A History Christianity
Edited By: Robert A. Guisepi
Rise And Spread Of Christianity
Book: By Joseph Ernest Renan
Author: Renan, Joseph
Go To: PART TWO
It is a favorite view of historians and critical students that Jesus was
born at a time when the world seemed especially prepared for his birth. The correspondence between world conditions then and the actual process of Christianity in its rise and early spread appears to conform to evolutionary laws as regarded in the light of modern interpretation.
In its origin Christianity is most intimately connected with Judaism, the parent religion. The known world, however, in the time of Jesus was largely under Roman dominion. This was true of the land where Jesus was born. The Roman Empire was then comparatively at peace, and it was the admonition of St. Paul that the first Christians should maintain that peace. The wide sovereignty of Rome gave the apostles of Christ access to different nations, many of whom had become civilized under Roman influence. But pure monotheism existed only among the Jews. All other nations had a variety of gods and peculiar forms of worship. In most of the pagan religions there were elements of truth and beauty, but they lacked in ethical principles and in moral application to life. Most of their priestcraft was a vulgar imposition upon the ignorance and credulity of the common people. The prevailing philosophies - which, among the more enlightened, took the place of religion - were the Grecian, adopted also by the Romans, and the oriental, with numerous followers in Persia, Syria, Chaldaea, Egypt, and likewise among the Jews. But the philosophers were divided into antagonistic sects. Out of such conditions no practical religion could develop. In the doctrines of Buddhism were to be found the spirit and purpose of a devout and humanely religious people, but the intricate mythology and racial and other limitations of Buddhism forbade that, although it conquered the half of Asia, it should ever become a universal faith.
The condition of the Jews at this period was little better than that of
other peoples. Among the Jews there was a lack of intellectual unity, and their moral ideals had been lowered. Oppressed by Herod, the tributary Roman King - who, although professedly a Jew, copied the open despisers of all religion - they yielded to the influences of Roman luxury and licentiousness which spread over Palestine. Although still conducted by the priests and Levites and under the eye of the Sanhedrim or senate, the Jewish religion had lost much of its earlier character. Like philosophy, it was vexed with contending sects. Strict observance of the Mosaic law and the performance of prescriptive rites and duties were in the main regarded as the sum of religion.
The race of prophets appeared extinct until prophecy was revived in John the Baptist. The successors of the Maccabaean patriots were not animated by their spirit. There was widespread and passionate expectation of a national messiah, but not such a messiah as John proclaimed and Jesus proved to be; rather a powerful warrior and vindicator of Jewish liberty. Galilee, the early home of Jesus, was especially stirred with messianic fervor. In such a condition of the national mind, and at such a stage of the world's empire, it seems natural in the course of spiritual evolution that such a teacher as Jesus - a spiritual messiah - should arise to be the deliverer not of one people only, but of the world itself. Among the Jewish doctors when Jesus was a child was at least one wise and liberal rabbi, Hillel, a Pharisee, the great reformer of his time, and "the most eminent Jew of the generation before the birth of Jesus." At his feet the boy Jesus may have sat and learned lessons of wisdom and liberality. It gives us a reassurance of spiritual continuity to think that the teachings of Hillel may have "helped to inspire the humane and tender counsels of the founder of Christianity."
In grouping the glowing words of Renan, with their fine spiritual
interpretations and descriptive eloquence, the judgments of an eminent contemporary Jewish scholar, and Newman's learned yet simple portrayal of the Church as it took form in its early environment, and as it was seen through the media of contemporary governments, customs, and criticisms, it is believed that readers will derive satisfaction, and will be aided in their own inquiries, through this threefold presentation. On so vast a subject, with its momentous implications, no single author, however profound his genius, can do more than contribute a partial essay toward the many-sided truth.
From the moment of the arrest of Jesus, and immediately after his death, it is probable that many of the disciples had already found their way to the northern provinces. At the time of the Resurrection a rumor was spread abroad, according to which it was in Galilee that he would be seen again. Some of the women who had been to the sepulcher came back with the report that the angel had said to them that Jesus had already preceded them into Galilee. Others said that it was Jesus himself who had ordered them to go there. Now and then some people said that they themselves remembered that he had said so during his lifetime.
What is certain is that at the end of a few days, probably after the
Paschal Feast of the Passover had been quite over, the disciples believed they had a command to return into their own country, and to it accordingly they returned. Perhaps the visions began to abate at Jerusalem. A species of melancholy seized them. The brief appearances of Jesus were not sufficient to compensate for the enormous void left by his absence. In a melancholy mood they thought of the lake and of the beautiful mountains where they had received a foretaste of the kingdom of God. The women especially wished, at any cost, to return to the country where they had enjoyed so much happiness. It must be observed that the order to depart came especially from them. That odious city weighed them down. They longed to see once more the ground where they had possessed Him whom they loved, well assured in advance of meeting him again there.
The majority of the disciples then departed, full of joy and hope,
perhaps in the company of the caravan which took back the pilgrims from the Feast of the Passover. What they hoped to find in Galilee were not only transient visions, but Jesus himself to continue with them, as he had done before his death. An intense expectation filled their souls. Was he going to restore the kingdom of Israel, to found definitely the kingdom of God, and, as was said, "reveal his justice"?
Everything was possible. They already called to mind the smiling landscapes where they had enjoyed his presence. Many believed that he had given to them a rendezvous upon a mountain, probably the same to which with them there clung so many sweet recollections. Never, it is certain, had there been a more pleasant journey. All their dreams of happiness were on the point of being realized. They were going to see him once more! And, in fact, they did see him again. Hardly restored to their harmless chimeras, they believed themselves to be in the midst of the gospel-dispensation period. It was now drawing near to the end of April. The ground is then strewn with red anemones, which were probably those "lilies of the fields" from which Jesus delighted to draw his similes. At each step his words were brought to mind, adhering, as it were, to the thousand accidental objects they met by the way. Here was the tree, the flower, the seed, from which he had taken his parables; there was the hill on which he delivered his most touching discourses; here was the little ship from which he taught. It
was like the recommencement of a beautiful dream-like a vanished illusion which had reappeared. The enchantment seemed to revive. The sweet Galilean "Kingdom of God" had recovered its sway. The clear atmosphere, the mornings upon the shore or upon the mountain, the nights passed on the lakes watching the nets, all these returned again to them in distinct visions. They saw him everywhere where they had lived with him. Of course it was not the joy of the first enjoyment. Sometimes the lake had to them the appearance of being very solitary. But a great love is satisfied with little. If all of us, while we are alive, could surreptitiously, once a year, and during a moment long enough to exchange but a few words, behold again those loved ones whom we have lost-death would not be death!
Such was the state of mind of this faithful band, in this short period
when Christianity seemed to return for a moment to his cradle and bid to him an eternal adieu. The principal disciples, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, met again on the shores of the lake, and henceforth lived together; they had taken up again their former calling of fishermen, at Bethsaida or at Capernaum. The Galilean women were no doubt with them. They had insisted more than the others on that return, which was to them a heartfelt love. This was their last act in the establishment of Christianity. From that moment they disappear. Faithful to their love, their wish was to quit no more the country in which they had tasted their greatest delight. More than five hundred persons were already devoted to the memory of Jesus. In default of the lost master they obeyed the disciples, the most authoritative - Peter - in particular.
The activity of these ardent souls had already turned in another
direction. What they believed to have heard from the lips of the dear risen One was the order to go forth and preach, and to convert the world. But where should they commence? Naturally, at Jerusalem. The return to Jerusalem was then resolved upon by those who at that time had the direction of the sect. As these journeys were ordinarily made by caravan at the time of the feasts, we now suppose, with all manner of likelihood, that the return in question took place at the Feast of Tabernacles at the close of the year 33, or the Paschal Feast of the year 34. Galilee was thus abandoned by Christianity, and abandoned forever. The little Church which remained there continued, no doubt, to exist; but we hear it no more spoken of. It was probably broken up, like all the rest, by the frightful disaster which then overtook the country during the war of Vespasian; the wreck of the dispersed community sought refuge beyond Jordan. After the war it was not Christianity which was brought back into Galilee; it was Judaism.
Galilee thus counted but an hour in the history of Christianity; but it
was the sacred hour, par excellence; it gave to the new religion that which has made it endure - its poetry, its penetrating charms. "The Gospel," after the manner of the synoptics, was a Galilean work. But "the Gospel" thus extended has been the principal cause of the success of Christianity, and continues to be the surest guarantee of its future. It is probable that a fraction of the little school which surrounded Jesus in his last days remained at Jerusalem.
It is about this period that we can place the vision of James, mentioned by St. Paul. James was the brother, or at least a relation, of Jesus. We do not find that he had accompanied Jesus on his last sojourn to Jerusalem. He probably went there with the apostles, when the latter quitted Galilee.
It is very remarkable that the family of Jesus, some of whose members during his life had been incredulous and hostile to his mission, constituted now a part of the Church, and held in it a very exalted position. One is led to suppose that the reconciliation took place during the sojourn of the apostles in Galilee. The celebrity which had attached itself to the name of their relative, those who believed in him, and were assured of having seen him after he had arisen, served to make an impression on their minds. From the
time of the definite establishment of the apostles at Jerusalem, we find with them Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus. In what concerns Mary, it appears that John, thinking in this to obey a recommendation of the Master, had adopted and taken her to his own home. He perhaps took her back to Jerusalem. This woman, whose personal history and character have remained veiled in obscurity, assumed hence great importance. The words that the evangelist put into the mouth of some unknown woman, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked," began to be verified. It is probable that Mary survived her son a few years. As for the brothers of Jesus, their history is wrapped in obscurity. Jesus had several brothers and sisters. It seemed probable, however, that in the class of persons which were called "Brothers of the Lord" there were included relations in the second degree. The question is only of moment so far as it concerns James, who we see playing a great part in the first thirty years of Christianity.
The apostles henceforth separated no more, except to make temporary journeys. Jerusalem became their head-quarters; they seemed to be afraid to disperse, while certain acts served to reveal in them the prepossession of being opposed to return again into Galilee, which latter had dissolved its little society. An express order of Jesus is supposed to have interdicted their quitting Jerusalem, before, at least, the great manifestations which
were to take place. People's thoughts were turned with great force toward a promise which it was supposed Jesus had made. During his lifetime Jesus, it was said, had often spoken of the Holy Spirit, which was understood to mean a personification of divine wisdom. He had promised his disciples that the Spirit would nerve them in the combats that they would have to engage in, would be their inspirer in difficulties, and their advocate if they had to speak in public. Sometimes it was supposed that Jesus suddenly presented
himself in the midst of his disciples assembled, and breathed on them out of his own mouth a current of vivifying air. At other times the disappearance of Jesus was regarded as a premonition of the coming of the Spirit. Many people established an intimate connection between this descent and the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.
The affection that the disciples had the one for the other, while Jesus was alive, was thus enhanced tenfold after his death. They formed a very small and very retired society, and lived exclusively by themselves. At Jerusalem they numbered about one hundred and twenty. Their piety was active, and, as yet, completely restrained by the forms of Jewish piety. The Temple was then the chief place of devotion. They worked, no doubt, for a living; but at that time manual labor in Jewish society engaged very few. Everyone had a trade, but that trade by no means hindered a man from being educated and well-bred.
The dominant idea in the Christian community, at the moment at which we are now arrived, was the coming of the Holy Spirit. People were believed to receive it in the form of a mysterious breath, which passed over the assembly. Every inward consolation, every bold movement, every flush of enthusiasm, every feeling of lively and pleasant gayety, which was experienced without knowing whence it came, was the work of the Spirit. These simple consciences referred, as usual, to some exterior cause the exquisite sentiments which were being created in them. When all were assembled, and when they awaited in silence inspiration from on high, a murmur, any noise whatever, was believed to be the coming of the Spirit. In the early times, it was the apparitions of Jesus which were produced in this manner. Now the turn of ideas had changed. It was the divine breath which passed over the little Church, and filled it with a celestial effluvium. These beliefs were strengthened by notions drawn from the Old Testament. The prophetic spirit is represented in the Hebrew books as a breathing which penetrates man and inspires him. In the beautiful vision of Elijah, God passes by in the form of a gentle wind, which produces a slight rustling noise.
Among all these "descents of the Spirit," which appear to have been
frequent enough, there was one which left a profound impression on the nascent Church. One day, when the brethren were assembled, a thunder-storm burst forth. A violent wind threw open the windows: the heavens were on fire. Thunder-storms, in these countries, are accompanied by prodigious sheets of lightning; the atmosphere is, as it were, everywhere furrowed with ridges of flame. Whether the electric fluid had penetrated the room itself or whether a dazzling flash of lightning had suddenly illuminated the faces of all,
everyone was convinced that the Spirit had entered, and that it had alighted on the head of each in the form of tongues of fire. The idea that the Spirit had alighted on them in the form of jets of flame, resembling tongues of fire, gave rise to a series of singular ideas, which took a foremost place in the thought of the period.
The tongues of fire appeared a striking symbol. People were convinced that God desired to signify in this manner that he poured out upon the apostles his most precious gifts of eloquence and of inspiration. But they did not stop there. Jerusalem was, like the majority of the large cities of the East, a city in which many languages were spoken. The diversity of tongues was one of the difficulties which one found there in the way of propagating a universal form of faith. One of the things, moreover, which
alarmed the apostles, at the commencement of a ministry destined to embrace the world, was the number of languages which were spoken there: they were asking themselves incessantly how they could learn so many tongues. "The gift of tongues" became thus a marvelous privilege. It was believed that the preaching of the Gospel would clear away the obstacle which was created by the diversity of idioms. There was in this a liberal idea; they meant to imply that the Gospel should have no language of its own; that it should be translatable into every tongue; and that the translation should be of the same value as the original.
The custom of living together, holding the same faith, and indulging the same expectation, necessarily produced many common habits. All lived in common, having but one heart and one mind. No one possessed anything which was his own. On becoming a disciple of Jesus, one sold one's goods and made a gift of the proceeds to the society. The chiefs of the society then distributed the common possessions to each, according to his needs. They lived in the same quarter. They took their meals together, and continued to
attach to them the mystic sense that Jesus had prescribed. They passed long hours in prayers. Their prayers were sometimes improvised aloud, but more often meditated in silence. The concord was perfect; no dogmatic quarrels, no disputes in regard to precedence. The tender recollection of Jesus effaced all dissensions. Joy, lively and deep-seated, was in every heart. Their morals were austere, but pervaded by a soft and tender sentiment. They assembled in houses to pray and to devote themselves to ecstatic exercises. The recollection of these two or three first years remained and seemed to them like a terrestrial paradise, which Christianity will pursue henceforth in all its dreams and to which it will vainly endeavor to return. Such an organization could only be applicable to a very small church.
The apostles chosen by Jesus, and who were supposed to have received from him a special mandate to announce to the world the kingdom of God, had, in the little community, an incontestable superiority. One of the first cares, as soon as they saw the sect settle quietly down at Jerusalem, was to fill the vacancy that Judas of Kerioth had left in its ranks. The opinion that the latter had betrayed his master, and had been the cause of his death, became
more and more general. The legend was mixed up with him, and every day one heard of some new circumstance which enhanced the black-heartedness of his deed. In order to replace him, it was resolved to have recourse to a vote of some sort. The sole condition was that the candidate should be chosen from the groups of the oldest disciples, who had been witnesses of the whole series of events, from the time of the baptism of John. This reduced considerably the number of those eligible. Two only were found in the ranks, Joseph Bar-Saba, who bore the name of Justus, and Matthias. The lot fell upon Matthias, who was accounted as one of the Twelve. But this was the sole instance of such a replacing.
The body of Twelve lived, generally, permanently at Jerusalem. Till
about the year 60 the apostles did not leave the holy city except upon temporary missions. This explains the obscurity in which the majority of the members of the central council remained. Very few of them had a role. This council was a kind of sacred college or senate, destined only to represent tradition and a spirit of conservatism. It finished by being relieved of every active function, so that its members had nothing to do but to preach and pray; but as yet the brilliant feats of preaching had not fallen to their lot. Their names were hardly known outside Jerusalem, and about the year 70 or 80 the lists which were given of these chosen Twelve agreed only in the principal names.
The "Brothers of the Lord" appear often by the side of the "apostles,"
although they were distinct from them. Their authority, however, was equal to that of the apostles. Here two groups constituted, in the nascent Church, a sort of aristocracy founded solely on the more or less intimate relations that their members had had with the Master. These were the men whom Paul denominated "the pillars" of the Church at Jerusalem. For the rest, we see that no distinctions in the ecclesiastical hierarchy yet existed. The title was nothing; the personal authority was everything. The principle of ecclesiastical celibacy was already established, but it required time to bring
all these germs to their complete development. Peter and Philip were married and had sons and daughters.
The term used to designate the assembly of the faithful was the Hebrew Kahal, which was rendered by the essentially democratic word Ecclesia, which is the convocation of the people in the ancient Grecian cities, the summons to the Pnyx or the Agora. Commencing with the second or the third century before Jesus Christ, the words of the Athenian democracy became a sort of common law in Hellenic language; many of these terms, on account of their having been used in the Greek confraternities, entered into the Christian vocabulary. It was, in reality, the popular life, which, restrained for centuries, resumed its power under forms altogether different. The primitive Church was, in its way, a little democracy.
The power which was ascribed to the Church assembled and to its chiefs was enormous. The Church conferred every mission, and was guided solely in its choice by the signs given by the Spirit. Its authority went as far as decreeing death. It is recorded that at the voice of Peter several delinquents had fallen back and expired immediately. St. Paul, a little later, was not afraid, in excommunicating a fornicator, "to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Excommunication was held to be equivalent to a sentence of death The apostles were believed to be invested with supernatural powers. In pronouncing such condemnations, they thought that their anathemas could not fail but be effectual. The terrible impression which their excommunications produced, and the hatred manifested by the brethren against all the members thus cut off, were sufficient, in fact, in many cases, to bring about death, or at least to compel the culprit to expatriate himself. Accounts like those of the death of Ananias and Sapphira did not excite any
scruple. The idea of the civil power was so foreign to all that world placed without the pale of the Roman law, people were so persuaded that the Church was a complete society, sufficient in itself, that no person saw, in a miracle leading to death or the mutilation of an individual, an outrage punishable by the civil law. Enthusiasm and faith covered all, excused everything. But the frightful danger which these theocratic maxims laid up in store for the future is readily perceived. The Church is armed with a sword; excommunication is a sentence of death. There was henceforth in the world a power outside that of the State, which disposed of the life of citizens.
Peter had among the apostles a certain precedence, derived directly from his zeal and his activity. In these first years he was hardly ever separate from John, son of Zebedee. They went almost always together, and their amity was doubtless the cornerstone of the new faith. James, the brother of the Lord, almost equaled them in authority, at least among a fraction of the Church.
It is needless to remark that this little group of simple people had no
speculative theology. Jesus wisely kept himself far removed from all
metaphysics. He had only one dogma, his own divine Sonship and the divinity of his mission. The whole symbol of the primitive Church might be embraced in one line: "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God." This belief rested upon a peremptory argument - the fact of the resurrection, of which the disciples claimed to be witnesses. To attest the resurrection of Jesus was the task which all considered as being specially imposed upon them. It was, however, very soon put forth that the Master had predicted this event. Different sayings of his were recalled, which were represented as having not been well
understood, and in which was seen, on second thoughts, an announcement of the Resurrection. The belief in the near glorious manifestation of Jesus was universal. The secret word which the brethren used among themselves, in order to be recognized and confirmed, was maran-atha, "the Lord is at hand."
Jesus, with his exquisite tact in religious matters, had instituted no
new ritual. The new sect had not yet any special ceremonies. The practices of piety were Jewish. The assemblies had, in a strict sense, nothing liturgic. They were the meetings of confraternities, at which prayers were offered up, devoted themselves to glossolaly or prophecy, and the reading of correspondence. There was nothing yet of sacerdotalism. There was no priest (cohen); the presbyter was the "elder," nothing more. The only priest was Jesus: in another sense, all the faithful were priests. Fasting was considered a very meritorious practice. Baptism was the token of admission to the sect. The rite was the same as administered by John, but it was
administered in the name of Jesus. Baptism was, however, considered an insufficient initiation. It had to be followed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were effected by means of a prayer, offered up by the apostles, upon the head of the new convert, accompanied by the imposition of hands.
This imposition of hands, already so familiar to Jesus, was the
sacramental act par excellence. It conferred inspiration, universal
illumination, the power to produce prodigies, prophesying, and the speaking of languages. It was what was called the Baptism of the Spirit. It was supposed to recall a saying of Jesus: "John baptized you with water; but as for you, you shall be baptized by the Spirit." Gradually all these ideas became amalgamated, and baptism was conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." But it is not probable that this formula, in the early days in which we now are, was yet employed. We see the simplicity of
this primitive Christian worship. Neither Jesus nor the apostles had invented it. Certain Jewish sects had adopted, before them, these grave and solemn ceremonies, which appeared to have come in part from Chaldaea, where they are still practised with special liturgies by the Sabeans or Mendaites. The religion of Persia embraced also many rites of the same description.
The beliefs in popular medicine, which constituted a part of the force of Jesus, were continued in his disciples. The power of healing was one of the marvellous gifts conferred by the Spirit. The first Christians, like almost all the Jews of the time, looked upon diseases as the punishment of a transgression, or the work of a malignant demon. The apostles passed, just as Jesus did, for powerful exorcists. People imagined that the anointings of oil administered by the apostles, with imposition of hands and invocation of the name of Jesus, were all-powerful to wash away the sins which were the cause of disease, and to heal the afflicted one. Oil has always been in the East the medicine par excellence. For the rest, the simple imposition of the hands of the apostles was reputed to have the same effect. This imposition was made by immediate contact. Nor is it impossible that, in certain cases, the heat of the hands, being communicated suddenly to the head, insured to the sick person a little relief.
The sect being young and not numerous, the question of deaths was not taken into account until later on. The effect caused by the first demises which took place in the ranks of the brethren was strange. People were troubled by the manner of the deaths. It was asked whether they were less favored than those who were reserved to see with their eyes the advent of the Son of Man? They came generally to consider the interval between death and the resurrection as a kind of blank in the consciousness of the defunct. At the time of which we speak, belief in the resurrection almost alone prevailed. The funeral rite was undoubtedly the Jewish rite. No importance was attached to it; no inscription indicated the name of the dead. The great resurrection was near; the bodies of the faithful had only to make in the rock a very short sojourn. It did not require much persuasion to put people in accord on the question as to whether the resurrection was to be universal, that is to say, whether it would embrace the good and the bad, or whether it would apply to the elect only. One of the most remarkable phenomena of the new religion was the reappearance of prophecy. For a long time people had spoken but little of prophets in Israel. That particular species of inspiration seemed to revive in the little sect. The primitive Church had several prophets and prophetesses analogous to those of the Old Testament. The psalmists also reappeared. The model of our Christian psalms is without doubt given in the canticles which Luke loved to disseminate in his gospel, and which were copied from the canticles of the Old Testament. These psalms and prophecies are, as regards form, destitute of originality, but an admirable spirit of gentleness and of piety animates and pervades them. It is like a faint echo of the last productions of the sacred lyre of Israel. The Book of Psalms was in a measure the calyx from which the Christian bee sucked its first juice. The Pentateuch, on the contrary, was, as it would seem, little read and little studied; there was substituted for it allegories after the manner of the Jewish midraschim in which all the historic sense of the books was suppressed.
The music which was sung to the new hymns was probably that species of sobbing, without distinct notes, which is still the music of the Greek Church, of the Maronites, and in general of the Christians of the East. It is less a musical modulation than a manner of forcing the voice and of emitting by the nose a sort of moaning in which all the inflections follow each other with rapidity. That odd melopoeia was executed standing, with the eyes fixed, the eyebrows crumpled, the brow knit, and with an appearance of effort. The word amen, in particular, was given out in a quivering, trembling voice. That word
played a great part in the liturgy. In imitation of the Jews, the new
adherents employed it to mark the assent of the multitude to the words of the prophet or the precentor. People, perhaps, already attributed to it some secret virtues and pronounced it with a certain emphasis. We do not know whether that primitive ecclesiastical song was accompanied by instruments. As to the inward chant, by which the faithful "made melody in their hearts," and which was but the overflowing of those tender, ardent, pensive souls, it was doubtless executed like the catilenes of the Lollards of the Middle Ages, in medium voice. In general, it was joyousness which was poured out in these hymns.
Till now the Church of Jerusalem presents itself to the outside world as a little Galilean colony. The friends whom Jesus had made at Jerusalem and in its environs, such as Lazarus, Martha, Mary of Bethany, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, had disappeared from the scene. The Galilean group, who pressed around the Twelve, alone remained compact and active. The proselytism of the faithful was chiefly carried on by means of struggling conversions, in which the fervor of their souls was communicated to their neighbors. Their preachings under the porticoes of Solomon were addressed to circles not at all numerous. But the effect of this was only the more profound. Their discourses consisted principally of quotations from the Old Testament, by which it was sought to prove that Jesus was the Messiah.
The real preaching was the private conversations of these good and
sincere men; it was the reflection, always noticeable in their discourses, of the words of Jesus; it was, above all, their piety, their gentleness. The attraction of communistic life carried with it also a great deal of force. Their houses were a sort of hospitals, in which all the poor and the forsaken found asylum and succor
A project by History World International