REDEMPTION IN PAGAN RELIGION AND IN PAUL
It has been observed thus far that in comparing Paul with Hellenistic pagan religion, the question of priority cannot be ruled out so easily as is sometimes supposed. Another preliminary question, moreover, remains. Through what channels did the supposed influence of the mystery religions enter into the life of Paul? The question is somewhat perplexing. In view of the outline of Paul's life which was set forth in Chapters II and III, it would seem difficult to find a place for the entrance of pagan religious thought.
One suggestion is that pagan thought came to Paul only through the medium of Judaism. That suggestion would explain the consciousness that Paul attests of having been, before his conversion, a devout Jew. If pagan religion had already entered into the warp and woof of Judaism, and if the throes of the process of assimilation had already been forgotten before the time of Paul, then Paul might regard himself as a devout Jew, hostile to all pagan influence, and yet be profoundly influenced by the paganism which had already found an entrance into the Jewish stronghold.
But the trouble is that with regard to those matters which are thought to be necessary for the explanation of Paul's religion there is no evidence that paganism had entered into the common life of the Jews. It has been shown in Chapter V that the Judaism of the first century, as it can be reconstructed by the use of the extant sources, is insufficient to account for the origin of Paulinism. That fact is admitted by those scholars who are having recourse to the hypothesis of pagan influence. Therefore, if the pagan influence came to Paul through the medium of Judaism, the historian must first posit the existence of a Judaism into which the necessary pagan elements had entered. There is no evidence for the existence of such a Judaism; in fact the extant Jewish sources point clearly in an opposite direction. It is exceedingly difficult, therefore, to suppose, in defiance of the Jewish sources, and in the mere interests of a theory as to the genesis of Paulinism, that the Pharisaic Judaism from which Paul sprang was imbued with a mystical piety like that of the mystery religions or of Hermes Trismegistus. In fact, in view of the known character of Pharisaic Judaism, the hypothesis is nothing short of monstrous.
Therefore, if Paul was influenced by the pagan mystery religions it could not have been simply in virtue of his connection with first-century Judaism; it must have been due to some special influences which were brought to bear upon him. Where could these influences have been exerted? One suggestion is that they were exerted in Tarsus, his boyhood home. Stress is thus laid upon the fact that Paul was born not in Palestine but in the Dispersion. As he grew up in Tarsus, it is said, he could not help observing the paganism that surrounded him. At this point, some historians, on entirely insufficient evidence, are inclined to be specific; they are tempted, for example, to speak of mysteries of Mithras as being practised in or near Tarsus in Paul's early years. The hypothesis is only weakened by such incautious advocacy; it is much better to point merely to the undoubted fact that Tarsus was a pagan city and was presumably affected by the existing currents of pagan life. But if Paul grew up in a pagan environment, was he influenced by it? An affirmative answer would seem to run counter to his own testimony. Although Paul was born in Tarsus, he belonged inwardly to Palestine; he and his parents before him were not "Hellenists" but "Hebrews." Moreover, he was a Pharisee, more exceedingly zealous than his contemporaries for his paternal traditions. The evidence has been examined in a previous chapter. Certainly then, Paul was not a "liberal" Jew; far from being inclined to break down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles he was especially zealous for the Law. It is very difficult to conceive of such a man—with his excessive zeal for the Mosaic Law, with his intense hatred of paganism, with his intense consciousness of the all-sufficiency of Jewish privileges—as being susceptible to the pagan influences that surrounded his orthodox home.
The hypothesis must, therefore, at least be modified to the extent that the pagan influence exerted at Tarsus be regarded as merely unconscious. Paul did not deliberately accept the pagan religion of Tarsus, it might be said, but at least he became acquainted with it, and his acquaintance with it became fruitful after he entered upon his Gentile mission. According to this hypothesis, the attitude of Paul toward pagan religion was in the early days in Tarsus merely negative, but became more favorable (whether or no Paul himself was conscious of the real source of the pagan ideas) because of subsequent events. But what were the events which induced in Paul a more favorable attitude toward ideas which were really pagan? When did he overcome his life-long antagonism to everything connected with the worship of false gods? Such a change of attitude is certainly not attested by the Epistles.
It will probably be admitted that if pagan influence entered into the heart of Paul's religious life it could only have done so by some more subtle way than by the mere retention in Paul's mind of what he had seen at Tarsus. The way which finds special favor among recent historians is discovered in the pre-Pauline Christianity of cities like Damascus and Antioch. When Paul was converted, it is said, he was converted not to the Christianity of Jerusalem, but to the Christianity of Damascus and Antioch. But the Christianity of Damascus and Antioch, it is supposed, had already received pagan elements; hence the very fact of Paul's conversion broke down his Jewish prejudices and permitted the influx of pagan ideas. Of course Paul did not know that they were pagan ideas; he supposed that they were merely Christian; but pagan they were, nevertheless. The Hellenistic Jews who founded the churches at Damascus and Antioch, unlike the original apostles at Jerusalem, were liberal Jews, susceptible to pagan influence and desirous of attributing to Jesus all that the pagans attributed to their own cult-gods. Thus Jesus became a cult-god like the cult-gods of the pagan religions, and Christianity became similar, in important respects, to the pagan cults.
This hypothesis has been advocated brilliantly by Heitmiiller and Bousset.1 But what evidence can be adduced in favor of it? How may the Christianity of Damascus and An
1See especially HeitmUller, "Zum Problem Paul us und Jesus," in Zetisckrift fiir die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, xiii, 1912, pp. 320-337; "Jesus und Paulus," in Zeitschrift fiir Theologie und Kirche, xxv, 1915, pp. 156-179; Bousset, Jenu der Herr, 1916, pp. 30-37.
tioch, which is supposed to have been influenced by pagan religion, be reconstructed? Even Heitmiiller and Bousset admit that the reconstruction is very difficult. The only unquestioned source of information about the pre-Pauline Christianity which is the subject of investigation is to be found in the Pauline Epistles themselves. But if the material is found in the Pauline Epistles, how can the historian be sure that it is not the product of Paul's own thinking? How can the specifically Pauline element in the Epistles be separated form the element which is supposed to have been derived from pre-Pauline Hellenistic Christianity?
The process of separation, it must be admitted, is difficult. But, according to Bousset and Heitmiiller, it is not impossible. There are passages in the Epistles where Paul evidently assumes that certain things are known already to his readers. In churches where Paul himself had not already had the opportunity of teaching, notably at Rome, those elements assumed as already known must have been derived, it is said, from teachers other than Paul; they must have formed part of the pre-Pauline fund of Hellenistic Christianity.
But in order to reconstruct this pre-Pauline Hellenistic Christianity, it is not sufficient to separate what Paul had received from what he himself produced. Another process of separation remains; and this second process is vastly more difficult than the first. In order to reconstruct the Hellenistic Christianity of Antioch, upon which Paulinism is thought to be based, it is necessary not only to separate what Paul received from what he produced, but also to separate what he received from Antioch from what he received from Jerusalem. It is in connection with this latter process that the hypothesis of Heitmiiller and Bousset breaks down. Unquestionably some elements in the Epistles can be established as having been received by Paul from those who had been Christians before him. One notable example is found in 1 Cor. xv. 1-7. In that all-important passage Paul distinctly says that he had "received" his account of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But how does Bousset know that he received it from the Church at Antioch or the Church at Damascus rather than from the Church at Jerusalem? Paul had been in intimate contact with Peter in Jerusalem; Peter is prominent in 1 Cor. xv. 1-7. What reason is there, then, for deserting the common view, regarded almost as an axiom of criticism, to the effect that 1 Cor. xv. 1-7 represents the tradition of the Jerusalem Church which Paul received from Peter?
Moreover, what right have Bousset and Heitmuller to use the Epistle to the Romans in reconstructing the Christianity of Antioch? Even if in that Epistle the elements of specifically Pauline teaching can be separated from those things which Paul regards as already matter of course in the Roman Church, what reason is there to assume that the pre-Pauline Christianity of Rome was the same as the pre-Pauline Christianity of Antioch and Damascus? Information about the pre-Pauline Christianity of Antioch and Damascus is, to say the least, scanty and uncertain. And it is that Christianity only—the Christianity with which Paul came into contact soon after his conversion—and not the Christianity of Rome, which can be of use in explaining the origin of Paul's religion.
Finally, what reason is there for supposing that the Christianity of Damascus and Antioch was different in essentials from the Christianity of Jerusalem? An important step, it is said, was taken when the gospel was transplanted from its native Palestinian soil to the Greek-speaking world—the most momentous step in the whole history of Christianity, the most heavily fraught with changes. But it must be remembered that the primitive Jerusalem Church itself was bilingual; it contained a large Greek-speaking element. The transplanting of the gospel to Antioch was accomplished not by any ordinary Jews of the Dispersion, but by those Jews of the Dispersion who had lived at Jerusalem and had received their instruction from the intimate friends of Jesus. Is it likely that such men would so soon forget the impressions that they had received, and would transform Christianity from a simple acceptance of Jesus as Messiah with eager longing for His return into a cult that emulated the pagan cults of the surrounding world by worship of Jesus as Lord? The transition, if it occurred at all, occurred with astonishing rapidity. Paul was converted only two or three years after the crucifixion of Jesus. If, therefore, the paganizing Hellenistic Christianity of Damascus und Antioch was to be the spiritual soil in which Paul's religion was nurtured, it must have been formed in the very early days. The pagan influences could hardly have begun to enter after the conversion of Paul.1 For then Paul would have been conscious of their entrance, and all the advantages of the hypothesis would disappear1—the hypothesis would then be excluded by the self-testimony of Paul. But the formation of a paganizing Christianity at Antioch and Damascus, in the very early days and by the instrumentality of men who had come under the instruction of the intimate friends of Jesus, and despite the constant intercourse between Jerusalem and the cities in question, is very difficult to conceive. At any rate, the separation between what Paul received from Antioch and Damascus and what he received from Jerusalem is quite impossible. Heitmiiller and Bousset have not really helped matters by trying to place an additional link in the chain between Paul and Jesus. The Hellenistic Christianity of Antioch, supposed to be distinct from the Christianity of Jerusalem, is to say the least a very shadowy thing.
But Bousset and Heitmiiller probably will not maintain that all the pagan influences which entered the life of Paul entered through the gateway of pre-Pauline Hellenistic Christianity. On the contrary, it will probably be said that Paul lived all his life in the midst of a pagan religious atmosphere, which affected him directly as well as through the community at Antioch. But how was this direct pagan influence exerted? Some suppose that it was exerted through the reading of pagan religious literature; others suppose that it came merely through conversation with "the man in the street." Paul desired to become all things to all men (we are reminded), in order that by all means he might save some (1 Cor. ix. 22). But what was more necessary for winning the Gentiles than familiarity with their habits of thought and life? Therefore, it is said, Paul must have made some study of paganism in order to put his proclamation of the gospel in a form which would appeal to the pagans whom he sought to win.
A certain element of truth underlies this contention. It should not be supposed that Paul was ignorant of the pagan life that surrounded him. He uses figures of speech derived from the athletic games; here and there in his Epistles he makes reference to the former religious practices of his converts. It is not unnatural that he should occasionally have 1 But compare Bousset, op. cit., p. 32.
sought common ground with those to whom he preached, in accordance with the example contained in the seventeenth chapter of Acts. But on the whole, the picture of Paul making a study of paganism in preparation for his life-work is too modern to be convincing. It may seem natural to those modern missionaries who no longer regard Christianity as a positive religion, who no longer insist upon any sharp break on the part of the converts with their ancestral ways of thinking, who are perfectly content to derive help from all quarters and are far more interested in improving political and social conditions in the land for which they labor than they are in securing assent to any specific Christian message. The Christianity of such missionaries might consistently be hospitable to foreign influence; such missionaries might assign the central place in their preparation to the investigation of the religious life of mission lands. But the Christianity of Paul was entirely different. Paul was convinced of the exclusiveness and the allsufficiency of his own message. The message had been revealed to him directly by the Lord. It was supported by the testimony of those who had been intimate with Jesus; it was supported by the Old Testament Scriptures. But throughout it was the product of revelation. To the Jews it was a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness. But to those who were saved it was the power of God and the wisdom of God. "Where is the wise," says Paul, "where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" It is a little difficult to suppose that the man who wrote these words was willing to modify the divine foolishness of his message in order to make it conform to the religion of pagan hearers.
Two reservations, therefore, are necessary before the investigator can enter upon an actual comparison of the Pauline Epistles with Hermes Trismegistus and other similar sources. In the first place, it has not been proved that the type of religion attested by these sources existed at all in the time of Paul; 1 and in the second place, it is difficult to see how any pagan influence could have entered into Paul's life. But if despite these difficulties the comparison be instituted, it will show, as a matter of fact, not agreement, but a most striking divergence both of language and of spirit. 1See Chapter VI.
The investigation may be divided into three parts, although the three parts will be found to overlap at many points. Three fundamental elements in Paul's religion have been derived from Greco-oriental syncretism: first, the complex of ideas connected with the obtaining of salvation; second, the sacraments; third, the Christology and the work of Christ in redemption.1
The first of the three divisions just enumerated is connected especially with the name of R. Reitzenstein.2 Reitzenstein lays great stress upon the lexical method of study; it may be proved, he believes, that Paul used terms which were derived from Hellenistic mystical religion, and with the terms went the ideas. The ideas, he admits, were not taken over without modification, but even after the Pauline modifications are subtracted, enough is thought to remain in order to show that the mystery religions exerted an important influence upon Paul.
Thus Reitzenstein attempts to exhibit in the Pauline Epistles a technical vocabulary derived from the Hellenized mystery religions. This supposed technical vocabulary embraces especially the terms connected with "knowledge"3 and "Spirit." 4
In the mystical religion of Paul's day, Reitzenstein says, "gnosis" (knowledge) did not mean knowledge acquired by processes of investigation or reasoning, but the knowledge that came by immediate revelation from a god. Such immediate revelation was given, in the mystery cults, by the mystic vision which formed a part of the experience of initiation; in the philosophizing derivatives of the mystery cults, like the type of piety which is attested in Hermes Trismegistus, the revela
1 For what follows, compare especially Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mastery-Religions, ; Clemen, Religionsgeschichtliche Erklarung des Neuen Testaments, 1909 (English Translation, Primitive Christianity and Its Non-Jewish Sources, 1912), Der Einfluss der Mysterienreligionen auf das alteste Christentum, 1913. These writers deny for the most part any influence of the mystery religions upon the center of Paul's religion. For a thoroughgoing presentation of the other side of the controversy, see, in addition to the works of Bousset and Reitzenstein, Loisy, Les mystires patens et le mystere chrttien, 1919.
• Poimandres, 1904; Die helknistischen Mysterienreligionen, 2te Aufl., 1920; "Religionsgeschichte und Eschatologie," in Zeilschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, xiii, 1912, pp. 1-28.
tion could be divorced from any external acts and connected with the mere reading of a book. But in any case, "gnosis" was not regarded as an achievement of the intellect; it was an experience granted by divine favor. The man who had received such favor was exalted far above ordinary humanity; indeed he was already deified.
This conception of gnosis, Reitzenstein believes, is the conception which is found in the Pauline Epistles; gnosis according to Paul was a gift of God, an experience produced by the divine Spirit. In the case of Paul, Reitzenstein continues, the experience was produced through a vision of the risen Christ. That vision had changed the very nature of Paul. It is true, Paul avoids the term "deification"; he does not say, in accordance with Hellenistic usage, that he had ceased to be a man and had become God. This limitation was required by his Jewish habits of thought. But he does say that through his vision he was illumined and received "glory." Thus, although the term deification is avoided, the idea is present. As one who has received gnosis, Paul regards himself as being beyond the reach of human judgments, and is not interested in tradition that came from other Christians. In short, according to Reitzenstein, Paul was a true "gnostic."
But this conclusion is reached only by doing violence to the plain meaning of the Epistles. "Gnosis" in the early Church (including Paul), as Von Harnack well observes,1 is not a technical term; it is no more a technical term than is, for example, "wisdom." In 1 Cor. xii. 8 it appears, not by itself, but along with many other spiritual gifts of widely diverse nature. Gnosis, therefore, does not stand in that position of prominence which it ought to occupy if Reitzenstein's theory were correct. It is, indeed, according to Paul, important; and it is a direct gift from God. But what reason is there to have recourse to Hellenistic mystery religions in order to explain either its importance or its nature? Another explanation is found much nearer at hand—namely, in the Old Testament. The possibility of Old Testament influence in Paul does not have to be established by any elaborate arguments, and is not opposed by his own testimony. On the
1 Von Harnack, "Die Terminologie der Wiedergeburt und verwandter Erlebnisse in der iiltesten Kirche," in Texte und Untenuchunifen zur Oeschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, xlii, 1918, pp. 198f., Anm. 1.
contrary, he appeals to the Old Testament again and again in his Epistles. And the Old Testament contains all the elements of his conception of the knowledge of God. Even the Greek noun "gnosis" occurs in the Septuagint (though with comparative infrequency) ; but what is far more important is that the idea is expressed countless times by the verb. Let it not be said that the Septuagint is a Hellenistic book, and that therefore if the Septuagint idea of the knowledge of God affords the basis for Pauline teaching that does not disprove the influence of the Hellenistic mystery religions. For in its rendering of the passages dealing with the knowledge of God, whatever may be said of other matters, the Septuagint is transmitting faithfully the meaning of the Hebrew text. Knowledge of God in the Hebrew Old Testament is something far more than a mere intellectual achievement. It is the gift of God, and it involves the entire emotional nature.
But may it not be objected that the Pauline conception transcends that of the Old Testament in that in Paul the knowledge of God produces a transformation of human nature—the virtual deification of man? This question must be answered in the negative. Undoubtedly the Pauline conception does transcend that of the Old Testament, but not in the way which is here supposed. The intimate relation between the believer and the risen Christ, according to Paul, goes far beyond anything that was possible under the old dispensation. It involves a fuller, richer, more intimate knowledge. But the experience in which Paul saw the risen Christ near Damascus was not an end in itself, as it would have been in the milieu of the mystery religions; it was rather a means to an end.1 It was the divinely appointed means by which Paul was convinced of an historical fact, the resurrection of Jesus, and was led to appropriate the benefits of that fact. Thus, as Oepke 2 has well observed, Paul does not expect his converts all to see Christ, or even to have experiences like that which is described in 2 Cor. xii. 2-4. It is sufficient for them to receive the historical account of Christ's redeeming work, through the testimony of Paul and of the other witnesses. That account, transmitted by ordinary word of mouth, is a sufficient basis for faith; and through faith comes the new life. At this
1 Oepke, Die Musiompredigt des Aposteli Paulus, 1920, p. 53. * hoc. cit.
point is discovered an enormous difference between Paul and the mystery religions. In the mystery religions everything led up to the mystic vision; without that mystic vision there was no escape from the miseries of the old life. But according to Paul, the mighty change was produced by the acceptance of a simple story, an account of what had happened only a few years before, when Jesus died and rose again. From the acceptance of that story there proceeds a new knowledge, a gnosis. But this higher gnosis in Paul is not the means of salvation, as it is in the mystery religions; it is only one of the effects of salvation. This difference is no mere matter of detail. On the contrary, it involves a contrast between two entirely different worlds of thought and life.
The message of Paul, then, was a "gospel," a piece of news about something that had happened. As has well been observed,1 the characteristic New Testament words are the words that deal with "gospel," "teaching," and the transmission of an historical message. Paul was not a "gnostic," but a witness ; salvation, according to his teaching, came not through a mystic vision, but through the hearing of faith.2
Thus, so far as the idea of "knowledge" is concerned, Reitzenstein has not been successful in showing any dependence of Paul upon the mystery religions. But how is it with regard to the doctrine of the "Spirit"?
In 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15, the "spiritual man" is contrasted with the "psychic man." The spiritual man is the man who has the Spirit of God; the psychic man is the man who has only a human soul. It is not really correct to say that the spiritual man, according to Paul, is a man not who has the Spirit but who is the Spirit. Paul avoids such an expression for the same reason that prevents his speaking of the "deification" of the Christian. Everywhere in Paul the personal distinction between the believer and the Christ who dwells in him is carefully preserved. His "mysticism" (if the word may be used thus loosely) is never pantheistic. Here already is to be found a most vital difference between Paul and Hermes Trismegistus.
But this observation constitutes a digression. It is necessary to return to 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15. The spiritual man, ac
1Heinrici, Die Hermes-Mystik und das Neue Testament, 1918, pp. 178-180.
•Compare Oepke, op. cit,, pp. 40ff.
cording to that passage, is the man who has the Spirit of God; the psychic man is the man who has only a human soul. Reitzenstein apparently insists that the "only" in this sentence should be left out. The psychic man, according to Paul, he says, has a soul; the spiritual man has no "soul" but has the divine Spirit instead. But such a representation is not really Pauline.1 Paul clearly teaches that the human soul continues to exist even after the divine Spirit has entered in. "The Spirit himself," he says, "beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Rom. viii. 16). Here "our spirit" clearly means "our soul," and is expressly distinguished from the divine Spirit. At every point, then, the attempt to find a pantheistic mysticism in Paul breaks down before the intensely personal character of his religion. The relation of Paul to the risen Christ, intimate as it is, mediated as it is by the all-pervasive Spirit, is a relation of one person to another.
But it is still necessary to return to the Pauline contrast between the "spiritual man" and the "psychic man." Reitzenstein lays great stress upon that contrast. He regards it as lying at the heart of Paul's religion, and he thinks that he can explain it from the Hellenistic mystery religions. Apparently the method of Reitzenstein can be tested at this point if it can be tested at all. If it does not succeed in explaining the Pauline doctrine of the Spirit, upon which the chief stress is laid, probably it will explain nothing at all.
At first sight the material adduced by Reitzenstein is impressive. It is impressive by its very bulk. The reader is led by the learned investigator into many new and entrancing fields. Surely after so long a journey the traveler must arrive at last at his desired goal. But somehow the goal is never reached. All of Reitzenstein's material, strange to say, seems to prove the exact opposite of what Reitzenstein desires.
Reitzenstein desires apparently to explain the Pauline use of the adjectives "psychic" and "spiritual" 2 in 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15; apparently he is quite sure that the usage finds its sufficient basis in Hermes Trismegistus and related sources.
1See especially Vos, "The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit," in Biblical and Theological Studies by the Memberi of the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1912, pp. 248-250. and rveviiatucSs.
But the plain fact—almost buried though it is under the mass of irrelevant material—is that the adjective "psychic" and the adjective "spiritual" occur each only once in the sources which are examined, and that they never occur, as in 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15, in contrast with each other.1 What is even far more disconcerting, however, is that the noun "spirit" 2 is not used (certainly not used ordinarily) in contrast with "soul," 8 as Paul uses it. Certainly it is not so used ordinarily in the Hermetic writings. On the contrary, in Hermes the spirit appears, in certain passages, not as something that is higher than the soul, but as something that is lower. Apparently the common Greek materialistic use of "pneuma" to indicate "breath" or "wind" or the like is here followed. At any rate, the terminology is as remote as could be imagined from that of Paul. There is absolutely no basis for the Pauline contrast between the human soul and the divine Spirit.4
It might be supposed that this fact would weaken Reitzenstein's devotion to his theory. But such is not the case. If, says Reitzenstein, "Spirit" in Hermes Trismegistus does not indicate something higher than "soul," that is because the original popular terminology has here suffered philosophical revision. The popular term "spirit" has been made to give place to the more philosophical term "mind." 5 Where Hermes says "mind," therefore, it is only necessary to restore the term "spirit," and an admirable basis is discovered for the Pauline terminology. But how does Reitzenstein know that the popular, unphilosophical term in the mystery religions was "spirit," rather than "mind" or the like? The extant pagan sources do not clearly attest the term "spirit" in the sense which is here required. Apparently then the only reason for positing the existence of such a term in pagan mystery religion is that it must have existed in pagan mystery religion if the
1 On the occurrence of ^uxwAs at the beginning of Dieterich's "Mithras Liturgy" (line 24), see Bousset, Kyrios Christos, 1913, p. 141, Anm. 1. On the occurrence of Tmumotucc'h, see Reitzenstein, Hellenistische Mysterienreligionen, 2te Aufl., 1920, p. 162. Compare Bousset, Jesus der Herr, 1916, pp. 80f.
4 For this whole subject, see especially the comprehensive monograph of Burton (Spirit, Soul, and Flesh, ), with the summary on pp. 205-207.
Pauline use of it is to be explained. It looks, therefore, as though the learned argument of Reitzenstein had been moving all the time in a circle. After pursuing a roundabout course through many centuries and many races of men, after acquiring boundless treasures of curious information, after impressing the whole world with the learning thus acquired, the explorer arrives at last at the exact point where he started, and no richer than when he first set out! The Pauline terminology cannot be explained except as coming from the mystery religions; therefore, says Reitzenstein in effect, it must have had a place in the mystery religions even though the extant sources provide no sufficient evidence of the fact.1
But is there not some way out of the vicious circle? Ia there not some witness to the terminology which is required? The investigator turns naturally to Philo. Philo is thought to be dependent upon the mysteries; perhaps he will attest the required mystical use of the term "spirit." But, alas, Philo apparently deserts his friends. Except where he is influenced by the Old Testament use of the word "spirit-," he seems to prefer other terminology.2 His terminology, then, like that of Hermes must be thought to have suffered philosophical reversal. And still the required mystery terminology eludes the eye of the investigator.
Of course there is one place where the terms "Spirit" and "spiritual" are exalted above the terms "psyche" and "psychic," in quite the manner that is desired. That place is found in the Christian Gnosticism of the second century. But the Gnostics of the second century are plainly dependent upon Paul; they vie with the Catholic Church in their appeal to the Pauline Epistles. The origin of their use of the terms "psychic" and "spiritual" is therefore only too plain. At least it might seem to be plain. But Reitzenstein rejects the common view.3 According to Reitzenstein, the Gnostics have
1See Burton, op. eit., p. 206: "For the Pauline exaltation of mtina over ifrvxh there is no observed previous parallel. It marks an advance on Philo, for which there is no precedent in non-Jewish Greek, and only partial and imperfect parallels in the magical papyri. It is the reverse of Hermetic usage."
1See Bousset, Kyrios Chrutos, pp. 138, 140, 14I (Anm. 2).
•Also Bousset, op. eit., pp. liof. According to Bousset, it is unlikely that "the few and difficult terminological explanations of Paul . . . should have exerted such extensive influence upon the most diverse Gnostic systems." But is the teaching of Paul about the Spirit as higher than the soul really obscure? Does it not appear plainly all through the Epistles?
derived their usage not from Paul but from the pre-Pauline mystery religions; and the Gnostic usage of "Spirit" as higher than "soul" is the source of the Hermetic usage of "soul" as higher than "spirit," which, Reitzenstein believes, has been derived from it by philosophical revision. But the argument is beyond the reach even of J. Kroll, who cannot be accused of theological interest. As has already been observed, Kroll insists that the Gnostic usage is here secondary.1
One argument remains. The trouble, from Reitzenstein's point of view, is that when the Hermetic writings ought, in the interests of the theory, to say "Spirit" they actually say "mind." It becomes necessary, therefore, to prove that "mind" means the same thing as "spirit." A proof is found by Reitzenstein in Paul himself, in 1 Cor. ii. 15, 16. "But the spiritual man," says Paul, "examines all things, but he himself is examined by none. For 'who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." Here, says Reitzenstein,2 the possession of the "mind" of Christ makes a man a "spiritual" man, that is, a man who has the "Spirit." Hence "mind" is the same thing as "spirit." Hence —such, at least, would seem to be the only inference from the passage in 1 Corinthians which would really establish Reitzenstein's theory—when Hermes Trismegistus says "mind," it is legitimate to substitute "spirit" in order thus to find the basis for the ordinary Pauline terminology.
But it is by no means clear that "mind" in 1 Cor. ii. 16b is the same as "spirit." If a man has the Spirit of Christ, he also has the mind of Christ; the Spirit gives him an understanding of the thoughts of Christ. Conversely, the possession of the mind of Christ is a proof that the man has the Spirit of Christ; it is only the Spirit who could have given him his understanding of Christ's thoughts. But it does not follow by any means that the term "mind" means the same thing as the term "spirit." Moreover, the passage is entirely isolated; and the choice of the unusual word "mind" may be due to the form of the Septuagint passage which Paul is citing.
At any rate, the plain fact is that the terminology in Hermes Trismegistus and related sources is strikingly different from that of Paul. Reitzenstein finds himself in the peculiar position of proving that Paul is dependent upon pagan
1 See above, p. 249, with footnote 9.
'Hellenietische Mysterienreligionen, 2te Aufl., 1920, pp. 189f.
sources by the fact that the Pauline terminology does not occur in the pagan sources. It will not do for him to say that the terminology is of little importance and that the ideas of Paul, if not the terminology, are derived from the pagan mysteries. For it is just Reitzenstein who insists upon the importance of words as the vehicle of ideas. His fundamental argument is that Paul used the terminology of the mystery religions, and with the terminology received also the ideas. It is therefore important to observe that Reitzenstein's lexical parallel utterly breaks down.
But if the Pauline doctrine of the Spirit was not derived from the pagan mystery religions, whence was it derived? The answer is perfectly plain. It was derived ultimately from the Old Testament.1 Unquestionably, indeed, it goes far beyond the Old Testament, and the enrichment of its content may conceivably be explained in various ways. The Gospels and Acts explain the enrichment as due partly to the teaching of Jesus Himself and to the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This explanation will be rejected for the most part by naturalistic criticism. Paul explains the enrichment as due partly to the experience which he had of the presence of Christ. This explanation is regarded as no explanation at all by the school of comparative religion. But it is not necessary in the present connection to discuss these matters. All that needs to be observed now is that the basis for the Pauline doctrine of the Spirit is found in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God is represented as distinct from man and higher than man; there is no question in the Old Testament of a usage by which the Spirit is degraded, as in Hermes Trismegistus, below the soul. In the Old Testament, moreover, the Spirit is regarded as bestowing supernatural gifts such as prophecy and producing supernatural experiences—exactly as in Paul. But the fruit of the Spirit according to the Old Testament is something more than prophecy or any momentary experience; it is also a permanent possession of the soul. "Take not thy holy Spirit from me," says the
1 Bousset (op. cit., p. 141, Anm. 2) admits that the terminology of Paul, especially his use of the term "Spirit" instead of "mind" and his use of the terms in the contrast between "Spirit" and "flesh" may possibly be due partly to the Old Testament, but insists that such terminological Influence does not touch the fundamentals of the thought. Such admissions are important, despite the way in which Bousset qualifies them.
Psalmist. (Ps. li. 11.) Let the student first examine the labored arguments of Reitzenstein, let him examine the few faint approaches to the Pauline terminology which have been gleaned from pagan sources, mostly late and of uncertain origin, let him observe that just where Greek usage approaches Paul most closely in form (as in the "divine Spirit" of Menander),1 it is most diametrically opposed in content, let him reflect that the influence of pagan usage is contrary to Paul's own consciousness. And then let him turn to the Old Testament! Let him remember that the Pauline use of the Old Testament is no matter of conjecture, but is attested everywhere in the Epistles. And let him examine the Old Testament usage in detail. The Pauline terminology—"the Holy Spirit," the "Spirit of God" —so signally lacking in early pagan sources,2 appears here in all its richness; and with the terminology go the depths of life. In turning from Hermes to the Hebrew Scriptures, the student has turned away from Stoic pantheism, away from the polytheism of the mystery religions, away from the fantastic speculations of a decadent philosophy, to the presence of the personal God. And, in doing so, he has found the origin of the religion of Paul.
Thus the lexical argument of Reitzenstein breaks down at the decisive points. It would indeed be rash to assert that Paul never uses a term derived from the pagan mysteries. For example, in Phil. iv. 12 he uses the verb that means "to be initiated." "In everything and in all things I have been initiated," he says, "both to be filled and to suffer hunger, both to abound and to be in want." But this example shows clearly how little importance is sometimes to be attributed to the ultimate derivation of a word. The word "initiate" is here used in a purely figurative way. It is doubtful whether there is the slightest thought of its original significance. The word has been worn down by repeated use almost as much as, for example, the word which means "supply" in Gal. iii. 5. Etymologically that word means "to be the leader of a chorus." It referred originally to the Athenian custom by which a wealthy citizen undertook to defray the cost of the chorus at one of the dramatic festivals. But later it was used to designate any act of bountiful supplying. And when it was used by
1See Burton, op. cit., pp. 114-116.
* Burton, op. cit., pp. 17S-175, 187f.
Paul, its origin was entirely forgotten. It would be ridiculous to make Paul say that in bestowing the Spirit upon the Galatian Christians God acted as the leader of a chorus. It is not essentially different with the verb meaning "to be initiated" in Philippians. In both cases, an institution of ancient Hellenic life—in the forir.er case, the religious festivals, in the latter rase, the mysteries—has given rise to the use of a word, which found its way into the Greek world-language of the Hellenistic age, and continued to be used even where there was no thought of its ultimate origin.
This example is instructive because the context in the Philippians passage is plainly free from all mystical associations. Plainly, therefore, the use of a word derived from the mysteries does not necessarily indicate any agreement with the mystical point of view. Indeed, it may perhaps indicate the exact opposite. If the idea "to initiate" had associations connected with the center of Paul's religious life, it is perhaps doubtful whether Paul could have used the word in so purely figurative a way, just as he would not have used the word meaning "to be the leader of a chorus" in referring to God's bestowal of the Spirit, if he had had the slightest thought of the Athenian festivals.
If, then, it should appear that Paul uses a vocabulary derived from the mysteries, the fact would not necessarily be of any significance whatever in determining the origin of his religion. Every missionary is obliged to take the words which have been used in the religion from which converts are to be won in order to express the new ideas. Translators of the Bible in the modern mission fields are obliged to proceed in this way. Yet the procedure does not necessarily involve any modification of Christian ideas. The old words are given loftier meanings in order to become the vehicle of Christian truth; the original meanings provide merely a starting-point for the new teaching. Conceivably, the apostle Paul might have proceeded in this way; conceivably he might have used words connected with the mystery religions in order to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
As a matter of fact, the evidence for such an employment of a mystery terminology in the Pauline Epistles is very slight. In 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7, Paul uses the terms "mystery" and "perfect" or "full-grown." 1 The former word was sometimes used to
'nwrfipwv and rtfMwt.
designate the "mysteries" in the technical, religious sense. But it is also used in Greek in a very much more general way. And certainly as it is used in Paul it is very remote from the technical meaning. The Christian "mystery" according to Paul is not something that is to be kept secret on principle, like the mysteries of Eleusis, but it is something which, though it was formerly hidden in the counsels of God, is now to be made known to all. Some, it is true, may never be able to receive it. But that which is necessary in order that it may be received is not "gnosis" or an initiation. It is rather acceptance of a message and the holy life that follows. "If you would know the deep things of God," Paul says to the Corinthians, "then stop your quarreling." We find ourselves here in a circle of ideas quite different from that of the mystery religions. As for the word "teleios," it seems not to have been discovered in pagan sources in the sense of "initiated," which is sometimes attributed to it in 1 Corinthians. Apparently it means simply "full-grown"; Paul contrasts the fullgrown man with the babes in Christ.
On the whole, it seems improbable that the converts of Paul, in any great numbers, had lived in the atmosphere of the mystery religions.1 At any rate, Paul certainly does not use the technical vocabulary of the mysteries. That fact has been amply demonstrated by Von Harnack in the illuminating study which he has devoted to the "terminology of the new birth." 2 The earliest genuine technical term in the vocabulary of the early Church, Von Harnack believes, is "illumination," as Justin Martyr uses it to designate baptism. Certainly in the earlier period, there is not the slightest evidence of any such fixity in the use of terms as would have appeared if the New Testament writers had adopted a technical vocabulary.
Therefore, if the dependence of Paul upon the mystery religions is to be demonstrated, the lexical method of Reitzenstein must be abandoned. The terminology of Paul is not derived from the terminology of the mysteries. But possibly, it may be said, although there is no clear dependence in the terminology, the fundamental ideas of Paul may still be shown
1Oepke, Die Misriotupredigt des Apostels Paulue, 1920, p. 26.
1Von Harnack, "Die Terminologie der Wiedergeburt und verwandter Erlebnisse in der altesten Kirche," in Texte und Untersuchungen zur Oeschichte der cUlchrisllichen Literatur, xlii, 1918, pp. 97-143. See especially pp. 139-143.
to have come from the surrounding paganism. It is in this more cautious form that the hypothesis is maintained by Bousset; at least Bousset is less inclined than Reitzenstein to lay stress upon verbal coincidences.1 The entire outlook of Paul, Bousset believes, regardless of the way in which that outlook is expressed, was derived from the mystical piety of the Hellenistic age; it was from his pagan environment that Paul derived the pessimistic estimate of human nature which is at the basis of his teaching.
At this point it may be admitted very freely that Paul was convinced of the insufficiency of human nature, and that that conviction was also prevalent in the paganism of the Hellenistic age. The Hellenistic age, like Paul, recognized the need of redemption; salvation, it was believed, could not be attained by unaided human resources, but was a gift of higher powers. But this similarity is quite insufficient to establish any relationship of dependence. Both Paulinism and the Hellenistic mystery religions were religions of redemption. But there have been many religions of redemption, in many ages and among many peoples, which have been entirely independent of one another. It will probably not be maintained, for example, that early Buddhism stood in any fundamental causal relation to the piety of the Hellenistic age. Yet early Buddhism was a religion of redemption.
No attempt indeed should be made to underestimate the community of interest which binds all redemptive religions together and separates them sharply from all others. Common recognition of the fundamental evil of the world is a far closer bond of union than agreement about the details of conduct. Gautama under the tree of knowledge in India, seeking in ascetic meditation for freedom from the misery of existence, was inwardly far nearer to the apostle Paul than is many a modern liberal preacher who loves to read the sixth chapter of Ephesians in Church. But such community of interest does not indicate any relation of dependence. It might do so if the sense of human inadequacy were an abnormal thing. In that case, the appearance of a pessimistic view of human nature would require explanation. But if human nature is really hopeless and helpless in an evil world, then the independent 1 But compare Jesus der Herr, 1916, pp. 80-85.
recognition of the fact by many men of many minds is no longer cause for wonder.
Historical judgments at this point, then, are apt to be influenced by the presuppositions of the investigator. To Bousset the whole notion of redemption is distasteful. It seems to him to be an abnormal, an unhealthy thing. To explain its emergence, therefore, in the course of human history he is prone to look for special causes. So he explains the Pauline doctrine of the radical evil of human nature as being due to the piety of a decadent age. But if this world is really an evil world, as Paul says it is, then recognition of the fact will appear spontaneously at many points. For a time, in an age of high achievements like the age of Pericles, the fundamental problem of life may be forgotten. But the problem is always there and will force itself ever anew into the consciousness of men.
At any rate, whether desirable or not, the longing for redemption is a fundamental fact of history, and may be shown to have emerged independently at many points. The character of Paulinism as a redemptive religion, the Pauline doctrine of human depravity, is therefore insufficient to establish dependence of Paul upon the mystery religions of the Hellenistic age. Dependence could be established only by similarity in the form in which the doctrine of depravity appears. But as a matter of fact such similarity is strikingly absent. The Pauline use of the term "flesh" to denote that in which evil resides can apparently find no real parallel whatever in pagan usage. And the divergence appears not only in terminology but also in thought. At first sight there might seem to be a parallel between the Pauline doctrine of the flesh and the Greek doctrine of the evil of matter, which appears in the Orphic sects, then in Plato and in his successors. But the parallel breaks down upon closer examination. According to Plato, the body is evil because it is material; it is the prison-house of the soul. Nothing could really be more remote from the thought of Paul. According to Paul, the connection of soul and body is entirely normal, and the soul apart from the body is in a condition of nakedness. It is true, the body will be changed at the resurrection or at the coming of Christ; it will be made more adequate for the Kingdom of God. But at any rate, there is in Paul no doctrine of the inherent evil of matter. The real starting-point of the Pauline doctrine of the flesh is to be found in the Old Testament, in the passages where "flesh" denotes human nature in its frailty. Certainly the Pauline teaching is far more highly developed than the teaching of the Old Testament. But the Old Testament provides the startingpoint. The "flesh" in Paul, when it is used in its developed, ethical sense, does not mean the material nature of man; it includes rather all that man receives by ordinary generation. The contrast between "flesh" and "Spirit" therefore is not the contrast between matter and spirit; it is a contrast between human nature, of which sin has taken possession, and the Spirit of God.
Certainly, at any rate, whatever solution may be found for the intricate problem of the Pauline use of the term "flesh," the Pauline pessimism with regard to human nature is totally different from the dualistic pessimism of the Hellenistic age. It is different because it does not make evil reside in matter as such. But it is different also in a far more fundamental way. It is different in its ethical character. The Hellenistic age was conscious of the need of salvation; and salvation, it was recognized, must come from outside of man. But this consciousness of need was not always, and not clearly, connected with questions of right and wrong. The Hellenistic age was conscious of inadequacy, of slavery to fate, of the futility of human life as it is actually lived upon the earth. Here and there, no doubt, there was also a recognition of existing moral evil, and a longing for a better life. But such longings were almost submerged amidst longings of a nonethical kind. The mysteries were cherished for the most part not because they offered goodness but because they offered happiness.
In Paul, on the other hand, the consciousness of human inadequacy is essentially a consciousness of sin. And redemption is desired because it satisfies the hunger and thirst after righteousness. At this point the contrast with the Hellenistic mystery religions is profound. The religion of Paul is like the mystery religions in that it is a religion of redemption. But there the similarity ceases. There is certainly no such similarity in the conception of that from which men are to be redeemed as would raise any presumption of dependence in the presentation of the means of redemption. And it is dependence in the presentation of the means of redemption which alone would serve to explain the origin of the religion of Paul. It is unwarranted to argue that because Paul agrees with the mystery religions in a longing for redemption therefore he must have derived from the mystery religions his method of satisfying the longing—namely his conception of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. For even in the longing for redemption—to say nothing of the way of satisfying the longing -—Paul was totally different from the mysteries. The longing which was aroused in the devotees of the mysteries was a longing for a happier immortality, a freedom from the pressure of fate; the longing which Paul sought to arouse in those for whom he labored was a longing for righteousness and for acceptance by the righteous God.
This difference is intimately connected with a highly significant fact—the presence in Paul of a "forensic" view of salvation. Salvation, according to Paul, is not only salvation from the power of sin; it is also salvation from the guilt of sin. Not only regeneration is needed, if a man is to be saved, but also justification. At this point, there is apparently in the mystery religions no parallel worthy of the name. At least there is none if Reitzenstein's attempt to exhibit a parallel 1 is at all adequate; for Reitzenstein has succeeded only in setting in clearer light the enormous difference at this point between Paul and his pagan environment. The word "justify" appears, indeed, in the Hermetic corpus (xiii. 9), but as Reitzenstein himself observes, it means not "declare righteous" but "make righteous." A parallel with Paul can be set up, therefore, only if "justify" in Paul also means "make righteous." Reitzenstein actually finds such a meaning in Rom. vi. 7, and in Rom. viii. 30. But the expedient is desperate in the extreme. It will probably be unnecessary to review again the absolutely overwhelming evidence by which the word "justify" in the Pauline Epistles is shown to mean not "make righteous" but "declare righteous." Without the slightest question Paul did maintain a forensic view of salvation. The believer, according to Paul, is in himself guilty in the sight of God. But he is given a sentence of acquittal, he is "justified," because
1 Reitzenstein, Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, 2te Aufl., pp 112-116.
Christ has borne on the cross the curse of the Law which rightly rested upon those whom Christ died to save.
The presence of this forensic element in the teaching of Paul is universally or generally recognized; and it is usually admitted to be not Greek but Jewish. But there is a tendency among recent scholars to minimize its importance. According to Wrede, the forensic conception of salvation, the complex of ideas centering around justification apart from the works of the Law, was merely a weapon forged by Paul in the exigencies of controversy.1 Against the Judaizing contention for the continued validity of the Law Paul developed the doctrine that the penalty imposed by the Law upon sin was borne by Christ, so that for the believer the bondage of the Law is over. But, Wrede believes, this whole conception was of minor importance in Paul's own life; it was merely necessary in order that he might refute the Judaizers and so continue his free Gentile mission. A somewhat similar view is advocated by Bousset; Bousset believes, at least, that the forensic conception of salvation occupies a subordinate place in the thought and life of Paul.
But there could be no greater mistake. The doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from the works of the Law appears indeed in the Epistle to the Galatians as a weapon against the Judaizers. But why was Paul opposed to the Judaizers in the first place? Certainly it was not merely because the Judaizing demand that Gentile Christians should be circumcised and keep the Law would interfere in a practical way with the Gentile mission. Paul was not like some modern leaders of the Church, who are interested in mere bigness; he was not interested in the extension of the Church if such extension involved the sacrifice of principle. Nothing could be more utterly unhistorical than the representation of Paul as a practical missionary, developing the doctrine of justification by faith in order to get rid of a doctrine of the Law which would be a hindrance in the way of his Gentile mission. Such a representation reverses the real state of the case. The real reason why Paul was devoted to the doctrine of justification by faith was not that it made possible the Gentile mission, but rather that it was true. Paul was not devoted to the
1 "Kampfeslehre." See Wrede, Paulus, 1904, pp. 72ff. (English Translation, Paul, 1907, pp. 122ff.).
doctrine of justification by faith because of the Gentile mission; he was devoted to the Gentile mission because of the doctrine of justification by faith. And he was opposed to the Judaizers, not merely because they constituted a hindrance in the way of the Gentile work, but because they made the cross of Christ of none effect. "If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain" (Gal. ii. 21). These words are at the very heart of Paul's life; for they involve the Pauline doctrine of the grace of God.
There could be no greater error, therefore, than that of representing the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith as a mere afterthought, as a mere weapon in controversy. Paul was interested in salvation from the guilt of sin no whit less than in salvation from the power of sin, in justification no whit less than in the "new creation." Indeed, it is a great mistake to separate the two sides of his message. There lies the root error of the customary modern formula for explaining the origin of the Pauline theology. According to that formula, the forensic element in Paul's doctrine of salvation, which centers in justification, was derived from Judaism, and the vital or essential element which centers in the new creation was derived from paganism. In reality, the two elements are inextricably intertwined. The sense of guilt was always central in the longing for salvation which Paul desired to induce in his hearers, and imparted to that longing an ethical quality which was totally lacking in the mystery religions. And salvation in the Pauline churches consisted not merely in the assurance of a blessed immortality, not merely in the assurance of a present freedom from the bondage of fate, not merely even in the possession of a new power of holy living, but also, and everywhere, in the consciousness that the guilt of sin had been removed by the cross of Christ.
There is no affinity, therefore, between the Pauline doctrine of salvation and that which is found in the mystery religions. The terminology is strikingly different, and the difference is even greater in the underlying ideas. Paulinism is like the mystery religions in being a religion of redemption, but within the great category of redemptive religions there could be no greater contrast.
This conclusion might be overthrown if certain recent contentions should prove to be correct with regard to the second of the elements in Paulinism which are being derived from pagan religion. This second element is found in the Pauline doctrine of the sacraments. In the teaching of Paul about baptism and the Lord's Supper, we are told, there is clearly to be observed the influence of the mystery religions.
This contention depends partly upon the supposed nature of these particular sacraments and partly upon the mere fact of the presence of sacraments in the religion of Paul.
With regard to the nature of these particular sacraments there might seem at first sight to be a parallel with the mystery religions. The mysteries usually had connected with them ablutions of one kind or another and some sort of partaking of sacred food. But it is singularly difficult to determine the meaning of these practices. The various ablutions which preceded the celebration of the mysteries may have been often nothing more than symbols of cleansing; and such symbolism is so natural that it might appear independently at many places. It appears, for example, highly developed among the Jews; and in the baptism of John the Baptist it assumes a form far more closely akin to Christian baptism than in the washings which were connected with the pagan mysteries. The evidence for a sacramental significance of the ablutions in the mysteries, despite confident assertions on the part of some modern writers, is really very slight. Most interesting, perhaps, of all the passages which have been cited is that which appears in Pap. Par. 47, a papyrus letter written in the second century before Christ.1 This passage may be translated as follows: "For you are untruthful about all things and the gods who are with you likewise, because they have cast you into great matter and we are not able to die, and if you see that we are going to be saved, then let us be baptized." It is possible to understand the death that is referred to as the mystical death which would be attained in the mysteries, and to connect the baptism with that death and with the consequent salvation. There would thus be a parallel, external at least, with the sixth chapter of Romans, where Paul connects baptism with the
1 See Reitzenstein, op. cit., 2te Aufl., pp. 85f. The passage in the papyrus reads as follows (Notices et extraiU des manuscrits de la bibliotheque impiriale, xviii, 1865, p. 315): 6ti \f>tbSv T&itcl, ml oi rapi at Seal 6itoUn, 6ri fa'^t/SXijKOK biiii tit DXi)K /ityaXijv, nol ob 4wd/ut0a iiroSantiv' K&v Wdi 5rt iiiWoiitv eudrivai, T6tc /SaTrifai/ieOa. The letter is also contained in Witkowski, Epistulae privatae graecae, 1906, pp. 63-66.
death and resurrection of Christ. But the papyrus passage is hopelessly obscure, and is capable of very different interpretations. Moulton and Milligan, for example, take the verb "to be baptized," in a purely figurative sense, as meaning simply "to be overwhelmed with calamities." 1 According to this interpretation the reference to the mysteries disappears altogether. At any rate, the passage, if it does refer to the mysteries, is altogether isolated. And in view of its extreme obscurity it should not be made the basis of far-reaching conclusions. What is now being maintained is not that the washings which were connected with the mysteries were never sacramental. It is incautious to make such sweeping negative assertions. But so far as the pre-Pauline period is concerned, the evidence which has been adduced is, to say the least, exceedingly scanty. It has by no means been proved that in the pre-Pauline mysteries, "baptism" was connected closely with the new birth.2
With regard to the partaking of sacred food, the evidence is in some respects more abundant. Even in the mysteries of Eleusis, a special significance seems to have been attributed to the drinking of the "kykeon"; and the initiates into the Phrygian mysteries are reported by Clement of Alexandria (similarly Firmicus Maternus) to have used a formula including the words, "I ate from the drum, I drank from the cymbal." So far as the form of the act is concerned, the similarity to the Christian Eucharist is here certainly not great; there was eating and drinking in both cases, but everything else, so far as can be seen, was different. In the mysteries of Mithras the similarity of form seems to have been greater; the initiates partook of bread and of a cup in a way which Justin Martyr regarded as a demoniac imitation of the Christian sacrament. According to Cumont, moreover, the Mithraic practice was clearly sacramental; the initiates expected from their sacred
•Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Qreek Testament, s. v. ^oTrrifu, Part ii, , p. 102. Similarly Sethe, "Sarapis," in AbhandUmgen der kbniglichen Qesellschaft der' Wissenschaften zu Qbttingen, philologisch-historische Klasse, Neue Folge, xiv, Nro. 5, 1913, p. 51.
•Tertullian, de bapt. 5 (ed. Reifferscheid et Wissowa, 1890), it must be admitted, connects baptism in heathen religion with regeneration, and mentions the part which sacramental washings had in the mysteries of Isis and of Mithras, and in Eleusinian rites. Despite the post-Pauline date of this testimony, the passage is certainly interesting. Compare Kennedy, op. cit., p. 229.
banquet a supernatural effect.1 But it will be remembered that considerations of date render an influence of Mithras upon Paul exceedingly improbable. And the significance of the eating and drinking in connection with other mysteries is obscure. Apparently these acts did not form a part of the mysteries proper, but were only a preparation for them.
In a very savage form of religion there appears the notion that men could partake of the divine nature by actually eating the god. For example, in the worship of Dionysus, the worshipers in the height of religious frenzy tore in pieces the sacred bull and devoured the raw flesh. Here the bull apparently represented the god himself. This savage practice stands in external parallel with certain passages in the New Testament, not onlj with the references in John vi to the eating of the flesh and drinking of the hlood of Christ, but also (though less clearly) with the Pauline teaching about the Lord's Supper. In 1 Cor. x. 16 Paul speaks of the "cup of blessing" as being communion of the blood of Christ, and of the bread as being communion of the body of Christ. Have we not here a sublimated form of the pagan notion of eating the god? The supposition might seem to be strengthened by the parallel which Paul draws a few verses further on between the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, and between the table of the Lord and the table of demons (verse 21), the demons, it is said, being regarded by Paul as identical with the heathen gods.
But the trouble is that the savage notion of eating the god does not seem to have survived in the Hellenistic mystery religions. At this point, therefore, the student of comparative religion is faced with a difficulty exactly opposite to that which appears in most of the parallels which have been set up between the teaching of Paul and pagan religion. In most cases the difficulty is that the pagan parallels are too late; here, on the contrary, they are too early. If Paul is dependent upon the pagan notion of eating the god, he must have deserted the religious practice which prevailed in his own day in order to have recourse to a savage custom which had long since been abandoned. The suggestion does not seem to be very
1 Cumont, Textes et monuments figuris relatifs aux mysteres de Mithra, i, 1899, p. 321. See HeitmUller, Taufe und Ahendmahl bei Pmlut, 1903, p. 46, Anm. 3.
natural. It is generally admitted that even where Christianity is dependent upon Hellenistic religion it represents a spiritualizing modification of the pagan practice. But at this point it would have to be supposed that the Christian modification proceeded in exactly the opposite direction; far from marking a greater spiritualization of pagan practice, it meant a return to a savage stage of religion which even paganism had abandoned.
Efforts are sometimes made to overcome this objection. "We observe in the history of religion," says Heitmiiller, "that tendencies connected with low stages of religious development, which in the higher stages were quiescent or extinct, suddenly spring up again—of course in a modified form adapted to the changed circumstances." 1 Such general observations, even if they are based upon fact, will hardly serve to render the present hypothesis any more plausible. Dependence of the Pauline teaching about the Lord's Supper upon the savage notion of eating the god, when even paganism had come to abandon that notion, will always seem very unnatural.
Certainly the hypothesis is not supported by the parallel which Paul draws in 1 Cor. x. 21 between the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Paul does not say that the heathen had fellowship with their gods by partaking of them in a meal; the fellowship with those gods (verse 20) could be conceived of in other ways. For example, the cult god may have been conceived of in the sacrificial meals as the host at a feast. In point of fact, such an idea was no doubt widely prevalent. It is attributed to the Phrygian mysteries, for example, by Hepding, who supposes that the eating from the drum and drinking from the cymbal meant the entrance of the initiate into the circle formed by the table-companions of the god.2 At any rate, the savage notion of eating the god is not clearly attested for the Hellenistic period, and certainly dependence of Paul upon such a notion is unlikely in the extreme.
No close parallel, then, can be established between the Christian sacraments and the practices of the pagan cults. But the very fact that the Pauline churches had sacraments at all —irrespective of the form of the particular sacraments—may conceivably be made a ground for connecting Paulinism with
1Heitmiiller, Taufe und Abendmahl bei Paulus, 1903, p. 47. 'Hepding, Attis, 1903, pp. 186f.
the Hellenistic religions. The argument depends upon one particular view of the Pauline sacraments; it depends upon the view that baptism and the Lord's Supper were conceived of as conveying blessing not in virtue of the disposition of soul with which they were administered or received but in virtue of the sacramental acts themselves. In other words (to use traditional language), the argument depends upon the view that the Pauline sacraments conveyed their blessing not ex opere operantis but ex opere operato. In the Pauline churches, it is argued, the beginning of the new life and the communion with the cult god were connected with certain ceremonial acts. So it was also in the mystery religions. Therefore Paulinism is to be understood in connection with the mysteries.
But the interpretation of the Pauline Epistles upon which this hypothesis is based is fraught with serious difficulty. Did Paul really conceive of the sacraments as conveying their blessing ex opere operato? The general character of the Epistles certainly points in an opposite direction. An unprejudiced reader of the Epistles as a whole certainly receives the impression that the writer laid extraordinarily little stress upon forms and ceremonies. Salvation according to Paul was dependent solely upon faith, the simple acceptance of the offer contained in the message of the Cross. Any connection of such a religion with external forms seems even to be excluded expressly by the Epistle to the Galatians. A dispensation of forms and ceremonies, according to that Epistle, belongs to the period of childish bondage from which Christ has set men free.
Yet such a writer, it is maintained, actually taught that the mere act of baptism conveyed the blessing of a new life and the mere partaking of food and drink conveyed the blessing of communion with the risen Christ. The supposition seems at first sight to be preposterous. If it is to be established, it can only be on the basis of the clearest kind of evidence.
The evidence, it should be noted at the start, is at any rate decidedly limited in extent. It is only in the First Epistle to the Corinthians that Paul mentions the Lord's Supper at all, and it is only in Rom. vi and Col. ii. 12 that baptism is connected with the death and resurrection which the believer is said to have shared with Christ. The limited extent of the evidence may in itself be significant. If Paul held the high sacramentarian view of baptism and the Lord's Supper, it seems a little strange that he should have laid so little stress upon the sacraments. High sacramentarians of all ages have preserved a very different proportion. It seems still more strange, perhaps, that Paul should have said that Christ sent him not to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. i. 17). On the ex opere operato view of baptism, baptism was the highest possible function. Could an apostle who held that view have attributed relatively so little importance to it? In order to appreciate how much less importance is attributed in the Epistles to baptism and the Lord's Supper than to certain other elements in Paul's teaching, it is only necessary to compare the references to the sacraments with the references to faith. The fact is perfectly plain. When Paul speaks, in the large, about the way of salvation, it never seems to occur to him to mention the sacraments; what he does think of is the message of the gospel and the simple acceptance of it through faith.
These facts are sometimes admitted even by those who attribute a high sacramentarian view of the sacraments to Paul; Paulinism when taken as a whole, it is admitted, is certainly not a sacramentarian religion. What has happened, then, it is supposed, is that Paul has retained in the doctrine of the sacraments an element derived from a lower type of religion, an unassimilated remnant of the type of religion which is represented by the mystery cults. Thus the Pauline doctrine of the sacraments is thought to introduce a glaring contradiction into the thought and life of Paul.
Can such a glaring contradiction be attributed to Paul? It could probably be attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. But can it be attributed to Paul? The writer of the Pauline Epistles was no mere compiler, receiving unassimilated materials from many sources. He was a person of highly marked characteristics. And he was a person of commanding intellect. Could such a writer have introduced a glaring contradiction into the very center of his teaching? Could a writer who in the great mass of his writing is triumphantly and even polemically anti-sacramentarian have maintained all along a crassly sacramentarian view of the way in which religious blessing was to be obtained?
An affirmative answer to these questions could be rendered only on the basis of positive evidence of the most unequivocal kind. And such positive evidence is not forthcoming. The most that can by any possibility be said for the strictly sacramentarian interpretation of Rom. vi is that it is possible. It might conceivably be adopted if Rom. vi stood alone. But as a matter of fact Rom. vi does not stand alone; it stands in the midst of a considerable body of Pauline Epistles. And it must be interpreted in the light of what Paul says elsewhere. If Rom. vi stood absolutely alone, Paul might conceivably be thought to mean that the act of baptism in itself involves a dying with Christ and a rising with Him to a new life. But the whole character of the Pauline Epistles absolutely precludes such an interpretation. And another interpretation does full justice to the words as they stand. That interpretation is the obvious one which makes the act of baptism an outward sign of an inner experience. "We were buried with him," says Paul, "through baptism unto death." These words are pressed by the modern school of comparative religion very much as Luther at the Marburg Conference pressed the Latin words of institution of the Lord's Supper. Luther wrote on the table, "This is my body" ("hoc est corpus meum"), and would not hear of anything but the most literal interpretation of the words. So the modern school of comparative religion presses the words "through baptism" in Rom. vi. 4. "We were buried with him through baptism," says Paul. Therefore, it is said, since it was through baptism, it was not through faith, or through any inner disposition of the soul; therefore the sacramentarian interpretation is correct. But if Luther's overliteralness, fraught with such disastrous consequences for the Church, is deserted by most advocates of the grammatico-historical method of exegesis, should an equally bald literalness be insisted upon in connection with Rom. vi. 4?
Interpreted in connection with the whole trend of the Epistles, the sixth chapter of Romans contains an appeal to the outward sign of an inner experience. It is perfectly natural that Paul should here appeal to the outward sign rather than to the inner experience. Paul desires to strengthen in his readers the conviction that the life which they are leading as Christians is a new life in which sin can have no place. Unquestionably he might have appealed to the faith which had been the means by which the new life had been begun. But faith is not something that can be seen. Baptism, on the other hand, was a plain and obvious fact. To use a modern term, it "visualized" faith. And it is just the visualizing of faith that Paul here desires. When the Roman Christians were baptized, they were convinced that the act meant a dying with Christ and a rising with Him; it meant the beginning of their Christian life. It was a solemn and a definite act. It was something that could be seen as well as felt. Conceivably, indeed, the act in itself might have been unaccompanied by faith. But in the early Church such cases were no doubt extremely rare. They could therefore be left out of account by Paul. Paul assumes—and no doubt he is correct—that, whatever might conceivably have been the case, as a matter of fact when any one of the Roman Christians was baptized he died and rose again with Christ. But Paul does not say that the dying and rising again was produced by the external act otherwise than as that act was an expression of faith. Here, however, it is to the external act that he appeals, because it is the external act which can be seen and can be realized. It can only be because the newness of the Christian life is not realized that Christians can think of it as permitting a continuance in sin. What enables it to be realized is that which can actually be seen, namely, the external and obvious fact of baptism. In other words, baptism is here made to discharge in typical fashion its divinely appointed function as an external sign of an inner experience, and an external sign which is made the vehicle of special blessing.
A similar interpretation may be applied to all the references to the sacraments which occur in the Pauline Epistles. What sometimes produces the impression of an ex opere opcrato conception of the sacraments is that Paul does not take into account the possibility that the sacraments might be unaccompanied by faith. So in Gal. iii. 27 he says, "All ye who were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." These words if taken alone might mean that every man, whatever the condition of his soul, who went through the external form of baptism had put on Christ. But of course as a matter of fact Paul means nothing of the kind. What he does mean is that the baptism of the Galatians, since that baptism was accompanied by faith (Gal. iii. 2), meant in that concrete case the putting on of Christ. Here again there is an appeal, in the presence of those who were in danger of forgetting spiritual facts, to the external sign which no one could forget.
This interpretation cannot be invalidated by the passages which have been appealed to as supporting a crassly ex opere operato conception of the sacraments. In 1 Cor. xi. 30, for example, Paul says that because of an unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper many of the Corinthians were ill and many had died. But these words need not necessarily mean that the bread and wine, because of a dangerous magical virtue that was in them, had inflicted harm upon those who had not used them aright. They may mean at least equally well that the physical ills of the Corinthians were a chastisement which had been inflicted by God. As for 1 Cor. xv. 29 (baptism in behalf of the dead), it can be said at least that that verse is isolated and exceedingly obscure, and that it is bad historical method to allow what is obscure to color the interpretation of what is plain. Many interpretations of the verse have been proposed. And it is by no means clear that Paul lent his own support to the custom to which reference is here made.
Thus it cannot be maintained that Paulinism was like the pagan mysteries even in the general sense that both Paulinism and the mysteries connected salvation with external acts. The acts themselves were different; and the meaning of the acts was still more diverse. An element of truth does indeed underlie the sacramentarian interpretation of Paul. The element of truth consists in the protest which is here raised against the interpretation which has sometimes been favored by "liberal" scholars. According to this liberal interpretation, when Paul speaks of dying and rising with Christ he is referring to a purely ethical fact; when he says that he has died to the Law, he means that he has made a radical break with an external, legalistic type of religion; when he says that it is no longer he that lives but Christ that lives in him, he means that he has made Christ his supreme guide and example; when he says that through the Cross of Christ he has been crucified to the world, he means that the Cross has led him to renounce all worldliness of purpose. Such interpretation is exceedingly common. But it is radically false. It is false because it does away with the supernaturalism of Paul's teaching. There could be no greater mistake than that of making salvation according to Paul an affair of the human will. On the contrary, the very essence of Pauline teaching is supernaturalism. Salvation, according to Paul, is based upon a supernatural act of God—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And equally supernatural is the application of salvation to the individual. The new creation which stands at the beginning of the Christian life is according to Paul just as little a product of natural forces, and just as little a product of the human will, as the first creation was. The modern school of comparative religion is entirely correct in insisting upon the thoroughgoing supernaturalism of the Pauline gospel. Paulinism is a redemptive religion in the most thoroughgoing sense of the word; it finds salvation, not in a decision of the human will, but in an act of God.
But the error comes in confusing supernaturalism with sacramentalism. Paul's conception of salvation is supernatural, but it is not external. It is indeed just as supernatural as if it were external. The beginning of a man's Christian life, according to Paul, is just as little a product of his own moral forces, just as little a product of any mere moral influence brought to bear upon him, as it would be if it were produced by the water into which he was dipped or the bread and wine of which he partakes. Conceivably God might have chosen to use such means. If He had done so, His action would have been not one whit more supernatural than it actually is. But as a matter of fact, He has chosen, in His mysterious wisdom, to use the means of faith. Such is the teaching of Paul. It is highly distasteful to the modern liberal Church. But even if it is to be rejected it should at least be recognized as Pauline.
Thus the interpretation of the sacraments which is proposed by the modern school of comparative religion—and indeed the whole modern radical treatment of Paulinism as a thoroughgoing religion of redemption—marks a reaction against the modernizing exegesis which was practised by the liberal school. But the reaction has at any rate gone too far. It cannot be said that the newer exegesis is any more objective than the liberal exegesis which it endeavors to replace. The liberal scholars were concerned to keep Paul as near as possible to their modern naturalistic principles, in order to continue to use him for the edification of the Church; the radical scholars of the school of comparative religion are concerned to keep him as far away as possible from modern naturalistic principles in order to bring him into connection with the crass externalism of the mystery religions. Neither group has attained the whole truth. The Pauline conception of salvation is just as spiritual as it is thought to be by the liberal scholars; but on the other hand, it is just as supernatural as it is represented as being by Reitzenstein and Bousset.
CHAPTER VIII THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS