PAUL, THE APOSTLE, 4 [ISBE]
PAUL, THE APOSTLE, 4
- IV. His Equipment.
Ramsay chooses as the title of chapter ii, in his Paul the Traveler, the words "The Origin of Paul." It is not possible to explain the work and teaching of Paul without a just conception of the forces that entered into his life. Paul himself is still woefully misunderstood by some. Thus, A. Meyer (Jesus or Paul, 1909, 119) says: "In spite of all that has been said, there is no doubt that Paul, with his peculiar personality, with his tendency to recondite Gnostic speculation and rabbinic argument, has heavily encumbered the cause of Christianity. For many simple souls, and for many natures that are otherwise constituted than himself, he has barred the way to the simple Christianity of Jesus." That is a serious charge against the man who claimed to have done more than all the other apostles, and rightly, so far as we can tell (1 Cor 15:10), and who claimed that his interpretation of Jesus was the only true one (Gal 1:7-9). Moffatt (Paul and Paulinism, 1910, 70) minimizes the effect of Paulinism: "The majority of Paul's distinctive conceptions were either misunderstood, or dropped, or modified, as the case might be, in the course of a few decades." "Paulinism as a whole stood almost as far apart from the Christianity that followed it as from that which preceded it" (ibid., 73). "The aim of some scholars seems to be to rob every great thinker of his originality" (Garvie, Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 1). Ramsay (Pauline and Other Studies, 3 ff) boldly challenges the modern prejudice of some scholars against Paul by asking, "Shall we hear evidence or not?" Every successive age must study afresh the life and work of Paul (ibid., 27) if it would understand him. Deissmann (St. Paul, 3 f) rightly sees that "St. Paul is spiritually the great power of the apostolic age." Hence, "the historian, surveying the beginnings of Christianity, sees Paul as first after Jesus." Feine (Jesus Christus und Paulus, 1902, 298) claims that Paul grasped the essence of the ministry of Christ "auf das tiefste." I own myself a victim to "the charm of Paul," to use Ramsay's phrase (Pauline and Other Studies, 27). In seeking to study "the shaping influences" in Paul's career (Alexander, The Ethics of Paul, 1910, 27), we shall be in error if we seek to explain everything by heredity and environment and if we deny any influence from these sources. He is what he is because of original endowments, the world of his day, and his experience of Christ Jesus. He had both essential and accidental factors in his equipment (Fairbairn, Studies in Religion and Theology, 1910, 469 f). Let us note the chief factors in his religious development.
1. The City of Tarsus:
Geography plays an important part in any life. John the Baptist spent his boyhood in the hill country of Judea in a small town (Lk 1:39) and then in the wilderness. Jesus spent His boyhood in the town of Nazareth and the country round. Both John and Jesus show fondness for Nature in all its forms. Paul grew up in a great city and spent his life in the great cities of the Roman empire. He makes little use of the beauties of Nature, but he has a keen knowledge of men (compare Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul, 12). Paul was proud of his great city (Acts 21:39). He was not merely a resident, but a "citizen" of this distinguished city. This fact shows that Paul's family had not just emigrated from Judea to Tarsus a few years before his birth, but had been planted in Tarsus as part of a colony with full municipal rights (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 31 f). Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, then a part of the province of Syria, but it had the title of metropolis and was a free city, urbs libera (Pliny, NH, v.27). To the ancient Greek the city was his "fatherland" (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 1908, 90). Tarsus was situated on the river Cydnus, and in a wide plain with the hill country behind and the snow-covered Taurus Mountains in the distance. It was subject to malaria. Ramsay (ibid., 117 ff) from Gen 10:4 f holds that the early inhabitants were Greeks mingled with Orientals. East and West flowed together here. It was a Roman town also with a Jewish colony (ibid., 169 ff), constituting a city tribe to which Paul's family belonged. So then Tarsus was a typical city of the Greek-Roman civilization.
The religions of the times all met there in this great mart of business. But it was one of the great seats of culture also. Strabo (xiv.6,73) even says that "Tarsus surpassed all other universities, such as Alexandria and Athens, in the study of philosophy and educational literature in general." "Its great preeminence," he adds, "consists in this, that the men of learning here are all natives." Accordingly, he and others have made up a long list of distinguished men who flourished at Tarsus in the late autumn of Greek learning: philosophers--of the Academy, of the Epicurean and Stoic schools--poets, grammarians, physicians. At Tarsus, one might say, "you breathed the atmosphere of learning" (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 205). But Ramsay (Cities of Paul, 231 f) cautions us not to misunderstand Strabo. It was not even one of the three great universities of the world in point of equipment, fame, students from abroad, or general standing. It was not on a paragraph with Athens and Alexandria, except that "it was rich in what constitutes the true excellence and strength of a university, intense enthusiasm and desire for knowledge among the students and great ability and experience among some at least of the teachers" (ibid., 233). Strabo was very fond of Athenodorus, for instance. No students from abroad came to Tarsus, but they went from Tarsus elsewhere. But Philostratus represents Apollonius of Tyana as disgusted with the university and the town, and Dio Chrysostom describes Tarsus as an oriental and non-Hellenic town.
Ramsay speaks of Tarsus in the reign of Augustus as "the one example known in history of a state ruled by a university acting through its successive principals." "It is characteristic of the general tendency of university life in a prosperous and peaceful empire, that the rule of the Tarsian University was marked by a strong reaction toward oligarchy and a curtailment of democracy; that also belongs to the oriental spirit, which was so strong in the city. But the crowning glory of Tarsus, the reason for its undying interest to the whole world, is that it produced the apostle Paul; that it was the one city which was suited by its equipoise between the Asiatic and the Western spirit to mold the character of the great Hellenist Jew; and that it nourished in him a strong source of loyalty and patriotism as the citizen of no mean city" (Ramsay, op. cit., 235). The city gave him a schooling in his social, political, intellectual, moral, and religious life, but in varying degrees, as we shall see. It was because Tarsus was a cosmopolitan city with "an amalgamated society" that it possessed the peculiar suitability "to educate and mold the mind of him who would in due time make the religion of the Jewish race intelligible to the Greek-Roman world" (ibid., 88). As a citizen of Tarsus Paul was a citizen of the whole world.
2. Roman Citizenship:
It was no idle boast with Paul when he said, "But I am a Roman born" (Acts 22:28). The chief captain might well be "afraid when he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him" (Acts 22:29). Likewise the magistrates at Philippi "feared when they heard that they were Romans" (Acts 16:39), and promptly released Paul and Silas and "asked them to go away from the city." "To the Roman his citizenship was his passport in distant lands, his talisman in seasons of difficulties and danger. It shielded him alike from the caprice of municipal law and the injustice of local magistrates" (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 203). As a citizen of Rome, therefore, Paul stood above the common herd. He ranked with the aristocracy in any provincial town (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 31). He would naturally have a kindly feeling for the Roman government in return for this high privilege and protection. In its pessimism the Roman empire had come to be the world's hope, as seen in the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 49). Paul would seize upon the Roman empire as a fit symbol of the kingdom of heaven. "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20); "Ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints" (Eph 2:19). So he interprets the church in terms of the body politic as well as in terms of the Israelite theocracy (Col 2:19). "All this shows the deep impression which the Roman institutions made on Paul" (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 205). Ramsay draws a striking parallel under the heading, "Paulinism in the Roman Empire" (Cities of Paul, 70 ff). "A universal Paulinism and a universal Empire must either coalesce, or the one must destroy the other." It was Paul's knowledge of the Roman empire that gave him his imperialism and statesmanlike grasp of the problems of Christianity in relation to the Roman empire. Paul was a statesman of the highest type, as Ramsay has conclusively shown (Pauline and Other Studies, 49-100). Moffatt (Paul and Paulinism, 66) does say: "His perspective was not imperialistic," but he shows thereby a curious inability to understand Paul. The vision of Paul saw that the regeneration of the empire could come only through Christianity. Ramsay strikingly shows how the emperor dreaded the spiritual upheaval in Paulinism and fought it steadily till the time of Constantine, when "an official Christianity was victorious, but Pauline Christianity had perished, and Paul was now a mere saint, no longer Paul but Paul, forgotten as a man or a teacher, but remembered as a sort of revivification of the old pagan gods" (Cities of Paul, 78). But, as Ramsay says, "it was not dead; it was only waiting its opportunity; it revived when freedom of thought and freedom of life began to stir in Europe; and it guided and stimulated the Protestants of the Reformation." Suffer Ramsay once more (Pauline and Other Studies, 100): "Barbarism proved too powerful for the Greek-Roman civilization unaided by the new religious bond; and every channel through which that civilization was preserved or interest in it maintained, either is now or has been in some essential part of its course Christian after the Pauline form." Paul would show the Roman genius for organizing the churches established by him. Many of his churches would be in Roman colonies (Antioch in Pisidia, Philippi, Corinth, etc.). He would address his most studied epistle to the church in Rome, and Rome would be the goal of his ministry for many years (Findlay, HDB). He would show his conversance with Roman law, not "merely in knowing how to take advantage of his rights as a citizen, but also in the use of legal terms like "adoption" (Gal 4:5 f), where the adopted heir becomes son, and heir and son are interchangeable. This was the obsolete Roman law and the Greek law left in force in the provinces (compare Gal 3:15). But in Rom 8:16 f the actual revocable Roman law is referred to by which "heirship is now deduced from sonship, whereas in Gal sonship is deduced from heirship; for at Rome a son must be an heir, but an heir need not be a son (compare Heb 9:15 ff which presupposes Roman law and the revocability of a will)" (Maclean in 1-vol HDB). So in Gal 3:24 the tutor or pedagogue presents a Greek custom preserved by the Romans. This personal guardian of the child (often a slave) led him to school, and was not the guardian of the child's property in Gal 4:2. See Ramsay, Gal, 337-93; Ball, Paul and the Roman Law, 1901, for further discussion. As a Roman, Paul would have "nomen and praenomen, probably taken from the Roman officer who gave his family civitas; but Luke, a Greek, had no interest in Roman names. Paulus, his cognomen, was not determined by his nomen; there is no reason to think he was an AEmilius" (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 31). It is probable, though not certain, that Paul spoke Latin (see Souter, The Expositor, April, 1911). He was at any rate a "Roman gentleman" (Findlay, HDB), as is shown by the dignity of his bearing before governors and kings and the respect accorded him by the proconsul Sergius Paulus, the procurator Porcius Festus, and the centurion Julius, whose prisoner he was in the voyage to Rome. His father, as a Roman citizen, probably had some means which may have come to Paul before the appeal to Rome, which was expensive (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 310 ff). Though a prisoner in Rome, he made Rome "his best vantage ground and his adoptive home," and it was here that he rose to "his loftiest conceptions of the nation and destiny of the universal church" (Findlay, HDB) as "an ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:20). As a Roman citizen, according to tradition, he was beheaded with the sword and not subjected to crucifixion, the traditional fate of Simon Peter. He saw the true pax Romana to be the peace that passeth all understanding (Phil 4:7; compare Rostron, The Christology of Paul, 1912, 19).
It is not possible "to specify all the influences that worked on Paul in his youth" (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 79). We do not know all the life of the times. But he was subject to all that life in so far as any other Jewish youth was. "He was master of all the education and the opportunities of his time. He turned to his profit and to the advancement of his great purpose all the resources of civilization" (Ramsay, Pauline and Other Studies, 285). I heartily agree with this conception of Paul's ability to assimilate the life of his time, but one must not be led astray so far as Schramm who, in 1710, wrote De stupenda eruditione Pauli ("On the Stupendous Erudition of Paul"). This is, of course, absurd, as Lightfoot shows (Biblical Essays, 206). But we must not forget Paul lived in a Greek city and possessed Greek citizenship also (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 33). Certainly the Greek traits of adaptability, curiosity, alertness, the love of investigation were marked features of his character, and Tarsus afforded wide opportunity for the acquiring of these qualities (The Ethics of Paul, 39). He learned to speak the vernacular koine like a native and with the ease and swing displayed by no other New Testament writer save Luke and the author of He. He has a "poet's mastery of language," though with the passion of a soul on fire, rather than with the artificial rules of the rhetoricians of the day (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, 239 f). Blass (Die Rhythmen der asianischen und romischen Kunstprosa, 1905) holds that Paul wrote "rhythmically elaborated artistic prose--a singular instance of the great scholar's having gone astray" (Deissmann, Light, etc., 64). But there is evidence that Paul was familiar with the use of the diatribe and other common rhetorical devices, though he was very far from being tinged with Atticism or Asianism. It is certain that Paul did not attend any of the schools of rhetoric and oratory. Heinrici (Vorrede to 1 Cor. in Meyer's Krit. exeget. Komm.) argues that Paul's methods and expressions conform more nearly to the cynic and Stoic diatribe than to the rabbinical dialectic; compare also Wendland und Kern Philo u. d. kynisch-stoische Diatribe, and Hicks, "St. Paul and Hellenism" in Stud. Biblical, IV. How extensive was his acquaintance with Greek literature is in doubt. Lightfoot says: "There is no ground for saying that Paul was a very erudite or highly-cultivated man. An obvious maxim of practical life from Menander (1 Cor 15:33), a religious sentiment of Cleanthes repeated by Aratus, himself a native of Tarsus (Acts 17:28), a pungent satire of Epimenides (Tit 1:12), with possibly a passage here and there which dimly reflects some classical writer, these are very slender grounds on which to build the supposition of vast learning" (Biblical Essays, 206); but Lightfoot admits that he obtained directly or indirectly from contact with Greek thought and learning lessons far wider and more useful for his work than a perfect style or a familiar acquaintance with the classical writers of antiquity. Even so, there is no reason to say that he made his few quotations from hearsay and read no Greek books (compare Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, 52). Certainly he knew the Greek Old Testament and the Jewish Apocrypha and apocalypses in Greek Garvie is only willing to admit that Paul had such knowledge of Greek literature and philosophy as any Jew, living among Greeks, might pick up (Life and Teaching of Paul, 2), and charges Ramsay with "overstating the influence of the Gentile environment on Paul's development" (Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 8). Ramsay holds that it is quite "possible that the philosophical school at Tarsus had exercised more influence on Paul than is commonly allowed" (St. Paul the Traveler, 354). Tarsus was the home of Athenodorus. It was a stronghold of Stoic thought. "At least five of the most eminent teachers of that philosophy were in the university" (Alexander, Ethics of Paul, 47). It is not possible to say whether Paul artended these or any lectures at the university, though it is hard to conceive that a brilliant youth like Saul could grow up in Tarsus with no mental stimulus from such a university. Carvie (ibid., 6) asks when Paul could have studied at the university of Tarsus. He was probably too young before he went to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel. But it is not probable that he remained in Jerusalem continuously after completing his studies till we see him at the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58). He may have returned to Tarsus meanwhile and taken such studies. Another possibility is that he took advantage of the years in Tarsus after his conversion (Acts 9:30; Gal 1:21) to equip himself better for his mission to the Gentiles to which he had been called. There is no real difficulty on the score of time. The world was saturated with Greek ideas, and Paul could not escape them. He could not escape it unless he was innocent of all culture. Ramsay sees in Paul a love of truth and reality "wholly inconceivable in a more narrow Hebrew, and wholly inexplicable without an education in Greek philosophy" ("St. Paul and Hellenism," Cities of Paul, 34). Paul exhibited a freedom and universalism that he found in the Greek thought of the time which was not so decayed as some think. For the discussion between Garvie and Ramsay see The Expositor, April and December, 1911. Pfleiderer (Urchristenthum, Vorwort, 174-178) finds a "double root" of Paulinism, a Christianized Hellenism and a Christianized Pharisaism. Harnack is more nearly correct in saying that "notwithstanding Paul's Greek culture, his conception of Christianity is, in its deepest ground, independent of Hellenism." The Hellenistic influence on Paul was relative and subordinate (Wendland, Die hell.-rom. Kultur in ihren Beziehungen zu Judenthum und Christenthum, 3te Aufl, 1912, 245), but it was real, as Kohler shows (Zum Verstandnis des Apostels Paulus, 9). He had a "Gr inheritance" beyond a doubt, and it was not all unconscious or subliminal as Rostron argues (Christology of Paul, 17). It is true that in Athens the Stoics and Epicureans ridiculed Paul as a "picker up of learning's crumbs"--Browning's rendering (An Epistle) of spermologos. Paul shows a fine scorn of the sophistries and verbal refinements of the mere philosophers and orators in 1 Cor 1 and 2, but all the same he reveals a real apprehension of the true significance of knowledge and life. Dr. James Adam (The Religious Teachers of Greece, 360) shows instances of "the real kinship of thought between Plato and Paul." He does not undertake to say how it came about. He has a Platonic expression, ta dia tou somatos, in 2 Cor 5:10, and uses a Stoic and cynic word in 2 Cor 9:8, autarkeian. Indeed, there are so many similarities between Paul and Seneca in language and thought that some scholars actually predicate an acquaintance or dependence of the one on the other. It is far more likely that Paul and Seneca drew upon the common phrases of current Stoicism than that Seneca had seen Paul's Epistles or knew him personally. Lightfoot has a classic discussion of the matter in his essay on "St. Paul and Seneca" in the Commentary on Phil (see also Carr, "St. Paul's Attitude to Greek Philosophy," The Expositor, V, ix). Alexander finds four Stoic ideas (Divine Immanence, Wisdom, Freedom, Brotherhood) taken and glorified by Paul to do service for Christ (Ethics of Paul, 49-55). Often Paul uses a Stoic phrase with a Christian content. Lightfoot boldly argues (Biblical Essays, 207) that the later Greek literature was a fitter handmaid for the diffusion of the gospel than the earlier.
Paul as the apostle to the Greek-Roman world had to "understand the bearings of the moral and religious life of Greece as expressed in her literature, and this lesson he could learn more impartially and more fully at Tarsus in the days of her decline than at Athens in the freshness of her glory" (same place). Ramsay waxes bold enough to discuss "the Pauline philosophy of history" (Cities of Paul, 10-13). I confess to sympathy with this notion and find it in all the Pauline Epistles, especially in Romans. Moffatt (Paul and Paulinism, 66) finds "a religious philosophy of history" in Rom 9 through 11, throbbing with strong personal emotion. Paul rose to the height of the true Christian philosopher, though not a technical philosopher of the schools. Deissmann (St. Paul, 53) admits his language assigns him "to an elevated class," and yet he insists that he wrote "large letters" (Gal 6:11) because he had "the clumsy, awkward writing of a workman's hand deformed by toil" (p. 51). I cannot agree that here Deissmann understands Paul. He makes "the world of Paul" on too narrow a scale.
4. The Mystery-Religions:
Was Paul influenced by Mithraism? H.A.A. Kennedy has given the subject very careful and thorough treatment in a series of papers in The Expositor for 1912-13, already mentioned (see II, 5, above). His arguments are conclusive on the whole against the wild notions of W.B. Smith, Der vorchristliche Jesus; J.M. Robertson, Pagan Christs; A. Drews, Die Christus-Mythe; and Lublinski, Die Entstehung des Christenrums aus der antiken Kultur. A magic papyrus about 300 AD has "I adjure thee by the god of the Hebrew Jesu" (ll. 3019 f), but Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, 256) refuses to believe this line genuine: "No Christian, still less a Jew, would have called Jesus `the god of the Hebrews.' " Clemen (Primitive Christianity and Its non-Jewish Sources, 1912, 336) endorses this view of Deissmann and says that in the 1st century AD "one cannot speak of non-Jewish influences on Christology." One may dismiss at once the notion that Paul "deified" Jesus into a god and made Him Christ under the influence of pagan myths. Certainly pagan idolatry was forced upon Paul's attention at every turn. It stirred his spirit at Athens to see the city full of idols (Acts 17:16), and he caught eagerly at the altar to an unknown god to give him an easy introduction to the true God (Acts 17:23); but no one can read Rom 1 and 2 and believe that Paul was carried away by the philosophy of vain deceit of his time. He does use the words "wisdom" and "mystery" often in 1 Corinthians, Colossians, and Ephesians, and in Phil 4:12, "I (have) learned the secret," he uses a word employed in the mystic cults of the time. It is quite possible that Paul took up some of the phrases of these mystery-religions and gave them a richer content for his own purposes, as he did with some of the Gnostic phraseology (pleroma, "fullness," for instance). But Schweitzer (Paul and His Interpreters, 191 f) deals a fatal blow against the notion that the mystery-religions had a formative influence on Paul. He urges, with point, that it is only in the 2nd century that these cults became widely extended in the Roman empire. The dates and development are obscure, but it "is certain that Paul cannot have known the mystery-religions in the form in which they are known to us, because in this fully developed form they did not exist." Cumont (Lea religions orientales dana le paganisme romain, 2nd edition, 1909 (ET)) insists repeatedly on the difficulties in the way of assuming without proof that Mithraism had any influence on Paul. But in particular it is urged that Paul drew on the "mysteries" for his notions of baptism and the Lord's Supper as having magical effects. Appeal is made to the magical use of the name of Jesus by the strolling Jewish exorcists in Ephesus (Acts 18:13 ff). Kirsopp Lake (Earlier Epistles of Paul, 233) holds that at Corinth they all accepted Christianity as a mystery-religion and Jesus as "the Redeemer-God, who had passed through death to life, and offered participation in this new life to those who shared in the mysteries which He offered," namely, baptism and the Lord's Supper. But Kennedy (Expos, December, 1912, 548) easily shows how with Paul baptism and the Lord's Supper are not magical sacraments producing new life, but symbolic pictures of death to sin and new life in Christ which the believer has already experienced. The battle is still raging on the subject of the mystery-religions, but it is safe to say that so far nothing more than illustrative material has been shown to be true of Paul's teaching from this source.
There is nothing incongruous in the notion that Paul knew as much about the mystery-religions as he did about incipient Gnosticism. Indeed the two things may have been to some extent combined in some places. A passage in Col 2:18 has long bothered commentators: "dwelling in the things which he hath seen," or (margin) "taking his stand upon the things," etc. Westcott and Hort even suspected an early error in the text, but the same word, embateuo, has been found by Sir W.M. Ramsay as a result of investigations by Makridi Bey, of the Turkish Imperial Museum, in the sanctuary of Apollo at Claros, a town on the Ionian coast. Some of the initiates here record the fact and say that being "enquirers, having been initiated, they entered" (embateuo). The word is thus used of one who, having been initiated, enters into the life of the initiate (compare Independent, 1913, 376). Clearly, then, Paul uses the word in that sense in Col 2:18.
For further discussion see Jacoby, Die antiken Mysterienreligionen und das Christentum; Glover, Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire; Reitzenstein, Die hell. Mysterienreligionen; Friedlander, Roman Life and Manners under the Early Empire, III; Thorburn, Jesus Christ, Historical or Mythical.
M. Bruckner (Der sterbende und auferstehende Gottheiland in den orientalischen Religionen und ihr Verhaltnis zum Christentum, 1908) says: "As in Christianity, so in many oriental religions, a belief in the death and resurrection of a Redeemer-God (sometimes as His Son), occupied a central place in the worship and cult." To this Schweitzer (Paul and His Interpreters, 193) replies: "What manipulations the myths and rites of the cults in question must have undergone before this general statement could become possible! Where is there anything about dying and resurrection in Mithra?" There we may leave the matter.
Paul was Greek and Roman, but not "pan-Babylonian," though he was keenly alive to all the winds of doctrine that blew about him, as we see in Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles. But he was most of all the Jew, that is, before his conversion. He remained a Jew, even though he learned how to be all things to all men (1 Cor 9:22). Even though glorying in his mission as apostle to the Gentiles (Eph 3:8), he yet always put the Jew first in opportunity and peril (Rom 2:9 f). He loved the Jews almost to the point of death (Rom 9:3). He was proud of his Jewish lineage and boasted of it (2 Cor 11:16-22; Acts 22:3 ff; 26:4 ff; Phil 3:4-6). "His religious patriotism flickered up within his Christianity" (Moffatt, Paul and Paulinism, 66). Had he not been a Roman citizen with some Greek culture and his rich endowments of mind, he would probably not have been the "chosen vessel" for the work of Christ among the Gentiles (Garvie, Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 15). Had he not been the thorough Jew, he could not have mediated Christianity from Jew to Greek. "In the mind of Paul a universalized Hellenism coalesced with a universalized Hebraism" (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 43). Ramsay strongly opposes the notion of Harhack and others that Paul can be understood "as purely a Hebrew." So in Paul both Hebraism and Hellenism meet though Hebraism is the main stock. He is a Jew in the Greek-Roman world and a part of it, not a mere spectator. He is the Hellenistic Jew, not the Aramaic Jew of Palestine (compare Simon Peter's vision on the house-top at Joppa, for instance). But Paul is not a Hellenizing Jew after the fashion of Jason and Menelaus in the beginning of the Maccabean conflict. Findlay (HDB) tersely says: "The Jew in him was the foundation of everything that Paul became." But it was not the narrowest type of Judaism in spite of his persecution of the Christians. He belonged to the Judaism of the Dispersion. As a Roman citizen in a Greek city he had departed from the narrowest lines of his people (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 47). His Judaism was pure, in fact, as he gives it to us in Phil 3:5. He was a Jew of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Hebrew, of the seed of Abraham (2 Cor 11:22). He shared in full all the covenant blessings and privileges of his people (Rom 9:1-5), whose crowning glory was, that of them came Jesus the Messiah. He was proud of the piety of his ancestors (2 Tim 1:3), and made progress as a student of Judaism ahead of his fellows (Gal 1:14). His ancestry was pure, Hebrew of the Hebrews. (Phil 3:5), and so his family preserved the native Palestinian traditions in Tarsus. His name Saul was a proof of loyalty to the tribe of Benjamin as his cognomen Paul was evidence of his Roman citizenship. In his home he would be taught the law by his mother (compare Gal 1:14), as was true of Timothy's mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1:5). In Tarsus he would go to the synagogue also. We know little of his father, save that he was a Roman citizen and so a man of position in Tarsus and possibly of some wealth; that he was a tent-maker and taught his son the same trade, as all Jewish fathers did, whatever their rank in life; that he was a Pharisee and brought up his son as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), and that he sent the young Saul to Jerusalem to study at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Paul always considered himself a Pharisee as distinct from the Sadducaic scepticism (Acts 23:6). Many of the Pharisaic doctrines were identical with those of Christianity. That Paul did not consider himself a Pharisee in all respects is shown later by his conflict with the Judaizers (Gal 2; Acts 15; 2 Cor 10 through 13). Paul says that he was reared as a strict Pharisee (Acts 26:5), though the school of Gamaliel (grandson of Hillel) was not so hard and narrow as that of Shammai. But all Pharisees were stricter than the Sadducees. So Jerusalem played an important part in the training of Saul (Acts 22:3), as Paul recognized. He was known in Jerusalem as a student. He knew Aramaic as well as Greek (and Latin), and could speak in it so as to attract the attention of a Jewish audience (Acts 22:2). Paul was fortunate in his great teacher Gamaliel, who was liberal enough to encourage the study of Greek literature. But his liberality in defending the apostles against the Sadducees in Acts 5:34-39 must not be misinterpreted in comparison with the persecuting zeal of his brilliant pupil against Stephen (7:58). Stephen had opened war on the Pharisees themselves, and there is no evidence that Gamaliel made a defense of Stephen against the lawless rage of the Sanhedrin. It is common for pupils to go farther than their teachers, but Gamaliel did not come to the rescue. Still Gamaliel helped Saul, who was undoubtedly his most brilliant pupil and probably the hope of his heart for the future of Judaism. Harnack (History of Dogma, I, 94) says: "Pharisaism had fulfilled its mission in the world when it produced this man." Unfortunately, Pharisaism did not die; in truth has never died, not even from Christianity. But young Saul was the crowning glory of Pharisaism. An effort has recently been made to restore Pharisaism to its former dignity. Herford (Pharisaism, Its Aim and Method, 1912) undertakes to show that the Gospels have slandered Pharisaism, that it was the one hope of the ancient world, etc. He has a chapter on "Pharisaism and Paul," in which he claims that Paul has not attacked the real Pharisaism, but has aimed his blows at an unreal creation of his own brain (p. 222). But, if Paul did not understand Pharisaism, he did not understand anything. He knew not merely the Old Testament in the Hebrew and the Septuagint translation, for he quotes from both, though usually from the Septuagint, but he also knew the Jewish Apocrypha and apocalypses, as is shown in various ways in his writings (see articles on these subjects). Schweitzer (Paul and His Interpreters) carries too far his idea that Paul and Jesus merely moved in the circle of Jewish eschatology. He makes it explain everything, and that it cannot do. But Paul does show acquaintance with some of these books. See Kennedy, Paul's Conception of the Last Things (1904), for a sane and adequate discussion of this phase of the subject. Pfleiderer pursues the subject in his Paulinism, as does Kabisch in his Eschatologie. So Sanday and Headlam use this source in their Commentary on Romans. Paul knew Wisd, also, a book from the Jewish-Alexandrian theology with a tinge of Greek philosophy (see Goodrick, Book of Wisd, 398-403; compare also Jowett's essay on "St. Paul and Philo" in his Epistles of Paul). Paul knew how to use allegory (Gal 4:24) in accord with the method of Philo. So then he knew how to use the Stoic diatribe, the rabbinical diatribe and the Alexandrian allegory. "In his cosmology, angelology, and demonology, as well as eschatology, he remains essentially Jewish" (Garvie, Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 17). When he becomes a Christian he will change many of his views, for Christ must become central in his thinking, but his method learned in the rabbinical schools remains with him (Kohler, Zum Verstandnis, etc., 7). Here, then, is a man with a wonderfully rounded culture. What of his mental gifts?
6. Personal Characteristics:
Much as we can learn about the times of Paul (compare Selden, In the Time of Paul, 1900, for a brief sketch of Paul's world), we know something of the political structure of the Roman world, the social life of the 1st century AD, the religious condition of the age, the moral standards of the time, the intellectual tendencies of the period. New discoveries continue to throw fresh light on the life of the middle and lower classes among whom Paul chiefly labored. And, if Deissmann in his brilliant study (St. Paul, A Study in Social and Religious History) has pressed too far the notion that Paul the tent-maker ranks not with Origen, but with Amos the herdman (p. 6, on p. 52 he calls it a mistake "to speak of Paul the artisan as a proletarian in the sense which the word usually bears with us"), yet he is right in insisting that Paul is "a religious genius" and "a hero of piety" (p. 6). It is not possible to explain the personality and work of a man like Paul by his past and to refer with precision this or that trait to his Jewish or Greek training (Alexander, Ethics of Paul, 58). "We must allow something to his native originality" (same place) . We are all in a sense the children of the past, but some men have much more the power of initiative than others. Paul is not mere "eclectic patchwork" (Bruce, Paul's Conception of Christ, 218). Even if Paul was acquainted with Philo, which is not certain, that fact by no means explains his use of Philo, the representative Jew of the Hellenistic age. "Both are Jews of the Dispersion, city-dwellers, with marked cosmopolitan traits. Both live and move in the Septuagint Bible. Both are capable of ecstatic and mystical experiences, and have many points of contact in detail. And yet they stand in very strong contrast to one another, a contrast which reminds us of the opposition between Seneca and Paul. .... Philo is a philosopher, Paul the fool pours out the vials of his irony upon the wisdom of the world" (Deissmann, Paul, 110). Deissmann, indeed, cares most for "the living man, Paul, whom we hear speaking and see gesticulating, here playful, gentle as a father, and tenderly coaxing, so as to win the hearts of the infatuated children--there thundering and lightning with the passionate wrath of a Luther, with cutting irony and bitter sarcasm on his lips" (ibid., 16 f).
(1) Personal Appearance.
We have no reliable description of Paul's stature and looks. The Acts of Paul and Thecla (section3) have a protraiture thus: "Baldheaded, bowlegged, strongly built, a man small in size, with meeting eyebrows, with a rather large nose, full of grace, for at times he looked like a man and at times he had the face of an angel," and Ramsay (Church in the Roman Empire, 32) adds: "This plain and unflattering account of the apostle's personal appearance seems to embody a very early tradition," and in chapter xvi he argues that this story goes back to a document of the 1st century. We may not agree with all the details, but in some respects it harmonizes with what we gather from Paul's Epistles Findlay (HDB) notes that this description is confirmed by "the lifelike and unconventional figure of the Roman ivory diptych, `supposed to date not later than the 4th century.' " (Lewin's Life and Epistles of Paul, Frontispiece, and II, 211). At Lystra the natives took Barnabas for Jupiter and Paul for Hermes, "because he was the chief speaker" (Acts 14:12), showing that Barnabas had the more impressive appearance, while Paul was his spokesman. In Malta the natives changed their minds in the opposite direction, first thinking Paul a murderer and then a god because he did not die from the bite of the serpent (Acts 28:4-6). His enemies at Corinth sneered at the weakness of his bodily presence in contrast to the strength of his letters (2 Cor 10:9 f). The attack was really on the courage of Paul, and he claimed equal boldness when present (2 Cor 10:11 f), but there was probably also a reflection on the insignificance of his physique. The terrible bodily sufferings which he underwent (2 Cor 11:23-26) left physical marks (stigmata, Gal 6:17) that may have disfigured him to some extent. Once his illness made him a trial to the Galatians to whom he preached, but they did not scorn him (Gal 4:14). He felt the frailty of his body as an earthen vessel (2 Cor 4:7) and as a tabernacle in which he groaned (2 Cor 5:4). But the effect of all this weakness was to give him a fresh sense of dependence on Christ and a new influx of divine power (2 Cor 11:30; 12:9). But even if Paul was unprepossessing in appearance and weakened by illness, whether ophthalmia, which is so common in the East (Gal 4:15), or malaria, or recurrent headache, or epilepsy, he must have had a tough constitution to have endured such hardship to a good old age. He had one infirmity in particular that came upon him at Tarsus (2 Cor 12:1-9) in connection with the visions and revelations of the Lord then granted him. The affliction seems to have been physical (skolops te sarki, "a stake in the flesh" or "for the flesh"), and it continued with him thereafter as a messenger of Satan to buffet Paul and to keep him humble. Some think that this messenger of Satan was a demon that haunted Paul in his nervous state. Others hold it to be epilepsy or some form of hysteria superinduced by the visions and revelations which he had had. Compare Krenkel, Beitrage (pp. 47-125), who argues that the ancients looked with such dread on epilepsy that those who beheld such attacks would "spit out so as to escape the evil (compare modern knocking on wood"); compare qui sputatur morbus in Plautus (Captivi, iii.4, 17). Reference is made to Gal 4:14, oude exeptusate, "nor did ye spit out," as showing that this was the affliction of Paul in Galatia. But epilepsy often affects the mind, and Paul shows no sign of mental weakness, though his enemies charged him with insanity (Acts 26:24; 2 Cor 5:13; 12:11). It is urged in reply that Julius Caesar, Alfred the Great, Peter the Great, and Napoleon all had epilepsy without loss of mental force. It is difficult to think headache or malaria could have excited the disgust indicated in Gal 4:14, where some trouble with the eyes seems to be indicated. The ministers of Satan (2 Cor 11:15) do not meet the requirements of the case, nor mere spiritual sins (Luther), nor struggle with lust (Roman Catholic, stimulus carnis). Garvie (Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 65, 80) thinks it not unlikely that "it was the recurrence of an old violent temptation," rather than mere bodily disease. "Can there be any doubt that this form of temptation is more likely to assail the man of intense emotion and intense affection, as Paul was?" But enough of what can never be settled. "St. Paul's own scanty hints admonish to caution" (Deissmann, Paul, 63). It is a blessing for us not to know, since we can all cherish a close bond with Paul. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 37 ff) calls special attention to the look of Paul. He "fastened his eyes on" the man (Acts 13:9; 14:9). He argues that Paul had a penetrating, powerful gaze, and hence, no eye trouble. He calls attention also to gestures of Paul (Acts 20:24; 26:2). There were artists in marble and color at the court of Caesar, but no one of them cared to preserve a likeness of the poor itinerant preacher who turned out to be the chief man of the age (Deissmann, Paul, 58). "We are like the Christians of Colesage and Laodicea, who had not seen his face in the flesh" (Col 2:1).
(2) Natural Endowments.
In respect to his natural endowments we can do much better, for his epistles reveal the mind and soul of the man. He is difficult to comprehend, not because he conceals himself, but because he reveals so much of himself in his epistles. He seems to some a man of contradictions. He had a many-sided nature, and his very humanness is in one sense the greatest thing about him. There are "great polar contradictions" in his nature. Deissmann (St. Paul, 62 ff) notes his ailing body and his tremendous powers for work, his humility and his self-confidence, his periods of depression and of intoxication with victory, his tenderness and his sternness; he was ardently loved and furiously hated; he was an ancient man of his time, but he is cosmopolitan and modern enough for today. Findlay (HBD) adds that he was a man possessed of dialectical power and religious inspiration. He was keenly intellectual and profoundly mystical (compare Campbell, Paul the Mystic, 1907). He was a theologian and a man of affairs. He was a man of vision with a supreme task to which he held himself. He was a scholar, a sage, a statesman, a seer, a saint (Garvie, Studies in Paul and His Gospel, 68-84). He was a man of heart, of passion, of imagination, of sensibility, of will, of courage, of sincerity, of vivacity, of subtlety, of humor, of adroitness, of tact, of genius for organization, of power for command, of gift of expression, of leadership--"All these qualities and powers went to the making of Jesus Christ's apostle to the nations, the master-builder of the universal church and of Christian theology" (Findlay, HDB; see Lock, Paul the Master Builder, 1905; and M. Jones, Paul the Orator, 1910).
I cannot agree with Garvie's charge of cowardice (Life and Teaching of Paul, 173,) in the matter of the purifying rites (Acts 21:23) and the dividing of the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6). The one was a mere matter of prudence in a nonessential detail, the other was justifiable skill in resisting the attack of unscrupulous enemies. One does not understand Paul who does not understand his emotional nature. He was "quick, impetuous, strenuous, impassioned" (Bevan, Paul in the Light of Today, 1912, 26). His heart throbs through his epistles, and he loves his converts like a mother or a lover (Findlay, HDB) rather than a pastor. We feel the surging emotion of his great spirit in 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, 2 Timothy in particular. He had the spiritual temperament and reaches his highest flights in his moments of rhapsody. He has elasticity and rebound of spirit, and comes up with the joy of victory in Christ out of the severest trials and disappointments. His ambition is great, but it is to serve Christ his Lord. He is a man of faith and a man of prayer. For him to live is Christ. He has a genius for friendship and binds men to him with hooks of steel--men like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Titus (Speer, The Man Paul, 1900, 111 ff). He is not afraid to oppose his friends when it is necessary for the sake of truth, as with Peter (Gal 2:11 ff) and with Barnabas (Acts 15:35 ff). "While God made Paul like the other apostles out of the clay whereof ordinary men are fashioned, yet we may say that He took extraordinary pains with his education" (Fairbairn, Studies in Religion and Theology, 471). If ever a man, full-blooded and open-eyed, walked the earth, it was Paul. It is a debatable question whether Paul was married or not. He certainly was not when he wrote (1 Cor 7:7; 9:5). But, if he was a member of the Sanhedrin when he cast his vote against the disciples (Acts 26:10), as his language naturally means, then he had been married.
There is in Paul the gift of leadership in a marked degree. He, though young, is already at the head of the opposition to Stephen (Acts 7:58), and soon drives the disciples out of Jerusalem.
(3) Supernatural gifts.
He had his share of them. He had all the gifts that others could boast of at Corinth, and which he lightly esteemed except that of prophecy (1 Cor 14:18-29). He had his visions and revelations, but would not tell what he had seen (2 Cor 12:1-9). He did the signs of an apostle (2 Cor 12:12-14). He had the power to work miracles (1 Cor 4:19-21) and to exercise discipline (1 Cor 5:4 f; 2 Cor 13:1-3). But what he cared for most of all was the fact that Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus and had called him to the work of preaching to the Gentiles (1 Cor 15:8).
No other element in the equipment of Paul is comparable in importance to his conversion.
It was sudden, and yet God had led Saul to the state of mind when it could more easily happen. True, Saul was engaged in the very act of persecuting the believers in Jerusalem. His mind was flushed with the sense of victory. He was not conscious of any lingering doubts about the truth of his position and the justice of his conduct till Jesus abruptly told him that it was hard for him to kick against the goad (Acts 26:14). Thus suddenly brought to bay, the real truth would flash upon his mind. In later years he tells how he had struggled in vain against the curse of the Law (Rom 7:7 f). It is probable though not certain, that Paul here has in mind his experience before his conversion, though the latter part of the chapter may refer to a period later. There is difficulty in either view as to the "body of this death" that made him so wretched (Rom 7:24). The Christian keeps up the fight against sin in spite of defeat (Rom 7:23), but he does not feel that he is "carnal, sold under sin" (Rom 7:14). But when before his conversion did Paul have such intensity of conviction? We can only leave the problem unanswered. His reference to it at least harmonizes with what Jesus said about the goad. The words and death of Stephen and the other disciples may have left a deeper mark than he knew. The question might arise whether after all the Nazarenes were right. His plea for his conduct made in later years was that he was conscientious (Acts 26:9) and that he did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Tim 1:13). He was not willfully sinning against the full light as he saw it. It will not do to say with Holsten that Saul was half convinced to join the disciples, and only needed a jolt to turn him over. He was "yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), and went to the high priest and asked for letters to Damascus demanding the arrest of the disciples there. His temper on the whole is distinctly hostile to Christ, and the struggle against his course was in the subconscious mind. There a volcano had gathered ready to burst out.
It is proper to ask whether Paul had known Jesus in the flesh, but it is not easy to give a categorical reply. It is possible, though hardly likely, that Paul had come to Jerusalem to study when Jesus as a boy of 12 visited the temple, and so heard Jesus and the doctors. That could be true only in case Paul was born 5 or 6 BC, which is quite unlikely. It is possible again that Paul may have remained in Jerusalem after his graduation the school of Gamaliel and so was present in Jerusalem at the trial and death of Jesus. Some of the ablest of modern scholars hold that Paul knew Jesus in the flesh. It will at once seem strange that we have no express statement to this effect in the letters of Paul, when he shows undoubted knowledge of various events in the life of Christ (compare Wynne, Fragmentary Records of Jesus of Nazareth, 1887). It is almost certain, as J. Weiss admits (Paul and Jesus, 41), that in 1 Cor 9:1 Paul refers to the Risen Jesus. The passage in 2 Cor 5:16 is argued both ways: "Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more." J. Weiss (ibid., 41-55) argues strongly for the view that he knew Jesus in the flesh. But in the first clause of the sentence above Paul means by "after the flesh," not acquaintance, but standpoint. It is natural to take it in the same way as applied to Christ. He has changed his viewpoint of Christ and so of all men. Weiss pleads (ibid., p. 40), at any rate, that we have no word saying that "Paul had not seen Jesus in person." It may be said in reply that the fact that Jesus has to tell Paul who He is (Acts 9:5) shows that Paul did not have personal acquaintance with Him. But the question may be left in abeyance as not vitally important. He certainly had not understood Jesus, if he knew Him.
Space does not, permit a discussion of this great event of Paul's conversion at all commensurate with its significance. A literature of importance has grown up around it besides the lengthy discussions in the lives and theologies of Paul (see e.g. Lord Lyttleton's famous Observations on Saul's Conversion, 1774; Fletcher's A Study of the Conversion of Paul, 1910; Gardner, The Religious Experience of Paul, 1911; Maggs, The Spiritual Experience of Paul). All sorts of theories have been advanced to explain on naturalistic grounds this great experience of Christ in the life of Paul. It has been urged that Paul had an epileptic fit, that he had a sunstroke, that he fell off his horse to the ground, that he had a nightmare, that he was blinded by a flash of lightning, that he imagined that he saw Jesus as a result of his highly wrought nervous state, that he deliberately renounced Judaism because of the growing conviction that the disciples were right. But none of these explanations explains. Mere prejudice against the supernatural, such as is shown by Weinel in his Paulus, and by Holsten in his able book (Zum Evangelium d. Paulus und Petrus), cannot solve this problem. One must be willing to hear the evidence. There were witnesses of the bright light (Acts 26:13) and of the sound (Acts 9:7) which only Paul understood (Acts 22:9), as he alone beheld Jesus. It is claimed by some that Paul had a trance or subjective vision, and did not see Jesus with his eyes. Denney (Standard Bible Dictionary) replies that it is not a pertinent objection. Jesus (Jn 21:1) "manifested" Himself, and Paul says that he "saw" Jesus (1 Cor 9:1), that Jesus "appeared" (1 Cor 15:8) to him. Hence, it was both subjective and objective. But the reality of the event was as clear to Paul as his own existence. The account is given 3 times in Acts (chapters 9; 22; 26) in substantial agreement, with a few varying details. In Acts 9 the historical narrative occurs, in Acts 22 Paul's defense before the mob in Jerusalem is given, and in Acts 26 we have the apology before Agrippa. There are no contradictions of moment, save that in chapter 26 Jesus Himself is represented as giving directly to Paul the call to the Gentiles while in chapters 9 and 22 it is conveyed through Ananias (the fuller and more accurate account). There is no need to notice the apparent contradiction between Acts 9:7 and 22:9, for the difference in case in the Greek gives a difference in sense, hearing the sound, with the genitive, and not understanding the sense, with the accusative. Findlay (HBD) remarks that the conversion of Paul is a psychological and ethical problem which cannot be accounted for save by Paul's own interpretation of the change wrought in him. He saw Jesus and surrendered to Him.
(3) Effect on Paul.
His surrender to Jesus was instantaneous and complete: "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10). He could not see for the glory of that light (Acts 22:11), but he had already seen "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). The god of this world could blind him no longer. He had seen Jesus, and all else had lost charm for Paul. There is infinite pathos in the picture of the blind Saul led by the hand (Acts 9:8) into Damascus. All the pride of power is gone, all the lust for vengeance. The fierceness of the name of Saul is well shown in the dread that Ananias has and the protest that he makes to the Lord concerning him (Acts 9:10-14). Ananias doubtless thought that the Lord had made a strange choice of a vessel to bear the message of Christ to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15), but there was hope in the promise of chastisement to him (Acts 9:16). So he went, and calls him "Brother Saul." Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, the scales fell from his eyes, he was baptized. And now what next? What did the world hold in store for the proud scion of Judaism who had renounced power, place, pride for the lowly Nazarene? He dared not go back to Jerusalem. The Jews in Damascus would have none of him now. Would the disciples receive him? They did. "And he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus" (Acts 9:19). Ananias vouched for him by his vision. Then Saul took his courage in his hands and went boldly into the synagogues and "proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). This was a public committal and a proclamation of his new creed. There was tremendous pith and point in this statement from Saul. The Jews were amazed (Acts 9:21). This is the core of Paul's message as we see in his later ministry (Acts 13; 17:3). It rests at bottom on Paul's own experience of grace. "His whole theology is nothing but the explanation of his own conversion" (Stalker, Life of Paul, 45). We need not argue (Garvie, Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 51) that Paul understood at once the full content of the new message, but he had the heart of it right.