for the people and the fear of them had already put themselves between the Jewish authorities and the disciples in the same way as they paralysed the opponents of Jesus after the cleansing of the temple *), the same fear now compels the captains to renounce violence, just as the Sanhedrin had to give up the idea of carrying out the arrest of Jesus by open violence for fear of a popular uproar *). 

*) Mark 14:2 μη εν τη εορτη . . . . .
Luke 22:2 εφοβουντο γαρ τον λαον. V. 6 ατερ οχλου.
Acts 5:26 ου μετα βιας εφοβουντο γαρ τον λαον.


But this fear of the people also allows the opponents of Jesus in the Gospel to act correctly; it is real fear and has its natural consequences; the imprisonment is omitted economically and is only carried out when a means presents itself which makes open force necessary; – In the Acts of the Apostles, on the other hand, the same fear does not take effect until later, after that which should have made it impossible has happened – the author has placed the key words of the Gospels wrongly, because he certainly needed the catastrophe which the fear of the people had to prevent, and needed it beforehand, before the opponents of the disciples remembered the necessary consideration for the people.

This time he needed the repeated arrest of the disciples, who, after their miraculous liberation, must voluntarily follow the servants of the Sanhedrin, so that in the new trial the discord between the Jewish parties, which he had already caused at an inopportune moment during the previous arrest, would really break out and in a new way contribute to the irresistibility of the “Christian” cause.

Gamaliel is now to appear and paralyze the zeal of the Sadducees **).

**) Acts 5:17 επλησθησαν ζηλου.

But even this contrast is made – made according to the pattern of the Gospel, in which the Sadducees also appear as special opponents of the work of salvation “and indeed as the same opponents of the resurrection as they prove to be in the Acts of the Apostles – the contrast is therefore unhappily copied from the Gospel – for if it really makes sense and is coherent when the Saddueans of the Gospel make common cause with their bitterest enemies against Jesus and attack him in their own way, it is inconceivable that the two ruling parties would not have forgotten their particular quarrel with a new sect by which they both saw themselves threatened in the same way.


The contrast is all the more unfortunate because the same Gamaliel, at whose feet (22:3) Paul sat and under whose leadership the zealot persecutor of the Christians became a zealot for the law, could not possibly have spoken in favour of a cautious and gentle procedure against the young church in the mild manner that the author portrays.

Gamaliel also could not have made the speech which the author puts into his mouth, since the rebellion of Theudas, which he presents as a past one (5:36), occurred at least ten years later.

If, therefore, all the individual features of the report were to dissolve, it would be an unjustifiable half-measure to drop the person of Gamaliel and to attribute his advice *) “only to the view prevailing at that time among the rulers of the Jews” that “it might be best to leave the cause of Jesus to its own fate for the time being”, since it would “soon become apparent how little there was in it” – it would be a more than bold assumption *), “that the enemies of Jesus cared little for his followers in the immediate aftermath of his death, and as “they saw them increasing” and had to be concerned about them, did not consider it worth the trouble “to apply more serious measures” – it is not at all permissible **) to speak of “this first period of the first Christian community” “and to say of it” that it was “still devoid of eventfulnes.”

*) as Dr Baur does; the apostle Paul p. 35.

*) See the same ibid. p. 33, 34.

**) Nevertheless, as Dr. Baur does.


This first Christian community, known only from the Acts of the Apostles, this first period of the community that the author portrays in the first sections of his work, does not belong to history, because the substrate no longer exists once everything that reveals its nature has proved to be unhistorical – this basis of the author’s historical account has dissipated when the building he erected on it, which stands in the correct architectural proportion to it, has collapsed.

Whoever, with reference to the account of the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of a first Christian congregation, of a “first period” of the same, of a view of the Jewish authorities that prevailed “at that time”, of a mood of the Jewish parties in the “next” time after the death of Jesus, must also accept all statements of this Scripture as historical – whoever places himself on the ground of the Acts of the Apostles and wants to orientate himself from there about the first period of the Christian congregation, must not and cannot even distinguish between legendary embellishments and a real foundation, for another “first” Christian community, another “first” epoch of it apart from that which the Acts of the Apostles may describe, is not possible according to all its presuppositions – but none of these presuppositions leads to real history – all are the testimony of the later ideal view.


Anyone who wants to learn about the origins of the Christian community must take a longer detour and, above all, have first acquired the certainty that the late construction of the Acts of the Apostles is not built on historical ground. We will never know what the opponents of the “first” Christian community thought of it from Gamaliel’s council – but he teaches us that the author of the Acts of the Apostles could not find a better testimony to the irresistibility with which the church grew than the recognition that even the chief and spokesperson of the Pharisees had to offer to its divinity.

Dr. Baur therefore only tries to make a groundless distinction when he *) does not want to accept Peter’s miracle of punishment of Ananias and Sapphira as historical and nevertheless wants to assert the assumption “that these two names are not interwoven into the history of the first Christian community without historical reason” as a legally permissible one. Barnabas, for example, “displayed an attitude and conduct that made their names so odious and detestable that one believed one could only see a divine judgment in their death, which somehow occurred.

*) Ibid, p. 23


Rather, the one who killed them also created them in the first place. It was not the tragic indignation over their “despicable” behaviour that made them important to the congregation and preserved the memory of their names until it occurred to the late historian to “bring about” their death by Peter’s word – but the only interest they could offer to the congregation was their death, which Peter inflicted on them with a single word.

Not the two deceitful spouses are the object of Christian interest, but the deed that Peter performed on them, and apart from this deed they could not even exist.

In the end, until the author of the Acts of the Apostles came and did his last work on them, did the church carry their names around in their memory in contrast to that of Barnabas, who shamed them by his “sacrifice and altruism”? Rather, it was only the late historian who connected the name of Barnabas (4:36, 37) with theirs – not only for the sake of contrast, but because he was already thinking of what Barnabas (9:27) did to Paul, and because he wanted to show which intimate and deserving member of the early church was the one who introduced the late Gentile apostle to the apostles.

He who had such a definite intention when he reported the generous deed of Bamabas, by means of that intention, created that deed in the first place – created for Peter’s sake the “detestable” deed of Ananias and Sapphira – created the deceptive couple in the first place.

He, who first saw the community of goods of the primitive community as unconditional, who expressly reports (C. 4, 34) that all who had land or houses sold them and laid the money redeemed at the apostles’ feet, and afterwards not only ( C. 6.1-4) speaks of the administration of the “alms”, but also mentions (C. 12.12) houses owned by individual members of the community, can teach us as little about the property situation of the first Christian community as Epiphanius about the antiquity of his Ebionites when he tells us that they tell the same about themselves as the author of the Acts of the Apostles tells about the early community *).

*) In the present study, we do not have a direct interest in discovering the origins of the Christian community – we only examine what sense of time, what historical perspective, the Acts of the Apostles express and represent. Therefore, we cannot even consider inferring the form of the first community from the late testimony of Epiphanius. The criticism of the statements and hypotheses of Epiphanius is a separate matter – Dr. Baur’s criticism (ibid. p. 32) is therefore at least premature. Just because the Ebionites of Epiphanius claimed of themselves that they (haer. 30) sold their property in the times of the apostles and “added the proceeds to the apostles’ funds,” and because of their well-known hostility to the apostle Paul, the Acts of the Apostles written by the Pauline Luke could not have been authoritative for them – does this mean that this expression was not borrowed from this scripture, that it is significant for the early days of the community, and that it justifies historical conjectures? Therefore, can one assume that the Ebionites later represented their original poverty as a result of a free decision? At the time of Epiphanius, in the late fourth century, that passage of the Acts of the Apostles should not have become a common and prevalent historical category – it should have been impossible for unclear sectarians or Epiphanius himself to use it arbitrarily? However, the criticism of Epiphanius is a separate matter.


At the same moment, when he is calling the renunciation of personal possessions a general and unconditional one, he lets Peter speak against Ananias (6:4) as if he could have kept the field and withheld the proceeds. How, then, does he come to this inconsistency? What drove him to act against a note he had just written down?


He was interested in portraying Ananias, who could thus freely dispose of his own, as a man who did secretly what he should have done openly – as a man who secretly kept a part of the proceeds for himself.

But why did he care? Because Peter of the Acts, as bishop of the congregation – for that is at least how he behaves – takes the place of the Lord, and because the author wanted to show that what Ignatius says *) is true, that he who conceals from the bishop what he is doing serves the devil.

*) ad Smyrn. C. 9. ο λαθρα επισκοπου τι πρασσων, τω διαβολω λατρυει.

Peter thunders at Ananias that he has lied (5:4) not to men but to God – smashes Sapphira with the accusation that she and her husband have become one to tempt the Spirit of the Lord.

The couple wanted to see if it was true that the Spirit of the Lord was really in Peter, if Ignatius was right that “he who betrays the bishop, the visible one, mocks the invisible one” **).

**) ad Magnes c. 3

The attempt, of course, went badly, for the author’s main concern was to show that the theory developed in the letters of JgnatiuS was completely correct.

This late theory of ecclesiastical hierarchies was also in the mind of the author when he reported that the apostles, when standing in the hall of the sanctuary, formed a sacred group which the people dared not approach.


For if Peter is the bishop and representative of Christ, the apostles are that holy association and synod of God which the presbyters form *) – Peter with the apostles forms the holy collegium, to which the others, as the laity, show their reverence by respectful distance.

*) Ignat. Ad Trall. C. 3: honour the presbyters ως συνεδριον θεου και ως συνδεσμον αποστολων.

When Schneckenburger **) explains the predominance of Peter in the first part of the Acts of the Apostles “from the historical fact itself, that it was really Peter who everywhere led the word and powerfully guided the young church,” and when he also refers to the explanation of Jesus (Matt. 16:18) according to which Peter is the rock of the church, then to the word (Luke 22:32): “strengthen your brothers”, finally to the “old testimony” (John 21:15): “feed my lambs”, then I have proven with my critique of the Gospels that the dignities, which these sayings of the Gospel Jesus confer on Peter, were only created when Peter had become the bearer of the later ecclesiastical hierarchy, and as far as the “old testimony” of the fourth Gospel is concerned, then I have rather proven ***) that the author of it had the Acts of the Apostles in mind.

**) p. 158.

***) See my critique of the Gospels.




Peter and Paul, miracle workers

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I have not posted so frequently here but have been busy on the blog pages …. if you have an interest in comparing how the author of Acts of the Apostles paired Peter and Paul as miracle workers check out the latest addition to my series of translations of Bruno Bauer.

1. Miracle Workers

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey


The Miracle Workers

If only one question were asked, how the author of the Acts of the Apostles comes to portray the apostle, who only defeated his opponents with the force of his religious dialectic, as a magician, the man who led his historical work through sufferings, struggles and temptations, as a miracle-worker, who won followers and blinded his opponents through the splendour of his magical works, the answer *) that the author does not want to give a “complete” description of the apostle’s experiences, not an “exhaustive” account of his personal circumstances, and that instead of the dark and sorrowful side he rather “only allows the opposite side” of his life, distinguished by miracles and divine interventions, to “come to the fore”, would be far from satisfactory.

*) which, for example, Schneckenburger, op. cit. p. 60, has raised

If the man who disarmed the opponents by the “proof of the spirit” and opened a new era of world history and the sorcerer form an antithesis, where is the spiritual hero if only the adversary appears?

If the weakness that formed the glory of the apostle and the night of the miracle-worker are opposed to each other – when the earthen and frail vessel in which the apostle of the epistles delivered the heavenly treasure to his congregations, and the mighty hand of the miracle-worker, which with one blow throws the adversaries to the ground and convinces them by fear, are essentially different from each other – where is the Master, who was strong in his weakness, when only the man of fear casts awe?


One steps back – the other steps forward!

So only back? Is the One still present in itself? He is only in the background of the painting which the author of the Acts of the Apostles sets up? Behind the picture ——- in hiding?

But behind the picture of the Acts of the Apostles there is no space for this hiding place – in the back of the painting there is an unconditional emptiness in which no living being can breathe, no historical person can work and function.

Only the miracle-worker and sorcerer emerges – no! he stands alone there and there- the hiding place in which the spiritual fighter and religious dialectician can still hold on to necessity, can only assert himself by force, is only in the consciousness of the apologist who knows the apostle of the letters and still wants to keep him – absolutely wants to keep him – next to the hero of the Acts of the Apostles.

In vain! – the magician knows nothing of the religious dialectician, – the miracle-worker denies the spiritual hero – the painting of the Acts of the Apostles excludes the ideal of apologetic consciousness – the shining picture of the Acts of the Apostles wants to know nothing of a dark hiding place in which another Paul lives.

The opposite side of the apostle’s personality, which the apologist in the Acts of the Apostles alone brings to the fore,

The opposite side of the apostle’s personality, which the apologist finds in the Acts of the Apostles alone, is rather, according to the presupposition of this Scripture, that characteristic definiteness which expresses the nature of the apostle.


It is the opposite side according to the view of the apologist who compares his other knowledge and view of the apostle with the account of the Acts of the Apostles – according to the presupposition of this scripture, it is not a single page, but the characteristic expression in which the whole being of the apostle is exhausted – the whole, which excludes every other view.


The question becomes more complicated for the apologist, and his attempt at a solution even more violent, when he observes how the miraculous activity of the apostle Paul has such an exact parallel to that of Peter that the latter cannot perform any miracle which the latter has not previously performed.

The lame man whom Paul heals in Lystra is like the one Peter healed at the temple, lame from his mother’s womb *); Peter as well as Paul look their lame man in the face with the same firmness before they proceed to the miracle **); the success that the lame man jumps up and walks is described both times with the same words ***), both times the people finally proved the greatness and reality of the miracle by the impression it made.

*) C. 3, 2. 14, 8. Χολος εκ κοιλιας μητρος αυτου. 

**) C, 3, 4. ατενισας εις αυτον.
C. 14, 9. ατενισας αυτω.

***) C. 3, 8.και εξαλλομενος εστη και περιεπατει.
C. 14, 10. και ηλλετο και τεριεπατει.


Pray to the saints at Lydda – so on a journey and in a friendly house Peter heals a gout-ridden man (C. 9, 32. 33.); so Paul rewards the hospitality with which a citizen of Malta accommodated him on his journey to Rome by healing his fever-stricken father (C. 28, 8) – both times names are mentioned: – the sick man whom Peter healed was called Aeneas, the man whose father Paul heals, Publius. 

Whereas Peter healed the sick, who were being dragged out into the street in anticipation of his coming, by passing his shadow over them, Paul’s sweatcloth and aprons demonstrated the same miraculous power when they were removed from his skin and held over the sick *).

*) Even the construction of the corresponding sentences is consistent:
5:15 ωστε . . . εκφερειν
19:12 ωστε . . . . επιφερεσθαι

Peter casts out the unclean spirits (C. 5, 16) – the same power Paul showed when he cast out the spirit of divination from the maid in Philippi (C. 16, 18-18), and in Ephesus it showed that the unclean spirits acknowledge him as the master who can become their master.

Peter awakens Tabitha from death in Joppa (C. 9, 36-41) – Paul (C. 20, 9-12) in Troas, Eutychus; – when finally Paul strikes the magician Elymas with blindness (C. 13, 6-11), he refutes the power of pagan magic just as Peter did when he fought with the magician Simon, and at the same time he inflicts a corporal punishment on his opponent that corresponds to the one Peter inflicted on Ananias (C. 8, S-24. C. S, 4. 5 ).

This is a part of that “side” of the apostle Paul’s personality which is only opposed to the picture of his character which he draws of himself in the epistles, but which is otherwise, as the apologist assumes, thoroughly “historical” – a part of those features from the life of the apostle, which the author of the Acts of the Apostles “included” *)  in his work only for the reason of making the image of his hero perfectly similar to that of Peter – a part of those features which the author alone could use, since he was only concerned with this “similarity of the” image of both apostles and since he did not want to present “a complete historical image of Paul”, but one that was as brilliant as possible’ **).

*) Schneckeuburger a. a. O. p. 57. 58. 

**) The same ibid.


For the apologetic point of view, on which alone this separation of a historical personality into two, still more into two opposite sides is possible, our question would be incomprehensible: “How did Paul come to portray only the one in his own writings, and whether his historian was allowed to portray only the other? The apologist will not even listen to the question whether the picture which the historian draws up when he omits the features which the hero has exhibited in his own writings as the characteristic – indeed the only characteristic of his picture – whether this picture can still be called historical and correct. The same apologist will answer the question whether the lives of two personalities, whose character is by nature quite different and almost “without” any points of contact, and who are active in “utterly different” spheres of life, can be so congruent that a geometrically exact parallel can be formed from their deeds and destinies, by leaving it as an absurdity.


At the most, he will reject the assumption of the possibility that the author of the Acts of the Apostles, in order to make the image of both apostles similar, has “interwoven” unhistorical features “into the image of Paul” as a “misinterpretation” *) – namely, he starts from the premise, that the shining image of Peter as certainly historically vouched or from the tradition of the author from the outset was fixed or handed down and that the same has now borrowed the corresponding traits from his common view of the image of the apostle Paul.

*) The same ibid.

This presupposition of the historical basis of the Acts of the Apostles, namely of the pre-existence of the miracle-worker Peter before the magician Paul,- i. e. The presupposition that the historical picture of the miracle-worker Peter already existed and was completed before the later historian formed a parallel to it from the life of Paul, we shall immediately resolve by showing which is the original of both miracle-workers and that the same creator who made the one after-image also made the other.

The original Peter and Paul of the Acts of the Apostles is the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. The author of the Acts of the Apostles had the latter – to put it cautiously at first: the Ur gospel, which is preserved in the writing of Mark, Luke’s gospel and the related evangelical sources – “in mind” when he borrowed from them the features from which he put together the picture of both apostles; – the literal coincidence betrays him and the faulty processing of some key words, which only have meaning and context in the writing of Mark, testifies against him.


The proof will overcome all the apologist’s presuppositions and make those questions, which he is not able to answer, together with all possible answers – even the correct answer, which would still be unsuccessful within the limited presupposition in which that “question” is held – unnecessary.

Peter’s healing of the lame man is modelled on the Gospel account of the healing of the gout-ridden man. “Get up and walk”, Peter calls to the lame man – “get up and take up your bed”, is the call with which Jesus lifts up the gout-ridden man – since the author of the Acts of the Apostles could not mention the bed in the healing of the lame man, he makes up for this omission when Peter heals the gout-ridden man in Lydda and calls to him: “get up and make your own bed ” *). Finally, both times when Jesus heals the gout-ridden man and Peter heals the lame man, it is said that the people present were amazed **).

*) Acts 3, 6: ‘Εγειραι και περιπατει.
Mark 2, 11: εγειραι και αρον τοω κραββατοω σου.
Acts 9, 33: κατακειμενον επι κραββατω. V. 34: αναστηθι και στρωσον σεαυτω.

**) Mark 2, 12: ωστε εξιστασθαι παντας.
Acts 3, 10: εκλησθησαν . . . εκστασεως.

While the healing of the lame man by Paul is simply modelled on the miracle performed by Peter on his lame man, the parallel healings of the gout-ridden Aeneas and the fever-stricken father of Publius have the opposite effect: the latter miracle of Paul is most carefully modelled on the Gospel original, and the author already had this later version in mind when he sketched out the side piece to the healing of Aeneas in brief. He was content to let Peter also reward the hospitality of the circle in which he found shelter by a miraculous healing, and relied on the reader recognising in this event the side piece to Paul’s later deed.


Paul did to the father of Publius what Jesus did to Peter’s mother-in-law when he stopped at her house – he healed him of a fever, only his act is a mere reward for hospitality, while Jesus’ act had a more far-reaching purpose and served to secure him a hospitable welcome in Capernaum for ever – i.e. in the Gospel this miracle is justified, in Acts it is an extraordinary splendour: Paul did the same thing for a one-time friendly welcome. i.e. in the Gospel the miracle is justified, in the Acts of the Apostles it is an extraordinary splendidness: – Paul did the same for a one-time kind reception that Jesus did in order to buy you “permanent” hospitality in Capernaum. More! The splendidness of Paul goes even further, the generosity of the “disciples” goes much further than the “behaviour” of the “Master” – it is not enough for Paul to free the “father of the public” from fever; immediately afterwards all the “sick” of the island come and are also all healed by him. Fortunately, this splendidness did not cost the apostle much, since his historian only had to copy the evangelical account of Jesus’ “first” entry into Capernaum, and after he had formed the side piece of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, he only had to copy *) the miracles that Jesus performed on all the sick people of Capernaum. But he was not happy. He lets all the sick of the island come, while the evangelist still knew that the sick were to be brought to the miracle-worker, – he could not make it comprehensible how the miracle, which the apostle performed in the interior of a private house, could alarm the whole community and bring all the sick to their feet, whereas in the Gospel the gathering of all the sick in front of Jesus’ house is economically motivated by the miracle that was performed in the synagogue on the “man possessed with the devil” before everyone’s eyes, and the haste with which the sick were brought that very evening by the fact that Jesus, as far as anyone knew, had only stayed as a guest in Capernaum. The author of the Acts of the Apostles finally attributes to the evangelist the phrase that the miracle-worker “joined” the sick person who belonged to his host **), and because he does not create the original, thus does not know the need for the economic context, he forgets to borrow the explanation from the original that the miracle-working guest was reported to the sick family member ***).

*) Mark 1, 32: εφερον προς αυτον παντας τους κακως εχοντας . . . . και εθεραπευσε.
Acts 28, 9. οι λοιποι οι εχοντες ασθενειας προσηρχοντο και εθεραπευοντο

**) Acts 28, 8 . . . . πυρετοις κατακεισθαι, προς ον προςελθωω.
Mark 1, 30. κατεκειτο πυρεσσουσα . . . , και προσελθων.

***) Mark 1, 30. και ευθεως λεγουσιν αυτω περι αυτης, και προσελθων.


The mass gathering of people from the surrounding towns to bring their sick to Peter in Jerusalem is modelled on the account of Mark, according to which the sick were brought to Jesus from the surrounding towns *) – that the sick were brought out into the streets and placed on stretchers so that when Peter passed, even if only his shadow overshadowed some of them, is a literal copy of the Gospel account, according to which, as soon as Jesus arrived in a town or village, the sick were taken to the market and asked to touch the hem of his garment **), – after the miraculous power had finally been transferred from the hem of Jesus’ garment to Peter’s shadow, it had become possible to impart the same miraculous power to Paul’s sweatcloths and aprons, and thus a kind of manifoldness to the parallel of both apostles.

*) Acts 5,16. συνηρχετο δε και το πληθος των περιξ πολεων . . . φεροντες ασθενεις . . .
Mark 6, 55. περιδραμοντες ολην την περιχωρον εκεινην ηρξαντ . . . . . τους κακως εχοντας περιφερει.

**) Acts 5, 15. ωστε κατα τας πλατειας εκφερειν τους ασθενεις και τιθεναι επι κλινων και κραββατων, ινα ερχομενου πετρου καν η σκια επισκιαση τινι αυτων.
Mark 6, 56. και οπου αν εισεπορευετο εις κωμας η πολεις . . . εν ταις αγοραις ετιθουν τους ασθενουντας και παρεκαλουν, ινα καν του κρασπεδου του ιματιου αψωνται.
That the sick (Mark 6, 55) were brought on beds (επι τοις κραββατοις) is replicated in Act. 5, 15.
The corresponding construction ωστε Acts 5, 15. 19, 12, especially with the following ινα C. 5, 15 is the topic of the evangelical report Mark 3, 10: ωστε επιπιπτειν αυτω ινα αυτου αψωνται.


If Peter and Paul are equal to their Master in this, yes, even superior to him in this, through the clumsiness of their historian, who did not see that the touch of Jesus’ garment healed only of sickness, while the demonic spirits only departed at the express commandment, that their shadow and their sweatcloths deliver people from “sickness” and demonic spirits *), only two single cases are reported by Paul – how he fought with the evil spirits – both nothing but variations on a Gospel theme’- both cases, however, also evidence that the author did not understand one of the most important Gospel phrases.

*) Acts 19, 12 is at least expressly said of Paul’s sweat cloths that before them the sicknesses departed and the evil spirits went out. When Peter, C. 5, 16, heals the sick and the possessed, it is not expressly said that it was through his shadow, as in v. 15, but this healing is just as little expressly described as being mediated by the will. In each case the author confuses what Marcus very strictly separates: the healing of the sick and the casting out of demons. Compare Mark 6:55-56. 3:10-12. 1:34.


The demons of the Gospels know Jesus as the Son of God, but Jesus “threatens them severely that they do not reveal him” (Mark 3, 11. 12), because only at the end of his public activity does he want to unmask himself as the Son of the Most High. When, therefore, the seven sons of a Jewish high priest in Ephesus, unknown in the real world, sought to exorcise the possessed by calling upon the name of Jesus, “whom Paul preaches” (C. 49, 13.14), when then, with an unmotivated transition to a special event, “the pure spirit (B. 15) replies”: I know Jesus well “and who Paul is, I know, and when finally “the possessed man” falls upon the seven summoners, maltreats them and puts them to flight, then the wonderful knowledge of the demons, which Jesus does not want to use for his person, is “a” glaring spectacle and exploited for an unattractive comparison between the superiority of the apostolic sorcerer and the impotence of some Jewish exorcists.


The other case, that a soothsayer *) who owned a maid in Philippi cries out to Paul and his companions: “these men find servants of God the Most High”, that Paul became annoyed by this incessant crying, that the apostle finally commands the soothsaying spirit to leave the maid, is likewise a copy of the Gospel original, but again a copy that misses the meaning of the original. When Jesus forbids the unclean spirits to make him manifest, he does so because he does not want to use their testimony for himself – when he casts them out, he does so not because he finds their cries annoying, but because he wants to have mercy on the “possessed” – when he finally also finds a host of sick and possessed people annoying, it is not their cries that annoy him, but their urging **), in that both the possessed and the sick best him regularly, – the latter because they were healed by the touch of his body. The author’s greatest oversight, however, is that he believes he must presuppose a spirit of divination, a special Pythonic kind of demon, in order to explain and make possible its knowledge of Paul and his divine destiny, whereas the demons of the Gospels as such, as “supernatural” beings, know whom they have before them.

*) πνευμα πύθωνος.

**) Mark 3, 11. ὅταν αὐτὸν ἐθεώρουν, προσέπιπτον αὐτῷ καὶ ἔκραζε λέγοντα.
Acts 16, 17.  κατακολουθοῦσα . . . ἔκραζεν λέγουσα.


When the author created the two revivals of the dead by Peter and Paul, he had in mind above all the account by Mark of the revival of Jairus’ daughter. As Jesus, on entering the house of Jairus, finds the swarm of weeping and wailing, so Peter finds the weeping and wailing widows in the house of Tabitha; Jesus drives the swarm of wailers out of the house, then goes to the corpse, grasps the hand of the child and calls out the awakening words to him; Peter does the same *). But if Jesus had a real reason for driving the strangers out of the house (for he wanted to keep the mystery of the following miracle away from profane curiosity, did not want the miracle as such” to become public), the apostle has no reason to drive away the complaining widows; – If Jesus, on awakening the child, has the parents at hand and can immediately instruct them to give the child food, Peter stands alone in his miraculous deed, and if he wants to bring the revived girl back into the circle of her own, he must, with the saints, call back the same widows whom he has just driven away. Even the name of the girl whom Peter awakens is derived from the account of Mark: for the evangelist gives the words with which Jesus overcame death in Hebrew: “Talitha kumi” and adds the explanation that this means interpreted: The author of the Acts of the Apostles also remarks that Talitha is translated as Gazelle, and thus leads us even through the consonance of the foreign word and through the concordant structure of the interpretation of the same *) to the source from which he has borrowed both – a result which retains its certainty, even if the author has made Gazelle, originally a tender metonymy for girls, an economic proper name.

*) Mark 5, 40. ὁ δὲ ἐκβαλὼν πάντας . . .  V. 41. καὶ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ παιδίου λέγει αὐτῇ . . .
Acts 9, 40. ἐκβαλὼν δὲ ἔξω πάντας . . .  καὶ ἐπιστρέψας πρὸς τὸ σῶμα εἶπε . . . .

*) Mark 5:40: Ταλιθὰ κούμ ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον τὸ κοράσιον . . . .
Acts 9, 36: Ταβιθά, ἣ διερμηνευομένη λέγεται δορκάς.


The fact that the dead woman finally raises herself up and sits down, that Peter gives her back to her own, is borrowed verbatim from the account of the revival of the youth from Nain **).

**) Acts 9, 40: ἀνεκάθισε . . . . V. 41: παρέστησεν αὐτὴν ζῶσαν.
Luke 7,15: ἀνεκάθισεν . . . . καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ.

The “purpose” and meaninglessness of a phrase in Paul’s account of the revival of Eutychus likewise leads us back to the Gospel account of the revival of the daughter Jairus. “Make no noise,” Paul cries, “for his soul is in him” – but why does he deny the real occurrence of death, why does he want to create the impression that Eutychus is not really dead? why, especially in the presence of the people who had picked up the young man who had fallen from the balcony, “dead” – really dead? He had no reason for this turn of phrase, nor could he hope to convince the eyewitnesses of the untruth of what they themselves saw. In the report of Mark, on the other hand ***), the denial of death has meaning, purpose and significance: – it is prepared, for Jesus, before entering the house of Jairus, rejected the people and his disciples except the three favoured ones – it is addressed to the right people, to the wailers who were in the porch of the house – it has real consequences, for Jesus drives the wailers out of the house and goes only with the parents, who knew the real facts only too well, and with the three disciples, who alone were worthy to see the most monstrous miracle with their own eyes, into the death chamber – it has its real purpose, for Jesus did not want the whole crowd to be drawn into the mystery.

***) Mark 5, 39: τί θορυβεῖσθε, . . . . τὸ παιδίον οὐκ ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει.
Acts 20, 10: μὴ θορυβεῖσθε, ἡ γὰρ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἐστιν.


Finally, just as for the miraculous deed of Peter, apart from the account of Mark, the account of Luke of the revival of the young man of Nain is used, so the circumstance that Paul rushed over the dead Eutychus and embraced him lengthwise is modelled on the procedure followed by Elijah and Elisha in similar cases *).

*) 1 Kings 17, 21.  2 Kings 4, 34, 35.


Now that the original text has fallen prey to criticism and has been recognised as a free, late creation, even one word about the historical character of the copy would be superfluous.

Therefore, instead of engaging in a useless argument with the apologist about the historical credibility of the miracle reports in the Acts of the Apostles, we can immediately add the remark, after the evident proof of their origin, that the godlike impression which the author ascribes to the personality of both apostles is only his own and free work.


When the miracles of Peter and the other apostles caused the people who “thought highly of them” to keep at a distance out of reverence and to leave them standing alone and exalted like a holy group in the temple hall (C. 5, 12. 13), the people of Malta shied away from Paul (C. 28, 6) as from a god.

When Cornelius pays homage to Peter as to a divine being and the latter has to raise him up with the words: “stand up, I am also a man” (C. 10, 25. 26), it is not as an event of the author that the “homage” of the citizens of Lystra, who want to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas after the healing of the lame man, bring both to despair, so that they have to shout to the overzealous (C. 14, 15): “we are mortal men like you!”

The writer of history, who has made his heroes into godlike miracle-workers, finally found it easy to instil in a part of their opponents the fear that in them they have to do with God Himself, that therefore also unconditional resistance against their value and their person might in the end be a struggle against God Himself. Therefore, when Gamaliel, as head of the Pharisees, confronted the “Sadducees” when Peter was on trial and urged them to be careful so that they would not end up fighting God himself, it was fitting that in Paul’s case the Pharisees also paralysed the Sadducees’ zeal for the same reason *).

*) Acts 5, 39. μήποτε καὶ θεομάχοι εὑρεθῆτε.
Acts 23, 9. μη θεομαχωμεν



By pointing out afterwards how Peter’s victory over the magician Simon and Paul’s victory over the magician Elymas also touch each other in that both are the first foreign deeds and successes of both apostles, how furthermore the circumstance that just when the apostle converts the proconsul Sergius Paulus, his former name Saul gives way for the first time to the name Paul (C. 13, 9), seems to indicate that the great deed to the Roman, like Peter’s confession, earns him a new name, we note how another parallel, through the clumsiness of its execution, likewise betrays itself as a fabricated one.

Just as Peter completed the work of Philip on the Samaritans, a controversial mixed people who were undecided between Jews and Gentiles, by giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands (C. 8, 14-17), Paul also completed the work of a mixed family that occupied an uncertain position between Jews and Christians, the disciples of John at Ephesus, by “baptising” them and endowing them with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands – so he was also like Peter in that he completed the work of another, Apollos, in these disciples of John. But it is precisely the wavering attitude that the author gave to the figure of the “latter” that proves both his intention and their weakness and powerlessness.

By letting Apostle Apollos, a man who (C. 18, 25) only knew the baptism of John, work there before the arrival of the Apostle in Ephesus, and by letting the Apostle find the disciples of John immediately thereafter (C. 19, 1), he wants to connect both, “those” Jewish teachers and “these” disciples, but he did not really make the connection and he could not, because immediately before he had Apollos introduced to all the secrets of the new teaching by Aquila and Priscilla.


In the disciples of John and their teacher Apollos he also wanted to set up the side piece to the Samaritans, who had received baptism, knew the Christian doctrine and only lacked the last perfection, the gift of the Holy Spirit – what does he do? He lets “Apollo”, although he only knew about the baptism of John *), nevertheless at the same time preach “thoroughly” about the Lord (C. 18, 25) – he calls the disciples of John, whom Paul finds and to whom the first elements of the Christian doctrine are unknown, disciples (C. 19, 1). 19, 1), disciples of the church, – as if a man who only knew the baptism of John could preach the Lord, as if the people who (C. 19, 2) had not yet heard a word of the Holy Spirit could be counted as disciples to the church!

*) Acts 18, [25 – corrected from 5]. ἐπιστάμενος μόνον τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου.
C. 8, 16. μόνον βεβαπτισμένοι . . . . εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ

The parallel (referring to a biblical reference) has failed and had to fail, as the Samaritans who received Christian baptism and doctrine could not be compared to those who only knew the baptism of John. To make the parallel somewhat possible, he had to bring Apollos and the disciples of John in the community so close that they were only lacking the Holy Spirit for completion. But they lacked more than that if they only knew John’s baptism. He wanted to create a hybrid species in the disciples of John like the Samaritans, but he forgets that the latter, when Peter took them under his hands, had already received the first Christian consecration, which was lacking in the former when Paul should only give them the last completion. And he has also not been able to explain how it was possible for Apollos, with his limited knowledge of divine salvation, to preach so “thoroughly” from the beginning that Aquila and Priscilla only needed to “explain” the way of God to him more “thoroughly” *).

*) Acts 18, 25. ἀκριβῶς  V. 26. ἀκριβέστερον


Instead of a mixed race, the author has created chimerical beings. That there were disciples of John he learned from the Gospels (Mark 2, 18) – he could not find them anywhere in the real world.



Acts of the Apostles: Title and Foreword

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by Neil Godfrey

The Acts of the Apostles

a balancing of



Judaism within the Christian Church.


by B. Bauer.



published by Gustav Hempel.





After Schrader and Dr. Baur first noted the difference between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the Epistles, the conformity of the “First” with Peter and the Pauline character of Peter of Acts *) – after Schneckenburger **) then proved in detail the conformity of the figure in which the Paul of Acts appears with that of Peter, there are still two points in dispute, two questions that await decision.

*) The former in the fifth volume of his writing: the Apostle Paul 1836, – the latter in his essays in the Lübinger Zeitschrift. 1836. 1838. 

**) in his writing on the purpose of the Acts of the Apostles. Bern. 1841.

The purpose and point of view of the author of Acts is still to be determined and the question of historical credibility, i.e. the question of whether the author of Acts created freely or used reliable sources for his composition, has neither been solved by Schnekkenburger’s effort to assert the Pauline character of this writing alongside that of the Epistles, nor by the admonition of Dr. Baur, who urgently recommends *) that “from the special purpose which the later living historian had, no too disadvantageous conclusion may be drawn about the historical credibility of the Acts of the Apostles in general, since the apologetic interest of the author does not outright excludes it, but only in a limited and modified way.”

*) Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Stuttgart 1845. p. 13.


In addition, we have the natural explanation which Neander lastly and with the most assiduous effort gave to the Acts of the Apostles, i. e. that explanation which is satisfied and believes to have achieved all, when it has made one miracle after another into a half-natural, but in truth only more unnatural, event by the imposition of strange, natural or psychological elements, is abandoned to its own worthlessness and insignificance, in which it is forever exposed and even removed from the sphere of investigation as soon as the question has received its proper position, – we will lead the investigation to that point of unity in which the questions of the author’s purpose and standpoint, the question of whether he is a free creator or dependent on earlier works, the question of the time in which he wrote, will no longer appear as separate questions and their answer will depend neither on the violent presuppositions that Schneckenburger holds, nor on the precarious caution that Dr. Baur recommends.

From this point of unity of the investigation, which will clarify the relationship of the author of Acts to the Gospels in general, but especially to the Gospel of Luke, the relationship between Paul and Peter in Acts will receive its final clarification, and the difference between the former and Paul in the Epistles can only be fully established.


Raised to this point of unity, the investigation will finally prove its strength by drawing the Pauline epistles into its circle and subjecting them to the same question to which the Acts of the Apostles are subject. Dr. Baur, who still possesses undoubtedly authentic letters of the apostle in the New Testament canon, can only arrive at the “conviction” from the comparison of these with the Acts of the Apostles, “that in view of the great difference between the two accounts, the historical truth can only be either on the one side or on the other” *) – he must keep within this limited and arbitrary alternative, because the authenticity of the main Pauline Epistles is certain to him – but cannot both representations of the apostle be free works of reflection, late creations – cannot both representations have sprung from the same soil of deliberate reflection and on this soil still assert their difference, indeed, only now assert their difference with full force?

*) a. a. O. p. 5

Between the two accounts, remarks Dr. Baur **), “there is generally a similar relationship as between the Johannine Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels”, and so it is – we shall even prove the correspondence of the authorial relationship in the fact that in the Acts of the Apostles we find in the same way lost and imperfectly processed key words of the Pauline Epistles, as the dissonants of the fourth Gospel – partly also result from the fact that the author could not completely master the key words, echoes and borings which he borrowed from the Synoptic Gospels, But just as we have, with the help of our criticism, proved the difference between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels, and at the same time the common origin of Gospel historiography in general from the formative Steflexioa, so we shall now also subject to criticism the boron assumption of the authenticity of the Pauline main Epistles, and bring the question from its previous half-ness to full and complete unity.

**) ibid. 


The presupposition that “historical truth can only be either on the one side or on the other” can no longer assert itself before the seriousness of the question.

The Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles are subject to one and the same question, and the following examination of the former can therefore only be the preparation for the critique of the Epistles.


BRUNO BAUER: Acts of the Apostles – in English

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by Neil Godfrey

The German text that I used for the translation is on Google Books:
Die Apostelgeschichte: eine Ausgleichung des Paulinismus und des Judenthums innerhalb der christlichen Kirche.




The Deer in Acts of the Apostles and the Aeneid

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by Neil Godfrey

So I have not been the only one to pick up on the meaning of the name of a woman Peter raised from the dead and associate it with Virgil’s Aeneid. Her name is given as Dorcas, meaning a “deer”, and her healing follows immediately after Peter’s healing of Aeneas. Michael Kochenash has written a chapter on the same intertextual link in Roman Self-Representation and the Lukan Kingdom of God.

We have a different emphasis, though.

In Acts, Peter raises from the dead a well-loved disciple named Tabitha, “Greek name Dorcas”, who had won renown for her caring work of making woven clothes. This scene takes place on the cusp of expanding the Christian mission from the Jews to the gentiles. Since that miracle took place just after the healing of Aeneas, the namesake of the famed mythical founder of the Romans, I was reminded of the dramatic scene in Virgil’s Aeneid where a slain deer is the cause of war between Aeneas’s company and the Latins. It was that war that marked the beginning of a place for the ancestors of Rome in Italy. Like Dorcas, the deer was well-loved by all around her and associated with woven decoration.

Acts 9:

32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Dido with Aeneas on the hunt for deer; Dido will become the victim deer (image from myartprints.co.uk)

Virgil’s epic poem about the odyssey of Aeneas from Troy to Italy where he founded the settlement that would become Rome sustains the image of deer throughout books 1, 4, 7, 10 and 12. A crisis in the epic occurs when Aeneas is in danger of being diverted from his divine mission by falling in love with Dido, the queen of Carthage. After Aeneas finally breaks free and leaves for Italy, the distraught Dido kills herself with the sword Aeneas had gifted her. Kochenash discusses at some length the deer similes in these episodes and their resonances in the Acts passage that I had completely overlooked. The emotionally wounded Dido is compared to a wounded deer. Her death is caused by Aeneas in two senses: by his leaving her and by her taking the sword he had left her. The metaphor Virgil uses is that of arrows of the hunter slaying the deer, an ironic twist on the arrows shot by Cupid.

There are other deer comparisons in the Aeneid that Kochenash addresses in the same context. One of these is the climactic end of the epic where Aeneas, compared with a savage hunting dog, slays the king Turnus who is likened to a helpless deer.

What does all of this have to do with Acts and Peter’s healing of Dorcas, apart from the fact that Dorcas means “deer”?

First of all, the author of Acts drew special attention to the name Dorcas by presenting it as a translation of the Aramaic Tabitha. Secondly, and I think most significant, is that the healing happens at Joppa, the place known from the story of Jonah who took God’s message to the gentiles of his day. Jonah tried to flee from his task by taking a ship from Joppa but God redirected him back to Assyria. And third, the reader is primed to “think Roman” by the immediately preceding healing of Aeneas.

Or in Kochenash’s words,

The three Petrine narratives within Acts 9:32–11:18 represent a transition in the mission of the kingdom of God: the inclusion of those beyond the margins of Jewish religion and society (i.e., Gentiles). Tabitha lives in the city of Joppa, a detail emphasized by Luke to foreshadow the Gentile mission that begins in the next narrative. The tragedy of Dido reflects a Roman attitude that human life is expendable when it impedes the progress of Rome’s empire. When Luke’s Peter is thus read as contrasting with Virgil’s Aeneas in a pivotal narrative concerned with the expansion of the kingdom of God, the character of God’s kingdom becomes evident by contrast to that of Rome.

This interpretation coheres with a Greco-Roman literary ethos, wherein Greek writers relished the opportunity to encrypt arcane messages within their narratives. While a general readership would be able to read the narrative with sufficient comprehension, those with the appropriate cultural competence would enjoy noticing the subtle references that augment such a reading. According to Dennis R. MacDonald, “In most cases, imitations disguise a rewarding sensus plenior—a fuller meaning below the surface, somewhat like allegory—that is intended for the more sophisticated. Discovering a clever, obscure twist on a popular tale often produces a smile, as though in the cryptic allusion the author has winked.” Luke’s use of the names Tabitha and Dorcas—in proximity to the name Aeneas—can, I suggest, be read as a wink to his readers. (p. 116 – author link is to the cited work in archive.org)

Here is Kochenash’s summary of his longer discussion:

The Romans could not completely obscure the fact that its touted Pax came at the expense of (human) collateral damage. Even Rome’s foundation epic, Virgil’s Aeneid—written under the patronage of Augustus himself—includes two such fatalities: Dido and Turnus. According to Mary Thornton, by comparing these two to deer, “Vergil is guaranteeing that although we see the faults and the responsibilities of Dido and Turnus for their misfortunes, we will not fail to give them our sympathy just as we would do for any wounded deer.” Luke’s narrative constructs a matrix consisting of a man named Aeneas, a dead woman whose name means “deer,” and the theme of the expansion of the kingdom of God, all of which can be read as an allusion to the tragedy of Aeneas and Dido. This allusion prompts readers to understand the kingdom of God through the framework of Roman self-representation. By raising Tabitha from the dead, Peter enacts the expansion of the kingdom of God, performing an action that has the opposite effect of Roman expansion. Whereas the expansion of the Roman Empire brings death, that of the kingdom of God brings life. (p. 118 – author link is to the cited work in Jstor)

Even if many of the early readers of Acts had not read Virgil’s Aeneid the stories of Aeneas and Dido were well known throughout the empire as artworks and papyri remains testify.

There is one detail, however, that I do find myself wondering if Kochenash has overlooked. Why does Acts point out all of the garments that Dorcas had made? Continue reading “The Deer in Acts of the Apostles and the Aeneid”


Peter, a real “son of Jonah” – part 2

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by Neil Godfrey

It may be that the pattern of events in the Old Testament sometimes foreshadows a similar pattern in the New, for the God of both Testaments is one. — C. S. C. Williams

C.S.C. Williams authored the 1958 Acts commentary from which the following parallels are taken. I think there are other explanations.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. — Matthew 16:4

Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah — Matthew 16:17

Williams was possibly the first to draw attention to several of the parallels between the conversions of Nineveh and the Roman centurion listed in part 1. He also suggested that the king of Nineveh corresponded to Herod in Acts 12.

Jonah went down to the waters of death and appeared to the king of Nineveh as one risen from the dead; the king repented and (a) put off his royal apparel and put on sackcloth, (b) came down from his throne to sit in ashes, and (c) proclaimed a fast, Jonah iii. 6 f.; Peter was smitten on the side, symbolically re-enacting Christ’s Passion for Christ had been struck on the Cross in His side, while Peter lay in prison, which symbolizes the grave.

(Williams, 152)

I suspect that when “Luke” visualized the angel striking Peter on his side that he was posting a flag to draw our attention to the parallel with Jesus on the cross: he was signalling to the reader that the scene of Peter’s adventure in prison was a figure of death and resurrection. The Acts narrative stresses the heavy guard on Peter and the impossibility of him escaping except by miracle. He is indeed “in death” — see M. Goulder’s explanation for such as situation being understood as “a death”.

Jonah 3-4 Acts 12
Jonah was in the fish then spewed out after three days.



Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time, saying, Get up (ἀνάστηθι), go to Nineveh . . . — Jonah 3:1-2


Herod slew James the brother of John with the sword then had Peter arrested and imprisoned, intending to bring him to trial after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. An angel appeared to Peter at night, the chains fell from him and the doors opened of their own accord as he walked past the guards to freedom. Herod refused to believe the miracle of his escape so had the guards executed.

[The angel] struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up (Ἀνάστα)!” — Acts 12:7



When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh,

  • he rose from his throne,
  • took off his royal robes,

covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

(But at dawn the next day God provided a worm (σκώληκι), which struck the gourd so that it withered – Jonah 4:7)

After hearing news of Peter’s escape from prison, “King Herod”

  • wearing his royal robes,
  • sat on his throne


and delivered a public address to the people.

They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”




Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms (σκωληκόβρωτος) and died.



Williams, C. S. C. (Charles Stephan Conway). A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. New York: Harper, 1958. http://archive.org/details/commentaryonacts0000will.