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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/193

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AGNOSTICISM: A REJOINDER.

tians somewhere between the years 55 and 60 A.D., that is to say, roughly, twenty, or five-and-twenty, years after the crucifixion. If this is so, the Epistle to the Galatians is one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, of extant documentary evidences of the state of the primitive Church. And, be it observed, if it is Paul's writing, it unquestionably furnishes us with the evidence of a participator in the transactions narrated. With the exception of two or three of the other Pauline epistles, there is not one solitary book in the New Testament of the authorship and authority of which we have such good evidence.

And what is the state of things we find disclosed? A bitter quarrel, in his account of which Paul by no means minces matters or hesitates to hurl defiant sarcasms against those who were "reputed to be pillars": James, "the brother of the Lord," Peter, the rock on whom Jesus is said to have built his Church, and John, "the beloved disciple." And no deference toward "the rock" withholds Paul from charging Peter to his face with "dissimulation."

The subject of the hot dispute was simply this: Were Gentile converts bound to obey the law or not? Paul answered in the negative; and, acting upon his opinion, had created at Antioch (and elsewhere) a specifically "Christian" community, the sole qualifications for admission into which were the confession of the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, and baptism upon that confession. In the epistle in question, Paul puts this—his "gospel," as he calls it—in its most extreme form. Not only does he deny the necessity of conformity with the law, but he declares such conformity to have a negative value. "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing" (Galatians v, 3). He calls the legal observances "beggarly rudiments," and anathematizes every one who preaches to the Galatians any other gospel than his own—that is to say, by direct consequence, he anathematizes the Jerusalem Nazarenes whose zeal for the law is testified by James in a passage of the Acts cited further on. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, dealing with the question of eating meat offered to idols, it is clear that Paul himself thinks it a matter of indifference; but he advises that it should not be done, for the sake of the weaker brethren. On the other hand, the Nazarenes of Jerusalem most strenuously opposed Paul's "gospel," insisting on every convert becoming a regular Jewish proselyte, and consequently on his observance of the whole law; and this party was led by James and Peter and John (Galatians ii, 9). Paul does not suggest that the question of principle was settled by the discussion referred to in Galatians. All he says is that it ended in the practical agreement that he and Barnabas should do as they had been doing in respect of the Gentiles;