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The Religion of the Hellenistic Age

CHAPTER VI

THE RELIGION OF THE HELLENISTIC AGE

It has been shown in the last chapter that the religion of Paul was not derived from the pre-Christian Jewish doctrine of the Messiah. If, therefore, the derivation of Paulinism from the historical Jesus is still to be abandoned, recourse must be had to the pagan world. And as a matter of fact, it is in the pagan world that the genesis of Paulinism is to-day more and more frequently being sought. The following chapters will deal with that hypothesis which makes the religion of Paul essentially a product of the syncretistic pagan religion of the Hellenistic age.

This hypothesis is not only held in many different forms, but also enters into combination with the view which has been considered in the last chapter. For example, M. Bruckner, who regards the Pauline Christology as being simply the Jewish conception of the Messiah, modified by the episode of the Messiah's humiliation, is by no means hostile to the hypothesis of pagan influence. On the contrary, he brings the Jewish conception of the Messiah upon which the Pauline Christology is thought to be based, itself into connection with the widespread pagan myth of a dying and rising saviour-god.1 Thus Bruckner is at one with the modern school of comparative religion in deriving Paul's religion from paganism; only he derives it from paganism not directly but through the medium of the Jewish conception of the Messiah. On the other hand, most of those who find direct and not merely mediate pagan influence at the heart of the religion of Paul are also willing to admit that some important influences came through preChristian Judaism—notably, through the Messianic expectations of the apocalypses. The division between the subject of the present chapter and that of the preceding chapter is therefore difficult to carry out. Nevertheless, that division will be 1 BrUckner, Der Herbende und auferstehende Oottheiland, 1908.

found convenient. It will be well to consider separately the hypothesis (now in the very forefront of interest) which derives Paulinism, not from the historical Jesus, and not from pre-Christian Judaism, but from the pagan religion of the Greco-Roman world.

Here, as in the last chapter, the discussion may begin with a brief review of that type of religion from which Paulinism is thought to have been derived. The review will again have to be of a most cursory character, and will make free use of recent researches.1 Those researches are becoming more and more extensive in recent years. The Hellenistic age is no longer regarded as a period of hopeless decadence, but is commanding a larger and larger share of attention from philologians and from students of the history of religion. The sources, however, so far as the sphere of popular religion is concerned, are rather meager. Complete unanimity of opinion, therefore, even regarding fundamental matters, has by no means been attained.

At the time of Paul, the civilized world was unified, politically, under the Roman Empire. The native religion of Rome, however, was not an important factor in the life of the Empire—certainly not in the East. That religion had been closely bound up with the life of the Roman city-state. It had been concerned largely with a system of auguries and religious ceremonies intended to guide the fortunes of the city and insure the favor of the gods. But there had been little attempt to enter into any sort of personal contact with the gods or even to produce any highly differentiated account of their nature. The native religion of Rome, on the whole, seems to have been rather a cold, unsatisfying affair. It aroused the emotions of the people only because it was an expression of stern and sturdy patriotism. And it tended to lose its influence when the horizon of the people was broadened by contact with the outside world.

The most important change was wrought by contact with

Greece. When Rome began to extend her conquests into the

East, the eastern countries, to a very considerable extent,

1fot example, Rohde, Psyche, 2 Bde, Ste Aufl., 1903; Farnell, Cults of the Qreek States, vol. iii, 1907; Wendland. Die hellenistisch-romische Kultur, 2te u. 3te Aufl., 1912; Anrich, Das anlike Mysterienwesen, 1894; Curaont, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, 2ieme id., 1909 (English Translation, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, 1911).

had already been Hellenized, by the conquests of Alexander and by the Greek kingdoms into which his short-lived empire had been divided. Thus the Roman conquerors came into contact with Greek civilization, not only in the Greek colonies in Sicily and southern Italy, not only in Greece proper and on the JSgean coast of Asia Minor, but also to some extent everywhere in the eastern world. No attempt was made to root out the Greek influences. On the contrary, the conquerors to a very considerable extent were conquered by those whom they had conquered; Rome submitted herself, in the spiritual sphere, to the dominance of Greece.

The Greek influence extended into the sphere of religion. At a very early time, the ancient Roman gods were identified with the Greek gods who possessed roughly analogous functions —Jupiter became Zeus, for example, and Venus became Aphrodite. This identification brought an important enrichment into Roman religion. The cold and lifeless figures of the Roman pantheon began to take on the grace and beauty and the clearly defined personal character which had been given to their Greek counterparts by Homer and Hesiod and the dramatists and Phidias and Praxiteles. Tims it is not to the ancient official religion of Rome but to the rich pantheon of Homer that the student must turn in order to find the spiritual ancestry of the religion of the Hellenistic world.

Even before the time of Homer, Greek religion had undergone development. Modern scholarship, at least, is no longer inclined to find in Homer the artless simplicity of a primitive age. On the contrary, the Homeric poems, it is now supposed, were the product of a highly developed, aristocratic society, which must be thought of as standing at the apex of a social order. Thus it is not to be supposed that the religion of Homer was the only Hellenic religion of Homer's day. On the contrary, even in the Homeric poems, it is said, there appear here and there remnants of a popular primitive religion— human sacrifice and the like—and many of the rough, primitive conceptions which crop out in Greek life in the later centuries were really present long before the Homeric age, and had been preserved beneath the surface in the depths of a non-literary popular religion. However much of truth there may be in these contentions, it is at any rate clear that the Homeric poems exerted an enormous influence upon subsequent generations. Even if they were the product of a limited circle, even if they never succeeded in eradicating the primitive conceptions, at least they did gain enormous prestige and did become the most important single factor in molding the religion of the golden age of Greece.

As determined by the Homeric poems, the religion of Greece was a highly developed polytheism of a thoroughly anthropomorphic kind. The Greek gods were simply men and women, with human passions and human sins—more powerful, indeed, but not more righteous than those who worshiped them. Such a religion was stimulating to the highest art. Anthropomorphism gave free course to the imagination of poets and sculptors. There is nothing lifeless about the gods of Greece; whether portrayed by the chisel of sculptors or the pen of poets, they are warm, living, breathing, human figures. But however stimulating to the sense of beauty, the anthropomorphic religion of Greece was singularly unsatisfying in the moral sphere. If the gods were no better than men, the worship of them was not necessarily ennobling. No doubt there was a certain moral quality in the very act of worship. For worship was not always conceived of as mere prudent propitiation of dangerous tyrants. Sometimes it was conceived of as a duty, like the pious reverence which a child should exhibit toward his parent. In the case of filial piety, as in the case of piety toward the gods, the duty of reverence is independent of the moral quality of the revered object. But in both cases the very act of reverence may possess a certain moral value. This admission, however, does not change the essential fact. It remains true that the anthropomorphic character of the gods of Greece, just because it stimulated the fancy of poets by attributing human passions to the gods and so provided the materials of dramatic art, at the same time prevented religion from lifting society above the prevailing standards. The moral standards of snowy Olympus, unfortunately, were not higher than those of the Athenian market place.

In another way also, the polytheistic religion of Greece was unsatisfying. It provided little hope of personal communion between the gods and men. Religion, in Greece scarcely less than in ancient Rome, was an affair of the state. A man was born into his religion. An Athenian citizen, as such, was a worshiper of the Athenian gods. There was little place for individual choice or for individual devotion. Moreover, there was little place for the mystical element in religion. The gods of Greece were in some sort, indeed, companionable figures; they were similar to men; men could understand the motives of their actions. But there was no way in which companionship with them could find expression. There was a time, indeed, when the gods had come down to earth to help the great heroes who were their favorites or their sons. But such favors were not given to ordinary mortals. The gods might be revered, but direct and individual contact with them was for the most part not to be attained.

These limitations, however, were not universal; and for purposes of the present investigation the exceptions are far more important than the rule. It is not true that the religion of Greece, even previous to the golden age, was entirely devoid of enthusiasm or individualism or mystic contact with the gods. The polytheism of Homer, the polytheism of the Olympic pantheon, despite its wide prevalence was not the only form of Greek religion. Along with the worship of the Olympic gods there went also religious practices of a very different kind. There was a place even in Greece for mystical religion.

This mystical or enthusiastic element in the religion of Greece is connected especially with the worship of Dionysus. Dionysus was not originally a Greek god. He came from Thrace and is very closely related to the Phrygian Sabazius. But, at an early time, his worship was widely adopted in the Greek world. No doubt it was not adopted entirely without modification; no doubt it was shorn of some of those features which were most repulsive to the Greek genius. But enough remained in order to affect very powerfully the character of Greek religion.

The worship of Dionysus supplied, to some extent at least, just those elements which were lacking in the religion of the Greek city-state. In the first place, there was direct contact with the god. The worshipers of Dionysus sought to attain contact with the god partly by a divine frenzy, which was induced by wild music and dancing, and partly by the crass method of eating the raw flesh of the sacred animal, the bull. No doubt these savage practices were often modified when they were introduced into Greece. It has been thought, for example, that the frenzied dances and nightly excursions to the wilds of the mountains, which originally had been carried on in true self-forgetfulness, became in Greece rather parts of an established cult. But on the whole, the influence of Dionysus-worship must be regarded as very great. An element of true mysticism or enthusiasm was introduced into the Greek world.

In the second place, the worship of Dionysus stimulated interest in a future life. The Homeric poems had represented the existence of the soul after death—at least the soul of an ordinary mortal—as being a mere shadow-existence which could not be called life at all. It is indeed questionable whether at this point Homer truly represented the original Hellenic belief, or the popular belief even of the time when the poems were written. Modern scholars have detected in the Iliad and the Odyssey here and there remnants of a more positive doctrine of a future life. But at any rate, the worship of Dionysus brought such positive beliefs—if they existed in Greece before—more to the surface. Thracian religion, apparently, had concerned itself to a very considerable extent with the future condition of the soul; the introduction of the Thracian Dionysus, therefore, stimulated a similar interest in Greece.

Finally, the worship of Dionysus tended to separate religion from the state and make it partly at least an affair of the individual man. Such individualism is connected of course with the enthusiastic character of the worship; a state religion as such is not likely to be enthusiastic. The whole body of citizens cannot be possessed of a divine frenzy, and if not, then those who have the experience are likely to separate themselves to some extent from their countrymen. It is not surprising, therefore, that the worshipers of Dionysus, here and there, were inclined to unite themselves in sects or brotherhoods.

The most important of these brotherhoods were connected with the name of Orpheus, the mythical musician and seer. The origin of the Orphic sects is indeed very obscure. Apparently, however, they sprang up or became influential in the sixth century before Christ, and were connected in some way with Dionysus. They seem to have represented a reform of Dionysiac practice. At any rate, they continued that interest in the future life which the worship of Dionysus had already cultivated. Orphism is especially important because it taught men to expect in the future life not only rewards but also punishments. The soul after death, according to Orphic doctrine, was subject to an indefinite succession of reincarnations, not only in the bodies of men, but also in those of animals. These reincarnations were regarded as an evil, because the body was thought of as a prison-house of the soul. At last, however, the righteous soul attains purification, and, escaping from the succession of births, enters into a blessed existence.

Related in some way to the Orphic sects were the brotherhoods that owned Pythagoras as their master. But the relation between the two movements is not perfectly plain.

At any rate, both Orphism and Pythagoreanism stand apart from the official cults of the Greek states. Even within those cults, however, there were not wanting some elements which satisfied more fully than the ordinary worship of the Olympic gods the longing of individual men for contact with the higher powers and for a blessed immortality. Such elements were found in the "mysteries," of which far the most important were the mysteries of Eleusis.1 The Eleusinian Mysteries originated in the worship of Demeter that was carried on at Eleusis, a town in Attica some fifteen miles from Athens. When Eleusis was conquered by Athens, the Eleusinian cult of Demeter, far from suffering eclipse, was adopted by the conquerors and so attained unparalleled influence. Characteristic of the cult as so developed was the secrecy of its central rites; the Eleusinian cult of Demeter became (if it was not one already) a mystery-cult, whose secrets were divulged only to the initiates. The terms of admission, however, were very broad. All persons of Greek race, even slaves—except those persons who were stained with bloodguiltiness or the like— could be admitted. As so constituted, the Eleusinian Mysteries were active for some ten centuries; they continued until the very end of pagan antiquity.

Initiation into the mysteries took place ordinarily in three stages; the candidate was first initiated into the "lesser mysteries" at Agree near Athens in the spring; then into a first stage of the "great mysteries" at Eleusis in the following autumn; then a year later his initiation was completed at Eleusis by the reception of the mystic vision. The mysteries of Eleusis were prepared for by a succession of acts about

1On the Eleusinian Mysteries and the cult of Demeter and KorePersephone, see especially Farnell, op. cit., iii, pp. 29-279.

which some information has been preserved. These acts were extended over a period of days. First the sacred objects were brought from Eleusis to Athens. Then the candidates for initiation, who had purified themselves by abstinence from certain kinds of food and from sexual intercourse, were called upon to assemble. Then, at the cry, "To the sea, 0 mystae!" the candidates went to the sea-coast, where they made sacrifice of a pig, and purified themselves by washing in the sea water. Then came the solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis, interrupted by ribald jests at the passage of the river Cephissus. The initiation itself took place in the "telesterion." What happened there is obscure; antiquity has well observed the secrecy which was essential to the mysteries. Certainly, however, the ceremony was accompanied, or rather, perhaps, preceded, by the drinking of the "kykeon," a mixture composed of water and barley-meal and other ingredients. The significance of this act is not really known. It would be very rash, for example, to assert that the partaking of the kykeon was sacramental, or was thought of as imparting a new nature to the recipients. Apparently the kykeon did not have a part in the mysteries themselves, for if it had, it could hardly have been spoken of so openly by pagan writers. The mysteries seem to have consisted in some sort of sacred drama, representing the search of Demeter for her daughter Persephone who had been carried off to the lower world, and in the exhibition of sacred emblems or of images of the gods. Hippolytus scornfully says that the supreme object of mystic awe was a cut corn-stalk.1 His testimony is variously estimated. But it is quite possible that he has here given us genuine information. Since Demeter was the goddess of the fertility of the soil, the corn-stalk was not ill fitted to be her sacred emblem.

It has been supposed that the cult of Demeter at Eleusis was originally an agrarian cult, intended to celebrate or to induce the fertility of the soil. But the chief significance of the mysteries was found in another sphere. In the mysteries, the cult goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, were thought of chiefly as goddesses of the nether world, the abode of the dead; and the mysteries were valued chiefly as providing a guarantee of a blessed immortality. How the guarantee was given is quite obscure. But the fact is well attested. Those who had been 1 Hippolytus, Bef. omn. haer., V. viii. 39 (ed. Wendland, 1916).

initiated into the mysteries were able to expect a better lot in the future life than the lot of the generality of men.

The mysteries at Eleusis were not the only mysteries which were practised in the golden age of Greece. There were not only offshoots of the Eleusinian mysteries in various places, but also independent mysteries like those of the Kabeiri on the island of Samothrace. But the mysteries at Eleusis were undoubtedly the most important, and the others are even less fully known. The moral value of the mysteries, including those at Eleusis, should not be exaggerated. Slight allusions in pagan writers seem to point here and there to a purifying moral effect wrought by initiation. But the indications are not very clear. Certainly the secrets of Eleusis did not consist in any body of teaching, either religious or ethical. The effect was produced, not upon the intellect, but upon the emotions and upon the imagination.

Thus the religion of the golden age of Greece was an anthropomorphic polytheism, closely connected with the life of the city-state, but relieved here and there by practices intended to provide more direct contact with the divine or bestow special blessing upon individuals.

The religion of Greece was finally undermined by at least three agencies.

In the first place, philosophy tended to destroy belief in the gods. The philosophic criticism of the existing religion was partly theoretical and partly ethical. The theoretical criticism arose especially through the search for a unifying principle operative in the universe. If the manifold phenomena of the universe were all reduced to a single cause, the gods might indeed still be thought of as existing, but their importance was gone. There was thus a tendency either toward monotheism or else toward some sort of materialistic monism. But the objections which philosophy raised against the existing polytheism were ethical as well as theoretical. The Homeric myths were rightly felt to be immoral; the imitation of the Homeric gods would result in moral degradation. Thus if the myths were still to be retained they could not be interpreted literally, but had to be given some kind of allegorical interpretation.

This opposition of philosophy to the existing religion was often not explicit, and it did not concern religious practice. Even those philosophers whose theory left no room for the existence or at least the importance of the gods, continued to engage loyally in the established cults. But although the superstructure of religion remained, the foundation, to some extent at least, was undermined.

In the second place, since religion in ancient Greece had been closely connected with the city-states, the destruction of the states brought important changes in religion. The Greek states lost their independence through the conquests of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Those conquests meant, indeed, a wide extension of Greek culture throughout the eastern world. But the religion of Alexander's empire and of the kingdoms into which it was divided after his death was widely different from the religion of Athens in her glory. Cosmopolitanism brought mighty changes in religion, as in the political sphere.

In the third place, the influence of the eastern religions made itself more and more strongly felt. That influence was never indeed dominant in the life of Greece proper so completely as it was in some other parts of the world. But in general it was very important. When the Olympic gods lost their place in the minds and hearts of men, other gods were ready to take their place.

Before any account can be given of the eastern religions taken separately, and of their progress toward the west, it may be well to mention certain general characteristics of the period which followed the conquests of Alexander. That period, which extended several centuries into the Christian era, is usually called the Hellenistic age, to distinguish it from the Hellenic period which had gone before.

The Hellenistic age was characterized, in the first place, by cosmopolitanism. Natural and racial barriers to an astonishing extent were broken down; the world, at least the educated world of the cities, was united by the bonds of a common language, and finally by a common political control. The common language was the Koine, the modified form of the Attic dialect of Greek, which became the vehicle of a world-civilization. The common political control was that of the Roman Empire. On account of the union of these two factors, intercommunication between various nations and races was safe and easy; the nations were united both in trade and in intellectual activity.

With the cosmopolitanism thus produced there went naturally a new individualism, which extended into the religious sphere. Under the city-state of ancient Greece the individual was subordinated to the life of the community. But in the world-empire the control of the state, just because it was broader, was at the same time looser. Patriotism no longer engrossed the thoughts of men. It was impossible for a subject of a great empire to identify himself with the life of the empire so completely as the free Athenian citizen of the age of Pericles had identified himself with the glories of his native city. Thus the satisfactions which in that earlier period had been sought in the life of the state, including the state-religion, were in the Hellenistic age sought rather in individual religious practice.

The ancient religions of the city-state did indeed find a successor which was adapted to the changed condition. That successor was the worship of the Emperors. The worship of the Emperors was more than a mere form of flattery. It expressed a general gratitude for the reign of peace which was introduced by Augustus, and it had its roots, not only in Greek religion, but also, and far more fundamentally, in the religions of the East. The worship of the rulers was firmly established in the kingdoms into which Alexander's empire was divided, and from there it was transmitted very naturally to the new and greater empire of Rome. Very naturally it became a dangerous enemy of the Christian Church; for the refusal of the Christians to worship the Emperor seemed inexplicable to an age of polytheism, and gave rise to the charge of political disloyalty. At first, however, and so during the period of Paul's missionary journeys, the Church shared more or less in the special privileges which were granted to the Jews. Christianity at first seemed to be a variety of Judaism, and Judaism in Roman practice was a religio licita.

But the worship of the Emperors, important as it was, was not practised in any exclusive way; it did not at all exclude the worship of other gods. It remains true, therefore, that in the Hellenistic age, far more than under the ancient Greek city-state, there was room for individual choice in religious practice.

It is not surprising that such an age was an age of religious propaganda. Since religion was no longer an affair of the nation as such, but addressed itself to men as men, free scope was offered for the extension to the whole world of religions which originally had been national in character. The golden age of such religious propaganda, it is true, did not begin until the second century; and that fact is of very great importance in dealing with certain modern theories of dependence so far as Pauline Christianity is concerned. Nevertheless the cosmopolitanizing of national religions had begun to some extent in an early period and was rendered natural by the entire character of the Hellenistic age. Even before the fall of the Greek city-state, little communities of the worshipers of eastern gods had established themselves here and there in Greece; and in other parts of the world the barriers against religious propaganda were even less effective. In the Hellenistic age such barriers were almost everywhere broken down. When any religion ceased to be an affair of the nation, when it could no longer count on the devotion of the citizens or subjects as such, it was obliged, if it desired to subsist, to seek its devotees through an appeal to the free choice of individuals.

This religious propaganda, however, was not carried on in any exclusive way; the adoption of one god did not mean the abandonment of another. On the contrary, the Hellenistic age was the age of syncretism par excellence. Gods of different nations, originally quite distinct, were identified almost as a matter of course. One example of such identification has already been noted; at an early time the gods of Rome were identified with those of Greece. But in the later portion of the Hellenistic age the process went on in more wholesale fashion. And it was sometimes justified by the farreaching theory that the gods of different nations were merely different names of one great divinity. This theory received classic expression in the words of the goddess Isis which are contained in the "Metamorphoses" of Apuleius: "For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me the Mother of the gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are sprung from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues, infernal Proserpine; the Eleusians their ancient goddess Ceres; some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate, other Rhamnusia, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis." 1

But what is perhaps the most important feature of the religion of the Hellenistic age has not yet been mentioned. It is found in the widespread desire for redemption. In the golden age of Greece men had been satisfied with the world. Who could engage in gloomy questionings, who could face the underlying problem of evil, when it was possible to listen with keen appreciation to an ode of Pindar or to a tragedy of JEschylus? The Greek tragic poets, it is true, present in terrible fashion the sterner facts of life. But the glorious beauty of the presentation itself produces a kind of satisfaction. In the age of Pericles, life was rich and full; for the Athenian citizen it was a joy to live. The thought of another world was not needed; this world was large and rich enough. Joyous development of existing human faculties was, in the golden age of Greece, the chief end of man.

But the glorious achievements of the Greek genius were followed by lamentable failure. There was failure in political life. Despite the political genius of Athenian statesmen, Athens soon lay prostrate, first before her sister states and then before the Macedonian conqueror. There was failure in intellectual life. The glorious achievements of Athenian art were followed by a period of decline. Poets and sculptors had to find their inspiration in imitation of the past. Human nature, once so proud, was obliged to confess its inadequacy; the Hellenistic age was characterized by what Gilbert Murray, borrowing a phrase of J. B. Bury, calls a "failure of nerve." 2

This failure of nerve found expression, in the religious sphere, in the longing for redemption. The world was found not to be so happy a place as had been supposed, and human nature was obliged to seek help from outside. Thus arose the desire for "salvation." The characteristic gods of the Hellenistic age are in some sort saviour-gods—gods who could give help in the miseries of life. Asclepius finally became more important than

1 Apuleius, Metam. xi. 5, Addlngton's translation revised by Gaselee, in Apuleius, The Oolden Ase, in the The Loeb Classical Library, p. 547.

1Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Oreek Religion, 1912, pp. 8, 103-154. Compare, however, Rohde (op. cit., ii, pp. 298-300), who calls attention to an opposite aspect of the Hellenistic age.

Zeus. Dissatisfied with the world of sense, men turned their thoughts to another world; dissatisfied with the achievements of human nature, they sought communion with higher powers.

Opinions may differ as to the value of this development. To the humanist of all ages, it will seem to be a calamity. From the glories of Pindar to the morbid practices of the Hellenistic mysteries, how great a fall! But there is another way of regarding the change. Possibly the achievements of ancient Greece, glorious as they were, had been built upon an insecure foundation. Scrutiny of the foundation was no doubt painful, and it dulled the enthusiasm of the architects. But perhaps it was necessary and certainly it was inevitable. Perhaps also it might become a step toward some higher humanism. The Greek joy of living was founded upon a certain ruthlessness toward human misery, a certain indifference toward moral problems. Such a joy could not be permanent. But how would it be if the underlying problem could be faced, instead of being ignored? How would it be if human nature could be founded upon some secure rock, in order that then the architect might start to build once more, and build, this time, with a conscience void of offense? Such is the Christian ideal, the ideal of a loftier humanism—a humanism as rich and as joyful as the humanism of Greece, but a humanism founded upon the grace of God.

But however "the failure of nerve" which appears in the Hellenistic age be appreciated by the student of the philosophy of history, the fact at least cannot be ignored. The Hellenistic age was characterized by a widespread longing for redemption—a widespread longing for an escape from the present world of sense to some higher and better country. Such longing was not satisfied by the ancient religion of Greece. It caused men, therefore, to become seekers after new gods.

But what was the attitude of philosophy? Philosophy had contributed to the decline of the ancient gods. Had it been equally successful on the positive side? Had it been able to fill the void which its questionings had produced. The answer on the whole must be rendered in the negative. On the whole, it must be said that Greek philosophy was unsuccessful in its efforts to solve the riddle of the universe. The effort which it made was indeed imposing. Plato in particular endeavored to satisfy the deepest longings of the human soul; he attempted to provide an escape from the world of sense to the higher world of ideas. But the way of escape was open at best only to the few philosophical souls; the generality of men were left hopeless and helpless in the shadow-existence of the cave. And even the philosophers were not long satisfied with the Platonic solution. The philosophy of the Hellenistic age was either openly skeptical or materialistic, as is the case, for example, with Epicureanism, or at any rate it abandoned the great theoretical questions and busied itself chiefly with practical affairs. Epicureans and Stoics and Cynics were all interested chiefly, not in ontology or epistemology, but in ethics. At this point the first century was like the twentieth. The distrust of theory, the depreciation of theology, the exclusive interest in social and practical questions—these tendencies appear now as they appeared in the Hellenistic age. And now as well as then they are marks of intellectual decadence.

But if the philosophy of the Hellenistic age offered no satisfactory solution of the riddle of the universe and no satisfaction for the deepest longings of the soul, it presented, on the other hand, no effective opposition to the religious current of the time. It had helped bring about that downfall of the Olympic gods, that sad neglect of Zeus and his altars which is described by Lucian in his wonderfully modern satires. But it was not able to check the rising power of the eastern religions. Indeed it entered into a curious alliance with the invaders. As early as the first century before Christ, Posidonius seems to have introduced an element of oriental mysticism into the philosophy of the Stoics, and in the succeeding centuries the process went on apace. The climax was reached, at the close of pagan antiquity, in that curious mixture of philosophy and charlatanism which is found in the neo-Platonic writers.

The philosophy of the Hellenistic age, with its intense interest in questions of conduct, constitutes, indeed, an important chapter in the history of the human race, and can point to certain noteworthy achievements. The Stoics, for example, enunciated the great principle of human brotherhood; they made use of the cosmopolitanism and individualism of the Hellenistic age in order to arouse a new interest in man as man. Even the slaves, who in the theory of an Aristotle had been treated as chattels, began to be looked upon here and there as members of a great human family. Men of every race and of every social grade came to be the object of a true humanitarian interest.

But the humanitarian efforts of Stoicism, though proceeding from an exalted theory of the worth of man as man, proved to be powerless. The dynamic somehow was lacking. Despite the teaching of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, despite the beginnings of true humanitarian effort here and there, the later Empire with its cruel gladiatorial shows and its heartless social system was sinking into the slough of savagery. What Stoicism was unable to do, Christianity to some extent at least accomplished. The ideal of Christianity was not the mere ideal of a human brotherhood. Pure humanitarianism, the notion of "the brotherhood of man," as that phrase is usually understood, is Stoic rather than Christian. Christianity did make its appeal to all men; it won many of its first adherents from the depths of slavery. It did inculcate charity toward all men whether Christians or not. And it enunciated with an unheardof seriousness the doctrine that all classes of men, wise and unwise, bond and free, are of equal worth. But the equality was not found in the common possession of human nature. It was found, instead, in a common connection with Jesus Christ. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female"—so far the words of Paul can find analogies (faint analogies, it is true) in the Stoic writers. But the Pauline grounding of the unity here enunciated is the very antithesis of all mere humanitarianism both ancient and modern—"For ye are all one person," says Paul, "in Christ Jesus." Christianity did not reveal the fact that all men were brothers. Indeed it revealed the contrary. But it offered to make all men brothers by bringing them into saving connection with Christ.

The above sketch of the characteristics of the Hellenistic age has been quite inadequate. And even a fuller presentation, could hardly do justice to the complexity of the life of that time. But perhaps some common misconceptions have been corrected. The pagan world at the time when Paul set sail from Seleucia on his first missionary journey was not altogether without religion. Even the ancient polytheism was by no means altogether dead. It was rather a day of religious unrest. The old faiths had been shaken, but they were making room for the new. The Orontes, to use the figure of Juvenal, was soon to empty into the Tiber. The flow of eastern superstition and eastern mystical religion was soon to spread over the whole world.

But what were the eastern religions which in the second century after Christ, if not before, entered upon their triumphal march toward the west? 1 They were of diverse origin and diverse character. But one feature was common to a number of the most important of them. Those eastern religions which became most influential in the later Roman Empire were mystery religions—that is, they had connected with them secret rites which were thought to afford special blessing to the initiates. The mysteries did not indeed constitute the whole of the worship of the eastern gods. Side by side with the mysteries were to be found public cults to which every one was admitted. But the mysteries are of special interest, because it was they which satisfied most fully the longing of the Hellenistic age for redemption, for "salvation," for the attainment of a higher nature.

It will be well, therefore, to single out for special mention the chief of the mystery religions—those eastern religions which although they were by no means altogether secret did have mysteries connected with them.

The first of these religions to be introduced into Rome was the religion of the Phrygian Cybele, the "Great Mother of the Gods." 2 In 204 B.C., in the dark days of the Carthaginian invasion, the black meteoric stone of Pessinus was brought, by command of an oracle, to Rome. With the sacred stone came the cult. But Rome was not yet ready for the barbaric worship of the Phrygian goddess. For several hundred years the cult of Cybele was kept carefully isolated from the life of the Roman people. The foreign rites were supported by the authority of the state, but they were conducted altogether by a foreign priesthood; no Roman citizen was allowed to participate in them. It was not until the reign of Claudius (41-54 A.D.) that the barrier was finally broken down.

The myth of Cybele is narrated in various forms. Ac

1 The sketch which follows Is Indebted especially to Cumont, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, 2ieme 1909 (English translation. The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, 1911).

1For the religion of Cybele and Attis, see Showerman, The Oreat Mother of the Qods, 1901; Hepding, Attis, 1903.

cording to the most characteristic form, the youthful Attis, beloved by Cybele, is struck with madness by the jealous goddess, deprives himself of his virility, dies through his own mad act, and is mourned by the goddess. The myth contains no account of a resurrection; all that Cybele is able to obtain is that the body of Attis should be preserved, that his hair should continue to grow, and that his little finger should move.

The cult was more stable than the myth. No doubt, indeed, even the cult experienced important changes in the course of the centuries. At the beginning, according to Hepding and Cumont, Cybele was a goddess of the mountain wilds, whose worship was similar in important respects to that of Dionysus. With Cybele Attis was associated at an early time. The Phrygian worship of Cybele and Attis was always of a wild, orgiastic character, and the frenzy of the worshipers culminated even in the act of self-mutilation. Thus the eunuchpriests of Cybele, the "Galli," became a well-known feature of the life of the Empire. But the Phrygian cult of Cybele and Attis cannot be reconstructed by any means in detail; extensive information has been preserved only about the worship as it was carried on at Rome. And even with regard to the Roman cult, the sources of information are to a very considerable extent late. It is not certain, therefore, that the great spring festival of Attis, as it was celebrated in the last period of the Roman Empire, was an unmodified reproduction of the original Phrygian rites.

The Roman festival was conducted as follows:1 On March 15, there was a preliminary festival. On March 22, the sacred pine-tree was felled and carried in solemn procession by the "Dendrophori" into the temple of Cybele. The pine-tree appears in the myth as the tree under which Attis committed his act of self-mutilation. In the cult, the felling of the tree is thought by modern scholars to represent the death of the god. Hence the mourning of the worshipers was connected with the tree. March 24 was called the "day of blood"; on this day the mourning for the dead Attis reached its climax. The Galli chastised themselves with scourges and cut themselves with knives—all to the wild music of the drums and cymbals which were connected especially with the worship of the Phrygian Mother. On this day also, according to Hep1 See Hepding, op. cit., pp. 147-176.

ding's conjecture, the new Galli dedicated themselves to the service of the goddess by the act of self-mutilation. Finally, the resurrection or epiphany of the god Attis was celebrated. This took place perhaps during the night between- March 24 and March 25. But Hepding admits that the time is not directly attested. It is also only conjecture when a famous passage of Firmicus Maternus (fourth century after Christ) is applied to the worship of Attis and to this part of it.1 But the conjecture may well be correct. Firmicus Maternus 2 describes a festival in which the figure of a god rests upon a bier and is lamented, and then a light is brought in and the priest exclaims, "Be of good courage, ye initiates, since the god is saved; for to us there shall be salvation out of troubles." 3 Apparently the resurrection of the god is here regarded as the cause of the salvation of the worshipers; the worshipers share in the fortunes of the god. At any rate, March 25 in the Roman Attis festival was the "Hilaria," a day of rejoicing. On this day, the resurrection of the god was celebrated. March 26 was a day of rest; and finally, on March 27, there was a solemn washing of the sacred images and emblems.

As thus described, the worship of Cybele and Attis was, for the most part at least, public. But there were also mysteries connected with the same two gods. These mysteries apparently were practised in the East before the cult was brought to Rome. But the eastern form of their celebration is quite obscure, and even about the Roman form very little is known. Connected with the mysteries was some sort of sacred meal.4 Firmicus Maternus has preserved the formula: "I have eaten from the drum; I have drunk from the cymbal; I have become an initiate of Attis." 5 And Clement of Alexandria (about 200 A. D.) also connected a similar formula with the Phrygian mysteries: "I ate from the drum; I drank from the cymbal;

1 Loisy {Les mystires patens et le mystere chritien, 1910, p. 104) prefers to attach the passage to Osiris rather than to Attis. aSee Hepding, op. cit., pp. 166, 167.

* Firmicus Maternus, De error, prof, rel., xxii (ed. Ziegler, 1907):

Bapptlrt fiviTtai Tov 8cov atataap.kvov'

larai y&p ilfiip fee irdvuv aoyrvpla. •See Hepding, op. cit., pp. 184-190.

'Firmicus Maternus, op. cit., xviii: be rviirimv pkffpuxa, be Kviip&xov T^ruica, y'eyova iiOorqs 'Arrtus.

I carried the 'kernos'; I stole into the bridal chamber."1 The significance of this ritual eating and drinking is not clear. Certainly it would be rash to find in it the notion of new birth or sacramental union with the divine nature. Hepding suggests that it meant rather the entrance of the initiate into the circle of the table-companions of the god.

The actual initiation is even more obscure in the Attis mysteries than it is in those of Eleusis; Hepding admits that his reconstruction of the details of the mysteries is based largely on conjecture. Possibly in the formula quoted above from Clement of Alexandria, the words, "I stole into the bridal chamber," indicate that there was some sort of representation of a sacred marriage; but other interpretations of the Greek words are possible. Hepding suggests that the candidate entered into the grotto, descended into a ditch within the grotto, listened to lamentations for the dead god, received a blood-bath, then saw a wonderful light, and heard the joyful words quoted above: "Be of good courage, ye initiates, since the god is saved; for to us shall there be salvation out of troubles," and finally that the candidate arose out of the ditch as a new man ("reborn for eternity") or rather as a being identified with the god.2

According to this reconstruction, the initiation represented the death and the new birth of the candidate. But the reconstruction is exceedingly doubtful, and some of the most important features of it are attested in connection with the Attis mysteries if at all only in very late sources. Hepding is particularly careful to admit that there is no direct documentary evidence for connecting the blood-bath with the March festival.

This blood-bath, which is called the taurobolium, requires special attention. The one who received it descended into a pit over which a lattice-work was placed. A bull was slaughtered above the lattice-work, and the blood was allowed to run through into the pit, where the recipient let it saturate his clothing and even enter his nose and mouth and ears. The result was that the recipient was "reborn forever," or else reborn for a period of twenty years, after which the rite had to be repeated. The taurobolium is thought to have signified

1 Clem. Al., Protrepticws, ii. 15 (ed. Stahlin, 1905): in rvur&vov t<paya>' be

1 Hepding, op. cit., pp. 196ff.

a death to the old life and a new birth into a higher, divine existence. But it is not perfectly clear that it had that significance in the East and in the early period. According to Hepding, the taurobolium was in the early period a mere sacrifice, and the first man who is said to have received it in the sense just described was the Emperor Heliogabalus (third century after Christ). Other scholars refuse to accept Hepding's distinction between an earlier and a later form of the rite. But the matter is at least obscure, and it would be exceedingly rash to attribute pre-Christian origin to the developed taurobolium as it appears in fourth-century sources. Indeed, there seems to be no mention of any kind of taurobolium whatever before the second century,1 and Hepding may be correct in suggesting that possibly the fourth-century practice was influenced by the Christian doctrine of the blood of Christ.2

No less important than the religion of Cybele and Attis was the Greco-Egyptian religion of Isis and Osiris. Isis and Osiris are both ancient Egyptian gods, whose worship, in modified form, was carried over first into the Greek kingdom of the Ptolemies, and thence into the remotest bounds of the Roman Empire. The myth which concerns these gods is reported at length in Plutarch's treatise, "Concerning Isis and Osiris." Briefly it is as follows: Osiris, the brother and husband of Isis, after ruling in a beneficent manner over the Egyptians, is plotted against by his brother Typhon. Finally Typhon makes a chest and promises to give it to any one who exactly fits it. Osiris enters the chest, which is then closed by Typhon and thrown into the Nile. After a search, Isis finds the chest at Byblos on the coast of Phoenicia, and brings it back to Egypt. But Typhon succeeds in getting possession of the body of Osiris and cuts it up Into fourteen parts, which are scattered through Egypt. Isis goes about collecting the parts. Osiris becomes king of the nether world, and helps his son Horus to gain a victory over Typhon.

The worship of Isis and Osiris was prominent in ancient Egyptian religion long before the entrance of Greek influence. Osiris was regarded as the ruler over the dead, and as such was naturally very important in a religion in which supreme attention was given to a future life. But with the establish

1Showerman, op. cit., p. 280.

* Hepding, op. cit., p. 200, Amu. 7.

ment of the Ptolemaic kingdom at about 300 B. C, there was an important modification of the worship. A new god, Serapis, was introduced, and was closely identified with Osiris. The origin of the name Serapis has been the subject of much discussion and is still obscure. But one motive for the introduction of the new divinity (or of the new name for an old divinity) is perfectly plain. Ptolemy I desired to unify the Egyptian and the Greek elements in his kingdom by providing a cult which would be acceptable to both and at the same time intensely loyal to the crown. The result was the GrecoEgyptian cult of Serapis (Osiris) and Isis. Here is to be found, then, the remarkable phenomenon of a religion deliberately established for political reasons, which, despite its artificial origin, became enormously successful. Of course, the success was obtained only by a skillful use of existing beliefs, which had been hallowed in Egyptian usage from time immemorial, and by a skillful clothing of those beliefs in forms acceptable to the Greek element in the population.

The religion of Isis and Serapis was, as Cumont observes, entirely devoid of any established system of theology or any very lofty ethics. It was effective rather on account of its gorgeous ritual, which was handed down from generation to generation with meticulous accuracy, and on account of the assurance which it gave of a blessed immortality, the worshipers being conceived of as sharing in the resuscitation which Osiris had obtained. The worship was at first repulsive to Roman ideals of gravity, but effected an official entrance into the city in the reign of Caligula (37-41 A. D.). In the second and third centuries it was extended over the whole Empire. In alliance with the religion of Mithras it became finally perhaps the most serious rival of Christianity.

The cult was partly public and partly private. Prominent in the public worship were the solemn opening of the temple of Isis in the morning and the solemn closing in the afternoon. Elaborate care was taken of the images of the gods—the gods being regarded as dependent upon human ministrations. Besides the rites that were conducted daily, there were special festivals like the spring festival of the "ship of Isis" which is brilliantly described by Apuleius.

But it is the mysteries which arouse the greatest interest, especially because of the precious source of information about them which is found in the eleventh book of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius (second century after Christ). In this book, although the secrets of the mysteries themselves are of course not revealed, Apuleius has given a more complete and orderly account of the events connected with an initiation than is to be found anywhere else in ancient literature. The hero Lucius is represented first as waiting for a summons from the goddess Isis, which comes with miraculous coincidence independently to him and to the priest who is to officiate in his initiation. Then Lucius is taken into the temple and made acquainted with certain mysterious books, and also washes his body at the nearest baths. This washing has as little as possible the appearance of a sacrament; evidently it was not intended to produce "regeneration" or anything of the sort.1 The purpose of it seems to have been cleanliness, which was naturally regarded as a preparation for the holy rite that was to follow. There follows a ten days' period of fasting, after which the day of initiation arrives. Lucius is taken into the most secret place of the temple. Of what happens there he speaks with the utmost reserve. He says, however: "I came to the limits of death, and having trod the threshold of Proserpine and been borne through all the elements I returned; at midnight I saw the sun shining with a bright light; I came into the presence of the upper and nether gods and adored them near at hand." 2 It is often supposed that these words indicate some sort of mysterious drama or vision, which marked the death of the initiate, his passage through the elements, and his rising to a new life. But certainly the matter is very obscure. The next morning Lucius is clothed with gorgeous robes, and is presented to the gaze of the multitude. Apparently he is regarded as partaking of the divine nature. Two other initiations of Lucius are narrated, one of them being an initiation into the mysteries of Osiris, as the first had been into the mysteries of Isis. But little is added by the account of these later experiences, and it has even been suggested that the multiplication of the initiations was due to the self-interest

1 But compare Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions, 1913, p. 229.

* Apuleius, Metam., xi. 23 (ed. Van der Vliet, 1897, p. 270): "Accessi confinium mortis et calcato Proserpinne limine per omnia vectus elementa rcmeavi; nocte media vidi solem candido coruscantem lumine; deos inferos et deos superos accessi coram et adoravi de proxumo."

of the priests rather than to any real advantage for the initiate.

Similar in important respects to the Egyptian Osiris was the Adonis of Phoenicia, who may therefore be mentioned in the present connection, even though little is known about mysteries connected with his worship. According to the wellknown myth, the youth Adonis, beloved by Aphrodite, was killed by a wild boar, and then bemoaned by the goddess. The cult of Adonis was found in various places, notably at Byblos in Phoenicia, where the death and resurrection of the god were celebrated. With regard to this double festival, Lucian says in his treatise "On the Syrian Goddess": "They [the inhabitants of Byblos] assert that the legend about Adonis and the wild boar is true, and that the facts occurred in their country, and in memory of this calamity they beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside. When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life: after this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky." 1 The wailing for Adonis at Byblos is similar to what is narrated about the worship of the Babylonian god Tammuz. Even the Old Testament mentions in a noteworthy passage "the women weeping for Tammuz" (Ezek. viii. 14). But the Tammuz-worship does not seem to have contained any celebration of a resurrection.

Attis, Osiris, and Adonis are alike in that all of them are apparently represented as dying and coming to life again. They are regarded by Bruckner2 and many other modern scholars as representing the widespread notion of a "dying and rising saviour-god." But it is perhaps worthy of note that the "resurrection" of these gods is very different from what is meant by that word in Christian belief. The myth of Attis, for example, contains no mention of a resurrection; though apparently the cult, in which mourning is followed by gladness, did presuppose some such notion. In the myth of Osiris, also, there is nothing that could be called resurrection; after his passion the god becomes ruler, not over the liv

1 Lucian, De dea syria, 6, translation of Garstanat (The Syrian Qoddess, 1913, pp. 4Sf.). 1Der sterbende und auferstehende G oil hi Hand, 1908.

ing, but over the dead. In Lucian's description of the worship of Adonis at Byblos, there is perhaps as clear an account as is to be found anywhere of the celebration of the dying and resuscitation of a god, but even in this account there is not strictly speaking a resurrection. A tendency is found in certain recent writers to exaggerate enormously the prevalence and the clarity of the pagan ideas about a dying and rising god.

According to a common opinion, Attis, Osiris, and Adonis are vegetation-gods; their dying and resuscitation represent, then, the annual withering and revival of vegetation. This hypothesis has attained general, though not universal, acceptance. Certainly the facts are very complex. At any rate, the celebration of the principle of fecundity in nature was not of a purely agrarian character, but found expression also in the gross symbols and immoral practices which appear in connection with the gods just mentioned at various points in the ancient world.

The most important of the religions which have just been examined had their rise in Asia Minor and in Egypt. No less important, at least in the last period of pagan antiquity, was the religious influence of Syria. The Syrian gods, called "Baals" ("Lords"), were not, according to Cumont, distinguished from one another by any clearly defined characteristics. Every locality had its own Baal and a female divinity as the Baal's consort, but the attributes of these local gods were of the vaguest character. The female divinity Atargatis, whose temple at Hierapolis is described by Lucian, and the male divinity Hadad, of Heliopolis, are among the best-known of the Syrian gods. The Syrian worship was characterized by especially immoral and revolting features, but seems to have become ennobled by the introduction of the Babylonian worship of the heavenly bodies, and thus contributed to the formation of the solar monotheism which was the final form assumed by the pagan religion of the Empire before the triumph of Christianity.

In point of intrinsic worth, the Persian mystery religion of Mithras is easily superior to any of the religions which have thus far been mentioned, but it is of less importance than some of the others for the purposes of the present investigation, since it became influential in the Roman Empire only after the time of Paul. Great stress has indeed been laid upon the fact that Plutarch attests the practice of Mithraic mysteries by the pirates whom Pompey conquered in the middle of the first century before Christ, and says furthermore that the Mithraic rites begun by the pirates were continued until the writer's own day.1 The pirates practised their rites at Olympus, which is on the southern coast of Asia Minor. But the Olympus which is meant is in Lycia, some three hundred miles from Tarsus. It is a mistake, therefore, to bring the Mithraic mysteries of the pirates into any close geographical connection with the boyhood home of Paul. Against the hypothesis of any dependence of Paul upon the mysteries of Mithras is to be placed the authority of Cumont, the chief investigator in this field, who says: "It is impossible to suppose that at that time [the time of Paul] there was an imitation of the Mithraic mysteries, which then had not yet attained any importance." 2 Attemp's have often been made to explain away this judgment of Cumont, but without success. The progress of Mithraism in the Empire seems to have been due to definite political causes which were operative only after Paul's day.

The Persian religion, from which Mithraism was descended, was superior to the others which have just been considered in its marked ethical character. It presented the doctrine of a mighty conflict between light and darkness, between good and evil. And Mithraism itself regarded religion under the figure of a warfare. It appealed especially to the soldiers, and only men (not women) were admitted to its mysteries. There were seven grades of initiation, each with its special name. The highest grade was that of "father." The Mithras cult was always celebrated underground, in chambers of very limited extent. There was a sacred meal, consisting of bread and water, which Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, regards as having been instituted through demoniac imitation of the Christian Eucharist.3 This religion of Mithras finally became, with the religion of Isis, the most serious rival of Christianity. But at the time of Paul it was without im

1 Plutarch, Vita Pompei, 24.

1Cumont, op. cit., p. xvi (English Translation, p. xx). "Justin Martyr, Apol. 66.

portance, and could not have exerted any influence upon the apostle.

But the religion of the Hellenistic age was not limited to the individual cults which have just been considered, and it is not chiefly to the individual cults that recourse is had by those modern scholars who would derive Paulinism from pagan sources. Mention has already been made of the syncretism of the age; various religions were mingled in a limitless variety of combinations. And there was also a mingling of religion with philosophy. It is in the manifold products of this union between Greek philosophy and oriental religion that the genesis of Paulinism is now often being sought. Not oriental religion in its original state, but oriental religion already to some extent Hellenized, is thought to have produced the characteristic features of the religion of Paul.

The hypothesis is faced by one obvious difficulty. The difficulty appears in the late date of most of the sources of information. In order to reconstruct that Hellenized oriental mysticism from which the religion of Paul is to be derived, the investigator is obliged to appeal to sources which are long subsequent to Paul's day. For example, in reproducing the spiritual atmosphere in which Paul is supposed to have lived, no testimony is more often evoked than the words of Firmicus Maternus, "Be of good courage, ye initiates, since the god is saved; for to us there shall be salvation out of troubles." 1 Here, it is thought, is to be found that connection between the resurrection of the god and the salvation of the believers which appears in the Pauline idea of dying and rising with Christ. But the trouble is that Firmicus Maternus lived in the fourth century after Christ, three hundred years later than Paul. With what right can an utterance of his be used in the reconstruction of pre-Christian paganism? What would be thought, by the same scholars who quote Firmicus Maternus so confidently as a witness to first-century paganism, of a historian who should quote a fourth-century Christian writer as a wilness to first-century Christianity?

This objection has been met by the modern school of comparative religion somewhat as follows. In the first place, it is said, the .post-Christian pagan usage which at any time 1 See above, p. 229, with footnote 3.

may be under investigation is plainly not influenced by Christianity. But, in the second place, it is too similar to Christian usage for the similarity to be explained by mere coincidence. Therefore, in the third place, since it is not dependent upon Christian usage, Christian usage must be dependent upon it, and therefore despite its late attestation it must have existed in pre-Christian times.

A little reflection will reveal the precarious character of this reasoning. Every step is uncertain. In the first place, it is often by no means clear that the pagan usage has not been influenced by Christianity. The Church did not long remain obscure; even early in the second century, according to the testimony of Pliny, it was causing the heathen temples to be deserted. What is more likely than that in an age of syncretism the adherents of pagan religion should borrow weapons from so successful a rival? It must be remembered that the paganism of the Hellenistic age had elevated syncretism to a system; it had absolutely no objection of principle against receiving elements from every source. In the Christian Church, on the other hand, there was a strong objection to such procedure; Christianity from the beginning was like Judaism in being exclusive. It regarded with the utmost abhorrence anything that was tainted by a pagan origin. This abhorrence, at least in the early period, more than overbalanced the fact that the Christians for the most part had formerly been pagans, so that it might be thought natural for them to retain something of pagan belief. Conversion involved a passionate renunciation of former beliefs. Such, at any rate, was clearly the kind of conversion that was required by Paul.

In the second place, the similarity between the pagan and the Christian usages is often enormously exaggerated; sometimes a superficial similarity of language masks the most profound differences of underlying meaning. Illustrations will be given in the latter part of the present chapter.

Thus the conclusion is, to say the least, precarious. It is by no means so easy as is sometimes supposed to prove that a pagan usage attested only long after the time of Paul is really the source of Pauline teaching. And it will not help to say that although there is no direct dependence one way or the other yet the pagan and the Pauline teaching have a common source. For to say that a usage has a pagan source several centuries earlier than the time at which the usage is first attested is really to assume the point that is to be proved. We are not here dealing with a question of literary dependence, where the unity of the books which are being compared is assumed. In such a question the independence of the two writers may be proved by the general comparison of the books; it may be shown, in other words, that if one author had used the other author's work at all he would have had to use it a great deal more than as a matter of fact the similarity would indicate. In such cases, striking verbal similarity in one place may prove that both books were dependent upon a common source. But if a pagan usage of the fourth century is similar to a Christian usage, the fact that in general the paganism of the fourth century is independent of Christianity does not disprove dependence of paganism upon Christianity at this one point.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the reasoning just outlined is usually supplemented by a further consideration. It is maintained, namely, that the mystic piety of paganism forms to some extent a unit; it was not a mere fortuitous collection of beliefs and practices, but was like an enveloping spiritual atmosphere of which, despite variations of humidity and temperature, the fundamental composition was everywhere the same. If, therefore, the presence of this atmosphere of mystical piety can be established here and there in sources of actually pre-Christian date, the investigator has a right to determine the nature of the atmosphere in detail by drawing upon later sources. In other words, the mystical religion of the Hellenistic age is reconstructed in detail by the use of post-Christian sources, and then (the essential unity of the phenomenon being assumed) the early date of this oriental mystical religion is established by the scanty references in pre-Christian times. It is admitted, perhaps, that the elements of oriental mysticism actually found in pre-Christian sources would not be sufficient to prove dependence of Paul upon that type of religion; but the elements found in later sources are thought to be so closely allied to those which happen to have early attestation that they too must be supposed to have been present in the early period, and since they are similar to Paulinism they must have exerted a formative influence upon Paul's religion. To put the matter briefly, the nature of Hellenized

oriental religion is established by post-Pauline sources; whereas the early origin of that religion is established by the scanty pre-Christian references.

This procedure constitutes a curious reversal of the procedure which is applied by the very same scholars to Christianity. Christianity is supposed to have undergone kaleidoscopic changes in the course of a few years or even months, changes involving a transformation of its inmost nature; yet pagan religion is apparently thought to have remained from age to age the same. When Paul, only a few years after the origin of the Church, says that he "received" certain fundamental elements in his religion, the intimate connection of those elements with the rest of the Pauline system is not allowed to establish the early origin of the whole; yet the paganism of the third and fourth centuries is thought to have constituted such a unity that the presence of certain elements of it in the pre-Christian period is regarded as permitting the whole system to be transplanted bodily to that early time.

Of course, the hypothesis which is now being examined is held in many forms, and is being advocated with varying degrees of caution. Some of its advocates might defend themselves against the charge of transplanting post-Christian paganism bodily into the pre-Christian period. They might point to special evidence with regard to many details. Such evidence would have to be examined in any complete investigation. But the objection just raised, despite possible answers to it in detail, is not without validity. It remains true, despite all reservations, that adherents of the "comparative-religion school" are entirely too impatient with regard to questions of priority. They are indeed very severe upon those who raise such questions. They do not like having the flow of their thought checked by so homely a thing as a date. But dates sometimes have their importance. For example, the phrase, "reborn for eternity," occurs in connection with the bloodbath of the taurobolium. How significant, it might be said, is this connection of regeneration with the shedding of blood! How useful as establishing the pagan origin of the Christian idea! From the confident way in which the phrase "reborn for eternity" is quoted in discussions of the origin of Christianity, one would think that its pre-Christian origin were established beyond peradventure. It may come as a shock, therefore, to readers of recent discussions to be told that as a matter of fact the phrase does not appear until the fourth century, when Christianity was taking its place as the established religion of the Roman world. If there is any dependence, it is certainly dependence of the taurobolium upon Christianity, and not of Christianity upon the taurobolium.

The same lordly disregard of dates runs all through the modern treatment of the history of religion in the New Testament period. It is particularly unfortunate in popular expositions. When the lay reader is overwhelmed by an imposing array of citations from Apuleius and from Lucian, to say nothing of Firmicus Maternus and fourth-century inscriptions, and when these late citations are confidently treated by men of undoubted learning as witnesses to pre-Christian religion, and when the procedure is rendered more plausible by occasional references to pre-Christian writers which if looked up would be found to prove nothing at all, and when there is a careful avoidance of anything like temporal arrangement of the material, but citations derived from all countries and all ages are brought together for the reconstruction of the environment of Paul—under such treatment the lay reader often receives the impression that something very important is being proved. The impression would be corrected by the mere introduction of a few dates, especially in view of the fact that oriental religion undoubtedly entered upon a remarkable expansion shortly after the close of the New Testament period, so that conditions prevailing after that expansion are by no means necessarily to be regarded as having existed before the expansion took place.

This criticism is here intended to be taken only in a provisional way. The justice of it can be tested only by a detailed examination of the hypothesis against which the criticism is directed.

How, then, is the pre-Christian mystical religion of the Hellenistic world to be reconstructed? What sources are to be used? Some of the sources have already been touched upon in the review of the individual oriental cults. And incidentally the unsatisfactory character of some of these sources has already appeared. But it is now necessary to examine other sources which are not so definitely connected with any clearly defined cult.

Increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the complex of writings which goes under the name of Hermes Trismegistus. These Hermetic writings embrace not only a corpus of some fourteen tractates which has been preserved in continuous Greek manuscript form, but also fragments contained in the works of Stobsus and other writers, and finally the "Asclepius" attributed to Apuleius. It is not usually maintained that the Hermetic literature was completed before about 300 A.D.; no one claims anything like pre-Christian origin for the whole. The individual elements of the literature—for example, the individual tractates of the Hermetic corpus—are usually regarded as having been produced at various times; but no one of them is generally thought to have been written before the beginning of the Christian era. With regard to the most important tractate, the "Poimandres," which stands at the beginning of the corpus, opinions differ somewhat. J. Kroll, for example, the author of the leading monograph on the Hermetic writings, regards the Poimandres as the latest of the tractates in the corpus, and as having appeared not before the time of Numenius (second half of the second century) ;1 whereas Zielinski regards it as the earliest writing of the corpus.2 By an ingenious argument, Reitzenstein attempts to prove that the Christian "Shepherd of Hermes" (middle of the second century) is dependent upon an original form of the "Poimandres." 3 But his argument has not obtained any general consent. It is impossible to push the material of the Poimandres back into the first century— certainly impossible by any treatment of literary relationships.

With regard to the origin of the ideas in the Hermetic writings, there is considerable difference of opinion. Reitzenstein allows a large place to Egyptian and Persian elements; other scholars emphasize rather the influence of Greek philosophy, which of course is in turn thought to have been modified by its contact with oriental religion. J. Kroll,4 W. Kroll,8 Reitzenstein,6 and others deny emphatically the

1J. Kroll, Die Lehren des Hermes Trismegistos, 1914, in Beitrdge zur Qeschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, xii. 2-4, pp. 388, 389.

•Zielinski, "Hermes und die Hermetik," in Archiv ftir Religionswissenschaft, viii, 1905, p. 323.

* Reitzenstein, Poimandres, 1904, pp. 10-13.

*Op. cit.

•Article "Hermes Trismegistos," in Pauly-Wissowa, Rscd-Encycloftidie der classischen Altertwmswissenschaft, xv, 1912, pp. 791-823. 'Op. cit.

presence of any considerable Christian influence in Hermes; but at this point Heinrici, after particularly careful researches, differs from the customary view.1 Windisch is enough impressed by Heinrici's arguments to confess that Christian literature may have influenced the present form of the Hermetic writings here and there, but insists that the Christian influence upon Hermes is altogether trifling compared to the influence upon primitive Christianity of the type of religion of which Hermes is an example.2 The true state of the case, according to Windisch, is probably that Christianity first received from oriental religion the fundamental ideas, and then gave back to oriental religion as represented by Hermes certain forms of expression in which those ideas had been clothed. At the same time Windisch urges careful attention to Heinrici's argument for Christian influence upon Hermes for three reasons: (1) all Hermetic writings are later than the New Testament period, (2) the Hermetic writings are admittedly influenced by Judaism, (3) at least the latest stratum in the Hermetic writings has admittedly passed through the Christian sphere. These admissions, coming from one who is very friendly to the modern method of comparative religion, are significant. When even Windisch admits that the form of expression with regard to the new birth in the Poimandres may possibly be influenced by the Gospel tradition, and that the author of the fourth Hermetic tractate, for example, was somewhat familiar with New Testament writings or Christian ideas and "assimilated Christian terminology to his gnosis," and that the term "faith" has possibly come into Hermes (iv and ix) from Christian tradition—in the light of these admissions it may appear how very precarious is the employment of Hermes Trismegistus as a witness to pre-Christian paganism.

Opinions differ, moreover, as to the importance of the Hermetic type of thought in the life of the ancient world. Reitzenstein exalts its importance; he believes that back of the Hermetic writings there lies a living religion, and that this Hermetic type of religion was characteristic of the Hellenistic age. At this point Cumont and others are in sharp disagreement; Cumont believes that in the West Hermetism had nothing more than a literary existence and did not pro

1 Heinrici, Die Hermee-Mystik und dos Nene Testament, 1918. 1Windisch, "Urchristentum und Hermesmystik," In Theologisch tchrift, lii, 1918, pp. 186-240.

duce a Hermetic sect, and that in general Reitzenstein has greatly exaggerated the Hermetic influence.1 With regard to this controversy, it can at least be said that Reitzenstein has failed to prove his point.

Detailed exposition of the Hermetic writings will here be impossible. A number of recent investigators have covered the field with some thoroughness. Unfortunately a complete modern critical edition of the Hermetic corpus is still lacking; the student is obliged to have recourse to the edition of Parthey (1854),2 which is not complete and does not quite measure up to modern standards. Reitzenstein has included in his "Poimandres" (1904) a critical edition of Tractates I, XIII, XVI, XVII, XVIII. There has been no collection, in the original languages, of all the Hermetic writings (including those outside of the corpus), though Menard has provided a French translation,8 and Mead an English translation with elaborate introduction and notes.4 The work of Mead, which is published by the Theosophical Publishing Society, is not usually regarded as quite satisfactory. But the translation at least will be found exceedingly useful. The systematic exposition of the thought of the Hermetic writings by J. Kroll is clear and instructive;5 and Heinrici, who differs from Kroll in treating the individual writings separately, has also made a valuable contribution to the subject.6

In the Hermetic tractates I and XIII, upon which Reitzenstein lays the chief emphasis, there is presented a notion of the transformation of the one who receives divine revelation. The transformation, as in the Hermetic writings generally, is for the most part independent of ceremonies or sacraments. An experience which in the mysteries is connected with an initiation involving an appeal to the senses here seems to have been spiritualized under the influence of philosophy; regeneration comes not through a mystic drama or the like but through an inner experience. Such at least is a common

1 Cumont, op. cit., pp. 340, 341 (English Translation, pp. 233, 234, note 41).

1Parthey, flermetis Trwmegisti Poemander, 1854. •Menard, Hermis Trismigiste, 1910. * Mead, Thrice-Qreatest Hermes, three volumes, 1906. •Op. cit. Cf. the review by Bousset, in Oottingische gelehrte Anzeigen, clxxvi, 1914, pp. 697-755. •Op. cit.

modern interpretation of the genesis of the Hermetic doctrine. At any rate, it seems to be impossible to reduce that doctrine to anything like a consistent logical scheme. Reitzenstein has tried to bring order out of chaos by distinguishing in the first tractate two originally distinct views as to the origin of the world and of man, but his analysis has not won general acceptance. It must probably be admitted, however, that the Hermetic literature has received elements from various sources and has not succeeded in combining them in any consistent way.

The student who will first read Tractates I and XIII for himself will probably be surprised when he is told (for example by Reitzenstein) that here is to be found the spiritual atmosphere from which Paulinism came. For there could be no sharper contrast than that between the fantastic speculations of the Poimandres and the historical gospel of Paul. Both the Poimandres and Paul have some notion of a transformation that a man experiences through a divine revelation. But the transformation, according to Paul, comes through an account of what had happened but a few years before. Nothing could possibly be more utterly foreign to Hermes. On the other hand, the result of the transformation in Hermes is deification. "This," says Hermes (Tractate I, 26), "is the good end to those who have received knowledge, to be deified." 1 Paul could never have used such language. For, according to Paul, the relation between the believer and the Christ who has transformed him is a personal relation of love. The "Christ-mysticism" of Paul is never pantheistic. It is indeed supernatural; it is not produced by any mere influence brought to bear upon the old life. But the result, far from being apotheosis, is personal communion of a man with his God.

In connection with Hermes Trismegistus may be mentioned the so-called Oracula Chaldaica, which apparently sprang from the same general type of thought.2 These Oracula Chaldaica, according to W. Kroll, constitute a document of heathen gnosis, which was produced about 200 A. D. Although Kroll believes that there is here no Christian influence, and that Jewish influence touches not the center but only the circumference, yet for the reasons already noticed it would be

1 Tovto iari ri kyoBbv riXot rott yvdaw hrxtKbai, BtuSfivai.

'See W. Kroll, De Oraculis Chaldaicis, 1894; "Die chaldiiischen Orakel," in Rheinisches Museum fiir Philologie, 1, 1895, pp. 636-639.

precarious to use a document of 200 A.D. in reconstructing pre-Pauline paganism.

A very important source of information about the Grecooriental religion of the Hellenistic age is found by scholars like Dieterich and Reitzenstein in the so-called "magical" papyri. Among the many interesting papyrus documents which have recently been discovered in Egypt are some that contain formulas intended to be used in incantations. At first sight these formulas look like hopeless nonsense; it may perhaps even be said that they are intended to be nonsense. That is, the effect is sought, not from any logical understanding of the formulas either on the part of those who use them or on the part of the higher powers upon whom they are to be used, but simply and solely from the mechanical effect of certain combinations of sounds. Thus the magical papyri include not only divine names in foreign languages (the ancient and original name of a god being regarded as exerting a coercive effect upon that god), but also many meaningless rows of letters which do not form words at all. But according to Dieterich and Reitzenstein and others, these papyri, nonsensical as they are in their completed form, often embody materials which belong not to magic but to religion; in particular, they make use, for a magical purpose, of what was originally intended to be used in a living religious cult. Indeed the distinction between magic and religion is often difficult to draw. In religion there is an element of interest, on the part of the worshiper, in the higher powers as such, some idea of propitiating them, of winning their favor; whereas in magic the higher powers are made use of as though they were mere machines through the use of incantations and spells. But when this distinction is applied to the ancient mystery religions, sometimes these religions seem to be little more than magic, so external and mechanical is the way in which the initiation is supposed to work. It is not surprising, therefore, if the composers of magical formulas turned especially, in seeking their materials, to the mystery cults; for they were drawn in that direction by a certain affinity both of purpose and of method. At any rate, whatever may be the explanation, the existing magical papyri, according to Dieterich and others, do contain important elements derived from the oriental religious cults; it is only necessary, Dieterich maintains, to subtract the obviously later elements—the nonsensical rows of letters and the like—in order to obtain important sources of information about the religious life of the Hellenistic age.

This method has been applied by Dieterich especially to a Paris magical papyrus, with the result that the underlying religious document is found to be nothing less than a liturgy of the religion of Mithras.1 Dieterich's conclusions have not escaped unchallenged; the connection of the document with Mithraism has been denied, for example, by Cumont.2 Of course, even if the document be not really a "Mithras liturgy," it may still be of great value in the reconstruction of Hellenistic gnosis. With regard to date, however, it is not any more favorably placed than the documents which have just been considered. The papyrus manuscript in which the "liturgy" is contained was written at the beginning of the fourth century after Christ; and the composition of the "liturgy" itself cannot be fixed definitely at any very much earlier date. 3 Dieterich supposes that the beginning was made in the second century, and that there were successive additions afterward. At any rate, then, not only the papyrus manuscript, but also the liturgy which it is thought to contain, was produced long after the time of Paul. Like the Hermetic writings, moreover, Dieterich's Mithras liturgy presents a conception of union with divinity which is really altogether unlike the Pauline gospel.

But information about pre-Christian paganism is being sought not only in ostensibly pagan sources; it is also being sought in the Gnosticism which appears in connection with the Christian Church. Gnosticism used to be regarded as a "heresy," a perversion of Christian belief. Now, on the contrary, it is being regarded as essentially non-Christian, as a manifestation of Greco-oriental religion which was brought into only very loose connection with Christianity; the great Gnostic systems of the second century, it is said, when they are stripped of a few comparatively unimportant Christian elements are found to represent not a development from Christianity but rather the spiritual atmosphere from which Christianity itself sprang.

If this view of the case be correct, it is at least significant

•Dieterich, Eine Mithrasliturgie, 2te Aufl., 1910.
*Op. cit., p. 379 (English Translation, pp. 260f.).
•Dieterich, op. cit., pp. 43f.

that pagan teachers of the second century (the Gnostics) should have been so ready to adopt Christian elements and so anxious to give their systems a Christian appearance. Why should a similar procedure be denied in the case, for example, of Hermes Trismegistus? If second-century paganism, without at all modifying its essential character, could sometimes actually adopt the name of Christ, why should it be thought incredible that the compiler of the Hermetic literature, who did not go quite so far, should yet have permitted Christian elements to creep into his syncretistic work? Why should similarity of language between Hermes and Paul, supposing that it exists, be regarded as proving dependence of Paul upon a type of paganism like that of Hermes, rather than dependence of Hermes upon Paul?

But the use of Gnosticism as a witness to pre-Christian paganism is faced with obvious difficulties. Gnosticism has admittedly been influenced by Christianity. Who can say, then, exactly how far the Christian influence extends? Who can say that any element in Gnosticism, found also in the New Testament, but not clearly contained in pagan sources, is derived from paganism rather than from Christianity? Yet it is just exactly such procedure which is advocated by Reitzenstein and others.

The dangers of the procedure may be exhibited by an example. In Hermes Trismegistus the spirit is regarded as the garment of the soul.1 This doctrine is the exact reverse of Pauline teaching, since it makes the soul appear higher than the spirit, whereas in Paul the Spirit, in the believer, is exalted far above the soul. In Hermes the spirit appears as a material substratum of the soul; in Paul the Spirit represents the divine power. There could be no sharper contradiction. And the matter is absolutely central in Reitzenstein's hypothesis, for it is just the Pauline doctrine of the Spirit which he is seeking to derive from pagan religion. The difficulty for Reitzenstein, then, is that in Hermes the spirit appears as the garment of the soul, whereas in the interests of his theory the soul ought to appear rather as the garment of the spirit. But Reitzenstein avoids the difficulty by appealing to Gnosticism. The Hermetic doctrine, he says, is nothing but the neces

1 Corp. Herm. x. 13.

sary philosophic reversal of the Gnostic doctrine that the soul is the garment of the spirit.1 Thus Gnosticism is here made to be a witness to pre-Christian pagan belief, in direct defiance of pagan sources. Is it not more probable that the difference between Gnosticism on the one hand and pagan gnosis as represented by Hermes on the other, is due to the influence upon the former of the Christian doctrine? It is interesting to observe that J. Kroll, from whom the above illustration is obtained, insists against Reitzenstein that the Gnostic doctrine, as over against the doctrine of Hermes, is here clearly secondary.2 At any rate, then, the reconstruction of a pre-Christian pagan doctrine of the soul as the garment of the spirit is a matter of pure conjecture.

Similar difficulties appear everywhere. It is certainly very hazardous to use Gnosticism, a post-Pauline phenomenon appealing to Paul as one of its chief sources, as a witness to pre-Pauline paganism. Certainly such use of Gnosticism should be carefully limited to those matters where there is some confirmatory pagan testimony. But such confirmatory testimony, in the decisive cases, is significantly absent.

The use of Gnosticism as a source of information about preChristian paganism might be less precarious if the separation of the pagan and Christian elements could be carried out by means of literary criticism. Such a method is employed by Reitzenstein in connection with an interesting passage in Hippolytus. In attacking the Gnostic sect of the Naassenes, Hippolytus says that the sect has been dependent upon the pagan mysteries, and in proof he quotes a Naassene writing. This quotation, as it now exists in the work of Hippolytus, is, according to Reitzenstein, "a pagan text with GnosticChristian scholia (or in a Gnostic-Christian revision), which has been taken over by an opponent who did not understand this state of the case, and so, in this form, has been used by Hippolytus."3 Reitzenstein seeks to reproduce the pagan document.4

Unquestionably the passage is interesting, and unques

1 Reitzenstein, Hellenistische Mystericnreligionen, 2te Aufl., 1920, p. 183.

* J. Kroll, op. eit., pp. 286-289, especially p. 288, Anm. 1. 1Reitzenstein, Poimandres, p. 82.

* Op. cit., pp. 83-98.

tionably it contains important information about the pagan mysteries. But it does not help to establish influence of the mysteries upon Paul. It must be observed that what is now being maintained against Reitzenstein is not that the Gnostics who appear in the polemic of the anti-heretical, ecclesiastical writers of the close of the second century and the beginning of the third were not influenced by pre-Christian paganism, or even that they did not derive the fundamentals of their type of religion from pre-Christian paganism. All that is being maintained is that it is very precarious to use the Gnostic systems in reconstructing pre-Christian paganism in detail— especially where the Gnostic systems differ from admittedly pagan sources and agree with Paul. In reconstructing the origin of Paulinism it is precarious to employ the testimony of those who lived after Paul and actually quoted Paul.