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Lecture 6: The Apostle Paul

2. His Apostolic Activity

THE idealising of the age of childhood and of youth is natural not merely to individuals, but also to human communities, peoples, and religions. The legend of the “Golden Age” which meets us in such manifold forms in the history of religion is, as we have seen in a former connection, a product of the natural impulse to present in contrast to the present, with its evils and conflicts, the ideal image of a happy past when all was still in beautiful harmony — an ideal image which, however, proves to be but a beautiful dream before sober historical investigation, and to which the actual conditions of the beginning of history everywhere were far from corresponding. The faith of Christendom, following this natural impulse, also began at an early stage, even from its first beginnings in the post-apostolic time, to sketch for itself an ideal picture, the picture of a community whose unity of faith and moral purity were only troubled as in an exceptional way by slight and rapidly overcome disturbances. Is it allowable to subject this pleasing picture, by which many a pious soul may have edified itself amid the confusions of its time, to strict historical examination, at the risk of finding that this ideal of youth may also show itself to be a poetic product of the fancy with which the reality was not actually in accord? I think we are not merely entitled to answer this question in the affirmative, but we are even bound to do so, if we would be faithful to the principle of the Lectureship which has brought us together here — the principle, namely, that religious traditions are to be tested and examined with the same scientific freedom and candour as the things of astronomy or chemistry. If in connection with the question as to the beginnings of human life upon this planet we have let ourselves be guided by the evidence of astronomy and geology, biology and palæontology, to the conviction that the Biblical legend of creation and paradise cannot lay claim to historical reality, then, as it appears to me, it would be a strange inconsequence if we were to hesitate to apply the same method of strict and sober scientific examination likewise to the beginnings of the Christian Church. If by this criticism revered images of childish tradition are transported from the sphere of reality into that of poetry, the result may be painful to many a heart; but should scientific investigation on that account be at all interdicted? Is the knowledge of the truth not also a good, and a good of such value that it is well worth the sacrifice of an old error? If an erroneous tradition to which special feelings still attach is not to be tampered with or called in question, it would be quite impossible to advance even a single step in the knowledge of the truth, for all new recognition of what is truth involves the denial of what is false, and can therefore only be carried through by means of the combating and overcoming of old errors.

A classical confirmation of this proposition is presented by the history of the primitive Christianity which has just given occasion for these remarks. That Paul recognised Christianity as a new religion free from the Jewish law and carried it to the Gentiles, was a step in advance of infinite importance, and one which was decisive for the whole future of the religion of mankind. But with this knowledge Paul stood at first quite alone, and it was only through sore struggles that he could vindicate among the Jewish Christian community the recognition, or at least the toleration, of Christianity emancipated from the law. The Acts of the Apostles has not indeed passed over these conflicts in entire silence, yet it has given only such a faded picture of them that the impression might be got from it that complete agreement had reigned from the beginning between Paul and the rest of the community regarding the question of the validity of the Mosaic law for the Christians. It has only been since men began to study the Epistles of the apostle Paul independently and unbiassed by this prejudice derived from the Acts of the Apostles, that it became known how little such peaceful agreement really existed at the beginning, and on the contrary what severe and long conflicts it cost the Apostle to the Gentiles in order to carry through his principle of the freedom of the Christian from the law. Already in connection with the first transaction relating to this question — namely, at the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem — according to the account which Paul himself has given of it in the 2d chapter of Galatians, a much more violent conflict occurred than appears according to the representations of the Acts of the Apostles (chap. xv.) And the result of this conflict was by no means the full victory of the Pauline freedom for all Christians; but what Paul then attained was only the concession of the freedom of the Gentile Christians from the Jewish law, while at the same time the continuing validity of the Jewish law for the Jewish Christians was presupposed as self-evident. The possibility of the mission to the Gentiles was indeed thereby achieved and secured; but there was still a far distance from the union of the Gentiles and Jews in the new Christian community, for the Mosaic Law still existed as a wall of partition between the two sections. The inference which appears to us so obvious, that the law if it is not binding on the Gentile Christians can no longer be binding even on the Jewish Christians, was still far from being drawn by the primitive community and their apostles, either on the occasion of the Apostolic meeting or even long afterwards. Their whole attitude towards Paul and his missionary activity bears testimony to the fact. The division of the missionary spheres between Paul and Peter is explained at once by the fact that the primitive apostles felt themselves permanently bound to the Jewish law, which on account of its ordinances of purification made a ministry among the Gentiles impossible to them. From this point of view is also explained the wavering conduct of Peter in Antioch: in his sanguine manner, which was easily determined by emotional impulse, he had here at first accommodated himself to the freer practice, and had lived in the Gentile manner with the Gentile brethren—that is to say, he had practised fellowship in eating with them without regard to the Jewish prescriptions as to purity; but when the adherents of the strictly legal James came to Antioch, he withdrew himself again from the associates of the Gentile community, and required from them accommodation to the legal practices of the Jewish Christians. The result of this was, that it issued in a sharp conflict between Paul and Peter, which the Acts of the Apostles has passed over in silence for the sake of its irenical purpose, but which Paul has narrated in Galatians ii. 11 ff. The reproach of “dissimulation” which Paul thereupon made to Peter was too severe, inasmuch as Peter had not properly denied his conviction, but had only shown such a wavering attitude from want of a firm and clear conviction with regard to the law. Peter was one of those men who, however good and honest their will, have nevertheless not the courage and the power to win a clear and well-grounded conviction in questions of principle, and who therefore allow themselves to be led more by contingent external circumstances and the impulses of their feeling at the time, than by fixed principles and clear thoughts. Such men may be very amiable and able in calm and settled times, but in critical times no reliance can be placed upon them: they oscillate between the old and the new undecidedly and confusedly, thereby increase the general confusion, and delay the unavoidable process of clarification and new formation by putting themselves in the way as a hindrance to the resolute spirits that are conscious of the end to be pursued. From the moment of that conflict in Antioch the paths of Paul and of Peter, of the Gentile Christianity as free from the law and of the Judaic Christianity as under the law, went far asunder. Indeed the Jewish zealots of the law (as even the Acts of the Apostles designates the majority of the Jerusalem community, Acts xxi. 20) soon were no longer satisfied with letting Paul pass on his way to the heathen, but they carried the struggle against him and his law-free Christianity even unto his own Gentile communities, and thereby prepared for him heavy cares and anxieties. But the result of these contests, however painful they were to Paul personally, was here too, as in all later similar cases, only conducive to the progress of the cause of truth and freedom. They served the purpose of enabling Paul to put always more clearly into light his Gospel of the Christ who is the end of the law (Romans x. 4), and to carry it through more and more decisively and more victoriously in the heathen Christian communities. So far we must be thankful to the Judaical Christian opponents of Paul: without their agitations in Galilee and Corinth we should probably not have had the glorious Epistles of the apostle to these communities.

From the self-defence of the apostle in these Epistles we can indirectly infer what his opponents may have brought forward against him. Moreover, we have direct information on the subject in a Judaic writing dating from the middle of the second century, which shows at the same time how long the recollection of the conflict in Antioch continued to live in the circles of the Jewish Christianity, and how long it nourished the grudge against Paul. In the 17th of the Clementine Homilies Peter asks Paul whether one can become a teacher of the Gospel by visions? Why, then, if this were possible, did Jesus associate a whole year long with his waking (not ecstatic) disciples? and how, then, can his assertion that he had seen Christ be believed since he nevertheless teaches otherwise than Christ has taught? “If thou hast actually been participative of His presence although only for an hour, been taught by Him and been intrusted with the apostolic office, then preach His doctrine, explain His sayings, love His apostles, and do not dispute with me (Peter), who have had intercourse with Him. To me, the fixed rock, the foundation pillar of the Church, thou hast set thyself up in opposition as an adversary. If thou wert not an adversary, thou wouldst not have calumniated and reviled my preaching, so that I should no longer find faith even with that which I have heard as an ear-witness from the Lord Himself. If thou callest me ‘damned’ [cf. Gal. ii. 2] thou accusest God, who hath revealed Christ to me. If thou wilt actually co-operate in the proclamation of the truth, then learn first from us what we have learned from Him (Christ), and so become our fellow-worker, having become a scholar of the truth.” Such reproaches had Paul to hear from the beginning, and they were, in fact, so natural, and were so evident to the common understanding, that Paul had no easy task in taking stand against them. To the appeal of the Judaists to the personal intercourse of the primitive apostles with the earthly Jesus he had only to oppose the subjective testimony of the inner revelation of the spiritual Son of God, Christ; but daily experience teaches us how weak are such ideal grounds of inner experience when put in the scale against the real facts of external history. Was it not a fact that Jesus during His earthly life had been subject to the Jewish law, and had even taught His disciples not the abrogation but the fulfilling of the law? When Paul said that for the Christians the old had passed away and become new, that he even no longer knew Christ according to the flesh—that is to say, according to His external earthly appearance—that he preached Christ as the Lord who is spirit and the end of the law, he was himself indeed clearly conscious of the divine truth of this his spiritual doctrine of Christ, and he had also perfect right in holding it, but it was not easy to convince the Jewish Christians of it, those who seemed to have the historical reality upon their side. And when Paul sought to draw from the law itself the proof that the law was to have only temporary significance and was annulled in Christ's death, one cannot blame the Jewish Christians for the fact that these technical demonstrations did not weigh much with them, and that they believed that they found in them an arbitrary misinterpretation of the divine word. Here was one of those tragic conflicts, such as are repeated so often in critical times in history, when the right is not merely upon one side, but right stands against right,—upon the one side the right of history, of tradition, of the letter; and upon the other side the right of the idea, of the spirit, of inner revelation. But that such oppositions are not fought out merely with real reasons, that passion turns against the person of the innovator and reproaches him with bad motives, untruthfulness and vanity, ambition and covetousness,—this painful experience was not spared even to Paul.

What had he to oppose to all this? Nothing but the “demonstration of the spirit and of power” (1 Cor. ii. 4). His external appearance was weak and his speech contemptible, as his opponents sneered (2 Cor. x. 10). But what a glow of enthusiasm animated this fragile body! What a power of conviction spoke out of these plain words,—words wanting in all the charm of human wisdom and art, but a want which only served to bring the power of God and the wisdom of God in the Gospel more immediately to expression! Paul himself reminds the Galatians of how on the occasion of his first missionary journey they had not despised nor disdained him in spite of his sickness at the time, but had received him as an angel of God—nay, even as Christ Jesus, “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. iv, 15). What had worked so ravishingly upon his hearers, and had carried their hearts so by storm, was at once the glad tidings and the person of the messenger who brought them: the good news of the one true God, who was not merely the God of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, and who was calling out of all peoples to Himself a new “Israel of God”; and of the Son of God, Christ, who had given Himself up for our sins in order that He might deliver us from this present evil world, that He might redeem us from the law and from the service of the weak and beggarly elements of the world (the Jewish and Gentile ceremonial worship), and that He might make us free children of God; and of the spirit of Sonship that is bestowed on the believers as a pledge of their future inheritance, and which now already works in them childlike trust in God the Father and the fruits of the various virtues in which fulfilling of the law consists. This was not the empty word-wisdom of Greek rhetoricians, and not the subtle casuistry of Jewish lawyers; but it was the power of God unto salvation for the sick world, the splendour of whose gods had vanished and paled, and whose ideals had sunk into the dust. Here the world-weary souls of the earnest heathen, which were longing for eternal good things, found what neither the Greek philosophy nor the Jewish law was able to furnish them with: a new feeling of their life, a goal worthy of their striving, a fixed ground for their hopes, and a union of brotherly love and mutual helpfulness. And the man who brought them these good things, how entirely other was he than the vain and covetous rhetoricians or the pedantic rabbis so proud of their Judaism! He loved most of all to boast of his weakness, so that God's power might be mighty in him. His Jewish privileges, which had once been his pride, he regarded no longer as anything; worldly honour, earthly gain, had for him no charm; as a simple handicraftsman he gained his own living in order that he might not be a burden to the community, for he sought not theirs but themselves: from all his speaking and doing it was easy to recognise that he had died to the world and to its petty interests, and only lived on for Christ and His cause. Love to Christ and to the souls which he would fain win for Christ held him bound, and it was the only motive and the only standard of all his conduct; other considerations he knew not. From the evil calumny of his enemies he turned away with the calm assurance of a good conscience (1 Cor. iv. 3 ff.) But neither did he shun the semblance of inconsequence where his purpose required it; he became now a Gentile as without law to the Gentiles that were without law, and again a Jew to the Jews. He accommodated himself always according to circumstances to this or that party in order that he might here or there gain souls for Christ (1 Cor. ix. 19 ff.) And while, in opposition to the aggressive Galatian Judaists, he condemned every backsliding into the Jewish ceremonialism as an apostasy from Christ, he practised the greatest toleration towards the legal scrupulosity of the weak Roman brethren, explained the keeping of holydays and abstinence from the eating of flesh to be things indifferent (adiaphora), with which every one may deal as it pleases him, and on account of which no one was to judge another; corresponding to his exhortation, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations” (Romans xiv. 1). In this ability in distinguishing the spirits, and in this loving consideration for the particular needs of individuals, Paul has given for all time a pattern of pastoral wisdom and educative love.

Rich occasion for the exercise of these virtues was furnished to him in the circumstances of his communities, as we may learn them in a particularly instructive manner from the Epistles to the Corinthians. A glance at these narrations will enable us to obtain a knowledge of the primitive beginnings of the churchly and social practices in the Christian communities, in which the germs for later developments are already partly prefigured. The Corinthian Church at the time of Paul was assuredly not an ideal Christian community. In its ecclesiastical and moral life the heathen leaven and the Greek frivolity in particular continued to work in so strong a manner that it needed all the wisdom and power of the apostle to keep it within the limits of Christian discipline and order. Above all, the formation of parties which flourished luxuriously in that Church was a genuinely Greek thing. Three parties had already formed themselves soon after the first residence of Paul in Corinth: a Judaistic party which named itself after Peter, a Hellenistic party under the ægis of the Alexandrine Apollos, and a Pauline party. The Judaistic party was in the Gentile Christian community an artificial product imported from without; it was the work of Jewish Christian agitators who had come to Corinth from abroad with letters of recommendation from foreign (probably Palestinian) communities, in order to carry on a propaganda for their own cause on Paul's field of work, and with what weapons we have already seen. The party of Apollos consisted of those who honoured the Alexandrine theologian who had come to Corinth after Paul's departure, and had there propounded the Gospel in the forms of the Alexandrine speculation, from which his adherents doubtless fashioned for themselves a Gnostic spiritualistic Christianity, which must have deviated from the simple Gospel of Paul in essential points. Paul's polemic against the wisdom of this world, and against the intellectual conceit to which he opposes the simplicity of the Christian faith, is directed against this party. And if we consider that it was just out of this Alexandrine Christian speculation that the whole churchly dogma afterwards proceeded, the inference manifestly follows that that dogma can be so little based upon Paul's authority that the tendency lying at its foundation had rather been already rejected beforehand by Paul, and characterised as a danger for the simple evangelical faith. But Paul had little reason for joy even in the party which banded itself around his own name, for they misunderstood his doctrine of the liberty of the Christian in the libertine sense, as being a licence for the continuation of their frivolous heathen immorality. Paul sought to make it intelligible to them what a great difference there is between Christian freedom and heathen licentiousness—namely, that the principle expressed in “all things are lawful unto me,” which is justified in opposition to Jewish legalism, finds its limit in the demands, lying in the nature of the Christian spirit of self-discipline and sanctification, that those who are purified and sanctified by baptism and the reception of the spirit have the duty to regard and conduct themselves thereafter as members of Christ and temples of the Holy Ghost. In opposition to this party-spirit in general, Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were baptised not to their human teachers but to Christ, that only ground of their salvation; that the individual teachers might well build upon this foundation, each according to their kind with nobler or ignobler, more lasting or more perishing material, but the foundation itself, as it was laid by God in Christ, cannot be replaced by any work of man. To be adherents of Christ was therefore to be the only true watchword of all Christians, as it was also his, the apostle's, watchword. Nor will he have himself regarded as anything but one of the fellow-workers of God along with Apollos and Peter, to every one of whom his special reward is assigned: he would have himself be regarded as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God, which he has only to administer faithfully; as a helper of the joy of the community, not as having lordship over their faith (2 Cor. i. 24). Paul has nowhere raised a claim to such infallible authority and exceptional miraculous inspiration as that which the Church afterwards ascribed to the apostles. He was, indeed, conscious that he did not preach the word of man but the word of God, and not in words such as the wisdom of man teaches, but in words which are taught by the spirit received from God; yet he has nowhere declared the possession of this illuminating Divine spirit to be his or the apostles' exclusive privilege, but, on the contrary, he represents it as the common gift of God to believers as the children of God (Gal. iv. 6); and the bold words of the apostle which put an end to all external authority in matters of faith—namely, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. ii. 15)—hold true of every Christian in so far as he has the spirit. Even with regard to his own words, so far is he from demanding a blind authoritative faith that he rather expressly exhorts his readers to “prove all things,” and “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. v. 21). Nay, more, what are all the often elaborate reflections and arguments with which his Epistles are full but attempts to convince the readers by reasons which presuppose their own reflections? Hence Paul can neither have demanded nor wished a thoughtless blind acceptance of his doctrines as true, as if they had been miraculous divine oracles. The same thing holds true likewise of the other Biblical writers. The churchly doctrine of inspiration has therefore not proceeded from the direct evidence of the Biblical authors, but has been set up against their testimony by the Church on quite other grounds: it is the dogmatic postulate of the period of Church leaders who, in the same measure as they felt themselves forsaken by the spirit, began to idolise the monuments handed down from the period in which the productivity of the spirit was still living.

The envying and strife of the Corinthians so sharply reproved by Paul was also a genuine Greek fault, and it had made itself felt very disturbingly in the religious assemblies of the Christian community. To the directions and regulations which Paul gave in this connection we owe a pretty clear glimpse of the religious services in the worship of these oldest Gentile Christian congregations. Compared with the later practice of the worship of the Church, they had both the advantages and the defects of immature youth, an exuberant fulness of spiritual powers which all strove to pour themselves forth in unconstrained directness, and produced an extravagant multiplicity in the expressions of the religious life: but the reverse side of this unbridled spontaneity was a mischievous disorderliness, a confused babbling of ecstatic speakers in tongues, of clairvoyant prophets, of theosophic teachers of wisdom and lyrical Psalm-singers—nay, even women stood up unveiled as speakers in the assemblies. In all these religious manifestations, but more especially in the rapturous speaking in tongues, men saw miraculous operations of the spirit of Christ, and there arose a rivalry among the members of the community to surpass each other in spiritual gifts. In his discussion of these ongoings Paul proceeded to show (1 Cor. xii.), by the image of the one body with different members, that in the community of the Church, the body of Christ, the one spirit must likewise reveal itself in various powers, and that the one Lord must be served in divers offices. But the value of the individual gifts is measured, according to the sound judgment of the apostle, not by their astonishing impression upon the hearers, nor even by the exuberant feelings of the speaker himself, but by their wholesome influence on the edification and moral furtherance of the community. Hence the ecstatic speaking of the enraptured Christian, of whose meaning neither he himself nor the hearers had a clear consciousness, was only valuable for private edification, but not for the whole assembly, especially as there were also often present in it non-Christians as guests on whom the speakers in tongues only made the impression of being out of their minds. On the other hand, the gift of prophesying was conducive to the edification of the community, because by its unveiling of the most hidden thoughts of the heart (like the modern “thought-reading”) all present were moved, and were convinced of the presence of God in the community. But still more valuable than “speaking in tongues” and prophesying, than knowledge of mysterious wisdom and power of miracle-working faith, according to Paul, is love: when they pass away, faith, hope, and love will abide; but the greatest of these is love. Thus does the apostle lead the thoughts of his readers from the extravagant manifestations of enthusiasm, which impose through the charm of the mysterious, but also bring with them the danger of a gloomy and morally unfruitful fantasy, and guide them again to the pure heights of truly spiritual, because moral and living, powers, which find constant and ordered manifestation in the disposition and character of Christian virtue, and above all in love. The supernaturalism of the fantasy he reduces to order by putting it under the new nature of the spiritual man, who builds up a new world from within by no other miracles than those of love.

The same pedagogic art of referring the small affairs of daily life to the highest points of the universal religious view of the world is betrayed also in Paul's discussion of the public appearing of Christian women in the assemblies (1 Cor. xi.) That women are laid hold of by religious movements with peculiar force is a universal experience which has repeated itself times without number down through the whole Christian history; and it is easy to understand how great must have been the impression of the first Pauline missionary preaching upon the women, who had been hitherto kept under the restraint of the strict Greek practice in an almost slavish want of freedom and state of pupilage, as well as excluded from all the higher interests of society. Now, when they heard that in Christ men and women were one (Gal. iii. 28)—both called to the same degree of freedom of the children of God, and both dignified by the same gifts of the spirit and made capable of serving the Lord in the community—must not that have appeared to them as special redemption of their sex from social oppression? And was it to be wondered at if they rapidly drew the practical consequences of these principles, and, putting themselves above the prevailing practice, appeared unveiled in the assembly of the church, and gave expression to their exuberant feelings in stammering speeches? But Paul saw in this emancipated appearing in public an overstepping of the limits set to women by the order of nature. For substantiation of this view he went back to the creation legend, according to which (Genesis ii.) the woman was made from the man and for the sake of the man, and from this he concluded in the sense of the Jewish theology that she has her pattern and head in the man, as he has his in Christ, and Christ in God (1 Cor. xi. 1-9). According to this theory, the woman would stand in a more distant relationship to Christ and God than the man; he only would be the immediate reflected image of Christ and God, but the woman would be merely the mediate reflection in so far as she would be primarily that of the man. How is this view to be harmonised with the principles of the apostle that man and woman are one in Christ, and that in the religious relationship the difference of the sexes becomes therefore of no significance? This is not quite evident, and it is indeed possible that the apostle himself did not at all seek to adjust or reconcile the two judgments—namely, the newly gained Christian and the traditional ancient judgment (which was Jewish as well as Greek)—and perhaps he did not feel their contradiction. Moreover, the ancient view of the inferiority of the woman also continues to influence him in his estimation of marriage, of which we shall soon come to speak.

Special ground for blame was given by the disorders which occurred in the Corinthian community in connection with the celebration of the Lord's Supper. A common brotherly feast was often not realised, as every one immediately himself consumed the provisions which he had brought with him, when the rich man revelled in good things, while the poor man went hungry away and felt himself ashamed. This lowering of the Lord's Supper to a common feast was designated by Paul as a sinning against the body and blood of Christ, whereby he who ate unworthily brought judgment upon himself because he did not regard the holy significance which belongs to this bread and cup in virtue of their symbolical reference to the body and blood of Christ. In the treatment of the symbols of the body and blood of Christ as common means of enjoyment just lies the depreciation of what the symbol signifies. Paul sees a punishment of this offence in the frequent occurring of sickness and deaths among the members of the community. On this occasion Paul tells of the institution of the Lord's Supper by Jesus, and what is new in his narration is the way he defines it so that it is to be a lasting rite in remembrance of Jesus, and for the showing forth of His death, regarding which we find nothing in the older Gospel narratives. Paul could hardly have had this information from external tradition; probably by the “having received it from Christ” he means a new revelation of the spirit of Christ—that is to say, a prompting of his mystical inspiration which felt itself constrained to make the death of Christ, which was the centre of his theology, also the turning-point in the ritual usages of the community. At all events, it was Paul who first gave a mystic sacramental significance to these usages, and in this connection the analogy of the heathen mysticism was serviceable to him. In 1 Cor. x. 16 ff., he compares the Lord's Supper with the heathen sacrificial meals. As in the latter the sacrificers entered into a mysterious connection with the demons, in like manner the Christian entered into union with Christ on the occasion of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. At the basis of this position there does not at all lie, as was afterwards held by the Church in its grosser view of the doctrine, the assumption of a real presence and enjoyment of the heavenly body of Christ, but simply the idea which was current in the whole ancient world, that man by enjoyment of things which are consecrated to a higher being enters into the sphere of the power of that being, and comes under his mysterious influence. For that very reason Paul forbade the Corinthians from taking part in the heathen festivals, because they who entered into fellowship with the Lord through the Lord's table could not also have fellowship with demons through the demon's table. Further, as the associates of an altar were also united with each other into a religious brotherhood through their common connection with the God of the altar, so in like manner Paul sees in that act, which seals the connection with Christ through the enjoyment of the symbols of his death, at the same time the brotherly union of the Christians with each other to be sealed. And he also finds this side of the sacred act expressed in a second symbolical reference; the unity of the bread, of which each enjoys a part, represents the unity of the body of Christ, which consists in the community of the believers. If we are therefore to speak of a “presence of the body of Christ in the Lord's Supper,” that can only be thought of in the sense of Paul, as pertaining to the mystical body—i.e., the Christian community. Augustine and Zwingli, who have expressed most clearly this meaning of the Supper, have therefore caught quite correctly the sense of the apostle.

As in the case of the Lord's Supper, so did Baptism also first receive its sacramental significance through Paul. As he saw in the immersing under the water the symbolical repetition of the death and resurrection of Christ, Baptism appeared to him as the act of spiritual dying and renovation or regeneration, of incorporation into the mystical body of Christ, that “new creation.” As for Paul the baptism of adults only was in question, faith in Christ is already of course presupposed by it, and baptism is just the act in which faith realises the decisive resolution of giving one's self up actually as belonging to Christ and His community. Yet the outward act is not on that account a mere semblance of what is already present in faith, but according to the mysticism common to Paul with the whole ancient world, the symbolical act effectuates what it typifies, and therefore in this case the mortification of the carnal man and the animation of the spiritual man. As the opposition between flesh and spirit is, according to Paul, an excluding opposition, the transporting out of the one state into the other cannot be effected by a psychological process within the consciousness but through a mystical catastrophe. In this theory Paul also probably leaned on analogous ideas in the heathen mysteries. Thus, for example, in the Eleusinian mysteries the act of reception was represented as a regeneration, and the hierophant appointed to the temple service had to take a sacramental bath, out of which he proceeded as a “new man” with a new name which signifies that, as they were wont to say, “the first one was forgotten”—that is, the old man was put off at the same time with the old name. The parallel of this Eleusinian rite with the thoughts which Paul has written about Baptism in the Epistle to the Romans (chap. vi.), and therefore from Corinth, is so striking that a direct relation between the two may well be conjectured; and all the more that even in the case of the Lord's Supper, Paul has brought in the comparison with the heathen festivals in order to give a basis for his mystical theory.

That these sacramental elements of worship went beyond the practice and way of thinking of the primitive community and of Jesus, and that they contain the germs of a tendency which led afterwards to no inconsiderable confusions, cannot be denied. But, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that a religious community, at least in the ancient world, would not have been able to assert itself entirely without the sacramental mysticism of a form of worship, and that Paul gave to this need of his Gentile communities such satisfaction that within it the ancient mysticism was made the receptacle for the most valuable Christian ethical thoughts regarding regeneration and the unity in love of the spiritual body of Christ. The more the Church of the present day appropriates this ideal kernel of the Pauline sacramental doctrine, both in its knowledge and life, so much the more will it be entitled to let go or to interpret as mere symbolism what belongs to the sphere of the ancient mystic cults.

As regards Paul's ethics, at least, this separation between the transitory and the abiding was practised everywhere and without question in the Protestant Church from the beginning. As the abiding or permanent, we have recognised that Paul put in place of the Jewish legalism and the Gentile unbridled liberty, “the law of the spirit in Christ,” that inner norm of the holy spirit of love who unites the believers as with Christ, so also with each other, into one moral organism, a “body of Christ.” This profound conception represents in Paul the present earthly realisation of the kingdom of God, whereas the latter conception is used almost exclusively in an eschatological sense, and therefore comes into consideration in ethics only as a motive of hope and not as a present reality. But if it has been therefore thought that the ethical conception of the kingdom of God has been replaced and suppressed in Paul (and John) by the transcendental Christ of speculation, this is an error; for Paul expressed by the conception he had coined of the “body of Christ” exactly and wholly the very thought which we are wont to connect with the term “kingdom of God”—namely, the moral organisation of human fellowship in a community in so far as it is animated and ruled by the religious ideal of man as the son of God. Yet this our conception of the “kingdom of God” was not that of the primitive Christianity: this conception was then understood in a thoroughly eschatological sense, and even the approaches observable in the discourses of Jesus to an immanent ethical application of the conception did not continue to work in the consciousness of the primitive community, which was turned wholly and utterly in an eschatological direction. So far, therefore, was the “ethical thought of the kingdom” from being suppressed by the Pauline speculation that, on the contrary, it was Paul who gave a definite expression to this thought for the first time—namely, the expression “body of Christ,” and thereby the thought was emancipated from the transcendental fantasies of an apocalyptic kingdom. It is quite correct to hold that this expression stands in close connection with the Christological speculation of Paul; but it only follows from this that this Christological speculation was needed in order to rescue Christianity from the sphere of the Jewish dreams of a Messianic future, and to elevate it into the domain of the universal human ethical ideality.

But fruitful as was the idea of the “body of Christ” in itself for the moral order of society, Paul nevertheless drew its consequences at first still very imperfectly. It was properly only the religious life of the community for which he established the solidarity and mutually completing service of the individual members: for the secular morality he still wanted feeling and insight. His ethical idealism still stood in a relation of indifference to the family and civil society, tolerating what existed, but not positively working upon the moralisation of these orders of life. The relationship between the world and the kingdom of Christ was to him and the Christendom of his time still generally so much of an excluding opposition, that a positive permeation of the two did not appear possible; and this so much the less as, with the expectation of the nearness of the second coming and of the end of the world, time seemed to be wanting for long and lasting work being applied to the moral transformation of the world.

This negative and ascetic Christianity of the Pauline ethics meets us most strikingly in his estimation of marriage. It might indeed be supposed that the correct Christian appreciation of marriage would necessarily have resulted of itself from Paul's high estimation of love (1 Cor. xiii.), and from the principle that man and woman are one in Christ, and that the woman therefore in the highest religious relation of life was of equal personal dignity with the man. But Paul did not yet draw this conclusion, which appears to us to follow so immediately. He regarded marriage (1 Cor. vii.) as indeed allowed, and even under circumstances as necessary, to guard against excesses. But apart from this relative usefulness as a safeguard against worse, he assigned to it no special moral value, but in general he declares the celibate life to be preferable, because it can be consecrated more exclusively than the married life to the service of the Lord. “The unmarried woman,” he says, “careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Cor. vii. 34). Paul therefore saw in the duties and cares of the married state something worldly which withdraws from the total surrender to the Lord Christ and his cause—a view which has been retained in the Catholic Church in its placing the virgin state above that of the married life. That the married life includes in itself a fulness of moral tasks and means of virtue and good, that it is an excellent sphere for the exercising and fostering of Christian piety, patience, self-denial, and ministering love, this Protestant view of the married state as the “order” which is truly pleasing, and much more sacred than all the monastic orders, still lay far from the views of the apostle, whose whole way of thinking was still so much ruled by the ancient dualism of flesh and spirit that the spiritual ennoblement of the natural in the family life did not yet appear to him as a positive task of Christianity.

Just as striking is his estimation of slavery. That this is a reprehensible relationship, because in contradiction with the personal dignity of the Christian who is called to the liberty of the children of God, appears to us so self-evident to-day that it is difficult for us even to understand the elucidations of the apostle to the contrary in 1 Cor. vii. 20 ff.; and yet there can be no doubt about their meaning if we consider his words unbiassedly. Paul regarded slavery as one of the religiously indifferent forms of the callings of the worldly life which are not to be altered by the calling to the community of Christ. Every one is to remain in the calling in which he was called to Christianity; even he who is called as a slave is to give himself no concern about that—nay, even if he can become free he is all the rather to remain so, seeing that he knows himself to be free in fact, as the freed man of the Lord, just as conversely the free man knows himself as the servant of Christ. Thus the inner freedom and equality of the religious self-consciousness, according to the opinion of Paul, makes the social distinction of master and slave a matter of indifference. What is incompatible with the Christian belonging to the Lord Christ is only the want of religious freedom or the bondage of man in matters of faith, but not the social want of freedom on the part of the slave, which is a concern of this passing world about which the Christian, the citizen of the future world, has to give himself no anxiety. This way of judging about slavery we can very well understand and excuse historically; for what would have become of Christianity if it had proceeded to draw the practical consequences of its ideal doctrine of freedom from the beginning, and to shake the foundations of the ancient social order? Yet when viewed in a purely matter-of-fact way, we shall not be able to appropriate this way of thinking. The dualism between the ideal self-consciousness of the Christian personality and the real worldly life was indeed an inevitable stadium through which the beginnings of Christianity had to pass; but with the course of time it had as certainly and as necessarily to be overcome as that Christianity has the destination to permeate like leaven the matter of the worldly life, and to transform it into a kingdom of God, an order of human society pleasing to God and corresponding to the idea of man.

Finally, as regards the State, Paul exhorted the Roman Christians (Romans xiii.) to obedience towards every existing authority as a divine order. As this order is instituted by God for the protection of the good and the punishment of the bad, the Christian is to be subject to it not merely from fear but for the sake of conscience; he has to show it respect, and to conduct himself as a quiet citizen. But the thought that the good citizen has also to take a part with positive interest in the tasks of the State, and has to co-operate in the betterment of the legal orders and institutions, lay far from the apostle's thoughts, as he found his “politics” not in connection with the earthly secular state but with the heavenly city of God (Phil. iii. 21). Paul even forbade his Corinthian Christians appealing to the secular tribunals in any disputes about property (1 Cor. vi. 1-28), because it is not worthy of the Christians that they, who are to judge the world and the angels at the second coming of Christ, should have their righteousness determined by heathen judges. Rather than that they should go to law before the unjust—that is, the heathen magistrates—they ought rather to suffer injustice. Therefore, according to the view of Paul, the Christian ought indeed to submit himself passively to the political authority; but he is not to recognise any positive moral worth in the legal order which constitutes the essence of the State. Logically, there arose from this that view of the State which prevailed from the time of Augustine in the whole medieval Church, and which still prevails to-day in the Roman Church, according to which the State as a profane worldly institution is completely subordinate to the Church as a divine foundation; and the ecclesiastical law and the ecclesiastical authority take precedence of the civil law and the political authority, as the divine precedes the human. It was Protestantism which first broke with this depreciation of the State, and which restored to the civil authority and legal order their own independent dignity and their proper moral worth; and Luther founded this view just on the Pauline conception of the body of Christ, in which the Christian magistrate is also a member intrusted with special functions, while his dignity and right are not dependent on the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Thus has Protestantism in its estimation of the State as well as of marriage corrected Paul by Paul, by carrying out the ideal principles of his ethics more logically than the apostle himself, and by setting aside the limitations in them which were conditioned by the historical relations of the time.

But if Protestantism from the beginning has carried into effect this distinction between the transitory and the enduring in Paulinism with regard to ethics, who then shall prevent us of the present day from carrying out the same distinction likewise in reference to the dogmatic theology of the first Christian theologian? Has he not himself impressed upon us the right—nay, even the duty—to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good? Has he not himself warned his communities against this, that those whom Christ has called into liberty should not again let themselves be entangled with the yoke of bondage? What the yoke of the letter of the Jewish law was to them, the yoke of the letter of ecclesiastical dogmatic ordinances is to us. To emancipate Christianity from the fetters of Judaism, and to pave the way for the Gospel of the Lord, who is the spirit unto the peoples of the world—this was the universal historical work of the apostle to the Gentiles. And thereby he became the herald of Christian liberty for all times, the leader of all those who struggled for the spirit against the letter, for the right of conscience against the authority of tradition. Nor does the spirit of the greatest of the apostles in the spiritual conflict of the present stand upon the side of those who cling to his words merely, but on the side of those who have taken as their motto his genuine Protestant principle, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”