The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus/Part 3/Section 1
The Witness of Paul
The less evidence we find for the historicity of Jesus in profane writers, the greater becomes the interest of those who maintain it in a witness by whom the historical Jesus is unequivocally affirmed. Such an unequivocal witness we have, according to the prevailing view, in the so-called Epistles of the apostle Paul. Hence Paul is the piece de resistance for the theologian in regard to his belief in Jesus. He is the “surest foundation,” the “unshakable cornerstone,” the “irrefragable witness” for the fact that a Jesus did really live, and was crucified and buried, and rose again from the dead. So convinced indeed is historical theology of the absolute worth of this witness that it fancies it can silence all scepticism about the historicity of Jesus by merely pointing to Paul. It seems to think that no one can seriously dispose of the testimony of Paul without declaring that the Apostle's letters are spurious. We read, for instance, in von Soden's work on the Pauline Epistles: “They afford so strong a proof of the historicity of Jesus that no one but Drews has ever ventured to deny this historicity without contesting the genuineness of the Pauline Epistles” (p. 29). The orthodox theologian Beth also observes: “In this case Drews must really be charged with negligence before the tribunal of his own theory, since he admitted the genuineness of some of the Epistles and found no reason to doubt the historical existence of Paul. In order to attain his end within the limits of his own theory and destroy all the evidences for Jesus, he ought also to have contested the existence of Paul.”
Certainly, it would be simplest to say at once that the Epistles of Paul are spurious, and thus destroy the value of their testimony to the existence of an historical Jesus. This the theologians would assuredly like us to do, because, as things are in Germany, the genuineness of at least the four chief Epistles (Romans, Galatians, and the two to the Corinthians) is so firmly held by them that any doubt about it is at once rejected by them as “not to be taken seriously.” It would thus be an excellent means of discrediting the whole tendency of the Christ-myth in the eyes of the general public, and of all who swear on the word of professors of theology. Who reads to-day Bruno Bauer's Kritik der Paulinischen Briefe (1852), in which the first attempt was made to show the spuriousness of all the Epistles ascribed to Paul? That inconvenient scholar has so long been slighted by theologians, who have frightened readers from him by depreciatory remarks on his work, that it was thought quite safe to continue to ignore him. When, moreover, the Swiss scholar Steck concludes, in a thorough and learned investigation, that the Epistle to the Galatians is spurious (1888), that is merely “an extraordinary perversity of criticism,” an “instance of pushing radical criticism too far,” an attempt that one need not linger to refute. On the other hand, the criticism of English writers (Edwin Johnson, Robertson, and Whittaker) seemed to be quite devoid of danger, as few theologians have a command of the English language. It is true that in Holland a theological school has endeavoured for thirty years to show the spuriousness of the Epistles of Paul; but why should that trouble people in Germany? Dutch is a language that one has no occasion to learn at the universities. One may, therefore, take it for granted that the works of the Dutch will not be very seriously studied in Germany. Have not the Dutch, in fact, at a “Congress of free Christianity and religious progress,” thanked German historical theologians for the distinguished services which they have rendered to the whole civilised world? We frequently hear that kind of thing. The Dutch savants may, therefore, be regarded indulgently when they strike a path of their own in their own country and contest statements which are taken for granted in Germany.
It is amusing to read German theologians writing on their Dutch colleagues. According to Beth, “the Amsterdam writer Loman has very finely shown how one may manufacture out of air a proof that Paul was merely invented in the second century as a preacher of universalistic Christianity” (p. 35). According to Jülicher, it is a sign of “uncritical temper” to doubt whether Paul wrote the Epistles to which his name is attached a temper which, “as soon as it perceives a difficulty, which may occur in such documents just as well as in a Babylonian brick, cries ‘Spurious!’ and recognises no shades of difference”; and he advises it, with equal bad taste and foolishness, to consign itself to “work in subterraneous Acheron” (p. 25). Yet these theologians are either totally ignorant of, or have only a very superficial acquaintance with, the work of the Dutch. This is clear when von Soden writes: “No one has yet attempted to give us an intelligible account of the origin of these Epistles in the second century” (p. 29); and J. Weiss says: “The Pauline Epistles are, as is known [!?], denied to the apostle Paul by the Dutch school and by Kalthoff; but there is no plausible hypothesis as to their origin in any other way, no chronology of the various strata of the Epistles, and no answer to many other questions suggested by the denial” (p. 97). Are Weiss and von Soden ignorant of the work of van Manen, whose Römerbrief has been excellently translated into German by Schläger (Leipsic, 1906), while Whittaker has given a careful synopsis of his other books in his Origins of Christianity (2nd ed., 1909)? And if they are acquainted with him, how came they to pen such sentences, seeing that van Manen has done in a very thorough manner precisely what they say ought to be done by those who deny Paul's authorship? The truth is that historical theology in Germany needs a genuine Paul as an indispensable witness to its historical Jesus, and it must, therefore, ignore the Dutch and those must-be uncritical and confused thinkers who venture to dispute the credibility of their witness.
Historical theology finds the historical Jesus in the Pauline Epistles, because it is determined to—in fact, must—find him there, or else the whole of its artificial historical construction of the origin of Christianity remains in the air without any support. It accepts without scrutiny not only the truth of the evangelical accounts of Jesus, but whatever Acts says about Paul; and since it regards Paul as the author of the Epistles, it naturally finds it easy to see a confirmation of these things in the Pauline Epistles. It refers the mentions of Jesus in the Epistles to an historical Jesus because, anterior to any inquiry, from the gospels it is convinced of his reality; and it therefore never dreams of referring the passages in the Epistles which deal with Jesus to any other than their own—that is, the supposed historical Jesus of the gospels. It regards as “unmethodical” any man who would put a different interpretation on those passages, because the method employed by themselves, and regarded by them as the sole correct method, leads to the result that they desire. They are, therefore, in a vicious circle in their inquiry into the genuineness of the Pauline Epistles and their testimony to the historical Jesus.
As a matter of fact, their assertion that the existence of an historical Jesus is the very foundation of the Epistles of Paul is not the result, but the assumption, of their method. As such it originated, quite independently of their method. In all investigation the method is directed according to the assumption that is made and the end to be attained. But if an inquirer is allowed to postulate the existence of an historical Jesus and confirm this assumption by his methods, it can hardly be considered a sign of partisanship and prejudice to oppose the assumption on the ground of facts, and submit that such methods can hardly lead to a satisfactory result. Historical theology has hitherto endeavoured to interpret tradition in the sense of its historical Jesus, and has lost its way in a labyrinth of difficulties, contradictions, and insoluble problems. We raise the question whether the documents may not be better and more simply interpreted in the opposite sense, and whether there is any need at all to interpret the tradition historically. On which side the truth is found cannot be determined by the starting-point of the inquiry, but only by showing which interpretation best squares with the facts and which can be most easily established. In any case our method cannot be pronounced wrong because, starting from a different assumption, we reach conclusions other than those of the theologian; nor may one charge us with “confusion” or appeal against us in the name of “sound” investigation and science when our inquiry into the New Testament documents leads us to deny the historicity of Jesus, as long as it is not proved that our assumption is absurd.
1.—The Proofs of the Historicity of Jesus in Paul.
The starting-point and postulate of the Pauline doctrine of salvation is the attitude of man towards the law. The law was originally given to men by God for their good. It is to teach them what is sinful. It is to quicken their consciousness of evil and show them the way to become better. It should be to them, as Paul puts it, a teacher and breeder of righteousness. In reality it has proved a curse to them, and, instead of saving them, it has forced them deeper into the slavery of evil and sin. God therefore took pity on men, and sent to them Christ, his “son,” to take from them the yoke of the law. Originally a supernatural being, buried in God and co-operating in the creation of the world, Christ, at the will of his father, exchanged the glory of heaven for the poverty and straits of earth, in order to come upon the earth in the form of a slave, a man among men, for the redemption of mortals. He gave himself freely, for the salvation of men, to death on the cross. What no sacrifice had as yet been able to accomplish (a proof of the powerlessness of the law), complete delivery from sin and from death, which had come into the world with sin—was attained by the sacrificial death of him in whom was concentrated the whole being of humanity. In his death he died the death of all. By his resurrection he triumphed over death. By the rejection and casting aside of his human nature in death the God-man resumed his essential divinity. In discarding the veil of flesh and returning to his father in transfigured form, as a pure spirit and being reunited to him, he set men an example how they were to attain their true nature by the sacrifice of their carnal personality. More than this, indeed, he thereby obtained for them redemption from the bonds of the flesh, lifted them above the limitations of earth, and secured for them eternal life in and with the father. Man has only to put himself in personal relation to him, to unite intimately with him, to accept and assimilate the belief in his redeeming death (to crucify himself with Christ), and show this by a love of his fellow-men, and he will have a share in Christ's exaltation, and so attain redemption. The law therefore ceases to prescribe his conduct. By his union with Christ he is dead to the law and released from its dominion. The demons, under whose curse he had hitherto lain, have now no power over him. The life of which he has but a limited share here on earth will be enjoyed under better conditions in heaven. Christ is therefore the “mediator” between God and man, destroying the barrier between them. He is the “saviour” who heals the maladies of earthly life, corporal or spiritual, the “deliverer” from the darkness of earthly existence and death, the “God-man,” the true foundation and end of all religious action.
Any man who reflects impartially on this theory will find it difficult to believe that there is question here of an external historical process, an historical individual. The idea comes closest, perhaps, to that of the Gnostics, and especially close to that of the Alexandrian religious philosopher Philo, an older contemporary of Paul, and his principle of the Logos, which we afterwards find blended with the Christian belief in the gospel of John. Christ seems to be in Paul another name for the idea of humanity, a comprehensive expression of the ideal unity of all men, set forth as a personal being. Just in the same way Philo conceives the fullness of the divine ideas personified in the shape of the Logos, the “mediator,” “son of God,” and “light of the world,” and blends the Logos with the ideal man, the idea of man. And just as Christ is made flesh and assumes human form, so Philo's Logos descends from his heavenly sphere and enters the world of sense, to give strength to the good, and save men from sin, and lead them to their true home, the kingdom of heaven, and their heavenly father.
This idea of the redemption of men by the “son” of the most-high God is very ancient, and was widespread in early times. In the Babylonian religion the redeemer Marduk is sent upon the earth by his father Ea to save men from their spiritual maladies and moral perversity. The Greeks worshipped similar “sons” of God and benefactors of men in Heracles, Dionysos, and Jason or Jasios (the Greek name for Jesus), who likewise had a heavenly commission to redeem men, and were taken back into the circle of the blessed after a premature and impressive death. The idea flourished chiefly, however, in the religions of nearer Asia and North Africa, among the Phrygians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians, who worshipped in their Attis, Adonis, and Osiris (respectively) a god who suffered, died, and rose again for humanity, and expressed their belief in mysterious cults which are known as “mysteries.” Among the Mandaeic or Gnostic sects, which cultivated a peculiar form of piety, apart from the official religion, about the beginning of the present era, and to which, in a general sense, the Jewish sect of the Essenes seems to have belonged, the belief in a divine saviour and mediator was the very centre of their religious theory. Moreover, the Jewish apocalyptic of the time, which expected a speedy end of the world, leaned towards this view, and combined the form of the mediating God with its idea of the Messiah, the expected saviour of Israel from its political and social oppression. In the prophet Daniel the redeemer is described by the Gnostic name of “the son of man.” Further, this idea of a suffering and dying saviour was unmistakably connected with the course of nature. It arose from the sight of the fate of the sun or the moon, as they rose and sank in their paths, as they waned, disappeared, and rose again, in conjunction with the experience of the death and resurrection of nature every year. It was expressed by a belief in a divine son and saviour, who sacrifices himself for his fellows, incurs death, descends into the underworld, struggles against the demons of hell, and after a time rises again from the tomb and brings a new life to the world. Even the Israelitic prophets are not uninfluenced by this idea. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah we encounter the form of the so-called “suffering servant of God,” who is mocked, despised, and sacrificed in expiation of the sins of his people, but rises again in glory, and is borne to the splendours of heaven. It is true that in this the prophet immediately contemplated the fortune of his people, which he conceived as the general expiatory victim for the rest of mankind. But, as Gunkel rightly observes, the figure of a suffering and dying saviour is discerned in the background in this passage. Gressmann has even traced the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to a “ritual song” derived from the mysteries, which was sung by the initiated on the day of the death of God, and has clearly pointed out the mystery-character of the whole passage.
(a) Simple Proofs.—The “Christ-myth” regards the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah as the real germ-cell of Christianity. On it is based the Christian belief that the Messiah, whom the Jews expected, has already appeared in human form and servile lowliness, and sacrificed himself for the sins of his people, in order that thus the condition might be fulfilled without which the desired “kingdom of God” could not be established: the complete fidelity to the law and sinlessness of the Israelites. In the fact of his previous earthly appearance they saw a guarantee of the speedy coming of the Messiah in all his heavenly majesty, and the combination of the figure of the “servant of God” with that of the “just man” in Wisdom confirmed the belief that the judgment of the world was near, at which the just would be raised to heaven and the godless thrust into eternal damnation. Paul enlarged and deepened this idea by introducing it into a more general frame of ideas and deducing its metaphysical consequences. He gave greater clearness to the pagan idea of a suffering, dying, and risen saviour-god, which must have been familiar to the apostle from his Cilician home, and gave it life by infusing into it the spirit of the old mystery-religions. It follows from this that the supposed historical fact of a crucified Jesus is not absolutely necessary to explain the origin of the Paulinian doctrine of redemption, and the question arises whether the letters which have come down to us under the name of Paul contain any reference whatever to an historical Jesus. The negative reply, which the “Christ-myth” gives to this question, has caused great agitation among the theologians.
What, they cry with one voice, Paul knew nothing of an historical Jesus! His Jesus Christ was merely an “imaginary being,” the mere “idea” of a God-man sacrificing himself! There is no historical personage, no real event, behind the fact of the death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the central part of the Pauline system! Is not Christ described by Paul as a real man? “Does not,” von Soden asks, “his theory of redemption through Christ imply his full humanity? God sent his son in the form of sinful flesh on account of sin, and condemned sin in the flesh.” The apostle speaks of the “blood” of Christ, by which men are justified. “In vivid language he represents to the Corinthians the entrance of Jesus into human existence in order to stimulate them to contribute generously to the funds of the early Christians (2 Cor. viii, 9): ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich’; and even more vividly he represents him to the Philippians as the model of humility (ii, 5): ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man.’ How can Drews say in face of such passages (to which Weiss adds the allusions to the righteousness [Rom. v, 18, 19], the love [Gal. ii, 20], and the obedience [Phil, ii, 8] of Jesus): ‘The whole earthly life of Jesus is entirely immaterial to Paul’?” (p. 32).
I must, unfortunately, adhere to my view in spite of the instruction given to me by theologians. What do the quoted passages prove? “That Paul is thinking of the humanity of his Christ, not in the sense of an ideal humanity, but of a real human existence” (Soden, p. 31). Certainly. But where and when did I question this? It is precisely the essential point of my theory that, in the early Christian and Pauline view, the real coming of the Messiah is preceded by his appearance in human shape. According to Isaiah, it is not due to the powerlessness of God, but to the sins of the people, that the fulfilment of the promise of a Messiah is delayed (Is. lviii; lxx, 1). In the fifty-third chapter the prophet had spoken of the “servant of God” who takes on himself the sins of men, and thus “justifies” them. If this figure of the servant of God and just man is associated with that of the Messiah, and the idea is inspired that the servant of God is to be understood, not in the sense of the people of Israel generally, but as a single individual who offers himself for men, in the same way as in heathenism originally one individual has to sacrifice himself annually for all, it would naturally follow that the individual who thus sacrificed himself would not merely have human features, but would have to be a real man, otherwise he could not expiate the sins of men. None but a man could, according to the general feeling of antiquity, take on himself the guilt of other men. Only as man was “the just” in Solomon's Wisdom conceived, and he calls himself “servant of God” (ii, 13) and represents God as his “father” (xvi, 18). Indeed, even the suffering servant of God in Isaiah was so unmistakably described as man that the most resolute elevation of his figure to the supernatural and metaphysical world, such as we find in Paul, could not obliterate his human features. The question is, whether these features are those of a real, that is to say historical, man: whether the heavenly being which must appear as a man according to Paul came upon the earth at a definite moment in history.
Are the above-mentioned characters of the Christ-figure such that they necessarily imply an historical personality?
A man must be absolutely wrapped in theological prejudice not to recognise that they are wholly borrowed from the figure of the servant of God in Isaiah: his love, his righteousness, his humility, his obedience, his poverty, and even his position under the law (Gal. iv, 4), which follows at once, in the case of a Jew, from his obedience, and was for Paul the necessary condition for releasing from the law the rest of men who were subject to it (v). This, as a matter of fact, was pointed out to the “historical” theologians by their colleague Wrede. “Only in one contingency,” he says, “would the human personality of Jesus be a model: if the doctrine of Christ represented an idealising and apotheosis of Jesus in such wise that the historical reality were visible through it. This is certainly not the case [!]. Are the humility, obedience, and love which abound in the son of God, when he exchanges heaven for the miseries of earth, a reflection of the compassionate and humble man Jesus? Has Paul transferred the various traits of the character of Jesus to the heavenly form? This has been affirmed, but it is not true. Christ is said to be obedient because he did not oppose the divine will to send him to save the world, although it cost him his divine existence and brought him to the cross; humble, because he stooped to the lowliness of earth: and love must have been his motive, since his incarnation and death were the greatest service to mankind. Such service is naturally inspired by the desire to serve—by love. All these ethical qualifications are, therefore, not derived from an expression of the moral character of Jesus, but originate in the apostle's own theory of redemption.”
But Paul represents Christ as “of the seed of David” and born “of a woman” (Rom. i, 3). Is not that a plain reference to an historical individual? Unfortunately, descent from David is merely one of the traditional features of the Messiah, and consequently of his human appearance; and, if the Pauline Christ was to be a man at all, from whom could he have been born if not from “a woman”? If Paul seems to lay stress on this trivial and necessary circumstance, he may have been induced to do so by Gnostic tendencies, which aimed at dissociating the figure of the saviour from all earthly limitations, and turning it into a purely metaphysical conception; and he therefore did not merely make use of a familiar Jewish expression—“born of a woman”—which occurs more than once in the Bible. We may add that at least liberal theologians are, to a great extent, convinced that the “historical” Jesus did not descend from David, and that the genealogies in the gospels, which purport to prove such descent, are later fabrications made with a view to establishing the Messianic character of the Christian saviour. Thus Paul would have departed from the truth if he had sought to represent Christ to the communities as a descendant of David!
I need not linger to show that the many passages which mention the death and crucifixion of Jesus do not, as Weinel affirms, prove the historicity of Christ. When von Soden emphatically calls attention to the vividness with which Paul saw the details of the life of Jesus, pointing to the first Epistle to the Corinthians (xv, 4), in which he expressly [!] says that Jesus was buried after death (p. 32), we must say that the procedure of our opponents becomes rather humorous. Weinel charges me with saying that theologians based the historicity of Jesus on the account of the appearances of the risen Christ (1 Cor. xv, 5), and concealing the fact that it was the preceding verses, which speak of the death and burial of Jesus, that were in question (p. 108). I must admit that I had had too high an opinion of the theological method of reasoning. The theologians really base the historicity of Jesus on his death and burial—in spite of Isaiah liii, 9, where there is question of the grave of the servant of God. In fact, they even base it on the (equally historical!) fact of the resurrection, which, according to Beth, is one of those “features” [sic] of Jesus “which presuppose his humanity” (p. 36). What idea must theologians have of the mental level of their readers when they expect to make an impression on anyone with such quotations as these from Paul!
All that is shown by these arguments adduced by the theologians is, as I said before, that they assumed the existence of the historical Jesus and the truth of the gospel narrative before they began their research; on this account they at once, in the most uncritical way, refer every passage in which Paul touches upon the humanity of Christ to an historical individual, and interpret in the sense of the gospel narratives everything that is said about this man. Weiss says that the “impartial reader” must recognise “the historical fact of the incarnation and the crucifixion” as the foundation of Paul's creed. The word “historical” is, however, an addition for which as yet no justification has been found in the text; to say nothing of the circumstance that hitherto no one, except a theologian, has regarded the incarnation of a god as an “historical fact.” In fact, Paul himself, according to Weiss, was not in a position to conceive “purely a real and entire incarnation of the heavenly Christ,” and he rightly points to Phil, ii, 7, where the apostle does not say: “He became man and was a man in his whole behaviour,” but “he was made in the likeness of a man, and was found in fashion as a man”—an expression that has really a distinctly docetic colour, and suggests the Gnostic conception of the Saviour. Moreover, Paul's creed portrays not only the man Jesus, but also the man Adam. These two “men” complete each other, according to Paul: just as all men sinned in Adam, the first man, so they will be saved by the second man, Christ. Anyone who regards Paul as taking the man Christ to have been an historical fact must consistently also take Adam to have been an historical reality, as Dupuis rightly observed. When the orthodox hesitate to admit the historicity of Adam, because it is too much out of harmony with modern views, they deprive themselves of the second support on which they base their belief in the historical Christ and his work of redemption. For Paul one is just as much a reality as the other. This should be enough to open the minds of our theologians to the character of this “reality” and its relation to history.
The “evidence” which we have so far examined from Paul for the existence of an historical Jesus may be best described as “simple.” We may trust that it is not very seriously advanced by its supporters, and is rather intended for the edification of the general public. Probably they will also not attach much weight to the fact that Paul reminds the Galatians (iii, 1) how “before their eyes Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among them.” That we have here nothing more than an expressive delineation of the dying Christ and the need for him to die for men, in order to move the hearers, just as we find commonly done in a modern sermon in order to turn souls to Christ, or at the most, according to Robertson, a scenic or pictorial representation of the crucified God after the fashion of the ancient mysteries, and not an historical statement, it is surely unnecessary to prove. “If I set forth anything before the eyes of anyone,” says Kurt Delbrück, “there can be no question of a supernatural and ideal being” (p. 15). In that case Delbrück must regard the paintings of the Last Judgment and Hell by Michael Angelo and Rubens as reproductions of concrete realities, or take the ghost of Hamlet's father to be a real personality. But the most remarkable deduction from this phrase in Galatians is drawn by J. Weiss in his work against Wrede, Paulus und Jesus (1909), when he says in regard to the “cross of Christ”: “As he [Paul] utters these words, he has before his mind not merely the concrete image of the crucified but all the accompanying circumstances, which must have been known to him. Crucifixion is a Roman punishment; he must therefore have known that the higher Roman authority, the procurator, was involved (!). And as, on the other hand, he doubtless (!) regarded the Jews as bearing the guilt of the death (there is no proof!), he must have had some idea of the course of the trial. Indeed, the figure of the crucified must (!) have been before his mind in more than mere outline; it must have had colour, expression, vivid features—otherwise he could not have ‘set it forth evidently’ [in the Greek text, “before the eyes”] to the Galatians. The expression undeniably (!) implies a living, expressive, pictorial description of the event, not merely an impressive communication of the fact” (p. 11). That is what I should call “exegesis.” I will permit myself one question: whether the representation of the suffering just man in Isaiah (c. liii) would not suffice to enable one to “set before the eyes” the terrible death of the servant of God?
Perhaps someone will quote “the twelve” to whom Paul refers (1 Cor. xv, 5) as a proof that Paul knew some particular facts about the life of the historical Jesus. Since the work of Holsten, however, it has been an open secret in the theological world that “the twelve” is a later interpolation in the original text. The theologian Brandt also regards “the twelve” as “a very unsafe part of the Pauline text,” and believes it to be a “later addition”; and Seufert is convinced that it is possibly a “very early (?) gloss” which was inserted in the text in order to support with the authority of the apostle Paul the later idea of twelve apostles.
(b) The Appearances of the Risen Christ.—Generally speaking, Paul's whole account of the appearances of the risen Christ, as we find it in 1 Cor. xv, is not of a character to afford any evidence of the historicity of Jesus. Historical theology professes to attach much importance to this account. It sees in it some confirmation of the theory that in the resurrection we have merely “visions” on the part of the Saviour's disciples. In fact it regards it as the earliest account of the resurrection that we have, and having great authority because, in their opinion, Paul relies directly on the testimony of the “primitive community” for the truth of his statement. That, they say, is what we must understand when the apostle writes: “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” etc. But does not the phrase “according to the Scriptures” point rather to the fact that there is no question here of an historical reminiscence, but a belief based on writings—namely, Isaiah liii, and possibly also Jonah ii, 1, and Hosea vi, 2? The story of Jonah itself seems to have been originally only an historical embodiment of the myth of the dead, buried, and risen Saviour; in fact, Jesus refers to the prophet Jonah in this sense (Matt, xii, 40).
And even if the apostle was assured by the “primitive community” of the truth of these writings, what does it prove as regards the historicity of the person seen in such visions? It has been said that his enumeration of the appearances of Jesus has a documentary and “catalogue-like” character. But where do we find in this “catalogue” the women to whom, according to Matthew (xxviii, 9) and Mark (xvi, 9), the risen Jesus first appeared? And how can Paul say that Jesus appeared to the whole of the twelve apostles, as there were only eleven after the death of Judas, as Luke (xxiv, 33) assumes? And how does James come into the matter, since, according to the gospels, Jesus is supposed to have had no relations with his brother, and they do not speak of any such appearance to him? If some of the more exalted religious folk saw visions and believed they perceived the bodily presence of the “servant of God,” does that give any proof of historicity?
Naturally, Weiss says, and for proof he refers us to the vision of Paul, of which he says: “The appearance must have shown him features in the heavenly figure by which he recognised Jesus of Nazareth, or—as I should say in accordance with 2 Cor. v, 16—recognised once more” (p. 108). Yet Acts says nothing about Paul perceiving a definite form; it speaks only of a flash of light which fell upon the apostle from above, and a voice which he believed he heard. That is enough to ruin the deduction which Weiss makes in his book against Wrede (p. ix)—that Paul must have had a personal knowledge of Jesus. We should have just as much right to regard the pagan gods, Serapis or Asclepios, which were believed to appear to their devotees in a state of ecstasy, as historical personalities because the devotees regarded them as such. Weiss himself assumes, in fact, that the transfiguration of Jesus is based upon a statement of Peter. Jesus is supposed to have appeared to his disciples in the company of Moses and Elias. But how did Peter know that the two were Moses and Elias? He had no personal knowledge of them.
Von Soden, however, believes that the visions mentioned in 1 Cor. xv show that the figure which appeared to the disciples must have had quite definite and recognisable features, by which it could be known as that of Jesus. But Paul does not say that Jesus appeared to them in bodily form. If the appearance of a light to him was enough to point to Jesus, may it not have been the same with the others, as they all hourly expected the coming of the Saviour? Von Soden quotes the “more than 500 brethren,” who must all have seen him at some time, and of whom many still lived (1 Cor. xv, 6). It seems that he has never heard of apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which have been seen simultaneously by many of the faithful, though not one of them had the least personal acquaintance with her. He also thinks that the apparition to the five hundred may be brought into line with the Pentecostal occurrence in Acts. Unfortunately, this Pentecostal phenomenon was quite certainly not an historical event; the account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is quite understood from Joel ii, 28, where we read: “And it shall come to pass that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth,” etc. But even if the Pentecostal phenomenon had ever really taken place, it would not help the opinion of Herr von Soden, because it would only follow that the five hundred saw an appearance of light, not a definite figure of Jesus. That is more probable, it is true, than that a definite form was seen simultaneously by five hundred men. For that reason we might regard the account in Acts as earlier than, if not the source of, the narrative of Paul. That would mean that the episode of the five hundred is not given in its original form in Paul, and we should then have all the more reason to regard the whole reference to the appearances of the risen Jesus in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians as an interpolation. The effort to put Paul's vision of Christ on a footing with those of the other apostles suggests that the whole thing is a fictitious account inserted in the interest of the apostle of the Gentiles, or, rather, of a common preaching of the apostle of the Jews and Paul.
At any rate, the proof that Paul owes his account of the apparition of the risen Christ to the primitive community does not help at all, as there is no more guarantee of the historical reality of the figure seen in a vision by a number than by an individual. It merely shows the failure of theologians to find any support for their belief in an historical Jesus in 1 Cor. xv.
(c) The Account of the Last Supper.—Now we come to 1 Cor. xi, 23. Here we find the familiar words: “For I have received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread,” etc. This passage, J. Weiss assures us, is “fatal” to the whole theory of Drews, “because in it we not only have the words of the Lord quoted, but a perfectly definite event in the life of Jesus is described in all its details, which show a full knowledge of the story of the passion: the night, the betrayal, and the supper before the arrest” (p. 105). Certainly; unless the words in question were not written by Paul, but are a later interpolation in the text. I was not the first to suggest this. The theologians Straatman and Bruins rejected Paul's account of the Last Supper, and concluded that it does not fit the context. Steck describes it as modified for liturgical use, and Völter regards the whole eleventh chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians as an interpolation. Van Manen also has questioned the passage relating to the Last Supper in Paul, on account of its lack of connection with the preceding passage, and has said that it gives one the impression of being a collection of sayings from various sources for the purpose of displacing the love-feasts of the community, on account of the unseemly things that happened, and replacing them by the festival of the Last Supper. To these we may add Schlager, the translator of van Manen's Bomerbrief, who has raised objections to the passage; and Smith also has recently declared the passage to be an interpolation. It is not therefore foolish to speak about an interpolation in 1 Cor. xi, 23.
Historical theology generally regards the passage in Corinthians as the earliest version we have of the words used at the institution of the Supper. But a particularly striking reason that prevents us from seeing in Paul the oldest tradition of the words at the Last Supper is their obviously liturgical form and the meaning which the apostle puts on the words. It is very remarkable that Paul and Luke alone represent the Lord's Supper as instituted by Jesus in “memory” of him; Mark and Matthew know nothing of this. They have a much simpler test than the other two. Hence, Jülicher, against Weizsacker and Harnack, rightly doubts whether the Supper was “founded” by Jesus. “He did not institute or found anything; that remained for the time when he came again into his father's kingdom. He made no provision for his memory; having spoken as he did in Matthew (xxvi, 29), he had no idea of so long a period of future time” (p. 244). Paul, therefore, according to Jülicher, indicates a later stage of the tradition in regard to the first Eucharist than Mark and Matthew, and the earliest tradition does not make Jesus show the least sign that he wishes these material actions to be performed in future by his followers (p. 238). If this is so, the words of the institution of the Supper were interpolated subsequently in the text of Paul, as the liturgical use of them in the Pauline sense became established in the Church, in order to support them with the authority of the apostle, and the words, “For I have received from the Lord,” serve to give further proof of their authentic character; or else the first Epistle to the Corinthians was not written by the apostle Paul, as, in spite of Jülicher, it is difficult to believe that Paul could at so early a stage give a version of the Lord's Supper that differed so much from that of the “primitive community.”
Or may we believe that Paul had a more reliable account of the words of Jesus than the evangelists, and has used it in 1 Cor. xi, 23? If so, how came Matthew and Mark to change the original words of institution, and how could this alteration be preserved in their text and received by the Church? Even in their text the words of institution do not give an impression of history. Their mystic sense is in flagrant contradiction to what theologians so appreciatively call the “simplicity” and “straightforwardness” of the words of Jesus. “How were the disciples to understand that they eat the body of Christ who was about to be put to death, and drank his blood, though not the blood present in his body, but that about to be shed soon?” asks the theologian A. Eichhorn in his work Das Abendmahl (1898), and he declares that the whole story of the institution of the supper, as we have it in the Synoptics and Paul, is an historical impossibility. “All the difficulties disappear if we adopt the later point of view of the community.” The mysticism of the festive supper cannot have been instituted by Jesus, but is based on the cult of the Christian community, and was subsequently put in the mouth of its supposed founder.
In that case 1 Cor. xi, 23, etc., is of no value as a proof of the historicity of Jesus.
Let us examine the passage more closely. “The same night in which he was betrayed”—was he betrayed? The thing is historically so improbable, the whole story of the betrayal is so absurd historically and psychologically, that only a few thoughtless Bible-readers can accept it with complacency. Imagine the ideal man Jesus knowing that one of his disciples is about to betray him and thus forfeit his eternal salvation, yet doing nothing to restrain the miserable man, but rather confirming him in it! Imagine a Judas demanding money from the high-priest for the betrayal of a man who walks the streets of Jerusalem daily, and whose sojourn at night could assuredly be discovered without any treachery! “For Judas to have betrayed Jesus,” Kautsky says, “is much the same as if the Berlin police were to pay a spy to point out to them the man named Bebel.” Moreover, the Greek word paradidonai does not mean “betray” at all, but “give up,” and is simply taken from Isaiah liii, 12, where it is said that the servant of God “gave himself unto death.” The whole story of the betrayal is a late invention founded on that passage in the prophet, and Judas is not an historical personality, but, as Robertson believes, a representative of the Jewish people, hated by the Christians, who were believed to have caused the death of the Saviour. Further, the “night,” in which the betrayal is supposed to have taken place, has no historical background. It merely serves to set in contrast the luminous figure of Jesus and the dark work of his betrayer. Hence Paul cannot have known anything of a nocturnal betrayal on the part of Judas, and one more “proof” of the historicity of Jesus breaks down.
Theologians humorously comment on the fact that all passages are rejected as interpolations which do not square with the theory of those who deny the historicity of Christ, and say that this is a wilful procedure. It is, however, quite certain that they themselves would at once abandon the passages, and find as many arguments against their genuineness as they now do in favour of it, if this suited their general system.
This much is certain: If 1 Cor. xi, 23, etc., is not an interpolation in the text, there are no interpolations at all in the New Testament. We can understand how difficult it is for theologians to give up the passage on account of the very thin thread which unequivocally connects the teaching of Paul with the gospels, but we cannot think much of their perspicacity when they find no fault with the passage. In earlier verses (17-22) of the chapter Paul is not dealing with the so-called last supper, but with the love- feast, or agape, which the Christians celebrated in common. From the twenty-third verse on the apostle speaks suddenly of the supper, and then in verses 23 and 24 returns to the love-feast.
(d) The “Brothers” of the Lord.—We have now to deal with “the brothers of the Lord” (1 Cor. ix, 5 and Gal. i, 19). Here the theologians believe that they play their trump. If Jesus had had corporal brothers, he must certainly have been an historical individual, and it is untrue that Paul knew nothing of any individual human feature of Jesus. “Have we not,” says 1 Cor. ix, 5, “power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” If it could only be proved that Paul had in his mind corporal brothers of Jesus and not merely “brothers” in the sect! Weinel contests this on the ground that it is unlikely that a sect would call itself “brothers” of the God of the cult. Has he never heard of brothers of St. Vincent, brothers of Joseph, sisters of Mary, etc.; that is to say, religious brotherhoods whose members call themselves after the saint whose service they have entered, and who correspond to the heroes of the cult in the ancient mysteries? “But in the case of Paul,” he replies, “we can prove that he does not give that name to Christians; he calls them ‘brethren’ or ‘brethren in Christ’” (p. 109).
Now, in Romans (viii, 44) those who are impelled by the spirit of God are called “sons of God.” Christ, as “son of God” in a special sense, is called “the firstborn among many brethren” (29), and his followers are called “heirs of God” and “co-heirs with Christ” (17), from which it follows that they must at the same time be “brothers of Christ.” That is, says Weinel, a figure, not a Christian name. But why should not the followers of Jesus receive a figurative name from Paul, when the “brotherhood” of the sect is only figurative, its heads are figuratively called “fathers,” and the members only figuratively their sons? In Matthew (xxviii, 10) Jesus himself calls his followers his “brothers,” and in Mark (iii, 35) he says: “Whoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and mother.” In John (xx, 17) he so names the disciples because they have as “father” the same God as he. In fact, in the second century Justin, in his dialogue with the Jew Trypho, speaks of the apostles as “brothers of Jesus” in the highest sense (p. 106). Why, then, should not Paul have spoken of the followers of Jesus as his “brothers”? Because he usually calls them “brothers in Christ”? But just as, on the one hand, the apostle expresses the intimate connection with Christ by the continence of the faithful (Gal. iii, 26-29), and also by absorption in the life-atmosphere of the Supreme, so he also speaks, on the other hand, of Christ living in the faithful and bringing them into closer relationship, or making brothers of them. If in one place he does not confine himself to one mode of expression, why should he do so in another? Those who think otherwise must have been convinced beforehand that Jesus is an historical individual in Paul, and that his brothers can only be brothers in the flesh. As a matter of fact, the partisans of the historicity of Jesus merely reject the figurative interpretation of the expression “brothers” because they assume that historicity in advance.
According to Weinel, it follows that a special group of men must be named here, because in 1 Cor. ix there is question of the prerogatives of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord are associated with them as apostolic men (p. 109). But was it really a “prerogative” of the apostles to be married? Were the other members of the sect besides the apostles and the corporal brothers of Jesus forbidden to take a wife? Might not Paul just as well have wished to say that in all things he felt himself in the same position as the other members of the community, and therefore his apostolic dignity could not be contested once he had won a right to that name by his missionary work? No, says J. Weiss; the “brothers of the Lord” cannot be ordinary Christians. “Why were they named between the apostles and Cephas, and why especially were the apostles not so called?” (p. 106). On the other hand, why is Cephas mentioned after the “brothers of the Lord,” seeing that he was one of the apostles? And were the Corinthians so familiar with the brothers of Jesus that Paul could appeal to them and their conjugal relations? Are we not rather to understand by the “brothers of the Lord,” if they do really mean a special group of men distinct from the twelve apostles, the seventy disciples whom Jesus is said (Luke x) to have sent on missionary journeys? We might point to the fact that James, the “brother of the Lord,” is distinct from the twelve apostles according to the apostolic constitutions, and is counted by Eusebius among the seventy—a view which Hegesippus also seems to hold in Eusebius. There is no answer to these questions. At the best the passage remains obscure.
Other students, who do not need the “brothers of Jesus” in support of their belief in an historical Jesus, have dropped 1 Cor. ix, 5 altogether, and declared that it is meaningless or is an interpolation. Schlager, for instance, considers it spurious because, in his research, all passages in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, with one single exception (iv, 4), which speak of Christ as “the Lord” have proved to be interpolations. “Missionary journeys of the brothers of Jesus,” he says, “are not known to us from any other source, and are in themselves improbable.” That is undoubtedly correct. Imagine Simon, Jude, or Joseph (Joses) going out with the announcement that their brother Jesus was the longexpected Messiah, and would soon come again in the clouds of heaven! Steck also is surprised to hear of missionary journeys on the part of the brothers of the Lord, “who, as patriotic Jews, are not easy to imagine away from Palestine,” and he is reminded of Gal. ii, 12, where it is merely said that Peter went to Antioch, without any further historical explanations. And Bruno Bauer exclaims: “What an idea that Peter and the twelve apostles should be known to the Corinthians as travelling about! It was not until the second century that they were known as such to everybody. And how incongruous the question is whether they have not the same right to marry as the apostles, and that Barnabas should be brought into closest intimacy with the person of Paul and represented to the Corinthians as co-ordinate with Paul! As if he had gone to Corinth with the apostle of the Gentiles!” (p. 52).
The partisans of an historical Jesus naturally connect his “brothers” with Mark vi, 3, where James, Joses, Juda, and Simon are mentioned as sons of Mary and brothers of Jesus. But Steudel has rightly called our attention to Mark xv, 40, where the same Mary, who is supposed to be the mother of James and Joses, is not represented as the mother of Jesus, and, consequently, James and Joses cannot be regarded as his brothers. We have evidently to deal with two independent accounts, and there can be no hesitation in saying which was the earlier; and, therefore, the belief that Jesus had brothers in the flesh is seen to be a secondary and legendary growth.
Here we also have the answer to the question about the brotherhood of James (Gal. i, 19). I have endeavoured to show that this also is merely brotherhood in the sect, and that the position of honour which James is supposed to have had in the community, according to Acts xv, 13 and Gal. i, 19 and ii, 9 and 12, was due to his personal qualities. “It was reserved for Drews,” says von Soden, “to explain the phrase ‘brothers of the Lord’ in the sense that James was the best Christian, the most like to the Lord” (p. 31). The learned writer evidently forgets that Origen had said long ago that James was called the brother of the Lord, not so much on account of blood-relationship with Jesus, or because he had grown up with him, as because he was faithful and virtuous. It is well known what an important part James played in the second century in the Jewish-Christian communities, as we see especially in Hegesippus (in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, II, 25), precisely on account of his piety. He was at the same time the patron of the Ebionitic party, which formed a garland of legends about his head. Is it so improbable that the pious brother in the sect was early elevated to the position of “brother of the Lord” in a special sense, and that the name—originally only a title of honour—was used by Paul in that sense?
On the other hand, it is not impossible that “the brother of the Lord” is a later interpolation in Gal. i, 19, whether because a particular group of Christians wished to bring the venerated saint as close as possible to Jesus by making him a brother in the flesh, or, as Schläger (p. 46) thinks, in order to distinguish more clearly the various individuals who were named James. As Hegesippus says: “The community distinguished the apostle James, the brother of the Lord, by the name of ‘the just,’ from the time of Christ to our own days, as there were several with the name James.” It was quite natural, when they began to regard Jesus generally as a human being, to give him human features, and convert the inner spiritual relationship to him of various distinguished brethren into a bodily relationship; at times this might be done in order to vindicate the complete reality of the incarnation of Christ against the growing Gnostic spiritualism. Lastly, can it be a mere coincidence that the three “pillars” at Jerusalem agree in name with the three privileged disciples of the Lord who are present with him at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark v, 57; Luke vii, 51), follow him to the mountain of transfiguration (Mark ix, 2; Luke ix, 28), and are permitted to be the witnesses of his agony in face of approaching death in Gethsemane? Was not the “pillar” apostle James originally identical with James the son of Zebedee and brother of John, and only afterwards converted into the “brother of Jesus”?
Let it not be said that it is mere “subjective arbitrariness” to find here another interpolation in Paul. No theologian doubts that the Pauline Epistles have been greatly interpolated. Which passages have been inserted later can be decided only by the general theory which one gathers from the text. And that the theory of the theologians is the only correct one, that the Jesus of the Pauline Epistles was an historical individual, has not yet been proved by anything we have found in the Epistles. What is there to prevent us, then, from interpreting in our own sense, or excluding, so singular and isolated an expression as “the brother of the Lord” in Galatians?
As is well known, much scandal was early occasioned in Essenian-Ebionitic circles by the statement that Mary was married to Joseph and had several children, and it was said that James was not a real brother of Jesus. Some regarded him as a step-brother—a son of Joseph by an earlier wife; others thought the “brothers of the Lord” were foster-brothers or cousins of Jesus, or attempted to explain them away as equal to the apostles. This led to an identification of James the Just, the “brother of the Lord,” with James the son of Alphaeus, as he is briefly called in the Synoptics and in Acts, as we find in Jerome, for instance; others identified him with James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John; and these views have found representatives among recent theologians. In the Synoptics the “brothers” have apparently a purely symbolical significance. They serve the purpose of emphasising the distinction between spiritual and bodily relationship, and illustrating the truth that belonging to Jesus does not depend on external circumstances and the accident of birth, but simply on faith. Even in John (vii, 5) the brothers, who do not believe in him, are opposed to the twelve and their unhesitating recognition of his Messiahship (vi, 69), which also recalls the antithesis of the Jews, who, in spite of their racial connection, would hear nothing of Jesus and his intimate followers. It is only in the later Acts of the Apostles (i, 14) that the brothers of Jesus appear as followers of him, although not a word is said in explanation of their sudden conversion. This does not dispose us to place very much confidence in the references of the New Testament to the brothers of Jesus, and when Weinel says in regard to James, “It is all so simple, intelligible, and straightforward that it needs a good deal of art to evade the testimony of the connection of Gal. i and 1 Cor. ix and the terminology” (p. 116), I can only reply that, in spite of all my efforts to understand James from the writings of theologians, I have never been able to get at the real nature of the man. And as I find that others have had the same experience, it does not seem to be due to any defect on my part that the James-problem seems to me hopeless; every attempt to throw light on the obscure problem fails. To base on an isolated passage such as the reference to “the brothers of the Lord” in Paul a belief in the historical character of Jesus seems to me too “simple”; I am not modest enough to do it. I can only see in the “brothers of Jesus,” as far as they are supposed to have been brothers in the flesh, and in his parents, the carpenter Joseph and Mary, mythical figures; in the case of Mary especially, because the name is customary among the saviour-gods of ancient times, and the other supposed actions of the Biblical Mary agree with those of the mothers (or sisters) of those deities.
(e) The “Words of the Lord.”—We now come to what are called the “Words of the Lord,” the introduction of which into the Pauline Epistles is supposed to prove that the apostle had some knowledge of Jesus. First there is 1 Cor. vii, 10: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband; and let not the husband put away his wife.” The latter part of this precept agrees in substance (not verbally) with Matthew v, 32, and xix, 9, and other parallel passages. But does that mean that it is a quotation of a saying of the historical Jesus? The prohibition to part with a wife is sound Rabbinism. In the Talmud we read: “A wife must not be dismissed except for adultery” (Gittin, 90); “The altar itself sheds tears over the man who sends away his wife” (Pessach, 113); “The man who separates from his wife is hateful to God” (Gittin, 90 b). We even read in the prophet Malachi: “Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away” (ii, 15). How, if the apostle had this passage in mind in his prohibition of divorce, and by the “Lord” in whose name he speaks, are we to understand “the God of Israel”? Does not Paul regard the Old Testament as the word of revelation of the “Lord,” whose pointing to Christ had hitherto been hidden, but is now revealed in the eyes of the faithful? And when the apostle appeals in 1 Cor. ix, 14, to a command of the “Lord” for the right of the apostles to live by the gospel, we may be disposed to recall Matthew x, 10: “The workman is worthy of his meat”; but we should have just as much right to think of Deut. xviii, 1, where it is written: “The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance,” and xxv, 4: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” Paul himself sometimes (1 Cor. ix, 9) appeals to this word of the law. In order, therefore, to explain Paul's “Words of the Lord” we have no need to suppose, as I did previously, that they are rules of the community, which are clothed with an authoritative significance by ascribing them to the patron of the religious body; it is enough to appeal to the Old Testament.
If, however, we are to understand by the “Lord” in Paul, not the “God of Israel,” but Jesus, there is still no security whatever that the words in question are not interpolations. “References to the words and deeds of the life of the historical Jesus are,” says Schlager, “so infrequent in the Pauline writings that, whenever they occur, we have to ask ourselves whether it is not the reflectiveness of a later period, which was accustomed to rely on the evangelical literature, that introduced the authority of Jesus into the text” (p. 36). What is to prevent us from supposing that the reverse often took place also, and that words and phrases from the Pauline Epistles were afterwards put in the mouth of the Jesus of the gospels?
Von Soden, also, finds it remarkable that the “Words of the Lord” in Paul are not found, or not found in the same form, in the gospels. That is especially true of 1 Thessalonians iv, 15—an Epistle which is usually regarded as genuine by historical theologians: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The passage recalls Mark xiii, 26, especially in view of the subsequent warning to watch, but differs from it in important points. Here we have an excellent illustration of the way in which “Words of the Lord” came into existence. For some of the most distinguished critical representatives of historical theology (Holtzmann, for instance) are convinced that the thirteenth chapter of Mark is in the main an apocalyptic leaflet of the time of the Jewish War, shortly before the year 70; more probably, as Graetz believes and Lublinski has recently shown, a leaflet by a Palestinian Christian of the time of Bar-Kochba. These “Words of the Lord” are merely the sayings of individuals who felt the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and believed that their utterances during the ecstatic condition came directly from “the Lord”; and sometimes, as in the case we are discussing, they were introduced afterwards into the New Testament.
Such being the state of things, it is utterly futile to claim that, because certain words and phrases of the Pauline Epistles harmonise with others in the gospels, Paul is repeating the words of the historical Jesus. The late H. Holtzmann, in his attempt to refute my statement in the Christ Myth that Paul seemed not to be acquainted with any sayings of Jesus, hastily put together a number of such words from the apostle's Epistles, and no doubt others will be found now that attention has been drawn to them. There is, however, as I said, no disproof whatever in this, for the simple reason that most of these words are of such a nature that we cannot say whether the gospels took them from the Pauline Epistles, or the Epistles owe them to the gospels. On the one hand, even according to theologians, the gospels are repeatedly found to contain Pauline ideas; on the other, one can very easily see how it would be to the interest of the Church to discover the ideas and words of Jesus in Paul, in order to bridge over the remarkable gulf between the two. Moreover, a great part of these particular words of Jesus, especially of the more important, have nothing distinctive about them to show that they were uttered by Jesus only.
This is true, in the first place, of Romans ii, 1: “Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself” (cf. also xiv, 4). The saying is supposed to suggest Matthew vii, 1: “Judge not that ye be not judged.” But the resemblance is so slight and the saying so commonplace that Paul himself may have been the author of it. It is written in the Talmud (Pirke Aboth, i, 6): “Judge only good of thy neighbours,” and (Sanhedrim, 100): “As a man measures, with the same standard shall he be measured.” It is the same with Romans ii, 19. When the apostle exclaims to the law-proud Jew, “Thou art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind,” there is no necessary connection with Matthew xv, 14, and xxiii, 16 and 24, where Jesus pronounces his woes over the Pharisees, as the figure is too pertinent and familiar to prove anything. In Romans ix, 33, Paul describes his gospel of justification by faith as “a stumbling-block and rock of offence.” This at once sends theologians to Matthew xxi, 42, where it is written: “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.” Whereas in this case Jesus himself appeals to the Scriptures, and there is no reason whatever why Paul also, when he reproduced the words, should not have in mind Is. viii, 14, and xxviii, 16. In Romans xii, 14, we find: “Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not.” That, of course, must be based on the words of Jesus in Matthew v, 44: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” It is, however, written in Psalm cix, 28: “Let them curse, but bless thou”; and the Talmud says: “It is better to be wronged by others than to wrong” (Sanhedrim, 48); “Be rather with the persecuted than the persecutors” (Babamezia, 93); and the oldest manuscripts of the gospels (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) do not contain the words of Jesus at all. In the same way we dispose of Romans xii, 21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (cf. also Wisdom, vii, 30).
In Romans xiii, 7, we read: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom”; and this is paralleled by Matthew xxii, 21: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's”; but we also read in the Talmud (Shekalim iii, 2; Pirke Aboth iii, 7): “Everyone is bound to discharge his obligations to God with the same conscientiousness as his obligations to men. Give unto God what belongs to him.” In Romans xiii, 8-10, we have the precept of mutual charity: “He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal.……and if there be any other commandment, it is all comprehended in this saying—namely: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilment of the law” (cf. also Galatians v, 14). Here the source seems to be Matthew xxii, 40, where Jesus tells the Scribe, who asks him which is the greatest commandment in the law, that it is the love of God and one's neighbour, and adds: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” But Hillel also is said to have told a Gentile who asked him to teach the whole law while he stood on one leg: “What displeases thee, do thou not to any fellow-man; that is the whole of our teaching” (Shabbat, 31). In Romans xiv, 13, Paul warns his reader to give no scandal to his weak brother (also 1 Cor. viii, 7-13). Here we are referred to Matthew xviii, 6-9, where Jesus pronounces his woes on those who give scandal: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” But, apart from the fact that this prohibition of scandal is too natural and obvious for Paul to need to derive it from the words of Jesus, it is written in the Talmud: “Better were it for the evil-minded to have been born blind so that they might bring no evil into the world” (Tanchuma, 71), and “Whoso leads his fellow-men into sin acts far worse than if he took away his own life” (Tanchuma, 74).
In 1 Cor. xiii, 2, Paul speaks of the faith that “moves mountains.” But that he was referring to Matthew xxi, 22: “If ye have faith, and doubt not ……ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and it shall be done,” seems very doubtful in view of the fact that the phrase about removing mountains was quite common among the rabbis as an expression of the power of the discourse of a teacher, and might easily be transferred to express the power of faith (Berachoth, 64; Erubim, 29). The other phrases that are quoted under this head are of no importance. If it is objected that a comparison of the parallel passages shows that the composition of the sayings of Jesus is more distinguished for “originality” than that of the words of Paul, such originality proves neither that they are earlier nor that they were uttered by Jesus. It is just as conceivable that the words of the apostle received their greater freshness and force by being afterwards fitted into the peculiar frame of the gospels as that Paul himself took them from the gospels, as Steck, for instance, is disposed to think. Hence, the concordances with the gospels in Paul prove nothing whatever as regards the historicity of Jesus, and would not if they were more numerous than those we have quoted.
- Beth, Hat Jesus gelebt?, p. 35.
- Der Ursprung der israelitisch-jüdischen Eschatologie, 1905, p. 322.
- Isaiah lviii; lx, 21.
- ii, 12; iii, 10; iv, 7; and xiii, 5.
- This mystery-character of Paulinism has lately been put beyond question by Reitzenstein in his essay, Die hellenistischen Mysterien-Religionen, 1910.
- Romans viii, 3.
- Romans iii, 25.
- This is also shown by the first Epistle of Clement, in which the servant of God of Isaiah is represented as the “prototype” of Christ, and it is said: “If the Lord [!] was so humble, what ought we, who have been brought by him under the yoke of his grace, to be?” (xvi, 17). It is very remarkable that Clement, instead of appealing to the behaviour of Jesus to show his humility, relies on the prophet Isaiah.
- Paulus, Religionsgesch. Volksbücher (1904), p. 85. Cf. Martin Brückner: Der Apostel Paulus als Zewge wider den Christusbild der Evangelien in Protest. Monatshefte, 1906, 355 ff.
- Job xiv, 1; Matthew xi, 11.
- J. Weiss, Christus, die Anfänge des Dogmas, Relg. Volksbücher, 1909, p. 62.
- L'origine de tous les cultes, 1794, ix, 13 ff.
- Das Evangelium des Paulus, 1880, p. 224 ff.
- Die evangel. Geschichte und der Ursprung des Christentums, 1903, pp. 14, 418, and 421.
- Der Ursprung und die Bedeutung des Apostolatus in der christl. Kirche der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, 1887, pp. 46 and 157.
- “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” a passage relating to the people of Israel, but which may have been taken by Paul to refer to the Messiah. Compare Hausrath, Jesus u. d. neutestamentl. Schriftsteller, i, p. 103, 1908.
- ix, 5; xxvi, 14.
- Cf. W. B. Smith, Ecce Deus (1911), p. 155 ff.
- Kritische Studien, 1863, pp. 38-63.
- Theol. Tijdschr., xxvi, pp. 397-403.
- Galaterbrief, p. 172.
- Theol. Tijdschr., xxiii, p. 322.
- Whittaker, work quoted, p. 168.
- Theol. Tijdschr., 1889, Heft. I, p. 41.
- Theol. Abhandlungen für C. Weizsäcker, 1892, p. 232.
- Work quoted, p. 19. See also A. Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede (1906), p. 152.
- See Feigel, Der Einfluss des Weissagungsbeweises und anderer Motive auf die Leidensgeschichte (1910), p. 50.
- Der Ursprung des Christentums (1910), p. 388.
- See Feigel, work quoted, pp. 47 and 114.
- Comment. Is. xvii, 5; Eccl. Hist., I, 12; II, 1; VII, 19.
- Eccl. Hist., II, 25.
- Galaterbrief, p. 272.
- Steudel, Im Kampf um die Christusmythe, pp. 95 and 114.
- Contra Celsum, I, 47.
- Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., as above.
- Matt, x, 3; Mark iii, 18; Luke vi, 15; Acts i, 13.
- Matt, xii, 46; Mark iii, 31: Luke viii, 19.
- See also Steudel, Wir Gelchrten vom Fach, p. 69.
- See The Christ-Myth and Robertson's Christianity and Mythology.
- 2 Cor. iii, 14.
- Wernle, Die Quellen des Lebens Jesu, 1905, p. 58; Das werdende Dogma vom Leben Jesu, 1910, pp. 76 and 101.
- Steudel, Wir Gelehrten vom Fach, p. 37; Im Kampf um die Christusmythe, p. 56.
- Pp. 163-72. Cf. E. Hortlein, “Jesusworte bei Paulus?” in the Prot. Monatshefte, 1909, p. 265, and Brückner, work quoted.