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originated Christianity, who originated St. Paul ?
What was it that turned Saul the persecutor of the
Church into Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ? It
was the indelible conviction that Jesus was the
Messiah, and that He had risen from the dead and
conversed with him on the road to Damascus, that
converted and ever afterwards controlled St. Paul.
The conviction that the Messiah had been crucified,
and had risen, and was now the Lord in heaven,
was reached very quickly and surely by large num-
bers, who had good opportunities of ascertaining
the truth and staked everything on the result.
This conviction was based upon the experiences of
those who were quite certain that the Risen Christ
had appeared to them and conversed with them.
Those appearances were realities, however we may
explain them ; they are among those things which
prove themselves by their otherwise inexplicable
results ; and the convictions which they produced
remain undestroyed and indestructible. It was
upon them that the Apostolic Church was built.
From the Risen Christ it had received the amazing
commission to go forth and conquer the world ;
about that there was no doubt among those who
joyously undertook this stupendous work. The
apostles must have known whether Christ intended
them to form a Church ; and their view of His
intention is shown by the fact that, immediately
after His withdrawal from their sight, they set to
work to construct one. If the new religion was
to conquer the world, it must be both individualistic
and social ; it must provide for communion between
each soul and God, and also for communion between
its adherents. In other words, there must be a
Church. Christ showed how this M r as to be done.
He was not content with being an itinerant teacher,
preaching to casual audiences. He selected a few
disciples and trained them to be His helpers and
His successors. It is manifest that He intended
them to found a society ; for although He gave
few rules for its organization, yet He instituted
two rites, one for admission to it and one for its
preservation (W. Hobhouse, The Church and the
World [Hampton Lectures, London, 1910], p. 17 ff.).
' An isolated Christian ' is a contradiction, for every
Christian is a member of Christ's Body. In refer-
ence to the world Christians are 'saints' (07101);
in reference to one another they are ' brethren ' ; in
reference to Christ they are ' members.' In the
original constitution of the human body God placed
differently endowed members, and He has done the
same in the original constitution of the Church
(1 Co 12 28 ). Both are in origin Divine, the product
of the creative action of Father, Son, and Spirit.

5. Growth. The growth of the Apostolic Church
was very rapid. The first missionary efforts of the
original believers were confined to Jerusalem and
its immediate neighbourhood, and the converts
were Palestinian or Hellenistic Jews who were

living or sojourning in or near the capital. At first
the Hellenists were in a minority, but this soon
ceased to be the case. Persecution caused flight
from Jerusalem, and then missionary effort was
extended to Jews of the Dispersion and to Gentiles.
At Antioch in Syria the momentous change was
made to a mixed congregation containing both Jews
and Christians. Then what had seemed even to
the Jews themselves to be a mere Jewish sect
became a universal Church (Ac II 19 ' 26 ). As soon as
it was seen that Judaism, in spite of all its OT
glories, would never become a universal religion,
missions to the heathen became a necessity. The
first missionaries to the Gentiles, the men who took
this momentous step of bringing the gospel to
pagans, are for the most part unknown to us.
Who won the first Gentile converts at Antioch?
Who first took Christianity to Rome? Whoever
they were, there had been a long and complex
preparation for their work, which goes a consider-
able way towards explaining its success. This
indeed was to be hoped for in accordance with
Christ's command (Mt 28 18 , Lk 24 47 ) and St. Peter's
Pentecostal promise ' to all that are afar off' (Ac
2 39 ) ; but we can see some of the details which
helped fulfilment.

The only thing which adequately explains the
great expansion of Christianity in the 1st cent, is
the fact of its Divine origin ; but there were a num-
ber of causes which favoured its spread and more
than counteracted the active opposition and other
difficulties with which it had to contend.

(a) The dispersion of the Jews in civilized coun-
tries secured a knowledge of monotheism and a
sound moral code.

(b) Roman law had become almost co-extensive
with the civilized world. Tribal and national ideas,
often irrational and debasing, had given place to

Erinciples of natural right and justice. Roman
iw, like the Mosaic Law, was a iraiSaytayds to lead
men to Christ.

(c) The splendid organization of the Roman
Empire gave great facilities for travel and corre-

(d) The dissolution of nationalities by Roman
conquests prepared men's minds for a religion
which was not national but universal ; and it is
not impossible, in spite of the horror which the
writer of the Apocalypse exhibits towards the wor-
ship of the Emperor, that that worship, which was
nominally universal, sometimes prepared people for
a worship of the Power to which they owed exist-
ence, and not merely fitful security and peace.

(e) The Macedonian conquest had made men
familiar with a type of civilization, which seemed
to be adaptable to the whole world, and had sup-
plied a language which was still more adaptable.
Greek was everywhere spoken in large towns, and
in them converts were most likely to be found.
Through the LXX, Greek was a Jewish as well as
a pagan instrument of thought, and had become
very flexible and simple, capable of expressing new
ideas, and yet easily intelligible to plain men.
Greek was the language of culture and of commerce
even in Rome. It was also the sacred language of
the world-wide worship of Isis. Hardly at any
other period has the civilized world had a nearer
approach to a universal language. The retention
of a Greek liturgy in the Church of Rome for two
centuries was due partly to the fact that the first
missionaries taught in Greek and that the Greek
Bible was used ; partly to the desire to preserve
the unity of the Church throughout the Empire.
Its abandonment by the Roman Church prepared
the way for the estrangement between East and

(/) There was a wide-spread sense of moral cor-
ruption and spiritual need. 'A great religious



longing swept over the length and breadth of the
empire. The scepticism or the age of enlighten-
ment had become bankrupt ' (E. v. Dobschiitz,
Apostol. Age, Eng. tr., London, 1909, p. 39). The
prevalent religions and philosophies had stimulated
longings which they could not satisfy. Specula-
tions about conscience, sin, and judgment to come,
about the efficacy of sacrifices, and the possibility
of forgiveness and of life after death, had prepared
men for what Christianity had to offer. Even
if the gospel had not been given, some religi-
ous change would have come. The gospel often
awakened spiritual aspirations ; more often it
found them awake and satisfied them. It satisfied
them because it possessed the characteristics of a
universal religion incomparable sublimity of doc-
trine, inexhaustible adaptability, and an origin
that was recognizable as Divine. The Jew might
be won by the conviction that the law was trans-
figured in the gospel and that prophecy was fulfilled
in Christ and His Church. St. Peter began his
Pentecostal address to the assembled Jews by point-
ing out that the outpouring of the Spirit was a
fulfilment of Jewish prophecy (Jl 2 28 ' 31 ) and an
inauguration of ' the last days,' which were to pre-
cede the coming of the Messiah in glory. But to
the Gentile these considerations were not impres-
sive. The great pagan world had to be won by the
actual contents or Christianity, which were seen to
be better than those of any religion that the world
had thus far known. They were not only new,
but ' with authority ' ; and they stood the test of
experience by bearing the wear and tear of life.
Christianity was at once a mirror and a ' mystery ' :
it reflected life so clearly and it suggested some-
thing much higher. It was a marvel of simplicity
and richness. It was so plain that it could be told
in a few words which might change the whole life.
It was so varied and subtle that it could tax all the
intellectual powers and excite the strongest feel-

When the proconsul Saturninus said to the Scillitan Martyrs,
' We also are religious people, and our religion is simple,' one of
the Christians replied, ' If you will grant me a quiet hearing-, I
will tell you the mystery of simplicity ' (Acts of the Scillitan
Martyrs [TS i. 2, 1891, p. 112] ; cf. 1 Co 27).

The number of Christians at the close of the 1st
cent, is very uncertain. We read of a good many
centres throughout the Empire ; but we know little
about the size of each of these local churches. In
some the numbers were probably small. In Pales-
tine they were numerous (Ac 21 20 ).

(g) The zeal and ability of the first missionaries
were very great. We know the names of compara-
tively few of them, but we know some of the results
of their work. The extension of the Church in the
2nd cent, is proof of the good work done in the 1st.
In accordance with Christ's directions (Mk 6 7 ; cf.
Lk 10 1 ), these missionaries commonly worked in
pairs (H. Latham, Pastor Pastorum, Cambridge,
1890, p. 296 f.). St. Paul as a general rule had one
companion, and probably seldom more ; and his
ability in planning missions is conspicuous. He
selected Roman colonies, where, as a Roman citizen,
he would have rights, and where he would be likely
to find Jews, and men of other religions, trading
under the protection of Rome. A synagogue was
at first the usual starting-point for a Christian
mission. But very soon the Jews became too hos-
tile ; so far from listening to the preachers, they
stirred up the heathen against them (T. R. Glover,
The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman
Empire, London, 1909, ch. vi.).

It is impossible to say which of the forces which
characterized Christianity contributed most to its
success : its preaching of the life, death, and resur-
rection of Christ, its lofty monotheism, its hope of
immortality, its doctrine of the forgiveness of sins,


its practical benevolence, its inward cohesion and
unity. Each of these told, and we may be sure
that their combined effect was great.

6. Conflict between Jewish and Gentile ele-
ments. It is remarkable how soon this conflict in
the Apostolic Church began. Not long after Chris-
tianity was born, it was severed from the nation
which gave it birth, and, since the final destruction
of Jerusalem, it has only in rare cases found a secure
hold on Jewish soil. But it is not a just statement
of the case to say that the Gentile Church first
stripped Judaism of everything, the Scriptures in-
cluded, and then left it by the wayside half dead ;
or that the daughter first robbed her mother, and
then repudiated her. That is an inversion of the
truth ; it was the mother who drove out the daugh-
ter and then persistently blackened her character.
As to the Scriptures, there has been no robbery,
for both have possessed them. But the daughter
has put them to far better account and has in-
creased their value tenfold. Christianity did not
come forward at first as a new religion aiming at oust-
ing the Jews. Its Founder was the Jewish Messiah,
the fulfilment of OT prophecies. It was the Jews
who forced the opposition. The relation of Juda-
ism to Christianity was, almost from the first, a
hostile one. And, as it was the energetic Jew of
Tarsus who led the first persecution of the Chris-
tians, so it was the Apostle of the Gentiles who
caused the final separation of the Church from the
Synagogue. In the Fourth Gospel, ' the Jews ' are
the opponents of the Christ. In the Apocalypse,
they are ' the synagogue of Satan ' (2 9 3*; cf. Did-
ache, 8). Barnabas goes still further : the Jews
have never been in covenant with God (iv. 6-9, xiv.
1); the Jews are the sinners (xii. 10). Judaism is
obsolete : the Christian Church has taken its place
and succeeded to all its privileges. Hence the
lofty enthusiasm of the first Christians, whose
language often assumes a rhythmic strain when the
Church is spoken of (Eph 4 4 , Col I 18 , 1 Ti 3 15 , He
12 2 *, 1 P 2 9 , Mt 16 18 ). It was through the Christian
Church that God filled the world with His Spirit ;
to it belonged the glorious future and the final
triumph ; for by it the religion of an exclusive
nation had been transformed into a religion for the
whole world.

It was inevitable that the Jews should resent
such claims on the part of Christians, and espe-
cially of Gentile Christians ; and the resentment
became furious hostility when they saw the rapid-
ity witli which Christians made converts as com-
Eared with their own slowness in making proselytes
ere and there. Until the Maccabaean princes
used force, not many had been made. Since then,
religious aspirations had combined with interested
motives to bring adherents to Judaism, and it
was from these more serious proselytes that the
Christian missionaries obtained much help. Under
their roof both Jews and Gentiles could meet to
hear the word of God (Ac 18 7 ). Christianity could
offer to a dissatisfied and earnest pagan all that
Judaism could otter and a great deal more. Such
inquirers after truth now ceased to seek admission
to the Synagogue and joined the Church, and the
downfall of Jerusalem accelerated this change.
The Jewish war of A.D. 66-70 was regarded by
the Christians as a judgment for the murder of
the Messiah, and also for the more recent murder
in 62 of the Messiah's brother, James the Just.
That catastrophe destroyed both the centre of Jew-
ish worship and also the Jews themselves as a
nation. The loss of the Temple was to some extent
mitigated by the system of synagogues, which had
long been established. But that destruction, both
in its immediate effect and in its far-reaching con-
sequences, marks a crisis which has few parallels in
history. Christianity felt both. The destruction




of Jerusalem left the Gentile Churches, and espe-
cially the Church of Rome, without a rival, for the
Jewish Church of Jerusalem sank into obscurity,
and never recovered ; nor did any other community
of Jewish Christians take its place. When a
Christian community arose once more in the re-
stored Jerusalem, it was a Gentile Church. Jewish
Christianity was far on the road towards extinction.
The Judaizing Christians persisted in regarding
Judaism as the Divinely appointed universal re-
ligion, of which Christianity was only a special off-
shoot endowed with new powers. The Pauline
view involved the hateful admission that the OT
dispensation was relative and transitory. The
Judaizers could not see that Christianity, although
founded on the OT and realizing an OT ideal which
had been seen but not reached by the prophets,
was now independent of Judaism. Judaizing was
a passing malady in the life of the Church, and
had little influence on ecclesiastical development.
The Judaizing Christians either gave up their Juda-
ism or ceased to be Christian.

The Tubingen theory that the leading fact in the
Apostolic Church was a struggle between St. Paul
and the Twelve has been illuminating, but closer
study of the evidence has shown that it is unten-
able. There were some differences, but there was
no hostility, between St. Paul and the Twelve.
The hostility was between St. Paul and the Juda-
izers, who claimed to represent the Twelve. It is
possible that some of these Judaizing teachers had
seen Christ during His ministry, and therefore said
that they had a better right to the title of ' apostle '
than he had. In the mis-called ' Apostolic Council '
at Jerusalem, which was really a conference of
apostles, elder brethren, and the whole Church of
Jerusalem (Ac 15 6- 12- 22 - w ), there was no conflict be-
tween the Twelve and St. Paul. St. Paul's rebuke
to St. Peter at Antioch (Gal 2 11 ' 14 ) is no evidence of
a difference of principle between them. St. Peter
is blamed, not for having erroneous convictions,
but for being unfaithful to true ones. He and St.
Paul were entirely agreed that there was no need
to make Gentile converts conform to the Mosaic
Law ; but St. Peter had been willing to make un-
worthy concessions to the prejudices of Jewish con-
verts who were fresh from headquarters, by ceasing
to eat with Gentile converts. He had perhaps
argued that, as it was impossible to please both
parties, it was better, for the moment, to keep on
good terms with people from Jerusalem. He tem-
porized in order to please the Judaizers.

' But what it amounted to was that multitudes of baptized
Gentile Christians, hitherto treated on terms of perfect equality,
were now to be practically exhibited as unfit company for the
circumcised Apostles of the Lord who died for them. . . . Such
conduct, though in form it was not an expulsion of the Gentile
converts, but only a self-withdrawal from their company, was
in effect a summons to them to become Jews if they wished to
remain in the fullest sense Christians. St. Paul does not tell us
how the dispute ended : but he continued on excellent terms
with the Jerusalem Apostles ' (F. J. A. Hort, Judaintic Chris-
tianity, Cambridge, 1894, pp. 78, 79).

The leading facts in the history of the Apostolic
Church are the freedom won for Gentile converts,
the consequent expansion of Christianity and Chris-
tendom, and the transfer of the Christian centre
from Palestine to Europe. When the Apostolic Age
began, the Church was overwhelmingly Jewish ;
before it ended, the Church was overwhelmingly
Gentile. Owing mainly to the influence of St.
Paul 'a Hebrew of Hebrews ' whose Jewish birth
and training moulded his thoughts and language,
but never induced him to sacrifice the freedom of
the gospel to the bondage of the law, the break
with Judaism became absolute, and, as Gentile
converts increased, the restrictions of Judaism were
almost forgotten. The Judaizing Christians, especi-
ally after the second destruction of Jerusalem under

Hadrian, drew further and further away from the
Church, and ceased to influence its development.

7. Character. The character of the Apostolic
Church is not one that can be sketched in a few
strokes. Simple as it was in form, it had varied
and delicate characteristics. By its foundation in
Jerusalem, which even the heathen regarded as no
mean city, Christianity became, what it continued
to be in the main for some centuries, a city-religion,
a religion nearly all the adherents of which lived
in large centres of population. It was in such
centres that the first missionaries worked. For
eighteen years or more (Gal I 18 2 1 ) Jerusalem con-
tinued to be the headquarters of at least some of
the Twelve ; but even before the conversion of St.
Paul there were Christians at Samaria (Ac 8 14 ),
Damascus (9 19 ), and Antioch (II 20 ), which soon
eclipsed Jerusalem as the Christian metropolis.

It has been pointed out already that the Church
is necessarily social in character ; and it resembles
other societies, especially those which have a poli-
tical or moral aim, in requiring self-denying loyalty
from its members. But it differs from other societies
in claiming to be universal. The morality which
it inculcates is not for any one nation or class, but
for the whole of mankind. In the very small amount
of legislation which Christ promulgated, He made
it quite clear that in the Kingdom social interests
are to prevail rather than private interests ; and also
that all men have a right to enter the society and
ought to be invited to join it. The Church, there-
fore, is a commonwealth open to all the world. Every
human being may find a place in it ; and all those
who belong to it will find that they have entered a
vast family, in which all the members are brethren
and have the obligations of brethren to promote
one another's well-being both of body and soul.
This form of a free brotherhood was essential to a
universal religion ; and the proof of its superiority
to other brotherhoods lay in its being suitable to
all sorts and conditions of men. It prescribed con-
duct which can be recognized as binding on all ;
and, far more fully than any other system, it sup-
plied to all what the soul of each individual craved.
The name ' disciples ' did not last long as a name
for all Christians ; the name ' brethren ' took its
place. St. Paul does not speak of Christians as
' disciples ' ; that word came to be restricted to
those who had been the personal disciples of Christ.
He speaks of them as ' brethren,' a term in harmony
with the Christians' ' enthusiasm of humanity,' an
enthusiasm which set no bounds to its affection,
but gave to every individual, however degraded,
full recognition. The mere fact of being a baptized
believer gave an absolute claim to loving considera-
tion from all the rest. This brotherhood of Chris-
tians was easily recognized by the heathen.

Lucian (Death of Peregrinus Proteus) says : ' It was imposed
upon them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers
from the moment that they are converted. . . . An adroit, un-
scrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get
among these simple souls, and his fortune is soon made.' By
pretending to be a ' brother ' he can get anything out of them.

There is a stronger bond than that of belonging
to one and the same society, commonwealth, and
brotherhood. Seeing that the brotherhood implies
that the Father of the family is God, there would
seem to be nothing stronger than that. And yet
there is : Christians are members of one Body, the
Body of Christ, which is inspired by one Spirit.
Just as no one did so much as St. Paul to free the
new society from its cramping and stifling connexion
with Judaism, so no one did so much as he to develop
the idea of a free Christian Church, and of the re-
lation of the Spirit to it. The local ek/cA^o of be-
lievers is a temple in which God dwells by His
Spirit; it is Christ's Body, of which all become
members by being baptized in one Spirit. No differ-




ences of rank or of spiritual endowments can de-
stroy this fundamental unity, any more than the
unity of a building or of the human body is destroyed
by the complexity of its structure. In Ephesians,
the Apostle looks forward to an tKK\rj<rla, not local,
but including all Christians that anywhere exist.
The same Spirit dwells in each soul and makes the
multitude of the faithful, irrespective of locality
or condition, to be one (see Swete, The Holy Spirit
in the NT, London, 1909, p. 308). From the ideal
point of view, there is only one Church, which is
imperfectly, but effectively, represented and real-
ized in the numerous organizations in Christen-
dom. Not that Christendom is the whole of which
cney are the constituent parts that is a way of
looking at it which is not found in the Apostolic
Church, and it may easily be misleading. The
more accurate view is to regard each member of a
Christian organization as a member of the universal
Church. The Church consists of duly qualified in-
dividuals ; the intermediate groups may be con-
venient or inevitable, but they are not essential.

Separate organizations, or local churches, came
into existence because bodies of Christians arose at
different places and increased. These bodies were
independent, no one local church being in subjec-
tion to another. The congregations at Ephesus,
Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth, etc. , were independ-
ent of one another and of the earlier churches of
Antioch and Jerusalem. Their chief bond of union
was that of the gospel and of membership in Christ.
Besides this, the churches just named had the tie
of being the product of one and the same founder ;
and, as children of the same spiritual father, they
were in a special sense ' brethren.' St. Paul appeals
to this fact and to their relationship to other
churches. But, although he teaches that a church
in need has claims upon the liberality of other
churches, he nowhere gives one church authority
over others. Nevertheless, even in apostolic times,
congregations in the same district appear to have
been regarded as connected groups, and it is pos-
sible that the congregation in the provincial capital

Online LibraryJames HastingsDictionary of the apostolic church (Volume 1) → online text (page 67 of 234)