At present we are occupied with Antioch, and the point before us is that particular moment in the Church’s history, when it was first called "Christian." Both the place and the event are remarkable: and the time, if we are able to determine it, is worthy of our attention. Though we are following the course of an individual biography, it is necessary to pause, on critical occasions, to look around on what is passing in the Empire at large. And, happily, we are now arrived at a point where we are able distinctly to see the path of the Apostle’s life intersecting the general history of the period. This, therefore, is the right place for a few chronological remarks. A few such remarks, made once for all, may justify what has gone before, and prepare the way for subsequent chapters.
Some readers may be surprised that up to this point we have made no attempts to ascertain or to state exact chronological details. (f244) But theologians are well aware of the difficulties with which such inquiries are attended, in the beginnings of St. Paul’s biography. The early chapters in the Acts are like the narratives in the Gospels. It is often hardly possible to learn how far the events related were contemporary or consecutive. We should endeavor in vain to determine the relations of time, which subsist between Paul’s retirement into Arabia and Peter’s visit to the converted Samaritans, (f245) or between the journey of one Apostle from Joppa to Caesarea and the journey of the other from Jerusalem to Tarsus. (Acts 9. And Acts 10.) Still less have we sufficient data for pronouncing upon the absolute chronology of the earliest transactions in the Church. No one can tell what particular folly or crime was engaging Caligula’s attention, when Paul was first made a Christian at Damascus. No one can tell on what work of love the Christians were occupied when the emperor was inaugurating his bridge at Puteoli, (f246) or exhibiting his fantastic pride on the shores of the British Sea. (f247) In a work of this kind it is better to place the events of the Apostle’s life in the broad light cast by the leading features of the period, than to attempt to illustrate them by the help of dates, which, after all, can be only conjectural. Thus we have been content to say, that he was born in the strongest and most flourishing period of the reign of Augustus; and that he was converted from the religion of the Pharisees about the time when Caligula succeeded Tiberius. But soon after we enter on the reign of Claudius we encounter a coincidence which arrests our attention. We must first take a rapid glance at the reign of his predecessor. Though the cruelty of that reign stung the Jews in every part of the empire, and produced an indignation which never subsided, one short paragraph will be enough for all that need be said concerning the abominable tyrant. (f248)
In the early part of the year 37 Tiberius died, and at the close of the same year Nero was born. Between the reigns of these two emperors are those of Caligula and Claudius. The four years during which Caligula sat on the throne of the world were miserable for all the provinces, both in the west and in the east. (f249) In Gaul his insults were aggravated by his personal presence. In Syria his caprices were felt more remotely, but not less keenly. The changes of administration were rapid and various. In the year 36, the two great actors in the crime of the crucifixion had disappeared from the public places of Judaea. Pontius Pilate (f250) had been dismissed by Vitellius to Rome, and Marcellus sent to govern in his stead. Caiaphas had been deposed by the same secular authority, and succeeded by Jonathan. Now, in the year 37, Vitellius was recalled from Syria, and Petronius came to occupy the governor’s residence at Antioch. Marcellus at Caesarea made way for Marullus: and Theophilus was appointed high priest at Jerusalem in place of his brother Jonathan. Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, was brought out of the prison where Tiberius had confined him, and Caligula gave a royal crown, (f251) with the tetrarchies of two of his uncles, to the frivolous friend of his youth. And as this reign began with restless change, so it ended in cruelty and impiety. The emperor, in the career of his blasphemous arrogance, attempted to force the Jews to worship him as God. (f252) One universal feeling of horror pervaded the scattered Israelites, who, though they had scorned the Messiah promised to their fathers, were unable to degrade themselves by a return to idolatry. Petronius, who foresaw what the struggle must be, wrote letters of expostulation to his master: Agrippa, who was then in Italy, implored his patron to pause in what he did: an embassy was sent from Alexandria, and the venerable and learned Philo (f253) was himself commissioned to state the inexorable requirements of the Jewish religion. Every thing appeared to be hopeless, when the murder of Caligula, on the 24th of January, in the year 41, gave a sudden relief to the persecuted people.
With the accession of Claudius (A. D. 41) the Holy Land had a king once more. Judaea was added to the tetrarchies of Philip and Antipas, and Herod Agrippa I. ruled over the wide territory which had been governed by his grandfather. With the alleviation of the distress of the Jews, proportionate suffering came upon the Christians. The "rest" which, in the distractions of Caligula’s reign, the Churches had enjoyed "throughout all Judaea, and Galilee, and Samaria," was now at an end. "About this time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church." He slew one Apostle, and "because he saw it pleased the Jews," he proceeded to imprison another. But he was not long spared to seek popularity among the Jews, or to murder and oppress the Christians. In the year 44 he perished by that sudden and dreadful death which is recorded in detail by Josephus and St. Luke. (f254) In close coincidence with this event we have the mention of a certain journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem. Here, then, we have one of those lines of intersection between the sacred history and the general history of the world, on which the attention of intelligent Christians ought to be fixed. This year, 44 A. D., and another year, the year 60 A. D. (in which Felix ceased to be the governor of Judaea, and, leaving St. Paul bound at Caesarea, was succeeded by Festus), are the two chronological pivots of the apostolic history. (f255) By help of them we find its exact place in the wider history of the world. Between these two limits the greater part of what we are told of St. Paul is situated and included.
Using the year 44 as a starting-point for the future, we gain a new light for tracing the Apostle’s steps. It is evident that we have only to ascertain the successive intervals of his life, in order to see him at every point, in his connection with the transactions of the Empire. "We shall observe this often as we proceed. At present it is more important to remark that the same date throws some light on that earlier part of the Apostle’s path which is confessedly obscure. Reckoning backwards, we remember that "three years" intervened between his conversion and return to Jerusalem. (Galatians 1:18.) Those who assign the former event to 39 or 40, and those who fix on 37 or some earlier year, differ as to the length of time he spent at Tarsus, or in "Syria and Cilicia." (f256) All that we can say with certainty is, that St. Paul was converted more than three years before the year 44. (f257)
The date thus important for all students of Bible chronology is worthy of special regard by the Christians of Britain. For in that year the Emperor Claudius returned from the shores of this island to the metropolis of his empire. He came here in command of a military expedition, to complete the work which the landing of Caesar, a century before, had begun, or at least predicted. (f258) When Claudius was in Britain, its inhabitants were not Christian. They could hardly in any sense be said to have been civilized. He came, as he thought, to add a barbarous province to his already gigantic empire; but he really came to prepare the way for the silent progress of the Christian Church. His troops were the instruments of bringing among our barbarous ancestors those charities which were just then beginning to display themselves (See Acts 11:22- 24, and 27-30) in Antioch and Jerusalem. A "new name" was faintly rising on the Syrian shore, which was destined to spread like the cloud seen by the Prophet’s servant from the brow of Mount Carmel. A better civilization, a better citizenship, than that of the Roman Empire, was preparing for us and for many. One Apostle at Tarsus was waiting for his call to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. Another Apostle at Joppa was receiving a divine intimation that "God is no respecter of persons, but that in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him." (Acts 10:34, 35.)
If we could ascertain the exact chronological arrangement of these passages of Apostolical history, great light would be thrown on the circumstantial details of the admission of Gentiles to the Church, and on the growth of the Church’s conviction on this momentous subject. We should then be able to form some idea of the meaning and results of the fortnight spent by Paul and Peter together at Jerusalem (p. 97). But it is not permitted to us to know the manner and degree in which the different Apostles were illuminated. We have not been informed whether Paul ever felt the difficulty of Peter, — whether he knew from the first the full significance of his call, — whether he learnt the truth by visions, or by the gradual workings of his mind under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. (f259) All we can confidently assert is, that he did not learn from St. Peter the mystery "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it was now revealed unto God’s holy Apostles by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel."( Ephesians 3:4-6. See Colossians 1:26, 27.)
If St. Paul was converted in 39 or 40, and if the above-mentioned rest of the Churches was in the last years of Caligula (A. D. 39-41), and if this rest was the occasion of that journey to Lydda and Joppa which ultimately brought St. Peter to Caesarea, then it is evident that St. Paul was at Damascus or in Arabia when Cornelius was baptized. (f260) Paul was summoned to evangelize the Heathen, and Peter began the work, almost simultaneously. The great transaction of admitting the Gentiles to the Church was already accomplished when the two Apostles met at Jerusalem. St. Paul would thus learn that the door had been opened for him by the hand of another; and when he went to Tarsus, the later agreement (Galatians 2:9.) might then have been partially adopted, that he should "go to the Heathen," while Peter remained as the Apostle of "the Circumcision."
If we are to bring down the conversion of Cornelius nearer to the year 44, and to place it in that interval of time which St. Paul spent at Tarsus, (f261) then it is natural to suppose that his conversations prepared Peter’s mind for the change which was at hand, and sowed the seeds of that revolution of opinion, of which the vision at Joppa was the crisis and completion. Paul might learn from Peter (as possibly also from Barnabas) many of the details of our blessed Savior’s life. And Peter, meanwhile, might gather from Paul some of those higher views concerning the Gospel which prepared him for the miracles which he afterwards saw in the household of the Roman centurion. Whatever might be the obscurity of St. Paul’s early knowledge, whether it was revealed to him or not that the Gentile converts would be called to overleap the ceremonies of Judaism on their entrance into the Church of Christ, — he could not fail to have a clear understanding that his own work was to lie among the Gentiles. This had been announced to him at his first conversion (Acts 26:17, 18), in the words of Ananias (Acts 9:15):and in the vision preceding his retirement to Tarsus (Acts 22:21), the words which commanded him to go were, "Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles."
In considering, then, the conversion of Cornelius to have happened after this journey from Jerusalem to Tarsus, and before the mission of Barnabas to Antioch, we are adopting the opinion most in accordance with the independent standing-point occupied by St. Paul. And this, moreover, is the view which harmonizes best with the narrative of Scripture, where the order ought to be reverently regarded as well as the words. In the order of Scripture narration, if it cannot be proved that the preaching of Peter at Caesarea was chronologically earlier than the preaching of Paul at Antioch, it is at least brought before us theologically, as the beginning of the Gospel made known to the Heathen. When an important change is at hand, God usually causes a silent preparation in the minds of men, and some great fact occurs, which may be taken as a type and symbol of the general movement. Such a fact was the conversion of Cornelius, and so we must consider it.
The whole transaction is related and reiterated with so much minuteness, (f262) that, if we were writing a history of the Church, we should be required to dwell upon it at length. But here we have only to do with it as the point of union between Jews and Gentiles, and as the bright starting-point of St. Paul’s career. A few words may be allowed, which are suggested by this view of the transaction as a typical fact in the progress of God’s dispensations. The two men to whom the revelations were made, and even the places where the Divine interferences occurred, were characteristic of the event. Cornelius was in Caesarea and St. Peter in Joppa; — the Roman soldier in the modern city, which was built and named in the Emperor’s honor, — the Jewish Apostle in the ancient seaport which associates its name with the early passages of Hebrew history, — with the voyage of Jonah, the building of the Temple, the wars of the Maccabees. (f263) All the splendor of Caesarea, its buildings and its ships, and the Temple of Rome and the Emperor, which the sailors saw far out at sea, (f264) all has long since vanished. Herod’s magnificent city is a wreck on the shore. A few ruins are all that remain of the harbor. Joppa lingers on, like the Jewish people, dejected but not destroyed. Caesarea has perished, like the Roman Empire which called it into existence.
And no men could well be more contrasted with each other than those two men, in whom the Heathen and Jewish worlds met and were reconciled. We know what Peter was — a Galilean fisherman, brought up in the rudest district of an obscure province, with no learning but such as he might have gathered in the synagogue of his native town. All his early days he had dragged his nets in the lake of Genesareth. And now he was at Joppa, lodging in the house of Simon the Tanner, the Apostle of a religion that was to change the world. Cornelius was an officer in the Roman army. No name was more honorable at Rome than that of the Cornelian House. It was the name borne by the Scipios, and by Sulla, and the mother of the Gracchi. In the Roman army, as in the army of modern Austria, the soldiers were drawn from different countries and spoke different languages. Along the coast of which we are speaking, many of them were recruited from Syria and Judaea. (f265) But the corps to which Cornelius belonged seems to have been a cohort of Italians separate from the legionary soldiers, (f266) and hence called the "Italian cohort." He was no doubt a true-born Italian. Educated in Rome, or some provincial town, he had entered upon a soldier’s life, dreaming perhaps of military glory, but dreaming as little of that better glory which now surrounds the Cornelian name, — as Peter dreamed at the lake of Genesareth of becoming the chosen companion of the Messiah of Israel, and of throwing open the doors of the Catholic Church to the dwellers in Asia and Africa, to the barbarians on the remote and unvisited shores of Europe, and to the undiscovered countries of the West.
But to return to our proper narrative. When intelligence came to Jerusalem that Peter had broken through the restraints of the Jewish Law, and had even "eaten" at the table of the Gentiles, (f267) there was general surprise and displeasure among "those of the circumcision." But when he explained to them all the transaction, they approved his conduct, and praised God for His mercy to the Heathen. (Acts 11:18.) And soon news came from a greater distance, which showed that the same unexpected change was operating more widely. "We have seen that the persecution, in which Stephen was killed, resulted in a general dispersion of the Christians. Wherever they went, they spoke to their Jewish brethren of their faith that the promises had been fulfilled in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This dispersion and preaching of the Gospel extended even to the island of Cyprus, and along the Phoenician coast as far as Antioch. For some time the glad tidings were made known only to the scattered children of Israel. (f268) But at length some of the Hellenistic Jews, natives of Cyprus and Cyrene, spoke to the Greeks (f269) themselves at Antioch, and the Divine Spirit gave such power to the Word, that a vast number "believed and turned to the Lord." The news was not long in traveling to Jerusalem. Perhaps some message was sent in haste to the Apostles of the Church. The Jewish Christians in Antioch might be perplexed how to deal with their new Gentile converts: and it is not unnatural to suppose that the presence of Barnabas might be anxiously desired by the fellow-missionaries of his native island.
We ought to observe the honorable place which the island of Cyprus was permitted to occupy in the first work of Christianity. We shall soon trace the footsteps of the Apostle of the Heathen in the beginning of his travels over the length of this island; and see here the first earthly potentate converted, and linking his name forever with that of St. Paul. (Acts 13:6-9.) Now, while Saul is yet at Tarsus, men of Cyprus are made the instruments of awakening the Gentiles; one of them might be that "Mnason of Cyprus," who afterwards (then "a disciple of old standing ") was his host at Jerusalem; (Acts 21:16.) and Joses the Levite of Cyprus, (f270) whom the Apostles had long ago called "the Son of Consolation," and who had removed all the prejudice which looked suspiciously on Saul’s conversion, (Acts 9:27.) is the first teacher sent by the Mother-Church to the new disciples at Antioch. "He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." He rejoiced when he saw what God’s grace was doing; he exhorted (f271) all to cling fast to the Savior whom they had found; and he labored himself with abundant success. But feeling the greatness of the work, and remembering the zeal and strong character of his friend, whose vocation to this particular task of instructing the Heathen was doubtless well known to him, "he departed to Tarsus to seek Saul."
Whatever length of time had elapsed since Saul came from Jerusalem to Tarsus, and however that time had been employed by him, — whether he had already founded any of those churches in his native Cilicia, which we read of soon after (Acts 15:41), — whether (as is highly probable) he had there undergone any of those manifold labors and sufferings recorded by himself (2 Corinthians 11.) but omitted by St. Luke, — whether by active intercourse with the Gentiles, by study of their literature, by traveling, by discoursing with the philosophers, he had been making himself acquainted with their opinions and their prejudices, and so preparing his mind for the work that was before him, — or whether he had been waiting in silence for the call of God’s providence, praying for guidance from above, reflecting on the condition of the Gentiles, and gazing more and more closely on the plan of the world’s redemption, — however this may be, it must have been an eventful day when Barnabas, having come across the sea from Seleucia, or round by the defiles of Mount Amanus, suddenly appeared in the streets of Tarsus. The last time the two friends had met was in Jerusalem. All that they then hoped, and probably more than they then thought possible, had occurred. "God had granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life" (2Corinthians 11:18). Barnabas had "seen the grace of God" (2Corinthians 11:23) with his own eyes at Antioch; and under his own teaching "a great multitude" (2Corinthians 11:24) had been "added to the Lord." But he needed assistance. He needed the presence of one whose wisdom was higher than his own, whose zeal was an example to all, and whose peculiar mission had been miraculously declared. Saul recognized the voice of God in the words of Barnabas: and the two friends traveled in all haste to the Syrian metropolis.
There they continued "a whole year," actively prosecuting the sacred work, teaching and confirming those who joined themselves to the assemblies (See Acts 11:26.) of the ever-increasing Church. As new converts, in vast numbers, came in from the ranks of the Gentiles, the Church began to lose its ancient appearance of a Jewish sect, (f272) and to stand out in relief, as a great self-existent community, in the face both of Jews and Gentiles. Hitherto it had been possible, and even natural, that the Christians should be considered, by the Jews themselves, and by the Heathen whose notice they attracted, as only one among the many theological parties, which prevailed in Jerusalem and in the Dispersion. But when Gentiles began to listen to what was preached concerning Christ, — when they were united as brethren on equal terms, and admitted to baptism without the necessity of previous circumcision, — when the Mosaic features of this society were lost in the wider character of the New Covenant, — then it became evident that these men were something more than the Pharisees or Sadducees, the Essenes (f273) or Herodians, or any sect or party among the Jews. Thus a new term in the vocabulary of the human race came into existence at Antioch about the year 44. Thus Jews and Gentiles, who, under the teaching of St. Paul, believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Savior of the world, "were first called Christians."
It is not likely that they received this name from the Jews. The "Children of Abraham" (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39.) employed a term much more expressive of hatred and contempt. They called them "the sect of the Nazarenes." (Acts 24:5.) These disciples of Jesus traced their origin to Nazareth in Galilee: and it was a proverb, that nothing good could come from Nazareth. ( John 1:46. See John 7:41, 52; Luke 13:2, &c.) Besides this, there was a further reason why the Jews would not have called the disciples of Jesus by the name of "Christians." The word "Christ" has the same meaning with "Messiah;" and the Jews, however blinded and prejudiced on this subject, would never have used so sacred a word to point an expression of mockery and derision; and they could not have used it in grave and serious earnest to designate those whom they held to be the followers of a false Messiah, a fictitious Christ. Nor is it likely that the "Christians" gave this name to themselves. In the Acts of the Apostles, and in their own letters, we find them designating themselves as "brethren," "disciples," "believers," "saints." (Acts 15:23, 9:26, 5:14, 9:32; Romans 15:25; Colossians 1:2, &c.) Only in two places (Acts 26:28, and 1Peter 4:16.) do we find the term "Christians;" and in both instances it is implied to be a term used by those who are without. There is little doubt that the name originated with the Gentiles, who began now to see that this new sect was so far distinct from the Jews, that they might naturally receive a new designation. And the form of the word implies that it came from the Romans, (f274) not from the Greeks.
The word "Christ" was often in the conversation of the believers, as we know it to have been constantly in their letters. "Christ" was the title of Him, whom they avowed as their leader and their chief. They confessed that this Christ had been crucified; but they asserted that He was risen from the dead, and that He guided them by His invisible power. Thus "Christian" was the name which naturally found its place in the reproachful language of their enemies. (f275) In the first instance, we have every reason to believe that it was a term of ridicule and derision. (f276) And it is remarkable that the people of Antioch were notorious for inventing names of derision, and for turning their wit into the channels of ridicule. (f277) In every way there is something very significant in the place where we first received the name we bear. Not in Jerusalem, the city of the Old Covenant, the city of the people who were chosen to the exclusion of all others, but in a Heathen city, the Eastern center of Greek fashion and Roman luxury; and not till it was shown that the New Covenant was inclusive of all others; then and there we were first called Christians, and the Church received from the world its true and honorable name.
In narrating the journeys of St. Paul, it will now be our duty to speak of Antioch, not Jerusalem, as his point of departure and return. Let as look, more closely than has hitherto been necessary, at its character, its history, and its appearance. The position which it occupied near the abrupt angle formed by the coasts of Syria and Asia Minor, and in the opening where the Orontes passes between the ranges of Lebanon and Taurus, has already been noticed. (f278) And we have mentioned the numerous colony of Jews which Seleucus introduced into his capital, and raised to an equality of civil rights with the Greeks. (f279) There was every thing in the situation and circumstances of this city, to make it a place of concourse for all classes and kinds of people. By its harbor of Seleucia it was in communication with all the trade of the Mediterranean; and, through the open country behind the Lebanon, it was conveniently approached by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. It united the inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportunities of Smyrna. It was almost an oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the Empire found some representative. Through the first two centuries of the Christian era, it was what Constantinople became afterwards, "the Gate of the East." And, indeed, the glory of the city of Ignatius was only gradually eclipsed by that of the city of Chrysostom. That great preacher and commentator himself, who knew them both by familiar residence, always speaks of Antioch with peculiar reverence, (f280) as the patriarchal city of the Christian name.
There is something curiously prophetic in the stories which are told of the first founding of this city. Like Romulus on the Palatine, Seleucus is said to have watched the flight of birds from the summit of Mount Casius. An eagle took a fragment of the flesh of his sacrifice, and carried it to a point on the seashore, a little to the north of the mouth of the Orontes. There he founded a city, and called it Seleucia, (See Acts 13:4.) after his own name. This was on the 23d of April. Again, on the 1st of May, he sacrificed on the hill Silpius; and then repeated the ceremony and watched the auguries at the city of Antigonia, which his vanquished rival, Antigonus, had begun and left unfinished. An eagle again decided that this was not to be his own metropolis, and carried the flesh to the hill Silpius, which is on the south side of the river, about the place where it turns from a northerly to a westerly direction. Five or six thousand Athenians and Macedonians were ordered to convey the stones and timber of Antigonia down the river; and Antioch was founded by Seleucus, and called after his father’s name. (f281)
This fable, invented perhaps to give a mythological sanction to what was really an act of sagacious prudence and princely ambition, is well worth remembering. Seleucus was not slow to recognize the wisdom of Antigonus in choosing a site for his capital, which should place it in ready communication both with the shores of Greece and with his eastern territories on the Tigris and Euphrates; and he followed the example promptly, and completed his work with sumptuous magnificence. Pew princes have ever lived with so great a passion for the building of cities; and this is a feature of his character which ought not to be unnoticed in this narrative. Two at least of his cities in Asia Minor have a close connection with the life of St. Paul. These are the Pisidian Antioch ( Acts 13:14, 14:21; 2Timothy 3:11.) and the Phrygian Laodicaea, (Colossians 4:13, 15, 16 See Revelation 1:11; 3:14.) one called by the name of his father, the other of his mother. He is said to have built in all nine Seleucias, sixteen Antiochs, and six Laodicaeas. This love of commemorating the members of his family was conspicuous in his works by the Orontes. Besides Seleucia and Antioch, he built, in the immediate neighborhood, a Laodicaea in honor of his mother, and an Apamea in honor of his wife. But by far the most famous of these four cities was the Syrian Antioch.
We must allude to its edifices and ornaments only so far as they are due to the Greek kings of Syria and the first five Caesars of Rome. (f282) If we were to allow our description to wander to the times of Justinian or the Crusaders, though these are the times of Antioch’s greatest glory, we should be trespassing on a period of history which does not belong to us. Strabo, in the time of Augustus, describes the city as a Tetrapolis, or union of four cities. The two first were erected by Seleucus Nicator himself, in the situation already described, between Mount Silpius and the river, on that wide space of level ground where a few poor habitations still remain by the banks of the Orontes. The river has gradually changed its course and appearance, as the city has decayed. Once it flowed round an island which, like the island in the Seine, (f283) by its thoroughfares and bridges, and its own noble buildings, became part of a magnificent whole. But, in Paris, the Old City is on the island; in Antioch, it was the New City, built by the second Seleucus and the third Antiochus. Its chief features were a palace, and an arch like that of Napoleon. The fourth and last part of the Tetrapolis was built by Antiochus Epiphanes, where Mount Silpius rises abruptly on the south. On one of its craggy summits he placed, in the fervor of his Romanizing mania, (f284) a temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus; and on another, a strong citadel, which dwindled to the Saracen Castle of the first Crusade. At the rugged bases of the mountain, the ground was leveled for a glorious street, which extended for four miles across the length of the city, and where sheltered crowds could walk through continuous colonnades from the eastern to the western suburb. (f285) The whole was surrounded by a wall, which, ascending to the heights and returning to the river, does not deviate very widely in its course from the wall of the Middle Ages, which can still be traced by the fragments of ruined towers. This wall is assigned by a Byzantine writer to Tiberius, but it seems more probable that the Emperor only repaired what Antiochus Epiphanes had built. (f286) Turning now to the period of the Empire, we find that Antioch had memorials of all the great Romans whose names have been mentioned as yet in this biography. When Pompey was defeated by Caesar, the conqueror’s name was perpetuated in this Eastern city by an aqueduct and by baths, and by a basilica called Caesarium. In the reign of Augustus, Agrippa (f287) built in all cities of the Empire, and Herod of Judaea followed the example to the utmost of his power. Both found employment for their munificence at Antioch. A gay suburb rose under the patronage of the one, and the other contributed a road and a portico. The reign of Tiberius was less remarkable for great architectural works; but the Syrians by the Orontes had to thank him for many improvements and restorations in their city. Even the four years of his successor left behind them the aqueduct and the baths of Caligula.
Allegorical Statue of Antioch
The character of the inhabitants is easily inferred from the influences which presided over the city’s growth. Its successive enlargement by the Seleucids proves that their numbers rapidly increased from the first. The population swelled still further, when, instead of the metropolis of the Greek kings of Syria, it became the residence of Roman governors. The mixed multitude received new and important additions in the officials who were connected with the details of provincial administration. Luxurious Romans were attracted by its beautiful climate. New wants continually multiplied the business of its commerce. Its gardens and houses grew and extended on the north side of the river. Many are the allusions to Antioch, in the history of those times, as a place of singular pleasure and enjoyment. Here and there, an elevating thought is associated with its name. Poets have spent their young days at Antioch, (f288) great generals have died there, (f289) emperors have visited and admired it. (f290) But, for the most part, its population was a worthless rabble of Greeks and Orientals. The frivolous amusements of the theatre were the occupation of their life. Their passion for races, and the ridiculous party quarrels (f291) connected with them, were the patterns of those which afterwards became the disgrace of Byzantium. The oriental element of superstition and imposture was not less active. The Chaldean astrologers found their most credulous disciples in Antioch. (f292) Jewish impostors, (f293) sufficiently common throughout the East, found their host opportunities here. It is probable that no populations have ever been more abandoned than those of oriental Greek cities under the Roman Empire, and of these cities Antioch was the greatest and the worst. (f294) If we wish to realize the appearance and reality of the complicated Heathenism of the first Christian century, we must endeavor to imagine the scene of that suburb, the famous Daphne, (f295) with its fountains and groves of bay-trees, its bright buildings, its crowds of licentious votaries, its statue of Apollo, — where, under the climate of Syria and the wealthy patronage of Rome, all that was beautiful in nature and in art had created a sanctuary for a perpetual festival of vice.
Thus, if any city, in the first century, was worthy to be called the Heathen Queen and Metropolis of the East, that city was Antioch. She was represented, in a famous allegorical statue, as a female figure, sented on a rock and crowned, with the river Orontes at her feet. (f296) With this image, which art has made perpetual, we conclude our description. There is no excuse for continuing it to the age of Vespasian and Titus, when Judaea was taken, and the Western Gate, decorated with the spoils, was called the "Gate of the Cherubim," (f297) — or to the Saracen age, when, after many years of Christian history and Christian mythology, we find the "Gate of St. Paul" placed opposite the "Gate of St. George," and when Duke Godfrey pitched his camp between the river and the city-wall. And there is reason to believe that earthquakes, the constant enemy of the people of Antioch, have so altered the very appearance of its site, that such description would be of little use. As the Vesuvius of Virgil or Pliny would hardly be recognized in the angry neighbor of modern Naples, so it is more than probable that the dislocated crags, which still rise above the Orontes, are greatly altered in form from the fort-crowned heights of Seleucus or Tiberius, Justinian or Tancred.
Earthquakes occurred in each of the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. (f298) And it is likely that, when Saul and Barnabas were engaged in their apostolic work, parts of the city had something of that appearance which still makes Lisbon dreary, new and handsome buildings being raised in close proximity to the ruins left by the late calamity. It is remarkable how often great physical calamities are permitted by God to follow in close succession to each other. That age, which, as we have seen, had been visited by earthquakes, was presently visited by famine. The reign of Claudius, from bad harvests or other causes, was a period of general distress and scarcity "over the whole world." (f299) In the fourth year of his reign, we are told by Josephus that the famine was so severe, that the price of food became enormous, and great numbers perished. (f300) At this time it happened that Helena, the mother of Izates, king of Adiabene, and a recent convert to Judaism, came to worship at Jerusalem. Moved with compassion for the misery she saw around her, she sent to purchase corn from Alexandria and figs from Cyprus, for distribution among the poor. Izates himself (who had also been converted by one who bore the same name (f301) with him who baptized St. Paul) shared the charitable feelings of his mother, and sent large sums of money to Jerusalem.
While this relief came from Assyria, from Cyprus, and from Africa to the Jewish sufferers in Judaea, God did not suffer His own Christian people, probably the poorest and certainly the most disregarded in that country, to perish in the general distress. And their relief also came from nearly the same quarters. While Barnabas and Saul were evangelizing the Syrian capital, and gathering in the harvest, the first seeds of which had been sown by "men of Cyprus and Cyrene," certain prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one of them named Agabus announced that a time of famine was at hand. (Acts 11:28.) The Gentile disciples felt that they were bound by the closest link to those Jewish brethren whom though they had never seen they loved. "For if the Gentiles had been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty was also to minister unto them in carnal things." (Romans 15:27.) No time was lost in preparing for the coming distress. All the members of the Christian community, according to their means, "determined to send relief," Saul and Barnabas being chosen to take the contribution to the elders at Jerusalem. (Acts 11:29, 30.)
About the time when these messengers came to the Holy City on their errand of love, a worse calamity than that of famine had fallen upon the Church. One Apostle had been murdered, and another was in prison. There is something touching in the contrast between the two brothers, James and John. One died before the middle of the first Christian century; the other lived on to its close. One was removed just when his Master’s kingdom, concerning which he had so eagerly inquired, (See Mark 10:35-45; Acts 1:6.) was beginning to show its real character; he probably never heard the word "Christian" pronounced. Zebedee’s other son remained till the anti-Christian ( 1John 2:18, 4:3; 2Jo. 1:7.) enemies of the faith were "already come," and was laboring against them when his brother had been fifty years at rest in the Lord. He who had foretold the long service of St. John revealed to St. Peter that he should die by a violent death. ( John 21:18-22. See 2Peter 1:14) But the time was not yet come. Herod had bound him with two chains. Besides the soldiers who watched his sleep, guards were placed before the door of the prison. (f302) And "after the passover" (f303) the king intended to bring him out and gratify the people with his death. But Herod’s death was nearer than St. Peter’s. For a moment we see the Apostle in captivity and the king in the plenitude of his power. But before the autumn a dreadful change had taken place. On the 1st of August (we follow a probable calculation, (f304) and borrow some circumstances from the Jewish historian) (f305) there was a great commemoration in Caesarea. Some say it was in honor of the Emperor’s safe return from the island of Britain. However this might be, the city was crowded, and Herod was there. On the second day of the festival he came into the theatre. That theatre had been erected by his grandfather, (f306) who had murdered the Innocents; and now the grandson was there, who had murdered an Apostle. The stone seats, rising in a great semicircle, tier above tier, were covered with an excited multitude. The king came in, clothed in magnificent robes, of which silver was the costly and brilliant material. It was early in the day, and the sun’s rays fell upon the king, so that the eyes of the beholders were dazzled with the brightness which surrounded him. Voices from the crowd, here and there, exclaimed that it was the apparition of something divine. And when he spoke and made an oration to the people, they gave a shout, saying, "It is the voice of a God and not of a man." But in the midst of this idolatrous ostentation the angel of God suddenly smote him. He was carried out of the theatre a dying man, and on the 6th of August he was dead.
This was that year, 44, (f307) on which we have already said so much. The country was placed again under Roman governors, and hard times were at hand for the Jews. Herod Agrippa had courted their favor. He had done much for them, and was preparing to do more. Josephus tells us, that
"he had begun to encompass Jerusalem with a wall, which, had it been brought to perfection, would have made it impracticable for the Romans to take the city by siege: but his death, which happened at Caesarea, before he had raised the walls to their due height, prevented him." (f308)
That part of the city, which this boundary was intended to enclose, was a suburb when St. Paul was converted. The work was not completed till the Jews were preparing for their final struggle with the Romans: and the Apostle, when he came from Antioch to Jerusalem, must have noticed the unfinished wall to the north and west of the old Damascus gate. We cannot determine the season of the year when he passed this way. We are not sure whether the year itself was 44 or 45. It is not probable that he was in Jerusalem at the passover, when St. Peter was in prison, or that he was praying with those anxious disciples at the "house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark." (Acts 12:12.) But there is this link of interesting connection between that house and St. Paul, that it was the familiar home of one who was afterwards (not always (See Acts 13:13, 15:37-39.) without cause for anxiety or reproof) a companion of his journeys. When Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch, they were attended by "John, whose surname was Mark." With the affection of Abraham towards Lot, his kinsman (f309) Barnabas withdrew him from the scene of persecution. We need not doubt that higher motives were added, — that at the first, as at the last, (2Timothy 4:11. See below.) St. Paul regarded him as "profitable to him for the ministry."
Thus attended, the Apostle willingly retraced his steps towards Antioch. A field of noble enterprise was before him. He could not doubt that God, who had so prepared him, would work by his means great conversions among the Heathen. At this point of his life, we cannot avoid noticing those circumstances of inward and outward preparation, which fitted him for his peculiar position of standing between the Jews and Gentiles. He was not a Sadducee, he had never Hellenized, — he had been educated at Jerusalem, — every thing conspired to give him authority, when he addressed his countrymen as a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." At the same time, in his apostolical relation to Christ, he was quite disconnected with the other Apostles; he had come in silence to a conviction of the truth at a distance from the Judaizing Christians, and had early overcome those prejudices which impeded so many in their approaches to the Heathen. He had just been long enough at Jerusalem to be recognized and welcomed by the apostolic college, (Acts 9:27.) but not long enough even to be known by face "unto the churches in Judaea." (Galatians 1:22.) He had been withdrawn into Cilicia till the baptism of Gentiles was a notorious and familiar fact to those very churches. (f310) He could hardly be blamed for continuing what St. Peter had already begun.
And if the Spirit of God had prepared him for building up the United Church of Jews and Gentiles, and the Providence of God had directed all the steps of his life to this one result, we are called on to notice the singular fitness of this last employment, on which we have seen him engaged, for assuaging the suspicious feeling which separated the two great branches of the Church. In quitting for a time his Gentile converts at Antioch, and carrying a contribution of money to the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, he was by no means leaving the higher work for the lower. He was building for aftertimes. The interchange of mutual benevolence was a safe foundation for future confidence. Temporal comfort was given in gratitude for spiritual good received. The Church’s first days were christened with charity. No sooner was its new name received, in token of the union of Jews and Gentiles, than the sympathy of its members was asserted by the work of practical benevolence. We need not hesitate to apply to that work the words which St. Paul used, after many years, of another collection for the poor Christians in Judaea:—
"The administration of this service not only supplies the need of the Saints, but overflows in many thanksgivings unto God; while they praise God for this proof of your obedience to the Glad Tidings of Christ." (2Corinthians 9:12-14.)