Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

- Acts

by Arthur Peake



THE title of the book is to be regarded as a label prefixed to it when a collection of Christian writings was being formed. Marcion ( c. A.D. 145 ) adopted the third Gospel for his followers, but did not take Ac. into his collections: the Muratorian Canon, which gives a list of the Christian Scriptures accepted at Rome about A.D. 175 , counts among them “ the Acts of all the Apostles,” and names Luke the physician as its author. The book forms a continuation of the third Gospel, being dedicated to the same person ( Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1), and is proved by careful analysis of its vocabulary and style to be from the same hand. Cf. Hawkins, Horœ Synopticœ 2 , pp. 174– 193 .

Sources.— The third Gospel introduces itself as a new attempt, in addition to many earlier ones, to set forth in order the facts of the origin of Christianity. Ac. makes no such claim; the writer addresses himself to an undertaking not formerly attempted. Lk. professes to be compiled from sources; and we have in our hands two of the sources on which it is based (Mk. and Q; see article on The Synoptic Problem) . In Ac. it is natural to think that the writer followed the same plan, and used such sources as he was able to discover. The source which most clearly reveals itself is that which forms the thread of the account of Paul’ s travels in Acts 16-28, a journal kept by a companion of the apostle. Can any written sources be traced in 1– 15 ? Many points and features undoubtedly appear, which show the writer to be bringing materials together and skilfully weaving them into one narrative. The statements of time are vague ( Acts 1:15, Acts 3:1, Acts 6:1); stories end in general statements which are very similar to each other ( Acts 2:47, Acts 4:31, Acts 5:42, Acts 12:24); incidents occur so similar as to arouse suspicion that they were originally but one ( cf. Acts 4:19 and Acts 5:29; Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19). The account of the Ascension given in Acts 1 differs markedly from that in Luke 24, and is manifestly due to a later growth of tradition. The impression produced by the whole of the earlier part is that of a paucity of materials. Apart from the speeches the contents fall into two categories: ( a) miraculous narratives, of which the writer is evidently fond, and ( b) short and matter-of-fact historical statements such as Acts 6, Acts 11:19-30, parts of Acts 13 f. (On this and the following paragraphs see pp. 605 , 742 ).

The speeches are a notable feature; and those in the earlier chapters have every appearance of representing a doctrine which once was customary in the Church. They need not be regarded as verbatim reports of what was said on the various occasions, but they correspond in a remarkable way with what must have been said in the earliest controversy with Judaism, and the teaching they contain no doubt went on for a long time on Jewish soil, and could still be heard in the latter part of the first century. The information that could still be gathered from tradition about the early days of the Church provided the openings which were required for the sermons of the apostles, which are probably in this way historical; and in the stories of the election of the Seven, the scattering of the believers from Jerusalem, the spreading mission in Samaria and Syria and the first Gentile converts, in chs. 6 , 8 , and 11 , there is good information. In the story of Paul’ s conversion and his subsequent journeys (Acts 9) and that of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10), the later growths appear, as also in the account of the meeting at Jerusalem (Acts 15). In the Commentary it is held that that meeting ought to have stood before the journey of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13 f.), in which many critics find an independent Barnabas source.

There is thus good reason to suppose that the writer found ready to his hand various sources, of unequal historical value, written or oral, for a narrative of the early Church of Jerusalem and of the early diffusion of the Gospel in and beyond Palestine, and that he made them with great skill into a connected story, and supplied the speeches from preaching with which he was familiar. Further than this it is hazardous to go. Many attempts have been made to define the sources exactly, and to point out how far each of them extends. But we must be content with a less degree of knowledge.

When we come to ch. 16 , the case is different. In the account of Paul’ s travels we find four passages (commonly known as the “ We-sections” ) in which the narrative is in the 1 st person plura l— Acts 16:10-18, Acts 20:5-16, Acts 21:1-16, Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:15. In these passages, which are in a somewhat dry and matter-of-fact style, and are confined to the external circumstances of travel, all are agreed that we have before us a contemporary record kept by a companion of the apostle. And it appears certain that the same hand must have written much of the matter that is not in the 1 st person plural but in the 3 rd person, e.g. the story of the prison at Philippi, that of the uproar in the Temple (Acts 21), and the various stages of the trial of Paul at Jerusalem and Cæ sarea. E. Norden in his book, Agnô stos Theos (The Unknown God), shows that the person changes in many Jewish historical works ( e.g. Neh., Tob.), so that this form was familiar and could easily be adopted. The result is that in this part the narrative is arranged upon a document contemporary with Paul. There were great lacunæ in this document; the writer does not appear to have been with Paul at Athens, Corinth, or Ephesus; and he shows no appreciation of Paul’ s distinctive teaching as found in his epistles. His account of Paul is occasional and cold; still for the positive information he supplies we must be most thankful to him.

Author.— The opinion of Sir John Hawkins, Horœ Syn. 2 , pp. 182 ff., and of Harnack, Luke the Physician ( 1907 ), based on careful analysis of the words used, that the writer of the travel document and the writer of Ac. are the same person, cannot be withstood; there is no important difference between the language and style of the “ We” pieces and those of the other parts of the work. The identity of the writer of the journal is all but known to us. There is less difficulty in supposing Luke to be its writer than any other of the companions of Paul. Not much weight need be placed on the medical terms of Acts ( cf. Colossians 4:14). In many, perhaps most, cases it would be difficult for any writer to use other terms than those used in this book which are said to betray special medical knowledge; but they certainly prove nothing against the medical character of the writer. Much more important than that character in the author are the views of the recorded history which, as editor of the book, he spreads over the Pauline parts of Acts and indeed the whole. His ignorance of the Pauline Epistles makes him a very inadequate biographer of the apostle (p. 858 ). Not only that Paul’ s doctrine does not appear in Ac.; it had disappeared, as first put forward, from the Church as a whole when this book was written. But important parts of Paul’ s life are unmentioned, and what is mentioned appears frequently in a false light. Nothing is told of the Galatian conflict or of that at Corinth; the contribution from the Macedonian and Greek churches for the saints at Jerusalem is not spoken of when the opportunity occurs for presenting it ( Acts 21:15 ff.). In the epistles Paul is called and acts as apostle of the Gentiles; in Ac. he always goes first to the Jews, and only when they refuse his message, to the Gentiles. He has changed his character, to satisfy the theory that the apostles always acted as one, and that Jerusalem was the centre of all authority.

Other features which there is reason for putting down to the editor rather than accepting as historical are the treatment of the Resurrection as the central doctrine of the preaching not only of Peter, with whom this is no doubt correct, but also of Paul, who at Athens, at Jerusalem, at Cæ sarea, and at Rome, represents himself as persecuted on account of it. In the epistles he ascribes his persecution to the Cross of Christ, not the Resurrection. In Ac. there is little about the Cross; to this writer Christianity is mainly the preaching of the Resurrection, a doctrine as yet strange to the world. Another feature is the way in which the teaching of Christianity is generally described as the doctrine about the Kingdom; a phrase which frequently occurs in it but is never explained ( Acts 1:3, Acts 8:12, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31).

These characteristics prove the book to have been written at a considerable distance in time from the facts it records.

The Date must be such as to allow of these changes of view. Sir John Hawkins tells us that while the language of Lk. and of Ac. shows the two books to proceed from the same hand, there is difference enough to show that they were not written at the same time. Now Lk. was written about ten years after Mk. which is a source for it; the date of Mk. is generally taken to be A.D. 69 . If the date of Lk. is 80— it cannot be earlier, it may be a good deal later— Ac. can scarcely have been written before 85 . If the writer knew the Antiquities of Josephus, which appeared in 93 , since he speaks of Theudas and Judas in the same (wrong) order ( Acts 5:36 f.), and almost in the same terms, we have to bring Ac. a decade later down, and the writer, if a companion of Paul, must have been not less than seventy years of age when he completed it. But cf. p. 742 .

Text.— It will be noticed that in this, more than in the other books of the NT, variants are quoted which are not the result of careless copying, but must be otherwise accounted for. The variants occur in Cod. D (pp. 599– 601 ) but also in early Latin copies and in the Syriac versions. A few Greek minuscules also contain such variations. Blass, the great German philologist, sought to account for the discrepancy, which goes all through the book, by the theory that the writer had himself issued his work in two forms, one of which was incorporated in the great MSS, while the other passed into the Western text, presented in the above-mentioned authorities. Scholarship is still occupied with this question. It is recognised by most that on the whole the Western readings are to be regarded as changes made on the text of the great MSS, rather than as themselves original. Many of the changes, however, are recognised as having been made by one well acquainted with the local circumstances and with the course of the history. They deserve attention, and some of them may be right.

Literature. Commentaries: ( a) Lumby (CB), Bartlet (Cent.B), Rackham (West.C), Andrews (WNT), Forbes (IH), Furneaux; ( b) Knowling (EGT), Rendall, Page, Burnside; ( c) *Zeller, De Wette-Overbeck, Wendt (Mey.), Holtzmann (HC), Blass, Knopf (SNT), Preuschen (HNT). Other Literature: Harnack, Luke the Physician, The Acts of the Apostles, The Date of the Acts and the Synoptic Gospels; Norden, Agnô stos Theos; Harnack, Ist die Rede des Paulus in Athen ein ursprü nglicher Bestandteil der Apostelgeschichte? Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Pauline and Other Studies, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the NT; Chase, The Credibility of the Acts of the Apostles; P. Gardner, The Speeches of St. Paul in Acts in Cambridge Biblical Essays; Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke; Walker, The Gift of Tongues; Articles in Dictionaries and Introductions; also the books mentioned in the Bibliography to the articles on the Apostolic Age and the Life of Paul.


[89] This article is strictly confined to history, doctrine and organisation being dealt with elsewhere.


BY the apostolic age we mean the period, starting from the Ascension, covered by the lifetime of the apostles, i.e. c. A.D. 30– 100 , though reasons of space compel us to confine our present survey to events more or less directly connected with the NT, omitting any reference to such writings as the Didaché , the Epistle of Clement; or the Odes of Solomon, which may well fall chronologically within these limits. Such writings are indeed often called sub-apostolic, the fact being that the apostolic and the sub-apostolic ages to some extent overlap.

It must be admitted at once that our knowledge of the period is disappointingly vague. We begin with a certain number of data with regard to the rise of the Church, data of which the historical value is disputed; we then reach comparatively firm ground in the career of Paul and the founding of the Pauline churches, only to find ourselves from c. A.D. 60 onwards once more almost entirely in the dark, except for one or two isolated figures and events. Considering the supreme importance of this period for the study of Christianity, this lack of definite information is unfortunate, but it is at least a gain to recognise the limitations of our material and avoid the claim to a knowledge which does not exist.

The central feature of the period is the development of the new religion from its original character as little more than a sect of Judaism, centring in Jerusalem, till it was well on the way to become a world-religion, assimilating many elements from the Græ co-Roman world, and showing itself in organisation, though not in doctrine, independent of the Judaism from which it had sprung. As factors in this development come the struggle between Jew and Gentile within the Church, the growing influence of Paul, rather than of the original Twelve, and the territorial expansion of Christianity over the greater part of the Roman Empire. This indeed is what we see when we look at the surface; when we attempt to probe deeper to the hidden forces at work we trace a gradual unfolding of what was implicit in the teaching of Christ and a continued activity of the same power which had been manifested in His life. The third gospel, like the others, tells us all that Jesus “ began both to do and to teach” ( Acts 1:1); the inference is that throughout the apostolic age and indeed the whole subsequent history of the Church the real agent and teacher is still in some sense the same Jesus. Acts is indeed “ the Gospel of the Holy Ghost.”

There is always something artificial when a single period is isolated for study, since it can never be understood without reference to what has gone before. And this is peculiarly the case with the apostolic age which stands in vital relation to the life of Jesus. From the strictly historical point of view the rise of the Church seems to be unintelligible, if we regard that life as closing with the Crucifixion. To account for it we must suppose not only a belief in the resurrection on the part of the apostles, but also, as a necessary condition of its rise and survival, the resurrection itself as in some sense a historical fact. [90]

[90] From this particular point of view, the minimum which is required would seem to be not necessarily the empty tomb and appearances of a quasi-physical nature, but manitestations which were not merely subjective, but due to the continued personal activity of the living Spirit of Christ. Whether the one can, in fact, be retained without the other is a question which cannot be discussed here. But the historian of the apostolic age would seem bound to declare his position at least so far. For if he does not hold that Christ had any real personal influence on this earth after His death, he is bound to begin by an attempt to account for the rise of Christianity, and to find some other explanation of its existence. (See further, pp. 670, 845f.).

For our knowledge of the immediate sequel we depend upon the somewhat fragmentary narrative of Acts. Luke does not here speak with the authority of an eye-witness; he was dependent either on written sources of unknown origin or on such information as he was able to gather from members of the primitive Church. [91] In either case we must be prepared to allow for the growth of a quasi-legendary element, and we must refrain from claiming any certain knowledge as to the course of events in the first years of Christianity. A significant feature, in which Acts agrees with the Pauline epistles, is that it was not Galilee, the home of most of the apostles and the scene of the greater part of the activity of Jesus, but the hostile capital Jerusalem which was the birthplace of the Church. There was an interval between the manifestations of the risen Christ and the commencement of the public activities of His followers. These were clearly called into being by a definite Divine inspiration, the memory of which is preserved in the somewhat difficult narrative of Acts 2. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was immediately followed by the commencement of the work of evangelisation and by miracles. The underlying motive of Acts 3 f. is to show that the distinctive miraculous powers of Jesus of Nazareth are now found in His followers; we note the continual stress on “ the Name of Jesus” ( Genesis 32:29 *, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 *) as the means by which the cures are wrought. It at once becomes clear that the movement He began has by no means been crushed, but that it still has the same, or indeed an even greater, power of attraction. The prominent figure throughout the whole of this first period is Peter; though John is mentioned he plays no independent part. The Jewish authorities find it as hard to deal with the movement in its new form as they had done in the lifetime of Jesus Himself, and the attempts to check it prove entirely futile (Acts 4, Acts 5:17 ff.). For the time at least they are compelled to adopt the waiting policy suggested by Gamaliel. But in spite of Jewish hostility there is as yet no definite breach with Judaism; the brethren attend the Temple services, and Peter has real hopes of the conversion of the nation as a whole ( Acts 3:17 ff.), if it will only realise the crime of which it has been guilty, a crime overruled by God and not necessarily shutting the door to all possibility of repentance. Outwardly indeed the Christian community is simply a section of the Jewish Church which claims to know who the Messiah is and to expect His immediate manifestation from heaven. But this community is also marked by an inner spirit of brotherly love which shows itself in some form of communism ( Acts 2:45, Acts 4:32). The very general surrender of private property is no doubt mainly explained by the consideration that if the end of the present world-age was really at hand there was no longer any need to provide for the family or for future requirements; it is a real example of Interimsethik. At the same time the stress laid on the action of Barnabas ( Acts 4:36), the words of Peter to Ananias ( Acts 5:4), the fact that Mary still has her own house ( Acts 12:12), and the absence of further references to the practice, all tend to show that the surrender of goods was in fact only partial and temporary, and that Luke’ s account is somewhat idealized. But the historian’ s natural desire to paint the picture of the early days of the Church in glowing colours does not lead him to ignore the existence of blots and difficulties. The fact that human passions and ambitions are not at once crushed by the coming of the Spirit is illustrated by the story of Ananias and Sapphira, while we find in the same episode a further proof of the position of Peter and of the guidance of the Church by the Spirit of the Lord.

[91] On the question of different sources in the early chapters of Acts see pp. 742, 776.

Of even greater importance is the difficulty which arises from the growing numbers of the Church, indicating that the experiment in socialism is ill adapted to a large and permanent community. In view of what is to follow it is noteworthy that there is already friction between the homeborn Jews and the Hellenists, i.e. the Greek-speaking Jews who belong to the Dispersion. For the significance of the appointment of the Seven see p. 783 . But at the moment the chief direct result was the activity of Stephen and Philip, not as administrators but as preachers of the Gospel, working side by side with the apostles and even striking out an independent line of their own.

The space devoted in Acts to the short career of Stephen (pp. 639 f., 783 ff.), is by no means disproportioned, in view of the part he played in the development of Christianity. He was a Hellenist, and perhaps on this account was able to approach the question from a fresh standpoint, with some conception of the actual needs of the outside world. At any rate he seems to have been the first to realise the true inwardness of Christ’ s teaching, as implying in the end the passing of Judaism. In essence the charges brought against him were true. We need not be surprised that under the provocation of his preaching the more or less neutral policy of Gamaliel is exchanged for one of active hostility. Heretofore the Sanhedrin has been content to try such weapons as threats and beating; it now recurs to the policy which it had been forced to adopt against Jesus Himself. On the whole, the execution of Stephen is best explained as an example of mob-law, winked at by the Roman authorities. It can hardly have been a judicial sentence, since no reference is made to the Roman governor. Here the story is in sharp contrast to the narrative of the Crucifixion, though in other respects there is a striking parallel between the two. The immediate result of Stephen’ s murder is the outbreak of a general persecution, accentuating the real divergence between the old and the new religions. It also involves the scattering of the Church, and on that very account the wider spread of Christianity. According to Acts 4:4 the Church had some time before come to number no less than five thousand (this figure includes the “ three thousand” of Acts 2:41; see RV in Acts 4:4), but the fact that the brethren can still be assembled together in Jerusalem ( Acts 6:2) suggests that there may be some exaggeration in the figures. It is evident from the story of Barnabas, as well as from Acts 6:7, that the converts were by no means all drawn from the poorer classes. Probably the impression made by Stephen’ s teaching and behaviour was one of the influences which led to the conversion of Paul (p. 768 ).

The story now becomes more complicated; the scene is no longer confined to Jerusalem, but there are other centres of interest, Antioch soon becoming one of the most important. Luke has to pass from one to the other in his narrative, and this causes some overlapping and uncertainty as to the chronology and sequence of events. The fact that missionary activity is no longer confined to the Twelve is at once illustrated by the activity of Philip, who is responsible for the spread of the Gospel to Samaria, though the authority of the apostles is still emphasized in their supervision of his work and in the laying on of hands. Of the direct results of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch we know nothing; but the narrative, though isolated, is intended to mark a fresh stage in the catholicity of Christianity. He was clearly a Godfearer (pp. 625 , 770 ), but he could not be circumcised, and belonged to a class which was by law excluded from the Jewish Church ( Deuteronomy 23:1; but cf. Isaiah 56:4). Passing over for the moment the conversion of Paul, we have evidence of an interval of peace and quiet expansion ( Acts 9:31), during which we must suppose that the Church spread throughout the greater part of Palestine; we find Christians at Damascus, Lydda, and Joppa ( Acts 9:32 ff.). With the Cornelius episode we pass to Cæ sarea. This again marks a decisive stage in development, and on this occasion it is the leader of the Twelve who is taught to adopt the more liberal policy. Peter himself is convinced by a series of Divine signs (the vision and its sequel, together with the outpouring of the Spirit) that an uncircumcised Gentile may look for admission to the kingdom. Though the precedent is not officially followed up at the time, at a later period it has great weight (Acts 15). The questions as to the position of Gentiles are not indeed finally settled, since the case of Cornelius might be regarded as exceptional rather than normal, whilst the relation of the baptized Gentile to the Law was still undecided. Ought he subsequently to submit to circumcision and become subject to the Mosaic law? If not, will he not remain on a lower level than those who are both Jews and Christians, and in particular will not his ceremonial uncleanness prevent the strict Jew from entering into social intercourse with him? The complaint of Acts 11:3 shows that this was in fact the crux of the matter, and the later episode at Antioch ( Galatians 2:11 ff.) proves that even Peter did not always act consistently in the spirit of the liberal attitude which Luke ascribes to him.

It is indeed again significant that just as the first impulses to a more liberal view are associated not with the Twelve but with Stephen and Philip, so the actual development of the principle implied in the acceptance of Cornelius is left to unnamed and unofficial missionaries ( Acts 11:19 ff.; this verse is really the sequel of Acts 8:4). In Acts 11:20 * we must read with RV “ Greeks,” not “ Grecian Jews” as RVm, this being one of the few cases in Acts where the reading of WH cannot be followed. There would have been nothing specially worthy of remark in preaching to Greek-speaking Jews, since according to Acts 2 ( cf. also Acts 6) this had been freely done from the first. It is these missionaries who bring the Gospel to Antioch, which almost at once becomes the centre of Gentile Christianity, as Jerusalem is of Judaic. The new centre is indeed of such importance that Barnabas is sent to report— a mission which shows that the two centres are in close touch, and that the Twelve exercise their power of supervision here also (for the result and sequel of the mission see below, p. 769 ). The title or nickname of “ Christian” ( Acts 11:26 *), first given here, indicates that the young community was now important enough and sufficiently distinct from Judaism to attract the attention of Gentile outsiders. The name must have been given by them and not by Jews, since the latter would hardly have allowed to their rivals a monopoly of the Christ, or Messiah.

As we have seen, Jewish hostility had subsided for a time after the removal of Saul, its chief instigator, from the scene ( Acts 9:31); but in A.D. 41 Claudius became emperor, and at once made his favourite, Herod Agrippa, king of Judæ a (p. 610 ); the latter proved himself eager in every way to conciliate the good-will of the Jews, and it is not surprising that he should do this at the expense of the Christians. The death of James, the first apostolic martyr, and the arrest of Peter, may be placed in 44 , the year of Herod’ s death. But the narrative of Acts 12 comes in as an episode, and it is impossible to be sure of its exact chronological relation to the events of ch. 11 ; this point becomes of importance when we have to discuss the date of Paul’ s second visit to Jerusalem and its relation to the narrative of Galatians 2.

We now pass to the Pauline period, but before discussing this we must first retrace our steps a little and say something of the early years of Paul himself. He was born at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, somewhere about the beginning of the century. His parents were Pharisees ( Php_3:5 , Acts 2:36), evidently of a strict type, while he himself had all the eager, if somewhat narrow, enthusiasm often found among young men devoted to a type of religion which is also something of a party cry ( Galatians 1:14). According to Acts he was educated at Jerusalem in the school of Gamaliel ( Acts 22:3, Acts 26:4), and it is generally held that he was also more or less in touch with the University of Tarsus. At any rate Jewish and Greek influences met in him in a way they did not in the Galilean disciples (p. 805 ), while to these was added the possession of Roman citizenship ( Acts 16:37; Acts 22:5). We may note that it was his Roman citizenship which made possible the appeal to Cæ sar; to it also was probably due the possession of the Latin name Paulus, which is uniformly used after he begins to appeal to the Græ co-Roman world ( Acts 13:9); it is in no way probable that this name was first adopted by him in Cyprus out of compliment to Sergius Paulus. He seems to have been of good social position and to have received an excellent education; no argument to the contrary can be drawn from the fact of his trade as a tentmaker, since all Jewish boys were taught some trade; we find him more or less dependent on this during his travels ( Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34, 1 Corinthians 9:12 ff., etc.). It was quite natural that his family should have disowned him, though as he seems to be in possession of funds at the time of the appeal to Cæ sar they may have received him into favour later on (p. 772 ).

In the Acts of Paul and Thecla the apostle is described as “ of moderate stature, with curly hair, bow-legged, with blue eyes and meeting eyebrows, and long nose, full of grace, for at times he looked like a man, and at times he had the face of an angel” : cf. 2 Corinthians 10:10, and Acts 14:13 where Barnabas, not Paul, is taken for Zeus, evidently as being the more imposing figure.

Paul first meets us at the death of Stephen ( Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1); he may well have been previously one of his Cilician opponents ( Acts 6:9). He is the principal figure in the campaign of persecution which ensues ( cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8, Galatians 1:12), and he is sent on a mission to Damascus after the manner of Jewish apostles, who were often sent by the Sanhedrin to the towns of the Dispersion as its official representatives. Of the conversion itself there are three accounts (Acts 9, 22, Acts 26:12 ff.; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8, Galatians 1:12), which differ only in comparatively minor details. The important question is whether the appearance of Jesus was “ subjective” or “ objective” ; was it merely the result of the working of the apostle’ s own mind, or was it due to the personal action of the living Jesus, through whatever channel? Paul himself would have had no hesitation as to the answer, since he puts it on a level with the appearances after the Resurrection, which he certainly regarded as objective, though probably not as material. But this does not preclude a psychological explanation of the event, and, though scholars differ on the point, we may fairly connect it with the death of Stephen. The martyr’ s defence and prayer, the shining of his face, and above all, his claim to see the Son of Man, the Crucified One, alive and glorified, may well have made a deep impression on the young man. This is not inconsistent with his subsequent persecution of Stephen’ s companions; the advocate is most violent, whether in word or action, when he feels that his cause is weakest. So Paul was but “ kicking against the pricks” ; the way for the vision was prepared by a long period partly of sub-conscious incubation, partly of realised doubts, when the questions whether Stephen was right after all, and whether Jesus indeed lived, refused any longer to be ignored. No doubt this is to fill in the picture, but in the absence of definite data some use of the imagination is inevitable if we are to understand what happened. The mission of Ananias would seem to indicate that not even in an exceptional case such as this could the normal means of instruction and baptism be altogether dispensed with; though Paul himself rather minimises what he owed to the teaching of others (Galatians 1), there can be no doubt from his epistles that he was in fact baptized. It is not quite clear how soon the conviction that his special work was the conversion of the Gentile world took definite shape in his mind. In Acts 9:15; Acts 26:17 it is connected directly with the conversion ( cf. Galatians 1:15 f.), while Acts 22:21 refers it to a later vision in Jerusalem. There is always a tendency in the light of after events to regard a decision as definitely formed and realised at a period when it was in fact only implicit and tentative. (On the subject of this paragraph see p. 806 and notes on Acts 9:1-19 a, Galatians 1:11-17.)

Paul speaks of a visit to Arabia immediately after his conversion ( Galatians 1:17 *); probably this was undertaken for meditation on the recent crisis, though it may have been for preaching. The period of public confession in the synagogues of Damascus ( Acts 9:20) must be placed after this; it was brought to a close by a plot on the part of the Jews. This is probably the episode referred to in 2 Corinthians 11:32; we must suppose that Aretas, or his ethnarch, was acting in support of the Jews; on the chronological question involved, see p. 655 . With regard to the first visit to Jerusalem it must be admitted that Acts and Galatians are not altogether easy to reconcile. The former gives the impression of a visit paid soon after the conversion (the apostles have not yet heard of it), lasting an appreciable time, and spent in public preaching, while Paul is represented as owing a good deal to Barnabas (who may have been with him at the University of Tarsus). Galatians represents the visit as quite short (“ fifteen days” ) and private, only Peter and James [92] being seen, while the clause “ unknown by face unto the churches of Judæ a” ( Galatians 1:22 *) seems to exclude any idea of public preaching unless we somewhat artificially interpret “ Judæ a” as the country district, excluding Jerusalem itself; on the other hand, the somewhat obscure passage, Romans 15:19, suggests that Paul had in fact preached in that city. Probably Paul has unconsciously somewhat exaggerated the private character of this visit, while Luke seems to have had no detailed knowledge of this period of Paul’ s life, and therefore has filled in the picture in general terms.

[92] If we assume that Luke includes James among the apostles, as he seems to do in Acts 15. we escape a verbal contradiction, though the impression remains different.

From Jerusalem Paul goes to Tarsus, whence after an interval, which must remain quite undetermined, he is brought by Barnabas to Antioch ( Acts 11:25 ff. should be connected with Acts 9:30); Galatians 1:23 implies active work at Tarsus; Syria may be mentioned first as the more important. In Acts 11:30 we have the second visit to Jerusalem; this is probably to be identified with that of Galatians 2 (see below, p. 770 ); if so, we see that the Gentile question was now discussed in certain of its phases. If the identification is rejected it becomes very probable that the visit as recorded in Acts is either misplaced or altogether unhistorical, since it is difficult to suppose that Paul can have entirely ignored it in his review.

If we accept the former hypothesis we see in the First Missionary Journey the direct result of the arrangement just arrived at that Paul and Barnabas should “ go to the Gentiles.” At the same time the immediate impulse by which the arrangement becomes operative starts from the Church acting under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; we see once more how uniformly Luke regards the history of the early Church as in very fact the working of the Spirit which is the Spirit of Jesus. We may note too that Paul does not start on the great mission which did so much to decide the future of Christianity until after a long period of at least twelve years spent in quiet and uneventful work; even “ the chosen vessel” must be shaped by ordinary human means in order that it may be fit for the purposes of God.

For a detailed discussion of the various journeys reference must be made once for all to the commentary on Acts. Only the main principles of Paul’ s work can be mentioned. In Cyprus we find him appealing for the first time to the Roman official world in the person of the proconsul, while at the same time we see how Christianity at once comes into conflict with the superstitions of the age and the vested interests which live by them (so in Acts 16:16 ff; Acts 19:23 ff.). Again, both here and subsequently at Antioch in Pisidia, stress is laid on Paul’ s habit of addressing himself first to the Jews. This does not, as has sometimes been said, really contradict Paul’ s own account of his attitude. He urges that salvation is “ to the Jew first,” and he always retained his patriotic desire for the conversion of his own nation; see especially Romans 9 ff. Further it was in the synagogues that the Godfearers, the Gentiles already attracted to Judaism, were to be most easily found, and it was here that Paul met with the readiest response to his teaching. In the full notes of his speech at Pisidian Antioch ( Acts 13:16 ff.) we have a typical example of his method of appealing to Jews, while the speech at Lystra ( Acts 14:15 ff.) shows the very different mode of address adopted in face of a comparatively uncultivated audience. Later on at Athens Luke gives us a speech suited to an educated Gentile audience ( Acts 17:22 ff.).

The vexed question arises whether the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe founded on this journey are in fact the churches of Galatia, addressed in the epistle (p. 857 ). If, as the present writer believes, they are, it appears that Paul was ill at the time he visited them ( Galatians 4:13), and there is much to be said for Ramsay’ s suggestion that the illness referred to in this passage as well as in 1 Corinthians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:7 (the “ thorn,” or stake, “ in the flesh” ) was some form of recurrent malaria such as might easily be contracted in the low-lying districts of the coasts. Paul changed his plans in consequence of the attack, and went to the more healthy highlands of the interior; it is possible that this change of plan may have been the reason of Mark’ s defection ( Acts 13:13). It is at any rate clear that Paul was subject to some painful and disabling illness (hence probably his close association with Luke the physician at a later time), and on the whole, malaria fits the facts as we know them better than epilepsy or ophthalmia, which have also been suggested. [On the theory that Paul was an epileptic, see Ramsay, The Teaching of Paul, pp. 306– 328 .— A. S. P.]

At the close of the first tour the difficulties connected with the position of Gentiles in the Church, of which we have already had hints, come to a head. The account in Acts is fairly clear as it stands. The trouble arises from the attitude of the strict Jews, who regarded Christianity merely as a development of Judaism, in no way superseding it. Gentiles could become Christians and hope for admission into the Messianic kingdom; so much was admitted; but they must also become Jews and keep the whole Law. Jerusalem is the headquarters of this party, just as Antioch has been from the first the stronghold of the more liberal section. The startling successes of Paul and Barnabas made it impossible to defer the decision any longer, and on the decision rested the whole future of Christianity. The world might become Christian, it would certainly never become Jewish. The whole question was referred to a Council at Jerusalem, including the Twelve, James the brother of the Lord, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, and the whole Church. The main verdict was unanimously in favour of the Pauline or liberal party, freeing Gentile converts from any obligation to be circumcised or to keep the Law as a whole; this is the essential point, and with regard to it there is no doubt. But a question arises with regard to the exceptions ( Acts 15:20; * Acts 15:29), which are sometimes very misleadingly referred to as though they constituted the main decisions of the Council. According to the ordinary text certain restrictions are imposed: these were not so much concessions made to the Jewish party, still less did they lay down a minimum of Law necessary to salvation— a position to which Paul could never have consented; they embodied a practical arrangement intended to facilitate social intercourse between Jewish and Gentile members of the Church. The Jewish Christian still considered himself obliged to abstain from the eating of unclean food, and especially food from which the blood had not been properly drained, or which had been offered in sacrifice to idols and afterwards sold, and therefore there could be no free intercourse between the two sections of the Church unless the Gentile members voluntarily adopted some such restrictions as these (for examples of the difficulty, see Acts 11:3, Galatians 2:10 ff.). Possibly “ Godfearers” among the Jews of the Dispersion had already adopted some such rules; if so the Council merely extended them to the Christian Church.

Such, at any rate, is the best explanation of the ordinary text. But the combination of fornication with ceremonial rules, though just intelligible from the connexion of prostitution with heathen rites, is strange, and it is difficult to see why Paul makes no reference to the decree in 1 Corinthians 8 ff. when he is dealing with the eating of meats offered to idols (pp. 650 f.). Hence there is much to be said for the “ Western reading” adopted by G. Resch, Harnack, and others; this omits “ things strangled,” and it then becomes possible to interpret the other injunctions as referring to moral requirements (idolatry and idol feasts, fornication, and murder; cf. Revelation 22:15). The decree then contains a warning against gross sins to which Gentile converts were especially liable.

A more important question is raised as to the relation between Acts 15 and Galatians 2. It is generally supposed that the two accounts refer to the same visit. The objections are: ( a) The omission of the visit of Acts 11; it is not true that this was unimportant for the purposes of Paul’ s argument, since he is concerned to show that he had had no opportunity in the past of being influenced to any extent by the Jerusalem Church, and therefore to omit any visit to that city was to give a handle to his opponents; ( b) the two accounts do not really agree: to say nothing of minor differences, Paul speaks only of a private conference between himself and the “ pillars,” leading to an acknowledgment of his gospel and a separation of spheres of labour, while he nowhere hints that the Church as a whole had formally and definitely agreed to the very point for which he is contending throughout the epistle, by deciding that circumcision was not necessary for Gentile converts. It seems better, therefore, to identify the visits of Acts 11 and Galatians 2, and further to suppose that the epistle itself was written before the Council. It was addressed to the churches of the Roman province of Galatia, founded on the first journey. On this view alone can we explain why Paul does not definitely refer to its decisions. For it will be understood that even if we identify Acts 11 and Galatians 2 we must account for the omission of any reference to the Council itself if it had already taken place. The difficulty is, in fact, so grave that if we reject the early date of the epistle we are almost compelled to follow the large number of critics who find something seriously wrong in the narrative of Acts 15, supposing either that it is altogether unhistorical, or that it is a misplaced record of a later decision in which Paul himself had no share ( cf. Acts 21:25).

It is not difficult, on the view taken above, to form an intelligible picture of the development and settlement of the Gentile question in the Church. We have, first of all, the hints in the preaching of Stephen that Christianity implies the passing of Judaism. We then have sporadic cases of the conversion of Gentile God-fearers, or uncircumcised proselytes, by Philip, Peter (in the Cornelius episode), and unnamed preachers. The threads of the new development become concentrated at Antioch; Barnabas is sent there by the Jerusalem Church to investigate; he returns after some time with Paul, who has also been preaching, and there follows the private interview of Galatians 2. The apostles informally accept their position and leave them free to evangelise the Gentiles. But it is still an open question ( a) how far the two sections can live together (hence the dispute of Galatians 2:10, which is to be placed about the beginning of the events recorded in Acts 15:1 ff.); ( b) whether Gentiles after being baptized should be, if not compelled, at least strongly urged to go on to perfection by being circumcised. This is the question discussed in Gal. and at the Council, where a final decision is reached, placing the Gentile convert on an equality with the Jew and facilitating social intercourse. There is room both for Galatians 2 and for Acts 15.

We pass to the Second Journey, which had such momentous consequences for the extension of Christianity. Its primary purpose was to visit the churches founded on the previous journey ( Acts 15:36). Paul was always solicitous with regard to the progress of his converts, and in this case, if the view adopted above of the outbreak of trouble in the Galatian churches is correct, there was a special reason why he should follow up his letter by a personal visit. We are expressly told that the result of the Council was communicated to these churches ( Acts 16:4 *), though the letter of the Jerusalem church was only actually addressed to the churches of Syria and Cilicia. The quarrel with Barnabas leads to the selection of Silas— the Silvanus of the epistles— while the place of Mark is soon filled by Timothy. The statement in Acts 16:3 * is sometimes said to be unhistorical, as being inconsistent with the attitude Paul adopts in his epistles. But Timothy was partly of Jewish blood, so that this was a borderline case where the principle of avoiding needless offence would apply. Neither Paul nor anyone else had yet reached the position that circumcision was abolished for Jewish Christians. The first part of Paul’ s route lay through the Cilician Gates; then, according to the South Galatian theory, after visiting the cities of the first journey in the reverse order, he turns northward from Antioch in Pisidia, skirting the eastern border of the province of Asia, until after a turn to the west he finds himself at Troas. On the other hand, according to the older North Galatian theory, which, it must be remembered, is still held by many scholars, we have to suppose a long detour through the centre of Asia Minor into the old Kingdom of Galatia where churches are founded. Of these churches nothing is known beyond the notice in this passage and the similar passage ( Acts 18:23), and what can be gathered from the Epistle to the Galatians, which on this view is written to them.

Throughout the first part of this journey Luke emphasizes even more than usual the Divine guidance of Paul’ s movements. His intention was to evangelise Ephesus and the important province of Asia, but in various ways of which we do not know the details he was prevented from doing this, until finally, after his arrival at Troas, he realised that the obstacles he had met were, in fact, an indication from God that he was to make the supreme venture of carrying the Gospel to Europe. Ramsay makes the fascinating suggestion that “ the man of Macedonia” ( Acts 16:9 *) seen in the vision was Luke himself. Paul may well have met him, perhaps consulting him as a doctor with regard to his illness (p. 769 ), and entered into conversations with regard to possible openings in Europe. His suggestions echo themselves in a dream, which Paul rightly interprets as a Divine sign. At any rate, the decisive step is taken, and the immediate result is the founding of the flourishing churches of Macedonia. At Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berœ a Paul is shown in collision with the Roman authorities, but Luke is careful to emphasize that he is never condemned by them. At Philippi the assertion of his Roman citizenship enables him to depart in triumph while in the other two towns the case is never decided. We may note that, according to 1 and 2 Th., Paul’ s stay at Thessalonica was longer than might appear from Acts 17:1-9.

The stay at Athens was short and without important results, though the account is of special interest, as showing us Paul’ s mode of appeal to the philosophical world. The eighteen months’ stay at Corinth bore more definite fruit, and the success was all the more noteworthy since Paul clearly experienced one of those moods of depression which come at times to all highly-strung spirits ( cf. Elijah in 1 Kings 19 ). He found himself alone and in bad health ( 1 Corinthians 2:3); he was full of anxiety about his Thessalonian converts, depressed at his comparative failure at Athens, and perhaps inclined to think that the whole venture of the mission to Europe had been a mistake. Hence the special vision of Acts 18:9. As a reward of his perseverance a flourishing church was founded, and the trial before Gallio led to an important vindication of Christianity in the eyes of the Roman authorities (on the important chronological question, see p. 655 ). At this period Paul made the acquaintance of Prisca and Aquila, who proved such faithful allies, and the Epistles to the Thessalonians were written from Corinth. Paul leaves with a vow ( Acts 18:18 *), probably for his safe return, and after a short visit to Ephesus, where he meets with a very favourable reception and a warm invitation to return, he hurries on. The words of AV in Acts 18:21, “ I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem,” though a gloss (RV omits), are probably correct in meaning, and “ went up” in Acts 18:22 * seems to imply a visit to Jerusalem. We note that all along he is anxious to keep in touch with the mother church.

The Third Journey begins with Acts 18:23, and again we have a visit either to the churches of the first journey or else to the unnamed towns of Northern Galatia (see above, p. 770 ). His objective is Ephesus, where he has left Prisca and Aquila, and in this context Luke introduces two very suggestive notes with regard to disciples of the Baptist. The first brings Apollos on the stage ( cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12, etc.); his precise position is not quite clear, but apparently he has accepted Jesus as the Messiah, perhaps with no knowledge of His death or resurrection. His fuller enlightenment is due to Prisca and Aquila, but Paul himself on his arrival at Ephesus finds twelve others in very much the same position; they receive both baptism and the laying on of hands, stress being laid on the gift of the Holy Ghost as the essential mark of the Christian. We may probably conclude from these narratives that there were in the first generation a not inconsiderable number of half-Christians, who had either been partially instructed by the Baptist or else had come for a short time into touch with Jesus Himself and had had no opportunity of realising the later developments of Christianity. From the stress laid on these narratives it would also appear that, at the time when Luke wrote, it was still necessary to convince them that their position was not satisfactory. At Ephesus itself the incidents illustrate the familiar principles of the collision of the new religion with the superstition of the age, and with vested interests, while its innocent character is once more vindicated by the representatives of Rome. Ephesus became one of the most important centres of Christianity in the first and following centuries, and the influence of Paul’ s preaching spread at once through the whole province ( Acts 19:10); the beginning of the churches of Laodicea and Colossæ , though they were not founded by Paul himself, must date from this period ( Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:16). 1 Cor. was written during the stay at Ephesus, and 2 Cor. during the subsequent journey through Macedonia; a visit to Corinth is to be placed somewhere between the two; see Introd. to and Comm. on 2 Cor. The visit to Macedonia ( Acts 20:1) must have included Philippi and Thessalonica, while the three months in Greece were presumably spent at Corinth. Romans was written from here, while if earlier dates for Gal. are rejected it also must be dated somewhere during this third journey.

At this time Paul had definitely in his mind the idea of a visit to Rome ( Romans 15:23), but for a reason which will appear immediately he wished first to return to Jerusalem. A plot against his life caused him to change his route ( Acts 20:3); it is probable that he had intended to travel by a pilgrim ship, and that advantage was to be taken of the crowd of fanatics on board to murder him. Hence he goes by a longer route, the route and incidents of the voyage being described in some detail by Luke, who accompanied him. Besides the Eutychus incident at Troas, we have the farewell to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, a speech which illustrates Paul’ s close and affectionate relations with his churches. Towards the close of the journey the sense of impending disaster is heightened by the frequent warnings he receives ( Acts 20:38; Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11 ff.). These, however, only emphasize his determination. It is evident from Romans (see Romans 9 ff.) that he entertained at this time a special desire and hope of bringing about the conversion of the Jews as a whole. One means to this end was the Collection for the Saints, which, though intended primarily for Jewish Christians, might yet be expected to do something towards winning the confidence of his countrymen in general. The references to this collection form an interesting example of cross-correspondence between the Acts and the epistles. It figures prominently in the letters of the period ( Romans 15:25, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8 f.), and the references show clearly the importance Paul attached to making the contributions as representative as possible. On the other hand it is not directly mentioned in Acts as a main reason of Paul’ s visit until the incidental remark in Acts 24:17; in the light, however, of the other references we need have no hesitation in seeing in the names of Paul’ s companions mentioned so prominently in Acts 20:4 the list of the delegates from the various churches chosen to bring the contributions from each ( cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3 f.), Luke himself being probably the representative of Achaia ( 2 Corinthians 8:18; cf. “ we” in Acts 20:6).

Paul, on his arrival at Jerusalem, is ready to go to great lengths in his desire to play a conciliatory rô le, and takes a share in the performance of a Nazirito vow. This action, like others attributed to him in Acts, is sometimes regarded as inconsistent with his attitude to the Law in his epistles. But the incident need not be unhistorical; Paul had not taken up the position that the Jew was to abandon the Law, and in practice he himself observed it where possible, at any rate when in the society of Jews ( 1 Corinthians 9:20). It was not a question of acting so as to suggest that the Law was in any way necessary to salvation, but of rebutting the charge that he was teaching Jews to abandon its observance ( Acts 21:21). But Paul’ s whole attempt was doomed to failure by the fierce hatred of the Jews themselves, a hatred all the more noticeable when we remember that the Church in Jerusalem itself was at this time apparently not interfered with in any way. The instinct of the Jews was perfectly correct; the real danger to Judaism was not to be found in the stay-at-home, compromising section of the Church, but in those who like Paul, were making the new religion a world-wide force, and so, almost without realising it, were digging the grave of Judaism proper. Each incident which follows serves to bring into strong relief the fanatical fury of the nationalist element; there is the sudden riot of Acts 21:27, when the attempt is evidently made to dispose of a difficult question by mob law, without the risks of an uncertain trial; the same feature is seen in the desperate plot of Acts 23:12 ff., when the trial before the Sanhedrin has shown that Paul can reckon on a certain amount of support. The account of his trials and defences at this time is given in some detail, and in the whole story at Jerusalem, and Cæ sarea, with the trials before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, emphasis is laid both on his admitted innocence of any offence against Roman law and on the comparatively favourable attitude of the Roman authorities towards him. It is indeed remarkable that Paul seems to have had a peculiar power of winning the confidence of Roman officials, and the fact has an important bearing on the history of Christianity in the first century, since it was one of the elements which went to secure for it a period of more or less peaceful development before the outbreak of the great persecutions. Paul was, of course, specially helped by his possession of Roman citizenship ( Acts 22:25), which made possible the appeal to Cæ sar ( Acts 25:11). Probably he must also at this time have had access to pecuniary help, since the appeal to Rome, though technically open to any citizen, was as much a matter of money as an appeal to the House of Lords at the present time. Ramsay has pointed out that some at least of his family are now on his side ( Acts 23:16), and they may have been ready to supply him with funds. Felix, too, believes that he is in a position to raise a substantial bribe.

Paul’ s long-planned visit to Rome therefore at last takes place, though under circumstances very different from those he had hoped for. With the narrative of the shipwreck and the arrival at Rome our definite knowledge of his career comes to a close. Acts ends abruptly with the notice of a two years’ confinement, during which the Gospel is triumphantly preached in the imperial city without hindrance. We may perhaps fill in the picture with data drawn from the “ Epistles of the Captivity” (Phil., Col., Phm., Eph.) which were probably written from Rome, though some scholars place some or all of them during the two years at Cæ sarea. In all he appears as a prisoner, and we note not only his quiet courage but the tone of dignity and authority with which he speaks. His position has been secured by the sufferings he has undergone, and it is no longer seriously attacked. We hear of some opposition in Phil., but, at any rate in ch. 1 , his attitude towards it is very different from that found in Gal. The same epistle seems to look forward to a release ( Galatians 1:22 ff.), and the vexed question arises as to the result of the appeal to Rome. It is often argued that this, in fact, ended in Paul’ s condemnation, but on the whole the evidence is against this view. ( a) It is not really supported by the silence of Acts; as we have seen, Luke has laid great stress upon the successive vindications of Paul by the Roman authorities; these are obviously neutralised if the appeal itself ended in his condemnation. There is much to be said for the view of Lake and others that the mention of the “ two years” in Acts 28:30 implies his acquittal, there being some evidence for the belief, which is quite reasonable in itself, that if the accusers in a case did not put in an appearance before the expiration of two years the charge dropped automatically. On the other hand, it is, of course, possible that Acts was written before the result was known, or else that for some reason it was left unfinished. ( b) As we have seen, Paul himself looks for his release in Php_1:22 ; Php_2:24 , Philemon 1:22, and this at least balances the despondent tone of Acts 20:25. ( c) The Pastoral Epistles, even if they be rejected as not genuine, are at least evidence of an early belief in a later activity on the part of Paul, since all attempts to fit them in to earlier parts of his life are very artificial. The same holds good if we see in them fragments of genuine Pauline letters worked up by a later hand. With this evidence agrees the early notices of a visit paid by Paul to the West or Spain, found in Clement of Rome and the Muratorian Fragment; cf. Romans 15:28. If, however, the first imprisonment ended in his release it is still impossible to reconstruct the rest of the story in any detail. The Pastoral Epistles seem to imply visits to Ephesus or the neighbourhood ( 1 Timothy 3:14), Macedonia ( 1 Timothy 1:3), Crete ( Titus 1:5), and Epirus, if the intention of Titus 3:12 was carried out. From 2 Tim. we learn of visits to Troas ( 2 Timothy 4:13), Miletus, and probably to Corinth ( 2 Timothy 4:20). This epistle suggests a sudden arrest, and is written from Rome in expectation of martyrdom. An unbroken tradition from Clement of Rome onwards asserts that he did, in fact, suffer in Rome, whether at the time of the persecution of A.D. 64 (p. 774 ) or towards the close of Nero’ s reign, i.e. before A.D. 68 , but though legend has been busy with the story we really know nothing about the details of his death.

Some may raise the perfectly reasonable question whether the position and work of Paul may not have been generally over-emphasized. Half of Acts is concerned with his career, and the majority of NT letters come from his hand, or are at least attributed to him. May not this be more or less of an accident, and may it not have led the Church to ascribe to him a slightly exaggerated importance? May not Peter, or John, or some other of the apostles have really been equally prominent, only that the complete record of their activity has not chanced to come down to us? We may reply that the interest taken in Paul’ s work and writings at the time when the Canon of the NT was in formation proves that he was from early times regarded as the supremely important figure. And further the story itself shows the unique character of his work in tracing the lines on which Christianity was to develop. No doubt other preachers of the Gospel were equally energetic and self-sacrificing, but Paul had a plan. He followed the great roads, the main arteries of traffic and intercourse, concentrated on the most important centres, and steadily made Rome his objective. He felt the call of the Gentile world, and realised that the Jewish Law supplemented by Christianity could never meet its needs. The new religion must remorselessly cut itself adrift from the old, if it was to win the Greek. He conceived of a Church on the analogy of the Roman Empire itself, transcending social and racial distinctions, and, guided by his own deep religious experience, he sketched the lines of a theology which has ever since been recognised as the foundation of the best Christian thinking.

When we pass from the story of Paul and the narrative of Acts, very little, unhappily, can be said with regard to the later history of Christianity in the first century. We have the Catholic epistles, Hebrews, and the Apocalypse; these, however, are all in varying degree difficult to place as to authorship, date, and destination, while in any case they throw very little light on the history of the period, though they are important with regard to development of doctrine and organization. The same holds good of the early non-canonical books which fall outside the scope of this article. It will naturally be realised that both during the lifetime of Paul, and subsequently, many other Christian missionaries were at work, though there was no outstanding figure among them, and indeed their very names are for the most part unknown. By their efforts Christianity spread in the East, to Egypt and Alexandria, to the Mediterranean basin in general, [93] and to Rome. The story of its origin in the capital is obscure. It had already obtained a substantial footing there when Paul wrote to the Roman church; it was probably brought by travellers or residents who had become acquainted with the Gospel elsewhere ( cf. Acts 2:10, and the “ Synagogue of the Libertines” in Acts 6:9 *). Every convert became almost of necessity a missionary, and the work of evangelisation was by no means confined to apostles or evangelists proper. Tradition ascribes the origin of Christianity in Rome to Peter, who was believed to have been Bishop of Rome for twenty-five years (Eusebius and Jerome). But this is clearly contradicted by the language of Romans 1:11 ff; Romans 15:20; Paul is silent as to any work of Peter in this place, and it would have been inconsistent with his principle of not building on another man’ s foundation to have interfered with a church founded and directed by Peter. Further, early tradition knows nothing of any episcopate of Peter in Rome. Our sources imply a certain connexion between him and Rome, and his martyrdom in that city, and there is no sufficient reason for questioning these facts. If 1 P. is genuine we have probable evidence of Peter’ s presence there in the mention of Babylon ( 1 Peter 5:13), which seems to be a figurative name for Rome, as it is in the Apocalypse. Clement of Rome and Ignatius both couple Peter and Paul in such a way as to suggest a connexion of both with Rome, while Tertullian and Caius of Rome refer to the martyrdom of both as taking place there; later traditions agree with these accounts and develop them. We really, however, know nothing in detail of Peter’ s movements after the Council of Acts 15, though 1 Corinthians 1:12 * may imply that he visited Corinth.

[93] 1 Peter 1:1 is evidence of its wide spread in Asia Minor in the latter half of the first century.

We have good reason to believe that in the second half of the century Asia Minor and particularly Ephesus became important centres of Christianity. Most of the non-Pauline epistles of NT seem to be connected with this neighbourhood, and Ephesus was the residence of that John, whether the apostle or the elder, who survived till the end of the century as a last link with the first generation (p. 744 ). We may perhaps ascribe the development of episcopacy to his influence (p. 646 ), and there is a large number of picturesque legends associated with his name. We must imagine him settling at Ephesus, the head of a school occupied in the study and expounding of Christian doctrine and increasingly revered as other links with the past dropped out one after the other. [94]

[94] In 2 and 3 Jn. we have a glimpse of the difficulties of early Church life. with the dangers arising from the abuse of hospitality, the clash of authorities, and the necessity of testing the credentials of strange teachers.

It remains to say something of two important questions which must have been continually to the fore during the apostolic age, the relation of Christianity to Judaism and to the Roman Empire. It is remarkable that after the death of James, the son of Zebedee, the church at Jerusalem does not appear to have been seriously interfered with by the Jews for some time. As we have seen, the attack on Paul is all the more noticeable on this account, as showing that it was only the liberal and aggressive wing which was really objected to. An explanation may perhaps be found in the wide influence of James the brother of the Lord. We learn from Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18, Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9 that he had from early times a position of authority in the Jerusalem church, and also that he was regarded as the natural champion of Jewish Christianity (see especially Galatians 2:12 and the tone of his epistle, if it is in fact from his hand). He continued to hold this position for some years, and seems to have won the respect and confidence of the non-Christian Jews. Hegesippus ( ap. Eus. H.E., ii. 23 ) gives a vivid account of his ascetic life and constant prayers, which won for him the surname of “ the Just” ; according to the same authority the scribes and Pharisees even requested him “ to persuade the people not to go astray concerning Jesus,” and on his refusal threw him from a pinnacle of the Temple, whither he had been conducted to preach to the people; not being killed by the fall he was stoned and despatched by a fuller’ s club. Josephus mentions his execution by the Sanhedrin in more general and credible terms, while a later addition to his text sees in the calamities of the Jewish war which followed, a judgment for his murder. His death, which took place before A.D. 70 , at any rate brought to a close the peaceful existence of the church in Jerusalem and widened the breach with Judaism. [95] At about this time, perhaps in consequence of the execution of their head, the Christians withdrew to Pella in the Decapolis; according to Eus. H.E., iii. 5 , they were warned by an oracle ( cf. Mark 13:14). At any rate they escaped the horrors of the siege and fall of Jerusalem. This was an event of the greatest importance for Christianity, though it has left strangely few direct traces in NT, except in Mark 13 and parallels. The way in which Jerusalem is mentioned in the NT books, or the absence of any reference to its fall, can only be taken with great reserve as indications of date ( e.g. in Heb.), since in writings such as Clement of Rome, which are certainly later than 70 , the Temple services are still referred to as though they were going on. It is, however, not difficult to realise the decisive influence which the practical ruin of the Jewish State must have exercised on Christianity. In the first place, it completed the outward breach with Judaism; neither in the mind of friend or of foe could the two any longer be regarded as mere varieties of the same religion. And in the second place, the inner divergence became clearer. The whole system of sacrifice, Temple worship, and priesthood was swept away in such a manner that the Christian, even if himself a Jew, could only look upon it as a Divine judgment. There was, therefore, no temptation to try to adapt the system of the new religion to these; God Himself had abolished the Old Covenant as a system of worship and life, though, no doubt, before long a tendency became manifest to bring back a great deal of it in a somewhat different form. But the whole attitude was really changed; Christianity could develop its worship, doctrine, and organisation on its own lines, and it was mainly a question of finding analogies or justifications of these in the OT. Finally Jerusalem itself lost its position of supremacy; the logic of facts had made it impossible for it to be regarded any more as the headquarters of Christianity. It is true that according to late lists there was a continuous succession of bishops in Jerusalem after the death of James, but it ceased to have a real importance as the mother church. Jewish Christianity itself survived in the obscure sects of the Ebionites and Nazarenes, but with the end of the century we are already approaching the final stage when the question is no longer whether those who do not keep the Law can be saved, but whether those who keep it can be regarded as Christians at all.

[95] The Syriac Apoc. of Baruch (ch. 41) speaks of many “ who have withdrawn from Thy covenant and cast from them the yoke of Thy law” : these may be converts to Christianity.

We pass to the relation between Christianity and the Roman Empire. (See further on this subject pp. 616 , 631 .) As we have seen, Acts is at pains to emphasize the comparatively favourable, or at worst neutral, attitude of the Roman officials towards Christianity as represented by Paul. It is even probable that the book itself was intended in some measure as a defence of Christianity at a time when this attitude had changed, and that it is, in fact, the earliest Christian Apologia, In the same way we find that Paul in his epistles nowhere takes up a position of opposition or of hostility towards the imperial power. His insistence on a whole-hearted loyalty in Romans 13 is typical, and, according to the most probable interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ff.*, an interpretation as old as Tertullian, the power which restrains or delays Antichrist is the strong arm and the liberal policy of the Roman Empire. In 1 Timothy 2:1, a much later passage, prayer is enjoined for the secular authority. In the same way in 1 P., though there are references to persecution, the general standpoint is one of respect and loyalty ( 1 Peter 2:13-17). [Other NT writings reveal a desire to clear Christianity from the charge of disloyalty to the Empire. There is an evident tendency to represent Pilate as entirely convinced that Jesus was innocent of treasonable designs, and to throw the real blame for His crucifixion on the Jews, who played on the reluctant procurator’ s fears and forced him to become the instrument of their hate. John 18:36 explicitly affirms that Christ’ s kingdom is not of this world. Romans 13:1-7 is specially significant because it occurs in a letter addressed to Rome. The conditions in that city were such as to occasion anxiety. There was the Jewish population, impatient of restraint, hating the Government, cherishing Messianic hopes of its speedy overthrow. The Christians were not too clearly discriminated from the Jews, and their emphasis on Messianic doctrine rendered them peculiarly liable to suspicion; all the more that they identified the Messiah with a man who had been executed by the Roman authorities, whose resurrection they affirmed, whose imminent return in glory to bring in the Kingdom of God they eagerly and confidently anticipated. Paul realised that the conduct of the Christians in the capital might prove momentous for the Church as a whole. He was anxious that its progress should not be hindered by entanglements with revolutionary projects. It must go quietly on its way, avoiding collision with the Government or its suspicion. The Roman Church had a special responsibility not to give, by any imprudence, the supreme authority a false impression. By scrupulous submission to the Divinely appointed secular powers they might divest their religion of its suspicious political appearance and carry out their mission under the favourable conditions afforded by the Roman Government.— A. S. P.] In Rev., however, which in its present form seems to date from the end of the century, we find a startling change. Rome is now Babylon, the embodiment of the world-power which is essentially hostile to God and His kingdom; she is drunk with the blood of the saints ( Revelation 17:6; Revelation 18:24; cf. Revelation 2:13; Revelation 6:9), and her emperors are the heads or horns of the Beast who is Antichrist. [This remains true even if some of these passages were of Jewish origin. It is not unlikely, indeed, that some of the sections in which the most ferocious hatred of Rome is expressed were Jewish rather than Christian, and that the Rome drunk with the blood of the saints was, in the first instance, the Rome which had destroyed Jerusalem and inflicted on the Jewish people one of the bloodiest punishments ever meted out to a vanquished nation. But the author of Rev. in its present form, if he did not write these passages, at least made them his own and gave them a Christian application.— A. S. P.]

The change of tone corresponds to a changed attitude on the part of Rome itself. In A.D. 64 came the first great persecution. It is significant that this did not arise primarily from any official hostility to Christianity in itself, or take up the ground that the new religion was in itself illegal, the old Roman policy being to allow as much freedom as possible to local cults so long as they did not interfere with public order or with allegiance to the State. Its occasion was, in fact, the great fire of Rome, for which Nero himself was generally held to be responsible. To avert this suspicion and to screen himself he turned on the Christians as an unpopular sect on whom the guilt might safely be fastened, and many were put to death in Rome with the most horrible tortures (Tacitus, Ann., xv. 44 ; Suetonius, Nero, 16 ). It is probable that both Paul and Peter suffered at this time. It is not surprising that Nero came to be regarded as Antichrist; after his death it was believed that he was still alive, or that he would be raised again in the character of Antichrist to play his part in the final struggle between Christ and evil. [96] The impulse having once been given by Rome, it is probable that persecutions broke out in other parts as well, and that the Empire found itself committed to a more or less definite attitude of hostility. It is, however, very doubtful whether Christianity in itself was yet a crime, and whether the Flavian emperors were in fact persecutors. A good deal depends on the interpretation of the language of 1 P. We find that Christians are already spoken against as evil doers ( 1 Peter 2:12) and must expect persecution ( 1 Peter 4:1; 1 Peter 4:12 ff.); they may even be said to “ suffer for the name of Christ” ( 1 Peter 4:16). Ramsay understands these words to imply that Christians were by this time liable to execution propter nomen ipsum, i.e. that it was sufficient to ensure their condemnation if they admitted that they were Christians, and that no further charge of any actual wrongdoing or immorality need be brought against them. He supposes that Vespasian had introduced this policy of dealing with Christianity, and that the epistle was written about A.D. 80 . But, apart from the fact that there is really no evidence for such a policy under Vespasian, this view reads too much into the words of the text. Peter does not speak of suffering for the name alone but “ for the name,” and, whatever the technical charge brought against them, Christians would certainly regard themselves as suffering in fact for the name of Christ; e.g. the language would be quite applicable to those martyred on the charge of incendiarism. Further, 1 Peter 4:16 does not necessarily imply death at all, and the general tone of the epistle shows that the Empire was not yet definitely hostile (see above). In Heb. again we have references to definite persecutions, and there is a danger of apostasy ( Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 10:32 ff.), but these attacks do not seem to have yet led to actual martyrdoms ( Hebrews 12:4). Both the date and the destination of the epistle are, however, so doubtful that it is difficult to draw any conclusions as to the conditions implied.

[96] This conception is found in Rev.; in 1 Jn., however, Antichrist is simply the personification of the spirit of evil, taking many forms; the whole idea is spiritualised.

The probability, therefore, is that we are right in placing the second great persecution towards the end of the century in the reign of Domitian. The Apocalypse belongs to this period, and Flavius Clemens and his wife Domitilla were among the victims at Rome (Suet. Dom. 15 ; Dio Cassius, Hist. Rom., lxvii. 14 , 1 ), while Melito, Bishop of Sardis (Eus. H.E., iv. 26 ) seems to confirm the evidence of Rev. that it extended also to Asia Minor, though it must be admitted with Hort that there is, in fact, very little direct proof beyond the doubtful allusions of the NT itself for any extensive persecution either in Nero’ s or in Domitian’ s reign outside Rome. The reminder may be useful as a warning against exaggerations, but there are good reasons to believe that a change of attitude on the part of Rome was inevitable towards the end of the century. The point of collision between Christianity and the imperial power was bound to be found in the attitude of the latter to the growing worship of the Emperor. This had, of course, already begun under the early Cæ sars, but it received a great impetus under Domitian, who called himself “ Dominus et deus noster,” “ our Lord and God” (Suet. Dom. 13 ). Further, this worship was especially popular in Asia Minor, where Pergamum, Ephesus, and Smyrna vied with one another in their blasphemous servility. This fact explains much of the language of Rev., especially in ch. 13 , where the second Beast seems to be the priesthood devoted to the imperial cult and employing the magical arts for which Ephesus and Asia Minor generally were famous. The worship of the first Beast, by which alone safety can be secured, may well be some form of the worship of the emperor. It was treason to refuse to recognise the emperor as god, and yet no Christian could for a moment consent to do so. Here then we reach the point where the profession of Christianity has become practically, though not yet technically, a capital crime. This last stage is reached early in the second century, where with Trajan’ s Rescript to Pliny it is enough if a man avows himself a Christian. At the close of the apostolic age, therefore, Christianity is face to face with the declared hostility, not only of Judaism, but also of the secular power, but it is at that very time that the sublime faith of the Apocalypse can declare the certainty of the fall of Babylon and the triumph of the kingdom of the Lamb.

[From its own point of view the Roman Government could plead much justification. As a religion Christianity could hardly seem more than a crazy superstition. But, while intellectually beneath contempt, it was not negligible if it became politically dangerous, or inimical to social welfare. Judaism was a licensed religion, and for a time the daughter religion was sheltered by the protection accorded to the mother. But, as its distinctiveness was recognised, it took the position of an unlicensed religion, and its dangerous qualities came into the foreground. It inherited the hatred felt for the Jews; while its Messianic hopes, its lurid predictions of catastrophe, its refusal to participate in many social usages, because of the taint of idolatry attaching to them, its meetings in secret which made the wildest rumours of incest and cannibalism seem credible to a greedily credulous populace, its apparent atheism and the calamities with which the gods seemed to punish toleration of it, its obstinate refusal to accept the crucial test of loyalty— all combined to convince the authorities that such a religion was dangerous to the Government and a centre of moral corruption.— A. S. P.]

The chronology of the apostolic age and of Paul’ s life is dealt with elsewhere (see pp. 654– 656 ).

Literature.— Weizsä cker, The Apostolic Age of the Christian Church; McGiffert, History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age; Bartlet, The Apostolic Age; Ropes, The Apostolic Age; von Dobschü tz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church, Probleme des apostolischen Zeitalters, The Apostolic Age; Wernle, The Beginnings of Christianity; Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity; J. Weiss, Das Urchristentum; Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries 2 ; Achelis, Das Christentum in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire. A work suited for more elementary students is Foakes-Jackson and Smith, Biblical History for Schools NT. See also the bibliography to the commentary on Acts, and the dictionaries, esp. DAC.

The volumes mentioned above naturally devote much attention to Paul. Among the earlier Lives of Paul those by Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, and Farrar are still of value. More recent works are: Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (much valuable matter also in his other books); Bacon, The Story of St. Paul; Clemen, Paulus; Wrede, Paul; Weinel, St. Paul, the Man and his Work; Deissmann, St. Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History. More popular works: Stalker, The Life of St. Paul; Gilbert, Student’ s Life of Paul; Franks, The Life of Paul (in Bible Notes, specially useful for students); Eleanor F. Wood, The Life and Ministry of Paul. See also Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, and articles in dictionaries, esp. HDB (Findlay), EB 11 (Bartlet), ERE (Menzies and Edie).

Ads FreeProfile