By Michael Fried It is one thing to have faith in Jesus, say in his resurrection, or that he is divine. It is quite another to understand Jesus. Paul understood Jesus. Considering the circumstances, it is puzzling just exactly how he did that. More puzzling still, how did Paul get so much of the rest of the world to try to do the same. Even if Jesus, on the road to Damascus enrolled Paul as a super apostle that won’t explain how Paul continually had the intellect, courage, and motivation to set stray apostles, acolytes and tentative congregations back on track. In "Great Lion of God," an historical reconstruction, Taylor Caldwell leads us through her solution how, by traditional standards so insignificant a man on the frontier of the Roman empire, could have so profoundly an affected our world. Yes, that sentence applies to Jesus. Yet, without Paul, what would we have made of Jesus? Even today Paul's relation to the New Testament is awesome Once at a church gathering, a minister I had just met layered a stack of religious symbols beside himself on a platform. These included an old testament, a new testament, some significant ministerial cloth. He asked our small group to consider how we could think through these layers to connect to Jesus. Why, he asked, do we even believe Jesus existed? There isn't even a scrap of writing from him. Nor is there a verifiable modern test of his genomic or physical presence to anyone in the world. Many would exalt if we left His existence to faith. Why couldn’t we regard everything about him as requiring faith? Alas, that would leave so much up to those who use him for their own purposes, purposes often subversive to our good. Then, too, there is truth, vainly hoped for though it is. Yet, the New Testament consists of writings by people of whom we confidently assert did exist. Those who believed passionately that they had been profoundly close to Jesus' presence. We are most confident that not only did St. Paul exist, but that he made concrete that belief. This isn't a tough test for our faith, for the Acts – apparently written by the author of Luke's Gospel – include the story of the Stephen’s martyrdom and Paul’s conversion. With the Epistles of Paul they take up all of 117 small print pages in "The Living Bible." There, too, the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John consume but 120 pages. Further, Luke (as we know him) took up 35 pages in Acts, much of it to tell us about Paul. On a whim I googled these precise words: "The Friendship of St. Luke and St. Paul." The top google return was a quote on bible.hub, with that exact title and an essay by W. G. Abbott MA justifying St. Luke's devotion to Paul, referring to 2 Timothy 4:9-11. The specificity of Paul to Timothy in naming people they commonly knew, to conjure sympathetic feelings toward Jesus and what he thought gives us the meaning in actual lives of Jesus' mission. What he [Paul] hoped from Timothy is one piece of our belief in the living Paul. Consequence on transitivity, we have from him our belief in the having lived, and maybe even, the still living Jesus. Further, in the Epistles, we have authentic Paul. These show precisely how boldly he spoke for Jesus' message. They refer to the lands he visited. They lament the troubles dealt upon him from those who recalled him as a troublemaker. They lay out his rebuttals to his disagreements with the other apostles, especially Peter. Yet, not only is St. Paul without peer our greatest anchor to Jesus. He puts heft to our acceptance, each and every one of us, in Christianity. An acceptance pronounced by many – though not all – Christian churches each Sunday. Because of Paul, in the Christian church today there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female. As Sunday sermons in many churches say, “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Escaping the Jewish Laws Paul, the author of Galatians, as Pam Eisenbaum, a professor of biblical studies, emphasizes, was through-and-through a Jew. Dr. Eisenbaum regards Paul as misunderstood. She suggests many see him as if he negated his people's Jewish past. By reading (the long epistle) Galatians anyone can easily see this is not so. Paul: "The Jewish laws were our teacher and guide until Christ came [and gave us] right standing through our faith. But now that Christ has come we no longer need those laws to guard us and guide us to him." From Paul, this excruciatingly devout Jew, came the revelation that we – us humans – all are one. That said 2000 years ago, was in a message clear and sympathetic to what we know of Jesus. Yet, this was from one who didn't know Jesus during his life directly at all. Nor were the issues transcendental: The necessity or not of male circumcision, among adult Christians, was the issue with Peter that Paul tried to dissuade him from. The dietary customs. Events requiring consecration in the temple? How do we know Paul dealt with these? The Epistles, available to any home with a bible, lays it, and Paul's thinking, out in plain incisive language. Taylor Caldwell's approach to Paul So, we have to be pleased – don't we? – that someone has given full blown structure to how such a human as Paul could have – with only a mystical bidding from a phantom Jesus – put his intellect and physical life behind the significance to mankind of Jesus. I shall now say what is Taylor Caldwell's method. Will you wonder with me what of it gives you succor? Will you consider what of it is a somewhat masterfully production on a wing and a prayer? Here are some ingredients I call your attention to: First: She paints a picture of Paul's early life, including having him father a child – his only sexual experience – and puts details to his thoughts of his mother, father, sister, ... Do we say, it could have been that way and it shows what kind he was? Or, do we consider that you could imagine this man, as TC does, as an avatar of a magnificent holy man? Second: Caldwell throughout gives her usual florid descriptions, of Paul, and those he meets. She designs these to suit her rubric for seeing into their souls. She does this even of Jesus and Mary, Pilate and others, as scenarios, with Paul's presence, contrary to the lack writings on Paul with evidence of such meetings. I have lived 3+ years in Israel. I have given talks (on mathematics) all over Israel. I can tell you there is great contrast between the author's engagement with personal descriptions and her somewhat pedestrian imagining of Jerusalem and its surroundings. Think what Jerusalem, the City of David, meant to Jesus. Third: Until the final (3rd) part of the novel, which gives footnote references to the Acts and Timothy, she barely connects to historical knowledge of Paul. Here, too, she has less of Paul mouthing views of humanity that sound suspiciously modern, akin to her own version of conservatism. She includes more of his motivations for his visitations in the Epistles. This isn't difficult. Those are in the Epistles. Yet, she casts them coherently as compatible with the development of his personality from childhood. Especially she gives his misgivings of those around him. Conjectural though they are, they have a plausibility that is one of Taylor Caldwell's gifts: Weaving the threads of a far flung story and many disparate characters into a whole cloth narrative. We shouldn't, I suppose, expect the documentation (50 pages of bibliographical references), say, used by Allison Weir on "Eleanor of Aquitaine" (see below). Yet, there is this mystery. How did such a person as Paul arise? How was he able to transcend the great differences between those of different cultures involving the most intimate of mental proclivities? TC gives a tour of proto-typical pagans and higher intellects, including Luke, from the culture influencing Paul. She imagines deeply into those who might have honed his intellect. She mixes a dose of fact with a fable of her own making. Taylor Caldwell in context TC, a preternatural conservative, of stereotypical masculine certainty, demands that we accept her authority. Who else, without such audacity, would dare an end-to-end life of a man whose believable record in his own voice in the last part of his adulthood is available to all. Especially, when it focuses overwhelmingly on that man's relation to God made manifest. Nor does she build our confidence in her claimed choice of inspirations. For example, the inside back cover avers: "In writing "Great Lion of God," Miss Caldwell spoke with Jewish scholars in Israel and Catholic Scholars in the Vatican and found that these experts held peculiarly similar views of St. Paul. Yet, both were strangely different from the traditional picture of the saint [and more words to justify that she had found the 'real' Paul.] In a 627 page book she had no room to name these scholars or to quote from their specifics? In my mother, Peggy's, autobiography we have someone who traveled for many months on the good ship Rotterdam with TC during many of those years. Peggy would have us believe that TC is an infantile character: deserving little empathy, leading a life much less tragic, than comic. Yet, Peggy gives total loyalty to TC's endless, personal saga. Further, TC amazed Peggy with her work ethic, one that produced such volumes including this. That was a work ethic Peggy saw every day aboard those ships. There we also hear of TC's inability to interact in a two-way conversion with others. Peggy tells of TC's total "nervous" deafness; an affliction making intelligible discourse impossible. Yet, Peggy records long, natural conversations with TC, having little intellectual content at all. It is a puzzle. From whence would TC have come upon those scholars. Though the Rotterdam landed at Haifa, neither Peggy nor TC much ventured off the ship. If they had, and had TC participated in such meetings, would she have actually had long discourses with them? The final words of the novel's back leaf are a fit summary of Taylor Caldwell's most persistent conservative theocratic focus: Her insistence that "progress" is a dirty word.* Taylor Caldwell: "It may cheer many – and depress others – to realize that man never really changes and the exact problems of Paul's world are the same that confront us today. But man's nature can never be changed by any particular except by the power of God and religion, and if I can influence in this book only ten people, I will feel I have succeeded." Hmm! Ten people whom she would never know about are her test for success. On an even less testable attribute: Convincing someone else – who is dead set against it – that another has not changed in a significant way. Her goal is to change people to convince them that significant change is impossible, without an ineffable interaction. Alison Weir, in "Eleanor of Aquitaine" with its 50 pages of documented sources, enters her narrative to say whether statements made of the Queen are believable. It is hard to find a figure of female allure a more likely candidate for reconstructive history than a famous beauty who was the wife of two kings and the mother of two others. Mary Renault (1958) in "The King must Die" (the tale of Theseus, a man – not God – of extraordinary pagan legend) gives us the first king of Athens without footnotes. Yet, she weaves the old tales together, including the Minotaur and Ariadne, as if creating a man in the image of God. Taylor Caldwell, in the "Earth is the Lords" (1940; Genghis Khan) and then for St. Luke in "Dear and Glorious Physician" (1959) went after lives that started far more obscurely than Eleanor's. Yet, they had immense impact in the world we know. Even among these, the mystery of Paul and his monumental fashioning of Jesus' ministry should leave us breathless. Who but a Taylor Caldwell, could have had the nerve to attempt this. She recognized what a problem it was to explain how Paul could have come about, and went after that problem. * TC often used acid to attack progressive values as in a personal letter to Richard Hofstadter published, in his 1954 article, "The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt," later republished in the 1965 collection, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. In 2019 we have seen less articulate writers, in tweets, articulate otherwise similar vitriol.
by Michael Fried Early in her publication career , Taylor Caldwell turned herself into a pursuer of evil intentions. Sometimes her vision of evil was ahead of the curve. Almost always it was original; even as here when she had considerable competition for the territory.
Horrific as Nazi Germany was, and as brilliant as Hannah Erandt was, her famous description of Himmler failed to capture the disgust and helplessness that overwhelmed many ethnic Germans as Hitler and his Gestapo climbed to power. TC succeeds in doing just that within the confines of a particular German family.
The abstract for the novel would have you believe that the academically accomplished twin brothers, Karl and Kurt, are the center of the family's anguish. Not only is that incorrect, but TC sends Therese, the wife of Karl, on a path through madness that touches on characters that we have rarely seen before in descriptions of the effect of the holocaust. Therese's foreign counterpart is an English woman – at first called Frau Müller, and then, as the relation between the two women softens, Elizabeth – whose motivations to marry a German adds a subtle relation between the two countries. That is one based on their common concerns for perpetuating class distinctions. TC traces the psychological antagonisms between the two women, and then their recognition of what they share, as a central event of the novel.
It is Nazi Germany, in the early 1930s, likely around 1933. So there are quasi-historic public actions that announce the cruel new regime. Still, those events are prior to kristallnacht. Nor do they directly interpret Hitler; just his concept of a New Germany.
For Taylor Caldwell this, her 3rd, is an exceptionally short novel. A reader can recognize a 3-part divide, typical of her, though here not explicit as separate sections.
The opening 3rd establishes the characters boldly and swiftly. Some examples:
A descripton of Karl as austere, but undeceptive in his simplicity; so less intimidating than Therese. Her personal ambition was to merge his conscious and his all-seeing unconscious.
Frau Müller did not like Therese, for Therese saw things she was not intended to see.
One 'character' is so striking – a shrunken voodoo doll head, called Gilu, that Erik, the Jewish adopted brother living with Karl has brought back with him from Africa – we marvel that TC relies so much on it as a symbol of evil unattached to explicit action. It remains a character throughout the novel.
The battle between the religion of National socialism and the Protestant philosophy of justice and enlightenment appears early. The contest will be the undoing of Dr. (Hermann) Müller. Hermann who has had the temerity to pronounce the evil of Hitler at an elite dinner soiree.
This is TC, so the epiphany for Müller is that his liberal leanings have been empty. He will go to his doom a TC hero. Therese's actions start with her attempt to save both he and her husband Karl. Karl's overwhelming madness is a response to his brother Kurt's betrayal of their foster brother, and their sister. The phrase Time No longer, echoes over Therese, as she sinks into desparation and Elizabeth (Frau Müller) accuses Therese of being disloyal to Germany.
The events that coordinate scenes of the madness enveloping them all go quickly, though coherently. Ms. Caldwell's story telling skills, unraveling a social web, work well here, despite the considerable number of characters to whom Therese appeals. Dr. Müller, a very popular teacher, vows he felt he had lit the ''lanterns'' of his best students. Alas, he now saw the lanterns had gone out, one-by-one. Approaching his class, he has an epiphony. This has driven from his connection to Therese the night when she signaled to him the danger he faced in his confrontation with the two Gestapo personages.
To his class: ''I have taught you there is no such thing as good or evil.''
He referred to himself as throwing ridicule on the old and 'narrow' concepts of theologians. He continued … ''but I had forgotten, good and evil exist in the narrowest and most rigid of concepts.'' To his class, the next morning, he spoke of the darkness that had spread over Germany, spreading over the whole world. Therese knows Hermann Müller is doomed. She seeks Kurt first to undo the damage he started. He though is powerless: afflicted by a pin through a voodoo doll Karl has attached to him. She goes next to the house of the imposing General Müller, an uncle to Hermann, with Elizabeth – who, though composed, finally recognizes the danger for Hermann. They beseech the general, all 6'7" of him, to go to the prosecutor for the release of Hermann. The initial acceptance of the general's authority disappears once it is clear he comes to insist on the release of Hermann.
The prosecutor dismisses the general with these words: Your day is done in Germany. Seeing Therese's beauty, the prosecutor wants her to believe he has some justice on his side. So, he recounts the events following Hermann's class. The Nazis apparently believe that even clumsy lies should work to take down their enemies.
In the novel's last 3rd, there are those who will save themselves any way they can. There are those who convince themselves that Jews are the problem. There are those who recognize the simplicity of the evil that is Nazism.
These problems of early 20th century remain with us. You can use an Uber app and find yourself with a driver who has personally had an epiphany on how genes of inferior, defective people are dragging down our society. If you have had some training, and if you are speaking to someone willing to listen, for example, who knows what is a gene, you could explain that genes don't work like that. That, though is a big IF.
Similarly, without solid support is the idea that social changes follow a pattern that is akin to genetic traits. Even more so, there is a belief for some, they would – if not thwarted by liberal tendencies – follow an arc of progress. Again, the complication of TC: progress is her most favored bete noire after liberals. The rise of Nazi Germany, an evil so recognized by the world, even if not uniformly, was expected to never return. Not then, and not now.
Aldous Huxley in ''Evolution and Ethics'' (1893) – applied natural selection to show it separated from social Darwinism. If any kind of Darwinian process did operate in society, it would be value-free with an outcome not predictable prehand.
For example, Fascism's return today would not be out of the question, anymore than it was in the 1930s. It was, though, horrific, even without a full understanding of the holocaust.
Modern times have seen huge donor groups bolster unfettered trickle down theories of CEO management, dictators, and grotesquely reconfigured racism. These creepy ideas are so simple, you can find an uber driver who holds any one of them vehemently, loaded with phrases from their online reading.
TC shows us the horrors of fascism. In Time No longer you can feel how it drove a group of Germans conceived within high, but not extraordinary Germany society, to madness.
Return to fascism will upend our lives in ways beyond our endurance. That subject repeatedly arises, with unique takes on it. TC's, from almost 80 years ago, is among the most affecting.