Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History

By Maurice Goguel (1926)



The canon of Muratori, a Roman document of the second half of the second century, states that what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of a particular church is meant for all (omnibus dicit). This is the conception which inspired the canonization of the Epistles, and which has prevailed, but it was certainly not with the idea that his letters would become elements of a sacred collection that the apostle wrote them. It is only by a kind of transposition—at times not without prejudice to their true spirit—that these letters, which spring spontaneously from a sensitive personality, whose emotions, enthusiasms and indignation they reveal, have been changed into encyclicals or dogmatic treatises and interpreted in the style of a code.

Deissmann has maintained that it is a radical mistake to consider the Epistles of Paul as literary works, for they were only written as substitutes for conversations which distance rendered impossible. They are not in the technical sense of the word "Epistles"—that is, works which in an epistolary form are intended for a larger public in time and space than those to whom they are addressed, and treat of questions which might just as well be the object of a dissertation or a book. To

[1] We consider the letters of Paul as authentic with the exception of that to the Ephesians and the Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). This conception, generally admitted to-day, will be vindicated in Book IV of our Introduction. The majority of those who deny the historical character of Jesus repudiate the testimony of Paul's Epistles. M. Couchoud is the sole exception. The position of Drews is uncertain. Nevertheless, he takes some account of their testimony—not, it is true, without dismissing (as interpolated) certain important texts, such as I Cor. xi. 23 seq. (See D. Christusmythe, i, p. 121, by Drews.)


thoroughly understand the Epistles of Paul it is necessary to forget the halo which for eighteen centuries has surrounded them, but which, while glorifying, distorts them. They are writings adapted to circumstances, improvised hastily between two journeys, dictated in the evening after a day devoted to manual work or to preaching, to meet some unforeseen circumstance, to solve some difficulty, to give instruction or warning, or to prevent a misunderstanding. Each one of them answers to some complex situation, which, having disappeared, the main reason for its existence has disappeared also. Further, there appears no trace of any custom on the part of the churches of the apostolic age of regularly reading the Epistles of Paul. They were communicated to the assembly when they were received; perhaps they were read again as it happened, so long as the question which had dictated their composition was not settled, but afterwards they were simply preserved in the archives, and that, it appears, with but little care. Many of these letters have disappeared, and amongst those preserved to us several seem to have undergone various alterations. When in Thessalonians (1, v. 27) Paul writes, "I charge you in the name of the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the Brethren," he merely requests that all may be informed of his message, and in no wise thinks of a second reading. To the Colossians Paul writes: "When this letter is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from the Laodiceans" (Col. iv. 16). The apostle is so far from the idea of a regular reading that he speaks of the dispatch, not of a copy, but of the original itself. There is nothing more unsound than to see in the Pauline Epistles theological treatises. Therefore complete expositions of the faith or system of thought of the apostle must not be sought in them. Written for those who had received his teaching, they lay stress upon what these persons knew, and proceed very often by allusions to what he had taught and the common tradition Chnstianity. The fundamental doctrines are not more systematically treated than the facts upon which they rest. The initiates to whom they were addressed knew both, and had no need to have them recalled.



Through the narratives in the book of Acts (vii. 58, viii. 1-3, ix. 1, 2), and particularly through the narrative of Paul himself (1 Cor. xv. 9; Gal. i. 13, 23; Phil. iii. 6), we know that before his conversion Paul was a bitter persecutor of the Christians. It is scarcely probable that the future apostle ever saw Jesus Himself, in spite of the passage in which he says: "If even we have known Christ after the flesh, we know Him no more" (2 Cor. v. 16). The words "after the flesh" may as well belong to "we know Him no more" as to "Christ." It is therefore possible to understand this as "we have known Jesus during His earthly life," or "we have had a carnal and Judaic conception of the Messiah." Even if the first of these two interpretations is to be preferred, account must be taken of the hypothetical element contained in the phrase. Paul appears to allude, in order to contest its value, to a privilege of which certain of his opponents boasted. In this passage merely an hypothesis is outlined. It must be added that if Paul had known Jesus he would have been among His enemies. Why should he who accuses himself of persecuting the disciples not have said that he had fought against the Master Himself?[1]

It was in the period which immediately followed the drama of Calvary that Paul must have come into contact with Christianity.[2] Even if it be supposed that the disciples of Jesus had only seen in Him, during His ministry, a prophet or a doctor, it is impossible to hold that after the Passion they remained grouped together in His name without attributing to His personality a quite peculiar value. They must have been led

[1] Among the critics who believe that Paul had seen Jesus we may name Sabatier, Johannes Weiss, Machen. The opposite opinion is held by Renan, Wellhausen, Feine, Prat. Some few writers, like Pfleiderer, consider the question insoluble (Das Urchristentism).

[2] The time when Paul came into contact with Christianity cannot be very much after the Passion. We consider that Jesus must have died at Easter, in the year 28, and that the conversion of Paul must be placed at the end of 29. Concerning the fixing of these two dates see my works Essai sur la Chronologie Paulinienne and Notes d'histoire evangelique; Le problème Chronologique. Whilst pursuing an entirely different method from that I have followed, Meyer ends by putting the death of Jesus in 27 or 28 and the conversion of Paul in 28 or 29.


to see in His death the realization of a plan conceived by God for the salvation of humanity. We do not know how far Christology had developed before the conversion of Paul. It suffices to explain his sentiments and the attitude which they imposed upon him to know that the Christians continued to invoke Jesus, and to consider Him as one sent from God.

Saul of Tarsus—to give him the name by which he seems to have been known in the Jewish world—was then a young Rabbi, full of fanaticism and zeal for the Law. He must have been profoundly scandalized by the attitude of men who proclaimed themselves disciples of a madman whose pretensions had been condemned by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Jewish tribunal, and who had perished at the hands of the Roman authorities. The attitude of Paul is characterized by the phrase he was to employ later on: "Christ crucified, a scandal to the Jews " (1 Cor. i. 23 ; cp. Gal. v. 11). It epitomizes at once his experiences as a missionary to the Jews and his personal feelings before he was yet a Christian. His thought was dominated by the principle of the Law, which he recalls in his Epistle to the Galatians, "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. iii. 13; cp. with Deut. xxi. 23). In permitting Him to die this infamous death, God Himself had pronounced against Jesus, and declared Him accursed. Those therefore who declared that this accursed one was the Son of God, the promised Messiah of Israel, were guilty of an appalling blasphemy. Wellhausen has supposed that, taught wisdom by hatred, Paul from this time recognized in Christianity a doctrine whose development would ruin Judaism. To admit this would be to misunderstand Paul's fanaticism and the depth of his faith in the destiny of Israel. It is still more rash to suppose, as does Pfleiderer, that the things which Paul knew and heard concerning Jesus exercised upon him a secret attraction, and that he was impressed by the spectacle of the lives of the Christians.

That would have been the spur for him to kick against,[1] the secret anxiety which he would have wished to silence by persecuting

[1] Acts xxvi. 14. If this detail is authentic, it is astonishing that it is only met with in one of the three narratives in the Acts. Moreover, we do not believe that tnese narratives can be taken to be rigorously historical, although sometimes, and especially in recent times, their value has been too much depreciated.


the Christians. That Paul, unknown to himself, may have been influenced by Christianity in the Jewish period of his life is, a priori, very plausible, but that he was at all conscious of it appears less likely. The testimony which he gives of himself when speaking of the persecutions directed by him against the Christians does not permit any doubt of the sincerity of his motives. The explanation of his attitude is more simple. Paul considered the Christians blasphemers and sacrilegious. Now blasphemy and sacrilege, in antiquity, were not sins which it belonged alone to God to judge; they were crimes which exposed the nation to the risk of divine anger. In this respect the judicial authorities had to take cognizance of them, and it was part of the duty of everyone to aid them, and if need be to stimulate their zeal. An important consequence flows from this fact; it is that the cross had dominated the period of Paul's antagonism to Christianity, just as later it was to dominate his Christian thought. Paul the persecutor—and not only Paul the Christian—thus appears to us as a witness to the cross, and this also within the few months which followed the day of its erection on Calvary.

Here is a decisive objection against the doctrine that the entire Gospel history has been deduced from a theory or from a pre-existing myth and, if the word is allowed, from the supernatural life of an ideal Christ of whom the experiences of Peter and the primitive Christians were the initial manifestations.


Notwithstanding the opposition (exaggerated by the Tübingen school, nevertheless real) which existed between the apostle Paul and the Jerusalem Christians, who remained more attached to Judaism and its traditional ritual than he was himself, there existed within primitive Christianity a fundamental unity. Paul was conscious of it when summing up the essentials of Christian teaching. He said: "Therefore whether it were I or they (the apostles at Jerusalem) so we preach and so ye believed" (1 Cor. xv. 11). Upon their side the Jerusalemites had confirmed this unity in offering Paul the hand of fellowship and


in recognizing that he had received the mission to preach the gospel to the pagans (Gal. ii. 7-10). How is it possible to explain this fundamental unity of Christianity if at its origin there only existed conceptions relating to an ideal Christ and to His spiritual manifestations? Paul insists in the most formal way that his conversion took place without direct contact with the Jerusalem church. He declares himself "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Gal. i. 1). How is it possible to reconcile this absolute independence of Christianity and the apostleship of Paul with the unity of primitive Christianity unless by the fact that the apostle recognized in the activity of the celestial Christ, to whom he attributed the birth of his faith, the continuation and consequence of the historical ministry of Jesus to which the Christianity of the Twelve and the Jerusalem church owed its origin?


Before examining the testimony that the apostle Paul renders directly to the evangelical tradition, it will be convenient to point out two facts which prove that the Pauline Christ is indeed a real human personality. On two occasions the apostle speaks incidentally of James and other brothers of the Lord (Gal. i. 19 ; 1 Cor. ix. 5). In neither of these two passages is it possible, unless the text be distorted in an inadmissible manner,[1] to give to the word "brothers" any other interpretation than that which belongs to it in its natural sense.[2] There were then in the Jerusalem church (Paul knew it, and the churches of the Diaspora were not ignorant of it) men who passed for being the brothers of Jesus according to the flesh.

[1] There can be no reason to see in the phrase "brother of the Lord" the designation of an ecclesiastical function or title, first because it would be a conjecture resting upon no foundation, and secondly because it would not be possible to differentiate this function from the apostolate, with which, nevertheless, it could not be identified.

[2] If, as is done by Catholic exegesis, there were given to the phrase "brothers of Jesus" the meaning of half-brothers (sons of a premier marriage of Joseph) or of cousins of Jesus, the force of our argument vould not be seriously affected.


How can this well-established fact be reconciled with the theory that the Christ preached by Paul was a purely ideal personage?[1] Drews,[2] it is true, has maintained that the phrase "brother of the Lord" meant simply member of the community, but to designate the faithful the apostle merely said "the brothers" or "the brethren in the Lord," and in the passages in which the brothers of Jesus are referred to Paul names them besides other Christians, the apostles and Cephas, and he does not confuse them with these. In 1 Cor. ix. 5, in particular, it is remarkable that Paul, in speaking of the wife that he might have, says quite simply "sister," whilst he says "brethren of the Lord" concerning the persons to whom he compares himself.[3]

One other fact imposes a similar conclusion. Paul assimilates his apostleship entirely to that of the Twelve; he obtained, not without difficulty, the recognition of the validity of his vocation by the Jerusalem church (Gal. ii. 1-10). He connects his apostleship, like that of the Twelve, with an apparition of the risen Christ,[4] but he must have been obliged to fight a hard and persevering battle to establish that he was in nothing inferior to those whom in derision he called the arch-apostles (2 Cor. xi. 5 and xii. 11). The latter, or at any rate their partisans, must have maintained that Paul lacked a qualification of which his rivals could boast. It was impossible to question either the qualifications of Paul from the Judaic point of view (Phil. iii. 4-6; 2 Cor. xi. 21, 22) or his services to the cause of the Gospel and the sufferings accepted by him for it[5] (1 Cor. xv. 10; 2 Cor. xi. 23-33; Gal. i. 17) or the signs accomplished and visions obtained by him (2 Cor. xii. 1-12). A text in the epistle to the Galatians enables us to understand the nature of the objection raised against the Pauline apostleship. Concerning the apostles at Jerusalem Paul said:[6] "But of these who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever

[1] There is also a reference to the brothers and sisters of Jesus in Mark iii. 31; Matt. xii. 46, xiii. 55; Luke viii. 19; John ii. 12, vii. 3-5; Acts i. 14.

[2] Drews, D. Christusmythe, i, pp. 125-7.

[3] Joh. Weiss, Jesus von Nazareth.

[4] This follows by comparing 1 Cor. ix. i and 1 Cor. xv. 8.

[5] The marks referred to in Gal. vi. 17 are in all probability the scars from blows received in the service of Christ.

[6] There are three designations of the Jerusalem apostles employed in the Galatians. It appears that Paul alludes to a current designation of the apostles of which it is no longer possible to find the origin.


they were it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person)—for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me " (Gal. ii. 6).

The qualification on which the Jerusalem apostles prided themselves and which Paul lacked, referred to the past. The Twelve could boast of having been Christians and apostles before Paul, but he in no wise attempted to hide the fact that he had formerly persecuted the church and that he was a late recruit for the Gospel.[1] On the contrary, he boasted of it as something to be proud of (1 Cor. xv. 8-10), because he considered it a manifest proof of the intervention of God in his life.

What could this former qualification of which the Jerusalem apostles boasted be, other than that they had been witnesses and associates of the historical ministry of Jesus? The controversies between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles thus establish that the latter boasted of having been witnesses of the life of Jesus—a fact which Paul did not contest.


In the opening salutation of the Epistle to the Romans Paul speaks of "Christ Jesus, born of the seed of David according to the flesh, as God had announced in advance by the prophets in the holy scriptures" (Rom. i. 2, 3). In M. Couchoud's view[2] it follows from this passage that the human (or apparently human) life of Jesus was not told, but revealed to Paul, and that by prophecies. The fact that the apostle thought he recognized concordance between the history of Jesus and certain prophecies does not prove that the history has been deduced from the prophecy.[3] But this is not all. Two announcements are made in the phrase before us—one is the existence of Jesus, the other asserts his descent from David. The Davidic origin asserted by Paul on the faith of prophecies gives Jesus a human lineage. The notion of the Davidic origin of Jesus appears to have a

[1] This explains why in 2 Cor. v. 16 Paul seems to deny any value in the fact of having known Jesus.

[2] Couchoud, Le Mystère de Jesus, p. 131.

[3] We shall return in a later chapter to the relations between the prophecy and evangelical history.


theological source. The Gospels record no word of Jesus which supports it. It is merely implied in certain episodes to which no great importance can be attached.[1] The blind man, Bartimeus, addressed Jesus once as "Jesus, Son of David," and on another occasion as "Son of David," according to Mark (x. 47, 48) and Luke (xviii. 38, 39), whilst Matthew has on both occasions simply "Son of David."[2] In the narrative of the entry into Jerusalem, organized to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah (ix. 9), the mention of David in the popular welcome does not occupy the same place in Mark (xi. 9) and in Matthew (xxi. 9), and is lacking in Luke (xix. 38), which requires us, at any rate, to consider its authenticity as not certain.[3] One single idea remains from study of these texts, and that is, considering Jesus in a more or less vague manner as the Messiah, He was sometimes spoken of as the Son of David. But there is nothing to show that Jesus Himself accepted it, and still less that He claimed this title. On the contrary, in a remark whose authenticity is beyond question,[4] Jesus appears to oppose the notions of the Messiahship and the Davidic origin one against the other. In the Temple Jesus asks: "How is it the scribes say that Christ is the Son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says,

[1] We put aside two genealogies, which are, besides, not concordant, found in Matt. i. 1-16 and Luke iii. 23-38. Both presume the Davidic origin of Jesus, but they are recent elements of the tradition wanting in Mark.

[2] It is the same in the narrative of Matt. ix. 27, which is only a variant of the story of Bartimeus. We do not attach much importance to Matt. xv. 22, where the Canaanitish woman calls Jesus "Lord, Son of David," because a comparison with Mark shows that there is only a literary development involved, nor of Matt. xii. 23, where Jesus, having cured a blind and dumb demoniac, some of the bystanders ask, "Is not this man the Son of David?" because this narrative is an editorial element which offers the starting-point supposed by Mark of the accusation of possession brought against Jesus.

[3] The text of Zechariah contains no allusion to a Davidic Messiah.

[4] It is so because the text goes directly counter to the conception of a Davidic Messiah universally received in the Church since Paul. In the ancient Church only one exception can be found. It is in the Epistle of Barnabas (xii. 10), which is directly dependent on our text, and dominated by the idea of a supernatural birth. It should also be pointed out that the fourth Gospel appears to know of the idea of the Davidic descent, but as an objection to the Messiahship of Jesus. It does not appear that the evangelist (who holds Jesus to be a Galilean) makes a reply to the objection (vii. 42).


'The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou upon My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.' David himself calls Him his Lord—how then can He be his son?" (Mark xii. 35-7, Matt. xxii. 41-6, Luke xx. 41-4).

In the context, as we read it, this question appears to be a subtle problem propounded by Jesus to the Scribes, and which they were not prepared to solve. It is to some extent an argument ad hominem. But it is doubtful, in spite of the opinion of some exegetists,[1] that we have here only a flash of wit. The text has a wider implication. It establishes an antinomy between the true Messiahship that Jesus invoked and the popular and current notion of the Messiah, Son of David.[2] The idea of the Davidic origin of Jesus has therefore a secondary character. It is a theological creation made under the influence of prophecies and popular beliefs. This tends to restrict the affirmation concerning the prophecies in Rom. i. 2-3 principally, if not exclusively, to the words "born of the seed of David."

The fact that, either by Paul or by others before him, the notion of the Davidic origin had been introduced into Christology is not without importance. The Jewish Messianic conception oscillated between two poles: the idea of a transcendent and celestial Messiah to come with power to execute the judgments of God, and that of a human Messiah, a king of the race of David, for whom and by whom the national monarchy of Israel would be restored. The first conception is found specially in the books of Daniel and Enoch, the second in the Songs of Solomon. These two conceptions have sometimes been combined; they are constantly so in the Christology of the primitive Church. The two currents of the Messianic conception are none the less distinct. If the Jesus of the most primitive Christianity and of Paul imself had been a purely spiritual and celestial Being with no connection with humanity except an external and unreal form, why should the apostle have contradicted himself in connecting his Messiah to a human lineage?

[1] Zahn (Das Ev. des Matthaeus), Wohlenburg (Das Ev. d. Markus).

[2] This is admitted (with various reservations, varying according to their opinion concerning the question of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus) by Wellhausen, Wrede, Loisy. Klostermann and Johann Weiss think the passage only criticizes the Jewish conception of the Messiah. Lagrange thinks that Jesus only wishes to show its inadequacy.


In another passage M. Couchoud thinks he also understands the inner significance of the debt of Paul to the prophecy of what is supposed to be an historical tradition. The reference is to the passage in which the apostle, summing up the essentials of Christian teaching, expresses himself thus: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received—how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. xv. 3, 4). Then follows an ennumeration of apparitions (xv. 3-8). In the opinion of M. Couchoud, the words "according to the Scriptures" mark the source of the knowledge. It follows therefore from this passage that faith in Jesus rests partly on the Scriptures and partly on the apparitions. The faith in Jesus is possible, but not the knowledge of Jesus implied in this faith. The apostle draws a parallel between "I have transmitted" and "I have received."

They are facts of the same class, therefore, which lead us to suppose that the apostle presents himself as witness of a tradition. The teaching given and the teaching received could not be thus assimilated if on the one side there had been supernatural revelation or exegetical deduction, and on the other didactic teaching; the examination of the context confirms this first impression. It may be admitted with reason that the passage in question is, so to speak, the first rudiment of a confession of faith. It is unnecessary to bring in the narrative of the visions, which belongs to the affirmation of the resurrection, and which in its amplitude contrasts with the brevity of the phrase preceding. The account of the apparitions is added to the epitome of the faith as a confirmation of the point on which Paul makes his entire argument depend. Whilst three facts are named in the Pauline formula, the words "according to the Scriptures" are only found twice in it, and these are with reference to two facts—the death and the resurrection—which possess in Paul's thought a redemptive character. The words are wanting in respect of the burial, which has no importance in the Pauline theory of salvation, and which is only incidentally touched upon in the symbol of baptism (Rom. vi. 4 and Col. ii. 12). This proves that the formula "according to the Scriptures" has no


bearing upon the facts, but upon their interpretation. What Paul knew from the Scriptures was not that Christ died, but that He died for our sins. Paul, even when he persecuted the Christians, knew perfectly well that their Master was dead; he either did not know or refused to believe that He died for sins. It was the Scriptures which, once he had the certitude of the living Christ in his inner consciousness, enabled him to understand the meaning of Christ's death. Similarly, if Paul believed in the resurrection, it was not because of the prophecies, but because of the apparition he had seen. Besides, he had read the prophecies long before he was a Christian, but he only discovered the resurrection when, in an entirely different way, the faith in the Christ still living, in spite of death, had developed within him.

M. Couchoud[1] can only see a mystical, almost Gnostic, idea in the passage of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which Paul says that in the fulfilment of time "God had sent His Son, born of a woman" (Gal. iv. 4). In his view there is no historical reference. Taken alone, this text would constitute, in fact, but a very short and insufficient biography—not even the outline of a life of Jesus. But does it not contain, at least, the idea of the historical life of Jesus? And by what right besides is this affirmation isolated? The Galatians do not separate it from the teaching in which the apostle retraced the story of the crucifixion in so vivid a manner that they had the feeling of contemplating it with their own eyes (iii. 1). Paul does not return to this part of his teaching because it was not contradicted by the missionaries of his opponents. Besides, the expression "born of a woman" was not invented by Paul. He borrowed it from the Old Testament,[2] where it is used to designate man under the ordinary conditions of his birth and existence. The declaration of Galatians (iv. 4) would be unintelligible if, in Paul's view, Jesus had not lived under the ordinary conditions of humanity.

A very special importance attaches to the long passage of the Epistle to the Philippians, in which, in a way otherwise accidental, Paul epitomizes his whole thought concerning Christ and His work. The apostle writes: "Who, being in the form of God,

[1] Le Mystère de Jésus, p. 130.

[2] Job xi. 3-12, xiv. i, xv. 14, xxv. 4.


thought it not robbery to be equal with God,[1] but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death—even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father" (Phil. ii. 5-11).

M. Couchoud thinks that in this passage is found the most ancient epitome we possess of the story of Jesus. It appears to him to include two elements—firstly, the descent of the divine Being into humanity and His death; and secondly, His ascension and glorification.

M. Couchoud considers that a less lyrical version of this myth, but one containing more details, is found in the Ascension of Isaiah. The prophet was caught up and carried away from world to world up to the seventh heaven. In this region he was a spectator of the mysterious drama which will mark the end of time. God commands a Being who is called the Well-Beloved, the Chosen one, or the Son, to descend through the seven heavens, the firmament, the air, and the earth down to Sheol, where He is to bind the angel of death. That His descent shall not be perceived by the angels inhabiting the successive worlds, the Son receives the power to take to Himself in each of them a form resembling that of the beings who dwell therein. His mission accomplished, the Son ascends, this time in His own form, up to the seventh heaven. Whilst looking upon His glorious ascension the angels are astounded. They ask how the descent of the Son of God could have escaped their perception, and they are obliged to glorify Him. The celestial Being then seats Himself at the right hand of the supreme glory.

[1] Often translated "as a usurpation." This translation does not seem to us permissible, because it assumes His existence in its divine form was equal with God.—AUTHOR.

Translator's Note.—Modern English version, based on Westcott and Hort's text, reads: "Though the divine nature was His from the beginning, yet He did not look upon equality with God as above all things to be clung to," etc.


There are two questions to be successively examined: Is the passage from the Epistle to the Philippians an Apocalyptic element, and is the myth it expresses quite identical to that we find in the Ascension of Isaiah? Seeing that the thesis of the affinity between the Ascension of Isaiah and the Epistle of the Philippians only enters in a subordinate manner into the reasoning of M. Couchoud, we shall first of all examine this point.

What is the Ascension of Isaiah? In the form in which we know it, it is a fairly complex whole in which three principal portions are easily distinguished:

1. A purely Jewish narrative of the martyrdom of the prophet Isaiah sawn asunder by order of Manasseh (i. 1, 2, 12, and v. 1-16). It appears once to have had an independent existence, and to have been known in this form to Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Origen.[1]

2. An Apocalyptic vision about Antichrist, the decadence of the Church, and the return of the Lord. In its present form this portion, whose Christian origin is not doubtful, betrays a certain dependence as regards the Ascension, properly so called. It seems that this may be owing to editorial work, for the conception of the work of Christ found in the vision differs from that in the Ascension, and can neither be considered as the germ of it nor a development from it (ii. 13-iv. 22).

3. The Ascension, in the exact sense of the word (vi. 1-11, 43), is the portion which specially interests us. Isaiah was carried away by an angel up to the seventh heaven; he received an explanation of the descent of the Well-Beloved from the higher heaven down to Sheol, whence He was to re-ascend to the heaven. The prophet is afterwards a witness of the events which had been announced to him.

The date of the compilation of the Ascension of Isaiah, in its completeness as well as in each of the portions which constitute it, cannot be determined with absolute precision. Critics are almost agreed in considering that the Ascension (in the exact sense) cannot be older than the middle of the second Century. It is even possible that it may be necessary to bring

[1] Justin, Dial. c. Tryphon; Tertullian, Scorpiace, viii, De patientia, xiv; Ongen, In. Matt., xxviii, Comm. in Matt., x. 18, etc.


the date of its composition considerably later. The fact that Origen mentions the martyrdom as a Jewish book proves that he did not know the Ascension in its present form. True, it might have had an independent existence before its incorporation into the bcok as we read it. The amount of Christian retouching which it has undergone (especially the eleventh chapter) is favourable to this hypothesis.

But even supposing the Ascension not anterior to the middle of the second century, the ideas which are developed in it might date back to an older period. Indeed, it appears necessary to distinguish in the Ascension between a fundamental myth—that concerning the descent of the celestial Being and a Christian interpretation given of it. This compound of two elements explains certain peculiarities of the book. For instance, the Well-Beloved receives the command to transform His image into that of the beings inhabiting various spheres of the universe, so that He may arrive without difficulty at Sheol, where He is to despoil the angel of death (ix. 16), but He does not pursue His descent in a straight line (if it may be so expressed), and when He arrives on earth[1] He has need of the intervention of Satan in order that He may reach Sheol. Satan raises the jealousy of the Jews against Him, and causes them to put Him to death (xi. 19-21).[2] This compound of two dissimilar elements is to be noted in another matter. The triumph of the Well-Beloved is attained through the power He receives to transform Himself whilst traversing the different spheres of the universe. It is not stated that, having reached Sheol, He wages battle with the angel of death. It appears that the latter is incapable of resisting the Chosen One, and is conquered at the instant the Lord reaches Him. After this victory the Well-Beloved, recognized by all the angels, judges and annihilates the princes, angels and gods of this world and the world over which they have dominion. He ascends in glory, and sits down at the right hand of God (x. 12-15). The triumph of the Chosen One is therefore attained

[1] He only attains to this through a supernatural birth (xi. 2-14), which is an evident embellishment, and by which the narrative is related to recent Apocryphal legends.

[2] The incoherence betrays itself by an embellishment. In xi. 19 the Well-Beloved, crucified through the action of Satan, descends to the angel of Sheol. In xi. 20 Isaiah sees Him hung on the cross.


by His ascension. This idea is quite different from the Christian conception, according to which the judgment and annihilation of the powers hostile to God is the work of the Christ returning from the heavens to His second coming, and not of the Lord ascending to heaven after the resurrection. There is thus recognizable behind the Christian interpretation which dominates the present form of the Ascension of Isaiah a myth of the re-establishment of the sovereignty of God by a divine being who descends into Sheol to despoil the angel of death, and afterwards ascends gloriously to the heavens. It is possible that the myth may be older than Christianity.[1]

There is a certain affinity between this myth and the idea dominating the Christological development of the Epistle to the Philippians, but whilst in Paul's thought Christ divests Himself of something, in the Ascension of Isaiah He merely transforms Himself. The development of the Epistle to the Philippians cannot have been from the myth, because (the negative determination in which the development of the myth begins is a proof of it) the work of Christ is described by Paul in opposition to another myth, in which there is recognizable the story of Satan, who desired to raise himself to supreme power and to claim for himself the adoration of men and angels, and who as a consequence of this rebellion must be annihilated. The correspondence between the work of Satan and that of Christ is not, however, complete, since to Jewish thought the idea of an incarnation of Satan was unknown.

The relation between the myth of Satan and the Christological drama as Paul conceives it is therefore not one of simple and

[1] It does not appear to us that there is any direct contact between Paul and the Ascension of Isaiah. Outside the idea of the descent of a celestial Being, which has a general character, and that of the ignorance of the angels, developed in both in very different ways, there are only jwo ideas in common, but which are found elsewhere, and these are the idea of celestial garments and that of the superposed spheres, or heavens. But Paul is only carried away to the third and not to the seventh heaven, as Isaiah. In the Ascension the five first heavens belong to the lower world, whilst Paul has the feeling of having been carried away to a higher world. In Paul the revelation takes place by audition of ineffable words. the Ascension it is by visions commented upon. Paul cannot repeat what he heard. Isaiah relates his vision to Hezekiah and to other prophets. (Compare 2 Cor. v. 2, xii. 2, and Asc. iv. 16, viii. 14.)


direct dependence. Paul has simply interpreted the story of Jesus by a doctrine formulated in opposition to the Satanic myth.

It would only be possible to see in the Christological development of the Epistle to the Philippians the oldest form of the history of Jesus if this portion had been written to make the Church known to persons who had never heard it spoken of—which is certainly not the case.

The incidental manner in which the development proceeds would alone suffice to prove it, even if we did not already know that the Epistle is addressed to Christians to whom it may perhaps be necessary to explain the importance of the work of Christ, but superfluous to rehearse its history. Replaced in its historical setting, the text of Paul is an attempt to epitomize the history of Jesus in one grand drama of redemption. That it contains dogmatic elements—or, if you prefer it, mythical elements—is undeniable, but these elements do not make up the substance of the story; they serve as comments on it, and supply the materials for the speculative construction erected upon the foundation thus furnished.

Attention must be called to an idea borrowed from Judaism by Paul, and which in his eyes possesses capital importance—that of pre-existence. The conception of the pre-existence of souls is found distinctly in certain Jewish texts,[1] but more distinctly still that of the pre-existence of the Messiah.[2] Paul affirms the pre-existence of Christ not only when, in the Epistle to the Colossians (i. 15), he speaks of Christ's part in creation, but also when he uses such terms as the "man from heaven" (1 Cor. xv. 47, etc.), or again, when in a portion of rabbinical exegesis he identifies Christ with the rock which accompanied the Israelites in the desert (1 Cor. x. 4). These affirmations do not contradict the human and earthly personality of Jesus ; they merely imply

[1] Sap. Salomon (Wisdom of Solomon), Enoch xliii. 4 and Enoch (Slavonic) xxiii. 4 and xlix. 2.

[2] Enoch, also Esdras. Certain authors hold that in iv-e Esdras the conception of the pre-existence of the Messiah may be due to Christian influence. Schürer justly remarks against this idea that post-Christian Judaism had, in opposition to Christianity, particularly insisted on the humanity of the Messiah, as proved by the declaration of the Jew Tryphon, reported by Justin: "We all expect a Messiah who will be a man born of men" (Dial., xlix. 1).


that humanity is unable to explain to its roots this personality and activity. Weinel observes in this connection that these ideas must only be judged by those of antiquity, when it was habitual to explain the mysterious in a personality by forces belonging to another world.[1] Just as Paul felt that the spiritual Christ dwelt and lived in him (Gal. ii. 20), without for that reason losing consciousness of his own human personality, so also was he able to see in Christ a celestial and pre-existing Being without thereby forcibly depriving humanity of Him. One is forced to cultivate the mentality of antiquity in order to understand the conceptions in virtue of which the theology of primitive Christianity (and especially that of Paul) attempted to explain in the person and work of Jesus that which surpassed the common standard of humanity. The notion of the Messiah furnished the idea of pre-existence; that of divine Sonship tended to identify Jesus with the hypostasis of "Wisdom" and the "Word." In this manner, starting from soteriology, the mind was quickly led to attribute a cosmological character to Christ. But the movement of Pauline Christology, if so it may be called, progresses from humanity to divinity, and not from divinity to humanity. If in the Epistle to the Colossians Paul develops the theme of the cosmological character of Christ and the idea of His sovereignty over all celestial beings, it is because those whom he addressed were fascinated by speculations concerning angels, and it was of moment to show them that the worship of Christ attained the realities of the celestial world in a manner more complete and efficacious than devotion paid to angels. The whole of this side of Pauline Christology thus appears to be the development of a doctrine elaborated on other grounds.

The distinctly theological element of Pauline Christology is not the point from which he sets out in thought. It is the conclusion of it. It is the result of an effort imposed on him in the interest of practical apologetics, rather than of speculative curiosity, to give an interpretation of the person and work of Jesus harmonizing with conceptions about spiritual beings current in his time, and with the position assigned to Jesus by the faith. At times Paul's thought assumes a character distinctly philosophic.

[1] The supporters of the magician Simon also believed that in him was incarnate "the great power of God" (Acts viii. 10).


In certain passages we have the impression of being in presence of a cosmological theory instead of a human history. Such, for example, is the character presented by the portion of the Epistle to the Colossians (i. 13-20) where God is referred to as He "who has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of His well-beloved Son." Then follows a lyrical description of what this Son is like, "in Him we have redemption, the remission of sins." "For Christ is the very image of the Invisible God—the first-born and head of all creation; for in Him was created all that is in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible—angels, archangels, and all the powers of heaven. All has been created through Him and for Him. He was before all things, and all things unite in Him; and He is the head of the Church, which is His body. The first-born from the dead, He is to the Church the source of its life, that He in all things may stand first. For it pleased the Father that in Him the divine nature in all its fulness should dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself (making peace by the shedding of Christ's blood offered upon the cross)—whether on earth or in Heaven."[1]

The conception developed in this passage, where Christ appears as a divine Being, almost an hypostasis, closely resembles that found in Philo, and is certainly related to it. Are we to conclude that the Christ of Paul is an ideal Being like the Logos of Philo? It does not seem necessary, for the ancient mentality saw no contradiction between the human character of a person and his divine character. One example of the association of the two concepts is given us by the fourth evangelist, who means to relate the story of a man who has lived on earth, and whom he identifies with the Creative Logos.

The case of the Epistle to the Colossians is quite analogous; and if the historical side of the person of Jesus is only touched upon by the mention of the cross, this is explained entirely by the character of the Epistle. M. Couchoud considers as quite decisive in favour of the non-historical theory the passage in which Paul speaks of the wisdom of God, "that none of the

[1] Translator's Note.—This passage is taken from the Twentieth Century New Testament, translated from original Greek into Modern English (Westcott and Hort's text).


great ones of this world had known, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the glorified Lord" (1 Cor. ii. 8). M. Couchoud[1] finds that it follows from this text that those who crucified Jesus were mythical beings, not persons of flesh and bone, and that the drama consequently took place between heaven and earth, in an Apocalyptic atmosphere. And to prove that we are certainly dealing here with a mythical theory, M. Couchoud points to the analogy that exists between our passage and the Ascension of Isaiah, where it appears that if the angels had perceived the descent of the Son of God, they would have opposed it, and would have hindered the accomplishment of His work. They, however, did not collaborate in any way. The part played by them was entirely negative and unconscious.[2] But, on the contrary, according to Paul, when the archons crucified the Lord, they were not ignorant that He was the Saviour,[3] but they did not know the divine plan, nor did they realize that the death of Christ would cause their own annihilation. The two concepts differ so much that one cannot have been deduced from the other; they have only a very general theme in common, that of the demon deluded. It is consequently illegitimate to interpret the indication given by Paul in an incidental way by the theory developed in the Ascension of Isaiah. But there is more than this. It is doubtful if Paul attributes to the archons anything more than responsibility for the death of Christ. There is easily to be recognized in them the seventy angels to whom, according to an idea particularly developed in the book of Enoch, God has confided the government of the world.[4] They direct the nations and inspire their actions.[5] In saying that they had crucified the Lord, Paul does not appear to have thought of

[1] Couchoud, Mystère de Jésus, p. 132.

[2] The passage referring to the crucifixion belongs, as we have seen, to a Christian modification (Asc. xi. 19).

[3] At any rate, Paul does not say that the archons were ignorant of who was Christ. We cannot accept the interpretation of Dibelius, that Paul, like the author of the Ascension of Isaiah, thinks the archons were ignorant of who Christ was.

[4] Enoch (lxxxix. 59). There is also a reference in the book of Daniel to an angel of Persia, who fought with Michael, the angel of the people of Israel (see Dan. x. 13-20).

[5] They are in any case responsible, since, according to Enoch, they must be judged (xc. 22).


anything other than the crucifixion of Jesus by men, but by men whom he considers as agents of demoniacal powers. This conception is in all points similar to that found in the fourth Gospel, where Jesus is arrested by the cohort and tribune (guided by Judas, into whom Satan had entered), judged, and condemned by Pilate at the instigation of the Jews, and finally crucified by soldiers. The whole drama is explained by the action of "the prince of this world"—in other words, Satan (see John xiv. 30).[1] There is therefore, as Dibelius justly remarks, no contradiction between 1 Cor. ii. 8 (which holds the archons responsible for the death of Jesus) and 1 Thess. ii. 15, where it is stated that the Jews put Jesus to death.

We have thus passed in review the principal passages of the Pauline Epistles where allusions to a Christ-myth are supposed to be found. In Paul's writings these reveal a Christological doctrine in which are incorporated elements borrowed from the dogmatic tradition of Judaism, and even fragments of myths, but it is illegitimate to reduce the whole Pauline Christology to these, and to pass over everything which in the Pauline Epistles and teaching had reference to the historical person of Jesus and to His life on earth. In another chapter we shall return to the subject of the relation between these two elements. Let us only note here that this relation appears to be that between admitted fact and its interpretation. Far from contradicting the historical personality of Jesus, the Pauline Christology would be incomprehensible if it had not made the historical fact its starting-point.


The Epistles of Paul contain but few allusions to the Gospel history, but when these are closely examined it is found that the apostle was much more familiar with the life of Jesus than a superficial reading of the Epistles would lead one to think.

Paul presents Jesus as a man born of woman (1 Cor. xv. 21; Rom. v. 15; Gal. iv. 4), belonging to the race of Abraham

[1] Similarly in the Ascension of Isaiah the devil excites the Jews against the Well-Beloved, who crucify Him.

[2] See upon this subject Maurice Goguel, L'Apôtre Paul et Jésus Christ, 1904. In this work will be found a bibliography to which the names of Joh. Weiss and P. Olaf Moe must be added.


(Gal. iii. 16; Rom. ix. 5), and descending from the family of David (Rom. i. 3). He lived under the Jewish Law (Gal. iv. 4; Rom. xv. 8). The Epistles say neither when nor where, but importance need not be attached to this, since it was only at a relatively secondary stage in the evolution of the tradition that it was considered necessary to establish synchronism in the history of Jesus (Luke iii. i).[1] Paul places himself at a point of view similar to that of Mark. If Paul does not know the parents of Jesus,[2] he mentions His brothers, and gives the name of one of them, James (1 Cor. ix. 5; Gal. i. 19 and ii. 9; cp. 1 Cor. xv. 7).

It is impossible to decide how Paul conceived the character and moral physiognomy of the Lord. It is, in fact, not always possible to recognize whether the passages dealing with this order of ideas apply to Jesus or the Christ in His pre-existence or His glorification, and it does not appear that the apostle made upon this subject a very clear distinction. However, even if the passage where Christ is called "He who knew not sin" (2 Cor. v. 21) relates to the pre-existent Christ, it would at least show that Paul had a belief in the perfect sanctity of Jesus. This, no doubt, is a dogmatic idea—at any rate, it cannot be that the apostle's conception of the historical life of Jesus contradicts it. The exhortations to the imitation of Christ (1 Cor. xi. 1 and Col. i. 10) imply also the idea of this sanctity.

The love of Christ referred to in Rom. viii. 27, being presented as real, must be considered in connection with the glorified Christ. But the gentleness and meekness of Christ, in the name of which Paul exhorted the Corinthians (2, x. i), refer to His character, since in this passage there is a transparent allusion to a saying of Jesus (Matt. xi. 29). Concerning the middle period of the life of Jesus, the Epistles contain but very little indeed. Nevertheless, as we have seen, Paul knew of the existence of apostles who were associated with the Master's ministry. The cross occupied a predominating place in the preaching as in the theology of Paul (Gal. iii. i and 1 Cor. ii. 2).

The death of Jesus was portrayed as an act of obedience towards God and of love towards men (Phil. ii. 8 and Gal. ii. 20).

[1] These are only indicated in relation to John the Baptist.

[2] In Paul's writings there is no trace of the idea of a supernatural birth (see Lobstein, Études Christologiques, 1890).


It was brought about by the enmity of the Jews (1 Thess. ii. 15) and through the ignorance of the celestial archons who directed them. Paul is aware that Jesus passed the evening preceding His death with His disciples, and that it was during this last meal that He instituted the Lord's supper (1 Cor. xi. 23). We shall return to this testimony. Does it also imply that Jesus was betrayed by one of His followers? This cannot be determined with certainty, for the term employed may just as well signify "betrayed" as "delivered over to death." It has sometimes been believed that the execution of Jesus is indicated in the passage in which the apostle assimilates the death of Christ to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb (1 Cor. v. 7). We shall see later that this interpretation is far from being certain.

At almost every page of his Epistles Paul reminds his readers that Jesus died on the cross. He speaks of His violent death (2 Cor. iv. 10), of the shedding of blood (Rom. iii. 25), of the sufferings He endured (2 Cor. i. 5,7; Rom. viii. 17; Phil. iii. 10), of the exhaustion He passed through before expiring (2 Cor. xiii. 4), of the insults He submitted to (Rom. xv. 3). Finally, he specially refers to the burial of Jesus (1 Cor. xv. 4-8), and confirms the tradition concerning the apparitions (1 Cor. xv. 4-8).

When all these indications are grouped together the impression is gained that if Paul does not provide a coherent view of the history of Jesus, he nevertheless possesses one. Furthermore, and more distinctly still, he is a witness of the sayings of Jesus. Resch[1] went much too far in asserting that there were a thousand allusions to the sayings of Jesus[2] in the authentic Epistles. Those which are met with may be divided into three groups: direct quotations, allusions sufficiently precise to authorize the admission that Paul had the saying of Jesus in mind, and finally reminiscences almost unconscious. We shall leave aside this third series of allusions, which cannot be exactly defined, but which are far from being without significance, for they show how the mind of Paul was sustained by the sayings of Jesus.

[1] Resch, Der Paulinismus und die Logia Jesu. Resch has been criticized very severely, but justly, by Wrede and Jülicher.

[2] Exactly 925, of which 133 are in Ephesians, 100 in the pastoral Epistles, and 64 in the Pauline discourses in Acts. He only arrived at this result by stating that a parallelism existed between Paul and the Logia, when the two texts compared possessed only one word in common.


To reassure the Thessalonians, anxious about the fate of believers who died before the second coming, Paul declared to them that at the time of the Saviour's return these would be resurrected to join the living, and he gives this teaching "in a word of the Lord" (1 Thess. iv. 15). It is not quite clear what it is in the teaching given which answers to this. The attempts which have been made to rediscover in the text an allusion to a known saying of Jesus, to a passage in the Old Testament, or to an Apocryphal work such as Esdras (iv-e), have not succeeded. Some writers[1] think that Paul in this passage speaks by revelation, and that he is writing under the inspiration of the Spirit. This interpretation conflicts with the fact that when Paul communicates any teaching which he holds was revealed to him, he expressly points this out (1 Cor. xv. 51; 2 Cor. xii. 1). The most natural thing is to suppose that Paul is quoting in this passage an agraphon, or in other words a saying of Jesus not incorporated into the Gospel tradition.[2] In the seventh chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul gives instructions to married people. "To those who are married," he writes, "my direction is (yet it is not mine, but the Master's) that a woman is not to leave her husband" (verse 10). The saying here referred to is the reply of Jesus to the Pharisees concerning the subject of divorce (Mark x. 11, 12; Matt. xix. 9), preserved in a slightly different form in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 32). What gives to this citation all its importance is the fact that two verses farther on, considering a particular case (that of a Christian whose wife is not a believer, or on the other hand, that of a Christian woman married to a pagan), Paul writes: "To all others I say, I, not the Master." Similarly, in the course of the chapter, Paul says that, concerning virgins and unmarried women, he "has no command from the Master" (1 Cor. vii. 25; cp. 40). He is content to give his own opinion. If the word of the Master was in Paul a revelation of the Spirit, as M. Couchoud thinks, it would be very surprising that upon a matter so important for the life of the Church, the Spirit produced no oracle. But there is more than this. In the place of the word of the Lord, Paul gives his own opinion, and he attaches great weight to it. It

[1] Lueken, and Couchoud (Mystère de Jésus}.

[2] Schmiedel, Dibelius, Feine.


is not the opinion of an ordinary man, but that of one to whom the Master has given the power to be faithful, who can thus boast of being an authorized interpreter of His thought and who possesses the Spirit. Notwithstanding this opinion, Paul takes good care not to claim an authority equal to that of the Master's words. Here is a decisive proof that it was indeed a word coming from Jesus that the apostle meant to cite, and to this word he attributes an absolute authority.

In the same Epistle also Paul cites a saying of Jesus to establish the right of those who preach the gospel to be maintained by the churches. "The Lord has commanded," he writes, " that those who preach the gospel shall live by the gospel." Here is certainly an allusion to the words spoken at the sending forth of the disciples on a mission: "If ye are received in a house, eat and drink what is set before you, for the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke x. 7; Matt. x. 10). We now reach the last of the citations of the words of Jesus found in Paul's Epistles, and it is almost the most important and the most discussed among them. In the eleventh chapter of the first Epistle to the CorinthiansJ Paul, in combating the defective manner in which the Lord's supper was celebrated at Corinth, recalls what took place on the last evening of Jesus.[2] He writes: "I have received from the Lord . . . and I have in turn given to you." Many critics[3] consider that the words "I have received from the Lord" indicate that there was a vision at the origin of the tradition concerning the last supper. They mean "I have received" in the sense "I have it directly from the Lord." Other writers adopt a less radical opinion. Loisy[4] and Bousset[5] think that Paul, by a kind of auto-suggestion, reached the point of contemplation in vision the scene that tradition had transmitted to him. Others, like Pfleiderer[6] and Haupt,[7] believe that Paul obtained from a revelation, not the

[1] Drews (Der Christusmythe) rejects this text as an interpolation.

[2] Maurice Goguel, L'Eucharistie des origines à Justin Martyr.

[3] Percy Gardner, The Origin of the Lord's Supper, 1893.

[4] Loisy, Les mystères paiens et le mystère Chrétien, 1919.

[5] Bousset, D. Schr. d. N.T., ii, p. 3.

[6] Pfleiderer, Urchristentum, i.

[7] Haupt, Üeber die Ursprüngliche Form und Bedeutung der Abendmahlsviorte, 1894.


account of the last supper of Jesus, but the knowledge of the sacramental character and significance of the Eucharist.

Nothing in the text of Paul authorizes or justifies such a distinction. Neither can we accept the hypothesis of Lietzmann and Ed. Meyer, who suppose that Paul synthesized in the vision on the Damascus road all that he knew of Jesus. Besides, the initial vision did not determine Paul's knowledge of Jesus; it caused his faith to be born. All intermediate solutions should be put aside. We are in face of a dilemma: Either the entire tradition about the last supper possessed for Paul a visionary origin, or the formula, "I have received from the Lord," means something other than "I know by means of a vision."

If there had been a vision, it would not diminish in the eyes of the apostle the value of the tradition it related. On the contrary, its authority would be the more increased; it would be surprising that the apostle should not expressly relate a detail of a nature to impress his readers.

Paul draws a very close parallel between the two expressions "I have received" and "I have transmitted" (or "passed on"). They are of the same nature, which would not be the case if on one side it was a case of a supernatural communication received by the apostle, and on the other didactic teaching imparted to the Corinthians. And, above all, nothing authorizes us to understand "I have received from the Lord" in the sense "I have it direct from the Lord." The preposition "apo" which the apostle here uses marks the first origin of the tradition, but without excluding an intermediary. What Paul wishes to say is that in the last analysis tradition goes back to the Lord, who pronounced the words which he relates.

When in the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 1) Paul desires to affirm that he holds his apostleship direct from Christ and from God without any human intervention, he uses the two prepositions "apo" and "dia," which proves that he perfectly conceives an apostleship coming from God, but not through human intermediaries. The use in our passage of the single preposition "apo" shows that the apostle only means the first origin of the tradition. What he means to say is that the narrative comes from the Lord by the intermediary of men. This detail did not require


to be explicitly announced; for the Corinthians it was clear from the very position of the apostle.

The direct study of the text and its comparison with the form of the tradition fixed in the Gospel of Mark confirms this conclusion. Doubtless the Gospel of Mark was only compiled a couple of decades after the Epistle to the Corinthians, but the date of the compilation of a work like a Gospel must not be identified with that of the traditions it contains.

The two texts read as follows: Mark xiv. 22-25: "While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after saying the blessing, broke it and gave to them, and said: Take it; this is My body. Then He took the cup, and after saying the thanksgiving, gave it to them, and they all drank from it. This is My covenant blood, He said, which is poured out on behalf of many. I tell you that I shall never again drink of the juice of the grape until that day when I shall drink it new in the Kingdom of God."

The first Epistle to the Corinthians, xi. 23-25: "For I myself received from the Lord the account which I have in turn given to you—how the Lord Jesus, on the very night of His betrayal, took some bread, and, after saying the thanksgiving, broke it and said: This is My own body, given on your behalf. Do this in memory of Me. And in the same way with the cup, after supper, saying: This cup is the new covenant made by My blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in memory of Me."[1]

In order to keep to'the essential points, we shall note the following peculiarities:

1. Paul gives, after the passing round of the cup as well as after the distribution of bread, an order of repetition. There is none either in Mark or Matthew. Luke (xxii. 19) gives the order only after the distribution of the bread.

2. To the phrase "This is My body," which accompanies

[1] For the question before us we confine ourselves to comparing the texts of Paul and Mark, bringing into the question Matthew only (xxvi. 29) in a subordinate way. The latter, compared with Mark only, offers some unimportant variations. The account in Luke (xxii. 15-20) appears to arise from the combination of two different traditions. For a more detailed study see M. Goguel (Eucharistie, pp. 105-26).

Translator's Note.—Verses quoted are from text of Twentieth Century New Testament in Modern English, based on Westcott and Hort.


the distribution of bread, Paul adds "given for you," which has no equivalent in Mark or Matthew, but only in Luke.

3. Paul has no equivalent to the words which end the repast found in Mark and Matthew—that is to say, no declaration from Jesus that He would drink no more of the juice of the grape before drinking it new in the Kingdom of God. In Luke (xxii. 16) this phrase accompanies the distribution of a first cup. It must, however, be noted that in a fragment which appears no longer to form part of the narrative of the last supper, but which is really the commentary on it, Paul says: "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. xi. 26). This is a reminiscence of the eschatological formula which appears to constitute one of the principal elements of the Lord's supper.

All these peculiarities have a common character; they tend to assimilate the two elements constituting the rite to each other and to present them as a special institution by Jesus. They progress, therefore, exactly in the same way as the evolution of the rite. This appears to have had a double character, which at first was the transformation into the carrying out of a command of Jesus of that which at the origin had probably only been an instinctive repetition favoured by the memory preserved of the last evening passed with Him. On the other hand, the evolution had as its result to form out of the distribution of the cup and the bread two parallel and equivalent symbols, while there is every reason to suppose that at the origin these two actions of Jesus had neither the same object nor the same significance. The distribution of the bread symbolized the gift that Jesus made of Himself to His followers and for His followers; the cup illustrated the meeting-place that He gave them in the Kingdom of God. Now the evolution of the texts must have tended continually to conform more closely the narratives to the rite. It is inconceivable, while the believer had the feeling, in celebrating the Eucharist, that he was repeating the actions of Jesus, that additions should have been made to the story which would have differentiated it from the rite. The text, then, of Paul is subordinate compared with the tradition preserved in Mark. its origin is not to be sought in a supernatural revelation, but in an historical tradition to which Paul is the witness.


Beyond quotations, properly so called, there are in Paul's writings a certain number of allusions to words of Jesus. It will suffice here to indicate the most characteristic[1]:

1 Thess. iv. 4: "Therefore he who disregards this warning, disregards not man, but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit." Compare with Luke x. 16: "He who listens to you is listening to Me, and he who rejects you is rejecting Me; while he who rejects Me is rejecting Him who sent Me as His Messenger."

Gal. iv. 17: "They wish to isolate you." Compare with Matthew xxiii. 13: "But alas for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. You turn the key of the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. For you do not go in yourselves nor yet allow those who try to go in to do so."

Gal. vi. 2: "Bear one another's burdens, and so carry out the Law of Christ." Compare with Mark ix. 33: "If anyone wishes to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

1 Cor. iv. 12, 13: "We meet abuse with blessings, we meet persecution with endurance, we meet slander with gentle appeals." Rom. xii. 14: "Bless your persecutors, bless and never curse." Compare with Matt. v. 11: "Blessed are you when people taunt you, and persecute you and say everything evil about you—untruly, and for My sake." Luke vi. 28: "Show kindness to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who insult you."

1 Cor. v. 4: "Having been present in spirit at your meetings when the power of the Lord Jesus was with us." Compare: "For where two or three have come together in My name I am present with them " (Matt. xviii. 20).

1 Cor. xiii. 2: "Even though I have such faith as might move mountains." Compare Matt. xvii. 20: "If your faith were only like a mustard-seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from this place to that,' and it would be moved." Compare Mark xi. 22, Matt. xxi. 21, and Luke xvii. 6.

1 Cor. xiii. 3: "Even though I give My substance to the poor." Compare Luke xii. 23: "Sell what belongs to you and give in charity." Compare Mark x. 21 and Matt. xix. 21.

[1] Translator's Note.—The English versions are taken from The Twentieth Century New Testament, based on Westcott and Hort's text from original Greek.


2 Cor. x. 1: "I exhort you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." Compare Matt. xi. 29: "I am meek and lowly in heart."

Rom. xii. 17: "Never return injury for injury." Compare Matt. v. 39: " I say unto you, resist not evil."

Rom. xiv. 14 : "I know and am persuaded that nothing is defiling in itself." Compare Matt. xv. 11: "It is not what enters a man's mouth that defiles him."

It is impossible to do anything except speculate on the origin of the acquaintance that the apostle Paul had with the Gospel tradition. The nucleus of what he knew must have dated back to the period preceding his conversion, and have depended upon what was told about Jesus in the first church of Jerusalem. The knowledge which he possessed in his pre-Christian days was enriched and developed afterwards.

The abundance of the allusions to the words of Jesus and the reminiscences found in the Epistles, the fact that Paul appears most often to allude to sayings known to his readers, causes one to think he must have been acquainted with a collection of the sayings of Jesus. The majority of those to which he refers appear to belong to the tradition of the Logia. Hence one is induced to entertain the hypothesis that Paul must have been acquainted with a form of this collection.

The Epistles of Paul afford then precise testimony in support of the existence of the Gospel tradition before him. They presume a Jesus who lived, acted, taught, whose life was a model for believers, and who died on the cross. True it is that in Paul are only found fragmentary and sporadic indications concerning the life and teachings of Jesus, but this is explained on one hand by the fact that we possess no coherent and complete exposition of the apostle's preaching, and on the other hand by the character of his interests. He had no special object in proving what no one in his time called in question—namely, that Jesus had existed. His unique aim was to prove (what the Jews refused to admit) that Jesus was the Christ.

Go to the Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History by Maurice Goguel table of contents.