Page images


martyr left behind him the great free Gentile Church which had not been before him. He achieved greater results than all the other apostles, nor was he afraid of saying so quite plainly. But this great work in its entirety rests upon his faith in the divine calling which had been vouchsafed him. Without this faith it is incredible that St Paul would have accomplished a tithe of what he did. His apostolic self-consciousness is as closely bound up with his work and his position in the world's history as the Messianic with the message of Jesus. Whence came the certainty of the apostolic calling ?

far the most beautiful answer is to be found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians : “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” The calling to go forth as missionary is an inner compulsion which St Paul cannot at all withstand. As the lion roars, so he must preach. Thus spake the old prophets. So Jesus might very well have said. The question, however, as to the origin of this compulsion must not be avoided. St Paul gives us a clear account. He became at once Christian and apostle—such is his answer to the question—through the vision on the road to Damascus. Unlike Jesus, he ever turns back to this vision as to the call which he received. “ Am I not an apostle ? Have I not seen the Lord?” The Lord “appeared to me,” just as He appeared after His death to the twelve. He can tell us the very day and the hour. From that moment he dates the new life and the new calling All at once, without any break, the persecutor became the missionary–he himself looked upon it with amazement, how his conversion and his call came about

“I con

without the slightest human intervention. ferred not with men. I went not to the apostles. The origin of his apostleship was not tradition but revelation, the one being regarded as excluding the other.

A contradiction, however, is contained herein which was immediately noticed by St Paul's contemporaries. The apostleship is the incarnation of the tradition. The apostle is one who hands down the tradition : he is one of a company who secure for the Christian community the connection with the Jesus of history.

Revelation, on the other hand, is the prophet's privilege. He has not to impart the old message of Jesus, but new words of God, just as they flow from the fountain source.

Either, therefore, St Paul is an apostle and hands down the tradition, or he is a prophet and declares the revelation. A combination between the two would only be conceivable if St Paul had merely received the title of prophet by revelation, but had been obliged to go to the apostolic tradition for the contents of his message. Such a combination St Paul refused by not going up to Jerusalem after his call, but by going forth to preach the Gospel on his own account. By so doing he afforded his opponents the opportunity of rightly contesting his title to the apostleship in the hitherto legitimate sense of the word.

The apostleship that rests upon revelation—such is the great leap that history takes. Interpret and explain the vision itself as you will, you must admit the leap. It was not the apostles whom Jesus called while He lived on earth, to whom He confided the whole of His message—it was not they who really continued


His work, but the great persecutor of the Christians whom a revelation summons to the leadership. The leap, the revelation, were necessary if the cause of Jesus was not to stand still or even retrograde. The new way called for a new man bound by no tradition. Only a prophet, no ordinary apostle, could utter the word that should set the stagnant masses in motion. But then he must of course be an apostle as well, in order to carry his work through to the end. Such are the conclusions that we can draw, but the thing remains a mystery after all. The step forward that was then taken in the world's history rests upon the actual contradiction contained in the combination of apostle and prophet in one person. And as a matter of fact, what was there that was not new in this apostle by revelation ? If the beginning of his career was unparalleled, the continuation was unusual. He avoids all intercourse with the apostles and goes forth into distant countries. He leaves Israel to its fate and turns to the Gentiles. He does not place the great provinces that he has just conquered under the authority of the twelve and the Mother Church of Jerusalem, but keeps them in full freedom under his own control.

When disputes arise he does not give way to his older companions in one single point, nor does the former persecutor hesitate to administer an open rebuke to the Lord's favourite, Peter. New, too, is the Gospel that he proclaims. Instead of the story of the words and deeds of Jesus, the message of the crucified and risen Lord alone. True, the name of Jesus stands in the centre, but is it not another Jesus ? And new, too, is the apostle's mode of life. He foregoes the right of being supported by his work as


missionary and earns his daily bread by the sweat of his brow. Finally, he can never quite rid himself of the effects of his education as Rabbi—they always cling to him. The apostle is a prophet; he appeals to revelation and yet at the same time he is a Scribe. He examines, proves, draws conclusions, and occasionally silences his opponent with a whole host of startling and surprising texts. In a word, Paul is the exact opposite of all that had till then been understood by the word 'apostle.'

Hence the necessity and likewise the difficulty of his apology. A very great many Christians could not grasp the fact that one whose past record was the worst imaginable, who did not know Jesus and possessed no authority but that of a vision—the invention of which was the easiest matter conceivable—dared place himself by the side of the twelve whom all men revered, who already were almost accounted as saints.

Fortunately Paul did not attempt the proof of the truth of his vision. He needed none himself, and he would in no case have convinced his adversaries. True, he appealed to it, yet never to it alone. On the contrary, he marshals a whole row of other reasons of a somewhat varied character.

First of all he adapts himself to his opponent's mode of thought, to the high esteem in which they hold the original apostles. It is true he is the least of the apostles—not worthy to be called an apostle, because he had persecuted the brethren. It was only God's grace that enabled him to take his place by their side and even to work more than they. But the twelve and he declare the same Gospel. Have they not handed down to him the fundamental facts


of the death and resurrection, to be by him transmitted to the new congregations of believers? This statement does not quite tally with that to the Galatians—“The gospel which I preach I received not of man." The very same Paul who in the heat of the argument maintains his entire independence and the originality of his message, claims to be a bearer of the apostolic tradition as soon as any one of the fundamental articles of the faith held in common of all Christians is attacked. Notice the satisfaction with which he emphasizes his reception by “ the pillars ” in his account of the great dispute at Jerusalem : “ James and Kephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.” In this passage he formally substantiates his claim that he has been duly received by the twelve. But above all, the collection for the poor in Jerusalem is intended to prove to everybody, and especially to the disseminators of slanderous reports, that Paul is no separatist or sectarian. On the contrary, he is a faithful servant of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, and now discharges his own debt of gratitude and that of all his Gentile converts by this readiness to spend and be spent.

It is, however, to the success of his work that St Paul is able to appeal still more frankly and proudly. The Churches that have been founded by him are the seal of his apostleship, his letter of recommendation known and read of all men. “ From Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum ”—so he writes to the Romans—“I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ,” and that, even where the ground had not yet been broken, “not where Christ was named.”

« PreviousContinue »