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Paul entered into that fatal town of Jerusalem for the last time, some days, it seems, after the feast of Pentecost (July 58). His company, formed of delegates from the Churches of Greece, of Macedonia, and 268of Asia, of his disciples, and of the faithful of Ceesarea who had wished to accompany him, were sufficient to give a warning to the Jews. Paul began to be well known. His arrival had been waited for by the fanatics, some had probably received from Corinth and Ephesus notice of his return. Jews and Judæo-Christians appeared to have agreed to slander him. They everywhere represented him as an apostate, as the desperate enemy of Judaism, as a man who ran all over the world to destroy the law of Moses and the biblical traditions. His doctrine upon meats sacrificed to idols everywhere excited angry passions. They maintained that he disobeyed the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem as to the observances connected with meats and marriage. They represented him as a second Balaam, sowing scandal before the sons of Israel, teaching them to practise idolatry, and to cohabit with Pagans. His doctrine of justification by faith and not by works was energetically repudiated. Whilst they admitted that converted Pagans were not obliged under the Law in its entirety, they maintained that nothing could exempt a Jew from the duties inherited by him. But Paul thought nothing of this view; he gave himself the same liberties as his converts; he was no longer a Jew in any degree.

The first brethren that the new arrivals met on the day of their arrival had welcomed them cordially. But it is already very remarkable that neither the apostles nor the elders came to meet the one man, who, accomplishing the boldest oracles of the prophets, had brought the nations and the far-off isles tributaries to Jerusalem. They waited for his visit with a coldness more politic than Christian, and Paul had to pass alone, with some humble brethren, the first evening of his last stay at Jerusalem.

St James the Great was, as we have already seen, the sole and absolute head of the Church of Jerusalem. Peter was certainly absent, and very probably established 269at Antioch; it is probable that John, according to his custom, had accompanied him. The Judæo-Christian party reigned thus without any counterbalances at Jerusalem. James, blinded by the respect of every one who surrounded him, proud, moreover, of the bond of relationship which united him to Jesus, represented a conservative principle of weighty solemnity, a kind of obstinate papacy in his narrow mind. Around him, a numerous party, more Pharisaical than Christian, carried the taste for the observances of the Law to nearly the same degree as the zealots, and imagined that the new movement had for its essence a redoubling of devotion. These exalted ones gave themselves the name of “the poor,” Ebionim, πτωχδι, and gloried in it. There were many rich people in this community, but they were unpopular; they were considered to be as proud and tyrannical as the Sadducees. Fortunes, in the East, scarcely ever have an honest origin; of every rich man it may be said, without much chance of mistake, that he or one of his ancestors has been a conqueror, or a thief, a usurer, or a rogue. The association of ideas which, especially amongst the English everywhere collocates honesty with richness, has never been found in the East. Judæa, at least, thought of things in the opposite sense. For the saints of Jerusalem “rich” was synonymous with “enemy” and “evil-doer.” The ideal of impiety was in their eyes the opulent Sadducee, who persecuted them, dragged them before the tribunals. Passing their life around the temple, they were like good little brotherhoods, occupied in praying for the people. They were, in every case, pronounced Jews and certainly Jesus would have been surprised if he could have seen what his doctrine had become in the hands of those who boasted kinship with him both in the Spirit and in the Flesh.

Paul, accompanied by the deputies of the Churches, went to see James on the morning after his arrival, 270All the elders were assembled in the house of St James. They gave each other the kiss of peace. Paul presented the deputies to James: they gave the money which they had brought. Then he recounted the great things that God had done in the Pagan world by his ministry; the elders gave thanks to God for them. Was the reception, however what they had a right to expect? We may doubt if it were. The author of the Acts has so completely modified, in view of his system of conciliation, the recital of the assembly of Jerusalem in 51, that one must believe that he has in like manner greatly modified in his recital the events which he himself took part in. In the first place, his inaccuracy is shown by comparing his accounts with the Epistle to the Galatians. In the second, there are grave reasons for supposing that he has in like manner sacrificed truth to the necessities of policy. At first, the apprehensions that Paul showed beforehand as to the temper with which the saints of Jerusalem would receive his offering could not have been without some foundation. In the second place, the account of the author of the Acts contains more than one suspicious feature. The Judæo-Christians are there represented as the enemies of Paul, almost as much so as the pure Jews. These Judæo-Christians have the worst opinion of him; the elders did not conceal the fact that the report of his arrival was annoying to them, and might provoke a manifestation on their part. The elders do not say that they share in these prejudices; but they excuse them, and in every case it is easy to see from their words that a great proportion of the Christians of Jerusalem, so far from being ready to welcome the Apostle, needed to be calmed and reconciled to him. It is remarkable, also, that the author of the Acts speaks only of the collection after a time and in the most indirect fashion. If the offering had been welcomed as it should have been, why does he not say so, when Paul in three of 271his epistles devotes entire pages to this object? It is hardly to be denied that Simon Magus, in the majority of the cases in which Christian tradition refers to him, may be the pseudonym of the Apostle Paul. The story according to which this impostor wished to buy apostolic powers with money, may very possibly be a translation of the ungracions reception accorded by the Apostles of Jerusalem to the collection of Paul. It would perhaps be dangerous to affirm so much, but it is quite conceivable that an assembly of ill-disposed elders may have represented the generous act of one who was not of their opinion as an attempt at corruption.

If the elders of Jerusalem had not been narrow-minded in the extreme, how is the strange discourse which the author of the Acts attributes to them, and which betrays all their embarrassment, to be explained? The presentation, in fact, was scarcely complete, when they said to Paul,—“Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the Law: and they are informed of thee that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? From all sides they come to learn of thy arrival. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing, but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the Law.”

Thus to him who brought to them the homage of a world, these narrow souls replied only by a mark of defiance. Paul ought to expiate by a mummery his prodigious conquests. It was necessary that he should give some satisfaction to this littleness of mind. He 272must do this in company with four mendicants, too poor to afford to have their heads shaven at their own expense. They were under a vow, and, according to the superstition, he must recognise them as his companions. Such is the strange condition of humanity, that no one need be astonished at such a spectacle. Men are too numerous for it to be possible to establish anything in this world, without making concessions to mediocrity. To conquer the scruples of the weak, one must be either utterly disinterested, or very powerful. Those whose position obliges them to reckon with the crowd are led to demand of great men independent of singular inconsequences. Every thought vigorously avowed is in the government of the world an embarrassment. Apology, proselytism themselves, when they imply a little genius, are, for conservative folk, suspected things. See those eloquent laymen who in our days have attempted to enlarge Catholicism and to reconcile it with the sympathies of a part of society which was until then closed to Christian feeling; what have they obtained from the Church to which they have brought crowds of new adherents? A disavowal. The successors of St James the Great have found it prudent to condemn them, even whilst profiting by their success. They have accepted their offering without thanks; they have said to them as to Paul, “Brethren, ye see these thousands of old believers who hold to things that you pass by in silence: when you speak to men of the world, take care, leave the novelties which scandalise them, and sanctify yourselves with us.”

What was Paul to do, placed thus between his great principle of the inutility of works, and the immense interest he had in not breaking with the Church of Jerusalem? His position was cruel. To submit himself to customs that he held to be useless and almost an insult to Jesus—since if he had allowed it to be believed that salvation is obtainable by anything 273other than the merits of Christ, he would have to put himself in flagrant contradiction with the doctrine which he had everywhere preached, and which in his great general epistle especially he had developed with an unparalleled force. Why, besides, did they ask him to put in force a disused rite, one devoid of all efficacy, and nearly an absolute negation of the new dogma? To show that he is really a Jew,—to refute in a peremptory fashion the rumour spread abroad that he has ceased to be a Jew, that he no more holds by the Law and traditions? Now, assuredly, he admits them no more. Was not connivance at this misunderstanding unfaithfulness to Christ? All that must have caused Paul to hesitate, and agitated him profoundly. But a higher principle, which dominated his life, made him conquer his repugnance. Above his opinions and private sentiments, Paul placed charity. Christ has delivered us from the Law; but if in profiting by the liberty that Christ has given us, we offend our brother, it is much better to renounce this liberty and to return to slavery. It is in virtue of this principle that Paul, as he says, makes himself all things to all men,—a Jew with the Jews, a Gentile with the Gentiles. In accepting the proposition of James and of the elders, he applies his favourite principle; he submits himself then. Never, perhaps, in the life of the Apostle, did he make a more considerable sacrifice to his work. The heroes of practical life have other duties than those of contemplative life. The first duty of the latter is to sacrifice action to ideas, to say what they think, or do not think, in the exact measure in which they think it; the first duty of the others is frequently to sacrifice their ideas, sometimes even their most definite principles, for the good of the cause the triumph of which they have at heart.

What they asked Paul, besides, was less to shave his head and become a Nazarite himself, than to pay 274the expenses of four Nazarites, who had nothing wherewith to pay for the sacrifices offered on occasions of this kind. This was a work much esteemed among the Jews. There were around the temple troops of poor men who had made vows, and who expected some rich man to pay for them. “To shave a Nazarite” was an act of piety, and occasions are cited in which powerful personages, as an expressing of thankfulness for a blessing from heaven, made thousands of them shave; much the same as in the Middle Ages it was meritorious to pay men to make pilgrimages and to enter into monastic life. Paul, in the midst of the poverty which reigned in the Church of Jerusalem, passed for a rich man. He was asked as a rich devotee, and to prove publicly that he remained faithful to the practices of his country. James, much inclined towards exterior observances, was probably the inspirer of this grotesque idea. They urged, furthermore, that such observances had nothing to do with converted Pagans. His only motive in complying was that they should not allow it to be believed that the frightful scandal of a Jew not practising the Law of Moses was possible. So great was the fanaticism inspired by the Law, that such a phenomenon appeared more extraordinary than the overturning of the world and the total overthrow of creation.

Paul then placed himself in the company of the four poor men. Those who accomplished such vows began by purifying themselves, afterwards they entered into the temple, remained shut up there for a certain number of days, according to the vow that they had made—a period of from seven to thirty days—abstained from wine, and cut off their hair. When the term of days was reached, they offered sacrifices that were paid for at a sufficiently high price. Paul submitted himself to all. On the morrow of his visit to James’s house, he betook himself to the temple, and 275got his name inscribed for seven days; and then fulfilled all the customary rites, greater during these days of humiliation, in which, by a voluntary weakness, he accomplished with men in rags an obsolete action of devotion, which when at Corinth or at Thessalonica he had denounced with all the force and independence of his genius.

Paul was already at the fifth day of his vow, when an incident which was only too easy to foresee decided the remainder of his career, and engaged him in a series of troubles, which he ended only with his death.

During the seven days which had elapsed since his arrival at Jerusalem, the hate of the Jews against him was terribly exasperated; they had seen him walk in the town with Trophimus of Ephesus, who was one of the uncircumcised. Some Jews of Asia, who recognised Trophimus, spread the rumour that Paul had introduced him into the temple. That was assuredly false, besides to have done so would have exposed him to certain death. Paul had undoubtedly not for a moment thought of making his Christians share in the religious practices of the temple. These practices were for him absolutely barren: their continuation was almost an insult to the merits of Christ. But religious hate needs little stimulus when a pretext is wanted for acts of violence. The populace of Jerusalem were soon persuaded that Paul had committed a crime which could only be washed out in blood. Like all the great revolutionists, Paul discerned the impossibility of living. The enmities that he had raised began to league themselves: the chasm was deepening around him. His companions were strangers at Jerusalem; the Christians of that city held him for an enemy, and opposed themselves to him nearly as bitterly as did the fanatical Jews. In analysing carefully certain features of the account as given in the Acts, in taking notice of the reiterated warnings which, 276during all his return voyage, exposed to Paul the snares prepared against him at Jerusalem, we ask ourselves if these Judæo-Christians, whose malevolent temper was asserted by the elders, and from whom they feared a hostile demonstration, did not contribute to increase the storm which was about to burst upon the Apostle. Clemens Romanus attributes the loss of the Apostle “to envy.” It is frightful to think so, but it agrees well with the iron law which will rule human affairs until the day of the final triumph of God. I perhaps deceive myself, but when I read the twenty-first chapter of the Acts, an invincible suspicion rises within me; something, I do not know what, tells me that Paul was lost by these “false brethren” who overran the world in his footsteps, to oppose his work, and to represent him as another Balaam.

Be that as it may, the signal of the riot came from the Jews of Asia who had seen him with Trophimus. They recognised him in the temple whilst he accomplished the proscribed rite with the Nazarites. “Help, help! children of Israel!” cried they. “Here is the man who preaches everywhere against the Jewish people, against the Law, against this holy place. Here is the profaner of the temple—he who has introduced Pagans into the sanctuary.” The whole town was soon in an uproar. A great crowd assembled. The fanatics seized Paul; their resolute intention was to kill him. But to shed blood in the interior of the temple would have been a pollution of the holy place. They dragged Paul then outside the temple, and had scarcely got there when the Levites closed the doors behind him. They took it to be their duty to beat him. Such indeed would have been his fate if the Roman authority, who alone maintained any shadow of order in this chaos, had not intervened to tear him from the hands of the madmen.

The procurator of Judæa, ever since the death of 277Agrippa the First, resided habitually at Cæsarea, a Roman town, ornamented with statues, an enemy of the Jews, and opposed in all ways to Jerusalem. The Roman power at Jerusalem was, in the absence of the procurator, represented by the tribune of the cohort, who resided with all his armed force in the tower of Antonia, at the north-west angle of the temple. The tribune, at this time, was a certain Lysias, Greek or Syrian by birth, who, by protections bought with money, had obtained from Claudius the title of Roman citizen, and had since then added to his name that of Claudius. At the news of the tumult, he ran with some centurions and a detachment, by one of the staircases which placed the tower in communication with the outer courts. The fanatics then ceased to strike Paul. The tribune seized and bound him with two chains, asked him who he was, and what he had done; but the tumult prevented a word being heard. The Jewish riot was something frightful. Those strong irritated figures, those large eyes starting from their sockets, those gnashings of teeth, those vociferations, those men flinging dust into the air, tearing their clothes, or throwing themselves about convulsively, gave the looker-on the idea of demons. Although the crowd was unarmed, the Romans were not altogether free from a certain fear of such madmen. Claudius Lysias gave the order to lead Paul to the tower. The excited crowd followed them, uttering cries of death. At the foot of the staircase, the press was such that the soldiers were obliged to take Paul in their arms and to carry him. Claudius Lysias tried in vain to calm the tumult. He somewhat hastily concluded, or it was perhaps suggested by ill-informed persons, that the man whom he had arrested was the Jew of Egypt who, a short time before, had led out with him into the desert some thousands of zealots, announcing to them that he would immediately realise the kingdom of God. They did not know what had 278become of this impostor, and at any riot they fancied they might see him re-appear among the agitators.

When they had reached the door of the tower, Paul spoke in Greek to the tribune, and begged him to let him speak to the people. The latter, surprised that the prisoner knew Greek, and recognising at least that he was not the Egyptian false prophet, granted his request. Paul then, standing upon the staircase, made a sign with his hand that he wished to speak. Silence was obtained, and, when they heard him speak Hebrew (that is to say, Syro-Chaldean), they redoubled their attention. Paul recounted, in the form which was habitual to him, the history of his conversion and of his calling. They soon interrupted him; the cries, “Kill him! kill him!” began again; the anger was at its height.

The tribune commanded the prisoner to enter the citadel. He understood nothing of this affair; though a brutal and mean soldier, he thought to explain it by torturing him as being the cause of all the trouble. They seized Paul, and had already tied him upon the post to receive the blows of the scourge, when he declared to the centurion who presided at the torture that he was a Roman citizen. The effect of this word was always very great. The executioners receded; the centurion referred to the tribune; the tribune was very much surprised. Paul had the appearance of a poor Jew. “Is it true that thou art a Roman citizen?” Claudius asked him. “Yes.” “But I paid a large sum to obtain that title.” “But I was free born,” replied Paul. The stupid Claudius began to be afraid; his poor brain tortured itself to find any meaning in this business. Outrages against the rights of Roman citizens were punished very severely. The very fact of having tied Paul to the post with the view of flagellation was an offence,—an act of violence which would have remained unknown if it had been done by an obscure man, might now become a very grievous 279matter. Finally Claudius hit upon the idea of convoking for the morrow the high priest and the Sanhedrim, in order to know what complaint they made against Paul, because he himself could find none.

The high priest was Ananias, son of Nébédés, who by a rare exception had filled this high office for ten years. He was a man very much respected, in spite of his gluttonous habits, which were proverbial among the Jews. Independently of his office, he was one of the first men of the nation; he belonged to that family of Hanan, which one is sure to find upon the judicial bench whenever it is a case of condemning the Christians, the popular saints, the innovators of all kinds. Ananias presided over the assembly. Claudius Lysias ordered Paul to be released from his chains, and caused him to be brought in: he himself looking on. The discussion was extremely tumultuous. Ananias flew into a passion, and, for a word which appeared to him blasphemous, ordered his assessors to smite Paul upon the mouth. “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall,” replied Paul, “for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” “What! revilest thou God’s high priest?” said the assistants. Paul, changing his mind, said, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest, for if I had known I should not have spoken thus; for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.’” This moderation was skilfully calculated. Paul had remarked, indeed, that the assembly was divided into two parties, animated by very diverse sentiments towards him: the high Sadducee clergy were absolutely hostile to him; but he could make himself understood to a certain point by the Pharisee middle-class. “Brethren,” cried he, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. Do you know why they accuse me? For my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” It was putting the finger upon an open sore. The Sadducees denied the resurrection, the existence of 280angels and of spirits; the Pharisees admitted all. The stratagem of Paul succeeded marvellously; war was soon in the assembly. Pharisees and Sadducees were more eager to fight amongst themselves than to destroy their common enemy. Many Pharisees even took up the defence of Paul, and affected to find the recital of his vision probable. “Finally,” said they, “what complaint have you against this man? Who knows if a spirit or an angel has not spoken to him?”

Claudius Lysias assisted open-mouthed at this debate, utterly unmeaning as it was for him. He saw the moment when, as on the night before, Paul was about to be torn to pieces. He therefore gave orders to a squadron of soldiers to descend into the hall, to rescue Paul from the hands of those present, and to reconduct him to the tower. Lysias was much embarrassed. Paul, however, rejoiced in the glorious witness that he had just borne to Christ. The following night he had a vision. Jesus appeared to him and said, “Be of good cheer: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness to me also at Rome.”

The hate of the fanatics, during this time, did not remain inactive. A certain number of these zealots or hired murderers, always ready to draw the dagger in defence of the Law, conspired to kill Paul. They bound themselves by a vow, under the most terrible anathemas, neither to eat nor to drink whilst Paul remained alive. The conspirators were more than forty in number; they took their oath on the morning of the day which followed the assembly of the Sanhedrim. To gain their ends, they went to the priests, explained to them the plan which they had formed, agreed with them to intervene with the Sanhedrim to ask the tribune for a new appearance of Paul on the morrow. The conspirators proposed to seize their opportunity and kill Paul on the way. But the secret of the plot was ill kept; it came to 281the knowledge of a nephew of Paul, who lived in Jerusalem. He ran to the barrack and revealed all to Paul; Paul had him led to Claudius Lysias by a centurion. The tribune took the young messenger by the hand, led him aside, obtained from him all the details of the plot, and sent him away, commanding him to keep silence.

From this time Claudius Lysias no longer hesitated. He resolved to send Paul to Cæsarea; on the one hand, to do away with all pretext for disturbances in Jerusalem, and, on the other, to extricate himself by transferring this difficult affair to the procurator. Two centurions received orders to form an escort capable of resisting any attempts at carrying Paul off. It was composed of two hundred soldiers, of seventy cavalry, and of two hundred of those policemen who served at what were called the custodia militaris, that is to say, men who guarded prisoners, fastened to them by means of a chain going from the right hand of the captive to the left hand of his guardian. Horses were also ordered for Paul, and the whole were to be ready by the third hour of the night (nine o’ clock in the evening). Claudius Lysias wrote at the same time to the procurator Felix an elogium, that is to say, a letter, to explain the affair to him, declaring that, for his part, he only saw in all that some trifling questions of religion, without anything that deserved death or imprisonment; that, moreover, he had announced to the accusers that they were also to present themselves before the procurator.

These orders were promptly executed. A forced march was made in the night, and in the morning the troop reached Antipatris, which is more than half-way from Jerusalem to Cæsarea. There, all danger of surprise having disappeared, the escort divided itself: the four hundred infantry, after a halt, returned to Jerusalem; the detachment of cavalry alone accompanied Paul to Cæsarea. The Apostle thus 282re-entered as a prisoner (beginning of August 58) the town which he had left twelve years before, in spite of sinister forebodings that his habitual courage prevented him from listening to. His disciples rejoined him after a little time.

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