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It was twenty-four years after the Crucifixion when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, and we are able to make a survey, of a sort, of a remarkable expansion which was still proceeding very vigorously. He could claim that he had brought the gospel in all its fullness from Jerusalem and its neighbourhood, as far as the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It was his métier, however, to introduce it where Christ was not named, and that is the reason which he gives for not planning to work in Rome. He has planned to visit the city time and time again, but he has always been prevented. He hopes to visit it now on his way to Spain, where there will be scope for his special type of work. He feels that his work in the regions where he now is has been done; and this was actually true; he had laid foundations which would bear up the weight of Gentile Christianity in those parts.
We do not know what man or men had laid the foundations in Rome. The English translation speaks of them as having been laid by 'another man'; but this is too precise. The word only means that they had been laid by others.
We see no sign of an organized church. The Epistle is directed to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. It looks as if the saints in the imperial city were divided into small groups or households. Paul seems to know of about six groups, together with a number of individuals. The Epistle was carried by a 'deacon' of the church at Cenchreae, a lady of the name of Phoebe, who had been a patroness of many; she was one of those prominent women whose services he was an adept at enlisting. The word 'deacon' would not yet seem to have been confined to its technical usage.
|149 She would take the Epistle first to the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila, who had risked their lives for his sake in time past. He mentions with them a certain Epaenetus, whom he calls the first-fruits of Asia. Here was a Roman household with Asian and Corinthian connexions. The next name, Mary, may belong to it, too. Some scholars are surprised to find this group in Rome since we last heard of it in Ephesus. They are also surprised that Paul should send salutations to so many Christians in Rome. A theory has been proposed, therefore, that the chapter was originally part of a lost letter to Ephesus, and has been mistakenly attached to the Epistle to the Romans. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that Aquila would naturally go back to Rome in the interests of his business as soon as the ban against the Jews was lifted; and so would many others.
Next on Paul's list come Andronicus and Junias; or Junia, for this name may be feminine. Paul describes them as his kinsmen, a word which may simply mean that they were Jews. He also calls them fellow-prisoners; and we wonder where this imprisonment may have taken place, for the only imprisonment of which we know so far was the night at Philippi. This reference can be fitted in with the theory that Paul suffered an imprisonment at Ephesus, especially if this salutation was part of an Ephesian letter. Ingenious as this kind of work is, there seems no reason why we should not accept the Epistle as it stands and the history as it comes to us.
Andronicus and Junias were veteran Christians, very likely of Palestinian origin, since their conversion had taken place before Paul's. He describes them as well known, or distinguished, among the apostles. Here was a second centre of active evangelization. The four names which follow may have been attached to this household; three of them, at least, were known to Paul: Ampliatus, Urbanus, and Stachys; he describes Apelles as a man approved in Christ. (Urban had been a fellow worker.)
Two more groups are then mentioned; 'those of Aristobulus', and 'those of Narcissus'. The Aristobulus group and the Narcissus group have been explained as follows. A prince of the house of Herod named Aristobulus had lived in Rome (and Herodion, a Jew, is associated with this group); and there had been a wealthy Roman freedman named Narcissus. Both of these men were dead, and their estates, which would have included many slaves and dependants, may have passed intact into |150 the hands of the emperor, and kept the names of their deceased owners. The name of Narcissus is followed by the names of three women, who were 'workers in the Lord', like Phoebe herself; Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis; and then comes Rufus, and his mother Mary, whom Paul describes as 'his mother, and mine'.
A fifth group now follows, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas, 'and the brethren who are with them'. And these are followed by a sixth, Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, 'and all the saints who are with them'. These are obviously Gentile groups. Paul does not claim any acquaintance with them. They may be examples of a non-Pauline Gentile evangelism.
Is it possible to deduce anything from the Epistle about the special problems of the Roman church? It is a delicate task. We may assume, perhaps, that the responsibility had fallen rather heavily on the Gentile Christians during the five years in which Jews were excluded from the city. Now they were returning, and beginning to play their part again. The apostle sends them an epistle in which a theology of the gospel is worked out in its relation to the state of tension which existed between the Gentile and the Jew in the existing situation. It works out in great detail the doctrine of 'justification by faith' and supports it from the story of Abraham as well as from the gospel of Christ. It speaks of the non-Christian Jews with the greatest tenderness, but its gospel of grace abounding has no room at all for a religion based upon Law. It is a considerable advance upon the Epistle to the Galatians, in which the fighting principles were laid down.
The Christians in Rome seem to have been in danger of the same kind of dissensions as had occurred in Corinth; for there were unworthy evangelists about, who served their own base appetites and deceived the simple-hearted by fair and flattering words. There were differences of opinion and practice among the believers. Some of them observed special days, whereas others regarded all days as alike. Some observed food-rules and others did not. There were some who would not touch flesh-meat at all, which reminds us of the asceticism of John the Baptist and James the Just, who may have had some followers among them. Paul refers to such people as the weaker brethren, since |151 they took seriously these Levitical ordinances; but he urges toleration; they should be 'received', but not to contentious arguments. The groups which Paul is addressing seem to be on the whole of his own way of thought.
There is a third point which may have some significance. He seems to go out of his way, in the catechetical material, to underline the customary Jewish teaching on submission to the civil power, and the payment of tolls and taxes. Any appearance of resistance to the government is to be avoided. Is he thinking perhaps of the riots of 49, when the emperor had taken strong action, and the Christians seem to have got a bad name?
He tells them about his visit to Jerusalem; he asks for their prayers; and he promises to visit them later on.
We now turn to the Acts for Luke's narrative of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He comes back into the story himself, for the word 'we' now reappears in the text.
Luke has not told a great deal about Paul's work at Ephesus. He has only given the pictures which he requires to get his dramatic effect. The healings by Paul in Ephesus balance the healing by Peter in Jerusalem. The uproar in the theatre balances the uproar in the Temple at Jerusalem, which was instigated by the same people. (Perhaps Luke is endeavouring to make it clear how riots of this kind actually started.) Ephesus is assimilated to Jerusalem in every way. It even has the coming of the gospel prepared for by disciples of the Baptist. But he does not give much detail about the progress of the church.
Why then does he suddenly give us so much minor detail in his lengthy travel-document? The answer depends upon the character and purpose of the document in the first instance. Why did he write it? What purpose did it serve before it was incorporated into the Acts? The simple theory that he kept a diary is hardly adequate. It is more likely that the journal was intended to serve a definite purpose in the life of the church. Now there is evidence in the Acts that reports were made of what we call 'missionary journeys'; and this pilgrimage had a similar character; for Paul had it in mind that the faith of the Gentiles might stimulate the unbelieving Jews, and so all Israel might be saved. It was an act of ministry and grace.
|152 The Christian public which would be interested in Luke's report would unquestionably be the churches of Greece and Asia from which the pilgrims set forth; for others might make this journey in due course. It demonstrates the establishment of a new life-line of the gospel, a route by sea from Ephesus to Caesarea, and so to Jerusalem, by which of course numbers of Jewish pilgrims (and Gentile God-fearers too, no doubt) were accustomed to travel every year. Gentile Christians could make the same pilgrimage, in association with these groups, or profiting from their experience. It is interesting that Josephus records a number of edicts put out by the authority of the Roman government which protected the rights of the Jews of Ephesus to travel to Jerusalem for the purpose of presenting their devotions and first-fruits (see Antiquities, xvi, 6,7), and this is exactly what Paul claims to have been doing in Acts xxiv. 17.
Luke says nothing about the offering which was being taken up for the church in Jerusalem. His story is not on this level; and to tell the truth, trouble had arisen from time to time in Rome over Jews who collected money to take to Jerusalem. It was better perhaps not to say too much about the financial side of the enterprise; and yet we can deduce from the pages of the Acts that Paul had money at his disposal.
When Paul arrived at Philippi, he had seven members of his party with him; Sopater of Berea (perhaps identical with Sosipater); Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica; Gaius of Doberium in Macedonia, who is coupled with Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus who represented Ephesus. The use of the word 'we' begins again in this town, where it was dropped five years before, showing that Luke had now joined them. Philippi had been the starting-point for the evangelization of Paul's whole province; it was the one that he remembered with special affection; it was the only one to send him gifts of money when he was in dire need. The seven went on to Troas, but Paul and Luke stayed on for the Passover festival and the seven days of 'unleavened bread' which followed it.
It is worth asking who was put in charge of the church at Philippi when Luke left it. Three or four years later Paul wrote the Philippians a letter, in which he sends greetings to a 'fellow-worker' of the name of |153 Clement, who would seem, therefore, to have been a member of his own staff. He also sends greetings to the 'bishops and deacons'. This terminology is new to us, and represents a clarification in the organization of the local ministry which seems to have taken place about this time. Some strengthening of the organization had been proved necessary, and all the more because Paul's own guiding hand was being withdrawn. The bishops would appear to have been the men on whom the apostle and his 'fellow-workers' could rely for pastoral oversight. It was a new name, of a non-Jewish character, for those rulers or leaders of the congregation who had been referred to in earlier epistles in more general terms. Clement of Rome, writing to the Corinthians forty years later, gives an account of the appointment of the bishops by the apostles.
They arrived in Troas after five days (which suggests that they had bad weather) and stayed there for a week. A grand farewell service was held for them in an upper room. It is the first description which we possess of a Sunday service. It began on the eve, that is to say the Saturday night, and lasted all through the night, the 'breaking of the bread' taking place before dawn. The inference is that it commemorated the resurrection of the Lord, of which the Passover at Philippi had been the twenty-fifth anniversary.
Paul took the twenty-mile journey to Assos overland, sending Luke and some of the others by boat, with orders to wait for him there. It is one of the signs that he had money at his disposal. He was in a position to give orders to the skipper.
A four-day sail from Assus brought them to Miletus, a seaport not far from Ephesus. Paul had decided not to visit Ephesus, for one reason or another. He had summoned the elders to meet him at Miletus, no doubt on the following Sunday. The word 'elder' or 'presbyter' is Luke's word for the rulers or leaders of the church. It denotes an honourable or aged man, especially one enrolled in a council or senate. It was a Jewish title of honour, and was used by Luke, of the Rabbis, or members of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Luke's use of the word 'elder' in this instance emphasizes the fact that the church in Ephesus had a council of elders like the church in Jerusalem.
The speech of Paul to the Ephesian elders is a masterpiece of reporting, |154 and in every sentence we can feel the personality of the apostle. He gives a strong charge to the elders. 'Take heed', he says, 'to yourselves, and to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.' The feeling of the new word is unmistakable; it indicates here the active pastoral responsibility which had been conferred upon these elders, either individually or as a corporation. The church is confided to their care. Perhaps similar scenes had taken place at other centres, or was this a council of superintendence for all the Pauline churches?
While the words 'elder' and 'bishop' have distinct meanings, it would seem that they are applied here to the same persons; but it does not follow that all elders were bishops. We have here an early stage in the development of a native ministry. A greater degree of personal responsibility was being conferred on the local leadership in the new missions.
The events of the past year had demonstrated the necessity for continual, firm, skilled, tactful supervision of the new converts. It appears that the condition of the Ephesian church had given cause for alarm. A vein of bitterness runs through this great speech. Paul does not altogether trust the men who stand before him. He knows full well that after his departure grievous wolves will enter in, not sparing the flock; but there is worse than that. Some of his own elders or bishops or pastors will teach perversions of the truth, so as to have schools or parties of their own among the disciples. It may be that some of these men had not supported him during the recent troubles. Someone had certainly accused him of making money out of his churches, a charge which had also been flung against him at Corinth. ' I coveted no man's silver or gold', he says suddenly. 'You yourselves know well that these hands have ministered to my needs!'
Obviously he thrust forth his hands or gestured with them; a habit of his in speaking to which Luke alludes more than once. We see him there, eager, and passionately sincere, and full of love for his people; seeing things so much clearer than any of them. It was an emotional scene, and there were tears and laments as they knelt on the shore to receive his blessing; for he had said that they would never see his face again.
There are a number of scholars who believe that they never did see
|155 his face again; but the Pastoral Epistles contain evidence which makes it highly probable that he came back, and found matters every bit as bad as he had feared.
At Patara they found a boat which was taking on freight for Tyre on the Phoenician coast, and they succeeded in getting passages on her. There must have been a great deal of coastwise trade for them to trust to such casual connexions, but no doubt they were on the regular pilgrim route.
In his speech at Miletus Paul had said that the prophets in every city had advised him against going up to Jerusalem, where chains and imprisonment would be his lot. The prophets at Tyre were no exception to the rule. The ship touched at Ptolemais, the sea-port of Galilee, before going on to Caesarea. There they stayed with Philip, who was now styled the 'evangelist', still another new word which seems to have come in at this time. It was a title for those ' fellow-workers' or colleagues of the apostles who shared their missionary labours and some of their responsibilities, but could not rank as apostles themselves. Timothy is so described in the Pastorals; and in Ephesians the word is slipped in after the apostles and prophets, and before the pastors and teachers, who may be much the same as the elders and bishops. The word did not survive; but some word did seem to be needed at the time to distinguish these missionaries and evangelists from the local ministries in the missions.
Philip had been at Caesarea for twenty years now. He was married, and had four daughters who 'prophesied'. These daughters were called 'virgins'; and in the context the word seems to refer to the ascetic life. There were celibates at Corinth, and Paul had indicated his preference for this condition of life, which was not, however, a lifelong obligation. Philip himself, it may be inferred, had not shared this view. Agabus the prophet came down from Jerusalem to welcome them and added his word of warning to those who had been predicting imprisonment or possible death for Paul when he reached the city. He reinforced his message with solemn symbolic acts. All present implored Paul not to go; but nothing could shake his resolution. In narrating these scenes, Luke does not hesitate to indicate a certain likeness to the story of Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the Passion.
|156 They cannot have expected Paul to come back alive; and that is what may have been understood at Miletus, when he said that they would see his face no more; but there lingered at the back of his own mind the thought that he was destined to see Rome before he died.
The party was conducted to Jerusalem by Christians from Caesarea, who brought them to the house of an 'original disciple' named Mnason, who was a Cypriot like Barnabas. Here they lodged. It was the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover at Philippi, and twenty-five years after the historic day when the Holy Spirit had descended upon the mother-church; undoubtedly Luke heard the story at first hand now, and saw for himself what Pentecost was like in Jerusalem. We know that Luke, Aristarchus and Trophimus were in the party; and we assume that the other delegates who had gathered at Philippi were there too. It was certainly a bold stroke of genius which had brought these Gentile converts face to face with the oldest Christian church, in the city where the Lord himself had been crucified and risen from the dead. They were received gladly by the brethren, and here the word 'we' fades out of the narrative for a while. The tale of the pilgrimage was told.
On the following day James the Just summoned his sanhedrin of elders to hear the report of progress from the Gentile churches there represented. The offering for the needs of the poor saints must have been handed over, though Luke says nothing about this. James, on his part, did not disguise the great danger that Paul was in. There seems by now to have been an intense hatred for him personally, which had been methodically fostered by his enemies; and conditions in Palestine had steadily deteriorated under the rule of the procurators. Misgovern-ment on one side had been matched by lawlessness on the other, and Josephus speaks of impostors who deluded the multitude, and fanatics who advocated violence. He was a young man of nineteen at this time, and he tells us with a feeling of personal horror of the murder in the temple of the high priest Jonathan by bandits who were in the pay of Felix the new procurator, only a year or two after his visit. He also mentions the appearance about this time of an Egyptian 'prophet', who gathered his followers on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of
|157 Jerusalem fall down at his command. Four hundred of these had been massacred by the cavalry and footmen of Felix; but the Egyptian had escaped.
There are passages in the Epistle of St James which fit this period well:
From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not even hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain. ... Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupt. ... Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out; and the cries of them which have reaped, are entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts.
The picture of the wealthy magnates which we gather from the pages of Josephus, with their bands of armed men and their oppression of the poor, is in line with this prophetic denunciation.
There is insufficient evidence to come to a firm conclusion about the date and destination of this Epistle, which is addressed to the Jewish or Christian 'dispersion' overseas; but many passages in it seem to have a Palestinian background. If the teaching of James was given by him in a fixed oral form according to the Rabbinic custom, and recited in a fixed order, and translated into Greek for the Hellenists, and written down in that language, and given conventional literary form for wider distribution, the result might be something very like the Epistle of St James. The theory of so early a date as this is supported by the fact that it deals with the same argument about faith and works which Paul handled in his Epistle to the Romans; though it comes to it from a very different point of view. This early date is certainly not impossible, though not many scholars would think it likely.
James explained to Paul that the extreme Judaizing party in the Jerusalem church was now very powerful, numbering tens of thousands, he says in a typical oriental exaggeration. He was satisfied himself with the decision of the council of six years before, but they had been infected with another spirit. They had been told that Paul was preaching apostasy from the Law of Moses, and teaching the Jews of the Dispersion not to circumcise their children or walk in the customs. They would need further assurance.
|158 He therefore suggested that Paul should associate himself in a public way with a group of men who were under a Nazirite vow, and so demonstrate his adhesion to the Law. It would also be an act of piety, as he would pay the expenses of these men. Paul had no objection to this. He had taken a vow of this sort himself, Luke says, on the occasion of his visit to Jerusalem three years before. But it does not sound a very promising scheme; and it did not work. It was not the Jerusalem Christians, however, who caused the trouble; it was a gang of Jewish pilgrims from Ephesus, who set upon him when he appeared in the Temple to take part in these ceremonies. There was a scene of violence and confusion which rivalled the uproar in Ephesus the previous year. It was with great difficulty that the Roman commanding officer, Claudius Lysias, saved him from the hands of the mob.
The first task of the officer was to find out the identity of his prisoner and the cause of the riot. The Ephesian Jews accused him of bringing the uncircumcised Gentile, Trophimus, into the Temple; and this was not an altogether ridiculous insinuation, if Paul had claimed that his Gentiles were fellow-citizens with the saints, and members of the house of God, Jesus the Messiah having destroyed the partition or fence which had divided them, as we read in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
The officer was under the impression that he was the Egyptian prophet mentioned by Josephus. It is odd that he permitted Paul to address the crowd, but perhaps he thought he might get some information that way, or at any rate gain time. The crowd was prepared to hear Paul speak in Greek, a fact which shows how general the knowledge of this language was; and they were delighted when he used Aramaic. The speech gives the best account we have of Paul's early life, and mentions his instruction by Gamaliel and the part he had played in the stoning of Stephen. It was twenty years ago now, but the memory disturbed him at this moment of crisis. Does it give the clue to the tremendous determination with which he had persisted in his visit to Jerusalem? Was it an act of oblation and atonement and satisfaction? Was there in his mind at all times the picture of the body of the martyr, broken and |159 buried under its pile of huge stones, and then a blaze of light, and a voice which said, ' Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
The crowd listened in silence until he came to the vision in the Temple in which he had been sent 'far off to the Gentiles'; and then a roar of enmity and hatred went up, comparable to that which had greeted Jesus when he had stood in the same place on the morning of his crucifixion.
Paul was hurried into the safety of the fortress of Antonia, the military headquarters on the north side of the Temple enclosure, which contained the praetorium which had once-been occupied by Pilate. The next expedient was examination by torture; but this was illegal in the case of a Roman citizen, and Paul successfully claimed this privilege for a second time. The next expedient was unsuccessful too; it was an inquiry before the high priest, Ananias the son of Nebediah, an unprincipled ruffian, who had amassed wealth by the use of violence. He ordered Paul to be struck on the mouth when he began to speak, and there was a hot exchange of words, for which Paul apologized. Then, looking round the sanhedrin, he played with success for the support of his old friends. For there would be Simon ben Gamaliel, the son of his old tutor, and the wise and broad-minded Johanan ben Zakkai, who would give spiritual leadership to Israel after the fall of Jerusalem; and others who were neither Zealots nor fanatics. Some moderation still existed in Israel, and we would look for it among the more judicious Pharisees. They had something in common with the Nazaraeans, for they believed in an angelic world and in a resurrection from the dead; some were even disposed to admit that an angel or spirit had appeared to Paul on the Damascus road. The solemn discussion turned into a loud and angry battle, and Lysias had to rescue his prisoner a second time.
A second inquiry was planned, but information came in through a young nephew of Paul that there was a plan to assassinate him on the way to the hall in which the sanhedrin met; and Lysias thought it better to get him out of the city. He sent him to Caesarea, where an inquiry was held by that accomplished politician the procurator Felix. The Sadducee hierarchy knew that a theological approach was useless, so they hired an 'orator' or professional lawyer, named Tertullus, to |160 do his best on their behalf; Luke summarizes his speech, preserving the Latin turn of his sentences. Paul heard himself described as a pestilential person, a promoter of revolution throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect called the Nazaraeans. We have heard nothing since Gallio's judgement of this accusation of sedition against the Roman empire; but it comes out in an official form now, sponsored by the Jerusalem hierarchy.
Paul's reply is also summarized. It becomes clear that Luke is keeping a careful record of the riots and imprisonments and legal investigations in which Paul was concerned. He is building up a case for the defence, and this is an important motive in both his volumes, being prepared for in his account of the trial of Jesus.
Paul followed the example of Tertullus in paying a conventional compliment to Felix. He gave a picture of himself as an orthodox Jewish pilgrim, coming up to Jerusalem after many years 'to give alms to my nation'; for there had to be some reference to the financial side of his visit. He asked for evidence of his alleged desecration of the Temple; but the Ephesian Jews were no longer available, and the case was adjourned indefinitely.
Paul was kept a prisoner in Caesarea for two years under fairly easy conditions. His friends were allowed access to him. Sometimes Felix would send for him and listen to his preaching on righteousness and self-mastery and the coming judgement; but though he trembled at the words, he was not convicted of sin. In just the same way Herod Anti-pas, the late tetrarch of Galilee, had listened to the preaching of his formidable prisoner John the Baptist; and Drusilla, the wife of Felix, was a daughter of Herod Agrippa, and therefore a niece by marriage of Herod Antipas, and a cousin of the daughter of Herodias, whose dancing had cost John his head. She sat beside her husband when Paul preached.
Actually it was an understood thing that a Roman governor made a fortune out of the province that he administered, and Felix was holding out for a bribe; another sign that Paul had money at his command at this time. The economic factor has to be remembered, even in church history.
|161 The two years at Caesarea were spent by Luke in literary labours; an assumption which explains in the most natural way the appearance in his two volumes of excellent Palestinian material, and particularly of Caesarean material in the Acts. He states that he obtained his material from men who had been eyewitnesses of the 'Word' from the beginning; and this is the occasion when he had the time and opportunity to collect it. We note a few interesting references to the Herodian family; in his Gospel he speaks of Joanna the wife of Chuza who had been Herod's steward, and in the Acts he mentions Menahem whom he describes as a foster-brother of Herod himself. Both of these were Christians. We think of Brasilia in Caesarea, and are not surprised to discover this special knowledge.
It has been suggested that some of Paul's Epistles were written from Caesarea. Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon were written during an imprisonment, but they seem to fit better into the Roman imprisonment, to which they are generally assigned. The suggestion has its value, however. It reminds us that, during these years, there must have been a close connexion between the churches of Palestine and the churches of Asia. A line of communication had been established from Caesarea to Ephesus along which the current of the gospel would flow. It was a route which by-passed Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia. The importance of Caesarea in the Acts fits into this new geographical pattern.
It is very generally assumed by scholars that written gospel documents were now in circulation; and one of these was the document which is alluded to by the symbol' Q'; a document which Luke made use of in the composition of his Gospel, which may have been taking some sort of shape at this time.
This statement is made as a result of the literary analysis of the Gospels which has been carried on by scholars of various nationalities and points of view for over a hundred years now. The first step of importance was the recognition of the fact that Matthew and Luke both made use of Mark in composing their own Gospels. When the material obtained from Mark has been eliminated from consideration, it is possible to see that there was another document or group of documents |162 which Matthew and Luke both made use of. It may safely be regarded as a single document. It cannot be reconstructed in its entirety, but we have a fairly good view of its contents. This is the document known as ' Q', and it may have been available as early as the fifties.
The third step was the theory of 'Proto-Luke'. It was observed that the material which Luke obtained from Mark was incorporated into his Gospel at a late stage in its composition. If this Marcan material is eliminated from consideration, we are left with what appears to be an older form of Luke, or possibly an earlier draft of his Gospel, which he made before Mark came his way. This hypothetical first stage in the making of Luke is called Proto-Luke. It is one of those rare things, a satisfactory literary theory. It creates no difficulties of its own., and fits very happily into the ascertainable facts. On the other hand, the arguments in its favour have not convinced all scholars by any means; but, while it may not be safe to think of it in terms of a completed Lucan Gospel earlier than Mark, the evidence does seem to point to considerable literary work on good Palestinian material independently of Mark.
One component part of this Lucan groundwork was the document Q, whose existence has been independently demonstrated. The remainder (which may be called L) appears to consist of good Palestinian material which assumed its present form in surroundings of a Hellenistic character; that is to say in some church of the type of Caesarea which had access to the primary tradition. There must have been numbers of 'original disciples' like Mnason the Cypriot; and there were also the teachers and evangelists of the Palestinian church with their organized tradition of the sayings and doings of Jesus; and men like Philip himself, who was the principal representative of the old Hellenistic tradition of Jerusalem. Luke also obtained some stories about the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, which would naturally have come to him from their families, whose place of residence he gives as the hill-country of Judaea. It has often been remarked that he tells these stories from the point of view of the women. There are other women mentioned in his Gospel; Mary and Martha for instance; and Joanna the wife of Chuza.
An interesting point now emerges. The collector and editor of the Proto-Luke material does not seem to have had direct access to the. Galilean or Petrine tradition. His Resurrection narratives, for instance, |163 are all connected with Jerusalem, and he tells them in a way which appears to leave no room for the appearance in Galilee which is promised in Mark, and actually related in Matthew. Each locality, and each apostolic school, may still, to some extent, have been working with its own special form of the tradition. Certainly the Galilean tradition of Peter as Mark knew it cannot have been personally available to Luke when he collected his earliest material or made the first draft of his Gospel; we must suppose that it was being carried on elsewhere, in Galilee perhaps, or even farther afield now.
This is simply an inference from the literary phenomena; but it is confirmed by the record of the Acts at this point. Peter was not present at Jerusalem or Caesarea for this visit of Paul and Luke; he is not mentioned in Luke's journal; and this evidence falls into line with the second-century legends which place him in Antioch, where indeed we heard of him prior to his appearance at the Jerusalem Council.
If we knew at what date Porcius Festus succeeded Felix in Caesarea, we would be able to regulate our dates with greater exactness. As it is we have to fall back upon our general chronological plan, and assign it to 57 or 58; a date which is obtained by working forward from the arrival of Gallio in Corinth in 51 or 52.
Felix was recalled to Rome to answer for his misdeeds, but he was shielded from their consequences, apparently by the wealth of his brother Pallas. When Festus arrived in Palestine, he found the country infested by dagger-men (sicarii); and the high-priestly families were using their organized gangs to attack one another. The new high priest Ishmael, who had succeeded the murdered Jonathan, suggested that Paul should be brought back to Jerusalem for trial, with the intention, Luke says, of arranging for his assassination en route; but Paul stood on his rights as a Roman citizen and refused to go. He was ready for martyrdom, but had no intention of disappearing from sight as part of the new procurator's policy of appeasement. The priests came down to Caesarea, but did no more than repeat their charges of political activity. Paul, weary with the long delay, played his last card. He appealed to Caesar.
He could do this as a Roman citizen. This citizenship had been artificially extended to include large numbers of people who were in no |164 sense Roman. It could be bought at a price, like most things in the political world, but once it was obtained it was hereditary. Paul had inherited it from his father.
Festus was as much at a loss as Lysias had been to understand what offence Paul was charged with; and he took advantage of a courtesy visit from King Herod Agrippa II, and his sister Bernice, to hear a statement from Paul on the subject. Agrippa had now given up his Lebanese kingdom in exchange for territory east and west of the Sea of Galilee, and this was further added to from time to time. He was also given a certain oversight of the Temple and its services; for the sacred books required the presence of a king at certain rituals. He would be the right person for the procurator to consult on a point affecting the Jewish religion.
Paul made the best of this opportunity of placing his own story and the claims of the gospel before the young king who would reign over northern Israel for more than forty years. He stood before him in chains, and faithfully unfolded the story of his conversion, which Luke thus gives us for the third time. He attempted to argue the case for the Resurrection. He insisted on his loyalty to the old religion, which he asserted had not been impaired by his adherence to the gospel. It was all in line with the Law and the Prophets, and was the fulfilment of the hope which every Israelite cherished.
It is one of the commonplaces of criticism to contrast the Paul who walks through the pages of Acts with the Paul who talks through the pages of his Epistles. We may note one fundamental quality which they have in common. He is a fanatic; for all his infinite variety, his mind runs on one thing: the gospel. He presses forward to his goal; he evangelizes in season and out of season; he strikes recklessly but with the accuracy of genius. He scandalizes. He shocks.
In the Jewish synagogue he proclaims Jesus as the king; in the home of Greek philosophy he proclaims him as judge of the world; to the hostile mob of Jews in the Temple, he speaks of a mission to the Gentiles; when he stands before Felix, he terrifies him with the thought of a judgement to come (and it came): standing now before the descendant of the Herods and the Maccabees, he attempts to convert him.
The procurator sees a power in Paul's eyes which makes him uneasy. He takes it for insanity, and breaks in on his discourse. 'You're mad, Paul,' he says, 'Your great learning is driving you insane.'
|165 The apostle attempts to tighten his hold on the situation. He turns to the young king.
'King Agrippa, believest thou the scriptures? I know that thou believest.'
Agrippa tries to laugh it off.
'You and your believing', he says. 'You are certainly losing no time in trying to make a Christian out of me', using the new name which was finding its way into use in Roman official circles. But he agreed with Festus that there was no serious charge against him; he could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.
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