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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

St.Paul ,part I, Developing Carrier in the Kingdom of GOD- by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz, MA,DD.





Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν χριστός.—PHIL. 1:21


Copyright, 1909, by Charles Scribner’s Sons, for the
United States of America




THE generous reception accorded “Epochs in the Life of Jesus” on both sides of the water has emboldened me, in response to many requests, to publish a companion volume on Paul. Here also detailed critical discussions will be subordinated to the positive interpretation of the story. The books are legion where one can find in English and German all sides of nearly every point of criticism in the lives of both Jesus and Paul. Critical discussion is invaluable, but that is not the service attempted here. After all, criticism is only a means to an end. The aim of the present work is rather to give as the result of criticism a constructive picture of Paul and his work as set forth in the Acts and Paul’s own Epistles.
I have faced the manifold problems of criticism which meet one at every turn in such a study, and have formed my own judgment where the evidence justified such a conclusion. I am still a learner about Paul and still in the dark on many points. But enough is known (reasonably clear, I think, to one who is open to historical evidence) to enable one to project a vivid and true outline of the life of Paul. The main outline is all that is here attempted. Questions of geography and general history are touched upon only incidentally. Paul wrought so widely and wrote so much that it is well-nigh impossible to compass it all from every point of view in one volume of moderate size. The great events in Paul’s career are just the ones which it is most important to seize upon and which are often missed. If one does this well, he will have less trouble in filling in the details. Sometimes one cannot see the wood for the trees.
The task is complicated further by the fact that Paul has so many sides. He cannot be understood unless all sides of his life are brought up adequately and together. His own environment, his intellectual and spiritual development, his relation to Jesus, his outward activities, his literary remains, must all be kept in mind. The Epistles furnish rich personal material and illustrate the growth of Paul’s theology. The formal exposition of the Epistles and of his theology is not attempted. The interest is centred in Paul himself. But the orderly and progressive study of his life in its main points helps one to solve the riddle of Paul, as some scholars make him.
Paul is so masterful as to be beyond praise. Some, indeed, go to the point of making him the real author of modern Christianity and the perverter of the original Christianity of Jesus. How far short that view falls of the truth the present volume will endeavor to show.
Nearly twenty years ago I first read Dr. James Stalker’s “Life of St. Paul.” This powerful little book has left a deep mark upon my conception of Paul.
In common with the whole world I am debtor to Sir W. M. Ramsay, Litt. D., of Aberdeen, for fresh light on Paul. It is a pleasure to acknowledge this obligation here. I cannot make detailed acknowledgment of my debt to the many books on Paul. The bibliography will show the way for those who wish to go further in this great subject. In the nature of the case the specific references to the literature must be few. Conybeare and Howson’s “Life and Epistles of St. Paul” is still the classic on the subject.
For twenty-one years now I have been a teacher of Paul’s life and Epistles. Each year this chief Apostle fascinates me more and more. He richly deserves the power that he still holds over modern men in spite of antique modes of thought. His mighty heart grappled with the new fresh problems of Christianity as it first fought its way into the hearts and lives of men in the Roman world. Because his trained and gifted intellect met the issues of his day as a missionary statesman, a philosophical theologian, an intensely practical preacher, he is an unfailing source of light and leading for men of force to-day.
I shall not undertake to justify my use of the Acts and all of Paul’s thirteen Epistles as reliable sources of information. I am fully aware of the fact that some critics credit none of these books with real historical value. Critics vary all the way from the absurd position of Van Manen to the acceptance of them all. I have satisfied myself that even the Pastoral Epistles are justly credited to the Pauline authorship. If one waited till all critics agreed about all points of dispute in Paul’s career before he wrote his own convictions, the pen would drop never to be taken up again. But it is only just to say that the tendency on the whole is steadily to increased confidence in Luke as an historian and to acceptance of all of Paul’s Epistles as genuine. I do not claim that this volume represents all modern scholarship. It is my own interpretation of Paul after prolonged study of what others have had to say. I have come back to Luke and Paul to hear what they have to tell about the young Jew who turned about face and turned the world to Christ.
I wish to acknowledge the kindness of Rev. P. V. Bomar, of Marion, Ala., for help in the making of the indexes.

















“And I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen.” (Gal. 1:14).
1. A Word of Appreciation.—Saul of Tarsus was a man of such vehemence and power that he was head in whatever circle he moved, whether as Saul the persecuting Pharisee, or Paul the laboring missionary. If he was chief of sinners, he became chief of saints. If he was the man of action whirling over the Roman Empire, he was doing it with constructive statesmanship with no less a purpose than to bring the Roman Empire to the feet of Christ. He was the very type of missionary statesman demanded to-day in China, Japan, India, Africa, Turkey. It is a curious turn of the wheel of history that the very scenes of Paul’s struggles and triumphs for Christ are now the hardest spots on earth to reach with the message of the Cross. We need a new Paul for the new situation.
Paul was no less a man of thought than a man of action. He loved his books and missed them when without them (2 Tim. 4:13). He was the busiest of men, but he kept up his habits of study to the shame of every city pastor (for Paul was a preacher in the great cities of the world) who lets his books go unused even at the call of pastoral work. He solved the problem for himself as every minister must do. I agree with Sir W. M. Ramsay that Paul was a real philosopher, perhaps not in the technical sense of the term, though he knew how to hold his own with the Epicurean and the Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:18 ff.). But he possessed a higher and nobler world view than those opportunists in philosophy. Paul knew how to think and had such passion of soul and keenness of intellect that he still challenges the respect of the greatest minds of the modern world. He knew the technical terms of the Jewish rabbi and the Greek philosopher (Gnostic and Agnostic), but he was able to drop mere abstract verbiage and deal with the heart of things in words that burn into the very conscience of men. Certainly Paul had a real philosophy of history and a definite programme for the redemption of the empire as well as the salvation of individuals.
But it is as the exponent of Christ that Paul commands chief attention. This matter will call for fuller treatment further on, but a word is needed here. He claimed a place on a level with the very chiefest Apostles (2 Cor. 12:11), when that place was denied him by the Judaizers. Indeed, he is the real primate among the Apostles (not Peter), though not one of the Twelve. He rebuked Peter, not Peter Paul. So powerful is Paul’s conception of Christ that it has dominated Christian theology. It is a pertinent inquiry whether Paul accurately grasped the truth about Jesus when he probably did not know him face to face in the flesh, for in 2 Cor. 5:16 he does not imply (“even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now know we him no more”) that he had ever seen Jesus before his death. He had even looked upon Christ from the Jewish or fleshly standpoint. The inquiry about Paul is greatly important, for, if Paul went astray, he has led the world after him. Augustine and Calvin, Pelagius and Arminius, Origen and Clement, all drink from the fountain of Paul’s theology. We are indeed recovering the Johannine view of Christ, the Petrine and the Jacobean, but after all they do not radically differ from Paul’s conception, though each gives an interesting personal touch. In simple truth, it is idle to hope to get back to Christ except through the medium of the first interpreters of Jesus who told their wonderful story. Paul’s story is not the first in order of time, but it is first in order of apologetic interest, and apologetics is still worth the while of every intelligent Christian. We strike terra firma in Paul, begging Van Manen’s pardon. Taking one’s stand by Paul, one can work his way more securely through the mazes of Johannine and Synoptic criticism to the truth as it is in Jesus. He will at last come to see that Paul and the Gospels give us the same Christ with just the differences in detail that one had a right to expect.
Passing by Jesus himself, Paul stands forever the foremost representative of Christ, the ablest exponent of Christianity, its most constructive genius, its dominant Spirit from the merely human side, its most fearless champion, its most illustrious and influential missionary, preacher, teacher, and its most distinguished martyr. He heard things in the third heaven not lawful to utter (2 Cor. 12:4), but he felt himself a poor earthen vessel after all (2 Cor. 4:7). He sought to commend himself in the sight of God to every man’s conscience, for he had seen the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ and was the servant of all for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 4:3 ff.).
We have a clear picture of Paul in the Acts. It is a legend that Luke was a painter and left a portrait of Paul. He was obviously a master in word painting, though we have no painting in oil. We may pass by as worthless the legend that Paul was a hunchback, though his personal appearance probably was not remarkably prepossessing, since his enemies ridiculed him on that score (2 Cor. 10:10). There is an advantage in a commanding personality provided undue expectations are not excited which cannot be fulfilled. Paul in action was impressive enough as when he, “filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on” Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:9) and exclaimed “Thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” But his Judaizing adversaries belittled his speech as of no account (2 Cor. 10:10) because, forsooth, he reasoned in possibly a conversational manner. Some, indeed, much preferred the more ornate oratory of Apollos, who “powerfully confuted the Jews” at Corinth (Acts 18:28). But he did have an infirmity “a stake in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:7), which kept him humble and reminded him again of the earthen vessel which carried the gospel treasure. If weak eyes was this infirmity, he had loving friends who would have plucked out their own if it would have done him any good (Gal. 4:15). But one cannot doubt that all human frailties were forgotten when Paul poured out his very soul in passionate speech and stirred men to heroic endeavor. He could change his tone and strike the deeper note of pathos himself (Gal. 4:20), for he was a man of the strongest emotion. He could challenge men to duty by his very tears (Acts 20:19) as well as by his independent self-reliance.
One could not well plunge into the life of Paul without this much of panegyric, certainly not one who has felt that “charm of Paul” of which Ramsay so winningly writes. The richness of his nature will appear in ample fulness as we proceed. If he could go up to the third heaven and bring down unutterable glories, he could spend a day and a night in the deep (2 Cor. 11:25). He knew human and inhuman nature. He had loyal friends, but he felt to the quick the treachery of false brethren, the ostracism of his own race, the jealousy of some preachers of the Gospel (Phil. 1:15) far more than he did the open hostility of a Roman emperor like Nero.
2. Saul’s Ancestry.—Saul loved his people with intense patriotism. Few things gave him keener anguish of heart than the refusal of his Jewish brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, to take Jesus as the Messiah of promise (Rom. 9:2 f.). He was almost ready to be cut off from Christ himself if that would win them. He had once boasted, as other Jews did, of descent from Abraham (2 Cor. 11:22). He had felt the proud scorn of the Gentiles which animated the strict Jews. Indeed, he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews and set much store by the stock of Israel. His blood went back to the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5) whose glory was another Saul, the first king of the Hebrew people. He probably once took a keen interest in the “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4) and family trees of the Jews of his time. He knew what pride of race was, the heritage of a long and noble ancestry that reached far back into the distant centuries. The Jew had enough in his history to give him some right to be proud. His was the chosen people “whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers” (Rom. 9:4 f.). It mattered little with a story like that if the hated Roman yoke was upon the neck of the Jews. The day of the Roman would pass as had that of the Seleucid kings, the Ptolemies, Alexander the Great, the Persian, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Hittite, the Egyptian. Kingdoms came and went, but the Jew remained, proud, isolated, defiant, conscious that he was to fulfil a strange Messianic mission in the world. True, the Messianic hope was trailing now in the dust of a deliverer from Rome who would establish a Jewish empire in Jerusalem, yet it was to come with great eschatological features. But to make the whole world Jewish was honor enough for the human race. All this and more ran in the blood of Saul’s ancestors.
3. His Family.—One can draw a closer picture yet of the home in Tarsus into which Saul was born, though many details are sadly wanting. We do not know what was the name of either his father or mother. And yet the picture is not wholly blank. We know that his father was a strict Jew, for his son was “instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3). He was not merely a Pharisee himself but the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Hence we know that, though his father lived in Tarsus when Saul was born (22:3), he was not a Hellenizer. His father was indeed a Hellenist and lived in one of the great Greek cities of the world, but he was loyal to the traditions of Palestine and was at heart a real Jew, though actually one of the Dispersion. One other detail is certainly known about Saul’s father. He was a Roman citizen. The time came when Paul would take great pleasure in saying: “But I am a Roman born” (Acts 22:28). Whether his father was also Roman born or was made a Roman citizen for some deed of valor or for money, as was true of Claudius Lysias (Acts 22:28), is not known, or at least was not known till recently. Ramsay has shown that there had been a body of Jews settled in Tarsus since 171 B.C. It was only possible for individual Jews to become Roman citizens in a Greek city like Tarsus by being enrolled in “a Tribe set apart for them, in which they could control the religious rites and identify them with the service of the synagogue.”2 If this is true, and Ramsay proves it, Saul’s father was enrolled in this City Tribe of Jewish citizens in Tarsus for his high standing in the Jewish community, unless indeed his grandfather had been a citizen also. We do not know how long the family had been in Tarsus. At any rate Saul’s father was a man of position in the Jewish community and was able to send his son later to Jerusalem to school. He may have been a man of some wealth. The fact that he was a tent-maker and taught his trade to his son does not prove anything, since Jews generally knew a trade and taught it to their sons. This custom stood Paul in good stead later. There is every reason to think that Saul was proud of his father.
The mother shrinks still further into the background except that we know she must have been a woman of force to have reared such a son. We catch a faint glimpse of her also when Paul says: “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers” (2 Tim. 1:3). She is in that pious line. That is the noblest heritage of all. In the mention of Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois (1:5), it is not difficult to catch the reflection of Saul’s own fireside. When Paul reminds Timothy of whom he had learned the Holy Scriptures even from a babe (3:14 f.) he was echoing his own experience in the home in Tarsus. This Jewish matron must not be overlooked when we study the influences that moulded Saul. She made the home where he grew and whose stamp he always bore.
When we ask for the other members of that family group we can only bring up the picture of a sister (Rachel, a later story calls her) whose son did Paul such a good turn in Jerusalem in a time of storm (Acts 23:16). This nephew was worthy of his uncle, and that is enough to say for his shrewdness and courage. There may have been other sisters and even brothers. We simply do not know. The curtain refuses to rise on this point. But we have caught some conception of the home in the city of which Saul was proud.
4. The Date of Saul’s Birth.—The ancients did not have the same concern for minute chronology that modern men show. Luke (Luke 3:1 f.) does exhibit an historian’s interest in the time when John the Baptist began his ministry. He seeks to locate the event by the names of the rulers of the time. In the Acts, likewise, there is occasional allusion to men and events that lie outside of the Apostolic story. One is grateful to Ramsay again for the vindication of Luke’s trustworthiness as a historian. But it is to be borne in mind that Luke does not profess to give the life of Paul. He takes up Saul, who is already a young man (Acts 7:58), where he touches the story of Christianity and follows him with more or less fulness to Rome and there drops the narrative. There are no clear indications in Paul’s Epistles, though hints are dropped here and there. He is Paul the aged when he writes to Philemon (verse 9). Unfortunately there is no absolutely certain date in Paul’s entire career. Even the two foci (the coming of Saul to Antioch about the time of the death of Herod Agrippa I and fee famine, the change of Roman Procurators at Cæsarea when Felix is recalled and Festus succeeds him) are not fixed points any longer. If we knew for certain that the one was A.D. 44 and the other A.D. 60, there would be less difficulty in arranging approximately the other chief dates in Paul’s life. For a discussion of the matter, see Turner’s article, N. T. Chronology in Hastings’ “D. B.” We may, with some hesitation, use these two dates as a working hypothesis for the division of Paul’s life into three parts. Then the great missionary journeys come between A.D. 44 and 60. But even so, we have no clear light thrown on the length of Paul’s life. Whether he was put to death in A.D. 64 or 68, he would still be an old man when he wrote the letter to Philemon. If, as is possible, Saul was thirty years old at the time of the stoning of Stephen, which would certainly be true if he was actually a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), we must add to this the fourteen years (2 Cor. 12:2) plus the three spent in Arabia and Damascus (Gal. 1:18). But these two periods cannot be insisted on minutely, since pieces of years might be counted at the beginning and the close. At any rate one will not be far astray if he thinks of Saul as five years the junior of Jesus. This would make his birth about A.D. 1. There is no straining of the facts if we imagine the boy John in the hill country of Judea, the boy Jesus in Nazareth, and the child Saul at Tarsus at the same time. Each faced the same world, but from a different point of view, these boys who were to revolutionize the world. John came out of a priestly atmosphere, and when his aged parents died took to the wilderness as a place for preparation for life’s problems. Jesus lived on in the humble Nazareth home doing the work of a carpenter (Mark. 6:3) and waiting for the voice in the wilderness to call him to his destiny.
5. The Boyhood of Saul at Tarsus.—What was the boy at Tarsus doing meanwhile? Unlike John, Saul lived in a city. Unlike Jesus, his home was in one of the great Greek cities of the world. Nathanael could sneer at Nazareth (John 1:46), but Paul could brook no reproach on Tarsus. He was proud to hail from “no mean city” (Acts 21:39). How much right Paul had to civic pride in the town of his birth Ramsay has shown at great length and with brilliant success. Tarsus was the city of all the world best adapted for the youth of the Apostle to the Gentiles. In Tarsus was accomplished most perfectly that union between east and west that Alexander the Great attempted everywhere. The city remained Asiatic in character while it appropriated the Greek qualities. Greek influence, indeed, dated back to the Ionian colonists, but the Greek spirit did not obliterate elements which survived even the work of Alexander. Under the Romans it was a “free city” and the Jewish element was a positive force in the life of the community. There was a great university here also. It would be difficult to imagine a city of that era more thoroughly cosmopolitan and representative of life in the empire. The absence of intense hatred of the Jews would open the way for more sympathy on the part of the Jews toward the best things in the Græco-Roman civilization. In common with the Hellenists in general Saul spoke Greek in addition to his Aramaic, and seemed to find it not inconsistent with his Jewish scruples to witness the public games which he afterwards used so effectively as illustrations (1 Cor. 9:24 f.). The middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile did not extend to every detail of life, though in the main the atmosphere of his home in Tarsus was thoroughly Jewish, not to say Pharisaic. If he mingled to some extent in the life and play of Gentile boys in Tarsus, it is not so clear that he went to the Gentile schools. It was just here in the matter of education that the Pharisee would be more particular. As a boy he would learn the Old Testament story from his mother and from the synagogue teaching, which had become a great institution in Jewish life. Environment plays an important part in every human life. Heredity plus environment and the curious personal equation, added to the grace of God, explains the wonderful creature called a man. Saul would not have been quite the same man if he had been reared wholly in Alexandria or Jerusalem. Both of these centres of culture left their impress on Paul, as is seen in the use of allegory about Hagar and Sarah (Gal. 4:24) and the rabbinic refinement in the use of words (Gal. 3:16) and traditional interpretation (1 Cor. 10:4). But it is easy to see that Saul of Tarsus was not cut out to be Philo, nor, indeed, Shammai. Tarsus left its mark upon him as a boy and made possible the more generous sympathies of his later life. It is interesting to observe how the comparatively few illustrations in his teaching are drawn chiefly from city life. It is not, however, necessary to say that he misused the subject of grafting the wild olive, for he expressly explains that it is “contrary to nature” (Rom. 11:24). John and Jesus both revelled in the use of illustrations from nature with which they were so familiar. From one point of view it seems a pity for a boy to have to live in a city and miss the joy and freedom of the country. But Saul had some compensations. His life was to be in the great cities of the empire, and he had a natural bond of sympathy with city life and had less to learn in that respect. It is clear that his boyhood was free from the enervating dissipations of city life, and so he had strength of constitution to endure the terrific strain of missionary work, not to say persecution and imprisonment. One may imagine that the boy at Tarsus took some interest in athletics from his fondness for the figure. 1 Tim. 4:7 f. surely cannot be construed as condemnation of bodily exercise. He was a self-reliant boy, if we may judge from his advice to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12). What his day-dreams were we do not know, but so gifted a boy was bound to feel a call to higher service. He doubtless sympathized with the desire of his parents that he should become a Jewish rabbi, perhaps another Gamaliel. As a Jew, no higher glory was open to him than this, since the prophetic voice had ceased from Israel and the kingly sceptre was no longer in Jewish hands. The heel of Rome was upon the world, the Mediterranean world, Saul’s world. Long afterwards he will look back upon God’s plan in his life and see that God had “separated” him even from his mother’s womb (Gal. 1:15) to make a spiritual Pharisee of him, a Separate for the Gentiles, not from the Gentiles, charged with the revelation of the Son of God in his very self. But it will take time and a revolution in his nature before he can see that foreordination. None the less we may conclude that the Tarsian Jewish boy was instinct with life and eager to have a part in the great world that surged all about him. If he felt the impact of his time, he was anxious to play his part in his day. We may suppose that already his conscience was active according to which he sought to live free from offence towards God and men (Acts 24:16). But if, on the whole, the life at Tarsus still remains obscure to us, it was not obscure to Saul’s later friends, for he was a young man of prominence as his father was a man of position. Paul does say that “from the first” his friends in the Sanhedrin and others in Jerusalem, had knowledge of him (Acts 26:5), but It is not clear that this knowledge went further than his youth in Jerusalem (verse 4). But from the time of his student days in Jerusalem he was in the open so far as the Jewish world was concerned. it will repay us to form a mental picture of the boy that left Tarsus.
6. At the Feet of Gamaliel.—It was no mean ambition that Saul’s parents had for him to receive his theological education in Jerusalem. That city was the goal of Jews all over the world. Here was concentrated the history of the nation. Every hill and every valley teemed with holy associations. Saul had learned the outlines of that story, and he was coming to his own when he came to the Holy City. He was probably, according to Jewish custom, about thirteen when he came to school in Jerusalem, so that he could speak of his being “brought up” there (Acts 22:3). One cannot help thinking of the brief visit of the boy Jesus to the temple at the age of twelve. Each was full of zest in the problems of his people and his time. Saul probably did not astonish his teachers by the penetration of his questions and his answers in the same measure that Jesus did, but one cannot doubt the keenness of his interest in the new world that he had now entered.
But much as the city had to offer of historic attraction, the thing that stood out clearest in his after life was the fact that he sat at the feet of the great teacher of his time among the Jews (Acts 22:3). The temple had its wonders, that glorious temple of Herod still unfinished. But the greatest thing in the world is a man. It is a supreme moment in the life of any youth when he comes under the spell of a master teacher. This grandson of Hillel was the glory of the law and it meant much for Saul to come under his influence. His school (called the school of Hillel) was more liberal in some fine points than the rival rabbinical theological school of Shammai (contemporary of Hillel). For one thing Gamaliel was willing to read the Greek authors, and his pupil Paul will later show some knowledge of Greek literature. To be sure, Paul says, that he was “instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3), but he explains this later when he remarks: “After the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee” (26:5). He does not say that he was brought up in the more rigid of the Pharisaic schools. From the non-Pharisaic view, however, it was strict enough. It was a life of complacent self-satisfaction to which he was reared (cf. Rom. 7:7) in bondage to the letter which killeth (2 Cor. 3:6). One must not, however, get too extravagant an idea of Gamaliel’s breadth of view and sympathy. It is true that he did protest formally in the Sanhedrin against the violence of the Sadducees towards the Apostles (Acts 5:34). But one is slow to believe that this action on his part was due either to any interest in Christianity or real concern for religious toleration, not to say liberty of opinion. When, later, Stephen had fired the Pharisees by his denunciation of mere ceremonialism and insistence on the spiritual nature of worship (cf. the experience of Jesus), there is no indication that Gamaliel raised a restraining hand to save him from the fury of his pupil Saul, and the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:11 ff.; 7:57 f.). In Acts 5:35–39 he does warn the Sanhedrin to beware lest they be found fighting against God, a piece of advice not to be pressed too literally, as he did not later use it himself. It is evident that, while only the Sadducees were enlisted in the fight against the Apostles on the ground of the doctrine of the resurrection, the Pharisees were holding aloof, and in this very division lay the safety of the disciples, a point that Paul knew how to use on a later occasion (Acts 22:9 f.). But when Stephen stirred the Pharisees also, Gamaliel takes no interest in the matter.
Jesus did not come under the spell of the rabbinism of his time. In the Nazareth home there was less of the oral tradition (Midrash) and more of the spiritual teaching of the Old Testament prophets and psalms. Simeon and Anna breathed that atmosphere also, as did Zacharias and Elizabeth, as is shown by the report of their words. It is no reflection on theological education as such to comment on this fact. From the human point of view Jesus was free from this ceremonial perversion and had no cobwebs to brush aside. He sprang into instant opposition to the traditionalists of his time. It will not do to say that if Saul had not gone to Gamaliel’s school of the prophets, he, too, would have been more open to the New Way. Peter and John were unschooled, and they, too, were slow to learn Jesus. There are difficulties of ignorance as truly as there are problems of knowledge. They are not the same in character, forsooth, but just as real in fact. One can see how Christianity gained by having this man of theological training, even though much of his knowledge was rabbinical rubbish. The Talmud itself, though written down much later (both Mishna and Gemara several centuries after Saul), yet gives us a fair specimen of the theological hair-splitting indulged in by the grave and reverend doctors of the law who dispensed wisdom in Jerusalem. Paul did have much to unlearn, much that he came to count only as “refuse” (Phil. 3:8), but great blessings resulted to him and to the cause of Christ. These more than made up for the loss, and may console any man who may have spent his time at a modern school of merely rabbinical methods and points of view, provided he gets over them.
For one thing, he gained a thoroughly trained mind. He was all in all the most gifted man of his time, leaving out of view, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. The skilful use of question and answer was not merely drill, though drill in school is not to be despised. He learned how to distinguish between things that differ (Phil. 1:10 marg.), a true mark of the justly educated mind. His ambition led him to surpass his fellow pupils (Gal. 1:14), and the result was that his brilliant intellect had received really magnificent training in mental gymnastics. Much that he had learned was really good in itself. He won familiarity with the letter of Scripture, a point about which some brilliant modern scholars are gloriously indifferent. He was to learn the spirit of Scripture-teaching later, but there was some good in the letter, provided it was not allowed to kill. He gained, likewise, the art of disputation which stood him in good stead on many an important occasion as on Mars Hill, on the steps of the Tower of Antonia, before the Jewish Sanhedrin, before Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and perhaps Nero himself the first time. Being well versed in rabbinical theology, when he came to the side of Christ, he knew how to parry all the points of his old friends the rabbis. He knew the strength and the weakness of Pharisaism and could speak as an expert on that point. Cf. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law” (Gal. 4:21). He knew only too well “the weak and beggarly rudiments” of bondage to the ceremonial law (Gal. 4:9), and his biting sarcasm will later sting his Jewish enemies to fury. But now he loved Pharisaism and lived it with fierce conviction, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
What did Gamaliel think of his brilliant pupil? One would like to have a word from him. But the position of leadership to which he will soon attain shows that the master’s approval rested on Saul. Perhaps the old teacher looked proudly on the young man from Tarsus as a possible successor. When Saul left Jerusalem he was to all intents and purposes the one young Jew in all the world who had most in prospect before him. He had been educated as a rabbi and the career of a rabbi lay before him. But that was not all. Many a young rabbi lived in comparative obscurity. This young rabbi had great friends at Jerusalem who could help him to the highest places if he proved worthy. We may imagine the joy of his parents as he returned home full of honor, the hope of Gamaliel and the pride of his home.
7. Elements in Saul’s Education.—These have already been touched upon in the preceding discussion to a certain extent, but it is well to gather up the main outlines here. In fact scholars are not agreed as to this matter, some insisting that the influences that moulded him were wholly Jewish, others finding a rather large Greek side to his training, others even would add a positive Babylonian influence. It is not an easy matter to keep the balance in a matter of this sort. But after all the facts must decide.
To begin with, Paul shows in his Epistles a forceful and commanding style. His Greek is not, indeed, that of Demosthenes, and it would have been an anachronism if it had been. He uses beyond controversy the Koiné (κοινή) vernacular, as did other cultivated and uncultivated men of his day. The papyri show all grades of culture in the vernacular then as now. While his Epistles exhibit traits of the merely personal letter as in Philemon, the passionate appeal of non-literary correspondence, as in I and II Thessalonians, Galatians, II Corinthians, yet in Romans and Ephesians there is more literary style and conscious effort to express himself in accord with the greatness of his ideas. Cf. also 1 Cor. 13 and 15. He is an educated Jew who knew his Aramaic (Acts 22:2) and Hebrew, but who was also at home in the Greek of his time. The few quotations from the Greek writers (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Tit. 1:12) are not from writers of the highest rank, and cannot be used as proof that Paul was thoroughly familiar with Homer and Plato. That matter may be left open to conjecture. What is clear is that he could hold the attention of the cultured Athenians so long as he did not offend them by the doctrine of the resurrection.
In discussing the Hellenism of Paul one must remember that he was himself a Hellenist, not a Palestinian Jew. Besides, the Hellenism of Paul’s day was not (he Hellenism of Aristotle’s time. The later Hellenism and the later Judaism of the Dispersion were not so far apart as their antecedents had been. “In the mind of Paul a universalized Hellenism coalesced with a universalized Hebraism.”2 To be sure, one must not make a real Greek out of Paul. But it is, I believe, missing a part of Paul’s nature to refuse to see his bond of contact with the Greek world in which he lived.
We know how proud he was of his Roman citizenship, so that the Roman side of his training is not to be overlooked, though it was naturally slight as compared with the Hebrew culture. He seems to have known some Latin, as he managed his own case in the various trials before the Roman courts.
But it is quite within bounds to think of Saul’s education as really cosmopolitan, as much so, indeed, as that of a young Jew who was loyal to his people could well have been. Besides the reaching of the rabbis, he probably read some of the Jewish apocalypses like the Psalms of Solomon, Book of Enoch, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, books which had a vogue at that time. Other books, like the Wisdom of Solomon, which reflected the Jewish Alexandrian Philosophy, he possibly read also. There is no reason to think that he was too narrow a Pharisee to be open to the various means of culture of his time. Fundamentally a rabbi, he was familiar with the apocalyptic method of teaching also (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3–10). But around this Jewish learning there gathered a certain amount of Greek and Roman culture which made him a real citizen of the world and a fit vessel to bear the Gospel to the Gentiles when Christ should lay his hand upon him.
If Christianity only possessed one so well equipped as this young rabbi! No one of the Twelve Apostles was his equal in mental gifts and culture. But he is far from any thought of Christ in his home at. Tarsus. Brilliant, accomplished, masterful, ambitious, he is eager to be in the midst of the stirring events in Judea. He appears in Jerusalem again, possibly drawn thither by the attacks of Stephen on the citadel of Pharisaism. It is not improbable that he measured swords in debate with Stephen in the Cilician synagogue, where Saul would naturally go (Acts 6:9). But, if so, he had a new experience. He could not stand against this tornado of the Spirit. Few things annoy a man of culture quite so much as to be overcome in public discussion whether by ridicule or weight of argument. An unanswerable argument is a hard thing to forgive. Stephen was all ablaze with passion. Before him Saul’s critical acumen and theological subtleties vanished. Saul was beaten and his defeat rankled within him. Such in brief is the picture that we may form of Saul and Stephen in Jerusalem.


“I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9).
1. Saul’s First Taste of Blood.—This form of statement may shock one a bit at first. It suggests that Saul became bloodthirsty in his persecution. That is true. He was, indeed, a most respectable persecutor, but blood was on his hands, and he afterwards recognized it with shame and humiliation. “And when they were put to death I gave my vote against them” (Acts 26:10). “And I persecuted this way even unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:4). He could never forgive himself for this lapse from the true moral standards. Paul was by nature a gentleman, and to think that he had led even lovely women to prison and death! “For I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). The only consolation about it all that he could get was that he “did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13), but he could never think of himself as aught but the chief of sinners. In him as chief, Jesus set forth “an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If Christ could save a sinner like Saul, he felt that no one else need despair. Paul did not spare himself later by the reflection that he thought that he had done his duty to God in this matter. That is the excuse of every persecutor. It is just his way of serving God, to kill the heretics! Indeed, the conscientiousness of Saul in the matter merely added to his later remorse.
So we know how Saul felt after he saw his persecution in its true light and how he felt before his conversion. When he stands by Stephen, keeping guard over the garments of those who had stripped themselves for vengeance on Stephen the traducer of the faith of the Pharisees, he is full of self-complacency. His conscience gave him no trouble at all. The sense of sin had not revived in him, and he felt very much alive (Rom. 7:9). He seemed to have abundant justification for this first step in persecution. Pharisaism was the hope of Israel and so the hope of the world. Had not Gamaliel said so? When the real Messiah came he would be a Pharisee, not this Jesus of Nazareth who had met a just death on the cross for his opposition to the Pharisaic teaching. “Paul had been nurtured on the Messianic Hope of Israel. What a caricature was this of the glorious fulfilment for which devout Jews had yearned.” And Stephen was actually repeating the blasphemies of Jesus and seeking to subvert the customs which Moses had delivered unto them! Jesus himself had dared to say that he would destroy the temple itself, and now Stephen is repeating that saying (Acts 6:14) and is depreciating the value of the temple in the worship of God (7:48). He has actually charged us with not keeping the law, as if the Pharisees were not orthodox! He even insults the Sanhedrin by accusing them of being “betrayers and murderers” of Jesus (7:52)! As if Jesus were not legally tried and condemned by Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor! No wonder the Sanhedrin are gnashing their teeth at this blasphemer and have stopped their ears to hear no more. He actually imagines that he sees Jesus now! We will rush upon him without waiting for a formal vote of condemnation. Even Gamaliel does not protest. Out of the city we shall go and stone him there as a common blasphemer. So is justice satisfied and the temple preserved.
Saul did not, indeed, cast a stone at him. He could not stoop to that, nor was it necessary for him to stain his hands with blood that far. Perhaps he did not stop to analyze his ideas and emotions very closely at the moment. It was mob violence, in fact, close to a modern lynching. He could justify it if necessary, for Stephen deserved his fate! Indeed, the Sanhedrin could no longer put one to death without the consent of the Roman Governor, and this it had been difficult to obtain in the case of Jesus. On the whole, therefore, it was just as well to take the law into their own hands. The excitement and resentment of the moment had led Saul on along with the crowd. There may have been an unconscious personal element in it all. If Saul had gone down in defeat before Stephen in the Cilician synagogue, a touch of personal revenge came in also. This was Saul’s answer to Stephen’s unanswerable addresses. Thus the defeated rabbis had squared accounts with Jesus for that last debate in the temple. Stephen would never trouble Saul again.
Saul was not merely passive in the matter of Stephen’s death. He was a scholar and a rabbi and so left the actual killing to others. But he was in hearty sympathy with the deed. “And Saul was consenting unto his death” (Acts 8:1). The word here used (συνευδοκῶν) in its simple form is the one used of the Father’s good pleasure in the Son (Matt. 3:17). It suggests complacent approval, and the preposition adds to the force of the verb (“perfective” use of the preposition). We may pause a moment, therefore, to contemplate the brilliant young rabbi who is now introduced to us for the first time in Luke’s narrative. He was not the kind of a man to do things by halves. He had been drawn into the controversy against Stephen in behalf of Pharisaism. His whole soul was enlisted in the cause.
He probably did not at first expect to have a very active part in the matter. Stephen had been formally arraigned before the Sanhedrin, and witnesses had been secured to testify against him. It was Stephen’s own speech which had precipitated the riot and the death in this form. But things had to take their course. There was no need of Saul’s going further in the matter. One mob did not matter so much after all, especially as it had the seeming approval of the members of the Sanhedrin itself.
2. Saul’s Leadership in the Persecution.—Saul never sought to shift the responsibility in the matter to the Sanhedrin. He always confessed simply: “I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it” (Gal. 1:13), “I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (1 Tim. 1:13). The wonder ever was to him how Jesus counted him worthy, putting him into the ministry. The narrative of Luke (Acts 8:1) seems to imply that the extension of the persecution to the other Christians was more a natural evolution than the result of preconcerted action. It is easier to start a fire than to put it out. It is the history of mob law everywhere. It is first just for this one man guilty of so grave a crime. Then it is for any one charged with that crime or even suspected of it. Then the vengeance of the mob vents itself on anybody suspected of any crime. The excuse against Stephen had been that he was a blasphemer against Moses and the temple. The charge against the rest of the Christians is that they are sympathizers with Stephen. They are guilty of the crime of being disciples of Jesus. Christ had sought to protect the Apostles when he was himself caught in the toils of hate and gave himself up to his destiny. (John 18:8). They had escaped persecution then, though Peter had quailed before the sneers of the servants. Since the Ascension of Jesus the Apostles had learned what it was to go to prison for Christ. They had the new-found joy, “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name” (Acts 5:41). The death of Stephen had extended the persecution to the deacons if we are justified in so terming the Seven chosen in Acts 6:1–6.
But the persecution that arose on the very day of Stephen’s death was “against the church that was in Jerusalem.” There, for the first time, was a general attack on the entire body of believers in Jerusalem. This attack was so “great” that the bulk of them fled for their lives instanter and were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. The Apostles stood their ground. They had gotten used to going to prison. Besides, if Stephen could die, so could they. It is not clear whether the “devout men” who gave Stephen decent burial, were believers or merely sympathizers who had courage enough to do that service to the first martyr of the faith. The work of extermination was swift and seemed complete.
But it is just at this point that Saul steps to the front. He wishes no half-way measures. It is a great popular movement to stamp out the vicious heresy and rescue Pharisaism from future peril. In every crisis there is always a man who comes to the surface as the man of the hour. It is not always true that a man makes a crisis or the crisis the man. Sometimes both spring up together and react the one on the other. Saul “laid waste the church, entering every house” (Acts 8:3). Already the term church (ἐκκλησία) has left its merely etymological sense of assembly and taken on that of body. It was a church when out of service as well as when assembled. One can well imagine the dumb terror that entered into the hearts of the Christians who had remained in the city. It was bad enough to feel the senseless rage of a mob which spent itself in a day. But here was relentless hate that deliberately violated the precincts of one’s home. The approval of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10) gave this high-handed action of Saul the semblance of legality, but it cannot mitigate the bitterness that filled his own soul as he dragged men and even women out of their homes to prison for the crime of Christianity.
One might palliate a spurt or two of this sort on the part of the hot-blooded young rabbi, who, like all persecutors, had his conscience and his prejudices sadly mixed. He “shut up many of the saints in prison” (Acts 26:10), and kept it up as long as there were any to seize. His activity in Jerusalem ceased only when the material there gave out. He had various means of refined cruelty for those who did not flee before this wolf who was ravening the fold. Some he simply punished in the synagogues (Acts 26:11). This he did “oftentimes,” though the exact shape that his wrath took is not made clear. He even “strove to make them blaspheme” the name of Jesus. Let us hope that he failed in this attempt. One is reminded of the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. Others were put to death by formal vote of the Sanhedrin and with Saul’s full approval (Acts 26:10). It is a grewsome tale at best, and the matter is not improved when Luke describes Saul as “yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). That “yet” is quite significant. His thirst for blood was not quenched while any Christians remained. True, the Apostles were not seized then, though why they escaped we do not clearly see. They remained boldly behind and even untouched. There is sometimes safety in boldness.
Saul himself has grown apace. He had in him the material for an arch-persecutor if the occasion came. He was made of the right stuff and his training under Gamaliel gave help also. The touch of Hellenism in him was not enough to withstand the lion of Pharisaism once aroused. One recalls also that the Athenians demanded the death of Socrates and Antiochus Epiphanes sought to inject Hellenism into the Jews by compulsion. Saul had been taught to regard the minutest regulation and scruple of the oral tradition as on a par with the very Word of Jehovah. The intensity and ardor of his nature added fuel to the dry tinder of rabbinism. Individual infallibility and conscientiousness make a dangerous combination. Once his blood was up it was easy to spring from the place of helper at the death of Stephen to that of leader in a great movement to rid the country of the disciples of the hated Nazarene. One can well suppose that his former fellow-students rallied around the brilliant young leader. In all probability Saul led a student movement against Christianity with the sanction of the Jewish authorities. The Sanhedrin had itself tried to put down this heresy, but Gamaliel had put a stop to their proceedings. They now rejoiced in a Pharisaic revival as an offset to the rising tide of Christian power in Jerusalem. This tide had been neglected too long.
3. Saul’s Connection with the Sanhedrin.—The question is raised at once whether Saul himself was a member of the Sanhedrin. If one takes the language used by him in Acts 26:10 (“I gave my vote against them”) literally, then he was, of course, a member of this august body. It must be confessed that this is the obvious and natural way to take the language. There exists, so far as I know, no real obstacle in the way of such a fact. He was young, and yet he was probably over thirty. If he had to be married, as was the custom, we have no evidence to the contrary. His unmarried state later (1 Cor. 7:8) can be explained just as well on the ground that he was a widower. It is to be said further that one small objection to Paul’s comments on the subject of marriage would thus be removed. It is, of course, not impossible to think of a merely metaphorical use of the term “vote” in Acts 26:10. But, on the whole, it seems more than probable that he means to imply that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. It is not impossible that the rather familiar tone of Acts 22:5 is explained by this fact: “As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren.” Observe that “the brethren” here are Jewish brethren, not Christians. Note also “brethren and fathers” in verse 1. If he was a member of the Sanhedrin, it is possible that it was due chiefly to his activity in this persecution as a reward of merit. He may have been promoted rapidly by reason of his unusual zeal for the cause.
At first blush it seems a little strange that the Sanhedrin should here be exercising the power of death when in the trial of Jesus it is expressly disclaimed by them to Pilate (John 18:31). We do not know, to be sure, the exact date of the events growing out of the stoning of Stephen. There was some delay in the appointing of a successor to Pontius Pilate, who was recalled in A.D. 36. But even before that time his great unpopularity had broken his authority with the people very largely. It is entirely possible, therefore, that the Sanhedrin may have taken the reins of authority back into their own hands in this time of confusion. They could have evaded responsibility for the death of Stephen, but not for those slain under Saul’s leadership since he expressly says that he “received authority from the chief priests” (Acts 26:10). But Luke is so careful in other matters that one cannot well doubt his comments here merely on the ground of our ignorance of the true explanation. He has been vindicated on too many points already where quibbles of like nature were once raised against him.
But, whether Saul was an actual member of the Sanhedrin or not, he was in the closest touch with them now. He was, indeed, their spokesman. Perhaps Gamaliel felt that his hopes about Saul were already more than realized. He had known that a great future was before him. It had come more quickly than he had expected. He could rest in peace now. As President of the Sanhedrin (A.D. 30–51) he was in a position to work in thorough accord with his great pupil who was now so active in Jewish public life.
4. Saul’s Fight to a Finish.—He was “exceedingly mad against them” (Acts 26:11). Those not already dead he had driven out of town. That ought to have satisfied an ordinary man. But Saul was not an ordinary man. He “persecuted them even unto foreign cities.” “Beyond measure” (Gal. 1:13) he was zealous in his persecution. No wonder that the poor fleeing disciples went as far as Damascus and Cyprus. The marvel is that they stopped at all. This Pharisaic war-horse sniffed the battle from afar. His very breath (ἐνπνέων) was threat and slaughter (Acts 9:1). He seemed to have paused a moment to survey the field of carnage. News came to him that a band of believers in Jesus had collected in Damascus. That was enough for Saul. He “went unto the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1 f.). Once in prison in Jerusalem the punishment (Acts 22:5) would be easy. He was determined to finish the business while he was at it.
He was going with “the authority and commission of the chief priests” (Acts 26:12), and that authority would have been acknowledged beyond doubt if he could once have served his papers. The Jew, like the modern Roman Catholic, owed a double allegiance, one to his state, the other to the ecclesiastical or temple authorities at Jerusalem. It is not certain whether Damascus was at this time under Roman rule or under a governor of Aretas as was the case a little later (2 Cor. 11:32). The point is not material. In either event the Sanhedrin claimed religious control over Jews, and Christians as yet were treated merely as a sect of Jews like the Sadducees or Pharisees.
Saul was now the typical heresy-hunter of all time. He has been carried on by the tide of events till he is the acknowledged leader of aggressive and triumphant Pharisaism. He felt himself pitted against the very name of Jesus. Brutal passion was linked with high motives. He felt personal zest in his attacks on the followers of Jesus. He had outlined a definite programme of extermination, and complete success was within his grasp.
It is idle to conjecture what might have happened if Saul had met Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The probability is that he would have joined the Jewish leaders in crucifying him, for Jesus opposed the precious theology which Saul had learned from Gamaliel. But, whatever might have happened then, the offence of the cross was insuperable. To Saul the cross was the very curse of God upon this Messianic pretender (Gal. 3:13). He richly deserved the shameful death that befell him.
Perhaps as Saul rode upon his way to Damascus his mind was full of thoughts about the great events that bad recently occurred. The Christians were a stubborn set and were hard to teach the truth, the orthodoxy of the time. The death of Jesus ought to have been enough. But Stephen had gone the same way. It was a pity, for Stephen was a man of parts. After all, the leaders were the most responsible. He would take up the case of the Apostles when he returned to Jerusalem, for they had been neglected too long. It was too bad that these ignorant and misguided followers of Jesus had to be slaughtered like sheep. It was particularly bad about the women. He had shrunk back at that a number of times, but the miserable business would soon be over. Then he could return to the study of theology. There were some new apocalypses that he had not yet had time to read. Of course it was not worth while to make any serious investigation of the claims of Christianity. It was bound to be false since it was opposed to Pharisaism which was the test of all truth. Gamaliel was a great teacher. How fortunate he had been in his career so far, in his parents, his home advantages, his theological training, this very uprising which had given him his opportunity. He was now the victorious champion of orthodox Judaism. The path ran straight before him to glory and power. True, Stephen had said some things about Jesus that had a fascination for him at times when he had leisure for abstract thought. Some day he would look further into this question of the Messiah. Then at night, ofttimes, the wistful face of Stephen haunted him. Just before he died he really did look like an angel, and he spoke as if he were talking directly to Jesus. What if it should turn out after all that Stephen was right, that Jesus was really the Messiah, that all these disciples whom he had destroyed, men and women, were pious people? The faces of some of them were strangely ecstatic as they died! And why did they die so cheerfully? How could heretics have any consolation in the hour of death? But away with such thoughts which sting one like an ox’s goad. The road to Damascus was indeed beautiful, but the noonday sun was growing very hot and the glare of the sand was painful. It would be pleasant to be at the journey’s end. What a surprise he had in store for the heretics in Damascus! They could hardly know that he was coming. Damascus was a great and ancient city. He would be glad to see it.


“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4).
1. The Challenge by Jesus.—The darkest hour is just before the dawn. From the human point of view Saul was carrying everything before him. Unless his career was stopped the annihilation of Christianity may have seemed imminent to some of the disciples. And who was there who could stop his onward course? No one of the Apostles at Jerusalem seemed equal to the task, nor indeed all of them combined. No one of them could stand before Saul nor was equal in ability, training and experience. One may well contemplate this “if of history.” What would have been the history of Christianity if Saul had not been converted? It would not have been exterminated. That much we know. But the difficulties in its path would have been immeasurably greater than they were when he stepped out of the way. A man is sometimes more than a kingdom. Alexander was more powerful than all the hosts of Darius. If Washington had been on the side of the British, the whole course of American history might have been different.
Jesus had said that he would be with the disciples all the days (Matt. 28:20). They had never needed him more than now. It did seem to the despondent disciples as if Jesus no longer cared what became of his cause. Was he powerless to interfere? But just at this point he did interpose in a wonderful way. From every point of view we come here to one of the epochs in human history, not merely an epoch in the life of Saul. So many matters clamor for discussion at this point that only a selection of the most pressing and pertinent can be attempted. In the whole discussion one should keep in mind the larger aspects of the matter, not merely the personal experience of one man, important and vital as that is. If Jesus could reach out his hand in behalf of his disciples, now was the time and Saul was the man to lay hold of in this supernatural way.
We may pass by the abstract discussion of the possibility of miracles. The world has largely lost interest in that phase of the subject, and few, save the boldest materialists like Haeckel, have the hardihood to say any more what God can and cannot do. It is utterly unscientific to approach this great event from the point of view of the impossibility of the miraculous, as that term is used for the unusual interposition of God in human affairs. Indeed so strong and clear to many has come the conception of the immanence of God in nature that the absence of God would seem more of a miracle than his presence. And, after all, what we call the laws of nature are merely our notions or discoveries of God’s ways, and these laws worked before we discovered them as do the many others that we have not yet found out.
But still we must squarely face the question, Did Saul see Jesus? That is a matter to be determined by historical evidence. We need not here enter into the metaphysical or psychical phases of the subject which are brought up by the word ὤφθη “appeared” in 1 Cor. 15:8, except to observe that it is the very same word that Paul uses about the appearance of Jesus to the Apostles and others after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:5–7). Luke uses the same word about the appearance of Jesus in Luke 24:34. It is no mere refinement of Paul’s. What Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection of the body of Jesus was is not the point at issue here. It is the personality of Jesus in visible and audible form that Saul claims to have met. The notion of a mere vision of Jesus, who had no real body, does not relieve the incident of its supernatural aspect. That, after all, is the crux of this problem as it is of the resurrection of Jesus himself, not to say the fundamental question of Christianity itself. It is obviously true that the new knowledge in psychology decreases the difficulties in the way of our apprehension of the phenomena connected with Saul’s conversion. We may not hope that the discoveries concerning the subconscious mind or telepathy will relieve the incident of all the supernatural element. But it is increasingly hard on scientific grounds to deny the possibility of the manifestation of God to man. What Paul means beyond controversy is that he had a personal interview with Jesus of Nazareth after his death. In that interview he heard the voice of Jesus and understood his words in a conversation of some length (Acts 9:4–6; 22:7–10; 26:14–18). It was not a mere voice that Saul heard. He claims that he saw Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1). There are difficulties of detail about the narratives in Acts, but they are not specially material and have possible explanations, such as the men standing speechless (Acts 9:7) and the falling down of all (Acts 26:14), where two stages may be referred to, though we do not know. In the contradiction between hearing the voice (ἀκούοντες τῆς φωνῆς Acts 9:7) and not hearing the voice (τὴν φωνὴν οὐκ ἤκουσαν Acts 22:9) the difference in case (hearing the sound with the genitive and understanding the sense with the accusative) is in harmony with ancient Greek usage. They all beheld the light, but Jesus spoke to Saul (Acts 22:9), not to the men. They were all dazed by the brilliance of the light that flashed at mid-day above the brightness of the sun (Acts 26:13). It is admitted that the men with Saul did not comprehend this event and that Saul fell to the ground himself (Acts 9:4) from the glory of the light out of heaven. When he rose from the earth, he was blind.
What happened to Saul on the road to Damascus? Only three alternatives are possible. Either Saul invented this story as an excuse for his change of attitude toward Jesus, or he was deceived by a wrong interpretation of a natural phenomenon, or he has told what actually occurred. I see no escape from these alternatives. We cannot throw on Luke the responsibility of making up the whole matter including Saul’s speeches in Acts 22 and 26. For one thing, he did not even take the trouble to correct verbal disagreements. Another and much more important point is that Saul himself repeatedly affirms the heart of his story in his own Epistles. If we left Acts out entirely we should have substantially the same problem as before. The position that Saul deliberately made up such a story to justify his desertion of Judaism and espousal of Christianity is a psychological impossibility plain to any one familiar with human nature and the facts of Saul’s life up to this point, not to say afterward. That he misinterpreted a natural experience is more worthy of discussion. But what sort of an experience? That he had an epileptic fit? Then how explain the light, the voice, the effect on the other men? That Saul was asleep and was awakened by a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning? But it seemed to have been a clear day, not to mention the detailed conversation and Saul’s claim that he saw Jesus. If one supposes that Saul had worked himself into a fury over this business of persecution and suddenly went mad, he has more problems on his hands than he had before. If one imagines that Saul, who did have trances and dreams later, had a nightmare or a sunstroke, he likewise makes Saul read back into a mass of incoherence the most coherent and definite expression of his whole life. However possible such a thing might be for a mere neurotic, Saul’s mental vigor and clearness remain indisputable and a protest against such playing With the deepest experience of a man like him. Add to all this the clearness of Saul’s recollection of the interview (that it was in the Aramaic tongue) and Saul’s instant apprehension of the momentous issues raised. Besides the whole current of his career was flowing in a consistent channel. Schmiedel, indeed, admits that Saul imagined that he saw Jesus. It was an hallucination, but Saul was sincere in his belief that he had had this experience. But here again Saul is the last of men to be the victim of a mere hallucination, especially on a theme so vital to his whole career. Baur (“Paul,” Vol. I, p. 68) doubts the historic reality of the bright light, but at last confesses his inability to explain away the experience of Saul by mere dialectical or psychological analysis (“Das Christentum,” etc.). No rational motive for a deliberate change has ever been suggested, and Saul was a rational man. I mean no rational motive apart from Saul’s own statement of the case. Against his own wish and plan he was seized and turned round. Saul says that Jesus did it. No one has yet successfully explained away Saul’s own explanation of what occurred to him on the way to Damascus.
Saul was too clear-headed to quibble with Jesus about the use of “me” (Acts 9:4). He would have persecuted Jesus in person if he had had a chance. He was not now persecuting the disciples of Jesus for their own sakes. It was the teaching and career of Jesus that he was aiming at all the time. He did not yet know how true in the mystic sense it was that Jesus was identified with his people. “Caput pro membris clamabat” (Augustine). The matter was at bottom a personal one between Saul and Jesus. By the most unexpected turn in a man’s career possible he suddenly was face to face with Jesus of Nazareth whose Messianic claims he had denied, whose name he had traduced, and whose disciples he had led to prison and death. The zealot for the traditions of the fathers was at once put on the defensive and challenged to give a reason for the faith that was in him and in particular for the excess of zeal shown in his persecution of the saints.
2. The Quandary of Saul.—It is a shock to have one’s unquestioned beliefs suddenly challenged, especially if one had simply assumed them as true without any effort to formulate an explanation of them. Saul was no novice in Pharisaism. He knew what the rabbis taught. He knew the line of cleavage in theology that divided the Pharisees from the disciples of Jesus. If he had been asked at another time, he could have presented a reasoned, if not rational, justification of the whole case of ceremonial religion against the emotional spiritual theology of the Christians. But he was manifestly caught at a disadvantage and there was no time for theological fencing. He was face to face with the eternal realities and the foundations of his theological prepossessions were crumbling all around him. It was idle to argue on minor points when the major premise was in ruins. He will not attempt to answer the “why” of this inquiry till he learns “who” it is (Acts 9:4 f.) that makes the demand. One thinks rapidly in an emergency. He speaks deferentially and the word “Lord” apparently implies more than merely the civil “Sir” of ordinary address which the word may mean. He is willing to admit the supernatural (perhaps angelic) visitation. Beyond doubt Saul was filled with awe and so was on the way toward agreement with the demands of the strange visitor.
Besides, the stranger had made use of a proverb that bore marvellously on his personal situation. “It is hard for thee to kick against the goad” (Acts 26:14). How came this visitor to know that Saul had had secret struggles, may, indeed, have been but just now struggling with them in an acute form? When, indeed, Saul himself at first may not have been fully conscious of it?
3. The Personal Issue Pressed by Jesus.—The reply of the stranger repeats the charge of the first inquiry “whom thou persecuted” (Acts 9:5). The repetition of the charge would not decrease the tension of the moment. His answer removes all doubt as to the personality of (he speaker by the use of the name Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 22:8). He calls himself Jesus, the human name hated by Saul. He does not here claim to be the Christ (Messiah). It is not a time to raise theological discussion by the use of terms. It is the historic Jesus of Nazareth who here converses with Saul of Tarsus. He is confronted with his hitherto unseen enemy, and now he must explain why he hates him. While Saul hesitates, for he is in doubt for once in his life, Jesus bids him to rise to his feet. Jesus resumes the conversation, when Saul, in a conflict of emotion, asks what he is to do. Jesus tells him to go on to Damascus as he had planned. There he would find one who would tell him what to do (Acts 9:6). A new destiny is now “appointed” for him (Acts 22:10). For a while he must remain in darkness as to what that destiny is. In Acts 26:16–18 Paul, in his address to Agrippa, in the brief summary omits the mission to Damascus and puts in the mouth of Jesus the message of Ananias. But that is a mere detail and easily understood.
Jesus has sharpened the issue between himself and Saul of Tarsus. He assumes that Saul surrenders. What will Saul do now? The crisis of his life is upon him. He cannot turn to Gamaliel for advice, nor to his father and mother. Here in the open and practically alone with this wondrous Person he must decide. We may well imagine that he foresaw what would happen to him if he gave up to Jesus. He Knew the Pharisees. He saw what he had to undergo. But was Jesus what he claimed to be? What must he answer to this Voice?
4. The Surrender of Saul.—Did Saul give up to Christ at this point, or was it only after his eyes were opened in Damascus that he was converted? There is no doubt as to the conviction at this point. The matter is not very material, but one is led to conclude that the surrender took place during the interview with Jesus from the question which Saul made to Jesus: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). The temper of this inquiry is one of submission to the will of Jesus. He surrenders on the spot and at discretion. There is no reserve. He is the slave of Jesus from this time forth, to obey the commands of the Lord Christ. Light had shone into his heart, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). He had seen the face of Jesus before he fell to the earth and darkness came over him.
Stephen was right when he thought that he looked upon Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The spirit of controversy has left Saul. He wishes to know what Jesus wishes for him to do. “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).
This interpretation of the story is not without difficulty, though the most probable on the whole. It is hard to think of so radical a change in a man like Saul taking place so suddenly. But a tornado had swept over Saul and there was no room left for dispute with the storm. Some light is thrown on the matter by the words of Jesus about kicking against the goad (Acts 26:14). They suggest a struggle in Saul’s soul that had been going on for some time. Our ignorance of such a struggle does not controvert the words of Christ on the subject. Saul does not contradict the indictment of Jesus. Saul had failed in the moment of his triumph. Persecution was futile. Saul’s state of mind may have been more ready for the capture by Jesus than we know. Two explanations of the possible preparation in Saul’s own mind have been offered. One (see Findlay, on Paul, in Hastings’ “D. B.”) view is that the goad was Saul’s struggle with the law from the awakened sense of sin (Rom. 7:9 f.). It was a bootless conflict with the commands of the law. Pharisaism was not wholly satisfactory. The other view is that Jesus had more fascination for Saul than he had been willing to admit. Stephen had left his mark upon Saul who was really to take up the unfinished task of this exponent of spiritual religion. In spite of his vigorous attacks on Christianity he had had secret misgivings as to whether, after all, Stephen might not be right. This explanation is well set forth by Bruce. The very vehemence of Saul’s persecution was partly due to the lurking doubt that Jesus might be in truth the Messiah.

“Who lights the fagots?
Not the full faith; no, but the lurking doubt.”

This inward struggle may very well have included both of these elements. The sudden and penetrating question of Jesus with this remonstrance served to reveal Saul to himself. The inner light from Christ’s face exposed Saul’s heart to his own gaze. Often the man who shouts the loudest his own orthodoxy is a heretic at heart. All that may be needed for crystallization is a jar of the glass. It is one of the causes for gratitude that it was not psychologically impossible for Saul of Tarsus to turn his face in full surrender to Jesus of Nazareth.
But, when all is said, there remains the supreme difficulty. Why did Saul surrender to Jesus? As a matter of fact at bottom the surrender of Saul to Jesus does not differ from that of others. Jesus assumes the mastery of Saul at once. Saul wavered not for a moment afterward. His course had run straight on and consistently up to this point. He all at once wheeled right round and forever kept to the new turn in his life. I have a notion that there is something in this contact with Jesus that is not told. Perhaps in the brief instant before darkness came Saul saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6). The transcendent, appealing, melting, powerful look of Jesus, as in the case of Peter, may have broken every barrier down. The stern will of Saul gave way before the imperial will of Jesus. “It was by something which may perhaps best be called a divine contagion that the spirit of Paul was absorbed into the life of Christ.”
5. The Temporary Darkness.—No reason for the blindness is assigned other than the one given by Saul himself. “I could not see for the glory of that light (Acts 22:11). Luke (Acts 9:8) naïvely remarks: “When his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.” He had spiritual light though physical blindness possessed him. The contrast of the helpless blind man led by the hand to Damascus with the masterful rabbi who was riding the spirit of persecution to victory is complete. Certainly the pathos of the situation is consonant with the sudden whirl in the fortunes of Saul, whatever may have been God’s purpose in this affliction. The tables were completely turned. He was now himself led by the hand of Jesus (Phil. 3:12) and the spirit of persecution had died out in him forever.
Perhaps one object of the blindness to the outer world was to give Saul a better opportunity for mental readjustment. The affliction would be a perpetual reminder of the genuineness of his experience. The tornado had left his house of theology in a state of ruin. As he sat in the ashes of humiliation, he could see the Phœnix of a new theology rise. The vision of Christ had changed the whole world for Saul. All his anti-Christian premises and conclusions had vanished in a moment. As yet, and always, in fact, Jesus had come to him “as to the child untimely born” (1 Cor. 15:8). At this juncture it was all so new and strange that he needed to feel his way and had to grope a while. It was appropriate that these three days of blindness should be a time of fasting also (Acts 9:9).
It was fitting that he should go on to Damascus. His papers for the arrest of the disciples were now useless. But it would bring matters to a clearer focus for him to take his stand in Damascus with the very people whose destruction he had had in mind. He would never persecute again, though he would often be the victim of persecution.
6. The Appeal to Ananias.—It is, perhaps, needless to moralize on the reason for the use of a man like Ananias to induct Saul in a more formal way into the outward observances of Christianity. The miracle was necessary to halt Saul and turn his course. A miracle is not needed for the more humble duties that fell to the lot of Ananias, save the opening of Saul’s eyes. This of itself is explanation enough for the fact that in these respects Saul followed the usual course of other believers in Jesus.
But even Ananias had to be made ready for Saul. The fame of the arch-persecutor had gone far and wide. It is the Lord Jesus who appears to Ananias to persuade him to receive Saul to his heart. This is evident from the terms used in Acts 9:15 ff. The difficulty of this appearance of Jesus is certainly no greater than that to Saul and is free from the outward phenomena. But the heart of the problem remains the same, which is the manifestation of the Risen Christ to a mortal man. That is a supernatural fact, not an ordinary experience. There is, of course, the further difference that in the appearance of Saul there was not a mere vision. Ananias is not, however, thrown into the state of excitement that was true of Saul. He recognizes the voice of the Lord, but is not willing to obey without protest (cf. Simon Peter on the house-top at Joppa). Evidently Saul, at the house of Judas (curious names to be revived in Saul’s experience, Judas and Ananias), had made no proclamation of the fact that he was now a follower of Jesus. The news of his mission had apparently come to Damascus ahead of him, and the fact that he had papers from the chief priests for the binding of the believers was also known. Ananias knew “how much evil he did to thy saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). This is an interesting colloquy where the servant shows more anxiety for the safety of the saints than the Master does. It was only after further assurance of the Lord’s purpose concerning Saul (Acts 9:15 f.) that Ananias consented to do his part by Saul.
Saul, indeed, did not know of the reluctance of Ananias to welcome him to the fold, this wolf suddenly lying down with the lambs, for he speaks only well of Ananias (Acts 22:12). But Saul himself had been granted a vision of his benefactor coming to him and laying his hands upon him that he might receive his sight again (Acts 9:12). Thus again, in a truly unusual way, a welcome was provided for Saul among the Christians of Damascus. If one is disposed to scout the possibility or probability of such care on the part of Jesus in such a matter, let him consider the sure fate of Saul in Damascus if he had come announcing himself a new recruit for the cross! No one would have believed this wolf in sheep’s clothing! The disciples knew too well his teeth and claws.
But, once he started, Ananias opened his whole heart. He greeted him as “Brother Saul” (Acts 9:17), and explained to him that the same Jesus who had appeared to him had sent him. Thus Saul knew it was true, for he had not told his wondrous experience and yet it was known. Thus, at the very start, Saul’s experience of grace in Christ was the open sesame to other Christian hearts. What exact relation existed between the laying on of the hands and the opening of Saul’s eyes we may not settle. It was, indeed, a miraculous restoration, and synchronized, not his conversion, which had already occurred, but the bestowal of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). It is one of the mysteries of the apostolic history how the bestowal of the Holy Spirit for service, not for salvation, was so often at the hands of men and accompanied by miracles. It does not, of course, follow that we to-day may not be filled with the Holy Spirit for service save by the accompaniment of miracles and at the hands of others. But it is a point on which later Saul will insist that his apostleship is wholly independent of that of the Twelve. They imparted nothing to Saul, he is careful to explain (Gal. 2:6 f.). When he consciously receives his sight, he looks up joyfully to Ananias who had brought him this blessing (Acts 22:13).
The baptism of Saul, likewise, calls for a few words. So far as the record indicates, there was no meeting of the disciples in Damascus, if indeed a church had been already organized there. It seems to be a meeting between only Ananias and Saul at the home of Judas. There would be no difficulty about the baptism, since the Jews, like other Orientals, had bathing facilities in the court. But the fact that Saul submitted to the usual rite without protest shows how normally baptism followed conversion. The use of “wash away thy sins,” in Acts 22:16, in connection with “baptize,” cannot properly be insisted on as teaching baptismal salvation, since the Oriental symbolism often put the symbol to the forefront in descriptions when, as a matter of fact, the experience preceded the symbol in order of time. We know, in fact, that this was the case here, for Saul not only was already converted, but had received the Holy Spirit before his baptism (Acts 9:17 f.). Saul now took food and was strengthened.
7. The Call to a World Mission.—Jesus had told Saul that he would be told in Damascus what it was appointed for him to do. He knew full well what he had given up in choosing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. He had suffered the loss of all things (cf. Phil. 3:4–9). He gave up all that he held dear, pride of race, family, creed, position, fame, leadership. These he will come to count loss for Christ, and ho will not complain. He is indeed a new man in Christ Jesus with a new world outlook (2 Cor. 5:17). But Ananias was charged with a new commission from Jesus, to take the place of the papers from the Sanhedrin. Jesus had assured Ananias that Saul of Tarsus, strange as it might seem, was a “vessel of choice” for him. God goes to strange places for his agents: to the wilderness for John, to the despised Nazareth for the Messiah, to the fishermen and the publicans for the Apostles, to the jail for the dreamer, to the cobbler’s bench for the great missionary, to the priest for a revolutionist against the papacy, to the ringleader of the Pharisees for the spiritual emancipator of Jew and Gentile. This quondam leader of an inquisition is to bear the name of Jesus before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).
Ananias is able to explain to Saul why Jesus has called him, how “the God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For thou shalt be a witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:14 f.). Thus, in few words, that Saul never forgot, he hears his destiny proclaimed. As he recites it elsewhere (Acts 26:18), he is to open the eyes of the Gentiles, just as his own have been opened, to turn them from darkness to light, that Gentiles as well as Jews may receive remission of sins. He is to be a minister and a witness of what he has seen and of what he will see (26:16). His theology and message will therefore be grounded in his own experience. A good part of this experience is yet to come and he will learn as he receives it, “for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16), Jesus said to Ananias. Fortunately for Saul this revelation of his sufferings was not to come all at once. The time will come when his chief ground for glorying will be the sufferings that he undergoes for Christ (2 Cor. 11:23–33), though he could ultimately glory in other things also. But the point to observe just here is that Saul was not drawn into the service of Christ under a misapprehension of what was before him. He knew what he was to receive in lieu of what he had given up.
One need not insist, indeed, that Saul fully understood the significance of his mission to the Gentiles, nor do we know how largely that aspect of his call bulked in his mind at the time. The work for the Jews was included also. The time will come when, by agreement, there will be a delimitation of the work in a general way (Gal. 2:9), though it was never meant to be absolute. It always remained to Paul one of the mysteries of grace how Jesus broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:4–6), and in particular how to him, who was less than the least of all saints, was this grace given to preach unto Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). In this world-wide mission he came to find the very joy of work for Christ. He rose to his mission as God led him on.
Saul, therefore, had a commission from Christ as definite and clear as that given to the earlier Christians who likewise received it in their capacity as individual Christians as did Saul. The commission of Jesus to preach the Gospel to the heathen was not merely to the Apostles, but was given to all Christians. Not preachers alone have this obligation, but members of the body of Christ have the burden of sending the Gospel to all the world. This burden was rolled upon Saul at the start.
But more than this is true, though all phases of it do not come out here. Saul is called to be an independent Apostle to the Gentiles. This independence he will later have reason to insist upon when his apostleship itself is challenged by the Judaizers. In Gal. 1 and 2 he makes a formal defence of his apostleship as he does with even more passion in 2 Cor. 10–13. He will work in harmony with the other Apostles (Acts 15:22; Gal. 2:6–10), though on occasion he will resist Peter to the face (Gal. 2:11–21). It is purely gratuitous for one to say, as does Baring Gould, that Saul did not know till fourteen years after his conversion that he was to go to the Gentiles. Such juggling with the sources is wearisome. Not only was the call to go to the Gentiles clear at first, but it was repeated at Jerusalem (Acts 22:21) a few years later. Paul was always distinctly conscious that he had received this definite ministry from Jesus himself (2 Cor. 5:18 f.; Gal. 1:1, 16). Jesus had said through Ananias: “I send thee” (Acts 26:17). Though he was not one of the Twelve, he was an Apostle in the real sense. He had seen “Jesus our Lord” (1 Cor. 9:1). He had received his apostleship directly from Christ (Gal. 1:1, 11 f.). Ananias baptized him and conveyed to him the message of Jesus, but he did not get his apostolic authority from Ananias. It was a comfort to Paul that, as a rule, the Gentiles were loyal to him as the Apostle of Christ (1 Cor. 9:2). He had the seal of his apostleship in the conversion of the Gentiles.
Paul’s Epistles are full of expression of his fidelity to the call of Jesus. He tried to heed the voice of Jesus. He felt a woe upon him if he did not preach the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 9:16). He felt himself the ambassador of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). He never felt that he had succeeded as he could have wished (Phil. 3:13), yet it was his constant aim to realize Christ’s ideal about him, to “lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus” (verse 12). If his office as Apostle is grounded more in the internal revelation of Christ in him (Gal. 1:12, 16), yet it was far more than merely internal in its basis. If it was pneumatique and mystique, it was also historique and traditionaliste (Heinrich Bruders) in one sense only of traditional, however. But the historic and the spiritual aspects of Saul’s mission were always clear to him. God gave him all the signs of the Apostle (2 Cor. 12:12) and in truth as to authority and work he was not one whit behind the chiefest Apostles (2 Cor. 11:5). But he was not merely an official Apostle, he was also and mainly preacher and teacher of Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).
8. Saul’s Immediate Response to His Call.—We must remember that Saul is already under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus will block his way (Acts 16:7) as well as direct him where to go (13:2 f.). It is not possible to think of the restless Saul as idle in Damascus. His first experience as a preacher of Jesus was at Damascus (Acts 26:20). The circumstances were not particularly auspicious. “And all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them that called on this name?” (Acts 9:21). The Jews themselves would regard Saul as a renegade and a turncoat. The disciples could not help being suspicious. Was this a genuine conversion? Would it hold out? Why had he changed his position? What was his motive in it all? They had abundant ground for their amazement.
It was a new experience for Saul. Never was a first sermon a greater cause for embarrassment. No doubt Saul’s voice sounded strange to himself as he heard it proclaiming “Jesus, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). That was a new note, one that he had never struck before. He did not know a great deal of Christian theology. He had, indeed, heard Stephen and others preach Jesus. But he keeps close to shore in this first discourse. He preached what he had learned from his own experience. That is the basis of Saul’s theology. He was able to identify Jesus with the Son of God. He had grasped at the start the humanity and the deity of Jesus. All the great super-structure of his future teaching will rest on this basis. He knows by experience that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews (verse 22).
His preaching was powerful at first. He was indeed already a man of education. He did not need to learn how to think nor how to speak. He is a master in speech by training and experience. So long as he confined himself to what he knew about Jesus he was on safe ground. One can well imagine the commotion that his advocacy of Christianity created among both Jews and disciples in Damascus. It would seem as if the Jews made reply to his onset, but were “confounded” as completely as Saul had once been by Stephen. The resistance to Saul’s main position put him on his mettle. He was no longer a mere theological hair-splitter. The days of quibbling had gone forever. He had had a great experience that could never be taken from him. Already he knew him whom he had believed (2 Tim. 1:12). He would as soon doubt his own existence as doubt that he had seen Jesus. Hence Saul grew in strength by practice in speech. Opposition roused him. He had a new passion that had never before gripped his soul. He could understand better how Stephen had been so masterful and mighty.
The persecution in its organized form had collapsed. It went down with the loss of its head. The church will soon have peace (Acts 9:31). Meanwhile Saul himself is the victim of resentful hate on the part of the Jews in Damascus. He has to face the question of going on in spite of their opposition, or returning to Jerusalem, or of retiring to a strange region for a while. There was nothing in Jerusalem to draw him now. Damascus was in a turmoil. It was time for him to take stock of his situation and see exactly how it was with him. Events had moved so rapidly with him. He had taken his stand for Christ. All the world would now know where he stood.
9. The Apologetic Value of Saul’s Conversion.—If we leave the personal aspects of this great event, we still have the effect of the change in Saul on Judaism and on Christianity. As for Judaism, it is not merely the collapse of the persecution that followed. There was much more. The whole situation was at once changed and Judaism was put on the defensive. The time will come when Judaism will rally again and turn on Paul with a vehemence and vengeance that will seem all too familiar to him (Acts 22:3–5). But for the present Saul had turned round and was preaching that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20), a proceeding exactly in line with that of John the Baptist, of Jesus, and of Stephen.
But it is Christianity itself that receives the greatest impact from this reversal in Saul’s position. For one thing a new Apostle is gained on a par with the Twelve who will be an independent witness of the resurrection of Christ which is the fundamental proposition of apostolic Christianity. He is not only the most brilliant young Jew of his time, but is thoroughly equipped in Jewish theology and methods of discussion. His Roman citizenship and Hellenistic affiliations in Tarsus made him cosmopolitan in sympathy. He is an Apostle of a new type and will be able to preach Jesus to both Jew and Gentile throughout the Græco-Roman world. It will be small wonder if he becomes the chief personal force in Christianity, next to his Lord and Master.
It is hard to overestimate the apologetic value of Saul’s conversion to modern Christianity. The opponents of Christianity have always perceived that the resurrection of Jesus and Saul’s conversion were the two great historical pillars that had to be overthrown. For this purpose every form of attack known to criticism has been resorted to, verbal disagreements, mythological parallels, scientific difficulties. Even the existence of Saul as an historical personage has been denied by the Dutch scholar Van Manen. Baur’s admission of the four great Epistles (I Cor., II Cor., Gal., Rom.) left the real problems of Jesus and Paul just where they were before. In these very Epistles he repeatedly and pointedly asserts the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, a matter known to him by personal experience. It was necessary either to overturn these Epistles as genuine works of Paul, to find some other interpretation of his language or some defect in Saul’s mental or moral endowment, or to accept Saul’s testimony. The attempt has boldly been made to eliminate Paul’s Epistles entirely along with the Acts of the Apostles. It is now possible to say positively that this attempt has failed. On the other hand, the majority of modern critics accept as genuine more Epistles of Paul than Baur did. But the acknowledgment of these Epistles as genuine makes it impossible to make a successful onslaught on Saul’s integrity of mind or heart. The same moral passion blazes here that was once turned against Jesus. A wonderful mental clearness shines in Paul’s writings that paralyzes any attempt to make Saul appear a fool or a weakling. But to cease to try to find some weakness in Saul’s armor would be to admit his account of his conversion and the tremendous corollary that goes with it, the resurrection of Jesus and the truthfulness of Christianity.
The battle will never cease to rage around the question of Saul’s conversion so long as Christianity has a voice raised against it. But Saul’s judgment about the resurrection of Jesus was an historical judgment based on his own experience in seeing Jesus and cannot be lightly brushed aside as a mere “wonder,” as Strauss does in his “Leben Jesu.” One has no right to say that Saul was out of his body on this occasion as he was later at Tarsus (2 Cor. 12:2–5). He did not tell what he heard at Tarsus. He never ceased telling what he saw and heard on the road to Damascus. Holsten’s effort to explain Saul’s vision of Jesus on purely naturalistic grounds is not successful. Saul not only dared everything for the new faith that was in him, but it is impossible to believe that this high allegiance was due to an illusion. Of all the men of his time he shows spiritual sanity and insight. The very wealth of Paul’s view of Jesus gives much trouble to the merely naturalistic theologian.2 The direct testimony of Saul to Jesus is not seriously impaired by the attacks of Steck and Loman. Even Renan calls Gal. 1 and 2 “les deux pages les plus importantes pour I’étude du Christianisme naissant,” and Pfleiderer compares Paul to Luther in the boldness of his stand for Christ and its great results. Even a sorcerer could see that there was some vital relation between Paul and the Jesus whom he preached (Acts 19:13, 15). Saul stood forth in defence of Christ against Jew and Gentile. He stands still a tower of strength, a bulwark that cannot be moved. Saul’s career makes it easier for modern men to believe in Jesus of Nazareth. If one thinks that the experience of Paul is so peculiar as to rob it of evidential value, he must remember that Saul was a religious genius of the highest order and just the man to have and to interpret such an experience.


“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).
1. Saul’s Jewish Inheritance.—This is the striking phrase or a recent German writer. What of his old Judaism did Saul take with him into Christianity? It is a pertinent inquiry and doubtless Saul had a battle over just this matter. He was already a Jewish theologian of a high order of culture. He had formulated or rather followed a definite theological system. He had taken sides on many minor points. He was a partisan theologian, in a word a Pharisee of the type of Gamaliel. He was so fierce a rabbi that he had believed in persecuting those who disputed the tenets of Pharisaism. But we have already noted that he was also familiar with the apocalyptic teaching of the time. He uses in his Epistles later both the rabbinical and the apocalyptic methods of discussion, and naturally so for they were the current methods in vogue among the Jews.2 But Sanday well observes that Paul rose above these methods very largely and saw spiritual realities. In particular is this noticeable in his use of the Old Testament. With the average rabbi the comment on the Old Testament was more important than the Scripture itself. But this was not true of Paul. He knew the Old Testament and he will come to get at the heart of the Scriptures even though his method will at times be rabbinical or apocalyptic. But the right result is far more important than the mere method of argument. There was much in this body of Jewish theology that Saul did not have to surrender. The great spiritual realities about God and man remained the same. In the matters of dispute between Pharisees and Sadducees Saul remained a Pharisee, and on occasion could say so (Acts 23:6), especially on the point of the resurrection.
But one must not go to the extreme of finding in Saul’s Pharisaism the roots of all his Christian theology. Pfleiderer even traces Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith to his Pharisaic notions! One could hardly go further astray, for the rest of Paul’s life will be spent in the endeavor to show how hollow is the Pharisaic legal observance and how rich and vital is the grace of Christ in the heart (Rom. 9:31). Paul will indeed prove that Christianity is the real Judaism, the spiritual Israel, the true Israel (Rom. 2:28 f.), but he will have to learn how this is true. This interpretation is the very antithesis of that spirit which was satisfied merely with being the children of Abraham.
The Judaism of Saul was not that of John the Baptist nor of Jesus. It was not that of Philo. It was really Palestinian traditionalism with some outside influences which tempered it and modernized it to some extent. But his Judaism was hard enough to amalgamate with Christianity. One has only to consider the struggle that Peter had towards the spiritual and universal aspects of Christianity to sympathize with Saul’s limitations on this point. “He was changed from an anti-Christian Jew to an anti-Jewish Christian.” This is rather an overstatement, for he loved the Jews still, but he did oppose the current orthodoxy of the Pharisees and of the Judaizers.
We know quite well what the Pharisaic notion of the Messiah was. It is clear in the background of the Gospels as well as in such books as the Psalms of Solomon. It is not necessary to draw that picture here in detail. It is enough to say that while it had eschatological features in some respects like that drawn by John the Baptist and Jesus himself, at bottom it was widely different. It concerned itself mainly with the temporal side of life and the Pharisaic hope centred in a deliverer from the Roman yoke who would impose Pharisaic ceremonialism upon the whole world. There was terrific opposition on the part of the Pharisees to the programme of Jesus in his teaching of a merely Spiritual Messiah who would reign in the hearts of men, and in particular when that conception was embodied in Jesus himself who had collided with the Pharisees on various items of their theology, such as the Sabbath, washing of hands, fasting, etc. Saul inherited this antipathy to Jesus as the Messiah and was more vindictive about it than any other Pharisee.
And yet God chose a Pharisee, but a Pharisee who had already learned the emptiness of mere legal ceremony and who could interpret that hollowness with consummate skill after he had learned more completely the difference between the letter and the spirit. He was an expert in religiosity. He was to learn the heart of religion.
Saul was already a theologian. He brought the theologian’s love of order and analysis with him. He differs in the theological type of mind not only from Jesus, but also from the other Apostles and New Testament writers. He will naturally become the first Christian theologian. Matthew Arnold3 perceives Paul’s Judaism so clearly that he considers it impossible to tell what he really meant in his Epistles. This is an overstatement surely. He did have the “thought-forms” of his time as every one has, but the Kernel is not hard to get out of the hull.
As already indicated, Saul was able to bring over the heart of Judaism to his Christianity. His Christianity will be rooted in his Judaism. In this he will not differ from Jesus, his new Master, who in the Sermon on the Mount carefully explains how his teaching seized the spirit of the Old Testament and realized that ideal while it was in opposition to some of the current interpretations and additions. Saul, though he has undergone a revolution in his whole mental make-up, never felt that he had deserted the true Judaism of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah. He longed to lead all Jews into the full fruition of their hopes. But the apprehension of this point of view lies in the future with Saul. He will admit that Jesus himself was born under the law.
2. Saul’s Greek Inheritance.—Did Saul have affinities with the Hellenism of his time? The question is hotly debated and has already been alluded to in this book. Sabatier, for instance, says pointedly that “to seek the origin of Paul’s Christian universalism in his Hellenism is, therefore, manifestly an entire mistake.” Pfleiderer3 even charges that Paul has “rabbinized” Christ and hence has obscured Jesus instead of revealing him. On the other hand, Rabbi Köhler asserts that Paul was a Hellenist and no real Jew like Jesus! Paul, indeed, changed the whole character and course of Christianity, for Jesus had no notion of a break with Judaism. “Paul fashioned a Christ of his own, a Church of his own, and a system of belief of his own; and because there were many mythological and gnostic elements in his theology which appealed more to the non-Jew than to the Jew, he won the heathen world to his belief.” The truth is between these two extremes.
As a Hellenistic Jew of Tarsus, Saul had been open to the best things in Greek culture without any forfeiture of his Pharisaic loyalty. There has, indeed, been no such blending of Judaism and Hellenism as we find in Philo of Alexandria, nor indeed later in the Grecized Christianity of Clement of Alexandria. Ramsay2 has shown us the right way in this matter when he asserts that it was a universalized Hellenism and a universalized Judaism that coalesced in the mind of Paul. He stoutly objects to Harnack’s view that Paul’s mind was wholly Jewish. He was mainly so beyond a doubt. Kennedy well shows Paul’s knowledge of the Greek ideas of flesh and spirit, not to say other psychological terms. Many arguments go to show the possibility of Paul’s acquaintance with the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, which had undoubted influence from the Greek philosophy.4 The similarity in idea and phraseology between Paul and Seneca has often received discussion as by Lightfoot, in his “Commentary on Philippians.” The real explanation is probably due to the fact that both Paul and Seneca drank from the same fountain of Greek philosophy. If Gamaliel, for diplomatic purposes, could read Greek writers, his pupil could easily follow suit. One need only mention further Paul’s use of “knowledge” and “wisdom” to see a real Greek influence. There is, besides, a Greek clarity of mental vision which at times reminds one of Plato.2 If one wonders how a Pharisee could ever have any contact with Greek culture after the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, he may recall two things. One is that the Maccabees themselves came to be called Philhellenes (cf. Aristobulus) after the breach with the Pharisees. The other is that Saul had lived In Tarsus, not Jerusalem. If God called a Pharisee, he also called one who could speak on Mars Hill and to the Greek world of his time. Modern life is chiefly a blend of the Jewish contribution to religion, the Greek contribution to culture, and the Roman contribution to government. All these streams had already met in Saul.
I do not enter into the discussion of Saul’s contact with the Babylonian and Persian mythology and mysticism. The Oriental cults all had a foothold in Tarsus. The religion of Tarsus was a blend between the Anatolian and Greek ideas, but one cannot think that Saul received any positive impress therefrom. In his later years he will be all alert to preserve Christianity from the blight of incipient gnosticism, as is apparent in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles. But we do not know that as yet Saul had come in contact with this cult. Paul shows some knowledge of Roman law as used in the Græco-Roman world in his use of the term “adoption” (Rom. 8:15). “To the Jewish student and the Greek cosmopolitan Paul there was added the Roman, gentleman” (Findlay, Paul, in Hastings’ “D. B.”)
3. The Original Christian Inheritance of Saul.—Here again I use a phrase of Köhler. What had Saul added to his Judaism and Hellenism in lieu of what he had given up? We must not put into this conception what Saul later learned of Jesus either by experience, revelation or from other Christians. His entire system of doctrine “simply means the exposition of the content of his conversion, the systematizing of the Christophany.”3 But the “system of doctrine” is in the future, when we see him in Damascus. We do not indeed know how much he really knew of the message of Jesus to men. If, as a boy, he had heard Jesus preach in the temple at Jerusalem, he gained little from that experience. If he heard Stephen in the Cilician synagogue, he would by that time be able to get a better idea of the Christian contention. One can hardly imagine that he parleyed much with the disciples whom he persecuted. But before the Sanhedrin, if they were all as skilful as Peter is reported in the Acts (chs. 2–5) to be, they may have managed to get in the heart of their belief about Jesus. Saul had seen it all with eyes of prejudice and hate. How much of that can he now recall as he seeks to readjust himself to the new situation? A reinterpretation and restatement of what he already knew of Jesus was necessary in the light of the profound spiritual experience of his conversion. He “taught what he had first felt, and he verified his teaching by experience.”2 He was not an immediate disciple of Jesus, and so came to the interpretation of Jesus from the point of view of Luke rather than that of John. He has seen the preëxistent Christ as well as the historical Jesus, and both conceptions will remain with him. In this picture of Christ he has a standard by which to test all his future thinking.4 He is lifted into a mystic union with Christ which will glow and warm his soul into intense intellectual activity. “He stands almost by himself in his manifestation of intellectual activity.” Whatever else Saul did or did not know about Jesus, he knew the main thing at the very start of his Christian career. Christ is henceforth to him the “Kern und Stern” of his religious thinking and life.2 It is a wonderful thing to have a great experience of grace. This was the true genesis of Saul’s Gospel, the revelation of Christ in him (Gal. 1:16). One has no right to expect a fully developed creed a few days after one’s conversion. We shall soon see in Paul’s sermons as reported by Luke in Acts how clearly he apprehended both the historical Jesus in the main outlines of his life and the significance of Christ’s life and death. For the moment he is almost intoxicated with the glory of the vision of Jesus. He can already see in the light of the call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles the trend of his theology. We need not credit him yet with full knowledge of all that was to come. Some day he will be “the Apostle κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the disciple who raised the Messianic faith, hitherto but the creed of a Jewish sect, to the position of a world religion.” But the revolution in Saul’s theology has come. Hence it is now merely readjustment and interpretation.
4. The Years in Arabia.—Luke passes by this part of Saul’s life. It is probably to be inserted between verses 22 and 23 in Acts 9. Paul himself is not reported as mentioning it in Acts 22 and 26. But for Gal. 1:17 f. we should know nothing at all of these “three years” or less in Arabia, a lesson for those who draw large inferences from silence. The “three years” include also a second stay in Damascus on his return from Arabia. They need not be strictly full years, since the first and third years may only have been parts of years. We may conclude, however, that something over twelve months at any rate was spent in Arabia on Saul’s sudden departure from Damascus.
We do not know what part of Arabia is meant, since the term was very flexible then as now and varied at different periods. He may, indeed, have gone as far south as Mount Sinai, though one cannot logically argue so from the mention of Mount Sinai in Gal. 4:24. There might be an appropriateness in the presence at Sinai, full of memories of Moses and the law, of one who was to present grace and faith as the message of the covenant antedating the law and realized in Christ (Gal. 3:17). But that is idle conjecture.
We are left in ignorance, besides, both as to Saul’s motive for going to Arabia and his work there in the meantime. He does tell one thing in Gal. 1:16: “Straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He did not wish to talk with men now, but with God. One can sympathize with a desire at such a time to get away from the stress and storm of Damascus. He would at least be in new scenes and among strangers. He could find desert places also in Arabia if he wished it, like John the Baptist and Moses long before. It is more than likely that he did for a while seek solitude for meditation and reflection. Jesus himself after his baptism spent forty days in the wilderness. Saul needed some time to see clearly his bearings, to commune with God, to grasp more adequately the significance of this whirlwind in his life. This much seems certain. Whether in addition Saul also labored for Christ in various parts of Arabia one cannot tell. If he did, as he himself says he labored later in Tarsus (Gal. 1:21, 23), we may conclude that he did missionary work in Arabia also.
5. In Damascus Again.—Here Luke goes on with the story (Acts 9:23–25). One is reminded of a similar probable combination of the narrative in Acts 15 and Gal. 2 concerning a visit of Paul to Jerusalem. If this arrangement of the story is correct, Paul spent “many days” in Damascus with the result of a plot an the part of the Jews to kill him. This would have come at once if he had not gone to Arabia. But the anger of the Jews toward the “turncoat” has not ceased. Saul now knows how it feels to be persecuted. He has his first experience in the very city where he had expected to make a finish of the business of persecuting the disciples. A very homely saying conies to one’s mind at this point. We have a proverb about chickens coming home to roost. It is only poetic justice after all.
It was a delicate situation for Saul, when he learned of the plot. He could, of course, meet his fate like a man and a Christian as Stephen and others had done before him. He did not lack courage. But was it wise to sit still and be killed? It is a wise man who knows when to run and when to fight. On the whole Saul decided on flight. But the gates were watched day and day and night and flight was not easy. Saul now had friends who devised a plan of escape. His enemies had even stirred “the governor under Aretas the King” of Arabia against Saul (2 Cor. 11:32). He had known himself how to get authority for his vengeance. It was not very glorious, but they let him down one night through a window in the wall in a basket! He did not tarry, one may be sure. Thus Saul left Damascus for good, he who had come not over three years ago with blast of trumpets and papers from the Sanhedrin. Where can he go now?
6. Saul in Jerusalem.—He could not be treated any worse in Jerusalem than he had been in Damascus Besides he must go to Jerusalem some day if he was not to be a sort of parish in the ministry. The Apostles were there, and many other disciples had come flocking back to Jerusalem after the wolf ceased ravaging the fold. To Jerusalem then he will go.
But he feels no need of receiving the imprimatur of Peter or any of the other Apostles. He is clear about his own call at the hands of Jesus himself. He has been baptized. He has received the special gift of the Holy Spirit with the laying on of hands. Still, while he did not need or desire any apostolic ordination at the bands of those who had been Apostles before him (Gal. 1:17), he did owe a courtesy to those noble men chosen also by Jesus himself to push on the work of the Kingdom. He was free from jealousy. He wished to coöperate with them.
It would be pleasant to relieve their minds of any uncertainty about him that might linger. In particular he would like to pay his respects to Cephas, the leading spirit among them. What thoughts must have filled his mind as he retraced his steps to Jerusalem? Did he go back over the same road by which he had come three years before? If so, he passed the very spot, the never-to-be-forgotten spot, where he had seen Jesus face to face. That was henceforth his holy place.
Once in Jerusalem one can well imagine that he would be shy of approaching or seeing his old associates. The scorn of Gamaliel would be terrible to face. Still harder to bear would be the sneers of the lesser men who had once looked up to Saul as leader and hero. There was only one thing to do. He must go right to the disciples themselves and tell his story to them. Would they believe him? Did he first attend a public meeting of the disciples? If so, he noticed a peculiar dread of him. There was suspicion in the very atmosphere. “They were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). Could one well blame them? True, he now said that he was a follower of Jesus and he had taken a stand for Christ at Damascus, so a few reported. But all men knew what he had done to believers right here in Jerusalem. Can the leopard change his spots?
Barnabas was apparently at the meeting. Barnabas was from the island of Cyprus and so a Hellenist. He was somehow convinced of the sincerity of Saul’s conversion, though no one else was. It is a heroic thing to take a stand by an unpopular man. Barnabas championed the cause of Saul, and became the one friend that Saul now had in Jerusalem, where once his word was almost law. Barnabas took him straight to the Apostles who were in town (Acts 9:27). As a matter of fact, Paul himself declares that he saw only Cephas and James, the Lord’s brother, who was not an Apostle in the technical sense (Gal. 1:18 f.). Now that the persecution had ceased, the rest had probably gone on mission work among the Jews in various parts of the world. Barnabas tells these two the essential parts of Saul’s story, viz., his vision of Jesus in the way, the message of Jesus to Saul or his call, the bold preaching of Saul in Damascus (Acts 9:27). It was enough. He had come primarily to visit (become acquainted with, ἱστορῆσαι, Gal. 1:18) Cephas. Now for fifteen days he had that privilege. He went in and out freely with Peter, James, and other disciples. It is pleasant to think of Peter and Paul here together for two weeks in Jerusalem. Paul would naturally be the learner and let Peter tell the history of Jesus in particular as it was connected with Jerusalem. There was Bethany; here was the road of the Triumphant Entry, down there was Gethsemane, where Peter went to sleep; here Jesus was arrested; at this place the trial took place and just here Peter had denied him; and on yonder hill they crucified him; and in that tomb they buried him; lo! here was the spot where Jesus had appeared to Peter after his resurrection; in this upper room he had appeared to the disciples twice; up here on Olivet was the place where they had caught the last glimpse of him as he went up on the cloud. And Saul had seen him since then. These great spirits held high converse with each other about Jesus. Each was the richer for the visit of Saul. Saul now had in simple outline at least the original apostolic gospel. He knew the leading facts, the cardinal events, in the earthly life of Jesus. He had heard Peter preach in all likelihood during this time. That was worth much.
And Saul had to preach himself. How could he help it after all these new experiences? The people wished now to hear him. Once he had opposed Stephen (so it seems) in the Cilician synagogue. He will go to this very synagogue and seek to undo some of the mischief that he had then done. He will set himself straight with the Grecian Jews for he is one himself, and they are more open to new truth than the Palestinian Jews. Stephen had once had great power with these Hellenists, but, alas! Saul had taught them how to kill Stephen and other believers. They will not hear Saul’s new doctrine. They will turn his old doctrine of persecution on himself. Damascus had cast him out and now Jerusalem will not hear him. What should he do? He can pray. So in a prayer in the temple he falls Into a trance, and, lo! he sees Jesus again at his side. Jesus bade him leave. He can only acquiesce for he recalls how in every synagogue he had beaten those who believed in Jesus. They will now hear him in no synagogue. “Depart,” says Jesus, “for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). They will hear. The brethren escort him hurriedly out of town before the plot is carried out. The way looks dark for Saul. Gone his power, his place, his friends, his fame, an outcast from Jerusalem! Whither shall he now go? In Acts 26:20 he speaks of preaching throughout all the country of Judea. This may have been on his way to Jerusalem, for now they sent him on to Tarsus (Acts 9:30).
7. Back in Tarsus Again.—A man can always go home. That is one good thing. It had probably been a long time since Saul had been to Tarsus, not since the death of Stephen, several years ago. There had been changes in the city, of course. Some people had died, but probably Saul’s father and mother were still living, loyal Pharisees as of old. How had they regarded Saul’s change of base? They must have heard if he had not himself written about it, as is likely. He was fond of writing letters, as we know, and it was easy to have communication over the world, thanks to the Roman order. But even so he had not seen them since he had gone over to the side of Jesus. They had taken pride in his prominence as a leader of the Pharisees. And now? He knew full well what the name of Jesus had meant to them. What can he say? Let us hope that he received a welcome. He was still their son with all his gifts and graces. He was sincere and honest. His father and mother knew that. He had tried to do right as he saw it. Let us hope that they heard his story and that they were led to the service of Jesus. That would atone for his treatment in Damascus and Jerusalem.
We only know one thing for certain. He was not idle during these years at Tarsus. He tells us himself that he preached in the regions of Cilicia and Syria and that the churches of Judea, to whom he was unknown by face (save in Jerusalem), heard of his activity and glorified God in him (Gal. 1:21–24). Saul found pleasure in that. He was busy with his work of preaching Christ in the regions near Tarsus. Christ had called him to go far hence to the Gentiles. Meanwhile there was work at home. In truth he was among the Gentiles already. Did he preach to them? The man who will not work for the lost at home will do little for Christ abroad.
We are to think then of Saul as working and learning. He is learning by doing. He continued to have unusual experiences. Christ did not desert him. Indeed, during this period (he only speaks of it fourteen years afterwards, 2 Cor. 12:2) he had a wonderful rapture to Paradise in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell. He heard unspeakable words, and they will remain unuttered by him—unlike “special” secrets with many. The revelations were so great, indeed, that he was in danger of being exalted overmuch. But Jesus blessed him in giving him a thorn in the flesh. He had prayed to him for its removal, but instead he obtained grace to bear it, which was better (2 Cor. 12:9). One cannot, of course, tell the nature of this experience. It was a supernatural revelation of Christ’s glory. Nor do we know the precise nature of the thorn in his flesh. There is special consolation in our ignorance, for each can make a personal application. He comes out of the Tarsus period of his ministry, however, richer in experience than when he entered it. He is a stronger man and minister from every point of view. He has a “handicap” in the thorn in the flesh that apparently remained with him to the end. But he learned lessons of wisdom out of that.
8. Saul as an Interpreter of Jesus.—It is just here that Saul commands so much attention in modern times. His mission as Apostle to the Gentiles does concern us greatly also since we are in large measure the heirs of his European labors. He planted Christianity in the Roman Empire, and modern Europe has risen out of the ruins of that empire. But, important as the official aspect of Paul’s career is, it is in his claims as a competent interpreter of the lift and teachings of Jesus that he stands or falls in the present day. The cry “Back to Christ” is a reasonable cry, when one considers the dust of mediæval theology that has been scattered over the story of Christ. Ecclesiastical councils turned dogma into a club to use on the heads of the recalcitrant. The schoolmen split hairs, like their prototypes the Pharisees of old, to justify or to evade the current dogma. The reformers set up new dogma to crush the dogma of the schoolmen. The hunger for Christ has become world-wide. Men could see Calvin; but where was Christ? Men could find Augustine; but where was Jesus?
It was not hard to find Paul in the New Testament; but where was the historical Jesus? Has Paul given us the real Jesus of the Gospels? Indeed, have the Gospels represented or misrepresented Christ? Do we have in the New Testament the Christ of dogma or the Christ of fact? One cannot complain at questions like these. They are legitimate, if only the investigation be prosecuted in the right spirit and with proper methods. The question as to the Gospel story demands a book in itself, but one may remark that the gradual coming back of Harnack to the acceptance of the genuineness of Acts is a symptom of the times. The acceptance of the early date of the Gospels and the probable order (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) simplifies the matter also. Two other documents are fairly well worked out, one the Logia or Sayings of Jesus, probably used by Matthew along with Mark. Ramsay accepts, in the main, Harnack’s view in Sayings and Speeches of Jesus that this book of Logia or “Q” corresponds to the original Aramaic Matthew. The point of it all is that the result of historical research is to strengthen the historical basis of the Gospel narratives. John’s story stands largely by itself, but it stands. From the Gospels we can form an adequate picture of Jesus.
What about Paul? Wrede makes Paul’s teaching differ radically from that of Jesus. He considers that Paul brought his preconceived ideas of the Jewish Messiah and clothed Jesus with them. Thus the Jesus of fact is not the Jesus of Paul’s theology. Indeed, according to this view we must discard Paul as a competent witness in the apprehension of the historical Jesus. This is a serious charge to make. But Wrede is not by himself. He is supported by Brückner.3 Nietsche, of course, ridicules both Paul and Jesus. And Wellhausen has to be reckoned with. But Paul has defenders of great ability. Kaftan5 answers Bousset’s notion of Jesus that he unwillingly accepted the rôle of Messiah. He attacks vigorously Wrede’s views about Paul’s perversion of Jesus. Jülicher7 has a very able defence of the essential continuity of the Gospel and the Pauline conception of Jesus. Indeed, so clearly is this true that some critics even assert that all the New Testament is Pauline except the Petrine books. If one rejects the Pauline view of Christ he must logically reject the Synoptic and the Johannine conceptions. At bottom they agree.2 Kölbing ably contends for the justness of Paul’s picture of Christ. The discussion grows in interest4 and Paul’s position as a great exponent of Jesus is ably maintained.
Fraedlaender sums the matter up by calling him “the congenial interpreter of the message of Jesus.” Goguel6 properly argues that with Jesus the concrete reality of the gospel is dominant, but Paul aims to interpret the facts of Christ’s life and teachings. Saul did not invent a story of Jesus. He is not the originator of Christianity in any sense. He is not the second founder of Christianity. He built on the one foundation laid by Christ himself (1 Cor 3:11). Paul built his theology around Jesus. This fact explains the genetic connection between Jesus and Saul. The differences in Saul’s view are due to fuller expansion and adaptation with his own peculiarities of mind and method, (cf. James, Peter, John) not to difference in spirit or content.
But Saul was not an immediate disciple of Jesus. That is true. He is not, however, disqualified for apprehending Christ. If so, the mission of Christ would be a failure. No one has the right to say that Saul had no knowledge of the historical Jesus. If Luke could learn, so could Saul. Sanday rightly argues that the allusions in Saul’s Epistles (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23–25; 15:3–8) must be regarded as samples of Paul’s knowledge of the details of the life of Jesus. He appeals to the words of Jesus; he understands the character of Jesus; he knows what the message and mission of Christ is.
One is not to suppose that Saul’s theology did not grow with new knowledge and new experience. The orderly development of his theology can he traced in the four groups of his Epistles (I and II Thessalonians; I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Romans; Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians; I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy), to adopt a probable grouping. In the first group he will contend with a perversion of the doctrines of the Second Coming, a matter prominent in the early apostolic preaching. In the second group he is in conflict with the Judaizers. In the third group the Gnostics have brought the person of Christ to the fore. In the fourth group ecclesiastical, pastoral and personal problems naturally concern the aged Apostle before his death. Each group suits the time and is vital with living issues. There is growth in grasp and power from the first to the second and third groups. In the fourth we see Paul in the contemplative mood of an old man. One is not to think of Saul as entering upon his career with a fully developed system. Indeed he had turned from a system to a person! He will inevitably have system in his theology, but only as that enables him to express his growing apprehension of Christ.
The death and resurrection of Christ is with Paul the heart of Christianity as it was in truth with Jesus himself when rightly understood. Saul, indeed, began with this basal truth vivified and glorified by his own great experience. His early preaching coincided with that of the other Apostles in proclaiming the Messiahship of Jesus. The crucifixion of Christ had been the stone of stumbling for Saul. Now it is the rock of his faith. In the future Paul will go high and go deep, but he will never get away from the Cross as the centre of his message. Around this he will place the love of God, the grace of God, the deity of Jesus the Son of God, the sinfulness of man, justification by faith, sanctification in Christ, all the great doctrines of grace. They were all but the unfolding of the seed. He had seen the face of Christ.
The effort of Baur to pit Paul and Peter over against each other in bitter hostility has failed. He has admitted too much. One has only to compare the report of Peter’s Sermon in Acts 2 at Jerusalem with that of Paul at Antioch in Pisidia in Acts 13 to see how much they agree in all essential matters. If one is not willing to trust Luke as an accurate reporter, then compare I Peter with Romans. If one declines to acknowledge I Peter as a proper representation of Peter’s views, then he has no right to set Peter over against Paul. In Gal. 2:11 ff. Paul did rebuke Peter for inconsistency, not for difference in theology. They had already agreed in their theology and shaken hands over it (Gal. 2:9). We need not refer to Acts 15 and 2 Peter 3:15. The Christ of Paul in all the main outlines is the Christ of the early apostolic tradition, of Mark, of Matthew, of Luke, of Peter, of James, of John, in a word, of Jesus himself as we know him through the first interpreters of Christ. Primitive Paulinism is essential Christianity. Paul’s Gospel has become the standard of the Christian world because he had learned Christ as he really was and is, “even as truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). We may thank God for this man of a nature so intense and an insight so penetrating. Christ has never had another servant who so well conveyed the fulness and richness of that Gospel of the happy God which is the hope of the race unless John the Apostle be placed by his side, as he ought. One can feel the heart-throb of Paul in his letters and the rapier sharpness of his intellect, the passion of a great soul all ablaze with love of Jesus and the lost.
But no view of Paul’s relation to Christ is adequate which overlooks the mystical side of his life in Christ. Christ lived in Paul and Paul lived in Christ (Gal. 2:20). For him life meant Christ (Phil. 1:21), no more, no less. He was Christ’s slave. He did all “in Christ.” This intimate knowledge of Christ was part of the everyday experience of Paul. But he claimed for his message special revelation also. “When ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery in Christ” (Eph. 3:4). We can indeed. We are still reading and perceiving new things in that understanding.


“To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
1. The Emergency at Antioch.—Luke, in the Acts, has not traced the order of events in such a way as to make it perfectly clear how things went at this stage of the history. He left Saul at Tarsus and comes back to Jerusalem. Now the story of Peter is taken up. Did Saul preach to Gentiles in Cilicia and Syria? We do not know. He had been expressly directed to preach to the Gentiles. At any rate Luke tells in some detail the struggle that Simon Peter had in seeing that the Gentiles could be converted without first becoming Jews. Peter, like the other disciples, received the commission to go into all the world. But he did not at all understand that Gentiles must not first become Jews. It is an extremely interesting story how he was led gradually and with difficulty by his experience on the housetop at Joppa and in the house of Cornelius at Cæsarea, to see that God was indeed no respecter of persons and would save a Gentile as a Gentile. That was the new point which he “now” at last perceived (Acts 10:34). He had a hard time convincing some of the saints at Jerusalem that his freedom with Cornelius was the work of the Lord. It was well that he had the six Jewish brethren along with him else it might have gone hard with him (Acts 11:2 f., 12, 18). Evidently the mass of the Church at Jerusalem were not ready for a missionary campaign except along lines of Jewish proselytism.
But the hand of God was moving again. Some of the disciples expelled from Jerusalem by Saul never came back. They went as far as Cyprus, Phœnicia and Antioch, but still spoke only to Jews, not willing to experiment with the Gospel unduly (Acts 11:19). But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, Hellenistic Christians, therefore. These, for some reason not told, ventured to try the Gospel on some Greeks at Antioch (11:20), perhaps to some devout Greeks, not yet proselytes, who had business and friendly connections with the Jews. Some of them, we know, attended the synagogue worship. The mss. vary about the word “Greeks” or “Grecian Jews,” but I heartily concur in the acceptance of “Greeks” as the correct text. Otherwise the word “also” has little sense. It was no novelty to preach to Hellenistic Jews. That was going on everywhere and at Jerusalem itself (Acts 9:29). The same message of the Lord Jesus was preached to these Greeks that the Jews had heard. “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord” (11:21). This Gentile revival broke out of itself and without any knowledge of what God had done with Peter and Cornelius. These men of Cyprus and Cyrene were men of enlightenment. They seemed to realize no difficulty at all in the new situation. They had no desire to oppose the manifest work of the Holy Spirit.
2. A Gentile Church at Antioch.—A new thing had come into existence, unless, indeed, the household of Cornelius was organized into a church or the converts at Samaria had formed a church. At any rate, whether a new thing or not, the Gentile church at Antioch was a fact. It was all the more remarkable, too, because the Apostles had had nothing to do with it. They had sent Peter and John to Samaria to examine the results of the work of Philip there, and Peter himself had been the instrument used of God at Cæsarea. But here was a work that had sprung up independently and the brethren felt no need of help from Jerusalem. Slowly the leaven is working and the gospel is taking root in Gentile soil.
3. The Mission of Barnabas.—If the party of the circumcision (Acts 11:2) demanded an explanation of Peter for his conduct at Cæsarea, they would not hesitate to demand an investigation of the proceedings at Antioch. The precedent had already been set in sending Peter and John to Samaria. No issue then would be made in Jerusalem on this point, though apparently the Antioch saints had not asked to be investigated. But the report had come “to the ears of the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 11:22). The proposal probably came from the Pharisaic party in the church there, for the experience of Peter at Cæsarea had revealed a serious cleavage of opinion among them on the missionary question.
But, whatever the impulse, a wise man was sent, a committee of one, Barnabas, the son of exhortation. He was just the type of man needed for this crisis, prudent and yet courageous, as was seen in his championship of Saul in Jerusalem. It is worth noting that none of the Apostles went, though Peter had received special preparation on the Gentile aspect of the situation. It is possible, of course, that he and the other Apostles were away from Jerusalem at the time. The fact that Barnabas was from Cyprus may have marked him out as the man to send. But already it is clear that the Apostles are not to do all the work in the Kingdom. Stephen and Philip had given ample proof of this, if any was needed. It is particularly added about Barnabas on this occasion that “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (verse 24), those qualifications that fitted him for the really serious task imposed upon him. For actually what was he to do?
We know what he did do. He came, he saw the grace of God, he was glad. Evidently Barnabas was not of the Pharisaic party in the Jerusalem church. He exhorted them not to become Jews, but to cleave to the Lord. They had made a good start. They were just to go on as they had begun. The reason why he acted so wisely is found in the quotation from verse 24 which is introduced by “for.” A smaller man could and would have caused no end of trouble here as to circumcision, baptism, ordination. The seal of God’s blessing was on this work “and much people was added to the Lord.” The thing to accent specially in the matter is that Barnabas rejoiced at the power of God which was at work among the Greeks. He himself had come from the island of Cyprus as had some of those who had first preached here. He was thus a Hellenistic Jew and had some sympathy with the Gentiles.
4. The Insight of Barnabas.—There had evidently been no thought in Jerusalem of sending for Saul of Tarsus. They had taken him into the fold, but had no notion of intrusting great interests to his care. He was too uncertain a quantity and too new a convert. He could wait. But Barnabas’ hands seem to have been left free by the Jerusalem church. Indeed, they could not very well be tied. The church at Antioch did not have to take orders from the church at Jerusalem. The independence of the local church has an actual historical development in the difference of conditions between Antioch and Jerusalem.
Barnabas had the gift of understanding men. He had seen the good in Saul in Jerusalem. He has heard of the work that he had since been doing in Syria and Cilicia. He saw at a glance that Saul was the man to keep up this work at Antioch, Saul and not the original Apostles, who were all Palestinian Jews. Here was a condition that called for a man of breadth of sympathy and culture that only a Hellenistic Jew could have. The door of opportunity was opening to the whole Gentile world. There must be no mistake made at Antioch. It perhaps never occurred to Barnabas to go back to Jerusalem and ask the Pharisaic party what to do in the matter. Perhaps one of them would have liked to take the matter in hand.
The matter was urgent. So Barnabas went himself to Tarsus to seek for Saul. He found him. He brought him to Antioch. The thing was done. The problem was solved, for Saul was at Antioch. It is a curious reflection that Saul is now here, Saul the very man who scattered the Christians from Jerusalem and so made possible this open door.
5. The Man and the Hour.—We have no remarks on Saul’s point of view. The story is all told from the standpoint, of Barnabas. But we know enough of Saul’s history to see that he knew that the hour of destiny had struck for him. Here is a Gentile work ready to hand in the greatest city of Syria, one of the strategic centres of the world. It was the hand of Providence beyond a doubt. He evidently came with alacrity.
The man and the hour had met. It is a great thing to be ready when the hour of opportunity comes. Saul had been getting ready for this hour all his life, most of the time unconsciously, part of it consciously. In Tarsus and Jerusalem God had been preparing him for work among the Gentiles as well as Jews. His conversion and call had come some eight or ten years ago. The call was as distinct as the conversion, but still God had not opened wide the door for work among the Gentiles. But he had not chafed nor had he been idle. He had been driven from Damascus and Jerusalem. But they would listen to him in Cilicia and Syria. So he had worked near home and God had blessed him. Now he is ready by grace, culture and experience to grapple with the new problems of teaching the gospel to the Greeks. He had the zest that fires every true missionary’s heart. He is now in the prime of life, about forty three or four years old, if it is about A.D. 44 when he comes to Antioch. He has had a wondrously checkered career so far. Will he justify Christ’s choice of him as the Apostle to the Gentiles?
6. The Year at Antioch.—Barnabas remained with Saul at Antioch. He was the older and more experienced man. There was work enough for both of them and Barnabas’ heart was really in the new field, the world-wide work of missions. He was not needed in Jerusalem. The work of expansion and instruction went on well.
There was a new spirit in Antioch. Jew was not writ so large over the Great Commission here and it could be read in a clearer light. Indeed, a new name, that of Christian, is first given to the disciples here. It probably arose in the effort of the Gentiles to distinguish this new religious body, which at Antioch, being a Gentile church on the whole, was not a sect of Judaism. They were followers of Christ about whom they preached and in whom they believed. The name comes from the Gentile point of view and may have been first given as a nickname in sport or derision. But it has stuck. In the first century, however, it is not so common, occurring only three times in the New Testament, the usual name being believers, disciples, saints. Manifestly no great point was made of the name. Gradually new issues come to the surface at Antioch which promises to be a rival of Jerusalem.
7. The Mission to Jerusalem.—There was some intercourse between Antioch and Jerusalem. Some prophets from Jerusalem (Christian prophets apparently) had come and predicted a great famine, which soon came. This famine accented the poverty of the Jerusalem saints. They had already been drained to the bottom in previous efforts (Acts 4 and 5) to relieve the necessities of the great number of poor people in the church there. Barnabas himself knew all about the financial situation in Jerusalem, and was probably one of the generous givers at that time (Acts 4:36 f.). Possibly he suggested a collection from this Gentile church for the great Jewish church. That would greatly help the Pharisaic party to understand how Gentiles could be converted. There was no pressure, but each gave according to his ability (Acts 11:29).
Barnabas and Saul took the contribution. This gives Saul another opportunity to visit Jerusalem. The Apostles were apparently absent in the mission work, since the money was taken to “the elders” (Acts 11:30), officers of the church now for the first time mentioned. The term occurs in connection with the Jewish synagogue and also popular assemblies in Egypt (see papyri). These same officers are afterward termed bishops and pastors.
We do not know the exact relation in order of time between this visit of Barnabas and Saul and the death of James and imprisonment of Peter “about that time” (Acts 12:1). It may have been before the persecution by Herod, during it or afterward. If it was after the persecution the Apostles may have been absent from the city. Ramsay puts the famine and visit of Barnabas and Saul in 46 and the persecution in 44.
If the Apostles were absent on the occasion of this visit, one can the better understand why Paul later, in enumerating his interviews with the Apostles to establish his independence of them, should not allude to this visit at all (Gal. 2:1). That Paul is thinking of the Apostles in Gal. 2:2 is manifest by the word “them” which refers to the Apostles who were mentioned back in Gal. 1:19. But if the Apostles were in the city, the visit was not to them and still may not have been in his mind in Gal. 2:1 f.
We are not, indeed, told what reception Saul had in Jerusalem at this time. Barnabas was the one who had to explain to the Pharisaic party what had taken place at Antioch. He seemed entirely successful, for John Mark returned with him and Saul to Antioch (Acts 12:25 correct text). It was a wonderful story that Barnabas and Saul had to tell. It had fired the imagination of one recruit who would go with these returned missionaries as they went back to Antioch.
There is a lull for the moment. Antioch is the city of opportunity. Will Antioch be worthy of it? Will she be the centre of a world-wide expansion or will the work stop here? Jerusalem had missed her day with Christ and without him. It was not exactly stagnation at Jerusalem, for the new civil persecution under Herod Agrippa I. had led to the death of James the Apostle and to the capture of Peter. The brethren had met at the house of John Mark’s mother to pray for Peter, and James, the Lord’s brother, had come to the front in the church there (Acts 12:17).


“Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia” (Acts 13:13).
1. The Call to a World Campaign.—The call had in reality been given a long time ago. Jesus had himself given it to the disciples three times after his resurrection. Peter had been led to see a great light on the subject of the conversion of the Gentiles. The church at Jerusalem had acquiesced in the manifest work of God at Cæsarea and at Antioch. The Apostles themselves may have been on various mission trips to the Jews scattered abroad. It was clear that Greeks could be saved. The Jewish Christians were willing for them to be saved without becoming Jews, provided the Lord did it. He must be responsible for that breach in the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile.
Saul himself had received a clear and definite call to the Gentile work, and he is now engaged in it along with Barnabas. They have both shown their fitness for leadership in an advance movement among the Gentiles, if one is to be made. In the list of prophets and teachers at Antioch (Acts 13:1) the name of Barnabas heads the list for obvious reasons, while that of Saul comes last for reasons not so obvious. It is not safe to call Barnabas a prophet and Saul a teacher, nor indeed to say that Saul was the least influential in the list. Luke has not explained his reason for this order, and so we pass it by.
But the impulse towards a missionary campaign on an extended scale did not come from any of these brethren. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and teachers, whether to the church is uncertain (owing to the ambiguous phrase “in the church”). The words of the call do not specify where Barnabas and Saul are to go nor indeed specifically what the work is. But they are called directly for the new enterprise. The call was acknowledged by both Barnabas and Saul. Was it the first time that Barnabas had received such a call?
2. The Acquiescence of the Antioch Church.—This is all that we are entitled to say for them. It is not absolutely certain that “they” of Acts 13:3 includes the church as a whole, but it is probable. If so, we do find approval by the church of this great missionary enterprise. It is the glory of the church at Antioch that they put no stumbling-block in the way of Barnabas and Saul, but wished them well. That was certainly more than the Pharisaic party in the Jerusalem church would have done. But Antioch, not Jerusalem, is the new centre from which the gospel starts on its world conquest. Christianity continually finds new centres as the old ones prove unworthy—Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, Rome, not to go further.
There is no evidence that the Antioch church gave anything for the support of Barnabas and Saul. The church as a church did not originate the campaign nor finance it. They prayed for Barnabas and Saul and bade them God-speed. They were “sent forth by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:4). It was an heroic task for these two men to go out into the heathen darkness. They knew that Jesus would be with them. But already Herod Agrippa I had killed James. Who could tell what fate awaited them? It is always a solemn thing to stand by the fountains of historic movements. Here was the genesis of the mission work on a large scale. God was in it, though some Christians were not.
There is no evidence that the laying on of hands in verse 3 was ordination. Both Barnabas and Saul had been effective preachers a number of years. It was probably more like a consecration service or farewell service.
3. The Leadership of Barnabas.—One need not be surprised at the fact that Barnabas is at the head of the new campaign. He was the older man and had had charge of the work in Antioch. He had asked Saul’s help in that field. One must not let the after development of Saul obscure the real situation at this stage. Luke is a true historian and preserves the right perspective. Saul had had a marvellous experience, but none the less as yet he had not won the place in the kingdom now occupied by Barnabas. There was in this matter no reflection on Saul at all, even though he had received a direct call from Jesus to the Gentile work. Besides, the Holy Spirit had expressly named the order “Barnabas and Saul” who were to be separated for this work. It was all very simple, and certainly Saul would feel no jealousy toward Barnabas who had done so much for his ministry.
The reason for the presence of John Mark in the company is not made perfectly clear by Luke (Acts 13:5). The term “attendant” is rather vague. Was he, as has been suggested, a synagogue minister? Perhaps he had wished to go on with Barnabas and Saul, having come with them from Jerusalem. A certain youthful spirit of adventure may have led him on along with a real desire to be useful in the cause of Jesus. He was kin to Barnabas anyhow and agreeable to Saul.
4. Cyprus: Leadership of Paul.—The reasons for going to Cyprus are fairly obvious, though Luke does not announce a formal programme for the expedition. As Barnabas was the leader, he probably desired to go to Cyprus because it was his old home and because there were already some Christians on the island. There were Jews there besides, and it was near. These reasons that lie on the surface may have been reinforced by others.
They landed at Salamis, on the eastern shore facing Syria. No details of the work are given by Luke save the fact that they “proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:5). They had been sent forth to preach to the Gentiles, but they were not told not to preach to the Jews. Besides, a number of Gentiles would have more or less connection with the Jews in business and worship. If this nucleus of devout Greeks could be reached, it would be easier to get hold of the other Greeks. The conduct of the Apostles at this place, for Barnabas is an Apostle in the etymological sense of missionary, will be repeated uniformly whenever Jews can be found who will listen. The Jews and their Gentile friends form a nucleus accessible to the new faith. We are not told what the success was at this point nor in the long journey afoot across the island.
But at Paphos, the seat of the licentious worship of Aphrodite, a more detailed picture is given. Two men of prominence, typical of the times, are here. One was the Jewish sorcerer, Elymas Barjesus, who reminds us of Simon the sorcerer, with whom Simon Peter had a sharp collision (Acts 8) at Samaria. The case of the seven sons of Sceva, a Jew, in Acts 19:14 is parallel. If it seems queer that Jews should have taken to the magic art, one has only to reflect that in Christian lands soothsayers and mediums still flourish and live on popular superstition.
The other man of distinction was the proconsul of the island, Sergius Paulus. It is now common knowledge how Luke’s accuracy in the detail of the term proconsul rather than proprætor has been vindicated both by coin and by better understanding of Dio Cassius. Cyprus at this particular time was a senatorial province. This official was also “a man of understanding” in spite of his being under the influence of the Jewish sorcerer. He showed intelligence clearly in sending for Barnabas and Saul and wishing to hear the gospel preached. To-day some men imagine that they display intelligence by refusing the preaching of the word. But the false prophet had no notion of seeing his hold on the proconsul loosened. So he withstood Barnabas and Saul, trying to undo what they had already accomplished with him.
It was a crisis. Saul is the one who sees the issue at stake. It is interesting to note how Luke here, for the first time, brings in Saul’s Roman name Paul, perhaps suggested to him by the conflict over the Roman Sergius Paulus. It was common in that cosmopolitan age for men to have one name from one nation, the other from another. Thus Cephas was Aramaic, but Simon, Greek, like Salome Alexandra. John Mark had both Aramaic (Hebrew) and Roman names like Saul-Paul. As a Roman citizen Paul had always probably had both names. Luke may have had an artistic purpose in using Paul from now on.
Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit, and with penetrating gaze challenges this “son of the devil” and pronounces the curse of temporary blindness upon him. The result was all that was needed to confirm Sergius Paulus in the faith. He is astonished. He had never seen Elymas do it in this wise.
And now it is “Paul and his company,” according to Luke, who set sail from Paphos. Was anything said about the leadership? One hardly thinks so. Indeed, Barnabas may still have felt himself in charge of the work. Occasionally after this Luke will speak of Barnabas and Paul, but usually it is Paul and Barnabas. But the inevitable had happened. Paul was the man of initiative and energy. He had the gift of leadership and exercised it as the occasion rose. The rest followed naturally. Barnabas gave no sign of jealousy nor did he probably have any such feeling. He could easily be proud of Paul. If Barnabas led the way to Cyprus, probably Paul suggested the mainland of Pamphylia.
5. Perga: John Mark’s Desertion.—Perga was in Pamphylia, a rough province in many ways. It now became apparent to Mark that he had enough of this tour if Paul meant to push on up the mountains to the high table-lands of Pisidia. There were some privations in Cyprus, but here perils of rivers and perils of robbers loomed before his imagination. Did the change in leadership affect Mark at all? Barnabas will not hold Mark’s return to Jerusalem against him, but Paul will not forget that “he went not with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). It is a serious indictment against a man that he will not stand to his task. Perhaps Mark had excuses enough. He was going back home. His mother may not have been willing for him to come anyhow. He was really not much needed, for Paul did all the preaching. His work was only of a subordinate nature. The positiveness and intensity of Paul later, when Barnabas proposes the name of Mark again, suggests that Paul may have said some sharp things to him as he left and certainly felt them. Paul met Perga as well as Mark, but he and Barnabas went on over the mountains while Mark sulked and went home.
6. Antioch in Pisidia: a Specimen of Paul’s Preaching.—Pamphylia was probably the objective point when they left Cyprus, though, for some unexplained reason, no actual work was done there at this time. They push on to Pisidian Antioch, which is about 3,600 feet above the sea. They are now in the Roman province of Galatia. It is the southern part of the province which embraced part of Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. The northern section of the province of Galatia covered Galatia proper, the old home of the Celts (Gauls), who invaded this region and gained a foothold, and the northern part of Phrygia. It is still a debated question in what sense Luke uses the term Region of Galatia in Acts 16:6 and Acts 18:23 and what is Paul’s usage in Gal. 1:2. The question is of too technical a nature for minute discussion in this book. It is possible, indeed, that Paul may include the whole province in his use of the term. If so, the Epistle would be addressed to all the churches in the province. Luke may be using the term in the ethnographic sense like Pisidia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, Mysia. As matters now stand one cannot be dogmatic. Ramsay, in all his books on Paul, has set forth very ably the South Galatian view that both Paul and Luke mean only the region included in Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia (Acts 13 and 14) and that Paul never entered Galatia proper, the old ethnographic use of the term (North Galatia). But the view that Paul entered North Galatia, that Luke so means in Acts 16:6 and 18:23, and that Paul addressed his Epistle to the real Celts of that section still has able advocates. On the whole I cannot see that this natural way of interpreting both Luke and Paul is overthrown, though admitting fully the doubt on the subject.
So then Paul and Barnabas are in the Roman province of Galatia, whether or not Paul ever entered the old Galatia. Paul is in one of the great cities of this ancient region. He will tap the centres of life along the great roads that run east and west. It will mean much if the gospel can be firmly planted in the great province of Galatia. This southern part was a hive of life. Antioch in Pisidia was the centre of a vast region.
We do not know how long Paul and Barnabas had been in the city before they addressed the Jews in the synagogue. It may not have been the first Sabbath. They sat down in orderly worship as other Jews did, but could not conceal the fact that they were strangers. The invitation to give the Jewish brethren “a word of exhortation” (Acts 13:15) could not be resisted. Paul stood up according to the Greek fashion, and Luke even comments on his gestures.
We are grateful for this specimen of Paul’s preaching. He is now an experienced preacher, but as yet we have had only fragments of his discourses given, the mere theme or the main points. But on this occasion the line of argument is presented to us in some detail. It is easy to say that Luke has just made up this address after the fashion of Xenophon and Thucydides. But we know that Luke made use of documents in his Gospel (Luke 1:1–4). Paul may have made notes for this address and preserved them for Luke. Surely Luke was with Paul enough to have access to any papers which he kept. We may accept the report as a substantial presentation of Paul’s address. As the first of Paul’s discourses we may note some details.
The first thing that impresses one is the fact that Paul here occupies the same point of view that he had in Damascus when he first began his ministry (Acts 9:20) when “he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God.” So here also are found the resurrection of Jesus (13:30 f.) and the Sonship of Jesus (verse 33). The Messiahship of Jesus is proven by his resurrection from the dead (32, 34). Paul grasps clearly the human and the divine aspects of Christ’s person. He does not here allude to his own experience in seeing Jesus alive after his death, but he rather appeals to the common experience of many in Jerusalem who were still alive (verse 31). Perhaps this was due to the fact that Paul was a total stranger to the audience and his own experience as yet would carry little weight.
But around this central theme Paul built up a skilful argument. Like Stephen, whose successor he is in many ways, he first recounts the history of the chosen people from Moses to David (17–22). He then announced the wonderful fact that the Messianic King promised to David’s line has come and that his name is Jesus (verse 23), and he is a Saviour to Israel. He outlines briefly the mission and message of John the Baptist (24 f.) in perfect accord with the Synoptic account of the Baptist as the forerunner, preacher of repentance and baptizer, unwilling to pose as the Messiah himself. Evidently Paul had been learning the historical facts about the origin of Christianity. He then appeals to the Jews and the proselytes (in a loose sense of that term) from the Gentiles, and announces “to us is the word of this salvation sent forth” (26). The dreadful story of the death of Jesus at the hands of the Jewish rulers and of Pilate is briefly told (27–29). The resurrection is discussed more at length as the heart of the great message (30–37) and in accord with the Scriptures. “Therefore,” says Paul, the first of those logical “therefores” so common in his Epistles, “through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins” (38). This “therefore” points to the atoning death of Jesus who is shown to be the Messiah and Saviour by his resurrection. But this is not all: “And by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (39). This sentence is pregnant with meaning. This salvation is personal (“by him”) and not by a mere creed or ceremonial observance. It is open to all (“every one”) both Jew and Greek. Belief or trust is the basal demand, not works of the law. Full justification is realized as a fact, not a mere hope. The Mosaic law had not brought actual justification. Here is the kernel of Paul’s theology as we have it expounded in Galatians and Romans. It is clear that he has rightly apprehended the teaching of Jesus as set forth by Christ himself, by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, and by Stephen. Paul will learn more, but he will not need to unlearn this. He closes the sermon by a passionate appeal from Hab. 1:5 (40 f.).
The sermon, as a whole, is a masterpiece of skill and adaptation in a difficult situation. His addresses will all repay study, as reported in Acts, for this adaptation to time, place, audience. Instance, besides this one, that at Lystra (Acts 14:15–17), at Athens (Acts 17:22–31), on the steps of the tower of Antonia (Acts 22:3–21), before Felix (Acts 24:10–21), before Festus (Acts 24:10 f.), before Agrippa (Acts 26:2–23), before the Jews in Rome (Acts 28:17–28). His addresses were never “misfits.” It is small wonder that on this occasion the effect was very great. The people begged a repetition of “these words” on the next Sabbath.
But the new preacher was entirely too successful from the point of view of the Jews, and especially the rulers of the synagogue, who had asked Paul to speak at first. They did not relish the whole town’s coming out, including Greeks of all sorts. Paul had let the bars down for the Gentiles to come right into the Jewish synagogue. They came, but the Jews were filled with jealousy and openly contradicted Paul and even blasphemed or railed (marg.) at him (Acts 13:45).
The issue had come at last. Paul and Barnabas wished to preach the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile. Paul had done so. But these Jews at Antioch in Pisidia would have no Messiah like that, nor message for the ʾam-ha-ʾaretz. Paul and Barnabas were quick to grasp the new turn of affairs. “It was necessary that the message of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust, it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles” (13:46). Every word cut like a knife. They justify their conduct by an appeal to Scripture (Is. 49:6), a passage evidently not familiar to the Pharisaic rabbis. But here is a platform upon which Paul will stand in his presentation of the gospel for the whole world. The Jews have the right to a hearing first. But the Gentiles shall not have the door of hope shut in their faces.
It was a crisis in the world campaign. But the path was plain. What would be the result? That must take care of itself. God took care of it. The elect among the Gentiles believed with gladness and glorified God (Acts 13:48 f.) and the word of the Lord spread throughout all that region. Evidently Paul and Barnabas remained here some time and worked among the Gentiles. But success merely angered the Jewish rulers all the more. Paul and Barnabas paid no attention to them. But the rabbis found a way to reach the magistrates of the city, not officials of the province. They managed, by means of some female proselytes, to get hold of some “devout women of honorable estate” who persuaded2 the magistrates to expel Paul and Barnabas from the city as disturbers of the peace. The rabbis and the women had their ears. Paul and Barnabas had to obey the city magistrates and depart, but they “shook the dust of their feet against them” as they went (verse 51). But the rabbis cannot undo what Christ has done for the Gentiles at Antioch.
7. Iconium: Division Among the Gentiles.—At Iconium they were in the same Region as Antioch. Here they boldly entered the synagogue of the Jews and had great success with both Jews and Greeks (14:1). Here also the disbelieving element among the Jews resisted Paul and Barnabas. History often repeats itself as in the work of Jesus in different parts of Palestine. The new thing at Iconium was that the Greeks themselves became divided, part holding with Paul, part with the hostile Jews (14:2–4). Signs and wonders were wrought here, but still the multitude was divided. At Antioch the Jews had finally gotten the Greek women and magistrates to drive Paul and Barnabas out of town. One must remember that then, as now, the Jews had financial influence. But here at Iconium the opposition takes the form of a mob, and both Gentiles and Jews make an “onset” on the Apostles, to treat them shamefully and, if possible, to stone them. But discretion was the better part of valor and Paul and Barnabas fled (14:6). The Jews had carried their point again.
8. Lystra: The Fickle Populace.—Here a new region is entered, that part of Lycaonia, comprising Lystra, Derbe and a “cityless” section. At Lystra no mention is made of synagogue nor indeed of any Jews. It is a Gentile atmosphere into which they enter. The excitability and fickleness of the Lycaonians have been often commented upon, with which one may compare the changeableness of the Galatians (Gal. 1:6), who may, indeed, be the same people. The healing of the lame man led the multitude to take Barnabas for Jupiter and Paul for Mercury. They manifestly took Barnabas as the major god and Paul as his spokesman. They had a myth about such divine visits to their country. They know Greek as well as their own Lycaonian dialect. Surely, Paul and Barnabas have popularity to spare when the priest of Jupiter gravely proposes to offer sacrifice. The address of Paul (and Barnabas) was noble in its tone, and skilful in turning their thoughts to the living God. He has to appeal to these men from the point of nature, presenting God as creator and preserver of all men (14:15–17). His Hellenism stood him in good stead now as he sought a standpoint from which to reach such a crowd. Even so, he had difficulty in restraining the multitude (verse 18).
A god one day, a mere man the next day stoned and left for dead. Thus the crowd changed under the subtle persuasion of the Jews, who had come on from Antioch and Iconium, flushed with victory, and determined to kill Paul at any rate. They did stir this Greek crowd. One may wonder how Jews could be successful with Greeks, but they knew what arguments to make. They dragged Paul out of the city and left him as a dead man. The real disciples in Lystra, for there were some (Timothy, for instance, whose father was a Greek and whose mother was a Jewess), gathered in a circle around the body in sorrow. Probably Timothy was in that circle. So near did Paul come to the end of his career on his first missionary tour. But he rose from the ground and went on his way. He had once had a share in the work of the mob that stoned Stephen. Now he knew what it was to be stoned himself by the fury of a mob.
9. Derbe: The End of the Tour.—Not a single detail is given of the work in this city except that much success was achieved (Acts 14:21). Probably persecution arose here likewise. It was now time to go back home. How shall they return?
10. Strengthening the Churches.—Much had been accomplished, if it could be made permanent. Organization was needed with officers. Words of encouragement and advice would be helpful. But how could they return in safety? Ramsay suggests that new magistrates had now come into office in all the cities where they had been, and hence they could come back to them in safety. It is with grateful hearts that the Apostles retraced their steps. They could exhort with power how “that through many tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of God” (14:22). They prayed and they fasted. A church with elders is established in each city, Gentile churches these, for the Jews had given little response to the message. When Perga was reached they hurry on to Antioch, skipping Cyprus.
11. Report to the Church at Antioch.—They had a wonderful story to tell. They had “fulfilled” (14:26) the work to which they had been committed at Antioch. It was not exactly as they had hoped. The Jews had not responded to the message as they had wished. But the Gentiles had heard with open hearts. God “had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles” (14:27), which would never be closed again. The church at Antioch was a Gentile church, and they heard with satisfaction this report of the first returned missionaries of the world. The work among the Greeks had now been launched upon a great scale and God had set the seal of his blessing upon it. Paul and Barnabas deserve some rest with the disciples. The missionary work with Paul is now not a theory merely, but a glorious fact. The Gentiles know the love of Jesus and they will never forget him. One of the greatest revolutions in human history has come about. Jews and Greeks are now members of the body of Christ. Will they dwell in peace together?
Robertson, A. T. (1909). Epochs in the life of Paul: a study of development in Paul’s career (S. iii–120). London: Hodder and Stoughton.


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