The Life Of Jesus
To THE PURE SOUL of MY SISTER HENRIETTE
*The great results obtained on this point have only been acquired since the first edition of Strauss's work. The learned critic has, besides, done justice to them with much candor in his after editions.
*It is scarcely necessary to repeat that not a word in Strauss's work justifies the strange and absurd calumny by which it has been attempted to bring into disrepute with superficial persons, a work so agreeable, accurate, thoughtful, and conscientious, though spoiled in its general parts by an exclusive system. Not only has Strauss never denied the existence of Jesus, but each page of his book implies this existence. The truth is, Strauss supposes the individual character of Jesus less distinct for us than it perhaps is in reality.
I do not believe I have neglected any source of information as to ancient evidences. Without speaking of a crowd of other scattered data, there remain, respecting Jesus, and the time in which he lived, five great collections of writings—1st, The Gospels, and the writings of the New Testament in general; 2nd, The compositions called the "Apocrypha of the Old Testament;" 3rd, The works of Philo; 4th, Those of Josephus; 5th, The Talmud. The writings of Philo have the priceless advantage of showing us the thoughts which, in the time of Jesus, fermented in minds occupied with great religious questions. Philo lived, it is true, in quite a different province of Judaism to Jesus, but, like him, he was very free from the littlenesses which reigned at Jerusalem; Philo is truly the elder brother of Jesus. He was sixty-two years old when the Prophet of Nazareth was at the height of his activity, and he survived him at least ten years. What a pity that the chances of life did not conduct him into Galilee! What would he not have taught us!
Josephus, writing specially for pagans, is not so candid. His short notices of Jesus, of John the Baptist, of Judas the Gaulonite, are dry and colorless. We feel that he seeks to present these movements, so profoundly Jewish in character and spirit, under a form which would be intelligible to Greeks and Romans. I believe the passage respecting Jesus [Ant., XVIII. iii. 3] to be authentic. It is perfectly in the style of Josephus, and if this historian has made mention of Jesus, it is thus that he must have spoken of him. We feel only that a Christian hand has retouched the passage, has added a few words—without which it would almost have been blasphemous ["If it be lawful to call him man."]—has perhaps retrenched or modified some expressions. [In place of χριστος ουτος ην, he certainly had these: χρστος ουτος ελεγετο.—Cf. Ant., XX. ix. 1.] It must be recollected that the literary fortune of Josephus was made by the Christians, who adopted his writings as essential documents of their sacred history. They made, probably in the second century, an edition corrected according to Christian ideas.* At all events, that which constitutes the immense interest of Josephus on the subject which occupies us, is the clear light which he throws upon the period. Thanks to him, Herod, Herodias, Antipas, Philip, Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate are personages whom we can touch with the finger, and whom we see living before us with a striking reality.
* Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., i. 11, and Demonstr. Evang., iii. 5) cites the passage respecting Jesus as we now read it in Josephus. Origen (Contra Celsus, i. 47; ii. 13) and Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., ii. 23) cite another Christian interpolation, which is not found in any of the manuscripts of Josephus which have come down to us.
The Apocryphal books of the Old Testament, especially the Jewish part of the Sibylline verses, and the Book of Enoch, together with the Book of Daniel, which is also really an Apocrypha, have a primary importance in the history of the development of the Messianic theories, and for the understanding of the conceptions of Jesus respecting the kingdom of God. The Book of Enoch especially, which was much read at the time of Jesus*, gives us the key to the expression "Son of Man," and to the ideas attached to it. The ages of these different books, thanks to the labors of Alexander, Ewald, Dillmann, and Reuss, are now beyond doubt. Every one is agreed in placing the compilation of the most important of them in the second and first centuries before Jesus Christ. The date of the Book of Daniel is still more certain. The character of the two languages in which it is written, the use of Greek words, the clear, precise, dated announcement of events which reach even to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, the incorrect descriptions of Ancient Babylonia, there given, the general tone of the book, which in no respect recalls the writings of the captivity, but, on the contrary, responds, by a crowd of analogies, to the beliefs, the manners, the turn of imagination of the time of the Seleucidae; the Apocalyptic form of the visions, the place of the book in the Hebrew canon, out of the series of the prophets, the omission of Daniel in the panegyrics of Chapter xlix. of Ecclesiasticus, in which his position is all but indicated, and many other proofs which have been deduced a hundred times, do not permit of a doubt that the Book of Daniel was but the fruit of the great excitement produced among the Jews by the persecution of Antiochus. It is not in the old prophetical literature that we must class this book, but rather at the head of Apocalyptic literature, as the first model of a kind of composition, after which come the various Sibylline poems, the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of John, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Fourth Book of Esdras.
In the history of the origin of Christianity, the Talmud has hitherto been too much neglected. I think with M. Geiger, that the true notion of the circumstances which surrounded the development of Jesus must be sought in this strange compilation, in which so much precious information is mixed with the most insignificant scholasticism. The Christian and the Jewish theology having in the main followed two parallel ways, the history of the one cannot well be understood without the history of the other. Innumerable important details in the Gospels find, moreover, their commentary in the Talmud. The vast Latin collections of Lightfoot, Schoettgen, Buxtorf, and Otho contained already a mass of information on this point. I have imposed on myself the task of verifying in the original all the citations which I have admitted, without a single exception. The assistance which has been given me for this part of my task by a learned Israelite, M. Neubauer, well versed in Talmudic literature, has enabled me to go further, and to clear up the most intricate parts of my subject by new researches. The distinction of epochs is here most important, the compilation of the Talmud extending from the year 200 to about the year 500. We have brought to it as much discernment as is possible in the actual state of these studies. Dates so recent will excite some fears among persons habituated to accord value to a document only for the period in which it was written. But such scruples would here be out of place. The teaching of the Jews from the Asmonean epoch down to the second century was principally oral. We must not judge of this state of intelligence by the habits of an age of much writing. The Vedas, and the ancient Arabian poems, have been preserved for ages from memory, and yet these compositions present a very distinct and delicate form. In the Talmud, on the contrary, the form has no value. Let us add that before the Mishnah of Judas the Saint, which has caused all others to be forgotten, there were attempts at compilation, the commencement of which is probably much earlier than is commonly supposed. The style of the Talmud is that of loose notes; the collectors did no more probably than classify under certain titles the enormous mass of writings which had been accumulating in the different schools for generations.
It remains for us to speak of the documents which, presenting themselves as biographies of the Founder of Christianity, must naturally hold the first place in a Life of Jesus. A complete treatise upon the compilation of the Gospels would be a work of itself. Thanks to the excellent researches of which this question has been the object during thirty years, a problem which was formerly judged insurmountable has obtained a solution which, though it leaves room for many uncertainties, fully suffices for the necessities of history. We shall have occasion to return to this in our Second Book, the composition of the Gospels having been one of the most important facts for the future of Christianity in the second half of the first century. We will touch here only a single aspect of the subject, that which is indispensable to the completeness of our narrative. Leaving aside all which belongs to the portraiture of the apostolic times, we will inquire only in what degree the data furnished by the Gospels may be employed in a history formed according to rational principles.*
*Persons who wish to read more ample explanations, may consult, in addition to the work of M. Reville, previously cited, the writings of Reuss and Scherer in the Revue de Theologie, vol. x., xi., xv.; new series, ii., iii., iv.; and that of Nicholas in the Revue Germanique, Sept. and Dec., 1862; April and June, 1863.
That the Gospels are in part legendary, is evident, since they are full of miracles and of the supernatural; but legends have not all the same value. No one doubts the principal features of the life of Francis d'Assisi, although we meet the supernatural at every step. No one, on the other hand, accords credit to the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, because it was written long after the time of the hero, and purely as a romance. At what time, by what hands, under what circumstances, have the Gospels been compiled? This is the primary question upon which depends the opinion to be formed of their credibility.
Each of the four Gospels bears at its head the name of a personage, known either in the apostolic history, or in the Gospel history itself. These four personages are not strictly given us as the authors. The formulae "according to Matthew," "according to Mark," "according to Luke," "according to John," do not imply that, in the most ancient opinion, these recitals were written from beginning to end by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,* they merely signify that these were the traditions proceeding from each of these apostles, and claiming their authority. It is clear that, if these titles are exact, the Gospels, without ceasing to be in part legendary, are of great value, since they enable us to go back to the half century which followed the death of Jesus, and in two instances, even to the eye-witnesses of his actions.
* In the same manner we say, "The Gospel according to the Hebrews," "The Gospel according to the Egyptians."
Firstly, as to Luke, doubt is scarcely possible. The Gospel of Luke is a regular composition, founded on anterior documents.* It is the work of a man who selects, prunes, and combines. The author of this Gospel is certainly the same as that of the Acts of the Apostles. [Acts i. 1. Compare Luke i. 1-4.] Now, the author of the Acts is a companion of St. Paul [From xvi. 10, the author represents himself as eye-witness.], a title which applies to Luke exactly.* I know that more than one objection may be raised against this reasoning; but one least, is beyond doubt, namely, that the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts was a man of the second apostolic generation, and that is sufficient for our object. The date of this Gospel can moreover be determined with much precision by considerations drawn from the book itself. The twenty-first chapter of Luke, inseparable from the rest of the work, was certainly written after the siege of Jerusalem, and but a short time after. [Verses 9, 20, 24, 28, 32. Comp. xxii. 36.] We are here, then, upon solid ground; for we are concerned with a work written entirely by the same hand, and of the most perfect unity.
* 2 Tim. iv. 11; Philemon 24; Col. iv. 14. The name of Lucas (contraction of Lucanus) being very rare, we need not fear one of those homonyms which cause so many perplexities in questions of criticism relative to the New Testament.
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark have not nearly the same stamp of individuality. They are impersonal compositions, in which the author totally disappears. A proper name written at the head of works of this kind does not amount to much. But if the Gospel of Luke is dated, those of Matthew and Mark are dated also; for it is certain that the third Gospel is posterior to the first two and exhibits the character of a much more advanced compilation. We have, besides, on this point, an excellent testimony from a writer of the first half of the second century—namely, Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, a grave man, a man of traditions, who was all his life seeking to collect whatever could be known of the person of Jesus.* After having declared that on such matters he preferred oral tradition to books, Papias mentions two writings on the acts and words of Christ: First, a writing of Mark, the interpreter of apostle Peter, written briefly, incomplete, and not arranged in chronological order, including narratives and discourses, (λεχθεντα η πραχθεντα), composed from the information and recollections of the apostle Peter; second, a collection of sentences (λογια) written in Hebrew [That is to say, in the Semitic dialect.] by Matthew, "and which each one has translated as he could." It is certain that these two descriptions answer pretty well to the general physiognomy of the two books now called "Gospel according to Matthew," "Gospel according to Mark"—the first characterized by its long discourses; the second, above all, by anecdote—much more exact than the first upon small facts, brief even to dryness, containing few discourses, and indifferently composed. That these two works, such as we now read them, are absolutely similar to those read by Papias, cannot be sustained: Firstly, because the writings of Matthew were to Papias solely discourses in Hebrew, of which there were in circulation very varying translations; and, secondly, because the writings of Mark and Matthew were to him profoundly distinct, written without any knowledge of each other, and, as it seems, in different languages. Now, in the present state of the texts, the "Gospel according to Matthew" and the "Gospel according to Mark" present parallel parts so long and so perfectly identical, that it must be supposed, either that the final compiler of the first had the second under his eyes, or vice versa, or that both copied from the same prototype. That which appears the most likely, is, that we have not the entirely original compilations of either Matthew or Mark; but that our first two Gospels are versions in which the attempt is made to fill up the gaps of the one text by the other. Every one wished, in fact, to possess a complete copy. He who had in his copy only discourses, wished to have narratives, and vice versa. It is thus that "the Gospel according to Matthew" is found to have included almost all the anecdotes of Mark, and that "the Gospel according to Mark" now contains numerous features which come from the Logia of Matthew. Every one, besides, drew largely on the Gospel tradition then current. This tradition was so far from having been exhausted by the Gospels, that the Acts of the Apostles and the most ancient Fathers quote many words of Jesus which appear authentic, and are not found in the Gospels we possess.
*In Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39. No doubt whatever can be raised as to the authenticity of this passage. Eusebius, in fact, far from exaggerating the authority of Papias, is embarrassed at his simple ingenuousness, at his gross millenarianism, and solves the difficulty by treating him as a man of little mind. Comp. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., iii. 1.
It matters little for our present object to push this delicate analysis further, and to endeavor to reconstruct in some manner, on the one hand, the original Logia of Matthew, and, on the other, the primitive narrative such as it left the pen of Mark. The Logia are doubtless represented by the great discourses of Jesus which fill a considerable part of the first Gospel. These discourses form, in fact, when detached from the rest, a sufficiently complete whole. As to the narratives of the first and second Gospels, they seem to have for basis a common document, of which the text reappears sometimes in the one and sometimes in the other, and of which the second Gospel, such as we read it to-day, is but a slightly modified reproduction. In other words, the scheme of the Life of Jesus, in the synoptics, rests upon two original documents—first, the discourses of Jesus collected by Matthew; second, the collection of anecdotes and personal reminiscences which Mark wrote from the recollections of Peter. We may say that we have these two documents still, mixed with accounts from another source, in the two first Gospels, which bear, not without reason, the name of the "Gospel according to Matthew" and of the "Gospel according to Mark."
What is undubitable, in any case, is, that very early the discourses of Jesus were written in the Aramean language, and very early also his remarkable actions were recorded. These were not texts defined and fixed dogmatically. Besides the Gospels which have come to us, there were a number of others professing to represent the tradition of eye-witnesses. [Luke i. 1, 2; Origen, Hom. in Luc. 1 init.; St. Jerome, Comment. in Matt., prol.] Little importance was attached to these writings, and the preservers, such as Papias, greatly preferred oral tradition. [Papias, in Eusebius, H. E., iii. 39. Comp. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., III. ii. and iii.] As men still believed that the world was nearly at an end, they cared little to compose books for the future; it was sufficient merely to preserve in their hearts a lively image of him whom they hoped soon to see again in the clouds. Hence the little authority which the Gospel texts enjoyed during one hundred and fifty years. There was no scruple in inserting additions, in variously combining them, and in completing some by others. The poor man who has but one book wishes that it may contain all that is dear to his heart. These little books were lent, each one transcribed in the margin of his copy the words, and the parables he found elsewhere, which touched him. [It is thus that the beautiful narrative in John viii. 1-11 has always floated, without finding a fixed place in the framework of the received Gospels.] The most beautiful thing in the world has thus proceeded from an obscure and purely popular elaboration. No compilation was of absolute value. Justin, who often appeals to that which he calls "The Memoirs of the Apostles," [Τα απομνημονευματα των αποστολων, α καλειται ευαγγελια. Justin, Apol. i. 33, 66, 67; Dial. cum Tryph., 10, 100-107] had under his notice Gospel documents in a state very different from that in which we possess them. At all events, he never cares to quote them textually. The Gospel quotations in the pseudo-Clementinian writings, of Ebionite origin, present the same character. The spirit was everything; the letter was nothing. It was when tradition became weakened, in the second half of the second century, that the texts bearing the names of the apostles took a decisive authority and obtained the force of law.
Who does not see the value of documents thus composed of the tender remembrances, and simple narratives, of the first two Christian generations, still full of the strong impression which the illustrious Founder has produced, and which seemed long to survive him? Let us add, that the Gospels in question seem to proceed from that branch of the Christian family which stood nearest to Jesus. The last work of compilation, at least of the text which bears the name of Matthew, appears to have been done in one of the countries situated at the northeast of Palestine, such as Gaulonitis, Auranitis, Batanea, where many Christians took refuge at the time of the Roman war, where were found relatives of Jesus [Julius Africanus, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., i. 7.] even in the second century, and where the first Galilean tendency was longer preserved than in other parts,
So far we have only spoken of the three Gospels named the synoptics. There remains a fourth, that which bears the name of John. Concerning this one, doubts have a much better foundation, and the question is further from solution. Papias—who was connected with the school of John, and who, if not one of his auditors, as Irenaeus thinks, associated with his immediate disciples, among others, Aristion, and the one called Presbyteros Joannes—says not a word of a Life of Jesus, written by John, although he had zealously collected the oral narratives of both Aristion and Presbyteros Joannes. If any such mention had been found in his work, Eusebius, who points out everything therein that can contribute to the literary history of the apostolic age, would doubtless have mentioned it.
The intrinsic difficulties drawn from the perusal of the fourth Gospel itself are not less strong. How is it that, side by side with narration so precise, and so evidently that of an eye-witness, we find discourses so totally different from those of Matthew? How is it that, connected with a general plan of the life of Jesus, which appears much more satisfactory and exact than that of the synoptics, these singular passages occur in which we are sensible of a dogmatic interest peculiar to the compiler, of ideas foreign to Jesus, and sometimes of indications which place us on our guard against the good faith of the narrator? Lastly, how is it that, united with views the most pure, the most just, the most truly evangelical, we find these blemishes which we would fain regard as the interpolations of an ardent sectarian? Is it indeed John, son of Zebedee, brother of James (of whom there is not a single mention made in the fourth Gospel), who is able to write in Greek these lessons of abstract metaphysics to which neither the synoptics nor the Talmud offer any analogy? All this is of great importance; and for myself, I dare not be sure that the fourth Gospel has been entirely written by the pen of a Galilean fisherman. But that, as a whole, this Gospel may have originated toward the end of the first century, from the great school of Asia Minor, which was connected with John, that it represents to us a version of the life of the Master, worthy of high esteem, and often to be preferred, is demonstrated, in a manner which leaves us nothing to be desired, both by exterior evidences and by examination of the document itself.
And, firstly, no one doubts that, towards the year 150, the fourth Gospel did exist, and was attributed to John. Explicit texts from St. Justin [Apol., i. 32, 61; Dial. cum Tryph., 88.], from Athenagoras [Legatio pro Christ, 10.], from Tatian [Adv. Graec., 5, 7; Cf. Eusebius, H. E., iv. 29; Theodoret, Haeretic. Fabul., i. 20.], from Theophilus of Antioch [Ad Autolycum, ii. 22.], from Irenaeus [Adv. Haer., II. xxii. 5, III. 1. Cf. Eus., H. E., v. 8.], show that henceforth this Gospel mixed in every controversy, and served as corner-stone for the development of the faith. Irenaeus is explicit; now, Irenaeus came from the school of John, and between him and the apostle there was only Polycarp. The part played by this Gospel in Gnosticism, and especially in the system of Valentinus [Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., I. iii., 6; III., xi. 7; St. Hippolytus, Philosophumena VI., ii., 29, and following.], in Montanism [Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., III. xi. 9.], and in the quarrel of the Quartodecimans [Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., v. 24.], is not less decisive. The school of John was the most influential one during the second century; and it is only by regarding the origin of the Gospel as coincident with the rise of the school, that the existence of the latter can be understood at all. Let us add that the first epistle attributed to St. John is certainly by the same author as the fourth Gospel;* now, this epistle is recognized as from John by Polycarp [Epistle ad Philipp., 7.], Papias [In Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., III. 39.], and Irenaeus. [Adv. Haer., III. xvi. 5, 8; Cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., v. 8.]
* 1 John i. 3, 5. The two writings present the most complete identity of style, the same peculiarities, the same favorite expressions.
But it is, above all, the perusal of the work itself which is calculated to give this impression. The author always speaks as an eye-witness; he wishes to pass for the apostle John. If, then, this work is not really by the apostle, we must admit a fraud of which the author convicts himself. Now, although the ideas of the time respecting literary honesty differed essentially from ours, there is no example in the apostolic world of a falsehood of this kind. Besides, not only does the author wish to pass for the apostle John, but we see clearly that he writes in the interest of this apostle. On each page he betrays the desire to fortify his authority, to show that he has been the favorite of Jesus [John xiii. 23, xix. 26, xx. 2, xxi. 7, 20.]; that in all the solemn circumstances (at the Lord's supper, at Calvary, at the tomb) he held the first place. His relations on the whole fraternal, although not excluding a certain rivalry with Peter [John xviii. 15-16, xx. 2-6, xxi. 15-19. Comp. i. 35, 40, 41.]; his hatred, on the contrary, of Judas [John vi. 65, xii. 6, xiii. 21, and following.], a hatred probably anterior to the betrayal, seems to pierce through here and there. We are tempted to believe that John, in his old age, having read the Gospel narratives, on the one hand remarked their various inaccuracies,* on the other, was hurt at seeing that there was not accorded to him a sufficiently high place in the history of Christ; that then he commenced to dictate a number of things which he knew better than the rest, with the intention of showing that in many instances, in which only Peter was spoken of, he had figured with him and even before him. [Compare John xviii. 15, and following, with Matthew xxvi. 58; John xx. 2 to 6, with Mark xvi. 7. See also John xiii. 24, 25.] Already during the life of Jesus, these trifling sentiments of jealousy had been manifested between the sons of Zebedee and the other disciples. After the death of James, his brother, John remained sole inheritor of the intimate remembrances of which these two apostles, by the common consent, were the depositaries. Hence his perpetual desire to recall that he is the last surviving eye-witness [Chap. i. 14, xix. 35, xxi. 24, and following. Compare the First Epistle of St. John, chap. i. 3, 5.], and the pleasure which he takes in relating circumstances which he alone could know. Hence, too, so many minute details which seem like the commentaries of an annotator—"it was the sixth hour;" "it was night;" "the servant's name was Malchus;" "they had made a fire of coals, for it was cold;" "the coat was without seam." Hence, lastly, the disorder of the compilation, the irregularity of the narration, the disjointedness of the first chapters, all so many inexplicable features on the supposition that this Gospel was but a theological thesis, without historic value, and which, on the contrary, are perfectly intelligible, if, in conformity with tradition, we see in them the remembrances of an old man, sometimes of remarkable freshness, sometimes having undergone strange modifications.
* The manner in which Aristion and Presbyteros Joannes expressed themselves on the Gospel of Mark before Papias (Eusebius, H. E., III. 39) implies, in effect, a friendly criticism, or, more properly, a sort of excuse, indicating that John's disciples had better information on the same subject.
A primary distinction, indeed, ought to be made in the Gospel of John. On the one side this Gospel presents us with a rough draft of the life of Jesus, which differs considerably from that of the synoptics. On the other, it puts into the mouth of Jesus discourses of which the tone, the style, the treatment, and the doctrines have nothing in common with the Logia given us by the synoptics. In this second respect, the difference is such that we must make choice in a decisive manner. If Jesus spoke as Matthew represents, he could not have spoken as John relates. Between these two authorities no critic has ever hesitated, or can ever hesitate. Far removed from the simple, disinterested, impersonal tone of the synoptics, the Gospel of John shows incessantly the preoccupation of the apologist—the mental reservation of the sectarian, the desire to prove a thesis, and to convince adversaries.* It was not by pretentious tirades, heavy, badly written, and appealing little to the moral sense, that Jesus founded his divine work. If even Papias had not taught us that Matthew wrote the sayings of Jesus in their original tongue, the natural, ineffable truth, the charm beyond comparison of the discourses in the synoptics, their profoundly Hebraistic idiom, the analogies which they present with the sayings of the Jewish doctors of the period, their perfect harmony with the natural phenomena of Galilee—all these characteristics, compared with the obscure Gnosticism, with the distorted metaphysics, which fill the discourses of John, would speak loudly enough. This by no means implies that there are not in the discourses of John some admirable gleams, some traits which truly come from Jesus.* But the mystic tone of these discourses does not correspond at all to the character of the eloquence of Jesus, such as we picture it according to the synoptics. A new spirit has breathed; Gnosticism has already commenced; the Galilean era of the kingdom of God is finished; the hope of the near advent of Christ is more distant; we enter on the barrenness of metaphysics, into the darkness of abstract dogma. The spirit of Jesus is not there, and, if the son of Zebedee has truly traced these pages, he had certainly, in writing them, quite forgotten the Lake of Gennesareth, and the charming discourses which he had heard upon its shores.
*See, for example, chaps. ix. and xi. Notice especially, the effect which such passages as John xix. 35, xx. 31, xxi. 20-23, 24, 25, produce, when we recall the absence of all comments which distinguishes the synoptics.
*For example, chap. iv. 1, and following, xv. 12, and following. Many words remembered by John are found in the synoptics (chap. xii. 16, xv. 20).
One circumstance, moreover, which strongly proves that the discourses given us by the fourth Gospel are not historical, but compositions intended to cover with the authority of Jesus certain doctrines dear to the compiler, is their perfect harmony with the intellectual state of Asia Minor at the time when they were written. Asia Minor was then the theater of a strange movement of syncretical philosophy; all the germs of Gnosticism existed there already. John appears to have drunk deeply from these strange springs. It may be that, after the crisis of the year 68 (the date of the Apocalypse) and of the year 70 (the destruction of Jerusalem), the old apostle, with an ardent and plastic spirit, disabused of the belief in a near appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds, may have inclined toward the ideas that he found around him, of which several agreed sufficiently well with certain Christian doctrines. In attributing these new ideas to Jesus, he only followed a very natural tendency. Our remembrances are transformed with our circumstances; the ideal of a person that we have known changes as we change. [It was thus that Napoleon became a liberal in the remembrances of his companions in exile, when these, after their return, found themselves thrown in the midst of the political society of the time.] Considering Jesus as the incarnation of truth, John could not fail to attribute to him that which he had come to consider as the truth.
If we must speak candidly, we will add that probably John himself had little share in this; that the change was made around him rather than by him. One is sometimes tempted to believe that precious notes, coming from the apostle, have been employed by his disciples in a very different sense from the primitive Gospel spirit. In fact, certain portions of the fourth Gospel have been added later; such is the entire twenty-first chapter [The verses, chap. xx. 30, 31, evidently form the original conclusion.], in which the author seems to wish to render homage to the apostle Peter after his death, and to reply to the objections which would be drawn, or already had been drawn, from the death of John himself, (ver. 21-23). Many other places bear the traces of erasures and corrections. [Chap. vi. 2, 22, vii. 22.] It is impossible at this distance to understand these singular problems, and without doubt many surprises would be in store for us, if we were permitted to penetrate the secrets of that mysterious school of Ephesus, which, more than once, appears to have delighted in obscure paths. But there is a decisive test. Everyone who sets himself to write the Life of Jesus without any predetermined theory as to the relative value of the Gospels, letting himself be guided solely by the sentiment of the subject, will be led in numerous instances to prefer the narration of John to that of the synoptics. The last months of the life of Jesus especially are explained by John alone; a number of the features of the passion, unintelligible in the synoptics [For example, that which concerns the announcement of the betrayal by Judas.], resume both probability and possibility in the narrative of the fourth Gospel. On the contrary, I dare defy anyone to compose a Life of Jesus with any meaning, from the discourses which John attributes to him. This manner of incessantly preaching and demonstrating himself, this perpetual argumentation, this stage-effect devoid of simplicity, these long arguments after each miracle, these stiff and awkward discourses, the tone of which is so often false and unequal [See, for example, chaps. ii. 25, iii. 32, 33, and the long disputes of chapters vii., viii., and ix.], would not be tolerated by a man of taste compared with the delightful sentences of the synoptics. There are here evidently artificial portions [We feel often that the author seeks pretexts for introducing certain discourses (chaps. iii., v., viii., xiii., and following).], which represent to us the sermons of Jesus, as the dialogues of Plato render us the conversations of Socrates. They are, so to speak, the variations of a musician improvising on a given theme. The theme is not without some authenticity; but in the execution, the imagination of the artist has given itself full scope. We are sensible of the factitious mode of procedure, of rhetoric, of gloss. [For example, chap. xvii.] Let us add that the vocabulary of Jesus cannot be recognized in the portions of which we speak. The expression "kingdom of God," which was so familiar to the Master [Besides the synoptics, the Acts, the Epistles of St. Paul, and the Apocalypse, confirm it.], occurs there but once. [John iii. 3, 5.] On the other hand, the style of the discourses attributed to Jesus by the fourth Gospel, presents the most complete analogy with that of the Epistles of St. John; we see that in writing the discourses, the author followed not his recollections, but rather the somewhat monotonous movement of his own thought. Quite a new mystical language is introduced, a language of which the synoptics had not the least idea ("world," "truth," "life," "light," "darkness," etc.). If Jesus had ever spoken in this style, which has nothing of Hebrew, nothing Jewish, nothing Talmudic in it, how, if I may thus express myself, is it that but a single one of his hearers should have so well kept the secret?
Literary history offers, besides, another example, which presents the greatest analogy with the historic phenomenon we have just described, and serves to explain it. Socrates, who, like Jesus, never wrote, is known to us by two of his disciples, Xenophon and Plato; the first corresponding to the synoptics in his clear, transparent, impersonal compilation; the second recalling the author of the fourth Gospel, by his vigorous individuality. In order to describe the Socratic teaching, should we follow the "dialogues" of Plato, or the "discourses" of Xenophon? Doubt, in this respect, is not possible; every one chooses the "discourses," and not the "dialogues." Does Plato, however, teach us nothing about Socrates? Would it be good criticism, in writing the biography of the latter, to neglect the "dialogues"? Who would venture to maintain this? The analogy, moreover, is not complete, and the difference is in favor of the fourth Gospel. The author of this Gospel is, in fact, the better biographer; as if Plato, who, whilst attributing to his master fictitious discourses, had known important matters about his life, which Xenophon ignored entirely.
Without pronouncing upon the material question as to what hand has written the fourth Gospel, and whilst inclined to believe that the discourses, at least, are not from the son of Zebedee, we admit still, that it is indeed "the Gospel according to John," in the same sense that the first and second Gospels are the Gospels "according to Matthew," and "according to Mark." The historical sketch of the fourth Gospel is the Life of Jesus, such as it was known in the school of John; it is the recital which Aristion and Presbyteros Joannes made to Papias, without telling him that it was written, or rather attaching no importance to this point. I must add, that, in my opinion, this school was better acquainted with the exterior circumstances of the life of the Founder than the group whose remembrances constituted the synoptics. It had, especially upon the sojourns of Jesus at Jerusalem, data which the others did not possess. The disciples of this school treated Mark as an indifferent biographer, and devised a system to explain his omissions.* Certain passages of Luke, where there is, as it were, an echo of the traditions of John,* prove also that these traditions were not entirely unknown to the rest of the Christian family.
* For example, the pardon of the adulteress; the knowledge which Luke has of the family of Bethany; his type of the character of Martha responding to the διηχουει of John (chap. xii. 2); the incident of the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair; an obscure notion of the travels of Jesus to Jerusalem; the idea that in his passion he was seen by three witnesses; the opinion of the author that some disciples were present at the crucifixion; the knowledge which he has of the part played by Annas in aiding Caiaphas; the appearance of the angel in the agony (comp. John xii. 28, 29).
These explanations will suffice, I think, to show, in the course of my narrative, the motives which have determined me to give the preference to this or that of the four guides whom we have for the Life of Jesus. On the whole, I admit as authentic the four canonical Gospels. All, in my opinion, date from the first century, and the authors are, generally speaking, those to whom they are attributed; but their historic value is very diverse. Matthew evidently merits an unlimited confidence as to the discourses; they are the Logia, the identical notes taken from a clear and lively remembrance of the teachings of Jesus. A kind of splendor at once mild and terrible—a divine strength, if we may so speak, emphasizes these words, detaches them from the context, and renders them easily distinguishable. The person who imposes upon himself the task of making a continuous narrative from the gospel history, possesses, in this respect, an excellent touchstone. The real words of Jesus disclose themselves; as soon as we touch them in this chaos of traditions of varied authenticity, we feel them vibrate; they betray themselves spontaneously, and shine out of the narrative with unequaled brilliancy.
The narrative portions grouped in the first Gospel around this primitive nucleus have not the same authority. There are many not well defined legends which have proceeded from the zeal of the second Christian generation. [Chaps. i., ii., especially. See also chap. xxvii. 3, 19, 51, 53, 60, xxviii. 2, and following, in comparing Mark.] The Gospel of Mark is much firmer, more precise, containing fewer subsequent additions. He is the one of the three synoptics who has remained the most primitive, the most original, the one to whom the fewest after-elements have been added. In Mark, the facts are related with a clearness for which we seek in vain amongst the other evangelists. He likes to report certain words of Jesus in Syro-Chaldean. [Chap. v. 41, vii. 34, xv. 34. Matthew only presents this peculiarity once (chap. xxvii. 46).] He is full of minute observations, coming doubtless from an eye-witness. There is nothing to prevent our agreeing with Papias in regarding this eye-witness, who evidently had followed Jesus, who had loved him and observed him very closely, and who had preserved a lively image of him, as the apostle Peter himself.
As to the work of Luke, its historical value is sensibly weaker. It is a document which comes to us second-hand, The narrative is more mature. The words of Jesus are there, more deliberate, more sententious. Some sentences are distorted and exaggerated. [Chap. xiv. 26. The rules of the apostolate (chap. x.) have there a peculiar character of exaltation.] Writing outside of Palestine, and certainly after the siege of Jerusalem [Chap. xix. 41, 43, 44, xxi. 9, 20, xxiii. 29.], the author indicates the places with less exactitude than the other two synoptics; he has an erroneous idea of the temple, which he represents as an oratory where people went to pay their devotions. [Chap. ii. 37, xviii. 10, and following, xxiv. 53.] He subdues some details in order to make the different narratives agree [For example, chap. iv. 16.]; he softens the passages which had become embarrassing on account of a more exalted idea of the divinity of Christ [Chap. iii. 23. He omits Matt. xxiv. 36.]; he exaggerates the marvellous [Chap. iv. 14, xxii. 43, 44.]; commits errors in chronology [For example, in that which concerns Quirinius, Lysanias, Theudas.]; omits Hebraistic comments [Compare Luke i. 31 with Matt. i. 21.]; quotes no word of Jesus in this language, and gives to all the localities their Greek names. We feel we have to do with a compiler—with a man who has not himself seen the witnesses, but who labors at the texts and wrests their sense to make them agree. Luke had probably under his eyes the biographical collection of Mark, and the Logia of Matthew. But he treats them with much freedom; sometimes he fuses two anecdotes or two parables in one [For example, chap. xix. 12-27.]; sometimes he divides one in order to make two. [Thus, of the repast at Bethany he gives two narratives, chap. vii. 36-48, and x. 38-42.] He interprets the documents according to his own idea; he has not the absolute impassibility of Matthew and Mark. We might affirm certain things of his individual tastes and tendencies; he is a very exact devotee [Chap. xxiii. 56.]; he insists that Jesus had performed all the Jewish rites [Chap. ii. 21, 22, 39, 41, 42. This is an Ebionitish feature. Cf. Philosophumena VII. vi. 34.], he is a warm Ebionite and democrat, that is to say, much opposed to property, and persuaded that the triumph of the poor is approaching;* he likes especially all the anecdotes showing prominently the conversion of sinners—the exaltation of the humble;* he often modifies the ancient traditions in order to give them this meaning;* he admits into his first pages the legends about the infancy of Jesus, related with the long amplifications, the spiritual songs, and the conventional proceedings which form the essential features of the Apocryphal Gospels. Finally, he has in the narrative of the last hours of Jesus some circumstances full of tender feeling, and certain words of Jesus of delightful beauty,* which are not found in more authentic accounts, and in which we detect the presence of legend. Luke probably borrowed them from a more recent collection, in which the principal aim was to excite sentiments of piety.
* The parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Compare chap. vi. 20, and following, 24, and following, xii. 13, and following, xvi. entirely, xxii. 35. Acts ii. 44, 45, v. 1, and following.
* The woman who anoints his feet, Zaccheus, the penitent thief, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, and the prodigal son.
* For example, Mary of Bethany is represented by him as a sinner who becomes converted.
* Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, the bloody sweat, the meeting of the holy women, the penitent thief, &c. The speech to the women of Jerusalem (xxiii. 28, 29) could scarcely have been conceived except after the siege of the year 70.
A great reserve was naturally enforced in presence of a document of this nature. It would have been as uncritical to neglect it as to employ it without discernment. Luke has had under his eyes originals which we no longer possess. He is less an evangelist than a biographer of Jesus, a "harmonizer," a corrector after the manner of Marcion and Tatian. But he is a biographer of the first century, a divine artist, who, independently of the information which he has drawn from more ancient sources, shows us the character of the Founder with a happiness of treatment, with a uniform inspiration, and a distinctness which the other two synoptics do not possess. In the perusal of his Gospel there is the greatest charm; for to the incomparable beauty of the foundation, common to them all, he adds a degree of skill in composition which singularly augments the effect of the portrait, without seriously injuring its truthfulness.
On the whole, we may say that the synoptical compilation has passed through three stages: first, the original documentary state (λογια of Matthew, λεχθεντα η πραχθεντα of Mark), primary compilations which no longer exist; second, the state of simple mixture, in which the original documents are amalgamated without any effort at composition, without there appearing any personal bias of the authors (the existing Gospels of Matthew and Mark); third, the state of combination or of intentional and deliberate compiling, in which we are sensible of an attempt to reconcile the different versions (Gospel of Luke). The Gospel of John, as we have said, forms a composition of another order, and is entirely distinct.
It will be remarked that I have made no use of the Apocryphal Gospels. These compositions ought not in any manner to be put upon the same footing as the canonical Gospels. They are insipid and puerile amplifications, having the canonical Gospels for their basis, and adding nothing thereto of any value. On the other hand, I have been very attentive to collect the shreds preserved by the Fathers of the Church, of the ancient Gospels which formerly existed parallel with the canonical Gospels, and which are now lost—such as the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel according to the Egyptians, the Gospels styled those of Justin, Marcion, and Tatian. The first two are principally important because they were written in Aramean, like the Logia of Matthew, and appear to constitute one version of the Gospel of this apostle, and because they were the Gospel of the Ebionim—that is, of those small Christian sects of Batanea who preserved the use of Syro-Chaldean, and who appear in some respects to have followed the course marked out by Jesus. But it must be confessed that in the state in which they have come to us, these Gospels are inferior, as critical authorities, to the compilation of Matthew's Gospel which we now possess.
It will now be seen, I think, what kind of historical value I attribute to the Gospels. They are neither biographies after the manner of Suetonius, nor fictitious legends in the style of Philostratus; they are legendary biographies. I should willingly compare them with the Legends of the Saints, the Lives of Plotinus, Proclus, Isidore, and other writings of the same kind, in which historical truth and the desire to present models of virtue are combined in various degrees. Inexactitude, which is one of the features of all popular compositions, is there particularly felt. Let us suppose that ten or twelve years ago three or four old soldiers of the Empire had each undertaken to write the life of Napoleon from memory. It is clear that their narratives would contain numerous errors. and great discordances. One of them would place Wagram before Marengo; another would write without hesitation that Napoleon drove the government of Robespierre from the Tuileries; a third would omit expeditions of the highest importance. But one thing would certainly result with a great degree of truthfulness from these simple recitals, and that is the character of the hero, the impression which he made around him. In this sense such popular narratives would be worth more than a formal and official history. We may say as much of the Gospels. Solely attentive to bring out strongly the excellency of the Master, his miracles, his teaching, the evangelists display entire indifference to everything that is not of the very spirit of Jesus. The contradictions respecting time, place, and persons were regarded as insignificant; for the higher the degree of inspiration attributed to the words of Jesus, the less was granted to the compilers themselves. The latter regarded themselves as simple scribes, and cared but for one thing—to omit nothing they knew. [See the passage from Papias, before cited.]
Unquestionably certain preconceived ideas associated themselves with such recollections. Several narratives, especially in Luke, are invented in order to bring out more vividly certain traits of the character of Jesus. This character itself constantly underwent alteration. Jesus would be a phenomenon unparalleled in history if, with the part which he played, he had not early become idealized. The legends respecting Alexander were invented before the generation of his companions in arms became extinct; those respecting St. Francis d'Assisi began in his lifetime. A rapid metamorphosis operated in the same manner in the twenty or thirty years which followed the death of Jesus, and imposed upon his biography the peculiarities of an ideal legend. Death adds perfection to the most perfect man; it frees him from all defect in the eyes of those who have loved him. With the wish to paint the Master, there was also the desire to explain him. Many anecdotes were conceived to prove that in him the prophecies regarded as Messianic had had their accomplishment. But this procedure, of which we must not deny the importance, would not suffice to explain everything. No Jewish work of the time gives a series of prophecies exactly declaring what the Messiah should accomplish. Many Messianic allusions quoted by the evangelists are so subtle, so indirect, that one cannot believe they all responded to a generally admitted doctrine. Sometimes they reasoned thus: "The Messiah ought to do such a thing; now, Jesus is the Messiah; therefore Jesus has done such a thing." At other times, by an inverse process, it was said: "Such a thing has happened to Jesus; now, Jesus is the Messiah; therefore such a thing was to happen to the Messiah." [See, for example, John xix. 23-24.] Too simple explanations are always false when analyzing those profound creations of popular sentiment which baffle all systems by their fullness and infinite variety. It is scarcely necessary to say that, with such documents, in order to present only what is indisputable, we must limit ourselves to general features. In almost all ancient histories, even in those which are much less legendary than these, details open up innumerable doubts. When we have two accounts of the same fact, it is extremely rare that the two accounts agree. Is not this a reason for anticipating many difficulties when we have but one? We may say that amongst the anecdotes, the discourses, the celebrated sayings which have been given us by the historians, there is not one strictly authentic. Were there stenographers to fix these fleeting words? Was there an analyst always present to note the gestures, the manners, the sentiments, of the actors? Let any one endeavor to get at the truth as to the way in which such or such contemporary fact has happened; he will not succeed. Two accounts of the same event given by different eye-witnesses differ essentially. Must we, therefore, reject all the coloring of the narratives, and limit ourselves to the bare facts only? That would be to suppress history. Certainly, I think that if we except certain short and almost mnemonic axioms, none of the discourses reported by Matthew are textual; even our stenographic reports are scarcely so. I freely admit that the admirable account of the Passion contains many trifling inaccuracies. Would it, however, be writing the history of Jesus to omit those sermons which give to us in such a vivid manner the character of his discourses, and to limit ourselves to saying, with Josephus and Tacitus, "that he was put to death by the order of Pilate at the instigation of the priests"? That would be, in my opinion, a kind of inexactittide worse than that to which we are exposed in admitting the details supplied by the texts. These details are not true to the letter, but they are true with a superior truth, they are more true than the naked truth, in the sense that they are truth rendered expressive and articulate—truth idealized.
I beg those who think that I have placed an exaggerated confidence in narratives in great part legendary, to take note of the observation I have just made. To what would the life of Alexander be reduced if it were confined to that which is materially certain? Even partly erroneous traditions contain a portion of truth which history cannot neglect. No one has blamed M. Sprenger for having, in writing the life of Mohammed, made much of the hadith or oral traditions concerning the prophet, and for often having attributed to his hero words which are only known through this source. Yet the traditions respecting Mohammed are not superior in historical value to the discourses and narratives which compose the Gospels. They were written between the year 50 and the year 140 of the Hegira. When the history of the Jewish schools in the ages which immediately preceded and followed the birth of Christianity shall be written, no one will make any scruple of attributing to Hillel, Shammai, Gamaliel, the maxims ascribed to them by the Mishnah and the Gemara, although these great compilations were written many hundreds of years after the time of the doctors in question.
As to those who believe, on the contrary, that history should consist of a simple reproduction of the documents which have come down to us, I beg to observe that such a course is not allowable. The four principal documents are in flagrant contradiction one with another. Josephus rectifies them sometimes. It is necessary to make a selection. To assert that an event cannot take place in two ways at once, or in an impossible manner, is not to impose an a priori philosophy upon history. The historian ought not to conclude that a fact is false because he possesses several versions of it, or because credulity has mixed with them much that is fabulous. He ought in such a case to be very cautious—to examine the texts, and to proceed carefully by induction. There is one class of narratives especially, to which this principle must necessarily be applied. Such are narratives of supernatural events. To seek to explain these, or to reduce them to legends, is not to mutilate facts in the name of theory; it is to make the observation of facts our groundwork. None of the miracles with which the old histories are filled took place under scientific conditions. Observation, which has never once been falsified, teaches us that miracles never happen but in times and countries in which they are believed, and before persons disposed to believe them. No miracle ever occurred in the presence of men capable of testing its miraculous character. Neither common people nor men of the world are able to do this. It requires great precautions and long habits of scientific research. In our days have we not seen almost all respectable people dupes of the grossest frauds or of puerile illusions? Marvellous facts, attested by the whole population of small towns, have, thanks to a severer scrutiny, been exploded. [See the Gazette des Tribunaux, 10th Sept. and 11th Nov., 1851, 28th May, 1857.] If it is proved that no contemporary miracle will bear inquiry, is it not probable that the miracles of the past, which have all been performed in popular gatherings, would equally present their share of illusion, if it were possible to criticize them in detail?
It is not, then, in the name of this or that philosophy, but in the name of universal experience, that we banish miracle from history. We do not say, "Miracles are impossible." We say, "Up to this time a miracle has never been proved." If to-morrow a thaumaturgus present himself with credentials sufficiently important to be discussed, and announce himself as able, say, to raise the dead, what would be done? A commission, composed of physiologists, physicists, chemists, persons accustomed to historical criticism, would be named. This commission would choose a corpse, would assure itself that the death was real, would select the room in which the experiment should be made, would arrange the whole system of precautions, so as to leave no chance of doubt. If, under such conditions, the resurrection were effected, a probability almost equal to certainty would be established. As, however, it ought to be possible always to repeat an experiment—to do over again what has been done once; and as, in the order of miracle, there can be no question of ease or difficulty, the thaumaturgus would be invited to reproduce his marvellous act under other circumstances, upon other corpses, in another place. If the miracle succeeded each time, two things would be proved: first, that supernatural events happen in the world; second, that the power of producing them belongs, or is delegated to, certain persons. But who does not see that no miracle ever took place under these conditions? but that always hitherto the thaumaturgus has chosen the subject of the experiment, chosen the spot, chosen the public; that, besides, the people themselves—most commonly in consequence of the invincible want to see something divine in great events and great men—create the marvellous legends afterwards? Until a new order of things prevails, we shall maintain then this principle of historical criticism—that a supernatural account cannot be admitted as such, that it always implies credulity or imposture, that the duty of the historian is to explain it, and seek to ascertain what share of truth or of error it may conceal.
Such are the rules which have been followed in the composition of this work. To the perusal of documentary evidences I have been able to add an important source of information—the sight of the places where the events occurred. The scientific mission, having for its object the exploration of ancient Phoenicia, which I directed in 1860 and 1861 [The work which will contain the results of this mission is in the press.], led me to reside on the frontiers of Galilee and to travel there frequently. I have traversed, in all directions, the country of the Gospels; I have visited Jerusalem, Hebron, and Samaria; scarcely any important locality of the history of Jesus has escaped me. All this history, which at a distance seems to float in the clouds of an unreal world, thus took a form, a solidity, which astonished me. The striking agreement of the texts with the places, the marvellous harmony of the Gospel ideal with the country which served it as a framework, were like a revelation to me, I had before my eyes a fifth Gospel, torn, but still legible, and henceforward, through the recitals of Matthew and Mark, in place of an abstract being, whose existence might have been doubted, I saw living and moving an admirable human figure. During the summer, having to go up to Ghazir, in Lebanon, to take a little repose, I fixed, in rapid sketches, the image which had appeared to me, and from them resulted this history. When a cruel bereavement hastened my departure, I had but a few pages to write. In this manner the book has been composed almost entirely near the very places where Jesus was born, and where his character was developed. Since my return, I have labored unceasingly to verify and check in detail the rough sketch which I had written in haste in a Maronite cabin, with five or six volumes around me.
Many will regret, perhaps, the biographical form which my work has thus taken. When I first conceived the idea of a history of the origin of Christianity, what I wished to write was, in fact, a history of doctrines, in which men and their actions would have hardly had a place. Jesus would scarcely have been named; I should have endeavored to show how the ideas which have grown under his name took root and covered the world. But I have learned since that history is not a simple game of abstractions; that men are more than doctrines. It was not a certain theory on justification and redemption which brought about the Reformation; it was Luther and Calvin. Parseeism, Hellenism, Judaism might have been able to have combined under every form; the doctrines of the Resurrection and of the Word might have developed themselves during ages without producing this grand, unique, and fruitful fact, called Christianity. This fact is the work of Jesus, of St. Paul, of St. John. To write the history of Jesus, of St. Paul, of St. John is to write the history of the origin of Christianity. The anterior movements belong to our subject only in so far as they serve to throw light upon these extraordinary men, who naturally could not have existed without connection with that which preceded them.
In such an effort to make the great souls of the past live again, some share of divination and conjecture must be permitted. A great life is an organic whole which cannot be rendered by the simple agglomeration of small facts. It requires a profound sentiment to embrace them all, molding them into perfect unity. The method of art in a similar subject is a good guide; the exquisite tact of a Goethe would know how to apply it. The essential condition of the creations of art is, that they shall form a living system of which all the parts are mutually dependent and related.
In histories such as this, the great test that we have got the truth is, to have succeeded in combining the texts in such a manner that they shall constitute a logical, probable narrative, harmonious throughout. The secret laws of life, of the progression of organic products, of the melting of minute distinctions, ought to be consulted at each moment; for what is required to be reproduced is not the material circumstance, which it is impossible to verify, but the very soul of history; what must be sought is not the petty certainty about trifles, it is the correctness of the general sentiment, the truthfulness of the coloring. Each trait which departs from the rules of classic narration ought to warn us to be careful; for the fact which has to be related has been living, natural, and harmonious. If we do not succeed in rendering it such by the recital, it is surely because we have not succeeded in seeing it aright. Suppose that, in restoring the Minerva of Phidias according to the texts, we produced a dry, jarring, artificial whole; what must we conclude? Simply that the texts want an appreciative interpretation; that we must study them quietly until they dovetail and furnish a whole in which all the parts are happily blended. Should we then be sure of having a perfect reproduction of the Greek statue? No; but at least we should not have the caricature of it; we should have the general spirit of the work—one of the forms in which it could have existed.
This idea of a living organism we have not hesitated to take as our guide in the general arrangement of the narrative. The perusal of the Gospels would suffice to prove that the compilers, although having a very true plan of the Life of Jesus in their minds, have not been guided by very exact chronological data; Papias, besides, expressly teaches this. [Loc. cit.] The expressions, "At this time . . . after that . . . then . . . and it came to pass . . .," etc., are the simple transitions intended to connect different narratives with each other. To leave all the information furnished by the Gospels in the disorder in which tradition supplies it, would only be to write the history of Jesus as the history of a celebrated man would be written, by giving pell-mell the letters and anecdotes of his youth, his old age, and of his maturity. The Koran, which presents to us, in the loosest manner, fragments of the different epochs in the life of Mohammed, has yielded its secret to an ingenious criticism; the chronological order in which the fragments were composed has been discovered so as to leave little room for doubt. Such a rearrangement is much more difficult in the case of the Gospels, the public life of Jesus having been shorter and less eventful than the life of the founder of Islamism. Meanwhile, the attempt to find a guiding thread through this labyrinth ought not to be taxed with gratuitous subtlety. There is no great abuse of hypothesis in supposing that a founder of a new religion commences by attaching himself to the moral aphorisms already in circulation in his time, and to the practices which are in vogue; that, when riper, and in full possession of his idea, he delights in a kind of calm and poetical eloquence, remote from all controversy, sweet and free as pure feeling; that he warms by degrees, becomes animated by opposition, and finishes by polemics and strong invectives. Such are the periods which may plainly be distinguished in the Koran. The order adopted with an extremely fine tact by the synoptics, supposes an analogous progress, If Matthew be attentively read, we shall find in the distribution of the discourses, a gradation perfectly analogous to that which we have just indicated. The reserved turns of expression of which we make use in unfolding the progress of the ideas of Jesus will also be observed. The reader may, if he likes, see in the divisions adopted in doing this, only the indispensable breaks for the methodical exposition of a profound, complicated thought.
If the love of a subject can help one to understand it, it will also, I hope, be recognized that I have not been wanting in this condition. To write the history of a religion, it is necessary, firstly, to have believed it (otherwise we should not be able to understand how it has charmed and satisfied the human conscience); in the second place, to believe it no longer in an absolute manner, for absolute faith is incompatible with sincere history. But love is possible without faith. To abstain from attaching one's self to any of the forms which captivate the adoration of men, is not to deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of that which is good and beautiful in them. No transitory appearance exhausts the Divinity; God was revealed before Jesus—God will reveal Himself after him. Profoundly unequal, and so much the more Divine, as they are grander and more spontaneous, the manifestations of God hidden in the depths of the human conscience are all of the same order. Jesus cannot belong solely to those who call themselves his disciples. He is the common honor of all who share a common humanity. His glory does not consist in being relegated out of history; we render him a truer worship in showing that all history is incomprehensible without him.
THE great event of the History of the world is the revolution by which the noblest portions of humanity have passed from the ancient religions, comprised under the vague name of Paganism, to a religion founded on the Divine Unity, the Trinity, and the Incarnation of the Son of God. It has taken nearly a thousand years to accomplish this conversion. The new religion had itself taken at least three hundred years in its formation. But the origin of the revolution in question with which we have to do is a fact which took place under the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. At that time there lived a superior personage, who, by his bold originality, and by the love which he was able to inspire, became the object and fixed the starting-point of the future faith of humanity.
As soon as man became distinguished from the animal, he became religious; that is to say, he saw in Nature something beyond the phenomena, and for himself something beyond death. This sentiment, during some thousands of years, became corrupted in the strangest manner. In many races it did not pass beyond the belief in sorcerers, under the gross form in which we still find it in certain parts of Oceania. Among some, the religious sentiment degenerated into the shameful scenes of butchery which form the character of the ancient religion of Mexico. Amongst others, especially in Africa, it became pure Fetichism—that is, the adoration of a material object, to which were attributed supernatural powers. Like the instinct of love, which at times elevates the most vulgar man above himself, yet sometimes becomes perverted and ferocious, so this divine faculty of religion during a long period seems only to be a cancer which must be extirpated from the human race, a cause of errors and crimes which the wise ought to endeavor to suppress.
The brilliant civilizations which were developed from a very remote antiquity in China, in Babylonia, and in Egypt, caused a certain progress to be made in religion. China arrived very early at a sort of mediocre good sense, which prevented great extravagances. She neither knew the advantages nor the abuses of the religious spirit. At all events, she had not in this way any influence in directing the great current of humanity. The religions of Babylonia and Syria were never freed from a substratum of strange sensuality; these religions remained, until their extinction in the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, schools of immorality, in which at intervals glimpses of the divine world were obtained by a sort of poetic intuition. Egypt, notwithstanding an apparent kind of Fetichism, had very early metaphysical dogmas and a lofty symbolism. But doubtless these interpretations of a refined theology were not primitive. Man has never, in the possession of a clear idea, amused himself by clothing it in symbols: it is oftener after long reflections, and from the impossibility felt by the human mind of resigning itself to the absurd, that we seek ideas under the ancient mystic images whose meaning is lost. Moreover, it is not from Egypt that the faith of humanity has come. The elements which, in the religion of a Christian, passing through a thousand transformations, came from Egypt and Syria, are exterior forms of little consequence, or dross of which the most purified worships always retain some portion. The grand defect of the religions of which we speak was their essentially superstitious character. They only threw into the world millions of amulets and charms. No great moral thought could proceed from races oppressed by a secular despotism, and accustomed to institutions which precluded the exercise of individual liberty.
The poetry of the soul—faith, liberty, virtue, devotion—made their appearance in the world with the two great races which, in one sense, have made humanity, viz., the Indo-European and the Semitic races. The first religious intuitions of the Indo-European race were essentially naturalistic. But it was a profound and moral naturalism, a loving embrace of Nature by man, a delicious poetry, full of the sentiment of the Infinite—the principle, in fine, of all that which the Germanic and Celtic genius, of that which a Shakespeare and a Goethe should express in later times. It was neither theology nor moral philosophy—it was a state of melancholy, it was tenderness, it was imagination; it was, more than all, earnestness, the essential condition of morals and religion. The faith of humanity, however, could not come from thence, because these ancient forms of worships had great difficulty in detaching themselves from Polytheism, and could not attain to a very clear symbol. Brahminism has only survived to the present day by virtue of the astonishing faculty of conservation which India seems to posses. Buddhism failed in all its approaches towards the West. Druidism remained a form exclusively national, and without universal capacity. The Greek attempts at reform, Orpheism, the Mysteries, did not suffice to give a solid aliment to the soul. Persia alone succeeded in making a dogmatic religion, almost Monotheistic, and skillfully organized; but it is very possible that this organization itself was but an imitation, or borrowed. At all events, Persia has not converted the world; she herself, on the contrary, was converted when she saw the flag of the Divine unity as proclaimed by Mohamedanism appear on her frontiers.
It is the Semitic race* which has the glory of having made the religion of humanity. Far beyond the confines of history, resting under his tent, free from the taint of a corrupted world, the Bedouin patriarch prepared the faith of mankind. A strong antipathy against the voluptuous worships of Syria, a grand simplicity of ritual, the complete absence of temples, and the idol reduced to insignificant theraphim, constituted his superiority. Among all the tribes of the nomadic Semites, that of the Beni-Israel was already chosen for immense destinies. Ancient relations with Egypt, whence perhaps resulted some purely material ingredients, did but augment their repulsion to idolatry. A "Law" or Thora, very anciently written on tables of stone, and which they attributed for their great liberator Moses, had become the code of Monotheism, and contained, as compared with the institutions of Egypt and Chaldea, powerful germs of social equality and morality. A chest or portable ark, having staples on each side to admit of bearing poles, constituted all their religious materiel; there were collected the sacred objects of the nation, its relics, its souvenirs, and, lastly, the "book [1 Sam x. 25.]," the journal of the tribe, always open, but which was written in with great discretion. The family charged with bearing the ark and watching over the portable archives, being near the book and having the control of it, very soon became important. From hence, however, the institution which was to control the future did not come. The Hebrew priest did not differ much from the other priests of antiquity. The character which essentially distinguishes Israel among theocratic peoples is, that its priesthood has always been subordinated to individual inspiration. Besides its priests, each wandering tribe had its nabi or prophet, a sort of living oracle who was consulted for the solution of obscure questions supposed to require a high degree of clairvoyance. The nabis of Israel, organized in groups or schools, had great influence. Defenders of the ancient democratic spirit, enemies of the rich, opposed to all political organization, and to whatsoever might draw Israel into the paths of other nations, they were the true authors of the religious pre-eminence of the Jewish people. Very early they announced unlimited hopes, and when the people, in part the victims of their impolitic counsels, had been crushed by the Assyrian power, they proclaimed that a kingdom without bounds was reserved for them, that one day Jerusalem would be the capital of the whole world, and the human race become Jews. Jerusalem and its temples appeared to them as a city placed on the summit of a mountain, toward which all people should turn, as an oracle whence the universal law should proceed, as the center of an ideal kingdom, in which the human race, set at rest by Israel, should find again the joys of Eden.*
* I remind the reader that this word means here simply the people who speak or have spoken one of the languages called Semitic. Such a designation is entirely defective; but it is one of those words, like "Gothic architecture," "Arabian numerals," which we must preserve to be understood, even after we have demonstrated the error that they imply.
* Isa. ii. 1-4, and especially chaps. xl., and following, lx., and following; Micah iv. 1, and following. It must be recollected that the second part of hte book of Isaiah, beginning at chap. xl., is not by Isaiah.
Mystical utterances already make themselves heard, tending to exalt the martyrdom and celebrate the power of the "Man of Sorrows." Respecting one of those sublime sufferers, who, like Jeremiah, stained the streets of Jerusalem with their blood, one of the inspired wrote a song upon the sufferings and triumph of the "servant of God," in which all the prophetic force of the genius of Israel seemed concentrated. [Isa. lii. 13, and following, and liii. entirely.] "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness. He is despised and rejected of men; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. And he made his grave with the wicked. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
Important modifications were made at the same time in the Thora. New texts, pretending to represent the true law of Moses, such as Deuteronomy, were produced, and inaugurated in reality a very different spirit from that of the old nomads. A marked fanaticism was the dominant feature of this spirit. Furious believers unceasingly instigated violence against all who wandered from the worship of Jehovah—they succeeded in establishing a code of blood, making death the penalty for religious faults. Piety brings, almost always, singular contradictions of vehemence and mildness. This zeal, unknown to the coarser simplicity of the time of the Judges, inspired tones of moving prophecy and tender unction, which the world had never heard till then. A strong tendency toward social questions already made itself felt; Utopias, dreams of a perfect society, took a place in the code. The Pentateuch, a mixture of patriarchal morality and ardent devotion, primitive intuitions and pious subtleties, like those which filled the souls of Hezekiah, of Josiah, and of Jeremiah, was thus fixed in the form in which we now see it, and became for ages the absolute rule of the national mind.
This great book once created, the history of the Jewish people unfolded itself with an irresistible force. The great empires which followed each other in Western Asia, in destroying its hope of a terrestrial kingdom, threw it into religious dreams, which it cherished with a kind of somber passion. Caring little for the national dynasty or political independence, it accepted all governments which permitted it to practice freely its worship and follow ifs usages. Israel will henceforward have no other guidance than that of its religious enthusiasts, no other enemies than those of the Divine unity, no other country than its Law.
And this Law, it must be remarked, was entirely social and moral. It was the work of men penetrated with a high ideal of the present life, and believing that they had found the best means of realizing it. The conviction of all was, that the Thora, well observed, could not fail to give perfect felicity. This Thora has nothing in common with the Greek or Roman "Laws," which, occupying themselves with scarcely anything but abstract right, entered little into questions of private happiness and morality. We feel beforehand that the results which will proceed from it will be of a social, and not a political order, that the work at which this people labors is a kingdom of God, not a civil republic; a universal institution, not a nationality or a country.
Notwithstanding numerous failures, Israel admirably sustained this vocation. A series of pious men, Ezra, Nehemiah, Onias, the Maccabees, consumed with zeal for the Law, succeeded each other in the defense of the ancient institutions. The idea that Israel was a holy people, a tribe chosen by God and bound to Him by covenant, took deeper and firmer root. An immense expectation filled their souls. All Indo-European antiquity had placed paradise in the beginning; all its poets had wept a vanished golden age. Israel placed the age of gold in the future. The perennial poesy of religious souls, the Psalms, blossomed from this exalted piety, with their divine and melancholy harmony. Israel became truly and specially the people of God, while around it the pagan religions were more and more reduced, in Persia and Babylonia, to an official charlatanism, in Egypt and Syria to a gross idolatry, and in the Greek and Roman world to mere parade. That which the Christian martyrs did in the first centuries of our era, that which the victims of persecuting orthodoxy have done, even in the bosom of Christianity, up to our time, the Jews did during the two centuries which preceded the Christian era. They were a living protest against superstition and religious materialism. An extraordinary movement of ideas, ending in the most opposite results, made of them, at this epoch, the most striking and original people in the world. Their dispersion along all the coast of the Mediterranean, and the use of the Greek language, which they adopted when out of Palestine, prepared the way for a propagandism, of which ancient societies, divided into small nationalities, had never offered a single example.
Up to the time of the Maccabees, Judaism, in spite of its persistence in announcing that it would one day be the religion of the human race, had had the characteristic of all the other worships of antiquity, it was a worship of the family and the tribe. The Israelite thought, indeed, that his worship was the best, and spoke with contempt of strange gods; but he believed also that the religion of the true God was made for himself alone. Only when a man entered into the Jewish family did he embrace the worship of Jehovah.* No Israelite cared to convert the stranger to a worship which was the patrimony of the sons of Abraham. The development of the pietistic spirit, after Ezra and Nehemiah, led to a much firmer and more logical conception. Judaism became the true religion in a more absolute manner; to all who wished, the right of entering it was given [Esther ix. 27.]; soon it became a work of piety to bring into it the greatest number possible. [Matt. xxiii. 15; Josephus, Vita, 23; B. J., II. xvii. 10, VII. iii. 3; Ant., XX. ii. 4; Horat., Sat. I., iv., 143; Juv., xiv. 96, and following; Tacitus, Ann. II. 85; Hist., v. 5; Dion Cassius, xxxvii. 17.] Doubtless the refined sentiment which elevated John the Baptist, Jesus, and St. Paul above the petty ideas of race, did not yet exist; for, by a strange contradiction, these converts were little respected and were treated with disdain. [Mishnah, Shebiit, x. 9; Talmud of Babylon, Niddah, fol. 13b; Jebamoth, 47b, Kiddushim, 70b; Midrash, Jalkut Ruth, fol. 163d.] But the idea of a sovereign religion, the idea that there was something in the world superior to country, to blood, to laws—the idea which makes apostles and martyrs—was founded. Profound pity for the pagans, however brilliant might be their worldly fortune, was henceforth the feeling of every Jew. [Apocryphal letter of Baruch, in Fabricius, Cod. pseud. v. t., ii., 147, and following.] By a cycle of legends destined to furnish models of immovable firmness, such as the histories of Daniel and his companions, the mother of the Maccabees and her seven sons [II. Book of Maccabees, ch. vii. and the De Maccabaeis, attributed to Josephus. Cf. Epsitle to the Hebrews xi. 33, and following.], the romance of the race-course of Alexandria [III. Book (Apocr.) of Maccabees: Rufin, Suppl. ad Jos., Contra Apionem, ii. 5.]—the guides of the people sought above all to inculcate the idea, that virtue consists in a fanatical attachment to fixed religious institutions.
The persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes made this idea a passion, almost a frenzy. It was something very analogous to that which happened under Nero, two hundred and thirty years later. Rage and despair threw the believers into the world of visions and dreams. The first apocalypse, "The Book of Daniel," appeared. It was like a revival of prophecy, but under a very different form from the ancient one, and with a much larger idea of the destinies of the world. The Book of Daniel gave, in a manner, the last expression to the Messianic hopes. The Messiah was no longer a king, after the manner of David and Solomon, a theocratic and Mosaic Cyrus; he was a "Son of Man" appearing in the clouds [Chap vii. 13, and following.]—a supernatural being, invested with human form, charged to rule the world, and to preside over the golden age. Perhaps the Sosiosh of Persia, the great prophet who was to come, charged with preparing the reign of Ormuzd, gave some features to this new ideal.* The unknown author of the Book of Daniel had, in any case, a decisive influence on the religious event which was about to transform the world. He supplied the mise-en-scene, and the technical terms of the new belief in the Messiah; and we might apply to him what Jesus said of John the Baptist: Before him, the prophets; after him, the kingdom of God.
* Vendidad, chap. xix. 18, 19; Minokhired, a passage published in the "Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft," chap. i. 263; Boundehesch, chap. xxxi. The want of certain chronology for the Zend and Pehlvis texts leaves much doubt hovering over the relations between the Jewish and Persian beliefs.
It must not, however, be supposed that this profoundly religious and soul-stirring movement had particular dogmas for its primary impulse, as was the case in all the conflicts which have disturbed the bosom of Christianity. The Jew of this epoch was as little theological as possible. He did not speculate upon the essence of the Divinity: the beliefs about angels, about the destinies of man, about the Divine personality, of which the first germs might already be perceived, were quite optional—they were meditations, to which each one surrendered himself according to the turn of his mind, but of which a great number of men had never heard. They were the most orthodox even, who did not share in these particular imaginations, and who adhered to the simplicity of the Mosaic law. No dogmatic power analogous to that which orthodox Christianity has given to the Church then existed. It was only at the beginning of the third century, when Christianity had fallen into the hands of reasoning races, mad with dialectics and metaphysics, that that fever for definitions commenced which made the history of the Church but the history of one immense controversy. There were disputes also among the Jews—excited schools brought opposite solutions to almost all the questions which were agitated; but in these contests, of which the Talmud has preserved the principal details, there is not a single word of speculative theology. To observe and maintain the law, because the law was just, and because, when well observed, it gave happiness—such was Judaism. No credo, no theoretical symbol. One of the disciples of the boldest Arabian philosophy, Moses Maimonides, was able to become the oracle of the synagogue, because he was well versed in the canonical law.
The reigns of the last Asmoneans, and that of Herod, saw the excitement grow still stronger. They were filled by an uninterrupted series of religious movements. In the degree that power became secularized, and passed into the hands of unbelievers, the Jewish people lived less and less for the earth, and became more and more absorbed by the strange fermentation which was operating in their midst. The world, distracted by other spectacles, had little knowledge of that which passed in this forgotten corner of the East. The minds abreast of their age were, however, better informed. The tender and clear-sighted Virgil seems to answer, as by a secret echo, to the second Isaiah. The birth of a child throws him into dreams of a universal palingenesis.* These dreams were of every-day occurrence, and shaped into a kind of literature which was designated Sibylline. The quite recent formation of the empire exalted the imagination; the great era of peace on which it entered, and that impression of melancholy sensibility which the mind experiences after long periods of revolution, gave birth on all sides to unlimited hopes.
* Egl. iv. The Cumaeum carmen (v. 4) was a sort of Sibylline apocalypse, borrowed from the philosophy of history familiar to the East. See Servius on this verse, and Carmina Sibyllina, iii. 97-817; cf. Tac., Hist., v. 13.]
In Judea expectation was at its height. Holy persons—among whom may be named the aged Simeon, who, legend tells us, held Jesus in his arms; Anna, daughter of Phanuel, regarded as a prophetess [Luke ii. 25, and following.]—passed their life about the temple, fasting, and praying, that it might please God not to take them from the world without having seen the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel. They felt a powerful presentiment; they were sensible of the approach of something unknown.
This confused mixture of clear views and dreams, this alternation of deceptions and hopes, these ceaseless aspirations, driven back by an odious reality, found at last their interpretation in the incomparable man, to whom the universal conscience has decreed the title of Son of God, and that with justice, since he has advanced religion as no other has done, or probably ever will be able to do.
Jesus was born at Nazareth [Matt. xiii. 54, and following; Mark vi. 1, and following; John i. 45-46.], a small town of Galilee, which before his time had no celebrity. [It is neither named in the writings of the Old Testament, nor in Josephus, nor in the Talmud.] All his life he was designated by the name of "the Nazarene,"* and it is only by a rather embarrassed and round-about way,* that, in the legends respecting him, he is made to be born at Bethlehem. We shall see later [Chap. XIV.] the motive for this supposition, and how it was the necessary consequence of the Messianic character attributed to Jesus.* The precise date of his birth is unknown. It took place under the reign of Augustus, about the Roman year 750, probably some years before the year 1 of that era which all civilized people date from the day on which he was born.*
* Mark i. 24; Luke xviii. 37; John xix. 19; Acts ii. 22, iii. 6. Hence the name of Nazarenes for a long time applied to Christians, and which still designates them in all Mohammedan countries.
* The census effected by Quirinus, to which legend attributes the journey from Bethlehem, is at least ten years later than the year in which, according to Luke and Matthew, Jesus was born. The two evangelists in effect make Jesus to be born under the reign of Herod (Matt. ii. 1, 19, 22; Luke i. 5). Now, the census of Quirinus did not take place until after the deposition of Archelaus, i.e., ten years after the death of Herod, the 37th year from the era of Actium (Josephus, Ant., XVII. xiii. 5, XVIII. i. 1, ii. 1). The inscription by which it was formerly pretended to establish that Quirinus had levied two censuses is recognized as false (see Orelli, Inscr. Lat., No. 623, and the supplement of Henzen in this number; Borghesi, Fastes Consulaires [yet unpublished], in the year 742). The census in any case would only be applied to the parts reduced to Roman provinces, and not to the tetrarchies. The texts by which it is sought to prove that some of the operations for statistics and tribute commanded by Augustus ought to extend to the dominion of the Herods, either do not mean what they have been made to say, or are from Christian authors who have borrowed this statement from the Gospel of Luke. That which proves, besides, that the journey of the family of Jesus to Bethlehem is not historical, is the motive attributed to it. Jesus was not of the family of David (see Chap. XV.), and if he had been, we should still not imagine that his parents should have been forced, for an operation purely registrative and financial, to come to enroll themselves in the place whence their ancestors had proceeded a thousand years before. In imposing such an obligation, the Roman authority would have sanctioned pretensions threatening her safety.
* Matt. ii. 1, and following; Luke ii. 1, and following. The omission of this narrative in Mark, and the two parallel passages, Matt. xiii. 54, and Mark vi. 1, where Nazareth figures as the "country" of Jesus, prove that such a legend was absent from the primitive text which has furnished the rough draft of the present Gospels of Matthew and Mark. It was to meet oft-repeated objections that there were added to the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew reservations, the contradiction of which with the rest of the text was not so flagrant, that it was felt necessary to correct the passages which had at first been written from quite another point of view. Luke, on the contrary (chap. iv. 16), writing more carefully, has employed, in order to be consistent, a more softened expression. As to John, he knows nothing of the journey to Bethlehem; for him, Jesus is merely "of Nazareth" or "Galilean," in two circumstances in which it would have been of the highest importance to recall his birth at Bethlehem (chap. i. 45, 46, vi. 41, 42.)
* It is known that the calculation which serves as basis of the common era was made in the sixth century by Dionysius the Less. This calculation implies certainly purely hypothetical data.
The name of Jesus, which was given him, is an alteration from Joshua. It was a very common name; but afterwards mysteries, and an allusion to his character of Savior, were naturally sought for in it. [Matt. i. 21; Luke i. 31.] Perhaps he, like all mystics, exalted himself in this respect. It is thus that more than one great vocation in history has been caused by a name given to a child without premeditation. Ardent natures never bring themselves to see aught of chance in what concerns them. God has regulated everything for them, and they see a sign of the supreme will in the most insignificant circumstances.
The population of Galilee was very mixed, as the very name of the country [Gelil haggoyim, "Circle of the Gentiles."] indicated. This province counted among its inhabitants, in the time of Jesus, many who were not Jews (Phoenicians, Syrians, Arabs, and even Greeks). [Strabo, XVI. ii. 35; Jos., Vita, 12.] The conversions to Judaism were not rare in these mixed countries. It is therefore impossible to raise here any question of race, and to seek to ascertain what blood flowed in the veins of him who has contributed most to efface the distinction of blood in humanity.
He proceeded from the ranks of the people. [We shall explain later (Chap. XIV.) the origin of the genealogies intended to connect him with the race of David. The Ebionites suppressed them (Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 14).] His father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary, were people in humble circumstances, artisans living by their labor [Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3; John vi. 42.], in the state so common in the East, which is neither ease nor poverty. The extreme simplicity of life in such countries, by dispensing with the need of comfort, renders the privileges of wealth almost useless, and makes every one voluntarily poor. On the other hand, the total want of taste for art, and for that which contributes to the elegance of material life, gives a naked aspect to the house of him who otherwise wants for nothing. Apart from something sordid and repulsive which Islamism bears everywhere with it, the town of Nazareth, in the time of Jesus, did not perhaps much differ from what it is today.* We see the streets where he played when a child, in the stony paths or little crossways which separate the dwellings. The house of Joseph doubtless much resembled those poor shops, lighted by the door, serving at once for shop, kitchen, and bedroom, having for furniture a mat, some cushions on the ground, one or two clay pots, and a painted chest.
* The rough aspect of the ruins which cover Palestine proves that the towns which were not constructed in the Roman manner were very badly built. As to the form of the houses, it is, in Syria, so simple and so imperiously regulated by the climate, that it can scarcely ever have changed.
The family, whether it proceeded from one or many marriages, was rather numerous. Jesus had brothers and sisters [Matt. xii. 46, and following, xiii. 55, and following; Mark iii. 31, and following, vi. 3; Luke viii. 19, and following; John ii. 12, vii. 3, 5, 10; Acts i. 14.], of whom he seems to have been the eldest.* All have remained obscure, for it appears that the four personages who were named as his brothers, and among whom one, at least—James—had acquired great importance in the earliest years of the development of Christianity, were his cousins-german. Mary, in fact, had a sister also named Mary,* who married a certain Alpheus or Cleophas (these two names appear to designate the same person*), and was the mother of several sons who played a considerable part among the first disciples of Jesus. These cousins-german who adhered to the young Master, while his own brothers opposed him [John vii. 3, and following.], took the title of "brothers of the Lord."* The real brothers of Jesus, like their mother, became important only after his death. [Acts i. 14.] Even then they do not appear to have equalled in importance their cousins, whose conversion had been more spontaneous, and whose character seems to have had more originality. Their names were so little known, that when the evangelist put in the mouth of the men of Nazareth the enumeration of the brothers according to natural relationship, the names of the sons of Cleophas first presented themselves to him.
* That these two sisters should bear the same name is a singular fact. There is probably some error arising from the habit of giving the name of Mary indiscriminately to Galilean women.
* They are not etymologically identical. Αλφαιος is the transcription of the Syro-Chaldean name Halphai; Κλωπας or Κλεοπας is a shorted form of Κλεοπατρος. But there might have been an artificial substitution of one for the other, just as Joseph was called "Hegissippus," the Eliakim "Alcimus," &c.
* In fact, the four personages who are named (Matt. xiii. 55, Mark vi. 3) as sons of Mary, mother of Jesus, Jacob, Joseph or Joses, Simon, and Jude, are found again a little later as sons of Mary and Cleophas. (Matt. xxvii. 56; Mark xv. 40; Gal. i. 19; Epist. James i. 1; Epist. Jude 1; Euseb., Chron ad ann. R. DCCCX.; Hist. Eccl., iii. 11, 32; Constit. Apost., vii. 46.) The hypothesis we offer alone removes the immense difficulty which is found in supposing two sisters having each three or four sons bearing hte same names, and in admitting that James and Simon, the first two bishops of Jerusalem, designated as brothers of the Lord, may have been real brothers of Jesus, who had begun by being hostile to him and then were converted. The evangelist, hearing these four sons of Cleophas called "brothers of the Lord," has placed by mistake their names in the passage Matt. xiii. 5, Mark vi. 3, instead of the names of the real brothers, which have always remained obscure. In this matter we may explain how the character of the personages called "brothers of the Lord," of James, for instance, is so different from that of the real brothers of Jesus as they are seen delineated in John vii. 2, and following. The expression "brother of the Lord" evidently constituted, in the primitive Church, a kind of order similar to that of the apostles. See especially 1 Cor. ix. 5.
His sisters were married at Nazareth [Mark vi. 3.], and he spent the first years of his youth there. Nazareth was a small town in a hollow, opening broadly at the summit of the group of mountains which close the plain of Esdraelon on the north. The population is now from three to four thousand, and it can never have varied much. [According to Josephus (B. J., III. iii. 2), the smallest town of Galilee had more than five thousand inhabitants. This is probably an exaggeration.] The cold there is sharp in winter, and the climate very healthy. The town, like all the small Jewish towns at this period, was a heap of huts built without style, and would exhibit that harsh and poor aspect which villages in Semitic countries now present. The houses, it seems, did not differ much from those cubes of stone, without exterior or interior elegance, which still cover the richest parts of the Lebanon, and which, surrounded with vines and fig-trees, are still very agreeable. The environs, moreover, are charming; and no place in the world was so well adapted for dreams of perfect happiness. Even in our times Nazareth is still a delightful abode, the only place, perhaps, in Palestine in which the mind feels itself relieved from the burden which oppresses it in this unequaled desolation. The people are amiable and cheerful; the gardens fresh and green. Anthony the Martyr, at the end of the sixth century, drew an enchanting picture of the fertility of the environs, which he compared to paradise. [Itiner., §5.] Some valleys on the western side fully justify his description. The fountain, where formerly the life and gaiety of the little town were concentrated, is destroyed; its broken channels contain now only a muddy stream. But the beauty of the women who meet there in the evening—that beauty which was remarked even in the sixth century, and which was looked upon as a gift of the Virgin Mary [Ant. Martyr, Itiner., §5]—is still most strikingly preserved. It is the Syrian type in all its languid grace. No doubt Mary was there almost every day, and took her place with her jar on her shoulder in the file of her companions who have remained unknown. Anthony the Martyr remarks that the Jewish women, generally disdainful to Christians, were here full of affability. Even now religious animosity is weaker at Nazareth than elsewhere.
The horizon from the town is limited. But if we ascend a little the plateau, swept by a perpetual breeze, which overlooks the highest houses, the prospect is splendid. On the west are seen the fine outlines of Carmel, terminated by an abrupt point which seems to plunge into the sea. Before us are spread out the double summit which towers above Megiddo; the mountains of the country of Shechem, with their holy places of the patriarchal age; the hills of Gilboa, the small, picturesque group to which are attached the graceful or terrible recollections of Shunem and of Endor; and Tabor, with its beautiful rounded form, which antiquity compared to a bosom. Through a depression between the mountains of Shunem and Tabor are seen the valley of the Jordan and the high plains of Peraea, which form a continuous line from the eastern side. On the north, the mountains of Safed, in inclining towards the sea conceal St. Jean d'Acre, but permit the Gulf of Khaifa to be distinguished. Such was the horizon of Jesus. This enchanted circle, cradle of the kingdom of God, was for years his world. Even in his later life he departed but little beyond the familiar limits of his childhood. For yonder, northward, a glimpse is caught, almost on the flank of Hermon, of Caesarea-Philippi, his furthest point of advance into the Gentile world; and here southward, the more somber aspect of these Samaritan hills foreshadows the dreariness of Judea beyond, parched as by a scorching wind of desolation and death.
If the world, remaining Christian, but attaining to a better idea of the esteem in which the origin of its religion should be held, should ever wish to replace by authentic holy places the mean and apocryphal sanctuaries to which the piety of dark ages attached itself, it is upon this height of Nazareth that it will rebuild its temple. There, at the birthplace of Christianity, and in the center of the actions of its Founder, the great church ought to be raised in which all Christians may worship. There, also, on this spot where sleep Joseph, the carpenter, and thousands of forgotten Nazarenes who never passed beyond the horizon of their valley, would be a better station than any in the world beside for the philosopher to contemplate the course of human affairs, to console himself for their uncertainty, and to reassure himself as to the Divine end which the world pursues through countless falterings, and in spite of the universal vanity.
THIS aspect of Nature, at once smiling and grand, was the whole education of Jesus. He learned to read and to write [John viii. 6.], doubtless, according to the Eastern method, which consisted in putting in the hands of the child a book, which he repeated in cadence with his little comrades, until he knew it by heart. [Testam. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Levi. 6.] It is doubtful, however, if he understood the Hebrew writings in their original tongue. His biographers make him quote them according to the translations in the Aramean tongue [Matt. xxvii. 46; Mark xv. 34.]; his principles of exegesis, as far as we can judge of them by those of his disciples, much resembled those which were then in vogue, and which form the spirit of the Targums and the Midrashim. [Jewish translations and commentaries of the Talmudic epoch.]
The schoolmaster in the small Jewish towns was the hazzan, or reader in the synagogues. [Mishnah, Shabbath, i. 3.] Jesus frequented little the higher schools of the scribes or sopherim (Nazareth had perhaps none of them), and he had none of those titles which confer, in the eyes of the vulgar, the privileges of knowledge. [Matt. xiii. 54, and following; John vii. 15.] It would, nevertheless, be a great error to imagine that Jesus was what we call ignorant. Scholastic education among us draws a profound distinction, in respect of personal worth, between those who have received and those who have been deprived of it. It was not so in the East, nor, in general, in the good old times. The state of ignorance in which, among us, owing to our isolated and entirely individual life, those remain who have not passed through the schools, was unknown in those societies where moral culture, and especially the general spirit of the age, was transmitted by the perpetual intercourse of man with man. The Arab, who has never had a teacher, is often, nevertheless, a very superior man; for the tent is a kind of school always open, where, from the contact of well-educated men, there is produced a great intellectual and even literary movement. The refinement of manners and the acuteness of the intellect have, in the East, nothing in common with what we call education. It is the men from the schools, on the contrary, who are considered badly trained and pedantic. In this social state, ignorance, which among us, condemns a man to an inferior rank, is the condition of great things and of great originality.
It is not probable that Jesus knew Greek. This language was very little spread in Judea beyond the classes who participated in the government, and the towns inhabited by pagans, like Caesarea.* The real mother tongue of Jesus was the Syrian dialect mixed with Hebrew, which was then spoken in Palestine.* Still less probably had he any knowledge of Greek culture. This culture was proscribed by the doctors of Palestine, who included in the same malediction "he who rears swine, and he who teaches his son Greek science." [Mishnah, Sanhedrim, xi. 1; Talmud of Babylon, Baba Kama, 82b and 83a; Sota, 49a and b; Menachoth, 64b; comp. II. Macc. iv. 10, and following.] At all events it had not penetrated into little towns like Nazareth. Notwithstanding the anathema of the doctors, some Jews, it is true, had already embraced the Hellenic culture. Without speaking of the Jewish school of Egypt, in which the attempts to amalgamate Hellenism and Judaism had been in operation nearly two hundred years, a Jew—Nicholas of Damascus—had become, even at this time, one of the most distinguished men, one of the best informed, and one of the most respected of his age. Josephus was destined soon to furnish another example of a Jew completely Grecianized. But Nicholas was only a Jew in blood. Josephus declares that he himself was an exception among his contemporaries [Jos., Ant. XX. xi., 2.]; and the whole schismatic school of Egypt was detached to such a degree from Jerusalem that we do not find the least allusion to it either in the Talmud or in Jewish tradition. Certain it is that Greek was very little studied at Jerusalem, that Greek studies were considered as dangerous, and even servile, that they were regarded, at the best, as a mere womanly accomplishment. [Talmud of Jerusalem, Peah, i. 1.] The study of the Law was the only one accounted liberal and worthy of a thoughtful man. [Jos., Ant., loc. cit.; Orig., Contra Celsum, ii. 34.] Questioned as to the time when it would be proper to teach children "Greek wisdom," a learned Rabbi had answered, "At the time when it is neither day nor night; since it is written of the Law, Thou shalt study it day and night." [Talmud of Jerusalem, Peah, i. 1; Talmud of Babylon, Menachoth, 99b.]
* Mishnah, Shekalim, iii. 2; Talmud of Jerusalem, Megilla, halaca xi.; Sota, vii. 1; Talmud of Babylon, Baba Kama, 83a; Megilla, 8b, and following.
* Matthew xxvii. 46; Mark iii. 17, v. 41, vii. 34, xiv. 36, xv. 34. The expression η πατριος φωνη in the writers of the time, always designates the Semitic dialect, which was spoken in Palestine (II. Macc. vii. 21, 27, xii. 37; Acts xxi. 37, 40, xxii. 2, xxvi. 14; Josephus, Ant., XVIII., vi., 10, xx. sub fin; B. J., proem 1; v. vi., 3, V. ix. 2, VI. ii. 1; Against Appian, I. 9; De Macc., 12, 16). We shall show, later, that some of the docuemnts which served as the basis for the synoptic Gospels were written in this Semitic dialect. It was the same with many of the Apocrypha (IV. Book of Macc. xvi. ad calcem, &c.). In fine, the sects issuing directly from the first Galilean movement (Nazarences, Ebionim, &c.), which contined a long time in Batanea and Hauran, spoke a Semitic dialect, Eusebius, De Situ et Nomin. Loc. Hebr., at the word Χωβα; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxix. 7, 9, xxx. 3; St. Jerome, in Matt. xii. 13; Dial. adv. Pelag., iii. 2).
Neither directly nor indirectly, then, did any element of Greek culture reach Jesus. He knew nothing beyond Judaism; his mind preserved that free innocence which an extended and varied culture always weakens. In the very bosom of Judaism, he remained a stranger to many efforts often parallel to his own. On the one hand, the asceticism of the Essenes or the Therapeutae;* on the other, the fine efforts of religious philosophy put forth by the Jewish school of Alexandria, and of which Philo, his contemporary, was the ingenious interpreter, were unknown to him. The frequent resemblances which we find between him and Philo, those excellent maxims about the love of God, charity, rest in God [See especially the teatises Quis Rerum Divinarum Haeres sit and De Philanthropia of Philo.], which are like an echo between the Gospel and the writings of the illustrious Alexandrian thinker, proceed from the common tendencies which the wants of the time inspired in all elevated minds.
* The Therapeutae of Philo are a branch of the Essenes. Their name appears to be but a Greek translation of that of the Essenes (Εσσαιοι, asaya, "doctors"). Cf. Philo, De Vita Contempl., init.]
Happily for him, he was also ignorant of the strange scholasticism which was taught at Jerusalem, and which was soon to constitute the Talmud. If some Pharisees had already brought it into Galilee, he did not associate with them, and when, later, he encountered this silly casuistry, in it only inspired him with disgust. We may suppose, however, that the principles of Hillel were not unknown to him. Hillel, fifty years before him, had given utterance to aphorisms very analogous to his own. By his poverty, so meekly endured, by the sweetness of his character, by his opposition to priests and hypocrites, Hillel was the true master of Jesus [Pirke Aboth, chap. i. and ii.; Talm. of Jerus., Pesachim, vi. 1; Talm. of Bab., Pesachim, 66a; Shabbath, 30b and 31a; Joma, 35b.], if, indeed it may be permitted to speak of a master in connection with so high an originality as his.
The perusal of the books of the Old Testament made much impression upon him. The canon of the holy books was composed of two principal parts—the Law, that is to say, the Pentateuch, and the Prophets, such as we now possess them. An extensive allegorical exegesis was applied to all these books; and it was sought to draw from them something that was not in them, but which responded to the aspirations of the age. The Law, which represented not the ancient laws of the country, but Utopias, the factitious laws and pious frauds of the time of the pietistic kings, had become, since the nation had ceased to govern itself, an inexhaustible theme of subtle interpretations. As to the Prophets and the Psalms, the popular persuasion was that almost all the somewhat mysterious traits that were in these books had reference to the Messiah, and it was sought to find there the type of him who should realize the hopes of the nation. Jesus participated in the taste which every one had for these allegorical interpretations. But the true poetry of the Bible, which escaped the puerile exegetists of Jerusalem, was fully revealed to his grand genius. The Law does not appear to have had much charm for him; he thought that he could do something better. But the religious lyrics of the Psalms were in marvelous accordance with his poetic soul; they were, all his life, his food and sustenance. The prophets—Isaiah in particular, and his successor in the record of the time of the captivity,—with their brilliant dreams of the future, their impetuous eloquence, and their invectives mingled with enchanting pictures, were his true teachers. He read also, no doubt, many apocryphal works—i.e., writings somewhat modern, the authors of which, for the sake of an authority only granted to very ancient writings, had clothed themselves with the names of prophets and patriarchs. One of these books especially struck him, namely, the Book of Daniel. This book, composed by an enthusiastic Jew of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, under the name of an ancient sage,* was the resume of the spirit of those later times. Its author, a true creator of the philosophy of history, had for the first time dared to see in the march of the world and the succession of empires, only a purpose subordinate to the destinies of the Jewish people. Jesus was early penetrated by these high hopes. Perhaps, also, he had read the books of Enoch, then revered equally with the holy books,* and the other writings of the same class, which kept up so much excitement in the popular imagination. The advent of the Messiah, with his glories and his terrors—the nations falling down one after another, the cataclysm of heaven and earth—were the familiar food of his imagination; and, as these revolutions were reputed near, and a great number of persons sought to calculate the time when they should happen, the supernatural state of things into which such visions transport us, appeared to him from the first perfectly natural and simple.
* The legend of Daniel existed as early as the seventh century B.C. (Ezekiel xiv. 14 and following, xxviii. 3). It was for the necessities of the legend that he was made to live at the time of the Babylonian captivity.
* Epist. Jude, 14 and following; 2 Peter ii. 4, 11; Testam. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Simeon. 5; Levi, 14, 16; Judah, 18; Zab., 3; Dan, 5; Naphtali, 4. The "Book of Enoch" still forms an integral part of the Ethiopian Bible. SUch as we know it from the Ethiopian version, it is composed of pieces of different dates, of which the most ancient are from the year 130 to 150 B. C. Some of these pieces have an analogy with the discourses of Jesus. Compare chaps. xcvi.-xcix. with Luke vi. 24, and following.
That he had no knowledge of the general state of the world is apparent from each feature of his most authentic discourses. The earth appeared to him still divided into kingdoms warring with one another; he seemed to ignore the "Roman peace," and the new state of society which its age inaugurated. He had no precise idea of the Roman power; the name of "Caesar" alone reached him. He saw building, in Galilee or its environs, Tiberias, Julias, Diocaesarea, Caesarea, gorgeous works of the Herods, who sought, by these magnificent structures, to prove their admiration for Roman civilization, and their devotion towards the members of the family of Augustus, structures whose names, by a caprice of fate, now serve, though strangely altered, to designate miserable hamlets of Bedouins. He also probably saw Sebaste, a work of Herod the Great, a showy city, whose ruins would lead to the belief that it had been carried there ready made, like a machine which had only to be put up in its place. This ostentatious piece of architecture arrived in Judea by cargoes; these hundreds of columns, all of the same diameter, the ornament of some insipid "Rue de Rivoli," these were what he called "the kingdoms of the world and all their glory." But this luxury of power, this administrative and official art, displeased him. What he loved were his Galilean villages, confused mixtures of huts, of nests and holes cut in the rocks, of wells, of tombs, of fig-trees, and of olives. He always clung close to Nature. The courts of kings appeared to him as places where men wear fine clothe. The charming impossibilities with which his parables abound, when he brings kings and the mighty ones on the stage [See, for example, Matt. xxii. 2, and following.], prove that he never conceived of aristocratic society but as a young villager who sees the world through the prism of his simplicity.
Still less was he acquainted with the new idea, created by Grecian science, which was the basis of all philosophy, and which modern science has greatly confirmed, to wit, the exclusion of capricious gods, to whom the simple belief of ancient ages attributed the government of the universe. Almost a century before him, Lucretius had expressed, in an admirable manner, the unchangeableness of the general system of Nature. The negation of miracle—the idea that everything in the world happens by laws in which the personal intervention of superior beings has no share—was universally admitted in the great schools of all the countries which had accepted Grecian science. Perhaps even Babylon and Persia were not strangers to it. Jesus knew nothing of this progress. Although born at a time when the principle of positive science was already proclaimed, he lived entirely in the supernatural. Never, perhaps, had the Jews been more possessed with the thirst for the marvelous. Philo, who lived in a great intellectual center, and who had received a very complete education, possessed only a chimerical and inferior knowledge of science.
Jesus, on this point, differed in no respect from his companions. He believed in the devil, whom he regarded as a kind of evil genius*, and he imagined, like all the world, that nervous maladies were produced by demons who possessed the patient and agitated him. The marvelous was not the exceptional for him; it was his normal state. The notion of the supernatural, with its impossibilities, is coincident with the birth of experimental science. The man who is strange to all ideas of physical laws, who believes that by praying he can change the path of the clouds, arrest disease, and even death, finds nothing extraordinary in miracle, inasmuch as the entire course of things is to him the result of the free will of the Divinity. This intellectual state was constantly that of Jesus. But in his great soul such a belief produced effects quite opposed to those produced on the vulgar. Among the latter, the belief in the special action of God led to a foolish credulity, and the deceptions of charlatans. With him it led to a profound idea of the familiar relations of man with God, and an exaggerated belief in the power of man—beautiful errors, which were the secret of his power; for if they were the means of one day showing his deficiencies in the eyes of the physicist and the chemist, they gave him a power over his own age of which no individual had been possessed before his time, or has been since.
His distinctive character very early revealed itself. Legend delights to show him even from his infancy in revolt against paternal authority, and departing from the common way to fulfill his vocation. [Luke ii. 42 and following. The Apocryphal Gospels are full of similar histories carried to the grotesque.] It is certain, at least, that he cared little for the relations of kinship. His family do not seem to have loved him [Matt. xiii. 57; Mark vi. 4; John vii. 3, and following.], and at times he seems to have been hard towards them. [Matt. xii. 48; Mark iii. 33; Luke viii. 21; John ii. 4; Gospel according to the Hebrews, in St. Jerome, Dial. adv. Pelag., iii. 2.] Jesus, like all men exclusively preoccupied by an idea, came to think little of the ties of blood. The bond of thought is the only one that natures of this kind recognize. "Behold my mother and my brethren," said he, in extending his hand towards his disciples; "he who does the will of my Father, he is my brother and my sister." The simple people did not understand the matter thus, and one day a woman passing near him cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which gave thee suck!" But he said, "Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." [Luke xi. 27, and following.] Soon, in his bold revolt against nature, he went still further, and we shall see him trampling under foot everything that is human, blood, love, and country, and only keeping soul and heart for the idea which presented itself to him as the absolute form of goodness and truth.
As the cooled earth no longer permits us to understand the phenomena of primitive creation, because the fire which penetrated it is extinct, so deliberate explanations have always appeared somewhat insufficient, when applying our timid methods of induction to the revolutions of the creative epochs which have decided the fate of humanity. Jesus lived at one of those times when the game of public life is freely played, and when the stake of human activity is increased a hundredfold. Every great part, then, entails death; for such movements suppose liberty and an absence of preventive measures, which could not exist without a terrible alternative. In these days, man risks little and gains little. In heroic periods of human activity, man risked all and gained all. The good and the wicked, or at least those who believe themselves and are believed to be such, form opposite armies. The apotheosis is reached by the scaffold; characters have distinctive features, which engrave them as eternal types in the memory of men. Except in the French Revolution, no historical center was as suitable as that in which Jesus was formed, to develop those hidden forces which humanity holds as in reserve, and which are not seen except in days of excitement and peril.
If the government of the world were a speculative problem, and the greatest philosopher were the man best fitted to tell his fellows what they ought to believe, it would be from calmness and reflection that those great moral and dogmatic truths called religions would proceed. But it is not so. If we except Cakya-Mouni, the great religious founders have not been metaphysicians. Buddhism itself, whose origin is in pure thought, has conquered one-half of Asia by motives wholly political and moral. As to the Semitic religions, they are as little philosophical as possible. Moses and Mohammed were not men of speculation; they were men of action. It was in proposing action to their fellow-countrymen, and to their contemporaries, that they governed humanity. Jesus, in like manner, was not a theologian, or a philosopher, having a more or less well-composed system. In order to be a disciple of Jesus, it was not necessary to sign any formulary, or to pronounce any confession of faith; one thing only was necessary—to be attached to him, to love him. He never disputed about God, for he felt Him directly in himself. The rock of metaphysical subtleties, against which Christianity broke from the third century, was in nowise created by the Founder. Jesus had neither dogma nor system, but a fixed personal resolution, which, exceeding in intensity every other created will, directs to this hour the destinies of humanity.
The Jewish people had the advantage, from the captivity of Babylon up to the Middle Ages, of being in a state of the greatest tension. This is why the interpreters of the spirit of the nation, during this long period seemed to write under the action of an intense fever, which placed them constantly either above or below reason, rarely in its middle path. Never did man seize the problem of the future and of his destiny with a more desperate courage, more determined to go to extremes. Not separating the lot of humanity from that of their little race, the Jewish thinkers were the first who sought for a general theory of the progress of our species. Greece, always confined within itself, and solely attentive to petty quarrels, has had admirable historians; but before the Roman epoch, it would be in vain to seek in her a general system of the philosophy of history embracing all humanity. The Jew, on the contrary, thanks to a kind of prophetic sense which renders the Semite at times marvellously apt to see the great lines of the future, has made history enter into religion. Perhaps he owes a little of this spirit to Persia. Persia, from an ancient period, conceived the history of the world as a series of evolutions, over each of which a prophet presided. Each prophet had his hazar, or reign of a thousand years (chiliasm), and from these successive ages, analogous to the Avatar of India, is composed the course of events which prepared the reign of Ormuzd. At the end of the time when the cycle of chiliasms shall be exhausted, the complete paradise will come. Men then will live happy; the earth will be as one plain; there will be only one language, one law, and one government for all. But this advent will be preceded by terrible calamities. Dahak (the Satan of Persia) will break his chains and fall upon the world. Two prophets will come to console mankind, and to prepare the great advent. [Yacna, xiii. 24; Theopompus, in Plut., De Iside et Osiride, sec. 47; Minokhired, a passage published in the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, i., p. 263.] These ideas ran through the world, and penetrated even to Rome, where they inspired a cycle of prophetic poems, of which the fundamental ideas were the division of the history of humanity into periods, the succession of the gods corresponding to these periods—a complete renovation of the world, and the final advent of a golden age. [Virg., Ecl. iv; Servius, at v. 4 of this Eclogue; Nigidius, quoted by Servius, at v. 10.] The book of Daniel, the book of Enoch, and certain parts of the Sibylline books [Book iii., 97-817.], are the Jewish expression of the same theory. These thoughts were certainly far from being shared by all; they were only embraced at first by a few persons of lively imagination, who were inclined towards strange doctrines. The dry and narrow author of the book of Esther never thought of the rest of the world except to despise it, and to wish it evil. [Esther vi. 13, vii. 10, viii. 7, 11-17, ix. 1-22; and in the apocryphal parts, ix. 10, 11, xiv. 13, and following, xvi. 20, 24.] The disabused epicurean who wrote Ecclesiastes, thought so little of the future, that he considered it even useless to labor for his children; in the eyes of this egotistical celibate, the highest stroke of wisdom was to use his fortune for his own enjoyment. [Eccl. i. 11, ii. 16, 18-24, iii. 19-22, iv. 8, 15, 16, v. 17, 18, vi. 3, 6, viii. 15, ix. 9, 10.] But the great achievements of a people are generally wrought by the minority. Notwithstanding all their enormous defects, hard, egotistical, scoffing, cruel, narrow, subtle, and sophistical, the Jewish people are the authors of the finest movement of disinterested enthusiasm which history records. Opposition always makes the glory of a country. The greatest men of a nation are those whom it puts to death. Socrates was the glory of the Athenians, who would not suffer him to live among them. Spinoza was the greatest Jew of modern times, and the synagogue expelled him with ignominy. Jesus was the glory of the people of Israel, who crucified him.
A gigantic dream haunted for centuries the Jewish people, constantly renewing its youth in its decrepitude. A stranger to the theory of individual recompense, which Greece diffused under the name of the immortality of the soul, Judea concentrated all its power of love and desire upon the national future. She thought she possessed divine promises of a boundless future; and as a bitter reality, from the ninth century before our era, gave more and more the dominion of the world to physical force, and brutally crushed these aspirations, she took refuge in the union of the most impossible ideas, and attempted the strangest gyrations. Before the captivity, when all the earthly hopes of the nation had become weakened by the separation of the northern tribes, they dreamt of the restoration of the house of David, the reconciliation of the two divisions of the people, and the triumph of theocracy and the worship of Jehovah over idolatry. At the epoch of the captivity, a poet, full of harmony, saw the splendor of a future Jerusalem, of which the peoples and the distant isles should be tributaries, under colors so charming, that one might say a glimpse of the visions of Jesus had reached him at a distance of six centuries. [Isaiah lx., &c.]
The victory of Cyrus seemed at one time to realize all that had been hoped. The grave disciples of the Avesta and the adorers of Jehovah believed themselves brothers. Persia had begun by banishing the multiple devas, and by transforming them into demons (divs), to draw from the old Arian imaginations (essentially naturalistic) a species of Monotheism. The prophetic tone of many of the teachings of Iran had much analogy with certain compositions of Hosea and Isaiah. Israel reposed under the Achemenidae [The whole book of Esther breathes a great attachment to this dynasty.], and under Xerxes (Ahasuerus) made itself feared by the Iranians themselves. But the triumphal and often cruel entry of Greek and Roman civilization into Asia, threw it back upon its dreams. More than ever it invoked the Messiah as judge and avenger of the people. A complete renovation, a revolution which should shake the world to its very foundation, was necessary in order to satisfy the enormous thirst of vengeance excited in it by the sense of its superiority, and by the sight of its humiliation. [Apocryphal letter of Baruch, in Fabricius, Cod. pseud., V. T., ii. p. 147, and following.]
If Israel had possessed the spiritualistic doctrine, which divides man in two parts—the body and the soul—and finds it quite natural that while the body decays, the soul should survive, this paroxysm of rage and of energetic protestation would have had no existence. But such a doctrine, proceeding from the Grecian philosophy, was not in the traditions of the Jewish mind. The ancient Hebrew writings contain no trace of future rewards or punishments. Whilst the idea of the solidarity of the tribe existed, it was natural that a strict retribution according to individual merits should not be thought of. So much the worse for the pious man who happened to live in an epoch of impiety; he suffered, like the rest, the public misfortunes consequent on the general irreligion. This doctrine, bequeathed by the sages of the patriarchal era, constantly produced unsustainable contradictions. Already at the time of Job it was much shaken; the old men of Teman who professed it were considered behind the age, and the young Elihu, who intervened in order to combat them, dared to utter as his first word this essentially revolutionary sentiment, "Great men are not always wise; neither do the aged understand judgment."* With the complications which had taken place in the world since the time of Alexander, the old Temanite and Mosaic principle became still more intolerable.* Never had Israel been more faithful to the Law, and yet it was subjected to the atrocious persecution of Antiochus. Only a declaimer, accustomed to repeat old phrases denuded of meaning, would dare to assert that these evils proceeded from the unfaithfulness of the people. [Esth. xiv. 6, 7 (apocr.); the apocryphal Epistle of Baruch (Fabricius, Cod. pseud., V.T., ii. p. 147, and following).] What! these victims who died for their faith, these heroic Maccabees, this mother with her seven sons, will Jehovah forget them eternally? Will he abandon them to the corruption of the grave? [2 Macc. vii.] Worldly and incredulous Sadduceeism might possibly not recoil before such a consequence, and a consummate sage, like Antigonus of Soco*, might indeed maintain that we must not practice virtue like a slave in expectation of a recompense, that we must be virtuous without hope. But the mass of the people could not be contented with that. Some, attaching themselves to the principle of philosophical immortality, imagined the righteous living in the memory of God, glorious forever in the remembrance of men, and judging the wicked who had persecuted them.* "They live in the sight of God; . . . they are known of God." [Wisdom, iv. 1; De Rat. Imp., 16, 18.] That was their reward. Others, especially the Pharisees, had recourse to the doctrine of the resurrection. [2 Macc., vii. 9, 14, xii. 43, 44.] The righteous will live again in order to participate in the Messianic reign. They will live again in the flesh, and for a world of which they will be the kings and the judges; they will be present at the triumph of their ideas and at the humiliation of their enemies.
* It is nevertheless remarkable that Jesus, son of Sirach, adheres to it strictly (chap. xvii. 26-28, xxii. 10, 11, xxx. 4, and following, xli. 1, 2, xliv. 9). The author of the book of Wisdom holds quite opposite opinions (iv. 1, Greek text).
* Wisdom, ii.-vi.; De Rationis Imperio, attributed to Josephus, 8, 13, 16, 18. Still we must remark that the author of this last treatise estimates the motive of personal recompense in a secondary degree. The primary impulse of martyrs is the pure love of the Law, the advantage which their death will procure to the people, and the glory which will attach to their name. Comp. Wisdom, iv. 1, and following; Eccl. xliv., and following; Jos., B. J., II. viii. 10, III. viii. 5.
We find among the ancient people of Israel only very indecisive traces of this fundamental dogma. The Sadducee, who did not believe it, was in reality faithful to the old Jewish doctrine; it was the Pharisee, the believer in the resurrection, who was the innovator. But in religion it is always the zealous sect which innovates, which progresses, and which has influence. Besides this, the resurrection, an idea totally different from that of the immortality of the soul, proceeded very naturally from the anterior doctrines and from the position of the people. Perhaps Persia also furnished some of its elements.* In any case, combining with the belief in the Messiah, and with the doctrine of a speedy renewal of all things, it formed those apocalyptic theories which, without being articles of faith (the orthodox Sanhedrim of Jerusalem does not seem to have adopted them), pervaded all imaginations, and produced an extreme fermentation from one end of the Jewish world to the other. The total absence of dogmatic rigor caused very contradictory notions to be admitted at one time, even upon so primary a point. Sometimes the righteous were to await the resurrection;* sometimes they were to be received at the moment of death into Abraham's bosom;* sometimes the resurrection was to be general;* sometimes it was to be reserved only for the faithful;* sometimes it supposed a renewed earth and a new Jerusalem: sometimes it applied a previous annihilation of the universe.
Jesus, as soon as he began to think, entered into the burning atmosphere which was created in Palestine by the ideas we have just stated. These ideas were taught in no school; but they were in the very air, and his soul was early penetrated by them. Our hesitations and our doubts never reached him. On this summit of the mountain of Nazareth, where no man can sit to-day without an uneasy, though it may be a frivolous, feeling about his destiny, Jesus sat often untroubled by a doubt. Free from selfishness—that source of our troubles, which makes us seek with eagerness a reward for virtue beyond the tomb—he thought only of his work, of his race, and of humanity. Those mountains, that sea, that azure sky, those high plains in the horizon, were for him not the melancholy vision of a soul which interrogates Nature upon her fate, but the certain symbol, the transparent shadow, of an invisible world, and of a new heaven.
He never attached much importance to the political events of his time, and he probably knew little about them. The court of the Herods formed a world so different to his, that he doubtless knew it only by name. Herod the Great died about the year in which Jesus was born, leaving imperishable remembrances—monuments which must compel the most malevolent posterity to associate his name with that of Solomon; nevertheless, his work was incomplete, and could not be continued. Profanely ambitious, and lost in a maze of religious controversies, this astute Idumean had the advantage which coolness and judgment, stripped of morality, give over passionate fanatics. But his idea of a secular kingdom of Israel, even if it had not been an anachronism in the state of the world in which it was conceived, would inevitably have miscarried, like the similar project which Solomon formed, owing to the difficulties proceeding from the character of the nation. His three sons were only lieutenants of the Romans, analogous to the rajahs of India under the English dominion. Antipater, or Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and of Peraea, of whom Jesus was a subject all his life, was an idle and useless prince,* a favorite and flatterer of Tiberius,* and too often misled by the bad influence of his second wife, Herodias.* Philip, tetrarch of Gaulonitis and Batanea, into whose dominions Jesus made frequent journeys, was a much better sovereign.* As to Archelaus, ethnarch of Jerusalem, Jesus could not know him, for he was about ten years old when this man, who was weak and without character, though sometimes violent, was deposed by Augustus.* The last trace of self-government was thus lost to Jerusalem. United to Samaria and Idumea, Judea formed a kind of dependency of the province of Syria, in which the senator Publius Sulpicius Quirinus, well known as consul [Orelli, Inscr. Lat., No. 3693; Henzen, Suppl., No. 7041; Fasti praenestini, on the 6th of March, and on the 28th of April (in the Corpus Inscr. Lat., i. 324, 317); Borghesi, Fastes Consulaires (yet unedited), in the year 742; R. Bergmann, De Inscr. Lat. ad. P. S. Quirinium, ut videtur, referenda (Berlin, 1851). Cf. Tac., Ann., ii. 30, iii. 48; Strabo, XII. vi. 5.], was the imperial legate. A series of Roman procurators, subordinate in important matters to the imperial legate of Syria—Coponius, Marcus Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, and lastly (in the twenty-sixth year of our era), Pontius Pilate*—followed each other, and were constantly occupied in extinguishing the volcano which was seething beneath their feet.
Continual seditions, excited by the zealots of Mosaism, did not cease, in fact, to agitate Jerusalem during all this time. [Ibid., the books XVI. and XVIII. entirely, and B. J., books I and II.] The death of the seditious was certain; but death, when the integrity of the Law was in question, was sought with avidity. To overturn the Roman eagle, to destroy the works of art raised by the Herods, in which the Mosaic regulations were not always respected [Jos., Ant. XV. x. 4. Compare Book of Enoch, xcvii. 13, 14.]—to rise up against the votive escutcheons put up by the procurators, the inscriptions of which appeared tainted with idolatry*—were perpetual temptations to fanatics, who had reached that degree of exaltation which removes all care for life. Judas, son of Sariphea, Matthias, son of Margaloth, two very celebrated doctors of the law, formed against the established order a boldly aggressive party, which continued after their execution. [Jos., Ant., XVII. vi. 2, and following; B. J., I. xxxiii. 3, and following.] The Samaritans were agitated by movements of a similar nature.* The Law had never counted a greater number of impassioned disciples than at this time, when he already lived who, by the full authority of his genius and of his great soul, was about to abrogate it. The "Zelotes" (Kenaim), or "Sicarii," pious assassins, who imposed on themselves the task of killing whoever in their estimation broke the Law, began to appear. [Mishnah, Sanhedrim, ix. 6; John xvi. 2; Jos., B. J., book IV., and following.] Representatives of a totally different spirit, the Thaumaturges, considered as in some sort divine, obtained credence in consequence of the imperious want which the age experienced for the supernatural and the divine. [Acts viii. 9. Verse 11 leads us to suppose that Simon the magiciaan was already famous in the time of Jesus.]
A movement which had much more influence upon Jesus was that of Judas the Gaulonite, or Galilean. Of all the exactions to which the country newly conquered by Rome was subjected, the census was the most unpopular. [Discourse of Claudius at Lyons, Tab. ii. sub fin. De Boisseau, Inscr. Ant. de Lyon, p. 136.] This measure, which always astonishes people unaccustomed to the requirements of great central administrations, was particularly odious to the Jews. We see that already, under David, a numbering of the people provoked violent recriminations, and the menaces of the prophets.* The census, in fact, was the basis of taxation; now taxation, to a pure theocracy, was almost an impiety. God being the sole Master whom man ought to recognize, to pay tithe to a secular sovereign was, in a manner, to put him in the place of God. Completely ignorant of the idea of the State, the Jewish theocracy only acted up to its logical induction—the negation of civil society and of all government. The money of the public treasury was accounted stolen money. [Talmud of Babylon, Baba Kama, 113a; Shabbath, 33b.] The census ordered by Quirinus (in the year 6 of the Christian era) powerfully reawakened these ideas, and caused a great fermentation. An insurrection broke out in the northern provinces. One Judas, of the town of Gamala, upon the eastern shore of the Lake of Tiberias, and a Pharisee named Sadoc, by denying the lawfulness of the tax, created a numerous party, which soon broke out in open revolt.* The fundamental maxims of this party were—that they ought to call no man "master," this title belonging to God alone; and that liberty was better than life. Judas had, doubtless, many other principles, which Josephus, always careful not to compromise his co-religionists, designedly suppresses; for it is impossible to understand how, for so simple an idea, the Jewish historian should give him a place among the philosophers of his nation, and should regard him as the founder of a fourth school, equal to those of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, Judas was evidently the chief of a Galilean sect, deeply imbued with the Messianic idea, and which became a political movement. The procurator, Coponius, crushed the sedition of the Gaulonite; but the school remained and preserved its chiefs. Under the leadership of Menahem, son of the founder, and of a certain Eleazar, his relative, we find them again very active in the last contests of the Jews against the Romans.* Perhaps Jesus saw this Judas, whose idea of the Jewish revolution was so different from his own; at all events, he knew his school, and it was probably to avoid his error that he pronounced the axiom upon the penny of Caesar. Jesus, more wise, and far removed from all sedition, profited by the fault of his predecessor, and dreamed of another kingdom and another deliverance.
* Jos., Ant., XVIII. i. 1 and 6; B. J., II. viii. 1; Acts v. 37. Previous to Judas the Gaulonite, the Acts place another agitator, Theudas; but this is an anachronism, the movement of Theudas took place in the year 44 of the Christian era (Jos., Ant., XX. v. 1).
Galilee was thus an immense furnace wherein the most diverse elements were seething.* An extraordinary contempt of life, or, more properly speaking, a kind of longing for death,* was the consequence of these agitations. Experience counts for nothing in these great fanatical movements. Algeria, at the commencement of the French occupation, saw arise, each spring, inspired men, who declared themselves invulnerable, and sent by God to drive away the infidels; the following year their death was forgotten, and their successors found no less credence. The Roman power, very stern on the one hand, yet little disposed to meddle, permitted a good deal of liberty. Those great, brutal despotisms, terrible in repression, were not so suspicious as powers which have a faith to defend. They allowed everything up to the point when they thought it necessary to be severe. It is not recorded that Jesus was even once interfered with by the civil power, in his wandering career. Such freedom, and, above all, the happiness which Galilee enjoyed in being much less confined in the bonds of Pharisaic pedantry, gave to this district a real superiority over Jerusalem. The revolution, or, in other words, the belief in the Messiah, caused here a general fermentation. Men deemed themselves on the eve of the great renovation; the Scriptures, tortured into divers meanings, fostered the most colossal hopes. In each line of the simple writings of the Old Testament they saw the assurance, and, in a manner, the program of the future reign, which was to bring peace to the righteous, and to seal forever the work of God.
* Luke xiii. 1. The Galilean movement of Judas, son of Hezekiah, does not appear to have been of a religious character; perhpas, however, its character has been misrepresented by Josephus (Ant., XVII. x. 5).
From all time, this division into two parties, opposed in interest and spirit, had been for the Hebrew nation a principle which contributed to their moral growth. Every nation called to high destinies ought to be a little world in itself, including opposite poles. Greece presented, at a few leagues' distance from each other, Sparta and Athens—to a superficial observer, the two antipodes; but, in reality, rival sisters, necessary to one another. It was the same with Judea. Less brilliant in one sense than the development of Jerusalem, that of the North was on the whole much more fertile; the greatest achievements of the Jewish people have always proceeded thence. A complete absence of the love of Nature, bordering upon something dry, narrow, and ferocious, has stamped all the works purely Hierosolymite with a degree of grandeur, though sad, arid, and repulsive. With its solemn doctors, its insipid canonists, its hypocritical and atrabilious devotees, Jerusalem has not conquered humanity. The North has given to the world the simple Shunammite, the humble Canaanite, the impassioned Magdalene, the good foster-father Joseph, and the Virgin Mary. The North alone has made Christianity; Jerusalem, on the contrary, is the true home of that obstinate Judaism which, founded by the Pharisees, and fixed by the Talmud, has traversed the Middle Ages, and come down to us.
A beautiful external nature tended to produce a much less austere spirit—a spirit less sharply monotheistic, if I may use the expression, which imprinted a charming and idyllic character on all the dreams of Galilee. The saddest country in the world is perhaps the region round about Jerusalem. Galilee, on the contrary, was a very green, shady, smiling district, the true home of the Song of Songs, and the songs of the well-beloved.* During the two months of March and April, the country forms a carpet of flowers of an incomparable variety of colors. The animals are small, and extremely gentle—delicate and lively turtle-doves, blue-birds so light that they rest on a blade of grass without bending it, crested larks which venture almost under the feet of the traveller, little river tortoises with mild and lively eyes, storks with grave and modest mien, which, laying aside all timidity, allow man to come quite near them, and seem almost to invite his approach. In no country in the world do the mountains spread themselves out with more harmony, or inspire higher thoughts. Jesus seems to have had a peculiar love for them. The most important acts of his divine career took place upon the mountains. It was there that he was the most inspired;* it was there that he held secret communion with the ancient prophets; and it was there that his disciples witnessed his transfiguration. [Matt. xvii. 1, and following; Mark ix. 1, and following; Luke ix. 28, and following.]
* Jos., B. J., III. iii. 1. The horrible state to which the country is reduced, especially near Lake Tiberias, ought not to deceive us. These countries, now scorched, were formerly terrestrial paradises. The baths of Tiberias, which are now a frightful abode, were formerly the most beautiful places in Galilee (Jos., Ant., XVIII. ii. 3.) Josephus (Bell. Jud., III. x. 8) extols the beautiful trees of the plain of Gennesareth, where there is no longer a single one. Anthony the Martyr, about the year 600, consequently fifty years before the Mussulman invasion, still found Galilee covered with delightful plantations, and compares its fertility to that of Egypt (Itin., §5.)
This beautiful country has now become sad and gloomy through the ever-impoverishing influence of Islamism. But still everything which man cannot destroy breathes an air of freedom, mildness, and tenderness, and at the time of Jesus it overflowed with happiness and prosperity. The Galileans were considered energetic, brave and laborious.* If we except Tiberias, built by Antipas in honor of Tiberius (about the year 15), in the Roman style,* Galilee had no large towns. The country was, nevertheless, well peopled, covered with small towns and large villages, and cultivated in all parts with skill.* From the ruins which remain of its ancient splendor, we can trace an agricultural people, no way gifted in art, caring little for luxury, indifferent to the beauties of form and exclusively idealistic. The country abounded in fresh streams and in fruits; the large farms were shaded with vines and fig-trees; the gardens were filled with trees bearing apples, walnuts, and pomegranates.* The wine was excellent, if we may judge by that which the Jews still obtain at Safed, and they drank much of it. [Matt. ix. 17, xi. 19; Mark ii. 22; Luke v. 37, vii. 34; John ii. 3, and following.] This contented and easily satisfied life was not like the gross materialism of our peasantry, the coarse pleasures of agricultural Normandy, or the heavy mirth of the Flemish. It spiritualized itself in ethereal dreams—in a kind of poetic mysticism, blending heaven and earth. Leave the austere Baptist in his desert of Judea to preach penitence, to inveigh without ceasing, and to live on locusts in the company of jackals. Why should the companions of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? Joy will be a part of the kingdom of God. Is she not the daughter of the humble in heart, of the men of goodwill?
* We may judge of this by some enclosures in the neighborhood of Nazareth. Cf. Song of Solomon ii. 3, 5, 13, iv. 13, vi. 6, 10, vii. 8, 12, viii. 2, 5; Anton. Martyr, l. c. The aspect of the great farms is still well preserved in the south of the country of Tyre (ancient tribe of Asher). Traces of the ancient Palestinian agriculture, with its troughs, threshing-floors, wine-presses, mills, &c., cut in the rock, are found at every step.
The whole history of infant Christianity has become in this manner a delightful pastoral. A Messiah at the marriage festival—the courtesan and the good Zaccheus called to his feasts—the founders of the kingdom of heaven like a bridal procession; that is what Galilee has boldly offered, and what the world has accepted. Greece has drawn pictures of human life by sculpture and by charming poetry, but always without backgrounds or distant receding perspectives. In Galilee were wanting the marble, the practiced workmen, the exquisite and refined language. But Galilee has created the most sublime ideal for the popular imagination; for behind its idyl moves the fate of humanity, and the light which illumines its picture is the sun of the kingdom of God.
Jesus lived and grew amid these enchanting scenes. From his infancy, he went almost annually to the feast at Jerusalem.* The pilgrimage was a sweet solemnity for the provincial Jews. Entire series of psalms were consecrated to celebrate the happiness of thus journeying in family companionship* during several days in the spring across the hills and valleys, each one having in prospect the splendors of Jerusalem, the solemnities of the sacred courts, and the joy of brethren dwelling together in unity. [See especially Ps. lxxxiv., cxxii., cxxxiii. (Vulg., lxxxiii., cxxi., cxxxii).] The route which Jesus ordinarily took in these journeys was that which is followed to this day through Ginaea and Shechem.* From Shechem to Jerusalem the journey is very tiresome. But the neighborhood of the old sanctuaries of Shiloh and Bethel, near which the travellers pass, keeps their interest alive. Ain-el-Haramie,* the last halting-place, is a charming and melancholy spot, and few impressions equal that experienced on encamping there for the night. The valley is narrow and somber, and a dark stream issues from the rocks, full of tombs, which form its banks. It is, I think, the "valley of tears," or of dropping waters, which is described as one of the stations on the way in the delightful Eighty-fourth Psalm,* and which became the emblem of life for the sad and sweet mysticism of the Middle Ages. Early the next day they would be at Jerusalem; such an expectation even now sustains the caravan, rendering the night short and slumber light.
* Luke ix. 51-53, xvii. 11; John iv. 4; Jos., Ant., XX. vi. 1; B. J., II. xii. 3; Vita, 52. Often, however, the pilgrims came by Peraea, in order to avoid Samaria, where they incurred dangers; Matt. xix. 1; Mark x. 1.
*According to Josephus (Vita, 52) it was three days' journey. But the stage from Shechem to Jerusalem was generally divided into two.
These journeys, in which the assembled nation exchanged its ideas, and which were almost always centers of great agitation, placed Jesus in contact with the mind of his countrymen, and no doubt inspired him whilst still young with a lively antipathy for the defects of the official representatives of Judaism. It is supposed that very early the desert had great influence on his development, and that he made long stays there.* But the God he found in the desert was not his God. It was rather the God of Job, severe and terrible, accountable to no one. Sometimes Satan came to tempt him. He returned, then, into his beloved Galilee, and found again his heavenly Father in the midst of the green hills and the clear fountains—and among the crowds of women and children, who, with joyous soul and the song of angels in their hearts, awaited the salvation of Israel.
Joseph died before his son had taken any public part. Mary remained, in a manner, the head of the family, and this explains why her son, when it was wished to distinguish him from others of the same name, was most frequently called the "son of Mary."* It seems that having, by the death of her husband, been left friendless at Nazareth, she withdrew to Cana,* from which she may have come originally. Cana* was a little town at from two to two and a half hours' journey from Nazareth, at the foot of the mountains which bound the plain of Asochis on the north.* The prospect, less grand than at Nazareth, extends over all the plain, and is bounded in the most picturesque manner by the mountains of Nazareth and the hills of Sepphoris. Jesus appears to have resided some time in this place. Here he probably passed a part of his youth, and here his greatness first revealed itself. [John ii. 11, iv. 46. One or two disciples were of Cana, John xxi. 2; Matt. x. 4; Mark iii. 18.]
* This is the expression of Mark vi. 3; cf. Matt. xiii. 55. Mark did not know Joseph. John and Luke, on the contrary, prefer the expression "son of Joseph." Luke iii. 23, iv. 22; John i. 45, iv. 42.
* I admit, as probable, the idea which identifies Cana of Galilee with Kana el Djelil. We may, nevertheless, attach value to the arguments for Kefr Kenna, a place an hour or an hour and a half's journey N.N.E. of Nazareth.
He followed the trade of his father, which was that of a carpenter. [Mark vi. 3; Justin, Dial. cum Tryph., 88.] This was not in any degree humiliating or grievous. The Jewish customs required that a man devoted to intellectual work should learn a trade. The most celebrated doctors did so [For example, "Rabbi Johanan, the shoemaker, Rabbi Isaac, the blacksmith."]; thus St. Paul, whose education had been so carefully tended, was a tent-maker.* Jesus never married, All his power of love centered upon that which he regarded as his celestial vocation. The extremely delicate feeling toward women, which we remark in him, was not separated from the exclusive devotion which he had for his mission. Like Francis d'Assisi and Francis de Sales, he treated as sisters the women who were loved of the same work as himself; he had his St. Clare, his Frances de Chantal. It is, however, probable that these loved him more than the work; he was, no doubt, more beloved than loving. Thus, as often happens in very elevated natures, tenderness of the heart was transformed in him into an infinite sweetness, a vague poetry, and a universal charm. His relations, free and intimate, but of an entirely moral kind, with women of doubtful character, are also explained by the passion which attached him to the glory of his Father, and which made him jealously anxious for all beautiful creatures who could contribute to it. [Luke vii. 37, and following; John iv. 7, and following; viii. 3, and following.]
What was the progress of the ideas of Jesus during this obscure period of his life? Through what meditations did he enter upon the prophetic career? We have no information on these points, his history having come to us in scattered narratives, without exact chronology. But the development of character is everywhere the same; and there is no doubt that the growth of so powerful an individuality as that of Jesus obeyed very rigorous laws. A high conception of the Divinity—which he did not owe to Judaism, and which seems to have been in all its parts the creation of his great mind—was in a manner the source of all his power. It is essential here that we put aside the ideas familiar to us, and the discussions in which little minds exhaust themselves. In order properly to understand the precise character of the piety of Jesus, we must forget all that is placed between the gospel and ourselves. Deism and Pantheism have become the two poles of theology. The paltry discussions of scholasticism, the dryness of spirit of Descartes, the deep-rooted irreligion of the eighteenth century, by lessening God, and by limiting Him, in a manner, by the exclusion of everything which is not His very self, have stifled in the breast of modern rationalism all fertile ideas of the Divinity. If God, in fact, is a personal being outside of us, he who believes himself to have peculiar relations with God is a "visionary," and as the physical and physiological sciences have shown us that all supernatural visions are illusions, the logical Deist finds it impossible to understand the great beliefs of the past. Pantheism, on the other hand, in suppressing the Divine personality, is as far as it can be from the living God of the ancient religions. Were the men who have best comprehended God—Cakya-Mouni, Plato, St. Paul, St. Francis d'Assisi, and St. Augustine (at some periods of his fluctuating life)—Deists or Pantheists? Such a question has no meaning. The physical and metaphysical proofs of the existence of God were quite indifferent to them. They felt the Divine within themselves. We must place Jesus in the first rank of this great family of the true sons of God. Jesus had no visions; God did not speak to him as to one outside of Himself; God was in him; he felt himself with God, and he drew from his heart all he said of his Father. He lived in the bosom of God by constant communication with Him; he saw Him not, but he understood Him, without need of the thunder and the burning bush of Moses, of the revealing tempest of Job, of the oracle of the old Greek sages, of the familiar genius of Socrates, or of the angel Gabriel of Mohammed. The imagination and the hallucination of a St. Theresa, for example, are useless here. The intoxication of the Soufi proclaiming himself identical with God is also quite another thing. Jesus never once gave utterance to the sacrilegious idea that he was God. He believed himself to be in direct communion with God; he believed himself to be the Son of God. The highest consciousness of God which has existed in the bosom of humanity was that of Jesus.
We understand, on the other hand, how Jesus, starting with such a disposition of spirit, could never be a speculative philosopher like Cakya-Mouni. Nothing is further from scholastic theology than the Gospel.* The speculations of the Greek fathers on the Divine essence proceed from an entirely different spirit. God, conceived simply as Father, was all the theology of Jesus. And this was not with him a theoretical principle, a doctrine more or less proved, which he sought to inculcate in others. He did not argue with his disciples;* he demanded from them no effort of attention. He did not preach his opinions; he preached himself. Very great and very disinterested minds often present, associated with much elevation, that character of perpetual attention to themselves, and extreme personal susceptibility, which, in general, is peculiar to women.* Their conviction that God is in them, and occupies Himself perpetually with them, is so strong, that they have no fear of obtruding themselves upon others; our reserve, and our respect for the opinion of others, which is a part of our weakness, could not belong to them. This exaltation of self is not egotism; for such men, possessed by their idea, give their lives freely, in order to seal their work; it is the identification of self with the object it has embraced, carried to its utmost limit. It is regarded as vain-glory by those who see in the new teaching only the personal phantasy of the founder; but it is the finger of God to those who see the result. The fool stands side by side here with the inspired man; only the fool never succeeds. It has not yet been given to insanity to influence seriously the progress of humanity.
* The discourses which the fourth Gospel attributes to Jesus contain some germs of theology. But these discourses being in absolute contradiction with those of the synoptical Gospels, which represent, without any doubt, the primitive Logia, ought to count simply as documents of apostolic history, and not as elements of the life of Jesus.
Doubtless, Jesus did not attain at first this high affirmation of himself. But it is probable that, from the first, he regarded his relationship with God as that of a son with his father. This was his great act of originality; in this he had nothing in common with his race.* Neither the Jew nor the Mussulman has understood this delightful theology of love. The God of Jesus is not that tyrannical master who kills us, damns us, or saves us, according to His pleasure. The God of Jesus is our Father. We hear Him in listening to the gentle inspiration which cries within us, "Abba, Father."* The God of Jesus is not the partial despot who has chosen Israel for His people, and specially protects them. He is the God of humanity. Jesus was not a patriot, like the Maccabees; or a theocrat, like Judas the Gaulonite. Boldly raising himself above the prejudices of his nation, he established the universal fatherhood of God. The Gaulonite maintained that we should die rather than give to another than God the name of "Master;" Jesus left this name to any one who liked to take it, and reserved for God a dearer name. Whilst he accorded to the powerful of the earth, who were to him representatives of force, a respect full of irony, he proclaimed the supreme consolation—the recourse to the Father which each one has in heaven—and the true kingdom of God, which each one bears in his heart.
*The great soul of Philo is in sympathy here, as on so many other points, with that of Jesus. De Confus. Ling., §14; De Migr. Abr., §1; De Somniis, ii., §41; De Agric. Noe, §12; De Mutatione Nominum, §4. But Philo is scarcely a Jew in spirit.
This name of "kingdom of God," or "kingdom of heaven,"* was the favorite term of Jesus to express the revolution which he brought into the world.* Like almost all the Messianic terms, it came from the book of Daniel. According to the author of this extraordinary book, the four profane empires, destined to fall, were to be succeeded by a fifth empire, that of the saints, which should last for ever.* This reign of God upon earth naturally led to the most diverse interpretations. To Jewish theology, the "kingdom of God" is most frequently only Judaism itself—the true religion, the monotheistic worship, piety.* In the later periods of his life, Jesus believed that this reign would be realized in a material form by a sudden renovation of the world. But doubtless this was not his first idea. [Matt. vi. 33, xii. 28, xix. 12; Mark xii. 34; Luke xii. 31.] The admirable moral which he draws from the idea of God as Father, is not that of enthusiasts who believe the world is near its end, and who prepare themselves by asceticism for a chimerical catastrophe; it is that of men who have lived, and still would live. "The kingdom of God is within you," said he to those who sought with subtlety for external signs.* The realistic conception of the Divine advent was but a cloud, a transient error, which his death has made us forget. The Jesus who founded the true kingdom of God, the kingdom of the meek and the humble, was the Jesus of early life*—of those chaste and pure days when the voice of his Father re-echoed within him in clearer tones. It was then for some months, perhaps a year, that God truly dwelt upon the earth. The voice of the young carpenter suddenly acquired an extraordinary sweetness. An infinite charm was exhaled from his person, and those who had seen him up to that time no longer recognized him. [Matt. xiii. 54 and following; Mark vi. 2 and following; John v. 43.] He had not yet any disciples, and the group which gathered around him was neither a sect nor a school; but a common spirit, a sweet and penetrating influence was felt. His amiable character, accompanied doubtless by one of those lovely faces* which sometimes appear in the Jewish race, threw around him a fascination from which no one in the midst of these kindly and simple populations could escape.
* The word "heaven" in the rabbinical language of that time is synonymous with the name of "God," which they avoided pronouncing. Compare Matt. xxi. 25; Luke xv. 18, xx. 4.
*This expression occurs on each page of the synoptical Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and St. Paul. If it only appears once in John (iii. 3, 5), it is because the discourses related in the fourth Gospel are far from representing the true words of Jesus.
*Mishnah, Berakoth, ii. 1, 3; Talmud of Jerusalem, Berakoth, ii. 2; Kiddushin, i. 2; Talm. of Bab., Berakoth, 15a; Mekilta, 42b; Siphra, 170b. The expression appears often in the Medrashim.
* The grand theory of the revelation of the Son of Man is in fact reserved, in the synoptics, for the chapters which precede the narrative of the Passion. The first discourses, especially in Matthew, are entirely moral.
*The tradition of the plainness of Jesus (Justin, Dial. com Tryph., 85, 88, 100) springs from a desire to see realized in him a pretended Messianic trait (Isa. liii. 2).
Paradise would, in fact, have been brought to earth if the ideas of the young Master had not far transcended the level of ordinary goodness beyond which it has not been found possible to raise the human race. The brotherhood of men, as sons of God, and the moral consequences which result therefrom, were deduced with exquisite feeling. Like all the rabbis of the time, Jesus was little inclined towards consecutive reasonings, and clothed his doctrine in concise aphorisms, and in an expressive form, at times enigmatical and strange.* Some of these maxims come from the books of the Old Testament. Others were the thoughts of more modern sages, especially those of Antigonus of Soco, Jesus, son of Sirach, and Hillel, which had reached him, not from learned study, but as oft-repeated proverbs. The synagogue was rich in very happily expressed sentences, which formed a kind of current proverbial literature.* Jesus adopted almost all this oral teaching, but imbued it with a superior spirit.* Exceeding the duties laid down by the Law and the elders, he demanded perfection. All the virtues of humility—forgiveness, charity, abnegation, and self-denial—virtues which with good reason have been called Christian, if we mean by that that they have been truly preached by Christ, were in this first teaching, though undeveloped. As to justice, he was content with repeating the well-known axiom—"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." [Matt. vii. 12; Luke vi. 31. This axiom is in the book of Tobit, iv. 16. Hillel used it habitually (Talm. of Bab., Shabbath, 31a), and declared, like Jesus, that it was the sum of the Law.] But this old, though somewhat selfish wisdom, did not satisfy him. He went to excess, and said—"Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." [Matt. vi. 39, and following; Luke vi. 29. Compare Jeremiah, Lamentations iii. 30.] "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee."* "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that persecute you." [Matt. v. 44; Luke vi. 27. Compare Talmud of Babylon, Shabbath, 88b; Joma, 23a.] "Judge not, that ye be not judged." [Matt. vii. 1; Luke vi. 27. Compare Talmud of Babylon, Kethuboth, 105b.] "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." [Luke vi. 27. Compare Lev. xix. 18; Prov. xx. 22; Ecclesiasticus xxviii. 1, and following.] "Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful."* "It is more blessed to give than to receive."* "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."*
*The Logia of St. Matthew joins several of these axioms together, to form lengthened discourses. But the fragmentary form makes itself felt notwithstanding.
*The sentences of the Jewish doctors of the time are collected in the little book entitled, Pirke Aboth.
*The comparisons will be made afterward as they present themselves. It has been sometimes supposed that—the compilation of the Talmud being later than that of the Gospels—parts may have been borrowed by the Jewish compilers from the Christian morality. But this is inadmissible—a wall of separation existed between the Church and the Synagogue. The Christian and Jewish literature had scarcely any influence on one another before the thirteenth century.
*Matt. xxiii. 12; Luke xiv. 11, xviii. 14. The sentences quoted by St. Jerome from the "Gospel according to the Hebrews" (Comment. in Epist. ad Ephes., v. 4; in Ezek. xviii.; Dial. adv. Pelag., iii. 2), are imbued with the same spirit.
Upon alms, pity, good works, kindness, peacefulness, and complete disinterestedness of heart, he had little to add to the doctrine of the synagogue.* But he placed upon them an emphasis full of unction, which made the old maxims appear new. Morality is not composed of more or less well-expressed principles. The poetry which makes the precept loved, is more than the precept itself, taken as an abstract truth. Now it cannot be denied that these maxims borrowed by Jesus from his predecessors, produce quite a different effect in the Gospel to that in the ancient Law, in the Pirke Aboth, or in the Talmud. It is neither the ancient Law nor the Talmud which has conquered and changed the world. Little original in itself—if we mean by that that one might recompose it almost entirely by the aid of older maxims—the morality of the Gospels remains, nevertheless, the highest creation of human conscience—the most beautiful code of perfect life that any moralist has traced.
*Deut. xxiv., xxv., xxvi., &c.; Isa. lviii. 7; Prov. xix. 17; Pirke Aboth, i.; Talmud of Jerusalem, Peah, i. 1; Talmud of Babylon, Shabbath, 63a.
Jesus did not speak against the Mosaic law, but it is clear that he saw its insufficiency, and allowed it to be seen that he did so. He repeated unceasingly that more must be done than the ancient sages had commanded.* He forbade the least harsh word;* he prohibited divorce [Matt. v. 31, and following. Compare Talmud of Babylon, Sanhedrim, 22a.] , and all swearing;* he censured revenge;* he condemned usury [Matt. v. 42. The Law prohibited it also (Deut., xv. 7, 8), but less formally, and custom authorized it (Luke vii. 31, and following).]; he considered voluptuous desire as criminal as adultery [Matt. xxvii. 28. Compare Talmud, Masseket Kalla (edit. Furth, 1793), fol. 34b.]; he insisted upon a universal forgiveness of injuries.* The motive on which he rested these maxims of exalted charity was always the same . . . "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." [Matt. v. 45, and following. Compare Lev. xi. 44, xix. 2.]
A pure worship, a religion without priests and external observances, resting entirely on the feelings of the heart, on the imitation of God [Compare Philo, De Migr. Abr., §23 and 24; De Vita Contemp., the whole.], on the direct relation of the conscience with the heavenly Father, was the result of these principles. Jesus never shrank from this bold conclusion, which made him a thorough revolutionist in the very center of Judaism. Why should there be mediators between man and his Father? As God only sees the heart, of what good are these purifications, these observances relating only to the body? [Matt. xv. 11, and following; Mark vii. 6, and following.] Even tradition, a thing so sacred to the Jews, is nothing compared to sincerity.* The hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who, in praying, turned their heads to see if they were observed, who gave their alms with ostentation, and put marks upon their garments, that they might be recognized as pious persons—all these grimaces of false devotion disgusted him. "They have their recompense," said he; "but thou, when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly." [Matt. vi. 1, and following. Compare Ecclesiasticus xvii. 18, xxix. 15; Talm. of Bab., Chagigah, 5a; Baba Bathra, 9b.] "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him."*
He did not affect any external signs of asceticism, contenting himself with praying, or rather meditating, upon the mountains, and in the solitary places, where man has always sought God.* This high idea of the relations of man with God, of which so few minds, even after him, have been capable, is summed up in a prayer which he taught to his disciples:*
"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation; deliver us from the evil one."* He insisted particularly upon the idea, that the heavenly Father knows better than we what we need, and that we almost sin against Him in asking Him for this or that particular thing.*
Jesus in this only carried out the consequences of the great principles which Judaism had established, but which the official classes of the nation tended more and more to despise. The Greek and Roman prayers were almost always mere egotistical verbiage. Never had Pagan priest said to the faithful, "If thou bring thy offering to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."* Alone in antiquity, the Jewish prophets, especially Isaiah, had, in their antipathy to the priesthood, caught a glimpse of the true nature of the worship man owes to God. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. . . . Incense is an abomination unto me: for your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment, and then come." [Isaiah i. 11, and following. Compare ibid., lviii. entirely; Hosea vi. 6; Malachi i. 10, and following.] In later times, certain doctors, Simeon the just,* Jesus, son of Sirach,* Hillel [Talm. of Jerus., Pesachim, vi. 1. Talm. of Bab., the same treatise 66a; Shabbath, 31a.], almost reached this point, and declared that the sum of the Law was righteousness. Philo, in the Judaeo-Egyptian world, attained at the same time as Jesus ideas of a high moral sanctity, the consequences of which was the disregard of the observances of the Law.* Shemaia and Abtalion also more than once proved themselves to be very liberal casuists.* Rabbi Johanan ere long placed works of mercy above even the study of the Law!* Jesus alone, however, proclaimed these principles in an effective manner, Never has any one been less a priest than Jesus, never a greater enemy of forms, which stifle religion under the pretext of protecting it. By this we are all his disciples and his successors; by this he has laid the eternal foundation-stone of true religion; and if religion is essential to humanity, he has by this deserved the Divine rank the world has accorded to him. An absolutely new idea, the idea of a worship founded on purity of heart, and on human brotherhood, through him entered into the world—an idea so elevated, that the Christian Church ought to make it its distinguishing feature, but an idea which, in our days, only few minds are capable of embodying.
* Quod Deus Immut., §1 and 2; De Abrahamo, §22; Quis Rerum Divin. Haeres, §13, and following; 55, 58, and following; De Profugis, §7 and 8; Quod Omnis Probus Liber, entirely; De Vita Contemp., entirely.
An exquisite sympathy with Nature furnished him each moment with expressive images. Sometimes a remarkable ingenuity, which we call wit, adorned his aphorisms; at other times, their liveliness consisted in the happy use of popular proverbs. "How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." [Matt. vii. 4, 5. Compare Talmud of Babylon, Baba Bathra, 15b, Erachin, 16b.]
These lessons, long hidden in the heart of the young Master, soon gathered around him a few disciples. The spirit of the time favored small churches; it was the period of the Essenes or Therapeutae. Rabbis, each having his distinctive teaching, Shemaia, Abtalion, Hillel, Shammai, Judas the Gaulonite, Gamaliel, and many others, whose maxims form the Talmud,* appeared on all sides. They wrote very little; the Jewish doctors of this time did not write books; everything was done by conversations, and in public lessons, to which it was sought to give a form easily remembered. [The Talmud, a resume of this vast movement of the schools, was scarcely commenced till the second century of our era.] The proclamation by the young carpenter of Nazareth of these maxims, for the most part already generally known, but which, thanks to him, were to regenerate the world, was therefore no striking event. It was only one rabbi more (it is true, the most charming of all), and around him some young men, eager to hear him, and thirsting for knowledge. It requires time to command the attention of men. As yet there were no Christians; though true Christianity was founded, and, doubtless, it was never more perfect than at this first period. Jesus added to it nothing durable afterward. Indeed, in one sense, he compromised it; for every movement, in order to triumph, must make sacrifices; we never come from the contest of life unscathed.
To conceive the good, in fact, is not sufficient; it must be made to succeed among men. To accomplish this, less pure paths must be followed. Certainly, if the Gospel was confined to some chapters of Matthew and Luke, it would be more perfect, and would not now be open to so many objections; but would Jesus have converted the world without miracles? If he had died at the period of his career we have now reached, there would not have been in his life a single page to wound us; but, greater in the eyes of God, he, would have remained unknown to men; he would have been lost in the crowd of great unknown spirits, himself the greatest of all; the truth would not have been promulgated, and the world would not have profited from the great moral superiority with which his Father had endowed him. Jesus, son of Sirach, and Hillel, had uttered aphorisms almost as exalted as those of Jesus. Hillel, however, will never be accounted the true founder of Christianity. In morals, as in art, precept is nothing, practice is everything. The idea which is hidden in a picture of Raphael is of little moment; it is the picture itself which is prized. So, too, in morals, truth is but little prized when it is a mere sentiment, and only attains its full value when realized in the world as fact. Men of indifferent morality have written very good maxims. Very virtuous men, on the other hand, have done nothing to perpetuate in the world the tradition of virtue. The palm is his who has been mighty both in words and in works, who has discerned the good, and at the price of his blood has caused its triumph. Jesus, from this double point of view, is without equal; his glory remains entire, and will ever be renewed.
AN extraordinary man, whose position, from the absence of documentary evidence, remains to us in some degree enigmatical, appeared about this time, and was unquestionably to some extent connected with Jesus. This connection tended rather to make the young prophet of Nazareth deviate from his path; but it suggested many important accessories to his religious institution, and, at all events, furnished a very strong authority to his disciples in recommending their Master in the eyes of a certain class of Jews.
About the year 28 of our era (the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius) there spread throughout Palestine the reputation of a certain Johanan, or John, a young ascetic full of zeal and enthusiasm. John was of the priestly race [Luke i. 5; passage from the Gospel of the Ebionites, preserved by Epiphanius, (Adv. Haer., xxx. 13.)], and born, it seems, at Juttah near Hebron, or at Hebron itself.* Hebron, the patriarchal city par excellence, situated at a short distance from the desert of Judea, and within a few hours' journey of the great desert of Arabia, was at this period what it is to-day—one of the bulwarks of Semitic ideas, in their most austere form. From his infancy John was Nazir—that is to say, subjected by vow to certain abstinences.* The desert by which he was, so to speak, surrounded, early attracted him.* He led there the life of a Yogi of India, clothed with skins or stuffs of camels' hair, having for food only locusts and wild honey. [Matt. iii. 4; Mark i. 6; fragm. of the Gospel of the Ebionites, in Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 13.] A certain number of disciples were grouped around him, sharing his life and studying his severe doctrine. We might imagine ourselves transported to the banks of the Ganges, if particular traits had not revealed in this recluse the last descendant of the great prophets of Israel.
* Luke i. 39. It has been suggested, not without probability, that "the city of Juda" mentioned in this passage of Luke, is the town of Jutta (Josh. xv. 55, xxi. 16). Robinson (Biblical Researches, i. 494, ii. 206) has discovered this Jutta, still bearing the same name, at two hours' journey south of Hebron.
From the time that the Jewish nation had begun to reflect upon its destiny with a kind of despair, the imagination of the people had reverted with much complacency to the ancient prophets. Now, of all the personages of the past, the remembrance of whom came like the dreams of a troubled night to awaken and agitate the people, the greatest was Elias. This giant of the prophets, in his rough solitude of Carmel, sharing the life of savage beasts, dwelling in the hollows of the rocks, whence he came like a thunderbolt, to make and unmake kings, had become, by successive transformations, a sort of superhuman being, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, and as one who had not tasted death. It was generally believed that Elias would return and restore Israel.* The austere life which he had led, the terrible remembrances he had left behind him—the impression of which is still powerful in the East*—the somber image which, even in our own time, causes trembling and death—all this mythology, full of vengeance and terror, vividly struck the mind of the people, and stamped as with a birth-mark all the creations of the popular mind. Whoever aspired to act powerfully upon the people, must imitate Elias; and, as solitary life had been the essential characteristic of this prophet, they were accustomed to conceive "the man of God" as a hermit. They imagined that all the holy personages had had their days of penitence, of solitude, and of austerity.* The retreat to the desert thus became the condition and the prelude of high destinies.
* Malachi iv. 5, 6; (iii. 23, 24, according to the Vulg.); Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 10; Matt. xvi. 14, xvii. 10, and following; Mark vi. 15, viii. 28, ix. 10, and following; Luke ix. 8, 19; John i. 21, 25.
* The ferocious Abdallah, pacha of St. Jean d'Acre, nearly died from fright at seeing him in a dream, standing erect on his mountain. In the pictures of the Christian churches, he is surrounded with decapitated heads. The Mussulmans dread him.
No doubt this thought of imitation had occupied John's mind.* The anchorite life, so opposed to the spirit of the ancient Jewish people, and with which the vows, such as those of the Nazirs and the Rechabites, had no relation, pervaded all parts of Judea. The Essenes or Therapeutae were grouped near the birthplace of John, on the eastern shores of the Dead Sea. [Pliny, Hist. Nat., v. 17; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xix. 1 and 2.] It was imagined that the chiefs of sects ought to be recluses, having rules and institutions of their own, like the founders of religious orders. The teachers of the young were also at times species of anchorites,* somewhat resembling the gourous* of Brahminism. In fact, might there not in this be a remote influence of the mounis of India? Perhaps some of those wandering Buddhist monks who overran the world, as the first Franciscans did in later times, preaching by their actions and converting people who knew not their language, might have turned their stops towards Judea, as they certainly did towards Syria and Babylon? [I have developed this point elsewhere. Hist. Gener. des Langues Semitiques, III. iv. 1; Journ. Asiat., February-March, 1856.] On this point we have no certainty. Babylon had become for some time a true focus of Buddhism. Boudasp (Bodhisattva) was reputed a wise Chaldean, and the founder of Sabeism. Sabeism was, as its etymology indicates [The Aramean word seba, origin of the name of Sabians, is synonymous with βαπτιζω.], baptism—that is to say, the religion of many baptisms—the origin of the sect still existing called "Christians of St. John," or Mendaites, which the Arabs call el-Mogtasila, "the Baptists."* It is difficult to unravel these vague analogies. The sects floating between Judaism, Christianity, Baptism, and Sabeism, which we find in the region beyond the Jordan during the first centuries of our era,* present to criticism the most singular problem, in consequence of the confused accounts of them which have come down to us. We may believe, at all events, that many of the external practices of John, of the Essenes,* and of the Jewish spiritual teachers of this time, were derived from influences then but recently received from the far East. The fundamental practice which characterized the sect of John, and gave it its name, has always had its center in lower Chaldea, and constitutes a religion which is perpetuated there to the present day.
* I have treated of this at greater length in the Journal Asiatique, Nov.-Dec., 1853, and August-Sept., 1855. It is remarkable that the Elchasaites, a Sabian or Baptist sect, inhabited the same district as the Essenes, (the eastern bank of the Dead Sea), and were confounded with them (Epiph. Adv. Haer., xix. 1, 2, 4, xxx. 16, 17, liii. 1, 2; Philosophumena, IX. iii. 15, 16, X. xx. 29).
* See the remarks of Epiphanius on the Essenes, Hemero-Baptists, Nazarites, Ossenes, Nazorenes, Ebionites, Samsonites (Adv. Haer., books i. and ii.), and those of the author of the Philosophumena on the Elchasaites (books ix. and x.).
This practice was baptism, or total immersion. Ablutions were already familiar to the Jews, as they were to all religions of the East. [Mark vii. 4; Jos., Ant., XVIII. v. 2; Justin, Dial. cum Tryph., 17. 29, 80; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xvii.] The Essenes had given them a peculiar extension.* Baptism had become an ordinary ceremony on the introduction of proselytes into the bosom of the Jewish religion, a sort of initiatory rite. [Mishnah, Pesachim, viii. 8; Talmud of Babylon, Jebamoth, 46b; Kerithuth, 9a; Aboda Zara, 57a; Masseket Gerim (edit. Kirchheim, 1851), pp. 38-40.] Never before John the Baptist, however, had either this importance or this form been given to immersion. John had fixed the scene of his activity in that part of the desert of Judea which is in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea.* At the periods when he administered baptism, he went to the banks of the Jordan,* either to Bethany or Bethabara,* upon the eastern shore, probably opposite to Jericho, or to a place called Aenon, or "the Fountains," [Aenon is the Chaldean plural, Aenawan, "fountains."] near Salim, where there was much water.* Considerable crowds, especially of the tribe of Judah, hastened to him to be baptized.* In a few months he thus became one of the most influential men in Judea, and acquired much importance in the general estimation.
* John i. 28, iii. 26. All the manuscripts say Bethany; but, as no one knows of Bethany in these places, Origen (Comment. in Joann., vi. 24) has proposed to substitute Bethabara, and his correction has been generally accepted. The two words have, moreover, analogous meanings, and seem to indicate a place where there was a ferry-boat to cross the river.
* John iii. 23. The locality of this place is doubtful. The circumstance mentioned by the evangelist would lead us to believe that it was not very near the Jordan. Nevertheless, the synoptics are agreed in placing the scene of the baptisms of John on the banks of that river (Matt. iii. 6; Mark i. 5; Luke iii. 3). The comparison of verses 22 and 23 of chap. iii. of John, and of verses 3 and 4 of chap. iv. of the same Gospel, would lead us to believe that Salim was in Judea, and consequently in the oasis of Jericho, near the mouth of the Jordan; since it would be difficult to find in any other district of the tribe of Judah a single natural basin in which any one might be totally immersed. Saint Jerome wishes to place Salim much more north, near Beth-Schean or Scythopoplis. But Robinson (Bibl. Res., iii. 333) has not been able to find anything at these places that justifies this assertion.
The people took him for a prophet,* and many imagined that it was Elias who had risen again.* The belief in these resurrections was widely spread;* it was thought that God would raise from the tomb certain of the ancient prophets to guide Israel towards its final destiny. Others held John to be the Messiah himself, although he made no such pretensions.* The priests and the scribes, opposed to this revival of prophetism, and the constant enemies of enthusiasts, despised him. But the popularity of the Baptist awed them, and they dared not speak against him.* It was a victory which the ideas of the multitude gained over the priestly aristocracy. When the chief priests were compelled to declare themselves explicitly on this point, they were considerably embarrassed.*
Baptism with John was only a sign destined to make an impression, and to prepare the minds of the people for some great movement. No doubt he was possessed in the highest degree with the Messianic hope, and that his principal action was in accordance with it. "Repent," said he, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."* He announced a "great wrath," that is to say, terrible calamities which should come to pass,* and declared that the axe was already laid at the root of the tree, and that the tree would soon be cast into the fire. He represented the Messiah with a fan in his hand, collecting the good wheat and burning the chaff. Repentance, of which baptism was the type, the giving of alms, the reformation of habits,* were in John's view the great means of preparation for the coming events, though we do not know exactly in what light he conceived them. It is, however, certain that he preached with much power against the same adversaries as Jesus, against rich priests, the Pharisees, the doctors, in one word, against official Judaism; and that, like Jesus, he was specially welcomed by the despised classes.* He made no account of the title "son of Abraham," and said that God could raise up sons unto Abraham from the stones of the road.* It does not seem that he possessed even the germ of the great idea which led to the triumph of Jesus, the idea of a pure religion; but he powerfully served this idea in substituting a private rite for the legal ceremonies which required priests, as the Flagellants of the Middle Ages were the precursors of the Reformation, by depriving the official clergy of the monopoly of the sacraments and of absolution. The general tone of his sermons was stern and severe. The expressions which he used against his adversaries appear to have been most violent.* It was a harsh and continuous invective. It is probable that he did not remain quite a stranger to politics. Josephus, who, through his teacher Banou, was brought into almost direct connection with John, suggests as much by his ambiguous words,* and the catastrophe which put an end to John's life seems to imply this. His disciples led a very austere life,* fasted often, and affected a sad and anxious demeanor. We have at times glimpses of communism—the rich man being ordered to share all that he had with the poor.* The poor man appeared as the one who would be specially benefitted by the kingdom of God.
*Ant. XVIII. v. 2. We must observe that, when Josephus described the secret and more or less seditious doctrines of his countrymen, he suppressed everything which had reference to the Messianic beliefs, and, in order not to give umbrage to the Romans, spread over these doctrines a vulgar and commonplace air, which made all the heads of Jewish sects appear as mere professors of morals or stoics.
Although the center of John's action was Judea, his fame quickly penetrated to Galilee and reached Jesus, who, by his first discourses, had already gathered around himself a small circle of hearers. Enjoying as yet little authority, and doubtless impelled by the desire to see a teacher whose instruction had so much in common with his own, Jesus quitted Galilee and repaired with his small group of disciples to John.* The newcomers were baptized like every one else. John welcomed this group of Galilean disciples, and did not object to their remaining distinct from his own. The two teachers were young; they had many ideas in common; they loved one another, and publicly vied with each other in exhibitions of kindly feeling. At the first glance, such a fact surprises us in John the Baptist, and we are tempted to call it in question. Humility has never been a feature of strong Jewish minds. It might have been expected that a character so stubborn, a sort of Lamennais always irritated, would be very passionate, and suffer neither rivalry nor half adhesion. But this manner of viewing things rests upon a false conception of the person of John. We imagine him an old man; he was, on the contrary, of the same age as Jesus,* and very young according to the ideas of the time. In mental development, he was the brother rather than the father of Jesus. The two young enthusiasts, full of the same hopes and the same hatreds, were able to make common cause, and mutually to support each other. Certainly an aged teacher, seeing a man without celebrity approach him, and maintain toward him an aspect of independence, would have rebelled; we have scarcely an example of a leader of a school receiving with eagerness his future successor. But youth is capable of any sacrifice, and we may admit that John, having recognized in Jesus a spirit akin to his own, accepted him without any personal reservation. These good relations became afterwards the starting-point of a whole system developed by the evangelists, which consisted in giving the Divine mission of Jesus the primary basis of the attestation of John. Such was the degree of authority acquired by the Baptist, that it was not thought possible to find in the world a better guarantee. But far from John abdicating in favor of Jesus, Jesus, during all the time that he passed with him, recognized him as his superior, and only developed his own genius with timidity.
* Matt. iii. 13, and following; Mark i. 9, and following; Luke iii. 21, and following; John i. 29, and following; iii. 22, and following. The synoptics make Jesus come to John, before he had played any public part. But if it is true, as they state, that John recognized Jesus from the first and welcomed him, it must be supposed that Jesus was already a somewhat renowned teacher. The fourth Gospel brings Jesus to John twice, the first time while yet unknown, the second time with a band of disciples. Without touching here the question of the precise journeys of Jesus (an insoluble question, seeing the contradictions of the documents and the little care the evangelists had in being exact in such matters), and without denying that Jesus might have made a journey to John when he had as yet no notoriety, we adopt the information furnished by the fourth Gospel (iii. 22, and following), namely, that Jesus, before beginning to baptize like John, had formed a school. We must remember, besides, that the first pages of the fourth Gospel are notes tacked together without rigorous chronological arrangement.
* Luke i., although indeed all the details of the narrative, especially those which refer to the relationship of John with Jesus, are legendary.
It seems, in fact, that, notwithstanding his profound originality, Jesus, during some weeks at least, was the imitator of John. His way as yet was not clear before him. At all times, moreover, Jesus yielded much to opinion, and adopted many things which were not in exact accordance with his own ideas, or for which he cared little, merely because they were popular; but these accessories never injured his principal idea, and were always subordinate to it. Baptism had been brought by John into very great favor; Jesus thought himself obliged to do like John; therefore he baptized, and his disciples baptized also. [John iii. 22-26, iv. 1, 2. The parenthesis of ver. 2 appears to be an interpolation, or perhaps a tardy scruple of John correcting himself.] No doubt he accompanied baptism with preaching, similar to that of John. The Jordan was thus covered on all sides with Baptists, whose discourses were more or less successful. The pupil soon equaled the master, and his baptism was much sought after. There was on this subject some jealousy among the disciples;* the disciples of John came to complain to him of the growing success of the young Galilean, whose baptism would, they thought, soon supplant his own. But the two teachers remained superior to this meanness. The superiority of John was, besides, too indisputable for Jesus, still little known, to think of contesting it. Jesus only wished to increase under John's protection; and thought himself obliged, in order to gain the multitude, to employ the external means which had given John such astonishing success. When he recommenced to preach after John's arrest, the first words put into his mouth are but the repetition of one of the familiar phrases of the Baptist.* Many other of John's expressions may be found repeated verbally in the discourses of Jesus.* The two schools appear to have lived long on good terms with each other;* and after the death of John, Jesus, as his trusty friend, was one of the first to be informed of the event.*
John, in fact, was soon cut short in his prophetic career. Like the ancient Jewish prophets, he was, in the highest degree, a censurer of the established authorities.* The extreme vivacity with which he expressed himself at their expense could not fail to bring him into trouble. In Judea, John does not appear to have been disturbed by Pilate; but in Perea, beyond the Jordan, he came into the territory of Antipas. This tyrant was uneasy at the political leaven which was so little concealed by John in his preaching. The great assemblages of men gathered around the Baptist, by religious and patriotic enthusiasm, gave rise to suspicion.* An entirely personal grievance was also added to these motives of state, and rendered the death of the austere censor inevitable.
One of the most strongly marked characters of this tragical family of the Herods was Herodias, grand-daughter of Herod the Great. Violent, ambitious, and passionate, she detested Judaism, and despised its laws.* She had been married, probably against her will, to her uncle Herod, son of Mariamne,* whom Herod the Great had disinherited,* and who never played any public part. The inferior position of her husband, in respect to the other persons of the family, gave her no peace; she determined to be sovereign at whatever cost. [Ibid., XVIII. vii. 1, 2; B. J., II. ix. 6.] Antipas was the instrument of whom she made use. This feeble man having become desperately enamored of her, promised to marry her, and to repudiate his first wife, daughter of Hareth, king of Petra, and emir of the neighboring tribes of Perea The Arabian princess, receiving a hint of this design, resolved to fly. Concealing her intention, she pretended that she wished to make a journey to Machero, in her father's territory, and caused herself to be conducted thither by the officers of Antipas.*
* Matthew (chap. xiv. 3. in the Greek text) and Mark (chap. vi. 17) have it that this was Philip; but this is certainly an inadvertency (see Jos., Ant., XVIII. v. 1, 4). The wife of Philip was Salome, daughter of Herodias.
Makaur [This form is found in the Talmud of Jerusalem (Shebiit, ix. 2), and in the Targums of Jonathan and of Jerusalem (Numb. xxii. 35).], or Machero, was a colossal fortress built by Alexander Jannaeus, and rebuilt by Herod, in one of the most abrupt wadys to the east of the Dead Sea. [Now Mkaur, in the wady Zerka Main. This place has not been visited since Seetzen was there.] It was a wild and desolate country, filled with strange legends, and believed to be haunted by demons. [Josephus, De Bell. Jud., VII. vi. 1, and following.] The fortress was just on the boundary of the lands of Hareth and of Antipas. At that time it was in the possession of Hareth.* The latter having been warned, had prepared everything for the flight of his daughter, who was conducted from tribe to tribe to Petra.
The almost incestuous* union of Antipas and Herodias then took place. The Jewish laws on marriage were a constant rock of offense between the irreligious family of the Herods and the strict Jews.* The members of this numerous and rather isolated dynasty being obliged to marry among themselves, frequent violations of the limits prescribed by the Law necessarily took place. John, in energetically blaming Antipas, was the echo of the general feeling.* This was more than sufficient to decide the latter to follow up his suspicions. He caused the Baptist to be arrested, and ordered him to be shut up in the fortress of Machero, which he had probably seized after the departure of the daughter of Hareth.*
More timid than cruel, Antipas did not desire to put him to death. According to certain rumors, he feared a popular sedition.* According to another version [Mark vi. 20. I read ηπορει, and not εποιει.], he had taken pleasure in listening to the prisoner, and these conversations had thrown him into great perplexities. It is certain that the detention was prolonged, and that John, in his prison, preserved an extended influence. He corresponded with his disciples, and we find him again in connection with Jesus. His faith in the near approach of the Messiah only became firmer; he followed with attention the movements outside, and sought to discover in them the signs favorable to the accomplishment of the hopes which he cherished.
Up to the arrest of John, which took place about the summer of the year 29, Jesus did not quit the neighborhood of the Dead Sea and of the Jordan. An abode in the desert of Judea was generally considered as the preparation for great things, as a sort of "retreat" before public acts. Jesus followed in this respect the example of others, and passed forty days with no other companions than savage beasts, maintaining a rigorous fast. The disciples speculated much concerning this sojourn. The desert was popularly regarded as the residence of demons.* There exist in the world few regions more desolate, more abandoned by God, more shut out from life, than the rocky declivity which forms the western shore of the Dead Sea. It was believed that during the time which Jesus passed in this frightful country, he had gone through terrible trials; that Satan had assailed him with his illusions, or tempted him with seductive promises; that afterward, in order to recompense him for his victory, the angels had come to minister to him.*
* Matt. iv. 1, and following; Mark i. 12, 13; Luke iv. 1, and following. Certainly, the striking similarity that these narratives present to the analogous legends of the Vendidad (farg. xix.) and of the Lalitavistara (chap. xvii., xviii., xxi.) would lead us to regard them only as myths. But the meagre and concise narrative of Mark, which evidently represents on this point the primiitive comipilation, leads us to suppose a real fact, which furnished later the theme of legendary developments.
It was probably in coming from the desert that Jesus learned of the arrest of John the Baptist. He had no longer any reason to prolong his stay in a country which was partly strange to him. Perhaps he feared also being involved in the severities exercised toward John, and did not wish to expose himself, at a time in which, seeing the little celebrity he had, his death could in no way serve the progress of his ideas. He regained Galilee [Matt. iv. 12; Mark i. 14; Luke iv. 14; John iv. 3.], his true home, ripened by an important experience, and having, through contact with a great man, very different from himself, acquired a consciousness of his own originality.
On the whole, the influence of John had been more hurtful than useful to Jesus. It checked his development; for everything leads us to believe that he had, when he descended towards the Jordan, ideas superior to those of John, and that it was by a sort of concession that he inclined for a time toward baptism. Perhaps if the Baptist, whose authority it would have been difficult for him to escape, had remained free, Jesus would not have been able to throw off the yoke of external rites and ceremonies, and would then, no doubt, have remained an unknown Jewish sectary; for the world would not have abandoned its old ceremonies merely for others of a different kind. It has been by the power of a religion, free from all external forms, that Christianity has attracted elevated minds. The Baptist once imprisoned, his school was soon diminished, and Jesus found himself left to his own impulses. The only things he owed to John, were lessons in preaching and in popular action. From this moment, in fact, he preached with greater power, and spoke to the multitude with authority. [Matt. vii. 29; Mark i. 22; Luke iv. 32.]
It seems also that his sojourn with John had, not so much by the influence of the Baptist, as by the natural progress of his own thought, considerably ripened his ideas on "the kingdom of heaven." His watchword, henceforth, is the "good tidings," the announcement that the kingdom of God is at hand.* Jesus is no longer simply a delightful moralist, aspiring to express sublime lessons in short and lively aphorisms; he is the transcendent revolutionary, who essays to renovate the world from its very basis, and to establish upon earth the ideal which he had conceived. "To await the kingdom of God" is henceforth synonymous with being a disciple of Jesus.* This phrase, "kingdom of God," or "kingdom of heaven," was, as we have said, already long familiar to the Jews. But Jesus gave it a moral sense, a social application, which even the author of the Book of Daniel, in his apocalyptic enthusiasm, had scarcely dared to imagine.
He declared that in the present world evil is the reigning power. Satan is "the prince of this world," [John xii. 31, xiv. 30, xvi. 11. (Comp. 2 Cor. iv. 4; Ephes. ii. 2.)] and everything obeys him. The kings kill the prophets. The priests and the doctors do not that which they command others to do; the righteous are persecuted, and the only portion of the good is weeping. The "world" is in this manner the enemy of God and His saints [John i. 10, vii. 7, xiv. 17, 22, 27, xv. 18, and following; xvi. 8, 20, 33, xvii. 9, 14, 16, 25. This meaning of the word "world" is especially applied in the writings of Paul and John.]: but God will awaken and avenge His saints. The day is at hand, for the abomination is at its height. The reign of goodness will have its turn.
The advent of this reign of goodness will be a great and sudden revolution. The world will seem to be turned upside down; the actual state being bad, in order to represent the future, it suffices to conceive nearly the reverse of that which exists. The first shall be last. [Matt. xix. 30, xx. 16; Mark x. 31; Luke xiii. 30.] A new order shall govern humanity. Now the good and the bad are mixed, like the tares and the good grain in a field. The master lets them grow together; but the hour of violent separation will arrive.* The kingdom of God will be as the casting of a great net, which gathers both good and bad fish; the good are preserved, and the rest are thrown away.* The germ of this great revolution will not be recognizable in its beginning. It will be like a grain of mustard-seed, which is the smallest of seeds, but which, thrown into the earth, becomes a tree under the foliage of which the birds repose [Matt. xiii. 31, and following; Mark iv. 31, and following; Luke xiii. 19, and following.]; or it will be like the leaven which, deposited in the meal, makes the whole to ferment.* A series of parables, often obscure, was designed to express the suddenness of this event, its apparent injustice, and its inevitable and final character. [Matt. xiii. entirely; xviii. 23, and following; xx. 1, and following; Luke xiii. 18, and following.]
Who was to establish this kingdom of God? Let us remember that the first thought of Jesus, a thought so deeply rooted in him that it had probably no beginning, and formed part of his very being, was that he was the Son of God, the friend of his Father, the doer of his will. The answer of Jesus to such a question could not therefore be doubtful. The persuasion that he was to establish the kingdom of God took absolute possession of his mind. He regarded himself as the universal reformer. The heavens, the earth, the whole of nature, madness, disease, and death, were but his instruments. In his paroxysm of heroic will, he believed himself all powerful. If the earth would not submit to this supreme transformation, it would be broken up, purified by fire, and by the breath of God. A new heaven would be created, and the entire world would be peopled with the angels of God.*
A radical revolution [Αποχαταστασις παντων, Acts iii. 21.], embracing even nature itself, was the fundamental idea of Jesus. Henceforward, without doubt, he renounced politics; the example of Judas, the Gaulonite, had shown him the inutility of popular seditions. He never thought of revolting against the Romans and tetrarchs. His was not the unbridled and anarchical principle of the Gaulonite. His submission to the established powers, though really derisive, was in appearance complete. He paid tribute to Caesar, in order to avoid disturbance. Liberty and right were not of this world, why should he trouble his life with vain anxieties? Despising the earth, and convinced that the present world was not worth caring for, he took refuge in his ideal kingdom; he established the great doctrine of transcendent disdain [Matt. xvii. 23-26; xxii. 16-22.], the true doctrine of liberty of souls, which alone can give peace. But he had not yet said, "My kingdom is not of this world." Much darkness mixed itself with even his most correct views. Sometimes strange temptations crossed his mind. In the desert of Judea, Satan had offered him the kingdoms of the earth. Not knowing the power of the Roman empire, he might, with the enthusiasm there was in the heart of Judea, and which ended soon after in so terrible an outbreak, hope to establish a kingdom by the number and the daring of his partisans. Many times, perhaps, the supreme question presented itself—will the kingdom of God be realized by force or by gentleness, by revolt or by patience? One day, it is said, the simple men of Galilee wished to carry him away and make him king,* but Jesus fled into the mountain and remained there some time alone. His noble nature preserved him from the error which would have made him an agitator, or a chief of rebels, a Theudas or a Barkokeba.
The revolution he wished to effect was always a moral revolution; but he had not yet begun to trust to the angels and the last trumpet for its execution. It was upon men and by the aid of men themselves that he wished to act. A visionary who had no other idea than the proximity of the last judgment, would not have had this care for the amelioration of man, and would not have given utterance to the finest moral teaching that humanity has received. Much vagueness no doubt tinged his ideas, and it was rather a noble feeling than a fixed design, that urged him to the sublime work which was realized by him, though in a very different manner to what he imagined.
It was indeed the kingdom of God, or in other words, the kingdom of the Spirit, which he founded; and if Jesus, from the bosom of his Father, sees his work bear fruit in the world, he may indeed say with truth, "This is what I have desired." That which Jesus founded, that which will remain eternally his, allowing for the imperfections which mix themselves with everything realized by humanity, is the doctrine of the liberty of the soul. Greece had already had beautiful ideas on this subject. [See Stobaeus, Florilegium, ch. lxii., lxxvii., lxxxvi., and following.] Various stoics had learned how to be free even under a tyrant. But in general the ancient world had regarded liberty as attached to certain political forms; freedom was personified in Harmodius and Aristogiton, Brutus and Cassius. The true Christian enjoys more real freedom; here below he is an exile; what matters it to him who is the transitory governor of this earth, which is not his home? Liberty for him is truth.* Jesus did not know history sufficiently to understand that such a doctrine came most opportunely at the moment when republican liberty ended, and when the small municipal constitutions of antiquity were absorbed in the unity of the Roman empire. But his admirable good sense, and the truly prophetic instinct which he had of his mission, guided him with marvelous certainty. By the sentence, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things which are God's," he created something apart from polities, a refuge for souls in the midst of the empire of brute force. Assuredly, such a doctrine had its dangers. To establish as a principle that we must recognize the legitimacy of a power by the inscription on its coins, to proclaim that the perfect man pays tribute with scorn and without question, was to destroy republicanism in the ancient form, and to favor all tyranny. Christianity, in this sense, has contributed much to weaken the sense of duty of the citizen, and to deliver the world into the absolute power of existing circumstances. But in constituting an immense free association, which during three hundred years was able to dispense with politics, Christianity amply compensated for the wrong it had done to civic virtues. The power of the state was limited to the things of earth; the mind was freed, or at least the terrible rod of Roman omnipotence was broken forever.
The man who is especially preoccupied with the duties of public life, does not readily forgive those who attach little importance to his party quarrels. He especially blames those who subordinate political to social questions, and profess a sort of indifference for the former. In one sense he is right, for exclusive power is prejudicial to the good government of human affairs. But what progress have "parties" been able to effect in the general morality of our species? If Jesus, instead of founding his heavenly kingdom, had gone to Rome, had expended his energies in conspiring against Tiberius, or in regretting Germanicus, what would have become of the world? As an austere republican, or zealous patriot, he would not have arrested the great current of the affairs of his age, but in declaring that politics are insignificant, he has revealed to the world this truth, that one's country is not everything, and that the man is before, and higher than, the citizen.
Our principles of positive science are offended by the dreams contained in the program of Jesus. We know the history of the earth; cosmical revolutions of the kind which Jesus expected are only produced by geological or astronomical causes, the connection of which with spiritual things has never yet been demonstrated. But, in order to be just to great originators, they must not be judged by the prejudices in which they have shared. Columbus discovered America, though starting from very erroneous ideas; Newton believed his foolish explanation of the Apocalypse to be as true as his system of the world. Shall we place an ordinary man of our time above a Francis d'Assisi, a St. Bernard, a Joan of Arc, or a Luther, because he is free from errors which these last have professed? Should we measure men by the correctness of their ideas of physics, and by the more or less exact knowledge which they possess of the true system of the world? Let us understand better the position of Jesus and that which made his power. The Deism of the eighteenth century, and a certain kind of Protestantism, have accustomed us to consider the founder of the Christian faith only as a great moralist, a benefactor of mankind. We see nothing more in the Gospel than good maxims; we throw a prudent veil over the strange intellectual state in which it was originated. There are even persons who regret that the French Revolution departed more than once from principles, and that it was not brought about by wise and moderate men. Let us not impose our petty and commonplace ideas on these extraordinary movements so far above our everyday life. Let us continue to admire the "morality of the gospel"—let us suppress in our religious teachings the chimera which was its soul; but do not let us believe that with the simple ideas of happiness, or of individual morality, we stir the world. The idea of Jesus was much more profound; it was the most revolutionary idea ever formed in a human brain; it should be taken in its totality, and not with those timid suppressions which deprive it of precisely that which has rendered it efficacious for the regeneration of humanity.
The ideal is ever a Utopia. When we wish nowadays to represent the Christ of the modern conscience, the consoler, and the judge of the new times, what course do we take? That which Jesus himself did eighteen hundred and thirty years ago. We suppose the conditions of the real world quite other than what they are; we represent a moral liberator breaking without weapons the chains of the negro, ameliorating the condition of the poor, and giving liberty to oppressed nations. We forget that this implies the subversion of the world, the climate of Virginia and that of Congo modified, the blood and the race of millions of men changed, our social complications restored to a chimerical simplicity, and the political stratifications of Europe displaced from their natural order. The "restitution of all things"* desired by Jesus was not more difficult. This new earth, this new heaven, this new Jerusalem which comes from above, this cry: "Behold I make all things new!"* are the common characteristics of reformers. The contrast of the ideal with the sad reality, always produces in mankind those revolts against unimpassioned reason which inferior minds regard as folly, till the day arrives in which they triumph, and in which those who have opposed them are the first to recognize their reasonableness.
That there may have been a contradiction between the belief in the approaching end of the world and the general moral system of Jesus, conceived in prospect of a permanent state of humanity, nearly analogous to that which now exists, no one will attempt to deny.* It was exactly this contradiction that insured the success of his work. The millenarian alone would have done nothing lasting; the moralist alone would have done nothing powerful. The millenarianism gave the impulse, the moralist insured the future. Hence Christianity united the two conditions of great success in this world, a revolutionary starting-point, and the possibility of continuous life. Everything which is intended to succeed ought to respond to these two wants; for the world seeks both to change and to last. Jesus, at the same time that he announced an unparalleled subversion in human affairs, proclaimed the principles upon which society has reposed for eighteen hundred years.
* The millenarian sects of England present the same contrast, I mean the belief in the near end of hte world, notwithstanding much good sense in the conduct of life, and an extraordinary understanding of commercial affairs and industry.
That which in fact distinguishes Jesus from the agitators of his time, and from those of all ages, is his perfect idealism. Jesus, in some respects, was an anarchist, for he had no idea of civil government. That government seemed to him purely and simply an abuse. He spoke of it in vague terms, and as a man of the people who had no idea of politics. Every magistrate appeared to him a natural enemy of the people of God; he prepared his disciples for contests with the civil powers, without thinking for a moment that there was anything in this to be ashamed of.* But he never shows any desire to put himself in the place of the rich and the powerful. He wishes to annihilate riches and power, but not to appropriate them. He predicts persecution and all kinds of punishment to his disciples [Matt. v. 10, and following; x. entirely; Luke vi. 22, and following; John xv. 18, and following; xvi. 2, and following, 20, 33; xvii. 14.]; but never once does the thought of armed resistance appear. The idea of being all-powerful by suffering and resignation, and of triumphing over force by purity of heart, is indeed an idea peculiar to Jesus. Jesus is not a spiritualist, for to him everything tended to a palpable realization; he had not the least notion of a soul separated from the body. But he is a perfect idealist, matter being only to him the sign of the idea, and the real, the living expression of that which does not appear.
To whom should we turn, to whom should we trust to establish the kingdom of God? The mind of Jesus on this point never hesitated. That which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.* The founders of the kingdom of God are the simple. Not the rich, not the learned, not priests; but women, common people, the humble, and the young. [Matt. v. 3, 10, xviii. 3, xix. 14, 23, 24, xxi. 31, xxii. 2, and following; Mark x. 14, 15, 23-25; Luke iv. 18, and following; vi. 20, xviii. 16, 17, 24, 25.] The great characteristic of the Messiah is, that "the poor have the gospel preached to them."* The idyllic and gentle nature of Jesus here resumed the superiority. A great social revolution, in which rank will be overturned, in which all authority in this world will be humiliated, was his dream. The world will not believe him; the world will kill him. But his disciples will not be of the world.* They will be a little flock of the humble and the simple, who will conquer by their very humility. The idea which has made "Christian" the antithesis of "worldly," has its full justification in the thoughts of the master. [See especially chapter xvii. of St. John, expressing, if not a real discourse delivered by Jesus, at least a sentiment which was verydeeply rooted in his disciples, and which certainly came from him.]
BESET by an idea, gradually becoming more and more imperious and exclusive, Jesus proceeds henceforth with a kind of fatal impassibility in the path marked out by his astonishing genius and the extraordinary circumstances in which he lived. Hitherto he had only communicated his thoughts to a few persons secretly attracted to him; henceforward his teaching was sought after by the public. He was about thirty years of age. [Luke iii. 23; Gospel of the Ebionites, in Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 13.] The little group of hearers who had accompanied him to John the Baptist had, doubtless, increased, and perhaps some disciples of John had attached themselves to him.* It was with this first nucleus of a church that he boldly announced, on his return into Galilee, the "good tidings of the kingdom of God." This kingdom was approaching, and it was he, Jesus, who was that "Son of Man" whom Daniel had beheld in his vision as the divine herald of the last and supreme revelation.
We must remember, that in the Jewish ideas, which were averse to art and mythology, the simple form of man had a superiority over that of Cherubs, and of the fantastic animals which the imagination of the people, since it had been subjected to the influence of Assyria, had ranged around the Divine Majesty. Already in Ezekiel,* the Being seated on the supreme throne, far above the monsters of the mysterious chariot, the great revealer of prophetic visions, had the figure of a man. In the book of Daniel, in the midst of the vision of the empires, represented by animals, at the moment when the great judgment commences, and when the books are opened, a Being "like unto a Son of Man," advances towards the Ancient of days, who confers on him the power to judge the world, and to govern it for eternity.* Son of Man, in the Semitic languages, especially in the Aramean dialects, is a simple synonym of man. But this chief passage of Daniel struck the mind; the words, Son of Man, became, at least, in certain schools [In John xii. 34, the Jews do not appear to be aware of the meaning of this word.], one of the titles of the Messiah, regarded as judge of the world, and as king of the new era about to be inaugurated.* The application which Jesus made of it to himself was therefore the proclamation of his Messiahship, and the affirmation of the coming catastrophe in which he was to figure as judge, clothed with the full powers which had been delegated to him by the Ancient of days.*
* Book of Enoch, xlvi. 1-3, xlviii. 2, 3, lxii. 9, 14, lxx. 1 (division of Dilmann); Matt. x. 23, xiii. 41, xvi. 27, 28, xix. 28, xxiv. 27, 30, 37, 39, 44, xxv. 31, xxvi. 64; Mark xiii. 26, xiv. 62; Luke xii. 40, xvii. 24, 26, 30, xxi. 27, 36, xxii. 69; Acts vii. 55. But the most significant passage is John v. 27, compared with Rev. i. 13, xiv. 14. The expression "Son of woman," for the Messiah, occurs once in the book of Enoch, lxii. 5.
The success of the teaching of the new prophet was this time decisive. A group of men and women, all characterized by the same spirit of juvenile frankness and simple innocence, adhered to him, and said, "Thou art the Messiah." As the Messiah was to be the son of David, they naturally conceded him this title, which was synonymous with the former. Jesus allowed it with pleasure to be given to him, although it might cause him some embarrassment, his birth being well known. The name which he preferred himself was that of "Son of Man," an apparently humble title, but one which connected itself directly with the Messianic hopes. This was the title by which he designated himself [This title occurs eighty-three times in the Gospels, and always in the discourses of Jesus.], and he used "The Son of Man" as synonymous with the pronoun "I," which he avoided. But he was never thus addressed, doubtless because the name in question would be fully applicable to him only on the day of his future appearance.
His center of action, at this epoch of his life, was the little town of Capernaum, situated on the shore of the lake of Gennesareth. The name of Capernaum, containing the word caphar, "village," seems to designate a small town of the ancient character, in opposition to the great towns built according to the Roman method, like Tiberias.* That name was so little known that Josephus, in one passage of his writings,* takes it for the name of a fountain, the fountain having more celebrity than the village situated near it. Like Nazareth, Capemaum had no history, and had in no way participated in the profane movement favored by the Herods. Jesus was much attached to this town, and made it a second home.* Soon after his return, he attempted to commence his work at Nazareth, but without success. [Matt. xiii. 54, and following; Mark vi. 1, and following; Luke iv. 16, and following, 23-24; John iv. 44.] He could not perform any miracle there, according to the simple remark of one of his biographers.* The knowledge which existed there about his family, not an important one, injured his authority too much. People could not regard as the son of David, one whose brother, sister, and brother-in-law they saw every day, and it is remarkable besides, that his family were strongly opposed to him, and plainly refused to believe in his mission. [Matt. xiii. 57; Mark vi. 4; John vii. 3, and following.] The Nazarenes, much more violent, wished, it is said, to kill him by throwing him from a steep rock.* Jesus aptly remarked that this treatment was the fate of all great men, and applied to himself the proverb, "No one is a prophet in his own country."
* It is true that Tell-Houm, which is generally identified with Capernaum, contains the remains of somewhat fine monuments. But, besides this identification being doubtful, these monuments may be of the second or third century after Christ.
* Luke iv. 29. Probably the rock referred to here is the peak which is very near Nazareth, above the present church of the Maronites, and not the pretended Mount of Precipitation, at an hour's journey from Nazareth. See Robinson, ii. 335, and following.
This check far from discouraged him. He returned to Capernaum,* where he met with a much more favorable reception, and from thence he organized a series of missions among the small surrounding towns. The people of this beautiful and fertile country were scarcely ever assembled except on Saturday. This was the day which he chose for his teaching. At that time each town had its synagogue, or place of meeting. This was a rectangular room, rather small, with a portico, decorated in the Greek style. The Jews not having any architecture of their own, never cared to give these edifices an original style. The remains of many ancient synagogues still exist in Galilee. [At Tell-Houm, Irbid (Arbela), Meiron (Mero), Jisch (Giscala), Kasyoun, Nabartein, and two at Kefr-Bereim.] They are all constructed of large and good materials; but their style is somewhat paltry, in consequence of the profusion of floral ornaments, foliage, and twisted work, which characterize the Jewish buildings.* In the interior there were seats, a chair for public reading, and a closet to contain the sacred rolls.* These edifices, which had nothing of the character of a temple, were the center of the whole Jewish life. There the people assembled on the Sabbath for prayer, and reading of the law and the prophets. As Judaism, except in Jerusalem, had, properly speaking, no clergy, the first comer stood up, gave the lessons of the day (parasha and haphtara), and added thereto a midrash, or entirely personal commentary, in which he expressed his own ideas.* This was the origin of the "homily," the finished model of which we find in the small treatises of Philo. The audience had the right of making objections and putting questions to the reader; so that the meeting soon degenerated into a kind of free assembly. It had a president [Αρχισυναγωγος], "elders [Πρεσβυτεροι]," a hazzan, i.e., a recognized reader, or apparitor [Υπηρετης], deputies [Αποστολοι, or αγγελοι.], who were secretaries or messengers, and conducted the correspondence between one synagogue and another, a shammash, or sacristan.* The synagogues were thus really little independent republics, having an extensive jurisdiction. Like all municipal corporations, up to an advanced period of the Roman empire, they issued honorary decrees,* voted resolutions, which had the force of law for the community, and ordained corporal punishments, of which the hazzan was the ordinary executor.*
* I dare not decide upon the age of those buildings, nor consequently affirm that Jesus taught in any of them. How great would be the interest attaching to the synagogue of Tell-Houm were we to admit such an hypothesis! The great synagogue of Kefr-Bereim seems to me the most ancient of all. Its style is moderately pure. That of Kasyoun bears a Greek inscription of the time of Septimus Severus. The great importance which Judaism acquired in Upper Galilee after the Roman war, leads us to believe that several of these edifices only date back to the third century—a time in which Tiberias became a sort of capital of Judaism.
* 2 Esdras viii. 4; Matt. xxiii. 6; Epist. James ii. 3; Mishnah, Megilla, iii. 1; Rosh Hasshana, iv. 7, etc. See especially the curious description of the synagogue of Alexandria in the Talmud of Babylon, Sukka, 51b.
* Philo, quoted in Eusebius, Praep. Evang., viii. 7, and Quod Omnis Probus Liber, §12; Luke iv. 16; Acts xiii. 15, xv. 21; Mishnah, Megilla, iii. 4, and following.
* Διακονος, Mark v. 22, 35, and following; Luke iv. 20, vii. 3, viii. 41, 49, xiii. 14; Acts xiii. 15, xviii. 8, 17; Rev. ii. 1; Mishnah, Joma, vii. 1; Rosh Hasshana, iv. 9; Talm. of Jerus., Sanhedrim, i. 7; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 4, 11.
* Inscription of Berenice, in the Corpus Inscr. Graec., No. 5361; inscription of Kasyoun, in the Mission de Phenicie, book iv. (in the press.)
* Matt. v. 25, x. 17, xxiii. 34; Mark xiii. 9; Luke xx. 11, xxi., 12; Acts xxii. 19; xxvi. 11; 2 Cor. xi. 24; Mishnah, Maccoth, iii. 12; Talmud of Babylon, Megilla, 7b; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 11.
With the extreme activity of mind which has always characterized the Jews, such an institution, notwithstanding the arbitrary rigors it tolerated, could not fail to give rise to very animated discussions. Thanks to the synagogues, Judaism has been able to sustain intact eighteen centuries of persecution. They were like so many little separate worlds, in which the national spirit was preserved, and which offered a ready field for intestine struggles. A large amount of passion was expended there. The quarrels for precedence were of constant occurrence. To have a seat of honor in the first rank was the reward of great piety, or the most envied privilege of wealth. [Matt. xxiii. 6; Epist. James ii. 3; Talmud of Bab., Sukka, 51b.] On the other hand, the liberty, accorded to every one, of instituting himself reader and commentator of the sacred text, afforded marvelous facilities for the propagation of new ideas. This was one of the great instruments of power wielded by Jesus, and the most habitual means he employed to propound his doctrinal instruction. [Matt. iv. 23, ix. 35; Mark i. 21, 39, vi. 2; Luke iv. 15, 16, 31, 44, xiii. 10; John xviii. 20.] He entered the synagogue, and stood up to read; the hazzan offered him the book, he unrolled it, and reading the parasha or the haphtara of the day, he drew from his reading a lesson in conformity with his own ideas. [Luke iv. 16, and following. Comp. Mishnah, Joma, vii. 1.] As there were few Pharisees in Galilee, the discussion did not assume that degree of vivacity, and that tone of acrimony against him, which at Jerusalem would have arrested him at the outset. These good Galileans had never heard discourses so adapted to their cheerful imaginations. [Matt. vii. 28, xiii. 54; Mark i. 22, vi. 1; Luke iv. 22, 32.] They admired him, they encouraged him, they found that he spoke well, and that his reasons were convincing. He answered the most difficult objections with confidence; the charm of his speech and his person captivated the people, whose simple minds had not yet been cramped by the pedantry of the doctors.
The authority of the young master thus continued increasing every day, and, naturally, the more people believed in him, the more he believed in himself. His sphere of action was very limited. It was confined to the valley in which the Lake of Tiberias is situated, and even in this valley there was one region which he preferred. The lake is five or six leagues long and three or four broad; although it presents the appearance of an almost perfect oval, it forms, commencing from Tiberias up to the entrance of the Jordan, a sort of gulf, the curve of which measures about three leagues. Such is the field in which the seed sown by Jesus found at last a well-prepared soil. Let us run over it step by step, and endeavor to raise the mantle of aridity and mourning with which it has been covered by the demon of Islamism.
On leaving Tiberias, we find at first steep rocks, like a mountain which seems to roll into the sea. Then the mountains gradually recede; a plain (El Ghoueir) opens almost at the level of the lake. It is a delightful copse of rich verdure, furrowed by abundant streams which proceed partly from a great round basin of ancient construction (Ain-Medawara). At the entrance of this plain, which is, properly speaking, the country of Gennesareth, there is the miserable village of Medjdel. At the other extremity of the plain (always following the sea), we come to the site of a town (Khan-Minyeh), with very beautiful streams (Ain-et-Tin), a pretty road, narrow and deep, cut out of the rock, which Jesus often traversed, and which serves as a passage between the plain of Gennesareth and the northern slopes of the lake. A quarter of an hour's journey from this place, we cross a stream of salt water (Ain-Tabiga), issuing from the earth by several large springs at a little distance from the lake, and entering it in the midst of a dense mass of verdure. At last, after a journey of forty minutes further, upon the arid declivity which extends from Ain-Tabiga to the mouth of the Jordan, we find a few huts and a collection of monumental ruins, called Tell-Houm.
Five small towns, the names of which mankind will remember as long as those of Rome and Athens, were, in the time of Jesus, scattered in the space which extends from the village of Medjdel to Tell-Houm. Of these five towns, Magdala, Dalmanutha, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin [The ancient Kinnereth had disappeared or changed its name.], the first alone can be found at the present time with any certainty. The repulsive village of Medjdel has no doubt preserved the name and the place of the little town which gave to Jesus his most faithful female friend. [We know in fact that it was very near Tiberias.—Talmud of Jerusalem, Maasaroth, iii. 1; Shebiit, ix. 1; Erubin, v. 7.] Dalmanutha* was probably near there. It is possible that Chorazin was a little more inland, on the northern side. [In the place named Khorazi or Bir-kerazeh, above Tell-Houm.] As to Bethsaida and Capernaum, it is in truth almost at hazard that they have been placed at Tell-Houm, Ain-et-Tin, Khan-Minyeh, and Ain-Medawara.* We might say that in topography, as well as in history, a profound design has wished to conceal the traces of the great founder. It is doubtful whether we shall ever be able, upon this extensively devastated soil, to ascertain the places where mankind would gladly come to kiss the imprint of his feet.
* The ancient hypothesis which identified Tell-Houm with Capernaum, though strongly disputed some years since, has still numerous defenders. The best argument we can give in its favor is the name of Tell-Houm itself, Tell entereing into the names of many villages, and being a substitute for Caphar. It is impossible, on the other hand, to find near Tell-Houm a fountain corresponding to that mentioned by Josephus (B. J., III. x. 8.) This fountain of Capernaum seems to be Ain-Medawara, but Ain-Medawara is half an hour's journey from the lake, while Capernaum was a fishing town on the borders of the lake (Matt. iv. 13; John vi. 17.) The difficulties about Bethsaida are still greater; for the hypothesis, somewhat generally admitted, of two Bethsaidas, the one on the eastern, the other on the western shore of the lake, and at two or three leagues from one another, is rather singular.
The lake, the horizon, the shrubs, the flowers, are all that remain of the little canton, three or four leagues in extent, where Jesus founded his Divine work. The trees have totally disappeared. In this country, in which the vegetation was formerly so brilliant that Josephus saw in it a kind of miracle—Nature, according to him, being pleased to bring hither side by side the plants of cold countries, the productions of the torrid zone, and the trees of temperate climates, laden all the year with flowers and fruits*—in this country travellers are obliged now to calculate a day beforehand the place where they will the next day find a shady resting-place. The lake has become deserted. A single boat in the most miserable condition now plows the waves once so rich in life and joy. But the waters are always clear and transparent. [B. J., III. x. 7; Jac. de Vitri, in the Gesta Dei per Francos, i. 1075.] The shore, composed of rocks and pebbles, is that of a little sea, not that of a pond, like the shores of Lake Huleh. It is clean, neat, free from mud, and always beaten in the same place by the light movement of the waves. Small promontories, covered with rose laurels, tamarisks, and thorny caper bushes, are seen there; at two places, especially at the mouth of the Jordan, near Tarichea, and at the boundary of the plain of Gennesareth, there are enchanting parterres, where the waves ebb and flow over masses of turf and flowers. The rivulet of Ain-Tabiga makes a little estuary, of full of pretty shells. Clouds of aquatic birds hover over the lake. The horizon is dazzling with light. The waters, of an empyrean blue, deeply imbedded amid burning rocks, seem, when viewed from the height of the mountains of Safed, to lie at the bottom of a cup of gold. On the north, the snowy ravines of Hermon are traced in white lines upon the sky; on the west, the high, undulating plateaux of Gaulonitis and Perea, absolutely arid, and clothed by the sun with a sort of velvety atmosphere, form one compact mountain, or rather a long and very elevated terrace, which from Caesarea Philippi runs indefinitely towards the south.
The heat on the shore is now very oppressive. The lake lies in a hollow six hundred and fifty feet below the level of the Mediterranean [This is the estimate of Captain Lynch (in Ritter, Erdkunde xv., 1st part, p. 20.). It nearly agrees with that of M. de Berton (Bulletin de la Soc. de Geogr., 2nd series, xii., p. 146.)], and thus participates in the torrid conditions of the Dead Sea. [The depression of the Dead Sea is twice as much.] An abundant vegetation formerly tempered these excessive heats; it would be difficult to understand that a furnace, such as the whole basin of the lake now is, commencing from the month of May, had ever been the scene of great activity. Josephus, moreover, considered the country very temperate.* No doubt there has been here, as in the campagna of Rome, a change of climate introduced by historical causes. It is Islamism, and especially the Mussulman reaction against the Crusades, which has withered as with a blast of death the district preferred by Jesus. The beautiful country of Gennesareth never suspected that beneath the brow of this peaceful wayfarer its highest destinies lay hidden.
Dangerous countryman! Jesus has been fatal to the country which had the formidable honor of bearing him. Having become a universal object of love or of hate, coveted by two rival fanaticisms, Galilee, as the price of its glory, has been changed to a desert. But who would say that Jesus would have been happier, if he had lived obscure in his village to the full age of man? And who would think of these ungrateful Nazarenes, if one of them had not, at the risk of compromising the future of their town, recognized his Father, and proclaimed himself the Son of God?
Four or five large villages, situated at half an hour's journey from one another, formed the little world of Jesus at the time of which we speak. He appears never to have visited Tiberias, a city inhabited for most part by Pagans, and the habitual residence of Antipas. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. ii. 3; Vita, 12, 13, 64.] Sometimes, however, he wandered from his favorite region. He went by boat to the eastern shore, to Gergesa, for instance.* Toward the north we see him at Paneas or Caesarea Philippi,* at the foot of Mount Hermon. Lastly, he journeyed once in the direction of Tyre and Sidon,* a country which must have been marvellously flourishing at that time. In all these countries he was in the midst of Paganism.* At Caesarea, he saw the celebrated grotto of Panium, thought to be the source of the Jordan, and with which the popular belief had associated strange legends [Jos., Ant., XV. x. 3; B. J., I. xxi. 3, III. x. 7; Benjamin of Tudela, p. 46, edit. Asher.]; he could admire the marble temple which Herod had erected near there in honor of Augustus;* he probably stopped before the numerous votive statues to Pan, to the Nymphs, to the Echo of the Grotto, which piety had already begun to accumulate in this beautiful place. [Corpus inscr. gr., Nos. 4537, 4538, 4538b, 4539.]
* I adopt the opinion of Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, ii. 34, and following), according to which the Gergesa of Matthew viii. 28, identical with the Canaanite town of Girgash (Gen. x. 16, xv. 21; Deut. vii. 1; Josh. xxiv. 11), would be the site now named Kersa or Gersa, on the eastern shore, nearly opposite Magdala. Mark v. 1, and Luke viii. 26, name Gadara or Gerasa instead of Gergesa. Gerasa is an impossible reading, the evangelists teaching us that the town in question was near the lake and opposite Galilee. As to Gadara, now Om-Keis, at a journey of an hour and a half from the lake and from the Jordan, the local circumstances given by Mark and Luke scarcely suit it. It is possible, moreover, that Gergesa may have become Gerasa, a much more common name, and that the topographical impossibilities which this latter reading offered may have caused Gadara to be adopted.—Cf. Orig., Comment in Joann., vi. 24, x. 10; Eusebius and St. Jerome, De situ et nomin. loc. hebr., at the words Γεργεσα, Γεργασει.
A rationalistic Jew, accustomed to take strange gods for deified men or for demons, would consider all these figurative representations as idols. The seductions of the naturalistic worships, which intoxicated the more sensitive nations, never affected him. He was doubtless ignorant of what the ancient sanctuary of Melkarth, at Tyre, might still contain of a primitive worship more or less analogous to that of the Jews.* The Paganism which, in Phoenicia, had raised a temple and a sacred grove on every hill, all this aspect of great industry and profane riches [The traces of the rich Pagan civilization of that time still cover all the Beled-Besharrah, and especially the mountains which form the group of Cape Blanc and Cape Nakoura.], interested him but little. Monotheism takes away all aptitude for comprehending the Pagan religion; the Mussulman, thrown into polytheistic countries, seems to have no eyes. Jesus assuredly learnt nothing in these journeys. He returned always to his well-beloved shore of Gennesareth. There was the center of his thoughts; there he found faith and love.
IN this terrestrial paradise, which the great revolutions of history had till then scarcely touched, there lived a population in perfect harmony with the country itself, active, honest, joyous, and tender-hearted. The Lake of Tiberias is one of the best supplied with fish of any in the world. [Matt. iv. 18; Luke v. 44, and following; John i. 44, xxi. 1, and following; Jos., B. J., III. x. 7; Jac. de Vitri, in the Gesta Dei per Francos, i. p. 1075.] Very productive fisheries were established, especially at Bethsaida, and at Capernaum, and had produced a certain degree of wealth. These families of fishermen formed a gentle and peaceable society, extending by numerous ties of relationship through the whole district of the lake which we have described. Their comparatively easy life left entire freedom to their imagination. The ideas about the kingdom of God found in these small companies of worthy people more credence than anywhere else. Nothing of that which we call civilization, in the Greek and worldly sense, had reached them. Neither was there any of our Germanic and Celtic earnestness; but, although goodness amongst them was often superficial and without depth, their habits were quiet, and they were in some degree intelligent and shrewd. We may imagine them as somewhat analogous to the better populations of the Lebanon, but with the gift, not possessed by the latter, of producing great men. Jesus met here his true family. He installed himself as one of them; Capernaum became "his own city;"* in the center of the little circle which adored him, he forgot his skeptical brothers, ungrateful Nazareth and its mocking incredulity.
One house especially at Capernaum offered him an agreeable refuge and devoted disciples. It was that of two brothers, both sons of a certain Jonas, who probably was dead at the period when Jesus came to stay on the borders of the lake. These two brothers were Simon, surnamed Cephas or Peter, and Andrew. Born at Bethsaida,* they were established at Capernaum when Jesus commenced his public life. Peter was married and had children; his mother-in-law lived with him. [Matt. viii. 14; Mark i. 30; Luke iv. 38; 1 Cor. ix. 5; 1 Peter v. 13; Clem. Alex., Strom., iii. 6, vii. 11; Pseudo-Clem., Recogn., vii. 25; Eusebius, H. E., iii. 30.] Jesus loved this house, and dwelt there habitually. [Matt. viii. 14, xvii. 24; Mark i. 29-31; Luke iv. 38.] Andrew appears to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, and Jesus had perhaps known him on the banks of the Jordan.* The two brothers continued always, even at the period in which it seems they must have been most occupied with their master, to follow their business as fishermen.* Jesus, who loved to play upon words, said at times that he would make them fishers of men.* In fact, among all his disciples he had none more faithfully attached.
Another family, that of Zabdia or Zebedee, a well-to-do fisherman and owner of several boats,* gave Jesus a welcome reception. Zebedee had two sons: James, who was the elder, and a younger son, John, who later was called to play so prominent a part in the history of infant Christianity. Both were zealous disciples. Salome, wife of Zebedee, was also much attached to Jesus, and accompanied him until his death.*
Women, in fact, received him with eagerness. He manifested toward them those reserved manners which render a very sweet union of ideas possible between the two sexes. The separation of men from women, which has prevented all refined development among the Semitic peoples, was no doubt then, as in our days, much less rigorous in the rural districts and villages than in the large towns. Three or four devoted Galilean women always accompanied the young master, and disputed the pleasure of listening to and of tending him in turn. [Matt. xxvii. 55, 56; Mark xv. 40, 41; Luke viii. 2, 3, xxiii. 49.] They infused into the new sect an element of enthusiasm and of the marvellous, the importance of which had already begun to be understood. One of them Mary of Magdala, who has rendered the name of this poor town so celebrated in the world, appears to have been of a very enthusiastic temperament. According to the language of the time, she had been possessed by seven demons.* That is, she had been affected with nervous and apparently inexplicable maladies. Jesus, by his pure and sweet beauty, calmed this troubled nature. The Magdalene was faithful to him, even unto Golgotha, and on the day but one after his death, played a prominent part; for, as we shall see later, she was the principal means by which faith in the resurrection was established. Joanna, wife of Chuza, one of the stewards of Antipas, Susanna, and others who have remained unknown, followed him constantly and ministered unto him.* Some were rich, and by their fortune enabled the young prophet to live without following the trade which he had until then practiced.*
Many others followed him habitually, and recognized him as their master—a certain Philip of Bethsaida; Nathanael, son of Tolmai or Ptolemy, of Cana, perhaps a disciple of the first period [John i. 44, and following; xxi. 2. I admit the identification of Nathanael with the apostle who figures in the lists under the name of Bartholomew.]; and Matthew, probably the one who was the Xenophon of the infant Christianity. The latter had been a publican, and, as such, doubtless handled the Kalam more easily than the others. Perhaps it was this that suggested to him the idea of writing the Logia,* which are the basis of what we know of the teachings of Jesus. Among the disciples are also mentioned Thomas, or Didymus,* who doubted sometimes, but who appears to have been a man of warm heart and of generous sympathies;* one Lebbaeus, or Thaddeus; Simon Zelotes [Matt. x. 4; Mark iii. 18; Luke vi. 15; Acts i. 13; Gospel of the Ebionites, in Epiphanes, Adv. Haer., xxx. 13.], perhaps a disciple of Judas the Gaulonite, belonging to the party of the Kenaim, which was formed about that time, and which was soon to play so great a part in the movements of the Jewish people. Lastly, Judas, son of Simon, of the town of Kerioth, who was an exception in the faithful flock, and drew upon himself such a terrible notoriety. He was the only one who was not a Galilean. Kerioth was a town at the extreme south of the tribe of Judah [Now Kuryetein, or Kereitein.], a day's journey beyond Hebron.
We have seen that in general the family of Jesus were little inclined towards him. [The circumstance related in John xix. 25-27 seems to imply that at no period of the public life of Jesus did his own brothers become attached to him.] James and Jude, however, his cousins by Mary Cleophas, henceforth became his disciples, and Mary Cleophas herself was one of the women who followed him to Calvary.* At this period we do not see his mother beside him. It was only after the death of Jesus that Mary acquired great importance [Acts i. 14. Compare Luke i. 28, ii. 35, already implying a great respect for Mary.], and that the disciples sought to attach her to themselves.* It was then, also, that the members of the family of the founder, under the title of "brothers of the Lord," formed an influential group, which was a long time at the head of the church of Jerusalem, and which, after the sack of the city, took refuge in Batanea.* The simple fact of having been familiar with him became a decisive advantage, in the same manner as, after the death of Mohammed, the wives and daughters of the prophet, who had no importance in his life, became great authorities.
In this friendly group Jesus had evidently his favorites, and, so to speak, an inner circle. The two sons of Zebedee, James and John, appear to have been in the first rank. They were full of fire and passion. Jesus had aptly surnamed them "sons of thunder," on account of their excessive zeal, which, if it could have controlled the thunder, would often have made use of it. [Mark iii. 17, ix. 37, and following; x. 35, and following; Luke ix. 49, and following; 54, and following.] John, especially, appears to have been on very familiar terms with Jesus. Perhaps the warm affection which the master felt for this disciple has been exaggerated in his Gospel, in which the personal interests of the writer are not sufficiently concealed. [John xiii. 23, xviii. 15, and following, xix. 26, 27, xx. 2, 4, xxi. 7, 20, and following.] The most significant fact is, that, in the synoptical Gospels, Simon Bar-jona, or Peter, James, son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, form a sort of intimate council, which Jesus calls at certain times, when he suspects the faith and intelligence of the others. [Matt. xvii. 1, xxvi. 37; Mark v. 37, ix. 1, xiii. 3, xiv. 33; Luke ix. 28. The idea that Jesus had communicated to these three diciples a Gnosis, or secret doctrine, was very early spread. It is singular that John, in his Gospel, does not once mention James, his brother.] It seems, moreover, that they were all three associated in their fishing.* The affection of Jesus for Peter was strong. The character of the latter—upright, sincere, impulsive—pleased Jesus, who at times permitted himself to smile at his resolute manners. Peter, little of a mystic, communicated to the master his simple doubts, his repugnances, and his entirely human weaknesses,* with an honest frankness which recalls that of Joinville toward St. Louis. Jesus chided him, in a friendly manner, full of confidence and esteem. As to John, his youth [He appears to have lived till near the year 100. See his Gospel, xxi. 15-23, and the ancient authorities collected by Eusebius, H. E., iii. 20, 23.], his exquisite tenderness of heart [See the epistles attributed to him, which are certainly by the same author as the fourth Gospel.], and his lively imagination [Nevertheless we do not mean to affirm that the Apocalypse is by him.], must have had a great charm. The personality of this extraordinary man, who has exerted so peculiar an influence on infant Christianity, did not develop itself till afterward. When old, he wrote that strange Gospel [The common tradition seems sufficiently justified to me on this point. It is evident, besides, that the school of John retouched his Gospel (see the whole of chap. xxi.)], which contains such precious teaching, but in which, in our opinion, the character of Jesus is falsified upon many points. The nature of John was too powerful and too profound for him to bend himself to the impersonal tone of the first evangelists. He was the biographer of Jesus, as Plato was of Socrates. Accustomed to ponder over his recollections with the feverish restlessness of an excited mind, he transformed his master in wishing to describe him, and sometimes he leaves it to be suspected (unless other hands have altered his work) that perfect good faith was not invariably his rule and law in the composition of this singular writing.
No hierarchy, properly speaking, existed in the new sect. They were to call each other "brothers;" and Jesus absolutely proscribed titles of superiority, such as rabbi, "master," father—he alone being master, and God alone being father. The greatest was to become the servant of the others. [Matt. xviii. 4, xx. 25-26, xxiii. 8-12; Mark ix. 34, x. 42-46.] Simon Bar-jona, however, was distinguished amongst his fellows by a peculiar degree of importance. Jesus lived with him, and taught in his boat;* his house was the center of the Gospel preaching. In public he was regarded as the chief of the flock; and it is to him that the overseers of the tolls address themselves to collect the taxes which were due from the community.* He was the first who had recognized Jesus as the Messiah.* In a moment of unpopularity, Jesus, asking of his disciples, "Will ye also go away?" Simon answered, "Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."* Jesus, at various times, gave him a certain priority in his church [Matt. x. 2; Luke xxii. 32; John xxi. 15, and following; Acts i., ii., v., etc.; Gal. i. 18, ii. 7, 8.]; and gave him the Syrian surname of Kepha (stone), by which he wished to signify by that, that he made him the corner-stone of the edifice.* At one time he seems even to promise him "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," and to grant him the right of pronouncing upon earth decisions which should always be ratified in eternity. [Matt. xvi. 19. Elsewhere, it is true (Matt. xviii. 18), the same power is granted to all the apostles.]
No doubt, this priority of Peter excited a little jealousy. Jealousy was kindled especially in view of the future—and of this kingdom of God, in which all the disciples would be seated upon thrones, on the right and on the left of the master, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. [Matt. xviii. 1, and following; Mark ix. 33; Luke ix. 46, xxii. 30.] They asked who would then be nearest to the Son of man, and act in a manner as his prime minister and assessor. The two sons of Zebedee aspired to this rank. Preoccupied with such a thought, they prompted their mother Salome, who one day took Jesus aside, and asked him for the two places of honor for her sons.* Jesus evaded the request by his habitual maxim that he who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and that the kingdom of heaven will be possessed by the lowly. This created some disturbance in the community; there was great discontent against James and John.* The same rivalry appears to show itself in the Gospel of John, where the narrator unceasingly declares himself to be "the disciple whom Jesus loved," to whom the master in dying confided his mother, and seeks systematically to place himself near Simon Peter, and at times to put himself before him, in important circumstances where the older evangelists had omitted mentioning him. [John xviii. 15, and following, xix. 26, 27, xx. 2, and following, xxi. 7, 21. Comp. i. 35, and following, in which the disciple referred to is probably John.]
Among the preceding personages, all those of whom we know anything had begun by being fishermen. At all events, none of them belonged to a socially elevated class. Only Matthew or Levi, son of Alpheus,* had been a publican. But those to whom they gave this name in Judea were not the farmers-general of taxes, men of elevated rank (always Roman patricians), who were called at Rome publicani. [Cicero, De Provinc. Consular., 5; Pro Plancio, 9; Tac., Ann., iv. 6; Pliny, Hist. Nat., xii. 32; Appian, Bell. Civ., II. 13.] They were the agents of these contractors, employees of low rank, simply officers of the customs. The great route from Acre to Damascus, one of the most ancient routes of the world, which crossed Galilee, skirting the lake,* made this class of employee very numerous there. Capernaum, which was perhaps on the road, possessed a numerous staff of them.* This profession is never popular, but with the Jews it was considered quite criminal. Taxation, new to them, was the sign of their subjection; one school, that of Judas the Gaulonite, maintained that to pay it was an act of paganism. The customs-officers, also, were abhorred by the zealots of the law. They were only named in company with assassins, highway robbers, and men of infamous life.* The Jews who accepted such offices were excommunicated, and became incapable of making a will; their money was accursed, and the casuists forbade the changing of money with them. [Mishnah, Baba Kama, x. 1; Talmud of Jerusalem, Demai, ii. 3; Talmud of Bab., Sanhedrim, 25b.] These poor men, placed under the ban of society, visited amongst themselves. Jesus accepted a dinner offered him by Levi, at which there were, according to the language of the time, "many publicans and sinners." This gave great offense.* In these ill-reputed houses there was a risk of meeting bad society. We shall often see him thus, caring little to shock the prejudices of well-disposed persons, seeking to elevate the classes humiliated by the orthodox, and thus exposing himself to the liveliest reproaches of the zealots.
* Matt. ix. 9, x. 3; Mark ii. 14, iii. 18; Luke v. 27, vi. 15; Acts i. 13. Gospel of the Ebionites, in Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 13. We must suppose, however strange it may seem, that these two names were borne by the same personage. The narrative, Matt. ix. 9, conceived in accordance with the ordinary model of legends, describing the call to apostleship, is, it is true, somewhat vague, and has certainly not been written by the apostle in question. But we must remember that, in the existing Gospel of Matthew, the only part which is by the apostle consists of the DIscourses of Jesus. See Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., III. 39.
* It remained celebrated, up to the time of the Crusades, under the name of Via Maris. Cf. Isaiah ix. 1; Matt. iv. 13-15; Tobit, i. 1. I think that the road cut in the rock near Ain-et-Tin formed part of it, and that the route was directed from thence toward the Bridge of the Daughters of Jacob, just as it is now. A part of the road from Ain-et-Tin to this bridge is of ancient construction.
* Matt. v. 46, 47, ix. 10, 11, xi. 19, xviii. 17, xxi. 31, 32; Mark ii. 15, 16; Luke v. 30, vii. 34, xv. 1, xviii. 11, xix. 7; Lucian, Necyomant, ii.; Dio Chrysost., orat. iv., p. 85, orat. xiv., p. 269 (edit. Emperius); Mishnah, Nedarim, iii. 4.
Jesus owed these numerous conquests to the infinite charm of his person and his speech. A penetrating word, a look falling upon a simple conscience, which only wanted awakening, gave him an ardent disciple. Sometimes Jesus employed an innocent artifice, which Joan of Arc also used: he affected to know something intimate respecting him whom he wished to gain, or he would perhaps recall to him some circumstance dear to his heart. It was thus that he attracted Nathanael,* Peter,* and the Samaritan woman.* Concealing the true source of his strength—his superiority over all that surrounded him—he permitted people to believe (in order to satisfy the ideas of the time—ideas which, moreover, fully coincided with his own) that a revelation from on high revealed to him all secrets and laid bare all hearts. Every one thought that Jesus lived in a sphere superior to that of humanity. They said that he conversed on the mountains with Moses and Elias;* they believed that in his moments of solitude the angels came to render him homage, and established a supernatural intercourse between him and heaven.*
Such was the group which, on the borders of the lake of Tiberias, gathered around Jesus. The aristocracy was represented there by a customs-officer and by the wife of one of Herod's stewards. The rest were fishermen and common people. Their ignorance was extreme; their intelligence was feeble; they believed in apparitions and spirits. [Matt. xiv. 26; Mark vi. 49; Luke xxiv. 39; John vi. 19.] Not one element of Greek culture had penetrated this first assembly of the saints. They had very little Jewish instruction; but heart and good-will overflowed. The beautiful climate of Galilee made the life of these honest fishermen a perpetual delight. They truly preluded the kingdom of God—simple, good, and happy—rocked gently on their delightful little sea, or at night sleeping on its shores. We do not realize to ourselves the intoxication of a life which thus glides away in the face of heaven—the sweet yet strong love which this perpetual contact with Nature gives, and the dreams of these nights passed in the brightness of the stars, under in azure dome of infinite expanse. It was during such a night that Jacob, with his head resting upon a stone, saw in the stars the promise of an innumerable posterity, and the mysterious ladder by which the angels of God came and went from heaven to earth. At the time of Jesus the heavens were not closed, nor the earth grown cold. The cloud still opened above the Son of man; the angels ascended and descended upon his head;* the visions of the kingdom of God were everywhere, for man carried them in his heart. The clear and mild eyes of these simple souls contemplated the universe in its ideal source. The world unveiled perhaps its secret to the divinely enlightened conscience of these happy children, whose purity of heart deserved one day to behold God.
Jesus lived with his disciples almost always in the open air. Sometimes he got into a boat, and instructed his hearers, who were crowded upon the shore. [Matt. xiii. 1, 2; Mark iii. 9, iv. 1; Luke v. 3.] Sometimes he sat upon the mountains which bordered the lake, where the air is so pure and the horizon so luminous. The faithful band led thus a joyous and wandering life, gathering the inspirations of the master in their first bloom. An innocent doubt was sometimes raised, a question slightly skeptical; but Jesus, with a smile or a look, silenced the objection. At each step—in the passing cloud, the germinating seed, the ripening corn—they saw the sign of the Kingdom drawing nigh, they believed themselves on the eve of seeing God, of being masters of the world; tears were turned into joy; it was the advent upon earth of universal consolation.
"Blessed," said the master, "are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."*
His preaching was gentle and pleasing, breathing Nature and the perfume of the fields. He loved the flowers, and took from them his most charming lessons. The birds of heaven, the sea, the mountains, and the games of children, furnished in turn the subject of his instructions. His style had nothing of the Grecian in it, but approached much more to that of the Hebrew parabolists, and especially of sentences from the Jewish doctors, his contemporaries, such as we read them in the "Pirke Aboth." His teachings were not very extended, and formed a species of sorites in the style of the Koran, which, joined together, afterwards composed those long discourses which were written by Matthew. [This is what the Λογια κυριακα were called. Papias, in Eusebius, H. E., iii. 39.] No transition united these diverse pieces; generally, however, the same inspiration penetrated them and made them one. It was, above all, in parable that the master excelled. Nothing in Judaism had given him the model of this delightful style. [The apologue, as we find it in Judges ix. 8, and following, 2 Sam. xii. 1, and following, only resembles the Gospel parable in form. The profound originality of the latter is in the thought with which it is filled.] He created it. It is true that we find in the Buddhist books parables of exactly the same tone and the same character as the Gospel parables [See especially the Lotus of the Good Law, chap. iii. and iv.]; but it is difficult to admit that a Buddhist influence has been exercised in these. The spirit of gentleness and the depth of feeling which equally animate infant Christianity and Buddhism, suffice perhaps to explain these analogies.
A total indifference to exterior life and the vain appanage of the "comfortable," which our drearier countries make necessary to us, was the consequence of the sweet and simple life lived in Galilee. Cold climates, by compelling man to a perpetual contest with external nature, cause too much value to be attached to researches after comfort and luxury. On the other hand, the countries which awaken few desires are the countries of idealism and of poesy. The accessories of life are there insignificant compared with the pleasure of living. The embellishment of the house is superfluous, for it is frequented as little as possible. The strong and regular food of less generous climates would be considered heavy and disagreeable. And as to the luxury of garments, what can rival that which God has given to the earth and the birds of heaven? Labor in climates of this kind appears useless; what it gives is not equal to what it costs. The animals of the field are better clothed than the most opulent man, and they do nothing. This contempt, which, when it is not caused by idleness, contributes greatly to the elevation of the soul, inspired Jesus with some charming apologues: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," said he, "where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.* No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. [The god of riches and hidden treasures, a kind of Plutus in the Phoenician and Syrian mythology.] Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God [I here adopt the reading of Lachmann and Tischendorf.], and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought of the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." [Matt. vi. 19-21, 24-34. Luke xii. 22-31, 33, 34, xvi. 13. Compare the precepts in Luke x. 7, 8, full of the same simple sentiment, and Talmud of Babylon, Sota, 48b.]
This essentially Galilean sentiment had a decisive influence on the destiny of the infant sect. The happy flock, relying on the heavenly Father for the satisfaction of its wants, had for its first principle the regarding of the cares of life as an evil which choked the germ of all good in man.* Each day they asked of God the bread for the morrow. [Matt. vi. 11; Luke xi. 3. This is the meaning of the word επιουσιος.] Why lay up treasure? The kingdom of God is at hand. "Sell that ye have and give alms," said the master. "Provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not."* What more foolish than to heap up treasures for heirs whom thou wilt never behold?* As an example of human folly, Jesus loved to cite the case of a man who, after having enlarged his barns and amassed wealth for long years, died before having enjoyed it!* The brigandage which was deeply rooted in Galilee,* gave much force to these views. The poor, who did not suffer from it, would regard themselves as the favored of God; whilst the rich, having a less sure possession, were the truly disinherited. In our societies, established upon a very rigorous idea of property, the position of the poor is horrible; they have literally no place under the sun. There are no flowers, no grass, no shade, except for him who possesses the earth. In the East, these are gifts of God which belong to no one. The proprietor has but a slender privilege; nature is the patrimony of all.
The infant Christianity, moreover, in this only followed the footsteps of the Essenes, or Therapeutae, and of the Jewish sects founded on the monastic life. A communistic element entered into all these sects, which were equally disliked by Pharisees and Sadducees. The Messianic doctrine, which was entirely political among the orthodox Jews, was entirely social amongst them. By means of a gentle, regulated, contemplative existence, leaving its share to the liberty of the individual, these little churches thought to inaugurate the heavenly kingdom upon earth. Utopias of a blessed life, founded on the brotherhood of men and the worship of the true God, occupied elevated souls, and produced from all sides bold and sincere, but short-lived attempts to realize these doctrines.
Jesus, whose relations with the Essenes are difficult to determine (resemblances in history not always implying relations), was on this point certainly their brother. The community of goods was for some time the rule in the new society.* Covetousness was the cardinal sin.* Now it must be remarked that the sin of covetousness, against which Christian morality has been so severe, was then the simple attachment to property. The first condition of becoming a disciple of Jesus was to sell one's property and to give the price of it to the poor. Those who recoiled from this extremity were not admitted into the community. [Matt. xix. 21; Mark x. 21, and following, 29, 30; Luke xviii. 22, 23, 28.] Jesus often repeated that he who has found the kingdom of God ought to buy it at the price of all his goods, and that in so doing he makes an advantageous bargain. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."* Alas! the inconveniences of this plan were not long in making themselves felt. A treasurer was wanted. They chose for that office Judas of Kerioth. Rightly or wrongly, they accused him of stealing from the common purse;* it is certain that he came to a bad end.
Sometimes the master, more versed in things of heaven than those of earth, taught a still more singular political economy. In a strange parable, a steward is praised for having made himself friends among the poor at the expense of his master, in order that the poor might in their turn introduce him into the kingdom of heaven. The poor, in fact, becoming the dispensers of this kingdom, will only receive those who have given to them. A prudent man, thinking of the future, ought therefore to seek to gain their favor. "And the Pharisees also," says the evangelist, "who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him."* Did they also hear the formidable parable which follows? "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angles into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;* and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things; and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented."* What more just? Afterward this parable was called that of the "wicked rich man." But it is purely and simply the parable of the "rich man." He is in hell because he is rich, because he does not give his wealth to the poor, because he dines well, while others at his door dine badly. Lastly, in a less extravagant moment, Jesus does not make it obligatory to sell one's goods and give them to the poor except as a suggestion toward greater perfection. But he still makes this terrible declaration: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."*
* Luke xvi. 19-25. Luke, I am aware, has a very decided communistic tendency (comp. vi. 20, 21, 25, 26), and I think he has exaggerated this shade of the teaching of Jesus. But the features of the Λογια of Matthew are sufficiently significant.
* Matt. xix. 24; Mark x. 25; Luke xviii. 25. This proverbial phrase is found in the Talmud (Bab., Berakoth, 55b, Baba metsia, 38b) and in the Koran (Sur., vii. 38.) Origen and the Greek interpreters, ignorant of the Semitic proverb, thought that it meant a cable ( καμιλος).
An admirable idea governed Jesus in all this, as well as the band of joyous children who accompanied him and made him for eternity the true creator of the peace of the soul, the great consoler of life. In disengaging man from what he called "the cares of the world," Jesus might go to excess and injure the essential conditions of human society; but he founded that high spiritualism which for centuries has filled souls with joy in the midst of this vale of tears. He saw with perfect clearness that man's inattention, his want of philosophy and morality, come mostly from the distractions which he permits himself, the cares which besiege him, and which civilization multiplies beyond measure.* The Gospel, in this manner, has been the most efficient remedy for the weariness of ordinary life, a perpetual sursum corda, a powerful diversion from the miserable cares of earth, a gentle appeal like that of Jesus in the ear of Martha—"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful." Thanks to Jesus, the dullest existence, that most absorbed by sad or humiliating duties, has had its glimpse of heaven. In our busy civilizations the remembrance of the free life of Galilee has been like perfume from another world, like the "dew of Hermon,"* which has prevented drought and barrenness from entirely invading the field of God.
THESE maxims, good for a country where life is nourished by the air and the light, and this delicate communism of a band of children of God reposing in confidence on the bosom of their Father, might suit a simple sect constantly persuaded that its Utopia was about to be realized. But it is clear that they could not satisfy the whole of society. Jesus understood very soon, in fact, that the official world of his time would by no means adopt his kingdom. He took his resolution with extreme boldness. Leaving the world, with its hard heart and narrow prejudices on one side, he turned toward the simple. A vast substitution of classes would take place. The kingdom of God was made—1st, for children, and those who resemble them; 2nd, for the outcasts of this world, victims of that social arrogance which repulses the good but humble man; 3rd, for heretics and schismatics, publicans, Samaritans, and Pagans of Tyre and Sidon. An energetic parable explained this appeal to the people and justified it. [Matt. xxii. 2, and following; Luke xiv. 16, and following. Comp. Matt. viii. 11, 12, xxi. 33, and following.] A king has prepared a wedding feast, and sends his servants to seek those invited. Each one excuses himself; some ill-treat the messengers. The king, therefore, takes a decided step. The great people have not accepted his invitation. Be it so. His guests shall be the first comers; the people collected from the highways and byways, the poor, the beggars, and the lame; it matters not who, the room must be filled. "For I say unto you," said he, "that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."
Pure Ebionism—that is, the doctrine that the poor (ebionim) alone shall be saved, that the reign of the poor is approaching—was, therefore, the doctrine of Jesus. "Woe unto you that are rich," said he, "for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep."* "Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."* It is perhaps in an analogous sense that he often repeated, "Be good bankers." [A saying preserved by very ancient tradition, and much used, Clement of Alexandrai, Strom. i. 28. It is also found in Origen, St. Jerome, and a great number of the Fathers of the Church.]—that is to say, make good investments for the kingdom of God, in giving your wealth to the poor, conformably to the old proverb, "He that hath pity upon the poor, leadeth unto the Lord."*
This, however, was not a new fact. The most exalted democratic movement of which humanity has preserved the remembrance (the only one, also, which has succeeded, for it alone has maintained itself in the domain of pure thought), had long disturbed the Jewish race. The thought that God is the avenger of the poor and the weak, against the rich and the powerful, is found in each page of the writings of the Old Testament. The history of Israel is of all histories that in which the popular spirit has most constantly predominated. The prophets, the true, and, in one sense, the boldest tribunes, had thundered incessantly against the great, and established a close relation, on the one hand, between the words "rich, impious, violent, wicked," and, on the other, between the words "poor, gentle, humble, pious."* Under the Seleucidae, the aristocrats having almost all apostatized and gone over to Hellenism, these associations of ideas only became stronger. The Book of Enoch contains still more violent maledictions than those of the Gospel against the world, the rich, and the powerful.* Luxury is there depicted as a crime. The "Son of man," in this strange Apocalypse, dethrones kings, tears them from their voluptuous life, and precipitates them into hell.* The initiation of Judea into secular life, the recent introduction of an entirely worldly element of luxury and comfort, provoked a furious reaction in favor of patriarchal simplicity. "Woe unto you who despise the humble dwelling and inheritance of your fathers! Woe unto you who build your palaces with the sweat of others! Each stone, each brick, of which it is built, is a sin."* The name of "poor" (ebion) had become a synonym of "saint," of "friend of God." This was the name that Galilean disciples of Jesus loved to give themselves; it was for a long time the name of the Judaizing Christians of Batanea and of the Hauran (Nazarenes, Hebrews) who remained faithful to the tongue, as well as to the primitive instructions of Jesus, and who boasted that they possessed among themselves the descendants of his family.* At the end of the second century, these good sectaries, having remained beyond the reach of the great current which had carried away all the other churches, were treated as heretics (Ebionites), and a pretended heretical leader (Ebion) was invented to explain their name.*
* See, in particular, Amos ii. 6; Isa. lxiii. 9; Ps. xxv. 9, xxxvii. 11, lxix. 33; and, in general, the Hebrew dictionaries, at the words:
.Uyre ,Myllwh ,rwse ,dyox ,wne ,yne ,ld ,Nywbe
* Julius Africanus in Eusebius, H. E., i. 7; Eus., De situ et nom. loc. hebr., at the word Χωβα; Orig., Contra Celsus, ii. 1, v. 61; Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxix. 7, 9, xxx. 2, 18.
* See especially Origen, Contra Celsus, ii. 1; De Principiis, iv. 22. Compare Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 17. Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, and the apostolic Constitutions, ignore the existence of such a personage. The author of the Philosophumena seems to hesitate (vii. 34 and 35, x. 22 and 23.) It is by Tertullian, and especially by Epiphanes, that the fable of one Ebion has been spread. Besides, all the Fathers are agreed on the etymology, Εβιων=πτωχος.
We may see, in fact, without difficulty, that this exaggerated taste for poverty could not be very lasting. It was one of those Utopian elements which always mingle in the origin of great movements, and which time rectifies. Thrown into the center of human society, Christianity very easily consented to receive rich men into her bosom, just as Buddhism, exclusively monkish in its origin, soon began, as conversions multiplied, to admit the laity. But the mark of origin is ever preserved. Although it quickly passed away and became forgotten, Ebionism left a leaven in the whole history of Christian institutions which has not been lost. The collection of the Logia, or discourses of Jesus, was formed in the Ebionitish center of Batanea. [Epiph., Adv. Haer., xix., xxix., and xxx., especially xxix. 9.] "Poverty" remained an ideal from which the true followers of Jesus were never after separated. To possess nothing was the truly evangelical state; mendicancy became a virtue, a holy condition. The great Umbrian movement of the thirteenth century, which, among all the attempts at religious construction, most resembles the Galilean movement, took place entirely in the name of poverty. Francis d'Assisi, the man who, more than any other, by his exquisite goodness, by his delicate, pure, and tender intercourse with universal life, most resembled Jesus, was a poor man. The mendicant orders, the innumerable communistic sects of the middle ages (Pauvres de Lyon, Begards, Bons-Hommes, Fratricelles, Humilies, Pauvres evangeliques, etc.) grouped under the banner of the "Everlasting Gospel," pretended to be, and in fact were, the true disciples of Jesus. But even in this case the most impracticable dreams of the new religion were fruitful in results. Pious mendicity, so impatiently borne by our industrial and well-organized communities, was in its day, and in a suitable climate, full of charm. It offered to a multitude of mild and contemplative souls the only condition suited to them. To have made poverty an object of love and desire, to have raised the beggar to the altar, and to have sanctified the coat of the poor man, was a master-stroke which political economy may not appreciate, but in the presence of which the true moralist cannot remain indifferent. Humanity, in order to bear its burdens, needs to believe that it is not paid entirely by wages. The greatest service which can be rendered to it is to repeat often that it lives not by bread alone.
Like all great men, Jesus loved the people, and felt himself at home with them. The Gospel, in his idea, is made for the poor; it is to them he brings the glad tidings of salvation.* All the despised ones of orthodox Judaism were his favorites. Love of the people, and pity for its weakness (the sentiment of the democratic chief, who feels the spirit of the multitude live in him, and recognize him as its natural interpreter), shine forth at each moment in his acts and discourses.*
The chosen flock presented, in fact, a very mixed character, and one likely to astonish rigorous moralists. It counted in its fold men with whom a Jew, respecting himself, would not have associated.* Perhaps Jesus found in this society, unrestrained by ordinary rules, more mind and heart than in a pedantic and formal middle-class, proud of its apparent morality. The Pharisees, exaggerating the Mosaic prescriptions, had come to believe themselves defiled by contact with men less strict than themselves; in their meals they almost rivalled the puerile distinctions of caste in India. Despising these miserable aberrations of the religious sentiment, Jesus loved to eat with those who suffered from them;* by his side at table were seen persons said to lead wicked lives, perhaps only so called because they did not share the follies of the false devotees. The Pharisees and the doctors protested against the scandal. "See," said they, "with what men he eats!" Jesus returned subtle answers, which exasperated the hypocrites: "They that be whole need not a physician."* Or again: "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulder rejoicing."* Or again: "The Son of man is come to save that which was lost."* Or again: "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners."* Lastly, that delightful parable of the prodigal son, in which he who is fallen is represented as having a kind of privilege of love above him who has always been righteous. Weak or guilty women, surprised at so much that was charming, and realizing, for the first time, the attractions of contact with virtue, approached him freely. People were astonished that he did not repulse them. "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner." Jesus replied by the parable of a creditor who forgives his debtors' unequal debts, and he did not hesitate to prefer the lot of him to whom was remitted the greater debt.* He appreciated conditions of soul only in proportion to the love mingled therein. Women, with tearful hearts, and disposed through their sins to feelings of humility, were nearer to his kingdom than ordinary natures, who often have little merit in not having fallen. We may conceive, on the other hand, that these tender souls, finding in their conversion to the sect an easy means of restoration, would passionately attach themselves to him.
*Luke vii. 36, and following. Luke, who likes to bring out in relief everything that relates to the forgiveness of sinners (comp. x. 30, and following, xv. entirely, xvii. 16, and following, xix. 2, and following, xxiii. 39-43), has included in this narrative passages from another history, that of the anointing of feet, which took place at Bethany some days before the death of Jesus. But the pardon of sinful women was undoubtedly one of the essential features of the anecdotes of the life of Jesus.—Cf. John viii. 3, and following; Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39.
Far from seeking to soothe the murmurs stirred up by his disdain for the social susceptibilities of the time, he seemed to take pleasure in exciting them. Never did anyone avow more loftily this contempt for the "world," which is the essential condition of great things and of great originality. He pardoned a rich man, but only when the rich man, in consequence of some prejudice, was disliked by society.* He greatly preferred men of equivocal life and of small consideration in the eyes of the orthodox leaders. "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him."* We can understand how galling the reproach of not having followed the good example set by prostitutes must have been to men making a profession of seriousness and rigid morality.
He had no external affectation or show of austerity. He did not fly from pleasure; he went willingly to marriage feasts. One of his miracles was performed to enliven a wedding at a small town. Weddings in the East take place in the evening. Each one carries a lamp; and the lights coming and going produce a very agreeable effect. Jesus liked this gay and animated aspect, and drew parables from it.* Such conduct, compared with that of John the Baptist, gave offense.* One day, when the disciples of John and the Pharisees were observing the fast, it was asked, "Why do the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast in those days." [Matt. xi. 14, and following; Mark ii. 18, and following; Luke v. 33, and following.] His gentle gaiety found expression in lively ideas and amiable pleasantries. "But whereunto," said he, "shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.* For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But Wisdom is justified of her children."*
* Matt. xi. 16, and following; Luke vii. 34, and following. A proverb which means "The opinion of men is blind. The wisdom of the works of God is only proclaimed by His works themselves." I read εργων, with the manuscript B. of the Vatican, and not τεκνων.
He thus traversed Galilee in the midst of a continual feast. He rode on a mule. In the East this is a good and safe mode of travelling; the large, black eyes of the animal, shaded by long eyelashes, give it an expression of gentleness. His disciples sometimes surrounded him with a kind of rustic pomp, at the expense of their garments, which they used as carpets. They placed them on the mule which carried him, or extended them on the earth in his path.* His entering a house was considered a joy and a blessing. He stopped in the villages and the large farms, where he received an eager hospitality. In the East, the house into which a stranger enters becomes at once a public place. All the village assembles there, the children invade it, and though dispersed by the servants, always return. Jesus could not permit these simple auditors to be treated harshly; he caused them to be brought to him and embraced them. [Matt. xix. 13, and following; Mark ix. 35, x. 13, and following; Luke xviii. 15, 16.] The mothers, encouraged by such a reception, brought him their children in order that he might touch them.* Women came to pour oil upon his head, and perfume on his feet. His disciples sometimes repulsed them as troublesome; but Jesus, who loved the ancient usages, and all that indicated simplicity of heart, repaired the ill done by his too zealous friends. He protected those who wished to honor him. [Matt. xxvi. 7, and following; Mark xiv. 3, and following; Luke vii. 37, and following.] Thus children and women adored him. The reproach of alienating from their families these gentle creatures, always easily misled, was one of the most frequent charges of his enemies.*
* Gospel of Marcion, addition to ver. 2 of chap. xxiii. of Luke (Epiph., Adv. Haer., xlii. 11.) If the suppressions of Marcion are without critical value, such is not the case with his additions, when they proceed, not from a special view, but from the condition of the manuscripts which he used.
The new religion was thus in many respects a movement of women and children. The latter were like a young guard around Jesus for the inauguration of his innocent royalty, and gave him little ovations which much pleased him, calling him "son of David," crying Hosanna [A cry which was raised at the feast of tabernacles, amidst the waving of palms. Mishnah, Sukka, iii. 9. This custom still exists among the Israelites.], and bearing palms around him. Jesus, like Savonarola, perhaps made them serve as instruments for pious missions; he was very glad to see these young apostles, who did not compromise him, rush into the front and give him titles which he dared not take himself. He let them speak, and, when he was asked if he heard, he replied in an evasive manner that the praise which comes from young lips is the most agreeable to God.*
He lost no opportunity of repeating that the little ones are sacred beings,* that the kingdom of God belongs to children,* that we must become children to enter there [Matt. xviii. 1, and following; Mark ix. 33, and following; Luke ix. 46.], that we ought to receive it as a child,* that the heavenly Father hides his secrets from the wise and reveals them to the little ones.* The idea of disciples is in his mind almost synonymous with that of children.* On one occasion, when they had one of those quarrels for precedence, which were not uncommon, Jesus took a little child, placed him in their midst, and said to them: "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." [Matt. xviii. 4; Mark ix. 33-36; Luke ix. 46-48.]
It was infancy, in fact, in its divine spontaneity, in its simple bewilderments of joy, which took possession of the earth. Every one believed at each moment that the kingdom so much desired was about to appear. Each one already saw himself seated on a throne* beside the master. They divided amongst themselves the positions of honor in the new kingdom,* and strove to reckon the precise date of its advent. This new doctrine was called the "Good Tidings;" it had no other name. An old word, "paradise," which the Hebrew, like all the languages of the East, had borrowed from the Persian, and which at first designated the parks of the Achaemenidae, summed up the general dream; a delightful garden, where the charming life which was led here below would be continued forever. [Luke xxiii. 43; 2 Cor. xii. 4. Comp. Carm. Sibyll., proem, 86; Talm. of Bab., Chagigah, 14b.] How long this intoxication lasted we know not. No one, during the course of this magical apparition, measured time any more than we measure a dream. Duration was suspended; a week was an age. But whether it filled years or months, the dream was so beautiful that humanity has lived upon it ever since, and it is still our consolation to gather its weakened perfume. Never did so much joy fill the breast of man. For a moment humanity, in this the most vigorous effort she ever made to rise above the world, forgot the leaden weight which binds her to earth and the sorrows of the life below. Happy he who has been able to behold this divine unfolding, and to share, were it but for one day, this unexampled illusion! But still more happy, Jesus would say to us, is he who, freed from all illusion, shall reproduce in himself the celestial vision, and, with no millenarian dream, no chimerical paradise, no signs in the heavens, but by the uprightness of his will and the poetry of his soul, shall be able to create anew in his heart the true kingdom of God!