Rome and Ephesus
Corinth as portrayed in the Epistles of Paul gives us our simplest and least contaminated picture of the Hellenic Christianity which regarded itself as the cult of the Lord Jesus, who offered
salvation -- immortality -- to those initiated in his mysteries. It had obvious weaknesses in the eyes of Jewish Christians, even when they were as Hellenised as Paul, since it offered little reason for a higher standard of conduct than heathenism, and its personal eschatology left no real place for the resurrection of the body. The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians are in the main protests against this Hellenic weakness, and the real monument to Paul in the first two, or perhaps even four, centuries is the success which he had in driving home these protests. Owing to later controversies we are apt to treat Justification by Faith as Paul's greatest contribution to the Church. Possibly that is true, if the whole of Church history be taken into account, but the attempt to reconstruct "Paulinism" on this principle produces the result that the effect of Paul's teaching cannot be traced in any of the {99} Christian writings of the next two centuries. This is obviously absurd: if Paul's writings were preserved so carefully his teaching on some great points must have been regarded as central. Nor, if we succeed in forgetting the emphasis introduced by later controversies, is it hard to see what these points were. As against the Jews, Paul, the Greek, insisted on Freedom from the Law. That stood. As against the Greek, Paul insisted on Jewish morality and on the Resurrection of the body. These also stood. And these three points, if we may judge from subapostolic writings, were those which influenced the Church most. No doubt Paul preached Jesus as the crucified but risen and glorified Lord, and no doubt regarded Baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments, but so did all Hellenic Christians. Probably he would have regarded his doctrine of Faith and Justification as of primary importance, but all the existing evidence seems to show that it failed to convince the Jews, or to be remembered by the Gentiles, until it was rediscovered by Augustine.

Sacramental Christianity with an emphasis on morality was henceforward the true characteristic of the Church. But it had yet to give a more detailed account of the Lord, and to attempt to come to terms with Greek philosophy.

Except with regard to the Second Coming, the Jewish ideas of the Davidic Messiah and of the Son of Man ceased to have any living importance. It {100} was not doubted that the Lord was divine, but there were two ways of considering his divinity. One was to regard Jesus as a man who had been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and had himself been taken up into the sphere of divinity after his death, so that he, as well as the spirit which had been in him, was now divine. This form of thought is generally known as Adoptionism. The other way was to think of Jesus as a pre-existent divine being who had become human.

The difference between the two forms of thought is that whereas Adoptionism postulates a distinct human personality for the human Jesus, which had a beginning in time and was promoted to divinity, the other theory postulates only a divine person who became human. Both theories, therefore, begin with much the same doctrine of God, as consisting, if the metaphor may be used, of the two factors of the Father and the Spirit, who was sometimes called his Son,[1] and was frequently identified with the Logos of the Greek philosophers. There is very little evidence in early Christian writings for that distinction between the Logos and the Spirit which afterward became orthodox.

The competing existence of Adoptionist and Pre-existent Christology does much to explain the early development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Starting with the Father and the Spirit-son, Adoptionism added {101} a third to the sphere of divinity, namely, the glorified Jesus. This belief was preserved in the baptismal formula of the Church of Rome, as found in Justin Martyr, which was "In the name of the Father of all, and in the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit," and though Adoptionism was in the end rejected, it left its permanent mark on Christian theology in the "threeness"[2] of the doctrine of God. The doctrines of Pre-existent Christology could scarcely have had this result,[3] for it is quite clear that the Logos and the Spirit were distinguished only in language, and the Incarnation was, as it were, but an incident in the work of the Logos.

Few things are more needed than study of this side of the growth of Christian doctrine. Harnack's History of Doctrine has indeed done something, but many of the details of his work require to be worked out, and some of his statements need revision.[4] Older books, such as Dorner's History of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, admirable though they are, have little value for this purpose, for they were {102} written chiefly with the object of explaining and leading up to Nicene and Chalcedonian doctrine. All that can be done in these pages is to indicate certain lines, which might be profitably followed up, as to the two chief centres of development, Rome and Ephesus, the former representing in the main Adoptionism and the latter Pre-existent Christology.

After Antioch Rome seems to have been the most important centre of Christianity in the first and early second centuries. Certainly it was more important than Corinth, though in some ways, owing to the preservation of Paul's correspondence, we know more about Corinth than Rome. Fortunately there are extant a number of documents which illustrate its history, though none of them throw any real light on its foundation, for it is unknown who was the founder of the Church in Rome.

The first of these documents is Paul's Epistle to the Romans, but it is very strange how little this tells us as to the history or nature of the Church in that city. Apparently Paul was acquainted with Christians in Rome before he went there himself, but there is no suggestion that he regarded the Church there as the foundation of Peter or of any other of the leading missionaries. It is therefore by no means impossible that the Church of Rome sprang up by the coming to the city in increasing numbers of men who had been converted elsewhere. Whether the Epistle to the Romans was originally intended for that city or {103} not is an open question,[5] but at least it was sent to Rome in one of its forms, and that is after all the most important fact. The most remarkable thing about the revelation which it makes of the Christianity at Rome is that the problems which seem to have interested or distracted the Church are so much more Jewish than Hellenic. The questions of the Law and of the ultimate fate of Israel are so extensively dealt with as to suggest a strongly Jewish element in the Church. Jesus is, as in Corinth, a Redeemer, but the problems of life for those who accepted him suggest Jewish rather than Greek antecedents.

What is the bearing of Romans on the Christology of the Church at Rome? Not, that is to say, what is its evidence as to the thought of Paul, but how are certain phrases in it likely to have been interpreted? The most important passage is Romans i.1-4: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to God's gospel which He had promised beforehand by His prophets in Holy Scriptures concerning His Son, who became of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was appointed Son of God miraculously according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection {104} from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord."[6] What is this likely to have meant to those who read it in Greek without any knowledge of a "Pre-existent" Christology? I think that they would have been impressed by the parallelisms in the sentence: kata sarka is parallel to kata pneuma hagiosunes and ek spermatos Daveid is parallel to ex anastaseos nekron. It would thus mean that Jesus had been a human being by belonging to the family of David, and had been ordained, or appointed to be a "Spirit of holiness," by being raised from the dead: kata sarka explains the result of genomenon ek spermatos Daveid, and kata pneuma hagiosunes explains the result of horisthentos uhiou ... ex anastaseos nekron. That is Adoptionism, and though the passage has been explained in terms of a Pre-existent Christology by those who for other reasons are convinced that this was the real nature of Paul's doctrine, it could be taken quite easily in this Adoptionist way, for horisthetos could mean "became by means of appointment" quite as well as aphorismenos could mean the same thing with regard to Paul's apostleship.[7] The general impression made by the verse would be, to any one who had Adoptionist views already, that Jesus, who was born {105} as a human being into the family of David (which gave him a certain well-understood claim to the title Son of God), had by the Resurrection been promoted to another kind of sonship, not as a human being of flesh, but as a spiritual being.

The next document in probable chronological order which seems to belong to Rome is the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is much disputed by critics whether it was written in Rome or to Rome, but that it was extant there can hardly be doubted in view of the extensive quotations from it in the Epistle of Clement. It reveals a different mind from that of the Epistle to the Romans, but once more it is Jewish questions which are uppermost. The main problem is the meaning of the ritual law. Nevertheless, as in Romans, there are sufficient traces of sacramental teaching to make it clear that Christianity in Rome as in Corinth meant the sacramental cult of a saving Lord. This was the basis of everything, but the problems which arose from the attempt to work out its implications are as markedly Jewish in Rome as they are Greek in Corinth. It does not mean, of course, that there were no Greeks in Rome, any more than that there were no Jews in Corinth, but the dominating influence was Jewish in one and Greek in the other.

The Epistle to the Hebrews seems at first to be much more obviously "Pre-existent" in its Christology than the Epistle to the Romans, indeed it could well be explained on the theory that it was maintaining a Pre-existent Christology against a {106} rival form of the same general type which identified the pre-existent Christ with an angel. But if one ask whether this would have been clear to a reader with Adoptionist principles, it can be seen that he would very easily have interpreted it in accordance with his own ideas. The question of what the Son of God was before the Incarnation is not the centre of the discussion. What is important is the function of High Priest in Heaven which he now fulfils, and this function is the consequence of his human life. It is true that in the first chapter there are phrases which are most naturally explained by "pre-existent" doctrine, but though the writer appears to be explaining the essential superiority of the Son to angels, in chapter ii. this superiority is the result of the Passion and Resurrection, and in verse 10 the divine being, "through whom and for whom are all things," is distinguished from the leader of our salvation, who is, of course, Jesus.[8] It is plain that this verse, difficult to understand on other lines of thought, is quite intelligible if it be interpreted in the light of that Adoptionism which, as we know from Hermas, used "Son of God" for the Holy Spirit and also for the glorified Jesus.

It is very hard not to discuss this question as though Adoptionism and Pre-existent Christology {107} were consciously competing systems from the beginning. That is of course not true: none of these writers was consciously discussing the question. For this reason elements can be found in the Epistle to the Romans and in the Epistle to the Hebrews which are easily susceptible of an Adoptionist interpretation, and others equally indicative of Pre-existent Christology. This means that Christians at that moment had not formulated the problem. But The Shepherd of Hermas shows that in Rome an important body of Christians did become wholly Adoptionist, and if they used Romans and Hebrews, they probably interpreted the passages indicated above in agreement with their own opinions and passed over the rest -- in accordance with the best tradition of Biblical commentators.

A third document is the first Epistle of Peter. If this were really written by Peter it cannot be much later in date than Romans, and would probably be earlier than Hebrews, but it seems increasingly clear that the Epistle refers to a later period, and cannot be the work of the Apostle. It is concerned in the main with the problem of persecution, and though the matter is extremely obscure, on the whole a date early in the second century in the time of Trajan and Pliny seems the most likely. Whether the indications that it comes from Rome are not part of the fiction of its authorship is at least open to question, but the point is not very important. If it be really Roman it shows traces of a further development of sacramental {108} Christianity, but does not throw much light on its details. It has some similarity in language to Romans, but very little in the picture presented of Christianity. The central point in it is the emphasis on baptismal regeneration, which gives Christians the certainty of immortality. The eschatological expectation of the "revelation of Jesus Christ" is strongly marked, but there is no emphasis on the hope of resurrection. On one point, however, there is a close resemblance to Paul. Spirit and flesh are contrasted, and it is clearly implied that after death the Christian, like the Christ, is spirit and not flesh. It throws little light on the question of Adoptionism, for though there is nothing in it which contradicts Pre-existent Christology, there is also nothing in it which would have startled an Adoptionist.

After this[9] comes the first Epistle of Clement, a letter sent by the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth. It is generally dated at the end of the first century, but there is really very little evidence, and it is curious that this date should be accepted with so little hesitation by almost all critics. It is in the main an ethical treatise, more especially on the importance of good order in the community. This {109} teaching is based almost exclusively on the Old Testament.

There is very little in 1 Clement which throws any light on Christology or on sacraments. For the history of doctrine, in fact, 1 Clement is, considering its length, a remarkably disappointing document, but two passages are important. In 1 Clement xlii., "The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ was sent from God," there is a clear statement of the supernatural claims of the apostles, but made in such a way as to imply a lower view of Christ than Nicene orthodoxy: he is the middle term between God and the apostles, and is separated from the one as clearly as from the other. The "Lord" is more than man, but is not God. The excellence of the Lord is also expressed in 1 Clement xxxvi., in words reminiscent of Hebrews. "This is the way" (i.e. the way referred to in Psalms l.23, "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me, and therein is a way in which I will show him the salvation of God") "beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the defender and helper of our weakness. Through him we fix our gaze on the heights of heaven, through him we see the reflection of his faultless and lofty countenance, through him the eyes of our hearts were opened, through him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms toward the light, through him the Master (i.e. God) willed that we should taste the immortal knowledge, 'who being the brightness of his majesty is by so much greater {110} than angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name.' For it is written that 'Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.' But of his son the Master said thus, 'Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee; ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.'" The resemblance to Hebrews is obvious, but throws less light than might be expected on Clement's Christology. What did he think was the meaning of "To-day have I begotten thee"? The one point which comes out clearly is that the Church was regarded as an institution for the securing of the salvation offered by the death of Christ. It has a divine authority, for just as Christ came from God, so the Apostles came from Christ. It may almost be said that the Epistle has a high Ecclesiology but an undeveloped Christology.

Thus the Christianity revealed by 1 Clement suggests a Church which had accepted Jewish ethics and a Jewish hope for resurrection, and regarded Jesus as the divine messenger of God, who in turn had appointed the Apostles as the foundation of the Church. It is a very simple form of cult, and in the prayer which Clement quotes almost everything is directed towards the Father. It is Hellenised Judaism without the ceremonial law, but with a belief in Jesus and the Church.

The next document concerned with the Church of Rome is in many ways the most important. The Shepherd of Hermas is not an easy book to appreciate {111} at first. It is a series of interviews between Hermas and various supernatural beings who give him good advice. It may be as late as 140, but many think that it is earlier. The book was written with the practical purpose of guiding rightly the Christians in Rome. There is nothing in Hermas which really contradicts anything in 1 Clement, but it supplements it in several directions. In the first place, like Clement, it attaches great importance to the Church. No salvation is possible except in the Church, and those who are and remain in it secure eternal life, or, in the phrase of Hermas himself, "live to God." The only point on which Hermas is really different is that he seems to have nothing to say about a resurrection, and apparently was content with immortality. But this may be merely an accident and cannot be pressed.

The book throws great light on the development of thought and practice in Rome, and its Christology is the most instructive example which we possess of early Adoptionism.

The evidence is so important, and Hermas is in general so little studied, that the main passage (Sim. v.2.1 ff.) may be quoted: "Listen to the Parable which I am going to tell you concerning Fasting. A certain man had a field, and many servants, and on part of the field he planted a vineyard. And he chose out a certain servant, who was faithful, in good esteem and honour with him, and he called him and said to him: Take this vineyard which I have planted, and fence it until I come, and do nothing more to the {112} vineyard. And follow this order of mine and you shall have your freedom from me. And the master of the servant went abroad. Now when he had gone the servant took and fenced the vineyard, and when he had finished the fencing of the vineyard he saw that the vineyard was full of weeds. Therefore he reasoned in himself, saying: I have finished this order of the Lord; I will next dig this vineyard, and it will be better when it is dug, and having no weeds will yield more fruit, not being choked by the weeds. He took and dug the vineyard, and pulled out all the weeds which were in the vineyard. And that vineyard became very beautiful and fertile with no weeds to choke it. After a time the master of the servant and the field came, and entered into the vineyard, and seeing the vineyard beautifully fenced, and moreover, dug, and all the weeds pulled up and vines fertile, he was greatly pleased at the acts of the servant. So he called his beloved son, whom he had as heir, and his friends whom he had as counsellors, and told them what he had ordered his servant, and what he had found accomplished. And they congratulated the servant on the character which the master gave him. And he said to them: 'I promised this servant his freedom if he kept the orders which I gave him. Now he has kept my orders, and has added good work in the vineyard, and greatly pleased me. So in reward for this work which he has done I wish to make him joint-heir with my son, because, when he had a good thought he did not put it on one side, but carried {113} it out. The son of the master agreed with this plan, that the servant should be joint-heir with the son. After a few days he made a feast and sent to him much food from the feast. But the servant took the food which was sent to him by the master, kept what was sufficient for himself, and distributed the rest to his fellow-servants. And his fellow-servants were glad when they received the food, and began to pray for him, that he might find greater favour with his master, because he had treated them thus. His master heard of all these doings, and again rejoiced greatly at his conduct. The master again assembled his friends and his son, and reported to them what he had done with the food which he had received, and they were still more pleased that the servant should be made joint-heir with his son."

A little later on the angel explains this passage. There is first a confused discussion as to the work of the Son, and it is not easy to be sure whether the reference is to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus, but finally the following clear statement is given: "The Holy Spirit which is pre-existent, which created all creation, did God make to dwell in the flesh which he willed. Therefore this flesh, in which the Holy Spirit dwelled, served the Spirit well, walking in holiness and purity, and did not in any way defile the spirit. When, therefore, it had lived nobly and purely, and had laboured with the Spirit, and worked with it in every deed, behaving with power and bravery, he chose it as companion with the Holy Spirit; for the conduct {114} of this flesh pleased him, because it was not defiled while it was bearing the Holy Spirit on earth. Therefore he took the Son[10] and the glorious angels as counsellors, that this flesh also, having served the Spirit blamelessly, should have some place of sojourn, and not seem to have lost the reward of its service. For all flesh in which the Holy Spirit has dwelt shall receive the reward if it be found undefiled and spotless. You have the explanation of this parable also."

These passages clearly represent God as having a Son who is the pre-existent Spirit. This Spirit is sent into human beings but leaves them if they are guilty of any misconduct. In the case of one man, however, who is not named but is obviously intended to be Jesus, the Spirit found complete obedience. The result was that the Father proposed to the Son, that is the Spirit, and to the counsellors, that is the angels, that this human being or flesh as Hermas calls it, should be exalted and glorified and put on an equality with the Son. This was done, and the implication of the book is that the same opportunity is offered to all others who are willing to follow their Lord. It is interesting to notice that, though it would be an abuse of language, it might be said that Hermas has a doctrine of the Trinity, but that his Trinity does not consist of Father, Son, and Spirit, {115} but of Father, pre-existent Son, that is the Spirit, and adopted Son, that is Jesus. The exact details, however, of the relations subsisting between those three is a question more easily asked than answered, and the next investigator of Hermas will have to consider it very carefully. It is at present only possible to define the problem. As was said above, Hermas seems to imply that the Spirit existed from the beginning alongside of the Father, but he also implies the existence of many other good spirits opposed to the army of demons who people the world. These good spirits seem at times to be identified with angels, and the question will have some day to be discussed afresh of the relation of these spirits to the Spirit who is the Son of God and of both to the angels. Moreover, the question cannot be solved without taking into account the composition of Hermas. Closely connected with this problem is that of the identification of the Son of God with an angel who is sometimes described as "the most glorious angel" and sometimes named as Michael. Did Hermas think that the Spirit who was the Son is identical with Michael, or that Jesus became Michael, or in what way are the facts to be explained? Finally, did Hermas think that Christians became angels at their death?[11]

On what book did Hermas base his interpretation of Jesus? There is no proof that he made use of any of our existing gospels, just as it is very doubtful whether 1 Clement was acquainted with any of them. {116}

There is, indeed, in 1 Clement one passage referring to the words of Jesus,[12] but it cannot be said that this is a quotation either from Matthew or Luke. It has points of similarity to both, but agrees completely with neither. No theory to explain the facts is convincing, for three are possible. It may be a confused reminiscence of the existing Gospels, or it may be the proof that a harmony was already in existence, or it may be drawn from a document which was used by both Matthew and Luke -- in other words, the Q of the critics. Different minds will see different grades of probability in these three hypotheses. But there is no evidence to settle the question.

There is no satisfactory proof that the canonical gospels were known in the Church of Rome until the time of Justin Martyr. If, however, the question be discussed not on the basis of what gospel is quoted by Hermas or Clement, for none of them are by either, but merely on the ground of their doctrinal affinities, the gospel of Mark has the best claim to consideration. According to the other gospels Jesus was the Son of God from his birth, but, though Mark could be otherwise interpreted, the most obvious meaning of the gospel as it stands is that Jesus became Son of God at the baptism when the Spirit descended upon him. {117} It can hardly be merely a coincidence that this gospel is actually attributed by tradition[13] to a Church which was at first adoptionist.

Sacramental adoptionist Christianity seems to be the nearest approach to a complete transformation to a mystery religion with no philosophy, which is found in the history of Christianity, but even here the basis is Jewish.

This is plain in its treatment of conduct. It had apparently accepted the sacramental remission of sins in baptism, and there is no trace in this of any allusion to original sin; the sins which are remitted had been committed by the Christian before his baptism, and there is no suggestion of any inheritance of sin. Hermas never contemplated infant baptism. The baptized Christian started with a clean slate, but what would happen to him if he lapsed again into sin? The Epistle to the Hebrews clearly thought that he had no hope of further forgiveness, and Hermas refers very plainly, if not to the Epistle to the Hebrews itself, at least to teaching which it represents. This teaching was, of course, calculated either to maintain a high standard of conduct or else to change the definition of sin. Apparently none of the other mystery religions ever attached this importance to conduct after initiation, but human nature presented some difficulties in the enforcement of the Christian theory. It was found that the baptized frequently, {118} if not always, lapsed into sin, and that the situation complained of by 4 Ezra was repeating itself.[14] What was the use of a system which offered men immortality, but only on conditions which no one could fulfil?

Hermas solved the problem by having recourse to another element in Jewish thought. He appealed to the possibility of repentance, and put his solution of the problem into the form of a revelation made to him by an angel -- the Shepherd of the book. The revelation which Hermas announces is that there is one repentance, but only one, for those who sin after baptism. If repentance is taken merely as an act of contrition this obviously does little to solve the problem: it is not really sufficient to cover the facts of human nature. But for Hermas repentance is much more than contrition. It consists apparently of cheerful submission to all the unpleasant {119} happenings of life, which are regarded as organised by an angel, specially appointed for the purpose, in order to adapt them to the improvement of sinners. From the general characteristic of the parables it is clear that Hermas did not contemplate the immediate restoration of the penitent, or the immediate elimination of sin. Penitence is for him an unpleasant process of education, and I think he contemplates the probability that it is life-long. Like all education it demands that the pupil shall obey his teacher, and the teacher is in this case the angel of repentance, who arranges life so as to make it educative. It is the beginning of the great Catholic system of penance which it is so difficult to estimate at its full value because of its corruption and exploitation in the Middle Ages. Whether one believes in the existence of an angel of repentance or not, the view that life with all its happenings is an education, which gradually teaches men, if they are willing to accept it, how to cease to be sinful, was a great lesson for the second century, and I do not doubt that it had much to do with producing in the next century a Church which, in spite of persecution, ultimately won the assent of the best part of the Roman world. Though the form in which Hermas presented his teaching was mythological and crude it contained truths which cannot be neglected.

No one can read The Shepherd of Hermas without feeling that it has not been adequately discussed by modern scholarship. It is the key to the proper {120} understanding of Roman Christianity at the beginning of the second century, but to use this key properly it must be subjected to a process of criticism to determine the relations of its constituent parts to one another, and to the contemporary or almost contemporary documents -- 1 Clement and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Adoptionist Christianity was not destined to conquer the world, and though Roman Christianity proved to be the surviving form it had first to change much of its character in a manner which can with some degree of picturesque exaggeration be described as conquest by Ephesus.

The early development of Christianity in Ephesus is more obscure than it is in Rome; it ceased quite soon to flourish in its place of origin, but lived on elsewhere. The documents which represent the first stages of its growth are the later Pauline epistles, and the Fourth Gospel. They are inextricably involved in critical questions which have as yet received less attention than the synoptic problem.

This is especially true of the later epistles. In them, as distinct from the earlier epistles, we have a cosmical Christology which regards Christ as a pre-existent divine person who became a human being. Of that there is no doubt, nor can it be disputed that there are one or two passages in the earlier epistles which seem to pave the way for this kind of thought; but these passages are very few, and as it were wholly {121} incidental. Thus the critical question arises whether these later epistles were written by the same person as the author of the earlier ones. The point has never been discussed fully in England, and by but a very few scholars on the Continent. The result is that it is only possible at present to say that three solutions are possible and are awaiting discussion. The first is that Paul's thought moved very rapidly in the last years of his life, and that the difference between the earlier and the later epistles only represents the development of his thought. This is certainly a possible solution. There is no literary objection to it which cannot adequately be answered. The only doubt is the psychological question whether the development implied is not so great as to be improbable. A second possibility is that the later epistles are not Pauline but are the work of some of Paul's followers. This is also possible, and from the nature of the case scarcely admits of proof or of refutation. The third possibility was suggested in 1877 by H. J. Holtzmann, who thought that Ephesians represents the work of the second generation, and that Colossians was a genuine epistle interpolated by the author of Ephesians. It is said sometimes that this is an incredibly complicated hypothesis. Undoubtedly it is complicated, but so are the facts, and those who regard it as incredible forget that it is merely the application to the Pauline epistles of exactly the same process as every one knows to have been suffered by the epistles of Ignatius. Therefore this theory {122} also is perfectly possible, and ultimately, unless the interest in critical questions dies out altogether, the discussion of these three possibilities is certain to receive fresh attention.[15]

The critical questions concerned with the Fourth Gospel are better known. But whether it is later than the later epistles of Paul, and whether it represents the result of their influence or is a parallel line of thought is another problem which has not yet been fully discussed: in any case, it is cognate with them. No one knows who wrote the Fourth Gospel. Tradition ascribes it to John the son of Zebedee, but all critical probability is against this theory. It seems tolerably clear that the Fourth Gospel was not written by an eye-witness, and that it implies not a knowledge of the historic Jesus so much as an acquaintance with the subapostolic Church. It is apparently an attempt to rewrite the story of Jesus in the interests of a "pre-existent" Christology, and of a high form of sacramental teaching.

Tradition connects both the later Pauline epistles and the Fourth Gospel with the Province of Asia, and especially with Ephesus. There is no reason for doubting this tradition, but it is strange how soon its {123} creative spirit passed to Alexandria, a Church of which the origin is as obscure as the later history is famous.

Tantalising though many of these problems are, there is no doubt as to the main characteristics of the Christianity of Ephesus and its neighbourhood. Its Christology was the reverse of Adoptionist. It did not think of Jesus as a man who had become divine, but as a God who had become human. Moreover, an identification of this pre-existent being with the Logos of the philosopher was gradually approached in the later Epistles, and finally made in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel.

The word Logos has an intricate and long history which has often been treated in books on the New Testament: it is quite unnecessary to repeat it at length. But it has not usually been sufficiently noted that the difficulty of the problems raised by it are mainly due to its use in different ways in different systems of thought. The popular Stoic philosophy, with its belief in a God immanent in the universe, could use Logos in the sense of the governing principle of the world, and as little less than a synonym, or, perhaps one should say, description of God. On the other hand, a transcendental theology such as Platonism, believing in a God entirely above all existence in the universe, needed a connecting link between God and the world, and could use Logos in this sense. Finally, a mediatising writer such as Cornutus could explain that the Logos was Hermes, and so triumphantly {124} reconcile philosophy and myth, by giving a mythological meaning to a philosophic term.

All this is clear enough; but the difficulty begins when one asks in which sense the writer of the Fourth Gospel used the phrase. Did he mean that the Logos was the anima mundi? The phrase "the true light which lighteth every one" is susceptible of such a meaning. But it seems more probable that his theology was in the main transcendental, and that the Logos was for him the connecting link between God and the world. But how far is the Prologue really metaphysical and not comparable in its identification of Jesus and the Logos to Cornutus,[16] with his identification of Hermes and the Logos?

Further problems arise if an effort is made to reconstruct fully the Ephesian Christianity of which the Fourth Gospel is the product. After the Prologue the Logos does not seem to be mentioned again; Jesus appears as the supernatural Lord (though this word is not characteristic of the Gospel) who reveals the Father to men. He offers them salvation by regeneration in baptism, and by eating his flesh and blood in the Eucharist. They become supernaturally the children of God. This is the teaching of the Hellenised Church, not of the historic Jesus. But running through the Gospel there is also another line of thought which regards salvation as due to knowledge rather than sacraments. What is the relation to each other of {125} these two ways of regarding salvation? The problem has scarcely been formulated by the students of the Fourth Gospel, much less adequately discussed.

Obviously the tendency of Ephesian Christianity was to minimise the human characteristics of the historic Jesus, and to merge into Docetism. This can be seen in the Fourth Gospel, and in the allied Johannine Epistles. The writer is fully aware of the danger, and protests against Docetism, but his own writings with very small changes would have been admirably adapted for Docetic purposes.[17]

If Ephesian Christianity had never come to Rome, and met its complement in the Adoptionists, it might, in spite of the Fourth Gospel, have degenerated into thorough-going Docetism, or have been represented only by Gnostics. It is hard either to prove or to refute the suggestion that Alexandrian Gnosticism of the Valentinian type came from Ephesus along the Syrian coast, and that the ultimately successful Catholicism of Pantaenus and Clement came from the other stream which passed first northwards and then through Italy to Alexandria. Each of these streams accumulated new ideas on the way: the stream passing through Syria found the Eastern Gnostics of whom Simon Magus is alleged to have been the first. The other stream passed through Rome and found Adoptionism. The combination with this strengthened the belief in the true humanity of Jesus, and in his {126} real divinity, thus providing the groundwork for the Christological development of Irenaeus and his successors in the fourth century.[18]

The man who seems to have brought Ephesian Christianity to Rome was Justin Martyr, sometimes called the Philosopher. This title is somewhat unfair to philosophers, for the only claim which Justin could make to the name was that he had dabbled with little profit in many schools before he was converted to Christianity by an old man who gave him the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament.

Justin is in fact not much more philosophic than Hermas. His Christology is the incarnation of the Logos; but Logos is for him merely the name of a second God who is responsible for creation and redemption. Of the many books which he is said to have written only his two Apologies and his Dialogue with Trypho are extant. The latter is a long rambling exposition of the proof from the Old Testament, in the Septuagint version, that there is a "second God," and that his incarnation in Jesus was foretold. The Apologies also are full of proof from the Old Testament, but contain most valuable statements as to the Christian cult and its sacraments. They are also remarkable for insisting that the heathen religions are due to the clumsy efforts of demons to deceive men by false fulfilments of scripture.


Justin was not a man of commanding intellect, but he seems to have brought Ephesian Christianity to Rome, and so began in that city the synthesis with Greek philosophy which the later Pauline epistles and Fourth Gospel began in Ephesus and Origen completed in Alexandria. He appears to have been martyred in Rome, perhaps owing to the hostility of Crescens, a cynic philosopher with whom he had quarrelled. The acts of his martyrdom are extant; the most significant point in them is his dissociation from other bodies of Christians in Rome.[19] This is seen from the following extract from his examination by Rusticus the Prefect:

"Rusticus the prefect said, 'Where do you assemble?' Justin said, 'Where inclination and ability lead each of us. For do you really think that we all assemble in the same place? That is not the case, because the God of the Christians is not locally circumscribed, but, though he cannot be seen, fills heaven and earth and receives worship and glorification from the faithful in all places.' Rusticus the prefect said, 'Tell me where you assemble or in what place you collect your disciples.' Justin said, 'I am staying above the baths of a certain Martin, the son of Timothinus, and throughout this period (it is my second visit to Rome) I am unacquainted with any other assembly except that in this house. And if {128} any one wished to come with me, I communicated to him the words of truth.'"[20]

It would be possible to fill a volume with the discussion of the development of the Logos doctrine after the time of Justin Martyr. All that can here be done is to note how it passed from Rome to Alexandria -- from Justin to Origen -- and to compare certain aspects of it with Adoptionist Christianity, and to consider the position which either of these Christologies can take in modern theology.

It is very doubtful whether Justin Martyr or the writer of the Fourth Gospel had any concept of Immaterial Reality. To Justin Martyr, at least, the Logos appears to have been a second God, and his identification of Jesus with the Logos is much more like that of Cornutus -- mutatis mutandis -- than anything else which we possess. But however this may be, the Logos Christology was invaluable for Origen in finding room in Christian theology for the identification of God with Immaterial Reality. We may paraphrase rather than explain his teaching by saying that he believed in the divinity and unity of Immaterial {129} Reality, but thought also that diversity as well as unity could be predicated of it; that man belonged on one side of his nature to Immaterial Reality, and that, so far as he did so, he shared the attribute of eternity. Like other thinkers, Origen failed to make clear exactly what is the relation between the Immaterial Reality which is eternal and changeless and the Material Reality which is subject to change and time, and is the basis of phenomena. But in some way, he believed, the Logos[21] was that power of Immaterial Reality which stretches out and mingles with the world of matter. It is impossible and undesirable to expound at length this general theory; it must suffice to notice its bearings on Christology.

In the first place, it seems to have overcome the tendency of Logos theology to produce Docetism. The earlier forms of this kind of teaching which represented the Logos as a spirit who came down to rescue humanity offered no real reason for maintaining the true humanity of Jesus. It seems to have been the pressure of recognised fact, which had not yet been forgotten, which made the writer of the Fourth Gospel and of the First Epistle of John protest so strongly against Docetism. The tendency of their teaching by itself was all the other way, and the Acts of John, with their completely unreal humanity of Jesus, are the natural, though no doubt unlooked-for, results of the Ephesian school. But that is not the case with {130} Origen, and cannot be the case with any Christology or theology which really understands the doctrine of Immaterial Reality. It is possible to have a spirit, using the word in the popular and material sense, which looks like a human being, but is not really one, but that cannot be so with Immaterial Reality.

Origen achieved a synthesis with Greek philosophy which enabled Christianity to accept a belief in Immaterial Reality without a Docetic Christology, but it must be remembered that Origen was able to do this largely because he stood in the line of succession from the Fourth Gospel and Justin Martyr. He did not take the word Logos in the same sense as Justin had done, and he permanently changed, and indeed partly confused, Christian terminology by giving the meaning of immaterial to the words spirit and spiritual. They have in the main retained this meaning ever since, but students of the New Testament will do well to remember that this is not the meaning of the words in the original, and that Origen, though neither the first nor the last, is probably the ablest of the long line of theologians who have introduced metaphysics into Christian doctrine by a perverse exegesis of the words of Scripture.

The Catholic Christianity which emerged from the struggle between Adoptionism and the Logos Christology was a curious combination of both. In the strict sense of Christology, Adoptionism was completely abandoned. Jesus was regarded as the eternal Logos who became man, not as the inspired {131} and perfect man who became God. But in the sphere of soteriology the legacy of Adoptionism can clearly be seen. The Christian became the adopted son of God, joint heir with Christ, and this remained part of Catholic teaching. It is not, however, really consistent with the Logos doctrine, and is logically part of Adoptionism. The incoherence introduced at this point was met by the splendid paradox of Irenaeus and Athanasius that God became man in order that man might become God. But splendid though this be, it remains a paradox, and it was diluted very considerably in later theology, which seems to have felt that the abandonment of Adoptionism in the sphere of Christology necessitated its abandonment in the doctrine of salvation. Thus, at least in popular theology, the grandiose conception of the apotheosis of humanity has passed into the far more mythological one of becoming an angel after death -- a view very widely held, though perhaps never officially recognised.

What part can either Adoptionism or the Logos Christology play in any modern form of thought? Adoptionism seems to me to have no part or lot in any intelligent modern theology, though it is unfortunately often promulgated, especially in pulpits which are regarded as liberal. We cannot believe that at any time a human being, in consequence of his virtue, became God, which he was not before, or that any human being ever will do so. No doctrine of Christology and no doctrine of salvation which is {132} Adoptionist in essence can come to terms with modern thought.

The doctrine of the Logos is on a different plane. In the form in which it is presented by Justin Martyr it is probably as unacceptable as Adoptionism, but in the form presented by Origen the modern mind constantly feels that the writer is struggling to express its own thoughts, and is attracted to Origen not only by the recognition of a common purpose, but by a consciousness of a common failure, for, at the end, reality transcends thought and language, and the philosophy of Alexandria was no more completely successful than is that of our world.

I have often felt in talking with younger men of the present day how closely they have approached to the position of Origen and how tar they are from him in method. If I may put into my own words the form of thought which seems to animate them, it is something of this kind. They feel that the world in which we live is the expression of some great plan or purpose or pattern which is not yet complete, which shows no sign of finality, but is ever growing in complexity; which resolves itself again and again into simplicity, and then spreads out again on a yet wider scale. The plan or purpose is not a dead mechanical thing; the life which explains it is within and not without it. Men are partly the result, but partly also the instruments or even agents of this purpose. Wisdom is the right understanding of its nature; and righteousness is the attempt to subordinate human purposes {133} to this great purpose of life. For man is not only an effect, he is a cause. When he acts, he brings into existence a new cause of which the results will follow in accordance with the established laws of reality. But there is a moment of choice, when he has it within his power to decide whether he will act or not. If he choose right, his actions will be taken up into the great web of existence, consistently with the great purpose. If he choose wrongly, the results will in the end be destroyed, not without suffering to himself and others.

To a more vivid imagination which thinks in pictures rather than in metaphysical language, life presents itself as a great web which is slowly coming from the loom, and sometimes there seems to be behind the loom the figure of the great weaver; at other times the weaving is being carried on by men and women whose weaving sometimes conforms, sometimes does not, to an infinitely complicated but symmetrical plan which, and here is the paradoxical tragedy, they can only see in the web which has been already woven; but they know that whether what they weave will remain, or not depends upon its being in accord with the pattern. And then the picture changes slightly, and it seems as though the pattern begins to reveal the same features as those dimly discerned in the weaver behind the loom. And yet again the picture changes, and it is not merely the great weaver, but the men and women who are working that reappear with him to live on in the pattern emerging in the web.


That is not the same thing as the Logos Christology or doctrine of salvation as propounded by Origen, but I think that he would have understood it had he lived now. It is not the same thing as the teaching of the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus, yet I do not think that he would have condemned it, for great men understand the thoughts of lesser ones though they themselves fail to be understood. The thoughts and words of Jesus, like those of Origen, were borrowed from his own time and race; they belong to the first century as those of Origen belong to the third. No historical reconstruction can make them adequate for our generation, or even intelligible except to those who have passed through an education in history impossible for most. But the will of Jesus and the will of Origen, if we can reach them through the language and thought of their time, have no such limitations. If I have understood them rightly, both were animated by a desire to accomplish the purpose of God, the God who is life.[22] And that purpose did not appeal to them as the achievement for themselves of any salvation, in this world or in the world to come, beyond the reach of other men, but rather to show them what is the way of life, the natural way, consistent with the purpose of God {135} and the pattern of life. So far as they succeeded, in their teaching they did so because they devoted themselves to expressing clearly what they wished without troubling to ask whether it conformed to what other people said, and they spoke the clearest language which they could find in their own generation.

To do the same thing is the business of preachers and teachers to-day. The man who tries merely to repeat the thoughts or the words of past generations forgets that the call which comes to the teacher is not to repeat what others have said because they have said it, but to say what is true because it is true, and to say it in the language of his own time that it may be intelligible. He will often appear to contradict the thought or the language of Jesus or of Paul or of Origen, but he will be loyal to the purpose which was theirs, and yet so much more than theirs.

[1] This proves that this form of thought is not Semitic; had it been so, the Spirit would scarcely have been masculine.

[2] It would be unfair and misleading to say the doctrine of the Trinity. That doctrine is not the statement of the "threeness" of God, but of the relation which this bears to his unity.

[3] No doubt the "threeness" was emphasised by the habit of three immersions in baptism, whatever the origin of this practice may be, and by philosophic reflections as to the properties of triangles such as are found in Philo.

[4] Illuminating suggestions can be found in F. C. Conybeare's The Key of Truth and in H. Usener's Weihnachtsfest.

[5] In the Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, pp.335 ff. (especially p.368), I suggested that the shorter recension of the Epistle to the Romans, the existence of which is proved by the evidence of the Latin breves, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Marcion, and by the textual confusion surrounding the final doxology, may be the same as that which omits all mention of Rome, and that, if so, it was probably written originally for some other destination. This suggestion has met with little approbation from critics, but with even less discussion. I still think that it is worth consideration.

[6] Paulos doulos Iesou Christou kletos apostolos aphorismenos eis eu aggelion theou o proepeggeilato dia ton propheton autou en graphais hagiais peri tou uhiou autou tou genomenou ek spermatos Daueid kata sarka tou hopisthentos uhiou en dunamei kata pneuma hagiosunes ex anastaseos nekron Iesou Christou tou kuriou hemon.

[7] The justification for assuming that the Church at Rome probably had Adoptionist proclivities is the undeniable fact that early in the second century Hermas held this view, and there is no evidence that he was an innovator.

[8] Eprepen gar auto di on ta panta kai di ou ta panta pollous vious eis doxan agagonta ton archegon tes sotepias auton dia pethematon teleiosai. The English translators take agagonta as referring to the same person as auto, but it seems grammatically preferable to construe it as a qualification of archegon.

[9] Though, if the late date for 1 Peter be accepted, 1 Clement is the earlier document. But the chronology of 1 Clement seems to me less certain than it is usually held to be. It depends on two factors, both doubtful: (1) the chronology of the list of Roman bishops in Eusebius and in the Liber Pontificalis; (2) the supposed reference in the epistle to the alleged persecution under Domitian. Against these is the reference to Clement in The Shepherd of Hermas, and the apparently clear testimony of the Canon of Muratori that The Shepherd was written about A.D.140.

[10] Cf. Sim. ix.1: "For that Spirit is the Son of God," and the Latin (Vulgate) text of Sim. v.5.1, which adds to the explanation of the Parable the exact statement, "Now the Son is the Holy Spirit." It is uncertain whether this is the true text or merely correct explanation, but in general the Latin text is better than that of the Athos MS., -- the only Greek evidence at this point.

[11] See Appendix on pp.137 ff.

[12] "Especially remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which he spoke when he was teaching gentleness and long-suffering. For he spoke thus: 'Be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy. Forgive, that ye may be forgiven. As ye do, so shall it be done unto you. As ye give, so shall it be given unto you. As ye judge, so shall ye be judged. As ye are kind, so shall kindness be shewn you. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.'"

[13] There is no entirely convincing evidence in favour of this tradition. See, however, B. W. Bacon, "The Roman Origin of the Gospel of Mark," in Harvard Theological Studies, vii.

[14] "I answered then and said, This is my first and last saying, that it had been better not to have given the earth unto Adam: or else when it was given him, to have restrained him from sinning. For what profit is it for men now in this present time to live in heaviness, and after death to look for punishment? O thou Adam, what hast thou done? for though it was thou that sinned, thou art not fallen alone, but we all that come of thee. For what profit is it unto us, if there be promised us an immortal time, whereas we have done the works that bring death? And that there is promised us an everlasting hope, whereas ourselves being most wicked are made vain? And that there are laid up for us dwellings of health and safety, whereas we have lived wickedly? And that the glory of the Most High is kept to defend them which have led a wary life, whereas we have walked in the most wicked ways of all? And that there should be shewed a paradise whose fruit endureth for ever, wherein is security and medicine, since we shall not enter into it? For we have walked in unpleasant places. And that the faces of them which have used abstinence shall shine above the stars, whereas our faces shall be blacker than darkness? For while we lived and committed iniquity, we considered not that we should begin to suffer for it after death" (4 Ezra vii.46-56).

[15] I have at present no clear opinion on the problem, except that I am strongly disinclined to accept the rather popular view which receives Colossians as Pauline and rejects Ephesians. Unless some theory similar to Holtzmann's be accepted, I think that Colossians and Ephesians stand or fall together. The popular distinction is partly due to the fact that Protestant scholarship is more sensitive to the un-Pauline ecclesiology of Ephesians, which it repudiates, than to the un-Pauline Christology of Colossians, to which it adheres.

[16] Tunchanei de Ermes ho logos, on apesteilan pros hemas ex ouranou oi theoi. Cornutus, De Natura Deorum, xvi.

[17] The Leucian Acts of John and Andrew, which seem to have a real connection with the Johannine tradition, represent this Docetic tendency.

[18] I must emphasise the speculative nature of this suggestion. So far as I know, there is not any evidence that Pantaenus was in Rome, or that Clement was influenced by Roman thought. But -- merely as a guess -- the idea appeals to me as probable in itself.

[19] The address in Rome which Justin gives is obscure, but it is supposed to be the same as the bath called Novation's on the Via Viminalis. See Otto's note on the subject.

[20] Roustikos eparchos eipe; Pou synerchesthe? Iustinos eipen; Entha hekasto proairesis kai dynamis esti; pantos gar nomixeis epi to auto synerchesthai hemas pantas? ouch outos de; dioti ho theos ton Christianon topo ou perigraphetai alla aoratos on ouranon kai ten gen pleroi kai pantachou hupo ton piston prosuneitai kai doxetai. Roustikos eparchos eipen; Eipe, pou synerchesthe e eis poion topon athroixeis tous mathetas sou; Ioustinos eipen; Ego epano meno tinos Martinou tou Timothinou balaneiou, kai para panta ton chronon touton (epedemesa de te Romaion polei touto deuteron) kai ou ginosko allen tina suneleusin ei ne ten ekeiou. kai ei tis ebouleto aphikneisthai par emoi, ekoinonoun auto ton tes aletheias gogon.

[21] The elements of multiplicity, he thinks, are contained in the Logos, which is therefore secondary to the Father.

[22] Perhaps the most significant difference between Jesus and Origen is that Origen was inclined to find the concrete expression of the Purpose of Life in self-realisation -- he was in the best sense a Gnostic -- while Jesus found it in the service of the weak, ignorant, and sinful, rather than merely in loyal obedience to the strong, wise, and righteous. The two are complementary, not contradictory -- but they are not identical.

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