Exhortation to the Corinthians, Part 2
THE FLIGHT FROM EPHESUS
Paul sealed the letter, then entrusted it with many recommendations to the brethren who were to take it and later read it to the Community at Corinth. In it he told them that he expected to come soon in person to see them. Meanwhile Timothy had returned, but he brought with him no news of peace. Then Paul, greatly alarmed, found a ship going by way of Achaia and departed at once for Corinth. There he quickly gathered the Community together and expressed his disappointment in them, in accents severe and clear. This visit was a favor done to them but it was made with great sadness of heart. The fact is, that while he was reproving the gossipers and the fornicators, one of the group jumped up and insulted the Apostle. It made a tremendous impression on Paul as well as on the Community.
He returned immediately to Ephesus with an aching heart but not at all resigned to losing all the fruit of his preaching. He wrote, so it seems, a third letter which is now lost. Some exegetes think they have recognized part of its contents in the second canonical letter to the Corinthians. He confided this letter to Titus, a man of authority and meekness, esteemed by all, and charged him with the task of bringing back discipline into that torn and divided Community.
Meanwhile things were reaching a climax at Ephesus. Ephesus had been like a wide-open door to the Gospel, but a coalition of enemies and adversaries had been making inroads into this guileless and over-tolerant group of Christians. There had been an energetic purification from superstitious incrustations, a purification which renders souls precious in the sight of God. This had been a menace to the industry of the bookmakers, and to trade in general. It menaced the gains of those who provided parchments, papyrus, and the stylus, because the bonfire of the magic tablets was still remembered. In other words, the new religion had begun to overthrow economic interests. On this account there were many reactions in the pagan world, where the denial of their myths, since few believed in them, was tolerated so long as the source of profits was not in any way molested. This had recently happened at Philippi when Paul, by expelling the demon from the slave, Pythoness, had met with vengeance from her masters, deprived of their gains by her divinations.
VIEW IMAGE OF THE SAINT
A similar reaction now took place at Ephesus, only on a larger scale. In the shop of a silversmith there were made and sold small reproductions of the temple of Diana. People came from Asia and from Europe to ask favors of the goddess who, it was believed, fell from the skies for no other reason than to grant favors to her clients. She was, then, very famous throughout the whole East. This idol was enclosed in a temple whose construction had consumed two centuries, and was considered one of the world's seven wonders. One night, in the year 356 before Christ, a maniac of immortal infamy, named Erostratus, had set fire to it. This was the night Alexander the Great was born. The edifice was rebuilt, more elegant and beautiful than before, with marbles and by artists from Greece.
This temple of shining marbles rested on one hundred and twenty-eight columns. The site was a beautiful one on the banks of the river Selinus. In its immense enclosure, which gave the right of sanctuary, the rites of idolatrous cults were carried on. Carnivals, fairs, and banquets were held in the porticoes under the direction of the temple priests called "megabyzos," surrounded by diviners, singers, priestesses and numerous slaves. The one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants of Ephesus considered the. Artemision (the temple of Diana) as the golden heart of the city, on account of the pilgrimages, the traffic, and gifts coming from people who flocked there from all parts of the world, east and west.
Now it happened that a silversmith, named Demetrius, had started a large industry for making reproductions of the Artemision. These little reproductions were sold around the temple to pilgrims, who bought them to take home as souvenirs of their visit to the goddess; and they were also specimens of a fascinating art. Since Paul's preaching waged war against those who exercised superstitious and magical arts, it likewise threatened souvenir industry. Idols, being images made by hands, were now regarded as vain things, only an idea; these little temples and statues of the goddess were becoming useless. The industry was imperiled.
Demetrius was an astute man, the forerunner of the manufacturer of the industrial period of today, so he had an intuition for saving his business. He would show it up in the seducing light of civic honor, and he concentrated first on the temple of Diana. He would excite a class reaction, then color it with the pretext of religion and authority. After building up his plan in his own mind first, he called a committee composed of his workers and spoke to them in burning words. "This Paul goes about saying that the images we are making are not gods." And he pointed with outstretched hand to the numerous images and statues lining his shelves which were now threatened with loss of honor. "Since this Paul is persuading a great multitude of people, there is danger that the number of our customers may diminish, and we be left without bread."
The mass of his listeners began to be stirred, and a threatening murmur ran through the crowd. They pictured themselves without employment, in misery and insecurity. Demetrius had no difficulty in convincing those directly interested. That being done, he thought of other people, and continued, "This is not all, nor the worst of it. Our city is famous for the temple of Diana, the great goddess. If the preaching of this little Jew continues, there is a possibility that the great temple will fall into discredit, and the goddess, now adored by all Asia, even by the whole world, will be stripped of her royal majesty."
Moreover, for motives of political shrewdness, the statue of the Emperor had been raised near the statue of the goddess, thus assuring the goddess from heaven the protection of the god on Earth. If Rome protected the Ephesian Artemis, their business would be secure. The mass of the workers understood at once, and grew excited, quite beyond control. The danger spread rapidly; besides the interests of the industry, it touched authority, superstition, and undermined local glory and prestige. The crowd was not excited by merely hearing that the silversmiths were threatened with unemployment; in that case, the Asiatic pagans would have only shrugged their shoulders and turned away, and the magistrates would have silenced them with harshness.
The cry that went up was that a great danger threatened Diana of the Ephesians. The Ephesians, not understanding very clearly just what was the matter, became excited-----it never took much to heat them up-----so that the narrow streets were packed with people. The excitement increased still more when it was learned that it concerned the Jews, who were as much detested in Ephesus as elsewhere, and it became still worse when it was learned that it concerned Paul and his companions. For some time, there had been fermenting some resentment against them by the conservatives, the idolatrous priests of the temple, many pious pagans, and the Jews themselves. All these accumulated rancors and fears now became united into one, and exploded; for the Asiatic mind is easily set on fire.
It appears that Paul was taken and beaten to a pitiful condition; but Aquila and Priscilla, risking their lives for him, and with the help of other brethren, saved him from lynching. The mob then turned on two of Paul's companions from Macedonia, Caius and Aristarchus. These were dragged to the theater to be judged. The people constituted themselves a high court and, having filled the various tiers of the immense amphitheater, they howled and shouted, exciting themselves by their own cries.
Paul, who knew no fear, wanted to run to the theater to present himself to the people. He would have been glad of a chance to make his thoughts known to such an exceptional gathering. The disciples and some of the public functionaries, called Asiarchs, and who were friendly towards him, induced Paul to remain in the house. Meanwhile, the uncontrolled riot and noise continued at the theater. The silversmiths were breathlessly running up the steps to the platform, while the larger part of the spectators were still waiting for someone to explain to them what had happened. "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" the artisans cried with all their might; but voices began to tire, and people began to yawn.
The anti-Christian Jews tried to take advantage of the situation and turn the confusion against the Christians. They sent up a certain Alexander who had some facility in speaking, in order to explain that all the trouble came from the renegade Jews, the Christians. And so, these Jews, through hatred for the name of Jesus, would have defended the goddess of Ephesus, as formerly they had defended the Roman Caesar.
But the Ephesians, seeing the Jew Alexander, drowned his voice with their shouting, and would not let him speak. Anti-Semitism was at Ephesus as it was everywhere else, and stronger than any rancor. "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" they cried.
Demetrius was not able to control the tumult he had initiated. In such circumstances a clever demagogue could have driven the multitude into any excess, but probably Demetrius feared that phantom of Roman authority which did not tolerate disorders, and which punished with heavy severity those who instigated them. Finally, when the fury had subsided a little on the one hand, and the annoyance of the people on the other hand had increased, an official of the city, whose business it was to convoke and direct the assemblies of the people, obtained a partial silence in that bedlam, and made a short speech. He was tactful and wise, knowing the humors of a mob and how to control them.
"Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Well, we know that. Who doubts it? No one. Why make so much noise about it? The two men you have taken have committed no sacrilege, nor have they pronounced any blasphemy against our great goddess. I know this. There is Demetrius, who with his men, had some complaints to make. Why does he not make them in the proper place, before the tribunals? If their industry is in danger, and the returns are lower, that is their affair; what have we to do with private business? The public assembly treats of public questions; in legal sessions, and not by private convocation. Remember, dear Ephesians, that having come here in such a large crowd you risk being accused of sedition." He did not say how implacable Rome was with those cities accused of sedition, but let them understand this by his silence. Rome punished with frightful severity, as some Asiatic cities had experienced. If it were convicted of sedition, the city of Ephesus could be reduced to a miserable village, and its citizens massacred or put in prison. And most assuredly, it would not be the great Diana who would shelter them from the anger of Caesar and of Rome, the super-gods.
The Ephesians did not need many explanations; they understood at once and, as they had been set on fire for nothing, they cooled off as easily. At a sign from the town clerk, they filed down the narrow stone steps, down through the tiers of the amphitheater, happy that nothing worse had befallen them. Once more the strong legal system of Rome had saved the Apostle of the Gentiles. Although Paul had not been dragged to the amphitheater, what he had suffered that day lay heavy on his heart and mind. He could not remain in Ephesus; what had been so narrowly avoided this day might not be avoided another time. Probably it was the brethren and the friendly Asiarchs who begged him to seek safety elsewhere.
THE CROSS OF THE APOSTOLATE
Paul, like a defeated man, had to leave Ephesus by stealth. The wide door, that had opened so easily in the city of Artemis, was now closing behind him. A few of the brethren, timid through fear, accompanied him a part of the way outside the city walls, down the narrow street which made a short cut to the sea. The Apostle took leave of them, never wishing to be a burden to anyone. He turned to give a last glance at the city walls; the tiny figure raised itself a little among the boxwood and sycamores; the eyes of the brethren beheld him for the last time.
They saw how pale he was from strong emotions, many bruises and loss of blood. Paul, bent over on his staff and with the cold calm of one who had had much experience in traveling, started on his way. He did not, as on other occasions, raise his head as if to measure and to take possession of the distance that lay before him; on the contrary, he bent it deeper under the anguish that tormented his soul. Fatigue made his knees cave in under him, while the whole exterior man seemed to be collapsing under his torn tunic. He did not notice the stars that trembled over the opposite hill as they faded in the early morning light, and dark thoughts of a stormy night accompanied him.
The Church he had brought forth in Ephesus with so much pain, was now dispersed. From Galatia and Achaia disheartening news was arriving. The persecutors were growing in numbers, friends were becoming fewer. Leaving the school of Tyrannus, he felt lost. His whole work seemed to be crumbling; pagans, Jews, and heretics corroded it, at the same time seeking to demolish it and reduce it to dust. As he walked the long distance to Troas, all his Apostolic work seemed doomed to failure; he felt so alone, so useless, that for a moment he wished he could die. His whole humanity rebelled under the weight of a struggle that was becoming harder and more exhausting with the. years as his poor health wore him down.
Among the brethren, not a few criticized him for his zealous labors in the Apostolate, saying with the wisdom of lazy cowards, "It serves you right; you have brought it on yourself." Then, the authorities were annoyed at the disturbances he was causing everywhere.
The departure from Ephesus was Paul's "Garden of Olives," and he too felt abandoned. If the desolation was intense, it was not for long; grace slowly flowed back into his weary heart, bringing new energy, and the unconquered will resumed control of his acts.
For some time he had thought of making a long tour, from Asia to Macedonia, from there to Corinth, and then of concluding this third circle with a visit to the Mother Church at Jerusalem. There he could make a report of his work and bring the offerings for the poor. Afterwards, having been comforted by the companionship of the other Apostles, he would begin from there a fourth journey which should carry him directly to Rome.
"I must see Rome," he had said to himself. An Apostle whose work was to create new centers of the Gospel could not help but long to visit Rome, the greatest and most famous city of the Empire. Paul already knew those other humble and great announcers of the Gospel message, beginning with Peter who had arrived there to scatter the word. Aquila and Priscilla were returning to Rome after having risked their lives for him. He would find them there, these co-workers in Christ, together with many other brethren, and afterwards he would return to Jerusalem.
Taking the northern route, we do not know whether it was by land or by sea, he traveled towards Troas, where he had promised to meet Titus. His heavy heart made him feel unequal to going again to Corinth. The community was still restless, and his own heavy-heartedness would most likely be misconstrued and misunderstood by his adversaries and by the weaker brethren. He was already wondering about the effect of his last letter to them, in which he had spoken with severity, no doubt causing sadness to many. Consequently, he preferred to know through a trusted disciple the effect of his visit by
Since he had started from Ephesus against his will and much sooner than he had planned, he arrived too soon at the meeting place. Titus, his dear brother in Christ, was not yet there. Then the impatient Paul, having greeted the community of the place, who had received him with filial devotion, decided to go and meet Titus in Macedonia.
He took ship, and there in Macedonia he found Timothy, far more a son to him than a disciple. With Erasmus, Timothy had substituted for Paul in Macedonia. Paul again saw the ChristIans of Philippi and those in nearby centers; and from their affection, he drew new hopes and great comfort. Those who welcomed him found him aged, but richer in heavenly mysteries and filled with human sweetness.
They listened to him with joy and eagerness, and although poor themselves, they begged to take part in the collection that he was organizing for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Then accompanying him for a part of the way, they left him with great reluctance. This man had seen with his own eyes the physical glory of Jesus in Heaven, and perhaps had ascended bodily into Heaven. He had been an instrument of many miracles and had passed through unheard-of tribulations for the love of God and the brethren.
Paul had noticed among the well-known faces many new ones, for the communities, like so many vigorous plants, were growing. Probably in Philippi he met Titus, and one can imagine with what ;anxiety he drew him aside to hear the news of those at Corinth. He had waited for Titus with much anguish of soul from battles within, and from fears without. As he talked, his eager anxiety seemed to pass into the soul of his brother and disciple. The news was good; peace and serenity flooded his soul once more. He had been associated with the sufferings of Christ, and behold, Christ was now renewing his strength.
The majority of the Corinthians had let themselves be persuaded by a man as prudent and venerated as Titus and, yielding to the inspired vehemence of Paul's letter, they had recognized how well grounded were his remonstrances. They repented with real sorrow for all that had happened. Since they repented, Paul had no longer any reason to regret having written to them in such away. Their tears were now his joy; a sorrow pleasing to God brings salvation. Titus, who was received by them at first with fear and trembling, now rejoiced; and Paul felt more drawn to those souls whom he loved so much, since they were so ready to acknowledge their fault and their falls.
He began to prepare for his third visit to the Corinthians by another letter. It is one of his most ardent and personal letters and in it he reveals himself and his work in a full light. In the preceding letters he had denounced the serious fault of impurity existing in the Church at Corinth, he had laid down rules for discipline, and given pastoral directions. The letters were meant to recall his spiritual sons, fickle and turbulent by nature but also docile, to a better Christian living. As a consequence the work of sanctification had gained in their midst.
However, there still existed among them the petulant and irritating Mosaists and other false Apostles so important in their own eyes. These continued to speak ill of Paul, making his own words an excuse to accuse him of contradiction. They said that when writing he was daring and grave, but when speaking in person he was timorous and colorless; in his writings he gave the impression of great determination, when speaking he was rude and abrupt. All their values were formed on the basis of external appearances. They liked full faces, beards well trimmed and pomaded, an eloquence accompanied by graceful gestures, and a discourse difficult to understand. And then some continued to criticize Paul's teaching of universalism, saying that in this he pretended to be different from the other Apostles; also that they were the real Apostles while he usurped the attributes and titles of an Apostle. Finally, at best, Paul was in their opinion an Apostle of lesser rank than the others. In this way the Judaizers tried to propagate the Mosaic observances.
SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
Paul wrote this time to clear the place, if it could be done, of those false Apostles and deceitful workers; to defend the orthodoxy of his Gospel and the authenticity and dignity of his own Apostleship. Therefore his letter may be defined as his apologia. And such it was. Personally, Paul considers himself to be nothing, but God made him an Apostle, that is, a minister of the Gospel, an ambassador of God and a co-worker with Christ. God had clothed his nothingness with divine dignity. This Paul defends with just pride, since the evidences are found in the results obtained, so that in praising his own works he is praising the work of God. He does this, not for his own advantage, but for the edification of the brethren, his children.
When Paul is the object of harmful accusations, he considers only one fact-----that the prestige of the Apostolate is compromised, and in defending himself, he is defending Christ in Whom he lives. Paul is humble. He calls himself foolish; he considers himself the refuse of the world; he knows only ragged apparel, beatings, sickness, hasty flights, and narrow escapes from death, such as he experienced at Ephesus. All of these afflictions remind him still more of his nothingness. The consciousness of this did not make him less sensitive to the whisperings of his enemies; his spirit is never one of helpless inhibition to injuries, which usually invites more injuries and throws a shadow on the work done as a full dedication to Christ. Paul invariably makes the value of truth stand out, even if it concerns his own person, and this also throws into relief the dignity of the Son of God which reflects back to God the Father.
Clothed and reclothed, as it were, with Christ, Paul has the noble independence of Christ; being an Apostle, he identifies himself with the Church and its work. He will not let the first be defamed without dragging the second into discredit. He is tender with the humble, gentle with the penitent, but he is terrible as the Prophets of old, striking out as with a whip against the defamers and sowers of cockle. He loves the Gospel and will never allow it to be degraded. He lives humbly according to Christ, and will allow no stain on his own conduct. If he has endured beatings and imprisonments, it is that others may not fear to suffer thus. He claims the merit of having suffered for Christ so that he might be associated with the sufferings of Christ in His Passion. He would never tolerate any equality between himself as an Apostle and those who were not but claimed to be. He has done his work at the risk of his life, while they have only talked and handed on to others the fatigues and labors of the Apostolate.
If there are evil speakers among the ministers of God, Paul is more a minister than they. He can give a frightful list of floggings received, shipwrecks, stonings, dangers of all kinds by land and by sea, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness. If they glory in Divine gifts (this is not expedient), then Paul can tell of greater privileges. He can tell of the unique experience which happened to him fourteen years ago when he had been taken up, perhaps in the body, to the third heaven, where he had heard words of eternal significance spoken to him words he could never afterwards reveal. Because he is so weak he may not glory, inasmuch as all the gifts which God manifested through him are indeed, given to him for the glory of God alone. They belong to Another; they represent the power of Christ, and this must be respected always.
It is with such sentiments that he writes, in conjunction with Timothy, to the Church in Corinth and to all the Greek Christians in general. He praises the Corinthians for having repented and for the obedience they now show towards the authority of the Church. He even asks them to be indulgent with the man who insulted him, not to push him to despair and thus to leave him in the hands of Satan. He admonishes them to correct the other crooked and relaxed ways that had crept in if they do not want him to use his authority against them when he comes.
Although the Apostle has no ordinary weapons at his disposal, he has Divine strength and such a knowledge of the Divine message that he can overthrow all the subtleties imagined by the half-Christianized rhetoricians. Paul aims at bringing the human intelligence into obedience to Christ and thus making human knowledge, the result of man's intelligence, something akin to the Divine Mind of God.
The Church is not an anarchical gathering; the freedom of God does not mean a lack of discipline among men and license among women, as some have pretended to interpret them.
They even reproached Paul for not going directly from Ephesus to Corinth, without passing through Macedonia as he had probably announced as his intention in his preceding letter, now lost. So they accused him of being changeable, of always saying yes, and then no. If he had changed his mind, it was from motives of charity towards the Corinthians. It was to avoid bringing to them an atmosphere of sadness for a second time; when on the contrary, he wished always to be a bearer of joy. The Gospel is good tidings, because it brings liberty of spirit. Sadness, as well as the fault that produces it, must not be allowed to last; it must be merely a pause in darkness, followed by peace when God floods the soul with light.
Paul's adversaries, like the scoundrels of all times, tried to strike him where calumny works successfully; they accused him of thrusting himself on the Church for his maintenance, and of being an exploiter of other people's work. Paul, in ironical and burning sentences that sting like the strokes of a whip, silences such wickedness. He recalls to their minds once more that, although he had a right to be supported in his Apostolate, yet he had never been a burden to anyone. He had worked with his own hands; and only when his Apostolic occupations had taken all his time or did not allow him to attend to manual labor and he had found himself in need, only then did he accept a contribution sent him with so much affection by his dear children in Macedonia. He had never been a burden to the Corinthians.
The Christians of Macedonia were poorer than those of Achaia, and far poorer than those of Corinth, a city of great resources. The example of others, especially of the Macedonians, spoken of with so much feeling, must have had a sting for those who did not help, except to spread the accusations of a mercenary and pharisaic spirit, poisoning the work of an Evangelizer. The Corinthians had not received less than the other Churches; the one and only difference was that Paul had not been a burden to them.
At all times, false Apostles are to be found among the true Apostles; there are true brethren and false brethren who fulfill Satan's functions towards the Mystical Body of Christ. "This is not to be marvelled at," says St. Paul, the founder of so many Christian Communities. "I did take from other Churches stipends with which to serve you. Now that I am coming to you for the third time, I will do the same, because I seek the brethren and not the brethren's good."
As Paul acted, so did Titus and the other companion whom Paul had sent. Paul, who never asked for anything for himself, could be a beggar for others; especially for the poor in Jerusalem. In this way, he was giving the Corinthians a chance to practice charity, and to make up for the humiliation they felt in seeing how personally disinterested the Apostle had always been. The collection would be taken by persons highly esteemed in all the Churches; Titus and two well-known companions, perhaps Luke and Timothy.
Some confusion still persisted in regard to the conduct of Christians at the pagan banquets and feasts. In his first letter, Paul had allowed a certain freedom, but since it had been badly interpreted, some continued to be scandalized by the banquets, others were scandalized by taking part in them, seeing the danger of greater laxity. To differentiate more clearly the Christian religion from the pagan cults, Paul suggested that they reject all contact with idolatry. He resigned himself reluctantly to the necessity of allowing the Christians to be a group apart. They must be like pilgrims on their way to another land, provided they kept the faith and customs in their way of
There can be no possible relation between Christ and Belial, between light and darkness, between God (Whose temples the Christians are) and idols enclosed in houses of stone. The Judaizers had received a stern blow through the other letters Paul wrote but these old enemies had not disappeared. Mean and stupid, they still wished to rivet the chains of the Mosaic Law to the liberty of Christ. All day long, these observers, worshippers of the letter, with an angry finger on the list enumerated the numberless practices of the Law which must be observed. They did not understand that the Old Covenant had ended with the coming of the Messiah, with Whom a New Alliance had been initiated, not based on a written paper but on the Holy Spirit. The first is slavery, the second, liberty; the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. Those worshippers of the Mosaic legalities were the forerunners of the modern and tortuous philosophers and vivisecting exegetes who, even today, twist and obstruct the flow of meaning in a text.