Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/194

This page has been validated.
180
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

while James and Peter and John should deal in their own fashion with Jewish converts. Afterward he complains bitterly of Peter, because, when on a visit to Antioch, he at first inclined to Paul's view, and ate with the Gentile converts; but when "certain came from James," "drew back, and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation" (Galatians ii, 12, 13).

There is but one conclusion to be drawn from Paul's account of this famous dispute, the settlement of which determined the fortunes of the nascent religion. It is that the disciples at Jerusalem, headed by "James, the Lord's brother," and by the leading apostles, Peter and John, were strict Jews, who objected to admit any converts to their body, unless these, either by birth or by becoming proselytes, were also strict Jews. In fact, the sole difference between James and Peter and John, with the body of disciples whom they led, and the Jews by whom they were surrounded, and with whom they for many years shared the religious observances of the Temple, was that they believed that the Messiah, whom the leaders of the nation yet looked for, had already come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Acts of the Apostles is hardly a very trustworthy history; it is certainly of later date than the Pauline epistles, supposing them to be genuine. And the writer's version of the conference of which Paul gives so graphic a description, if that is correct, is unmistakably colored with all the art of a reconciler, anxious to cover up a scandal. But it is none the less instructive on this account. The judgment of the "council" delivered by James is that the Gentile converts shall merely "abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things strangled, and from fornication." But notwithstanding the accommodation in which the writer of the Acts would have us believe, the Jerusalem church held to its endeavor to retain the observance of the law. Long after the conference, some time after the writing of the Epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians, and immediately after the dispatch of that to the Romans, Paul makes his last visit to Jerusalem, and presents himself to James and all the elders. And this is what the Acts tells us of the interview:

And they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands (or myriads) there are among the Jews of them which have believed; and they are all zealous for the law: and they have been informed concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs (Acts xxi, 20, 21).

They therefore request that he should perform a certain public religious act in the Temple, in order that