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I HAD at first believed that I should be able to finish in one volume 
this history of the " Origins of Christianity ; " but the matter has grown 
in proportion as I have advanced in my work, and the present volume 
is only the last but two. The reader will find in it the explanation, so 
far as it is possible to give one, of a fact almost equal in importance to 
the personal action of Jesus himself I mean to say, of the manner in 
which the legend of Jesus was written. The compilation of the Gospels 
is, next to the life of Jesus, the cardinal chapter of the history of 
Christian origins. The material circumstances of this compilation are 
surrounded with mystery ; many of the doubts, however, have, in those 
later years, been dispelled, and it can now be said that the problem of 
the compilation of the Gospels denominated synoptic, has reached a 
kind of maturity. The relations of Christianity with the Roman 
Empire, the first heresies, the disappearance of the last immediate 
disciples of Jesus, the gradual separation of the Church and the Syna 
gogue, the progress of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the substitution of 
the presbytery for the primitive community, the coming in with Trajan 
of a sort of golden age for civil society, these are the great facts 
which we shall see unfolded to our view. Our sixth volume will em 
brace the history of Christianity under the reigns of Hadrian and 
Antoninus ; we shall witness the commencement of Gnosticism, the 
compilation of the pseudo-Johannine writings, the first apologists, the 
party of St Paul drifting by exaggeration to Marcion, ancient Chris 
tianity running into a coarser Millenarisin and Montanism. Opposed to 
all this, the episcopate making rapid strides, Christianity becoming each 
day more Greek and less Hebrew, a " Catholic Church " beginning to 
result from the accord of all the individval churches, and to constitute a 
centre of irrefragable authority, which already was established at Rome. 
We shall see finally the absolute separation of Judaism and Christianity 
definitively effected, from the time of the revolt of Bar-Coziba, and 
hatred the most deadly kindled between mother and daughter. From 
this point it can be said that Christianity is constituted. Its principle 
of authority exists. The episcopate has entirely replaced the primitive 
democracy, and the bishops of the different churches are en rapport 
with one another. The new Bible is complete ; it is called the New 


Testament. The divinity of Jesus Christ is recognised by all the Churches 
outside of Syria. The Son is not yet the equal of the Father ; he is a 
second god, a supreme vizier of creation, yet he is in very truth a god. 
Finally, two or three attacks of maladies, extremely dangerous, which 
break out in the nascent religion Gnosticism, Montanism, docetism, the 
heretical attempt of Marcion are vanquished by the force of the in 
ternal principle of authority. Christianity, moreover, has extended 
itself everywhere. It has seated itself in the heart of Gaul, it has pene 
trated into Africa. It is a public affair : the historians speak of it ; it 
has its advocates who defend it officially, its accusers who commence 
against it a war of criticism. Christianity, in a word, is born, com 
pletely born ; it is an infant, and will grow a great deal. It has all its 
organs, it lives in the broad light of day, it is no longer an embryo. 
The umbilical cord which attached it to its mother is definitely cut ; 
it will receive nothing more from her ; it will live its own life. 

It is at this moment, about the year 160, that we shall determine 
this. That which follows belongs to history, and may seem relatively 
easy to recount. What we have wished to make clear belongs to the 
embry-organic stage, and must in great part be inferred, sometimes even 
divined. Minds which only love material certainty, cannot be pleased 
with such researches. Rarely (for these periods recur) does it happen 
that one can say with precision how things have taken place ; but one may 
succeed sometimes in picturing to oneself the diverse manners in which 
they may have taken place, and that is sufficient. If there be a science 
which can make in our day surprising progress, it is the science of com 
parative mythology. Now this, science has consisted much less in teach 
ing us how each myth has been formed, than in demonstrating to us 
the diverse categories of formation. Although we cannot say, " Such a 
demi-god, such a goddess, is surely storm, lightning, the dawn," etc. ; but 
we can say, " The atmospheric phenomena, particularly those which are 
related to the rising and the setting of the sun, and so forth, have been 
the fruitful sources of gods and demi-gods." Aristotle has truly said, 
" There is no science except general science." History herself, history 
properly speaking, history exposed to the light of day and founded upon 
documents, does she escape this necessity ? Certainly not ; we do not 
know exactly the details of anything. That which is of moment are 
the general lines, the grand resultant facts which remain true even 
though all the details may be erroneous. 

Hence I have said the most important object of this volume is to ex 
plain in a plausible manner the method by which the three Gospels, called 
synoptic, were formed, which constitute, if we compare them with the 
fourth Gospel, a family apart. It is certainly true that it is impossible 
to determine precisely many of the points in this delicate research. It 
must be confessed, however, that the question has made during the last 
twenty years veritable progress. As the origin of the fourth Gospel, 
which is attributed to John, remains enveloped in mystery, so the hypo 
theses in regard to the compilation of the Gospels called synoptic have 
attained a high degree of probability. There are in reality three kinds 
of Gospels : (1) The original Gospels, or Gospels at first hand, composed 
solely from oral tradition, and without the author having before him 


any anterior text. (In my opinion, there are two Gospels of this kind, 
the one written in Hebrew, or rather in Syriac, now lost, but of which 
many of the fragments have been preserved to us, translated into 
Greek or into Latin, by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, 
Epiphanius, St Jerome, etc. ; the other written in Greek, which is 
that of St Mark.) (2) The Gospels, in part original, in part at 
second hand, formed by combining the anterior texts with the oral 
traditions (such were the Gospel falsely attributed to the Apostle Mat 
thew and the Gospel composed by Luke). (3) The Gospels at second 
or third hand, composed deliberately from written documents, without 
the authors having dipped through any living principle into traditions. 
(Such was the Gospel of Marcion ; such were also these Gospels, 
called apocryphal, drawn from the canonical Gospels by processes of 
amplification.) The variety of the Gospels arises from this, that the 
tradition which is found deposited there was for a long time oral. 
That variety would not have existed if from the very first the life of 
Jesus had been written. The idea of modifying arbitrarily the com 
pilation of the texts presents itself less in the East than elsewhere, 
because the literal reproduction of the anterior accounts, or, if it be 
preferred, plagiarism is there the rule of the historiographer. The 
moment when an epic, or a legendary tradition, commences to be put 
into writing, marks the hour when it ceases to produce divergent 
branches. Par from subdividing itself, the compilation obeys thence 
forward a sort of secret tendency which restores it to unity through the 
gradual extinction of imperfectly-judged compilations. There existed 
fewer Gospels at the end of the second century, when Irenaeus found 
mystical reasons to establish that there were four, and that there could 
not be more, than at the close of the first, when Luke wrote at the 
end of his narrative, Eirepdrj irep iroXXoJ eirixeip^crav . . . Even in the 
time of Luke several of the original editions had probably disappeared. 
The oral form produces a multiplication of variants ; but once the 
written style has been entered upon, this multiplicity is nothing but 
an inconvenience. If logic like that of Marcion s had prevailed, we 
should have had no more than one Gospel, and the best mark of the 
sincerity of the Christian conscience is that the necessities of the apolo 
getic have not suppressed the contradictions in the texts by reducing 
them to one only. This is why, to speak the truth, the want of unity 
was combated by a contrary desire that of losing nothing of a tradition 
which was judged as being equally precious in all its parts. A design 
like that which is often attributed to St Mark, the idea of making an 
abridgment of the anteriority received texts, is more contrary to the 
spirit of the times than the one in question. People aimed, indeed, 
rather at completing each text by the heterogeneous additions, as in the 
case of Matthew, than in discarding from the little book what one 
possessed of the details which were regarded by all as being penetrated 
by the Divine Spirit. 

The most important documents for the epoch treated of in this 
volume are, besides the Gospels and the other writings the compilation 
of which are therein explained, the somewhat numerous epistles which 
were produced during the last apostolic period epistles in which 


almost always 4he imitation of those of St Paul is discernible. What 
we shall say in our text will be sufficient to make known our opinion 
upon each of these writings. A fortuitous accident has willed that the 
most interesting of these epistles, that of Clemens Romanus, has re 
ceived, in these later times, considerable elucidation. We should not 
have before known of this precious document, but for the celebrated 
manuscript, named Alexand/inus, which was sent, in 1682, by Cyril 
Lucaris to Charles I. Now, this manuscript contained a considerable 
omission, not to speak of several places which had been destroyed, or 
become illegible, which it was necessary to fill up with conjecture. A 
new manuscript, discovered in the Fanar at Constantinople, contains 
the work in its entirety. A Syriac manuscript, which formed a portion 
of the library of the late M. Mohl, and which has been acquired hy the 
library of the University of Cambridge, was found also to include the 
Syrian translation of the work of which we are speaking. M. Bensley is 
entrusted with the publication of that text. The collation which Mr 
Lightfoot has made of it, has produced the most important results which 
arise from it for criticism. 

The question whether the epistle attributed to Clemens Romanus 
is reaDy by that holy personage, has only a mediocre importance, since 
the writing in question is represented as the collective work of the 
Roman Church, and since the problem confines itself, consequently, as 
to who held the pen on this particular occasion. It is not the same 
as the epistles attributed to St Ignatius. The fragments which com 
pose this collection are either authentic or the work of a forger. In the 
second hypothesis they were at least sixty years posterior to the death 
of St Ignatius, and such is the importance of the changes which 
operated in those sixty years, that the documentary value of the said 
fragments is absolutely changed by them. It is hence impossible to 
treat the history of the origins of Christianity, without taking up a 
decided position in this regard. 

The question of the Epistles of St Ignatius, next to the question 
of the Johnnnine writings, is the most difficult of those which belong 
to the primitive Christian literature. A few of the most striking 
features of one of the letters which form a portion of that correspond 
ence, were known and cited from the end of the second century. We 
have, moreover, here the testimony of a man which we are surprised 
to see pleaded on a subject of ecclesiastical history that of Lucian of 
Samosata. The spiritelle picture of morals which that charming 
author has entitled The Death of Pereyrinus, " contains some almost 
direct allusions to the triumphal journey of the prisoner Ignatius, and 
to the circular epistles which he addressed to the Churches. These 
constitute some strong presumptions in favour of the authenticity of the 
letters of which we have been speaking. On the other hand, the taste 
for supposititious writings was at the time so wide-spread amongst 
Christian society, that we ought always to be on our guard in respect 
of them, since it is proved that no scruple was made in ascribing 
some of the letters and other writings to Peter, Paul, and John. 
Thure is no prejudicial objection to be raised against the hypothesis 
which attributes writings to persons of high authority, such as Igna- 


tins and Polycarpus. It is only the examination of the compositions 
themselves which will warrant one in expressing an opinion in that 
regard. Now it is incontestable that the perusal of the writings of 
St Ignatius inspires the gravest suspicions, and raises objections 
which no one has as yet satisfactorily answered. 

In regard to a personage like St Paul, some of whose longer 
writings of indubitable authenticity it is universally admitted we pos 
sess, and whose biography is well enough known, the discussion of 
the contested epistles has some foundation. We start with the texts 
to which no exception can be taken, and from the well-established out 
lines of the biography ; we compare the doubtful writings with them ; 
we see whether they agree with the data admitted by everyone, and, 
in certain cases, as in those of the Epistles to Titus and Timothy, 
we reach most satisfactory conclusions. But we know nothing of the 
private life of St Ignatius ; among the writings attributed to him there 
is not a page of them which is not coutestable. We have not their 
solid critcrium to warrant us in saying, "This is or this is not his." 
That which greatly complicates the question is, that the text of the 
epistles is extremely variable the Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian 
manuscripts of the same epistle differ considerably amongst them 
selves. These letters, during several centuries, seem to have particu 
larly exercised the forgers and the interpolators. Obstacles and diffi 
culties are encountered in them at each step. 

Without taking into account the secondary various readings, as well 
as some works notoriously spurious, we possess two collections of un 
equal length of the epistles attributed to St Ignatius. The one 
contains seven letters addressed to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the 
Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrniotes, to Poly- 
carpus. The other consists of thirteen letters, to wit : (1) The seven just 
mentioned, considerably augmented ; (2) Four new letters of Ignatius 
tc the Tarsians, to the Philippines, to the Antiochians, to Heros ; 
(3) and finally, a letter of Maria de Castabala to Ignatius, with the 
answer of Ignatius. Between those two collections there can be but little 
possible hesitation. The critics, beginning with Usserius, are nearly 
agreed in preferring the collection of seven letters to that of the thirteen. 
There can be no doubt that the added letters in the latter collection are 
apocryphal. As for the seven letters which are common to the two 
collections, the actual text must certainly be sought for in the former 
collection. Many of the particulars in the texts of the second collec 
tion betray unmistakably the hand of the interpolator ; but this does 
not necessitate that this second collection may not have a veritable 
critical value in regard to the construction of the text, for it would 
appear that the interpolator had in his hands an excellent manu 
script, the reading of which ought to be preferred to that of the non- 
interpolated manuscripts actually existing. 

In any case, is the collection of seven letters beyond suspicion ? 
Far from it. The first doubts were raised by the great school of French 
criticism of the seventeenth century. Saumaise and Blondel raised 
the most serious objections against portions of the collection of the 
seven letters. Daille , in 1666, published a remarkable dissertation, 


in which he rejected the, collection in its entirety. In spite of the 
trenchant replies of Pearson, Bishop of Chester, and the resistance of 
Cotolier, the majority of independent minds Larroque, Basnuge, 
Casimir Oudin ranged themselves on the side of Daille . The school 
which in our day in Germany has so learnedly applied criticism to the 
history of the origins of Christianity, has only followed the lines of that 
of nearly two hundred years ago. Neander and Gieseler remained in 
doubt ; Christian Baur resolutely denied the authenticity of the whole : 
none of the epistles found grace in his sight. This great critic, it is 
true, did not rest content with denying, he explained. In his view, 
the seven Ignatian epistles were a forgery of the second century, fabri 
cated at Rome, with a view of creating a basis for the authority of 
the episcopate, which was increasing day by day. M. M. Schwegler, 
Hilgenfeld, Vauchner, Volkmar, and more recently M. M. Scholten and 
Pfliederer, have adopted the same propositions, with slightly different 
shades of meaning. Many enlightened theologians, nevertheless, such 
as Uhlhorn, Hefele, and Dressel, persisted in regarding some portions 
of the collection of the seven letters as authentic, or even in defending 
it in its entirety. An important discovery, about the year 1840, ought 
to have determined the question in an ecclesiastical sense, and furnished 
an instrument to those who held it to be a difficult operation to 
separate in the texts, generally little nccented, the sincere parts from 
those interpolated. 

Amongst the treasures which the British Museum secured from the 
convents of Nitria, M. Cureton discovered three Syriac maunscripts, 
each of which contained the same collection of the Ignatian epistles ; 
but they are much more abridged than the two Greek collections. The 
Syrian collection found by Cureton contained only three epistles the 
epistle to the Ephesians, that to the Romans, that to Polycarpus and 
these three epistles were found to be much shorter than in the Greek. 
It was natural to believe that people would in fine hold Ignatius to be 
authentic, the text being anterior to all interpolations. The phrases 
cited as those of Ignatius by Irenseus, by Origen, were found in that 
Syriac version. 

People believed it was possible to show that the suspected passages 
were not to he found in them. Bunsen, Ritschl, Weiss, and Lipsius 
displayed an extreme ardour in maintaining that proposition. M. 
Ewald assumed to advocate it in an imperious tone ; but very strong 
objections were raised against it. Baur, Wordsworth, Hefele, Uhlhorn, 
and Merx set themselves to prove that the small Syriac collection, so 
far from being the original text, was an abridged and mutilated text. 
They have not clearly shown, it is true, what motives had guided the 
abbreviator in this work of making extracts. But in seeking again for 
the evidences of the knowledge which the Syrians had of the epistles 
in question, we arrive at the conclusion that not only had the Syrians 
not possessed an Ignatius more authentic than that of the Greeks, but 
that even the collection which they have was the collection of thirteen 
letters from which the abbreviator discovered by Cureton had drawn 
his extracts. Petermann contributed much to this result in discussing 
*.he Armenian translation of the epistles in question. This translation 


had been made from the Syriac, but it contains the thirteen letters, in 
cluding the most feeble portions of them. People are to-day so nearly 
agreed that there is no occasion to consult the Syriac in that which 
concerns the writings attributed to the Bishop of Antioch, except as to 
a few details of the various readings. 

We see, after what has just been said, that three opinions divide the 
critics as to the collection of the seven letters, only one of which, however, 
merits discussion. Some hold that the whole collection is apocryphal, 
while others maintain that the whole, or nearly so, is authentic. A few 
seek to distinguish the authentic from the apocryphal portion. The 
second opinion appears to us indefensible. Without affirming that 
everything in the correspondence of the Bishop of Antioch is apocryphal, 
it is allowable to regard as a desperate attempt the pretension of de 
monstrating that the whole of it is of good alloy. 

If we except, in fact, the Epistle to the Romans, which is full of a 
singular energy, of a kind of sacred fire, and stamped by a character 
peculiarly original, the six other epistles, excepting two or three passages, 
are cold, lifeless, and desperately monotonous. There is not one of those 
striking peculiarities which gave so distinctive a seal to the Epistles of St 
Paul and even to the Epistles of St James and Clemens Romanus ; they 
consist of vague exhortations, without any special relations to those to 
whom they are addressed, and always dominated by one fixed idea the 
enhancement of the episcopal power, the constitution of the Church into 
a hierarchy. 

Certainly the remarkable evolution which substituted for the col 
lective authority of the tKK\rjffla or vvvayuyri the direction of the 
irpfafivrepoi or eirlffKOTroi (two terms at first synonymous), and which, 
among the wpea^vrepot, or MffKoiroi, in selecting one out from the 
circle (?) to be par excellence the tiriffKoiros or overseer of the others, began 
at a very early date. But it is not credible that, about the year 1 1 or 1 1 5, 
this movement was so advanced as we see it to be in the Ignatian epistles. 
According to the author of these curious writings, the bishop is the whole 
Church ; it is imperative to follow him in everything, to consult him in 
everything he sums up the community in himself alone. He is Christ 
himself. Where the bishop is, there is the Church, just as where Jesus 
Christ is, there is the Church Catholic. The distinction between the 
different ecclesiastical orders is not less characteristic. The priests and 
deacons are in the hands of the bishop like the strings of a lyre ; their 
perfect harmony depends upon the accuracy of the sounds which the 
Church emits. Above the individual Churches, in fact, there is a Church 
Universal, r/ /ca0oXt/crj ^KK\rjffLa. All this is true enough from the end of 
the second century, but not so from the early years of that century. 
The repugnance which our old French critics evinced on this point was 
well founded, and sprung from the very correct sentiment which they 
entertained as to the gradual evolution of the Christian dogmas. 

The heresies combatted by the author of the Ignatian epistles with 
so much fury are likewise of an age posterior to that of Trajan. They 
were wholly attached to a Docetism or a Gnosticism analogous to that 
of Valentinus. We insist less on this particular, for the pastoral 
epistles and the Johannine writings combat errors greatly analogous, 


yet we think these writings belong to the first half of the second cen 
tury. However, the idea of an orthodoxy outside of which there is 
only error, appeared in the writings in question, and so fully developed 
that it seems to approach more nearly the times of St Irenaeus than 
those of the primitive Christian age. 

The great feature of the apocryphal writings is the affectation of 
a leaning in a certain direction : the aim that the forger proposed to 
himself in their composition always clearly betrays itself in them. 
This character is observable in the highest degree in the epistles at 
tributed to St Igna tius, the Epistle to the Romans always excepted. 
The author wishes to strike a great blow in favour of the episcopal 
hierarchy ; he wishes to crush the heretics and the schismatics of 
his time with the weight of an indisputable authority. But where 
can we find a higher authority than that of this venerated bishop, 
whose heroic death was recognised by everyone ? What more solemn 
than the counsels given by this martyr a few days or a few weeks 
before his appearance in the amphitheatre ? St Paul, in like manner, 
in the epistles supposed to be addressed to Titus and to Timothy, is 
represented as oM, nigh unto death. The last will of a martyr came 
to be regarded as sacred, and, moreover, the admission of the apocry 
phal work was so much the more easy, inasmuch as St Ignatius 
was believed, in fact, to have written different letters on his way 
to his execution. Let us add to these objections a few material 
improbabilities. The salutations to the Churches and the relations 
which these salutations presupposed to exist between the author of 
the letters and the Churches, are not sufficiently explained. The 
circumstantial features contain something awkward and stupid just 
as was also to be remarked in the false epistles of Paul to Titus 
and to Timothy. The great use which is made in the writings of 
which we speak, of the fourth Gospel and of the Johannine epistles, 
the affected way in which the author speaks of the doubtful epistle of 
St Paul to the Ephesians, likewise excites suspicion. On the other 
hand, it is very strange that the author, in seeking to exalt the Church 
at Ephesus, ignores the relations of this Church with St Paul, and 
says nothing of the sojourn of St John at Ephesus, he who was sup 
posed to be so closely connected with Polycarpus, the disciple of John. 
It must be confessed, in short, that this correspondence is not often 
cited by the fathers, and that the estimate which appears to have been 
put upon it by the Christian authors up to the fourth century, is not 
in proportion to that which it merited had it been authentic. Let us 
always put to one side the Epistle to the Romans, which, in our view, 
does not form a part of the apocryphal collection. The six other 
epistles have been little read St John, Chrysostom, and the ecclesi 
astical writers of Antioch, seem to have been ignorant of them. It is 
a singular thing that even the author of the Acts, of the Martyrdom 
of Ignatius, the most authorised of those that Ruinart published from 
a manuscript of Colbert, possesses only a very vague knowledge con 
cerning them. It is the same with the author of the Acts published by 

Ought the Epistle to the Romans to be included in the condemnation 


which the other Ignatiau epistles merit ? One may read the translation 
^f a part of this writing in our text. There is here certainly a singular 
fragment, which cuts into the common-places of the other epistles 
attributed to the Bishop of Antioch. Is the Epistle to the Romans 
entirely the work of the holy martyrs I This may be doubted, but it 
appears to cover original ground. Here and there only we acknow 
ledge that which M. Zahn too generously accords to the rest of the 
Ignatian correspondence the imprint of a powerful character and of 
a strong individuality. The style of the Epistle to the Romans is 
bizarre and enigmatical, whilst that of the rest of the correspondence 
is plain and insipid enough. The Epistle to the Romans does not 
include any of those common-places of ecclesiastical discipline by 
which the intention of the forger is recognised. The strong expres 
sions which we encounter there upon the divinity of Jesus Christ and 
the eucharist ought not to surprise us too much. Ignatius belonged 
to the school of Paul, in which the formulas of transcendent theology 
were much more current than in the severe Judeo-Christian school. 
Still less must we be astonished at the numerous citations and imita 
tions of Paul which are found in the Epistle of Ignatius of which we 
speak. There can be no doubt that Ignatius did not make constant 
use of the authentic epistles of PauL I have said as much of a cita 
tion from St Matthew (sec. 6), which, moreover, is wanting in several 
of the old translations, as well as a vague allusion to the genealogies 
of the synoptics (sec. 7). Ignatius doubtless possessed the Aex^" ^ 
irpa-)(devTa. of Jesus, such as were read in his times, and, upon the 
essential points these accounts differed little from those which have 
come down to us. More serious, undoubtedly, is the objection drawr 
from the expressions which the author of our epistle appears to have 
borrowed from the fourth GospeL It is not certain that this Gospel 
existed before the year 115. But some expressions like 6 G.p%uv aluvos 
TOIJTOV, some images like OSwp {Civ, may have been mystical expressions 
employed in certain schools, dating from the first quarter of the second 
century, and before the fourth Gospel had consecrated them. 

These intrinsic arguments are not the only ones which oblige us to 
place the Epistle to the Romans in a distinct category in the Ignatian 
correspondence. In some respects this epistle contradicts the other six. 
At paragraph 4, Ignatius declares to the Romans that he represents 
them to the Churches as being willing that he should carry off the 
crown of martyrdom. We find nothing resembling this in the epistles 
to these Churches. That which is much more serious is that the 
Epistle to the Romans does not seem to have reached us through the 
same channel as the other six letters. In the manuscripts which have 
preserved to us the collection of the suspected letters, the Epistle to the 
Romans is not to be found. The relatively true text of this epistle has 
only been transmitted to us by the Acts, called Colbertine, of the martyr 
dom of St Ignatius. It has been extracted thence, and intercalated 
in the collection of the thirteen letters. But everything proves that 
the collection of the letters to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the 
Trallians, the Philadelphians, the Smyrniotes, to Polycarpus, did not 
comprise at first the Epistle to the Romans, that these six letters in 


themselves constituted the collection, having a distinct unity, from 
being the work of a single author ; and that it was not until later that 
the two series of Ignatian correspondence were combined, the one apo 
cryphal, consisting of six letters, the other, probably authentic, consist 
ing of a single letter. It is remarkable that in the collection of the 
thirteen letters the Epistle to the Romans comes last, although its 
importance and celebrity ought to have secured it the first place. In 
short, in the whole of the ecclesiastical tradition, the Epistle to the 
Romans has a particular design. While the other six letters are very 
rarely cited, the Epistle to the Romans, beginning with Irenaeus, is 
quoted with extraordinary respect. The energetic sentiments which it 
contains to express the love of Jesus and the eagerness for martyrdom, 
constitute in some sort a part of the Christian conscience, and are 
known of all. Pearson, and, after him, M. Zahn, have likewise proved a 
singular fact, which is the imitation that is to be found in paragraph 3 
of the authenic account of the martyrdom of Polycarpus, written by a 
Smyrniote in the year 155, of a passage of the Epistle of Ignatius to 
the Romans. It seems, indeed, that the Smyrniote, the author of these 
Acts, had in hia mind some of the most striking passages of the Epistle 
to the [tomans, above all, the fifth paragraph. 

Thus everybody assigns the Epistle to the Romans in the Ignatian 
literature a distinct place. M. Zahn recognises this peculiar circum 
stance ; he shows clearly in different places that this epistle was never 
completely incorporated with the other six ; but he has failed to point 
out the consequence of that fact. His desire to discover the collection 
of the seven authentic letters has led him into an imprudent discussion, 
to wit, that the collection of the seven letters ought either to be accepted 
or rejected in its entirety. This is to repeat, in another sense, the fault 
of Baur, of Helgenfeld, and Volkmar ; it is to compromise seriously one 
of the jewels of the primitive Christian literature, in associating it with 
these but too often mediocre writings, and which have almost on this 
point been put out of court. 

That which then seems the most probable is that the Ignatian litera 
ture contains nothing authentic, except the Epistle to the Romans. 
Even this epistle has not remained exempt from alterations. The 
length, the repetitions which are remarked in it, are probably injuries 
inflicted by an interpolation upon that beautiful monument of Chris 
tian antiquity. When we compare the texts preserved by the Colbertin 
Acts, with the texts of the collection of the thirteen epistles, with the 
Latin and Syriac translations, with the citations of Eusebius, we find 
very considerable differences. It seems that the author of the Colbertin 
Acts, in encasing in his account this precious fragment, has not scrupled 
to retouch it in many points. In the superscription, for example, Ignatius 
gives himself the surname of 6eo06pos. Now neither Irenaeus, nor 
Origen, nor Eusebius, nor St Jerome knew this characteristic sur 
name ; it appeared for the first time in the Acts of Martyrdom, which 
makes the most important part of Trajan s inquiring turn upon the said 
epithet. The idea of applying it to Ignatius was suggested by passages 
in the supposititious epistles, such as Ad. Eph., sec. 9. The author of the 
Acts, finding that name in the tradition, has availed himself of it, and 


added it to the title of the epistle which he inserted in his narrative, 
lyvanos 6 KO.I 9eo0opoj. I think that in the original compilation of 
these six apocryphal epistles, these words, 6 KCU 0eo$opos no longer con 
stitute a part of the titles. The post-scriptum to the Epistle of Poly- 
carpus to the Philippians, in which Ignatius is mentioned, and which is 
by the same band as the six epistles, as we shall see further on, makes 
no mention of this epithet. 

Is one justified in denying absolutely that in the six suspected 
epistles there is no portion of them borrowed from the authentic letters 
of Ignatius ? No, certainly not ; and the author of the six apocryphal 
epistles not having known, as it would seem, the Epistle to the Romans, 
there is no great likelihood that he possessed other authentic letters of 
the martyr. A single passage in sec. 1 9 of the Epistle to the Ephesians, 
appears to me to cut into the dark and vague ground with which 
the suspected epistles are encompassed, that which concerns the rpia 
HVffrripia Kpavyijs has much of that mysterious, singular, and obscure 
style, recalling the fourth Gospel, which we have remarked in the 
Epistle to the Romans. That passage, like the brilliant sentiments in 
the Epistle to the Romans, has been much cited. But it occupies too 
isolated a position there to be insisted on. 

A question which is closely connected with that of the epistles 
ascribed to St Ignatius, is the question of the epistle attributed to 
Polycarpus. At two different places (sec. 9 and sec. 13), Polycarpus, or 
the person who has forged the letter, makes formal mention of Ignatius. 
In a third place (sec. 1), he would seem again to make allusion to it. We 
read in one of those passages (sec. 13, and last) : " You have written to 
me, you and Ignatius, in order that if there be anyone here who is 
about to depart for Syria he would bear thence your letters. I shall 
acquit myself of this task, when I can find a suitable opportunity, 
either in person, or by a messenger whom I shall send for both of us. 
As for the epistles that Ignatius has addressed to you, and the others 
of his which we possess, we send them to you, since you have requested 
us to do so ; they are sent together with this letter. You will be able to 
extract much profit from them, as they breathe the faith, the patience, 
the edification of our Lord." The old Latin version adds, " Inform 
me as to that which you know touching Ignatius, and those who are 
with him." These lines notoriously correspond with a passage in the 
letter of Ignatius to Polycarpus (sec. 8), where Ignatius asks the latter 
to send messengers in different directions. All this is suspicious. As 
the Epistle of Polycarpus finishes very well with sec. 12, one is led 
almost necessarily, if one admits the authenticity of this epistle, to 
suppose that a post-scriptum has been added to the Epistles of Poly 
carpus by the author of the six apocryphal epistles of Ignatius himself. 
There is no Greek manuscript of the Epistle of Polycarpus which con 
tains this post-scriptum. We only know it through a citation of 
Eusebius, and through the Latin version. The sanie errors are com 
bated in the Epistles to Polycarpus as in the six Ignatian epistles : 
the order of the ideas is the same. Many manuscripts present the 
Epistle of Polycarpus joined to the Ignatian collection in the form of 
a preface or of an epilogue. It would seem, then, either that the 


epistles of Polycarpus and those of Ignatius are by the same forger, or 
that the author of the letters of Ignatius had the idea of seeking for 
a point d appui in the Epistle of Polycarpus, and in adding to it a 
post-scriptum, of creating an interest in his work. This addition 
harmonises well with the mention of Ignatius which is found in the 
body of the letter of Polycarpus (sec. 9). It would fit in better still, in 
appearance, at least, with the first paragraph of this letter in which 
Polycarpus praises the Philippians for having received in a proper 
manner some confessors bound in chains who passed some time with 

Prom the Epistle of Polycarpus so falsified, and from the six letters 
ascribed to Ignatius, there was formed a little pseud o-Ignatian Corpus, 
pref ectly homogeneous in style and in colouring, which was a real defence 
of orthodoxy, and of the episcopate. By the side of this collection there 
was preserved the more or less authentic Epistle of Ignatius to the 
Romans. This circumstance induces the belief that the forger was 
acquainted with this writing, nevertheless it appears that he did not 
judge it convenient to include it in his collection, the arrangement of 
which he changed, and demonstrated its non-authenticity. 

Irenseus, about the year 180, only knew Ignatius through the 
energetic sentiments contained in his Epistle to the Romans. " I am 
the bread of Christ," etc. He had undoubtedly read this epistle, 
although what he says is sufficiently accounted for by an oral tradition. 
Irenseus, to all appearance, did not possess the six apocryphal letters, 
and in all probability he read the true or supposed epistle of his 
master Polycarpus without the post-scriptum ; Eiriypaij/art /J.QI . . . 
Origen admitted as authentic the Epistle to the Romans, and the six 
apocryphal letters. He cited the former in the prologue of his com 
mentary on the Canticle of Canticles, and the pretended Epistle to 
the Ephesians in his sixth homily upon St Luke. Eusebius knew the 
Ignatian collection as we have it, that is to say, consisting of seven 
letters ; he did not use the Acts of Martyrdom ; he makes no distinction 
between the Epistle to the Romans and the six others. He read the 
Epistle of Polycarpus with the post-scriptum. A peculiar fate seemed 
to designate the name of Ignatius to the fabricators of apocryphas. 
In the second half of the fourth century, about 375, a new collection 
of Ignatiau epistles was produced : this is the collection of the thirteen 
letters, to which the collection of the seven letters notoriously served 
as a nucleus. As these seven letters presented many obscurities, the 
new forger also set about interpolating them. A multitude of ex 
planatory glosses are introduced into the text, and burden it to no 
purpose. Six new letters were fabricated from end to end, and, in 
spite of their shocking improbability, they came to be universally 
adopted. The retouchings to which they were afterwards subjected, 
were only abridgments of the two preceding collections. The Syrians, 
in particular, concocted a small edition, consisting of three abridged 
letters, in the preparation of which they were guided by no correct 
sentiment as to the distinction between the authentic and the apocryphal. 
A few works appeared still later to -enlarge the Ignatian works. We 
possess these only in Latin. 


The Acts of the Martyrdom of St Ignatius presents not less 
diversities than the text itself of the epistles which are ascribed to them 
We enumerate as many as eight or nine compilations. We must not 
attribute much importance to these productions ; none of them have 
any original value ; all are posterior to Eusebius, and compiled from the 
data furnished by Eusebius, data which of themselves have no other 
foundation than the collection of the epistles, and, in particular, the 
Epistle to the Romans. These Acts, in their most ancient form, do not 
go back further than the end of the fourth century. We cannot in any 
way compare them with the Acts of the Martyrdom of Polycarpus and the 
martyrs of Lyons, accounts actually authentic and contemporaneous with 
the facts reported. They are full of impossibilities, of historical errors 
and mistakes, as to the condition of the Empire at the epoch of Trajan. 

In this volume, as in those which precede, we have sought to steer 
a middle course between the criticism which employs all its resources 
to defend texts which have for long been stamped with discredit, and 
the exaggerated scepticism which rejects en bloc and & priori every 
thing which Christianity records of its first origins. One will remark, 
in particular, the employment of this intermediary method in that 
which concerns the question of the Clements and that of the Christian 
Flavii. It is apropos of the Clements that the conjectures of the 
school called Tubingen have been the worst inspired. The defect of 
this school, sometimes so fecund, is the rejecting of the traditional 
systems, often, it is true, built upon fragile materials, and their substi 
tuting systems founded upon authorities more fragile still. As regards 
Ignatius, have not they pretended to correct the traditions of the 
second century by Jean Malala 1 As regards Simon Magus, have not 
some theologians, in other respects sagacious, resisted to the latest 
the necessity of admitting the real existence of that personage ? As 
regards the Clements, we would be looked upon by certain critics as 
narrow-minded indeed, if we admitted that Clemens Romanus existed, 
and if we did not explain all that which relates to him by the certain 
misunderstandings and confusions with Flavius Clemens. Now it is, on 
the contrary, the data in regard to Flavius Clemens which are un 
certain and contradictory. We do not deny the gleams of Chris 
tianity which appear to issue from the obscure rubbish of the Flavian 
family ; but to extract from thence a great historic fact by which to 
rectify uncertain traditions, is a strange part to take, or rather, this 
lack of just proportion in induction, which in Germany is so often de 
trimental to the rarest qualities of diligence and application. They 
discard solid evidence, and substitute for it feeble hypothesis ; they 
challenge satisfactory texts, and accept, almost without examination, 
the combinations hazarded by an accommodating archaeology. Some 
thing new they will have at any cost, and the new they obtained by the 
exaggeration of ideas, often just and penetrating. From a feeble current 
proved to exist in some obscure gulf, they conclude the existence of a great 
oceanic current. The observation was proper enough, but they drew 
from it false consequences. It is far from my thoughts to deny or to 
attenuate the services which German science has rendered to our diffi 
cult studies, but, in order to profit by those services, we must examine 



them very closely, and apply to them a thorough spirit of discernment. 
Above all, we must be most resolute in not taking into account the 
haughty criticisms of men of system who treat you as ignorant and 
behind the age because you do not admit at the first onset the latest 
novelty hatched by the brain of a young doctor, and which, at the best, 
can only be useful in encouraging research in the circles of the lewrned. 






NEVER was a people so sadly undeceived as was the 
Jewish race on the morrow of the day when, contrary 
to the most formal assurances of the Divine oracles, 
the Temple which they had supposed to be inde 
structible collapsed before the assault of the soldiers 
of Titus. To have been near the realisation of the 
grandest of visions and to be forced to renounce them, 
at the very moment when the destroying angel had 
already partially withdrawn the cloud, to see every 
thing vanish into space ; to be committed through 
having prophesied the Divine apparition, and to re 
ceive from the harshness of facts the most cruel con 
tradiction were not these reasons for doubting the 
Temple, nay, for doubting God himself ? Thus the 
first years which followed the catastrophe of the year 
70 were characterised by an intense feverish ness 
perhaps the most intense which the Jewish conscience 
had ever experienced. Edom (the name by which 



the Jews already distinguished the Roman Empire), the 
impious Edom, the eternal enemy of God, triumphed. 
Ideas which had appeared to be unimpeachable were 
now argued against. Jehovah appeared to have broken 
his covenant with the sons of Abraham. It was even 
a question if the faith of Israel assuredly the most 
ardent that ever existed would succeed in executing 
a complete right-about-face against evidence, and by 
an unheard-of display of strength continue to hope 
against all hope. 

The hired assassins, the enthusiasts, had almost all 
been killed : those who had survived passed the rest of 
their lives in that mournful state of stupefaction which 
amongst madmen follows attacks of violent mania. 
The Sadducees had almost disappeared in the year 
66 with the priestly aristocracy who lived in the 
Temple, and drew from it all their prestige. It has 
been supposed that some survivors of the great families 
took refuge with the Herodians in the north of Syria, 
in Armenia, at Palmyra, remained long allied to the 
little dynasties of those countries, and shed a final 
brilliancy on that Zenobia who appears to us in effect, 
in the third century, as a Sadducean Jewess, fore 
shadowing by a simple monotheism both Arianism 
and Islam. The theory is a plausible one ; but, in any 
case, such more or less authentic relics of the Saddu 
cean party had become almost strangers to the rest of 
the Jewish nation: the Pharisees treated them as 

That which survived the Temple and remained al 
most intact after the disaster at Jerusalem, was Phari 
saism: the moderate party in Jewish society, the 
party less inclined to mingle politics with religion 
than other sections of the people, narrowing the busi 
ness of life to the scrupulous accomplishment of the 
Law. Strange state of things ! the Pharisees had passed 
through the ordeal almost safe and sound; the Revolu 
tion had passed over them without injuring them. 


Absorbed in their sole preoccupation the exact ob 
servance of the Law almost all of them had fled from 
Jerusalem before the last convulsions, and had found 
an asylum in the neutral towns of Jabneh and Lydda. 
The zealots were only individual enthusiasts ; the 
Sadducees were but a class ; the Pharisees were the 
nation. Essentially pacific, preferring a peaceful and 
laborious life, contented with the free practice of their 
family worship, these true Israelites resisted all tempta 
tions ; they were the corner-stones of Judaism which 
passed through the Middle Ages and came down to 
our own days. 

The Law was, in truth, all that remained to the 
Jewish people after the shipwreck of their religious 
institutions. Public worship, after the destruction of 
the Temple, had been impossible ; prophecy, after the 
terrible check which it had received, was dumb ; holy 
hymns, music, ceremonies, all had become insipid and 
objectless, since the Temple, which served as the navel 
of the entire Hebrew cosmos, had ceased to exist. The 
Thora, on the contrary, in the non-ritualistic part of 
it, was always possible. The Thora was not only a 
religious law, it was a complete system of legislation, a 
civil code, a personal statute, which made of the people 
who submitted to it a sort of republic apart from 
the rest of the world. Such was the object to which 
the Jewish conscience would henceforward attach it 
self with a kind of fanaticism. The ritual had to be 
profoundly modified, but the Canon Law was main 
tained almost in its entirety. To explain, to practise 
the Law with minute exactitude, appeared the sole 
end of life. One science only was held in esteem, that 
of the Law. Its tradition became the ideal country 
of the Jew. The subtle discussions which for about 
a hundred years had filled the schools, were as nothing 
compared with those which followed. Religious minu 
tiae and scrupulous devotion were substituted amongst 
the Jews for all the rest of the worship. 


One not less grave consequence springing out of the 
new conditions under which Israel was henceforward 
to live was the definitive victory of the teacher (doctor) 
over the priest. The Temple had perished, but the 
school of the Law had been spared. The priest, after 
the destruction of the Temple, saw his functions re 
duced to very small proportions. The doctor, or, more 
properly speaking, the judge, the interpreter of the 
Thora, became, on the contrary, an important person 
age. The tribunal (Beth-din) was at that time a great 
Rabbinical school. The Ab-beth-din (president) is a 
chief at once civil and religious. Every titled rabbin 
had the right of entry within its limits; its decisions are 
determined by the majority of votes. The disciples 
standing behind a barrier heard and learned what was 
necessary to make them judges and doctors in their turn. 

" A tight cistern which did not allow the escape of 
a drop of water" became henceforward the ideal of 
Israel. There was as yet no written manual of this 
traditional law. More than a hundred years had to roll 
on before the discussions of the schools became crystal 
lised into a body which should be called Mishna, par 
excellence, but the root of this book really dates from 
the period of which we speak. Although compiled in 
Galilee, it was in reality born in Jabneh. Towards the 
end of the first century it existed only in the form of 
little pamphlets of notes, in style almost algebraical, 
and full of abbreviations, which gave the solutions by 
the most celebrated rabbins of embarrassing cases. 
The most robust memories already gave way under the 
weight of tradition and of judicial precedents. Such 
a state of things made writing necessary. Thus we 
see at this period mention is made of the Mishna, 
that is to say, little collections of decisions or halakoth, 
which bear the names of their authors. Such was 
that of the Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, who about the 
end of the first century was described as " short but 
good." The Mishnic treatise Eduioth, which is dis- 


tinguished from all others in that it has uo special 
subject and that it is in itself an abridged Mishna, has 
for central idea the Eduioth or " testimonies " relative 
to prior decisions which were collected at Jabneh and 
submitted to revision after the dismissal of Eabbi 
Gamaliel the younger. About the same time Rabbi 
Eliezer ben Jacob composed from memory the descrip 
tion of the sanctuary which forms the basis of the 
treatise Middoth. Simon of Mispa, at a still earlier 
date, appears as the author of the first edition of the 
treatise loma, relating to the Feast of the Atonement, 
and perhaps of the treatise Tamid. 

The opposition between these tendencies and those 
of the nascent Christianity was that of fire and water. 
Christians detached themselves ever more and more 
from the Law : the Jews fettered themselves with 
it frantically. A lively antipathy appears to have 
existed amongst Christians against the subtle and un 
charitable spirit which every day tended to increase in 
the synagogues. Jesus fifty years before already had 
chosen this spirit as the object of his severest rebukes. 
Since then the casuists had only plunged more and 
more deeply into the abysses of their narrow hair 
splittings. The misfortunes of the nation had in no 
way changed their character. Disputatious, vain, 
jealous, susceptible, given to quarrelling for merely 
personal motives, they passed their time between 
Jabneh and Lydda in excommunicating each other 
for the most puerile reasons. James and the relations 
of Jesus generally were very strict Pharisees. Paul 
himself boasted of being a Pharisee and the son of a 
Pharisee. But after the siege the war was open. In 
collecting the traditional words of Jesus the change 
of situation made itself felt. The word " Pharisee" in 
the Gospels generally, as later the word " Jew " in the 
Gospel attributed to John, is employed as synonymous 
with " enemy of Jesus." Derision of the casuist was 
one of the essential elements of the evangelical litera- 


ture, and one of the causes of its success. The really 
good man in truth holds nothing in so much horror as 
moral pedantry. To clear himself in his own eyes from 
the suspicion of dupery, he is constrained sometimes to 
doubt his own works, his own merits. He who pre 
tends to work out his own salvation by infallible re 
ceipts, appears to him the chief enemy of God. Phari 
saism became thus something worse than vice, since it 
made virtue ridiculous; and nothing pleases us so much 
as to see Jesus, the most purely virtuous of men, set a 
hypocritical bourgeoisie at defiance, and allowing it to 
be understood that the Law of which he was so proud 
was perhaps like everything else vanity. 

One consequence of the new situation of the Jewish 
people was a vast increase of the separatist and ex 
clusive spirit. Hated and despised by the world, Israel 
withdrew more and more into itself. The perischouth 
insociability became a law of public salvation. To live 
apart in a purely Jewish world, to add new require 
ments to the Law, to render it difficult to fulfil, such 
was the aim of the doctors, and they attained it very 
cleverly. Excommunications were multiplied. To 
observe the Law was so complicated an art that the 
Jew had no time to think of anything else. Such was 
the origin of the " eighteen measures," a complete code 
of sequestration which originally dates from a period 
anterior to the destruction of the Temple but which 
did not come into operation until after 70. These 
eighteen measures were all intended to exaggerate the 
isolation of Israel. Forbidden to buy the most neces 
sary things amongst Pagans, forbidden to speak their 
language, to receive their testimony and their offerings, 
forbidden to offer sacrifices for the Emperor. Many 
of these prescriptions were at once regretted ; some 
even said that the day on which they were adopted 
was as sad as that on which the Golden Calf was set 
up, but they were never abrogated. A legendary 
dialogue expresses the opposite sentiments of the two 


parties which divided the Jewish schools in this matter. 
" To-day," says Rabbi Eliezer, " the measure is filled 
up." "To-day," says Rabbi Joshua, "it has been made 
to overflow." "A vessel full of nuts," says Rabbi 
Eliezer, " may yet contain as much oil or sesame as you 
wish." " When a jar is full of oil, if you add water 
you drive out the oil." Notwithstanding all protests, 
the eighteen measures obtained such authority that 
some went so far as to say that no power had the right 
to abolish them. Perhaps certain of these measures 
were inspired by a sullen opposition to Christianity, 
and, above all, by the liberal preachings of St Paul. 
It would seem that the more the Christians laboured 
to overthrow the legal barriers, the more the Jews 
laboured to render them impregnable. 

It was mainly in what concerned proselytes that 
the contrast was marked. Not merely did the Jews 
seek no longer to win them, but they displayed towards 
these new brethren a scarcely veiled hostility. It had 
not yet been said that " proselytes are a leprosy for 
Israel ; " but far from encouraging them, they were 
dissuaded ; they were told of the numberless dangers 
and difficulties to which they exposed themselves by 
consorting with a despised race. At the same time, 
the hatred against Rome redoubled. The only thoughts 
which her name inspired were thoughts of murder and 
of bloodshed. 

But now, as always in the course of its long history 
there was an admirable minority in Israel who pro 
tested against the errors of the majority of the nation. 
The grand duality which lies at the base of the life of 
this singular people continued. The calm, the gentle 
ness of the good Jew, was proof against all trials. 
Shammai and Hillel, though long dead, were as the 
heads of two opposed families ; one representing the nar 
row, malevolent, subtle, materialistic spirit ; the other 
the broad, benevolent, idealistic side of the religious 
genius of Israel. The contrast was striking. Humble, 


polished, affable, putting always the good of others 
before their own, the Hillelites,like the Christians, had 
for their principle that God " resisteth the proud but 
giveth grace to the lowly ; " that honours elude those 
who seek them, and follow after those who fly from 
them ; that he who hurries will obtain nothing, whilst 
he who knows how to wait has time on his side. 

Amongst really pious souls singularly bold ideas 
sometimes developed themselves. On the one hand 
the liberal family of Gamaliel, who had for principle 
in their relations with Pagans to care for their poor, 
to treat them with politeness even when they wor 
shipped their idols, to pay the last respects to their 
dead, sought to relax the situation. In business this 
family already had relations with the Romans, and 
had no scruple in asking from their conquerors the 
investiture of a sort of presidency of the Sanhedrim, 
and, with their permission, the resumption of the 
title of Nasi. On the other hand, an extremely 
liberal man, Johanan ben Zakai, was the soul of the 
transformation. Long before the destruction of Jeru 
salem he had enjoyed a preponderating influence in 
the Sanhedrim. During the Revolution he was one 
of the chiefs of the moderate party which kept itself 
aloof from political questions, and did all that was 
possible to prevent the prolongation of a resistance 
which must inevitably bring about the destruction of 
the Temple. Escaped from Jerusalem, he predicted, 
it is asserted, the Empire of Vespasian; one of the 
favours which he asked from him was a doctor for 
the old Zadok, who, in the years before the siege, had 
ruined his health by fasting. It appears certain that 
he got into the good graces of the Romans, and that 
he obtained from them the re-establishment of the 
Sanhedrim at Jabneh. It is doubtful whether he 
was ever really a pupil of Hillel, but he was certainly 
the inheritor of his spirit. To cause peace to reign 
amonofst men was his favourite maxim. It was told 


of him that no one had ever been able to salute 
him first, not even a Pagan in the market-place. 
Though not a Christian, he was a true disciple of 
Jesus. He even went at times, it is said, so far as 
to follow the example of the old prophets, denying 
the efficacy of worship, and recognising the fact that 
justice accomplishes for Pagans all that sacrifice did 
for the Jews. 

A little consolation came to the frightfully troubled 
soul of Israel. Fanatics, at the risk of their lives, stole 
into the silent city and furtively offered sacrifice on the 
ruins of the Holy of Holies. Some of these madmen 
spoke on their return of a mysterious voice which had 
come out from the heaps of rubbish, and had declared 
acceptance of their sacrifices ; but this excess was 
generally condemned. Certain amongst them forbade 
all enjoyment, lived in tears and fasting, and drank 
only water. Johanan ben Zaka i consoled them : " Be 
not sad, my son," said he to one of these despairing 
ones. "If we cannot offer sacrifices, there is still a 
way of expiating our sins which is quite as efficacious 
good works." And he recalled the words of Isaiah, 
" I love charity better than sacrifice." Rabbi Joshua 
was of the same opinion. " My friends," said he to 
those who imposed exaggerated privations upon them 
selves, " what is the use of abstaining from meat and 
from wine ? " " How," they answered, " should we 
eat the flesh which is sacrificed on the altar which is 
now destroyed ? should we drink the wine which we 
ought to pour out as a libation on the same altar ? " 
" Well," replied the Rabbi Joshua, " then eat no bread, 
since it is no longer possible to make sacrifices of fine 
flour." " Then we must feed upon fruit." " Nay. 
Fruits cannot be allowed, since it is no longer possible 
to offer first-fruits in the Temple." The force of cir 
cumstances decided the matter. The eternity of the 
Law was maintained in theory ; it was believed that 
even Elias himself could not change a single article of 


it; but the destruction of the Temple suppressed in 
fact a considerable proportion of the ancient prescrip 
tions; there was no room for anything more than 
moral casuistry of details or for mysticism. The 
developed cabbala is surely of a more modern age. 
But at that time many gave themselves to what were 
called " the visions of the chariot," that is to say, to 
speculations on the mysteries concealed in the visions 
of Ezekiel. The Jewish mind was wrapped up in 
visions, and created an asylum for itself in the midst 
of a hated world. The study became a deliverance. 
Rabbi Nehounia gave currency to the principle that 
he who takes upon him the yoke of the Law thereby 
frees himself from the yoke of the world and of politics. 
When this point of detachment is attained, people cease 
to be dangerous revolutionaries. Rabbi Hanina was 
accustomed to say, " Pray for the established govern 
ment : for without it men would eat each other." 

The misery was extreme. A heavy taxation weighed 
upon all, and the sources of revenue were dried up. 
The mountains of Judea remained uncultivated and 
covered with ruins ; property itself was very uncertain. 
When it was cultivated, the cultivator was liable to be 
evicted by the Romans. As for Jerusalem, it was 
nothing but a heap of broken stones. Pliny even 
spoke of it as of a city that had ceased to exist. With 
out doubt, the Jews who had been tempted to come 
in considerable numbers to encamp upon the ruins, 
had been expelled from thence. Yet the historians 
who insist most strongly on the total destruction of 
the city, admit that some old men and some women 
were left. Josephus depicts for us the first sitting 
and weeping in the dust of the sanctuary, and the 
second reserved by the conquerors for the last out 
rages. The 10th Fretensian Legion continued to act 
as a garrison in a corner of the deserted city. The 
bricks which have been found with the stamp of that 
legion, prove that the men of it built it. It is probable 


that furtive visits to the still visible foundations of 
the Temple were tolerated or permitted by the soldiers 
for a money consideration. Christians, in particular, 
preserved the memory and the worship of certain 
places, notably of the tabernacle of Mount Sion, where 
it was believed that the disciples of Jesus met after 
the Ascension, as well as the tomb of James, the brother 
of the Lord, near the Temple. Golgotha probably was 
not forgotten. As nothing was rebuilt in the town or 
in the suburbs, the enormous stones of the great edi 
fices remained untouched in their places, so that all 
the monuments were still perfectly recognisable. 

Driven thus from their Holy City and from the 
region which they loved, the Jews spread themselves 
over the towns and villages of the plain which extends 
from the foot of the Mountain of Judea to the sea. 
The Jewish population multiplied there. One locality 
above all was the scene of that quasi-resurrection of 
Pharisaism, and became the theological capital of the 
Jews until the war of Bar Coziba. This was the city 
originally Philistine of Jabneh or Jamnia, four 
leagues and a half to the south of Jaffa. It was a 
considerable town, inhabited by Pagans and Jews; 
but the Jews predominated there, although the town, 
since the war of Pompey, had ceased to form part of 
Judea. The struggles between the two populations 
had been lively. In his campaigns of 67 and 68 Ves 
pasian had had to show himself there to establish his 
authority. Provisions abounded there. In the earlier 
days of the blockade many peaceable wise men, such 
as Johanan ben Zaka i, whom the chimera of natural 
independence did not lead away, came thither for 
shelter. There it was that they learned of the burning 
of the Temple. They wept, rent their garments, put 
on mourning, but found that it was still worth while 
to live, that they might see if God had not reserved a 
future for Israel. It was, it is said, at the entreaty 
of Johanan that Vespasian spared Jabneh and its 


savants. The truth is that before the war a Rab 
binical school flourished in Jabneh. For unknown 
reasons, it was a part of the Roman polity to allow 
it to continue, and after the arrival of Johanan ben 
Zakai it assumed a greater importance. 

Rabbi Gamaliel the younger put the top stone to 
the celebrity of Jabneh when he took the direction of 
the school after Rabbi Johanan retired to Berour-Hail. 
Jabneh, from this moment, became the first Jewish 
academy of Palestine. The Jews from various coun 
tries assembled there for the feasts, as formerly they 
had gone up to Jerusalem, and as formerly they pro 
fited by the journey to the Holy City to take council 
with the Sanhedrim and the schools upon doubtful 
cases, so at Jabneh they submitted difficult questions 
to the Beth-din. This tribunal was only rarely and 
improperly called by the name of the ancient Sanhe 
drim ; but it exercised an undisputable authority ; the 
doctors of all Judea sometimes met in it, and so gave 
to the Beth-din the character of a Supreme Court. 
The memory was long preserved of the orchard where 
the sittings of this tribunal were held, and of the 
dovecote under whose shade the president sat. 

Jabneh appeared thus as a sort of resuscitated Jeru 
salem. As to privileges and religious obligations, it 
was completely assimilated to Jerusalem ; its syna 
gogue was considered the legitimate heiress of that of 
Jerusalem as the centre of the now religious authority. 
The Romans themselves looked at it in this light, and 
accorded to the Nasi or Ab-beth-din of Jabneh an official 
authority. This was the commencement of the Jewish 
patriarchate which developed itself later and became 
an institution analogous to the Christian patriarchates 
of the Ottoman Empire of our own days. These 
magistratures, at once civil and religious, conferred by 
the political power, have always been in the East the 
means employed by great Empires to disembarrass 
themselves of the responsibilities of their satraps. 


The existence of a personal statute was in no way 
disquieting to the Romans, above all, in a town partly 
idolatrous and Roman, where the Jews were restrained 
by the military force and by the antipathy of the rest 
of the population. Religious conversations between 
Jews and non-Jews appear to have been frequent in 
Jabneh. Tradition shows us Johanan ben Zaka i main 
taining frequent controversies with infidels, and fur 
nishing them with explanations of the Bible, on the 
Jewish festivals. His answers are often evasive, and 
sometimes alone with his disciples he allows himself 
to smile at the unsatisfactory solutions he has given 
to Pagan difficulties. 

Lydda had its schools which rivalled those of Jabneh 
in celebrity, or rather which were a sort of dependency 
of them. The two towns were about four leagues 
apart : when a man had been excommunicated at one 
he betook himself to the other. All the villages, 
Danite or Philistine, of the surrounding maritime plain 
Berour Hail, Bakiin, Gibthon, Gimso, Bene Barak, 
which were all situated to the south of Antipatris, 
and were until then hardly considered as belonging to 
the Holy Land at all served also as an asylum to 
celebrated doctors. Finally the Darom, the southern 
part of Judea, situated between Eleutheropolis and 
the Dead Sea, received many fugitive Jews. It was a 
rich country, far from the routes frequented by the 
Romans, and almost at the limit of their domination. 

It thus appears that the current which carried 
Rabbinism towards Galilee had not yet made itself 
felt. There were exceptions. Rabbi Eliezer ben 
Jacob, the editor of one of the first Mishna, appears 
to have been a Galilean. Towards the year 100 
the Mishnic doctors are seen approaching Csesarea 
in Galilee. It was, however, only after the war of 
Hadrian that Tiberias and upper Galilee became par 
excellence the country of the Talmud. 




DURING the first years which followed the war, it 
appears that a centre of population was formed near 
to Jerusalem, which fifty or sixty years later was 
destined to play a very important part. Two leagues 
and a quarter west-south-west of Jerusalem was a 
village until then obscure, known as Bether. Many 
years before the siege a great number of rich and 
peaceable citizens of Jerusalem, perceiving the storm 
which was about to break over the capital, had bought 
lands to which to retire. Bether was in effect situated 
in a fertile valley outside the important routes which 
connect Jerusalem with the north and with the sea. 
An acropolis commanded the village, built near a beauti 
ful spring, and forming a sort of natural fortification ; a 
lower plateau formed a sort of step to the lower town. 
After the catastrophe of -the year 70, a considerable 
body of fugitives met there. Synagogues, a sanhedrim, 
and schools were established. Bether became a Holy 
City, a sort of equivalent to Zion. The little scarped 
hill was covered with houses, which, supporting them 
selves by ancient works in the rock and by the natural 
form of the hill, formed a species of citadel which was 
completed with steps of great stones. The isolated 
situation of Bether induces the belief that the Romans 
did not greatly trouble themselves about these works ; 
perhaps also a part of them dated from before the 
time of Titus. Supported by the great Jewish com 
munities of Lydda and of Jabneh, Bether thus became 
a sufficiently large town, and, as it were, the entrenched 
camp of fanaticism in Judea. We shall there see 
Judaism offer to the Roman power a last and impotent 

At Bether, a singular book appears to have been 


composed, a perfect mirror of the conscience of Israel 
at that date, where may be found the powerful recol 
lection of past defects and a fiery prediction of future 
revolts. I speak of the book of Judith. The ardent 
patriot who composed that Agada in Hebrew, copied 
according to the custom of the Hebrew Agadas a well- 
known history, that of Deborah who saved Israel from 
her enemies by killing their chief. Every line is full 
of transparent allusions. The ancient enemy of the 
people of God, Nebuchadnezzar (a perfect type of the 
Roman Empire, which, according to the Jews, was but 
the work of an idolatrous propaganda), desired to 
subject the whole world to himself, and to cause it to 
adore him, to the exclusion of every other god. He 
charges his general Holophernes with this duty. All 
bow before him save only the Jewish people. Israel 
is not a military people but a mountaineering race 
difficult to force. So long as it observes the Law it is 

A sensible Pagan who knows Israel, Achior (brother 
of the light), tries to stop Holophernes. The one thing 
necessary, according to him, is to know if Israel fails to 
keep the Law ; in this case, the conquest will be easy ; 
if not, it will be necessary to beware how one attacks 
her. All is useless; Holophernes marches on Jerusalem. 
The key of Jerusalem is a place on the north, on the 
side of Dothaim, at the entrance of the mountainous 
region to the south of the plain of Esdraelon. This 
place is called Beth-eloah (the House of God). The 
author describes it exactly on the plan of Bether. It 
is placed at the opening of a Wadi (Fiumara or bed 
of a watercourse), on a mountain at the foot of which 
runs a stream indispensable to the people, the cisterns 
of the upper town being relatively small. Holophernes 
besieges Beth-eloah, which is soon reduced by thirst to 
the direst extremity. But it is an attribute of Divine 
Providence to choose the weakest agents for the 
greatest works. A widow, a zealot, Judith (the Jewess), 


arises and prays ; she goes forth and presents herself 
to Holophernes as a rigid devotee who cannot tolerate 
the breaches of the Law of which she has been witness 
in the town. She wishes to point out to him a sure 
means of conquering the Jews. They are dying of 
hunger and thirst ; which induces them to fail with 
regard to the precepts concerning food, and to eat the 
first fruits reserved for the priests. They have sent to 
ask for the authorisation of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, 
but at Jerusalem everything is relaxed, everything is 
allowed, so that it will be easy to conquer them. " I 
will pray to God," she adds, " that I may know when 
they shall sin." Then at the moment when Holophernes 
thinks himself assured of all her complaisances she 
cuts off his head. In this expedition she has not once 
failed to observe the Law. She prays and performs 
her ablutions at the appointed hours ; she eats only of 
the meats which she has brought with her. Even on 
the evening when she is about to prostitute herself to 
Holophernes, she drinks her own wine. Judith lives 
after all this for a hundred and five years, refusing the 
most advantageous marriages, happy and honoured. 
During her life and for a long time after her death 
no one dares to disquiet the Jewish people. Achior 
is also well rewarded for having known Israel well. 
He is circumcised, and becomes a Son of Abraham 
for ever. 

The author, from his singular taste for imagining 
the conversion of Pagans, from his persuasion that 
God loves the weak above all, that he is par excellence 
the God of the hopeless, approaches Christian senti 
ments. But by his materialistic attachment to the 
principles of the Law, he shows himself a pure 
Pharisee. He dreams of an autonomy for the 
Israelites under the autonomy of the Sanhedrim and 
their Nasi. His ideal is absolutely that of Jabneh. 
There is a mechanism of human life which God loves ; 
the Law is the absolute rule of it ; Israel is created to 


accomplish it. It is a people like to no other ; a 
people whom the heathen hate because they know 
them to be capable of leading the whole world ; an 
invincible people, because they do not sin. To the 
scruples of the Pharisee are joined the fanaticism of 
the Zealot, the appeal to the dagger to defend the 
Law, the apology for the most sanguinary examples 
of religious violence. The imitation of the book of 
Esther penetrates the whole work ; the author 
evidently read that book not as it exists in the 
original Hebrew but with the interpolations which 
the Greek text offers. The literary execution is 
weak ; the feeble parts common-places of the Jewish 
agada, canticles, prayers, etc. recall at times the tone 
of the Gospel according to St Luke. The theory of 
the Messianic claims is, however, little developed. 
Judith is still rewarded for her virtue by a long life. 
The book was doubtless read with passion in the 
circles of Bether and of Jabneh ; but it may readily be 
believed that Josephus knew nothing of it at Rome. 
It was probably suppressed as being full of dangerous 
allusions. The success in any case was not lasting 
amongst the Jews ; the original Hebrew was soon lost ; 
but the Greek translation made itself a place in the 
Christian Canon. We shall see this translation known 
at Rome towards the year 95. In general it was 
immediately after their publication that the apocryphal 
books were welcomed and quoted : those novelties had 
an ephemeral popularity, then fell into oblivion. 

The need of a rigorously limited canon of the sacred 
books made itself felt more and more. The Thora, 
the Prophets, the Psalms, were the admitted foun 
dation of all. Ezekiel alone created some difficulties 
by the passages wherein he is not in accord with 
the Thora, from which he was extricated only by 
subtleties. There was some hesitation about Job, 
whose hardihood was not in accord with the pietism 
of the times. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of 



Songs were assailed with much greater violence. The 
picture so freely sketched iii the seventh chapter of 
Proverbs, the altogether profane character of the 
Canticles, the scepticism of Ecclesiastes, were thought 
sufficient to deprive those writings of the character 
of sacred books. Happily, admiration carried them. 
They were admitted, so to speak, subject to correction 
and to interpretation. The last lines of Ecclesiastes 
appeared to extenuate the sceptical crudities of the 
text. In the Canticles the critics began to seek for 
mystical profundities. Pseudo-Daniel had conquered 
his place by dint of audacity and assurance ; he failed, 
however, to force the already impenetrable line of the 
ancient prophets, and he remained in the last pages of 
the sacred volume side by side with Esther and the 
more recent historical compilations. The son of Sirach 
was stranded simply for having avowed too frankly 
his modern editing. All this constituted a little sacred 
library of twenty-four works, the order of which was 
thenceforward irrevocably fixed. Many variations 
still existed ; the absence of vowel points left many 
passages in a state of deplorable ambiguity which 
different parties interpreted in a sense favourable to 
their own ideas. . It was many centuries before the 
Hebrew Bible formed a volume almost without 
variants, and the readings of which were settled down 
to their last details. 

As to the Books excluded from the Canon, their 
reading was forbidden, and it was even sought to 
destroy them. This it is which explains how books 
essentially Jewish, and having quite as much right as 
Daniel and Esther to remain in the Jewish Bible, are 
only preserved by Greek translations. Thus the 
Maccabean histories, the book of Tobit, the books of 
Enoch, the wisdom of the son of Sirach, the book of 
Baruch, the book called " the third of Esdras," various 
chapters of which belong to the book of Daniel (the 
Three Children in the Furnace) Snsa.nnah, Bel and the 


Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseli, the letter of Jeremiah, 
the Psalter of Solomon, the Assumption of Moses, a 
whole series of agadic and apocalyptic writings 
neglected by the Jews of the Talmudic tradition, have 
been guarded only by Christian hands. The literary 
community which existed during more than a hundred 
years between the Jews and the Christians, caused 
every Jewish book impressed with a pious spirit and 
imbued with Messianic ideas to be at once accepted by 
the Churches. At the beginning of the second century 
the Jewish people, devoted as they were exclusively 
to the study of the Law, and having no taste save for 
casuistry, neglected these writings. Many Christian 
Churches, on the contrary, persisted in placing a high 
value upon them, and admitted them more or less 
officially into their Canon. We see, for example, the 
Apocalypse of Esdras, the work of an enthusiastic 
Jew like the book of Judith, saved from destruction 
only through the favour which it enjoyed amongst 
the disciples of Jesus. 

Judaism and Christianity still lived together like 
those double beings which are joined by one part of 
their organisation though distinct as regards all the 
rest. Each of these beings transmitted to the other 
its sensations and its desires. A book which was the 
fruit of the most ardent Jewish passions, a book zealous 
for its first chief, was immediately adopted by Christi 
anity, was preserved by Christianity, introduced itself, 
thanks to it, into the Canon of the Old Testament. A 
fraction of the Christian Church, it cannot be doubted, 
had felt the emotions of the siege, had shared in the 
grief and anger of the Jews over the destruction of 
the Temple, had sympathised with the rebels ; the 
author of the Apocalypse, who probably still lived, had 
surely mourning at his heart, and calculated the days 
of the great vengeance of Israel. But already the 
Christian conscience had found other issues ; it was 
not only the school of Paul, it was the family of the 


Master which passed through the most extraordinary 
crises, and transformed, according to the necessities of 
the time, the very memories which it had preserved 
of Jesus. 



WE have seen in 68 the Christian Church of Jerusalem 
carried on by the relatives of Jesus fly from the city 
delivered over to terror, and take refuge at Pella on 
the other side of Jordan. We have seen the author of 
the Apocalypse some months afterwards employ the 
most lively and touching images to express the protec 
tion which God extended to the fugitive Church, and 
the repose which it enjoyed in the desert. It is pro 
bable that this sojourn was prolonged for many years 
after the siege. A return to Jerusalem was impossible, 
and the antipathy between Christianity and the 
Pharisees was already too strong to allow of the 
Christians joining the bulk of the nation on the side 
of Jabneh and Lydda. The saints of Jerusalem dwelt 
therefore beyond the Jordan. The expectation of the 
final catastrophe had become extremely vivid. The 
three years and a half which the Apocalypse fixed for 
the fulfilment of its predictions, expired about the 
month of July 72. 

The destruction of the Temple had certainly been 
a surprise for the Christians. They had no more 
believed in it than had the Jews. Sometimes they 
had imagined Nero the Anti-Christ returning from 
amongst the Parthians, marching upon Rome with his 
allies, sacking it, and then putting himself at the 


head of the armies of Judea, profaning Jerusalem, and 
massacring the people of the just on the hill of Zion ; 
but no one had supposed that the Temple itself would 
disappear. An event so prodigious, when once it 
occurred, was sufficient to put them beside themselves. 
The misfortunes of the Jewish nation were regarded 
as a punishment for the murders of Jesus and of 
James. In reflecting upon it they endeavoured to find 
that in all that God had been especially good to his 
elect. It was because of them that he had deigned to 
shorten the days which if they had lasted would have 
seen the extermination of all flesh. The frightful 
sufferings that they had gone through dwelt in the 
memory of the Christians of the East, and was for 
them what the persecutions of Nero were for the 
Christians of Rome, "the great tribulation," the cer 
tain prelude to the days of the Messiah. 

One calculation, moreover, appears to have greatly en 
gaged the Christians at this time. They remembered 
this passage of the Psalm (xcv. 8, et seq.), " To-day if 
ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts (as at 
Meriba as in the day of Massa *) in the wilderness. 
. . . Forty years long was I grieved with this genera 
tion and said, It is a people that do err in their hearts, 
for they have not known my ways ; unto whom I sware 
in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." 
They applied to the stubborn Jews the words which 
referred to their rebellion in the desert, and as nearly 
forty years had gone by since the short but brilliant 
public career of Jesus, he was believed to address to 
the unbelieving that pressing appeal, " Forty years 
have I waited for you, the time is at hand, take care " 
(cf. Heb. iii. 7, et seq.) All these coincidences, which 
placed the Apocalyptic year about the year 73, the 
recent memories of the revolution and of the siege, 
the strange outbreak of fever, of frenzy, of exaltation, 
of madness, through which they had passed, and, by 

* These words are not in either of tlie English versions. TRANS. 


way of crowning marvel, the fact that after signs 
so evident men had still the sad courage to resist the 
voice of Jesus which called them all appeared un 
heard of, and capable of explanation only by a miracle. 
It was clear that the moment was approaching when 
Jesus should appear and the mystery of the times 
should be accomplished. 

So great was the influence of that fixed idea that 
the town of Pella came to be regarded as a temporary 
asylum where God himself fed his elect and preserved 
them from the hatred of the wicked (Rev. xii. 14) ; 
there was no thought of abandoning a place which 
they believed to have been pointed out by a revela 
tion from heaven. But when it was clear that they 
must resign themselves to a longer life, there was a 
movement in the community. A great number of the 
brethren, amongst whom were members of the family 
of Jesus, left Pella and went to establish themselves 
some leagues off in Batanea, a province which belonged 
to Herod Agrippa II., but which was falling more and 
more under the direct sovereignty of the Romans. 
This country was then very prosperous ; it was covered 
with towns and monuments ; the rule of the Herods 
had been benevolent, and had founded there that 
brilliant civilisation which lasted from the first cen 
tury of our era until Islam. The town chosen by 
preference by the disciples and relations of Jesus was 
Kokaba near Ashtaroth Carnaim, a little beyond 
Adria, and very near the frontier of the kingdom of 
the Nabathites. Kokaba was only some thirteen or 
fourteen leagues from Pella, and the Churches of these 
two localities might long remain in close connection. 
Without doubt many Christians, from the times of 
Vespasian and of Titus, returned to Galilee and Sa 
maria ; yet it was only after the time of Hadrian that 
Galilee became the rendezvous of the Jewish popula 
tion, and that the intellectual activity of the nation 
concentrated itself there. 


The name which these pious guardians of the tradi 
tion of Jesus gave themselves was (" Ebionim "} or 
" poor." Faithful to the spirit which had said 
" Blessed are the poor " (" ebionim ") and which had 
characteristically attributed to the disinherited of this 
world the Kingdom of Heaven and the inheritance 
of the Gospel, they gloried in their poverty, an.d 
continued, like the primitive Church of Jerusalem, 
to live upon alms. We have seen St Paul always 
preoccupied with his poor of Jerusalem, and St James 
taking the name of " poor " as a title of nobility, 
(James ii. 5, 6). A crowd of passages from the Old 
Testament, where the word Ebion is employsd to dis 
tinguish the pious man, and by extension the whole 
pietism of Israel, the reunion of the saints of Israel, 
wretched, gentle, humble, despised of the world but 
beloved of God, were associated with the sect. The 
word " poor " implied a shade of tenderness, as when 
one says, " The poor dear man ! " This " poor of 
God" whose miseries and humiliations the prophets 
and the psalmists had told of, whose glorious 
future they had announced, was accepted as the 
symbolical .title of the little Church of Pella and of 
Kokaba across the Jordan, the continuator of that of 
Jerusalem. And as in the old Hebrew tongue the 
word Ebion had received a metaphorical signification 
to designate the pious part of the people of God, in 
the same way the saintly little congregation of 
JBatanea, considering itself the only true Israel, the 
" Israel of God," heir of the heavenly kingdom, called 
itself the poor, the beloved of God. Ebion was thus 
often employed in a collective sense, almost as was 
Israel, or, as amongst ourselves, personifications such 
as " Jacques Bonhomme." Li the remote sections of 
the Church, to whom the good poor of Batanea were 
almost strangers, Ebion became a personage, the ac 
cepted founder of the sect of the Ebionites. 

The name by which the sectaries were known 


amongst the other populations of Batanea, was that 
of Nazarenes or Nazoreans. It was known that 
Jesus, his relations and his first disciples, belonged to 
Nazareth or its environs ; they were described there 
fore by their place of birth. It is supposed, perhaps 
not without reason, that the name of Nazarenes was 
especially applied to the Christians of Galilee, who 
had taken refuge in Batanea, whilst the name of 
Ebionim continued to be the title which the mendi 
cant saints of Jerusalem gave themselves. However 
this may be, " Nazarenes " remained always in the 
East the generic word by which Christians were 
designated. Mahomet knew them by no other, and 
the Mussulmans use it to this day. By a singular 
contrast, the word " Nazarenes," after a certain date, 
presented like " Ebionites " an offensive sense in the 
opinion of Greek and Latin Christians. As in almost 
all great movements, it came to pass that the founders 
of the new religion were in the eyes of the foreign 
crowd which was affiliated to it, simply retrograde 
persons and heretics ; those who had been the corner 
stones of the sect found themselves isolated, and, as 
it were, ostracised. The name of Ebion by which 
they described themselves, and which conveyed to 
their minds the loftiest meaning, became an insult, 
and was, out of Syria, synonymous with " dangerous 
sectary." Jokes were made about it, and it was 
ironically interpreted in the sense of " poor-spirited." 
The ancient name of Nazarenes, after the beginning 
of the fourth century, served to designate for the 
orthodox Catholic Church heretics who were scarcely 
Christians at all. 

This singular misunderstanding explains itself when 
it is remembered that the Ebionim and the Nazarenes 
remained faithful to the primitive spirit of the Church 
of Jerusalem, and of the brothers of Jesus, according 
to whom Jesus was no more than a prophet chosen 
of God to save Israel, whilst in the Churches founded 


by Paul, Jesus became more and more the incarnation 
of God. According to the Greek Christians, Chris 
tianity took the place of the religion of Moses, as 
a superior worship taking the place of an inferior. 
In the eyes of the Christians of Batanea, this was 
blasphemy. Not merely did they refuse to consider 
the Law as abolished, but they observed it with re 
doubled fervour. They regarded circumcision as 
obligatory, they observed the Sabbath, as well as the 
first day of the week, they practised ablutions and all 
the Jewish ceremonies. They studied Hebrew with 
care, and read the Bible in Hebrew. Their canon 
was the Jewish canon ; already, perhaps, they began 
by making arbitrary retrenchments. 

Their admiration for Jesus was unbounded : they 
described him as being in a peculiar degree the 
Prophet of Truth, the Messiah, the Son of God, the 
elect of God : they believed in his resurrection, but 
they never got beyond that Jewish idea according to 
which a man- God is a monstrosity. Jesus, in their 
minds, was a mere man, the son of Joseph, born under 
the ordinary conditions of humanity, without miracle. 
It was very slowly that they learned to explain his 
birth by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Some ad 
mitted that on the day on which he was adopted by 
God, the Holy Spirit or the Christ had descended 
upon him in the visible form of a dove, so that Jesus 
did not become the Son of God and anointed by the 
Holy Ghost until after his baptism. Others, ap 
proaching more nearly to Buddhist conceptions, held 
that he attained the dignity of Messiah, and of Son 
of God, by his perfection, by his continual progress, 
by his union with God, and, above all, by his extra 
ordinary feat of observing the whole Law. To hear 
them, Jesus- alone had solved this difficult problem. 
When they were pressed, they admitted that any other 
man who could do the same thing would obtain the 
same honour. They were consequently compelled, in 


their accounts of the life of Jesus, to show him accom 
plishing the fulfilment of the whole Law ; wrongly or 
rightly applied, they constantly cited these words, 
" I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Many, in 
short, carried towards gnostic and cabbalist ideas, saw 
in him a great archangel, the first of those of his 
order, a created being to whom God had given power 
over the whole visible creation, and upon whom was 
laid the especial task of abolishing sacrifices. 

Their churches were called " synagogues," their 
priests " archi-synagogues." They forbade the use of 
flesh, and practised all the austerities of the hasidim, 
austerities which, as is well known, made up the 
greatest part of the sanctity of James, the Lord s 
brother. Peter also obtained all their respect. It 
was under the names of these two apostles that they 
put forth their apocryphal revelations. On the other 
hand, there was no curse which they did not utter 
against Paul. They called him "the man of Tarsus," 
" the Apostate ; " they told only the most ridiculous 
histories of him ; they refused him the title of Jew, 
and pretended that it might be on the side of his 
father, or it might be on that of his mother, he had 
had only Pagans for ancestors. A genuine Jew 
speaking of the abrogation of the Law, appeared to 
them an absolute impossibility. 

We speedily discern a literature springing out of 
this order of ideas and passions. The good sectaries 
of Kokaba obstinately turned their backs upon the 
West, upon the future. Their eyes were for ever 
turned towards Jerusalem, whose miraculous restora 
tion they confidently anticipated. They called it " the 
House of God," and as they turned towards it in 
prayer, it is to be believed that they gave to it a 
species of adoration. A keen eye might have dis 
covered from that that they were in the way of becom 
ing heretics, and that some day they would be treated 
as profane in the house which they had founded. 


An absolute difference in a word separated the 
Christianity of the Nazarene of the Ebionim of 
the relatives of Jesus, from the Christianity which 
triumphed later on. For the immediate successors of 
Jesus it was a question not of replacing Judaism but 
of crowning it by the advent of the Messiah. The 
Christian Church was for them only a re-union of 
Hasidim, of true Israelites admitting a fact that for a 
Jew, not a Sadducee, might appear perfectly possible ; 
it was that Jesus put to death and raised again was 
the Messiah, that after a very brief delay he would 
come to take possession of the throne of David and 
accomplish the prophecies. If they had been told 
that they were deserters from Judaism, they would 
certainly have cried out, and would have protested 
that they were true Jews and the heirs of the pro 
mises. To renounce the Mosaic Law would have been, 
from their point of view, an apostacy ; they no more 
dreamed of setting themselves free from it than of 
liberating others. What they hoped to inaugurate 
was the complete triumph of Judaism, and not a new 
religion abrogating that which had been promulgated 
from Sinai. 

Return to the Holy City was forbidden them : but 
as they hoped that the prohibition would not last 
long, the important members of the refugee Church 
continued to associate together, and called themselves 
always the Church of Jerusalem. From the time of 
their arrival at Pella, they gave a successor to James, 
the Lord s brother, and naturally they chose that 
successor from the family of the Master. Nothing is 
more obscure than the things which concern the 
brothers and cousins of Jesus in the Judeo-Christian 
Church of Syria. Certain indications lead us to believe 
that Jude, brother of the Lord, and brother of James, 
was, for some time, head of the Church of Jerusalem, 
but it is not easy to say when or under what circum 
stances. He whom all tradition designates as having 


been the immediate successor of James after the siege 
of Jerusalem, was Simon, son of Cleophas. All the 
brothers of Jesus, about the year 75, were probably 
dead. Jude had left children and grand-children. 
From motives of which we are ignorant it was not 
from amongst the descendants of the brothers of Jesus 
that the head of the Church was taken. The Oriental 
principle of heredity was followed. Simon, son of 
Cleophas, was probably the last of the cousins-german 
of Jesus who was still alive. He might have seen and 
heard Jesus in his childhood. Although he was beyond 
Jordan, Simon considered himself as chief of the 
Church of Jerusalem, and as heir of the singular 
powers which this title had conferred on James, the 
Lord s brother. 

The greatest uncertainty prevails as to the return of 
fche exiled Church (or rather of a part of that Church) 
to the city at once so guilty and so holy, which had 
crucified Jesus and was nevertheless to be the seat of 
his future glory. The fact of the return is incontest 
able, but the date of the event is unknown. Strictly 
we might put back the date to the moment when 
Hadrian decided on the rebuilding of the city, that 
is to say, until the year 122. It is more probable, how 
ever, that the return of the Christians took place shortly 
after the complete pacification of Judea. The Romans 
undoubtedly relaxed their severity towards a people 
so peaceable as the disciples of Jesus. Some hundreds 
of saints might well dwell upon Mount Sion in the 
houses which the destruction had respected, without 
the city ceasing to be considered a field of ruins and 
desolation. The 10th Fretensian Legion alone would 
form around it a certain group of inhabitants. Mount 
Sion, as we have already said, was an exception to the 
general appearance of the town. The meeting-place 
of the Apostles, many other buildings, and particu 
larly seven synagogues, one of which was preserved 
until the time of Constantine, were almost intact 


amongst the surrounding ruins, and recalled that verse 
of Isaiah, " The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage 
in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, 
as a besieged city." It was there we may believe that 
the little colony fixed itself which established the con 
tinuity of the Church at Jerusalem. We may also 
believe if we will that it was placed in one of those 
straggling Jewish villages near Jerusalem, such as 
Bether, which are ideally identified with the Holy 
City. In any case, this Church of Mount Sion was, 
until the time of Hadrian, by no means numerous. 
The title of chief of the Church of Jerusalem appears 
to have been only a sort of honorary Pontificate, a 
presidency of honour, not carrying with it a real cure 
of souls. The relatives of Jesus especially appear to 
have remained beyond the Jordan. 

The honour of possessing amongst their body per 
sons so distinguished inspired an extraordinary pride 
amongst the Churches of Batanea. It seems probable 
that at the moment of the departure of the Church 
of Jerusalem for Pella, some of " the twelve," that is 
to say, the Apostles chosen by Jesus Matthew, for ex 
ample were still alive, and were amongst the number 
of emigrants. Certain of the apostles may have been 
younger than Jesus, and consequently not very old at 
the date of which we speak. The data we have to go 
upon concerning the apostles who remained in the 
Holy Land and did not follow the example of Peter 
and John, are so incomplete that it is impossible to be 
certain on this point. The " Seven," that is to say the 
Deacons chosen by the first Church of Jerusalem, were 
also without doubt dead or dispersed. The relatives 
of Jesus inherited all the importance which the chosen 
of the first Coenaculum had had. From the year 70 
to about the year 110 they really governed the Churches 
beyond the Jordan, and formed a sort of Christian 
Senate. The family of Cleophas especially enjoyed 
in devout circles a universally recognised authority. 


The relatives of Jesus were pious people, tranquil, 
gentle, modest, labouring with their hands, faithful to 
the rigid principles of Jesus with regard to poverty, 
but at the same time strict Jews, putting the title of 
child of Israel before every other advantage. They 
were much reverenced, and a name was given to 
them (perhaps maraniin or morano ie) of which the 
Greek equivalent was desposynoi. For a long time 
past, doubtless even during the life-time of Jesus, it 
had been supposed that he was of the lineage of 
David, since it was admitted that the Messiah should 
be of David s race. The admission of such an ancestry 
for Jesus implied it also for his family. These good 
people thought much of it, and were not a little proud 
of it. We see them constantly occupied in constructing 
genealogies, which rendered probable the little fraud 
of which the Christian legend had need. When they 
were too much embarrassed they took refuge behind 
the persecutions of Herod, which they pretended had 
destroyed the genealogical books. Nor did they stop 
here. Sometimes they maintained that the work had 
been done from memory, sometimes that they had 
had copies of ancient chronicles whereby to construct 
it. It was admitted that they had done "the best 
that they could." Two of these genealogies have 
come down to us, one in the Gospel attributed to St 
Matthew, the other in the Gospel of St Luke, and it 
appears that neither of them satisfied the Ebionim, 
since their Gospel did not contain them, and the 
churches of Syria always protested strongly against 

This movement, inoffensive though it was as a 
matter of policy, excited suspicion. It appears that 
the Roman authorities had more than once kept a 
watch upon these real or pretended descendants of 
David. Vespasian had heard of the hopes which the 
Jews founded upon a mysterious representative of 
their ancient royal race. Fearing that they meant 


only a pretext for new insurrections, he caused all 
those who belonged to this line, or who boasted of 
being of it, to be sought out. This gave rise to much 
annoyance, which, perhaps, reached the chief of the 
Church oi Jerusalem at Batanea. We shall see these 
inquiries renewed with much more rigour under 

The imminent danger which these speculations about 

3nealogy and royal descent implied for the nascent 
hristianity, needs no elaborate demonstration. A 
kind of Christian aristocracy was being created In 
the political world the nobility are almost necessary 
to the state, politics having to deal with vulgar 
struggles which make of them a matter matter is 
material rather than ideal. A state is strong only 
when a certain number of families, by traditional 
privilege, find it alike their duty and their interest 
to transact its business, to represent it, to defend it. 
But in the ideal order, birth is nothing ; everyone is 
valued in proportion to what he discerns of the truth, 
to what he realises of the good. Institutions which 
have a religious, literary, or moral aim are lost when 
considerations of family, of caste, of heredity come to 
prevail amongst them. The nephews and the cousins 
of Jesus would have been the destruction of Christi 
anity if the Churches of Paul had not been of sufficient 
strength to act as a counterpoise to that aristocracy, 
whose tendency had been to proclaim itself alone 
respectable, and to treat all converts as intruders. 
Pretensions analogous to those of the sons of Ali in 
Islam would have been produced. Islamism would 
certainly have perished under the embarrassments 
caused by the family of the Prophet, if the result of 
the struggles of the first century after the Hejira had 
not been to throw into an inferior rank all those who 
were too nearly related to the person of the Founder. 
The true heirs of a great man are those who continue 
his work, and not his relatives according to the flesh. 


Considering the tradition of Jesus as its property, the 
little coterie of Nazarenes would have surely stifled it. 
Happily the narrow circle speedily disappeared : the 
relatives of Jesus were speedily forgotten in the depths 
of The Hauran. They lost all importance, and left 
Jesus to his true family, the only one which he would 
have recognised those who " hear the word of God 
and keep it." Many passages from the Gospels where 
the family of Jesus is seen in an unfavourable light, 
may spring out of the antipathy which the nobiliary 
pretensions of the desposynoi could not fail to pro 
voke around them. 



THE relations of these altogether Hebrew Churches of 
Batanea and of Galilee with the Jews must have been 
frequent. It is to the Judeo- Christians that an ex 
pression frequent in Talmudic traditions, that of 
minim,, corresponding to " heretics," belongs. The 
minim are represented as a species of wonder-workers 
and spiritual doctors, curing the sick by the power of 
the name of Jesus and by the application of holy oil. 
It will be remembered that this was one of the pre 
cepts of St James. Cures of this sort, as well as exor 
cisms, were the great means of conversion employed 
by the disciples of Jesus, especially with regard to the 
Jews. . The Jews appropriated to themselves these 
marvellous receipts, and until the third century we 
find the doctors curing in the name of Jesus. No one 
was astonished. The belief in daily miracles was such 
that the Talmud ordains the prayer that every one 


must make when " private miracles " happen to him. 
The best proof that Jesus believed that he could work 
miracles is, that the members of his family and his 
most authentic disciples had in some sort the speciality 
of performing them. It is true that by the same argu 
ment we must also believe that Jesus was a strict Jew, 
which is repugnant to our ideas. 

Judaism, besides, included two tendencies which put 
it into opposite relations with regard to Christianity. 
The Law and the Prophets continued always the two 
poles of the Jewish people. The Law gave occasion 
to that bizarre scholasticism which was called the 
halaka, out of which the Talmud sprang. The pro 
phets, the psalms, the poetic books inspired an ardent, 
popular preaching, brilliant dreams, unlimited hopes ; 
what was called the agada, a word which embraces at 
once passionate fables like that of Judith and the 
apocryphal apocalypses which agitated the people. 
Just as the casuists of Jabneh showed themselves con 
temptuous of the disciples of Jesus, so the agadists 
sympathised with them. The agadists, in common 
with the Christians, had a dislike for the Pharisees, 
a taste for Messianic explanations of the prophetic 
books, an arbitrary exegesis which recalls the fashion 
in which the preachers of the Middle Ages played with 
texts, a belief in the approaching reign of a descendant 
of David. Like the Christians, the agadists sought to 
connect the genealogy of the patriarchal family with 
that of the old dynasty. Like them, they sought to 
diminish the burden of the Law. Their system of 
allegorical interpretation which transformed a code of 
laws into a book of moral precepts was the avowed 
abandonment of doctrinal rigorism. On the other 
hand, the halakists treated the agadists (and Chris 
tians were agadists in their eyes) as frivolous people, 
strangers to the onry serious study, which was that of 
the Thora. Talmudism and Christianity became in 
this way the two antipodes of the moral world, and 



the hatred between them grew from day to day. The 
disgust which the subtle researches of the casuists 
of Jabneh inspired in the minds of the Christians, is 
written in the Gospels in letters of fire. 

The inconvenience of the Talmudic studies was the 
confidence which they gave and the disdain which 
they inspired for the profane. " I thank Thee, O 
Eternal God ! " said the student, on coming out of the 
house of study, " for that by Thy grace I have fre 
quented the school instead of doing as those do who 
visit the market place. I rose up like them, but it 
was for the study of the law, and not from frivolous 
motives. I labour like them, but I shall be rewarded. 
We both run, but I for life eternal, whilst they can 
but fall into the pit of destruction." This it was 
which wounded Jesus and the authors of the Gospels 
so deeply ; this which inspired those beautiful sen 
tences, " Judge not, that ye be not judged," those 
parables wherein the man who is simple but pure of 
heart is preferred to the haughty Pharisee. Like St 
Paul, they saw in the casuists only people who sought 
to damn the greater part of the world by exaggerating 
obligations beyond the strength of man. Judaism, 
having at its basis the fact which was taken for 
granted that man is treated here below according to 
his merits, set itself to judge without ceasing, since the 
justice of God s ways could be proved only under that 
condition. Pharisaism has its profoundest roots in the 
theories of the friends of Job and of certain Psalmists. 
Jesus, by postponing the application of the justice of 
God to the future, rendered those criticisms of the con 
duct of others futile. The Kingdom of Heaven would 
set all things straight : God sleeps until then ; but 
commit yourselves to him. Out of horror of hypo 
crisy Christianity arrived at even the paradox of pre 
ferring a world openly wicked but susceptible of 
conversion to a bourgeoisie which made a parade of 
its apparent honesty. Many features of the legend. 


conceived or developed under the influence of Jesus, 
arose out of this idea. 

Between people of the same race, partakers of the 
same exile, admitting the same divine revelations and 
differing only upon a single point of recent history, con 
troversy was inevitable. Sufficiently numerous traces 
of it are found in the Talmud and in the writings 
connected with it. The most celebrated doctor whose 
name appears mixed up in these disputes, is Rabbi 
Tarphon. Before the siege of Jerusalem he had filled 
various sacerdotal offices. He loved to recall his 
memories of the Temple, particularly how he had 
assisted upon the platform of the priests at the 
solemn service of the Day of Atonement. The Pontiff 
had for that day permission to pronounce the ineffable 
name of the Most High. Tarphon tells how, notwith 
standing his efforts, he was unable to hear it, the song 
of the other officiants having drowned the priest s 

After the destruction of the Holy City he was one 
of the glories of the schools of Jabneh and Lydda. To 
subtlety he joined what was better charity. In a 
year of famine it is said that he married three hundred 
women so that they might, thanks to their title . of 
future spouses of a priest, have the right to share in 
the sacred offerings. Naturally, the famine having 
passed over, nothing more was heard of his espousals. 
Many sentences of Tarphon recall the Gospel. " The 
day is short, the work is long ; the workmen are idle, 
the reward is great, the master urges on." " In . our 
time," he adds, " when one says to another, Take the 
straw out of thine eye, the answer is, Take the beam 
out of thine own. " The Gospel places such a reply 
in the mouth of Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees, and 
one is tempted to believe that the ill temper of Rabbi 
Tarphon came from a response of the same kind which 
had been made to him by some min. The name of 
Tarphon, in short, was celebrated in the Church. In 


the second century Justin, wishing in a dialogue to 
depict a dispute between a Jew and a Christian, chose 
our Doctor as the defender of the Jewish thesis, and 
brought him upon the stage under the name of 

The choice of Justin and the malevolent tone in 
which he makes this Tryphon speak of the Christian 
faith, are justified by what we read in the Talmud of 
the sentiments of Tarphon. This Rabbi knew the 
Gospels and the books of the minim ; but, far from 
admiring them, he wished them to be burned. It was 
pointed out to him that the name of God constantly 
appeared in them. " I would rather lose my son," 
said he, "than that he should not cast these books 
into the fire, even though they contain the name of 
God. A man pursued by a murderer, or threatened 
with the bite of a serpent, had better seek shelter in 
an idolatrous Temple than in one of the houses of the 
minim, for these know the truth and deny it, whilst 
idolaters deny God because they do not know him." 

If a man relatively moderate like Tarphon could 
allow himself to be so far carried away, we can imagine 
how ardent and passionate must have been this hatred 
in the world of the synagogues, where the fanaticism 
of the Law was carried to its extremest limit. Ortho 
dox Judaism could not curse the minim with sufficient 
bitterness. The use of a triple malediction against 
the partisans of Jesus comprised under the name of 
Nazarenes was early established, it being said in the 
synagogue at morning, at mid-day and at evening. 
This malediction was introduced into the principal 
prayer of Judaism, the amida or schemone-esre. The 
amida is composed first, of eighteen benedictions, or 
rather of eighteen paragraphs. About the time of 
which we speak, an imprecation in these terms was 
intercalated between the eleventh and twelfth para 
graphs : 

" For the treacherous, no hope ! For the malevolent destruc- 


tion 1 Let tlie power of the proud be weakened, broken down, 
crushed, humiliated, now in these our days. Praised be Thou, 
O Eternal God ! who crushest thine enemies and bringest the 
haughty to the dust." 

It is supposed, not without a show of reason, that 
the enemies of Israel pointed at in this prayer were 
originally the Judeo-Christians, and that this was a 
sort of shibboleth to turn the partisans of Jesus out of 
the synagogues. Conversions of Jews to Christianity 
were not rare in Syria. The fidelity of the Christians 
of this country to Mosaic observances afforded great 
facilities for this kind of thing. Whilst the uncircum- 
cised disciples of St Paul could have no relations with 
a Jew, the Judeo-Christian might enter the synagogues, 
approach the tkba and the reading-desk where the 
officials and the preachers presided, and might select 
the texts which favoured their views. In this way 
great precautions were taken. . The most efficacious, 
was to compel everyone who wished to pray in the 
synagogue to recite a prayer which, pronounced by a 
Christian, would have been a curse upon himself. 

To sum up notwithstanding its appearance of 
narrowness, this Nazareo-Ebionite Church of Batanea 
had something mystical and holy about it which is 
exceedingly striking. The simplicity of the Jewish 
conceptions of the Divinity preserved it from myth 
ology and from metaphysics, into which Western 
Christendom was not slow to plunge. Its persistence 
in maintaining the sublime paradox of Jesus, the 
nobility and the happiness of poverty was touching in 
its way. There, perhaps, lay the great truth of Chris 
tianity, that by which it has succeeded and by which 
it will survive. In one sense all of us, such as we 
are students, artists, priests, doers of disinterested 
deeds have the right to call ourselves Ebionim. The 
friend of the true, the beautiful, and the good, never 
admits that he calls for a reward. The things of the 
soul are beyond price ; to the student who illuminate? 


them, to the priest who moralises on them, to the poet 
and the artist who shed a charm over them, humanity 
will never give more than alms alms wholly out of 
proportion to what she has received. He who sells 
the ideal and believes himself paid for what he delivers, 
is very humble. The proud Ebionite who thinks that 
the kingdom of Heaven is his, sees that the part 
which falls to his lot here below is not a salary but 
the obolus which is dropped into the hand of a 

The Nazarenes of Batanea had thus an inestimable 
privilege. They held the veritable tradition of the 
words of Jesus ; the Gospel came forth from their 
midst. Thus those who knew directly the Church 
beyond the Jordan, such as Hegisippus and Julius 
Africanus, spoke of it with the greatest admiration. 
There, principally, it appeared to them, was the true 
ideal of Christianity, to be found ; in that Church 
hidden in the desert, in a profound peace under the 
wing of God, it appeared to them like a virgin of an 
absolute purity. The bonds of these scattered com 
munities with Catholicism were broken little by little. 
Justin hesitates on their account, he knows little of 
the Judeo-Christian Church ; but he knows that it 
exists, he speaks of it with consideration ; at all events 
he does not break away from communion with it. It 
is Irenaeus who begins the series of these declamations, 
repeated after him by all the Greek and Latin Fathers, 
and upon which St Epiphanius puts the topstone by 
the species of rage which the very names of Nazarenc 
and Ebionite excite in him. It is a law of this world 
that every originator, every founder, shall speedily 
become a stranger, then one excommunicated, then an 
enemy in his own school, and that if he obstinately 
persists in living, those who go out from him are 
obliged to take measures against him as against a 
dangerous man. 




WHEN a great apparition of the religious, moral, and 
literary order is produced, the next generation usually 
feels the necessity of fixing the memory of the re 
markable things which happened at the commence 
ment of the new movement. Those who took part in 
the first hatching, those who have known according 
to the flesh, the master whom so many others have 
been able to adore in the spirit only, have a sort of 
aversion for the writings which diminish their privilege 
and appear to deliver to all the world a holy tradi 
tion which they keep secretly guarded in their hearts. 
It is when the last witnesses of the beginning threaten 
to disappear, that disquietude as to the future sets in, 
and that attempts are made to trace the image of the 
founder in durable tints. One circumstance in the 
case of Jesus, contributed to delay the period when 
the memoirs of disciples are usually written down, 
and that was the belief in the approaching end of the 
world, the assurance that the Apostolic generation 
would not pass away until the gentle Nazarene had 
returned as the Eternal Shepherd of his friends. 

It has been remarked a thousand times, that the 
strength of man s memory is in inverse proportion 
to the habit of writing. We can scarcely imagine 
what oral tradition might retain, when people did not 
resort to notes which had been taken or to papers 
which they possessed. The memory of a man was 
then as a book ; he knew how to report conversation, 
to which he himself had not listened. " The Clamo- 
zenians had heard tell of one Antiphon, who was 
connected with a certain Pythadorus, friend of Zeno, 
who remembered the conversations of Socrates with 


Zeno and Parmenides, in order to repeat them to 
Pythadorus. Antiphon knew them by heart, and 
would repeat them to whomsoever would hear them." 
Such is the opening of the Parmenides of Plato. A 
host of people who had never seen Jesus, knew him 
in this way, without the help of any book, almost as 
well as his disciples themselves. The life of Jesus, 
although not written, was the food of the Church ; 
his maxims were incessantly repeated ; the essentially 
symbolical parts of his biography were reproduced in 
the little recitals, in some sort stereotyped and known 
by heart. This is certain as regards the institution of 
the Supper. It was probably also the same as regards 
the essential lines of the story of the Passion ; at all 
events, the agreement of the fourth Gospel with the 
three others on that essential part of the Life of Jesus, 
would lead one to suppose so. 

The moral sentences which formed the most solid 
part of the teaching of Jesus were still more easy to 
retain. They were assiduously recited. "Towards 
midnight I always awake," Peter is made to say in an 
Ebionite writing, composed about the year 135, " and 
then sleep returns to me no more. It is the effect of 
the habit which I have contracted of recalling to 
memory the words of my Lord which I have heard, so 
that I may retain them faithfully." As, however, 
those who had directly received the divine words were 
dying day by day, and as many words and anecdotes 
seemed likely to be lost, the necessity for writing 
them down made itself felt. On various sides little 
collections were made. These collections presented, 
with much in common, strange variants ; the order 
and arrangement especially differed ; each author 
sought to make his copy complete by consulting the 
papers of others, and naturally every vigorously 
accentuated word took its origin in the community, 
provided it conformed to the spirit of Jesus, was 
greedily seized upon, and inserted in the collec- 


tions. According to certain appearances, the Apostle 
Matthew composed one of these memoirs, which has 
generally been accepted. Doubt is permissible in this 
matter, however; it is much more probable that all 
these little collections of the words of Jesus were 
anonymous, in the condition of personal notes, and 
were only reproduced by copyists as works possessing 
an individuality. 

One writing which may assist us to form an idea of 
this first Embryo of the Gospels is the Pirke Aboth, a 
collection of the sentences of celebrated Rabbis, from 
the Asmonean times to the second century of our era. 
Such a book could be formed only by successive 
accretions. The progress of the Buddhist writings on 
the life of Saka-Mouni followed a similar course. The 
Buddhist Sutras corresponded to the collections of the 
words of Jesus ; they are not biographies ; they begin 
simply by indications of this kind : " At this time 
Bhagavat sojourned at Sravasti in the Vihara of 
Jetavana," etc. The narrative part is very limited; 
the teaching, the parable, is the principal object. 
Entire parts of Buddhism only possess such Sutras. 
The Buddhism of the North, and the branches 
which have issued from it, have more books like the 
Lalita Vistara, complete biographies of Saka-Mouni, 
from his birth to the moment of his attaining to per 
fect intelligence. The Buddhism of the South has no 
such biographies, not that it ignores them, but because 
its theological teaching has been able to pass them by, 
and to hold to the Sutras. 

We shall see, in speaking of the Gospel according to 
Matthew, that the state of these Christian Sutras 
may readily be imagined. They were a species of 
pamphlets, of sentences and parables without much 
order, which the editor of our Matthew inserted into 
his narrative. The Hebrew genius had always ex 
celled in moral sentences ; in the mouth of Jesus that 
exquisite style attained perfection. Nothing prevents 


our believing that Jesus himself spoke in this way- 
But the " hedge " which according to the expression 
of the Talmud, protected the sacred word, was very 
weak. It is of the essence of such collections to grow 
by a slow accretion, without the outline of the first 
stone being ever lost. Thus the treatise Eduwth, a little 
Mishna complete, which is the kernel of the great 
Mishna, and in which the deposits of successive crystal 
lisations of tradition are very visible, is to be found 
complete in the great Mishna. The Sermon on the 
Mount may be considered as the Eduwth of the 
Gospel, that is to say, as a first artificial grouping 
which does not prevent later combinations or the 
maxims thus strung together by a slender thread from 
shelling off anew. 

In what language were those little collections of the 
sentences of Jesus composed, these Pirke leschou, if 
such an expression may be permitted ? In the 
language of Jesus himself, in the vulgar tongue of 
Palestine a sort of mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic 
which was still called Hebrew, and to which modern 
savants have given the name of Syro - Chaldaic, 
Upon this point the Pirke Aboth is perhaps still the 
book which gives us the best idea of the primitive 
Gospels, although the Rabbis who figure in this 
collection, being doctors of the pure Jewish school, 
speak there a language which is perhaps nearer to 
Hebrew than was that of Jesus. Naturally the 
catechists who spoke Greek translated those words as 
best they could, and in a fashion sufficiently free. It 
is this that is called the Logia Kyriaca, " the oracles 
of the Lord," or simply the Logia. The Syro-Chaldaic 
collections of the sentences of Jesus having never had 
unity, the Greek collections have even less, and were 
only written down individually in the manner of notes 
for the personal use of each one. It was impossible 
that even in a. sketchy fashion Jesns was entirely con 
tained in a gnomic writing ; the entire Gospel coulJ 


not be confined within the narrow limits of a little 
treatise of morals. A choice of current proverbs or 
of precepts like the Pirke Aboth would not have 
changed humanity, even supposing it to have been 
filled with maxims of the most exalted character. 

That which characterises Jesus in the highest degree 
is that with him teaching was inseparable from action. 
His lessons were acts, living symbols, bound indis- 
solubly to his parables, and certainly in the most 
ancient pages which were written to fix his teachings, 
there are already anecdotes and short narratives. 
Very soon, however, the first framework became 
totally insufficient. The sentences of Jesus were 
nothing without his biography. That biography is 
the mystery par excellence, the realisation of the 
Messianic ideal ; the texts of the prophets there find 
their justification. To relate the life of Jesus is to 
prove his Messiahship, is to make, in the eyes of 
the Jews, the most complete apology for the new 

Thus very early arose a framework which was in 
some sort the skeleton of all the Gospels, and in which 
word and action were mingled. In the beginning 
John the Baptist, forerunner of the Kingdom of God, 
announcing, welcoming, recommending Jesus ; then 
Jesus preparing himself for his Divine mission by 
retirement and the fulfilling of the Law ; then the 
brilliant period of his public life, the full sunshine of 
the Kingdom of God Jesus in the midst of his 
disciples beaming with the gentle and tempered 
radiance of a prophet-son of God. As the disciples 
had scarcely any save Galilean reminiscences, Galilee 
was the almost exclusive stage of this exquisite theo- 
phany. The part of Jerusalem was almost suppressed. 
Jesus went there only eight days before his death. 
His two last days were told almost hour by hour. On 
the eve of his death he kept the Passover with his 
disciples and instituted the Divine rite of common 


communion. One of his disciples betrayed him ; the 
official authorities of Judaism obtained his death from 
the Roman authority ; he died upon Golgotha, he was 
buried. On the next day but one his tomb was found 
empty ; it was because he had been resuscitated and 
had ascended to the right hand of the Father. Many 
disciples were then favoured with appearances of his 
shade wandering between heaven and earth. 

The beginning and the end of the history were, as 
we see, sufficiently well defined. The interval, on the 
contrary, was in a state of anecdotic chaos without 
any chronology. For the whole of this part relative 
to the public life no order was consecrated ; each 
distributed his matter in his own way. Altogether 
the compilation became what was called " the good 
news," in Hebrew Besora, in Greek Evangelion, in 
allusion to the passage of the second Isaiah : " The 
spirit of Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah hath 
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; 
he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to 
proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of 
the prison to them that are bound ; to proclaim the 
acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance 
of our God; to comfort all that mourn." The Mebasser 
or " Evangelist " had as his especial duty to expound 
this excellent history which has been for eighteen 
hundred years the great instrument for the con 
version of the world, which yet remains the great 
argument for Christianity in the struggle of the last 

The matter was traditional : now tradition is in its 
essence a ductile and extensible matter. Every year 
sayings more or less apocryphal were mixed with the 
authentic words of Jesus. Did a new fact, a new 
tendency, make its appearance in the community, the 
question was asked what Jesus would have thought 
of it ; and there was no difficulty in attributing it to 
the Master. The collection, in this way, grew from 


day to day, and was also purified. Words which were 
too strongly opposed to the opinions of the moment, 
or which had been found dangerous, were eliminated. 
But the basis remained; the foundation was really 
solid. The evangelical tradition is the tradition of the 
Church at Jerusalem transported into Perea. The 
Gospel was born amongst the family of Jesus, and, 
up to a certain point, is the work of his immediate 

This fact it is which gives us the right to believe 
that the image of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, 
resembles the original in all essential particulars. 
These narratives are at once historical and figurative. 
Whatever of fable may have mixed itself with them, 
it would be erring, out of fear of erring, to conclude 
that nothing in the Gospels is true. If we had known 
St Francis of Assisi only by the book of the " Con 
formities," we should have to say that it was a bio 
graphy like that of Buddha or of Jesus, a biography 
written a priori to exhibit the realisation of a pre 
conceived type. Still, Francis of Assisi certainly 
existed. Ali has become an altogether mythical per 
sonage amongst the Shieks. His sons, Hassan and 
Hosein, have been substituted for the fabulous part 
of Thammuz. Yet, Ali Hassan and Hosein are real 
personages. The myth is frequently grafted upon a 
historical biography. The ideal is sometimes the true. 
Athens offers the absolutely beautiful in the arts, and 
Athens exists. Even the personages who may some 
times be taken for symbolical statues, have really at 
certain times lived in flesh and bone. These histories 
follow, in fact, certain orderly patterns so closely that 
there is a certain resemblance amongst all of them. 
Babism, which is a fact of our days, offers, in its 
nascent legend, parts that seem drawn from the Life 
of Jesus ; the type of the disciple who denies ; the 
details of the sufferings and the death of Bab, appear 
to be imitated from the Gospel, which does not imply 


that these facts did not happen as they are "described 
to have done. 

We may add that by the side of these ideal traits, 
which make up the figure of the hero of the Gospels, 
there are also characteristics of the time, of the race, 
and of individual character. This young Jew, at once 
gentle and terrible, subtle and imperious, childlike 
and sublime, filled with a disinterested zeal, with a 
pure morality, and with the ardour of an exalted per 
sonality, most certainly existed. He should have his 
place in one of Bida s pictures, the face encircled with 
long locks of hair. He was a Jew, and he was himself. 
The loss of his supernatural aureole has deprived him 
in no way of his charm. Our race restored to itself 
and disengaged from all that Jewish influences have 
introduced into its manner of thought, will continue 
to love him. 

Assuredly in writing concerning such lives, one is 
perpetually compelled to say, with Quintus Curtius. 
Equidem plura transcribo quam credo. On the 
other hand, by an excess cf scepticism, one is deprived 
of many great truths. For our clear and scholastic 
minds, the distinction between a real and a fictitious 
history is absolute. The epic poem, the heroic 
narrative, or the Homerides, the troubadours, the 
antari, the cantistorie, exhibit themselves with so 
much ease, are reduced in the poetic of a Lucan or of 
a Voltaire to the cold puppets of stage machines which 
deceive nobody. For the success of such narratives, 
the auditor must accept them ; but it is necessary 
that the author should believe them possible. The 
legendary, the Agadist, are no more impostors than 
the authors of the Homeric poems, or than were the 
Christians of Troyes. One of the essential disposi 
tions of those who create the really fertile fables, is 
their complete carelessness with regard to material 
truth. The Agadist would smile if we put a question 
with all sincerity, "Is what you tell us true?" In 


such a state of mind no one is uneasy save about 
the doctrine to be inculcated, the sentiment to 
be expressed. The spirit is everything ; the letter 
is of no importance. Objective curiosity which 
proposes to itself no other end than to know as 
exactly as possible the reality of the facts, is a 
thing of which there is almost no example in the 

Just as the life of a Buddha in India was in some 
sense written in advance, so the life of a Jewish 
Messiah was traced d, priori ; it was easy to say what 
it would be and what it ought to be. His type was 
as it were sculptured by the prophets, thanks to the 
exegesis which applied to the Messiah all that belonged 
to an obscure ideal. Most frequently, however, it was 
the inverse process which prevailed amongst the 
Christians. In reading the prophets, especially the 
prophets of the end of the captivity, the second Isaiah, 
Jeremiah and Zechariah, they found Jesus in every 
line. " Rejoice greatly, daughter of Sion ; shout, O 
daughter of Jerusalem ; behold thy King cometh unto 
thee, he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding 
upon an ass and a colt the foal of an ass " (Zech. ix. 9). 
The King of the poor was Jesus, and the circumstance 
which they recalled was regarded as the fulfilment 
of that prophecy. " The stone which the builders 
rejected has become the head of the corner," they read 
in a psalm. " He shall be a stone of stumbling and a 
rock of offence," they read in Isaiah, " to both the 
houses of Israel, a gin and a snare to the inhabitants 
of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble 
and fall" (Isaiah viii. 14, 15). "There indeed it is!" 
they said. Above all things, they went ardently over 
the circumstances of the Passion to find figures. All 
that passed hour by hour in that terrible drama hap 
pened in order to fulfil some prediction, to signify some 
mystery. It was remembered that he had refused to 
drink the posca, that his bones had not been broken, 


that the soldiers had drawn lots for his garments. 
The prophets had predicted all. Judas and his pieces 
of silver (true or supposed) suggested analogous com 
parisons. All the old history of the people of God 
became as it were a model which they copied. Moses 
and Elias, with their luminous apparitions, gave rise to 
imaginary ascents to glory. All the ancient Theo- 
phanies took place on high ground. Jesus revealed 
himself principally on the mountains ; he was trans 
figured on Tabor. They were not dismayed by apparent 
contradictions. "Out of Egypt have I called My 
Son," said Jehovah in Hosea. The words, of course, 
applied to Israel, but the Christian imagination applied 
them to Jesus, and made his parents carry him when 
a child into Egypt. By a yet more strained exegesis 
they discovered that his birth in Nazareth was the 
fulfilment of a prophecy. 

The whole tissue of the life of Jesus was thus an 
express fact, a sort of superhuman arrangement in 
tended to realise a series of ancient texts reputed to 
relate to him. It is a kind of exegesis which the 
Jews call Midrasch, into which all equivoques, all 
plays upon words, letters, sense, are admitted. The 
old biblical texts were for the Jews of this time not 
as for us an historical and literary whole but a book 
of gramarye whence were drawn fates, images, induc 
tions of every description. The sense proper for such 
an exegesis did not exist ; the chimeras of the cabbalist 
were already approached ; the sacred text was treated 
simply as an agglomeration of letters. It is unneces 
sary to say that all this work was done in an impersonal 
and in some sense an anonymous fashion. Legends, 
myths, popular songs, proverbs, historical words, calum 
nies characteristic of a party all this is the work of 
that great impostor who is called the crowd. Assuredly 
every legend, every proverb, every spiritual word, has 
its father, but an unknown father. Someone says the 
word ; thousands repeat it, perfect it, refine it, acumi- 


nate it ; even he who first spoke it has been in saying 
it only the interpreter of all. 



THIS exposition of the Messianic life of Jesus, mixed 
up with texts of the old prophets, always the same, 
and capable of being recited in a single sitting, was 
early settled in almost invariable terms, at least so far 
as the sense is concerned. Not merely did the narra 
tive unfold itself according to a predetermined plan, 
but the characteristic words were settled so that the 
word often guided the thought and survived the 
modifications of the text. The framework of the 
Gospel thus existed even before the Gospel itself, 
almost in the same way as in the Persian dramas of 
the death of the sons of Ali the order of the action is 
settled, whilst the dialogue is left to be improvised by 
the actors. Designed for preaching, for apology, for 
the conversion of the Jews, the Gospel story found all 
its individuality before it was written. Had the Gali 
lean disciples, the brothers of the Lord, been consulted 
as to the necessity for having the sheets containing 
this narrative worked into a consecrated form, they 
would have laughed. What necessity is there for a 
paper to contain our fundamental thoughts, those 
which we repeat and apply every day ? The young 
catechists might avail themselves, for some time, of 
such aids to memory ; the old masters felt only con 
tempt for those who used them. 

Thus it was that until the middle of the second 
century the words of Jesus continued to be cited from 



memory often with considerable variations. The texts 
of the evangelists which we possess, existed; but 
other texts of the same kind existed by the side of 
them ; and, besides, to quote the words or the symboli 
cal features of the life of Jesus no one felt obliged to 
have recourse to the written text. The living tradi 
tion was the great well from which all alike drew. 
Hence the explanation of the fact which is in appear 
ance surprising, that the texts which have become the 
most important part of Christianity were produced 
obscurely, confusedly, and at first were not received 
with any consideration. 

The same phenomenon makes its appearance further 
more in almost all sacred literatures. The Vedas have 
been handed down for centuries without having been 
written ; a man who respected himself ought to know 
them by heart. He who had need of a manuscript to 
recite these ancient hymns confessed his ignorance; 
so that the copies have never been held in much 
esteem. To quote from memory from the Bible, the 
Koran, is, even in our days, a point of honour amongst 
Orientals. A part of the Jewish Thora must have 
been oral before it was written down. It was the 
same with the Psalms. The Talmud, finally, existed 
for two hundred years before it was written down. 
Even after it was written, scholars long preferred the 
traditional discourses to the MSS. which contained 
the opinions of the doctors. The glory of the scholar 
was to be able to cite from memory the greatest pos 
sible number of the solutions of the casuists. In 
presence of these facts, far from being astonished at 
the contempt of Papias for the Gospel texts existing 
in his time, amongst which were certainly two of the 
books which Christianity has since so deeply revered, 
we find his contempt in perfect harmony with what 
might be expected from a " man of tradition," an 
elder," as those who had spoken of him have called 


It may be doubted whether before the death of 
the Apostles, and the destruction of Jerusalem, all 
that collection of narratives, sentences, parables, and 
prophetic citations had been reduced to writing. The 
features of the divine figure before which eighteen 
centuries of Christians have prostrated themselves, 
were first sketched about the year 75. Batanea, 
where the brothers of Jesus lived, and where the 
remnant of the Church of Jerusalem had taken refuge, 
appears to have been the country where this import 
ant work was executed. The tongue employed was 
that in which the very words of Jesus had been 
uttered, that is to say, Syro-Chaldaic, which was 
abusively called Hebrew. The brothers of Jesus, the 
fugitive Christians of Jerusalem, spoke that language, 
little different besides from that of the Bataneans, who 
had not adopted the Greek tongue. It was in an 
obscure dialect, and without literary culture, that the 
first draft of the book which has charmed so many 
souls was traced. It was in Greek that the Gospel 
was to attain its perfection, the last form which has 
made the tour of the world. It must not, however, 
be forgotten that the Gospel was first a Syrian book, 
written in a Semitic language. The style of the 
Gospel that charming turn of childlike narrative 
which recalls the most limpid pages of the old Hebrew 
books penetrated with a species of idealistic ether 
that the ancient people did not know, and which has 
nothing of Greek in it. Hebrew is its basis. A just 
proportion of materialism and spirituality, or rather 
an indiscernible confusion of soul and sense, makes 
that adorable language the very synonym of poetry, 
the pure vestment of the moral idea, something analo 
gous to Greek sculpture, where the ideal allows itself 
to be touched and loved. 

Thus was sketched out by an unconscious genius 
that masterpiece of spontaneous art, the Gospel, not 
such and such a gospel, but this species of unfixed 


poem, this unrevised masterpiece where every defect 
is a beauty, and the indefiniteness of which has been 
the chief cause of its success. A portrait of Jesus, 
finished, revised, classic, would not have had so great 
a charm. The Agada, the parable, do not require hard 
outlines. They require the floating chronology, the 
light transition, careless of reality. It is by the 
Gospel that the Jewish agada has been universally 
accepted. The air of candour is fascinating. He 
who knows how to tell a tale can catch the crowd. 
Now, to know how to tell stories is a rare privilege ; a 
naivete, an absence of pedantry of which a solemn 
doctor is hardly capable, are absolutely necessary. 
The Buddhists and the Jewish Agadists (the evangelists 
are true Agadists) have alone possessed this art in the 
degree of perfection which makes the entire universe 
accept a story. All the stories, all the parables which 
are repeated from one end of the world to the other, 
have but two origins, one Buddhist and the other 
Christian, because Buddhists and the founders of 
Christianity alone had the care of the popular preach 
ing. The situation of the Buddhists with regard to 
the Brahmans was in a sense analogous to that of the 
Agadists with regard to the Talmudists. The latter 
have nothing which resembles the Gospel parable, any 
more than the Brahmans would have arrived by 
themselves at a turn so light, so agile, and so flowing 
as the Buddhist narrative. Two great lives well told, 
that of Buddha and that of Jesus there lies the 
secret of the two vastest religious propaganda that 
humanity has ever seen. 

The Halaka has converted no one ; the Epistles of 
St Paul alone would not have won a hundred disciples 
to Jesus. That which has conquered the hearts of man 
is the Gospel, that delicious mixture of poetry and the 
moral sense, that narrative floating between dreams 
and reality in a Paradise where no note is taken of 
time. In all that there is assuredly a little literary 


surprise. The success of the Gospel was due on the 
one hand to the astonishment caused amongst our 
heavy races by the delicious strangeness of the Semitic 
narrative, by the skilful arrangement of these sentences 
and discourses, by these cadences, so happy, so serene, 
so balanced. Strangers to the artifices of the agada, 
our good ancestors were so charmed with them that 
even in the present day we can scarcely persuade our 
selves that this species of narrative may be devoid of 
objective truth. But to explain how it has happened 
that the Gospel may have become amongst all nations 
what it is, the old family book whose worn pages have 
been moistened with tears, and on which the finger of 
generations has been impressed, more is required. The 
literary success of the Gospel is due to Jesus himself. 
Jesus was, if we may so express ourselves, the author 
of his own biography. One experience proves the 
fact. There have been many Lives of Jesus in the 
past. Now the life of Jesus will always obtain a great 
success when the writer has the necessary degree of 
ability, of boldness, and of naivete to translate the 
Gospel into the style of his time. A thousand reasons 
for this success may be looked for, but there is never 
more than one, and that is the incomparable intrinsic 
beauty of the Gospel itself. When the same writer 
later on attempts a translation of St Paul, the public 
will not be attracted. So true it is that the eminent 
person of Jesus trenching vigorously on the mediocrity 
of his disciples was pre-eminently the soul of the new 
apparition, and gave to it all its originality. 

The Hebrew Protavangel was preserved in the 
original amongst the Nazarenes of Syria until the 
fifth century. There are besides Greek translations of 
it. A specimen was found in the library of the 
priest Pamphilus of Csesarea ; St Jerome is said to have 
copied the Hebrew text at Aleppo, and even to have 
translated it. All the Fathers of the Church have 
found that this Hebrew Gospel is much like the Greek 


Gospel which bears the name of St Matthew. They 
usually assume that the Greek Gospel attributed to 
St Matthew was translated from the Hebrew, but the 
deduction is erroneous. The generation of our Gospel 
of St Matthew was a much more complicated matter. 
The resemblance of the Gospel with the Gospel of the 
Hebrews does not go so far as identity. Our St 
Matthew is anything but a translation. We will ex 
plain later on why of all the Gospel texts the latter 
approaches most nearly to the Hebrew prototype. 

The obstruction of the Judeo- Christians of Syria 
brought about the disappearance of the Hebrew text. 
The Greek and Latin translations, which created a 
disagreeable discord by the side of the canonical 
Gospels, also perished. The numerous quotations 
made from it by the Fathers, allow us to imagine the 
original up to a certain point. The Fathers had 
reason to connect it with the first of our Gospels. 
This Gospel of the Hebrews, of the Nazarenes, re 
sembled in truth much of that which bears the name 
of Matthew, both in plan and in arrangement. As to 
length, it holds the middle place between Mark and 
Matthew. It is impossible sufficiently to regret the 
loss of such a text, though it is certain that even 
supposing we still possessed the Gospel of the Hebrews 
seen by St Jerome, our Matthew would be preferred to 
it. Our Matthew, in a word, has been preserved intact 
since its final revision in the last years of the first 
century, whilst the Gospel of the Hebrews, through 
the absonce of an orthodoxy (the jealous guardian of 
the text) amongst the Judaising Churches of Syria, 
has been revised from century to century, so that at 
the last it was no better than one of the apocryphal 

In its origin it appears to have possessed the char 
acteristics which one expects to find in a primitive 
work. The plan of the narrative was like that of 
Mark, simpler than that of Matthew and Luke. The 


virginal birth of Jesus does not figure in it at all. The 
struggle about the genealogies was lively, and the 
great battle of Ebionism took place on this point. 
Some admitted the genealogical tables into their 
copies, while others rejected them. Compared with 
the Gospel which bears the name of Matthew, the 
Gospel of the Hebrews, so far as we can judge by the 
fragments which remain to us, was less refined in its 
symbolism, more logical, less subject to certain objec 
tions of exegesis, but of a stranger, coarser super- 
naturalism, more like that of Mark. Thus the fable 
that the Jordan took fire at the Baptism of Jesus 
a fable dear to popular tradition in the earlier ages of 
the Church is to be found there. The form under 
which it was supposed that the Holy Spirit entered 
into Jesus at that moment, as a force wholly distinct 
from himself, appears also to have been the oldest 
Nazarene conception. For the transfiguration, the 
Spirit, which was the Mother of Jesus, takes her Son 
by a hair, according to an imagination of Ezekiel 
(Ezek. viii. 3), and in the additions to the book of 
Daniel, and transports him to Mount Tabor. Some 
material details are shocking, but are altogether in 
the style of Mark. Finally some features which had 
remained sporadic in the Greek tradition, such as the 
anecdote of the woman taken in adultery, which is 
thrust rightly or wrongly into the fourth Gospel, had 
their place in the Gospel of the Hebrews. 

The stories of the appearances of Jesus after his 
resurrection, presented evidently in that Gospel a 
character apart. Whilst the Galilean tradition repre 
sented by Matthew will have it that Jesus appointed 
a meeting with his disciples in Galilee, the Gospel of 
the Hebrews without doubt because it represented the 
tradition of the Church of Jerusalem supposed that 
all the appearances took place in that city, and attri 
buted the first vision to James. The endings of the 
Gospels of St Mark and St Luke place, in the same 


way, all the apparitions at Jerusalem. St Paul fol 
lowed an analogous tradition. 

One very remarkable fact is that James, the man of 
Jerusalem, played in the Gospel of the Hebrews a 
more important part than in the evangelical tradi 
tion which has survived. It appears that there was 
amongst the Greek evangelists a sort of agreement to 
efface the brother of Jesus, or even to allow it to be 
supposed that he played an odious part. In the 
Nazarene Gospel, on the contrary, James is honoured 
with an appearance of Jesus after his resurrection; 
that apparition is the first of all ; it is for him alone ; 
it is the reward of the vow, full of lively faith, that 
James had made, that he would neither eat nor drink 
until he had seen his brother raised from the dead. 
We might be tempted to regard this narrative as a 
sufficiently modern resetting of the legend, without a 
single important circumstance. St Paul in the year 57 
also tells us that, according to the tradition which he 
had received, James had had his vision. Here, then, 
is an important fact which the Greek evangelists sup 
pressed, and which the Gospel of the Hebrews related. 
On the other hand, it appears that the first Hebrew 
edition embodies more than one hostile allusion to 
Paul. People have prophesied, and cast out devils in 
the name of Jesus : Jesus openly repulses them be 
cause they have "practised illegality." The parable 
of the tares is still more characteristic. A man has 
sown in his field only good seed ; but whilst he slept 
an enemy came, sowed tares in the field, and departed. 
" Master," said the servants, " didst thou not sow good 
seed in thy field ? from whence then hath it tares ? " 
And he said unto them, " An enemy hath done this." 
The servants said unto him, "Wilt thou that we go 
and gather them up ? " But he said unto them, " Nay, 
lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the 
wheat with them. Let both grow together until the 
harvest, and in the time of harvest 1 will say to the 


reapers, gather ye together first the tares, and bind 
them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat 
into my barn." It must be remembered that the 
expression " the enemy " was the name habitually 
given by the Ebionites to Paul. 

Was the Gospel of the Hebrews considered by the 
Christians of Syria, who made use of it, as the work 
of the Apostle Matthew ? There is no valid reason 
for such a belief. The witness of the fathers of the 
Church proves nothing about the matter. Consider 
ing the extreme inexactitude of the ecclesiastical 
writers, when Hebrew affairs are in question, this 
perfectly accurate proposition, "The Gospel of the 
Hebrews of the Syrian Christians resembles the 
Greek Gospel known by the name of St Matthew," 
transforms itself into this, with which it is by no 
means synonymous : " The Christians of Syria pos 
sessed the Gospel of St Matthew in Hebrew," or 
rather, " St Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew." 
We believe that the name of St Matthew was not 
applied to one of the versions of the Gospel until the 
Greek version which now bears .his name was com 
posed, which will be much later. If the Hebrew 
Gospel never bore an author s name, or rather a 
title of traditional guarantee, it was the title of 
" the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles," sometimes also 
that of "the Gospel of Peter." Still, we believe 
that these names were given . later, when Gospels 
bearing the names of the Apostles came into use. 
A decisive method of preserving to the original 
Gospel its high authority, was to cover it with the 
authority of the entire Apostolic College. 

As we have already said, the Gospel of the Hebrews 
was ill preserved. Every Judaising sect of Syria 
added to it, and suppressed parts of it, so that the 
orthodox sometimes presented it as swollen by in 
terpolation to a greater size than St Matthew, and 
sometimes as mutilated. It was especially in the 


hands of the Ebionites of the second century that the 
Gospel of the Hebrews arrived at the lowest point of 
corruption. These heretics issued a Greek version 
the style of which appears to have been awkward, 
heavy, overloaded, and in which, moreover, the writer 
did not fail to imitate Luke and the other Greek 
evangelists. The so-called Gospels of Peter and of 
the Egyptians came from the same source, and pre 
sented equally an apocryphal character and a medi 
ocre standard. 



THE Christianity of the Greek countries had still 
greater need than those of Syria for a written version 
of the life and teaching of Jesus. It appears at the 
first glance that it would have been very simple, for 
the satisfaction of that demand, to translate the 
Hebrew Gospel, which shortly after the fall of Jeru 
salem had taken a definite form. But translation 
pure and simple was not the fashion of those times : 
no text had sufficient authority to cause it to be 
preferred over others ; it is, moreover, doubtful if 
the little Hebrew pamphlets of the Nazarenes could 
have passed the sea and gone out of Syria. The 
Apostolic men who were in communication with the 
Western Churches trusted to their memories, and 
without doubt did not carry with them works which 
would have been unintelligible to the faithful. When 
the necessity for a Gospel in Greek made itself felt, 
it was composed of fragments. But, as we have 
already said, the plan, the skeleton, the book almost 


in its entirety, were sketched out in advance. There 
was at bottom but one way of telling the life of Jesus, 
and two disciples, working separately, one at Rome, 
the other at Kokaba, the one in Greek, the other in 
Syro-Chaldaic, could not but produce two works 
very much like each other. 

The general lines, the order of the narrative, had 
already been settled. What had to be created were 
the Greek style and the choice of the necessary words. 
The man who accomplished this important work was 
John - Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter. 
Mark, it appears, had seen when a child something of 
the facts of the Gospel ; it may even be believed that 
he was at Gethsemane. He had personally known 
those who had played a part in the drama of the last 
days of Jesus. Having accompanied Peter to Rome, 
he probably remained there after the death of the 
Apostle, and passed through the terrible crisis which 
followed the event in that town. It was there that, 
according to all appearances, he put together the little 
book of forty or fifty pages which was the corner 
stone of the Greek Gospels. 

The document, although composed after the death 
of Peter, was in a sense his work ; it was the way in 
which he had been accustomed to relate the life of 
Jesus. Peter knew scarcely any Greek ; Mark served 
him as dragoman ; hundreds of times he had been the 
channel through which this marvellous history had 
passed. Peter did not follow a very rigid order in his 
preaching ; he cited facts and parables as the exigencies 
of his teaching required. This licence of composition is 
also found in the book of Mark. The distribution of 
the subject is often logically at fault ; in some respects 
the work is very incomplete, since entire parts of the 
Life of Jesus are wanting, of which complaint was made 
even in the second century. On the other hand, the 
clearness, the precision of detail, the originality, the 
picturesqueness, the life of this first narrative were 


not afterwards equalled. A sort of realism renders 
the form heavy and hard ; the ideality of the character 
of Jesus suffers from it ; there are incoherencies, in 
explicable whimsicalities. The first and the third 
Gospels greatly surpass that of Mark in the beauty of 
the discourses, the happy application of the anecdotes ; 
a crowd of touching details have disappeared, but as 
an historical document the Gospel of Mark is greatly 
superior. The strong impression left by Jesus is 
there found almost entire. We see him really living 
and acting. 

The part which Mark took in so singularly abridg 
ing the great discourses of Jesus is astonishing. These 
discourses could not have been unknown to him : if 
he has omitted them, he must have had some motive 
for doing so. The somewhat narrow and dry spirit 
of Peter is perhaps the cause of this suppression. 
This spirit is certainly also the explanation of the 
puerile importance which Mark attaches to the 
miracles. The working of wonders in his Gospel has 
a singular character of heavy materialism, which for 
the moment recalls the reveries of the magnetizers. 
The miracles are painfully accomplished by successive 
steps. Jesus works them by means of Aramaic 
formulae, which have a Cabbalistic air. There is a 
struggle between the natural and supernatural forces : 
the evil yields only step by step, and under reiterated 
injunctions. Add to this a sort of secret character, 
Jesus always forbidding those who are the recipients 
of his favours to speak of them, It is not to be 
denied that Jesus comes out of this Gospel not as the 
delightful moralist whom we love, but as a terrible 
magician. The sentiment with which he inspires the 
majority of those about him is fear ; the people, terri 
fied by his miracles, pray him to depart out of their 

It is not to be concluded from this that the Gospel 
of Mark is less historic than the others; quite the 


contrary. Tilings which offend us in the highest 
degree were of the first importance to Jesus and his 
immediate disciples. The Roman world was even 
more than the Jewish world the dupe of these 
illusions. The miracles of Vespasian are conceived on 
exactly the same lines as those of Jesus in the Gospel 
of Mark. A blind man, a lame man, stop him on the 
public road, and beg him to cure them. He cures 
the first by spitting on his eyes ; the second by tread 
ing upon his leg. Peter appears to have been princi 
pally struck by these prodigies, and we may readily 
believe that he insisted much upon them in his preach 
ing. Hence the work which he inspired has a 
physiognomy peculiar to itself. The Gospel of Mark is 
less a legend than a memoir written by a credulous per 
son. The characters of the legend, the vagueness of 
the details, the softness of the outlines, strike one in 
Matthew and Luke. Here, on the contrary, everything 
is taken from life ; we feel that we are in the presence 
of memories. 

The spirit which rules in this little book is certainly 
that of Peter. In the first place, Cephas plays there 
an eminent part, and appears always at the head of 
the apostles. The author is in no way of the school of 
Paul, yet in various ways he approaches him much 
more nearly than in the direction of James by his 
indifference with regard to Judaism, his hatred for 
Pharisaism, his lively opposition to the principles of 
the Jewish theocracy. The story of the Syro- 
Phcenician woman (Mark vii. 24, et seq.\ which 
evidently signifies that the Pagan may obtain grace, 
provided he have faith, is humble and recognises the 
precedence of the son of the house, is in perfect har 
mony with the part which is played by Peter in the 
history of the centurion Cornelius. Peter, it is true, 
appears much later to Paul as a timid man, but he 
was none the less, in his day, the first to recognise the 
calling of the Gentiles. 


We shall see later what kind of modifications it was 
thought necessary to introduce into the first Greek 
version, in order to make it acceptable to the faith 
ful, and how, from that revision, emerged the Gospels 
attributed to Matthew and Luke. One cardinal fact 
of primitive Christian literature is that these con 
nected, and in a sense more complete texts, did not 
cause the primitive text to disappear, The little work 
of Mark was preserved, and soon, thanks to the con 
venient but altogether erroneous hypothesis which 
makes of him "a divine abbreviator," he took his 
place amongst the mysterious four evangelists. Is it 
certain that the text of Mark can have remained pure 
from all interpolations, that the text which we read 
to-day is purely and simply the first Greek Gospel ? 
It would be a bold thing to affirm that it is. At the 
very time that it was found necessary to compose, 
other Gospels bearing other names, taking Mark for 
the foundation, it is very possible that Mark himself 
may have been retouched, whilst his name was still 
left at the head of the book. Many particulars ap 
pear to suppose a sort of retroactive influence upon 
the text of Mark, exercised by the Gospels composed 
after Mark. But these are complicated hypotheses 
of which there is no absolute proof. The Gospel 
of Mark presents a perfect unity and, except for 
certain matters of detail where the manuscripts 
differ, apart from those little retouchings, from 
which the Christian writings have, almost with 
out exception, suffered, it does not appear to have 
received any considerable addition since it was 

The characteristic feature of the Gospel of Mark 
was, from the first, the absence of the genealogies and 
of the legends relating to the infancy of Jesus. If 
there was a gap which ought to be filled up for the 
benefit of Catholic readers, it was to be found there. 
And yet no attempt was made to fill it. Many other 


particulars, inconvenient from the apologist s point 
of view, were not erased. The story of the Resurrec 
tion alone presents itself in Mark with evident traces 
of violence. The best manuscripts stop after the 
words ephobountogar (xvi. 8). It is scarcely prob 
able that the primitive text should have finished so 
abruptly. On the other hand, it is very likely that 
something followed which was shocking to received 
ideas, and it was cut out, but the conclusion ephoboun- 
togar being very unsatisfactory, various little clauses 
were invented, not one of which possessed sufficient 
authority to exclude the others from the manuscripts. 

When Matthew, and, above all, Luke, omit certain 
passages which are actually in Mark, are we forced to 
conclude that these passages were not in the proto- 
Mark ? We are not. The authors of the second 
version selected and omitted, guided by the sentiment 
of an instinctive art and by the unity of their work. 
It has been said, for example, that the Passion was 
wanting in the primitive Mark, because Luke, who 
has followed him up to that point, does not follow 
him in the narrative of the last hours of Jesus. The 
truth is that Luke has taken for the Passion another 
guide more symbolical, more touching than Mark, and 
Luke was too great an artist to muddle his colours. 
The Passion of Mark, on the contrary, is the truest, 
the most ancient, the most historical. The second 
version in any case is always blunter, more governed 
by d priori reasons than those which have preceded 
it. Precise details are matters of indifference to gen 
erations which have not known the primitive actors. 
What is pre-eminently required is an account with 
clear outlines and significant in all its parts. 

There is everything to lead us to believe that Mark 
did not write down his Gospel until after the death of 
Peter. Papias assumes this when he tells us that 
Mark wrote " from memory " what he had from Peter. 
Finally the fact that the Gospel of Mark contains 


evident allusion to the catastrophe of the year 70 is 
decisive when we admit the unity and integrity of the 
work. The author puts into the mouth of Jesus in 
Chapter xiii. a species of apocalypse wherein are 
intermingled predictions relative to the capture of 
Jerusalem and the approaching end of time. We 
believe that this littte apocalypse, in part designed to 
induce the faithful to retire to Pella, was spread 
amongst the community of Jerusalem about the year 
68. It certainly did not then contain the prediction 
of the destruction of the Temple. The author of the 
Johanine apocalypse, however well he may have 
understood the Christian conscience, did not yet 
believe, in the later days of 68 or the early days of 69, 
that the Temple would be destroyed. Naturally all 
the collections of the life and words of Jesus which 
adopted this fragment as prophetic would modify it 
in the light of accomplished facts, and would see in it 
a clear prediction of the ruin of the Temple. It is 
probable that the Gospel of the Hebrews in its first 
form contained the apocalyptic discourse in question. 
The Hebrew Gospel, indeed, certainly contained the 
passage relating to the murder of Zecharias, son of 
Barachias, a feature which took its rise about the time 
of the apocalyptic discourse in question. Mark would 
scarcely venture to neglect a matter so striking. He 
supposes that Jesus in the last days of his life clearly 
foresaw the ruin of the Jewish nation, and took that 
ruin as the measure of the time which must elapse 
before his second appearing. "In those days after 
that tribulation . . . they shall see the Son of Man 
coming in the clouds with great power and glory." 
Such a formula notoriously assumes that at the 
moment when the author wrote the ruin of Jerusalem 
was accomplished, but accomplished very lately. 

On the other hand, the Gospel of St Mark was com 
posed before all the eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus 
were dead. Hence we may see within what narrow 


limits the possible date of the compilation of the book 
is restricted. In all ways we are brought to the first 
years of calm which followed the war of Judea. Mark 
could not have been more than fifty-five years old. 

According to all appearances, it was at Rome that 
Mark composed this first attempt at a Greek gospel, 
which, imperfect though it is, contains the essential 
outlines of the subject. Such is the old tradition, and 
there is nothing improbable in it. Rome was, after 
Syria, the headquarters of Christianity. Latinisms are 
more frequent in the little work of Mark than in any 
other of the New Testament writings. The biblical 
texts to which reference is made recall the Septuagint. 
Many details lead to the belief that the writer had in 
view readers who knew little of Palestine and Jewish 
customs. The express citations from the Old Testa 
ment made by the author himself may be reduced to 
one; the exegetical reasonings which characterise 
Matthew and even Luke are wanting in Mark ; the 
name of the Law never drops from his pen. Nothing, 
in fact, obliges us to believe that this may be a work 
sensibly different from that of which the Presbyter 
Joannes in the first years of the second century said 
to Papias : " The Presbyters still say this : Mark, 
become the interpreter of Peter, wrote exactly but 
without order all that he remembered of the words 
and actions of Christ. For he did not hear or follow 
the Lord ; but later, as I have said, he followed Peter, 
who made his didascalies according to the necessities 
of the moment, and not as if he wished to prepare a 
methodical statement of the discourses of the Lord ; 
hence Mark is in no way to be blame d if he has thus 
written down but a small number of details, such as 
he remembered them. He had but one concern, to 
omit nothing that he had heard, and to let nothing 
pass that was false." 




FAR from diminishing the importance of the Jews at 
Eome, the war of Judea had in a sense contributed 
to increase it. Rome was by far the greatest Jewish 
city in the world : she had inherited all the import 
ance of Jerusalem. The war of Judea had cast into 
Italy thousands of Jewish slaves. From 65 to 72 all 
prisoners made during the war had been sold whole 
sale. The places of prostitution were filled with Jews 
and Jewesses of the most distinguished families. 
Legend has pleased itself by building a most romantic 
structure on this foundation. 

Except for the heavy poll tax which oppressed the 
Jews, and which was for Christians more than an ex 
action, the reign of Vespasian was not remarkable for 
any special severities towards the two branches of the 
House of Israel. We have seen that the new dynasty, 
far from drawing down upon itself the contempt of 
Judaism in the beginning, had been compelled by 
the fact of the war of Judea, inseparable from its ap 
proach, to contract obligations towards a great number 
of Jews. It must be remembered that Vespasian and 
Titus, before attaining to power, had remained about 
four years in Syria, and had there formed many con 
nections. Tiberius Alexander was the man to whom the 
Flavii owed the most. He continued to occupy one of 
the chief positions in the state ; his statue was one of 
those which adorned the Forum. Nee meiere fas est ! 
said the old Romans in their wrath, irritated by that 
intrusion of the Orientals. Herod Agrippa II., whilst 
continuing to reign and to coin money at Tiberias and 
Paneas, lived at Rome surrounded by his co-religionists, 
keeping up a great state, astonishing the Romans by 
the pomp and ostentation with which he celebrated 


the Jewish feasts. He displayed in his relations a 
certain largeness, since he had for his secretary the 
radical Justus of Tiberias, who had no scruple in 
eating the bread of a man whom he had certainly 
more than once accused of treason. Agrippa was 
decorated with the ornaments of the priesthood, and 
received from the Emperor an augmentation of fiefs 
on the side of Hermon. 

His sisters Drusilla and Berenice also lived at 
Rome. Berenice, notwithstanding her already ripe 
age, exercised over the heart of Titus such an empire, 
that she had the design of marrying him, and Titus 
it was said had promised her, and was only deterred 
by political considerations. Berenice inhabited the 
palace, and, pious as she was, lived openly with the 
destroyer of her country. The jealousy of Titus was 
active, and it appears to have contributed, not less 
than policy, to the murder of Caecina. The Jewish 
favourite enjoyed to the full her royal rights. Legal 
cases were taken under her jurisdiction, and Quintilian 
relates that he pleaded before her in a case in which 
she was both judge and party. Her luxury astonished 
the Romans; she ruled the fashions; a ring which 
she had worn on her finger sold for an insane price ; 
but the serious world despised her, and openly de 
scribed her relations with her brother Agrippa as 
incestuous. Other Herodians still lived in Italy, 
perhaps at Naples, in particular that Agrippa, son of 
Agrippa and Felix, who perished in the eruption of 
Vesuvius. In a word, all these dynasties of Syria 
and Armenia which had embraced Judaism, remained 
with the new Imperial family in daily relations of 

Around this aristocratic world the subtle and 
prudent Josephus hovered, like a complaisant servant. 
Since his entry into the household of Vespasian and 
of Titus, he had taken the name of Flavius, and in 
the usual manner of a common-place soul, he reconciled 


contradictory characters he was obsequious to tne 
executioners of his country, he was a boaster concern 
ing his national memories. His domestic life, until 
then by no means correct, now began to become orderly. 
After his defection, he had been weak enough to 
accept from Vespasian a young prisoner from Cesarea, 
who left him as soon as she could. At Alexandria he 
took another wife, by whom he had three children. 
Two of them died young, and he repudiated his wife, 
he says, on the ground of incompatability of temper, 
about the year 74. He then married a Jewess of 
Crete, in whom he found all perfections, and who bore 
him two children. His Judaism had always been lax, 
and became more and more so ; it was very easy to 
believe that even at the period of the greatest Galilean 
fanaticism he was a liberal, preventing the forcible 
circumcision of people, and protesting that everyone 
ought to worship God in his own way. This idea 
that everyone should choose his own form of worship 
gained the day, and lent powerful help to the pro 
pagation of a religion founded on a rational idea of 
the divinity. 

Josephus had undoubtedly a superficial Greek 
education, of which, like a clever man, he knew how to 
make the most. He read the Greek historians ; that 
reading provoked him to emulation ; he saw the 
possibility of writing in the same way the history of 
the last misfortunes of his country. Too little of an 
artist to understand the temerity of his undertaking, 
he plunged into it, as happens sometimes with Jews 
who begin in literature in a foreign tongue, like one 
who fears nothing. He was not yet accustomed to 
write in Greek, and it was in Syro-Chaldaic that he 
made the first version of his work ; later he put for 
ward the Greek version which has come down to 
our own times. Notwithstanding his protestations, 
Josephus is not a truthful man. He has the Jewish 
defect the defect most opposed to a healthy manner 


of writing history an extreme personality. A 
thousand preoccupations govern him ; first the neces 
sity for pleasing his new masters, Titus and Herod 
Agrippa ; then the desire of proving his own import 
ance, and of showing to those of his compatriots who 
looked askance at him, that he had acted only from 
the purest inspirations of patriotism ; then an honest 
sentiment in many respects which induces him to 
present the character of his nation in the light which 
would compromise them least in the eyes of the 
Romans. The rebellion, he pretends, was the work of 
a handful of madmen ; Judaism is a pure doctrine 
elevated in philosophy, inoffensive in policy ; the Jews 
moderate, and, far from making common cause with 
sectaries, have usually been their first victims. How 
could they be the enemies of the Romans ? they who 
had asked from the Romans aid and protection against 
the revolutionaries ? These systematic views contra 
dict on every page the pretended impartiality of the 

The work was submitted (at least Josephus wishes 
us to believe so) to the criticism of Agrippa and of 
Titus, who appear to have approved it. Titus would 
have gone further; he would have signed with his 
own hand the copy which was intended to serve as a 
type, to show that it was according to this volume 
that he desired that the history of the siege of 
Jerusalem should be told. The exaggeration here is 
palpable. What is clearly evident is the existence 
around Titus of a Jewish coterie which flattered him, 
which desired to persuade him that, far from having 
been the cruel destroyer of Judaism, he had wished to 
save the Temple ; that Judaism had killed itself, and 
that, in any case, a superior decree of the Divine will, 
of which Titus had been but the instrument, hovered 
over all. Titus was evidently pleased to hear this 
theory maintained. He willingly forgot his cruelties, 
and the decree that he had to all appearance pro- 


nounced against the Temple, when the vanquished 
themselves came to offer such apologies. Titus had a 
great fund of humanity; he affected an extreme 
moderation ; he was without doubt very well pleased 
that this version should be circulated throughout the 
Jewish world ; but he was also well pleased when in 
the Roman world the story was told in quite a differ 
ent way, and represented him upon the walls of Jeru 
salem as the haughty conqueror breathing only fire 
and death. 

The sentiment of sympathy for the Jews, which is 
thus implied on the part of Titus, might be expected 
to extend itself to the Christians. Judaism, as Jose- 
phus understood it, approached Christianity on many 
sides, especially the Christianity of St Paul. Like 
Josephus, the majority of the Christians had con 
demned the insurrection, and cursed the zealots. They 
loudly professed submission to the Romans. Like 
Josephus they held the ritual part of the Law as 
secondary, and understood the sonship of Abraham in 
a moral sense. Josephus himself appears to have been 
favourable to the Christians, and to have spoken of the 
chiefs of the sect with sympathy. Berenice, on her 
side, and her brother Agrippa, had had for St Paul 
a sentiment of benevolent curiosity. The private 
friends of Titus were rather favourable than unfavour 
able to the disciples of Jesus, by which circumstance 
may be explained the fact, which appears incontest 
able, that there were Christians in the very household 
of Flavius. Let it be remembered that this family 
did not belong to the great Roman aristocracy ; that 
it formed part of what may be called the provincial 
middle class ; that it had not, consequently, against 
the Jews and Orientals in general, the prejudices of 
the Roman nobility, prejudices which we shall soon 
see regain all their power under Nerva, and bring 
about a century of almost continuous persecution of 
the Christians. That dynasty fully admitted popular 


charlatanism. Vespasian had no scruple about his 
miracles of Alexandria, and when he remembered that 
juggleries had had much to do with his fortune, he no 
doubt felt merely an increase of that sceptical gaiety 
which was habitual to him. 

The conversions which brought the faith in Jesus 
so near to the throne, were probably not effected 
until the reign of Domitian. The Church of Rome 
was reformed but slowly. The inclination which 
Christians had felt about the year 68 to flee from 
a town upon which they expected every moment the 
wrath of God to descend, had grown weak. The 
generation mown down by the massacres of 64 was 
replaced by the continual immigration which Rome 
received from other parts of the Empire. The sur 
vivors of the massacres of Nero breathed at last, they 
considered themselves as in a little provisional Para 
dise, and compared themselves with the Israelites after 
they had passed the Red Sea. The persecution of 64 
presented itself to them as a sea of blood, where all 
had only not been drowned. God had inverted the 
parts, and as to Pharaoh, he had given to their exe 
cutioners blood to drink : it was the blood of the civil 
wars, which from 68 to 70 had poured out in torrents. 

The exact list of the ancient presbyteri or episcopi 
of the Roman Church is unknown. Peter, if he went 
to Rome, as we believe, occupied there an exceptional 
place, and would certainly have had no successor 
properly so-called. It was not until a hundred years 
afterwards, when the episcopate was regularly con 
stituted, that any attempt was made to present a con 
secutive list of the successors of Peter as bishops of 
Rome. There are no accurate memorials until after 
the time of Xystus, who died about 125. The interval 
between Xystus and St Peter is filled with the names 
of Roman presbyters who had left some reputation. 
After Peter we come upon a certain Linus, of whom 
nothing certain is known ; then Anenclet, whose name 


was disfigured afterwards, and of whom two person 
ages were compounded, Clet and Anaclet. 

One phenomenon which is manifested more and 
more is that the Church of Rome became the heiress 
of that of Jerusalem, and was in some sort substituted 
for it. There was the same spirit, the same traditional 
and hierarchical authority, the same taste for com 
mand. Judeo-Ohristianity reigned at Rome as at 
Jerusalem. Alexandria was not yet a great Christian 
centre. Ephesus, even Antioch, could not struggle 
against the preponderance which the capital of the 
Empire, by the very nature of things, tended more 
and more to arrogate to itself. 

Vespasian arrived at an advanced old age, esteemed 
by the serious part of the Empire, repairing, in the 
bosom of a profound peace, with the aid of an active 
and intelligent son, the evils which Nero and the civil 
war had created. The high aristocracy, without 
having much sympathy for a family of parvenus men 
of capacity but without distinction, and of manners 
sufficiently common sustained and seconded it. They 
were at last delivered from the detestable school of 
Nero, a school of wicked, immoral, and frivolous 
men, wretched soldiers and administrators. The 
honest party which, after the cruel trial of the reign 
of Domitian was to arrive definitely at power with 
Nerva, breathed at last, and already was almost 
triumphant. Only the madmen and the debauchees 
of Rome who had loved Nero laughed at the parsi 
mony of the old General, without dreaming that that 
economy was perfectly simple and altogether praise 
worthy. The treasury of the Emperor was not clearly 
distinguished from his private fortune ; but the 
treasury of Nero had been sadly dilapidated. The 
situation of a family without fortune, like that of 
Flavius, borne to power under such circumstances, 
became very embarrassing. Galba, who was of the 
great nobility, but of serious habits, was lost because 


one day at the theatre he offered to a player on the 
flute who had been much applauded, five denarii, 
which he drew from his purse. The crowd received 
it with a song : 

" Onesimus comes from the village," 

the burden of which the spectators repeated in chorus. 
There was no way of pleasing these impertinents save 
by magnificence and cavalier manners. Vespasian 
would have found it much more easy to obtain pardon 
for crimes than for his rather vulgar good sense, and 
that species of awkwardness which the poor officer 
usually retains who has risen from the ranks by his 
merits. The human race is so little disposed to 
encourage goodness and devotion in its sovereigns, 
that it is sometimes surprising that the offices of king 
and of emperor still find conscientious men to dis 
charge them. 

A more importunate opposition than that of the 
idlers of the amphitheatre and the worshippers of the 
memory of Nero, was that of the philosophers, or, to 
be more correct, of the republican party. This party, 
which had reigned for thirty-six hours after the death 
of Caligula, gained, on the death of Nero, and during 
the civil war which followed that event, an unexpected 
importance. Men highly considered, like Helvidius 
Priscus, with his wife Fannia (daughter of Thrasea), 
were seen to refuse the most simple fictions of imperial 
etiquette, to affect with regard to Vespasian an air at 
once cavilling and full of effrontery. We must do 
Vespasian the justice to remember that it was with 
great regret that he treated the grossest provocations 
with rigour, provocations which were the simple result 
of the goodness and simplicity of this excellent sove 
reign. The philosophers imagined, with the best faith 
in the world, that they defended the dignity of man 
with their little literary allusions ; they did not see 
that in reality they defended only the privileges of an 


aristocracy, and that they were preparing for the 
ferocious reign of Domitian. They hoped for the im 
possible, a municipal republic governing the world, 
public spirit in an immense Empire composed of the 
most diverse and unequal races. Their madness was 
almost as great as that of the lunatics whom we have 
seen in our own days dreaming that the Commune of 
Paris could be the monarchy of France. Thus the 
good spirits of the time, Tacitus, the two Plinies, 
Quintilian, saw clearly the vanity of this political 
school. Whilst full of respect for Helvidius Priscus, 
the Rusticus, the Senecion, they abandoned the re 
publican chimera. Seeking no more than to ameliorate 
the princely power, they drew from it the finest fruits 
for about a century. 

Alas ! that power had the cardinal defect of floating 
between the elective dictatorship and the hereditary 
monarchy. Every monarchy aspires to be hereditary, 
not merely because of what the democracies call the 
egotism of the family, but because monarchy is advan 
tageous for the people only when it is hereditary. 
Heredity, on the other hand, is impossible without the 
Germanic principle of fidelity. All the Roman Em 
perors aimed at heredity ; but heredity could never 
extend beyond the second generation, and it scarcely 
ever produced any but fatal consequences. The world 
only breathes when through particular circumstances 
adoption (the system best adapted to Caesarism) pre 
vails ; there was in it only a happy chance ; Marcus 
Aurelius had a son, and lost everything. 

Vespasian was exclusively preoccupied with this 
cardinal question. Titus, his eldest son, at the age 
of thirty -nine, had no male issue, nor had Domitian at 
twenty-seven a son. The ambition of Domitian ought 
to have been satisfied with such hopes. Titus openly 
announced him as his successor, and contented himself 
with desiring that he should marry his daughter Julia 
Sabina. But in spite of so many favourable condi- 


tions, Nature gave herself up in that family to an 
atrocious complication. Domitian was a scoundrel 
before whom Caligula and Nero might pass for harm 
less jesters. He did not hide his intention of dis 
possessing his father and his brother. Vespasian and 
Mucianus had a thousand difficulties in preventing 
him from spoiling all. 

As happens with good-hearted men, Vespasian im 
proved every day as he grew older. Even his pleas 
antry, which was often, from want of education, of a 
coarse description, became just and fine. He was 
told that a comet had shown itself in the sky. " It is 
the King of the Parthians whom that concerns," said 
he, "he wears long hair." Then his health growing 
worse, " I think I am about to become a god," said 
he, smiling. He occupied himself with business to the 
last, and feeling himself dying, " an Emperor should 
die standing," said he. He expired, in fact, in the 
arms of those who supported him, a grand example 
of manly attitude and firm bearing in the midst of 
troubled times, which seemed almost desperate. The 
Jews alone preserved his memory as that of a monster 
who had made the entire earth groan under the 
weight of his tyranny. There was without doubt 
some Rabbinical legend concerning his death ; he died 
in his bed they admitted, but he could not escape the 
torments which he merited. 

Titus succeeded him without difficulty. His virtue 
was not a profound virtue like that of Antoninus or 
of Marcus Aurelius. He forced himself to be virtuous, 
and sometimes nature got the upper hand. Neverthe 
less, a good reign was hoped for. As rarely happens, 
Titus improved after his accession to power. He had 
great powers of self-control, and he began by making 
the most difficult of all sacrifices to public opinion. 
Berenice was less than ever disposed to renounce her 
hope of being married. She behaved in all respects as 
if she were. Her quality of Jewess, of foreigner, of 


" Queen " a title which, like that of King, sounded ill 
in the ears of a true Roman, and recalled the East 
created an insurmountable obstacle to that fortune. 
Nothing else was spoken of in Rome, and more than 
one impertinence was daringly uttered aloud. One 
day in the full theatre a cynic named Diogenes, who 
had introduced himself into Rome, notwithstanding 
the decrees of expulsion issued against the philo 
sophers, rose, and in the presence of all the people 
poured forth a torrent of insults. He was beaten. 
Heras, another cynic, who thought to enjoy the same 
liberty at the same price, had his head cut off. Titus 
yielded, not without pain, to the murmurs of the 
people. The separation was all the more cruel, since 
Berenice resisted. It was necessary to send her away. 
The relations of the Emperor with Josephus, and pro 
bably with Herod Agrippa, remained what they had 
been before the rupture. Berenice herself returned to 
Rome, but Titus had no further communication with 

Honest folks felt their hopes revive. With the 
spectacles, and a little charlatanism, it was easy to 
content the people, and they remained quiet. Latin 
literature, which, since the death of Augustus, had 
undergone so great an eclipse, was in the way of 
recovery. Vespasian seriously encouraged science, 
literature, and the arts. He established the first pro 
fessors paid by the state, and was thus the creator of 
the teaching body, at the head of which illustrious 
fraternity shines the name of Quintilian. The sickly 
poetry of the epopoeias and the artificial tragedies 
continued piteously. Bohemians of talent, like Mar 
tial and Statius, both excellent in little verses, did 
not come out from a low and barren literature. But 
Juvenal attained, in the truly Latin species of satire, 
an uncontested mastery for force and originality. A 
haughty Roman spirit, narrow, if you will, closed, 
exclusive, but full of tradition, patriotic, opposed to 


foreign corruptions, breathes through his verses. The 
courageous Sulpicia dared to defend the philoso 
phers against Domitian. Great prose writers, above 
all, sprang up, rejected all that was excessive in the 
declamation of the time of Nero, preserving that part 
of it which did not shock the taste, animated the 
whole with an exalted moral sentiment, prepared, 
in a word, that noble generation which discovered 
and surrounded Nerva, which brought about the phi 
losophical reigns of Trajan, of Antoninus, and of 
Marcus Aurelius. Pliny the younger, who so greatly 
resembles the cultivated wits of our eighteenth 
century ; Quintilian, the illustrious pedagogue, who 
traced the code of public instruction, the master of 
our great masters in the art of education ; Tacitus, 
the incomparable historian ; others, like the author of 
the Dialogue of the Orators, who equalled them, but 
whose names are ignored or whose writings are lost, 
increased the labours which had already begun to bear 
fruit. A gravity full of elevation, respect for the 
moral laws and for the laws of humanity, replaced 
the gross debauchery of Petronius and the excessive 
philosophy of Seneca. The language is less pure 
than that of the writers of the time of Caesar and of 
Augustus, but it has character, audacity, something 
which ought to cause it to be appreciated and imitated 
in modern times, which have conceived the middle 
tone of their prose in a more declamatory key than 
that of the Greeks. 

Under this wise and moderate rule Christians lived 
in peace. The memory which Titus left in the Church 
was not that of a persecutor. One event of his reign 
made a lively impression. This was the eruption of 
Vesuvius. The year 79 witnessed this, perhaps the 
most striking phenomenon in the volcanic history of 
the earth. The entire world was moved. Since 
humanity had a conscience, nothing so remarkable 
had ever been seen. An old crater, extinct from time 


immemorial, broke into activity with an unequalled vio 
lence, just as if in our days the volcanoes of Auvergne 
should recommence their most furious manifestations. 
We have seen since the year 68 the preoccupation of 
the volcanic phenomena fill the Christian imagination 
and leave its traces in the Apocalypse. The event of 
the year 79 was equally celebrated by the Judeo- 
Christian seers, and provoked a species of recru 
descence of the Apocalyptic spirit. The Judaising 
sects especially considered the catastrophe of the 
Italian towns thus swallowed up as the punishment 
for the destruction of Jerusalem. The blows which 
continued to rain upon the world were, to a certain 
point, the justification for such imaginings. The 
terror produced by these phenomena was extra 
ordinary. Half of the pages of Dion Cassius which 
remain to us are consecrated to prophecies. The year 
80 witnessed the greatest fire Rome had ever seen, save 
that of the year 64. It lasted for three days and 
three nights: the whole district of the Capitol and 
the Pantheon was destroyed. A frightful pestilence 
ravaged the world about the same time; it was 
believed to be the most terrible epidemic ever known. 
The tremblings of the earth spread terror everywhere ; 
famine oppressed the nations. 

Would Titus keep to the end his promise of good 
ness ? That was the question. Many pretended that 
the part of " delight of the human race " is difficult to 
maintain, and that the new Caesar would follow in 
the footsteps of Tiberius, of Caligula, and of the Neros, 
who after having begun well finished most badly. 
Souls absolutely given over to the stoic philosophy, 
like those of Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius, were 
required by those who would not succumb to the 
temptations of a boundless power. The character of 
Titus was of a rare quality ; his attempt to reign by 
goodness, his noble illusions as to the humanity of 
his times, were something liberal and touching ; his 


morality was not, however, of a perfect solidity; it 
was forced. He repressed his vanity and forced him 
self to propose purely objective aims in life. But a 
philosophical and virtuous temperament is of more 
value than a ready-made morality. The tempera 
ment does not change ; morality of that kind may do 
so. It might be that the goodness of Titus was only 
the effect of an arrested development ; it was asked if 
in the course of years he was not likely to become 
such another as Domitian. 

These, however, were only retrospective apprehen 
sions. Death came to withdraw Titus from a trial 
which might have been fatal had it been too prolonged. 
His health failed visibly. At every instant he wept 
as if, after having attained the highest rank in the 
world, he saw the frivolity of all things in spite of 
appearances. Once especially, at the end of the cere 
mony of the inauguration of the Coliseum, he burst 
into tears before the people. In his last journey to 
Rhsetum he was overwhelmed with sadness. At one 
moment he was seen to draw back the curtains of 
his litter, to look at the sky, and to swear that he 
had not deserved death. Perhaps it was the wasting, 
the enervation produced by the part which he chose 
to play, the life of debauchery which he had lived at 
various times before attaining to the Empire, that was 
the cause of this. Perhaps also it was the protest 
which a noble soul had in such a time the right to 
raise against destiny. His nature was sentimental 
and amiable. The frightful wickedness of his brother 
killed him. He saw clearly that if he did not take 
the initiative, Domitian would. To have dreamed of 
the empire of the world, to make himself adored by 
it, to see his dream accomplished, and then to see its 
vanity, and to recognise that in politics good nature 
is a mistake ; to see evil rise before him in the form 
of a monster, saying, " Kill me or I will kill you ! 
What a trial for a good heart! Titus had not the 


hardness of a Tiberius, or the resignation of a Marcus 
Aurelius. Let it be remembered also that his 
hygenic regime was the worst conceivable At all 
times, and especially in his house near Rhsetum, where 
the waters were very cold, Titus took baths sufficient 
to kill the most robust of men. All this assuredly 
renders it unnecessary to suppose that his premature 
death was the effect of poison. Domitian was not a 
fratricide in the material sense; he became one 
through his hatred, his jealousy, his undisguised 
desires. His attitude after the death of his father 
was a perpetual conspiracy. Titus had scarcely given 
up the ghost when Domitian obliged all those about 
him to abandon him as dead, and, mounting his horse, 
hurried to the camp of the Praetorian Guard. 

The world mourned but Israel triumphed. That 
unexplained death from exhaustion and philosophical 
melancholy, was it not a manifest judgment from 
heaven upon the destroyer of the Temple the 
guiltiest man the world had yet seen ? The rabbinical 
legend on this subject took as usual a puerile turn 
which, however, was not wholly without justice. 
" Titus the wicked," said the Agadists, " died through 
the bite of a fly which introduced itself into his brain 
and killed him amidst atrocious tortures." Always 
the dupes of popular reports, the Jews and the Chris 
tians of the time generally believed in the fratricide. 
According to them, the cruel Domitian, the murderer 
of Clemens, the persecutor of the saints, was more 
than the assassin of his brother, and that foundation, 
like the parricide of Nero, became one of the bases 
of a new apocalyptic symbolism, as we shall see 
somewhat later on. 




THE tolerance which Christianity enjoyed under the 
reign of the Flavii was eminently favourable to its 
development. Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, especi 
ally, were the active centres where the name of Jesus 
became every day more and more important, and from 
which the new faith shone out. If we except the 
exclusive Ebionites of Batanea, the relations between 
the Judeo-Christians and the converted Pagans be 
came every day more easy ; prejudices were set aside ; 
a fusion was wrought. In many important towns 
there were two Presbyteries and two Episcopi, one for 
Christians of Jewish extraction, the other for the 
faithful of Pagan origin. It is supposed that the 
Episcopos of the converted Pagans had been instituted 
by St Paul, and the other by some apostle of Jeru 
salem. It is true that in the third and fourth cen 
turies this hypothesis was abused, in order that the 
Churches might escape from the difficulty in which 
they found themselves when they sought to found a 
regular succession of bishops with antagonistic ele 
ments of tradition. Nevertheless, the double character 
of the two Churches appears to have been a real fact. 
Such was the diversity of education of the two sections 
of the Christian community, that the same pastor 
could scarcely give to both the teaching of which they 
stood in need. 

Matters fell out thus especially when, as at Antioch, 
the difference of origin was joined with difference of 
language, where one of the groups spoke Syriac and 
the other Greek. Antioch appears to have had two 
successions of Presbyteri, one belonging in theory to 
St Peter, the other to St Paul. The constitution of 
the two lists was managed in the same way as the 


lists of the Bishops of Rome. They took the oldest 
names of the Presbyteri whom they remembered, that 
of a certain Evhode much respected that of Igna 
tius who was greatly celebrated and put them at 
the heads of the files of the two series. Ignatius 
died only under the reign of Trajan ; St Paul saw 
Antioch for the last time in 54. The same thing then 
happened for Ignatius as for Clement, for Papias and 
for a great number of personages of the second and 
third Christian generations the dates were garbled, 
so that they might be supposed to have received from 
the Apostles their institution or their teaching. 

Egypt, which for a long time was much behind-hand 
in the matter of Christianity, probably received the 
germ of the new faith under the Flavii. The tradition 
of the preaching of St Mark at Alexandria is one of 
those tardy inventions by which the great Churches 
sought to give themselves an Apostolic antiquity. The 
general outline of the life of St Mark is well known ; 
it is in Rome and not in Alexandria that it must be 
sought. When all the great Churches pretended to 
an Apostolic foundation, the Church of Alexandria, 
already very considerable, wished to supply titles of 
nobility which it did not possess. Mark was almost the 
only one amongst the personages of Apostolic history 
who had not yet been appropriated. In reality the 
cause of the absence of the name of Egypt from the 
narrative of the Acts of the Apostles and from the 
Epistles of St Paul is that Egypt had a sort of pre- 
Christianity which long held it closed against Chris 
tianity properly so called. She had Philo, she had 
the Therapeutes, that is to say, doctrines so like those 
which grew up in Judea and Galilee that it was un 
necessary for her to lend an attentive ear -to the latter. 
Later, it was maintained that the Therapeutes were 
nothing else than the Christians of St Mark, whose 
kind of life Philo had described. It was a strange 
hallucination. In a certain sense, however, this bizarre. 


confusion was not altogether so devoid of truth as 
might be imagined at the first glance. 

Christianity appears indeed to have had a very un 
decided character in Egypt for a long time. The 
members of the old Therapeutic communities of Lake 
Narcotis, if their existence must be admitted, ought 
to appear like saints to the disciples of Jesus, the Exe- 
getas of the school of Philo, like Apollos, marched side 
by side with Christianity, entered into it even without 
staying there ; the other Alexandrine Jewish authors 
of the apocryphal books shared largely, it is said, in 
the ideas which prevailed in the Council of Jerusalem. 
When the Jews, animated, it is said, by like senti 
ments, heard Jesus spoken of, it was unnecessary that 
they should be converted in order to sympathise with 
his disciples. The confraternity established itself. 
A curious monument of the spirit, peculiar to Egypt, 
has been preserved in one of the Sibylline poems a 
poem dated with great precision from the reign of 
Titus or one of the first years of Domitian, which the 
critics have been able, with almost equal reason, to 
accept as Christian on the one hand and Essenian or 
Therapeutic on the other. The truth is that the 
author was a Jewish sectary, floating between Christi 
anity, Baptism, Essenism, and inspired, before all things, 
by the dominant idea of the Sibyllists, who were the 
first preachers of monotheism to the Pagans, and of 
morality, under cover of a simplified Judaism. 

Sibyllism was born in Alexandria about the time 
when apocalypticism came into existence in Palestine. 
The two parallel theories owed their existence to 
analogous spiritual conditions. One of the laws of 
every apocalypse is the attribution of the work to 
some celebrity of past times. The opinion of the 
present day is that the list of great prophets is closed, 
and that no modern can pretend to equal the ancient 
inspired ones. What then was a man to do who was 
possessed with the idea of producing his thought and 


giving to it the authority which would be lacking if 
he published it as his own ? He takes the mantle of 
an ancient man of God and boldly puts forth his book 
under the shelter of a venerated name. The forger 
who, to expound an idea which he thinks just, abne 
gates his own personality in this way, has not a 
shadow of scruple. Far from believing that he in 
jures the antique sage whose name he takes, he thinks 
he does him honour by attributing to him good and 
beautiful thoughts. And as to the public to whom 
these writings were addressed, the complete absence 
of criticism prevented anyone from raising a shadow 
of objection. In Palestine the authorities chosen to 
serve as name-lenders to these new revelations were 
real or fictitious personages whose holiness was known 
to and admitted by all Daniel, Enoch, Moses, Solomon, 
Baruch, Esdras. At Alexandria, where the Jews were 
initiated into the Greek literature, and where they 
aspired to exercise an intellectual and moral influence 
over the Pagans, the forgers chose renowned Greek 
philosophers or moralists. It is thus that we see 
Aristobalus alleging false quotations from Homer, 
Hesiod, and Linus, and that there was soon a pseudo- 
Orpheus, a pseudo-Pythagoras, an aprocryphal corre 
spondence of Heraclites, a moral poem attributed to 
Phocylides. The object of all these works was the 
same ; they preached deism to idolators and the 
precepts known as Noachian, that is to say, Judaism 
mitigated for their use or reduced almost to the pro 
portions of the natural law. Two or three observ 
ances only were retained which in the eyes of the 
most liberal Jews passed almost as forming part of 
the natural law. 

The Sibyls present themselves to the mind as forgers 
in search of incontestable authorities under cover of 
whom they may present themselves to the Greeks the 
ideas which were dear to them. They already circu 
lated little poems, pretended Cumseans, Erythaeans, 


full of threats, prophesying calamities to different 
countries. These dicta, which had a great effect on 
the popular imagination, especially when fortuitous 
coincidences appeared to justify them, were conceived 
in the old epic hexameter, in a language which affected 
a resemblance to that of Homer. The Jewish forgers 
adopted the same rhythm, and, the better to deceive 
credulous people, they served in their text some of 
those threats which they thought in harmony with 
the character of the ancient prophetic virgins. 

Sibyllism was thus the form of the Alexandrine 
Apocalypse. When a Jew a friend of the good and 
of the true in that tolerant and sympathetic school 
wished to address warnings or counsels to the Pagans, 
he made one of the prophetesses of the Pagan world 
to speak, to give to his utterances a force which they 
would not otherwise have had. He took the tone of 
the Erythsean oracles, forced himself to imitate the 
traditional style of the prophetic poetry of the Greeks, 
provided himself with some of these versified threats 
which made a great impression on the people, and 
framed the whole in pious utterances. Let us repeat 
it such frauds with a good object were in no way 
repugnant to anybody. By the side of the Jewish 
manufactory of false classics, the art of which con 
sisted in putting into the mouths of Greek philo 
sophers and moralists the maxims which they were 
desirous of inculcating, there was established in the 
second century before Christ a pseudo-Sibyllism in 
the interest of the same ideas. In the time of the 
Flavii, an Alexandrine looked up the long interrupted 
tradition and added some new pages to the former 
oracles. These pages are of a remarkable beauty. 

Happy is he who wui ships the Great God, him whom human 
hands have not made, who hath no temple, whom mortal eye 
cannot see nor hand measure. Happy are those who pray before 
they eat, and before they drink ; who, at sight of the temples 
make a sign of protestation, and who turn away with horror 


from the altars bedabbled with blood. Murder, shameful gain, 
adultery, the crimes against nature, do they hold in horror. 
Other men given over to their perverse desires run after these 
holy men with laughter and with insult ; in their madness they 
charge them with the crimes of which they themselves have 
been guilty ; but the judgment of God shall be accomplished. 
The impious shall be cast into darkness, but the godly shall 
dwell in a fertile land, and the Spirit of God shall give to them 
light and grace. 

After this exordium came the essential parts of 
every apocalypse ; first a theory concerning the suc 
cession of empires a species of philosophy of history 
imitated from Daniel ; then signs in heaven, trem 
blings of the earth, islands emerging from the depths of 
the sea, wars, famines, and all the preparations which 
announce the coming of God s judgment. The author 
particularly mentions the earthquake at Laodicsea in 
60 ; that of Myra ; the invasions of the sea at Lycia, 
which took place in 68. The sufferings of Jerusalem 
then appeared to him. A powerful king, the mur 
derer of his mother, flees from Italy, ignored, unknown, 
under the disguise of a slave, and takes refuge beyond 
the Euphrates. There he waits in hiding whilst the 
candidates for the Empire make bloody war. A 
Roman chief will deliver the Temple to the flames and 
will destroy the Jewish nation. The bowels of Italy 
will be torn ; a flame will come out of her and will 
mount to heaven, destroying the cities, consuming 
thousands of men ; a black dust will fill the air ; 
lapilli like vermillion red will fall from heaven. 
Then it may be hoped men will recognise the wrath 
of God Most High, the wrath which has fallen on 
them because they have destroyed the innocent tribe 
of pious men. As the topstone of misfortune, the 
fugitive king, hidden behind the Euphrates, will 
draw his great sword and will recross the Euphrates 
with myriads of men. 

It will be remarked how immediately this work 
follows the Apocalypse of St John. Taking up the 


ideas of the seer of 68 or 69, the Sibyllist of 81 or 82, 
confirmed in his dark previsions by the eruption of 
Vesuvius, revives the popular belief of Nero living 
beyond the Euphrates, and announces his immediate 
return. Some indications exist that there was a false 
Nero under Titus. A more serious attempt was made 
in 88, and nearly brought about a war with the 
Parthians. The prophecy of our Sibyllist is without 
doubt prior to that date. He announces in effect a 
terrible war ; now the affair of the false Nero under 
Titus, if it ever occurred, was not serious, and as to the 
false Nero of 88, he created nothing more than a false 

When piety, faith, and justice shall have entirely 
disappeared, when no one will care for pious men, 
when all will seek to kill them, taking pleasure in 
insulting them, plunging their hands in their blood, 
then will be seen an end to the Divine patience ; 
trembling with wrath, God will annihilate the human 
race with fire. 

Ah ! wretched mortals ! change your conduct ; do not force 
the great God to the last outbreak of his wrath ; leaving your 
swords, your quarrels, your murders, your violence, wash your 
whole bodies in running water, and, lifting up your hands to 
Heaven, ask pardon for your sins that are past, and with your 
prayers heal yourselves of your dreadful impieties. Then will 
God repent him of his threat, and will not destroy you. His 
wrath shall be appeased if you cultivate this precious piety in 
your hearts. But if you persist in your evil mind ; if you do 
not obey me, and if, nursing your madness, you receive these 
warnings ill, fire shall spread itself upon the earth, and these 
shall be the signs of it. At the rising of the sun there shall be 
sounds in the heavens and the noise of trumpets ; the whole 
earth shall hear bellowings and a terrible uproar. Fire shall 
burn the earth ; the whole race of man shall perish, and the 
world shall be reduced to small dust. 

When all shall be in ashes, and God shall have put out the 
great fire which he had kindled, then shall the Almighty re 
store form to the dust and bones of men, and restore man as he 
was l<efore. Then shall come the Judgment, when God himself 
ahall judge the world. Those who remain hardened in their 


wickedness, the earth spread upon their heads shall recover 
them ; they shall be cast into the abysses of Tartarus and of 
Jehannum, sister of Styx. But those who have lived a pious 
and godly life shall live again in the world of the Great and 
Eternal God, in the bosom of imperishable happiness, and God 
shall give them, to reward their piety, spirit, life, and grace. 
Then all shall see themselves, and their eyes shall behold the 
nndying light of a sun that shall never go down. Blessed is the 
man who shall see those days ! 

Was the author of this poem a Christian ? He cer 
tainly was one at heart, but he was one also by his 
style. The critics who see in this fragment the work 
of a disciple of Jesus, support their view principally 
upon the invitation to the Gentiles to be converted 
and to wash their whole bodies in the rivers. But 
baptism was not an exclusively Christian rite. There 
were by the side of Christianity sects of Baptists, of 
Hemero-Baptists, with whom the Sibylline verse would 
agree better, since Christian baptism can be adminis 
tered but once, whilst the baptism mentioned in the 
poem would seem to have been like the prayer which 
accompanied it, a pious practice for the washing away 
of sin, a sacrament which might be renewed, and which 
the penitent administered to himself. What would 
be altogether inconceivable is that in a Christian 
apocalypse of nearly two hundred verses written at 
the beginning of the age of Domitian there was not 
a single word about the resurrection of Jesus or of 
the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds to judge 
the quick and the dead. If we add to that the em 
ployment of mythological expressions, of which there 
is no example in the first century, an artificial style 
which is a pasticcio of the old Homeric style which 
takes for granted a study of the profane poets and 
a long stay in the schools of the grammarians of Alex 
andria, our case is complete. 

The Sibylline literature appears then to have origin 
ated amongst the Essenian or Therapeutic communities; 
now the Therapeutists, the Essenians, the Baptists, the 


Sibyllists, lived in an order of ideas very like that of 
the Christians, and differing from them only on the 
point of the worship of the person of Jesus. Later 
on, without doubt, all these sects were merged in the 
Church. More and more but two classes of Jews 
came to be left ; on the one hand, the Jew who was 
a strict observer of the Law Talmudist, Casuist, 
Pharisee, in a word ; on the other, the liberal Jew who 
reduced Judaism to a sort of natural religion open 
to virtuous Pagans. About the year 80 there were, 
especially in Egypt, sects which took up this position 
without, however, adhering to Jesus. Soon there will 
be more, and the Christian Church will include all 
those who wish to withdraw themselves from the 
excessive demands of the Law, without ceasing to 
belong to the spiritual family of Abraham. 

The book numbered fourth in the Sibylline collec 
tion is not the only one of its class which the period 
of Domitian may have produced. The fragment 
which serves as the preface to the entire collection, 
and which has been preserved for us by Theophilus, 
Bishop of Antioch (end of second century), greatly re 
sembles the fourth book, and ends in the same way : 
" A torrent of fire will fall upon you ; burning torches 
will scorch you through all eternity ; but those who 
have worshipped the true and infinite God, shall 
inherit life for ever, dwelling in the free and laughing 
garden of Paradise, and eating the sweet bread which 
shall fall from the starry skies." This fragment 
appears at first sight to present in some expressions 
indications of Christianity, but expressions altogether 
analogous may be found in Philo. The nascent 
Christianity had outside the divine aspect lent to it 
by the person of Jesus so few features specially 
proper to it, that the rigid distinction between what 
is Christian and what is not, becomes at times 
extremely delicate. 

A characteristic detail of the Sibylline Apocalypses 


is that, according to them, the world will finish by a 
conflagration. Many passages in the Bible lead to 
this idea. Nevertheless, it is not found in the great 
Christian Apocalypse attributed to John. The first 
trace of it, found amongst the Christians, is in the 
Second Epistle of Peter, written, it is supposed, at a 
very late date. The belief thus appears to have 
sprung up in Alexandrian centres, and we are justified 
in believing that it came in part from the Greek 
philosophy; many schools, particularly the Stoics, 
held it as a principle that the world would be con 
sumed by fire. The Essenes had adopted the same 
opinion ; it became, in some sort, the basis of all the 
writings attributed to the Sibyl, so long as that 
literary fiction continued to serve as a skeleton for 
the dreams of unquiet minds as to the future. It is 
there and in the writings of the psuedo Hytasper 
that the Christian doctors found it. Such was the 
authority of these supposed oracles, that they were 
accepted as inspired, with the utmost simplicity. The 
imagination of the Pagan crowd was haunted by 
terrors of the same kind, utilised by more than one 

Ananias, Avilius, Cerdon, Primus, who are described 
as the successors of St Mark, were without doubt old 
presbyters whose names had been preserved and of 
whom bishops were made when the divine origin of 
the episcopate was recognised, and when every see 
was expected to show an unbroken succession of pre 
sidents up to the apostolic personage who was ac 
credited with its foundation. Whatever it may have 
been, the Church of Alexandria appears to have been 
from the first of a very isolated character. It was 
exceedingly anti-Jewish ; it is from its bosom that we 
shall see emerge, in the course of the next fourteen 
or fifteen years, the most energetic manifesto of sepa 
ration between Judaism and Christianity, the treatise 
known by the name of " the Epistle of Barnabas." It 


will be a different matter in fifty years, when gnos 
ticism shall be born there proclaiming that Judaism 
was the work of an evil God, and that the essential 
mission of Jesus was to dethrone Jehovah. The im 
portance of Alexandria, or, if you choose, of Egypt, 
in the development of Christian theology, will then 
clearly describe itself. A new Christ will appear 
resembling the Christ whom we know, just as the 
parables of Galilee resemble the myths of Osiris or 
the symbolism of the mother of Apis. 



THE defects and omissions in the Gospel of Mark 
became every day more obnoxious. Those who knew 
the beautiful addresses of Jesus as they appeared in the 
Syro-Chaldaic Scriptures, regretted the dryness of the 
narrative based on the tradition of Peter. Not only 
did the most beautiful of his preachings appear in a 
truncated form, but parts of the life of Jesus, which 
had come to be recognised as essential, were altogether 
omitted. Peter, faithful to the old ideas of the first 
Christian century, attached little importance to the 
story of the childhood and to the genealogies. Now 
it was especially with respect to those things that the 
Christian imagination laboured. A crowd of new 
narratives sprang up ; a complete Gospel was demanded, 
which to all that Mark embodied should be added all 
that the best traditionists of the East knew, or believed 
they knew. 

Such was the origin of our text "according to 
Matthew." The author has taken as the foundation 


of his work the Gospel of Mark. He follows him in 
his order, in his general plan, in his characteristic 
forms of expression, in a way which does not leave it 
open to doubt that he had beneath his eyes, or in his 
memory, the work of his predecessor. The coinci 
dences in the smallest details throughout entire pages 
are so literal, that one is tempted at times to declare 
that the author possessed a manuscript of Mark. On 
the other hand, certain changes of words, numerous 
transpositions, certain omissions, the reason for which 
it is not easy to explain, lead rather to the belief that 
the work was done from memory. The matter is of 
small consequence. What is important is that the 
text said to be of Matthew supposes that of Mark as 
pre-existing, and requiring only to be completed. He 
completes it in two ways, first by inserting in it the 
long discourses which make the Hebrew Gospels 
precious, then by adding to it traditions of more 
modern origin, fruits of the successive development of 
the legend, and to which the Christian conscience 
already attached an infinite value. The last version 
has, besides, much unity of style ; a single hand has 
presided over the very various fragments which have 
entered into its composition. This unity leads to the 
belief that for the parts engrafted upon Mark the editor 
worked from the Hebrew; if he had made a translation, 
we should feel the differences of style between the 
foundation and the intercalated parts. Besides, the 
taste of the times was rather towards new versions 
than to translations properly so called. The biblical 
citations of the pseudo-Matthew suppose at once the 
use of a Hebrew text, or of an Aramaic Targum, and 
of the version of the Seventy (the Septuagint) : a part 
of his exegesis has no meaning save in Hebrew. 

The fashion in which the author managed the inter 
calation of the great discourses of Jesus is singular. 
Whether he takes them from the collections of sentences 
which may have existed at a certain period of the 


evangelic tradition, or whether he takes them ready 
made from the Gospel of the Hebrews, these dis 
courses are inserted by him like great parentheses in 
the narrative of Mark, into which he cuts as it were 
grooves. The chief of these discourses, the Sermon 
on the Mount, is evidently composed of parts which 
have no natural connection, and which have been 
only artificially brought together. The twenty-third 
chapter contains all that tradition has preserved of 
the reproaches which Jesus on various occasions 
addressed to the Pharisees. The seven parables of the 
thirteenth chapter were certainly never uttered by 
Jesus on the same day, and one after another. Let us 
take a familiar illustration, which alone renders our 
meaning. There were, before the issue of the first 
Gospel, bundles of discourses and parables where the 
words of Jesus were classified for purely external 
reasons. The author of the first Gospel found those 
bundles ready made up, and inserted them into the 
text of Mark, which served him as a canvas all tied 
up together without breaking the thread which bound 
them. Sometimes the text of Mark, brief though the 
discourses have been made, contains some parts of the 
sermons which the new editor took bodily from the 
collection of the Logia, hence some repetitions. 
Generally the new editor cares little about those 
repetitions ; sometimes he avoids them by retrench 
ments, transpositions, and certain little niceties of 

The insertion of traditions unknown to the old Mark 
is done by the pseudo-Matthew by yet more violent 
processes. In possession of some accounts of miracles 
or of healings of which he does not perceive the iden 
tity with those which are already told by Mark, the 
author prefers telling the story twice over, to omitting 
any particular. He desires, before all things, to be 
complete, and he does not disquiet himself lest he 
should stumble in thus arranging portions of various 


productions with contradictions and the difficulties of 
narration. Hence these circumstances, obscure at the 
moment when they are introduced, which are only 
explained by the course of the work ; these allusions 
to events of which nothing is said in the historical 
part. Hence the singular doublets which characterise 
the first Gospel : two cures of two blind men ; two 
cures of a dumb demoniac; two multiplications of 
bread ; two demands for a sign from heaven ; two in- 
vectives against scandals ; two sentences on divorce. 
Hence, also, perhaps, that method of proceeding by 
couples which produces the effect of a sort of dupli 
cate narrative ; two blind men of Jericho and two 
other blind men ; two demoniacs of the Gergesenes ; 
two disciples of John ; two disciples of Jesus ; two 
brothers. The harmonistic exegesis produces hence 
its usual results of redundance and heaviness. At 
other times the cut is seen to be quite fresh, the opera 
tion of the grafting by which the addition is made. 
Thus the miracle of Peter a story which Mark does 
not give is intercalated between Mark vi. 50 and 51 
in such a way that the edges of the wound are still 
raw. It is the same with the miracle of the tribute 
money ; with Judas pointing himself out and ques 
tioned by Jesus ; with Jesus rebuking the stroke of 
Peter s sword ; with the suicide of Judas ; with the 
dream of Pilate s wife, etc. If we cut out all these 
details, the fruits of a later development of the legend 
of Jesus, the very text of Mark remains. 

In this way a crowd of legends were introduced into 
the Gospel text which are wanting in Mark the gene 
alogy ; the supernatural birth ; the visit of the Magi ; 
the flight into Egypt ; the massacre of Bethlehem ; 
Peter walking upon the water ; the prerogatives of 
Peter ; the miracle of the money found in the fish s 
mouth ; the eunuchs of the kingdom of God ; the 
emotion of Jerusalem at the entrance of Jesus ; the 
Jerusalem miracles and the triumph of the children 


various legendary details about Judas, particularly his 
suicide ; the order to put the sword back into its 
sheath; the intervention of Pilate s wife; Pilate wash 
ing his hands and the Jewish people taking all the 
responsibility for the death of Jesus ; the tearing of 
the curtain of the Temple ; the earthquake and the 
rising of the saints at the moment of the death of 
Jesus ; the guard set over the tomb, and the corrup 
tion of the soldiers. In all these places the quotations 
are from the Septuagint. The Editor for his personal 
use avails himself of the Greek version, but when 
he translates the Hebrew Gospel he conforms to the 
exegesis of that original which often had no basis in 
the Septuagint. 

A sort of competition in the use of the marvellous ; 
the taste for more and more startling miracles ; a 
tendency to present the Church as already organised 
and disciplined from the days of Jesus ; an ever-in 
creasing repulsion for the Jews, dictated the majority 
of these additions to the primitive narrative. As has 
already been said, there are moments in the growth 
of a dogma when days are worth centuries. A week 
after his death, Jesus was the hero of a vast legend 
of his life, the majority of the details to which we have 
just referred were already written in advance. 

One of the great factors in the creation of the 
Jewish Agada are the analogies drawn from Biblical 
texts. These things serve to fill up a host of gaps in 
the souvenirs. The most contradictory reports were 
current, for example, about the death of Judas. One 
version soon prevailed : Achitophel, the betrayer of 
David, served as his prototype. It was admitted that 
Judas hanged himself as he did. A passage of Zechar- 
iah furnished the thirty pieces of silver, the fact of 
his having cast them down in the Temple, as well as 
the potter s field nothing is wanting to the story. 

The apologetic intention was another fertile source 
of anecdotes and intercalations. Already objections 


to the Messiahship of Jesus had been raised, and re 
quired answering. John the Baptist, said the mis 
believers, had not believed in him or had ceased to 
believe in him ; the towns where his miracles were 
said to have been performed were not converted ; the 
wise men and the sages of the nation despised him ; if 
he had driven out devils, it was through Beelzebub ; 
he had promised signs in the heavens which he had 
not given. There was an answer to all this which 
flattered the democratic instincts of the crowd. It 
was not the nation which had repulsed Jesus, said the 
Christians, it was the superior classes, always egotists, 
who would none of him. Simple people would have 
been for him, and the priests took him with subtlety, 
for they feared the people. " It was the fault of the 
Government" here is an explanation which in all 
ages has been readily accepted. 

The birth of Jesus and his resurrection were the 
cause of endless objections from low minds and ill- 
prepared hearts. The resurrection no one had seen ; 
the Jews declared that the friends of Jesus had carried 
his corpse away into Galilee. It was answered by the 
fable of the guardians to whom the Jews had given 
money to say that the disciples had carried away the 
body. As to the birth, two contradictory currents of 
opinion may be traced ; but as both responded to the 
needs of the Christian conscience, they were reconciled 
as well as they might be. On the one hand, it was 
necessary that Jesus should be the descendant of 
David ; on the other, he might not be conceived under 
the ordinary conditions of humanity. It was not 
natural that he who had never lived as other men 
lived should be born as other men were born. The 
descent from David was established by a genealogy 
which showed Joseph as of the stock of David. That 
was scarcely satisfactory, in view of the hypothesis 
of the supernatural conception, according to which 
Joseph and his supposed ancestors had nothing to do 


with the birth of Jesus. It was Mary whom it was 
necessary to attach to the royal family. Now no 
attempt was made in the first century to do this, 
doubtless because the genealogies had been fixed 
before it was seriously pretended that Jesus was born 
otherwise than as the result of the lawful union of 
the two sexes, and no one denied to Joseph his rights 
to a real paternity. The Gospel of the Hebrews at 
least at the period at which we now are always 
described Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary ; 
the Holy Spirit in the conception of this Gospel was 
for Jesus the Messiah (a distinct personage from the 
man Jesus) a mother, not a father. The Gospel of 
Matthew, on the contrary, propounds an altogether 
contradictory combination. Jesus, with him, is the 
son of David through Joseph, who is not his father. 
The author evades this difficulty with an extreme 
naivete. An angel comes to relieve the mind of 
Joseph from suspicions which in a case so peculiar 
he had a right to entertain. 

The genealogy which we read in the Gospel ascribed 
to Matthew is certainly not the work of the author of 
that Gospel. He has taken it from some previous 
document. Was it in the Gospel of the Hebrews 
itself? It is doubtful. A large proportion of the 
Hebrews of Syria kept always a text in which such 
genealogies did not figure ; but also certain Nazarene 
manuscripts of very ancient date presented by way of 
preface a sepher toledoth. The turn of the genealogy 
of Matthew is Hebrew ; the transcriptions of the 
proper names are not those of the Septuagint. We 
have seen, besides, that the genealogies were probably 
the work of the kinsmen of Jesus, retired to Batanea 
and speaking Hebrew. What is certain is that the 
work of the genealogies was not executed with much 
unity or much authority, for two altogether discordant 
systems of connecting Joseph with the last known 
persons of the line of David have come down to us. 


It is not impossible that the names of the father and 
grandfather of Joseph were known. After that, from 
Zerubbabel to Joseph, all has been fabricated. As 
after the captivity the Biblical writings give no more 
genealogies, the author imagines the period to have 
been shorter than it really was, and puts in too few 
generations. From Zerubbabel to David, Parali- 
pomenes are made use of, not without sundry inac 
curacies and failures of memory. Genesis, the Book of 
Ruth, the Paralipomenes, have furnished the body as 
far as David. A singular preoccupation of the author 
of the genealogy contained in Matthew has been to 
mention, by exceptional privilege, or even to introduce 
by force, in the ascending line of Jesus, four women 
who were sinners, faithless to a point which a Pharisee 
might well criticise Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bath- 
sheba. It was an invitation to sinners never to despair 
of entering into the family of the elect. The genealogy 
of Matthew gives also to Jesus as ancestors the kings 
of Judah, descendants of David, beginning with Solo 
mon, but soon, not wishing that that genealogy should 
borrow too much from profane glory, Jesus is con 
nected with David by a little known son, Nathan, and 
by a line parallel to that of the kings of Judah. 

For the rest, the supernatural connexion gained 
every day so much in importance, that the question 
of the father and of the ancestors of Jesus after the 
flesh, became in some sort a secondary matter. It 
was believed to have been prophesied by Isaiah in a 
passage which is ill-rendered in the Septuagint, that 
Christ should be born of a Virgin. The Holy Spirit, 
the Spirit of God, had done all. Joseph in reality 
appears to have been an old man when Jesus was 
born. Mary, who appears to have been his second 
wife, might be very young. This contrast rendered 
the idea of the miracle easy. Certainly the legend 
would not have come into existence without that ; 
as, moreover, the myth was elaborated in the midst 


of a people who had known the family of Jesus, 
such a circumstance as an old man taking a young 
wife was not indifferent. A common feature of the 
Hebrew histories, is the magnifying of the Divine 
power by the very weakness of the instruments 
which he employed. Thus came the habit of describ 
ing great men as the offspring of parents old or long 
childless. The legend of Samuel begot that of John 
the Baptist, that of Jesus and that of Mary herself. 
On the other hand, this provoked the objections of 
ill-wishers. The coarse fable invented by the oppon 
ents of Christianity, which made Jesus the fruit of 
a scandalous adventure with the soldier Pantheris, 
arose out of the Christian narrative without much 
difficulty that narrative presenting to the imagina 
tion the shocking picture of a birth where the father 
had only a false part to play. The fable shows itself 
clearly only in the second century ; in the first, how 
ever, the Jews appear to have malignantly represented 
the birth of Jesus as illegitimate. Perhaps they so 
argued from the species of ostentation with which at 
the head of the book of the toledoth of Jesus the names 
of Tamar, of Rahab, and of Bathsheba were placed, 
whilst omitting those of Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. 

The stories of the childhood, ignored by Mark, are 
confined by Matthew to the episode of the magi, 
linked with the persecution by Herod, and the 
Massacre of the Innocents. All this development 
appears to be of Syrian origin ; the odious part which 
Herod plays, was, without doubt, the invention of 
the family of Jesus, refugees in Batanea. The little 
group appears, in a word, to have been a source of 
hateful calumnies against Herod. The fable about 
the infamous origin of his father, contradicted by 
Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus, appears to have 
come from thence. Herod became the scapegoat of 
all Christian grievances. As for the dangers with 
which the childhood of Jesus is supposed to have been 


surrounded, they are simply an imitation of the child 
hood of Moses, whom a king also desired to slay, and 
who was obliged to escape to foreign parts. It hap 
pened to Jesus as to all great men. We know nothing 
of their childhood, for the simple reason that no one 
can predict the future of a child ; we supplement our 
imperfect knowledge by anecdotes invented after the 
event. Imagination, besides, likes to figure to itself 
that the men of Providence have grown in spite of 
perils, as the effect of a special protection of Heaven. 
A popular story relative to the birth of Augustus, 
and various features of Herod s cruelty, might give 
rise to the legend of the massacre of the children of 

Mark, in his singularly naive narrative, has eccentri 
cities, rudenesses, passages not very easy of explana 
tion and open to much objection. Matthew proceeds 
by retouchings and extenuations of detail. Compare, 
for example, Mark iii. 31-35 with Matthew xii. 46-50. 
The second editor gets rid of the idea that the relations 
of Jesus thought him mad, and wished to put him 
under restraint. The astonishing simplicity of Mark 
vi. 5, " He could do there no mighty work, save that 
he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed 
them," is softened in Matthew xiii. 58, " And he did 
not many mighty works there, because of their un 
belief." The strange paradox of Mark, " Verily I say 
unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or 
brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or 
children or lands, for my sake, and the gospel s, but 
he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, 
houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and 
children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the 
world to come eternal life," becomes in Matthew, 
" And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, 
or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or 
lands, for my name s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, 
and shall inherit everlasting life." The motive assigned 


for the visit of the women to the sepulchre, implying 
clearly that they did not expect the resurrection, is 
replaced in Matthew by an insignificant expression. 
The scribe who interrogates Jesus on the great com 
mandment does so in Mark with a good intention. In 
the two other Evangelists he does it to tempt Jesus. 
The times have advanced : it is no longer to be ad 
mitted that a scribe could possibly act without malice. 
The episode when the young rich man calls Jesus 
"Good Master," and where Jesus reproves him with 
the words, "there is none good but God," appeared 
scandalous a little later. Matthew settles it in a less 
shocking manner. The fashion in which the disciples 
are sacrificed in Mark is equally extenuated in 
Matthew. Finally, this last is guilty of some inac 
curacies, in order to obtain pathetic effects : thus the 
wine of the condemned, the institution of which was 
really humane, becomes with him a refinement of 
cruelty to bring about the fulfilment of a prophecy. 

The two lively sallies of Mark are thus effaced ; the 
lines of the new Gospel are larger, more correct, more 
ideal. The marvellous features are multiplied, but we 
should say that there is an attempt to make the mar 
vellous more credible. Miracles are less clumsily told ; 
certain prolixities are omitted. Thaumaturgic mate 
rialism, the use of natural means to produce miracles 
characteristic features of Mark s narrative have 
almost wholly disappeared in Matthew. Compared 
with the Gospel of Mark, that attributed to Matthew 
presents corrections of taste and tact. Various inac 
curacies are rectified ; details aesthetically weak or 
inexplicable are suppressed or cleared up. Mark has 
often been considered as the abbreviator of Matthew. 
The very reverse is the truth ; only the addition of 
the discourses has the effect of extending the abridg 
ment considerably beyond the limits of the original. 
When we compare the accounts of the demoniac of the 
Gergesenes, the paralytic of Capernaum, the daughter 


of Jairus, the woman with the issue of blood, the 
epileptic boy, the correctness of our view is apparent. 
Often, also, Matthew gathers together, into a single 
group, circumstances which in Mark constitute two 
episodes. Some stories, which appear at first sight 
to be his especial property, are really stripped and 
impoverished copies of the longer accounts of Mark. 

It is especially with regard to poverty that we 
discover in the text of Matthew precautions and un 
easiness. Jesus had boldly placed poverty at the head 
of the heavenly beatitudes. " Blessed are ye poor," 
was probably the first word which came out of the 
Divine mouth, when he began to speak with authority. 
The majority of the sentences of Jesus (as happens 
always when we wish to give a living form to 
thought) lent themselves to misunderstanding ; the 
pure Ebionites drew from them subversive con 
sequences. The editor of our Gospel adds a word to 
prevent certain excesses. The poor in the ordi 
nary sense become the "poor in spirit" that is to 
say, pious Israelites who play a humble part in the 
world, which contrasts with the haughty air of the 
great men of the day. In another beatitude, those 
who are hungry become those who " hunger and 
thirst after righteousness." 

The progress of thought is then very visible in 
Matthew ; we catch glimpses in him of a crowd of 
after thoughts, the intention of parrying certain 
objections ; an exaggeration of the symbolical pre 
tensions. The story of the Temptation in the 
Wilderness has developed itself and has changed 
its character ; the passion is enriched with some 
beautiful details ; Jesus speaks of his " Church " as 
of a body already constituted and founded under the 
primacy of Peter. The formula of baptism is en 
larged, and comprehends, under a form sufficiently 
syncretic, the three sacramental words of the theology 
of the time, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 


The germ of the doctrine of the Trinity is thus 
deposited in a corner of the sacred page, and will 
become fertile. The Apocalyptic discourse attributed 
to Jesus, with reference to the war in Judea, is rather 
strengthened and particularised than weakened. We 
shall soon see Luke employing all his art to extenu 
ate whatever was embarrassing in these daring pre 
dictions of an end that had not come. 



WHAT is chiefly remarkable in the new Gospel is an 
immense literary progress. The general effect is that 
of a fairy palace constructed wholly of luminous stones. 
An exquisite vagueness in the transitions and the 
chronological relations gives to this divine composition 
the light attractiveness of a child s story. " At that 
hour," " at that time," " that day," " it happened that," 
and a crowd of other formulae which look precise, but 
which are nothing of the kind, hold the narrative 
as it were in suspense between earth and heaven. 
Thanks to the uncertainty of the time, the Gospel 
story only touches the reality. An airy genius whom 
one touches, one embraces, but who never strikes 
against the pebbles in the road, speaks to us and en 
chants us. We do not stop to ask if he is certain of 
what he tells us. He doubts nothing, and he knows 
nothing. There is an analogous charm in the affirma 
tion of a woman who subjugates us while she makes 
us smile. It is in literature what a picture of a child 
by Correggio or a Virgin of sixteen by Raphael is in 


The language is of the same character and perfectly 
appropriate to the subject. By a veritable tour de 
force the clear and childlike method of the Hebrew 
narrative, the fine and exquisite stamp of the Hebrew 
proverbs, have been translated into a Hellenic dialect, 
correct enough as far as grammatical forms are con 
cerned, but in which the old learned syntax is com 
pletely cast aside. It has been remarked that the 
Gospels were the first books written in the Greek of 
everyday life. The Greek of antiquity is there, in 
effect, modified in the analytical sense of modern 
languages. The Hellenist cannot but admit that the 
language is commonplace and weak ; he is certain 
that from the classical point of view the Gospel has 
neither style, nor plan, nor beauty ; but it is the 
masterpiece of popular literature, and in one sense the 
most ancient popular book that has been written. 
That half-articulate language has the additional advan 
tage of preserving its character in different versions, 
so that for such writings the translation is as valuable 
as the original. 

This simplicity of form ought to give rise to no 
illusion. The word " truth " has not the same signifi 
cance for the Oriental as for ourselves. The Oriental 
tells with a bewitching candour and with the accent 
of a witness, a crowd of things which he has not seen 
and about which he is by no means certain. The 
fantastic tales of the Exodus from Egypt, which are 
told in Jewish families during the Feast of the Pass 
over, deceive nobody, yet none the less they enchant 
those who listen to them. Every year the scenic re 
presentations by which they commemorate the martyr 
dom of the sons of Ali in Persia, are enriched with 
some new invention designed to render the victims 
more interesting and their murderers more hateful. 
There is more passion in these episodes than anyone 
might think possible. It is the especial quality of the 
Oriental agada to touch most profoundly those who 


best know how fictitious it is. It is its triumph to 
have created such a masterpiece that all the world is 
deceived by it, and for want of knowing laws of this 
kind the credulous West has accepted as infallible 
truth the recital of facts which no human eye has 
ever seen. 

The especial quality of a literature of logia, of 
hadith, is to go on increasing. After the death of 
Mohammed the number of words which " the people of 
the Bench " attributed to him was not to be counted. 
It was the same with Jesus. To the charming 
apologues which he had really pronounced, others 
were added conceived in the same style, which it is 
very difficult to distinguish from the genuine. The 
ideas of the time ^expressed themselves especially in 
those seven admirable parables of the kingdom of 
God, where all the innocent rivalries of the golden age 
of Christianity have left their traces. Some persons 
were aggrieved by the low rank of those who entered 
the Church ; the doors of the churches of St Paul 
opening with both leaves, appeared to them a scandal ; 
they wanted a selection, a preliminary examination, a 
censorship. The Shamaites in like manner desired 
that no man should be admitted to Jewish teaching 
unless he were intelligent, modest, of good family, and 
rich. To these exigent persons an answer was given 
in the shape of a parable of a man who prepared a 
dinner, and who, in the absence of the regularly 
invited guests, invited the lame, the vagabonds, and 
the beggars ; or of a fisherman whose net gathered of 
every kind, both bad and good, the choice being made 
afterwards. The eminent place which Paul, once one 
of the enemies of Jesus, one of the last comers to the 
Gospel work, occupied amongst the faithful of these 
early days, excited murmurs. This was the occasion 
of the workers who were engaged at the eleventh 
hour, and were rewarded equally with those who had 
borne the burden and heat of the dav. A statement of 


Jesus, "the last shall be first and the first shall be 
last," had furnished the text. The owner of a vine 
yard goes out at various hours of the day to hire 
labourers. He takes all that he can find, and in the 
evening the last comers who had worked but a single 
hour, are paid exactly as those who had toiled the 
whole day through. The struggle of two generations 
of Christians is seen here very clearly. When the con 
verted appeared to say with sadness that the places 
were taken, and that they had to fill a secondary 
part, this beautiful parable was quoted to them, from 
which it was evident that they had no reason to 
envy the ancients. 

The parable of the tares also signifies in its way the 
mixed composition of the kingdom, wherein Satan 
himself has sometimes power to cast in a few grains. 
The mustard seed expresses its future greatness ; the 
leaven its fermentative force ; the hidden treasure and 
the pearl of great price ; the thread, its success, mixed 
with perils in the future. " The first shall be last," 
"many are called but few chosen," such were the 
maxims which they especially loved to repeat. The 
expectation of Jesus above all inspired living and 
strong comparisons. The image of the thief in the 
night, the lightning which shines from the east to the 
west, of the fig tree whose young shoots announce the 
approach of summer, filled all minds. They repeated 
the charming fable of the wise and the foolish virgins, 
masterpieces of simplicity, of art, of wit, of subtlety. 
Both awaited the bridegroom, but as he was long in 
coming, they all slumbered. Then in the middle of 
the night was heard the cry, " Behold him ! Behold 
him : " The wise virgins, who had carried oil in their 
flasks, soon lighted their lamps, but the foolish were 
confounded. There was no place for them at the 

We do not say that these exquisite fragments are not 
the work of Jesus. The great difficulty of a history 


of the origins of Christianity is to distinguish in the 
Gospels between the part that comes directly from 
Jesus, and the part which is inspired by his spirit. 
Jesus having written nothing, and the editors of the 
Gospels having handed down to us pell-mell his own 
authentic words and those which have been attributed 
to him, there is no critic sufficiently subtle to work in 
such a case with absolute certainty. The life of Jesus, 
and the history of the compilation of the Gospels, are 
two subjects which are so interwoven that the boundary 
between them must be left undefined, at the risk of 
appearing to contradict oneself. In reality, this contra 
diction is of small consequence. Jesus is the veritable 
creator of the Gospel ; Jesus did all, even what has 
been only attributed to him ; his legend and himself 
are inseparable ; he was so identified with his idea 
that his idea became himself, absorbed him, made his 
biography what it ought to be. There was in him 
what theologians call " communication of the idioms." 
The same communication exists between the first and 
last book but one of this history. If that is a defect, it 
is a defect springing out of the nature of the subject, 
and we have thought it would be a mark of truth not 
to seek to avoid it. What is striking in any case is 
the original physiognomy of these narratives. What 
ever may be the date of their compilation, they are 
truly Galilean flowers blossoming beneath the sacred 
feet of the divine dreamer. 

The Apostolic instructions, such as our Gospel pre 
sents them, appear in some respects to proceed from 
the ideal of the Apostle formed upon the model of 
Paul. The impression left by the life of the great 
missionary had been profound. Many apostles had 
already suffered martyrdom for having carried to the 
people the appeals of Jesus. The Christian preacher 
was imagined as appearing before kings, before the 
highest tribunals, and proclaiming Christ. The first 
principle of this apostolic eloquence was not to prepare 


the discourses. The Holy Ghost would at the moment 
put into the mind of the preacher what he ought to 
say. In travelling, no provision, no money, not even 
a scrip, not even a change of garments, not even a staff. 
The workman deserved his daily bread. When the 
apostolic missionary entered into a house he might 
remain there without scruple, eating and drinking 
what was given to him, without feeling himself obliged 
to give in return anything but the word and wishes 
for health. This was the principle of Paul, but he did 
not put it in practice except amongst people of 
whom he was altogether sure, as for example with the 
woman of Philippi. Like Paul, the apostolic traveller 
was guarded in the dangers of the way by a Divine 
protection ; he played with serpents, poisons did not. 
affect him. His lot will be the hatred of the world, 
persecution. . . . Tradition always exaggerates the 
primitive feature. It is in some sort a necessity of 
the memory, the mind retaining better strongly 
accented and hyperbolical words than measured sen 
tences. Jesus had too profound a knowledge of the 
souls of men not to know that rigour and exigence are 
the best means of gaining them and keeping them 
under the yoke. We do not, however, believe that he 
ever went to the excess which has been attributed to 
him, and the sombre fire which animates the apostolic 
instructions, appears to us, in part, a reflection of the 
feverish ardour of Paul. 

The author of the Gospel according to Matthew 
takes no decisive side in the great questions which 
divided the Church. He is neither an exclusive Jew 
after the manner of James, nor a lax Jew after the 
fashion of Paul. He feels the necessity for attaching 
the Church to Peter, and insists upon the prerogative 
of this last. On the other hand, he allows certain 
shades of ill will to appear against the family of Jesus 
and against the first Christian generation. He sup 
presses, in particular, in the list of the appearances of 


Jesus after the Resurrection, the part played by James, 
whom the disciples of Paul held as an avowed enemy. 
Opposite theories may find equally valuable support 
from him from time to time. At times he speaks of 
faith almost in the tone of St Paul s Epistles. The 
author accepts from tradition sayings, parables, 
miracles, decisions in the most contrary senses, pro 
vided they are edifying, without any effort to 
reconcile them. Here there is a question of evan 
gelising Israel ; there the world. The Canaanitish 
woman, received at first with hard words, is then 
saved, and a history is begun to prove that Jesus has 
only been sent to the house of Israel, which finishes 
up with an exaltation of the faith of a Pagan woman. 
The centurion of Capernaum finds from the first both 
grace and favour. The legal chiefs of the nation have 
been more opposed to the Messiah than Pagans such 
as the magi, Pilate and Pilate s wife. The Jewish 
people pronounce their own curse upon themselves. 
They have not chosen to enter the feast of the King 
dom of God prepared for them ; the people of the high 
way the Gentiles will take their place. The for 
mula, " Ye have heard that it was said by them of old 
time . . . but I tell you," is placed repeatedly in the 
mouth of Jesus. The society to which the author 
addresses himself is a society of converted Jews. The 
polemic against the unconverted Jews occupies him 
much. His quotations of the prophetic texts, as well 
as of a certain number of circumstances related by 
him, refer to the assaults which the faithful had to 
submit to on the part of the orthodox majority, and 
especially to the great objection of these official repre 
sentatives of the nation to believe in the Messianic 
character of Jesus. 

The Gospel of St Matthew, like almost all fine com 
positions, was the work of a conscience in some sort 
double. The author is at once Jew and Christian; 
the new faith has not killed the old, nor has it taken 


any of its poetry from it. He loves two things at the 
same moment. The spectator enjoys the struggle with 
out discomfort. Charming state to be in, without as 
yet anything being determined. Exquisite transition, 
excellent for art, where a conscience is a peaceable field 
of battle upon which opposing parties contend without 
either being overthrown ! Although the pretended 
Matthew speaks of the Jews in the third person and 
as though they were strangers, his spirit, his apology, 
his Messianism, his exegesis, his piety, are essentially 
those of a Jew. Jerusalem is for him essentially " the 
holy city," "the holy place." Missions are in his eyes 
the appanage of the Twelve ; he does not associate St 
Paul with them, and he certainly does not accord to 
this last a special vocation, although the apostolic in 
structions such as he gives them contain more than 
one feature drawn from the life of the great preacher 
of the Gentiles. His aversion to the Pharisees does 
not prevent him from admitting the authority of 
Judaism. Christianity is with him like a newly- 
blown flower, which still bears the envelope of the 
bud from which it has escaped. 

In this lay one of his strong points. The supreme 
ability in the work of conciliation is to deny and affirm 
at the same moment, to practise the Ama tanquam 
oswrus of the sage of antiquity. Paul suppresses all 
Judaism, and even all religion, to replace everything 
by Jesus. The Gospels hesitate, and remain in a much 
more delicate half-light ? Does the Law still exist ? 
Yes, and no. Jesus fulfilled it and destroyed it. The 
Sabbath ? He suppressed and maintained it. The 
Jewish ceremonies ? He observes them, and will not 
allow of their being held to. Every religious reformer 
has to observe this rule ; men are not discharged from 
a burden impossible to be borne, except he takes it for 
himself without reserve or softening. The contraction 
was everywhere. When the Talmud has quoted on 
the same line opinions which exclude each other 


absolutely, it finishes by this formula : " And all these 
opinions are the word of life." The anecdote of the 
Canaanitish woman is the true image at this moment 
of Christianity. She prays. " I am not sent but to 
the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Jesus answers to 
her. She approaches, and worships him. " It is not 
meet to take the children s bread and to cast it to the 
dogs." " Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs 
which fall from the Master s table." " Oh, woman, 
great is thy faith ; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." 
The converted Pagan finished by carrying off, by force 
of humility, and on condition of submitting first to the 
ill reception of an aristocracy which wished to be 
flattered and solicited, all that she desired. 

Such a state of mind, to say the truth, agreed only 
with a single kind of hatred the hatred of the 
Pharisee, the official Jew. The Pharisee, or, more pro 
perly, the hypocrite (for the word was now used in an 
abusive sense, just as with us the name of Jesuit is 
applied to a host of people who form no part of the 
society founded by Loyola), had to appear especially 
guilty, opposed in everything to Jesus. Our Gospel 
groups into a single invective, full of virulence, all the 
discourses which Jesus pronounced at various times 
against the Pharisees. The author undoubtedly took 
this fragment from some previous collection which had 
not the ordinary form. Jesus is there accredited with 
having made numerous journeys to Jerusalem; the 
punishment of the Pharisees is predicted in a vague 
Fashion, which carries us back to the date before the 
revolution in Judea. 

From all this results a Gospel infinitely superior in 
beauty to that of Mark, but of a much smaller 
historical value. Mark remains, as far as facts are 
concerned, the only authentic record of the life of 
Jesus. The narratives which the pseudo-Matthew 
adds to those of Mark are only legends ; the modifica 
tions which he applies to the tales of Mark are only 


methods of hiding certain difficulties. The assimila 
tion of the elements which the author takes from 
Mark is effected in the roughest way ; the digestion 
if such an expression may be permitted is not com 
pleted ; the morsels are left whole, so that they may 
still be recognised. In this connection Luke will 
introduce great improvements. But what gives value 
to the work attributed to Matthew, are the discourses 
attributed to Jesus, preserved with an extreme fidelity, 
and probably in the relative order in which they were 
first written. 

This was more important than biographical exacti 
tude, and the Gospel of Matthew, all things considered, 
is the most important book of Christianity the most 
important book that has ever been written. It was 
not without reason that in the classification of the 
writings of the new Bible it received the first place. 
The biography of a great man is a part of his work. 
St Louis would not be what he is in the conscience of 
humanity, without Joinville. The life of Spinoza, by 
Colerus, is the finest of Spinoza s works. Epictetus 
owes almost as much to Arrian, Socrates to Plato and 
to Xenophon. Jesus in the same way is in part made 
by the Gospel. In this sense, the compilation of the 
Gospels is, next to the personal action of Jesus, the 
leading fact of the history of the origins of Chris 
tianity ; I will even add of the history of humanity. 
The habitual reading of the world is a book where 
the priest is always in fault, where respectable people 
are always hypocrites, where the lay authorities are 
always scoundrels, and where all the rich are damned. 
This book the most revolutionary and dangerous ever 
written the Roman Church has prudently put aside ; 
but it has not been able to prevent it from bearing 
fruit. Malevolent towards the priesthood, contemptu 
ous of austerity, indulgent towards the loose liver of 
good heart, the Gospels have been the perpetual night 
mare of the hypocrite. The man of the Gospel has 


been an opponent of pedantic theology, of hierarchical 
haughtiness, of the ecclesiastical spirit such as the 
centuries have made it. The Middle Ages burned it. 
In our days, the great invective of the twenty-third 
chapter of St Matthew against the Pharisees is still a 
sanguinary satire on those who cover themselves with 
the name of Jesus, and whom Jesus, if he were to 
return to this world, would drive out with scourges. 

Where was the Gospel of St Matthew written ? 
Everything appears to indicate that it was in Syria, 
for a Jewish circle which knew scarcely anything 
but Greek, but which had some idea of Hebrew. The 
author makes use of the original Gospels written in 
Hebrew; yet it is doubtful whether the original 
Hebrew of the Gospel texts ever went out of Syria. In 
five or six cases, Mark had preserved little Aramaic 
phrases uttered by Jesus ; the pseudo-Matthew effaces 
all of them with but one exception. The character 
of the traditions proper to our evangelist is exclu 
sively Galilean. According to him, all the appearances 
of Jesus after the Resurrection took place in Galilee. 
His first readers appear to have been Syrians. He 
gives none of those explanations of customs and those 
topographical notes which are to be found in Mark. 
On the contrary, there are details which, meaningless 
at Rome, were interesting in the East. A Greek 
Gospel appeared a precious thing; but the gaps in 
that of Mark were striking, and they were filled up. 
The Gospel which resulted from these additions came 
in time to Rome. Hence the explanation of Luke s 
ignorance of it in that city about 95. 

Hence, also, the explanation of the reasons why to 
exalt the new work and to oppose to the name of Mark 
that of a superior authority, the text was attributed to 
the Apostle Matthew. Matthew was a Judeo-Chris- 
tian apostle, living an ascetic life like that of James, 
abstaining from flesh, and living only upon vegetables 
and the shoots of trees. Perhaps his former occupa- 


tion of publican gave rise to the idea that, accustomed 
to writing, he more than anyone else was likely to 
record the facts of which he was credited with hav 
ing been a witness. Certainly Matthew was not the 
editor of the work which bears his name. The Apostle 
had long been dead when the Gospel was composed, 
and the book, besides, absolutely could not have been 
the work of such an author. Never was book so little 
that of an eye-witness. How, if our Gospel were the 
work of an apostle, could it possibly have been so 
defective in all that concerns the public life of Jesus ? 
Perhaps the Hebrew Gospel with whicli the author 
completed that of Mark, bore the name of Matthew. 
Perhaps the collection of Logia bore that name. The 
addition of the Logia being what gave character to 
the new Gospel, the name of the apostle guaranteeing 
these Logia may have been preserved to designate the 
author of the work which drew its chief value from 
these additions. All that is doubtful. Papias believes 
the work to be really that of Matthew, but after fifty 
or sixty years the means of solving so complicated a 
question must have been wanting. 

What is certain, in any case, is that the work attri 
buted to Matthew had not the authority which its 
title would lead one to suppose, and was not accepted 
as final. There have been many similar attempts 
which are no longer in existence. The mere name of 
an apostle was not enough to recommend a work of 
this kind. Luke, who was not an apostle, and whom 
we shall soon see resuming the attempt at a Gospel 
embodying and superseding the others, was, in all 
probability, ignorant of the existence of that said to 
be according to Matthew. 




THE fatal law of Csesarism fulfilled itself. The legiti 
mate king improves as his reign grows older : the 
Ca3sar begins well, and finishes ill. Every year was 
marked in Domitian by the progress of evil passions. 
The man had always been perverse. His ingratitude 
towards his father and his eldest brother was some 
thing abominable, but his first government was not 
that of a bad sovereign. It was only by degrees that 
the sombre jealousy of all merit, the refined perfidy, 
the black malice which were ingrained in his nature, 
disclosed themselves. Tiberius had been very cruel, 
but this was through a sort of philosophic rage against 
humanity which was not without its grandeur, and 
which did not prevent him from being in some respects 
the most intelligent man of his time. Caligula was a 
melancholy buffoon, at once grotesque and terrible, 
but amusing, and not very dangerous to those who 
did not approach him. Under the reign of that in 
carnation of satanic irony who called himself Nero, 
a sort of stupor held the world in suspense; people 
had the consciousness of assisting at an unprecedented 
crisis, at the definitive struggle between good and 
evil. After his death there was a breathing space ; 
evil appeared to be chained up ; the perversity of the 
century seemed to be softened. It is easy to imagine 
the horror which seized on all honest minds when they 
saw " the Beast " revived ; when they recognised that 
the abnegation of all the honourable men in the 
Empire had served only to hand over the world to a 
sovereign much more worthy of execration than the 
monsters whom they believed relegated to the souvenirs 
of the past. 


Domitian was probably the wickedest man who 
ever lived. Commodus is more odious, for he was the 
son of an admirable father ; but Commodus is a sort 
of brute ; Domitian is a man of strong sense, and of a 
calculating wickedness. He had not the excuse of 
madness ; his head was perfectly sound, cold, and clear. 
He was a serious and logical politician. He had no 
imagination, and if at a certain period of his life he 
dabbled somewhat in literature, and made fairly good 
verses, it was out of affectation, and in order to appear 
a stranger to business; soon he renounced it and 
thought no more of it. He did not love the arts; 
music found him and left him indifferent ; his melan 
choly temperament rejoiced only in solitude. He was 
seen walking alone for hours ; his followers were then 
sure to see the breaking out of some perverse scheme. 
Cruel without disguise, he smiled almost in the act of 
murder. His base extraction constantly reappeared. 
The Caesars of the House of Augustus, prodigal and 
greedy of glory, are bad, often absurd, rarely vulgar. 
Domitian is the tradesman of crime: he makes a 
profit of it. Not rich, he makes money everywhere, 
and pushes taxation to its last limits. His sinister 
face never knew the mad laugh of Caligula. Nero, a 
very literary tyrant, always engaged in making the 
world love and admire him, heard raillery and pro 
voked it. Domitian had nothing burlesque about him. 
He did not lend himself to ridicule ; he was too tragic. 
His manners were no better than those of the son of 
Agrippina, but to infamy he joined a sly egotism, a 
hypocritical affectation of severity, the air of a rigid 
censor (sanctissimus censor) all which things were 
only pretexts for destroying the innocent. The tone 
of austere virtue which his flatterers assume is 
nauseous in the extreme. Martial, Statius, Quintilian, 
when they wished to give him the title which he 
coveted the most, bestowed on him that of Saviour of 
the gods, and Restorer of morals. 


Nero s vanity was not less than that which impelled 
him to so many pitiable freaks, and it was much less 
innocent. His false triumphs, his pretended victories, 
his monuments full of lying adulation, his accumu 
lated consulates, were something sickening, much 
more irritating than the eighteen hundred crowns of 

The other tyrannies which had afflicted Rome were 
much less wise. His was administrative, meticulous, 
organised. The tyrant himself played the part of 
chief of the police and prosecuting counsel. It was 
a juridical reign of terror. The proceedings were 
conducted with the burlesque legality of the Revo 
lutionary Tribunal. Flavius Sabinus, cousin of the 
Emperor, was put to death because of a mistake of 
the crier who had proclaimed him Emperor instead of 
Consul; a Greek historian, for certain images which 
appeared obscure : all the copyists were crucified. A 
distinguished Roman was killed because he loved to 
recite the harangues of Livy, possessed certain maps, 
and had given to two slaves the names of Mago and 
of Hannibal ; a highly-esteemed soldier, Sallustius 
Lucullus, perished for having suffered his name to be 
given to some lances of a new model which he had 
invented. Never had the trade of informer thriven 
so greatly ; tempters and spies abounded everywhere. 
The mad faith of the Emperor in astrologers doubled 
the danger. The instruments of Caligula and Nero 
had been vile Orientals, strangers to Roman society, 
and satisfied when they were rich. The informers of 
Domitian men like Tonquier Tinville, sinister and 
ghostly struck a sure blow. The Emperor concerted 
with the accusers and the false witnesses what they 
were to say; he then was himself present at the 
tortures, diverting himself with the pallor painted in 
all faces, and appearing to count the groans extorted 
by suffering. Nero spared himself the sight of the 
crimes he commanded ; Domitian insisted on seeing 


everything. He had nameless refinements of cruelty. 
His mind was so perverse that he was offended equally 
by flattery and by its absence ; his suspicion and 
lealousy were unbounded. Every worthy man, every 
benevolent man, had him for a rival. Nero at least 
found them only amongst the singers, and did not 
regard every statesman, every military superior, as an 

The silence during this time was frightful. The 
Senate passed some years in a mournful stupor. 
What was most terrible was that there seemed to be 
no way out. The Emperor was thirty-six. The 
feverish outburst of evil which had been observed up 
to that time had been short ; it was felt that they 
were crises and that they could not last. This time 
there was no reason for their coming to an end. The 
army was content; the people were indifferent. 
Domitian, it is true, never attained the popularity of 
Nero ; and in the year 88 an impostor thought he saw 
a chance of dethroning him, by presenting himself as 
the adored master who had given the people such days 
of enjoyment. Nevertheless, too much had not been 
lost. The spectacles were as monstrous as they had 
ever been. The Flavian amphitheatre (the Coliseum) 
inaugurated under Titus, had even made progress in 
the ignoble art of amusing the people. No danger 
then on that side. He, however, read only the 
Memoirs of Tiberius. He despised the familiarity 
which his father Vespasian had encouraged ; he 
treated as childishness the good nature of his brother 
Titus, and the delusion of governing humanity by 
making himself beloved, under which he laboured. 
He pretended to know better than anybody the 
requirements of a power without constitution, obliged 
to defend itself, to refound itself every clay. 

It was felt, in short, that there was a political reason 
for these horrors, which was not the mere caprice of a 
lunatic. The hideous image of the new sovereignty 


such as the necessities of the times had made it, sus 
picious, fearing everything from everybody, head of 
Medusa which froze with terror, appeared in this 
odious mask all splashed with blood, with which the 
cunning terrorist seemed to have shielded his face 
against all modesty. 

It was principally upon his own house that his fury 
was spent. Almost all his cousins or nephews perished. 
Everything that recalled Titus to him exasperated 
him. That singular family which had none of the 
prejudice, aristocratic coolness, profound scepticism of 
the high Roman aristocracy, offered strange contrasts. 
Frightful tragedies were played in it. What a fate, 
for example, was that of Julia Sabina, the daughter of 
Titus, sinking from crime to crime, until she finished, 
like the heroine of a vulgar romance, in the anguish 
of an abortion. So much perversity provoked strange 
reactions. The tender and sentimental parts of the 
nature of Titus reappeared amongst some members of 
the family, especially in the branch of Flavius Sabinus, 
the brother of Vespasian, Flavius Sabinus, who was 
long Prefect of Rome, and particularly in 64, might 
already know the Christians ; he was a gentle, humane 
man, and one who was already reproached with " poor 
spiritedness." For Roman ferocity such a word was 
equivalent to humanity. The numerous Jews who 
were familiar with the Flavian family, found, especi 
ally on this side, an audience already prepared and 

It is, in short, not to be denied that Christian or 
Judeo-Christian ideas penetrated the Imperial family, 
especially in its collateral branch. Flavius Clemens, 
son of Flavius Sabinus, and consequently eousin-gernian 
to Domitian, had married Flavia Domitilla, his second 
cousin, daughter of another Flavia Domitilla, herself 
the daughter of Vespasian, who had died before the 
accession of her father to the Empire. By means 
which are unknown to us, but probably arising out of 


the relations of the Flavian family with the Jews, 
Clemens and Domitilla adopted Jewish customs, that 
is to say, of course, that mitigated form of Judaism 
which differed from Christianity only by the import 
ance attached to the part of Jesus. The Judaism of 
the proselytes, confined to the Noachian precepts, was 
precisely tha.t preached by Josephus, the client of the 
Flavian family. That it was which was represented 
as having been settled by the agreement of all the 
apostles at Jerusalem. Clemens allowed himself to be 
seduced by it. Perhaps Domitilla went further, and 
merited the name of Christian. Nothing, however, 
ought to be exaggerated. Flavius Clemens and Flavia 
Domitilla do not appear to have been veritable members 
of the Church of Rome. Like so many other distin 
guished Romans, they felt the emptiness of the official 
worship, the insufficiency of the moral law which 
sprang out of Paganism, the repulsive hideousness of 
the manners and the society of the times. The charm 
of the Judeo-Christian ideas wrought upon them. 
They recognised from that side life and the future ; 
but, without doubt, they were not ostensibly Christians. 
We shall see later Flavia Domitilla acting rather as a 
Roman matron than as a Christian woman, and not 
hesitating at the assassination of a tyrant. The single 
fact of accepting the consulate was for Clemens to 
accept the obligation of essentially idolatrous sacrifices 
and ceremonies. Clemens was the second person in 
the State. He had two sons whom Domitian had 
named as his successors, and to whom he had already 
given the names of Vespasian and Domitian. The 
education of these boys was entrusted to one of the 
most upright men of the time, Quintilian the rhetori 
cian, to whom Clemens accorded the honorary insig 
nia of the consulate. Now Quintilian regarded with 
equal horror the ideas of the Jews and those of the 
Republicans. Side by side with the Gracchi he placed 
" the author of the Jewish superstition " amongst the 


most fatal revolutionaries. Was Quintilian thinking 
of Moses or of Jesus ? Perhaps he scarcely knew 
himself. " Jewish superstition " was still the generic 
title which comprehended both Jews and Christians. 
Christians were not furthermore the only people who 
lived the Jewish life without submitting to circum 
cision. Many of those who were attracted by Mosaism 
confined themselves to the observance of the Sabbath. 
A similar purity of life, a similar horror of polythe 
ism, united all these groups of pious men upon whom 
the verdict of superficial Pagans was, " they live the 
Jewish life." 

If the family of Clemens were Christians, it must be 
owned that they were Christians of a very undecided 
kind. What the public saw of the conversion of these 
two illustrious personages was a very small matter. 
The distracted world which surrounded them could 
not well say whether they were Jews or Christians. 
Changes of this kind are recognised only by two 
symptoms, first, an ill-concealed aversion from the 
national religion, an estrangement from all apparent 
rites, on the part of those who are supposed to hold to 
the secret worship of an intangible, unnameable God ; 
in the second place, an apparent indolence, a total 
abandonment of the duties and honours of civic life 
inseparable from idolatry. A taste for solitude, a 
search after a peaceable and retired life, an aversion for 
the theatres, for the shows and for the cruel scenes 
which Roman life offered at every step, fraternal rela 
tions with persons of humble station, by no means 
inclined to the military life (for which the Romans 
despised them), indifference to public business, as 
frivolous matters to those who looked for the speedy 
coming of Christ, meditative habits, a spirit of detach 
ment all this the Romans described by the single 
word ignavia. According to the ideas of the time, 
everyone ought to have as much ambition as com 
ported with his birth and fortune. The man of high 


rank who ceased to take an interest in the struggle of 
life, who feared bloodshed, who assumed a gentle and 
humane air, was an idle and degraded man incapable 
of any enterprise. Impious and cowardly such were 
the adjectives applied to him, which in a still vigorous 
state of society must infallibly result in destroying 

Clemens and Domitilla were not, moreover, the only 
ones whom the blast of the reign of Domitian inclined 
towards Christianity. The terror and the sadness of 
the times crushed souls. Many persons of the Roman 
aristocracy lent an ear to teaching, and which, in the 
midst of the night through which they were passing, 
showed the pure heaven of an ideal kingdom. The 
world was so dark, so wicked! Never, besides, had 
the Jewish propaganda been so active. Perhaps we 
must refer to the time of the conversion of a Roman 
lady, Veturia Paulla, who, being converted at the age 
of 70, took the name of Sara, and was mother of the 
synagogues of the Campus Martius and of Volumnus, 
for sixteen years longer. A great part of the move 
ment in these immense suburbs of Rome, where seethed 
an immense population, far greater in number than 
the aristocratic society enclosed in the circuit of 
Servius Tullius, came from the sons of Israel. Con 
fined to a spot near the Capenian Gate by the side 
of the unwholesome stream of the fountain of Egeria, 
they lived there, begging, carrying on disreputable 
trades, the art of the gipsies, telling fortunes, levying 
contributions on visitors to the wood of Egeria, which 
they rented. The impression produced upon the public 
mind by that strange race was more lively than ever. 
" He to whom fate has given for father an observer of 
the Sabbath, not contented with adoring the God of 
heaven, and with putting on the same level the flesh 
of pigs and the flesh of human beings, soon hurries to 
get rid of his foreskin. Accustomed to despise the 
Roman law, he studies and observes, with trembling, 


the Jewish law which Moses has deposited in a myste 
rious volume. There he learns not to show the way 
save to him who practises the same religion with him 
self, and when one asks him, where is the fountain ? 
to point out the road to the circumcised only. The 
fault is in the father who adopted the seventh day of 
rest, and forbade on that day all the acts of life." 
(Juv. xiv.) 

Saturday, in fact, notwithstanding all the bad 
temper of the true Romans, was not in Rome in the 
least like other days. The world of little tradesmen 
who on other days filled the public places, seemed to 
have sunk into the earth. That irregularity, yet more 
than their easily recognisable type, drew attention, and 
made those eccentric foreigners the object of the 
gossip of the idle. 

The Jews suffered like the rest of the world from 
the hardness of the times. The greed of Domitian 
made all taxation excessive, especially the poll tax, 
called the fiscus Judawus, to which the Jews were 
subject. Until this time the tribute was exacted only 
from those who avowed themselves to be Jews. Many 
disguised their origin and did not pay. To prevent 
that tolerance, the truth was sought in the most odious 
way. Suetonius remembers having seen in his youth 
an old man of ninety stripped before a numerous 
audience to see if he were not circumcised. These 
rigours brought about, as a consequence, the practice, 
in a great number of instances, of the operation of 
blistering ; the number of recutiti at this date is very 
considerable. Such inquiries, on the other hand, 
brought the Roman authorities to a discovery which 
astonished them : it was that there were people who 
were living the Jewish life in all ways who were not 
circumcised. The treasury decided that that class of 
persons, the improfessi, as they were called, should pay 
the poll-tax like the circumcised. " The Jewish life," 
and not the circumcision, was thus taxed, and the 


Christians saw themselves subjected to the impost. 
The complaints which this abuse called forth moved 
even those statesman who had least sympathy with 
Jews and Christians ; the liberal were shocked by these 
corporeal visitations, these distinctions made by the 
state as to the meaning of certain religious denomina 
tions, and saw in the suppression of this abuse their 
programme for the future. 

The vexations introduced by Domitian contributed 
greatly to deprive Christianity of its previously un 
decided character. By the side of the severe ortho 
doxy of the Jewish doctors, and afterwards of those 
of Jabneh, there had been until that time in Judaism 
schools analogous to Christianity, without being iden 
tical with it. Apollos, in the bosom of the Church, was 
an example of those inquiring Jews who tried many 
sects without adhering resolutely to any one. Josephus 
when he wrote for the Romans, reduced his Judaism to 
a, kind of Deism, owning that circumcision and the 
Jewish practices were good for Jews by race, whilst 
the true worship is that which each adopts in full 
liberty. Was Flavius Clemens a Christian in the 
strict sense of the word ? It may be doubted if he 
were. He loved the Jewish life, he practised Jewish 
customs, and it was that fact which struck his corn- 
temporaries. He went no further, and perhaps he 
himself would have been puzzled to say to what class 
of Jews he belonged. The matter was not cleared up 
when the treasury took it in hand. The circumcision 
received on that day a fatal blow. The greed of 
Domitian extended the tax on the Jews, the fiscus 
Juda/icus, who without being Jews by race, and with 
out being circumcised, practised Jewish customs. 
Then the categories were marked out : there was the 
pure Jew, whose quality was established by physical 
inquiry, and the quasi- Jew, the improfessus, who took 
nothing from Judaism besides its honest morality and 
its purified worship. 


The penalties ordained by a special law against the 
circumcision of non-Jews contributed to the same 
result. The precise date of that law is unknown, but 
it certainly appears to be of the period of Flavius. 
Every Roman citizen who allowed himself to be cir 
cumcised was punished with perpetual exile, and the 
loss of all his goods. A master rendered himself liable 
to the same penalty if he permitted his slaves to sub 
mit to the operation; the doctor who performed it 
was punished with death. The Jews who circumcised 
their slaves were equally liable to death. That was 
thoroughly conformable to the Roman policy, tolerant 
towards foreign religions when they kept themselves 
within the limits of their own nationalities ; severe 
when those religions entered upon the work of the 
propaganda. But it is easy to understand how decisive 
such measures were in the struggle between the cir 
cumcised Jews and the uncircumcised or improfessi. 
These last alone could carry on a serious proselytism. 
By the law of the Empire, the circumcision was con 
demned to go no further than the narrow limits of 
the house of Israel. 

Agrippa II., and probably Berenice, died about this 
time. Their death was an immense loss to the Jewish 
colony, which these exalted personages covered by 
their credit with Flavius. Josephus, in the midst of 
this ardent struggle, doubled his activity. He had the 
superficial facility characteristic of the Jew transported 
into a civilisation which is foreign to him, of placing 
himself with marvellous quickness abreast of the ideas 
in the midst of which he finds himself thrown, and of 
seeing in what way he can profit by them. Domitian 
protected him, but was probably indifferent to his 
writings. The Empress Domitia heaped favours on 
him. He was, besides, the client of a certain Epaphro- 
ditus, a considerable personage, supposed to be identical 
with the Epaphroditus of Nero, whom Domitian had 
taken into his service. This Epaphroditus was a man 


of a singularly liberal mind, who encouraged historical 
studies, and who interested himself in Judaism. Not 
knowing Hebrew, and probably not understanding the 
Greek version of the Bible very well, he engaged 
Josephus to compose a history of the Jewish people. 
Josephus received the commission with eagerness. It 
fully accorded with the suggestions of his literary 
vanity and of his liberal Judaism. The objection 
which the Jews made to learned persons imbued with 
the beauties of Greek and Roman history, was that 
the Jewish people had no history, that the Greeks had 
not cared to know it, that good authors never men 
tioned its name, that it had never had any connection 
with the noble races, and that in its past there were to 
be found no such heroic histories as those of Cynegirus 
and of the Scaevola. To prove that the Jewish people 
were also of a high antiquity, that they possessed the 
memory of heroes comparable to those of Greece, that 
they had had in the course of ages the finest relations 
of people to people, that many learned Greeks had 
spoken of them, such was the aim that the protege 
of Epaphroditus sought to realise in a vast composi 
tion divided into twenty books and entitled "Anti 
quities of the Jews." The Bible naturally formed the 
basis : Josephus made additions to it, without value as 
to the ancient times, since there were no Hebrew docu 
ments relating to those times other than those which 
we ourselves possess, but which for more modern times 
are of the highest interest, since they fill up a gap in 
sacred history. 

Josephus added to this curious work, in the form of 
an appendix, an autobiography, or rather an apology 
for his own conduct. His ancient enemies of Galilee 
who, rightly or wrongly, called him a traitor, were 
still alive and left him no repose. Justus of Tiberius, 
writing, from his point of view, the history of the 
catastrophe of his country, accused him of falsehood, 
and presented his conduct in Galilee in the most odious 


light. We must do Josephus the justice of saying that 
he did nothing to injure this dangerous rival, as would 
have been easy to him, in view of the favour which he 
enjoyed in high places. Josephus, on the other hand, 
is weak enough, when he defends himself against the 
accusations of Justus, by invoking the official approba 
tion of Titus and Agrippa. It is impossible to regret 
too much that a writing which would have given us 
the history of the war in Judea, from the revolu 
tionary point of view, should be totally lost to us. 

The fecundity of Josephus was inexhaustible. As 
many persons raised doubts as to what he said in his 
" Antiquities," and objected that if the Jewish nation 
had been as ancient as he represented, the Greek 
historians would have spoken of it, he undertook on 
this subject a justificatory memoir, which may be 
regarded as the first monument of the Jewish and 
Christian apology. Already towards the middle of 
the second century B.C. Aristobalus, the Jewish peripa- 
tician, had maintained that the Greek poets and 
philosophers had known the Hebrew writings, and 
had borrowed from them all those parts of their 
writings which have a monotheistic appearance. To 
prove his theory, he forged without scruple passages 
from profane authors Homer, Hesiod, Linus which 
he pretended were borrowed from the Bible. Josephus 
took up the task with more honesty, but as little 
critical ability. It was necessary to refute the learned 
men who, like Lysimachus of Alexandria, Apollonius 
Molon (about a hundred years B.C.), expressed them 
selves unfavourably with regard to the Jews. It was 
especially necessary to destroy the authority of the 
Egyptian scholar Apion, who fifty years before had, it 
may be in his history of Egypt, or else in a distinct 
work, exhibited an immense amount of learning in 
disputing the antiquity of the Jewish religion. In 
the eyes of an Egyptian, or of a Greek, that was 
quite sufficient to deprive it of all nobility. Apion 


had relations with the imperial world of Rome, 
Tiberius called him " the cymbal of the world " ; Pliny 
thought he had better have been called the tom-tom. 
His book might still be read in Rome under the 

The science of Apion was that of a vain and 
frivolous pedant ; but that which Josephus opposed 
to it was scarcely better. Greek erudition was for 
him an improvised speciality, since his early educa 
tion had been Jewish, and altogether confined to the 
law. His book is not, and could not be, anything but 
a pleading without criticism ; one feels in every page 
the presence of the advocate who cuts his arrow in 
any wood. Josephus does not manufacture his texts, 
but he takes anything that comes ; the false historians, 
the garbled classics of the Alexandrian school ; the 
valueless documents accumulated in the book " on the 
Jews " which circulated under the name of Alexander 
Polyhiston, all are greedily accepted by him ; through 
him that suspected literature of the Eupolemes, the 
Cleodemes, the so-called Hecatea of Abvera, Demetrius 
of Phalera, etc., makes its entrance into science, and 
troubles it seriously. The apologists, and the Christian 
historians Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, 
Moses of Khorone followed him in this bad path. 
The public to whom Josephus addressed himself was 
superficial in point of erudition; it was easily con 
tented ; the rational culture of the time of the Caesars 
had disappeared ; the human mind was rapidly lower 
ing its standard, and offered to all charlatanisms an 
easy prey. 

Such was the literature of the cultivated and liberal 
Jews grouped around the principal representatives of 
a dynasty liberal in itself and in its origin, but for 
the moment devoured by a madman. Josephus formed 
endless projects of work. He was fifty-six. With 
his style, artificial and chequered with a patchwork 
heterogeneous of rags, he seriously thought himself a 


great writer ; he thought he knew Greek, with which 
he had only a second-hand acquaintance. He wished 
to take the " Wars of the Jews " in hand again ; to 
abridge it, to make it the continuation of his 
" Antiquities," and to tell all that had happened to the 
Jews from the end of the war to the moment of his 
writing. He meditated, above all, a philosophical work 
in four books upon God and his essence, according to 
Jewish ideas, and upon the Mosaic laws, with the object 
of rendering account of the prohibitions which they 
contain, and which greatly astonished the Pagans. 
Death doubtless prevented him from carrying out 
these new designs. It is probable that if he had 
composed these writings they would have come down 
to us as the others have done. Josephus in effect 
had a very strange literary destiny. He remained 
unknown to the Jewish Talmudic tradition ; but he 
was adopted by Christians as one of themselves, and 
almost as a sacred writer. His writings complete the 
holy history which, reduced to the Biblical documents, 
offers only a blank page for many centuries. They 
form a sort of commentary on the Gospels, of which 
the historical sequence would have been unintelligible 
without the information which the Jewish historian 
furnishes as to the history of the Herods. They 
flattered especially one of the favourite theories of 
the Christians, and furnished one of the bases of the 
Christian apology, by the account of the siege of 

One of these ideas, to which Christians held most 
strongly, was that Jesus had predicted the ruin of the 
rebellious city. What could more strongly prove the 
literal accomplishment of that prophecy than the his 
tory, told by a Jew, of the unheard-of atrocities which 
accompanied the destruction of the Temple? Josephus 
became thus a fundamental witness and a supplement 
to the Bible. He was read and copied assiduously by 
Christians. He made of it, if I may so say, a Christian 



edition, wherein certain corrections may be permitted 
in passages which offended the copyists. These pas 
sages, above all, present in this connection doubts 
which criticism has not even yet allayed. These are 
the passages relative to John the Baptist, to Jesus, 
and to James. Certainly it is possible that these pas 
sages, at least that relating to Jesus, may be inter 
polations made by the Christians in a book which 
they had in some sort appropriated. We prefer, how 
ever, to believe that in the three places in question he 
spoke in effect of John the Baptist, of Jesus, and of 
James, and that the labour of the Christian editor, if 
he may be so called, was confined to pruning away 
from the passage upon Jesus certain clauses, and 
modifying some expressions offensive to an orthodox 

The reduced circle of aristocratic proselytes of a 
mediocre literary taste, for whom Josephus composed 
his book, were doubtless entirely satisfied with it. 
The difficulties of the old texts were ably disguised. 
Jewish history became as attractive as Greek, sown 
with harangues conducted according to the rules of 
profane rhetoric. Thanks to a charlatanesque display 
of erudition, and to a choice of doubtful or slightly 
falsified situations, there was an answer to all objec 
tors. A discreet rationalism threw a veil over the too 
naive wonders of the ancient Hebrew books ; after 
having read the accounts of the greatest miracles, you 
might believe them or not at will. For non-Jews 
never an insulting word ; provided one is willing to 
recognise the historic nobility of the race, Josephus is 
satisfied. On every page a gentle philosophy, sym 
pathetic with all virtue, treating the ritual precepts 
of the Law as binding upon Jews only, and proclaim 
ing aloud that every just man has the essential quali 
ties necessary for becoming a son of Abraham. A 
simple metaphysical and rationalistic Deism, a purely 
natural morality, replaces the sombre theology of 


Jehovah. The Bible thus rendered altogether human, 
appeared to the deserter of Jotapata to become more 
acceptable. He deceived himself. His book, precious 
as it is to the student, rises no higher in point of value 
in the eyes of the man of taste than one of those in 
sipid Bibles of the seventeenth century where the 
most awful of the old texts are translated into 
academic language and decorated with vignettes in 
rococo style. 



As we have already several times had occasion to 
remark, the Gospel writings at the period at which we 
have arrived, were numerous. The majority of those 
writings did not bear the names of Apostles ; they 
were second-hand attempts founded upon oral tradi 
tion, which they did not pretend to exhaust. The 
Gospel of Matthew alone presented itself as having 
the privilege of an apostolic origin ; but that Gospel 
was not widely diffused ; written for the Jews of Syria, 
it had not yet, to all appearance, penetrated to Rome. 
It was under these conditions that one of the most 
conspicuous members of the Church at Rome under 
took " himself also " (Luke i. 3) to compile a Gospel 
from former texts, and not forbidding himself, any 
more than his predecessors had done, to intercalate 
what tradition and his own beliefs furnished him 
with. This man was no other than Lucanus or Luke, 
the disciple whom we have seen attach himself to 
Paul in Macedonia, follow him in his travels and in 
his captivity, and play an important part in his cor 
respondence. We may readily believe that after the 


death of Paul he remained in Rome, and as he musb 
have been young when Paul knew him (about the 
year 52), he would now be scarcely more than sixty 
years of age. It is impossible, in such cases, to speak 
with certainty ; there is, however, no very strong 
reason for supposing that Luke was not the author of 
the Gospel which bears his name. Luke was not yet 
sufficiently famous for anyone to make use of his 
name to give authority to a book, as had been done 
in the case of the Apostles Matthew and John, later, 
for James and Peter. 

Nor does the date appear involved in much uncer 
tainty. All the world admits that the book is of 
later date than the year 70 ; but, on the other hand, it 
cannot be very much later. If it were, the predictions 
of the immediate appearance of Christ in the clouds, 
which the author copies without flinching from the 
oldest documents, would be sheer nonsense. "The 
author throws back the year of the return of Jesus 
to an indeterminate future ; " the end " is postponed 
as far as possible, but the connection between the 
catastrophe of Judea and the destruction of the 
world is maintained. The author preserves also the 
assertion of Jesus, according to which the generation 
which listened to him should not pass away until his 
predictions as to the end of the world were accom 
plished. Notwithstanding the extreme latitude which 
the apostolic exegesis claims in the interpretation of 
the discourses of our Lord, it cannot be allowed that 
an editor so intelligent as that of the third Gospel, 
an editor who knows so well how to make the words 
of Jesus pass through the changes required by the 
necessities of the time, should have copied a phrase 
which embodies a peremptory objection to the gift of 
prophecy attributed to the Master. 

It is certainly only by conjecture that we connect 
Luke and his Gospel with the Christian society in 
Rome in the time of the Flavii. Yet it is certain that 


the general character of the work of Luke answers 
well to what such an hypothesis requires. Luke, we 
have already remai ked, has a sort of Roman spirit ; 
he loves order the hierarchy; he has a profound 
respect for the centurions, and for the Roman 
functionaries, and likes to show them as favourable 
to Christianity. By an able turn, he succeeds in not 
saying that Jesus was crucified and insulted by the 
Romans. Between Luke and Clemens Romanus there 
are considerable analogies. Clemens often cites the 
words of Jesus from Luke, or a tradition analogous to 
that of Luke. The style of Luke, on the other hand, 
by its Latinisms, its general form, and its Hebraisms, 
recalls the Shepherd of Hennas. The very name of 
Luke is Roman, and may belong, by a bond of patron 
and client, or of emancipation, to some M. Annseus 
Lucanus, of the family of the celebrated poet, which 
would make a connection the more with that family 
of Annaea which is to be found everywhere under 
the dust of Christian Rome. Chapters xxv. and xxvi. 
of the Acts lead to the belief that the author, like 
Josephus, had relations with Agrippa II., Berenice, 
and the little Jewish coterie at Rome. Even down 
to Herod Antipas, whose misdeeds he almost attempts 
to extenuate, he represents its intervention in the 
Gospel history as benevolent in some aspects. May 
we not also find a Roman custom in that dedication 
to Theophilus, which recalls that of Josephus to 
Epaphroditus, and appears altogether foreign to the 
customs of Syria and Palestine in the first century of 
our era ? We can see, besides, how such a situation 
recalls that of Josephus, writing almost at the same 
time, the one telling of the rise of Christianity, the 
other the Jewish revolution, with a very similar senti 
ment moderation, antipathy to extreme parties, an 
official tone implying more care for defending posi 
tions than for truth, respect, mingled with fear, for 
the Roman authority, whose very severities he strives 


to present as excusable necessities, and by whom he 
affects to have been sometimes protected. It is this 
which makes us believe that the world in which Luke 
lived and that of Josephus were very near to each 
other, and must have had more than one point of 

This Theophilus is otherwise unknown ; his name 
may be only a fiction or a pseudonym to distinguish 
some one of the powerful adepts of the Church of 
Rome one of the Clemens, for instance. A little 
preface clearly explains the intention and the situa 
tion of the author : 

Forasmuch as many have takeu in hand to set forth in order 
a declaration of those things which are most surely believed 
among us, even as they delivered them unto us which from the 
beginning were eye-witnesses of the word, it seemed good to me, 
also having had perfect understanding of all things from the 
very first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, 
that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein 
thou hast been instructed. 

It does not necessarily follow from this preface 
that Luke must have had under his eyes, in working, 
these numerous writings to whose existence he bears 
witness ; but the reading of the book leaves no doubt 
on that point. The verbal coincidences of the text of 
Luke with that of Mark, and, by consequence, with 
Matthew, are very frequent. No doubt Luke may 
have had under his eyes a text of Mark which differed 
very little from our own. We might say that he has 
assimilated it bodily, except the part of Mark vi. 45 
to viii. 26, and the story of the Passion, for which he 
has preferred an ancient tradition. In the rest, the 
coincidence is literal, and when there are variants, it is 
easy to see the motive which has induced Luke to 
correct, in view of those whom he addressed, the 
original which he had under his hands. In the 
parallel passages of the three texts, the details which 
Matthew adds to Mark, Luke has not; what Luke 


appears to add, Matthew always has. In the passages 
which are wanting in Mark, Luke always has another 
recension than Matthew. In other words, in the parts 
common to the three Evangelists, Luke offers a 
sensible agreement in terms with Matthew only 
when the last presents a similar agreement with 
Mark. Luke has not certain passages of Matthew 
without any visible reason why he should have 
neglected them. The discourses of Jesus are frag 
mentary in Luke as in Mark ; it would be incompre 
hensible that Luke, if he had known Matthew, should 
have broken up the grand discourses which the last 
gives. Luke, it is true, recalls a host of Logia which 
are not to be read in Mark, but these Logia did not 
come to his knowledge in the arrangement which we 
find in Matthew. Let us add that the legends of 
childhood and the genealogies have in the two 
evangelists in question nothing in common. Why 
should Luke cheerfully expose himself to evident 
objections ? We can only conclude that Luke did not 
know one Matthew ; and in effect, the essays of which 
he speaks in his prologue might bear the names of 
disciples or of apostles, but none of them could have 
borne a name like that of Matthew, since Luke dis 
tinguishes clearly between apostles, witnesses, and 
actors in the Gospel history, and traditionary authors 
and editors who have only reduced to writing the 
traditions without any special title to do so. 

By the side of the book of Mark, Luke had surely 
on his table other narratives of the same kind, from 
which also he borrowed largely. The long passage 
from ix. 51 to xviii. 14, for example, has been copied 
from an earlier source, for it is all in confusion : Luke 
composed better than that when he followed oral 
tradition only. It has been calculated that a third of 
the text of Luke is to be found in neither Mark nor 
Matthew. Some of the Evangelists lost to us from 
whom Luke thus borrowed, contained very precise 


details ; " those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell," 
those " whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacri 
fice." Many of these documents were simply resettings 
of the Gospel of the Hebrews, strongly impressed with 
Ebionism, and thus approached Matthew. Hence may 
be explained in Luke certain passages analogous to 
Matthew which do not appear in Mark. The majority 
of the primitive Logia are to be found in Luke, not 
disposed in the form of great discourses as in our 
Matthew, but backed about and applied to particu 
lar circumstances. Not only has Luke not had St 
Matthew s Gospel under his hands, but it does not 
seem that he can have made use of any collection of 
the discourses of Jesus where already the great series 
of maxims of which we have verified the insertion in 
our Matthew were gathered. If he possessed such 
collections, he neglected them. On the other hand, 
Luke sometimes connects himself with the Gospel 
of the Hebrews, above all, where it is better than 
Matthew. It is possible that he had a Greek transla 
tion of the Hebrew Gospel. 

From this it appears that Luke held with regard to 
Mark a position analogous to that which Matthew 
held to the same Evangelist. By both Mark has been 
enlarged by additions borrowed from documents drawn 
more or less from the Hebrew Gospel. To explain the 
numerous additions which Luke made to the common 
basis of Mark, and which are not in Matthew, a large 
part must be attributed to oral tradition. Luke 
plunged deeply into that tradition ; he drew from it ; 
he looked upon it as on the same footing as the 
numerous authors of essays on Gospel History who 
had existed before him. Did he scruple to insert in 
his text stories of his own invention, in order to stamp 
upon the work of Jesus the impression which he 
believed to be the true one ? Certainly not. Tradition 
itself did no otherwise. Tradition is a collective work, 
since it expresses the mind of all ; but at the same 


time there has always been someone who uttered for 
the first time the bright saying or the significant 
anecdote. Luke has often been that someone. The 
spring of the Logia had been dried up ; and, to say the 
truth, we believe that it never produced anything more. 
On the contrary, the liberty of the Agada shows itself 
entirely in the right which Luke assumes of handling 
his documents according to his convenience, of culling, 
intercalating, transposing, and combining at his will, 
to obtain the arrangement which suited him the best. 
Not once did he say, If this history is true like this it 
cannot be true like that. The true material is nothing 
to him ; the idea, the dogmatic and moral aim, are 
everything. I will even add the literary effect. Thus 
it is possible that what has caused him not to admit in 
to his bundle of Logia collected before him or even to 
divide them violently, it may be a scruple of his deli 
cate taste which has made him find these artificial group 
ings a little heavy. Nothing equals the ability with 
which he cuts down previous collections created upon 
the framework of Logia thus dispersed. He encases 
them, serves them like little gems in the delightful 
narratives which provoke them and lead up to them. 
The art of arranging has never been carried so far. 
Naturally, however, that method of composing brings 
about with Luke, as with Matthew, and generally with 
all the Gospels of the " second hand " artificially edited 
from earlier documents, repetitions, contradictions, 
and incoherencies, coming from the diverse documents 
which the last editor sought to blend together. Mark 
alone, by his primitive character, is exempt from this 
defect, and it is the best proof of his originality. 

We have insisted elsewhere upon the errors which 
the distance of the Evangelist from Palestine has made 
him commit. His exegesis rests only the Septuagint, 
which he follows in its greatest blunders. The author 
was not a Jew by birth ; he certainly writes for those 
who are not Jews ; he has only a superficial acquaint- 


ance with the geography of Palestine, and the man 
ners of the Jews. He omits everything that would 
be uninteresting to non-Israelites, and he adds notes 
which would be uninteresting to a native of Pales 
tine. The genealogy which he attributes to Jesus 
leads to the belief that he was addressing people who 
could not easily verify a Biblical text. He extenu 
ates all that shows the Jewish origin of Christianity, 
and although he may have a sort of tender compas 
sion for Jerusalem, the Law has ceased to exist for 
him, save as a memory. 

The spirit which inspired Luke is thus much more 
easy to determine than that which inspired Mark 
and the author of the Gospel according to Matthew. 
These two last Evangelists are neutral, taking no part 
in the quarrels which were rending the Church. The 
partisans of Paul, and those of James, might equally 
adopt them. Luke, on the contrary, is a disciple of 
Paul, moderate certainly, tolerant, full of respect for 
Peter, even for James, but a decided supporter of the 
adoption into the Church of Pagans, Samaritans, 
publicans, sinners, and heretics of all sorts. It is in 
him that we find the pitiful parable of the Good 
Samaritan, of the Prodigal Son, of the Lost Sheep, of 
the Lost Drachma, where the position of the penitent 
sinner is placed almost above that of the just man 
who has not failed. Certainly Luke was in that 
matter in agreement with the very spirit of Jesus, 
but there is on his part preoccupation, prejudice, fixed 
ideas. His boldest stroke was the conversion of one 
of the two thieves of Calvary. According to Mark 
and Matthew, the two malefactors insulted Jesus. 
Luke puts a fine sentiment into the mouth of one of 
them. "We receive the due rewards of our deeds, 
but this man hath done nothing amiss." In return, 
Jesus promises that that very day he shall be with 
him in Paradise. Jesus goes further. He prays for 
his executioners. " They know not what they do," 


In Matthew, Jesus appears ill-disposed towards 
Samaria, and recommends his disciples to avoid the 
cities of the Samaritans as in the way of Pagans. 
According to Luke, on the contrary, he is in frequent 
communication with the Samaritans, and speaks of 
them in terms of praise. It is to the journey to 
Samaria that Luke attaches a great amount of teach 
ing and of narrative. Far from imprisoning Jesus in 
Galilee, like Mark and Matthew, Luke obeyed an 
anti-Galilean and anti-Judaic tendency a tendency 
which will be much more visible in the fourth Gospel. 
In many other respects the Gospel of Luke forms a 
sort of intermediary between the two first Gospels 
and the fourth, which appears at first to offer no trace 
of union with them. 

There is scarcely an anecdote or a parable proper to 
Luke which does not breathe that spirit of mercy, and 
of appeal to sinners. The only saying of Jesus which 
ever appears a little harsh becomes in his hands an 
apologue, full of indulgence and of long-suffering. 
The unfruitful tree ought not to be cut down too 
quickly ; a good gardener opposes the anger of the 
proprietor, and asks leave to dig about the roots of 
the unhappy tree, and to dung it before condemning 
it altogether. The Gospel of Luke is especially the 
Gospel of pardon, and of pardon obtained by faith. 
"There is more joy in heaven over a sinner that 
repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons 
which need no repentance." "The Son of Man is 
come not to destroy men, but to save them." Any 
quantity of straining is lawful to him, if only he can 
make each incident of the Gospel history a history of 
pardoned sinners. Samaritans, publicans, centurions, 
guilty women, benevolent Pagans, all those whom 
Pharisaism despises, are his clients. The idea that 
Christianity has pardons for all the world is his alone. 
The door is open ; conversion is possible to all. It is 
no longer a question of the Law ; a new devotion, the 


worship of Jesus, has replaced it. Here it is the 
Samaritan who does the good deed, whilst the priest 
and the Levite pass indifferent by. There a publican 
comes out of the Temple justified by his humility, 
whilst the irreproachable but haughty Pharisee goes 
out more guilty than before. Elsewhere the sinful 
woman is raised by her love for Jesus, and is per 
mitted to bestow on him particular marks of tender 
ness. Elsewhere, again, the publican Zacchaeus be 
comes at the first onset a son of Abraham, by the 
simple fact of his having shown eagerness to see 
Jesus. The offer of an easy pardon has always been 
the principal means of success in all religions. " Even 
the most guilty of men," says Bhagavat, " if he comes 
to adore me, and to turn himself to me in his worship, 
must be accepted as good." Luke adds the taste for 
humility. " That which is highly esteemed amongst 
men is abomination in the sight of God." The power 
ful shall be cast down from his throne, the humble 
shall be exalted; there, in brief, is the revolution 
wrought by Jesus. Now, the haughty is the Jew, 
proud of his descent from Abraham ; the humble is 
the gentle man who draws no glory from his ancestors, 
and owes everything that he is to his faith in Jesus. 

The perfect conformity of these views with those of 
Paul may readily be seen. Paul had no Gospel in the 
sense in which we understand the word. Paul had 
never heard Jesus, and intentionally speaks with much 
reserve of his relations with his immediate disciples. 
He had seen very little of them, and had passed only 
a few days in the centre of their traditions, at Jeru 
salem. He had scarcely heard tell of the Logia; of 
the tradition of the Gospel he knew only fragments. 
It must be added, however, that these fragments agree 
well with what we read in Luke. The account of the 
Last Supper, as Paul gives it, is identical, save for a 
few details of small importance, with that of the third 
Gospel. Luke, without doubt, carefully avoids all 


that might offend the Judeo-Christian party, and 
awaken controversies which he desires to put to rest ; 
he is as respectful to the Apostles as he can be ; he 
fears, however, that they will assume a too exclusive 
position. His policy, in this respect, has inspired him 
with the boldest of ideas. By the side of the Twelve 
he creates, of his own authority, seventy disciples, to 
whom Jesus gives a mission which in the other Gospels 
is reserved for the Twelve alone. 

In this was an imitation of that chapter of Numbers 
in which God, in order to console Moses under a burden 
which had become too heavy, pours out upon seventy 
elders a part of the spirit of government which, until 
then, had been the gift of Moses alone. As though 
with the intention of rendering more conspicuous this 
division, and this likeness of powers, Luke divides 
between the Twelve and the Seventy the apostolic 
instructions which in the collections of Logia form 
only a single discourse addressed to the Twelve. This 
number of seventy or seventy-two had, moreover, the 
advantage of corresponding with the number of the 
nations of the earth, as the number twelve answered 
to the tribes of Israel. There was, indeed, an opinion 
that God had divided the earth amongst seventy-two 
nations, over each of which an angel presided. The 
figure was mystical ; besides the seventy elders of 
Moses, there were seventy-one members of the Sanhe 
drim, seventy or seventy-two Greek translators of the 
Bible. The secret thought which dictated to Luke 
this so grave addition to the Gospel text is thus 
evident. It was necessary, to save the legitimacy of 
the apostolate of Paul, to present that apostolate as 
parallel to the powers of the Twelve, to show that one 
might be an Apostle without being one of the Twelve 
which was precisely Paul s case. The Twelve, in 
a word, did not exhaust the apostolate ; the pleni 
tude of their powers did not make the existence of 
others impossible, " and besides," the sage disciple of 


Paul hastens to add, " these powers, in themselves, are 
nothing ; what is important to them, as to every other 
faithful man, is to have their names written in 
heaven." Faith is everything ; faith is the gift of 
God, which he bestows on whom he will. 

From such a point of view the privileges of the 
sons of Abraham are reduced to a very small thing. 
Jesus, rejected by his own, finds his true family only 
amongst the Gentiles. Men of distant countries, the 
Gentiles of Paul, have accepted him as king, whilst 
his companions, whose natural sovereign he was, have 
shown him that they will none of him. Woe to them ! 
When the lawful king shall return, he will put them 
to death in his presence. The Jews imagine that 
because Jesus has eaten and drunk with them, and 
taught in their streets, they will always enjoy their 
privileges. They are in error. Many shall come from 
the north, and from the south, and shall sit down 
with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and they 
shall lament at the door. The lively impression of 
the misfortunes which have befallen the Jewish 
people may be read upon every page, and these mis 
fortunes, the author finds, the nation has merited 
through not having understood Jesus and the mission 
with which he was charged for Jerusalem. In the 
genealogy Luke avoids tracing the descent of Jesus 
from the kings of Judah. From David to Salathiel 
the descent is through collaterals. 

Other and less open signs discover a favourable 
intention towards Paul. It is not unquestionably 
merely by chance that, after having described how 
Peter was the first to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, 
the author does not give the famous words, " Thou 
art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my 
Church ; " words which were already taking their 
place in the tradition. The story of the Canaanitish 
woman, which the author had undoubtedly read in 
Mark, is omitted because of the harsh words which 


it contains, and for which the pitiful ending is no 
sufficient compensation. The parable of the tares, 
which appears to have been imagined against Paul, 
that untoward sower who came after the authorised 
sowers and made a mingled harvest out of a pure one, 
is also neglected. Another passage, where we think 
we may see an insult to the Christians who shake 
off the bondage of the Law, is retorted, and becomes 
an attack on the Judeo-Christians. The rigour of 
the principles of Paul upon the apostolic spirit, is 
pushed even further than in Matthew, and what is 
equally important, is that precepts addressed else 
where to the little group of missionaries are here 
applied to the whole body of the faithful. " If any 
man come to me and hate not his father and mother, 
and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea 
and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." 
" Whoever he be of you that f orsaketh not all that 
he hath, he cannot be my disciple." And after these 
sacrifices he says yet again, " We are unprofitable 
servants ; we have done that which it was our duty 
to do." Between the Apostle and Jesus there is no 
difference. He who hears the Apostle hears Jesus ; 
he who despises the Apostle despises Jesus and de 
spises also him that hath sent him. 

The same exaltation may be remarked in all that 
relates to poverty. Luke hates riches, regards the 
simple attachment to property as an evil. When 
Jesus came into the world there was no room for 
him in the inn ; he was born in the midst of the 
simplest of beings, sheep and oxen. His first wor 
shippers were shepherds. All his life he was poor. 
It is absurd to save, for the rich man can carry 
nothing away with him. The disciple of Jesus has 
nothing to do with the goods of this world : he must 
renounce all that he possesses. The happy man is 
the poor man ; the rich man is always guilty : hell 
is his certain fate. So the poverty of Jesus was 


absolute. The Kingdom of God will be the festival 
of the poor ; a shifting of the social strata, an acces 
sion of new classes, will take place. With the other 
Evangelists the persons who are substituted for the 
original guests are people gathered out of the high 
ways, the first comers ; with Luke they are the poor, 
the halt, the lame, the blind, all who have been the 
sport of fortune. In this new kingdom it will be 
better to have made friends amongst the poor, even 
by injustice, than to have been correctly economical. 
It is not the rich who should be invited to dinners, 
it should be the poor ; and the reward shall be paid 
at the resurrection of the just that is to say, in the 
reign of a thousand years. Alms are a supreme pre 
cept; alms are strong enough to purify impure things; 
they are greater than the Law itself. 

The doctrine of Luke is, it will be seen, pure 
Ebionism the glorification of poverty. According to 
the Ebionites, Satan is king of this world, and he 
gives its good things to his fellows. Jesus is the 
prince of the world to come. To participate in the 
good things of the diabolical world is equivalent to 
exclusion from the other. Satan is the sworn enemy 
of Christians and of Jesus ; the world, its princes and 
its rich men, are his allies in the work of opposition 
to the kingdom of Jesus. The demonology of Luke is 
material and bizarre. His miracle-mongering has 
something of the crude materialism of Mark : it 
terrifies the spectators. Luke does not know in this 
way the softened tones of Matthew. 

An admirable popular sentiment, a fine and touch 
ing poetry, the clear and pure sound of a silvery soul, 
something removed from earth! iness and exquisite in 
tone, prevent us from dreaming of these blemishes, 
these many failures of logic, these singular contradic 
tions. The judge and the importunate widow, the 
friend with the three loaves, the unfaithful steward, 
the prodigal son, the pardoned woman that was a 


sinner, many of the combinations proper to Luke at 
first appear to positive minds little conformable to 
scholastic reason and to a strict morality ; but these 
apparent weaknesses, which are like the amiable im 
perfections of a woman s thought, are a feature of 
truth the more, and may well recall the tone of 
emotion, soon expiring, soon breathless, the altogether 
womanly movement of the words of Jesus, ruled by 
image and by sentiment much more than by reason. 
It is, above all, in the stories of the childhood and of 
the Passion that we find a divine art. These delicious 
episodes of the cradle, of the shepherds, of the angel 
who announces great joy to the lowly, of heaven 
descending upon earth amongst the poor to sing the 
song of peace on earth to men of good will ; then the 
old man, worthy personification of ancient Israel, 
whose part is finished, but who considers himself 
happy in that he has lived his life, since his eyes have 
seen the glory of his people and the light revealed to 
all nations ; and that widow of eighty who dies con 
soled ; and the Canticles, so pure, so gentle Magnificat, 
Gloria in Excelsis, Nunc Dimittis, Benedicts which 
will soon serve as the basis of a new liturgy ; all that 
exquisite pastoral traced with a delicate outline on 
the forefront of Christianity all that is assuredly the 
work of Luke. Never was sweeter cantilena invented 
to put to sleep the sorrows of poor humanity. 

The taste which carried Luke towards pious narra 
tives naturally inclined him to create for John the 
Baptist a childhood like that of Jesus. Elizabeth and 
Zecharias long barren, the vision of the priest at the 
hour of incense, the visit of the two mothers, the 
Canticle of the father of John the Baptist, were as the 
propylcca before the porch, imitated from the porch 
itself, and reproducing its principal lines. There is no 
necessity for denying that Luke may have found in 
the documents of which he made use the germs of 
these exquisite narratives which have been one of the 



principal sources of Christian art. In fact, the style of 
the childhoods of Luke, truncated, full of Hebraisms, 
is scarcely that of a prologue. Moreover, this part of 
the work is more Jewish than the rest: John the 
Baptist is of sacerdotal origin ; the rites of the purifi 
cation, and of circumcision, are carefully accomplished ; 
the family of Jesus go on a pilgrimage every year; 
many anecdotes are altogether in the Jewish taste. 
A remarkable fact is that the part of Mary nothing 
in Mark grows little by little in proportion as we 
get further from Judea, and as Joseph loses his pater 
nal character. The legend wants her, and allows it 
self to be led away to speak of her at length. It 
can only be imagined that the woman whom God 
has chosen to impregnate by the Spirit must be no 
ordinary woman ; she it is who serves as the guarantee 
for whole chapters of the Gospel history; who has 
created for herself in the Church a position which has 
become more important from day to day. 

Very beautiful, and also very unhistoric, are the 
narratives proper to the third Gospel of the Passion, 
death, and resurrection of Jesus. In this part of his 
book, Luke almost abandons his original Mark, and 
follows other texts. Hence we have a narrative even 
more legendary in character than that of Matthew. 
Everything is exaggerated. At Gethsernane, Luke 
adds the angel, the sweating of blood, the curing of 
the amputated ear of Malchus. The appearance be 
fore Herod Antipas is entirely of his invention. The 
beautiful episode of the daughters of Jerusalem, in 
tended to present the crowd as innocent of the death 
of Jesus, and to throw all the odium of it upon the 
great men and their chiefs, the conversion of one of 
the malefactors, the prayer of Jesus for his execu 
tioners, drawn from Isaiah liii. 12, are deliberate 
additions. For the sublime cry of despair, Eli, eli, 
lama sabachthani, which was no longer in harmony 
with the ideas of the Divinity of Jesus which were 


growing up, he substitutes a calmer text, " Father, into 
thy hands I commend my spirit." Finally the life of 
Jesus after his resurrection is related on an altogether 
artificial plan, conformable in part to that of the 
Gospel of the Hebrews, according to which that life 
beyond the tomb lasted but for one day, and was 
brought to a close by an ascension which Matthew 
and Mark altogether ignore. 

The Gospel of Luke is then an amended Gospel, 
completed and strongly impressed with legend. Like 
the pseudo-Matthew, Luke corrects Mark, foreseeing 
objections, effacing real or apparent contradictions, 
suppressing more or less difficult features, and vulgar 
exaggerated or insignificant details. What he does 
not understand, he suppresses or turns with infinite 
skill. He adds touching and delicate details. He 
invents little, but he modifies much. The aesthetic 
transformations which he creates are surprising. The 
picture which he has drawn of Mary and her sister 
Martha, is a marvellous thing : no pen has ever traced 
ten more charming lines. His arrangement of the 
woman with the alabaster box of ointment is not less 
exquisite. The episode of the disciples at Emmaus, is 
one of the finest and most delicately-shaded in any 

The Gospel of Luke is the most literary of the 
Gospels. Everything in it reveals a large and gentle 
mind, wise, moderate, sober, and rational, even in the 
midst of unreason. His exaggerations, his impro 
babilities, his inconsequences, are somewhat of the 
nature of parables, and give its charm to it. Matthew 
rounds off the somewhat harsh outlines of Mark ; 
Luke does more he writes and shows a true under 
standing of the art of composition. His book is a 
beautiful narrative well followed up, at once Hebraic 
and Hellenistic, uniting the emotion of the drama with 
the serenity of the idyll. Everyone there smiles, 
weeps, sings ; everywhere there are tears and canticles ; 


it is the hymn of the new people, the hosannah of 
the little ones and the humble introduced into the 
kingdom of God. A spirit of the holy childhood, of 
joy, of fervour, the evangelic sentiment in its origin 
ality, spreads over the whole legend a colouring of an 
incomparable sweetness. Never was writer less sec 
tarian. Never a reproach, never a harsh word for 
the old excluded people ; is not their exclusion pun 
ishment enough ? It is the most beautiful book there 
is. The pleasure that the author must have had in 
writing it will never be sufficiently understood. 

The historical value of the third Gospel is certainly 
less than that of the two first. Nevertheless, one 
remarkable fact which proves that the so-called 
synoptical Gospels really contain an echo of the words 
of Jesus, results from the comparison of the Gospel of 
Luke with the Acts of the Apostles. On both sides . 
the author is the same. Yet when we compare the 
discourses of Jesus in the Gospels with the discourses 
of the Apostles in the Acts, the difference is absolute ; 
here the charm of the most utter simplicity, there 
(I should say in the discourses of the Acts, especially 
towards the last chapters) a certain rhetoric, at times 
cold enough. Whence can this difference arise ? 
Evidently because in the second case Luke makes the 
discourses himself, while in the first he follows a 
tradition. The words of Jesus were written before 
Luke ; those of the Apostles were not. A considerable 
inference may be drawn from the account of the Last 
Supper in the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corin 
thians. The most anciently written Gospel text that 
there is may be found here (the First Epistle to the 
Corinthians is of the year 57.) Now this text coin 
cides absolutely with that of Luke. Luke then has 
his own value, even when he is separated from Mark 
and Matthew. 

Luke marks the last degree of deliberate revision at 
which the Gospel tradition may arrive. After him 


we have no more than the apocryphal Gospel based 
upon pure amplification and cb priori supposition, 
without the use of any new documents. We shall see 
later how the texts of the kind of Mark, of Luke, 
and of the pseudo-Matthew were still insufficient for 
Christian piety, and how a new Gospel came into 
existence which had the pretension of surpassing 
them. We shall have, above all things, to explain 
why none of the Gospel texts succeeded in suppress 
ing the others, and how the Christian Church exposed 
itself by its very good faith to the formidable objec 
tions which sprang out of their diversities. 



THE monstrosities of the " bald Nero " made frightful 
progress. He reached madness, but a sombre, deter 
mined madness. Until now there had been intervals 
in his paroxysms ; now it was a continuous frenzy. 
Wickedness mingled with a feverish rage, which ap 
pears to be one of the fruits of the Roman climate, 
the sensation of becoming ridiculous through his 
military failures, and by the lying triumphs which he 
had ordered, filled him with an implacable hatred for 
every honest and sensible man. He might have been 
called a vampire feeding greedily upon the carcase of 
expiring humanity ; an open war was declared against 
all virtue. To write the biography of a great man 
was a crime ; it seemed as though there was a wish 
to abolish the human intellect, and to take away the 
voice from conscience. Everything that was illus 
trious trembled ; the world was full of murders -and 


exiles. It must be said, to the honour of our poor 
humanity, that it went through this trial without 
bending. Philosophy recognised her position, and 
strengthened herself more than ever in this struggle 
against torment; there were heroic wives, devoted 
husbands, constant sons-in-law, faithful slaves. The 
family of Thrasea and Barea Soranus, was always in 
the front rank of the virtuous opposition. Helvidius 
Priscus (the son), Arulenus Rusticus, Junius Mauricus, 
Senecio, Pomponia Gratilla, Fannia, a whole family 
of great and strong souls, resisted without hope. 
Epictetus repeated every day in his grave voice, 
"Stand up and abstain. Suffering, thou wilt never 
make me agree that thou art an ill. Anytus and 
Melitus may kill me ; they cannot injure me." 

It was a very honourable thing for philosophy and 
for Christianity that under Domitian, as under Nero, 
they should have been persecuted in company. As 
Tertullian says, what such monsters condemned must 
have had something of good in it. It is the topstone 
of wickedness in a government when it does not 
permit the good to live even under its most resigned 
form. The name of philosopher implied thenceforward 
a profession of ascetic practices, a special kind of life, 
a cloak. This race of secular monks, protesting by 
their renunciation against the vanities of the world, 
were during the first century the greatest enemies of 
Caesarism. Philosophy, let us say it to its glory, 
does not readily lend its support to the basenesses of 
humanity, and to the sad consequences which that 
baseness entails in politics. Heirs of the liberal spirit 
of Greece, the Stoics of the Roman epoch dreamed of 
virtuous democracies in a time which suited only with 
tyranny. The politicians whose principle it is to shut 
themselves up within limitations as far as possible, 
had naturally a strong antipathy to such a way of 
looking at things. Tiberius had been wont to hold 
the philosophers in aversion. Nero (in 66) drove 


away these importunates, whose presence was a per 
petual reproach to his life. Vespasian (in 74) had 
better reasons for doing the same thing. His young 
dynasty was sapped every day by the republican 
spirit which Stoicism fostered; he did but defend 
himself by taking precautions against his most mortal 

Nothing more than his own personal wickedness 
was necessary to induce Domitian to persecute the 
sages. He had early entertained a hatred for men of 
letters: every thought was a condemnation of his 
crimes and of his mediocrity. In his later days he 
could not suffer them. A decree of the senate 
drove the philosophers from Rome and from Italy. 
Epictetus, Dionysius Chrysostom, Artemidorus, de 
parted. The courageous Sulpicia dared to raise his 
voice on behalf of the banished, and to address pro 
phetic menaces to Domitian. Pliny, the younger, 
escaped almost by a miracle from the punishment 
which his distinction and his virtue merited. The 
treatise Octavius composed about this time contains 
cruel outbursts of indignation and despair : 

Urbe est nostra mitior Aulis 
Et Taurorum barbara tellus ; 
Hospitis illic caede litatur 
Numen superum ; civis gaudet 

Roma cruore. 

It is not surprising that the Jews and the Chris 
tians should have suffered from the recoil of these 
redoubtable terrors. One circumstance rendered war 
inevitable : Domitian, imitating the madness of Cali 
gula, wished to receive divine honours. The road to 
the Capitol was crowded with herds which were taken 
to his statue to be sacrificed there : the form of the 
letters from his Chancery commenced with Dominus 
et Dens nosier. We must read the monstrous pre 
face which Quintilian, one of the master spirits of 
the age, puts at the head of one of his volumes, on the 


day following that on which Domitian had charged 
him with the education of his adopted heirs, the sons 
of Flavius Clemens : " And now it would be not 
to understand the honour of the celestial apprecia 
tions, to remain below my task. What care the 
morals require if they are to obtain the approval of 
the most holy of censors ! What attention I shall 
have to give to the studies not to disappoint the ex 
pectations of a prince so eminent for eloquence as for 
everything else! One is not astonished that the poets, 
after having invoked the Muses at the outset, renew 
their vows when they arrive at difficult passages of 
their tasks ... So also I shall be pardoned for call 
ing all the gods to my help, and in the first place he 
who more than any other divinity shows himself 
propitious to our studies. May he inspire me with 
the genius which the functions to which he has called 
me require ; may he always assist me ; may he make 
me what he has believed me." 

Such is the tone adopted by a man who was "pious" 
in the fashion of his times. Domitian, like all hypo 
critical sovereigns, showed himself a severe upholder 
of the old worship. The word impietas especially 
during his reign had generally a political signification, 
and was synonymous with l&se majeste. Religious 
indifference and tyranny had reached such a point 
that the Emperor was the only god whose majesty 
was dreaded. To love the Emperor was piety ; to 
be suspected of opposition or even of coldness was 
impiety. The word was not from that suspected of 
having lost its religious sense. The love of the 
Emperor, in fact, implied the respectful adoption of 
a whole sacred rhetoric which no sensible man could 
any longer accept as serious. That man was a revolu 
tionary who did not bow before these absurdities, 
which had become part of the routine of the state ; 
now the revolutionary was the impious man. The 
Empire thus came from it to a sort of orthodoxy, to 


an official pedagogy as in China. To admit what the 
Emperor wished with a sort of loyalism like that 
which the English affect towards their sovereign and 
their Established Church, this was what was called 
religio, and gained for a man the title of pius. 

In such a condition of the language and of minds, 
Jewish and Christian monotheism must have appeared 
a supreme impiety. The religion of the Jew and of 
the Christian attached itself to a supreme God, the 
worship of whom was a robbery of the profane god. 
To worship God was to give a rival to the Emperor ; 
to worship other gods than those of whom the Em 
peror was the legal patron, constituted a yet worse 
insult. The Christians, or rather the pious Jews, 
believed themselves obliged to make a more or less evi 
dent sign of protest when passing before the temples ; 
at least they refrained absolutely from the kiss 
which it was the custom of pious Pagans to wave to 
the sacred edifice in passing before it. Christianity, 
by its cosmopolitan and revolutionary principle, was 
certainly " the enemy of the gods, of the emperors, 
of the laws, of morals, of all nature." The best of 
the emperors will not always know how to disen 
tangle this sophism, and, without knowing it, almost 
without wishing it, will be persecutors. A narrow and 
wicked spirit, like that of Domitian, became such 
with pedantry and even with a sort of voluptuousness. 

The Roman policy had always made in religious 
legislation a fundamental difference. Roman states 
men saw no harm in a provincial practising his 
religion in his own country without any spirit of 
proselytism. When this same provincial wished to 
worship in his own way in Italy, and, above all, in 
Rome, the matter became more delicate ; the eyes of 
the true Roman were offended by the spectacle of 
fantastic ceremonies, and from time to time the police 
come to sweep out what these aristocrats regarded as 
ignominies. The foreign religions were besides ex- 


tremely attractive to the lower classes, and it was 
regarded as a necessity of state to keep them within 
due limits. But what was held to be altogether grave 
was that Roman citizens, persons of importance, should 
abandon the religion of Rome for Oriental supersti 
tions. That was a crime against the state. The 
Roman was yet the basis of the Empire. Now the 
Roman was not complete without the Roman religion; 
for him to go over to a foreign religion was to be 
guilty of treason to his country. Thus a Roman 
citizen could never be initiated into Druidism. 
Domitian, who aspired to the character of a restorer 
of the worship of the Latin gods, would not lose so 
fine an opportunity of delivering himself to his 
supreme joy, which was to punish. 

We know with certainty in effect, that a great 
number of persons having embraced Jewish customs 
(the Christians were frequently placed in this cate 
gory) were brought to judgment under the accusation 
of impiety or atheism. As under Nero, calumnies 
uttered by false brethren were perhaps the cause of 
the evil. Some were condemned to death ; others 
were exiled or deprived of their goods. There were 
some apostacies. In the year 95 Flavius Clemens 
was Consul. In the last days of his Consulate 
Domitian put him to death on the slightest suspicion, 
coming from the basest informers. These suspicions 
were assuredly political, but the pretext was religion. 
Clemens had, without doubt, manifested little zeal for 
the Pagan forms with which every civil act in Rome 
was accompanied: possibly he had abstained from 
some ceremony regarded as of capital importance. 
Nothing more was required to justify the issue of a 
charge of impiety against him and against Flavia 
Domitilla. Clemens was put to death. As to Flavia 
Domitilla, she was exiled to the island of Pandataria, 
which had already been the scene of the exile of Julia, 
the daughter of Augustus, of Agrippina, the wife of 


Germanicus, of Octavia, the wife of Nero. This was 
the crime for which Domitian paid most dearly. 
Domitilla, whatever was the decree of her initiation 
into Christianity, was a Roman woman. To avenge 
her husband, to save her children, compromised by 
the caprices of a fantastic monster, appeared to be 
a duty. From Pandataria she continued to main 
tain relations with the numerous body of slaves and 
freedmen whom she had at Rome, and who appear 
to have been strongly attached to her. 

Of all the victims of the persecution of Domitian, 
we know one only by name that of Flavius Clemens. 
The ill-will of the Government appears to have been 
directed far more against the Romans who were 
attracted to Judaism or to Christianity than against 
the Jews and Oriental Christians established in Rome. 
It does not appear that any of the presbyteri or episcopi 
of the Church suffered martyrdom. Among the 
Christians who suffered, none appear to have been 
delivered to the beasts in the amphitheatre, for almost 
all belonged to what were relatively the upper 
classes of society. As under Nero, Rome was the 
principal scene of these violences ; there were, how 
ever, troubles in the provinces. Some Christians 
faltered and left the Church, where for the moment 
they had found consolation for their souls, but where 
it was too hard to remain. Others, however, were 
heroic in charity, spent their goods to feed the saints, 
and took upon themselves the chains of those whom 
they judged to be more valuable to the Church than 

The year 95 was not, it may be owned, as solemn a 
time for the Church as the year 64, but it had its 
importance. It was like a second consecration of 
Rome. After an interval of thirty-one years the 
maddest and wickedest of men appeared to lay him 
self out for the destruction of the Church of Jesus, 
and in reality strengthened it so that the apologists 


could put forth this specious argument, " All monsters 
have hated us ; therefore we are the true." 

It was probably the information which Domitian 
had of this remark upon Judeo-Christianity which 
told him of the rumours which circulated concerning 
the continued existence of descendants of the ancient 
dynasty of Judah. The imagination of the Agadists 
gave itself the rein on this subject, and attention, 
which for centuries had been diverted from the family 
of David, was now strongly attracted to it. Domitian 
took umbrage at this, and commanded all who bore 
that name to be put to death ; but soon it was pointed 
out to him that amongst these supposed descendants 
of the antique royal race of Jerusalem there were 
people whose inoffensive character ought assuredly to 
place them beyond suspicion. There were the grand 
sons of Jude, the brother of Jesus, peaceably retired 
in Batanea. The defiant Emperor had besides heard 
tell of the coming triumph of Christ; all that dis 
quieted him. An evocatus came to seek out the holy 
people in Syria ; they were two ; they were taken to 
the Emperor. Domitian asked them first if they were 
the descendants of David. They answered that they 
were. The Emperor then questioned them as to their 
means of living. "Between us," they said, "we 
possess only 9000 denarii, of which each of us takes 
half. And that property we possess not in money 
but in the form of a piece of land of some thirty 
acres upon which we pay the taxes, and we live by 
the labour of our hands." Then they showed their 
hands covered with callosities, and hardened, and red 
with toil. Domitian questioned them concerning 
Christ and his kingdom ; his future appearance, and 
the times and places of his appearance. They 
answered that his kingdom was not of this world ; 
that it was celestial, angelic ; that it would be revealed 
at the end of time, when Christ should come in his 
glory to judge the quick and the dead, and render to 


each man according to his works. Domitiau could 
feel only contempt for such simplicity ; he set at 
liberty the two grand-nephews of Jesus. It appears 
that that simple idealism completely reassured him as 
to the political dangers of Christianity, and that he 
gave orders to cease the persecution of these dreamers. 

Certain indications in effect lead to the belief that 
Domitian towards the end of his life relaxed his 
severities. It is, however, impossible to be certain in 
this matter ; for other witnesses lead us to think that 
the situation of the Church was improved only after 
the advent of Nerva. At the moment when Clemens 
wrote his letter, the fire appears to have diminished. 
It was like the morrow of a battle ; they count those 
who have fallen, those who are still in chains are 
pitied ; but they are far from believing that all is 
over. God is entreated to defeat the perverse designs 
of the Gentiles, and to deliver his people from those 
who hate them without a cause. 

The persecution of Domitian struck at Jews and 
Christians alike. The Flavian house thus put the 
topstone to its crimes, and became for the two branches 
of the house of Israel the most flagrant representation 
of impiety. It is not impossible that Josephus may 
have fallen a victim to the last fury of the dynasty 
which he had nattered. After the year 93 or 94 we 
hear no more of him. The works which he con 
templated in 93 were not written. In that year his 
life had been in danger through the curse of the 
times the informers. Twice he escaped the danger, 
and his accusers were even punished ; but it was the 
abominable habit of Domitian in such a case to revoke 
the acquittal which he had pronounced, and, after 
having chastised the informer, to slay the accused. 
The frightful rage for murder which Domitian showed 
in 95 and 96 against everyone connected with the 
Jewish world and family, scarcely permits it to be 
believed that he would have allowed a man to go 


unharmed who had spoken of Titus in a tone of 
panegyric (a crime in his eyes the most unpardonable 
of all), and had praised himself only casually. The 
favour of Domitia whom he detested, and whom he 
had resolved to put to death, was, besides, a sufficient 
grievance. Josephus in 96 was only 59. If he had 
lived under the tolerant reign of Nerva, he would 
have continued his writings, and probably explained 
some of the insinuations which the fear of the tyrant 
had imposed. 

Have we a monument of these sombre months of 
terror, where all the worshippers of the true God 
dreamed only of martyrdom, in the discourse " on the 
Empire of Reason," which bears in the MSS. the name 
of Josephus ? The thoughts, at least, are very much 
those of the times in which we are. A strong soul is 
mistress of the body which she animates, and allows 
herself to be conquered only by the most cruel punish 
ments. The author proves his position by the 
examples of Eleazer and of the mother who, during 
the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanius, courageously 
endured death with her seven sons histories which 
may also be found in the sixth and seventh chapters of 
the Second Book of Maccabees. 

Notwithstanding the declamatory tone, and certain 
ornaments which recall a little too strongly the lesson 
of philosophy, the book contains noble doctrines. 
God embodies in himself the eternal order which is 
made manifest to man by reason ; reason is the law of 
life; duty consists in preferring it to the passions. 
As in the Second Book of Maccabees, the idea of future 
rewards and punishments is altogether spiritual. The 
righteous dead live to God for God in the sight of God, 
Zuffi rudtw. God as the author is at the same time the 
absolute God of philosophy, and the national God of 
Israel. The Jew ought to die for his Law, first, because 
it is the Law of his fathers, then because it is divine 
and true. The meats forbidden by the Law have 


been forbidden because they are injurious to man ; in 
any case, to break the Law in small things is as 
culpable as to do so in great, since in the two cases 
the authority of reason is equally misunderstood. It 
is easy to see how such a way of looking at things 
connects that of Josephus and of the Jewish philoso 
phers. From the wrath which breaks forth in every 
page against tyrants, and from the images of tortures 
which haunt the mind of the author, the book 
evidently dates from the time of the last outbreak of 
Domitian s fury. It is by no means impossible that 
the composition of this noble writing may have been 
the consolation of the last days of Josephus, when, 
almost certain of dying under punishment, he sought 
to gather together all the reasons that a wise man 
might find for not fearing death. 

The book succeeded amongst the Christians ; under 
the title of Fourth Book of Maccabees it was almost 
received into the canon ; many Greek manuscripts of 
the Old Testament contain it. Less fortunate, how 
ever, than the Book of Judith, it was not able to keep 
its place ; the Second Book of Maccabees afforded no 
sufficient reason for placing it at its side. The interest 
ing point for us is that we may there see the first 
type of a species of literature which was later much 
cultivated, exhortations to martyrdom, in which the 
author exalts to encourage the sufferers the example 
of feeble beings who have shown themselves heroic, 
or still better of these Acta martyrum, now pieces 
of rhetoric having edification as their aid, proceeding 
by oratorical amplification, without any care for histo 
rical truth, and finding in the hideous details of the 
antique the ferments of a sombre voluptuousness and 
the means of emotion. 

An indistinct echo of all these events may be found 
in the Jewish traditions. In the month of September 
or October four elders of Judea, Rabbi Gamaliel, pa 
triarch of the tribunal of Jabneh ; Rabbi Eleazar ben 


Azariah ; Rabbi Joshua ; Rabbi Aquiba, later so cele 
brated, appeared at Rome. The journey is described 
in detail : every evening, because of the season, they 
anchored in some port; on the day of the Feast of 
Tabernacles the Rabbins found the means to erect on 
the bridge of the boat a hut of foliage, which the wind 
carried away the next day ; the time of the navigation 
was occupied in discussing the manner of paying title, 
and of supplying the place of the loulab (palm-branch 
with myrtle, used at this feast) in a country where 
there were no palm trees. At a hundred and twenty 
miles from the city the travellers heard a hollow 
murmur ; it was the sound of the Capitol. All then 
shed tears. Aquiba alone burst into laughter. " Why 
do you not weep," said the Rabbins, " at seeing how 
happy and tranquil are the idolators who sacrifice to 
false gods, while the sanctuary of our God has been 
consumed by fire, and serves as a den for the beasts of 
the field ? " " Well," said Aquiba, " it is- that which 
makes me laugh. If God grants so many good things 
to those who offend him, what destiny awaits those 
who do his will, and to whom the kingdom belongs ? " 
Whilst these four elders were at Rome the senate 
of the Emperor decreed the extermination of the 
Jews throughout the world. A senator, a pious man 
(Clemenes ?) reveals this redoubtable secret to Gama 
liel. The wife of the senator, even more pious than 
he (Domitilla ? ?) advises him to kill himself by suck 
ing a poison which he keeps in his ring, which will 
save the Jews (how one does not see). Later on, the 
conviction spread that this senator was circumcised, 
or, according to the figurative expression, " that the 
vessel had not quitted the port without paying the 
impost." According to another account, the Cassar, 
enemy of the Jews, said to the great of his empire : 
" If one has an ulcer on the foot, should he cut off his 
foot or keep it at the risk of suffering ? " All were 
for amputation, except Katia ben Shalom. This last 


was put to death by order of the Emperor and died 
whilst saying, " I am a ship which has paid its taxes ; 
I may set sail." 

There are plenty of vague images here and 
memories of half sane people. Some of the con 
troversies of the four doctors at Rome are reported. 
" If God disapproves idolatry," they were asked, " why 
does he not destroy it ? " "But God must then destroy 
the sun, moon, and stars." "No; he might destroy 
useless idols and leave the useful ones." " But that 
would at once make those things divine which he has 
not destroyed. The world goes its own way. The 
stolen seed grows like any other; the unchaste woman 
is not sterile because the child which shall be born of 
her is a bastard." In preaching, one of the four 
travellers utters this thought: "God is not like 
earthly kings, who make laws, and do not themselves 
observe them." A Min (a Judeo-Christian ?) heard 
these words, and on coming out of the hall said to the 
doctor, " Why does not God observe the Sabbath ; 
the world goes on just as usual on Saturday ? " " Is 
it not lawful on the Sabbath day to move whatever is 
in one s house ? " " Yes," said the Min. " Well, then, 
the whole world is the house of God." 



THE most correct lists of the Bishops o Rome, forcing 
a little the signification of the word bishop, for times 
so remote place after Anenclet a certain Clement, 
who from the similarity of his name and the nearness 
of his time has frequently been confounded with 



Flavius Clemens. The name is not rare in the Judeo- 
Christian world. We may in strictness suppose a 
relationship of patron and client between our Clement 
and Flavius Clemens. But we must absolutely set 
aside both the theory of certain modern critics 
who insist on seeing in Bishop Clement only a 
fictitious personage, a double of Flavius Clemens, 
and the error which at various times comes to light 
in the ecclesiastical tradition, according to which 
Bishop Clement was a member of the Flavian family. 
Clemens Romanus was not merely a real personage, 
he was a personage of the first rank, a true chief of 
the Church, a bishop before the Episcopate was 
definitely constituted ; I would almost dare to say 
a pope, if the word were not too great an anachronism 
in this place. His authority was recognised as the 
greatest in all Italy, in Greece, in Macedonia, during 
the last decade of the first century. At the expiration 
of the apostolic age he was like an apostle, an epigon 
in the great generation of the disciples of Jesus, one 
of the pillars of that Church of Rome, which, after the 
destruction of the Church of Jerusalem, became more 
and more the centre of Christianity. 

Everything leads to the belief that Clement was of 
Jewish origin. His familiarity with the Bible, the 
turn of style in certain passages of his Epistle, the 
use which he makes of the Book of Judith and of 
apocryphal writings such as the assumption of Moses, 
do not agree with the idea of a converted Pagan. 
On the other hand, he appears to be little of a 
Hebraiser. It appears then that he was born in 
Rome of one of those Jewish families which had 
inhabited the capital of the world for many genera 
tions. His knowledge of cosmography and of profane 
history presuppose a careful education. It is admitted 
that he had been in relation with the Apostles, especi 
ally with Peter, though on this point the proof is 
perhaps hardly decisive. What is indubitable is the 


high rank which he held in the spiritual hierarchy 
of the Church of his time, and the unequalled credit 
which he enjoyed. His approval made law. All 
parties claimed him, and wished to shelter themselves 
under his authority. A thick veil hides his private 
opinions from us ; his Epistle is a fine neutral frag 
ment with which the disciples of Paul and the dis 
ciples of Peter might equally content themselves. 
It is probable that he was one of the most energetic 
agents in the great work which was about to be 
accomplished, I mean the posthumous reconciliation of 
Peter and Paul, and the fusion of the two parties, 
without the union of which the work of Christ must 
have perished. 

The extreme importance at which Clement had 
arrived results, above all things, from the vast apocry 
phal literature which is attributed to him. When, 
towards the year 140, an attempt was made to gather 
together into one body of writing, clothed with an 
ecclesiastical character, the Judeo-Christian traditions 
concerning Peter and his apostolate, Clement was 
chosen as the supposed author of the work. When 
it was desired to codify the ancient ecclesiastical 
customs, and to make the collection thus formed a 
Corpus of " Apostolic Constitutions," it was Clement 
who guaranteed that apocryphal work. Other writ 
ings, all having more or less connection with the 
establishment of a canon law, were equally attributed 
to him. The fabricator of apocryphas endeavours 
to give weight to his forgeries. The name which 
he puts at the head of his compositions is always 
that of a celebrity. The sanction of Clement thus 
appears to us as the highest which can be imagined 
in the second century to recommend a book. Thus in 
the Pastor of the psuedo-Hermas, Clement s special 
function is assigned as being that of sending the 
books newly issued in Rome to the other Churches, 
and of causing them to be accepted. His supposed 


literature, whether he must be taken as assuming 
personal responsibility for it or not, is a literature of 
authority, inculcating on every page the hierarchy, 
obedience to the priests, to the bishops. Every phrase 
which is attributed to him is a law, a decretal. 
The right of speaking to the Universal Church is 
freely accorded to him. He is the first typical 
" Pope " whom ecclesiastical history presents. His 
lofty personality, increased yet more by legend, was, 
after that of Peter, the holiest image of Christian 
Rome. His venerable face was for succeeding ages 
that of a grave and gentle legislator, a perpetual 
preacher of submission and respect. 

Clement passed through the persecution of Domi- 
tian without suffering from it. When the severities 
abated, the Church of Rome renewed its relations 
with the outer world. Already the idea of a certain 
primacy of that Church began to make itself felt. 
The right of advising the Churches and of adjusting 
their differences was accorded to it. Such privileges, 
it may at least be believed, were accorded to Peter 
and to his immediate disciples. Now, a closer and 
closer bond was established between St Peter and 
Rome. Grave dissensions had torn the Church of 
Corinth. That Church had scarcely changed since 
the days of St Paul. There was the same spirit of 
pride, of disputatiousness, of frivolity. We feel that 
the principal opposition to the hierarchy dwelt in this 
Greek spirit, always mobile, frivolous, undisciplined, 
not knowing how to reduce a crowd to the condition 
of a flock. The women, the children, were in full 
rebellion. The transcendental doctors imagined that 
they possessed concerning everything deep significa 
tions, mystical secrets, analogous to the gift of tongues 
and the discerning of spirits. Those who were honoured 
with these supernatural gifts despised the elders and 
aspired to replace them. Corinth had a respectable 
presbyteriate, but one which never aimed at an exalted 


mysticism. The illuminati pretended to throw it 
into the shade, and to put themselves into its place ; 
some of the elders were even deprived. The struggle 
of the established hierarchy and of personal relations 
began, and the conflict filled all the history of the 
Church, the privileged soul finding it wrong that, in 
spite of the favours with which he had been honoured, 
a homely clergy, strangers to the spiritual life, should 
govern it officially. Not without a certain likeness 
to Protestantism, the rebels of Corinth formed them 
selves into a separate Church, or at least distributed 
the Eucharist in other than consecrated places. The 
Eucharist had always been a stumbling block to 
the Church of Corinth. That Church had its rich 
and its poor; it accommodated itself with especial 
difficulty to the mystery of equality. At last 
the innovators, proud to excess of their exalted 
virtue, raised chastity to the point of depreciating 
marriage. This was, as will be seen, the heresy 
of individual mysticism maintaining the rights of 
the spirit against authority, pretending to raise itself 
above the level of the faithful, and of the ordinary 
clergy, in the name of its direct relations with the 

The Roman Church, consulted on these internal 
troubles, answered with admirable good sense. The 
Roman Church was then above all things the Church 
of order, of subordination, of rule. Its fundamental 
principle was that humility and submission were of 
more value than the most sublime of gifts. The 
Epistle addressed to the Church of Corinth was 
anonymous, but one of the most ancient traditions 
has it that Clement s was the pen which wrote it. 
Three of the most considerable of the elders 
Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Biton, and Fortunatus 
were charged to carry the letter, and received full 
powers from the Church at Rome to brimr about n 



The misfortunes, the unforeseen catastrophes which have 
fallen upon us, blow upon blow, have, brethren, been the reason 
that we occupied ourselves but slowly with the questions which 
you have addressed to us, dear brethren, touching the impious 
and detestable revolt, cursed of the elect of God, which a small 
number of insolent and daring persons have raised up and carried 
to such a point of extravagance, that your name so famous, so 
venerable, and so beloved of all, has suffered great injury. Who 
was he who having lived among you did not esteem your virtue 
and the firmness of your faith ? Who did not admire the wis 
dom and the Christian moderation of your piety ? Who did not 
publish the largeness of your hospitality ? Who did not esteem 
you happy in the perfection and soundness of your knowledge ? 
You did all things without acceptation of persons, and you 
walked according to the laws of God, obedient to your leaders. 
You rendered due honour to the elders, you warned the young 
men to be grave and sober, and the women to act in all things 
with a pure and chaste conscience, loving their husbands as they 
ought to do, dwelling in the rule of submission, applying them 
selves to the government of their houses with great modesty. 

You were all humble-minded, free . from boastings, disposed 
rather to submit yourselves than to cause others to submit to 
you, to give than to receive. Content with the sacraments of 
Christ, and applying yourselves carefully to his word, you kept 
it in your hearts, and had always his sufferings before your eyes. 
Thus you rejoiced in the sweetness of a profound peace ; you had 
an insatiable desire to do good, and the Holy Ghost was fully 
poured out upon you. Fitted with good-will, with zeal, and with 
an holy confidence, you stretched forth your hands towards Al 
mighty God, praying for pardon for your involuntary sins. 
You strove day and night for all the community, so that the 
number of the elect of God was saved by the force of piety and 
of conscience. You were sincere and innocent, without, resent 
ment of injuries. All rebellion, all divisions you held in horror. 
You wept over the fall of your neighbours ; you esteemed their 
faults as your own. A virtuous and respectable life was your 
adornment, and you did all things in the fear of God ; his com 
mandments were written upon the tables of your hearts, you 
were in glory and abundance, and in you was accomplished that 
which was written : " The well-beloved hath eaten and drunk ; 
he has been in abundance ; he has waxed fat and kicked." 


(Deut. xxxii. 15.) Hence have come jealousies and hatred 
disputes and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and capti 
vity. Thus the vilest persons have been raised above the most 
worthy ; the foolish against the wise ; the young against the old. 
Thus justice and peace have been driven away ; since the fear 
of God has fallen off, since the faith is darkened, since all will 
not follow the laws, nor govern themselves according to the 
maxims of Jesus Christ, but follow their own evil desires, 
abandoning themselves to unjust and impious jealousies, by 
which death first came into the world. 

After having quoted many sad examples of jealousy, 
taken from the Old Testament, he adds : 

But let us leave here these ancient examples and come to the 
strong men who have lately fought. Let us take the illustrious 
examples of ovr own generation. It was through jealousies and 
discord that the great men who were the pillars of the Church 
have been persecuted, and have fought to the death. Let us 
place before our eyes the holy Apostles, Peter, for example, who, 
through an unjust jealousy suffered not once or twice but many 
times, and who, having thus accomplished his martyrdom, has 
gone to the place of glory which was due to him. It was through 
jealousy and discord that Paul has shown how far patience can 
be carried ; seven times in chains, banished, stoned, and after 
having been the herald of the Truth in the east and in the west, 
he has received the noble reward of his faith, after having 
taught justice to the whole world and being come to the very 
extremity of west. Having thus accomplished his martyrdom 
before the earthly power, he was delivered from this world, and 
has gone to that holy place, giving to all of us a great example 
of patience. To those men whose life has been holy has been 
joined a great company of the elect, who, always through jealousy, 
have endured many insults and torments, leaving amongst 
us an illustrious example. It was finally pursued by jealousy 
that the poor women, the Danaides and the Dirces, after having 
suffered terrible and monstrous indignities, have reached the 
goal in the sacred course of faith, and have received a noble 
recompense, feeble in body though they were. 

Order and obedience are the supreme law of the 

It is better to displease imprudent and senseless men who 
raise themselves up and who glorify themselves through pride 
in their discourses, than to displease God. Let us respect our 


superiors, honour the elders, instruct the young in the fear of 
God, chasten our wives for their good. Let the amiable habit 
of chastity display itself in their conduct : let them show a 
simple and true gentleness ; let them show by their silence that 
they know how to rule their tongues, that, instead of allowing 
their hearts to be carried away by their inclinations, they 
testify with holiness to an equal friendship for all who fear 
God. . . . Let us consider the soldiers who serve under our 
sovereigns ; with what order, what punctuality, what submis 
sion do they obey. All are not prefects, nor tribunes, nor cen 
turions, but each in his rank obeys the orders of the Emperor 
and of the chiefs. The great cannot exist without the small, nor 
the small without the great. In everything there is a mixture 
of diverse elements, and it is because of that mixture that things 
goon. Let us take our bodies for an exam pie. The head without 
the feet is nothing ; the feet are nothing without the head. 
The smallest of our organs are necessary, and serve the whole 
body ; all work together and obey one same principle of sub 
ordination for the preservation of all. Let each then submit to 
his neighbour according to the order in which he has been 
placed by the grace of Christ Jesus. Let not the strong neglect 
the weak, let the weak respect the strong ; let the rich be 
generous to the poor, and the poor thank God for having given 
him one to supply his needs. Let the wise man show his wis 
dom not by discourses, but by good works ; let not the humble 
bear witness to himself, let him leave that care to others. Let 
him who preserves the purity of the flesh not exalt himself 
therefore, seeing that he has from another the gift of contin- 

The Divine Service ought to be celebrated in the 
places and at the hours fixed by the ordained 
ministers, as in the Temple of Jerusalem. All power, 
all ecclesiastical rule, comes from God. 

The Apostles have evangelised us on the part of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ had received his mission from 
God. Christ has been sent by God, and the Apostles have been 
sent by Christ. The two things have then been regularly done 
by the will of God. Provided with instruction from the Master, 
persuaded by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
strengthened in the faith in the Word of God by the confirma 
tion of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles went out preaching the 
approach of the Kingdom of God. Preaching thus alike in the 
country and in the cities, they chose those who had been the 
first-fruits of their apostolate, and after having proved them by 


the Spirit, established them Episcopi and Diaconi of those who 
believe. And this was no novelty, for the Scripture had long 
spoken of Episcopi and Diaconi, since it saith in one place, " I 
will establish their Episcopi on the foundations of justice and 
their Diaconi on the bases of faith" (Isa. Ix. 17). Our Apostles, 
enlightened by our Lord Jesus Christ, knew perfectly that there 
would be competition for the title of Episcopos, This is why 
they conferred that title in their perfect prescience on those 
whom we have named and prescribed, that after their death 
other approved men should assume their functions. These then 
who have been established by the Apostles or afterwards by 
other excellent men with the consent of all the Church, and who 
have served the flock of Jesus Christ without reproach, humbly, 
peaceably, honourably, to whom all have borne good testimony 
during a long time, we do not think it just to cast out of the 
ministry, for we could not without grave, fault eject from the 
Episcopate those who worthily present the sacred offerings. 
Happy are the elders who have finished their career before us 
and are dead in holiness, and with fruit ! They at least have 
no fear lest any should come and drive them from the place to 
which they have been called. "We see, in a word, that you have 
deprived some who lived well in the ministry, of which office 
they acquitted themselves without reproach and with honour. 

Have we not the same God, the same Christ, the same Spirit 
of Grace poured out upon us ? Why shall we tear away, why 
shall we cut off, the members of Christ ? Why should we make 
war upon our own body, and come to such a point of madness as 
to forget that we are all members one of another ? Your schism 
has driven away many persons, it has discouraged others, it has 
cast certain into doubt, and afflicted all of us ; nevertheless, your 
rebellion continues. Take the Epistle of the blessed Paul the 
Apostle. What is the first thing of which he writes to you at 
the beginning of his Gospel ? Certainly the Spirit of Truth dic 
tated to him what he commanded you touching Cephas, Apollos, 
and himself. Then there were divisions amongst you, but those 
divisions were less guilty than the divisions of to-day. Your 
choice was divided amongst authorised Apostles and a man 
whom they had approved. Now consider who are those who 
have led you astray, and have injured that reputation for fra 
ternal love for which you were venerated. It is shameful, my 
beloved, it is very shameful and unworthy of Christian piety to 
hear it said that that Church of Corinth, so firm, so ancient, is in 
revolt against its elders because of one or two persons. And 
this report has come not only to us, but to those who hold us in 
but little goodwill, so that the name of the Lord is blasphemed 
through your imprudence, and you create perils for yourselves. 
. Such a faithful one is specially gifted to explain the secrets 


of the gnose (tongues); he has the wisdom to discern the discourse ; 
he is pure in his actions, let him humiliate himself so that he 
may be greater, let him seek the common good before his own. 

The best thing the authors of these troubles can do 
is to go away. 

Is there amongst you anyone who is generous, tender, and 
charitable, let him say, " If I am the cause of the rebellion, the 
quarrel, the schisms, I will retire, I will go where you will, I 
will do what the majority order, I ask only one thing, which is, 
that the flock of Christ may be at peace with the elders who 
have been established." He who will thus use himself will 
acquire a great glory in the Lord, and will be made welcome 
wherever he may go. "The earth is the Lord s and all that 
therein is." See what they have done, and what they yet will 
do, who do the will of God, which never leads to repentance. 

Kings and pagan chiefs have braved death in time 
of pestilence, to save their fellow-citizens ; others have 
exiled themselves to put an end to civil war. " We 
know that many amongst us have delivered themselves 
to chains, that they might deliver others." If those 
who have caused the revolt recognise their errors, 
it is not to us, it is to God, to whom they will yield. 
All ought to receive with joy the correction of the 

You then who have begun the rebellion, submit yourselves 
to the elders, and receive the correction in the spirit of penitence, 
bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to submit yourselves, 
renouncing the vain and insolent boldness of your tongues ; for 
it is better that you should be small but esteemed in the flock 
of Christ, than that you should keep up the appearance of superi 
ority, and be deprived of your hopes in Christ. 

The submission which is due to the bishops and 
elders, the Christian owes to the powers of the earth. 
At the moment of the most diabolical atrocities of 
Nero, we heard Paul and Peter declare that the 
power of this monster came from God. Clement, in 
the very days when Domitian was guilty of the 
greatest cruelties against the Church, and against the 
human race, held him equally as being the lieutenant 


of God. In a prayer which he addresses to God, he 
thus expresses himself : 

It is them, supreme Master, who by thy great and unspeak 
able power hast given to our sovereigns and to those who govern 
us upon earth the power of royalty. Knowing the glory and the 
honour which thou hast distributed to them, we submit our 
selves to them, thus avoiding placing ourselves in contradiction 
with thy will. Give to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, 
stability, that they may exercise without hindrance the sove 
reignty which thou has confided to them. . For it is thou, 
Heavenly Master, King of the Worlds, who hast given to the 
children of men the glory, and the honour, and the power over 
all that there is on the surface of the earth. Direct, O Lord ! 
their wills for good, and according to that which is pleasing to 
thee, so that exercising in peace, with gentleness and piety, the 
power which thou has given, they may find thee propitious. 

Such is this document, a remarkable monument of 
the practical wisdom of the Church of Rome, of its 
profound policy, of its spirit of government. Peter 
and Paul are there more and more reconciled; both 
are right; the dispute about Law and works is pacified; 
the vague expressions "our apostles," "our pillars," 
mask the memory of past struggles. Although a 
warm admirer of Paul, the author is profoundly a Jew. 
Jesus for him is simply " the child beloved of God ; " 
"the great High Priest," "the chief of Christians." 
Far from breaking with Judaism, he preserves in its 
integrity the privilege of Israel ; only a new chosen 
people amongst the Gentiles is joined with Israel. All 
the antique prescriptions preserve their force, even 
though they have ceased to bear their original mean 
ing. Whilst Paul abrogates, Clement preserves and 
transforms. What he desires above all things is 
concord, uniformity, rule, order in the Church as in 
nature, and in the Roman Empire. Let everyone obey 
in his rank : this is the order of the world. The 
small cannot exist without the great, nor the great 
without the small ; the life of the body is the result 
of the common action of all the members. Obedience 
is then the summing-up, the synonym of the word 


duty. The inequality of men, the subordination of 
one to the other, is the law of God. 

The history of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the 
history of a triple abdication, the community of the 
faithful remitting first all its powers to the hands of 
the elders or presbyteri ; the presbyteral body joining 
in a single personage, who is the episcopos ; then the 
episcopi effacing themselves in the presence of one of 
them, who is pope. This last process, if we may so 
describe it, was effected only in our own days. The 
creation of the Episcopate is the work of the second 
century. The absorption of the Church by the pres 
byteri was accomplished before the end of the first. 
In the Epistle of Clement of Rome it is not yet the 
episcopate, it is the presbytery, which is in question. 
Not a trace of a presbyteros superior to his fellows is 
to be found. But the author proclaims aloud that the 
presbyteriate, the clergy, are before the people. The 
Apostles, in establishing Churches, have chosen, by the 
inspiration of the Spirit, " the bishops and deacons of 
future believers." The powers emanating from the 
Apostles have been transmitted by a regular succession. 
No Church has a right to deprive its elders. The 
privilege of riches counts for nothing in the Church. 
In the same way, those who are favoured with mystical 
gifts ought to be the most submissive. 

The great problem is approached : who form the 
Church ? Is it the people ? or the clergy ? or the 
inspired? The question had already been asked in 
the time of St Paul, who solved it in the right way by 
mutual charity. Our Epistle defines the question in 
a purely Catholic sense. The apostolic title is every 
thing ; the right of the people is reduced to nothing. 
It may then be said that Catholicism had its origin in 
Rome, since the Church of Rome traced out its first 
rule. Precedence does not belong to spiritual gifts, to 
science, to distinction ; it belongs to the hierarchy, to 
the powers transmitted by the channel of canonical 


ordination, which stretches back to the apostolate in 
an unbroken chain. We feel that a free Church such 
as Jesus had conceived, and as St Paul still admitted, 
was an anarchical utopia, which could not be looked 
for in the future. With gospel liberty there would 
have been disorder: it was not seen that with the 
hierarchy would come uniformity and death. 

From the literary point of view the Epistle of 
Clement is somewhat weak and soft. It is the first 
monument of that prolix style, charged with super 
latives, smelling of the preacher, which to this day 
remains that of the Papal Bulls. The imitation of St 
Paul is palpable ; the author is governed by his 
memories of the sacred Scriptures. Almost every line 
contains an allusion to the writings of the Old 
Testament. Clement shows himself singularly pre 
occupied with the new Bible, which is in course of 
formation. The Epistle to the Hebrews, which was 
a sort of inheritance of the Church of Rome, evidently 
formed his habitual reading ; we may say the same of 
the other great Epistles of St Paul. His allusions 
to the Gospel texts appear to be divided between 
Matthew, Mark, and Luke ; we might almost say that 
he had the same Gospel matter as we, but distributed 
without doubt otherwise than as we have it. The 
allusions to the Epistles of James and Peter are 
doubtful. But the allusions to the Jewish apocryphas, 
to which Clement accords the same authority as to 
the writings of the Old Testament, are striking : Judith 
an apocrypha of Ezekiel, the assumption of Moses, 
perhaps also the prayer of Manasseh. Like the 
Apostle Jude, Clement admitted into the Bible all 
those recent products of Jewish imagination or passion, 
inferior though they are to the old Hebrew literature, 
but more fitted than this last of pleasing at the time, 
by their tone of pathetic eloquence and of lively 

The Epistle of Clement attained besides the object 


for which it had been written. Order was re 
established in the Church of Corinth. The lofty 
pretensions of the spiritual doctors were abated. 
Such was the ardent faith of these little conventicles, 
that they submitted to the greatest humiliations 
rather than quit the Church. But the work had a 
success which extended far beyond the limits of the 
Church of Corinth. There has been no writing more 
imitated, more quoted. Polycarpus, or the author of 
the Epistle attributed to him, the author of the apocry 
phal Epistles of Ignatius, the author of the fragment 
falsely called the Second Epistle of Clement, borrow 
from it as from a document known almost by heart. 
The treatise was read in the Churches like inspired 
Scripture. It took its place amongst the additions 
to the Canon of the New Testament. In one of the 
most ancient manuscripts of the Bible (the Codex 
Alexandrinus), it is found at the end of the books of 
the new alliance, and as one of them. 

The trace left at Rome by Bishop Clement was 
profound from the most ancient times ; a Church 
consecrated his memory in the valley between the 
Coelius and the Esquiline, in the district where, accord 
ing to tradition, the paternal house was placed, and 
where others, through a feeling of secular hesitation, 
wished to recall the memory of Flavius Clemens. 
We shall see him later become the hero of a surpris 
ing romance, very popular in Rome, and entitled " the 
Recognitions," because his father, his mother, and his 
brothers, bewailed as dead, are found again, and recog 
nise each other. With him was associated a certain 
Urapte, charged together with him with the govern 
ment and teaching of widows and orphans. In the 
half light in which he remains enveloped, and, as it 
were, lost in the luminous haze of a fine historic 
distance, Clement is one of the great figures of nascent 
Christianity. Some vague rays come only out of the 
mystery which surrounds him ; one might call him a 


saint s head in an old half -effaced fresco of Giotto, still 
recognisable by its golden aureole and by some vague 
tints of a pure and gentle light. 



THE death of Domitian followed closely upon that 
of Flavius and the persecution of the Christians. 
There were between these events relations which are 
hardly to be explained. " He had been able," says 
Juvenal, " to deprive Rome with impunity of her 
most illustrious souls, without anyone arming him 
self to avenge them, but he perished when he became 
terrible to the cobblers. Behold what lost a man 
stained with the blood of the Lamia!" It seems 
probable that Domitilla and Flavius Clemens entered 
into the plot. Domitilla may have been recalled from 
Pandataria in the last months of Domitian. There 
was, however, a general conspiracy around the mon 
ster. Domitian felt it, and, like all egotists, he was 
very exigent as to the fidelity of others. He caused 
Epaphroditus to be put to death for having helped 
Nero to kill himself, in order to show what crime 
the freedman commits who raises his hand against 
his master, even with a good intention. Domitia his 
wife, all the people of his household, trembled, and 
resolved to anticipate the blow which threatened 
them. With them was associated Stephanus, a freed 
man of Domitilla, and steward of her household. 
As he was very robust, he offered himself for the 
attack, body to body. On the 18th September, to- 


wards eleven o clock in the morning, Stephanus, with 
his arm in a sling, presented himself to hand to the 
Emperor a memorial on a conspiracy which he pre 
tended to have discovered. The chamberlain Par- 
thenius, who was in the plot, admitted him, and closed 
the door. Whilst Domitian read with attention, Ste 
phanus drew a dagger from his bandage and stabbed 
him in the groin. Domitian had time to cry to the 
little page who attended to the altar of the Lares to 
give him the sword which was under his pillow and 
to call for help. The boy ran to the bed s head, but 
found only the hilt. Parthenius had foreseen all, and 
had closed up the ways of escape. The struggle was 
sufficiently long. Domitian sought to draw the dagger 
from the wound, and then with his fingers half cut 
off he tore at the eyes of the murderer, and succeeded 
in throwing him to the ground and placing himself 
upon him. Parthenius then caused the other con 
spirators to enter, who finished off the wretch. It 
was time ; the guards arrived an instant later, and 
slew Stephanus. 

The soldiers, whom Domitian had covered with 
shame but whose pay he had increased, wished to 
avenge him, and proclaimed him Divus. The senate 
was sufficiently strong to prevent this last ignominy. 
It caused all his statues to be broken or melted, 
his name to be effaced from the inscriptions, and his 
triumphal arches to be thrown down. It was ordered 
that he should be buried like a gladiator ; but his 
nurse succeeded in carrying away his corpse, and 
in secretly uniting his ashes to those of the other 
members of his family in the temple of the gen* 

This house, raised up by the chance of the revolu 
tions to such strange destinies, fell thenceforward 
into great discredit. The persons of merit and virtue 
whom it yet contained were forgotten. The proud 
nristocracy, honest and of high nobility, who were 


about to reign could only feel the profoundest aver 
sion for the relics of a middle-class family whose 
last chief had been the object of their just execration. 
During the whole of the second century nothing is 
heard of any Mavius. Flavia Domitilla ended her 
life in obscurity. It is not known what became of 
her two sons, whom Domitian had intended for the 
Empire. One indication leads to the belief that the 
posterity of Domitilla continued until the end of 
the third century. That house always preserved, it 
would appear, an attachment to Christianity. Its 
family sepulchre, situated on the Via Ardeatina, be 
came one of the most ancient Christian catacombs. 
It is distinguished from all the others by its spacious 
approaches ; its vestibule in the classical style, fully 
open to the public road ; the size of its principal hall, 
destined for the reception of the sarcophagi ; the 
elegance and the altogether profane character of the 
decorative paintings on the vault of this hall. If one 
holds to the frontispiece, everything recalls Pompeii, 
or, still better, the Villa of Livy, ad gallinas albas, 
in the Flaminian Way. In proportion as one descends 
the underground temple (hypogea) the aspect grows 
more and more Christian. It is then quite conceiv 
able that this beautiful sepulchre may have received 
its first consecration from Domitilla, whose family 
must have been in a great part Christian. In the 
third century the approaches were enlarged and a 
collegiate schola was constructed, designed probably 
for agapes or sacred feasts. 

The circumstances which brought the old Nerva to 
the Empire are obscure. The conspirators who killed 
the tyrant had, without doubt, a preponderating share 
in the choice. A reaction against the abominations of 
the preceding reign was inevitable ; the conspirators, 
however, having taken part in the principal events of 
the reign, did not want too strong a reaction. Nerva 
was an excellent man, but reserved, timid, and carry- 



ing the taste for half measures almost to excess. The 
army desired the punishment of the murderers of 
Domitian ; the honest party in the Senate wished for 
the punishment of those who had been the ministers 
of the crimes of the last government. Dragged about 
between these opposing requirements, Nerva often 
appeared weak. One day at his table were found 
united the illustrious Junius Mauricius, who had 
risked his life for liberty, and the ignoble Veientus, 
one of the men who had done the greatest evil under 
Domitian. The conversation fell upon Catullus 
Messalinus, the most abhorred of the informers: 
" What would this Catullus do if he were alive ? " 
said Nerva. " Faith," cried Mauricius, at the end of 
his patience, " he would dine with us." 

All the good that could be done without breaking 
with the evil, Nerva did. Progress was never loved 
more sincerely ; a remarkable spirit of humanity, of 
gentleness, entered into the government and even into 
the legislation. The Senate regained its authority. 
Men of sense thought the problem of the times, the 
alliance of the aristocracy with liberty, definitely 
resolved. The mania for religious persecution, which 
had been one of the saddest features of the reign 
of Domitian, absolutely disappeared. Nerva caused 
those who were under the weight of accusations of 
this kind to be absolved, and recalled the banished. 
It was forbidden to prosecute anyone for the mere 
practice of Jewish customs ; prosecutions for impiety 
were suppressed ; the informers were punished. The 
.fiscus jiidaicus, as we have seen, afforded scope for 
much injustice. People who did not owe it were 
made to pay ; in order to ascertain the quality of 
persons liable to it, they were subjected to disgusting 
inquiries. Measures were taken to prevent the re 
vival of similar abuses, and a special coinage (nsci 
IVDAICI CALVMNIA SVBLATA) recalled the memory of 
that measure. 


All the families of Israel thus enjoyed a relative 
calm after a cruel storm. They breathed. For some 
years the Church of Rome was more happy and more 
flourishing than she had ever been. The apocalyptic 
ideas resumed their course ; it was believed that God 
had fixed the time of his coming upon earth for the 
moment when the number of the elect reached a 
certain figure ; every day they rejoiced to see that 
number increase. The belief in the return of Nero 
had not disappeared. Nero, if he had lived, would 
have been sixty, which was a great age for the part 
which was destined for him ; but the imagination 
reasons little ; besides Nero, the Antichrist became 
day by day a more ideal personage, placed altogether 
without the conditions of the natural life. For a long 
time people continued to speak of his return, even 
when it was obvious that he could no longer be alive. 

The Jews were more ardent and more sombre than 
ever. It appears that it was a law of religious con 
science with this people to pour forth in each of the 
great crises which tore the Roman Empire one of those 
allegorical compositions in which the rein was given 
to prognostications of the future. The situation of 
the year 97 in many ways resembled that of the year 
68. Natural prodigies appeared to multiply. The fall 
of the Flavii made almost as much impression as the 
disappearance of the house of Julius. The Jews be 
lieved that the existence of the Empire was again in 
question. The two catastrophes had been preceded 
by sanguinary madnesses, and were followed by civil 
troubles, which caused doubts as to the vital powers 
of a state so agitated. During this eclipse of the 
Roman power, the imagination of the Messianists 
again took the field ; the eccentric speculations as to 
the end of the Empire and the end of time resumed 
their course. 

The Apocalypse of the reign of Nerva appeared, 
according to the custom of compositions of this kind, 

180 THE GOSPfeLS ANt) 

under a fictitious name, that of Esdras. This writer 
began by becoming very celebrated. An exaggerated 
part was attributed to him in the reconstitution of 
the sacred books. The forger for his purpose wanted 
besides a personage who had been contemporary with 
a situation of the Jewish people analogous to that 
through which they were passing. The work appears 
to have been originally written in that Greek full of 
Hebraisms which had already been the language 
of the Apocalypse of John. The original is lost, but 
from the Greek text translations were made into 
Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Ethopian, and Arabic which 
have preserved to us this precious document, and have 
allowed us to restore its first state. It is a sufficiently 
fine piece of writing, of a truly Hebrew taste, com 
posed by a Pharisee probably at Rome. Christians 
read it with avidity, and it was unnecessary to do more 
than retouch one or two passages to turn it into a 
very edifying Christian book. 

The author may in many ways be considered the 
last prophet of Israel. The work is divided into 
seven sections, for the most part affecting the form of 
a dialogue between Esdras, a supposed exile to 
Babylon, and the angel Uriel ; but it is easy to see 
behind the biblical personage the ardent Jew of the 
Flavian epoch, full of rage because of the destruction 
of the Temple by Titus. The memory of these dark 
days of the year 70 rises in his soul like the smoke of 
the pit, and fills it with holy wrath. How far are we, 
with this fiery zealot, from a Josephus who treats the 
defenders of J erusalem as scoundrels ? Here is a verit 
able Jew who is sorry not to have been with those 
who perished in the fire of the Temple. The Revolu 
tion of Judea, according to him, was not an insanity. 
Those who defended Jerusalem to the uttermost, 
those assassins whom the moderates sacrificed and 
regarded as alone responsible for the misfortunes of 
the nations those assassins were saints. Their fate 


was enviable ; they will be the great men of the 

Never did Israelite, more pious, more penetrated 
with the sufferings of Zion, pour out his prayers and 
tears before Jehovah. A profound doubt, the great 
doubt of the Jews, rent him, the same which de 
voured the Psalmist when he " saw the ungodly in 
prosperity." Israel are the chosen people. God has 
promised happiness to them if they observe the Law. 
Without having fulfilled that condition in all its 
rigour, what would be beyond human strength, 
Israel is better than other nations. In any c/ise, he 
has never observed the Law more scrupulously than 
in these last times. Why, then, is Israel the most un 
fortunate of peoples ; and more just he is the more 
unfortunate ? The author sees clearly that the old 
materialistic solutions of this problem cannot be 
accepted. Thus is his soul troubled even to death. 

Lord, Master Universal, he cries, of all the forests of the 
earth, and of all the trees that are found therein, thou hast 
chosen a vine ; of all the countries of the world, thou hast 
chosen a province ; of all the flowers of the world, thou hast 
chosen a lily ; of all the wilderness of water, thou hast chosen 
a brook ; amongst all the cities, thou hast sanctified Sion ; of 
all the birds, thou hast dedicated a dove to thyself ; and of all 
created beasts, thou wouldest take only a lamb for thyself, 
thus out of all the people on the face of the earth thou hast 
adopted one only, and to that beloved people thou hast given a 
Law which all admire. And now, Lord, what has he done that 
thou should est deliver thine only One to profanations, that up 
on the root of thy choice thou hast grafted other plants, that 
thou hast dispersed thy dear ones in the midst of the nations, 
those who deny thee crowd upon the feet of the faithful. If 
thou hast come to hate thy people, it must be so ! But at 
least punish them with thine own hands, and lay not this task 
upon the unfaithful. 

Thou hast said that it is for us that thou hast created the 
world ; that the other nations born of Adam are in thine eyes 
but vile spittle (sic). . . . And now, Lord, behold these nations, 
thus treated as nothing, rule over us and trample us under foot. 
And we thy people, we whom thou hast called thy first-born, 
thy only Son, we the objects of thy jealousy, we are delivered 


unto their hands. If the world has been created for us, why 
do we not at least possess an heritage ? How long, O Lord, how 
long ! . . . 

Sion is a desert, Babylon is happy. Is this just ? Sion has 
sinned much. She may have, but is Babylon more innocent? 
I believed so until I came here, but since I came, what do I see ? 
Such impieties that I marvel that thou bearest them, after hav 
ing destroyed Sion for so much less iniquity. What nation has 
known thee save only Israel ? What tribe has believed in thee 
save only that of Jacob ? And who has been less rewarded ? 
Amongst the nations I have seen them flourishing and unmind 
ful of thy commandments. Weigh in the balance what we 
have done, and what they do. Amongst us I confess there are 
few faithful ones, but amongst them there are none at all. Now 
they enjoy a profound peace, and we, our life is the life of a 
fugitive grasshopper ; we pass our days in fear and anguish. It 
had been better for us never to have been born than to be tor 
mented thus without knowing in what our guilt consists. , . . 
Oh, that we had been burned in the fires of Sion ! We are not 
better than those who perished there ! 

The angel Uriel, the interlocutor of Esdras, eludes 
as best he can the inflexible logic of this protestation. 
The mysteries of God are so profound ! The mind of 
man is so limited ! Pressed with questions, Uriel 
escapes by a Messianic theory like that of the Chris 
tians. The Messiah, son of God, but simple man, is on 
the eve of appearing in Zion in glory, in company 
with those who have not tasted death, that is to say, 
with Moses, Enoch, Elias, and Esdras himself. He 
will recall the ten tribes from the " land of Arzareth " 
(foreign country). He will fight a great fight against 
the wicked; after having conquered them, he will 
reign four hundred years upon the earth with his 
elect. At the end of that time, the Messiah will die, 
and all the living will die with him. The world will 
return to its primitive silence for seven days. Then a 
new world will appear, and the general resurrection 
wiD take place. The Most High will appear upon his 
throne, and will proceed to a definitive judgment. 

The particular turn which Jewish Messianism 
tended to take, clearly appears here. Instead of an 


eternal reign, of which the old prophets dreamed, for 
the posterity of David, and which the Messianists 
after the pseudo-Daniel transferred to their ideal 
king, we arrive at the notion of a Messianic kingdom 
as having a limited duration. We have seen the 
author of the Christian Apocalypse fix that date at a 
thousand years. Pseudo-Esdras contents himself with 
four hundred years. The most diverse opinions were 
current on that subject amongst the Jews. Pseudo- 
Baruch, without specifying the limit, says distinctly 
that the Messianic reign will last only as long as the 
perishable earth. The judgment of the world from 
that point of view is distinguished from the advent of 
the Messianic kingdom, and the presidency is given to 
the Most High alone and not to the Messiah. Then 
the conception of the Eternal Messiah inaugurating an 
endless reign, and judging the world, carries him away 
altogether, and becomes the essential and distinctive 
feature of Christianity. 

Such a theory raises a question with which we have 
already seen St Paul and his faithful greatly con 
cerned. In such a conception there is an enormous 
difference between the fate of those who are alive at 
the appearance of the Messiah, and those who have 
died beforehand. Our seer even asks himself a ques 
tion which is odd enough, but certainly logical : 
Why did not God make all men alive at the same 
time ? He gets out of the difficulty by the hypothesis 
of provisional " depots " (promptuaria) where the 
souls of departed saints are held in reserve until the 
judgment. At the great day the depots will be 
opened, so that the contemporaries of the appearance 
of the Messiah shall have only one advantage over the 
others that of having enjoyed the reign of four 
hundred years. In comparison with eternity, that is 
a very small matter, and the author thinks himself 
justified in maintaining that there will be no point or 
privilege, the first and the last will be all equals in 


the Day of Judgment. Naturally, the souls of the 
just, confined in a sort of prison, feel some impatience, 
and often say : " Until what time is this to continue ? 
When will be the day of the harvest ? " The angel 
Jeromiel answers them, " When the number of those 
like unto you is complete ? " The time is coming. 
As the bowels of a woman nine months pregnant 
cannot contain the fruit which they bear, so the 
depots of Sheol, too full in some sense, hasten to 
render up the souls which they contain. The total 
duration of the universe is divided into twelve parts ; 
ten parts and a half of that period have gone by ; 
The world is approaching its end with an incredible 
rapidity. The human race is decaying fast; the 
stature of man dwindles ; like the children born of 
old parents, our races have no longer the vigour of 
the earlier ages. " The age has lost its youth, and 
time begins to grow old." 

The signs of the last days are those which we have 
enumerated twenty times. The trumpet shall sound. 
The order of Nature will be reversed ; blood shall 
flow from wood, and the stones shall speak. Enoch 
and Elias will appear to convert man. Men must 
hasten to die, and are as nothing compared, with those 
that are to come. The more the world is weakened 
by old age, the more wicked it will become. Truth 
will withdraw day by day from the earth ; good shall 
seem to be exiled. 

The small number of the elect is the dominant 
thought of our sombre dreamer. The entrance to 
eternal life is like a narrow strait between two seas, 
like a narrow and slippery passage which gives access 
to a city ; on the right there is a precipice of tire, 
on the left a sea without bottom ; a single man can 
scarcely hold himself there. But the sea into which 
one enters is also immense, and the city is full of 
every good thing. There is in this world more silver 
than gold, more copper than silver, more iron than 


copper. The elect are the gold ; the rarer things are, 
the more precious they are. The elect are the adorn 
ments of God ; those adornments would be valueless 
if they were common. God is not grieved by the 
multitude of those who perish. Unhappy ones ! 
they exist no longer than a puff of smoke or a flame ; 
they are burned, they are dead. We may see how 
deeply rooted in Judaism the atrocious doctrines of 
election and of predestination had already become 
doctrines which a little later were to cause such cruel 
tortures to so many devout souls. These frightful 
severities to which all the schools of thought which 
deal in damnation are accustomed, at times revolts 
the pious sentiment of the author. He allows him 
self to exclaim : 

Oh Earth ! what hast thou done in giving birth to so many 
beings destined to perdition ? It had been better had we no 
existence, rather than that we should exist only to be tortured ! 
Let humanity weep ! let the beasts of the field rejoice ! The 
condition of these last is better than ours ; they do not expect 
the Judgment ; they have no punishment to fear ; after death, 
there is nothing for them. Of what use is life to us, since we 
owe to it an eternity of torments ? Better annihilation than the 
prospect of judgment. 

The Eternal God answers that intelligence has been 
given to man that he may be without excuse in the 
Day of Judgment and that he has nothing to reply. 

The author plunges more and more deeply into 
strange questions, which raise formidable dogmas. 
Can it be that from the moment that one draws his 
last breath that he is damned and tortured, or will an 
interval pass, during which the soul is in repose until 
the Judgment ? According to the author, the fate of 
each man is fixed at death. The wicked, excluded 
from the place of departed spirits, are in the condi 
tion of wandering souls, tormented provisionally with 
seven punishments, of which the two principal are 
seeing the happiness enjoyed by those in the asylum 


of just souls, and to assist in the preparations for the 
punishment reserved for themselves. The just, guarded 
in their liinbo by angels, enjoy seven joys, of which 
the most agreeable is that of seeing the sufferings of 
the wicked, and the tortures which await them. The 
soul of the author, pitiful at bottom, protests against 
the monstrosities of his theology. " The just at least," 
asks Esdras, " may not they pray for the damned, 
the son for his father, the brother for his brother, 
the friend for his friend ? " The answer is terrible. 
" Just as in the present life the father cannot be the 
substitute for the son, nor the son for the father, the 
master for his slave, nor the friend for his friend, to 
be sick, to sleep, to eat, to be cured in his place ; so in 
that day no one can interfere for another, each shall 
bear his own justice or his own injustice." Esdras 
adduces in vain the examples of Abraham, and of 
other holy persons who have prayed for their brethren. 
The Day of Judgment will be the first of a definite 
state, where the triumph of justice will be such that 
the righteous himself cannot pity the damned. As 
suredly we agree with the author when he exclaims 
after these responses, supposed to be divine, 

I have already said, and I say again, " Better were it for us 
that Adam had not been created upon the earth. At least after 
having placed him there God should have prevented him from 
doing evil. What advantage is it for man to pass his life in 
sadness and in misery, when after his death he can expect nothing 
else than punishments and torments ? Oh, Adam ! how enormous 
was thy crime ! By sinning thou didst lose thyself and hast 
dragged down in thy fall all the men of whom thou wert the 
father. And of what value is immortality to us if we have done 
only deeds worthy of death ?" 

Pseudo-Esdras admits liberty ; but liberty has but a 
small right of existence in a system which makes so 
cardinal a point of predestination. It is for Israel 
that the world was created ; the rest of the human 
race are damned. 

now, Lord, I pray not for all men (thou knowest better 


than I what concerns them), but I will entreat thee on behalf 
of thy people ; of thy heritage ; of the perpetual source of my 
tears. . . . 

Inquire of the earth and she will tell thee that it is to her that 
the right of weeping belongs. All those who are born or who 
will be born come out of the earth ; yet almost all of them 
hasten to destruction, and the greater part of them are destined 
to perish ! . . . 

Disquiet not thyself because of the great number of those 
who must perish, for they also having received liberty have 
scoffed at the Most High, have rejected his holy law, have 
trampled his just ones under foot, and have said in their hearts 
" There is no God." So whilst ye enjoy the rewards that have 
b een promised, they will partake of the thirst and the torments 
which have been prepared for them. It is not that God hath 
desired the destruction of men ; but the men who are the work 
of his hands have denied the name of their Maker, and have 
been ungrateful to him who has given them life. . . . 

I have reserved to myself a grape of the bunch, a plant from 
the forest. Let the multitude then perish who have been born 
in vain, if only I may keep my single grape, my plant that I 
have tended with so much care ! . . . 

A special vision is designed, as in almost all apoca 
lypses, to give in an enigmatic fashion the philosophy 
of contemporary history, and as usual also the date 
of the book may be precisely arrived at from it. An 
immense eagle (the eagle is the symbol of the Roman 
Empire in Daniel) extends its wings over all the 
earth and holds it in its grip. It has six pairs of 
great wings, four pairs of pinions or opposing wings, 
and three heads. The six pairs of great wings are six 
Emperors. The second amongst them reigns for so 
long that none of those who succeed him reach half 
the number of his years. This is obviously Augustus. 
and the six Emperors referred to are the six Emperors 
of the house of Julius Csesar, Augustus, Tiberius, 
Caligula, Claudius, Nero, masters of the East and of 
the West. The four pinions or opposing wings are the 
four usurpers or Anti-Caesars Galba, Otho, Vitellius, 
Nerva, who, according to the author, must not be con 
sidered as true Emperors. The reigns of the three 
first An ti- Caesars are periods of trouble, during which. 


we may believe that the Empire is at an end ; but the 
Empire rises again, though not as she was at the first. 
The three heads (the Flavii) represent this new resus 
citated Empire. The three heads always act together, 
make many innovations, surpass the Julii in tyranny, 
put the topstone to the impieties of the Empire of the 
Eagle (by the destruction of Jerusalem), and mark 
the end. The middle head (Vespasian) is the great 
est; all the three devour the pinions (Galba, Otho, 
Vitellius), who aspire to reign. The middle head 
dies ; the two others (Titus and Domitian) reign ; but 
the head on the right devours that on the left (an 
evident allusion to the popular belief as to the 
fratricide of Domitian) ; the head on the right, after 
having killed the other, is killed in its turn ; only the 
great head dies in its bed ; but not without cruel 
torments (an allusion to the Rabbinical fables as to 
the maladies by which Vespasian expiated his crimes 
towards the Jewish nation). 

Then comes the turn of the last pair of pinions, 
that is to say, of Nerva, the usurper, who succeeded, 
the right hand head (Domitian) and is with regard to 
Flavius in the same relation as Galba, Otho, and 
Vitellius were with Julius. The last reign is short 
and full of trouble ; it is less a reign than an arrange 
ment made by God to bring about the end of the 
world. In fact, after some moments, according to our 
visionary, the last Anti-Caesar (Nerva) disappears ; the 
body of the eagle takes fire, and all the earth is 
stricken with astonishment. The end of the profane 
world arrives, and the Messiah comes to overwhelm 
the Roman Empire with the bitterest reproaches. 

Thou hast reigned over the world by terror and not by truth ; 
thou hast crushed the poor ; thou hast persecuted peaceable people ; 
thou hast hated the just ; thou hast loved the liars ; thou hast 
broken down the walls of those who have done thee no wrong. 
Thy violences have gone up before the throne of the Eternal 
God, and thy pride has reached even unto the Almighty. The 


Most High hath regarded his table of the times and hast seen 
that the measure is full and that the moment has arrived. 
Wherefore thou shall disappear, O Eagle ! thou and thy horri 
ble wings and thy accursed pinions, thy perverse heads and 
thy detestable claws and all thy wicked body, so that the earth 
may breathe again, may live again, delivered from tyranny, 
and may begin to hope once more in the justice and mercy of 
him who has done it. 

The Romans will then be judged ; judged living, and 
exterminated on the spot. Then the Jewish people 
will breathe. God will preserve them in joy until the 
Day of Judgment. 

It will scarcely be doubted after this that the 
author wrote during the reign of Nerva, a reign 
which appeared without solidity or future, because of 
the age and of the weakness of the sovereign, until 
the adoption of Trajan (end of 97). The author of 
the Apocalypse of Esdras, like the author of the 
Apocalypse of John, ignorant of real politics, believes 
that the Empire which he hates, and the infinite re 
sources of which he does not see, is approaching the 
end of its career. The authors of the two Revelations, 
passionately Jewish, clap their hands in advance over 
the ruin of their enemy. We shall see the same hopes 
renewed after the reverses of Trajan in Mesopotamia. 
Always on the look out for the moments of weak 
ness on the part of the Empire, the Jewish party, at 
the appearance of any black spot on the horizon, 
break out in advance into shouts of triumph, and 
applaud, by anticipation. The hope of a Jewish 
Empire succeeding to the Roman Empire, still filled 
these burning souls whom the frightful massacres of 
the year 70 had not crushed. The author of the 
Apocalypse of Esdras had perhaps in his youth fought 
in Judea ; sometimes he appears to regret that he did 
not find his death. We see that the fire is not extinct, 
that it still lives in the ashes, and that before abandon 
ing all hope, Israel will tempt her fortune more than 
once. The Jewish revolts under Trajan and Adrian 


will answer to this enthusiastic cry. The extermi 
nation of Bether will be required to bring to reason 
the new generation of revolutionaries who have risen 
from the ashes of 70. 

The fate of the Apocalypse of Esdras was as strange 
as the work itself. Like the Book of Judith and 
the discourse upon the Empire of Reason, it was 
neglected by the Jews, in whose eyes every book 
written in Greek became at once a foreign book ; but 
immediately upon its appearance it was eagerly 
adopted by the Christians, and accepted as a book of 
the Canon of the Old Testament, really written by 
Esdras. The author of the Epistle attributed to St 
Barnabas, the author of the apocryphal epistle which 
is called the Second of Peter, certainly read it. The 
false Herman appears to imitate its plan, order, use of 
visions, and turn of dialogue. Clement of Alexandria 
makes a great show of it. The Greek Church, depart 
ing further and further from Judeo-Christianity, 
abandons it, and allows the original to be lost. The 
Latin Church is divided. The learned doctors, such 
as St Jerome, see the apocryphal character of the 
whole composition, and reject it with disdain, whilst 
St Ambrose makes more use of it than of no matter 
what other holy book, and distinguishes it in no way 
from the revealed Scriptures. Vigilance detects there 
the germ of its heresy as to the uselessness of prayers 
for the dead. The Liturgy borrows from it. Roger 
Bacon quotes it with respect. Christopher Columbus 
finds in it arguments for the existence of another world. 
The enthusiasts of the sixteenth century nourish them 
selves upon it. Antoinette Bourignon, the illumine e, 
sees in it the most beautiful of the holy books. 

In reality, few books have furnished so many 
elements of Christian theology as this anti-Christian 
work. Limbo, original sin, the small number of the 
elect, the eternity of the pains of hell, the punishment 
by fire, the free choice of God, have there found their 


Crudest expression. If the terrors of death have been 
greatly aggravated by Christianity, it is upon books 
like this that the responsibility must rest. The 
sombre office, so full of grandiose dreams, which the 
Church recites over the coffins, appears to have been 
inspired by the visions, or, if you choose, by the 
nightmares of Esdras. Christian iconography itself, 
borrowed much from these bizarre pages, in all that 
relates to the representation of the state of the dead. 
The Byzantine mosaics, and the miniatures which 
offer representations of the Last Judgment, seem to be 
based upon the description which our author gives of 
the place of departed spirits. From its assertions 
principally is derived the idea that Esdras recom- 
posed the lost Scriptures. The angel Uriel owes to 
him his place in Christian art. The addition of this 
new celestial personage to Michael,. Gabriel, and 
Raphael gives to the four corners of the Throne of 
God, and consequently to the four cardinal points, 
their respective guardians. The Council of Trent, 
whilst excluding from the Latin Canon the book so 
much admired by the Early Fathers, did not forbid it 
to be reprinted at the end of the editions of the 
Vulgate, in a different character. 

If anything proves the promptitude with which 
the false prophecy of Esdras was received by the 
Christians, it is the use which was made of it in the 
little treatise of Alexandrian exegesis, imitated from 
the Epistle to the Hebrews, to which the name of 
Barnabas was attached from a very early date. The 
author of this treatise cites the false Esdras as he 
quotes Daniel, Enoch, and the old prophets. One 
feature of Esdras is especially striking the wood 
from which the blood flows in which is naturally 
seen the image of the Cross. Now everything leads 
us to believe that the treatise attributed to Barnabas 
was composed, like the Apocalypse of Esdras, in the 
reign of Nerva. The writer applies, or rather alters 


to make applicable to his time, a prophecy of Daniel 
concerning ten reigns (Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, 
Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vespasian, 
Titus), and a little king (Nerva), who shall humiliate 
the three (Flavius), reduced to one (Domitian), who 
have preceded him. 

The facility with which the author has been able 
to adopt the prophecy of the false Esdras, is so much 
the more singular, since few Christian doctors express 
as energetically as he the necessity for an absolute 
separation from Judaism. The Gnostics in this respect 
have said nothing stronger. The author presents 
himself to us as an ex-Jew, well versed in the Ritual, 
the agada, and the rabbinical disquisitions, but 
strongly opposed to the religion which he has left. 
Circumcision appears to him to have always been a 
mistake of the Jews a misunderstanding into which 
they have been betrayed by some perverse genius. 
The Temple itself was a mistake ; the worship which 
was practised in it was almost idolatrous ; it rested 
wholly upon the Pagan idea that God could be shut 
up in a house. The Temple destroyed through the 
fault of the Jews, would never be re-erected ; the true 
Temple is that spiritual house which is raised in the 
hearts of Christians. Judaism, in general, has been 
only an aberration, the work of a bad angel, who has 
led the Jews in opposition to the commands of God. 
What the author fears most is lest the Christian 
should have only the air of a Jewish proselyte. All 
has been changed by Jesus, even the Sabbath. The 
Sabbath formerly represented the end of the world ; 
transplanted to the first day of the week, it represents, 
by the joy with which it is celebrated, the opening of 
a new world inaugurated by the resurrection and 
ascension of Jesus Christ. Sacrifices and the Law are 
alike at an end. The whole of the Old Testament 
was but a symbol. The cross of Jesus solves all pro 
blems ; the author finds it everywhere, by means of 


bizarre ghematrioth. The Passion of Jesus is the 
propitiatory sacrifice of which others were merely the 
image. The taste which Egypt, ancient Egypt and 
Jewish Egypt, had for allegories, appears to revive 
in these explanations, wherein it is impossible to see 
anything besides arbitrary turns. Like all the readers 
of the apocalypses, the author believed that he was on 
the eve of the Judgment. The times are evil ; Satan 
has all power over earthly matters ; but the day is not 
far distant when he and his will alike perish. " The 
Lord is at hand with his recompense." 

The scenes of disorder which followed each other 
from day to day in the Empire gave, moreover, only 
too much reason for the sombre predictions of the 
pseudo-Esdras and the pretended Barnabas. The 
reign of the feeble old man whom all parties had 
agreed to put into power, in the hours of surprise 
which followed the death of Domitian, was an agony. 
The timidity with which he was reproached was 
really sagacity. Nerva felt that the army always 
regretted Domitian, and bore only with impatience 
the domination of the civil element. Honest men 
were in power, but the reign of honest men, when it 
is not supported by an army, is always Veak. A 
terrible incident showed the depth of the evil. 
About the 27th October 97 the Praetorians, having 
found a leader in Casperius ^Elianus, besieged the 
palace, demanding with loud cries the punishment 
of those who had slain Domitian. Nerva s some 
what soft temperament was not suited to such 
scenes. He virtuously offered his own life, but he 
could not prevent the massacre of Parthenius and 
of those who had made him Emperor. The day was 
decisive, and saved the Republic. Nerva, like a wise 
man, understood that he ought to associate with him 
self a young captain whose energy should supply 
what he was deficient in. He had relations, but, 
attentive only to the good of the state, he sought 



the worthiest. The Liberal party counted amongst 
its members an admirable soldier, Trajan, who then 
commanded upon the Rhine at Cologne. Nerva chose 
him. This great act of political virtue assured the 
victory of the Liberals, which had remained always 
doubtful since the death of Domitian. The true law 
of Caesarism, adoption, was found. The military were 
bridled. Logic required that a Septimus Severus, with 
his detestable maxim, " Please the soldier ; mock 
at the rest," should succeed Domitian. Thanks to 
Trajan, the catastrophe of history was adjourned and 
retarded for a century. The evil was conquered, 
not for a thousand years, as John believed, nor even 
for four hundred years, as the pseudo-Esdras dreamed, 
but for a hundred years which is much. 



THE adoption of Trajan assured to civilised humanity 
after cruel trials a century of happiness. The Empire 
was saved. The malignant predictions of the apoca 
lypse makers were completely contradicted. The 
world still desired to live : the Empire, in spite of the 
fall of the Julii and the Flavii, found in its strong mili 
tary organisation resources which the superficial pro 
vincials never suspected. Trajan, whom the choice of 
Nerva was to carry to the Imperial throne, was a very 
great man, a true Roman, master of himself, cool in 
command, of a grave and dignified bearing. He had 
certainly less political genius than a Caesar, an 
Augustus, a Tiberius, but he was their superior in 
justice and in goodness, while in military talent, he 


was the equal of Caesar. He made no profession of 
philosophy like Marcus Aurelius, but he equalled him 
in practical wisdom and benevolence. His firm faith 
in Liberalism never faltered ; he showed, by an 
illustrious example, that the heroically optimist party 
which makes us admit that men are good when they 
are not proved to be bad, may be reconciled with the 
firmness of a sovereign. Surprising thing ! this world 
of idealogues and of men of opposition, whom the 
death of Domitian carried into power, knew how to 
govern. He frankly reconciled himself to the neces 
sity, and it was then seen how excellent a thing is a 
monarchy made by converted Republicans. The old 
Virginius Rufus, the great citizen who had dreamed 
all his life of a Republic, and who did all that he 
could to get it proclaimed at the death of Nero as it 
had been at the death of Caligula, Virginius illus 
trious for having many times refused the Empire, was 
completely won over, and served as a centre for that 
distinguished society. The Radical party renounced 
its dream, and admitted that if the principate and 
liberty had until then been irreconcilable, the happi 
ness of the times had made such a miracle easy. 

Galba had been the first to recognise that combina 
tion of apparently contradictory elements. Nerva 
and Trajan realised it. The Empire with them became 
Republican, or rather the Emperor was the first and 
only Republican in the Empire. The great men who 
are praised in the world which surrounds the sovereign 
are Thrasea, Helvidius, Senecion, Cato, Brutus, the 
Greek heroes who expelled the tyrants from their 
country. Therein lies the explanation of the fact that 
after the year 98 nothing more is heard of protests 
against the principate. The philosophers who had 
been until then in some sort the soul of the Radical 
opposition, and whose attitude had been so hostile 
under the Flavii, suddenly held their peace : they were 
satisfied. Between the new regime and philosophy 


there was an intimate alliance. It must be said that 
never in the government of human affairs was to be 
seen a group of men so worthy to preside. There were 
Pliny, Tacitus, Virginius Rufus, Junius Mauricus, 
Gratilla, Fannia, noble men, chaste women, all having 
been persecuted by Domitian, all lamenting some 
relation, some friend, victim of the abhorred reign. 

The age of monsters had gone by. That haughty 
race of the Julii, and the families which were allied to 
them, had unfolded before the world the strangest 
spectacle of folly, grandeur, and perversity. Hence 
forward the bitterness of the Roman blood appears 
exhausted. Rome has sweated away all her malice. 
It is the peculiarity of an aristocracy which has lived 
its life without restraint, to become in its old age 
rigid, orthodox, puritan. The Roman nobility, the 
most terrible that ever existed, is now distinguished 
chiefly by refinements, extremes of virtue, delicacy, 

This transformation was in a great measure the 
work of Greece. The Greek school] naster had suc 
ceeded in making himself accepted by the Roman 
noblesse, by dint of submitting to its pride, its coarse 
ness, its contempt for matters of mind. In the time 
of Julius Caesar, Sextius, the father, brought from 
Athens to Rome the proud moral discipline of 
Stoicism, the examination of conscience, asceticism, 
abstinence, love of poverty. After him, Sextius, the 
son, Sohon of Alexandria, Attala, Demetrius the cynic, 
Metronax, Claranus, Fabianus, Seneca, gave the model 
of an active and practical philosophy, employing all 
means preaching, direction of conscience for the 
propagation of virtue. The noble struggle of the 
philosophers against Nero and Domitian, their banish 
ments, their punishments, had all ended in making 
them dear to the best Roman society. Their credit 
continues increasing until the time of Marcus Aurelius, 
under whom they reigned. The strength of a party is 


always in proportion to the number of its martyrs. 
Philosophy had had its own. It, like everything else 
that was noble, had suffered from the abominable 
governments under which it had existed ; it profited 
by the moral reaction provoked by the excess of evil. 
Then arose an idea dear to rhetoricians ; the tyrant, 
born enemy of philosophy ; philosophy, the born 
enemy of tyrants. All the masters of the Antonines 
are full of this idea ; the good Marcus Aurelius passed 
his youth in declaiming against the tyrants; the 
horror for Nero and for those Emperors whom Pliny 
the Elder called " the firebrands of the human race," 
fills the literature of the time. Trajan had always for 
philosophers the greatest regard and the most delicate 
attentions. Between Greek discipline and Roman 
pride the alliance is henceforward intimate. "To 
live as beseems a Roman and a man," is the dream 
of everyone who respects himself ; Marcus Aurelius 
is not yet born, but he is here morally ; the spiri 
tual matrix from which he will issue, is completely 

Ancient philosophy assuredly had days of greater 
originality, but it had never penetrated life and 
society more deeply. The differences of the schools 
were almost effaced ; general systems were abandoned ; 
a superficial eclecticism, such as men of the world like 
when they are anxious to do well, was the fashion. 
The philosophy became oratorical, literary preaching 
tending more towards moral amelioration than to 
the satisfaction of curiosity. A host of persons 
made it their rule and even the law of their ex 
terior life. Musonius Rufus and Artemidorus were 
true confessors of their faith, heroes of stoical virtue. 
Euphrates of Tyre offered the ideal of the gentleman 
philosopher, his person had a great charm, his manners 
were of the rarest distinction. Dion Chrysostom 
created a series of lectures akin to sermons, and 
obtained immense successes, without ever falling short 


of the most elevated tone. The good Plutarch wrote 
for the future, Morality in Action, of good sense, of 
honesty, and imagined that Greek antiquity, gentle 
and paternal, little resembling the true (which was 
resplendent with beauty, liberty, and genius), but 
better suited than the true to the necessities of educa 
tion. Epictetus himself had the words of eternity, 
and took his place by the side of Jesus, not upon 
the golden mountains of Galilee, enlightened by the 
sun of the kingdom of God, but in the ideal world 
of perfect virtue. Without a resurrection, without 
a chimerical Tabor, without a kingdom of God, he 
preached self-sacrifice, renunciation, abnegation. He 
was the sublime snow point which humanity con 
templates with a sort of terror on its horizon ; Jesus 
had the more lovable part of God amongst men a 
smile, gaiety, forgiveness of sins were permitted 
to him. 

Literature, on its side, having become all at once 
grave and worthy, exhibits an immense progress in 
the manners of good society. Quintilian already, in 
the worst days of the reign of Domitian, had laid out 
the code of oratorical probity which ought to be in 
such perfect accord with our greatest minds of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Rollin, M.M. 
de Port Royal. Now literary honesty never goes alone ; 
it is only serious ages that can have a serious litera 
ture. Tacitus wrote history with a high aristocratic 
sense, which did not save him from errors of detail, but 
which inspired him with those outbursts of virtuous 
passion which have made of him for all eternity 
the spectre of tyrants. Suetonius prepared himself, 
by labours of solid erudition, for his part of exact and 
impartial biographer. Pliny, a man of good birth, 
liberal, humane, charitable, refined, founds schools 
and public libraries ; he might be a Frenchman of 
the most amiable society of the eighteenth century. 
Juvenal, sincere in declamation, and moral in his 


painting of vice, has fine accents of humanity, and 
preserves, notwithstanding the stains on his life, a 
sentiment of Roman pride. It was like a tardy 
flowering of the beautiful intellectual culture, created 
by the collaboration of the Greek and the Italian 
genius. That culture was already stricken with 
death at the root ; but before dying, it produced a 
last crop of leaves and flowers. 

The world is then at last to be governed by reason. 
Philosophy will enjoy for a hundred years the right 
which it is credited with of rendering people happy. 
A great number of excellent laws, forming the best 
part of the Roman law, are of this date. Public as 
sistance begins ; children are, above all, the object of 
the solicitude of the State. A real moral sentiment 
animates the government ; never before the eighteenth 
century was so much done for the amelioration of the 
condition of the human race. The Emperor is a god 
accomplishing his journey upon earth, and signalising 
his passage by benefits. 

Such a system must, of course, differ greatly from 
what we consider as essentially a Liberal government. 
We should seek vainly for any trace of parliamentary 
or representative institutions : the state of the world 
was incompatible with such things. The opinion of 
the politicians of the time is that power belongs, by a 
sort of natural delegation, to honest, sensible, moderate 
men. That designation was made by the fatum; 
when it was once accepted, the Emperor governs the 
Empire as the ram conducts his troop, and the bull 
his herd. By the side of this a language altogether 
Republican. With the best faith in the world these 
excellent sovereigns thought that they would be able 
to realise a State founded upon the natural equality 
of all citizens, a royalty having as its basis respect 
for liberty. Liberty, justice, respect for opponents, 
were their fundamental maxims. But these words, 
borrowed from the history of the Greek Republics, 


where letters were cultivated, had but little meaning 
in the real society of the time. Civil equality did not 
exist. The difference between rich and poor was 
written in the law, the Roman or Italiote aristocracy 
preserved all its privileges ; the Senate, re-established 
in its rights and dignity by Nerva, remained as much 
walled in as it had ever been ; the cursus honorum 
was the exclusive privilege of the nobility. The good 
Roman families have reconquered their exclusive 
predominance in politics : outside of them, it does not 

The victory of these families was assuredly a just 
victory, for under the odious reigns of Nero and 
Domitian they had given an asylum to virtue, to self- 
respect, to the instinct of reasonable command, to good 
literary and philosophical education ; but these same 
families, as usually happens, formed a very closely- 
enclosed world. The advent of Nerva and Trajan, 
which was the work of an aristocratic, Liberal-Con 
servative party, put an end to two things barrack 
troubles, and the importance of the Orientals, the 
domestics, and favourites of the Emperors. The 
freedmen, people of Egypt and Syria, will no longer 
be able to trouble all that is best in Rome. These 
wretches, who made themselves masters by their guilty 
complaisances in the reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and 
Nero, who had even been the counsellors and the 
confidants of the debaucheries of Titus before his 
accession, fell into contempt. The irritation which 
the Romans felt at the honours decreed to a Herod 
Agrippa, to a Tiberius Alexander, was not again felt 
after the fall of Flavius. The Senate increased as 
much in power ; but the action of the provinces was 
lessened ; the attempts to break the ice of the official 
world were almost reduced to impotence. 

Hellenism did not suffer ; for it knew by its supple 
ness or by its high distinction how to make itself 
acceptable to the best of the Roman world. 


Judaism and Christianity suffered for it. We have 
seen on two occasions in the first century, under Nero 
and under the Flavii, Jews and Christians approach 
the house of the Emperor, and exercise considerable 
influence there. From Nerva to Commodus they 
were a thousand leagues apart. For one thing, the 
Jews had no nobility; the worldly Jews, like the 
Herodians, the Tiberius Alexanders, were dead ; every 
Jew is henceforward d fanatic separated from the 
rest of the world by an abyss of contempt. A mass 
of impurities, ineptitudes, absurdities that is what 
Mosaism was for the most enlightened men of the 
time. The Jews appeared to be at the same time 
superstitious and irreligious; atheists devoted to the 
most vulgar beliefs. Their religion appeared like 
a world turned upside down, a defiance of reason, a 
pledge to contradict in everything the customs of 
other people. Travestied in a grotesque fashion, their 
history served a theme for endless pleasantries ; it 
was generally thought to be a form of the worship of 
Bacchus. " Antiochus," it was said, " tried in vain to 
improve this detestable race." One accusation especi 
ally that of hating all who were not of them, was 
murderous, for it was based upon specious motives 
of a kind to mislead public opinion. Still more dan 
gerous was the idea according to which the proselyte 
who attached himself to Mosaism learned as his first 
lesson to despise the gods, to cast off every patriotic 
sentiment, to forget parents, children, and friends. 
Their benevolence, it was said, was but egotism ; their 
morality only apparent ; amongst them everything is 

Trajan, Adrian, Antonine, Marcus Aurelius, held 
themselves in this way with regard to Judaism and 
to Christianity in a sort of haughty isolation. They 
did not know it ; they did not care to study it. 
Tacitus, who wrote for the great world, speaks of the 
Jews as an exotic curiosity, totally ignored by those 


to whom he addresses himself, and his errors are 
surprising. The exclusive confidence of these noble 
minds in the Roman discipline rendered them care 
less of a doctrine which presented itself to them as 
foreign and absurd. History ought to speak only 
with respect of honest and courageous politicians 
who lifted the world out of the mire into which it 
had been cast by the last Julius and the last Flavius ; 
but they had imperfections which were really the re 
sult of their qualities. They were aristocrats, men of 
traditions, of the race of English Tories, drawing their 
strength from their very prejudices. They were 
profoundly Roman. Persuaded that no man who 
is not rich or well-born can possibly be an honest 
man, they did not feel for the foreign doctrines that 
weakness which the Flavii, men of lower birth, could 
not avoid. Their surroundings, the society which rose 
into power along with them Tacitus, Pliny have 
the same contempt for the barbarous doctrines. A 
ditch seems to have been dug during the-whole of the 
second century between Christianity and the special 
world. The four great and good Emperors are clearly 
hostile to it, and it is under the monster Commodus 
that we find once more, as under Claudius, under 
Nero, and under the Flavii, " Christians of the House 
of Caesar." The defects of these virtuous Emperors 
are those of the Romans themselves, too much con 
fidence in the Latin tradition, a disagreeable obstinacy 
in not admitting honour out of Rome, much pride and 
harshness towards the humble, the poor, foreigners, 
Syrians, and for all the people whom Augustus disdain 
fully called " the Greeks," and to whom he permitted 
adulations forbidden to the Italiots. These outcasts 
took their revenge, showing that they also have their 
nobility and are capable of virtue. 

The question of liberty is thus raised as it has never 
been raised before in any of the republics of antiquity. 
The ancient city, which was only an enlarged family, 


could have only one religion, that of the city itself ; 
that religion was almost always the worship of mythi 
cal founders, of the very idea of the city. When it 
was not practised, the idea of the city was excluded. 
Such a religion was logical even when it was intoler 
ant ; but Alexander had been unreasonable. Anti- 
ochus Epiphanes was so in the highest degree, in 
wishing to persecute to the profit of a particular 
religion, since their States resulting from conquest 
formed various cities whose political existence had 
been suppressed. Cassar, with his marvellous lucidity 
of mind, understood that. Then the narrow idea 
of the Roman city regained the ascendency, feebly 
and by short intermissions in the first century, in a 
manner much followed in the second. Already under 
Tiberius, a Valerius Maximus, maker of indifferent 
books, and a dishonest man, preached the religion 
with an astonishing air of conviction. We have seen 
even Domitian extend a powerful protection to the 
Latin religion, attempt a sort of union of " the throne 
and the altar." All that sprang out of a sentiment 
analogous to that which attaches to the Catholicism 
of our own days, a host of people who believe very 
little, but who are convinced that this worship is the 
religion of France. Martial and Statius, gazetteers 
of the scandalous chronicle of the times, who at 
heart regret the fine times of Nero, become grave 
and religious, applaud the censorship of manners, 
preach respect for authority. Social and political 
crises usually have the effect of provoking political 
reactions of this kind. Society in peril attaches it 
self where it can. A threatened world ranges itself 
in order of battle ; convinced that every thought 
turns to evil, becomes timid, holds its breath as it 
were, since it fears that every movement may over 
throw the frail edifice which serves it as shelter. 

Trajan and his successors scarcely cared to renew 
the sad excess of sneaking hypocrisy which charac- 


terised the reign of Domitian. Yet these princes 
and their surroundings showed themselves very Con 
servative in religion. They saw salvation only in 
the old Roman spirit. Marcus Aurelius, philosopher 
though he was, is in no way exempt from supersti 
tion. He is a rigid observer of the official religion. 
The brotherhood of the Salii had no more devout 
member. He affected to imitate Numa, from whom 
he claimed to be descended, and maintained with 
severity the laws which forbade foreign religions. 
Devotions on the eve of death ! The day when one 
holds most to these memories is the day that in which 
they go astray. How much injury has accrued to 
the House of Bourbon through thinking too much of 
St Louis, and claiming to be descended from Cloris 
and Charlemagne ! 

To that strong preference for the national worship 
was joined, with the great emperors of the second 
century, the fear of the heteria, ccetus iUiciti, or 
associations which might become factions in the cities. 
A simple body of firemen were suspected. Too many 
people at a family festivity disquieted the authorities. 
Trajan required that the invitations should be limited 
and given by name. Even the associations ad sus- 
tinendam tenuiorium inopiam were permitted only 
in the cities which had special charters for the purpose. 
In that matter Trajan followed the tradition of all the 
great Emperors after Caesar. It is impossible that 
such measures could have appeared necessary to such 
great men if they had not been justified in some 
respects. But the administrative spirit of the second 
century was carried to excess. Instead of practising 
public benevolence, as the State had begun to do, how 
much better it would have been to leave the associa 
tions free to exercise it ! These associations aspired 
to spring up in all parts : the State was full of injustice 
and harshness for them. It wanted peace at any 
price, but peace, when it is based by authority on the 


suppression of private effort, is more prejudicial to 
society than the very troubles of which it is desired 
to get rid by the sacrifice of all liberty. 

In that lies the cause of that phenomenon, in itself 
so singular, of Christianity being found worse under 
the wise administration of the great emperors of the 
second century than under the furious rage with 
which the scoundrels of the first attacked it. The 
violences of Nero, of Domitian, lasted only a few 
weeks or months ; they were either passing acts of 
brutality or else the results of annoyances springing out 
of a fantastic and shady policy. In the interval 
which passed between the appearance of Christianity 
and the accession of Trajan, never once do we find the 
criminal law put in force against Christians. Legis 
lation on the subject of the illicit colleges already 
existed in part, but it was never applied with so much 
rigour as was done later. On the contrary, the very 
legal but very governmental rule (as we should say 
nowadays) of the Trajans and the Antonines, will be 
more oppressive to Christianity than the ferocity and 
the wickedness of the tyrants. These great Conser 
vatives of things Roman will perceive, not without 
reason, a serious danger to the Empire in that too firm 
faith in a kingdom of God which is the inversion of 
existing society. The theocratic element which under 
lies Judaism and Christianity alike terrifies them. 
They see indistinctly but certainly what the Decii, 
the Aurelians, the Diocletians will see more clearly 
after them, all the restorers of the Empire failing 
in the third century, that a choice must be made 
between the Empire and the Church, that full liberty 
of the Church means the end of the Empire. They 
struggle as a matter of duty ; they allow a harsh law 
to be applied, since it is the condition of the existence 
of society in their time. Thus a fair understanding 
with Christianity was much more remote than under 
Nero or under Flavius. Public men had felt the 


danger, and stood on guard. Stoicism had grown 
more rigid ; the world was no longer for tender souls 
full of feminine sentiments like Virgil. The disciples 
of Jesus have now to deal with stern men, inflexible 
doctrinaires, men sure of being right, capable of being 
systematically harsh, since they can give proof of 
acting only for the good of the State, and of saying, 
with an imperturbable gentleness, " What is not use 
ful to the swarm is no more useful to the bee." 

Assuredly, according to our ideas, Trajan and Marcus 
Aurelius would have done better had they been 
Liberals altogether, had they fully conceded the right 
of association, of recognising corporations as being 
capable of holding property ; free, in case of schism, to 
divide the property of the corporation amongst the 
members, in proportion to the number of adherents to 
each party. This last point would have been sufficient 
to get rid of all danger. Already in the third century 
it is the Empire which maintains the unity of the 
Church in making it a rule that he shall be regarded 
as the true bishop of a church in any city who 
corresponds with the Bishop of Rome, and is recog 
nised by him. What would have happened in the 
fourth, in the midst of those embittered struggles with 
Arianism ? Numberless and irremediable schisms. 
The emperors, and then the barbarian kings, alone 
could put an end to the matter by limiting the 
question of orthodoxy to "who was the canonical 
bishop ? " Corporations not connected with the State 
are never very formidable to the State, when the 
State remains really neutral, does not assume the 
office of judge of the denominations, and in the legal 
proceedings before it for the possession of goods, 
observes the rule of dividing the capital in strict 
proportion to numbers. Thus all associations which 
might become dangerous to the peace of the State may 
readily be dissolved; division will reduce them to 
dust. The authority of the State alone can cause 


schisms in bodies of this kind to cease ; the neutrality 
of the State renders them incurable. The Liberal 
system is the surest solvent of too powerful associa 
tions, as has been proved on many occasions. But 
Trajan and Marcus Aurelius did not know this. 
Their error in this as in so many other points where 
we find their legislative work defective, was one which 
centuries alone could correct. 

Permanent persecution by the State. Such, then, is 
in brief the story of the era which is now opening for 
Christianity. It has been thought sometimes that 
there was a special edict in these terms : Non licet 
esse Christianas, which served as basis for all the pro 
ceedings against the Christians. It is possible, but it 
is not necessary, to suppose that there was. Christians 
were, by the very fact of their existence, in conflict 
with the laws concerning association. They were 
guilty of sacrilege, of Use majeste, of nightly meet 
ings. They could not render to the Emperor the 
honours which a loyal subject should. Now the crime 
of lese majeste was punished with the most cruel 
tortures : no one accused of the crime was exempt 
from the torture. And there was that sombre cate 
gory of flagitia nomini cohcerentia, crimes which it 
was not necessary to prove, which the name of 
Christian alone was supposed to be sufficient to prove 
a priori, and which entailed the character of hostis 
publicus. Such crimes were officially prosecuted. 
Such, in particular, was the crime of arson, constantly 
kept in mind by the remembrance of 64, and also by 
the persistence with which the apocalypses returned 
to the idea of a final conflagration. To this was 
joined the constant suspicion of secret infamies, of 
nightly meetings, of guilty commerce with women, 
young girls, and children. From thence to judge the 
Christians capable of every crime and to attribute to 
them all misdeeds, was but one step, and that step the 
crowd rather than the magistracy took every day. 


When to all this is added the terrible discretion 
which was left to the judges, especially in the choice 
of punishment, and it will be understood how, without 
exceptional laws, without special legislation, it was 
possible to produce the desolating spectacle which the 
history of the Roman Empire presents at its best 
periods. The law may be applied with greater or less 
rigour, but it is still the law. This condition of things 
will last like a low and slow fever throughout the 
second century, with intervals of exasperation and 
remission in the third. It will end only with the 
terrible outburst of the first years of the fourth 
century, and will be definitely closed by the edict of 
Milan of 313. Every revival of the Roman spirit will 
be a redoubling of persecution. The emperors who, 
on divers occasions in the fourth century, undertook 
to restore the Empire, are the persecutors. The 
tolerant emperors Alexander, Severus, Philip are 
those who have no Roman blood in their veins, and 
who sacrifice Latin traditions to the cosmopolitanism 
of the East 

Venerate the Divine in all things and everywhere, accord 
ing to the usages of the nation, and force others to honour him. 
Hate and punish the partisans of foreign ceremonies, not merely 
out of respect for the gods, but especially because those who 
introduce new divinities thereby spread the taste for foreign 
customs, which leads to conjurations, to coalitions to associations, 
things which agree in no way with the Monarchy. Neither 
permit any man to profess at atheism or magic. Divination is 
necessary ; let augurs and auspices be officially named, therefore, 
to whom those who wish to consult them may address them 
selves, but let there be no free magicians, for such persons, 
mixing some truths with many lies, may urge the citizens to 
rebellion. The same thing may be said of many of those who 
call themselves philosophers ; beware of them ; they only do 
mischief to private persons and to the peoples. 

It was in such terms that a statesman of the 
generation which followed the Antonines summed up 
their religious policy. As in a time nearer to our 
own, the State thought itself to be displaying immense 


ability when it made use o superstition as a means of 
government. The municipalities enjoyed the same 
right by delegation. Religion was only a simple affair 
of the police, a system of absolute isolation, where 
every movement is repressed, where every individual 
act is accounted dangerous, where the isolated indi 
vidual, without a religious bond with other men, is no 
more than a purely official being, placed between a 
family reduced to the paltriest proportions and a 
state too great to be a country, to form the mind, to 
make the heart beat ; such was the ideal which was 
dreamed of. Everything that was thought capable of 
affecting men, of producing emotion, was a crime 
which was to be prevented by death or exile. It was 
in this way that the Roman Empire killed the antique 
life, killed the soul, killed science, formed that school 
of heavy and restricted minds, of narrow politics, 
which, under the pretence of abolishing superstition, 
brought about in reality the triumph of theocracy. 

A great intellectual decline was the result of these 
efforts to restore a faith which no one held. A sort of 
commonplaceness spread itself over beliefs, and took 
away from them everything that was serious. Free 
thinkers, innumerable in the century before and the 
century after Jesus Christ, diminished in numbers and 
disappeared. The easy tone of the great Latin litera 
ture was lost, and gave place to a heavy credulity. 
Science extinguished itself from day to day. After 
the death of Seneca it could hardly be said that there 
was a single savant who was altogether a rationalist. 
Pliny the elder is curious, but is no critic. Tacitus, 
Pliny the younger, Suetonius, avoid all expression of 
opinion on the inanity of the most ridiculous imagina 
tion. Pliny the younger believes in childish ghost 
stories. Epictetus desires to practise the established 
religion. Even a writer as frivolous as Apuleius 
believes himself, when the gods are in question, 
obliged to take the tone of a rigid Conservative. A 


single man about the middle of this century appears 
altogether free from supernatural beliefs Lucan. 
The scientific spirit which is the negation of the 
supernatural, exists no longer save amongst an ex 
tremely small number; superstition invades every 
thing, enervates all reason. 

Whilst religion was corrupting philosophy, philo 
sophy sought for apparent reconciliations with the 
supernatural. A foolish and hollow theology, mixed 
with imposture, came into fashion. Apuleius will soon 
call the philosophers "the priests of all the gods." 
Alexander of Abonotica will found a religion upon 
conjuring tricks. Religious quackery, miracle-monger- 
ing, relieved by a false varnish of philosophy, became 
the fashion. Apollonius of Tyana afforded the first 
example of it, although it would be difficult to say 
who this singular personage was in reality, It was at 
a later date that he was imagined to be a religious 
revealer, a sort of philosophical demi-god. Such was 
the promptitude of the decadence of the human mind 
that a wretched theurgist who, in the time of Trajan, 
would hardly have been accepted by the Gapers of 
Asia Minor, became a hundred years afterwards, 
thanks to shameless writers, who used him to amuse 
a public fallen altogether into credulity, a personage 
of the first order, a divine incarnation whom they 
dared to compare with Jesus. 

Public instruction obtained from the emperors much 
more attention than under the Csesars and even under 
the Flavii ; but there was no question of literature ; 
the grand discipline of the mind which comes especi 
ally from science will obtain from these professors 
but little profit. Philosophy was specially favoured 
by Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius ; but philosophy, 
which is the supreme object of life, which includes 
everything else, can scarcely be taught by the State. 
In any case, that instruction affected the people very 
little. It was something abstract and elevated, some 


thing which passed over their heads, and as, on the 
other hand, the Temple gave nothing of that moral 
teaching which the Church has more recently dis 
pensed, the lower classes stagnated in a deplorable 
condition of abandonment. All this implies no 
reproach upon the great emperors who did not suc 
ceed in the impossible task of saving the ancient 
civilisation. Time failed them. One evening, after hav 
ing endured during the day the assault of declaimers 
who promised him an infinite glory if he converted 
the world to philosophy, Marcus Aurelius wrote upon 
his tablets the following reflection, for his own use 
only : " The universal cause is a torrent which draws 
all things with it. How simple are these pretended 
politicians who imagine that they can manage affairs 
by the maxims of philosophy. They are children 
who are babbling still. Do not hope that there will 
ever be a Republic of Plato ; content thyself with 
small improvements, and if thou succeedest, do not 
imagine that that will be a small thing. Who can 
in effect change the inward dispositions of men ? 
And without the change of hearts and of opinions, of 
what avail is all the rest ? Thou wilt never do more 
than make slaves and hypocrites. The work of phil 
osophy is a simple and a modest thing : far from 
us be all this pretentious gibberish?" Ah! honest 
man ! 

To sum up ! Notwithstanding all its defects, society 
in the second century was making progress. There 
was intellectual decadence but moral improvement, as 
appears to be the case in our own days in the upper 
ranks of French society. The ideas of charity, of 
assistance to the poor, of disgust at the (gladiatorial) 
spectacles, increased everywhere. So much did this 
excellent spirit preside over the destinies of the 
Empire, that at the death of Marcus Aurelius Christi 
anity seemed to be brought to a standstill. It pressed 
forward, on the contrary, with an irresistible move- 


ment when in the third century the noble maxims of 
the Antonlnes were forgotten. As we have already 
said, Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, Antoninus, Marcus 
Aurelius, prolonged the life of the emperors for a 
hundred years ; we may almost say that they retarded 
the advance of Christianity for the same time. The 
progress which Christianity made in the first and in 
the third centuries was gigantic as compared with 
that of the second. In the second century, Chris 
tianity was confronted by a great force, that of prac 
tical philosophy labouring rationally for the ameliora 
tion of human society. From the time of Commodus, 
individual egotism, and what may be called the 
egotism of the State, left no place for ideal aspirations 
except in the Church. The Church thus became the 
asylum of all the heart and soul ; shortly after, civil 
and political life concentrated themselves equally 
within it. 



DOUBT, which is never absent from this history, be 
comes always an opaque cloud when it is a question 
of Ephesus and of the dark passions which agitated 
it. We have admitted as probable the traditional 
opinion, according to which the Apostle John, surviv 
ing the majority of the disciples of Jesus, having 
escaped from the storms of Rome and Judea succes 
sively, took refuge in Ephesus, and there lived to an 
advanced age, surrounded with the respect of all the 
Churches of Asia. Irenseus, without doubt, on the 


authority of Polycarp, affirming that the old Apostle 
lived until the reign of Trajan, appears to us to 
have even heard him. If these facts are true, they 
must have had grave consequences. The memory of 
the punishment which John had escaped at Rome, 
caused him to be classed amongst the martyrs even 
during his lifetime, in the same way as his brother 
James. In connecting the words in which Jesus had 
announced that the generation which listened to him 
should not pass away before his appearance in the 
clouds, with the great age which the only surviving 
Apostle of Jesus had attained, the logical idea that 
that disciple should never die was arrived at that 
is to say, that he would see the inauguration of the 
Kingdom of God without first tasting death. John 
related, or allowed it to be believed, that Jesus after 
his resurrection had had on that subject an enig 
matical conversation with Peter. Hence resulted for 
John, in his very lifetime, a sort of marvellous halo. 
Legend began to deal with him even before the grave 
received him. 

The old Apostle, in these last years veiled in mys 
tery, appears to have been much beset. Miracles 
and even resurrections from the dead were ascribed 
to him. A circle of disciples gathered around him. 
What passed in that private ccenaculum? What 
traditions were elaborated there ? What stories did 
the old man tell ? Did he not soften in his last days 
the strong antipathy which he had always shown to 
the disciples of Paul ? In his narratives did he not 
seek, as happened more than once in the lifetime of 
Jesus, to ascribe to himself the first place by the 
side of his Master, to put himself nearest to His 
heart? Did some of the doctrines which were de 
scribed later as Johannian begin already to be dis 
cussed between the aged and weary master and the 
young arid bright spirits in search of novelties, seeking 
perhaps to persuade the old man that he had always 


had on his own account the ideas which they sug 
gested ? We do not know ; and here is one of the 
gravest difficulties which encompass the origin of 
hristianity. This time, in effect, it is not only the 
exaggeration and the uncertainty of the legends of 
which we have to complain. There was probably in 
the bosom of that delusive Church of Ephesus a dis 
position towards dissimulation and pious frauds which 
has made the task of the critic who is called upon to 
disentangle such confusion, singularly difficult. 

Philo, at about the time when Jesus lived, had de 
veloped a philosophy of Judaism, which, although pre 
pared by previous speculations of Israelitish thinkers, 
took under his pen only a definite form. The basis 
of that philosophy was a sort of abstract metaphysic, 
introducing into the one God various hypostases, and 
making of the Divine Reason (in Greek Logos, in 
Syro-Chaldaic Memera) a sort of distinct principle 
from the Eternal Father. Egypt and Phoenicia al 
ready knew of similar doublings of one same God. 
The Hermetic Books were later to erect the theology 
of the hypostases into a philosophy parallel to that 
of Christianity. Jesus appears to have been left out 
of these speculations, which, had he known of them, 
would have had few charms for his poetic imagina 
tion and his loving heart. His school, on the con 
trary, was, so to speak, besieged by it ; Apollos was 
perhaps no stranger to it. St Paul, in the latter part 
of his life, appears to have allowed himself to be 
greatly preoccupied with it. The apocalypse gives 
us the mysterious name of its triumphant Aoyog rov 
&sou. Judeo-Christianity, faithful to the spirit of 
orthodox Judaism, did not allow such ideas to enter 
their midst, save in the most limited fashion. But 
when the Churches out of Syria were more and more 
detached from Judaism, the invasion of the new spirit 
was accomplished with an irresistible forced Jesus, 
who at first had been for his hearers only as a pro- 


phet, a Son of God, in whom the most exalted had 
seen the Messiah or that Son of Man whom the 
pseudo-Daniel had shown as the brilliant centre of 
future apparitions, became now the Logos, the Reason, 
the Word of God. Ephesus appears to have been the 
place where this fashion of regarding the part of 
Jesus took the deepest root, and from which it spread 
over the Christian world. 

It is not in effect with the Apostle John alone that 
tradition connects the solemn promulgation of this 
novel dogma. Around John tradition shows us his 
doctrine raising storms, troubling consciences, provok 
ing schisms and anathemas. About the time at which 
we have arrived, there appeared at Ephesus, coming 
from Alexandria like another Apollos, a man who 
appears, after a generation, to have had many points 
of likeness with this last. The man in question was 
Cerinthus, which others call Merinthas, without its 
being possible to know what mystery is hidden under 
that assonance. Like Apollus, Cerinthus was born a 
Jew, and before becoming acquainted with Christianity 
had been imbued with the Judeo-Alexanclrine philo 
sophy. He embraced the faith of Jesus in a manner 
altogether different from that of the good Israelites 
who believed the kingdom of God realised in the 
Idyll of Nazareth, and of the pious Pagans, whom a 
secret attraction drew towards that mitigated form of 
Judaism. His mind, besides, appears to have had little 
fixity, and to have been willingly carried from one 
extreme to the other. Sometimes his conceptions 
approached those of the Ebionites; sometimes they 
inclined to millenarianism ; sometimes they floated in 
pure gnosticism, or presented an analogy with those 
of Philo. The creator of the world and the author of 
the Jewish law the God of Israel, in short was not 
the Eternal Father ; he was an angel, a sort of demi 
god, subordinated to the great and Almighty God. 
The spirit of this great God, long unknown to the 


world, has been revealed only in Jesus. The Gospel 
of Cerinthus was the Gospel of the Hebrews, without 
doubt translated into Greek. One of the characteristic 
features of the Gospel was the account of the baptism 
of Jesus, after which a divine spirit, the spirit of 
prophecy, at that solemn moment descended upon 
Jesus, and raised him to a dignity which he had not 
previously had. Cerinthus thought that even until 
his baptism Jesus was simply a man, the most just 
and the most wise of men it is true ; by his baptism, 
the spirit of the omnipotent God came to dwell in 
him. The mission of Jesus thus become the Christ, 
was to reveal the Supreme God by his preaching and 
his miracles ; but it was not true in that way of seeing 
him that the Christ had suffered upon the Cross; 
before the Passion, the Christ, impassible by nature, 
separated himself from the man Jesus ; he alone was 
crucified, died and rose again. At other times 
Cerinthus denied even the Resurrection, and pre 
tended that Jesus would rise again with all the world 
at the Day of Judgment. 

That doctrine, which we have already found at 
least in germ amongst many of the families of the 
Ebionim, whose propaganda was carried on beyond the 
Jordan in Asia, and which in fifty years Narcion and 
the Gnostics would take up with greater vigour, 
appeared a frightful scandal to the Christian con 
science. In separating from Jesus the fantastic being 
called Christos, it did nothing less than divide the 
person of Jesus, carrying off all personality from the 
most beautiful part of his active life, since the Christ 
found himself to have been in him only as something 
foreign and impersonal to him. It was thought in 
deed that the friends of Jesus, those who had seen 
and loved him, child, young man, martyr, corpse, 
would be indignant. The memories presented Jesus 
to them as amiable as God, from one moment to 
mother ; they wished that he should be adopted and 


revered altogether. John, it would seem, rejected the 
doctrines of Cerinthus with wrath. His fidelity to a 
childish affection might alone excuse certain fanatical 
traits which are attributed to him, and which, besides, 
appear to have been not out of keeping with his 
habitual character. One day on entering the bath at 
Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus, he exclaimed: 
" Let us fly ; the building will fall in, since Cerinthus, 
the enemy of the truth, is there ! " These violent 
hatreds produce sectaries. He who loves much, hates 

On all sides the difficulty of reconciling the two 
parts of Jesus, of causing to co-exist in the same 
being the wise man and the Christ, produced imagi 
nations like those which excited the wrath of John. 
Docetism was, if we may so express it, the heresy 
of the time. Many could not admit that the Christ 
had been crucified and laid in the tomb. Some like 
Cerinthus admitted a sort of intermittance in the 
divine work of Jesus; others supposed that the 
body of Jesus had been fantastic, that all his material 
life, above all, his life of suffering, had been but 
apparitional. These imaginations came from the 
opinion, very wide spread at that period, that matter 
is a fall, a degradation of the spirit ; that the material 
manifestation is the degradation of the idea. The 
Gospel history is thus volatilised as it were into 
something impalpable. It is curious that Islamism, 
which is only a sort of Arab prolongation of Judeo- 
Christianity, should have adopted this idea about 
Jesus. At Jerusalem, in particular, the Mussulmans 
have always denied absolutely that Isa died upon 
Golgotha; they pretend that someone like him was 
crucified in his stead. The supposed place of the 
Ascension upon the Mount of Olives is for the 
Shaykhs the true Holy Place of Jerusalem con- 
nected with Isa, for it is there that the impassible. 
Messiah, born of the sacred breath and not of the 


flesh, appeared for the last time united to the appear 
ance which he had chosen. 

Whatever he may have been, Cerinthus became in 
the Christian tradition a sort of Simon Magus, a 
personage almost fabulous, the typical representative 
of Docetic Christianity, brother of Ebionite and 
Judeo-Christian Christianity. As Simon Magus was 
the sworn enemy of Peter, Cerinthus was considered 
to be the bitter opponent of Paul. He was put on 
the same footing as Ebion ; there was soon a habit 
of not separating them, and as Ebion was the ab 
stract personification of the Judeo-Christian-speaking 
Hebrew, Cerinthus became a sort of generic word 
to designate Judeo - Christianity - speaking Greek. 
Phrases like the following were coined : " Who dares 
to reproach Peter with having admitted Pagans into 
the Church ? Who showered insults upon Paul ? 
Who provoked a sedition against Titus the uncir- 
cumcised ? It was Ebion : it was Cerinthus " 
phrases which, taken literally, cause it to be supposed 
that Cerinthus had had a part in Jerusalem in the 
earliest ages of the Church. As Cerinthus has left no 
writings, the ecclesiastical tradition went on in all 
that concerned him from one inexactitude to another. 
In this tissue of contradictions there is not one word 
of truth. Cerinthus was really the first heretic, the 
author of a doctrine destined to remain a dead branch 
in the great tree of the Christian doctrine. In oppos 
ing itself to him, in denying his claims, the Christian 
Church made the greatest step towards the constitu 
tion of an orthodox faith. 

By these struggles, and these contradictions in 
effect, Christian theology developed itself. The person 
of Jesus, and the singular combination of man, and 
the Divinity that were believed to exist in him, formed 
the basis of these speculations. We shall see gnosti 
cism come to light in a current of like ideas, and seek 
in its turn to decompose the unity of the Christ ; but 


the orthodox Church will be steady in repelling such 
conceptions ; the existence of Christianity, founded 
upon the reality of the personal action of Jesus, was 
at this price. 

John, without doubt, consoled himself for these 
aberrations, the fruits of a mind strange to the Gali 
lean tradition, by the fidelity and affection with 
which his disciples surrounded him. In the first rank 
was a young Asiatic, named Polycarp, who must have 
been about thirty years of age during the extreme 
old age of John, and who appears to have been con 
verted to the faith in Christ in his infancy. The 
extreme respect which he had for the Apostle made 
him look upon him with the curious eye of youth, in 
which everything enlarges and transforms itself. The 
living image of this old man had fixed itself in his 
mind, and throughout his life he spoke of it as of a 
glimpse of the Divine world. It was at Smyrna that 
he was chiefly active, and it is not impossible that -he 
had been selected by John to preside over the already 
ancient Church in that city, as Irenaeus has it. 

Thanks to Polycarp, the memory of John remained 
in Asia, and consequently at Lyons, and amongst the 
Gauls, a living tradition. Everything that Polycarp 
said of the Lord, of his doctrine, and of his miracles, 
connected him as having received it from the eye 
witnesses of the Life of Jesus. He was accustomed 
to express himself thus: "This I have from the 
Apostles." ..." I who have been taught by the 
Apostles, and who have lived with many of those who 
have seen the Christ." This way of speaking caused 
it to be supposed that Polycarp had known other 
Apostles besides John Philip, for example. It is, 
however, more probable that there was some hyper 
bole here. The expression "the Apostles," without 
doubt means John, who might besides be accompanied 
by many unknown Galilean disciples. We may also 
understand thereby, if we choose, Presbyteros Joannes 


and Aristion, who, according to certain texts, would 
have been the immediate disciples of the Lord. As to 
Caius, Diotrephes, Demetrius, and the pious Cyria 
whom the Epistles of the Presbyteros present as 
making part of the Ephesian circle, it would be to 
risk by dwelling too strongly on these names, dis 
cussing beings who, as the Talmud says, " have never 
been created," and who owe their existence only to 
the artifices of forgers, or even, like Cyria, to mis- 
und erstandings. 

Nothing, in short, is more doubtful than everything 
which relates to this homonym of the Apostle, this 
Presbyteros Joannes, who only appears near to John 
in his later years, and who, according to some tradi 
tions, succeeded him in the presidency of the Church 
of Ephesus. His existence, however, seems probable. 
The title of Presbyteros may be the appellation by 
which he was distinguished from Apostolos. After 
the death of the Apostle, he may have long continued 
to describe himself as Presbyteros, omitting his name. 
Aristion, whom very ancient information places by 
the side of the Presbyteros as a traditionist of the 
highest authority, and who appears to have been 
claimed by the Church of Smyrna, is also an enigma. 
All that can be said is that there was at Ephesus 
a group of men who, towards the end of the first 
century, gave themselves out as the last eye-witnesses 
of the Life of Jesus. Papias knew them, or at least 
came very near to them, and collected their traditions. 

We shall see later the publication of a Gospel, of 
an altogether special character, produced by this little 
circle, which appears to have obtained the entire con 
fidence of the old Apostle, and which perhaps believed 
itself authorised to speak in his name. At the period 
at which we are, and before the death of John, some 
of his disciples, who appear to have surrounded him, 
and, as it were, to have monopolised the old age of the 
last survivor of the Apostles, did they not seek to 


make use of the rich treasure which he had at their 
disposal ? We may suppose so ; we ourselves were 
formerly inclined that way. We think now that it is 
more probable that some part of the Gospel which 
bears the name of John may have been written by 
himself, or by one of his disciples during his lifetime. 
But we persist in believing that John had a manner 
of his own of telling the life of Jesus, a manner very 
different from the narratives of Batanea, superior in 
some respects, and in particular the parts of the life 
of Jesus which were passed in Jerusalem afforded 
him more room for development. We believe that 
the Apostle John, whose character appears to have 
been sufficiently personal, and who, during the life 
time of Jesus, aspired with his brother to the first 
place in the Kingdom of God, gave himself with much 
simplicity that place in his narrative. If he had read 
the Gospels of Mark or of Luke, which is quite pos 
sible, he must have found that there was not sufficient 
mention of him, that the importance attributed to 
him was not so great as he had had. He claimed as 
is known to have been, the disciple whom Jesus 
especially loved ; he wished that it should be believed 
that he had played the first part in the Gospel drama. 
With the vanity of an old man he assumed all the 
importance, and his long stories have frequently no 
other object than that of showing that he had been the 
favourite disciple of Jesus, that at solemn moments 
he had rested upon his heart, that Jesus had confided 
to him his mother, that in a host of circumstances 
where the first place had been given to Peter, it really 
belonged to him John. His great age gave rise to 
all kinds of reflections, his longevity passed for a sign 
from Heaven. As, furthermore, his surroundings were 
not distinguished by absolute good faith, and as even 
a little charlatanism may have been mixed up with 
them, we can imagine what strange productions might 
spring up in this nest of pious intrigues around an 


old man whose head might be weak, and who found 
himself powerless in the hands of those who took 
care of him. 

John continued a strict Jew to the end, observing 
the Law in all its rigour ; it is doubtful whether the 
transcendental theories which began to be disseminated 
as to the identity of Jesus with the Logos can ever 
have been comprehended by him ; but, as happens in 
schools of thought in which the master attains a great 
age, his school went on without him and outside of 
him, even whilst pretending to base itself upon him. 
John appeared fated to be made use of by the authors 
of fictitious pieces. We have seen how much there 
was that was suspicious in the origin of the Apocalypse; 
objections almost equally grave may be made to 
theories which maintain the authenticity of this 
singular book, and which declare it apocryphal. What 
shall be said of that other eccentricity, that a whole 
branch of the ecclesiastical tradition, the school of 
Alexandria, has determined not merely that the 
Apocalypse shall not be John s, but that it belongs 
to his opponent Cerinthus. We shall find the 
same equivocations surrounding the second class of 
Johannian writings which will soon be produced, and 
one thing only remaining clear that John cannot 
have been the author of the two series of works which 
bear his name. One of the two series, at all events, 
may possibly be his ; but both are certainly not. 

There was great emotion on the day which wit 
nessed the death of the Apostle in whom for many 
years had been summed up the whole Christian 
tradition, and by whom it was believed that there was 
still connection with Jesus, and with the beginning 
of the new word. All the pillars of the Church had 
disappeared. He whom Jesus, according to the common 
belief, had promised not to allow to taste of death 
until he came again, had in turn gone down into the 
grave. It was a cruel deception, and in order to 


justify the prophecy of Jesus, it was necessary to have 
recourse to subtleties. It was not true, said the 
friends of John, that Jesus had announced that his 
beloved Apostle should remain alive until his reappear 
ance. He had simply said to Peter, " If I will that he 
tarry till I come, what is that to thee ? " a vague 
formula which left the field open to all sorts of 
explanations, and allowed it to be believed that John, 
like Enoch, Elias, Esdras, were held in reserve until 
the coming of the Christ. It was now in any case a 
solemn moment. No one now could say, " I have seen 
him." Jesus and the first years of the Church of 
Jerusalem were lost in an obscure past. The import 
ance then passed to those who had known the 
Apostles, to Mark and to Luke, disciples of Peter and 
Paul, to the daughters of Philip, who continued his 
marvellous gifts. Polycarp all his life quoted the 
connection which he had had with John. Aristion 
and Presbyteros Johannes lived upon the same 
memories. To have seen Peter, Andrew, Thomas, 
Philip became the leading qualification in the eyes of 
those who wished to know the truth as to the appear 
ances of the Christ. Books, as we have said twenty 
times, counted for very little; oral tradition was 
everything. The transmission of the doctrine, and 
the transmission of apostolic powers, were regarded as 
part of a kind of delegation, of ordination, of con 
secration, the primary source of which was the 
apostolic college. Soon every Church wishes to show 
the succession of the men who made the chain going- 
back in a right line to the Apostles. Ecclesiastical 
precedence was regarded as a sort of inoculation with 
spiritual powers, suffering no interruption. The ideas 
of the social hierarchy thus made rapid progress ; the 
episcopate consolidated itself from day to day. 

The tomb of John was shown at Ephesus ninety 
years later; it is probable that upon this venerable 
monument was raised the basilica which afterwards 


became celebrated, and the site of which appears to 
have been in the neighbourhood of the present citadel 
of Aia Solouk. By the side of the tomb of the 
Apostle was to be seen in the third century a second 
tomb, which was also attributed to a person named 
John, whence resulted great confusion. We shall 
have to speak of it again. 



WITH John disappeared the last man of the strange 
generation which had believed itself to have seen 
God upon the earth, and had hoped not to die. It 
was about the same time that that charming book 
appeared which has preserved to us across the mists 
of legends the image of the age of gold. Luke, or 
whoever the author of the third Gospel may have 
been, undertook that task, which was congenial to his 
refined soul, to his pure and gentle talents. The pre 
faces which stand at the head of the third Gospel 
and at the head of the Acts appear at the first glance 
to indicate that Luke conceived his work as consist 
ing of two books, one of which contained the Life of 
Jesus, the other the history of the Apostles as he had 
known them. There are, however, strong reasons for 
believing that the compilation of the two works was 
separated by some interval. The preface to the 
Gospel does not necessarily imply the intention of 
composing the Acts. It may be that Luke added this 
second book to his work only at the end of several 
years, and at the request of persons with whom the 
first book had had so much success. 


This hypothesis is supported by the part which the 
author has taken in the first lines of the Acts rela 
tive to the ascension of Jesus. In the other Gospels 
the period of the apparitions of Jesus fades away little 
by little, without any definite end. The imagination 
comes to desire a final catastrophe ; a definite way 
of escaping from a state of things which could not 
continue indefinitely. This myth, the completion of 
the legend of Jesus, was slowly and painfully evolved. 
The author of the apocalypse in 69 certainly be 
lieved in the Ascension. Jesus, according to him, 
is carried up into heaven and placed by the throne of 
God. In the same book the two prophets copied from 
Jesus, killed like him, rise after three and a half 
days ; after their resurrection, they ascend to heaven 
in a cloud in the sight of their enemies. Luke, in his 
Gospel, leaves the matter in suspense, but at the 
beginning of the Acts he relates, with all desirable 
accompaniments, the crowning event of the life of 
Jesus. He knows even how long the life of Jesus 
lasted beyond the tomb. It was forty days, a remark 
able coincidence with the apocalypse of Esdras. 
Luke at Rome may have been one of the earliest 
readers of this document, which must have made a 
profound impression upon him. The spirit of the 
Acts is the same as that of the third Gospel : gentle 
ness, tolerance, conciliation, sympathy with the 
humble, aversion from the proud. The author is 
certainly he who wrote, " Peace to men of good will." 
We have explained elsewhere the singular distortions 
which these excellent intentions have made him give 
to historic accuracy, and how his book is the first 
document of the mind of the Roman Church, indiffer 
ent to facts and dominated in all things by the official 
tendencies. Luke is the founder of that eternal 
fiction which is called ecclesiastical history, with its 
insipidity, its habit of smoothing off all angles, its 
foolishly sanctified turns. The a priori of a Church 



always wise, always moderate, is the basis of his 
narrative. The principal point for him is to show 
that the disciples of Paul are the disciples not of an 
intruder but of an apostle like the others who has 
been in perfect communion with the others. The rest 
is of small consequence to him. Everything passes as 
in an idyll. Peter was at heart of Paul s opinion ; 
Paul was of the opinion of Peter. An inspired assembly 
has seen all the members of the apostolic college 
united in the same thought. The first Pagan bap 
tism was performed by Peter ; Paul, on the other hand, 
submitted to the legal prescriptions, and observed them 
publicly at Jerusalem. All frank expression of a 
decided opinion is repugnant to this prudent narrator. 
The Jews are treated as false witnesses because they 
quote an authentic statement of Jesus, and attribute 
to the Founder of Christianity an intention of bring 
ing about changes in Mosaism. According to the 
occasion, Christianity is nothing else than Judaism, or 
else it is quite a different thing. When the Jew bows 
before Jesus, his privilege is loudly recognised. Luke 
then has the most unctuous words for these elders of 
the family who must be reconciled with the younger 
brothers. But that does not prevent him from insist 
ing complacently on the Pagans who have been con 
verted, or from opposing them to the hardened Jew, 
uncircumcised of heart. He may see that at bottom 
his sympathies are with the former. He greatly 
prefers the Pagans who are Christians in spirit, the 
centurions who love the Jews, the plebeians who 
avow their humility. Return to God, faith in Jesus, 
these are matters which equalise all differences, 
extinguish all rivalries. It is the doctrine of Paul set 
free from those rudenesses which fill the life of the 
Apostle with bitterness and disgust. 

From the point of view of historical value, two 
parts, absolutely distinct, ought to be made in the Acts, 
according to which Luke relates the facts of the life 


of Paul, of which he had personal knowledge, or as he 
presents to us the accepted theory of his times as to 
the first years of the Church at Jerusalem. The first 
years were like a distant mirage, full of illusions. 
Luke was as ill-placed as possible to understand that 
world which has disappeared. All that had happened 
during the years which followed the death of Jesus, 
was regarded as symbolical and mysterious. Across 
that deceiving vapour, everything became sacramental. 
Thus were formed, besides the myth of the Ascension 
of Jesus, the narrative of the descent of the Holy 
Ghost, which was connected with the day of the 
Feast of Pentecost, the exaggerated ideas of the com 
munity of goods in the Primitive Church, the terrible 
legend of Ananias and Sapphira, the fancies which 
were indulged in as to the altogether hierarchical 
character of the College of the Twelve, the contradic 
tions as to the gift of tongues, the effect of which was 
to transform into a public miracle a spiritual pheno 
menon of the interior of the Churches. All that re 
lates to the institution of the Seven, the conversion of 
Cornelius, the Council of Jerusalem, and the decrees 
which are supposed to have been issued from thence by 
a common consent, arise out of the same tendency. It 
is now very difficult to discover in these curious pages 
the truth of the legend or even of the myth. As the 
desire of finding a Gospel basis for all the dogmas and 
the institutions which were hatched out every day 
had encumbered the life of Jesus with fabulous 
anecdotes, so the desire of finding for these same 
institutions, for these same dogmas, an apostolic .basis, 
charged the history of the first years of the Church 
at Jerusalem, with a host of narratives conceived a 
priori. To write history ad narrandum, non ad 
probandum, is a feat of disinterested curiosity of 
which there is no example in the creative periods 
of the faith. 

We have had too many occasions to show in detail 


the principles which govern the narrative of Luke, to 
be compelled to revert to them here. The reunion of 
the two parties into which the Church of Jesus was 
divided, is its principal object. Rome was the point 
where that supreme work was accomplished. Clemens 
Romanus had already preluded it. He had probably 
never seen either Peter or Paul. His great practical 
sense showed him that the safety of the Christian 
Church required the reconcilation of its two founders. 
Did he inspire St Luke, who appears to have been in 
communication with him, or did these two pious souls 
fall spontaneously into agreement as to the direction 
which it was desirable to give to Christian opinion ? 
We do not know, for want of documents. What we do 
know is that it was a Roman work. Rome possessed 
two Churches, one coming from Peter, and one from 
Paul. To those numerous converts who came to 
Jesus, some by way of the school of Peter, and others 
by way of the school of Paul, and who were tempted 
to cry out, " What ! are there then two Christs ? " it 
was necessary to be able to say, " No. Peter and Paul 
are in perfect agreement. The Christianity of the 
one is the Christianity of the other." Perhaps a 
slight colouring was on this account imported into the 
Gospel legend of the miraculous Draught of Fishes. 
According to the account of Luke, the nets of Peter 
were not able to contain the multitude of fishes 
which were anxious to be captured ; Peter is obliged 
to make signs to his collaborators to come to his 
aid ; a second ship (Paul and his friends) is filled in 
the sajne way as the first, and the haul of the king 
dom of God is super-abundant. 

Something analogous to this may be found in what 
happened about the time of the Revolution, in. the 
party which undertook to restore the worship of 
the French Revolution. Amongst the heroes of the 
Revolution, the struggles had been ardent and bitter ; 
there was hatred even to the death. But twenty-five 


years afterwards nothing remained of all that but 
a great neutral result. It was forgotten that the 
Girondins, Dantcu, Robespierre, had cut off each 
other s heads. Save for some few and rare excep 
tions, there were no longer any partisans of the Giron 
dins, of Danton, or of Robespierre ; all were partisans 
of what was considered their common work that is 
to say, the Revolution. In the same Pantheon were 
placed as brethren men who had proscribed each 
other. In great historical movements there is the 
moment of exaltation when men associated in. view 
of a common work separate from each other or kill 
each other for a shade of difference ; then comes the 
moment of reconciliation, when it is sought to prove 
that these apparent enemies understood each other 
and laboured for the same end. At the end of a 
certain time, out of all these disagreements comes 
forth a single doctrine, and a perfect agreement 
reigns between the disciples of the men who anathe 
matised each other. 

Another essentially Roman feature of Luke, is one 
which brings him into closer relation with Clement, 
is his respect for the Imperial authority, and the pre 
cautions which he takes not to wound it. We do not 
find amongst these two writers the bitter hatred of 
Rome which characterises the authors of the apoca 
lypse and the Sibylline poems. The author of the 
Acts avoids everything which could present Rome as 
the enemy of Christianity. On the contrary, he 
endeavours to show that on many occasions they 
have defended Paul and the Christians against the 
Jews. There is never an insulting word for the 
civil magistrates. If he stops short in his narrative 
at the arrival of Paul at Rome, it is perhaps because 
he does not wish to be compelled to relate the mon 
strosities of Nero. Luke does not admit that the 
Christians may ever have been legally compromised. 
If Paul had not appealed to the Emperor, he might 


have been acquitted. A judicial afterthought in per 
fect agreement with the era of Trajan preoccupies 
him : he wishes to create precedents, to show that 
there is no method of prosecuting those who had 
been so often acquitted. Bad processes do not repel 
him. Never have patience and optimism been pushed 
farther. The taste for persecution, the joy of suffer 
ings endured for the name of Jesus, fill the soul of 
Luke, and make his book the manual par excellence 
of the Christian missionary. 

The perfect unity of the book scarcely allows us to 
decide whether Luke in composing it had under his 
eyes previously-written documents, or if he was the 
first to write the history of the Apostles from oral 
tradition. There were many Acts of the Apostles, just 
as there were many Gospels ; but whilst several Gospels 
have been retained in the Canon, only a single book of 
Acts has been preserved. The " Preaching of Peter," 
the object of which was to present Jerusalem as the 
source of all Christianity, and Peter as the centre of 
the Hierosolymitan Christianity, is perhaps as ancient 
at bottom as the Acts; but Luke certainly did not 
know it. It is gratuitous also to suppose that Luke 
revised and completed, in the sense of the reconcilia 
tion of the Judeo-Christian with Paul, a more ancient 
document composed to the greater glory of the 
Church of Jerusalem and the Twelve. The design of 
putting Paul on a level with the Twelve, and, above 
all, to connect Peter and Paul, is manifest in our 
author ; but it appears that he followed in his narra 
tive only the framework of a long-established oral 
tradition. The chiefs of the Church of Rome appear 
to have a consecrated manner of relating the apostolic 
history. Luke conformed to it, adding a sufficiently 
detailed memoir of Paul, and towards the end some 
personal recollections. Like all the historians of 
antiquity, he did not deny himself the use of a little 
innocent rhetoric. At Rome his Greek education had 


been completed, and the sentiment of oratorical com 
position in the Greek manner awoke in him. 

The book of the Acts, like the third Gospel written 
for the Christian society of Rome, remained for a long 
time confined to it. So long as the Church developed 
herself by direct tradition and by internal necessities, 
only a secondary importance was attached to it, but 
when the decisive argument in the discussions relative 
to the ecclesiastical organisations was to remount to 
the primitive Church as to an ideal, the book of the 
Acts became of the highest authority. It told of the 
Ascension, the Pentecost, the Ccenaculum, the miracles 
of the apostolic Word, the Council of Jerusalem. The 
foregone conclusions of Luke imposed themselves upon 
history ; and even to the penetrating observers of the 
modern criticism, the thirty years which were most 
fertile in ecclesiastical annals, were known only by 
him. The material truth suffered from it, for that 
material truth Luke scarcely knew, while he cared 
still less about it ; but almost as much as the Gospels, 
the Acts fashioned the future. The manner in which 
things are told is of more consequence in great secular 
developments than the manner in which they happened. 
Those who constructed the legend of Jesus have a 
part in the work of Christianity almost equal to his ; 
that which made the legend of the primitive Church 
has weighed with an enormous weight in the creation 
of that spiritual society where so many centuries have 
found the repose of their souls. Multitudinis creden- 
tium erat cor unum et anima una. When one has 
written that, one has thrust into the heart of humanity 
the goad which never allows it to rest until what may 
have been discovered, and what has been seen in 
slumber, and what has been seen in dreams, and 
touched that of which we have dreamed. 




WHILST the Western Churches, yielding more or less 
to the influence of the Roman spirit, moved rapidly 
towards an orthodox Catholicism, and aspired to give 
to itself a central government excluding the varieties 
of the sects, the Churches of the Ebionim in Syria 
were crumbling away more and more, and wasted 
themselves in all sorts of aberrations. The sect is not 
the Church ; too often, on the contrary, the sect eats 
away the Church and dissolves it. A veritable 
Proteus, Judeo-Christianity engaged itself by turns in 
the most opposite directions. Notwithstanding the 
privilege enjoyed by the Syrian Christians of possess 
ing the members of the family of Jesus, and of attach 
ing to itself a tradition much closer than those of the 
Churches of Asia, of Greece, and of Rome, it is not to 
be doubted that, left to themselves, these little associa 
tions would have melted away like a dream at the 
end of two or three hundred years. On the one hand, 
the exclusive use of Syriac deprived them of all fertile 
contact with the works of Greek genius ; on the other, 
a host of Oriental influences, full of danger, acted upon 
them, and threatened them with a prompt corruption. 
Their imperfect reasoning powers delivered them over 
to the seductions of the theosophic follies of Baby 
lonian, Persian, or Egyptian origin ; which, in about 
forty years, caused the nascent Christianity that 
grave malady of Gnosticism, which can only be com 
pared to a terrible croup, from which the child barely 
escapes by a miracle. 

The atmosphere in which these Ebionite Churches 
of Syria, and beyond the Jordan, lived, was exceed 
ingly disturbed. Jewish sects abounded in these 
districts, and followed an altogether different course 


from that of the orthodox doctors. After the 
destruction of Jerusalem, Judaism, deprived of the 
prophetic spur, had only two poles of religious 
activity the Casuistic, represented by the Talmud, 
and the mystical dreams of the new-born Cabbala. 
Lydda and Jabne-h were the centres of the religious 
elaboration of the Talmud; the country beyond 
Jordan served as a cradle to the Cabbala. The 
Essenians were not dead ; under the names of Essenes, 
Ossenes, or Osseens, they were scarcely to be distin 
guished from Nazarenes or Ebionites, and continued 
their special asceticisms and fastings with so much 
the more ardour since the destruction of the Temple 
had suppressed the ritualism of the Thora. The 
Galileans of Judah, the Gaulonite, existed, it appears, 
as a Church apart. It is scarcely known what the 
Masbotheans were, still less what were the Genisti, 
the Meristi, and some other obscure heretics. 

The Samaritans were divided on their side into a 
crowd of sects, more or less connected with Simon 
of Gitton. Cleobius, Menander, the Gorotheans, the 
Sebueans, are already Gnostics : the Cabbalistic 
mysticism ran high amongst them. The absence of 
all authority still permitted the gravest confusions. 
The Samaritan sects which swarmed by the side of 
the Church sometimes entered within its limits or 
sought to force their way in. We may connect with 
these times the book of the Grand Exposition attri 
buted to Simon of Gitton. Menander and Capharateus 
had succeeded to all the ambitions of Simon. He, 
like his master, imagined that he possessed the supreme 
virtue hidden from the rest of men. Between God 
and the creation he placed an innumerable world of 
angels, over whom magic had all power. Of that 
magic he pretended to know the profoundest secrets. 
It appears that he baptised in his own name. This 
baptism conferred the right to the resurrection and 
to immortality. It was at Antioch that Menander 


reckoned the greatest number of followers. His 
disciples sought, as it would seem, to usurp the name 
of Christians, but the Christians vigorously repulsed 
them and gave them the name of Menandrians. It 
was the same with certain Simonian sectaries named 
Eutychites, worshippers of Eons, against whom were 
brought the gravest accusations. 

Another Samaritan, Dositheus or Dosthai, played 
the part of a sort of Christ, of Son of God, and sought 
to pass himself off as the great prophet equal to 
Moses of whom the promise might be read in 
Deuteronomy (xviii. 15), and in these feverish times 
he was constantly expected. Essenism, with its 
tendency to multiply angels, was at the root of all 
these aberrations ; the Messiah himself was no more 
than an angel, and Jesus, in the Churches placed under 
that influence, risked the loss of his beautiful title of 
Son of God, to become only a great angel an Eon of 
the first rank. 

The intimate connection which existed between 
Christians and the mass of Israel, the want of direc 
tion which characterised the trans-Jordanic Churches, 
caused each of these sects to have its counterpart in 
the Church of Jesus. We do not well understand 
what Hegesippus endeavours to say when he traces 
for the Church of Jerusalem a period of absolute 
virginity, finishing about the time at which we now 
are, and when he attributes all the evil of the time 
which followed to a certain Trebuthis, who, out of 
spite at not having been named bishop, infected the 
Church with errors borrowed from seven Jewish sects. 
What is true is that in the lost provinces of the East 
strange alliances were produced. Sometimes even 
the mania for incoherent mixtures did not stop at 
the limits of Judaism ; the religions of Upper Asia 
furnished more than one element to the cauldron in 
which the most discordant elements fermented to 
gether. Baptism is a rite originally from the region 


of the Lower Euphrates ; but baptism was the most 
common feature amongst the Jewish sects which 
sought to free themselves from the Temple and the 
priests at Jerusalem. John the Baptist still had 
disciples. The Essenians, the Ebionites, were almost 
al] given to ablutions. After the destruction of the 
Temple, baptism gained greater strength. The sectaries 
plunged into water every day and on any excuse. 
We heard about the year 80 accounts which appeared 
to come from this sect. Under Trajan, the fashion of 
baptism redoubled. This growing favour was due in 
part to the influence of a certain Elkasai, who we 
may suppose to have been in many ways the imitator 
of John the Baptist and of Jesus. 

This Elkasai appears to have been an Essene of the 
country beyond Jordan. He had, perhaps, resided in 
Babylonia, whence he pretended to have brought the 
book of his revelation. He raised his prophetic stand 
ard in the third year of the reign of Trajan, preaching 
repentance, and a new baptism more efficacious than 
all these which had preceded it, capable, in a word, of 
washing away the most enormous sins. He presented, 
as a proof of his divine mission, a bizarre apocalypse, 
probably written in Syriac, which he sought to sur 
round with a charlatanesque mystery, by representing 
it as having come down from heaven at Sera, the 
capital of the fabulous country of the Serans, beyond 
Parthia. A gigantic angel, thirty-two leagues in 
height, representing the Son of God, there played the 
part of revealer; by his side, a female angel of the 
same height, the Holy Spirit, appeared like a statue 
in the clouds between two mountains. Elkasai, now 
the depositary of the book, transmits it to a certain 
Sobiaii. Some fragments of this strange document are 
known to us. Nothing there rises above the level of 
a vulgar mystifier, who wishes to make his fortune 
with pretended formulas of expiation and ridiculous 
mummeries. Magic formulas composed of Syriac 


phrases read backwards, puerile predictions as to 
lucky and unlucky days, mad medicine of exorcisms 
and sortileges, prescriptions against devils and dogs, 
astrological predictions such is the Gospel of Elkasai. 
Like all the makers of apocalypses, he announced 
catastrophes for the Roman Empire, the date of which 
he fixed for the sixth year after Trajan. 

Was Elkasai really Christian? It has sometimes 
been doubted. He spoke often about the Messiah, but 
he equivocated concerning Jesus. It may be imagined 
that, walking in the footsteps of Simon of Gitton, 
Elkasai knew and copied Christianity. Like Mahomet, 
at a later period, he adopted Jesus as a divine person 
age. The Ebionites were the only Christians with 
whom he had relations ; for his Christology is dis 
tinctly that of Nbion. By its example, he maintained 
the Law, circumcision, the Sabbath, rejected the ancient 
prophets, hated Paul, abstained from flesh, and turned 
towards Jerusalem in prayer. His disciples appear 
to have approached Buddhism ; they admitted many 
Christs, passing one into the others by a sort of trans 
migration, or rather a single Christ incarnating him 
self and appearing in the world at intervals. Jesus 
was one of these apparitions, Adam having been the 
first. These dreams make one think of the avatars of 
Vishnu and the successive lives of Krishna. 

We feel in all this the crude syncretism of a sectary 
very like Mahomet, who coolly jumbles together and 
confounds the ideas which he gleans from right and 
left according to his caprice or interest. The most 
recognisable influence is that of Persian naturalism 
and the Babylonian Cabbala. The Elkasaites adored 
water as the source of life, and detested fire. Their 
baptism administered, " in the name of the Most High 
God, and in the name of the Son, the great King," 
effaced all sins and cured all sickness, when to it was 
ioined the invocation of seven mysterious witnesses, 
the heaven, water, the holy spirits, the angels of 


prayer, oil, salt, earth. From the Essenes Elkasai 
borrowed fasting, the horror of bloody sacrifices. The 
privilege of announcing the future and of healing the 
sick by magical operations, was also a pretension of 
the Essenes. But the morals of Elkasai resembled 
those of these good Cenobites as little as might be. 
He reproved virginity, and, to avoid persecution, he 
allowed the simulation of idolatry, even to denying 
with the mouth the faith professed. 

These doctrines were more or less adopted by all 
the Ebionite sects. The living impress of them may 
be found in the pseudo-Clementine narratives, the 
work of the Ebionites at Rome, and vague reflections 
of them in the epistle falsely attributed to John. 
The book of Elkasai was, however, not known by the 
Greek and Latin Churches until the third century, 
and had amongst them no success. It was, on the 
other hand, adopted with enthusiasm by the Osseans, 
the Nazarenes, and the Ebionites of the East. All 
the region beyond Jordan, Perea, Moab, Iturea, the 
country of the Nabatheans, the banks of the Dead 
Sea towards Arnon, were filled with these sectaries. 
Later they were called Samseans, an expression of 
obscure meaning. In the fourth century the fanaticism 
of the sect was such that people caused themselves to 
be killed for the family of Elkasai. His family, in 
fact, still existed and carried on its vulgar charlatanry. 
Two women, Marthous and Marthana, who claimed 
descent from him, were almost worshipped ; the dust 
of their feet, their spittle, were treated as relics. In 
Arabia, the Elkasaites, like the Ebionites and the 
Judeo-Christians in general, lived close to Islam and 
were confounded with it. The theory of Mahomet as 
to Jesus is scarcely separable from that of Elkasai. 
The idea of the Kibla, or direction for prayer, perhaps 
comes from the trans-Jordanic sectaries. 

It is impossible to insist too strongly on the point 
that before the great schism of the Greek and Latin 


Churches, equally orthodox and Catholic, there had 
been another schism an Oriental, a Syrian schism, if 
we may so explain it which put out of the pale of 
Christianity, or, more exactly, left upon its confines 
a whole world of Judeo-Christian or Ebionite sects, 
in no way Catholic (Essenians, Osseans, Samseans, 
Jesseans, Elkasaites), in whose midst Mahomet learned 
Christianity, and of which Islam was the result. A 
proof, in some sort still a living proof, of this great 
fact, is the name of Nazarenes, which Mussulmans have 
always given to Christians. Another proof that the 
Christianity of Mahomet was Ebionism of Nazarism 
is that obstinate docetism which has caused it to be 
believed by the Mussulmans of all times that Jesus 
was not crucified in person, that a ghost alone suf 
fered in his place. We might fancy that we heard 
Cerinthus, or some of the Gnostics so energetically 
opposed by Irenaeus. 

The Syriac name of these various sects of Baptists 
was Sabiin, the exact equivalent of " baptisers." This 
is the origin of the name of Sabiens which serves 
even now to designate the Mendaites, the Nazarenes, 
or Christians of St John, who drag out their poor 
existence in the marshy district of Wasith and of 
Howeysa, not far from the confluence of the Tigris 
and of the Euphrates. In the seventh century 
Mahomet treated them with a special consideration. 
In the tenth the Arab polygraphs called them El- 
mogtasileh, " those who bathed." The first Europeans 
who knew them took them for disciples of John the 
Baptist, who had quitted the banks of the Jordan 
before receiving the preaching of Jesus. It is hardly 
possible to doubt the identity of these sectaries with 
the Elkasaites, when we find them calling their 
founder El hasih, and, above all, when we study their 
doctrines, which are a sort of Judeo-Babyloniaii 
Gnosticism analogous in many ways to that of 
Elkasai. The use of ablutions, the taste for astrology, 


the habit of ascribing books to Adam as the first of 
revelators, the qualities attributed to angels, a sort of 
naturalism and of belief in the magical virtue of the 
elements, the horror of celibacy, are so many features 
common to the Elkasaites and to the sectaries of 

Like Elkasa i the Mendaites believed in water as the 
principle of life ; fire as a principle of darkness and 
destruction. Although they lived far from the Jordan, 
that stream is always the baptismal stream. Their 
antipathy for Jerusalem and Judaism, the dislike 
which they manifested for Jesus and for Christianity, 
did not prevent their organisation of bishops, priests, 
and faithful from recalling in all respects the organisa 
tion of Christianity, or their liturgy from being copied 
from that of a Church, and bordering upon true 
Sacraments. Their books do not appear to be very 
ancient, but they seem to have replaced older ones. 
Of this number was perhaps the Apocalypse or 
Penitence of Adam,, a singular book about the 
celestial liturgies for every hour of the day and night, 
and upon the sacramental acts which belong to each. 

Does Mendaism come from a single source Essenism 
and Jewish baptism ? Certainly not. In many respects 
a branch of the Babylonian religion may be seen in it, 
that religion may have entered into close alliance with 
a Judeo-Christian sect, itself already impressed with 
Babylonish ideas. The unbridled syncretism which 
has always been the rule with Oriental sects, renders 
an exact analysis of such monstrosities impossible. 
The ulterior relations of the Sabiens with Manicheism 
remain very obscure. All that can be said is that 
Elkasaism lasts even in our own days, and represents 
alone in the marshes of Bassora the Judeo-Christian 
sects which formerly flourished beyond Jordan. 

The family of Jesus which still survived in Syria 
was undoubtedly opposed to these unhealthy dreams. 
About the time we are considering, the last nephews 


of the Galilean founder died out, surrounded with the 
most profound respect by the trans-Jordanic com 
munities, but almost forgotten by the other Churches. 
After their appearance before Domitian, the sons of 
Jude, returned to Batanea, were considered martyrs. 
They were placed at the head of the Churches, and 
they enjoyed a preponderating authority until their 
death; under Trajan. The sons of Cleophas during 
this time appear to have continued to bear the title 
of presidents of the Church of Jerusalem. To Simeon, 
son of Cleophas, had succeeded his nephew Judah, son 
of James, to whom appears to have succeeded another 
Simeon, the great-grandson of Cleophas. 

An important political event occurred in the 
year 105, in Syria, which had grave consequences for 
the future of Christianity. The Nabathean king 
dom, which, until then, had remained independent, 
bordered Palestine on the east and included the 
cities of Petra, of Bostra, and in fact, if not in law, 
the city of Damascus, was destroyed by Cornelius 
Palma, and became the Roman province of Arabia. 
About the same time the little royalties feudatory to 
the Empire which until then were maintained in 
Syria, the Herods, the Soemi of Edessa, the little 
sovereign of Chalcis, of Arbila, the Solencides of the 
Comagena, had disappeared. The Roman domination 
then assumed in the East a regularity which it had 
never had before. Beyond its frontiers there was 
only the inaccessible desert. The trans-Jordanic 
world which until then entered into the Empire only 
by its most westerly parts, was there swallowed up 
wholly. Palmyra, which so far had given to Rome 
only auxiliaries, entered altogether into the Roman 
domination. The entire field of Christian work is 
henceforward submitted to Rome, and is about to 
enjoy the absolute repose which the end of the pre 
occupations of local patriotism brings about. All the 
East adopted Roman manners ; the cities until then 


Oriental were rebuilt according to the rules of con 
temporary art. The prophecies of the Jewish apo 
calypses were not fulfilled. The Empire was at the 
height of its power ; one single government extended 
from York to Assouan, from Gibraltar to the Car 
pathians and to the Syrian desert. The follies of 
Caligula and of Nero, the wickedness of Tiberius 
and Domitian, were forgotten. In that immense area 
there was only one natural protestation that of the 
Jews ; all bent without murmuring before the great 
est force which had ever been seen in the world until 



IN a multitude of ways this force was benevolent 
There were many countries, and, in consequence, many 
wars. With the reforms which might be hoped for 
from the excellent statesmen who were at the head of 
affairs, the aims of humanity seemed to be attained. 
We have already shown how that species of golden 
age of the Liberals, that government of the wisest 
and most honest men was hard, worse, in a sense, 
than that of Nero and Domitian. Cold, correct, 
moderate statesmen, knowing only the law, applying 
it even with indulgence, could not fail to be perse 
cutors ; for the law was a persecutor ; it did not 
permit what the Church of Jesus regarded as of the 
very essence of its divine institution. 

Everything proves, in fact, that Trajan was the first 
systematic persecutor of Christianity. The proceed 
ings against the Christians, without being very fre- 



quent, took place many times under his reign. His 
political principles, his zeal for the official religion, his 
aversion for everything that resembled a secret society, 
involved him in it. He was equally urged forward by 
public opinion. Outbreaks against the Christians 
were not rare. The government, whilst satisfying its 
own suspicions, acquired by its severities against the 
calumniated sect a varnish of popularity. The riots 
and the persecutions which followed them, were alto 
gether local in character. There was not under Trajan 
what under Decius and Diocletian was called a general 
persecution, but the condition of the Church was un 
stable and unequal. It was dependent upon caprices, 
and such caprices as came from the crowd were 
usually more to be feared than those of the agents of 
authority. Amongst the agents of authority them 
selves, the most enlightened Tacitus, for example, 
and Suetonius nourished the most deeply-rooted 
prejudices against " the new superstition." Tacitus 
regards it as the first duty of a good statesman to 
stifle at the same time both Judaism and Christianity, 
" melancholy offshoots of the same stalk." 

That becomes manifest in a very sensible manner 
when one of the most honest, the most upright, the 
most educated, the most liberal men of the time found 
himself brought by his duties into the presence of the 
problem which was coming to the front, and was 
beginning to embarrass the best minds. Pliny was 
named in the year 111 Imperial Legate Extraordinary 
in the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus, that is to 
say, in all the north of Asia Minor. This country 
had until then been governed by annual pro-consuls, 
senators drawn by lot, who had administered it with 
the greatest negligence. In some respects liberty had 
gained thereby. Shut off from high political ques 
tions, these administrators of a day occupied them 
selves less than they might have done with the future 
of the Empire. The public treasury had fallen into a 


state of extreme dilapidation ; finances and the public 
works of the province were in a pitiable state ; but 
whilst they were occupied in amusing or enriching 
themselves, these governors had left the country to 
follow its own instincts at will. Disorder, as often 
happens, had profited by liberty. 

The official religion had to sustain it only the 
support which it received from the Empire : aban 
doned to itself by those indifferent prefects, it had 
fallen altogether into disrepute. In certain districts, 
the temples were in ruins. The professional and 
religious associations, the heteries, which were so 
strongly to the taste of Asia Minor, had been infinitely 
developed; Christianity, profiting by the facilities 
offered by the officials charged with its suppression, 
gained in all districts. We have seen that Asia and 
Galatia were the places where in all the world the 
new religion had found the greatest favour. Thence 
it had made surprising progress towards the Black 
Sea. Manners were altogether changed. Meats 
offered to idols, which were one of the sources of the 
provision of the markets, could not be sold. The firm 
knot of faithful might not be very numerous, but 
around it sympathetic crowds were grouped, half 
initiated, inconstant, capable of hiding their faith at 
the appearance of danger, but at bottom not detaching 
themselves from it. There were in those corporate 
conversions fashionable enthusiasms, gusts of wind 
which from time to time carried to the Church, and 
took away from it, waves of unstable populations, but 
the courage of the leaders was superior to all trials ; 
their hatred of idolatry led them to brave everything 
to maintain the point of honour of the faith which 
they had embraced. 

Pliny, a perfectly honest man and scrupulous 
executor of the Imperial orders, was soon at work to 
bring back to the provinces which had been entrusted 
to him both order and law. Experience was wanting 


to him ; he was rather an amiable man of letters than 
an able administrator ; in almost all matters of 
business he was in the habit of consulting directly 
with the Emperor. Trajan answered him, letter for 
letter, and that precious correspondence has been 
preserved to us. Upon the daily orders of the 
Emperor everything was watched over, reformed ; he 
required authorisations for the smallest matters. A 
formal edict suppressed the heteries ; the most inoffen 
sive corporations were dissolved. It was the custom in 
Bithynia to celebrate certain family events and local 
festivities by great assemblies in which a thousand 
persons might be gathered. They were suppressed. 
Liberty, which in most cases slips into the world in a 
surreptitious fashion only, was reduced to almost 

It was inevitable that the Christian Churches 
should be attacked by a meticulous policy which saw 
everywhere the spectre of the heteries, and disquieted 
itself over a society of five hundred workmen insti 
tuted by authority to act as firemen. Pliny often 
met on his path innocent sectaries, the danger of 
whom he did not readily see. In the different stages 
of his career as an advocate and magistrate he had 
never been concerned in any proceedings against the 
Christians. Denunciations now multiplied daily ; 
arrests must follow. The Imperial Legate, following 
the summary procedure of the justice of the time, 
made some examples-, he decided to send to Rome 
those who were Roman citizens ; he put two 
deaconesses to the torture. All that he discovered 
appeared to him childish. He wished to shut his 
eyes, but the laws of the Empire were absolute ; the 
informations passed all measure ; he found himself in 
the way to put the entire country under arrest. 

It was at Amisus, on the border of the Black Sea, in 
the autumn of the year 112, that this difficulty be 
came a dominant care for him. It is probable that 


the last incidents which disturbed him had taken 
place at Amastris, a city which in the second century 
was the centre of Christianity in Pontus. Pliny, 
according to custom, wrote of it to the Emperor : 

I consider it my duty, sire, to refer to you all matters on 
which I have doubts. Who can direct my hesitations or in 
struct my ignorance better than you ? I have never taken part 
in any proceedings against the Christians, hence I know not 
whether I ought to punish or to hunt them out, nor how far I 
ought to go. For example, I do not know if I ought to make 
any distinction of age, or if in such a matter there ought to be 
no difference between youth and ripe age ; if I must pardon up 
on repentance, or if he who has become altogether a Christian 
ought to profit by ceasing to be one ; if it is the name itself 
apart from all crime that should be punished, or the crimes 
which are inseparable from the name. In the meantime, the 
course which I have adopted with regard to all those who have 
been brought before me as Christians, has been to inquire first 
if they are Christians ; those who have avowed themselves to 
be such, I have interrogated a second time ; a third time threat 
ening them with punishment ; those who have persisted, I have 
sent to death ; one point in effect beyond all doubt for me being 
that, whether the fact admitted be criminal or not, that in 
flexible obstinacy and persistency deserved to be punished. 
There are some other unhappy persons attacked with the same 
madness, who, in view of their rank as Roman citizens, I have 
directed to be sent to Rome. Then in the course of the process 
the crime as generally happens, branching out widely, many 
species of it are presented. An anonymous libel has been de 
posited containing many names. Those who have denied that 
they either were or had been Christians, I have thought it right 
to release, when after me they have invoked the gods, when they 
have offered incense and wine to your image, with which I have 
supplemented the statues of the divinities, and when, moreover, 
they have cursed Christus, all which things I am assured they 
could not be forced to do if they were Christians. Others named 
by the informer have said that they were Christians, and imme 
diately have denied that they were, avowing that they had been, 
but asserting that they had ceased to be, some for three years, 
some for still longer, others for as many as twenty years. All 
these also have paid honour to your image, and to the statues of 
the gods, and have cursed Christ. Now these affirm that all their 
offence or all their error was confined to meeting habitually on 
fixed days before sunrise to sing together alternately (? anti- 
phonically) a hymn to Christus as God, and to swear not to such 


and such certain crimes, but not to commit thefts, highway rob 
bery, adultery, not fail to keep sworn faith, not to refuse to 
restore a pledge ; that that done they used to retire, then to meet 
together again to take a meal, but an ordinary and perfectly in 
nocent meal ; that even that had ceased, since by your orders I 
had forbidden the hateries. That made it necessary in my eyes 
to proceed to discover the truth by the torture of two servants, 
of those whom they call deaconesses. I found nothing but an 
evil, unmeasured superstition. So, suspending the inquiry, I 
resolved to consult you. The business has appeared to me to 
require that I should do so, especially because of the number of 
those who are in peril. A great number of persons in effect, of 
every age, of every condition, of both sexes, are called to justice 
or will be ; it is not only in the cities, but in the towns and in 
the rural districts that the contagion of this superstition has 
spread. I think that it may yet be stopped and remedied. 
Already it is reported that the temples which were almost 
abandoned, have begun to be frequented once more, that the 
solemn festivals which had long been interrupted, have recom 
menced, and that the flesh of victims (" meats offered to idols ") 
is again exposed, though the buyers have been few. From which 
it may readily be believed how great a number of men may be 
reclaimed if a place of repentance be left open. 

Trajan answered : 

Thou hast followed the path thou should st have taken, my 
clear Secundus, in examining the cases of those who have been 
brought before thy tribunal as Christians. In such a matter it 
is impossible to devise a fixed rule for all cases. They should 
not be sought out. If they are denounced and are convicted, 
they must be punished in such a way, however, that he who 
denies that he is a Christian, and who proves his words by his 
acts, that is to say, by addressing his supplications to our gods, 
shall obtain pardon as a reward for his repentance, whatever 
may have been the suspicions which weigh upon him for the 
past. As for anonymous denunciations, we must not take ac 
count of the species of accusation which is brought, for this 
concerns a detestable example which is no longer of our time. 

No more misunderstandings ! To be a Christian, is 
to be in disagreement with the law, is to merit death 
From Trajan s time Christianity is a crime against 
the State. Some tolerant Emperors of the third 
century will alone consent to shut their eyes and 
allow men to be Christians if they chose. A good 


administration, according to the most benevolent ideas 
of the Emperors, ought not to try to find too many 
criminals ; it does not encourage informers, but it 
encourages apostacy by pardoning renegades. To 
teach, to advise, to reward the most immoral acts, 
that which most lowers a man in his own eyes, 
appears wholly natural. Here is the error into which 
one of the best governments that ever existed has 
allowed itself to be drawn, because it has touched 
matters of conscience, and has preserved the old 
principle of the State religion, a principle which was 
natural enough in the small cities of antiquity, which 
were only an extension of the family, but dangerous 
in a great Empire composed of parts having neither 
the same history nor the same moral needs. 

It is equally evident from these invaluable docu 
ments that Christians were not persecuted as Jews, as 
has been the case under Domitian. They are perse 
cuted as Christians. There is no longer any confusion 
in the judicial world, though in the world outside it 
still existed. Judaism was not a crime : it had even 
outside its days of revolt, its guarantees, and privi 
leges. Strange thing ! Judaism, which revolted thrice 
against the Empire with a nameless fury, was never 
officially persecuted ; the evil treatment which the 
Jews endured are, like those of the Rayahs in 
Mahometan countries, the consequence of a subor 
dinate position, not a legal punishment ; very rarely, 
in the second and third century, because he will not 
sacrifice to idols or to the image of the Emperor. 
More than once even we find the Jews protected by 
the administration against the Christians. On the 
contrary, Christianity, which was never in revolt, was 
in reality outside the law. Judaism had, if it may 
be so expressed, its Concordat with the Empire ; 
Christianity had none. The Roman policy felt that 
Christianity was the white ant which was eating 
away the heart of antique society. Judaism did not 


aspire to penetrate the Empire ; it dreamed of its 
supernatural overthrow ; in its hours of insanity it 
took arms, killed everyone, struck blindly, then, like 
a raving madman, allowed itself to be chained after 
its paroxysm, whilst Christianity continued its work 
slowly, gently. Humble and modest in appearance, it 
had a boundless ambition ; between it and the Empire 
the struggle was to the death. 

Trajan s answer to Pliny was not a law ; but it 
supposed laws and fixed the interpretation of them. 
The temperaments indicated by the wise Emperor 
should have been of small consequence. It was too 
easy to find pretexts, for the ill-will with which 
Christians were regarded to find itself hampered. A 
signed denunciation relating to an ostensible act was 
all that was necessary. Now the attitude of a Chris 
tian in passing before temples, his questions in the 
markets as to the origin of the meats he found there ; 
his absence from public festivals, pointed him out 
at once. Thus local persecutions never ceased. It 
was less the Emperors than the Pro-Consuls who 
persecuted. All depended upon the good or the ill- 
will of the governors, and the good-will was rare. 
The time had gone by when the Roman aristocracy 
would receive these exotic novelties with a sort 
of benevolent curiosity. It had now but a cold 
disdain for the follies it declined out of pure modera 
tion and pity for human weaknesses to suppress at 
a moment s notice. The people, on the other hand, 
showed themselves fanatical enough. He who never 
sacrificed, or who, in passing before a sacred edifice, 
did not waft it a kiss of adoration, went in danger of 
his life. 




ANTIOCH had its part, and a very violent one, in those 
cruel measures which proved to be so absolutely 
inefficacious. The Church of Antioch, or, at least, the 
fraction of that Church which attached itself to St 
Paul, had at this moment a chief, regarded with the 
most profound respect, who was called Ignatius. 
This name is probably the Latin equivalent of the 
Syriac name Nourana. The reputation of Ignatius 
had spread through all the Churches, especially in 
Asia Minor. Under circumstances which are un 
known to us, probably as the result of some popular 
movement, he was arrested, condemned to death, and, 
as he was not a Roman citizen, ordered to be taken to 
Rome to be delivered to the beasts in the amphi 
theatre. For that fate the noblest victims were 
reserved, men worthy to be shown to the Roman 
people. The journey of this courageous confessor 
from Antioch to Rome along the coasts of Asia, 
Macedonia, and Greece was a sort of triumphal pro 
gress. The Churches of the cities at which he 
touched flocked around him, asking for his counsels. 
He, on his part, wrote letters full of instruction, to 
which his position, like that of St Paul, prisoner of 
Jesus Christ, gave the highest authority. At Smyrna, 
in particular, Ignatius found himself in communica 
tion with all the Churches of Asia. Polycarp, Bishop 
of Smyrna, saw him, and retained a profound memory 
of him. Ignatius had from that place an extensive 
correspondence : his letters were received with almost 
as much respect as the apostolic writings. Sur 
rounded by couriers of a sacred character, who came 
and went, he was more like a powerful personage 
than a prisoner. The spectacle impressed the very 


Pagans, and served as the foundation for a curious 
romance which has been handed down to us. 

Almost the whole of the authentic epistles of 
Ignatius appear to have been lost. Those which we 
possess under his name addressed to the Ephesians, 
to the Maghesians, to the Tralliens, to the Phila- 
delphians, to the Smyrniotes, to Polycarp, are apocry 
phal. The four first were written from Smyrna ; the 
two last from Alexandria-Troas. The six works are 
more or less feeble reproductions of the same original. 
Genius and individuality are absolutely wanting. 
But it appears that amongst the letters which Ignatius 
wrote from Smyrna, there was one addressed to the 
faithful at Rome, after the manner of St Paul. This 
piece, such as we have it, impressed all ecclesiastical 
antiquity. Irenseus, Origen, and Eusebius cite it and 
admire it. Its style has a harsh and pronounced 
flavour, something strong and popular ; pleasantry is 
pushed even to playing upon words; as a matter 
of taste, certain points are urged with a shocking 
exaggeration, but the liveliest faith, the most ardent 
thirst for death, have never inspired such passionate 
accents. The enthusiasm of the martyr who for six 
hundred years was the dominant spirit of Chris 
tendom, has received from the author of this extra 
ordinary fragment, whoever he may be, its most 
exalted expressions. 

After many prayers I am permitted to see your holy faces ; 
I have even obtained more than I asked ; for if God give me 
grace to endure to the end, I hope that I shall embrace you as 
the prisoner of Jesus Christ. The business has begun well, 
seeing that nothing prevents me from awaiting the lot which 
has been appointed to me. Verily it is for you that I am con 
cerned. 1 fear lest your affection should be hurtful to me. 
You would risk nothing, but I should lose God himself if you 
succeed in saving me . . . Never again shall I find such an 
opportunity, and you, if you will have the charity to remain 
quiet, never will you have taken part in a better work. If you 
keep silence, in short, I shall belong to God ; if you love my 
flesh, I shall again be cast into the conflict. Let me suffer whilst 


the altar is ready, so that, united in chorus by love, you may 
sing to the Father in Christ Jesus, " Oh, great goodness of God 
who hath deigned to bring the Bishop of Syria from the rising 
to the going down of the sun ! " It is good to lie down from 
the world with God that we may rise with him. 

You have never done evil to any ; why then begin to-day ? 
You have been masters to so many others ! I ask but one thing ; 
do what you teach, what you prescribe. Ask only for me strength 
from within and from without, so that I may be not only 
called Christian but really a Christian, when I shall have passed 
away from this world. Nothing that is visible is good. What 
thou seest is temporal. What thou seest not is eternal. Our 
God, Jesus Christ, existing in his father, appears no more. 
Christianity is not only a work of silence ; it becomes a work of 
splendour when it is hated of the world. 

I write to the Churches : I inform all that I am assured of 
dying for God, if you do not prevent me. I beg you not to 
prove yourselves by your intemperate goodness my worst 
enemies. Let me be the food of beasts, thanks to whom it shall 
be given me to enjoy God ; I am the wheat of God, I must be 
ground by the teeth of beasts that I may be found the pure bread 
of Christ. Rejoice therefore that they shall be my tomb, and 
that nothing shall be left of my body, that my funeral shall 
thus cost no man aught. Then shall I be truly the disciple of 
Christ, when the world shall see my body no more. 

From Syria to Rome, upon land, upon sea, by day and by 
night, I fight already against the "beasts, chained as I am to ten 
leopards (I speak of the soldiers who guard me, and who show 
themselves the more cruel the more good is done to them). 
Thanks to their ill-treatment, I am formed, "but I am not 
thereby justified." I shall gain, I assure you, when I find my 
self face to face with the beasts which await me. I hope to 
meet them in good temper ; if needs be, I will caress them with 
my hands, that they may devour me alone, and that they may 
not, as they have done to some, show themselves afraid to touch 
me. If they do it unwillingly, I will force them. 

Forgive me. I know which is best for me. It is now that I 
begin to be a true disciple. No ! no power, visible or invisible, 
shall prevent me from rejoicing in Jesus Christ. Fire and cross ; 
troops of beasts ; broken bones ; limbs lopped off ; crushing of 
the whole body, all the punishments of the devil, may fall upon 
me, if only I may rejoice in Jesus Christ . . . My love has been 
crucified, and there is no longer in me ardour for the material 
part ; there is within me only a living water which murmurs 
and says to me, " Come to the Father." I take pleasure no 
longer in corruptible food, nor in the joys of this life. I desire 
the bread of God, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus 


Christ, the Son of God, born in the end of time, of the race of 
David, and of Abraham ; and I desire to drink his blood, which 
is incorruptible love and life eternal. 

Sixty years after the death of Ignatius, the charac 
teristic phrase of this fragment, " I am the wheat of 
God," was traditional in the Church, and was repeated 
to sustain the courage of martyrs. Perhaps this was 
a matter of oral tradition ; perhaps also the letter is 
authentic at bottom I mean as to those energetic 
phrases by which Ignatius expressed his desire to 
suffer, and his love for Jesus. In the authentic nar 
rative of the martyrdom of Poly carp (155), there are, 
it would appear, allusions to the very text of that 
Epistle to the Romans which we now possess. Ignatius 
becomes thus the great master of martyrdom, the 
exciter to enthusiasm for death for Jesus. His letters, 
true or superstitious, were the collection from which 
might be drawn striking expressions and exalted 
sentiments. The deacon Stephen had by his heroism 
sanctified the Diaconate and the ecclesiastical minis 
tries ; with still great splendour the Bishop of Antioch 
surrounded with an aureole, the functions of the 
Episcopate. It was not without reason that writings 
were attributed to him in which those functions were 
hyperbolically depicted. Ignatius was really the 
patron saint of the Episcopate, the creator of the 
privilege of the chiefs of the Church, the first victim 
of their redoubtable duties. 

The most curious thing is that this history, told 
more recently by one of the most intelligent writers 
of the age by Lucian, inspired him with the principal 
features of his little picture of manners, entitled " Of 
the Death of Peregrinus." It is scarcely to be doubted 
that Lucian borrowed from the narratives of Ignatius 
the passages in which he represents his charlatan 
playing the part of Bishop and Confessor, chained 
in Syria, shipped for Italy, surrounded by the faithful 
with cares and attentions, receiving from all parts 


deputations of ministers sent to console him. Pere- 
grinus, like Ignatius, addresses from his captivity to the 
celebrated towns which he finds upon his way, letters 
full of counsels and of exhortations that they should 
observe the laws; he institutes, in view of these 
messages, missions clothed with a religious character ; 
finally he appears before the Emperor, and defies his 
power, with an audacity which Lucian finds impertin 
ent, but which the admirers of the fanatic represent 
as a movement of holy liberty. 

In the Church the memory of Ignatius was especi 
ally exalted by the partisans of St Paul. To have 
seen Ignatius was a favour almost as great as to have 
seen St Paul. The high authority of the martyr was 
one of the reasons which contributed to the success of 
this group, whose right to exist in the Church of Jesus 
was still so greatly contested. Towards the year 170, 
a disciple of St Paul, zealous for the establishment of 
episcopal authority, conceived the project, in imitation 
of the pastoral epistles attributed to the Apostle, of 
composing, under the name of Ignatius, a series of 
epistles designed to inculcate an anti-Jewish concep 
tion of Christianity, as well as ideas of strict hierarchy 
and Catholic orthodoxy in opposition to the errors of 
the Docetists and of certain Gnostic sects. These 
writings, which it was desired should be regarded as 
having been collected by Polycarp, were accepted with 
enthusiasm, and had in the constitution of discipline 
and dogma a commanding influence. 

By the side of Ignatius we may see, in the oldest 
documents, two persons figure who appear to have 
been associated with him, Zozimus and Rufus. 
Ignatius does not appear to have had travelling 
companions ; Zozimus and Rufus were perhaps persons 
well known in the ecclesiastical circles of Greece and 
of Asia, and recommended by their high devotion to 
the Church of Christ. 

About the same time another martyr may have 


suffered, to whom his title of head of the Church of 
Jerusalem and his relationship with Jesus gave great 
notoriety. I mean Simeon, son, or rather great-grand 
son, of Cleophas. The opinion decided amongst the 
Christians, and probably accepted by those around 
them, according to which Jesus had been of the race 
of David, attributed this title to all his blood-relations. 
Now in the state of effervescence in which Palestine 
was, such a title could not be borne without risk. 
Already under Domitian we have seen the Roman 
authority entertain apprehensions apropos of the pre 
tensions avowed by the sons of Jude. Under Trajan 
the same disquietude came to light. The descend 
ants of Cleophas, who presided over the Church of 
Jerusalem, were too modest to boast much of a descent 
which non-Christians might perhaps have disputed, 
but they could not hide it from the affiliated of the 
Church of Jesus; from those heretics Ebionites, 
Essenes, Elkasaites some of whom were hardly Chris 
tians. A denunciation was addressed by some of those 
sectaries to the Roman authority, and Simeon, son of 
Cleophas, was brought to judgment. The Consular 
Legate of Judea at this moment was Tiberius Claudius 
Atticus, who appears to have been the father of the 
celebrated Herod Atticus. He was an obscure 
Athenian, whom the discovery of an immense treasure 
had suddenly enriched, and who by his fortune had 
succeeded in obtaining the title of surrogate consul. 
He showed himself, in the circumstances of this case, 
extremely cruel. During many days he tortured the 
unhappy Simeon, without doubt to force him to reveal 
pretended secrets. Atticus and his assessors admired 
his courage, but he finished by crucifying him. 
Hegesippus, from whom we have these details, assures 
us that the accusers of Simeon were themselves con 
vinced that they were of the race of David, and 
perished with him. We ought not to be too much 
surprised by such denunciations. We have already 


seen that the internal rivalries of the Jewish and 
Christian sects had the greatest share in the persecu 
tion of the year 64, or at least in the deaths of the 
Apostles Peter and Paul. 

Rome at that period appears to have had no 
martyrs. Among the Presbyteri and Episcopi who 
governed that capital Church are reckoned Evarestes, 
Alexander, and Xystus, who appear to have died in 



TRAJAN, the conqueror of the Dacii, adorned with all 
the triumphs, arrived at the highest degree of power 
which man had until then attained, revolved, notwith 
standing his sixty years, boundless projects with 
regard to the East. The limit of the Empire in Syria 
and in Asia Minor was as yet but ill-assured. The 
recent destruction of the Nabathean kingdom post 
poned for centuries all danger from the Arabs. But 
the kingdom of Armenia, although in law vassal to 
the Romans, constantly inclined towards the Parthian 
alliance. In the Dacian war, the Arsacides had had 
relations with Decebalus. The Parthian Empire, 
master of Mesopotamia, menaced Antioch, and created, 
for provinces incapable of defending themselves, a 
perpetual danger. An Eastern expedition, having for 
its object the annexation to the Empire of Armenia, 
Osrohenia and Mygdonia, countries which in effect, 
after the campaigns of Lucius Verus and of Septimius 
Severus, belonged to the Empire, would have been 
reasonable. But Trajan did not take sufficient 


account of the state of the East. He did not see that 
beyond Syria, Armenia, and the north of Mesapo- 
tamia, which it is easy to make the rampart of 
Western civilisation, extends the ancient East ; 
traversed by nomadic tribes, containing, side by side 
with the cities, indocile populations, amongst which 
it is impossible to establish order after the European 
fashion. This East has never been conquered by 
civilisation in a durable manner ; even Greece reigned 
there only in the most transitory way. To hew out 
Roman provinces in a world totally different in 
climate, races, manner of living, from what Rome had 
hitherto assimilated, was a veritable chimera. The 
Empire, which had need of all its strength against the 
German impulse on the Rhine and the Danube, was 
about to prepare upon the Tigris a struggle not less 
difficult, for supposing that the Tigris had really 
become in all its course a river-frontier, Rome would 
not have had behind the great ditch the support of 
the solid Gallic and Germanic populations of the 
West. Through not having understood that, Trajan 
made a mistake which can only be compared with 
that of Napoleon in 1812. His expedition against 
the Parthians was analogous to that of the Russian 
campaign. Admirably planned out, the expedition 
started with a series of victories, then degenerated 
into a struggle against nature, and concluded with a 
retreat which cast a sombre veil over the end of a 
most brilliant reign. 

Trajan left Italy, which he was not again to see, in 
the month of October 113. He passed the winter 
months at Antioch, and in the spring of 114 began 
the campaign of Armenia. The result was prodi 
gious : in September, Armenia was reduced to a 
Roman province ; the limits of the Empire extended 
to the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. Trajan rested 
the following winter at Antioch. 

The results of the year 115 were not less extra- 


ordinary. The Mesopotamia of the North, with its 
more or less independent principalities, was conquered 
or subjected. The Tigris was attained. The Jews 
were numerous in these parts. The dynasty of the 
Izates and Monobazes, always vassal to the Parthians, 
was mistress of Nisibe. As in 70, it no doubt resisted 
the Romans, but it was necessary to yield. Trajan 
passed the following winter at Antioch, where, on the 
1 3th December, he was nearly destroyed in a frightful 
earthquake which destroyed the city, and from which 
he escaped only with the greatest difficulty. 

The year 116 witnessed miracles: the times of Alex 
ander seemed restored. Trajan conquered Adiabene, 
beyond the Tigris, in spite of a vigorous resistance. 
There he should have stopped. Pushing his fortune 
to its limit, Trajan penetrated to the heart of the 
Parthian Empire. The strategy of the Parthians, like 
that of the Russians in 1813, consisted in at first offer 
ing no resistance. Trajan marched without opposi 
tion as far as Babylon ; took ^Esiphon, the western 
capital of the Empire, thence descended the Tigris 
to the Persian Gulf, saw those distant seas which 
appeared to the Romans only as a vision, and regained 
Babylon. Then the black spots began to accumulate 
upon the horizon. Towards the end of 116 Trajan 
heard at Babylon that revolt had broken out behind 
him. The Jews had without doubt taken a great 
part in it. They were numerous in Babylonia. The 
relations between the Jews of Palestine and those of 
Babylonia were continual the doctors passed from 
one country to the other with great facility. A vast 
secret society escaping thus from all supervision 
created a political vehicle of the most active kind. 
Trajan confided the duty of crushing this dangerous 
movement to Lusius Quietus, chief of the Berber 
cavalry, who had placed himself with his goum at 
the service of the Romans, and had rendered the 
greatest services in the Parthian wars. Quietus re 


conquered Nisibe, Edessa ; but Trajan began to see 
the impossibilities of the enterprise in which he was 
engaged, and meditated retreat. 

Disquieting news reached him, blow upon blow. 
The Jews were everywhere in revolt. Nameless 
horrors passed in Cyrenaica. The Jewish fury at 
tained to heights which had never yet been known. 
This poor people again lost their heads. Perhaps 
there was already, in Africa, a presentiment of the 
revival of fortune which was awaiting Trajan; it 
may be that the Jewish rebellions of Gyrene, the 
most fanatical of all, were anticipated on the faith 
of some prophet, that the day of wrath against the 
Pagans had arrived, and that it was time to begin the 
Messianic exterminations. All the Jews were agitated 
as under a demoniacal attack. It was less a revolt 
than a massacre, with details of indescribable ferocity. 
Having at their head a certain Lucora, who enjoyed 
amongst his friends the title of King, these madmen 
set to work to butcher Greeks and Romans, eating the 
flesh of those whom they had slaughtered, making 
belts of their bowels, rubbing themselves with their 
blood, skinning them and clothing themselves with 
the skin. Madmen were seen sawing unfortunate 
men in two through the midst of their bodies. At 
other times the insurgents delivered the Pagans to 
the beasts, in memory of w.hat they themselves had 
suffered, and forced them to fight with each other 
like gladiators. Two hundred and twenty thousand 
Cyreneans are believed to have been slaughtered in 
this way. It was almost the entire population : the 
province became a desert. To repeople it, Hadrian 
was obliged to bring colonists from other places, but 
the country never again flourished as it had done 
under the Greeks. 

From Cyrenaica the epidemic of massacre extended 
to Egypt and to Cyprus. The latter witnessed atro 
cities. Under the leadership of a certain Artemion 


the fanatics destroyed the town of Salamine and 
exterminated the entire population. The number of 
Cypriotes butchered, was estimated at 240,000. The 
resentment for such cruelties was such that the 
Cypriotes decreed the exclusion of the Jews from 
their island in perpetuity ; even the Jew cast upon 
their coast by the act of God was put to death. 

In Egypt the Jewish insurrection assumed the pro 
portions of a veritable war. At first the rebels had 
fhe advantage. Lupus, Prefect of Egypt, was obliged 
to retreat. The alarm in Alexandria was acute. The 
Jews, to fortify themselves, destroyed the Temple of 
Nemesis raised by Caesar to Pompey. The Greek 
population succeeded, however, not without a struggle, 
in gaining the upper hand. All the Greeks of Lower 
Egypt took refuge with Lupus in the city, and made 
there a great entrenched camp. It was time. The 
Cyreneans, led by Lucora, came to join their brethren 
of Alexandria, and to form with them a single army. 
Deprived of the support of their Alexandrini co-reli 
gionists, all killed or prisoners, but strengthened by 
bands from other parts of Egypt, they dispersed them 
selves, killing and plundering, over the Thebaid. They 
especially sought to seize the functionaries who tried 
to gain the cities of the coast, Alexandria and Pelusia. 
Appian, the future historian, then young, who exer 
cised municipal functions in Alexandria, his country, 
was nearly captured by these madmen. Lower Egypt 
was inundated with blood. The fugitive Pagans found 
themselves pursued like wild beasts ; the deserts by 
the side of the Isthmus of Suez were filled with people 
who hid themselves and endeavoured to come to an un 
derstanding with the Arabs, so as to escape from death. 

The position of Trajan in Babylonia became more 
and more critical. The wandering Arabs in the space 
between the two rivers caused him much difficulty. The 
impregnable stronghold of Hatra, inhabited by a war 
like tribe, stopped him altogether. The surrounding 


country is deserted, unhealthy, without wood or water, 
desolated by mosquitoes, exposed to frightful atmo 
spheric troubles. Trajan committed, without doubt 
from a sense of honour, the mistake of wishing to 
reduce it. As later Septimus Severus and Ardeschir 
Babek, he failed. The army was frightfully wasted 
with sickness. The city was a great centre of sun- 
worship ; it was thought that the god was fighting for 
his temple; storms breaking out at the moment of 
attack, filled the soldiers with terror. Trajan, who 
was already suffering from the malady which carried 
him off a few months later, raised the siege. The 
retreat was difficult, and marked by more than one 
partial disaster. 

About the month of April 117, the Emperor set 
out on his return to Antioch, sad, ill, and irritable. 
The East had conquered him without fighting. All 
those who had bowed before the conqueror raised 
their heads again. The results of three years of 
campaigning, full of marvellous struggles against 
nature, were lost. Trajan had to begin over again, if 
he were not to lose his reputation for invincibility. 
All at once grave news came to prove to him what 
grave dangers were concealed in the situation created 
by the recent reverses. The Jewish revolt, until then 
limited to Cyrenaica and Egypt, threatened to extend 
itself through Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. 
Always on the watch for signs of weakness in the 
Roman Empire, the enthusiasts fancied for the tenth 
time that they saw the preliminary signs of the end 
of an abhorred domination. Excited by books like 
Judith and the apocalypse of Esdras. they believed 
that the day of Edom was come. The cries of joy 
which they had uttered at the deaths of Nero and 
Domitian, they uttered once more. The generation 
which had made the great Revolution had almost 
disappeared ; the new had learned nothing. These 
hard heads, obstinate and full of passion, were in- 


capable of enlarging the narrow circle of iron that an 
inveterate psychological heredity had riveted around 
them. What passed in Judea is obscure, and it is not 
proved that any positive act of war or of massacre 
took place there. From Antioch, where he resided, 
Adrian, Governor of Syria, appears to have succeeded 
in maintaining order. Far from encouraging rebellion, 
the doctors of Jabneh had shown, in the scrupulous 
observation of the Law, a new way of arriving at the 
peace of the soul. Casuistry had in their hands 
become a plaything, which like all playthings ought 
to invite much to patience. As to Mesopotamia, it is 
natural that a half-subdued population which a year 
before were in arms, and amongst whom there were 
not merely dispersed Jews but Jewish armies and 
dynasties, should have broken out after the check of 
Hatra, and upon the first indications of the approach 
ing death of Trajan. It appears, besides, that the 
Romans acted with vigour, often upon mere suspicion 
They feared that the example of Cyrenaica, of Egypt, 
and of Cyprus might be contagious. Before the 
massacres had broken out, Trajan confided to Lucius 
Quietus the duty of expelling all the Jews from the 
conquered provinces. Quietus went thither as to an 
expedition. This African, cruel and pitiless, supported 
by light Moorish cavalry, men who rode bare-backed 
without saddle or bridle, went like the modern Bashi 
Bazouk, massacring right and left. A very large part 
of the Jewish population of Mesopotamia were exter 
minated. To reward the services of Quietus, Trajan 
detached Palestine from the province of Syria for 
him, and created him Imperial Legate, thus placing 
him in the same rank as Adrian. 

The revolt of Cyrenaica, of Egypt, and of Cyprus, 
still continued. Trajan chose one of his most dis 
tinguished lieutenants, Marcius Turbo, to suppress it. 
He gave him a land and a sea force, and numerous 
cavalry. A regular war with many battles was re- 


quired to put an end to these madmen. There were 
regular butcheries. All the Cyrenian Jews, and those 
from Egypt who had joined them, were massacred. 
Alexandria the blockade raised at last breathed 
once more, but the destruction of the city had been 
considerable. One of the first acts of Hadrian after 
becoming Emperor, was to repair the ruins and to 
give himself out as the restorer. 

Such was this deplorable movement, in which the 
Jews appear to have been wrong from the first, and 
which finished by ruining them in the opinion of the 
civilised world. Poor Israel fell into furious mad 
ness. These horrible cruelties, so far removed from 
the Christian spirit, widened the ditch of separation 
between Judaism and the Church. The Christian, 
becoming more and more of an idealist, consoled him 
self more and more by his gentleness, by his resigned 
attitude. Israel had made himself a cannibal, rather 
than allow his prophets to be liars. Pseudo-Esdras, 
twenty years before, contented himself with the 
tender reproach of a pious soul which thinks itself 
forgotten of God : now it is a question of killing 
everybody, of annihilating the Pagans, that it may 
not be said that God has failed to keep his promise to 
Jacob. Every great fanaticism, pressed by the ruin 
of its hopes, ends in madness, and becomes a peril to 
the reason of all humanity. 

The material diminution of Judaism, as the result 
of this inept campaign, was very considerable. The 
number of those who perished was enormous. From 
that moment the Jewry of Gyrene and Egypt almost 
disappeared. The powerful community of Alexandria, 
which had been an essential element of Oriental life, 
was no longer important. The great synagogue of 
Diapleuston, which passed in the eyes of the Jews for 
one of the wonders of the world, was destroyed. The 
Jewish quarter near the Lochias became a field of 
ruins and of tombs. 




FANATICISM knows no repentance. The monstrous 
error of 117 scarcely left more than the recollection 
of a festivity in the Jewish mind. Amongst the 
number of days when fasting was forbidden, and 
mourning must be suspended, figures the 12th December, 
the iom Traianos or "day of Trajan," not because the 
war of 116-117 gave reason for any anniversary of 
victory, but because of the tragic end which the agada 
ascribed to the enemy of Israel. The massacres of 
Quietus remained, on the other hand, in tradition, 
under the name of polemos schel Quitos. A progress 
of Israel in the way of mourning was attached to it : 

After the polemos schel Aspasionos, crowns and the use of 
tambourines are forbidden to bridegrooms. 

After the polemos schel Quitos, crowns were forbidden to 
brides, and the teaching of the Greek language to one s son waa 

After the last Polemos, the bride was forbidden to go out of 
the town in a litter. 

Thus every folly brought about a new sequestration, 
a new renunciation of some part of life. Whilst 
Christianity became more and more Greek and Latin, 
and its writers conformed to a good Hellenic style, 
the Jew interdicted the study of Greek, and shut him 
self up obstinately in his unintelligible Syro-Hebraic 
dialect. The root of all good intellectual culture is 
cut off for him for a thousand years. It is especially 
in this period that the decisions were given which 
present Greek education as an impurity, or at best as 
a frivolity. 

The man who announced himself at Jabneh, and 
grew from day to day as the future chief of Israel, 


was a certain Aquiba, pupil of the Rabbi Tarphon, of 
obscure origin, unconnected with the great families 
who held the chairs and filled the great offices of the 
nation. He was descended from proselytes, and had 
had a poverty-stricken youth. He was, it would seem, 
a sort of democrat, full at first of a ferocious hatred 
against the doctors in the midst of whom he might 
one day sit. His exegesis, and his casuistry, were the 
height of subtlety. Every letter, every syllable of 
the Canonical texts, became significant, and attempts 
were made to draw meanings from them. Aquiba 
was the author of the method which, according to the 
expression of the Talmud, " from every feature of a 
letter draws whole bushels of decision." We can only 
admit that in the revealed Code there was the least 
that was voluntary, the smallest liberty of style, or of 
orthography. Thus the particle which is the simple 
mark of the objective case, and which may be inserted 
or omitted in Hebrew, furnished puerile inductions. 

This touched madness ; we are only two steps from 
the Cabbala and the Notarikon, silly combinations, in 
which the texts represent no longer the language of 
humanity, but is taken for a divine book of magic. 
In detail the consultations of Aquiba are recommended 
by their moderation, the sentences which are attri 
buted to him have even the marks of a certain liberal 
spirit. But a violent fanaticism spoiled all his 
qualities. The greatest contradictions spring up in 
those minds which are at once subtle and uncultivated, 
whence the superstitious study of a solitary text had 
banished the right sense of language and of reason. 
Incessantly travelling from synagogue to synagogue 
in all the countries of the Mediterranean, and perhaps 
even amongst the Parthians, Aquiba kept up amongst 
his co-religionaries the strange fire with which he 
himself was filled, and which soon became so melan 
choly for his country. 

A monument of the mournful sadness of these times 


appears in the apocalypse of Baruch. The work is 
an imitation of the apocalypse of Esdras, and, like it, 
is divided into seven visions. Baruch, secretary to 
Jeremiah, receives from God the order to remain in 
Jerusalem, to assist in the punishment of the guilty 
city. He curses the fate which has given him birth, 
only that he may witness the outrages offered to his 
mother. He prays God to spare Israel. But for 
Israel, who wilt praise him ? Who will explain his 
law ? Is the world then destined to return to its 
primitive silence ? and what joy for the Pagans if 
they are able to go into the countries of their idols 
to rejoice before them over the defeats which they 
have inflicted upon the true God. 

The divine interlocutor answers that the Jerusalem 
which had been destroyed was not the Eternal Jeru 
salem, prepared since the times of Paradise, which was 
shown to Adam before his fall, and a glimpse of which 
was seen by Abraham and Moses. It was not the 
Pagans who destroyed the city ; it was the wrath of 
God which annihilated it. An angel descends from 
heaven, carries all the sacred objects from the Temple, 
and buries them. The angels then demolish the city. 
Baruch sings a song of mourning. He is indignant 
that nature should continue her course, that the earth 
smiles, and is not burned up by an eternal midday 

Labourers, cease to sow, and thou, O Earth, cease to bring 
forth harvests ; wherefore dost thou waste thy wine, O thou 
Vine, since Zion is no more ? Bridegrooms, denounce your rights; 
virgins, deck yourselves no more with crowns ; women, cease to 
pi-ay that ye may become mothers. Henceforth the barren shall 
rejoice, and the fruitful mothers shall weep ; for why bring 
forth children in sorrow, whom ye must bury with tears ? 
Henceforth, speak no more of charms ; neither discuss beauty. 
Take the keys of the sanctuary, O priests, cast them towards 
heaven, return them to the Lord, and say to him, " Preserve 
now thine own house ! " And ye, O virgins, who sew your 
linen and your silk with the gold of Ophir, hasten and cast all 
into the fire, that the flames may carry all these things to him 


that hath made them, and that our enemies may not rejoice in 
them. Earth, attend ! Dust take heart, to announce in Sheol 
and say to the dead : " Happy are ye as compared with our 
selves ! " 

Pseudo-Baruch, no better than pseudo-Esdras, can 
render account of the conduct of God towards his 
people. Assuredly the turn of the Gentiles will come. 
If God has given to his people such severe lessons, 
what will he do with those who have turned his 
benefits against him ? But how explain the fate of 
so many of the just who have scrupulously observed 
the Law and have been exterminated ? Why has not 
the Eternal had pity upon Zion for their sakes ? 
Why has he taken account only of the wicked ? 
" What hast thou done with thy servants ? " cries the 
pious writer. "We can no longer understand why 
thou art our Creator. When the world had no in 
habitants, thou didst create man as minister of thy 
works, to show that the world existed only for man, 
and not man for the world. And now, behold, the 
world which thou hast made for us lasts, and we, for 
whom thou hast made it, disappear." 

God answers that man has been made free and 
intelligent. If he has been punished, it is only his 
desert. This world for the just man is a trial ; the 
world to come will be a crown. Length of time is 
a relative matter. Better to have commenced by 
ignominy and finished with happiness than to have 
begun in glory and finished in shame. Time is, 
moreover, pressing on, and will go by much more 
quickly in the future than in the past. 

" If man had but this life," answers the melancholy dreamer, 
" nothing could be more bitter than his fate. How long shall the 
triumph of impiety continue ? How long, O Lord ! wilt thou 
leave it to be believed that thy patience is weakness ? Arise ; 
close Shed ; forbid it henceforward to receive fresh dead men ; 
and cause limbo to give up the souls that are enclosed therein. 
Behold how long Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the others, who 
sleep in the earth, have been waiting, those for whom thou hast 


said that the world was created ! Show thy glory ; delay it no 

God contents himself with saying that the time 
is fixed and that the end is not far distant. The 
Messianic sorrows have already begun ; but the signs 
of the catastrophe will be isolated, partial, so that 
men shall scarcely be able to see them. At the 
moment when it shall be said, "The Almighty has 
forgotten the earth," when the despair of the just 
shall be at its height, this shall be the hour of 
awakening. Signs shall stretch forth over the whole 
universe. Palestine alone shall be safe from calamity. 
Then the Messiah shall be revealed. Behemoth and 
Leviathan shall serve as food to those who shall be 
saved. The earth shall yield up ten thousand for 
one ; a single stem of the vine shall have a thousand 
branches ; every branch shall bear a thousand grapes, 
and every grape shall yield a hogshead of wine. Joy 
shall be perfect. In the morning a breath shall leave 
the bosom of God, bearing the perfume of the most 
exquisite flowers; in the evening, another breath 
bearing a wholesome dew. Manna shall fall from 
Heaven. The dead who sleep in hope of the Messiah 
shall rise. The receptacles of the souls of the just 
shall open ; the multitude of happy souls shall be all 
of one mind ; the first shall rejoice and the last shall 
not be sad. The impious shall be consumed with 
rage, seeing that the moment of their punishment is 
come. Jerusalem shall be renewed, and crowned for 

The Roman Empire then appears to our seer like 
a forest which covers the earth ; the shadow of the 
forest veils the truth ; all that there is of evil in the 
world hides itself there and finds a shelter. It is 
the harshest and the worst of all the Empires which 
succeed each other. The Messianic Kingdom, on the 
contrary, is represented by a vine under whose shadow 
a sweet and gentle spring arises which runs towards 


the forest. In approaching this last, the current 
changes into impetuous waves which uproot it as 
well as the mountains which surround it. The forest 
is carried away, until there remains of it nothing 
but a cedar. This cedar represents the last Roman 
sovereign remaining standing when all the legions 
shall have been exterminated (according to us, Trajan, 
after his reverses in Macedonia). He is overthrown 
in his turn. The vine then says to him : 

" Is it not thou, O Cedar ! who art the relic of the forest of 
malice ; who seizest upon what does not belong to thee ; who 
never hast pity upon that which is thine own ; who wouldest 
reign over that which was far from thee ; who boldest in the 
nets of impiety all that approacheth thee ; and who art proud 
as though thou couldest never be uprooted ? Behold thine hour 
is come. Go, O Cedar ; share the fate of the forest which has 
disappeared before thee, and let thine ashes mingle with it." 

The cedar is short, is cast down to the earth, and 
fire is kindled. The chief is enchained and brought 
upon Mount Sion. There the Messiah convicts him 
of impiety, shows him the wickedness which has been 
wrought by his armies, and kills him. The vine then 
extends itself on all sides and covers the earth ; the 
earth reclothes itself with flowers which never fade. 
The Messiah will reign until the end of the corruptible 
world. The wicked, during this time, shall burn in a 
fire where none shall pity them. 

Oh, blindness of man, who will not discern the 
approach of the Great Day ! On the eve of the event 
they will live calm and careless. They will see 
miracles without understanding them ; true and false 
prophecies shall grow in all parts. Like pseudo- 
Esdras, our visionary believes in the small number of 
the elect, and in the enormous number of the damned. 
" Just men rejoice in your sufferings ; for a day of 
trial here below, ye shall have an eternity of glory." 
Like pseudo-Esdras again he disquiets himself with 


great na/ivett concerning the physical difficulties of 
the Resurrection. In what form shall the dead arise? 
Will they keep the same body that they had before ? 
Pseudo-Baruch does not hesitate. The earth will 
restore the dead which have been entrusted to her, as 
she has received them. " She shall give them back," 
saith God, "as I have given them to her." That will 
be necessary to convince the sceptical of the resurrec 
tion ; they must have ocular evidence of the identity 
of those whom they have known. 

After the judgment, a marvellous change will be 
wrought. The damned shall become more ugly than 
they were ; the just shall become beautiful, brilliant, 
glorious ; their figures shall be transformed into a 
luminous ideal. The rage of the wicked shall be 
frightful, seeing those whom they have persecuted here 
below glorified above them. They will be forced to 
assist at this spectacle, before being taken away for 
punishment. The just shall see marvels; the invisible 
world shall be unrolled before them ; the hidden 
times shall be discovered. No more old age ; equal to 
the angels : like the stars ; they may change them 
selves into whatever form they will ; they will go 
from beauty to beauty, from glory to glory ; all Para 
dise shall be open to them ; they shall contemplate 
the majesty of the mystical beasts which are under 
the throne ; all the armies of angels shall await their 
arrival. The first who enter shall receive the last, 
the last shall recognise those whom they knew to 
have preceded them. 

These dreams are pervaded by some glimpses of 
a sufficiently lucid good sense. More than pseudo- 
Esdras, pseudo-Baruch has pity on man, and protests 
against a theology which has no bowels. Man has 
not said to his father, " Beget me," nor has he said to 
Sheol, "Open to receive me." The individual is 
responsible only for himself ; each of us is Adam for 
his own soul. But fanaticism leads him soon to the 


most terrible thoughts. He sees rising from the sea 
a cloud composed alternately of zones of black and of 
clear water. These are the alternations of faith and 
unfaith in Israel. The angel Ramiel, who explains 
these mysteries to him, has judgments of the most 
sombre rigorism. The fine epochs are those in which 
they have massacred the nations which sinned, and 
burned and stoned the heterodox, when they dug up 
the bones of the wicked to burn them, when every 
sin against legal purity was punished with death. 
The good King " for whom the celestial glory was 
created," is he who does not suffer an uncircumcised 
man upon the earth. 

After the spectacle of the twelve zones a deluge of 
black water descends, mingled with stenches and with 
fire. It is the period of transition between the king 
dom of Israel and the coming of the Messiah a time 
of abominations, of wars, of plagues, of earthquakes. 
The earth seems to wish to devour its inhabitants. A 
flash of lightning (the Messiah) sweeps out all, purifies 
all, cures all. The miserable survivors of the plagues 
shall be given over to the Messiah, who will kill them. 
All who have not oppressed Israel shall live. Every 
nation which has governed Israel with violence shall 
be put to the sword. In the midst of these sufferings 
the Holy Land alone shall be at peace and shall pro 
tect its people. 

Paradise shall then be realised upon earth ; no 
more pain, no more suffering, no more sickness, no 
more toil. Animals shall serve man spontaneously. 
Men will still die, but never prematurely ; women 
shall feel no more the pangs of travail ; the harvest 
shall be gathered without effort ; the houses shall be 
built without fatigue. Hatred, injustice, vengeance, 
calumny, shall disappear. 

The people received the prophecy of Baruch with 
delight. But it was only right that the Jews dis 
persed in distant countries should not be deprived 


of so beautiful a revelation. Baruch wrote, therefore, 
to the ten tribes and a half of the dispersion, a letter 
which he entrusted to an eagle, and which is an 
abridgment of the entire book. There, even more 
clearly than in the book itself, may be seen the funda 
mental idea of the author, which is to bring about the 
return of the dispersed Jews to the Holy Land, that 
land alone during the Messianic crisis being able to 
offer them an assured asylum. The day is approaching 
when God will return to the enemies of Israel the 
evil which they have done to his people. The youth 
of the world is past ; the vigour of creation is spent. 
The bucket is near to the well ; the ship to the port ; 
the caravan to the city ; life to its end. 

We see the intidel nations prosperous, although they act with 
impiety ; but their prosperity is like a vapour. We see them 
rich although they act with iniquity ; but their riches will last 
them as long as a drop of water. We see the solidity of their 
power, although they resist God ; but it is worth no more than 
spittle. We contemplate their splendour whilst they do not 
observe the precepts of the Most High ; but they shall vanish 
away like smoke. . . . Let nothing which belongs to the present 
time enter into your thoughts ; have patience, for all that has 
been promised shall happen. We will not stop over the spec 
tacle of the delights which foreign nations may enjoy. Let us 
beware lest we be excluded at once from the heritage of two 
worlds- ; captives here, tortured hereafter. Let us prepare our 
souls that we may rest with our fathers and may not be pun 
ished with our enemies. 

Baruch receives the assurance that he will be taken 
to heaven like Enoch without having tasted death. 
We have seen that favour granted, in like manner, to 
Esdras, by the author of the apocalypse which is 
attributed to this last. 

The work of the pseudo- Baruch, like that of the 
pseudo- Esdras, was as successful amongst the Chris 
tians as amongst the Jews perhaps even more so. 
The original Greek was soon lost, but a Syriac trans 
lation was made which has come down to us. The 
final letter alone, however, was adapted for ihe use 


of the Church. This letter forms an integral part of 
the Syriac Bible, at least amongst the Jacobites, and 
lessons are taken from it for the Burial Office. We 
have seen pseudo-Esdras also furnish for our office for 
the dead some of its most gloomy thoughts. Death, 
in fact, appears to reign as mistress in these last 
fruits of the wandering imagination of Israel. 

Pseudo-Baruch is the last writer of the apocryphal 
literature of the Old Testament. The Bible which he 
knew is the same as that which we perceive behind 
the Epistle of Jude and the pretended Epistle of 
Barnabas, that is to say, the canonical books of the 
Old Testament. The author adds, whilst putting them 
on the same footing, books recently fabricated, such as 
the Revelations of Moses, the Prayer of Manasseh, 
and other agadic compilations. These works, written 
in a biblical style, divided into verses, became a sort of 
supplement to the Bible. Often even, precisely because 
of their modern character, such apocryphal productions 
had greater popularity than the ancient Bible, and 
were accepted as Holy Scripture on the day of their 
appearance, at least by the Christians, who were more 
easy in that respect than the Jews. For the future 
there will be no more of these books. The Jews 
compose no more pasticcios of the Sacred Text ; we 
feel amongst them even fears and precautions on this 
subject. Hebrew religious poetry of a later date seems 
to be expressly written in a style which is not that of 
the Bible. 

It is possible that the troubles in Palestine, under 
Trajan, may have been the occasion for transporting 
the Beth-din of Jabneh to Ouscha. The Beth-din, as 
far as possible, must be fixed in Judea ; but Jabneh, a 
mixed town, sufficiently large, not far from Jerusalem, 
might become uninhabitable for the Jews after the 
horrible excesses which they had committed in Egypt 
and Cyprus. Ouscha was an altogether obscure part 
of Galilee. The new patriarchate was of much less 


importance than that of Jabneh. The patriarch of 
Jabneh was a prince (nasi) ; he had a sort of court ; 
he drew a great prestige from the pretensions of the 
family of Hillel to descend from David. The supreme 
council of the nation was now going to reside in 
the obscure villages of Galilee. " The institutions of 
Ouscha" that is to say, the rules which were 
settled by the doctors of Ouscha had none the less 
an authority of the first order : they occupied a con 
siderable place in the history of the Talmud. 

What was called the Church of Jerusalem continued 
its tranquil existence a thousand leagues removed from 
the seditious ideas which animated the nation. A 
great number of Jews were converted, and continued to 
observe strictly the prescriptions of the Law. The 
chiefs of that Church were, moreover, taken from 
amongst the circumcised Christians, and all the 
Church, not to wound the rigorists, constrained itself 
to follow the Mosaic rules. The list of these bishops 
of the circumcision is full of uncertainties. The best- 
known appears to have been one named Justus. The 
controversy between the converted and those who 
persisted in pure Mosaism was active but less acri 
monious than after Bar Coziba. A certain Juda ben 
Nakouza appears to have played an especially brilliant 
part. The Christians endeavoured to prove that the 
Bible did not exclude the divinity of Jesus Christ. 
They insisted upon the word Elohifn, upon the plural 
employed by God upon several occasions (for example, 
in Genesis i. 26), upon the repetition of the different 
names of God, etc. The Jews had no difficulty in 
showing that the tendencies of the new sect were in 
contradiction with the fundamental doctrines of the 
religion of Israel. 

In Galilee, the relations of the two sects appear 
to have been friendly. A Judeo-Christian of Galilee, 
Jacob of Caphar-Shekaniah, appears about this time 
to have been much mixed up with the Jewish world 



of Sephoris, of the little towns of the neighbourhood. 
Not only did he converse with the doctors and quote 
to them pretended words of Jesus, but he practised, 
like Jaines, the brother of the Lord, spiritual medicine, 
and pretended to cure the bite of a serpent by the 
name of Jesus. Rabbi Eliezer was, it is said, perse 
cuted as inclined to Christianity. Rabbi Joshua ben 
Hanania died preoccupied with the new ideas. Chris 
tians repeated to him in every tone that God had 
turned away from the Jewish nation: "No," he 
answered, "His hand is still stretched out over us." 
There were conversions in his own family. His 
nephew Hananiah being come to Caphar-Nahum, " was 
bewitched by the minim " to such a point that he was 
seen on an ass on the Sabbath day. When he came 
to the house of his uncle Joshua, he cured him of the 
sorcery by means of an ointment, but insisted upon 
his retirement to Babylon. At another time the 
Talmudist narrator appears to desire that it shall be 
believed that amongst Christians infamies existed 
like those which were laid to the charge of the pre 
tended Nicholas. Rabbi Isaiah of Csesarea included in 
the same curse the Judeo-Christians who supported 
these polemics and the heretical population of Caphar- 
Nahum, the primary source of all the evil. 

In general the minim, especially those of Caphar- 
Nahum, passed for great magicians, and their successes 
were attributed to spells and to ocular illusions. We 
have already seen that until the third century at least 
Jewish doctors continued to work their cures in the 
name of Jesus. But the Gospel was cursed : reading 
it was strictly forbidden ; the very name of Gospel 
gave rise to a play upon words which made it signify 
" evident iniquity." A certain Eliza ben Abouyah, 
surnamed Aher, who professed a species of gnostic 
Christianity, was for his former co-religonists the 
type of a perfect apostate. Little by little the Judeo- 
Christians were placed by the Jews in the same rank 


as the Pagans, and much below the Samaritans. Their 
bread and their wine were held to be unclean ; their 
means of cure proscribed ; their books considered as 
repertoires of the most dangerous magic. Hence, the 
Churches of Paul offered to the Jews who wished to 
be converted a more advantageous position than the 
Judeo-Christian Churches, exposed as they were on 
the part of Judaism to all the hatred of which 
brothers who have quarrelled are capable. 

The truth of the apocalyptic image was striking. 
The woman protected by God, the Church, had truly 
received two eagles wings to fly into the desert far 
from the crises of the world and from its sanguinary 
dramas. There she grew in peace, and all that was 
done against her turned to her. The dangers of her 
first childhood are passed; her growth is hence 
forward assured. 



THE inaccuracy of the information furnished by the Gospels 
as to the material circumstances of the life of Jesus, the 
dubiety of the traditions of the first century, collected by 
Hegesippus, the frequent homonyms which occasion so 
much embarrassment in the history of the Jews at all 
epochs, render the questions relating to the family of Jesus 
almost insoluble. If we hold by a passage from the synoptic 
Gospels, Matt. xiii. 55, 56 ; Mark vi. 3, Jesus should have 
four brothers and several sisters. His four brothers were 
called James, Joseph or Jose, Simon, and Jude, respectively. 
Two of these names figure, in fact, in all the ecclesiastical and 
apostolic ti-aditions as being " brothers of the Lord." The 
personage of " James, brother of the Lord," is, after that of 
St Paul, the most perfectly sketched of any of the first 
Christian generation. The Epistle of St Paul to the Gala- 
tians, the Acts of the Apostles, the superscriptions of the 
authentic epistles, or those not ascribed to James and Jude, 
the historian Josephus, the Ebionite legend of Peter, the old 
Judeo-Christian historian Hegesippus, are agreed in making 
him the chief of the old Judeo-Christian Church. The most 
authentic of these proofs, the passage in the Epistle to the 
Galatians, gives him distinctly the title of dfoXf o$ rov Kvpi ov. 
One Jude appears also to have a most indisputable right 
to this title. The Jude whose epistle we possess gives him 
self the title of afoXpog de laxu(3ou. A person of the name of 
James, of sufficient importance to be taken notice of, and 
who was given the authority to call himself His brother, 
can hardly be the celebrated James of the Epistle to the 
Galatians, the Acts, of Josephus, of Hegesippus, of the 


pseudo-Clementine writings. If this James was "brother 
of the Lord," Jude, the true or supposed author of the 
epistle which forms a part of the canon, was then also a 
brother of the Lord. Hegesippus certainly understood him 
so to be. This Jude, whose grandson (viuvo/) was sought 
out and presented to Domitian as the last representative of 
the race of David, was, in the view of the antique historian 
of the Church, the brother of Jesus according to the flesh. 
Several reasons lead even to the supposition that this Jude 
was in his turn the chief of the Church of Jerusalem. Here 
is then a second personage who is included in the series of 
the four names given by the synoptic Gospels as those of 
the brothers of Jesus. 

Simon and Jose are not known otherwise than as brothers 
of the Lord. But there would be nothing singular in the 
fact that two members of the family should remain obscure. 
What is much more surprising is that in reconciling other 
facts furnished by the Gospels, Hegesippus, and the oldest 
traditions of the Church of Jerusalem, a family of cousins- 
german of Jesus is formed, bearing almost the same names 
which are given by Matthew (xiii. 55) and by Mark (vi. 3), 
as those of the brothers of Jesus. 

In fact, amongst the women whom the synoptics place 
at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and who testify to the 
resurrection, there is found one " Mary," mother of James 
the Less (6 fUKpos) and of Jose (Matt. xvii. 56 ; Mark xv. 
40, 47 ; xiv. 1 ; Luke xxiv. 10). This Mary is certainly 
the same as the one whom the fourth Gospel (xix. 25) 
places also at the foot of the cross, who is called Mapla, i] 
rot KXcaira (which signifies without doubt " Mary, the wife 
of Clopas "), and which makes her a sister of the mother of 
Jesus. The difficulty which is thus occasioned by the two 
sisters being called by the same name is hardly taken into 
account by the fourth Evangelist, who only once gives to 
the mother of Jesus the name of Mary. Be this as it may, 
we have already two cousins-german of Jesus called James 
and Jose. We find, moreover, a Simon, son of Clopas, 
whom Hegesippus and all those who have transmitted to us 
the memories of the primitive Church of Jerusalem, repre 
sented as the second Bishop of Jerusalem, and as having 
been martyred under Trajan. Finally, there are traces of a 


fourth member of the family of Olopas in that Jude, son 
of James, who appears to have succeeded Simeon in the See 
of Jerusalem. The family of Clopas appearing to have 
retained in an all but hereditary manner the government of 
the Church of Jerusalem from Titus to Hadrian, it is not 
too bold to assume that the James, the brother of this Jude, 
was James the Less, son of Mary Cleophas. 

We have thus three sons of Olopas called James, Jose, 
Simeon, exactly like the brothers of Jesus mentioned by 
the synoptics, without speaking of a hypothetical grandson 
in whom was revived the same identical name. Two sisters 
bearing the same name was indeed a very singular fact. 
What is to be said of a case in which these two sisters 
should have had at least three sons bearing the same name 1 
No criticism can admit the possibility of such a coincidence. 
It is evident that we shall have to seek some solution which 
shall dispose of that anomaly. 

The orthodox doctors, since St Jerome, thought to re 
move the difficulty by taking it for granted that the four 
personages enumerated by Mark and Matthew as brothers 
of Jesus were, in reality, his cousins-german, sons of Mary 
Cleophas. But this is inadmissible. Many other passages 
assume that Jesus had full brothers and sisters. The 
arrangement of the little scene recounted by Matthew 
(xiii. 54, et seq., and Mark vi. 2, et seq.) is very signifi 
cant. There the "brothers" are immediately related to 
the "mother." The anecdote (Mark iii. 31, et seq.; Matt. 
xii 46, et seq.) gives rise to still less ambiguity. Finally 
the whole of the Jerusalemitish tradition distinguishes 
clearly the "brothers of the Lord" from the family of 
Clopas. Simeon, son of Clopas, the second Bishop of Jeru 
salem, is called avs-^/ibs roD turqpof. Not a single one of 
the a&iXpo! rov Kuplov bears after his name the addition of 
rou KXuva. Notoriously James, brother of the Lord, was 
not the son of Clopas ; if he had been, he would have also 
been the brother of Simeon, his successor. Now Hege- 
sippus does not believe this. When we read chapters xi. 
and xxxii. of the third book of Eusebius Ecclesiastical 
History, we are convinced of it. The chronology will no 
longer permit of such a supposition. Simeon died at a very 
old age, in the reign of Trajan. James died in the year 62, 


also very old. The difference between the ages of the two 
brothers might thus have been forty years or thereabout. 
Hence the theory which sees the d,8eX<poi row Ku^/oo in the 
sons of Clopas is inadmissible. Let it be added that in the 
Gospel of the Hebrews, which is often so superior to the 
other synoptic texts, Jesus directly calls James "my brother," 
an expression altogether exceptional, and which people would 
certainly never employ to a cousin-german. 

Jesus had full brothers and sisters. Only it is possible 
that these brothers and sisters were but half-brothers and 
half-sisters. Were these brothers and sisters likewise sons 
and daughters of Mary 1 This is improbable. In fact, the 
brothers appear to have been much older than Jesus. Now 
Jesus was, as it would appear, the first-born of his mother. 
Jesus, moreover, was, in his youth, designated at Nazareth 
by the name of "Son of Mary." For this we have the 
most undoubted testimony of the Gospels. This assumes 
that he was known for a long time as the only son of a 
widow. In fact, such appellations were only employed 
where the father was dead, and when the widow had no 
other son. Let us instance the case of Piero della Fran- 
cesca, the celebrated painter. In fine, the myth of the 
virginity of Mary, without excluding absolutely the idea 
that Mary may have had afterwards other children by 
Joseph, or have been remarried, fits in better with the 
hypothesis that she had only one son. 

No doubt, the legend is so constructed as to do the great 
est violence to truth. Nevertheless, we must remember that 
the legend now in question was elaborated by the brothers 
and cousins of Jesus themselves. Jesus, the sole and tardy 
progeny of the union of a young woman and a man already 
reached maturity, offered perfect opportunity for the opinions 
according to which his conception had been supernatural. 
In such a case, the divine action appeared so much the more 
striking in proportion as nature seemed the more impotent. 
People take a pleasure in representing children, predestined 
to great prophetic vocations, as being born to old men or of 
women who have been for a long time sterile Samuel, 
John the Baptist, and Mary herself are conspicuous in 
stances. The author, also, of the Protovangile of James, 
St Epiphanes, etc., ardently insists upon the great age of 


Joseph, induced thereto, no doubt, by d, priori motives, yet 
guided also in this latter by a just opinion as to the cir 
cumstances in which Jesus was born. 

These difficulties could be readily enough removed, if we 
were to assume that Joseph had before been married, 
and had, by this marriage, sons and daughters, in 
particular, James and Jude. These two personages, and 
James, at least, appear to have been older than Jesus. 
The hostile disposition which was attributed at first to the 
brothers of Jesus by the Gospels, the singular contrast 
which the principles and the species of life led by James 
and Jude, and those of Jesus presents, is, in such a hypo 
thesis, somewhat less unaccountable than on the other 
suppositions that have been made to get rid of these 

How could the sons of Clopas be cousins-german of Jesus 1 
They may have been by the same mother, Mary Cleophas, 
as the fourth Gospel would have us believe, or by the same 
father, Clopas, who is made out by Hegisippus to be a 
brother of Joseph, or on both sides at once j for it was 
actually possible that the two brothers may have married 
two sisters. Between these three hypotheses, the second is 
much the more probable. The hypothesis as to two sisters 
bearing the same name, is extremely problematical. The 
passage in the fourth Gospel (xix. 25) may contain an 
error. Let us add that, according to one interpretation, a 
laborious one, it is true, yet, nevertheless, admissible, the 
expression i] a&tXpJi T^S /j,rirpo$ avrov does not refer to Mapia 
T] ToD KXwTra, but to a distinct nameless personage, such as 
was the mother of Jesus herself. The aged Hegisippus, so 
preoccupied with everything touching the family of Jesus, 
appears to have known quite well the truth upon this point. 
But how can we admit that the two brothers Joseph and 
Clopas had three or even four sons bearing the same names 1 
Let us examine the list of the four brothers of Jesus given 
by the synoptics James, Jude, Simon, Jose. The first two 
have a well-authenticated title to be styled brothers of the 
Lord ; the two last, outside the two Synoptic passages, have 
no valid claim to it. Just as in the case of the two names 
Simon and Simeon, Jose or Joseph, which are to be found 
elsewhere in the list of the sons of Clopas, we are led to 


adopt the following hypothesis : that the passages in Mark 
and in Matthew, in which are enumerated the four brothers 
of Jesus, contain an inadvertence ; that as regards the four 
personages named by the synoptics, James and Jude were 
indeed brothers of Jesus and sons of Joseph, but that Simon 
and Jose have been placed there by mistake. The compiler 
of that little writing, like all the agadists, lays little store 
by exactness of material details, and, like all the evangelical 
narrators (except the fourth), was dominated by the cadence 
of Semitic parallelism. The necessities of locution may have 
drawn them into making an enumeration, the turn of which 
required four proper names. As he only knew two full 
brothers of Jesus, he was, perforce, compelled to associate 
with them two of their cousins-german. In fact, it seems 
that Jesus had indeed more than two brothers. " Have I 
not the right to have a wife," says St Paul, " like the other 
Apostles, like the brothers of the Lord, like Cephas 1 }" 
According to all tradition, James, the brother of the Lord, 
was not married. Jude was married, but that was not 
sufficient to justify the plural used by St Paul. There 
would need to have been a good many of these brothers, 
seeing that the exception in the case of James did not 
hinder St Paul from regarding generally the brothers of 
the Lord as married. 

Clopas seems to have been younger than Joseph, and his 
eldest son must have been younger than the eldest son of 
the latter. It is natural that, if his name was James, a 
custom might exist in the family of calling him o /tt/x^o g, in 
order to distinguish him from his cousin-german of the same 
name. Simeon may have been fifteen years younger than 
Jesus, and, strictly speaking, died in the reign of Trajan. 
Nevertheless, we prefer to believe that the member of 
the Cleophas family martyred under Trajan belonged to 
another generation. Mere data regarding the age of James 
and Simeon are, moreover, very uncertain. James must 
have died at ninety-six, and Simeon at a hundred-and- 
twenty. This last assumption is, on the face of it, inadmissible. 
On the other hand, if James had been ninety-six, as it ia 
pretended, in 62, he must have been born thirty-four years 
before Jesus, which is a thing very unlikely. 

It remains to inquire whether any of these brothers of 


cousins-german of Jesus did not figure in the lists of the 
Apostles which have been conserved to us in the synoptics 
and by the author of the Acts. Although the college of the 
Apostles and that of the brothers of the Lord were two 
distinct groups, it has nevertheless been considered as possible 
that a few of the personages may have constituted a part of 
both. Indeed the names of James, Jude, and Simeon are 
to be found in the lists of the Apostles. James, the son of 
Zebedee, has nothing to do with this discussion, no more than 
has Judas Iscariot. But what are we to think of this 
James, son of Alpheus, whom the four lists of the Apostles 
(Matt. x. 2, et seq. ; Mark iii. 1 4, et seq. ; Luke v. 1 3, et seq. ; 
Acts i. 13, et seq.) include in the number of the Twelve? 
People have often identified the name of AX^a/bg with that 
of KAgoT&f, by means of <skn. This is indeed a reconcile 
ment which is altogether false. AXpa/bj is the Hebrew 
name -B^n, and KXwraj or KXeocra^ is an abbreviation of 
KXtoKarpog. James, the son of Alpheus, has not then the 
least title to being one of the cousins-german of Jesus. The 
evangelical personnel possessed in reality four Jameses, one 
the son of Joseph and brother of Jesus ; another, son of 
Clopas ; another, son of Zebedee ; another, son of Alpheus. 

The list of the Apostles given by Luke in his Gospel and 
in the Acts contains one lovdag laxcajSou, whom it has been 
attempted to identify with Jude, brother of the Lord, by 
assuming that it was necessary to understand adtXipog between 
the two names. Nothing could be more arbitrary. This 
Judas was the son of James, otherwise unknown. The same 
must also be said of Simon the Zealot, whom people have 
tried, without a shadow of reason, to identity with the 
Simon that we find classed (Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3) 
among the brothers of Jesus. 

To sum up, it does not appear that a single member of 
the family of Jesus formed a part of the college of the 
Twelve. James himself was not of that number. The only 
two brothers of the Lord whose names we are sure of 
knowing were James and Jude. James was not married, 
but Jude had children and grandchildren; the latter appeared 
before Domitian as descendants of David, and were presidents 
of churches in Syria. 

As for the sons of Clopas, we know three of them, one of 


whom appears to have had children. This family of Clopas, 
after the war of Titus, held the highest positions in the 
Church of Jerusalem. A member of the Clopas family was 
martyred under Trajan. After that, we hear no more of the 
descendants of the brothers of the Lord, nor of descendant? 
of Clopas. 


London : Printed by the temple 







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Beyond a doubt Rabelais was among the deepest, as well as boldest, 
thinkers of his age. His buffoonery was not merely Brutus rough stick, 
which contained a rod of gold : it was necessary as an amulet against the 
monks and legates. ... I could write a treatise in praise of the moral 
elevation of Rabelais work, which would make the Church stare, and the 
conventicle groan, and yet would be truth, and nothing but the truth. I 
class Rabelais with the great creative minds of the world, Shakespeare, 
Dante, Cervantes, etc. COLERIDGE. 

Rabelais seems to have been the father of ridicule, a man of excellent 
and universal learning, as well as wit. SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE. 

Cardinal Duprat was so enamoured of Rabelais Works, that he was 
never without a copy of them. Wherever he went, his Rabelais went with 

Cardinal Jean du Bellay was possessed of the same feeling ; he ad 
mired Rabelais so much, that he refused a learned individual of the day a 
seat at his table because he had not read THE BOOK, for so Rabelais 
singular narrative was called. VENTOUILLAC. 



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The stories are one hundred in number, and range from the highest 
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Griselda, which international literature owes to Boccaccio, ought to atone for 
much. Boccaccio is the creator of those innumerable beautiful types and 
stories which have become household words among civilised nations. No 
author can equal him in these contributions to the store of international 
literature. There are, indeed, few great poets who have not in some way 
become indebted to the inexhaustible treasures of Boccaccio s greatness. 
Among the English who have drawn from the same source, the list com 
prises Chaucer, Lydgate, Shakespeare, Keats, and Tennyson. FRED. 
HEUFFER in Encyclopedia Britannica. 



Paper, 2s. 6d. Cloth, 33. 6d. Illustrated, 53. 

We could fill pages with extracts in which keen satire and delicate irony 
attain a felicitous charm of expression altogether unsurpassable. Such ex 
cellencies of expression as of thought would indeed be needed to sustain the 
claim of the book as one of the leading French classics of the sixteenth 
century. But its highest and most enduring interest appears to us to consist 
in the fact, to which we now draw attention, that it is the chiefest and com- 
pletest literary exponent of the close of the French Renaissance. 
Edinburgh Review, 1888. 



Translated by an Oxford M.A. 
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The Emperor . . . raised his head, and in his nasal tones said gently 
to the Empress : " So you have read Mademoiselle de Maupin ? You 
did not tell me that ! " 

At this unexpected interruption, the Empress held down her eyes, while 
the Emperor laughed behind his big moustache. Pall Mall Gazette, lith 
Oct. 1889. 

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The New Marina. A powerful Modern English Romance. 

Eighteen Years on the Sandringham Estate; or, The 

Prince of Wales at Home. 
The Prince and his Lady Tenant a pretty little quarrel. Pall Mall Gazette. 


The Autobiography of a Nonogenarian. 

If originality were ever desired by anyone, let him read this book. 

Aberdeenshire Observer. 

The Face at the "Window. A Stock Exchange Romance. 





The Wife, the Husband and the I The Bride of the First Night. 

Lover. (Now ready.) That Rascal Gustave. 

The Vampire. The Cuckold. 

The Courtesan. 

Zizine ; or, the Monde. 

; My Neighbour Raymond. 
The Pucelle of Belleville. 


One Shilling Each. 

What a fortunate man, to be arrested ! Now you can read " Paul de 
Kock." By Jove, you are the most lucky fellow I know. You see you 
thought yourself very miserable in being arrested. Tis the finest thing in 

THE TEMPLE COMPANY, 6 Bookseller s Row, London, W,C. 

the world, for now you will read " MON VOISIN RAYMOND." There are 
always two sides to a case. Lord Beaconsficld ( Henrietta Temple }. 

The English gave Monsieur Paul a very hearty welcome. (Jerome 
Paturot, Fraser, 1845. Thackeray.) 

Generally the first inquiry made by Pope Gregory (died 1846) of a new 
French arrival at Rome ran, Well, how is that rascal of a Paul de 
Kock ? " Jules Janin. 



Being the History of his Turkish Harem bequeathed to his Nephew 
in Paris, and duly chronicled by the latter. 




A Marvellous Prodiiction. Is. 6d., doth 2s. 



( Unexpu rgated. ) Is. 


All the cases recorded in this Volume are published in 
book form for the first time. 

Madeline Smith, Murder of Francis Saville Kent, the Great Roupell 
Forgeries, Trial and Execution of Lord Stourton, Rev. Dr Dodd, Captain 
John Donellan, Mr and Mrs Manning, Franz Muller, the Great Bullion 
Robbery on South- Eastern Railway, the Memorable Crystal Palace Frauds, 
etc. 200 pages, Is. 

THE TEMPLE COMPANY, 6 Bookseller s How, London, W,C,