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Early Years of Christianity: The Apostolic Era.
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§ II. St. Paul's First Journey.

Until the time when he was sent forth by the Church at Antioch, Saul had confined himself to preaching the Gospel to the Jews and proselytes. He did not enter on his great mission-field among the Gentiles till this first journey, which was, therefore, one of great importance to himself and to the Church. It called forth differences of opinion which led, ultimately, to the Council at Jerusalem; and the result of that council was the first solution of the question which had already raised more than one stormy contention among the Christians. Saul and Barnabas left Antioch accompanied by John, whose surname was Mark. Acts xiii, 5. He was a disciple from Jerusalem, the son of that Mary in whose house the Church met to pray for Peter's deliverance from prison. Acts xii, 12. He appears to have been a convert of Peter, who calls him his son. 1 Peter v, 13. He was subsequently Peter's interpreter.9090Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.," Book III, c. xxxix. From his antecedents we may gather that he was, at this time, strongly imbued with the prejudices of a Judaizing Christianity. He was not yet on the same level of enlightenment with Paul, and a separation between them soon ensued. It is possible that on his return he may have contributed, by the reports he brought, to occasion the controversy between the Apostles and the narrow Christians of Jerusalem. The differences between them cannot have been slight, since Paul preferred to separate from Barnabas rather than to accept his kinsman again as a colleague. From his Epistles we learn, however, that the difference was only transitory, for Mark subsequently appears again among the companions of Paul. Philemon, 24; 2 Tim. iv, 11; Col. iv, 10. Barnabas being a native of Cyprus, the delegates from Antioch first visited that island. They passed through its whole extent. After a short stay at Salamis, they went to Paphos, a town rebuilt under Augustus. It was in this place, defiled by the infamous rites of the worship of Astarte, that Paul won his first conquest over heathenism. The highest dignitary of the island, Sergius Paulus,9191Sergius Paulus is called ἀνθύπατος. This title corresponds to proconsul. He served under the governor of the senatorial provinces, while the governors of the provinces, receiving their authority directly from the emperor, were called proprietors. The island of Cyprus was at first, under Augustus, a senatorial province, ("Dio Cassius," 53, 2,) but it was afterward given to the senate, (ibid, 54, 4). Luke's designation of Sergius Paulus is strictly accurate, (Wieseler, "Chron. des apostolisch. Zeitalt," p. 225.) was one of those who, disgusted with the polytheism of the West, was seeking in the religions of the East, and especially in Judaism, the satisfaction of vague aspirations. This state of mind had rendered him susceptible to the sorceries of the Jewish magician Elymas, who, like Simon of Samaria, turned to account, by base deceptions, the religious cravings of the age. Sergius Paulus had not, however, yielded entirely to the seductions of the impostor, for when Saul and Barnabas arrived, he at once sent for them to come to him. Elymas endeavors to turn away the Proconsul from the faith; but, at Paul's severe rebuke, he is struck with sudden blindness, and learns, at the sharp cost of experience, what is the difference between the sorceries of the magician and a true miracle. The Proconsul is converted to Christ, not so much by the miracle of which he had been the witness, as by the beauty of the doctrine preached to him.9292Acts xiii, 12. The sacred historian from this time uses the name Paul instead of Saul, (Acts xiii, 9.) Jerome's ingenious interpretation of this is well known: "Apostolus a primo ecclesiæ spolio proconsule Sergio victoriæ suæ tropœa retulit, erexitque vexillum ut Paulus ex Saulo vocaretur" ("De Viris Illustrit.") The name Paul was borrowed (this Father supposes) from Sergius Paulus, in token of the Apostle's victory, and as a trophy of this first triumph over paganism. But Jerome has not observed that Luke does not say that the name of Saul was changed on this occasion; he simply mentions, in a general manner, that Saul was also called Paul. We have no right to identify the time when this name appears in the narrative with that of its first adoption by the Apostle. Other commentators have supposed the name Paul, which signifies small, humble, mean, to have been assumed by Saul after his conversion, and they bring forward 1 Cor. xv, 9 in support of their view; but had this been so, Luke would have spoken of this change of name in connection with Saul's conversion. We are disposed rather to think that Paul was the Greek form of the name Saul, and that the Apostle, after entering upon his mission among the Gentiles, began to use it habitually.

From the island of Cyprus Paul and Barnabas cross into Asia Minor. They only pass through Perga, where Mark leaves them, and go on to Antioch in Pisidia, an important town, built, like the other Antioch, by Seleucus Nicator. A large Jewish colony is there resident. To this Paul first addresses himself. He always, in his missionary journeys, follows the order adopted by God himself in the gift of his revelations. He held it his duty to preach the Gospel first to those who had received in the law and the prophets a direct preparation for it. We know, besides, what tender affection he felt-for his people, and what a lofty patriotism blended with the breadth of his enlarged Christianity. The synagogue at Antioch seems to have been considerably frequented by the Gentile population; at least so we may gather from the composition of the audience which received the Gospel from the lips of Paul. Acts xiii, 44, 45. Judaism was thus confronted with paganism, and the Christian Church was to learn, by a significant and decisive fact, in what quarter it would find the readiest accessions. For the first time the two great religious sections of mankind were summoned on the same day to take their position in relation to Christianity. It is a critical moment in the history of the apostolic age.

When Paul has received the invitation to speak the word of exhortation, he turns to his countrymen and addresses to them an appeal most earnest and touching. The plan of his discourse, of which evidently we have only the leading points, is admirably adapted to his purpose. Speaking to Jews, he takes his stand on the ground of the old covenant. He first shows the historic descent of Christ. Just as the kings succeeded the judges, so the Son of David has succeeded the kings, and has inaugurated a new kingship. Acts xiii, 23. The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, recognized him as the Messiah. Acts xiii, 25. If objection be taken to his ignominious death, that death itself Paul shows to be part of the prophecies concerning him. Every Sabbath, in every synagogue, the prophetic oracles declaring it are read. And beyond this, he is risen again, and has been seen of his disciples; and this glorious fact, foretold by the prophets, is a pledge of the fulfillment of the promises. Acts xiii, 32, 33. So far Paul follows substantially the same method as Peter. In addressing Jews he could not, indeed, well do otherwise, but his conclusion is startlingly new. For the first time he proclaims the impotence of Judaism, and preaches salvation by faith alone. "By him," he says, "all that believe are justified from all things, from which [they] could not be justified by the law of Moses." He concludes by reminding his hearers how awful is their responsibility.

This discourse produced a deep impression; but while the Gentiles were filled with joy, there were murmurings of indignation among the Jews. These could no longer be restrained when, the next Sabbath, a large concourse of Gentiles came up to the synagogue. Paul had given his countrymen a grand opportunity of vindicating themselves from the heavy charge which had rested on their nation ever since the crucifixion of Christ. Far from embracing it, they sanction by their conduct the crime of their brethren, and betray once more the obstinate pride of their race, at the very moment when the ignorant Gentiles eagerly receive the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas are filled with holy indignation; this confirmed resistance of the Jews draws from them those words of incalculable import, "Lo! we turn to the Gentiles!" A new era opens upon the Church, The grateful Gentiles throng around the Apostles—conversions are multiplied—but at the same time, persecution, stirred up by the Jews, breaks out in fury, and Paul and Barnabas are compelled to quit the country, leaving behind them a host of neophytes. As they depart they shake off the dust of their feet, and this symbolical act is a fresh proof that the severance between the Church and the synagogue is complete.

At Iconium—a neighboring city—similar scenes are enacted. The Gospel is preached with acceptance to the Gentiles, but the exasperated Jews league themselves with some fanatics, (Acts xiv, 3-6,) and the Apostles escape death only by flight. They continue their journey no further in Asia Minor; but on returning they pass through Derbe and Lystra, cities of Lycaonia, built not far from the mountain chain of Taurus.

The people of this region were rude and ignorant; they still clung to ancient paganism with its absurd fables. They were distinguished by their fanaticism, and carried into their religious ideas the same wild passion as their neighbors, the people of Phrygia. The worship of Jupiter and Mercury was in favor in these provinces. In the familiar fable of Philemon and Baucis, these two divinities appear in Phrygia. A temple to Jupiter had been built at the gates of Lystra. Such a people would be sure to love the marvelous. The miraculous healing of the impotent man by Paul excited, therefore, the most lively enthusiasm. On all hands the cry was raised, "The gods are come down to us," (Acts xiv, 11, 12,) and Paul and Barnabas were hailed under the honored names of Mercury and Jupiter. The Apostles, not understanding the language of the country,9393The people used, before Paul and Barnabas, the language of Lycaonia. Acts xiv, 11. In the same tongue they call Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury. And yet Paul and' Barnabas have no suspicion of the thing at the time. The feelings of the people seem to have been explained to them. Acts xiv, 14. It is clear they did not comprehend the language. It was rather a Greek patois than a language; it is probable that the people knew Hellenic Greek, since Paul's discourse seems to have been at once understood. were unconscious of this idolatrous homage till they saw the priest of the false gods approaching them with garlands and oxen for sacrifice. Indignant and distressed, they ran in among the people, rending their clothes according to the Jewish custom, and disclaiming the impious worship offered them. "Sirs, why do ye these things?" they exclaim; "we also are men of like passions with you." Acts xiv, 15. They then press upon their hearers a belief in the true God. We observe in these words of Paul that beautiful idea, so often brought out by him, that even before the coming of Christ God's care had not been concentrated solely on the Jews, but that he had, in the benefits of his providence, given to the Gentiles also a revelation designed to prepare them for yet higher blessings. Acts xiv, 17, 18. It was henceforward not difficult for the Jews of the neighboring cities to stir up against the Apostles a multitude already ill-pleased. Paul was stoned, and dragged out of the city for dead, and his subsequent recovery was nothing less than a miracle. After rapidly passing again through the cities where they had preached the Gospel, and presiding at the election of elders, Paul and Barnabas set sail from Attalia to return to Antioch. Their first missionary journey was ended, and its glorious results were summed up in the grand declaration that "God had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."9494Baur ("Paulus," p. 91,) sees in the narrative of Paul's first journey nothing more than a skilful imitation of the miracles and discourses of St. Peter during the first era of the apostolic age. Thus the punishment of Elymas is the reflection of that of Simon Magus, and the healing of the cripple at Lystra, of the cure of the paralytic at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. As to Paul's discourses, they are but feeble echoes of those of Peter. On this latter point, we content ourselves with referring to the analysis we have given of Paul's sermon at Antioch in Pisidia. It is very natural that in the first part of the discourse, when speaking to the Jews, he should employ a mode of argument similar to that which Peter uses in addressing the same opponents. As to the miracles of Paul, what difficulty is there in supposing that two magicians and two paralytics should have crossed the path of the Apostles. An attentive observation of the sacred narrative will also discover positive differences between the two series of facts. What history could stand before such criticism as this? Acts xiv, 27.

This journey gave striking confirmation to all the revelations which Paul had received. He knew now, from the conversion of Sergius Paulus and the success of his preaching at Antioch in Pisidia, that deep spiritual needs were felt by the Gentiles, and that the heathen world was, after its manner, looking for redemption. But, at the same time, he had come into sharp contact with popular fanaticism, and had learned the cost of opposing it, and he had also proved by experience the obstinate resistance of his proud and opinionated countrymen. He had gained clearer ideas of the vocation wherewith he was called, with its inevitable accompanying perils and pains, and, doubtless, had already a sure presage of martyrdom as the final seal of faithfulness to the truth. But the glorious victories he had just gained, and the "marks of the Lord Jesus," which he already bore in the body wounded for his sake, gave him a right to be heard at Jerusalem, as at Antioch. God had confirmed his apostleship in a manner not to be mistaken. He was ready for the great internal conflict of the Church, after having so mightily served the common cause in the conflict with outlying heathenism.


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