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THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE RISE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
The Jewish Christianity presided over by Peter was the earliest form of Christianity. Peter was converted from Judaism to universalism, but being a genuine Jew he was not converted from a social to an inner mystical Gospel. The ideal of Jewish Christianity is the New Jerusalem of Revelation. Jesus is the Messiah. There is to be a Messianic kingdom and after that a permanent kingdom of heaven.
The next type of Christianity to develop was the mystery religion of St. Paul. Jesus is the risen Lord. The believer dies with his Lord and is reborn through the rebirth of his Lord. There is a definite break with the prophetic ideal. This type of Christianity is Oriental, and spiritualistic. The believer becomes through his new birth, of which baptism is a symbol, an immortal being. Adam represents the old natural man, the ux, the soul or principle of life in animals and in man. Christ the risen Lord represents the principle of life, the TVEUμa, which is higher than the natural life common to animals and men. This pneumatic or spiritual life comes from living through faith the life of the risen Lord. In the classical tradition we are one with Zeus through voûs or reason. This
is the view of Plato and the Stoics. In the mystery tradition we become divine and immortal through union with a divine risen Lord. We are divine not through vôus or reason, we become spiritual or pneumatic beings through a mystical union with a risen Lord. In Adam we all die because the natural or physical man has only the principle of natural life. But the Christian becomes immortal, becomes a new spiritual or pneumatic creature through a mystic union with his risen Lord. This mystery type of Christianity which began at Antioch was "foolishness" to the classical mind.
The Phrygio-Thracian cult of Dionysus was the basis of Euripides' Baccha. Immortality through Dionysus is not a continuation of a normal human life. One is lifted out of the old natural life through ecstasy. The taboo which the mysteries put on eggs and beans was a taboo on the old Chthonian or underground deities, the principles of natural growth and life. Plutarch of Charonea in Boeotia (50-125 A.D.), who studied at Athens, visited Alexandria and lectured at Rome, held that sleep was the lesser mystery and the initiation into the greater mystery of death. Death recalls an earlier state of union with God. Here in the body the soul, like an oyster in its shell, is shut in from its original element, the divine being.
The mystery religions were personal, cosmopolitan. They had nothing to do with the family or the state. They were an expression of a new inner aspect of experience which could get no adequate outlet in the traditional social system.
Celsus tells the Christians that if they persist in
keeping their hearts and minds detached from the Roman system, they will help to weaken the Empire in its conflict with barbarism. In this way Christianity may bring about the collapse of civilization itself.
The older pagan régime limited the good life to those who had blue blood and an aristocratic type of education; to those who had property and a wife and children and who could serve their state in war and peace. The ideal of the Christ removed all these limitations. The Christ spirit is the key of admission to this second empire and this spirit knows no race, no sex, no property qualifications, no social status. Any one who can appropriate the Christ spirit can enter this new kingdom. Paul rejoices that he is able to beget new men in Christ. Through baptism, through the Lord's Supper, individuals find the symbols of their unity with this new spirit. The limitations of a feudal social system are removed. The spirit of this new world bloweth where it listeth. Men feel themselves to be new creatures.
In the Fourth Gospel the kingdom is not to come as in Jewish Christianity, nor is it due to a mystical rebirth as in Paul; it is the result of a gnosis, a spiritual form of knowledge. This knowledge is the divine light that illumines every one that comes into the world. This divine knowledge, this Logos, had been worked out by Philo at Alexandria in the middle of the first century A.D. Philo lived among his fellows but he lived secluded in soul. He regarded the body as a corpse and the soul as the only principle of life. The world of Philo could not have been created by God himself. Some intermediate being was neces