Copyright
Ferdinand Christian Baur.

Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ: his life and work, his epistles ..., Volume 2 online

. (page 2 of 35)
Online LibraryFerdinand Christian BaurPaul, the apostle of Jesus Christ: his life and work, his epistles ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 2 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the same time." Schneckenburger's opinion is, therefore, that the
Epistle to the Ephesians (this Epistle is here put first, as that to
the Colossians by the advocates of the other view) must have been
befoTe the apostle's eyes when he composed the Colossian Epistle.
Why should it appear so improbable that when the occasion arose
for writing to the Colossians, the apostle took up the earlier letter
he had sent to the same region ? There is no need to think of a
scroll or draught of that letter, but it is easy to suppose, that
having drawn out a sort of summary of Christian doctrine and
morals for the use of his friends in Asia Minor, either he himself
took a copy of it with a view to future use in the service of
similar inquirers, or, if he did not do so, that his amanuenses copied
it for their own improvement and instruction. Then when he had
to write to the Colossians, he may have taken up that earlier
letter, and so certain similarities of arrangement and expression
may have found their way quite naturally into the letter he was
writing. But the apostle would never have copied himself in this
manner, nor does this hypothesis, any more than the other, escape
from the objection that the agreement of the two Epistles is
not the result of chance, but is certainly intentionaL And to
whom can this intention be imputed with the greater likelihood ?
Shall we impute it to the apostle ? But we can conceive no
reason why he should have appeared on this occasion as a re- writer
of his own letters. Shall we not rather impute it to another man,
who, by the very fact of his conceiving the idea of personating the
apostle, and writing letters in his name, showed that he had some
special end to serve, and who thought, perhaps, the better to
further his end by putting in circulation two editions of one letter ?
In addition to these considerations regarding the external form
of the Epistle, we have further to consider that if it was actually
addressed to the Ephesians, it cannot possibly have been written



Digitized by



Google



e LIFE AND WORK OF FA UL. [Paut IL

fey PauL They were a church in the midst of which he had lived
for a considerable time, and with which he was intimately
acquainted ; and how could he write to them as to a church that
was strange to him, and speak of their faith as a thing he had
learned about through others? (Cf. i 15.) The title and address
which are found in the text (i 1) are indeed doubtful ; but even in
the case that the Epistle was not an epistle to the Ephesians, even
though the local address were wanting altogether, or ran thus, " To
the Laodiceans,". this indistinctness and the uncertainty of the
destination (which even in the last case is not removed), would of
themselves afford a presumption against the Pauline origin of the
Epistle.

If now we turn to the contents of the Epistle, or rather of the
two Epistles, — for their contents are so essentially the same that
they cannot well be distinguished,- — and seek for internal evidence
of their Pauline character, we shall meet here also with much that
is peculiar. First of all, it strikes us as strange that in both
Epistles the eye of the writer is directed chiefly to the transcen-
dental regions of the spirit- world ; and there is an effort visible
throughout to magnify Christ on the side of his higher dignity by
predicates borrowed from this supersensuous domain. The nearest
approach to the theology of Paul is in the passage, Eph. i. 20 sq.,
where it is said of Christ, that God raised him from the dead, and
that he set himself at his right hand in the heavenly places,
xrirepdvoD irdarj^ «/>JCT^ ^^^ €^ov<Tia^ Kol SvpafjLeo)^ koc /cvpioTrp-o^,
Koi iramo^ ovofiaro^ ovofia^ofievov ov fiovov ev t© ai&vi, TovT<p,
aXXa Kol Of r^ fMeWom-h /cat irdvra inrera^ev tnfo roxy; ir6ha<$
(ivTov. This coincides with the apostle's conception of Christ's
exaltation, who subjects everything to himself till the process
reaches its highest stage, 1 Cor. xv. 24. But in which of the
principal Epistles of Paul do we find those eirovpavm (cf. iii. 10),
those regions of the supernatural world, classified as they are here,
and in Colossians i 16, 17,^ according to the different spirits

>■ In Bom. viii. 38, only apxdl ai^d ^yyeXoi are spoken of, but nowhere do we
find with Panl the 6p6voi and Kvpi6mfr€s of this passage ; and still less, what is



Digitized by



Google



Phap. IV.] EFISTLES TO EFHE8IAN8 AND C0L088IAN8. 7

which, rising step by step, one above the other, seveially in-
habit them ; and where do we find Christ placed, as he is here,
at the head of the whole system of the spirit- world ? The
Christology of these two Epistles, however, does not confine
itself to the contemplation of the dignity of Christ from be-
neath upwards, as shown in his exaltation ; it also regards Christ
as having been from the beginning the absolute principle of
all existence. For it is asserted of him (Col. L 15) that he
is the likeness of the invisible God, the first-born of the whole
creation, because in him all things were created, the visible
and the invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
principalities, or powers. Everything was created through him
and to him (in him, that is, is the final purpose in which every
created thing finds its realization), and he is before all, and aU
things subsist in him. To him, then, as the creative principle of
everything existing, there is attributed absolute pre-existence.
This is found explicitly only in the Epistle to the Colossians ; but
since that to the Ephesians presupposes the other, there can be no
doubt that the Christology of both is in the main the same. It
is true that we find certain hints of similar views in the homolo-
goumena of the Apostle, but they are no more than hints, the
meaning of which is open to question ; while here, on the contrary,
the absolute pre-mundane existence is the dominating idea, the
pervading element within which the whole thought of these
Epistles moves. Christ is the centre of the entire spirit-realm;
his activity is represented as bearing chiefly on the invisible and
supersensuous world, or at least as comprehending heavenly and.
earthly things, the visible and the invisible, at once and in the
same degree. For this not only is there no analogy in Paul's
writings, but we are here transported to a circle of ideas which
belongs to a totally different historical era^ viz., to the period of

evidently implied in these two passages above, such regular gradations of raok.
It is true that in 1 Cor. xv. 24, Paul says of Christ that he jcarapy^o]; Traa-av
dpxrjv Koi 'iraa-av i^ovaiav koL bvpofuv, but it is impossible to find here the
different classes of an angelic hierarchy, and so this passage should not be
used as a parallel.



Digitized by



Google



8 LIFE AND WORK OF TAUL. [Part II.

Gnosticism. The properties which the Gnostics distributed in their
myths among a number of aeons, all of whom always resolve them-
selves again into the same central conception, are here united in
the one Christ, in whom, as in the Gnostic Nous or Monogenes, the
supreme and absolute God unfolds and reveals his secret essence,
as the eiKdJv rod Oeov rov aopdrov, the TrpcyroroKo^ ttcutt)^ lerureto^y
the highest principle of all life and being. In him, as on the one
hand axno^ iari irpo Trdvrtov, so on the other, etcrurOrj ra iravra,'
Kol ra irdvTa a/ avr^ owearrfKe, CoL i. 15 sq., for he is the XpioTo^,
who is ra wavra Kot ev ttcuti, CoL iii 11.^
The Gnostic systems rest upon the root idea that all spiritual

^ According to the doctrine of the Valentinians, Christ sent out of the pleroma
the Soter, ivb6vT09 avr^ ircurav t^v bvvafiiv rov irarp6s koL irav vtr* i^ovciav napa-
d6vTos Kcu, T&v alSviov dc 6fioi<osy &jr»s iv airr^ rh. trdvra KriaBj rci dparh, kcu. rk
dSpara, 6p6voif OeorriTts, Kvpi6Tr}T€Sf Iren, Adv. Haer. L 4, 6. Theodoret (Haer.
Fabb. i. 7) mentions the same as the doctrine of the Valentinians, namely, that
Christ sent the Redeemer Jesas, Sore €v avr^ KTiaOrlvai Koi rh opara kcu rh
ddparaf kqI Qpovovs, kcu, KvptoTrjTatf Koi 6(6rrjTa9, tos avroi \tyov<n. It is usuaUy
assumed that the Valentinians derived these representations and expressions
from the Epistle to the Colossians ; but how is it that this letter itself answered
so closely to the forms of their thought and expression ? We see from Iren.
i^3, 4, how they used other passages of these two Epistles for their own par-
poses, vnh ILavkov (fyavcp&s clprja-Oai Xeyovar kol avros iari rh Trdvra (Col. iii. 11),
jcai TToKiv (Col. ii. 9) €v avr^ KaToiKcl rrav rh TrX-qpiOfia ttjs Be&njToSf Koi to dvaKC'
<f><ikaioi>a-a<rSai rh itdvra iv r^ Xpiar^ bia rov 6eo€ (Eph. i. 10) €ppjiv€vov<nv
elprjo-Baiy icaX ct riva 3X\a. It may very reasonably be supposed that the later
Valentinians, whom Irenaeus is refuting, appealed to these passages in support of
their doctrines, but that the agreement of these passages with their doctrines
results fbom the fact that the circle in which those Epistles arose was permeated
by similar Gnostic ideas. The first beginnings of Christian speculation coincided,
as we know, with the beginnings of Gnosis, and thus Gnosis, when developing
itself, an4 giving its peculiar impulse to Christian speculation, gave currency to
many representations and expressions which, though springing from the soil of
Gnosticism, and though containing Gnostic elements, yet were not offensive to
the unprejudiced Christian consciousness. Even then, however, every specu-
lation was not received equaUy as Christian ; it is remarkable that the Epistle to
the Colossians speaJ^ of Kvpidrrjretf but not of Ocorrirts, an idea at which the
Valentinians took no offence. There can be no doubt that all these expressions,
dpxai, i^ova-icUf Opdvoiy Kvpi^Trjreti B€drTjr€Si alS>V€ti TrXtiprnfiay etc., belong to a
circle where speculation about the spirit-world was carried on with peculiar
zest ; but where did this interest arise before Gnosticism began to take form ?
And with what other direction of thought is it more closely and more naturally
connected than with the Gnostic ?



Digitized by



Google



Chap. IV.] EFISTLES TO EPHB8IAN8 AND COLOSSI AN8. . «

life which has proceeded from the supreme God has to return to
its original unity, and to be taken back ag«dn into the absolute
principle, so that every discord which has arisen shall be resolved
into harmony. Thus in these Epistles Christ's work is mainly that
of restoring, bringing back, and making unity ; the final purpose of
it is, eU otKovofMiap rov 'rrkrjpfofiaro^ r&v Kacp&v (i.e. according to
the idea of a religious dispensation developing itself in the fulness
of the times, that is, in definite epochs, in a series of momenta
mutually conditioning each other), avaK€<l>a\ai<oaaa'0ai ra wavrd
€v T€p XpMTw, Eph. i 10, Kal Sc avTOv airoKaTdXkd^ai, ra irdvra
eU airrdv, CoL i. 20. From this point of view both Epistles lay
special weight on the consideration that Christ is, in respect of his
death also, elprfvri '^fi&v, 6 iroiriaa^ ra dfjL<f>dTepa &, Eph. ii. 14, the
elprjPOTroiTja'a^, and that eire ra ein rij^ ryfj^, ecre ra ev roU ovpavol^,
CoL L 20. It is in the light of this lofty and comprehensive con-
ception that the work of Christ is here contemplated, t.d. as a
mediation and atonement whose effects extend to the whole
universe. And though it may be possible to harmonize this con-
ception with the Pauline Christology and doctrine of atonement,
yet it is certain that with Paul these ideas never assume the pro-
minence which they have here. We have, therefore, good grounds
for asserting that in these Epistles we are presented with a new
and peculiar circle of ideas which is distinctly later than that of
the Pauline Epistles. It is a transcendental region, into which
Paul did look out now and then, but of which he had no definite
views, and which he never introduced into his Epistles from a taste
for metaphysical speculation.

As even the Christology of these letters bears unmistakably the
impress of Gnosticism, we meet also with other Gnostic conceptions
and modes of representation. Especially does that Trkrjpoofia,
which holds so prominent a place in both Epistles, naturally
suggest to us the Pleroma of the Gnostics. Indeed the two are
so intimately connected, that the one can only be explained by
the other. The Gnostic Pleroma is not the absolute itself; it is
that in which the absolute displays itself as absolute, realizes the »



Digitized by



Google



10 LIFE AND WORK OF PAUL. [Part II.

oonception of itself, and fills itself with its own definite contents.
According to the doctrine of the Valentinians, the Bythos, the
original divine source, is not in and of itself the Pleroma, hut only
in so far as it is thought as the sum of the aeons by which it is
filled. « These thirty aeons," says Irenaeus (i 1. 3), " as the
Yalentinian doctrine of aeons represents them, are ro aoparov kal
irvevfuiTCKov kwt ainoxyi trki^pcofia, which is divided into an
Ogdoas, a Dekas, and a Dodekas." The Logos, who is produced by
the Nous or Monogenes, is called the dpj(7i kcu fwpffxoa-c^ 7ravT0<i
Tov ifKrip^iiaTo^, that is, the being in whom the Pleroma first
receives its form, in whom the conception of it is defined ; since
the Logos, in connexion with Zmi as his av^vyo^, is the Trarfip
^aantov r&v fier avrov eaofi&nov, and contains in his own nature
t;he whole Pleroma, as he is himself only the more definite and
more realized form of the Nous or Monogenes. The supreme and
absolute God is not therefore himself the Pleroma, but has it in
himself as his contents.^

Now this is just the conception of the Pleroma which we find
in both our Epistles ; the only difference is that there is no express-
mention here of a plurality of aeons as the complement of the
pleroma, and that not the supreme God himself, but Christ, is the
pleroma, since only in Christ does the self-existent God emerge
from his abstract being, and unfold himself to the fulness of con-
crete life. For ev ain^, it is said, CoL i 19, evBd/cfia-e (o Ocosi), irav
TO ifKripoDfia KaTOttcrjaat. Col. ii. 9 : ev avT^ Karoi/cel irav to
irXqptopM T^9 OeoTtfTo^ aayfutTLKO)^, Kal lore ev avr^ ireirkripwfidvoi*
09 eoTLv rj Ke<l>a\rj ttoch;? apj(r}^ Koi e^ovala^^ Eph, i 22, 23 : avrov
e&o/ce K€<l>a\r)V inrep iravra ry eKickriaLa, rjTi^ eari to <T&fia avTov,
TO irXn^ptofjia tov tcl irdma ev ircun wKrfpovfievov. Eph. iii 19 :
Jh/wvai • . . Tijv ar/airrjv tov Xpurrov, iva irKfiptoOfjre €A9 irav:
TO irXi^pcofia tov Oeov. Eph. iv. 13 : to irXrjpfOfia tov XpurTov*

. ^ Compare Iren. ii 1 ; L 2 : Deus — ^solas paier et continens omnia. — Quemadmo*
dum (enim poterit super hunc alia plenitudo aut initium aut potestas aut alius
Deus esse, cum oporteat Deum, horum omnium pleroma, in immenso omliia
oircumtenere et cirenmteneri a nemine.



Digitized by



Google



Chap. IV.] EPISTLES TO EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS. 11

Here we observe a further remarkable agreemeht. According to
the doctrine of the Valentinians the aeons, who together make up
the Pleroma, are divided into male and female, and form the so-
called syzygies, pairs bound together as if in marriage. The pro-
. pator is united in syzygy with his ewoia (the thought of himself,
his self-consciousness) ; in the same way, the Monogenes, or Nous,
with Aletheia, the Logos with Zoe, the Anthropos with Ecclesia.
From these the other aeons proceeded, alsa as syzygies. In the
same way Christ forms, according to the Epistle to the Ephesians, a
syzygy with the Church. Christ is indeed the head of the Church,
but, in the same way, the man is the head of the woman, and hus-
bands are exhorted to love their wives, just as Christ also loved the
Church, and gave himself for her, that he might sanctify her to him-
self, and present her glorious to himself without spot or blemish^
Eph. V. 23 sq. This is the great fjLvarrjpiop of which the writer of the
Epistle speaks in reference to Christ and the Church (ver. 32), that
she is his wife, as it were, united to him in marriage. In virtue of
this relationship the conception of the pleroma is transferred to her
also. As Christ is the irXr^pcofia, so also is the Church ; that is to
say, she is the ifkr^ptofia of Christ, since he himself is the irXripwfia
in the highest sense. This is the simple meaning of the words of
which so many interpretations have been attempted : to ttXtj/mo/mi;
Tov ra iravra ev iraai 7r\rjp<ofi€vov. What is meant is simply that
Christ is the pleroma in the highest and absolute sense, inasmuch as
it is all things absolutely that he fills with himself as the absolute.
Qontents. The conception of the wkqpcjfia suggests the relation of
one thing to another, the relation of abstract and concrete being,
pf absolute unconditioned being, and its manifestation or realiza-
tion, or the relation of form and contents. As Christ is the:
pleroma because the absolute essence of God manifests itself and
enters upon concrete existence in him, because the conception of
Crod is here fiUed with its definite contents, so when the Church
is called the pleroma of Christ, she is conceived as possessing a.
more concrete and realized existence than Christ himself. But if^
the Church, as the pleroma, is the concrete real existence withi



Digitized by



Google



IZ LIFE AND WOBK OF PAUL. [Part II.

which Christ fills himself as his contents ; on the other hand, and
in a higher sense, Christ, as the form of these contents, is himself
the contents with which everything that has existence, the self-
existent, fills itself. The expression wXripoyfia, then, implies
always a concrete and real existence, — the contents of another
existence with which it combines to form a unity of form and con-
tents. Thus the expression TrXrjpm/jia is to be taken neither as
simply active nor as simply passive. Both senses pass and
repass into each other, for that which fiUs — which makes full —
becomes itself that which is filled, is full, is informed with its
definite contents. As TrXfjpoVfievo^ ra nrdma iv iracrc, Christ is the
trk'qptofia which fills the iraura €^ 7ra<Tt with its definite contents,
and this pleroma itself again is the absolute all, replenished with
its absolute contents.

As. with the conception of the irXriptaiia, so with that of the
c&fMu The church is the acofia of Christ, Eph. L 23, iv. 12. But
Christ himself is called acjfia, the <T&fia of the Deity, inasmuch as
there dwells ctafjLaTtKo)^ in him irav to ifkriptopLa rf^ deorrjro^, all,
that is to say, that informs the idea of the Deity with the concrete
contents that belong to it. Col. iL 9, an expression which can only
be explained by the line of thought which we have indicated. If
then he himself is the a-A/jua of the Deity, the church can be his
a&fia only in a more concrete sense, since he, as a-cifia of the
Deity, is the head of the church, and the principle, ef ov nrav to
(T&fia awapfidXoyovfievov Kai avfi^i^a^ofieyov Bia waa-rf^ dcfyfj^
T^9 e7n'Xpp7)yla<;, Kar evepjetav €v ficrpq} ivo^: eKoarov fjuepov^,
V)v av^a-cv rov <rft)/wiT09 Trocetrai €t9 OLKohop/qv eavrov €v dydnrq^
EpL iv. 16. Here the church is described, in true Gnostic fashion,
as an organism fitted together by the concord of its members
inwardly, and living in the idea of its own unity. The relation
also in which the church stands towards Christ as his cSyfia
brings us back to the idea of sjzjgy; according to Eph. v. 28,
the ryvvatK€9 ore the a-fafutra of their husbands, a representation
where we again encounter the Gnostic idea of the pleroma, since
here also the idea is present that the being of the husbands^



Digitized by



Google



Phap. IV.] EPISTLES TO EFHESIANS AND WLQS^IANS. ij

receives its full contents only in that of the wives, — only there
realizes its own conception.

The Gnostic representations afford, I think, the only satisfactory
explanation of the obscure passage, iii 9. The olKopofiia /jLvanjplov
consists in this, that God has created aU things, iva yvoDpicOy vvtf
ral^ ap^al^ tcaX rah e^ovaiai^ ev rol^ eTTOvpavloi^ 8ta t^9
eKKkfia-la^ ri iroXmroUCKo^ <To<f>la rov Oeov Kara wpoOea-iv rSxy
cufovcov, r)v eirolr^ev ev Xpurr^ ^Irja-ov r^ Kvplq> ^fiStv. The
final cause of the creation is here alleged to be that the ao^la
rov Oeov should be known by the heavenly powers, and that
through the medium of the church ; the final cause of the creation
is thus realized by a movement going back into the pleroma, an
ideal movement, however, which is placed in the knowing of the
dpxal and e^ovtrlai, which occupy the same position here as- the
aeons of the Gnostics. According to the doctrine of the
Yalentinians, the final end of the creation takes place in the
return of Sophia, along with the spiritually-minded who make up
the church, back to the Pleroma. Now the author of our
Epistle could not place Sophia in this position at the realizing of
the final cause of creation, for he had not made Sophia, but
Ecclesia, the av^vyo^ of Christ. But Sophia could not be altogeth^
omitted, and she is placed here ideally as the divine wisdom which
realizes itseK in the realization of the divine world-scheme ; she is
made known as such to the celestial powers who form the highest
spirit-world, and that through the church, which, as the object of
this knowledge, is the medium through which it is communicated
The church, however, can be the object of this knowledge only in
her syzygy with Christ. The Gnostic doctrine represents Sophia
returning into the Pleroma as a bride united with her bridegroom,
the Eedeemer ; and thus the realization of the purpose of creation
is placed here in the marriage of the church with Christ, inasmuch
as it is in her that the wisdom of God is known by the heavenly
powers.-^ In this accomplishment of the ends of creation in the

;^ twi yvfopifrOj can only be construed along with nV ^ olKi rov fivar. : Grace is
given to me to proclaim the gospel and to instruct others ris 7 oIk, rov fivar^



Digitized by



Google



14 LIFE AND WOBK OF PAUL. [Part IL

yva>pl^eiv of the apyal- k<u e^ovciat, the Trpd'Oeo'i^ rwv auovrovl
the purpose of the aeons, or that which God has ideally proposed
to himself in the aeons, returns into itself, having been accom-
'plished and realized in Christ. The al&p€<: here are like the Gnostic
aeons (the al&v€<: rov altcvo^, Eph. iii. 21, the aeons of God as th^
primal iEon), the subjects of the Divine ideas of the world-plan
"which is developed and realized in the sequence of the aeons, ep
T0A9 (H&at T0J9 errep^ofAevot^, Eph. ii 7> and they constitute the
being of God. All thiSj it is clear, can only be grasped and under-^
fitood in the light of the Gnostic modes of thinking. Thd
predicate, also, -which Sophia here receives — irokxnroUCKjo^, this
strange and singular compound, which has given so much trouble
to the interpreters — cannot be rightly explained save from the same
circle of ideas. Harless inclines ultimately to the view (which
De Wette also in the main supports) that- this iroKvirotKiXo^ ao<f^ld
is 60 called on account of the difference of the present from earlier
revelations, the revelations of God in nature and in the law. It i&,
that is to say^ the wonderful wisdom, which- adjusts the conflict
between law and grace ; it is the thought, o-vveKkeure yap 6 ©609 tou9
wavTa^ eU direldecav, Xva tov9 iraarra^ eKeijoij, which in another
passage moves the apostle to exclaim, & I3d0o^ irkovrov xal aoipla^
-etc., Eom. xL 32 ay.; it is the preparatio evangelica of the Old
Testanaent revelations, of which it is said at the beginning of th6
Epistle to the Hebrews, 7roXvT/}o7r©9 vaXai, etc. The apostle, it
is said, is not speaking here directly of that series of earlier
•revelations, for the wisdom he describes is that which is manifested
through the church of the New Covenant, but he glances at all
the various revelations of God, and calls the last and final one a
revelation of the manifold wisdom of God. All this is perfectly-
sensible, still it does not preclude the question, why, if this was
what the apostle had to say, he should have chosen such a peculiar
expression as TroXuTroUikoi;, and should have spoken of a manifold
{multiform) wisdom, when in reality it was the unity of it, as

namely, that tliis otKovoiiia rov fivoTtjpiov finds its accomplishment in this Tva
yvapurBj, etc. . • - . ^ - . - - ..



Online LibraryFerdinand Christian BaurPaul, the apostle of Jesus Christ: his life and work, his epistles ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 2 of 35)