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Member of the French Academy. 

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M A T II I K 8 N & C M P A N Y, 

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INTRODUCTION, . . . ... . . . i-xvi 


PETER AT ROME, . . , . . ... 13 





THE BURNING OF ROME, ... ., . .. . . 60 



NERO, . . . . ... . . . 76 
























* FTER the three or four years of the public life of Jesus, the period 
-Tv which the present volume embraces was the most extraordinary 
in the whole development of Christianity. We shall see by a strange 
play of that grand unconscious artist who seems to preside over the 
apparent caprices of history, Jesus and Nero, the Christ and the 
Antichrist, opposed and facing each other, if I dare say it, like Heiwen 
and Hell. The Christian conscience is complete. Up till now it has 
scarcely known to do ought but love ; the persecutions of the Jews, 
although bitter enough, have been unable to change the bond of affec 
tion and recognition which the budding church keeps within its heart 
for its mother the synagogue, from which she is scarcely separated. 
Now the Christian has somewhat to hate. In front of Jesus there 
appears a monster who is the ideal of evil even as Jesus is the ideal of 
good. Reserved like Enoch or like Elias to play a part in the final 
tragedy in the universe, Nero completes the Christian mythology, 
inspires the first sacred book of the new canon, founds, by a hideous 
massacre, the primacy of the Roman Church, and prepares the revolu 
tion which shall make Rome a Holy City, a second Jerusalem. At the 
same time, by one of those mysterious coincidences which are not rare 
in the moments of the great crises of humanity, Jerusalem is destroyed, 
the temple disappears, Christianity, disembarrassed from what has been 
irksom e to it, emancipates itself more aivd more, and follows outside of 
conquered Judaism its own destinies. 

The last epistles of St. Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the epistles 
attributed to Peter and James, and the Apocalypse are among the 
canonical writings the principal documents of this history. The first 
epistle of Clemens Romanus, Tacitus and Josephus furnish us also 
with valuable indications. On a large number of points, notably on 
the death of the Apostles and the relations of John with Asia, our 
picture will remain in semi-obscurity ; upon others we shall be able to 
concentrate real rays of light. The material facts of the Christian 
origins are almost all obscure ; what is clear is the ardent enthusiasm, 
the superhuman boldness, the sublime contempt for reality which 
makes this movement the most powerful effort towards the ideal whose 
memory has been preserved to us. 

In the introduction to our St. Paul we nave discussed the authenticity 
of all the epistles which have been attributed to the Great Apostle. 
The four epistles which are connected with this volume, the epistles to 
the Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians are those 
which suggest certain doubts. The objections raised against the epistle 
to the Philippians are of such little value that we need scarcely dwell 
upon them. We have seen and we shall see in what follows that tL 


epistle to the Colossians gives much more ground for reflection, and 
that the epistle to the Ephesians, although well authenticated, presents a 
separate aspect in the work of Paul. Notwithstanding the great 
difficulties which can be raised, I hold the epistle to the Colossians as 
authentic. The interpolations which in these last times some skilful 
critics Jjave proposed to see there are not clear. The system of M. 
Holtzmann on this point is worthy of its learned author ; but what 
dangers are there in this method too much accredited in Germany, 
where they start from an a priori figure which must serve as a 
fixed criterion for the authorship of the works of a writer ! That the 
interpolation and supposition of apostolic writings had been often 
practised during the first two centuries of Christianity cannot be denied. 
But to make in such a matter a strict discernment between the true and 
the false, the apocryphal and the authentic is a task impossible to carry 
out. We see with certainty that the Epistle to the Romans, the Corin 
thians, and the Galatians are authentic. We see with the same 
certainty that the Epistles to Timothy and Titus are apocryphal. In 
the interval, between these two poles of critical evidence we hesitate. 
The great school led by Christian Baur has as principal defect, its repre 
senting the Jews of the first century as complete characters, fed upon 
dialectics and obstinate in their arguments. Peter, Paul, Jesus even, 
in the writings of this school, resemble some Protestant theologians of a 
German University having all one doctrine, having but one, keeping 
always the same. Now, what is true is that the wonderful men who are 
the heroes of this history changed and contradicted themselves much. 
They accepted during their lives three or four theories ; they made 
borrowings from those of their adversaries against whom at another 
time they had been most severe. These men, looked at from our point 
of view, were susceptible, personal, irritable, mobile ; what makes fixity 
of opinion, science, and rationalism was foreign to them. They had 
among them, like the Jews, in all times, violent disagreements ; but, 
nevertheless, they made up a very solid body. To understand them we 
must place ourselves at a great distance from the pedantry inherent in 
every scholastic ; we must study rather the little coteries of a pious 
society, the English and American congregations, and, principally, 
what has passed since the foundation of all the religious orders. Under 
this view the faculties of theology in the German Universities, which 
can alone supply the amount of work necessary to arrange the chaps 
of documents relative to these curious origins, are the places, in 
all the world, in which the true history of it could be written. Now, 
history is the analysis of a life which develops itself, of a germ which 
expands, and theology is the inverse of life. Only attentive to what 
confirms or weakens his dogmas, the theologian, even the most liberal, is 
always, without thinking it, an apologist ; he seeks to defend or to refute. 
The historian only seeks to recount. Facts materially false, documents 
even apocryphal, have for him a value, for they paint the soul, and are 
often more true than the dry truth itself. The greatest error in his yes is 
to transform into factors of abstract theory those good and artless mission 
aries whose dreams have been the consolation and the joy of so many 

What we are about to say of the Epistle to the Colossians, and 
especially of the Epistle to the Ephesians, must be said with stronger 
reason of the first epistle attributed to St. Peter and the epistles 
attributed to James and Jude. The second epistle, attributed to Peter, 
is certainly apocryphal. We recognise at the first glance an artificial 
composition, an imitation composed of scraps of apostolic writings, 
especially from the Epistle of Jude. We do not dwell upon this point, for 


we do not believe that II. Peter has among true critics a single defender 
But the falseness of II. Peter, an epistle whose principal object is to 
encourage patience among the faithful who are wearied by the long 
delay of the reappearance of Christ, proves in a sense the authenticity 
of I. Peter. For, to be apocryphal, II. Peter is a writing old enough ; 
now the author of II. Peter thoroughly believed that I. Peter was the 
work of Peter, since he refers to it, and represents his writing as a 
"second epistle," making a sequence to the first (iii., 1 2). I. Peter 
is one of the writings of the New Testament which are most anciently 
and most unanimously quoted as authentic. One grave objection only 
is drawn from the borrowings which may be remarked there from the 
Epistles of St. Paul, and in particular from that to the Ephesians. But the 
secretary whom Peter used to write the letter, if he really wrote it, might 
well be allowed to make such borrowings. At all times preachers and 
publicists have been unscrupulous in appropriating to themselves those 
phrases which have become public property, and which are in a sort of 
way "in the air." We see, likewise, Paul s secretary, who has the 
epistle called to the Ephesians copying largely from the Epistle to the 
Colossians. One of the features which characterizes the literature of the 
epistles is to present many borrowings from writings of the same kind 
composed previously. 

The first four verses of Chapter v. of I. Peter excite, indeed, some 
suspicions. They recall the pious recommendations, a little insipid, 
impressed upon a hierarchical mind which fill the false epistles to 
Timothy and Titus. Besides, the affectation which the author shows in 
representing himself a "witnessof the sufferings of Christ," raises appre 
hensions analogous to those which the pseudo-Johannine writings cause 
by their persistence in representing themselves as the accounts of an actor 
and spectator. We do not require, however, to stop at that. Many 
features also are favourable to the hypothesis of authenticity. Thus 
the progress towards hierarchy is scarcely sensible in I. Peter. Not 
only is there no mention of Episcopos, each Church has not even a 
Presbyteros; it has some presbyteri or "elders," and the expressions which 
the author uses do not imply that these elders formed a distinct 
body. A circumstance which deserves to be noted is that the author, 
while seeking to exalt the abnegation of which Jesus gives proof in his 
passion, omits an essential feature recorded by Luke, and gives us 
also to believe that the legend of Jesus had not yet arrived, at the time 
he wrote, at its full development. 

As to the eclectic and conciliatory tendencies which we observe in the 
Epistle of Peter, they only constitute an objection for those who, with 
Christian Baur and his pupils, represent the diversity between Peter 
and Paul as an absolute opposition. If the hatred between the two 
parties in primitive Christianity had been as deep as this school believes, 
the reconciliation would never have been made. Peter was not an 
obstinate Jew like James. It is not necessary in writing this history to 
consider only the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and the Epistle to the 
Galatians. It is necessary to take account of the Acts of the Apostles. 
The art of the_ historian should consist in presenting things in a manner 
which should in nothing lessen the divisions of parties (these divisions 
were deeper than we can imagine), and which, nevertheless, permits of 
explaining how such divisions have been able to weld themselves into a 
fine unity. 

The Epistle of James presents itself to criticism very nearly under the 
same conditions as the Epistle of Peter. The difficulties of detail which 
can be opposed to that have not much importance. What is serious is 
that general objection drawn from the facility of the suppositions of 


writings at a time when there existed no guarantee of authenticity, and 
in which there would be no scruple as to pious frauds. As to writeri 
like Paul, who have left us by universal admission certain writings, and 
whose biography is well enough known, there are two certain criteria 
for discerning false attributions ; it is (1st) to compare the doubtfu) 
work with the universally admitted works, and (2nd) to see if the 
matter in dispute answers to the biographical data we possess. But i< 
it concerns a writer of whom we have some disputed pages, and whose 
biography is little known, we have often to decide only on the grounds 
of sentiment which do not weigh with us. By showing one s self easy 
we certainly risk taking as serious things that are false ; by showing one s 
self rigorous we risk rejecting as false things that are true. The 
theologian who believes that he proceeds upon certainties is, I repeat, a 
bad judge of such questions. The critical historian has a conscience at 
rest when he sets himself to investigate thoroughly the different degrees 
of certain, probable, plausible, and possible. If he has skill he will 
know what is true as much by the general colour, while he is prodigal of 
particular allegations, the signs of doubt and the " may-bes." 

A consideration which I have found favourable to these writings (the 
1st Epistle of Peter, the Epistles of James and Judo), very rigorously 
excluded by a certain criticism, is the fashion in which they are adapted 
to an organically received recital. While the 2nd Epistle attributed to 
Peter, ^he pretended Epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus, are 
excluded from the limits of a logical history, the three epistles which we 
have named enter these, so to speak, of themselves. The features of 
circumstances which one meets there seem anticipative of facts known 
through evidence from without, and are embraced in it. The Epistle of 
Peter answers well to what we know, especially through Tacitus, as to 
the situation of the Christians at Rome about the year 63 or 64. The 
Epistle of James, on the other hand, is the perfect picture of the stata 
of the Ebionim at Jerusalem in the years which preceded the revolt. 
Josephus gives us some statements of the same kind. The hypothesis 
which attributes the Epistle of James to a James different from the 
Lord s brother has no advantage. This epistle, it is true, was not 
admitted in the first centuries in a manner as unanimous as that of 
Peter ; but the motives for these hesitations appear to have been rather 
dogmatic than critical; the small taste of the Greek fathers for the 
Judeo-Christian writings was the principal cause of it. 

A remark that at least applies with clearness to the small apostolic 
writings of which we speak is that they had been composed before the fall 
of Jerusalem. That event introduced into the situation of Judaism and 
Christianity such changes that one can easily discern a writing subse 
quent to the catastrophe of the year 70, from a writing contemporaneous 
with the third temple. Pictures evidently relating to the an teriorstruggleo 
among the different classes of Jerusalem society, like that which 
the Epistle of James presents to us (v. , 1, & ff ), could not be conceived 
after the revolt of the year 66, which put an end to the reign of the 
Sadducees. From what there is in the pseudo-apostolic epistles, such 
as the epistles to Timothy, Titus, //. Peter, the epistle of Barnabas, 
works where we have as a rule an imitation or expansion of the more 
ancient writings ; it follows, then, that there were some writings really 
apostolic, surrounded by respect, and whose number it was desired to 
augment. Just as each Arabic poet of the classical period has had his 
kasida, the complete expression of his personality ; in like manner each 
apostle has his epistle more or less authentic, in which it was believed 
that the fine flower of his thought was preserved. We have already 
poken of the Epistle to the Hebrews. We have proved that this wort 


in not by St. Paul, as has been believed in certain branches of Christian 
tradition, but we are shown that the date of its composition allows it 
to be fixed with considerable verisimilitude about the year 66. It 
remains for us to examine whether it can be known who was the true 
author, where it was written, and who are those "Hebrews" to whom, 
according to the title, it was addressed. The circumstantial features 
which the epistle present are the following : The author speaks to the 
Church named as a master well-known to it. He takes as his point of 
view almost a tone of reproach. That Church has received the faith a 
long time back, but it has so sunk in the matter of doctrine that it has need 
of elementary instruction, and is not capable of comprehending a high 
theology. This Church, besides, has shown, and shows still, much 
courage and devotion, especially in serving the saints. It had suffered 
cruel persecutions about the time when it received the full light of the 
faith. At that time it had been as a spectacle. That was but for a 
short period, for those who at that time actually composed the Church had 
had part in the merits of that persecution by sympathising with the 
confessors, by visiting the prisoners, and especially by courageously 
enduring the loss of their goods. In the trials, moreover, there were found 
some renegades, and the question was mooted as to whether those who 
by weakness had apostatised could re-enter the Church. At the time 
when the apostle wrote, it appears that there were still some members 
of the Church in prison. The believers of the Church in question had 
some illustrious heads who had preached to them the word of God, and 
whose death had been specially edifying and glorious. The Church had, 
notwithstanding, still some leaders with whom the author of the letter 
was on intimate relations. The author of the letter, in fact, has known 
the Church in question, and has exercised there a distinguished ministry. 
He has the intention of returning to it, and he desires that his return shall 
be brought about as quickly as possible. The author and those whom 
he addresses knew Timothy. Timothy has been imprisoned in a 
different town from that where the author is residing at the time he 
writes. Timothy had just been set at liberty. The author hopes that 
Timothy will go to rejoin him, then both of them will set forth together 
to visit the Church addressed. The author finishes with these words 
d(77rabj/T<K vfias ol diro rf}s IraXi as, words which can scarcely describe 
any other than Italians residing for the time being outside of Italy. 

As to the author himself, his ruling feature is a perpetual use of the 
Scriptures, a subtle and allegorical exegesis, a most copious Greek style, 
very classical, a little dry, but at least as natural as that of most of the 
apostolic writings. He has a medium acquaintance with the worship which 
is practised at Jerusalem, and yet this cult inspires him with much pre 
possession. He only uses the Alexandrian version of the Bible, and he 
founds some arguments upon the errors of Greek copyists. He is not a 
J erusalem Jew ; he is a Hellenist in sympathy with Paul s school. 
The author, in short, does not give himself out for an immediate hearer 
of Jesus, but for a hearer of those who had seen Jesus for a spectator of 
the apostolic miracles, and the first manifestations of the Holy Spirit. 
He no less holds an elevated rank in the Church ; he speaks with 
authority ; he is much respected by the brethren to whom he writes. 
Timothy appears to be subordinate to him. The single fact of address 
ing an epistle to a great Church indicates an important man, one of 
those personages who figure in the apostolic history, and whose name is 

All this, nevertheless, is not sufficient for us to pronounce with 
certainty as to the author of our epistle. It has been attributed, with 
more or less likelihood, to Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Apollos, and to 


Clemens Romanus. The attribution to Barnabas is the most likely. Tt 
Das for it the authority of Tertullian, who represents the fact as recog 
nised by everyone. It has especially in its favour this circumstance, 
fchat not one of the special features which the epistle presents are opposed 
to such an hypothesis. Barnabas was a Cypriote Hellenist, at that time 
associated with Paul, and independent of Paul. Barnabas was known 
by all and esteemed by all ; it may be conceived, in short, how in this 
hypothesis the epistle has been attributed to Paul ; it was, in fact, the 
lot of Barnabas to be always lost in some sense in the rays of the glory 
of the Great Apostle, and if Barnabas has composed some writing, as 
appears very probable, it is among the works of Paul that it is natural to 
seek for the pages really from his pen. 

The determination of the Church addressed may be made with as 
much likelihood. The circumstances which we have enumerated 
scarcely permit of any choice but between the Church of Rome and that 
of Jerusalem. The title Hpos Epaiovs makes us think at once of 
the Church at Jerusalem, but it is impossible to be stopped by such a 
thought. Some passages such as v., 11 14, vi., 11 12, and even 6 
and 10 are nonsense if we suppose them addressed by a pupil of the 
apostle s to that mother Church the source of all instruction. What 
is said of Timothy is not better conceived ; people as much engaged as 
the author, and as Timothy in Paul s party, would not have been able 
to address to the Church at Jerusalem a communication, supposing 
intimate relations. How can we admit, for example, that the author, 
with that exegesis, only founded on the Alexandrian version, that incom 
plete Jewish knowledge, that imperfect acquaintance with the affairs of 
the temple, would have dared to give a lesson so lofty to the masters par 
excellence, to people speaking Hebrew, or nearly so, living every day 
about the temple, and who knew much better than he all that he could 
tell them ? How can we admit especially that he could treat them as 
catacumens scarcely initiated and incapable of a strong theology ? On 
the contrary, if we suppose that the persons to whom the epistle was 
addressed are the faithful at Rome, everything is wonderfully arranged. 
The passages, vi., 10, x., 32 verse and ff., xiii., 3 7, are allusions to the 
persecutions of the year 64 ; the passage xiii., 7, applies to the death oi 
the Apostles Peter and Paul ; in short, oi dno rrjs iraXias are then 
perfectly justified ; for it is natural that the author should bear to th<3 
Church of Rome the salutations of the colony of Italians who were 
around him. Let us add that the 1st Epistle of Clemens Romanus (a 
work certainly Roman) makes from the Epistle to the Hebre\vs some 
distinct borrowings, and follows its mode of exposition very distinctly. 

A single difficulty remains to be solved : Why the title of the epistle 
Hpbs Efipaiovs ? Let us recall the fact that these titles are not always of 
apostolic origin, that they have sometimes been inserted later and falsely, 
as we have seen in the epistle called Hpbs Efpetriovs. The epistle called 
to the Hebrews was written under the blow of persecution to the Church 
which was the most persecuted. In many passages (for example, xiii., 
23) we feel that the author expresses himself in covert words. Perhaps 
the vague title Hpbs K^paiovs was a password to save the letter 
from becoming a compromising matter. Perhaps, also, this title comes 
from this, that, in the second century, they looked upon the writing^ in 
question as a refutation of the Ebionites whom they called E^palot. 
A fact remarkable enough is that the Church of Rome had always, as to 
this epistle, some quite special lights ; it is from thence it emerges, it is 
from thence that the first use is made of it. While Alexandria allows it 
to be attributed to Pa\U, the Church of Rome maintained always that it 
ia not by that apostle, and that it is wrong to add it to his writings. 


From what city was the Epistle to the Hebrews written ? It is more 
difficult to say. The expression Of diro TTJS lra\ias shows that the 
author was out of Italy. One thing again, certainly, is that the town 
from which the epistle was written was a great city where there was a 
colony of Christians from Italy closely allied with those of Rome. 
These Christians of Italy were probably believers who escaped in the 
persecution of the year 64. We shall see that the current of Christian 
emigration fleeing from these terrors of Nero was directed towards 
Ephesus. The Church of Ephesus, besides, had had for the nucleus of 
its primitive formation two Jews come from Rome, Aquila and Priscilla ; 
it remained always in direct relation with Rome. We are, therefore, 
led to believe that the epistle in question was written from Ephesus. 
Verse 23 of chap, xiii., it must be confessed, in that case, is singular 
enough. In what town other than Ephesus or Rome, and yet in rela 
tion with Ephesus and Rome, could Timothy have been imprisoned ? 
What hypothesis we should adopt is an enigma difficult to explain. The 
Apocalypse is the principal feature of this history. The persons who 
svill read attentively our chapters xv., xvi., and xvii., will realise, I believe, 
that there is no single writing in the Biblical canon which can be fixed 
with so much precision. We may determine this date to nearly a few 
days. The place where the work was written we are also at liberty to 
fix with probability. The question of the author of the book is, 
however, subject to greater uncertainty. Upon this point we cannot in 
my view express ourselves as fully assured. The author names himself 
at the head of the book (L, v. 9): "I, John, your brother and your 
companion in persecution for the kingdom and patience in Christ." 
But two questions arise here. First, is the assertion sincere, or is it not 
one of those pious frauds of which all the authors of apocalypses, without 
exception, have been found guilty ? Is the book, in other terms, not by 
an unknown person, who would be taken for a man of the first order in 
the opinion of the Churches for John the Apostle a vision agreeable to 
his own ideas ? Second, having admitted that verse 9 of chapter i. of 
the Apocalypse is sincere, may this John not be a namesake of the 
Apostle ? 

Let us discuss first this second hypothesis, for it is the easier to 
dispose of. The John who speaks, or who is reputed to speak in the 
Apocalypse, expresses himself with such vigour, supposes so clearly that 
he will be known, and that people will have no difficulty in distinguish 
ing him from any of his namesakes ; he knows so well the secrets of the 
Churches, he enters into them with such a resolute air, that they can 
scarcely refuse to see in him an apostle or an ecclesiastical dignitary all 
along the line. Now, John the Apostle had not in the second half of 
the first century any namesake who approached him in rank. Although 
M. Hitzig speaks of John Mark, he has really no place here, and was never 
on relations so intimate with the Churches of Asia that he should dare to 
address them in this tone. There remains a doubtful personage, that 
Presbyteros Johannes, a sort of likeness of the Apostle, who troubles 
like a spectre all the history of the Church of Ephesus, and causes 
critics so much embarrassment. Although the existence of this person 
age has been denied, and although we cannot peremptorily refute the 
hypothesis of those who see in him a shade of the Apostle John taken 
for a reality, we incline to believe that Presbyteros Johannes had, in 
fact, a separate identity ; but that he had written the Apocalypse in 63 
or 69, as M. Ewald still maintains, we absolutely deny. Such a person 
age would be known otherwise than by an obscure passage of Papias 
and an apologetic thesis of Dionysius of Alexandria. We should find 
\J8 iiarae in the Gospels, in the Acts, or in some epistle. We should see 


him leaving Jem-salem. The author of the Apocalypse is the best 
versed in the Scriptures, the most attached to the Temple, the most 
Hebraizing of the New Testament writers ; such a personage could not 
have been introduced in the provinces ; he must be originally from Judea ; 
he holds with the chords of his heart to the Church of Israel. If 
Presbyteros Johannes existed, he was a disciple of the Apostle John, in 
the extreme old age of the latter. Papias appears to have been near 
enough to him, or at least to have been his contemporary. We admit, 
even, that sometimes he takes the pen for his master, and we regard as 
plausible the opinion which attributes to him the editing of the fourth 
gospel and of the first epistle called of John. The second and third 
epistles called "of John," where the author designs himself by the 
words o Trpea GvTfpot, appear to us to be his personal work, and 
avowed as such. But, certainly, supposing that Presbyteros Johannes 
may have some position in the second class of Johannine writings (which 
include the fourth gospel and the three epistles), he has none in the 
composition of the Apocalypse. If anything is clear, it is that the 
Apocalypse, on the one hand, and the gospel and the three epistles on 
the other hand, do not come from the same pen. The Apocalypse is 
the most Jewish, the fourth gospel is the least Jewish of the 
writings of the New Testament. While admitting that the Apostle 
John may be the author of some one of the writings which tradition 
attributes to him, it is assuredly the Apocalypse and not the Gospel. The 
Apocalypse answers well to the decisive opinion he appears to have 
adopted in the contest between the Judeo-Christians and Paul ; the 
Gospel does not answer to it. The efforts which, in the third century, 
a party of the fathers of the Greek Church made to attribute the 
Apocalypse to the Presbyteros, came from the repulsion which the book 
then inspired in the orthodox doctors. They could not endure the 
thought that a writing whose style they found barbarous, and which 
appeared to them deeply impressed by Jewish hatred, should be the 
work of an apostle. Their opinion was the result of an induction 
a priori without value, not the expression of a tradition or of a critical 

If the f-yca icoawjjf of the first chapter of the Apocalypse is 
sincere, the Apocalypse is then most assuredly by the Apostle John. 
But the essence of apocalypses is to be pseudonymous. The authors of the 
Apocalypses of Daniel, Enoch, Baruch, and Esdras represent them 
selves as being Daniel, Enoch, Baruch, and Esdras in person. The 
Church of the second century admitted upon the same footing as the 
Apocalypse of John an Apocalypse of Peter, which was decidedly 
apocryphal. If, in the Apocalypse which has remained canonical, the 
author gives his true name, there is there a surprising exception to rules 
of the kind. Well, that exception we believe must be admitted. An 
essential difference, indeed, separates the canonical Apocalypse from 
the other analogous writings which have been preserved to us. The 
greater number of the apocalypses are attributed to authors who have 
flourished, or have been reputed to flourish five or six hundred years 
sometimes thousands of years back. In the second century they attri 
buted apocalypses to the men of the apostolic century. The Shepherd 
and the pseudo-Clementine writings are 50 or 60 years later than the 
personages to whom they are attributed. The Apocalypse of Peter was 
probably in the same position ; at least, nothing proves that it had 
anything special, topical, or personal. The canonical Apocalypse, on 
the contrary, if it is pseudonymous, would have been attributed to the 
Apostle John, in his lifetime, or a very short time after his death. 
Were it not for the first three chanters, that would be barely possible ; 


but is it conceivable that the falsifier would have the boldness to address 
his apocryphal work to the seven Churches which had been in relation 
wi th the apostle ? And if one were to deny those relations, with M. 
Scholten, they would fall into a still greater difficulty, for it would be 
necessary to admit, then, that the falsifier, by an inaptness which has 
never been equalled, writing to churches which had never know John, 
presents his pretended John as having been at Patmos, quite near 
Ephesus, and as knowing their deepest secrets, and as having 1 full 
authority over them. Those churches, which, in the hypothesis of M. 
Scholten, knew well that John had never been in Asia, nor near Asia 
could they be deceived by such a gross artifice ? One thing which 
appears from the Apocalypse, in all hypotheses, is that the Apostle 
John was for some time head of the Churches of Asia. That being 
established, it is very difficult not to conclude that the Apostle John 
was really the author of the Apocalypse, for, the date of the book being 
fixed with absolute precision, we do not find the space of time necessary 
for a false one. If the apostle, in January 69, lived in Asia, or only had 
been there, the first four chapters are incomprehensible on the part of a 
falsifier. In supposing, with M. Scholten, that the Apostle John died 
at the beginning of the year 69 (which does not appear to agree with the 
truth), we are not without embarrassment. The book is written, in 
fact, as if the recorder was still living ; it is intended to spread at once 
in the Churches of Asia ; if the apostle had been dead the fraud would 
have been too evident. What would they have said at Ephesus, in Feb 
ruary 69, on receiving a book reputed to proceed from an apostle whom 
they knew no longer to exist, and whom, according to M. Scholten, 
they had never seen ? 

The critical examination of the book, far from weakening this hypothesis, 
strongly maintains it. John the Apostle appears to have been after 
James the most ardent of the Judeo-Christians ; the Apocalypse, on its 
side, breathes out a terrible hatred against Paul, and against those who 
were relaxed in their observance of the Jewish law. The book answers 
wonderfully to the violent fanatical character which seems to have been 
that of John. It is indeed the work of the " son of thunder " 
the terrible Boanerges, of him who wished that the name of his 
master might be used only by those who belonged to the circle of the 
most strict of the disciples ; of him who, if he could, would have 
made fire and brimstone to rain on the inhospitable Samaritans. The 
description of the heavenly court, with its quite material pomp of 
thrones and crowns, is indeed that of him who, when young, had set 
his ambition on being seated, with his brother, on thrones to the right 
and left of the Messiah. The two grand prepossessions of the author of 
the Apocalypse are Rome (ch. xiii. and ff . ) and Jerusalem (ch. xi. and xii. ). 
It appears that he had seen Rome, its temples, its statues, and the grand 
imperial idolatry. Now, a journey to Rome on the part of John, 
accompanying Peter, can be easily supposed. What regards Jerusalem 
is more striking still. The author always reverts to "the beloved 
city ;" he thinks only of it ; he is acquainted with all the adventures of 
the Jerusalemite Church during the revolution of Judea (which calls 
forth the fine symbol of the woman and her flight into the desert) ; wo 
feel that he has been one of the pillars of that Church, a devoted enthu 
siast of the Jewish party. That agrees well with John. The tradition 
of Asia Minor appears likewise to have preserved his memory as that 
of a severe Judaizer. In the Passover controversy, which troubled the 
Churches so deeply during the latter half of the second century, the 
authority of John is the principal argument which makes the Asian 
Churches maintain the celebration of Easter, conformably to Jewish 


law, on the 14th Nisan. Polycarpus, in the year 160, and Polycrates in 
190, made appeal to his authority to defend their ancient usage against 
the innovators who, resting upon the fourth Gospel, would not have it 
that Jesus, the true passover, should have eaten the Paschal Lamb the 
evening before his death, and who transferred the festival to the day of 
the resurrection. 

The language of the Apocalypse is likewise a reason for attributing 
the book to a member of the Church of Jerusalem. That language is 
quite apart from the other writings of the New Testament. There is no 
doubt that the work has been written in Greek ; but it is a Greek 
thought out in Hebrew, and which could be only understood and 
appreciated by people who knew Hebrew. The author has fed upon 
prophecies and apocalypses prior to his own to a degree which is aston 
ishing ; he evidently knows them by heart. He is familiar with the 
Greek version of the Sacred Books ; but it is in the Hebrew texts the 
Biblical passages present themselves to him. What a difference from 
the style of Paul, Luke, or the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, or 
even the synoptical Gospels ! A man having passed some years at 
Jerusalem in the schools which surrounded the Temple could alone be 
impregnated to that extent with the Bible, or participate thus in a lively 
manner in the passions of the revolutionary people, and in its hopes and 
its hatred against the .Romans. 

Lastly, a circumstance which must not be neglected is that the 
Apocalypse presents some features which are in sympathy with the 
fourth Gospel and with the epistles attributed to John. Thus the 
expression o \6yos TOV 6eov so characteristic of the fourth Gospel 
is found, for the first time, in the Apocalypse. The image of "living 
waters " is common to the two works. The expression Lamb of God 
in the fourth Gospel recalls the expression of the Lamb which is common 
in the Apocalypse as designating Christ. The two books apply to the 
Messiah, the passage in Zechariah xii. v. x., and translate it in the 
same manner. Far from us be the thought to conclude from these facts 
that the same pen has written the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse, 
but it is not immaterial that the fourth Gospel, whose author could not 
but have some connexion with the Apostle John, presents in its style 
and its images some sympathy with a book attributed for various 
reasons to the Apostle John. Ecclesiastical tradition is hesitating upon 
the question which occupies us. Up to about the year 150 the 
Apocalypse appears not to have had in the Church the importance 
which, according to our ideas, ought to have attached to a writing if 
they had been assured that in this writing they possessed a solemn 
manifesto coming from the pen of an apostle. It is doubtful if Papias 
admitted it as having been written by the Apostle John. Papias was a 
millenarian in the same style as the Apocalypse, but it appears that he 
declares that he holds this doctrine " from unwritten tradition." If he 
had alleged the Apocalypse as his ground, Eusebius would have said so, 
he who receives with so much enthusiasm all the quotations which that 
ancient father makes from the apostolic writings. The author of the 
Shepherd of Hermas knew, it would seem, the Apocalypse and copies it, 
but it does not follow from that that he held it to be a work of John the 
Apostle. It is St. Justin who, about the middle of the second century, 
declares as the first, distinctly, that the Apocalypse really is a composi 
tion of the Apostle John. Now, St. Justin, who did not come from the 
bosom of any of the great churches, is a mediocre authority on the 
question of traditions. Melito, who comments upon certain parts of the 
work, Theophilus of Antioch, and Apollonius, who used it much in their 
polemics, appear, nevertheless, like Justin, to have attributed it to the 


Apostle. As much must be said as to the Canon of Muratori. At the 
beginning of the year 200 the opinion is widespread that John of the 
Apocalypse was indeed the apostle. Irenaus, Tertullian, Clement of 
Alexandria, and Origen, the author of the Philosophumena, have not on 
this point any hesitation. The contrary opinion was always firmly held. 
To those who shook themselves free from Judeo-Christianity and from 
primitive millenarianism, the Apocalypse was a dangerous book, impos 
sible to defend, unworthy of an apostle, since it contained some 
prophecies which were not fulfilled. Marcion, Serdo, and the Gnostics 
rejected it absolutely. The Apostolic Constitutions omitted it in their 
canon, the old Peshito does not contain it. The enemies of the Montanisi 
reveries, such as Cams the Priest, and the Alogi, pretended to see in it 
work of Cerinth. Lastly, in the second half of the third century, the 
School of Alexandria, in hatred of the millenarianism arising afresh in 
consequence of the persecution of Valerian, criticised the book with a 
severity and an undisguisedly bad disposition ; the Bishop Dionysius 
demonstrated thoroughly that the Apocalypse could not have been by 
the same author as the fourth Gospel, and put in fashion the hypothesis 
of the presbyteros. In the fourth century the Greek Church was quite 
divided. Eusebius, although hesitating, is in the main unfavourable to 
the theory which attributes the work to the son af Zebedee. Gregory 
of Nazianzus, and nearly all the educated Christians of the same period, 
refuse to see an apostolic writing in a book which contradicts so keenly 
their taste, their ideas of apologetics, and their prejudices_ of education. 
We may say that if this party had been successful it would have 
relegated the Apocalypse to the rank of the Shepherd and the 
dprtXeyo/iva, whose Greek text has nearly disappeared. Fortunately, 
it was too late for such exclusions to be successful. Thanks to a skilful 
opposition, a book which includes some cruel accusations against Paul 
has been preserved alongside of the very works of Paul, and forms with 
them a volume reputed to come from a single inspiration. 

This persistent protestation, which constitutes a fact so important in 
ecclesiastical history, is it really of considerable weight in the eyes of 
independent critics ? We cannot tell. Certainly Dionysius of Alexandria 
is right when he establishes that the same man could not have written 
the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse. But, placed in this dilemma, 
modern criticism has replied quite otherwise than the criticism of 
the third century. The authenticity of the Apocalypse has appeared to 
it more admissible than that of the Gospel, and if in the Johannine work 
it were necessary to give a share to this problematical presbyteros, it is 
indeed less the Apocalypse than the Gospel and the epistles which might 
properly be attributed to him. What motive could these adversaries of 
Montanism in the third and fourth centuries, those Christians educated in 
the Hebrew schools of Alexandria, Cesarea, and Antioch, have to deny 
that the author of the Apocalypse was the Apostle John ? A tradition, 
& souvenir preserved in the churches ? In no degree. Their motives were 
motives of theology, a priori. At first the attribution of the Apocalypse 
to the Apostle made it nearly impossible for an educated and sensible 
man to admit the authenticity of the fourth gospel, and they would 
have believed that they were giving up Christianity if they doubted the 
authenticity, of this latter document. Besides, the vision attributed to 
John would appear an unceasing source of renewed errors ; it went forth 
in perpetual recrudensces of Judeo-Christianity,of intemperate prophecy, 
of audacious millenarianism ? What reply could one make to the 
Montanists and mystics of the same kind, disciples quite consistent 
with the Apocalypse, and to those troops of enthusiasts who ran to 
martyrdom, intoxicated as they were by the strange poetry of the old book 


of the year 69 ? One only ; to prove that the book which served as a text 
for their chimeras was not of apostolic origin. The reason which led 
Caius and Dionysius and so many others to deny that the Apocalypse 
was really by the Apostle John is therefore just that which leads us 
to the opposite conclusion. The book is Judeo - Christian and 
Ebionite ; it is the work of an enthusiast drunk with hatred against the 
Roman Empire and the profane world ; it excludes all reconciliation 
between Christianity on the one hand, the empire and the world on the 
other ; Messianism is entirely material there ; the reign of the martyrs 
during 1,000 years is affirmed in it ; and the end of the world is declared 
to be very near. These principles, in which the national Christians, led 
by the direction of Paul, then by the School of Alexandria, saw insur 
mountable difficulties, are for us works of ancient date and apostolic 
authenticity. Ebionism and Montanism do not make us afraid any 
longer ; as simple historians, we even affirm that the adherents of these 
sects, repulsed by orthodoxy, were the true successors of Jesus, of the 
Twelve, and the family of the Master. The reasonable direction which 
Christianity took through moderate Gnosticism, by the tardy triumph of 
Paul s School, and, above all, by the influence of men such as Clement 
Of Alexandria and Origen, ought not to make us forget its true begin 
nings. The chimeras, the impossibilities, the materialistic conceptions, 
the paradoxes, the enormities which made Eusebius impatient when 
he read those ancient Ebionite and millenarian authors, such aa 
Papia?, were the true primitive Christianity. That the dreams of those 
sublime enlightened ones should become a religion capable of living, it 
was necessary that men of good sense and fine spirit, as were the Greeks 
who became Christians at the beginning of the third century, should 
take up the work of the old visionaries, and by taking it up should nave 
singularly modified, corrected, and lessened it. The most authentic 
monuments of the artlessness of the first age became then embarrassing 
evidence which they tried to place in the shadow. There happened 
what occurs usually in the origin of all religious creations, that which is 
particularly observable during the first centuries of the Franciscan 
order ; the founders of the house were ousted by the new comers ; the 
true successors of the first fathers soon became suspects " and heretics. 
Hence arises what we have had often occasion to remark, namely, that 
the favourite books of Ebionite and millenarian Christianity are much 
better preserved in the Latin and Oriental translations than in the 
Greek text, the Greek orthodox Church having always shown itself very 
intolerant in regard to those books and having systematically suppressed 

The reasons which led to the attribution of the Apocalypse to the 
Apostle John remain therefore very strong, and I believe that the 
persons who shall read pur statement will be struck with the manner in 
which everything, in this hypothesis, is explained and connected. But, in 
a world where the ideas of literary ownership were so different from 
those of our days, a work could belong to an author in many ways. Did 
the Apostle John himself write the manifesto of the year 69 ? We may 
certainly doubt that. It is sufficient for our argument that he had 
cognizance of it, and that having approved it, he had seen it, without 
displeasure, passing from hand to hand under his name. The first three 
verses of chapter i., which have the appearance of another hand than 
that of the seer, may then be explained. By this would be explained 
also passages such as xviii., 20, and xxi. , 4, which lead us to believe that 
he who held the pen was not the Apostle. In Ephesians ii., 20, we find 
an analogous feature, and there we are sure that between Paul and us 
there was the intermediary of a secretary or an imitator. The abuse 


which has been made of the name of the apostles to give value to certain 
apocryphal writings ought to make us very suspicious. Many features 
of the Apocalypse do not suggest an immediate disciple of Jesus. We 
are surprised to see one of the members of the little party where the 
Gospel v/as elaborated presenting his old friend as a Messiah in glory, 
seated on the Throne of God, governing the peoples, and so totally 
different from the Messiah of Galilee that the seer trembles at his 
appearance and falls half -dead. A man who had known the true Jesus 
could with difficulty, even at the end of thirty-six years, ha v e undergone 
such a modification in his remembrances. Mary of Magdala, on seeing 
Jesus risen, cried out, "0 my Master !" and John saw the heavens 
opened only to discover Him whom he had loved transformed into Christ 
terrible ! . . . Let us add that we are not less astonished to see 
coming from the pen of one of the principal personages of the Evangeli 
cal idyl an artificial composition, a veritable copy, in which the cool 
imitation of the visions of the old prophets shows itself in every line. 
The picture of the fishermen of Galilee which is presented to us by the 
synoptical evangelists scarcely answers to that of scribes, assiduous 
readers of ancient books of the learned Rabbis. It remains to enquire if 
it is not the picture of the synoptists which is false, and if the surround 
ings of Jesus were not more pedantic, scholastic, more analogous to the 
scribes and Pharisees than the narrative of Matthew, Mark, and Luke 
might lead one to suppose. 

If we admit the hypothesis of which we have spoken, and according 
to which John rather accepted the Apocalypse as his, than written it 
with his own hand, we obtain another advantage, that is, of explaining 
how the book was so little known during the three-quarters of a century 
which followed its composition. It is probable that the author, after the 
year 70, seeing Jerusalem taken, the Flavii solemnly established, the 
Roman Empire reconstituted, and the world determined to last, in spite 
of the term of three years and a- half he had assigned to it, himself arrested 
the publicity of his work. The Apocalypse, in fact, only attained its com 
plete importance in the middle of the second century, when rnillenar- 
ianism became a subject of discord in the Churches, and especially when 
the persecution gave some meaning and reference to the invectives 
pronounced against the Beast. The future of the Apocalypse was then 
attached to the alternatives of peace and trials which passed over the 
Church. Every persecution gave it a fresh popularity ; it was when the 
persecutions were over that the book ran through real dangers, and we 
see it on the point of being expelled from the canons as a lying and 
seditious pamphlet. 

Two traditions whose plausibility I have admitted in this volume, 
viz., the coming of Peter to Rome and the residence of John at Ephesus, 
having given cause for great controversies, I have made them the subject 
of an appendix at the end of the volume. I have specially discussed the 
recent memoir of M. Scholten on the sojourn of the apostles in Asia 
as carefully as all the writings of the eminent Dutch critic deserve. The 
conclusions at which I have arrived, and which I only hold, besides, as 
probable, will certainly call forth, as did the use I have made of the 
fourth Gospel in writing the Life of Jesus, the disdain of a young pre 
sumptuous school, in whose eyes every statement is proved if it is 
negative, and which treats peremptorily as ignorant those who do not 
admit its exaggerations at first sight. I beg the serious reader to believe 
that I respect" him enough to neglect nothing which can serve to the 
discovery of the truth in the order of studies which I undertake. 1 But 
I hold, as a principle, that history and dissertation should be distinct from 
each other. History ought not to be written until after scholarship hai> 


accumulated whole libraries of critical essays and memoirs ; but, when 
history comes to act, it only owes to the reader the original source on 
which each assertion rests. The notes occupy the third of each page in 
those volumes which I dedicate to the origins of Christianity. If I had 
been obKg ed to set down the bibliography there, the quotations from 
modern authors, the detailed discussion of opinions, the notes would 
have filled at least three quarters of the page. It is true that the 
method I have followed supposes readers versed in researches in the Old 
and New Testament, which is the case with few people in France. But 
how would serious books have the right to exist if, before writing them, 
the author was bound to be certain that he would have a public to 
understand him ? I affirm, besides, that even a reader who does not 
know German, if he is acquainted with what has been written in our 
language on these matters, can quite easily follow my discussion. The 
excellent collection entitled Revue de Theologic, which was printed up to 
a few years ago in Strasbourg, is an encyclopaedia of modern exigesis 
which does not dispense certainly with a reference to German and Dutch 
books, but where all the discussions of learned theology for half a 
century back have their echo. The writings of MM. Reuss, Reville, 
Scherer, Kienlen, Coulin, and generally the theses of the faculty of 
Strasbourg, will likewise present to readers desirous of more ample 
instruction, a solid acquisition. It "goes without saying" that those 
who can read the writings of Christian Baur, the father of all these 
studies ; of Zeller, of Schougler, of Voltemar, Hitgenfeld, de Lucke, 
Lipsius, Holtzman, Ewald, Keim, Hansrath, and Scholten, are much 
more edified still. I have declared all my life that Germany has 
acquired an eternal glory in founding the critical science of the Bible 
and the studies which are connected with it. I have spoken plainly enough 
to prevent myself being accused of passing silently over obligations which 
I have recognised a hundred times. The German School of exegetes has 
its defects ; these defects are those which a theologian, however liberal 
he may be, cannot avoid ; but the patience, the tenacity of mind, and 
the good faith which have been displayed in this work of analysis are 
truly admirable. Among many very beautiful stories which Germany 
has placed in the edifice of the human mind, erected at the common 
expense by all peoples, Biblical science is perhaps the block which has 
been cut with the greatest care, and which bears in the highest degree 
the stamp of the workman. 

In regard to this volume, as in regard to the preceding, I owe much 
to the ever-ready scholarship and to the inexhaustible kindness of my 
learned confreres and friends, MM. Egges, Leon Renier, Derenbourg, 
Waddington, Bossier, de Longperier, de Witte, Le Blant, Dulaurier, 
who have been quite willing that I should consult them constantly upon 
points connected with their special studies. M. Neubauer has reviewed 
the Talmudic portion. In spite of his labours in the Chamber M. Noel 
Parfait has been desirous not to discontinue his labours as an accom 
plished corrector. Lastly, I ought to express my extreme gratitude to 
MM. Amari, Pietro Rosa, Fabio Gori, Fiorelli, Minervini, and de Luca, 
who, during a journey in Italy which I made last year, were the most 
invaluable of guides to me. 

We shall see how this journey will connect itself on many sides with 
the subject of the present volume. Although I had already known 
Italy, I was longing to salute once more that land of great memories, 
the learned mother of all Renaissance. According to" a Rabbinical 
legend, there was at Rome during that long mourning of beauty which is 
jailed the middle ages an antique statue preserved in a secret place, and 
o beautiful that the Romans came by night to kiss it by stealth, The 


fruit of these profane embraces was, it is said, the Anti-Christ. This 
son of the marble statue was certainly at least a son of Italy. All the 
great protests of the human conscience against the extremes of 
Christianity have come in former times from that land ; and thence 
they will still come in the future. 

I should not conceal that the taste for history, the incomparable 
delight which one feels in seeing the spectacle of humanity unrolled, has 
especially enthralled me in this volume. I have had too much pleasure 
in preparing it to ask for any other reward than that of having done 
so. Often I have reproached myself with so much enjoyment of it in 
my study while my poor country is consuming itself in a prostrated 
agony, but I have had a tranquil conscience. At the time of the 
elections of 1869, I offered myself to the suffrages of my fellow 
citizens; all my addresses bore in large letters: "No Revolution; no 
War ; a war will be as fatal as a revolution." In the month of Septem 
ber, 1870, I implored the enlightened spirits of Germany and Europe to 
think of the frightful misfortunes which were threatening civilization. 
During the siege in Paris, in the month in November, 1870, I exposed 
myself to much unpopularity by counselling the calling together of an 
Assembly having powers to treat for peace. At the elections of 1871 I 
replied to the overtures which were made to me: "Such a mandate 
can be neither sought for nor refused." After the re-establishment 
of order I applied as much attention as I could to the reforms which 
I considered the most urgent to save our country. I have therefore 
done what I could. We owe to our country to be sincere with her ; 
we are not obliged to apply charlatanism to make her accept oxir 
services or agree with our ideas. Yet perhaps this volume, although 
addressed above all to the curious and the artistic, will contain much 
instruction. We shall see crime pushed to its height, and the pro 
test of the saints raised in the most sublime accents such a spectacle 
shall not be without religious fruit. I never believed so thoroughly that 
religion is not a subjective duping of our nature, that it responds to 
an exterior reality, and that he who shall have followed its inspiFations 
will have been the best inspired. To simplify religion is not to shake, 
it is often to fortify it. The little Protestant sects of our own day, like 
budding Christianity, are there to prove it. The great error of 
Catholicism is to believe that it can struggle against the progress of 
materialism with a complicated dogmatism, encumbering itself every 
day with a fresh addition of the marvellous. People cannot longer bear 
a religion founded on miracles ; but such a religion might pe very 
living still if it took a part of the dose of positivism which has 
entered into the intellectual temperament of the working classes. The 
people who have charge of souls should reduce dogma as much as 
possible, and make out of worship a means of moral education, of 
beneficent association. Beyond the family and outside of the State man 
has need of the Church. The United States of America could not 
have made their wonderful democracy last but through their innumer 
able sects. If, as one might suppose, Ultramontane Catholicism cannot 
succeed longer in the great cities in drawing people to its temples, there 
needs only the individual initiative created by the little centres where 
the weak find lessons, moral succour, patronage, and sometimes material 
assistance. Civil society, whether it calls itself a commune, a canton 
or a province, a State or father land, haa many duties towards the 
improvement of the individual ; but what it does is necessarily limited. 
The family ought to do much more, but often it is insufficient ; some 
times it is wanting altogether. The association created in the name of 
moral principle can alone give to every man ooming into this woild a 


bond which unites him with the past, duties as to the future, example* 
to follow, a heritage of virtue to receive and to transmit, and a tradition 
of devotion to continue. 




The times were strange, and perhaps the human 
race had never passed through a more extraordinary 
crisis. Nero was in his twenty-fourth year. The head 
of this wretched young man, placed by a wicked mother 
at the age of seventeen at the head of the world, finished 
by losing itself. For a long time some indications 
had disquieted those who knew him. His was a 
terribly declamatory mind, a bad, hypocritical, 
light, and vain nature ; an incredible compound of 
false intelligence, deep wickedness, atrocious and 
cunning egotism, with unheard of refinements of 
subtlety ; to make of him that monster who has no 
equal in history, and whose analogue is only found 
in the pathological annals of the scaffold, specia 
circumstances were necessary. The school of crime 
in which he had grown up, the execrable influence of 
his mother, the obligation by which that abominabla 
woman made him nearly begin life as a parricide, 
caused him soon to look on the world as a horrible 
comedy in which he was the principal actor. At 
the time we have reached, he has completely with 
drawn himself from the philosophers his masters; 
he has killed nearly all his relations, and set the most 
shameful follies in the fashion; a portion of Roman 
society, by his example, has gone down to the last 
degree of depravity. The ancient harshness had reached 
its height ; the reaction of popular and just instincts 
began. At the time when Paul entered Rome, the 
story of the day was this : 

Pedanius Secundus, prefect of Rome, a consular 


personage, iiud been assassinated by one of his staves, 
not without extenuating circumstances being alleged 
in favour of the culprit. According to the law, all the 
slaves who, at the moment of the crime, had dwelt under 
the same roof as the assassin, ought to be put to 
death. There were nearly four hundred unfortunates 
in this case. When it became known that the 
atrocious execution was about to take place the 
feeling of justice which sleeps under the conscience 
of the most debased people was revolted. There had 
been an emeute ; but the senate and the emperor 
decided that the law must take its course. 

Perhaps among these four hundred innocents, des 
troyed in virtue of an odious law, there had been 
more than one Christian. Men had touched the 
bottom of the abyss of evil ; they could only re- ascend. 
Certain moral facts of a singular kind took place 
even in the most elevated ranks of society. Four 
years before this there had been much talk of an 
illustrious lady, Pomponia Graecina, wife of Aulius 
Plautius, the first conqueror of Britain. They 
accused her of " foreign superstition." She always 
dressed in black, and never ceased her austerity. 
They attributed this melancholy to some horrible 
recollections, especially to the death of Julia, daughter 
of Drusus, her intimate friend, whom Messalina had 
put to death ; one of her sons appears also to have been 
the victim of one of Nero s most monstrous enormities. 
But it was evident that Pomponia Graecina bore in her 
heart a deeper sorrow, and perhaps some mysterious 
hopes. She was remitted according to the ancient 
custom to her husband s judgment. Plautius assembled 
the relatives, examined the affair in a family council, 
and declared his wife innocent. That noble lady lived 
a long time afterwards tranquil under the protection 
of her husband, always sad much respected. She 
appears to have told her secret to no one. Whokpovs 
if the appearances which superficial observers took for 


gloomy disposition were not the great peace of soul, 
the calm composure, the resigned waiting for death, 
disdain of a foolish and wicked society, the 
ineffable joy of renouncing joy ? Who knows if 
omponia Graecina may not have been the first saint of 
the & /eat world, the elder sister of Melania, Eustochia, 
and of Paula ? 

This extraordinary situation, if it exposed the Church 
of Rome to the opposing influence of politics, gave it 
on the other hand an importance of the first order, 
although it was not numerous. Rome under Nera 
in no way resembled the provinces. Whoever 
aspired to a great action must go there. Paul had in 
this point of view a sort of deep instinct which guided 
him. His arrival at Rome was an event in his life 
nearly as decisive as his conversion. He believed that 
he had attained to the summit of his apostolic career, 
and doubtless recalled to mind the dream in which af te? 
one of his days of struggle Christ appeared to him and 
said, " Courage I as thou hast borne witness of me in 
Jerusalem, thou shall also bear witness of me a+ 

From the time when he approached the walls of tho 
eternal city, the Centurion Julius conducted his 
prisoners to the Castra prcetoriana, built by Sejan, neat 
the Nomentan way, and handed them over to the- 
prefect of the praetorium. The appellants to the 
Emperor were, on entering Rome, regarded as prisoners 
of the Emperor, and as such were entrusted to the 
imperial guard. The prefects of the prsetorium were 
ordinarily two in number, but at this moment there 
was only one. This high office had been since ths 
year 51 A.D., in the hands of the noble Afraniua 
Burrhus, who a year afterwards, by a most miserable 
death, expiated the crime of having wished to do good 
by reckoning with evil. Paul had doubtless no direct 
communication with him. Perhaps, however, the 
fashion in which the apostle would appear to 


have been treated was due to the influence which this 
just and virtuous man exercised around him. Paul 
was appointed to the condition of custodia millitaris, 
that is to say entrusted with a praatorian guard to 
whom he was chained, but not in an inconvenient or 
continuous fashion. He had permission to live in 
rooms hired at his own expense, perhaps in the enceinte 
of the c istra prcetoriana, where all came freely to see 
him. He awaited for two years in this condition the 
appeal of his case. Burrhus died in March 62 A.D., and was 
replaced by Fenius Ruf us and the infamous Tigellinus, 
the companion of Nero s debauches the instrument of 
his crimes. Seneca just at this moment retired from 
public life. Nero had no longer any council save the Furies. 
The relations of Paul to the believers in Rome 
had begun, we have seen, during the last 
stay of the apostle at Corinth. Three days after 
his arrival he wished, as was his habit, to put 
himself in communication with the principal hakamim ; 
it was not in the bosom of the synagogue that the 
Christianity of Rome was formed; it was believers 
disembarking at Ostia or Puzzoli who, grouping 
themselves together, had constituted the first church 
of the capital of the world ; this church had scarcely 
any affinities with the different synagogues of the 
same city. The immense size of Rome, and the mass 
of strangers who met there, were the reasons why they 
knew little of each other there, and why some very 
contrary ideas could be produced side by side without 
actual contact. Paul was thus led to follow the rule, 
which he had adopted from his first and second 
mission in the towns to which he brought the germ 
of the faith. He begged some of the heads of the 
synagogue to come to see him. He represented his 
situation to them in the most favourable light and 
protested that he had done nothing, and wished to do 
nothing against his nation that he wa>? actuated by 
the hope of Israel s faith in the resurrection. The 


Jews replied to hire that they had never beard him 

spoken of nor received any letter from Judea on the 
subject, and expressed a desire to hear him expound his 
opinions himself. " For," added they, " we have heard 
it said the sect of which you speak provokes every 
where the most lively disputations." They fixed the 
hour for the discussion, and a considerable number of 
Jews met in the little room occupied by the apostle in 
order to hear him. The conference lasted nearly a 
whole day ; Paul quoted all the texts from Moses and 
the prophets which proved, according to him, that Jesus 
was the Messiah : some believed, the greater number 
remained incredulous. The Jews of Rome piqued 
themselves upon a very strict observance. It was not 
there that Paul could have a rery large success. They 
separated in great confusion ; Paul, displeased, quoted 
a passage from Isaiah, very common among the 
Christian preachers, as to the wilful blindness of 
hardened men who shut their eyes and ears that they 
might not see or hear the truth. He closed, it is said, 
with his ordinary menace that he would carry to the 
Gentiles, who would receive him better, the kingdom 
of God which the Jews would not have. His apos- 
tolate among the Pagans was in fact crowned with a 
very great success indeed. His prisoner s cell became 
a theatre of ardent preaching. During the two 
years which he passed there he was not inter 
fered with ; he was not annoyed a single time in 
this exercise of proselytism. He had about him 
certain of his disciples, at least Timothy and 
Aristarchus. It appears that each of his friends in turn 
remained with him and shared his chain. The progress 
of the gospel was- surprising. The apostle did miracles, 
and was believed to order heavenly power and 
spirits. Paul s prison was thus more fertile tluui his 
free activity had been. His chain, dragged along the 
prsetorium, and which he showed everywhere with a 
sort of ostentation, was to them alone like a discourse. 


From his example, and animated by the manner ia 
which he bore his captivity, his disciples and the other 
Christians of Home preached boldly. 

They did not encounter at first any great obstacle. 
The Oampagna and the towns at the foot of Vesuvius 
received, perhaps from the Church of Puzzoli, the 
germs of Christianity which found there the conditions 
in which it was accustomed to increase, I mean with a 
first Jewish soil to receive it. Some strange conquests 
were made. The chastity of the believers was a 
powerful attraction. It was through this virtue that 
many noble Roman ladies were drawn to Christianity ; 
the good families preserved still as to women an 
unbroken tradition of modesty and honour. The new 
sect had some adherents in the household of Nero, 
perhaps among the Jews, who were numerous in the 
lower ranks of the service, among those slaves 
and freed men, banded in guilds, whose condition 
bordered upon what had been basest and most 
elevated, the most brilliant and most miserable. 
Some vague indications would lead us to believe that 
Paul had certain relations with members of the Annoea 
family. A thing beyond doubt in any case, is that from 
this time the most sharp distinction between Jews and 
Christians was made at Rome among well informed 
persons. Christianity appeared a distinct "superstition" 
arising from Judaism, an enemy of its mother, and 
hated by its mother. Nero especially was sufficiently 
acquainted with what was going on, and took account 
of it with a certain animosity, >, Perhaps already some 
of the Jewish intriguers who surrounded him had 
inflamed his imagination from the Oriental point of 
view, and he had had promised to him that kingdom 
of Jerusalem, which was the dream of his last hours, 
his latest hallucination. We do not know with any 
certainty the names of any of the members of this 
Church of Rome at the time of Nero. A document of 
doubtful value enumerates as friends of Paul and 


Timothy, Eubulus, Pudens, Claudia, and that Linus 
whom ecclesiastical tradition will represent later on as 
the successor of Peter in the bishopric of Rome. The 
elements are likewise wanting to as to estimate the 
number of the faithful even in an approximate manner. 
Everything appeared to go on in the best manner ; 
but the implacable school, which had assumed as its 
task opposition to the ends of the world to the apostle- 
ship of Paul was not dormant. We have seen the 
emissaries of those ardent conservatives follow in a 
manner upon his track, and the Apostle of the Grentiles 
leaving behind him in the seas through which he 
passed a long streak of hatred. Paul, pictured as a 
baneful man, who teaches to eat meat sacrificed to idols, 
to fornicate with Pagans, is announced before in 
advance and marked for the vengeance of all. We 
scarcely believe it, but we cannot wholly doubt it, 
since it is Paul himself who states it. Even at this 
solemn and decisive moment, he found still in front of 
him some mean passions. Certain adversaries, members 
of that Judaeo- Christian school which ten years pre 
vious he found everywhere in his footsteps, undertook 
to raise against him a species of counter-preaching to 
the gospel. Envious and bitter disputers, they sought 
occasions to contradict him, to aggravate his position 
as a prisoner, to enflame the Jews against him, and to 
lower the merit of his chains. The goodwill, the love, 
the respect which others manifested towards him, their 
loudly proclaimed conviction, that the chains of the 
apostle were the glory and best defence of the gospel, 
comforted him in all these vexations. " What does it 
matter, besides," wrote he about this time 

Provided that Christ be preached, whether the preacher 
be sincere, or the preaching be a pretext for him, I rejoice. 
I will always rejoice. As for me, I have the firm hope that, 
even at this time things will turn to my great benefit, to the 
liberty of the Church, and that my body, whether I live, or 
whether I die, shall be used to the glory of Christ. On the 
one hand, Christ is my life, and to die for me is an advan- 


tage ; on the other hand, if I live, I shall see my work bring 
forth fruit ; thus I know not which to choose. I am pressed 
by two opposing desires ; on the one hand, to quit this world 
and to go to re-join Christ ; on the other to remain with you. 
The first would be better for me, but the second would be 
better for you. 

This greatness of soul gave him a marvellous 
assurance, gaiety, and strength. " If my blood," 
wrote he in one of his gospels, " is the libation by 
which the sacrifice of your faith must be watered, so 
much the better so much the better. And you also 
say so much the better with me." He, nevertheless, 
believed very willingly in his acquittal, and even in a 
prompt acquittal : he saw in that the triumph of the 
gospel, and he dated from that new projects. It is 
true that we no more see any of his thoughts directed 
to the West. It is to the Philippians and Oolossians 
that he dreams of withdrawing himself until the day 
of the coming of the Lord. Perhaps had he acquired 
a more accurate knowledge of the Latin world, and had 
he seen beyond Rome and the Oampagna countries 
becoming by Syrian immigration very analogous to 
Greece and Asia Minor, he would have met, had it only 
been because of the language, with great difficulties. 
Perhaps he knew a little Latin ; but not enough 
for a fruitful preaching, ^ Jewish and Christian 
proselytism in the first century was little exercised in 
the really Latin towns ; it was confined to such towns 
as Rome and Puzzoli, where, in consequence of 
constant arrivals of Orientals, Greek had become wide 
spread. Paul s programme was sufficiently full ; the 
Gospel had been preached in the two worlds, it had 
attained, according to the wide pictures of the prophetic 
language, to the extremity of the earth, to all the 
nations which are under heaven. Vhat Paul now 
dreamed of doing was to preach freely in Rome and 
then to return to his churches of Macedonia and Asia, 
and to wait patiently with them in prayer and extasy 
the advent of Christ. 


In short, few years in the life of the Apostle were 
more happy than these. Immense consolations came 
from time to time to him ; he had nothing to fear from 
the malevolence of the Jews. The poor lodging of the 
prisoner was a centre of marvellous activity. The 
follies of profane Rome, its spectacles, its scandals, its 
crimes, the disgracef id acts of Tigellimis, the courage of 
Thraseas, ,he horrible fate of the virtuous Octavia, 
and the death of Pallas, little moved our enlightened 
pietists. "The fashion of this world passeth away," they 
said. The great picture of a divine future made them 
shut their eyes to the blood- soaked soil in which their 
feet were plunged. Certainly the prophecy of Jesus 
had been accomplished. In the midst of outer darkness 
where Satan reigns ; in the midst of tears and gnashing 
of teeth the little paradise of the elect is founded. 

They were there in their secluded world, clothed 
internally with light and a clear sky in the kingdom 
of Grod their father, but without them what a hell ! ! ! 
Oh, God, how frightful it is to remain in this kingdom 
of the Beast, where the worm never dies and the fire 
is never extinguished ! 

One of the greatest joys which Paul experienced at 
this period of his life was the arrival of a message 
from his dear Church of the Philippians, the first 
which he had founded in Europe and in which he had 
left so many devoted admirers. The rich Lydia whom 
he calls " his true spouse," did not forget him. Epaphro- 
ditus sent by the church brings him a sum of money, of 
which the apostle must have had great need, considering 
the expenses_of his new condition. Paul, who had 
always made an exception of the Philippian Church 
and received from her what he did not wish to owe to 
any other, accepted it again with happiness. The 
news as to the church was excellent. A few quarrels 
vhich had occurred between the two deaconesses 
Euodia and Syntyche had come to trouble the peace. 
Some scandals awakened by evil-disposed persons 


and from which resulted imprisonments, only served 
to show the patience of the faithful. The heresy of 
tjhe Judseo- Christians, the pretended necessity for 
circumcision, hung around them without disrupting 
them. Some bad examples of worldly and sensual 
Christians, of whom the apostle speaks with tears, did 
not come as it would appear from their church. 
Epaphroditus remained some time beside Paul, and 
had a sickness, the result of his devotion, which nearly 
brought him to death s door. A lively desire to see 
the Philippians possessed this excellent man ; he sought 
himself to calm the disquietudes of his friends. Paul 
on his part wishing to make cease as soon as possible the 
fears of those pious ladies, quickly dismissed him, 
sending by him to the Philippians a letter full of 
tenderness written by the hand of Timothy. Never 
had he found such sweet expressions to describe the love 
which he bore to these entirely good and pure churches, 
which he carried in his heart. 

He felicitated them not only on having believed in 
Christ, but on having suffered for him. Those among 
them who were in prison ought to be proud of enduring 
the treatment which they had seen before inflicted 
upon their apostle, and which they knew he had actually 
endured. They are like a little chosen group of the 
children of God, in the midst of a corrupted and 
perverse race light in the midst of a dark world. 
He warned them against the example of less perfect 
Christians, that is to say, of those who were not 
released from all Jewish prejudices. The apostles of 
the circumcision are treated with the greatest hard 

Boware of dogs, evil workers, of all these circumcised ! 
It is we who are the true circumcised, we who worship 
according to the Spirit of God, who place our glory and 
confidence in Christ Jesus, not in the flesh. If I wished to 
exalt myself by these carnal distinctions, I should have a 
better right than anyone ; I, circumcised the eighth day, of 
the pure race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew 


diid son of the Hebrews, formerly a Pharisee, formerly u 
persecutor, formerly a jealous observer of legal righteousness. 
Ah, well ; all these advantages, I hold them from the point 
of view of Christ as inferiorities, as dust, since I have appre 
hended what is transcendent in the knowledge of Christ 
Jesus. To gain Christ I have lost all the rest, I have 
exchanged my own righteousness, arising from the observation 
of the law, against the true righteousness according to God, 
which comes from the faith in Christ, in order that I may 
participate in his resurrection and to rise again, I also, 
among the dead, as I have participated in his sufferings, 
and as I have taken upon me the image of his death. I am far 
from having attained this goal, but I pursue it. Forgetting 
what is behind, always reaching forth to that which is 
before, I aspire, like the racer, for the prize of the victory, 
placed at the extremity of the course. Such is the feeling 
of the perfect. 
And lie adds : 

Our country is in heaven, from whence we look for the 
Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall transform our 
wretched body and make it like his glorious body, by the 
extension of his power, and thanks to the divine decree, 
which has submitted every thing to him. Behold, brethren 
whom I love and regret to see no longer, you, my joy and 
crown, this is the doctrine which should be held, my dearly 

He especially exhorts them to concord and obedience. 
The form of life which he has given them, the manner 
in which they ought to practice Christianity, is good ; 
but, after all, each believer has his revelation, his 
personal inspiration, which also comes from Grod. He 
prays " his true spouse " (Lydia) to reconcile Euodia 
and Syntyche, to go to help them and second them in 
their duties as servants of the poor. He wished that 
they should rejoice ; " THE LORD is AT HAND." His 
thanks for the sending of money on the part of the 
rich ladies of the Philippians, is a model of good grace 
and lively piety : 

1 have experienced a great joy in the Lord in connection 
with this late nourishing of your friendship, which has at 
last made you think of me : you thought well in that : but 
you had not an occasion. I do not say this to dwell upon 
my poverty. T have taught myself to be content with what 
I have. T know what it ia to be in penury, and to have 


abundance. 1 am accustomed to everything, to be full and 
fco suffer hunger, to have an overplus, and to want even 
what is necessary. I can do all things in Him who 
strengthens me. But you you have done well to contri 
bute so as to relieve my distress. It is not to the gift I look, 
but to the profit which will result from it to you. I have 
everything which is needful : I even abound, since I have 
received by Epaphroditus your offering, a sacrifice of a good 
odour, an offering most welcome, agreeable to God ! 
He recommends humility which makes us look on 
others as our superiors, charity which makes us think 
of others more than ourselves, according to the example 
of Jesus. Jesus had in Him all divinity and power ; 
He could have, during His terrestrial life, shown himself 
in His divine splendour, but the economy of redemption 
would then have been reversed. Thus does He strip 
Himself of His natural distinction, to take the appear 
ance of a slave. The world has seen Him like a man ; 
looked at from without He would have been taken for 
a man. " He humbled Himself, making Himself obe 
dient even to death, and that the death of the cross. 
Wherefore God has exalted Him and given Him a name 
above every other, willing that at the name of JESUS 
every knee shall bend in heaven, on the earth and 
under the earth, and in hell, and that J every tongue 
shall confess the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of 
God the Father." 

Jesus, we see, grew hour by hour greater in the 
consciousness of Paul. If Paul does not admit yet his 
full equality with God the Father, he believes in his 
divinity, and represents all His earthly life as the 
execution of a divine plan. Prison produced on him 
the effect which it usually produces on strong minds. 
It elevated him, and incited in his ideas some lively 
and deep resolutions. 4. little after having sent the 
letter to the Philippians, he sends Timothy to inform 
him of their condition, and to bear some new in 
structions to them. Timothy would return promptly 
enough. Luke would appear also at this time to have 
made an absence of short duration. 




Paul s chain, his entrance into Rome, quite trium 
phal according to Christian ideas, the advantages 
which his residence in the capital of the world gave 
him, did not allow of any repose for the party at 
Jerusalem. Paul was for that party a sort of stimulant, 
an active rival, against whom they murmured, and 
whom, nevertheless, they sought to imitate. Peter, 
in a remarkable degree, always hesitated, towards his 
audacious brother, between a lively personal admira 
tion and the position his surroundings imposed on 
him ; Peter (I say) passed his life, full also of numerous 
trials, in copying Paul, in following him at a distance 
in his course, in finding after him those strong 
positions which could assure the success of the com 
mon work. It was probably from the example of 
Paul that he settled, about the year 54, at Antioch. 
The report spreading into Judea and Syria in the second 
half of the year 61, of the arrival of Paul at Rome, 
was of itself enough to inspire him with the idea of a 
journey to the West. 

It appears that he came with quite an apostolic 
company. First, his interpreter, John Mark, whom 
he called " his son," followed him usually. The 
apostle John, we have more than once observed, 
appeared likewise generally to have accompanied 
Peter. Some indications even lead us to believe that 
Barnabas was of the party. Lastly, it is not improbable 
that Simon of Gitton on his part might be drawn to 
the capital of the world, attracted by the kind of charm 
which that city exercised over all leaders of sects;, 


cnarlatans, magicians, and thaumaturgists. Nothing 
was more common among the Jews than a journey to 
Italy. The historian, Joseph us, came to Rome in the 
year 62 or 63 to obtain the deliverance of the Jewish 
priests, very holy personages, who, so as to eat nothing 
impure, lived in foreign countries on nuts and figs, and 
whom Felix had sent to give account to the emperor 
for some offence which is not known. Who were 
these priests ? Was their affair entirely disconnected 
with Peter and Paul ? The want of historic proof 
leaves us in much doubt as to all these points. The 
very fact on which modern Catholics base the edifice 
of their faith is far from being certain. We, however, 
believe that the Ada of l j <ter, such as the Ebionites 
recount, are only fabulous in detail. The fundamental 
idea of these Acts, Peter journeying through the world 
after Simon, the magician, to refute him, bearing the 
true gospel, which should overturn the gospel of the 
impostor, " coming after him like the light after the 
darkness, like knowledge after ignorance, like healing 
after sickness " this conception is true when we put 
Paul s name in place of Simon s, and when, instead of 
the ferocious hatred which the Ebionites always 
exhibited against the preacher of the Gren tiles, we 
picture between the two apostles a simple opposition 
of principle, excluding neither sympathy nor agree 
ment on the fundamental point the love of Jesus. 
In the journey undertaken by the old Galilean dis 
ciple to follow the track of Paul, we even willingly 
admit that Peter, following Paul closely, touched at 
Corinth, where he had, before his coming, a con 
siderable party, and that he there much strengthened 
the Judaeo- Christians, so much so that later on the 
Church of Corinth could pretend to have been founded 
! 3y the two apostles, and to maintain, ^by making a 
slight error as to date, that Peter and Paul had been 
there at the same time, and from thence went forth 
in company to find death at Home. 


What were the relations of the two apostles at 
Rome ? Certain indications would lead us to believe 
that they were good enough. We shall soon see Mark, 
Peter s secretary, charged with a mission from his 
master, to go to Asia with a recommendation from 
Paul ; besides, the epistle, attributed to Peter, a 
writing of a very tenable authenticity, presents 
numerous borrowings made from Paul s epistles. Two 
truths must be maintained in this whole history ; the 
first is that deep divisions (deeper indeed than those 
which were in the after history of the Church the 
ground of any schism) existed between the founders of 
Christianity, and that the form of the polemics, 
according to the usages of such people, was *fcingularly 
bitter ; the second is that a higher thought united 
them, even during their life, those brother-enemies, 
while wanting the great reconciliation which the 
Church should, of its own accord, make between them 
after their death, that is often seen in religious move 
ments. There must also, in appreciating these debates, 
be great account taken of the Jewish character, quick 
and susceptible, given to violent language. In these 
little pious coteries, people quarrel and are reconciled 
continually ; they have bitter words and, notwith 
standing, love each other. A party of Peter, a party 
of Paul- -these divisions did not possess more import 
ance than those which in our day separate the different 
fractions of the Puritan Church. Paul had an 
excellent motto on this matter : " Let each one 
remain in the type of instruction which he has 
received," an admirable rule which the Roman Church 
did not much follow later on. The adherence to Jesus 
was sufficient ; the confessional divisions, if one may so ; 
describe them, were a simple question of origin | 
independent of the personal merits of the believer. 

One fact, however, which is important, and which ! 
would lead us to believe that good relations had not L 
been re-established between the two apostles is that, 


in the memory of the next generation, Peter and Paul 
are the leaders of opposing parties in the bosom of the 
Church ; it is that the author of the Apocalypse, from 
the day of the death of the apostles, or at least of Peter, 
is, of all the Judaeo- Christians, the most bitter against 
Paul. Paul looked on himself as the leader of the 
converted heathen wherever he found them ; there was in 
this his interpretation of the agreement of Antioch ; the 
Judseo- Christians regarded him evidently in a different 
manner. It is probable that this last party, which had* 
always been very strong at Rome, drew from Peter s! 
arrival a grand ground of preponderance. Peter, 
became its leader and leader of the Church of Rome. I 
Now the Unequalled prestige of Pvome gave to such a 
title the greatest importance. We can see something 
providential in the part played by this extraordinary) 
city. Following the reaction which was thus produced 1 
against Paul, Peter became more and more, in virtue; 
of a sort of opposition, the leader of the apostles. ! 
Reconciliation is quickly made between minds easily 
impressed. The chief of the apostles in the capital of 
the world ! What more could be said ? The grand 
association of ideas which was to dominate the destinies 
of humanity during thousands of years was being made. 
Peter and Rome became inseparable ; Rome is pre 
destined to be the capital of Latin Christianity ; the 
legend of Peter, first Pope, is written in advance ; but 
it will require four or five centuries to unwind itself. 
Rome in any case could scarcely doubt the day on 
which Peter set foot in it, that that day ruled its 
future, and that the poor Syrian who had entered 
within its walls had taken possession of it for centuries. 
The moral, social, and political situation became 
graver day by day. People spoke only of signs and 
misfortunes ; the Christians were more affected by 
these than any ; the idea that Satan is the god of this 
world rooted itself among them more and more. The 
spectacles appeared to them devilish. They never went 


to them; but they heard the people around them 
speaking of them. One Icarus, who, in the wooden 
amphitheatre in the Field of Mars, pretended to be able 
to fly in the air, and who fell in front of Nero s own 
stall, covering him with his blood, struck them greatly 
and became the principal element in one of their 
legends. The crime of Rome attained the last bounds 
of the infernal sublime ; it was already a custom in the 
sect it may have been a precaution against the police, 
or from a taste for mystery to call this city only by 
the name of Babylon. The Jews had the habit thus of 
applying to modern things some symbolical proper 
names borrowed from their ancient sacred literature. 

This little disguised antipathy for a world which 
they did not understand became the characteristic 
feature of the Christians. " Hatred of the human race" 
passed as the resume of their doctrine. Their apparent 
melancholy was an injury to the "happiness of the age ; " 
their belief in the end of the world went against the 
official optimism, according to which everything 
renewed its youth. The signs of repulsion which they 
made while passing before the temples gave the idea 
that they only thought of burning them. These old 
sanctuaries of the Roman religion were extremely dear 
to patriots ; to insult them was to insult Evander, 
Nurna, and the ancestors of the Roman people, and the 
trophies of its victories. They charged the Christians 
with all misdeeds ; their worship passed for a gloomy 
superstition, fatal to the empire, a thousand atrocious 
or shameful stories circulated about them ; the most 
enlightened men believed them, and looked on those who 
were thus pointed out to their hatred as capable of all 

The new sectaries gained scarcely any adherents 
except among the lower classes ; well educated people 
avoided pronouncing their name, or, when they were 
obliged to do so, always excifsed themselves ; but 
among the people the progress was extraordinary : they 



were like an inundation dammed up for a while 
which made an irruption. The Church of Rome was 
already quite a people. The court and the city began 
seriously to speak about it ; its progress was for some 
time the news of the day. Conversatives thought with 
a sort of terror of this cloaca of impurity which they pic 
tured to themselves in the depths of Rome ; they spoke 
with anger of those kinds of evil ineradicable plants 
which they always snatched at and which always resisted. 
As to the malevolent populace, it dreamed of 
impossible crimes to attribute to the Christians. They 
were rendered responsible for all public evils. They 
accused them of preaching rebellion against the 
emperor, and seeking to excite the slaves to insur 
rection. The Christian came to be looked on like 
the Jew of the middle ages, the scapegoat of all 
calamities, the man who only thinks of evil, the 
poisoner of wells, the child- eater, the incendiary 
when a crime was committed ; the slightest indication 
was sufficient for the arrest of a Christian, and for 
putting him to the torture. Often the simple name oi 
a Christian was sufficient to lead to arrest. When 
they were seen keeping back from heathen sacrifices 
they were blamed. The era of persecutions was really 
opened ; it will continue with short intervals until 
Constantine. In the thirty years which had rolled 
away since the first Christian preaching, the Jews 
alone had persecuted the work of Jesus : the Romans 
had protected the Christians against the Jews : now the 
Romans became persecutors in their turn. From the 
capital, these terrors and hatreds spread into the 
provinces, and provoked the most clamant injustices. 
Many atrocious pleasantries mingled with him ; the 
walls of the places where the Christians met Avere 
covered with caricatures and hateful and obscene in 
scriptions against the brothers and sisters. The habit 
of representing Jesus under the form of a man with 
the head of an ass was perhaps already established. 


No oue doubts at this day that these accusations 
of crimes and infamy were calumnious ; a thousand 
reasons lead us even to believe that the directors of 
the Christian Church did not give the least pretext for 
the ill-will which soon produced such cruel violence 
against them. All the heads of the parties which 
divided the Christian society were agreed as to the 
attitude that should be taken against the Roman 
functionaries. They might well at heart hold the 
magistrates as emissaries of Satan, since they protected 
idolatry, and were the supports of a world given up to 
Satan; but in public the brothers were full of respect 
for them. The Ebionite faction alone showed the 
enthusiastic feelings of the zealots and other fanatics 
of Judea. In politics, again, the apostles were essen 
tially legitimist and conservative. Far from encouraging 
the slave to revolt, they desired the slave to be sub 
missive to his master, even if he was most harsh and 
unjust, as if he personally were serving Jesus Christ, 
and that not of necessity, to escape punishment, but for 
conscience, and because God would have it so. Behind 
the master was God Himself . Slavery was so far from 
seeming to be against nature, that the Christians had 
slaves, and Christian slaves. We have seen Paul 
repressing the tendency to political revolutions which 
was manifested about the year 57, preaching to the 
faithful of Rome, and doubtless of other countries, 
submission to the powers that be, whatever their 
origin, establishing in principle that the police is 
a minister of God, and that it is only the wicked 
who resist him. Peter, on his side, was the 
most peaceable of men ; we shall soon find the 
doctrine of submission to the powers taught under 
his name, nearly in the same terms as by St. Paul. 
The school which connected itself later with John 
shared the same feelings on the divine origin of 
sovereignty. One of the greatest fears of the leaders 
was to see the faithful compromised in evil matters, 


whose odium fell on the whole church. The language 
of the Apostles, at this supreme moment, was of an 
extreme prudence. Some unfortunates put to the 
torture, some scourged slaves, were allowed to endure 
insult, calling their masters idolaters, menacing them 
with the wrath of God. Others, by excess of zeal, 
declaimed loudly against the heathen and reproached 
them with their vices ; the reasonable brethren wittily 
called them " bishops," or " overseers of those without. 
Cruel misfortunes came upon them ; the wise directors 
of the community, far from praising them, told them 
plainly enough that they had received what they 

i All kinds of intrigues, which the insufficiency of 
documents do not permit us to disentangle, aggravated 
the position of the Christians. The Jews were very 
powerful about the emperor and Poppea. The " mathe 
maticians," that is, the soothsayers, among others 
a certain Balbillus, of Ephesus, surrounded the em 
peror, and, under pretext of exercising that portion of 
their art which consisted in turning away plagues and 
evil omens, gave him atrocious advices. Has the 
legend which has mixed with all this world of sorcerers 
the name of Simon the magician any foundation? 
That doubtless may be so ; but the reverse may be also 
the case. The author of the Apocalypse is much 
pre-occupied about a " false prophet," whom he 
represents as an agent of Nero, as a thaumaturgist 
making fire fall from heaven, giving life and speech 
to statues, marking men with the stamp of the Beast. 
It is perhaps of Balbillus he speaks : we must however 
observe that the prodigies attributed to the False 
Prophet by the Apocalypse resemble much the 
juggling peculiarities which the legend attributes to 
Simon. The emblem of a lamb-dragon, under which 
the False Prophet is pointed out in the same book, 
agrees better likewise with a false Messiah such as 
Simon of Gil ton was than a simple sorcerer. On the 


other hand, the leg-end ol Simon falling from the sky 
is not without an analogue in the accident which 
happened in the ampitheatre under Nero to an actor 
who played the part of Icarus. The plan taken by the 
author of the Apocalyse of expressing himself in 
enigmas throws all these events greatly into obscurity ; 
but we should not be deceived if we searched behind 
every line of that strange book for some allusion to 
the most minute anecdotal circumstances of Nero s 

Never, besides, has the Christian conscience been 
more oppressed, more out of breath, than at that 
moment. They believed in a provisional condition 
very short in duration. Each day they expected the 
solemn appearance. "He comes! Yet an hour longer! 
He is at hand ! " were the words tliey said every 
moment. The spirit of martyrdom which thought that 
the martyr glorifies Christ by his death and that this 
death is a victory, was universally spread. For the 
heathen, on the other hand, the Christian became a 
body naturally devoted to punishment. A drama 
which about this time had much success was that of 
Lanreolus, where the principal actor, a sort of rascal 
Tartuff e, was crucified on the stage amid the applause of 
the audience, and eaten by bears. This drama was 
prior to the introduction of Christianity to Rome ; we 
find it represented in the year 41 ; but it appears as if 
at least they made an application of it to the Christian 
martyrs , the diminutive of Laureo/us answering to 
tepkanos might suggest these allusions, 




The ill-will of which the Christian Church was the 
object at Eome, perhaps even in Asia Minor and Greece, 
made itself felt even in Judea ; but i he persecution there had 
other causes. There were rich Sadducees, the aristocracy 
of the Temple, who showed themselves enraged against 
the honest poor and blasphemed the name of " Christian." 
About the time we have reached there was circulated a 
letter of James, " servant of God and of the Lord Jesus 
Christ," addressed to " the twelve tribes of the 
Dispersion." It is one of the finest pieces of early 
Christian literature, recalling sometimes the Gospel, 
and at other times the sweet and restful wisdom of 
Ecclesiastes. The authenticity of such writings, seeing 
the number of false apostolic letters which circulated, is 
always doubtful. Perhaps the Judeo-Christian party, 
accustomed to use to its own taste the authority of 
James, attributed to him this manifesto in which the 
desire to oppose the innovators made itself felt. 
Certainly, if James had some share in it, he was not 
its editor. It is doubtful if James knew Greek ; his 
language was Syriac ; now the epistle of James is much 
the best written work in the New Testament, its Greek 
is pure and almost classical. As to this, the writing 
agrees perfectly with the character of James. The 
author is a Jewish Rabbi, he holds strongly by the 
Law ; to express the meeting of the faithful, he makes 
use of the word " synagogue " ; he is Paul s adversary ; 
the tone of his epistle resembles the synoptical gospel 
which we shall see later on came from the Christian 
family of which James was the head. Nevertheless, the 


name of Jesus is only mentioned there two or three 
times, with the simple qualification of Messiah, and 
without any of the ambitious hyperboles which the 
ardent imagination of Paul had accumulated. 

James, or the Jewish moralist who desired to cover 
himself with his authority, introduces us all at once 
into a little conventicle of the persecuted. Trials are 
a good thing, for in putting faith through the crucible, 
they produce patience ; now patience is the perfection of 
virtue ; the man who is tempted receives the crown of 
life. But what preoccupies our doctor especially is the 
difference between the rich and the poor. He must 
have produced in the community some rivalry between 
the favoured brothers of fortune and those who were 
not. Those complain of the harshness of the rich and 
their pride, while they groaned under them : 

Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is 
exalted ; but the rich, in that he is made low, because as 
the flower of the grass he shall pass away. . . . My 
brethren, havenotthe faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord 
of Glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your 
assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and 
there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, and ye have 
respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto 
him, Sit thou here in a good place, and say to the 
poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool. Are 
ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become 
judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, 
hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich 
in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which He hath promised 
to them that love Him? But ye have despised the poor. 
Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the 
judgment seats ? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name 
by the which ye are called ? 

Pride, corruption, brutality, and the luxury of the 
rich Saddnr-^es had indeed arrived at their height. The 
women boaght the high priesthood from Agrippa II. 
with gold. Martha, daughter of Boethus, one of those 
Simonists, who went to see her husband officiate, made 
them stretch carpets from the gate of her house to the 
Sanctuary. The high-priesthood was thus fearfully 


debased. These worldly priests blushed for the most 
holy part of their functions. The offering of sacrifice 
had become repulsive to refined people, whom their 
duty condemned to the trade of butcher and knacker ! 
Many of them did this in silk gloves not to soil the 
skin of their hands by contact with the victim. The 
whole tradition,C agreeing on this point with the 
Gospels and the Epistle of James, represents to us the 
priests of the last year before the destruction of the 
Temple as gourmands, given up to luxury, and hard to the 
poor people. The Talmud contains the fabulous list of 
what was needed for the table of a high priest ; it 
surpasses all likelihood, but indicates the dominant 
opinion. " Four cries come from the vestibule of the 
Temple," says one tradition ; the first, " Come forth, ye 
descendants of Eli, you stain the Temple of the 
Eternal " ; the second, " Come forth, Issachar of Kaphar- 
Barkai, who only dost respect thyself, and who 
profanest the victims consecrated to Heaven" (it was he 
who wrapped his hands in silk while doing his service) ; 
the third, " Open, ye gates, let in Ishmael, the son of 
Phabi, the disciple of Phinehas, that he may fulfil the 
functions of the high-priesthood " ; the fourth, " Open, 
ye gates, and let John, son of Nebedeus, the disciple of 
gourmands, enter in, that he may gorge himself with 
victims." A sort of song, or rather malediction, against 
the sacerdotal families, which ran its course in the 
streets of Jerusalem at the same period, has been 
preserved to us. 

" Plague take the house of Boethus ! 
Plague take them because of their cudgels ! 

Plague take the house of Hanan ! 
Plague take them because of their conspiracies ! 

Plague take the house of Cantheras ! 
Plague take them because of their Kalams ! 

Plague take the family of Ishmael, son of Phabi ! 
Plague take them because of their fists ! 
They are high-priests, their sous are treasurers, their 
sons-in-law are customs officers, and their servants beat us 
with their cudgels. " 


There was open war between these opulent priests, 
friends of the Komans, taking these lucrative appoint 
ments to themselves and their families, and the poor 
priests maintained by the people. Every day there 
were bloody brawls. The impudence and audacity of 
the high-priestly families went so far as to send their 
servants to the threshing-floors to collect the tithes 
which belonged to the high clergy, and they beat those 
who refused ; the poor priests were in a wretched state. 
Fancy the feelings of the pious man, the democratic 
Jew, rich in the promises of all the prophets, maltreated 
in the Temple (his own house) by the insolent lackeys 
of unbelieving and epicurean priests. The Christians 
grouped around James made common cause with those 
oppressed ones who probably were like themselves, 
holy people (hasidim) favourites with the public. 
Mendicity appears to have become a virtue and the 
mark of patriotism. The rich classes were Mends of the 
Komans, and could scarcely become that except by a 
sort of apostacy and treason. To hate the rich was thus 
a mark of piety. Obliged, so as not to die of hunger, tt 
work in those constructions of the Herodians, in which 
they saw nothing but an ostentatious vanity, thf 
hasidim looked on themselves as victims of tht 
unbelieving. "Poor" passed as the synonym of 
" Saint." 

"Now weep, ye rich, howl for your miseries that shall 
come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your 
garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver <s 
cankered and the rust of them shall be a witness agaiiiae 
you, and shall eat your flesh as if it were fire. Ye have 
heaped treasures together for the last days. Behold 
the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your 
fields, which is of you kept back by fraud crieth, and 
the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the 
ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on 
the earth and been wanton. Ye have nourished your 
hearts as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and 
killed the just ; and he doth not resist you. " 
We feel in these pages that there is already iWiaei*- 
ting the spirit of those social revolutions which aoioe 


r^ars later filled Jerusalem with blood. Nothing ex 
presses with so much force the sentiment of aversion to 
the world which was the soul of Primitive Christianity. 
" To keep oneself unspotted from the world " is the 
supreme command. " He who would be the friend of the 
world is constituted the enemy of God." All desire is 
vanity illusion. The end is so near ? why complain of 
one another ? why engage in litigation ? the true judge is 
coming : He is at the door ! 

" And now you others who say : To-day or to-morrow we 
will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy 
and sell and get gain. Whereas ye know not what shall 
be on the morrow. For what is your life. It is even a 
vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth 
away. For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will we shall 
live, and do this or that." 

When he speaks of humility, patience, mercy, the 
exaltation of the humble, and of the joy which is below 
tears, James seems to have kept in memory the very 
words of Jesus. We feel, nevertheless, that he holds 
much by the law. Quite a paragraph of his Epistle is 
dedicated to warn the faithful against Paul s doctrine 
on the uselessness of works and salvation by faith. A 
phrase of James (ii., 24) is the direct denial of a phrase 
in the Epistle to the Komans (iii., 28). In opposition 
to the Apostle of the Gentiles (Eom. iv., 1 and ff.) the 
Apostle of Jerusalem maintains (ii., 21 and ff.) that 
Abraham was saved by works, and that faith without 
works is a dead faith. The devils have faith and 
apparently are not saved. Departing here from his 
usual moderation, James calls his opponent a " vair< 
man." In one or two other passages, we can see ai; 
allusion to the debates which already divided the 
Church, and which shall fill up the hislo v of Chris 
tian theology some centuries later. 

A spirit of lofty piety and touching chart ty animated 
this Church of the Saints. " Pure religion and unde 
filed before God and the Father is this, to visit the 
tatherless and widows in their affliction," said James. 


The power of curing diseases, especially by anoint 
ing with oil, was considered as of common right 
among believers : indeed the unbelievers saw in this 
healing a gift peculiar to the Christians. The elders 
were reputed to enjoy it in a high degree, and became 
thus a band of spiritual physicians. James attaches to 
those practices of supernatural medicine the greatest 
importance. The germ of nearly all the Catholic 
Sacraments was laid here. Confession of sins, for a 
long time practised by the Jews, was looked on as an 
excellent means of pardon and healing, two ideas insepar 
able in the beliefs of the age. 

" Is any among you afflicted ? Let him pray. Is any 
merry ? Let him sing. Is any sick among you ? Let him call 
for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, 
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the pray el 
of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him 
up, and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiver 
him. Confess your faults one to another and pray one f 
another that ye may be healed. The prayer of a righteous 
man is strong when it is made with a fixed object. " 

The apocryphal apocalypses where the religious 
passions of the people expressed themselves with so much 
fire, were greedily collected in this little group of 
enthusiastic Jews, or rather were born alongside of it, 
almost in its bosom, so much so that the tissue of these 
singular writings and that of the writings of the New 
Testament are often hard to disentangle from each 
other. They really took these pamphlets, born o, 
yesterday, for the words of Enoch, Baruch and Moses 
The strangest beliefs as to hell, the rebel angels, the 
wicked giants who brought on the flood, were spread 
about, and had as their principal source the books oi 
E - ocb.C There were in all these fables some lively 
al .dons to contemporaneous events. O That foreseeing 
Noah, that pious Enoch, who did not cease to predict 
the Deluge to those heedless ones who, during this 
whole period, ate, drank, married, and enriched 


themselves, who are they if they be not the seers of 
these last days, vainly warning a frivolous generation, 
which is unwilling to admit that the world is nearly at 
an end ? An entire branch, a sort of period of sub 
terranean life is added to the legend of Jesus It was 
asked what he did during the three days he passed in 
the grave. They would have it that during this time 
he had gone down, by giving battle to death, into the 
infernal prisons where were confined the rebellious or 
unbelieving spirits ; that there he had preached to the 
shades and devils and prepared for their deliverance. 
That conception was necessary that Jesus might be, in 
the strongest sense of the term, the universal Saviour ; 
as St. Paul presents the idea also in his last writings. 
Yet the fictions we speak of did not find a place within 
the limits of the Synoptical Gospels, doubtless because 
these limits had been already fixed when they were 
created. They remained floating outside the Gospel 
and did not find body until later in the apocryphal 
writing called the " Gospel of Nicodemus." 

The work par excellence of the Christian conscience 
was, nevertheless, accomplished in silence in Judea or 
the adjacent countries. The Synoptical Gospels were 
created part by part, as a living organism is completed 
little by little, and attained, under the action of a deep 
mysterious reason, to perfect unity. At the date we 
have reached, was there already some text written on 
the acts and words of Jesus ? Has the Apostle 
Matthew, if it is he who is in question, written in 
Hebrew the discourses of the Lord ? Has Mark, or he 
who takes his name, entrusted to paper his notes on the 
life of Jesus ? We may doubt it. Paul, in particular 
had certainly in his hands no writing as to the words 
of Jesus. Did he at least possess an oral tradition, 
mnemonic in some degree, of these words ? We observe 
such a tradition for the account of the Supper, 
perhaps for that of the Passion, and up k a certain 
point for that of the Eesurrection, but not for the 


parables and discourses. Jesus is in his eyes an 
expiatory victim, a superhuman being, a risen one, not 
a moralist. His quotation of the words of Jesus are 
undecided and are not related to the discourses which 
the Synoptical Gospels put into Jesus mouth. The 
apostolical epistles which we possess, othei than those 
of Paul, do not lead us to suppose any production of 
this kind. 

What seems to result from this is that certain accounts, 
such as that of the Supper, of the Passion, and the 
Resurrection, were known by heart, in terms which 
admitted of little variety. The plan of the Synoptical 
Gospels was already probably agreed on : but while the 
Apostles lived, books which would have pretended to 
tix the tradition of which they believed themselves the 
sole depositories would not have had any chance of 
being accepted. Why, besides, write the life of Jesus ? 
He is coming back. A world on the eve of closing has 
no need of new books. It is when the witnesses shall 
be dead that it will be important to render durable by the 
Scripture a representation which is effacing itself every 
day. In this point of view the Churches of Judea and 
the neighbouring countries had a great superiority. 
The knowledge of the discourses of Jesus was much 
more exact and extended than elsewhere. We remark 
under this connection a certain difference between the 
Epistle of James and the Epistle of Paul. The little 
writing of James is quite impregnated by a sort of 
evangelical perfume. We hear these sometimes like an 
echo of the word of Jesus ; the sentiment of the life of 
Galilee is found there still with vivid power. 

We know nothing historical as to the missions sent 
directly by the Church of Jerusalem. That Church, 
according to its own principles, ought scarcely to be 
looked on as a propaganda. In general there were few 
Ebionite and Judeo-Christian Missions. The strict 
spirit of the Ebionim only admitted of circumcised 
missionaries. According to the picture which is traced 

to us by some writings of tin; second century, suspected 
of exaggeration, but faithful to the Jerusalem spirit, 
the Judeo-Christianity preacher was held in a sort of 
suspicion ; they made sure about him, they imposed on 
him some proofs, a noviciate of six years ; he must 
have regular papers, a sort of labelled confession of 
faith, conformable to that of the Apostles of Jerusalem. 
Such impediments were a decided obstacle to a fruitful 
Apostleship : under such conditions Christianity would 
never have been preached. Thus the messengers of 
James appeared much more occupied in overturning 
Paul s foundations than in building on their own 
account The Churches of Bithynia, Pontus and 
Cappadocia which appeared about this time alongside of 
the Churches of Asia and Galatia, did not proceed it 
is true, from Paul, but it is not likely that they were 
the work of James or Peter : they owed their founda 
tion no doubt to that anonymous preaching of the 
faithful which was the most efficacious of all. We 
suppose, on the contrary, that Batania, the Hauran, 
Decapolis, and in general all the region to the east of 
the Jordan which were soon to be the centre of the fortress 
of Judeo-Christianity, were evangelized by some 
adherents of the Church of Jerusalem. They found the 
Roman limit very near on that side. Now the Arabian 
countries inclined in no way to the new preaching, and 
the countries subject to the Arsacides were little open 
to efforts coming from Roman lands. In the geography 
of the Apostles the earth was very little. The first Chris 
tians never thought of the barbarian or Persian world 
the Arabian world itself scarcely existed for them 
The missions of St. Thomas among the Parthians, of 
St. Andrew among the Scythians, and of Bartholomew 
in India are only legendary. The Christian imagination 
of the first ages turned little towards the East : the 
goal of Apostolic Pilgrimages was the extremity of the 
West; as to the East, they spoke as if the missionaries 
regarded the boundary as a) ready reached. 


Had Edessa heard of the name of Jesus in the 
century ? Was there at that time beside Osrhoene a 
Syriac-speaking Christianity ? The fables by which the 
Church has surrounded its cradle do not permit us to 
express ourselves with certainty on that point. Yet it 
is very probable that the strong relations which Judaism 
had on this side were used for the propagation of 
Christianity. Samosata and Comagena had at an 
early period educated persons forming part of the 
Church or at least very favourable to Jesus. It was 
from Antioch in any case that this region of the 
Euphrates received the seed of the faith. 

The clouds which were gathering over the East dis 
turbed these pacific preachings. The good administra 
tion of Festus could do nothing against the evils which 
Judea carried in her bosom. Brigands, zealots, assas 
sins, and impostors of all kinds overran the country. 
A magician presented himself, among twenty others, 
promising the people salvation and the end of evil, if 
they would accompany him to the desert. Those who 
followed him were massacred by the Koman soldiers ; 
but no one was undeceived as to the false prophets. 
Festus died in Judea about the beginning of the year 
62. Nero appointed Albinus as his successor. About 
the same time, Herod Agrippa II. took the high priest 
hood from Joseph Cabi to give it to Hanan, son of the 
celebrated Hauan or Annas, who had contributed more 
than anyone to the death of Jesus. He was the fifth 
of Annas sons who occupied that dignity. 

Hanan the younger was a haughty, harsh and 
audacious man. He was the flower of Sadduceeism, the 
complete expression of that cruel and inhuman sect, 
always ready to render the exercise of authority odious 
and insupportable. James, the brother of the Lord, was 
known in all Jerusalem as a bitter defender of the 
poor, as a prophet in the old style, inveighing against 
the rich and powerful. Hanan resolved on his death, and 
taking advantage of the absence of Agrippa, and of the 


fact that Albinus had not yet arrived in Judea, he 
assembled the judicial Sanhedrim and caused James and 
several other saints to appear before him. They accused 
them of breaking the law ; they were condemned to be 
stoned. The authority of Agrippa was necessary to 
assemble the Sanhedrim, and that of Albinus would have 
been needed to proceed to punishment; but the 
violent Hanan went beyond all rules. James was, in 
fact, stoned near the temple. As they had a difficulty 
in accomplishing it, a fuller broke his head with his 
cudgel which was used to measure stuffs. He was, it 
is said, forty-six years old. 

The death of this saintly personage had the worst 
effect on the city. The Pharisee devotees and the 
strict observers of the law were very discontented. 
James was universally esteemed ; he was considered 
one of those men whose prayers were most efficacious. 
Et is asserted that a Eechabite (probably an Essene), or 
according to others, Simeon son of Clopas, nephew of 
Jesus, cried while they stoned him, " Stop, what are 
you doing ? What ! you kill the just who prays for 
you ?" They applied to him the passage in Isaiah, iii., 
10, which they had heard from him, " Let us suppress 
they say, the righteous because he is vexatious to us : 
this is why the fruit of their works is devoured." Some 
Hebrew Elegies were written on his death, full of 
allusion to Biblical passages and to his name of Obliam 
Nearly everybody at last was found in sympathy 
asking Herod Agrippa II. to set bounds to the audacity 
of the high-priest. Albinus was informed of the actions 
of Kaiian, when he had left Alexandria for Judea. 
He wrote Hanan a threatening letter, then he unseated 
him. Hanan thus only occupied the high-priesthood 
three months. The misfortunes which soon fell on the 
nation were looked on by many people as the conse 
quence of James murder. As to the Christians, they 
saw in this death a sign of the times, a proof that the 
tiual catastrophes were approaching. 


The enthusiasm, indeed, assumed at Jerusalem great 
proportions. Anarchy was at its height. The zealots 
although decimated by punishment, were masters of 
everything. Albinus in no way resembled Festus ; he 
on}? ^nought of making money by connivance with the 
brigands. On all sides, one saw prognostications of 
some unheard-of event. It was at the end of the year 
62 that one named Jesus, son of Hanan, a sort ot risen 
Jeremiah, began to run night and day through the 
streets of Jerusalem, crying, " A voice from the East . 
a voice from the West ! a voice from the four winds 
a voice against Jerusalem and the temple ! a voice 
against the bridegrooms and the brides ! a voice against 
all the people ! " They scourged him ; but he repeated 
the same cry. They beat him with rods till his bones 
were seen ; at each blow he repeated in a lamentable 
voice, " Woe to Jerusalem ! woe to Jerusalem !" He was 
never seen to speak to anyone. He went along 
repeating, " Woe ! woe to Jerusalem !" without reproach 
ing those who beat him, and thanking those who gave 
nim alms. He went on thus until the siege, his voice 
never appearing to grow weaker. 

If this Jesus, son of Hanan, was not a disciple of Jesus, 
his weird cry was at least the true expression of what 
was at the core of the Christian conscience. Jerusalem 
had filled up its measure. That city which slew the 
prophets and stoned those who were sent to it, beating 
some, crucifying others, was henceforth the city of ana 
themas. About the time at which we have arrived were 
formed those little apocalypses which some attributed 
to Enoch, others to Jesus, and which offered the greatest 
analogies to the exclamations of Jesus, son of Hanan. 
These writings extend later into the framework of the 
synoptical gospels ; they were represented as discourses, 
which Jesus had given in his last days. Perhaps 
already the mot d ordre was given to leave Judea and 
flee to the mountains. The synoptical gospels always 
bear deeply the mark of these sorrows ; they keep it 


like a birth-mark an indelible impression. With the 
peaceful axioms of Jesus mingled the colours of a 
gloomy apocalypse, the presentiments of a disgusted 
and troubled imagination. But the gentleness of the 
Christians put them in the shadow compared with the 
madnesses which agitated the other parties in the 
nation, possessed like them by Messianic ideas. To them 
the Messiah had come ; he had been in the desert, he 
had ascended to heaven after thirty years ; the impos 
tors or enthusiasts who sought to carry the people away 
after them were false Christs and false prophets. The 
death of James and perhaps of some other brethren, led 
them, besides, to separate their cause more and more 
from Judaism. A butt to the hatred of all, they 
comforted themselves by thinking of the precepts of 
Jesus. According to many, Jesus had predicted that, in 
the midst of all these trials, not a hair of their heads 
should perish. 

The situation was so precarious, and they felt so 
plainly that they were on the eve of a catastrophe that 
an immediate successor was given to Jarnes in the 
presiding of the Church of Jerusalem. The other 
" brethren of the Lord," such as Jude, Simon, son of 
Clopas, continued to be the principal authorities in the 
community. After the war, we shall see them serving 
as a rallying point to all the faithful of Judea. 
Jerusalem had no more than eight years to live, and 
indeed, even before the fatal hour, the eruption of the 
volcano, "will thrust to a distance the little group of 
pious Jews who are bound to one another by the 
memory of Jesus. 




Paul, nevertheless, was subjected in prison to the 
gentleness of an administration half distracted by the 
extravagance of the sovereign and his evil surroundings. 
Timothy, Luke, Aristarchus, and according to certain 
traditions, Titus, were with him. A certain Jesus, 
surnamed Justus, who was circumcised, one Demetrius, 
or Demas, an uncircumcised proselyte, who was, it 
appears, from Thessalonica, a doubtful personage of the 
name of Crescens, still were seen around him and 
served him as coadjutors. Mark, who according to our 
hypothesis had come to Rome in company with Peter, 
was reconciled, it appears, with him with whom he had 
shared the first apostolical activity, and from whom he 
had rudely separated : he served probably as an inter 
mediary between Peter and the apostle of the Gentiles. 
In any case Paul, about this time, was very discontented 
with the Christians of the circumcision : he considered 
them as not very favourable to him, and declared that 
he did not find good fellow- workers among them. 

Some important modifications, introduced probably 
by the new relations which he had in the capital of the 
empire, the centre and confluence of all ideas, were 
carried out about the time we are speaking of now in 
Paul s mind, and made the writings of that period of 
his life sensibly different from those he composed during 
his second and third mission. The informal develop 
ment of the Christian doctrine worked rapidly. In 
some months of these fertile years, theology marched 
much faster than it did afterwards in some centuries. 
The new dogma sought its equilibrium and created props 


on all sides to support its feeble portions. They might 
have called it an animal in its genetic crisis, putting 
forth a limb, transforming an organ, cutting off a tail, to 
arrive at the harmony of life, that is to say, at the 
condition where everything in the living being answers, 
supports, and holds itself together. 

The fire of a devouring activity had never till now 
allowed Paul leisure to measure the time, nor to consider 
that Jesus delayed his reappearance very long : but 
these long months of prison forced him to consider. 
Old age, besides, began to tell upon him ; a sort of 
gloomy maturity succeeded to the ardour of his passion ; 
reflection brought light, and obliged him to fill up his 
ideas, to reduce them to theory. He became mystical, 
theological, speculative, from being practical as he was. 
The impetuosity of a blind conviction, absolutely 
incapable of going backward, could not prevent him 
from being sometimes astonished that heaven did not 
open more quickly, and that the final trumpet did not 
sound sooner. The faith of Paul was not shaken, but 
it sought other points of support. His idea of Christ 
became modified. His dream henceforth is less the 
Son of Man appearing in the clouds, and presiding at 
the general resurrection, as a Christ established as 
divinity, incorporated with it, acting in it and with it. 
The resurrection for him is not in the future : it seems 
to have already taken place. When we change once, 
we change always ; we may be at the same time the 
most impassioned and yet mobile of men. That which 
is certain is that the grand pictures of the final 
apocalypse and of the resurrection which were formerly 
so familiar to Paul, which present themselves in some 
way at every page of the letters of the second and third 
mission, and even in the Epistle to the Philippians, 
have a secondary place in the last writings of his 
captivity. They are then replaced by a theory of 
Christ, conceived like a sort of divine person, a theory 
very analogous to that of the Logos which, later on, 


shall find its definitive form in the writings attributed 
to John. 

The same change is remarkable in his style. The 
language of the epistles of the captivity has more 
fulness: but it has lost a little of its force. The 
thought is advanced with less vigour. The dictionary 
differs very much from the first vocabulary of Paul. 
The favourite terms of the Johannine school, " light," 
" darkness," " life," " love/ &c., become dominant. The 
syncretic philosophy of Gnosticism made itself already 
felt. The question of justification by Jesus is no longer 
so lively ; the war between faith and works seems 
appeased in the bosom of the unity of the Christian 
life, made up of knowledge and grace. Christ, become 
the central being of the universe, conciliates in his 
person (thus become divine) the antinomianism of the 
two Christianities. Certainly it is not without reason 
that the authenticity of such writings has been sus 
pected : there are for them, however, such strong proofs 
that we like better to attribute the differences of style 
and thought of which we speak to a natural progress in 
Paul s method. The earlier and undoubtedly authentic 
writings of Paul contain the germ of this new language. 
" Christ " and " God " are interchanged almost like 
synonyms ; Christ exercises there divine functions ; 
they invoke him as God, he is the necessary mediator 
with God. The ardour with which these were con 
nected with Jesus made them connect with him all the 
theories which had been in vogue in some part or other 
of the Jewish world. Let us suppose that a man 
replying to aspirations so different from the democracy 
should arise in our days. His partisans would say to 
some, " You are for the organisation of work," it is he 
who is the organisation of the work; to others,," You 
are for independent morality," he is the independent 
morality ; to others again, " You are for co-operation," 
it is "he who is the co-operation ; and yet others, 
" You are for solidarity," it is he who is the solidarity. 


The new theory of Paul can be summed up nearly 
as follows : 

This kingdom is the reign of darkness, that is to say 
of Satan and his infernal hierarchy who fill the world. 
The reign of the Saints on the contrary shall be the 
reign of light. Now the saints are what they are not 
by their own merit (before Christ all are enemies of 
God), but by the application which God makes to them 
of the merits of Jesus Christ the son of his love. It is 
the blood of this son, shed upon the cross, which blots 
out sins and reconciles every creature to God, making 
peace to reign in Heaven and earth. The Son is the 
image of the invisible God, the first-born of creatures ; 
all has been created in him, by him and for him, things 
celestial and terrestrial, visible, and invisible, thrones, 
powers, and dominions. He was before all things and by 
him all things consist. The church and he form only 
one body, of which he is the head. As in every 
thing he has always held the first rank, he shall also 
hold it in the resurrection. His resurrection is the 
commencement of the universal resurrection. The 
fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily. Jesus is 
thus the God of man, a sort of prime minister of the 
creation, placed between God and man. Everything 
that monotheism says of the relations between man and 
God may according to the then present theory of Paul, be 
said of the relations between man and Jesus. The 
veneration for Jesus, which with James does not 
exceed the cult of doulia or hyperdoulia, attains 
with Paul to the proportions of a true worship a latria 
such as no Jew had ever yet vowed to a son of 

This mystery which God prepared from all eternity, the 
fulness of the times being come, he has revealed to his 
saints in these last days. The moment has corne when 
each must complete for his part the work of Christ. 
Now the work of Christ is completed by suffering; 
suffering is therefore a good thing in which we should 


rejoice and glory. The Christian, by participating with 
Jesus, is filled like him with the fulness of the Godhead. 
Jesus by rising again has quickened all with himself. 
The wall of separation which the law created between the 
people of God and the Gentiles Christ has broken down ; 
the two portions of reconciled humanity he has made a 
new humanity ; all the old enmities he has slain upon 
the cross. The text of the law was like a bill of debt 
which humanity could not wipe off : Jesus has destroyed 
the value of that bill, nailing it to his cross. The world 
created by Jesus is therefore an entirely new world. 
Jesus is the corner stone of the Temple which God has 
built. The Christian is dead to the world, buried with 
Christ in the tomb ; his life is hid with Christ in God. 
While waiting till Christ appears and associates him 
with his glory he mortifies his body, extinguishing all 
his natural passions, taking up in everything the 
opposition to nature, putting off " the old man " and 
clothing himself with " the new," renovated according 
to the image of his creator. From this point of view there 
is no more Jew nor Greek, circumcised nor uncircum- 
cised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free man. Christ is 
all, Christ is in all The saints are those to whom God by 
gratuitous gift has made application of the merits of 
Christ, and whom he has predestinated to the divine 
adoption before even the world began. The Church is 
one as God himself is one ; his work is the edification of 
the body of Christ ; the final goal of all this is the realiza 
tion of perfect man, the complete union of Christ with all 
his members, a state in which Christ shall truly be the 
head of a humanity regenerated according to his own 
model, a humanity receiving from him movement and 
life by a series of members bound to each other and 
subordinated the one to the other. The dark powers of 
the air fight to prevent this consummation ; a terrible 
struggle shall take place between them and the saints. 
It shall be an evil day, but, armed by the gifts of Christ, 
the saints will triumph. 


Such doctrines were not entirely original. They 
were in part those of the Jewish school in Egypt and 
notably those of Philo. This Christ became a divine 
hpyostasis, is the Logos of the Jewish Alexandrian 
philosophy, the Mcmera of the Chaldean paraphrases, 
prototype of everything, by which everything has been 
created. These powers of the air to which the empire 
of the world has been given, these bizarre hierarchies, 
celestial and infernal, are those of the Jewish cabbala 
and of Gnosticism. This mysterious pleroma, the final 
goal of the work of Christ, much resembles the divine 
pleroma which the gnosis places at the summit of the 
universal ladder, the Gnostic and cabbalistic theosophy 
which may be regarded as the mythology of mono 
theism, and which we believe we have seen weighing with 
Simon of Gitton, is represented from the first century 
with its principal features. To reject systematically in 
the second century all the documents in which are found 
traces of such a spirit is very rash. That spirit was in 
germ, in Philo, and in primitive Christianity. The 
theosophic conception of Christ would arise necessarily 
from the Messianic conception of the Son of Man, when 
it would be distinctly proved after a long waiting that 
the Son of Man had not come. In the most iucon- 
testably authentic epistles of Paul there are certain 
features which remain a little in advance of the 
exaggerations which are presented by the epistles written 
in prison. The epistle to the Hebrews dating before the 
year 70, shows the same tendency to place Jesus in the 
world of metaphysical abstractions. All this will 
become in the highest degree plain when we speak of 
the Johannine writings. According to Paul, who had 
not known Jesus, this metamorphosis in the idea of 
Christ was in some sort inevitable. While the school 
which possessed the living tradition of the master 
created the Jesus of the synoptical gospels, the enthu 
siastic man, who had only seen Jesus in his dreams, 
transformed him more and more into a superhuman 


being, into a sort of metaphysical archon whom they 
would say had never lived. 

This transformation besides did not operate only on 
the ideas of Paul. The Churches raised by him 
advanced in the same views. Those of Asia Minor 
especially were impelled by a sort of a secret work to 
the most exaggerated ideas as to the divinity of Jesus. 
This might be imagined. To the fraction of Christian 
ity which had sprung from the familiar conversations 
by the lake of Tiberias Jesus must always remain the 
beloved Son of God, who had been seen moving among 
men with that charming manner and that gentle smile ; 
but when they preached Jesus to the people of some 
province hidden away in Phrygia, when the 
preacher declared that he had never seen him, and 
affected to know scarcely anything of His earthly life, 
what could these good and artless hearers think of him 
who was preached to them ? How would they picture 
him to themselves ? As a sage ? As a master full of 
charm ? It is not thusthat Paul presents the role of Jesus. 
Paul was ignorant of, or pretended to be ignorant of, the 
historic Jesus. As the Messiah, as the Son of Man 
coming to appear in the clouds in the great day of the 
Lord ? These ideas were strange to the Gentiles and 
supposed a knowledge of the Jewish books. Evidently 
the picture which would most often be presented to 
these good country people would be that of an incar 
nation, of a God clothed with a human form and walking 
upon the earth. This idea was very familiar in Asia 
Minor ; Apollonius of Tyana was soon to ventilate it 
for his own prophet. To reconcile such a style of 
view with worn theism only one thing remained, to 
conceive Jesus as a divine hypostasis become incarnate, 
as a sort of reduplication of the one God, having taken 
the human form for the accomplishment of a divine 
plan. It must be remembered that we are no longer in 
Syria. Christianity has passed from the Semitic world 
into the hands of races intoxicated with imagination 


and mythology. The prophet Mahomet, whose legend 
is so purely human among the Arabs, has become the 
same among the Schiites of Persia and India, a being 
completely supernatural, a sort of Vishnu or Buddha. 
Some relations which the apostle had with his Churches 
of Asia Minor exactly about this time furnished him 
with the occasion af expounding the new form which he 
was accustomed to give to his ideas. The pious 
Epaphroditus, or Epaphras, the teacher and founder of 
the Church of Colosse and leader of the Churches on 
the shores of the Lyctrs, came to him with a mission from 
the said Churches. Paul had never been in that 
valley, but they admitted his authority there; They 
recognised him even as the apostle of the country and 
each one regarded himself as like him before conversion. 
When his captivity took place the churches of the 
Colossians, Laodicea upon the Lycus, and Hierapolis 
deputed Epaphras to share his chain, to console him, to 
assure him of the friendship of the faithful and probably 
to offer him the aid of money, of which he had need. 
What Epaphras reported of the zeal of the new converts 
filled Paul with satisfaction ; faith, charity and hos 
pitality were admirable, but Christianity took in these 
Churches of Phrygia a singular direction. Away from 
contact with the great Apostles, free entirely from Jewish 
influence, composed nearly entirely of heathens, these 
churches inclined to a sort of mixture of Christianity, 
Greek philosophy and the local cults. In this quiet 
little town of Colosse, with the sound of waterfalls, in 
the midst of wreaths of foam, facing Hierapolis with 
its frowning mountain, there increased every day the 
belief in the full divinity of Jesus Christ. Let us 
remember that Phrygia was one of those countries 
which had the most icligious originality. Its mysteries 
included or claimed to include an exalted symbolism. 
Many of the rights which were practised there were 
not without analogy to those of the new cult. For 
Christians without an earlier tradition, not having gone 


through the same apprenticeship of monotheism as the 
Jews, the temptation became very strong to associate 
the Christian dogma with the old symbols which 
presented themselves here as the legacy of the most 
respectable antiquity. These Christians had been 
devoted Pagans before adopting the ideas which had 
come from Syria. Perhaps in adopting them they had 
not believed that they were breaking formally with 
their past. And besides, where is the truly religious 
man who repudiates completely the traditional teaching 
in the shadow of which he felt first his ideal, who does 
not seek some reconciliations, often impossible, between 
his old faith and that to which he has come by the 
advancement of his thought ? 

In the second century this need of syncretism 
shall take an extreme importance and shall complete 
the full development of the Gnostic sects. We shall see 
at the end of the first century some analogous tend 
encies filling the Church of Ephesus with troubles and 
agitation. Corinth and the author of the fourth gospel 
shared at bottom this identical principle from the idea 
that the conscience of Jesus was a heavenly being 
distinct from his terrestrial appearance. In the year 
60 Colosse was already touched by the same disease a 
theosophy made up of indigenous beliefs, Ebionitism, 
Judaism, philosophy and material borrowed from the 
new preaching found there already some skilful inter 
preters. A worship of uncreated <zons, a largely 
developed theory of angels and devils, Gnosticism in 
short with its arbitrary practices, its realized abstrac 
tions, commenced to be produced, and by its sweet deceit 
threatened the Christian faith in its most lively and 
essential parts. There mingled here some renunciations 
against nature, a false taste for humiliation, a pretended 
austerity refusing to the flesh its rights, in a word all 
the aberrations of moral sense which would produce 
the Phyrigian heresies of the second century (Montanists 
Pepuzians, and Cata-Phrygians) which connected 


themselves with the old mystical leaven of Galli and 
Cory baules, and whose latest survivals are ths dervishes 
of our days. The difference between the Christians of 
Pagan origin and those of Jewish origin are thus 
marked from day to day. Christian mythology and 
metaphysics were born in Paul s Churches. Springing 
from Polytheistic races the converted Pagans found 
quite simple the idea of a God-made man, while the 
incarnation of the divinity was for the Jews a thing 
blasphemous and revolting. 

Paul wishing to keep Epaphras near him (whose 
activity he thought of utilizing) resolved to reply from 
the deputation to the Colossians by sending to them 
Tychicus of Ephesus, whom he charged at the same 
time with commissions for the churches of Asia. 
Tychicus wa,s to make a journey into the valley of the 
Meander to visit the communities, to give them some- 
news of Paul, to transmit to them with a living voice 
a knowledge as to the condition of the Apostle in regard 
to the Roman authorities some details which he did not 
think it prudent to entrust to paper, in short to convey 
to each of the churches separate letters which Paul had 
addressed to them. He also recommended those 
churches who were nearest each other to communicate 
their letters reciprocally and to read them in turn in 
their meetings. Tychicus might besides be the bearer 
of a kind of Encyclical, traced upon the plan of the 
epistle to the Colossians and reserved for the churches 
to which Paul had nothing special to say. The apostle 
appeared to have left to his disciples or secretaries the 
care of editing this circular upon the plan which he 
gave them or after the system which he showed them. 
The epistle addressed in these circumstances to the 
Colossians has not been preserved to us. Paul dictated 
it to Timothy, signed it, and added in his own writing, 
remember my chains. As to the circular epistle which 
Tychicus took on his way to the churches which were 
not named hy letter, it would appear that we have it in 


the Epistle called to the Ephesians. Certainly this epistle 
was not destined for the Ephesians, since the apostle 
addresses himself exclusively to converted Pagans, to a 
Church which he had never seen and to which he had 
no special counsel to give. The ancient manuscripts of 
the epistle called to the Ephesians bore in blank in the 
superscription the designation of the Church to which it 
was destined, the Vatican manuscript and the codex 
SinaUicus present an analagous peculiarity. It is 
supposed that this pretended letter to the Ephesians is 
in reality the letter to the Laodiceaus, which was 
written at the same time as that to the Colossians. 
We have elsewhere given the reasons which prevent 
us from admitting this opinion, and which lead 
us rather to see in this writing what concerns a doc 
trinal letter which St. Paul desired to have reproduced 
in many copies and circulated in Asia. Tychicus, 
in passing to Asia, his own country, was able to show 
one of these copies to the elders ; they could keep it as 
an edifying morceau, and it is perfectly admissible that 
it might be this copy which had remained, when the 
letters of Paul were collected ; thence would come the 
title which the epistle in question bears to-day. What 
is certain is that the epistle called " to the Ephesians " 
is scarcely anything but a paraphrased imitation of the 
epistle to the Colossians, with some additions drawn 
from other epistles of Paul and perhaps lost epistles. 

This epistle called to the Ephesians, forms, along 
with the epistle to the Colossians, the best statement 
of Paul s theories about the close of his career. The 
epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians have, for 
the last period in the life of the apostle, the same valuo 
as the epistle to the Eomans has to the period of his 
great apostleship. The idea of the founder of Christ 
ian theology here reached the highest degree of clearness. 
We feel this last work of spiritualization to which great 
souls about to depart subject their thought, and after 
which there is nothing but death. 

4_ti THE A.NT1CHK18T. 

Certainly Paul was right when fighting this dangerous 
disease of Gnosticism, which was soon to threaten 
human reason, this chimerical religion of angels, to 
which he opposes his Christ as superior to all that is 
not God. We know there is still to come the last 
assault which he delivers against circumcision, vain 
works and Jewish prejudices. The morality which he 
draws from his transcendent conception of Christ is 
admirable from many points of view. But how much 
excess, great God ! How does this disdain of all 
reason, this brilliant eulogy of madness, this burst of 
paradox, prepare us on the other hand for the perfect 
wisdom which shuns all extremes ! That " old man," 
whom Paul attacks so harshly, is again brought 
forward. He will show that it does not deserve so 
many anathemas. All that past, condemned by an unjust 
sentence, will rediscover a principle of " new birth " for 
the world, carried by Christianity to the most exhaus 
tive point. Paul shall be in that sense one of the 
most dangerous enemies of civilization. The recrudes 
cences of Paul s mind shall be so many defeats for the 
human mind. Paul will die when the human mind 
shall triumph. What shall be the triumph of Jesus 
will be the death of Paul. 

The apostle closes his epistle to the Colossians by 
sending to them compliments and good wishes of their 
holy and devoted catechist Epaphras. He begs them at 
the same time to make an exchange of letters with the 
Church at Laodicea. To Tychicus, who carries the 
correspondence, he joins as messenger a certain 
Onesimus, whom he calls " a faithful dear brother." 
Nothing is more touching than the history of this 
Onesimus. He had been the slave of Philemon, one of 
the heads of the Colossian Church ; he fled from his 
master and sought to hide himself at Eome. There he 
entered into relations with Paul, perhaps through the 
medium of Epaphras his compatriot Paul converted 
him and persuaded him to return to his master, making 


him leave for Asia in the company of Tychicus. Finally, 
to calm the apprehensions of poor Onesimus, Paul 
dictated to Timothy a letter for Philemon, a perfect 
little chef d ceuvre of the epistolary art, and placed it in 
the hands of the delinquent. 

"PAUL, THE PKISONER of Jesus Christ, and brother 
Timothy, and Philemon, our well beloved and our 
fellow-worker, and sister Appia, our companion in works, 
and to the Church which is in thy house. Grace to you 
and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus 
Christ, I thank my God, making mention of thee 
always in my prayers ; hearing of thy love and faith 
which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all 
saints. May the communication of thy own faith 
become effectual by the acknowledging of every good 
thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have 
great joy and consolation in thy love because the 
bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. 
Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to 
enjoin thee that which is convenient ; yet for love s 
sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul 
the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ I 
beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have 
begotten in my bonds, which in time past was to thee 
unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me, 
whom I have sent again, thou therefore receive him 
that is mine own bowels ; whom I would have retained 
with me that in thy stead he might have ministered 
unto me in the bonds of the gospel. But without thy 
mind would I do nothing, that thy benefit should be as 
it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he 
therefore departed for a season that thou shouldest 
receive him for ever. Not now as a servant, but above 
a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how 
much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 
If thou count me therefore a partner receive him as 
myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought 
put that on mine account," 


Paul then took his pen, and to give his letter the 
value of a true credibility he added these words : 

" I Paul, I have written it with mine own hand, I witt 
repay it, albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto 
me, even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have 
joy of thee in the Lord, refresh my bowels in the Lord." 

Then he resumed his dictation : 

"Trusting in thy obedience, I have written to thee, 
knowing that thou wilt do more than I say, prepare thysel/ 
also to receive me : for I hope that, because of your prayers 
T shall be given back to you. Epaphras, my prison com. 
panion in Jesus Christ, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, 
my fellow labourers, salute thee. The grace of our Lord 
Jesus Christ be with your spirit !" 

We have seen that Paul had some singular illusions. 
He believed himself on the eve of deliverance, he formed 
new plans of travel, and saw himself in the centre of 
Asia Minor, in the midst of the Churches which revered 
him as their apostle without ever having met with him. 
John Mark likewise was preparing to visit Asia, nc 
doubt in Peter s name. Already the Churches of Asia 
had been informed of the approaching arrival of this 
brother. In the letter to the Colossians Paul inserted a 
new recommendation to his subject. The tone of this 
recommendation is cold enough. Paul feared that the 
disagreement he had had with John Mark and more 
still the sympathy of Mark with the Jerusalem party 
would place his friends in Asia in embarrassment, and 
that they would hesitate to receive a man whom they 
had up till then only known to be opposed. Paul was 
beforehand with these Churches and enjoined them ta 
communicate with Mark, when he should pass through 
their country. Mark was cousin to Barnabas, whose 
name, dear to the Galatians, would not be unknown to 
the people of Phrygia. We do not know the result of 
the incidents. A frightful earthquake shook the whole 
valley Dt the Lycus. Opulent Laodicea was rebuilt by 
its own resources : but Colosse could not recover itself 


it almost disappeared from the number of the Churches , 
the Apocalypse in 69 does not mention it. Laodicea 
and Hierapolis invented all its importance in the 
history of Christianity. 

Paul was comforted by his apostolic activity for the 
sad news which came from all parts. He said that he 
suffered for his dear Churches ; he pictured himself as 
the victim who was opening to the Gentiles the gates of 
the family of Israel. About the last months of his 
imprisonment, he yet knew discouragement and deser 
tion. Already writing to the Philippians he says, 
when opposing the conduct of his dear and faithful 
Timothy to that of others : 

" Every one seeks his own interest, not that of Jesus 
Christ." Timothy alone appears never to have excited 
any complaint in this matter, severe, gruff, difficult to 
please. It is not admissible to say that Aristarchus, 
Epaphras, Jesus called Justus had deserted him, but 
many among them were found absent occasionally. 
Titus was on a mission ; others who owed exerything to 
him, among whom may be quoted Phygellus and 
Hermogenes, ceased to visit him. He, once so sur 
rounded, saw himself isolated. The Christians of the 
circumcision shunned him. Luke, at certain periods, 
was alone with him. His character, which had always 
been a little morose, exasperated him; people could 
scarcely live in his company. Paul had from that time 
a cruel feeling of the ingratitude of men. Every word 
which one reads of his about this time is full of dis 
content and bitterness. The Church of Rome, closely 
affiliated to that of Jerusalem, was for the most part 
Judeo- Christian. Orthodox Judaism, very strong at 
Eome, had fought roughly with him. The old Apostle ; 
with a broken heart, called for death. 

If the matter had concerned one of another nature 
and another race we might try to picture Paul, in these 
last days, arriving at the conviction that he had used 
his life in a dream, repudiating all the sacred prophets 


for a writing which he had scarcely read till then 
Ecclesiastes (a charming book, the only loveable book 
ever composed by a Jew), and proclaiming that man 
happy who, after having let his life flow on in joy even 
to old age with the wife of his youth, dies without 
losing a son. A feature which characterises great 
European men is, at certain times, that they admit the 
wisdom of Epicurus, by being taken with disgust while 
working with ardour, and after having succeeded, 
by doubting if the cause they have served was worth 
so many sacrifices Many dare to say, in the heat of 
action, that the day on which they begin to be wise is 
that on which, freed from all care, they contemplate 
nature and enjoy it. Very few at least escape tardy regrets. 
There is scarcely any devoted person, priest or religious 
who, at fifty years of age, does not deplore his vow, and 
nevertheless perseveres. We do not understand the 
gallant man without a little scepticism; we love to hear the 
virtuous man sometimes say, " Virtue, thou art but a 
word!" for he who is too sure that virtue will be rewarded 
has not much merit ; his good actions do not appear more 
than an advantageous investment. Jesus was no stranger 
to this exquisite sentiment ; more than once his divine 
role appears to have weighed him down. Certainly it 
was not thus with St. Paul ; he has not his Gethsemaue 
of agony, and that is one of the reasons which make 
him less loveable. While Jesus possessed in the 
highest degree what we regard as the essential quality 
of a distinguished person, I mean by that the gift of 
smiling in his work, of being its superior, of not 
allowing it to master him, Paul was not free from the 
defect which shocks us in sectaries ; he believed 
clumsily. We could wish that sometimes, like our 
selves, he had been seated fatigued on the roadside, and 
had perceived th. vanity of absolute opinions. Marcus 
Aurelius. representing the most glorious of our race, 
yields to no one in vntue, and yet he does not know 
what fanaticisim is. That is never seen in the East , 


our race alone is capable of realizing virtue without 
faith, of uniting doubt with hope. Freed from the 
terrible impetuosity of their temperament, exempted 
from the refined vices of Greek and Eoman civilization, 
these strong Jewish minds were like powerful fountains 
which never run dry. Up to the end doubtless Paul 
saw before him the imperishable crown which was 
prepared for him, and like a runner redoubled his 
efforts the nearer he approached the goal. He had, 
moreover, moments of comfort. Onesiphorus of 
Ephesus, having come to Eome, sought him, and with 
out being ashamed of his chains, served him and 
refreshed his heart. Demas, on the contrary, was 
disgusted by the absolute doctrines of the apostle and 
left him. Paul appears always to have treated him 
with a certain coldness. 

Did Paul appear before Nero, or, to put it better, 
before the council to which his appeal would be laid ? 
That is almost certain. Some indications, of doubtful 
value it is true, tell us of a " first defence," where no one 
assisted him, and in which, thanks to the grace which 
sustained him, he acquitted himself to his own advantage, 
so much so that he compares himself to a man who has 
been saved from the teeth of a lion. It is very probable 
that his affair terminated at the close of two years of 
prison at Rome (beginning of the year 63) by an acquittal. 
We do not see what interest the Eoman authority 
would have had in condemning him for a sect-quarrel, 
which concerned it little. Some substantial indications, 
moreover, prove that Paul, before his death, carried out a 
series of apostolic travels and preachings, but not in the 
countries of Greece or Asia, which he had evangelized 

Five years before, a month previous to his arrest, 

Paul writing from Corinth to the faithful at Eome, 

announced to them his intention to visit Spain. He did 

not wish, he said, to exercise his ministry among them ; it 

was only in passing that he reckoned on seeing them 


and enjoying some time with them ; tKen they would 
bring him forward and facilitate his journey to the 
countries situated beyond them. The sojourn of the 
apostle at Eome was thus subordinated to a distant 
apostleship, which appeared to be his principal goal. 
During his imprisonment at Eome Paul appears some 
times to have changed his intention relative to his 
Western travels. He expresses to the Philippians and to 
the Colossian Philemon the hope of going to see them ; 
but he certainly did not carry out that plan. When 
he left prison, what did he do ? It is natural to suppose 
that he followed his first plan, and journeyed about where 
he could. Some grave reasons lead us to be believe that 
he realized his project of visiting Spain. That journey 
had in his mind a lofty dogmatic meaning ; he held to 
it much. It was important that he should be able to 
say that the good news had touched the extremity of the 
West, to prove that the gospel was accomplished since it 
had been heard at the end of the world. This fashion of 
exaggerating slightly the extent of his travels was 
familiar to Paul. 

The general idea of the faithful was that before the 
appearing of Christ, the kingdom of God should have 
been preached everywhere. According to the apostles 
manner of speech it was enough that it had been 
preached in a city for it to have been preached in a 
country ; and it was sufficient that it had been preached 
to a dozen people, for everyone in the city to have 
heard it. 

If Paul made this journey, he no doubt made it by 
sea. It is not absolutely impossible that some port in 
the south of Prance received the imprint of the 
apostle s foot. In any case, there remained of this 
problematic! visit to the West no appreciable result. 




At the close of Paul s captivity, the Acts of the 
Apostles and the Epistles fail us. We fall into a 
profound night, which contrast singularly with the 
historical clearness of the preceding ten years. No 
doubt not to be obliged to recount facts in which the 
Roman authority played an odious part, the author of 
the Acts, always respectful to that authority, and desirous 
of showing that it has been sometimes favourable to the 
Christians, stops all at once. That fatal silence casts 
a great uncertainty over the events which we should 
like so much to know. Fortunately Tacitus and the 
Apocalypse introduce a ray of living light into this 
deep night. The moment has come when Christianity, 
up till now held in secret by insignificant people to 
whom it was a joy, was about to break into history 
with a thunderclap, whose reverberation should be 

We have seen that the Apostles did not neglect any 
effort to recall to moderation their brethren exasperated 
by the iniquities of which they were the victims. They 
did not always succeed in that. Different condemnations 
had been pronounced against some Christians, and 
people had been able to represent these sentences as 
the repression of crimes or evils. With an admirable 
correctness of meaning the Apostles drew out the code 
of martyrdom. Was one condemned for the name of 
" Christian," he must rejoice. We see it recalled that 
Jesus had said : " Ye shall be hated by all because of 
My name." But, to have the right to be proud of that 
hatred, one must be irreproachable. It was partly to 
calm some inopportune effervescences, to prevent acts 



of insubordination against the public authority, and 
also to establish his right to speak in all the Churches, 
that Peter, about this time, thought of imitating Paul 
and writing to the Churches of Asia Minor, without 
making any distinction between Jews and converted 
heathens, a circular letter or catechetic. Epistles were 
in fashion ; from simple correspondence the Epistle 
had become a kind of literature, a fictional form serving 
as a framework for little treatises on religion. We 
have seen St. Paul at the end of his life adopting this 
custom. Each of the Apostles, following his example, 
wished to have his Epistle, as a specimen of his method 
of instruction, containing his favourite maxims, and 
when one of them had none, they made one for him. 
These new Epistles which were at a later date called 
" catholic," do not suggest that they have anything to 
order of some one ; they are the personal work of the 
Apostle, his sermon, his dominant thought, his little 
theology in eight or ten pages. There was mixed up 
in it some scraps of phrases drawn from the common 
treasure of homiletics and which, by dint of being 
quoted, have lost all signature, and no longer belong 
to anyone. 

Mark had returned from his journey in Asia Minor, 
which he had undertaken at Peter s order, and with 
recommendations from Paul, a journey which probably 
was the sign of the reconciliation of the two Apostles. 
This journey had put Peter in relations with the 
Churches of Asia and authorised him to address to 
them a doctrinal instruction. Mark, according to his 
habit, served as secretary and interpreter to Peter for 
the editing of the Epistle. It is doubtful if Peter 
could speak Greek or Latin : his language was Syriac. 
Mark was at the same time in relations with Peter 
and Paul, and perhaps it is that which explains a 
singular fact which the Epistle of Peter presents, 1 
mean some borrowings which the author of that 
Epistle makes from the writings of St. Paul. It is 


certain that Peter or his secretary (or the forger who 
has usurped his name), had under his eyes the Epistle 
to the Romans and the Epistle called " to the 
Ephesians," really the two " Catholic " Epistles of 
Paul, chose which have some true general features, 
and which were universally circulated. The Church 
of Rome could have a copy of the Epistle called to the 
Ephesians, recently written, a sort of general formula 
of the latter faith of Paul, addressed in the style of a 
circular to many Churches. With much stronger reason 
it would possess the Epistle to the Romans. Paul s 
other writings, which indeed have more the character 
of special letters, would not be found at Rome. Some 
less characteristic passages of the Epistle of Peter 
appear to have been borrowed from James. Did Peter, 
whom we have seen always holding a floating position 
in the apostolic controversies, while he made, if we 
can express it so, James and Paul speak by the same 
mouth, wish to show that the contradiction between these 
two Apostles were only apparent ? As a pledge of 
agreement, did he wish to become the demonstrator 
of Pauline conceptions, softened, it is true, and deprived 
of their necessary crowning justification by faith ? 
It is more probable that Peter, little accustomed to 
write and not concealing his literary barrenness, did 
not hesitate to appropriate some pious phrases which 
were continually repeated around him, and which, 
although parts of different systems, did not contradict 
each other in a formal way. Peter appears, fortunately 
for him, to have remained all his life a very mediocre 
theologian ; the rigour of a consequent system ought 
not to be sought for in his writing. 

The difference of the points of view in which Peter 
and Paul habitually placed themselves betrays itself, 
besides, from the first line of that writing : " Peter, an 
apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect banished by the 
dispersion through Pontus, Galatia, &c." Such expres 
sions are thoroughly final. The family of Israel, 


according to Palestinian ideas, was composed of two 
fractions on the one hand, those who inhabited the 
Holy Land ; on the other hand, those who did not 
inhabit it, comprehended under the general name of 
"the dispersion." Now, for Peter and James, the 
Christians, even heathens by origin, are so much a 
portion of the people of Israel that the whole Christian 
Church, outside of Jerusalem, enters in their views into 
the category of the expatriated. Jerusalem is still the 
only point in the world where, according to them, the 
Christian is not exiled. 

The Epistle of Peter, in spite of its bad style, 
although more analagous to that of Paul than to that of 
James or Jude, is an affecting morceau where the state 
of the Christian conscience about the end of Nero s 
reign is reflected. A sweet sadness, a resigned confi 
dence, fills it. The last times were at hand. These 
must be preceded by trials, from which the elect would 
come forth purified as by fire. Jesus, whom, the 
faithful love without having seen him, in whom they 
believe without seeing him, will soon reappear, to their 
joy. Foreseen by God from all eternity, the mystery 
of the redemption is accomplished by the death and 
resurrection of Jesus. The elect, called to be born 
again in the blood of Jesus, are a people of saints, a 
spiritual temple, a royal priesthood, offering spiritual 

" My dearly beloved, I pray you to comfort yourselves 
among the Gentiles who seek to represent you as evil 
doers, as strangers and expatriated, so that they may by 
your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in 
the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance 
of man for the Lord s sake, whether it be to the king as 
supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by 
him for the punishment of evil-doers and for the praise of 
them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with 
well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish 
men. As free and not using your liberty for a cloke of* 
maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. 
Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the kin-,;. 


Servants, be subject to your masters with ail fear, not only 
to the good and gentle, but also to the forward. For 
this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience towards God 
endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if 
when ye be buffeted for your faults ye shall take it 
patiently, but if when ye do well and suffer for it ye take it 
patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto 
were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us 
an example that ye should follow in his steps. Who did no 
sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who when he 
was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered he threat 
ened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth 

The ideal of the Passion, that touching picture of 
Jesus suffering without a word, exercised already, we 
have seen, a decisive influence on the Christian 
conscience. We may doubt if the account of it was 
yet written ; that account was increased every day by 
new circumstances ; but the essential features, fixed in 
the memory of the faithful, were to them perpetual 
exhortations to patience. One of the principal 
Christian positions was that " the Messiah ought to 
suffer." Jesus and the true Christian are more and 
more represented to the imagination under the form of 
a silent lamb in the hands of the butcher. They 
embraced Him in Spirit, this gentle lamb slain young 
by sinners ; they dwelt lovingly on the features of 
affectionate pity and amorous tenderness of a Magdalen 
at the tomb. This innocent victim, with the knife 
plunged in his side, drew tears from all those who had 
known him. The expression " Lamb of God," to 
describe Jesus, was already coined ; there mingled with 
it the idea of the paschal lamb ; one of the most 
essential symbols of Christian art was in germ in these 
figures. Such an imagination, which struck Francis d* 
Assisi so greatly and made him weep, came from that 
beautiful passage where the second Isaiah, describing 
the ideal of the prophet of Israel (the man of sorrows) 
shows Him as a sheep which is led to death, and which 
not open its mouth before its shearer. 


This model of submission and humility Peter made 
the law of all classes of Christian society. The elders 
ought to rule their flock with deference, avoiding the 
appearance of commanding the young ought to 
submit to the elder ; the women, especially, without 
being preachers, ought to be, by the discreet charm of 
their piety, the great missionaries of the faith. 

" And you, wives, likewise be in subjection to your own 
husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may 
without the word be won by the conversation of the wives, 
while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with 
fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning 
of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on 
of apparel. Bat let it be the hidden man of the heart in 
that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek 
and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 
For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, 
who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection 
unto their own husbands. Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, 
calling him lord. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them 
according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto 
the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace 
of life. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion 
one of another. Love as brethern, be pitiful, be courteous, 
not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing, but 
contrariwise blessing. And who is he that will harm you if 
ye be followers of that which is good ? And if ye suffer 
anything for righteousness, happy are ye ! " 

The hope of the kingdom of Grod held by the 
Christians gave room for some misunderstandings. The 
heathens imagined they spoke of a political revolution 
on. the point of being carried out. 

"Have a reason always ready for those who ask explana 
tions from you as to your hopes, but make that answer with 
gentleness and meekness, strong in your own good conscience, 
so that those who caluminate the honest life in Christ you 
lead may be ashamed of their injuries ; for it is better to 
suffer for doing good (if such is the will of God) than for 
doing evil. You have long enough done the will of the 
heathen, living in lust, evil desires, drunkenness, revelries, 
feastings, and the most abominable idolatrous worship. 
They are astonished now at your keeping from throwing 
yourselves with them into this excess of crime, and the? 


insult you. They shall give an answer to him who shall 
soon judge the living and the dead. The end of all things 
is at hand. My dearly beloved, be not astonished at the fire 
which is lit to prove you, as if it were some strange thing ; 
but rejoice in having part in the sufferings of Christ, so that 
you may triumph at the revelation of his glory. 1 " If you are 
insulted for the name of Christ happy are ye. Let none of 
you be punished as a murderer, a thief, or malefactor, as a 
judge of the afl airs of those who are without , but if anyone 
suffers as a Christian let him not be ashamed ; on the 
contrary, let him glorify God in that name ; for the time is 
come when judgment must begin at the house of God. If 
it begin with us, what shall the end be of those that obey 
not the Gospel of God ? The righteous shall scarcely be 
saved. What then shall become of the impious and the 
sinner ? Let those therefore who suffer according to the will 
of God commit to the faithful Creator their souls in all 
purity. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God 
that he may exalt you in due time. Be sober and watch ; 
your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, prowleth 
seeking for prey. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing 
that the same trials which prove you, your brethren spread 
over the whole world endure also. The God of all grace, 
after you have suffered awhile will heal you, confirm and 
strengthen you. To Him be all power through all tho 
ages." Amen. 

If this epistle, as we readily believe, is truly Peter s, 
it does much credit to his good sense, to his right 
feeling, and his simplicity. He does not arrogate any 
authority to himself. Speaking to the elders, he 
represents himself as one among themselves ; he does 
not boast because he has been a witness of the 
sufferings of Christ, and hopes to be a participator in 
the glory that is so soon to be revealed. ^The letter 
was conveyed to Asia by a certain Silvanus, who could 
not have been distinct from the Silvanus, or Silas, who 
was Paul s companion. Peter would thus have chosen 
him as known to the faithful of Asia Minor, through 
the visit he had made to them with Paul. Peter sends 
the salutations of Mark to these distant churches in a 
way which supposes, moreover, that he was, likewise, not 
unknown to them. The letter is closed by the usual 
greetings. The Church of Home is there described in 


these words : " The elect which is at Babylon." The 
sect was closely watched ; a letter too clear, inter- 
cepted, might have led to frightful evils Thus to dis* 
arm the suspicions of the police, Peter terms Rome by 
the name of the ancient capital of Asiatic impiety, a 
name whose symbolic signification would not escape 
anyone, and which would soon furnish the material foi 
a complete poem. 



The furious madness of Nero had arrived at its 
paroxysm. It was the most horrible adventure the 
world had ever passed through. The absolute neces 
sity of the times had delivered up everything to one 
alone, to the inheritor of the great legendary name of 
Coesar : another Government was impossible and the 
provinces usually found it well enough ; but it con 
cealed a terrible danger. When the Caesar lost his 
mind, when all the arteries of his poor head, disturbed 
by an unheard of power shivered at the same moment, 
then there were madnesses without name ! People 
were delivered up to a monster with no means of ridding 
themselves of him ; his guard, made up of Germans who 
had everything to lose if he fell, were desperate around 
his person ; the boast driven to bay acted like a wild 
boar and defended itself with fury. As for Nero, there 
was at the same time something frightful and grotesque, 
grand and absurd, about him. As Csesar was welj 
educated, his madness was chiefly literary. The dreams 
of all the ages, all the poems, all the legends, Bacchus 
and Sardanapalus, Niiius and Priam, Troy and Babylon, 
Homer, and the insipid poetry of the time, shook about 
in the poor brain of a mediocre, but very satisfied, 
artist to whom chance had entrusted the power of 
realising all his chimeras. We figiirc to ourselves a 


man very nearly as rational as the heroes of M. 
Hugo, a Shrove- Tuesday character, a mixture of fool, 
cotquean and actor, clothed in all power and charged 
with the government of the world He had not the 
dark wickedness of Domitian, the love of evil for the 
sake of evil ; he was not an extravagant like Caligula ; 
he was a conscientious romancer, an emperor of the 
opera, a music-madman trembling before the pit and 
making it tremble, just like a citizen of our days whose 
good sense might be perverted by the reading of 
modern poems and who believed himself obliged to 
imitate Han of Islande and the Burgraves in his con 
duct. Government being the practical thing par excellence, 
romanticism is altogether out of place. Romance 
is with him in the domain of art ; but action is the 
inverse of art. In what concerns the education of a 
prince especially, romance is fatal. Seneca, on this 
point, certainly did more harm to his pupil, by his bad 
literary taste, than good by his fine philosophy. He 
had a great mind, a talent above the average, and was 
a man at bottom respectable, in spite of more than one 
blemish, but quite spoiled by declamation and literary 
vanity, incapable of feeling or reasoning without 
phrases. By dint of exercising his pupil to express 
things he did not think, by composing in advance 
sublime sentences, he made a jealous comedian of him, 
a mendacious rhetorician, saying some words of 
humaneness when he was sure people were listening 
to him. The old pedagogue saw deeply into the evil 
of his time, that of his pupil and his own when he 
wrote in his moments of sincerity : Literarum inteiii- 
perantia labor amus. 

These ridiculous things appeared at first very offen 
sive to Nero ; the ape sometimes was circumspect and 
watched the position that had been taken towards him. 
Cruelty did not show itself till after Agrippina s death ; 
soon it took complete possession of him. Every year, 
henceforth, is parked by his crimes ; Burrhus is no 


more, and everybody believes that Nero killed him ; 
Octavia has left the world filled with shame ; Seneca is 
in retirement, expecting his arrest every hour, dreaming 
of nothing but tortures, strengthening his thoughts by 
meditation on punishment, trying to prove to himself 
that death is deliverance. Tigellinus being master of 
everything the saturnalia was complete. Nero pro 
claims daily that art alone should be held as a serious 
matter, that all virtue is a lie, that the brave man is he 
who is frank and avows his complete immodesty, and 
that the great man is he who can abuse, lose, and 
waste everything. A virtuous man is to him a 
hypocrite, a seditious person, a dangerous personage, 
and, above all, a rival ; when he discovers some horrible 
baseness which gives proof to his theories, he shows 
great delight. The political dangers of bombast and 
that false spirit of emulation, which was from the first 
the consuming worm of the Latin culture, unveiled 
themselves. The player had succeeded in obtaining 
the power of life and death over his auditory ; the 
dilettante threatened the people with the torture if they 
did not admire his verses. A monomaniac drunk with 
literary glory, who, turning the fine maxims which 
they have taught him into pleasantries of a cannibal, 
a ferocious gamin looking for the applauses of the street 
roughs that is the master to which the empire is sub 
jected. Nothing equal in extravagance has ever been 
seen. The Eastern despots, terrible and grave, had 
nothing of these mad jests, these debauches of a per 
verted aesthetic. Caligula s madness had been short ; 
it was a fit, and he was, above all, a buffoon, although 
he certainly possessed some wit ; on the contrary, 
the folly of this man, commonly nasty, was some 
times shockingly tragical. It was one of the most 
horrible things to see him, bv way of declamation, 
playing with his remorse, making this the material 
for his verse. With that melodramatic air which 
belonged to himself, he spoke of himself as being 
tormented by the furies, and quoted Greek verses on 


the parricides. A jocular God appeared to have 
created him to present him as the horrible charivari of 
a human nature, all whose springs grated on each 
other, the obscene spectacle of an epileptic world, such 
as might a Saraband of Congo apes, or a bloody orgy 
of a king of Dahomey. 

By his example all the world seemed struck with 
vertigo. He had formed a company of odious fellows 
who were called " the chevaliers of Augustus," having 
as their occupation to applaud the follies of the Caesar, 
and to invent for him some amusements as prowlers in 
the night. We shall soon see an emperor coming forth 
from that school. A flood of fancies, bad tastes, 
platitudes, expressions claiming to be comic, a 
nauseous slang, analogous to the wit of the smallest 
journals, entered Rome and became the fashion. 
Caligula had already created this sort of wretched im 
perial actorship. Nero took him for his perfect model. 
It was not enough for him to drive chariots in the 
circus, to wrestle in public, or to make singing excur 
sions in the country ; people saw him fishing with 
golden nets which he drew with purple cords, arrang 
ing his claqueurs himself, and obtaining false triumphs, 
decreeing to himself all the crowns of ancient Greece, 
organising unheard-of fetes, and playing at the theatres 
in nameless parts. 

The cause of these aberrations was the bad taste of/ 
the century, and the misplaced importance they yielded 1 
to a declamatory art, looking at the enormous, dreaming 
only of monstrosities. In fact, what ruled him was 
the want of sincerity, an insipid taste like that of the 
tragedies of Seneca, a skill in painting unfelt senti 
ments, the art of speaking like a virtuous man without 
being one. The gigantic passed for great ; the aesthetic 
was nowhere seen ; it was the day of colossal statues, 
of that material theatrical and fals ely pathetic art 
whose chef d oeuvre is the Laocoon, certainly an 
admirable statue, but the pose btnng that of a first 


tenor singing his canticnm, and where all the emotion is 
drawn from the pain of the body. They did not con 
tent themselves longer with the entirely moral pain of 
the Mobes, shining forth in beauty ; they wished the 
likeness of physical torture. They would have delighted 
as the seventeenth century did in a marble by Puget. 
The senses were served ; some grosser resources which 
the Greeks scarcely permitted in their most popular 
representations, became the essential element of art. 
The people were, thus literally, fascinated by shows, 
not serious spectacles, instructive tragedies, but scenes 
for effect, phantasmagoria. An ignoble taste for 
" tableaux vivants " had widely spread. People were no 
longer content to enjoy in imagination the exquisite 
stories of the poets ; they wished to see the myths 
represented in the flesh, in whatever was most cruel 
or obscene ; they went into ecstacies before the 
groupings and the attitudes of the actors ; they sought 
there the effects of statuary. The applauses of 50,000 
people, gathered together in an immense building, 
exciting one another, were such an intoxicating thing, 
that the sovereign himself came to envy the charioteer, 
the singer and the actor ; the glory of the theatre 
passed as the first of everything. Not one of the 
emperors whose head had a weak spot was able to resist 
the temptations to gather crowns from these wretched 
plays. Caligula had left there the little reason he 
had ; he passed his days in the theatre amusing 
himself with the idlers ; and later, Commodus and 
Caracalla disputed with Nero for the palm of madness. 
It became necessary to pass laws to prevent senator? 
and knights from descending into the arena, from 
fighting the gladiators, or pitting themselves against the 
beasts. The circus had become the centre of life ; the 
rest of the world seemed only made for the pleasures of 
Home. There were unceasingly new inventions, each 
stranger than the other, conceived and ordered by the 
ehoragic sovereign. The people went from fete to fete, 


speaking only of the last day, waiting for the one that 
was promised them, and ended by becoming much 
attached to the prince who made such an endless 
bacchanalia of his life. The popularity Nero obtained 
by these shameful means cannot be doubted ; it is 
sufficient that after his death Otho could obtain the 
government by reviving his memory, by imitating him, 
and by recalling the fact that he had himself been one 
of the minions of his coterie. 

One cannot exactly say that this wretched man was 
wanting in heart, or all sentiment of the good and 
beautiful. Far from being incapable of friendship, he 
often showed himself to be a good companion, and it 
was that very fact which made him cruel ; he wished to 
be loved and admired for himself, and was irritated 
against all who had not those feelings towards him. 
His nature was jealous and susceptible, and petty 
treasons put him beside himself. Nearly all his 
revenges were exercised on persons whom he had 
admitted to his intimate circle (Lucain, Vestinus), 
but who abused the familiarity he encouraged to wound 
him with their jests ; for he felt his weaknesses and 
feared their being detected. The chief cause of his 
hatred to Thraseas was that he despaired of obtaining 
his affection. The absurd quotation of the bad 
hemistitch, Sub terris tonuisse putes, destroyed Lucain. 
Without putting aside the services of a Galvia Crispinilla, 
he really loved some women ; and these women, Poppea 
and Actea, loved him. After the death of Poppea, 
accomplished by his brutality, he had a sort of 
repentance of feeling, which waa almost touching; he 
was for a long time possessed by a tender sentiment, 
sought out everyone who resembled her, and pursued after 
the most absurd substitutions ; Poppea on her side 
had for him feelings which a woman so distinguished 
would not have confessed for a common man. A 
courtesan of the great world, clever in increasing, by 
the charms of pretended modesty, the attractions of a 


rare beauty of the highest elegance, Poppea preserved 
in her heart, in spite of her crimes, an instinctive 
religion which inclined to Judaism. Nero seems to 
have been very sensible of that charm in women, which 
results from a certain piety associated with coquetry. 
These alternations of abandon and boldness, this woman 
who never went out but with her face partly veiled, 
this admirable conversation, and above all this touching 
worship of her own beauty which acted so that, her 
mirror having shown her some blemishes in it, she had 
a fit of perfectly womanlike despair, and wished to die; 
all this seized in a lively manner the imagination of a 
young debauchee, on whom the semblances of modesty 
exercised an all-powerful illusion. We shall soon see 
Nero, in his rdle as the Antichrist, creating in a sense 
the new aesthetic, and being the first to feast his eyes on 
the spectacle of unveiled Christian modesty. 

The devout and vuluptuous Poppea retained him by 
analogous feelings. The conjugal reconciliation which 
led to her death supposes that in her most intimate 
relations with Nero she had never abandoned that 
hauteur which she affected at the outset of their connec 
tion. As to Actea, if she was not a Christian, as it has 
been thought she was, she could not have so much of 
this. She was a slave originally from Asia, that is to 
say, from a country with which the Christians of Rome 
had daily correspondence. We have often remarked 
that the beautiful freed women who had the most 
adorers were much given to the oriental religions. 
Actea always kept her simple tastes, and never com 
pletely separated herself from her little society of slaves. 
She belonged first to the family of Anncea, about whom 
we have seen the Christians moving and grouping 
themselves; it was asserted by Seneca that she 
played in the most monstrous and tragical circum 
stances, a part which, seeing her servile condition, 
sannot perhaps be described as honourable This poor 
girl, humble, gentle, and whom many occasions show 


surrounded by a family of people bearing names almost 
Christian, Claudia, Fdicula, Stephanus, Crcscens, Phoebe 
Onesimus, Thallus, Artemas, Helpis, was the first love 
of Nero as a youth. She was faithful to him even to 
death ; we find her at the villa of Phaon, rendering tho 
last offices to the corpse from which every one drew 
aside in horror. 

And we must say that singular as this should 
appear, we can quite imagine that in spite of 
everything, women loved him. He was a monster, an 
absurd creature, badly formed, an incongruous product 
of nature; but he was not a common monster. 
It has been said that fate, by a strange caprice, wished 
to realize in him the hircocerf of logicians, a hybrid 
bizarre, and incoherent being, most frequently detes 
table, but whom yet at tunes people could not refrain 
from pitying. The feeling of women resting more 
upon sympathy and personal taste than the vigorous 
appreciation of ethics, a little beauty or moral 
kindness, even terribly warped, is sufficient for their 
indignation to melt into pity. They are especially 
indulgent to the artist, misguided by the intoxication of 
his art, for a Byron, the victim of his chimera, and 
pushing artlessness so far as to translate bji? inoffensive 
poetry into acts. The day on which Actea laid the 
bleeding corpse of Nero in the sepulchre of Domitius. 
she no doubt wept over the profanation of natural gifts 
known to her alone; that same day, we can believe 
more than one Christian woman prayed for him. 

Although of mediocre talent, he had sojae parts of 
an artist s soul; he painted and sculpture* well, his 
verses were good, notwithstanding a certain scholarly 
pomposity, and, in spite of all that can be said, he made 
them himself; Suetonius saw his autograph drafts 
covered with erasures. He vas the first to appreciate 
the admirable landscape or Subiaco, and made a deli 
cious summer residence there. His mind, in the 
observation of natural things, was just and curious : he 


had a taste for experiments, new inventions, and in 
curious things he wanted to know the causes, and 
separated charlatanism clearly from pretended magical 
sciences, as well as the nothingness of the religions of 
his age. The biography we are now quoting from 
preserves to us the account of the manner in which 
the vocation of singer awoke in him. He owed hi? 
initiation to the most renowned harpist of the century, 
Terpnos. We see him pass entire nights seated by the 
side of the musician, studying his play, lost in what he 
heard, in suspense, panting, intoxicated, breathing with 
avidity the air of another world which opened before 
him through contact with a great artist. There was 
there also the origin of his disgust for the Eomans, 
generally weak connaisseurs, and his preference for the 
Greeks, according to him, alone capable of appreciating 
him, and for the Orientals, who applauded him to 
distraction. Thenceforth he admitted no other glory 
than that of art : a new life revealed itself to him ; the 
emperor was forgotten; to deny his talent was the 
State-crime par excellence; the enemies of Rome were 
those who did not admire him. 

His desire in everything to be the head of fashion 
was certainly absurd. Yet it must be said that there 
was more policy in that than one would think. The 
first duty of the Caesar (seeing the baseness of the times) 
was to occupy the people. The sovereign was above al] 
a grand organizer of fetes ; the amuser-in-chief musfc 
be made to expose his own person to danger Many oi 
the enormities with which they reproached Nero had 
their gravity only from the point of view of "Roman 
manners, and the severe attitude to which people had 
been accustomed till then. This manly society was 
revolted by seeing the emperor give an audience to the 
senate in an embroidered dressing gown, and conducting 
his reviews in an intolerable ndglig^ without a belt, 
with a sort of scarf round his neck to preserve his voice. 
The true Eomans were rightly indignant at the introduc- 


fcion of those Eastern customs. But it was i&jvitable 
that the most ancient and most worn-out civilization 
should dominate the younger by its corruption. Already 
Cleopatra and Antony had dreamed of an oriental 
empire There was suggested to Nero a royalty of the 
same kind ; reduced to despair, he will think of asking the 
prefecture of Egypt. From Augustus to Constantino 
every year represents progress in the conquest of the 
portion of the empire which speaks Greek over the 
portion which speaks Latin. 

It must be recollected, moreover, that madness was in 
the air. If we except the excellent nucleus of aristo 
cratic society which shall arrive at power with Nerva 
and Trajan, a general want of the serious made the 
most considerable men play in some sort with life. The 
personage who represented and summed up the time, 
" the honest man " of this reign of transcendent immor 
ality, was, Petronius. He gave the day to sleep, the 
night to business and amusements. He was not one of 
those dissipated men who ruin themselves by grosser 
debaucheries, he was a voluptuary, profoundly versed in 
the science of pleasure. The natural ease and abandon 
of his speech and actions gave him an air of simplicity 
which charmed While he was pro-consul in Bithynia 
and later on consul, he shewed himself capable of 
great management. Coming back to vice or the boasting 
of vice, he was admitted into the inner court of Nero, 
and become the judge of good taste in everything; 
nothing was gallant or delightful Petronius did not 
approve. The horrible Tigellinus, who ruled by his base 
ness and wickedness, feared a rival whom he saw 
surpassing him in the science of pleasures ; he determined 
to destroy him. Petronius respected himself too much to 
fight with this miserable man. He did not wish however 
to quit life rudely. After having opened his veins he 
closed them again, then he opened them anew, conver 
sing on trifles with his friends, hearing them talk, not 
upon the immortality of the soul and the opinions of 


philosophers, but of songs and light poems. He chose 
this moment to reward some of his slaves and to have 
others chastised. He set himself down to table and fell 
asleep. This sceptical Merime e, with a cold and 
exquisite tone, has left us a romance of an accomplished 
and verve polish, at the same time of refined corruption, 
which is the perfect mirror of the time of Nero. After 
all, it is not the king of fashion who orders things. The 
elegance of life has its freedom outside of science and 
morality. The joy of the universe would want some 
thing if the world was only peopled by iconoclastic 
fanatics and virtuous blockheads. 

It cannot be denied that the taste for art was not 
lively and sincere among the men of that age. They 
could scarcely produce any beautiful things, but they 
sought greedily for the beautiful things of the past ages. 
This same Petronius an hour before his death made 
them break his myrrh vase so that Nero should 
not have it. Objects of art rose to a fabulous price. 
Nero was passionately fond of them. Fascinated by 
the idea of the great, but joining to that as little good 
sense as was possible, he dreamed fantastical palaces, 
of towns like Babylon, Thebes, and Memphis. The 
imperial dwelling on the Palatine (the ancient house of 
Tiberius), had been modest enough and of a thoroughly 
private character until Caligula s reign. This emperor, 
whom we must consider in everything as the creator of 
the school of government, in which it can be readily 
believed that Nero was not the master, considerably 
enlarged the house of Tiberius. Nero affected to find 
himself straitened there, and had not jests enough for his 
predecessors, who were content with x> little. He 
made the first draught in provisional materials of a 
residence which equalled the palaces of China and 
Assyria. This house which he called " transitory," and 
which he meditated soon making real, was quite a world. 
With its porticos three miles long, its parks where 
great flocks fed, its interior solitudes, its lakes surrounded 


by perspectives of fantastic towns, its vines, its forests, 
it covered a space larger than the Louvre, the Tuileries 
and the Champs-Elyse es put together ; it stretched 
from the Palatine to the gardens of Mecoenus, situated 
upon the heights of the Esquilina It was a perfect 
fairy land; the engineers Severus and Celer were 
surpassed there. Nero wished tc have it executed in 
such a way that it could be called the " Golden House." 
People charmed him by speaking of foolish enterprises, 
which might make his memory eternal. Eome especially 
preoccupied his mind. He wished to rebuild it from 
top to bottom, and to have it called Neropolis. 

Eome for a century back had been the wonder of the 
world ; she equalled in grandeur the ancient capitals of 
Asia. Her buildings were beautiful, strong, and solid, 
but the streets appeared mean to the people of fashion, 
who every day went more and more in the direction of 
vulgar and decorative constructions; they aspired to 
those effects of harmony which make the delight of 
cockneys ; they sought for frivolities unknown to the 
ancient Greeks. Nero was the head of the movement. 
The Rome which he imagined would have been 
something like the Paris of our day, or one of those 
artificial cities built by superior order on the plan which 
one has especially seen win the admiration of country 
people and foreigners. The irrational youth was 
intoxicated by these unwholesome plans. He desired 
also to see something strange, some grandiose spectacle 
worthy of an artist ; he wished for an eve^t which 
should mark a date in his reign, " Until me," said he 
" people did not know the extent that was permitted to 
a prince." All these inner suggestions of a disordered 
fancy appeared to take shape in a bizarre event which 
had for the subject which occupies us the most 
important consequences. 

The incendiary mania being contagious and often 
complicated ^y hallucination, it is very dangerous to 
awake it in weak heads where it sleeps. One of the 


features of Nero s character was his inability to resist 
the fixed idea of a crime. The burning of Troy 
which he had played since his infancy, took possession 
of him in a terrible manner. One of the pieces which 
he had represented in one of his fe~tes was the 
Incendium of Afranius, where a conflagration was seen 
upon the stage. In one of his fits of egotistical rage 
against fate, he cried : " Happy Priam, who could see 
with his own eyes his empire and his country perish at 
the same time ! " On another occasion, having quoted a 
Greek verse from the Bellerophon of Euripedes, which 
signifies : 

When I am dead, the earth and the fire can mingle 
together ; 

" Oh, no," said he, " but while I am living ! " The 
tradition according to which Nero burned Kome, only to 
have a repetition of the burning of Troy, is certainly 
exaggerated, since, as we shall show, Nero was absent 
from the city when the fire shewed itself. Yet this 
story is not destitute of all truth. The demon of perverse 
dramas who had taken possession of him was, as among 
wicked people of another age, one of the essential actors 
in the horrible crime. 

On the 19th of July, 64, Rome took fire with a fear 
ful violence. The conflagration began near the Capena 
gate, in the portion of the Grand Circus contiguous to 
the Palatine hill and Mons Ccelius. That quarter 
contained many shops, full of inflammable material, where 
the fire spread with a prodigious rapidity. From that 
point it made the tour of the Palatine, ravaged the 
Velabra, the Forum, the Carines, and mounted the hills, 
greatly damaged the Palatine, went down again bo the 
valleys, consuming during six days and nights some 
districts which were compact and full of tortuous streets. 
An enormous abatis of houses which had been built at 
the foot of the Esquiline arrested it for some time ; then 
it flamed up again and lasted three days more. The 
number of deaths was considerable. Of fourteen 


districts of which the city was composed, three were 
entirely destroyed, while other seven were reduced to 
blackened walls, Home was a prodigious city closely 
built, with a very dense population. The: disaster was 
frightful and such as has never been seen equalled. 

Nero was at Antium when the fire broke out. He 
only entered the city at the moment the flames 
approached his " transitory " house. It was impossible 
for anything to resist the flames. The imperial mansions 
of the Palatine, the " transitory " house itself, with its 
dependencies, and the whole surrounding quarter, were 
destroyed. Nero evidently did not care much whether 
his residence could be saved or not. The sublime 
horror of the spectacle fascinated him. It was after 
wards said that, mounted on a tower, he had contemplated 
the fire, and that there, in a theatrical dress, with a lyre 
in his hand, he had sung, to the touching rhythm of the 
ancient elegy, the ruin of Troy. 

There was here a legend, a fruit of the age and of 
successive exaggerations; but one point upon which 
universal opinion pronounced itself was this, that the 
fire was ordered by Nero, or at least revived by him 
when it was about to go out. It was believed that 
members of his househould were recognized setting fire to 
it at different points. In certain directions, the fire was 
kindled, it was said, by men feigning drunkenness. The 
conflagration had the appearance of having been raised 
simultaneously at many points at the same time. It is 
said that, during the fire, there had been seen the 
soldiers and the watchmen charged with extinguishing 
it, stirring it up, and hindering the efforts which were 
made to circumscribe it, and that with an air of threaten 
ing and in the style of people who executed official 
orders. Some large constructions of stone, in the 
neighbourhood of the imperial residence, and whose site 
he coveted, were turned over as in a siege. When the 
fire began again, it commenced in some buildings which 
belonged to Tigellinus. What confhraed these suspicions 


is that after the fire Nero, under preiext of cleaning the 
ruins at his expense to leave a free place to the owners 
took charge of removing the ruins, so much that he did 
not permit any person to approach them. It was much 
worse, when they saw him collect a good part of the 
ruins of the country, when they saw the new palace of 
Nero, that " House of Gold " which for a long time had 
been the plaything of his delirious imagination, rising 
upon the site of the old temporary residence, increased 
by the space which the fire had cleared. It was thought 
he had wished to prepare the grounds of this new palace, 
to justify the reconstruction which he had projected for 
a long time, to procure himself money by appropriating 
to himself the debris of the fire, in short, to satisfy his mad 
vanity, which made him desire to have Rome rebuilt, 
that it might date from him and that he might give il 
his name. 

Everything leads us to believe that there was no 
calumny in that. The truth, so far as it concerns Nero, 
can scarcely be probable. It may be said that with 
his power he had more simple means than fire to 
procure the lands he desired. The power of the 
emperor, without bounds in one sense, soon found on 
another side its limit in the customs and prejudices of 
a people conservative in the highest degree of its 
religious monuments. Eome was full of temples, of 
holy places, of arece, of buildings which no law of 
expropriation could cause to disappear. Caesar and many 
other emperors had seen their designs of public utility, 
especially in what concerns the rectification of the 
course of the Tiber, met by this obstacle. To execute 
his irrational plans, Nero had but really one means 
fire. The situation resembled that of Constantinople 
and in the great Mussulman cities, whose renovation is 
prevented by the mosques and the ouakouf. In the East, 
fire is only a weak expedient ; for, after the fire, the 
ground, considered as a sort of inalienable patrimony 
of the faithful, remains sacred. At Rome, where 


religion is attached more to the edifice than to the site, 
the measure was efficacious. A new Rome, with large 
and stretched out streets, was reconstructed quickly 
enough according to the plans of the emperor and on 
the premiums which he offered. 

All honest men who were in the city were enraged. 
The most precious antiquities of Rome, the houses of 
the ancient leaders decorated yet with triumphal spoils, 
the most sacred objects, the trophies, the ex-voto antiques, 
the most esteemed temples all the material of the old 
worship of the Romans had disappeared. It was like 
the funeral of the reminiscences and legends of the 
fatherland. Nero had in vain taken on himself the 
expense of assuaging the misery he had caused ; it was 
stated in vain that everything was limited in the last 
analysis to an operation of clearing up and rendering 
wholesome ; that the new city would be very superior to 
the old ; no true Roman would believe it ; all those for 
whom a city is anything more than a mass of stones 
were wounded to the heart ; the conscience of the 
country was hurt. This temple built by Evander, that 
other erected by Servius Tullius,of the sacred enceinte of 
Jupiter Stator, the palace of Nuina, those penates of the 
Roman people, those monuments of so many victories, 
those triumphs of Grecian art, how could the loss be 
repaired ? What value compared with that was there 
in sumptuousness of parades, vast monumental perspec 
tive, and endless straight lines ? They conducted 
expiatory ceremonies, they consulted the Sibyl s books, 
and the ladies especially celebrated divers piacula. 
But there remained the secret feeling of a crime, an 
infamy ; Nero began to feel that he had gone a little to* 





An infernal idea then came into his mind. He asked 
himself if there were not in the world some wretches still 
more detested than he by the Eoman citizens, on whom 
he had brought down the odium of the fire. He thought 
of the Christians. The honor which those last showed 
for the temples and the buildings most venerated by the 
Eomans rendered acceptable enough the idea that they 
were the authors of a fire, the effect of which had been 
to destroy those sanctuaries. Their gloomy air before 
the monuments appeared an insult to the country. 
Rome was a very religious city, and one person protesting 
against the national cults was very quickly observed. 
It must be remembered that certain rigorous Jews went 
even so far as not to touch a coin bearing an effigy, 
and saw as great a crime in the fact of looking at or 
carrying about an image, as in that of carving it. Others 
refused to pass through a gate of the city surmounted by 
a statue. All this provoked the jests and the bad will 
of the people. Perhaps the talk of the Christians upon 
the grand final conflagration, their sinister prophecies, their 
affectation in repeating that the world was soon to finish, 
and to finish by fire, contributed to make them be taken 
for incendiaries. It is not even inadmissable that many 
believers had committed imprudences and that men had 
had some pretexts to accuse them for having wished, by 
preluding the heavenly flames, to justify their oracles at 
any price. What piaculum, in any case, could be more 
efficacious than the punishment of those enemies of the 


gods, in seeing them atrociously tortured the people 
would say : " Ah ! no doubt, these are the culprits ! " 
It must be recollected that public opinion regarded as 
established facts the most odious crimes laid to the 
charge of the Christians. 

Let us put far from us the idea that the pious disciples 
of Jesus had been culpable to any degree of the crime of 
which they were accused : let us only say that many 
indications might mislead opinion. This fire it may be 
they had not Ht, but surely they rejoiced at it. The 
Christians desired the end of society and predicted it. 
In the Apocalypse, it is the secret prayers of the saints 
which burn the earth and make it tremble. During 
the disaster, the attitude of the faithful would appear 
equivocal : some no doubt were wanting in showing 
respect and regret before the consumed temples, or even 
did not conceal a certain satisfaction. One could 
imagine such a conventicle at the base of the Transtevere, 
where it might be said : " Is this not what we foretold ? " 
Often it is dangerous to show oneself too prophetic. 
" If we wished to revenge ourselves," said Tertullian, " a 
single night and some torches would be sufficient." The 
accusation of incendiarism was very common against the 
Jews, because of their separate life. This very crime 
was one of these ftagitia cohcerentia nomini which made 
up the definition of a Christian, 

Without having at all contributed to the catastrophe 
of the 19th July, the Christians could therefore be 
held, if one could so express it, incendiaries at heart. 
In four years and a half the Apocalypse will 
present a song on the burning of Eome, to which the 
event of 64 probably furnished more than one feature. 
The destruction of Rome by flames was indeed a Jewisc. 
and Christian dream ; but it was nothing but a dream 
the pious secretaries were certainly contented 
to see in spirit the saints and angels applauding 
from high heaven what they regarded as a just 


One can scarcely believe tliat the idea of accusing 
the Christians of the fire of the month of July should 
come of itself to Nero. Certainly, if Caesar had 
known the good brothers closely, he would have strangely 
hated them. The Christians naturally could not 
comprehend the merit which lay in posing as an 
actor on the stage of the society of his age : now what 
exasperated Nero was when people misunderstood his 
talent as an artist and head of entertainments. Yet 
Nero could not but hear them speak of the Christians ; 
he never found himself in personal relations with them. 
By whom was the atrocious expedient on which he 
acted suggested ? It is probable besides that on many 
sides in the city some suspicions were entertained. The 
sect, at that time, was well known in the official world. 
We have seen that Paul had certain relations with some 
person attached to the service of the imperial palace. 
One thing very extraordinary is that among the 
promises which certain people had made to Nero, in 
case he should come to be deprived of the empire, was 
that of the government of the east and particularly of 
the kingdom of Jerusalem. The Messianic, ideas among 
the Jews at Borne often took the form of yague hopes 
of a Roman oriental empire ; Vepasian profited at a 
later date by those fancies. From the accession of 
Caligula up till the death of Nero, the Jewish cabals at 
Rome did not cease. The Jews had contributed greatly 
to the accession and to the support of the family of 
Germanicus. Whether through the Herods or other 
jitriguers, they besieged the palace, too often to have 
their enemies destroyed. Agrippa II. had been very 
powerful under Caligula and Claudius; when he 
resided at Rome he played the part of an influential 
person. Tiberius Alexander on the other hand, occupied 
the loftiest functions. Josephus indeed shows himsolf 
to be very favourable to Nero ; he says they have 
caluminated him, and lays all his crimes upon his evil 
surroundings. As to Poppea, he makes her out to be a 


pious person because she was favourable to the Jews, 
because she seconded the solicitations of the zealots, 
and also perhaps because she adopted a portion oi their 
rites. He knew her in the year 62 or 63, obtained 
through her pardon for the arrested Jewish priests, 
and cherished the most grateful remembrance of her. 
We have the touching epitaph of a Jewess named 
Esther born at Jerusalem and freed by Claudius or 
Nero, who charges her companion Arescusus to keep 
watch that they put nothing on her tomb contrary to 
the Law, as for example, the letters D.M. Rome 
possessed some actors and actresses of Jewish origin : 
under Nero, there was in that a natural way of finding 
access to the emperor. There is named in particular a 
certain Alityrus,a Jewish player, much liked by Nero and 
Poppea ; it was by him that Josephus was introduced 
to the empress. Nero, full of hatred for everything 
that was Koman, loved to turn to the east, to surround 
himself with orientals, and to concoct some intrigues 
in the east. 

Is all this enough on which to found a plausible 
hypothesis ? Is it allowable to attribute to the hatred of 
the Jews against the Christians the cruel caprice 
which exposed the most inoffensive of men to the most 
monstrous punishments? It was surely a pity that 
the Jews had this secret interview with Nero and 
Poppea at the moment when the emperor conceived 
such a hateful thought against the disciples of Jesus. 
Tiberius Alexander especially was then in his full 
favour, and such a man would detest the saints. The 
Romans usually confounded the Jews and the Christians. 
Why was the distinction so clearly made on this 
occasion? Why were the Jews, against whom the 
Romans had the same moral antipathy and the same 
i-eligious grievances as against the Christians, not 
meddled with at this time ? The sufferings of some Jews 
would have been a piacalum quite as effectual. Clemens 
Romauus, or the author (certainly a Roman) of the 


epistle which is attributed to him, in the passage where 
he makes allusion to the massacres of the Christians 
ordered by Nero, explains them in a manner very 
obscure to us, but very characteristic. All these 
misfortunes are " the result of jealousy," and this word 
" jealousy " evidently signifies here some internal 
divisions, some animosities among the members of the 
same confraternity. From that was born a suspicion, 
corroborated by this incontestable fact that the Jews, 
before the destruction of Jerusalem, were the real 
persecutors of the Christians, and neglected nothing 
which would make them disappear. A widespread 
tradition of the fourth century asserts that the 
death of Paul and even that of Peter, which they did 
not separate from the persecution of the year 64, had as 
its cause the conversion of the mistresses and one of the 
favourites of Nero. Another tradition sees in this a 
result of the defeat of Simon the magician. With a 
personage so fanciful as Nero every conjecture is 
hazarded. Perhaps the choice of the Christians for the 
frightful massacre was only a whim of the emperor 01 
Tigellinus. Nero had no need of anyone to conceive 
for him a design capable of baffling, by its monstrosity, 
all the ordinary rules of historical induction. 

At first a certain number of persons suspected of 
forming part of the new sect were arrested, and they 
were put together in a prison, which was already a 
punishment in itself. They confessed their faith, which 
was considered an avowal of the crime which waa 
judged inseparable from it. These first arrests led to a 
great number of others. The larger portion of the 
accused appear to have been proselytes, observing the 
precepts and the rules of the pact of Jerualem. It is 
not to be admitted that any true Christians had 
denounced their brethren ; but some papers might be 
seized ; some neophytes scarcely initiated might yield to 
the torture. People were surprised at the multitudes of 
adherents who had accepted these gloomy doctrines ; they 


did not speak of them without fear. All sensible men 
considered the accusation of having caused the fire 
extremely weak. " Their true crime," it was said, " is 
hatred to the human race." Although persuaded that 
the fire was Nero s crime, many of the thoughtful 
Romans saw in this cast of the police net a way of 
delivering the city from a most fatal plague. Tacitus, 
in spite of some pity, is of that opinion. As to 
Suetonius, he ranks among Nero s praiseworthy measures 
the punishments to which he subjected the partisans of 
the new and malevolent superstition 

These punishments were something frightful. Such 
refinements of cruelty had never been seen. Nearly all 
the Christians arrested were of the humiliores, people of 
no position. The punishment of those unfortunates, 
when it was a matter of lese-majesty or sacrilege, 
consisted in being delivered to the beasts or burned 
alive in the amphitheatre, with accompaniments of cruel 
scourgings. One of the most hideous features of Roman 
manners was to have made of punishment a fete, and 
the witnessing of slaughter a public game. Persia, in 
its moments of fanaticism and terror had known frightful 
exhibitions of torture ; more than once it has tasted 
there a sort of gloomy pleasure ; but never before the 
Roman domination had there been this looking at these 
horrors as a public diversion, a subject for laughter and 
applause. The amphitheatres had become the places of 
execution; the tribunals furnished the arena. The 
condemned of the whole world were led to Rome for 
the supply of the circus and the amusement of the 
people. Let us join to that an atrocious exaggeration in 
the penalty which caused simple offences to be punished 
by death ; let us add numerous judicial blunders, 
resulting from a defective criminal procedure, and we 
shall conceive that all the ideas were perverted. The 
punished were considered very soon to be as much 
unfortunate as criminal ; as a whole, they were looked 
im as nearly innocent, innoxia corvora. 


To the barbarity of the punishments, this time they 
added insult. The victims were kept for a f6te, to 
which no doubt an expiratory character was given. 
Rome reckoned few days so extraordinary. The Indus 
matutinus, dedicated to the fights with animals, made 
an extraordinary exhibition. The condemned, covered 
with the skins of wild beasts, were thrust into the arena, 
where they were torn by the dogs ; others were 
crucified, others again, clothed in tunics steeped in 
oil, pitch, or resin, were fastened to stakes and kept to 
light up the fete at night. As the dusk came on they 
lit those living flambeaux. Nero gave for the spectacle 
the magnificent gardens he possessed across the Tiber, 
and which occupied the present site of the Borgo 
and the piazza and church of St. Peter. He had found 
there a circus, commenced by Caligula, continued 
by Claudius, and of which an obelisk brought 
from Hierapolis (that which at the present day 
marks the centre of the piazza of St. Peter) was the 
boundary. This place had already seen massacres 
by torchlight. Caligula caused to be beheaded there 
by the light of flambeaux a certain number of 
consular personages, senators, and Roman ladies. 
The idea of replacing those lights by human bodies 
impregnated by inflammable substances may appear 
ingenious. This punishment, this fashion of burning 
alive was not new ; it was the ordinary penalty for 
incendiaries, what was termed the tunica molesta ; but 
a system of illumination had never been made out of it 
By the light of these hideous torches Nero, who had 
put evening races in fashion, showed himself in the 
arena, sometimes mingling with the people in the dress 
of a jockey, sometimes driving his chariot and seeking 
for their applause. But yet there were some signs of 
compassion. Even those who believed the Christians 
culpable and who confessed that they had deserved the 
last punishment, were horrified by these cruel pleasures. 
Wise men wished that they would do only what public 


utility demanded, that the city should be cleared ot 
dangerous men, but that there should not be the 
appearance of sacrificing criminals to the cruelty of a 
single person. 

Some women, some maidens, were mixed up with 
these horrible games. A fte was made out of the 
nameless indignities they suffered. The custom was 
established under Nero of making the condemned in 
the amphitheatre play certain mythological parts, 
involving the death of the actor. Those hideous operas, 
where the science of machinery attained prodigious 
results, were a new thing ; Greece would have been 
surprised if they had suggested to it a similar attempt 
to apply ferocity to aesthetics, to produce art by torture. 
The unfortunate was introduced into the arena richly 
dressed as a god or a hero doomed to death, then 
represented by his punishment some tragic scene of 
fables consecrated by sculptors and poets. Sometimes 
it was the furious Hercules, burned upon mount (Eta, 
Arawing over his skin the lit tunic of pitch ; sometimes 
it was Orpheus torn in pieces by a bear; Dedalus 
thrown from the sky and devoured by beasts ; Pasiphae 
submitting to the embrace of the bull, or Attys 
murdered ; at other times, there were horrible 
masquerades, where the men were dressed as priests of 
Saturn, with a red mantle on their backs ; the women as 
priestesses of Ceres, with fillets on their foreheads ; and 
lastly some dramatic pieces, in the course of which the 
hero was really put to death, like Laureolus, or 
representations of tragical acts like that of Mucius 
Scaevola. At the close, Mercury, with a rod of red hot 
iron, touched every corpse to see if it moved ; some 
masked servants, representing Pluto or the Orcus, drew 
away the dead by the feet, killing with mallets all who 
still breathed. 

The most respectable Christian ladies bore their part 
in these monstrosities. Some played the part of the 
Duuaides. others those of Dirce". It is difficult to say 


why the fable of the Danaides could furnish a bloody 
tableau. The punishment which all mythological tradi 
tion attributes to these guilty women, and in which 
they are represented, was not cruel enough to minister 
to the pleasure of Nero and the habitues of his amphi 
theatre. Probably they niarched bearing urns, and 
received the fatal blow from an actor representing 
Lynceus ; or Anonyma, one of the Danaids, was seen 
pursued by a Satyr and outraged by Neptune. Perhaps, 
in short, these unfortunates passed through the punish 
ment of Tartarus one after the other, and died after 
hours of torment. Eepresentations of hell were in 
fashion. Some years before (41) certain Egyptians and 
Nubians came to Eome, and had a great success by 
giving exhibitions at night, where they showed the 
horrors of the lower world, according to the paintings on 
the Syringe of Thebes, especially those on the tomb of 
Sethos I. 

As to the sufferings of the Dirce*s there can be no 
doubt. We know the colossal group known by the 
name of the Farnese Bull, now in the museum at 
Naples. Amphion and Zethus fasten Dirce to the 
horns of au untamed bull which would draw her across the 
rocks and precipices of Cithero. This mediocre Ehodian 
marble, brought to Eome in the time of Augustus, was 
the object of universal admiration. What finer subject 
for this hideous art which the cruelty of the age had 
put in vogue and which consisted in making tableaux 
vivants of famous statues ? A text and a fresco from 
Pompeii appear to prove that this temple scene was 
often represented in the arena, when the person to be 
punished was a woman. Bound naked by the hair to 
the horns of a furious bull, the unfortunates satiated the 
lustful glances of the cruel people. Some of the 
Christian women thus sacrificed were weak in body ; 
their courage was superhuman : but the infamous crowd 
had no eyes save for their opened entrails and their torn 


Nero was doubtless present at these spectacles. As 
he was short-sighted he had the habit of wearing in his 
eye, when he followed the gladiatorial fights, a concave 
emerald which he used as a lorgnon. He loved to 
parade his knowledge of sculpture ; it is asserted that 
he made odious remarks over the corpse of his mother, 
praising this and disparaging that. Flesh palpitating 
under the teeth of the beasts, a poor timid girl veiling 
her nudity by a modest gesture, then tossed by a bull, 
and torn in pieces on the pebbles of the arena, would 
present some plastic forms and colours worthy of a 
connaisseur like him. He was there in the first rank 
upon the podium, mingling with the vestals and the 
curule magistrates, with his bad figure, his mean face, 
his blue eyes,, his chestnut hair twisted in rows of curls, 
his cruel lips, his wicked arid beastly air ; at once the 
figure of a big ugly baby, happy, puffed up with vanity, 
while a brassy music vibrated in the air, waving through 
a stream of blood. He doubtless dwelt like an artist 
upon the modest attitude of these new Dirces, and 
found, I imagine, that a certain air of resignation 
gave to these poor women about to be torn in pieces a 
charm which he had never known till then. 

For a long time that hideous scene was remembered, 
and even under Domitian when an actor was put to 
death in his part, especially one Loreolius, who really 
died upon the cross, they thought of the piacula of the 
year 64 and imagined him to represent an incendiary of 
the city of Eome. The names of sarmentitii or 
sarmentarii (people preparing the fagots) semaxii (the 
stakes) the popular cry of " The Christians to the lions" 
appeared also to date from that time. Nero, with a sort 
of clever art, had struck budding Christianity with an 
indelible impress ; the bloody ncevus inscribed on 
the forehead of the martyr church shall never be 

Those of the brethren who were not tortured had in 
some sort their part in the sufferings of the others by 


the sympathy which they shewed them and the care 
which they took to visit them in prison. They bought 
often this dangerons favour at the price of all their 
goods ; the survivors of the crisis were utterly ruined. 
They scarcely thought of that, however, they saw nothing 
but the enduring reward of heaven and said continually: 
" Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come." 

Thus opened this strange poem of martyrdom, this 
epopee of the amphitheatre, which was to last for 250 
years, and from which would come forth the ennoblement 
of women, the rehabitation of the slaves by such episodes 
as these : Blandina 011 the cross turning her eyes upon 
her companions, who saw in the gentle and pale slave 
the image of Jesus crucified : Potanugina protected from 
outrage by the young officer who was leading her to 
punishment. The crowd was seized with horror when it 
perceived the humid breasts of Felicita ; Perpetua in the 
arena pinning up her hair trampled by the beasts not 
to appear disconsolate. Legend tells that one of these 
saints proceeding to punishment met a young man who, 
touched by her beauty, gave her a look of pity. Wishing 
to leave him a souvenir she took the kerchief which 
covered her bosom and gave it to him ; intoxicated by 
this gage of love the young man ran a moment later to 
martyrdom. Such was in fact the dangerous charm of 
those bloody dramas of Eome, Lyons, and Carthage. 
The joy of the sufferers in the amphitheatre became 
contagious as under the Terror the resignation of the 
" Victims." The Christians presented themselves above 
all to the imagination of the times as a race determined 
to suffer. The desire for death was henceforward their 
mark. To arrest the too deep desire for martyrdom 
the most terrible threatenings became necessary the 
stamp of heresy, expulsion from the church. 

The fault which the educated classes of the empire 
committed in provoking this feverish enthusiasm cannot 
be blamed enough. To suffer for his belief is a thing so 
sweet to man. that this at/traction is alone sufficient to 


make him believe. More than one unbeliever was 
converted without any other reason than that ; in the 
east, one even sees impostors lying only for the sake of 
lying and being victims of their own lies. There was 
no sceptic who did not regard the martyr with a 
jealous eye, and did not envy him that supreme 
happiness of affirming something. A secret instinct 
leads us besides to favour those who are persecuted. 
Whoever imagines that a religious or social movement 
can be arrested by coercive measures gives therefore a 
proof of his complete ignorance of the human heart, 
and shews that he does not know the true means of 
political action. 

What happened once may happen again. Tacitus 
would have turned away with indignation if he had 
been shewn the future of those Christians whom he 
treated as wretches. The honest people of Rome would 
have cried out if any observer endowed with a prophetic 
spirit had dared to say to them : " These incendiaries 
will be the salvation of the world." Hence an eternal 
objection against the dogmatism of conservative parties, 
an irremediable warping of conscience, and a secret 
perversion of judgment. Some wretches despised by 
all fashionable people have become saints. It would 
not be good if madnesses of this kind were frequent. 
The safety of society demands that its sentences shall 
not be too frequently reformed. Since the condemnation 
of Jesus, since the martyrs have been found to have had 
success for their cause in their revolt against the law, 
there had always been in the matter of social crimes as 
a secret appeal from the thing judged. Not one of the 
condemned but could say : " Jesus was smitten thus. 
The martyrs were held to be dangerous men of whom 
society must be purged, and yet the following centuries 
have shewn that this was right." A heavy blow this to 
those clumsy assertions by which a society seeks to 
represent to itself that its enemies are wanting in all 
reason aiid morality. 


After the day when Jesus expired on Golgotha, the 
day of the festivals of the gardens of Nero (one can fix it 
about the 1st of August in the year 64) was the most 
solemn in the history of Christianity. The solidity of a 
construction is in proportion to the sum of virtues, 
sacrifices and devotion which are laid as its foundations. 
Fanatics alone found anything. Judaism endures still 
by reason of the intense frenzy of its prophets and zealots ; 
Christianity, because of the courage of its first witnesses. 
The orgy of Nero was the grand baptism of blood, which 
marked out Home as the city of the martyrs to play a 
part in the history of Christianity, and to be the second 
holy city. It was the taking possession of the Vatican 
hill by these conquerors of a kind unknown till then. 

The odious madcap who governed the world did not 
perceive that he was the founder of a new order, and 
that he signed for the future a character written with 
cinnebar, whose effects would be reclaimed at the end 
of eighteen hundred years. Home, made responsible for 
all the bloodshed, became, like Babylon, a sort of 
sacramental and symbolic city. Nero took in any case 
that day a place of the first order in the history of 
Christianity. This miracle of horror, this prodigy of 
perversity, was an evident sign to all. A hundred and 
fifty years after Tertullian writes : " Yes, we are proud 
that our position outside of the law has been inaugurated 
by such a man. When one has come to know him he 
understands that he who was condemned by Nero 
could not but be great and good." Already the idea 
had spread that the coming of the true Christ would 
be preceded by the coming of a sort of an infernal 
Christ who should be in everything the contrary of 
Jesus. That could not longer be doubted ; the 
Antichrist, the Christ of evil, existed. The Antichrist 
was this monster with a human face made up of 
ferocity, hypocrisy, immodesty, pride, who paraded 
before the world as an absurd hero, celebrated his 
triumph as a chariot driver with torches of human flesh, 


intoxicated himself with the blood of the saints, and 
perhaps did worse than that One is tempted to believe 
in fact that it is to the Christians that a passage in 
Suetonius refers as to a monstrous game which Nero 
had invented. Some youths, men, women and young 
girls were fastened to stakes in the arena. A beast 
came forth from the cavea, glutting itself upon these 
bodies. The freed man Doryphorus made as if he were 
fighting the beast. Now if the beast was Nero clothed 
in the skin of a wild beast, Doryphorus was a wretch 
to whom Nero had been married sending forth cries 
like a virgin when she is violated. . . The name of 
Nero has been discovered ; it shall be THE BEAST. Caligula 
had been the Anti-God. Nero shall be the Anti-Christ, 
the Apocalypse. The Christian virgin who, attached to a 
stake, was subjected to the hideous embraces of the 
beast, will carry that fearful image with her into 
eternity ! 

That day was likewise the one upon which was 
created by a strange antithesis, the charming ambiguity 
on which humanity has lived for centuries and partly 
lives still. This was an hour reckoned in 
Heaven as that in which Christian chastity, until then 
so carefully concealed, should appear in the full light 
before fifty thousand spectators, and placed, as in the 
studio of a sculptor, in the attitude of a virgin about to 
die. Eevelations of a secret which antiquity does not 
know ! Brilliant proclamation of this principle that 
modesty is a joy and a beauty itself alone ! Already 
we have seen the great magician who is called fancy, 
and who modifies from century to century the ideal of 
woman, working incessantly to place above the 
perfection of the form the attraction of modesty 
(Poppea only ruled by putting that on} and of a resigned 
humility (in that was tne triumph of the good Actea). 
Accustomed to march always at the head of his age in 
the paths of the unknown, Nero was, it appears, the intro 
ducer oi this sentiment, and discovered in his artistic 


debauches the philtre of love in the Christian temaitt 
esthetic. His passion for Actea and Poppea proves that 
he was capable of delicate feelings, and as the monstrous 
mingled with everything he touched, he wished to 
realise for himself the spectacle of his dreams. The image 
of the grandmother of Cymodocea refracted itself like 
the heroine of an antique cameo in the focus of his 
emerald. By obtaining the applause of a connaisseur. 
so exquisite, a friend of Petronius, who perhaps saluted 
the Moritura by some of those quotations from the 
classical poets whom he loved, the tirnid nudity of 
the young martyr became the rival of the nudity, 
confident in itself, of a Greek Venus. When the brutal 
hand of this worn out world which sought its festival 
in the torments of a young girl had drawn aside the 
veil from Christian modesty, that might have said, 
" And I also am beautiful." It was the beginning of a 
new art. Hatched under the eyes of Nero, the 
aesthetic of the disciples of Jesus, which did not know 
itself till then, owes the revelation of its magic to the 
crime which tearing aside its lobe despoiled it of its 




We do not know with certainty the names of any of 
the Christians who perished at Rome, in the horrible 
events of August, 64. The arrested persons had been 
lately converted and their names were scarcely known. 
Those holy women who had astonished the church by 
their constancy were not known by names. They had 
been styled in Roman history as " The Danaides and 
the Dirces." Yet the images of the places remained 
lively and deep. The circus or naumachy, the two 
boundaries, the obelisk, and a turpentine tree which 
served as a rallying point for the reminiscences of the 
first Christian generations, became the fundamental 
elements of a whole ecclesiastical topography whose 
result was the consecration of the Vatican and the 
pointing out of that hill for a religious destiny of the 
first order. Although the affair had been special to the 
city of Rome and as it was necessary to appease the 
public opinion of the Romans, irritated by the fire, 
the atrocity ordered by Nero must have had some counter 
part in the provinces and excited there a renewal of 
persecution. The churches of Asia Minor were 
heavily tried ; the heathen population of these countries 
were prompt to fanaticism. There had been some 
imprisonments at Syrmna. Pergamos had a martyr 
who is known to us by the name of Antipas, who appears 
to have suffered near the temple of Esculapius, probably 
in a wooden theatre not far from the temple in 
connection with some festival. Pergamos was, with 
Cyzicus, the only town of Asia Minor which had a 
regular organization for gladiatorial shows. We know 


now that these plays were placed at Pergamos under 
the authority of the priests. Although there had been 
no formal edict forbidding the profession of Christianity, 
that profession was in reality against the law ; hostis, 
hostis patrice, hostis publicus, humani generis inimicus, 
hostis deorum atque hominum, such were the appellations 
written in the laws to designate those who put society 
in danger and against whom every man according to 
the expression of Tertullian became a soldier. The 
name alone of Christian was consequently a crime. As 
the most complete judgment was left to the judges 
for the estimation of such crimes, the life of every 
believer from that day was in the hands of magistrates 
of a horrible harshness and filled with cruel prejudices 
against them. 

It is allowable without unlikelihood to connect with 
the event of which we have given an account the 
deaths of the apostles Peter and Paul. A fate truly 
strange has decreed that the disappearance of these 
two extraordinary men should be enveloped in mystery. 
A certain thing is, that Peter died a martyr. Now it 
can scarcely be conceived that he had been a martyr 
elsewhere than at Koine, and at Borne the only 
historical incident known by which one could explain 
his death is the episode recorded by Tacitus. As to 
Paul, some solid reasons lead us also to believe that he 
died a martyr and died at Rome. It is therefore 
natural to connect his death likewise with the episode 
of July- August, 64. Thus was cemented by suffering 
the reconciliation of those two souls, the one so strong, 
the other so good ; thus was established by legendary 
authority .(that is to say, divine) this touching 
brotherhood of two men whose parties opposed each 
other, but who, we may believe, were superior to 
parties and always loved each other. The great legend 
of Peter and Paul parallel to that of Romulus 
and Remus founding by a sort of collaboration 
the grandeur of Rome a legend which in a sense 


has ha<* n tne history of humanity nearly as much 
importance as that of Jesus dates from the day which, 
according to tradition, saw them die together. Nero, 
without knowing it, was again in this the most efficacious 
agent in the creation of Christianity, he who planed 
the corner stone in the city of the Saints. 

As to the nature of the death of the two Apostles, we 
know with certainty that Peter was crucified. According 
to ancient texts his wife was executed with him, and he 
saw her led to punishment. A story, accepted since the 
third century, says that, too humble to suffer like Jesus, 
he asked to be crucified with his head downwards. 
The characteristic feature of the butchery of 64 having 
been the search for odious rarities in the way of 
tortures, it is possible that Peter in fact had been 
offered to the crowd in this hideous attitude. Seneca 
mentions some cases where tyrants have been known to 
cause the heads of the crucified to be turned to the 
earth. Their Christian piety would have seen a 
mystic refinement in what was only a bazarre caprice 
of the executioners. Perhaps the passage in the 
fourth gospel : " Thou shalt stretch forth thine hands and 
another shall gird thee, and shall lead thee whither 
thou would st not," includes some allusion to a speciality 
in Peter s suffering. Paul in his capacity as honestior 
had his head cut off. It is probable besides that there 
had been in regard to him a regular decision, and that 
he was not included in the summary condemnation of 
the victims of Nero s fetes. Timothy was, according to 
certain appearances, arrested with his master and kept 
in prison. 

At the beginning of the 3rd century two monuments 
were already seen at Borne connected with the names 
of the Apostles Peter and Paul. One was situated at 
the foot of the Vatican hill : it was that of St. Peter ; the 
other on the way to Ostia : it was that of St. Paul. They 
were called in oratorical style, " the trophies " of the 
Apostles. These were probably some cellce or some 


memorial consecrated to the saints. Some such monuments 
existed before Constantine; we are entitled besides to 
suppose that these trophies were only known to the 
faithful; perhaps even they were nothing else than 
that Terebinth of the Vatican, with which the memory 
of Peter has been associated for ages, that Pine of 
the Salvian Waters, which was, according to certain 
traditions, the centre of the souvenirs relating to 
Paul. Much later these trophies became the tombs of 
the Apostles Peter and Paul. About the middle of 
the 3rd century, in fact, there appeared two bodies 
which universal veneration held to be those of the 
Apostles, and which appeared to have come from the 
the catacombs of the Appian Way, where there had 
really been many Jewish Cemeteries. In the fourth 
century these corpses reposed in the neighbourhood 
of the " two trophies." Above these " trophies " were 
then raised two basilicas of which one had become 
the present basilica of St. Peter and of which the 
other, St. Paul-beyond-the-Walls, have kept theii 
essential forms until our day. 

Did the " trophies " which the Christians venerated 
about the year 200 really mark the places where the 
two Apostles suffered ? That may be. It is not unlikely 
that Paul at the end of his life resided in the outskirts 
which stretch beyond the Lavernal gate upon the way 
from Ostia. The shadow of Peter, upon the other hand, 
always wanders in the Christian legend towards the 
foot of the Vatican, the gardens and the circus of Nero 
especially about the obelisk. This arises, it will be 
seen, from the fact that the circua spoken of preserved 
the souvenir of the martyrs of 64, with whom, failing 
precise indications, Christian tradition would connect 
Peter ; we like better to believe, notwithstanding, that 
there was mixed with that some indication, and that the 
old place of the obelisk of the sacristy of St. Peter, marked 
at the present day by an inscription, points out somewhat 
nearly the spot where Peter on the cross satiated by his 


frightful agony the eyes of a populace greedy to behold 
him suffer. Were the bodies which since the third 
century had been surrounded by an uninterrupted 
tradition of respect, the very bodies of the two Apostles ? 
We scarcely believe it. It is certain thai attention in 
keeping up the memory of the tombs of the martyrs was 
very ancient in the church ; but Rome was about 
100 and 120 the theatre of an immense legendary 
work relating especially to the two Apostles, 
Peter and Paul ; a work in which pious claims had 
a large part. It is scarcely believable that in the 
days which followed the horrible carnage in August, 64. 
they could have reclaimed the corpses of the sufferers. 
In the hideous mass of human flesh stoned, roasted, and 
trampled, which was that day drawn by hooks into the 
spoliarium, then thrown into the puticuli, it would have 
perhaps been difficult to recognize the identity of any of 
the martyrs. Often doubtless an authorization was 
obtained to withdraw from the hands of the executioners 
the remains of the condemned ; but while supposing 
(which is very admissible) that some brethren had 
braved death to go and demand the precious relics, it is 
probable that instead of these being given to them they 
would have been themselves sent to add to the heap of 
corpses. During some days the mere name of Christian 
was a sentence of death. It is besides a secondary 
question. If the Vatican basilica does not really cover 
the tomb of the apostle Peter, it does not the less mark 
out for our remembrance one of the most really holy 
places of Christianity. The spot where the bad taste of 
the seventeenth century constructed a circus of theatrical 
architecture was a second Calvary, and even supposing 
that Peter had not been crucified there, there at least no 
doubt suffered the Danaides and the Dirces. 

If, as we may be allowed to believe, John accom 
panied Peter to Rome, we can find a plausible foun 
dation for the old tradition according to which John 
would have been plunged in the boiling oil, in the 


place where stood much later the Latin Gate. John 
appears to have suffered for the name of Jesus. We 
are led to believe that he was the witness, and up to 
a certain point the victim, of the bloody episode to 
which the Apocalypse owes its origin. The Apocalypse 
is to us the cry of horror from a witness who lived 
at Babylon, who had known the Beast, who had seen 
the bleeding bodies of his brother martyrs, who 
himself had felt the embrace of death. The unfor 
tunate condemned who were used as living torches 
would be previously dipped in oil, or in an inflam 
mable substance (not boiling, it is true). John was 
perhaps devoted to the same suffering as his brethren, 
and intended to illuminate the evening of the f$te of 
the Faubourg of the Latin Way , a chance, a caprice 
had saved him. The Latin Way is indeed situated 
in the quarter in which the incidents of those terrible 
days passed. The southern part of Kome (theCapena 
gate, the Ostia road, the Appian Way, the Latin 
Way), forms the region around which appears to 
concentrate, in the time of Nero, the history of the 
budding church. 

A jealous fate has willed that on so many points 
which greatly excite our curiosity, we should never 
escape from the penumbra where legend dwells. Let 
us repeat it once more ; the questions relating to the 
death of the Apostles Peter and Paul present nothing 
but likely hypotheses. The death of Paul especially is 
wrapped in deep mystery. Certain expressions in the 
Apocalypse,composed at the end of 68 or the beginning of 
6 9, would incline us to think that the author of this book 
believed Paul to be alive when he wrote. It is in no way 
impossible that the end of the great Apostle had been 
altogether unknown. In the career that certain texts 
attributed to him from the Western side, a shipwreck, a 
sickness, or some accident might carry him off. As he 
had not at that moment his brilliant crown of disciples 
around him, the details of his death would remain 


unknown ; later on, the legend would be tilled up by 
taking account, on the one hand, the position of 
Roman citizenship which the Acts gives him, and on 
the other hand, the desire which the Christian 
conscience had to carry out a reconciliation between 
him and Peter. Certainly, an obscure death for the 
ardent Apostle has something in it which pleases us. 
We like to dream of Paul sceptical, shipwrecked, 
abandoned, betrayed by his friends, struck by the dis 
enchantment of old age ; it pleases us that the scales 
should fall a second time from his eyes, and our gentle 
incredulity would have its little revenge if the most 
dogmatic of men had died sad, despairing (let us rather 
say, tranquil) on some Spanish road or shore, saying 
thus to himself, Ego ermvi ! But this would be to give 
too much to conjecture. It is certain that the two 
apostles were dead in 70 ; they did not see the ruins of 
Jerusalem, which would have made such a deep impres 
sion on Paul. We admit, therefore, as probable in all 
that follows of this history, that the two champions of 
the Christian conception disappeared at Rome during 
the terrible storm of the year 64. James was dead a 
little more than two years before. Of " apostle-pillars" 
there remained, therefore, only John. Some other 
friends of Jesus, no doubt, lived still in Jerusalem, but 
forgotten, as if lost in the gloomy whirlwind in which 
Judea was to be plunged for many years. 

We shall show in the following book how the church 
consummated a reconciliation between Peter and Paul 
which, perhaps, death had sketched. Success was the 
reward. Apparently inalienable, the Judeo- Christian 
ity of Peter and the Hellenism of Paul were equally 
necessary to the success of the future work. Judeo- 
Christianity represented the conservative spirit, without 
which it possessed nothing substantial ; Hellenism, 
advance and progress, without which nothing really 
exists. Life is the result of a conflict between opposing 
forces. People die as well from the absence of al 1 
revolutionary feeling as from excess of revolution, 






The conscience of a society of men is like that of an 
individual. Every impression going beyond a certain 
degree of violence leaves in the sensorium of the patient 
a trace which is equivalent to a lesion, and puts it for 
a long time, if not for ever, under the power of hallu 
cination, or a fixed idea. The bloody episode of 
August, 64, had equalled in horror the most hideous 
dreams which a sick brain could conceive. For many 
years to come the Christian consciousness shall be as if 
possessed. It is a prey to a sort of vertigo ; monstrous 
thoughts torment. A cruel death appears to be the lot 
reserved for all believers in Jesus. But is not itself 
the most certain sign of the nearness of the Great day ? 
The souls of the victims of the Beast were 
conceived if as waiting the sacred hour under the 
divine altar and crying for vengeance. The angel of 
God calms them, tells them to keep themselves in 
peace, and wait yet a little while ; the moment is not 
far off when their brethren, destined for immolation, 
shall be killed in their turn. Nero shall charge 
himself with that. Nero is this infernal personage to 
whom God will abandon for a little his power on the 
eve of the catastrophe ; it is this hellish monster who 
should appear like a frightful meteor in the horizon of 
the evening of the last days. 

The air was everywhere as if impregnated with the 
spirit of martyrdom. The surroundings of Nero 
appeared animated against morality by a sort of dis 
interested hatred; there was from one end to the other of 
the Mediterranean, a struggle to the death between good 
nnd evil. That harsh Homan society had declared war 
against piety in all its forms; piety saw itself driven, 


forced to leave a world delivered up to perfidy, to 
cruelty, and to debauchery ; there were no honest 
people who would run such dangers. The jealousy of 
Nero against virtue had risen to its height, philosophy 
was only occupied in preparing its disciples for the 
tortures ; Seneca, Thraseas, Barea, Soranus, Musonius, 
and Cornutus had submitted, or were about to submit, 
to the consequences of their noble protest. Punish 
ment appeared the natural lot of virtue. Even the 
sceptical Petronius, because he was of polished manners, 
could not live in a world where Tigellinus ruled. A 
touching echo from the martyrs of this Terror has come 
to us through the inscriptions of the island of religious 
banishments, where one would not have expected it. In 
a sepulchral grotto near Cagliari a family of exiles, 
perhaps devoted to the worship of Isis, has left us its 
touching complaint, almost Christian. When the un 
fortunates arrived in Sardinia, the husband fell ill in 
consequence of the frightful insalubrity of the island; 
his wife, Benedicta, made a vow beseeching the gods to 
take her in place of her husband ; she was heard. 

The uselessness of the massacres was seen, besides, 
clearly in this circumstance. An aristocratic movement, 
peculiar to a small number of people, is stopped by a 
few executions ; but it is not the same with a popular 
movement, for such a movement has neither need of 
leaders nor of learned teachers. A garden where the 
flowers have no root can exist no longer : a park 
mowed becomes better than before. Thus Christianity, 
far from being arrested by the lugubrious caprice of 
Nero, multiplied more vigorously than ever ; an 
increase of anger took possession of the survivors 
hearts ; it would become more than a dream, they 
would become masters of the heathen ruling them, as 
they deserved, with a rod of iron. An incendiary, 
although another than he whom they accused of having 
Lit this tire, shall devour this impious city, become the 
temple of Satan. The doctrine of the final conflngra- 



tion of the world takes each day deeper roots. Fire 
only shall be capable of purging the earth from the 
infamies which soil it ; fire appears the only righteous 
and worthy end to such a mass of horrors. 

The greater part of the Christians at Rome who 
escaped the ferocity of Nero, doubtless quitted the 
city. During six or twelve years, the Roman Church 
found itself in extreme disorder, a large door was 
opened to legend. Yet there was not a complete 
interruption in the existence of the community. The 
Seer of the Apocalypse in December, 63, or January, 69, 
gives orders to his people to quit Rome. Even by making 
that passage a prophetic fiction, it is difficult not to 
conclude that the Church of Rome quickly resumed its 
importance. The chiefs alone definitively abandoned 
a city where their Apostolate for the moment could not 
bear fruit. The point in the Roman world where life 
was most supportable for the Jews was at that time the 
province of Asia. There was between the Jewish com 
munity at Rome, and that at Ephesus, increasing 
communication. It was to that side that the fugitives 
directed themselves. Ephesus was the point where 
resentment for the events of the year 64 shall be most 
lively. All the hatreds of Rome were concentrated 
there ; thence shall come forth in four years a furious 
invective, by which the Christian conscience shall reply 
to the atrocities of Nero. 

There is no unlikelihood in placing among the 
Christian notables who came from Rome, the Apostle 
whom we have seen follow in everything Peter s 
fortunes. If the accounts relative to the incident, 
which was placed later on at the Latin Gate, have any 
truth, we may be permitted to suppose that the Apostle 
John, escaping punishment as by miracle, should have 
quitted the city without delay, and afterwards it was 
natural that he should take refuge in Asia. Like nearly 
all the data relating to the life of the Apostles, the 
traditions as to the residence of John at Ephesus are 



subject to doubt ; they have yet also their plausible 
side, and we are inclined rather to admit them than 
reject them. 

The Church at Ephesus was mixed ; one party owned 
Paul s faith, another was Judeo- Christian. This latter 
fraction would preponderate through the arrival of the 
Roman colony, especially if that colony brought with 
it a companion of Jesus, a Jerusalem doctor, one of those 
illustrious masters before even whom Paul himself 
bowed. John was, after the death of Peter and James, 
the only apostle of the first order who still lived ; he 
had become the chief of all the Judeo- Christian 
Churches ; an extreme respect attached to him ; we 
are led to believe (and no doubt the apostle himself says 
it), that Jesus had for him a special affection. A 
thousand stories were founded already upon these data. 
Ephesus became for a time the centre of Christianity, 
Home and Jerusalem being, in consequence of the 
violence of the times, residences nearly forbidden to the 
new religion. 

The struggle was soon lively between the Judeo- 
Christian community, headed by the intimate friend of 
Jesus and the families of the proselytes made by Paul. 
This struggle reached to all the churches of Asia. 
There were nothing but bitter declamatioms against 
this Balaam, who had sown scandal among the sons of 
Israel, who had taught them that they could without 
sin intermarry with heathens. John, on the contrary, 
was more and more considered like a Jewish high 
priest. Like James, he bore the petalon, that is to say, 
the plate of gold upon his forehead. He was the 
doctor par excellence ; they were even accustomed, perhaps 
because of the incident of the boiling oil, to give him 
the title of martyr. 

It appears that among the number of fugitives who 
came from Rome to Ephesus was Barnabas. Timothy 
was imprisoned about the same time ; we do not know 
in what place, perhaps in Corinth At the end of some 



months he was set free. Barnabas, when he heard this 
good news, seeing the situation quieter, formed the pro 
ject of visiting Rome with Timothy, whom he had 
known and loved as the companion of Paul. The 
apostolic phalanx dispersed by the storm of 64, sought 
to reform itself. Paul s school was the least consistent ; 
it sought, deprived of its head, to support itself by one 
of the more solid portions of the Church. Timothy, 
accustomed to be led, would be little if anything after 
Paul s death. Barnabas, on the contrary, who had 
always kept in a middle path between the two parties, 
and who had not once sinned against charity, became 
the bond of the scattered debris after the great ship 
wreck. That excellent man was thus once more the 
saviour of the work of Jesus, the good genius of con 
cord and peace. 

It is the circumstances concerning him that, accord 
ing to our view, connect the work which bears the title 
difficult to understand of the epistle to the Hebrews. 
This writing would appear to have been composed at 
Ephesus by Barnabas, and addressed to the Church of 
Rome in the name of the little community of Italian 
Christians who had taken refuge in the capital of Asia. 
By his position, in some degree intermediate at the point 
of meeting of many ideas hitherto never associated, 
the epistle to the Hebrews comes by right to the 
conciliatory man, who so many times prevented the 
different tendencies in the bosom of the young com 
munity from reaching an open rupture. The opposition 
of the Jewish Churches to the Gentile Churches appears, 
when one reads this little treatise, a question settled, or 
rather lost in an overflowing flood of transcendental 
metaphysics and peaceful charity. As we have said, 
the taste lor the midraschim or little treatises of 
religious exegesis under an epistolary form had made 
great progress. Paul was set forth quite fully as 
to his doctrine in his Epistle to the Romans ; later 
on, the Epistle to the Ephesians had been his most 


advanced formula ; the Epistle to tlie Hebrews would 
appear to be a manifesto of tlie same order. No Christian 
book so much resembles the work of the Alexandrian 
Schools, especially the tractates of Philo. Appollos had 
already entered on that path. Paul, the prisoner, was 
singularly pleased with him. An element foreign to 
Jesus, Alexandrianism, infused itself more and more into 
the heart of Christianity. In the Johannine writings 
we see 1his influence exercising itself in a sovereign 
manner. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Christian 
theology is shown to be strongly analagous to that 
which we have found in the Epistles in Paul s last 
style. The theory of the "Word developed rapidly. 
Jesus became more and more " the second God," the 
metrafon&, the assessor of the divinity, the firstborn by 
right of God, inferior to God alone. As to the circum 
stances of the time in which it was written, the author 
explains these only by a few covert words; we feel 
that he fears to compromise the bearer of this letter, 
and those to whom it is addressed. A grievous weight 
appears to oppress him ; his secret anguish escapes in 
brief but deep features. 

God, after having formally communicated His will by 
the ministry of the prophets, has used in these last 
days the instrumentality of the Son by whom He had 
created the world, and who maintains everything by 
his power. This Son, the reflex of the Father s glory 
and the imprint of his essence, whom the Father has 
been pleased to appoint heir of the universe, has 
expiated sin by his appearance in this world; then he 
has gone to sit down in the celestial regions at the 
right hand of the majesty, with a title superior to that 
of the angels. The Mosaic law had been announced by 
the angels ; it contains only the shadow of the good 
things to come ; ours has been announced first by the 
Lord, then it has been transmitted to us in a sure 
manner by those who heard it from him, God bearing 
them witness by signs, prodigies, and all sorts of 



miracles, as well as by the gifts of tlie Holy Spirit ; 
thanks to Jesus all men have been made sons of God, 
Moses has been a servant, Jesus has been the Son ; 
Jesus has especially been par excellence the high priest 
after the order of Melchisedic. 

This order is much superior to the Levitical priest 
hood, and has totally abrogated it ; Jesus is priest 
throughout eternity. 

" For such an high priest became us who is holy, harmless, 
and separate from sinners, and raised higher than the 
heavens, who does not need each day like the other priests 
to offer sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for those of 
the people. The old law made high priests of men who 
were liable to fall : the new law has constituted the Son 
to all eternity. We have such a high priest, who is seated 
on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty, as the 
minister of the true sanctuary and of the true tabernacle 
which the Lord hath built. Christ is the high priest of 
good things to come. For if the blood of bulls and goats 
and the ashes of an heifer sprinkle those who arc unclean, 
gives carnal purity : how much more shall the blood oi 
Christ, who has offered himself to God, a spotless victim, 
purify our conscience from dead works ? Tt is thus He is the 
Mediator of the New Testament ; for to have a testament 
it is necessary that the death of the testator should be 
proved, as a testament has no effect while the testator lives. 
The first covenant, also, was inaugurated with blood. It is 
by means of blood that everything is legally purged, and 
without shedding of blood there is no pardon." 

We are, therefore, sanctified once for all by the 
sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, who shall appear 
a second time to those who wait for him. The old 
sacrifices never attained their end since they were 
renewed unceasingly. Tf the expiatory sacrifice 
recurred every year on a fixed day, is that not a proof 
that the blood of the victims was powerless ? In place 
of those perpetual holocausts Jesus has offered his single 
sacrifice, which renders the other useless. Consequently 
there is 110 longer need of a sacrifice for sin. 

The feeling of the dangers which surrounded the 
Church fills the author s mind. He has before his eyes 


only a, perspective of sufferings. He thinks of the 
tortures which the prophets and the martyrs of 
Antiochus have endured ; the faith of many succumbed. 
The author is very severe on these falls. 

"For it is impossible for those who were once 
enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were 
made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the 
good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if 
they shall fall away, to renew them again into repentance ; 
seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and 
put him to an open shame. For the earth, which drinketh 
in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs 
meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from 
God. But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, 
and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. But 
beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things 
that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God 
is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, 
which ye have shewed towards His name in that ye have 
ministered to the saints and do minister. And we desire 
that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full 
assurance of hope unto the end. That ye be not slothful, 
but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit 
the promises." 

Some believers already had shown themselves neglect 
ful of attendance upon the gatherings in the church. 
The apostle declares that these gatherings are the 
essence of Christianity, that it is there we exhort, 
animate, and watch each other, and that it is necessary 
to be all the more assiduous in that as the great day of 
final appearance approaches. 

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the 
knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice 
for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, 
and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. 

It is a fearful thing to fall into the 

hands of the living God. But call to remembrance the 
former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye 
endured a great fight of afflictions. Partly while ye were 
made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions ; 
and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were 
90 used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and 


took joyfully spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves 
that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance. 
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great 
recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience that, 
after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the 
promise. For yet a little while he that shall come will 

Faith sums up the attitude of the Christian. Faith 
is the steady waiting for that which is promised, the 
certainty of what is not yet seen. It is faith which 
made the great men of the ancient law, who died with 
out having obtained the things promised, having only 
seen them and hailed them from afar, confessing them 
selves strangers and pilgrims upon this earth, always 
searching for a better country which they have not 
found, the heavenly. The author quotes on this subject 
the examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, 
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab the harlot. 

What more shall I say, for the time would fail me to tell 
of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jepthah, 
of David also, and Samuel and of the prophets. Who 
through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, 
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched 
the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of 
weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned 
to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their 
dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not 
accepting deliverance, that they might obbain a better 
resurrection. And others had trials of cruel mockings and 
scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. 
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, 
were slain with the sword, they wandered about in 
sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, 
tormented. Of whom the world was not worthy. They 
wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and 
in caves of the earth. And these, all having obtained a 
good report through faith, received not the promise. God 
having provided some better thing for us, that they without 
us should not be made perfect. Wherefore, seeing we also 
are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let 
us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily 



beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set 
before us ; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of 
our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured 
the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the 
right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that 
endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest 
ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet 
resisted unto blood striving against sin. 

The author then explains to the confessors that the 
sufferings which they endure are no punishments, but 
that they ought to be taken as paternal corrections such 
as a father administers to his son, and which are a 
pledge of his tenderness. He invites them to hold 
themselves in readiness against light minds which, 
after the manner of Esau, give their spiritual 
patrimony in exchange for a worldly and momentary 
advantage. For the third time the author turns back 
upon his favourite thought that after a fall which has 
put one outside of Christianity, there is no return. 
Esau also sought to regain the paternal benediction, 
but his tears and regrets were useless. We know that 
there had been, in the persecution of 64, some 
renegades through weakness, who, after their apostacy, 
desired to re-enter the Church. Our doctor demands 
that they should be repulsed. What blindness, indeed, 
equals that of the Christian who hesitates or denies 
" after having come to the holy mountain of Sion, and 
the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and 
myriads of angels in their choir, the Church of the 
firstborn written in heaven, and of God the universal 
Judge, of the spirits of the just made perfect, and 
Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, after having 
been purified by the blood of propitiation which speaks 
better things than that of Abel . . . ? " 

The apostle closes by recalling to his readers the 
members of the Church who were still in the dungeons 
of the Roman authorities, and especially the memory 
of their spiritual leaders who were no more those 



great initiators who had preached the word of God to 
them, and whose death had been a triumph for the 
faith. Let them consider the close of these holy lives 
and they will be strengthened. Let them beware of 
false doctrines, especially those which make holiness 
consist in useless ritual practices, such as distinction in 
meats. The disciple or friend of St. Paul is met 
here again. The fact is, the entire epistle is like the 
epistles of Paul, a long demonstration of the complete 
abrogation of the law of Moses by Jesus ; to bear the 
shame of Jesus, to go forth from the world, " for we 
have no permanent city we seek one which is to 
come ; " to obey the chief ecclesiastics, to be very 
respectful to them, to render their task easy and agree 
able, " since they watch over souls and must render an 
account of them," that is the duty before them. No 
writing shows, perhaps, better than this the mystic 
role of Jesus increasing and closing by filling up 
completely the Christian conscience. Not only is Jesus 
the Lotjos who has created the world, but his blood is 
the universal propitiation, the seal of a new alliance. 
The author is so preoccupied with Jesus that he makes 
some errors in reading that he may find him every 
where. In his Greek manuscript of the Psalms, the 
t\vo letters TI of the word 12T1A, in Ps. xl. (xxxix.) 
v. 6, were a little doubtful ; he has seen a M, and as 
the preceding *vord ends with an 2, he reads o-w/xa 
which presents a fine Messianic meaning : " Thou hast 
desired sacrifice no longer, but thou hast given me a 
body : then I said, Lo I come ! 

A singular thing ! the death of Jesus in Paul s 
school takes a larger importance than his life. The 
precepts of the Lake of Gennesareth little interested 
this school, and appear to have been scarcely known to 
them ; what they saw as the first plan was the sacrifice 
of the Son of God giving himself up for the expiation 
of the sins of the world. Absurd ideas which, restated 
later on by Calvinism, caused the Christian theology 



to deviate widely from the primitive ideal. The 
synoptical Gospels which are the really divine part of 
Christianity, are not the work of Paul s school. We 
shall soon see them coming forth from little quiet 
family which still preserved in Judea the true traditions 
of the life and person of Jesus. 

But what was wonderful in the beginnings of 
Christianity was that those who draw the car in the 
contrary way most obstinately were those who worked 
best to make it advance. The Epistles to the Hebrews, 
marked definitively in the history of the religious 
evolution of humanity, the disappearance of sacri 
fice, that is to say of what up till then had con 
stituted the essence of religion. To primitive man 
God is an all-powerful Being who must be 
appeased or bribed. Sacrifice comes either from fear 
or interest. To gain God s favour we offer him a 
present capable of touching him, a fine piece of meat of 
the fattest kind, a cup of soma or wine. Plagues and 
diseases were considered as the blows of an offended 
God; and it was thought that by substituting another 
person for the persons threatened, the anger of the 
Supreme Being could be averted ; perhaps indeed, it was 
said, God will be pleased with an animal, if the beast be 
good, useful, or innocent. God was thus judged after 
the pattern of men, and in fact in our day in certain 
parts of the East and of Africa, the aborigenes hope to 
gain a stranger s favour by killing at his feet a sheep, 
whose blood runs over his boots, and whose flesh will 
serve him for food; in the same way they imagine that the 
Supernatural Being will be sensible of the offering of aii 
object, especially if by that offering he who presents 
the sacrifice deprives himself of something. Up till the 
great transformation of prophecy in the eighth century, 
B.C., the idea of sacrifice was not much more elevated 
among the Israelites than among other nations. A new 
era commences with Isaiah, crying in the name of 
Jehovah : " Your sacrifices disgust me, what are your 


goats or bullocks to me ? " The day on which he 
wrote that wonderful page (about 740 B.C.) Isaiah was 
the real founder of Christianity. It was decided on that 
very day, that of two supernatural functions as to which 
the respect of the old tribes was divided, the hereditary 
sacrifices of the scorcerer, or inspired book which they 
believed to be the depository of the divine secrets, it 
was the second that should determine the future of 
religion. The sorcerer of the Semitic tribes, the nabi, 
became " the prophet," or sacred tribune, consecrated to 
the progress of social equity, and while the sacrificer 
(the priest) continued to boast the efficacy of the 
slaughters by which he profited, the prophet dared to 
proclaim that the true God cares much more for justice 
and mercy than for all the bullocks in the world. 
Ordained, however, by ancient rituals from which it was 
not easy to escape, and maintained by the interests of 
the priests, the sacrifices remained a law of ancient 
Israel. About the time of which we write, and even 
before the destruction of the third temple, the importance 
of these rites grew less. The dispersion of the Jews led 
to something secondary being seen in the functions 
which could not be accomplished at Jerusalem. Philo 
proclaimed that worship consisted especially in pious 
hymns, which must be sung by the heart as well as the 
mouth ; he ventured to say that such prayers were 
worth more than offerings. The Essenes professed the 
same doctrine. St. Paul, in the epistle to the Romans, 
declares that religion is a worship of pure reason. The 
epistle to the Hebrews, in developing this theory that 
Jesus is the true High Prie-st, and that his death was a 
sacrifice abrogating all th<s others, struck a last blow at 
the bloody immolations. The Christians, even those of 
Jewish origin, ceased more and more to believe in the 
legal sacrifice, which they only countenanced by 
sufferance. The generating idea of the mass, the belief 
that the sacrifice of Jesus is renewed by the eucharistic 
act, appeared already, but in the still obscur- 3 distance. 




The state of enthusiasm which held possession of the 
Christian imagination was soon complicated by the 
events which passed in Judea. These events appeared 
to give reason to the visions of the most frenzied brains. 
A fit of fever which cannot be compared with anything 
but that which seized France during the revolution, and 
Paris in 1871, took hold of the entire Jewish nation. 
Those " divine diseases " before which the ancieLt 
medical skill declared itself powerless, appeared to have 
become the ordinary temperament of the Jewish people. 
We should have that, determined in extremes it would 
have gone on to the end of humanity. For four 
years the strange race, which appears created alike to 
defy him who blesses it and him who curses it, was in a 
convulsion, before which the historian, divided between 
wonder and horror, must halt with respect, as before all 
that is mysterious. 

The causes of this crisis were old, and the crisis itself 
was inevitable. The Mosaic law, the work of enthusiastic 
Utopians, possessed by a powerful Socialistic idea, the 
least political of men, was, like Islam, exclusive of a 
civil, parallel to the religious, society. That law which 
appears to have arrived at a condition of being re-edited 
when we read of it in the twelfth century B.C. would 
have even independently of the Assyrian conquest, made 
the little kingdom of the descendants of David fly to 
pieces. Since the preponderance created by the 
prophetic element the kingdom of Judah, at enmity with 
all its neighbours, moved by a continuous rage against 


Tyre, a hatred against Edom, Moab and Ammon, could 
not live. A nation which devotes itself to religious and 
social problems is lost as to politics. The day when 
Israel became a flock of God, a kingdom of priests, a 
holy nation, it was written that it should not be a people 
like any other. Men do not accumulate contradictory 
destinies ; they always expiate an excellence by some 

The Achemenidian empire put Israel a little at rest. 
That grand feudality, tolerant to all provincial diversities, 
was analogous to the caliphate of Bagdad, and the 
Ottoman empire, was the condition in which the Jews 
found themselves most pleasantly situated. The 
Ptolemaic domination in the third century B.C., appears 
likewise to have been sympathetic enough with them. 
It was the same with the Seleucidse. Antioch had became 
a centre of active Hellenistic propaganda ; Antiochus 
Epiphanes believed himself obliged to install everywhere, 
as a mark of his power, the image of Jupiter Olimpus. 
Then burst forth the first great Jewish revolt against 
profane civilization. Israel had borne patiently the 
disappearance of its political existence since Nebuchad 
nezzar; it could not keep any longer within bounds 
when it realized a danger for its religious institutions. 
A race, in general little military, was seized with a fit of 
heroism; without a regular army, without generals, 
without tactics, it conquered the Seleucidoe, maintained 
its revealed right, and created for itself a second period 
of autonomy. The Asmonean royalty nevertheless was 
always pervaded by deep interior vices ; it did not last more 
than a century. The destiny of the Jewish people was 
not to be constituted a separate nationality ; this people 
dreamed always of something international, its ideal 
was not the city, it was the synagogues ; it is the free 
congregation. It is the same with Islam, which has 
created an immense empire, but which has destroyed 
all nationality among the peoples it has subjected, and 
has left them no other fatherland than the mosque and 


the zaouia. There is often applied to such a social 
sondition the name of theocracy, and that is correct, if it 
is intended to say by that that the profound idea of the 
Semitic religious empires which have gone forth from 
it is the kingdom of God, conceived of as the sole master 
of the world and universal suzerain; but theocracy 
among these peoples is not synonymous with the 
domination of priests. The priest, properly speaking, 
plays a weak part in the history of Judaism and 
Islamism. The power belongs to the representative of 
God, to him whom God inspires, to the prophet and the 
holy man, to him who has received a mission from 
Heaven, and who proves his mission by miracle or 
success. Failing a prophet, the power rests in the 
maker of Apocalypses or Apocryphal books attributed to 
ancient prophets, or rather to the doctor who interprets the 
divine law, to the chief of the synagogue and, later still, 
to the head of the family, who keeps the deposit of the 
law and transmits it to his children. A civil power, a 
royalty, has nothing much to do with such a social 
organization. This organization is never better carried 
out than in the case where the individuals who are the 
subjects of it are widely spread, in the condition of 
foreigners tolerated in a great empire where no 
uniformity reigns. It is the nature of Judaism to be 
subordinated, since it is incapable of drawing forth 
from its own bosom a principle of military power. 
The same fact is noticeable in the Greeks of our 
day ; the Greek communities of Trieste, Syrmna and 
Constantinople are indeed much more nourishing than 
the little kingdom of Greece, because these com 
munities are free from political agitation, in which 
a free race put prematurely in possession of liberty 
finds its certain ruin. The Eoman domination 
established in Judea in the year 63 B.C., by the 
arms of Pompey, appeared at first to realize some of 
the conditions of Jewish life. Eome at that time did 
not as a rule assimilate the countries which she one 


after fcusotnti annexed to her vast empire. She gave 
them the right of peace and war, and scarcely claimed 
anything but arbitration in great political questions. 
Under the degenerate remnants of the Asmonean dynasty 
and under the Herods, the Jewish nation preserved 
that semi-independence which sufficed for it since its 
religious condition was respected. But the internal 
crisis of the people was too strong. Beyond a certain 
degree of religious fanaticism man is ungovernable. It 
must be said also that Eome tended unceasingly to 
render her power in the East more effective. The little 
vassal kingdoms which she had at first conserved 
disappeared day by day, and the provinces returned to 
the empire pure and simple. After the year 6 after 
Christ, Judea was governed by procurators subordinated 
to the imperial legates of Syria and having beside them 
the parallel power of the Herods. The impossibility of 
such a regime revealed itself day by day. The Herods 
were little thought of in the East as either truly patriotic 
or religious men. The administrative customs of the 
Romans, even in their most reasonable aspects, were 
odious to the Jews. In general, the Romans shewed the 
greatest condescendence with respect to the fastidious 
scruples of the nation, but that was not sufficient ; things 
had come to a point where nothing more could be done 
without affecting a canonical question. Those fixed 
religions, like Islamism and Judaism, endure no sharing 
of power. If they do not rule they call themselves 
persecuted. If they feel themselves protected they 
become exacting, and seek to render life impossible to 
all other religions except their own. That is well seen 
in Algiers, where the Israelites, knowing themselves to 
be maintained against the Mussulmans, have become 
insupportable to them, and occupy without ceasing the 
attention of the authorities by their recriminations. 

Certainly we would not believe, in this experience 
of an age which made the Romans and Jews live 
together, and which resulted in such a terrible disrup- 


tion, that the faults were reciprocal. Many procurators 
were dishonourable men, others could be rough, harsh, 
and allow themselves to be led into impatience against 
i religion which annoyed them, and whose features they 
lould not understand. It would have required one to 
be a perfect being not to be irritated by that narrow 
and haughty spirit, an enemy to Greek and Koman 
eivilization, malevolent towards the rest of the human 
race, which superficial observers held to constitute 
the essence of a Jew. How could an administrator 
think otherwise of those always occupied in accusing 
him before the emperor, and forming cabals against 
him even when he was perfectly right ? In that 
great hatred which for more than two thousand 
years existed between the Jewish race and the 
rest of the world, who had the first blame ? Such a 
question ought not to be put. In such a matter all is 
action and reaction, cause and effect. These exclusions, 
these padlocks of the Ghetto, these separate costumes, are 
unjust things, but who first wished for them ? Those 
who believed themselves soiled by contact with the 
heathen, those who sought for separation from them, 
a society apart. Fanaticism has created the chains, and 
the chains have redoubled the fanaticism. Hatred 
begets hatred, and there is only one means of escaping 
from this fatal circle : it is to suppress the cause of 
the hatred, those injurious separations which, at first 
desired and sought for by the sects, became afterwards 
their shame. In regard to Judaism modern France has 
solved the problem. By casting down all the legal 
barriers which surrounded the Israelite, she has removed 
what was narrow and exclusive in Judaism, I mean 
to say its practices and its isolated life, so much so that 
a Jewish family brought to Paris ceases almost altogether 
to lead the Jewish life in the course of one or two 

It would be unjust to reproach the Eomans in the 
first century, for not having acted in this manner. 


There wab a fixed opposition between the Roman 
empire and orthodox Judaism. It was Jews who were 
often the most insolent, tormenting and aggressive. 
The idea of a common law which the Komans brought 
in germ with them was in antipathy to the strict 
observers of the Thora. These had moral needs in 
total contradiction to a purely human society, with 
out any mixture of theocracy, as Roman society was. 
Rome founded the State, Judaism founded the church. 
Rome created profane and rational government ; the 
Jews inaugurated the kingdom of God. Between this 
strict but fertile theocracy and the most absolute 
proclamation of the laic state which had ever existed, a 
struggle was inevitable. The Jews had their faith 
founded upon quite other bases than the Roman law, 
and at bottom quite irreconcilable with that law. Before 
having been cruelly harassed they could not content 
themselves, with a simple tolerance, those who believed 
that they had the words of eternity, the secret of the 
constitution of a righteous city. They were like 
the Mussulmans of Algeria. Our society, although 
infinitely superior, inspires in these only repugnance ; 
their revealed law, at once civil and religious, fills them 
with pride and renders them incapable of giving them 
selves to a philosophical legislation, founded upon the 
simple idea of the relations of men to each other. Add 
to that a profound ignorance which hinders fanatic 
sects from taking account of the forces of the civilized 
world, and blinds them to the issue of the war in which 
they engage with light-heartedness. 

One circumstance contributed much to maintain 
Judea in a condition of permanent hostility against the 
empire : it was that the Jews took no part in military 
service. Everywhere else the legions were formed 
from the people of the country, and it was thus with 
armies numerically feeble, the Romans held immense 
regions. The soldiers of the Romans and the inhabitants 
of the country were compatriots. It was not so in 


Judea. The legions which occupied the country were 
recruited for the most part at Cesarea and Sebaste, 
towns opposed to Judaism. Hence the impossibility of 
any cordial relation between the army and the people. 
The Roman force was in Jerusalem confined to its 
trenches as if in a condition of permanent siege. 

It was certain, moreover, that the sentiments of the 
different fractions of the Jewish world should be the 
same in regard to the Romans. If we except some 
worldlings like Tiberias Alexander, become indifferent 
to their old faith and regarded by their co-religionists as 
renegades, everyone bore ill-will to the foreign rulers, 
but still were far from inciting to rebellion. We can 
distinguish four or five parties in Jerusalem : 

1st. The Sadducean and Herodian party, the remainder 
of the house of Herod and his clientele, the great families 
of Hanan and of Boethus in possession of the 
priesthood. A society of Epicureans and voluptuous 
unbelievers, hated by the people because of its pride, for 
its little devotion and for its riches ; this party, 
essentially conservative, found a guarantee for its 
privileges in the Roman occupation, and, without loving 
the Romans, were strongly opposed to all revolution. 

2nd. The party of Pharisean middle-class, an honest 
party composed of people sensible, settled, quiet, steady, 
loving their religion, observing it punctiliously, devoted, 
but without imagination ; well educated, knowing 
the foreign world, and clearly seeing that a revolt could 
not end in anything but the destruction of the nation 
and the temple ; Josephus is the type of that class of 
persons whose fate was that which appears always 
reserved to moderate parties in times of revolution, 
powerlessness, versatility, and the supreme disagree- 
ableness of passing for traitors in the eyes of most 

3rd. The enthusiasts of every kind, zealots, robbers, 
assassins, a strange mass of fanatical beggars reduced to 
the last wretchedness by the injustice and the violence 


of the Sadducees, who looked upon themselves as the 
sole inheritors of the promises of Israel, of that poor 
" beloved " of God, nourishing themselves upon 
prophetic books such as those of Enoch, violent 
Apocalypses, believing the kingdom of God about to be 
revealed, arrived at last at the most intense degree of 
enthusiasm of which history has kept records. 

4th. Brigands, people without vagrants, adventurers, 
dangerous scoundrels, the result of the complete social 
disorganization of the country ; these people for the 
most part of Idmuean or Nabatean were little concerned 
about the question of religion ; but they were creators 
of disorder, and they had a quite natural alliance with 
the enthusiastic party. 

5th. Pious dreamers, Essenes, Christians, Ebionim, 
waiting peacefully for the kingdom of God, devoted 
persons grouped around the temple praying and weeping. 
The disciples of Jesus were of that number ; they were 
still so small a body in the eyes of the public that 
Josephus does not reckon them among the elements of 
the struggle. We see all at once that in the day of 
danger these holy people knew only how to escape. 

The mind of Jesus, full of a divine efficacy for 
drawing man away from the world, and consoling him, 
could not inspire the strict patriotism which created 
assassins and heroes. 

The arbiters of the situation would naturally be the 
enthusiasts. The democratic and revolutionary side of 
Judaism showed itself in them in a terrible manner. 
They were persuaded, with Judas the Gaulonite, that all 
power came from the evil one, that royalty is a work of 
Satan (a theory which some sovereigns, such as Caligula 
and Nero, true demons incarnate, only justified too 
much) and they suffered themselves to be cut in pieces 
sooner than give to another than God the name of 
master ; imitators of Matthias, the first of the zealots 
who, seeing a Jew sacrificing to idols, killed him ; they 
avenged God by blows of the dagger. The mere fact tf 


nearing an " uncircumcised " speak of God or of the law 
was enough to make them seek to surprise him alone ; 
then they gave him the choice of circumcision or death. 
Executioners f $ those mysterious sentences which were 
left to " the hand of heaven," and believing themselves 
charged with rendering effectual that fearful penalty of 
excommunication, which is equivalent to placing beyond 
the law and giving up to death, they formed an army of 
terrorists in full revolutionary ebullition. It could be 
foreseen that these troubled consciences, incapable of 
distinguishing their gross appetite from passions which 
their frenzy represented to them as holy, went to the 
most extreme excess and stopped before no degree of 

Minds were under the influence of a permanent 
hallucination; some terrifying reports came from all 
directions. People only dreamed of omens; the apocalyp 
tic colour of the Jewish imagination tinged everything 
with an aureole of blood. Comets, swords in heaven, 
battles in the clouds, a spontaneous light shining at 
night at the foundation of the temple, victims giving 
birth to unnatural productions at the moment of sacrifice, 
were what were spoken of in terror. One day, it was 
the enormous brazen gates of the temple which opened 
of themselves and refused to allow themselves to be 
shut. At the Passover of 65, about three hours after 
midnight the temple was for half-an-hour perfectly 
light as in the full day; it was believed that it was 
consuming inside. Another time, on the day of 
Pentecost, the priests heard the sound of many people 
making preparations in the interior of the sanctuary as 
if for removal, and saying to one another, " Let us go 
out from here ! let us go out from here !" All this came 
only too late ; but the deep trouble of souls was the best 
sign that something extraordinary was preparing. 

It was the Messianic prophecies especially which 
excited in the people an unconquerable need of agitation. 
People would not resign themselves to a mediocre destiny 

120 TTTE 

when they claimed the kingdom of the future. The 
Messianic theories were summed up for the crowd in an 
oracle which was said to be drawn from Scripture, and 
according to which " there was to go forth at this time 
a prince who should be master of the universe." It is 
useless to reason against obstinate hope ; evidence has 
no power to fight the chimera which a people has 
embraced with all the power of its heart. 

Gersius Florus, of Clazomenes, had succeeded Albinus 
as procurator of Judea about the end of 64, or the 
beginning of 65. He was, as it would appear, a very 
bad man; he owed the position he occupied to the 
influence of his wife, Cleopatra, who was the friend of 
Poppea. The hatred between him and the Jews now 
grew to the last degree of exasperation. The Jews had 
become unbearable by their susceptibility, their habit 
of complaining about trifles, and the little respect they 
showed to the civil and military authorities ; but it 
would appear that, on his side, he took a pleasure 
in defying them and making a parade of it. On the 
16th and 17th May, of the year 66, a collision took 
place between his troops and the Jerusalemites on some 
absurd grounds. Florus retired to Cesarea, only 
leaving a cohort in the Antonian tower. There was 
here a very blameable act. An armed power owes it 
to a city it occupies, when a popular revolt shows 
itself, not to abandon it to its own passions until it has 
exhausted all its means of resistance. If Florus had 
remained in the city, it is not probable that the 
Jerusalemites would have forced it, and all the mis 
fortunes which followed would have been avoided. 
Florus once gone, it was written that the Roman army 
should not re-enter Jerusalem except through fire and 

The retreat of Florus was, nevertheless, far from 
creating an open rupture between the city and the 
Roman authority. Agrippa II. and Berenice were at 
this moment in Jerusalem. Agrippa made some con- 


icientious efforts to calm the peoples minds ; all moderate 
persons joined with him, they used even the popularity 
of Berenice, in whom the imagination of the people 
believed they saw living again her great-grandmother 
Mariamne, the Asmonean. While Agrippa harangued 
the crowd in the Xystos the princess showed herself upon 
the terrace of the palace of the Asmoneans, which over- 
looked the Xystos. All was useless. Sensible men 
represented that war would be the certain ruin of the 
nation; they were treated as people of little faith. 
Agrippa, discouraged or frightened, quitted the city and 
retired to his estates in Batanea. One band of the 
most ardent kind departed at once and occupied by 
surprise the fortress of Massada, situated on the shores 
of the Dead Sea, two days journey from Jerusalem, 
and nearly impregnable. 

There was here an act of definite hostility. In 
Jerusalem the fight became daily more vigorous between 
the party of peace and that of war. The first of those 
two parties was composed of the rich, who had everything 
to lose in a revolution. The second, besides the sincere 
enthusiasts, comprehended that mass of the populace 
to whom a state of national crisis, fully putting to an 
end the ordinary conditions of life, derives most benefit. 
The moderate people depended upon the little Eoman 
garrison lodged hi the Antonian town. The high 
priest was an obscure man, Matthias, son of Theophilus. 
Since the deprivation of Hanan the Young, who caused 
the death of St. James, it seems there was a system of 
no longer taking the high priest from the powerful 
sacerdotal families, the Hanans, the Cantheras, and 
the Boethuses. But the true head of the sacerdotal party 
was the old high priest Ananias, son of Nabedeus, a 
rich and energetic man, little popular because of the 
pitiless vigour with which he enforced his rights, hated 
especially for the impertinence and rapacity of his 
servants. By a peculiarity which is not rare in times of 
revolution, the chief of the party of action was at thi 


time Eleazar, son of this same Ananias ; he held the 
important position of Captain of the Temple. His 
religious enthusiasm appears to have been sincere. 
Pushing to the extreme the principle that the sacrifices 
could not be offered but by Jews and for Jews, he 
caused to be suppressed the prayers that were offered 
for the Emperor and the prosperity of Rome. All the 
younger portion of the people were full of ardour. It is 
one of the characteristics of the fanaticism which the 
Semetic religions inspire that it shows itself with 
the utmost vivacity among the young. The members 
of the ancient sacerdotal families, the Pharisees, the 
reasonable and settled men, saw the danger. They put 
forward some authorized doctors, they had consultations 
of the rabbis, memorials from canonical laws, although 
quite in vain ; for it was plain that the town clergy 
made common cause with the enthusiasts and Eleazar. 
The higher clergy and the aristocracy, despairing of 
gaining anything over the popular crowd, delivered up 
to the most superficial suggestions, sent to beg Florus 
and Agrippa to come and quickly put down the revolt, 
making them note that soon it would not be time to do 
so. Florus, according to Josephus, wished a war of 
extermination, which should cause the entire Jewish 
race to disappear from the world, and he evaded a 
reply. Agrippa sent to the party of order a body of 
three thousand Arab horsemen. The party of order with 
these horsemen occupied the upper city (the present 
Armenian and Jewish quarters). The party of action 
occupied the lower city and the temple (the present 
Mussulman, Mogharibi and Haram quarters). A real 
war was waged between the two quarters. On the 14th 
of August the rebels, commanded by Eleazar, Menahem, 
son of that Judas the Gaulonite, who first, sixty years 
previously, had raised the Jews by preaching to them 
that the true adorer of God ought not to recognise any 
man as his superior, stormed the higher town and 
burned the house of Ananias, and the palaces of 


Agrippa and Berenice. The horsemen of Agrippa, 
Ananias his brother, and all the notables who could 
join them, took refuge in highest parts of the palace of 
the Asmoneans. 

The morning after this success the insurgents attacked 
the Antonian tower ; they took it in two days, and set it 
on fire. They beseiged then the upper palace and took 
it (6th September). Agrippa s horsemen were allowed 
to go out. As to the Romans, they shut themselves up 
in the three towers named after Hippicus, Phasael, and 
Mariamne. Ananias and his brother were killed 
According to the rule in popular movements discord 
soon broke out among the leaders of the popular party. 
Menahem made himself intolerable by his pride as a 
democratic parvenu Eleazar, son of Ananias, irritated 
beyond doubt by the murder of his father, pursued him 
and killed him. The remnant of Menahem s party 
retired to Massada, which was to be until the end of the 
war the bulwark of the most enthusiastic party of the 

The Romans defended themselves a long time in the 
towers : reduced to extremity, they only asked that their 
lives should be spared. This was promised them, but 
when they had surrendered their arms, Eleazar put them 
all to death, with the exception of Metilius, primipilia 
of the cohort, who promised that he would be circumcised. 
Thus Jerusalem was lost by the Romans about the end 
of September A.D. 66, a little more than a hundred years 
after its capture by Pompey. The Roman garrison oi 
the castle of Machero, fearing to be seen retreating, 
surrendered. The castle of Kypros, which overlooks 
Jericho, fell also into the hands of the insurgents. It is 
probable that Herodium was occupied by the rebels 
about the same time. The weakness which the Romans 
shewed in all these mutinies is something singular, 
and gives a certain likelihood to the opinion of Josephus, 
according to which the plan of Floras would have been 
to push everything to the extremes. It is true that the 


first revolutionary outbursts have something fascinating 
which makes it very difficult to stop them and causes 
wise minds to resolve to allow them to wear themselves 
out by their own excesses. 

In five months the insurrection had succeeded in 
establishing itself in a formidable manner. Not only 
was it mistress of the city of Jerusalem, but by the 
desert of Judea it obtained communication with the 
region of the Dead Sea, all of whose fortresses it held ; 
from thence it came in contact with the Arabs, the 
Nabateans, more or less the enemies of Rome. Judea 
Ideamea, Perea, and Galilee were with rebels. At 
Rome during this time a hateful sovereign had handed 
over the functions of the empire to the most ignoble 
and incapable. If the Jews had been able to group 
around them all the malcontents of the East there would 
have been an end of Roman rule in these quarters. 
Unhappily for them, the effect was quite the opposite; the 
revolt inspired in the populations of Syria a redoubled 
fidelity to tb.e empire. The hatred which they had 
inspired in their neighbours sufficed during the kind of 
torpor of the Roman power to excite against them some 
enemies not less dangerous than the legions. 




A sort of general mot d ordre in fact appeared at this 
time to have run through the East, inciting everywhere 
to great massacres of the Jews. The incompatibility of 
the Jewish life with the Greco-Roman life became 
more and more apparent. Each of the two races wishing 
to exterminate the other, it was evident that there 
would be no mercy between them. To conceive of 
these struggles it is necessary to understand to what 
extent Judaism had penetrated all the Oriental portion 
of the Roman empire. " They have spread over all the 
cities," says Strabo, " and it is not easy to mention a 
place in the world which has not received this people, 
or rather which has not been occupied by them. Egypt 
and Cyrenia have adopted their manners, observing 
scrupulously their precepts and deriving great profit from 
the adoption which they have made of their national 
laws. In Egypt they are admitted to dwell legally, and 
a great part of the city of Alexandria is assigned to 
them ; they have their Etbnarc, who administers their 
affairs, exercises justice and watches over the execution 
of contracts and wills, as if he were the president of an 
independent state". This conteco of two elements as 
- opposed to one another as wacer and fire, could not fail to 
produce the most terrible outbursts. It is not necessary 
to suspect the Roman government of being implicated in 
this. The same massacres had taken place among the 
Parthians, whose situation and interest were quite other 
wise than those of the West. It is one of the glories 
of Rome to have founded its empire upon peace ; on 


the extinction of local wars, and by never having 
practised that detestable means of government, become 
one of the political secrets of the Turkish empire, 
which consists in exciting against each other the 
different populations of mixed countries ; as to a 
massacre for religious motives, no idea was farther from 
the Roman mind. A stranger to all theology, the Eoman 
did not understand the sect, and did not grant that 
persons ought to be divided for such a small matter as 
a speculative proposition. The antipathy against the 
Jews was moreover in the ancient world a sentiment 
so general that it had no need to be forced then. That 
antipathy marks one of the deep lines of separation 
which have ever been found in the human race. It 
concerns something more than race, it is the hatred of 
the different functions of humanity, the hatred on the 
part of the man of peace content with his internal joys 
against the man of war, the man of the shop and 
counter against the peasant and the noble. It is 
probably not without reason that this poor Israel has 
passed its life as a people in being massacred. Since 
all nations and all ages have persecuted them, there 
must have been some motive. The Jew up to our time 
insinuates himself every where, claiming common rights, 
but in reality the Jew was not within the common 
law. He kept his own special code; he wished to 
have guarantees from all, and once above the market, 
made his exceptions and his laws for himself. He wished 
the advantages of the nations without being a nation, 
without participating in the expenditure of nations. No 
people has ever been able to tolerate that. The nations 
are military creations founded and maintained by the 
sword. They are the work of peasants and soldiers ; 
the Jews have not contributed in any degree to their 
establishment. That is the great misunderstanding 
involved in the Israelite pretensions. The stranger is 
tolerated because he is useful in a country, but on con 
dition that the country does not allow itself to be taken 


possession of by him. It is unjust to claim the rights 
of a member of a family in a house which one has not 
built, as those birds do who install themselves in a nest 
which is not their own, or like those crustaceans who 
take the shell of another species. 

The Jew has rendered to the world so many good and 
so many bad services, that people can never be just to 
him. We owe him too much, and at the same time we 
see too well his defects not to be impatient at the sight 
of him. That eternal Jeremiah, " that man of sorrows, " 
is always complaining, presenting his back to blows 
with a patience which annoys us. This creature, 
foreign to all our instincts of religion and honour, bold 
ness, glory and refinement of art ; this person so little 
a soldier, so little chivalrous, who loves neither Greece 
nor Rome nor Germany, and to whom nevertheless we 
owe our religion, so much so that the Jew has a right 
to say to the Christian, " Thou art a Jew with a little 
alloy," this being has been set as the object of con 
tradiction and antipathy ; a fertile antipathy which 
has been one of the conditions of the progress of 
humanity ! 

In the first century of our era it appears that 
the world had a dim consciousness of what had 
passed, it saw its master in this strange, awkward, 
susceptible, timid stranger without any exterior nobility ; 
but honest, moral, industrious ; just in his business, 
endowed with modest virtues ; not military, but a good 
trader- a cheerful and steady worker. This Jewish 
family illumined by hope, this synagogue the life 
commonly was full of charm created envy. Too much 
humility, such a calm acceptance of persecution and 
insult and outrage ; such a resigned manner of consoling 
himself for not being of the great world because he has 
a compensation in his family and his church, a gentle 
gaiety like that which in our days distinguishes the 
rayah in the east and makes him find his good fortune 
in his inferiority itself. In that little world where he has 


as much happiness as outside he suffers persecution and 
ignominy, all this inspires with aristocratic antiquity 
his fits of deep bad temper, which sometimes lead him 
to the commission of odious brutalities. 

The storm commenced to growl at Cesarea nearly at 
the same moment as when the revolution had succeeded 
in making itself mistress of Jerusalem. Cesarea was the 
city where the situation with the Jews and non-Jews 
(those were comprised under the general name of 
Syrians) presented the greatest difficulties. The Jews 
composed in the mixed villages of Syria the rich portion 
of the population ; but this wealth, as we have said, came 
partly through injustice, and from exemption from 
military service. The Greeks and the Syrians, from 
among whom the legions were recruited, were hurt by 
seeing themselves oppressed by people exempt from the 
dues of the state, and who took advantage of the 
tolerance which they had for them. There were 
perpetual riots, and endless claims presented to the 
Roman magistrates. Orientals usually make religion a 
pretext for rascalities ; the less religious of men become 
singularly so when it becomes a question of annoying 
one s neighbour ; in our days the Turkish functionaries 
are tormented by grievances of this kind. From about 
the year 60 the battle was without truce between the 
two halves of the population of Cesarea. Nero solved 
the questions pending against the Jews ; hatred had only 
envenomed them; some miserable follies, or perhaps 
inadvertances on the part of the Syrians became crimes 
and injuries on the side of the Jews. The young 
people threatened and struck each other, grave men 
complained to the Eoman authority, who usually caused 
the bastinado to be administered to both parties. Gessius 
Floras used more humanity. He began by making 
them pay on both sides, then mocked those who claimed. 
A synagogue, which had a partition wall, a pitcher and 
some slain poultry which were found at the door of the 
synagogue, and which the Jews wished to pass off as the 


remains of a heathen sacrifice, were the great matters at 
Cesarea, at the moment Floras re-entered it, furious at 
the insult which had been given him by the people of 
Jerusalem. When it was known some months after 
that these people had succeeded in driving the Eomans 
completely from their walls, there was much excitement. 
There was open war between the Jews and the Eomans ; 
the Syrians concluded that they could massacre the 
Jews with impunity. In one hour there were 20,000 
throats cut. There did not remain a single Jew in 
Cesarea ; in fact Floras ordered to the galleys all those 
who had escaped by flight. This crime provoked 
frightful reprisals. The Jews formed themselves into 
bands and betook themselves on their side to massacre 
the Syrians in the cities of Philadelphia and Hesbon, 
Gerasa, Pela and Scythopolis ; they ravaged the 
Decapolis and Gaulonitis; set fire to Sebaste and Askelon, 
ruined Anthedon and Gaza. They burned the villages, 
and killed anyone who was not a Jew. The Syrians on 
their side killed all the Jews they met. Southern 
Syria was a field of carnage; every town was divided 
into two armies, who waged a merciless war. The night* 

were passed in terror. There were some atrocious 
episodes. At Scythopolis the Jews fought with the 
heathen inhabitants against their co-religionist invaders, 
which did not hinder them from being massacred 
by the Scythopolitans. The butcheries of Jews recurred 
with increased violence at Askelon, Acre, Tyre, Hippos, 

and Gadara. They imprisoned those whom they did not 
kill. The scenes of fury which occurred at Jerusalem 
made people see in every Jew a sort of dangerous mad 
man whose acts of fury it is necessary to prevent. The 
epidemic of massacres extended as far as Egypt. The 
hatred of the Jews and the Greeks was at its height. 

Alexandria was half a Jewish town, the Jews formed 
there a true antonomous republic. Egypt had only 
some months previously as prefect a Jew, Tiberius 
Alexander, but a Jewish apostate little disposed to be 



indulgent to the fanaticism of his co-religionists. 
Sedition broke out in connection with an assembly at 
the amphitheatre. The first insults came, it would 
appear, from the Greeks. The Jews replied to that in 
a cruel manner. Arming themselves with torches they 
threatened to burn within the amphitheatre the Greeks 
to the last man. Tiberius Alexander tried in vain to 
calm them. It was necessary to send for the legions, 
the Jews resisted; the carnage was frightful. The 
Jewish quarter of Alexandria called the Delta was 
literally crowded with corpses ; the dead were computed 
as amounting to 50,000. 

These horrors lasted for a month. In the north, they 
were stopped at Tyre ; for beyond that the Jews were 
not considerable enough to give umbrage to the 
indigenous populations. The cause of the evil indeed 
was more social than religious. In every city where 
Judaism came to dominate, life became impossible for 
pagans. It is understood that the success obtained by 
the Jewish revolution during the summer of 66, had 
caused a moment of fear to all the mixed towns which 
bordered on Palestine and Galilee. We have insisted 
often on this singular character which makes the simple 
Jewish people include in their own bosom the extremes, 
and if we may say so, the fight between good and evil. 
Nothing in fact in wickedness equals Jewish wickedness ; 
and yet we have drawn from her bosom the ideal of 
goodness ; sacrifice, and love. The best of men have been 
Jews ; the most malicious of men have also been Jews. 
A strange race truly marked by the seal of God, who 
has produced in a parallel manner and like two buds on 
the same branch the nascent church and the fierce 
fanaticism of the Jerusalem revolutionaries, Jesus and 
John of Gischala, the apostles and the assassin zealots, 
the Gospel and the Talmud ; ought one to be astonished 
if this mysterious birth was accompanied by mysteries, 
delirium, and a fever such as never had been seen 
before ? 


The Christians were no doubt implicated in more than 
one direction in the massacres of September, 66. It is 
nevertheless probable that the gentleness of these 
worthy sectaries and their inoffensive character often 
preserved them. The larger number of the Christians 
of the Syrian towns were what were called " Judaizers," 
that is to say, people of converted countries, not Jews by 
race. They were looked on with hatred ; but people 
did not dare to kill them ; they were considered a 
species of mongrels strangers from their own country. 
As to them, while passing through that terrible month, 
they had their eyes on heaven, believing that they saw 
in every episode of the frightful storm the signs of the 
time fixed for the catastrophe : " Take the comparison 
of the fig-tree ; when its branches become tender and 
its leaves bud, ye conclude that summer is nigh : like 
wise, when ye see those things come to pass, know that 
He is near, that He is even at the door ? " 

The Roman authority was prepared meanwhile to 
re-enter by force the city it had so imprudently 
abandoned. The imperial legate of Syria, Cestius 
Gallus, marched from Antioch towards the south with a 
considerable army. Agrippa joined him as guide to the 
expedition ; the towns furnished him . with auxiliary 
troops, in whom an inveterate hatred of the Jews 
supplied what was wanting in the matter of military 
education. Cestius reduced Galilee and the coast 
without much difficulty ; and on the 24th of October 
he arrived at Gabaon, ten miles from Jerusalem. With 
astonishing boldness, the insurgents went out to attack 
him in that position, and caused him to suffer a check. 
Such a fact would be inconceivable if the Jerusalem 
army should be represented as a mass of devotees, 
fanatical beggars and brigands. It possessed certain 
elements more solid and really military, the two 
princes of the royal family of Adiabenes, Monobazus 
and Cenedeus ; one Silas from Babylon, a lieutenant of 
Agrippa II., who was among the national party ; Niger 


of Perea. a trained soldier ; Simon, son of Gioras, who 
began thenceforth his career of violence and heroism. 
Agrippa believed the occasion favourable for making 
terms. Two of his emissaries came to offer the 
Jerusaiemites a full pardon if they would submit. A 
large portion of the population wished that this should 
be agreed to ; but the enthusiastics killed the envoys. 
Some people who showed anger at such a shameful act 
were maltreated. This division gave Cestius a moment s 
advantage. He left Gabaon and pitched his camp in 
the district named Sapha or Scopus, an important 
position situated to the north of Jerusalem, scarcely an 
hour s distance from it, and from which the city and the 
temple could be seen. He remained there three days, 
waiting for the result of having some spies in the place. 
On the fourth day (30th October), he marshalled his 
army and marched forward. The party of resistance 
abandoned all the new town, and retired into the inner 
town (high and low) and into the temple. Cestius 
entered without opposition, and occupied the new town, 
the quarter of Bezetha, the wood market, to which he 
set fire, and approached the high town, disposing his 
lines in front of the palace of the Asmoneans. 

Josephus declares that if Cestius Gallus had been 
willing to make the assault at this moment, the war 
would have been ended. The Jewish historian explains 
the inaction of the Roman general by intrigues in which 
the principal material was the money of Floras. It 
appears that they bad seen on the wall some members 
of the aristocratic party, led by one of the Hanans, who 
called to Cestius, offering to open the gates to him. 
No doubt the legate feared some ambush. For five days 
he vainly tried to break through the wall. On the sixth 
day (5th November) he at length attacked the enceinte 
of the temple from the north. The fight was fearful 
under the porticoes ; discouragement took hold of the 
rebels ; the party of peace were making ready to admit 
Cestius, when he suddenly caused the retreat to be 

1 Hfi ANTIOHKI8Y* 133 

soundea. If Josephus story is true, the conduct of 
Cestius is inexplicable. Perhaps Josephus, to support 
his argument, exaggerates the advantages Cestius had at 
first over the Jews, and lessens the real force of the 
resistance. What is certain is that Cestius regained 
his camp at Scopus and left the next day for Gabaon, 
harassed by the Jews. Two days after (8th November) 
he raised his camp, but was pursued as far as the descent 
from Bethoron, leaving all his baggage, and retreated 
not without difficulty to Antipatris. 

The incapacity which Cestius showed in this campaign 
is truly surprising. The bad government of Nero must 
have indeed debased all the services of the state for 
such events to have been possible. Cestius only 
survived his defeat a short time ; many attributed 
his death to chagrin. It is not known what became of 




While the Boman empire in the East was suffering 
this most terrible insult, Nero, passing from crime to 
crime, from one madness to another, was completely 
taken up by his chimeras as a pretentious artist. Every 
thing which could be called taste, tact or politeness, had 
disappeared around him with Petronius. A colossal 
self-love gave him an ardent thirst to absorb the glory 
of the whole world ; his enmity was fierce against those 
who occupied public attention ; for a man to succeed 
in anything was a state crime. It is said that he 
wished to stop the sale of Lucan s works. He aspired 
to unheard-of fame; he turned in his brain some 
magnificent projects, such as piercing the isthmus of 
Corinth, a canal from Baia to Ostia, and the discovery 
of the sources of the Nile. A voyage to Greece had 
been his dream for a long time, not for any desire 
he had to see the chefs-d -ceuvre of an incomparable art, 
but through the grotesque ambition he had to present 
himself in the courses founded in the different towns, 
and take the prize. These courses were literally 
innumerable : the founding of such games had been 
one of the forms of Greek liberality. Every citizen at 
all rich considered these, as in the foundation of our 
academical prizes, a sure method of transmitting his 
name to the future. The noblo exercises which contri 
buted so powerfully to the strength and beauty of the 
ancient race, and was the school of Greek art, had 



become like the tourneys of a later age, profitable to 
people who made it a trade, who made it their profes 
sion to run in the agones, and to gain crowns there. 
Instead of good and worthy citizens, there were seen 
there none except hateful and useless rascals, or people 
who created a lucrative specialty out of it. These 
prizes, which the victors showed as a species of decora 
tion, kept the vain Ceesar from sleep. He saw himself 
already entering Rome in triumph, with the extremely 
rare title of periodonice or victor in the complete cycle 
of the solemn games. 

His mania as a singer reached its height of folly. 
One of the reasons of Thrasea s death was that he never 
sacrificed to the " heavenly voice " of the emperor. 
Before the King of the Parthians, his guest, he wished 
only to show -his talent in the chariot races. There 
were some lyrical dramas put on the stage where he 
had the principal part, and where the gods and 
goddesses, the heroes and heroines were masqued and 
draped like him, or like the woman he loved. He thus 
played (Edipus, Thyeste, Hercules, Alcmeon, Orestes, 
and Canace ; he was seen on the stage chained (with 
chains of gold) led like one blind, imitating a madman, 
feigning the appearance of a woman who is being con 
fined. One of his last projects was to appear in the 
theatre, naked, as Hercules, crushing a lion in his 
arms, or killing it with a blow of his club. The lion 
was, it was said, already chosen and prepared when the 
emperor died. To quit one s place while he sang was 
so great a crime that the most ridiculous precautions 
were taken to do so unseen. In the competitions he 
disparaged his rivals, and sought to discountenance 
them ; so much so that the unfortunates sang 
false in order to escape the danger of being compared 
to him. The judges encouraged him, and praised his 
bashfulness. If this grotesque spectacle made shame 
mount to anyone s forehead or gloom to his face he 
said that the impartiality of some people was suspected 


by him. Besides, lie obeyed the rules as to the reward, 
and trembled before the agonothetes and the 
mastigophores, and prayed that they should not 
chastise him when he had deceived himself. If he had 
committed some blunder which would have excluded 
him he would grow pale ; it was necessary to say to 
him quite low that this had not been remarked in the 
midst of the applauses and enthusiasm of the people. 
They overthrew the statues of the former laureates not 
to excite him to a mad jealousy. In the races they 
rode to let him come in first, even when he fell from 
his chariot. Sometimes, however, he allowed himself to 
be beaten, so that it might be believed that he played 
a fair game. In Italy, as we have said already, he was 
humiliated by having to owe his success only to a bland 
of claquei s, knowingly organised and dearly paid, who 
followed him everywhere. The Romans became in 
supportable to him; he treated them as rustics, and 
said that an artist who respected himself could only be 
so among the Greeks. 

The much desired departure took place in November 
66. Nero had been some days in Achaia when the 
news of the defeat of Oestius was brought to him. He 
felt that this war required a leader of experience and 
courage ; but he wished above all some one whom he did 
not fear. These conditions seemed to meet in Titus 
Flavius Yespasianus, a solid military man, aged sixty, 
who had always had much good fortune and whose ob 
scure birth had only inspired him with great designs. 
Yespasian was at this time in disgrace with Nero, be 
cause he did not show sufficient admiration for his fine 
voice, when messengers came to announce to him that 
he was to have the command of the expedition to Pales 
tine, he believed they had come with his death warrant. 
His son Titus soon joined him. About the same time 
Mucianus succeeded Cestius in the office of imperial 
legate of Syria. The three men who, in two years, will 


be the masters of the empire s fate were thus found 
gathered together in the East. 

The complete victory which the rebels had gained 
over a Roman army, commanded by an imperial legate, 
raised their audacity to the highest point. The most 
intelligent and educated people in Jerusalem were sad ; 
they saw with clearness that the advantage in the end 
oould only be with the Romans ; the ruin of the temple 
and nation appeared to them inevitable ; and emigra 
tion began All the Herodians, all the people attached 
to Agrippa s service, retired to the Romans. A great 
number of Pharisees, on the other hand, entirely pre 
occupied by the observance of the law and the peaceful 
future they predicted for Israel, were of opinion that 
they ought to submit to the Romans, as they had sub 
mitted to the kings of Persia and the Ptolemies. 
They cared little for national independence : Rabbi 
Johanan ben Zaka, the most celebrated Pharisee of the 
time, lived quite apart from politics. Many doctors 
retired probably from that time to Jamnia, and there 
founded those Talmudic schools which soon obtained a 
great celebrity. 

The massacres, moreover, began again and extended 
to some parts of Syria which up till now had been safe 
from the bloody epidemic. At Damas all the Jews were 
killed. The greater number of the women in Damas 
professed the Jewish religion, and there would certainly 
be some Christians among the number; precautions 
were taken that the massacre should be a surprise and 
quite unknown to them. 

The party of resistance showed a wonderful activity. 
Even the slow were carried away. A council was held 
in the temple to form a national government, composed 
of the elite of the nation. The moderate group at this 
period were far from having abdicated. Whether they 
hoped to direct the movement, or that they had 
some secret hope against all the suggestions 
of reason by which one is lulled asleep easily in hours of 



crisis, it was left to them to conduct nearly everything. 
Some very considerable personages, many members of 
the Sadducean or sacerdotal families, the principal of 
the Pharisees, that is to say, the higher middle class, 
having at its head the wise and honest Simeon, Ben 
Gamaliel (son of the Gamaliel of the Acts, and the 
great-grandson of Hillel) adhered to the revolution. 
They acted constitutionally ; f hey recognised the 
sovereignty of the Sanhedrim. The town and the 
temple remained in the hands of the established autho 
rities, Hanan (son of the Hanan [Annas] who con 
demned Jesus) the oldest of the high priests, Joshua, 
Ben Gamala, Simeon, Ben Gamaliel, Joseph, Ben 
Gorion. Joseph, Ben Gorion and Hanan were named 
commissiaries of Jerusalem. Eleazar, son of Simeon a 
demagogue without conviction, whose personal am 
bition was rendered dangerous by the treasures he 
possessed, was kept out designedly. At the same time 
commissiaries were chosen for the provinces ; all were 
moderate with the exception of one only, Eleazar, son 
of Ananias, who was sent to Idumea. Josephus, who 
has since created for himself such a brilliant renown as 
a historian, was prefect of Galilee. There were in 
this selection many grave men who were willing, to a 
large extent, to try to maintain order, with the hopes of 
ruling the anarchical elements which threatened to des 
troy everything. 

The ardour at Jerusalem was extreme. The town was 
like a camp, a manufactory of arms ; on all sides were 
heard the cries of the young people exercising. The 
Jews in places remote from the East, especially in the 
Parthian kingdom, hastened thither, persuaded that 
the Roman Empire had had its day. They felt that 
Nero was approaching his end, and were convinced 
that the empire would disappear with him. This last 
representative of the title of Caesar, lowering him 
self in shame and disgrace, appeared to be a POJA 
omen. By placing themselves at this point of view 


they would consider the insurrection much 
mad than it seems to be to us to us who know 
that the empire had still within it the force necessary 
for many future r<-nn<iissances. They could really be 
lieve that the work of Augustus was broken up ; they 
imagined any moment to see the Parthians rush into 
the Roman territories ; and this would indeed have hap 
pened if through different causes the Arsacide policy 
had not been very weak at the time. One of the finest 
images of Enoch is that where the prophet sees the 
sword given to the sheep, and the sheep thus armed 
pursuing in their turn the savage beasts, whom they cause 
to flee before them. Such were the feelings of the Jews. 
Their want of military education did not allow them to 
understand how deceptive was their success over Floras 
and Cestius. Coins were struck copied from the type 
of those of the Macabees, bearing the effigies of the 
temple or some Jewish emblem, with the legends in 
archaic Hebrew characters. Dated by the years "of 
deliverance "or of the freedom of Sion" these pieces 
were at first anonymous or sent forth in the name of 
Jerusalem ; later on, they bore the names of the party 
leaders who exercised supreme authority by the will 
of some portion ; probably, indeed, in the first months of 
the revolt, Eleazar, son of Simon, who was in posses 
sion of an enormous quantity of silver, had dared to 
coin money while giving himself the title of " high 
priest." The monetary issues lasted, in any case, for 
a considerable time ; they were called " the money of 
Jerusalem " or " the money of danger." 

Hanan became more and more the chief of the mod 
erate party. He hoped still to lead the mass of the 
people to peace ; he sought under hand to stay the manu 
facture of arms, to paralyse resistance by giving 
himself the appearance of organising it. This is the 
most formidable game in a time of revolution : Hanau 
was called a traitor by the revolutionaries. He had in 
the eyes of the enthusiasts the fault of seeing clearly ; 


in the eyes of the historian, he cannot be absolved 
from having taken the falsest of positions, that which 
consists in making war without believing in it, only 
because he was impelled by ignorant ianatics. The 
commotion in the provinces was frightful. The com 
plete Arab regions to the East and South ol the Dead 
Sea threw into Judea masses of bandits, living by pil 
lage and massacres. Order in such circumstances was 
impossible, for to establish order, it is necessary to 
expel the two elements which make up a revolution s 
strength fanaticism and brigandage. Terrible 
positions those which give no alternative but that 
between appeal to the foreigner and anarchy ! In 
Acrabatena, a young and brave partisan Simon, son of 
Gioras, pillaged and tortured all the rich people. In 
Galilee, Josephus tried in vain to maintain some disci 
pline: a certain John of Gischala, a knavish and auda 
cious agitator combining an implacable personality with 
an ardent enthusiasm, succeeded in carrying all before 
him. Josephus was reduced, according to the eternal 
custom of the East, to enrol the brigands and pay them 
regular wages as the ransom of the country. 

Vespasian prepared himself for the difficult cam 
paign which had been entrusted to him. His plan 
was to attack the insurrection from the north, to crusli 
it first in Galilee, then in Judea, to throw himself in 
some sort upon Jerusalem; and when he should have 
moved everything towards this central point, where 
fatigue, famine and factions, could not fail to produce 
fearful scenes; to wait, or if that were not enough, to 
strike a heavy blow. He went first to Antioch where 
Agrippa came to join him with all his forces. Antioch 
had not till now had its massacre of Jews, doubtless be 
cause it had in its midst a large number of Greeks who 
had embraced the Jewish religion (most frequently 
under the Christian form) which moderated their hat 
red. Even at this moment the storm broke ; the absurd 
accusation of having fired the city led to butcheries, 


followed by a very severe persecution, in which doubt 
less many disciples of Jesus suffered, being confounded 
with the adherents of a religion which was only the 
half of theirs. 

The expedition set off in March, 67, and following 
the ordinary route along the sea-shore, established its 
head- quarters at Ptolemais (Acre). The first shock 
fell on Galilee. The population was heroic. The little 
town of Jondifat, or Jotapata, recently fortified, made 
a tremendous resistance ; not one of its defenders would 
survive ; shut up in a position without issue, they killed 
each other. "Gallilean" became from that time the 
synonym for fanatic sectaries, seeking death as their 
part, taking it with a sort of stubbornness. Tiberias, 
Taricheus, and Gamala were not taken until after per 
fect butcheries ; there have been in history few 
examples of an entire race thus broken. The waves of 
the quiet lake where Jesus had dreamed of the kingdom 
of Heaven were actually tinged with blood. The river 
was covered with putrefied corpses, the air was pestifer 
ous, crowds of Jewa took refuge on the coasts. 
Vespasian caused them to be killed or drowned. The 
rest of the population was sold. Six thousand captives 
were sent to Nero, in Achaia, to execute the most diffi 
cult work of piercing the Isthmus of Corinth ; the old 
men were slaughtered. There was nothing but desertion. 
Josephus, whose nature had little depth, and who, 
besides, was always in doubt of the issue of this war, 
surrendered to the Romans, and was soon in the good 
graces of Vespasian and Titus. All his cleverness in 
writing had not succeeded in washing such a conduct 
from a certain varnish of cowardice. 

The main part of the year 67 was employed in this 
war of extermination. Galilee had never recovered ; 
the Christians who were found there took r^uge 
oeyond the lake. Henceforth there shall be nothing 
spoken oi the country of Jesus in the history of Christi- 
aimv. fjfisciinlii, which was taken last, fell in November 


or December. John of Gischala, who iiud defended it 
with fury, retreated, and sought to gain Judea. 
Yespasian and Titus made their winter quarters at 
Ceserea, preparing in the following year to lay siege to 

The great weakness of provisional governments 
organised for national defence is not being able to 
support defeat. In all cases, undermined by 
advanced parties, they fall on the day when they do 
not give to the superficial crowd what they have pro 
claimed victory. John of Gischala and the fugitives 
from Galilee arriving each day at Jerusalem with 
rage in their hearts, still raised the diapason of fury in 
which the revolutionary party lived. Their breathing 
was hot and quick -"We are not conquered," they 
said, "but we seek better posts ; why exhaust oneself ic 
Gischala and these hovels when we have the mother 
city to defend ? " "I have seen," said John of 
Gischala, "the machines of the Romans flying in pieces 
against the walls of the Gallilean villages ; and, as they 
have not wings, they cannot break the ramparts of 

All the young people were for open war. 
Some troops of volunteers turned readily to pillage ; 
bands of fanatics, either religious or political, always 
resemble brigands. It is necessary to live, and free 
booters cannot live without vexing the people. That 
is why brigand and hero in times of national crisis 
are merely synonymous. A war party is always tyranni 
cal ; moderation has never saved a country, for the 
first principle of moderation is to yield to circum 
stances, and heroism consists generally in not listening 
to reason. Josephus, the man of order par excellence, is 
probably in the right when he represents the 
resolution not to retire as having been the deed of a 
small number of energetic people, drawing by force 
after them some tranquil citizens who would have asked 
nothing better than to submit. It is more often thus; 
people obtain a great sacrifice from a nation without a 

t HE A^vICIIUIST. 143 

dynasty which terrorises it. The mass is essentially 
timid, but the timid count for nothing in times of 
revolution. The enthusiasts are always small in num 
ber, but they impose themselves upon others by cutting 
the road to reconciliation. The law of such situations 
is that power falls necessarily into the hands of the most 
ardent, and that politicians are fatally powerless. 

Before this intense fever, increasing every day, the 
position of the moderate party was not tenable. The 
bands of pillagers, after having ravaged the country, 
fell back upon Jerusalem, those who fled from the 
Roman armies came in their turn to huddle up in the 
town and to starve. There was no effective authority ; 
the zealots ruled ; all those who were even suspected 
of " moderantism " were massacred without mercy. 
Up to the present the war and its excesses were 
arrested by the barriers at the temple. Now the 
zealots and brigands dwelt pell-mell in the holy house ; 
all the rules of legal purity were forgotten, the pre 
cincts were soiled with blood, men walked with their 
feet wet with it. In the eyes of the priest this was no 
doubt a most horrible state of affairs ; to many devotees 
the " abomination " foretold by Daniel as installing 
himself in the holy place just before the last days. 
The zealots, like all military fanatics, made little of 
rights and subordinated them to the sacred work par 
excellence the fight. They committed a fault not less 
grave in changing the order of the high priesthood. 
Without having regard to the privilege of the families 
from whom it had been the custom to take the high 
priests, they chose a branch little considered in the 
sacerdotal race, and they had recourse to the entirely 
democratic plan of the lot. The lot naturally gave 
absurd results. It fell upon a rustic whom it was 
necessary to bring to Jerusalem and clothe in spite 
of himself with the sacred garments, the high priest 
hood saw itself profaned by scenes of carnival. All < 
the staid people, Pharisees, Sadducees, the Simeons, t 


Ben Gamaliels, the Josephs, Ben Gorions were wounded 
in what was dearest to them. 

So much excess at last decided the aristocratic 
Sadducean party to attempt a reaction. With much 
skill and courage Hanan sought to reunite the honest 
middle-class and all those who were reasonable, to over 
turn this monstrous alliance between fanaticism and 
impiety. The zealots were arranged near, and obliged 
to shut themselves in the temple, which had become 
an ambulance for the wounded. To save the revolution 
they had recourse to a supreme effort; it was to call* 
into the city the Idumeans that is to say, troops of 
bandits accustomed to all manner of violence which 
raged around Jerusalem. The entrance of the 
Idumeans was marked by a massacre. All the mem- , 
bers of the sacerdotal caste whom they could finds 
were killed. Hanan and Jesus, son of Gamala, suffered i 
fearful insults. Their bodies were deprived of 
sepulture, an outrage unheard-of among the Jews. 

Thus perished the son of the principal author of the 
death of Jesus. The Beni- Hanan remained faithful up [ 
to the end of their part, and, if I might say so, to their : 
duty. Like the larger number of those who seek to 
put a stop to the extravagances of sects and fanaticism, 
they were hot-headed, but they perished nobly. The 
last Hanan appears to have been a man of great 
capacity ; he struggled nearly two years against 
anarchy. He was a true aristocrat, hard sometimes, 
but grave, and penetrated by a real feeling on public 
subjects, highly respected, liberal in the sense that he 
wished the government of the nation to be by its 
nobility, and not by violent factions. Josephus did 
not doubt that if he had lived he would have succeeded 
in making an honourable arrangement between the 
Romans and the Jews, and he regarded the day of his 
death as the moment when the city of Jerusalem and 
the republic of the Jews were definitely lost. It was 
at least the end of the Sadducean party, a party often 


haughty, egotistical and cruel, but which represented 
according to him the opinion which alone was rational 
and capable of saving the country. By Hanan s death, 
people would be tempted to say, according to common 
language, that Jesus was revenged. It was the Beni- 
Hanan who, in presence of Jesus, had made this 
reflection : The consequence of all this is that the 
Romans will come and destroy the temple and nation ; " 
and who had added : " Better that one man should die 
than a whole people be lost ! " Let us observe an 
expression so artlessly impious. There is no more 
vengeance in history than in nature ; revolutions are no 
more just than the volcano which bursts or the avalanche 
that rolls. The year 1793 did not punish Richelieu, Louis 
XIV., nor the founders of French unity; but it proved that 
they were men of narrow views, if they did not feel the 
emptiness of what they had done, the frivolity of their 
Machiavellianism, the uselessness of their deep policy, 
the foolish cruelty of their reasons of State. Ecclesiastes 
alone was a sage, the day when he cried out, disabused : 
" All is vanity under the sun." 

With Hanan (in the first days of 68) perished the old 
Jewish priesthood, entailed in the great Sadducean 
families who had made such a strong opposition to 
budding Christianity. Deep was the impression, 
people, those highly respected aristocrats, whom they 
nad so lately seen clothed in superb priestly robes, 
presiding over pompous ceremonies, and regarded with 
veneration by the numerous pilgrims who came to 
Jerusalem from the whole world, thrown naked 
outside of the city, given up to the dogs and jackals, 
It was a world which disappeared. The democratic 
high-priesthood which was inaugurated by the revolu 
tion was ephemeral. The Christians at first believed to 
raise two or three personages by ornamenting their 
foreheads with the priestly petalon. All this had no 
result. The priesthood, no more than the temple on 
which it depended, was not destined to be the principal 


thing in Judaism. The principal thing was the 
enthusiast, the prophet, the zealot, the messenger from 
God. The prophet had killed royalty, the enthusiast, 
the ardent sectary, had killed the priesthood. The 
priesthood and the kingdom once killed, the fanatic 
remained, and he during two and a half years yet fought 
against fate. When the fanatic shall have been crushed 
in his turn, there will remain the doctor, the rabbi, the 
interpreter of the Tkora. The priest and the king 
will never rise again. 

Nor the temple neither. Those zealots who, to the 
great scandal of the priests who were friends of the 
Romans, made the holy place a fortress and a hospital, 
were not so far as would appear at first sight from the 
sentiment of Jesus. What mattered tliose stones ? 
The mind is the only thing which is reckoned, and that 
which defends the mind of Israel, the revolution, has a 
right to defile the stones. Since the day when Isaiah 
said : " What are your sacrifices to me ? they disgust me ; 
it is the righteousness of the heart I wish," material 
worship was an old-fashioned routine which must 

The opposition between the priesthood and the 
national party, at bottom democratic, which admitted no 
other nobility than piety and observance of the law, 
is felt from the time of Nehemiah, who was already a 
Pharisee. The true Aaron, in the mind of wise men, is 
the good man. The Asmoneans, at once priests and kings, 
only inspired aversion among pious men. Sadduceeism, 
each day more unpopular and ravenous, was only 
saved by the distinction which people made between 
religion and its ministers. No kings no priests such 
was at bottom the Pharisaic ideal. Incapable of 
forming a State of its own, Judaism must have arrived 
at the point at which we see it through eighteen 
centuries, that is to say, to live like a parasite in the 
republics of others. It was likewise destined to become 
a religion without a temple and without a priest. The 


priest rendered the temple necessary : its destruction 
shall be a kind of riddance. The zealots who, in the 
year 68, killed the high priest and polluted the temple 
to defend God s cause, were therefore not outside the real 
tradition of Israel. 

But it was clear that, deprived of all conservative 
ballast, delivered to a frantic management, the vessel 
would go to frightful perdition. After the massacre 
of the Sadducees terror reigned in Jerusalem without any 
restraining counterpois. The oppression was so great 
that no one dared openly to weep nor inter 
t heir dead. Compassion became a crime. The number 
of suspects of distinguished condition who perished 
through the cruelty of these madmen was about 
12,000. Doubtless it is necessary here to consider the 
statements of Josephus. The history of that historian 
as to the domination of the zealots has something absurd 
in it ; some impious and wretched people would not have 
had to be killed as they were. As well might one 
one seek to explain the French Kevolution by the going 
out from the prison of some thousands of galley slaves. 
Pure wickedness has never done anything in the world ; 
the truth is that these popular movements being the 
work of an obscure conscience and not of reason, are 
compromised by their very victory. According to the rule 
of ail movements of the same kind the revolution of 
Jerusalem was only occupied in decapitating itself. The 
best patriots, those who had most contributed to the 
success of the year 66, Guion, Niger, the Perea, were 
put to death. All the people in comfortable circum 
stances perished. We are specially struck by the death 
of a certain Zacharias, son of Barak, the most honest man 
of Jerusalem and greatly beloved by all good people. 
They introduced him before a traditional jury who 
acquitted him unanimously. The zealots murdered him 
in the middle of the temple. Thus Zacharias, the son of 
Barak, would be a friend of the Christians, for we believe 
that we can trace an allusion to him in the prophetic 


words which the evangelists attribute to Jesus as to the 
terrors of the last days. 

The extraordinary events of which Jerusalem was 
the theatre struck indeed the Christians in the highest 
degree. The peaceable disciples of Jesus, deprived of, 
their leader, James the brother of the Lord continued 
at first to lead in the holy city their ascetic life, and 
waited about the temple to see the great reappearance. 
They had with them the other survivors of the family of 
Jesus, the sons of Clopas, regarded with the greatest 
veneration even by the Jews. All that occurred would 
appear to them an evident confirmation of the words of 
Jesus. What could these convulsions be if not the 
beginning of what was called the sufferings of Messiah, 
the preludes of the Messianic Incarnation ? They were 
persuaded that the triumphant arrival of Christ would be 
preceded by the entry upon the scene of a great number 
of false prophets. In the eyes of the presidents of 
the Christian community, these false prophets were 
the leaders of the zealots. People applied to the present 
lime the terrible phrases which Jesus had often in his 
mouth to express the plagues which should announce 
judgments. Perhaps there were seen rising in the 
bosom of the Church some enlightened persons 
pretending to speak in the name of Jesus. The elders 
made a most lively opposition to them ; they were assured 
that Jesus had announced the coming of such seducers 
and warned them concerning them. That was sufficient ; 
the hierarchy, already strong in the Church, the spirit 
of docility, the inheritance of Jesus arrested all the 
impostures ; Christianity benefited by the great skill 
with which it knew how to create an authority in the 
very heart of a popular movement The budding 
episcopacy (or to express it better, the presbytery) 
prevented those aberrations from which the conscience 
of crowds never escapes when it is not directed. We 
feel from this point that the spirit of the Church in 
human things shall be a sort of good average sense, a 


conservative and practical instinct, and practice adefiance 
of democratic chimeras contrasting strangely with the 
enthusiasm of its supernatural principles. 

This political wisdom of the representatives of the 
Church of Jerusalem was not without merit. The zealots 
and the Christians had the same enemies, namely, the 
.adducees, the Beni-Hanan. The ardent faith of the 
zealots could not fail to exercise a great seduction on 
the soul, not less enthusiastic, of the Judeo Christians. 
Those enthusiasts who carried away the crowds to the 
deserts to reveal to them the Kingdom of God resembled 
much John the Baptist and Jesus a little. Some 
believers to whom Jesus appeared joined the party and 
allowed themselves to be carried away. Everywhere 
the peaceful spirit inherent in Christianity carried it 
with it. The heads of the Church fought with those 
dangerous tendencies by the discourses which they 
maintained they had received from Jesus. " Take heed 
that they do not seduce you," for many shall come in 
my name saying : " The Messiah is here, or he is there." 
Do not believe them. For there shall arise false 
Messiahs, and false prophets, and they shall do great 
miracles, so, as if it were possible, to seduce the very 
elect. Recollect what I have told you before. If then 
ome come saying to you, " Come, see, he is in the 
desert " do not go forth ; " Come, see, he is in a hiding- 
place " do not believe them. There were doubtless some 
apostacies and treasons of brethren by brethren. 
Political divisions led to a coldness of affection, but the 
majority, while feeling in the deepest manner the crisis 
of Israel, gave no countenance to anarchy even when 
coloured by a patriotic pretext. The Christian mani 
festo of that solemn hour was a discourse attributed to 
Jesus, a kind of apocalypse, connected perhaps with 
some words pronounced by the Master, and which 
explained the connection of the final catastrophe, thence 
forth held to be very near, with the political situation 
through which they were passing, It was not much 


later after the siege that the piece was written entirely ; 
but certain words tney nave placed in Jesus mouth are 
connected with the moment we have arrived at. " When 
ye shall see the abomination of desolation of which the 
prophet Daniel speaks, set up in the holy place (let the 
reader here understand), then let those who are in 
Judea flee to the mountains ; let him who is on the roof 
not come down to his house to remove anything ; let 
him who is in the fields not return to seek his cloak ! 
Unfortunate shall be they who either nurse children 
or bear them in these days. And pray that your flight 
should not take place in the winter or the Sabbath day ; 
for there shall be a tribulation such as has never been 
since the beginning of the world and never shall be 

Other apocalypses of the same kind, circulated it 
appears, under Enoch s name, and presented with the 
discourses, attributed to Jesus some singular conflicting 
thoughts. In one of them the Divine Wisdom, introduced 
as a prophetic personage, reproaches the people with 
their crimes, the murder of prophets, hardness of 
heart. Some fragments which may be supposed to be 
preserved appear to allude to the murder of Zacharias, 
the son of Barak. There was here also a matter as 
to the " height of offence," what would be the highest 
degree of honour to which human malice could rise, and 
which appears to be the profanation of the temple by the 
zealots. Such monstrosities prove that the coming of 
of the Well-Beloved was near, and that the revenge of the 
righteous would not tarry. The Judeo-Christian belie 
vers especially held still too much to the temple for 
such a sacrilege to fill them with fear. Nothing 
had been seen like this since Nebuchadnezzar. 

All the family of Jesus considered it was time to flee. 
The murder of James had already much weakened the 
connections of the Jerusalem Christians with Jewish 
orthodoxy ; the divorce between the Church and the 
Synagogue was ripening every day. The hatred ot 


the Jews to the pious sectaries, being no longer suppor 
ted by the Roman law, led without doubt to more than 
one act of violence. The life of the holy people who 
as a habit dwelt in the precincts and conducted their 
devotion then were very much distressed, since the 
zealots had transformed the temple into a place of arms 
and had polluted it by assassinations. Some allowed 
themselves to say that the name which suited the city 
thus profaned was no longer that of Sion, but that 
of Sodom, and that the position of the true Israelites 
resembled that of their captive ancestors in Egypt. 

The departure seems to have been decided on in the 
early months of 68. To give more authority to that 
resolution a report was spread to the effect that the 
heads of the community had received a revelation on 
this matter; according to some this revelation was 
made by the ministry of an angel. It is probable that 
all responded to the appeal of the leaders, and that none 
of the brethren remained in the city, which a very 
correct instinct showed them was doomed to extermina 

Some indications lead us to believe that the 
flight of the peaceful company was not carried out 
without danger. The Jews, as it would appear, pursued 
them, the terrorists in fact exercised an active overlook 
on the roads, and killed as traitors all those who sought 
to escape, unless at least they could pay a good ransom. 
A circumstance which is only indicated to us in covert 
words saved the fleeing people. "The dragon vomited 
after the woman (the Church of Jerusalem) a river to 
overwhelm and drown her ; but the earth helped the 
woman, opened its mouth and drank up the river which 
the dragon had vomited towards her, and the dragon 
was full of anger against the woman." Possibly the 
zealots were among those who wished to throw the 
whole body of the faithful into the Jordan, and that 
they succeeded in escaping by passing through a part 
where the water was low ; perhaps the party sent to 


destroy them wandered and also lost the tracks of those 
whom they pursued. The place chosen by the heads of the 
community to serve as the primitive seat for the fugitive 
church was Pella, one of the towns of the Decapolis, 
situated near the left bank of the Jordan, in an admir 
able site commanding on one side the plan of the Ghor, on 
the other some precipices, below which rolled a torrent. 
They could not have made a better choice. Judea, 
Idumea, and Perea, were concerned in the insurrec 
tion ; Samaria and the coast were profoundly troubled 
by war ; Scythopolis and Pella were the two most 
neutral towns near Jerusalem. Pella, by its position 
beyond the Jordan, could afford more tranquility than 
Scythopolis, which had become one of the military 
stations of the Eomans. Pella was a free city like all 
the places in the Decapolis, but it appears that it was 
given to Agrippa II. To take refuge there was to express 
strongly their horror of the revolt. The importance of 
the town dated from the Macedonian conquest ; a colony 
of veterans from Alexandria was established there and 
changed the Semitic name to another which recalled 
their native country to the old soldiers. Pella was taken 
by Alexander Janneus ; the Greeks who lived there 
refased to be circumcised and suffered much from Jewish 
fanaticism. Doubtless the heathen population had 
become rooted again there, for in the massacre of 66 
Pella figures as a town of the Syrians and found itself 
again sacked by the Jews. It was in this Anti-Jewish 
town that the churun ui o erusaiem nad its retreat during 
the horrors of the siega It was well placed, and the 
church looked upon this localitv as a safe abode, as 
a desert which God had prepared for it in which to wait 
in quietness, far from the torments of mankind, the home 
of the reappearance of Jesus. The community lived upon 
its savings, and they believed that God himself would take 
care to nourish it, and many saw in such a fate, so different 
from that of the Jews, a miracle which the prophets had 
foretold. Doubtless the Christians of Galilee on their s" 


had passed to the East of the Jordan and the lake into 
Batanea and the Gaulonites. In this manner the lands 
of Agrippa II, were a country of adoption for Judeo- 
Christians of Palestine. What gave a special importance 
to this Christian body in retirement is that it carried 
with it the remainder of the family of Jesus, surrounded 
by the most profound respect, and designated in Greek 
by the name of Deposyni, the relations of the Master. 
We shall soon see indeed the Trans- Jordanic Christianity 
continued in Ebionism, that is to say the very tradition 
of the word .if Jesus. The synoptical gospels were the 
product of it. 

154 THE ANTlCHlilST. 



Since the first appearance of the spring of the 
year 68, when Vespasian undertook the campaign, 
his plan, we have already said, was to crush Judaism 
step by step, proceeding from the north and west 
towards the south and east, to force ihe fugitives 
to shut themselves up in Jerusalem, and there 
to slay without mercy that seditious multitude. He 
advanced as far as Emma us, seven leagues from 
Jerusalem, at the foot of the great acclivity which stretches 
from the plain of Lydda to the Holy City. He did not 
consider that the time had yet come for this latter plan. 
He ravaged Idumea and Samaria, and on the 3rd of June 
lie established his general quarters at Jericho, when he 
sent to massacre the Jews of Perea. Jerusalem 
was besieged on all sides, a circle of exteimination 
surrounded it. Vespasian returned to Cesarea to assemble 
his entire forces, where he received news which made him 
stop short, and whose effect was to prolong by two years 
the resistance and the revolution at Jerusalem. 

Nero died on tne 8th of June. During the great struggles 
m Judea which we are relating, he had carried on in 
Greece the life of an artist ; he only returned to Eome 
at the end of 67. He had never enjoyed himself so 
much ; for his sake they had made all the games 
coincide in one year, all the towns sent him the prizes 
of their games, at every moment deputations came to 
seek him, to beg him to sing to them. The great child 
ninny, or perhaps jester, was entranced with joy. The 
Greeks alone know how to hear, said he, the Greeks 


alone are worthy of me and of my efforts. He extended 
fco them great privileges, he proclaimed the liberty of 
Greece to the two isthmuses, paid liberally the oracles 
who prophecied to his taste, suppressed those who did 
not please him, and it is said caused to be strangled a 
singer who did not use his voice so that it did not appear 
better than his own. Hellius, one of the wretches to 
whom at his departure he had left full powers over 
Eome and the Senate, pressed him to return. The 
gravest political symptoms began to show themselves. 
Nero replied that his reputation was the first thing to 
be considered, and it obliged him to harbour his resources 
for a time when he should have no empire. His constant 
prepossession was indeed that if fortune should ever 
reduce him to a private condition he would be able 
quite well to make his art sufficient for him ; and when 
they made the remark to him that he was fatiguing 
himself too much, he said that the exercise which 
for him was only the pastime of a prince, would 
perhaps be his bread winner. One of those things 
which most natters the vanity of people of the world 
who occupy themselves a little in art or literature, is to 
imagine that if they should become poor they could live 
by their talents. As to that he had a voice which was 
weak and hollow, although he observed, in order to 
preserve it, medical prescriptions ; his phonasque did 
not quit him and ordered him at every moment the 
most puerile precautions. We blush to think that 
Greece stained itself by this ignoble masquerade. 
Some towns indeed received him very well. The wretch 
did not dare to enter Athens ; he was not asked. The 
most alarming news was brought to him ; it was nearly 
a year since he had quitted Eome; he gave the order for 
return. In every town they gave him triumphal honours ; 
they levelled the walls to let him enter. At Rome there 
was an extraordinary carnival. He mounted the car 
on which Augustus had his triumph ; beside him was 
seated the musician Diodorus; upon his head he h.0 1 


the Olympic crown ; in his right hand the Pythic crown, 
before him they bore the other crowns, and upon some 
placards the roll of his victories ; the names of those he 
had conquered, the titles of the pieces in which he had 
played, the claquers, trained in three kinds of claque, 
and the knights of Augustus followed. They pulled down 
the arch of the grand circus to allow him to enter, and 
cries were heard : " Long live the Olympian ! the Pythi 
hero Augustus! Augustus! Nero-Hercules ! Nero- Apollo ! 
only Periodonicist ! The only one who has ever been 
Augustus ! Augustus ! So sacred voice ! Happy those 
who could hear it ! " The thousand eight hundred and 
eight crowns, which he had brought back from Greece, 
were placed in the grand circus and attached to the 
Egyptian obelisk, which Augustus had placed there to 
serve as a meta. At last the conscience of the noble 
portions of human nature awoke. The East, with the 
exception of Judea, bore without a blush this shameful 
tyranny and contented themselves with it; but the 
feeling of honour still lived in the West. It is one of 
the glories of France that the overthrow of such a 
tyranny was its work. While the German soldiers, full 
of hatred against the republicans and slaves for their 
principle of fidelity, played in regard to Nero as to all 
the emperors, the part of good Swiss and yard esdu corps; 
the cry of revolt was raised by an Aquitanian, a 
descendant of the ancient kings of the country. The 
movement was truly French. Without calculating the 
consequences the Gallican regions threw themselves 
into the revolution with enthusiasm. The signal 
was given by Vindex about the 15th of March, 68. 
The news came quickly to Eome. The walls were soon 
chalked over with scandalous inscriptions, " By the 
dint of singing, say vile scoffers, he has awakened the 
cocks (Gallos)." Nero at first laughed. He felt quite 
glad, that he had been furnished with an occasion of 
enriching himself by pillaging the Gauls. He continued 
to sing to amuse himself until the moment \vlu 


Vindex began to post proclamations in which he was 
treated as a wretched artist The actor wrote then from 
Naples, where he was, to the Senate to demand justice, 
and took the route for Eome. He affected only however 
to interest himself in some musical instruments newly 
invented, and especially in a kind of hydraulic organ, 
upon which he solemnly consulted the Senate and the 

The news of the defection of Galba (3rd April) and 
the alliance of Spain with Gaul, which he received 
while he was at dinner, came upon him like a thunder 
clap. He overturned the table where he ate, tore up the 
letter and smashed two engraved vases of great value, 
out of which he was accustomed to drink. In the 
ridiculous preparations which he began, his principal 
care was for his instruments, the theatrical baggage for 
his women, whom he had dressed as Amazons, with 
targets and hatchets, and having their hair cut short. 
There were strange alternations of depression and 
buffoonery, which we hesitate sometimes whether to 
take as serious, or rather to treat as absurd ; all 
the acts of Nero floating between the black wickedness 
of a cruel booby and the irony of a rout. He had not 
an idea which was not childish. The pretended world 
of art in which he lived had rendered him completely 
silly. Sometimes he thought less of fighting than 
going to weep without arms before his enemies. 
Thinking to touch their hearts, he composed already the 
epinicium which he should sing with them on the 
morning of the re-conciliation ; at other times he wished 
to have all the senate massacred, to burn Eome a 
second time, and to let loose the beasts of the amphi 
theatre upon the city. The French especially were the 
objects of his rage ; he spoke of causing those who were 
in Kome to be killed, as being implicated with their 
compatriots and wishing to join them. A.t intervals hfe 
had the thought of changing the seat of his empire and 
retiring to Alexandria. He remembered that soma 


prophets had promised him the empire of the east and 
especially the throne of Jerusalem, and he dreamed 
that his musical talent would give him a means of 
livelihood, and Jhis possibility, which would be tho 
better proof of his talents, afforded him a secret joy. 
Then he consoled himself with literature ; he made the 
remark that his position had something particular about 
it, all that had happened to him was quite unheard of ; 
never had any prince lost alive such a great empire. 
Never in the days of his most bitter anguish did he 
change any of his habits. He spoke more of literature 
than of the affairs of the French ; he sang, he made 
jests, he went to the theatre incognito, wrote with his 
own hand to an actor who pleased him : " Keep a man 
so busy, it is bad." 

The little agreement in the armies of Gaul, the death 
of Vindex, and the weakness of Galba would perhaps 
have adjourned the deliverance of the world, if the 
Eoman army in its turn had not made itself heard. 
The praetorians revolted and proclaimed Galba ; on the 
evening on the 8th of June Nero saw that all was lost. 
His ridiculous mind suggested to him nothing but 
grotesque ideas. Clothing himself in mourning habits 
he went to harangue the people in this dress, employing 
all his scenic power to obtain thus a pardon of the past, 
or, for want of better, prefecture of Egypt. He wrote 
his speech. He was told before he arrived at the 
forum he would be torn in pieces. He lay down ; 
awaking in the middle of the night he found himself 
without guards. They already had pillaged his room. 
He rose and struck at different doors and no one replied. 
He came back, wished to die, and asked for the 
myrmillon Spicullus, a brilliant slayer, one of the 
celebrities of the amphitheatre. Everyone deserted 
him. He went out wandering alone in the streets, 
thought of throwing himself into the Tiber, and then 
retraced his steps. The world appeared to make a void 
about him. Fhaon, his freed man, offered him then 


his villa residence, situated between the Salarian and 
Nomentan ways, about a league and a half off The 
unfortunate man, slightly clothed, covered with a poor 
mantle, mounted on a wretched horse, his face covered 
so as not to be recognised, went forth, accompanied by 
three or four of his freed men, among whom were Phaon, 
Sporus, Epaphroditus, his secretary. It was not yet quite 
light; in going through Colline gate he heard in the camp 
of the Prsetonians, near which he passed, the cries of the 
soldiers who cursed him and proclaimed Galba. A start 
of his horse caused by the stench of a corpse thrown in 
the way, caused him to be recognised. He was able to 
reach Phaon s villa by gliding flat on his belly under 
the bushwood, and concealing himself behind the 
rose trees. 

His comical mind and vulgar slang did not abandon 
him. They wished him to squat in a hole like a pouzza- 
lana, as is often seen in some places. This was for him 
the occasion of a joke. " What a fate, to go to live 
under the earth." His reflections were like a running 
fire intermixed with dull pleasantries and wooden- 
headed remarks. He had upon each circumstance a 
literary reminiscence, a cool antithesis ; " he who once 
was proud of his numerous suite, has now no more than 
three freed men." Sometimes the memory of his victims 
would come back to him, but only struck him as figures 
of rhetoric, never led to a moral act of repentance. The 
comedian survived through all. His situation was for 
him nothing but a drama a drama which he had 
recited. Piecalling the parts in which he had figured 
as a parricide or princes reduced to the condition of 
beggars, he remarked that now he played all that on his 
own account and would sing this verse, which a trage 
dian had placed in the mouth of QEdipus : 

" My wife, my mother, my father 
Pronounce my death warrant. " 

Incapable of a serious thought, he wished them to dig 


his grave the size of his body, and made them bear 
pieces of marble, some water and wood at his funeral 
procession, weeping and saying. " What an artist this 
is who has died ! " 

The courier of Phaon meanwhile brought a despatch. 
Nero tore it from him ; he read that the senate had 
declared him the public enemy and had condemned him to 
be punished according to the ancient custom. " What is 
that custom ?" asked he. They told him that the head 
of the culprit, quite bare, was stuck into a fork while 
they beat it with rods until death followed. Then the 
body was drawn by a hook and thrown into the Tiber. 
He trembled, took two poignards which he had on him, 
tried their points, sheathed them again, saying the fatal 
hour had not yet come. He engaged Sporus to begin his 
funeral dirge, tried hard to kill himself and could not. 
His awkwardness, this kind of talent which he had for 
making all the fibres of the soul vibrate falsely, that 
laugh at once brutal and infernal, that pretentious 
stupidity which made his whole life resemble the 
memory of Agrippa s Sabbat, attained to the sublime of 
absurdity. He could not succeed in killing himself. " Is 
there no one here to set an example to me?" he said. He 
redoubled his quotations, spoke in Greek, and made some 
bits of verse. All at once they heard the noise of a 
detachment of cavalry which came to take him alive. 

The steps of the heavy horses fall upon my ears, 
said he. Epaphroditus then took his poignard and 
plunged it into his neck. The centurion came in nearly 
at the same moment. He wished to stop the blood, and 
sought to make him believe he had come to save 
him. " Too late !" said the dying man, whose eyes rolled 
in his head and glazed with horror, " Behold where 
fidelity is found !" added he, expiring. It was his last 
comic feature. Nero giving vent to a melancholy 
complaint upon the wickedness of his century, upon the 
disappearance of good faith and virtue ! Let us applaud, 
the drama is complete ! Once more, Nature, with the 


thousand faces, thou hast known how to find an actor 
worthy of such a part ! 

He had held much to this, that they should not deliver 
his head to insults, and that they should not burn him 
entirely. His two nurses and Actea, who loved him still, 
bound him secretly in a rich white shroud, embroidered 
with gold and with all the luxury they knew he loved. 
They laid his ashes in the tomb of Domitius, a great 
mausoleum which commanded the gardens (The Pincio) 
and made a fine effect from the Campus Martius. From 
thence his ghost haunted the Middle Ages like a vampire; 
to conquer the apparitions which haunted the district, 
they built the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. 

Thus perished, at thirty-one years of age, after having 
reigned thirteen years and eight months, the sovereign 
not the most foolish or the most wicked, but the 
vainest and the most ridiculous, whom the chance of 
events had brought into the first ranks of history. 
Nero is beyond everything a literary perversion ; he was 
far from being destitute of all talent or of all honesty ; 
this poor young man, intoxicated with bad literature, 
drunk with acclamations, who forgot his empire for 
Terpnos,who, receiving the news of the revolt of the Gauls 
did not withdraw from the spectacle at which he assisted, 
shewed his favour to the athlete, and did not think 
during many days of anything but his lyre and his 
voice. The most culpable in all of this were the people 
most greedy of pleasure, who exacted above all that their 
sovereign should amuse them, and also the false taste of 
the time, which had inverted the order of greatness, and 
gave too large a value to the man of renown in letters 
and the artist. The danger of literary education is 
that it inspires an inordinate love of glory without ever 
affording a serious moral, which fixes the meaning of 
true glory. It was destined that a natural and subtle 
vanity, longing for the immense and the infinite, but 
without any judgment, should make a deplorable 
shipwreck. But his qualities, such as aversion to war. 


became fatal, by leaving him with no taste but for ways 
of shining which should not have been his. At least, 
as he was not a Marcus Aurelius, it was not good to be 
so far removed from the prejudices of his caste and his 
condition. A prince is a soldier, a great prince can and 
should protect letters. He ought not to a literateur. 
Augustus, Louis XIV., presiding over a brilliant 
development of mind, are, after the cities of genius 
like Athens and Florence, the finest spectacle of history. 
Nero, Chilperic, King Louis of Bavaria, are caricatures. 
Tn the case of Nero the enormous nature of the imperial 
power, and the harshness of Roman manners, caused that 
caricature to appear outlined in blood. 

It is often asserted, to shew the irremediable nature 
of the masses, that Nero was popular in some points of 
view. The fact is that he had upon his own account 
two currents of opposite opinion. All those who were 
serious and honest detested him, the lower people loved 
him, some artlessly and by the vague sentiment which 
makes the poor plebeian love his prince if he has a 
brilliant exterior, the others because he intoxicated them 
with feasts. During those ftes they saw him mixing 
with the crowd, dining, eating in the theatre in the midst 
of the mob. Did he not besides hate the Senate, the 
Roman nobility, whose character was so harsh and so 
little popular ? The companions who surrounded him 
were at least amiable and polite. The soldiers of the 
guard always preserved their affection for him. For a 
long time his tomb was found always ornamented with 
fresh flowers, and portraits of him were placed in the 
rostra by unknown hands. The origin of the good 
fortune of Otho was that he had been his confidant and 
that he imitated his manners. Vitellius, to make 
himself acceptable at Rome, affected openly to take Nero 
as his model, and to follow his methods of government. 
Thirty or forty years after, all the world wished he were 
still living, and longed for his return. 

This popularity, in regard to which there is no need 


to be too much surprised, had in fact a singular result. 
The report was spread abroad that the object of so many 
regrets was not really dead. During the life of Nero, 
there had been seen to dawn in the staff of the emperor, 
the idea that he would be dethroned at Eome, but that 
there would commence for him a new reign, Orien 
tal and almost Messianic. People have always had 
a difficulty in believing that men who have a long time 
occupied the attention of the world disappear for ever. 
The death of Nero at Phaon s villa in the presence of 
a small numbei of witnesses had not had a very public 
character. All that concerned his burial had passed among 
three women, who were devoted to him. Icellus almost 
alone had seen the corpse ; nothing recognisable remained 
of his person. They might believe in a substitution; some 
affirmed that the body had never been found, others 
declared that the gash he had made in his neck had 
been bandaged and healed. Nearly all maintained that 
at the instigation of the Parthian ambassador at Kome, 
he had taken refuge among the Arsacides, his allies, 
eternal enemies of the Eomans, or that he had gone to 
the king of Armenia, Tiridatus, whose journey to 
Rome in 66, had been accompanied by magnificent 
fetes, which had struck the people. There he was planning 
the ruin of the empire. Soon they would see him return 
at the head of the cavaliers of the East to torture those 
who had betrayed him. His partisans lived in that 
hope. Already they raised statues to him, and made 
edicts even to be current in his signature. The Chris 
tians, on the contrary, considered him as a monster, and, 
when they heard such reports, in which they believed 
as much as the other people, were smitten with terror. 
The imaginations which he kindled lasted for a very 
long time, and, according to what occurs nearly always 
in similar circumstances, there were many false Neros. 
We shall see soonthe counterpart of that opinion in 
the Christian church, and the place which it holds in 
the prophetic literature of the time. 

104 TJTK /LNT10HP.JB-P, 

The strangeness of the spectacles in which they haa 
taken part left few v oinds in their sober senses. 
Human nature had been pushed to the limits of the 
possible, there remained the vacuum which follows fits 
of fever; everywhere spectres and visions of blood. 
It was said that at the moment when Nero came out 
through the Colline gate to take refuge in Phaon s villa, 
a flash struck his eyes, and that at the same moment the 
earth trembled as if it were opening, and that the souls 
of all those whom he had killed threw themselves upon 
him. There was in the air as it were a thirst for 
vengeance. Soon we shall assist at one of the interludes 
of the grand heavenly drama, where the souls of the 
slain, lying under God s altar, cry with a loud voice : 
" Oh Lord, how long till thou shalt demand our blood 
from those who inhabit the earth," and there shall 
be given to them a white robe because they have to 
wait a little longer I 




The first impression on the Jews and Christians at 
the news of the revolt of Vindex had been that of 
extreme joy. They believed that the empire would end 
with Caesar s house, and that the revolted generals, full 
of hatred to Rome, would not think of anything except 
rendering themselves independent in their respective 
provinces. The movement of the Gauls was accepted 
in Judea as having a significance analogous to that of 
the Jews themselves. There war was a deep error. No 
part of the empire, Judea excepted, wished to see 
broken up that great association which gave to the world 
peace and material prosperity. All the countries on the 
borders of the Mediterranean, once at enmity, were 
delighted to live together. Gaul itself, although less 
peaceful than the rest, limited its revolutionary desires 
to the overthrow of the bad emperors, to demanding 
reform, and to seeking for a liberal government. But we 
can imagine that people, accustomed to the ephemeral 
kingdoms of the East, should have regarded as finished an 
empire whose dynasty was about to be extinguished, and 
should have believed that the different nations subju 
gated one or two centuries before would form separate 
States under the generals who held the command. 
For eighteen months, in fact, none of the leaders of the 
revolted legions succeeded in putting down his rivals in 
a permanent way. Never had the world been seized 
with such a trembling ; at Rome the nightmare of Nero 
scarcely dispelled ; at Jerusalem a whole nation in a 
state of madness ; the Christians under the stroke of the 



fearful massacre of the year 64 ; the earth itself a prey 
to the most violent convulsions ; the whole world was as 
in a vertigo. This planet appeared to be shaken and 
unable to endure. The horrible degree of wickedness 
which heathen society had reached, the extravagances of 
Nero, his golden house, his absurd art, his colossi, his 
portraits more than a hundred feet in height, had literally 
made the world mad. Some natural plagues broke out 
in all directions, and held men s minds in a kind of 

When we read the Apocalypse without knowing the 
date or having its key, such a book appears the work of 
the most capricious and individual fancy ; but when we 
replace the strange vision in this interregnum from Nero 
to Vespasian, in which the empire passed through the 
gravest crisis it had known, the work appears in the most 
extraordinary sympathy with the state of men s minds ; 
we may add with the state of the globe, for we shall soon 
see that the physical history of the world at the same 
period furnishes its elements. The world really doated 
on miracles ; never had it been so impressed by omens. 
The God-Father appeared to have veiled his face ; certain 
unclean larvae, monsters coming forth from a mysterious 
slime, appeared to be wandering through the air. 
Everyone believed that the world was on the eve of some 
unheard-of event Belief in the signs of the times and 
prodigies was universal ; scarcely more than a few 
hundreds of educated men saw their absurdity. Some 
charlatans, more or less authentic depositaries of the 
old chimeras of Babylon, played on the ignorance of the 
people and pretented to explain omens. These wretches 
became personages ; the time was passed in expelling 
and then recalling them ; Otho and Vitellius especially 
were entirely given up to them. The highest politics 
did not disdain to take note of these puerile dreams. 

One of the most important branches of Babylonian 
divination was the interpretation of monstrous births, 
considered as implying certain indications of coming 


events. This idea more than any other had overrun tne 
Roman world ; the many-headed fcetus especially was 
considered as an evident omen, each head, according to 
a symbolism we shall see adapted by the author of the 
Apocalypse, representing an emperor. There were some 
real or pretended hybrid forms. In that matter also the 
unwholesome visions and incoherent images of the 
Apocalypse are the reflection of the popular tales with 
which peoples minds were filled. A pig with a hawk s 
talons was held to be the very picture of Nero. Nero 
himself was very curious in regard to these 

Men were also preoccupied with meteors and signs in 
the sky. The bolides made the greatest impression. It is 
known that the frequency of the bolides is a periodic 
phenomenon, which occurs nearly every thirty years. 
On these occasions there are some nights when, literally, 
the stars have the appearance of falling from heaven. 
Comets, eclipses, parhelia, and aurora borealis, in which 
were seen crowns, swords, and stripes of blood ; burning 
clouds of plastic forms, in which were designed battles 
and fantastic animals ; were greedily remarked and 
never appear to have been observed with such intensity 
as during these tragic years. People spoke only of 
showers of blood, astonishing effects of lightning, streams 
flowing upwards to their course, and rivers of blood. 
A thousand things to which people had paid no attention 
obtained through the feverish emotion of the public an 
exaggerated importance. The infamous charlatan, Bal- 
billus, took advantage of the impression which these 
events sometimes made on the emperor, to excite his 
suspicions against the most illustrious, and to draw from 
him the cruellest orders. 

The plagues of the period, besides, justified up to a 
certain point these madnesses. Blood ran in floods on 
all sides. The death of Nero, which was a deliverance 
in many points of view, began a period of civil wars. 
The battle of the legions of Gaul under Vindex and 


Virginius had been frightful ; Galilee was the theatre 
of an unexampled extermination ; the war of Corbulon 
_ among the Parthians had been most murderous. There 
was still worse than that in the future ; the fields of 
Bedriac and Cremona soon exhaled an odour of blood. 
Punishments made the amphitheatre like hell. The 
cruelty of the military and civil manners had banished 
all pity from society. Withdrawing themselves 
trembling to their humble abodes, the Christians doubt 
less again repeated the words they attributed to Jesus : 
" When ye hear of wars and rumours of wars, be not 
troubled, for this must be ; but the end is not yet. 
Nation shall be seen rising against nation, kingdom 
against kingdom ; there shall be great earthquakes, 
shakings, famines, pestilences on all sides, and great signs 
in the heavens. These are the beginnings of sorrows." 

Famine, indeed, was added to the massacres. In the 
year 68 the arrivals from Alexandria were insufficient. 

At the beginning of March, 69, an inundation of the 
Tiber was most disastrous. The wretchedness was fearful; 
a sudden eruption of the sea covered Lyciawith mourning. 
In the year 65, a horrible pestilence afflicted Eome ; 
during the autumn the dead were reckoned at 30,000. 
In the same year everybody spoke of the fearful fire at 
Lyons. And the Campagna was ravaged by water 
spouts and cyclones, whose outbreaks were heard even at 
the gates of Rome. The order of nature seemed reversed; 
fearful storms spread terror in all directions. 

But what struck people most was the earthquakes. 
The globe underwent a convulsion parallel to that of 
the moral world; it seemed as if the world and the 
human race had fever at the same time. It is a peculi 
arity of popular movements to mix together all that 
excites the imagination of the crowds, at the time when 
they are carried out. A natural phenomenon, a great 
crime, a crowd of things accidental or without apparent 
connection, are linked together in the grand rhapsody 
which humanity composes from age to age. It is thus 


that the history of Christianity is incorporated with 
everything which at different periods has shaken the 
people. Nero and the Solfatara had as much importance 
there as theological argument ; a place must be given 
to geology, and the Solfatara and the catastrophes of the 
planet. Of all natural phenomena besides earthquakes 
are those which most cause men to abase themselves 
before unknown forces. The countries where they are 
frequent, Naples and Central America, have superstition 
in an endemic condition ; there must be said as much 
for the ages in which they raged with a peculiar 
violence. Now never were they more common than in 
the first century. No time could be remembered when 
the surface of the old continent had been so greatly 

Vesuvius was preparing for its terrible eruption of 79. 
On the 5th February, 63, Pompeii was nearly engulfed by 
an earthquake. A great number of the inhabitants 
would not re-enter it. The volcanic centre of the Bay 
of Naples at the time of which we speak was near 
Pouzzoles and Cuma. Vesuvius was still silent, but 
that series of little craters which constitute the district 
to the west of Naples and which are called the Phlegrean 
Fields, shewed everywhere the mark of fire. Avernus, 
the Acherusia palus (the lake Fusaro), the lake Aguano, 
the Solfatara, the little extinct volcanoes of Astroni, 
Camaldoli, Ischia, and Nisida, present to-day something 
squalid ; the traveller takes away an impression of them 
rather more pleasant than frightful. Such was not the 
sentiment of antiquity. These stoves, these deep 
grottoes, these thermal springs, those bubblings up, those 
miasmas, those hollow sounds, those yawning mouths, 
(bocclie d inferno) vomiting out sulphur and fiery 
vapours, inspire Virgil. They were likewise one of the 
essential factors in the Apocalyptic literature. The 
Jew who disembarked at Pouzzoles to proceed to business 
or intrigue at Eome, saw this ground smoking in all its 
pores, shaking without ceasing, as if its bowels were 


peopled by giants aiid agonies. The Solfatara especially 
appeared to him the pit of the abyss, the airhole scarcely 
shutting out hell. Was the continuous jet of 
sulphurous vapour which escapes through this 
opening not in his eyes the manifest proof of a 
subterranean lake of fire destined plainly, like the lake 
of Pentapolis, for the punishment of sinners ? The 
moral spectacle of the country did not astonish him 
less. Bai a was a town of waters and baths, the centre 
ot luxury and pleasure, the favourite residence of light 
society. Cicero did himself harm among grave people 
by having his villa in the midst of this kingdom of 
brilliant and dissolute manners. Propertius only wished 
his mistress dwelt there ; Petronius placed there the 
debauches of Trimalcion, Bai a, Bauli, Cuma, Misena, saw, 
in fact, all follies and all crimes. The basin of azure blue 
waves included in the contour of this delicious bay was 
the bloody naumachia, into which they cast thousands 
of victims in the fetes of Caligula and Claudius. What a 
reflection would arise in the mind of the pious Jew, of the 
Christian who called with fervour for the conflagration 
of the world at sight of this nameless spectacle, the 
absurd construction, in the midst of the waves, those 
baths, the object of horror to the puritans ? Only one. 
" Blind that they are," they would say, their future 
dwelling is under these ; they dance over the hill 
which is to swallow them up." 

Nowhere is such an expression which is applied to 
Pouzzoles or other places of the same character more 
striking than in the book of Enoch. According to one ot 
the authors of thai bizarre Apocalypse, the residence of 
the fallen angels is a subterraneous valley situated in the 
west near the " mountain of metals." This mountain is 
filled with flames of fire, it breathes an odour of sulphur ; 
there go forth from it bubbling and sulphurous streams 
(thermal waters) which are used to cure diseases and 
near which the kings and great men of the earth gave 
themselves up to all sorts of pleasures. The fools ! they 



see every day the chastisement which they are 
preparing for themselves, and nevertheless they do not 
pray to God. This valley of fire is perhaps the valley 
of Gehenna, to the east of Jerusalem, bounded at the 
depression of the Dead Sea by the Qaadi en-ndr (the 
valley of fire), then there are the springs of Callirrhoe, 
the pleasure place of the Herods, and the entire 
demoniacal region of Machero, which is in the neigh 
bourhood. But thanks to the elasticity of the 
apocryphal topography the baths can also be those of 
Bai a and Cuma. In the valley of fire there can be 
recognised the Solfatara of Pouzzoles or the Phlegrean 
fields in the mountain of metals, Vesuvius, such as it was 
before the eruption of 79. We shall soon see these strange 
places inspiring the author of the Apocalypse, and the pit 
of the abyss revealing itself to him ten years before 
nature, by a singular coincidence, reopened the crater 
of Vesuvius. For the people, that was no chance 
occurrence. It caused that the most tragic country in the 
world, that which was the theatre of the great reigns of 
Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, was found at the same 
time the country par excellence of phenomena, which 
nearly the whole world then considered as infernal, 
could not be without result. 

It was besides not only Italy, it was the eastern 
regions of the Mediterranean which trembled. For two 
centuries Asia Minor was in one continual quake. 
The towns we re unceasingly occupied in reconstructing 
themselves ; certain places like Philadelphia experienced 
shocks every day. Tralles was in a condition of 
perpetual falling down ; they were obliged to invent for 
the houses a system of mutual support. In the year 17 
%e destruction of fourteen towns in the district of Timolus 
and Messogis took place; it was the most terrible 
catastrophe of which mention had ever been made till 
then. In the years 23, 34, 37, 46, 51 and 53 there were 
partial misfortunes in Greece, Asia and Italy. Thera 
in a condition of active labour, Antioch was 



incessantly shaken. From the year 59, indeed, there 
was scarcely a year which was not marked by some 
disaster. The valley of the Lycus in particular, with its 
Christian cities of Laodocea and Colosse, was engulfed 
in the year 60. When we reflect that exactly theie 
was the centre of the millenarian ideas, we are 
persuaded that a close connection existed between the 
revelation of Patrnos and the overturnings in the globe, 
so much so that there is here one of the rare examples 
which can be quoted of a reciprocal influence between 
the material history of the planet and the history of 
mental development. The impression of the 
catastrophes in the valley of the Lycus is found likewise 
in the Sibylline poems. These earthquakes in Asia 
spread terror everywhere ; people spoke about them over 
the world, and the number of those who did not see in 
those accidents the signs of an angry divinity was very 

All this made a sort of gloomy atmosphere, in which 
the imagination of the Christians found a strong 
excitement. Now, in view of the commotion of the 
physical and moral world, would not the believers cry 
with more assurance than ever, Maranatha, Maranatha I 
" Our Lord is coming, our Lord is coming." The earth 
appeared to them to be crumbling, and already they 
believed they saw the kings and powerful men and the 
rich fleeing as they cried "Mountains, fall upon us, hills, 
conceal us." A constant habit of mind of the old 
prophets was to take occasion by some natural plague 
to announce the near approach of the " day of Jehovah." 
A passage in Joel which was applied to Messianic times 
gave as certain prognostications of the great day signs 
in heaven and on the ea rth, prophets arising from all 
parts, rivers of blood, lire, pillars of smoke, the sun 
darkened, the moon bloody. They believed likewise 
that Jesus had announced earthquakes, famines, and 
pestilences as the overtures to the great day ; then, as 
foregoing indexes of his coming, eclipses, the moou 


obscured, the stars falling from the firmament, the whole 
heaven troubled, the sea foaming, the people flying 
despairing, without knowing on which side was safety 
or death. Fear became thus an element of the whole 
Apocalypse; tho idea of persecution was associated with 
it. It was admitted that the Evil one before being 
destroyed would redouble his rage and give proof of a 
skilful art in order to exterminate the .saints. 





The province of Asia was that most agitated by those 
terrors. The church at Colosse had received a mortal 
blow by the catastrophe of the year 60. Hierapolis, 
although built in the midst of the most bizarre dejec 
tions of a volcanic eruption, did not suffer, it seems. It 
was perhaps there that the Colossian believers took 
refuge. Everything shows us from that time Hierapolis 
as a city apart. The profession of Judaism was public 
there. Some inscriptions still existing among the 
wonderfully preserved ruins of that extraordinary city 
mention the annual distributions which should be made 
to some corporations of workmen, from " the feast of 
unleavened bread," and from "the feast of Pentecost." 
Nowhere were good works, charitable institutions, and 
societies for mutual help among people following the 
same trade of so much importance. Kinds of orphanages, 
creches or children s homes, evidence philanthropic cares 
singularly developed. Philadelphia presents an analo 
gous aspect ; the state bodies there became the basis 
of political divisions. A peaceful democracy of workmen, 
associated among themselves and not occupied with 
politics, was the .social form of almost all those rich 
towns of Asia and Phrygia. Ear from being forbidden 
to a slave, virtue was considered to be the special 
portion of the man who suffers. About the time we 
are writing of, was born at Hierapolis an infant even so 
poor that they sold it in its cradle, and never knew it 
except under the name of the " bought slave," Epictetus, 
a name which, thanks to him, has become the synonym 
of virtue itself. One day there shall come forth from 


his instructions, the wonderful book, a manual foi 
strong souls who reject the supernatural of the Gospel, 
and who believe that duty is falsified by creating in it 
any other charm than that of its austerity. 

In the eyes of Christianity Hierapolis had an honour 
which far surpassed that of having given birth to 
Epictetus. It gave hospitality to one of the few 
survivors of the first Christian generation, to one of 
those who had seen Jesus, the Apostle Philip. We may 
suppose that Philip came into Asia after the crises which 
rendered Jerusalem uninhabitable for peaceful people, 
and expelled the Christians from its midst. Asia was 
the province where the Jews were most at peace; 
thither flowed the others. The relations between Eome 
and Hierapolis were likewise easy and regular. Philip 
was a priestly personage and belonged to the old school, 
very analogous to James. It was pretended that he 
wrought miracles, even the raising of the dead. He had 
four daughters, who were prophetesses. It appears 
that one of these died before Philip came into Asia. Of 
the three others, two grew old in their virginity ; the 
fourth married during her father s life, prophesied like 
her sisters, and died at Ephesus. These strange women 
were very famous in Asia. Papias, who was bishop of 
Hierapolis about the year 130, had known them, but 
he had never seen the Apostle himself. He heard from 
these old enthusiastic women some extraordinary facts 
and marvellous recitals of their father s miracles. They 
also knew many things as to the other Apostles or 
Apostolic personages, especially a Joseph Barnabus, 
who, according to them, had drank a deadly poison with 
out being harmed. 

Thus, on John s side, there was constituted in Asia a 
second centre of authority and Apostolic tradition. 
John and Philip elevated the countries which they had 
chosen to reside in nearly to the level of Judea. 
" These two great stars of Asia," as they were called, 
were for some years the lighthouse of the church, depri- 

176 THE 4.NYICHE18T. 

ved of its other pastors. Philip died at Hierapolis and 
was buried f ,here. His virgin daughter arrived at a very 
advanced age and was laid near him ; she that was mar 
ried was interred at Ephesus; .ill the graves, it was 
said, were visible in the second century. Hierapolis had 
thus Apostolic tombs, rivals of those at Ephesus. The 
province would appear to be ennobled by those holy 
bodies, which they imagined they could see rising from 
the dead on the day in which the Lord should come, full 
ot glory and majesty, to raise his elect from the dead. 

The r.risis in Judea, by dispersing, about 68, the 
apostles and apostolic men, would yet bring to Ephesus 
and into the valley of the Meander, other considerable 
personage in the nascent Church. A very great number 
of disciples, in any case, who had seen the Apostles at 
Jerusalem, were found in Asia, and appear to have led 
that wandering life from town to town which was much 
to the taste of the Jews. Perhaps the mysterious 
personages called Presbyteros Johannes and Aristion were 
among the emigres. Those listeners to the Twelve 
spread throughout Asia the tradition of the Church of 
Jerusalem, and succeeded in giving Judeo-Christianity 
the preponderance there. They were eagerly questioned 
as to the sayings of the apostles and the authentic 
words of Jesus. Later on those who had seen them 
were so proud of having iLunk from the pure source, 
that they despised the little writings which claimed to 
report the discourses of Jesus. 

There was something very peculiar about the state of 
mind in which these churches lived buried in the depths 
of a province whose peaceful climate and profound 
heaven appeared to lead to mysticism. In no place did 
the Messianic ideas so much preoccupy men s attention. 
They gave themselves up tu extravagant imaginations, 
the most absurd parabolic language, coming from the 
traditions of Philip and John, were propagated. The 
gospel which was formed on this coast had something 
wyth>-eal and peculiar about it It was imagined 


generally that after the resurrection of the bodies whicb 
was nigh at hand there would be a corporeal reign ol 
Christ upon the earth which should last a thousand 
years. The delights of this paradise were described iv 
a thoroughly materialistic way; they actually measured 
the size of the grapes and the strength of the ears of corn 
under Messiah s reign. The idealism which gave to the 
simplest words of Jesus such a charming velvety aspect 
was for the most part lost. 

John at Ephesus strengthened daily. His supremacy 
was recognised throughout the whole province, except 
perhaps at Hierapolis, where Philip lived. The churches 
of Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, 
and Laodocea had adopted him as their head, listening 
with respect to his statements, his councils, and his 
reproaches. The Apostle, or those whom he gave the 
right to speak for him, generally assumed a severe tone. 
A great rudeness, an extreme intolerance, a hard and 
gross language against those who thought otherwise than 
he did appeared to have been a part of John s character. 
It is, it was said, in regard him that Jesus promulgated 
this principle, "whosoever is not for us is against us." The 
series of anecdotes which were told of his sweetness and 
indulgence seem to have beu invented agreeably to the 
model which is visible in the Johannine epistles, epistles 
whose authenticity is very doubtful. Features of an 
opposite kind, and which show much violence, 
accord better with the evangelical records and with 
the Apocalypse, and prove that the hastiness which 
had gained him the surname of Son of Thunder had only 
grown greater with age. It may be, however, that these 
qualities and contradictory defects might not be so 
exclusive of each other as one might think. Eeligious 
fanaticism often produces in the same person the 
extremes of harshness and goodness ; just as an inquisitor 
of the middle ages, who made thousands of unfortunates 
burn for insignificant subtleties, was at the same time 
the gentlest, and in one sense the humblest, of men. It 


was especially against the little conventicles of the 
disciples of him whom they called the iiew Balaam that 
the animosity of John and his followers appeared to 
have been lively and deep. Such was the injustice 
inherent in all parties, such was the passion which filled 
these strong Jewish natures, that probably the disappear 
ance of the "Destroyer of the Law was hailed with 
cries of joy by his adversaries. To many the death of 
this blunderer, this mar-plot, was a relief. We have 
seen that Paul at Ephesus felt himself to be surrounded 
by enemies ; the last discourses which are attributed to 
him in Asia are full of sad forebodings. At the beginning 
of the year 69, we find the hatred against him bitter still ; 
then the controversy shall grow calm, silence shall fall 
around his memory. At the point we have reached no 
one appears to have upheld him, and there is precisely 
in this what vindicated him later on. The reserve, or if 
it must be said, the weakness of his partisans, brought 
about a reconciliation : the boldest thoughts finished by 
gaining acceptance on condition that they yielded a long 
time without reply to the objections of the conservatives. 
Rage against the Roman empire, delight in the 
misfortunes which befel it, the hope of soon seeing it 
dismembered, were the innermost thoughts of all the 
believers. They sympathized with the Jewish insurrec 
tion, and were persuaded that the Eomans had not quite 
reached their end. The time was distant since Paul, and 
perhaps Peter, preached the acceptance of the Eoman 
authority, attributing even to that authority a sort of 
divine character. The principles of the enthusiastic 
Jews in the refusal to pay taxes, as to the diabolic 
origin of all profane power, as to the idolatry 
implied in acts of civil life according to the Roman 
usages, carried them awaj. It was the natural 
consequence of persecution; moderate principles had 
ceased to be applicable. Without being so violent as in 
64, persecution continued secretly. Asia was the province 
where the fall of Nero had made the deepest impression, 


The general opinion was that the monster, cured by 
Satanic power, kept himself concealed somewhere and 
was about to re-appear. One could imagine what kind 
of effect these rumours would produce among the 
Christians. Many of the faithful at Ephesus, beginning 
perhaps with their head, had escaped from the great 
butchery of 64. What! The horrible beast saturated 
with luxury, fatuity, going to return! The thing was 
clear, those continued to think who still supposed that 
Nero was Anti-Christ. See him, this mystery of 
iniquity who would appear to be assassinated, making 
everybody martyrs before the luminous advent. Nero 
is that Satan incarnate who shall accomplish the 
slaughter of the saints. A little time yet and the 
solemn moment shall come ! The Christians adopted 
this idea so much the more willingly that the death of 
Nero had been too mean for an Antiochus ; persecutors 
of that species usually perished with greater e clat. It 
was concluded that the enemy of God was reserved for a 
more splendid death which should be inflicted on him 
in sight of the whole world and the angels gathered 
together by the Messiah. 

This idea, which gave birth to the Apocalypse, took 
every day more distinct forms; the Christian conscience 
had arrived at the height of its enthusiasm when a matter 
which took place in the neighbouring isles of Asia gave 
body to what up till then had been only imagination. 
A false Nero appeared and inspired in the provinces of 
Asia and Achaia, a lively sentiment ef either curiosity, 
hope, or fear. He was, it would appear, a slave from 
Pontus, according to others an Italian of servile rank. 
He much resembled the deceased emperor ; he had his 
large eyes, his strong hair, his haggard look, his theatrical 
and fierce face; he knew like him how to play the 
guitar, and to sing. The impostor found around him a 
first nucleus composed of deserters and vagabonds, and 
attempting to reach by sea Syria and Egypt, was cast 
by a tempest on the island of Cythnos,one of the Cylades. 


He madd onat island the centre of a propaganda, 
increased his band by enrolling some soldiers who were 
returning from the east, did some bloody deeds, pillaged 
the merchants and armed the slaves. The excitement 
was great, especially among the kind of people who from 
their credulity were open to the most absurd reports. 
From the month of December, Asia and Greece had 
no other subject of talk. The waiting and the terror 
increased every day. That name whose fame had filled 
the world turned heads anew, and made people believe 
that what they had seen was nothing like to what 
they would see. 

Other things which took place in Asia or in the 
Archipelago, and whose date we cannot fix for want of 
sufficient indications, increased the agitation still more. 
An ardent Neronian who joined to political passion some 
marks of a sorcerer, declared himself loudly for either 
the Cythiiian impostor or for Nero, who was thought to 
have taken refuge among the Parthians. He apparently 
forced peaceable people to recognise Nero. He re 
established his statues and ordered them to be honoured; 
we are sometimes even tempted to believe that a coin 
was struck with the legend Nero redux. What is certain 
is, that the Christians imagined they would be forced to 
honour Nero s statues, the money, token, or stamp in 
the name of "the beast" "without which one couldneither 
sell nor buy," and thus caused them insurmountable 
scruples ; the gold marked with the sign of the great 
head of idolatry burned their fingers. It appears that 
rather than lend themselves to such acts of apostasy 
some of the believers in Ephesus were exiled ; we can 
suppose that John was of that number. This incident, 
obscure for us, plays a large part in the Apocalypse, and 
was perhaps its prime origin. " Attention ! " said the 
seer, " there is here the end of the patience of the saints 
who keep the commandments of God and the faith of 
Jesus." The occurrences in Koine and Italy gave 
reason for this feverish expectancy. Galba did not 


succeed in establishing himself, up till Nero, the title 
of dynastic legitimacy created by Julius Caesar and by 
Augustus, had stifled the thought of a competition for 
Empire among the generals ; but since that title had 
been barred by limitation, every military chief could 
aspire to the heritage of Caesar. Vindex was dead, 
Virginius had loyally submitted ; Nymphidius Lavinus, 
Macer, Fonteius, Capito, had expiated by death their 
revolutionary ideas ; nothing was done, however. On 
the 2nd January, 69, the legions of Germany pro 
claimed Vetillius, on the 10th Galba adopted Piso, on 
the 15th Otho was proclaimed at Borne. For some hours 
there were three emperors ; in the evening Gfalba was 
killed. Faith in the empire was terribly shaken, people 
did not believe that Otho could manage to reign alone ; 
the hopes of the partisans of the false Nero of Cythnos 
and those who imagined every day to see the emperor s so 
much regretted return from beyond the Euphrates, could 
not be concealed. It was then, at the end of January, 
in the year 69, that there was spread among the 
Christians of Asia a symbolic manifesto representing 
itself as a revelation of Jesus Christ himself. Did the 
author know of the death of Galba or had he only fore 
seen it ? It is as much more difficult to say that a 
feature of the Apocalypses is that the writer puts for 
ward sometimes, to the profit of his pretended foresight, 
some recent news which, he believes, he alone knows. 
Thus the publicist, who composed the book of Daniel, 
appears to have had a hint of the death of Antiochus. 
Our Seer appears to be possessed of special information 
on the political condition of his time. It is doubtful if 
he knew Otho ; he believed that the restoration of Nero 
would immediately follow the fall of Galba. This 
latter appears to him already condemned. The eve of 
the Beast s return is, therefore, reached. The ardent 
imagination of the author then appears to him a collec 
tion of views " upon what must arrive in a little while," 
and thus the successive chapters of a prophetic book 


are unrolled, the object of which is to make clear the 
conscience of the believers in the crisis through which 
taey are passing, and reveal to them the meaning of a 
political situation which disturbed the strongest spirits, 
and especially to reassure them as to the fate of tbeir 
brethren already slain. It must be remembered that 
the credulous sectaries, whose sentiments we seek to 
discover, were a thousand miles from the ideas of the 
immortality of the soul, which have come forth from 
Greek philosophy. The martyrdoms of the last year 
were a terrible crisis for a society which trembled 
artlessly when a saint died, and asked if that one would 
see the Kingdom of God. People showed an unconquer 
able need to represent the faithful already passed into 
rest and blessed, although with a provisory in the 
midst of the plagues which struck the earth. Their 
cries of vengeance were heard ; they considered their 
saints impatient, they called for the day on which 
God would arise and avenge his own elect. 

The form of " Apocalypse " adopted by the author 
was not new in Israel. Ezekiel had already inaugurated 
a considerable change in the old prophetic style, and 
we may in a sense regard it as the creator of the 
Apocalyptic class. To fervent preaching, accompanied 
sometimes by extremely allegorical acts, he had sub 
stituted, doubtless under the influence of Assyrian art, 
the vision, that is to say, a complicated symbolism, 
where the abstract idea was presented by means of 
chimerical beings conceived outside of all reality. 
Zachariah continues to walk in the same path ; a vision 
becomes the necessary framework of all prophetic in 
struction. Indeed, the author of the book of Daniel, 
by the extraordinary popularity he obtained, fixed 
absolutely the rules of the class. The book of Enoch, 
the Assumption of Moses and certain sibylline poems 
were the fruit of his powerful initiative. The prophetic 
instinct of the Semites, their tendency to group facts 
in view of a certain philosophy of history, and to 


present their individual thought tinder the form of a 
divine absolute, their aptitude for seeing the great lines 
of the future, finding in this fantastic framework some 
singular facilities. In every critical situation of the 
people of Israel, they, in fact, demanded an apocalypse. 
The persecution by Antiochus, the Roman occupation, 
the profane reign of Herod had excited some ardent 
visionaries. It was inevitable that Nero s reign and 
the siege of Jerusalem should have their apocalyptic 
protest, as later on had the severities of Domitian, 
Hadrian, Septimus Severus, Decius, and the invasion 
of the Goths in 250 called forth for themselves. 

The author of this bizarre writing, which a still 
more bizarre fate destined to such different interpreta 
tions, laid down in it the whole weight of the Christian 
conscience, then addressed it under the form of an 
epistle to the seven principal Churches of Asia. He 
asked that it should be read, as was the custom with 
all apostolic epistles, to the assembled faithful. There 
was perhaps in that an imitation of Paul, who preferred 
to act by letters than personally. Such communica 
tions in any case were not rare, and it was always 
the coming of the Lord which was their object. Some 
pretended revelations on the nearness of the last day 
circulated under the name of different apostles, so much 
so that Paul was obliged to warn his churches against 
the abuse which might be made of his writing to support 
such frauds. The work begins by a title which was 
worthy of its origin and its lofty theme : 

to shew unto his servants, even the things which must 
shortly come to pass : and he sat and signified it by his 
angel unto his servant John, who bare witness of the word 
of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all 
things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they 
that hear the words of the prophecy and keep the thiny.i wh-uh 
are vrritten therein, for the time is at hand. 

JOHN, TO THE SEVEN CHUCHES which are in Asia, Grace to 
yon, and peace from him which is, and which was, and 


which is to come, and from tae seven spirits which are 
before his throne : and from Jesus Christ, who is the 
faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler 
of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us, and 
loosed us from our sins by his blood : and he made us to 
be a kingdom to be priests unto his God and Father, to 
him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever, Amen. 
Behold he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall 
see him, and they which pierced him ; and all the tribes of 
t,he earth shall mourn over him, even so, Amen. I am the 
Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, which is and 
which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 

John, your brother and partaker with you in the 
tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, 
was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God 
and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the 
Lord s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a 
trumpet, saying, What thou seest write in a book, and send 
it to the seven churches, unto Ephesus and unto Smyrna, 
and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, 
and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned 
to see the voice which spake unto me, and having turned I 
saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the 
candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a 
garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts 
with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white 
as white wool, white as snow, and his eyes were as a flame 
of fire, and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had 
been refined in a furnace, and his voice as the voice of 
many waters, and he had in his right hand seven stars, and 
out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword, and 
his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 
And when I saw him I fell at his feet as one dead. And he 
laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not ; I am the 
first and the last and tl.e living one. And I was dead, and 
behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of 
death and of Hades. Write therefore the things which thou 
sawest and the things which are and the things which shall 
come to pass hereafter ; the mystery of the seven stars which 
thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden 
candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven 
churches, and the seven candlesticks are seven churches. 
In the Jewish conceptions, among the Gnostics and 
Cahbalists who were dominant about this time, every 
person, and indeed every moral being, such as death or 
grief, has its angel ; there was thus the angel of Persia 


and the angel of Greece ; the angel of the waters, the 
angel of fire, and the angel of the abyss. It was 
therefore natural that each church should have thus its 
heavenly representative. It is to this kind of fervour or 
genius of each community that the Son of Man addresses 
his statements one after the other : 
To the angel of the church of Ephesus ; 

These things saith he that holdeth the seven olars in his 
right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden 
candlesticks : I know thy works and thy labour, and thy 
patience, and how thou can st not bear them which are 
evil, and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, 
and are not, and hast found them liars. And hast 
borne and had patience, and for my name s sake hast 
laboured and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have 
somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and . 
repent and do the first works ; or else I will some unto 
thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his 
place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou 
hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. 
He that hath an ear let him hear what the spirit saith unto 
the churches ; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of 
the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of 

And unto the angel of the church of Smyrna : 

These things saith the first and the last, which was dead 
and is alive. I know thy works and tribulation, and poverty, 
(but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them 
which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue 
of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt 
suffer, behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison 
that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten 
days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a 
crown of life. He that hath an ear let him hear what the 
Spirit saith unto the churches. He that overcometh shall 
not be hurt of the second death. 

And to the angel of the church of Pergamum : 

These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two 
edges : I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where 
Satan s seat is ; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast 


not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas 
was my faithful martyr who was slain among you, where 
Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, 
because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of 
Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before 
the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and 
to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold 
the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent, 
or else I will come unto thee quickly and will fight against 
them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear let 
him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches ; to him 
that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and 
will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name 
written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth 

And unto the angel of the church of Thyatira : 

These things saith the son of God, who hath his eyes like 
unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass. I know 
thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy 
patience and thy works ; and the last to be more than the 
first. Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, 
because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth 
herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to 
commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 
And I give her space to repent of her fornication, and she 
repented not. Behold I will cast her into a bed and them 
that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except 
they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children 
with death ; and all the churches shall know that I am he 
which searcheth the reins and hearts ; and I will give unto 
every one of you according to your works. But unto you I 
say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this 
doctrine and which have not known the depths of Satan as 
they speak, I will put upon you none other burden. But 
that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he 
that; overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him 
will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them 
with a rod of iron ; as the vessels of a potter shall they 
be broken to shivers, even as I received of my father. And 
I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear 
let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

And unto the angel of the church of Sardis : 

These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God 
and the seven stars : I know thy works, that thou hast a 


name, that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful and 
strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die ; 
for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, 
and hold fast and repent. \f therefore thou shalt not 
watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not 
know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few 
names even in Sardis which have not denied their garments, 
and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white 
raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of 
life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before 
his angels. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit 
saith unto the churches. 

A.nd to the angel of the church of Philadelphia : 

These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, ho 
that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man 
shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. I know thy 
works ; behold I have set before thee an open door, anc 1 no 
man can shut it ; for thou hast a little strength and hast kept 
my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will 
make them of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, 
but do lie ; behold I will make them to come and worship 
before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because 
thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee 
from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the 
world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold I 
come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast, that no man 
take my crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in 
the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out ; and I will 
write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city 
of my God, which is new Jerusalem ; which cometh down 
out of Heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my 
new name.^ He that hath an ear let him hear what the 
Spirit saith unto the churches. 

A.nd unto the angel of the church of Laodicea : 

These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true 
witness, the beginning of the creation of God. I know 
thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would 
thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke 
warm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of 
my mouth. Because thou sayest I am rich, and increased 
with goods, and have need of nothing, and kiiowest not 
that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and 


blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold 
tried in the fire that thou mayest be rich, and white 
raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the 
shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine 
eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see. As many as I 
love I rebuke and chasten : if any man hear my voice and 
open the door I will come in to him and will sup with 
him and he with me. To him that overcometh will I 
grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also over 
came, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 
He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith 
unto the churches. 

Who is this John who dares to make himself the 
interpreter of these celestial mandates, who speaks to 
the Churches of Asia with such authority, who boasts 
that he has passed through the same persecutions as his 
readers ? It is either the Apostle John or a homonym 
of the Apostle John, or some one who has a desire to pass 
for the Apostle John. It is scarcely admissible that in 
the year 69, during the apostle s life or a little after 
his death, some one had usurped his name without his 
consent for such searching counsels and reprimands. 
Among the apostle s homonyms, no one would have 
dared to take up such a position. The Presbyteros 
Johannes (the only person who is alleged to have done 
so), if he ever existed, was, it would seem, of a later 
generation. Without denying the doubts which rest on 
nearly all these questions as to the authenticity of the 
apostolic writings, seeing the small scruple which is 
made in attributing to apostles and holy persons the 
revelations to which they wished to give authority, we 
regard it as probable that the Apocalypse is the work 
of the Apostle John, or at least that it was accepted by 
him and addressed to the Churches of Asia under his 
patronage The strong impression of the massacres of 
the year 04, the feeling of the dangers through which 
the author has run, the horror of Rome, appear to us 
to point to the apostle who, according to our hypothesis, 
had been at Rome and could say, in speaking of those 
tragic events : Quorum vars magna fui. Blood stifled 


him, filled his eyes, and prevented him from seeing 
nature. The images of the monstrosities of Nero s 
reign take hold of him as a fixed idea. But some 
grave objections here render the task of criticism 
very difficult. The taste for mystery and apocrypha 
which the first Christian generations possessed has 
covered with an unpenetrable mystery all the questions 
of literary history relating to the New Testament.. 
Fortunately the soul shines out in those anonymous 
and pseudonomic writings in accents which cannot lie. 
The part of each man, in popular movements, it is 
impossible to discern it is the sentiment of all which 
constitutes the true creator spirit. 

"Why did the author of the Apocalypse, whoever he 
was, choose Patmos for the place of his vision P It is 
difficult to say. Patmos or Patnos is a little island about 
four leagues in length, but very narrow. It was in the 
antiquity of Greece, flourishing and very populous. In 
the Roman period, it kept all the importance which its 
smallness warranted, thanks to its fine port, formed in 
the centre of the island by the isthmus which joins the 
massive rocks of the north to those of the south. 
Patmos was, according to the habits of the coasting 
trade then, the first or the last station for the traveller 
who went from Ephesus to Rome or from Rome to 
Ephesus. It is wrong to represent it as a rock or a 
desert Patmos was and will become again one of the 
most important maritime stations of the Archipelago : 
for it is at the branching off of many lines. If Asia 
should renew its youth, Patmos would be for it some- 
thing analagous to what Syra is for modern Greece, to 
what Delos and Rhenia among the Cyclades, a sort of 
emporium in the eyes of the merchant marine, a point 
of " correspondence " useful to travellers. 

It was probably this which caused this little island 
to be selected a selection from which has resulted later 
on such a high Christian celebrity to the spot. Whether 
the apostle had retired thither to escape some persecu- 


fciug measure of the Ephesian authorities ; or wlietlier, 
returning from a voyage to Rome, or on the eve of 
seeing his faithful people again, he had prepared, in one 
of the cauponce which would be on the shore of the port, 
the manifesto he wished to precede him in Asia ; or 
whether, taking a kind of step backward to strike a 
heavy blow, and being of opinion that the place for the 
vision could not be made Ephesus itself, he had chosen 
the island in the Archipelago which, removed by about 
a day s journey, was connected with the metropolis of 
Asia by a daily sailing ; or whether he desired to keep 
the recollection of the last stoppage on the voyage, full 
of emotions, which he made in 64 ; or whether it was a 
simple accident of the sea which had obliged him to 
spend several days in this little port. Those naviga 
tions of the Archipelago are full of danger ; the crossing 
of the ocean cannot give any idea of it : for in our seas 
there are constant winds ruling which help us, even 
when they are contrary. There, there are one after 
another dull calms, and when the narrow straits are 
being sailed through, violent winds. One has no control 
over one s movement : he stops where he can and not 
where he will. 

Men so ardent as those bitter and fanatical de 
scendants of the old prophets of Israel carried their 
fancies wherever they went, and that imagination was 
so completely shut in within the circle of the old 
Hebrew poetry that the nature which surrounded them 
did not exist for them. Patmos resembles all the 
islands of the Archipelago : an azure sea, limped air, a 
serene sky, rocks with jagged peaks, only occasionally 
clad with a light downy verdure. The aspect is naked 
and sterile ; but the forms and colour of the rock, the 
living blue of the sea, pencilled by beautiful white 
birds, opposed to the reddish tints of the rocks, are 
something wonderful. Those myriads of isles and islets 
of the most varied forms which emerge like pyramids 
or shields on the waves, and dance an eternal rondo 


around ilie horizon, resemble a fairy world in a circle 
of marine gods and oceanides, leading a brilliant life 
of love, youth and sadness, in grottoes of a glancous 
green, on shores without mystery, alternately sweet and 
terrible, luminous and sombre. Calypso and the Sirens, 
the Tritons and the Nereides, the dangerous charms of 
the sea, its caresses at once voluptuous and sinister, all 
these fine sensations which have their inimitable ex 
pression in the Odyssey, escaped the dark visionary. 
Two or three peculiarities, such as the great preoccupa 
tion of the sea, the image of " a mountain burningin the 
midst of the sea," which seem borrowed from the Thora, 
have alone some local reference. From a small island, 
used as the basis of the picture in the delicious romance 
of Da}>hni>< and Chloe, or of pastoral scenes like those of 
Theocistus and Moselms, he makes a black volcano, 
belching forth ashes and fire. Yet he must have tasted 
more than once upon these waves the silence full of 
serenity, of nights on which one hearing nothing but 
the groaning of the halycon and the dull whisper of the 
dolphin. For whole days he was facing Mount Mycale, 
without thinking of the victory of the Greeks over the 
Persians, the finest which has ever been accom 
plished after Marathion and Thermopylae. At this 
central point of all the great Greek creations, at 
some leagues from Samos, Cos, Miletus, Ephesus, 
he was dreaming of something else than the pro 
digious genius of Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Thales, 
and Heraclitus : the glorious memories of Greece had 
no existence for him. The poem of Patmos ought to 
have been some Hero and Le<mder, or rather a pastoral 
in the style of Longus, telling of the play of beautiful 
children on the threshold of love. The gloomy en 
thusiast, thrown by chance on these Ionian shores, 
never quitted his Biblical recollections. Nature for 
him was the living chariot of Ezekiel, the monstrous 
cherub, the deformed Nineveh bull, an uncouth zoology, 
setting statuary and painting at defiance. This strange 


defect, which the eye of the Orientals has for altering 
the images of thing s, a defect which made all the 
pictured representations coming from their hands ap 
pear fantastic and bereft of the spirit of life, was with 
him at its height- The disease which had possession 
of his entrails tinged everything with its hues ; he saw 
with the eyes of Ezekiel, with those of the author of 
the Book of Daniel, or rather he saw nothing but him 
self, his sufferings, his hopes, and his anger. A vague 
and dry mythology, already cabalistic and gnostic, 
wholly founded upon the transformation of abstract 
ideas in the divine hypostases, put him beyond the 
plastic conditions of art. Never has anyone been 
more isolated from his surroundings ; never has any 
one denied more openly the tangible world to substi 
tute for the harmonies of reality the contradictor^ 
chimera of a new earth and a new heaven. 





After the message to the seven churches, the course 
of the vision unrolls itself. A door is opened in 
heaven ; the Seer is wrapped in spirit, and through this 
opening his look penetrates to the very heart of the 
heavenly court. All the heaven of the Jewish cabala 
reveals itself to him. A single throne exists, and upon 
that throne, around which is the rainbow, is seated God 
himself, like a colossal ruby, darting forth its fires. 
Around the throne are twenty-four secondary seats, iipon 
which are seated four-and-twenty elders clothed in white, 
having upon their heads crowns of gold. It is 
humanity represented by a senate of its dite, who form 
the permanent court of the Eternal; in front burn seven 
lamps, which are the seven spirits of God (the seven 
gifts of the divine wisdom). Behind are four monsters, 
composed of features borrowed from the cherubs of 
Ezekiel, and seraphs of Isaiah. These are : the first in 
the form of a lion, the second in the form of a calf, the 
third in the form of a man, the fourth in the form of an 
eagle with outspread wings These four monsters 
in Ezekiel formerly represented the attributes of the 
divine being : wisdom, power, omniscience, and creation. 
They have six wings and are covered with eyes over 
their whole bodies. The angels, creatures inferior to 
the great supernatural personifications which had been 
spoken of, a sort of winged servants, surround the 
throne in thousands of thousands and myriads of 
myriads. An eternal rolling of thunder comes forth 
from the throne. In the foreground there stretches an 
immense azure surface, like crystal (the firmament). A 



sort of divine liturgy proceeds without end. The four 
monsters, organs of universal life (nature), never sleep, 
and sing night and day the heavenly trisagion, " Holy, 
holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, 
and shall be." The four-and-twenty elders (humanity) 
unite in this canticle by prostrating themselves and 
casting their crowns at the feet of the throne of the 

Christ has not figured up till now in the court of 
heaven ; the Seer makes us assist at the ceremony of 
his enthronement. At the right of him who is seated 
on the throne there is seen a book in the form of a roll, 
written on both sides and sealed with seven seals. It 
is the book of the divine secrets, the great Revelation. 
No one either in earth or heaven has been found worthy 
to open it or even to look upon it. John then begins 
to weep ; the future, the only consolation of the 
Christian, is not there to be revealed to him. One of 
the elders encourages him. In fact he who should open 
the book is soon found. It may be divined without 
difficulty that it is Jesus, for in the very centre of the 
great assembly at the foot of the throne in the midst of 
the animals and elders upon the crystalline altar appears 
a slain lamb. It was the favourite image under which 
the Christian imagination loved to picture Jesus to 
itself ; a lamb slain became a Paschal victim and always 
with God. He has seven horns and seven eyes, symbols 
of the seven spirits of God, whose fulness Jesus has 
received, and who are through him about to be spread 
over the whole world. The Lamb rises, goes right up to the 
throne of the Eternal, and takes the Book. A wondrous 
emotion then fills heaven. The four animals, the four- 
and-twenty elders fall on their knees before the Lamb. 
They hold in their hands harps and vials of gold full of 
incense (the prayers of saints) and sing a new song : 
" Thou, thou alone art worthy to take the book and to 
open its seals ; for thou hast been slain and with thy 
blood hasc thou gained unto God a company of elect out 


of every tribe and tongue and people and race, and thou 
hast made of them a kingdom of priests, and they shall 
reign on the earth. The myriads Gf angels join in this 
canticle and discern in the Lamb the seven great 
prerogatives (power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, 
glory, and blessing) ; all the creatures who are in heaven, 
on the earth, or under the earth, and in the sea, join in 
this heavenly ceremony and cry: " To him who is seated 
upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing, and honour, 
and glory, and strength through the ages of ages." The 
four animals representing nature, with their deep voice 
say Amen ; the elders fall down and worship. 

Thus is Jesus introduced in the highest rank of the 
celestial hierarchy. Not only the angels, but also the 
four-and-twenty elders, and the four animals who are 
superior to the angels, prostrate themselves before him. 
He has mounted the steps of the throne of God and has 
taken the book placed at the right hand of God, which 
no one could even look upon. He opens the seven seals 
of the book and the grand drama begins. The debut is 
brilliant. According to a conception of the most 
righteous people, the author places the origin of the 
Messianic agitation at the moment in which Eome 
extends its empire to Judea. At the opening of the 
first seal a white horse comes forth. The rider who is 
mounted on him carries a bow in his hand, a crown 
surrounds his head, he gains victory everywhere. This 
is the Roman Empire, which up till the time of the Seer 
none could resist, but this triumphal prologue is of short 
duration ; the signs coming before the brilliant appear 
ance of Messiah shall be unheard-of plagues, and it is 
by the most terrific images that the celestial tragedy is 
carried out. We are at the beginning of what is called 
" the period of the sorrows of the Messiah." Each seal 
which is opened henceforth brings upon humanity some 
horrible misfortunes. 

At the opening of the second seal a red horse comes 
forth. To him who rides upon it is given power to take 


away peace from the earth and to make men slay each 
other; there is put into his hand a great sword. It is 
War. Since the revolt of Judea, and especially since 
the insurrection of Vindex, the world was in fact 
nothing but a field of carnage, and peaceable men knew 
not where to flee. 

At the opening of the third seal a black horse leaps 
forth. His rider holds a balance. In the midst of the 
four animals the voice which tariffs in heaven the 
prices of commodities for poor mortals, says to the 
horseman, "A bushel of wheat for a penny, three 
bushels of barley for a penny, and touch not the 
oil or the wine." That is famine, not to speak of 
the great dearth which took place under Claudius; 
the scarcity in the year 68 was extreme. 

At the opening of the fourth seal a yellow horse 
comes forth. His rider was called Death. Sheol followed 
him, and there was power given to him to kill the quarter 
of the world by the sword, pestilence, and wild beasts. 

Such are the great plagues which announce the 
approaching advent of the Messiah. Justice wills it 
that immediately the divine wrath shall be lit against 
the world. In fact at the opening of the fifth seal the 
Seer is witness of a touching spectacle. He recognises 
under the altar the souls of those who have been slain 
for their faith, and for the witness they have rendered 
to Christ (certainly the victims of the year 64). These 
holy souls cry out to God, and say to Him, " How long, 
Lord, holy and true. Wilt Thou not do justice and 
demand our blood from those that dwell upon the 
earth ? " But the time is not yet come, the number of 
the martyrs who should fill up the overflowing of 
wrath has not yet been reached. To each one of the 
victims who are under the altar, is given a white robe, 
a pledge of future justification and triumph, and they 
are told to wait a little while until their fellow-servants 
and brethren who should be slain like them should bear 
witness in their turn. 


After this line interlude, we do not return to the period 
of precursory plagues, but the phenomena oi : the last 
judgment. At the opening of the sixth seal a great 
shaking of the universe takes place. The heaven 
becomes black like sackcloth of hair, the moon takes 
the colour of blood, the stars fall from heaven to earth 
like the fruit of a fig tree shaken with the wind. The 
sky draws itself back like a book that is rolled up, the 
mountains and hills are hurled from their places. The 
kings and the great men of the earth, the military 
tribunes, and the rich and the strong, slaves and free 
men, hide themselves in the caves and among the rocks 
saying to the mountains, " Fall upon us, and save us 
from the glance of Him who sits upon the throne and 
from the wrath of the Lamb ! " 

The great execution is then to be accomplished. The 
four angels of the winds are placed at the four corners 
of the earth ; they have only to give bridle to the 
elements which are entrusted to them, that these, 
following their natural fury, should destroy the world. 
All power is given to these four actors. They are at 
their posts ; but the fundamental idea of the poem is to 
show the great judgment adjourned without ceasing 
till the moment it appears it must take place. An angel 
bearing in his hand the seal of God (a seal which has 
for a legend, like all royal seals, the name of him to 
whom it belongs, j-n!~pS)> comes forth from the east. 
He cries to the four angels of the destroying winds to 
keep back for some time yet the forces which they wield, 
until the elect, who presently live, are marked in the 
forehead, by the stamp, by which, as was done by 
the blood of the Paschal Lamb in Egypt, they should be 
preserved from these plagues. The angel impresses then 
the divine signet upon a hundred and forty -four thou 
sand persons belonging to the twelve tribes of Israel. 
It is not really said that the&e hundred and forty-four 
thousand elect are only Jews. Israel is here certainly 
the true spiritual Israel, " the Israel of God," as St. Paul 


calls it, the elect family, embracing all those who are 
connected with the race of Abraham through faith in 
Jesus and by the practice of the necessary rites. ^ But 
there is here a category of the faithful which is already 
introduced in the time of peace, they are those who 
have suffered death for Jesus. The prophet sees them! 
under the figure of a numberless crowd, of every racej 
tribe, people, and tongue, standing before the throne 
and before the Lamb clothed in white robes and carrying 
palms in their hands, and singing to the glory of God 
and the Lamb. One of the elders explains to him what 
this crowd is : These are the people who have come out 1 , 
of great persecution and they have washed their robes j 
in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before, 
the throne of God, and they adore him night and day in 
his temple, and he who is seated on the throne shall 
dwell eternally among them. They shall hunger no 
more, they shall thirst no more, nor shall they suffer 
any more from the heat. The Lamb shall lead them to 
pastures and shall guide them to the waters of life, and 
God himself shall wipe away all tears from their 

The seventh seal is opened. They are waiting for the 
grand spectacle of the consummation of time. But, in 
the poem, as in reality, this catastrophe always recedes ; 
we believed it was coming, but it has not. In place of 
the final d^iwAement which ought to be the effect of the 
opening of the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven 
for half-an-hour, indicating that the first act of the 
mystery has ended, and that another is about to begin. 

After the sacramental silence the seven archangels 
which are before the throne of God ; and of whom 
mention has just been made, enter on the scene. To 
them are given seven trumpets, which each uses as a 
signal of other prognostics. John s gloomy fancy was 
not satisfied; this time it is in the plagues of Egypt that 
his anger against the world seeks types for punishments. 
Some natural phenomena occurring about the year 68, 



and with which popular opinion is preoccupied, affords 
him apparent justification for such comparisons. 

Before the blast of the seven trumpets begins, a silent 
scene of great effect comes in. An angel advances 
toward the golden altar which is before the throne, 
having in his hand a golden censer. Some lumps of 
incense are turned over the coals of the altar and send 
up perfumes before the Eternal. The angel then refills 
his censer with coals from the altar and throws them 
on the ground. These coals, in striking the surface of 
the earth, produce thunders and lightnings, voices and 
earthquakes. The incense, the author himself tells us, 
are the prayers of saints. The sighs of these pious 
persons, rising before God, and calling for the destruction 
of the Eoman empire, become burning coals to the 
profane world, which strikes it, rends it, and consumes 
it, without it knowing whence the attack comes. 

The seven angels then prepare to place their trumpets 
to their lips. 

At the sound of the first angel s trumpet a hail 
mingled with fire and blood falls on the earth. The 
third of the earth is burned, the third of the trees is 
burned ; all green herbage is burned. In 63 and 68 
and 69, there was, in fact, a great terror caused by storms 
in which men saw something supernatural. 

At the sound of the second angel s trumpet, a great 
mountain, incandescent, is thrown into the sea; the 
third of the sea is turned into blood, the third of all 
fishes die, the third of ships is destroyed. There is here 
an allusion to the aspects of the isle of Thera, which 
the prophet could almost see on the horizon of Patmos, 
and which resembles an extinct volcano. A new island 
had appeared in the midst of its crater in the year 46 
or 47. In its moments of activity one can see in the 
neighbourhood of Thera flames on the surface of the 

At the blase of the third angel s trumpet, a great star 
falls from heaven, burning like a faggot; it extinguishes 



the third of rivers and streams. Its na nie is " Worm 
wood;" the third of the waters are turned into wormwood 
(that is to say, they become bitter and poisonous), and 
many men die from this. One is led to suppose that 
there is here an allusion to a certain borealis whose fall 
was placed in connection with an infection which might 
be produced in some reservoir of water by altering its 
quality. We must recollect that our prophet sees 
nature through the artless stories and popular conver 
sations of Asia, the most credulous country in the 
world. Phlegon, of Tralles, half a century later, was to 
pass his life in compiling some absurdities of this kind. 
Tacitus, on every page, is prepossessed by them. 

At the blast of the fourth angel s trumpet the third 
of the sun, the third of the moon, and the third of the 
stars are extinguished, so that the third of the world s 
light is darkened. This may be connected with eclipses 
which terrified people during those years, or the 
terrible storm of 10th January, 69. 

These plagues are not over yet. An eagle flying in 
the zenith uttered three cries of misfortune, and 
announced to men some unheard-of calamities for the 
three trumpet blasts which remain. 

At the sound of the fifth trumpet a star (that is to 
say, an angel) falls from heaven ; the key of the bottom 
less pit (hell) is given to hirn. The angel opens the 
bottomless pit ; then comes up from it a smoke like 
that of a great furnace ; the sun and the heavens are 
darkened. From this smoke come forth locusts, who 
cover the earth like squadrons of cavalry. These 
locusts, led by their king, the angel of the abyss, who is 
called in Hebrew Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon, 
torment men during five mouths (a whole summer). It 
is possible that the plague of the locusts may about 
this time have been very intense in some provinces ; in 
any case the imitation of the plagues of Egypt is 
evident here. The bottomless pit is probably the 
Solfatara of Pouzzuoll (what is termed the Forum of 


Vulcan) or the ancient crater of the Somma conceived 
of as mouths of hell. We have said that the crisis in the 
suburbs of Naples was then very violent. The author 
of the Apocalypse, who may be allowed to claim a voyage 
to Rome, and consequently to Pouzzuoll, may have 
witnessed such phenomena. He connects the clouds of 
locusts with volcanic exhalations ! for the origin of these 
clouds being obscure, the people would be led to see 
there the outcome of hell. At this day, moreover, an 
analogous phenomena is seen yet at Solfatara. After 
a heavy rain the water pools which are in the warm por 
tions cause some rapid and abundant spawning of locusts 
and frogs. That this generation, apparently spontaneous, 
would be considered by the vulgar as emanations from 
the infernal mouth itself, was much more natural than 
that the eruptions, being ordinarily the result of heavy 
rains which covered the country with marshes, should 
appear to be the immediate cause of the clouds of insects 
which came forth from these marshes. 

The sound of the sixth trumpet brings another 
plague : it is the invasion of the Parthians, which 
everybody believed imminent. A voice comes from the 
four horns of the altar, which is before God, and orders 
the release of four angels who are chained on the 
banks of the Euphrates. The four angels (perhaps the 
Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians), who were 
ready for the day, the hour, the month, and the year, 
were placing themselves at the head of terrible cavalry 
amounting to two hundred millions of men. The 
description of the horses and horsemen is quite 
fantastical. The horses, which kill with the tail, are 
probably an allusion to the Parthian cavalry, who shot 
arrows while flying. A third of humanity is 
exterminated. Nevertheless those who survive do not 
repent. They continue to worship devils, idols of gold 
and silver, who can neither see, nor hear, or walk. They 
are obstinate in their homicides, their evil deeds, their 
fornications, their robberies. 



They wait for the seventh trumpet to sound ; out 
here, as in the act of the opening of the seals, the Seer 
appears to hesitate, or rather to place himself in a 
position to wait the result. He stops himself at the 
solemn moment. The terrible secret cannot yet be 
entirely made known. A gigantic angel, his head girt 
with a rainbow, one foot on the earth, another on the 
sea, whose voice seven thunders repeat, sayj certain 
mysterious words, which a voice from heaven forbids 
John to write. The gigantic angel then lifts his hands 
towards heaven and swears by the Eternal that there 
shall be no more delay, and that at the sound of the 
seventh trumpet will be accomplished the mystery of 
God announced by the prophets. 

The apocalyptic drama therefore is about to finish. 
To prolong his book, the author gives himself a new 
prophetic mission. Eejecting an energetic symbol 
employed before by Ezekiel, John receives a fatidic book 
from the gigantic angel, and eats it. A voice says to 
him : " It is necessary that thou shouldst prophecy still 
before many races, and peoples, and tongues, and kings." 
The framework of the vision, which is to be closed by 
the seventh trumpet, enlarges itself thus, and the author 
begins a second part, when he will unveil his views on 
the destinies of the kings and peoples of his time. The 
first six trumpets, in fact, like the opening of the first 
six seals, are connected with the facts which had taken 
place when the author wrote. What follows, on the 
contrary, is connected for the most part with the future. 

It is upon Jerusalem first that the looks of the Seer 
are cast. By a plain symbolism, he gives it to 
be understood that the city should be delivered to the 
Gentiles ; to see that in the opening months of 69, needed 
no great prophetic effort. The portico and the court of the 
Gentiles shall even b& polluted by the feet of the 
profane ; but the imagination of a Jew so fervent cannot 
conceive of the temple destroyed, the temple being the 
only place in the world where God can receive a worship 


(a worship of which that of heaven is but the repro 
duction). John cannot imagine the earth without the 
temple. The temple shall therefore be preserved, and 
the faithful, marked in the forehead by the sign of 
Jehovah, can continue to adore him there. The temple 
shall thus be like a sacred space, a spiritual residence of 
the whole Church ; this will last forty-two months, that 
is to say, three years and a half (a halt-schemitta or week 
of years). This mystic cipher, borrowed from the book 
of Daniel, will often recur in the sequel. It is the space 
of time which yet remains for the world to live. 

Jerusalem, during this time, shall be a theatre of a 
partly religious battle analogous to the struggles which 
have filled history in all times. God will give a mission 
to " his two witnesses " who shall prophecy during two 
hundred and sixty days (that is, three years and a half) 
clothed in sackcloth. These two prophets are compared 
to two olive trees and to two candles before the Lord. 
They shall have the powers of a Moses and an Elias ; 
they will be able to shut heaven and keep back the 
rain, to turn water into bipod, and to smite the earth 
with whatever plague they will. If any one tries to 
do them harm, a fire shall come out of their mouths 
and devour their adversaries. When they shall have 
finished giving their witness, the beast who comes up 
from the abyss, the Eoman power, (or rather Nero 
reappearing as Antichrist) shall slay them. Their 
bodies will remain three days and a half stretched out 
without burial in the streets of the great city which is 
symbolically called " Sodom " and " Egypt," and where 
their master was crucified. The worldly shall rejoice, 
and shall felicitate each other, and send each other 
presents ; for these two prophets had become insupport 
able by their austere preaching and by their temple 
miracles. But at the end of three days and a half, 
behold, the spirit of life shall re-enter the two saints : 
they shall rise to their feet, and a great terror shall 
seize all those who see them. Soon they mount heaven- 



wards on the clouds, in the sight of their enemies. A 
fearful earthquake takes place at this moment ; the 
tenth of the city falls ; 7,000 men are killed ; .the others, 
terrified, are converted. 

We have already often met this idea that the solemn 
hour shall be preceded by the appearance of the two 
witnesses, who are most often believed to be Enoch and 
Elias in prison. These two friends of God passed, 
indeed, for not being dead. The first was reported to 
have uselessly predicted the deluge to his contem 
poraries, who would not listen to him. He was the type 
of a Jew preaching repentance among the heathen. 
Sometimes also, the witnesses seem to resemble Moses, 
whose death was equally uncertain, and Jeremiah. 
Our author appears, moreover, to consider the two 
witnesses two important personages in the church of 
Jerusalem, two apostles of a great holiness, who shall 
be slain, then raised again, and shall ascend to heaven 
like Elias and Jesus. It is not impossible that the 
vision had for its first portion a retrospective value and 
is connected with the murder of the two Jameses, 
especially with the death of James, the Lord s brother 
which was considered by many at Jerusalem as a public 
misfortune, a fatal event and a sign of the times. 
Perhaps also one of these preachers of repentance is 
John the Baptist, the other Jesus. As to the persuasion 
that the end shall not take place till the Jews shall be 
converted, it was general among the Christians ; we 
find it likewise in St. Paul. 

The remainder of Israel having come to the true 
faith, the world has only to end. The seventh angel 
places his trumpet to his lips. At the sound of that 
last trumpet great voices cry out : " Behold ! the hour 
has come when our Lord with his Christ shall reign over 
the world to all eternity." The four-and-twenty elders 
fall on their faces and worship. They thank God for 
having inaugurated his kingdom, in spite of the 
powerless rage of the Gentiles, and proclaim the hour of 



recompense for the saints, and of extermination for those 
who pollute fehe earth. Then the gates of the heavenly 
temple open : there is perceived in the centre of the 
temple the bow of the new covenant. This scene is 
accompanied by earthquakes, thunders and lightnings. 

All is finished ; the believers have received the great 
revelation which should comfort them. The judgment 
is at hand ;^it shall be .held in a sacred half-year, 
equivalent to three years and a half. But we have 
already seen the author, little careful as to the unity of 
his work, reserving to himself the means of continuing 
it, when it should be finished. The book, in fact, is only 
half of the course ; a new series of visions is about to be 
unrolled before us. 

The first is one of the finest. In the midst of heaven 
appears a woman (the Church of Israel) clothed with 
the sun, having the moon under her feet, and around 
her head a crown of twelve stars (the twelve tribes of 
Israel). She cries as if she was in the throes of labour, 
pregnant as she is with the ideal Messiah. Before her 
is set an enormous red dragon, with seven crowned 
heads and ten horns, and whose tail, sweeping the sky, 
draws down a third of the stars and casts them on the 
earth. It is Satan, in the features of the most powerful 
of his incarnations, the Eoman empire, the red pictures 
the imperial purple. The seven crowned heads are the 
seven Csesars who have reigned up till the time the 
author writes : Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, 
Caligula, Claudius, Nero and Galba; the ten horns are 
the ten pro-consuls who govern the provinces. The 
dragon waits for the birth of the child to devour it. 
The woman brings into the world a son, destined " to 
rule the nations with a rod > of iron " a. feature 
characteristic of the Messiah. The child (Jesus) is 
raised to heaven by God. God places him at his side 
upon his throne. The woman flees into the desert, 
where God has pr&pared a retreat for her for 1,260 days. 
There is here an evident allusion either to the flight of 


the Church from Jerusalem and to the peace which it 
should enjoy within the walls of Pella during the three 
years and a half which remain until the end of the 
world, or to the residence which the Judaizing 
Christians and some Apostles had in the province of Asia. 
The image of the " desert " agrees better with the 
former explanation than with the latter Pella, heyond 
Jordan, was a peaceable country, bordering upon the 
deserts of Arabia, and where the sound of war scarcely 
ever came. 

Then a great battle takes place in heaven. Up till 
then Satan, the Katigor, the malevolent critic of the 
creation, had his entries into the divine court. He 
profits by them, according to an old habit which he had 
not lost since the age of the patriarch Job, to hurt pious 
men and especially the Christians, and to bring upon 
them frightful troubles. The persecutions of Rome and 
Kphesus have been his work. Now he will lose this 
privilege. The archangel Michael (the guardian angel 
of Israel) with his angels, gives battle to him. Satan is 
defeated, chased from heaven, cast to the earth as well 
as his suporters ; a song of victory arises, when the 
celestial beings see precipitated from height to depth the 
caluminator, the detractor of all good, who does not 
cease day and night to accuse and to blacken their 
brethren dwelling on the earth. The church of heaven 
and that below fraternize over the defeat of Satan. 
That defeat is due to the blood of the Lamb and also to 
the courage of the martyrs who have carried their 
sacrifice even up to death. But woe to the profane 
world ! The Dragon has descended to his own place, 
and they can all wait for his despair ; for he knows 
that his days are numbered. 

The first object against which the Dragon cast on the 
earth turns his rage, is the woman (the church of Israel) 
who has brought into the world this divine fruit whom 
God has made to sit at his right hand. But protection 
from on high covers the woman ; there are given to her 


the two creat wings of an eagle, bearing herself on 
which she goes to the place prepared for her, that is 
Pella. She is nourished there three years and a half, 
far from the sight of the Dragon. His fury is now at its 
height. He vomits out of his mouth after the woman a 
river to hurt her and stop her, but the earth comes to the 
help of the woman ; it opens and absorbs the river (an 
allusion to some circumstance of the flight to Pella 
which is unknown to us). The Dragon, seeing his 
powerlessness against the woman (the mother-church 
of Israel) turns his anger against " the rest of her race," 
that is, against the churches of the Dispersion who keep 
the precepts of God and are faithful to the testimony of 
Jesus. There is here an evident allusion to the 
persecutions of the last days, and^especially to that of the 
year 64. 

Then the prophet sees coming up from the sea a beast 
which in many points resembles the Dragon. It has ten 
horns, and seven heads and diadems on its ten horns, 
and on each of its heads a blasphemous name. Its 
general aspect is that of the leopard ; his feet are those 
of a bear, his mouth that of a lion. The Dragon (Satan) 
gives him his strength, his throne and his power. One 
of his heads has received a mortal blow ; but the wound 
has been healed. The whole earth falls in wonder 
before this powerful animal, and all men begin to 
worship the Dragon because he has given power to the 
beast ; they also worship the beast, saying : " Who is 
like the beast, and who can fight against him ? " And 
there is given to him a mouth speaking words full of 
blasphemy and pride, and the duration of his omnipotence, 
is fixed at forty-two months (three years and a half). 
Then the beast begins to vomit forth blasphemies against 
God, against his name and the tabernacle, and against 
those who dwell in heaven. And it was given to him 
to make war on the saints and to conquer them, and 
power was oeded to him over every tribe and tongue and 
race. And all men worshipped him except those whose 


name ie written from the beginning of the world in the 
book of life of the Lamb who has been slain : " Let him 
hear who hath ears, he who makes captive shall be made 
captive in his turn, he who takes the sword shall perish 
by the sword. This is the secret of the patience antf 
the faith of the saints." 

This symbolism is very clear. Already in the Sibylline 
poem, composed in the second century B.C., the Koman 
power is qualified by having " numerous heads." The 
allegories drawn from polycephalous beasts were very 
much in vogue ; the principal interpretation of these 
emblems was to consider each head as signifying a 
sovereign. The monster of the Apocalypse, is besides, 
composed by the reunion of the attributes of the four 
empires of Daniel, and that alone shows it concerns a 
new empire, absorbing in itself the former empires. 
The beast which comes forth from the sea is therefore 
the Roman empire, which, to the people of Palestine, 
appeared to come from beyond the seas. This empire is 
mly a form of Satan (the dragon) or rather, it is Satan 
limself with all his attributes ; he holds his power to 
cause Satan to be adored, that is, to maintain idolatry, 
which, to the author s mind, is nothing but the 
worship of demons. The ten crowned are the ten 
provinces, whose pro-consuls are real kings ; the seven 
heads are the seven emperors who have succeeded each 
other from Julius Csesar to Galba; the blasphemous 
name written on each head is the title of Se/Sao-ro?, or 
Augustus, which appeared to the seven Jews to imply an 
injury to God. The whole world is given up by Satan 
to this empire, in return for the homage which the said 
empire procures Satan ; the greatness and the pride of 
Rome, the imperium which it has decreed, its divinity, 
an object of a special and public worship, are a perpetual 
blasphemy against God, sole real sovereign oi the world. 
The empire in question is naturally the enemy of the 
Jews and Jerusalem. He made a fierce war with the 
saints (the author appears on the whole favourable to 


the Jewish revolt) : he will conquer them ; but he has 
only three and a-half years to last. He with the 
head wounded to death, but whose wound has been 
healed, is Nero, lately overthrown, saved miraculously 
from death, and who was believed to have taken refuge 
with the Parthians. The adoration of the beast is the 
worship of " Rome and Augustus," so much spread over 
all the province of Asia, and which was made the basis 
of the religion of the country. 

The symbol which follows is far from being as trans 
parent to us. Another beast goes forth from the earth ; 
it has two horns like those of a lamb, but it speaks 
like the Dragon (Satan). It exercises all the power 
of the first beast in its presence and under its eyes ; it 
fills in its turn the r6le of delegate, and employs all its 
authority to cause the inhabitants of the earth to 
worship the first beast, " whose mortal hurt has been 
cured." This second beast works great miracles ; it goes 
so far as to bring the fire of heaven upon the earth in 
presence of numerous spectators ; ifc seduces the world 
by the prodigies which it executes in the name and for 
the service of the first beast (of that beast, adds the 
author, which has received a stroke of the sword and 
nevertheless lives). And there was given (to the 
second beast) to put the breath of life into the image 
of the first beast, so that that image spoke. And it had 
the power to cause after this that all those who refused 
to adore the first beast should be put to death. And it 
established as a law that all, small and great, rich and 
poor, free and slaves, should bear a mark on their righu 
hand or on their forehead. And it commanded besides 
that no one should be able to buy or sell if he did not 
bear the sign of the beast, or his name in all its 
letters, that is, the number made up by the letters of 
his name added together like figures. " Here is wfedom !" 
cries the author. "Let him who has understanding 
calculate the number of the beast. It is the number of 
a man Thu number is 666." 



In reality, if we add together the letters of the name 
of Nero, transcribed in Hebrew iDp p"^ (Nepow 
Kaiaap) according to their numerical value we obtain 
the number 666. Neron Aesar was indeed the name by 
which the Christians of Asia designated the monster ; 
the coins of Asia bore as a legend : NEPON, KAIZAP. 
Those kinds of reckonings were familiar to the Jews, and 
made a cabbalistic puzzle which they called ghematria ; 
the Greeks of Asia even were no longer strangers to it ; 
in the second century the Gnostics affected it. 

Thus the Emperor, who was represented by the head 
wounded to death, but not killed (the author himself 
tells us), is Nero Nero who, according to a popular 
opinion widespread in Asia, still lived. But who is this 
second beast, this agent of Nero, who has the manners 
of a pious Jew, and the language of Satan, who is the 
alter ego of Nero, toils for his profit, and even causes a 
statue of Nero to speak, persecutes the believing Jews 
who do not wish to render Nero the same honour as the 
heathen, nor to bear the mark of affiliation to his party, 
renders life impossible, and forbids them to do the 
most necessary things, to buy and sell ? Certain 
peculiarities would apply to a Jewish functionary, such 
as Tiberius Alexander, devoted to the Romans and held by 
his compatriots as an apostate. The mere fact of paying 
the impost to the empire might be called " an adoration 
of the beast," tribute in the eyes of the Jews having the 
character of a religious offering, and implying a worship 
of the sovereign. The sign or mark of the beast (Nepcov 
Kaicrap) that it would be needful for him to enjoy the 
common law, must have been either the brevet of a 
Roman citizenship, without which in some countries 
life was difficult, and which for the enthusiastic Jews 
constituted the crime of association with a work of 
Satan ; or the coin with the effigies of Nero, a coin held 
by the revolted Jews as execrable because of the images 
and blasphemous inscriptions they found there, so that 
t-Vey hastened, when they were free at Jerusalem, to 



substitute an orthodox coin for it. The partisan of the 
Romans who is in question, by maintaining the money 
with Nero s stamp as having a forced course in 
transactions, would appear to have been held to be 
wicked. Money with Nero s stamp alone passed in the 
market, and those who by religious scruple refused to 
touch it were put outside the law. 

The pro-consul of Asia at this time was Fonteius 
Agrippa, a grave functionary, to whom we cannot 
look to take us out of our embarrassment. A high 
priest of Asia, zealous for the worship of Home and 
Augustus, and accustomed to vex the Jews and the 
Christians by the delegation of civil power which was 
granted him, meets some of the exigencies of the problem. 
But the features which the second beast presents as a 
seducer and a wonder-worker do not agree with such a 
personage. These features lead us to think of a false 
prophet, an enchanter, notably Simon the Magician, 
imitator of Christ, become in the legend the flatterer, 
the parasite and the wizard of Nero, or to Balbillus of 
Ephesus, or to the Antichrist, of whom Paul speaks 
obscurely in the second epistle to the Thessalonians. 
It is probable that the personage seen here by the 
author of the Apocalypse is some impostor of Ephesus, 
a partisan of Nero, probably an agent of the false Nero 
or the false Nero himself. The same personage, in fact, 
is later on called " the False Prophet " in the sense that 
he is the proclaimer of a false god who is Nero. It is 
necessary to take account of the importance held at this 
time by the Magi, the Chaldeans and "Mathematicians," 
pests of whom Ephesus was the principal home. We 
recall also that Nero dreamed once of " the kingdom of 
Jerusalem," that he was much mixed up with the 
astrological movements of his age, and that, nearly alone 
of all the emperors, he was worshipped while he lived, 
which was the sign of the Antichrist. During his travels 
in Greece, especially, the adulation of Achaia and Asia 
wo.nfc beyond all conceivable bounds. Lastly, we cannot 


forget the seriousness which in Asia and the islands ot 
the Archipelago attached to the movement of the false 
Nero. The circumstance that the second beast came 
from the earth, and not like the first from the sea, shows 
that the incidf.nt spoken of took place in Asia or Jwdea, 
not at Koine. All this is not sufficient to remove the 
obscurities of this vision, which no doubt would have in 
the mind of the author the same material precision 
as the others, but which, connecting itself with a 
provincial fact which the historians have not mentioned, 
and which has only an importance in the personal 
impression of the Seer, remains a puzzle to us. 

In the midst of the waves of wraths there now 
appears a grassy islet. In the most violent of the 
frightful struggles of the last days, it shall be a place 
of refreshment : it is the church the little family of 
Jesus. The prophet sees, resting on Mount Sion, the 
144,000 sealed out of the whole world, bearing the name 
of God written on their foreheads. The Lamb dwells 
peacefully in the midst of them. Some celestial chords 
of harps descend on the assembly ; the musicians sing a 
new song, which no ether than the 144,000 elect can 
repeat. Chastity is the sign of those blessed ones ; all 
are virgin, without stain ; their mouth has never uttered 
a lie: they also follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes, as 
firstfruits of the earth and the nucleus of the future 

After this brief glance at a residence of innocence 
and peace, the author returns to his terrible visions. 
Three angels rapidly cross the sky. The first flies in 
the zenith holding the everlasting Gospel. He 
proclaims in the face of all nations the new doctrine, 
and announces the day of judgment. The second angel 
celebrates in advance the destruction of Borne. " She 
has fallen, she has fallen, the great Babylon which 
has made all nations drunk with the wine of her 
fornication." The third angel forbids the adoration 
of the beast and the images of the beast borne by the 


false prophet. " Those who shall worship the beast or 
his image, who shall receive the mark of the beast on 
their forehead or hand, shall drink of the burning wine 
of God, of the pure wine pressed within the cup of his 
anger ; and they shall be tormented in the fire and 
brimstone before the angels and before the Lamb ; and 
the smoke of their torments shall mount through the 
ages of ages, and they shall have no rest day nor night, 
those who adore the beast or his image, and who receive 
on them the sign of his name." It is here that the 
patience of the saints, those who keep the command 
ments of God and the faith of Jesus, shines forth. To 
reassure the faithful as to a doubt which sometimes 
relatively torments them as to the lot of the brethren 
who die every day, a voice orders the prophet to write : 
" Blessed from henceforth are the dead who die in the 
Lord, yea, saith the Spirit, they rest from their labours 
and their works follow them." 

Pictures of the great judgment present themselves to 
the imagination of the Seer. A white cloud comes from 
the sky : on this cloud is seated like a Son of Man an 
angel like the Messiah having on his head a golden 
crown and in his hand a sharp sickle. The harvest of 
the earth is ripe. The Son of Man puts forth his 
sickle and the earth is reaped. Another angel comes 
to the vintage ; he throws it all into the great winepress 
of the wrath of God. The winepress is trodden under 
foot outside the city ; the blood which comes forth from 
it rises up to the horse bridles, over a space of six 
hundred stadii. 

After these different episodes, a celestial ceremony, 
analogous to the two mysteries of the opening of the 
seals and the trumpet unrolls itself before the Seer. 
Seven angels are charged to quiet the earth with 
seven different hurts, by which the wrath of 
G-od may be exhausted. But first we are reassured 
as to what concerns the fate of the elect. Upon a vast 
crystalline sea. mingled with fire, are seen the conquerors 



of the beast, that is, those who have refused to adore his 
image and the number of his name, holding in their 
hands the harps of God, singing the song of Moses 
after the passage of the Eed Sea and the song of the 
Lamb. The door of the heavenly tabernacle is opened 
and seven angels are seen coming out of it clothed in 
linen and their bosoms girt with girdles of gold. One of 
the four living creatures gives them seven cups *of gold 
full to the brim of the wrath of God. The temple is 
then filled with the smoke of a divine majesty, and no 
one can enter till the seven cups are emptied. 

The first angel empties his cup on the enrth and a 
pernicious ulcer strikes all men who bear the mark of 
the beast and who adore his image. 

The second empties his cup upon the sea and it is 
changed into blood, and all the animals living in its 
bosom die. 

The third angel empties his cup upon the rivers and 
etreams and they are changed into blood. The angel 
of the waters does not complain of the loss of his 
element. He says :" Thou art just, oh Lord, and art 
holy, who art and who wast, thou shalt do whatsoever 
is right. They have shed the blood of the saints and 
the prophets, and thou hast given them blood to 
drink ; they are worthy of it." The altar says from 
its side : " Yea, Lord God Almighty, thy judgments are 
true and just." The fourth angel empties his cup 
upon the sun and the sun burns men like a fire. 
Men, far from being penitent, blaspheme God, who has 
power to smite them with such plagues. 

The fifth angel empties his cup upon the throne of 
the beast (the city of Rome) and all the kingdom of the 
beast (the Roman empire) is plunged into darkness. 
Men gnaw their tongues in pain ; in place of repenting 
they insult the God of heaven. 

The sixth angel empties his cup into the Euphrates, 
which dries up at once to prepare the way for the king s 
coining from the East. Then, from the mouth of the 


dragon (Satan), from the mouth of the beast (Nero), 
and from the mouth of the False Prophet (?) proceed 
three unclean spirits like frogs. These are the spirits 
of devils, working miracles. These three spirits would 
find the kings of the whole earth, and assemble them for 
the battle of the great day of God. (" I come as a thief," 
cries the voice of Jesus in the midst of all this. Blessed 
is the man who watches and keeps his garments lest he 
should need to go naked and men should see his shame.") 
They gather together, and say, in the place which is 
called in Hebrew, Armageddon. The general thought of 
all this symbolism is clear enough. We have already 
formed with the Seer the opinion universally adopted in 
the province of Asia that Nero, after having escaped from 
Phaon s villa, had taken refuge among the Parthians, 
and that from thence he would return to crush his 
enemies. It is believed, not without apparent grounds, 
that the Parthian princes, friends of Nero during his 
reign, maintained him yet, and it is the fact that the 
court of the Arsacides was for more than twenty years 
the refuge of the false Neros. All this seems to the 
author of the Apocalypse an infernal plan, conceived 
between Satan, Nero, and this counsellor of Nero, who 
has already figured under the form of the second beast. 
These condemned creatures are occupied in forming in 
the East a league, whose army shall soon pass the 
Euphrates and crush the Eoman empire. As to the 
special puzzle in the name Armageddon, it is to us unde 

The seventh angel empties his vial into the air ; a 
cry comes forth from the altar, " It is done " And 
there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, 
and an earthquake such as has never been seen, while 
the great city (Jerusalem) is broken into three parts ; 
and the cities of the Decapolis are destroyed, and the 
great Babylon (Borne; comes up in remembrance before 
God, who is prepared at length to make her drink of the 
cup of His wrath. The islands fled, and the mountains 


disappeared : hail of the weight of a talent fell on men, 
and men blasphemed because of this plague. 

The cycle of the preludes is completed, and there remains 
nothing more but to see the judgment of God unroll 
itself. The Seer makes us first look on at the judg 
ment of the greatest of all the culprits, the city of Eome. 
One of the seven angels who has emptied the vials 
approaches God and says to him : " Come, and I will show 
thee the judgment of the great whore who sits on the 
great waters, with whom the kings of the earth have 
committed fornication." John then saw a woman 
seated on a beast like that which, coming forth from the 
sea, figured in its entirety the Eoman empire, by one of its 
heads, Nero. The beast is scarlet, covered with names 
of blasphemy, it has seven heads and ten horns. The 
prostitute wears the dress of her profession ; clothed in 
purple, covered with gold, pearls, and precious stones, 
she holds in her hand a cup full of the abomination and 
impurities of her fornication. And upon her forehead 
is written a name, a mystery, " Babylon the great, the 
mother of harlots, and the abomination of the earth." 

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints 
and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I 
saw her, I wondered with a great wonder, and the angel 
said unto me, Wherefore didst thou wonder ? I will tell thee 
the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth 
her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns. The 
beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and is about to come 
out of the abyss, and to go into perdition. And they 
that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name 
hath not been written in the book of life from the 
foundation of the world, when they behold the beast, 
how that he was, and is no f and shall come. Here is 
the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are 
seven mountains on which the Roman sitteth : and they 
are seven kings, the five are fallen, the one is, the other 
is not yet come ; and when he cometh he must con 
tinue a little while. And the beast that was, and is not, 
is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven ; and he 
goeth into perdition. And the ten horns that thou 
sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as 


yet ; but they receive authority as kings, with the beast 
for one hour. These have one mind, and they give their 
power and authority unto the beast. These shall war 
against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for 
he is Lord of lords, and King of kings ; and they also 
shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and 
faithful. And he saith unto me, the waters which thou 
sawest where the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and multi 
tudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns 
which thou sawest, and the beast, these shall hate the 
harlot, and shall make her desolate, and naked, and shall 
eat her flesh, and shall burn her bitterly with fire. For 
God did put in their hearts to do his mind, and to come 
to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, 
until the words of God should be accomplished; and the 
woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which reigneth 
over the kings of the earth. 

This is quite clear. The harlot is Eome, who has 
corrupted the world, who has employed her power to 
propagate and to uphold idolatry, who has persecuted 
the saints, and who has made the blood of the martyrs 
to flow in streams. The beast is Nero, who was 
believed to be dead ; who shall return, whose second 
reign shall be ephemeral and be followed by complete 
destruction. The seven heads have two meanings; they 
are the seven hills on which Eome is set ; but they are 
especially the seven emperors : Julius Caesar, Augustus, 
Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero and Galba. The first 
five are dead. Galba reigns for the moment ; but he is 
old and feeble ; he soon falls. The sixth, Nero, who is 
at once the beast and one of the seven kings, is not 
really dead ; he will reign still, but for a short time ; he 
will be thus the eighth king, and then perish. As to the 
ten horns ; these are the pro-consuls and the imperial 
legates of the ten principal provinces who are not real 
kings, but who receive power from the emperor for a 
limited time, ruling agreeably to one thought, that which 
is conveyed to them from Rome, and are perfectly 
submissive to the empire, from whom they derive their 
power. These partial kings are all as malevolent 
against the Christians as Nero himself. Representing 



provincial interests, they will humble Rome, and take 
from her the right of conducting the empire, which she 
has enjoyed till then, maltreating her, setting her on 
fire, and sharing in her ruins. Yet God will not allow 
the dismemberment of the empire" yet; he inspires the 
generals, commandants of the provincial armies, and all 
those who should have one by one the fate of the 
empire in their hands (Vindex, Virginius, ISTymphidius, 
Sabinus, Galba, Macer, Capito, Otho, Vitellius, Mucian, 
and Vespasian), to act in harmony for the reconstitution 
of the empire, and instead of establishing it under 
independent sovereigns, which appears to the Jewish 
author the most natural position, to do homage for their 
kingdom to the beast. 

We see at what point the pamphlet by the head of the 
churches of Asia enters into the life of a position which, 
for an imagination so easily struck as that of the Jews, 
would appear strange ; in fact, Nero by his wickedness 
and folly of a special kind, had thrown reason out of 
doors. The empire at his death was as if escheat. 
After the assassination of Caligula, there was still a 
republican party ; besides, the adopted family of 
Augustus had all his prestige ; after Nero s assassination, 
there was no longer a republican party, and the family 
of Augustus was extinct. The empire fell into the 
hands of eight or ten generals who held high commands. 
The author of the Apocalypse, not understanding 
anything as to the Roman matters, is astonished that 
ten leaders, who appeared to him as kings, should not 
be declared independent and form a concert, and has 
attributed this result to an act of the divine will. It is 
clear that the Jews of the east, oppressed by the 
Romans for two years back, and who feel themselves 
feebly compact since Jul^ 68, because Mucian and 
Vespasian were absorbed by general affairs, believed 
that the empire was about to be dissolved, and 
triumphed for a while. There was in this not such a 
superficial view as we might believe. Tacitus, 


beginning the recital of the events of the year ou the 
threshold of which the Apocalypse was written, calls it 
annum reipublicce prope supremum. It was to the Jews 
a great astonishment when they saw the " ten kings " 
come before the " beast " and put their kingdoms at his 
feet. They had hoped that the result of the indepen 
dence of the " ten kings " would be the ruin of Eome ; 
antagonistic to a great central State organisation they 
thought the pro-consuls and the legates would hate Eome, 
and judging them according to themselves, they supposed 
that these powerful leaders might act like the satraps, or 
indeed like the Hyrcani kings exterminating their 
enemies. They had relished at least like spiteful 
provincials the great humiliation which the city had 
endured, when the right of making the sovereigns passed 
to the provinces, and Eome received within her walls 
masters whom she had not first called to power. 

Such was the relation of the Apocalypse with the 
singular episode of the false Nero, who just at the 
moment when the Seer of Patmos wrote filled Asia and 
the islands of the Archipelago with emotion. Such a 
coincidence is assured by the most singular facts. Cythnos 
and Patmos are only forty leagues from each other, and 
news circulates quickly in the Archipelago. The days 
of the Christian prophet were those when most was 
spoken of the impostor, hailed by some with enthusiasm, 
looked upon with terror by others. We have shown 
that he established himself at Cythnos in 69, or perhaps 
in December 68. The centurion Sisenna who touched 
at Cythnos in the first days of February, coining from 
the East and bringing to the Pretorians of Eome some 
pledges of agreement on the part of the army of Syria, 
had much difficulty in escaping from them. A few 
days after, Calpurnius Asprenas, who had received from 
Galba the government of Galatia and Pamphylia, and 
who was accompanied by two galleys of the fleet of 
Misena, arrived at Cythnos. Some emissaries of the 
pretender tried the magical effect of the name of Nero 


on the commanders of the ships ; the knave, affecting a 
sorrowful air, appealed to those who were formerly " his 
soldiers." He begged them at least to conduct him to 
Syria or Egypt, countries on which he founded his hopes 
The commanders, whether from cunning or whether 
they were moved by this, asked for time. Asprenas, 
having heard of everything, took the impostor by 
surprise and caused him to be killed. His body was 
taken to Asia, then brought to Rome, so as to refute 
those of his partisans who would have wished to raise 
doubts as to his death. Would it be to this wretch 
that allusion is made in these words : " The beast thou 
sawest was and is no more, and it is coming forth 
from the abyss, and it hastens to its destruction . . . 
the other being is not yet, and when he shall come, 
he will remain a little ?" It is possible. The monster 
rising from the abyss would be a lively image of 
ephemeral power which the sagacious writer saw 
coming forth from the sea in the horizon of Patmos. 
One cannot pronounce on this with certainty, for the 
opinion that Nero was among the Parthians was suffi 
cient to explain everything; but this opinion did not 
exclude belief in the false Nero of Cythnos, since it 
could be supposed that his reappearance might be the 
return of the monster, coinciding with the passage of 
the Euphrates of his Eastern allies. In any case, it 
appears to us impossible that these lines had been 
written after the murder of the false Nero by 
Asprenas. The sight of the impostor s corpse carried 
from city to city, the contemplation of his features marked 
by death, would have spoken very plainly against the 
apprehensions of the beast s return, by which the author 
is possessed. We admit therefore willingly that John, 
in the isle of Patmos, had cognisance of the events in 
the isle of Cythnos, and that the effect produced upon 
him by some strange rumours was the principal cause 
of the letter he wrote to the Churches of Asia, to convey 
to them the great news of Nero risen again. 



Interpreting the political events to the taste of his 
hatred, as a fanatic Jew, he predicted that the command 
ants of the provinces, whom he believed full of rancour 
against Home, and up to a certain accord with Nero, 
should ravage the city and burn it Taking the fact 
now as accomplished, he sings of the ruin of his enemy. 
He has for that only to copy the declamations of the 
ancient prophets against Babylon and Tyre. Israel 
has marked the history of its curses. To all the great 
prof ane States he said : "Blessed is he who shall render 
thee for the evil which thou hast done us!" A bright 
angel descends from heaven, and with a strong voice: 
"Fallen, fallen," said he, "is the great Babylon, and it is no 
longer anything but a dwelling for devils, a place for 
unclean spirits, a refuge for abominable birds, because that 
all the nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication, 
with whom the kings of the earth have polluted them 
selves, and by whom the merchants of the earth have 
been enriched by her wealth." Another voice was heard 
from heaven saying: 

Come out of her, my people, lest be ye partakers of her 
crimes and be struck by the plagues which will fall on her. 
Her abominations have come up even to heaven, and God 
has remembered her iniquities. Render her what she has 
done to others ; pay her back double for her works ; return 
her the double of the cup she has poured out to others. 
For as much glory and wealth as she had, so give her as 
much torment and affliction. I sit as a queen, said she in 
her heart ; and shall never know sorrow. Behold why her 
chastisements shall come all in bhe same day: death, 
desolation, famine and fire ; for powerful is the God who 
judges her. And there shall be seen weeping over her the 
kings of the earth who have partaken of her uncleanness 
and her debaucheries. At the sight of the smoke of her 
burning ; "Woe ! woe! " shall her companions in debauchery 
exclaim, keeping at a distance, struck with terror. " What ! 
the great, the powerful Babylon ! In one hour her judg 
ment has come ! " And the merchants of the earth shall 
bewail her, for no one longer buys their merchandise. 
Vessels of gold and silver, precious stones, pearls, fine 
linen, purple, silk, scarlet, thyinewood, ivory, brass, iron, 
marble, incense, wine, oil, flour of wheat, corn, betists. 


sheep, horses, chariots, bodies and souls of men ; . , , 
the merchants of all these things, who were enriched by 
her, standing at a distance in fear of her torments : Woe ! 
Woe !" they will say, "What! is that great city which 
was clothed in scarlet, purple, and fine linen, and adorned 
with gold, precious stones and pearls destroyed ? In one 
hour have so much riches perished ? " And the sailors 
who came to her and all those who traffic at sea, 
standing at a distance, at sight of the smoke of her 
burning, throwing ashes on their heads, give forth cries, 
weeping and lamentations. " Woe ! Woe ! " they say, 
" The great city which enriched with its treasures all those 
who had vessels on the sea, behold in an hour has been 
changed into a desert. " 

Rejoice over her ruin, O heaven ; rejoice, ye saints, 
apostles and prophets ; for God has judged your cause and 
has avenged you of her." 

Then an angel of strong power seized a great ? tone, like 
a millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying : 

Then shall Babylon be thrown down, and there shall 
be found no longer a trace of her ; and the voice of the harp 
players and the musicians, the sound of the flute and the 
trumpet shall be heard no more at all in thee, and the light 
of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee, and the voice of 
the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at 
all in thee, for thy merchants were the princes of the 
earth, for with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived. 
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, 
and of all that have been slain upon the earth. 

The ruin of this chief enemy of the people of God is 
the object of great festival in heaven. A voice like 
that of an innumerable multitude makes itself heard and 
cries " Alleluia ! salvation, and glory and power to our 
God ; for his judgments are righteous, and he has judged 
the great whore who has polluted the earth by her 
whoredom, and he has revenged the blood of his servants 
shed by her." And another chorus replies : " Alleluia ! 
the smoke of her burning shall ascend in the ages of 
ages." Then the four-and-twenty elders and the four 
beasts prostrate themselves and adore God, seated on 
the throne, saying : " Amen ! Alleluia ! " A voice comes 
torth from the throne chanting the inaudible song of 


the new kingdom, " Praise our God all ye who are his 
servants and who fear him small and great ; " a voice like 
that of a crowd or like that of great waters, or like the 
sound of a mighty thunder replied," Alleluia, it is now that 
the Lord God Almighty reigns; let us rejoice and free our 
selves quickly and render him the glory, for behold the hour 
of the Lamb s marriage is come, and the garments of his 
bride are ready ; and it has been given her to be clothed in 
a robe of fine linen of brightness sweet and pure. The fine 
linen," adds the author, "is the virtuous acts of thesaints." 
Delivered in fact from the presence of the great whore 
(Eome) the earth is ripe for the heavenly marriage, for 
the reign of Messiah. The angel says to the Seer, write : 
" Blessed are those invited to the festival of the marriage 
of the Lamb." Then the heaven opens, and Christ, 
called there for the first time by his mystic name 
" The Word of God," appears as a conqueror, mounted 
upon a white horse. He comes to trample with 
pressure the grapes of the wrath of God, to inaugurate 
tor the heathen the reign of the sceptre of iron. His 
eyes sparkle. His garments are tinged with blood ; he 
wears upon his head many crowns with an inscription 
in mysterious characters. From his mouth goes forth 
a sharp sword to strike the Gentiles ; upon his thigh is 
written his title, KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS. The 
whole army of heaven follows him on white horses 
and clothed in white linen. They look for his peaceful 
triumph, but it is not yet time. Although Eome may 
be destroyed, the Eoman world, represented by Nero the 
Antichrist, is not annihilated. An angel above the sun 
cries with a strong voice to all the birds which fly in the 
zenith : " Come, assemble yourselves for the great 
festival of God, come and eat the flesh of kings and the 
flesh of tribunes, and the flesh of the strong, and the 
flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of free 
men and slaves, of great and small." The prophet then 
sees the beast (Nero) and the kings of the earth (the 
provincial generals, almost independent) and their 


armies baiided together to make war upon him who is 
seated upon the horse. And the beast (Nero) is seized 
and with him the false prophet who works miracles 
before him ; both are thrown alive into the brimstone 
pit, which burns eternally. Their armies are extermin 
ated by the sword which comes forth from the mouth 
of him who is seated on the horse, and the birds are 
satiated with the flesh of the dead. 

The Eoman armies, the grand instrument of the 
power of Satan, are conquered ; Nero, the Antichrist, 
their last head, is shut up in hell ; but the dragon, the old 
serpent, Satan, exists still. We have seen how he was 
cast from heaven to the earth ; the earth must now in 
turn be delivered from him. An angel descends from 
heaven holding the key of the abyss and having in his 
hand a great chain. He seizes the dragon, binds him 
for a thousand years, precipitates him into the abyss, 
closes with his key the opening of the gulf and seals it 
with a seal. For a thousand years the devil remains 
chained ; moral and physical evil, which are his pro 
ductions, are suspended, not destroyed. Satan cannot 
any longer seduce the peoples, but he is not destroyed 
for all eternity. 

A tribunal is established to proclaim those who 
should take part in the reign of a thousand years. This 
reign is reserved for the martyrs. The first place there 
belongs to the souls which have been smitten by the 
axe to render testimony to Jesus and to the word of 
God (the Eoman martyrs of 64) ; then come those 
who have refused to worship the beast and his image, 
and who have not received his mark upon their fore 
heads nor in their hands (the confessors of Ephesus, of 
whom the Seer was one). The elect of this first king 
dom are raised from the dead and reign upon the earth 
with Christ for a thousand years. It is not that the 
rest of humanity had disappeared, nor even the whole 
world had become Christian ; the millenium is in the 
centre of the earth like a little paradise. Eome no 


longer exists ; Jerusalem has replaced it in its position 
as the capital of the world, the faithful constitute there 
a kingdom of priests ; they serve God and Christ, there 
is no longer a great profane empire of civil power 
hostile to the church ; the nations come to Jerusalem 
to render homage to the Messiah who maintains them 
by terror. During these thousand years the dead who 
have not had part in the first resurrection do not live, 
they wait. The participants in the first kingdom are 
therefore the privileged ; beyond eternity, in the 
infinite, they shall have the millenium on the earth 
with Jesus. No death shall touch them. 

When the thousand years shall have been 
accomplished, Satan shall be loosed from his prison for 
some time; evil shall begin again upon the earth. 
Satan unchained shall wander anew among the nations, 
shall drive them from one end of the world to the 
other by frightful wars ; Gog and Magog, mythical 
personages of the barbarian invasions, lead to battle 
armies as numerous as the sand of the seashore. 
The church shall be as if drowned in this deluge. The 
barbarians shall besiege the camp of the saints, the 
beloved city, that is to say this Jerusalem, terrestrial 
still, but entirely holy, where the faithful friends of 
Jesus are ; the fire of heaven shall fall upon them and 
devour them. Then Satan, who has seduced them, 
shall be cast into the flaming brimstone furnace, where 
are already the beast (Nero) and the false prophets (?) 
and where all the cursed go thenceforth to be tormented 
night and day through the ages of ages. 

Creation has now accomplished its task. There remains 
nothing more but to proceed to the last judgment. A 
throne shining with light appears, and upon this throne 
the supreme judge. At sight of him the heaven and the 
earth fled away, there was no more place found for 
them. The dead, great and small, are raised again. 
Death and Sheol give up their prey ; the saa on its side 
gives up the drowned, which, devoured by it, had not 


regularly descended into Sheol. All appear before the 
throne. The great books are opened, and in them there 
is a rigorous account kept of the actions of every man. 
They open also another book, "the Book of Life," wherein 
are written the names of those fore-ordained. Then all 
are judged according to their works. Those whose names 
are not found written in the Book of Life are cast into 
the furnace of fire. Death and hell are likewise cast 
into it. 

Evil being destroyed without recovery, the reign of 
absolute good begins. The old earth and the old heaven 
have disappeared ; a new earth and a new heaven 
succeed them, and " there was no more sea." That 
earth and that heaven are nothing, nevertheless, but a 
regeneration of the present earth and heaven, and even 
Jerusalem, which was the pearl, the gem of the whole 
earth, this same Jerusalem shall still be the radiant 
centre of the new. The apostle saw this new Jerusalem 
ascending out of heaven from God, clothed like a bride 
prepared for her husband. A great voice comes forth 
from the throne, " Behold the tabernacle of God will 
dwell with men." Men shall be still henceforth his 
people and he shall be present always in the midst of 
them, and he shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, 
and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any 
more grief, nor cries, nor sorrows, for all that has passed 
away. Jehovah himself takes the word to promulgate 
the law of this eternal world. " It is done, behold, I 
make all things new, I am the A and fl, 1 am the 
beginning and the end. To him who is athirst I will 
give to drink freely of the water of life. The conqueror 
shall possess all these good things and I will be his 
God, and he shall be my son. As to the fearful, the 
unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, fornicators, 
authors of wicked deeds, idolaters, and liars, their part 
shall be in the lake of brimstone and fire." An angel 
approached the Seer and said to him, " Come I will shew 
thee the bride of the Lamb," and he led him in spirit to 


a high mountain from which he shewed him in detail 
the ideal Jerusalem, permeated and clothed with the 
glory of God. His appearance was that of a crystalline 
jasper Its form is that of a perfect square of three 
thousand stadia each side, orientated according to the 
four winds of heaven, and surrounded by a wall forty- 
four cubits high, pierced by twelve gates. At each 
gate watches an angel, and above is written the name 
of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The foundation 
of the wall has twelve settings of stones; upon each of 
the foundations shines the names of the twelve apostles 
of the Lamb. Each of these foundations is ornamented 
with precious stones, the first of jasper, the second 
sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the 
fifth sardonyx, the sixth cornelian, the seventh chrysolite, 
the eighth aquamarine, the ninth topaz, the tenth 
chrysoprasus, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth an 
amethyst. The wall itself is of jasper, the city is of 
pure gold like transparent glass, the gates are composed 
of a single large pearl. There was no temple in the 
city ; for God himself and the Lamb serve as a temple. 
The throne which the prophet at the opening of his 
revelation has seen- in heaven is now in the midst of 
the city : that is to say, in the centre of a regenerated 
and harmoniously organized humanity. Upon this 
t hi one are seated God and the Lamb. Prom the base 
of the throne flows the river of life, brilliant and 
transparent as crystal. On its banks grows the tree of 
life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, a kind for each 
month ; these fruits appear reserved for the Israelites ; 
the leaves have medicinal virtues for the healing of the 
Gentiles. The city has no need of either the sun or the 
moon to shine on it ; for the glory of God lightens it, 
and its light is the Lamb. The nations walk in its 
light ; the kings of the earth do homage to him with 
their glory, and its gates are not shut either day or 
night, so great shall be the wealth of -those who shall 
come to bring their tribute there. Nothing impure, 


nothing that defiles shall enter there ; all those who are 
written in the Lamb s book of life shall find a place 
there. There shaP exist no longer any religious 
division or curse ; the pure worship of God and the 
Lamb shall gather together the whole world. At every 
moment its servants shall enjoy his presence and his 
name shall be written in their foreheads. This reign of 
good shall last through the ages of ages. 




The work then closes with this epilogue : 

And I John am he that heard and saw these things. 
And when I heard and saw I fell down to worship before 
the feet of the angel which shewed me these things". And 
he saith unto me, see thou do it not ; I am a fellow 
servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, 
and with them which keep the words of this book ; 
worship God. And he saith unto me, seal not up the 
words of the prophecy of this book. For the time is at 
hand. He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness 
still : and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still : 
and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still : 
and he that is holy let him be made holy still. 

A distant voice, the voice of Jesus himself, is supposed 
to reply to these promises and to guarantee them. 

Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me to 
render to each man according as his work is. I am the Alpha 
and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and 
the end. Blessed are they that wash their robes, that 
they may have the right to come to the tree of life and 
may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are 
the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the 
murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone that loveth 
and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to 
testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the 
root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning 

Then the voices of heaven and those of earth cross 
each other and arrive moriendo in a finale of complete 
sympathy : 

And the spirit and the bride say come, and he that 
heareth, let him say, come. And he that is athirst let 
him come : he that will, let him take the water of life freely. 


I testify unto every man tJiat heareth the words of the 
prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto them, God 
shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book. 
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of 
this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree oflife t 
smd out of the holy city which are written in this book. 

He which testifieth these things saith, Yea, I come 
quickly, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the 
Lord Jesus be with you all, Amen. 

There is no doubt that, presented under cover of the 
most venerated name in Christianity, the Apocalypse 
made upon the Churches of Asia a very deep impression. 
A crow.d of details now become obscure, were clear to 
his contemporaries. His bold announcement of an 
approaching convulsion was not all surprising. Dis 
courses, not less formal, attributed to Jesus, were spread 
abroad every day and accepted. For a year, besides, the 
events of the world would present a marvellous confir 
mation of the Book. About the 1st February the death 
of Galba and the accession of Otho became known in 
Asia. Then each day brought some apparent indication 
of the breaking up of the empire ; the powerlessness of 
Otho became known through all the provinces ; Vitellius 
maintaining his title against Kome and the Senate, the 
two bloody battles of Bedriac, Otho deserted in his turn, 
the accession of Vespasian, the battle in the streets of 
Eome, the fire in the Capitol lit by the combatants, a 
fire from which many concluded that the destinies of 
liome were drawing to a close; everything would appear 
astonishingly conformable to the gloomy predictions of 
the prophet. The deceptions did not begin till the taking 
of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the 
final termination of the Flavian dynasty But religious 
faith is never cast down in its hopes ; the work besides 
was obscure and susceptible in many passages of 
different interpretations. Thus a few years after the 
publication of the book a different meaning was attached 
to many chapters from that which the author had 
intended. The author had announced that the Eoman 


empire would not be reconstituted, and that the temple 
of Jerusalem would not be destroyed. It was necessary 
on these two points to find some way of escape. As to 
the reappearance of Nero, that was not renounced so 
readily ; even under Trajan, a certain class of people 
obstinately believed that he would return. For a long 
time they kept up the idea of the number of the beast. 
A variant was spread abroad even in Western 
countries for the accommodation of that number to Latin 
latitudes. Certain copies bear 6 16 instead of 666. Now 
616 answers to the Latin form, Nero Ccesar (the Hebrew 
noun counting fifty). 

During the three first centuries the general meaning 
of the book was preserved at least for some initiated 
persons. The author of the Sibylline poem, which is 
dated a little before the year 80, if he had not read 
the prophesy of Patmos, had heard it spoken of. He 
sees in it quite an analagous order of ideas ; he knows 
what the sixth vial signifies. For him Nero is the 
Anti-Messiah : the monster has fled beyond the 
Euphrates; he will return with thousands of men. 
The author of the apocalypse of Esdras, (a work 
dating from certainly the year 96, 97, or 98), notori 
ously imitates the apocalypse of John, employs his 
symbolic process, his notations, and his language. 
We can say as much of the Ascension f Isaiah (a work 
of the second century), where Nero, the incarnation 
of Belial, plays a rdle which proves that the author 
knew the number of the beast. The authors of the 
Sibylline poems, which date from the time of the 
Antonines, penetrate likewise the enigmas of the 
apostolic manifesto, and adopted their Utopias, even 
those which, like the return of Nero, were decidedly 
smitten with decay. St. Justin and Melito appear 
to have had a nearly complete knowledge of the book. 
We can say as much of Oommodian who (about 250) 
mingled with his interpretation some elements from 
source, but who does not for an instant doubt 



that Nero, the Anti-Christ, will be raised from hell to 
carry on a final conflict against Christianity, and who 
conceived the destruction of Rome-Babylon exactly 
as it was conceived of two hundred years before. 
Lastly, Victorinus of Pettau (died 303) comments upon 
the Apocalypse with a very correct sentiment. He knew 
perfectly that Nero raised again was the real Anti- 
Christ. As to the number of the beast it was lost 
probably before the beginning of the second century. 
Ironaeus (about 190) deceives himself grossly upon 
this point, as also upon some others of major import 
ance and opens the series of chimerical commentaries 
and arbitary symbolisms. Some subtle peculiarities, 
such as the meaning of the false prophet and Arm 
ageddon, were lost at an early date. 

After the reconciliation of the empire and the 
church, in the fourth century, the fortune of the 
Apocalypse was gravely compromised. The Greek 
and Latin doctors, who no longer separated the future 
of Christianity from that of the empire, could not 
admit as inspired a book whose fundamental basis was 
hatred of Rome and a prediction of the end of its 
ruler. Nearly every enlightened portion of the Eastern 
church which had received a Hellenic education, full 
of dislike to the Millenarian and Judeo Christian 
writings declared the Apocalypse apocryphal. The- 
book had taken in the Greek and Latin New Testament 
such a strong position that it was impossible to expel 
it ; men had recourse, to disembarrass themselves of the 
objections which it raised, to feats of exegetical 
power. Yet the evidence was crushing The Latins, 
less opposed than the Greek to milieu arianism, con 
tinued to identify Anti-Christ with Nero. Up to the 
time of Charlemagne, there was a sort of tradition of 
that kind. St. Beat of Liebana, who commented on 
the Apocalypse in 786, affirms, by mixing up, it is true, 
more than one inconsequence, that the beast of chapters 
xiii. and xvii., which should reappear at the head of 


ten kings to destroy the City of Rome, is Nero, the 
Anti- Christ. For a momemt even there are two 
elements of the principle which, in the nineteenth 
century, shall lead the critics to the true computation 
of the Emperors and the fixing of the date of the 

It was not till about the twelfth century, when 
the Middle Ages threw themselves into the path of a 
scholastic rationalism, little concerned with the tradi 
tion of the Fathers, that the meaning of the vision of 
John was at all compromised. Joachim of Flores 
may be considered as the first who carried the Apo 
calypse boldly into the field of boundless imagination, 
and sought, under the bizarre figures of a circumstantial 
writing, which limited its horizon to three and a-half 
years, the secret of the entire future of humanity. 

The chimerical commentaries to which this false idea 
gave rise have thrown on the book an unjust discredit. 
The Apocalypse has taken again in our days, thanks to 
a sounder exegesis, the high place which belongs to it 
in the sacred writings. The Apocalypse is, in a sense, 
the seal of prophecy, the last word of Israel. When 
we read in the ancient prophets, in Joel, for example, 
the description of "the day of Jehovah," that is of 
the grand assize which the supreme judge of human 
things holds from time to time, to restore the order 
constantly disturbed by men, we find there the germ 
of the Patmos vision. Every historic revolution or 
convulsion became, to the fancy of the Jew, determined 
to pass from the immortality of the soul and to establish 
the reign of justice on the earth, a providential force, 
the prelude of a judgment much more solemn and final 
still. At each event a prophet rose, crying : " Sound, 
sound the trumpet in Zion ; for the day of Jehovah 
comes ; it is near." The Apocalypse is the sequel and 
the crown of this strange literature, which is the proper 
glory of Israel. Its author is the last great prophet : 
he is only inferior to his predecessors because he 


imitates them; it is the same soul, the same mind 
The Apocalypse presents the nearly unique phenomena 
of a pastiche of genius, of an original cento. If we 
except two or three inventions peculiar to the author 
and of marvellous beauty, the entire poem is made up 
of features borrowed from the earlier prophetic and 
apocalyptic literature, especially from Ezekiel, from 
the author of the books of Daniel and the two Isaiahs. 
The Christian Seer is the true disciple of these great 
men ; he knows their writings by heart, and draws 
from them the last results. He is the brother (less 
the serenity and harmony) of that marvellous poet of 
the time of the captivity of that second Isaiah, whose 
luminous soul appears as if impregnated (six hundred 
years in advance) with all the dew and all the perfumes 
of the future. 

Like the larger number of people who possess a 
brilliant past literature, Israel lived in pictures conse 
crated by its old and wonderful literature. They were 
not composed of much else than scraps from the 
ancient texts : Christian poetry, for example, knew no 
other literary process. But when passion is sincere 
the form, even the most artificial, takes from the 
beauty. The Words of a Believer are in regard to the 
Apocalypse what the Apocalypse is in regard to the 
ancient prophets, and yet the Words of a Believer is 
a book of real effect ; one never can re-read it without 
lively emotion. 

The dogmas of the time present, like the style, some 
thing artificial ; but they correspond to a deep feeling. 
The process of theological elaboration consists in a bold 
transposition, applying to the reign of Messiah and to 
Jesus every phrase of the ancient writings which 
appears susceptible of a vague relation with an obscure 
ideal. As the exegesis which presides over these 
Messianic combinations was thoroughly mediocre, the 
singular formations of which we speak imply often 
grave contradictions. That is seen especially in the 


passages of the Apocalypse concerning Q-og and Magog, 
if we compare these with the parallel passages in 
Ezekiel. According to Ezekiel, Grog, king of Magog, 
shall come " in the end of the time * when the people 
of Israel shall have returned from the captivity and are 
established in Palestine, to make a war of extermina 
tion with them. Already, about the time of the 
Greek translators of the Bible and of the composition 
of the book of Daniel, the expression which marks 
simply in the classical Hebrew an unfixed future 
signifies " at the end of the time," and is no longer 
applied except to the time of the Messiah. The author 
of the Apocalypse is led from this to connect chapters 
xxxviii. and xxxix. of Ezekiel with the Messianic times, 
and to look on Gog and Magog as the representatives 
of the barbarian and heathen world which shall survive 
the ruin of Home, and shall co-exist with the millennial 
reign of Christ and his saints. 

This method of creation by the outer way, if I may 
say so, this fashion of combining by means of an 
exegesis of appropriation phrases taken from here 
and there, and of constructing a new theology by this 
arbitrary play is found again in the Apocalypse in 
everything that regards the mystery of the end of 
time. The theory of the Apocalypse on this point is 
distinguished by essential features from that which we 
find in St. Paul, and from that which the synoptical 
gospels place in the mouth of Jesus. St. Paul seems, 
it is true, sometimes to believe in the reign of Christ 
during the time which should be before the last end of 
all things, but he never becomes so precise as our 
author. In fact, according to the Apocalypse, the 
coming of the future reign of Christ is very near it 
ought to follow closely on the destruction of the 
Homan empire The martyrs shall alone be raised 
again in this first resurrection : the rest of the dead 
shall not rise yet. Such absurdities were the result of 
the slow and incoherent manner in which Israel formed 


its ideas on the other life. We may say that the Jews 
have only been led to the dogma of immortality by the 
necessity of such a dogma to give a meaning to martyr 
dom. In the second book of the Maccabees, the seven 
young martyrs and their mother are strong in the 
belief that they shall rise again, while Antiochus shall 
not rise. It is in connection with these legendary 
heroes that we find in Jewish literature the first clear 
affirmations of an eternal life, and in particular this 
fine formula : " Those who die for God live in God s 
sight." We even see a certain tendency leaning 
towards the creation for them of a sort of special outer 
tomb, and for ranging themselves near the throne of 
God, " from then to the present," without awaiting the 
resurrection. Tacitus, on his side, made the remark 
that the Jews did not claim immortality but for the 
souls of those who had died in the combats or in the 

The reign of Christ with his martyrs takes place on 
the earth, at Jerusalem, doubtless in the midst of 
nations not converted, but bound in respect towards the 
saints. It will last a thousand years. After these 
thousand years there shall be a new reign of Satan 
over the barbarous nations, whom the Church would 
not have converted; he shall make horrible wars, and 
be on the point of crushing the Church itself. God 
will exterminate them, and then there will come " the 
second resurrection," that is the general, and the last 
judgment, which shall be followed by the end of the 
world. It is the doctrine which has been styled 
"millenarianism,"a doctrine spread soon in the first three 
centuries, which never could become dormant in the 
Church, but which has re- appeared constantly at 
different periods ip her history, and is supported by 
texts much more ancient and formal than those which 
support many other dogmas universally accepted. It 
was the result of a materialistic exegesis, ruled by the 
need of finding true both the phrases in which the 


kingdom of God was presented as being to endure 
"through the age of ages," and those in which, to 
express the indefinite length of the Messianic reign, it 
was said that it should last "a thousand years." 
According to the rule of the interpreters, who are 
called harmonists, they put end to end in a clumsy 
manner the data which can be made to coincide quite 
properly. They were guided in the choice of the 
number thousand by a combination of passages from 
Psalms, whence there appears to result " that a day of 
Gfod equals a thousand years." Among the Jews is 
also found the thought that the reign of Messiah shall 
not be the blessed eternity, but an era of felicity during 
the ages which precede the end of the world. Many 
rabbis hold, like the author of the Apocalypse, the 
duration of this reign of a thousand years. The author 
of the epistle attributed to Barnabas declares that, just 
as the creation took place in six days, in the same way 
the accomplishment of the destiny of the world shall 
Ye completed in six thousand years (a day for God 
being equivalent to a thousand years), and that after 
wards, even as God rested on the seventh day, so also, 
" when His son shall come, and he shall abolish the 
age of iniquity and judge the impious and change the 
sun and moon and all the stars, he shall rest again on 
the seventh day." This is equivalent to saying he 
shall reign a thousand years, the reign of the Messiah 
being always compared to the Sabbath, which ends by 
rest the gradual agitations of the development of the 
universe, The idea of the eternity of individual life is 
so little familiar to the Jews that the era of future 
rewards is, according to them, confined to a number of 
years, doubtless considerable, but yet coming to an 

The Persian aspect of these dreams can be perceived 
at the first glance. Millenarianism, and, if it can be 
so expressed, apocalypticism have flourished in Iran 
for a very long time back. At the bottom of the 


Zoroastrian ideas there is a tendency to number the 
ages of the world, to reckon the periods of universal 
life by h tzars, that is by millions of years, to conceive 
of a reign of salvation which shall be the final crown 
ing of the trials of humanity. These ideas, joined 
to the statements as to the future which fill the 
ancient Hebrew prophets, became the soul of Jewish 
theology in the ages which preceded our era. The 
Apocalypses especially were penetrated by this ; the 
revelations attributed to Daniel, Enoch, and Moses 
are nearly all from Persian books, from their style, 
doctrine, and images. Is that to say that the authors 
of these extraordinary books had read the Zend 
writings, such as existed in their time ? Not at all. 
These borrowings were indirect : they arose from what 
the Jewish fancy had tinged with the colours of Iran. 
It was the same with the apocalypse of John. The 
author of this apocalypse had no direct connection 
with Persia any more than any other Christian; the 
foreign data which he brought into his book were 
already incorporated with the traditional midraschim ; 
our Seer takes them from the atmosphere in which 
he lived. The fact is that since Hoschedar and 
Hoschedar-mah, the two prophets who preceded 
Sosiosch, up to the plagues which smote the world 
on the eve of the great days, up to the wars of the 
kings with each other, which shall be signs of the 
last struggle, all the elements on the apocalyptic 
stage are found again in the Parsi theory as to the 
end of the world. The seven heavens, the seven 
angels, the seven Spirits of God, who recur constantly 
in the vision of Patmos, transport us into full 
Parsiism, -and even beyond that. The hieratic 
and apostolic meaning of the number seven appears 
indeed to have its origin in the Babylonian doctrine 
of the seven planets ruling the fate of men and of 
empires. Some resemblances more striking still are 
to ho noted in the mvstery of the seven seals. Just 



as, according to the Assyrian mythology, each of the 
seven tables of fate was dedicated to one of the 
planets ; in the same way the seven seals have singular 
relations to the seven planets, with the days of the 
week, and with the colours which the Babylonians 
associated with the planets. The white horse, indeed, 
answers to the Moon, the red horse to Mars, the bla^k 
horse to Mercury, and the yellow horse to Jupiter. 

The defects of such a system are manifest, and it 
was attempted in vain to hide them. Some hard and 
glaring colours, a complete absence of all plastic senti 
ment, harmony sacrificed to symbolism, something 
crude, bitter, and inorganic, made the Apocalypse the 
perfect antipodes of the Greek chef d ceuvre, whose type 
is the living beauty of the body of the man or woman. 
A sort of materialism lessens the most ideal conceptions 
of the author. He piles up gold : he has, like the 
Orientals, an immoderate taste for precious stones. 
His heavenly Jerusalem is awkward, puerile, impos 
sible, in contradiction to all the good rules of architec 
ture, which are those of reason. He makes it brilliant 
to the eyes, and he does not dream of having it sculp 
tured by a Phidias. God, likewise, is for him " a 
smargdine vision," a sort of huge diamond, flashing 
a thousand fires on a throne. Assuredly Jupiter 
Olympus was a symbol much superior to that. The 
error which too often has led away Christian art 
towards rich decoration finds its root in the Apocalypse. 
A temple of Jesuits, in gold or in lapis-lazuli, is more 
beautiful than the Parthenon, if we were to admit this 
idea, that the liturgical use of a precious article glorifies 

A most troublesome feature was this gloomy hatred 
of the profane world, which is common to our author 
and to all the makers of apocalypses, especially the 
author of the book of Enoch. His harshness, his pas 
sionate and unjust judgments on Roman society, shock 
us, and justify to a certain extent those who summed 


up the new doctrine as odium humani generis. The 
virtuous poor man is always a little inclined to look on 
the world which he does not know as more wicked than 
that world is in reality The crimes of the rich and 
of people at court appear to him peculiarly gross. 
That sort of virtuous anger, which certain barbarians, 
such as the Vandals, showed four hundred years later 
against civilisation, the Jews of the prophetic and 
apocalyptic school had in a very high degree. They 
feel among them a remainder of the old spirits of the 
nomads, whose ideal is patriarchal life, a profound 
aversion to the great cities regarded as the focus of 
corruption, and an ardent jealousy against the power 
ful States, founded on a military principle of which 
they are incapable, and which they do not admit. 

This is what has made the Apocalypse a dangerous 
book in some points of view. It is the book par excel 
lence of the proud Jew. According to its author, the 
distinction between Jews and heathens will continue 
even in the kingdom of God. While the twelve tribes 
eat of the fruit of the tree of life, the Gentiles must be 
content with a medicinal concoction of its leaves. The 
author looks on the Gentiles, even believing in Jesus, 
even martyrs of Jesus, as strangers introduced into the 
family of Israel, as plebeians admitted by grace to 
connect themselves with an aristocracy. His Messiah 
is essentially the Jewish Messiah ; Jesus is for him 
beyond everything the good David, a product of the 
Church of Israel, a member of the holy family which 
God had chosen ; it is the Church of Israel which work? 
the saving work by this elect coming forth from it? 
bosom. Every practice capable of establishing a bond 
between the pure race and the heathen (eating ordinary 
food, the practice of marriage in the ordinary condi 
tions) appeared to him an abomination. The heathen, 
as a whole, are, in his eyes, wretches, polluted by all 
crimes, and who can only be governed by terror. 
The real world is the kingdom of devils. The disciples 


of Paul are disciples of lialaam and Jezebel. Paul 
himself has no place among the twelve apostles of the 
Lamb," the only foundation of God s Church ; and the 
Church of Ephesus, the creation of Paul, is praised for 
having tried those who say they are apostles without 
being so, and to have found out that they are only liars. 

All this is very far from the Gospel of Jesus. The 
author is too passionate, he sees everything through 
the veil of a sanguine apoplexy, or the gleam of a fire. 
What was most lugubrious at Paris on the 25th May, 
1871, was not the flames, it was the general colour of 
the city, when seen from an elevated position : a yellow 
and false tone, a sort of flat paleness. Such is the 
light with which our author colours ..iis vision. 
Nothing resembles it less than the pure sun of Galilee. 
We feel from the present time that the apocalyptic 
species, no more than the species of the epistles, shall 
not be of the literary form which shall convert the 
world. There are these little collections of sentences 
and parables which are disdained by exact traditionist;. , 
that memory-help by which the less educated and the 
least well instructed set forth for their own personal 
use what they know" of the acts and words of Jesus, 
who are destined to be the reading the charm of the 
feature. The simple framework of the anecdotal life 
of Jesus has manifestly done more to enchant the 
world than the painful piling up of apocalypses and the 
touching exhortations in the letters of apostles. So 
true is that Jesus, Jesus only, had in the mysterious 
work of the Christian growth, always the great, the 
triumphant, and decisive part. Each book, each 
Christian institution is valued in proportion to what 
it contains of Jesus. The synoptical gospels, where 
Jesus is alone, and of which it may be said he is the 
true author, are par excellence the Christian book, the 
eternal book. 

Yet the Apocalypse occupies in the sacred canon a 
legitimate place in many points of view. A book of 


menaces and terror, it gives a body to the gloomy 
antithesis which the Christian conscience, moved by 
a deep aesthetic, would oppose to Jesus. If the Gospel 
is the book of Jesus, the Apocalypse is the book of 
Nero. Thanks to the Apocalypse, Nero has for 
Christianity the importance of a second founder. His 
odious face has been inseparable from that of Jesus. 
Increasing century by century, the author coming 
forth from the nightmare of the year 64, has become 
the bugbear of the Christian conscience, the gloomy 
giant of the world s night. A folio book of 500 pages 
has been composed on its birth and education, its vices, 
riches, caskets, perfumes, women, doctrines, miracles, 
and festivals. 

Antichrist has ceased to frighten us, and the book of 
Malvenda has no longer many readers. We know that 
the end of the world is not so near as the illummati of 
the first century believed it, and that that end shall 
not be a sudden catastrophe. It shall take place 
calmly, in millions of years, when our system shall not 
repair its losses sufficiently, and when the earth shall 
have used up the treasure of the old sun warehoused 
like a provision for the journey in its depths. Before 
this exhaustion of planetary capital, will humanity 
attain to perfect knowledge which is nothing else than 
the power of mastering the forces of the world, or even 
the earth an experience wanting among so many 
millions of others ; will it freeze before the problem 
which shall kill death has been solved ? We know not/ 
But, with the Seer of Patmos, beyond changing alterna 
tives, we shall discover the ideal, and we affirm that this 
ideal shall be realised some day. Across the clouds of a 
universe in their state of embryo, we perceive the laws 
of the progress of life, She consciousness of going on 
increasing unceasingly, and the possibility of a con 
dition in which all shall be in a definitive being (Gfod) 
what the innumerable boughs of the tree are in the 
tree, what the myriads of cells of the living being are 


in the living being in a condition, I say, in which 
the life of everything shall be complete, and in 
which the persons who have been revived in the 
life of God, shall see, shall enjoy in Him, singing in 
Him an eternal Alleluia. Whatever may be the form 
under which each of us may conceive of this future 
event of the absolute, the Apocalypse cannot fail to 
please us. It. expresses symbolically that fundamental 
thought that God is, but especially that He shall be. 
The features are heavy there, and the contour paltry ; it is 
tae thick pencil of a child tracing, with a tool it cannot 
use, the design of a city it has never seen. His naive 
picture of the city of God, a grand toy of gold and 
pearls, remains no less an element of our dreams. 
Paul has better said no doubt when he sums up the 
final goal of the universe in these words : " That God 
may be all in all." But for a long time humanity 
yet shall have need of a God to dwell with them, have 
compassion on their trials, take account of their 
struggles, and " wipe away all tears from their eyes. 

244 TU1 



The spectacle of the world, as we have already said, 
only answered too well to the dreams of the Seer of 
Patmos. The government of the military Coups d Etat, 
bore its fruits. Politics were in the camps, and the 
empire was at auction. There had been some assemblies 
during Nero s time, where there could be seen gathered 
together seven future emperors and the father of an 
eighth. The real republican, Virginius, who wished the 
empire for the senate and the people, was only a 
Utopian. Galba, an old honest general, who refused to 
lend himself to these military orgies, was soon destroyed. 
The soldiers for a moment had the idea of killing all 
the senators, to make the government easy. Eoman 
unity appeared on the point of being broken up. It 
was not only among the Christians that such a 
tragical situation inspired sinister predictions. Men 
spoke of a child with three heads, born at Syracuse in 
68, and in whom people saw the symbol of the 
three emperors who ruled for less than a year, and 
who existed together all three for many hours. 

Some days after the prophet of Asia had written his 
strange work, Galba was killed, and Otho proclaimed 
(15th January, 69). That was like a resurrection of 
Nero. Grave, economic, and disagreeable, Galba was in 
everything the contrary of him whom he replaced. If 
he had succeeded in making good his adoption of Piso, he 
would have been a sort of Nerva, and the series of the 
philosophic emperors would have begun thirty years 
sooner ; but the detestable school of Nero prevailed. 
Otho resembled that monster ; the soldiers and all 


those who had loved Nero made him their idol. They 
had seen him by the side of the deceased emperor, 
playing the part of first of his minions, and rivalling 
him by his affectation of ostentatious debaucheries, his 
vices and mad prodigalities. The lower classes gave him 
from the first day the name of Nero, and it appears as if 
he took it himself in some letters. He allowed them in 
any case to set up statues to the Beast ; he re-established 
the Neronian coterie in the great places, and announced 
loudly as before to continue the principles inaugurated 
by the last reign. The first act he signed was to 
secure the completion of the Golden House. 

What is sadder is that the political lowering which had 
taken place did not give security. The ignoble Vitellius 
had been proclaimed some days before Otho (2nd January, 
69) in Germany. He did not desist. A horrible civil 
war, such as had not been since that between Augustus 
and Antony, appeared inevitable. The public imagin 
ation was much excited ; people only saw frightful 
prognostics ; the crimes of the soldiery spread terror 
everywhere. Never had such a year been seen ; the 
world sweated blood. The first battle of Bedriac, 
which left the empire to Vitellius alone, (about 15th 
April) cost the lives of 80,000 men. The disbanded 
legionaries pillaged the country, and fought among 
themselves. The people mixed themselves up with 
them ; one would have imagined it was the breaking up 
of society. At the same time the astrologers and the 
charlatans of all sorts swarmed ; the city of Rome was 
theirs ; reason appeared confounded in presence of a 
deluge of crimes and follies, which defied all philosophy. 
Certain words of Jesus which the Christians repeated 
quite low, kept them in a sort of continual fever ; the 
fate of Jerusalem was especially with them the object of 
an ardent pre-occupation. 

The East, indeed, was not less troubled than the West. 
We have seen that at the opening of the month of June 
of the year 68, the military operations of the Eomans 


against Jerusalem were suspended. Anarchy and 
fanaticism did not diminish for that matter among the 
Jews. The violent acts of John of Gischala and some 
zealots rose to their height. John s authority existed 
chiefly over a corps of Galileans who committed all 
imaginable excesses. The Jerusalem ites often rose and 
forced John with his brigands to take refuge in the 
temple ; but they feared him so much that, to preserve 
themselves from him, they believed themselves obliged 
to oppose a rival to him. Simon, son of Gioras, originally 
from Gerasa, who was distinguished from the commence 
ment of the war, had rilled Idurnea with his acts of 
brigandage. Already he had had to struggle with the 
zealots, and twice he had appeared threateningly at the 
gates of Jerusalem. He came back there for the third 
time when the people called him, believing thus to put 
themselves under the shelter of a man offensive to 
John. This new master entered Jerusalem in the 
month of March, of the year 69. John of Gischala 
remained in possession of the temple. The two chiefs 
sought to surpass each other in ferocity. The Jew is 
cruel, when he is master. The brother of the Cartha 
ginian* at the last hour, shows himself in his natural 
state. This people has always included an admirable 
minority ; there lies its greatness ; but never has there 
been seen in a group of men so much jealousy, so much 
ardour in the extermination of each other. Arrived at 
a certain degree of exasperation, the Jew is capable of 
everything, even against his religion. The history of 
Israel shows us people enraged against each other. We 
can say of this race the good we wish and the evil 
which we wish, without ceasing to be right ; for, let us 
repeat it, the good Jew is an excellent being, and the 
bad Jew a detestable being. It is this that explains the 
possibility of this phenomenon, apparently inconceivable, 
that the gospel idyll and the horrors recounted by 
Josephus have been realities in the same land, among 
the same people, about the same time. 



Vespasian, during this time, remained inactive in 
Cesarea. His son Titus had succeeded in engaging him 
in a network of intrigues, cunningly combined. Under 
Galba, Titus had hoped to see himself adopted by the 
old emperor. After the death of Galba, he saw that he 
could not arrive at the supreme power except as 
successor to his father. With the art of the most con 
summate policy he knew how to turn the chances in 
favour of a grave, honest general, without distinction, 
without personal ambition, who did nearly nothing to 
aid his own fortune. All the East contributed to it. 
Mucian and the legions of Syria impatiently endured 
the sight of the legions of the West disposing alone of 
the empire ; they pretended to make him emperor in 
their turn. Now Mucian, a sort of sceptic more zealous 
in disposing of the power than in exercising it, did not 
wish the purple for himself. In spite of his old age, 
his middle-class birth, his second-rate intelligence, 
Vespasian found himself designated thus. Titus, who 
was twenty-eight years of age, raised besides by his 
merits, his address, his activity, what the talent of his 
father had obscured. After Otho s death, the legions 
of the east took only with regret the oath to Vitellius. 
The insolence of the soldiers of Germany revolted them. 
They had made them believe that Vitellius wished to 
send his favourite legions into Syria, and to transport 
over the borders of the Ehine the legions of Syria, 
beloved in this country, and to which many alliances 
had attached them. 

Nero, besides, although dead, continued to hold the 
die of human things, and the fable of his resurrection 
was not without some truth, as a metaphor. His party 
survived him. Vitellius, after Otho, placed himself to 
the great joy of the little people as a declared admirer, 
imitator, and avenger of Nero. He protested that, in 
his opinion, Nero had given the model of the best 
government of the republic. He made him magnificent 
funeral obsequies, ordered some pieces of his music to 


be played, and at the first note, rose transported, to 
give the signal for applause. Eeasonable and honest 
people, fatigued by these miserable parodies of an 
abhorred reign, wished for a strong reaction against Nero, 
against his men, against his buildings ; they demanded 
especially the rehabilitation of the noble victims of 
tyranny. They knew that the Flavii conscientiously 
played this role. In fine, the indigenous princes of 
Syria pronounced strongly for a chief in whom they 
saw a protector against the fanaticism of the revolted 
Jews. Agrippa II. and Berenice, his sister, were body 
and soul with the two Eoman generals. Berenice, 
although forty years of age, gained Titus by some secrets 
against which an ambitious young man, a worker, a 
stranger to the great world, only preoccupied up till now 
with his own advancement, could not protect himself. 
She succeeded also with the old Vespasian by hei 
amiabilities and her presents. The two roturier leaders, 
up till then poor and simple, were seduced by the 
aristocratic charm of a woman wonderfully beautiful, 
and by the exterior of a brilliant world they knew 
nothing of. The passion which Titus conceived for 
Berenice did not in any wise injure his concerns ; 
everything indicates, on the contrary, that he found in 
this woman, accomplished in the intrigues of the east, 
one of the most useful agents. Thanks to her the little 
kings of Emesa, Sophena, and Comagena, all relatives or 
allies of the Herods, and more or less converted to 
Judaism, were gained over by this complot. The Jewish 
renegade, Tiberius Alexander, prefect of Egypt, entered 
fully into it. The Parthians even declared themselves 
ready to uphold Titus. 

What was most extraordinary in this is that the 
moderate Jews, such as Josephus, adhered to him also, 
and wished with all their strength to apply to the 
Eoman general the ideas by which they were prepossessed. 
We have seen that the Jewish surroundings of Nero 
had succeeded in persuading him that, dethroned at 


Rome, he would find at Jerusalem a new kingdom, 
which would make him the greatest potentate on the 
earth. Josephus pretends that from the year 67, at the 
time when he was made prisoner by the Romans, he 
predicted to Vespasian the future which awaited him 
according to certain texts in his sacred scriptures. By 
dint of repeating their prophecies, the Jews had made a 
great number of people believe, even some who were 
not connected with their sect, that the East would gain, 
and that the master of the world would soon come from 
Judea. Already Virgil had lulled to sleep the vague 
sadnesses of his melancholy imagination by applying to 
his time a Cumosum carmen, which appears to have had 
some relation to the oracles of the second Isaiah. The 
Magi, the Chaldeans, and astrologers also talked of the 
belief in a star of the East ; the messenger of a king of 
the Jews reserved for high destinies. The Christians 
took these chimeras quite seriously. Prophecy had a 
double meaning like all oracles ; it appeared sufficiently 
justified if the heads of the legions of Syria, established 
some leagues from Jerusalem, obtained the empire in 
Syriain consequence of Assyrian movements. Vespasian 
and Titus, surrounded by Jews, lent an ear to this 
discourse, and were pleased by it. While exercising 
their military talent against the fanatics of Jerusalem, 
the two generals had a considerable liking for Judaism, 
studied it, and shewed a deference towards the Jewish 
books. Josephus had penetrated some time before into 
their familiar society, especially that of Titus, by his 
gentle, facile, and insinuating character. He boasted to 
them of his law, related to them old Biblical stories 
which he often put in Greek, and spoke mysteriously of 
the prophecies. Some other Jews entered into the same 
sentiments, and made Vespasian accept a sort of 
Messianic position. Some miracles were joined to this ; 
there is mention of cures very analogous to those 
described in the Gospels wrought by this Christ of a nev 


kind. The heathen priests of Phenicia did not wish to 
remain behind in this nattering concourse. The oracle 
of Paphos and the oracle of Carmel maintained that 
they had announced the advancement of the fortunes of 
the Flavii. The consequences of all this developed 
themselves at a later date. Having had the help of 
Syria, the Flavian emperors were much more open than 
the disdainful Caesars to Syrian ideas. Christianity 
penetrated to the very heart of this family; some 
adherents were reckoned there, and thanks to this it shall 
enter on a phase of its destinies quite new. Toward 
the end of the Spring of 69 Vespasian appeared to wish 
to leave the military idleness in which policy held him. 
On the 29th of April he took the field and appeared 
with his cavalry before Jersualem. During this time 
Cerealis, one of his lieutenants, burned Hebron. All 
Judea submitted to the Komans except Jerusalem and 
the three castles of Masada, Herodium, and Machero, 
occupied by the brigands. These four places needed 
arduous sieges. Vespasian and Titus hesitated to enter 
on that work in the precarious state in which they then 
were, on the eve of a new civil war in which they would 
have need of all their forces. Thus was prolonged for a 
year the revolution, which, for three years back, had 
held Jerusalem in the condition of the most extraordinary 
crisis of which history has preserved the recollection. 

On the 1st July, Tiberius Alexander proclaimed 
Vespasian at Alexandria, and caused the oath to be 
taken to him ; on the 3rd, the army of Judea saluted 
him as Augustus at Cesarea ; Mucian, at Antioeh, 
caused him to be recognised by the Syrian legions, and 
on the 15th all the East submitted to him. A congress 
was held at Beyrout, at which it was decided that 
Mucian should march upon Italy, while Titus con 
tinued the war against the Jews, and that Vespasian 
should await the issue of events at Alexandria. After 
a bloody civil war (the third which had taken place 


within eighteen months) power remained definitively 
with the Flavii. A middle-class dynasty, industrious 
in business, moderate, not having the energy of the 
Caesar race, but exempt also from their errors, was thus 
substituted for the inheritors of the title erected by 
Augustus. The prodigals and the fools had so abused 
their privilege of spoiled children, that people hailed 
with gladness the accession of a brave man, without 
distinction, who had slowly risen by merit, in spite of 
his little absurdities, his vulgar air, and lack of habit. 
The fact is that the new dynasty conducted business 
for ten years with sense and judgment, saved the 
Eoman unity, and gave a complete contradiction to the 
predictions of Jews and Christians who already saw in 
their dreams the empire dismantled and Eome destroyed. 
The fire at the Capitol on 19th December, the terrible 
massacre which took place in Eome the next day, would 
for the moment make them believe that the great day 
was drawing nigh. But the undisputed establishment 
of Vespasian (at the beginning of 20th December) 
made them feel that they must live still, and forced 
them to find some shift for adjourning their hopes to a 
more distant future. 

The wise Vespasian, much less shaken than those 
who fought with him to conquer the empire, spent his 
time at Alexandria, with Tiberius Alexander. He 
only revisited Eome in the month of July of the year 
70, a little before the total destruction of Jerusalem. 
Titus, instead of pushing the war in Judea, had followed 
his father into Egypt ; he remained beside him until 
the early days of March. 

i The struggles in Jerusalem only increased. Fanatical 
movements are far from excluding from them those 
who are actors in their hatred, jealousy, and defiance ; 
banded together, men who are very self-opinionated and 
passionate usually suspect each other, and there is in 
that a power; for this reciprocal suspicion creates a 
terror among them, binds them together as by a chain 


of iron, and prevents defection and moments of weakness. 
It is policy, artificial and without conviction, which 
proceeds with the appearances of concord and civility. 
Interest creates the coterie ; while principles create 
division, and inspire temptation to decimate, expel and 
kill their enemies. Those who judge human things by 
middle-class conceptions believe that the revolution is lost 
when the revolutionaries " eat each other." There is there, 
on the contrary, a proof that revolution has all its energy, 
and that an impersonal ardour guides it. We never see 
this more clearly than in that terrible drama of 
Jerusalem. The actors appear to have among them a 
covenant of death. Like these infernal rondos, in 
which, as the superstition of Middle Ages taught,men saw 
Satan forming the chain to draw to a fancied whirlpool 
files of men dancing and holding each other by the 
hand ; so revolution permits no one to escape from the 
dance it leads. Terror is behind the conspirators ; in 
turn exalting some, and then they, exalted by others, 
go on to the abyss ; nothing can keep them back, 
for behind everyone is a hidden sword, which at the 
moment they wish to stop, compels them to march 

Simon, son of Gioras, commanded in the city ; John 
of Gischala with his assassins was master of the temple. 
A third party was formed, under the conduct of Eleazar, 
son of Simon, of priestly race, who detached a party of 
the zealots from John of Gischala and established himself 
in the inner enceinte of the temple, living on the con 
secrated provisions they found there, and of those 
which still continued to be brought to the priests, as 
first fruits. These three parties were at continual 
warfare with each other; they walked over heaps of 
corpses; they no longer buried the dead. Immense 
provisions of barley had been made, and this would 
permit them to exist for years. John and Simon 
burned these in order to keep each other from them. 
The situation of the inhabitants was fearful ; peaceable 


people made prayers that order might be re-established 
by the Romans, but all the exits were guarded by the 
terrorists, they could not escape. Yet, strange indeed ! 
from the end of the world people still came to the 
temple. John and Eleazar received the proselytes and 
profited by their offerings. Often the pious pilgrims 

jwere slain in the midst of their sacrifices, with the 
priests who read the liturgy for them, by the arrows and 
stones from John s machines. The rebels worked with 
activity beyond the Euphrates, to obtain help either 
from the Jews of these countries or from the king of 
the Parthians. They believed that all the Jews of 
the East would take up arms. The civil wars of the 
Romans inspired them with foolish hopes ; like the 
Christians, they believed that the empire was about to 
be dismembered. Jesus, son of Hanan, had traversed 
the city, calling for the four winds of heaven to destroy it; 
on the eve of their extermination the fanatics pro 
claimed Jerusalem the capital of the world, in the 
same manner as we have seen Paris invested, 
hungered, and maintaining all the time that the 
world was in it, working through it, and suffering 
with it. 

The oddest thing in all this was that they were not 
altogether wrong. The enthusiasts of Jerusalem, who 
declared that Jerusalem was eternal, while it was 
burning, were much nearer the truth than the people 

. who saw in them nothing but assassins. They deceived 
themselves on the military question, but not on the 
distant religious result. These disturbed days, indeed, 
well marked the moment in which Jerusalem became 

-the spiritual capital of the world. The .Apocalypse, 
the burning expression of love which it inspires, has 
made sacred the image of " the beloved city." Ah ! who 
is able to say beforehand what shall be in the future, 
holy or wicked, foolish or wise ? A sudden change in 
the course of a vessel makes a progress a retreat, and 
turns a contrary into a favourable wind. In view of 


these revolutions, accompanied by thunders and 
earthquakes, let us place ourselves among the blessed, 
who sing " Praise ye God," or among A ;he four creatures, 
spirits of the universe, who after each act of the 
heavenly tragedv. say AMEN. 




At last the circle of fire had wound itself around the 
unfortunate city, never more to relax its hold. As soon 
as the season permitted, Titus left Alexandria, reached 
Cesarea, and from that city, at the head of a formidable 
army, advanced towards Jerusalem. He had with him 
four legions, the 5th, Macedonian, the 10th, Fretensis, 
the 12th, Fulminata, the 15th, Apollinaris, not to speak 
of the numerous auxiliary troops furnished by his 
Syrian allies, and many Arabs who had come to pillage. 
All the Jews who had rallied to him, Agrippa, Tiberius 
Alexander, now prefect of the praetorium, Josephus the 
future historian, accompanied him: Berenice doubtless 
waited at Cesarea. The military valour of the captain 
corresponded with the strength of the army. Titus was a 
remarkable soldier, ana especially an excellent officer of 
genius, while he was also a very sensible man, a profound 
politician, and considering the cruelty of the manners 
of the age, very humane. Vespasian, irritated by the 
satisfaction the Jews showed in seeing the civil wars, 
and the efforts they were making to bring about an 
invasion by the Parthians, had ordered great severity. 
Gentleness, according to him, was always interpreted as 
weakness by haughty races, persuaded that they were 
fighting for God and with God. 

The Roman army arrived at Gabaoth-Saul, a league 
ind a half from Jerusalem, in the early days of April. 
They were just on the eve of the feast of the Passover ; 
an enormous number of Jews from all countries had 
assembled in the city ; Josephus gives the number of 


those who perished during the siege at 1,100,000 ; it 
appeared as if the whole nation had made a rendezvous 
in order that they might be exterminated. About the 
10th April, Titus established his camp at the angle of 
the tower of Psephina (Kasr-Djalond of the present 
day). Some partial advantages gained by surprise, and 
seven wounds Titus received at first, gave the Jews an 
exaggerated confidence in their strength, and shewed 
the Eomans with what care they must guard themselves 
in this war with furious people. 

The city could be reckoned among the strongest in 
the world. The walls were a perfect type of those 
constructions in enormous blocks which were always 
affected in Syria ; in the interior, the enceinte of the 
temple, that of the high city, and that of Acra formed 
as if partition walls, and appeared to be so many 
ramparts. The number of the defenders was very great; 
provisions, although diminished by the fires, abounded 
still. The parties in the interior of the city continued 
to fight still; but they combined for defence. At the 
beginning of the days of the Passover, Eleazar s faction 
nearly disappeared and merged itself in John s. Titus 
conducted the operations with consummate skill ; never 
had the Eomans shown such a skilful poliorc6tique> In 
the closing days of April, the legions had forced the 
first enceinte from the north side and were masters of 
the northern portion of the city. Five days after the 
second wall, the wall of Acra, was taken, the half of 
the city was thus in the power of the Eomans. On the 
12th May, they attacked the fortress Antonia. Sur 
rounded by Jews who all, Tiberius Alexander excepted, 
desired the preservation of the city and the temple, 
ruled more than he would confess by his love for 
Berenice, who appears to have been a pious Jewess and 
much devoted to her nation, Titus sought, it is said, 
a means of reconciliation, and made acceptable offers ; 
all was useless. The besieged replied to the propositions 
of the conqueror only by sarcasm. 


The siege then assumed a character of horrible cruelty. 
The Romans displayed instruments of the most hideous 
tortures ; the audacity of the Jews only increased. On 
the 27th and 29th of May they burned the machines of 
the Romans, and even attacked them in their camp. 
Discouragement fell on the besiegers. Many were 
persuaded that the Jews spoke the truth, and that 
Jerusalem was impregnable; desertion began. Titus, 
giving up the hope of carrying the place by sheer force, 
blockaded it closely. A wall of countervallation, raised 
rapidly (in the beginning of June) and doubled on the 
side of Perea by a line of castella, crowning the heights 
of the mount of Olives, totally separated the city from 
without. Up till then vegetables were procured from 
(he neighbourhood ; famine now became fearful. The 
/anatics, provided with necessaries, cared little for this. 
Rigorous perquisitions, accompanied by tortures, were 
made to discover concealed grain. Whoever wore a 
certain look of strength at once passed as culpable in 1 
hiding provisions. Pieces of bread were torn from 
people s mouths. The most fearful diseases developed 
in the heart of this huddled-up, enfeebled, fevered mass. 
Some terrible stories were circulated and redoubled the 

From that moment hunger, rage, despair, and madness 
inhabited Jerusalem. It was a cage of wild madness, a 
city of shrieks, of cannibals, a hell. Titus, on his side, 
was cruel ; five hundred unfortunates per day were 
crucified with odious refinements in sight of the city. 
There was not sufficient wood to make crosses, and there 
was no room to place them. 

In this excess ot evils, the faith and fanaticism of the 
Jews shewed themselves more ardently than ever. 
They believed the temple to be indestructible. The 
greater number were persuaded that, the city being 
under the special protection of the Eternal, it was 
impossible to take it. Prophets spread themselves 
among the people, announcing approaching succour. 


The confidence on this point was such that many who 
could have escaped, remained to see this miracle of 
Jehovah. The frenzied people, nevertheless, ruled as 
masters. They slew all those who were suspected of 
advising capitulation. Thus perished, by order of Simon, 
son of Gioras, the high priest Matthias, who had caused 
this brigand to be received into the city. His three sons 
were executed before his eyes. Many people of 
distinction were likewise put to death. The mere fact of 
weeping together or holding a meeting was a crime. It 
was forbidden from the smallest assembly. Josephus, 
from the Roman camp, tried vainly to have some spies in 
the place ; he was suspected by both sides. The position 
had been reached in which reason and moderation have 
no longer any chance of being heard. 

Yet Titus became weary of these delays ; he longed 
only for Rome : its splendours and its pleasures. A city 
taken by famine appeared to him an exploit insufficient 
to inaugurate brilliantly a dynasty. He then caused to 
be constructed four new aggerce for a sharp attack. The 
trees of the gardens in the suburbs of Jerusalem were cut 
down a distance of four leagues. In twenty-one days 
everything was ready. On the 21st July the Jews 
attempted the operation in which they had succeeded on 
t he former occasion ; they went out to burn the wooden 
towers, but their manoeuvre failed completely. From 
that day the fate of the city was irrevocably sealed. On 
the 2nd July the Romans began to attack and sap the 
tower Antonia. On the 5th July Titus was master of it, 
and caused it to be almost entirely demolished, to open 
a large passage for his cavalry and his machines, at the 
point where all his efforts converged, and where the last 
struggle must take place. 

The temple, as we have said, was by its peculiar 
method of construction the strongest of fortresses. The 
Jews who had entrenched themselves with John of 
Gischala prepared themselves for battle. The priests 
themselves were under arms. On the 17th the perpetuaJ 


sacrifice ceased for want of ministers to offer it. That 
made a great impression upon the people. It became 
known outside the city. The interruption of the sacrifice 
was for the Jews a phenomenon as grave as a stop in the 
progress of the universe. Josephus seized this occasion 
to try anew to conquer John s obstinacy. The fortress 
Antonia was only about 60 yards from the temple. 
From the parapets of the tower Josephus cried out in 
Hebrew by order of Titus (unless the story of the Wars 
of the Jews is false) that John could retire with as great 
a number of his men as he wished, that Titus would 
charge himself with having the legal sacrifices continued 
by the Je ws, that he would allow John even the choice 
of those who should offer them. John refused to 
listen. Those whom fanaticism had not blinded escaped 
at this moment to the Eomans. Everyone who remained 
chose death. 

On the 12th July Titus began his works against 
the temple. The struggle was most bloody. On the 
28th the Komans were masters of the whole gallery of 
the north from the fortress Antonia up to the vale of 
Kedron. The attack commenced then against the 
temple itself. On the 2nd August the most powerful 
machines were put to assail the walls wonderfully 
constructed with porticos which surrounded the inner 
courts. The effect was scarcely felt ; but on the 8th of 
August the Eomans succeeded in setting the gates on 
fire. The stupor of the Jews was then inexpressible ; 
they had never believed that this was possible. At sight 
of the flames which leapt >!,p they poured upon the 
Eomans a flood of curses. On the 9th August Titus 
gave orders that the fire should be extinguished, and 
held a council of war at which there were present 
Tiberius Alexander, Cerealis, and his principal officers. 
The question was as to whether the temple should be 
burned. Many were of opinion that so long as the 
edifice remained the Jews would never be quiet. As 
to Titus, it is difficult to know what he meant, for 


on this point we have two opposing stories. Accora- 
ing to Josephus, Titus was of opinion that such an 
admirable work should be spared, as its preservation 
would do honour to his reign and prove the modera 
tion of the Romans, According to Tacitus, Titus 
insisted upon the necessity of destroying an edifice 
with which two superstitions equally fatal were 
associated, that of the Jews, and that of the Christians. 
These two superstitions," he is said to have added, 
" although contrary to one another are of the same 
source ; the Christians come from the Jews, the root 
torn up, the shoot will perish quickly." 

It is difficult to decide between two versions so 
absolutely irreconcilable, for the opinion attribated to 
Titus by Josephus may very well be regarded as an 
invention by that historian, jealous of shewing the 
sympathy of his patron for Judaism, cleansing himself in 
the eyes of the Jews of the crime of having destroyed 
the temple and of satisfying the ardent desire of which 
Titus had to pass for a very moderate man. It cannot 
be denied that the brief discourse put by Tacitus in the 
mouth of the victorious captain may be, not only for the 
style but for the order of ideas, an exact reflex of the 
sentiments of Tacitus himself. We have a right to 
suppose that the Latin historian, full of spite against 
the Jews and the Christians, and of that bad temper 
which characterizes the age of Trajan and the Antonines, 
had made Titus speak like a Roman aristocrat of his 
time, while in reality the middle-class Titus had more 
complacence for oriental superstitions than the high 
noblesse who succeeded the Flavii had for them. Living 
for two or three years with Jews who had boasted to 
him of their temple as t^ wonder of the world, won 
by the caresses of Josephu^ Agrippa, and still more of 
Berenice, he might very well desire the preservation of a 
sanctuary whose worship many of his friends repre 
sented to him as being quite peaceable. It is therefore 
possible that, as Josephus has it, some orders had been 


given that the fire lit the evening before should be 
extinguished, and that in the frightful tumult which 
they foresaw, some measures should be taken against 
fire There was in the character of Titus, besides real 
goodness, much pose and a little hypocrisy. The 
truth is doubtless that he did not order the fire, as 
Tacitus says ; did not countermand it, as Josephus says, 
but allowed it to go on, presenting some appearances for 
all the theories which people may be allowed to maintain 
in the different regions of probability, whatever may be on 
this point difficult to ascertain. A general assault was 
decided against the building, which had already lost its 
gates; as to military work, what remained to be done 
was an effort, bloody perhaps, but whose issue could 
not be doubtful. 

The Jews anticipated the attacks. On the 10th of 
August in the morning they delivered a furious attack 
without success. Titus retired into the Antonia to rest 
and to prepare for the assault next day. A detachment 
was left to prevent the fire from being relit. Then took 
place, according to Josephus, the incident which led to 
the ruin of the sacred pile. The Jews threw themselves 
with rage upon the detachment which watched near the 
fire ; the Komans repulsed them, entering pell-mell into 
the temple with the fugitives. The irritation of the 
Komans was at its height. A soldier " without any one 
commanding him, and as if impelled by a supernatural 
movement," took a joist which was in flames, and having 
raised it, with one of his companions, threw the brand 
through a window which opened upon the porticos of the 
north side. The flame and the smoke rose rapidly. 
Titus was resting at that moment in his tent. They ran 
to call him. Then, if Josephus must be believed, a sort of 
struggle was begun between him and his soldiers ; Titus 
with voice and gesture ordered the fire to be extinguished; 
but the disorder was such that they did not understand 
him; those who might doubt his intentions affected not to 
hear him. In place of stopping the fire the legionaries 


stirred it up. Drawn by the wave of invaders, Titua 
was borne into the Temple itself the flames had not 
reached the central building. He saw intact this 
sanctuary of which Agrippa, Josephus, and Berenice 
had spoken to him so often with admiration, and found 
it much superior to what they had told him. Titus 
redoubled his efforts, made them evacuate the interior, 
and gave even an order to Liberalos, a centurion of his 
guards, to strike those who refused to obey. All at 
once a jet of flame and smoke rose from the gate of the 
Temple. At the moment of the tumultuary evacuation 
a soldier had set fire to the interior. The flames gained 
on all sides ; the position was no longer tenable. Titus 

This recital of Josephus includes more than one 
probability. It is difficult to believe that the Roman 
legions could have shewn themselves so disobedient to 
a victorious leader. Dion Cassius declares, on the 
contrary, that Titus needed to employ force to make 
the soldiers penetrate into a place surrounded by 
terrors, and of which all the prof aners were believed to 
be struck dead. One thing only is certain that Titus 
some years afterwards would have been glad if in the 
Jewish world they had told the same thing as Josephus 
did, and that they should have attributed the burning 
of the Temple to the discipline of his soldiers, or rather 
to a supernatural movement of some agent, unconscious 
of a superior will. The history of the war of the Jews 
was written about the end of the reign of Vespasian, in 
76, or rather sooner, when Titus already aspired to be 
" the delight of the human race," and wished to pass 
as a model of gentleness and goodness. In the pre 
ceding years, and that of another world than that of 
the Jews, he would surely have received eulogia of a 
different kind. Among the tableaux which were borne 
in the triumph of the year 71 was the image of "the 
fire set to the Temple," in which certainly they 
would not seek to represent that fact otherwise than aa 


glorious. About the same time the court poet, Valerius 
Flaccus, proposed to Domitian, as the finest employ 
ment of his poetical talent, to sing the war of Judea, 
and to represent his brother scattering burning torches 

. . . Solymo ingrantem pulvere fratrem, 
Spargentemque faces et in omni turre furentem t 

The struggle during this time was hot in the court 
and parvis. A frightful carnage was made round the 
altar, a sort of truncated pyramid, surmounted by a 
platform, which was raised in front of the Temple ; the 
corpses of those whom thev killed upon the platform 
rolled over upon the steps and reached to the feet. 
Rivers of blood flowed on all sides, nothing was heard 
but the piercing cries of those whom they killed and 
who died adjuring heaven. There was time still to 
take refuge in the high city ; many liked rather to go 
to be killed, regarding as a lot to be envied dying for 
their temple ; others threw themselves into the flames ; 
others still precipitated themselves upon the swords of 
the Romans, while some slew themselves or each other. 
Some priests who had succeeded in gaining the crest of 
the Temple roof, tore the points which they found 
there with their leaden sockets and threw them upon 
the Romans ; they continued this up till the time the^ 
flames enveloped them. A great number of Jews had 
assembled around the holy place, upon the word of a 
prophet, who had assured them that the very moment 
had come when God was about to shew them the signs 
of salvation. ^ A gallery where it is said six thousand 
of these wretches had retired (nearly all women and 
children) was burned. Two gates of the Temple and a 
part of the enceinte reserved for the women were only 
preserved lor the moment. The jvomans planted their 
ensigns upon the place where the sanctuary had been, 
and offered the worship to which they had been accus 
tomed. The old Zion remained ; the high town, the 
strongest part of the city, having its ramparts still 


intact, and which still gave safety to John of Gischala, 
Simon son of Gioras, and a great number of com 
batants who had succeeded in forcing a way through 
the conquerors. This stand of madmen demanded a 
new siege. John and Simon had established the centre 
of their resistance in the palace of the Herods, situated 
near the site of the present citadel of Jerusalem, and 
covered by the three enormous towers of Hippicus, of 
Phasael, and Mariamne. The Romans were obliged, to 
carry this last refuge of Jewish obstinacy, to construct 
some aggerae against the western wall of the city, oppo 
site the palace. The four legions were occupied in this 
work for the space of eighteen days (from 20th August 
to 6th September). During this time Titus made them 
set fire to -the parts of the town which were in his 
power. The low town especially, from Ophel up to 
Siloam, were systematically destroyed. Many of the 
Jews belonging to the middle classes were able to 
escape. As to the people of inferior condition, they 
were sold at a very low price. This was the origin of 
a multitude of Jewish slaves who, coming down upon 
Italy and upon the other countries of the Mediter 
ranean, took from thence the elements of a new 
ardour of propagandism. Josephus reckons the number 
at 97,000. Titus gave pardon to the princes of 
Adiabene ; the pontifical dresses, the precious stones, 
the tables, the cups, the candelabra, and the hangings 
were brought to him. He ordered that they should be 
preserved carefully, that they might be used in the 
triumph he was preparing, and to which he wished to 
give a particular mark of foreign pomp, by exhibiting 
there the rich material of the Jewish worship. 

The aggerae being finished, the Romans began to batter 
the wall of the high tower. At the first attack, 7th 
September, they overturned a part as well as some of the 
tower. Attenuated by famine, undermined by fever 
and rage, the defenders were nothing more than skele 
tons. The legions passed in without difficulty ; up till 


the end of the day, the soldiers burned and slew ; the 
greater part of the houses into which they went to 
pillage were full of corpses. The wretches who could 
escape fled to Acra, which the Roman force had nearly 
evacuated, and to those vast subterranean cavities, which 
mark the subsoil of Jerusalem. John and Simon grew 
weaker at this time. They possessed still the towers of 
Hippicus, of Phasael, and Mariamne, the most astonish 
ing marks of military architecture in antiquity. The 
ram had been powerless against enormous blocks, col 
lected with unequalled perfection, and bound together 
by iron cramps. Amazed and lost, John and Simon 
quitted these impregnable works, and sought to force 
the line of counter valla tion on the side of Siloam. Not 
succeeding, they went to rejoin those of their partisans 
who were concealed in the sewers. 

On the 8th all resistance was over ; the soldiers were 
fatigued they killed the weak who couldn t march. 
The remainder, women and children, were pushed like 
a flock towards the enceinte of the Temple, and enclosed 
in the inner court which had escaped the fire. Of this 
multitude set aside for death or slavery, they made lists. 
Everyone who had fought was massacred. Seven 
hundred people, the finest in figure and the best made, 
were reserved to follow the triumph of Titus. Among 
the others, those who had passed the age of 17, were 
sent into Egpy t, their feet in irons, for the forced works, 
Dr divided among the provinces to be slain in the amphi 
theatres. Those who were less than 17 were sold. The 
sorting of the prisoners occupied many days, during 
fvhich there died thousands, it is said, some because 
they gave them no food, others because they refused to 
accept it. 

The Romans employed the following days in burning 
the rest of the city, overturning the walls, and rumag- 
ing in the sewers and subterranean passages. They 
found there great riches and many of the insurrectionists 
living, whom they killed at once, and more than two 
thousand corpses, without speaking of prisoners whom 


the Terrorists had shut up. John of Gischala, con 
strained by hunger to come forth, demanded quarter 
from the conquerors, who condemned him to perpetual 
imprisonment. Simon, son of Gioras, who had some 
provisions, remained concealed till the end of October. 
His food failing then, he took a singular step. Clothed 
in a white cloth with a mantle of purple, he came forth 
unexpectedly from under the earth to the place where 
the Temple had been. He imagined by this to astonish 
the Romans, and to pretend that he had been raised 
from the dead perhaps to make himself pass as the 
Messiah. The soldiers were, in fact, a little surprised 
at first. Simon would only name himself to their 
commandant, Terentius Rufus. He made them put 
him in chains, sent the news to Titus, who was at Pan- 
eas, and caused the prisoner to be taken to Oesaraea. 

The Temple and the great constructions were de 
molished to the very foundations. The sub-basement 
of the Temple was, however, preserved, and constitutes 
what is called at this day Naramesch-seherif. Titus 
wished also to preserve the three towers of Hippicus, 
Phasael, and Mariamne, to make posterity know against 
what walls he had had to fight. The wall of the western 
side was left standing to shelter the camp of the 10th 
legion Fretensius, which was sent to hold guard over the 
ruins of the fallen city. Lastly, some houses on the 
extremity of Mount Sion escaped the destruction, and 
remained in the condition of isolated ruins. All the 
rest disappeared. From the month of September, 70, 
to the year 122, when Hadrian re-built it under the 
name of JZtia, Capitolina, Jerusalem was nothing but a 
field of rubbish, in a corner of which the tents of a 
legion always on guard were set up. They believed 
they saw at every instant the fire re-lit which lay under 
these calcined stones. They trembled lest the spirit of 
life should come into the corpses which appeared still 
it the depths of their charnel-house, to raise their arms 
a,nd declare that they had with them the promises of 




Titus appears to have remained about a month in the 
neighbourhood of Jerusalem, offering sacrifices and 
rewarding his soldiers ; the spoils of the captives were 
sent to Cesaraea. The season, already far advanced, 
prevented the young captain from leaving for Rom 
He employed the winter in visiting different cities of 
the East and giving fetes. He took with him bap.ds of 
Jewish prisoners, who were delivered to the beasts, 
burned alive, or forced to fight against each other. At 
Paneas, on the 24th October, the birthday of his brother 
Domitian, more than 2,500 Jews perished in the flames, 
or in these horrible games. At Beyrout, on the 17th 
November, the same number of captives perished, to 
celebrate the birthday of Yespasian. Hatred of the 
Jews was the dominant sentimert in Syrian cities. These 
hideous massacres were hailed with joy. What was 
perhaps most frightful was that Josephus and Agrippa 
did not quit Titus during this time, and were witnesses 
of these monstrosities. 

Titus made after this a long voyage into Syria going 
as far as the Euphrates. At Antioch he found the 
people exasperated against the Jews they accused 
them of a fire wr ich would have consumed the city. 
Titus contented himself with suppressing the bronze 
tables on whicr were engraved their privileges. He 
made a preser.t to Antioch of the veiled Cherubim which 
covered Ac ark. This singular trophy was placed 
oef ore the great wt stern gates of the city, which took 
from the-t the name of the Gate of the Cherubim. 
Near t 1 - iiat ne dedicated a guadriga to the moon, 


for the help which she had given him dur 
ing the siege. At Daphne, he caused a theatre 
to be erected upon the site of the synagogue ; 
an inscription indicated that this monument had been 
constructed with the booty obtained in Judea. From 
Antioch Titus returned to Jerusalem ; he found there 
the Tenth Fi-etensis, under the orders of Terentius Rufus, 
still occupied in searching the caves by the destroyed 
city. The appearance of. Simon, son of Gioras, coming 
out of the sewers when they believed that no one was 
to found there, had caused the subterranean fights to 
be be commenced ; in fact, every day they discovered 
some wretch and some new treasures. Tn looking on 
the solitude which he had created, Titus was imable, it is 
said, to restrain a motion of pity. The Jews who were 
near him exercised upon him a cross influence ; the 
phantasmagoria of an Oriental Empire, which they had 
caused to glitter before the eyes of ISFero and Vespasian, 
reappeared around him, and went so far as to excite 
umbrage at Rome. Agrippa, Berenice, Josephus 
and Tiberius Alexander were more in favour than ever, 
and many augured for Berenice the role of a new 
Cleopatra. On the morning of the defeat of the rebels, 
men were irritated at seeing people of such a kind 
honoured and all powerful. As to Titus, he accepted 
more and more the idea that he was fulfilling a mission 
in providence. He was pleased to hear them quote 
the prophecies which they said referred to him. 
Josephus claims that he connected this victory with 
Grod ; and recognised that he had been the object of a 
supernatural power. What is striking is that Philo- 
stratus, 120 years after, admits clearly these data and 
makes them the basis of an apocryphal correspondence 
between Titus and Apollonius. To believe him, Titus 
would have refused the crowns which were offered him, 
alleging that it was not he who had taken Jerusalem 
that he had done nothing but lend his services to an 
irritated God. It is scarcely to be admitted that Philo- 


stratus had known the passage in Josephus. He drew 
the legend, which had become common, from the 
moderation of Titus. Titus returned to Rome in the 
month of May or June, 71. He held essentially a 
triumph which would surpass all that had been seen 
up till then. Simplicity, seriousness, the somewhat 
common manners of Vespasian, were not of a nature to 
give him prestige with a population which had been 
accustomed to ask before everything from its sovereigns 
prodigality and a grand style. Titus thought that a 
solemn entry would have a grand effect, and managed 
to surmount the repugnances of his old father on that 
point. The ceremony was organised with all the skill 
of the Roman decorators of that time. What distin 
guished it was the choice of local colour and historical 
truth. It pleased them also to reproduce the simple 
rites of the Roman religion as if they had the desire to 
oppose it to the conquered religion. At the opening 
of the ceremony Vespasian appeared as pontiff, his 
head more than half veiled in his toga, and made 
solemn prayers, and after him Titus prayed also accord 
ing to the same rite. The procession was a marvel. 
All the curiosities, all rarities, the precious products of 
Orientalart, besides works achieved by the Graeco-Roman 
art, figured there. It appears as if on the day after 
the greatest danger which the Empire encountered, they 
should make a pompous exhibition of their wealth. 
Some moving scaffolding, rising to the height of three 
or four tiers, excited universal wonder. All the 
episodes of the war were represented there ; each series 
of tableaux terminated with the living representation 
of the strange appearance of Bar-Gorias and his 
capture the pale visage and the haggard eyes of the 
captives disguised by the superb garments with which 
they clothed them. In the midst was Bar-Gorias being 
led with great pomp to death ; then came the spoils of 
the temple, the golden table, the golden seven-branched 
candlestick, the veil of the holy of holies, and to 


conclude, *be series of trophies, the captive, the con- 
quered one, the culprit par excellence, the book of the 
Torah. The conquerors closed the procession. Ves 
pasian and Titus were mounted on two separate cars. 
Titus was radiant ; as to Yespasian, who saw nothing in 
all this but a day lost for business, he did not seek to 
dissimulate his vulgar appearance as a business man, 
because the procession did not move rapidly enough, 
and said in a low voice, "It is well done. I have 
deserved it ... Have I been foolish enough at my 
ago, too ! " Domitian, who was robed and mounted on 
a magnificent horse, caracoled near his father and 
elder brother. They arrived thus at the Sacred way. 
At the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus the ordinary 
termination of a triumph was reached. At the Clivm 
Capitolinu* they made a halt to disembarrass themselves 
of the gloomy portion of the ceremony the execution 
of the chief enemies. This odious custom was observed 
from point to point. Bar-Gorias, drawn out of the 
band of captives, was seen led away with a cord round 
his neck, amid most ignoble insults, to the Tarpeian 
rock, where they slew him, When a cry announced 
that Rome s enemy was no more, an immense applause 
burst out and the sacrifices commenced. After the 
customary prayers the princes retired to the Palatine ; 
the rest of the day was passed by the whole city in joy 
and festivity. 

The volume of the Thora and the hangings of the 
sanctuary were taken into the imperial palace, the 
articles of gold, especially the table of the shew bread 
,md the candlestick, were deposited in a great edifice, 
which Vespasian caused to be built opposite the Pala 
tine on the other side of the Sacred way under the 
name of the Temple of Peace, and which was in some 
sort the Museum of the Flavii. A triumphal arch of 
Pentelic marble, which exists to this day, kept up the 
memory of this extraordinary pomp, and the repre 
sentation of the principal objects which were borne 


iu it. The father and son assumed that day the title of 
Imperatores but they refused the epithet of Judaic, 
.either because they attached to the name of Judcei 
(something odious or ridiculous, or to indicate that this 
war in Judea had been not a war against a foreign 
people, but a simple revolt of slaves put down, or in 
consequence of some secret thought analagous to that 
whose exaggerated expressions Josephus and Philo- 
stratus have transmitted to us. A coinage, in which 
Judea chained weeping under a palm tree, figured 
with the legend IVD^EA CAPTA IVDJEA DEVICTA, kept the 
remembrance of the fundamental exploit of the dynasty 
of the Flavii. They continued to strike pieces of this 
type until the days of Domitian. The victory was 
indeed complete. A captain of our race, of our blood, 
a man like ourselves, at the head of legions in the 
position in which we shall encounter if we can read 
it, many of our ancestors, has crushed the fortress 
of Semiticism and inflicted upon the theocracy, 
this redoubtable enemy of civilisation, the greatest 
defeat which it had ever received. It was the triumph 
of Roman or rational law, a creation quite philosophic, 
pre-supposing no revelation, over the Jewish Thora, the 
result of a revelation. This law, whose roots were 
partly Greek, but in which the practical genius of the 
Latins had such a splendid part, was the excellent gift 
which Rome made to the conquered in return for 
independence. Every victory of Rome was a progress 
of reason. Rome brought into the world a better prin 
ciple in many points of view than that of the Jews; 
I mean to say the profane State resting upon a purely 
civil conception of society. 

Every patriotic movement is entitled to respect, but 
the zealots were not only patriots, they were fanatics, 
assassins, of insupportable tyranny. What they wished 
was the maintenance of a law of blood which would permit 
the stoning of the evil thinker. What they rejected 
was the common law, laic and liberal, which does n*/<, 


interfere with belief in individuals. Liberty of conscience 
ought to go the length of the Roman law, while that has 
never gone forth from Judaism. From Judaism nothing 
can go forth but the synagogue and the church, censure 
of manners, obligatory morality, the convent, a life like 
that of the fifth century when humanity would have lost 
all its vigour, if the barbarians had not relieved it. In 
fact the reign of the man of war has a better effect than 
the temporal reign of the priest. For the man of war 
does not interfere with the mind. People think freely 
under him, while the priest demands from his subject 
the impossible, that is, to believe certain things and to 
bind themselves that they will hold the priest s ways to 
be true. The triumph of Rome was therefore legitimate 
in some measure. Jerusalem had become an impossi 
bility; left to themselves the Jews would have 
demolished it. But a great lacuna was to render this 
victory of Titus unfruitful. Our Western races, in spite 
of their superiority, have always shewn a deplorable reli 
gious nullity. To draw from the Roman or Gallic religion 
anything analogous to the church was impossible. Now 
every advantage gained over a religion is useless if it 
be not replaced by another, satisfying, at least as well 
as it can, the needs of the heart. Jerusalem will be 
avenged for her defeat. She shall conquer Rome by 
Christianity, Persia by Islamism, shall destroy the 
old fatherland, and shall become for all higher minds 
the city of the heart. 

The most dangerous tendency of its Thora, a law in 
itself at once moral and civil, giving the advantage to 
social questions over military and political ones, shall 
rule in the church. During all the Middle Ages, the 
individual, censured and overlooked by the community, 
shall fear the sermon and tremble before excommunica 
tion, and that shall be a just return after the moral 
indifference of heathen societies, a protest against the 
insufficiency of the Roman institution to improve the 
individual. It is, certainly a detestable principle the. 


law of coercion which has been accorded to religious com 
munities over their members. It is the worst error to 
believe that there is a religion which must be exclusively 
the good ; the good religion being for each man what 
renders him pleasant, just, humble and benevolent. But 
the question of the government of humanity is difficult. 
The ideal is very high, the earth is very low. Even only 
to haunt the desert of philosophy, there one meets at 
every step madness, folly and passion. The old sages 
did not succeed in. claiming any authority but by 
impostures which, for want of material force, gave them a 
power of imagination. Where would civilisation be 
if during centuries people had not believed that the 
Brahmin could blast by his glance ; if the barbarians 
had not been convinced of the terrible revenges of St. 
Martins of Tours. Man has need of a moral pedagogy, 
for which the care of the family and that of the state 
do not suffice. In the intoxication of success, Eome 
scarcely remembered that the Jewish insurrection lived 
still in the basin of the Dead Sea. Three castles, 
Herodium, Machero and Masada were still in the 
hands of the Jews. It needed a man to close his 
eyes to the evidence to retain any hope after the taking 
of Jerusalem. The rebels defended themselves with as 
much passion as if the struggle had but just commenced. 
Herodium was scarcely anything but a fortified palace ; 
it was taken without great effort by Lucillus Bassus. 
Machero presented many difficulties. Atrocities, mas 
sacres, and the sales of whole bands of Jews recommenced. 
Masada made one of the most heroic defences that 
history has recorded. Eleazar, son of Jairus, grand 
son of Judas the Ganlonite, had possessed himself of 
this fortress in the early days of the revolt and made 
it a haunt of zealots, assassins, and brigands. Masada 
occupies the platform of an immense rock of nearly 
fifteen hundred feet high upon the shores of the Dead 
Sea. To possess himself of such a place it was 
necessary that .Fulvius Sylvia should work positive 


miracles. The despair of the Jews was boundless when 
they saw to be lost a position which they believed 
impregnable. At the instigation of Eleazar they 
killed each other, and set fire to their property which 
they had heaped up. Nine hundred and sixty persons 
perished thus. This tragical episode took place on the 
15th of April, 72. 

Judea after these events was overturned from top to 
bottom. Vespasian ordered all lands to be sold which 
were unowned by the death or captivity of their 
proprietors. The idea was suggested to him which 
later occurred to Hadrian, to rebuild Jerusalem under 
another name, and establish a colony there. He did not 
wish this, and annexed the whole country to the 
emperor s own domains. He gave only to eight 
hundred veterans the borough of Emmaus, near 
Jerusalem, and made of it a little colony, a trace of 
which is preserved to this day in the name of the pretty 
village of Kulonia. A special tribute (fiscus) was 
imposed upon the Jews. In all the empire they were 
to pay annually to the capital a sum of drachmas 
which they had been accustomed to pay to their temple 
at Jerusalem. The little coterie of allied Jews, 
Josephus, Agrippa, Berenice, and Tiberius Alexander, 
chose Eome as a residence. We see it continued to 
play a considerable part, at one time obtaining for 
Judaism favourable regard at court at other times 
pursued by the hatred of the enthusiastic believers ; at 
other times conceiving more than a hope, especially when 
it seemed to require little for Berenice to become the 
wife of Titus, and hold the sceptre of the universe. 

Reduced to solitude Judea remained tranquil ; but 
the enormous overthrow of which it had been the 
theatre continued to provoke difficulties in the neigh 
bouring countries. The fermentation of Judaism lasted 
until the end of the year 73. The zealots who had 
escaped massacre, the volunteers of the siege, and all the 
madmen of Jerusalem, spread themselves in Egypt and 


Cyrenia. The communities of these countries, rich, 
conservative, and, far removed from the Palestinian 
fanaticism, felt the danger which these lunatics brought 
among them. They charged themselves with arresting 
them and giving them up to the Eomans. Many fled 
into Higher Egypt, where they were hunted like wild 
beasts. At Gyrene a brigand named Jonathan, a weaver 
by trade, acted the prophet, and like all Messiahs, 
persuaded two thousand Ebionim, or poor people, to 
follow him into the desert, where he promised to let 
them see prodigies and strange signs. The sensible 
Jews denounced him to Catullus, the governor of the 
country, but Jonathan revenged himself by some informa 
tions which caused him endless trouble. Nearly all the 
Jewish community of Gyrene, one of the most 
flourishing in the world, was exterminated. Its 
property was confiscated in the name of the Emperor. 
Catullus, who shewed in this matter much cruelty, was 
disavowed by Vespasian ; he died under frightful 
hallucinations, which, according to certain conjectures, 
must have furnished the subject of a theatrical piece of 
fantastic scenery, the " Spectre of Catullus." 

Incredible fact ! This long and terrible agony was 
not immediately followed by death. Under Trajan and 
under Hadrian we see the national Judaism revived, and 
still engaging in bloody combats ; but the lot was 
evidently cast. The zealot was conquered beyond 
recovery. The way traced by Jesus, comprehended 
instinctively by the church of Jerusalem, who were 
refugees in Perea, became the way of Israel. The 
temporal kingdom of the Jews had been hateful, hard 
and cruel. The epoch of the Asmoneans when they 
enjoyed independence was their most sorrowful age. 
Was it Herodianism, Sadduceeism, that shameful 
alliance of a principality without grandeur with the 
priesthood, which was to be regretted ? No, certainly, 
that was not the goal of " the people of God." One 
would need to be blind not to see that the ideal institutions 


which pursued the Israel of God did iiot agree with 
national independence. These institutions, being 
incapable of making an army, could not exist in the 
vassaldom of a great empire, leaving much liberty 
to its rayahs, and disembarassing them of politics and not 
asking them for military service. The Achemidian 
empire had entirely satisfied those conditions of Jewish 
life, later the Caliphate, the Ottoman empire, satisfied 
them, and shall see developed in their bosom free 
communities such as those of the Armenian Parsees, 
the Greeks, nations without fatherland, brotherhood, 
supplying diplomatic and military autonomy, by the 
autonomy of the college and the church. 

The Roman empire was not flexible, to lend itself to 

the communities which it united. Of the four empires, 

this was, according to the Jews, the harshest and most 

wicked. Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Eoman empire 

led the Jewish people astray from their true vocation, 

by causing it through reaction to form a kingdom or 

separate state. This tendency was not that of men who 

represented the genius of the race. In some points of 

view these last preferred the Romans. The idea of 

Jewish nationality became each day an obsolete idea, 

an idea of the furious and frenzied, against which the pious 

men made no scruple to claim the protection of their 

conquerors. The true Jew, attached to the Tkora, making 

the holy books his rule and his life, as well as the 

Christian, lost in the hope of his kingdom of God, 

renounced more and more all nationality. The principles 

of Judas the Ganlonite, which was the soul of the 

great revolt, anarchical principles, according to which, 

God alone being " Master," no man has the right to 

take that title, could produce bands of fanatics 

analogous to the Independents of Cromwell, they could 

found nothing durable. These feverish irruptions were 

the indication of the deep throes which threatened the 

heart of Israel, and which, by making it sweat blood for 

humanity, must necessarily cause it to perish in frightful 



The nations must chouse iu fact between the long 
peaceful and obscure destinies of that which lives for 
itself, and the trouble and stormy career of that which 
lives for humanity. The nation which agitates in its 
bosom social and religious problems is nearly always 
weak as a nation. Every country which dreams of a 
Kingdom of God, which looks for general ideas, which 
pursues a work of universal interest, sacrifices by this 
its particular destiny, grows feeble and loses its role 
as a terrestrial country. It was so with Judea, Greece, 
and Italy. It shall be so with France. One never 
carries with impunity fire within oneself. Jerusalem, 
the city of middle-class people, would have pursued 
indefinitely its mediocre history. It is because it had 
the incomparable honour of being the cradle of 
Christianity that it was the victim of the Johns of 
Gischala, of the Bar Giorases, in appearance plagues of 
their country, in reality the instruments of their 
apotheosis. Those zealots, whom Josephus treats as 
brigands and assassins, were politicians of the lowest 
order, military men with little capacity, but they lost 
heroically that which could not be saved. They lost 
a material city, they opened the spiritual Jerusalem, 
seated in "her desolation much more gloriously than she 
was in the days of Herod and Solomon. 

What did the conseratives and Sadducees desire ? 
They wished something paltry ; the continuation of a 
city of priests like Emesa, Tyana, or Comanus. Certainly 
they were not deceived when they declared that the rising 
of enthusiasts was the loss of the nation ; but revolution 
and Messianism were indeed the vocation of this people, 
that by which it contributed to the universal work of 
civilisation. We deceive ourselves no longer when we 
say to France, " Renounce revolution or thou art lost " ; 
but if the future belongs to some ideas which are 
elaborated obscurely in the heart of the people, it will 
be found that France will have its revenge by what 
caused in 1870-1871 its feebleness and its misery. At 


least of many violent strains given to truth, (everything 
in this sort is possible) our Bar-Giorases, our Johns of 
G-ischala would never become great citizens, but they 
would play their part, and we shall perhaps see that 
more even than sensible people they were in the secrets 
of fate. 

How shall Judaism, deprived of its holy city and its 
temple, transform itself ? How shall Talmudism leave 
the position which events have made to the Israelite ? 
That is what we shall see in our fifth book. In a sense, 
after the production of Christianity, Judaism has no 
longer a raison d etre. From this moment the spirit of 
life has gone from Jerusalem. Israel has given all to 
the son of its sorrow, and it has been exhausted in this 
childbirth. The Mohim whom they believed they 
heard murmur in the temple : " Let us go forth, let us 
go forth ! " spoke truly. The law of great creations 
is that the creator virtually expires in transmitting 
existence to another. After the complete inoculation of 
life with that which should continue it, the initiator is 
nothing but a dry stem, an attenuated being. But it 
is rare, nevertheless, that this sentence of nature is 
accomplished at once. The plant which has yielded its 
flower does not consent to die because of that. The 
world is full of these walking skeletons who survive 
the doom which has strucK tnern. Judaism is of this 
number. History has no spectacle stranger than that 
of this conservation of a people in the state of a ghost, 
of a people who, during nearly a thousand years, have 
lost the sentiment of fact, have not written a readable 
page, have not transmitted an acceptable instruction. 
Should one be astonished if, after having thus lived for 
ages outside of the free atmosphere of humanity, in a 
cellar, if I may say so, in a condition of partial 
madness, it should come forth, astonished by the light 
etiolated ? 

As to the consequences which resulted for Christianity 
from the destruction of Jerusalem, they are so evident 


that one has but to indicate them. Already even many 
times we have had occasion to remark upon them. 

The ruin of Jerusalem and of the temple was for 
Christianity an unequalled good fortune. If the argu 
ment attributed by Tacitus to Titus is exactly reported, 
the victorious general believed that the destruction of 
the temple would be the ruin of Christianity, as well as 
of that of Judaism. Never were men more completely 
deceived. The Eomans imagined to cut away at the 
same time the shoot, but the shoot was already a bush 
which lived by its own life. If the temple had 
survived, Christianity would certainly have been 
arrested in its development. The temple, surviving, 
would have continued to be the centre of all Judaic 
works. They could never have ceased from looking 
upon it as the most holy place in the world, going 
there on pilgrimage and bringing tributes thither. The 
church of Jerusalem, grouped around the sacred parvis, 
would have continued, by the name of its primacy, to 
obtain the homages of all the world, to persecute the 
churches of Paul, demanding that to have the right to 
to call himself a disciple of Jesus, one must practice 
circumcision and observe the Mosaic code. Every 
fertile propaganda would have been forbidden, letters 
of obedience signed at Jerusalem would have been 
exacted from the missionary. A centre of indisputable 
authority, a patriarchate, composed of a sort of college of 
cardinals, under the presidency of persons analogous to 
James, pure Jews belonging to the family of Jesus, 
would have established itself and would have constituted 
an immense danger for the nascent church. When one 
sees St. Paul after so much ill-usage remain always 
attached to the church at Jerusalem, one can conceive 
what difficulties a rupture witn mese holy personages 
would have presented. Such a schism would have 
been considered an enormity equivalent to the 
abandonment of Christianity. The separation between 
it and Judaism would have been impossible ; now this 


separatioi was the indispensable condition of the 
existence of the new religion, as the cutting of the 
umbilical cord is the condition of a new being. 
The mother will kill the infant. The temple, on 
the contrary, once destroyed, the Christians thought 
no more of it ; soon they even held it to be a 
profane place. Jesus shall be everything to them. 
The church of Jerusalem was by the same blow 
reduced to a secondary importance. We shall see it 
reforming itself in the element which makes its strength, 
the desposyni members of the family of Jesus, the 
sons of Clopas; but it shall reign no more. This 
centre of hatred and exclusion, once destroyed, the 
reconciliation of parties opposed to the church of Jesus 
shall become easy. Peter and Paul shall be reconciled 
officially, and the terrible duality of nascent Christianity 
shall cease to be a mortal wound. Forgotten at the 
base of Batanea or Hauran, the little group which is 
connected with the relatives of Jesus, the Jameses, the 
Clopases, became the Ebionite sect and died slowly 
through insignificance and unfruitfulness. 

The situation much resembles some things in the 
Catholicism of our days. No religious community has 
ever had more internal activity, more of a tendency to 
send forth from its bosom original creations than 
Catholicism for sixty years back. All these efforts, 
nevertheless, remain without result for one single 
reason ; that reason is the absolute rule of the court 
of Eome. It is the court of Rome which has chased 
from the church Lamennais, Hermes, Dollinger, Father 
Hyaciuthe, and all the Apologists who have defended it 
with some success. It is the court of Rome which has 
distressed and reduced to powerlessness Lacordaire 
and Montalembert, it is the court of Rome which by its 
Syllables and its council has cut the whole future from 
liberal Catholics. "When is this sad state of things to 
be changed ? When Rome shall be no more the 
pontifical city, when the dangerous oligarchy which 

Ttttf ANTICHElSt. 2fit 

Catholicism has possessed itself of shall have ceased to 
exist The occupation of Home by the King of Italy 
will one day be probably reckoned in the history of 
Catholicism for an event as fortunate as the destruction 
of Jerusalem has been in the history of Christianity. 
Nearly all Catholics have groaned over it, just as without 
doubt the Judeo- Christians of the year 70 looked upon 
the destruction of the temple as the most sad calamity. 
But the result will shew how superficial this judgment 
is. Whilst weeping over the end of Papal Eome, 
Catholicism will draw from it the greatest advantages. 
To material uniformity and death we shall see following 
hi its bosom discussion, movement, life, and variety. 




All are agreed that, from the end of the second century, the 
general belief of the Christian churches was that the Apostle 
Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome, and that the Apoatle John 
lived at Ephesus until an advanced age. Protestant theologians 
from the sixteenth century have pronounced strongly against the 
visit of St. Peter to Rome. As to the opinion regarding the 
residence of John at Ephesus, it is only in our day that it has 
found contradiction. 

The reason why Protestants attach so much importance to the 
denial of Peter s coming to Rome is easily grasped. During the 
whole Middle Ages the coining of St. Peter to Rome was the basis 
of the exorbitant pretentions of the papacy. These pretentious 
were founded on three propositions which were held to be "of the 
faith," 1st, Jesus himself conferred on Peter a primacy in the 
Church ; 2nd, that primacy ought to be transmitted to Peter s 
successors ; 3rd, the successors of Peter are the Bishops of Rome. 
Peter, after having resided at Jerusalem, then at Antioch, 
having definitively fixed his residence at Rome. To overthrow 
this last fact, was therefore to overturn from top to bottom the 
edifice of Roman theology. Men expended much learning on 
this ; they showed that Roman tradition was not supported on 
direct or very solid evidences ; but they treated lightly the 
indirect proofs ; they pointed in a troublesome way to the 
passage in I. Peter, v. 13. That Bav\<av in that passage really 
means Babylon on the Euphrates, is an untenable thesis, first 
because at chat time "Babylon," in the secret style of the 
Christians, meant Rome ; in the second place, because the 
Christianity of the first century had scarcely left the Roman 
empire, and spread itself very little among the Parthians. 

To us the question has less importance than it had for the 
first Protestants, and it is easier to solve it impartially. We 
certainly do not believe that Jesus intended to establish a 
leader in his church, nor especially, to attach that primacy to 
the episcopal succession of a fixed city. The episcopate, at 
first scarcely existed in the thoughts of Jesus ; besides, if it was 


a city of the world, among those whose names Jesus knew, to 
which he did not think of attaching the series of heads of hia 
church, it was doubtless Rome. They would probably have 
horrified him if they had told him that this city of perdition, 
this cruel enemy of the people of God, should one day boast of 
his Satanic kingdom, to claim the right of inheriting by a new 
title the power founded by the Son. That Peter had not been 
at Rome, or that he had been, has therefore for us no moral or 
political consequence ; there is in it only a curious historical 
question beyond which it is unnecessary to examine farther. 

Let us say first that Catholics have exposed themselves to the 
most weighty objections on the part of their adversaries with 
their unfortunate theory as to Peter s coming to Rome in the 
year 42 a theory borrowed from Eusebius and St. Jerome, and 
which limits the duration of the pontificate of Peter to twenty- 
three or twenty-four years. It is sufficient not to retain any 
doubt on that point, to consider that the persecution of which 
Peter was the object at Jerusalem on the part of Herod Agrippa I. 
(Acts xii.) took place in the very year in which Herod 
Agrippa died, chat is, in the year 44 (Jos. Ant., xix., viii., 2). 
Apollonius the Anti-Montanist (at the end of the second century) 
and Lactantius at the beginning of the fourth did not certainly 
believe that Peter had been at Rome in 42, the former, when 
he affirms having heard by tradition that Jesus Christ had 
forbidden his apostles to leave Jerusalem before twelve years 
had passed from the time of his death ; the latter, when he saw 
that the apostles employed the twenty-five years which followed 
the death of Jesus in preaching the gospel in the provinces, and 
that Peter did not come to Rome till after the accession of Nero. 
It would be superstitious to combat at length a theory which 
cannot have a single reasonable defender. We can go much 
further, indeed, and affirm that Peter had not yet come to 
Rome when Paul was brought there, that is in the year 61. 
The epistle of Paul to the Romans, written about the year 58, 
or at least which had not been written more than two years and 
a half before the arrival of Paul at Rome, is here a very 
considerable argument ; we can scarcely conceive St. Paul 
writing to the believers whose leader Peter was, without making 
the smallest mention of him. What is still more demonstrative 
is the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, That chapter, 
especially w. 17 29, is not intelligble if Peter was at Rome 
when Paul arrived there. Let us hold then as absolutely 
certain that Peter did not come to Rome before Paul, that is to 
say before the year 61, or nearly so. 

But did he not go there after Paul ? This is what Protestant 
critics have never succeeded in proving. Not only does this late 
journey of Peter to Rom^ offer no impossibility, but some strong 


reasons militate in its favour. 1 believe that those who read 
our account with care will find that everything fits in well 
enough in this hypothesis. Besides that, the testimony of the 
Fathers of the second and third centuries are not without value 
in this matter, and here are three arguments, the force of which 
does not appear to me to be disdained. 

1. An incontestable thing is that Peter died a martyr. 
The evidence of the fourth gospel, Clemens Romanus, and of 
the fragment called the Canon de Muratori, Dionysius of Corinth, 
Caius and Tertullian, leave no doubt on this matter. That the 
fourth gospel maybe apocryphal, and that the twenty-first chapter 
has been added at a latter date, is of no consequence. It is clear 
that we have in the verses where Jesus announces to Peter that 
he will die by the same penalty as himself, the expression of an 
opinion established in the churches before the year 120 or 130, 
and to which allusions are made as to a thing known to all. It 
was almost alone at Rome, indeed, chat Nero s persecution 
was violent. At Jerusalem or at Antioch, the martyrdom of 
Peter could be less easily explained. 

2. The socond argument is drawn from chapter v. verse 13, 
of the epistlt attributed to Peter. "Babylon " in this passage 
evidently me<> is Rome. If the epistle is authentic, the passage 
is decisive, li it is apocryphal, the induction to be drawn from 
this passage is not less strong. In fact the author, whoever he 
was, wished to have it believed that the work in question is 
indeed Peter s work. He needed consequently to give probability 
to his fraud, to dispose the circumstances of the case in a way 
agreeable to what he knew and to what was believed at his time 
as to the life of Peter. If, in such a disposition of mind, he 
dated the letter from Rome, it was because the received opinion at 
the time when that letter was written was that St. Peter had 
resided at Rome. Now, in every hypothesis, 1st Peter ia a very 
ancient work and enjoyed very early a high authority. 

3. The system which served as the basis for the Ebionite 
Acts of Peter is also well worthy of consideration. This system 
shows us St. Peter following Simon Magus everywhere (see on 
that point St. Paul) to combat his false doctrines. M. Lipsius 
has brought into the analysis of this curious legend an 
admirable sagacity of criticism. He has shown that the basis of 
the different editions which have come down to us was a 
primitive record, written about the year 130, a writing in which 
Peter cams to Rome to conquer Simon-Paul in the centre of 
his power, and found it dead, after having confounded this 
father in all h _j errors. It seems difficult to believe that the 
Ebionite author, at a date so remote, should have given so much 
importance to the journey of Peter to Rome, if that journey hau 
not had some reality. The theory of the Ebionite legend must 


have a foundation of truth, in spite of the fables mixed up with 
it. It is indeed admissible that Peter came to Rome as he came 
to Antioch, following Paul and partly to neutralize his influence. 
The Christian community in the year 60 was in a state of mind 
which in no way resembled the tranquil waiting of the twenty 
years which followed the death of Jesus. The missions of 
Paul and the facilities which the Jews found for their journey, 
had put in fashion distant expeditions. The apostle Philip is 
even pointed out by an ancient and persistent tradition as 
having become settled at Hierapolis. 

I regard then as probable the tradition of Peter s residence at 
Rome ; but I believe that this sojourn was of short duration, 
and that Peter suffered martyrdom a little time after his arrival 
in the eternal city. A coincidence favourable to this theory is 
the record of Tacitus, Annals xv. , 44. This record presents a 
quite natural occasion with which to connect Peter s martyrdom. 
The apostle of the Judeo-Christians formed part of the list of 
sufferers whom Tacitus describes as cnicibus affixi, and thus it 
is not without reason that the Seer of the Apocalypse places 
" the apostles " among the holy victims of the year 64, who 
applauded the destruction of the city which slew them. 

The coming of John to Ephesus, having a dogmatic value 
much less considerable than the coming of Peter to Rome, has 
not excited such lengthened controversies. The opinion generally 
received up to the present day, was that the apostle John, son 
of Zebedee, died very old in the -sapital of the province of Asia. 
Even those who refused to believo that during his residence the 
apostle wrote the fourth gospel and the epistles which bear his 
name, even those who denied that the Apocalypse was his work, 
continued to believe in the reality of this journey attended by 
tradition. The first, Liitzelberger, in 1840, raised upon this 
point some elaborated doubts ; but he was little listened to. Some 
critics who cannot be reproached with an excess of credulousness, 
Baur, Strauss, Schwegler, Zeller, Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, all by 
making a large part in the legend in the records as to the sojourn 
of John at Ephesus, persisted in regarding as historical the very 
fact of the apostle s coming into these regions. It is in 1SG7, in 
the first volume of his Life of Jesus, that M. Keim has directed 
against this traditional opinion quite a serious attack. The basis 
of M. Keim s theory is that Presbyteros Johannes has been con 
founded with John the Apostle, and that the statments of the 
ecclesiastical writers upon him ought to be listened to first. This 
was followed by M.M. Wittichen and Holtzmann. More recently 
M. Scholten, of the University of Leyden, in a lengthened work, 
was forced to destroy one after another all the proofs of the 
formerly received theory, and to demonstrate that the Apostle 
Tohn had never set foot in Asia. 


The tractate of M. Scholten is a true chef d ceuvre of argu 
mentation and method. The author passes in review not only 
nil the evidences which are alleged for or against the tradition, 
but also all the writings where it can and according to him ought 
to be mentioned. The learned Professor of Leyden had been 
formerly of a different opinion. In his long arguments against 
the authenticity of the fourth gospel, he had strongly insisted on 
the passage in which Polycrates of Ephesus, about the end of 
the second century, represents John as having been in Asia, 
one of the pillars of the Jewish and Quarto-deciman parties. But 
it is nothing to a friend of truth that it should be necessary in 
these difficult questions to modify and reform his opinion. M. 
Scholten s arguments have not convinced me ; they have put 
John into Asia among the number of doubtful facts ; they have 
not put it among the number certainly of apocryphal facts. I 
believe, indeed, that the chances of truth are still in favour of 
the tradition. Less probable in my view than Peter s residence at 
Rome, the theory of the residence of John at Ephesus maintains 
its probability, and I think that in many cases M. Scholten has 
given proof of an exaggerated scepticism. As I may permit 
myself once more to say, a theologian is never a perfect critic. 
M. Scholten has a mind too lofty to allow himself ever to be 
ruled by apologetic or dogmatic views ; but the theologian 
is so accustomed to surbordinate fact to idea, that rarely does he 
place himself in the simple point of view of the historian. For 
twenty-five years back, especially we have seen that the Protestant 
liberal school have allowed themselves to be carried away by an 
excess of negativeness in which we doubt whether the laic science 
which sees in those studies nothing but simply interesting 
researches, will follow it. Their religious position is come to 
this point, that they make a defence of supernatural beliefs 
more easy by "cheapening" the texts and sacrificing them 
largely, rather then by maintaining their authenticity. 

I am persuaded that a criticism unprejudiced by all theological 
prepossession shall find one day that the liberal theologians of 
our century have been too much in doubt, and that it will 
agree not certainly in spirit, but in some results, with the 
ancient traditional schools. 

Among the writings passed in review by M. Scholten the 
Apocalypse holds naturally the first rank. This is the point 
where the illustrious critic shews himself weakest. Of three 
things, one is true : either the Apocalypse is by the Apostle John, 
or it is by a forger who has intended to make it pass for a work of 
the Apostle John, or it is by a homonym of the Apostle John, 
such as John Mark or the enigmatical Presbyteros Johannes. 
On the third hypothesis it is clear that the Apocalypse has 
nothing to d > wit) .he residence of the Apcstlj John in Asia, 


but this hypothesis has little plausibility and in any case is 
not that which M. Scholten adopts. He is for the second 
hypothesis ; he believes the Apocalypse apocryphal in the same 
way as the Book of Daniel. He thinks that the forger wished, 
according to a very common proceeding among the Jews of hia 
time, to cover himself with the prestige of a venerated personage, 
that he has chosen the Apostle John as one of the pillars of the 
church of Jerusalem, and that he represents himself to the churches 
of Asia under that venerable name. Such a falsehood scarcely 
being conceivable during the lifetime of the apostle, M. Scholten 
declares that John had died before the year 68. But this 
theory includes downright impossibilities. Whatever may be the 
authenticity of the Apocalypse, I dare to say that the arguments 
which are drawn from that writing to establish the truth of a 
residence oC John in Asia are as strong in the second 
hypothesis set forth here as in the first. There is no question 
here of a book being produced like the Book of Daniel some 
centuries after the death of the author to whom it is attributed. 
The Apocalypse was circulated among the believers in Asia in 
the winter of 68-69, while the great struggles between the 
generals for the competition of the empire and the appearance 
of the false Nero, of Cythnos, kept the whole world in a feverish 
expectation. If the Apostle John were dead as M. Scholten 
says, it was shortly before; in any case in M. Scholten s hypothe 
sis the faithful of Ephesus, of Smyrna, &c., knew perfectly at 
that date that the Apostle John had never visited Asia. What 
reception would they give to the account of a vision represented 
as having taken place in Patmos at some leagues from Ephesus, 
an account which is addressed to the seven principal churches 
of Asia by a man who is credited to have known the concealed 
thoughts of their consciences, who distributes to some the hardest 
reproaches, to others the most exalted praise, who takes with 
them the tone of an indisputable authority, who represents 
himself as having been the partaker of their sufferings ; if that 
man had been neither in Patmos nor Asia, if their imagination 
had always fixed him settled at Jerusalem ? The forger must be 
supposed to have been endowed with little good sense to have 
created in lightness of heart for his books such reasons of dislike 
against them. Why does he place the scene of the prophesy at 
Patmos ? That island had never up till then any importance, 
any significance. People never touched at it except when they 
went from Ephesus to Rome or from Rome to Ephesus ; for 
such travelling as that Patmos offered a very good part for 
resting, a small day s journey from Ephesus. It was the first 
or the last halting-place, according to the rules of the little 
navigation described in the Acts, and of which the essential 
principle was to stop as much as was possible every night. 


Patmos could not be the object of a voyage. A man coming to 
Ephesus or going from Ephesus alone needed to touch there. 
Even admitting the non-authenticity of the Apocalypse, the 
first three chapters of this book constitute therefore a strong 
probability in favour of the theory of John s residence in Asia, 
in the same manner as 1st Peter, although apocryphal, is a very 
good argument for the residence of Peter at Rome. The forger, 
whatever may be the credulousness of the public whom he 
addressed, seeks always to create for his writing conditions in 
which it may be acceptable. If the author of 1st Peter believed 
himself obliged to date his writing from Rome, if the author of 
the Apocalypse imagined that he would give a good exordium 
to his vision by making it appear to be written upon the threshold 
of Asia, nearly opposite Ephesus, and by addressing it with 
counsels which remind one of those of a director of the conscience 
to the churches of Asia, it is because Peter has been at Rome and 
John has been in Asia. Dionysius of Alexandria at the end of the 
third century feels perfectly the great embarassment which the 
question thus placed presents. Shewing that antipathy against 
the Apocalypse which all the Greek fathers possessed in a true 
Hellenic spirit, Dionysius accumulates the objections against 
attributing such a writing to the Apostle John, but he recognises 
that the work cannot have been composed except by a personage 
who had lived in Asia, and he puts aside the homonyms of the 
apostle ; so much does this proposition agree with the evidence 
that the true or supposed author of the Apocalyps? ban really 
been connected with Asia. 

M. Scholten s discussion relative to the text of Papias is very 
important. It has been the lot of this apxalos uvrjp to be badly 
understood since Irenreus, who has certainly wrongly made him 
an auditor of the Apostle John, until Eusebius, who also wrongly 
supposes that he knew directly Presbyteros Johannes. M. Keim 
had already shewn that the text of Papias, well understood, 
proves rather to be against than for the residence of the Apostle 
John in Asia M. Scholten goes much further ; he concludes 
from the passage in question, that even Presbyteros Johannes 
had not resided in Asia. He believes that this personage, 
distinct in his view from the Apostle John, resided in Palestine, 
and was a contemporary of Papias. We agree with M. Scholten, 
*;hat if the passage in Papias is correct, it is an objection against 
the residence of the apostle in Asia. But is it correct ? Are 
the words fj T L laxivvrjs not an interpolation ? To those who 
find this idea arbitrary, I would reply that, if they maintain 
17 Tt icoai/i/^s, the words ot rov Kvpiov fiadyrai, placed after 
Apia-titav Kal 6 Trpf(r/3vrepos laawrjs, made a bizarre and inco 
herent collection. What, nevertheless, confirms M. Scholten s 
doubts is a passage in Papias, quoted by George Hamartolus, 


and according to which John was killed by the Jews. This 
tradition appears to have been created to show the realization 
of words of Christ (Matt. xx. 23) ; Mark x. 39 ; it is not recon 
cilable with residence of John at Ephesus, and if Papias had 
really adopted it, it is because he had not the least idea of the 
coming of John into the province of Asia. Now it would be 
very surprising that a man zealous in research in apostolic 
traditions should have ignored such an important fact, which 
would take place in the same country as that in which he lived. 
The omission of all reference relative to the residence in Asia 
in the epistles attributed to St. Ignatius and Hegesippus gives 
certainly cause for reflection. At the beginning of the year 180 
A.D., tradition is definitely fixed. Appollonius, the Anti- 
Montanist, Polycrates, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and 
Origen, have no doubt as to the remarkable honour which the 
city of Ephesus enjoyed. Among the texts which might be 
alleged, two are especially remarkable, that of Polycrates, 
Bishop of Ephesus, about 196, and Irenseus (at the same time) 
in his letter to Florinus. M. Scholten puts aside too lightly the 
text of Polycrates. It is important to find at Ephesus at the end 
of one century all the traditions so distinctly affirmed. " The 
small critical mind of Polycrates," says M. Scholten, " draws from 
this circumstance that he represents John to us as decorated 
with the TrffraXoi/, thus making recede by an anachronism to 
the apostolic age the usage existing then of giving to the Christian 
Bishop the dignity of high priest." Formerly, M. Scholten did 
not judge thus ; he saw in the irfraKov and in the title of "high 
priest " given to the Apostle John by Polycrates, a proof that the 
apostle was in Asia, the head of the Judeo-Christian party. 
He was right. The Tr^raXov, far from being an episcopal mark 
of the second century, is only attributed to two personages, and to 
two personages of the first century, to James and John, both 
belonging to the Judeo-Christian party, and this party believed 
to exalt them by attributing to them the prerogatives of 
the Jewish high priests. M. Keim and M. Scholten likewise 
reproach Polyci ates with believing that the Philip who came to 
settle at Hierapolis with his prophetess daughters, is the 
apostle. I believe that Polycrates is right, and that if we 
compare attentively Acts xxi., v. 8, with the passages in Papias, 
Proclus, Polycrates, and Clement of Alexandria, as to Philip 
and his daughters, residing at Hierapolis, I think we shall 
be convinced that it is the apostle that is spoken of. The verse 
in Acts has all the appearance of an interpolation. M. Holtz- 
mann seems to adopt upon this point the hypothesis which I 
have proposed in my Apostles. I hold to it more than ever. 

The most curious passage in the Fathers of the Church on the 
question which occupies us is the fragment of the epistle of 



Irenseus to Florinus, which Eusebius has preserved for us. It 
is one of the finest pages of Christian literature in the second 
century. "These opinions of Florinus are not of a sound 

teaching ; these opinions are not those which the 

elders who have preceded us, and who knew the Apostles, 
transmitted to thee. I remembered that when I was a child in 
Asia Minor where thou didst shine first by thy office at court, I 
saw thee near Polycarp seeking to acquire his esteem. I remem 
ber things which happened first rather than things which come 
later, for that which we have known in infancy grows with the 
mind, identifies itself with it ; so much so that I could tell the 
place in which the blessed Polycarp sat to speak, his walk, his 
habit, his method of life, the features of his body, his manner 
of rendering assistance, how he related the familiarity he had 
had with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, and 
what he had heard them say as to the Lord and his miracles, 
and as to his doctrine. Polycarp reported it as having received 
it from eye witnesses of the Word of Life conforming all to the 
scriptures. Those things, thanks to the goodness of God, I 
listened to -from the first with appreciation, not consigning 
them to paper, but in my heart, and I always, thanks to God, 
recorded them with authenticity. And I can attest in the 
presence of God, that if this blessed and apostolic elder had 
heard something like thy doctrines, he would have closed his 
ears and would have cried according to his custom : Oh good 
God ! to what times hast thou reserved me, that I should hear 
such words ! and he would have fled from the place where he 
had heard them." 

We see that Irenseus did not make an appeal as in the greater 
part of the other passages in which he speaks of the residence 
of the apostle in Asia, to a vague tradition ; he recites to 
Florinus some remembrances of childhood, under their common 
master Polycarp. One of these souvenirs is that Polycarp spoke 
often of his personal relations with the Apostle John. M. 
Scholten has seen thoroughly that it is necessary to admit the 
reality of these relations, or to declare apocryphal the Epistle 
to Florinus. He decides for this second view. His reasons 
seem to me to be very weak. And first in the book Against 
Heresies Irenseus expresses himself nearly in the same manner 
as in the letter to Florinus. The principal objection of 
M. Scholten is drawn from this, that to explain such relations 
between John and Polycarp, there must be supposed for the 
apostle, for Polycarp, and for Irenseus, an extraordinary longev 
ity. I am not much moved by that ; John could not be dead, until 
about the year 80 or 90, and Irenaeus wrote about 180. Irenseus 
was therefore at the same distance from the last years of John, 
as we are from the last years of Voltaire. Now without any 


miracle of longevity whatever our fellow worker and friend 
M. Eemusat knew with great intimacy the Abb6 Moi-ellet, 
who conversed at length with Voltaire. The difficulty which 
it is believed we find in the fact recorded by Irenseus, is 
that the martyrdom of Polycarp is placed in 166, 167, 168, 169 
under Marcus Aurelius. Polycarp was at that time eighty-six 
years of age ; he would therefore be born in the year 80, 81, 
82, or 83, which would make him too young at the death of 
John. But the date of the martyrdom of Polycarp should be 
modified. This martyrdom took place under the Pro-Consulate 
of Quadratus. Now M. "Waddington has demonstrated in a 
manner which leaves no room for doubt, that the Pro-Consulate 
of Quadratus, in Asia, ought to be placed in 154 155, under the 
reign of Antoninus the Pious. Polycarp was therefore born in 
68 69. If the Apostle had lived until the year 90, which 
nothing contradicts (he might be twelve years younger than 
Jesus), it is not unlikely Jiat Polycarp had in his youth some 
conversations with him. It is not the Acts of the martyrdom of 
Polycarp which assigns as the date of that martyrdom the 
reign of Marcus Aurelius, it is Eusebius who by an erroneous 
calculation, of which M. "Waddington gives a clear exposure 
believed that the Pro-Consulate of Quadratus fell under that 

A difficulty in the chronological system, which we would 
explain is the journey which Polycarp made to Eome, under the 
pontificate of Anicet. Anicet, according to the received chron 
ology, became Bishop of Eome in the year 154, or rather 
sooner. There is, therefore, some little difficulty to find a place 
for the journey of Polycarp. M. Waddington a results appeal 
decisive ; if it be necessary to be in sequence with these results, 
to ante-date a little the elevation of Anicet to the pontificate, we 
ought not to hesitate, seeing that the pontifical lists offer some 
trouble in that direction, and that many lists place Anicet before 
Pius. It is to be regretted that M. Lipsius, who has published 
recently a very good work upon the Chronology of the Bishop 
of Eome up to the Fourth Century, had not known M. Wad- 
dington s treatise ; he would have found there matter for an 
important discussion. 

Is it likely, says M. Scholten, that an old man, already nearly 
a centena rian, would have taken such a voyage and that at a time 
when it was much more difficult to travel than in our days ? 
The voyages from Ephesus or from Smyrna to Eome would have 
been more easy. A merchant of Hierapolis tells us in his epitaph 
that he had made seventy-two times the distance from Hier 
apolis to Italy by doubling the Malean Cape. This merchant con 
tinued therefore his journeys up to an age advanced as that when 
Polycarp made his voyage to Eome. Such navigations (they 



travelled veiy little during the winter) did not entail any fatigue. 
It is possible that Polycarp carried out his voyage to Rome during 
the summer of 154 and yet suffered martyrdom at Smyrna on the 
23rd February, 155. M. Keim s hypothesis, according to which 
the John whom Polycarp would know would not be John the 
Apostle, but Presbyteros Johannes, is full of improbabilities. If 
this Presbyteros was as we believe a secondary personage, the 
disciple of John the Apostle flourishing in the year 100 to nearly 
the year 120, the confusion of Polycarp or Irenseus would be 
inconceivable. As to the Presbyteros being really a man 
of the great apostolic generation, an equal of the apostles, who 
might be confounded with them, we have already presented our 
objections to this theory. Let us add that even then the 
error of Polycarp would not be much more easy to explain. 

One of the most curious parts of M. Scholten s treatise is that 
in which he recurs to the question of the fourth gospel, which 
he had already treated with so much fulness some years before. 
M. Scholten does not only admit that this gospel may be the 
work of John, but he still refuses it all connection with John. 
He denies that John is the disciple named many times in this 

fospel with mystery and designated as " the disciple whom 
esus loved." According to M. Scholten that disciple is not a 
real person. The immortal disciple who, as distinguished from 
the other disciples of the Master, should live until the end of 
the ages by the force of his mind, this disciple, whose evidence, 
reposing upon spiritual contemplation, is of an absolute authen 
ticity, ought not to be identified with any of the Galillean 
apostles. He is an ideal personage. It is quite impossible for 
me to admit that opinion. But let us not complicate difficult 
questions by another more difficult still. M. Schplten has 
removed many supports upon which formerly rested the 
opinion of the residence of the Apostle John in Asia. He 
has proved that this fact does not arise from the penumbra 
through which we see nearly all the facts of Apostolic history. 
In what concerns Papias he has raised an objection to which it 
is easy to reply ; nevertheless he has not set forth all the 
arguments which can be alleged in favour of the tradition. 
The first chapters of the Apocalypse, the letter of Irenseus to 
Florinus, the passage in Polycrates remain three solid bases 
upon which we cannot build up a certainty, but which 
M. Scholteu, in spite of his trenchant dialectic, has not