Although he advanced a simple explanation—some would call it no explanation at all—Machen’s analysis did not lack historical awareness. In addition to questioning the dominant position in New Testament studies, Machen thought that a study of Paul would resolve several problems surrounding Christianity’s emergence as a world religion. One concerned the Bible’s enormous influence on Western society. How could a “thoroughly Semitic book,” Machen wondered, come to a place of prominence even greater “than the glories of Greek literature” in a civilization shaped by the language, literature, and philosophy of Greece and Rome? The intrinsic value of the Bible could not explain this phenomenon since “the race from which the Bible came” had been despised throughout Western history. Christianity’s influence upon the West was also worthy of historical investigation because this religion originated among a “very peculiar people.” In A.D. 35 Christianity appeared to be nothing more than “a Jewish sect” but within thirty years was “plainly a world religion.” Such questions gave The Origin of Paul’s Religion a tone that clearly separated his criticisms of liberal scholars from fundamentalist diatribes against higher criticism.
D.G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America