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Lecture 5: The Apostle Paul

1. His Theology

THE oldest community at Jerusalem was distinguished, as we have seen, from the other Jews at first only by the fact that its members hoped to see in the Messiah, whose early coming all expected, their crucified Lord Jesus coming again. That in this one point of difference a wholly new principle is contained, whose consequence would lead to a breach with Judaism and to a new world-religion, was what no one had any presentiment of in this society. The first disturbance of what were at first peaceful relations between the Christ-believing community and Judaism, proceeded from the Hellenist Stephen. The Hellenistic Jews of the dispersion (Diaspora), on account of their manifold intercourse with the Greek world of culture, had never been so rigidly legal in their sentiment as the Palestinian Jews. Many elements of Greek thought had found admission among them, and had shaken the simplicity of the Jewish belief so far that they were only now able to make a compromise with many Jewish doctrines and usages by means of allegorical interpretation. Hence they had from the outset a more unprejudiced eye for the reforming originality of the personality of Jesus and for the consequences of His death. We may hold it as very probable that the Hellenist Stephen in his disputations with the Jews gave expression to these freer views, although the accusation raised against him—namely, that he advocated the abolition of the temple worship and of the Mosaic law by Jesus—is in this definite form perhaps not quite correct, but may have been a statement made up by false witnesses, as the author of the Acts of the Apostles relates. The discourse, however, which he represents Stephen as delivering, was so sharply anti-Judaic in its point that it serves rather to confirm than to refute that accusation. At all events, the fact that Stephen fell as the victim of Jewish fanaticism is an unambiguous proof of the fact that his bearing wounded the Jewish feeling, and therefore that it must have been very different from the previous Jewish conservatism of the Palestinian Christians. If it was the intention of Stephen to liberate Christianity from the fetters of Judaism, his martyr-death availed more for the fulfilment of this end than his life could have done; for at the sight of this bloody spectacle, the sting had pierced into the soul of the Pharisee Paul, and it gave him no rest until from a persecutor he had been changed into a follower of Stephen.

We are accustomed to reckon the conversion of Paul as among the greatest and most incontestable miracles of Biblical history; and certainly this sudden transformation of the passionate enemy of the Christians into the enthusiastic apostle of Christ, was indeed one of those extraordinary spiritual experiences which always retain something obscure and mysterious to our understanding, because we are never able to demonstrate with mathematical certainty the causal connection of the processes which were carried out in the depths of his soul. But if “miracle” is to be understood in the sense that here a natural psychological connection is generally not thinkable, and that we are compelled absolutely to hold the conversion of Paul to be an effect of supernatural causes and of heavenly appearances of objective reality, then I must confess that I am unable to see such necessity in the case. Certainly Paul was convinced in that decisive moment near Damascus that he had seen Jesus as the heavenly Christ, as the “Lord of Glory” in the splendour of the light of heaven; but what is there to prevent us from explaining this seeing as a subjective vision springing out of the inner depths of his soul? I consider that this explanation obtains the highest probability when we know, first, that Paul was generally much disposed to such visionary states, and secondly, that he must have found himself on the way to Damascus in such a frame of mind as, according to all the analogies of experience, would be highly favourable to the occurring of visionary experiences. In the former regard it is to be remembered that Paul himself (2 Cor. xii. 1 ff.) speaks of “visions and revelations of the Lord” (in the plural), when he was transported into the third heaven and heard words which it is not lawful for a man to utter—and whether he was then in the body or out of the body he could not tell; and in the same connection he speaks of a “thorn in the flesh,” of “buffetings of an angel of Satan,” in connection with which, according to a very probable hypothesis, we may think of epileptic attacks. It is well known that men who are affected with such a disease are necessarily disposed in an extraordinary degree to ecstasies and hallucinations. Moreover, we know of two particular cases in which Paul, when in a critical situation, was determined to a decisive resolution by a revelation or by a vision in a dream—the first time before the journey to the Apostolic Council (Gal. ii. 2), and the other time before he passed over to Europe (Acts xvi. 9); from which we may infer that states of intense psychical excitement and tension in him were wont to receive their solution and decision in visionary form. Now, that Paul upon the way to Damascus found himself in a state of violent spiritual excitement and tension is certainly conceivable enough. He came from bloody persecution, and was intent on continuing such persecutions. But the motive for doing so lay, not in a coarse delight in cruelty, but in his religious consciousness: it was zeal for God which made the struggle against the preachers of a crucified Messiah appear to him as a duty. But while this zeal, which rested upon acquired Jewish prejudices, determined his conduct, in the depths of his soul there flowed an undercurrent of feelings and thoughts which drew him in an opposite direction. The question was, Can a crucified one be the Messiah as the Christians assert? To this question the Pharisee must necessarily answer, No; for a crucified Messiah would be the end of the national Messianic hope, and at the same time of the Law, which pronounces the curse upon one who is crucified (Gal. iii. 13). But against this No of the Pharisees there rose other voices pressing for the affirmation of that question—voices which sprang from the depths of the human heart, of its own moral experiences, struggles, and needs. The Pharisee Paul had striven after the strictest fulfilment of the law; yet his conscience had never come to rest with it all. His doing had never corresponded to his willing; the impassable gulf between the Ideal of the righteousness required by God and the reality of his human performance had produced in him that deep feeling of pain to which he still gives such powerful expression in the Epistle to the Romans, when, looking back to that experience, he exclaims, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Now, if he compared with this, his peaceless and joyless zeal for the law, the peace and joyfulness which the belief in Christ awakened and maintained in those who confessed it even under the bitterest sufferings, would not then the thought necessarily arise within him that yet after all the higher truth might be on the side of the Christian's belief? But the belief in a crucified Christ, was it not the opposite of all Jewish hope, the annihilation of the glorious Ideals of the future which had been the consolation of so many generations of pious Israelites? Yet the Christian belief in the Messiah Jesus was certainly the condemnation of the Messianic Ideal, in which the national egoism and carnal eudæmonism of Judaism had found its expression and sought its satisfaction. But who would then guarantee that these Jewish thoughts were also really the thoughts of God? that it really was the purpose of the world-governing God to help the Jewish people to a glorious victory over all the peoples of the earth by a warlike Messianic King? Did there not stand already in the Sacred Scriptures by the side of this carnal Messianic Ideal of the Pharisees another picture of the servant of God, which did not flatter Jewish vanity, but all the more sympathetically appealed to the pure tender feeling of the pious heart of Paul—the picture in Isaiah of the meek teacher and innocent sufferer, that picture which accorded so wonderfully with what the Christians told of their Jesus? However violently the Pharisee in Paul's breast might revolt against the possibility of a crucified Messiah, there still dwelt in this breast another, a human soul, which felt itself irresistibly attracted by the moral greatness of the sufferer, who humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, to the death of the cross, in order to enter, through the lowliness of the form of an earthly servant, into the dignity of heavenly Messianic dominion. If we picture to ourselves how these two souls in Paul's breast struggled with each other during his journey to Damascus—struggled as for life or death, for heaven or hell—and if we bring home to our minds how, in addition to this terrible inner conflict, which pressed for decision in face of the near approach to Damascus, there came the exhaustion of the weak body from the toilsome ride over the glowing sand of the desert, was it a miracle if the exhausted powers collapsed, and while the external senses were wrapped in darkness a light rose in the soul in which it believed that it saw the heavenly Messiah Jesus, and if the reproachful voice of the conscience clothed itself in the words of a voice from heaven, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”? This ecstatic seeing and hearing was the solution of the sore inner conflict, was the victorious breaking through of the light, which had already struggled in the soul of Paul to overcome the dark clouds of his Jewish prejudice; it was the revelation of the Son of God within His spirit, the gleaming up of the knowledge of the splendour of the light of God on the face of Christ Jesus, as Paul himself has described his experience of it (Gal. i. 16; 2 Cor. iv. 6). Undoubtedly it was a “revelation” which here fell to the lot of Paul; not indeed a revelation of sensuous realities of a superterrestrial kind, but a revelation of the spirit of the Son of God, or of the divine truth which was reflected from the form of the suffering Saviour with heavenly clearness, and took the heart of Paul for ever captive.

When, under the care of friendly Christians, he had come to himself again, he had become another man, “a new creature,” for whom the old had passed away and all things had become new—new his world and new his self; the world was crucified to him and he to the world: not merely his estimation of the sensible things of the world was changed, but also his spiritual world; all that had hitherto been his pride and his comfort as a Jew had broken down and been annihilated, and in the universal ruin he found his one only point of hold and support in the cross of Christ; and therefore henceforth he desired to know and preach of nothing but Christ the crucified One, who was his life and love. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. ii. 20). That he immediately after this agitating catastrophe began to teach and to dispute, as the Acts of the Apostles narrates, has little probability in itself, and does not agree with the statement of Paul himself that he retired forthwith to Arabia. We may easily surmise with what he occupied himself in this time of quiet retirement. It was now requisite to build up, in place of the shattered world of Jewish faith and hope, the new world of Christian thoughts, which resulted as consequences and presuppositions from the knowledge of the crucified Christ; for this man of deep religious feeling and of fiery fancy, this man of ecstasies and visions, was at the same time a religious thinker of the, first rank. What he felt he continually made the object of his reflection, in order to comprehend it in thought and to prove it to himself and others as truth. Thus he became the creator of the doctrinal form of the Christian faith, a comprehensive new view of the world, the creator of Christian theology.

If we inquire as to the origin of the Pauline theology, the apostle himself answers us clearly and concisely: “I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. i. 12). How is this possible? one may ask. The apostle of Jesus Christ, who had not personally known the Master, disclaims being instructed about Him even by historical tradition! However paradoxical this may sound, yet the correctness of this self-testimony—to be understood cum grano salis—cannot be doubted, for it is confirmed by a look into his Epistles. Apart from the facts of the death on the cross and the appearances after the resurrection, other traditions concerning the life or the teaching of Jesus have contributed nothing to the theology of Paul. The few sayings of Jesus which we find cited by him refer only to incidental moral questions and never to a dogmatic doctrine. The Pauline statement concerning the Lord's Supper deviates so greatly from the oldest evangelical account, that we do not know how much of it may belong to tradition and how much to the personal inspiration of Paul. Even where he sets forth Christ as a moral example, he reflects only upon the incarnation and the death of Christ, not upon his earthly conduct and life (2 Cor. viii. 9; Phil. ii. 5 f.) His gospel was the preaching of the cross and the proclamation of the Christ, who is no longer flesh but spirit, and who had revealed himself in immediate spiritual intuition (2 Cor. v. 16; 1 Cor. ix. 1; 2 Cor. iv. 6). Now so far as this spiritual Christ is a product of religious speculation, he stands certainly, in truth of human life and concrete intelligibleness, far behind the picture which the Gospels have given us of the historical Jesus on the basis of the oldest tradition. Yet on the other hand it is not to be overlooked that the Pauline Christ is not an arbitrary fiction or an empty phantom, but the personified Ideal of man as the Son of God, and therefore the Ideal of the same religious moral sentiment which had formed the kernel of the universal historic significance of the historical Jesus. That Paul took this Ideal kernel out of its temporal and popular husk and made it the centre of the Christian faith and the essential object of the appropriation and imitation of the Christians—this was of immense importance for the world-mission of the Gospel. True as it is that the spiritual Christ of the Pauline preaching rests upon an abstraction, which may appear poor in comparison with the fulness of life in the real historical Jesus, yet it is also certain that it was only by this abstraction from all externalities and contingencies in its manifestation that the Ideal principle of the religion revealed in Jesus could be put in such clear light that its truth might be made luminous and noble—as holding good universally for the humanity of all peoples and all times.

The deepest source of the theology of Paul was therefore the revelation of the spirit of Christ in his heart—that is to say, the religious experience in which the spiritual nature of Jesus was recognised by him and felt as the saving truth, and grasped in the obedience of faith. This inner religious experience was the ground upon which the certainty of his conviction of faith rested; it was the well-spring which ever again permeated the intellectual movements of his theological Gnosis and Rabbinical dialectics with the vital forces of religious mysticism and moral inspiration. Only by keeping this in view shall we be able to understand the powerful influence of Paul upon the heathen world and to estimate his theology correctly; for there is undoubtedly in this theology much that may make a surprising and chilling impression. The material out of which Paul built up the structure of his theological thought consisted not merely of gold and precious stones, but also in part of ignoble and perishing things. With this judgment we do him no wrong, but merely repeat his own testimony, that he bore his heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. No wonder, therefore, that the judgments about Paul are still more widely divergent than those regarding almost any other character in the history of religion. Some are so carried away by the treasure of his religious truths that they readily overlook the earthen vessel of his theological doctrine, and elevate him to be the unconditional authority for all times; while others, again, have only an eye for the perishing vessel, for the Jewish Rabbinical form of his mode of teaching, and therefore find him repellent and unamiable. But it is the task of the historian to avoid either of these two extremes: he has at once to put the heroic greatness of the apostle and the enduring value of his theology into light, and at the same time frankly to recognise his individual and historical limitation for his time.

This limitation consists simply in this, that even as the apostle of Christ he could not deny the Jewish theologian and the disciple of the Pharisees. Undoubtedly the religious centre of his life and the moral goal of his striving had become different from what they once were; but if his anxiety now was how to express the new living content in doctrinal form, this could only be done by means of the ideas and associations of ideas lying ready in his consciousness, and these all bore the stamp of the Jewish theology of which he had been a zealous student till his conversion. Its influence shows itself, above all, in his method of demonstration or his employment of Scripture. The two are really identical,—for Paul shows himself to be a genuine son of his race in this, that his thinking always remained positive throughout: it was a reflecting on the basis of given authorities, a connecting of the new revelation with that which was deposited as the old revelation in the Sacred Scriptures, a proving from the words of the inspired text of what had become certain to himself in quite another way, through inner experience and discernment. The conviction of the verbal inspiration of the Biblical writings which ruled in the Jewish school was held by Paul as a self - evident presupposition. “The Scripture saith,” “The Scripture foresaw,” “The Scripture had concluded under sin,”—in such expressions the Scripture wholly represents the place of God; it is, as it were, the will of God itself incorporated in the Holy Book. This super - naturalistic theory of inspiration and idolatry of Scripture had, however, in Paul, as generally, a twofold consequence: on the one hand, a slavish bondage to the letter of the individual passage, which is removed from its connection and taken apart from its historical relations, as the utterance of a divine oracle, and thus applied as a proof of the remotest things; on the other hand, at the same time the freest interpretation of the letter by the introduction of a different so - called spiritual sense along with or instead of the proper sense of the words. This method of “allegorising” is invariably the natural consequence of the overstrained theory of inspiration, the reaction and self-help of the human mind, which can save its self-activity only by this artificial method in face of the letter of tradition, when it is accepted as infallible. In the Jewish theology both of Palestine and Alexandria, this method of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture had in Paul's time been long universally dominant, and therefore we need not wonder at all that Paul has also applied it most ingeniously without any doubt of its justification and demonstrativeness. I refer you to the allegories of Sarah and Hagar (Gal. iv. 21 ff.), or that of the threshing oxen (1 Cor. ix. 9), or that of the veiling of the face of Moses (2 Cor. iii. 13), or that of the seed of Abraham (Gal. iii. 16). Luther's judgment regarding these allegories —namely, that they are not tenable—holds true also of most of the other Scripture proofs of Paul; for they mostly attach a meaning to the Biblical citations which does not accord with the original sense of the words, and indeed is in part quite foreign to it. Hence the Jews especially who were familiar with the Old Testament received the impression that the proofs of Paul were capricious, and even a falsification of the word of God. But we ought never to forget in this connection that the truth of the theological thought of Paul is wholly independent of these proofs, because it rests upon his religious experience and intuition, and is therefore a spontaneous product of his Christian thinking, for which the positive Scripture proofs were sought only as supplementary, in conformity with Jewish custom.

The Jewish theology of that time has also furnished rich contribution to the contents of the Pauline theology; and this holds true of both its forms, the Palestinian and the Alexandrian. It may be disputed whether Paul knew the Alexandrian religious philosopher Philo, his contemporary: I hold this to be incapable of being proved, but undoubtedly he knew the book of the ‘Wisdom of Solomon,’ written by an Alexandrian Jew shortly before Philo, and he diligently used it. The dualism of the spirit and the flesh, of the heavenly and the earthly man, which rules the whole of its view of the world, was also of great importance for the whole Pauline theology. As according to the Alexandrian, so likewise according to Paul the natural man is merely “flesh”—that is to say, an animated earthly being endowed with consciousness and understanding, but wholly wanting the divine spirit, and therefore completely incapable both of the knowledge of spiritual things or divine truths, and of the fulfilment of the divine will or of really good willing and doing: the power for both can come to the natural man only from without and from above, through a divine communication of the holy spirit. In this Paul quite agrees with the Alexandrian view, as is unequivocally proved by passages exactly parallel, even partly in the words in detail; as for example in 1 Cor. ii. and in the Book of Wisdom in chapters viii. and ix. But while the question as to how man shall attain to the higher spiritual power of the true and good always remained with the Alexandrian problematical and an individual task, this question found in Paul's view a definite solution in faith in Christ as “The Lord who is the Spirit,” and from whom the divine spirit became the constantly working power in the midst of the Christian community. Paul therefore started indeed from the dualism common to him with his time, of spirit and flesh, heavenly and earthly world; but this dualism—and this is what was distinctively new in his view—was overcome in principle in the one person of Jesus Christ, the spiritual man who sprang from heaven and was elevated to heaven; and from this one historical point the advancing subdual of it, through the abiding dominion of the spirit of Christ in the Christian community, is once for all secured. The overcoming in principle of this dualism in the person of Christ is indeed at first still represented by Paul in a quite supernatural form—that is, to speak more precisely, it is not the earthly person of Jesus, but the transformation which took place with him through his death and resurrection, in which Paul sees the earthly flesh overcome and the spirit of the heavenly man set free as the animating principle of a new humanity (1 Cor. xv. 45 ff.) But how was it possible for the earthly man Jesus to become through the resurrection the animating spirit if he had not also been already essentially spirit? The resuscitation is thus at bottom, according to Paul, only the full realisation of that which the earthly Jesus had already been potentially—spiritual man, Son and Image of God. But the earthly Jesus could only be this, according to Paul's way of thinking, because He sprang not from the earth but from heaven; the heavenly pre-existence of Christ, which Paul first taught, was for him the logical postulate for the explanation of what Christ became through His death and resurrection—namely, the heavenly head of the community of the children of God, the well-spring of the new spiritual life of humanity. But even this doctrine of the heavenly pre-existence of Christ has its starting - point in a theory of the Alexandrian philosophy of religion—namely, in its distinction between the ideal heavenly man who is immediately created after God's image, and the earthly man who is the sensibly dimmed and sensually differentiated likeness of that image. This theory, resting on the Platonic idealism, appears even before Paul to have had an influence upon the rabbinical interpretation of Scripture, seeing that they read out of the narrative of the creation in Genesis i. the creation of a double Adam, the heavenly and the earthly Adam. Now, as this heavenly or ideal man came into very near approach to the heavenly Son of man, or the Messiah of the Apocalyptic literature, it is very possible, although not yet proved, that the identification of the two closely related ideas had already begun before Paul's time. In any case this much is certain, that we find it carried out in Paul; and in fact nothing could be more natural than this combination of the ideal man of the Hellenist speculation and of the Christ Jesus exalted to heaven as he lived in the faith of the community and as Paul had beheld him in the vision of his conversion — a combination which laid the foundation for the whole subsequent Christology of the Church. This view undoubtedly stepped beyond the bounds of the earthly historical reality; the earthly life of Jesus had become an episode between his heavenly anterior life and after-life, and indeed an episode which rested upon a free act of the heavenly Son of man, his voluntary self-renunciation and self-humiliation, when he exchanged the heavenly glory for the serving form of the mortal flesh (Phil. ii. 5 ff.; 2 Cor. viii. 9). Although these conceptions, already prelusive of the Gnostic speculations, may appear to us somewhat strange now, yet we ought not to overlook the fact that they were to Paul, because they lay ready in the notions of his time, only the natural frame for one of the profoundest ideas in the history of religion. This Pauline Christ, the heavenly ideal man and “head” of the whole of humanity (1 Cor. xi. 3), who enters into history in order to overcome the flesh and to commnunicate His spirit as an animating principle to men His brethren, in order that they all may become like His example and “that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (Romans viii. 3-29)—what is he but the personified idea of man as the child of God, as Jesus had thought Him and realised Him in Himself, the idea of the man who indeed as an earthly being is at first fettered under the ban of the sensuous nature, but who has from the very outset the destination and the capacity to be liberated from this ban through the power of the spirit, and elevated to be a child and image of God? Liberation from the sensuousness and transitoriness of earth and elevation to the true eternal life of the divine spirit—this was the object of the divining and longing of antiquity as it was passing away, and especially of the Hellenic world; and to this longing the Gospel of Paul brought the welcome fulfilment through faith in Christ as the Lord of heaven, who is the spirit and who makes the powers of the spirit stream out from Himself to His brethren, who become with Him one spirit and one body. That this liberating spiritual power had not come from within, from the historical development of humanity itself, but from without and from above through the miraculous incarnation of the heavenly man Christ—this supernatural mode of representing it was undoubtedly the tribute which Paul has paid to the dualistic mode of thinking characteristic of his time; but instead of taking offence at this supernatural form of his Christology, we ought to consider that it was only at this price that the evil of the undeified world was to be healed, and the breach which had been effectuated in the consciousness of men between this world and the world beyond, between the human and divine, was to be reconciled. The Gospel which Paul brought to the world was in fact “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans i. 16), but a power of God which concealed itself in the form of human weakness; it was a heavenly treasure, but in an earthen vessel which was to be broken in the course of time.

Almost even more important than the influence of the Alexandrian theory upon Paul's doctrine of Christ and of the Spirit, was the influence of the Palestinian Phariseean theology upon the apostle's doctrine of atonement and justification. The Phariseean theology had construed the religious relationship from legal points of view throughout; the righteousness of man rests upon a divine judgment which strikes the balance between the sum of the meritorious performances of man, or his fulfilment of the commandments on the one hand and of his transgressions of the commandments or his trespasses on the other hand. Sin, although provoked by the natural evil impulse, is yet always a free deed by which the doer contracts a definite measure of guiltiness that demands punishment or expiation. Sin is a guilty debt which God causes to be paid to Him somehow; forgiveness without payment, according to the Phariseean assumption, holds as little of God as in the case of a human judge. For the averting of the punishment which man has deserved by his sin, he therefore requires a compensating atonement, which may consist in definite performances or expiations that are to be calculated according to the measure of the guilt. Good works, voluntary mortifications, innocently endured sufferings, were the appropriate means for the appeasement of the divine wrath and the turning away of the deserved punishment. But all the performances and expiations of individuals do not suffice to bring out with certainty a favourable balance of the heavenly account, because in most men their merits and their guilt so hold the equilibrium that an overplus of the former remains doubtful. Hence, according to the Jewish theology, it is of great importance that the superfluous merit of the eminently just may be imputed to sinners for the covering of their own defects. Next to the merits of the Fathers of Israel, which always avail for the good of the whole people, the merits of contemporary just men are also of such common saving efficacy that they are able to save a whole generation from the penal judgment of the divine wrath. And not merely the meritorious doings, but also the innocent sufferings of the just, may be imputed to sinners as vicarious atonement; in particular, the martyr-death of a just man has the force of an expiatory sacrifice, by which the divine punishments are bought off in favour of the whole people. The more just a sufferer was, so much the less did he require the merit of his death as a compensation for his own trespasses, and so much the greater, therefore, is the overplus of merit which may be vicariously imputed to those who are His. Nor was it merely to their own living generation but also to the dead that the atoning power of the sufferings of eminently pious men was held to extend.

This theory of a vicarious atonement, in which we may perceive a juristic distortion of the ethical thought of Isaiah liii., was indeed never referred by the Phariseean school to the Messiah, because the worldly political direction of their Messianic idea excluded the thought of His suffering and dying. But when the Pharisee Paul, after his conversion, recognised the Messiah in the crucified Jesus, and began to reflect upon the significance and the purpose of this death on the cross, it was quite natural that he should apply the universal theory of his school to the special case of the martyr-death of Jesus, and should therefore see in this death an expiation contrived by God for the atonement of the sinful world, for our redemption from the curse of the law, for the acquisition of our righteousness (Romans iii. 25; 2 Cor. v. 19 ff.; Gal. iii. 19). But a righteousness which is effectuated by the vicarious expiation of another is not conditioned by one's own doing, but is imputed to the believer as a gift of the divine grace. It has therefore no reference to the law which demands personal performances, and therefore may just as much be shared in by the believing heathen as by the Jew. Thus the death of Christ, as expiating the sin of the world, is the abrogation of the privileges of the Jew, the end of the law, and the founding of a universal salvation. This doctrine of Paul is extremely remarkable because, starting from the juristic theory of Phariseeism and operating with its categories, it at last comes to a result which abrogates the legal religion of Judaism, and puts in its place the Gospel of God's universal will of grace. This result of the Pauline doctrine of the atonement freed Christianity from the fetters of Judaism, and raised it to the position of an independent new religion, the universal religion. This was what was permanently valuable in the Pauline doctrine, an acquisition which the Church has always held fast. On the other hand, the dogmatic mediationthrough which Paul attained to this result was always left out of view by the ancient Church, because it lacked understanding of the juristic categories of the Pauline doctrine of atonement and justification. It was the Protestant theology which first laid hold of this side of the Pauline doctrine, and turned it to account as a weapon against the legalism of the Catholic Church. Yet there were not wanting those even from the beginning of the Reformation who felt themselves more repelled than attracted by this form of doctrine, and at the present day it is perhaps the most contested part of the doctrine of the Protestant Church.

This is intelligible enough, for in fact it cannot be denied that that theory of vicarious atonement and imputed righteousness makes a very strange and chilling impression upon us—at least if we attend only to its verbal expression, and especially if we overlook the ethical religious feelings by which Paul was able to breathe warm life into the dry skeleton of his Phariseean categories. We feel ourselves transported back by it into the region of the juridical apprehension of religion, above which we yet feel ourselves far elevated as Christians by the Gospel of the Sonship of God. And, on the other hand, earnest questions and scruples regarding it press themselves upon our intellectual reflection, and these have not been solved by Paul, because, from being accustomed to think in the categories of the Pharisees, he never felt these difficulties, never put these questions to himself.

Such above all is the question, Why was a vicarious atonement by the death of Christ needed at all, if God was always the gracious Father who—as Paul himself teaches—has already proved His love when we were yet sinners by the sending of His Son? God was indeed, as Paul says, He who was reconciling the world, and not He who was reconciled: for what purpose then, we ask, was the dispensation of the bloody expiation in the death of His Son required? Was it that God owed this to His own righteousness? But His righteousness cannot possibly be at discord with His love; and besides, according to Paul, the righteousness of God is just manifested in this, that he justifies the believing sinner, redeems him from sin, but does not demand punishment. Or was it that the expiation was to be performed to the law? But the law is precisely, according to Paul (a point to which we shall soon come), a merely temporary expression of the Divine will, the abrogation of which through Christ was already contemplated from the beginning. It was only given by God as “a schoolmaster unto Christ” for the time of pupilage. How, then, can the law, which is only a subservient element in the economy of the revelation of Divine grace, lay claim to the satisfaction of its penal demand by the death of that same Christ who was even from the beginning its final end, its Lord? A logical solution of these contradictions has never been given nor can be given, but they are explained psychologically thus: the law demanding expiation, or the wrathful will of God on the one side, and the atoning and justifying gracious will of God on the other side, are the expression of the two souls which always struggled with each other in the breast of the Pharisee and the apostle Paul—namely, the legal Jewish soul and the evangelical Christian soul. True, in him the apostle triumphs over the Pharisee, but not without bearing thenceforth on himself the scars of the conflict: as a Christian, Paul feels himself liberated from the law, but when he reflects on the ground and right of this liberation, he can only think of it as mediated and produced by a process of law, which is carried on between God, Christ, and mankind, and which is entirely rooted in the soil of the juristic theology of Phariseeism. But on that account we are justified in regarding this Jewish juristic form of Paul's doctrine of atonement and justification, as well as the Hellenistic mythological form of his Christology, as belonging to what is transitory in his teaching, which can no longer claim any binding authority over us. But let us look well to it that with the perishing husk we do not at the same time lose the permanently valuable kernel which it conceals and contains.

As the mythological notion of the pre-existent heavenly man and his incarnation in sinful flesh conceals in itself the idea of the divine spiritual man, who is however subject to the conditions of finitude, so we recognise in Paul's doctrine of the atonement the profound idea hidden under Jewish mythology, which since the Gospel of Jesus forms the kernel of Christian truth, the eternal law of the divine order of salvation, Die and live again! The death of Christ is indeed, according to Paul, primarily the objective act of expiation carried out in Christ as the vicarious head of mankind. But what gives this its worth before God, and its efficient power over our consciousness, is the ethical disposition of faithful obedience and of voluntary sacrificing love, which Christ has authenticated in that he has not thought the being equal with God a robbery, as did the first Adam, but he humbled himself in obedience to God's will, even to the death on the cross — and that he became poor for our sakes, and gave Himself for us. This “righteous act” of the second Adam (Romans v. 18) is that by which the offence of the first Adam was expiated and the forgiving love of God guaranteed to all those who are “in Christ”—i.e., who become so personally one with Him that His spirit and mind also become theirs. The external vicarious relationship is therefore deepened by Paul into a relationship of spiritual unity, in which the believer also makes his own the spirit of obedience and of self-denyinglove, which Christ has demonstrated by His death; and he consequently lives over again in himself the death of Christ in a spiritual repetition — that is to say, in the mortifying of the naturally selfish ego. And as in the case of Christ the living for God followed the death for sin (Romans vi. 10), so the believers likewise, when they die with Christ according to their old man, enter into a newness of life in which they are here already “new creatures” and experience a foretaste of the future perfection at the resurrection. Thus viewed, Christ's death and resurrection are no longer merely a historical event that happened once, and whose effect might avail for our good by imputation, but we recognise in it with Paul the symbolical revelation of the universal order of salvation—namely, that only through the surrender of the naturally selfish ego the true spiritual life of man is won. Thus the Pauline doctrine of redemption, by the circuitous way of the Phariseean legal theory of expiation, yet comes again at last to the simple religious moral fundamental truth which formed the basis of the Gospel of Jesus. If we can no longer accept the notion of a bloody expiation carried out on an innocent one for the satisfaction of justice and the buying off of the curse of the law, yet we recognise the abiding truth of the thought lying under that dogmatic veil, that the holy love of God cannot otherwise redeem and save sinful man than by the judgment upon sin, as it executes itself not indeed outside of us, but within us in the painful severance of the Ego from its naturally selfish desires, and in the humble and obedient self-surrender of the self to God's holy will.

From this point of view we also understand the Pauline doctrine of “justification by faith” more correctly than is usual in the popular apprehension of it, according to which the foreign merit of Christ is placed to the credit of the sinner, simply on the ground of his holding this doctrine to be true and trusting in it. Against this view, which certainly seems to have support in certain turns of the Pauline expressions, there are raised well-founded objections such as these: How can God declare the sinner to be just on account of extraneous merits without contradiction of the truth and therefore of His own holy nature? Or—viewed from the side of man—How can the sinner hope to pass as righteous before the holy God, merely because he holds this doctrine to be true, which is indeed a mere act of the intellect which hardly touches the moral nature of man? Again, whether trusting to an extraneous vicarious merit can make a man actually personally good and pleasing to God, or would not rather lead him away into moral indolence, and therefore would just keep him away from that striving after Godlike perfectness which Jesus has prescribed to us? Certainly these are very grave objections to the popular apprehension of justification by faith, especially when it is so carefully distinguished from regeneration and sanctification as has been done by the Protestant dogmatics. But all the more decidedly must it be remembered that this popular view is not just to the meaning of the Pauline doctrine, for according to Paul faith is not merely the theoretical act of holding a dogmatic doctrine to be true, nor is it merely an idle trust in extraneous merits, but it is an act of the heart (Romans x. 10), of the whole undivided man, who surrenders himself in obedience to the divine revelation in Christ, who lays hold of Christ after he is laid hold of by Him and so becomes one spirit with Him, that he is in Christ and Christ in him. This mysticism of the Pauline conception of faith (which signifies only in another form the same as what Jesus meant by the words, “Follow Me and learn of Me”) has to be kept well in view in order to understand his utterances regarding the effects of faith. These effects are comprised by Paul more distinctly in the conception of the “Sonship of God” than in the juristic conception of “justification”; “for ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. iii. 26)—that is to say, whoever becomes spiritually one, one heart and one mind with Christ in faith, enters thereby into the same relationship of Son to God in which Christ stands; he therefore sees in God no longer the angry judge but the loving Father who forgives the guilt and redeems from the evil, it being always presupposed that the individual will let himself be redeemed from it and be educated to true goodness. What else is this but just that trustful childlike love of God to which Jesus has also already encouraged us by teaching us to know God as the Father? And as this trustful childlike disposition is not possible without the surrender of one's own will to the holy will of God, it is clear that in this religious disposition the genuine God-pleasing morality is contained, and consequently the objections previously mentioned become here quite inapplicable.

For the whole of this Christian state of soul, which, along with religious vivification, at the same time includes moral inspiration, Paul has coined the two specific conceptions, “to be in Christ” and “to be” or “live in the spirit”; and by the very fact that the two conceptions cover and mutually explain each other, each of them gains a deep significance. When Paul designates the Christians briefly as “those who live in Christ,” this signifies not merely that they belong to the Christian community, and not merely that they confess the doctrine of Jesus, nor even merely that they hope for the future of the heavenly Christ and the benefits promised by Him; but it signifies that they share in the spiritual life which is ideally revealed in Christ and which is active in those who are His, as the principle of a new existence liberated from the bonds of the flesh, of sin, of death, and of the world. All that was still temporarily and nationally limited in the belief in Christ is therewith stripped off; the belief is raised into the region of pure spirituality, and consequently of universally human ideality: “the Lord is the Spirit, but where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” On the other hand, when Paul says of the Christians that they live in the spirit, he means not merely that they receive individual gifts of the spirit and have experienced miraculous operations of the spirit—such as it is usual to see in the speaking in tongues, prophesying, and powers of healing—but he thinks that their whole personal living, thinking, feeling, and willing stands under the constant dominion of the divine spirit revealed in Christ, and that therefore not merely individual miraculous powers are bestowed upon them, but that their whole man has experienced a miraculous transformation, a regeneration after the image of Christ and God. With this the sensuous and fantastic magical and ecstatic element, which had still adhered to the new Christian spirit, was stripped off, or at least repressed, and its nature as truly spiritual—i.e., morally-religious—was now first understood; and with this the bridge was first made from the Apocalyptical transcendence to the permanent inwardness and historical development of Christianity. And this leading of the Christian spirit on from the first unordered and extravagant enthusiasm into the path of an ordered and circumspect direction of life and formation of character, the fundamental condition of the order of a lasting community and of the ecclesiastical existence of Christianity, was accomplished by that very apostle who could boast above others of his speaking in tongues and of his visions and revelations; and this is in fact the most marvellous proof of the extraordinary religious and moral originality of the apostle Paul.

The new life in the spirit, as Paul understands it, expresses itself on all sides of the human personality. In the feeling heart first of all, the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit so that it becomes an object of personal experience (Romans v. 5): thereby in place of the feeling of fear there enters the childlike trust, the “peace and joy” which hold out under the manifold suffering of the world, because they rest upon the certainty that God is with us, and that nothing can separate us from His love—nay, that all things must work together for good to them that love God (Romans viii. 28 ff.) And along with the experience on the side of feeling, the spirit at the same time attains the clear knowledge of the divine good of salvation in the form of thought, because the Christian possesses the spirit from God which searches the deep things of the Godhead ; and because he possesses the “understanding of Christ”—that is to say, the intimate knowledge of God that is proper to the Son of God—he has therefore in matters of religious truth an independent judgment which gives itself up to no external authority,—“he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Cor. ii. 15). But it is especially the moral willing and doing to which the renovating and sanctifying operation of the Christian spirit is related. Paul had all the more reason to emphasise this point, as his doctrine of justification by faith and of the end of the law had been frequently misinterpreted in a libertine sense both by friends and foes. In opposition to this it was incumbent to show that the same spirit of sonship which transfers us from the position of the law into that of grace, includes the obligation as well as the power for a new mode of conduct in which the will of God is fulfilled better than under the law. The power which the law was not able to give, because the natural impulses always resisted its forbidding letter, is effected by the spirit of Christ, seeing that this spirit has a higher vital impulse which is victoriously superior to the sinful natural impulses. Sin is no longer Lord over the Christian, because “the love of Christ constraineth him” (2 Cor. v. 14). In this movement of the holy spirit lies the impulse of all that is good, for “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans xiii. 10). Here the will of God is no longer a dead and deadening letter, which by its bidding and forbidding resists the contradiction of the self-will; but it has become the very will of the man himself, the free and joyous impulse of the heart which, from its own impulse of childlike love, fulfils the will of the Father. The spirit of the liberty of the children of God is at the same time the new law which binds to God and binds the brethren together in obedience and love. With this there was set up a new moral principle of the greatest range, a principle which is elevated as far above the unfree legality of Judaism as above the arbitrary abasement of heathenism. It was the religious anticipation of the thought of the idealistic ethics, as Schiller has glorified it in the beautiful verse:—

“But fly the boundary of the Senses; live

The ideal life free Thought can give;

And, lo, the gulf shall vanish, and the chill

Of the soul's impotent despair be gone!

And with Divinity thou sharest the throne,

Let but Divinity become thy will!

Scorn not the Law—permit its iron band to thrall

The sense, it cannot chain the soul.

Let man no more the will of God withstand,

And God the bolt lets fall.”

And if we look to the two ancient moral systems about whose excellences the contemporaries of Paul in the Græco-Roman world disputed, we may say that the proud dignity of the Stoic and the sympathetic grace of the Epicurean have found their highest synthesis in the ethical principle, as Paul deduced it from the faith in Christ. For the faith that is active through love places the personality by itself over against the world; by binding it to God it makes it independent of the fear of man and of the care of the world, and therefore grounds an autonomy and inwardness of the personal Christianity which is not inferior to the Stoical freedom. But the very same faith binds at the same time through the strongest affection, through love, to human society, to the fraternity of the Christian community in the first place, but which is destined to expand itself into a union of humanity; and so the personality cannot therefore withdraw itself from the social duties in the heartless self-sufficiency of the stoical “wise man,” but it feels itself bound to society by the strongest bond of solidarity—namely, by love, which, being rooted in the religious faith, is directed to the highest ends of human fellowship, and hopes joyously for the victory of the good in the world.

Hence this Christian principle of morality was able, in quite another way than the stoical, to heal and rejuvenate sick humanity. While the stoical cosmopolitanism only made men indifferent to the natural bonds and limits of society, the Christian love twined new bonds around the divided peoples and races, and has made Jew and Greek, bond and free, man and woman, one in Christ (Gal. iii. 28).

From this height of the ideal of humanity, as Paul has experienced and described it in the Christian's “life in the spirit,” there opened to him finally other magnificent prospects into the past and future of the history of humanity. The sense for the teleology of history had always been Israel's charisma; the visions of its seers were the first, although still the childlike stammering philosophy of history; but the pictures of the Jews as we find them, especially in the Apocalypses of Daniel, Enoch, and Ezra, were still entirely sketched from the narrow national horizon of Judaism: they were pictures of the changing fates of the peoples, seen in the light of the Messianic dream of the final victory of the Jewish people over all the peoples of the world. Quite otherwise is it with Paul, to whom the world of the Jewish hopes had faded away on the cross of Christ, and Jews and Greeks had become one in the “body of Christ,” in the community of the new spiritual humanity. No longer in the hopes of his people, but in the experiences of his heart, did he find the key for the interpretation of human history; and no longer in the external fates of the peoples, but in the transformations of the religious feeling and thinking, did he find the inmost core and the true significance of history. When he looked back from his present Christian life to his past (Romans vii. 7 ff.), he saw at the beginning a short time of childlike innocence, when he had lived as yet without law, and therefore in guileless peace, without the painful feeling of inner discord and conflict. Then the law had come, and by its forbidding concupiscence had awakened concupiscence, had brought the formerly hidden pleasure in sin to consciousness, and with this becoming alive of sin his ego had died; in place of the naïve unity of the soul with itself and the world, discord and conflict had come in; the law in the mind lay in conflict with the law in the members; the will to do was in conflict with the doing; the joy in the law of God was in conflict with the fear of the angry judge. But from this wretchedness of inner discord, from this bondage under the tyranny of the flesh of sin and of death, the spirit of life in Christ had made him free; he had found again the peace and the joy of the guiltless child through the spirit of childship which in him cried, Abba, Father! Yet even now his blessedness was not yet that of seeing but of hoping: although already in the possession of the first-fruits of the spirit, he still waits, yearning within for the glory of the children of God, which was only to be revealed in the future, when even the body will be liberated from the bonds of corruption, and the perfection to which God has destined His children shall have appeared.

Now it was just these phases of his own life as it was, is, and will be, that serves the apostle as the model from which he sketched the stages in the development of the history of mankind. The peaceful innocence of his childhood corresponds to the age of the childhood of humanity, when it was still without law and therefore without the feeling of guilt, and at peace with God and the world. This state of innocence, however, Paul sees not merely in the first time before Adam's sin, but also and even predominantly in the time of the Patriarchs, with whom God concluded a covenant of grace independent of the law which was not to come till later on. In the faith of Abraham, which corresponds to the gracious covenant of the promise, the righteousness of faith of the Christians was already typified. But between the promise and its fulfilment the law came in midway, and it first gave sin its sting, the pain of the feeling of guilt. With this began the time of unfreedom when the heir was under tutors and governors, when the Jew tortured himself in the service of the letter and of sensuous ordinances and ceremonies (“the weak and beggarly elements”) in order to attain to righteousness, and thereby could not but convince himself more and more of the insufficiency of his own power and of the powerlessness of the law to overcome the resistance of the flesh, nay, even of the multiplication of transgressions through the incitement of the law. Because Paul from the height of his Christian consciousness of redemption could judge his earlier state under the law to be only a state of unblessed bondage, he therefore also thought that the original purpose of the divine legislation was only that it should hold men captive under the bond of sin and the feeling of guilt, and thus indirectly prepare for their redemption through grace (Gal. iii. 22 ff.)—a view of the law which does not indeed correspond to the Old Testament consciousness, but in it we are able easily to recognise a recoil from the Phariseean idolatry of the law, and which might indeed be as useful and even necessary for the practical liberation of Christianity from the religion of the law as Luther's pessimistic judgment of the Papacy was necessary for liberation from the Papal Church. But in so far as the law, according to Paul, was to exercise its lordship as a schoolmaster from the beginning only for the time of pupilage on to the appearance of the Son of God—its authority was extinguished with the death of Christ; it has no longer any right over the children of God, who are liberated by the Son of God. The Gospel of Christ is therefore a calling to freedom of all who believingly follow the call. The heathen who do this are now the new people of God who enter into the inheritance of the promise of Abraham; the Jews, on the other hand, who hold fast to the law against Christ, are on that account for the time those who have lost the promise. The formation of a new people of God composed predominantly of believing heathens, appeared therefore to Paul to be so far from an annihilation of the promises given to the Patriarchs, that he rather beheld in this the fulfilment of those promises, the realisation of the gracious covenant with Abraham which had preceded the law of Moses. The religious prerogative of Israel above the heathen, which rested upon its possession of the historical revelation, was not indeed denied by Paul; but he regarded it as a mere temporary means for the realisation of God's universal plan of salvation. Does there not already lie in this thought the germ of the modern conception of the development of the religious spirit of humanity through the manifold forms of the national religions to the concluding unity of the universal kingdom of God?

Paul has also connected the coming in of the end of all these wondrous ways in the government of the world with the visible coming again of Christ, which he expected in the immediate future. With this catastrophe he thought in the customary manner that the resurrection of the dead and a solemn judgment were connected, and that then every one would be rewarded according to his works. Here, therefore, the idealism of his doctrine of justification obtains at the same time a realistic conception, through the prospect of a retribution according to the worth of the moral performances; and Paul has often made use of this motive for moral exhortation (parœnesis). Moreover, he did not think of the resurrection, in the manner of the Pharisees, as a restoration of the earthly fleshly body, but as an investment in a heavenly body similar to Christ's body of light, which those who were still living at the second coming were to receive through a transformation. This whole series of thoughts which sprang from the Jewish eschatology is nevertheless crossed by another hope which sprang from Hellenism, and which he at least indicates several times in his last epistles—namely, the hope immediately after departing from the life of this body of being at home “with the Lord” (2 Cor. v. 6; Phil. i. 23), the hope of a blessedness of the individual souls of the pious in another world, which is independent of the catastrophes of the second coming and resurrection, and therefore was excellently fitted to compensate for the disappointment of the primitive Christian expectations of an early end of the world. That all these ideas, however precious they were to the primitive Christianity, are nevertheless only of relative and temporary value, was at least indicated by Paul himself in the significant proposition, that after the overcoming of all powers hostile to God, Christ Himself would also subordinate Himself to the Father—that is to say, would surrender His position of Ruler, and would retire into the series of the creatures in order that God might be all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28). At the final goal of the history of religion he sees all the means and mediators around whom men had fought and separated for thousands of years giving way; and in the blessed consciousness of its oneness with God, the Father of Spirits, he also sees humanity coming to a final unity, to a kingdom of peace and of joy in the Holy Ghost.