Chapter One: The Primitive Preaching

The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments
by C. H. Dodd

Chapter One: The Primitive Preaching

"It pleased God," says Paul, "by the foolishness of the Preaching to save them that believe." The word here translated "preaching," kerygma, signifies not the action of the preacher, but that which he preaches, his "message," as we sometimes say.

The New Testament writers draw a clear distinction between preaching and teaching. The distinction is preserved alike in Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse, and must be considered characteristic of early Christian usage in general. Teaching (didaskein) is in a large majority of cases ethical instruction.2 Occasionally it seems to include what we should call apologetic, that is, the reasoned commendation of Christianity to persons interested but not yet convinced. Sometimes, especially in the Johannine writings, it includes the exposition of theological doctrine. Preaching, on the other hand, is the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world. The verb keryssein properly means "to proclaim." A keryx may be a town crier, an auctioneer, a herald, or anyone who lifts up his voice and claims public attention to some definite thing he has to announce. Much of our preaching in Church at the present day would not have been recognized by the early Christians as kerygma. It is teaching, or exhortation (paraklesis), or it is what they called homilia, that is, the more or less informal discussion of various aspects of Christian life and thought, addressed to a congregation already established in the faith.

The verb "to preach" frequently has for its object "the Gospel." Indeed, the connection of ideas is so close that keryssein by itself can be used as a virtual equivalent for evange1zesthai, "to evangelize," or "to preach the Gospel." It would not be too much to say that wherever "preaching" is spoken of, it always carries with it the implication of" good tidings " proclaimed.

For the early Church, then, to preach the Gospel was by no means the same thing as to deliver moral instruction or exhortation. While the Church was concerned to hand on the teaching of the Lord, it was not by this that it made converts. It was by kerygma, says Paul, not by didache’, that it pleased God to save men.

We have to enquire how far it is possible to discover the actual content of the Gospel preached or proclaimed by the apostles.

First, we may place before us certain recurrent phrases which indicate in brief the subject of the preaching. In the Synoptic Gospels we read of" preaching the Kingdom of God," whether the reference is to Jesus or to His followers. In the Pauline epistles we commonly read of "preaching Christ." In the Acts of the Apostles both forms of expression are used. The apostles preach" Jesus" or "Christ," or they preach "the Kingdom of God." We may observe that in those parts of Acts where the writer speaks In the first person Paul himself is represented as "preaching the Kingdom of God." We may therefore take it that a companion of Paul regarded his preaching as being just as much a proclamation of the Kingdom of God as was the preaching of the first disciples or of their Master, even though Paul does not himself speak of it in those terms.

Such expressions obviously need a good deal of expansion before we can form a clear idea of what it was that the apostles actually preached. We must examine our documents more closely.

The earliest Christian writer whose works are extant is the apostle Paul, and from him our investigation should begin. There are, however, difficulties in attempting to discover the apostolic Preaching in the epistles of Paul. In the first place, the epistles are, of course, not of the nature of kerygma. They are all addressed to readers already Christian, and they deal with theological and ethical problems arising out of the attempt to follow the Christian way of life and thought in a non-Christian world. They have the character of what the early Church called "teaching" or "exhortation." They presuppose the Preaching. They expound and defend the implications of the Gospel rather than proclaim it.

In the second place, if we should find it possible to infer from the epistles what Paul preached, it would be in the first instance what he calls "my Gospel," and not necessarily the Gospel common to all or most early preachers. For Paul, as we know, claimed a high degree of originality in his presentation of the Gospel, and the claim is clearly justified.

Nevertheless, it is, I believe, by no means a hopeless task to recover from the Pauline epistles some indication at least of the character and content of Paul’s preaching, and not only of his distinctive preaching, but of what he preached in common with other Christian missionaries.

To begin with, Paul himself was conscious of a distinction between the fundamental content of the Gospel and the teaching which he based upon it. In i Cor. i. 23, ii. 2-6, he recalls that at Corinth he had preached "Christ and Him crucified." He would now like to go on to "speak wisdom among mature persons," and regrets that the Corinthians do not show themselves ready for it.

Again, in i Cor. iii. 10 sqq., he distinguishes between the "foundation" which he laid, and the superstructure which he and others build upon it. The reference is no doubt to the "building up" of the life of the Church in all its aspects. But a study of the context will show that what was most particularly in his mind was just this distinction between the fundamental Gospel and the higher wisdom (not to be confused with "the wisdom of men ") which can be imparted to those whose apprehension of the Gospel is sufficiently firm. The "foundation" is Christ, or, may we not say, it is the Gospel of "Christ and Him crucified." Paul himself, Apollos, and others developed this fundamental Gospel in various ways. The epistles represent for the most part this development, or superstructure. But Paul was well aware that what gave authority to his teaching was the Gospel which underlay it all.

In i Cor. xv. i sqq. he cites in explicit terms that which he had preached at Corinth:

"that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried;

and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures;

and that He was seen of Cephas . . ."

"It was thus," he adds emphatically, "that we preached and thus that you believed." He then goes on to draw out certain implications of these fundamental beliefs, part of which he describes as a "mystery," that is, surely, as belonging to that "wisdom" which should follow upon the apprehension of the preaching of "Christ and Him crucified." We seem, therefore, to have here, down to the very words, which he quotes in order that there may be no misunderstanding, a part at least of what Paul was accustomed to preach as Gospel, clearly distinguished from the theological superstructure of his thought: he proclaimed the facts that Christ died and rose again. As he puts it in writing to the Galatians (iii. i), Christ was "openly set forth before their eyes as crucified."

These facts, however, are exhibited in a special light. They happened "according to the Scriptures "—a statement whose significance will become clearer presently. Further, Christ died "for our sins." In other words, according to Gal. i. 4, "He gave Himself for us, to rescue us from the present evil age." As this statement occurs in the exordium of the epistle, where Paul may be supposed, according to his practice, to be recalling ideas familiar to his readers, we may take it that it was in some such terms that he spoke of the significance of the death of Christ when he preached in Galatia. The language implies the Jewish doctrine of the two ages, "This Age," and "the Age to Come." "The entrances of this Age have been made narrow and painful and toilsome, few and evil and full of dangers, and packed with great labours. For the entrances of the greater Age are spacious and secure and bearing the fruit of immortality" (2 Esd. vii. 12-13). Paul’s meaning is that by virtue of the death (and resurrection) of Christ the boundary between the two ages is crossed, and those who believe belong no more to the present evil age, but to the glorious Age to Come.

Again in Rom. x. 8-9, the content of "the word of faith which we preach" is given in the terms : "that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead." Thus the proclamation of the resurrection is also a proclamation of the Lordship of Christ. It is in this sense that it is "the Gospel of the glory of Christ "(2 Cor. iv. 4). Indeed, the attainment of universal lordship was, according to Rom. xiv. 9, the very purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection: "It was for this that Christ died and came to life, that He might exercise lordship over dead and living alike."

It is noteworthy that the passage just cited leads almost immediately to a reference to the Judgment to come:

"We shall all stand before the tribunal of God" (Rom. xiv. 10)—which is also, according to 2 Cor. v. 10, "the tribunal of Christ." We might fairly have inferred that there was in Paul’s mind a fixed association of ideas— resurrection, lordship, judgment—even if he had not explicitly stated that in his preaching of the Gospel he proclaimed a "Day when God judges the secrets of men through Christ Jesus" (Rom. ii. 16).

The kind of language he used in preaching judgment to come may be illustrated from i Cor. iv 5: "Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things that darkness hides, and expose the motives of hearts; then each person will receive his meed of praise from God"; and from 2 Cor. v. 10:

"We must all stand before the tribunal of Christ, that each may receive what pertains to him through his body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil." It is to be observed that in these passages the fact of judgment to come is appealed to as a dalum of faith. It is not something for which Paul argues, but something from which he argues; something therefore which we may legitimately assume to have been a part of his fundamental preaching. Judgment is for Paul a function of the universal lordship of Christ, which He attained through death and resurrection, and His second advent as Judge is a part of the kerygma—as Judge, but also as Saviour, for in i Thess. i. 9-10 Paul sums up the effect of his preaching at Salonica in the terms: "You turned from idols to God, to serve the living and real God, and to await His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who saves us from the coming Retribution."

The Pauline kerygma, therefore, is a proclamation of the facts of the death and resurrection of Christ in an eschatological setting which gives significance to the facts. They mark the transition from "this evil Age " to the "Age to Come." The "Age to Come" is the age of fulfilment. Hence the importance of the statement that Christ died and rose "according to the Scriptures." Whatever events the Old Testament prophets may indicate as impending, these events are for them significant as elements in the coming of " the Day of the Lord." Thus the fulfilment of prophecy means that the Day of the Lord has dawned: the Age to Come has begun. The death and resurrection of Christ are the crucial fulfilment of prophecy. By virtue of them believers are already delivered out of this present evil age. The new age is here, of which Christ, again by virtue of His death and resurrection, is Lord. He will come to exercise His Lordship both as Judge and as Saviour at the consummation of the Age.

We have now to ask how far this form of kerygma is distinctively Pauline, and how far it provides valid evidence for the apostolic Preaching in general.

Paul himself at least believed that in essentials his Gospel was that of the primitive apostles; for although in Gal. i. ii-i8 he states with emphasis that he did not derive it from any human source, nevertheless in the same epistle (ii. z) he says that he submitted "the Gospel which I preach" to Peter, James and John at Jerusalem, and that they gave their approval. Not only so, but in the locus classicus, i Cor. xv. i sqq., he expressly declares that this summary of the Gospel is what he had "received" as tradition; and after referring to other witnesses to the facts, including Peter, James, and "all the apostles," he adds with emphasis, "Whether I or they, it was thus that we preached, and thus that you believed."

Further, it should be remembered that in the Epistle to the Romans Paul is addressing a church which looked to other founders, and a church which he was anxious to conciliate. We may therefore take it that wherever in that epistle he appeals to the data of the Christian faith, he is referring to that which was common to him and to those preachers of the Gospel to whom the Church at Rome looked as founders and leaders. Those elements therefore of the kerygma, which we have already recognized in Romans, are to be regarded not only as parts of what Paul calls" my Gospel," but as parts of the common Gospel.

Again, the opening verses of the epistle (i. 1-4) have the aspect of a formula which Paul could assume as recognized by his readers. They speak of " the Gospel of God which He announced beforehand through His prophets in holy Scriptures." This Gospel concerned "His Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh; who was appointed Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness from the time of the resurrection of the dead—Jesus Christ our Lord." The language is unlike that of Paul in other places, but it sets forth substantially the same idea of the resurrection—that it marks the attainment of Christ’s lordship, as Son of God with full powers. What is additional is the affirmation of the Davidic descent of Jesus—a guarantee of His Messianic status in which Paul does not seem to have been particularly interested, but which he cites here as part of a recognized formula. I should find it hard to believe that this Christological formula was coined by Paul himself. He accepts it as stating the common Gospel which he and others preached.

Again in Rom. viii. 31-34 the process of thought demands that the readers should accept as axiomatic the propositions that God "did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all"; and that

"it is Christ Jesus, He who died, and more, who was raised,

who is at the right hand of God,

who also intercedes for us."

We have once again the sense that a formula is being cited, a formula closely akin to that cited in i Cor. xv. i sqq. It is to be noted that the idea of Lordship is here expressed in the phrase "at the right hand of God," which recurs in Col. iii. i, Eph. i. zo. As we shall see, this formula is deeply rooted in the kerygma, and is ultimately derived from Ps. cx. I

"The Lord said unto my Lord,

Sit thou at my right hand,

Until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

This text is cited in Mk. XII. 36 (and the Synoptic parallels), and also (as a whole or in part) in Acts ii. 34-35, i Cor. xv. 25, Heb. i. 13, etc. Wherever we read of Christ being at the right hand of God, or of hostile powers being subjected to Him, the ultimate reference is to this passage. In view of the place which Ps. cx. 1 holds in the New Testament, we may safely put it down as one of the fundamental texts of the primitive kerygma. Indeed, I can see no adequate reason for rejecting the statement of Mark that it was first cited by Jesus Himself in His public teaching in the Temple. It follows that the use of the title "Lord" for Jesus is primitive. Since Bousset’s work Kyrios Christos, it has been very widely held that this title was derived from Hellenistic usage, and first applied to Jesus in the Gentile Church. Seldom, I think, has a theory been so widely accepted on more flimsy grounds.'2

We see emerging the outlines of an apostolic Gospel which Paul believed to be common to himself and other Christian missionaries. As the epistles from which we have quoted belong to the fifties of the first century, they are evidence of prime value for the content of the early kerygma. And this evidence is in effect valid for a much earlier date than that at which the epistles themselves were written. When did Paul "receive" the tradition of the death and resurrection of Christ? His conversion can, on his own showing, be dated not later than about A.D. 33—34.3. His first visit to Jerusalem was three years after this (possibly just over two years on our exclusive reckoning); at the utmost, therefore, not more than seven years after the Crucifixion. At that time he stayed with Peter for a fortnight, and we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather. After that he had no direct contact with the primitive Church for fourteen years, that is to say, almost down to the period to which our epistles belong, and it is difficult to see how he could during this time have had any opportunity of further instruction in the apostolic traditions.

The date, therefore, at which Paul received the fundamentals of the Gospel cannot well be later than some seven years after the death of Jesus Christ. It may be earlier, and, indeed, we must assume some knowledge of the tenets of Christianity in Paul even before his conversion. Thus Paul’s preaching represents a special stream of Christian tradition which was derived from the main stream at a point very near to its source. No doubt his own idiosyncrasy counted for much in his presentation of the Gospel, but anyone who should maintain that the primitive Christian Gospel was fundamentally different from that which we have found in Paul must bear the burden of proof.

It is true that the kerygma as we have recovered it from the Pauline epistles is fragmentary. No complete statement of it is, in the nature of the case, available. But we may restore it in outline somewhat after this fashion

The prophecies are fulfilled, and the new Age is inaugurated by the coming of Christ.

He was born of the seed of David.

He died according to the Scriptures, to deliver us out of the present evil age.

He was buried.

He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.

He is exalted at the right hand of God, as Son of God and Lord of quick and dead.

He will come again as Judge and Saviour of men.

The apostolic Preaching as adopted by Paul may have contained, almost certainly did contain, more than this. Comparison with other forms of the kerygma may enable us to expand the outline with probability; but so much of its content can be demonstrated from the epistles, and the evidence they afford is of primary value.

We now turn to another source of evidence, later than the Pauline epistles, and not so direct, but yet of great importance—the account of the apostolic preaching in the Acts of the Apostles.

The date of this work cannot be fixed closely, but it is perhaps more likely to belong to the nineties than to the eighties or seventies of the first century. The author apparently used to some extent the liberty which all ancient historians claimed (after the example of Thucydides), of composing speeches which are put into the mouths of the personages of the story. It is therefore possible at the outset that the speeches attributed to Peter and others, as well as to Paul, may be free compositions of the author.

But there are indications that the author of Acts used his historian’s privilege with considerable restraint. Certainly in the first volume of his work, which we call the Gospel according to Luke, he can be proved to have kept closely to his sources in composing the discourses attributed to Jesus Christ. And in Acts itself, consider the case of Paul’s two apologies, before the people (xxii. 1-21), and before Festus and Agrippa (xxvi. 2-23). They give different accounts of his conversion, both differing from the account of the event given by the historian himself in ch. ix. Why should a writer who elsewhere shows himself to be not indifferent to economy of space and the avoidance of repetition have been at the pains of composing, independently, three different accounts of the same event? In the Third Gospel the occasional occurrence of "doublets" is reasonably accounted for by the hypothesis of various sources. Is it not most natural to conclude that in the case before us the author based the two speeches upon sources different from that which he followed in ch. ix? And if so, is any source more likely than some direct or indirect report of the line which Paul himself followed upon these or similar occasions?

Again, the speech of Paul to the elders of the Ephesian Church in xx. 18-35 contains so many echoes of the language of Pauline epistles that we must suppose, either that the writer had access to these epistles (which is on other grounds improbable), or that he worked upon actual reminiscence of Paul’s speech upon this or some similar occasion. And when we observe that this speech occurs in close proximity to "we "-passages, it is reasonable to suppose that the travelling companion who was responsible for these passages, whether or not he was also the author of the whole work, remembered in general lines what Paul said. We conclude that in some cases at least the author of Acts gives us speeches which are not, indeed, anything like verbatim reports (for the style is too" Lucan" and too un-Pauline for that), but are based upon a reminiscence of what the apostle actually said.

It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that in the speeches given in the earlier parts of Acts, the author may have similarly made use of sources. This becomes the more probable in view of the following facts.

(a) Negatively, there are few, if any, ideas or expressions introduced which might arouse suspicion because of their resemblance to writings emanating, like the Acts, from the Gentile Church in the late first century; nor are there any echoes, even in turns of speech, of the distinctively Pauline theology, though the author, whoever he may have been, must have been associated with the Pauline wing of the Church.4. To suppose that this is due to deliberate archaism is to attribute to the author of Acts a modern view of historical writing.

(b) Positively, the speeches in question, as well as parts of the narrative in which they are embedded, have been shown to contain a large element of Semitism. Nor is this Hebraism of the kind which results from an imitation of the translation-Greek of the Septuagint, and which can be traced in other parts of the Lucan work. It can be shown to be Aramaism, of a kind similar to that which we recognize in the report of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. There is therefore a high degree of probability that the author was laying under contribution an Aramaic source or sources, whether written or oral, and whether the work of translation had already been done, or whether he translated it for himself.5.

In short, there is good reason to suppose that the speeches attributed to Peter in the Acts are based upon material which proceeded from the Aramaic-speaking Church at Jerusalem, and was substantially earlier than the period at which the book was written.

We may begin with the speeches in Acts ii-iv. There are four in all. The first two (ii. 14-36, 38-39) are supposed to have been delivered by Peter to the multitude assembled on the Day of Pentecost, the third (iii. 12-26) to the people after the healing of a lame man, and the fourth (iv. 8-15) to the Sanhedrin after the arrest of the apostles. The second account of the arrest in v. 17-40 is probably a doublet from another source, and it does not betray the same traces of Aramaism. The speech said to have been delivered on this occasion (v. 29-32) does no more than recapitulate briefly the substance of the previous speeches. The speech of Peter to Cornelius in ch. x. 3 4-43 is akin to the earlier speeches, but has some special features, and in it the evidence for an Aramaic original is at its strongest.

We may with some confidence take these speeches to represent, not indeed what Peter said upon this or that occasion, but the kerygma of the Church at Jerusalem at an early period.

The first four speeches of Peter cover substantially the same ground. The phraseology and the order of presentation vary slightly, but there is no essential advance from one to another. They supplement one another, and taken together they afford a comprehensive view of the content of the early kerygma. This may be summarized as follows:

First, the age of fulfilment has dawned. "This is that which was spoken by the prophet" (Acts ii. i6). " The things which God foreshewed by the mouth of all the prophets, He thus fulfilled" (iii. i8). "All the prophets from Samuel and his successors told of these days" (iii. 24). It was a standing principle of Rabbinic exegesis of the Old Testament that what the prophets predicted had reference to the "days of the Messiah," that is to say, to the expected time when God, after long centuries of waiting, should visit His people with judgment and blessing, bringing to a climax His dealings with them in history. The apostles, then, declare that the Messianic age has dawned.

Secondly, this has taken place through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, of which a brief account is given, with proof from the Scriptures that all took place through "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God": (a) His Davidic descent. "David, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn to set one of the fruit of his loins upon his throne, foresaw (Christ)," who is therefore proclaimed, by implication, to have been born "of the seed of David" (ii. 30-3 x, citing Ps. cxxxii. ii).

(b) His ministry. "Jesus of Nazareth, a man divinely accredited to you by works of power, prodigies, and signs which God did through Him among you" (Acts ii. 22). "Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me; him you must hear in everything that he may say to you" (Acts iii. 22, apparently regarded as fulfilled in the preaching and teaching of Jesus). (c) His death. "He was delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and you, by the agency of men without the law, killed Him by crucifixion " (ii. 23). "You caused Him to be arrested, and denied Him before Pilate, when he had decided to acquit I-Jim. You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, while you killed the Prince of Life" (iii. 13-14). (d) His resurrection. "God raised Him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. For David says with reference to Him, ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, nor give Thy Holy One to see corruption’" (ii. 24-3 i). "God raised Him from the dead, whereof we are witnesses" (iii. 15). "Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead" (iv. 10).

Thirdly, by virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God, as Messianic head of the new Israel. "Being exalted at the right hand of God" (according to Ps. cx. i). . . . "God has made Him Lord and Christ" (ii. 33-36). "The God of our fathers has glorified His Servant Jesus" (iii. 53). "He is the Stone which was rejected by you builders, and has become the top of the corner" (iv. ii, citing Ps. cxviii. 25). Cf. "God exalted Him at His right hand, as Prince and Saviour" (v. 31).

Fourthly, the Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory. "Being exalted at the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He poured out this which you see and hear" (Acts ii. 33). This is documented from Joel ii. 28-3 z (Acts ii. 17-21). Cf. "We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit which God has given to those who obey Him" (v. 32).

Fifthly, the Messianic Age will shortly reach its consummation in the return of Christ. "That He may send the Messiah appointed beforehand for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things, of which God spoke through the mouth of His prophets from of old" (iii. 21). This is the only passage in Acts i-iv which speaks of the second advent of Christ. In Acts x this part of the kerygma is presented in these terms: "This is He who is appointed by God as Judge of living and dead" (x. 42). There is no other explicit reference to Christ as Judge in these speeches.

Finally, the kerygma always closes with an appeal for repentance, the offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of" salvation," that is, of" the life of the Age to Come," to those who enter the elect community. "Repent and be baptized, each of you, upon the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all those far off, whom the Lord your God may call" (Acts ii. 3 8-39, referring to Joel ii. 32, Is. lvii. 19). "Repent therefore and be converted for the blotting out of your sins. . . . You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ For you in the first place God raised up His Servant Jesus and sent Him to bless you by turning each of you away from your sins " (Acts iii. i~, 25-26, citing Gen. xii. 3). "In no other is there salvation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which you must be saved" (Acts iv. 12). Cf. " God exalted Him at His right hand as Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins" (Acts V. 31); "To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him shall receive remission of sins through His name" (Acts x. 43).

We may take it that this is what the author of Acts meant by "preaching the Kingdom of God." It is very significant that it follows the lines of the summary of the preaching of Jesus as given in Mark i. 14-15 : "Jesus came into Galilee preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has drawn near: repent and believe the Gospel.’" This summary provides the framework within which the Jerusalem kerygma is set.

The first clause, "The time is fulfilled," is expanded in the reference to prophecy and its fulfilment. The second clause, "The Kingdom of God has drawn near," is expanded in the account of the ministry and death of Jesus, His resurrection and exaltation, all conceived as an eschatological process. The third clause, "Repent and believe the Gospel," reappears in the appeal for repentance and the offer of forgiveness with which the apostolic kerygma closes. Whether we say that the apostolic preaching was modelled on that of Jesus, or that the evangelist formulated his summary of the preaching of Jesus on the model of that of the primitive Church, at any rate the two are identical in purport. The Kingdom of God is conceived as coming in the events of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and to proclaim these facts, in their proper setting, is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

It is clear, then, that we have here, as in the preaching which we found to lie behind the Pauline epistles, a proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in an eschatological setting from which those facts derive their saving significance. We may proceed to compare the two versions of the kerygma, in Paul and in the Acts respectively.

There are three points in the Pauline kerygma which do not directly appear in the Jerusalem kerygma of Acts:

(i) Jesus is not there called " Son of God." His titles are taken rather from the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah. He is the holy and righteous "Servant" of God. It is noteworthy that the first person who is said in Acts to have "preached Jesus, that He is the Son of God," is Paul himself (ix. 20). It may be that this represents an actual difference of terminology. Yet the idea that Jesus, as Messiah, is Son of God is deeply embedded in the Synoptic Gospels, whose sources were in all probability not subject to Pauline influence; and the Christological formula in Rom. i. 1-4 is, as we have seen, probably not Pauline in origin. The phrase "Son of God with power" there carries much the same ideas as the phrase "Lord and Christ" in the Jerusalem kerygma, for its significance is Messianic rather than properly theological.

(ii) The Jerusalem kerygma does not assert that Christ died for our sins. The result of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the forgiveness of sins, but this forgiveness is not specifically connected with His death. Since, however, Paul includes this statement in that which he "received," we may hesitate to ascribe to him the origin of the idea. Since the Jerusalem kerygma applies to Christ the Isaianic title of " Servant," the way was at least open to interpret His death on the lines of Isaiah liii. Acts viii. 32-35 may suggest the possibility that this step was taken explicitly by the school of Stephen and Philip, with which Paul appears to have been in touch.

(iii) The Jerusalem kerygma does not assert that the exalted Christ intercedes for us. It may be that in Rom. viii. 34 Paul has inserted this on his own account into the apostolic formula. But, on the other hand, the idea occurs also in Hebrews vii. 25 and seems to be implied in Matt. x. 32, so that it may not be of Pauline origin. It is perhaps, in effect, another way of saying that forgiveness is offered "in His name."

For the rest, all the points of the Pauline preaching reappear: the Davidic descent of Jesus, guaranteeing His qualification for Messiahship; His death according to the Scriptures; His resurrection according to the Scriptures; His consequent exaltation to the right hand of God as Lord and Christ; His deliverance of men from sin into new life; and His return to consummate the new Age. This coincidence between the apostolic Preaching as attested by the speeches in Acts, and as attested by Paul, enables us to carry back its essential elements to a date far earlier than a critical analysis of Acts by itself could justify; for, as we have seen, Paul must have received the tradition very soon after the death of Jesus.

With this in view, we may usefully draw attention to other points in the Jerusalem kerygma which reappear in the epistles of Paul, though he does not explicitly include them in his "Gospel."

The kerygma in Acts lays emphasis upon the Holy Spirit in the Church as the sign that the new age of fulfilment has begun. The idea of the Spirit in the Church is very prominent in the Pauline epistles. We are now justified in concluding that this was no innovation of his, but represents a part of the tradition he had received. It is to be observed that in Gal. iii. a Paul appeals to the evidence of the Spirit in the Church as a datum from which he may argue regarding the nature and conditions of salvation in Christ, and on this basis he develops his doctrine of the Spirit as the "earnest," or first instalment, of the consummated life of the Age to Come (a Cor. i. 22, V. y; Eph. i. 13-14). This is true to the implications of the kerygma as we have it in Acts.

Again, the "calling" and "election" of the Church as the" Israel of God "can now be seen to be no peculiarity of Pauline teaching. It is implied in such passages of the kerygma as Acts iii. 25-26, ii. 39.

There is, indeed, very little in the Jerusalem kerjgma which does not appear, substantially, in Paul. But there is one important element which at first sight at least is absent from his preaching, so far as we can recover it from the epistles, namely, the explicit reference to the ministry of Jesus, His miracles (Acts ii. 22) and teaching (Acts iii. 22). Such references are only slight in the first four speeches of Peter, to which we have so far given most attention. But the case is different in the speech attributed to Peter in Acts x. 34-43. The principal elements of the kerygma can be traced in this speech—the fulfilment of prophecy, the death and resurrection of Christ, His second advent, and the offer of forgiveness. But all is given with extreme brevity, except the section dealing with the historical facts concerning Jesus. These are here treated in fairly full outline.

The Greek of x. 35-38 is notoriously rough and ungrammatical, and indeed scarcely translatable, though the general meaning is clear. This is strange in so excellent a Greek writer as the author of Acts. In some MSS. it has been improved. But Dr. Torrey has shown that if the text in its more difficult form (which on general principles of textual criticism is likely to be more original) be translated word for word into Aramaic, it becomes both grammatical and perspicuous. The case, therefore, for regarding the passage as a translation is strong. I shall here follow Dr. Torrey, and give the passage after his restored Aramaic, being convinced that by doing so we shall come nearer to the original form.

"As for the word which He, the Lord of all, sent to the children of Israel, preaching the Gospel of peace through Jesus the Messiah, you know the thing (literally, ‘the word’) that happened through all Judaea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached; that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with Holy Spirit and power; and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all that He did in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem. Him they killed by hanging Him upon a tree. God raised Him up on the third day, and permitted Him to be manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen beforehand by God, namely to us, who ate and drank with Him after I arose from the dead."

It is to be observed that the first clause, "the word which He sent to the children of Israel, preaching the Gospel of peace through Jesus Christ," which forms a sort of heading to the whole, is a virtual equivalent of the term "kerygma" or " Gospel." The passage is therefore offered explicitly as a form of apostolic Preaching. It is represented as being delivered by Peter to a Gentile audience. It is quite intelligible in the situation presupposed that some account of the ministry of Jesus should have been called for when the Gospel was taken to people who could not be acquainted, as the Jews of Judaea were, with the main facts. We may perhaps take it that the speech before Cornelius represents the form of kerygma used by the primitive Church in its earliest approaches to a wider public.

In the preaching attested by Paul, although it was similarly addressed to the wider public, there does not seem to be any such comprehensive summary of the facts of the ministry of Jesus, as distinct from the facts of His death and resurrection. It would, however, be rash to argue from silence that Paul completely ignored the life of Jesus in his preaching; for, as we have seen, that preaching is represented only fragmentarily, and as it were accidentally, in the epistles. That he was aware of the historical life of Jesus, and cited His sayings as authoritative, need not be shown over again. It may be, for all we know, that the brief recital of historical facts in x Cor. xv. i sqq. is only the conclusion of a general summary which may have included some reference to the ministry. But this remains uncertain.

According to Acts, Paul did preach in terms closely similar to those of the Petrine kerygma of Acts x. The speech said to have been delivered by Paul at Pisidian Antioch (Acts xiii. 16-41) is too long to be quoted here in full, but the gist of it is as follows:

God brought Israel out of Egypt, and gave them David for their king. Of the seed of David Jesus has come as Saviour. He was heralded by John the Baptist. His disciples followed Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. There He was brought to trial by the rulers of the Jews before Pilate, who reluctantly condemned Him. He died according to the Scriptures, and was buried. God raised Him from the dead, according to the Scriptures, and He was seen by witnesses. Through Him forgiveness and justification are offered. Therefore take heed.

This is obviously of the same stuff as the kerygma in the early chapters of Acts. It may be compared on the one hand with the speeches in Acts ii-iv, and on the other hand with the speech in Acts x. It is a mixture of the two types. In particular, its historical data are fuller than those of Acts ii-iv, but less full than those of Acts x, containing no allusions to the baptism of Jesus or His miracles in Galilee. There is nothing specifically Pauline in it, except the term " justification." On the other hand, the general scheme, and the emphasis, correspond with what we have found in the epistles, and there is little or nothing in it which could not be documented out of the epistles, except the historical details in the introductory passage (xiii. 16-22) and the specific allusions to episodes in the Gospel story, and in particular to the ministry of John the Baptist (the fullest account in the New Testament outside the Gospels) and the trial before Pilate.

That these two episodes did not fall wholly outside the range of Paul’s interest might perhaps be argued on the following grounds.

(i) Paul refers in his epistles to Apollos as one whom he would regard as a fellow-worker, though others set him up as a rival. Now, according to Acts, Apollos had been a follower of John the Baptist. Paul therefore must have had occasion to relate the work of the Baptist to the Christian faith.

(ii) In i Tim. vi. 13 we have an allusion to Christ’s "confession before Pontius Pilate." Although we should probably not accept i Timothy as an authentic Pauline letter, yet it no doubt represents the standpoint of the Pauline circle, and the allusion to Pilate may have been derived from Paul’s preaching.

These observations are far from proving that Paul would have included such references to John the Baptist and to the trial before Pilate in his preaching, but they show that it is not impossible that he may have done so, in spite of the silence of his epistles. In any case, if we recall the close general similarity of the keyigma as derived from the Pauline epistles to the keygma as derived from Acts, as well as Paul’s emphatic assertion of the identity of his Gospel with the general Christian tradition, we shall not find it altogether incredible that the speech at Pisidian Antioch may represent in a general way one form of Paul’s preaching, that form, perhaps, which he adopted in synagogues when he had the opportunity of speaking there. If that is so, then we must say that he, like other early Christian preachers, gave a place in his preaching to some kind of recital of the facts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

If he did not do so, then we must say that in this respect he departed from the common model of apostolic preaching. For it seems clear that within the general scheme or the kerygma was included some reference, however brief, to the historical facts of the life of Jesus. These facts fall within the eschatological setting of the whole, no less than the facts of His death and resurrection. They are themselves eschatological events, in the sense that they form part of the process by which God’s purpose reaches fulfilment and His Kingdom comes.

A comparison, then, of the Pauline epistles with the speeches in Acts leads to a fairly clear and certain outline sketch of the preaching of the apostles. That it is primitive in the strictest sense does not necessarily follow. In one respect it appears that even within a very few years the perspective of the kerygma must have altered, namely, in respect of the relation conceived to exist between the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ on the one hand, and His second advent on the other.

It is remarkable that the expectation of a very early advent persisted so long in the Church. Even in so late a writing as the First Epistle of John (ii. i 8) the belief is expressed that this is " the last hour." The appendix to the Fourth Gospel is evidence that so long as one survivor of the generation of the apostles remained, the Church clung to the belief that during his lifetime the Lord would come (John xxi. 20-23). The expectation of a speedy advent must have had extraordinarily deep roots in Christian belief.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in A.D. so he clearly expected it very soon indeed, and the qualifications he introduces in 2 Thessalonians seem to have been of the nature of an afterthought of which he had said nothing in his preaching. It is clearly the result of reflection upon the fact that the advent had been unexpectedly delayed. His first preaching had left the Thessalonians completely surprised and bewildered when certain of their fellows died and yet the Lord had not come. If Paul preached in these terms at least twenty years after the beginning of the Church, we may suppose that the announcement of a very speedy advent was even more emphatic at an earlier date.

In the Jerusalem kerygma there is an equal sense of immediacy. It seems to be implied in Acts iii. 19-20 that the repentance of Israel in response to the appeal of the apostles will immediately be followed by "times of refreshing," by the return of Christ, and by the " restoration of all things." And here again we may recall, that early as the source may be, the passage in question was not written down until much water had flowed under the bridge.

What was the attitude of the apostles at the beginning? We must remember that the early Church handed down as a saying of the Lord, "The Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt. xii. 28, Luke xi. 20). This means that the great divine event, the eschaton, has already entered history. In agreement with this, the preaching both o~ Paul and of the Jerusalem Church affirms that the decisive thing has already happened. The prophecies are fulfilled; God has shown His "mighty works"; the Messiah has come; He has been exalted to the right hand of God; He has given the Spirit which according to the prophets should come "in the last days." Thus all that remains is the completion of that which is already in being. It is not to introduce a new order of things that the Lord will come; it is only to finish His work. The Church believed that the Lord had said, "You will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark xiv. 6z). One part of the vision was fulfilled: by the eye of faith they already saw Him on the right hand of God. Why should the conclusion of the vision delay?

The more we try to penetrate in imagination to the state of mind of the first Christians in the earliest days, the more are we driven to think of resurrection, exaltation, and second advent as being, in their belief, inseparable parts of a single divine event. It was not an early advent that they proclaimed, but an immediate advent. They proclaimed it not so much as a future event for which men should prepare by repentance, but rather as the impending corroboration of a present fact: the new age is already here, and because it is here men should repent. The proof that it was here was found in the actual presence of the Spirit, that is, of the supernatural in the experience of men. It was in a supernatural world that the apostles felt themselves to be living; a world therefore in which it was natural that any day the Lord might be seen upon the clouds of heaven. That was what their Lord had meant, they thought, by saying, "The Kingdom of God has come upon you," while He also bade them pray, "Thy Kingdom come."

It is to be observed that the apostolic Preaching as recorded in Acts does not (contrary to a commonly held opinion) lay the greatest stress upon the expectation of a second advent of the Lord. It is only in Acts iii. 20-21 that this expectation is explicitly and fully set forth, and only in Acts x. 42 that Christ is described as Judge of quick and dead. The speeches of Acts ii, iv, and v, as well as the professedly Pauline speech of Acts xiii, contain no explicit reference to it. That it is implied in the whole kerygma is true, but the emphasis does not lie there. The main burden of the kerygma is that the unprecedented has happened: God has visited and redeemed His people.

This conviction persists as fundamental to Christian belief through all changes in the whole of the New Testament. Paul speaks of the " new creation" which has taken place when a man is " in Christ" (a Cor. v. i6). He says that God has already "rescued us Out of the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col. i. 13). The Epistle to the Hebrews says that Christians have "tasted the powers of the Age to Come" (vi. 6). i Peter says that Christians have been "born again" (i. 3, 23). So does the Fourth Gospel (iii. 3). It needs only a slight acquaintance with the traditional Jewish eschatology to recognize that these writers are all using language which implies that the eschaton, the final and decisive act of God, has already entered human experience.

This is surely primitive. In the earliest days it was possible to hold this conviction in the indivisible unity of an experience which included also the expectation of an immediate overt confirmation of its truth. The great act of God had already passed through the stages of the sending of the Messiah, His miraculous works and authoritative teaching, His death (according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God), His resurrection, and His exaltation to the right hand of God. It now trembled upon the verge of its conclusion in His second advent.

As time went on, the indivisible unity of experience which lay behind the preaching of the apostles was broken. The Lord did not come on the clouds. For all their conviction of living in an age of miracle, the apostles found themselves living in a world which went on its course, outside the limits of the Christian community, much as it had always done. The tremendous crisis in which they had felt themselves to be living passed, without reaching its expected issue. The second advent of the Lord, which had seemed to be impending as the completion of that which they had already "seen and heard," came to appear as a second crisis yet in the future. So soon as only a few years had passed, say three or four, this division in the originally indivisible experience must have insensibly taken place in their minds, for they were intercalary years, so to speak, not provided for in their first calendar of the divine purpose. The consequent demand for readjustment was a principal cause of the development of early Christian thought.


1. I Cor. i.21

2 Hence the title Teaching of ihe Twelve Apostles. The tractate so called gives instruction in Christian morals and ecclesiastical practice. It is didaché, not kerygma. It would therefore be illegitimate to conclude that the Church represented by this book was not interested in other aspects of Christianity. If it had issued a "Preaching of the Twelve Apostles," it tnight have had a very different character.

2. For an answer to Bousset’s theory see Burkitt, Christian Beginnings, pp. 44-52; Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of the Christ, pp. 235-267. This is not to deny the importance of Hellenistic influence in helping to fix the connotation of the term as used in worship and in theology by Greeks peaking Christians.

3. See my article on the "Chronology of the Acts and the Pauline Epistles" in the Oxford Helps to the Study of the Bible, 1931, pp. 195-197.

4. The argument here is in danger of moving in a circle; for I shall presently show that there are parallels between these speeches and the epistles of Paul, and that these are not due to borrowing from Paul. But I think it is legitimate to point out, in reply to the view that the speeches in the early part of Acts are late compositions, that there is nothing in them which suggests that which is distinctive of Paul. This is not true of other parts of Acts. E.g., the phrase "the Spirit of Jesus" in Acts xvi. 7 is unique in the N.T., but is only a slight modification of the expression, "the Spirit of Jesus Christ," which is not only peculiar to Paul, but is the product of his distinctive doctrine of the Spirit. Similarly in Acts xiii. 39, we have the characteristic Pauline term "justification," and in Acts xx. 28, the chief ministers of the local church are called" bishops," a term which is otherwise applied to them only by Paul or his imitators (Phil. i. i, I Tim. iii. 2, Tit. i. 7). No Pauline influence of this kind can be alleged against the earlier speeches.

5. See Torrey, Composition and Date of Acts. Dc Zwaan, in The Beginnings of Christianity, edited by Jackson and Lake, Part I. vol. ii. has subjected Torrey’s theory to searching examination, and concludes that the evidence for Aramaism is strong for Acts i. s—v. ,6, ix. 3i—xi. i8, quite doubtful for V. 17—IL 30, Xl. 19—XiV. 28, and somewhat less doubtful for xv. 1-36. But the speeches which concern us here, with the exception of v. 29-32, fall within those sections in which the evidence for Aramaism is strong, and for myself I cannot resist the conclusion that the material here presented existed in some form in Aramaic before it was incorporated in our Greek Acts. According to Torrey, there are some examples of mistranslation which would be natural in one whose knowledge of Aramaic had been acquired at Antioch, and who was not well acquainted with the southern Aramaic of Palestine.