All peoples alike retained some more or less vague recollection of a Paradise lost, a remote Golden Age, but only the spirit of Israel kept alive the definite hope of a world-wide empire of justice, wherein the Fall of Man should be repaired.
The fact that, eventually, the Jews misinterpreted their oracles, and identified the Messianic Kingdom with a mere temporal sovereignty of Israel, cannot invalidate the testimony of the Scriptures, as interpreted both by Christ's own life and the teaching of His Apostles, to the gradual evolution of that conception of which Christianity is the full and perfect expression.
Besides maintaining those pure conceptions of Deity, the prophets from time to time, and with ever increasing distinctness until we come to the direct and personal testimony of the Baptist, foreshadowed a fuller and more universal revelation — a time when, and a Man through Whom, God should bless all the nations of the earth.
We need not here trace the Messianic predictions in detail; their clearness and cogency are such that St.
( Acts 15:5-11, 18 ; Galatians ; 24-28 ; Ephesians 2:2 , 14-15 ; Colossians -17 ; Hebrews ) It was not so much, then, by propounding the dogmas of Christianity as by informing the Old Law with the spirit of Christian ethics that Christ found Himself able to prepare Jewish hearts for the religion to come.
Again, the faith which He failed to arouse by the numerous miracles He wrought, He sought to provide with a further and stronger incentive by dying under every circumstance of pain, disgrace, and defeat, and then raising Himself from the dead in triumph and glory.
Moreover, the Christianity of which we speak is that which we find realized in the Catholic Church alone; hence, we are not concerned here with those forms which are embodied in the various non-Catholic Christian sects, whether schismatical or heretical.
Our documentary sources of knowledge about the origin of Christianity and its earliest developments are chiefly the New Testament Scriptures and various sub-Apostolic writings, the authenticity of which we must to a large extent take for granted here, as the much less grounds we take for granted the authenticity of "Cæsar" when dealing with early Gaul, and of "Tacitus" when studying growth of the Roman Empire. Kenyon "Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the N. We have this further warrant for doing so, that the most mature critical opinions amongst non-Catholics, deserting the wild theories of Baur, Strauss, and Renan, tend, in regard to dates and authorship, to coincide more closely with the Catholic position. He who attentively studies these letters (those i.e. Other points will, of course, be touched on and other results assumed, which are more fully and formally treated under J ESUS C HRIST ; C HURCH ; R EVELATION ; M IRACLES .
The ancient world was given to Pantheism and creature-worship ; Israel only, not because of its "monotheistic instinct " (Renan), but because of the periodic interposition of God through His prophets, resisted in the main the general tendency to idolatry.It was to this fact rather than to the wonders He worked in His lifetime that His accredited witnesses always appealed in their teaching.On the marvel of the Resurrection is based in the counsels of God the faith of Christianity.Augustine does not hesitate to say (Retract., I, xiii, 3): "What we now call the Christian religion existed amongst the ancients, and was from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh; from which time the already existing true religion began to be styled Christian".And thus it has been remarked that Israel alone amongst the nations of antiquity looked forward to glories to come.