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From the year 38 to the year 44 no persecution seems to have been directed against the Church. The faithful were, no doubt, far more prudent than before the death of Stephen, and avoided speaking in public. Perhaps, too, the troubles of the Jews who, during all the second part of the reign of Caligula, were at variance with that prince, contributed to favour the nascent sect. The Jews, in fact, became active persecutors in proportion to the good understanding they maintained with the Romans. To buy or to recompense their tranquility, the latter were led to augment their privileges, and in particular the one to which they clung most closely—the right of killing 104persons whom they regarded as inimical to their law. But the period at which we have arrived was one of the most stormy in the turbulent history of this singular people.

The antipathy which the Jews, in consequence of their moral superiority, their odd customs, as well as their harshness, excited in the populations among which they lived, was at its height, especially at Alexandria. This accumulated hatred, for its own satisfaction, took advantage of the coming to the imperial throne of one of the most dangerous lunatics that ever wore a crown. Caligula, at least after the malady which completed his mental derangement (October, 37), presented the frightful spectacle of a maniac governing the world endowed with the most enormous powers ever put into the hands of any man. The atrocious law of Cæsarism rendered such horrors possible, and left the governed without remedy. This lasted three years and three mouths. One cannot without shame set down in a serious history that which is now to follow. Before entering upon the recital of these saturnalia we cannot but exclaim with Suetonius: Reliqua ut de monstro narranda sunt.

The most inoffensive pastime of this madman was the care of his own divinity. In order to do this he used a sort of bitter irony, a mixture of the serious and the comic (for the monster was not wanting in wit), a sort of profound derision of the human race. The enemies of the Jews were not slow to perceive the advantage they might gain from this mania. The religious abasement of the world was such that not a protest was heard against the sacrilege of the Cæsar; every cult hastened to bestow upon him the titles and the honours which it had reserved for its gods. It is to the eternal glory of the Jews that, amidst this ignoble idolatry, they uttered the cry of outraged conscience. The principle of intolerance which was in them, and which led them to so many cruel acts, exhibited here 105its bright side. Alone in affirming their religion to be the absolute religion, they would not bend to the odious caprice of the tyrant. This was the source of endless troubles for them. It needed only that there should be in a city some person discontented with the synagogue, spiteful, or simply mischievous, to bring about frightful consequences. At one time people would insist on erecting an altar to Caligula in the very place where the Jews could least of all suffer it? At another, a troupe of the rag-tags would collect, and cry out against the Jews for being the only people who refused to place the statue of the emperor in their houses of prayer. Anon, people would run to the synagogues and the oratories; they would install there the bust of Caligula; and the unfortunate Jews were placed in the alternative of either renouncing their religion, or be guilty of high treason. Thence followed frightful vexations.

Such pleasantries had been several times repeated when a still more diabolical idea was suggested to the emperor. This was to place a colossal golden statue of himself in the sanctuary of the temple at Jerusalem, and to have the temple itself dedicated to his own divinity. This odious design very nearly hastened by thirty years the revolt and the ruin of the Jewish nation. The moderation of the imperial legate, Publius Petronius, and the intervention of King Herod Agrippa, a favourite of Caligula, averted the catastrophe. But until the moment in which the sword of Chæræa delivered the earth from the most execrable tyrant it had as yet endured, the Jews lived everywhere in terror. Philo has preserved for us the monstrous scene which occurred when the deputation of which he was the chief was admitted to see the emperor. Caligula received them during a visit he was paying to the villas of Mæcenas and of Lamia, near the sea, in the environs of Pozzuoli. On that day he was in a vein of gaiety. Helicon, his favourite joker, had been relating to him all sorts of 106buffooneries about the Jews. “Ah, then, it is you,” said he to them, with a bitter smile, and showing his teeth, “who alone will not recognize me for a god, and who prefer to adore one whose name you cannot even utter!” He accompanied these words with a horrible blasphemy. The Jews trembled; their Alexandrian enemies were the first to take up speech: “You would still more, O Sire, detest these people and all their nation, if you knew the aversion they have for you; for they alone have refused to offer sacrifices for your health when all the other peoples have done so!” At these words, the Jews exclaimed that it was a calumny, and that they had three times offered for the prosperity of the emperor the most solemn sacrifices their religion would allow. “Yes,” said Caligula, with comical seriousness, “you have sacrificed; so far, good; but it was not to me that you sacrificed. What advantage do I derive therefrom?” Thereupon, turning his back upon them, he strode through the apartments, giving orders for repairs, going up and down stairs incessantly. The unfortunate deputies, and among them Philo, eighty years of age, the most venerable man of the time, perhaps—Jesus being no longer living—followed him up and down, trembling and out of breath, the object of derision to the assembled company. Caligula turning suddenly, said to them: “By the by, why will you not eat pork?” The flatterers burst into laughter! some of the officers, in a severe tone, reminded them that in laughing immoderately they offended the majesty of the emperor. The Jews were stunned; one of them awkwardly said: “There are some persons who do not eat lamb.” “Ah!” said the emperor, “such people are right; lamb is insipid.” Some time after, he made a show of inquiring into their business; then, when they had just begun to inform him of it, he left them and went off to give orders about the decorations of a hall which he wanted to have adorned with specular stones. Returning, he affected an air of moderation, and asked the deputation 107if they had anything to add; and as the latter resumed their interrupted discourse, he turned his back upon them to go and see another hall which he was ornamenting with paintings. This game of tiger sporting with its prey lasted for hours. The Jews were expecting death; but at the last moment the monster withdrew his fangs. “Well,” said Caligula, while repassing “these folks are decidedly less guilty than pitiable for not believing in my divinity.” Thus could the gravest questions be treated under the horrible regime created by the baseness of the world, cherished by a soldiery and a populace about equally vile, and maintained by the dissoluteness of nearly all.

We can easily understand how so painful a situation must have taken from the Jews of the time of Marullus much of that audacity which made them speak so boldly to Pilate. Already almost entirely detached from the temple, the Christians must have been much less alarmed than the Jews at the sacrilegious projects of Caligula. Their numbers were, moreover, too few for their existence to be known at Rome. The storm at the time of Caligula, like that which resulted in the taking of Jerusalem by Titus, passed over their heads, and was in many regards serviceable to them. Everything which weakened Jewish independence was favourable to them, since it was so much taken away from the power of a suspicious orthodoxy, which maintained its pretensions by severe penalties.

This period of peace was fruitful in interior developments. The nascent church was divided into three provinces; Judea, Samaria, Galilee, to which Damascus was no doubt attached. The primacy of Jerusalem was uncontested. The church of this city, which had been dispersed after the death of Stephen, was quickly reconstituted. The apostles had never quitted the city. The brothers of the Lord continued to reside there, and to wield a great authority. It does not seem that this new church of Jerusalem was organized in so strict a 108manner as the first: the community of goods was not strictly re-established in it. But there was founded a large fund for the poor, to which was added the contributions sent by minor churches to the mother church, which latter was the origin and permanent source of their faith.

Peter undertook frequent apostolical journeys in the environs of Jerusalem. He had always a great reputation as a thaumaturgist. At Lydda in particular he was reputed to have cured a paralytic named Æneas, a miracle which is said to have led to numerous conversions in the plain of Saron. From Lydda he repaired to Joppa, a city which appears to have been a centre for Christianity. Cities of workmen, of sailors, of poor people, where the orthodox Jews were not dominant, were those in which the new sect found people the best disposed towards them. Peter made a long sojourn at Joppa, at the house of a tanner named Simon, who dwelt near the sea. Working in leather was an industry regarded as unclean, according to the Mosaic code; it was not lawful to associate with those who carried it on, so that the curriers had to reside in a district by themselves. Peter, in selecting such a host, gave a proof of his indifference to Jewish prejudices, and worked for that ennoblement of petty callings which constitutes a grand feature of the Christian spirit.

The organization of works of charity was soon actively entered upon. The church of Joppa possessed a woman most appropriately named in Aramaic, Tabitha (gazelle), and in Greek, Dorcas, who consecrated all her time to the poor. She was rich, it seems, and distributed her wealth in alms. This worthy lady had formed a society of pious widows, who passed their days with her in weaving clothes for the poor. As the schism between Christianity and Judaism was not yet consummated, it is probable that the Jews participated in the benefit of these acts of charity. The “saints and widows” were thus pious persons, doing good to all, a sort of friars and 109nuns, whom only the most austere devotees of a pedantic orthodoxy could suspect, fraticelli, loved by the people, devout, charitable, full of pity.

The germ of those associations of women, which are one of the glories of Christianity, thus existed in the first churches of Judea. At Jaffa commenced those societies of veiled women, clothed in linen, who were destined to continue through centuries the tradition of charitable secrets. Tabitha was the mother of a family which will have no end as long as there are miseries to be relieved and feminine instincts to be gratified. It is related further on, that Peter raised her from the dead. Alas! death, however unmindful and revolting, in such a case, is inflexible. When the most exquisite soul has sped, the decree is irrevocable; the most excellent woman can no more respond to the invitation of the friendly voices which would fain recall her, than can the vulgar and frivolous. But ideas are not subject to the conditions of matter. Virtue and goodness escape the fangs of death. Tabitha had no need to be resuscitated. For the sake of a few days more of this sad life, why disturb her sweet and eternal repose? Let her sleep in peace; the day of the just will come!

In these very mixed cities, the problem of the admission of Pagans to baptism was propounded with much persistency. Peter was strongly pre-occupied by it. One day while he was praying at Joppa, on the terrace of the tanner’s house, having before him the sea that was soon going to bear the new faith to all the empire, he had a prophetic ecstasy. Plunged into a state of reverie, he thought he experienced a sensation of hunger, and asked for something to eat. And while they were making it ready for him, he saw the heavens opened, and a cloth tied at the four corners descend. Looking inside the cloth he saw there all sorts of animals, and thought he heard a voice saying to him: “Kill and eat” On his objecting that many of these animals were impure, he was answered: “Call not that unclean which God has 110cleansed.” This, as it appears, was repeated three times. Peter was persuaded that these animals represented the mass of the Gentiles, which God himself had just rendered fit for the holy communion of the Kingdom of God.

An occasion was soon presented for applying these principles. From Joppa, Peter went to Cesarea. There he came in contact with a centurion named Cornelius. The garrison of Cesarea was formed, at least in part, of one of those cohorts composed of Italian volunteers which were called Italicæ. The complete name which this term represented may have been cohors prima Augustus Italica civium Romamorum. Cornelius was a centurion of this cohort, consequently an Italian and a Roman citizen. He was a man of probity, who had long felt himself drawn towards the monotheistic worship of the Jews. He prayed; gave alms; practised, in a word, those precepts of natural religion which are taken for granted by Judaism; but he was not circumcised; he was not a proselyte in any sense whatever; he was a pious Pagan, an Israelite in heart, nothing more. His whole household and some soldiers of his command were, it is said, in the same state of mind. Cornelius applied for admission into the new Church. Peter, whose nature was open and benevolent, granted it to him, and the centurion was baptized.

Perhaps Peter at first saw no difficulty in this; but on his return to Jerusalem he was severely reproached for it. He had openly violated the Law; he had gone amongst the uncircumcized and had eaten with them. The question was an important one; it was no other than whether the Law was abolished; whether it was permissible to violate it in proselytism; whether Gentiles could be freely received into the Church. Peter related in self defence the vision he had at Joppa. Subsequently the fact of the centurion served as an argument in the great question of the baptism of the uncircumcized. To give it more importance it was pretended that each phase of 111this important business had been marked by a revelation from heaven. It was related that after long prayers Cornelius had seen an angel who ordered him to go and inquire for Peter at Joppa; that the symbolical vision of Peter took place at the very hour of the arrival of the messengers from Cornelius; that, moreover, God himself had undertaken to legitimize all that had been done, seeing that the Holy Ghost had descended upon Cornelius, and upon his household the latter having spoken strange tongues and sung psalms after the fashion of the other believers. Was it natural to refuse baptism to persons who had received the Holy Ghost?

The Church of Jerusalem was still exclusively composed of Jews and of proselytes. The Holy Ghost being shed upon the uncircumcized before baptism, appeared an extraordinary fact. It is probable that there existed thenceforward a party opposed in principle to the admission of Gentiles, and that all did not accept the explanations of Peter. The author of the Acts would have us believe that the approbation was unanimous. But in a few years we shall see the question revived with much greater intensity. This matter of the good centurion was, perhaps, like that of the Ethiopian eunuch, accepted as an exceptional case, justified by a revelation and an express order from God. Still the matter was far from being settled. This was the first controversy which had taken place in the bosom of the Church; the paradise of interior peace had lasted for six or seven years.

About the year 40, the great question upon which depended all the future of Christianity appears thus to have been propounded. Peter and Philip took a very just view of what was the true solution, and baptized Pagans. It is difficult, no doubt, in the two accounts given us by the author of the Acts on this subject, and which are partly borrowed one from the other, not to recognize an argument. The author of the Acts belonged to a party of conciliation, favourable to the introduction of Pagans into the Church, and who was not 112willing to confess the violence of the divisions to which the affair gave rise. One feels strongly that in writing the account of the eunuch, of the centurion, and even of the conversion of the Samaritans, this author means not only to narrate facts, but also seeks special precedents for an opinion. On the other hand, we cannot admit that he invents the facts which he narrates. The conversions of the eunuch of Candace, and of the centurion Cornelius, are probably real facts, which are presented and transformed according to the needs of the thesis in view of which the book of the Acts was composed.

Paul, who was destined, some ten or twelve years later, to give to this discussion so decisive a bearing, had not yet meddled with it. He was in the Hauran, or at Damascus, preaching, refuting the Jews, placing at the service of the new faith the same ardour he had shown in combatting it. The fanaticism, of which he had once been the instrument, was not long in pursuing him in turn. The Jews resolved to kill him. They obtained from the ethnarch, who governed Damascus in the name of Hâreth, an order to arrest him. Paul hid himself. It was known that he was to leave the city; the ethnarch, who wanted to please the Jews, placed detachments at the gates to seize his person; but the brethren secured his escape by night, letting him down in a basket from the window of a house which over-looked the ramparts.

Having escaped this danger, Paul turned his eyes towards Jerusalem. He had been a Christian for three years, and had not yet seen the apostles. His stern, unyielding character, prone to isolation, had made him at first turn his back as it were upon the great family into which he had just entered in spite of himself, and prefer for his first apostolate a new country, in which he would find no colleague. There was awakened in him, how. ever, a desire to see Peter. He recognized his authority, and designated him, as every one did, by the name of Cephas, “the stone.” He repaired then to Jerusalem, 113taking the same road, whence he had come three years before in a state of mind so different.

His position at Jerusalem was extremely false and embarrassing. It had, no doubt, been understood there that the persecutor had become the most zealous of evangelists, and one of the first defenders of the faith which he had formerly sought to destroy. But there remained great prejudices against him. Many dreaded on his part some horrible plot. They had seen him so enraged, so cruel, so zealous in entering houses and tearing open family secrets in order to find victims, that he was believed capable of playing an odious farce in order to destroy those whom he hated. He resided, as it seems, in the house of Peter. Many disciples remained deaf to his advances, and shrank from him. Barnabas, a man of courage and will, took at this moment a decisive part. As a Cypriote and a new convert, he understood better than the Galilean disciples the position of Paul. He came to meet him, took him by the hand, introduced him to the most suspicious, and became his surety. By this sagacious and far-seeing act, Barnabas earned at the hands of the Christian worlds the highest degree of merit. It was he who appreciated Paul; it is to him that the Church owes the most extraordinary of her founders. The advantageous friendship of these two apostolic men, a friendship that no cloud ever tarnished, notwithstanding many differences in opinion, afterwards led to their association in the work of missions to the Gentiles. This grand association dates, in one sense, from Paul’s first sojourn at Jerusalem. Amongst the sources of the faith of the world, we must count the generous movement of Barnabas, who stretched out his hand to the suspected and forsaken Paul; the profound intuition which led him to discover the soul of an apostle under that downcast mien; the frankness with which be broke the ice and levelled the obstacles raised between the convert and his new brethren by the unfortunate antecedents of the former, and perhaps, also, by certain traits in his character.


Paul, however, systematically avoided seeing the apostles. He himself says so, and he takes the trouble to affirm it with an oath; he saw only Peter, and James the brother of the Lord. His sojourn lasted but two weeks. It is certainly possible that at the time in which he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians (towards 56), Paul may have found himself constrained by the exigencies of the moment, to alter a little the nature of his relations with the apostles; to represent them as more harsh, more imperious, than they were in reality. Towards 56 the essential point for him to prove was that he had received nothing from Jerusalem—that he was in no wise the mandatory of the Council of the Twelve established in this city. His attitude at Jerusalem would have been the proud and lofty bearing of a master, who avoids relations with other masters in order not to have the air of subordinating himself to them, and not the humble and repentant mien of a sinner ashamed of the past, as the author of the Acts represents. We cannot believe that from the year 41 Paul was animated by this jealous care to preserve his own individuality, which he showed at a later day. The few interviews he had with the apostles, and the briefness of his sojourn at Jerusalem, arose probably from his embarrassment in the presence of people, whose nature was different from his own, and who were full of prejudices against him, rather than from a refined policy, which would have revealed to him fifteen years in advance the disadvantages there might be in his frequenting their society.

In reality, that which must have erected a sort of wall between the apostles and Paul, was the difference of their character and of their education. The apostles were all Galileans; they had not been at the great Jewish school; they had seen Jesus; they remembered his words; they were good and pious folk, at times a little solemn and simple-hearted. Paul was a man of action, full of fire, only moderately mystical, enrolled, as 115by a superior power, in a sect which was not that of his first adoption. Revolt, protestation, were his habitual sentiments. His Jewish education was much superior to that of all his new brethren. But not having heard Jesus, not having been appointed by him, he was, according to Christian ideas, greatly inferior.

Now Paul was not the man to accept a secondary place. His haughty temperament required a position for itself. It was probably about this time that there sprang up in him the singular idea that after all he had nothing to envy those who had known Jesus, and had been chosen by him, since he also had seen Jesus, and had received from Jesus a direct revelation and the commission of his apostleship. Even those who had been honoured by the personal appearance of the risen Christ were no better than he was. Although the last apostle, his vision had been none the less remarkable. It had taken place under circumstances which gave it a peculiar stamp of importance and of distinction. A signal error! The echo of the voice of Jesus was found in the discourses of the humblest of his disciples. With all his Jewish science, Paul could not make up for the immense disadvantage under which he was placed in consequence of his tardy initiation. The Christ whom he had seen on the road to Damascus was not, whatever he might say, the Christ of Galilee; it was the Christ of his imagination, of his own conception. Although he may have been most industrious in learning the words of the Master, it is clear that he was only a disciple at second-hand. If Paul had met Jesus during his life, it is doubtful whether he would have attached himself to him. His doctrine must be his own, not that of Jesus; the revelations of which he was so proud were the fruit of his own brain.

These ideas, which he dared not as yet communicate, rendered his stay at Jerusalem disagreeable. At the end of a fortnight he took leave of Peter, and went away. He had seen so few people that he ventured to 116say that no one in the Churches of Judea knew him by sight, or knew aught of him, save by hearsay. At a subsequent period he attributed this sudden departure to a revelation. He related that being one day in the temple praying, he was in an ecstasy, and saw Jesus in person, and received from him the order to quit Jerusalem immediately, “because they were not inclined to receive his testimony.” As a compensation for these hard hearts, Jesus had promised him the Apostolate of distant nations, and an auditory who would listen more willingly to his words. Those who would fain hide the traces of the many ruptures caused by the coming of this intractable disciple into the church, pretended that Paul remained a long while at Jerusalem, living with the brethren on a footing of the most complete amity; but that, having begun to preach to the Hellenic Jews, he was nearly killed by them, so that the brethren had to protect him, and to send him safely to Cæsarea.

It is probable, indeed, that from Jerusalem he did repair to Cæsarea. But he stayed there only a short time, and then set out to traverse Syria, and afterwards Cilicia. He was, no doubt, already preaching, but it was on his own account, and without any understanding with anybody. Tarsus, his native place, was his habitual sojourn during this period of his apostolic life, which we may reckon as having lasted about two years. It is possible that the Churches of Cilicia owed their origin to him. Still, the life of Paul was not at this epoch that which we see it to be subsequently. He did not assume the title of an apostle, which latter was then strictly reserved to the Twelve. It was only from the time of his association with Barnabas (in 45) that he entered upon that career of sacred peregrinations and preachings which were to make of him the typical travelling missionary.

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