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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/197

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183
AGNOSTICISM: A REJOINDER.

first order—it could have been written by none but a man of remarkable literary capacity, who had drunk deep of Alexandrian philosophy. Moreover, the doctrine of the writer of the fourth Gospel is more remote from that of the "sect of the Nazarenes" than is that of Paul himself. I am quite aware that orthodox critics have been capable of maintaining that John, the Nazarene, who was probably well past fifty years of age when he is supposed to have written the most thoroughly Judaizing book in the New Testament—the Apocalypse—in the roughest of Greek, underwent an astounding metamorphosis of both doctrine and style by the time he reached the ripe age of ninety or so, and provided the world with a history in which the acutest critic can not make out where the speeches of Jesus end and the text of the narrative begins; while that narrative is utterly irreconcilable in regard to matters of fact with that of his fellow-apostle, Matthew.

 

The end of the whole matter is this: The "sect of the Nazarenes," the brother and the immediate followers of Jesus, commissioned by him as apostles, and those who were taught by them up to the year 50 a. d., were not "Christians" in the sense in which that term has been understood ever since its asserted origin at Antioch, but Jews—strict orthodox Jews—whose belief in the Messiahship of Jesus never led to their exclusion from the Temple services, nor would have shut them out from the wide embrace of Judaism.[1] The open proclamation of their special view about the Messiah was doubtless offensive to the Pharisees, just as rampant Low Churchism is offensive to bigoted High Churchism in our own country; or as any kind of dissent is offensive to fervid religionists of all creeds. To the Sadducees, no doubt, the political danger of any Messianic movement was serious, and they would have been glad to put down Nazarenism, lest it should end in useless rebellion against their Roman masters, like that other Galilean movement headed by Judas, a generation earlier. Galilee was always a hot-bed of seditious enthusiasm against the rule of Rome; and high priest and procurator alike had need to keep a sharp eye upon natives of that district. On the whole, however, the Nazarenes were but little troubled for the first twenty years of their existence; and the undying hatred of the Jews against those later converts whom they regarded as apostates and fautors of a sham Judaism was awakened by Paul. From their point of view, he was a mere renegade Jew, opposed alike to orthodox Judaism and to orthodox Nazarenism, and whose teachings threatened Judaism

  1. "If every one was baptized as soon as he acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah, the first Christians can have been aware of no other essential differences from the Jews."—Zeller, "Vorträge" (1865), p. 216.