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parascha or the haphtara of the day, drew from that lesson some development conformable to his ideas. As there were few Pharisees in Galilee, the discussion against him did not assume that degree of intensity and that acrimonious tone which, at Jerusalem, would have stopped him short at the first step. The good Galileans had never heard discourse so adapted to their cheerful imaginations. They admired him, they caressed him, they believed that he spoke well and that his reasons were convincing. The most difficult objections he resolved with authority; the charm of his speech and of his person captivated these people still young and not withered by the pedantry of the doctors.
The authority of the young master thus went on increasing day by day, and, naturally, the more others believed in him, the more he believed in himself. His sphere of action was quite limited. It was entirely confined to the basin of Lake Tiberias, and even in this basin it had a favorite region. The lake is twelve or fifteen miles long, by eight or ten broad; although presenting the appearance of a regular oval, it forms, from Tiberias to the entrance of the Jordan, a kind of bay, the curve of which measures about eight miles. Here was the field in which the seed which Jesus sowed found at length the earth well prepared. Let us go over it step by step, endeavoring to lift the mantle of barrenness and death with which the demon of Islam has covered it.
On leaving Tiberias, we find at first rocky cliffs, a mountain which seems crumbling into the sea. Then the mountains trend away; a plain (El-Ghoueir) opens almost at the level of the lake. This is a delightful grove of high verdure, furrowed by abundant waters, which come in part from a large round basin of antique construction (Ain-Medawara). At the entrance of this plain, which is the country of Gennesaret proper, is found the miserable village of Medjdel. At the other end of the plain (still following the sea) the site of a village is encountered (Khan-Minyeh), very fine fountains (Ain-et-Tin), a good road, straight and deep, cut in the rock, which Jesus certainly often trod, and which is the passage between the plain of Gennesaret and the northern slope of the lake. A mile further on, we cross a little salt-water river (Ain-Tabiga) flowing out of the earth by several large springs a few steps from the lake, which it enters in the midst of a thicket of verdure. Finally, two miles beyond, upon the arid slope which extends from Ain-Tabiga to the mouth of the Jordan, a few huts and a cluster of rather massive ruins are found, called Tell-Hum.
Five little cities, of which men will speak forever, as much as of Rome or Athens, were, in the time of Jesus, scattered over the space which extends from the village of Medjdel to Tell-Hum. Of these five villages, Madgala, Dalmanutha, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, the first only can now be identified with certainty. The wretched village of Medjdel doubtless preserves the name and the place of the little market town which gave to Jesus his most faithful friend. Dalmanutha was probably near by. It is not impossible that Chorazin was a little inland to the north. As to Bethsaida and Capernaum, it is in truth entirely by conjecture that they are located at Tell-Hum, at Ain-et-Tin, at Khan-Minyeh, at Ain-Medawara. It would seem that in topography, as in history, there has been a profound design to conceal the traces of the great founder. It is doubtful whether we shall ever succeed, amid this complete devastation, in identifying the places to which humanity would fain come to kiss the imprints of his feet.
The lake, the horizon, the shrubs, the flowers, these are all that remain of the little region of eight or ten miles in which Jesus founded his divine work. The trees have totally disappeared. In this country, where the vegetation was formerly so brilliant that Josephus saw in it a sort of miracle, — nature, according to him, being pleased to collect here, side by side, the plants of the cold latitudes, the productions of the torrid zones, and the trees of the temperate climes, burdened all the year with flowers and fruit; - in this country, I say, the trav. eller now calculates a day in advance the spot in which he may find on the morrow a little shade for his repast. The lake has become deserted. A single bark, in the most miserable condition, plows to-day these waves once so rich in life and joy. But the waters are still light and transparent. The beach, composed of rocks or of pebbles, is almost that of a little sea, not that of a pond, like the shore of Lake Huleh. It is clean, neat, without mud, always beaten at the same level by the slight movement of the waves. Little promontories, covered with oleanders, tamarind trees, and the prickly caper, complete the outline. At two places especially, at the egress of the Jordan, near Tarichæa and at the border of the plain of Gennesaret, there are intoxicating parterres, where the waves die away amid clumps of grass and Aowers. The brook of Ain. Tabiga forms a little estuary full of pretty shell-fish. Clouds of swimming birds cover the lake. The horizon is sparkling with light. The water, of a celestial azure, deeply encased between frowning rocks, seems, when viewed from the summit of the mountains of Safed, to be in the bottom of a cup of gold. To the north, the snowy ravines of Hermon stand out in white lines against the sky; on the east, the high undulating plains of the Gaulonitis and of Peræa, completely arid, and clothed by the sun in a species of velvety atmosphere, form a continuous mountain-range, or rather a long, elevated terrace, which, from Cæsarea Philippi, trends indefinitely towards the south.
The heat upon the borders is now very oppressive. The lake occupies a depression of six hundred feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and thus shares the torrid conditions of the Dead Sea. An abundant vegetation formerly tempered these excessive heats; it is difficult to comprehend that such an oven as the whole basin of the lake now is, from the month of May, was ever the scene of such extraordinary activity. Josephus, moreover, considers the country very temperate. Doubtless there has been here, as in the Roman campagna, some change of climate, brought about by historical causes. It is Islamism, especially the Moslem reaction against the crusades, which has blasted, like a sirocco of death, the region favored of Jesus. The beautiful land of Gennesaret did not suspect that beneath the brow of this peaceful wayfarer her destinies were swaying. A dangerous compatriot, Jesus was fatal to the country which had the perilous honor of producing him. Become to all an object of love or of hate, envied by two rival fanaticisms, Galilee, as the price of its glory, was to be changed into a desert. But who would say that Jesus had been happier had he lived to the full age of man, obscure in his native village ? And who would think of these ingrate Nazarenes, if, at the risk of compromising the future of their little town, one of them had not recognized his Father, and proclaimed himself son of God ?
Four or five large villages, situated two or three miles apart, — this then, was the little world of Jesus, at the period at which we have arrived. It does not appear that he was ever at Tiberias, a city altogether profane, inhabited in great part by pagans and the habitual residence of Antipater. Sometimes, however, he left his favorite region. He went in a boat to the eastern shore, to Gergesa for example. Toward the north, we behold him at Paneas, Cæsarea Philippi, at the foot of Hermon. Once, indeed, he made a journey towards Tyre and Sidon, a country which must then have been marvellously flourishing. In all these regions he was in the full sweep of paganism. At Cæsarea, he saw the celebrated grotto of the Panium, in which the source of the Jordan was placed, and which the popular belief surrounded with strange legends; he could behold the marble temple which Herod had built near this in honor of Augustus; be probably stopped before the many votive statues to Pan, to the Nymphs, to the Echo of the grotto, which piety had already accumulated in this beautiful place. An Evhemerist Jew, accustomed to regard strange gods as divinized men or as demons, must have considered all these figured representations as idols. To the seductions of the naturalistic worships, which intoxicated the more sensitive races, he was insensible. He had not probably any knowledge that the old sanctuary of Melkarth, at Tyre, still contained something of a primitive worship more or less analogous to that of the Jews. Paganism, which, in Phænicia, had reared on every hill a temple and a sacred grove, all this appearance of great industry and of worldly riches, could have had little charm for hiin. Monotheism takes away all ability to comprehend the pagan religions; the Mussulman thrown into polytheistic countries seems to have no eyes. Jesus, without doubt, learned nothing in these voyages. He returned again to his well-loved shore of Gennesaret. The centre of his thoughts was there; there he found faith and love.
Jesus is not a founder of dogmas, a maker of symbols; he is the world's initiator into a new spirit. The least Christian of men were, on the one hand, the doctors of the Greek Church, who from the fourth century involved Christianity in a series of puerile metaphysical discussions, and, on the other hand, the scholastics of the Latin middle ages, who attempted to draw from the Gospel the thousands of articles of a colossal “Summation.” To adhere to Jesus, in view of the kingdom of God, was what it was originally to be a Christian.
Thus we comprehend how, by an exceptional destiny, pure Christianity still presents itself, at the end of eighteen centuries, with the character of a universal and eternal religion. It is because in fact the religion of Jesus is, in some respects, the final religion. The fruit of a perfectly spontaneous movement of souls, free at its birth from every dogmatic constraint, having struggled three hundred years for liberty of conscience, Christianity, in spite of the falls which followed, still gathers the fruits of this surpassing origin. To renew itself, it has only to turn to the Gospel. The kingdom of God, as we conceive it, is widely different from the supernatural apparition which the first Christians expected to see burst forth in the clouds. But the sentiment which Jesus introduced into the world is really ours. His perfect idealism is the highest rule of unworldly and virtuous life. He has created that heaven of free souls, in which is found what we ask in vain on earth, the perfect nobility of the children of God, absolute purity, total abstraction from the contamination of the world, that freedom, in short, which material society shuts out as an impossibility, and which finds all its amplitude only in the domain of thought. The great master of those who take refuge in this ideal kingdom of God, is Jesus still. He first proclaimed the kingliness of the spirit; he first said, at least by his acts : “My kingdom is not of this world.” The foundation of the true religion is indeed his work. After him, there is nothing more but to develop and fructify.
“Christianity" has thus become almost synonymous with “religion.” All that may be done outside of this great and good Christian tradition will be sterile. Jesus founded religion on humanity, as Socrates founded philosophy, as Aristotle founded science. There had been philosophy before Socrates and science before Aristotle. Since Socrates and Aristotle, philosophy and science have made immense progress; but all has been built upon the foundation which they laid. And so, before Jesus, religious thought had passed through many revolutions; since Jesus it has made great conquests; nevertheless it has not departed, it will not depart, from the essential condition which Jesus created; he has fixed for eternity the idea of the pure worship. The religion of Jesus, in this sense, is not limited. The Church has had its epochs and its phases; it has shut itself up in symbols which have had or will have their day: Jesus founded the absolute religion, excluding nothing, determining nothing, save its essence. His symbols are not fixed dogmas, but images susceptible of indefinite interpretations. We should seek vainly in the gospel for a theological proposition. All the professions of faith are disguises of the idea of Jesus, much as the scholasticism of the middle ages,