“When I was a child . . .”

The religions of the Orient give us a wide view of life and its progression, drawing back the veil from the upward stairway of consciousness, and showing us how in the fulness of time we may ascend to a far summit of power and wisdom.

Jesus, on the other hand, gives the impression of one who, seeing the long upward pathway of life ascending through the ages, had by a supreme effort of will outstripped time, through intense faith and devotion passing at once to the great consummation. This is, perhaps, the meaning of his words: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.”1

His life challenges us to a like effort. He touches the will, enkindling it with intense power, urging us also to transcend time, to reach at once through fierce and fiery will the consummation ages might have brought. Such an inspiration works miracles. It invites violent reactions, as shown in the cataclysmic history of Christendom.

A striking example of the direct power of Jesus upon the will is the life of Paul the Pharisee, one of the violent who take the kingdom of heaven by force. Here is Paul’s own summing up of his life: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings . . . by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”2

Paul’s genius makes for vivid flashes of self-revelation, impressions keenly felt, and recorded in bursts of eloquence. His whole pathway is lit by these lightning-flashes of impression and feeling. There are memories of infancy: of that mother from whose womb God separated him;3 perhaps of his father in such a sentence as this: “The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage;”4 or again: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.”5 And how many impressions of childhood are gathered in the sentence: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child . . .”6

His friend and fellow-traveler records a sentence that bridges the next few years: “My manner of life from my youth up, which was from the beginning among mine own nation, and at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; having knowledge of me from the first, if they be willing to testify, how that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand here to be judged . . .”7

We have a gloss on the words “my youth, which was from the beginning among mine own nation” in the earlier sentence: “I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city;”8 and again, “I am a Roman born.”9

If Paul was “a Roman born,” his father was a Roman citizen before him, perhaps his grandfather also. And Roman citizenship in Cilician Tarsus probably depended on the personal favor of the Cæsars. whether of Augustus, whose tutor was a Tarsian, or of great Julius Cæsar himself, who passed through Tarsus from Alexandria, where he had met Cleopatra and buried Pompey, on his way to fight the king of Pontus in that swift campaign which begot the epigram: “I came, I saw, I conquered .”

Paul’s family, and Paul him self from childhood, must have been very familiar with the fortunes of the Cæsars. Paul’s friend and fellow-traveler mentions by name Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius; and Paul must have known their history as well as he knew the legal rights of Roman citizenship, in its relation to the Cæsars. We may be quite certain that in the familiar talk in his father’s house Paul heard as a commonplace of conversation the story of the great doings of the Cæsars: the passage of Julius Cæsar through Tarsus, his death at the hands of Brutus and the rest, the harsh punishment which Cassius visited on Tarsus for its love for Cæsar, the coming of Mark Antony and his fall, and the triumph and favor of Augustus.

Paul must have heard among the tales of his childhood the marvelous coming of Cleopatra to his own Tarsus:

“When she first met Mark Antony
. . . upon the river of Cydnus.”

The old men and women of the city must have told him that story of the serpent of old Nile that Enobarbus told Agrippa:

“The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavillion—cloth-of-gold of tissue—
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature; on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-color’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they did undid . . . . . . . . . . .

From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthron’d i’ the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air . . . . . .”

One may wonder whether some reminiscence of that early tale may have added color to the words: “In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment: but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”10

Paul must have played as a boy in the market-place where Mark Antony sat, and wandered along the wharfs where the crowds gathered to see Cleopatra. He must have known very familiarly the hot, clamp plain around Tarsus, overshadowed by the foothills and snow-fringed ridges of Taurus, shaggy with dark cedars, their evergreen dales adorned with glades of saffron. The whole region was set in an atmosphere of romance and legend and tradition, and we may be certain that Paul in his early years breathed this atmosphere. To the traveler through Cilicia and the countries westward toward the Ægean, there were on all hands memories of Homer. Tarsus, says Strabo, was founded by Argives who accompanied Triptolemus in his search after Io. The Cydnus flows through the middle of it, close by the gymnasium of the young men.11 One may surmise that Paul, the son of a citizen, that is, one of the aristocracy of Tarsus, was not shut out from this gymnasium close by the icy Cyndus. This may be the origin of such phrases as: “Bodily exercise (soma-tikē gumnasia) is profitable for a little;”12 or “if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully;”13 or “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run, that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air.”14 Our version, which has filtered through the Latin, obscures the Greek words, like gymnasia, athletics, stadion, and so forth. If we kept them in our translations, it would become far clearer that Paul was using the familiar speech of the gymnasium, in speaking of the conditions of training, of boxing, of foot races, and of fair play in athletic contests. There is no violence in the suggestion that all these phrases may be memories of boyhood, words first picked up in the gymnasium of his native Tarsus.

Strabo tells a quaint tale of this gymnasium, which was doubtless current in Paul’s day. Mark Antony, he tells us, had promised the people of Tarsus to establish a gymnasium; he appointed Boethus chief director of it, and entrusted to him the expenditure of the funds. He was detected in secreting, among other things, even the oil, and when charged with this offence by his accusers in the presence of Antony, he deprecated his anger by this among other remarks in his speech, that “as Homer sang the praises of Achilles, Agamemnon, and Ulysses, so have I sung yours. I therefore ought not to be brought before you on such a charge.” The accuser answered, “Homer did not steal oil from Agamemnon; but you have stolen it from the gymnasium, and therefore you shall be punished.” Yet he contrived to avert the displeasure of Antony by courteous offices, and continued to plunder the city until the death of his protector.15

Here again we come across Homeric memories as part of the commonplace of Tarsian conversation; and Dion Chrysostom, who was a young man of sixteen or eighteen at the time of Paul’s death, constantly assumes in his Tarsian auditors a familiarity with the great story that formed the background of all Hellenic culture.

Strabo also tells us that the inhabitants of Tarsus applied themselves to the study of philosophy and to the whole encyclical compass of learning with so much ardor that they surpassed Athens, Alexandria and every other place where there were schools and lectures of philosophers. The Stoics were strongly represented. Among them were Antipater, Archedemus and Nestor; Athenodorits who lived with Marcus Cato, and died at his house; and the other Athenodorus, the son of Sandon, who was the tutor of Augustus Cæsar. To him in his old age Augustus entrusted the government of Tarsus. On the other hand, Nestor, who was tutor to Augustus’s nephew Marcellus, was a follower of Plato, and he too governed Tarsus, succeeding Athenodorus.

The distinguished author of The Cities of Saint Paul well suggests that “Saint Paul may have seen and listened to Nestor:” and this becomes the more probable, when we remember that much of this philosophic culture found its expression out of doors, after the manner made immortal by Socrates. Strabo tells us that the Tarsian philosopher Diogenes went about from city to city, instituting schools of philosophy, and that, as if inspired by Apollo, he composed and rehearsed poems on any subject that was proposed. Further he tells us that Athenodorus in part owed his influence to his gift for extemporaneous speaking, a power that was very general among the inhabitants of Tarsus. There is no improbability in the conjecture that Paul may have owed much of his skill in speaking to the example of the Tarsian orators to whom he listened in his boyhood; he may have gained from them something of that feeling for antithesis, for vivid imagery, for climax, which so heightens the beauty of his words.

In Paul’s family life at Tarsus, therefore, there must have been an entire familiarity with the history of the Cæsars, of Antony and Cleopatra; and a feeling of loyal attachment to the imperial house, which would have made it impossible for Paul to ask, “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Cæsar?” Besides this strong influence of Roman imperialism, there must have been, with the Greek tongue, an infusion of Hellenic culture, perhaps as great a familiarity with Greek authors as Philo had in Paul’s earlier years, or as Josephus had, when Paul was an old man. Paul must have been well acquainted with the story of Alexander of Macedon, whose conquests had so profoundly changed the whole world of Paul’s experience, from Athens to Alexandria. He certainly read the outline at least of Alexander’s history, in the story of the Maccabees: “It came to pass, after that Alexander the Macedonian, the son of Philip, who came out of the land of Chittim, and smote Darius king of the Persians and Medes, after he had smitten him, reigned in his stead, in former times, over the Greek empire.” He doubtless knew that Alexander had passed through his own Tarsus, and had caught a chill from bathing in the Cydnus. So we may assume in Paul, as the background of his thought and imagination, a considerable element of Latin and Hellenic culture, though it was afterwords overlaid by other influences.

There was also a tinge of Orientalism. Dion Chrysostom, who was a boy when Paul wrote his earlier letters, speaks of the Oriental spirit of Tarsus, of its Assyrian cult, and the supremacy of Phoenician music. He records another touch of the Orient: the Tarsian women veiled their faces. May we not find, in Paul’s early familiarity with this custom, the source of that famous injunction: “If a woman be not veiled, let her also be shorn; but if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled.”16

There is a story of another great Oriental, recorded by Strabo, which Paul may well have known. It concerns Anchiale, close to the mouth of the river Cydnus, where the tomb of Sardanapalus was reputed to be. On the tomb was a stone figure of Sardanapalus, snapping his fingers, with an inscription in Assyrian letters: “Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndaraxes, built Anchiale and Tarsus in one day. Eat, drink, be merry; everything else is not worth a snap of the fingers.” Paul may well have had this in mind, as well as the words of the Hebrew prophet, when he w rote: “If the dead be not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”17

The verse which follows is of high interest, for it contains the famous iambic:

ϕθείρουσινἤθηχρῆσθὁμιλίαικακαί.

“Evil communications corrupt good manners.” This line, assigned by tradition to one of the lost comedies of Menander, is one of three quotations in Greek verse in Paul’s letters and speeches. The earliest in point of time he used, speaking to the Stoics and Epicureans, under the shadow of the Acropolis:

“God, who made the universe and all things therein, the Master of heaven and earth, who dwells not in temples made with bands, giving to all life and breath and all things, made of one every race of men to dwell on the whole face of the earth, to seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, and in truth he is not far from each one of us; for in him we live and move and are, as some of your poets have said:

“. . . For his off spring we are.”

Being, then, the offspring of God, we should not think that the Divine is like gold or silver or stone, a carving of human art and imagination. . . .”18

The quotation, part of an iambic, Τοῡ γὰρκαὶγένοςἐσμέν, is assigned by tradition to the Phaenomena of Aratus. And here we have an interesting point. For Strabo, speaking of Soli, not far from Paul’s own Tarsus, tells us that Chrysippus the Stoic, the son of an inhabitant of Tarsus, who left it to live at Soli, Philemon the comic poet, and Aratus, who composed a poem called the Phaenomena, were among the illustrious natives of that place.

It is very likely that Paul may have known something of this illustrious Cilician, and may have picked up this fragment of his verses either from reading or from some public recitation, or, perhaps, from a temple service, for the same words are said to occur in a hymn to Zeus.

The indefiniteness of the formula of quotation, ὡς καί τινες τῶνκαθ’ὑμᾶςποιητῶνεἰρήκασιν, was quite in the spirit of the time, and by no means implies that Paul did not know the author’s name. For the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting, and quoting accurately, two verscs of the eighth psalm, introduces them with the words: ϐιεμαρτύρατοϐέπούτιςλέγων,19 “Someone has borne witness somewhere”; though he must have known perfectly the source of his quotation. In the same way Philo Judaeus, quoting from the Timaeus, says: ὅπερκαὶτῶνἀρχαίωνεἶπέτις,20 “as one of the ancients has said.” But Philo is thoroughly familiar with Plato, whom he cites by name shortly after: “the mouth through which, as Plato says, mortal things find their entrance, and immortal things their exit.”21

This quotation, like the other, is from the Timaeus. So that we may contrast Philo’s “as one of the ancients has said” with his “as Plato said”; just as we may contrast the “someone has testified somewhere” of the Epistle to the Hebrews with the precision of Paul’s speech at Antioch in Pisidia: “as it is also written in the second psalm.”22 In neither case is the indefiniteness of the formula of quotation a proof of vagueness of knowledge. It is quite probable that in the speech at Athens, Paul was knowingly quoting from the Phaenomena of his fellow-Cilician, Aratus of Soli.

Paul makes one more Greek verse quotation; this time it is a hexameter. It is the famous epigram in the letter to Titus:23

Κρῆτεςἀεὶψεῦσται, κακὰθηρίαγαστέρεςἀργαί,

“The Cretans are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Paul this time introduces his quotation with the words: εἶπέντιςἐξαὐτῶνἴϐιοςαὐτῶνπροϕήτης, “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said;” and, he adds drily, “this testimony is true.”

This hexameter condemning the Cretans is attributed to Epimenides. Diogenes Laertius, writing in the generation after Paul, shows at least what was the common report of him at that time. A miraculous trance of many years’ duration had caused him to be esteemed the beloved of the gods. Solon invited him to Athens to assist in purifying the city before the promulgation of his laws, and after the lustration Epimenides refused all rewards, taking only a branch of the sacred olive, and departed to Crete. He was believed to be the author of several poems, one recording the expedition of the Argonauts.24 Some such story may well have been in Paul’s mind, and may be the reason why he speaks of the author of this verse as a prophet, rather than a poet.

Paul does not mention by name either Aratus, Menander or Epimenides, but this by no means proves that he did not know their names. Silence of this kind is habitual with him. We saw that his friend and fellow-traveler mentions by name Augustus Cæsar, Tiberius Cæsar and Claudius Cæsar. He likewise speaks of the talks of Paul with the Stoics and Epicureans,25 and, as he was apparently not at Athens on that occasion, he must have had the facts from Paul himself. Luke in like manner speaks of Zeus, Hermes and Artemis.26 Here again, he probably got the names from Paul. But Paul himself names neither gods nor sects nor Cæsars. His silence, therefore, is quite consonant with the probability that he was familiar with the history of the Roman emperors, the thought of the Greek philosophers, the legends of the Homeric gods. It might well be said of him, as a critic has said of Philo, that he is “ennemi des désignations précises et des noms propres.”27

We may, therefore, say that in the atmosphere of Paul’s boyhood, in the every-day thought of his famed birthplace Tarsus, there was a background of Assyrian and Persian and Homeric legend. There was the authentic memory of the presence of Xenophon, of Alexander, of Julius Cæsar, Cassius, Antony and Cleopatra. There was also the active life of the gymnasium, mentioned by Strabo and Dion Chrysostom, in which Paul, as a youth, may well have had a part. There were the famous schools of the Stoa and the Academe. May we not admit that this long tradition, the wisdom of Greece and the splendor of Rome, may have helped to color Paul’s thought and imagination, thus giving a new meaning to his words: “I am a debtor to the Greeks”?

This brings us to the close of that period of Paul’s boyhood which was in all probability passed in his native city Tarsus, to which he later returned for a space of four or five years.28 From Tarsus, as Paul himself tells us, in the words recorded by his fellow-traveler, he went to Jerusalem, and sat at the feet of the distinguished and enlightened Gamaliel,29 who seems to have dominated the intellectual life of Jerusalem during Paul’s youth.30

In going to Jerusalem. Paul by no means passed out of the reach of Greek influence. A movement had been in progress for some time whereby the thought of the Hebrews was profoundly influenced by the mind of Hellas, and especially of the Stoics and Plato, just as, a dozen centuries later. Jewish thought was colored by the method and ideas of Aristotle. To the influence of Hellenic thought on the Hebraism of the period of Paul’s boyhood, certain of the Apocrypha bear eloquent witness, and especially the Book of Wisdom. But we see the same forces at work in a far deeper and more lasting way in the philosophical system of a man who is one of the greatest spirits the Hebrew race ever produced, Philo the Jew of Alexandria.

So important is a knowledge of Philo for a true understanding of St. Paul, and especially of the intellectual influences of Paul’s early manhood, that we shall be well advised at this point to try to state in their order the leading principles of Philo’s philosophy, first considering his world-concept, and then his method of studying and interpreting the Hebrew scriptures.

Philo conceives God exactly as do the Upanishads, as “One, without distinctive quality, uncreated, imperishable, unchangeable;”31 ϐεῖγὰρἡγεῖσθαικαὶἄποιοναὐτὸνκαὶ ἕνα καὶ ἄϕθαρτον καὶ ἄτρεπτον. He speaks of God as “the Father,” “to whom all things are possible;”32 as “the Saviour and Benefactor;”33 “the great King;”34 “the elder, ruler and lord of the universe;”35 as “dwelling in pure light;”36 and “invisible.” We are strongly reminded of this general conception by such a sentence as that in the first letter to Timothy: “The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”37

Of this uncreate, immutable God, the universe is shadow.38 But God did not create the universe directly, out of nothing. Here we come to Philo’s greatest contribution to the thought of the world. God, in Philo’s view, created first an idea of the universe; or, we might say, an idea of the universe arose in the Divine Mind, as the idea of a city may arise in the mind of a “wise architect.” This idea of the universe, this archetypal model, is invisible, subjective, noumenal, perceptible only to the intellect. This archetype of the universe is the Thought or Reason, or “Logos of God.”39

The Logos is “a divine image” of God.40 All things were created through the Logos.41 “Behold the mightiest dwelling and city, this universe itself. For thou shalt find the cause of it to be God, by whom it came into being; the matter of it, the four elements out of which it was composed: the instrument, the Logos of God, by means of whom it was made.”42

It would seem that we find an equivalent idea in Paul, who also thinks of God as having created first an invisible, noumenal universe and then a visible, phenomenal universe: “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”43 And the relation between the two is summed up in the words: “The visible things are temporal, the invisible things are eternal.”44 So Paul also has the idea of the invisible archetype of the universe, to be known by its shadow or expression, the visible world.

He also thinks of this divine manifestation as “the image of God;”45 “the image of the invisible God;”46 and of man as “the image and glory of God.”47

Through the Logos, or through the power of the Logos, according to Philo, the soul and body of man are made. Nothing in Philo is more characteristic of him than his teaching of the dual nature of man: “Dual is the race of men. For one is the heavenly man, and the other is the earthly man. Now the heavenly man, as being born in the image of God, is wholly without part in corruptible and earthly being. But the earthly man is made of matter, which he calls dust.”48 This is almost identical with the wonderful passage of Paul: “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”49

For Philo, this heavenly man, this divine image, the soul, is, as it were, dead and buried in the body: “Now, when we are alive, we are as though our soul were dead and buried in our body, as if in a tomb. But if we were to die, our soul would live according to its proper life, being released from the evil and dead body to which it is bound.”50 Or again: “He is speaking not of common death, but of that death par excellence, which is the death of the soul, entombed in passions and all kinds of evil.”51 Paul also speaks of being “dead in trespasses and sins.”52 Addressing another group of learners, he writes: “You, being dead in your sins;”53 and we find him using of himself, the striking image already quoted from Philo: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”54

The impulses of the earthly man, Philo calls “the flesh.” “There is nothing,” he tells us, “which is so great a hindrance to the growth of the soul as the fleshly nature;”55 “The greatest cause of our ignorance is the flesh, and our inseparable connection with the flesh.”56 And the flesh wars against the spirit: “The indulgences of intemperance and gluttony, and whatever other vices the immoderate and insatiable pleasures, when completely filled with an abundance of all external things, produce and bring forth, do not allow the soul to proceed onwards by the plain and straight road, but compel it to fall into ravines and gulfs, until they utterly destroy it; but those practices which adhere to patience, endurance and moderation, and all other virtues, keep the soul in the straight road, leaving no stumbling-block in the way, against which it can stumble and fall.”57

Philo enumerates the fruits of the flesh: “gluttony, lasciviousness, ambition, the love of money, fear, folly, cowardice, injustice.”58 He likewise records the fruits of the spirit, “prudence, courage, temperance, justice,” which “spring from the Logos as from one root, which he compares to a river, on account of the unceasing and everlasting flow of salutary words and doctrines, by which it increases and nourishes the souls that love God.”59 This is a fair parallel to Paul’s famous lists, as, for instance in the fifth chapter of the letter to the Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these;” with the picture of ceaseless warring of flesh against spirit, and of spirit against flesh.

Human life, indeed, as Philo understands it, is simply the battleground of these two forces, the flesh and the spirit. But in this war, man is not helpless, because the soul, made in the image of the Logos, is in essence one with the Logos. “Every man in regard to his intelligence is connected with the divine Logos, being an impression, or a fragment, or a ray of that blessed nature.”60 Therefore man is “an abode or sacred temple for a reasonable soul, the image of which he carries in his heart, the most godlike of images.”61 “Since, therefore, God invisibly enters into this region of the soul, let us prepare that place in the best way the case admits of, to be an abode worthy of God; for if we do not, he, without our being aware of it, will leave us and migrate to some other habitation, which shall appear to him to be more excellently provided. For if, when we are about to receive kings, we prepare our houses to wear a more magnificent appearance, what sort of habitation ought we to prepare for the King of kings, for God the ruler of the whole universe, condescending in his mercy and loving kindness for man, to visit the beings whom he has created, and to come down from the borders of heaven to the lowest regions of the earth, for the purpose of benefiting our race? Shall we prepare him a house of stone or of wood? . . . No, a pious soul is his fitting abode. If therefore we call the invisible soul the terrestrial habitation of the invisible God, we shall be speaking justly.”62 Compare this with Paul: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?”63 . . . “The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”64 “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the holy Spirit, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”65

Since it is the spirit, the light of the Logos in the soul, the divine ray, which wars in us for virtue and immortality, Philo speaks of the Logos as the Saviour, the Mediator: “The Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Logos a preeminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separate the created from the Creator. This same Logos is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery, and also an ambassador sent by the Ruler of all to the subject race. And the Logos rejoices in the gift.”66 Philo develops this idea of ambassadorship still further: “Why do we wonder if God assumes the likeness of angels, as he sometimes assumes even that of men, in order to help those who address their prayers to him? . . . Those who are unable to bear the sight of God, look upon his image, his angel (or messenger), the Logos.”67 In exactly the same way Paul holds that “there is one God, and one ·Mediator between God and men.”68

Therefore we must “believe firmly in God our Saviour,” says Philo, and “take refuge in him.”69 We must “press forward, putting aside slow and hesitating fear.”70 We must “rest upon the divine Logos, placing the whole of our lives as the lightest burden on him.”71 In the same way Paul says: “even we have believed;”72 he bids us “press toward the mark;”73 he tells us that our “life is hid with Christ in God.”74

We must pass, says Philo, through “a dying as to the life of the body, in order that we may obtain an inheritance of the bodiless and imperishable life which is to be enjoyed in the presence of the uncreate and everlasting God.”75 We must “lay a firm foundation, and build the house of the soul.”76 Is not this the nekrosis, of which Paul says: “I die daily”? Is not this the oikodomia, or “edification” whereby we build the house “not made with hands”?

What is the result? According to Philo, we reach the state of “the perfect man, who has rooted out anger from his heart, and is gentle to every one in word and deed.”77 With the perfect man, Philo contrasts the man who is still advancing toward perfection, who has not yet wholly rooted out passion, but has gained the virtues, perspicuity and truth. This irresistibly suggests two sentences of Paul’s: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;”78 “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after.”79 For Philo, as for Paul, the end is a glorious immortality.

Two more passages in Philo seem to call for special notice.

First, in the tract on the “Confusion of Tongues,” we have this sentence, applied to “that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image,” that is, the Logos: “The Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, elsewhere, he calls his firstborn.”80 Secondly, we have in Philo such a sentence as this: “When God, being attend ed by two of the heavenly powers as guards, to wit, by Authority and Goodness, he himself, the one God being between them, presented an appearance of Three Figures to the visual soul, each of which figures was not measured in any respect; for God cannot be circumscribed, nor are his powers capable of being defined by lines, but he himself measures everything. His Goodness therefore is the measure of all good things, and his Authority is the measure of things in subjection, and the Governor of the universe himself is the measure of all things corporeal and incorporeal.”81

These two passages seem to me to suggest that we may find in the thought of Philo the first outline of two doctrines, that of the Trinity, Three Persons in one God, and that of the Logos as “the firstborn Son.”

The passages I have quoted are very far from illustrating fully the manifold relations between Philo and Paul. But they do, I think, fairly indicate the great outlines of Philo’s world-concept. And I think they show that Paul’s world-concept is closer to Philo’s than it is to any other philosophic or religious cosmogony of which we have any knowledge. I am inclined to think that the closeness amounts to identity.

What conclusions are we to draw? It has, of course, been suggested that Philo is a debtor to Paul and the other writers of the New Testament. But this seems quite untenable, if we consider the dates. The most definite evidence as to the age of Philo is the sentence at the beginning of his account of the embassy to Rome, where he suffered many slights at the hands of Caligula. Philo writes: “How long shall we, who are aged men, still be like children, being indeed as to our bodies gray-headed through the length of time that we have lived, but as to our souls utterly infantine through our want of sense and sensibility, looking upon fortune, the most unstable of all things, as most invariable, and on nature, the most steadfast, as utterly untrustworthy?”

The embassy took place in the year 40 A.D. Philo apparently wrote his account of it soon after, and was then an aged man, gray haired. From this it is surmised that he was born between the years 20 and 10 B.C. The two scholars who have recently given the subject the most thorough study are Leopold Cohn and Massebieau. The former suggests the dates just given for the limits between which Philo’s birth must be placed: “So fällt seine Geburt etwa 20-10 v. Chr.82 Massebieau thinks that the treatise from which we have most largely quoted, De Opificio Mundi, and the series of works flowing out of it, up to and including De Specialibus Legibus, II, were finished by the year A.D. 14, Philo being then under forty.83

We may take it as quite certain, therefore, that Philo’s system was completely worked out, and his greatest works, those which embody that system most perfectly, were written while Paul was still a child; some of them, very probably, before Paul was born. Paul was a young man at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom. If we take this to mean that he was then twenty-four or twenty-five, we should have to put the year of his birth about 10 A.D., which may well be close to the truth.

Philo’s reputation stood high in Alexandria, and his fame must soon have spread throughout the empire, and the whole Jewish world, which was then nearly co-extensive with the empire. Philo himself gives us a bird’s-eye view of the Jewish settlements of his day, in a passage quoted from a letter of Agrippa, in which he speaks of Jerusalem: “Concerning the holy city, I must now say what is necessary. As I have already stated, it is my native country, and the metropolis, not only of the one country of Judea, but also of many, by reason of the colonies which it has sent out from time to time into the bordering districts of Egypt, Phrenicia, Syria in general, and especially that part of it which is called Coelo-Syria, and also those more distant regions of Pamphylia, Cilicia, the greater part of Asia Minor as far as Bithynia, and the furthermost corners of Pontus. And in the same manner into Europe, into Thessaly, and Boeotia, and Macedonia, and Aetolia, and Attica, and Argos, and Corinth and all the most fertile and wealthiest districts of Peloponnesus. And not only are the continents full of Jewish colonies, but also all the most celebrated islands are so too; such as Euboca, and Cyprus, and Crete. I say nothing of the countries beyond the Euphrates, for all of them except a very small portion, and Babylon, and all the satrapies around, which have any advantages whatever of soil or climate, have Jews settled in them.”84 This may serve as an admirable summary of the Jewish world, as it must have presented itself in the imagination of St. Paul. “If my native land,” continues the writer, “is, as it may reasonably be, looked upon as entitled to a share of your favor, it is not one city only that would be benefited by you, but ten thousand of them in every region of the habitable world, in Europe, in Asia and in Africa, on the continent, in the islands, on the coasts, and in the inland parts.”

Throughout the whole of this Jewish world, there were, on the one hand, groups of studious scholars, and on the other a ceaseless going and coming, whether of devotees going up to the feasts at Jerusalem, or of merchants, or of travelers. The intercourse of thought and knowledge must have been rapid and extensive, much more extensive than we readily imagine, if our view be formed from the narrowly concentrated events of the four Gospels. Paul’s own view was far wider. His knowledge of geography was considerable, and he covered, in his journeys, a large part of the territory sketched above by Agrippa.

The Alexandrian grain ships often sailed north along the Syrian coast as far as Tarsus, and then turned westward toward Rome. It was only a few days’ sail from Alexandria to Tarsus. We may, therefore, well believe that there would be nothing improbable in the supposition that Philo’s works might be read in Tarsus very soon after they were given out in Alexandria. So that the chief works of Philo, the “Creation,” and the “Allegories of the Sacred Laws,” may easily have reached Paul’s household, while he himself was still a child, under the rather strict rule of his father. From his father, he may easily have learned the idealistic world-concept of Philo, and the method of allegorical interpretation which Paul also probably owes to Philo’s teaching.

Or we may suppose that Philo’s method and view had found their way to Jerusalem, and had gained the adherence of Gamaliel, before Paul went to the sacred city to sit at the great Rabbi’s feet. One is inclined to think that both these suggestions may be true. So thoroughly is Paul saturated with the world-view and the allegorical method of Philo, that his mind and thought must have been formed on them from the beginning.

One interesting point arises. Philo and Paul follow the same lines of thought in the world-concept which we have outlined. But they very often use different words, where one would expect the words used to be the same. Thus, in the passages we have quoted, they use different words for earthly or earthy, for the temple of the spirit, for the mediator. I believe the explanation of this is, that Paul became familiar with Philo’s thought at a very early period, so that this thought became a part of his own mental furniture, looked on as his own, and therefore expressed in his own words. This seems more probable than that Paul came across Philo’s works comparatively late in life, for then he would have borrowed more unevenly, and would have quoted more accurately. He may well have re-read Philo later in life, perhaps at Cæsarea between 60 and 62 A. D., or at Rome after 63. There are indications in some of the later epistles that he did re-read Philo, or that he had become familiar with Philo’s later works. But I wish to leave the question somewhat incomplete at present, keeping for a future time the detailed examination of the relation between separate works of Philo and separate epistles.

The relation itself seems to me certain. One may form some estimate of its depth and extent, by comparing, let us say, the world-concept and theology of the Gospel according to St. Mark with the highly defined world-concept and theology of Paul’s letters and speeches. Jesus seems to have refrained of deliberate intent from raising any cosmological or metaphysical questions, not because he did not value cosmology or metaphysics, but, perhaps, because his purpose was to train, not the intellect, but the will; to awaken the spiritual will, and put it in command; holding that only after this had taken place, could any true view of the world and of life be gained.

Paul, on the contrary, came to manhood with defined cosmological and metaphysical views, views derived, as I believe, from Philo; and he interpreted his spiritual experience in the light of these views, and read in the same light what he learned from the elder disciples, of the life and teachings of Jesus. Christendom has largely adopted and followed the thought of Paul, and therefore of Philo; and I am inclined to think that to this cause we must attribute the formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity, and of the Word as the firstborn, and, later, the only begotten Son of the Father.

I believe Paul’s view of the Old Testament was not less profoundly colored by his studies in Philo, and that we must consider in this light what he has to say of Adam and Eve. This is of the highest importance; for from what Paul says of Adam had been developed the Doctrine of the Fall, as the cornerstone of “the plan of salvation.” I think it can be shown that Paul was very far from believing, on this subject, what he is generally supposed to have believed; but I must postpone the consideration of this deeply interesting question for another occasion.


1. Matt. xi. 12, A.V.

2. 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9; vi. 4-10.

3. Gal. i. 15.

4. Gal. iv. 1-3.

5. 1 Tim. iii. 4·

6. I Cor. xiii. II.

7. Acts xxvi. 4-6. (The reading followed by the Revised Version is most valuable, as implying that a considerable part of Paul’s youth was spent at Tarsus.)

8. Acts xxi. 39.

9. Acts xxii. 28, R.V.

10. 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10, R.V.

11. Strabo, XIV, v, 12. Falconer and Hamilton. Vol. III, p . 57.

12. 1 Tim. iv. 8.

13. 2 Tim. ii. 5, R.V.

14. 1 Cor. ix. 24-26.

15. Strabo, XIV, v, 14.

16. 1 Cor. xi. 6, R.V.

17. 1 Cor. xv. 32.

18. Acts xvii. 24-29.

19. Heb. ii. 6.

20. Philo, De Opificio Mundi, 5.

21. Ibid., 40: “ώςἔϕηΠλάτων.”

22. Acts x iii. 33.

23. Titus, i. 12.

24. Diogenes Laertius, I, 12.

25. Acts xvii. 18.

26. Acts xiv. 12; xix. 24.

27. Massebieau, Revue de l’histoire des religions, LIII, p. 27. Paris, 1906.

28. Acts ix. 30; xi. 25. Paul was probably at Tarsus A.D. 38-43.

29. Acts xxii. 3.

30. See Jewish Encyclopedia, art. “Gamaliel.”

31. Philo, Legum Alleg. lib. I, 15; ed. L. Cohn, Berlin, 1896, Vol. I, pp. 73-4.

32. De Opific. Mundi, 18; Cohn I, p. 18, l. 21.

33. Legum Alleg. II; Cohn I, p. 101, l. 18.

34. De Opific. Mundi, 23; Cohn I, p. 24, l. 5.

35. De Opific. Mundi, 23; Cohn I, p. 24, l. 5.

36. Philo. Quod Deus sit immutabilis, 6; Cohn II, p. 62, l. 14.

37. 1 Tim. vi. 15-16.

38. Legum Alleg. III, 33; Cohn I, p. 135, l. 17.

39. De Opific. Mundi, 6; Cohn I, p. 8, ll. 2-4.

40. Ibid.

41. Legum Alleg. I, 9; Cohn I, p. 66, l. 15.

42. De Cherubim, 35; Cohn I, p. 200, ll. 7-10.

43. Rom. i. 20.

44. 2 Cor. iv. 18.

45. Cor. iv. 4.

46. Col. i. 15.

47. 1 Cor. xi. 7.

48. Legum Alleg. I, 12; Cohn I, p. 69, ll. 1-4.

49. 1 Cor. xv. 47-48.

50. Legum Alleg. I, 33; Cohn I, p. 89. l. 8.

51. Ibid., I, p. 99, l. 23.

52. Eph. ii. 1.

53. Col. ii. 13.

54. Rom. vii. 24.

55. De Gigantibus, 7; Cohn II. p. 48, l. 1.

56. Ibid., p. 47, 1. 18.

57. De Agricultura, 22; Cohn II, p. 115, l. 19.

58. De Opific. Mundi, 26.

59. De Posteritate Caini, 37; Cohn II, p. 28, l. 16.

60. De Opific. Mundi, 51: Cohn I, p. 51, l. 6.

61. Ibid., 47; I. p. 48, 4.

62. De Cherubim, 29, 30; Cohn I, p. 194.

63. I Cor. iii. 16.

64. I Cor. iii. I7.

65. I Cor. vi. I9.

66. Quis div. rer. Haeres, 42.

67. De Somniis, I, 41.

68. 1 Tim. ii. 5.

69. De sac. Ab. et C. 19.

70. De Somniis, I, 26.

71. Ibid. 21.

72. Gal. ii. 16.

73. Phil. iii. 14.

74. Col. iii. 3.

75. De Gigant. 3.

76. De Cherubim, 30.

77. Legum Alleg. III, 47.

78. Eph. iv. 13.

79. Phil. iii. 12.

80. De Conf. Ling. 14; Cohn II, 241, l. 19.

81. De Sacrif. Ab. et C. 15; Cohn I, 225, 18.

82. Philologus, Supplementband VII, Leipsic, 1899; Leopold Cohn, “Einteilung und Chronologie der Schriften Philo’s,” p. 426, note 47. This very conservative scholar attributes to Philo’s first period the works on “Creation” and the early part of the “Allegories of the Sacred Laws.”

83. Revue de l’histoire des religions, LIII, Paris, rgo6. Massebieau, “Chronologie de la vie et des œuvres de Philon,” p. 37.

84. Legatio ad Gaium, ch. 36. See Philo, C. D. Yonge, vol. IV, p. 61. The passage quoted is from the letter of Agrippa to Caligula.